§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. EMMOTT in the Chair.]
§ (IN THE COMMITTEE.)
Question again proposed,
2. That it is expedient that the powers of the House of Lords, as respects Bills other than Money Bills, be restricted by Law, so that any such Bill which has passed the House of Commons in three successive Sessions and, having been sent up to the House of Lords at least one month before the end of the Session, has been rejected by that House in each of those Sessions, shall become Law without the consent of the House of Lords on the Royal Assent being declared: Provided that at least two years shall have elapsed between the date of the first introduction of the Bill in the House of Commons and the date on which it passes the House of Commons for the third time.
For the purposes of this Resolution a Bill shall be treated as rejected by the House of Lords if it has not been passed by the House of Lords either without Amendment or with such Amendments only as may be agreed upon by both Houses.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. W. PEEL
Whatever may have been said on the previous Resolutions about the right of the House of Lords to deal with financial questions, no such question can now be raised. No one has contended, and no one can contend, that in refusing a Second Reading to other Bills or in amending Bills the House of Lords has been using or usurping any functions that do not properly belong to it under the Constitution. In fact, in this case, it is the other way, and it is the House of Commons by these Resolutions which is trying to acquire for itself and to usurp functions which have for centuries belonged to the other Chamber, or been shared with the other Chamber. But it is fortunate, at 1083 least, that we can deal with this question more practically now from the point of view of the present day. We have not to dig deep into the past to search out any precedents and discuss what happened in 1640 and 1407, and other remote periods of the past. It is a most remarkable fact, as regards the present Government, that the smaller their majority becomes the more revolutionary their proposals grow. Three years ago, when they had a majority of something over 300, they passed certain Resolutions trying to diminish the powers of the Second Chamber, but these Resolutions were nothing like as drastic as those they put before the House when they returned from the polls having lost something like 105 net seats. If they had come back undiminished, or even increased in force, it is hardly possible to conceive what more revolutionary changes or alterations in the Constitution they could have proposed in the first flush of victory. There is one change, as compared with 1907, which I note with pleasure, and that is that the conferences fell out. There were to have been, three years ago, conferences following on each separate rejection by the House of Lords or each separate Amendment by the House of Lords. Everyone recognised that those conferences are futile. Conferences where two parties come together, one holding all the cards in his hands and the other holding none, are bound to be useless and only a waste of time. If I knew I could in the following year obtain all I wanted to obtain by the natural efflux of time I would never consent for a moment to any Amendment or to any compromise at the present day.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Herbert Samuel) last night poured great scorn on the prophets who prophesied evil. He said, and apparently asserts, that these same prophecies of evil results were made during the last sixty or seventy years in every great change introduced by the Liberal party, but none of them have proved true, and we are far more prosperous now in every way than we were sixty or seventy years ago. In looking into some of these prophecies I am rather impressed by the prescience shown by a good many Conservative leaders in the past. When the first Reform Bill was passed in 1832 it was treated by the Liberal leaders as being a final settlement of the question of representation. This was denied over and over again by the Conservative leaders, and they, in fact, 1084 prophesied precisely what has happened. If the Whig leaders on that occasion had foreseen precisely what was seen by the Conservative leaders, I am sure there would have been far less support for the extension of the franchise than there was. In that case those prophets who opposed the measure saw far more deeply into the nature of things than those who proposed it. Another instance is the abolition of the Corn Duty, a measure which was opposed by Conservatives and others on two grounds. One was that if the measure was proceeded with we should lose the command of our own resources, and be dependent on the food supply that came across the seas. Has that prophecy proved to be untrue, and has it not landed us now, and will it not land us in the future, in great difficulty and great expense? The other prophecy, which was also laughed at at the time, was that, though you would have, no doubt, an extension of your manufacturing interests, you would have a great destruction of country life and untold evils in having the mass of your people ceasing to be agriculturists, and being gathered together in the towns. Has not that proved true? If you look at the figures published in the agricultural reports, the value of property in agricultural land has gone down by something like £1,000,000,000 in the last thirty years, and if you look at the state of the population in our towns, is it not obvious that the prophets of evil, as they are called, have probably more truth on their side than the facile optimists who were recommending the great changes?
But there are, no doubt, exaggerations sometimes among these prophets, and I daresay you can pick out from their perorations certain phrases which may show some colour of exaggeration. But if there is exaggeration on this side, what am I to say about statements on the other side I remember very well, for instance, when the Parish Councils Bill was introduced, how the whole of life in the country was going to be renovated by the introduction of that Bill. I remember the indignation expressed in the House and in other places when Lord Salisbury made some suggestion about circuses. Fifteen years after that we are told that the reign of the parson and the squire has been unbroken in the villages, and the Gladstone League has been formed, which requires the avenger of blood to go about among the villages in the South and West of England and teach the people that independence[...] 1085 which they were supposed to have gained under the Parish Councils Act. As if even that was not enough, we were told last year that the whole of English agricultural and economic life was going to be rearranged and amended by the Development Bill, which, it should be remembered, was passed by the House of Lords.
The question has been asked, What right has the House of Lords to pronounce an opinion upon the views and feelings of the people of England? That is a very fair question, but what the Second Chamber has tried to do is this. It has acted in the position of an umpire. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Tories always in and the Liberals always out."] I do not know whether that would be a good thing or not. I am not on that for the moment. But is not the position of an umpire an easier position in some ways than the position of an actor? I say it obviously is, and to complain that the Second Chamber may be in the position of judging whether a measure is or is not popular in the country, or has been considered by the country, does not require any of that extraordinary power of divination which hon. Members say ought to be attributed to a Second Chamber if it is to act in this position. I do not wish to put the position of any Second Chamber too high, but the difficulty in this case is not generally to say whether or not a measure has been approved by the country. Generally that is fairly obvious in this House and in the other. But what we say is that in this House some minority may force upon the Government—and it can do it very easily in these days of coalitions and combinations—a measure which everyone in the House knows has not been accepted or generally discussed in the country. All that the Second Chamber therefore has to do is really to act on the opinion, not so much of the country, easily as it may be collected in some cases, as upon the opinions prevailing in the House of Commons itself, and the Second Chamber when it acts in this way as umpire is often carrying out more truly than this Chamber the opinion of the majority of the people in this Chamber itself.
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Herbert Samuel) told us, and I think the Prime Minister also said, it would take a very long time to reform the House of Lords. He spoke of it as a long matter which might take Sessions or years before it was brought to its accomplishment. Another hon. Member on that side positively con- 1086 gratulated the Government of the day on having chosen the easy task of destroying the powers of the House of Lords instead of dealing with the difficult problem of reconstruction. That has been too often the history of the Liberal party in the past. They have been the party of destroyers, and then when they have come to the difficult question of building up and constructing they say, "That is a question for the future and not for us to touch." I am not at all surprised that an hon. Gentleman opposite actually congratulated the Government on having accepted the easy task and on having shirked the difficulty. I should like to ask him this question. If they are going to make this reform of the Second Chamber, are they going to endow it with the same powers as the existing Chamber or are they going to switch off the powers which now exist and, after a lapse of a few years, turn them on again? Do they think that a Chamber of that kind which starts with fresh powers with which it had been suddenly clothed by this House will have the same respect or consideration from people who are apt to have regard for institutions because they have extended over a long period of years? The excuse given by hon. Members opposite is that if the House of Lords were allowed to remain in possession of their present powers they would not pass the Reform Bill. Therefore they mean to take away their powers in order to get this measure through.
An hon. Gentleman who spoke yesterday poured the greatest possible contempt on the attempt of the House of Lords to reform themselves. I think they scarcely did justice to that House. It is something that these Gentleman should, of their own Motion, show that they are ready to give up privileges and rights which they have inherited, and which they thought, no doubt, they would never lose. Surely it is not right to sneer at them for being ready for such an act of self-abnegation. That is why I think this action on the part of the Government is quite unnecessary. Do we not know that the Members of the other House would be perfectly ready to sacrifice their rights and privileges if they were convinced that the sacrifice was demanded by the people of this country? [HON. MEMBEBS: "NO."] I am certain of it, and I know quite well that in the past when such sacrifice has been demanded it has not been refused. The Postmaster-General himself, I think, is entirely 1087 opposed to the hereditary principle. He said it ought to be banished from the Constitution.
§ Mr. PEEL
I think the inference from the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that they ought to be banished from the Constitution. May I read a quotation from Mr. Gladstone which I came across the other day? It is in Lord Morley's "Life of Mr. Gladstone," and gives a conversation which Mr. Morley had with him. He said:—Think about the dangerous isolation in which the monarchy will find itself in England if the hereditary principle goes down in the House of Lords. It will stand bare naked, with no shelter or shield, and only there as the better of the two evils.I do not propose myself to follow that question further. I do not propose to tread on that dangerous ground. I will leave excursions of that kind wholly to the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech last night went on to make a vigorous attack on the Committee who are trying to amend the Constitution of the House of Lords. He said:—The House of Lords haying attacked one Prerogative of the Crown by forcing a dissolution, now propose to attack another Prerogative by restricting by law the number of peers without providing means for bringing the House of Lords to book in the case of a deadlock.I thought he made a mistake when I heard him last night, but I thought it might be inferred from something in the Report of the Committee. On looking at the Report of the Committee I could not see that they have any such views or intentions. The Report says:—In making these recommendations the Committee do not desire to limit the Prerogative of the Crown as regards the creation of hereditary peers.Well, that entirely does away with the whole of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
It is proposed to limit by law the number of peers of Parliament. It is no use being a hereditary peer if you cannot sit in Parliament.
§ Mr. PEEL
No, but I think the proposal of the Committee was to leave the Royal Prerogative as regards the creation of hereditary peers. That entirely does away with his point. Through the speeches of the last two days there has run one strain of objection to the House of Lords. It is that it has a large Conservative majority. All the objections of hon. Members opposite are not so much to its composition, and not so much because it is hereditary, as because it is Conservative. If its constitution became suddenly Liberal their objections would largely diminish. A few years ago there came under my notice in a remote part in Ross-shire one of those theological contests in which I believe Scotchmen rejoice so much. It was a dispute between the Wee Frees and the United Frees. Shortly afterwards there came the contest in the courts, which was finally decided by the House of Lords. It was decided that the whole of the property should go to the Wee Frees in that village. It may be that the people did not realise the distinction between the House of Lords in its legislative capacity and its judicial capacity, but as a result of the decision given by the House of Lords their enthusiasm for the House of Lords was amazing, and if Lord Halsbury had gone there they would have been prepared to put a thanksgiving offering on the altar for his action. Of course the difficulty has been that, although Liberals may make peers, they will not remain Liberal peers. When they have left the more heated atmosphere of this House, when reason and sense begin to have free play, and when they are no longer driven into the Lobby by the action of a Whip who is himself, as we heard lately, very sceptical—I use a mild word—about the particular advantages of the measure, then their own views begin to assert themselves, and they go over to Conservatism. I believe if you are going to secure 500 gentlemen in order to vote down the hereditary peers, and if a week is allowed to elapse between their creation and the day on which they are to vote, about a half of them will be seized with conscientious objections to the course they are sent there to take.
In reviewing the action of the House of Lords hon. Members talk as if English history began four years ago. I heard nothing but precedents taken from that time. I say that you are legislating not for this Parliament, but possibly for 100 1089 years, and you are bound to cast a glance more deeply into history. You have got to look back to the first Reform Bill and to the legislation since 1832. You have to look back at the vast changes which have taken place during the past seventy or eighty years—changes of every kind in the.social conditions under which we live. These changes have been brought about with the House of Lords still existing as a Second Chamber. If you look at it broadly, can it be contended that any real obstruction has been offered by that Chamber to measures on which the wishes of the people were set? [HON. MEMBEKS: "Yes."] If you bring that charge against the House of Lords, I think you may say also that the House of Commons have been very dilatory in the measures they have brought in. It has been asked also, "What are the Bills the House of Lords deal with? They have a peculiar enmity against Liberal Governments." I say there is no enmity on the part of the House of Lords towards Liberal Governments. The peculiar class of Bills you have brought in have not been brought in by Conservative Governments. Do hon. Members opposite think that if a Conservative Government had brought in a Bill to destroy religious education in many of our schools built by a particular sect or by the Church of England, and to hand the schools over to the secular authority, it would not have been thrown out by the House of Lords? Do they think that if a Bill had been brought in by a Conservative Government to destroy a particular trade, who fault it was that it ministered to the desires of others, the House of Lords would have allowed that trade to have suffered for the sins of others'? Do you think that the House of Lords would not have thrown out a measure of that kind? Do you think that if the Conservative party had brought in a Bill tampering with the franchise solely in the interests of their own party and leaving other anomalies untouched, the House of Lords would not have thrown out that Bill? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am confident they would. Let hon. Members not forget that there are a great many Free Traders in the House of Lords. Is it not obvious that by the nature of the case you are far more likely to have on the Liberal side, which is the party of coalitions, Bills promoted by minorities which are not accepted by other parties in the House. The Conservative party by its nature is more homogeneous than the party opposite, and, therefore, any measure which is carried through this House 1090 by the Conservative party is far more likely to represent the considered view of that party than are Bills brought in by a Liberal Government to represent the considered view of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I should like to ask a question with reference to the Second Chamber itself. I do not plead in the least on behalf of individual Members of the House of Lords. I am only putting the question on behalf of the State itself. I ask whether it is wise at a time when you are making the general prison laws more humane to imprison some of the ablest men you have got and to take away from them all the powers they have of doing anything at all? I think it was said that it was the greatest punishment you could give Lord Macaulay to place him in some assembly where debate was going on and not allow him to take part in the debate. You propose to allow the Members of the House of Lords to debate, and inform them at the same time that no practical results can come from their debates, and that they are purely academic exercises for their own amusement.
There are one or two minor points connected with the abolition of the Second Chamber worth noticing. First of all, I think there would be a demand that all Ministers would have to sit in this House. It is almost impossible to think that you could give important posts to Ministers who sit in the other House. The demand in this House to bring those people in here would be tremendous. It is very well known, after all, that the amount of ability in this House must be limited. A large number of men, by position or otherwise, are not able to take official posts. Therefore you would still further limit the rather narrow area from which Ministers are now drawn. As regards the distribution of honours themselves, which play a considerable part in party life, honours themselves would be weakened if you were going to divorce them from service. They would lose half the value which they now possess, and instead of creating more honours, what the Government would have to do would be to create more posts, an achievement in which, I think, up to now they have been brilliantly successful. One brief word on the question of the Resolution. On the face of it the Resolution is an untrue Resolution. It states that these proposals are to become law in the course of one Parliament. I say, on the contrary, that they are to become law in the course of one Session. There is 1091 this difference, that the operation of the law is post-dated for about two years. But if in the first Session you fix what the law is, as has been shown, no power on earth can alter it. The Prime Minister referred to some sort of conference going to take place, but it is quite certain that the Government of the day would not indulge in any conference of that kind. They would lose their precedence, and the Bills would have to be postponed to another Parliament. It is terrible to think of the rush there would be for a front place in the Liberal programme in the first year. Liberal programmes are apt to be overflowing. It would take some time to arrange for all the different sections. Just imagine the rush of all the different minorities to secure first place in the programme knowing that, after the lapse of two years, they would be certain to become law, and that if they did not get first place they would have very little chance of becoming law.
And all these laws of whatever kind must be treated in exactly the same way. They might be the smallest and most unimportant measures, or they might be big constitutional measures affecting the relations of these two Houses, or the relations of this country with other parts of the United Kingdom. There is no other constitution under which changes would "be allowed which are not marked out by procedure. The right hon. Gentleman himself, I regret to say, when speaking last night, spoke very strongly against any organic changes being placed outside these Resolutions. I do not quite understand the argument. He simply told us that it is impossible to have any sort of organic law in this country, and he suggested that the only reason why they had organic law in the United States was that they were a Federal Government, and Federal Governments, in order to protect their separate States, were bound to have organic law. There is no doubt some truth in that as regards the United States, but they have got this, that the separate States themselves in the United States also have their organic laws, and the tendency is more and more in these States to remove more and more power from the Legislatures and place as much of the constitution as they can in the written form. The Prime Minister said that it would be a great advantage, because laws would be much more carefully drafted than they are at present. I think 1092 that would probably be a great advantage. At present they are drafted in such a way that all the principles are contained in the first clause, and they are drafted in that way in order that as large a number of Amendments as possible may be ruled out of order when they come to the later clauses. But he seemed to suggest, when he was saying that these laws should be better drafted, that there would be very little opportunity for discussion in the House of Commons afterwards. He seemed to suggest that these laws ought to be presented in far better order to the House of Commons, because the House of Commons would have so little opportunity for discussing them. I think it was the Leader of the Opposition who suggested that it would be rather curious that this great power should be given to hon. Members at the beginning of the Parliament, because that was the time when they were least susceptible to the calls of their constituents. But I might suggest another consideration: that newly-elected Members, the Members presumably with least legislative experience, would have most power the very moment they come from their constituencies, but when they are matured and growing wiser and older in the course of four or five years, then, by some curious inversion, they are to have less powers granted them than those which they enjoyed when in the first flush of their legislative youth.
I am against conferring these huge powers upon the House of Commons, because they are exercised entirely so mechanically. I should wish that the will of the people should not be expressed solely in the House of Commons, or in the laws which the House of Commons proposes, because I believe that this supreme power placed in the hands of any set of men must tend to break down the usefulness of these particular men. It is too great a temptation to place such vast powers in the hands of any set of men. It is said, after all, that they are elected by a majority of the House of Commons, but once they are elected by a majority of the House of Commons they exercise a power over their followers which is enormous. They are then able to apply the great pressure of party loyalty, and they are able also to have command of the very substantial rewards in which party loyalty finds its recompense. Members on this Bide of the House have been attacked because it is said we are fighting against the rights and privileges of our own House. When we belong to any particular assembly or 1093 authority there is a. tendency towards an extension of its powers, but I do not believe that that is the wisest course, and I believe that those who are really not claiming for the assembly to which they belong a full monopoly of power, are probably doing a wiser and more sober thing for the institution to which they belong than if they had retained in themselves all the powers of the State. It is the besetting sin of all Assemblies and institutions to try to gather into their own hands all power and monopoly; but I cannot think that any such complete assumption of power, any such withdrawal or sucking away of all the power of other authorities, can finally be for the permanent good either of individuals or of institutions or of States.
§ Mr. HAROLD BAKER
If the patience with which this House always hears those who rise to address it for the first time is not exhausted, I wish to make one or two observations upon the Resolutions now before the Committee. The hon. Member, who has just sat down, repeated the challenge which has been pressed from those benches more than once, a challenge to justify placing the question of Veto before that of Reform. I am perfectly ready to give him my answer for what it is worth. I am firmly convinced of the necessity for a Second Chamber, but I am even more firmly convinced of the necessity for a Second Chamber different from the present one; different not only in its composition, but different in its powers as well; and it is because that policy of putting the Veto before Reform is the only policy consistent with that view that it has my hearty support. It was for that very purpose that most of us from these benches asked to be sent here; for that purpose we were sent here, and for that purpose we now are here. If it needs repeating, I can, at any rate, speak for the industrial North, part of which I have the honour to represent in Parliament, in saying that we had a clear demand to deal with that question. This Resolution, in effect, proposes to extend the powers of the House of Commons in order to give full expression to the will of the people. That phrase, "The will of the people," has been echoed to and fro across these benches so much so that I had almost begun to think that it was common ground between us that the object of our institutions was to give effect to it. But I noticed to-day and yesterday, and even before then, over and over again, that a curious qualification has crept into the speeches of hon. Members on the opposite 1094 side. They speak of the "settled will" and the "declared will" of the people. The hon. Member who has just sat down spoke of the will of the people itself, as though in doing so he were making some psychological distinction.
I think it perfectly evident if you look at the rest of the speeches of hon. Members opposite that they wish to interpret the will of the people as being only the will expressed when a Tory Government is in power. They wish to establish that when a Liberal Government is in power that will is in abeyance temporarily. They wish to choose the instances favourable only to themselves, and so justify the argument which they base upon it with regard to the other House. Even if that wore common ground, certainly the question of extending the powers of the House of Commons is not. As an humble new Member I must express the astonishment, which I believe has been felt by many others, at the detraction of this House to which we have had to listen. So far as my reading of history goes, this House has had its faults, but they were entirely due to one cause, and one cause alone, and that is the action of the House of Lords on this House. This House has not become inefficient, but it has become ineffectual. Why? It is entirely owing to the House of Lords. You on that side do not want to legislate. A large part of the speech of the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Peel) was an assertion of the futility of all legislation. We on this side of the House are not allowed to legislate. That is the real source of the discredit of this House, and is the true deadlock between the two Houses. But this discussion of the absolute excellence of the House of Commons is beside the point. All we are concerned with at this moment is the relative merits of the two Houses, the relative merits of the existing system, and of the system proposed under this Resolution. I do not pretend that the House of Commons is accurately representative of the people. All representation is approximate. It must in its nature be so.
But under this Resolution the House of Commons will be more accurately representative than it is at present. Just see what happens. Governments may make mistakes—I mean about their Bills. They send a measure to the House of Lords and it is rejected. No one supposes because the House of Lords have rejected it that the Government did make a mistake, and least of all does the Government itself suppose so. The Bill is dead, and everyone 1095 goes about his business. Some people thank God because we have a House of Lords, others bewail the fate of their pet measure, but no one thinks for a moment that it has been judged on its merits or that it has received impartial consideration. What will happen if this Resolution be carried into law? The merits of a particular measure will be the one thing in issue. During these two years it will be subjected to the closest scrutiny. The Bill will not be dead, as it is under the present condition of affairs; it will be in suspense only, and while in suspense everyone will be referring to it, considering it, and testing its worth. There is one danger, and one only, under this Resolution, that the two years which will be devoted to the close scrutiny of the measure will also be devoted to attempts to manufacture gusts of public opinion which will blow the Government off its course. I think that is a danger, but when one sees the scale on which such operations are carried on under the existing system one can weigh in the balance the one system against the considered advantages of the other. The second advantage which I think we can derive from this Resolution is that the Government does at present, to some extent, when it loses a Bill by the action of the House of Lords, labour under the imputation of inactivity; but that is not a very serious one except in the minds of certain voters. I have no doubt Members of this House are acquainted with the class of voter who says, "I agree with the whole of your policy, I agree with it altogether, but I am not going to vote because you cannot get your measures through." In future you will have a more healthy imputation lying on the Government. You will have the prestige of the reformed Second Chamber which must fall upon the Government if its Bills are rejected after two years of full discussion—rejected not by a House of Lords like the present, but by an impartial tribunal which has considered them upon their merits, and upon their merits alone.
