§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [27th February], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words "this House would welcome the introduction of a Bill to reform the composition of the House of Lords whilst maintaining its independence as a Second Chamber, but declines to proceed with a measure which places all effective legislative authority in the hands of a Single Chamber and offers no safeguard against the passage into law of grave changes without the consent and contrary to the will of the people."—[Mr. Austen Chamberlain.]219
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question." Debate resumed.
§ Mr. BECK
In the few moments I ventured to address the House last night I was trying to point out that as regards self-reformation the House of Lords have found no great measure of support, for I think it is difficult for any man to declare that the House of Lords have shown a policy of moderation. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are far too prone to think that any extreme of Toryism must be moderation. That is not the view of the moderate man. He likes a middle course. He objects as strongly to the extreme Tory point of view as to the extreme Radical point of view. My contention is that the House of Lords have by their action largely alienated moderate opinion. It is not necessary for me—it would be presumptuous and almost an insult—to go through the history which we have heard ad nauseam of the last five years of Parliamentary government, of the rash throwing out and destruction of the Education Bill, and of the tragic-comic assembly in the ball-room of Lansdowne House for the discussion of the Licensing Bill—one of those errors which, I think, will go down in history as equivalent to the error of Marie Antoinette, who said, "If the people cannot buy bread why do not they eat cake?" If the House of Lords had had a spark of statesmanship, or even an ordinary sense of humour, they would have paused once, twice, and thrice before they met to discuss a great Parliamentary Bill in a private house with all the halfpenny Press reporters, and the "Daily Mail" and the "Daily Mirror" snapshotters outside. It is these things which have burned themselves into the minds of moderate men. It is really very late in the day for hon. Members opposite to appeal to moderate opinion now. They had plenty of opportunities of conciliating moderate men in another place. The Second Chamber has been warned what would happen if they persisted in their present course. On the occasion of the throwing out of the Budget, and on the discussion of the Licensing Bill, the moderate and far-sighted men of the House of Lords, who could not be accused of any undue sympathy with Radical opinion, time after time warned the House of Lords that they were pursuing a course which could only lead to destruction, and time after time their warnings have been disregarded. I think it must be a genuine dis- 220 appointment to every man that the House of Lords have shown themselves to be so unsympathetic in relation to what I conceive to be the necessary progress of the country. It appears to me a curious thing that the House of Lords should follow that course seeing that they are seated on Olympic heights and are exempt from political death. They are there exempt from the changes and chances of general elections, and yet I venture to say that no man in this House would be so openly and nakedly partisan as the present House of Lords have proved themselves to be. The mere fact of their being in a detached position seems to have no influence whatever on their minds. They have made themselves absolutely partisan, and they must suffer the penalty which partisans who take the wrong side have always to suffer.
There is a strange fallacy running through the whole of the speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. There is only one of their speeches I have heard or read which really fairly faced the position, and that was the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith). He alone faced the question which hon. Members opposite have to decide now, namely, whether they are going to have an impartial Second Chamber or not. From all the other speeches it appeared that they wish to eat their cake and have it. They talk of having the Second Chamber to check Home Rule. How do they know that the Second Chamber would be a check on Home Rule? I myself am not greatly enamoured of Home Rule; but, after all, is it not a fact that every Prime Minister in the Empire is in favour of Home Rule? Is it not a fact that in Canada men of all parties are in favour of Home Rule? In Australia Parliament has passed resolutions repeatedly in favour of Home Rule. South Africa is in favour of Home Rule, and Mr. Cecil Rhodes gave Mr. Parnell £10,000 to promote his policy.
Is not it a fact that time after time we have been told that Ireland is the one weak spot in the Empire, the Achilles heel, in which we might receive a mortal wound? Yet hon. Members opposite take it always for granted that if we get an impartial Second Chamber it will be as opposed to Home Rule as a few of them are. It is this which is the fallacy of the whole of their arguments I myself, and I think almost all of us on this side, desire to see a strong, impartial Second Chamber, but 221 we want a really impartial Second Chamber. We do not want a Second Chamber which will dance to the wirepullings of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition That is the whole of our complaint. Hon. Members opposite talk as if all of us on this side, and Irish Members on the opposite side, desired the destruction of the Second Chamber. That is not true. The fact is that the Second Chamber in this country has forced the conflict upon us greatly against most of our wills. It is of no interest to the House, but I know myself that five years ago I would have read this Bill and thought of debating upon it with very great repugnance. Four years ago I would have supported this Bill with reluctance; but from the time when another place desired to destroy the Budget, and struck a blow at the very foundation of the Constitution, I have felt not only great pleasure in supporting this Bill, but I have felt nothing but enthusiasm in supporting the Government to the best of my small power in the coarse which they have mapped out. It is really idle for right hon. Gentlemen and Members opposite to pursue the course which they are now pursuing. One of the hon. Members who spoke last night started by rating us on this side for attacking the House of Lords. He said it really was preposterous to suggest that the House of Lords were wrong in the smallest degree; and with either a certain degree of hardihood or a great lack of humour, he went on to declare that Members on that side had not quarrelled with the House of Lords, for the simple reason that they never introduced legislation which in any way clashed with the feelings of the House of Lords. If that is his view, his obvious duty is to die in the last ditch in defence of that perfect Second Chamber. But the end of the speech was an appeal to the Leader of the Liberal party to come to an agreement, so that together the two great parties might settle on a reform of the House of Lords. But how ungrateful this was. If the House of Lords have done their duty in the way that is suggested, surely it is the duty of every patriotic man who holds that view to fight to the last in order to retain this bulwark of our Constitution. The hon. Gentleman gave away the whole case by suggesting at one moment that Radicals are an unreasonable set of revolutionaries, and, in the next, that there is nothing practically dividing the two great parties except a sort of prejudice on our side in favour of this Bill.
222 It is indeed difficult to say anything of this Debate which is in the least degree novel or of any value to the House, but I do suggest that one very obvious point is always forgotten by hon. Members opposite: That is, that they are not the only people who want the protection of a Second Chamber. We on this side, we Liberals, hon. Members from Ireland, and hon. Members below the Gangway who represent the Labour party are equally as entitled to the protection of a Second Chamber as hon. Members opposite. [An HON. MEMBER: "They do not want it."]An hon. Member says we do not want it. We did want it during the ten years that the party opposite was in power. We wanted it exceedingly badly, but we never got it. That is what we complain of. It is not only the sins of commission of which another place is guilty that we have to complain of. It is also the sins of omission, the absolute frivolity with which they passed anything which the party opposite liked to send up. We, on this side, object to the tied house as regards the brewing trade, but we still more strongly object to the tied House as a permanent Second Chamber in this country. We do not think it is desirable that Noble Lords at the end of the corridor should be tied down to receive their legislative wares only from one firm. It may be an excellent firm, but we think that another firm quite as good, if not better, is to be found in the present Government. One of the first duties of a Second Chamber is to protect minorities. I know that hon. Members opposite will say that that is what the present House of Lords has been doing of late. But there is a great grievance against the House of Lords in their absolute failure to protect minorities when Conservative Governments are in power. A great deal has been made by hon. Members opposite of the fact that we who oppose the present House of Lords represent a somewhat composite body, and that we are divided into two or three camps. That is a very double-edged argument, because after all it is no testimonial to the present House of Lords that they have alienated so many sections of His Majesty's subjects. It is no testimonial to them that Wales is against them, that the Labour party is against them, and that the Irish Members and the Liberal party are against them. If you were engaging a servant or indulging in any of the other ordinary pursuits of life, in which testimonials are required, you would not think it a good testimonial for anybody to have a number of 223 condemnatory documents to produce for one's reflection.
It is curious that hon. Members opposite seem to think that there is some peculiar merit in the fact that the House of Lords is not opposed by one section, but by three or four sections. I think that is one of the strongest condemnations of the House of Lords, and one of the most significant signs of their absolute failure to hold the balance evenly between the different parties in this House. I venture to say it is a strong condemnation that in the majority of the homes of England, the phrase "the House of Lords" is a phrase of ill omen, a phrase denoting injustice, blighted hopes, and reforms long overdue; and if that is the case in England, how much more strongly can it be said about Scotland, Ireland, and Wales? In what I have said I may have put forth arguments that are fallacious, but they are arguments which are genuinely held. It is not from want of thought or from want of realising the seriousness of the present situation, that I hold the views which I do, and I say I do desire to see in this country a Second Chamber which is impartial; but I say further that if you have to choose between the present House of Lords and no Second Chamber, I would rather have no Second Chamber. I deny absolutely and entirely that the present House of Lords is in any way a safeguard to this great Empire. I believe that it is nothing but a source of irritation and weakness to the whole of the body politic, and I suggest that the party opposite have a great responsibility in this matter. After all, it is they who have mapped out the policy, it is the right hon. Gentleman who leads his party on whom the responsibility rests. The House of Lords has only done their bidding; but I say they have got to choose now whether they are going to fight to the end for the supremacy of the House of Lords or whether they are going to part with the power which they have possessed for so long a time, of dictating the policy of the House of Lords. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition always reminds me of a man in a signal box. It is be who pulls the lever, which decides whether the legislative train shall run along the main line to its destination, or shall be left to moulder on a siding, or whether, worse still, as so often happens, it shall be dashed to fragments on a dead end.
224 We believe that right hon. Gentlemen opposite have to face the fact that many of the people who vote for them to-day are opponents of the House of Lords. I have found, time after time, in ray political work that there are many people who say: "I cannot vote Liberal because I have always voted Conservative, yet I do say to you that I do not like the present attitude of the House of Lords. I do not think they are fair to you. I do not think they are fair to the other parties in the country. I am a Conservative, and shall continue to vote Conservative, but I do not approve of the present House of Lords." Members opposite know pretty well that that is so, and, believe me, this is the opportunity for the settlement of this question along lines of very small friction. It is idle for them to suggest that we should put our political life once more on the hazard in the hope of arriving at a compromise with them. We have brought forward a Bill which I consider is moderate, which is a stepping - stone to a higher reform. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] After all, that is a very easy question to ask; but what does this Parliament Bill say? If we are afraid of the electorate, as Members opposite suggest, how is it that we have shortened the period of Parliament to five years? They talk about an interregnum. If this Bill went through to-day there would be an interregnum of only one year, and it is not really any great risk to ask the country to trust this Government, which have not failed in any material point, for another whole year. Members opposite are quite prepared to have the country take the risk of their being in office with no Second Chamber at all, and it is not unreasonable of us to ask the country to take the risk of having us in power with a very active and hostile Second Chamber, even though its hands are somewhat shackled by the Parliament Bill. I apologise to the House for having spoken at all, but I believe that I am a representative of the ordinary dull Liberal opinion, the man who is not enamoured of great adventures, the man, on the other hand who wants to see the country steadily progress forward; and there is a force in moderate opinion which I believe is steadily and surely swinging over to the Liberal side.
§ Mr. ALFRED LYTTELTON
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down described himself as a moderate man, and devoted a considerable portion of his 225 remarks to an endeavour to justify that description of himself. The residue of his speech, so far as I have been able to follow it, was devoted to the expression of somewhat immoderate opinions. I do not propose to follow them, because the speech which I hope to address to the House is to be directed essentially to middle opinion in this assembly. I share with the hon. Member opposite his view as to the somewhat benumbing effect left by Debates on this subject. Sometimes I feel it would be better if we could possibly put the matter in a somewhat fresher light, and if, in approaching the subject, we tried to hold ourselves aloof in order to see it as the eyes of others may view it. For the Coronation which is to take place in June, many distinguished people will come to this country, but none of the guests will be more honoured than the representatives of the great Dominions over-seas, who will come as the chosen leaders of the great democracies which have sprung up from the Mother Country. These guests will be peculiarly well qualified to judge of the particular issue which is now before the country. There will be Sir Wilfrid Laurier, himself having lived for nearly forty years under the great constitutional instrument of 1867. There will be Sir Joseph Ward and Mr. Fisher, who nearly thirty years afterwards received a Constitution from this country in Australia. And, lastly, there will be General Botha, who will be equipped and be fresh with the knowledge of the Constitution of United Africa, a Constitution which we all applaud, but which none will be more free to admit than the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, was in its bulk the product and the result of South African energy, ability, and patience. In all these Constitutions to which I have referred there is, of course, a Second House, with an effective Veto' and with powers for joint sittings which are of a most efficient character. I think that these Colonial Ministers from our Dominions will rightly ask, when they come here, how it comes that in this country, which after all has been the model upon which those Constitutions have been based, when there was so much common consent obtaining throughout this country, when there was, I may say, so universal a view that a large change should take place, that there should be proposals made by His Majesty's Government, not for the reform, but for the humiliation of the Second Chamber—proposals which arouse the bitter and, I venture to say, the enduring resentment of nearly one-half the 226 nation. They will seek for some satisfactory answer to so remarkable a position.
What will be the reply? I will give it in the words of the Prime Minister himself. He said, in effect, that the Preamble of the Bill which is now before this House is a clear indication of the intentions of the Government, but that he is well aware that the reform of the House of Lords is a laborious and difficult task. The War Secretary last night said that, therefore, the indispensable preliminary was the passage of the Parliament Bill which is now before the House. The Prime Minister has said that that which is really urgent is the overdue legislation for which this Parliament Bill is required in order that it may be passed. I think I state fairly the argument which has been presented by the other side. Let me examine whether it is the case that legislation is overdue and that it is urgent, because, in order to get it through this House and through Parliament, the intention of the Government is plainly and avowedly for three or four years to create a period in which Single-Chamber Government shall in truth and in fact prevail. No one can deny that. In former days there was in this great city a district called Alsatia, in which people of somewhat doubtful antecedents often sought sanctuary against correction or punishment. The Government proposed to create an Alsatia for legislation in the next four years. They have prescribed that period—I do not think many people would place it at a less time than four years, and many people think it would be much longer—in which they may have free warrant for Radical legislation. What is this overdue legislation for which they are making such enormous drafts upon the confidence of the country? Is it for Welsh Disestablishment? They have been six years in power, and they have never introduced a Bill, never a single line of a Bill, for Welsh Disestablishment since 1906. Is it social reform? Can anyone dispute for a moment that all the social reforms that have been proposed by this Government have been accepted, have been passed, and have been very often, I think, by the admission of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, improved by the minority in this House, and by the majority in the House of Lords? I do not think anybody can dispute that. I could mention six or seven measures, but I do not wish to dwell longer upon this part of the case. I have actually the authority not only of the 227 Member for Glasgow, who spoke last night, a very respected Member of the Labour party, but of the Member for West Bradford, who himself has admitted that social legislation has been treated by the House of Lords with great respect. We know quite well—it was admitted by the Secretary for War—that the real reason for the creation of this period of time is that they may be free from all opposition of an effective kind; and the real object is that the Government cannot get on with their reform in Ireland without such a time. The Government are conscious of the difficulties of this question. It has been burnt into the mind of every student of politics by the discussions which took place in 1886 and 1893. They know the difficulties perfectly well. They are conscious that they were not for one moment dispersed by the platudinous formula which the Prime Minister has always given on this subject, namely, "A Parliament for Ireland, but the supremacy of the Crown over it." Every student of politics knows perfectly well that this is merely a superfical presentment of this subject. It does not solve the question. The real difficulties, as we all know in this House, are financial; they concern the representation of Ireland, over there and here, and there are other great matters of debate, which, as hon. Members know perfectly well, really beset the great scheme of Mr. Gladstone.
