- (1) If any Bill other than a Money Bill is passed by the House of Commons in three successive Sessions (whether of the same
1221 Parliament or not), and, having been sent up to the House of Lords at least one month before the end of the Session, is rejected by the House of Lords in each of those Sessions, that Bill shall, on its rejection for the third time by the House of Lords, unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary, be presented to His Majesty and become an Act of Parliament on the Royal Assent being signified thereto, notwithstanding that the House of Lords has not consented to the Bill: Provided that this provision shall not take effect unless two years have elapsed between the date of the Second Reading in the first of those Sessions of the Bill in the House of Commons, and the date on which it passes the House of Commons in the Third of those Sessions.
- (2) When a Bill is presented to His Majesty for assent in pursuance of the provisions of this Section, the Bill shall be accompanied by a certificate of the Speaker of the House of Commons that the provisions of this Section have been duly complied with.
- (3) A Bill shall be deemed to be rejected by the House of Lords if it is not passed by the House of Lords either without Amendment or with such Amendments only as may be agreed to by both Houses.
- (4) A Bill shall be deemed to be the same Bill as a former Bill sent up to the House of Lords in the preceding Session, if, when it is sent up to the House of Lords, it is identical with the former Bill, or contains only such alterations as are certified by the Speaker of the House of Commons to be necessary owing to the time which has elapsed since the date of the former Bill, or to represent Amendments which have been made by the House of Lords in the former Bill in the preceding Session.
§ Provided that the House of Commons may, if they think fit, on the passage of such a Bill through the House in the Second or Third Session, suggest any further Amendments without inserting the Amendments in the Bill, and any such suggested Amendments shall be considered by the House of Lords, and if agreed to by that House, shall be treated as Amendments made by the House of Lords, and agreed to by the House of Commons; but the exercise of this power by the House of Commons shall not affect the operation of this Section in the event of the Bill being rejected by the House of Lords.1222
§ Dr. HILLIER
I beg to move, to leave out Clause 2. I am quite aware, in moving the Amendment, that it may not be accepted, but that is equally true of any Amendment proposing any other material alteration of this Bill or of any Clause in the Bill. I do not feel that that is an objection to moving this Amendment. The moving of the Amendment, I venture to think, offers the advantage that it gives us the opportunity to discuss the root principles of the Bill in the light of the replies the Government have given on the various Amendments which were moved in Committee dealing with this Clause. Let us consider the nature of the Clause. I say without any hesitation that the nature of the Clause is distinctly anti-democratic, and I would ask what the effect of it will be, if it be carried, upon the House of Commons and upon the Cabinet. Clause 2 confers powers absolutely unprecedented in their character—powers which have not hitherto been possessed by any Single Chamber or any Government in any democratic country in modern history. If we take the terms of the Clause itself, and if we bear in mind the terms of the Preamble, we are driven to the conclusion—and this is confirmed by the speeches which have been made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite—that this. Clause is a temporary feature in the constitutional change which is in contemplation. Hitherto we have not been successful in getting from the Government a clear avowal on this point, and I respectfully ask the right hon. Gentleman who represents the Government at the present moment on the Front Bench if he will be good enough to inform the House whether this Clause is to be a temporary or a permanent Clause. It is a matter of the profoundest moment, and I hope he will vouchsafe an explicit answer to an explicit question. We wish to know whether this is a permanent Bill or a temporary Bill. If English has any meaning as expressed in the Preamble, it is a temporary Bill only, and on that point we ask a definite assurance. It appears to me that Members of the Government have entirely endorsed that view of the Bill. It has been spoken of as "a means to an end," "an instrument," and "a stepping-stone." I think we may go further in those descriptive terms, and we may say, in the light of the various replies we have had to Amendments proposed on this measure, that it is perfectly clear it makes out a special licence to a particular Government for particular purposes.
1223 4.0 P.M
In that respect this Clause is a proposal which is absolutely unparalleled in its audacity, because it proposes to confer upon a particular Government for an indefinite period of time unlimited powers which have never hitherto been conferred on any Government in any modern democracy. Moreover, the powers conferred by this Clause are without any exception whatever. All the Amendments that have been moved in the Committee and Report stages, in which efforts were made to exempt from the operation of this Clause alterations in the Constitution of the country and alterations in the terms of the Bill itself and measures of that sort, have practically been rejected with scorn by the Government, although it has been clearly shown in these Debates that both in the United States and the Australian Commonwealth, two great modern Anglo-Saxon democracies, there are special provisions in the Constitution of both countries with regard to changes in the Constitution. It is enacted in the Constitution of the United States of America, in. Article 5, that no change in the Constitution of the country can be made without the consent of both Houses of the Legislature in that country, and also without being definitely referred directly to the electors. The same proviso exists in almost precisely similar terms in the Commonwealth of Australia. It is clearly laid down that no fundamental change in the Constitution of the country can be made, not only without the consent of both Houses of Parliament in that country, but also without the consent of the electors, directly consulted and directly obtained upon this particular question. Yet we, under this Clause, are to be put in such a position that it will be in the power of the Government of the day, by a bare majority, to make fundamental changes in our Constitution which are guarded against in the countries I have mentioned, and in every other civilised country, not only by a bi-cameral system, but also by strictly providing that these questions shall be referred directly to the people.
The Amendments moved in this Debate would have accepted the change proposed in the relations between the two Houses provided that there had been one of these safeguards, the safeguard at any rate that great constitutional and fundamental changes should be referred directly to the people of the country before being allowed 1224 to pass into law. I would ask the Government another question, and I hope I shall be vouchsafed an answer. Why do the Government suppose that we as a people can afford to dispense with checks and safeguards against constitutional changes which all other countries, including the great Anglo-Saxon democracies to which I have referred, consider absolutely necessary? What is there in the character of the British people, in the circumstances of the present time, or in any other condition which justifies such a sweeping departure from all constitutional and from all democratic safeguards as is involved in this Clause Great States, like the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Australia, who have the safety of two-Chamber system with regard to these constitutional changes, go further even than that, and insist that any great fundamental change shall be submitted directly to the electors of the country. We say that at least one of these safeguards should be left to us. Without it we are threatened with an instrument which is, as I have said, absolutely unparalleled in its audacity and most dangerous in its character and constitution. This Clause, if passed, will give to the Government of the day the right, arbitrarily and unrestrainedly, to exercise its power. That is little short of tyranny. They may urge that they are going to be benevolent tyrants. That remains to be seen. Even if we were to concede that point, it does not follow that the same benevolence will characterise every Government which comes into power.
It is to safeguard against abuses of power that all Constitutions, especially Constitutions in democratic countries, have been framed on the lines on which they have been framed. The features in this Clause, which give the whole character to this Bill, are absolutely undemocratic in character, and trench upon the electors' privileges—the privileges of the people themselves. The Prime Minister has urged in reply to criticism of this sort that the delay of two years provided by the Parliament Bill will preclude the possibility of any covert or arbitrary passing into law of measures which are condemned by public opinion. Again, I should like to ask a little more explicitly how is public opinion to operate in this matter? How is an agitation in the country over a period of two years to decide the fate of a Bill? Agitation against a measure, as we know pretty well, promptly produces counter agitation. Agitation may furnish interest- 1225 ing material for articles in the evening newspapers. It may afford food for reflection or for merriment to the Ministers of the day, but it has no more real effect in a matter of this kind than rain has upon a window pane. The Clause will give power to pass, without either the bi-cameral system or direct reference to the people, a measure of any kind which a bare majority of this House, by a combination of logrolling tactics, may determine to pass through the House in the earlier years of a Parliament. The plain English of this Clause as it stands, if it is to be permanent, or even if it is to be temporary for any length of time, is that it is nothing less than the death-warrant of the British Constitution, and is an absolute departure from all traditions of democratic government.
The Prime Minister on this point has no misgiving, or at any rate he pretends to have no misgiving, and he urges that for the bulwarks removed another will come into existence. He says that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred any new House of Commons both could and would reverse legislation which had been shown by a General Election to be opposed to the will of the mass of electors. So British legislation is to be reduced to this—that instead of consulting the people on any great measure previous to the passage of that measure, and ascertaining their opinions at an election, henceforth that opinion is merely to find expression with regard to such measure either by reversing that measure through a subsequent House of Commons or not reversing that measure. I say in these conditions that British legislation will become as unstable and as liquid as water. As an alternative to this Clause, and the extreme policy which it embodies, there have been Amendments moved proposing both a Joint Session and a Referendum. With regard to these the Prime Minister has spoken, it is true in somewhat ambiguous language, but nevertheless in a somewhat friendly spirit. Given certain conditions, the right hon. Gentleman has practically conceded that both these alternatives might be worthy of consideration and eventual adoption. In regard to these alternatives to this Clause of either a Referendum or a Joint Session, I should like to refer to the argument used by the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General (Mr. Herbert Samuel) with regard to an Amendment on the Referendum that was brought forward in Committee. He urged that to wait three Sessions and then 1226 to bring the Referendum into operation would be a very long and tedious process, and at the same time I think he went so far as to say he did not deny that the Referendum might be a useful way of ascertaining the will of the people about great and simple issues. It is on issues of that sort that we should desire to see it exercised.
I will go the length of admitting that the three Sessions provided under this Clause are a somewhat long period, but had not the gigantic bounds of the kangaroo and the ruthless blows of the guillotine destroyed a great number of Amendments on the Paper, I should have had an opportunity of speaking to one in my name which recognised this objection urged by the Postmaster-General, and which proposed that the period of probation in the House of Lords might possibly be curtailed from three to two or possibly even one Session, provided that you set up, as a means of settling irreconcilable differences of opinion, a reasonable scheme of Joint Session, and in exceptional cases a Referendum. That would shorten the time during which great questions would be at issue, and would be a sort of compromise between the policy of the Government and the policy proposed by the Opposition. Hitherto we have not had an opportunity of discussing these alternatives. I also had embodied in one of these Amendments a proposal that the Joint Session of the two Houses of Parliament as at present existing might possibly consist of two hundred from the House of Commons and one hundred from the House of Lords, elected to represent the various parties in proportion to their numbers. I venture to suggest that there is still time for the Government to recommit this Bill and re-draft this Clause, and I sincerely hope that they may take that course.
If they do I can only say that they will be merely acting in the spirit of their own Preamble. They will be acting consistently with the Constitution which they have provided in South Africa, and on lines which are quite acceptable to the House, and to the great majority of the people of this country. If, on the other hand, they insist on standing by this Clause and proceeding with it in its entirety, I can only say that they will do so in absolute conflict with every constitutional right, the experience of every civilised country, the constitution of all the great Anglo-Saxon self-governing countries, and the spirit of their own Preamble. 1227 And they will disfigure the Statute Book with a measure which will inevitably be removed hereafter by an indignant people. I conclude by asking the Postmaster-General, who represents the Government this afternoon, if he would be good enough to answer these two questions. Is this Clause, which gives the whole character to the Bill, permanent or temporary in character? And finally, what grounds have we as a people to suppose that we can afford to dispense with safeguards with regard to great fundamental constitutional changes which are deemed necessary by every other civilised country, including our own self-governing Colonies If he answers those two questions I shall At any rate feel that I have not altogether wasted the time of the House in moving the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ Mr. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I beg to second the Amendment. I am very glad of this opportunity to speak on this Clause, more especially as during the Committee stage I had not an opportunity of discussing an Amendment to the Clause which stood in my name. I object to this Clause on the same grounds as those on which I object to the whole Bill. This country has risen to greatness under the House of Lords as it has existed, and we should have some very solid arguments advanced, some very solid grounds presented to this House, before we should be called upon to attack it. I have not heard a single effective argument against the House of Lords as a legislative body. The whole accusation against it, has been based on party lines. The charge against the other House is that they have thrown out Bills brought up by the party opposite—ill-advised, ill-considered, and half-digested measures, and in their rejection I think the House of Lords acted very properly. The action of the House of Lords has not been bad for the country in any way; it is hon. Members below the Gangway opposite who have objected to their Socialistic proposals having been sent by the Upper House to the whole country for consideration. I think that was a very proper course to adopt. We on these benches know that we have a patriotic and absolutely incorruptible body in the House of Lords, and I have never heard a single argument brought forward by anybody in this House or outside this House to suggest that the House of Lords as a body could be influenced by any bribe or any consideration except that which they considered to be 1228 best for the future of the country and for the future of the Empire as a whole. Surely, under these circumstances, it is of the greatest value to preserve such a body. Can we ensure that we shall get one of equal value to this country?
Personally, I look with anything but satisfaction, indeed with apprehension, on the line adopted by the present Government, and I think it will lead shortly to very serious difficulties for the country at large and very serious consequences to our Empire. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That seems to amuse hon. Members opposite. I am not at all surprised at that after the arguments I have heard advanced—arguments which simply ridicule our idea of Empire as being arguments of the very least account. We on these benches do not look upon it in that way, and we mean, as far as we can, to uphold the House of Lords, however reconstituted. But I hope they will be reconstituted on lines which will ensure the safety of this country, and those institutions under which we have grown up to be the great Power and Empire that we are. We hope that, above all, it will unite to us the Colonies, which I am bound to say, for I have lived in them many years, are a great deal more loyal than many Members of the House of Commons who have spoken in. this Debate. I spent ten years in the Colonies, and I can assure the House of this, that I never heard such unpatriotic speeches in any of our great British possessions as I have heard from the benches opposite. I am very sorry that we should have come to this pass. The Postmaster-General has told us, over and over again, and the Home Secretary has told us the same thing, that we have had ample opportunity to discuss the Clauses of this Bill. I absolutely deny that. We have brought forward, over and over again, our objections to the Bill, and we have never had a categorical answer or an intelligent attempt to meet any argument which we have advanced. One of the most extraordinary arguments I have heard was that the Speaker, if put in the position of sole arbiter to decide questions of Amendments, was just in the same position as if a Committee were appointed, with the Speaker in the Chair, because the right hon. Gentleman would still be the person who had filially to decide whether certain Amendments should or should not be accepted by this House. What a farce! Why not say: "Let us have the Prime Minister and nobody else," for, after all, this Parliament 1229 would be just as good. We are allowed no opportunity of discussion, or, when we do advance arguments, no answer is attempted, and the Prime Minister would sit on that bench and dictate to the House what we are to accept and what we are not to accept.
That is what we are reduced to. There is no real discussion in this House; no consideration is given to any arguments we put forward; there is no answer attempted on the Front Bench or on the dumb benches behind. I maintain that this attempt to render the House of Lords impotent is the greatest encroachment on the liberties of the people that we could possibly have. Even during the time I have been in this House I have seen our liberties diminishing year by year and month by month, until now it seems to me that it is a farce for us to come here and attempt to discuss any Bill that is put before us. Under these circumstances our greatest safeguard is the House of Lords, and, I venture to think, the House of Lords as it exists at present is a far greater guarantee of the liberties of the people and their representatives than the proposals of the Parliament Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am sure that some hon. Members opposite at the bottom of their hearts entertain the same view, even though they follow the crack of the party Whip.
§ Mr. DILLON
The Veto will not interfere with the House of Lords at all. It is you who are destroying it.
§ Mr. MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I perfectly agree that the matter may be looked at from that particular point of view. I perfectly agree that the hon. Gentlemen and hon. Members on those benches are absolutely consistent, and, what is more, they have got the whip hand and they know how to use it. I have the greatest admiration for their party organisation, which I think is superior probably to that of any party in the House of Commons at the present moment. All I can say is this, that we have in the House of Lords a body of men who are absolutely incorruptible, a body of men of great experience of affairs in all parts of the world, a body of men who are constantly recruited from this House and from the very best of the people who have made their mark in the Empire, whether at home or in our distant Colonies, and for these reasons I shall support, and support wholeheartedly, the Amendment brought forward by the hon. Member beside me.
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
In moving the omission of this Clause, the hon. Members opposite have, of course, in effect been moving the rejection of the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I see that view of their Amendment meets with their acquiescence. What are the Clauses of this Bill? Clause 1, in our view, establishes rights long possessed by this House, and that is in substance conceded by the House of Lords itself in the Resolutions recently passed. Clauses 3 and 4 are little more than of a formal character. Clause 5 is a Clause dealing with quinquennial Parliaments, with respect to which there is no deep line of disagreement. The Preamble foreshadows the policy of the future, and in terms declares that it is the policy of the future. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is no new discovery; it was meant to be nothing else.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The new proposals of immediate application are in essence to be found substantially in this Clause. Therefore the Debate on the omission of this Clause is a Debate on the merits of the Bill. We met the arguments against the Bill during two days on the First Reading of the Bill. During the four days on the Second Reading we again dealt with precisely the arguments that have been advanced to-day by the Mover and Seconder. In the Committee stage we spent half a Parliamentary day discussing this very Amendment to omit Clause 2, and on Monday we propose to give another Parliamentary day to the principle of the Bill, which is especially enshrined in this Clause. I submit to the House that it is not the function of the Report stage to discuss at length the principle of a Bill, and that the province of the Report stage is to give an opportunity for discussing points of minor importance, points of detail, and especially to consider Amendments which gave rise to discussion in the Committee stage. Therefore I make no apology to the House for abstaining from entering into a prolonged argument on the merits of the Bill. We have done that on two previous occasions, and we shall do it again on Monday. With respect to the specific question put by the Mover of the Amendment, I would answer his question as to the future application of this Clause to a reformed Parliament by a slight modification, if I may be 1231 allowed, of an answer already given by the Prime Minister, and say solvitur preambulando. As to the experience of other countries, I suggest that England has never been desirous of framing her Constitution by copying the institutions of other lands. We have always developed our institutions on our own lines to suit our own needs in accordance with the political genius of our own people, and the fact that those arrangements which we now propose are not found to exist in other countries is not a sufficient reason for rejecting them. But the House will not expect me on this occasion to enter into a prolonged Debate on the merits of the Bill, except to say, as I think will be obvious enough, that the Government stand by the Bill, and, that being so, stand by this Clause, which is the essence of the Bill.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. The House does not expect the Government in these Debates to answer arguments which come from this side of the House, or to deal with the objections to the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, I am bound to say, has established for himself a firm reputation during these Debates as one better able than most of those who have been in charge of the Bill to avoid meeting the questions put to him, and to avoid dealing with arguments addressed to him, by finding some side issue on which, for the moment, he can evade the real issue with which he and the Government are confronted. The right hon. Gentleman takes exception to the policy of the Opposition in moving the rejection of this Clause, and he gives us a most extraordinary reason for his objection—he says that by moving the rejection of Clause 2 we move the rejection of the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman is only interpreting our sentiment by what he says, then he is perfectly right. Certainly, if Clause 2 were dropped, I presume the Bill would be dropped, and nothing would gratify us more than to secure that result. But what the right hon. Gentleman ignores altogether, when he lays down the law with great confidence as to the practice of Parliament, is the important fact that the course which my hon. Friend has adopted in moving the rejection of this Clause is a course which has been invariably followed in Parliament ever since the present procedure was adopted. The one meat object of the Report stage, an object which the right hon. Gentleman does not 1232 appear to have in view, is that you may review the operation of the main Clauses of the Bill, and, therefore, the Bill itself, in time to secure some Amendments or alterations so that the effect of the Clause or of the Bill may be mitigated or may be slightly amended. The right hon. Gentleman's answer to us is: "I refuse to meet your arguments to-day. I wait to meet them on the Third Reading" I am bound to say that for the right hon. Gentleman to meet those arguments on the Third Reading, when it is too late to deal with them if they are effective, is about as futile a suggestion as was ever made in the House of Commons. What does the right hon. Gentleman's statement come to, either that there is nothing in the arguments used by my hon. Friend, and therefore they do not require consideration, or else if there is anything in them, and if any weight is to be attached to them, and if the House ought to consider and take steps to amend the unpleasant parts of the Bill that the time to do so is not when Amendments can be inserted but at a time when no Amendment can be inserted, and when the Bill has got to go just as it is to another place. I venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman has entirely misconceived the object of the Report stage and the action of my hon. Friend is not only justified by the framework of this Bill but it is abundantly justified by all the previous practice of this House.
My hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment concluded his speech by saying that to all intents and purposes all that is necessary for the Prime Minister or his representative is to appear on that Bench opposite, give their orders, and leave them to be carried out. That is really what things have come to. Hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like to be twitted, and I do not wonder at it, with their silence. They resent being told that they are keeping silence because they have been told to do so. Knowing, as I do, the independent spirit of many hon. Gentlemen opposite, I do not suggest for a moment that they are the mere minions of the Secretary of the Treasury. I have no doubt that they are acting from the desire to see this Bill passed. Is it credible that this Bill is so perfectly framed or so wonderfully drawn that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not find in it opportunities for amendment and for change, yet that is the inevitable conclusion of their action unless it be that they are content to see a bad Bill pass rather than risk the passing of the Bill at all. That, I venture 1233 to say, is the lesson that the House has got to learn from the passing of this Bill as it stands. As my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment reminded the House, in all other Constitutions there are safeguards which will not be found in our Constitution after this Bill passes. What is the answer of the Postmaster-General? He says it has not been our practice to take our Constitution from other countries. I presume the right hon. Gentleman meant from foreign countries. That may be, but is he going to tell us that the time has come, as it undoubtedly has come, when the British Government, called upon to find Constitutions for parts of our Dominions, thinks it right to give them safeguards and protection that, when they are legislating for our own country, they deny to ourselves and to our country. When we remind the Government, as my hon. Friend did, that in every other case those safeguards are to be found and not here, we are reminding him not of the action of foreign countries, but the action that has been taken in regard to our own Colonies by the very Government of which the right hon. Gentleman is now a Member.
What does the passage of this Clause in its fundamental form mean? My hon. Friends have moved this rejection in order that they might give a general review of the effect of this Bill as it stands. The Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment referred to the fact that we have endeavoured in Committee to minimise what we regard as the evil effects of this Bill by moving Amendments for the introduction of Joint Conferences and for the introduction of the Referendum. We have said in those Amendments which have been refused by the Government that if you are going to muzzle the House of Lords you ought to have some other safeguards, you ought to arrange for a Joint Session, to which I profoundly regret more attention has not been given by the Government in these Debates. We have also suggested, if you are going to deprive us of the safeguard of a Second Chamber, you ought to give direct access to the people. All those suggestions have been ignored. It follows, as the result of the passing of this Bill as it stands now, and of this Clause 2, that the description given by my hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment will be proved to be absolutely correct, namely, that the legislation of this country will depend not upon Debates and discussions and mature consideration in this House, not upon further consideration and further Debates in another House, 1234 but upon the ipse dixit of the Government, who will bring down their legislation and pass it as they are passing this. This Parliament Bill stands by itself; there is no other Bill treading on its heels. The passage of this Bill is not necessary in order that other legislation may be placed on the Statute Book, yet we have seen the tactics that are necessary in order to pass it. What will be the action of the Government when they have a Bill under consideration which they are anxious to pass, and when they have other Bills suspended, and which they are anxious to pass through Parliament the second and third time, and then to become law?
If this is the procedure in the House under these circumstances, what would it be when you have not only a Bill which has been passed in one Session, and has to be passed the second and third time, but when you have to deal with other great measures, which of themselves would take the full time and attention of the House. The precedent which we have now before us answers the question. The safeguards in this Bill, in face of our Parliamentary procedure, in face of the new, and in my humble opinion, unconstitutional use of the closure powers, in face of the practice of the Government which they are establishing now for the first time in the passing of this Bill, those safeguards under this Bill will, in my belief, be of no value whatever. The safeguards of three Sessions, and the one month period before the end of a Session when the Bill is to be sent up, and the two years, are of no value at all if they mean the reconsideration of the measure with a view to its Amendment or to its rejection. This is what you do with a Bill when you have it by itself and when you have a whole Session for Debate, when there is nothing of moment behind it, and when there is no other great controversial question with which the Government propose to deal. For their other measure they have claimed the general sympathy of the House, and I doubt not but that they will receive it. Therefore, on the heels of this measure there is no other treading; yet we see how this has been passed. What then will be the value of these safeguards? What do they mean? The Prime Minister told us, as my hon. Friends reminded the House, that these safeguards are introduced in order to prevent hasty legislation, that public opinion will have its effect upon this House, and that in the second and third Session as to the imaginary Bill that 1235 is to be passed that public opinion will have its effect on this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Does the hon. Gentleman really believe it?
All I can say is, and I have had much longer experience of Parliamentary life than he has had, all my experience tells me, and I say this in no party sense whatever, that when a Government in office in its fourth year is taking stock of its situation, anxious to pass legislation, for which there is a great demand in the House, and perhaps in the country— legislation which will take time to consider and perhaps be difficult to pass—and when they know also that they have got to carry the Bills of the previous Session in order that they may find their way on to the Statute Book under the powers of this Bill, then I am perfectly certain that unless Governments are made of very different human material from what they have ever been made of in my recollection, those measures will be passed through the House of Commons in a way which will make further consideration of them absolutely impossible, and which will prevent any chance of Amendment or reconsideration. The passage of those Bills in the second and third Sessions simply means their automatic passing through this House in the precise form and shape in which they left it in the first Session. For the matter of that, some of the safeguards that you yourselves have introduced into this Bill, or so-called safeguards, will add to the difficulty of amending or materially altering the Bill. My hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment in no way exaggerated the situation, though the House may refuse to recognise it, and though hon. Gentlemen opposite, in their extreme anxiety to pass this Bill and to deal with the House of Lords have failed to fully appreciate the effect of the work in which they are now engaged.
