HC Deb 26 April 1911 vol 24 cc1808-81

(1) If any Bill other than a Money Bill is passed by the House of Commons in three successive Sessions (whether of the same Parliament or not), and, having been sent up to the House of Lords at least one month before the end of the Session, is rejected by the House of Lords in each of those Sessions, that Bill shall, on its rejection for the third time by the House of Lords, unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary, be presented to His Majesty and become an Act of Parliament on the Royal Assent being signified thereto, notwithstanding that the House of Lords has not consented to the Bill: Provided that this provision shall not take effect unless two years 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.

(2) A Bill shall be deemed to be rejected by the House of Lords if it is not passed by the House of Lords either without Amendment or with such Amendments only as may be agreed to by both Houses.

(3) A Bill shall be deemed to be the same Bill as a former Bill sent up to the House of Lords in the preceding Session if, when it is sent up to the House of Lords, it is identical with the former Bill or contains only such alterations as are certified by the Speaker of the House of Commons to be necessary owing to the time which has elapsed since the date of the former Bill, or to represent Amendments which have been made by the House of Lords in the former Bill in the preceding Session.

Provided that the House of Commons may, if they think fit, on the passage of such a Bill through the House in the second or third Session, suggest any further amendments without inserting the amendments in the Bill, and any such suggested amendments shall be considered by the House of Lords, and if agreed to by that House, shall be treated as amendments made by the House of Lords and agreed to by the House of Commons; but the exercise of this power by the House of Commons shall not affect the operation of this section in the event of the Bill being rejected by the House of Lords.

Amendment moved: In Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "that Bill shall, on its rejection for the third time by the House of Lords, unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary," and to insert instead thereof the words "His Majesty may by Order in Council made after the close of the Session in which the Bill was rejected a third time direct that the Bill so rejected shall be submitted to a poll of the electors, and thereupon such Bill shall be so submitted in manner provided in the Schedule to this Act, and if the poll results in accordance with the provisions of such Schedule in favour of the Bill it shall: "—[Sir William Bull]

Question again proposed, "That the words 'that Bill' stand part of the Clause."


In rising to give reasons for this Amendment, moved on my behalf last night, may I ask the Committee to give me a little more time than is usually occupied in Committee Debate, partly because this particular subject of the Referendum, or a poll of the electors—I prefer the Saxon word to the dog-Latin—has never yet been discussed in this House by itself, and partly because, from such scattered references as have been made to the subject. I feel sure that the proposals made upon these benches are not fully understood. I am anxious that they should be clearly and fully understood upon the other side of the House, and with that object I have ventured to put upon the Order Paper a schedule containing details for taking polls of the electors. I do not suggest for a moment that that schedule does not deserve and invite criticism in detail, nor that it is not capable of very useful amendment. But, for all that, I think it is of value as indicating somewhat more clearly than otherwise would be the case, the exact proposal which we do desire to bring before the Committee. May I just add this, that nobody who has chosen to follow this subject can fail to acknowledge the help received from the Bill drafted and introduced by Lord Balfour of Burleigh in another place, and from the discussions that have taken place in the other House. In the main, the proposals which are embodied in the Amendment and schedule are these: In the first place, the proposal to take a poll of the electorate applies only to cases where there is a serious deadlock between the two Houses upon some non-financial Bill. In other words, it is to apply to Clause 2 of the Parliament Bill, and only operate in a case where this House has three times passed a Bill and the other House has three times rejected it. I rather commend that observation to those who suggest that we are attacking the representative system, because it follows from what I have said that it is only when the representatives of the people in this House have deliberately expressed their view in favour of a Bill and approved the details that a poll of the electors can be taken upon it.

The poll proposed in this Amendment would not apply to a Bill approved of by both Houses. To that I would myself make one exception, not in this Amendment, but a later one, namely, that Bills dealing with the Constitution, even when they have passed both Houses, should receive the further sanction of a vote of the electorate as a whole. That point does not arise directly on the Amendment, but will be made plain on another Amendment later. Again, this-proposal will not apply to a Bill not approved by either House, and in that respect it differs entirely from the Amendment to my Amendment which an hon. Member has put on the Paper. He proposes to introduce what is called in-Switzerland and elsewhere "the Initia- tive." I am wholly opposed to the initiative, and I want to, make it clear that this Amendment does not apply to any proposal which has not passed this House, once, twice, and three times. Shortly, it only applies to a Bill upon which the House of Commons insists and in which the other House, in whatever form it may be, declines to concur. I take it that this proposal would apply at once, that is during the interregnum as well as after the reform, which at some remote period we expect to see carried out in another place. The second point I want to make here is that under this Amendment a poll would only be asked for when differences arise between the two Houses, on the advice and desire of His Majesty's Government. That is rather of importance on the question as to the number of polls we may expect to see taken, and it is also of importance on the question as to the effect which a poll of the people might have upon the position of a Government in this House.

The third point I want to make clear is that a poll under this Schedule will be taken upon the Kill, and the voter will be asked to give the answer to the question: "Do you approve of the Bill?" "Yes" or "No." That would apply even in the case of a difference between the two Houses on Amendments passed in the other place, and not agreed to here. I Know it has been understood and suggested that we desire, where the other House insists on certain Amendments which this House will not accept, that there should be a poll taken on each Amendment; there has been a good deal of criticism upon that suggestion, both here and elsewhere. But I desire to do nothing of the kind; I think it very important to keep the poll as simple and free from complication as possible, and in cases where differences arise on Amendments, the voter, if he desired to have the Bill with Amendments, would simply say "No" to the Bill, leaving it, of course, to anybody to bring in a new Bill with the Amendments the voter desires. For that purpose there is in the Schedule a proposal which I think is new—it is not mine, although I very strongly support it; it is suggested by a distinguished Member of the other House—I mean the proposal that when a poll is to be taken there shall be deposited at the post offices and elsewhere copies of the Bill with such reasons for and against the Bill as each House desires to record.

4.0 P.M.

I have no doubt that those reasons will be very carefully drawn, and that in a case where a difference arises on Amendments, the other place will be careful to explain the nature of the Amendments. That is not entirely strange to one of the countries where the Referendum is usual, I mean the Colony of Queensland. I think it is a useful proposal and one which might bear fruit. I need hardly say that the reasons so given, although they would be no doubt carefully given, would not be all the reasons the electors would have put before them. I think any other arguments might fairly be left to the private enterprise of either one side or the other. The next point I want to make clear is that under this Schedule on the question put to the electors each parliamentary elector would have the right to vote, and to vote once. The vote would not be by constituencies but by individuals. Upon that point I do not at all myself see that where you are asking electors to elect a representative of a certain district or place, it is unreasonable that a man who has an interest in that place should have a vote for it, even though he has a vote elsewhere. That applies to the election of representatives, but I do not hold that it applies to a case like this, where you are asking an individual to vote upon a particular measure, and I do not think it is possible to apply anything like plural voting to a case like this.

We have on this side of the House this compensation that while you will have one man one vote, you will also under this Schedule have each vote of equal value, so that the vote of an elector in Newry or in Galway would not have ten times the value of a vote of an elector in the Kingston Division or twenty times the value of a vote in Wandsworth or in Romford. I may say, quite frankly, that any objection which I might have had to the single vote under this proposal is counterbalanced by the feeling that we should have one vote one value. The last matter of machinery to which I desire to refer is that under this Schedule it is proposed that where the votes of the electors amount to 50 per cent. of those entitled to vote, then a majority voting in favour of the Bill shall have the effect of making the Bill law, and where the total poll of both sides is less than 50 per cent. of the total electorate then the Bill is to drop. I do not adhere closely to the exact proportion, but I think it is wise and necessary to have some minimum of that kind, because unless you get 50 per cent. of the voters voting then we may infer the Bill is not of sufficient importance to make it necessary to overrule the views strongly held by a Second Chamber. Of course, there are minor matters of machinery mainly founded upon the procedure of Parliamentary elections and on the Ballot and Corrupt Practices Acts.

What are the advantages in favour of the recommendation we are now putting forward. Firstly, I say this, that this is our answer—I mean the answer of those who agree with me in the matter—to the vital question how you can, while keeping the two Houses, and keeping the two Houses independent of each other, adjust the differences between the two. The present method of adjusting such differencies is, as we all know, either by dissolution of this House or by additions to the other House, both of them we shall all agree very clumsy methods, and very inadequate. Against this there is the Government proposal to adjust the differences by making one House supreme over the other. I think again, that is a very crude proposal and a very perilous one, though, of course, I am not going to enter into that question now.

A third proposal was made by my learned Friend the Member for South Bucks (Sir A. Cripps), that is the proposal which embodied a Joint Session. As to that I do not wish to say anything to detract from what was said yesterday about a Joint Session, but I feel, and I have always felt, that that particular method is more closely applicable to cases of Bills which are not very contentious Bills, or which do not effect great changes in our Constitution. Even if you had a Joint Session you would still have to combine with it in certain cases a poll of the electors, and in a perfect system you would have the two together. I need not argue that point, as the Government refused even to consider the question of a Joint Session, and so we are driven to what I think the last possible resort for dealing with those differences, I mean the proposal of a poll of the electors, which I am putting forward, and which I think is probably the most logical of all. It rests upon a very simple basis. I think all of us admit that when the Houses differ the ultimate arbiter must be the whole body of electors. That is a proposition which no one here would venture to deny. At the present time we arrive at the award of that arbiter by a General Election, and we arrive at it I think very inconclusively after a good deal of trouble and a good deal of time. This Amendment proposes that instead of adopting that clumsy method, you should refer the matter directly and frankly to the electors. You shall make your "appeal," as Professor Dicey says, "to the political Sovereign," and have the matter determined by that Sovereign, meaning, of course, the whole body of electors. There is no loss of dignity in that either to one House or the other. I am afraid I do not there agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Alfred Lyttclton), but I do not think that either House need be offended in dignity if the body of electors took the view of the other. At all events this appeal would be made to the arbiters of the electors as a whole. That is the basis of this proposal, and I cannot help thinking that in that respect the proposal is founded upon very sound and firm ground indeed, because the principle upon which it rests has never been denied in all the objections made. That is the first point I put forward in favour of this proposal.

The second point is that under this system every great question in dispute would be treated in isolation by itself and, therefore, upon its own merits. It seems to me somewhat of an absurdity that we are always discussing in this House the question of what the electors have decided at a certain election, or whether they have decided anything at all, and we never seem to agree, even on capital questions, as to what view the electors hold or have expressed by their votes. We have seen each House, claiming to reflect the views of the electors, and each House in turn has been right. There has been more than one occasion where the other House has differed from this, and on a Dissolution the other House proved to represent the opinion of the people. Instead of arguing about that question when it arises let us take the simple process of asking the electors what do they think, and to say, "yes" or "no," and then we need not debate further or dispute what the real view of the country is. Of course that entails further consequences. There would be an end to a great extent of that process which we call log-rolling, I mean the process by which people who support one particular measure agree to give their support to another, in order to give effect to both. There is a great deal of log-rolling in this as in other countries, some of which is conscious and some unconscious. As an example of conscious log-rolling we had the extraordinary spectacle in Wales last week when the Leader of the Welsh party said he longed for nothing so much as Home Rule for Ireland, and the Leader of the Irish Nationalist party stated that if there was one thing dear to his heart it was the Disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales. That is what I call an instance of conscious and deliberate log-rolling.

But apart from cases of that kind, those who desire different things naturally combine to help one another. You get the instance of a Nonconformist who is often at heart a Unionist voting for Home Rule because he desires Disestablishment, or a temperance reformer who is in favour of religious teaching voting in favour of secular education. This proposal would do away with results of that kind, and would obtain a direct vote of the people. Under this proposal, if the Houses differed, you would have to ask the electors the question: Do you or do you not approve of this or that measure? And giving an answer by ballot they would not be influenced by the view as to what effect their reply would have on other measures also before the country. If I am wrong, I shall be told why I am wrong, but I am not giving my opinion only as it is held by many that this process of log-rolling would be checked, at all events, by the adoption of the Referendum or poll of the electorate. Mr. Leaky, a great authority, held the view strongly that blended issues are among the gravest political dangers of our time. There is one further advantage which accrues from this proposal. I think it would check, not, of course, the party system, but the excesses of the party system, because you would get the vote on measures and not on men. There, again, I quote Mr. Lecky, who says:— It would bring into action the opinion of the great silent classes of the community, and reduce to their true proportions many movements to which party considerations or noisy agitations had given a wholly factitious importance. Again, the proposal would have the effect that no constitutional change upon which the two Houses differed could be carried without the sanction of the nation. Personally I think that constitutional changes ought to have the sanction of the whole nation even if both Houses agree. But at all events, this particular proposal would bring about the result that if the Houses differed the nation would have to be consulted. In 1893 the late Lord Salisbury put this point very strongly before the country. He said:— I think we ought to have some power of appealing to a still mightier tribunal, namely, to the opinion of the nation. That power exists in almost every other constitutional Government in the world. It exists in Switzerland, it exists in France it exists in America, it exists in Sweden, Norway, Holland. Belgium, and Greece—it exists in all these countries. Whenever the foundations of the constitution itself are to be dealt with by one form of machinery or another, the nation are called into council upon this issue, and this issue only, and are asked whether they will have it so. I confess that I think the nations who are in that condition are in a safer position than ourselves, and I earnestly hope that the attention of the lovers of the constitution in this country may be drawn to the question whether, under the changed circumstances—considering that the House of Commons now works without the faintest regard to the considered and honourable traditions by which it was regulated in olden times—it should not now require some absolute and definite safeguard, by which the Constitution, upon which the nation lives, snail not be changed without the nation's will. I think that is true to-day. I have stated as shortly as I can the main reasons why I think this proposal is worth consideration on both sides of the House. I am encouraged in the view that it will receive such consideration by the fact that one Member at least, sitting below the Gangway opposite, the hon. Member for South Glamorganshire (Mr. Brace) has expressed his desire to give the matter careful and sympathetic consideration. I wish now to deal shortly with the objections taken to the proposal. I cannot quote the Prime Minister at any length, because, having said some time ago that he had coquetted with the Referendum, he has not been able to bring himself to say anything worse about the former object of his attentions than that it is inadequate. As a summary of the objections taken to the proposal, I might quote the words used by the Home Secretary not many weeks ago, when he said:— We believe that the system of a Referendum is a vicious system in itself, that it is bad as the basis of the system of government in any country, but especially unsnited for this country. The mass of the people under the Referundum are forced to take a decisive part in the continuous process of law-making. Every Bill would have to be framed as if it were the campaign platform of an immediate General Ejection. Every clause would have to be drafted to secure an immediate popular vote. You ought to consider these matters. Nothing would he included that would not make sure of that. We should live in an unceasing stream of electioneering prejudice and abuse. Parliamentary debate would be swept aside for a series of organised electoral struggles. Ministers would be expected to retain office after the measures to which they had pledged their faith and honour had been rejected by the country. Governments would be expected to appeal to the country on one policy and to remain in office to carry out the reverse. The staple foundation from which this House has so long been able to administer the affairs of the Empire would be exchanged for a tossing sea of frenzied electioneering. Parliamentary and representative institutions which have been the historic glory of these islands would be swept away, and, in their places, we would have the worst, forms of Jacobinism, Cæsarism, and Anarchy. I will take the rhetorical points of that passage rather briefly, because I want to get at the core of the objections to this proposal. As regards the suggestion that "the people would be forced to take a decisive part" in politics, I think the phrase is rather a strange one. I would quote against it a passage written by a Swiss writer on the Referendum, Professor Brüstlein:— What did we give the people when we gave them the Referendum? We gave every single citizen a definite portion of power, and every citizen is proud when he has the opportunity to exercise this piece of power, whether by assenting or dissenting; he sees his own vote in the result of the Referendum, and can say to himself, Quorum pars fui,' I am one of those who joined in this work. As regards the statement that Bills would have to be more carefully drafted, I do not think that that would be a loss. As to the prophecy that the proposal would load to "Jacobinism, Cæsarism, and anarchy," it is difficult to find those results where the system has been tried. In Switzerland the system has worked well. In Australia it has been not unsatisfactory in practice. Even in the United States, where I think they have in some States carried the system to excess, no one suggests that it has led to Cæsarism.

