HC Deb 02 May 1911 vol 25 cc389-97

"Notwithstanding anything in this Act an Amendment made in the House of Lords to any Bill other than a Money Bill shall not be deemed to be a breach of the privileges of the House of Commons on the ground that it involves a charge upon public funds."

Brought up, and read the first time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."


I venture to submit this new Clause on some general as well as on some particular grounds. The general grounds I would take are these: Hitherto Parliamentary procedure has worked by custom, modified indeed by Standing Orders, but not by statutory procedure. Now you are going to alter that, and I submit that the fact of altering it in one particular makes it desirable to put in black and white what the functions of the two Houses are, which hitherto have been the subject of different and often contradictory decisions. Hitherto the privileges of either House of Parliament have not been limited by Statute; they have been dependent upon custom and upon a series of rulings which it is not always easy to reconcile. That is undoubtedly the case with the privileges of this House. Many or most of them have never been embodied in any Statute, but they have been the result of the rulings of Mr. Speaker or Resolutions of this House that have not been contested and which have been gradually adopted. These privileges have not always been acquiesced in by the other House, and if it were necessary, which it is not for the purposes of my argument, I could cite the speech of Lord Derby in 1861, in which he deliberately safeguarded the position of that House and made it quite clear that the House of Lords would not acquiesce in the privileges of the House of Commons. All the former procedure by custom is to a great extent done away with by this Bill. At any rate it makes a great encroachment upon it, and that being so, it is not wise to leave certain matters cut and dried under this Bill, and to leave other matters in the nebulous state in which they were before, but in which they worked well enough, seeing that nothing was clearly defined and regulated as to the procedure of the two Houses. It is not necessary for me to go over all the privileges of the House of Commons. Perhaps later on it will be necessary to give statutory effect to them. I will only take the debatable. I will not argue against the proposition that it is the privilege of the House of Commons to initiate taxation or to initiate Money Bills, or that a Resolution of the House of Commons with regard to taxation is allowed to have statutory effect for the purpose of the protection of the revenue.

All these points we on this side of the House admit. But, there is another point which arises under a Bill that is not properly a Money Bill at all—a Bill which proposes to make some change of policy on general grounds. In the course of debate in the other Hours an Amendment is moved which has the effect, it may be, of varying the conditions of a grant or making a charge upon public funds. It has been held that no matter how small the increase upon the public funds may be, that in effect is a breach of the privileges of this House, no matter whether it is a charge upon public funds or upon local rates. The privileges of this House in this respect led to a great deal of difficulty and confusion. I will give two examples. When the Old Age Pensions Bill of 1908 went to the House of Lords an Amendment was moved providing that a person should not be disqualified from receiving a pension by reason of the fact that he had undergone a short term of imprisonment. It was contended? that many a man undergoes a short term of imprisonment who really is not a criminal in the proper sense of the word, because he may have gone to prison through inability to pay a fine for a trivial offence.

I do not think that on the grounds either of propriety or humanity there was any objection to the Amendment made by the House of Lords. It was carried in the House of Lords, and it came down here, and the Speaker, as is duty bound, pointed out that the effect of the Amendment was that it would involve a charge upon the public funds because it would increase the number of pensioners, and thereupon the present Prime Minister moved that the House dissent from the Lords, because it was a breach of privilege, and not at all because it was opposed to the principle of the Bill, and no doubt it could not be opposed to the principle of the Bill, because by rejecting it a large number of old people were not entitled to a pension. Because of the assertion of the privileges of this House being insisted upon a hardship was done to these old people in the working of the Act.

I will take another question, a Bill dealing with asylum officers presented by Sir William Collins, then a very eminent member of the party opposite, but not now a member of this House. An Amendment was inserted in the House of Lords, and it was generally agreed that it was acceptable from the point of view of public policy, but it was pointed out that it would lead to an increased charge upon the rates. This House waived its rights in that case, although it was a breach of privilege and all parties concurred in accepting it. Surely it was unnecessary that any question should arise of breach of privilege at all. I would ask the Committee to consider whether these privileges are worth insisting upon, especially in the new conditions? We are taking all power to the House of Commons to decide upon and to pass what it pleases. Should we then take a somewhat childish pleasure in insisting upon these privileges if there is a breach of them?

What happens at the present time in practice? An Amendment of the Lords is made, not on the ground of the policy of the Bill. If that Amendment suits the majority of the day, the question of privilege is waived. If it does not suit the majority of this House to take that Amendment, the breach of privilege is insisted upon. I do not know whether all these things were much use in the past, but now when you are providing that the House of Commons shall have full power in its own hands to carry a Bill in any form it wishes, it is surely useless to adopt these "old rusty weapons"—that was Mr. Gladstone's expression—of privilege. There are other matters which I will not go into. This Amendment, I submit, is a question of the peaceful working of this Bill between the two Houses. The House of Commons is about to get its way in all essentials, and I submit that it is vexatious and unnecessary to maintain what is now the mere figment of privilege. I beg to move.