Therefore I think there are considerable safeguards to ensure that the Government will observe its responsibilities. In all the arguments which have been brought forward in such profusion on the other side of the House as to the exclusive and undivided power which is to be given to the Government under this Resolution there seems to be omitted altogether from calculations the electorate. You cannot 1096 deal with this question as a mere matter of one Chamber or of two Chambers, or as a mere matter of government by Chambers at all. You cannot leave out of account the electorate, to which the Government must go to get its authority, and to which the Government must go to give an account of the way in which it has exercised it. Besides, too, measures may be repealed. Supposing, at the end of that time, the Government does succeed in passing them, there is still a means of getting rid of them. Verdicts may be reversed and Acts of Parliament may be repealed, and the power which you are going to put into the hands of one Government, of which you complain so much, will be carried forward to the next Government, which will be able to repeal those measures if it feels it to be in accordance with public opinion that they should be repealed. If the present House is continued the other side still enjoy their party advantage, they will be able to get measures through at once, and not have to wait during the long two years which we on this side shall have to wait. I do not think, however, that we shall be falling back into a mere see-saw of legislation, one Government proposing and the other on the first opportunity repealing, and for this reason—Governments are careless now because they know quite well that a constitutional but illogical fate may befall their measures; but if this Resolution be carried out, Governments would take more and more care, because they will know that their measures will receive consideration from an impartial Assembly, and that they have a chance of securing their passing into legislative form in the end. I pass to the consideration of the House of Lords as an organ expressing the will of the people. It appears to me that this is a task for which it is quite unfitted. A large number of peers live in an unreal world, and they do not know what is going on outside it. Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but I ask them if they do not think that observation is justified by a good many of the speeches which were delivered during the last election? They not only do not know, but they do not want to know what the will of the people is. You have only to set side by side two glaring cases—that of 1893, when the House of Lords was very much alert to the symptoms of popular dissatisfaction, with that of 1905, when, with far greater cause for alertness, they were blinder than the blind. It is idle to maintain—and I do not think 1097 anyone has made out a case showing it—that the House of Lords is the mirror of public opinion. I do not think that is the primary function of a Second Chamber at all. You do not want two instruments in your form of Government to perform that very delicate task. Take a parallel instance, which is not so absurd as it may seem. It would be grotesque to set up two meterological offices side by side, each issuing their separate and divergent forecasts, but that is precisely what you are doing in respect of this alleged function of the House of Lords to determine what the will of the people is. I think, if you isolate that for one moment and look at it by itself, it must be clear that it is folly to duplicate the task, and that if the task is to be performed, as performed it must be, it will be much more efficiently performed by the House of Commons. In my view the true function of a Second Chamber, of which I am in favour, is not to discriminate between parties, as the present one does, but to discriminate between measures, to bring to bear a ripe fund of experience and of specialised knowledge on the measures which are submitted. If hon. Members opposite, as the last speaker did, say that this is to reduce the Second Chamber to the condition of a mere shell or phantom, I can only say they must be looking at the material side of power and not at its real value. It seems to me a very high function indeed for any body of men, or any individual man, to be called upon to perform. It is one which is most inefficiently performed at the present time by the machinery of civilised government, and it is one which the House of Lords never will be able to perform so long as it is a mere wheel of the party machine.
I quite admit that there are just men and able men in the House of Lords—individually just and individually able. But there is such a thing as collective injustice and collective incapacity, and I think we find a signal instance of that in the present case. I make no imputation against any individual. It is a new quality which is developed by the chemical combination of the component parts, and so ingrained has that particular quality now become that I think the only way in which it can possibly be cured is by some such drastic proposal as that contained in the present Resolution. It is what this Resolution would do. It appears to me to be not only drastic, not only effecting a violent and considerable change, but at the same time it is strictly constitutional. The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University, 1098 whose name we cannot leave out of these discussions, compared the Constitution to a temple. He described its structure in glowing terms, but he seemed to me to make one curious omission. He omitted something which is at any rate customary in Pagan temples, and which is necessary to complete the picture—I mean the existence of a hereditary priesthood, manipulating the mystery, working the oracle to its own purposes, and, may I add, receiving the offerings of the people. My point is that in one respect that simile was not apt. It rather suggested that our Constitution is something rigid, static, and unchangeable, to which you can add stone after stone, rather than the living and growing thing which we on this side of the House believe it to be. I take a phrase from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition—a phrase he used the other day—I look on this Resolution as the "happy culmination" of a long course of development. You have had your three powers—the Lords, the Commons, and the Crown. You have had them showing steady adaptation through centuries, but the House of Lords has now at last failed in that power. Until a year ago some of us hoped, even against hope, that it would still show itself capable of doing so. It has now failed. The object of every one of these adaptations has been to bring the Government of this country into conformity with the will of the people, and. side by side with that, we have seen, I think, a new reading given to that phrase, "the will of the people," of which we have heard so much, and of which we shall hear still more. A new people has grown up, and that is a cardinal fact which must be be recognised. You are not dealing with a people like that of two or three centuries ago, or even a century ago. You are dealing with a people which has had such benefits as a very faulty system of popular education can give. But, more important than that, you are dealing with a people that by discussions at street corners and by other means of instruction has received a political education—a people that has heard both sides, a people politically educated. While all that has been enacting, that phrase, "the will of the people," has extended itself, and it no longer means what it meant once — a mere numerical advantage or even a combination of pliable interests. It means a diffused faculty which finds its best and, indeed, its only expression in the House of Commons, and not in the House 1099 of Lords. The House of Lords posed some centuries ago as the mediator between Crown and Commons. It is now posing as the mediator between the Commons and people. It is the most grotesque position it could possibly as sume. We do not want it. When the House of Lords ceased to nominate the House of Commons, when the relation between employer and employed was broken up, and when Municipal Reform and the Reform Act were passed, it became not only a probability but a constitutional necessity for this Chamber to assert its predominance. Mr. Bagehot, in his book, referred to in the course of these Debates in giving many reasons to show why Second Chambers were undesirable, said that the great merit, at any rate, of the House of Lords was that it was a possible Second Chamber.
I venture to say that we, at any rate, on this side of the House have good reason for saying that by this time it has become altogether impossible. I do not think that in this matter we have been too quick. We have hoped against hope, and this great constitutional question has not, as the Leader of the Opposition said, been suddenly taken up. It has been debated, discussed, and pondered over for the last twenty-five years, and I think its features are as plain as can be to every voter in this country. This may, or may not, be the moment of solution, but the longer you delay the harsher the transition will be, the more distasteful will it be to those sitting on the opposite side, and the more it will be desired by those, like ourselves, who think it is a necessary and legitimate stage in our constitutional development.
§ Mr. P. J. BRADY
There is one aspect of this Resolution on which, strange to say, there is absolute unanimity on this Committee, and that is as to the importance of the discussion in which we are at present engaged. Both my colleagues, hon. Members on the opposite side, and hon. Members above the Gangway on this side, all alike agree that this discussion is one of the most important, if not the most important, that could possibly engage the attention of this Committee. I do not propose, therefore, to emphasise or still further labour the point as to its importance, inasmuch as it is so readily recognised by parties on all sides; but it seems to me that possibly the importance of our present discussion may not be recognised by one 1100 of the parties to that discussion, namely, by the Lords, whom they are wholly intended to affect. I desire to make that observation because it seems to me that the House of Lords in a very little while will have the opportunity either of enlarging their own powers and their own scope for good in the community, or, on the other hand, they will have the opportunity of writing probably their own doom. A great deal has been said about the constitutional aspect of this question, and without pursuing the subject as it has been so fully dealt with. I cannot help deploring the fact that constitutional authorities, of eminence perhaps, are confined possibly to the party at present in opposition. At the same time, having regard to the present condition of parties in this House, I think it is rather a lucky thing that we are in a position to quote on our behalf in this constitutional question eminent authorities who differ from us in political view. Hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, I am sure, entertain the profoundest respect, and a respect which we all share, for the late Mr. Lecky as a constitutional authority of, I may say, world-wide fame. I would remind the Committee that Mr. Lecky in one of his best known works, that on Democracy and Liberty, speaking of the House of Lords, used some very remarkable words. He said that since 1832:—The position of the House of Lords in the Constitution has fundamentally altered. It no longer claims a co-ordinate power with the House of Commons; in legislation it exercises a secondary position in the Constitution.If that should be the opinion of so eminent an authority as Mr. Lecky, I would seriously ask hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway whether they can with any show of reason oppose the Resolution in the discussion of which we are at present engaged. No doubt the system of two Houses worked excellently as long as Government in this country was an aristocratic Government. I will go further, and say that most people who have given even the least attention to the subject will recognise that there was a time in the history of this country, perhaps a far distant day now, when the Lords acted as a barrier between the people and the encroachments of absolute monarchy. That day is very far distant from the present day, and now when the Government of this country is in fact as well as in theory a democratic Government, I say that if the House of Lords in their own interests are to preserve for themselves any power in that 1101 democratic existence of society, it will be for their Lordships to accept the Resolutions, which will be sent to them in a very few days. I have referred to Mr. Lecky, and I can refer hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to an authority of equal standing, and perhaps of greater name in the political world. I am alluding to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), whom all parties, no doubt, in this House deplore that the condition of his health precludes his being present here, and adorning these Debates. The right hon. Gentleman, in the year 1884, addressing a meeting at Denbigh, and speaking of the House of Lords, said:—The chronicles of the House of Lords are one long record of concessions delayed until they have lost their grace, of rights denied until extorted from their fears. It has been a history of one long contest between the representatives of privilege and the representatives of popular rights, and during this time the Lords have rerverted, delayed, and denied justice until at last they gave grudgingly and churlishly what they could no longer withhold.Surely hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway will not treat those weighty words with disrespect, but will attach to them that importance which they claim. I would go so far as to commend them to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), in the hope, perhaps, that, following the political opinions of his illustrious father, he will see his way to cross the floor of the House and take his seat on the side of the Government in this great struggle. I do not think that he would be acting in any other way but in the most consistent way by doing this, because he would be only carrying out what were the clearly expressed opinions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in the year to which I have referred. One of the most formidable arguments which can be adduced against the Upper Chamber, or, rather, can be adduced against this Resolution is that the House of Lords constitutes a good revising Chamber. I think that people, however little acquainted with the House of Lords, cannot seriously contend for it that it constitutes a revising Chamber of any kind whatsoever. Somebody has very well said of the House of Lords that the cure for admiring the House of Lords was to go and look at it. I have been here for a very short time and, without wishing to introduce any personal reminiscences, I may mention I have ventured into that sacred Chamber more than once, as a spectator 1102 of course, and really if I had had any admiration for it it certainly would have been dispelled by what I saw there. I am not able to tell the Committee the exact numerical constitution of the Chamber on those occasions, but at any rate I am able to tell the Committee what I am sure they already know, and that is that a very small percentage of the House of Lords attend to their duties. I go further and say this that of that very small percentage a very small number indeed of those actually present seem to take the least interest in the proceedings. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the House of Commons?"] We take far more interest I may tell the hon. Gentleman in our Debates. I must certainly say if hon. Gentleman above the Gangway propose to bring forward any arguments in favour of the retention of the present system of the Upper House it ought not to be one based on the revision principle.
Speaking from these benches, it would be perhaps natural for me to address myself to the Resolution from the Irish standpoint, but happily there is no necessity for my doing so, inasmuch as it has been discussed from that standpoint, and in a way in which I could not hope to discuss it, by the hon. and learned Member for Water-ford (Mr. John Redmond). It would be impossible for me to put the facts one-quarter as well as he has put them, as to the Irish view of this question, nor even could I hope to do so as well as the hon. Member for Galway City (Mr. Stephen Gwynn) did in his speech yesterday, which was marked by that culture and accuracy of thought which characterises all his expressions. There is one other aspect of the question to which I should like to refer. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, speaking on one occasion, which I am sure must have been some time ago, said that the persons who entered the House of Lords entered it through the sepulchre of their dead ancestors. I am not sure that that is the mode of entry that is always prescribed for entry into the House of Lords. No doubt in a very large proportion of cases, and, indeed, I may almost say in a majority of cases, the hereditary principle is that which governs entrance into the Chamber, but sometimes circumstances of a different character attend the passage of gentlemen into the House of Peers. Political circumstances enter sometimes into such an entry, and may I also say occasionally commercial circumstances so enter. As regards the 1103 political circumstances, as an illustration I may perhaps just give this. At the next General Election the hon. and gallant Member for South Dublin (Captain Cooper) may find himself no longer able to render legislative assistance to this House, and in a certain contingency, and perhaps in the event of a Tory Government coming into office in the next fifty years, the hon. and gallant Member, who claims to be and is, I believe, the youngest Member of this House, may, anxious as he is to take a large share in public affairs, get himself transported into the other House. Thus it is not always the hereditary principle which governs the entry to the House of Lords. In conclusion, I will only emphasise the fact that this Resolution commends itself to the enthusiastic approval of the party to which I have the honour to belong, and accordingly we shall give it our united support. Speaking for my own Constituency of St. Stephen's Green, which represents all that is best in intellect and otherwise in the City of Dublin, I shall have the greatest confidence in voting for the Resolution before the Committee.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I stand here as a suppliant for the toleration of this House not merely formally, as is the custom of every new Member on rising to make his maiden speech, but in reality, because I realise how fully and forcibly this subject has been debated, and how very difficult it is even for the most experienced debaters to follow in a well-beaten path without treading in footsteps already imprinted there. What surprises me about this Debate is how very suddenly the Government seem to have discovered the existence of an intolerable position. I am surprised, because it is not difficult to find speeches made on the other side of the House which are most laudatory of the Constitution. I am surprised, too, at the reasons given for describing the position as intolerable. Complaints are made not only because Bills are not passed, but also because Bills are passed. One hon. Member yesterday seemed ill at ease with the House of Lords because contentious measures, such as those dealing with licensing and education, had been passed. I cannot understand how an intolerable position has been brought about by the House of Lords passing Bills of that description. Is the intolerable position brought about by the manner in which the House of Lords treated the Budget? I 1104 cannot conceive that that is the reason, because the electorate when consulted on the matter, certainly in England alone, did not give any evidence of sharing those qualms. We are told that we ought to treat an edifice as a whole; but it is difficult to do so when we have hon. Members like the last speaker whose one idea is to dissociate themselves from the rest of the edifice. If we analyse the different component parts of the edifice we find that the qualms as to the intolerable position are not felt by the electorate as a whole. If the intolerable position does not arise because of the way in which the House of Lords treated the Finance Bill, is it because the party opposite find that the other House is subversive of democratic government? If that is the contention, we must try to gauge the meaning of the word "democracy." The term is sometimes used for a mere hasty expression of public opinion which is not coincident with educational progress. Such an expression of public opinion is easily overturned. We, on this side, however, regard the term "democracy" as an expression of law and order, and of justice to all parts of the community. Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite (the Labour party) are apt to indulge in the happy conceit that they alone are the medium for gauging the true opinions of the democracy, and that with them alone lie the possibilities or opportunities of forestalling the millennium by legislation. We do not hold by that argument. We believe that democracy is the expression of fair treatment of all classes. If your primary premiss is that the House of Lords is subversive of democratic legislation, I submit that the conclusion arrived at is entirely wrong, because that conclusion is to make the other House sterile, whereas it surely should be your first duty to make it a House which can properly deal with legislation, and at the same time have the confidence of the electorate. There is no doubt that democracy does at times run mad. We have had examples of that in municipal government, where sometimes the ratepayers would have been very pleased if they had had the advantage of a Second Chamber. So I believe it is with the taxpayers. There is need of a strong Second Chamber.? No doubt there may be backwoodsmen; but are there not, on the other hand, troglodytes elected by the community who only come out of their holes to vote on purely party questions? The Prime Minister has himself declared that considerable Amendments may be 1105 made to Bills which leave this House for their two years' course of battledore and shuttlecock. On that showing alone, we see that Bills leaving this House are not final, and that there must be Amendments made to them. I presume that those Amendments should be made only by an effective Second Chamber, and therefore I submit that this Resolution should be negatived.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
At the time of the last General Election there was one policy put before the country by Members on this side of the House, and that policy was the Veto proposals of the Prime Minister. Those, however, were not the proposals that I laid before my Constituents. I told my Constituents that if I was returned I should vote against those Veto proposals. First, let me say that I have never in this House adopted a purely party point of view. I am returned by my Constituents as an independent Progressive to support the Government—Liberal or Conservative —provided it brings in measures which my Constituents desire. I endeavoured to ascertain what were their wishes with regard to these Veto proposals, and I found that my people generally disliked them for democratic reasons. They held, first, that when a change had become inevitable, that change should be thorough and fundamental; and, secondly, that after the rejection of a long series of Liberal measures, culminating in the destruction of the Finance Bill of the year, the position could never be as it was before, and no self-respecting constituency would continue to send its Member to this House to have financial proposals killed or mutilated by an irresponsible body. My Constituents also took the view that, a Second Chamber being desirable, it must command popular confidence and respect, and not be permanently dominated by one party in the State. On 6th December last, in a remarkable speech to his constituents, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs stated that the policy he submitted to his electors was that of a Second Chamber elected by and responsible to the people. Those were the proposals which I put before my Constituents. They were also put forward, not only by Liberal Members in my part of the country, but also by a number of Labour Members— not only in the county of Yorkshire, but in Derbyshire also—in what I may call the central and the most Liberal county in the whole of the United Kingdom. It has always been so at all times. Even in the darkest days of Liberalism it has been the 1106 premier Liberal county. In all these constituencies, in which there is the most democratic thought, Yorkshire Members, including Labour Members and Liberal Members, put the issue, not upon the Veto, but upon an elective Second Chamber—[Opposition cheers] — responsible to the people, not a nominated Chamber, selected on a hereditary principle, as hon. Members opposite would desire, and as they indicate by their cheers, but a Chamber elected by and responsible to the people. I do not know where we stand upon this matter. I believe generally in the principle of fighting for a policy of construction, as against a policy of negation, and this Veto Resolution seems to me to be more in the direction of negation than of construction, if I may use the words of Carlyle: "Only a torch for burning, no hammer for building," and it is this policy of construction which I earnestly urge upon the Government as the one that will carry with them the opinion of the country more than a policy of negation, and one which, in my humble judgment, is more likely to arouse that enthusiasm which is so necessary where the progressive forces have to fight a great established enemy like the House of Lords.
Therefore, I ask myself what is our position? The Prime Minister has said that he is in favour of a Second Chamber. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Secretary for Wax, the Lord Advocate, and the Attorney-General, and also the Under-Secretary for the Colonies have said the same, and I do not know how many more Members of the Cabinet hold the same views. We have had no definite proposal put before the country by the Cabinet upon this matter, which I consider the most urgent and necessary step that we can take. I say at once that if any attempt was made to construct a nominated and restricted hereditary Chamber, that would be, to use the words of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, death and disaster to the party. Are the Government going to hoist the white flag in this matter? I think the party which is in favour of only one Chamber is led by an hon. Gentleman who is sitting behind me. It is he and one or two others who are prominent in the matter. I do not think they really are representative of the great mass of opinion in the country on this question. They seem to me to hold a view which, curiously enough, seems to be the most Conservative 1107 of all types of Liberalism and thought. It seems to me that all Liberals must agree that the most democratic system can only be election by the people and a Chamber responsible to the people. If you are to have a Second Chamber, surely that is the principle on which it should be based. We have no finality in this world, or in our Parliamentary life, or, indeed, in other matters, but representative Government, when it is based upon that principle, is based upon a rock and upon a foundation of common-sense in our Parliamentary life.
So far as these Resolutions are concerned, I did not vote on the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair and that the House go into Committee upon them. I did not know what attitude the Government would take or what vote I should give on the Resolutions. During the time I have been in the House I have never walked out on a Division until the Division on this question. Of course, I gave my vote in favour of the first Resolution, and I intend to give my vote on this, in view of the promises made by the Prime Minister, weak though I consider them to be; not sufficiently strong. I intend to give my vote for the Government on this Resolution, though I do so with considerable reluctance. The reason why I am going to give that vote is that, having already voted for making this House supreme in the question of finance, I am bound to say that the Chamber that has the purse is the real power in the State. I think, however, that these truncated Veto propositions have, many disabilities, some of which I am going to ask the House briefly to consider. In the first place, it leaves us with a Chamber one sided and permanently Conservative. It will have the confidence of no one except landowners, monopolists, and the "Snobocracy," who buy peerages, and when I hear hon. Members talking in this House and saying, as one said this afternoon, that the effect of this would be to lower the grant of a peerage, that a peerage would not be the same, that honours would not have the same value in the eyes of our countrymen, I marvel, because hon. Members know perfectly well that peerages are bought and sold like bread and cheese.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
That is a very ridiculous kind of argument to use. I believe the hon. Member who interrupted me is at the present time in the field for one of these—
§ Mr. MARKHAM
We are going to have a Chamber constituted still on a hereditary basis, and they are still to be our legislators. There may be times when people have proved themselves sufficiently insane as to be put under restraint. When the Budget was going through its final stages I was speaking to a Noble Lord in the Central Lobby. [OPPOSITION laughter.] It was a Noble Lord on the other side in this House—I am not being contaminated —and he said:—They have just brought an old fellow up with his keeper, and his people have come to look after him.Under the system, even as changed by this proposal, you will have men who legislate and who may be perfectly incapable for many reasons; it may be of health, or because their chief life is in foxhunting and sport, which puts them absolutely out of touch with the requirements of a great democratic community. We have had the scheme of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University, whose acute sacerdotal mind has given us the new dogma of divine right for dukes. The ecclesiastical authorities should remember that this is a somewhat dangerous type of doctrine—the divine right of dukes. Well, why we should not have equally divine rights for duchesses I cannot in the least understand. I notice in Cobbett's "History of Civilisation" that in the Polynesian Islands the priesthood is hereditary, and not only the priests themselves, but also their retainers and servants have the benefit of that principle, and I think the Noble Lord, if he studies the history of the Polynesian Islands, will get the simile for what he wants to introduce into our Parliamentary life here.
The next objection I take is this—the work of the Committees upstairs is one of the most important works that is done in legislation, but all Private Bills are still to go upstairs and still to be subject to enquiries by Noble Lords. What do the Noble Lords do in the other House, whenever they get hold of any measure dealing with land. When any measure of that kind reaches a Private Committee, it is hedged round by them with all possible difficulties so as to make the acquisition of that land by local authorities or by other people, be they whom they may, more expensive. The system under which you allow Private Bill legislation to be still dominated by these hereditary nobodies is a farce, and you ought to deal with it when 1109 you are making this great constitutional change. The change, when it comes, ought to be fundamental, and these proposals do not go quite sufficiently far to meet the wishes of my Constituents. The House of Lords has always mutilated measures as far as they dare. It is said that they have endeavoured to carry out the wishes of the country. Now their chief line of resistance, the chief work which they have done in that Chamber, has been the mutilation of Liberal measures dealing with land directly or indirectly. Occasionally beer comes in and that helps the work. Beer and land appear to go together. The greater number of Bills rejected by the Lords have, in the main, been Land Bills or Bills appertaining to land. I do not say that individually any Member of the House of Lords would do a dishonest act—I do not think they would—but when you get men acting as they do collectively, as a speaker on this side of the House has said, they seem to lose all sense of proportion as compared with what they do in their individual capacity. This House will pardon me for saying it, but I believe there are many Members of the House of Lords who are more competent Members than some of those sitting in this House. And taking a great number of Members you will find among them ability and intelligence equal if not superior to the great majority of Members of this House. But that is not the question, because that becomes more or less a question of education and position. The question really is not whether the people who are sent here are or are not intelligent men, but it is whether they are elected representatives of the opinion of those who sent them, whilst the Members of the other House are not; and, therefore, the position of the two is entirely different. I ask the House to remember what these Veto proposals represent. They ignore the basis of our Parliamentary life. We are not equal—every Member who comes into this House knows we are all unequal. The independent Member who comes into this House is disliked by all parties. He is voted in the first place a crank. No party has any interest in him, and any Member who is independent—I do not care what line he takes, whether he is strongly in opposition to his party or not—that Member will find that he is regarded by the officials of the party—I will put it mildly—in hardly a favourable light. It is said that in the third Session Bills would go up to the Lords, and that if the 1110 House of Commons were going to change its opinion it would have changed its opinion before that time. That is ignoring the foundations of Parliamentary life, because the great majority of Members of the House of Commons cannot afford to take an independent line. You have in the first place what I may call professional politicians, men who do useful work in this House and give up their whole lives to Parliamentary work. If they take an independent line they know they will have to give up the work of their lives for many years, and that they will be driven out of their party. Then you have 150 lawyers in this House, the men to whom judgeships and recorderships and county court judge-ships go, and human nature being what it is, the majority of these are perhaps not necessarily dependent, but, at any rate, they look to the Woolsack, as every lawyer aims or ought to aim who comes into this House, and if they are independent they are not going to be occupants of the Woolsack. And then there are a great number of Members of this House whose expenses are paid out of Parliamentary funds, and, therefore, Members know perfectly well that during the third Session, after two years, if they vote against the Government, be their opinions what they may, if they take a strong line there is a possibility that they will not be returned again. The Irish party it seems to me has not been sufficiently considered by the Prime Minister in relation to the question of the Second Chamber. Probably the balance of power will be held for some time to come by the Irish Members, and I therefore feel that in dealing with this question we have this difficulty, that the balance of power lying in the hands of the Irish Members, they will be no party to allowing us to set up a democratic Second Chamber, because it will be a bar to Home Rule.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
That is my view. I think the Irish party would not be willing to support any democratic Second Chamber that would be a barrier in any shape or form to Home Rule. If they manage to get rid of the House of Lords I do not think that they would be willing to risk their chance again with another Second Chamber.