My hon. Friend has prophesied that which will come true—that the result of this will be that every year more and more the powers of this House, apart from the Front Bench, will decrease, and that discussion and free debate in this House will disappear year by year and more and more, and your legislation will be, not the result of full and free debate, not the result of the attention given to it by both sides and by Members in all quarters of the House, but it will be the legislation as produced by the Government, with Amendments, when proposed, refused 1236 automatically, with very little reason and with very little argument, as this is refused, because it does not suit the Government to accept them; and then at the end of that the closure ruthlessly applied, and the Bill going through pretty much as it leaves the Government in the first instance. That may be the change hon. Gentlemen opposite desire, but at all events we do not desire it, not merely when hon. Gentlemen opposite are in power, but looking at this question not from a party but from a national and imperial point of view. Hon. Gentlemen may desire that, though I do not believe they do. I do not think they realise what the effect of the passage of Clause 2 in its present form is. Of this I am certain, if it is passed, and before the time comes to which my hon. Friend alluded when he said that the only effect of the passing of this measure will be to force on those who are opposed to it the duty of repealing it when they have the opportunity, before that time comes I am convinced that hon. Gentlemen opposite will realise that they have themselves, in the interests of private Members and free discussion, and full Debate, taken a step which so far as they are concerned, will be irrevocable, and which they will realise when it is too late. It is because we hold these views we are not afraid of the challenge of the Postmaster-General, that our Motion means the rejection of the Bill, and my hon. Friends leave it to be justified by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and to be fortified by the arguments which the Government neither to-day nor on any previous occasion have attempted to meet.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
We have heard a great deal during the last few weeks of the taunt of most of the free lances behind the right hon. Gentleman, who has just spoken, as to our dumbness and silence on this side. Practically everybody here took very little notice of that, but when a Member of this House, with the long reputation, if I may be allowed to say so, of the right hon. Gentleman for his courtesy and kindness, throws at us a taunt of that kind, I think it is rather necessary that we should choose to repudiate the language in a particular way, if we do not argue about it. So far as I am concerned myself, I say most emphatically that not upon any occasion in the whole of these long Debates have I heard the faintest whisper from anyone as to whether I ought to participate in Debate or not. It was not a case of our 1237 being coerced or subjected to the party Whip. I, as a Welsh colt, am not very amenable to anybody's whip except my own, and I am certain no Member of the Government, or anybody else, would venture to interfere with me if I wanted to participate in legitimate Debate.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
That is exactly what I said, that there were many hon. Gentlemen opposite whom I knew to be entirely independent, and whom, I am sure, would not tolerate such behests from the Front Bench, and therefore that they are submitting to legislation of an imperfect character in order to get the Bill through.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
There is an easy explanation of that. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that after all the principle and machinery of this Bill is a very definite, simple, and very clear matter. I mean that it does not involve, like a Mines Bill or a Copyright Bill, hundreds of details. There is in Clause 2 one very plain broad question of constitutional procedure, and when you have given that matter to the draftsman and stated to him the plain object you have in view, everybody will agree that it is then the draftsman's business to deal with it. We saw last night, in the discussion about boxes of pears and apples, and as to the point at which the word "only" should come in, how hopelessly we should get landed if we began on that line. Hon. Members on this side were a little wiser than hon. Members opposite. We did not waste our time in endeavouring to prove ourselves much superior to the draftsman in carrying out the broad principle embodied in this Clause. There is one serious fallacy underlying the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. He made the rather astounding statement that an ordinary Government would a few months before a General Election—for that is what it came to—rush through, under the Closure, with restricted debate, measures that were obnoxious to the people. I quite admit that I am a novice in this House and that, the right hon. Gentleman has had long experience. But when he asserts that his experience is that Governments just before an election—
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
The hon. Member must not misrepresent me. I said nothing about just before an election. I was speaking of Bills subject to this procedure, assuming the Parliament Bill to have passed—Bills in next Session or the Session after.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
As I work it out, you would probably get the largest controversial measure in the second Session of Parliament. As a rule, if we come back in January or February, the Budget and the finance of the year would interfere with the introduction of such a measure as a Home Rule Bill in that Session. The Bill would come in the next Session, and so by the time the procedure had been gone through we should be brought to within a few months of a General Election. It is surely a fallacy to suggest that the Government would attempt to rush through Bills obnoxious to the people shortly before a General Election. The view of hon. Members opposite seems to be that Members in the hands of some mysterious Government, of a kind I cannot imagine at all, would participate year after year, absolutely regardless of public opinion, in rushing through measures, and ramming them down the throats of the people, just before a General Election. The whole thing is absolutely inconceivable. Look at the number of organisations we have today. Anybody who goes to a by-election is familiar with them. The idea underlying the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is that all these organisations count for nothing, and that they have no influence whatever on individual Members of this House. That is absolutely removed from the fact. Everybody knows that these manifold, well-organised, and powerful societies do influence Members. Hence, if an unpopular measure is proposed, and these societies express their discontent with or their abomination of the Bill at the end of the third year, which in most cases will be the fourth Parliamentary year, and therefore near a General Election, I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that, human nature remaining under the Parliament Bill as it was before—because we are not going to transform human nature by this or any other Bill—hon. Members will be bound to succumb to the pressure that will be brought to bear upon them.
Personally, I regard Clause 2 as giving to the Second Chamber a tremendous power—a power of which I am afraid. I am very much afraid that some of the large measures that we are anxious to see carried during this Parliament may not be carried after all. To carry a complicated measure such as a Home Rule Bill or a Disestablishment Bill without Amendment right through to the fourth year, 1239 just before a General Election, is a tremendous task. Hon. Members will be subjected to pressure and temptations which will make it extraordinarily difficult for them to stand true and carry the measure. Therefore, I do not think there is anything at all in that argument of hon. Members opposite. The House of Commons is not so unpatriotic as has been suggested. Everybody will admit that the House of Commons is patriotic to the core. As to the dictation Of the Prime Minister, the statement that we are a group of log-rollers, and all that sort of thing—they are unworthy arguments, and I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite believe in them for a moment. Under the Parliament Bill there will be a greater sense of responsibility in Members of this House. We shall know that there is no one to save us from the consequences of our mistakes. I am not so sure that the House of Lords under the Parliament Bill will not become a much more powerful body than it ever was before. Take the analogy of the monarchy. People said at the beginning that if you took away the Veto of the Crown no self-respecting person would like to be a puppet on the Throne. But, as an actual fact, the power of the Crown to influence the people, the measures, and the destinies of the country has increased and increased, and to-day the Crown in this country is more powerful than the Czar of Russia or any other monarch who still has an absolute Veto. Everybody will admit that the power the late King had on the general development of legislation and over the minds of the people, the way in which he was respected, and the influence he had in the humblest home, were infinitely greater than they were, say, in the time of George I. I believe that the same thing would happen in regard to the House of Lords. At present nobody listens to them. Nobody reads their speeches. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I know we read them at present because we are interested. We want to know what is the latest development or the latest somersault.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member would resent it very much if a Noble Lord spoke in that way of one of his speeches. He must treat Noble Lords in the other House just as he would treat hon. Members here.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
I apologise. I quite agree with your remark. I did not mean to insinuate anything. All I meant 1240 was that people have not the time, and they do not read through the Debates in detail. But, on the analogy of the monarchy, I believe that after this Bill is passed and the House of Lords removed from the area of criticism, their sentiments and opinions will be regarded by the people with much more respect than before. Hon. Members talk about the safety of the Empire. I cannot see the relevance of that, because at present the House of Lords has nothing to do with the matters to which they refer. Questions between this country and foreign powers are, as a rule, subject to effective criticism in this House alone. The House of Lords has not been allowed to interfere. They could not veto the granting of a new Constitution to a Colony, the entering into a war, or any matters of that kind. Therefore, I cannot understand why hon. Members keep dragging in the Empire as though we were proposing to set up a system that would imperil the whole future of the country. The crux of the matter is that here at home in these islands we are getting to bring about a few domestic reforms. The whole question is narrowed down to whether these domestic reforms shall be brought about through the medium of this Chamber, subject to suspension or delay by the other, or not. The sooner we leave out all this talk about the safety of the Empire the better.
§ Dr. HILLIER
The hon. Member is attributing to me an argument which I certainly did not use. He must be thinking of the speech of the Seconder of the Amendment (Mr. Meysey-Thompson).
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
The argument has certainly been used. The class of measures for which hon. Members want the check of a Second Chamber fills me with astonishment. It really comes to this—that they want to prevent the majority of the people of Ireland getting what they want, and they want to prevent the people of Wales getting what they want. Then, of course, there are a few other things, such as plural voting. Really, in the twentieth century, the passage of a Bill desired by the majority of the people, a measure which has been threshed out for over forty years, is not such a serious thing, and does not threaten the perils which one might suppose from the speeches which have been delivered.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Sir ALFRED CRIPPS
It is, I think, a grievous mistake to treat the question of the powers of the Monarchy on the same 1241 footing as the powers of the Second Chamber. The constitutional principle in this country is well ascertained. The Monarch acts on the advice of the Prime Minister for the time being. But when we come to the question of a Second Chamber, entirely different considerations arise. What would be the good of a Second Chamber bound to act according to the advice of the Prime Minister for the time being? Such a Second Chamber would be of no value whatever in the matter of controlling legislation passed in the Representative Chamber. In studying the constitutional problems involved in this Clause, we must keep absolutely distinct the powers which under the Constitution are vested in the Second Chamber and those which, according to constitutional principles, are involved in the Veto of the Monarch. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Edgar Jones) also seems to think that the best way of ascertaining the popular opinion is by certain indirect methods. He spoke about the representations made by various bodies to Members of this House. If he desires, as I understand he does, that the popular opinion should be ascertained, at any rate upon large questions of policy, is it not best to appeal to the people by the ordinary constitutional methods, so that they may give their opinion, as they have been accustomed to give it in the past? Surely it is very much better, if we are to be guided in matters of this kind, as I think we ought to be, by the public opinion of the people of this country, that that public opinion should be ascertained in a constitutional manner, and not in the way that the hon. Member suggested, namely, by various indirect influences, which in my opinion and in my experience do not in many cases lead either to the reputation or the dignity of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. EDGAR JONES
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman refer to the Referendum as a constitutional method?
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
At the present moment the constitutional method is by a General Election—in my opinion a very admirable Constitution. If we are to get rid of that—I am hoping we shall not—I think the Referendum is much better than no power of asking the people for their opinion. My own view is that the Referendum is a very inferior instrument to a General Election, which, under the Constitution as it stands, we have at the present time. There is one other point, and the hon. Member will forgive me for adverting to it, because I pay 1242 due weight to the argument he has brought forward. What is said by the other side? We are to discontinue a Bill which has been passed in the House in the second or third Sessions, when practically the whole prestige and position of the Government depends upon passing the Bill in the second or third Sessions which has already passed in the first Session? I am sure the hon. Member will not disagree from that! Let us consider the position which is likely to be more powerful, the whole position of the Government at stake on the one side, or the vast indirect indications of public opinion on the other. If for the moment we will assume there was going to be a General Election—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long) was not referring to the time immediately before the last General Election, he was speaking generally—but let us take the period before a General Election. In which way is the Government likely to be most discredited—I will put it in that way—to go with less force, in order to obtain a renewal of the mandate of the country? Surely it could not be more discredited than if, after staking its reputation upon some large Bill which it has proposed, and which has been passed in the first and second Sessions, it drops it in the third on the ground that it is afraid of the verdict and opinion of the public? The hon. Gentleman opposite shakes his head, but I should like to know what he would say if he were campaigning against a Government that had adopted that attitude? With his power of language and gift of imagination one can hardly say, and it is difficult to picture, the extremely figurative terms in which on the public platform he would protest against a Government that had acted in that poltroon manner instead of carrying out the policy that it had been sent to carry out; for fear of popular disfavour run away in the way the hon. Member has suggested!
No. This Bill, if passed, will not have the effect which the hon. Member has suggested. I want in a few words in answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General to point out what appears to me will be the defects of this Clause 2, which he has referred to in his speech. In the first place, the importance of Clause 2, which everyone in this House admits would seem to suggest that the representative of the Government when Clause 2 is attacked, should take some trouble to bring a defence forward. The importance of the 1243 Clause is the very reason why it should be defended. I agree entirely with what has been said by the Postmaster-General that really in its substance Clause 2 is "the" Bill. I believe, with the Prime Minister, who more than once has said it, that Clause 2 may be looked upon as a declaration of the existing practice. I do not think anyone has differed from that. All we have desired is as regards Clause 1—which I may go back to for a moment—all we have desired is to frame the Bill so that it should be a declaration of the existing practice, and not the giving of new powers to this House. But I must not go back. As regards Clause 2 there is no doubt that it is an entire novelty. That is the point that I want to call attention to, for it is a real novelty in that it gives a supremacy to this House which it has never enjoyed before. We may be in favour of that or not, but, at any rate, we have to face this fact that after Clause 2 has been passed, the constitutional position of this Chamber will be entirely different from what it has ever been under our Constitution. There are two results which, I think, are likely to follow from that, both of which lead me to condemn this Clause in the strongest possible terms. In the first place, I think that whatever demoralisation may have taken place in recent years in this Chamber, owing to the rising power and dictation of the Cabinet or the Ministry for the time being, it is quite certain that if this Bill, or this Clause, is passed in its present form, the demoralisation will be carried on at a greatly accelerated speed. May I quote upon that point what was said by so good a friend of representative government as the late J. S. Mill? There was no Liberal Member in this House whose opinions on a point of this sort are more respected than those of Mr. Mill. In his "Representative Government" he answers the question as to Single-Chamber Government, or giving supremacy in legislative powers to the House of Commons, and replies to that: "Not for one moment would I allow it. Why, that would be inconsistent with the whole true ideal of representative Government." Whether it is the Government, or whether it is this Chamber, you cannot demoralise either more quickly than by giving the particular power such as would be conferred by this Clause 2. Mr. Mill went further—I think quite rightly—for he points out that when you give autocratic power to individuals there is some sense of responsibility, but when you give 1244 autocratic powers to an assembly that sense of responsibility is gone. You find in history nobody exercising autocratic power in a harsher way than when it is vested in an assembly such as the House of Commons and as proposed under this Bill. That is the first point.
As regards the second point. Apart from how this particular assembly may be influenced or not, I say we are starting on the worst possible course by not having any Chamber which could, in the true sense of the term, review legislation after it has been passed by the House of Commons. Let me explain what I mean by that. The Postmaster-General and other Members of the Front Bench, and particularly the Prime Minister, have always expressed great reverence for our past Constitution. More, they have said that their reverence for our Constitution in the past is such that they refuse to look outside our own experience, and to obtain information from other countries as to the proper progress of constitutional reform or constitutional change. Let me meet them on their own ground. What is the principle under which this country has developed the freest system the world has known as regards our constitutional system? It is because we have a greater safeguard than any other country has at the present time against the supremacy of a Single Chamber in the matter of legislation. Why do I say that? We have had pointed out the safeguard in the French Constitution, in the German, in the Austrian, and in other countries. The special feature of our Constitution in the past has been that no Act of Parliament could become a reality without it had the concurrence of both Chambers.
I do not think that any other country has had such a safeguard as that. You have had other systems mentioned—I want to refer in a moment to the question of Joint Sessions—and you have had the question of the Referendum. But there is no such effective control of Single-Chamber Government, there is no such effective way of meeting the dangers of Single-Chamber Government, as that we have had heretofore in this country, namely, the absolute necessity of the concurrence of the Second Chamber for any proposal to become an Act of Parliament, and binding upon the people of this country. When we were dealing with the question of safeguards, pointed out by the Postmaster-General, he forgot to tell the 1245 House what the safeguard is that he is taking away. The safeguard under which our freedom and liberty has grown is at least as great—I say greater—than that which we find in any foreign country. If that is so, and keeping our view only to our own Constitution, if we follow out the lessons of the past, if we are to maintain this principle of freedom which we boast so much of, we must do it, not by destroying all power of revision. If we make the concurrence of the Second Chamber no longer necessary, we ought to put in its place such effective power that this Chamber cannot, by its own supremacy and its autocracy, place Acts of Parliament upon the people which may be entirely out of accord with their views and opinions.
We have proposed more than one method, but let me say at the outset that no method, in my opinion, can be effective which allows Acts of Parliament on matters of large concern to be passed before the opinion of the people themselves has been properly ascertained. That is really the issue. Is this House to be supreme or are the people of this country to be supreme? That is the real and underlying issue as regards this Clause 2. It is quite clear that under Clause 2 as it stands, that whatever the real opinion of the people might be, legislation of a most important character might be passed over their heads and against their will. I want to put this to the hon. Member opposite: Would that not be absolutely inconsistent with what is the true principle to which we refer when we boast of our freedom and liberty. That principle is simply this: that legislation in this country is passed with the assent of the governed, and being passed with their consent, gives them the liberties they require, and calls out that loyalty from them which allows us to make it our boast that we are a law-abiding people.
It is not that this representative Assembly passes legislation. That is not the basis of our freedom and liberty. It is that we only pass legislation to which the minds of the majority of the people who are going to be governed assent. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] That I see is the view of the hon. Gentleman opposite. That is the only real safeguard of our liberty. That is the principle on which we have developed in the past, and it is to that principle which we shall appeal in the future. How is that principle safeguarded under this Section as it stands? It is perfecly clear that, whether the people want it or not, 1246 most important legislation could be passed under this Bill merely by the autocratic vote of this Single Chamber. That is the object and purpose of the Bill. What have we suggested? One of the Amendments I had the honour to propose in Committee took the form of a Joint Session or a Joint Committee. What was said about it? It was not said that the principle was bad, but that it was not applicable to the House of Lords as at present constituted. What worse argument could you bring forward when you are altering the whole constitutional principle of this old country of ours?
It is common ground that when our new Constitution is perfected we shall also have a reformed Second Chamber, and what could be a worse argument than that we are not to have a proper constitutional safeguard because for the moment we have a Second Chamber which, in the opinion of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, is not what a Second Chamber ought to be. I say that is the worse possible argument. What was the other suggestion made? The suggestion of the Referendum. I will not go into the question, I think it would be out of place, as to either the merits of the Referendum or the defects of the Referendum. I do not want the Referendum, I do not want Joint Sessions; that is not my argument now, but what I am putting is that if you deprive us of the right, of appeal to the people on questions of this kind by the, ordinary constitutional methods of a General Election, you must put something in its place. Yet every alternative which we have suggested has been rejected by what I consider to be technical and merely temporary arguments from the Front Bench opposite.
We have heard a great deal about representative government in the course of these Debates, but what do you mean by representative government? I am not now going into the question as to whether the delegation is of a larger or smaller character, but a representative body, if it is truly to act as a representative body, must only act in its delegated capacity. We are not the initiating power; the people are, and if you want to apply representative government you must apply it upon the principle that a representative assembly has its powers delegated to it from the larger body outside. That is what the Prime Minister said. The Prime Minister said it was the great invention of the governmental system in our modern times that we had representation in the sense of delegated authority obtained 1247 from the body of the people at large, and he went on to say that that was the great important difference between our modern Constitution and the Constitution in old classic times.
I take that definition and I say that you strike at the whole root of representative government and you destroy the whole principle upon which it ought to be founded, if, in the case of great and important and novel legislation, you do not retain the power of going back to the main authority, namely, to the people themselves. You cannot have representative government at the same time as autocratic government; you must take your choice between one or the other. In this country in the growth of our Constitution we have no autocratic power, but we have had representative power. We have kept ourselves free of autocracy, because we have what was called by Burke and other great Liberals a balance in our Constitution. Take away that balance, make this House autocratic, and you have no longer any true principle of representative government at all, and that is where you get demoralisation. The more this House becomes autocratic and less dependent upon popular opinion, the more the right of private individuals are invaded. The more we have dictation as against discussion in the House of Commons, the greater power is vested in the hands of the Ministry now than ever before, and in making this House autocratic instead of representative the result will be that instead of enjoying the blessings of a free Government we shall be under the most despotic Government that exists in any part of the world at the present time, and although I agree that demoralisation is not a matter of an hour or a day, yet in the long run those who forged these chains upon a free people will in history be denounced not as men who developed our Constitution, but destroyed the spirit of freedom and liberty on which it was founded.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
I am quite sure the House was interested and edified as it always is by the close reasoning and the analytical methods of the hon. and learned Gentlemen who has just sat down. He complained bitterly that under this Bill safeguards in the Constitution would be absent. But that is not a new evil. The safeguards that the people had between 1900 and 1906 were no greater than those under this Bill. This Bill does not weaken the safeguards nor 1248 the powers the people enjoyed then against hasty legislation. During the period between 1900 and 1906 there were no checks whatever against hasty legislation, so there is no new evil created under this Bill. It is an evil that existed before and would exist again if you happen to have a majority in the House of Commons in harmony with the majority in the House of Lords.
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walter Long) said that the Government had given to the Dominions safeguards which they were not retaining for this country. As a matter of fact, the Government never gave to the Dominions any Constitution at all. The Dominions came here with their Constitutions already constructed and asked for approval.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
No, no. That was not so in the case of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colonies.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I was referring to the argument frequently used as to the granting of a free Constitution to South Africa. It was sent out from here and it was finally adopted and applied to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony. Not one fraction of that Constitution was framed by these Colonies themselves.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
That is not the Constitution from which the right hon. Gentleman was drawing his analogy.
§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I am sure he does not want to misrepresent me, but I was drawing my analogy from the Constitution given to the Transvaal, which consists of two Houses, and where full responsible powers were given to the Second Chamber in regard to finance and other matters, including even conferences between the two Chambers.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman if I misrepresented him, but I thought he was referring both to the South African and to the Australian Constitutions.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
Well, those who preceded him did. The Mover of the Resolution referred to both and accused the Government of inconsistency because they were refusing to put safeguards into our 1249 Constitution which they had already provided in the Constitution of the Oversea Dominions. It seems to me you cannot compare a written with an unwritten Constitution. So far our Constitution has been unwritten, and, therefore, it is elastic and we are constantly moulding and modifying it, but circumstances have changed. If you once write that Constitution as the United States of America have done and the Commonwealth of Australia has done, you must make it permanent and continuous, and for the sake of stability, permanence and continuity you want safeguards against sudden change.
The Australian Constitution provides that no change in the Constitution can take place unless it passes both Houses, or a Joint Session, and is then submitted to the people by a Referendum. Their Referendum is not taken at the caprice of one House or the other, but it is part and parcel of the Constitution, and if you draw an analogy between our Constitution and the Australian Constitution you cannot pick and choose. If you say there must be Joint Session, you must adopt the Australian precedent altogether. There, be it remembered, you have as part and parcel of the Constitution adult suffrage to begin with; you have a Second Chamber of thirty-six members only, elected by the same constituencies as those which elect the first. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is that to do with it?"] It has everything to do with it. No one has any right to claim that the House of Lords, which is an hereditary body, should have a Joint Session with us of the House of Commons upon exactly the same basis, because we are the representatives of the people, and they are not. The first consideration, if you are going to have a Joint Session, is, that you must have a Second Chamber deriving its power and authority from the same source, and until you have that there is no use talking about a Joint Session to solve deadlocks.
The Liberal party never could tolerate a Joint Session between those who are representative of the power and authority of the people and another assembly owing its authority to the accident of birth. These things are quite inconsistent, and when you quote the Australian Constitution you must take it as a whole. You have no right to quote the Referendum and say because it is a success there it would be a success here. The hon. Member who seconded this Amendment said the House of Lords contained men of great 1250 ability, and experience, and culture, and so on, and that you could not possibly have a better Second Chamber. The reply to that is that the Lords at the other end of this building are as busy as they can possibly be reforming the Second Chamber, and declaring, in the presence of that Chamber, that at least 400 of its present members shall be ineligible to sit in the new House. I do not question the statement of the hon. Gentleman opposite. I believe the House of Lords contains men of great experience, ability, and culture, but what is needed there is a political conscience. They claim authority of revising and delaying in the interest of perfect legislation, not in the interest of one class or another. Have they done that?