I think there are really three objections taken. The references to "a continuous process of law-making," and "a tossing sea of frenzied electioneering," really mean that we shall have a good many polls and that there will be a good deal of trouble. I do not think that that will be so. In Australia they have had very few polls. In Queensland, where the system has been in operation for three years, very much in the form here proposed, they have had no polls at all. When it is remembered that this particular proposal applies only to cases of deadlock where the Houses have differed three limes, I think the cases of poll will be very few indeed. I doubt whether there would be more than one in five years, and even then you might find that the taking of the poll under this provision had saved you all the trouble and expense of a General Election. The second objection taken is that the Parliamentary and representative institutions of the country would be swept away. Why? Under this proposal they would not be affected in the very least. Every measure would have to be considered in the House of Commons three times by the elected representatives of the nation. It would only be when they had decided on a mea- sure, and the other House had disagreed that the people would be consulted. After all, representative Government is only a means to an end. I think the end is the attainment of the well-being and happiness of the people by means approved of by the general body. If this House passes a measure and cannot get it approved by the other House, I can see no crime against representative Government involved in the process of consulting the nation as to which House is right. The third objection is that a Government would remain in office even though they were defeated. If that were so, it would not always be a loss, because we would have got a vote on measures, not on men. I believe there was a case in Switzerland, where the election and the Referendum is sometimes taken on the same day, in which the Government was defeated upon its main measure and returned by a great majority to power, and no one was a penny the worse. I think the common-sense of this country would solve this difficulty as well as others. In the first place, under this Amendment you would have no poll unless the Government wished it, and you might trust a Government to consider what the effect of a poll would be upon its fortunes. Secondly, if a Government were defeated on a vital matter, I think it is quite possible they would feel bound to resign; but if defeated upon a minor matter, I do not see why they should not continue in office as Governments have often done before. These objections are only objections of detail, and not of vital principle, and would not be very serious in actual working. I do not think they will stand the test of inquiry. I fall back, then, upon the real principle of the proposal, and I submit that except in this way you have found no fail-system of adjusting grave differences between the two Houses. We put forward this proposal as a serious and constructive proposal, prepared not in the interests of any party, but to meet a difficulty which everybody admits is incident to any bi-cameral system. I am thinking rather of the future, and, whatever the result to-day, I am satisfied that you may have to consider this matter again, even in this Parliament, possibly in this year. In any case I feel sure that before much time has elapsed you must give this matter your serious consideration. I hope the discussion of this year in this House, and in the other place, will at all events have contributed something towards the solution of a problem which I believe to be of urgent and National importance.

The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel)

Before attempting to make some observations on the general principle of the Referendum as a constitutional device, I would ask leave to direct the attention of the Committee to the form in which the matter appears in the Amendment before us, on which today the Committee will be asked to vote. Let it be clearly understood that the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposal is not to substitute the Referendum for the procedure proposed in the Parliament Bill, but as an addition to it. It does not exempt a Bill from having to be passed three times by the House of Commons in three successive Sessions in a period of not less than two years by referring it to the people, but it requires that a Bill should both be passed three times in three successive Sessions, and after that it should go through the further process of being submitted to a poll of the whole nation. It is always well in those matters to take a concrete instance, and see how a proposal of this kind would actually work in practice. Let me take as an example within the memory of all the General Election of 1906, and the Education Bill that followed. Under the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposal we should have had in 1906 an election fought very largely, as we all know it was fought, on the Education question. The new House of Commons returned to Parliament would have spent six months passing an Education Bill through the House, and we will assume it would have been rejected. In 1907 that Bill would have had to pass a second time. It would again presumably have been rejected by the House of Lords. In 1908 for the third time the House of Commons would have been asked to give its attention to this measure. After that prolonged process had been gone through, and at the end of it all, what would have occurred? We should have had a second General Election in miniature on the same measure, referred to a poll of the whole people, before it could have found its way upon the statute book of the nation.[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Of course, the Committee will not for a moment consider the acceptance of such a complication of obstacles in the way of the passage of measures on their way to the Statute Book. Let it be said, secondly, that this Amendment does not limit the application of the Referendum to constitutional questions, It is, as proposed, of universal application. Nor is it limited to questions of gravity on which the opinion of the nation has not been previously taken, as we find it enshrined in Lord Lansdowne's proposal. The Referendum which is now before us applies to every Bill—or I should say to every Liberal Bill—to which the I House of Lords chooses to take objection.


Except Money Bills.


Yes, except Money Bills—on general legislation. There is no machinery of any kind by which equal measure can be meted out to Conservative legislation. We do not even find embodied in this Amendment any fresh pledge for the fulfilment of the promise of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that Tariff Reform at all events shall certainly be referred to a vote of the whole nation. One point further. We are glad to note that the Amendment does embody the principle of "One man, one vote." I think that hon. Members opposite, in spite of what the mover of the Amendment has said, will find it very difficult, having placed upon the Table of the House of Commons a proposal of this character, embodying the principle of "One man, one vote," to argue in future that to prevent a man who has four houses or four places having four votes for Parliament is undermining the rights of property, and is the destruction of the fundamental principles of the Constitution. But we do not rest ourselves, by any means, on such imperfections as we may think attach to this particular Amendment for the Referendum, as found on the Paper of the House of Commons to-day. It is well that the House should seriously consider, from a more or less abstract constitutional point of view, the device of the Referendum in itself, and as a means of resolving deadlocks in any circumstances between the two Houses of Parliament.

The arguments advanced in favour of this proposal by the hon. and learned Gentleman are several. In the first place, he says that under the Referendum, at all events, you do get a clear issue. Every great question, he said—I am quoting his own words—can be treated in isolation. In the procedure of a General Election now, it is said, large principles or several questions, it may be, are grouped together, and it is exceedingly difficult to determine upon what issue a particular constituency may have voted at the polls. It is quite true that there is invariably these certain extra issues, no matter how much pains may be taken by candidates or by the leaders of parties, to isolate any particular question or to eliminate any particular question. I had an instance brought to my notice the other day in which the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cumberland was concerned, and which was very much to the point. On the eve of the election in his Constituency the hon. Gentleman distributed to the electors in his Division a last message, in which he said:— The Unionist Party is pledged that Tariff Reform shall not come into operation until every elector has had the opportunity of voting 'Yes' or 'No' upon it by means of the Referendum. He went on to say that— It is the duty of every Englishman to vote for the King and the Constitution, and to save Ireland from Home Rule. Having, therefore, carefully isolated Tariff Reform as an issue of the election, and having been returned—after the electors had received his last message—he sent to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) a telegram, in which he said:— North Cumberland salutes you to-day, and lays a Tariff Reform tribute at your feet.


I do not want to interpolate any remarks now, and spoil the speech that we all wish to listen to. At the same time I hope that an opportunity will be given to me, not absolutely to refute that telegram, but to make an explanation which will put a perfectly different complexion upon it


I fear the House will be somewhat sceptical of the hon. Gentleman's explanation. But it is difficult to isolate particular questions, no matter what pains may be taken at a General Election. I venture then to suggest to the Committee that it would be hardly less difficult in the case of the Referendum really to secure that each individual shall give his vote on the particular proposition placed before him by the Referendum, and on nothing else. You cannot control men's motives, or men's thoughts. You cannot determine by any Act of Parliament that when a man votes, when he puts his cross against a particular proposal on a Referendum paper, that he shall have in mind the merits of that particular proposal, and no other matter at all. It has frequently been said with respect to this very Bill, the Parliament Bill, that the various groups, the component parts, that make up the majority that support it, are animated by various motives. It is said that the Irish Members do not care for the Parliament Bill for its own sake, but regard it as a means to Home Rule. It is said that the Welsh Members regard it as a means to Welsh Disestablishment. It is said that the Labour Members regard it as a means of carrying out the various social reforms in which they are particularly interested. Suppose, then, this Parliament Bill were itself referred to the people by a Referendum. Would not precisely the same motives be in the minds of the Irish voters, the Welsh voters, and the voters who support the Members of the Labour party? If it be true that various Members of this House support the Bill, not on account of its own merits, but on account of remoter considerations in their own minds, would it not be equally true, in view of the arguments of the hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves, that the voters who were interested in the same-questions would similarly vote, not on the simple issue, but on a mixed issue which embodied the other considerations as well?

Further, unquestionably whatever may be argued in the abstract, we all know that in practice the credit of the Government would be very seriously bound up with a vote on the proposals placed before the nation in a Referendum. Governments might even make these matters questions of confidence. They might, and probably would, announce to the country that if the proposals which they made, or which were made, before the nation at the Referendum were defeated, they should consider it their duty to resign; they would no longer be able to carry on the Government of the country. Would not then all large questions of party divisions come into the issue? Would not the Liberal voter in the country, when he went to the poll at the Referendum, be animated by the consideration that the Liberal Government—or the Conservative Government, as the case might be—in all these cases it would be the Liberal Government—would resign if the vote went against them? Similarly, the Conservative voter, going to the Referendum, would record his vote, not merely as a declaration on a particular point, but as a vote of censure or a vote of confidence as the case might be, in the Government of the day. How many of these questions, which must necessarily be referred under this proposal to the nation at large, would affect only one part of the nation? Take two matters which presumably would have been referred if this system had been in operation during the last few years. There is the Licensing Bill and the Scottish Land Bill. The licensing systems of England, Scotland, and Ireland have always been separate. The Licensing Bill of 1908 necessarily dealt with the licensing system of England and Wales alone. The Scottish land system has always been regulated by different laws to the English or Irish land systems. Scottish land legislation must be enshrined in a separate measure. Therefore here you would have two Bills which would be referred to the judgment of the electors of the whole of the United Kingdom. In both of these cases only part of the United Kingdom would have been directly affected. What would have been the result in other parts of the United Kingdom? Do hon. Gentlemen opposite imagine that the English voter or the Irish voter would consider minutely and in detail the proposals of the Scottish Land Bill, the very language of which they would hardly be able to understand? They would, of course, in large numbers of cases give a party vote for the proposals of the Government of the day, or against the proposals of the Government of the day; and the isolation which the hon. and learned Gentleman contemplates would not be attained: would not under the Referendum tend to secure the issue upon which the country would express its opinion. The next reason that is given in support of the proposal of the Referendum is that by these means you at least secure effective control by the people. The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University is accustomed in his zeal for democratic principles to support the Referendum as being the real means by which the opinion of the people can be fully, adequately, and effectively expressed. The assertion, of course, is of a very plausible character. In earlier years in England, I doubt if it is so much the case now, many advanced Democrats did support the proposal of the Referendum for that very reason. I submit to the Committee that it is a profound error to assume that incessant voting at elections means more effective control by the people over their affairs. That is an error which, I think, all constitutional writers have agreed has been committed in the United States of America, where the people are called upon to elect not merely their own representatives, but judges, magistrates, sheriffs, and many others of their officials by direct election, and having an overwhelming number of issues to decide, the consequence is found to be not that there is effective democracy but that there is the semblance of democracy without the reality, and that the actual control of affairs falls into the hands of the organisers of the parties.

The tendency in this country has rather been to limit where possible the number of polls. Any observer of our local government system sees it would not conduce to greater control by the people over their local government if they had an additional number of elections for a further number of local authorities. Incessant voting does not mean effective control. Let us see how the proposal would work in practice and let me go back to find an example as to what its operation would have been in the immediate past. There would have been in 1906 if the Referendum had been established first of all the General Election, then a Referendum on the Education Bill, and then a Referendum on the Plural Voting Bill. The nation having partly recovered from the trial of these three national issues, would be required next year to go to the poll again upon the Scottish Land Bill. Then again, in 1908, it would be required to give a poll on the Licensing Bill, and in 1909 there would have been a poll upon the Budget. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, not upon the Budget."] We have been always told that the Budget was not a measure of finance.


You would be working under your own Bill. The Budget would come under Clause 1.


It would, of course, have come under Clause 1, but I am taking the proposal of the hon. Gentlemen opposite. Their assertion is that the House of Lords was justified in rejecting the Budget and in referring it to the people. That was the phrase they used, and it is too late in the day now to argue that if the Referendum was in force the Budget of 1909 would not have been referred to the people. I am not speaking of this Bill, I am speaking of the Referendum, and I am speaking generally of the Referendum. I was endeavouring to deal in isolation with the Referendum as a serious proposal for relieving deadlock between the two Houses.


Except on Money Bills.


The House of Lords did, as a matter of fact, reject the Budget of 1909 on the ground that it was not a Money Bill. If the Referendum had been in force, according to the wishes of hon. Members opposite, in 1909 there would have been a Referendum on the Budget. Then in the following year, 1910 or 1911, there would, in the ordinary course, have been a General Election to be followed by another series of referenda upon Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, and possibly—I do not know whether hon. Members opposite would include it in their proposals—upon the payment of Members as well. I submit to the Committee that constant polls do not facilitate the working of democracy, but rather check the working of democracy. Unless this device is constantly used it is not a remedy for deadlocks between the two Houses, and if it is constantly used it becomes intolerable. In these Debates during the discussion of this matter we have frequently been accustomed to hear the views expressed as to the experience of other countries. It is true the hon. and learned Member who moved the Amendment did so hardly at all, but, as a rule, it has been suggested that what has proved a successful device in so many countries cannot necessarily be unsuited to our own use. The experiences of other countries are, of course, so entirely different from our own that no useful lesson can be drawn from them at all.

The hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford University (Sir W. Anson), in a series of most interesting letters in "The Times" upon this subject, said very clearly:— One conclusion is that we can learn little or nothing from the use of the Referendum in the Swiss Confederation or Cantons because their political conditions are too dissimilar to ours. And although in many countries of the world they have written Constitutions in which provision is made that these Constitutions shall not be altered without reference to the people there is only one country so far as I know—the Colony of Queensland—in which the Referendum 1s enshrined in the Constitution as a device for dealing with deadlocks between the two Houses. There is no precedent, except in the case of Queensland, for the use of the Referendum as proposed here.


What about Section 128 of the Australian Commonwealth?


That does not deal with deadlocks.


Yes, on all constitutional questions.


Perhaps that is so in the case of the Australian Constitution, but in regard to general legislation there is no precedent except in Queensland for any attempt or for any proposal that the Second Chamber shall whenever there is a deadlock force the people to a Referendum upon the proposals made by the Lower House.

None of us deny that the Referendum may be a useful way of ascertaining the opinion of the nation upon great and simple issues under very exceptional circumstances. If one takes for example the unity of the various Italian kingdoms and Principalities—where there was no sovereign authority or representative authority in a position to take action, and the Sovereigns of the States had only lately rescued themselves from foreign dominion or the rule of Kings exiled—in such a case as that obviously it was proper that each separate part of the new kingdom should be asked to vote as to its views on the unity of the whole. There was the recent case in Norway, on the question of the establishment of a new Monarchy, and that was a suitable occasion for the use of the Referendum. But we submit that the Referendum, with all the elaboration of electioneering which it involves, is not suitable to form a part of the every-day machinery of the working of the Constitution.