§ Mr. MARKHAM
Yes, but would a democratic Second Chamber give you Home Rule? When you took the opinion of the country some time ago on Home Rule it went against you. So far from being an enemy to Ireland, as hon. Members must know, there is no more ardent Home Ruler in this House than I am. I am simply speaking upon tactics and showing what my view of the position is. I want to see a Second Chamber free from party exigencies, which must arise if the balance of power remains with the Irish Members. I use a hackneyed phrase, but one in which I believe, when I say I believe in trusting the people. I believe the majority of our fellow-countrymen do not in the main very often make mistakes. They may be carried away by popular gusts of passion in the time of war, but in the main the good common-sense of our people when a subject is placed before them seldom leads them wrong.
The Government at the present time has received a mandate from the constituencies to deal with this question of Veto, and I say it is a fatuous policy for the Government to go back to the electors again to ask them for a renewal of what they have already given. Could anything be more absurd after we have had an election upon this question of Veto than that the country should again embark, when business and trade is improving, upon another General Election, with the probabilities, viewed from all sources, that neither party would get a sufficient majority to enable this question to be put in any better position than it is to-day? Therefore I say it is the duty of the Front Bench to do all they can to obtain these guarantees. It is their duty forthwith not to throw the country back upon another General Election, which can do the country no good, but to press forward the scheme of the Veto and then to deal, in accordance with their pledges, with a Second Chamber elected by and responsible to the people.
§ Mr. H. P. HARRIS
The Constitution is a question upon which even a new Member may claim an interest, but I hope the House will also extend to me an indulgence for addressing it for the first time. I cannot pretend to the qualification for another place which another new Member claimed, who spoke as a master of hounds, but I understand that ex-chairmen of county councils are now in the running for that honour, and I hope, of course, it will be without fee. The hon. Member 1112 who has just spoken does not seem to know where he stands, and I am not surprised. I think many of us do not know where we stand as regards the policy of the Government. I was unable to follow the reasoning by which the hon. Member arrived at the conclusion to vote for this Resolution, because he seemed to see perfectly clearly that this was a destructive policy, and not constructive reform, which the Government were placing before this House. What struck me most in these Debates has been the unanimity with which supporters of this Resolution have ignored two considerations which must be faced by those who come forward to reform the British Constitution. The first was put forward in words recently used by the Lord Chancellor, when he observed that the British Constitution was scrutinised in all other civilised countries not only by students, but also by peoples as a model for those who aspired to ordered freedom. I am amazed at the levity and casual manner in which hon. Members propose to lay hands upon this model of ordered freedom.
The other consideration overlooked by hon. Members opposite is the obligation which rests upon those who propose to reshape the British Constitution of showing that the new model which they propose to set up will conduce, like the old one, to ordered freedom. The Government, as it seems to me, have ignored that obligation by the course they have pursued. They do not place before this House any new model of the Constitution in order that it may be brought to the test of examination by this House, and in order that the nation may have some assurance as to the goal to which not only the Government, but the coalition in this House is tending. On the contrary, the Government propose what the Prime Minister has described as neither a final nor an adequate solution of the problem. They propose a drastic change in the Constitution professedly as a temporary measure, to be followed by some final and adequate reform, but they give no evidence whatsoever—indeed, the evidence is the other way—that they or their followers are agreed upon any new model for the Constitution, or that if the Veto of the House of Lords was destroyed final and adequate reform would be promptly and efficiently carried out. Mr. Disraeli once observed that "the British Constitution is founded not only upon profound knowledge of human nature, but of human nature in England, 1113 and that however vast and violent our revolutions the Constitution ever became more firm and vigorous." I hope that may prove true in the future as in the past, but it shows they are ignorant of human nature who think that the sober and serious British people are going to allow one of the Houses of their ancient Constitution to be completely gutted—for that is the proposal in this Resolution— without being told what, if any, edifice it is proposed to erect in its place, and also— not an unimportant consideration—when the new House is likely to be ready for use.
What is the policy of the Government, and especially of the coalition in this House? I have endeavoured to arrive at it by collating the utterances of prominent Members in the three parties in this House. I do not recommend that process—that way madness lies. The only real conclusion I have been able to arrive at is this, that the Government enunciate one policy and propose to carry out another and a quite different policy. Let me make that perfectly clear. In the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War in introducing this Resolution to the House, he said, speaking on behalf of the Government:—The policy is a single policy. It is in my view no Veto Resolutions, and then, as a separable part, a reconstituted Second Chamber; it is both. The two form organic parts of one whole.Yes, Sir; but that is the reverse of the policy the Government is now proposing to carry out. They propose to separate the reconstruction of the Second Chamber from the Veto Resolutions; they propose to divide what the right hon. Gentleman called the organic parts of one whole. What is the good of announcing that the question of the constitution of the Second Chamber and the question of its powers are part of one organic whole when you do not act upon that principle? The reason the right hon. Gentleman gave for not acting upon this principle has a touch of humour in it, because he said the necessity of the situation, which is ruled not by logic, but by methods of Parliament, have prescribed the scheme of taking the Veto first. We know the methods which have prescribed the Veto first, and I venture to say that it is a slander to describe them as methods of Parliament. There is nothing, so far as I know, which prevents Parliament from dealing with this constitutional question as an organic whole. The situation has been ruled, not by methods of Parliament, but by tactics of a Govern- 1114 ment in difficulties, and by tactics of a coalition who are not agreed upon this particular policy.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War described the policy of the Government very much as if it were a sort of Siamese twins. He said it was a single policy, the division being organic parts of one whole, but the Government are applying a surgical operation to these Siamese twins which will be fatal to its policy as one organic policy. The right hon. Gentleman says the situation was not ruled by logic. I quite agree that is so in the hands of the Government, but I venture to think we must consider the logic of the situation. And what is the logic of the situation? It is, first, that reconstruction of the Second Chamber is not regarded by a large section of the supporters of the Government as an inseparable or even desirable part of the Government's policy. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said in a recent speech that "the abolition of the Veto," in his opinion, "was preparatory to, and without prejudice to, the full consideration of what should be the constitution of a Second Chamber in this country and what should be the powers bestowed upon that Chamber." He was careful to limit that statement to the expression of his own opinion, but it is manifest that these proposals of the Government cannot be regarded as preparatory to, or without prejudice to, the reform of the Second Chamber.
Some Members of the Government, no doubt, hold pious opinions in favour of a Second Chamber, but what is more important is the intention and the policy of those upon whom they rely for support. The Irish Members will not vote for these proposals as preparatory steps to the constitution of a reformed Second Chamber, but as paving the way to Home Rule. The policy of the Nationalists is to wreck the Constitution in order to get clear of it, and they say they do not mind what sort of Constitution we have. I doubt if the British electors will appreciate that somewhat singular political philosophy in its application to the British Constitution. Again, the Labour Members will not vote for these Resolutions as preparatory to the Constitution of a reformed Second Chamber. They want to reform the Second Chamber out of existence, and put nothing in its place. That, at any rate, is a consistent policy, although we cannot say the same 1115 of the policy of the Government. The proposals of the Government are not accepted by large sections of their own supporters as a first step towards a reconstituted and reformed Second Chamber, but as the last step towards the double constitutional revolution leading to Home-Rule and the establishment of single-Chamber Government in this country. The policy of the Government is wrongly described as Veto first, because it is Veto first and last. That is the beginning and end of the policy of the coalition in this House. To talk about a reformed Second Chamber may serve the purpose of quieting the uneasy consciences of some Liberal Members and allaying suspicions in the public mind as to the real object of these Resolutions, but no one who studies the political situation believes it is within the range of practical politics for the Government to contemplate setting up a reformed Second Chamber. The policy before this House is contained within the four corners of the Resolutions which are presented to us, and those Resolutions would establish single-Chamber Government in this country without any immediate prospect of any further reform. It is because I believe that policy is not approved by the majority of the people of this country, and because I am confident, that it would be fatal to that ordered freedom which our ancient Constitution, whatever may be its defects, has secured for us that I shall vote against this Resolution.
§ Mr. AGNEW
The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Peel), in opening the Debate this evening, referred to the House of Lords as a valuable impartial revising Chamber between the opinions of the two parties in the State. That is the very point which causes hon. Members on this side of the House to take such an active interest in the proceedings now before the Committee. In 1904 did the House of Lords exercise the function of an impartial revising Chamber? I think we have long since decided that it did nothing of the kind. I claim that for the last fifty years and ever since the Reform Bill of 1832 the House of Lords has not exercised the proper function of an impartial revising Second Chamber. We regard it more as a legislative addition to the strength of the Unionist party of this country. I would like to quote two lines from a great historical authority, Mr. Goldwin Smith, 1116 who, referring to the House of Lords, writes:—It has never acted as, what it is imagined by the political architects of Europe to be, an Upper Chamber revising with maturer wisdom, and in an impartial spirit, the hasty or ultra-democratic legislation of the more popular House. It has always acted as what it is, a privileged order in a state of decay and jeopardy. resisting as far as it dare each measure of change, not political only but legal, social, and of every kind.Personally I think that is a very good criticism of the manner in which the House of Lords has acted in regard to legislation during our generation. I would like to allude to another criticism made by a very distinguished man whom I have not heard quoted in this House during the Debates on this Resolution—I refer to Professor Lowell, of Harvard University, who wrote a. well known book on "The Government of England," which "The Times" described as being of great value, and called it a standard work. He said:—On the great party questions that rend the country it throws its weight wholly on the side of the Tories, and plays into their hands.When the Liberals are in office, the peers need boldly their powers to hobble the Government.The House of Lords has become for party purposes an instrument in the hands of the Tory leaders, who use it as a bishop or knight of their own colour on the chess-board of party politics.I think that is a very admirable description of the manner in which the House of Lords has treated legislation in our generation, and I think it describes pretty clearly their association with the party which is now in Opposition. I would like to call attention to a point which illustrates clearly what those two distinguished critics have said about the House of Lords by a reference to a speech made by the Leader of the Opposition at Nottingham in 1906. I am quite aware that the right hon. Gentleman has disclaimed that in that speech his reference applied to the House of Lords, and, of course, I accept his denial. I suggest, however, that those who heard and read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in the papers would be ready to confirm that it suggested that whether in power or in Opposition the Unionist party should still control legislation. I think that statement is liable to be interpreted as meaning exactly what it appears to mean. I confess that, if by any mischance I happened to be a Unionist peer in the House of Lords I should have taken that statement made by the Leader of the Opposition as a call to arms, and as an indication that I was in the Second Chamber in order to support the Conservative party in opposition to any Liberal legislation brought forward.
1117 As to this House being liable to hasty legislation, it must be perfectly well known that measures brought forward on this side of the House, and many of the measures brought forward by those sitting opposite, have been discussed in the country for years before; they have been discussed in the daily Press and magazine articles and by associations formed for the purpose of considering social reform. Consequently, when those questions come to be translated into legislation there are very few who do not know something about the points at issue. I know that this has not always been so in every possible instance. May I say that I am entirely in favour of a Second Chamber. I do not, however, believe that so far as the legislation of 1902–4 is concerned those measures had been discussed previous to the 1900 election. I think in the year 1885 when the question of Home Rule first came before this House that that question had been discussed as a practical measure before the country. As a rule, measures of first-class importance have been fairly well discussed by the people in regard to their principles before they come before this House for legislation. The hon. Member for Taunton criticised our policy with regard to the House of Lords because they had already set about reforming themselves. It is true they have started some idea of reform, But whence comes this sudden passion for reform? Is it a death-bed repentance to draw us away from what we consider the more serious question of the limitation of the Veto? It seems to me that the true explanation of this new-found zeal for reform on the part of their Lordships is that they thought reform was a lesser evil than the limitation of the Veto. We have to deal with the existing state of things, and the House of Lords, composed as it is at the present time, may take some years before a definite scheme of reform is carried out. As to the shape such reform will take, one man has one idea and another man another, but whatever is done there must be a limitation of the Second Chamber's Veto on the legislation of this country. I care not whether the Second Chamber is wholly or partly elected or nominated, but we must have an absolute Veto for the legislation of the people's House of Commons. After all, this is only carrying a little further our existing Constitution. We have been told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Lords always give way at the last moment when they find that the will of the people is so and so. 1118 If that is the case, why object to limiting their Veto to two or three years, which is suggested by this Resolution? The idea of the House of Lords of its own general constitution would differ materially from the opinion of this House. It must be done by both Houses. In the last fifty years this House has become the predominant House, and this House must have the greater say, when the time comes, as to what that reform shall be. The two Chambers cannot have co-equal powers. All these things point to the absolute necessity of our removing this permanent Veto on our legislation before we attempt to discuss the question of reform. I shall vote for these Resolutions with the greatest pleasure, in the hope that they will be translated into a Bill which will shortly become an Act of Parliament, and that by that Act of Parliament the privileges of this historic House will be prevented from being relegated to the humiliating position to which they have been relegated during the last four years.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not propose to occupy very long the time of the House, nor to deal with great historical generalisations in the few words which I propose to address to them. I shall wish to be strictly practical and to keep my remarks very closely within the four corners of the Resolution which is just before us, without travelling too far into the great issues of constitutional theory which naturally and legitimately enough have occupied so much of our time in the last few days. Before I come to my criticisms on the Resolution, may I ask the Home Secretary (Mr. Churchill), who, I understand, is going to follow me, if he will explain and develop exactly what was meant by the Prime Minister in his opening remarks yesterday with regard to conferences between the two Houses. I understood the Prime Minister to say that in Sir Henry Camp-bell-Bannerman's original proposition there was a hint thrown out which might be judiciously developed by which some machinery could be contrived for improving the methods of discussion and conference between the House of Lords and the House of Commons. That may be so. I am the last person to suggest that the means of communication between the two Houses are at this moment at all convenient or complete. I believe they are susceptible of immense improvement, and I believe if they were improved much good might be done and much unnecessary friction might be avoided. The question I wish particularly to ask is this: If these are Resolutions on which a Bill is going 1119 to be founded, why does this scheme of an improved method of discussion between the two Houses find no place in the Resolutions? It seems to me that that is a great anomaly. The whole point of bringing forward Resolutions is that you should indicate beforehand the main outlines of the Bill you intend to introduce, and, if you are not going to indicate those outlines, I really cannot see why you should have any Resolutions at all. If I have been right in my interpretation of the Prime Minister's speech, I hope before this Resolution leaves the House the Government will introduce words covering that distinct proposal, a proposal which it seems to me, if the Government will allow me to say so, is far less hopelessly irrational than any other proposal we have had hitherto.
I turn to what I take to be the purely practical aspect of this Resolution, and I wish to look at it if I can largely from the point of view of the Ministers who are responsible for it and the party or parties which are going to vote for it. What is it they expect to get from the new state of things? What is it they complain of in the old state of things? I have listened with great attention to the main speeches delivered, and I gather there are two main objections which the Government and their supporters have to the existing state of things. They say, in the first place, that they, the Government and their friends, are put in an intolerable position by the action of the House of Lords; and they say, in the second place, that there is a constant deadlock produced by the existing situation between the two Houses. For my own part, I do not attach much value to the argument on pride, and I do not think the Government have shown themselves over sensitive when the difficulties they have got to surmount are difficulties within these walls. I should have thought that some of the diplomatic courage which they have shown in marshalling their forces within these walls, half of that diplomatic tact and powers of persuasion and concession, and of altering their mind and changing their course, and of following each mood and current with which they have got to deal—I should have thought that half of that diplomacy which they have expended in dealing with the other political forces provided by the Constitution, if it would not have prevented all the friction, certainly would not have indeed inflicted a deeper wound on the pride of over-sensitive natures than 1120 that which they must from day to day be suffering at the present moment.
The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General, who concluded the Debate for the Government last night, said two things about the situation of the House of Lords which struck me as extraordinary. The first was that the House of Lords had within the last four years stopped all social reform. What were those measures? The Postmaster-General fell into precisely the same fault as his chief did on two separate occasions. When the Prime Minister introduced these Resolutions ten days ago, he also complained of the deadlock produced by the action of the House of Lords, but he gave no instances of the deadlock. All he said was that, if the House of Lords had acted up to their convictions, they would have produced a deadlock with regard to the Trades Disputes Bill. I commented on the omission at the time, but the right hon. Gentleman made another speech yesterday in which the same omission occurred. He again reminded the House that I had said there was no deadlock, and he derided my views, but he forgot again to tell us where the deadlock was, in what it consisted, and, more particularly, what were those wonderful measures of social reform carried by the labour and industry of this House which the reckless and partisan action of another House had destroyed. The Prime Minister was silent on that point, and the Postmaster-General was also silent last night. Each of them confined himself to generalities like most of their followers. Never did they come to the close and real point and show us how the action of the House of Lords during the last four years had made the life of any self-respecting Radical Government so utterly impossible that no gentleman endowed with the proper pride prevalent on that bench could ever again be expected to accept office under those conditions.
I do not refer to the Budget, because that does not come within the four corners of this Resolution. Points of difference there have been, but I absolutely deny that by the utmost stretch of language you can describe those points of difference as great points of social reform. However that may be, let the House remember that everybody who is in favour of a Second Chamber—the two hon. Gentlemen who have spoken on that side of the House, many independent Members, and, as I understand it, the whole 1121 of the Front Bench opposite—recognises that if we are to have two Chambers we cannot have two Chambers which always agree. Two Chambers have never agreed in any country upon every point; never, and it will always be open for a Minister in this House who does not happen to carry with him the Second Chamber, however constituted, to say, "Here is a Chamber which has destroyed, or impaired, or interfered with, a valuable measure by the Government. Our position is made intolerable by that difference of opinion." If you are going to have a Second Chamber, you will always have those differences, and I venture to say that either with the Second Chamber that you are going now to create, that is to say the existing House of Lords with modified powers, or under your new House of Lords, the new Second Chamber which the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Haldane) and others desire to create, you will have at least as many differences of opinion as, and I believe you will have a great many more differences of opinion than you have at this moment, or than you have had during the last four years.
I am aware that some hon. Gentlemen think all those differences of opinion were merely due to the promptings of a partisan spirit, and were solely designed, not to amend or improve the Bills with which the House of Lords were dealing, but to embarrass the Government which introduced them. That is a grotesque misrepresentation of facts, but I do not propose to argue that point, because, indeed, grotesque misrepresentations of that sort are not matters about which you can argue. That assertion meets with some derision. You cannot argue them for a very simple reason. The statement made by hon. Gentlemen opposite depends entirely upon imputations of motives to people of whose motives they know nothing, and whose motives they do not pretend to understand. There is no use arguing with people in that state of mind. I am not likely to convert them by anything I may say. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not worth converting."] I should be glad to convert them if I could, but there is sometimes prevalent even within the walls of this House what theologians call "invincible ignorance," and with invincible ignorance I think it will be admitted there is no arguing.
I want to go into the strictly practical question. How are the Government by 1122 their Resolutions going to escape from a situation which they assert is perfectly intolerable to any self-respecting legislators? The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General said that the treatment that he and his friends had received at the hands of the House of Lords during the last four years was so bad that, as he said, "the iron had entered into his soul." He is a Second Chamber man. How is he going to prevent the iron entering into his soul when he has reconstituted the Second Chamber, or even under the Second Chamber, as I shall show directly, which he proposes to constitute by this Resolution? On the face of it, the iron is going to enter into the right hon. Gentleman's soul always during the second half of a four years' Parliament. So that very "fiery particle" is eternal, but apparently it is not sensitive to iron in the third or fourth years of Parliament. I did not understand it, but, apparently, it is perfectly intolerable that in the first and second years of Parliament the House of Lords should have the power to destroy a Bill, and in the third and fourth year even the most sensitive, proud and high-minded Ministry may submit to the indignity without suffering any undue shock to their self-respect of allowing the House of Lords full power and full sway over Bills sent up. How is your Resolution going to save you from those rebuffs? A reformed Second Chamber, if on the model proposed by the Secretary of State for War, with such a Second Chamber you will, of course, have constant conflict. If you have two fully representative Chambers— two Chambers representative from top to bottom, of course you will have constant conflict, and there will be no reason why one should give way to the other. Then indeed I can understand the position of the Ministry being uncomfortable—far more uncomfortable than even in their present situation. Even granting that you are going to put off this reformed Second Chamber, as hon. Gentlemen on the other side for the most part hope, and as the whole House really expects, even if you put off that reform I do not see how you are helped by the Resolutions in their present shape. These rebuffs in the two last years of Parliament will be felt in all departments of legislation by the sensitive Gentlemen who now occupy the Treasury Bench. But that is only part of the case. In my judgment the most instructive and interesting speech delivered from that bench opposite in the whole course of these Debates has been 1123 the one delivered by the Secretary for Ireland. It was, as all his speeches are, extraordinarily interesting and amusing, and it was what perhaps some speeches on this occasion have not been, most instructive. He pointed out to the House:—By our Resolution to limit and define the powers of the House of Lords we inevitably increase those powers.And again:—The powers this Resolution will give the Second Chamber are powers in some respects greater than those at present enjoyed by the House of Lords.That, I believe, to be absolutely true. I believe in certain respects the interference by the House of Lords with the legislation of this Chamber will be increased and not diminished by the Resolutions you are proposing. I believe the Ministry understand their own Resolutions. They have contemplated the results; they have faced those results. Then how about this sensitive pride which will not tolerate a difference of opinion between the two Houses. The view of the Irish Secretary is that by defining the powers of the House of Lords and taking them out of their mystic or misty conditions in which, according to you, they now are, you would encourage the House of Lords to use to the utmost the clearly denned powers which you leave them. What are these clearly denned powers? They are powers to delay a Bill for three Sessions in two years. But, of course, the powers exercised thus freely under your own invitation by this Resolution will not be dropped at the end of the first two years; they will be exercised during the whole of the four years which the Prime Minister anticipates will be the ordinary duration of Parliament. You will multiply what you previously described as deadlocks. You will increase and not diminish the cause of friction between the two Chambers. Your difficulties will not diminish, but you will suffer new injuries, and the iron will enter the soul of the Postmaster-General even more frequently than it has done during the last four years.
Observe the extraordinarily unpractical character of what the Government are doing. What is our complaint against these Resolutions? It is that, whatever you may do with the powers of the House of Lords for dealing with the details of Bills, you will absolutely destroy the powers of the House of Lords as regards the Constitution. Is that nothing? Are we the only country in the world whose constitution requires no guarding? The Secretary of State for War began his 1124 speech the other day by uttering a lament as to the unhappy precedent he and his Friends were setting for the first time by reducing the British Constitution, or part of it, into writing, and making it in part a written Constitution. I regret that, but what is more to be regretted is that by the course you are adopting you inflict upon us all the injuries of a written Constitution, and none of the securities which a written Constitution is intended to give. The Constitution is put upon your Statute Book with all the difficulties of interpretation and of insensible modification which this method of dealing with a constitution necessarily carries with it. Although you propose to put part of the Constitution in writing not a single thing has been done to make that Constitution secure against temporary and evanescent movements of feeling either on the part of the constituencies or on the part of the Government and the majority in this House. It is absurd to say that we are conjuring up fantastic dangers when we comment on this. Surely the whole civilised world cannot be mistaken on this point. There is not a civilised country which does not think its constitution requires some special safeguard. By long practice of free government we have got on without having any legislative safeguards, and we have got on because we have two Chambers, and because one of those Chambers has the power, and has exercised that power, of insisting that before a great constitutional change is carried out the people of this country shall be consulted. That power you mean to remove. You mean to put nothing in its place.