When the Tory party was in power did the House of Lords revise and delay in the interests of perfect legislation? Measures were sent up to them by the bushel and they were passed through as fast as they came up. In 1905 I remember a great Merchant Shipping Bill, consisting of several hundred Clauses, being sent up to them. After weeks and weeks of discussion in this Chamber, it passed through, their Lordships' House in three hours. Is that what is meant by revision and delay in that House? Is that what the House of Lords calls conscientiously doing its duty of revising and to some extent perfecting legislation? It has never delayed measures of a Tory character. It has never exercised its function of revising and delaying in order that the people might more thoroughly understand the law passed for them, or in the interest of a more sober second thought. The fact is that although in the House of Lords there are men of great ability, great culture, and great refinement, who never in private life would be guilty of anything that would cause suspicion, they certainly are guilty in the House of Lords of things that savour of lack of political conscience. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down said that if you confer responsibility upon an individual, the individual generally rises to a full sense of that responsibility, but when you confer it upon a Chamber such as this, it may be abused—
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
I said irresponsibility in a Chamber was worse than irresponsibility in an individual.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
That it led to abuse. That is exactly what ewe complain of in the House of Lords. The power they enjoy leads to abuse, and that power has 1251 been used against democratic legislation. This Bill which we are now passing is a necessary evil. We do not claim it as an ultimate solution, but we claim it as meeting a present urgent difficulty, and to that extent it is a necessary evil. Sooner or later it will be eclipsed by something more far-reaching, stable, and permanent than this is likely to be. The hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment complained that under this Bill there would be no checks on this Chamber. I maintain that if the function of a Second Chamber is to revise and delay hasty legislation, it is ample to give two years and two or three Sessions to do their revision. During that period the country would have an opportunity through the Press and public meetings and debating societies of discussing the measures introduced. All the check that is required is a check in time, not in the power to slay a Bill, but to so delay it that revision by that Chamber and this Chamber, and the full discussion on the subject which the Bill comprises should be possible in the country, and in the Press. Although ultimately a Bill passed in this Chamber under this Clause will become law, it does not bestow upon the party in the State which now enjoys a majority anything like the advantage enjoyed by the Tory party when in power, or anything like what would be enjoyed by the Tory party if they again return to power. The Tory party would have no check whatever upon their Bills, and they would be able to pass without revision or delay any measures they liked to introduce, as they did during the Tory regime in 1900 and 1906. The argument the hon. Member advances is entirely one-sided and would apply to one party in the State and not to the other. This provision is necessary in the interests of those great democratic measures upon which the majority of the people of this country have set their hearts.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
I congratulate the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Edgar Jones) upon the independence which he assures this House he possesses, and still more upon the power of self-control which enables him and those who sit behind him to suppress their eloquence until after the guillotine has fallen this evening.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
I do not think my right hon. Friend's arguments were addressed to the hon. Member in particular. He tells us that he has an imagination. He need not have told us that, be cause his speech was very imaginative. He showed a great power of imagination in putting into our mouths arguments which we never dreamt of using. He showed imagination in prophesying that on the other side of the House hon. Members were not likely to get all the measures upon which they have set their hearts during this Parliament. The hon. Member showed still more imagination when he referred to the Constitutions of our Dominions across the seas, and stated that those Constitutions were not reviewed by the House of Lords. Apparently the hon. Member had forgotten that the Bill, for example, establishing the Australian Commonwealth, went through the House of Lords just as it went through this House. The whole speech of the hon. Member was a mass of imagination, and I regret he did not allow himself to give us some more of his imagination in Committee before the guillotine was in prospect.
The Postmaster-General said he took exception to any radical Amendment being moved at this stage of the Bill. I will give the right hon. Gentleman a reason why we have now to deal with a radical Amendment. It is because the Government have refused consistently to accept any but verbal Amendments to this Bill. It is absolutely useless to move them, and if the House wishes to see the importance attached to this stage hon. Members only need to look at to-day's Notice Paper and they will find that the only Amendment of importance is set down in the name of the Prime Minister, to apply this Clause to public Bills only, because, as I had an opportunity of suggesting in Committee, it is impossible, according to the forms of procedure which obtain here, to apply it to private Bills. That is the only Amendment; therefore I do not think the right hon. Gentleman can complain of our action when we know that reason beats in vain against the Treasury Bench. The right hon. Gentleman said that the question of reforming the House of Lords was dealt with solvitur preambulando. The right hon. Gentleman hails practically from the same college as I do, and I should like him to translate that. I see that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is present. I do not know whether he is a scholar or not, but, anyhow, perhaps he will favour me by translating to the best of his ability 1253 this phrase for the benefit of the House. If it means anything at all it means that, in lieu of giving us anything substantial by way of reform, the Government are satisfied with putting vain and empty words into the Preamble. I do not know whether that is the right translation, but that is certainly the only one I can think of. Perhaps the Chancellor of the Duchy will tell us more about it when he speaks. The hon. Gentleman who has spoken from the Benches opposite said the reform of the House of Lords was coming, but he forgot entirely that this Bill applies to a reformed House of Lords as well as to the present House of Lords.
The hon. Member talked about this House of Lords being out of touch with public opinion because, unlike the legislative councils of the Dominions, it was not directly responsible to the electorate. But whatever form the House of Lords assumes in the future, however directly it may be brought into contact with the constituencies, it still remains under the provisions of this Bill so far as we allow it. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman will see that he has got that argument to answer from the Benches behind him. He will also realise that the Postmaster-General's bad pun comes with singular ill-grace from a party which made capital during the last election out of the hereditary character of the House of Lords. I am aware that the arguments were not directed overmuch to this Bill at the last election—I can give as an example the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Paragon speech at Mile End—but they were directed to ridicule the present composition in the House of Lords, picking out a few black sheep, questioning the antecedents and origin of various great families, and the like. That was what was done. Therefore the pun which now serves for argument comes very curiously from the right hon. Gentleman opposite. What I want to direct attention to is not so much the effect that this Clause has upon the relations of the two Houses as the bad effect it will have upon this House. It will still further weaken and degrade Parliamentary Government here. It will do all that can be done to make those defects which we all deplore in common—the absence of free discussion, the regular use of the closure, the guillotine and the kangaroo closure—ordinary methods of procedure, and they will he intensified to the last degree.
I am not exaggerating, and I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite what they think will 1254 happen when this Clause is in operation. A Bill that has passed for the first time may be discussed with, I suppose, the amount of freedom we have had during these Debates. But when for the second and third time it comes up I venture to say, to use a gross phrase, the House will turn from this Bill like a dog from its vomit. It will be unwilling to consider its provisions time after time with any real latitude of Debate. The forms of the House will be reduced to a minimum. Standing Orders will be suspended and during the last Session I should like to know what the third Debate of a Bill under this Clause will amount to. All the faults of the House will be intensified, not a comma can be added, and no Amendment can be made except with the consent of the House of Lords. The Bill has to be not only in substance, but in form, verbatim et literatim the same Bill as was presented to this House. Under these circumstances our procedure will become a farce and the whole thing will be turned into ridicule. For three Sessions the same Bill is to be considered in identically the same words, with not a word added or taken away except by the consent of the House of Lords. I cannot conceive anything worse for the reputation and the future of Parliament.
Perhaps the Chancellor of the Duchy will say in reply to this argument that the House of Lords will not use its powers. What right have hon. Gentlemen opposite to appeal to the House of Lords not to use their powers under a written Constitution. They are given certain prerogatives, not by understanding, by tradition, or in common law, but by statute, and they are invited to use those powers. The Prime Minister says the House of Lords is to be a body for revision and delay. I think it is likely to take advantage of those powers. That will reduce our procedure here to the farce which I have endeavoured to describe, and that is exactly my point. I am not quite so sure about hon. Gentlemen opposite standing that for very long. We had a very interesting speech from the hon. Member for Leicester, in which he said:—Legislation, like grain, has to be taken when it is ripe. You cannot delay it or public sentiment will have weakened or turned aside.The hon. Member said delay is a very dangerous thing. I might reply that we do not want legislation before it is ripe. We do not want to cut it in the green. That shows that at least the Liberal party are anxious to do away with the safe- 1255 guards in Clause 2, and I daresay those opinions are shared by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. Therefore, those safeguards are likely to disappear, although I am inclined to agree that if the House of Lords exercises its powers under this Clause it will have very considerable powers in delaying legislation. If it takes advantage of those powers, no doubt we shall have a cry for still further limiting and controlling the powers of the House of Lords. That is what is in face of us, and this is being done in the teeth of all the expert opinion that has ever been pronounced upon constitutional subjects, and we are doing it in the teeth of the advice of one of the most distinguished men belonging to the party opposite, our Ambassador at Washington, Mr. Bryce. Mr. Bryce in his text-book took the opinion of various eminent Americans upon the question of safeguards to the Constitution, and I will venture to read what one of them gave as his opinion, which Mr. Bryce thought it worth while to quote at length in his standard book:—To the American mind it seems as though England's omnipotent Parliament may before long become an instrument full of danger to the State unless in some way checks, producing the same effect as those which have been found necessary in the United States, ale placed upon the exercise of its omnipotence.This is only one of many opinions I might quote, but they are all to the same effect. Therefore, I think, in view of the advice given by a most eminent, and perhaps the most eminent, Minister who has belonged to the Radical party since 1906 some different provision might have been made in this Bill.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
But Mr. Bryce quotes that as the advice of one of the Americans to whom he appealed for an opinion.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
I know Mr. Bryce did not adopt that opinion. In his book he did not set forth any personal opinion, but the opinions he collected and thought worth while publishing, and they were all in the same direction. The opinion I have quoted is that of Seth Low. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why did you not name him?"] I made no pretence that what I was quoting was Mr. Bryce's opinion, but I gave it as an opinion which Mr. Bryce thought worth while to quote. I quoted it so that the House might judge what weight Mr. Bryce attached to this and to like opinion. It is not altogether the question of establishing the arbitrary rule of one assembly. The truth is that 1256 what we are trying to enthrone ill irresponsible supremacy is, of course, Cabinet Government. To quote another great authority, Bagehot said:—Of all sinister influences, the most sinister is the influence of the Executive Government.When you get to the root of it, and pat aside forms and pretences, that is what we are doing in this Clause and by this Bill. I ask the House whether that is in itself desirable, and whether, when we look back to the golden age of Parliamentary Government in this country, it is an effective substitute to put into uncontrolled power with the aid of the caucus either that Government or any Government. I do not speak of this Government in particular, but I say it is a backward and retrograde step to diminish Parliamentary liberties, for that is what it comes to, in the manner in which we are doing by this Clause and by this Bill.
§ Mr. ESSEX
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken made a reference to a knowledge that is his from natural history with regard to the dog and its vomit. I could not quite see the fitness of the application, but, while he was speaking, there came to my mind a recollection of some words referring to this very subject in the last election address he was good enough to issue when standing as a Liberal candidate for the Division which he served so well, and which it was my privilege afterwards to represent. I do not think any one would cavil at the excellent phraseology in which the hon. Gentleman there described the difficulties with which we have to deal. To day he went on to speak about the House of Lords on the same lines as others who preceded him, and to state that our proposals meant the tyranny of the House of Commons and that sort of thing, and that it was absolutely necessary, in order to maintain popular liberty, that the House of Lords should have power of check and should be alone the repository of that power which might send Governments about their business as they listed. The House of Lords itself has not for some time past contended that it is by any means such a satisfactory body as ought to endure much longer in its present form.
Some of us, and probably the hon. Member himself, stood in that beautiful chamber the other day and heard some of its leading Members give their consent to the testimony of their most august colleague that this is so. They have produced a large number of measures to reconstitute and rehabilitate themselves and to win 1257 again, if it might he, the old-time confidence our forefathers placed in that assembly and which many of their children have had abundant and bitter reason for regretting in recent years. The trouble of the whole business is seen in the multiplicity of their endeavours to bring about an amended House, which would not merely satisfy us, but which would also satisfy them. I would ask the hon. Gentleman that when criticising Clause 2 and our proposals under it, he charges us, as is so commonly done, with dealing in this matter only with the Veto Bill and not setting about the reconstitution of that House, to remember that they themselves are showing beyond all possible dispute how tremendously difficult is the problem with which they would bring us hastily face to face. We are profiting, we say frankly and candidly, by the very difficulties in w finch they find themselves. The multiplicity of their plans and the constant dissatisfaction expressed with those plans as they come like supers across the stage show we could not have done other than we have done. The hon. Member, in his opening remarks, charged us further with being unwilling even to admit a verbal alteration in this Bill.
§ Mr. ESSEX
Perhaps the hon. Member will pardon me. I am speaking hurriedly. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, with all their assiduity and care, and despite the fact that they have manifested most admirably the effects of the splendid drill under which they have been passing and the coaching they have had in discussing this matter, with the elaborate treatises that have been fed out to them every day as they have had their names bracketed to certain Amendments, have forgotten one great point. There has been a rare thing experienced in the country of late, and that is for a Government to go to the country on a printed Bill, with its words agreed by the parties supporting it practically line for line and Clause for Clause, from its initial letter to its last letter. That that again has been the outcome of a Resolution passed and agreed to by this same party and supported by it through successive years, and the need for it has been emphasised by the subsequent experience of that party. All this has made it impossible, if you would keep good faith with the electorate, to make any serious or large Amendment in the Bill. I do not attempt to state too strongly or too 1258 vigorously the consideration that hon. Members opposite have not themselves agreed as to the value of the various criticisms they have offered and the various Amendments they have suggested. I leave it at that, and say they can hardly expect, when they look at it from this standpoint, that any serious Amendments should be accepted by the Government to a Bill, the genesis of which is after the manner I have stated.
I came into this Chamber this afternoon while the House was listening with that pleasure it always manifests to the courteous utterances of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long). He was referring, as others did afterwards, to the fears they have about this so-called tyranny of the House of Commons; but all he had to say was outdistanced by the hon. and learned Member for the Wycombe Division of Buckinghamshire (Sir A. Cripps), who followed shortly afterwards. He spoke in terms which I do not think I am describing too strongly when I say they were terms of disparagement of the qualities and state of this House. I was not altogether surprised at his statement, because I happen to have read in a Gloucestershire paper a speech the hon. and learned Gentleman made at Cirencester, and in which he made use of expressions like the following:—I would not trust the House of Commons with these powers the Government are asking for.I am not complaining of what he said. I am only remarking that I was not surprised, knowing lie holds the views he does, to hear him speak as he did. He further said:—I know the House of Commons, and I know there are far too many men in the House of Commons on the make.
§ Mr. ESSEX
No. I do not think you would say it, but the hon. and learned Member for Buckingham said it at Cirencester in the course of the last election when lie was one of the stars who came down to illuminate the electors of that district. He went on to say we were removing by this Bill the safeguards which were provided by the present state of things, and that our political progress in the past was due to the continuance among us of the Parliamentary form of Government under which we had so long existed. It would be only right for me to speak with some diffidence in criticising an authority like the hon. and learned Gentleman, but 1259 I would venture to say the ground of popular support of Parliament in this country has been that the people of the country have felt increasingly that they themselves have been the final repository of power, and that, after a greater or lesser period it lay with them to alter in character the House in all its forms and circumstances. I wondered, while listening to the Debate, whether we were not on both sides a bit too much excited over this Bill. My strong opinion, for what it is worth, is that the Bill will neither be as bad a thing as the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to fear nor so good a thing as some of us on this side of the House in our more sanguine moments hope it may he. I am not at all sure it will not be the bitter experience of Liberal Governments in the future to find this a very dangerous Bill, giving to whatever form of the House of Lords that may in the future have to wield them, powers to act in such a way as to bring sooner or later to ruin not a few somewhat cherished Liberal measures. At the same time something must be done, and we feel that in framing this Bill, at any rate, we may, if the enthusiasm of the public for the proposals we lay before them endures long enough and our power also subsists, sooner or later obtain our will, have our way, and embody our legislation in the form we desire.
There is this further consideration I should like to urge for what it is worth. Let it be remembered, if we are taking from the House of Lords by these proposals, which I take it will pass into law, any portion of the power they now enjoy, every jot and tittle of the power we take from them will be handed to the people and to their power will be given this added opportunity for influencing legislation. The remark seems to meet with some incredulity on the other side. Is it forgotten we actually make a proposal for the more frequent reference of the whole of the business of this House and the conduct of the Government to the people? We have shortened the Parliamentary term. It is not that we are going to have an increase of the autocratic powers of this House. What is there in this charge of the tyranny of the House of Commons which we hear bandied about so frequently? What is the House of Commons? Is it more than a Committee of the people sent here for legislative purposes? How is it constituted? We all of 1260 us know—and no one better than my hon. Friend (Mr. Harry Lawson), who has had so varied a political career and so many stout political contests—and who I hope will have many more—how we have to go before audiences before we can come here, submit our programme and debate it, and face increasing channels and streams of criticism as the outcome of increased political activity among the people.
The more therefore we remember this, and the more we remember, too, what is no less the fact, how deeply and truly sensitive all Governments—and especially Liberal Governments— are to changes of public opinion, how quick they are to respond to any outward sign of lessening confidence, when, remembering these things a man soberly and seriously gets up and says that we are lessening the liberties of the country and substituting tyranny for them, whereas they are finding their chief expression in a freely-elected House of Commons, I am bound to say that, with every desire to put a most charitable interpretation upon such an expression of opinion, I find it very hard to believe it is really said in earnest. At the very worst, we may be charged with being desirous of substituting, I will not say for the tyranny, but flit the control of this country as at present exercised by the Peers, the control of legislation by a national Committee, which we feel, at any rate, would be a safer repository of such powers.
The hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire said something about retaining the power of the Veto. I listened to his speech with close attention, but I could not find in it a single admission that we on this side have ever had a grievance regarding the unfair exercise of power by the party opposite, whether in this House or the other, as to the exercise of the power of sending the Government for the time being to the people. Hon. Members opposite, when in power, never had cause to feel any difficulty of this nature. They went to the people when the Septennial Act was theatening the term of their office, and they went to the country at the moment most convenient to themselves. But we have always had this power held over us; we have always felt that we might at any time be arrested in the full flood of our activity and be compelled to submit ourselves to the warfare and tussle of a General Election.
I do not think that hon. Members opposite need fear that under this Bill the 1261 Government are proposing to deal unfairly by them. It is a Bill which, should they be in power for twenty years, they may never have reason to know of its existence. Were it possible for the Conservative party to be in power for the next fifty years the Bill would be a dead letter. It is a coat of armour which we have assumed for our protection, but it is a coat of armour in a very incomplete form, and even with its defence we shall be submitted to all sorts of irritating delays, difficulties, and perils in regard to our legislative activity. We stand to lose more even now, though we get the full measure of this Act. Hon. Gentlemen opposite can afford to be generous. I believe that many of them in their hearts approve of this Bill. They know that whatever bonds we are applying will tie our hands while they will be left as free as ever. We are out for justice; we are out to carry a Bill the exact wording and phraseology of which has been submitted to the electors, who, having had an opportunity of studying it, having heard its advocacy from our side, and having listened to the unmeasured criticisms of the other side, have decided that they want the Bill. I very respectfully suggest that, in my opinion, they ought to have it, and, I would add, I think they will get it.
§ Mr. ROYDS
The hon. Member stated that it was a rare thing for a party to go to the country with a Bill in print., and with all its Clauses carefully considered by the country and explained to the electors. I gather from the hon. Member that he himself is not altogether a supporter of the Bill, and would not have given such powers to the House of Commons as that Bill seeks to give, but for the fact that the Bill had been put before the electorate in all its details. I can assure the hon. Member he is entirely mistaken. Far from the Bill having been put by hon. Members opposite before the constituencies in all its details, it was never referred to by quite two-thirds of the hon. Members in their election addresses. That statement is objected to, I understand, but in proof of it I may read the only reference to this constitutional question which I can find in the address of a Cabinet Minister—the Chief Secretary for Ireland. This is the right hon. Gentleman's address to the electors for North Bristol. Referring to the constitutional question, he said:—It is the task of the representatives of the people in the House of Coalitions to create a Second Chamber in 'the place of the House of Lords. This great question most of necessity dominate this election.1262 That is a typical address. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read on."] I would read on with pleasure, but really there is no further reference to the constitutional question, and much less to this Parliament Bill. The hon. Member who last, spoke made reference to an appeal to the electorate. There is an appeal in the election addresses, but it is an appeal against the hereditary principle as at present established and against the present constitution of the House of Lords, and all the speeches which were made on that subject in the country as well as the speeches which have been made on the other side in the House this afternoon, were not speeches in support of the Parliament Bill at all; they were speeches in favour of something which is not in the Parliament Bill—in favour of the proposals contained in the preamble. Every objection by hon. Members opposite this afternoon has been not against the House of Lords, but against the hereditary principle and the constitution of that House, and all the objections are met by proposals for a reform of the Second Chamber, and not by its destruction.
The hon. Member said that the country, and that we on this side of the House might rest assured that no undue power was being given to the majority for the time being in the House of Commons because of the presence of Clause 5, which sets up five years as the duration of Parliament instead of seven. Under the Clause which we are now discussing, however, it will be in the power of the majority for the time being in the House of Commons, however small, to alter Clause 5 without the consent either of the people of this country or of the House of Lords. It will be in the power of a majority, however small in this House, to abolish the House of Lords altogether under Clause 2. I wonder if hon. Members opposite have explained that fact to their constituents. I am perfectly satisfied that the people in the country do not, in the least understand the full powers which are given to any chance majority in the House of Commons under Clause 2. Arguments have been addressed to them similar to those put forward by the hon. Member who last spoke. The country has been told that it need not be afraid of Clause 2 because there is ample protection in Clause 5. But it has not been told that if there are irritating delays in the House of Lords, such as the hon. Member refers to, it will be in the power 1263 of the majority in this House for the time being to put an end to the powers of the Second Chamber which is responsible for those delays or checks, to deprive the Second Chamber of its power altogether, and, if necessary, to prolong the existence of Parliament.
It is not for me to say what the probabilities are of the present House of Commons, or any future House of Commons, taking that course, but I want to impress upon the House, and I want the country to realise that it will be in the power of the majority for the time being in this House to take that course. I am perfectly certain the people of this country have no idea of what power it is proposed to confer; and I hold that it is the duty of every hon. Member to make the position clear to the country. I cannot help thinking that many hon. Members opposite must have heartburnings on this subject, and I think later on they will censure themselves that so few have taken part in these Debates. Here we are in this House of Commons proposing to destroy in a few weeks a Constitution which it has taken centuries to build up, and yet there are merely a score of Members out of the whole great Liberal and Radical party who have had the decency to listen to the Debates, and much less to take part in them.
§ Mr. KELLAWAY
I think the hon. Gentleman's concluding remarks were distinctly unfortunate. It is not usual to comment on the paucity of attendance in this House, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the worst offenders in this respect have not been on this side. There were intervals this afternoon when the other side were saving this country from revolution when there were but twelve Members on that side, three of whom were contemplating the revolution with closed eyes. The hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Harry Lawson), in one of the speeches which he has made in the course of this Debate—and all his speeches have been well worth listening to, for they have, in my opinion, constituted really valuable contributions to the discussion—said that lie could congratulate hon. Members on this side on the self-control they had shown in not replying to the arguments used on this side.
I think we may also congratulate Members of his party on the self-control they have shown in resisting the temptation to 1264 come down to this House and to listen to speeches which have been delivered on that side. What is the explanation of the fact that neither on one side nor on the other has there been, during the last few days on this discussion, any real vitality in the Debate, It is because hon. Members have known perfectly well that, however able the speeches on that side may be, when they deal with a subject which is new, yet we have had day after day nothing but the most damnable iteration; if I may use a phrase familiar to some Members of the House, we have had nothing but the dreary drip of dilatory declamation. More remarkable still is the fact that the discussion has been carried on largely by one side, the Members of which must- have known that—and this is a phenomenon of which they must be able to realise the significance—while the House of Lords has occupied a great position in this country, and has played a great part in the development of the nation, yet now, when it is threatened with the deprival of its power of Veto, outside the House there is not a dog to bark in protest. Why is that? I believe that the whole responsibility rests on the guidance that has been given to the House of Lords by the leading men of the Conservative party. Listening, as many of us did, to the speech which was made by the Leader of the House of Lords, in which he proposed his Amendment of the Constitution, one could not help feeling that it would have been a desirable thing if one of the "backwoodsmen" had risen, and amid solemn silence, pointing a finger at Lord Lansdowne, he had said, "Thou art the man."
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The lion, Member should not refer in those terms to Members of another place. It is rather discourteous.
§ Mr. KELLAWAY
I regret that my want of familiarity with the practice of this House, and not any intentional disregard of it, should have led me out of order. But surely it must be within the observation of everyone who has closely followed recent events that the responsibility for the change which is about to take place in the House of Lords does rest with the Leaders of the Conservative party, and does account for the comparative indifference of public opinion outside to the fact that that House is going to be deprived of its Veto power. Another reason is to be found in the way in which this Debate has been conducted by the Conservative party. We have been taunted with our silence, but it 1265 would have been well if many hon. Members opposite had kept silence, and I would invite those who really follow the contributions which have been made to this Debate to go through the Amendment Paper and look at the proposals which have been seriously moved from the other side. You will find that they proposed one day what they have voted against on the previous day, one day they are prepared to vote that white is white, and the next day that white is black; and, indeed, it will be found that they are ready to vote quite indifferently of the character of the Amendment put down upon the Paper. One of the Amendments, for instance, was that this Bill should not operate during three years; the, next Amendment was that the Bill should only operate during the next three years, and the same hon. Members who spoke in favour of one spoke and voted in favour of the other.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Is there anything contradictory in those two propositions? Is there anything contradictory in the proposition of an hon. Member if he were to say that he would not be hanged next week, and he would not be hanged the week after?
§ Mr. KELLAWAY
I will only say that I am hanged if I understand the interruption. The next proposal was that the financial proposals of this Bill should cease to operate after a certan period.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This is not a Third Reading Debate. The hon. Member is not entitled to review all past Amendments. We are now discussing Clause 2.