So far I have proceeded to answer the arguments adduced in its favour. I will now say a few words with respect to the objections we see to this proposal. In the first place the effect upon the House of Commons must be greatly to diminish the sense of responsibility of Members of Parliament for their action. If they feel that the final decision must in all important cases rest not with them but with the vote of the whole people who themselves have to be responsible for their action the effect cannot fail to be serious and deleterious upon the proceedings of this House. Consequently the effect upon the stability and character of the Government must be very grave. I do not think the hon. and learned Member, in his very interesting speech, at all events convinced the Committee there was any way out of the dilemma which would occur if the main proposal or the leading proposals of responsible government were rejected as a whole. The hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford, in the letters to which I have just referred, says as follows, and his observations are, of course, always of the greatest value not only on account of the authority with which he speaks but because of the transparent sincerity of his views:— If Ministers stake their existence as a Ministry on the decision of the people, the discussion of the Bill will be obscured by a discussion of the merits of the Government, its performances and promises, and we shall be confronted with every element of a General Election except the candidate. If, on the other hand, Ministers announce that a Bill which represents the labours of a Session may be dealt with by the electorate as it pleases, and that the rejection of the Bill will not affect their tenure of office, we get a situation wholly new in our system of party Government, and yet this is the only way in which a great issue can be isolated from a number of irrelevant considerations. To that dilemma the hon. Baronet in these letters gave no decisive answer. It is indeed obvious if the Government of the day resigned then you would have not only the turmoil of a Referendum but you would have it immediately followed by the consequences of a General Election, and, further, you would place in the hands of the Upper House the power to force dissolution when it pleases and to subject to the vote of the people everything in accordance with the opinion of the Upper House. If, on the other hand, the Government of the day submitted to the decision, allowed their measure to be defeated, but nevertheless remained in office and carried on the government of the country, then I say we would have struck a great blow at our national institutions and undermined the basis on which our Government at present rests. If the Government of the day remained in power after the defeat of one of their proposals which they declared was essential to the well-being and good government of the nation, and were compelled to carry on the government of the country under a policy of which they disapprove, you would place Ministers upon a very much lower footing than ever before, and you would absolve them of all sense of personal responsibility for the policy which they were called upon to carry out.

5.0 P.M.

More important still is the effect upon policy which would follow from the adoption of this scheme. Each Referendum would be, in effect, an election, it would be the subject of strenuous electioneering between the great parties in the State, more so even than a General Election, for in a General Election the people are very ready to vote, and show great popular interest in it. They come to the polls, although, of course, efforts in some cases have to be used to bring them up. But under a Referendum it would be difficult to induce half the people to come, and efforts would have to be put forward by the rival parties much greater than in the case of a General Election. And let the Committee mark, and it is a most important point, there will be no limit to the expenditure made in conducting a cam- paign of this character. The hon. and learned Member has drafted both successfully and carefully a Schedule applying the Corrupt Practices Act to this Referendum, but the limit of expenses cannot apply, there is no one made responsible for exceeding the limit, and consequently unlimited sums may be spent on propaganda and organisation. The effect of that will be year after year on these great issues in dispute between the two parties to give even more than to-day an overwhelming influence to the forces of wealth, and the consequences on the general development of democratic policy in this country can hardly fail to be disastrous. I have now come to the end of the arguments that may be advanced against this proposal, but I should like to ask whether all these consequences were foreseen by the Opposition with a light heart and in a hurry when they adopted this proposal. I do not know that it is a good practice to quote sentences from newspapers, but I cannot resist drawing attention to one sentence which appeared in an article in a most important newspaper, which is one of the most staunch supporters of hon. Members opposite, the "St. James's Gazette and Evening Standard":— Instead of squabbling in public over the new scheme which has now been formally adopted as the official policy of the party, let us quietly set to work to understand it. You adopt first and understand it after, and that seems to have been the course taken by the party opposite upon this question. Last year, when the proposals enshrined in this Bill were discussed by this House in the form of a resolution, not a word was said by any hon. Member on the Opposition Benches revealing not merely any devotion to the principle of the Referendum, but any interest in that principle. That method which is now declared to be indispensable to the proper democratic Government of the nation was passed over in complete silence a year ago, and the only reference to the subject which can be found in the index of the Official Debater was made by the hon. and learned Member for Kingston, himself, who has to-day moved the Amendment which we are now discussing. This is what he said on the 7th April last year:— As to the Referendum, I will not say much in regard to it except that my feeling is similar to the feeling I entertained towards proportional representation. In theory there is an immense amount to be said for the Referendum, but in practice I do not like it. But that is not all. The hon. and learned Member goes on to say:— It seems alien to our party system and incompatible with the system of government under which we live. If you are to submit to the people each question which arises, you will do away with the plan under which we and our forefathers carried on the government, and you do away with the duty of Ministers to resign when they have wrongly interpreted the feeling of the country.


Those observations were directed not to the Referendum on deadlocks, but to the general Referendum on all matters.


I do not see any such qualification in the hon. and learned Member's speech. That was the only declaration on the subject of the Referendum which emanated from the Conservative party even so recently as a year ago.


I had an Amendment down on the Paper, but the Debate was closured just before my Amendment was reached.


I have quoted the only source of information on this point accessible to hon. Members of this House. Even now we are very uncertain how far hon. Members are prepared to put their feelings into practice. The fate of Lord Balfour's Bill in the other House leaves us in a state of much uncertainty, because although it is not dead it is in a state of coma, from which it is not likely to recover, and we shall listen with interest to hear how far the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to pledge his party in this particular direction. For 650 years our system of representative Government has gradually developed upon the old lines, lines well established as a means of ascertaining the opinion of the nation. As hon. Members opposite will admit, we are not unready to make large changes when we consider large changes are necessary; but certainly we are not prepared to place our feet upon the slippery slopes which the hon. and learned Member invites us to tread.


In the remarks I am going to make in reply to the right hon. Gentleman, I propose to confine myself to the Referendum in reference to this particular Bill, for that is what is contemplated by my hon. and learned Friend in this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman opposite dealt with the Referendum as applying to a variety of things not contemplated by my hon. and learned Friend, He assumed explicitly that the Referendum would always be directed against the legislation of the Liberal Government. Surely that is a curious commentary upon the Preamble of this Bill, and a reflection upon the bona fides of the promise held out in the Preamble that the House of Lords would be so reformed as to be put upon a democratic basis, such as would ensure all Liberal legislation as good a chance as Unionist legislation. The Postmaster-General gave as an illustration a supposition as to what would have happened if the Referendum had been in force in the year 1906. He said there would have been Referendum on the Education Bills of 1906, 1907, and 1908. As a matter of fact I think my hon. and learned Friend within the four corners of his Amendment provides for a period of two years within which legislation is to take place. I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Education Bill of 1906 was very different from the Education Bill of 1907, and even that was different in many important particulars from the Education Bill of 1908. Therefore this illustration shows that legislation cannot be put before the electors when a Liberal Government is so versatile in its treatment of a subject such as education as to produce within three short years three perfectly different Bills.

The right hon. Gentleman's first objection to the Referendum was that we should not get a fair issue, and he pointed out with truth that if the Government choose they can make the Referendum a General Election in everything except the existence of candidates. They might refer a Licensing Bill to the country and, in that way, introduce Chinese Slavery, the Durability of Old Age Pensions and all the other paraphernalia of Liberal electioneering. All those questions might be brought before the country, and the country would not decide upon one particular issue. I quite admit that if the Government assented in the case of the principal measure of the Session to a Referendum, and the Bill was lost, the position of the Government would be considerably depreciated in the opinion of the public. That is quite evident, but I think the right hon. Gentleman forgot that the Referendum as proposed by my hon. and learned Friend could only be used in the last resort when a Bill had been sent three times to the Second Chamber and rejected three times, and that after all attempts at settlement by conferences had been exhausted. I must remind the Postmaster-General that the Referendum is a formidable weapon and it is a two-edged weapon. It might have a very serious effect upon the Government; but a defeat on the Referendum might also be a serious matter for the party which promoted it. Having regard to the fact that the Referendum would only be used after every effort had been made to secure an agreement between the two Houses and the passing of the Bill in a manner agreeable to both, if under those circumstances the Government was compelled to send a Bill to the country by way of Referendum—compelled by the action of another party, Liberal or Unionist, as the case might be—a defeat would be a serious blow to that party, and therefore the risk that the Government would be put in a position of having its measures dealt with lightly and hastily by Referendum is, I think, infinitesimal. So much for the question of the clear issue. Then the right hon. Gentleman said there would be constant polls and constant and incessant voting on all manner of questions, and in that way the influence of wealth would come in, corruption might take place, and that our whole electorate would be deteriorated in the result. I think he forgot that in Switzerland these polls are a constant necessity. I am sure that the matters put before the electors in Switzerland are not as important as the matters which would be put before the electors of this country under this Amendment. It is not contended that wealth plays a prominent part in the decision of those questions in Switzerland or that the electorate of Switzerland is seriously corrupted by these incessant polls.


Very rarely more than 50 per cent. of the electors vote.


That is what may be fairly said on the assumption that these polls would be incessant. As I have already pointed out, a matter would not go to the Referendum until every means had been exhausted of endeavouring to bring the two Chambers into agreement. Surely these polls would not be incessant, and the issue when it came before the electorate would be a serious one, in which the electors would be sufficiently interested and would play their proper part. It is therefore useless to cite Switzerland and the United States and those States in the American Republic who use the Referendum, because in Switzerland our system of party government does not exist, and the use of the Referendum therefore is not an argument applicable to ourselves. In the States of the American Republic which have adopted the Referendum in modern times they have advisedly done so to supersede their legislature, because they are not satisfied either with the quality of the legislature or with the quality of the work which the legislature turns out. These arguments that incessant polls might result from the Amendment are really irrelevant to the issue. The circumstances are wholly different, and none of the dangers which the right hon. Gentleman has conjured up would be found to seriously exist. He has also warned us in solemn tones that the responsibility of Members, the responsibility of the two Houses, and the responsibility of the Government would be diminished by this reference of matters in issue between the two Houses to the people. Would it detract from the responsibilities of Members? I think we sometimes make rather too much of this responsibility of Members. How much is left of the responsibility of Members when we bear in mind the guillotine, the party Whips, and the fact that the Government must not be beaten under any circumstances on any issue, however trifling? We had last night a reductio ad absurdum of the independence of the independent Radical. We had an Amendment solemnly and seriously moved from the other side, and supported with something like vehemence by other Members below the Gangway, and, when there was the faintest suggestion that Amendment might be carried, or even that the numbers in the Lobby might not be altogether favourable to the Government, the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir Henry Dalziel), with the utmost haste, withdrew it and avowed his unwavering allegiance to the Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Division was not on the Amendment."] I quite agree. He withdrew the Amendment. That is my argument. I do not think that interruption goes to support the independence of Gentlemen opposite.

I hope I have endeavoured, not without success, to show that the anxiety the Postmaster-General has expressed as to the effects of the Referendum is not founded upon fact. We shall get a real issue unless the Government choose to stake their existence on the vote of the people. We shall not have incessant polls, because the Referendum will only be used in the last resort. We are not likely to cause any deterioration in the sense of responsibility with which hon. Members vote in this House, because I am not quite sure that sense of responsibility is even now as keen and as adequate as it should be. There are substantial reasons why at this particular juncture, at any rate, some such procedure as my hon. and learned Friend has urged is necessary, in our view, for the safe working of the Constitution. We have been told, and I think the Postmaster-General has told us himself, that our Constitution is unwritten, and that it knows nothing of organic or fundamental laws. That is perfectly true. The greater part of it is unwritten, but the Government are endeavouring to put a certain portion of it, and that the most serious portion—the seat of legislative sovereignty—into writing. It is perfectly true we have no fundamental and organic laws. We have not hitherto wanted them, because we have always enjoyed that protection against violent change which the Government and hon. Members on the other side of the House are light-heartedly proposing to take away. I think the particular reason my hon. and learned Friend desires to see the principle of the Referendum embodied in our Constitution is that we are unwilling to see the foundations of our Constitution altered by what the Prime Minister the other night described as a temporary, insignificant, and precarious majority. That is what may happen under this Bill if we have no better security than the Bill offers to us. That is one reason why we hold the Referendum is a desirable feature to be introduced into our Parliamentary system.

There is another reason. We are now face to face in this House with the system of groups, and not merely with a system of two great parties. The will or policy of a particular group may not be the will or the policy of the people, but nevertheless the numbers of that group may be so large, or the morale of the Government may be so weak, that the group may be able to dictate its policy to the Government, whatever may be the wishes of the people, and under this Bill carry it out. That is an evil which the Referendum, by which the will of the people could be clearly expressed on the matter in issue, would go a long way to counteract. This is a new machine which I for one do not welcome with any great cordiality, but which I accept as becoming necessary in the circumstances under which we now live and under the action of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. We want it for two reasons. We want it to ensure that our Constitution is not lightly changed in its most important particulars by the action of a chance majority on either side of the House, and we want it to ensure, in matters of great importance, whether they are constitutional, or economic, or social, that, not the will of groups and not the log-rolling arrangements within those groups in this House, but the will of the people shall prevail.


The hon. Member who moved this Amendment insisted during his speech that the measures of a Government ought to be judged in isolation rather than in combination. Surely a Government deserves to be judged by the whole of its programme. Elect it for a reasonable length of life, give it time to develop its policy as a whole, and then judge it by its complete record. This system by which the House of Lords is to pick out certain acts from the Government programme, to detach them from the rest, and to compel the people to judge the Government by these isolated fragments of their policy, appears to me to be grossly unfair to any Government. It would put every Government into a position of permanent instability, and it would give no Government any reasonable security of tenure and no Government a fair chance. When the hon. Member was speaking, the question which continually occurred to me was this. If you have the Referendum and it is going to prevent this House from passing hasty and ill-considered legislation in spite of the opinion of the country, why do you want the House of Lords? The main purpose by which the House of Lords justifies its own existence is cut away from under its feet, if according to the hon. Member's Resolution, the main purpose of the House of Lords now is to set the Referendum into motion. That could be done equally well by a certain number of the electors, as in Switzerland, or by 200, or some other number of Members of this House, as in the Bill of Lord Balfour of Burleigh. The House of Lords would become quite unnecessary, even upon the argument by which it supports its own existence. It would become merely the fifth wheel of the coach.

The hon. Member also argued there were so many issues before the country at General Elections at the same time that you could not get a conclusive verdict upon any one of them. I admit most of us have probably found that to some extent to be our own experience, but the fact is, as we know by the experience of the past, that at General Elections 80 or 90 per cent. of the electors go to the poll, and you get a better expression of public opinion than you would by a perpetual series of Referenda, where only a handful of electors would go to the poll at all. We have had two General Elections within the last eighteen months. Everybody was sick and tired of the second before it began. We all know the amount of interest taken in it was sensibly less, and the number of abstentions from the poll was sensibly greater than at the first election. The Referendum would make the political conditions of the last eighteen months a perpetual feature of our political existence. I cannot understand how the hon. Gentleman has persuaded himself that the Referendum would only be called into existence every five years. It seems to me it would be called into existence every year. We should simply repeat the experience of Switzerland and of those American States where the system is in operation. The number of electors who would go to the poll would be so insignificant that you would never get any proper expression of public opinion at all.

I have ventured to put down an Amendment to the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. and learned Gentleman. I am not going to move it. I put it down in order to call the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite to certain facts which up to the present they have ignored. In every speech in this Debate, and in every speech in the House of Lords, there was behind all these arguments one tacit assumption. That assumption was that you would be able to get the Referendum without taking the Initiative with it. The experience of all those other countries where the Referendum has become a normal part of the Constitution, shows that when once it is introduced it is in the course of a very few years followed by the logic of inevitable argument by the corresponding voice of the Initiative. If the progressive party were beaten on this question I do not believe they would try to reverse what had been done. I think they would follow the example of progressive parties in other countries, and would meet you on your own ground. They would say, "You have preferred this system of direct legislation to our old established system of Parliamentary and representative legislation. Direct legislation let it be. But it shall not be direct legislation with the dice always loaded against progress." The Referendum by itself does not give the people that full share in legislation which the hon. and learned Member for Kingston claims that it does. It gives them a share in destroying legislation, but if you are going to use the system as a weapon for obstruction we claim that it shall also be used as a weapon for speeding up negligent Parliaments. In Switzerland they began with a Referendum by which 30,000 electors could, after a Bill had been passed, demand a poll of the people, and by inevitable logic they were led on to the initiative by which 50,000 can draw up a Bill for themselves, and insist on a vote upon that. If that is the kind of thing hon. Members opposite want they are taking the first step to have it, and, having once taken that first step they will get it whether they want it or not.