I do not forget the speech which was made by the Home Secretary the other day, a very interesting speech, in which he called upon us to observe the new facts which have arisen during the last twenty years in Ireland. I do not forget for a moment the land policy of the late Government, and old age pensions, the policy of the present Government; The growing toleration of modern views is begining more and more to impress itself upon Irish minds. I do not for a moment dispute the great agrarian policy which has been earned forward with such enthusiasm and such ability by Sir Horace Plunkett. I do not for a moment dispute that these new facts have greatly altered the situation in Ireland. But I draw a conclusion totally different from that of the Home Secretary. He seemed to think that when all these great measures are being tried, and are beginning to bring forth beneficent fruit, is the occasion, of all other occasions in the world, in which to plunge that country into that discord from which, at the present moment, it is emerging. I submit to the House, with 228 all the earnestness in my power, that it is the very last moment you should choose to once more endeavour to rekindle the fires which were beginning to slumber. Now is the critical moment. I am assured by many people who know Ireland well that if you were to leave that country alone for five years—I do not pretend that it would altogether arrest the demand for Home Rule—for the operation of these beneficent forces, the Irish question would be solved almost automatically, and at least you would save yourselves the responsibility of once more rekindling in that country a spirit which, for the time being has been, at any rate, partially allayed. I feel, perhaps, that I have trespassed in dealing even for a moment with the merits of the great controversy of Home Rule. That is not the issue here. The issue here is not upon the merits of Home Rule, but are you willing to submit those merits, right or wrong, to the judgment of the people? That is the issue here. Your policy, and you know it, is not to consult the people upon that question. You talk of urgency, you speak of urgency constantly, but you are urgent not to consult the people but to evade consulting the people. As I have often said outside this House, the course you are pursuing in endeavouring to withdraw so great and vital an issue from the people, and to settle it in this period of time in which you will have absolute power in this House is a course and is a policy which is not in conformity with sincerity or fair, or straight, or honest dealing. You may earn applause by taking the course of tacticians, but I am perfectly certain that, sooner or later, the people of this country will resent such a course, and will condemn those who have pursued it.
You will remind me that at any rate after this period you have promised, and some of you intend to fulfil that promise, to reform the House of Lords. I concede there is a genuine desire on the part of some members of the party opposite for such reform, but I say you are creating a political situation in which that reform will be a practical impossibility. For a time, that is for three or four years, you will have a Single Chamber. [HON. MEM-BERS: "No, no."] Yes, and with an irritating power of delay in the Upper House. But do you really imagine that from those materials you are going to secure that which some of you wish, the reform of the other Chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Let me endeavour to point out how hopeless that task would be. I am not going 229 to enter into an analysis, most brilliantly done as it was on the first day by the hon. and learned Member for Walton (Mr. F. E. Smith), of the parties in the House. It is quite enough for me to take the Labour party alone. They have, of course, some of the most effective and persuasive speakers here, and they surely will have an easy task if any proposal were to be made to reform the Second House. I can imagine the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) getting up when such a proposal was made. He would address a popular Assembly in say three or four years' time which had tasted absolute power. Who ever heard of a popular Chamber which had tasted the sweets of absolutism which had ever resigned them. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I see the Labour party know their history very well. They know perfectly well as to that which had been dangled before so-called moderate men how they would denounce it two or three years from now. They would not begin with that argument, but they would have that argument behind them in all they addressed to this House. How would they go on? Why they would say to this House which will be then a paid House: Will you wish to contrast yourselves with an unpaid House over the way stronger and more independent and more efficient perhaps than yours. No, Sir, this House, once its Members are paid, I submit to the judgment of hon. Members opposite, will be even more overworked than it is now. The constituencies who pay Members will consider that they have the right to even more services. The caucus which has so much power now will consider it is even more entitled to exercise them then. There is another immense difficulty which I think the younger Members of the House know of better than the old. And that is the enormous burden of work both here and in the country which prevents men from obtaining fresh knowledge and research on most valuaible subjects. That continued pressure preventing the acquisition of knowledge will be even greater in the future than in the past, and so not merely will my hon. opponent opposite be able to speak to a popular assembly, which, as I have said, has already tasted absolute power, but he will be able to bring arguments of a most convincing kind, convincing, that is to say, to the natural feelings of a popular assembly which will make the Irish Members, the Labour Members, and the Radicals more convinced that there should be 230 no Second Chamber, and will be able to extend those arguments even further on to those Benches. I believe that there is one heavy temptation of that kind which will be unconsciously felt by hon. Members opposite. They will have reached that time referred to by the Home Secretary in which a Government which has endeavoured to make many reforms is beginning to feel, and feel very quickly and closely the unpopularity of doing so. The Home Secretary reminded us how those whose grievances are redressed become apathetic, how those whose money and whose taxes have been used to redress them have become irate. That is a diagnosis which I think every Member of this House will approve of. That influence will be beginning to operate in three or four years from now. How tempting and overwhelming the temptation to those who sit on the Front Bench to endeavour once more to turn away the attention of the country from their own defaults and their own defects and to turn the attention of the country once more, if they can, to the Second Chamber, to whom they will ascribe their failures, and who will be then exercising the power which is an absolute minimum of practical use, and which is the maximum for irritation to those against whom it is used. That is an anticipation from which every serious man would do his best by every honourable effort to escape.
You know quite well the principal features of the proposals of the Unionist party—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]—the principal features of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] The proposals for a House of Lords, for a Second Chamber very much reduced in numbers, proposals for joint Sessions both here and in the Dominions of the Crown, and which in the Dominions of the Crown have proved adequate and sufficient, and to which the Prime Minister himself has spoken in no uncertain voice. You have known, and have heard the admission of the party to which I belong, that in all matters of pure finance this House should be predominant, absolutely predominant. You have heard also that in certain very grave cases the employment of the Referendum would be a very proper solution of certain difficulties. Those proposals have been brought out before the country. I know the way in which they have been met. There is a certain class of controversialist, who, if you maintain your ground without moving, would say that it is mulish obstinacy. They are the same people who say after a right, and as I think a reasonable, effort is made to 231 move according to the spirit of the times, as I admit has been evinced in the case of the last two elections, if there is a reasonable effort to make reasonable concessions then those controversialists say that the party is on the run. There is no class of controversialist for which I have so absolute a contempt, and I do not propose to waste any further time upon him. But there is another and a much more genuine objection which I will endeavour to state with perfect fairness to those who make it. They say when proposals such as those to which I have just referred, when proposals of that kind are pressed upon them, "We have debated those proposals for six months in the great Conference which took place between the leaders of the parties, and surely it is futile to talk of arriving at a settlement when you have failed in the calmness and privacy of debate behind closed doors, when you are to let in upon that task the heat and passion of public opinion." That is an observation which, I think, is entitled to discussion and to examination. My view is that though there are many occasions in which private discussion behind closed doors is more likely to reach a settlement than in public, there are occasions in which the issues are so grave, and the results of the discussion may be so far reaching, that it is impossible to come to a satisfactory decision without admitting the public to those discussions.
By all means try everything that can be done by private discussion, but I believe myself that no leaders, however respected by their respective parties, would be able to bind the parties which they represent, and by whom they are honoured, in an issue so grave and so momentous as this. No, Sir, there are times, and I think this is one of them, when the strong and wholesome rush of public opinion and debate must be faced. In such a crisis as this and in such publicity I submit that both parties place all the cards upon the table, and that the opposing schemes should be debated before the nation in order that the nation may truly and accurately know where the real pinch of disagreements arises. I wish in speaking of this, of course, to observe the strict confidence which surrounded the Conference. I wish to divest myself even of all rumour of what took place within its walls, but I ask every candid man on that side of the House what is the legitimate inference that we must draw, that every sensible man must draw, from the facts which are 232 known and which are public, with regard to the Conference. Why, Sir, we know that they sat for six months, we know that they had twenty meetings; we know that the Prime Minister himself spoke of those Debates as having been most laborious, most patient, conducted by both sides with an honest and resolute effort to get to a settlement, and we know so late as even the nineteenth meeting of that Conference that the Prime Minister thought himself justified in expressing a sanguine hope as to the conclusion that might result from their labours. What inference must every man, who is not content to shut his eyes, draw from those facts alone which are public and are known to the whole country? He must know perfectly well that the inference is that both parties must have been content, and rightly content, to make substantial modifications on the positions which they originally occupied. But what is happening now? A Bill has been brought forward, and is apparently going to be pressed through without Amendment in this House, which was the position of the Radical party before they entered that Conference. We now hear, not merely from the Benches opposite, but elsewhere, in the Press, and from most authoritative sources, threats of invoking the prerogative—a tremendous step in itself to coerce a part of the Legislature; but surely a far more tremendous step when it is invoked in order to pass a Bill which you yourself have obviously consented to modify. I cannot feel that that position is satisfactory, or that, when hon. Gentlemen opposite look upon it carefully and calmly, it can be a position which they would desire to maintain. I do not dispute for a moment that the position is a difficult one. I have endeavoured in what I have said to prove my consciousness, as I think every other Member who has spoken on this side has done, that this party has to make substantial concessions, and is ready and willing to do so. The position is a difficult one. I remember, as other hon. Members will remember, the fine words in which Milton, who was a statesman as well as a poet, addressed on a political occasion the Parliament of the country 300 years ago. He said:—Lords and Commons of England, consider what nation it is whereof ye are, and whereof ye are the Governors; a nation not slow and dull, but of a quick, ingenious, and piercing spirit, acute to invent, subtle and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point, the highest that human capacity can soar to.Perhaps that language might be considered excessive if used at the present 233 day; but have we descended so far from the standard of that fine tribute as to confess ourselves, after so much promise of agreement, to have wholly failed to come to some arrangement upon this matter? We may fail, but, if we do, surely hon. Members must see that we are embarking on a conflict which may last for many years, in which there will be a see-saw of political parties, of loss and gain, of victory and reprisal—a bitter and most acrimonious controversy. If the Government oppose us with a flat refusal to move, we shall continue the fight with a clear conscience. We have bent to the spirit of the time. We have desired to show, and have shown, a willingness and readiness to assent to the verdict of the majority of the country, small though that majority is. We have not sought, and the Peers have not sought, for one moment to maintain unchanged the great historical assembly to which they belong. If no corresponding concession is made on your side to meet the strong and earnest desires of nearly half the nation, we, at any rate, in this great business will go forward, and we will oppose to you a resistance which I believe will be indomitable because it is justified.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY Of STATE for the COLONIES (Colonel Seely)
Except for one bitter and most unjustified phrase, to which I trust I may reply before I sit down, the right hon. Gentleman had made a most moderate appeal to what he calls middle opinion; but, if I may say so, with great respect to him, he has based the whole of his argument—elaborately, carefully, and skilfully built up, as all his arguments are—on a complete fallacy so much so, that every argument that he addressed to the House in favour of his view that our proposal is absolutism and is in various other respects unjustifiable and unprecedented, really points in exactly the opposite direction. When the Prime Minister asked me to speak in this Debate I knew how many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen there were who would wish to take part in it, and I proposed to address myself to only one phase of the controversy which has not yet been dealt with; but I did not think I should be so fortunate as to have in front of me a speech which put in the clearest possible way what I conceive to be the truth of this matter. May I make the position clear? The right hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of this speech that we ought, if we could, in view of the special circumstances of this year, to try to cultivate what is, I believe, in the 234 Greek called the gift of ecstasy—not in the general sense, but in the classic sense of standing outside and looking on at ourselves. He said "that the great Prime Ministers of our Dominions would come to this country, that they would wonder what our controversy was all about, and that they would marvel that we did not adopt the methods which they have found work so well; "most especially," he said, and I quote his words: "General Botha will come, living under a Constitution which we all applaud, with a Second Chamber and joint sittings." The proposition I put forward is this: that if we adopted the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman and abandoned our present Parliament Bill, which in a moment I shall show we cannot really do—but if we could do so, and if we adopted the Constitution "which we all applaud," the only result would be that, whereas under our scheme, we cannot pass a measure which the other House object to, say, a Home Rule Bill, for two years, under the South African Constitution we could pass it in one. I will put it even higher than that. Under no possible scheme which could be regarded as reasonable and fair by reasonable and fair-minded men, would a system of joint sessions be otherwise than more favourable to the Liberal party in the circumstances in which we are standing to-day, than the procedure proposed in this Parliament Bill.
As it was my privilege to introduce the Union Bill into this House, I may be presumed to remember its provisions very well. I am going to try to make good the proposition which I have put forward, not only in regard to the Union Bill, but in regard to any other scheme which could be reasonably considered to be fair. In the case of the Parliament of South Africa, there is, as the right hon. Gentleman truly says, an arrangement for a joint session in the event of the Second Chamber refusing to agree to a measure passed by the First Chamber. The First Chamber is composed of 121 Members. The Second Chamber is composed of forty Members. If the Second Chamber throws out a Bill, that Bill is re-introduced in the following Session. If it is again thrown out, the two Houses sit and vote together, and if, as a result of their sitting and voting there is a verdict favourable to the Bill, the Bill becomes law—that is, within one year. See how that would work out in the situation in which we find ourselves to-day. We have an ascertained majority of 124. It is nominally 126, but when we 235 went to a Division it was 124. On the South African principle, I suppose no one will suggest that you could have a Second Chamber in touch with the people in any shape or form which would contain less than half its members favourable to the Government Bill. Soon after an election it is inconceivable that any Second Chamber which you would propose to set up, whatever the result of the consideration in the Committee Room upstairs, could have less than one half its Members favourable to the Government of the day, if it was to be called fair. In the case of South Africa, that would mean that there would be twenty-seven or twenty-six opposed to the Bill and fourteen in its favour, making a majority of twelve against the Government in the Senate. It is only necessary, therefore, for the House of Commons in South Africa to have a majority of thirteen in joint session in order to pass any Bill within one year. The only answer I can see that may be made to that by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends is that in the course of debate people may to a certain extent change their minds, and that some may be detached from the Government side. Probably that would work both ways amongst reasonable men. If some were detached from one side others might be detached from the other side. In any case observe how large the margin is. A majority of thirteen carries any Bill within one year. Unless I am wrong, the corresponding number in this House would be a majority of seventy-two. Under a plan "which we all applaud" a majority of thirteen would carry the Bill in one year. We have a majority of 124. What then becomes of the whole argument of the right hon. Gentleman?
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
Joint sessions in the proposals which have been foreshadowed in this country apply to ordinary legislation; but for measures of great constitutional importance there is the Referendum. [Laughter.] I am surprised that hon. Members laugh, because their own Prime Minister has admitted that there are some questions in regard to which the Referendum might be applied.
§ Colonel SEELY
I am glad the right hon. Gentleman interrupted me, though I do not think he has quoted the Prime Minister correctly; in fact I am sure he has not. But I was coming to the point of the Referendum. What I am dealing 236 with at the moment is that there is no such proposal in the South Africa Union Bill, which the right hon. Gentleman says embodies a Constitution "which we all applaud." Under the Constitution in South Africa, "which they all applaud," with a majority of 124, we could, without the least difficulty, carry any and every Bill that it was reasonably fair for us to introduce, for which we had obtained any sort of a mandate from the country, within one year, instead of, as under our Bill, in two years. There is no answer to that.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ALFRED LYTTELTON
I confess I do not remember the exact expression, which I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has correctly recorded. My intention was to convey that the Constitution of South Africa was in its ability, energy, and balance—I think that was the way I put it —one which we applauded. I did not intend to convey for a moment that the non-existence of Referendum provisions was a thing I applauded; that I referred or applauded that Constitution without those provisions, so far as the particular issue was concerned on which we were engaged—namely, the reform of the Second Chamber.