§ Mr. KELLAWAY
I bow to your ruling, Sir, at once. I was trying to illustrate why, in my opinion, this Clause is going to be carried as part of this Bill without any protest coming from outside. I think it will be agreed that the general character of this discussion as directed from the other side upon this, the really great operative Clause of this measure, has made it impossible for the party opposite to create outside this House any body of opinion which is likely to give them any valid support upon this question. The same arguments have been repeated again and again, the same proposals have been brought forward time after time. There has been nothing new, and I should think the House of Lords must be inclined to say, "Save us from our friends," if the best friends they have in this country are the men who have taken part in the discussion. This afternoon we have had the 1266 hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Harry Lawson) quoting Mr. Bryce's work on the American Commonwealth, and he used there an expression that certainly left the impression on this side of the House that Mr. Bryce was opposed to the broad outlines of this Bill. I accept the explanation afterwards given by the hon. Member for Mile End when he said he was only quoting, and he wished us to understand that he was only quoting. But lie said that Mr. Bryce was one of the most distinguished figures that Liberalism had produced in twenty years, and he asked how Mr. Bryce stood in regard to this question. Mr. Bryce voted for the Campbell-Bannerman resolutions, and they are the foundation of this Bill. Whilst we on this side have not taken any large part in this Debate, it has been largely due, so far as I am concerned, to this fact—that the speakers on the other side have answered one another, or very often they have answered themselves in the course of their own remarks. The hon. Member for the Strand asked us whether we thought that this Bill was verbally inspired, and he asked us if we had no desire to make any Amendments at all in this Bill. I am prepared to say of this measure, as the result of the discussions which have taken place in this House, that, at any rate, it has been proved that there is no workable alternative to it that has been brought forward. There is no alternative in hon. Members' Star Chamber proposal or in the proposal for a Joint Committee or the rest of them. Every one of them has broken down, and this Bill, with this great operative Clause in it, emerges from these discussions as the one workable method by which the British and English people can, through their representatives in this House, work out their own will. That is what this Bill asks for, and that the people will have, and no less.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
We have had one feature in this afternoon's Debate which has not been ordinary in the previous Debates, and that is we have had some speeches from the other side, and it certainly has revealed a very curious attitude of mind. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Essex) told us that Members on that side were out for justice, and, if so, I do not think I quite respect his phrase, although I may respect his intentions. The hon. Member for Stirlingshire (Dr. Chapple) said that this Clause which we are debating is one of great importance because of the particular circumstances in 1267 the recent history of the Radical party, who had had such unfair treatment at the hands of the system of two Chambers, and he called attention to a particular case. He said, if you are to have two-Chamber Government, you must have revision, but you do not have revision when the Conservative party are in power. Look, he said, at recent history. Have you had revision? The Merchant Shipping Act, he said, was passed and there was no revision by the Upper House. The hon. Member for Stafford, who is out for justice, will, I am sure, desire me to point out to the hon. Member for Stirlingshire that the Merchant Shipping Act was passed in 1894, while the Radical party was in power. It was passed in that year, and I think it was described to me as being passed in large blocks in regard to its sections and Clauses. There were 748 of them as well as schedules, and surely, when an hon. Member on the other side of the House points to the House of Lords and says that it did not do its duty because it did not mangle a piece of legislation passed by Members on that side of the House, after having been dealt with first of all by a Committee upstairs and then in this House in a manner in which it was only possible to deal with it by means of large blocks of Clauses being passed at one time—surely if hon. Members are out for justice they should withdraw their attack in this case upon the other House.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
That is a mere Consolidation Bill, and it is of nothing like the very great length of the one to which I have alluded. It was a mere matter of consolidation, and if he was referring to that Bill, he was referring to the wrong Bill as the one which required revision, and I am right in referring to the Act of 1894. Then constantly we are told that many Bills have been improperly dealt with by the House of Lords, and this afternoon we have had many references made to the Plural Voting Bill, and what an unfair thing it was that the House of Lords threw it out. May I remind hon. Members opposite what was said of that 1268 measure by Lord Courtney of Penwith, as good a Liberal as ever lived. He said:—Although I admit that the Bill is a small affair, and that its machinery appears to deserve much of the Noble Viscount's condemnation, and although I recognise as he has done that Sir Charles Dilke, a man of greater authority and with a larger knowledge of the political machinery of our time than any other has condemned the Bill from top to bottom, 'admitting all that, would it not he better to read the Bill a Second time?'The Noble Lord further said:—But if it is to receive the coup de grace, it would not surprise your Lordships that I shall accept that result with a not unbecoming serenity, thinking that in the end not much mischief will be done by delay.This is one of the measures that we are constantly having referred to as a Bill which ought to have passed in the House of Lords, and it was a measure which was condemned by so distinguished a Radical as the right hon. Gentleman the then Member for the Forest of Dean.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
I can only refer the hon. Member to the speech of Lord Courtney of Penwith, and who is to decide between the accuracy of the hon. Member and that of the Noble Lord. If the hon. Member would like the reference to the speech he can have it, and I have it here. It is upon record that the House of Lords threw out that Bill, but Lord Courtney of Pen-with said in regard to that measure that he would accept the concluding act of the Lords in reference to that Bill with not unbecoming serenity. If the hon. Gentlemen are out for justice they must choose a better ground for complaining of their treatment than this case, because we have a much wider matter to Debate this afternoon. The question is not what happened in the last decade or the last twenty years in the fortunes of one of the principal parties, but it is because of what occurred in recent history that, you are going to argue that on that ground it is wise to make a vital alteration in the Constitution we pride ourselves upon, and which stands upon the checks and balances which exist in that. Constitution. We now have introduced by this Clause a very powerful check indeed upon the powers of one House. Under this measure it is said that we are to have an Amendment of the Constitution of the House of Lords, but what we are complaining of in this Clause is that it has a vital effect upon the checks and balances to which I have alluded, and when you are endeavouring to right the Constitution of this country you must right not only a part, but you must be 1269 ready, if you want to do justice, to right a little more than that. You must not attempt what is impossible, and that is to engraft a written Constitution upon an unwritten one. In the past we have had checks and balances which have worked well, and the proposal of Clause 2 is to impose delay which has a most unfortunate effect, not only upon the powers of the House of Lords, but also upon the powers of this House. One of the most unfortunate features of Clause 2 seems to me to be this—that if a measure dealt with under it fails of its mark and fails to receive popular support, it is impossible to alter it later on under this provision of the Parliament Bill. You will find the Government of the day, the party of the day, and the majority in this House confronted with this alternative. Are they prepared to go on with a Bill in respect of which it is revealed that it is unsatisfactory, and that it, has some defects? Are you to go on with it, or are you to lose the whole Bill? The unfortunate part of it will be that the majority of the Cabinet will be tempted to go on with the Bill in its original form, because this House cannot alter it and at the same time make use of the powers of Clause 2. The meaning of that is that during the period of two years you not only by this Bill decline to avail yourselves of the possibility of the assistance of the Second Chamber, but you also put the deliberations of this House at a discount, and you prevent this House having its true and proper opportunity of discussing and altering, as it ought to do, after due consideration, a Bill in respect of which some defects have been revealed.
Another hon. Member (Mr. Edgar Jones) referred to the fact that no party would proceed with a Bill in respect of which it has not got true and real support from outside. The question I ask is, How are you to gather whether you have that real support? Who shall say whether demonstrations and big meetings and so on are really indicative of the fact, that a measure has lost the support of the people or not? Are there not a number of persons who will say that is only a stage effect, and that these are merely stage army meetings? They will still believe in the Bill, and will not give it up for the sake merely of large demonstrations in different parts of London. It is an absolutely wrong thing that this House should give up its deliberative affairs and hand them over to the meetings which are held in Hyde Park or Trafalgar Square. If the judgment of the country 1270 is to be ascertained by meetings in Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square, and not by the deliberations in this House, I think we have come to a very unfortunate condition of representative Government. The true meaning is this: If you are to have representative Government at its best, and if you are going to have representative Government, with Members responsible to their constituencies, and closely in touch with them, you ought to have either a free opportunity of deliberation in this House during all the years that the measure is before the House, or you ought to have some other measures such as we have suggested of putting the question plainly and clearly so that we may have an answer, and true knowledge, as to whether the people are continuing to support the particular measure that has been proposed and not hand ourselves over to the uncertain, unsatisfactory, and very often misleading methods of popular agitation to see whether the Government is still supported on the measure in question. It is on these grounds that I contend that this is an unsatisfactory Clause. It deals with part only of the contemplated changes of the Government, and while we have not got their full measures before us I decline to support, and I offer the strongest opposition I can to this Clause.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It is really extremely difficult for hon. Members on this side of the House to please hon. Gentlemen opposite. For the greater part of yesterday's Debate we preserved what we were constantly reminded was a discreet silence and were taken to task for it. To-day some of us have broken the silence, and now we equally meet with their displeasure. But it is extremely interesting to find how few really novel arguments can be adduced, notwithstanding the added material that has been placed at the disposal of hon. Gentlemen opposite through the speeches which have come from this side of the House. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Pollock) denies the whole case for any constitutional change at the present juncture. His speech is absolutely meaningless, if, indeed, any change has to to be attempted at the present time. To begin with, he assailed my hon. Friend (Mr. Essex) for saying that what the Liberal Government desired at present was justice, and he suggested that we were suffering from no injustice, and in particular he quoted the Plural Voting Bill. He sought to show that the action of the House of Lords in relation to that 1271 Bill was perfectly fair, and he made quotations from Lord Courtney of Penwith. But Lord Courtney of Penwith gave support to the Second Reading of that Bill. The only justification which was given to any action on the part of the House of Lords in Lord Courtney's speech was justification for the Amendment of the Plural Voting Bill, and not for its rejection. It is perfectly true, as everyone knows, that the late Sir Charles Dilke was opposed to the machinery of the Bill and was in favour of other machinery for bringing about the same result. The correct action for any fair revising body in relation to the Plural Voting Bill was not to reject the measure, one which contained a principle approved by the people of this country, but to amend it, and to introduce machinery which would have carried out the aim of the Bill in a fairer and more effective manner.
But there are other cases which conclusively and clearly prove the injustice with which Liberal measures are treated by the House of Lords as contrasted with Conservative measures. There is no better case. I think, than the contrast between the treatment of the present Prime Minister's Employers Liability Bill of 1893 and the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897. I remember, in regard to the later Act, that in the Second Reading Debate in the House of Lords so staunch a Conservative as Lord Londonderry taunted their Lordships with the fact that they were passing this Bill, not on its merits, but because it was a Bill introduced by a Tory Government, and he said that had that Bill been introduced by a Liberal Government it would never have received a Second Reading from the House of Lords. That is the case of the Liberal party against the House of Lords, that the House of Lords does not treat measures upon their merits Lot looks at them entirely from the point of view of the source from which they came and of their bearing upon the electoral interests of the Tory party. So far as the hon. Member (Mr. Pollock) is concerned, there is no case apparently for any reform of the House of Lords. If the House of Lords has, as he contends, so admirably, justly, and efficiently discharged its duties, why change this admirable institution which has all the traditions of age behind it? Why not retain it in all its splendour? Only the other day the Leader of the majority in the 1272 other House gave that House its deathblow. Surely never was innocence, justice and a fair record worse requited than on the part of the Tory party at the present time in relation to the House of Lords.
We have not only a quarrel with hon. Gentlemen opposite in regard to the past. Their arguments upon this Clause are not really arguments in the true sense. They are in the main prophecies. They are prophecies that certain things will take place. If we take the admirable speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Alfred Cripps) in which he endeavoured to base his case upon existing tendencies, we see that his case against the Bill is entirely a matter of tendencies. He says demoralisation is going on in this House at the present time, the Cabinet is gaining greater and greater power, the whole work of the House is in the hands of the Cabinet, the entire legislation of the country is being worked by the Cabinet, and nothing is being left to private Members at all. That is perfectly true, but will the change introduced by this Bill, if it becomes law, make any difference to that? What is the real cause of that tendency to which he refers? It is that the people themselves have wanted this thing.
The great test applied to Governments in General Elections, when candidates have to go and address constituencies and seek public support, is the legislation which the Government that they support will carry through for the benefit of the country. The consequence of these popular tendencies has been that legislation has more and more been thrown upon the Government and has less and less become the work of private Members. Only the other day the Leader of the Opposition in another place thought it necessary to make an apology for his action as a man in an independent capacity in bringing forward legislation. So far has this tendency to make legislation the monopoly of Ministries gone, with its necessary result of giving Ministries almost sole control of the House of Commons, that you have had the authority to which I have referred. The reason for this change is that the people of this country have desired legislation, and they desire that the Ministers, who are elected from time to time indirectly to the House of Commons, should carry through that legislation. I have no doubt that that tendency will continue in operation after this Bill is passed, as we believe it will be passed, but we do not believe that it will 1273 in any way increase either the autocracy of the Cabinet or the autocracy of the House of Commons. We believe, on the other hand, that by diminishing the duration of Parliament, as this Bill does, you will limit the possibilities of the exercise of autocracy on the pare of the House of Commons.
What is the real check upon abuse of power by the House of Commons as it is at present? The real check is the prospect of a dissolution of this House. Even when we had, during the years from 1900 to 1905, an unchecked Cabinet ruling this House, I believe with a rod of iron—at least, the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) used to complain that it did—even in those days the Government in power were checked in the exercise of their power by the knowledge that they would be called to account when a General Election came, and they were called to account, and I believe the object lesson of the General Election of 1906 will long be a solemn warning to all Ministers in this country not, to run counter to public opinion, and not to endeavour to outstay their welcome on the part of the electorate. That, in our view is a real check upon the attempt to exercise irresponsible powers either on the part of the Cabinet or of the House of Commons. We believe that this is the true check, looking at the question from the point of view of the representative system.
We hold that the Referendum is not a check which is consistent with the principles of the representative system, and those Gentlemen who call themselves Conservatives really have strayed far from Conservative principles. The Referendum is surely a very strange doctrine to be preached by the people who pose as the constitutional party. I wonder what the fathers and masters of the Conservative party would say to hear this new-fangled doctrine preached? In fact, there is no doctrine in these days too new-fangled for the Tory party to adopt. It illustrates, what seems to me to be a true saying, that there is no worse revolutionary than a Conservative in a panic. We have been appealed to by hon. Gentlemen opposite to be true to the spirit and the traditions of the British Constitution. It is only those who are sitting on this side of the House who are true to the spirit and traditions of the British Constitution. What did the greatest thinker who has given his mind to the consideration of the British Constitution in this country say in regard 1274 to changes in the Constitution? He said there would be need for reforms of the British Constitution, but he added, "Let the reforms be on the plan of the building itself." Is this Referendum consistent with the plan of the building itself? True, it is adding a new kind of wing on the Swiss Chalet style of architecture. It is a system which has grown up in countries where representative institutions have really never been understood and never thoroughly appreciated. It is sought to transplant that system into our fully representative system. To revert to another saying of the same master of constitutional practice in this country, Edmund Burke, "Let us consult the genius of the British Constitution." I believe if we consult the genius of the British Constitution we shall accept the proposals and the expedients contained in this Bill rather than the new-fangled and reckless proposals which are recommended to us from the other side.
§ Mr. GERSHOM STEWART
We have listened with great pleasure to the speeches made on the other side. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Pringle) accuses this party of being a revolutionary party. It is clear that new conditions are arising. It has been proved that in the Constitution of this country and in constitutions of every other country the good old wino of a Second Chamber is a valuable thing. We prefer to have the good old wine of an efficient Second Chamber, even if we have to change the shape of the bottle, whereas hon. Members opposite seek to keep the bottle in its old shape and to fill it up with water so that it shall be entirely inefficient. Hon. Members opposite wish to maintain appearances, whereas we are struggling to retain the reality. There are two points which hon. Members opposite always seem to lay down as axioms which admit of no dispute, and these are, in the first place, that the whole of the democracy of this country is with them in their contention; and, secondly, that the Parliament Bill is entirely a domestic matter. I can speak for the democracy I have the honour to represent. It contains 23,000 men, and there is no peer resident, and there never has been a peer resident, in the whole district. The Election there was confined entirely to the question of this Parliament Bill, and the emphatic answer of a great majority of the electors was that they preferred two Chambers in one country rather than one Chamber in two countries. I maintain that this Bill 1275 has a distinctly Imperial bearing. Clause 1 may be more or less domestic. The great blot upon that Clause is the enormous responsibility which has been placed upon the Speaker of this House. I maintain that Clause 2 has a most wide-reaching effect. In your Dominions you might possibly, in view of their ultra democratic character, get up a certain amount of disapproval of the House of Lords. But when those Dominions realise that this is the one and only effective legislative Chamber in this country, they will not altogether appreciate the provisions of this Bill if they have to follow with anxiety and interest every General Election as having a great bearing on their future.
There have been events happening in the Palace of Westminster in the last week which any thinking man will admit have a very great effect and bearing on the way this House represents the people. We had last week three days of the Parliament Bill. On another day we had a Bill with regard to Woman Suffrage. Then we had the House of Lords in the melting pot. One of the wings of the Coalition wish to see a Bill passed for Adult Suffrage in this country. If all these things are brought in at once—[Laughter.] Hon. Members below the Gangway wish them brought about at once, and if they get the Parliament Bill through, they will have the power to do it. Then this House may be elected by a plurality of women, and women might even be elected to sit in this House. The Members of the Government gave the Bill very faint praise. From that faint praise I draw some faint hope. I earnestly hope that the Government will yet see their way to introduce into the Bill some Amendments, and that they will approach the question of Constitutional Reform in. something of the same spirit of conciliation which they have shown in bringing forward the great measure of social reform embodied in the Insurance Bill. Can hon. Members really suppose that this Bill is going to be a permanent solution of this question when the Government have treated the Opposition in the arrogant way they have done? Amendments have been brought forward by Members representing 3,000,000 electors of the country who pay half the taxes, and the Government have not accepted any single proposal from this side. I earnestly hope that when the Bill comes before us again steady good Liberals and progressive 1276 Conservatives will feel more the ground they have in common than accentuate the points on which they differ. It is only by some such process that we can ever have a solution of this important matter in a satisfactory and representative manner. No such settlement can be made if the representatives of 3,000,000 electors are ridden over roughshod as they have been. You have won the first round in this constitutional gladiatorial combat. I ask you for your own sake, and for the sake of the country, not to press the advantage too far. The olive branch has been held out by this side, and you have spurned it. When we hold it out again I trust that the Leader of the House will put forth his hand and take it in. It is only in such a way that the waters of contention will subside. It is only by approaching the question in some such spirit that we can hope to effect a permanent settlement, to put an end to bitter wrangling and barren dissension and to be enabled to join in helping forward legislation for the common good of our common country.
§ Captain GILMOUR
I rise to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend, because I feel that the Clause under discussion is beyond dispute the most important part of this Bill. It has, of course, been admitted that nothing which we may say on this side, either now or during the whole course of the Debate, is likely in. the very least to alter the determination of the Government who are pressing this measure through. That position on the part of the other side is in my judgment the strongest argument which can be advanced against this measure, and it points more surely than anything we can say to the fact that, if we give the power which we see the Cabinet using to-day to push through the House a measure of this kind without giving consideration to the arguments advanced on this side, under this measure in the future the power of any Cabinet, to whatever party it may belong, will be absolutely unlimited. I make my protest against this Clause not so much because of what the Bill may do towards the curtailment of the Second Chamber. Personally I am a strong advocate of a Second Chamber, and in my judgment this Bill sets up for the first time in the history of this country government by a Single. Chamber. If that be the case, my complaint against this measure and the policy of the Government is not so much because they are taking away the rights and privileges of either House—though I count that 1277 a great deal—it is not so much because of the attack they are making on the Constitution as we have known it in the past, but because they are taking away rights and privileges from the people of this country.
It may be all very well to say that by a later Clause of this Bill curtailing the duration of Parliament to five years the people are going to give effect to their feelings at shorter periods. There is no man on the Government side of the House or outside in the country who has been able to show to my satisfaction that there may not be a time when, under this Bill, measures will be passed certainly without anything being said by the other side, and certainly without an opportunity being given to the people of the country to make any protest of a substantial nature. It is all very well to say that public opinion may express itself. What force has public opinion against those who desire to pass the Parliament Bill? I have only been in the House a short period, but one thing has been perfectly plain to me, and it is that there is an immense amount of pressure brought to bear on Members from the outside on almost every measure that comes before the House. What Member is there who will say that he is not bound, to a greater or lesser extent, according to his individuality, to support the settled policy of his Government? I cannot see what power the people will have under this Bill to prevent the passing of any Bill. Take the most important measure which is likely to come into almost immediate dispute under this Clause, namely, Home Rule. The question of Home Rule was before the country more than once, and it is indisputable that when the people of the country were given an opportunity of expressing their views they declared against it. You may put what interpretation you wish upon it, but if you bring in a Home Rule Bill, after this Bill has been passed, there will be no means whereby the people will be able to express their views except in a thoroughly negative manner.
In the nature of things they cannot do more than make an expression of their views by protest, and of what value is that unless it is backed by some executive action? That is my reason for strongly opposing this Bill. The people of this country, although the contrary has been maintained on the other side of the House, have not up to the present time had an opportunity of fully considering this 1278 measure. If you take the last General Election, it is quite true to say that not one man in a hundred almost in every constituency throughout the length and breadth of the country had read this measure. It is true that the measure had been printed, and it has been said in this. House as one of the features of the situation that we are to-day passing a measure which was printed and before the country at the last General Election, and that we are passing that Bill through almost without the alteration of a single line. Does anyone mean to tell me that the ordinary elector of this country at the General Election has studied this measure? He had no opportunity except in those few short weeks of discussion before the poll, and anyone who knows anything of electioneering knows well that it is not the bulk of the people in a district who come to public meetings. Therefore I say it is altogether beyond the true situation to say either that this Bill has been fully considered by the electors of the country, and most certainly it is not true to say that the people of this country are willing, as many hon. Members seem to suppose to place in the hands of the House of Commons the sole and ultimate power of deciding, without any check on their operations, any measure which the Government of the day may choose to place before them.
I cannot believe, strongly as we have heard this measure supported from the other side of the House, that hon. Gentlemen think that this is to be a permanent piece of legislation. Yet I heard to-day one hon. Member say that if you are going to substitute a written Constitution for an unwritten one, as we have at present, of necessity that written Constitution ought to be drafted upon permanent lines which would carry with it the strength and support of the nation. Surely, whether it is to be permanent or not, you are to-day writing or endeavouring to write a Constitution which it is admitted even by yourselves cannot be permanent. You say you cannot touch those reforms which are contained in the Preamble, and that you cannot accept these safeguards, which we propose, by the Referendum, in order not to protect the interests of this or that party, but to protect the interests of the people. With regard to the Referendum, I myself can conceive nothing more democratic or which would more surely or more certainly appeal direct to to the people upon points which should come before the people of this country.
1279 It is all very well to say that it is undesirable in certain respects, but if you are going to carry through this Parliament Bill, and going to remove for the first time in the history of this country all check upon the legislation of this House, as undoubtedly you are going to do, then it is absolutely essential in the interests of the people of this country that an appeal should be allowed to them. I earnestly hope, whatever the result—and I suppose that the result of the vote in this House is a foregone conclusion—that the people of this country will realise ere it is too late the very grave step which they are taking in placing in the hands of the Cabinet of the hour, be it one party or the other, an autocratic and unlimited power which, even if it be for a short period, will give them absolute control over the legislation of this country.
§ Mr. ROWLAND HUNT
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Herbert Samuel) told us that the Government were going to set up a reformed Second Chamber. I would direct his attention to what the Prime Minister told us in this House; He said that it would take a very long time, however much we might agree to the change, to set up a Second Chamber instead of the Lords. It seems, therefore, from the Prime Minister's own statement, that if this Bill became law the formation of the reformed Second Chamber would be indefinitely put off, even if the Liberal, Labour and Nationalist parties were agreeable to have one. But it is perfectly well known that the majority of the Members of the three parties who make up the coalition which support the Government, that is the Irish, the Labour, and the very strong Radical Members, are all against having a Second Chamber at all. That is certainly my great objection to this Clause in the Bill. This Clause ought to be left out, because if it is passed we should be under this Government indefinitely. They would have power to keep themselves going on. I am not saying that it is not very astute on their part, but I do not want it to happen.
The hon. Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) told us that the Labour party demanded that "the House of Lords should be ended, not mended," and he went on to say that "the remedy of an elected House of Lords would be worse than the disease, and that they wanted to abolish the House of Lords, as there was no need for an assembly of that character." I really can- 1280 not imagine the poor Prime Minister struggling to bring in a Bill for a reformed Second Chamber, though including in it many of the Gentlemen whom he has himself sent up to the red benches, against the determined opposition of the Gentlemen from Ireland and the Labour party, and the Gentlemen whom I may call the tail of the Radical party. I think, therefore, we may dismiss altogether the idea that, the Government really intend to bring in any legislation setting up another reformed Second Chamber. Of course, the idea of keeping up this fiction is only one of the usual and curious devices of the Government to humbug the people, and also to keep the support of moderate Liberals like my right hon. Friend (Mr. J. A. Pease), whom I see on the Government Benches.