We have been told that we are frightened at the Referendum. As a matter of fact the people who really need to be frightened are the classes from which hon. Gentlemen opposite draw the mass of their strength. This system is all very well in Switzerland, a country remarkable for the evenness with which its wealth is distributed. But this country is remarkable for a gross and appalling inequality in the distribution of its wealth, and, if you adopt this system the kind of question which will be put to the poll of the people will be far more downright than the kind of question we discuss in this House. The question will be in the nature of asking if a man needs to have more than £10,000, or to inherit more than £50,000. and if you once get that put to a poll of the people I believe you will get a short and simple answer which will stupify those who are so anxious to establish this system. Hon. Members keep on arguing as if the people were more Conservative than the House of Commons. They may be so on certain questions, but I am absolutely sure that on all questions connected with property the House of Commons is infinitely more Conservative than the people. This system of direct legislation, with the full consequences that will follow from it, if once introduced, will be not a Conservative, but a revolutionary force. The reason why I oppose it is because I think it would be revolution of the wrong kind. If we are going to have revolution in legislation at all let us have it on the floor of this House, where a subject can be properly discussed, and where both sides can be heard. We do not want revolutionary or any other kind of legislation carried by the crude and ill- considered method of a popular vote without any adequate discussion, or any discussion at all.


Last night we saw an hon. Member opposite put down an Amendment and then refuse to divide upon it. This afternoon we have seen another hon. Member put an Amendment down, and in the closing sentences of his remarks state that he is in absolute disagreement with it. I think that is a strange method of producing your own views or eliciting the views of others. The hon. Member asked my hon. and learned Friend why he did not include in his Amendment some reference to the question of the direct initiative. I am prepared to give him this answer that, without arguing the question whether or not it would be a desirable thing, we have had ample proof from the Government and their supporters that they are so afraid of consulting the people in the very moderate form we propose under this Amendment that a fortiori they would be more afraid to give the people a direct voice. I only rise to call attention to one or two striking statements that have fallen from speakers opposite to-day. I do not often intervene in these Debates, but I sometimes feel compelled to do so when I hear anything extraordinary, as I have done this afternoon. The last speaker asked why if we had the Referendum we want the House of Lords. The answer is simple. We want the Referendum to take the place in this remodelled Constitution of the check hitherto supplied by that Second Chamber—a check which, under this Bill, is to be removed from us.

I feel that the efforts of all speakers on this side of the House are to a very great extent thrown away, because hon. Members opposite have a preconceived notion of what we mean, a notion so strongly preconceived that no argument on our part will get any other idea into their heads. They insist on saying that the Referendum will and is bound to work to the advantage of only one side, and that we are bound to get that advantage. If they will try to remember that the Referendum, as it has been proposed, is only a part—I might almost say a very small part—of the large scheme of reform which is put forward by those who sit on these benches and by the Unionist party in the House of Lords they would see that there is no ground whatever for the statement that it is merely one other political trick to secure a permanent political advantage for the Conservative and Unionist party. I confess when I heard the Postmaster-General saying that the great objection to it, if it were established, would be that Scotland would be invited to give its opinion upon an English Licensing Bill, or that England would be invited to give its opinion on a Scottish Land Bill, and that under those circumstances they could hardly expect the people to take much interest in matters of this kind, I thought it a most extraordinary argument, seeing that already in this House Members for Scotland do vote upon an English Licensing Bill and in the same way as hon. Members vote with regard to all shades of legislation, I, as an English Member, shall have much pleasure next Session in recording my votes upon what hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will regard as a purely Irish matter. It is no answer to the Referendum to say that each nation, and each nation only, can rightly be expected to deal with matters in which it is finally most concerned. The Postmaster-General used words to the effect that the real crux of the whole difference of opinion between that side of the House and this, with regard to what would be the effect of the Referendum as between the two Houses, was that the Upper House was to have the power of forcing a Dissolution if the opinion of the people turned out to be in accordance with the opinion of the Upper House. Granted, for the purposes of argument, that that is so. What does this House exist for? Does it exist for its own dignity, or for some ulterior purpose, or for the purpose of passing laws in accordance with the public will and the public wish? If that is the only purpose for which this House exists then surely it is no grave charge to make against Referendum that after the Referendum has been taken and the will of the people happens to coincide with the wish of the Upper House, there should be a Dissolution.

We know that the real objection to the Referendum, under whatever guise it may be, whether it be suggested it will sap the independence of Members, of which from time to time we have striking examples, or whether it will ruin the Constitution of this country—we know very well that all these objections practically come back to one thing only, that is that the Government and their supporters wish to make the House of Commons to-day not only supreme as between the two Houses, but sovereign over any Parliament and over any possible wish of the people outside. A much respected Member for one of the Divisions of Aberdeen, speaking from the benches opposite, has drawn the attention of the Committee to some words of Professor Dicey on the question of sovereignty—I have not been able to verify the quotation, but I think, as he made it, it was open to misconstruction, and it might have been suggested that he was applying the term to the sovereignty of this House. It should be made clear that Professor Dicey always insisted upon the sovereignty of Parliament. In that matter lies a rather important distinction. We have hitherto had the power of insisting at certain times that the House of Commons shall be brought into touch and into line with public opinion, and the check or guarantee we have had up to this time being removed we are bound to insist upon another. This is not an ideal solution, but it is the only solution which offers itself to us of the present, constitutional problem. We know that, from time to time, Members of this House change their political views, and it is no more true to say that this House invariably represents the feeling of the country than that a Member who may change his political opinions invariably represents the majority of his constituents. Hon. Members who so change their opinions sometimes feel compelled to submit themselves to the verdict of their constituents, and what is done in the case of individual Members is all that we ask it shall be possible for the House of Commons to do under the Referendum. Let the House submit itself to the judgment of the country. That is all that this Amendment would introduce.

I observe it is frequently asserted that while it may be possible, it is often not desirable, to try and have a clean straight vote. The last speaker said it was more fair to judge a Government by the results of a general poll than by any isolated contest. I am very well aware that the last thing the Government want is to have a straight vote, either in this House or outside in the country. Everybody I think even on those Benches opposite will agree that the Prime Minister would not have got the support that he claims to have got to-day for any of the proposed measures to deal with Ireland, or Welsh Disestablishment, or the reorganisation of the educational system of the country, if it had not been that he had been blessed with the opportunities of such valuable electioneering cries as the party has found recently in the Veto of the Lords and all the rest of it. If that be true, and it is true, surely everybody who wishes to have a straight fight upon a clean issue must wish that it should be possible to isolate that issue for independent solution in the country. If you could do that it would incidentally isolate it in this House and it would then be possible to vote for all purposes without fear of Government Whips. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir Henry Dalziel) might go to a division without any tear of its after effects and we should be freed from some of the evils which we are face to face with to-day—evils which in my judgment this Amendment goes partly along the road to remove.


I hardly think the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, any more than preceding hon. Members who spoke, has faced the fundamental objection to the Referendum. That objection I think is this. There is only one possible way of getting a clear issue in the case of the Referendum. You can only obtain a clear issue when the Government decides not to stand or fall by the result of the Referendum. That is the only possible way in which a clear issue could be secured. What then follows? The Government refers a measure to the country, it decides not to stand or fall by the result. What is the consequence? Ministerial responsibility ceases and you have got the beginning of the end of the Parliamentary system. That is the fundamental objection to the Referendum and I do earnestly hope that hon. Gentlemen who take part in this Debate from the other side will be good enough to address themselves to it. Parliamentary government may be a good thing or a bad thing but let us think very earnestly indeed before we decide to take the first step towards ending it. That was very clearly realised by one of the most brilliant writers who contribute to the thought of the other side—Mr. Garvin—who, I feel, writes most of the arguments which are used by the Unionist party. [An HON. MEMBER: "How do you know that?"] I am exceedingly sorry that this dissension should be expressed; it strikes me as being in the nature of ingratitude. This talented gentleman, writing in the "Daily Telegraph" immediately after the sudden adoption of the Referendum as a plank of the Tory platform, observes:— Governments do not go out on Referendum, and if the National Party did not succeed the first time the Unionist Government could amply stay in office and submit the question again. That, of course, is perfectly true, and it is entirely for the reason that the Referendum can only be worked when Governments refuse to take responsibility for the consequences of the submission of the issue-it is for that reason that the Referendum does not commend itself to the thought of those who have most fully considered the subject. Of course, if the issue is not kept clear from Government and Ministerial responsibility then the submission of any question to the electors simply resolves itself into this question: "Do you support the Government or not?" The particular issue submitted then sinks into insignificance and the fate of the Government becomes the real issue submitted to the electors. I should very much like to say in a few words how cordially I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton with regard to the question as to whether the Referendum is really a Conservative weapon. I remember, and it is not very long ago, when organised opinion on the Conservative side thought that the Referendum was a very Radical proceeding indeed, and it was denounced as a Radical proceeding. As a matter of fact, the Referendum can hardly be considered as a Conservative proposal. In Switzerland it has been used for one thing, to nationalise the railways, and if we examine the experience of those States of America which have used this particular constitutional weapon, what do we find? In the State of Oregon, I believe, some very drastic taxes indeed upon property have been carried by means of the Referendum, and I am not sure that they have not been carried by means of the Initiative.

It is impossible to exclude the Initiative when you once institute the principle of Referendum. When you have degraded your Parliament, when you have turned the House of Commons into a mere registering machine—when you make the Members who come to this House the mere registrars of the direct decision of the electors, you must then give the electors not merely the power to say "Yes" or "No" to a proposal made in the central body, you must also give those electors the power to propose legislation. That, of course, has happened in Switzerland and in various States of America, such as Oregon, which have adopted the Referendum, and when you get the Referendum you have proposals made which are anything but Conservative in character. If hon. Gentlemen opposite are inclined to consider that they are favouring an essentially Conservative weapon, they have, I think, very good cause indeed to revise their opinions and their arguments. I think also in the case of the United Kingdom it is a condition precedent to the establishment of the Referendum that we should have a federal system. Doubtless some day we shall get a federal system, but not until we have one is the Referendum to be plausibly argued for in the British House of Commons. Surely it would be absurd to submit a local question affecting Scotland or Wales to the whole of the seven or eight or nine millions of electors of the United Kingdom for decision. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is done now."] It is not done now, and a direct vote with the object of getting a clear pronouncement upon a clear political issue until we get a federal system seems to me to be out of the question. This Parliament is proudly known the world over as the Mother of Parliaments, and I do not believe that the Mother of Parliaments will consent to be the main instrument of the destruction of the Parliamentary system.


I am glad to have this opportunity of explaining the very modest telegram which came in somewhat undeservedly in the address of the Postmaster-General for honourable mention in this House, and I would like to say that on first appearance only, and not after examining my majority, could anyone suppose that I was guilty of what I think would have been a very low electioneering trick. I know that the local Radical Press, which are somewhat barren and sterile of ideas, took notice of that telegram, but I did not really expect that it was of sufficient importance to be made use of in this Debate. However, since mention has been made of it in this House it is my duty to give an explanation which I am perfectly certain that all hon. Gentlemen opposite will accept as satisfactory when they have heard it. I must ask the indulgence of the House and I must also apologise for talking about personal matters, but it is necessary to examine the figures in the preceding election. In January, 1910, I conducted a campaign, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman would take exception to it, because the principal plank in my platform was Tariff Reform, and it commanded 4,470 votes. There was no question of Referendum then, the issue was a perfectly straight one between Tariff Reform on the one side and Free Trade on the other, and I think the House will allow me to presume that there were at least 4,470 constituents of mine who were solid for Tariff Reform.

A year passed in which I did everything I could to educate the constituency in regard to the advantages of Tariff Reform, and in December, 1910, I again put forward Tariff Reform as one of the principal planks in my platform. I was elected by a majority of 375. I secured 111 more votes in December, 1910, than did in January, 1910. If you will kindly bear that in mind you will find that if I make you the absurdly generous concession that everyone of those additional voters were Tory Free Traders who voted for me simply because they knew that the question of Tariff Reform would be referred to a Referendum, even if I take off that 111 from the sum total of my votes and add it on to the sum total of my opponent's votes I have still a majority of 148 for Tariff Reform. Surely the House will allow that that gave me authority for laying the palm of victory at the feet of a great statesman whose absence we all deplore and regret. I do not believe that this charge was initiated by the right hon. Gentleman. It savours rather of a certain subtle inventive ingenuity which has happily been expelled from North Cumberland, and which, I hope, will be confined in future to the plains of Wiltshire. I hope that will satisfy hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I hope they will allow me now to apply myself to the Amendment. I listened with great interest to the speech of the Postmaster-General, but I am sorry to say his arguments were certainly not convincing. His chief contention was that the Referendum strikes a blow, and a mighty blow, at the Constitution. Who is the right hon. Gentleman, and who are his Friends, and what are they doing? Why, they do not hesitate to shatter the Constitution when it suits their selfish ends. The hon. Member who last spoke says that this would be a death blow to the party system.


Parliamentary system.

6.0 P.M.


I beg his pardon, I misunderstood him. Though if he had meant the party system I am not sure that would not be an argument in its favour. I think the party system is in some cases extremely ludicrous. It renders absolutely hopeless the carrying out of crying reforms for the welfare of the people and I would gladly see it, if not abolished, at least amended.

One of the chief arguments in favour of the Referendum is the attitude adopted by hon. Members opposite who openly claim that they have a mandate from the country for the carrying through of any legislation which comes uppermost in their minds. No one will deny that you have said you have a mandate for Home Rule, you have also said you have a mandate for a blind adherence to the moth-eaten tradition of free imports. You are never tired of saying that you have a mandate for the abolition of the House of Lords and, no doubt, when the Colonial Premiers come over in order to cement together the Empire you will say no, because you have forsooth a mandate from the people for breaking the Empire. When you have passed your Parliament Bill the first thing you will do will be to say you have a mandate for the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church. Is that the voice of the people? You will then probably say you have a mandate for some Puritanic Education Bill, and you certainly will declare that you have a man-dale for a tyrannical Licensing Bill. I would ask hon. Members opposite, to whatever party they belong, to consider this, that if they really love individual liberty and the liberty of the people let them beware of the consequences of the passage of this Bill because it will not mean Government for the people by the people, but it will mean the absolute rule of an Executive, elected it is true, but elected for one specific and particular purpose, who misuse their power by forcing through measures which are wholly unpopular and absolutely foreign to the wishes of the people.

May I ask the Labour party what attitude they are taking up about the Referendum? They are always arrogating to themselves the name of the people. They are never tired of speaking in the name of the people. Are they democrats in name only, and do they really in their hearts fear the will and the opinion of the people? What sort of democrats are these who talk of the will of the people and then forbid them to express it? What sort of democrats are you who would shake the foundations of our national policy without reference to the nation? It is ridiculous for the Labour party, at any rate, to pretend that the Referendum is entirely alien to English methods and English principles. They are the principles that you your- selves adopt. They are the principles of your trade unions. If you wish to decide an important point you submit it to the people through a ballot or Referendum. If it is a right and a clean and an honest method to ascertain the opinions of 2,000,000 people, why does it become a vicious system to ascertain in the same way the opinion of the whole electorate? I support this Amendment because there is no doubt it puts into the hands of either House the power of referring any question on which the two Houses are divided to the direct vote and the direct opinion of the people.


The hon. Member (Mr. Chiozza Money) told us we on this side had not faced the real objection which on the other side is taken to the proposal of the Referendum. As he put it, the objection essentially lay in this, that you would take away the responsibility of a Government. Does not that, to some extent, lose sight of the fact that there is responsibility in the Government, not merely in connection with legislation, but also in connection with finance and administration? That responsibility might, with some advantage to the country at any rate, partially be separated from the responsibility of legislation. On what did the last four General Elections turn? The 1900 election on the war, a matter of administration; the 1906 election on Chinese labour, a matter of administration; and the first election of 1910 on the Budget—Finance. That is to say, of the last four elections only the last can be said to have turned on a proposition of legislation. Therefore it seems to me that when we make the proposal to refer legislation, which has been rejected by the Second Chamber, we are not necessarily striking at the roots of all responsibility on the part of the Government.


I think the hon. Member will admit that it will undoubtedly take away from the responsibility for legislation. Will he address himself to that?


