HC Deb 20 February 1912 vol 34 cc464-581

Another Amendment proposed [19th February] at the end of the Question, to add the words, But this House humbly expresses its regret that Your Majesty's Gracious Speech contains no reference to the pledge given by Your Majesty's Ministers that they would make proposals for the reconstruction of the Second Chamber without delay, and humbly represents to Your Majesty that it would be improper to proceed with measures so vitally affecting the safety of the State and the interests of Your people as those named in Your Majesty's Speech whilst the constitution of Parliament is still incomplete and Your Majesty's subjects are deprived of the usual safeguard of constitutional government."—[Mr. F. E. Smith.]

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


My right hon. Friend the Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith), in moving this Amendment yesterday, made a speech which, I think, was unanswerable. At all events that speech remained unanswered during the whole of yesterday's Debate. He proved perfectly clearly that the Government were absolutely under a pledge to introduce a measure for reconstituting the Second Chamber as soon as possible after carrying the Veto Bill. He showed also, what we all understand, that the Government have not the slightest intention of doing anything of the kind at the present moment. So far from doing that, the Government plan is to carry out a large number of highly controversial measures of first importance when the Constitution is practically suspended, and when there is no possibility of referring them to the people of this country. But the case for the Government really was made worse during yesterday's Debate. When we began the Debate most of us were under the impression that the Government intended to carry under the Parliament Act Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, and some tinkering with the Franchise which they think will be to their advantage. During the course of the Debate it became clear that they intended to carry other measures—an Education Act, which is highly controversial; a Licensing Act, another highly controversial measure; and some big measure for reforming the land system. In fact, it became perfectly clear that the Government have a programme which will take up the whole of the rest of the time of this Parliament, and that they will postpone for the present the reform of the House of Lords altogether. Yet the pledge of the Government was absolute on the subject. My right hon. Friend gave many examples of this in the course of his speech yesterday. I am only going to add one more. It was a most significant pledge, and one which most of us remember being made less than a year ago. The hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes), speaking on behalf of the Labour party on the Parliament Bill, moved to delete from the Preamble of the Bill the words which pledged the Government to reconstitute the Upper Chamber. The Prime Minister resisted the Amendment in this House on 3rd May. Referring to the last General Election, he said:— We presented our policy exactly in the form in which it is stated in this Bill—a policy which consists, in the first, place, of the removal of the Veto of the House of Lords and of the establishment of the principle, as this Bill does establish it, subject, I agree, to a number of very elaborate safeguards against precipitate and ill-considered legislation, of the predominance of the House of Commons. But we also said, not that we should accompany that change, but that we should supplement and complete it with proposals for the reconstitution of the Second Chamber. I have often said, and I do not think it has been seriously contested, that the country at the last General Election, if it decided anything at all, was decisively in favour of the proposition put before it by the Government. We should not be therefore carrying out the expressed wish of the electorate who sent us here if we were to excise from the Preamble of this Bill the words which the hon. Gentleman asks us to delete; we should be absolutely false to the pledges and professions which we made."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1911, col. 454.] I submit that although by retaining the Preamble the Government may be said to be true in the letter to the professions which they made to the country, yet in the whole spirit of their action they are absolutely false to those pledges, because to retain the words in the Preamble and then proceed to carry other measures without carrying out the proposal in the Preamble is not to carry out what the Government promised the country faithfully that they would carry out. But none of us on these benches are surprised that the Government have taken this course. The simple instinct of self-preservation compels them to take this course. If they proceeded with the Preamble instead of proceeding with the other measures they could not continue to exist. We all know that. Take plural voting. That, it is true, does not refer to their present existence. It has regard to whether they are likely to reappear after the next General Election. They are obliged to carry some franchise reform for the simple reason that they know they have entirely lost the confidence of the present electorate, and so it is necessary to alter the electorate before the next Election comes. On this point let me quote a passage from the "Labour Leader," published last week:— Altogether the prospect before the Government is anything but rosy. The tide of feeling in the country has begun distinctly to run against it. By-election results are anything but encouraging. Sir Edward Grey's policy is unpopular. Mr. Winston Churchill's big Navy speeches are unpopular. The Insurance Act is unpopular. Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment offer the Government no opportunity to retrieve their fallen fortunes. And so the Government, knowing that they have lost the confidence of the present electorate, try to rush through this House, uncontrolled by the Second Chamber and uncontrolled by the country, some measure of tinkering the franchise to their own advantage. It is an old Liberal plan. The Liberal Government did it in the year 1884. I do not suppose, with the excepton of the present Government, there was ever so unpopular a Liberal Government as that which existed from 1880 to 1885. They were fully aware of their unpopularity, so in 1884 they altered the electorate, which gave them about six months' additional existence, and then they were destroyed by the Home Rule Bill of 1886. So now the Government have to alter the electorate, but I think that Home Rule will destroy them again as it did in 1886. We know that they have to carry Home Rule at once through this House. They cannot help themselves. They have got a very hard taskmaster in the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond). We know exactly what he has said over and over again. He said, in Chicago:— We will not tolerate any postponement. We therefore cannot have reform of the House of Lords.

At Buffalo, he said:— We will make them toe the line. He said on another occasion:— If when the Veto of the House of Lords is abolished the Liberal party go back upon their pledge to Ireland we will hurl them from office. It is just the same as the Welsh party would do. If they were strong enough they would hurl the Government from office if they did not at once bring forward Welsh Disestablishment. In fact, one of the strangest combinations which have ever been witnessed is that between the Irish Home Rulers and the Welsh Disestablishes? Each have been trying to get their own proposal put forward the first. There was an illustration of this last summer, when the hon. Member for Waterford was going to meet the hon. Member for Anglesea (Mr. Ellis Griffith), at Holyhead, and they were going to have what they called the union and brotherhood of two great kindred Celtic people. The brotherhood of the two kindred Celtic people was rather marred by the fact that the hon. Member for East Denbighshire (Mr. John), who was going to take the chair, refused to do so unless a definite pledge was given that Welsh Disestablishment was to precede Home Rule. In the view of hon. Members on this side neither of those measures ought to precede the reconstitution of the House of Lords. Neither has been before the country, and they have no right whatever to push them forward without an appeal to the people until at all events they set up some machinery whereby a Second Chamber can refer these questions to the people for their judgment. I have stated that, in my opinion, neither of these questions has been before the people.

4.0 P.M.

The Solicitor-General (Sir J. Simon) yesterday seemed to think that he had disposed of the whole objection with reference to Home Rule by saying that even though they had not brought Home Rule before the country, it was before the country, because we brought it before the country. He referred to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. A. Chamberlain), and a number of speeches he said he had made on the question of Home Rule at the last Election. Of course we all agree that we did try to bring the question before the country at the last Election. We wished to warn the country of the danger that stared it in the face. What happened? I will speak from my own experience. Whenever I mentioned Home Rule in my Constituency, I was invariably told that it was a bogey and not the question before the electorate. Then take the question of election addresses. I know the Government have brought out lately a rather remarkable argument by which apparently they hold that candidates do not put into their election addresses the most important questions, and that they only go into questions of minor importance. I have been a candidate a good many times and am a fairly old Member of this House, and I am old-fashioned enough to say that for my part, and I think the same applies to the great majority of Members, we put into our election addresses the most important questions, and we certainly put in those points which we think are most likely to gain us the support of the electorate, so far as they are consistent with our principles. There were 270 Liberal Members returned to this House at the last Election. There are not 270 now, as several have disappeared in the by-elections. But of the 270 who were returned, only eighty-four, or 31 per cent. mentioned Home Rule in their election addresses. It is quite true that if you take candidates as distinguished from people who were returned, the proportion is rather higher. Of the candidates in England and Wales on the Liberal and Labour side, there were 452 altogether, and 191, or 44 per cent., mentioned Home Rule in their election addresses. But that only proves this, that those people who said least about Home Rule were most successful in being returned. Let us look at the important persons who did not mention it at all. The Prime Minister never mentioned it. What is perhaps still more remarkable, the Irish Secretary never mentioned it, although on the eve of the poll he made a remarkable speech, which has been quoted in this House before. Speaking at Bristol on the eve of the poll, he said:— Home Rule was one of those questions which should be left to the judgment of the people. If some persons thought that the Liberals would smuggle Home Rule through the House of Commons in the three years following, all he could say was that their ignorance was beyond conception. But that is precisely what the Government are trying to do. They are endeavouring to smuggle Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment, within the three years following, through the House of Commons. Disestablishment, we are told, is to be considered in a hole-and-corner manner in a Standing Committee upstairs, while Home Rule is to be gagged and guillotined on the floor of the House. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman's Bristol constituents were not quite so ignorant as he thought; they, at all events, knew rather better than he apparently did what was the intention of the Government. Let me come to Disestablishment. I see one or two Welsh Members present. Can anyone say that Welsh Disestablishment was before the country at the last election? There may be some pretence as regards Home Rule; it may be said that we mentioned it on our side, though you did not think it wise to do so. Can it really be contended that anybody mentioned Welsh Disestablishment at the last Election? I have got here a list of all the Welsh Liberal Members, and I have got a list of those who mentioned it in their election addresses, and out of the whole number only nine Welsh Members mentioned it in their election addresses, and only four English Members who have been returned to this House. The Prime Minister, speaking on behalf of the Bill, said that Home Rule was before the country, and he said he could prove it by this, that when he went for a beautiful summer's drive through some parts of Surrey he saw picture posters on the walls containing allusion to Home Rule. It is quite true that on our side we put them up. There were other picture posters representing loaves of bread, and black bread, and dog sausages, suggesting some reference to the food of the people. There were also other picture posters representing Members of the Upper Chamber in coronets and long flowing robes, a costume one does not habitually see save at the Coronation, or in a Gilbert and Sullivan opera.

Undoubtedly it might be said that the question of Home Rule was before the country in that way, but did anybody ever see a picture poster representing Welsh Disestablishment? Did anybody in the last Election see a picture of a Church closed, and parish councillors and county councillors scrambling over the money? The House knows perfectly well that there was no such allusion to the subject at all, and the question was never referred to in any way whatever either by candidates in their speeches, or by posters, or in election addresses, or by what canvassers said when they were going round the constituencies. Yet this great question, which affects the whole connection between Church and State, which has existed for many years before there was a representative House of Commons, is to be carried, if the Government have their way, in this House of Commons, elected upon another question. It is not to be regulated by a Second Chamber, it is not to be referred to the people—it is simply to be smuggled through in a way which, to my mind, is absolutely unconstitutional. I said just now that only nine Welsh Liberal Members referred to the question in their election addresses, and only four English Members. The hon. Member who proposed the Address last week said that this is entirely a Welsh question. I combat that view altogether. The question of dismembering the Church of England is a question in regard to which surely we English Churchmen have a right to be consulted. This question leads to what may be meted out to us in England later on.

When the Welsh Disestablishment Bill was brought in, in 1909, the "Morning Leader" described it as a working model of what the treatment of the Church of England would be later on. I say, therefore, that it is a question not only for Wales, but for England. There is another reason why the question ought not to be rushed through Parliament without being submitted to the people. A few years ago a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the case of the Church in Wales, and they reported about a year and a half ago. That Report alters the whole complexion of the case with regard to Welsh Disestablishment. It destroys practically every one of the old arguments that used to be advanced in favour of Welsh Disestablishment, and it brings forward no new argument. Surely the people of this country ought to have the right, before Disestablishment is decided on, to judge the findings of the Commission contained in their Report. Why, no less an authority than the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said so. Speaking at Cardiff on 11th October, 1906, of this Royal Commission, a few days after it had been appointed, he said:— There has never been a great question settled in this country but what there has been an official inquiry into the statements with regard to it. The evidence of facts collected and sifted carefully by the Royal Commission, they might depend upon it, would be accepted by English public opinion as more or less settling the dispute. English public opinion has never had any chance whatever of judging of these facts and figures, because, as a matter of fact, the Royal Commission's Report was never published until 2nd December, 1910, and the first polls took place on 3rd December. So these new facts have not been considered, and the Welsh Disestablishment Bill is to be rushed through. The country are to have no opportunity of considering the facts and figures for one moment. I wish to refer to a very remarkable speech which was made in the course of the Debate yesterday by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes). He told us that he was interested in social reform, and for that reason he would support the policy of the Government rather than the policy of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend. But, after all, the hon. Member and his Friends of the Labour party sitting on those benches are not the only people in this House who are interested in social reform. Many of us on this side of the House are equally interested in it, and we were the original party of social reform when the Liberal party was opposed to it, and before the Labour party came into existence.

But really if the hon. Member for Black-friars and his Friends seem to think they are going to get social reform more quickly by supporting the policy of the Government instead of the policy of the Opposition I think, in the present state of affairs, they are relying upon a broken reed. The hon. Member is asking us to postpone social reform, to postpone the reform of the Poor Law, to postpone the measure for the care of the feeble-minded, and to postpone any reconsideration of the present law regarding the housing of the working classes. He is asking us to postpone all these great and pressing questions until we have Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, a big reform of the franchise, a Licensing Act, an Education Act, and, possibly, a big Land Bill as well. I think he is postponing social reform to a time when, at all events, this present Parliament will have run its course. If he wants social reform he is far more likely to get it with a reconstituted Second Chamber than by putting it off until all these big questions have been settled by the House of Commons. I have tried to show, first of all, that the Government were definitely pledged to proceed at once with the reconstitution of the Second Chamber. Secondly, instead of doing that, they are, while the Constitution is suspended, trying to carry big proposals of the first importance which have never been before the people of this country. I have tried to show, thirdly, that by so doing they are postponing these necessary social reforms until a very remote period. For these reasons I shall certainly go into the Lobby in support of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend.