§ Colonel SEELY
Yes, Sir. I have no doubt when the right hon. Gentleman reads his words to-morrow—as it happens, I took down a good many of them—he will see that he omitted to take the precautionary step of saying, when he applauded this Constitution, that it had one fatal blot—it had no Referendum. I think the House will agree that I have fairly answered the point which was actually made by the right hon. Gentleman. When he asks us to turn to General Botha for advice then, indeed, we may claim his support, insomuch that this Constitution, which he would joyfully follow, has opened a road broad and wide to democratic reform far more rapidly than this modest Bill we are putting before the House. I will put the claim in more general terms. I have said that under no conceivable scheme which could be reasonable, fair, and just—if you have a system of joint Sessions, and with a reformed House and joint Sessions—could you be better off than you are under this Bill if you want to pass democratic legislation rapidly into law. The right hon. Gentleman, as I foresaw—and I wondered he did not enter his caveat sooner, says, "Oh, but we have recently pointed out that the Referendum should 237 be introduced in matters of grave constitutional import." I endeavoured to show that the proposition I was putting forward was reasonable, just, and fair. I mean by that one which can have the agreement of the great body of reasonable, just, and fair men in whichever part of the House they sit. With regard to the Referendum, I say this: If, in the first place, you propose to take a Referendum on a matter which was a main issue at the General Election within a few months or years of that General Election, or in the second place, if you claim that part of your plan should be that you should take a Referendum on the details of a Bill when the country has emphatically pronounced in favour of the principle of that Bill, I say at once—speaking, I know, for every Member of this Bench—that we who care for representative Government will never agree to either of those propositions, striking as they do, and must do, at the very root of the whole representative principle. One could conceive of the Referendum being applied in a case where you cannot get an opinion in any other way. It has not been suggested that you should take a poll of the women of this country on the question of Women Suffrage. One could truly conceive of the Referendum being applied, as it was applied, in a most interesting case, in the case of Natal, to see whether a certain minority living in a certain area of a country would join in a general scheme.
It is difficult to see how else you could have arrived at the opinion desired. It was a very difficult case. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) will remember that in that particular case the delegates to the Convention were not themselves elected. Consequently the method of the Referendum was difficult to avoid if you were to get an opinion, because, there was no way to obtain the democratic opinion by appointing a Member—a person—to speak for you. Seeing that we believe that while democracy is vital to the progress of the country, the representative system is no less vital, I say again, if you mean to submit again to the Referendum measures which have been the principal issue in the election, or in the alternative to submit the details of a scheme which has been approved in principle, we will never agree. All hope to get agreement on that principle is absolutely futile.
This is a very remarkable Parliament. So far as I have been able to ascertain, it is one of the most remarkable that has 238 ever assembled. I notice the Noble Lord opposite applauds that sentiment. I do not refer to its personnel. Never was a principle, a single issue, so much before the electors as was this issue: the Parliament Bill, with its immediate proximate consequences. I shall hope to make that statement good. In the course of the last election the Prime Minister made the unprecedented number—so I am informed on the highest authority—of fifteen great speeches in every part of the country. In every one of these he put forward the Parliament Bill and its immediate consequences as the great issue. What perhaps is more remarkable and unique is that I understand that there were 272 Liberal Members returned at the last election. Of these, nineteen modest Members issued no addresses at all. We know that the Leader of the Welsh party, who made a brilliant speech last night, issued no address. Nevertheless his opinion was not left in doubt during the Election. Of the remaining 253, every single one made this constitutional question the prominent issue of his address. I have had the file searched, and that, as I have stated, is the remarkable circumstance. If anyone doubts that the immediate proximate consequences of the Bill were also made a principal issue I think he can only look back to what took place to make sure of this: that while we made sure that the Parliament Bill should be the real issue, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition especially, and all his Friends, made sure that Home Rule was also an issue. I am told that a prominent Constituent of mine was asked by a canvasser this question: "Are you aware that if you vote Liberal at this Election you will hand over to the despotic House of Commons the control of the destinies of this country." He replied, "I am." The canvasser said again: "Are you further aware that the immediate result of your so voting would be that this despotic House of Commons, dictated to by the Dollar Dictator—or whatever was the phrase used—will immediately give Home Rule to Ireland, and break up the Empire?" And my constituent again replied: "I am—and more power to their elbow." The house will realise that he was an Irishman. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Yes, but he was an Ulsterman, too. That is what made the canvasser so disappointed, and that is how I came to hear the story. What I have endeavoured to put in a few homely words, is, indeed, I think, the truth. Anyone who 239 took part in the election—I respectfully ask any hon. Gentleman opposite whether he can find fault with this statement of the case—that while we tried to make sure that every elector understood we were fighting for this Parliament Bill, hon. Gentlemen opposite did their very best to make sure that the electors understood that a Home Rule Bill would follow the passing of the Parliament Bill. The electors of this country who did vote Liberal—and, of course, the great majority did vote Liberal—the right hon. Gentleman says not a great majority, but it is a much greater majority than ever he had, much greater, far greater by hundreds and thousands. I am stating what are actual facts. They have been stated already by my right hon. Friend near me. A majority; we do not say a great majority, but a majority greater than that which the right hon. Gentleman ever had, decided this: "We want the Parliament Bill to pass, and we are prepared to give the Liberals a chance to try to do the same thing with Ireland which they did for South Africa." If that is true, and I do not think anyone can really deny it—does anybody deny it?
MARQUESS of TULLIBARDINE
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if South Africa is not a Union Parliament?
§ Colonel SEELY
Certainly, South Africa is a Union Parliament based upon the principle of consent. There could not possibly ever had been a united South Africa, had we not given full local autonomy. But I had better not be drawn off the main line of my argument. I thought everyone would have agreed that Home Rule was at least a vital issue at the last election, because every single hoarding was covered with placards on the subject. Really it is useless to argue further on that point, for that party opposite covered the hoardings of this country with assertions that the immediate result of the Liberal Government coming into office would be "to hand over this country to our country's enemies," and other flowers of speech, such as "the Dollar Dictator."
What is the proposal that we put forward? It is a perfectly simple plan. It is more moderate than any reasonable and fair alternative plan, and it takes a longer time to accomplish its object. There is one point in our plan which has not received any attention, so far as I know. In any scheme of constitutional reform which yon can put forward there will always be 240 the difficulty of what is and what is not a Money Bill. It is agreed that this House should have control over finance; but who is to decide what is or what is not a Finance Bill? This has often been a cause of dispute before, and no doubt may often be again. There is this one great advantage, about the abolition of the absolute Veto of the House of Lords, and of substituting for it a suspensory Veto. Under our Bill, Mr. Speaker, you are that authority. Whoever that authority may be, he might naturally wish to find a scheme under which the moments that the difficulty of deciding occurred should be as few as possible. Under the system of only a suspended Veto in the Second Chamber the temptation to either party to include in their Finance Bill that which is not truly germane to finance is, if not taken away altogether, at any rate enormously diminished. If you can pass a measure—if you last long enough—in two years—or in your system of joint Sessions in one—there will not be the same temptation to hon. Gentlemen here—the temptation will equally apply to either side under equal circumstances—to put into your Finance Bill that which is not truly germane to it. That is one very real advantage in our plan. As to its other advantages, I say nothing. They were put forward very clearly by the Prime Minister himself, and they have been spoken to on many occasions. What is the alternative?
I have pointed out that any fair alternative would probably give us a better chance. Why is it, then, if that be so, that we pursue our own Parliament Bill when, by accepting the efforts of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, we should have a better chance of getting our legislation through in one year instead of two? The reason is that this is what the country approved, and what the country understands. This is what has been put in black and white, and it is a plan which has about it that which every Englishman, Irishman, Scotchman, and Welshman like—that is, we know it will work. As to the other plans—what are they? Each day brings forth a fresh crop, and at this very moment while I am speaking, unless I am misinformed, 200 hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite are assembled together upstairs discussing what is the best form of Second Chamber to set up and what are the powers it should have. This is not the eleventh hour. This is the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour. We are going to the Second Reading of our Bill, yet hon. Gentlemen opposite have not 241 settled what they mean by their proposals. At the eleventh hour Lord Curzon came forward with an entirely new proposal, differing in every respect from its predecessors. That proposal has one most interesting phrase, in which he says it is his wish:—That the democracy of this country should feel that they have some practical interest in the House of Lords.His proposal differs in every respect from every other proposal that went before it. If we really mean to have a just and reasonable settlement and to follow out the principle put forward in the very eloquent letter by a very able man—I mean the letter addressed to "The Times" eight or nine months ago—by the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith), who, as I know, is unavoidably detained from this Debate—he is not upstairs, but elsewhere—if we mean to do what he suggests, we had better pass our own moderate proposals first. Surely we had better not temporise, but attempt to put through a measure which, by an overwhelming majority of the people of this country, it was decided we should pass into law. I cannot help quoting the hon. and learned Member's words again—they have been quoted before—because they bear upon the alternative issue. He said:—What is required is such a House of Lords as will give the Liberal party, when in power, as good a chance to carry their legislation as it will give to the Conservative party when they are in power. … It must not be a change in the House of Lords which would produce identical results under less assailable forms.We all agree with that, and he goes on to say:—The only caveat is that the Second Chamber shall discharge its primary functions of seeing that the electors shall be consulted before great legislative changes are made effective.That has been done in this case. We are faced with the accomplished fact. Suppose that the lamented death of our late Sovereign had not taken place. We know full well that the House of Lords would have thrown out or hung up our Bill, and we know that the Prime Minister would have appealed to the people. Can anyone suppose that the actual throwing out of the Bill would have made the House of Lords more popular? Consequently we may say that had it not been for the untoward circumstance to which I have referred that the people would have, undoubtedly, expressed their verdict in precisely similar terms, so that the people have said twice what they wish to be done, and no one has claimed on behalf of the 242 House of Lords that they should thwart the will of the people more than twice.
I should say that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but for one phrase, made a moderate speech. He did make one very bitter statement, and a very unjustifiable statement, when he said that if this Parliament Bill becomes law, as it will, and that, as a consequence, we do our best to settle the Irish difficulty upon lines laid down most fully before the election, we should be guilty of having "failed in fair and honest dealing." What we complain of is that the right hon. Gentleman from his place in this House should say that those opposite to him have "failed in fair and honest dealing." No more abominable charge could be levelled against any party, and I say anyone who makes it must either have been dead or dreaming during the last General Election, or else must himself have been incapable of either fair or honest dealing. Not to be too serious with the right hon. Gentleman, he may, perhaps, remember that that all-powerful person, the Scottish elector, made this matter very clear. The first instance that the Prime Minister went to his constituents, an elector asked him—and it was reported in every newspaper in the country, but especially in the Tory Press, amidst shouts of joy from hon. Members opposite, if as a consequence of this Bill passing it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to pass a Home Rule Bill. Does the right hon. Gentleman opposite remember the Prime Minister's answer? Let me remind him of it. His answer was "Yes." Now then I suggest that any man who makes the charge which the right hon. Gentleman opposite did must either have been asleep during the election or must have been himself incapable of honest dealing. If the result of our proposals be to give more power to this House than is given to the Second Chamber, who is there in this House that shall dare to say that it is a bad thing to give greater power to this House and to add to its authority and to its sense of responsibility? During all the years I have been in this House the most eloquent speech I ever heard made was from an hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Conservative Benches. He said:—The dignity and the honour and the good sense of this House were the greatest assets of this nation. They seem to breathe through its very walls, and it was strange that although the building itself was destroyed these wonderful capabilities survived,We believe that to be true to-day. I have tried to show that the effect of this Bill will not be to give anything like 243 absolute power to this House, or so much power as a system of joint Sessions such as approved by right hon. Gentlemen opposite would give. But so far as it adds to the power and the dignity of the House of Commons I say that is an object that most of us desired; for it is the dignity, responsibility, good sense, and fair dealing of the House of Commons that has made this country great.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
We have naturally all listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with very great interest, and undoubtedly on this special branch of the subject he may be regarded as a considerable authority. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he had the honour of introducing to this Chamber the South African Union Bill, and upon that Bill he ventured to challenge my right hon. Friend (Mr. Alfred Lyttelton). My right hon. Friend said that he applauded the constitution of the South African Union. Does the right hon. Gentleman opposite suggest to me that because my right hon. Friend applauded the South African Union Bill that he does not applaud the Constitution of Canada or the Constitution of Australia, or the Constitution of New Zealand. Every one of these Constitutions differ in some respects, though they all agree in one or two vital respects, and it is the duty of the Opposition in this House to point out to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, and to the House itself, what they are. We ask that a Second Chamber should have sufficient power and authority to be able to resist, to check and to send back to the people, if they think it necessary, rash or reckless legislation. What we complain of is that this Parliament Bill does nothing of the kind, and provides for a Second Chamber no such authority as that which every Constitution granted by this Parliament to our Colonies has.
I was very much struck by the arithmetic of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It might have been correct, but I could not make it out. The right hon. Gentleman started his attack on my right ton. Friend by saying that my right hon. Friend had applauded the South African Constitution, and if that Constitution were applied here, the party now in power would have a vast majority for their Parliament Bill.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
And the right hon. Gentleman, counting on that, assumed that half the Upper Chamber would support the Government in power.