I do not ask that every argument put from this side of the House shall receive a clear and full answer from those who are responsible for these Resolutions. But considering that we have been discussing them for nearly a fortnight now, and considering that this point has been put over and over again from this side of the House; considering, too, that no human being can deny it in the light of history and in the light of the experience of other nations and in our own experience as well, when we point out what seems to be a real and positive danger attaching to the change you are proposing to make in our Constitution, we have a right to complain that you have not attempted to answer us. I have not heard one speaker on the other side ever suggest that the British Constitution is a thing that ought to be preserved. I have not heard one suggest that great constitutional changes are changes about 1125 which we ought to be specially cautious. That never seemed to occur to them, and when we pointed it out to them they did not do us the scant courtesy to attempt a reply to our arguments. I think that is a most amazing state of things. I do not believe you will ever find a parallel in a discussion in any great assembly dealing with a constitutional issue for the negligence on the part of those responsible for these Resolutions to deal with what is after all the very heart and kernel of the whole question. The hon. Member for the Mansfield Division of Nottingham, a few minutes ago, said that on the whole the British people very seldom make mistakes. But whether we make mistakes or not, we certainly change our mind, and the views of the people at one election are not invariably the same at the next election—not even on the same question. What we feel is that great changes of popular feeling occur in this as in every other country in the world; and if you hand over the whole of your Constitution to the electorate without a check, you may find that before the electorate is again called upon to deal with the Constitution, the very foundations of that Constitution have been upset. That is not an imaginary danger. It is a danger brought home to every rational mind in the Home Rule Debates. I am not arguing whether Home Rule is right or wrong. Granting that Home Rule is perfectly right, and granting that it ought to be given, I still say so fundamental an alteration in the Constitution of the country ought not to be made by any House of Commons which has not got a mandate from the people fully acquainted with and seized of all sides of that great and conflicting question. It ought not to be decided until the people have fully made up their minds with full knowledge as to the manner in which you are going to carry out the dismemberment of the United Kingdom. It is absurd to say that this or any other great constitutional change ought to be put absolutely in the power of one Cabinet, a single Cabinet supported by the majority of the House of Commons and carried through for all time. Look at the fundamental inconsistency of the whole position! You claim for your Resolutions that they are going to prevent what you choose to call deadlocks between this House and the other. I would point out that they are going to increase those deadlocks. As regards the details of the Bills, I quote your own Irish Secretary, who seems to 1126 me to prove perfectly conclusively that the House of Lords, if it ever works under your new Constitution, will be invited to interfere in your future legislation as it has never thought of interfering in times gone by. The very first thing you want to escape by these Resolutions or by the Bill founded upon them are the very evils which will occur with redoubled strength after you have passed them. We have pointed out that for the first time you have made this part of a written constitution, and that this is a very bad thing. The Government admit that it is a very bad thing. We have pointed out also to you that while the House of Lords are invited to do that which I myself regret to see, namely, constant intervention in all the details of the legislation sent up by this House, you deprive them of all that which is their great, their fundamental and all-important function—that of preserving in the case of an unwritten constitution the fundamental principles on which that constitution is worked.
I think hon. Gentlemen will admit that I have attempted to argue this from their point of view, and a practical point of view, and I put it to them whether, by what they are doing, they will not strengthen the House of Lords in what they do not want to do, and weaken it for what they do want it to do. I say that is the most absurd and unconstitutional method of dealing with a great constitutional case that can possibly be conceived. It is no use, in the face of the absurdity of these Resolutions, to argue upon the principle of heredity or other great generalities. I am quite willing to deal with them at the proper time, but I say that on their own principles, on the very principles which I heard proclaimed from that bench and from that side of the House, they by their own Resolutions do not do what they want to do. This Resolution does not do what we all want it to do, and it will make the relations between the two Houses far more difficult than they have ever been before. It will leave us and those who come after us absolutely helpless in the event of some sudden gust of revolutionary change. Of course I agree that if the country wanted some great scheme of revolution and spoliation carried through the country could do it under our existing Constitution. Neither the House of Commons nor the House of Lords, nor anything either of them could do, would prevent such changes being carried through, however disastrous they may 1127 be, if the country really persistently desires them. But surely it is our duty to make the double-Chamber system work as smoothly as possible, and to leave all those securities against rash constitutional revolutions which in every country in the world are regarded as an absolute necessity. You not only have not done either by these Resolutions, you have destroyed both.
You will find the difficulty of working a double-Chamber system is far greater when these Resolutions are passed, if they ever are passed, and when they are acted upon, if they ever are acted upon, than it has been during those terrible four years which have reduced the Postmaster-General to a shadow. You will find that difficulty unconquerable. On the other hand, all that security and all that feeling of security, which is quite, or almost, as important as security, which have been the greatest treasures of this country throughout its constitutional history—that security and sense of security you absolutely destroy in the vain attempt to preserve the amour proper of the Members on that bench, and to carry out what they call the will of the constituencies. I have attempted to carry out my pledge of not being long, and I am sure I have carried out my pledge of being practical and of confining my criticisms directly to the issue raised by these Resolutions. I have referred to none of the broader questions almost inevitably raised by the discussion which we have had during the last ten days, and I ask hon. Members who take a wholly different view of the House of Lords, of their action in the past, of their title to act, of their functions—I ask even those hon. Members to look critically at the Resolutions which the Government have put upon the Table of the House, and I assert that if they will look at them they will find that the policy which they desire will not be carried out by the plan which the Government are asking us to adopt.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)
This memorable and important Debate has now continued for upwards of a fortnight. I do not know what changes it may have produced upon the opinions of Members in any quarter of the House, but it has certainly produced one change in the attitude and manner of the Leader of the Opposition. To-night we have had from him a thoughtful, serious reasoned argu- 1128 ment, which we have all listened to with pleasure and with instruction, and to which it is my evil fortune at this moment to attempt to reply. What a contrast there is between that speech to which we have just listened and the attempt to laugh off these Resolutions, to dismiss this scheme upon which the Liberal party has been engaged for so many years, with a few airy and ingenious quips of language and of thought such as the right hon. Gentleman always delights to indulge in, but which, as I venture to think, he has never used with so little advantage upon such a serious subject. The right hon. Gentleman to-night has fully recognised the gravity of the issue which is before him, and has fully recognised. I think, the real and practical nature of the proposals which we have advanced, but I do not think his historical contribution to the Debate, if I may very respectfully say so, was altogether worthy of the cogency of the rest of his arguments. He told us that the House of Lords existed to make sure that any great constitutional change should be referred to the people before it took place, and he told us that no great constitutional change ought to be made and decided upon unless the people had been consulted on the subject. Does the right hon. Gentleman not remember the year 1867? In that year the greatest of the constitutional changes in living memory was made. It was made by a Conservative Government. It was passed without demur in the House of Lords, to their credit let us say. Without demur they passed that great measure extending household suffrage throughout the country.
It was impossible to have a greater constitutional change, and it was a far greater constitutional change than what we are proposing now. But in those days it was thought that the financial control of the House of Lords was non-existent. Lord Derby, who proposed it as a Conservative Prime Minister, spoke of it as "a leap in the dark." Three Cabinet Ministers resigned, and the late Lord Salisbury stated that it was a disgraceful surrender of Conservative, principles. Surely if ever there was a case when the people ought to have been consulted, if the House of Lords are the really impartial body which we are asked to believe, that was the case. No; the House of Lords has not in the past proved a safeguard against great constitutional changes that have been thought to be of advantage 1129 to the Conservative party. It has proved to be no safeguard at all, nor would it be in the future in any great changes proposed by the party opposite, however much those changes might be resented by the persons having other political opinions in the country. The House of Lords, as the right hon. Gentleman fully admitted, is no safeguard against great constitutional change, which is supported by a movement of violence—of great and overwhelming violence in the country—and to hope to find security to the State in the power of the House of Lords to intervene and reject measures from time to time is to base the foundations of our social system upon a very much narrower and more insecure foundation than that now occupied. I was very glad to notice that the right hon. Gentleman fully recognised the really effective and practical powers for bargaining and for revising legislation which are left to the House of Lords under the proposals which we are now putting forward. The right hon. Gentleman said that the power of the House of Lords will be increased under these Resolutions. That is a very valuable and important statement, because all the right hon. Gentleman's organisers and party managers are going about the country, and setting their agents to work to say that these Resolutions amount to nothing more nor less than single-Chamber government. And yet the power of the House of Lords is to be increased.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I quoted, and I quite agree I quoted with approval, the statement of the Chief Secretary, and what I said was that you are increasing the power of the House of Lords in the things in regard to which you do not want to increase it, and you are putting us under a single-Chamber system of government in regard to what are really great and vital points.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Single-Chamber Government, and yet the power of the Second Chamber is to be increased. That is the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman addressing Members on this side of the House said that the powers of the House of Lords would be greater against all the things that we wanted to pass, and yet at the same time we are adopting a single-Chamber system. How that can be is utterly beyond my wit to imagine. I think it must be one of those occasions where the doctrine of curvature comes in, that delightful doctrine which, when you say 1130 anything, or make a definite statement, always enables you to count upon finding knowledge and intelligence in your audience so that they will believe the exact opposite—the doctrine that when you say it is the House of Commons and not the House of Lords which settles uncontrolled our financial system the language is always supposed, as a matter of course, to recognise the fact that the House of Lords has absolute power to reject any and every Budget and Money Bill which comes within its purview. That is a doctrine which is evidently implied by the right hon. Gentleman when he says we are setting up a single-Chamber system and at the same time increasing the power of the Chamber.
The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to say that if we were going to have a Second Chamber in our single-Chamber system we should always have disagreement with that Second Chamber. That is not necessarily true. It has not been proved in our own experience. We have known in our Constitution measures to pass without any disagreement. But in so far as it is true that there will be divergence of opinion between the two Chambers from time to time, is that not all the more reason for making the kind of provision which we make in these Veto Resolutions to relieve those deadlocks and prevent those cases of disagreement from becoming insoluble? The right hon. Gentleman has made some very valuable admissions, and we are greatly obliged to him for them. I think, myself, that the Chief Secretary was not going a bit too far when he said that for some purposes the power of the House of Lords would be increased, and certainly I think that the power which that body will possess after these Resolutions are passed will be real and practical, and will be capable of being used for good or for ill with formidable effect. I fully recognise and admit that. The bargaining power of the House of Lords will be immense under the Resolutions. The right hon. Gentleman has asked me to refer to the question of introducing into our proposals the system of conferences to which the Prime Minister referred yesterday. That is no new feature, because it figured very prominently in the original statement made by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, but it is a matter of machinery which would not properly be included in these Resolutions, in which we are only discussing the general and governing principles 1131 on which the Bill is subsequently to be founded. It is not only a matter of machinery, but it is a kind of machinery which I do not think could be satisfactorily set up unless there was a much larger measure of agreement on the main principle than that which exists at present on the subject. But we certainly do contemplate, during the period when the measure will be in suspense and under the Suspensory Veto of the House of Lords, a system whereby every effort shall be made constantly and continually to secure the greatest possible measure of agreement and of compromise between the two parties, and to make the ultimate legislation, as far as possible, representative, not merely of the majority, but of all classes in the community, and we shall labour to introduce into our proposals the necessary machinery for that purpose.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Yes, it will be in the Bill, or else it will be in the policy arising out of the Bill. [OPPOSITION laughter.] I really do not see any cause for laughter in that. It is obvious that the question of conferences cannot be imposed by the majority upon the minority. There must be a measure of agreement before any system of conferences and any process of settling disagreement by conferences could possibly be effective. That is what I meant. The House of Lords will have an immense power not to arrest legislation, but to modify legislation, if they use their power wisely. They will have immense power during the two years to modify legislation, because it will be the desire of every Government to get its Bills through. Every Government, when it has a great complex measure like the Education or the Licensing Bill, is anxious to get it passed through both Houses of Parliament, and get it out of the way; and, if they can, come to a settlement upon the measure and allay the opposition, which all great measures excite and keep alive in the country while they are under discussion. Time is a tremendous lever and a tremendous weapon either in peace or in war. In fact, I think in the government of States a judicious use of time is very often one of the most potent and effective weapons. I was reading the other day that Machiavelli advised his Prince always to keep his fortress victualled for a year, because, he says, given a year, something is sure to happen in the besiegers' camp. Either there will be a 1132 mutiny or their ranks will be thinned by disease and their spirit abated by defections, or else some disturbance will arise in their own capital, and, surveying the dangers with the eye of a practical man, provisions for a year in the victualling of the fortress would probably enable the Sovereign or the General to ride out the difficulties of any assault which he might expect. We are much more generous. We are presenting the House of Lords net with one year's provisions, but with two. We are providing them with the means of delaying a measure which they do not like for two whole years and three successive Sessions. I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman that that is giving the House of Lords enormous powers, and all this nonsensical talk which has been so loudly put forward by so many of those who agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we are in fact setting up a single-Chamber system can now be relegated to the limbo of worthless and exploded political argument.
The more I reflect upon the powers which the House of Lords will possess under these Resolutions, the more I desire to see a change effected in the composition of the body which is to exercise, such powers, and the more I feel that these formidable revising functions, which may be of such immense advantage if they are well used, and of such real injury if they are used evilly, should be entrusted to a more fair-minded and a more competent and more evenly constituted body than that which at present exists—that they should not be entrusted to a one-sided, hereditary, unrepresentative assembly which will be used as a mere party appliance, as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to indicate, not to make the Constitution work under the arrangement, but to help their friends in the House of Commons and in the country, and by breaking down this new arrangement to regain some of their former powers. The more I reflect on that, the more certain I am that the second step in this policy will have to be taken, and that the powers which are now relegated to the House of Lords cannot be exercised in perpetuity by a body which is so unfairly and improperly constituted as they are.
If the satisfactory feature of the Debate has been the general recognition of the very real powers and safeguards which are left to the House of Lords under these Resolutions, the oddest feature in the Debate has been the cheers with which 1133 the Conservative party have greeted all references on these benches to the question of reform. Whenever a speaker on this side has referred to the question of reform he has been greeted with encouraging cheers and warmly expressed approval from the benches opposite. I notice that hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to suppose that the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary for War, the hon. Member (Mr. Neil Primrose), who addressed us yesterday with so much effect, and the hon. Member (Mr. Markham), are somehow or other nearer to them in this question than we will, say, the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Dalziel) or the Labour party. They are under a profound delusion—either it is a delusion or a pretence. I do not know which it is. Let them realise what they mean by a reformed Second Chamber. We mean a Second Chamber which shall be subordinate to the House of Commons. We mean a Second Chamber which shall be democratic in its foundation, and a Second Chamber which shall be fairly and evenly constituted as between the different parties and classes in the country. Do they mean that? The views which have been put forward by the Secretary for War and other Members to whom I have referred differ only from the immediate policy of the Government in the fact that they go beyond it, and they diverge more widely from the views and opinions of the Opposition than the proposals upon which the House is at the present moment engaged. Such proposals are larger and more radical than the Resolutions themselves. They involve far more sweeping changes in the existing order of things. They were not at all excluded by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman from his general survey and from his general proposals.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It was put forward as a separate, but not as an antagonistic or conflicting policy, as a policy necessarily greater and necessarily less urgent than the one primary issue of the Veto. The hon. Member (Mr. H. P. Harris) dwelt upon the differences which he thought existed on this side of the House, and he thought he would go mad if he tried to reconcile all the different statements which he said were made upon this side. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not go mad, and I hope he will not try to delude himself as to any differences which exist among the supporters of the Govern- 1134 ment and among the Liberal and democratic forces in this House. Whether upon the question of the Budget or upon the question of the House of Lords, none of our differences will be of the slightest help or use to them. They are all differences which are wholly irrelevant to the controversy between the great parties or to the controversy between the two Houses. We are all united upon all the taxes which the House of Lords dislike, and we are all united, most of all, on all the taxes which the House of Lords dislikes most of all. We are all united in the repudiation of their right to touch the Budget. We are all united in making such interference impossible in the future. We are all united in securing the supremacy of the House of Commons in the State, and we are all united in securing its predominance in legislation. We are all united upon the great seriousness of the Veto Resolutions. We are all united in condemning the existing character of the House of Lords, and if some of us go further, and wish, after the Veto has been abolished, to see the House pf Lords as at present constituted swept away entirely, while others would stop short at the simple abolition of the Veto, that may be a real difference, but it is not a difference upon which the party opposite will be well advised to build; nor is it a difference which will in any way impair the full vigour and efficiency of democratic action.
I am very glad indeed that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition did not exaggerate the importance of the Veto proposals. He spoke of them in the serious mood which, indeed, they deserve; but he did not use the wild and exaggerated language which we have heard used about them by others who have spoken, and which has figured so largely in the journalism of the party opposite. I said to myself as I listened to this Debate, "What a wonderful thing is the force of habit." It has been said a great many times that we already have a single-Chamber system in respect of nearly all the fundamental matters of State—war, peace, treaties, Supply, police, and so forth. Fancy, if it were now proposed for the very first time to give an Executive resting on the House of Commons alone absolute power over all these great matters—power to declare war, power to make a treaty, perhaps to make a secret treaty, the result of which may not be known for years, and the consequences of which may lead us in future years into war—fancy, if 1135 it were now proposed for the first time to entrust such tremendous powers as those—powers of defence involving the safety and security of the country to an Executive resting only upon the House of Commons, I venture to say that would be a staggering proposal from which the timid might be expected to recoil, and from which the party opposite might be expected to start back in horror. They would say, "Imagine you might have a Radical Government in power, friends of every country but their own, and yet you propose to entrust to them the responsibility for the conduct of foreign relations, the responsibility for maintaining the defences of the country on sea and land, the responsibility for all those vital matters which concern the continuance and life of the State." If they were, I could quite understand the Noble Lord (Lord Huge Cecil) opposite and others who like him are nervous, and do not think highly of their political opponents being startled and alarmed. But they are not. They have lived under that system all their lives. It never occurred to them to ask themselves a question concerning that. They are perfectly prepared in those most tremendous responsibilities with which we have to deal to entrust themselves to the rule of a Government existing on the basis of a single Chamber, I say that compared with those terrific powers the Veto proposals which have now been put forward that in domestic legislation—the legislation which affects the ordinary daily lives of English, Scotch, Irish and Welsh—proposals which have been put forward by a majority of this House, and have been subjected to all proper precautions for delay and proposals which are put forward by that majority while it is still fresh from contact with the electors, are proposals which, compared with the other matters I have mentioned are moderate and restrained in I the last degree. I have heard of people; straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel, but I have never before heard of people who having already swallowed a camel come forward and plead that their gullets are not sufficiently expansive to accommodate a gnat. It really is an extraordinary inversion, and I am quite certain that if any foreigner, any outsider, any visitor from another planet, were to come in cold blood, and view it with impartial eye, he would regard it as an extraordinary inversion that the Con- 1136 servative party should acquiesce in the tremendous powers of peace and war resting in the hands of an Executive responsible to a single Chamber, and yet shrink from trusting the comparatively smaller questions, and far less important questions of domestic legislation to a similar body, under all due safeguards. One would have thought the Tory party, the Imperialist party, would have clamoured that at least extreme Imperial issues should be referred for final consideration to that House of Lords where there are so many generals, proconsuls, masters of foxhounds, and all those other responsible and important persons. One would have thought that they would have attached far more importance to those Imperial matters than to local domestic matters which are usually the subject of legislation. One would have thought that they would have far rather rested on a single-Chamber basis in regard to a Bann drainage scheme than in regard to the South African Constitution, or that they would rather have rested on a single-Chamber basis in regard to tramways going down the Thames Embankment than, shall we say, in regard to the abolition of purchase in the Army. Especially I think one would have expected this if one remembered within what comparatively narrow limits our domestic disputes are now conducted, and what gigantic and effective practical checks in the social structure, of our civilisation there are upon any action even the most moderate. I say that this curious inversion in the view of the party opposite in regard to matters of such different importance argues one of two things—one of two forms of insincerity, if I may say so without disrespect. It either means that they oars more for one class of party question than they do for great national and Imperial questions, or else they mean, and this is more flattering, that they really do not think so badly of their fellow countrymen as they profess to do in their political controversies. Either way, it is quite clear that the Veto of the House of Lords is not needed for vital national interests because those national interests are not covered by it, and that it is for class and party questions it is being sustained.
I can prove, not to the satisfaction of the Leader of the Opposition, because that is unnecessary, he is converted already, but I can prove out of his own mouth to the satisfaction of his followers and supporters that there is no need to exaggerate the effect and 1137 consequences of the present Resolution. Let me remind the House again of the quotation which I ventured to read in an earlier Debate from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman in 1906, when he said that "the great Unionist party would still control, whether in power or in Opposition, the destines of this great Empire." I thought, as did my right hon. Friends behind me, that the right hon. Gentleman meant that it would be by the action of the House of Lords that the great Unionist party, when in a minority in the House of Commons, would control the destinies of the country. I fully understand what the right hon. Gentleman meant. I make full allowances for curvature. If it is not by the House of Lords that the great Unionist party will control the destinies of this great country when they are in a minority in the House of Commons, by what agency do they propose to do it? I suppose the right hon. Gentleman meant that, although in a minority, still the Conservative party by their influence, by their strength, by their powerful speeches, and by their regular attendance at Debates, would nevertheless be able to exercise a sensible influence on public affairs and sway the destinies of this great Empire. I think there is a great deal in it, but if it be so, what do they want the Veto of the House of Lords for? If the right hon. Gentleman can control the destinies of the country through the House of Commons when his party are in a minority, surely he does not want to sway the destinies of this great Empire twice over—first in the House of Commons, and a, second time in the House of Lords. It would be putting upon him an altogether undue strain and exertion. I agree as to the substantial truth of the right hon. Gentleman's statement. I think the Conservative party will always have tremendous power and influence, whether in the majority or the minority. I believe that influence is not dependent on the Veto of the House of Lords. It is dependent on a variety of social forces which are at work every day in all parts of the country and at every stage of our national life. I do not believe that the Conservative party would ever suffer, even after our Veto Resolution has become law, that total deprivation of all political influence which falls upon Liberals, upon Scotchmen, Irishmen, and Welshmen, when the Conservative party enjoy a majority in the House of Commons. Why, Sir, all changes of a democratic character are becoming more difficult every day. The 1138 ever-growing complexity of society, the multiplication of interests, overlapping, interwoven, and interdependent in every part of the country in everyday business and social life, the ever greater extension of commerce in all its forms, the new interests which are born from day to day, the enormous classes which at present are enjoying inert property, rent-earning and interest-bearing property, and other great classes, which though perhaps they may not enjoy reproductive capital in their possession, nevertheless have a distinct social position marked off, entrenched, and maintained with great vigour by themselves throughout the whole social organisation of the country, are all factors which have to be considered. Why, Sir, you can hardly move a step in social reform without having real concrete checks which exist on hasty or violent action. Take the case of the Port of London Bill. That was a measure with which I was to some extent concerned. No one would believe the variety of interests concerned in that. Scores and scores of investors, of whom the House of Commons had never dreamt, and of whom the Board of Trade had never guessed, all sorts of old prescriptive rights enjoyed by wharfingers, all sorts of interests such as short-sea traders, and every conceivable variety of persons interested in the working of a great port, all found their spokesmen in Parliament and brought their influence to bear on the Ministry. It is not without the most prodigious labour and expenditure of care and patience that any change in social matters or in political matters can be brought about in a country like ours, so complex and old established.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Many of their descendants are in the House of Lords, so that they have friends in Court; but other interests have not been so far-seeing as to have descendants who have become Members of the House of Lords. I do not dispute the accuracy of the Noble Lord's statement. I only say that if it is accurate it covers a very small portion of the ground. Further, I say that the Conservative party are themselves engaged in proposing to make very great and immense changes, and changes which are as great towards reaction as any of the changes proposed by this side are towards progress. And most of the powerful interests 1139 which restrain us impel them on their course of change and revolution. If we lose a General Election, we are going to suffer the infliction of a tariff which, we believe, will ruin the interests of the country. Lancashire and Yorkshire will have to suffer a fiscal system which they profoundly distrust and fear, and the working classes are going to have to suffer taxes on their bread and meat. The House of Commons is going to have to suffer a House of Lords which is to be reformed in some sort of way, which means a permanent Tory majority, unassailable by any of the arguments which can now be addressed to the existing Second Chamber, and such House of Lords will be given the fullest powers, not merely over legislation, but over finance. I say that those are great dangers and great perils which we run. I say that our risks and our dangers are greater; we have more to lose, and we run the greater danger of losing it if an election goes the wrong way than the party opposite. Yet we are not frightened. We are prepared to trust the people, and to run the risk. Why are not they able and willing to do the same?