The hon. Member must pardon me if I think it is quite pertinent to discuss the responsibility of the Government as a whole, but I am perfectly willing to take his point. It seems to me that in regard to legislation it will be admitted that there is legislation and legislation. There are some great measures which go to the very root of the political faith of a party. There are other measures which are not of the first importance. I cannot help feeling that if in any way we could to some extent separate the responsibility for legislation, at any rate on minor matters, from the responsibility for administration and finance, we should do a good deal to adapt our Constitution to the needs of the present time. What do you require a Government for apart from this House? Surely to carry on Administration and the closely connected Finance. Legislation is specially the sphere of this House. The Government brings in a measure because it is in charge of the time of the House, and because it has all facilities for drafting measures. But I submit that the largest share of the responsibility of the Government is, and ought to be, not in connection with legislation, but in connection with Administration and with Finance. If you could, to some small extent at any rate, separate the responsibility of the Government in the matter of legislation from the general responsibility, you would be raising rather than lowering the prestige of this House, for you would have rendered the position of Members more independent.

I turn from that to a point which, it seems to me, is fundamental, and which I think was somewhat omitted from the view of the Postmaster-General. I support the Amendment for the reason, which may appear at first sight somewhat peculiar, that I do not believe if the Referendum were established it would often be taken. You have a great Navy for the defence of the country and its commerce. Fortunately, it does not often have to fight, but none the less the very existence of the Navy is telling in favour of this country all the time. I believe the very existence of the Referendum would tell deeply in a favourable sense upon the conduct of the affairs of this country. Neither the Government nor the Opposition would challenge a Referendum lightly. Either of them would be liable to suffer a serious blow if seriously defeated in the country. I believe, therefore, the result would be that we should have, very generally at any rate, a sweeter reasonableness in the matter of legislation than we have at the present time—in other words, that we should have less of party bitterness and extremity and more of business-like addressing of the general intelligence to the practical problems before us.

I want to turn now to the speech of the hon Member for Northampton Borough. He objected to the Government being judged by a particular measure. He said you must take its measures as a whole, and consider its policy as a whole. The trouble is that if you take one of our parties its policy consists of a vista of proposals—some are near and some are at a distance and in the background. The question always before the country is how far at the time of an election does the electorate understand that it is giving a mandate down that vista. I imagine, for instance, a great many people gave a vote in the last election who understood that the question at issue was the Parliament Bill, and did not understand that the question immediately at issue was Home Rule. That is to say they were perfectly well aware that in the vista of measures proposed by the party opposite stood Home Rule, but the practical question for them was how far down that vista of measures are you going in this particular mandate. There is the trouble about accepting the policy of a party as a whole. A party has a great number of measures in various phases of preparation and in various stages towards what we call practical politics. And the fundamental difficulty which has been raised in the recent history of our country is precisely that you do not know what the policy for practical mandate purposes is, and what is merely the general philosophy of the party to be brought into action if circumstances and time allow.

Finally the hon. Member referred to the Initiative. With regard to precedents from the States, usually the Western States, the newer and less populous States of America, and certain other cases of minor countries, you are dealing practically with local business. I know that great States like New York and Pennsylvania, with their eight or ten millions of population, may be treated as something approximating to a sovereign State in Europe. But when you are dealing with one of the Western States of America, where these experiments have been mainly carried out, you are dealing with States which, though nominally sovereign States, are practically and, in regard to the problems which come before them, the equivalent not even of the most important, but of the quite minor municipal authorities in this country. And the practical problems before them are problems which every elector thinks himself capable of speaking upon, exactly as the elector in the municipalities of this country thinks himself capable of expressing an opinion on matters which come before the municipality. I do not believe that the electors generally of this great country, one of the great historic powers of the world, are so immodest that they believe they can do without a special organ for legislation dealing with the infinitely complex questions which come before us. I have more faith in the common-sense of our people than to believe that they will call for an initiative, and that they will allow any organisation in the land to draft a Bill, and that they will accept that Bill by the large number which will be necessary in the case of an initiative to send it to a Referendum before the country. I think the whole Debate shows the extraordinary manner in winch Gentlemen opposite cling to the present organisation in certain respects, but not in other respects. I think the Postmaster-General represented that we are the inheritors of 650 years of ordinary development, and that hon. Members on this side are asking the House to adopt a proposal which is entirely new and practically of a revolutionary character in the Referendum. We are driven to it because you are breaking away from the 650 years' experience. We wish to contribute a safer plan than the one you propose.


I heard the fair and persuasive speech of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Cave) who introduced the Amendment, and I have heard most of the speeches since. I should have been content to give my vote without a speech but for the references which were made to the Labour Benches a few minutes ago. Therefore, it is only fair that I should offer a few observations giving my own view and the view of my colleagues on this Amendment. First of all, let me say we are not against the principle of the Referendum. It is all a matter of the time, the opportunity, and the manner in which the principle is to be applied. We were twitted with the fact just now that Trade Unions had adopted the Referendum, and that therefore it was expected that we should vote for the Referendum in connection with this Amendment. But it is not quite true. As a matter of fact, we have used the Referendum in certain special cases, and only in these. The Referendum is less in use in Trade Unions now than ever it was. As a matter of fact, Trade Unions are attaching less importance to mere abstract principle and are setting themselves more in the direction of practical common-sense. Viewing matters in that way, and having regard to the fact that experience has told us that many of the evils which have been pointed out by hon. Members this afternoon have come about through the adoption of the Referendum, we have dropped it. I remember being at a delegate meeting of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. We adopted the Referendum on that occasion. That is to say, we altered the rules and made them applicable to the principle of the Referendum, so that members could vote endorsing what we had done. What was the result? We found that the delegates left all the old sense of responsibility behind them. They had in their minds that what they did would be subject to the approval or the disapproval of somebody else, and they did many things which they would not otherwise have done. The consequence was that a great many things were done which were afterwards endorsed by the members without the thought which should have been given to them, and we were landed in a great deal of expense. Therefore, for that reason, we have discarded to a large extent the Referendum, and fallen back on the delegate meeting which is practically the same as this House.

There are other reasons. The hon. Member said that Trade Unions had adopted the Referendum, but I would point out that we have never adopted it in the form now proposed. Never in our most foolish days did we ever think of adopting the Referendum at the discretion of a House of Lords. Whenever we have adopted the Referendum it was either on the initiative of certain members, certain branches, or some representative authority corresponding to this House. Never have we adopted the Referendum in the trade union movement, so far as I know, in any way conformable with the proposition now before us. Therefore, we may dispose of the trade union argument as having absolutely no bearing on this Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There may be hon. Members opposite who are better informed than I am on this subject. Although I have been a trade unionist from my youth upwards, and an official of a trade union for nearly twenty years, still there may be Members opposite who know better than I do, but so far as I can inform the House on a matter on which I may be expected to know something, I say that the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. Claude Lowther) is absolutely misinformed when he says that trade union practice supports the proposal in the Amendment. I go further, and say that I shall vote against' the Amend- ment, because I think it would tend to the keeping back of a great many things with which we are concerned. I approach the matter from the point of view of those who want to see certain changes made of a social and industrial, as well as a constitutional, character, and looking at it from that point of view, does it not occur to hon. Members opposite that this Amendment must necessarily, if adopted, place particular sections of the community at a disadvantage. Like the hon. Member for North Cumberland and his friends, we are always going about and endeavouring in our humble way to educate the community up to certain changes, and it is only after a long series of years that we succeed in doing so. Then, after that, we come to this House. What happens then? We have all the interests which are opposed to change up against us. That is a considerable hurdle to get over, but hon. Members seriously propose that after that is done the process shall be repeated twice, and after surmounting all these hurdles it is proposed that our custodians opposite are to have the discretion or the right of saying that the Bill shall still be put before the whole people, with all the evils that that will give rise to.

The hon. Member referred to the opportunity which would be given for "private enterprise." In using that phrase I think he could scarcely have appreciated the importance of it. He said that when a matter would be put before the community there would be no limit to private enterprise, and that everybody would be free to put his particular side of the matter before the people. If the hon. Member will follow that up in his own mind he will see that those with the longest purse, those with most money, who could confuse the electors, not on the principle of any particular Bill, but on the part of the Bill which in one place seemed to be against the interests of the people in that place, and on another part of the Bill which seemed to be against the interests of the people in another place, would endeavour to defeat any project that could be put before the community. I would like to say a word of a practical character. The hon. Member for Northampton said that a necessary preliminary to anything of this sort must be some federal system and the breaking up of the community into narrow areas. What would be the sense of putting anything in which Scotland or London was specially interested to the people of the whole of the United Kingdom? When the hon. Member was speaking I had in my mind a matter which the people of Scotland are very much interested in—namely, the House Letting Bill. I daresay that to the average Member of the community in England, Wales, or Ireland that appears to be an inconsequential sort of thing that he does not care twopence about. But that is a matter of very great importance in Scotland. It has a great deal to do with the mobility of labour, and it is a matter to which the average Scottish worker attaches more importance than to anything else before the country. If that Bill were put before the people of the United Kingdom the ordinary feeling of conservatism in the mind of the average man who did not know what he was voting about would lead him to vote against this particular change which is wanted by the Scottish people. That is why I think that, as a preliminary to the adoption of anything of this sort, there should be some federal principle adopted, so that those matters appertaining to part of the country only should be voted on by the people in that part.

There is a provision in the Amendment the importance of which was not, I think, appreciated by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. He told the House that in the event of 50 per cent. not voting on a particular Bill that Bill would automatically be defeated. What would be more easy than for those who were opposed to a particular Bill to refrain from voting? That is one of the things which would probably be done under this proposal. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] It is in the proposed schedule that fifty per cent. must vote. As a matter of fact, you do not get on the average more than seventy per cent. of the electors to vote now. You would get a great deal less when the Referendum was in operation. General elections come at intervals of four or five years. During the last two or three years the conditions have been somewhat abnormal, but if hon. Members will cast their minds back over a long period—say twenty or thirty years—they will find that General Elections come every four or five years. Therefore a General Election is something of an event. You have all the machinery of the various parties turned on to get up interest, and you have seventy or eighty per cent. of the electors brought to the poll. But if this Amendment were adopted, you would have a miniature General Election every year. As has already been pointed out, if you go back to the year 1906, there would have been under this proposal, had it been in operation, a Referendum on the Licensing Bill, another on the Education Bill, and a third on the Plural Voting Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] These Bills were passed by this House, and I see no reason why there should not have been a Referendum on each if this proposal had been adopted. And, therefore, instead of getting, as at present, 70 or 80 per cent. who vote at a General Election, the general tendency would be to reduce the proportion, and probably without any attempt to achieve that result the natural result would be that at no time would you get 50 per cent. to vote in favour of anything. Therefore, for those reasons, I shall vote against the Amendment with the utmost confidence, although it may lead to some misunderstanding outside and may cause some people to say that some of us are going to vote against the general abstract principle of government of the people for the people and by the people. I am here not to follow any will o' the wisp or any abstract principle, irrespective of consequences. I am here to get something done. It is because I want to get something done that I want to get this Bill passed first of all as a preliminary to getting other things carried that I am interested in, and for that reason I shall vote with the utmost confidence against the Amendment.


I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman who has just made a very interesting speech has realised the full force of the argument with which he closed. It was an argument that he used earlier in the speech, and which he thought, and rightly thought, was worth while repeating, to make the position of himself and his friends clear. It seems that the hon. Gentleman is not moved in his opposition to the Amendment by any general desire either to make our institutions more democratic or to make them more permanent. He regards all those ideas as high-falutin—I think that was the expression he used. What he wants is to carry out certain measures which he has in his mind, and so long as any change in the machinery of legislation which is set up in his opinion serves that object he does not care apparently in the least how it is to be suited for the general needs not only of this generation, but of the generations to come afterwards. While I confess there was much that was admirable in the tone and temper of his speech, yet I must say that that is not the true mood in which we in this House ought to approach the discussion of a great constitutional change affecting an institution which, as we were rather opportunely reminded, has lasted for over 600 years. Let me brush away, if I may, two or three misconceptions which seem to have clouded the speculations of hon. Gentlemen opposite in dealing with this subject. The hon. Member gave very adequate expression to an argument which has been used, I think, by every preceding speaker on the other side of the House, the argument that we should be plunged in a perpetual series of small General Elections, and that we should have, annually or biennially, an appeal to the people on some controversy or other between the two Houses.

I think the Postmaster-General made some hypothetical calculation of how many times the Referendum would have been used if it had been in force since 1906. There are several observations to be made on that. In the first place it is not relevant to the strict words of the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend. My hon. and learned Friend limited the Amendment to cases where the Government desired a Referendum, but I wish to discuss and I believe the Committee desires to discuss the question on a somewhat broader point of view, if I am allowed to refer, and it is only a reference, to the general view we take of the proper constitutional modification which this House ought to take in hand, now that the Government have definitely embarked upon this process of constitutional revolution. Our view is not that the Referendum is the universal method of dealing with every point on which the two Houses differ. That is not the view so far as I know of any Gentlemen who sits on this side of the House. It is not my view at all events. I am quite clear of two things. In the first place the Referendum is a most valuable political instrument for obtaining the real views of the people upon certain great issues which have been thoroughly discussed and brought before them by Debates in the two Houses of Parliament; and in the second place, that instrument valuable as it is would be destroyed if you were to blunt it by perpetual use. I do not believe that there is the least chance of its being perpetually used however you frame your machinery. There is no sign of that as far as I know in those English colonies where it has been established, and in this country I am per- fectly certain that if the process be as costly and as difficult as hon. Gentlemen seem to be disposed to say—I think they exaggerate—but even if they exaggerate a great deal there is enough truth in that contention to make it quite certain that no party and no House would ever foolishly embark upon a policy of perpetual appeals to the people of England in the form of Referenda. On the contrary, the knowledge, which would be present to the minds of both parties in both Houses, that there was in certain great cases a prospect of referring to the people, would, I am certain, promote that spirit of reasonable compromise which after all is the true method and the most truthful method of dealing with our political differences when they come to an acute stage.

The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General challenged me as to what my views were on a Bill which is not before us, but which has been before the other House. I am not going to offer an opinion on a Bill which I have never had the opportunity of debating beyond saying this: As far as I understand the matter my hon. and learned Friend is certainly right. He said in his speech to-day that the debates in the House of Lords on that Bill and the machinery of the Bill itself were very valuable from the point of view of all those who were practical students of this question. But as far as I am aware it does contemplate the use of the Referendum in excess of anything which I should advise, and certainly I regard the Referendum as an instrument to be used only in rare and great cases. I regard the proper machinery for dealing with differences between the two Houses as lying in the direction of that Amendment which we discussed last night, and which was so summarily and, as I think, so unfortunately dismissed by the Prime Minister. I do not think that anybody has said here, what was constantly said on the platform, that the Referendum is not practicable, and that a scheme which is in active operation in a very large number of self-governing communities is beyond our power to work. But I do not think that that argument was ever intended to be more than a catchword on the platform, and I do not propose to deal with it seriously. The hon. Member who has just sat down referred to the House Letting Bill for Scotland. That is not a Bill which any human being would suggest being made the subject of a Referendum. It is entirely outside both the scope of my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment and the policy of any Government.


May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman? Can he suggest any other method by which this Bill could he got through Parliament?


Yes. I would suggest the method of Joint Sittings—not, of course, Joint Sittings of the whole body of peers and this House, because that would be illegitimately going back over an Amendment which has been already disposed of. Everybody admits that that would be an impossible and impracticable system. But it is not beyond the ingenuity of man, even with the House of Lords as at present constituted, to frame some method of dealing with these matters by Joint Sittings. However that may be, I belong to a school of political students who, like the hon. Member opposite, desire to see some change made in the Upper Chamber. The only other point I have to deal with is the charge that was most unjustly levelled against us on this bench that we started this idea of a Referendum suddenly, without adequate reflection, and under the stress of the immediate necessity of dealing with a General Election. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway may be, and I doubt not, from that cheer, are, ignorant of the full facts of the case. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was not, and could not be ignorant of the facts of the case. He knew perfectly well that the subject of the Referendum was anxiously considered by the leaders of the party of which I am a member for months before the General Election.


At the Conference?