§ Colonel SEELY
No, no. If I said that I did not make myself clear. I was saying that the most we could assume was that there would be a majority of two to one against the Government. If I said half, I am glad to have the opportunity of making myself clear. I should have said two to one against the Government.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
The right hon. Gentleman said "Half" that House would support the Government. He corrects that statement now.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I will undertake to show with past experiences of Second Chambers throughout the Empire—I would not be positive as to many other Second Chambers—it is very often the case that the colour of the Second Chamber is almost one either for or against the Government. I shall give an instance, and a very singular instance. That was the case in the Victorian Parliament when a dispute arose between the Upper and the Lower Chamber. There was a Protectionist Government in power in Victoria. It passed a 10 per cent. tariff ad valorem. It was sent to the Upper House, the Government, however, knew that the Upper House had a strong opinion and a strong feeling against their proposals, and so they tacked it on to an Appropriation Bill, and sent it to the Upper House. The whole Second Chamber threw it out; a deadlock occurred, and what was the result? The Victorian First Chamber did not take the action which our Government is taking, but quite a different action. They withdrew from their position, and when these same legislators of Victoria and of the rest of Australia, who have had experiences of many differences between Upper and Lower Houses met to frame their Constitution, what did they do? With the assent of the Prime Minister—who did not oppose the Australian Constitution in this House—all those Australian legislators agreed to provide that the Senate of Australia should have the power to reject Money Bills, and to suggest amendments, which was equivalent to making amendments themselves. [An HON MEMBER: "That is an elected body."] That action had the approval of all Members of this House and the Prime Minister 245 himself, who now presents a Bill to this House which takes away from the Second Chamber in our Constitution all power except the power of delay. As for the power of delay, I do not see why you make it three Sessions and two years; why not three weeks and live up to the immorality of the whole thing? Seriously I ask, why not three weeks? You send a Bill once to the Second Chamber and it rejects it; you send it twice and the Second Chamber sends it back again. What do you do? Do you undertake by your Bill to give any opportunity for amendments? Do you undertake to accept any amendments, no matter how wise they are made by this House or by the Second Chamber? [An HON. MEMBER: "That can be done."] I make this statement, and if the Attorney-General can contradict it my mind will be greatly illuminated. There is nothing in this Bill, so far as my intelligence can absorb it and understand it, which provides that any amendment, except an amendment as to dates, can be adopted, and a Bill must be sent back to the House of Lords exactly as it was first produced in this House [HON. MEMBRS: "No."] Then the Bill is much more faulty in construction than I thought it was. Probably the Attorney-General will have the chance of answering this point. I read the Bill immediately before I came into the House, and it expressly states that, except for necessary Amendments as to dates, there can be no Amendment to this Bill, and the measure must be sent up absolutely as it was first passed by this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I believe that is so, but if it is not SO, then I admit that my argument is injured. I have gone upon that assumption in a very strenuous opposition to this Bill, and I have contended that no reconsideration of the Bill in this House, or in the other House, is of any value, because the Parliament Bill prevents any Amendment being accepted, and requires that the Bill shall be sent up textually the same, except so far as dates are concerned, as it left this Chamber. [An HON. MEMBER: "Except by consent."] Does any right hon. Gentleman or hon. Gentleman opposite suppose that a Bill which has been passed by this House and rejected by the Upper House for the second time would be rejected without grave reasons, and without considering very carefully all the discussion that had taken place upon it? If the Second Chamber sent back a Bill a second time under such circumstances do hon. Members suppose that those who sent it 246 back would not have many supporters from the standpoint of their own reasons in this House as well as in the Upper Chamber. I suggest that a Bill which by consent may have Amendments is a futile thing, which every hon. Member knows would not be possible. We opposed this Bill because it gives to the Second Chamber that now exists no adequate powers of any kind, in fact, it takes away its powers and does not carry out the pledges made by the Members of the Government and the party which supports the Government in this House. What are those pledges? I see a great many hon. Members present whose speeches I have read with varied interest, and hon. Members whose speeches I have heard with varied interest. Almost every hon. Member on the opposite side of the House has told his constituents that the present composition of the Second Chamber is one impossible to human intelligence, and one which would not be tolerated in any of our Colonies. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Yes; but wait a minute. What about the Dominion of Canada? In one respect I know in Canada they are life appointments and are not elected. In that respect there is a similarity between the Upper House of the Dominion of Canada and the House of Lords. I know there is one difference, and that is the hereditary element. In the desire to do away with the hereditary element my friends and myself are at one. [An HON. MEMBER: "Are you all agreed?"] Yes. If the composition of the Second Chamber is its real defect, and if the fact that its members are there for life is a real defect, why cannot the Prime Minister seek to remedy that evil at once? Why should we deprive the Second Chamber of all the powers which it has had for so many hundreds of years, powers which every other Second Chamber in the whole civilised world possesses? There is not another Second Chamber which does not possess either the power to reject and to amend Finance Bills or else the power to simply reject them. You give the House of Lords no power of rejection, and you only give them power of delay. The Prime Minister, I hope, will not think me lacking in respect if I say that he and his colleagues in this matter are thinking far more of the fortunes of the Liberal party than they are thinking of the Constitution of this country. That has been admitted from the opposite bench by the Secretary of State for War, who said, yesterday:—Do yon think that we should not have been content to go on with the House of Lords as it was, if the House of Lords would have left us alone?247Without this Bill, we cannot make any step forward either in the direction of settling the constitutional question or in the direction of those other reforms—reforms connected with Ireland, reforms connected with elections and redistribution, reforms connected with the congestion of the business of this House, which has become a scandal.I appeal to the sense of fairness of hon. Gentlemen opposite to realise what the situation is people are placed in, who are forced to negotiate without any instrument in their hands.What is the attitude of the Prime Minister and his friends? They are taking up the attitude that they must have a penalising instrument of punishment in their hands, a retaliatory instrument, or else they will not attempt to reform the House of Lords. Therefore, they practically take power to suspend the Constitution, and they use this suspensory power, this retaliatory instrument in order to bring the House of Lords to its knees. That is the kind of speech we have had in this Debate, and to my mind it represents an element of malice which I do not think ought to exist in the minds of hon. Members and the Government when dealing with a question of such gravity as the alteration of the Constitution. One hon. Member opposite said:—For thirty years I have lived and craved for this day; for thirty years I have longed to come to grips with the foes of the people.[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear.] Are hon. Members opposite really serious? [HON MEMBERS: "Yes."] My argument evidently provokes the Prime Minister to laughter, and he takes joy in the thought that he and his friends are coming to grips with the foes of the people. Does the Prime Minister accept that designation of the House of Lords?
Sir G. PARKER
That is not the spirit which I should have thought a great historical party, inheriting great traditions, would have approached this question in regard to which Mr. Gladstone spoke in these terms:—When I for one speak of the independence of the House of Lords I speak of that which is no mere name a phantom—but of that which I am anxious to Bee maintained in practice as well as in the code, as a sacred part of our constitution, and to which I attach a value second only to the value I attach to the privileges of this House.That is what Mr. Gladstone said of the House of Lords. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] You will find it in Hansard, vol. 157, p. 176. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] It matters little when Mr. Gladstone said it. It represents, as I believe 248 it represented to the last day of his life, the view which he had of the Second Chamber, and I cannot think that Mr. Gladstone would have approached this question in a spirit of levity and the spirit of retaliation and of revenge which has informed the action of the Government, and which has informed most of the speeches of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in addressing this House. They complain, and complain very bitterly, of the action of the House of Lords during the last five years. The House of Lords, at any rate, has passed over 230 Acts brought in under the aegis of the Liberal Government. I suppose most of them had the approval of the Prime Minister, and, of 237 Bills brought in, only five were rejected. With regard to those five, I would like to ask this question: Would the Licensing Bill and the Education Bill, which were rejected by the other Chamber, have the approval of the people of this country if they were brought into this House now? Is it true, as the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. J. A. Pease) said, that any Bill passed by this House has the will of the people behind it, and that it accurately represents the will of the people? If your theory that you are elected by the voice of the people is correct, and you pass Bills here, those Bills represent the voice of the people. I venture to say, however, that a payment of Members Bill, which I expect would be passed by a large majority in this House, would, if it were sent to the people of this country on a Referendum, be rejected by an overwhelming majority. I am absolutely certain Bills have been passed, and will be passed by this House, which do not represent the will of the people. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Colonel Seely) has said this Parliament Bill was before the people, and that they understood it. Can the right hon. Gentleman really make that statement again with a clear conscience?
Sir G. PARKER
Will he, on second thoughts, and when the fever of speech has left him for the moment, make the statement that the people of this country thoroughly understand this Parliament Bill?
Sir G. PARKER
Does he honestly think that the majority of the constituents of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen realise that this Bill only represents the curtail- 249 ing and the destruction of the powers of the House of Lords, and does not represent the reform of the House of Lords?
Sir G. PARKER
I venture to say that nine-tenths of the people of this country believe the Bill represents not only the restriction of the powers of the House of Lords, but also a change and an entire reconstruction of the composition of that Chamber. If that is so, then it does not represent the voice of the people, and, if the people—as I believe the majority of them do—value the safeguards presented by a powerful Second Chamber, they would not have the Bill at the price, the price of keeping this beneficent Government in power.
§ Colonel SEELY
The right hon. Gentleman asked me if I could say that with a clear conscience, and I assured him I could, for the reason that it is always known as the "Veto Bill," and it seems to me they understand it is for the purpose of curtailing the Veto of the House of Lords and not for dealing with its Constitution.
Sir G. PARKER
I am absolutely certain the majority of the people in this country also believe the Government is going to deal now with the constitution of the House of Lords, and I believe we more faithfully represent the opinions of the people of the country. After all, you have a very small majority, no majority in England, and a very small majority in other parts of Great Britain, for this Bill, and I believe we more faithfully represent the views of the majority of the people In this country. Suppose that were not so, does the Government think it is justified in making so vast a change as it cynically admits it intends to do in the interregnum between the passing of this Bill and the reform of the House of Lords? Does the Government think that is the way to approach the alteration of the Constitution of this country, which, on the whole, has stood the test of experience and is adaptable, and should be adaptable, to the development of our civilisation, to legislative progress, and to the development of ideas upon Social Reform. We know that in every branch of National Life reform takes place automatically through 250 growing influence and increasing understanding. That naturally would apply to our Constitution as to any other department of our national life. In the United States, in order to achieve a change in the Constitution such as you propose, seven years at least would be exhausted. I think I may say, without fear of contradiction, that no change in the Constitution of any great civilised country could be achieved in the time you are attempting this change in this country. It is because of that alone I think right hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to pause and reconsider their position. If this Bill is passed they will certainly have an open gate to any legislation which they choose to establish. They will be able to pass any Bill they please. All they will have to do will be to sit tight in this House, and you will have simply the operation of the turnstile and nothing more—an absolutely mechanical operation. I believe the Chancellor of the Exchequer was right in expressing the views of a great many of his friends when he said:—We have got thorn like rats in the trapThis Bill is meant to be a penalising and a retaliatory Bill, a Bill of punishment and not a Bill of rights. Right hon. Gentlemen complain of the Lords mutilating their Bills. This Government is now mutilating the Constitution. I believe it is creating a Constitution from which this country will not recover for a great many years. The Bill denies to the British people that which has been deliberately imposed upon all our Colonies by successive Governments. It takes away from the Second Chamber that which has been deliberately given to every Second Chamber in the Colonies. I do not think the Liberal Government of twenty years ago, to which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was attached, would have passed this Bill. It is a Bill of infinite and far-reaching consequences to the Constitution and to the Empire. It only opens the door to license, and not to any principle of liberty. I suppose hon. Gentlemen opposite would accept Lord Morley as a spokesman of the Liberal party. He said, in the House of Lords the other day:—The stronger, the more efficient a Second Chamber, the more will the chance of friction be intensified.That is a fair issue, and it is where we differ. We do not propose to weaken the Second Chamber. We propose to alter its composition and to have it at least partly elective. Personally I have no objection to making it wholly elective, but, if you 251 make it wholly elective, the right Hon. Gentleman knows, as is the case with the Senate of the United States, it becomes the dominant power in the Constitution. The point is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not want a strong Second Chamber. I believe they are going absolutely in the opposite direction to all the experience of every nation throughout the world. I think there should be a strong Second Chamber, but not a Second Chamber that has the power to override the will of the people. That simply means what has occurred in our Colonies and in other nations throughout the world. On a Bill being rejected, it is simply sent back for an expression of the will of the people. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite want a Chamber without power and without real functions, except the functions of sending back a Bill for reconsideration, which it will not have in any effective form. Do you think that Gentlemen fitted to take a place in that Second Chamber would accept any such position with such mutilated powers and placed in such an inferior position to their fellow-legislators, for, after all, it must not be forgotten they are fellow-legislators with us? They have the right to introduce Bills. There are many Bills which this Government and which successive Liberal Governments have thought fit to introduce into the House of Lords to secure an expression of public opinion upon them, and which have afterwards been adopted in this House and passed.
One word about the provision as to a Five-Years' Parliament. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite think that is a good thing. Anyone who has watched closely the effect of short Parliaments in the United States and other countries will not take the face value of that suggestion without protest. The Prime Minister said that with a Five Years' Parliament you are either passing from the election or going into it. What is the consequence upon the country? It is a disturbance of trade; it is a disturbance of settled legislation in this House, and it makes every Minister and every Member constantly look forward to the great conflict at home. I think that these proposals are autocratic and not democratic. It would be better for the country to have sometimes obnoxious legislation by a Second Chamber than to have the extraordinary and always obnoxious action of a tyrannical Government. The country, I believe, approves of reconstruction. 252 I do not believe it approves of emasculation. I believe the country wants a strong Government, but I do not think it wants a Government to do what it pleases when it chooses, and to retain power by driving the country to schemes of social reform which it can force through with an emasculated Second Chamber without real powers of rejection or adequate powers of revision. It is not only the Finance Veto, but it is all Veto, which is practically abolished by this Bill. It is a freely acknowledged fact, that the Second Chamber, as constituted, is largely Conservative in its character, but I do not believe there is any Second Chamber in the World that is not naturally Conservative in character. It need not necessarily identify itself with any political party, and it need not be aggressive in its action. Would the appointment of Radical Peers cure this? No doubt if you appoint 500 Radical Peers it would enable you to pass this Parliament Bill, but in order to get the Bill passed you will have invented a purely mechanical thing to carry out your will, not to achieve a reform of the Constitution, but to secure a highway for your legislation, good or bad, without let or hindrance. I confess it would give you that elementary advantage. You may say it is heroic treatment for the moment only. But in the past there has been some semblance of dignity in making peers. Some regard has been had to fitness, to public service, to benefactions, and to the high accomplishments of genius. No one will say that the House of Lords has not been fortified, and reinforced by the men appointed by this and by past Liberal Governments. They, after all, have made 2.55 peers, as against 191 created by Conservative Governments, since 1832. I think that the country would suffer a humiliation unequalled in our Parliamentary history if, for this partisan purpose, these degrading 500 peers were appointed—Napoleon's nobles of the First Empire would look like Plantagenets beside them. You would have suspended the Constitution; you would have brought in an era of wanton power. You would have produced a degradation of Parliamentary intelligence. I think I could establish that that which is accomplished by mere brute force is the execution of all wit and argument. It would mean shaken confidence in the stability and soundness of the British Constitution. It would involve a blow to Empire.
I should like to know what evils have-gone unchecked, what wrongs have gone unrighted, because Liberal legislation 253 during the last five years has not been passed by the House of Lords. I admit there are some narrow-minded people who weep and mourn because the Education Bill and the Licensing Bill were not passed. You may find such people at Ballykilbeg, or in the Shetlands, or some other out-of-the-way place. But the voice of the people is not crying for the Education Bill. A good many voices are, however, crying for the way which is opened up by this Bill, the way to reckless legislation, best expressed in the ambitions of the junior Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Keir Hardie), whose idea of good government and of a happy and contented country is expressed in these words:—From each, according to his ability; to each according to his need.That means simply the triumph of the Socialistic state. But it is a pathway opened up by the Government Bill. The Government puts that Bill forward for the subversion of the Constitution. It means Single-Chamber Government. It is a pathway which leads to a political avernus. I say that if the Government were well advised it would listen to the powerful appeals made on this side of the House by the Leader of the Opposition and other right hon. Gentlemen, who have begged them to consider, in the spirit in which they left the Conference, whether a way cannot yet be found whereby, through a Bill which would introduce reform at the same time with the adjustment of functions, the reorganisation and reconstruction of the Constitution could be brought about by a course which will not offend the views and opinions of hon. Members and of thousands of people in this country, but will give, at any rate, an idea in the minds of the people that the Government means fair play, not alone for the present, not alone for this Parliament, but for the future, which all men wish to be good and great for England—a future which cannot he good and great if you flout, in connection with the great established institutions of this country, the strong historical feeling and the strong sense of confidence in old traditions which a great number of people in this country possess and cherish. You will do justice to the country, and you will only do justice, when you bring in a Bill to accomplish both these objects—the reform of the Second Chamber and the adjustment of its functions—and not until then can we be convinced that you mean anything else except to secure a political advantage which may give you popularity for the moment, but will in the end be the 254 means of destroying the influence of your party in this country and in this Empire.