The hon. Member who has just sat down has indulged in the practice of imputing motives freely to the Government. He has also followed the practice of demonstrating beyond controversy that those measures to be introduced are measures which receive the hearty support of those who go into the Lobby with the Government. He has further followed the practice, which has prevailed a great deal during the last few days, of quoting from speeches in the past in order to elucidate the situation of the present. I cannot help thinking that a certain amount of time has been wasted by this collection of elegant extracts which has been put before us. Possibly, if they could have been printed and circulated amongst Members, we might have lost a considerable amount of intellectual amusement, but certainly we would have gained two valuable days of Parliamentary time. The fact that these two days have been lost is due not to the Government, but to the form of the Amendment put forward by the Opposition. I think the Debate, so far as it has gone, has proved beyond doubt that there has been no misreading of its authority on the part of the Government, and it has proved, further, that the very terms of the authority were in large part confirmed by hon. Members opposite at the time of the General Election. I did not intend myself to make any further contribution, but it seems that everyone who intervenes in this Debate must bring at least one quotation. There is one, a good one and a very familiar one, which, I think, has not yet been quoted, and which, like many others we have heard, is to be credited to the right hon. Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain). Writing to a Unionist candidate in North Worcestershire, the right hon. Gentleman said:— I wish you success in North Worcestershire. The issues are, No. 1. Home Rule.' It is quite true that the right hon. Gentleman went on to mention other issues, and he put, in the second place—I suppose it was the only occasion on which he has done so—the question of Tariff Reform. I bring that forward, and I hope it may prove the last straw in this great load of quotations under which this Debate is liable to be submerged. I think those which have been brought forward are quite enough to show that there has been no secrecy and no duplicity in the position given to Home Rule in the legislative programme of the Government. The hon. Member who has just spoken said that though it was true that Home Rule was paraded by both sides at the last Election, it was treated merely as a bogey, and not as a reality. When electors came to him and said it was not serious, and that it was merely a bogey. I venture to suggest that they were applying that term to his argument, or to the form in which he presented it, rather than to the concrete proposition put forward by the Government. We know quite well, as we have been told, after a quarter of a century of agitation on this subject and six General Elections upon it, that the attitude of the Government is not a sudden surrender to political temptation, but that it is merely the steady pursuance of a settled policy. I want for a moment to deal with the argument which is frequently attributed to us by hon. Members opposite, and which finds a faint echo on this side—I mean the argument that after the sharp, brief conflict on the constitutional question which we have been through, the Liberal Party is entitled to take full advantage of its victory, and that there are a number of prizes which it may fairly claim to seize in the shape of Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, and other items on the legislative programme. It is no doubt quite true that we are at this moment faced by congestion of business, that we have at our backs a great flood which has been pent up by the barrier of the Veto. It is quite true that it is coming down upon us in full force. Everyone on this side of the House, I believe, and many, though I am certain not all, on the other side, would be glad to see the measures of social reform alluded to by hon. Members below the Gangway and by the hon. Member who has just spoken brought forward and passed into law. But all those measures which are actually in the programme of the Government at the present time are measures not suddenly sprung on the country, but are measures which in one form or another have been before it for the last twenty-five years. I pass from that argument because it is one not strictly relevant to the actual Amendment we are discussing, and certainly is not necessary in any way in order to support our position with regard to Home Rule.

The real justification for the place given to Home Rule, its immediate place next on the programme, is that it is an integral part of that policy of constitutional reconstruction which the Government proclaimed before it came into power, and which it has steadily pursued since it did come to power. I quite admit that many ulterior results will follow from Home Rule, and I look, and look confidently, for them to come. It is possible, and it is more than possible, it is probable, that by satisfying the legitimate aspirations of the Irish people we shall bring peace and prosperity to that country. It is more than possible, I believe it to be probable, that we shall actually increase the defensive strength and power of the United Kingdom. It is perhaps not probable, but at any rate possible, though hon. Members from Ulster opposite may not believe it, that it may even, in course of time, soften their hearts and bring them into political peace with those whom they regard as their enemies. However that may be, that is not the immediate justification. Those results which I, speaking for myself, firmly believe will follow, are considerations which might well justify, and no doubt will be used to justify, the Home Rule Bill when it has been introduced. What we are concerned with this afternoon is to justify the introduction of the Home Rule Bill and not the measure itself. I put forward as my own view that it is, as a piece of constitutional machinery, justifiable. Is there any hon. Member opposite who will deny that a Home Rule Bill of any probable kind must entail a considerable redistribution of the powers of this House and a rearrangement and delegation of its authority? Do any hon. Members opposite deny that it must mean at least some alteration in the numbers of the Irish Members in this House? If that be so, and I think it needs no further argument to prove, then, as a mere piece of constitutional legislation, it falls into its due place in the programme as put before us.

Logic surely demands, if we are to deal with that constitutional question, that we should deal with it before and not after we had settled the position of the Second Chamber. A Home Rule Bill, a measure of Home Rule, must be provisional, not provisional so far as concerns Ireland, for I fervently hope that it will be permanent as far as that country is concerned, but it must be provisional so far as the internal arrangements of the House of Commons, and still more the internal constitution of the House of Lords, are concerned. If it be a federal scheme, and we do not know yet what it will be, if it be a federal scheme, or if there is in it even a possibility of federalism in the future, then the House of Lords must certainly be prepared to adapt itself to the alteration of conditions thereby brought about. The hon. Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) in a speech which he made yesterday afternoon, and a speech which in my humble view was the most serious contribution made in this Debate so far from the opposite side, said that we ought to complete the machine first before we proceed to do anything more. If I have made my point clear, it is that in dealing with Home Rule we are dealing actually with part of the machinery itself, and that it is logical and natural to take it at this moment and not later.

I will just mention one other matter; I do hope for my own part, and what has fallen from Members of the Government who have already spoken, gives me some hope that in postponing the reconstruction of the Second Chamber, there is no intention of delaying until it can be no longer dealt with. It appears to me not only from a national point of view, but even from a merely party point of view, to be an absolute necessity that we should deal with it. We cannot leave an unreformed House of Lords with the very large powers which it enjoys at the present moment. I am quite aware hon. Members opposite freely state that it has no powers at all, and that it has been reduced to impotence. It is true the House of Lords refuses to act in order, just as hon. Members opposite, to keep up the absurd fiction that at the present moment we are living under a system of Single-Chamber Government. A measure went before the House of Lords before Christmas in the Autumn Session, the Insurance Bill, when if ever there was an opportunity for a revising Chamber to use its faculties and its powers upon a Bill, it was upon that Bill. It treated it for all the world as though it were a Tory Bill. It was allowed to pass straight into law without question, and I believe, to put aside the baser motives which may have been present, that one of the prominent motives for their action on that occasion was that they might keep up this faint pretence that their Chamber has lost its power and has been paralysed and reduced to impotence. That is one of those mere make-beliefs of the party opposite of which the Solicitor-General spoke yesterday. There were others which the Solicitor-General might have mentioned. There was that fiction that the trade of this country was going, and there was then this fiction that the Parliament Act reduced us to a state of Single-Chamber Government. We have now in the Amendment before the House the fiction that Home Rule was not before the country at the last Election. We know quite well that these shifty series of illusions carry no conviction at all to the people of this country, and it is only by repetition that they can possibly carry conviction even to hon. Members opposite.

The House of Lords at this moment has the power both to revise and reject, and if I may venture a prophecy I think it is very likely that hon. Members opposite look forward confidently to its free exercise of those powers in the most immediate future. In the second place, our duty to the electors is not to postpone indefinitely this question of the reconstruction of the Second Chamber. We as a party must do it or the party opposite will and we know well the shape and form they will give that Chamber. I listened with great interest to the speech made by the hon. Member for Blackfriars (Mr. Barnes) yesterday. I should like to suggest to him that when he consoles himself with the existence of a predominant House of Commons as it is at present, that we have not yet got that, and that he is very likely soon to find to his cost that we have not got it. If nothing is done by us, then in all probability the Parliament Act will go, but if we establish in place of the present House of Lords a Chamber with a revising power, established on a firm democratic elective basis, then there is a great probability that the fruits of victory will be safe to us, and that we shall continue to enjoy the provision of the Parliament Act for all time to come. Hon. Members opposite by their Amendment are offering to us this chance of reconstruction. It appears to me that we certainly should take it, and that we should carry it out in due time. Logic and consistency and fairness all suggest that that time should be delayed until the end of the present Parliament. Meanwhile we should all recognise that it is a point of honour with the Government to carry out its pledge, and that they have freely stated that it is so. I sincerely hope it will be repeated by the Prime Minister when he addresses the House later this afternoon.


After the short, sharp shower yesterday partially renewed to-day, the House may be relieved to hear that I do not wish to contribute further to the stream of quotations from the Official Report that we have had in this Debate. My principal reason is that I do not think they have much effect on the benches opposite; they do not sensibly tend to diminish the lessened self-respect which I think the Government feels. Theirs is a pachydermatous administration; they are frankly opportunists, they shape the nature of their policy by the nature of their majority, and they are firm believers in the Bismarckian phrase do ut des. May I recall the House to the main issue of this Debate. The main issue of the Debate is whether the Government has broken its contract with the nation, expressly implied, at the earliest possible moment to reform the Second Chamber and, as the phrase goes, to bring it into harmony with the spirit of the age. That is the question which has been asked, and, of course, it was answered from the Prime Minister's often-quoted words that the settlement would "brook no delay." But that is not the issue which has been dealt with by those who have spoken from the opposite benches. The Solicitor-General is an amazingly clever man. There is no proposition which he could not argue. I heard him last Session in Committee Room upstairs, amid the cheers of his followers, establish without doubt that the greater number of ducks' eggs a cricketer made the higher was his average for the year. There is absolutely nothing he cannot argue. He did not take the trouble to argue that proposition, all he sought to establish was that there was due Parliamentary notice given of the introduction of a Home Rule Bill. He knows as well as possible that in a great work like "The Decline and Fall" there is all the difference between what is contained in the main chapters and in the footnotes or the marginal references. All through the election Home Rule was a marginal reference or a footnote. I do not deny that the footnotes were put in. They were.

But I am not so much concerned to argue that, because I am sufficiently old-fashioned to detest the idea of the mandate. I believe it is a poisonous heresy quite alien to the spirit of Parliamentary Government. I only point out that the Solicitor-General did not take the trouble to deal with the real issue. He simply proceeded at some length to establish the proposition that Home Rule had been mentioned in a more or less casual way by most of the Ministers who spoke. But if we can clear our minds of cant for once, is it not perfectly well known to every Member that the Government moan to postpone the reform of the Second Chamber until it is past all possibility of enactment, and are prepared to perpetuate what is the grossest Parliamentary scandal and a very great loss to our national reputation. If an example had been wanted the hon. Member opposite (Mr. H. Baker) gave it. He instanced the manner in which the Insurance Bill was treated in the House of Lords. If ever there was a Bill that required to be considered very deliberately and amended it was the Insurance Bill. The prejudice against the House of Lords, which the party opposite wish to use at the next election as they used it at the last, is the very reason why many of the great friendly societies have been much abused by those of their members who put politics before finance for appealing to the House of Lords to amend the Insurance Bill. I have been present at two great meetings held in London lately—the Oddfellows and the Hearts of Oak—where I heard member after member questioning the expediency of a democratic society appealing to the House of Lords. That is just the prejudice which the Government wish to keep alive. If we had had a representative, or at any rate an efficient, Second Chamber, there would have been no outcry on the part of the most extreme democrat against appealing to it where revision and amendment were obviously necessary.

The Government, of course, know very well what the future course of legislation is to be so far as they can shape it in this House. They anticipated that every item of the crowded programme of this Session will be thrown out by the House of Lords and be kept out so far as the powers of the Parliament Act extend. Therefore they know that for three years we are to Debate the present programme, and that for three years excludes the question of reform. Then what about the reform of the Poor Law? That is a debt long overdue. It is impossible, when you consider their professions with regard to social reform, that the Government can refuse to give a whole Session to what will be one of the most complex and difficult pieces of legislation that this House can tackle. In these circumstances it is perfectly certain that the reform of the existing House of Lords will be postponed until the Greek kalends so far as the Government are concerned, and they know it. They know it, and they mean to abuse the existing composition. And they are quite right. Since Chinese labour it has been the great stock-in-trade on Radical platforms at every Election. The hon. Member for the Black-friars Division (Mr. Barnes) said with perfect candour yesterday that he and his friends were against a Second Chamber, but they thought that as they had got this Second Chamber in such a paralytic state, as they regarded it, it would be better to leave it as long as they could. That was a perfectly frank confession.

At every election the present position is used for all it is worth. The Chancellor of the Exchequer never makes a speech without indulging in vain and unhistorical anecdotes about the House of Lords. I have good reason to know, because he always favours my Constituency with a visit, at either the "Edinburgh Castle" or the Paragon Music Hall. When he came to the Paragon Music Hall just before the last Election he said that the House of Lords was composed of the descendants of French filibusters, of the descendants of illegitimate sons of kings, and lastly, of those who had stolen the Church lands at the Reformation. I should like to hear the opinion of some of those who "stole the Church lands at the Reformation" on the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If we could have letters from Heaven we might have some frank views, because they were the Protestant champions of that day, and probably could give a better account of their transactions than the Chancellor of the Exchequer does in their stead. He does that in order to create the prejudice against the existing House of Lords which is necessary for the political purposes of the moment. Take the whole question of the caricatures which disgraced our hoardings. You always see a peer in the last stage of doddering imbecility, mumbling and fumbling over documents or Bills of Parliament which he holds in his hand. That is part of the business effects on which the Radical party rely. Take the greatest of all their caricaturists. I am told that there is no man who contributes so much to the success of the Radical party as that excellent artist Sir F. Carruthers Gould. But he never draws a peer without holding him up to derision as being in the last stage of senility. Even Lord Lansdowne he makes out to be a starched packet of linen tied up with red tape. He never touches the House of Lords without using all its defects for all they are worth. Everybody admits frankly that there is a good deal of sham Gothic about the House of Lords. No doubt there is. All its Members are not descended from the Crusaders. We know that. But is the Radical party going to give up its stock-in-trade willingly? We know perfectly well it is not. While we are going through the solemn farce of this Debate, and hearing that in due time a Bill for the reform of the House of Lords will be introduced, there is not a man on that bench who, if he honestly spoke his mind would not say he wished to delay it to the last possible moment, because he knows the value, for electioneering purposes, of the disadvantages under which the House of Lords suffers at this moment. We have had that freely avowed from the benches opposite, and what is true there is true in every part of the House.

I would ask whether, that being so it is honest for the Government to try to ride off on the question whether technical notice was given of the Home Rule Bill. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. H. Baker) said that that was what the House was asked to decide on this Amendment. It is nothing of the kind. That is only a side issue, and it does not very much concern me personally. But it does concern me that we are going to perpetuate what is a gross scandal in the history of Parliament, and that the House of Lords is to be left in its present position in order to serve the base purposes of the Radical agent in the country. In the words of Burke, they are to be left drawn and trussed like stuffed birds in a museum that they may be shown from the platform. It is not the intention to constitute a real Second Chamber, and yet the House of Lords is the only unreformed Second Chamber in the whole of Europe. We can draw up constitutions, some of them admirable, for our Dominions across the sea, and yet the Government say they cannot find time before they alter the suffrage to their advantage in order to gerrymander the constituents, to carry out their pledge to the nation in respect of the House of Lords reform. A recent writer has said that the outstanding feature of democracy is that it is not democratic. The outstanding feature of the Liberal Government is that it is not Liberal. It does not want to liberalise our institutions. It wants to fetter and sterilise them, and to debase the Constitution in so doing. It does not care what national loss is involved in the transaction so long as its composite majority is retained, and there is a sporting chance, to use one of their own phrases, of their keeping in office even after the next Election. For that reason I very heartily support the Amendment.


I will not follow the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Lawson) in attempting to find out how many of the ancestors of the present Members of the House of Lords came over with William the Conqueror. I wish rather to reply to some observations by the hon. Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen) in reference to my colleague the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division (Mr. Barnes). I did not hear the whole of my hon. Friend's speech, but with the part that I heard I was in hearty agreement. The hon. Member for Dudley appears to be surprised that the Labour party should associate itself with the Irish party and the Government in supporting a measure of Home Rule before going in for those measures of social reform, which the hon. Member tells us he believes are of more vital importance. I have known most of the Members of the Labour party for from ten to twenty years, and I believe there is not a man amongst them who was not an advocate of Home Rule for years before he came to this House. So far as I know them, they would risk their seats tomorrow for Home Rule, and believe that in so doing they were fighting for a principle of political reform and a forerunner of social reform so far as Ireland is concerned. What is the first essential with regard to Government? Applied to a nation it is that that nation shall be governed in the manner in which it desires to be governed—Government of the people, for the people, by the people. For the last thirty or forty years the people of Ireland have sent an enormous majority of their Members to this House to support the principle of Home Rule. All the opposition that could be brought against them in their own country has had no effect whatever. So far as the mass of people in this country are concerned, I am convinced that a majority to-day are in favour of Home Rule. It has been said that certain Members of the Government and other Liberal Members, who are well able to defend themselves, did not put Home Rule in their election addresses. So far as I, a Labour Member, am concerned, every time I have stood for Parliament I have put Home Rule in my election address, and have advocated it to the best of my ability on every platform. Though there is a very small Irish vote in my Constituency, perhaps 700 or 800 out of 15,000, I should fear my Constituents a great deal more if I voted against Home Rule than I shall for standing up here to support it.