The right hon. Gentleman again in his speech to-day professed to be unable to understand the grievance which we feel in the present position of the House of Lords, and the use which has been made of its powers. He spoke of what he called the argument from pride. He said how is it that a composite majority which stoops to such humiliating devices in order to maintain itself in power—he did not say what those devices were—should upon this question display such extraordinary pride? It is not a question of pride. It is a question of hard, practical fact which has been borne in on every one of us. It did not come to us as a mere ebullition of pique or temper. It came to us as we trudged month after month through those Lobbies, knowing that the result of all our toil and labour would be swept away and dismissed after an hour's intrigue at Lansdowne House. That is what we do not like. That is what is never going to happen again. Why, let the right hon. Gentleman, who is often fair-minded to his opponents, consider for a moment the position in which ho wishes to place the Government resting on a majority of this House. We cannot pass any Bills without his permission. We cannot pass a single Bill unless he is willing to say that it shall be passed. There sits the right hon. Gentleman, and when the clerk in the House of Lords pronounces the 1140 I words "Le roi le vault" it is the right hon. Gentleman's voice which is heard. Everyone knows that his finger must touch the; measure before the House of Lords is authorised to pass it or the King is authorised to affix his signature. That is the practical fact which the right hon. Gentleman tries to obscure. It is not a mere question of pique or pride. We cannot make any plan either for social reform or political change, or for the ordinary thrifty and careful administration of national affairs.
We cannot do that, for the House of Lords now claims, and unless their claim is repudiated at once will claim, power over finance, including the right of dissolution whenever they are dissatisfied with a Budget or with our naval policy or on a question of foreign policy. Does the right hon. Gentleman really expect us to go on sitting here, occupying high offices of State, drawing our salaries at his pleasure, and liable to be dismissed at any moment when their Lordships have come to the conclusion that there is a chance of the Tory party bettering their position? What measures, says the right hon. Gentleman, are the House of Lords blocking? Let us be quite frank. We wish to make a national settlement with Ireland. We wish to free Wales from its alien church. We wish to deal with the grievance of Nonconformists. We wish to sweep away the-electoral anomalies which distort the representation of these countries and deny the franchise to so many. We have promised to do all these things. We are pledged to carry out all these things. We are expected to do all of them, and we can do-none of them, although we have a great majority for all of them in this Parliament, and although we had a far greater majority for them in the Parliament which has passed away. The Postmaster-General, speaking last night, spoke of grants of self-government which had always been received with a howl of terror, and yet had afterwards been found to reconcile many difficulties, so that the results had been hailed with approval and satisfaction. This-is a grant of self-government which we are going to make to ourselves. The right hon. Gentleman's party opposite plunged us into a great war in South Africa on a cry of "Equal rights for Whites." That is what we are seeking for in this country. We are seeking to make certain that a Liberal vote shall count as much as a Conservative vote, that a Nonconformist vote-shall be as effective for the purposes of redressing his special grievance as a Church- 1141 man's vote, that a Free Trader's vote shall not count for less in national controversies than a Tariff Reformer's vote. That is what, we are fighting for, and while that issue is on we have no fear of what the result may be.
It will not be a serious or a vital question if these Resolutions are passed. It will not be a supreme or violent event in the history of our country if they are passed. No, there will be no danger or no revolution, no crisis or no deadlock. All will go forward smoothly. The Veto of the House of Lords will pass away as painlessly as the Veto of the Crown, and we shall move forward in the harmonious development of our national life. No, the danger is not that they shall pass; the danger is that they shall be rejected. There is the danger. Let the right hon. Gentleman who holds this issue in his hand, who by his signal can direct the course of events elsewhere, weigh well his decision before he takes it. He will find that if these Resolutions are rejected he will be committed to a long voyage of which the end cannot be foreseen. He and his Friends will be committed, as is quite clear by the speech a short time ago of the hon. Member for the Walton Division for Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith), who spoke of two or three dissolutions in a single year, to a policy of repeated dissolution, with the scarcely concealed object of trying to break financially the organisation of their political opponents. Sooner or later, if they embark upon this course of refusing this moderate reform for which we are now pressing, they will be driven to governing without the House of Commons. They will be driven to raising money without the consent of Parliament and to administrative action which has not received the force and sanction of the law. They will be committed year after year to deepening confusion and darkening conflict. If they lose, let them not be sure that these moderate proposals which are now put forward, which, as the right hon. Gentleman says, would leave the House of Lords if anything stronger, will necessarily be at their disposal; and if they win they will have succeeded in driving half the nation outside the pale of that Constitution in which they had confidently hoped they would find equal justice and freedom for all.
§ Mr. ROWLAND HUNT
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken referred to the party on this side of the House as having driven the country into a great war. I may say that that is not the truth. The 1142 Boers sent us an insulting ultimatum and invaded our territory. The real authors of that war were the Liberal party, because in 1881, after having boasted that they were going to put down the insurrection of the Boers, after three small skirmishes they ran away. It was the Liberal party entirely that brought about the war to which the right hon. Gentleman alludes. The right hon. Gentleman also said the Unionist party stated "that these Resolutions meant single-Chamber government, but that that was all nonsense." I think I can show that it really does mean single-Chamber government. The Prime Minister further said '' that it would take a very long time, however much we might be agreed on the change, to set up a Second Chamber instead of the House of Lords." It is impossible, therefore, from the Prime Minister's own statement, to come to any other conclusion, if these Resolutions be passed, than that the proposal for a reformed Second Chamber will be indefinitely put off. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to speak as if the Labour party, the Nationalist party, and a great proportion of his own supporters, are all agreed OB having a Second Chamber. They are certainly not. On the contrary, the majority of all these three parties are dead against having a Second Chamber at all. The Leader of the Labour party, the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes) told us yesterday "that his party demanded that the House of Lords should be ended and not mended." He went on to say "that the remedy of an elected House of Lords would be worse than the disease, and what he and his colleagues wanted was the abolition of the House of Lords altogether, there being no need for an Assembly of that character." I cannot imagine the poor Prime Minister struggling to bring in a Bill for a reformed Second Chamber, including in it some of the gentlemen whom he himself has sent to the Upper House, in face of the violent opposition of hon. Gentlemen from Ireland, the Labour Members, and the majority of his own party. The sort of chance he would have under these conditions can easily be imagined. I think, therefore, we may dismiss entirely the idea that the Government have any real intention to try to set up another Second Chamber when they have succeeded in destroying the House of Lords. The idea, however, of keeping up this fiction is only one of the usual and somewhat curious 1143 devices of the Liberal party to humbug the people and keep the moderate Liberals in hand.
If the Government, like the Leader of the Labour party, really told us plainly, and told the people plainly, that they intended that the House of Commons should be the supreme and only power in the land, without any check on it for four or five years, then I think we on this side of the House, and the House of Lords, too, would be willing to bow to that decision if the people said that it was to be so. But that is not how it is going to be. The Government will not act honestly in the matter. The hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow told us that the people are always liable to be misled, confused, and bamboozled. I am afraid that is true, but it is the Liberal party who do all they can to bamboozle and confuse them. If the Liberal party had not this power of humbugging the people, they really would not have any chance at the next General Election. From the. illuminating speech which we heard the other day from the hon. Member for Kirkealdy Burghs we learnt "that all Liberal Bills are to be brought in at the beginning of each Parliament, somewhere about 4th February, that if these Resolutions are used to their fullest advantage all Bills would pass in two years, and that they would not take longer if the Government was really in earnest. Therefore, in regard to any measure on which the Government have made up their minds, it can be got through in two years," that is to say, that during the whole of the four or five years which the Government is in power they would be able to pass any Bills they desired. That is the view of a great supporter of the Government of how it is to be done. I have no doubt, with sufficient pressure, that is how it would be done. In this way the House of Lords, which has existed for more than 800 years, is to be done away with by these Veto Resolutions. Measures will be carried through with a run, and I suppose without the change of a comma, as the Budget was proposed to be taken at the beginning of this Session, only that, unfortunately, the Government had a majority against them. It is quite certain the Government would have absolute power to pass any Bills they liked under the guillotine during all the four or five years, however much the majority of the people in the country might be against 1144 them. The Prime Minister refuses, as I understand, to have anything to do with a Referendum. I daresay, from his point of view, he is quite right. If the Government had used the Referendum on the Education and Licensing Bills the Government would have seen at once that they would have no cry about those two measures. I think it would be a very bad plan to have the House of Commons vested with sole power, because the people might very well.be deceived, as they were in 1906, by the same sort of lies as were told about Chinese labour and big loaves. After election the Government could do anything they liked. They could get Home Rule put through against the wishes of Ulster and the rest of Great Britain, and the majority of the people would be helpless. If the Veto Resolutions become law nothing can prevent the Government from taxing all the big and small landlords and railway shareholders out of existence, and still the people would be helpless. That is what it comes to. They could also pass the Education and Licensing Bills which the House of Lords prevented from becoming law. They could pass all these measures without any trouble during four or five years, despite the fact that in all human probability they are Bills to which the people of the country are very much opposed. If the Licensing Bill and the Education Bill were really popular in the country we know perfectly well that the Government could have gone to the country and could have brought them in again if returned to power. They did not do so. It is the old story. They knew those measures were unpopular, and they were afraid to go to the country. But even when the Government did at length go to the country they thought they had set a trap for the House of Lords in connection with the Budget. When they came back to power, did they bring forward the Budget again? They did not, because they knew that a majority of the House of Commons were against it. When they do bring it in again there will be probably many alterations besides commas. If these Resolutions are passed it will be within the power of the Government to reduce the Army and Navy, leaving the country helpless in case of war. They could pass any sort of vote-catching measures they chose, costing an enormous amount of money. There would be nothing whatever to prevent their doing that. And that is the line which the present Chancellor of the Exchequer is inclined to 1145 take. He told us that he was going to find the money for social reform by reducing the amount spent on hideous mechanisms for huge slaughter. The sequel of all this is that there is a great feeling of insecurity in the country, and there is very great difficulty in finding the money to pay our way.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is travelling very wide of the Resolution. He is speaking about national finance, and measures of administration which have nothing to do with the proposals to be dealt with under this Resolution.
§ Mr. HUNT
I will try to keep to the line. The Prime Minister asked us what chance could there be of the House of Commons distorting and perverting the wishes of the people of this country. I think from what I have seen of the Government in the last Parliament and in this, there would be a very good chance of it, and certainly the historical case is very much against the Government, because when the House of Commons had uncontrolled power it behaved extremely badly, and our Navy was defeated by Admiral Von Tromp.
It was entirely the fault of the Government at that time, as they did not find the money for the ships and men. The Dutch Admiral—
§ The CHAIRMAN
That has nothing to do with the matter under discussion. This Resolution relates to Rills other than Money Bills, and does not relate to the Army and Navy or their administration.
§ Mr. HUNT
I am very sorry. I had no idea that was out of order. Then I must not Bay anything of what Cromwell said as to the frightful state of affairs that happened when the Commons in those days had uncontrolled power. In this proposed single Chamber we might very well have a majority in the Cabinet, and in the House of Commons who would take the part of the enemy and against their own country, and I dare say it will be remembered that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer gave his Bristol audience 1146 to understand that British soldiers had slaughtered 11,000 children in South Africa—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must really confine his remarks to the subject of the Resolution. The Resolution deals with the powers of the House of Lords over Bills other than Money Bills, and that is the only question.
§ Mr. HUNT
I thought I was pointing out the sort of men who might rule the country when the House of Commons had uncontrolled power. If I cannot do so I will finish by saying that it appears to me that this Budget and Veto are admittedly brought about for the purpose of killing Tariff Reform. I think Tariff Reform has been mentioned before. Although I have not been able to give all my reasons I have ventured to give some of the reasons why I certainly think these Resolutions should not be passed. If they were passed I certainly think they would be a great danger to the country. I feel that is true from history, and I only wish I had been able to go on quoting from Cromwell.
§ Mr. C. A, M'CURDY
I have to ask the indulgence of the House as a new Member. There is one constitutional struggle which comes into the mind of any one representing the constituency which I represent— that of Northampton—and which has not been referred to in this Debate, and yet, I think, has some analogy. That was the struggle on the part of the people as represented by the electors of Northampton for the right to send to this House the representative of their choice. It was a struggle between the will of the people and one of the Houses of Parliament. It was a struggle of one constituency on the one side, and on the other side of the might and majesty of the House of Commons. That struggle ended, as I believe all struggles between the will of the people and either House of Parliament must ultimately end, in the triumph of the will of the people as expressed by the, electors of Northampton. Three times. this House, wrongfully as was subsequently decided by the House itself, sent Charles Bradlaugh back to his constituents, and three times the electors sent him back to take his seat. The electors of Northampton take this peculiar interest in the present controversy that they put forward all their efforts on behalf of their right to send a representative of their choice to this House because they re- 1147 garded that right as a valuable political privilege; and they naturally take the view that when a representative has been sent to this House that if he is merely to form part of an Assembly whose powers of passing legislation are always subject to the predominating will of another Assembly, then they feel that to some extent the battle that was fought for representative rights in Northampton would be a battle fought in vain. Speaking as a new Member, who has most diligently attended these Debates and listened to the several speeches, I am somewhat like the Persian—Myself when young did eagerly frequent, Doctor and Saint; and heard great argument About it and about; but evermore Came out by the same door wherein I went.Not very many new things appear to have been established in the course of this Debate. One thing I have grasped is that there, appears to be the most gratifying agreement between both sides of the House that in the Constitution of this country the will of the people, ought to, and shall, prevail. I must say I should like a little information as to whether hon. Members on the other side of the House use that expression "the will of the people" in the sense in which we understand it. Certainly it is not a doctrine which has at all times been emphasised by Leaders of the Conservative party in this country. I think the late Lord Salisbury once suggested a very different basis to the late Lord Randolph Churchill when he expressed the opinion that so far from Conservatism resting on the will of the people, that Toryism rests upon class and the dependents of class. It is gratifying to democrats, in whatever part of the House they sit, to find evidence of the acceptance of the sound democratic doctrine that in this country the will of the people must prevail. I would like to test what hon. Members opposite mean by the phrase in one or two questions. Does this newly found and accepted doctrine by them cover the case of the people of Ireland on the question of Home Rule; does it cover the case of the people of Wales on the question of Disestablishment; does it apply to the abolition of plural voting, for which I do not think it can be suggested by anybody in this House there is not a majority in every part of the United Kingdom? I go a step further and ask, if they are sincere in this doctrine to which so much lip service has been paid by Members of the Opposition 1148 during this Debate, what is their attitude with regard to a question like that of adult suffrage? If they are not in favour of adult suffrage, by what means do they propose that the will of the people shall be given expression to?
There is one other matter on which there has been a considerable amount of agreement, and that is the question of the reform of the House of Lords. For my part, speaking for a constituency which I believe to be as advanced in its Radicalism as the constituencies of any of the more advanced Members of the party who sit on these benches, I should like to say how cordially I support the policy of the Government on keeping reform of the House of Lords on a purely democratic and elective basis to the forefront in this Debate. We do not wish to go to the country with the other side putting forward as their party programme the reform of the House of Lords and with ours limited to that of the limitation of the Veto. That would be a misrepresentation of the true position, because, after all, when it comes to any position of genuine reform of the House of Lords I should like to test what the genuineness of the intentions of hon. Gentlemen opposite are by asking this question: When they talk of reform of the House of Lords do they mean such reform as will take away and destroy the hereditary principle as the basis upon which that House is to be constituted? If they do not they do not use the words "reform of the House of Lords" in the sense in which we understand them on this side of the House. If they do, and if they are in sympathy with the policy put forward by the Resolutions lately moved in another place, then it seems to be that a more cynical exhibition of political ingratitude has never been exhibited in this country since the celebrated purging of the Cabinet in 1903 than in the attitude of the leaders of the party in this matter. We have heard speeches in which we were told of the patriotic fooling and sense of duty exhibited by numerous peers, who, at the dictates of the party opposite and acting on the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, came from their backwoods to vote down a Liberal Budget and to destroy a Liberal Government.
What is the first reward offered them by their leaders? If hon. Gentlemen opposite are sincere in their professed adherence to the abolition of the hereditary principle in the House of Lords, the result of the blind devotion of these Members to 1149 the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman opposite is that henceforth their sons are not to occupy their places in the other House as hereditary peers. There is to be another Chamber in which a selection may sit among whom the sons of the faithful hack-bench peers are to find no place.
I do not intend to deal with the historical and legal aspects of the question, because it appears to me that we are dealing with an entirely new situation, in regard to which no historical or legal precedents which can be found afford much assistance. Up to 1906 there were two great parties in the State, for whom the ordinary elector worked at and between elections, and as a result of the labours and sacrifices of the electors we had alternately one party or the other returned to power. Prior to 1906, although the House of Lords at times rejected measures regarded as important by the Liberal party, as a general rule whichever party was returned was in power for its period of office. It was, if a Liberal Government, subject to some rebuffs and humiliations by the House of Lords, but, on the whole, it was able to pass its great measures into law and to satisfy its supporters who had returned it to power. In 1906, however, the political history of this country underwent a complete change. For the first time the rejection of Liberal measures by the House of Lords was no longer determined by the feelings entertained in another place, but it became a part of the ordinary armoury of the Opposition for the purpose of embarrassing or humiliating a Liberal Government. Take two cases as illustrations. The Bill for the disestablishment of the Irish Church, passed by Mr. Gladstone in 1869, excited as much opposition on the part of the Tories as any measure proposed by the Government in the last four years. But in those days this method of political warfare—the assassination of prime measures of the Liberal party—did not occur to the gentlemen who then controlled the destinies of the Opposition, and in consequence that Bill was passed by the House of Lords. Another case in more recent times is the Budget of Sir William Harcourt in 1894. That Budget affected the interests of the land-owning classes in a precisely similar manner to the Budget rejected last year. But it was never suggested then that a Budget could be so treated. The only excuse I can offer for the party opposite is that in 1906 they found themselves for the first time in 1150 political history not subject to one of the ordinary rebuffs or political vicissitudes which send a party into Opposition for a term with every hope that at the next election they may come back to office. In that year the Conservative party was not merely beaten; it was smashed and destroyed. It came back a mere remnant of a party.
I once heard it said somewhere that a prize fighter of small stature, when reproached for hitting his opponent below the belt, gave as his excuse that he could not reach up to his waist. Some such feeling, or a recognition that the ordinary tactics of party warfare signally failed in 1906, must be looked to as the explanation why they sought a new party weapon and found it in the revival of the absolute Veto of the House of Lords, and in the persistent and rigorous application of that Veto to one first-class measure after another, until ultimately, the appetite growing by that upon which it fed, and the House of Lords growing bolder as they proceeded, they took their courage in both hands and committed the absolutely unheard of unconstitutional act of refusing Supplies, repealing the Septennial Act of their own accord, and sending the Liberal party to the country before its legal term of office had nearly expired. I have never had much respect for the politics of the party opposite, but we hear a great deal about their being sportsmen. They are not the poor Nonconformist labouring class who sit on these benches; they are the gentlemen and sportsmen of the country. I put it to them whether since 1906 they have not conducted their politics in about the most unsportsmanlike way possible. It has been a policy of marked cards and loaded dice; and as for masters of foxhounds, they would be more likely to shoot foxes than hunt them if they pursued their sport in the way in which they have pursued their politics since 1906. How does it strike the plain man in the street? I do not think he is very much interested in the law or the history of the case. He looks at it from the plain, common-sense point of view. Now the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University put a hypothetical case as to what would happen if these Resolutions were passed. He used words to this effect: "Is it to be thought possible that a great party should submit to have its important measures, for which its followers had worked in the country, and to which it had devoted all its powers, mutilated or rejected?" I am quoting his words as nearly as I can. He 1151 was putting a hypothetical case, but do not they apply verbally and textually to the actual situation created by the way in which the powers of the House of Lords have been utilised by the Opposition in the last Parliament? A great Government, the greatest so far as its majority and the support it enjoyed in the country, which this country had seen since the Reform Act of 1832, had to suffer this precise humiliation which the Noble Lord said it is possible a Government might have to suffer in the future, and the man in the street does understand this much, that when the Conservatives were in charge, under our present electoral system, they were allowed to reap the fruits of victory, but when the Liberal or the Labour party won an election under the present system, in the situation as interpreted and managed by the Opposition and by another place in the last Parliament, that Liberal or Labour party would not be allowed to reap the fruits of their victory.
I would like to say a word or two in the hope of getting some further light from the Government as to the form of procedure they mean to adopt with regard to this Resolution. I think I understand this clearly, that if a Bill should be introduced into this House for the limitation of the Veto of the House of Lords, if that Bill should be properly and fairly discussed and passed through all its stages and be sent to another place, and there rejected, and if upon such rejection a Dissolution should take place, and the Government responsible, for that Bill should be returned to power, I conceive that, in these circumstances, no one in this House would doubt that a situation had arisen in which it would be the right, as well as the duty, of the Prime Minister to tender advice which the Crown could not constitutionally reject for the purpose of carrying the Bill of this House into effect. I do not understand— and I think other Members on these benches would like enlightenment upon this point—what state of things short of that which I have described, namely, the passing of a Bill through all its stages, after full discussion, and a Dissolution upon its rejection by the House of Lords, would be sufficient to make it the duty, as well as the right, and, I would add, the right as well as the duty, of the Prime Minister authoritatively to tender advice for the purpose of making good this particular Bill. In the last Parliament, as I 1152 think everybody on these benches sees now, a different course might have been taken. If in the last Parliament, after the rejection of the Budget, a Bill had been introduced limiting the Veto of the House of Lords, and had been passed through all its stages, prior to the Dissolution, and we had been returned with the majority which we now enjoy, no difficulty or trouble would have occurred about guarantees. It appears to me, speaking as a new Member, with a good deal of submission, that it is now recognised that that was an error in tactics on the part of the Parliament which haft gone. I feel a little doubt and anxiety as to whether in this Parliament we are not repeating the precise error of the last. We have heard, in speeches from the Front Bench on this side, statements that we will not "plough the sands." I think hon. Members would not consider that we were ploughing the sands if we were to troop through the Lobbies for the purpose of carrying out a policy at the end of which we could see the result assured, and. for my part. I should feel confident of what was going to happen after the next election, if at whatever sacrifice of time and convenience to ourselves, we were occupied in this House in a full discussion and in trooping through these Lobbies night after night for the purpose of passing a Bill for the limitation of the Veto of the House of Lords, because I should be confident that if that Bill had been passed after full discussion in this House and sent up to another place and rejected there, either at that stage the Prime Minister would feel it his right to tender advice, or at any rate if not at that stage, only one further stage, would become necessary, namely a Dissolution and a return to office of this party after that Dissolution. If that were so I would feel confident that the fruition of our hopes would be at hand. I do not speak as one fully versed in the etiquette and procedure of this House, but I do not understand that there is any constitutional precedent for the tender of advice upon the rejection of a Resolution. I do not understand constitutionally, from the point of view of constitutional history, that the Royal Prerogative has ever been exercised in relation to the rejection of a Resolution, and I would like, some assurance that after these Resolutions have passed through this House they are going to be followed in this House by the passing of a Bill through all its stages, and that Bill is to be carried to another place, 1153 or some assurance from those on that bench who are in a position to speak with authority that the procedure contemplated by the Government will be as effective as the simple course I have indicated, and render tramping through the Lobbies unnecessary, without any sacrifice on our part, and without any chance of finding that we have left undone a thing we shall wish we had done in this Session, as we should have done it in the last Session. I venture to ask, from the point of view of Members like myself, whose minds are not quite easy upon this point, for some further assurance before this Debate concludes.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE (for Mr. F. E. Smith)
moved, after the word "than" ["as respects Bills other than"], to insert the words "Bills further affecting the constitution and powers of the House of Lords, and."