§ Mr. J. HUGH EDWARDS
Rising as I do, for the first time, to address this assembly, I feel sure I can count on the kind and sympathetic indulgence which the House invariably accords to a new speaker, I confess my task is made all the harder because I have to follow an hon. Member who has earned a reputation as a master of prose. That hon. Member (Sir Gilbert Parker) quoted Mr. Gladstone's words in regard to the House of Lords. I think it is a pity he did not also quote what Mr. Gladstone said in his last speech here in regard to that Chamber. The hon. Member asked about the Education Bill of 1906, which was thrown out by the House of Lords. He said, "Do you think for a moment the country would have approved of it?" I would like to ask him another question; What about the Education Act passed by the Unionist Government in 1902? Would that have been passed by the country if the Government of that day had resorted to the Referendum? The Unionist Government, as a matter of fact, went to the country in 1906 and were hopelessly defeated, mainly because of their attitude towards Nonconformists. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] I am entitled to the expression of my own view, I took an active part in that Election, and I know that men, like the hon. Member for Gravesend, were at special pains to show that that was a just Bill. But the country would have nothing to do with it. Had the nation-approved it, they would have ratified the principle by sending the same Government back" to power. But they did nothing of the kind. I have listened carefully to the speeches in this Debate and I have been struck by two things; firstly, the marked unanimity of feeling that the time has come when something must be done to change the centre of gravity in the House of Lords. Even the last speaker admitted that the time had come when something should be done. He went so far as to declare that he was in favour of a popularly elected Second Chamber.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
I take it you are in favour of it. That is a distinction which a master of literature alone could draw.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
At any rate there would be no difficulty in finding something better than the present House of Lords. To-night we have had reference made to the Colonial legislatures, and speakers have asked, what Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir John Ward, and other Colonial Prime Ministers would have to say with regard to this agitation over the Second Chamber. I am prepared to say that these Colonial Premiers will cry: "How in the world are you people in this old country able to live under a system of Second Chamber Government, where the only claim to distinction, and the only right of membership is heredity." They would not tolerate in any colony a Second Chamber in which the basis of membership was pure heredity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cry "Agreed," I am glad to hear it. It is something new for them to agree to that.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
Up to the last election we never heard anything of the kind from them; and it hon. Members are agreed, I would point out that when they were in power they never brought in a Bill to amend that Constitution. It may not be new to hon. Members opposite, but it is new as far as the country is concerned. Another feature of the Debate has been the marked divergence of views as to what ought to be done. The hon. Member for Walton (Mr. F. E. Smith) declares that there is nothing new in the suggestion that something must be done with the Lords. Both sides are agreed that something should be done, but what? It is there that we join issue. The Opposition suggest a further course of massage in the way of closed Conferences, but the Government find that the disease is deep-seated and malignant, and they recommend at last a surgical operation for the cutting away of the bad flesh and the poisoned tissues. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) and the hon. Member for Walton, in the excellent speeches that they made, appealed to the Government for a renewal of negotiations, and I notice that all they emphasise is the need for the reconstruction 256 of the Constitution of the House of Lords. But what I want to point out is this. We on this side of the House realise that the reconstruction of the Constitution of the House of Lords is of secondary importance. We are not so much concerned as to the number, nor even as to the personnel of the Second Chamber. What we are concerned about are its powers and its rights. The Prime Minister, speaking at Hull last November, made use of these words:—The main and dominant issue was upon these; we points. First, shall the Veto of the Lords in repaid to finance be altogether put an end to: and next, shall the Veto of the Lords in regard to our legislation be limited and cut down.According to the Prime Minister the main pivot of the whole controversy is that of the Veto. It is not the personnel, the composition, or the constitution of the House of Lords, but its power as enshrined in the Veto. And it seems to me that the difference between the two sides of the House may be expressed in this way. The Opposition are ready to skim the House of Lords of its cream and to set it apart in a new vessel as something choice and select. We on this side want to sterilise it on account of its previous pollution. You may eliminate these backwoodsmen from your Second Chamber, but you do not as the result rid the House of its antipathy to everything that savours of democracy or has the flavour of progress. You do not make a house, the drainage of which is bad, sanitary, by merely renovating its exterior. Nor do you reform an assembly which is the traditional foe of democracy by limiting its number while you leave untouched its illimitable powers of destruction. And so I take it that we here, at any rate, are agreed that the one point we must do battle upon is the question of the Veto, and I am inclined to think that even the hon. Member for Walton, who is daily becoming more Liberal and progressive in his views, in his heart feels that the time has come when the Veto must be removed from an irresponsible assembly such as the House of Lords. Perhaps the House will pardon me if in illustration of my argument I remind the House of the historical origin of this word "Veto," which is the pivot of the controversy. It dates back to the days when Rome was mistress of the world, and when all the administrative and legislative power was vested in the Senate. The Roman Senate was as essentially aristocratic and exclusive as is the modem House of Lords. All the 257 wealth, all the social prestige, was concentrated there, and yet these Roman Senators had a twinge of conscience. They looked upon themselves and practically said, "It is not fair that we should have all the power while there is a great mass of people in Rome who have no spokesman or representative here." So they constituted a Tribuneship for the people, and allowed them to have one spokesman who should speak on their behalf and in their name. And whenever a law was passed by the Roman Senate which was calculated to react harshly on the great mass of the people that Tribune, in the name of the people, had simply to say "Veto," "I forbid," and the law was at once withdrawn.
So, in its origin the Veto was an instrument for safeguarding the interests of the masses in regard to legislation in ancient Rome. It was the representatives of the people who had the right to Veto. But in modern England things are reversed. It is a non-representative assembly that possess and exercises the right to veto legislation which is intended to promote the welfare of the people. I have noticed that hon. Members are obsessed with two great fears in regard to the passing of this Bill. One fear is the fear of Single-Chamber Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, I believe that hon. Members have that fear. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear."] But the remarkable thing is that you did not have that fear when you were on this side of the House. The other fear that they have is the fear of subsequent Bills passing into law in the train of this Bill. Members on this side have gone through both experiences. It was pointed out by Lord Rosebery that whenever a Conservative Government is in power we have nothing but Single-Chamber Government. As to the functions of a real Second Chamber I should have been very glad if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lyttelton) who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench to-night had told us, after extolling the virtues of a Second Chamber, what are its real functions. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that the function is three-fold, revision, discussion, and delay. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head in dissent, but I cannot think of a Second Chamber having better qualifications than those—the right to discuss, revise, and delay. Whenever there has been a Conservative Government in power these functions have never been exercised by 258 the House of Lords. They have barely discussed Tory measures. They have never revised them, and they have certainly never delayed them. I confess I am a novice in these things, and I am ready to learn, and I shall be very glad if any speaker will say how many times the House of Lords has ever revised or delayed any Tory measure sent up by this House. I wait for an answer. Possibly the hon. Member for Gravesend, when he goes scavenging through Mr. Gladstone's speeches, may look up that point as well.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
I have here a list of Bills passed between 1887 and 1905, brought in by a Unionist Government, which were amended by the Lords. These Rills represent in number at least twenty-five.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
I shall be very glad to see the list, but I venture to say now, without seeing it, that if the Lords revised them at all they made them more Tory and reactionary. I am quite sure of it. They would not be true to their calling if they had not. I know that they have mutilated every Land Bill sent up to them, and we dare not send up to them anything dealing with the Church question. The other point that I have to make is that hon. Members are afraid that if the Veto Bill goes through and becomes law, then following upon that Act will come the passing of a Home Rule Bill. The hon. Member for Walton spoke of carrying the Home Rule Bill by a trick. I think that was the picturesque phrase that he used. It ill becomes the Tory party to hold out that bogey before the country. What happened in 1900 when the Unionists went to the country? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), whose absence we on this side deplore as much as hon. Members on the other side, made an appeal to Nonconformists. The right hon. Gentleman appealed to the Nonconformists, and said they might safely vote for the Unionists this time, as the only question before the country was the South African settlement, and there was no other question. There is no doubt that hundreds of thousands of Nonconformists in this country at that time voted Unionist because they thought the Unionist Government, being responsible for the war, ought to carry it through. What happened? When they had secured their majority the Unionist Government brought in their Education Act of 1902. The Noncon 259 formists up and down the country cried out against this legislation, and they felt that the Unionist party sneaked that Bill through Parliament on the strength of a false undertaking which they gave to the country at the General Election.
Even the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir Gilbert Parker), at the last election, said if this Bill went through Home Rule will follow. So he prepared his constituents for it, and the result was he had a smaller majority last time than he had ever had. Then the Ulster Members said if this Bill goes through it is the only way the Irish Members have of getting Home Rule. I quite agree that they can never hope to have Home Rule while you have the House of Lords in existence—never. But more than that. Home Rule is not going to be the only Bill which the Government will bring forward. We want our Welsh Disestablishment Bill. There are thirty-four Members returned for Wales, and out of the thirty-four there are thirty-one pledged to Disestablishment, and there are only three who are opposed to it. One is the hon. Member for Denbigh District (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), who gained a great victory. He smiles at the thought of it. Twelve months last January he was returned with a majority of eight. Last November there was an immense increase. He was returned by a majority of nine, and I noticed in one of the newspapers that it was said "Great unionist victory. Death-blow to Disestablishment." The fact that the hon. Member has increased his majority by one is a deathblow to Disestablishment.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
On a point of Order, I ask the hon. Member to quote what I said. I deny the statement.
§ Mr. EDWARDS
The hon. Member misunderstood me. I was not quoting him. I was quoting a Tory newspaper. I do not think the hon. Member would make such a statement as that. He knows that if it had been 900 majority it would not have been a death-blow to Welsh Disestablishment. I do not mind interruption. I am afraid that some of my facts are very unpalatable. The Welsh Church Commission was appointed a short time ago, and the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) was a very 260 active member of that Commission. The-statistics have been published, and show over half a million members of Nonconformist churches in Wales. Mark that: not adherents, not occasional supporters, but over half a million full members of Nonconformist churches in Wales. On the other-hand there are less than 200,000 Churchmen. And yet in the House of Lords there is not a single Welsh Nonconformist to-day. Hon. Members opposite tell us that that House represents the people, and yet you have a whole nation of Nonconformists without a single representative in the House of Lords. It is not a change of personnel that we want. I am prepared to make another confession. If you reduced the numbers of the House of Lords to six, consisting of the four Welsh bishops. Lord Lansdowne, and Lord Halsbury, we could never have justice for Wales. Our only hope is to remove the Veto of the Lords, and that is why we, as Welsh Members, join with Irish Members in such a demand. We look upon this Bill not as an end in itself, but as-the Chairman of the Welsh party said, as a means to an end. We want to get something we cannot hope to get from a Liberal Government until you remove the Veto of the Lords. But once that Veto goes, and go it will, we shall present our I.O.U. to the Government. We are entitled to it.
The hon. Member (Mr. F. E. Smith) tomorrow night is going to speak at a Welsh dinner at which the toast will be given "Wales—a Nation," and he will hear that the welsh were here even before his forbears were, and I only hope that, just as Liberals who go over to the House of Lords, and, breathing the atmosphere of that Chamber, become Tory, on the same principle, when he breathes the atmosphere of a Welsh gathering around a Welsh festive board, he will come back transformed and changed in regard to his views on Welsh questions. The Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) the other day spoke of Nationalism as atavism. All the Noble Lord's forbears were Welsh, and if atavism applied in his case he would also be found on the Welsh side, side by side with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, clamouring for the removal of the Veto of the Lords, and for the introduction of a Disestablishment Bill for Wales. The Prime Minister spoke of the House of Lords as having committed suicide. I think it would be more accurate to say that the House of Lords met its death by misadventure. At the instigation 261 and under the direction of Lord Milner the Lords attempted to cross the Red Sea on dry ground, but, unfortunately for them, Lord Milner's dam burst, and, that dam having burst, they were overwhelmed with disaster. I therefore suggest that when a memorial is set up to the lost Lords—the lost tribes—no better epitaph could be inscribed on the memorial than the words of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain)—I think they were the most eloquent words he ever uttered:—Here lies the corpse of the House of Lords. During the time of its existence, it has protected every abuse and sheltered every privilege; it has denied justice and delayed reform; irresponsible without independence, obstinate without courage; arbitrary without judgment, and arrogant without knowledge.
§ Mr. W. ASTOR
Like the hon. Member (Mr. J. H. Edwards) two points have struck me in the Debate so far, but they do not happen to be the same points. The two points which have impressed me most have been first, that this does not pretend to be a final settlement of the constitutional question, and not only does it not deal with the reform of the House of Lords, but the Preamble tells us that it will be necessary to have a second Parliament Bill at some future time to settle a second time the relations which are to exist between the two Houses. Therefore, this Bill is nothing more than a stop-gap Bill. We are invited to spend a great deal of time on it now and we shall have at some future time to go all over the same ground. The second point which struck me was that there is a distinct danger connected with the fact that the constitutional question is not settled once for all. Although it is only a temporary measure, yet it enables permanent legislation of a most serious character to be carried into law. I should like to think that hon. Members opposite really mean business when they say they want reform of the House of Lords. I do not think they mean business when they say they intend to reform the House of Lords. This is the same Bill, we have been told, to a comma, as was introduced a year ago. Hon. Members opposite have had twelve months in which to think out their scheme. A year ago the Bill contained also an expression of their intention to reform the House of Lords at some future time. No one has ever suggested that right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite were lacking in originality or imagination. It is inconceivable to suppose that if they really meant to reform the House of Lords they would not by now have had a scheme or several schemes ready. It is inconceiv 262 able to suppose that if they really meant to change the composition of the Upper Chamber they would not have had some other proposal beside that crude one which will probably be handed down to posterity as the "Charge of the Five Hundred."
But not only have they not produced a scheme of reform, they have not even told us approximately to a year when they propose to introduce this reform. How long are we going to waif? Have we to wait until every bit of legislation which is desired by every section which makes up the Government has been passed into law? Have we to wait until all the legislation has been passed, until there is no more legislation, and then, and then only, to try to reform the legislative machinery. We on this side, on the other hand, are genuinely anxious to reform the House of Lords. If hon. Members opposite doubt It they can very easily test our sincerity. They can bring in a measure to reform the House of Lords on the most popular basis, and, if we oppose it, then and then only will they be justified in saying we are against it. For my own part, I would only assure hon. Members opposite that if they would add to this Bill not only a preamble, but also a postscript, I would join them in proposals to make more truly and proportionately representative, not only the House of Lords, but also the House of Commons. We have been told that this Bill has been before the electors and that the Government have a mandate to pass it into law. By the same process of reasoning in twelve months' time we shall be told they have a mandate to pass Home Rule. This Bill, I suggest, not only is not understood fully in the country, it is not even understood fully in this House. An important measure can only be grasped when it has been through every stage of the House of Commons. It can only be really understood when it has been subjected to the searching fire of Amendments. Then and then only one really understands the probable consequence of such a measure as this. The public is in a very different situation when it is invited to vote on a Bill which has been fully discussed, and when it is invited to vote merely upon general platitudes, which may mean anything or nothing. During the last election Liberal speakers told the electors from platforms a great deal about curbing the power of hereditary legislators, in the same way as they spoke amiably but not repeatedly about self-government for Ireland. But it 263 is only after this Bill has been fully discussed in all its stages, here in this House, that its probable consequences can be really understood. If it were fully understood, if it had been so discussed, the result of the recent elections would have been very different indeed. I do not want to suggest that the result of my own election would have been different. If hon. Members opposite had had any confidence in being able to win the election when this Bill was fully understood, they could easily have waited until it had been through all its stages here, and then seen what the result of the Election would have been.