I have referred to the Referendum long before the Conference. I think I suggested in my election address, at the election before the last, that it certainly was not a matter to be rejected. I should like the House to put to themselves what is the situation, and what it will be after the revolution is carried out, unless you adopt some kind of system such as that which is suggested by my hon. and learned Friend. We hear constantly from hon. Gentlemen opposite—not, I must say, from the hon. Gentleman who preceded, and not from Gentlemen in that quarter of the House, but from hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, and Members of the Government—that the Referendum is contrary to the true theory of representative Government.

What is representative government? Representative government in this country has grown up gradually; it has been of slow growth, and different theories have been adopted at different times by various thinkers, but no thinker really can possibly suppose that in any representative system the representatives can be taken as equivalent to those who send them here. It is by convention that we regard ourselves as equivalent. We represent the people in a sense, but we are not the equivalent of the people. What we do is not always what the people want us to do if they had present to their minds the whole of the facts; nor is it probable or possible that in any representative system the representatives and those represented should be regarded as equivalent bodies. That being obvious, there came to be two theories of representation. There is first the idea that a Member of Parliament was a delegate who endeavoured, without adding or subtracting anything of his own, to be the mere conduit pipe of the opinions of his constituents, and, by his brother Members, he was expected to vote in any Division as he conceived his constituents, could they have been brought into the House, would desire to vote. Another theory, the opposite of that, was developed by Burke, and his view was that, once elected, every Member of this House had to act as an independent political thinker, doing his best irrespective of those who sent him here for the general good of the whole community. I do not believe that there is much use in discussing either of those views. They are far too abstract—both Burke's theory and the theory to which it was opposed. As a matter of fact, we are much better than those who send us here for some purposes, and much worse for other purposes. In some respects and many respects we do things which it is inconceivable they should do at all. We deal with questions which they do not understand, and about which they do not understand the arguments and do not know the details, and of which it is impossible that they should know either the arguments or the details. Moreover, however unmanageable we may be, still we are comparatively more manageable, and we can undoubtedly do that which those who send us here to represent them would be unable to do. On the other hand, the other principle is equally plain.

Having been sent here with the enormous powers which we possess, and still more with the enormous powers which the Government propose to give us, we may, and probably shall—I do not care which party is in office—do things affecting the fundamentals of the Constitution which the country might well be supposed to resent if properly put before them. What do you really get? You get administration in the first place by consent, and it is a most extraordinary method by which we get it. You cannot compare our system with the American system. The Americans choose their Government practically once in every four years, and it does not matter what the Senate does, or the House of Representatives does, there is what corresponds to the gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench. But in the United States they are fixed and immovable, and in certain respects practically have all power. At the end of their term they hand back their power, and their successors are appointed. While that system has many defects, you at all events get one immense advantage—you get a certain stability. They have at all events four years in office to carry out such things as are possible, and although foreign affairs do not bulk largely in the United States, still it gives stability to their international relations. How do we deal with the same problem? Our system has some advantages and some extraordinary disadvantages. We have a Government which depends from day to day on the vote of this House, and it carries with it in its train a system to which my Noble Friend called attention the other day, of organised parties, a system of party Whips, entrusted with the duty of seeing that the Government are not left in a minority, whatever the question before the House. It carries all these things in its train because we are not content now with saying that the Government should have the support of the majority of the House in a general sense. We require now, and I think that this carries us much too far, that the Government should have the support of the House on every question, whether administrative or legislative. I do not know whether the House realises how enormous is the change which has taken place in that respect, but I think it is being carried much too far. In the time of Sir Robert Walpole what we call the clash of legislation was almost non-existent.

All through the eighteenth century the practical labours of this House as a legisla- tive body were really small. Governments then held their tenure of office, not because they were able to satisfy the House or the people that every Clause of every Bill they brought forward was a good Clause in a good Bill, but because sometimes from some motive or other they generally contrived to secure the general support of the House on every critical occasion, and critical occasions dealing with the broadest questions of Administration. The tenure of modern Governments depends, and depends too much not merely on the general support of the House for its broad administrative policy, or even for its legislative policy, but the perpetual support of the House in all demands, whether legislative or administrative. That is a most important consideration when you come to deal with the aspect of the Referendum, to which attention was drawn by the Postmaster-General. He said, How can a self-respecting Government remain in office if the country rejects one of their measures? The policy of a Government might be so bound up in a particular measure that if it were rejected by the country after having been passed by the House, to remain in office would be almost unthinkable. I am quite confident that idea is grossly exaggerated by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. I think all our efforts ought and should be directed to prevent the tenure of a Government of office depending on anything so transitory and casual as the way in which particular projects of legislation are viewed in this House or in the country. Do let the Committee observe how absurd is the position taken up by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Take, for instance, Home Rule. They say, what Radical party could remain in office if, after passing a Home Rule Bill through this House it was rejected by the country. Would self-respect allow them to do so? I do not judge of the self-respect of hon. Members opposite, but I remind them that they were just as ardent Home Rulers in 1905 as they are in 1911. In 1905 they came back with an enormous majority over all parties in the House, and in their opinion, though they did not bring in a Home Rule Bill, there was no loss of self-respect. Why is it not more damaging to their self-respect that, having the opportunity and the majority, they did not bring in a Bill than to bring in a Bill which was subsequently rejected by the country?


There is the question of pledge.

7.0 P.M.


They have pledged themselves, but no one else has pledged them. If I sent an advertisement to "The Times" saying that I did not propose to pay my debts, that does not absolve me from paying my debts. Let us come to another matter in which there was no pledge. Take the Irish Council Bill. That Bill was treated in the old Gladstonian fashion. It was brought in by the Chief Secretary in a very able speech. It did not meet with very much approval in the country which it was destined to benefit. It was dropped. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Birrell) still adorns, to our great pleasure when he speaks, that bench opposite; the Government is still in office; and nobody has lost his self-respect that I know of. At any rate, I see no shame-facedness in any of the Gentlemen opposite. And quite rightly. If they thought, as they did think, that they had the support of this House, speaking broadly, for their administrative procedure and general scheme of legislation, though their Bill did not meet with approval outside, it would have been perfect folly to resign. I want to know why the Government apply a different rule to plebiscite from what is constantly applied by Debates in this House. There is no reason in the Constitution nor anything else why, when an important Bill is put before the people by a Government which has the confidence of the people the Government should not go on although the people do not like the Bill. I am convinced that, in the rare cases when the plebiscite is used you will find that a Bill is rejected, although the constituents are perfectly prepared in the main to return the same Members as before. Would you not enormously improve your system? It is true that the Party system is getting more and more rigid. There is no doubt about its getting more rigid in the constituencies as well as in this House. The "machine" in all democratic countries seems to increase in power as time goes on. I cannot doubt but that that will be the case. Think of the enormous number of complex motives which appeal to the elector when he now goes to the poll. In the first place he is probably a party man, and he has always voted blue or red or whatever the colour may be, and it is not his wish to change his colours. In the second place, he probably likes his Member. He has supported him, he has fought for him, he is connected with him by ties of controversy and by the tie of having been in battle, and he likes his man. That is another motive. Then as you leave those which may be regarded as party and personal motives you come across the extraordinary complex schemes, or programmes, as they are called, which are put before the country by the opposing parties.

What was the answer attempted by the Postmaster-General as to this question of complexity. He said that of course it is true that under the existing system votes are dictated by mixed motives, but that you will not avoid mixed motives by the Referendum. It is perfectly true that even with the Referendum there may not be in the case of every elector a perfectly simple consideration of a measure. Grant that, but does anybody deny that it will be perfect simplicity as compared with the existing system. It may not be according to the most refined methods of quantitative analysis or a pure laboratory product, but it is a very good pure commercial article. It is the nearest you are ever likely to get in this imperfect world. It is the nearest you will ever get of the real opinions and the various motives of the electorate on the great issues put forward. It is folly to tell me that is not worth aiming at, because it cannot be obtained in an absolute degree of completeness. Some people say how can the electorate understand anything so complicated as a Bill of clauses put before them, and how can you ask them to decide a question as to whether a Bill of thirty long clauses with half a dozen schedules should be passed. What the voters are asked to decide now at every election is not a Bill of thirty clauses with six schedules, but half a dozen Bills with as many schedules in each, and the whole complex administrative possibilities and problems thrown at them, and on top of all those most personal questions, and of all those general likings of names and parties which play so great a part in the free working institutions of every democratic country.

The Postmaster-General said, and I think the argument not quite worthy of him, that since this is an appeal to individual Members of the constituency, "what becomes of all your theories of one man one vote, and how inconvenient you will find your arguments when we, the Radical Government, bring in our Bill abolishing plural voting." The right hon. Gentleman never has understood our objections to the abolition of plural voting, which are not affected by this at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] I am not now going into the question of plural voting, I need hardly say, but one of the great advantages of this scheme is that you put a measure before the country free from all the perturbing influences of local interests, local passions, local prejudices, local over-representations and under-re-presentation, and all the shortcomings of our present electoral system which are swept away. I will not say all, but a large number of them are swept away. You do get as near as you ever will get to the sheer unadulterated opinion of the people of this country upon some great measure which has been discusesd before them in both Houses of Parliament, and on which they had the opportunity of knowing the details and on which they had, if they ever had, the real grounds for forming an opinion, and on which we surely in this House who profess to represent them, will welcome their co-operation. The right hon. Gentleman said we were tampering with a Constitution which had lasted 650 years. I should have thought he was really the red flag. He and his friends are making this profound change and the question is how you are to make your new Constitution fit in with your new necessities. You go on the hypothesis of two Chambers which have grown historically, and which, I think, have worked on the whole extraordinarily well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] There are some gentlemen who never think of anything but their own platform speeches. To please those gentlemen and to bring them to the point of view, let us say it worked extraordinarily badly for the last ten years, and worked admirably before.

On the whole, I think this system has worked admirably up to the present date. You are determined to alter it in this fundamental particular, that you will no longer allow even on the most important questions the Second Chamber to make a reference to the people when any great change is threatened. That is your avowed object, and you say, "We do this partly because the majority in the other Chamber does not agree with us, but partly because we do not think a Second Chamber ought to dictate the time of a General Election." I think there may be some force in that. This is the way of getting your reference to the people without a General Election. This is the way in which you will be able to combine, as I think, a reference to the people on really great issues without shattering the system under which the whole administrative continuity and the whole existence of Government depends upon votes in this House upon legislative questions. I believe if you will only consent on great questions to carry out this reform, and on smaller questions to carry out a system of Joint Sittings, I believe you will see restored to this House and to the country that freedom in regard to its own legislation which it really has not had and cannot have under the existing system so long as you bind up the free political life of your administration with the forces of each successive legislative product. We do that far too much. If you want at once to deal with those great problems and at the same time to keep your continuity and to keep) your administration secure for an adequate number of years, and as a third condition to carry the people of this country with you, one plan, and one plan alone, is possible.

That which does on those great occasions give the opportunity to the Government of the day, without a Dissolution, without a resignation, without the utter subversion, not merely of a particular scheme of legislation but of your whole political system, administrative as well as legislative, the only machinery for it that the wit of man has yet devised is the Referendum, the appeal to the people at the polls. That it is practical we know because it is practised. You may imagine if you like the various abuses which may spring up, though I think them in the highest degree improbable, yet I believe you will find it works smoothly, practically, and simply against the excessive party system, which is undoubtedly the danger awaiting us in the future. I deeply regret while the Government apparently admit that there are cases in which an appeal to the people might be proper, might be right, might be expedient, might even be necessary; they will not show the least favour to any plan that we propose on this side of the House by which the revolution they are striving to accomplish will leave to the people of this country some shadow of their own power to preserve the institutions which have grown up during 650 years of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks. They and not we are the ultimate custodians of the British Constitution. To them, therefore, not to us, is committed far more explicitly the guardianship of that which is their trust rather than ours.


I am content to leave the general argument with regard to this particular proposal where it was left, so far as the Government are concerned, at the conclusion of the exhaustive and conclusive speech of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General; but I should be wanting in respect not only to the right hon. Gentlemen, but to the Committee, if I did not offer two or three criticisms of the interesting speech to which we have just listened. For a not inconsiderable period, when the right hon. Gentleman was more or less in the atmosphere of abstract reasoning, I found myself in a large measure of agreement. I agree with him that the party system has been developed in this country in recent years to a degree of rigour and inelasticity not on the whole conducive to the best interests of the country. I am sure there is no honest or intelligent thinker on either side of the House who does not secretly or openly share that opinion. I agree with him further that Governments, whether Liberal or Conservative, are somewhat over-sensitive to what may be casual or, any way, isolated expressions of dissatisfaction or want of confidence; and the title of a Government to retain its position of authority of administration, so far as it may be an administration, should depend not so much on this or that particular measure or question but upon the general assent of the majority of those who represent the people of the country. So far, I think, we all agree, or most of us would agree, with the right hon. Gentleman. When we go from those general considerations to the consideration of the particular Amendment in support of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken, not only do I fail to see the relevancy of those arguments, but I shall submit, and with some confidence, to the Committee that we are here face to face with a proposition far more revolutionary in its principles and in its effects than anything that has been submitted in the course of the discussion on this Bill. I am not concerned to determine the precise moment at which either the right hon. Gentleman or any of his friends became converts to the doctrine of the Referendum. I have admitted in the fullest and frankest way youthful errors of my own, when I thought, now many years ago, that we might find in some qualified adoption of that principle the solution of, at any rate, some of our constitutional difficulties. I do not remember a more remarkable phenomenon in our history than the rapidity and the extent of the adhesion which we now find on the opposite side of the House to a principle which, as my right hon. Friend was perfectly justified in pointing out, when we discussed the Resolutions upon which this Bill was founded only twelve months ago, was never so much as suggested.


There were a number of Amendments down to that effect, but they were all shut out by the guillotine.


I think I am strictly accurate in saying there was no suggestion made in any of the Debates that took place. That, at any rate, is the proposition I was maintaining. I myself referred to the principle in opening the discussion on those Resolutions. I said then, and I say now, that I should certainly not exclude the possibility of the application of something in the nature of a Referendum to special, rare, exceptional, but conceivable cases of constitutional difficulty. I said so then, and I say so now. But I should be very sorry to commit myself to any such abstract or general proposition. All the same, the rapidity and the extent of the adoption of the doctrine by hon. Gentlemen opposite certainly strikes me as one of the most remarkable of recent political phenomena. It reminds me of a remark by Mr. Disraeli in a celebrated speech in this House, when a large section of the Tory party of the day had gone over to Free Trade. He said that "Nothing like it had occurred since the Franks were converted in platoons and baptised in battalions." But everyone has the right to change his mind, and the conversion may be none the less sincere and none the less intelligent because the process is most unusually rapid.

Let me point out, in support of the proposition that this is a most revolutionary proposal, what the real effect of the Amendment is. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech just now spoke of the Referendum as an appropriate instrument for dealing with serious, and, I gathered, comparatively rare cases of difference between the two Houses of the Legislature. But that is not the Amendment before us. The Amendment before us does not confine the use of the Referendum to constitutional or organic or fundamental changes: it applies to every case in which there is a difference of opinion between the two Houses, unless the Government of the day are prepared to acquiesce in the decision of the Second Chamber.


Not to every case, but to those cases where the difference continues during three Sessions of Parliament.


I took that for granted. I am dealing with cases of difference arising under the machinery of this Bill when that machinery has been carried through all its stages. It applies to every such case.


I am sure the Prime Minister does not desire to be unfair to us. On Monday last he would not allow-any differentiation between different kinds of measures, and he carried his battalions with him. We were therefore excluded from making any differentiation in the Amendment put down by my right hon. Friend.


I not only concede that point, but I will concede further that we have rejected an Amendment for Joint Sessions. I agree that if the right hon. Gentleman were putting forward a complete scheme of his own it would probably embrace all these three cases. But what I am pointing out is this: We may have been wrong in our decision, but being as we arc, and having come to the decision at which we have, the incorporation of this Amendment would make it necessary that at the end of the three Sessions the Government of the day should either acquiesce in the decision of the House of Lords, or submit the difference between the two Houses to the arbitrament of the Referendum. That I am sure will not be disputed. Is that or is that not a desirable change in our system?