So far as the Labour party is concerned, we stand for Home Rule because we believe that the mass of the working people of Ireland have a right to decide what form of Government they shall have, and because when they have that form of Government they will themselves carry out their own social reform in the manner which seems best to them. Incidentally I would like to say in regard to the party opposite, and that section of it to which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley belongs—for I think he is a kind of Tariff Reformer—I always understood that a large number of Tariff Reformers were anxious to get Home Rule out of the way, because it was one of those issues which made it difficult for them to fight the Free Trader. Here is a convenient opportunity for Tariff Reformers to show how much they love Home Rule by voting for it. With respect to the particular Amendment which we are discussing there are some words in it that I should like to have explained. I followed the Debate for some hours yesterday pretty closely, and I have listened to what has been said to-day so far. These words are somewhat of a surprise to me, and I am anxious to know the meaning of them. I shall be glad if some hon. Member on those benches opposite will tell me what is the idea of the Conservative party in this House as to what is and what is not constitutional and unconstitutional? As I see the situation it is something like this: This Amendment says in so many words that it is improper to proceed with measures in this House because we are deprived of the usual safeguards of constitutional government.

Will hon. Members opposite tell me what is constitutional government? The Parliament Bill in its first form came before this House in the shape of a Resolution; afterwards as a Bill. Two Elections were fought upon that Bill in the constituencies. The party opposite were in a minority of about 120 on both occasions. Ultimately that Bill was passed by the House of Lords, and I presume it received the assent of the King. Therefore the three estates of the Realm have decided that it is constitutional. I ask hon. Members who are responsible for this Amendment in what sense can it be said that we are trying to rush legislation? Those of us, to whichever of the three parties that form the majority of this House for the time being belong, would like to know in what sense it can be said that it is unconstitutional to press forward matters which we are legitimately entitled to press forward so long as this remains the Constitution of the country. As to whether the House of Lords shall or shall not be reformed is a matter of opinion. Personally I do not believe at all in a Second Chamber. So far as rushing legislation is concerned, one thing I am absolutely certain of is this, that it is impossible to rush anything through this House. I have been here since the General Election of 1906, and one of the things which personally gives me more pain than anything else is the enormous amount of talk to no purpose that we hear within the walls of this assembly. What are we doing now? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, I admit it; but I think those hon. Members who know me will do me the credit to admit that I do not often bore them by speeches, nor do I intend to do so.

Day by day Members get up here and talk over and over again the self-same things, with a repetition that is positively tiring, and with no attempt whatsoever to get down to the business in which we are engaged Talk about rushing! Anyone who knows the methods of this particular assembly knows perfectly well that it is impossible to rush anything through this House. As one of the Members of the Labour party, I intend to support Home Rule, and for the self-same reason I propose to support Welsh Disestablishment—that is because the large majority of the people of Wales desire it. So far as the third measure to which prominence has been given goes, namely plural voting reform, I trust that we are going to endeavour to pass an Electoral Reform Bill which will be worthy of the name, and which will give every adult man and woman within the United Kingdom the right to vote, so that this House may at last be said to represent the adult population of the nation. I shall support that, not because I regard it as social reform, I shall only regard it as the perfecting of the machine to enable those who are elected to carry social reform in this House. But there is no need for apologies to be made.

One hears taunts from the other side. They are quite legitimate. I do not blame hon. Members for using them against us. They say that we are keeping the Government in power because we are afraid to face our constituents. That taunt does not trouble me. I think I have got pretty well as safe a seat as any hon. Gentleman in this House. I think I can trust the people who sent me here. We here shall support the Government so long as the Government carries those things in which we are interested. Neither taunts from the other side will keep us out of the Government Lobby or send us into the Opposition Lobby. We shall go into the Government Lobby when it suits the purpose of the party to which we belong. I assure the Government of this: that so long as their programme makes in the direction of progress, social or political, they are absolutely certain of carrying this party into the Lobby with them. When the programme which they put forward does not make for progress, then we will vote against them. What is the use the Unionist party talking about a majority in England? Talk about the Union and the unity of the nation! You can never have unity of the nation except when unity is founded upon law. You will have no real unity worthy of the name until you give each nation inside the United Kingdom the power to govern itself according to the wishes of its people. So far as we are concerned, we will work towards that end, even if it may mean the delay for the moment of some of those things which we are quite as anxious as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley to see carried into law.


The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down finished his observations by saying that anything that makes for progress he and his Friends will support. That is what we all say. We are all here to facilitate true progress, and for an hon. Member to say that he proposes to support progress is merely to say that he proposes to do his duty. I, at any rate, do not admit that the ideals of the Labour party are progress. On the contrary, I think that progress is to be found, generally speaking, in voting against the proposals of that section of the House to which the hon. Gentleman belongs. As the hon. Gentleman incidentally said, he was very much puzzled at the use of the word "constitutional" in the Resolution. He challenged those of us on this side of the House to give a definition of unconstitutionalism. In one sense of the word, it is perfectly true to say that anything that can be done under the Constitution is constitutional. In that sense, no act of this House can be unconstitutional, because we cannot do anything which is not within the terms of the Constitution. As I understand it, unconstitutionalism is in straining your right or rights to give an advantage to any part of the legislature, or still more a political party in the legislature. That I regard as unconstitutional. It is a straining of your rights under the Constitution. I do say that the action of the party opposite in connection with the Parliament Bill and the legislation they are proposing this Session is distinctly unconstitutional. I am not going to argue the matter at length, because it has been put before this House.

After all, the broad facts are simple and are perfectly well understood. Here is a principle that has been twice before the country. After first being rejected by this House, and on the second occasion rejected by the other House, it has twice been submitted to the electors of the country, and on each occasion it has been rejected by overwhelming majorities. The Government propose to suspend those operations of the Constitution which compel them to submit that particular project to the electors of the country. Having suspended them, they will propose to pass that legislation through Parliament without any reference to the electors of the country. That, I say, is straining the Constitution for a party object. That is why I say it is unconstitutional.

It is quite true that the Solicitor-General said, "Oh, but after all, how will you be better off when we reform the Second Chamber"? I do not really know why the party opposite have ever put into their programme reform of the Second Chamber unless it involves some re-establishment of effective power in the hands of the Second Chamber. What is the use of reform? Surely we have not to have an elaborate reconstitution of the Second Chamber and leave it in the words—I am sorry I have not got them here—of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackfriars, the purport of which I will quote. He spoke of a rather irritating relic of barbarous times, which is to have only such power as is perfectly futile for any real effect upon legislation. His proposal to reform the Second Chamber is a mere form and sham. But it is perfectly consistent from his point of view. He dislikes the Second Chamber. He is in favour, like the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, of Single-Chamber Government. He supports the existing Constitution because he says in effect it is Single-Chamber Government. His attitude is that where there are only a few irritating forms kept alive behind which there is no value that they ought to be swept away. That position I understand. And I understand the other arguments of the hon. Gentleman and of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last. But I do not understand the attitude of the Solicitor-General and the Government. They say, "We believe in a Second Chamber, and that we ought to reform the existing Second Chamber so as to make it a more effective and a more powerful body." I forget exactly the jargon in which these things are phrased, but it is something to the effect of bringing the House of Lords into consonance with the spirit of the times, or phrases to that effect. At any rate, they are meant to indicate that the House of Lords is to speak with more authority than now.

5.0 P.M.

What is the use of saying that unless you are going to give it some power? What we want to know from the Government is when they talk about reforming the Second Chamber do they mean that reform to have any reality or not? Do they mean the Second Chamber, when reformed, is to have a real and effective place in our Constitution, or do they mean to keep it as a mere show and a mere sham, as hon. Gentlemen belonging to the Labour party would have us believe? No human being can doubt but that the Government originally meant so to establish a real and effective Second Chamber. Everyone knows—it is not a secret—that those pledges were given because there was a section of the Cabinet which urgently demanded as part of the policy of the Government that some effective Second Chamber should be set up. That section only gave its assent to the Parliament Bill upon the promise that some such pledge should be given, and that that pledge meant that a real and effective Second Chamber should be established. The pledge was given in order not only to conciliate that section of the Cabinet, but also to conciliate the great body of moderate opinion in the country; and it was given for the purpose of having really two-Chamber Government in this country, and when the Solicitor-General comes here with his subtility and tells us we should be no better off if the Second Chamber was reformed he is really not dealing fairly with the House or the country. The Solicitor-General takes the view that, when we on this side talk of the vast change made by the Parliament Act we are guilty of "make-believe." He says no revolution has taken place, and that we are living under very much the same Constitution as we always lived under. I cannot take that view. I quite agree that in a country like this it is no use using very strong language, but the facts are important, and should be recognised by this House. I say that the change carried out by the Parliament Act extends far beyond the powers of the Second Chamber, and far beyond the direct effect on the powers of the Second Chamber. One of these effects is to seriously imperil the position of the Crown. I am not going to develop that; it is a subject one speaks of with great reluctance and forbearance, but undoubtedly the Government, by their actions, have imperilled the position of the Crown in the country by using its Prerogative for purely party purposes.

Then as to the Second Chamber itself, we know the direct result has been to deprive it practically of all power in connection with finance, and to very much diminish its power by practically taking away that power in reference to other matters; but I think its indirect effects are even greater. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who spoke last but one, who stated that the Second Chamber might well have been expected to take some considerable action with reference to the Insurance Act. I cannot criticise the present Second Chamber for not having done so, because I think they have been treated in such a way that it was perfectly impossible to expect them to exercise the ordinary function of a Second Chamber. What have you done to them? You said to them last summer, "Pass a Bill of which you notoriously disapprove, or we will swamp you," and, under the influence of that threat, they passed the Bill, whether rightly or wrongly. I say no individual, and still less no corporate body, can be subjected to actions of that kind and remain unaffected by it in future. It is bound to destroy its spirit and independence. It is the same as if you levied blackmail upon an individual and forced him to make payment by threats of some disgraceful action if he did not do so. If he submits to blackmail, and it may be it is impossible for him to avoid it, unquestionably he suffers morally and intellectually for all time after. That is what happened to the Second Chamber; it was blackmailed by the Government, and suffered in consequence. I feel this is a very serious matter. The Second Chamber is not only deprived of its Constitution and the greater part of its powers through your threat, but it is held up and put into such a condition before the country as not having authority to carry out such functions as are left it under the Parliament Act.

But that is not the most serious part of their policy. I think the effect on this House is quite as serious. I was not a Member of the House at the time that this Act was passed through it, but I remember reading very well of a series of promises that the increased power given to this House would endue it with a new sense of responsibility, and that it would take its duties much more seriously than before. What is the result? The first thing that happened after the passing of the Parliament Act was that this House voted each Member a salary of £400 a year. I do not think that was a very creditable proceeding, and the next thing it did was that it submitted without a murmur to the guillotining of the Insurance Bill. I appeal to hon. Members and I wish there were more of them, except for their own sakes, to hear what I say, to consider this matter very seriously. I see the Chief Secretary for Ireland on the Government bench. I believe he really does value the position of the House of Commons, and I ask him seriously to consider the condition to which this House of Commons is being rapidly reduced under the existing regime. The House of Commons is losing absolutely all power of transacting its business with decency and propriety. Take this very Debate. You could not have a better illustration of the total degradation of the House of Commons than this very Debate affords. Here you have a most important question raised. If there was any prospect of the Debate terminating in a majority in favour of the Amendment it would disgrace the Government. How is this Debate treated by Members of this House? I have been here almost continuously and I do not believe, except for the first two speeches, there were thirty Members present upon the benches opposite during any other portion of the Debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nor on your own side."] Very well, I only see what goes on in front of me, and I am delighted to have the testimony of hon. Members—at least I should not say I am delighted because it is a very serious thing—but I am glad to have their confirmation. They charge that the benches on this side were equally badly filled. I am not attacking one particular side. The condition of the House is altogether unsatisfactory.


That is why we want Home Rule.


I shall come to that. The hon. Gentleman is one of those who believes to such an extent in the patriotism and integrity of his Irish colleagues that if we could only get rid of them the House of Commons would be completely reformed.


I am sure the Noble Lord does not wish to misrepresent me, but he knows perfectly well that is not what I meant. The House would suffer most by the loss of the Irish Members. What I meant was that devolution of the business of the House of Commons would be the only way to cure the evil he is now so eloquently expounding.


I shall come to devolution in a moment, but I do not honestly think myself, quite apart from what my views are, that devolution is going to help in the slightest degree. Let me develop for a moment what I was saying. I say it is natural and not really astonishing that people will not attend Debates. You may ask why. Why is it that the House of Commons takes no interest in its own procedure? It does not take the slightest interest. I was present at the end of last Session during the concluding stages of the Insurance Act. No one took the slightest interest in it. Why? The reason is perfectly simple, because it is perfectly well known that the decisions of the House are not given independently or even moderately according to the arguments delivered in the House.


When were they?


The hon. Member says, "When were they?" I cannot say.


Not in my memory or yours.


My experience only extends back to 1906, but I think things have got worse even since then. But I am satisfied if you go back to the 'sixties, for instance, there were unquestionably constant occasions on which the Government were defeated; the test of the matter, after all, is how often the Government were defeated. I am not talking of one Government rather than another, but I say, and it is a matter of course that whatever the Government proposals may be the House of Commons to-day is in a thoroughly unsatisfactory condition. Everyone knows that is exactly the position. I am glad the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) is present. Take the particular Irish Bill for this Session. Everyone knows whatever the Government propose on that subject hon. Members upon the opposite side will support it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am quite sure they will when it comes to the point. At this moment the Government and the Irish party are notoriously fighting as to what the provisions of the Bill are to be, and the proof of it is that not a single Irish Member has ventured to take part either in this Debate or on the Address.


It is not worth their while.


Yes, it is not worth their while.


We want to hear something which is worth answering.


The hon. Member says the Debates in the House of Commons are not worth taking part in, but the real reason is that it is not worth his while to address the House of Commons. What is worth his while is to make terms with the Government, and he is arranging and negotiating what shall be the terms of the Home Rule Bill to be presented to the House. And whatever he and the Government arrange will be carried through. These are the plain facts of the case, and hon. Members who dispute them are merely deceiving themselves. They know quite well there is no more chance, unless the Government should break up of itself, of the Government being defeated on this or any other Bill than there is of the Pope of Rome taking over the Archbishop of Canterbury. Every hon. Member who hears me knows that in substance, allowing, no doubt, for what they would very naturally call rhetorical exaggeration, that that is perfectly true. The reason is perfectly well known also; it is the increased power of the machine. The Government are in control of the party machine. Every hon. Member knows if he quarrels with the Government beyond a single point he will not be allowed to sit in the next Parliament. That is a fact everyone knows.