I understand the time has now come when, by arrangement, the general discussion should cease and the Amendment should be taken in hand. I congratulate the hon. Member upon his speech, which, I understand, is a maiden speech. The grievances he alleges are quite capable of being cured by methods other than by those put forward in the Resolutions, either by a reformed Chamber which would deal in the same way with measures passed by Conservatives as by Liberals, or by a revision of the Constitution; or, personally, I should add by the Referendum, but I do not want to go into that at this stage. I take it. I am in order in moving the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Walton Division, with the addition of the words "or powers." I desire to amplify it in that way. The object of that Amendment is to limit the scope of the second Resolution with respect to Bills further affecting the Constitution and powers of the House of Lords. I did not know that the hon. and learned Member who had put down the Amendment would be absent, and I am rather under a disadvantage on that account. The point I would like to make is this. Is it pretended that this second Resolution, or the three Resolutions together, can be a settlement of the question? I have heard from the opposite Benches many speeches which clearly indicate that it cannot be a settlement, and that to make it a settlement there must be a reform of the Constitution wholesale at some subsequent period. Well, if this is not a settlement, and if there is to be a settlement later on, surely the 1154 people as a whole should be consulted upon that settlement.
If rumour proves true, there will be an election without any plan for the constitution of the House of Lords being officially put forward from the Government Bench. There are suggestions and indications, but there will be no plan and there will even be no Bill. More than that, even if there was a Bill it would never have run the gauntlet of Parliamentary discussion. Therefore I assume an election takes place and that the present Government cornea back with a sufficient majority to carry a Bill embodying these Resolutions now before us. That will leave the question of the constitution of the House of Lords still open for decision. The people will not have had the question of the constitution of the House of Lords in any definite form before them as they will have had the Veto. Under these Resolutions it will be perfectly possible, assuming that the Government in the next Parliament lasts two years, for a vital reform of the House of Lords to be carried through by the will of the majority of the next House of Commons, not only apart from what the peers may decide, but from what the people may wish. I will pursue this further. What security can there be that the powers this second Resolution will give may not make for the total abolition of the House of Lords? There is no limitation of the powers of the second Resolution whatever, and, as has been pointed out, there is nothing in the British Constitution of itself to limit the exercise of these powers.
In other countries Parliament is not omnipotent. In this country it is omnipotent, and Parliament now can do practically anything. Under this Resolution the House of Commons will be able to do anything it likes, provided it is of the same mind for two years. I suggest that if you are going to give the House of Commons these powers they ought at any rate to be confined to ordinary legislation. The Home Secretary, in his brilliant speech, talked about the narrow scope of our domestic differences and the ordinary things that occupy the daily life of the people of this country, but a further alteration of the Constitution is a far greater matter than those, yet you entrust it practically to a majority of the next House of Commons, who will not have been elected upon this question of reform, certainly not elected on the question of any distinct proposals for the reform of the House of Lords. That is a state of things which you cannot parallel in any other country. 1155 I have taken some pains to find out what the facts are in other countries. I will not weary the House by going into them now, but whether you take America, North or South, or whether you take Europe, there is no large country, with the exception possibly of Russia, which is not an example in point, and of Hungary, and possibly though, it is rather doubtful of Spain, in which a constitutional revolution of the magnitude which is possible under this Resolution could be effected. The method is different in different countries. In some there must be a referendum unless there is a certain majority of, say, two-thirds whenever there is a difference between the two Houses. There is no such power under the British Constitution as it exists now, and the whole powers of the British Constitution, if this second Resolution becomes law, will be vested in the House of Commons as long as it exists for two years. I submit, if you are going to abandon the old Chamber, you must be ready with some new one.
It is rather strange to consider what elaborate safeguards there are against abuse of Parliamentary powers in questions where private interests alone are concerned. The Home Secretary alluded to the Port of London Bill, but that Bill went through purely by the procedure of private Bills. Under Private Bill Procedure every manner of interest is most carefully considered. There is elaborate compliance with Standing Orders; notice has to be given to all the parties; there is cross-examination of witnesses; and there is great precaution to ensure the impartiality of the tribunal; but in the case of public Bills there is nothing of the kind. It is doubtful what their genesis is—probably some people of influence with the party in power originate them, and they are put through by the party machine. If anything like this Resolution was carried it may be tolerable in the case of ordinary legislation, which can be easily reversed; but in connection with the constitutional question, involving the position of another Chamber, that would be far from easy. I submit, therefore, you are reduced to one pr two alternatives. Either, when you begin to write your Constitution, you must write it further and prescribe some other method of change or else leave the powers of both Chambers in the Constitution as they are. Either of these courses could be adopted, but let us have one or the other. If you do not the only alternative is you will put the third part of the Con- 1156 stitution—that is, the Crown—in a position in which it never has been put for the last two and a half centuries. You may have this situation, that one part of the Constitution—that is this House—desires a, rooted and fundamental change when the other part of the Constitution—the House of Lords—is disabled from resisting that change by the Resolution we are now considering, though it may be that very serious objection is taken to the proposed change by a very large section of the country. Pressure would be put upon the Crown.
After all, it is a very simple process. The Crown has only to send Commissioners to another place to say three words in French and the thing is done. Do you think there would not be immense pressure brought to make that take place, and which would bring the Crown into the direct vortex of party politics which we all desire to see avoided. That may arise on other questions affecting constitutional or great revolutionary changes. I do submit, whatever view we may take of other matters, that the fundamentals of the Constitution ought not to be altered simply at the will of this House. Otherwise there should be checks which other nations have imposed or else the old check of review or appeal to the people as a whole should be maintained. These questions of the composition of another place, which is a constitutional question, and questions such as Home Rule, I submit, should be excluded from the scope of this Resolution, which makes the House of Commons all powerful. This Question is far more grave for us than it is in other countries, and I beg the House, unless they can devise these other checks which all other countries have, not to abandon our old system.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Mr. Joseph Pease)
Although the hon. Member who has just sat down has developed a very ingenious argument, it is quite impossible for the Government to adopt the Amendment which has been suggested. That ingenious argument is that the next House of Commons will possibly destroy the Second Chamber. The hon. Member assumes that the Veto Resolutions have passed through both Houses, and that in order that the next House of Commons shall destroy the other House it will be necessary to assume that the people of this country must return a large number of Members prepared to force a measure through this Chamber upon which the people have not been consulted.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
It would not necessarily mean destruction. It might mean some further emasculation of powers.
§ Mr. PEASE
If there is anything in the representative principle you cannot have in this Chamber a large number of people returned who are going to attempt to force through this House of Commons a great constitutional change upon which they have not been consulted. Such a proposition is quite ridiculous. The very object of this Amendment is to prevent the Government from doing that which the country believes that it should do, namely, reduce the powers of the House of Lords in regard to the Veto, and reconstruct a Second Chamber based upon the popular will. Those are objects which we believe the country will support. But the Government would be abortive if the Amendment were accepted. It is suggested that the House of Lords might be trusted to reform themselves. On this side of the House we are not in a position to trust the House of Lords to reform themselves, and we require these further powers to alter the Constitution in order that we may make the Second Chamber representative of the nation. We know that some of the Members of the House of Lords believe in the hereditary principle. We know that even in the Debate in connection with their own reform Resolutions the other day they advocated this hereditary principle. Lord Curzon of Kedleston and other peers advocated that principle in no unmeasured language, and we know that nearly every Member of that House, with the exception of a few Liberal peers, advocate a system of selection from the hereditary peers who already find seats in that Chamber. Even if this Amendment were accepted it would not carry the hon. Member who has moved it any further, because if the House of Commons really decided that they were going to introduce legislation with a view to abolishing the Second Chamber, it would be quite easy for that House to repeal the very safeguards which are proposed in this Resolution, which would be incorporated in a Veto Bill. We believe we have had from the country a distinct mandate to carry 1158 out these very powers which the hon. Member tries by his Amendment to prevent us exercising. Our mandate was a very plain one. I will read one sentence or two from the Prime Minister's speech at the Albert Hall, because I think it is important to call the attention of the Committee to these words. The Prime Minister said:—We are going to ask the electors to say that the House of Lords shall be confined to the proper functions of a Second Chamber, which I have enumerated to you a few moments ago.He went on to say:—The absolute Veto which it at present possesses must go. The powers which they claim of compelling us to choose between legislative sterility and dissolution must go also. The people must be able to feel, what they cannot, feel now, that they are sending to Westminster men who will have the power, not only of proposing and debating, but of making laws. The will of the people, as deliberately expressed by their elected representatives, must, within the lifetime of a single Parliament, be made effective.
§ Mr. PEASE
Yes, slightly. It is possible under these proposals to introduce a measure during the last two years of a Parliament, and then, after an appeal to the people, introduce the same measure. That, however, is merely an extension of the same principle. It is not an alteration of principle, but a matter of detail, and one under which the people of the country are brought into closer contact with the Members of the House of Commons than under the proposal as it stood without that addition. I want to remind the House that at the last election there were 3,540,000 votes cast in favour of the abolition of the Veto powers of the House of Lords which the hon. Member seeks to prevent us from doing. On the other hand, there were 3,051,000 votes recorded against it, and that number included the plural voters. The hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith), alluded to the plural vote as being equal to about 400,000 electors. We know that at the last election at least 500,000 plural voters voted, and it is a fair assumption to say that four out of every five of those votes were recorded for the party opposite. If, therefore, you transfer the majority of plural votes and take that into account, you will find 3,655,000 votes cast in favour of the abolition of the Veto, and 2,926,000 recorded against it. In other words, there was a percentage of 56 per cent, of the electors voted in favour of these proposals, and 44 per cent, against them. Under these circumstances, for us 1159 now to contemplate accepting an Amendment which would kill the mandate we have received from the people would be absurd, and, of course, the Government cannot accept it.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
History has been searched and precedents galore have been quoted, and, in fact, every device possible has been adopted in order to prove how dangerous, how revolutionary, and how far-reaching this particular Resolution is. There is a saying often quoted from this side, "Save us from the Lords," but, sitting a few days on these benches tempts me to say, "Save us from the lawyers," because I can well conceive that, even on this particular Amendment, some legal minds will be able to prove that Adam himself can be quoted as an authority. We on these benches are frequently alluded to as being entirely in disagreement with this Resolution. It is perfectly true that nearly every Member on these benches is in favour of the abolition of the House of Lords, but it is equally true that we have never disguised our opinions from those who sent us here to represent them. We can, therefore, at least claim, when we speak and vote in favour of the abolition of the House of Lords, that we are only expressing the mandate the people themselves gave us. I do not blind myself to the fact that the majority of the people of this country do not agree with our proposal. It would be idle for us to pretend that they do. We are prepared to admit that the Government can go no faster than the intelligence of the people, but I do submit that the Resolution we are now considering is one which limits the absolute Veto of the Lords, and which in itself, apart from any question of detail, has undoubtedly received the approval of the country at large.
The hon. Member on the other side of the House who has just sat down (Mr. James Hope) endeavoured to show that this Resolution could effect what we desire, namely, the abolition of the Lords, and for that reason he thought it necessary to propose an Amendment. An hon. Member on the other side of the House was able to show by a careful examination that a redistribution of wealth could by the previous Resolution be tacked on to a Money Bill. Yet the Leader of the Opposition, in arguing this particular Resolution, pointed especially to the Members on these benches, and asked us not to vote for the Resolution, because it was 1160 really strengthening the other Chamber. I do submit that we as Labour Members are going to be practical on this question by supporting the Government. Every speech on the other side presupposes a wanton desire to uproot the Constitution when a Liberal Government is in power. Hon. Members trot out Home Rule as the bogey, and suggest that Home Rule itself would be the end of all things. But who would suggest that there has been any other important question so misrepresented, and on which appeals have been so much made to the passions of the people? We support this particular Resolution in the belief that a Government fresh from the polls, and having received a mandate from the people, will be able to give full effect to the expressed will of the people in the first two years of its existence. Legislation introduced into this House, and adopted in this House, will be probably rejected in the other House. The next election will undoubtedly be fought on those particular measures, and an opportunity will thereby be given to the people to express their opinion. If they endorse the action of the Government, surely the Government would be justified, on being returned to power, in giving full effect to what after all is the expressed will of the people.
The Amendment precludes the possibility of dealing in a general sense with the question, but I do say that the General Election was undoubtedly a mandate for the Government to pursue a bold policy on this matter. A bold policy will command the respect of all the sections on this side of the House and of those below the Gangway on the other side of the House. It is because we believe that the House of Lords is a barrier and a check to progress, and it is because we believe their powers must be curtailed, that, whilst this Resolution does not go as far as we should like it to go, and whilst it does not meet the views of us on these benches, we shall support the Resolution, and trust the Premier will do everything possible to give effect to the will of the majority in this House.
§ Mr. EDWARD KELLY
We on these benches find ourselves very largely in agreement with what the hon. Member who has just sat down said. Throughout this Debate there has been a tendency to indulge in long historical disquisitions, and to go back to what happened in the time of Henry IV., in the time of Elizabeth, and in the seventeenth century rather than to 1161 examine the Constitution as we know it today, and as we see it working every day before our eyes. I submit, too, that another error has been made, especially by hon. Members who have the honour of sitting on our right hand, in viewing the British Constitution as a sort of glorified deity, a thing we must fall down before and worship, but which we dare not examine. We must stand aside and simply watch it working, watch the mechanism turning round. Dare you interfere? No ! It is the sacred British Constitution. Hands off ! But we on these benches dare to examine the question and to examine what changes have occurred during, say, the last seventy years or so, for great changes have occurred during the last seventy years. Not the least of these changes has been due to the Prime Ministership of the present Leader of the Opposition. What I conceive to be the present tendency of constitutional history is this: We are tending towards oligarchy—an oligarchy in the House of Commons. An oligarchy in the- House of Lords is already firmly established. Will anyone dispute that there is an oligarchy in the House of Lords? The oligarchy in the House of Commons is less apparent, but it is the oligarchy of the Cabinet, which has had increasing powers for a number of years. The sovereignty, if you will, is in the hands of the people at the General Election, but once a majority has been returned, once the Prime Minister has been selected, once a Ministry has been named, what liberty is there for the private individual? It is just the same whether under a Tory Government or under a Liberal Government. We all suffer from that defect in the Constitution. Labour hon. Members suffer from it just as we do, and both Liberals and Tories are beginning to find themselves suffering from it. For that reason we should specially welcome this Resolution, because it will in no small degree take away from the oligarchy a great measure of the powers which it at present possesses—powers which are proved to be abused owing to their very greatness. The question of the oligarchy is especially pertinent when we find that the oligarchy here and in the House of Lords is the same oligarchy. There is the same mind between the two oligarchies, but they will not be able to continue long if the present proposals of the Government are carried into effect.
It may not be altogether clear to hon. Members how it is that the present Government proposals will limit the 1162 oligarchic power of the Cabinet in the House of Commons. I am afraid I should not be in order in pointing out that that would be done by limiting the duration of Parliament, but in excuse of that statement I must point out we are here discussing the existence of a great organism— for the British Constitution is a great organism—and when we are discussing proposals affecting one part of that organism we cannot altogether separate from our discussions the fact that these proposals are upon the whole organism and upon its working. This Resolution, and the Amendment thereto, cannot really be considered separately, for, if we are to do ourselves justice in discussing them, we must not consider the individual Resolution or Amendment merely, but we must consider the result of the whole Resolution upon the Constitution. I do not think it is disputed in any part of this House mat the will of the people ought to prevail in legislation and in finance. That has been asserted over and over again in the progress of these Debates. It has not been denied even by the Tory Members, and I think it was put in the strongest form and at the same time in the most reasonable manner by the Secretary of State for War, who, in the course of this Debate last week, said that the people are, in the long run, greater and wiser than any Ministers or Ministry or Parliament. Speaking of public opinion, he said:—It was a force which overbore individuals and caucuses alike, the silent and yet irresistible tide of public opinion, the fashioning force which guides and restrains Parliament, which is the source of all political energy, and the foundation of all sovereignty in the Constitution of the State.Of course, in alluding to the people as being in the long run greater and wiser than any Minister, Ministry or Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman referred only to the English people. It is not the fact, of course, that the Irish people are greater or wiser than any Ministry, and it is important to see whether the French people are to be deemed greater and wiser than any French Minister. I fancy that observation was only intended to apply to the English people, That perhaps will be admitted on all sides of the House, and in view of that admission it gives food for thought to anyone to find out why such strenuous opposition is offered from the Tory Benches to the carrying into effect of the supremacy of the House of Commons. For several centuries there have been disputes between the House of Lords and the House of Commons. At one time the House of Lords 1163 was backed up by the King, and it was a struggle between the House of Lords and the King on the one side and the Commons on the other. In those days the Commons were unanimous; they struggled together for the assertion of their privileges. That state of things has changed, and, in seeking for the reason of that change, I find that two specially suggest themselves. One is, that a great number of the Members who sit on these benches have a very real and tangible interest in the maintenance of the present power of the House of Lords. There is more than one of the so-called young bloods of the Tory party, who look some day, no doubt, to be sitting in another place, and naturally those gentlemen are anxious to see the powers of that other place maintained rather than the powers of this place. There are a great many others who are more or less distantly interested in the succession of peerages, and it would be less than human nature if these men did not struggle to the best of their ability to maintain the privileges and powers of the Assembly to which they may one day belong. But there is another and more sinister reason for the constant opposition offered on these benches to the carrying of these proposals, and that is this, that since the carrying of the Reform Bill in 1832 a new party has gradually come into existence in this House, and the party of a landed aristocracy and property has found itself face to face with new representatives. It has found in this House Members who are not representative of its interests, and whose interests are antagonistic to it. The power of that party, I am glad to say, has been gradually growing—I mean the power of the party of the people, of labour, of the workers, and of the poor.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
On a point of Order, Sir, may I ask whether it is in order on this particular Amendment to make a speech upon the general question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I prefer to address my question to you. Sir, rather than to hon. Members who interrupt, and I ask if it is in order on this Amendment to make a speech dealing with the general question? I would point out to hon. Members that if it is in order for one hon. Member, it is in order for all.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Whitley)
There are considerably more Members in the House now than there were 1164 when the Amendment was moved, and I think perhaps it would be desirable to remind the Committee that there is an Amendment before it to which Debate must now be addressed. The Amendment which has been moved is to exempt from the Resolution Bills affecting the constitution or powers of the House of Lords, and that is strictly the matter before the Committee. The hon. Member is a new Member of the House, and I felt reluctant to interrupt him by drawing attention to the Amendment before the Committee, but that is the Amendment which is now under discussion.
§ Mr. KELLY
I regret, Sir, that I have exceeded the limits permitted to me, but I thought I should be in order in stating the reasons why I propose to support the Government on this Amendment. I was about to say that one of the great parties in this House has formed a decided alliance with the House of Lords to defend one particular class of the community— the propertied class — and that the alliance between these two parties is becoming daily more accentuated. Never until the proposal of these Resolutions has that alliance appeared so fully and so completely as we know it to-day. For that reason we find ourselves altogether in support of the Government and, as usual, against the Tory party in the House of Commons, who act with the House of Lords in regard to all these questions. After all, it is not to be wondered at that we should prefer to trust our fortunes and the fortunes of our country to the verdict of the democracy of England and to their representatives elected even in a more democratic manner than they are at present. We prefer to entrust our fate to their verdict rather than to the gentlemen who have hitherto had too much power in shaping our destinies.
§ Mr. NOEL BUXTON
I take it that the merits of this Amendment depend upon two factors—the first whether it has been demanded by the people, and the second whether it is intrinsically good—and on both those counts I desire to oppose it. I could not support it without referring my election to my Constituents again, because I was elected on a decision in favour of the absolute destruction of the Veto. My Constituents have not altered their view; they are in favour of a perfectly democratic decision in this House, and it is my business to support the proposals of the Government, because they aim at 1165 carrying out the perfect control of the people. This Amendment seems to me to be obnoxious, because it is an attempt to limit something of the force of the democratic nature of the Resolution proposed by the Government. I notice that every plea put forward by Members on the other side seems to have broken away from the spirit of that Resolution, and be it a small change or a big change it seems to me equally desirable to resist it. It appears on the surface to be a small change which it is proposed to effect by it, but the effect of it will be very great, and it will have a bearing upon the moral responsibility of the people. It seems to me that to support this Amendment would be disloyal to the decision of the people at the recent election. We are told by the House of Lords and by Members opposite that questions of this kind should be referred to the people, but having referred this great question to the people they are not so anxious to abide by the decision of the reference. It is our view that the decision of the people is a proper index of the policy that should be adopted, and I would like to urge that the recent election, seen now in more perspective than it was a few weeks ago, is a much more important decision of the people in the direction which we advocate than has been fully recognised even on these benches.
I was very glad to near just now from a Member of the Government the argument developed that the decision was much more marked even in votes, and especially more marked if plural voting had been taken into account, than was supposed, and that they would represent a very striking and almost unique majority, setting aside the quite unique majority of the last Parliament. The appeal to the country elicited one of the most remarkable decisions that has been known in the history of modern Parliaments, and I think to be disloyal to that would be contrary to the very principles laid down by hon. Members opposite and disloyal to another factor in the Constitution whose interest we all wish to regard. When we consider the results which would follow from a refusal to carry out the recent decision of the people, I cannot regard such a proposal as being anything but disloyal. I am anxious to keep strictly to the Amendment, and I resist it because it is an attempt to limit the democratic effect of this Resolution, and we abide on this side absolutely by the value of the perfect responsibility of the people in the Government of this country. 1166 This is relevant to the Amendment, because the Amendment would break down something of that sense of responsibility. We want to see more of it. The Amendment would mean less of it.
We value democracy because it has produced progress. The value of democracy, even as little unfettered as it has been in this country, has been that it has introduced the idea of social reform, the idea of setting this country in order and bringing into it something more of the condition of happiness which this greatest of countries ought to witness.