This Parliament Bill appears to have had two objects—the real object Home Rule, the ostensible object to get back at and hit at the House of Lords. Undoubtedly during the recent Election hon. Members opposite got much support from voters who had grievances or who fancied they had grievances against the House of Lords. Undoubtedly they got the support of electors who had been in favour of the Licensing Bill and of certain educational proposals. They probably had the support of Nonconformist voters to a certain extent in the country but it was these very Nonconformist voters who in the past killed Home Rule. It is these Nonconformist voters who, if Home Rule were put before them as a single issue, would kill it once again. The Prime Minister reminded us the other day that he had referred to self-government for Ireland at the Albert Hall. He did not remind us—it would not have been necessary—that he had not tried during the last two elections to get much support from English voters by rubbing Home Rule into the Electors. He did not dangle Home Rule before the English electors in order to increase his power during the election. I suggest that there are not many hon. Members opposite who attribute their presence here as representing English constituencies to the fact that they put Home Rule largely before the electors in their constituency. There are probably far more Liberal candidates who attribute their absence from this House to the fact that Home Rule played an important part in their Constituency. I can give an instance of ray own in Plymouth. I was lucky enough there to have a strong branch of the United Irish League. They realised the meaning of the Parliament Bill. They realised that it meant Home Rule and they understood fully the meaning of Home Rule. They saw to 264 it that the electors in Plymouth also understood the meaning of Home Rule, with the result that the representation of that borough, which used to be on that side of the House is now on this side. Hon. Members below the Gangway support this Parliament Bill because they think it means Home Rule for Ireland. Hon. Members opposite would probably agree with me when I say that if this becomes law it will be impossible to consult the electorate of the United Kingdom upon Home Rule.
The safeguard, as I understand it, against the electors having a measure passed over their heads which they did not approve of is, in the words of the Prime Minister, agitation. By this Parliament Bill a measure can be delayed by the House of Lords for two years. We all, wherever we may sit, deplore the advent of a General Election because it is bad for trade. Hon. Members opposite, I always understood, were opposed to the Referendum because they said it was a miniature election and would upset trade in the country. When the fate of the famous Budget was in suspense we were told it was bad for the credit of the country and bad for trade, but, after all, the fate of the Budget was only in suspense a few months. A General Election only lasts two or three months. The Referendum would be only a matter of weeks, or perhaps a few days, and yet under this Bill in order to ascertain the will of the electors, as is done at an election, the time required would be two years. There would have to be agitations, processions, and petitions in order to ascertain what the people thought upon a big measure. Not only would this Parliament Bill make it difficult to ascertain the will of the electors, but it would also make it more difficult to ascertain the individual opinion of this House. I have been very much struck since coming here to hear hon. Members on both sides of the House say that the day of the influence of the private Member is past. It is quite evident that the day of groups has come. We have the members of the Irish party claiming to be a separate group, and we have the members of the Labour party also claiming to be a separate group. They would be highly indignant if you suggested that they were merely the tail of the Liberal party. They claim the right of criticising, and of carrying criticism to such an extent that they claim the right of voting against the Liberal party upon big questions.
265 One can easily imagine that the Liberal party might be in office dependent for tenure of office and existence upon the goodwill and support of certain groups. One can imagine in that case that the Liberal Government might introduce in rapid succession measures for Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, and a Bill for the reversal of the Osborne Judgment. These matters might be delayed for two years by the House of Lords. If the Irish party wanted Home Rule, it would be necessary for them to keep the Government in office for two years, and if the Labour party wanted the measure in which they were specially interested, they would have to support the Government through thick and thin in order to keep them in office. In that way they would lose their right of voting against the Government. We should have the somewhat original and pleasing spectacle of the Irish party voting for high licence duties with an alacrity they did not display when the Budget was under discussion, and we should have the Labour party going into the Lobby and voting for a big Navy. They would lose their individuality. They would be bound hand and foot to the Liberal party. Not only that, but the power of the Cabinet, which is already great, would be largely increased in the House of Commons. Therefore, I am opposed to the Parliament Bill because it is not a final settlement of the constitutional question. Although not a permanent measure, it enables legislation of a most serious nature to be carried into law. Home Rule may or may not be desired by the electors at the present time. In 1886 and in 1893, the electors of the United Kingdom did not want Home Rule, but if the Parliament Bill had been the law of the land in 1893 it would have been possible for the then Government to carry Home Rule through, although the election which came soon afterwards showed that the electors of Great Britain did not then want Home Rule. This Bill appears to be framed chiefly in order to bring into law a measure which has been twice before the electorate and twice defeated. It appears to be framed to carry through this measure over the heads of the electorate of the United Kingdom. I cannot for the life of me see how anyone can support the Bill who claims to represent modern democracy.
§ Mr. BRADY
The Debate has presented some interesting characteristics, and not the least interesting are the two maiden speeches which I am sure the House listened to with the greatest pleasure. 266 The hon. Member for Mid-Glamorgan (Mr. J. H. Edwards) set an example to the House in the point and brevity of his remarks. I shall endeavour to follow his good example as regards brevity, though I do not hope to emulate it as regards point. The hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Astor) made a very characteristic speech in view of the party to which he belongs, and I hope he wall not think me disrespectful if I suggest that the speech is exactly what we would expect from a member of that party when addressing the House for the first time. I think it must have been burned in long ago on the minds of members of the party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs that whatever else is spoken of in this Debate nobody on this side of the House above the Gangway has spoken of the Veto question. We have heard a great deal about "Dollar Dictation." We have heard from the hon. Member for Plymouth a great deal about Home Rule, and it may be that before the Debate closes on Thursday night we shall hear more about "Rome Rule." I have not the least doubt that before the eventful hour of eleven o'clock on Thursday night is reached we shall hear something further about "Militant Ulster." I venture to remind the House that we are engaged in discussing none of these things. We are concerned at present with a factor which is overlooked. The bedrock and under-lying factor of the Debate is that the time has come when the People, with a capital "P," to quote the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith), are determined that a small and narrow class shall no longer thwart national progress. I use the words "thwart national progress" in relation not to the question of Ireland, but as they affect this great Empire. A famous comic journal has recently referred in a very characteristic and interesting picture to the "Old Tory" party and the "Young Tory" party. In my opinion, the christening is rather an unhappy one, because I think the gentlemen who represent the traditions of Toryism to-day might be much more properly called "old Tories" than those who represented Tory principles twenty years ago. Their failure to grasp the trend of recent political events has been evidenced during the last Parliament and during the last General Election, and it is as evident to-day on the Tory benches as it was when the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman proposed his famous Resolutions with which, in effect, we are dealing in this Parliament Bill. I do not 267 suggest that this inability or disinclination to discuss the real problem before the House is confined to hon. Members on the back benches above the Gangway. That is evident from the public utterances of even distinguished Members of the late Tory Government and would-be Members of the next Tory Government.
The hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division has been referred to more than once this evening in terms of appreciation. To be quite candid, we must recognise that the hon. and learned Member brings to any subject to which he addresses himself very exceptional talent; but I venture to say that sometimes he allows his audience to mistake facility of expression for political insight. Sometimes his remarks on political questions have not that depth we should expect from him, and certainly they are not always free from offensiveness. That is a very serious statement to make, but I hope with the permission of the House to justify it. He made a speech at Battersea on 18th November last. It was a very remarkable time, inasmuch as it was practically on the very eve of the General Election. The hon. and learned Member did not think it beneath the dignify of his silk gown to refer to the Irish party as "a hired gang of bullies." I do not quote that expression for the purpose of taking any exception to it on behalf of my colleagues, because I think the House will agree that language of that kind does not do the Irish party any harm, and if any harm is inflicted by it at all it is not upon those to whom the hon. and learned Member was referring. I quote it only as showing his unwillingness to address himself to the particular point at issue. It served a very good purpose on that occasion, inasmuch as the net result was a substantial increase in the majority by which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Burns) was returned. Not content with making that reference to the Irish party, the hon. and learned Member thought it tactful to refer to my friends of the Labour party by saying that they were "roaring lions outside the House of Commons, but jackals and poodles of the Government in it." It is in this way that the discussion of a great political problem is approached by the Tory party, that is if the Tory party are to be judged by the utterances of their spokesmen. Personalities, irrelevancies and bogies are trotted out to meet 268 the serious and difficult problems of national Government. I venture to think that the greatest enemies of Toryism are to be found within its own ranks, and that those who aspire to lead the Tory party have failed to ride abreast or ahead of the wave of democracy which is spreading over these islands. The party has come to be led by men of a reactionary type who are incapable of reading the signs of the times and seeing that future in which they shall not rule. The Tory party have voluntarily saddled themselves with what I may call, without disrespect, the incubus of the House of Lords. It is a very heroic thing for a man to go to the rescue of his drowning fellow, but it sometimes happens, unless the rescuer is an expert swimmer, that two lives are lost instead of one.
I venture to suggest, whatever be their motive, the heroism which has inclined the Tory party to espouse this particular question as far as it affects the House of Lords is not a policy calculated to promote its own interests either in this House or outside it. By its senseless policy, the Tory party has involved itself in the destruction of the House of Lords. I am sure hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway will not dissent from a quotation from the late Lord Randolph Churchill, who in 1884 exclaimed:—I know and I will not conceal that there are still a few in our party who have that lesson yet to learn, the lesson of trust the people, and who have yet to understand that the Tory party of to-day is no longer identified with that small and narrow class which is connected with the ownership of land.And again, even at the risk of more quotation from that eminent, brilliant, and far-seeing statesman, I would remind hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway of another remarkable prophecy which he made, when a certain illustrious Leader was promoted to the chief place in Conservative circles. He said:—Tory democracy, the genuine article, is at an end.A frantic effort is now being made at reform and natural curiosity would impel some of us on these benches to ask hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway what happened in that Committee Room upstairs this afternoon? I have no doubt if we asked the question they would not tell us, but I would like to ask the hon. Member above the Gangway, who made such a brilliant maiden speech to what particular group did he belong in the upper room, because I am quite satisfied that there was no more unanimity among hon. Gentlemen 269 in that Committee Room upstairs than there has been unanimity on the floor of this House on the same question or out side in the country. They all come forward now as has been so well said by the Assistant-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Colonel Seely): I do not care to speak this evening of the right hon. Gentleman's contribution to the Debate, because I would wish that some more experienced member of my party would respond on behalf of the Irish party to that admirable speech, a speech which is only in consonance with the expressions of opinion that have been given from that bench from the very beginning of this Parliament, and which we also recognise contain the element of the greatest hopefulness for Ireland. But to go back to this question of reform, it is advanced, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, fifty-nine minutes after the eleventh hour. We did not hear very much about reform during the General Election. In order not to do hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway an injustice, again I have to refer to the statement made no later than last Monday evening in this House by the hon. and learned Member for Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith). Speaking on the First Reading of this Bill, he said:—We say that reform is to come, and ought to conic now.The hon. and learned Gentleman reminded the House that he wrote a letter to the newspapers about twelve months ago advocating reform and pointing out the urgency of reform. I may remind the House that the epistles to his brethren of the hon. and learned Member do not at once receive enthusiastic adoption even on his own side of the House. But be that as it may, I do not think it can be denied by hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway that this cry for reform is a new-found cry, and that very little was heard of it during the General Election. I wonder if the hon. and learned Gentleman would have been so anxious for reform if his party had been returned to power at the General Election. He was very sanguine about that return. Speaking at Battersea, he said:—If the Leader of the Opposition was returned to power as he believed he would be—we will say nothing about his gift of prophecy—Tariff Reform would be introduced within three months.I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman, or any Member in this House above the Gangway, to say was there one word on that occasion spoken by responsible Members 270 of the Tory party about reform of the House of Lords? The platform in Batter-sea was graced by another very eminent and very eloquent forensic pillar, the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the University of Dublin (Sir E. Carson). I am not aware that he said anything on that occasion about reform of the House of Lords. It was all Tariff Reform then. It is all reform of the House of Lords now. But I venture to think that if the right hon. Gentleman and his party were sitting on that bench instead of in the place they occupy, you would not hear one word about reform of the House of Lords.
§ Mr. BRADY
Nor, as my Friend suggests, of Home Rule either. The argument about Home Rule to which my hon. and learned Friend refers is one of these old rusty weapons which hon. Gentlemen for Ulster and elsewhere take out of their Tory armoury from time to time and burnish and brighten up for all they are worth, thinking that they are going to do very effective work with it. But, like the Dollar Dictation, the Ulsteria, the Rome Rule, and all the rest of it, it may be thrown away on the scrap-heap of disused Tory shibboleths. If the Tory party wish to regain that position in the country, which most of us this side of the House below the Gangway think they have lost for some time, they will have finally to discard old methods and antediluvian ideas both regarding the Veto Bill and other measures, and realise in their aims and objects that Tory Democracy, which Lord R. Churchill defined to be "a Government who in all branches of their policy and all features of their administration are animated by lofty and Liberal ideas."
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I have listened very carefully to the Debate, and I have been peculiarly struck with various arguments used on the other side of the House as attempting to demonstrate that the real objection to this Bill is that the people at the last General Election never understood the Bill, and further, that the only object of the Bill is to provide a means whereby Home Rule may be smuggled through the House. I think that the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Astor), in order to demonstrate the power of the Irishmen in this matter, said that there was a branch of the United Irish League in Plymouth, and that it took great care during his contest to let the people know what Home 271 Rule really meant. One would naturally conclude from that that the United Irish League in every other constituency took care to see that the people understood Home Rule, and if the hon. Member recognises, as he said just now, that the people in Plymouth understood Home Rule; and, seeing that a majority in this House has been returned in spite of all the arguments against it, I think that that is the strongest possible admission that the elecors certainly understood even the Home Rule qeustion.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I am trying to point out that there are much stronger branches in other constituencies, and if the branch in Plymouth had the effect which the hon. Member suggests, then it is obvious that they have used the same power in other constituencies, with the result that I have already described. Apart from that, apart entirely from what the United Irish League did, in order to persuade the people what Home Rule was, there is no hon. Gentleman on that side who can deny for a moment that in practically every constituency their own supporters did all they possibly could to tell the people what Home Rule did not really mean, and in spite of all the misrepresentations we find the Government returned by a large majority. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. A. Lyttelton) paid this party what I consider a very fine compliment. He said that the great danger of passing this Bill was that it would give a weapon to the Labour party, which would be able later on to use it against the Government in favour of Single Chamber Government. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir Gilbert Parker), at a later stage, said that from his knowledge of history, there was not a Second Chamber in the world which had not, at some time or another come into conflict with the First Chamber. I think, instead of that being an argument against us on these benches, it is the strongest possible argument against the Second Chamber entirely. Therefore, we are not prepared to follow the hon. Member for Gravesend on that point. But we join issue with him on another statement. He 272 quoted a speech from Mr. Gladstone, and attempted to demonstrate that Mr. Gladstone opposed amendment of the House of Lords. When asked for the date of that speech, he simply replied that the date did not matter, that it was quite immaterial when the speech was delivered. Surely that cannot be advanced seriously from that side, because the very first answer to a suggestion of that kind would be to refer to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, which at an earlier stage of his career were certainly worse than anything that has ever been said on this side of the House in their attacks on the power of the House of Lords. I think that those speeches are at any rate an answer to the hon. Member for Gravesend.