If the Government would be as honest as the late chairman of the Labour party, the hon. Member for Blackfriars, and tell the people plainly that they intended the House of Commons to be the supreme and only power in the land with no check on it for four years, we on this side of the House would be perfectly willing to bow to the will of the people. But it would have to be, clearly and unmistakably expressed. Nobody on that side of the House can get up and say that it has been clearly expressed by the people of this country. Nobody can say that it was really the chief thing on which a majority was obtained at the last election. [HON. MEMBERS: "What was it?"] In my Division it was Tariff Reform. The Government, however, will not do this, although the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir H. Dal'ct) has pointed out what would be the result if this Bill with this Clause was passed into law. From an illuminating speech which he made on 4th April, 1910, we learn that "all Bills that the Government intend to pass during that Parliament must be brought in at the beginning of February in the first Session, and then, under the Resolutions, if worked to their fullest advantage, Bills will pass in future, in two years. They will not take a day longer, if the Government are in earnest." I think that that is the state of the case. He went on to say, "Therefore, any measure that the Government made up their minds for would be got through in two years."
The House of Lords has existed for 800 years, and admittedly it has done a great deal for the people of the country and for the Empire. The House of Lords gave the people their Magna Charta. It 1281 has existed for 800 years, and you are going to do away with it, or do away with its power and its usefulness, in eight months. Do you think that is the way to legislate? It appears certain that under this Clause and this Bill the Cabinet which controls the House of Commons have absolute power of forcing through any Bills they like, under the guillotine and closure, however much the majority of the people of this country may dislike them. The people might very well be deceived just as they were in 1906 and at the following elections by the various inexactitudes such as Chinese labour, big loaves[HON. MEMBERS: "Tariff Reform"]—Old Age Pensions—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]—and all the inexactitudes that gained an enormous number of votes for hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House.
It is quite possible, I may say it is almost certain, that the Liberal party will try those games again, only they will invent new inexactitudes to suit the times. The consequences will be that the Government can pass Home Rule against the wish of Ulster, and compel Ulster to be torn away from Great Britain against her will. I cannot think that would be right. If it is wrong to compel Ireland to be politically joined to Great Britain, surely it must be wrong to tear Ulster away from Great Britain, and compel her to be politically united to the rest of Ireland. But the reason appears to be that the Government have been obliged to do exactly what the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) tells them. The Liberal Cabinet have been really like dumb driven cattle under the whip of Irish Members. Really if this Clause should become law anything may happen. There will he no power to prevent it. I have no doubt hon. Gentlemen are looking forward to a Licensing Bill and an Education Bill—measures which were prevented from passing because the House of Lords had power to refer them back to the people. You dare not go to the people upon them, because you knew very well that the people would have had you out. Let me point out what a Radical peace-at-any-price Government might do. They might reduce the Army and Navy to such an extent that if war came suddenly we should be absolutely powerless. They could pass vote-catching measures which would cost so much money that it would be impossible to find sufficient to keep up the Army and Navy. I think they probably would do that. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did tell us "that he was 1282 going to find the money for social reform by reducing the amount spent on the hideous mechanisms for human slaughter." That is how he put it.
I would respectfully point out to the. House what happened in Cromwell's time, according to Cromwell himself, when the' House of Commons was supreme. At that time our Navy was neglected and defeated by Von Tromp. It was because the Government could not, or would not, find the money for ships and men, and the Dutch admiral actually landed men in Sussex to gather cattle, and for a considerable time English warships and merchantmen were at his mercy. [An HON. MEMBER: "He put a broom at the mast-head."] It was in 1652, when the House of Commons had uncontrolled power, and this is what Cromwell said at the time:—The members' of Parliament chiefly occupied themselves in getting profits for themselves and their friends, and in delaying business in order to continue in power, and they could not be kept within the bounds of justice, law or reason, because they themselves were the supreme power of the nation, liable to nobody, and could not be controlled or regulated by any other power, there being none superior or co-ordinate with them,[An HON. MEMBER "That was to the Lords."] That was what was said by Cromwell about the House of Commons, and the way in which they behaved themselves. [An HON. MEMBER "What did he say about the House of Commons?"] Cromwell went on to say:—That unless there was some authority and power to, restrain them and keep things in order it would be impossible to prevent the ruin of the country.That is the position in which you are going to put the House of Commons if you pass this Clause of the Bill. The House will remember that things became so bad that Cromwell did away with the House of Commons by force, and a notice was written outside of it, "This House to Let."
§ Mr. CARLILE
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I ant sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I wish to draw attention to the fact that on the other side of the House there are running comments during the whole time my hon. Friend is speaking. I wish to know, Sir, whether you will call their attention to the fact and call them to order?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I did not hear any special interruption calling for my intervention.
§ Mr. CARLILE
May I draw your attention, Sir, to the act that these running comments do not occur when other hon. Members are speaking, nor do we interrupt 1283 when Members opposite are addressing the House. But whenever my hon. Friend (Mr. Hunt) speaks his observations are accompanied by a running commentary, especially from the Labour party.
§ Mr. HUNT
It seems to me that under Single-Chamber Government we might have a majority in the Cabinet and in the House of Commons who would take the part of the enemy against their own countrymen. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil said that the House of Commons was always very patriotic. I am afraid that has not always been the case. It will be remembered, I daresay, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at Bristol, told his audience that our troops had slaughtered 11,000 children in South Africa, and added that h did not like the killing of children. I do not think that that was very patriotic; I think it was a great calumny on our soldiers, and I do not think it will ever be forgotten. It might very well be that we might find ourselves under the domination of men who took the part of the enemy of their country against their fellow countrymen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order."] At all events we know this, that members of the Second Chamber, a good many of them went out to South Africa and fought for their country and died for it. They did not stay at home and abuse their fellow countrymen as did many hon. Members opposite. These are some of the reasons why, for the safety and welfare of the people, the country, and the Empire we should endeavour to prevent the passing of this Clause. A Clause of this sort should not be passed unless we have a direct mandate from the people to do so, and it should be made the only question at the General Election. A Second Chamber is really a necessity for arresting hurried and partial legislation, so as to give the nation a chance of speaking its mind before a new revolutionary law is passed. Moreover, the House of Lords without this power would be a positive danger, because it would be mistaken for a safeguard against the wild and revolutionary legislation. A Scotch philosopher said the other day—That the people cannot he trusted to take a holiday in Glasgow until all the public-houses are shut.Yet the people alone are to be trusted with the difficult art of government, and 1284 no check is to be put on their judgment, or the result of it, though brought about by snap majorities which do not really represent the matured opinion of the nation. This revolution could not be brought about under ordinary circumstances. It seems to me that the far-seeing patriotism of this Government in endeavouring to do away with the powers of the House of Lords may be summed up in the phrase, "Your food will cost you more." The Lords threw out the Budget, which the Radicals said was to do away for ever with the chance of gathering together into one invincible Empire the wide, fertile regions which could provide more than fifty times the food now consumed by the present population of the United Kingdom. For this reason the power of the Lords is to be done away with, and the Constitution destroyed. The power of the House of Lords to refer questions to the people is to be destroyed, so that the poor and helpless may be driven either to the slums of our great cities or abroad. That must be a very bad thing for our people. It seems to me that the policy of the Government is a policy of drift and of fraud. I do hope that even at the eleventh hour something may happen to save the British people and the British Empire from an uncontrolled House of Commons, and from the kind of politicians who now sit on the Government Benches.
Mr. STANLEY WILSON
I wish to congratulate hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite on their intervention in the Debate, and on their having had the muzzle taken off. I cannot help calling attention to the remarkable fact that in the Committee stage, when there were no restrictions imposed on these Debates, never once did any of them enter into the discussion. But now, when we are speaking under one of the most stringent guillotine Resolutions that have ever been imposed in this House, there is a considerable number of them ready to get up and tell us their views upon these important questions.
Mr. STANLEY WILSON
I absolve my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Aberdeen. I believe he did make one speech, and I think that perhaps the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir Henry Dalziel) also made one or two, but I think that the 1285 speeches which were made by hon. Gentlemen opposite in the course of those days when we were fighting in Committee, could be numbered perhaps on the fingers of one hand, and certainly on the fingers of two. This Clause which we are discussing is the all-important Clause of this important measure. We believe that if this Clause was passed into law that it inevitably means this country being placed under Single-Chamber rule with all its dangers. I know hon. Members opposite pay homage to the double-Chamber system, but it is homage only because they intend to pass this Clause which inevitably means Single-Chamber Government. Why are they going to pass it? They are going to pass it to satisfy the demands of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) and his followers. What is the defence of hon. Members opposite? I have heard it stated by them several times that the country wishes this Bill to be passed into law. [HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to hear those cheers, as they show I have not misinterpreted the views of hon. Members opposite. They say it was thoroughly discussed at the last General Election, and that it was thoroughly understood by the people. Do they think that this Clause was thoroughly understood by the people of this country? Did the people of this country understand that if this Clause was passed that Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, and other measures upon which hon. Gentlemen opposite have set their hearts would become law without the people being further consulted with regard to them? [An HON. MEMBER: "Did you not tell them that?"]
I should like to give what my experience was at the last General Election. When ever I addressed a big meeting at that election, if ever I dared to venture upon the topic of Home Rule, invariably was I interrupted by supporters of the present Government, who would shout at me, "That is not the question of this election," or possibly, "What is the use of flogging a dead horse?" Those were the continual interruptions at every election meeting at the last General Election. Therefore I state, and deliberately, that that is a proof that the people of this country did not understand what the proposals were which are contained in the Clause we are now discussing. I take it that the real and important question of the moment with regard to this Clause is whether it is going to apply in future to the new reformed 1286 Second Chamber which the Government are going to bring in. The Preamble certainly implies that it is not to apply to any reformed Second Chamber, because the Preamble says proposals will have to be brought forward in regard to a reformed Chamber. I have understood the Home Secretary to say that the one thing the Government mean is that the Veto must go, and that this Clause and this Bill would apply to any reformed Second Chamber, whatever it might be. That was my idea of what the Home Secretary has stated. I know that he does not always express the views which the Government believe are the correct views, and so perhaps he has been wrong.
I should like to press some responsible person to give us some further information on this point. The Postmaster-General has been questioned this afternoon about it. I understand that he fenced with the question and would not give anybody a straightforward answer with regard to it. I do not believe at the present moment that on those benches opposite there is any responsible person who could give me an answer. I think it is the most important question that we have to face at the present moment. If this Clause is not to apply to the reformed Second Chamber, then surely hon. Gentlemen opposite and ourselves are not so very far apart, and, as my hon. Friend has just said, now at the eleventh hour it is even possible that some compromise might be brought about, especially in view of the proposals which have been made in the other place during the course of the past few days, and proposals which are candidly admitted by many hon. Gentlemen opposite to have surprised them in their moderation, from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I know from personal contact with them that there are many moderate supporters of the present Government who would undoubtedly welcome a settlement of some sort of this great constitutional difficulty. I ask whether it is not still possible that some result should be brought about in the near future with regard to that Conference which was an unprecedented event in the history of our country. That Conference took place last year; it sat for many months and must have sat with some hope of compromise being brought about, say, and to the Postmaster-General, if compromise a year ago was thought possible, why then is it not possible still? I trust that it still may be possible, and that some result may possibly be achieved.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
The Debate which we have had to-day appears to me to derive some considerable interest from the fact that the position we are now in is not identical with that in which we were placed when last we had a Debate on such wide lines as is this one. On the last occasion we were justified in having some hopes that there would be introduced into this Bill certain exemptions from the operation of the Bill, and also that some safeguards would be retained. We know now that the Bill is to apply to all questions and to all constitutional matters, and that a bare majority in this House is to be the ruling factor in the country. In other words that means, with all other checks on revolutions are abolished and not being replaced, it would be quite possible for this House by a majority of one or five or ten votes to carry a Bill which proposed to set up a Republic in place of the Monarchy. That is not a probable, but it is a perfectly possible result from the operation of this Bill as applied without any check by a bare majority. There is, I believe, one subject for which there was an obvious reason for exemption, and a reason which I do not think has been dwelt upon very much in previous Debates. In the question of setting up a national Parliament in one of the kingdoms of which the United Kingdom is composed, I think we must allow that there is a special consideration due to the fact that not only is the step which would be taken in setting up Home Rule either in Scotland or in Ireland, a step which cannot be reversed, but it is a step involving as well the breach of an old contract which was made between the different countries and islands by the Act of Union, and consequently what is more important it involves the carrying out of new contracts by the different parties concerned.
The setting up of Home Rule in either Ireland or Scotland would involve the settlement of questions affecting very differently the two parties to the bargain. It is quite evident, taking the question of Home Rule and applying it to Ireland only for the sake of brevity of argument, that the interests of Ireland in making a final and detailed arrangement for such a Home Rule measure must in many cases and especially in financial matters be diametrically opposed to the interests of the greater island. I mention finance as being the subject on which the differences are likely to be most acute, but, of course, the arrangement of the whole question of taxation and grants from the Imperial Parliament, and the 1288 question of whether the Irish Members, and in what numbers, would be retained in the Imperial Parliament, those are all questions involving mutual rearrangement of the rights and obligations of the different parts of the United Kingdom. It has been said a good many times that Home Rule would be a treaty of peace. The point of my argument is that whether you like to call it a treaty between the different parts of the different islands, or whether you like to agree that these two islands are going to carry out a contract, I maintain that in either case both sides to the contract should be a consenting party.
I am not dealing now for the moment with the Referendum or referring to it at all; I am perfectly satisfied to base my argument on what is always sustained as the highest form of representative government, on the other side especially. I do say this, that if two parties are going to enter into a bargain, and if the interests of those two parties are not identical and cannot be identical, then that a majority of Members in this House representing each side of that bargain, should be responsible for carrying out their bargain to the best of their ability in the interests of their respective countries. In the House of Commons as now constituted, in addition to a majority of Irish votes, there is, also a majority of English, Scottish, and Welsh votes in favour of Home Rule. Therefore, my complaint has no effect with regard to the House of Commons as, it now stands; but it would require the transfer of only some twenty-five seats from that side to this to put the question of Home Rule, so far as England, Scotland, and Wales are concerned, in the hands not of the majority of the representatives of those parts of the United Kingdom, but of a minority plus the Nationalists. Assume a Home Rule Bill to be passed by this House next year, passed a second time the year after, and that, owing to some accidental cause, an election supervened between the second and third passages of the Bill; it is not an absurdity to suppose that that election might result, not in returning the party an this side of the House to power, but in transferring twenty-five or thirty seats from the other side to this. That House as a whole would still be in favour of Home Rule, and therefore would be able to pass that Home Rule Bill the third time by means of the Irish vote, although the majority of the votes of Great Britain were against it.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Mr. Joseph Pease)
The hon. Member is under a misapprehension. The three Sessions must be in the same Parliament; therefore the Bill would have to be introduced afresh.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
The right hon. Gentleman has discovered his error. Under the conditions I have adumbrated both sides to the bargain would be settled by the Irish delegates alone; that is to say, not only would the representatives of Ireland be able, as they ought to be, to put their side of the case and to fight for the interests which they represent, but they would also have entirely in their hands the decision both of principles and of details as they affect England, Scotland, and Wales. It cannot possibly be contended that it is fair that both sides of a bargain, in which the interests of the two parties are diametrically opposed, could be settled by the representatives of one party only. Obviously in such a case Ireland would be in a position to dictate the terms to the larger island. The smaller island would absolutely rule the larger island. Ireland would impose her own terms; she would call the tune, and we should have to pay the piper. You have only to go back twenty years to find an illustration of what I am describing.
The Third Reading of the Home Rule Bill of 1893 was carried by a majority of less than forty, including the Irish vote. Therefore in that ease you had exactly the position which I am anxious to avoid. The people of Great Britain had Home Rule carried against their desires, as represented by the Members they returned. But under the existing Constitution the will of the people was consulted, and the Home Rule Bill was thrown out. If the Parliament Bill had been in existence, and Home Rule had been carried, the details of the contract would presumably have been carried out, not by a majority fairly composed of representatives of both sides, but by a majority composed of a minority of the representatives of England, Scotland, and Wales, plus the Nationalists. It is no reply to say that this is not union. We are now a United Parliament, but, ex hypothesi, you are proposing a state of 1290 things in which separation is deliberately contemplated. The arrangements for that separation must necessarily involve interests which are not identical on the two sides. I submit, therefore, that some arrangement should be made by which each side to the bargain should be fairly represented in the decisions which had to be come to, and that one litigant should not be allowed to act also as judge and executioner. As regards giving effect to my suggestion, I have an Amendment on the Paper providing that when the setting up of a National Parliament in any part of the United Kingdom is contemplated, the contract should be carried out only by a majority in which each party to the bargain was fairly represented. As, however, it will probably be impossible for me to raise the matter later on, I thought it desirable to point out before it was too late what I think is a serious objection, and one which has not been previously raised.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PIRIE
The speech to which we have just listened has been based on what might happen in the event of a Home Rule Bill being brought forward next year. To me all talk about Home Rule is so vague unless we know exactly what is meant by Home Rule, that any Debate on the point is more or less futile. But as the hon. Member has put forward one point of view, I am entitled to put forward my point of view. So far from seeing any danger in the passage of the Parliament Bill, from the point of view from which I look upon Home Rule it is the greatest safeguard one can imagine. The proposition of the hon. Member is that the Government will introduce an Irish Home Rule Bill. Personally, I am bitterly opposed to an Irish Home Rule Bill per se; I cannot vote for Irish Home Rule per se; I should be false to my country, Scotland, if I consented to do so. What would be the consequences if a Home Rule Bill dealing with Ireland alone were introduced? The House of Lords would probably throw it out. Then, under the Parliament Bill, those of us who are opposed to Irish Home Rule would for two years have an opportunity of agitating and of awakening the country—Scotland and Wales especially—to the dangers involved to those two countries by a Bill granting Home Rule to Ireland alone, unless there was an absolute certainty that simultaneous treatment would be meted out to Scotland and Wales according to their several requirements. Therefore, from my point of view, so far from there being any danger 1291 in passing this Bill, I think it would be the greatest possible safeguard of what I consider to be the best policy for this country. The hon. Member referred to an Amendment which he has had down on the Paper later on. Had it been possible, I had a new Clause ready to put forward. Owing to the exigencies of debate it could not be reached. If it had been reached and accepted by the Government it would have had very much the same effect as that desired by the hon. Member. The Amendment was to this effect, that this Parliament Bill should only refer to Bills the principles of which have been before this House since 1905, and have been accepted and passed by this House of Commons. That would have had the effect of precluding a Home Rule Bill from going up as an effect of this Parliament Bill. My point of view in putting down that Clause was really to safeguard the Government from the possibility of putting down what I call an Irish Home Rule Bill. I shall have no objection at all had the Government given any assurance of their intention to treat the Home Rule question on a federal basis, which I believe to be the only possible solution of this question. I am glad to see more and more as we approach the time for the discussion of the Home Rule question—
§ Captain TRYON
We have had a speech of the utmost value to this House and to the whole country, because we have had the admission from the Liberal Benches that until we know what the provisions of the Home Rule Bill are debate is futile. How can it be said that there is authority from the country to carry Home Rule if there is so little known about the Government proposals for Home Rule that debate in this House is actually futile? How can the country have approved of this measure at the recent General Election if so little is known that debate is futile? I think that is a very valuable admission. We have another point in the speech to which we have just listened. We had evidence of a Scottish Member, and also, I believe, of Welsh Members, that they ought not to 1292 be left behind when the Home Rule Bill is introduced. That I believe is a very natural thing. It is due to the Clause which is now under discussion, because there is a system, as it were, of control established under this Clause. In this Bill there is a system similar to those systems of control of which we have heard amongst towns—a system of control in regard to legislation.
I will explain what I mean in this way: the great point under this Bill is that so long as this Clause stands as it is now you get your own particular measure brought in first by the Government. The Irish vote is especially needed by the Government. The Irish Nationalists will get their Home Rule Bill put down first. The result of that will be that during the time when that Bill is under discussion they will have to vote for everything the Government chooses to bring in, because unless the Irish support the Government in all their proposals the Home Rule Bill may lapse. Therefore, the Irish vote is, as it were, controlled; kept under the control of the Government so long as Home Rule is under discussion. At the end of two years, when Home Rule becomes law—if it does become law—the Irish vote is suddenly released, the alliance broken up, and the Irish Nationalists are set free to vote as they please. It is more than probable that their allies may find, after supporting the. Irish during the earlier years, that in the later years they may be thrown over by their Irish supporters.
My belief is that this Bill is open to one very serious charge: that the provisions in this particular Clause are framed, not owing to the great strength of the Liberal party, but owing to its weakness. If the Liberal Government was really a strong Government, with a great majority of its own; if the Liberal Government had behind it throughout the country a vast mass of supporters, this Clause would not be necessary. If the Government felt they had the great weight of public opinion behind them in the measures they are going to bring in they could have settled the whole question far more rapidly by the Referendum. Under the Referendum at the end of the year, if the people agree, a Bill would become law, while under this Clause it takes a very long time for a measure which is opposed by the Upper House to pass into law. I believe that this whole arrangement is owing to the conscious weakness of the Liberal Government in the country.
1293 It is because the Liberal Government are anxious at all costs to avoid having Home Rule referred to the people that this Clause stands in the form which we have before us. I do say that before a great constitutional change is forced through it ought to be a change which has behind it the whole strength and agreement of the country, and it ought not to be a Clause which is framed, not in the interests of the nation, but in the interests of a particular party. One or two minor points I should like to allude to. This particular Debate has been memorable from the fact that two or three Members from the Back Benches opposite have taken part in it—a very unusual circumstance. But it is a great thing to say that the highly organised silence which has hitherto prevailed has been broken. I do not think the Government can be congratulated upon the intervention of the Members who spoke from the Back Benches.
§ Captain TRYON
My own impression was that the two Members who spoke on the Liberal Back Benches really produced arguments that tended against the course of action which the Government has taken. One hon. Member spoke of the very intolerable period, so he thought it, when the Conservative Government was able to pass every measure it wished. He alluded to the time when we were under what he called a system of Single-Chamber Government. He said that it existed in Conservative days, because of the Conservative majority in the Upper House. That is no argument in favour of this Clause. It is no argument in favour of the enacting portion of this Bill; it is rather an argument in favour of the Preamble. If the hon. Member who spoke really wishes to have an effective check upon Conservative legislation, why does he not support some scheme for reform of the Upper House, and not support a Bill which in no way removes the objections which lie raises? There was another hon. Member who told us that the two years' period was too long. He said he had been thinking it over, and he felt that towards the end of those two years necessary before the Bill becomes law against the opposition of the Upper House—and he argued rightly, that that would be three years from now with regard to a Home Rule Bill —that the rapid approach of the General Election would have an effect upon the Government which he very much disliked. 1294 He felt that the electors would begin to make their pressure felt. It was an extraordinary argument to produce.
I always thought that our legislation and laws were founded upon the consent of the governed. Here we have an hon. Member apparently regretting very much the long period and the great pressure of public opinion which he thinks would come upon the Government owing to the length of the period involved. I will not go on to the other points, beyond saying that we had a phrase constantly put forward from the Government Benches and from Government platforms in the country. The phrase, which is familiar, dealing with the powers of the Upper House, says that they (the Upper House) shall be granted certain powers, "powers, subject to the proper safeguards, of delay." What do the Government consider to be the proper safeguards—the safeguards to be found in this Bill? What is the change which, in the opinion of the Government, constitutes a proper safeguard? Is it an alteration which withdraws from the Upper House the power for three years of referring matters to the people? This safeguard is no safeguard against the hereditary principle. It is a safeguard to protect the Government from the risk of having their Bills referred to the electors of this country. When we remember what happened on previous occasions, when the Home Rule Bill was referred to the people. I do not wonder the Government are minded so to frame this Clause as to avoid having a Home Rule Bill voted upon by the people of this country after its provisions are known to the people.
I would only add that I think it is a lamentable thing that our discussion should have been carried on so much on the other side of the House in a spirit of seeking party advantage. I do not think there could be a greater contrast in the way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced his insurance scheme and the way in which Members on the other side have seen fit to conduct this Debate. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing his Government measure, appealed to all parties in the House to cooperate. He appealed that his scheme, which he hoped would be a national scheme, should be helped by all parties. But when we have the whole question or the British Constitution at stake we have no such words. We have merely Debate and discussion, in which the advantages of the scheme are mainly pointed out to 1295 us on the ground of the increased advantage that will accrue to the Liberal Government owing to the alteration in our Constitution. I do not believe that this arrangement can possibly be permanent. Whether the Government pass this Clause or pass this Bill it is not important to discuss. But I know this: that the Government are not going to alter the Constitution and retain that alteration unless they meet us in a spirit which recognises that the Constitution of this country is a thing which affects the inhabitants of this country. If this settlement is to be a lasting settlement, it must be by consent.