To take only one expression of that, the old age pensions are purely the result of democratic government and of the direct influence of the electorate upon Members of this House, and we cordially dissent from those hon. Members opposite who think that constructive legislation is a thing to be thwarted by artificial checks. Their view of the House of Lords appears to me to be a view which regards this country as something like the runaway road-hog motor car, which deserves nothing else than police traps and imprisonment. The British people, the most conservative-minded people in the world, are not in that position at all. They are painfully climbing the hill towards some better state of life, and the evils from which this country suffers have only been brought to light by the democratic vote. It is absolutely essential for further social reform that democracy should be much more perfect than it is at present. We all know there is a philosophy represented on the benches opposite. It is the philosophy, I think, of the Manchester School. It is an individualistic philosophy. It believes in bringing this country to a state where there will be a free play of forces, but it is an absolutely anti-Socialist philosophy. Although we have witnessed experiments in legislation on that side which are more Socialistic than any which have come from this side, still, if there is a philosophy there it is individualistic. No wonder that when we have fairly free play of competitive forces in this country, hon. Members opposite should wish to put a check on further legislation. We all have friends on those benches who would gladly see the total suspension of legislation for many years to come, but we are of an absolutely contrary opinion, and it is because we know that the only security for further progress lies in the democratic nature of the electorate and in the further extension of it, that we support the Resolution. It is not only on the 1167 ground of humanity and the further progress of social legislation that we are right about democracy. Democracy has also introduced greater efficiency both in legislation and administration. In this country democracy has touched the very palladium of administration. It has touched diplomacy.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is again forgetting what I reminded the Committee of just now, that we really must confine our discussion to the Amendment which exempts from the effect of the Resolution Bills affecting the constitutional powers of the House of Lords.
§ Mr. NOEL BUXTON
If I may refer to a simile which has been widely used in this Debate, it is essential that we should reject this Amendment, because we desire to make the Constitution of this country a temple which is worthy of the English people, and by carrying these Resolutions in their most perfectly democratic form we shall be doing something to make that temple one in whose service the people of this country shall, not only some of them, selected classes among them, but all of them, be fitted to take their share.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Member has informed us that we on this side are disciples of the Manchester School, which was news to me; he also informed us that we are anti-Socialists, with which I agree, and almost in the same breath he has informed us that we have been responsible for Socialistic measures. The two statements are, I think, rather contradictory. He has wound up by saying that it is the desire of his friends to make this country the temple of democracy. I want to make it a temple of common sense, which I think is more likely to result in the happiness of the many than the wonderful sentiments which have been enunciated by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman's speech was interesting in another matter. The Amendment is that, supposing these Resolutions are carried, the House of Commons cannot further amend or mutilate the powers of the House of Lords, and the hon. Member objects to that. He has thrown, intentionally, or inadvertently, a great and powerful light on the intentions of hon. Members opposite. The Resolutions brought in in 1907 by the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman were practically identical with these, and we all understood that those Resolutions gave 1168 effect to the desire of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Now we understand it is nothing of the sort. This is only the beginning of the end and, having introduced the thin end of the wedge, they are not content with leaving even the limited powers to the House of Lords which they would possess under these Resolutions if they were carried, but they object to this House being prevented from passing any further measures curtailing the powers of the House of Lords without the consent either of the people or of the House of Lords.
That is a very great light to have thrown upon the feelings of those whom I suppose I am right in describing as the more moderate Members of the party opposite. It would have been much better if the hon. Member had taken the line taken by the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Dalziel), and said at once that what he desired was a single Chamber, because that is what his argument amounts to. If he refuses this Amendment, it comes to this, that the Commons of England are to retain the power of saying to the House of Lords, whatever you do, and unless you do it with our approval, you are to have no effect whatever in the councils of the nation. That may be right or wrong, but, if it is so, why do not hon. Gentlemen opposite have the courage of their opinions and say, we believe that the democracy enshrined in its temple is all powerful and all good? Why wait until it has said a thing three times? Why not say, when it has said it once, there is an end of it, and do away with the Chamber at the end of the passage? The real fact is that we are at the beginning of a revolution, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for the candour with which he has revealed the intention of his party. By refusing this Amendment the intention of the party is very clear.
The other place is to be kept for those earnest Members of the party opposite who have been described by the hon. Member for the Mansfield Division (Mr. Mark-ham) as being desirous of purchasing honours. They are to be sent up there, but as they always become Tories when sent there they are to be deprived of any power in the legislation of the country. An hon. Friend reminds me that the late Liberal Whip (Lord Marchamley), animated by the same feelings which animate hon. Gentlemen opposite, supported the Resolutions brought in by the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, though he did not believe in them. I do 1169 not go so far as to say that the hon. Gentleman opposite does not believe in his oppositon to the Amendment. I think he is carried away by the idea that if you put all power in the hands of Radicals you would have a new Heaven and a new earth. I believe you would have a new earth, but not a new Heaven. I do not think the Attorney-General, whom I see in his place, will get up and say that he objects to the Amendment because he desires still further to curtail the powers of the House of Lords. The hon. and learned Gentleman is fair-minded, and he has had considerable experience of this place; and I venture to say that he will not oppose the Amendment for the reasons stated by the hon. Gentleman opposite. He will find excellent reasons no doubt, but they will not be the same. I hope the people will know the real desire of the Radical party. The hon. Gentleman says you must not be disloyal to the will of the people, and, having made that very common-place enunciation of a sort of copybook maxim, he says the will of the people is destroyed by the House of Lords. It certainly has not destroyed the will of the people in the South of England, or the will of the people who live in Wales and Scotland. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about London?"] The right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition sits for the City of London, a constituency which consists of—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I was only replying to an interruption which I thought was worthy of a reply, and I was desirous of being courteous to the hon. Member. The Amendment is very clear and simple. Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite intend to make a final break with the Constitution of the country? Supposing this Amendment were carried, the only result would be that we would know where we are and we would not have to "wait and see." If it is not carried we may have to wait and see what the Radical party are going to do with the Constitution. I am not in favour of waiting. I wish to know where we are now. If we are to have the misfortune of having the Government Resolutions passed, let us know where we are and whether the Constitution is to be jerrymandered again by hon. Gentlemen who wish to keep their seats when an appeal is made to the country.
§ Sir GEORGE WHITE
The Amendment now under discussion I think narrows the question to a very small degree. I shall endeavour to point out that the Amendment lays down practically that so far as the constitution of the House of Lords is concerned this House will have no power whatever to attempt to amend that constitution. Therefore it leaves the question of the reform of the House of Lords, except so far as the Resolutions touch them, to that body themselves. The hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. James Hope) used what I thought a somewhat ingenious argument in support of the Amendment which he submitted. That argument was that if these Resolutions were rejected and the Government were to appeal to the country, there would be no Bill before the country which in any way dealt with the present constitution of the House of Lords, and therefore the question itself would not be submitted to the country, and any verdict which resulted from that election by which the Liberal party might be continued in power would be of no value in regard to this great constitutional question. That is to say, he argued that the will of the people would not be expressed at an election taken under those circumstances. I desire to emphasise the point made by my hon. Friend below me that the main principle which underlies these Resolutions has already been submitted to the country, and that a most emphatic verdict was given on this question. In a speech delivered a few weeks before the recent appeal to the country the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "There will be one dominant question submitted to the electors—one which will absorb all others. What is that?" A voice replied, "The House of Lords," and the right hon. Gentleman said, "Yes, that is it." I say it was on a proposition of that kind that the election was fought, and, so far as my own election is concerned, I am certain in the fifty or sixty speeches I made I never on one occasion failed to put this proposition before my Constituents as the question upon which I asked their verdict to be recorded. That being so, I feel that in the event of another election, which I do not suppose Members on either side of the House are anxious to undergo, the main principle on which the Government propose to deal with the House of Lords will be quite plainly submitted to the country, and I for one am prepared to take their verdict upon that question. The ideas of hon. Members in regard to the will of the people seem to me to be 1171 extremely vague. I remember very well in the Parliament of 1906, before it had been in existence for many months, the hon. Member for Aston Manor disputed that it in any way represented the will of the people, although we had at that time a majority of between three and four hundred, and I am afraid that the same difficulty will occur again.
But the question really before the two Houses of Parliament is which is to be the predominant partner in regard to legislation. I have here an extract from a speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in which he said:—I shall never be a party to a change which would make the House of Lords a partner on equal terms with ourselves, and which would enable it to do that which I think only one assembly can do with advantage.That puts, I think, very plainly the position which we are contending for in regard to the legislation passed by this House, that there must be one predominant party. And although I know that Noble Lords in the other House have contended that if there must be one predominant partner the partner must be the House of Lords, we ourselves on this side of the Chamber at least are not at all agreeable to acknowledge such a position as this. In fact, we view with growing anxiety the increased demand which the House of Lords makes in regard to their power. Many of us listened to some of the Debates which took place recently in that Chamber, and we found expression given to demands which altogether exceeded anything which in recent years, at least, the House of Lords have attempted to put in force. I heard one of the pro-Consuls in that House speak with the utmost contempt of the seven and a half million electors by whom the Members of this House were sent into their positions, and who gave us as we claim governing powers in this State. These seven and a half millions, by a large majority, have confirmed the Government in their determination to deal with the present legislative powers of the House of Lords. Therefore, we feel that to submit to the terms of the Amendment which is now before the House would deprive this House of the power of dealing with the constitutional question which the people have asked us to deal with, and which it is absolutely necessary that we should deal with unless the whole of our discussions are to be wasted, and end in a sham, which perhaps 1172 hon. Members opposite are desirous that they should end in. But we feel that to limit the Resolution as this Amendment proposes would be to deprive us of one of the most essential qualifications. Therefore, we shall resist this Amendment with our utmost strength.
§ Mr. McARTHUR
I think that the hon. Member who has just sat down has misunderstood the Amendment now before the Committee. He has said that if this Resolution is passed this House, it would possess no power to further amend the Constitution and powers of the House of Lords. That is not the case. If this Amendment were carried, Parliament would possess the power which it does possess at present to deal with the House of Lords. There would be nothing to prevent a Bill being brought in to reform the constitution of the House of Lords. The only difference would be that it would be dealt with by Parliament as it is constituted at present, and the House of Lords would not be debarred from dealing with it. If this Resolution is passed considerably curtailing the powers of the House of Lords, it is likely to be made an instrument for extorting a further curtailment of power from that Assembly, and we therefore ask that the House of Lords should retain its present powers for dealing with any further proposals in regard to its own body. Surely that is a very reasonable proposal, because, supposing that were not the case, we should be asking the House of Lords by these Resolutions to shackle themselves and to vender themselves powerless to resist any further changes, though those changes might be a great further curtailment of their powers and might amount to a practical abolition of the House of Lords. By this Resolution the House of Lords might be forced by the Government of the day to submit to abolition or to limitation without any power of appealing to the nation. I think that that is a very unreasonable thing to ask, and although hon. Members opposite may regard with indifference the feelings of the House of Lords on this subject, I can hardly think that they will be indifferent as to its probable effect on the minds of the people of this country when they realise what the proposals are, and that the Resolution which we are asked to pass to-day is not an end of the proposed change, but may be made by the Government, acting through the House of Com- 1173 mons, an instrument to destroy the House of Lords altogether, and of compelling them to submit to that destruction without having any right of appealing to the country. I think that that is a very insulting course to take with regard to a body which has the same rights as we have, and is older than we are, and a body which has taken in the past its share in making the history of our country with at least as much distinction as the House of Commons. But the more preposterous and the more extravagant are the propositions put forward by the other side of the House the more certain they will be to defeat their own end and to bring about a reaction in the country.
§ Mr. SEDDON
The last two speeches that have been delivered from the opposite side demonstrate the topsy-turveydom that those who have not listened to the whole of the Debate may not realise. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), whose good temper is always pleasant in the House, and who expresses views which, I think, are peculiar to himself, gave us the idea that he had not listened even to his Leader's speech. The hon. Baronet said this was a revolution, and that it was destroying the power of the House of Lords. The Leader of the Opposition earlier in the afternoon said that our proposal would strengthen the the power of the House of Lords, so evidently there is a difference of opinion on that side, and I take it that the hon. Baronet speaks with that independence owing to the plural voters who make his position so secure in the City. The Amendment, as I understand it, is to prevent this House on any future occasion doing anything towards the reorganisation of the House of Lords. The party with which I am associated have declared frequently in this House in favour of the abolition of the House of Lords. For myself, I am not quite sure that I do not believe in some form of Second Chamber, though vastly different from that which exists now. I only speak my own opinion in saying that, and it is based on the experience that we had in 1900. I then came to this conclusion that some form of Second Chamber, in cases where the democracy should be roused to frenzy from scares and false statements, would be a necessary check under such circumstances. With reference to the Amendment, if I understand aright, we have to assume from it that the House of Lords are not only an important factor in the legislation 1174 of this country, but they are worthy of our respect. I want to use becoming language—I do not wish to use strong expressions—still, I must say that I think the House of Lords is the most cowardly Assembly you will find in the world. Much has been said about their liberal-mindedness, large-heartedness, and consideration for the democracy by passing the Trades Disputes Bill. On that occasion I was one of the interested listeners to the Debate upon that Bill in the other House. The Upper House is supposed always to be the revising Chamber. It is considered to be a bulwark against hasty legislation, and a Chamber which will see that justice is done. What did I find? Lord Lansdowne and Lord Halsbury did not give me the idea that they were actuated by high political motives or interest in the welfare of the country. Lord Halsbury fulminated against the Bill for at least half an hour, and then the Marquess of Lansdowne, that guardian of our liberties, that hero who has rendered self-sacrificing services so far as the other Chamber is concerned, said that he appreciated the objection of his noble and learned Friend, but he reminded their Lordships' House that this Bill was supported by organised labour, and he was told there was behind it some two millions of trade unionists. He added that if they were going to have a quarrel with democracy, they might as well select their own battle ground, because this was not favourable.
§ Mr. SEDDON
The Chairman has authority in this House, and I think the Noble Lord ought to have profited by the lesson he had some little time ago when he had to apologise through his leader. [An HON. MEMBER: "Quote."] The Marquess of Lansdowne said:—He should greatly deprecate an appeal to the people on such a ground as that. They were passing through a period when it was necessary that the House of Lords should move with great caution. Conflict and controversy might be inevitable, but their Lordships, so far as they were able, should be sure that, if they joined issue, they did it on ground which if possible was favourable to themselves.1175 10.0 P. M.
That is an example of courage so far as the Noble Lord is concerned. I support these Resolutions because they will give to this House the power that rightly belongs to it. We have heard a good deal about sportsmanship. The House of Lords is supposed to be composed of members of the Jockey Club, masters of foxhounds, and all the leaders of popular sports. We are also told that sports develop a very high instinct of fair play. I am afraid that it cannot be said that the House of Lords have benefited by their experience of various sports judged by their action during the last four years in the other House. For myself I would say that if there be any justification for the passing of these Resolutions it is to be found in what has occurred during the last four years. That is not the only indictment which the democracy can bring against the House of Lords. There is a heavy indictment that the industrial classes of this country and the middle classes also can bring against the Upper Chamber. So far as the courage of the House of Lords is concerned, it is always in evidence when they are defending their own pockets. Their recent action has been for the protection and preservation of class privileges. We who sit on these benches are told that we preach a class-conscious doctrine. Yes, but the House of Lords practice it. On every occasion on which you touch their pocket you touch the most sensitive part of their anatomy, and their action even in the rejection of the Budget was prompted by unadulterated selfishness.
§ Mr. SEDDON
I want to say, so far as the Amendment is concerned, that in my opinion it would emasculate and sterilise the Resolutions, which are moderate to a degree; they are the minimum of what the democracy demand in this country. I echo what the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said in his very entertaining speech, if he will permit me to say so, that in advancing these Resolutions the Government were making reasonable demands, but that if the present persons responsible for the Government of the country were turned out and the other side came into power, then when the Liberals again returned to power there would be the same demand made by the democracy. I am very strongly of opinion that the man in 1176 the street is becoming exasperated. The schoolmaster has been abroad. There is not now that worship of the lordly individual that there used to be. Titles are not quite so attractive a-s formerly. I know I had to fight one myself in a constituency where twenty years ago a lord would have been returned without any qualification whatever. The man in the street is beginning to study matters and to recognise that the House of Lords has ceased to be a house of chivalry or a bulwark of liberty, and that it has become a Chamber which is irresponsible and which is certainly actuated by selfishness, and selfishness alone. I believe the awakened conscience of the democracy will regard these Resolutions as moderate, and if they are not accepted the demand which will be made in the future will be much greater than that which is now advanced. If hon. Members on that side of the House are anxious to preserve some of the old historic privileges now possessed they will be well advised to accept these Resolutions without further Amendment.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member has told us in his concluding observations that the possession of a peerage is not as attractive as it used to be. I wonder whether before making that observation he consulted the Government Whips.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
If the hon. Gentleman were in commerce with them, I think they would be able to supply him with a great volume of valuable information on that subject. But this is not very germane to the Amendment we are discussing. Since I came into the House, shortly after nine o'clock, I have heard three reasons offered in three separate speeches for voting against this Amendment. I would ask the Committee to remember what the Amendment is. It is that from the operation of the Resolution we are now discussing there should be exempted proposed changes in the composition of the functions of the House of Lords. In the first place there was the speech of the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Noel Buxton), who said that he opposed this Amendment because democracy needs social reform. He was in favour of social reform, democracy had introduced social reform, and this Amendment would cramp democracy, and therefore, I suppose, obstruct the progress of 1177 social reform, and so he was found as an opponent of the Amendment. I think his history is not quite right. I do not know from what date he fixes the rise of democracy, but I should have thought that one of the earliest and most marked movements in favour of social reform was the movement initiated by Lord Shaftesbury, a Member of the other House.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
What did Mr. Cobden say about the House of Commons? We are none of us perfect. Mr. Cobden said that no good movement had ever been carried until after seven years of stand-up fight between the people and the so-called people's representatives.
An HON. MEMBER
That was before the Reform Bill.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
That was at a time when Mr. Cobden was zealously propagating the creation of those forty-shilling freeholders, or faggot votes, which are now particularly obnoxious, I think, to the Home Secretary, and which was accepted by Mr. Cobden and his friends as a way of carrying their views by multiplying the votes of individuals to drown the majority otherwise expressed. I return to the observation I was making, and I say that I should have thought that one of the most marked instances of social reform was, in modern days at any rate, and dealing with problems which are still problems to-day, the movement which will always be associated with Lord Shaftesbury's name, and initiated by a man who became a Member of the other House, who was heir to a peerage, and who was a Member of the Conservative party, and who did not wait for the people whom he wished to benefit to have votes, before he called the attention of this House and of the country to the conditions under which they laboured and to the necessity for bringing about improvement.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
Is it not a fact that Lord Shaftesbury specifically stated that the class to which he belonged was the class from which he did not get any support for the reforms he advocated?
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I do not think that is so. The party who were most opposed to it were the party of the Manchester schools. They were the lead- 1178 ing exponents of Free Trade in that day, and were the people who were most opposed to those reforms. That leads me to another observation which fell from the hon. Member for North Norfolk, and which I confess I listened to with amazement. He said that if we had any philosophy in our politics at all, it was the philosophy of the Manchester school. I do not think anybody except the late Member for Preston to-day adopts the attitude of the Manchester school, but I should have thought that we on this side of the House had more completely severed ourselves from the doctrines of the Manchester school in the whole field of politics than any other section of the House, and that the only place where those doctrines now lurk is the fiscal policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They take credit for having abandoned that policy for all other purposes, but they do not see that the abandonment of nine-tenths of the policy renders the other tenth untenable. In those days they regarded that policy as a whole and their policy was consistent, but the policy of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite is a wholly inconsistent and wholly illogical one. Part of it must be nugatory, so long as they do not revise the other part in accordance with the new doctrine they are trying to put into their own party. Another hon. Gentleman who represents Norfolk, the hon. Baronet the Member for North-West Norfolk (Sir G. White), in giving his reasons for voting against the Amendment, said that the question which we had to decide was which House was to be the predominant partner. I do not think that that is a very pretty phrase. Perhaps it gives needless offence to state the relative positions of the two Houses in those particular terms.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I am not making the hon. Baronet responsible for a phase which he merely adopted from others. Does anybody suppose that it is contended by any party here or elsewhere that the two Houses stand in an equality at the present time in regard to their influence in legislation? Here in this House we may decline to pass any measure we please as long as we can get our constituents to return us, knowing our views. But the other House has to consider not merely what are their own views but what are the views of the country. I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite will admit that the House of 1179 Lords does take into consideration, and does not infrequently accept measures, which if the same individuals were sitting in this House in the majority they would probably vote against, because they recognise that in that other House they have a different function to discharge, and that when the opinion of the country is clear and manifest and permanent, their own opinions must give way. I have noticed throughout these discussions, and long before we got to them, that it was an even greater grievance against the House of Lords in the eyes of Gentlemen opposite that they passed the Trades Disputes Bill than that they rejected the Licensing Bill. The hon. Member for the Newton Division (Mr. Seddon) asked, "Where is the boasted courage of Lord Lansdowne and his associates? They did not pretend to like the Trades Disputes Bill; some of them at any rate criticised it severely, and pointed out the great dangers which they thought lay behind it; and yet they passed it." He urged that as a condemnation of the House of Lords. To my mind the reasons for which they acted, whether well based or not, are the justification of their position. You may think that they exercised their judgment wrongly in that case; that may be open to argument. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to contend that it was not clear from the election of 1906 that the country desired a settlement on the lines of the Trades Disputes Bill. If any hon. Gentleman says that the country had not made its mind clear on that Bill, and that really this House was acting without warrant, my argument as against him falls to the ground. But to those who say, as the majority in 1906 said, "This is a question on which we consulted our constituents; they sent us back with a mandate; we represent on this the settled will of the people, they having had the question argued before them, knowing clearly what was involved, and actually having the Bill before them," I say that half your case against the House of Lords goes. They recognised in that case that the will of the country was clear; they acted as a Second Chamber should, and not as we in this House are free to do; that is to say, they felt that where the will of the country was plainly expressed they must subordinate their personal opinions to that will. In that sense the House of Commons is, and has been for more than a century, the predominant partner in legislation in this country.
1180 In dealing with the Trades Disputes Bill I have dealt with the third objection to the Resolution, which was that the House of Lords did not act fairly as a revising Chamber; that they did not act with courage; that they did not stop Bills which they ought to stop; and that from motives of expediency—that is, out of deference to public opinion—they surrendered their own convictions to the desires and wishes of the country.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Before the right hon. Gentleman resumes I must remind the Committee that we are really getting very far afield.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I do not know whether, after your intimation Sir, I ought to reply to that question.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I am perfectly willing to do so, but in deference to your intimation I will not go into the question. Having recited the reasons alleged, which I think are not very sound historically, not very logical, and not convincing under any circumstances, I ask the Committee to consider whether any one of them has any bearing on this Amendment. One hon. Member who has spoken on the other side wants to see social reform. What has the Amendment got to do with social reform? It excludes social reform; it deals solely with constitutional reform. The hon. Member for North-West Norfolk says he wants this House to be the predominant partner. It will be the predominant partner, whether you pass this Resolution or not, if that is the term that is to be used. The hon. Member for the Newton Division thinks the House of Lords cares more about its skin than about the rights or wrongs of the particular Bill that is before it. That is only to say that the House of Lords shows too great a deference to public opinion. Do hon. Members think that is a ridiculous statement to make? That is the logical outcome of the argument of the hon. Member that the House of Lords tries to save its skin and therefore it gives way when it ought not to give way. That is no argument against this Amendment. What is this Amendment? 1181 The Resolution says, in so far as the Resolution has any power, that when this House carries a Bill through in the space of less than two years that Bill shall become law whether the Second House concurs or not, and this Amendment says that the Resolution shall not apply to constitutional changes in the composition or powers of the other House.