I listened last night to a statement by an hon. Member on the opposite side, and I was rather struck by the manner in which he approached this question. He asked us to assume that a stranger entered this country, and for the first time picked up the Parliament Bill. The hon. Member observed that the first thing that would strike the stranger would be that this measure was in itself incomplete; therefore, he said, they were justified in looking at this question not from the standpoint of party politicians, not from the interest of one's own particular party, but entirely from the standpoint of a stranger. I am prepared to view the question from that standpoint. I am prepared to assume that the stranger, entirely ignorant of this political controversy, entirely ignorant of the relationship between the two Houses, but with a knowledge of Parliamentary procedure, picks up this Bill for the first time, and, when he has done so, I submit that his comment would not be that the Bill in itself is incomplete, but that the very first question he would ask would be, What are the causes which are responsible for a measure of this kind? What is responsible for bringing us to the position that a Bill of this kind is necessary. It is true that it is frequently and fairly stated on the other side of the House that the various supporters of the Government are not all agreed upon the same purpose; but it is equally true that they are all agreed that there is a real and genuine grievance against the other House. Let us assume that the first question was addressed by this stranger to Irish Members. The great bulk of Irish Members would not say that they support this Government Bill alone for the purpose of Home Rule. Irish Members 273 are not keen on this Government Bill wholly and solely because they want Home Rule. The great majority o£ that Party are supporting it not merely because it is a means to Home Rule, but because they have long recognised that the Lords have been the enemies of the Irish people. Their grievance is not merely on the Home Rule question. The whole history of Ireland proves conclusively that the Lords have been the enemies of the Irish people.
Surely it is not for hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House to argue that the Government majority, because it is made up of different sections of the House is not justified in supporting the Bill, simply because of the ulterior motive of Home Rule. The same argument might be applied to all of us on these benches. It has been said that we of the Labour party have no concern for the Empire. Our presence here, drawn as we are from the workshop, from the mine, and from the railway, unable perhaps to address the House in the manner to which it has always been accustomed, in the language of gentlemen who have had far better opportunities than many of us on these benches—the very presence of forty-two Members forming the Labour party in this House, separate and distinct, holding no allegiance to any party—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh,"]—I say separate and distinct owing no allegiance to any party, but prepared to support any measure which in our opinion is for the betterment of the people we represent, is in itself emphatic testimony to the fact that we have concern for the Empire. Further, I say that our presence is the strongest possible argument against the House of Lords. It is because the people are gradually being educated, it is because they are at last exercising their political powers, that this measure is receiving their support, unfortunately for the House of Lords they have chosen a bad moment to enter into war with the democracy. Frankly and fearlessly, as I told my Constituents, I am against amending the House of Lords, and I boldly declared that I stood for the ending of the House of Lords. But I am not blind to the fact that the great bulk of the people are not in favour of ending the House of Lords, and, therefore, I recognise that we can go no faster than the general opinion of the people permits. Although I and the party with which I am associated stood for the ending of that Assembly, yet we do recognise that this Bill goes one stage towards curtailing the power of that House. It is because we believe it goes in 274 the right direction, it is because we believe that it will open the road to many reforms, and, because we believe that history proves conclusively, even so far as our party is concerned, that the Lords have opposed our measures, that we are desirous of seeing a curtailment of the powers of the other House in order that social reforms may go forward, and that we give hearty support to the Government Bill.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
It seems to me that this agitation against the House of Lords which has resulted in this Bill has been engineered in a very skilful way from the beginning by the party opposite. There is a considerable number of Members in the House who were not in the Parliament from 1906 to 1910, but those of us who were in the Parliament of 1906 well remember that at a very early stage the Government had made up its mind to send to the Lords first-class Bills, framed in such a way that it was absolutely certain that they would be rejected by that assembly. We know that on the Licensing Bill, the Education Bill, the Plural Voting Bill, and other Bills, making a total of five large Bills rejected by the House of Lords, was built the whole case of the Government for the restriction, but, as we say, the destruction of the Veto of the other House. All these five Bills were drawn up in such a way their provision were so-drastic and far reaching, that it was known beforehand by every Member on the Front Bench opposite that the House of Lords would be bound to reject them. No one can deny it—I hear no sound of dissent at any rate. We are all familiar with the phrase which was in vogue at that time, of "filling up the cup." That was the operation of filling up the cup. But we also remember that in the intervals of that process some 237 Bills were passed by the House of Lords against those five-which were rejected. When the Government desired to do so they knew perfectly well how to frame a Bill to ensure its rejection by the other House; they knew perfectly well beforehand that it would not be accepted by that assembly. The whole of this agitation is built up on an absurdity, a gross absurdity. The Government determined for some reason which I have not yet fathomed to get rid of the House of Lords altogether, and they deliberately set about sending up such measures to them that their fate could only be that they would be thrown out by the Upper House. The so-called filling up of the cup 275 came to a crisis when they brought in their Budget. The Budget proves more clearly than any measure which preceded it what was the principle upon which the Government proceeded. It was framed in such a way that it was bound to be thrown out by the House of Lords. What did the Chancellor of the Exchequer do when he was framing it? He looked round for that class of property which he knew would cause the most opposition in the House of Lords, and among hon. Members on this side of the House. He chose land and he chose the great brewing and licensing interest, knowing perfectly well that these were subjects which would excite more opposition both from hon. Members on this side and in the House of Lords than any other he could have taken. He did that, and everything turned out exactly as he expected.
We resisted the Budget to the best of our ability in the House of Commons, and when it went to the House of Lords, so revolutionary and novel were the proposals it contained, that the Lords were perfectly right in taking the view that they were so absolutely different from any proposals submitted by any Chancellor of the Exchequer that they ought to be submitted to the people before they were passed into law. That was supposed to be the final crime of the House of Lords, which deserved, in the opinion of hon. Members opposite, their utter destruction. As a matter of fact, what was the verdict of the country on the attitude taken by the House of Lords? We must always bear in mind that the party opposite continually accused the House of Lords of having thwarted, or endeavoured to thwart the will of the people in this matter of the Budget. As a matter of fact, the House of Lords did nothing of the sort. The phrase which hon. Members opposite use is that the Lords "threw the Bill out." The phrase we use is: That the Lords "referred the Bill to the people" for their decision. That is a very different matter. What was the result of that reference? I would like hon. Members to remember that when this House reassembled after the election in January, 1910, it was owing to the promises or pledges which had been given by the Prime Minister to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) that the right hon. Gentleman was able to command a majority of this House. But it is equally well known that every Member belonging to 276 the Nationalist party was as much opposed to the Budget as hon. Members sitting on these benches. If the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, and those Members who follow his Leadership, had voted according to their convictions, and according to the wishes of their Constituents, the Government, instead of having a majority of 124, would have been in an actual minority of forty in this House. That completely exonerates the House of Lords for the action they took on the Budget. It is one of the faults of our system—I know it is very difficult to remedy it—that on a measure like the Budget eighty votes in this House can be deliberately cast in a direction opposite to that in which the persons who sent the Members here desired them to give their votes. The constituencies of Ireland were dead against the Budget. The constituencies which are represented by some of my hon. Friends on these benches were probably more in favour of the Budget than nine-tenths of the constituents of the Nationalist party. There is no doubt that the licence clauses of the Budget were, to some extent, favourably received in that part of Ireland from whence I come; but in the Nationalist part of that country it was these very licensing provisions which made the Budget so unpopular in Ireland. I think, therefore, that the House of Lords was absolutely justified in its action with reference to the Budget.
The position when we came back in January, 1910, was that the Government was kept in power, after the election fought on the Budget, by eighty Irish Members, who hated the Budget. That was not a very satisfactory tenure of office for any Government. In the beginning of 1910 the Nationalist party was induced to forego their natural desire to vote against the Budget by a vague promise on the part of the Prime Minister that he would introduce a Home Rule Bill on the first opportunity. We had all the happenings of last year and the election of December. The Leader of the Nationalist party was not going to be put oft" with any vague promise that a Home Rule Bill would be introduced, but he insisted, as he had the right to, seeing that he had the Government in the hollow of his hand, first of all that the Veto Bill should be pushed through with all speed, and, as soon as that was disposed of, that a Home Rule Bill should be introduced. Furthermore, and this is a most important point, although it has never been definitely stated, I am perfectly certain an arrangement was come to be- 277 tween him and the Prime Minister that no Appeal to the country should take place on the question of Home Rule after the Veto Bill had been passed, but that a Home Rule Bill should be brought in and passed by the same House of Commons as dealt with this Veto. I must say, being an Irishman, and one who is very strongly opposed to Home Rule, that it is this aspect of Home Rule or the bearing which Home Rule has on this question, which appeals to me most. I am glad to see that for the first time an attempt has been made today to reply to the charge which we on this side of the House make that Home Rule was not before the people at the election, and that it is attempted to rush Hom Rule into law by means of a trick. That is what we say, by means of a trick, and a very unworthy trick too. How has that charge been answered? I am glad to see the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Seely), who attempted to answer it, in his place. I venture to say that all the answers which have been given on the subject have been of the most ludicrous and absurd nature. The right hon. Gentleman told us what he thought was sufficient for a vital question like Home Rule, and I submit the granting of Home Rule is as great a constitutional question in itself as is the restriction of the Veto of the House of Lords. The right hon. Gentleman, apparently in answer to the charge that they did not put Home Rule on the forefront of their programme is content to reply that if they did not, that we saw to it that it was put well before the electors. I must say that that is quite a new method of electioneering.
Here is a matter of the most absolutely first-class importance, quite as important as the Veto Bill, yet, forsooth, out of the whole number of Radical and Liberal candidates who sat at the election, there were eighty-four Members who put it in their address, and 186 Members in whose address it did not appear in any shape or form. Those figures, I submit, are an absolute answer to the statement that is sought to be borne out by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, namely, that hon. Members opposite seriously put this question forward in their programme. We know perfectly well they did not do anything of the sort, and for several reasons. A great many Members of the Liberal party are as much opposed to Home Rule as I am. I quite accept the statement of the hon. Member below the Gangway; I know he is an out and out Home Ruler, There are, I venture to say, quite a large section of the 278 Liberal party who are as much opposed to Home Rule in their heart of hearts as we are. There are others who, although they may be quite prepared to see it granted, yet know that the advocacy of it in their constituencies could only do them harm. Besides those eighty-four private Members I may point out that of Ministers of the Crown, other than Cabinet Ministers, who were candidates and sit in this House, ten out of twenty-five put it in their address, and of the Cabinet Ministers in this House five put it in their address, and seven left it out. I ask any reasonable man whether it can be said that a party has seriously and properly put a question before the electors which only a small proportion cut of the total number have mentioned in their addresses. Unfortunately, we have not had time to wade through the floods of oratory which, I have no doubt, fell from the mouths of hon. Members opposite during the election; but if we had I think I can venture so far into the realms of conjecture and prophecy as to say that in their speeches they were quite as reticent about Home Rule as they were in their addresses. Yet we are told by the right hon. Gentleman, because we put up placards drawing attention to the fact that a Home Rule Bill was to be rushed through when the Veto Bill was passed—
§ Mr. C. CRAIG
I might have forgotten about the useful hecklers. The right hon. Gentleman, as those who were present will remember, made a great point of the fact that at one of the earliest speeches of the Prime Minister in Scotland a heckler had asked if it was the fact that when the Veto Bill was passed a Home Rule Bill would immediately follow, and that the Prime Minister said: "Yes," We are told that, because one heckler extracts that answer from the Prime Minister, and because, forsooth, the Unionist party drew attention to the fact that Home Rule is to follow the passing of the Veto Bill in placards and on their platforms, that, therefore, that matter is sufficiently put before the electorate. I say that is absurd, and quite a new view of the duties of a party when putting a great constitutional question before the constituencies. I give my adherence to the statement that it was attempted to pass Home Rule into law by means of a trick. I say it is a trick, and acting very dishonestly to attempt to carry Home Rule and to drag Home Rule through this House after the Veto Bill has 279 been passed. On two occasions already the country, as we all know, have most decisively decided against Home Rule. It has never been shown, and I utterly deny that there is the slightest alteration or change in the feeling of the section of Ireland from which I come in favour of Home Rule. I also most unhesitatingly affirm that the demand for Home Rule is diminishing every day in those parts of Ireland where even a few years ago it was quite strong. I say, under any circumstances, it is a most unfortunate time that this question should come before the House of Commons. I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's (Mr. Lyttelton) who pointed out that a demand for Home Rule was diminishing, and that if we were to leave them as they were for five years that you would find all serious demand for Home Rule had disappeared. As a matter of fact the party below the Gangway are kept in power by dragooning and harassing the whole country by their Organisation simply and solely. They have undoubtedly the best machine in these countries, and I do not know much about America. They make it appear that they represent the feelings of the electors of the South and West of Ireland, whereas on this point I venture to affirm, and I do not do so without having good evidence, that at the present moment there are not by one-half in what is called the Nationalist parts the number of persons there were even five or six years ago for Home Rule.
Therefore I say under those circumstances I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's that this is a most unfortunate time for such a proposal as that to be made to the House of Commons. At the best it is a most dangerous experiment, and I firmly believe it will end in disaster both for Ireland and this country. I ask the House, is this the time to go in for any such dangerous experiment. Every evidence goes to show that Ireland is increasing in prosperity day by day, and that the demand for Home Rule is decreasing day by day. I seldom have to thank the Home Secretary for doing my cause any good, but I must say on the occasion of his speech on the Amendment to the Address he made one of the best anti-Home Rule speeches I have ever heard. He showed that under the present condition of the union Ireland is increasing in prosperity day by day, and that she is infinitely more prosperous than she was a few years ago. He said that 280 that was an argument in favour of trying Home Rule. I could not see that. It seems to me it is an argument in exactly the opposite direction. We all admit there is an element of danger in trying this experiment. I say there is a very great element, but even the most ardent Home Ruler will admit there is danger of some sort. Is it therefore right or statesmanlike-to embark on an experiment of this sort when the country is going forward by leaps and bounds almost? Is it statesmanlike to interfere with that state of affairs and set up another which, in my opinion, instead of rendering the country more prosperous will reduce it to a state of chaos and bankruptcy? I had intended to make some more remarks with reference to the general aspects of the Bill, but I do not desire to occupy too much time. I cannot, however, sit down without issuing my protest against the pretence which hon. Members keep up of saying that this Bill does not resolve itself into pure and simple-Single-Chamber Government.