§ Mr. HARWOOD
I think the hon. Member who spoke last hardly does justice to the spirit in which Members on this side have supported this Bill, or the reasons for which the Bill has the support of the country. As shortly as possible, I should like to refer to two matters. The first is that all through this Debate we have heard, as we have heard continually on the platform, that those of us who support this Bill are making a great. change; that we are doing away with the time-honoured Constitution of this country; that we are doing away with power in an assembly which has been there something like eight centuries. I want to remind the House that that is not true. Anyone who studies English history knows that the power of the House of Lords has been very much developed in the last twenty years. Before that time the House of Lords never assumed to itself the powers which now Members on the other side take for granted as a part of the Constitution. With no written Constitution the thing is difficult to define, but if anyone makes at all a careful study of the action of the House of Lords in our political history they will find that after the year 1868, after the completion of that century, and during the whole of the next century the House of Lords very seldom intervened by interfering with anything passed by the House of Commons, and then only for a very short time. For the first half of the nineteenth century, these powers of the House of Lords which the Opposition now claim as part of the Constitution were not asserted, and only occurred in the last fifty years. Any student of the life of the Duke of Wellington knows what he said of the power of the House of Lords when the House of Lords arrogated to itself powers over this House, not warranted by the Constitution. I said the Opposition do 1296 not do justice to the spirit in which we are supporting this Bill, and if I may be allowed to say so, I do not think they are doing justice to the feelings of the best minds in the masses of the people. There is no ill will to the House of Lords; the people of this country do really like a Lord and they have no ill will to the House of Lords, but in spite of that good-natured indifference or good-natured feeling towards the House of Lords, I venture to say that the bulk of the people are with us upon this Bill, and I am certain that, not only ordinary politicians on our side support this Bill, but it is supported, as I find on all hands when moving about, by many people who are really Conservative, and I will tell the House why.
There is a general feeling that the relationship which has grown up in the last half century between the two Houses is not fair. It is contrary to the common instincts of English fairness. I will give my own experience. I was in this House during the ten years the Unionist Government was in power and during the whole of that time no Government measure was thrown out by the House of Lords. Our party came into office and what happened? The first year two of our measures were thrown out; the next year three of our measures were thrown out. Let us consider the question of the importance of these measures and the time that was given to them. It is said on the other side that we passed many Bills, but if you take into consideration the time spent on measures in the House of Commons you will find that the Bills on which we spent ninety-nine one-hundredths of our time were thrown out by the House of Lords. There is a general feeling that that is not fair, and that a Second Chamber must play fair as between both parties. I come from a town rather noted for its football. What would anyone think if, when playing the game, whenever one party went near the ball, they were always whistled as "off-side," but for ten years their opponents were never whistled "off-side" at all. There is a general feeling in the country that if you have a Second Chamber at all, it must be a Second Chamber that is fair between the two parties and between every Government that comes into power. Can any Member get up on the other side of the House and say that the House of Lords has been a fair assembly, and has held the scale evenly between Liberal and Tory Governments? Nobody can say anything of the kind, and this feeling has spread and spread during the pre- 1297 tensions of the House of Lords in the last fifty years. The House of Lords has been very badly led, and it is now undoubtedly reaping some of the consequences of this new arrogance which culminated when it threw out our Budget.
§ Captain TRYON
If the hon. Member was referring to what I said I think he entirely misunderstood me, but to take his own illustration it seems to me if the decision of the umpire does not meet with approval we should not alter the whole of the rules, but should get a new umpire.
§ Mr. HARWOOD
That is what we are trying to do. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Yes, we propose to get another umpire from whom we may expect fair play. We have had appeals to our fairness. I can assure hon. Members opposite that I am not in the least degree a party man, and that there is on this side of the House and in the country a very fair spirit in this matter. We consider we have been unfairly dealt with, and we also consider that the proposals we are making are reasonable. I mentioned the other night that I did not think that Members on the oter side understood quite or appreciated what enormous powers we are giving to the newly constituted House of Lords. We are giving it power, if it is out of harmony with our views, of stopping every Bill for the first two years, and we are giving them a power to prevent us in the next three years bringing in any Bill which the House of Lords would refuse to pass. Therefore any Bill the Liberal Government hope to pass through must be brought in the first two years, and might be held up for another two years. That is a tremendous power. Member after Member opposite pleaded for a revising and deliberative assembly. Can you have anything wider in the way of revision, anything larger in the way of suspension and delay than we are giving in this Bill? Therefore I think you ought really try to do justice to this measure, or you may go farther and fare worse. Then it is said this is Single-Chamber Government. As a matter of fact, ever since Cromwell's time, we have been under Single-Chamber Government. Single-Chamber Government means, under democracy, the government of the people through the representative machinery which the people set up. As was once well said, the sword must lie somewhere. You may not see it, but there it is. The sword under democracy must lie in the hands of the people, and the people use that sword through the organisation of a Chamber. With this 1298 inevitable result. I beg my hon. Friends opposite to bear this in mind, the growth of the democratic spirit in the world. It has been growing in the last one hundred years enormously quickly, and it is growing now. A wise Tory party, one with the spirit of Lord Randolph Churchill, would recognise that and would not continue complaining of Single-Chamber Government, because that it is the inevitable consequence of democratic Government.
Hon. Member after hon. Member opposite have expressed the idea that this Bill has reconciled them to the notion of the Referendum, because they feel that there ought to be some appeal against what they have called the arbitrariness of the Government. They say you will be in the hands of a Government with no power of appeal, and, therefore, there must be some machinery for appealing to the country as a refuge against the policy of those who sit on these benches. Are you sure that the Referendum would not act in the opposite way? I think it would. By our Constitution and custom our only way of getting rid of a Government now is by voting against it on a Bill which is brought in and of which we disapprove. That is the traditional English way of getting rid of a Government. Whenever we vote against a Government and defeat an important Bill that Government has to go. What would be the result of the plan of a Referendum? It would be that the nation would be taught to get into the habit of voting against a Bill and the Government, and yet that Government would remain in office. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] In that case how are you ever going to get rid of a Government? The only way now is to beat them on their Bills, but under the Referendum you cannot do that, and you cannot get rid of them in that way. Consequently under the Referendum you will have the old man of the sea on your shoulders in a worse way than you have now. If you beat the Government on an important Bill they must go with all their virtues and charms, but if you have a Referendum you give up that, and what do you put in its place? Nothing.
Under the Referendum, logically carried out, every Government would remain in office for the full term. I might possibly want to get rid of this Government, and I object to be deprived of the only means of getting rid of Governments. The Referendum would expose you to the tyranny of the Government to a higher degree than is the case now, and, therefore you must be very careful. I am very 1299 much of a Tory at heart myself. One does not take part in a movement of this kind and support a measure like this as I have done without being firmly convinced that one is serving one's country. I care nothing about party or the Government. I believe I represent the feeling of a large number of hon. Members of this side on this point, when I say that it is not because we are controlled by the Whips that we support this measure, but we really feel on the whole that we are, first of all, supporting something which is bringing greater fairness into our political rectitude. We are not Single-Chamber men, and we do not believe that this Bill will lead to that at all. The majority of those who sit on this side of the House are Double-Chamber men, and believe in a bicameral system. We say that the time must come when there must be a fairer arrangement between the two Chambers, and that is what we get under this Bill. I believe that this is the most Conservative revolution that was ever carried out in English politics. I beg of hon. Gentlemen opposite not to jump out of the frying-pan into the fire, and remember that by getting rid of the autocratic rule of the Ministry under their proposal they will be placed in the position of never being able to get rid of the Ministry at all.
§ Mr. NEVILLE
I am sure hon. Members have enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Harwood). As a new Member I most assuredly appreciate the tone and the gentleness with which the hon. Gentleman has dealt with these questions. Although I disagree with a great deal of what the hon. Member has said, I feel that the opinion which he has voiced is one of considerable importance, and has behind it a considerable amount of support on the Government Benches and below the Gangway. It is said that the real question is one of unfairness. If the question to be dealt with is really one of the fairness or unfairness of the Second Chamber, what are hon. Gentlemen opposite doing to promote that fairness. I have always endeavoured right through these Debates to look at this matter from a nonparty point of view. Our country deserves more than a party point of view when we are discussing and considering what is going to be the regulation of all the lives of us here to-day, and the unborn millions that come after us. The Members of the Government and their supporters have not looked at this question 1300 from that central point of view of how can we make a good and strong Constitution which will work fairly between all parties and afford a chalice for all opinions to be considered and dealt with by the persons entrusted by the country with an opportunity of making the laws for the people to obey. If we can create a Constitution which gives us flexibility and strength and promotes fairness between all classes and does not put one class upon the back of another, then we shall be doing something which this country will thank us for, and we shall feel that we have acted as true Englishmen, endeavouring to make our country strong by peaceful and harmonious methods.
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down says the question is one of fairness, and I can understand that argument. If it is a question of fairness, it is our duty here to-day to put our heads together as Englishmen, and not as partisans, to see whether we cannot knock out for ourselves, with the political genius of the English people, a Constitution which will he recognised on all reasonable hands as offering a fair chance to this country to carry out its destinies in a way the people desire. If we can combine in that way we shall have done well for our country. I do not agree with what the hon. Member for Bolton said about the Referendum and the attitude of the Conservative party upon that question. If we could reform the House of Lords to-day in such a way that the country would say it is fairly reformed there would be no question of any of the ether suggestions for solving the constitutional deadlocks and difficulties we are here to solve to-day. It is because the solution is so difficult, and because we have had no experience in the past in dealing with these great constitutional matters, that it is necessary for us, as prudent men exercising that statesmanship which the English race has been famous for, to look around on all sides and consider any suggestion which may be made for the purpose of solving these great difficulties. It is not because we love the Referendum that we are advocating it, but because we find to-day that there is a state of affairs which requires drastic treatment. We require novel remedies because a novel state of affairs has arisen, and it is from that point of view alone that we on this side of the House have adopted a solution which contains behind it the greatest amount of power, and which has in it the most democratic sanction that the world has ever known.
1301 The suggestion has been made that this proposal is revolutionary. That is an accusation which has been made again and again by the Members of the Government against the institution of the Referendum. May I recapitulate the chief accusations which have been made against the Referendum. They have been, first of all, that it was a foreign institution, secondly, that it was revolutionary, thirdly, that it was undemocratic and undermines representative Government, and fourthly, that it was exorbitantly expensive. If it is looked at by people who have studied the Refer endum not merely in the small State of Switzerland, which is always quoted on the other side of the House, but as it has been made to grow in other countries, I think we shall be able to see it can be worked in such a way in this country that it shall neither undermine representative Government, nor be undemocratic, nor be revolutionary, nor be expensive. There are instances at the present time among our Colonies showing that the Referendum can be attached as a particular Clause to a particular Bill, and that it can be referred as a particular and distinct matter at a General Election by the use of a separate ballot paper, as is done in Queensland. You can have a question printed as part of the schedule of a Bill and have a ballot paper, so that there is not a single representative in this House or in the country who may not know years beforehand the form in which a particular question is going to be submitted to the country. It may be placed on a ballot paper of a particular colour, and may be given by the Presiding Officer at the polling booth, so that you would not have the difficulty to which hon. Members have referred, namely, that, if you relied upon the Referendum, the Government would become elastic and flabby, and you might punch it and damage it, but it would come up smiling and bob up serenely, and you could never get rid of it.
If you choose to say in a great measure such as the Licensing Bill or the Education Bill that you would have a Clause by which that particular Bill should go to a Referendum at the General Election, there would be no great difficulty. Each single individual of the electorate would have an opportunity of saying whether he would have the Licensing Bill, not as a part of the general policy of the Government and not as affecting their right to sit in this House and to have control of the destinies of this House, but as a sepa- 1302 rate item on which each individual could gibe his opinion. After such a reference to the individual will of the people, there would be no questioning that the will of the people had been actually and authoritatively given on the particular measure. The difficulties which are said to be in the way of the Referendum are not really there when it is thoroughly understood. It is hopeless and useless to refer merely to Switzerland. Switzerland, which is a federal State, is entirely different and entirely incomparable to a State such as Great Britain. I would like, however, to call the attention of the hon. Gentleman who last spoke to the Constitution of Queensland, where the Referendum was introduced for the very purpose for which we suggest it should be introduced in this country. I did mention the matter, upon the first Clause, but it is such an important subject, especially in view of the peculiar sensitiveness of the party opposite upon the matter, that I would like to refer to it again. The reason there seems to be a peculiar sensitiveness about it is that if you have the Referendum there can be no question of the result of that reference being construed aye or no. There is no ambiguity there. There is no possibility of any shadow of doubt.
It is just because there is that certainty and that splendid opportunity of knowing what is in the mind of the country that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite naturally think it is the most effective weapon which the Opposition possess at the present time. That always induces them to pooh pooh the Referendum, to laugh at it, and say it is undemocratic, undermines representative government, cannot be used in such a way as to ascertain the real views of the electors, and would mean, as one right hon. Gentleman said, that we should be rolling on front Referendum to Referendum, and have one long series of General Elections. I submit if we really want to arrive at a solution which will bring with it the minimum amount of friction, the solution which will be adopted will most probably be—although I am not a prophet, and do not desire to be a prophet—that of giving every voter a direct opportunity of expressing his views upon any particular questions which may be burning questions between the two parties of the State. It is because there is this great line of cleavage between the two parties, and it is because if some are to receive there are always others who have to pay, that it is almost impossible 1303 to be unanimous. Those who have to bear the whole brunt or expense of a particular measure are naturally likely to oppose it. It is only possible to reconcile people who have great burdens placed upon them suddenly, in the way in which many burdens are placed upon people nowadays, by giving them an opportunity of hearing the exact view of the -country and of knowing whether the country distinctly desires to have the change which is proposed. Of course, when such an authoritative result has been obtained, those who may have to suffer from the change will naturally bow to the collective will of the people.
Look at the situation of affairs to-day. We have on this side of the House a party which is represented in the country by some three million voters. How many have right hon. Gentlemen opposite got? I know they will talk about plural voting, but they can discount what they like. I am not relying on the actual figures, and whether two or three or four hundred thousand are taken away for plural voting, I say we do represent on this side of the House a very large party indeed. We represent people who have done their best just as the constituents of hon. Members opposite have done their best for the country, and we do deserve to have our opinions considered just as much as hon. Gentlemen on the other side ought to have their opinions considered in a great crisis such as this. We ought to arrange for a compromise, so that neither party can cry out that they are the victors. We are not here merely for the fun of the fight between two parties; we are here to do good to our country and to see the country has the benefit of the deliberations we can give it. It does seem to me, when you see how near the parties are, and that the majority in England to-day is in favour of the party I have the honour of representing, and when there is a sort of conspiracy between the smaller parts of the United Kingdom to unite together to extort from Great Britain certain advantages and certain measures which may affect them very largely personally, but which may entail upon this country a great deal of trouble and difficulty, there is no reason why the Government should trample as they have done upon every suggestion that has been made from these benches for the purpose of shaping and forging a Constitution which will outlast our time and the time of those who will come after us for hundreds of years.
§ Mr. CROFT
An hon. Member opposite, speaking on behalf of the Liberal section of his party, just now declared solemnly that they were in favour of a Double-Chamber system. He said, "We are not Single-Chamber men." That is a very important statement, but what I think the hon. Member does not realise, and perhaps the country does not realise, is that should a poll be taken of the various Members of the coalition there would be sufficient Single-Chamber men on that side of the House to sink the Government, and to hurl it from office. My great complaint, the great complaint of our party is, that the Government and their followers went to the country on a misleading issue. The whole of their battle was fought on the fact that the Members of the Upper House were only there because they were the sons of their fathers, and the country understood when the election had taken place that the Second Chamber would be reformed, and that in place of hereditary peers we were to have a reconstructed Second Chamber simultaneously with the introduction of the Parliament Bill. Remember the abusive epithets which were applied to Members of that House, remember how they were called thieves and robbers of poor boxes, the idle rich and kangaroos, yet realising that the House remains just the same as before, we must confess that the Parliament Bill has absolutely failed to remove one of those abuses mentioned in wild speeches.
In fact the electorate of this country were betrayed into giving their confidence to the Government at the last election, and they now find that the confidence was bestowed under totally different conditions to those which they were led to believe really existed. If the Upper House were reformed, if the Second Chamber had been reformed according to the Preamble, as the electors were led to understand it would be, I think there is no doubt whatever that that House would very largely have had the sympathy and the ear of the electors of the country, and consequently it would have been very difficult indeed for the Government to have forced through any measure when the House of Lords, Senate, or whatever name might be given to the Assembly, had referred it back to this House. What I want to know is this. The Government tell us that if we in this House swear three times that black is white, then it becomes the will of the people that black is white. Surely if that is true it ought to be equally true with 1305 regard to the Parliament Bill. They believe that no measure, however great that measure may be, should become Jaw unless it has passed this House three times.
Why should not that argument apply equally to the Parliament Bill? You have won a snap election by a small majority; you have not even a majority of the English electors, but, because you have won a chance election, you ought not to force this Bill through in one Session when you consider that three Sessions are necessary for carrying other important proposals. If the Government had been true to their election pledges, if they had introduced the reform of the Second Chamber, they would undoubtedly have been delaying the progress of certain other measures, which it is their intention to bring forward in the near future. But we are told that great measures, such as the Home Rule Bill, are going to be brought forward in the interregnum, and because a majority, dictated to by a small minority in this House, approves a measure of that description, the Government are going to force it through on the plea that it is the will of the people. I think it is a very good reason why this Clause should be omitted, and I am perfectly certain that not one in a hundred of the electors of this country understood that this was to be the policy of the Government.
I think we may well ask ourselves, bearing in mind that the election was won solely and only on the hereditary issue, What is the crime of the House of Lords? I presume that hon. Gentlemen opposite will all agree in saying that their great crime is that they are Conservative. If that is so, I think it is only right that we should remember why the House of Lords has a Conservative majority at the present time. There would have been no outcry against the House of Lords if it were not so. A very large majority of Peers created by the Liberals, immediately they find themselves in that calmer atmosphere where the party Whip is not so strong, come over to the Conservative party. That is the only reason why we have a Conservative majority in the House of Lords. It is the only reason why there is an outcry against the House of Lords. I think what the Government supporters sail to remember is this, that whatever may be the constitution of the Second Chamber, whether it is to be totally elective or not—and I should like to know why, if the Postmaster-General is in favour of such a democratic Second Chamber, he has not accepted 1306 the scheme put forward by Lord Lansdowne the other night—even if the Chamber is totally elective, it is bound to be Conservative, because of the fact that it will be a restraining Chamber. Every civilised country has determined that it is wise to, have a Second Chamber, which will be Conservative in that it will insist on a second examination of any measure, and will therefore delay hastily-passed measures becoming law. I think in whatever way we look at the present House of Lords—and the Government seem very well satisfied with its Constitution, in spite of what they have said in the past—I think it must be admitted that, from whatever standpoint you look at that body at the present day, it has, at all events, the elements of the greatest Second Chamber which at the present time exists in the-world. When we come to look at the services of the Members of that House nobody can deny that, taking them man for man, they have served their country just as well and, in my opinion better, than the Members of this House in the great public offices which they have filled upon, county councils, in mayoralties, in services in the Army and the Navy, and in other ways. There is indeed no comparison between the two Houses. There are over 200 Members of the Upper Chamber who, have served in the Army and Navy of this country, and over 100 of them have been actually under fire.
When, therefore, we compare them with the occupants of the benches opposite, I think the comparison is very much in favour of those who have been more ready to serve their country on the field of battle arid who sit in the other place. I think it is only fair that I should mention the exceptions. It is only right that I should remember that the Home Secretary served his country, although in the end he deteriorated into a war correspondent; that the Under-Secretary for War also served his country during the Boer war, and one other occupant of the Front Bench opposite had, I think, the honour for nearly an hour of wearing the uniform of the King on the occasion of a meeting in Birmingham. [An HON. MEMBER: "There are other ways of serving your country than by fighting."] I was only mentioning that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did wear a policeman's uniform for a short time during the South African war, and I want to give him credit for it. But on the whole I say, taking the House of Lords and comparing it with this House, man for man, they have served 1307 their country just as well as Members of this House, and I think that is something which should be remembered. For my own part, I think if you take the 300 best men in the House of Lords you have certainly as good an all-round Chamber as you have in this House. Is it the fact that the House of Lords is hereditary which makes their crime? Personally, I am not afraid of saying that. I am a tremendous believer in heredity, and I have no doubt that even hon. Gentlemen behind me believe that their sons are going to be as good Irishmen as can be found. And again, looking to this House, I believe it would be difficult to find a single son of a great Member of the House of Commons in this House who is not au efficient Member of this Assembly.
Look at the Government Benches. You will find there names well known in Government circles in years gone by. Take the Home Secretary. Does anybody suggest that he is there because he is only the son of his father. No, it is because he has inherited the great qualities handed down to him. Take the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) the son of the Member for West Birmingham on this side of the House. Does anybody deny that he has shown tremendous qualities in this House quite apart from the fact that he is the son of his father. When also you come to consider the Secretary of State for the Colonies, he also bears a great Liberal name. And then there is also the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil). I venture to think that he does not owe his seat in this House to the fact that he is the son of his father. It was his great independence which won for him the respect of everybody during trying times, proving his personal qualities which brought him into this House. I believe that the party opposite do not believe that there is anything against the hereditary system and I regret very much that the Upper House have passed resolutions which I confess are of a revolutionary character. Personally, I believe, that if they had left it to 300 picked men of their number we should have had the best Second Chamber that could be found in Europe. The Government have taken a course which is desperate and which is revolutionary, and we have got to consider how best we can prevent the disaster of this Parliament Bill being passed into 1308 law without the Government bringing in the Constitution of their reformed Second Chamber.
As we have seen, there has been a thoroughly democratic reform of the Upper Chamber proposed by Lord Lansdowne, and it would be very interesting to hear whether the Postmaster-General and the right hon. colleague who sits beside him would be prepared to go further in that reformed Second Chamber which the Government allude to in their Preamble. I think we shall have to wait a very long time for that reformed Second Chamber, because the Government know that directly they reform and establish the Second Chamber on a sound basis hon. Gentlemen opposite are going to hurl them from power, because they will not give support to any Government which is going to favour a bi-Cameral system in the future. I must confess that I think that even the humblest Member of the party opposite, when he returns to his constituents, will be in a very difficult position when he tries to explain his speeches at the last election, in which lie promised that the abuses of the hereditary system were going to he abolished, and when he goes to them with the House of Lords identically of the same composition, and without any of the restraining powers such as the electors of this country thought were going to be given to that House. I do not believe that there is a single Member of this House—possibly with the single exception of the junior Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie)—who really believes that the people of this country want Ito see the powers of the House of Lords taken away from them. What they want to see is a fair Second Chamber.
That was the one note which went through all the speeches of hon. Members opposite. Now they come down to this—that they are trying to turn the House of Lords into a sham. I think that the punishment which awaits Gentlemen who have deluded their constituents is rather heavier than they understand, but I am glad to see that they are going so cheerfully to meet the fate which inevitably awaits them. I believe that the electors of this country are absolutely determined that there shall be a Second Chamber in this country, and that they wish, not to have a sham Second Chamber—that it shall not consist of puppets the wires of which are to be pulled by the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Government. I believe that the country, like the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, is totally 1309 out of sympathy with the Nationalists and Labour Members, and believes, with the smaller portion of the coalition, that a double-Chamber Constitution is essential, and I think the country will feel, unless a definite scheme is brought forward by the Government, that the latter have betrayed them and the confidence they put in them. I very much regret that the House of Lords has been forced into the position of producing a Reform scheme. No one will deny that their scheme is a thoroughly democratic scheme, and what we should like to know, before this Bill leaves this place, is whether the Government are prepared to go further, and to put still greater trust in the electors, or whether they think, perhaps, already Lord Lansdowne has gone too far in the direction of consulting the people, and that this measure is too democratic.
When we come to consider the methods which have been employed in endeavouring to pass this Bill into law—the gag, closure, kangaroo—all these barbaric methods used upon this great question of the Constitution which has stood the test of time, which has made our country the greatest country in the world, and which is now to be smashed and obliterated because the Government desire to force through without discussion this Bill in a given number of clays—I believe they are reckoning without their host., who are the electors of this country. I think we on this side can promise that whatever the Government may succeed in doing with their temporary advantage, their chance advantage, we on this side will never rest so long as we have any say in these matters—and I presume some day the Conservative party will come back to power—I think it was admitted even by the Prime Minister—until we have once more restored to this country a Double-Chamber Government such as every civilised power in the world has, and we intend to see that the House of Commons, whether there is a majority of 100 or ten, shall not have an opportunity of silencing democracy and muzzling the people, but that the people in the end shall always be, as they have been in the past, the final arbiters of England's fate.
§ Mr. STEPHEN COLLINS
In that very fair-minded speech that we listened to just now, the hon. Member said we should be something more than party men. I quite agree. That is our grievance against the other House. It is the whole matter in a nutshell. 'It is because the House of Lords have been severely party men all through 1310 that this question is before us. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman himself confessed that the state of things now needed drastic change. If a drastic change is needed the Government are making that change in these proposals which we are going to carry through. We never heard anything of the Referendum when hon. Gentlemen opposite were on this side of the House, and when the House of Lords were carrying all their proposals and objecting to nothing at all that they brought forward. There was no need of a Referendum, and we never brought up the question. We wanted to get the matter altered in another way. I was rather surprised to hear the hon. Member speak about the smaller parts of the United Kingdom. Hon. Gentlemen opposite always pride themselves upon being the Great Unionist party. Now they are continually differentiating and belittling this great Empire and they are trying to divide it up and discount its power. That is totally against the Conservative principles of the past, and they are belying and belittling the principles which they have ever upheld. In the Debates of the last few weeks hon. Gentlemen opposite have frequently spoken of the predominant partner. It is the United Kingdom, and we wish it to be so, and when we carry this measure and do justice to Ireland we shall have a more United Kingdom than we have at present. That is my firm belief.