I want to ask hon. Members whether they think they are achieving, or whether they mean to achieve, any kind of stability or permanence by the Resolution if they pass it? The Home Secretary dwelt with great force and emphasis on the powers which would still remain to the House of Lords if this Resolution is passed, and the hon. Member for the Newton Division said the same thing. He attempted to draw a distinction and to discern a difference between the two Members for the City of London. He said the junior Member for the City had described this Resolution as irrevocable, whilst the Leader of the Opposition said that the powers of the House of Lords were in some respects restrained. I think that both he and the Home Secretary misunderstood, not wilfully, what the Leader of the Opposition said. He said their powers of interference, of even vexatious interference, in small matters would be magnified by the passage of these Resolutions; that the Resolutions would invite the House of Lords to exercise its powers of amendment or delay to the extent of the two years which was allotted. But my right hon. Friend went on to say—and if the Home Secretary wishes to quote his words he is bound in common fairness to quote these—that for the main, the gravest question of all, the Lords would be rendered powerless in enacting that, for the securing of which the Second Chamber exists, namely, an appeal to the people, to see that the people with full knowledge approve of a change in the Constitution before it is made. Grant our Amendment and you do something to meet the objection of my right hon. Friend upon that point.
Refuse our Amendment, and you leave it possible still for the House of Lords to delay any constitutional change for two years, but you make them impotent to secure an appeal to the people, or to see whether the people wish the change. That, of course, is what you want to do; that is the whole object of your change. The whole object of this Resolution is to prevent an appeal being carried to the people, and yet you have the face to present your- 1182 selves here and elsewhere as a democraitc party, and to talk about the liberties of the people. You talk about it, but you do not consult the people. You do not attempt to go to the people. You did not attempt to go to the people upon the Licensing Bill, you did not attempt to go to the people upon the Education Bill. It is fear lest you should be sent to the people upon questions of that kind that is at the bottom of the changes you are presenting. And if you make these changes just see the position it places you in, and see what is the value of the guarantees which the Home Secretary spoke of in the earlier portion of the evening. "See," said he, "how great and mighty are the forces of the House of Lords still. They can still delay, they can still amend for two years.
Refuse this Amendment! Carry the Resolution as it is and your first Bill in the first House of Commons sitting under the new conditions may destroy every shred of power that is left to the Second Chamber under your present proposition. You are making the House of Commons omnipotent—[Cheers]—not predominant but omnipotent. Very well, then; that is single-Chamber government. That is the real explanation of the Government's policy. These are hollow shams and pretences we hear from the Front Ministerial Bench. The real meaning of the Resolution is seen in the cheers which come from below the Gangway opposite. It is not the predominance of the House of Commons; it is not the progress of democracy; it is the omnipotence of a majority in this House for all purposes and at all times. Hon. Members accept my description of it, and they vote for this Resolution because that is what the Resolution is. I only wish these Gentlemen were on the Front Ministerial Bench. They are the real movers of the Government's springs; they are the real motive force, and I really would much sooner be face to face with candid exponents of the new departure than right hon. Gentlemen who do one thing and pretend to desire another.
It is perfectly clear that the desire of hon. Gentlemen opposite is to make a majority of the House of Commons omnipotent, subject to no check by any Second Chamber, however constituted, and not forced to appeal to the people upon any change, however great. Then, I say, that in these circumstances the Home Secretary's talk about the power of a Second Chamber and the restraint it will still exercise, becomes a hollow sham. And 1183 when he is succeeded, as he will be, by gentlemen more extreme than himself, or when he advances to their position, in order not to be superseded, we shall then see him coming down to the House of Commons to use this very Resolution to destroy all shred and remnant of the power that is left in the House of Lords. That is single-Chamber government pure and simple, and I am amazed that the Home Secretary should think it worth while to pretend that it is anything else.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I think the House of Commons will feel that the right hon. Gentleman has made a remarkable impression upon us during the course of the present Parliament. Every speech he has made has added to our information, and he has commanded the attention of the new House of Commons. His speech to-night seems to me to have been designed less with the object of adding to our light than adding to our heat. It has been moderately successful in its purpose, for it has undoubtedly added a stimulus to the Debate which was lacking before the right hon. Gentleman rose. Although an opponent of the right hon. Gentleman, I think, I may fairly, and I hope respectfully, make these observations upon the part he has played in our Debates. I still detect, however, and I think we all detect in the speech he has just made the same total inability to comprehend our position, which has been a most remarkable feature in his speeches. Take, for instance, the right hon. Gentleman's statement about the Trades Disputes Bill and our criticism upon the action of the House of Lords in regard to the measure. He says: "Why do you blame the House of Lords for passing that measure because they passed it in view of the public opinion behind it." Is that the kind of Second Chamber you want? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I have always heard the Second Chamber defended as being a Chamber far above the stormy waters and taking only into account the permanent good of the country. Those are the arguments put forward to defend an impartial chamber. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who by?"] They were put forward by Lord Curzon, and he is one of the principal leaders of the party opposite. [" No, no."] I note that hon. Members on the back Opposition benches repudiate one of their leaders; probably those sitting on the Front Bench will extend greater respect to him. The argument was that the rejec- 1184 tion of the Trades Disputes Bill by the House of Lords was limited to this point— that the House of Lords is no real protection except from the point of view of property, and that they have no interest except the landed interest, and do not care about the manufacturing and commercial interests. They said the Trades Disputes Bill was deeply injurious to the country, and Lord Halsbury said it contained provisions more disgraceful than had ever appeared before in any British Statute. And yet the House of Lords passed it.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must point out that the Trades Disputes Bill has very little to do with the Amendment. If hon. Members desire to discuss the question at large they had better get rid of the Amendment first.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I was trying to briefly explain to the right hon. Gentleman how unhappy we are that after a fortnight's discussion we have utterly failed to make him comprehend our point of view. If I am not trespassing on your ruling, Mr. Emmott, our complaint is not that the House of Lords gave way to public opinion in this matter at all. Our complaint is that they gave way to public opinion not because they considered this Bill was in the national interest, but because they considered it would be in the electioneering interests of the Tory party that the Bill should be passed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] It is not a question of order; it is a question of fact, and every hon. Member in his heart of hearts knows it is perfectly true.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is obvious this will become the subject of the Debate, and it is really irrelevant.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I will pass entirely from it; and I trust the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire will bear on his back with me any responsibility for the introduction of the subject. Then, if I were to take the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I should have to deal with Lord Shaftesbury, to whom he devoted a good deal of attention; but that would be even more remote from the subject of the Amendment than the Trades Disputes Bill. Lord Shaftesbury may have been a very excellent Member of the House of Lords in bygone days, but that is no reason why it should exist unaltered in its powers and constitution for all time. Mr. Plimsoll was an excellent 1185 Member of the House of Commons, but nobody would pretend that the sons of every Member of those times should have a permanent hereditary right to sit and vote in the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman said that nobody pretends that the two Houses stand on the same basis as regards powers of legislation. We agree that the two Houses do not stand on the same basis, and our Veto Resolutions are designed to make it quite clear that the House of Commons will be predominant in legislation. The privileged classes and the rich people generally do not want legislation; they are content with things as they are. [Interruption.] I am perfectly entitled to reply to the right hon. Gentleman, subject to the ruling of the Chair. The objections we have urged against the existing system is that we are the party praying for the redress of grievances and cannot get our special grievances redressed in any way because of the House of Lords. That is the gravamen of our complaint. Now I come to the Amendment. [Cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite are becoming as partisan as the House of Lords. They applaud irrelevance in a speech on their own bench, and they resent any attempt to answer. That is what they call interpreting the will of the people. Now I come to the Amendment of the hon. Member. [Cheers.] Well, at any rate, it is something to come to. The right hon. Gentleman never reached it at all. Now I come to the Amendment which excites such enthusiasm in the party opposite, and on which the hon. Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith) has based such high hopes and which I regretted to see he was not in his place to move when the time came. That Amendment, I admit, raises a very serious and practical question. There is no doubt at all what is the effect of this Resolution now before the House and to which an Amendment has been moved. If that Resolution is carried, and if it becomes the law of the land, you will be unquestionably committed to trusting the people and to accepting the will of the people as expressed through the majority of their elected representatives, including the Irish and the Irish Unionists who vote with the Conservative party. You will be committed to trusting the opinion of those representatives, subject to proper safeguards and delay while they are in close contact with the electorate which has re- 1186 turned them. That is undoubtedly the effect, and, while I assert most clearly that great powers will be left to the Second Chamber under this scheme, I do not in any way seek to veil or to disguise the fact that we shall be committed to the considered representations of the House of Commons during the first two years. That is the position we take up. That is the ground on which we are fighting. We are asked why we should exclude altogether from the scope of legislation under the Veto Resolutions anything which affects the powers or position of the House of Lords. That is a very considerable proposition, and a great many arguments have been advanced in support of it. But when an Amendment of this kind is moved, I think the Government is always entitled to say, "Suppose we accept the Amendment and thereby stereotype the constitutional settlement embodied in these Resolutions, crystallise it, mould it, and deal with it as a permanent thing, would it affect the opposition we are encountering from that side of the House?" Everybody knows that it would not diminish it in the least. The objections which are entertained on the other side of the House are not objections which will be resolved by the acceptance of this or any other Amendment. For our part, so far from wishing to exclude ourselves from using this procedure for the alteration of the constitution of the House of Lords, we contemplate it as the policy which will have effect in the future.
It is quite true that great powers will be left in the House of Lords. But those powers should be exercised by a more fairly constituted Second Chamber, and the request which is put forward from the other side of the House is a request which might be granted if it were a stipulation which formed part of a great national settlement regulating the Constitution which shall prevail in this country. But to put it forward as a mere effort of faction makes it unworthy of consideration. We propose to carry the Veto Resolutions through all their stages and to press them on to their ultimate conclusion. On them the fortunes and life of this Parliament will be staked, and if they are carried into law we shall hold ourselves perfectly free to use them in order to secure that the body exercising the great powers which will be left to the House of Lords will be a body more fitted to discharge these or any other responsible duties than the present Chamber.
§ Mr. GEORGE WYNDHAM
I think all will agree that the latter part of the speech we have just listened to was less interesting than the earlier and longer part, which may be described as the sequel to the very successful effort made earlier in the evening. But like all sequels it suffered by comparison with the first effort, and it came very near to necessitating intervention from the Chair. I am tempted to ask for a like latitude, but I will resist the temptation. I will not reopen the larger question, but I will deal with the latter part of the Home Secretary's speech in reference to which I will make but two observations, each one of which is strictly confined to the Amendment before us. That is all I intend to do to-night. The Amendment before us upon which I mean to make two and only two observations has for its object that we should except from the general scope of the legislation the constitution or powers of the House of Lords. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that Amendment? I cannot conceive. We have gathered that the Government have polarised round two points of view. One point of view put by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon is that there ought to be reform of the Second Chamber, and the other point of view which we have heard so often from Members below the Gangway is that there ought not to be a reform of the Second Chamber. Why should either of these two sections of opinion refuse to accept this Amendment? Clearly hon. Members below the Gangway who object to any change in the constitution of the House of Lords ought to accept this Amendment, because it excepts the constitution of the House of Lords from the general scope of their legislation. I would remind the Home Secretary that in his speech this afternoon what he deprecated was the violent consequences of any opposition to this Resolution as a whole. He has only to cut out of this Veto Resolution as a whole what this Amendment proposes to cut out in order to carry out the very view which he placed before the House of Commons this afternoon. If you cut out the constitution or powers of the House of Lords, then that Chamber will be a party to the consideration of the changes which he advocates. He invited them to be a party to it. He begged us not to direct the House of Lords to throw out these Resolutions. He told us that there would be no revolution if the Veto Resolutions were accepted, but if they were rejected then 1188 he darkened the whole atmosphere with dire prophecies as to the future. Then, if that is his position, why does he resist this Amendment, because it invites the House of Lords as the other Chamber to discuss with us the future Constitution of the country. Those are the two observations I have to make. I have resisted the temptation to go beyond the Amendment, and I have addressed each one of these observations to the two component halves of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The half which does not want to change the Constitution ought to vote for the Amendment, and the other half, who have invited the House of Lords to confer with this House, ought to accept the Amendment to give them the opportunity.
Sir HENRY DALZIEL
The right hon. Gentleman at the commencement of his remarks offered the opinion that the latter portion of the Home Secretary's speech was less interesting than the commencement. I beg with great respect to differ from his opinion. I think the last few words of the right hon. Gentleman's speech were the most important which he delivered this afternoon in either of the two most interesting speeches to which we have listened. He said that if the Opposition would support and accept the Amendment which is now before the House, and thereby accept the principle of the Resolution, then the Government would be disposed to accept or might accept it. That is a very important statement, because it means that if the Opposition—
Sir HENRY DALZIEL
The right hon. Gentleman went further, and he said the Government might accept it. Of course, if he withdraws from that position I have nothing more to say, but I would wish to point out that would mean that all question of the policy of reform had been abandoned. With regard to the Amendment now before the House, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it has attractions for some of us who openly declared—at any rate, I did, and mean it— that every step in the direction of reform is bad for the party of progress—bad for the progressive party. I never have had any different view, and I hold it now, and if time permitted I could give very good reasons for it, intending, of course, that in the process of that policy of reform you are first going to split your own supporters and then create an authority which will have greater power even than the present 1189 House of Lords. I think that has been admitted by Members of the Front Bench to-day.
So far as this Amendment excludes the operation of the Veto Resolutions in respect to the policy of reform, the result being that the House of Lords would reject any proposal for reform of the elected Second Chamber, it has for me a good deal of attraction. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have to consider this Amendment and the policy of the Government in view of the fact that their position to-day is entirely changed from what it was a short time ago. We have been told that the policy of reform is now an integral part of the bigger policy, while before, in the words of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, it was entirely independent of the reform policy. We have to-day to deal with it as a whole, and I come to this question, which I desire to put to the Government, and to which I am entitled to get an answer. If we are to consider these Resolutions in the light of reform and as part of the policy of reform, especially in view of the Amendment, I want to know whether it is understood that these Resolutions will be operative when the new Second Chamber has been elected? Are these Resolutions simply a temporary policy to be abandoned when we get an elective Second Chamber? Will the Home Secretary kindly tell me whether the new Second Chamber is to have the limited Veto or not? If it is not so this is purely a temporary proposal and a temporary policy. If I understood the Secretary for War, and I have studied his speeches, his idea of a Second Chamber is that there will be no limited Veto.
Sir HENRY DALZIEL
I have studied the right hon. Gentleman's speeches very carefully, and I will willingly study them a little more if he will say my assumption is not correct. I said the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, so far as we know it, is this, that when you get your elected Second Chamber these Veto Resolutions will be abandoned. If it is not so, why does not the Minister get up and say so? I ask the Home Secretary, and I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Perhaps he is more sympathetic. I think we are entitled to know before we go to a Division whether this limitation of Veto in the Resolution is to be operative in regard to the second portion of their policy, an elective 1190 Second Chamber, because, if it is not so, all this time we are spending over the Resolutions is going to be lost because we will repeal them the moment you have an elected Second Chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Will one of the Cabinet Ministers say I am wrong? If they tell me this Resolution is going to apply to their elective: Second Chamber they will have my hearty support from beginning to end of their policy. It is because I know that their ideal and the ideal of the Secretary for War is not a Second Chamber that is going to have two years on the run, but a Second Chamber that is going to be able to claim a mandate for the people, that is going to be co-ordinate with this House, that is going to establish a Second Chamber as strong as the other, that I have my doubts as to the wisdom of excluding the Amendment now before us. I think that is a fair question. Now that they have made the reform of the House of Lords part of their policy we should know whether this Resolution is going to apply to the reform policy of the Second Chamber.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I cannot help calling attention to the fact that the Government have not answered the question of the hon. Member. I should as soon have suspected the keeper of a table with three thimbles and a pea to tell under which thimble the pea was. The whole policy of reform from the beginning has been a fraud and pretence. The Government know that they have no intention of reforming the House of Lords, and they know that they could not carry reform if they would; but they appeal to the loyalty of the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary for War. Reform is put forward for Cabinet purposes and electoral purposes later on. We have had too much making of the Constitution a matter of tactical arrangements by which the Labour party were satisfied on one pretence, the Irish party on another, the Foreign Secretary on another, and any other dupe who might come handy on another. These things lower the character of public life, and they lower the character of this House. The Government pretend to stand for the credit of the House of Commons. They profess to keep up its position in the Constitution, but since this Session began they have pursued a policy of foolish mystery which took in only those who were determined to be duped from the beginning. They have pursued a policy which has lowered the House in public esteem and which makes everyone 1191 who thinks about politics at all feel convinced that this is not a Chamber to be entrusted with the single control of the whole legislative affairs of this country.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 193; Noes, 302.1195
|Division No. 26.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Faber, George D. (Clapham)||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Arbuthnot, Gerald A.||Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.|
|Attenborough, Walter Annis||Falle, Bertram Godfray||Mount, William Archer|
|Bagot, Captain J.||Fell, Arthur||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Balcarres, Lord||Finlay, Sir Robert||Nield, Herbert|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Fisher, William Hayes||Norton-Griffiths, J. (Wednesbury)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City Lond.)||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fleming, Valentine||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Fletcher, John Samuel||Peel, Capt. R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Baring, Captain Hon. Guy Victor||Foster, Harry S. (Lowestoft)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Barnston, Harry||Foster, Philip S. (Warwick, S.W.)||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. (Glouc. E.)||Gilmour, Captain John||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Goldman, Charles Sydney||Proby, Col. Douglas James|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Goldsmith, Frank||Quilter, William Eley C.|
|Beckett, Hon. William Gervase||Gordon, John||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish-||Gwynne, R. S, (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Rawson, Col. Richard H.|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Haddock, George Baker||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Bird, Alfred||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Rice, Hon. Walter Fitz-Uryan|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Ridley, Samuel Ford|
|Boyton, James||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Brackenbury, Henry Langton||Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Brassey, H. L. C. (Northants, N.)||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Brassey, Capt. R. (Oxon, Banbury)||Harris, F. L. (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)||Royds, Edmund|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Harris, H. P. (Paddington, S.)||Rutherford, William Watson|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Brunskill, Gerald Fitzgibbon||Heath, Col. Arthur Howard||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Henderson, H. G. H. (Berkshire)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Butcher, John George (York)||Hillier, Dr. Alfred Peter||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Butcher, S. H. (Cambridge University)||Hoare, Samuel John Gurney||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Calley, Col. Thomas C. P.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. H. M.||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Stanier, Beville|
|Carlile, Edward Hildred||Rope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Horne, William E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Horner, Andrew Long||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Cator, John||Houston, Robert Paterson||Stewart, Gershom (Ches. Wirral)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hume-Williams, Wm. Ellis||Stewart, Sir M'T. (Kirkcudbrightsh.)|
|Cave, George||Hunt, Rowland||Strauss, Arthur|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hunter, Sir Chas. Rodk. (Bath)||Sykes, Alan John|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Thompson, Robert|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Kerry, Earl of||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Chambers, James||Keswick, William||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Tryon, Capt. George Clement|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Knight, Capt. Eric Ayshford||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Coates, Major Edward F.||Knott, James||Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)|
|Colefax, Henry Arthur||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne (Brentford)||Lawson, Hon. Harry||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Cooper, Capt. Bryan R. (Dublin, S.)||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole (Walsall)||Lewisham, Viscount||White, Major C. D. (Lancs. Southport)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Llewelyn, Venables||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsay)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lockwood. Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R||Winterton, Earl|
|Cripps, Sir Charles Alfred||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Croft, Henry Page||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Worthington-Evans, L. (Colchester)|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Mackinder, Halford J.||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. S. (Glasgow, E.)||M'Arthur, Charles|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Magnus, Sir Philip||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Alexander Acland-Hood and Viscount|
|Duncannon, Viscount||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Valentia.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Mitchell, William Foot|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Anderson, Andrew Macbeth||Balfour, Robert (Lanark)|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Armitage, Robert||Barclay, Sir Thomas|
|Agnew, George William||Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Barnes, George N.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Barry, Edward (Cork, S.)|
|Allen, Charles Peter||Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)|
|Barton, William||Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Beale, William Phipson||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Nolan, Joseph|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Harwood, George||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Boland, John Pius||Haworth, Arthur A.||O'Do[...]erty, Philip|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Hayward, Evan||O'Donnell, Thomas (Kerry, W.)|
|Brace, William||Hazleton, Richard||Ogden, Fred|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Healy, Timothy Michael||O'Grady, James|
|Brigg, John||Helme, Norval Watson||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Burke, E. Havlland-||Henry, Charles Soloman||O'Malley, William|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Higham, John Sharp||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Buxton, R. C. (Devon, Mid)||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Hodge, John||O'Shee, James John|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Hogan, Michael||O'Sullivan, Eugene|
|Byles, William Pollard||Hope, John Deans (Fite, West)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Cameron, Robert||Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||Pearce, William|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pearson, Weetman H. M.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Hudson, Walter||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A.|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lanes., Heywood)||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Hunter, Wm. (Lanark, Govan)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Illingworth, Percy H.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Johnson, William||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tidvil)||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Clough, William||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Clynes, John R.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Priestley, Arthur (Grantham)|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Jowett, Frederick William||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Joyce, Michael||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)||Keating, Matthew||Radford, George Heynes|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Kelly, Edward||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Kemp, Sir George||Rainy, Adam Rolland|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Kettle, Thomas Michael||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Cowan, W. H.||Kilbride, Denis||Reddy, Michael|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||King, Joseph (Somerset, N.)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Crawshay-Willlams, Eliot||Lambert, George||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Crosfield, Arthur H.||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Rees, John David|
|Crossley, William J.||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Cullinan, J.||Layland-Barratt, Sir Francis||Richards, Thomas|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Leach, Charles||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lehmann, Rudolf C.||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Levy, Sir Maurice||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbigh.)|
|Delany, William||Lewis, John Herbert||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Lincoln, Ignatius Timothy T.||Robinson, Sidney|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-shire)||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lundon, Thomas||Roche, Augustine (Cork)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Roche, John (Galway, East)|
|Doris, William||Lynch. Arthur Alfred||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Duffy, William J.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Macnamara. Dr. Thomas J||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Edwards, Enoch||M'Callum, John M.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Elverston, Harold.||M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Schwann, Sir Charles E.|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||M'Laren, Rt. Hon. Sir C. B. (Leices.)||Seddon, James A.|
|Falconer, James||M'Laren, F. W. S. (Lines., Spalding)||Seely, Col., Right Hon. J. E. B.|
|Fenwick, Charles||Mallet, Charles Edward||Shackleton, David James|
|Ferens, Thomas Robinson||Markham, Arthur Basil||Shaw, Sir Charles Edward|
|Ffrench, Peter||Marks, George Croydon||Sheehy, David|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Martin, Joseph||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Meagher, Michael||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Furness, Sir Christopher||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Golder, Sir William Alfred||Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's County)||Soares, Ernest Joseph|
|Gibbins, F. W.||Menzies, Sir Walter||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Gibson, James Puckering||Middlebrook, William||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Gill, Alfred Henry||Millar, James Duncan||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Glanville, Harold James||Molloy, Michael||Summers, James Woolley|
|Glover, Thomas||Molteno, Percy Alport||Sutton, John E|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Mond, Alfred Morltz||Taylor, John W, (Durham)|
|Greenwood, Granville George||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Grenfell, Cecil Alfred||Mooney, John J.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Gulland, John William||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Hackett, John||Muldoon, John||Tnorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Munro, Robert||Toulmin, George|
|Hancock, John George||Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Muspratt, Max||Twist, Henry|
|Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander||White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Verney, Frederick William||White, Patrick (Meath, North)||Wilson, T. F. (Lanark, N.E.)|
|Vivian, Henry||Whitehouse, John Howard||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Wadsworth, John||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.||Winfrey, Richard|
|Walsh, Stephen||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)||Wing, Thomas|
|Walters, John Tudor||Wiles, Thomas||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Walton, Joseph||Williams, Aneurin (Plymouth)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)||Younger, W. (Peebles and Selkirk)|
|Wardle, George J.||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master|
|White, Sir George (Norfolk)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)||of Elibank and Mr. Fuller.|
|White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ And, it being after Eleven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ The Committee report Progress; to sit again to-morrow (Wednesday).