I want to say a few words by way of comment upon the right hon. Gentleman's remarks in reference to our system of representative government. I do not think that he and I take quite the same view of what representative government means. What is the great difference in this respect between ancient and modern democracy? Democracy is not a new thing. It existed in the old world just as much as it exists to-day. Democracy, wherever it was perfected, wherever it was a real working political system, consisted in the rule of the majority for the time being. Under the old democracies, most of which were in countries limited in area and in population, it was possible, or thought to be possible, to ascertain the opinion of the majority by this simple process of referring matters to the people. But the great political invention of the modern world—it was not invented in a day, or in a year, or in a century, but it was to a large extent the invention of our own race—the masterpiece of modern political genius, consisted in the invention of this machinery of representative Government, which enables the majority in a democratic country, however wide its area and however numerous its population, to make its will felt not only in administration but in legislation. That is what distinguishes modern from ancient democracy. To throw away that instrument, to impair its utility, to blunt its edge, would be in my opinion doing the greatest possible disservice to the institutions of this country, and reversing the work which it took our ancestors centuries of labour and effort to achieve.

Why do you have representative Government? Why was it invented? Why has it stood the test of time and experience? For two reasons. In the first place because it gets rid of what would otherwise be an intolerable difficulty—the difficulty of submitting every trumpery, trivial, every day occurrence to the decision of vast masses of people. But the second and much more important reason is that it enables the people to choose specially qualified men. having tested their qualifications or attempted to test them. I will not say that the test is always a very sound one. I do not say that those who have passed the test ought not in some cases to have failed to do so, or that some who failed to pass the examination might very well have been more fortunate than the event proved. Still, on the whole, looking at the process of General Elections in this country-satirists deride it; caricaturists make fun of it; there are many features about it which we who have been through two General Elections in little more than twelve months look back upon without either pride or pleasure; there are many things which in our heart of hearts and secret consciousness we would be glad to see removed or modified—but taken as a whole, is it not as simple, as good, and as effective a process as the human mind and human experience has yet devised for securing that those who are the ultimate judges of the policy of the country, both in legislation and administration, shall have their wishes carried out, their opinions given effect to, their purposes realised, and the practical work of administration and legislation carried on? They choose, after full review and examination, the men whom they think to be qualified for that task. In my opinion it would be a monstrous reversion if we were to go back from the position which has been so attained, and that those who come here, I do not care whether as delegates or as representatives—I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that neither of the extreme theories put forward on this point are tenable—that we who come here to do the people's work, having been chosen by the people, because they believe in our sincerity and in our capacity, whenever it comes to a serious matter should sit here with the consciousness that we were not responsible, that we could wash our hands of the ultimate decision, because if and when there was a difference on any of these important questions, or there was a difference between the popular assembly and the other assembly, we could throw it back upon the people to decide for themselves what they had sent us here for the purpose of deciding. That is why I say to-day, as I have said on the platform, and as I believe from the bottom of my heart, that if you introduce this Referendum, not as a rare and exceptional possible solution of some conceivable difficulty, but as part of the regular working machinery of popular government, you are undermining the very foundations of representative government. It is from that large point of view, in which I believe the best interests of popular government in this country are involved, and not from any party point of view, that I shall ask the House of Commons at any stage, and in any form, to reject a proposal of this kind.

I wish to say a word on another argument of the right hon. Gentleman, which I admit is of great importance. He says with plausibility and a certain amount of truth that you cannot say that the Referendum is impracticable when you remember that this very day or this very week our fellow-subjects in the Australian Commonwealth are having, I think, two Referenda on very important constitutional matters. You cannot say it is impracticable, but everyone who sees the voting papers which in practice are submitted in the United States of America to the unfortunate citizens of the particular States who are subjected to this process of Referendum will agree that, if not absolutely impracticable, it is an excessively inconvenient and a most misleading way of endeavouring to elicit the popular opinion. I do not say it is impracticable, but I do say that I differ entirely from the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that you can isolate the issue by adopting the machinery of the Referendum, and get any more clear and definite judgment upon that issue than you can by the ordinary machinery of a General Election. I can tell the Committee exactly what experience shows in this matter. All the Referenda with which we are acquainted fall into either one or the other of two classes. Either they are upon matters which excite so little interest among the persons to whom a question is referred that you get a vote which is entirely misleading in its character, because very often two-thirds or three-fourths of the people do not take the trouble to go to the poll—that is the constant experience in the United States—or, if the matter is one which excites widespread interest, still more if it is one upon which the fate and repute of the Government or administration depend, you have brought into operation everyone of the forces with which we are so familiar at a General Election. Would anyone suppose that in the case of Home Rule for Ireland, which has been suggested, that if you were to submit that issue to the people of the country by way of reference, you would not have all the canvassing, the wirepulling, the placarding of the walls, the posters—of more or less veracity and mendacity—the committee rooms, agents, expenditure of money, organisation of meetings, the getting of voters to the poll; that, in fact, the whole mechanism of a General Election, with all its complexities, with all its expensiveness, with all its turmoil, would not be put into operation, and would not be put into operation because the people were voting upon one issue and that only? No, not at all! The party machine would be at work. It would become a matter, an issue of life or death, as between the two great parties in the State. Neither of them could afford to withhold any influence, or argument, or any solicitation which was at their command. Do you suppose that this reference would be upon an isolated issue? Do you suppose that the question would be decided upon its own merits, and that a verdict would not be recorded as between the two parties in the State after all this pressure had been brought to bear upon the elector exactly in the same sense and the same degree as at a General Election?

Therefore the distinction which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) seeks to draw—and which I quite agree you can draw in theory—between the Referendum and a General Election is a distinction which, wherever the matter was one of urgent importance and first-rate magnitude, would break down. In effect if this Amendment were incorporated as part of this Bill, it would allow the Second Chamber to say, after this process of two years and three Sessions being gone through: "We insist upon having a General Election, and to a General Election, if you wish to carry this particular measure, you must go." That, again, is a revolutionary change in Parliamentary and Governmental procedure to which this country and this House ought to be very slow to assent. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Government might well afford to be indifferent to an adverse verdict given upon a reference, although I suppose he would hardly admit that in all cases—


In most cases.


It would not be the case if a General Election were on broad questions of general policy. I do not know that any Government, without loss of self-respect, could go on carrying on the Administration of the country after it had, on a reference, sustained a serious rebuff by the rejection of a measure. I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman's scale of self-respect is in this matter—how far up or how low down in the appraisement of political affairs; how far he would go before he would treat the rejection of one measure as a matter wounding the self-respect of himself and his friends, and the rejection of another matter as one which he might tolerate with indifference. He has put one or two cases to us. Let me put one to him. Suppose he were to come into power under the provisions of this Bill. Suppose that Tariff Reform were part of the programme of the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was head. I am putting it as a possible hypothesis. I shall say nothing as to whether the pledges given before the last General Election were given for the time being, or for all time. I know nothing about that. But suppose under this scheme it became necessary further to submit the question of Tariff Reform to the electorate, and they rejected it. I would rather like to know if, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, it would be consistent with his self-respect and that of the Government of the day to go on administering the affairs of the country as though nothing in the world had happened? We should have to make a new code, I will not say of political ethics, but at any rate of political sensitiveness, if this novel measure for discriminating between the relative values of political issues is to be corporated as part of our public machinery. Is it not plain that the weight of argument is very strongly in favour in this matter of continuing in our old way? I am using the language of Toryism, but I am addressing a revolutionary party. May we not find a solution and a way of escape, on which we all on both sides of the House agree would be a serious constitutional difficulty, by retaining our old method of representative Government, without resorting to these violent innovations which, as I have pointed out, would not give you any more trustworthy, satisfactory, or accurate reflection of the popular will on a particular question, but at the same time would, I contend, strike a deadly blow at the very foundation of representative Government?


During the last election we were constantly taunted with the fact that the Referendum was used as a device to extricate us from a dilemma or for the purpose of checkmating the Government. That taunt, anyhow, does not affect me, for long before the resolutions were introduced last year I advocated in my Constituency both by speeches and by pamphlets the principle of the Referendum. It may interest the Committee to know that the proposals that I put forward were welcomed by all sections of my Constituency. My Constituents were agreed that disputed questions should be left to a reference to the people. If the question had been put whether such questions should be left to the people or to the omnipotent power of the Government I believe I should have received a unanimous verdict in favour of making the people the tribune. The Prime Minister, speaking of democracy, tells us that our institutions are the best for making the will of the democracy effective. That is where the difference arises between us. Can anyone determine the will of the people? Under our present system it is almost impossible nowadays to do so. The party machine is so strong, and so ably constructed, that instead of the will of the people coming out freely by a process of delegation or election, it is put down by the party machine. We want the representative system to come up again with the formal stamp of the people upon it. I could give any number of instances in which grievances have been invented or exaggerated, and which, after they have served their turn at an election, have been forgotten and buried. I take my stand on a statement made by the late Lord Salisbury, and frequently quoted, when he said, "When there is a plain decision of the constituents on any one issue, then the House of Lords must accept that …" I am not going to repeat all the arguments which were so well put by my hon. Friend, but I may ask any hon. Member here, and especially those Members who gained their seats by a moderate majority at the recent election, can anyone say whether it was on the question of Tariff Reform or on the question of the House of Lords? It is frequently impossible for any one of us to say for a certainty how we obtained our majority. Therefore we ourselves ought to be thankful to be enabled to get the opinion of our Constituents.

As for the idea that this House is a proper reflex of the will of the people, I think we have heard enough this evening to show that that is an absurdity. In the first place we know there are a good many Members here who have been planted on the constituency by the party machine. There are those here who simply owe their seats not to their political opinions, but because they happen to be popular in their constituency. As regards this House being a true reflex, I need only quote what the Prime Minister said last Thursday, when he averred that the House of Commons represented "for the time being" the opinions of the mass of the electors, and continued:— I do not say this presumption is always true. There is, therefore, but one way, and one way only, by which we can ascertain the will of the people on a clear and definite issue, and that is by submitting a Bill to the decision of the people in a Referendum. I cannot help saying that for a Bill of this sort there are plenty of excellent resolutions and principles which would receive the unanimous approval of all the electors. Put them into a Bill, show how they would work in practice. You would then find that any Bill drafted with circumspection and with care could be put to the test of popular vote. Our Debates and discussions in this House will be found to be more thorough and far more perfect than they are now, and we would have Bills discussed in a proper manner in place of being forced by coercive measures through this House. The Referendum would have this great advan- tage that it would enable us to ascertain the views of the people towards any particular measure. I ask any fair-minded man whether the plan proposed by the Government is not far more revolutionary than the plan contemplated by the Referendum. When the Resolutions were under discussion last year I had an Amendment on the Paper in which I proposed that under certain circumstances measures should be referred to the will of the people. Whether by design or otherwise that Amendment was guillotined, and we never had an opportunity of discussing it. Then we have the objection made that the Referendum would work in favour of the Unionist party and as against the Liberal party. We are told when the Conservative party were in power the machinery of the Referendum would be useless and would not work. I say that the Referendum that could only be exercised in such circumstances would be a very uneven constitutional system, but that that could easily be remedied. I have an Amendment on the Paper by which 200 Members if they wish to do so could have Referendum even though the Conservative Government were in power.

The most curious argument of all advanced against the Referendum is this, that the electors would be unable to understand the complexity of any Bill submitted to them. That seems to me to be a very strange argument from the party which introduced the Reform Bill of 1885. I well remember that Members opposite then went about the country, and their cry was, "Trust the people," and when it was argued from this side that the new electorate might not understand these complex questions the answer given was, "Educate them up to them." An answer in which I quite agree.

Now when we are discussing the Referendum it is the party opposite that maintains people are too ignorant to understand them. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out if they were too stupid to understand the Bill put before them at a Referendum how can they understand half a dozen Bills put before them at the General Election. When hon. Members opposite in their election addresses put forward the parrot and catch cries of "Trust the electors," why is it now, when the opportunity arises, they fail to give effect to these cries. Here is what the Lord Chancellor said:— I speak in no-sense with disrespect of the electors, whom I sincerely respect and whose opinion I am always prepared to accept, when I say it is a false piece of flattery to pretend that in considering a big measure without the opportunity of investigating and discussing its provisions, they are as competent to settle the controversy as the House of Commons and this House under our ordinary forms. Hon. Members agree with what the Lord Chancellor said. I will now give another authority, Lord Morley. He says: I conceive that to set up as the great cardinal and organic standard of Parliamentary life the standard of always consulting and being guided by, and thinking of nothing else but what the people desire, is to my mind a thoroughly wrong standard. Our idea is we want legislation which will come up to the standard of the people's desires. Speaking of the trust of the people and faith in their intelligence I should like to read what the "Daily-Chronicle" says:— The Referendum would transfer authority from Ministers to the man in the street. It is passing strange that prudent men should he so rash as to give

countenance to this attempt to remove the seat of Authority from the wisdom of the Senate to the ignorance of the street."

When the Liberal party is praised to the skies for their trust in the people the moment the question of the Referendum arises then they declare the people are too ignorant. I would rather take the opinion of the paper which is not attached to the Liberal party and which expresses its own independent opinion, and that is "Justice"—


rose in his place, and claimed to move. "That the Question be now put."

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 288; Noes, 166.