It is so on your side.


Yes, but where is Mr. Harold Cox?


Where were you? You suffered more than anyone.


I do not wish to bring my own personal grievance, if I have any, forward. The Chief Secretary for Ireland will not deny what I say. If the Chief Secretary was in command of the machine I believe he would be a lenient user of the weapon, but you have the weapon, and it can be used, if necessary, in order—what is it called?—to restore a proper discipline. And what is the result of that? The result of all this state of things is to compel distrust and disbelief in the House of Commons to spread through every class of the community. I have tried the experiment at many public meetings of making an attack on the House of Commons, and I have found it has always been cheered whether by Radical or Tory, or any kind of meeting, and it is a perfectly safe draw for a cheer. What is the reason? The very reason which I have already given. I do not doubt that part of the reason for the present unrest is due to a complete mistrust of the independence and impartiality of Parliament. This is a very serious matter. The danger has been largely increased by the Parliament Act, because that Act has thrown additional power into the hands of the Cabinet, and instead of the House of Commons showing more independence, it shows less. What is to be the remedy? [An HON. MEMBER: "Home Rule"] It is quite plain from the speech made by the Solicitor-General that he had nothing to propose in this direction, in fact he does not admit that there is anything wrong. An hon. Member near me suggests Home Rule as a remedy, but how is Home Rule going to restore the independence of Parliament, and how is it going to diminish the power of the Cabinet? That is pure nonsense. What they imagine is that the whole difficulty is due to the congestion of business of Parliament, but it is no such thing. Even if it were so, in what way is Home Rule going to relieve it? I do not know what particular settlement the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and the Chief Secretary for Ireland will arrive at as to the proportion of Irish Members to be left in Parliament under the Home Rule Bill, but I understand they are to be left here in some numbers. How is that going to diminish the pressure of Parliamentary business? Irish grievances will be just as frequent, in fact I think they will be much more frequent, and they will be just as often pressed upon the attention of Parliament.

I believe those who regard Home Rule or even a general devolution of power as a remedy for this state of things, totally misunderstand the real disease from which we are suffering. If we are really suffering in this way, and if it is true that the House of Commons being a thoroughly vigorous body, full of life and vitality, is totally unable to discharge its duties, then there might be something to be said in favour of a general devolution of its business to subordinate bodies. But that is not the state of things. The fact is that Parliament has lost the power of doing the work which it ought to do. I will briefly indicate the remedy which I believe is necessary for this state of things. The only power capable of coping with this problem is the whole body of the electorate. You want to restore freer communication with the electorate. I regard the restoration of a complete and direct appeal to the electorate as an essential thing to restore the vitality of Parliament. I regret very much that by the change made under the Parliament Bill you have destroyed what little power there was of appealing to the electorate under our old Constitution. I am not saying for a moment, and I never have said, that the old House of Lords and the old Constitution was a perfect system. I concede fully that it did not operate properly when a Conservative Government was in power. That is not the first time I have made that admission. I also concede that a general election on particular legislation is a very unsatisfactory way of consulting the electorate. I have fought three or four elections during the last few years, and I know something about it. At an election it is almost impossible, do what you will, to concentrate the attention of the electorate on one particular question, and rightly so. The electors are choosing a man to represent them in Parliament, and they are bound to have all sorts of considerations before them, and weigh the whole of the policies of one side against the policies of the other side. They are bound to consider the personnel of the two alternative Cabinets and the questions which attach to each of the candidates personally. No ordinary man can do anything of the kind. The most highly trained university man could not arrive at a fair decision under such circumstances, and although I have a great respect for the ordinary elector, who is generally a man with immense common sense, on the whole it is absurd to suppose that he can under the circumstances arrive at a fair conclusion. You want to refer individual and special measures to his consideration, and that is the real and only way of checking the undue power of the existing Cabinet. Let the electors always have before their eyes the knowledge that a measure, if it is unreasonable, will have to be discussed before the whole of the people of this country. If we had a system under which each elector would vote by ballot "aye" or "no" to decide whether we shall have a particular Bill or not, you would soon bring them to their senses. Under those circumstances there is no Government in the world who would not do their duty far more carefully and effectively under a check of that kind, and they would not then advise legislation to catch the votes of this or that particular section, but in order to achieve the greatest amount of consent from all classes of the community.

Legislation ought to be by consent, if possible, and if you cannot achieve that altogether, then I suggest the Referendum as the best device which has ever been imagined to secure the greatest amount of consent. I will not attempt to deal with all the objections to that policy. There is the objection raised by the true Conservative, who objects to all change, and who thinks that a constant resort to the Referendum would disturb the country. I think that is a mere illusion. Then there is the objection of superior persons like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir T. Whittaker), who believe that they know what is good for the people and the people do not know what is good for themselves. There are a great many of those people in this House and elsewhere, and they are opposed to the Referendum because they think the people would reject the boons which would really do them good. Therefore I am a better democrat than that class. I prefer to judge myself what I want done, and I am quite ready to allow to all my fellow countrymen a similar liberty. Then there are those who advocate the conciliation of this and that section by political log-rolling, and they obtain power by this means. The Referendum is absolutely fatal to these gentlemen, and I agree they are perfectly right in opposing it. I agree that if your idea of politics is merely to keep together conflicting and divergent interests, in which you find a majority, if that is the idea of true political wisdom and statesmanship, you must be violent opponents of the Referendum. That system is an intolerable tyranny. It means that you will have such legislation as is threatened this year, not desired by the majority of the people, but hated and abhorred by them, and yet you proceed to cast the law against their wishes because you have managed to scrape together the Welsh Disestablishers, the Irish Nationalists, and the Labour party, and so on, in order to get a majority, and by that majority enforce, not the will of the people, but the will of a small minority. That is what I call intolerable tyranny, and that is what we all ought to do our best to put an end to. This can only be put an end to by the restoration of the power of the people, and it is because this suspended Constitution under which we live has absolutely destroyed all authority and control of the people over legislation that I am violently opposed to it, and I shall vote with the greatest confidence for the Amendment.


I am sure that those who were Members of the House of Commons last Session when the Noble Lord was temporarily absent, must be exceedingly glad to find him back again. Those of us who have had the pleasure of hearing his solemn tones resound from the other part of the House during the Parliament of 1906 will feel more at home now that those familiar accents are falling upon us again. He has accused the Solicitor-General of being an incurable pessimist, but the Noble Lord himself is a congenital pessimist. We on this side of the House, at any rate, congratulate him that he has found the Baal of Tariff Reform more attractive and more easy to bow to in the sylvan fields of Hitchin than he did in the urban districts of Marylebone. It is to that concession we owe his presence here to-day. [An HON. MEMBER: "Log-rolling."] I shall not be tempted by that suggestion to apply the term "log-rolling" to the Noble Lord's career. What has been the Noble Lord's contribution to this Debate? He has concentrated the first part of his speech on the last words in the Amendment—words which have been carefully avoided by most speakers on the Opposition side of the House. He has referred to the words of the Amendment: "That the constitution of Parliament is still incomplete, and Your Majesty's subjects are deprived of the usual safeguards of con- stitutional government." May I say that we on this side of the House join issue with the Noble Lord with regard to the extraordinary description of constitutional history which he has made the basis of his argument. What is it that the Parliament Bill has done? All it has done is to stereotype the unbroken practice of sixty of the most prosperous years of the last century into an Act of Parliament. The Noble Lord knows that. The Noble Lord knows that between 1881 and 1894 there was not a single case on record of the House of Lords rejecting a first-class measure more than two years running if passed by such a majority as the Government can now command in this House. It is perfectly open for the House of Lords to-day, in spite of all the elaborate misrepresentation of their want of powers by speakers opposite, in a shorter Parliament than existed during the nineteenth century, to do what was done with regard to first-class measures through by far the greater part of that period. In the next place we say that this Amendment, apart altogether from its invitation to go on with the reconstruction of the Second Chamber, is to be opposed and will be opposed, because the statement that the usual safeguard of constitutional government is no longer present is absolutely untrue. Then the Noble Lord goes on from his perverted history to caricature still more the present position of the other House. He dealt with their action on the Insurance Act. He made some excuses—the House would hardly consider them reasons—why the House of Lords could not deal with that at all. What did they come to, in plain language? They came to this: When the Insurance Act went up to the House of Lords, they behaved like sulky children and refused to play. They knew perfectly well, and all parties in this House knew perfectly well, they had the opportunity of making great improvements.


When was the Bill sent to them?


The hon. Member knows perfectly well it was sent up to them in December, and he also knows perfectly well that both Houses of Parliament have frequently sat in December. Are we to be told the Lords prefer the delights of Christmas to doing their constitutional duty, and that by the party opposite, who are the depositors of constitutional wisdom? The fact is obvious. They would not try to do their duty over the Insurance Act because they thought to gain a party advantage by sending it to the country unaltered. They were quite ready to use their powers in other respects when they threw out the Naval Prize Bill, a matter of even greater gravity. If the Noble Lord's analysis of their position was true, they would never have attempted to do it. The basis of this Amendment is untrue in fact alike with regard to the past and with regard to the present. I am sure no one on these benches regrets that this Amendment has been moved or that this Debate has taken place. It is quite true the House has not been crowded, but the reason is not the one assigned by the Noble Lord, that the House of Commons is unable to do its duty. It is because there has been a great deal of unreality in this Debate, and none knows it better than those responsible for it on the benches opposite. The Government, indeed, are to be congratulated, in so far as the official Amendment to the Address is not one contesting in plain terms any one of those special measures referred to in the most gracious Speech, but is merely an attack, because they have not added to their programme. During the Debate the House has had very valuable illuminations on the way in which the Opposition consider this problem of what they call constitutional reconstruction should be dealt with.

Until the Noble Lord came forward with his solitary plea for a Referendum, which perhaps is dear to him because the Referendum in other countries means as little legislation as possible, the two chief speakers on the other side of the House were the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith) and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kingston (Mr. G. Cave), and it was not without significance that this Amendment attacking the Government, not for what they are going to do, but for what they will not promise to do instantly, should be placed in the hands of those two learned Gentlemen. The Opposition appear to have behaved like the man engaged in litigation, who, when asked whether he thought he was going to succeed, said, "Of course, I am relying on Mr. X for the points and on Mr. Y for the passion." So the Opposition trust the passion to the adroit rhetoric of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division and leave the points to be argued by the hon. and learned Member for Kingston. I do not propose to take any part in the carnival of quotations which have been given in this Debate, but it is worth noting that the long series which the right hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division used with his usual skill was supposed to lead up to one of Lord Rosebery's which referred to the predominant partner. The quotation was this:— Before Home Rule is conceded by the Imperial Parliament, England, as the predominant member of the partnership of the three Kingdoms, will have to be convinced of its justice."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1912, col. 318.] That phrase, "the partnership of the three Kingdoms," shows that Lord Rosebery, when he said "England" was referring to England and Wales, as distinguished from England and Ireland. Yet the encyclopædic knowledge of the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not extend to the interesting fact that at the present time there is a majority in England and Wales for Home Rule and for the Government programme. Therefore, when the right hon. and learned Gentleman deviated from rhetoric into fact he added inaccuracy to his other admirable qualities. When we pass from that to the arguments of the hon. and learned Member for Kingston, what do they amount to? They really amounted to two. One was, as has been said over and over again from the other side of the House, that it is not right or for the good of the country to deal with Home Rule or Welsh Disestablishment or other matters whilst the Constitution is in a state of suspension. But is that a really true description of the present constitutional position? I have ventured, respectfully, to remind the House of the fact that the powers now remaining to the House of Lords are equal to those which they exercised during the greater part of the last century. What is the true description of the constitutional position to-day is, that under the Parliament Bill, not the old Constitution of this country has been suspended, but that the new excrescences put upon it by the practice of Parliament from 1900 to 1905 are to be cleared away. The pretensions in another place to force a dissolution when they choose have been curtailed, and the Constitution, so far from being suspended, has been, as regards the powers of the other place, put back where it was in the best periods of our history. That, no doubt, in itself is no reason for not completing, at the proper time, a proper constitutional reconstruction, but it is a reason for repudiating, as this House will repudiate in the Division Lobby, the description that the Constitution at the present time is in a state of suspension, and should still further be dealt with before other matters, which have been long before the public, and to which parties have long been pledged, and which everyone here knew would come up, are dealt with.

Accordingly I, for one, shall have no difficulty in voting against this Amendment. If I had any difficulty, either because of the ingenious and mosaic speech which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division gave us or because of the adroit and minute reasoning which the hon. Member for Kingston gave us, it would be removed by the candour of other hon. Members opposite. There was, for instance, the hon. Member for the Camlachie Division of Glasgow (Mr. Mackinder), who told us with a certain resoluteness and a top-loftiness of manner, that he did not worship King Demos, but he took a more independent view. He had no faith in majorities, and told us, when he was continuing his interesting spiritual autobiography, that his party looked upon the House of Lords as the great protection of minorities of all times. Were minorities protected by the House of Lords during the forty years of Tory domination? Was the minority protected by the House of Lords when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) brought forward his Education Act in 1903? The value of such utterances is they show that the reform of the House of Lords and the reconstruction referred to in this Amendment are a kind of reform and a kind of reconstruction to which no one on this side of the House would on any terms be a party. Hon. Members on the opposite side are not looking forward to a reconstructed Chamber; they are looking forward to reviving the Chamber they had before it was put in its proper place by the Parliament Bill. Their cry is not for a future development of the Constitution on ancient lines; they are like the persons who cried, "Give us, oh give us, but yesterday!" and the real interpretation which lies behind the dialectics heard from the other side of the House is this: You want a House of Lords which will stop Liberal legislation and which will be as favourable to you as was the House of Lords before the Parliament Bill was passed. That being the kind of reconstruction they desire, even if it is supplemented by that Referendum so dear to the Noble Lord, it is a kind of reconstruction which is admirably adapted to prevent progress being rapid or thorough, and to put back in places of privilege and ascendancy those classes which have been there too long.

Let not the Opposition imagine we who are going to vote against their Amendment are voting against it because most of us are opposed to further dealing with the House of Lords. That is very far from being the case. The Parliament Bill has indeed restored the spirit of the ancient Constitution and has made a workable position when the Liberal party happen to be in power, but it has done nothing to remedy the defect in the Constitution when the Conservative party are in power. There are many on these benches who will certainly not be satisfied until they have the opportunity of voting for a further Bill dealing with the House of Lords which will secure that when the Conservatives are in power there shall be at least the same power of delay and the same likelihood of its being used as there is at the present time under present circumstances. When that day comes, and, with my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Harold Baker) I hope and believe it will come during the lifetime of the present Parliament, and when we on these benches are supporting such a measure, we know we shall have the Opposition of hon. Members opposite, and we know they will then be opposing the true reconstruction of the House of Lords with just as much fervour as they are to-day seeking to get a vote on some vague, unexplained reconstitution of the House of Lords. They know that what they want in the matter is the very opposite of what we want, and the real inwardness of their device is to delay and protract those attempts to carry in this Session those reforms too long delayed on which I am convinced the majority of the people in all four countries have set their hearts.