I bow, Mr. Chairman, most respectfully and unreservedly to your ruling on this subject., which, I understand, has been given in order to afford an opportunity to the hon. Gentleman who has a grievance, rather than on strictly technical grounds. The fact remains, and nothing can alter it, that the Amendment, if carried, would stultify our decision on Clause 4. The hon. Member may have a grievance, and he has had his opportunity of raising that question. It would stultify our decision, and, quite apart from the fact that in the same Act of Parliament, we would be in the Committee stage declaring two perfectly opposite and different things, namely, that the privileges of this House should not be affected, and then again that the Lords should enjoy one of these privileges of ours by right, we would now insert an Amendment that would have the effect of leaving us on the Report stage under an obligation to draft another Amendment, which would take up this point into Clause 4. Apart from these considerations, surely it is rather late in the day for any hon. Member to come forward and ask that the Lords should have the power of imposing money charges upon public funds. Really I do not think this suggestion is worthy of much consideration or worthy of the needs of the situation in which we find ourselves, and I cannot believe that it is helpful to the hon. Gentleman or his friends.

What would be the use of the House of Lords suggesting an increase of the charge upon public funds? They have no power to supply the moneys which the charge would cause to be necessary, no power to provide a farthing of taxation, or a penny from the revenue of the country. That power has never been claimed by them. Any proposal by which this state of things should be altered, or by which this power should be given to them, so as to be any real or effective addition to their authority, or be made manifest, or result in any actual consequence to the country, would be a mere means of promoting strife and vexation between one House and the other. The hon. Gentleman, with his usual erudition and ingenuity, has delivered a considerable speech to the House on the subject, but he would have been in a very sanguine mood if he had anticipated that this Amendment would commend itself to the Government, or even that it would command a majority in any quarter of the House apart from the ordinary party support which it may receive.


The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has given a not very serious answer to my hon. Friend's speech on this Amendment. He says these two Clauses will be apparently contradictory, if it is accepted. So far as that apparent contradiction goes, surely that can be put right on the Report stage. The Government can introduce some such words into Clause 4 as "except as hereinafter provided," and the Bill will then read all right. On the point, of substance, what the Home Secretary has overlooked is that the doctrine of privilege is one that has been inconvenient not only to the House of Lords, but to this House. The position from the point of view of this House is that it has operated to some extent as a restraint upon the other House. It has also been felt as an inconvenience here, and because it has been felt as an inconvenience here this House has frequently acquiesced, and in various ways has given up its own privilege. On innumerable questions, various ways have been adopted to avoid the restraint upon this House which the assertion of these privileges put upon its judgment.

I do not know that such an attitude is not rather childish. It would be much more sensible if this House did not insist

upon privileges when it does not think proper to assert them. In actual practice, when there has been even a serious charge upon the rates, the privilege has been waived. When there have been very small charges upon the taxes, and they were reasonable and sought to carry out the general policy of the Bill, the Lords' Amendments were carried out, and it was left to the House of Commons to put its own special entry in the Journal that privilege had been waived. In other cases where it has not fell under these headings this House has by an artifice avoided the matter by looking to the Lords to put in words "Provided no charge is created," and then striking them out. The fact that these artifices have been so frequently-used shows that privilege has not only been felt as a restraint by the Lords, but has also been a restraint upon the House of Commons.

But that privilege has been maintained, I suppose, because it is thought to be a restraint also on the House of Lords and this House was unwilling to give the other House other powers. But under this Bill all these powers come to an end. The House of Lords is effectually restrained, once for all, by this Bill, and, therefore, the House of Commons need not be afraid on that score. Is it not wise, therefore, to remove what, has been felt to be an inconvenient restraint, on this House so that this House may be perfectly free to decide all questions on their merits. The effect of the Amendment would be that the House of Commons would be free to consider the Lords' Amendments irrespective of privilege. Since this House is now in a position under this Bill to make its will prevail I cannot see why it should against its own interests retain a doctrine of privilege which is now obsolete.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 76; Noes, 192.