The hon. Member (Mr. Page Croft) said we went to the country simply on the hereditary principle. Nothing of the kind. We went to the country on the issue of the long, one-sided record of the House of Lords. The hon. Member referred to violent speeches. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. I have in my pocket-book a copy of a speech delivered by the hon. Member to his Constituents. It. would be out of order to read it, but if I did it might even astonish the hon. Member himself. Perhaps an opportunity will come some other time. I will watch for it carefully. Violent speeches do not come from one side of the House alone. Then the hon. Member complained that when Liberal Peers got to the other House, before they were there very long they became Conservatives. There must be something wrong. There must be some disease there, and we should probe it to see what the disease is and to find out why good Liberal Members, if that is so, when they get to the other side of the Passage become Tory. We want to find a remedy for it, and we think we have 1311 found a remedy in this Bill. This is not a question of the party Whips. We rejoice to obey them, although sometimes we fall foul of them and go against them. I have done it myself occasionally, but on this side we rejoice to be whipped up to vote in the right Lobby which the Whips wish us to go into, not because they wish it but because we believe it is right.
We have long looked forward to this day, and I rejoice to be able to take part in this great movement for bettering the conditions of things and making it fairer all round. I well remember the last words of Mr. Gladstone in this House, although I did not hear them, and the words of our late beloved Leader, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. We think of those words and cherish them When they were uttered they were laughed at by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but we rejoice that we have lived to see this day, and that we are going to carry this through and, I believe, notwithstanding all the threats and all prophesies of hon. Gentlemen opposite, when this Bill is on the Statute Book, as I believe it will be before many weeks are passed, all on this side of the House and on the other side will equally rejoice, and we shall believe it is a good and a fair-minded measure which will enable us to carry out the laws which the people of our country wish to be carried out.
§ Mr. SPEAR
I shall vote for the Amendment because I feel that if the Bill passed as it is at present it will practically amount to setting up Single-Chamber Government. It will be possible for any party in this House, elected, it may be, at a time of panic, to pass any panic or even vindictive legislation, while there is no possbility of preventing it from becoming law. I cannot help thinking that will seriously destroy confidence in this country, and I think it will have an injurious effect on our Dominions beyond the seas when they see the old Homeland, from which they are proud of having sprung, carried on by a system of practically Single-Chamber Government. It has often been said that there is practically no civilised country in the world which has not an effective Second Chamber. Though we have to admit that there are defects in our system of Government in this country, there is not an Englishman, I think, who would not admit that we enjoy greater liberty and a spirit of justice under our present system than is enjoyed by any other system of Government in the 1312 world. Therefore it is important that we should proceed cautiously at least in adapting our Constitution to the increased demands which time has brought to the front. I have heard it urged by two or three hon. Members, "Well, but mark the opportunity there will be for consideration on account of the delay and the movement of measures during two years some three times between the two Houses." Hon. Members opposite ask us to think of the enormous power which is being put into the hands of the Second Chamber. An hon. Member said, that if a measure does not pass in two years, it has to go up in a third year, so that for all practical purposes the Government, during the last two years it is in office, will not be able to pass important legislation without an appeal to the people. I submit that that is a strong argument against the Bill. I look with apprehension to the ridicule which will be placed on this House and the other House by this system of see-saw during a period of two years. It will bring our legislation, in my opinion, into ridicule and disrepute. It is far better for us to recognise the need of a Second Chamber, and to proceed in a business-like way to secure a Second Chamber which will be equitable and just to all sections of the community.
If I understand the Parliament Bill aright, though public criticism may be directed to Bills moving between the two Chambers, the House of Commons will not have the power to alter a comma, and if the Lords do not amend a Bill, we should see under this system measures passing into law without the complete approval of either one Chamber or the other. It seems to me that that is a most dangerous thing, and consequently I do earnestly hope that even yet the spirit of fairness will prevail, and that we shall see a reformed Second Chamber which will be equitable and just to all concerned. I know that a certain amount of ridicule has been cast upon the Second Chamber because of their producing a scheme of reform. I venture to say that for years past they have spoken of reform, and not long ago a Committee was appointed to endeavour to devise the best plan of arranging the procedure of the other place more in accordance with the democratic spirit of the age, and that Committee was boycotted by the Liberal party. It seemed to me that that looked very much as if they did not want to reform the Second Chamber, and that they wanted to render it inoperative, so that it would not prevent 1313 measures of a socialistic nature from passing into law. The Preamble of this Bill points to the necessity of a reformed Second Chamber. We have had put before the country a scheme of reform by the Second Chamber itself. Surely now is the time to see if an arrangement cannot be made to set this constitutional question on a fair basis. I do hope it is not yet too late to do so. We know that the Conferences which were held nearly came to terms. Surely it would be possible to bridge over the remaining differences, and to deal with the question in a businesslike way. I submit that this is not a businesslike method. When in connection with our action in public bodies we see defects we proceed to remove them. In this case the Government are going to destroy the Veto, and to postpone reform until a future day. I submit that that is unconstitutional. Let us rather all join in removing the defects in the present system, and thereby strengthen rather than impair the Constitution of the country.
I am not here as the defender of another place. My hon. Friend below the Gangway said that some good Bills had been rejected by the House of Lords which ought to have been passed. I venture to say that very many more good Bills have been rejected by this House than have ever been rejected by the other House. Liberals in days gone by rejected many of our best measures before they eventually became law. Therefore, I think, it is unfair to point to that defect without admitting that it is one which applies to this house as well as the other House. We wish the question to he dealt with in a businesslike and constitutional way. We object to this Bill because we hold that it will be the means, if passed, of enabling the passing of Home Rule for Ireland, which we think is a question fraught with such importance to that country, and also to this country, that it should have been put before the electors as a single issue. I know very well that in my own part of the country during the recent election we could not cause greater offence at many meetings than to suggest the possibility of Home Rule. There are some of us who think that the religious and political liberties of Ireland are safer under a Parliament at Westminster than under a Parliament in Dublin. Some of us have been enthusiastic to see the complete carrying out of the Land Purchase System in Ireland. We believe that Home Rule 1314 will make it impossible for that system to be carried out successfully under a Parliament in Dublin.
I submit that Home Rule is a question of such importance that it ought not to be smuggled through over the heads of the people, but that it should be submitted to the people after the financial and other details have been produced. If the people then say that they want it, let us join in making it a success. Therefore, I believe that to pass this Bill is the wrong way to go to work. We all admit that there are defects in the Second Chamber. I advocated a reform of the Second Chamber twenty years ago, and I am glad to see that the time has come when an improvement of the Second Chamber is recognised as necessary by the Members of that Chamber themselves. I submit that the giving up of their right to sit in that House is a patriotic sacrifice on their part which ought to be met by this House in a similar constitutional spirit. Let us have a settlement equitable and just to all alike. I have always deplored the difference in the relative strength of parties in the other Chamber. I think it has been unfortunate. The party opposite have been doing their best to redress the balance by sending there for the last eighty years the best of their Members. Men who had served their party and won their spurs in diplomacy and in politics were rewarded by being sent to the other Chamber, and a great many of them have been found voting against the party that sent them there. That should lead that party to examine as to whether it is not they who have changed and not those who were their leaders in days gone by, and who are found voting against them to-day.
But, apart from that, I shall vote for the Amendment because I feel it will be a very serious matter, and it will menace the stability of our Government and lessen the confidence of the Dominions beyond the seas in the home country if we are to have what would practically be a Single-Chamber system. If the Bill is passed I look with grave apprehension to the movement of these Bills from one House to the other. It will bring our legislative machinery into disrepute and ridicule, and cannot possibly be continued. Hence we shall see some Government coming and saying "this is intolerable, and therefore we must limit the probational period to one year," and we shall really be then face to face with Single-Chamber Government. This step is fraught with injustice to the Second 1315 Chamber and with menace to the rights of the minority. I shall unhesitatingly vote for the Amendment, and I hope that hon. Members opposite, even now, will consider whether the time is not ripe for a cordial settlement of this great constitutional question on lines equitable, just, democratic, and equal to all parties affected.
§ Mr. BIGLAND
Many of us on these benches were exceedingly pleased at the tone of the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Harwood). Many of us felt when he referred to our great national game of football that he desired that this game should be played fairly. There is in our hearts a similar hope, and I may point out that this Clause 2 is the part of the Bill that we feel is not playing the game fairly, for this reason that the English people have inherited a great love of the possibility of having a court of appeal. We feel that Clause 2 cuts off from us the possibility of any court of appeal during three years or longer, while at the same time there is that feeling in my mind —and I believe in the minds of the people of this country—that there must be in the Constitution of Great Britain a court of appeal. The Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General twitted us on this side on the extraordinary rapidity of our conversion to certain things that we have been accustomed to leave on one side. May I point out to the House that the cause of that rapid conversion is this underlying idea that you have cut us off from a court of appeal. So long as we believed that the Preamble of this Bill would come before, and not after, the Bill, we knew that there would be a court of appeal, and it is because of the refusal of opportunities offered from this side of negotiations as to a court of appeal that we now realise that it is the intention of the Government to have an interregnum of three years at least when there will be no court of appeal and no possibility of any appeal. That is why we on these Benches have been forced into the position of changing our attitude, and why, as the Prime Minister said there have been rapid conversions to the necessity of constituting a court of appeal. We have asked the court of appeal to be a Referendum to the people, as you have under Clause 2 made it impossible for a Second Chamber to find any way of acting as a court of appeal.
To give the House an instance of how deep this instinct of the English people is 1316 to have a Second Chamber, I may mention that I was president of an association in. Liverpool having to do with great interests there, and all our disputes were settled by arbitration for a long time without any court of appeal, but while I was president it was brought to our notice that members insisted upon having a court of appeal that was arranged, and since then the very fact that the court of appeal was there has been of the very greatest use in settling great financial matters in dispute. Here we are at the very end of this Debate, and the idea still is in our minds that no court of appeal will exist before the next General Election, and that if this Government sent up measures to the House of Lords, even if those measures were amended and sent down, we cannot accept in this House the amendments that are sent down that are good and put aside those that we do not consider sound. We must take the whole of those Amendments and incorporate them as part of the Bill. We will not be allowed by this Parliament Bill to take four amendments coming down from the House of Lords and reject two. And for that reason it is self-evident that there is no court of appeal. They can even refer the Bill back to us to reconsider our own decision during these two years, and the hon. Member for Aberdeen said how delighted he was to think that there would be two years during which he would be allowed to go round the country and speak to all the constituencies as to the inadvisability of having a Home Rule Bill apart from a Scotch Home Rule Bill.
During those two years we would have no opportunity of appealing to the only final supreme court—that is to the people themselves, because there would not he sufficient by-elections during those two years to make a change in the personnel of the Government that was then ruling-in this House. Therefore it is idle to say that two years is amply sufficient to change the opinion of this country. We all know that in two years the number of by-elections is exceedingly small, and with the majority of 120 of the present coalition, there will be no possibility of the people being allowed by their votes, given at the polls during those two years or so to change the personnel of the Government, or that any change whatever would be made in the Bill that had been sent up to the Peers. I think the case is overwhelming to show that Clause 2 is un-English. It is not playing the game fairly, 1317 because even if you admit, for argument's sake, that the other House has not played the game fairly, you are now to put yourselves in the position that you are not going to play the game fairly during the three years that must elapse if this Bill is passed before the next General Election makes it possible for the people themselves to pronounce their own opinion or to have any court of appeal to speak on the measures that may be sent up during those three years. For these reasons, I think that Clause 2 is unsound, and therefore I shall be one of those who will vote against it.
§ Mr. RAFFAN
We have, I think, arrived at a stage which must give satisfaction to all Gentlemen who sit on this side and to those whom they represent in the country, when we find speaker after speaker on the other side of the House admitting that the time has come when a great change is necessary in the Constitution of the two Houses for the purpose of securing fair play between the two parties. I have listened to this Debate with considerable interest, and I found that in its earlier stages, and even in the earlier speeches which we heard on this Amendment, there were statements to the effect that in every case in which the House of Lords have thrown out Liberal measures they were fully justified. But if we find that the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Spear) states expressly that in his view there are many cases in which the House of Lords has not treated fairly measures sent up by a Liberal Government, then he admits it was a partisan House, and that some alteration is necessary. Yet we are told again and again that in the action we are taking we are proposing to uproot the old Constitution. The Member for Tavistock, in his extremely moderate speech, admits he objects to the Bill, and this Clause in particular, but what is the alternative which he proposes. He proposes to take this old House of Lords which has existed for 1,000 years and to turn it inside out—to give us a brand new House of Lords in which no Member can sit who has not had the distinguished honour of having been a colonel, chairman of a county council, or a Lord Mayor. Even if the Member possesses these distinguished qualifications, he is not to be allowed to have a seat there unless he is chosen by those who sit with him. Only one hundred Members out of the 600 are to be allowed to remain as legislators. If one is to be taken and five are to be left, you have the bulk of 1318 the remaining Members of the House of Lords elected in two different ways, and this proposal is more revolutionary and more unconstitutional than that which we submit. We propose to provide on well-established constitutional lines a Second Chamber, and we seek to secure orderly developments in connection with this matter.
Those who treat that statement with derision are the very people who say we are trying to tear up the old Constitution of this country, but who dare not go before their constituents and say they desire to defend the old Constitution, as it stands. So we come to this alternative. The old House of Lords is deserted by its friends—there is none left so poor as to do it reverence. Even the representatives of the Conservative party, those in whose interest it has debased itself and neglected national functions, making of itself a partisan assembly, have now deserted it. I assert that the plan proposed in this Clause is a plan which will make for orderly developments much more than will the plan proposed by the other side. I do not wish to put it offensively, but I think the position asserted by the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House that this as a court of appeal is not a fair court of appeal is a position which cannot be maintained. How can it be asserted that these delays which the Bill sets up will not count in favour of the Conservative party? We are continuing a court of appeal which we know is prejudiced against us and prejudiced against our measures. We are submitting to delays that there may be opportunities for agitation in the country. When the hon. Member says that there will not be sufficient bye-elections in two years to give a clear indication of what the feeling of the country is, I refer him to the bye-elections which took place last year. Every year it is perfectly well known there are not a sufficient number of bye-elections to alter the composition of the House—not a sufficient number to indicate the trend and tendency of public feeling. Does anybody think that if bye-elections were going steadily against the policy of the Government, that the Government would not be weakened if it then insisted upon carrying this proposal through? What we are doing is to set up a system which will give elementary fair play. The old system which hon. Gentlemen opposite have profited by, and under which their measures have been passed automatically, not only 1319 through this House, but through the other, is a system which, so far from giving fair play to us, has been so monstrously partisan that even to-day hon. Members opposite dare not get up and defend it. We are substituting for that partisan method, which has worked ill and badly, a system which will at any rate give a beginning of fair play, and that is the reason why it is attacked so bitterly by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. FLETCHER
Though Ito some extent have sympathy with the sentiments enunciated by the hon. Gentlemen opposite, and agree that the House of Lords have rejected some Bills, yet he cannot deny that the other House has passed an enormous number of Bills sent up to them from this House. Within the last six years I think they have passed about 250 Bills, so that it is perfectly absurd to say that as a rule they have set themselves in opposition to this House. While I agree that the Veto of the House of Lords should be restricted, I object strongly to the method by which the Government propose to effect that restriction. It is a very tedious and cumbersome method, and in a short time will become so unpopular that it will have to be done away with. The rational way of restricting the Veto of the House of Lords is to see that the Veto is restricted to one Parliament. I am strongly in favour of shortening Parliament to five years, for I think that is the solution of the difficulty. It would mean that any Bill rejected by the House of Lords should be dead for that Parliament, and if the country return the same Government to power again, I am sure the House of Lords would wish to withdraw their Veto on the Bill. I submit that is the rational solution of the difficulty between the two Houses. When the Prime Minister talks of making the Second Chamber absolutely impartial as between the party of progress and the party of caution, he surely forgets that if we are to have a Second Chamber at all—and a Second Chamber is found to be advisable in every civilised country in the world—if a Second Chamber is to exist then it must be a Chamber which, on the whole, makes for delay and revision. This is the Chamber to initiate and to lead on to the paths of progress. The other Chamber, if it is any good as a Second Chamber, must pause well and consider the matter, and in some cases delay. I submit that the proper amount of delay should be the period of the Parliament of 1320 the day, because if we restrict the time of Parliament to five years then it is obvious that the delay, if allowed, would only amount to three or four years. Surely that is not a much longer time than the Government indicate as the proper time to delay the passage of important measures. That is the reason why I shall vote with a clear conscience against this Clause, because, though I believe in the restriction of the Veto of the Second Chamber, I do not think the methods selected by the Government is a wise one. I think it is a very devious one, and one of which they shall soon get tired, and which will soon cease to exist if it is passed this year.
I was asked in the Lobby a few minutes ago whether I was not getting tired of these Debates on the Parliament Bill. I must confess that I am not at all tired of them yet, because they certainly furnish some remarkable testimony to the vitality of Liberal principles and the Liberal party, and they are always providing us with certain surprises. There have been certain surprises this evening which have pleased and delighted me. First of all, I may mention we have had actually no speech from the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil). That alone makes this a red letter day in the annals of the Parliament Bill. I know what a Rupert of debate he is, but the fact that he has retired without having ventured on a single charge is testimony to the strength of the position we hold. There is another surprise which has pleased me this evening, and it is this, that though we have had handed to us a Paper full of Amendments upon this Clause of the Bill, yet none of them have been moved. The order of the day apparently has been for hon. Members to get up one after the other and move that the Clause be omitted. They have tried that on before, and they know perfectly well that there is not the slightest chance. If they really had a decent Amendment to put before the Committee, or anything like decent arguments to back it up, I would be ready to listen and am ready to act in a spirit of fair play, appeals for which we have had in copious quantity. The fact is, without any doubt, that hon. Members on the opposite side have been beaten in argument, they have not faced the issues of this Bill, and the machinery and questions which might fairly be taken as arising on this Bill. What have we heard instead? I listened to one speech, and a very interesting speech, from the hon. 1321 Member for the Ludlow Division (Mr. Hunt), in which he stated that we had been great in the past, and we were still great I understood from him, because the House of Lords existed in its pristine form. [At this point the hon. Member for Oxford University entered the House.] I trust this House will not be disappointed, even though this day may not have been signalised with such a striking red-letter mark as I had anticipated. The hon. Member for Ludlow seemed to be perfectly ignorant of the fact that we are not to have the Third Reading of this measure to-morrow, and why? It is because of the request of the Leader of the Opposition to put it off until Monday in order that, if possible, some divergence of opinion might be created by the wonderful proposals that are being put forward elsewhere.
The fact undoubtedly is that we are anxious to join issue, and ready to pass this measure as soon as possible, but the other side are not even ready to debate it. They have not fairly treated the questions at issue, they have raised all sorts of other matters which are not germane to the issue before us. We had, for instance, from the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Spear) a long disquisition upon Home Rule. I admit it was about the best argument I have heard, and that is why I am going to devote a few moments to it. He ventured upon the plea that this Bill ought not to be passed, because if it were passed Home Rule might follow very quickly. I want to assure him Home Rule will follow very quickly, and that it will be as successful in Ireland and in this country as our policy upon the Budget, upon the Parliament Bill, and upon all matters which we have had a free hand in carrying through. With regard to the question of Home Rule and its bearing upon this Bill, in my contest at the last election I took every opportunity to insist that we were passing this Bill in order that we might get Home Rule. I had ex-Cabinet Ministers down to oppose me. I see one before me now whom I was very glad to have in the field against me. He told the electors that if this Parliament Bill were passed Home Rule would certainly follow. I am very glad to think that his prophesy is going to come true. My opponent issued an election card containing this: "Every vote given for the Liberal at this election is a vote for Home Rule." And what was the result? My majority was largely increased. I therefore take this opportunity a assuring my Liberal Friends that if they want their majorities largely increased go as strong 1322 and as hot for Home Rule as possible, and if you hon. Gentlemen on the other side want still to linger in the shades of Opposition make as much fuss and noise against it as you can, and you will remain for ever on that side of the House. I am afraid I have wandered away from Clause 2 to a, consideration of the claim of Ireland to self-government. I will only say in conclusion that if the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University, or anybody else who is in the habit of coming into the House and replying to speeches to which he has not listened, is ready to do that now, I shall be glad to listen to him.
I must congratulate the hon. Member opposite on the fact that after so many days' discussion on this Bill he is still anxious for more. I am not one of those who anxiously wish for many more days of discussion, but I am glad that the Debate to-day has drawn a number of very interesting observations from hon. Members opposite. One hon. Member, who delivered himself of a number of entertaining paradoxes, told us that the Bill of the Government ran on the old constitutional lines, but he failed to bring any evidence to prove his statement. He then fell foul of the reform scheme introduced in the House of Lords the other day, and suggested that we were determined on revolutionary schemes. One of the provisions of that scheme is to diminish the amount of the hereditary principle in the other Chamber. That may be revolutionary; but Members on the Front Bench opposite want to destroy the hereditary principle altogether, and to substitute the elective principle. Which is the greater revolution—to diminish the hereditary principle or to do away with it altogether One hon. Member propounded some difficult problems. He asked how it was that Liberals peers when they got to the House of Lords, after a certain period, turned Conservative. I thought the reply was well known. When they are free from the severe control of the Whips in this House reason and common sense begin to prevail, and their natural Conservative instincts commence to have free play. The party system also has been criticised. But an hon. Member who spoke absolutely rejoiced in his chains, and it seemed to give him great satisfaction that he was driven into the Lobby.
Another question raised was whether this Bill does, or does not, increase the power of the Cabinet. The shortening of Parliaments undoubtedly diminishes the 1323 power of the Cabinet, but that is balanced by the enormously increased power which it will obtain under the second portion of the Bill. The Cabinet will have power to pass any measure it likes during the first two, and probably the first three, years of a Parliament. One hon. Member attacked us most vigorously for supporting the principle of the Referendum, because, he said, it struck at the very root of the sacred representative principle, which apparently he worships. But he did not worship it quite so much when we suggested that it might be partially introduced into the Second Chamber. The Referendum is in some respects at variance with the representative principle. But the representative principle has been tempered by the principle of a Second Chamber, and if you are doing away with the Second Chamber in that respect you cannot leave the Representative principle entirely alone. You require some other principle such as that of the Referendum to direct the too ample application of the single representative principle. One of my chief quarrels with the Clause is that it is not only revolutionary itself, but that it starts a vista of any number of other revolutions.
Under this Clause you are giving all the power to a Single Chamber, and you are actually allowing that Chamber to be the sole repository of the Constitution itself. This Chamber will not only exercise legislative power, but it will also have power at any time to determine the Constitution now being set up. The Government have tried to introduce safeguards, such as the two years' suspension and shorter Parliaments. But have they any sanction for those safeguards? If the safeguards exist alone by their own strength, they have no security whatever. Cromwell's statement still remains true, that such a law is merely a rope of sand. One of the few advantages of a written Constitution is that there is some stability or fixity about it. On the other hand, an unwritten Constitution gives play to social and other changes, and is easily adapted to those changes. But that possibility is destroyed by the Constitution being put into writing. The remarkable thing about the present proposal is that the new Constitution is to be both written and unstable. It will have all the disadvantages of both kinds of Constitution, written and unwritten. There could be no stronger condemnation of the proposal from the constitutional 1324 point of view. Right hon. Gentlemen themselves are not satisfied with their own handiwork. One might have hoped that when they had brought in their Bill, which they are passing with very little alteration, they would, at any rate, have been gratified with the success of their own handiwork. Not a bit of it. Both the Home Secretary and the Postmaster-General, speaking of this measure, said it still left them in a very unsatisfactory position; that still the dice were loaded against the Liberal party, because their measures might be suspended the two years, whereas the measures of the Conservative party passed at once. Here, in the very middle of the great constitutional revolution, while the Bill of hon. Gentlemen opposite is passing, before it has gone to the Second Chamber, we are told by its promoters that it is unsatisfactory, and requies amendment.
Under these circumstances, what hope have we that even this Bill as it stands will give some security that there will at least be no further change? Surely under those circumstances were not hon. Members on this side, who have been much criticised on the opposite side for their want of argument in this case, amply justified in trying to exempt from the provisions of this measure such questions as the provision for and the rights of the Crown, and changes in the representative system? I contend that they were most amply justified; that they have been justified not only from the provisions of the Bill but from the commentaries of the Bill which we have heard from hon. Members opposite. If you are going to introduce into this House measures for altering the Constitution, you ought at least to provide some stronger or different procedure, some more elaborate measure by which, when you have once written down the Constitution of this country, a longer period should elapse, or a more elaborate procedure should be adopted by this House, before other fresh changes that may be introduced on the top of this revolutionary change can be carried into law, in order that we may have some security when we have written our Constitution that that Constituion for some time to come may remain as it has been devised.