The hon. Member who has just sat down avowed that until the party to which he belongs has passed the measures on which their hearts are set they do not intend to deal with the Second Chamber at all.


I did not say so.


I am unable to attach any other meaning to the words of the hon. Gentleman but I do not dispute with him about his meaning. If I misunderstood the end of his speech, I will turn to the beginning. The hon. Member in his opening observations waxed very wroth with the House of Lords because they have passed without Amendment, or without attempting any Amendment, the Insurance Bill. That appears to be what I may call the Lancashire Liberal view of the question. It was propounded earlier in the afternoon by the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Harold Baker). They can see in the action of the House of Lords nothing but the behaviour of sulky children or spoilt partisans, and the hon. Member actually makes it a cause of complaint against that House, with whose every act of interference with our legislation he finds fault, that they did not interfere with the Insurance Bill of last Session—that great and ineffable boon, the merits of which require not merely a special organisation within the party opposite to commend it to this country, but the organisation of a great staff of lecturers at the expense of the taxpayers as well. The hon. Member says that of this perfect work of art, so perfect that discussion on it was rudely interrupted in this House, everybody knows if the House of Lords had wished they could have made great improvements. I am not going to dispute that great improvements might have been made—they were greatly needed. But I am here to say they could not be made by the House of Lords. You could not touch the vital question on which improvement was needed without touching the money question. Does the hon. Member think that the attitude of himself and his friends towards the House of Lords encouraged them to trespass where questions of the privileges of this House arise? We know perfectly well that even on the kindred subject of old age pensions, sooner than take an Amendment of the House of Lords that infringed on the privileges of this House they allowed an admitted grievance and injury to continue until a private Member commenced legislation in this House to remedy it.

It is no disparagement to the hon. Member, and I hope he will not think I am discourteous, if I say that of all the speeches made from that side up to the present time, his own included, by far the most important and the most interesting was the speech of the learned Solicitor-General yesterday. The Solicitor-General began his speech by observing that to make a case for this Amendment we must prove a breach of some pledge on the part of the Government. That is true of the first part of the Amendment, but it is not true of the second part, which stands on its own legs, and as to which the Solicitor-General said very little. The first part of the Amendment does undoubtedly complain that His Majesty's Gracious Speech contains no reference to the pledge given by Ministers that they would make proposals for the reconstruction of the Second Chamber without delay. The learned Solicitor-General dismissed that part of the case made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith) with the simple assertion that my right hon. and learned Friend had brought forward no single statement in support of it. I am not going to attempt to repeat the case which my right hon. and learned Friend made. Let me remind the House that he showed, and the Solicitor-General did not attempt to answer it, that the Prime Minister early in 1910 had declared that the reconstruction of the House of Lords did not brook delay, and that the right hon. Gentleman also, early in 1911, had declared that when the abolition of the Veto was completed, when the first part of their task was done, then, and not till then, the Government would deal with the second. Are not these pledges? Do these these words mean nothing? When the words were read out I heard an interruption from somewhere below the Gangway opposite. An hon. Member cried out, "Not till then!" Does he think the Government sufficiently fulfilled their pledge if they refrained from dealing with it when they said they would, and did not attempt to deal with it at the time they said they would. I am not going to labour that part of the case. It was established by my right hon. and learned Friend, and it has not been touched upon since. The fact of the matter is, every Member of the House, knows why the Government are now in part both unwilling and unable to fulfil it. They are unwilling. Their attack on the House of Lords in the country was made, whether pictorially or in their speeches, against its hereditary character. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, in a speech in this House, said it was the hereditary character of the peerage that was their main platform.


I rather think I said that it lent itself most easily to a cheap form of ridicule.


The right hon. Gentleman undoubtedly said that, but he said also that it was their best platform point.


Not the best, not by any means the best, but the easiest.


How well the hon. Gentleman knows his own party! How exactly he measures their capacity! The point which they take on every platform is the easiest point, the point which lends itself to a rather cheap form of ridicule. That was the staple of their case. It was the hereditary character of the House of Lords that was their best card, and, because it was their best card, and may yet be their best card, they are in no hurry to part with it or to remove a grievance which is so useful. That is why they are unwilling. But they are not only unwilling to pursue their reform of the House of Lords; they are unable and they are unable for two reasons. In the first place, they are not in the least agreed what they will put in its place; and, in the second place, because Ministers themselves have been advocating entirely different solutions in different parts of the country. They are unable, because those who hold their fortunes in their hands dictate the order of business now as they dictated it in 1910. Just as they then said, "No Resolution, no Budget," "Until you have passed the Resolution you shall not have your Budget," now they say, "No reform of the House of Lords until you have passed Home Rule."

The Solicitor-General, passing lightly from that subject—I think with wisdom—went on to argue that, at any rate, the country had full knowledge and notice of what the Government were going to do. That defence seems to me a little characteristic of the Government. It reminds me of the attitude which the Chancellor of the Exchequer took upon a rather notorious pamphlet on the Insurance Bill. The House will remember being brought face to face with misstatements of the purport of the Act included in a pamphlet published with the right hon. Gentleman's authority. The right hon. Gentleman justified himself on the ground that he had said the truth somewhere else. The Government appear to think that, provided that they said the truth somewhere or on some occasion, it does not matter what they say on other occasions. The Solicitor-General, like most of the speakers on the other side, relied, in order to prove his case that the country was fully seized of the intentions of the Government, almost wholly on the speeches of the Opposition. I believe the hon. and learned Gentleman accused me of very imperfect memory in regard to my own speeches. I confess I should prefer to take the charges as proved by him rather than attempt myself to wade through all my own oratory in this respect. But did any Government ever before justify its right to deal with great subjects of this character by pointing to the speeches of the Opposition? We usually look for the authorised exposition of the intentions of the Ministry to their own speeches or their own addresses, and they would be the first to repudiate having to be responsible for the accounts that their opponents gave of their intentions. One of my hon. Friends has suggested to me that it is very much like this. We, the Tariff Reform party, have announced our intentions of proceeding with Tariff Reform as soon as we are in a position to do so, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, commenting on that, says that we shall banish white bread and butcher's meat and introduce dog sausage and black bread. Really the attitude of the Government is exactly as if, when we came to sit in their place, we pointed to those utterances of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and said they justified us in doing the very thing he accused us of intending to do. The hon. and learned Solicitor-General was not quite content to rest upon quotations from us alone. He had discovered three speeches made on the very eve of the poll by Ministers in which they had mentioned Home Rule.


Four in one day.


When you want to seize the country with a great question, you do not delay to deal with it until the very eve of the poll. You put it forward at the very beginning of the contest and you concentrate attention as much as you can upon it throughout the contest. The Under-Secretary for India took a bolder line, and undertook to quote speeches of prominent Ministers by which notice was given to the country. Let me call the attention of the House to the quotation chosen by the Under-Secretary. The first was a speech by the Prime Minister on the 25th November, 1910. That was a speech which referred to another speech, and if my memory serves rightly, the other speech referred to a third speech. In any case, what the Prime Minister said on this date was this:— In a speech I made at the Albert Hall nearly a year ago, I dealt with some of the causes which we included in our programme. I affirm everything I said then. I spoke of Welsh Disestablishment, the abolition of Plural Voting, a better licensing system, a truly national education, and a proper solution of the problem of Irish self-government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1912, col. 409.]


That is not all.

6.0 P.M.


It is all that was quoted by the Under-Secretary for India as being of consequence. I leave the Prime Minister to supplement the quotation if he thinks it important. What I am dealing with is the defence made by the Under-Secretary on behalf of the Government last night; he actually puts that forward as the most conclusive proof he can bring that the Prime Minister really seized the country with his intention to proceed with Home Rule before he touched the question of reform of the House of Lords. A proper solution of the problem of Irish self-government! Does anybody know what in the mind of the Prime Minister is a proper solution of the problem of Irish self-government? Does he know himself what is going to be even now the proper solution which in a few weeks' time it will be his business to propose? That is not much notice to the country. Then the Under-Secretary for India found something which he thought was a little more definite, and it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking at Bangor:— As the Prime Minister has already declared, we have no intention of shirking Home Rule. That is a very good opening. Then he goes on:— After disposing of the Veto of the House of Lords, the first thing we hope to do is to reconstrnct our present Imperial machinery in such a way as to free the-House of Commons from trivial, local and provincial details. Therefore the words which the country was actually told of the intention of the Government to introduce a Home Rule Bill such as they are now contemplating were those of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he described it as a measure to remove from the House of Commons trivial, local and provincial details.


And the answer is that that is precisely the thing the House is to be invited to do.


Does the Prime Minister pretend that his Bill is only intended to remove from the House of Commons trivial, local, and provincial details? I do not care whether he says "Yes" or "No." If he says "Yes" he forfeits the support of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway—if he says "Yes" and means "Yes," and if his "Yes" this time is a pledge that is going to be kept—and if he says "No," then what notice is there in the chosen quotation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the kind of measure that the Government were contemplating? I will not dwell any longer upon that point. I come to what, after all, is of more importance. The breach of a pledge by the Government is not a small thing. It is, or it ought to be, a very important matter for themselves, and it is a matter of some consequence to the country. The second half of this Amendment, which the learned Solicitor-General never attempted to deal with at all, really contains the graver and more important question of the two. The second part of the Amendment is the one in which we deny the moral competence of a Parliament, composed as this is in its interim and incohate position, to deal with measures of a character described in the King's Speech. The Constitution is at the present moment a maimed and mutilated Constitution, and when we say this the hon. and learned Gentleman meets us with a reminiscence of the Law Courts. He says that when counsel in the Law Courts take preliminary objections it is done because they have nothing to say upon the merits of the real question. I do not dispute the Solicitor-General's knowledge of the Courts, indeed, I think in this case he has had a very peculiar and recent experience, for, if I am not mistaken, the hon. and learned Gentleman himself took a preliminary objection to the form of the Motion, questioning the legality of the well-known Forms IV. and VIII. He was ruled out on his preliminary objection, and it then did become perfectly clear that he had no case on the merits. But what happens in the Courts does not always happen in the House of Commons. If I may venture to offer a piece of advice to the hon. and learned Gentleman I should use the words—the favourite words—of the Prime Minister, I would beg him to "Wait and see."

I can promise on behalf of the party with which I act that when we come to these great measures we shall have plenty to say about their merits or their demerits, and I only observe in passing that I hope those who challenge us to say it will not at once use the Closure in order to prevent us from doing so. We do take the preliminary objection, before we come to the merits of the Bills themselves, that you have no right to proceed with measures of this magnitude under present circumstances. What are the measures? They are not small matters, they are matters concerning the dearest interests of great portions of our fellow-countrymen; they are matters which go deep into the hearts of individuals, and deep into the roots of our history; they concern the religious work of the greatest of all of our churches; they concern the lives, the properties, the religious freedom, as they believe, of many of our fellow-subjects in the Sister Isle; they make not only a great breach with our historic past, they make a revolution in our constitutional system, and the Government deliberately and of set purpose, according to their own account, choose the moment when the Constitution itself is out of gear, when it is, as I have said, in a maimed and mutilated condition, to force these measures through, and they do it almost equally avowedly, because if the Constitution were working in the ordinary and normal way they know that those measures would not be passed. What moral sanction will laws have that are passed by trickery and fraud of that kind? They are to be passed under a Constitution which has not the approval of a single Member of this House, with the possible and partial exception of the Prime Minister. What party is there in this House which thinks that the arrangement—I think that is the proper term to use, and by arrangement I mean the method of the Parliament Bill—provides us with a satisfactory Constitution? That is not the view of the Liberal party. It is not the view of the Labour party, because they are Single-Chamber men. It is not the view of my Friends, and it is not the view of the Irish Nationalist party, because if they thought it was a perfect Constitution they would be willing to live under it and would not be so anxious to scramble out of it. The Government are going to take advantage of a constitutional system which nobody likes, which nobody defends, and which everyone wants to see altered, to make further and greater constitutional changes behind the backs of the people.

The Solicitor-General did indeed try to meet this point with one argument. He said that the present constitution of the House of Lords was temporary, and that the present form of the Constitution was temporary also, but that the handicap was on his party and not on ours. I notice as characteristic of the speeches made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, from that of the learned Solicitor-General to that of the hon. and learned Gentleman who preceded me, that they are unable to look at the constitutional question from any but a purely party standpoint. They never ask what is desirable to secure stable Government. They never ask what checks ought to be placed on the power of this or any House of Commons. They always say what will be the effect of this, that, or the other, upon the fortunes of the Liberal party. This is the crux of the question. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition interjected a question in the middle of the learned Solicitor-General's speech, to which the Solicitor-General gave a most interesting reply. My right hon. Friend inquired whether, under the Liberal reform of the Constitution, whenever it comes to be made, there was in no circumstances to be any power of taking an appeal to the country. The learned Solicitor-General was shocked by the idea. Apparently the Government are going to partially Americanise our institutions. The House of Commons is to be practically indissoluble for its period of four or five years. That is the only feature of the American Constitution they have taken. They forget that feature of the American Constitution, which is intended to secure the independence of the House of Representatives, is coupled with the existence of a Senate and of a President, each with co-equal and independent powers, equally irremovable, and equally beyond the reach of passing waves of feeling.

The Government do not desire any such complete settlement as that. Their conception of the Constitution as propounded by the Solicitor-General is that it is of the essence of representative Government that this House should be supreme for the time of its existence, and he was shocked at the suggestion that the Second Chamber might force an appeal to the country. He said he was not aware that it had ever been claimed for the House of Lords that they had a right to force an appeal to the country. They had no right to fix the time for a General Election, but they had, and they exercised, the right to say on any particular measure of far-reaching importance and magnitude that, whether a General Election came early or late, that measure should not pass until a General Election had taken place. The hon. and learned Member who spoke last said that the House of Lords retained all the powers they had exercised for sixty years, and that never during the sixty years had they rejected a first-class measure more than once in any one Parliament. I think that if he pursued his inquiries a little further he would find the explanation of that fact, which is, indeed, the proof of my argument. Their rejection—if they had not the right to dictate the moment for a General Election—did necessitate an appeal to the country unless the Government was prepared to forego the passage of one of its most important measures. There is the real issue between the two great parties in the State.

The hon. and learned Member who spoke last said that we on this side of the House had no real desire for a reform of the composition of the House of Lords, and that our only desire was to put back in privilege and ascendency those classes who had been there too long. If the hon. and learned Member really believes that, he is singularly unfortunate in guessing our minds. We have never cared about or fought for the privileges of individuals in another place or elsewhere save as they serve the State. It is not the hereditary privileges of Peers that we care about. It is the independence and the effective power of the Second Chamber. We know the cry with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer opened the Election. "Are 600 hereditary Peers to defy the opinion of forty millions of people?" He received his answer. He got his majority. The 600 hereditary Peers remain where they were, and every Liberal speaker is trying to explain to us that their hereditary privileges over legislation are as great as ever they were before. As soon as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has won his election there is no change in the hereditary character of the House of Lords. A great number more hereditary Peers are added, some immediately and one at least in futuro. The Secretary to the Treasury has now secured the reversion to the position of a hereditary legislator. I must say a very odd position for him considering the campaign which he conducts. But all pretence of anxiety for the real reform of the hereditary character of the House of Lords dies away, and we are now face to face with this as the last word of the Government, that under no circumstances whatever shall the power of the House of Lords be restored, that the Veto which the old House had undoubtedly the right to exercise shall never be revived, for that House or for any other, and that a majority in this House once achieved, however secured or however collected, has a right to rule without reference to the people till the term of its natural existence is over. It is against that doctrine that we protest as false to the whole spirit of the Constitution and as incompatible with the safety and the stability of our institutions, and certainly as unapproved, and I believe disapproved, by the great majority of our people. All this has to be done in order that in this interim these great changes are to be carried through by the present party majority. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded his speech by an appeal to Gentlemen on this side of the House to judge generously of the motives of hon. Gentlemen opposite in their connection with Home Rule. It is unfortunate that the hon. and learned Gentleman coupled that appeal for fair consideration, for himself with a sneer at my right hon. and learned Friend (Sir E. Carson).