No Member opposite has tried to explain yet, as far as I heard the Debate, how the result of this Bill can be anything but absolute Single-Chamber Government. The mere fact that the decree of this House may be delayed for a couple of years does not alter the fact in the slightest degree. As somebody said, it only aggravates the question, because if a decree, good or bad, is going to come into force, it seems to me that it does not make much difference whether it comes into-force to-morrow or in 1913. This Veto-Bill simply reduces the House of Lords to a nullity. I would much rather hon. Members opposite would be more frank and more candid in this matter, and admit the fact, They all must believe it, and why cannot they say so? They are in favour of Single-Chamber Government, and my reason for saying that is this: It has been said that the country has not only declared upon the principle of this Bill, but on the details as shown in the Parliament Bill. I think that is a complete mistake. There are not more than 20 per cent., if as many, of the ordinary electors who really understand the provisions of the Bill. There are even Members of this House who do not know its exact provisions. How much more is that the case with the hundreds of thousands of electors, who all on this side, frankly admit have voted for some modification—some drastic modification if you like—of the relations which exist between the two Houses. But to say that they have in any way mastered the details 281 of the Bill or given the Government a free hand to carry out literally word for word the provisions of the Bill is absurd, though they have no doubt given their consent to a general principle. It seems to me the attitude taken up by the Government that they are bound by what is in the Bill, because the country have passed it at a General Election, is a most absurd one, and one which does away with any chance of ever arriving at a compromise acceptable to both parties. Compromise with the Bill as it stands is absolutely unacceptable to this side of the House, and we will fight it to the bitter end. We are perfectly aware, and we frankly accept the situation, that the country has given a mandate for some reform of the Constitution of the House of Lords and of the relations between the two Houses, and if the Government take their stand on something less than this Bill I believe there is still time for a settlement; but if they are going to throw down the Bill, as has been their habit in other respects, and say "take it or leave it," there is no hope of compromise, and the matter will have to be fought to a finish.
§ Mr. LEACH
I will not attempt to follow the hon. Member opposite in attributing improper motives to those who differ from me. If I think that hon. Members who sit on that side are sometimes mistaken, I believe they are quite sincere, and I wish that those who sit on that side would give the same credit to those who sit on this. I hope the hon. Member will not think me wanting in courtesy if I do not follow him through his various arguments; I have rather another object in view. The hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith), in a speech on the First Reading referred to this Bill as providing for One-Chamber Government only. The same statement has been made over and over again, and the hon. and learned Member appealed to this side of the House to answer the charge. As far as I understand the Bill—and no man has better tried to understand it than I have done; again and again during the election in December, I referred to it in my contest in the Colne Valley, it provides for a real Second Chamber. Everybody knows that we have One-Chamber Government when the party opposite are in power. The Prime Minister and the Government are anxious to provide a real revising Second Chamber. I understand the proper functions of a Second Chamber to be revision and restriction. When the House of 282 Commons sends up measures badly conceived and imperfect, it is the business of the superior persons in that House to revise, amend, and send back the Bill with their amendments to this House; and the Bill of the Government gives ample opportunity for the exercise of that power. Three separate Sessions and two years is in my judgment far too long a period. In the exercise of their power of restriction, if the House of Lords do their duty, they will check hasty and improper legislation by whichever party it may be sent to them.
How have they exercised that power in the past? For more than a generation, for almost two generations, they have never rejected a first-class measure sent up by the Conservative party, and I call this House to witness there has been plenty of hasty legislation sent up by that party. We have been told already that from 1906 to 1909 they rejected not five, but six first-class measures promoted by the party on this side of the House. Will any hon. Member deny that fact, or say that this is the measure of justice which should be meted out to us? It is high time a change came. This Bill will operate in several directions. It will make Two-Chamber Government a reality, and not a pretence as it is now; it will secure fair play for Liberal as for Tory measures; it will provide ample opportunity for the Second Chamber to exercise such powers of amendment as it may happen to possess; it will give that House the power of delaying for two years any hasty legislation such as was passed when the party opposite were in power from 1900–6. This Bill will prevent an irresponsible, non-elective, and violently partisan Chamber from destroying measures passed at the will and demand of the people. Speaking for myself, I say that the Bill is far too generous. I hope the Government will delete the Preamble and accept amendments declaring that two Sessions in one year is ample time in which the other House and the country can decide about any measure in dispute. I do not see why a democratic Government, backed up by the Radical party, should trouble itself too much about reforming the House of Lords. The only reform of the House of Lords as at present constituted—I hope no one will misunderstand or misrepresent me; I say as at present constituted—is to reform it out of existence. Let us have a Second Chamber composed of men who do not sit in it merely by the accident of birth, but who have done something, and 283 are there by right of some wise method of popular election. The House of Lords, as we know it, is violently partisan, and must remain so so long as it is constituted as at present. It cannot be otherwise. Members of that House stand for the rights of the few as against the needs of the many. By birth, breeding, and social position they are, and they must be, with some notable exceptions, entirely ignorant of and out of sympathy with the struggles of the poor and the toiling masses of the people.
The Lords have almost invariably opposed the will of the people, as expressed through this House. Will any Member opposite say that on any great question for the enlargement of human freedom and liberty which is now settled and has passed out of the region of party strife the Lords did not take the wrong side? Can any hon. Member instance a measure in which the Lords took the side of the masses of the people as against the few? [An HON. MEMBER: "The Workmen's Compensation Act."] Workmen's Compensation Act, forsooth! When the Liberals came in they had to amend that Bill; it was not workable. [An HON. MEMBER: "It worked very well."] You left out vast masses of the people, very nearly six millions, who ought to have been included, and it remained for the Liberal party to amend it, as it always has remained for them to perfect any legislation which you have initiated. Let me mention one or two great measures in which the Lords took the wrong side. Where did the Lords stand in regard to the enfranchisement of the middle classes in 1832? Where they stand now. Catholic emancipation, ad mission of the Jews to this House, the rights of Nonconformists, the right to marry our young people in our own chapels, and to bury our dead in our own parish graveyards—all these have been opposed by the Lords. They even opposed the right of our fathers to occupy public office unless they would forswear their religion and declare the faith of their fathers to be false. Even Home Rule for South Africa Gentlemen on that side of the House opposed. Old age pensions is another measure for the benefit of the people in which you clearly cannot claim to have been the friends of the masses. [An HON. MEMBER: "Chamberlain introduced that to the nation."] Mr. Chamber lain and his party won an election by promising old age pensions—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member must refer to the right hon. Gentleman not by his name, but by his constituency.
§ Mr. LEACH
I beg pardon. I am not quite accustomed to the ways of the House. I have spoken so seldom, and taken up so little of its time that I am not fully acquainted with all its ways. I did not mean any disrespect. But the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, with whom I was associated in former days when I lived in that great city, with whom I was glad and proud to be associated, and whose absence from this House I very sincerely regret—he and his party won an election by promising old age pensions, but when they came into office they found it could not be done, and it was left to the Liberal party, who had not promised them, to give old age pensions to the people who now enjoy them. Last of all the House of Lords laid their hands on the Budget, the most stupendous blunder and the most colossal act of folly of which I have known any party to be guilty. The Prime Minister has accurately described it as the greatest act of political suicide in modern times. The claims which they make are such as cannot be admitted on this side of the House.
Let me say one word in connection with the great objection that is taken to this Bill by hon. Members opposite. Home Rule seems to be the nightmare which is haunting them from beginning to end. Whatever good cause there may have been for opposing Home Rule when Mr. Gladstone introduced his Bill, circumstances have greatly changed since that time. I was one of those Liberals who remained with the Liberal party all through its dark days when it was in the wilderness. But hon. and right hon. Gentlemen should not forget that circumstances have greatly changed since 1885–6. In the first place, Ireland has had a capital training in local self-government, which she had not previously had. Again, the land question, which was a very terrible question, has been settled, and settled apparently with great satisfaction to the landlords, 285 and, judging by the way in which the small farmers are paying their contributions, they, too, must be tolerably satisfied with the settlement. Then the Home Rule Bill which is to be introduced is entirely different, as I understand, in its character from that which we have had before. I am not in the secrets of the Government, but it is common knowledge that the Bill the Government will introduce, and which meets with the approval of the Irish party and their Leader, is a very simple, innocent Bill. The Irish are to have no power to put on duties. They are not to interfere with the Army or Navy. They are to have no power to establish or recognise any particular church, either Romish or Protestant. All their findings are to receive the sanction of this House. Wherein, therefore, comes the danger? All hon. Gentlemen in this House who know even a little of history will bear me out when I say nothing is ever lost by wise and well-considered generosity. We see an illustration of that in what is happening in South Africa. The party opposite were opposed to Home Rule for South Africa. The Boers had been at war with us, and we with them. We had killed their men, and they ours. We had burnt their homesteads. Surely if anyone had a right to feel bitter it was the Boers. The Government gives them some measure of Home Rule, and among His Majesty's subjects none are more loyal than are the Boers to-day. Why should not we give a Home Rule Bill to Ireland? The Irish are a generous race. They have given us great poets, fine literary men, great statesmen, noble ecclesiastics, brave commanders of our armies; her sons have fought in our Army and Navy, and have shed their blood side by side with others from every part of the British Empire. Why should not we trust these people and give them such a measure of Home Rule as may meet with their approval, and so bind Ireland with closer ties to the United Kingdom than ever it has been before? I am among those who ardently wish it had been possible by consent on both sides of the House to give some measure of Home Rule to the Irish party, such as they would accept, and such as would have rendered them peaceful and contented. I trust, during the early years of the reign of His Gracious Majesty, whom with his beautiful Queen may Heaven long spare, that in the early years of His Majesty's reign he may be able to send a message of peace to Ireland, that will not only win for 286 us the confidence of Ireland but the goodwill of Irishmen throughout the world. I shall vote against this Amendment and in favour of the Bill.
§ Mr. BARNSTON
I should like to refer to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, the Colonial Under-Secretary, when he said: "Does anyone really pretend that Home Rule was not a vital issue at the last General Election?" The right hon. Gentleman went on to tell us an amusing story of an incident in his own constituency. May I tell the House what happened in my Constituency. I was opposed by Mr. Arthur Stanley, who was a Member of this House prior to last year, and who undoubtedly, wherever he goes, is a very popular man. Mr. Arthur Stanley commenced his campaign by saying that he did not know whether the Radical Government was going to bring forward a Home-Rule Bill. He did not, he said, in the least know if a Bill was going to be brought forward what was going to be put into that Bill. Before voting for that Home Rule Bill, if it ever was proposed, he would resign and appeal again to the electors. Not only that, but during the election the Prime Minister wrote a most beautiful letter to Mr. Stanley. This letter was printed and published and sent round to every elector in the division. In that letter the Prime Minister, not only said, what I thoroughly admit, that Mr. Arthur Stanley was a very charming gentleman: he said that the principles which he advocated were such that his return to the House of Commons would be-very welcome indeed. Therefore, Home-Rule did arise at the last General Election. The right hon. Gentleman went on to make very merry with a meeting which, he said, was taking place upstairs. In it, he said, the Unionist party were trying to-settle what to do. May I suggest, with perfect respect, that the right hon. Gentleman will never be in that happy position, may never be trying to settle what he is going to do, because his opinions have-been made up for him by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. No one really in this House takes the Preamble of this. Bill seriously. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, I understand, says that he hopes to vote against it. We know that the Preamble has been put in to ease the consciences of certain right hon. Gentlemen. Very delicate consciences they must be, very delicate indeed if they find easement of any value in that sort of reservation. We are told by that 287 Preamble that the reform of the House of Lords cannot immediately be brought into operation. We have heard a great deal about reform of the House of Lords. When is the Government going to attempt it? There are hon. Members on the other side of the House who are of a very sanguine and very happy temperament, who spoke of the Government remaining in for four or five years. I have never yet heard a single hon. Member suggest that one single five minutes would ever be devoted to putting that Preamble into practice; or that this Parliament should reform the House of Lords. I say that for practical purposes that Preamble is not worth the paper on which it is written. Prom the speeches which we have heard this afternoon I gather the grievance that hon. Members opposite have is that they consider that the House of Lords—and I gather that is the grievance of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken—is unfitted as a Second Chamber to discharge the duties of a Second Chamber. If that is so, surely the duty of the Government is to create a Second Chamber so composed that it shall have every guarantee for absolute impartiality, and one which the people of the country shall have every confidence in? That is exactly what the Government do not intend to do. After all they have said about the House of Lords, after all the jokes they have made about it—some bad, some good, and some indifferent—they propose to leave its composition identically the same, but, in addition, to give us for the first two years of any Government what will practically mean Single-Chamber Government. For myself I cannot really believe that Members of the House of Lords, or some Members of that assembly, who undoubtedly do a great deal of good work in the country—that has been acknowledged by right hon. Gentlemen opposite—I cannot believe in those first two years they will waste their time in attending what would be nothing more than a glorified debating society if they have no power of any sort or kind. If all the practical power they will have is the power and influence of their speeches, they might just as well be taking part in a debating society. The difference between the two parties is this: While the party of which I have the honour to be a humble supporter want a really strong Second Chamber, a Second Chamber which I admit many who sit in the present House of Lords would not sit—I will not make any remarks about 288 "backwoodsmen"—the Prime Minister possesses the patent for that—a Second Chamber much smaller than the present House of Lords, and one which, as far as possible, will really represent the whole nation, and would have the confidence of the public, the party opposite want something different. I except, of course, hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Labour benches. They tell us quite candidly that they are in favour of no Second Chamber at all. The Nationalist party tell us that they do not care a button provided by some means they can get Home Rule. But the official Radical party opposite apparently want a Second Chamber which will be practically a glorified debating club, but which would still offer a chance of social advantages, advantages which, I think I may say, hon. Members opposite are generally ready to take hold of. For, in spite of abuse of the House of Lords, I have never noticed any disinclination on the part of those opposite to themselves become Peers. The desire of the party of "progressive thought"—I think that is the way to put it—to get a title of some sort is not inconsiderable, judging from that ever-increasing covey of knights and baronets who adorn the benches of the democratic party opposite. There are other points I would like to deal with, but I will only say that to my mind this Bill is a mere make-shift measure. It will injure the House of Lords without introducing a single reform into that Chamber. It is supported by hon. Members opposite, who are always ready on all occasions to abuse the House of Lords, and are equally ready to take a Peerage at the very first opportunity.
Many hon. Members who have taken part in the Debate and have spoken from the other side of the House have complained that the policy contained in this Bill has not been submitted to the country. That is a curious argument, to say the least, coming from a party which is responsible for the Education and Licensing Acts passed by the last Conservative Administration. What are the actual facts? The intentions of the Government, and the policy to which this Bill seeks to give effect, have been before the country, and have been well known to every elector in this country since 1907, to go no further back. Then was the time when the famous Resolutions were introduced into this House by the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and passed by a large majority. Passing on to 1910, the election, which, as we know, took place 289 at the commencement of that year, was fought mainly upon the question of the powers of the House of Lords. I have heard the statement to-night that the election in January of last year was in no sense fought upon the question of the House of Lords. I would quote in that connection from a speech made by one of the Leaders of the Unionist party—Lord Lansdowne, in the House of Lords, shortly after the General Election of January, 1910. Referring to the Albert Hall speech of the Prime Minister on 10th December, 1909, Lord Lansdowne said:—The Prime Minister announces to the country that the Government will not resume office, will not hold office, unless they can secure the safeguards which experience show" to be necessary for the legislative policy and the honour of the Party of Progress. That intimation attracted very great attention. It is no exaggeration to say that the General Election was in a great measure fought upon that Declaration of the prime Minister.And it being a Quarter-past Eight of the dock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further proceeding was postponed without Question put.