§ Mr. BYLES
I think the most surprising thing in all this long series of Debates now coming to a conclusion is to find one Member after another of this historic House rising and asserting the supremacy, not of his own House, not of himself as 1325 representing the people, but of another end to the indignities and humiliations House. I want to see the Commons of England raised to a superior position than that which they have hitherto occupied. Hitherto all through our political history the Commons have been despised. They have always had to fight for their lives. Even now they are treated as an inferior, order. Take for instance the opening ceremony of this august Parliament. What happens? I went down in February to meet the Monarch who had summoned us, his "faithful Commons," as well as the Peers spiritual and temporal of his realm, and I found there in the Gilded Chamber a great collection of Peers, Peeresses, Bishops in their lawn sleeves, judges in their wigs, and a tremendous agglomeration of Power and Pelf. There was the splendour of robes, lawn sleeves, wigs, and diamonds. What about the Commons? Where were they We were allowed, Mr. Speaker, to follow you whom we respect so deeply into a sort of sheep-pen, where we had to stand upon tip-toe and look over one another's shoulders, or a few of us were allowed to be skied—in a sort of organ loft. Always, and all through, the Commons of England have been treated as an inferior order. I assert they are not an inferior order to those of Noble birth and blue blood, who are supposed to be a superior order of beings. I hope that the time may soon come when you, Mr. Speaker, at any rate, as the first Commoner of England, will be accorded a front seat, a place of dignity at the great Assembly, and that the emblem (the mace) of our tradition shall be held there in an honourable position.
If that is impassible, I should like to suggest that Parliament should be opened by the Monarch alternately in this House and in the House of Lords. We ought, at any rate, to get equal treatment. This Bill is to assert the sovereignty of the people. It is to assert not only equality, but supremacy I An hon. Gentleman who spoke a few minutes ago and delivered an interesting speech was exceedingly solicitous that there should be a court of appeal from this House. I say there should be no sort of appeal from the people of this country. My notion of the British Constitution is that the people should be sovereign. There must be a supreme court, no doubt, but that supreme court is the court of the people. The judgment of that court has been delivered. It has been delivered twice over. It is because I desire to see the Commons vindicated, to see the Commons supreme, to see an 1326 end to the indignities and humiliations that have been heaped on the Commons by the conduct of the collection of gentlemen who call themselves a superior order that I am going to vote for this Clause and for this Bill.
§ Mr. BAIRD
One of the speakers on the other side gave a rather curious reason why this day should be remembered as a red-letter day in the annals of this House. May I venture to suggest another reason, and that is, that after nineteen days' discussion of this Bill the back benches opposite have at last been unmuzzled. That is a singular distinction. The exuberance of the speaking shows what a degree of self-control hon. Members opposite must have exercised in order to remain silent till now. One of the speakers, the Member for Bedford, I think, complained that these Debates had been a succession of dreary drip from these benches. It was open to him and to his Friends to have varied that drip as they have done to-day; and I am bound to say that though we have been treated to a considerable amount of drip from that side, it cannot be described as dreary. One hon. Member spoke in an apologetic strain when he expressed the opinion that this Bill would be found neither so good as its supporters imagined, nor as bad as we on this side thought. I hope he is right in both respects. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedford summed up the whole situation by saying that after all every kind of alternative had been considered for the purpose of dealing with this constitutional issue, and the plan of the Government had been found to be the only workable plan.
I should like to ask the hon. Member on what ground he bases the statement that this plan is found to be a workable plan. Where has it been found to work? What other country has ventured to adopt such an insane measure for the purpose of dealing with legislation as the Government propose to adopt here? We have not dared to insult our Colonies by offering them a Constitution such as the Government are asking us to be satisfied with in this country. An hon. Member complained that we had brought forward no new arguments to bear upon this question. The old arguments are quite good enough, and have served to bring us back as the largest numerical body in this House. Hon. Members opposite have no cause to be proud of the fact that they owe their majority to two groups totally different in object, we are told, from the 1327 Liberal party. Therefore, I do not think we need complain of the efficacy of our arguments. Another Member, who sits for one of the Divisions of Lancashire, complained that our objections to this Bill were mostly of a prophetic nature. In all the declamations which have done duty for argument in support of this measure I think I never heard anybody yet defend the theory that it should be retrospective. If this measure was only going to deal with the present, and, if after it had been passed it was to become a dead letter, then it would be pure waste of time to pass it, and it is precisely because of the effect it will have in the future that we are objecting to it. If we did not object to it on prophetic grounds I do not understand on what grounds hon. Members would expect us to object to it.
I would point out that Clause 2 is the whole gist of the Bill. Clause 1 more or less satisfies the views held by both Houses and upon both sides, but Clause 2 is really the whole point. It embodies a point of view on which we differ fundamentally from hon. Gentlemen opposite. What is it that is claimed for this Bill? It was claimed time and again by the Prime Minister that this Bill assigned to the Second Chamber the only functions which a Second Chamber ought to discharge, and he has described these functions time after time as consultation, revision, and delay. Does this Clause confer these powers upon a Second Chamber? I venture to think it does nothing of the sort. The Government have rejected every proposal which has come from this side for the purpose of ensuring that there should be consultation between the two Houses, either by Joint Session or Conference. Therefore the first point which the Prime Minister claims as one of the qualifications of the Second Chamber is certainly not met by this Clause. Then as to the question of revision, I cannot see that giving the House of Lords, or the Upper Chamber the faculty of discussing a measure, while at the same time they have no power whatever to secure that whatever revision they make in it will be given effect to, is anything but ludicrous. Everybody knows quite well that the revision of the House of Lords will not be treated seriously in this House, because it will have no weight with hon. Gentlemen opposite; and therefore the second point falls to the ground. So in regard to consultation and revision 1328 this Bill does not confer upon the Second Chamber the powers which the Prime Minister and others on the Treasury Bench think ought co belong to a Second Chamber. What about the third point, the question of delay? What earthly use is the delay which the House of Lords will be able to effect? It will be empowered to hang up in a disagreeable manner a measure which they think the country does not want, but they will have no means of ascertaining whether the country wants it or not, or finding out whether the House of Commons is right. Therefore we shall he driven to putting a measure on the Statute Book without knowing whether it is the will of the country or not. A General Election may decide against the Government, and then there would have to be a reversal of the measures passed, and surely it would entail a tremendous waste of time to remove measures from the Statute Book in this way, to say nothing of the unsettling effect it would have on legislation.
Then there is the Imperial aspect of the question which has been briefly alluded to by a speaker behind me. At this moment we have hurrying to our shores the foremost statesmen of our oversea Dominions, and when they arrive here they will find that the men they have honoured as the representatives of the Sovereign, who have been considered worthy of being trusted with the exercise of the Royal Prerogative abroad, will be deprived of any effective intervention in matters of Imperial interest. They will find that the men who commanded our armies in the field, whose names are honoured in every household, are deprived of effective intervention in our counsels. Those men were considered worthy of discharging the highest offices overseas, and now they are to be relegated to a House which is merely going to be a debating society. That will not impress these gentlemen from across the seas. They will find that the men they have known and respected as Governors and Viceroys in the Colonies, are muzzled and rendered impotent in this country, whilst other individuals who may have served in subordinate capacities as A.D.C.'s., or members of Embassies, have far more authority than those who we were proud to consider our chiefs. That is a most illogical arrangement.
They will find a great many people in this House who have never seen the Colonies at all, and have never been further than Monte Carlo. All the great democratic governments throughout our 1329 Colonies have insisted upon their Second Chamber being an effective body, and not a sham such as this Clause would set up in this country. I think those are considerations deserving of some attention. I do not know whether the Government intend to deal with these points, or whether the mantle of silence which has been lifted on the back benches in one or two instances will fall upon them once more. It cannot be denied that this Clause does anything else but introduce into this country Single-Chamber Government in place of the Double-Chamber Government we have at the present time. If they deny that, I would ask them one question. If this Bill becomes law, it is necessary, in order for a measure to be placed upon the Statute Book that it should receive the assent of one Chamber only and not of two. What do you call that except Single-Chamber Government? It is pure affectation in. those circumstances to say it is worth while having a Second Chamber at all, and the expressions of horror which fell from hon. Gentlemen opposite when it was suggested that the House of Lords should be done wholly away with were rather amusing. They do not desire it to be done away with for party purposes. Party purposes underlie the whole of their policy with regard to this matter. They approach the constitutional question both in the House and the country from the party point of view. I should like to know how many hon. Gentlemen opposite who claim that this Bill has been before the electors, took the Bill round with them and explained its various provisions? How many devoted their speeches in the country to describing the Bill as against those who devoted their speeches to pointing out that if they elected the Conservatives their food would cost more and old age pensions would be taken away. From start to finish they have approached this subject in a partisan spirit, and the sole object of the Bill is to make the Liberal party predominant. That will be the effect of it. It will give absolute power for the time being to the party in power without safeguarding in any way the rights of minorities. I do not share the opinion of my hon. Friends who suggest a compromise. I do not think there is the slightest use. I would not venture for a moment to hold out the olive branch to the Government. There is another branch, the black thorn of Ireland, which is far more suitable, and that is what in due course they will receive and what they will deserve.
§ Mr. RYLAND ADKINS
It must be a matter of no little satisfaction to Members of this House, in whatever quarter they sit, that the point at issue between the Government and the Opposition should have been so clearly and conclusively defined. The hon. Member who has just sat down, and whose excursions into warlike metaphor we all enjoyed, was so good as to say that Members on this side. —and I suppose it is intended to apply to all the three parts of the Coalition—were all actuated by party purposes. There are two kinds of party purposes: there is the intention which every party ought to have, namely, that it should have fair play, and that is a purpose which is shared by all three parties who support the-Government in this measure. If it be suggested that the party purpose which lien behind our support of this Bill is to give an illegitimate party advantage, our reply is this: that under this very Bill, when it becomes an Act, we shall still be at a party disadvantage, compared with those who sit on the other side.
I rise to make a very brief comment on the clearness of the issue now raised. It is of the highest significance that the. Opposition to-night have so disposed of this. Debate that the one question they desire to have discussed last is the question of the omission of the second Clause. That shows that, after weeks of discussion, they still cling to the idea that this House is not to be supreme over the other House, even after three Sessions and after two years. That is, indeed, in accord with the view of the situation presented in the varying phrases of so many hon. Members opposite. There was the speech of the hon. and learned Member for South Bucks, who went so far as to suggest that it was part of our ancient Constitution, and in accord with our modern needs, that the other-House of Parliament should be able to decide when there should or should not be a Dissolution. If there is anything clearer in constitutional practice, it is that during the whole of the nineteenth century there was not one dissolution of Parliament which was brought about immediately by the action of the House of Lords. In the mind of the hon. and learned Member, stored as it is with every kind of legal learning, there is an instinctive desire that the other Chamber, essentially unrepresentative, and remaining unrepresentative under the recipe we heard last Monday, should have greater power than in the past. I think it is a legitimate conclusion to be drawn from the speeches 1331 that they think the House of Lords should be able to dictate the time of dissolution.
Then we had the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington who, admitting that the practice of the last ten years had made representative Government a mockery, asked why get rid of the checks and balances now existing. The answer is that the practice of the last ten years, and particularly of the last five years, has shown that you can only work the Constitution fairly when the checks and balances are so interpreted as to secure to this House the supremacy assured to it by this Bill. Then we had the speech of the hon. Member for Taunton, with the expression which really makes clear what I think is behind the minds of the hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member said: "We require that the representative principle should be tempered by some other principle which the other House exemplifies." There is the issue between us. We do not want the representative principle tempered, or tampered with or modified.
We believe that behind the opposition to this Bill, behind the selection of this Amendment for discussion lies a conviction, sincere I admit, but at the same time significant, for we all agree that it goes to the root of the controversy, and that is a profound distrust of the representative principle. I do not desire to exaggerate. But there is a profound distrust of the representative principle among hon. Members opposite when it does not work their way. The selection of this Amendment and the speeches this evening show that the Opposition, as a party, are perfectly content with what happens when the representative principle places them in power. Then they are content with all the deficiencies of Single-Chamber Government; then they bear with a patience which commands our admiration the entire absence of delay or revision or reference to any consideration save their own majority. Therefore it is that on this Amendment and on the Division which will follow I support the Government as heartily as I have done at any stage of the Bill, because I am confident that, difficult though this problem is and anxious as we ought to be to make the Constitution of our country work fairly, equitably, and with the minimum of friction, that can only be done when the representative principle is made supreme, and that can only be made supreme at the present time by passing this Clause into law.
It seems to me that I never heard a worse bit of history than that with which the hon. Member who has just spoken concluded his remarks, and when he dealt with the history of the last ten years. But there was another defect about his speech, and that was that he does not seem to have the gift of vision. His vision is qualified by what happened five years, ten years, or possibly twenty years ago, and he, like other hon. Members opposite, has no regard for the much longer period of history during which the people of England and the Parliament which represented them existed, a state of things which this Bill will go far to put an end to. Hon. Members opposite talk a great deal about the representative principle which they desire to carry into the other place. They may or may not be right, but there must be some arbiter between the people and the House of Commons. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because the House of Commons does not always represent the people. The hon. Member was a little bit in fault when he said that there was no instance in which the action of the House of Lords had led to a General Election. There was the Home Rule Bill of Mr. Gladstone, which was thrown out, and which led to a General Election. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Not for a year or two I agree, but the subsequent election was fought upon the question of Home Rule. That took place in consequence of the action of the House of Lords, and we all know the result. Hon. Members forget that after all the English nation works and grows very slowly, and it is not necessary that the action of the House of Lords should take effect at once.
I am sure that hon. Members opposite would be the first to acknowledge that it is quite possible for a House of Commons to be elected upon a particular issue —it may be Chinese slavery or any other issue—and yet not quite, in a year or two, to represent the nation. Then who is going to be the best arbiter as to whether the House of Commons does represent the opinion of the nation at a particular time or during a particular Session or not. If you have a representative Assembly, you will have a reflection of a similar body of men who are in the House of Commons but if you have a body constituted as the House of Lords is now constituted you have a body which considers these things without any fears of an election of any sort and kind, and therefore you get a much more unprejudiced judgment than that of a body which has, after all, a fear, 1333 or even a partial fear, of an election before its eyes. I should like to bring the question of Home Rule a little to the front, because, to use a phrase for which I am most grateful to the Prime Minister, there is a most incurable sloppiness about it. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day—a very good Scotch Radical—and I asked him if this question was really brought before the electors of Scotland. He said, "Yes, most decidedly," but he added that they came to think—canny Scotchmen, as we all know, like to get their own share of what is going on—that they would like to have the same sort of Home Rule whch was going to be offered to Ireland. Is that the sort of Home Rule that my Friends below the Gangway want to be offered to Scotland and Wales at the same time? Are they going to support the Government in passing a Home Rule Bill of that sort or to have independent Home Rule for Ireland? Are the Scotch Members, in other words, going to adopt the. Home Rule which the Irish Members have always wanted or are the Irish party going to adopt the Home Rule which we believe some Scotchmen, at all events, are inclined to want, namely, a sort of Home Rule all round. [An HON. MEMBER: "Wait and see."] I am quite content to wait and see, and if this second Clause was deleted, if there was power given to the nation to decide as to the opinion of the House of Commons on that question, I am quite prepared to wait and see, and I have no doubt as to what the verdict of the nation would be on the question of Home Rule as demanded by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. John Redmond) and those who follow his guidance.
With regard to the second Clause, I feel very strongly what has been urged in Debate previously. It is really a muzzling of the House of Commons. We saw only last night, when it was urged on the Government that at least they might give to the House of Lords the same power as the House of Commons of suggesting Amendments—not of insisting on them—to a Money Bill, that was refused. But this Clause really takes away from the House of Commons the power of revising its own action and of taking any advantage of the delay of which the Prime Minister has made so much in so many of his speeches. I was talking the other day to a Member of the other place who, though not an official Member of the Government, I think knows something about their wishes. I said I did not believe the Government would be 1334 able to pass this Bill as it is, and he asked me why. I said because the genius of the English people has always been towards compromise, and any great constitutional question is almost invariably settled upon some compromise or another. His answer to me as promptly as possible was, "What sort of compromise do you want? Do you want two Parliaments?" Straws show which way the wind blows. I do not wish to insult my friend by calling him a straw, but it was to me a not uninstructive suggestion that there is an idea of compromise on the other side. I think we on our side are all ready to admit that whatever our own predilections might be the general advance of ideas does require some reform of the House of Lords. After all, what is the real power of any Second Chamber? What is the use of revision or of delay if revision is not to be attended to, and if delay is simply delay for delay's sake? If there is no power in revision except suggestion, and no power in delay but delay for no purpose whatever, of a measure which presumably is for the good of the country, revision and delay are of little use. The real value of a Second Chamber is the power, directly or indirectly, of sending back to the people for reconsideration a measure on which they have partially made up their minds. It is no reflection on the genius of the. English nation to say that they have partially made up their minds. It is no reflection on them to say that the result of a General Election may not represent the mature opinion of the nation. If we cast back our minds we can remember Bills which have been brought in and which to a certain extent justified the aspirations at a General Election, but did net wholly come up to the wishes, or rather ideals of the people of what such a measure ought to have been. Surely second thoughts are always best in everyday life. Second thoughts are best, even in the House of Commons, great assembly as it is. But this Bill takes away practically all power of second thought. The only power of second thought you can get is by means of some Second Chamber, which is able, directly or indirectly, to ask the people to let their views be known as to what they really want. Judged by that standard in the last ten, fifteen, or twenty years, the people have never in the long run failed to get what they wanted. It might be overlong delayed—I agree that in one case: it took fourteen years for the people to make their opinion really felt—but in the long run that on which the people have set their minds always 1335 comes about. The other Chamber may have exercised the privilege of delay for five, ten, or fifteen years when giving the people the opportunity to reconsider measures and to act on their second thoughts. The second Clause contains some things which are good for the carrying out of the Bill, but I shall support
§ the Amendment, because the Clause contains one provision which seems to me to be wrong, and that is, that it takes away from the people the power of giving expression to their second thoughts.
§ Question put, "That the word 'if' stand part of the Clause."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 295; Noes, 190.1339
|Division No. 236.]||AYES.||[10.50 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Doris, William||Kelly, Edward|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda)||Duffy, William J.||Kemp, Sir George|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Adamson, William||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Kilbride, Denis|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Edwards, Allen C. (Glamorgan, E.)||King, Joseph (Somerset, North)|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Lamb, Ernest Henry|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molten)|
|Alden, Percy||Ellbank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Allen, A. A. (Dumbartonshire)||Elverston, Harold||Lansbury, George|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)|
|Armitage, Robert||Essex, Richard Walter||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld., Cockerm'th)|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Esslemont, George Birnie||Leach, Charles|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Falconer, James||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Farrell, James Patrick||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Fenwick, Charles||Logan, John William|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Ferens, Thomas Robinson||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Firench, Peter||Lundon, Thomas|
|Barnes, George N.||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.)||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lynch, Arthur Alfred|
|Barry, Redmond John (Tyrone, N.)||France, Gerald Ashburner||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Beale, W. P.||Furness, Stephen||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Beauchamp, Edward||Gelder, Sir W. A.||McGhee, Richard|
|Benn, W. (T. H'mts., St. Geo.)||Gill, A. H.||Maclean, Donald|
|Bentham, G. J.||Glanville, Harold James||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|Boland, John Pius||Goldstone, Frank||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||M'Callum, John M.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Griffith, Ellis Jones||M'Kean, John|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Brace, William||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||M'Laren, F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Hackett, John||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Brigg, Sir John||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Manfield, Harry|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Markham, Arthur Basil|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Marks, G. Croydon|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Martin, Joseph|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Meagher, Michael|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Harwood, George||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Millar, Duncan|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon, S. C. (Poplar)||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Molloy, Michael|
|Byles, William Pollard||Haworth, Arthur A.||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hayden, John Patrick||Montagu, Hon. E. S.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Hayward, Evan||Mooney, John J.|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Helms, Norval Watson||Morrell, Philip|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.|
|Clough, William||Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor||Needham, Christopher T.|
|Clynes, John R.||Higham, John Sharp||Neilson, Francis|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Hinds, John||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Hodge, John||Nolan, Joseph|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Holt, Richard Durning||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Corbett, A. Cameron||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||Norton, Captain Cecil W.|
|Cornwall. Sir Edwin A.||Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Cotton, William Francis||Hudson, Walter||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Cowan, W. H.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Crean, Eugene||John, Edward Thomas||O'Dowd, John|
|Crooks, William||Johnson, W.||Ogden, Fred|
|Crumley, Patrick||Jonas, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||O'Grady, James|
|Cullinan, John||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||O'Malley, William|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Jones, Leif Stratton (Notts, Rushclitfe)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Dawes, J. A.||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||O'Shee, James John|
|Delany, William||Jowett, Federick William||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Joyce, Michael||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Dillon, John||Keating, M.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.||Rowlands, James||Walsh, J. (Cork, South)|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Rowntree, Arnold||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Wardle, George J.|
|Pirie, Duncan Vernon||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Pointer, Joseph||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H||Scanlan, Thomas||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Power, Patrick Joseph||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.||Webb, H.|
|Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)||Sheehy, David||White, Sir George (Norfolk)|
|Primrose, Hon. Nell James||Sherwell, Arthur James||White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Pringle, William M. R.||Shortt, Edward||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Radford, George Heynes||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Rattan, Peter Wilson||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Raphael, Sir Herbert H.||Spicer, Sir Albert||Wiles, Thomas|
|Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Strachey, Sir Edward||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Reddy, Michael||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Summers, James Wooley||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Sutton, John E.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Rendall, Athelstan||Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Richards, Thomas||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Tennant, Harold John||Winfrey, Richard|
|Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)||Wood, T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Thomas, J. H. (Derby)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Robinson, Sidney||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Toulmin, George|
|Roche, John (Galway, E.)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Floe, Sir Thomas||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander||Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Rose, Sir Charles Day||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Craig, Captain James (Down, E)||Lee, Arthur Hamilton|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Craig, Norman (Kent Thanet)||Lewisham, Viscount|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Craik, Sir Henry||Locker-Lampson. O. (Ramsey)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Archer-Shoe, Major M.||Croft, Henry Page||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Dalrymple, Viscount||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)|
|Astor, Waldorf||Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale)|
|Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Duke, Henry Edward||Lyttelton, Rt. Mon. A. (S. Geo. Han. S.)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Faber, Captain W. V. (Hants, W.)||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh|
|Belcarres, Lord||Fell, Arthur||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Finlay, Sir Robert||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Fisher, William Hayes||Malcolm, Ian|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fleming, Valentine||Mallaby-Deely, Harry|
|Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Barlow, Montagu, (Salford South)||Gilmour, Captain John||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.|
|Barnston, H.||Goldsmith, Frank||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Grant, J. A.||Mills, Hon. Chas. Thomas|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. (Glouc., E.)||Greene, Walter Raymond||Moore, William|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts., Wilton)||Gretton, John||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward||Mount, William Arthur|
|Beckett, Hon. William Gervase||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Bean, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Haddock, George Bahr||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Bens, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Newman, John R. P.|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Nield, Herbert|
|Bird, Alfred||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)|
|Boscawen, Col. A. S. T. Griffith-||Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Hardy, Laurence||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid.)||Harris, Henry Percy||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Boyton, James||Helmsley, Viscount||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hills, John Waller||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Peel, Captain R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Hoare, Samuel John Gurney||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)|
|Butcher, John George||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Campion, W. R.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Carllie, Edward Hildred||Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.|
|Cassel, Felix||Horner, Andrew Long||Quilter, W. E. C.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Houston, Robert Paterson||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Cater, John||Hume-Williams, Wm. Ellis||Rice, Hon. Walter Fitz-Uryan|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hunt, Rowland||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. (Bath)||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford Univ.)||Joynson-Hicks, William||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Kerry, Earl of||Royds, Edmund|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull)||Rutherford Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Kirkwood, John H. M.||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Clyde, James Avon||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Law, Andrew Bonar (Bootle, Lancs.)||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Smith, F. E. (Liverpool, Walton)||Thynne, Lord Alexander||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Touche, George Alexander||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Spear, John Ward||Tryon, Captain George Clement||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Stonier, Beville||Tullibardine, Marquess of||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Walker, Col. William Hall||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Starkey, John Ralph||Walrond, Hon. Lionel||Yerburgh, Robert|
|Stewart, Gershom||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)||Younger, George|
|Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Sykes, Alan John||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Talbot, Lord Edmund||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Viscount|
|Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud||Valentia and Mr. H. W. Forster.|
|Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
§ And, it being Eleven of the clock, Mr. Speaker proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 8th May, successively to put forthwith the Questions on any Amendments moved by the Government, of which notice had been given, necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at Eleven of the clock this day.
§ Amendments made:
§ In Sub-section (1) after the word "any" ["If any Bill"] insert the word "public."—[The Prime Minister.]
§ Leave out the word "has" ["House of Lords has"] and insert instead thereof the word "have."—[The Attorney-General.]
§ In Sub-section (2) after the word "section" ["provisions of this section"] insert the words "there shall be endorsed on."
§ Leave out the words "shall be accompanied by a," and insert instead thereof the word "the."
§ After the word "Commons" ["Speaker of the House of Commons"] insert the words "signed by him."—[The Attorney-General.]
§ At the end of Subsection (4) insert the words, "and any Amendments which are certified by the Speaker to have been made by the House of Lords in the third Session and agreed to by the House of Commons shall be inserted in the Bill as presented for Royal Assent in pursuance of this Section."
§ Bill to be read the third time upon Monday next, 15th May, and to be printed.—[Bill 266.]
Adjourned at Twelve minutes after Eleven o'clock.