Division No. 187.] AYES. [7.54 p.m.
Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour) Condon, Thomas Joseph Harwood, George
Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda) Corbett, A. Cameron Haslam, James (Derbyshire)
Acland, Francis Dyke Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry
Adamson, William Cory, Sir Clifford John Haworth, Arthur A.
Addison, Dr. C. Cotton, William Francis Hayden, John Patrick
Adkins, W Ryland D. Cowan, W. H. Helme, Norval Watson
Agnew, Sir George William Crawshay-Williams, Eliot Henderson, Arthur (Durham)
Ainsworth, John Stirling Crooks, William Henry, Sir Charles Solomon
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton) Crumley, Patrick Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor
Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud) Cullinan, John Higham, John Sharp
Ashton, Thomas Gair Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy) Hinds, John
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.
Baker, H. T. (Accrington) Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Hodge, John
Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.) Davies, M. Vaughan. (Cardigan) Holt, Richard Durning
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Delany, William Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Howard, Hon. Geoffrey
Barnes, G. N. Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-shire) Hughes, S. L.
Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick B.) Dillon, John Hunter, W. (Govan)
Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.) Doris, William Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel
Barry, Redmond John Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) John, Edward Thomas
Barton, W. Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley) Johnson, W.
Beale, W. P. Edwards, Enoch (Hanley) Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)
Beauchamp, Edward Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)
Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.) Elverston, H. Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)
Bentham, G. J. Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts., Stepney)
Bethell, Sir J. H. Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.) Jowett, F. W.
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Falconer, J. Joyce, Michael
Black, Arthur W. Fenwick, Charles Keating, M.
Boland, John Pius Ferens, T. R. Kellaway, Frederick George
Booth, Frederick Handel Ffrench, Peter Kelly, Edward
Bowerman, C W. Field, William Kennedy, Vincent Paul
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward Kilbride, Denis
Brace, William Fitzgibbon, John King, J. (Somerset, N.)
Brady, Patrick Joseph Flavin, Michael Joseph Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molton)
Brigg, Sir John France, G. A. Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)
Brocklehurst, W. B. Gelder, Sir W. A. Lansbury, George
Brunner, John F. L. Gill, A. H. Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)
Bryce, J. Annan Glanville, H. J. Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rl'nd. Cockerm'th)
Burke, E. Haviland- Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Levy, Sir Maurice
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Goldstone, Frank Logan, John William
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough) Low, Sir F. (Norwich)
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Griffith, Ellis J. Lundon, T.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C (Poplar) Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke) Lynch, A. A.
Byles, William Pollard Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Hackett, J. Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Hall, Frederick (Normanton) MacGhee, Richard
Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood) Hancock, J. G Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
Chancellor, H. G. Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) MacNeill, John Gordon Swift
Chapple, Dr. W. A. Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) MacVeagh, Jeremiah
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Hardie, J. Keir M'Callum, John M.
Clancy, John Joseph Harmsworth, R. Leicester M'Curdy, Charles Albert
Clough, William Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Clynes, J. R. Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) M'Laren, H. D. (Leicester)
Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.) M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)
Manfield, Harry Pickersgill, Edward Hare Strachey, Sir Edward
Markham, Arthur Basil Pirie, Duncan V. Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Marks, George Croydon Pointer, Joseph Summers, James Wooley
Marshall, Arthur Harold Pollard, Sir George H. Sutton, John E.
Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.) Power, Patrick Joseph Tennant, Harold John
Menzies, Sir Walter Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)
Molloy, M. Pringle, William M. R. Thomas, James Henry (Derby)
Molteno, Percy Alport Radford, G. H. Thorne, William (West Ham)
Money, L. G. Chiozza Raffan, Peter Wilson Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Montagu, Hon. E. S. Rainy, A. Rolland Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Mooney, John J. Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields) Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)
Morrell, Philip Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough) Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Reddy, M. Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Muldoon, John Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Wardle, George J.
Munro, R. Redmond, William (Clare) Waring, Walter
Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. Richards, Thomas Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay
Nannetti, Joseph P. Richardson, Albion (Peckham) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Needham, Christopher T. Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Neilson, Francis Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Webb, H.
Nolan, Joseph Roberts, G. H. (Norwich) Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Norton, Captain Cecil W. Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside) White, Sir George (Norfolk)
Nugent, Sir Walter Richard Robinson, Sidney White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Roche, Augustine (Louth) White, Patrick (Meath, North)
O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Roche, John (Galway, E.) Whitehouse, John Howard
O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Roe, Sir Thomas Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
O'Doherty, Philip Rowlands, James Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
O'Dowd, John Rowntree, Arnold Wiles, Thomas
Ogden, Fred Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland) Williams, John (Glamorgan)
O'Grady, James Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel) Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)
O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.) Scanlan, Thomas Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.) Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir C. E. Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)
O'Malley, William Scott, A. MacCallum (Glasgow. Bridgeton) Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)
O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.) Seely, Col., Right Hon. J. E. B. Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)
O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Sheehy, David Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
O'Shee, James John Sherwell, Arthur James Winfrey, Richard
O'Sullivan, Timothy Simon, Sir John Allsebrook Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)
Palmer, Godfrey Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe) Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)
Parker, James (Halifax) Smith, H. B. (Northampton) Young, William (Perth, East)
Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek) Smyth, Thomas F. Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Pearce, William (Limehouse) Snowden, Philip
Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham) Spicer, Sir Albert TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.
Phillips, John (Longford, S.) Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)
Aitken, William Max. Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Hoare, S. J. G
Anson, Sir William Reynell Clay, Captain H. Spender Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)
Anstruther-Gray, Major William Clyde, J. Avon Horner, Andrew Long
Arkwright, John Stanhope Cooper, Richard Ashmole Hunt, Rowland
Ashley, W. W. Courthope, George Loyd Hunter, Sir C. R. (Bath)
Astor, Waldorf Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Jardine, E. (Somerset, E.)
Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J. Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.
Baird, J. L. Cripps, Sir C. A. Kerr-Smiley, Peter
Baker, Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.) Croft, Henry Page Kerry, Earl of
Baldwin, Stanley Dalrymple, Viscount Kimber, Sir Henry
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City Lond.) Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull)
Banner, John S. Harmood- Dixon, C. H. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement
Baring, Captain Hon. G. Du Cros, Arthur Philip Kirkwood, J. H. M.
Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Duke, Henry Edward Lane-Fox. G. R.
Barnston, H. Falle, B. G. Larmor, Sir J.
Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.) Fell, Arthur Lee, Arthur Hamilton
Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.) Fisher, William Hayes Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)
Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton) Fitzroy, Hon. E. A. Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.
Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks Fleming, Valentine Lonsdale, John Brownlee
Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich) Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead) Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Foster, Philip Staveley Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (Hanover Sq)
Bigland, Alfred Gastrell, Major W. H. Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)
Bird, A. Gilmour, Captain J. MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh
Boscawen, Sackville T. Griffith Goldman, C. S. Mackinder, Halford J.
Bridgeman, W. Clive Goldsmith, Frank Magnus, Sir Philip
Bull, Sir William James Grant, J. A. Malcolm, Ian
Burdett-Coutts, William Greene, Walter Raymond Meysey-Thompson, E. C.
Burn, Colonel C. R. Gretton, John Middlemore, John Throgmorton
Butcher, J. G. Guinness, Hon. W. E. Mildmay, Francis Bingham
Campion, W. R. Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Mount, William Arthur
Carlile, Edward Hildred Haddock, George Bahr Neville, Reginald J. N.
Cassel, Felix Hall, Fred (Dulwich) Newman, John R. P.
Castlereagh, Viscount Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford) Newton, Harry Kottingham
Cator, John Helmsley, Viscount Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)
Cautley, H. s. Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon) Norton-Griffiths, John
Cave, George Hickman, Colonel Thomas E. O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Hill, Sir Clement Orde-Powlet, Hon. W. G. A.
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford Univ.) Hills, J. W. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W. Hill-Wood, Samuel Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)
Perkins, Walter F. Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange) Wheler, Granville C. H.
Pole-Carew, Sir R. Stanier, Beville White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)
Pollock, Ernest Murray Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston) Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude
Pryce-Jones, Col. E. (M'tgom'y B'ghs.) Starkey, John R. Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)
Ratcliff, R. F. Staveley-Hill, Henry Wolmer, Viscount
Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel Stewart, Gershom Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)
Remnant, James Farquharson Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North) Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Rice, Hon. w. Sykes, Alan John Worthington-Evans, L.
Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall) Talbot, Lord Edmund Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Rolleston, Sir John Terrell, G. (Wilts, N. W.) Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Ronaldshay, Earl of Terrell, Henry (Gloucester) Yate, Col. C. E.
Rothschild, Lionel de Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, No Yerburgh, Robert
Rutherford, W. (Liverpool, W. Derby) Thynne, Lord Alexander Younger, George
Salter, Arthur Clavell Tobin, Alfred Aspinal
Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood) Touche, George Alexander
Sanders, Robert A. Tryon, Capt. George Clement TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir A. Acland-Hood and Viscount Valentia.
Sanderson, Lancelot Walker, Col. William Hall
Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells) Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)

Question put, "That the words, 'that Bill,' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 286; Noes, 164.

Division No. 188.] AYES. [8.5 p.m.
Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour) Crawshay-Williams, Eliot Hodge, John
Abraham, Rt Hon. William (Rhondda) Crooks, William Holt, Richard Durning
Acland, Francis Dyke Crumley, Patrick Home, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)
Adamson, William Cullinan, John Hughes, S. L.
Addison, Dr. C. Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy) Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)
Adkins, W. Ryland D. Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel
Agnew, Sir George William Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) John, Edward Thomas
Ainsworth, John Stirling Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Johnson, W.
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton) Delany, William Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)
Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud) Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)
Ashton, Thomas Gair Dewar, Sir J. A. Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)
Baker, H. T. (Accrington) Doris, William Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)
Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.) Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Jowett, F. W.
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley) Joyce, Michael
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Edwards, Enoch (Hanley) Keating, M.
Barnes, G. N. Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of Kellaway, Frederick George
Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick B.) Elverston, H. Kelly, Edward
Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.) Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Kennedy, Vincent Paul
Barry, Redmond John Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.) Kilbride, Denis
Barton, W. Falconer, J. King, J. (Somerset, N.)
Beale, W. P. Fenwick, Charles Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)
Beauchamp, Edward Ferens, T. R. Lambert, George (Devon, Molton)
Beck, Arthur Cecil Ffrench, Peter Lansbury, George
Benn, W. (T. H'mts, St. George) Field, William Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)
Bentham, G. J. Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rl'nd. Cockerm'th)
Bethell, Sir J. H. Fitzgibbon, James Levy, Sir Maurice
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Flavin, Michael Joseph Lewis, John Herbert
Black, Arthur W. France, G. A Logan, John William
Boland, John Plus Gelder, Sir W. A. Low, Sir F. (Norwich)
Booth, Frederick Handel Gill, A. H. Lundon, T.
Bowerman, C. W. Glanville, H. J. Lynch, A. A.
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)
Brace, William Goldstone, Frank Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)
Brady, Patrick Joseph Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough) MacGhee, Richard
Brigg, Sir John Griffith, Ellis J. Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
Brocklehurst, W. B. Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke) MacNeill, John Gordon Swift
Brunner, John F. L. Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) MacVeagh, Jeremiah
Bryce, J. Annan Hackett, J. M'Callum, John M.
Burke, E. Haviland- Hall, Frederick (Normanton) M'Curdy, Charles Albert
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Hancock J. G. McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) M'Laren, H. D. (Leicester)
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar) Hardie, J. Keir Manfield, Harry
Byles, William Pollard Harmsworth, R. Leicester Markham, Arthur Basil
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Marks, George Croydon
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Marshall, Arthur Harold
Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood) Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.) Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)
Chancellor, H. G. Harwood, George Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)
Chappie, Dr. W. A. Haslam, James (Derbyshire) Menzies, Sir Walter
Clancy, John Joseph Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Molloy, M.
Clough, William Haworth, Arthur A. Molteno, Percy Alport
Clynes, J. R. Hayden, John Patrick Money, L. G. Chiozza
Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Helme, Norval Watson Montagu, Hon E. S.
Condon, Thomas Joseph Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Mooney, J. J.
Corbett, A. Cameron Henry, Sir Charles Solomon Morrell, Philip
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Cory, Sir Clifford John Higham, John Sharp Muldoon, John
Cotton, William Francis Hinds, John Munro, R.
Cowan, W. H. Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Murray, Captain Hon. A. C.
Nannetti, Joseph P. Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough) Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)
Needham, Christopher T. Reddy, M. Thomas, James Henry (Derby)
Neilson, Francis Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Thorne, William (West Ham)
Nolan, Joseph Redmond, William (Clare) Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Norton, Captain Cecil W. Richards, Thomas Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Nugent, Sir Walter Richard Richardson, Albion (Peckham) Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven) Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Roberts, G. H. (Norwich) Wardle, George J.
O'Doherty, Philip Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside) Waring, Walter
O'Dowd, John Robinson, Sidney Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay
Ogden, Fred Roche, Augustine (Louth) Wason, Rt. Ken. E. (Clackmannan)
O'Grady, James Roche, John (Galway, E.) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.) Roe, Sir Thomas Webb, H.
O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.) Rowlands, James Wedgwood, Josiah C.
O'Malley, William Rowntree, Arnold White, Sir George (Norfolk)
O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland) White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)
O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel) White, Patrick (Meath, North)
O'Sullivan, Timothy Scanlan, Thomas Whitehouse, John Howard
Palmer, Godfrey Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir C. E. Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Parker, James (Halifax) Scott, A. M'Callum (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek) Seely, Col., Right Hon. J. E. B. Wiles, Thomas
Pearce, William (Limehouse) Sheeny, David Williams, J. (Glamorgan)
Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham) Sherwell, Arthur James Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)
Phillips, John (Longford, S.) Simon, Sir John Allsebrook Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Pickersgill, Edward Hare Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe) Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)
Pirie, Duncan V. Smith, H. B. (Northampton) Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)
Pointer, Joseph Smyth, Thomas F. Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)
Pollard, Sir George H. Snowden, P. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Spicer, Sir Albert Winfrey, Richard
Power, Patrick Joseph Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.) Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)
Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) Strachey, Sir Edward Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)
Pringle, William M. R. Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West) Young, William (Perth, East)
Radford, G H Summers, James Wooley Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Raffan, Peter Wilson Sutton, John E.
Rainy, A. Rolland Taylor, John W. (Durham) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.
Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields) Tennant, Harold John
Aitken, William Max. Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull)
Anson, Sir William Reynell Cripps, Sir C. A. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement
Anstruther-Gray, Major William Croft, Henry Page Kirkwood, J. H. M.
Arkwright, John Stanhope Dalrymple, Viscount Larmor, Sir J.
Ashley, W. W Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott Lee, Arthur Hamilton
Astor, Waldorf Dixon, C. H. Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)
Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J. Du Cros, Arthur Philip Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.
Baird, J. L. Duke, Henry Edward Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)
Baker, Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.) Falle, B. G. Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (Hanover Sq.)
Baldwin, Stanley Fell, Arthur MacCaw, Win J. MacGeagh
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City Lond.) Fisher, William Hayes Mackinder, Halford J.
Banner, John S. Harmood- Fitzroy, Hon. E. A. Magnus, Sir Philip
Baring, Captain Hon. G. Fleming, Valentine Malcolm, Ian
Barlow, Montagu (Salford, S.) Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead) Meysey-Thompson, E. C.
Barnston, H. Foster, Philip Staveley Middlemore, John Throgmorton
Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.) Gastrell, Major W. H. Mildmay, Francis Bingham
Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.) Gibbs, G. A. Neville, Reginald J. N.
Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton) Gilmour, Captain J. Newman, John R. P.
Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks Goldman, C. S. Newton, Harry Kottingham
Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich) Goldsmith, Frank Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish Grant, J. A. Norton-Griffiths, John
Bigland, Alfred Greene, W. R. O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)
Bird, A. Gretton, John Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.
Boscawen, Sackville T. Griffith- Guinness, Hon. W. E. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Bull, Sir William James Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)
Burdett-Coutts, William Haddock, George Bahr Perkins, Walter F.
Burn, Colonel C. R. Hall, Fred (Dulwich) Pole-Carew, Sir R.
Butcher, J. G. Hardy, Laurence Pollock, Ernest Murray
Campion, W. R. Helmsley, Viscount Pryce-Jones, Col. E. (M'tgom'y B'ghs.)
Carlile, Edward Hildrcd Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon) Ratcliff, R. F.
Cassel, Felix Hickman, Colonel Thomas E. Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Castlereigh, Viscount Hill, Sir Clement L. (Shrewsbury) Rice, Hon. W.
Cator, John Hills, J. W. Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Cautley, H. S. Hill-Wood, Samuel Rolleston, Sir John
Cave, George Hoare, S. J. G. Ronaldshay, Earl of
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Rothschild, Lionel de
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Horner, Andrew Long Rutherford, W. (Liverpool, W. Derby)
Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W. Hunt, Rowland Salter, Arthur Clavell
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Hunter, Sir C. R. (Bath) Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)
Clay, Captain H. Spender Jardine, E. (Somerset, E.) Sanders, Robert A.
Clyde, J. Avon Kebty-Fletcher, J. R. Sanderson, Lancelot
Cooper, Richard Ashmole Kerr-Smiley, Peter Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)
Courthope, George Loyd Kerry, Earl of Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)
Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Kimber, Sir Henry Stanier, Beville
Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston) Thynne, Lord Alexander Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)
Starkey, John B. Tobin, Alfred Aspinal Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire) Touche, George Alexander Worthington-Evans, L
Steel-Maitland, A. D. Tryon, Capt. George Clement Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Stewart, Gershom Walker, Col. William. Hall Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North) Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford) Yate, Col. C. E.
Sykes, Alan John Wheler, Granville C. H. Yerburgh, Robert
Talbot, Lord Edmund White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport) Younger, George
Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.) Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude
Terrell, Henry (Gloucester) Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir A.
Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North) Wolmer, Viscount Acland-Hood and Viscount Valentia.

Question put, and agreed to.


I may say, for the convenience of the Committee, that the next Amendment which I shall call upon is in the name of the hon. Member for Falmouth (Mr. Goldman).—(In Sub-section (1) to leave out the word "introduction" [" unless two years have elapsed between the date of the first introduction"], and to insert instead thereof the word "passing.")—I have passed over several Amendments dealing with the enacting words. They should be raised as a new Clause. I will, however, keep an open mind with regard to the Amendments of the hon. Member for Croydon (Mr. Malcolm) and the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Peel).

[The subsequent Amendments to which the Chairman referred were the following:—

(2) In Sub-section (1), after the word "unless" ["Provided that this provision shall not take effect unless "] to insert the words "in each Session in which a Bill is dealt with in the House of Commons under this Section that House meets for the despatch of business on at least one hundred and twenty days, nor unless."

(1) In Sub-section (1), after the word "Bill" ["House of Lords has not consented to the Bill"], to insert the words, "Provided that at least three months shall have elapsed between the end of each such Session and the commencement of the next Session, and further."]


I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next, 1st May.