I am sorry if what I said appeared to be a sneer. It was meant to be a joke; not perhaps a very good joke, but still not a sneer.


I am very glad to have given the hon. and learned Gentleman an opportunity to make that observation. I will only say my hon. and learned Friend had intended to take part in the Debate, and I am sorry he has been prevented from doing so by illness. If he were going to take part in the Debate I should not have said a word about the incident. For anybody to charge my right hon. and learned Friend with deserting his principles on the question of Home Rule—


Surely you do not suggest that I did that.


No, I do not—in order to obtain office from a Conservative Government is a suggestion so grotesque and so absurd that it reflects discredit on no one except the man who did it.


To avoid further misunderstanding, that is not the charge I brought against the right hon. Gentleman.


I leave that to the judgment of those who read the speech. I think the hon. Gentleman would have more sympathy on all sides of the House if he followed the example of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir J. Simon). I do not wish to charge the hon. and learned Gentleman, or individuals, with dishonesty in this matter. The hon. and learned Gentleman, I think, only entered political life after the Home Rule question was before the country and with full knowledge of what the attitude of this party had been upon the subject, but when you ask us to accept the suggestion that the Liberal party has for a generation been passionately devoted to Home Rule, that also must be a joke. When we are asked to give you a certificate of character, not as to this individual or that, but as to the party as a whole for your treatment of this question, what was it? It was tainted in its origin and opportunist ever since. The Liberal party never touched Home Rule, never advocated Home Rule, indeed, denounced and renounced it until it required the Irish Nationalist vote to give it a majority. But then it found salvation, and since then we are to believe that this is a measure that has lain nearest to its heart. Only once since then has the Liberal party seen its way clear to a majority independent of the Irish. That was in 1906, and to that Parliament the Prime Minister and his colleagues bound themselves to produce no Home Rule Bill. I make no attack upon individuals, but I say it is too much to ask us to believe that a pure passion for justice and adherence to sacred Liberal principles explains the conduct of the Government in the course of this long controversy.


I should be well content, having listened, as I have listened, to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), to leave the case of the Government as it was presented last night in two admirable, unanswered, and, I think, unanswerable speeches by my Friends and colleagues upon this bench, but I will supplement what they said by one or two observations of my own. I confess that when, on the day after the opening of the Session, the Notice Paper of Amendments to the Address was circulated, I searched it with genuine curiosity in order to discover some indication of the plan of campaign of the Leaders of the Opposition. I asked myself which battle-horse they were going to select for the purpose of the attack. To judge by the rhetoric of the Recess, the stable was full of the most mettlesome chargers. There was, first and foremost, that well-tried veteran, whose paces we know so well—Tariff Reform. I think this is the first time for six years that we have not had a Tariff Reform Amendment in some guise or disguise moved from the Front Opposition Beach on the Address to the Crown. This year it is conspicuous by its absence. It has been a good deal battered and shattered by Board of Trade Returns and other inconvenient phenomena, and it seems to have been consigned, so far as we can judge, by the official pathologists of the party opposite to some home for invalid causes, where it is trying the effects of a rest cure. But the absence of Tariff Reform still left an ample field of choice for Gentlemen who really meant business. There was, for instance, the suggestion—more than the suggestion—made by the right hon. Gentleman who now leads the Opposition that the Government had scandalously neglected the equipment of the Army, that its armament in rifles and guns, or perhaps both, was dangerously behind our actual or potential necessities—a most grave accusation, but one which we shall be delighted to meet and to refute at the first opportunity that is given us.


You will get the chance.


We might have had the chance here and now. Then there was the still graver charge, which I referred to on the first night of the Session, that we—His Majesty's present Ministers—inaugurated in this country a regime of corruption that we had set up the spoils system from which the United States were slowly shaking themselves free. Is that charge persisted in?




I observe, by the way, that the responsible Leaders of the Opposition do not all speak in this matter with the same voices, for only two or three nights ago I saw that a Noble Lord who occupies a very prominent place in their counsels, Lord Selborne, said that lie would not suggest that the spoils system had been set up in this country. I am sure I am putting his sentiment correctly. What he said was this, that he trembled for the virtue of those who are going to succeed us. With all these inviting and tempting topics for a Front Bench Amendment—all no doubt carefully considered and all apparently carefully rejected—the Albert Hall is one place and the House of Commons is another—what is it that we have actually got to deal with? Let us see. After all these portentous premonitory rumblings we find ourselves confronted with this pallid, anæmic bantling of the right hon. and learned Gentleman I see opposite (Mr. F. E. Smith). I do not hesitate to say, after a very considerable Parliamentary experience, that it is the feeblest and flimsiest case ever presented against a responsible Government. I am going to show that is not only an opinion of mine. It is recorded by the right hon. Gentleman, if he will allow me to say so, in the harmless fusilade of blank ammunition he let off last night.

Let me ask the House of Commons to consider—what does it all come to? What is the charge they make after full deliberation? What is the head and front of our offending in the opinion of the responsible Leaders of the Opposition this evening? It is that the Government ought to have adopted a different order of priority in the arrangement of their legislative programme. To put it in more concrete terms, we ought to have devoted this Session to carrying out by legislative enactment the provisions of the Preamble of the Parliament Act rather than to the bringing in of measures for Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment. That is the charge. No one has alleged—at least I do not think anyone has yet alleged—in the course of the Debate that the Government do not honestly and genuinely intend to carry into legislative effect the Preable of the Parliament Act. [An HON. MEMBER: "If time permits."] The only definite statement made on that subject in regard to time—and time here is all-important—was made by myself, and it is the only statement in regard to time that any responsible Member has ever made. It was that it was proposed to do so in the lifetime of the present Parliament. I assert, and I challenge contradiction, that that is the only statement as to time that has ever been made in the course of the discussions on this question.


The right hon. Gentleman, in a speech which he delivered on 3rd April last, and which I quoted yesterday, dealt first with the time when the Parliament Bill would become law, and then he used these very definite and explicit words:— When the first part of our task is done, then, and not until then, shall we proceed to the accomplishment; of the other part of our task.


Is that really all? Is there nothing else?


If the right hon. Gentleman appeals to me again, I say that is a definite statement with no mention of Home Rule or any other measure. The right hon. Gentleman said:— When the first part of the task is concluded, the Government will then pass the second part.


It was quite obvious that I was answering persons who said to us that we should proceed pari passu with the two things. I said, "No, certainly not until we have dealt first of all with the Veto." The right hon. Gentleman has displayed a great deal of, I am afraid, very unprofitable industry, ransacking the previous utterances of the Government, and that is the best he has been able to produce. I want to know, and I ask this question once more—it has been asked several times already, and it has never yet been answered—by whom, when, and where was any promise ever given that in the next Session after the passing of the Parliament Act the Government would proceed with proposals for the re-constitution of the Second Chamber? That is a very specific question, and it admits of a very specific answer. The answer is—nowhere, at no time, and by nobody. I will ask another question to which I would also like to get a fair answer. Who and where are those electors—those imaginary electors—who believed or were led to Tbelieve—and who gave votes which otherwise would have been given elsewhere—that in the first Session after the Parliament Act was passed we should give that Session exclusively to the reform of the House of Lords? Where are those electors? They are certainly not among those who are represented by us here, or who are represented by the Leader of the Opposition. I am not going to weary the House of Commons with long quotations. At the General Election of December, 1910, the Parliament Bill had then been introduced into this House. Its Preamble was perfectly well known. It had been discussed here and on every platform in the country. I ask who at that time believed, or was led to believe, that the first Session after the Parliament Bill was passed would be given to any other subject than Home Rule? Certainly, I say, not those who voted for the Opposition—at least, if they believed their Leader. That is admitted, is it? [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] I will just add one or two quotations to those already given. I take, first of all, Lord Lansdowne, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, who is entitled to speak with responsibility and authority on behalf of his party. Lord Lansdowne, before the election began, before any polling took place, speaking at Portsmouth, on 30th November, 1910, made the statement which I am going to quote. This is rather important, because I am supposed to have "lain low," to have "kept something up my sleeve," and to have delayed until a late stage in the election the declaring of my policy on Home Rule. Here is the testimony of Lord Lansdowne on 30th November:— Mr. Asquith, to my mind, made it perfectly clear that the first step that will be taken will be to deal with the question of Home Rule. Now I come to another equally authoritative spokesman of the party opposite—the right hon. Gentleman who is now Leader of the Opposition. I will read what he said in his election address. What is said in an election address is supposed by some people to be sacrosanct. What is the warning that he uttered to those to whom he appealed? It was:— After the passing of such a Bill—the Veto Bill—everything else will be easy. The Trish faction, the strongest in the coalition, would immediately obtain Home Rule.


Was that at the last Election or the previous one?


December, 1910. Then, finally, I come to the utterance of the protagonist on this occasion—the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment. Speaking on 24th November, 1910, in the courteous manner then common, he said:— We are having an election because Mr. Redmond has ordered it. What did that mean? Mr. Redmond had "ordered it." Why? In order that Home Rule might be the first business of the Government. This Government got in—this Government which the right hon. Gentleman thinks unhappily got in. He said on that occasion:— The electors will never have another chance of pronouncing on Home Rule. Now or never is the time. I really apologise to the House for adding to the already too long list of citations from past speeches, but is it not now childish in the face of all these declarations to contend other than that the electors who voted in December, 1910, voted with the clearest possible knowledge conveyed to them from both sides, and by none more clearly than those responsible leaders of the party opposite, that if they gave their votes in favour of the Government—in favour of the passing of the Parliament Bill—the first use that would be made of it would be the passing of Home Rule. I have pointed out that it certainly does not lie in the mouths of those who lead the Opposition to complain that we are not carrying out with perfect fairness the policy we put before the electors. Who are the electors we hoodwinked, betrayed, and tricked by chicanery in this matter? Are they our supporters? They are not the supporters of the Opposition, I am sure. Are they the supporters of the Government? Well, I have not heard of any complaint from them, and I really cannot bring myself to believe that those mute, inglorious, or hoodwinked electors have entrusted the advocacy of their case to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division.

It does not admit of argument. It was common ground between all parties. Everyone knew, and no one gave any promise to the contrary. No one held out any expectation to the contrary. No one acted on any such promise or expectation. To-day we are face to face with the precise situation which, viewed in some quarters with apprehension and in others with satisfaction, was predicted as the situation that would occur. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has occupied a great deal of his speech—I hope he will forgive me if I say so, not very profitably—with a rehearsal of my own supposed inconsistencies and delinquencies in the matter of Home Rule. It is not a matter of much interest, I should have thought, to anyone but myself, but since he has chosen to occupy the time of the House of Commons with an indictment of many counts, perhaps the House will pardon me if for two or three minutes I state precisely what is my record on that question. I entered this House for the first time, with no previous participation in public life, in the year 1886, after the rejection of Mr. Gladstone's first Home Rule Bill. I was then, what I have always been, an avowed and convinced Home Ruler. When after six years of Opposition, a Liberal Government was formed in the year 1892 under Mr. Gladstone, I was Home Secretary of that Government, and my name, I am always glad to remember, was upon the back of the Home Rule Bill of that year. That Bill, as we know, was not caried into law. The right hon. Gentleman was extraordinarily wrong in his chronology, wrong in his history, and wrong in the inferences which he drew from both. The right hon. Gentleman appears to have formed a notion that at some time or other and in some way or other I had departed from the attitude which I then took up. In particular he quoted a celebrated phrase of Lord Rosebery's about the predominant partner. I remember it very well. Lord Rosebery was Prime Minister at the time. It was used not as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to imagine in 1901, but in 1894, in the House of Lords, by Lord Rosebery, speaking as Prime Minister, and the inference and construction which the right hon. Gentleman put upon it, which he seems to think that I and others have put upon it, was that through the mouth of Lord Rosebery we had declared we could never be parties to bringing in another Home Rule Bill unless the people of England were in favour of such a measure. Lord Rosebery within a few days after that speech was happy to explain his language. Speaking in Edinburgh on 17th March, 1894, he said this:— What I said was if we unite to carry Home Rule we must carry conviction to the heart of England, and by those words I stand. They are a truism. They are a platitude in the sense in which I uttered them, but in the sense in which they have been interpreted they bear a meaning which I, as a Scotsman, should be the first to repudiate. Are we really to believe that in all great measures which affect the partnership which is called the United Kingdom, we are to wait for predominant vote of England." (Cries of "Never" and "No.") Lord Rosebery goes on— We should never carry anything. and, after giving one or two historical illustrations, he says:— We do not propose to sit on the bank of the stream of Time to watch the stream pass by until it shall run dry in an English majority for the causes that we espouse. I entirely agree with Lord Rosebery's explanation. If it is suggested—I think the House will excuse me from egotism in referring back to my personal position in the matter—that I ever receded from the position I then took up, I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what I said in the speech from which he quoted at Ladybank in the year 1901, about the time the Liberal League was formed. I said there— That problem of Irish Government is as serious and as intractable as it ever was. I go on, leaving out one sentence:— I believe as strongly as ever I did that the true governing principles which I have preached among you ever since I represented you, are the necessity of maintaining absolute and unimpaired the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, and, subject to that condition, the policy of giving as much and as liberal a devolution of local powers and local responsibility as statesmanship can from time to time devise. That was my view then. That is my view to-day, and it is the view which will be embodied in the Home Rule Bill which the Government are about to introduce.

I pass from that to say one or two words upon a much more important matter touched upon in the latter part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Austen Chamberlain). Let us leave out this ridiculous legend about broken pledges. There is nothing in it. It has been completely blown out of the water. Leave out that. Let us assume that that is out of the case. Let us come to what is really serious. That is the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman and of others, that, whether pledges were or were not given, in the present shattered state, as it is called, of the Constitution, Parliament is morally and constitutionally incompetent to enact at any rate large and far-reaching measures of social or political change, such for instance as appear in the programme of the gracious Speech from the Throne this Session. Such I think is the right hon. Gentleman's contention. We are supposed to be living in a kind of anarchical interregnum, in which Parliament, until it can proceed with the reconstruction of the Second Chamber, must, and ought, to content itself with trivial humdrum, at any rate, not constitutional measures. I want just for a moment to deal with that contention. I maintain on the contrary that exactly the reverse is the case, and that Parliament is more competent morally and constitutionally to deal with great and far-reaching measures of reform than it has ever been within the lifetime of any man in this House.