Division No. 217.] AYES. [1.55 a.m.
Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F. Boscawen, Col. A. S. T. Griffith Fleming, Valentine
Arkwright, John Stanhope Bridgeman, William Clive Forster, Henry William
Ashley, Wilfrid W. Burn, Col. C. R. (Torquay) Foster, Philip Staveley
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Carlile, Edward Hildred Gibbs, George Abraham
Baird, John Lawrence Cator, John Goldsmith, Frank
Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.) Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Grant, James Augustus
Balcarres, Lord Chaloner, Col. R. G. W. Greene, Walter Raymond
Baldwin, Stanley Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Gretton, John
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Clyde, James Avon Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward
Banner, John S. Harmood Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet) Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)
Barnston, Harry Craik, Sir Henry Hall, Fred (Dulwich)
Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.) Dalrymple, Viscount Hill-Wood, S. (High Peak)
Benn, Arthur S. (Plymouth) Fell, Arthur Hope, Harry (Bute)
Bennett-Goldney, Francis Fisher, William Hayes Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)
Bird, Alfred FitzRoy, Hon. Edward A. Horner, Andrew Long
Hunt, Rowland O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid) Touche, George A.
Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East) Pease, Herbert P. (Darlington) Valentia, Viscount
Joynson-Hicks, William Pryce-Jones, Col. E. Walker, Col. W. H.
Lane-Fox, G. R. Rutherford, Wm. (W. Derby) Ward, A. S. (Hens, Watford)
Larmor, Sir Joseph Sanders, Robert Arthur Wheler, Granville C. H.
Macmaster, Donald Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.) Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W,)
M'Calmont, Colonel James Smith, Harold (Warrington) Winterton, Earl
Malcolm, Ian Stanler, Beville Wolmer, Viscount
Mason, James F. (Windsor) Stanley, Major Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Meysey-Thompson, E. C. Swift, Rigby TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.
Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas Thynne, Lord Alexander Pollock and Mr. Cassel.
Neville, Reginald J. N.
Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour) Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton) Ogden, Fred
Acland, Francis D. (Camborne) Hancock, John George O'Grady, James
Adamson, William Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)
Addison, Dr. Christopher Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil) O'Maoley, William
Allen, Arthur (Dumbartonshire) Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)
Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud) Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) O'Sullivan, Timothy
Baker, Harold T. (Accrington) Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.) Palmer, Godfrey Mark
Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.) Harwood, George Parker, James (Halifax)
Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.) Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Pearce, Robert (Leek)
Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.) Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.
Barton, William Haworth, Arthur A. Pease, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Rotherham)
Beauchamp, Edward Hayden, John Patrick Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Bentham, George Jackson Henry, Sir Charles Pointer, Joseph
Booth, Frederick Handel Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor Pollard, Sir George H.
Bowerman, Charles W. Higham, John Sharp Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North Hinds, John Pringle, William M. R.
Brace, William Horne, Chas. Silvester (Ipswich) Reddy, Michael
Brady, Patrick Joseph Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Brocklehurst, William B. Hughes, Spencer Leigh Redmond, William (Clare, E.)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John. Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan) Richards, Thomas
Cawley, Sir Fredk. (Prestwich) Illingworth, Percy H. Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)
Chancellor, Henry George Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Chapple, Dr. William Allen John, Edward Thomas Roberts, George H. (Norwich)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Johnson William Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)
Clough, William Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil) Robinson, Sidney
Clynes, John R. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Rowntree, Arnold
Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock) Jones, Leif (Rashcliffe) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire) Samuel. J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Corbett, A. Cameron Joyce, Michael Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Keating, Matthew Scott, A. M'Callum (Bridgeton)
Cotton, William Francis Kellaway, Frederick George Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel
Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth) Kelly, Edward Sheehy, David
Crawshay-Williams, E. Kennedy, Vincent Paul Simon Sir John Allsebrook
Crumley, Patrick Kilbride, Denis
Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy) King, Joseph (Somerset, North Smith, Albert (Clitheroe)
Davies, Timothy Louth Lambert, Richard Cricklade Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim. S.)
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol. S.) Lansbury, George Stanley, Albert (Staffs. N.W.)
Dawes, James Arthur Law, Hugh Alexander (Donegal, W.) Summers, James Woolley
Dewar, Sir J. A. Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cockermouth) Sutton, John E.
Dillon, John Levy, Sir Maurice Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Doris, William Lewis, John Herbert Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Lundon, Thomas Toulmin, George
Edwards, A. C. (Glam., E.) Lyell, C. H. Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of Lynch, Arthur Alfred Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Elverston, Harold Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Verney, Sir H.
Esmonde, Dr. J. (Tipperary, N.) Maclean, Donald Walsh, Stephen (Lancashire, Ince)
Esmonde, Sir T. (Wexford, N.) Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Warner, Sir Thomas Courtney T.
Essex, Richard Walter MacNeil, John Gordon Swift Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Falconer, James MacVeagh, Jeremiah Webb, H.
Fenwick, Charles M'Curdy, Charles Albert White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)
Ferens, Thomas Robinson M'Laren, F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding) Whitehouse, John Howard
Ffrench, Peter M'Laren, W. S. B. (Crew) Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)
Flennes, Hon. Eustace Edward Mason, David M. (Coventry) Wiles, Thomas
Fitzgibbon, John Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Wilkie, Alexander
Flavin, Michael Joseph Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.) Williams, John (Glamorgan)
France, Gerald Ashburner Millar, Duncan Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Gelder, Sir William Alfred Molloy, Michael Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Gibson, Sir James Puckering Money, L. G. Chiozza Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)
Gill, Alfred Henry Morrell, Philip Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Needham, Christopher Thos. Wood, T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough) Neilson, Francis Young, William (Perth, East)
Greig, Colonel James William Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)
Guest, Hon. F. E. (Dorset, E.) Nolan, Joseph TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.
Gulland, John William O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Dudley Ward and Mr. Wedgwood
Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) O'Doherty, Philip Benn.
Hackett, John O'Dowd, John

Question put, and agreed to.


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

Committee Report Progress; to sit again to-morrow (Wednesday).

And, it being after half-past Eleven of the clock upon Tuesday evening, Mr. Deputy-Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at, Ten minutes after Two a.m., Wednesday, 3rd May, 1911.