I quite agree that we have not yet reached the ultimate solution of our constitutional problem. I adhere absolutely to what I said last year, that in my opinion it is the bounden duty of the Government within the lifetime of this Parliament to submit to the consideration of Parliament and ultimately of the country the reconstitution of our Second Chamber. That I agree is perfectly true. But by the passing of the Parliament Act we have secured two things which in themselves constitute an immeasurable constitutional advance. What are they? In the first place we have secured statutory recognition of the doctrine that the deliberate will of the people, expressed through their chosen representatives, shall prevail in legislation, and in the next place we have at the same time as a concomitant of, and if you like a corollary to, that doctrine provided statutory safeguards that only the deliberate will of the people shall prevail. To talk about our living now under what I see sometimes described as a system of untempered Single-Chamber Government—[Hear, hear.] There are people in this House apparently who still entertain that view. It is a fact that the Parliament Act put an end, and for the first time put an end, to Single-Chamber Government. I myself, and every man who is now sitting in this House, has lived during the whole of his political life, whether he was conscious of it or not, under a system of Single-Chamber Government. It has often been pointed out, and it does not admit of dispute, that when the Opposition had a majority in this House we lived under Single-Chamber Government, because the Second Chamber was dormant. When this party was in power we lived under a system of Single-Chamber Government, because the First Chamber was impotent.

7.0 P.M.

Now for the first time the Chamber that represents the people is able to carry its will into law provided—a most important proviso it is, and in its practical working a most serious clog on democratic government—provided the legislation approved by that Chamber can stand the check of two years and three Sessions of public opinion and public criticism. In other words, you have a Second Chamber relegated for the first time to the performance of those duties which are appropriate to such a body. You have a First Chamber for the first time emancipated from the thraldom under which it has hitherto lived. I do not say that is an ideal state of things. I quite agree that you will not have completed your constitutional settlement until you have reconstituted your Second Chamber. Even as it is now, it is a grotesque body, a body in which a great many people sit who have no business to sit there at all, and a body which is predominantly and permanently partisan. That is true of the House of Lords, and it is quite desirable and necessary that it should be reformed; but what about the House of Commons? Is it an ideal representative body? Someone was saying last night, I think it was the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that there was a majority against Home Rule in England at the last Election. Well, I believe it to be true that of the votes polled a majority was cast in England against Home Rule, a majority of votes, but not a majority of voters. And when that is true, when it is said and can be said of the House of Commons to-day, taking the representatives of England—though I am far from denying the representative competence of this House—then if you are to have an ideal state of things you must have a much truer and more accurate reflection of public opinion than your present artificial system of voting provides. One man one vote is, after all, an old article of the Liberal programme. I do not say that it is a superior obligation to the re-constitution of the Second Chamber, but you will not have an ideal system of representative democratic Government in this country until you have not only reconstituted the Second Chamber, but altered the basis of representation in this House. The fact that that is so does not constitute any disability upon us to pursue with such constitutional means as are at our disposal, infinitely improved as they are compared with what they were a year or two ago, those great causes with full knowledge of our zeal and interest in which the electors of this country gave us the majority which they did give us in 1910. May I add one further consideration which I think of great importance and most relevant to this Amendment. When you come to reconstitute your Second Chamber it appears to me the proper time for so doing is obviously not before but after you have affirmed and carried into practical effect your principle of Home Rule. For surely it makes an enormous difference, it ought to make an enormous difference, to the form which our constitutional arrangements will ultimately take whether or not we have given to Ireland freedom to deal with her own affairs, and given it to Ireland upon lines—I do not say which shall be identical in all respects—but upon lines which in their main principles can be followed in regard to other parts of the United Kingdom. I venture to say as a practical man—there is no element of party in this consideration at all—that if you once recognise that upon those lines your Constitution is going to develop in regard to the management of local affairs, it is from every point of view far wiser and far more expedient to delay your specific proposals for the reconstitution of your Imperial Second Chamber until you have settled, either by general agreement or after the clash of party controversy, what you are going to do in regard to Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom.

Do not let me be misunderstood. I say that when we have settled the Irish question we shall know what are the lines at any rate on which our future constitutional development is going to proceed. I am not suggesting for a moment that dealing with the Second Chamber ought to be postponed until after you have dealt with other parts of the United Kingdom, but when we have arranged and settled our Irish problem we shall be in a far better position than we are to-day to deal intelligently with the problem of the Second Chamber. These are consideration of substance, quite apart from the more or less party and personal issue, as to pledges given or not given at this time or the other. I venture to make a strong appeal to the House not dealing for the moment with this particular Amendment. It cannot more profitably occupy its time in the Session which is now before us than in developing on broad, liberal, democratic lines a system of self-government for Ireland, because when that has once been accomplished we should be in a far better position than we have ever been in the past, both to deal with the distribution of our business as between the local and Imperial Parliaments, with a relative function of the two Chambers, with the composition of the Second Chamber, and with the transaction of the manifold and ever-growing cares and responsibilities of this enormous Empire. There is no task more serious, more solemn, and in some ways more delicate and responsible to which a great legislature could address itself, and I believe the House of Commons could not more profitably occupy the months that lie immediately before it than by giving the best of its energies to that solution.


The speech of the Prime Minister was full of controversial matter, and let me occupy a few minutes in giving some sort of reply. First of all the Prime Minister was a little premature when he said that there was no word on this side of the House during the Debates about Tariff Reform. The Prime Minister, if he will be good enough to come down to the House on Thursday will find that there will be a full discussion on that subject.


I said in the official Amendment.


There are not two official Amendments, I suppose; we have had one. It is quite true the Amendment is to be moved from the back benches, and I am not one of those who suppose that the wisdom of the House of Commons is confined to the back benches. The right hon. Gentleman said that the case made by my right hon. Friend was the flimsiest case ever made out to the House of Commons. Hon. Members who were watching the Prime Minister during that attack could see by the discomfort the right hon Gentleman showed during that attack what it really meant. It is quite clear that the Prime Minister felt deeply the charge which was made against him by my right hon. Friend. The head of the Government dismissed this question in the airiest way. He said, "What am I charged with? It is a mere question of priority." It is a question of priority, but in that question of priority is involved the honour of this Government and the sanctity of pledges. The Prime Minister asked in his rhetorical way, Who had ever told the electorate that he was to proceed with the reform of the House of Lords in the next Session. Why, it was generally assumed, and must have been assumed by the electorate, that if this question was to be dealt with it was to be dealt with as a whole, and not divided into two parts, one portion dealing with one set of arrangements, and the other being relegated to a future which, judging from the last sentences of the Prime Minister, is rather more distant than many of us have supposed. I would like to ask the Prime Minister, What responsible Member of the Government ever pointed out that, after one-half of the reform of the House of Lords you are going to wait for the other until the fifth Session of Parliament? Was that made clear at all? No one usually can be clearer than the Prime Minister, but did he make it quite clear to the electorate that after taking away the powers of the House of Lords he was going to pass Home Rule, Welsh Disestablishment, and other measures before proceeding with the re-constitution of the Second Chamber? Not a word was said about that.

It is apparently the new doctrine of this Government that you ought to find the principles and doctrines of the Government, not in the speeches of the Government, not in their programme, but in the speeches of the Opposition. The policy of the Government in fact is, by a method of ingenious deduction, to be drawn from certain phrases used by certain prominent Members on this side. The Prime Minister asked, "Who are those who are deceived: was it those who supported you, or those who supported us?" The Prime Minister was a little premature in his remark. I think there is a number of people who supported him at the last Election who are turning very uncomfortably in their beds. I read a very remarkable letter from Dr. Horton, in which he dropped a great many tears owing to the condition of his fellow-religionists in Ulster. He suggested the transference of the population of Ulster to the North of England, and that a corresponding population in England should go over to Ulster. I do not know whether the Prime Minister supports the doctrine of Dr. Horton. Only the other day I saw in the newspapers that the Member for North-West Manchester gave the very grave intimation that if Home Rule is to be passed in this Parliament the House of Commons will be obliged to lose his services, and I think the chairman of the local association, and others, are leaving their present positions. "Why are you afraid of living under a Single-Chamber Government?" it is asked. "Why we have been living under a Single-Chamber Government during the whole period that the Conservative party was in office."

I think that was the gravamen of the charge brought by the Prime Minister against our constitutional system. Certainly, if while the Conservatives were in office we were under a Single-Chamber Government, then, apparently, that is to be reproduced in regard to both sides, and we are to have Single-Chamber Government, not only when the Conservatives are in power, but when the Liberals are in power. I should like to call the Prime Minister's attention to the speeches of some of the minor Members of the Government. The Under-Secretary for India finds that it is normal and natural to deal with a reform such as Home Rule before taking up the question of the House of Lords. The argument of the Solicitor-General was to the effect that it really does not very much matter, looking at it from a purely party point of view, whether there was a reform of the House of Lords, because under the reform of the House of Lords it would probably be equally easy to pass Home Rule as in the House of Lords constituted as it is at present. The Prime Minister made no reply whatever to the challenge put forward as to whether under this reform, of the House of Lords he was going to give the same powers or different powers from those which it obtained under the Parliament Bill. The Solicitor-General strongly repudiated also the suggestion that any bargain had been made with the Irish party. He said Home Rule had been part of the policy of the Liberal party for the last twenty-five years. No doubt that is so, but it was a very different Home Rule policy. The very fact that you have had in the last twenty-five years two Home Rule Bills brought in from 1886 to 1893, two totally different Home Rule Bills, strengthens the argument that the Prime Minister and his colleagues should have specifically put before the electors before the General Election the kind and class of Home Rule which they wished to introduce when re-elected to power. Home Rule has gone through many vicissitudes, not only in those two measures, and I think in the years between 1895 and 1900 there were many cross currents, which the Prime Minister will no doubt remember, which put the position of Home Rule for four or five years in a very grave and parlous condition. In 1906, so self-denying was the Prime Minister and his colleagues in regard to Home Rule, and so little anxious, were they to press forward this reform, which he says has been near his heart for the last five and twenty years since he first came into political life, that they, by a self-denying ordinance, prevented themselves dealing with the question. Two or three years afterwards, they brought in a measure not for Home Rule, but for devolution, a measure which was not received with any great enthusiasm in Ireland nor in this House. At that time the policy of the Government was supposed to be devolution. How could the electorate imagine that a change has again taken place, and that we have gone back from those years to those full measures of Home Rule with which we are now threatened? I very much regret that the warnings given by Conservative leaders before the Election were not more fully accepted. I have to admit, and to admit painfully, that those statements or prophecies by eminent Conservative leaders were not accepted by the electorate. They were not accepted by the electorate because so little mention was made of Home Rule, both in the speeches and in the election addresses of prominent Members opposite, that the electorate, I think, found it impossible to suppose that this Government would commit so grave a dereliction in constitutional duty as to come forward and bring in a measure of Home Rule without that, measure having been fully discussed, and having, in its leading details at least, been laid before the electorate before its introduction.

We have had the very indignant denials that nothing in the nature of log-rolling and nothing in the nature of a bargain has been made between the Irish party, the Nationalist party, and the Government. We have had the extraordinary phenomenon, and we know that no one denounced the Budget more strongly than the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond), and having denounced it most vigorously, he and his party voted for the Second Reading of the Finance Bill. By another change they abstained from voting on the Third Reading of that Bill. Now is the Prime Minster going to tell us that that change of policy on the part of the Member for Waterford is one of those fortunate coincidences that happen in a sort of vacuum without any sort of influence being brought to bear, and that there were none of those conversations which the Solicitor-General indignantly denied, and nothing in the nature of a bargain entered into between the parties. All the Members of the Cabinet are not quite so careful and reticent as the Prime Minister. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in a speech which was delivered in my own Constituency, and which I have therefore reason to know, said:— Everyone knew that the great measure last year was the Budget. It was not popular in Ireland, because it taxed whisky, and he believed it was not popular in some parts of England because it taxed beer, and he was quite certain that a very great number of Irish members of Parliament stood in front of and withstood great obloquy for their support of that Budget. But they felt they had a duty to English Liberalism, which was endeavouring to help the Irish out of the slough in which they had been too long engulfed. It was in repayment of some such obligation: it was not because of a threat of eviction from office—if that could be put in force—that Home Rule was being brought in. We, therefore, see now that in the opinion of the Chancellor of the Duchy it was not because they were convinced of the great principles of Home Rule, and not because it had been for twenty-five years part of the policy of the Liberal party, but that because the Irish had supported the Budget; therefore in order to pay them back for what they had done they were going to bring in a great measure of Home Rule. It is a very curious thing that the Prime Minister used very different language on the occasion of his present speech from that which he used when he was speaking last year on the Parliament Bill. Then he defended their future action in a very different way. He said then, "Even if you assume that we are a dishonest party and a dishonest Government, and that we cannot be trusted to fulfil our pledges, self-interest at least is enough to force us to deal with the changes in the House of Lords." The present Home Secretary referred to the same subject. The difficulty, of course, in dealing with these statements is that Ministers take such very different views as to what the effect of the Parliament Act is. On the one hand they represent it outside as being a great revolutionary change. On the other hand the First Lord of the Admiralty, speaking in this House, talks of the grave and menacing powers still left in possession of the House of Lords, and tries to whittle away the revolution as the very small change which has still left grave powers in the hands of the House of Lords. Is it a fact, because I am inclined to think it is not, that it is to the interest of the Liberal party to deal with this question of reform. No doubt their action as a party is governed by their interests. In all times we have had those who preferred to keep the forms of liberty. The early Roman Emperors preserved the forms of liberty while they took away the reality, and some times there was the spectacle of Roman Emperors becoming Consuls, just as we have the spectacle of Liberal Members becoming Peers. It is so useful an electoral asset, and it is so valuable for speeches outside the House, that I cannot help feeling that not willingly, or not lightly, will the Liberal party do away with the great electoral opportunity of being able occasionally to attack the hereditary Peers.

I hesitate to suggest that the Government will not take up this question because it is an exceedingly difficult one. We know that this Government is a Government of exceptional and extraordinary ability, according to the testimonies which have been passed upon them by several of their own colleagues. That being so, I hardly like to suggest the difficulty of the question such as the balance between the two Houses, and what, for instance, should be done with the bishops, and, if elective, on what basis, and should the period of election correspond with that of the other House? All those matters have got to be considered, and I can quite understand that there may be almost as great differences in the Cabinet on those questions as prevail in the Cabinet on such a subject as Women's Suffrage. I cannot help thinking that the Government may be afraid of a reformed Second Chamber. It is quite true that the Solicitor-General tells us that Home Rule might go through the Second Chamber as easily if it is reformed as if not reformed. I think he may possibly be wrong in that anticipation. If you are going to have two separate elected bodies, it is quite certain that separate independent public opinion will form itself in either of those bodies, and you may well find that a Second Chamber elected from the same electorate, and even at the same time, will form a totally different opinion from the other on measures sent up from this House. It will have an amour propre, and an ambition of its own, and its ambitions will not be on the same lines as that of the other House, which arrogates to itself the idea of being the Second Chamber. All these great measures of change are easily passed when there is a large and enthusiastic body of opinion behind them. I confess that as regards Home Rule, that consideration makes one doubt whether the Government, with all [...] Closure, can force it through.

Where, on the benches opposite, is the enthusiasm for a reformed Second Chamber? The Labour party is consistent in its opposition to a Second Chamber. I think the only modification of that view was that contained in a speech delivered on the Third Reading of the Parliament Act by the hon. Member for Norwich, when he said that they could "wait and see" how the present system worked, and that if it worked badly they could reform. That is the nearest approach to any acceptance on the part of the Labour party of a Second Chamber. One of the reasons given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer against postponing the Insurance Act was that they were dealing with all the figures and facts as to insurance, and that if they postponed the Bill everybody would have forgotten all about it, and they would have to start afresh on the facts and figures. We have been plunged last year on the Parliament Bill into the constitutional question, and we have followed up precedents and books on constitutional law, so that this House of Commons, I say, is peculiarly capable of dealing with the question of reform, and far more so than it will be in three years after we have dealt with the case of Home Rule and controversies and measures of that kind. It can hardly be contended, even by the greatest admirer of our present Constitution, that the Constitution, as reformed by the Prime Minister, is adequate and complete. The Prime Minister spoke in terms of amazing adulation of the present Constitution, but then he spoke of his own handiwork, and, naturally, in words of enthusiasm. After all, what is the present system? The present system under the Parliament Bill either is a farce or it is the most cumbrous and ridiculous system ever invented by any statesman in this country. It is a farce if the measures which come under the Parliament Act are not in the second and third years adequately debated, and if it is merely a matter of closure or a little more of what the Prime Minister described as solvitur ambulando. If you are going to have those measures fully debated in one, two, and three Sessions, can you imagine anything more absurd than that the Mother of Parliaments should debate the question and then go over it again and again in three successive years. Therefore it is impossible to suppose that the House of Commons or the country can remain under a Constitution of that kind. In mere shame I should have thought, and in view of our old position of Parliamentary supremacy, that an end should be put to the interregnum. I think there are many signs now that it is a bad system, and one which ought to be dealt with.

It was a matter of common remark that last year as soon as the Parliament Bill was carried you had a measure of Closure more drastic than ever was passed before through the House of Commons; and the language, the attitude, and the position of Members of the Government seems to me to have grown in insolence and tyranny since the Bill was passed. I can only instance what happened but a week ago. I am informed that in private life the Chancellor of the Exchequer is one of the most humane and mildest of men. What, then, could have induced him to denounce the doctors with such violence and folly? I will not use the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I remember that he used the phrase "rude ineptitude" against perhaps the most distinguished and most learned body of men in the country. What could have induced a man so constituted to use language of such insolence and violence, unless the Government felt that under this new Constitution that they had created they could allow themselves latitude, and need not be restrained by any of the ordinary restraints of civilised intercourse? By this postponement of their measure for the reform of the House of Lords they run a grave risk. If it is postponed until the fourth or fifth year of this Parliament there will be great danger that the plan which the Prime Minister says is to be submitted will never arrive at completion. I use the word of the Prime Minister because he chooses his words with great care, and we have learnt that we must study them with the most metriculous precision. He says not that a Bill will be submitted and an Act passed, but that a plan is to be submitted. If that plan is submitted in the fifth year the chances of its passing into law are somewhat slight. It may be that the Prime Minister is going to use the Second Chamber to throw out his own scheme. Even though the House of Lords has been so much attacked, Members of the Government are still very anxious and glad to make use of it. The Naval Prize Bill of last Session altered the law, in the opinion of many, much to the detriment of this country. The House of Lords threw out that Bill, and their action has been accepted by the Government.

Captain MURRAY

In what way?


They have taken their beating. If a Bill is to come under the provisions of the Parliament Act it must be sent up to the House of Lords at least one month before the end of the Session. Therefore, if the Government had wanted that Bill to pass, they would have sent it up a month before the end of the Session. But they deliberately did not do so.

Captain MURRAY

It can still go up.


It is a remarkable thing that there is no mention of it in the King's Speech. I have a question on the subject down for to-morrow, but it is my strong impression that in this case the much abused House of Lords has been acknowledged by the Prime Minister to have struck a useful blow for the country. That only emphasises my point that it is essential in the interests of the Government that they should bring in their plan in the first three years in order that it may have some chance of passing the obstruction, as hon. Members opposite call it, of the House of Lords. Whether the interregnum is to be long or short, I submit that if it had been put to the ordinary elector that it was possible that the Government would no be able to reform the House of Lords immediately after the Parliament Act was passed, and he had been asked, "Is it fair during that time to pass other measures?" he would possibly have said, "They might deal with uncontroversial measures, measures of social reform, measures which have been considered by both sides." But if the Government had said, "We are going to take the opportunity of dealing with the largest and most controversial of questions," he would have said, "Hold your hand. A measure of that kind must have the highest amount of moral authority behind it." You will be doing a great wrong if you attempt to pass a measure of that kind, intended as a settlement, when almost a majority of the electors of the country consider that the Government have no moral right whatever to deal with such a matter.

Even if the Election had been fought on Home Rule and nothing else, it would be in the highest degree difficult to pass a measure of that kind. It is of the utmost importance that it should be passed, I will not say with the general assent, but at any rate after every interest has been considered and every opportunity given for its consideration and discussion. It used to be contended by the late Mr. Gladstone that the Act of Union was passed by the assistance of corruption and fraud. I should have thought there ought to be some memory of that in the mind of His Majesty's Ministers when dealing with this question. If there was any truth in that contention they ought to be particularly careful that, at any rate in undoing the measure of 1800, it was not possible to allege a single element of fraud. The Government, however, have chosen differently. They have chosen to stake their fortunes on a measure which has not been considered, and the principles of which have not been discussed by the electors. By so doing they are deliberately throwing away one of their strongest arguments against any disturbance in Ulster. In introducing a measure to settle the constitutional question between this country and Ireland, they are, in my belief, building on the shaky and unstable sands of broken pledges and a tricked electorate.


I almost apologise for speaking in this Debate, because I have no fresh quotation of Cabinet Ministers or ex-Ministers to bring to the notice of the House. I congratulate on their ingenuity and industry hon. Members who have found so many interesting and often contradictory quotations. Personally, I know nothing more tedious than a volume of "Hansard." We have in this. House many orators of the first rank and importance, but even their speeches are not interesting in "Hansard." For my part, I have never taken the trouble to look up a back speech of an opponent or even of one of the leaders of my own party. It is obvious, from the tenor of this Debate, that His Majesty's Government have a perfect constitutional right to proceed with the legislative programme outlined in the King's Speech. The arguments used by Ministers are absolutely irrefragable. I was not able to take part in the second Election in 1910, but I well recollect the previous Election, at which I was an unfortunate candidate, when practically the whole issue, from the point of view of our opponents, turned on Home Rule. Having themselves stated that it was the intention of the Liberal party to bring in a measure of Home Rule as soon as the Veto of the House of Lords had been diminished, it is not competent for them to come here now and deny to the Government the right to introduce, and, if it can, to pass, such a measure. This somewhat hollow Debate has had one good result. It has made two things perfectly clear. One is that the Government will proceed with the reform of the House of Lords in this Parliament. That is a very valuable piece of information. Another, and even more valuable, piece of information is that given by the Solicitor-General yesterday, that in no circumstances whatever will the unlimited Veto of the Upper Chamber be restored.

The Amendment refers to the incomplete Constitution under which we are now living. I should have thought it was perfectly obvious, as has been pointed out by the Prime Minister, that in some respects, at any rate, the Constitution is now more complete than it has ever been in recent history. We have for the first time, as regards the relations between the two Houses, a written Constitution. I confess-that I wish we could have done without it. There are great advantages in an unwritten Constitution. The old Constitution, if only statesmen would have made the best use of it, was in theory at least better than any written Constitution that could be devised. It was infinitely adaptable and infinitely elastic. In fact, our relations with the other House were too elastic for this world. In recent years, and I think only in recent years, statesmen belonging to the party opposite have made use of the House of Peers for their own party advantage. They found this flexible and adaptable Constitution, and they stretched it to breaking-point in the interests of party. It is a most unfortunate thing that the House of Peers should have lent itself so visibly to manipulation by party politicians. I do not know whether Members opposite have ever realised how in recent years Members on this side have regarded the House of Lords. They have never been in the position that we have unfortunately been in throughout the whole of our political life. I recollect on one occasion the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool made a speech in which I gathered that he did realise the situation that the Liberal party found itself in as regards the House of of Lords before the Veto was done away with. I have never myself entertained any bitter feeling against the other House. It would be absurd if I did so. If I may put it perfectly frankly, I have always felt as a Member of the liberal party that we did not get fair treatment from that House. I think that that feeling was felt not only throughout the Liberal party, but amongst all active Liberal politicians, and I think it was felt by the people in the country. I believe it is for that reason, and for that reason chiefly, that the party which I have the honour to support have been returned at two successive Elections within a year by a majority sufficient at all events for the purpose of effecting legislation.

Whatever may be the constitution of the House of Lords in the future, in my judgment it will have to convince the people of this country that it is a reasonable and impartial assembly. As has been pointed out by more than one speaker to this Amendment, even as the House of Lords stands after the passage of the Parliament Bill the Liberal party is still at an enormous disadvantage in legislation in comparison with the party opposite. We have not even now an equal chance of passing our great measures into law. Hon. Members speak of the absence of constitutional safeguards. Why, Sir, there is one new constitutional safeguard. I refer to the alteration of the duration of Parliament from seven years to five years. That is an enormous concession. I submit that all the old privileges of the House of Lords remain almost unimpaired. The only one that does not remain unimpaired is that that only on a few occasions has ever been exercised by the House of Lords, and never exercised when a Conservative Government was in office. It is one which the people of this country do not wish the House of Lords to have. The people of this country do not wish the other Chamber, however reconstructed, to have an unlimited Veto over the deliberations and measures of this House of Commons. There cannot ever be in a proper Constitution two Houses of equal, co-ordinate, and competing powers. The House of Peers retains this enormous constitutional safeguard: that it preserves unimpaired its privilege and power of revision and amendment. It may be said by some that this is of no great value if we in this House of Commons carry our measures in the long run. But where Amendments are brought into this House from the other House they will be received with respect, and if reasonable, they will find their proper place in any measure proceeding from this side of the House.

The House of Lords, too, have the terrific power of postponement and delay. I am not aware that, constitutionally speaking, they ever had any right to exercise greater powers than are given to them by the Parliament Act. They can hang up the chief measures of this Government—everyone of them—for two whole years if they choose to do it. Meanwhile the Government have to weather every kind of storm. It has to survive every kind of difficulty incidental to Parliament. In my judgment the Government that lives through the suspension of its chief measures for two years, through all the chops and changes likely to affect a Government in this country, deserves to have its measures passed into law and find their way on to the Statute Book. That the life of this Parliament, or any subsequent Parliament, is shortened to five years, is an enormous concession. It is not an advantage to this House; certainly not to the party to which I belong that the Parliamentary term should be shortened. General Elections are expensive. It is a great concession from the point of view of the party who sit on these Benches. It is a concession that if I had my way would never have been carried. It compels hon. Members who sit on this side of the House to produce all their important measures during the first two years of Parliament.

Under these circumstances, to speak of the Constitution being shattered, and to speak of the other Chamber as having now no powers left to it is really an abuse of language. The House of Lords retains every single original privilege and power that that Chamber has ever had any right to exercise. I do not think hon. Members opposite believe in their own Amendment. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin, said that this discussion has not aroused a very great deal of interest in the House of Commons itself. The Prime Minister pointed out that many other topics might have been taken for the purpose of this Amendment to the Address. To those, however, who do still take a serious view of this question, may I point out, in the first place, that the Constitution has not been abrogated; that, in the second place, the scales as between that party and ours as regards our relations to the other House still lean heavily in their own direction. I think that they must be convinced by the statement of their own friends, and by the policy adopted by them universally at the last General Election in regard to a measure of self-government for Ireland, that this Parliament and this party have a perfect right to proceed with that measure and to carry it to fruition.


The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has given us a very moderately worded speech, but a speech which I think perfectly missed the whole point of the Amendment. The whole of his speech dealt with the question of the powers of the House of Lords. The hon. Gentleman never said one word with regard to the composition of the House of Lords, and that is the whole thing that the Amendment deals with. That shows that he did not at all understand the Amendment. Looking at the whole question, I would just like to say a word before I get to the main point of broken pledges, which really is the point at issue. I was fortunately privileged to hear the end of the speech of the Prime Minister. I now gather from the right hon. Gentleman—and hon. Gentlemen will correct me if I am wrong—that it is undesirable to deal with the question of the reform of the House of Lords until the question of Home Rule—as I may call it—to the different parts of this island has been dealt with. That means that we are going to have Home Rule for Scotland and Home Rule for Wales before we come to this question. The second part is one which I think the Prime Minister, and I think the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, talked a great deal about. I refer to the deliberate will of the people at the General Election. The Prime Minister said in regard to legislation that the deliberate will of the people at the Election must prevail. I am not quoting him exactly, but that is practically what he said. May I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite if it was the deliberate will of the people at the last General Election that an Insurance Act should be introduced? Was that ever before the people? Were they ever consulted in regard to it? If that was not the case, the statement of the Prime Minister is without weight.

The third point the Prime Minister spoke about—and the same point was raised by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down—was that hon. Members on this side had pointed out at the last Election what would be the result if the Liberal party were returned—that as a result a measure of Home Rule would be brought in, a measure for the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church, and so on. That is perfectly accurate. We did point it out. It was on account of what I call—I may be wrong—misstatements on the question of the reform of the House of Lords that Liberal Members opposite were returned. The people were entitled to know how the matter stood. After all, if they were returned on the question of Home Rule, that is not the point at all. Our point is a different one. I will come to it shortly. Surely hon. Members cannot blame us for having told our constituents what we believed they were coming to. Can hon. Members say we were wrong when we said it? The hon. Gentleman wants to know what I said in regard to it. In my election address I said:— You realise that the return of the Liberal party to power means an Upper Chamber so weak as practically to constitute a system of Single-Chamber Government, and a House of Commons so powerful to be independent of the people.… I was returned because the people believed me. Other Liberal Members in Scotland were returned because, as I think, their constituents did not believe that this would be the case. I say that we do not believe that one Liberal Member would have been returned in Scotland if their constituents had believed that this would happen.

Captain MURRAY

That what would happen? I do not quite understand you.

8.0 P.M.


That we are going to have practically a system of Single-Chamber Government. This applies, except in one or two constituencies where the Members did frankly say they believed in Single-Chamber Government. Whatever I say is not intended against any Member of the party below the Gangway, that is the Labour party. They were frankly consistent in what they said. They said that they favoured Single-Chamber Government, and they stuck to it right through. I think any impartial observer who has been listening to the speeches today and yesterday, must have been struck with one fact, and that was that the first effort of almost every speaker, including the Prime Minister, was to try to get himself out of his own particular mess. Then after he had done that, he tried to explain away the broken pledges—and I still stick to that—in regard to the Parliament Act. I think perhaps the most instructive speech on this particular point, was made by the Under-Secretary for India. I rather prefer to take the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for India to those of any other Gentleman on the Government Bench, because he is not quite so skilful as some of the others in hiding exactly what he means to say. He tried to comfort himself with the idea that his opponents objected not so much that the question of the House of Lords was not being dealt with as to the order in which matters were being dealt with by the Government, and he tried to persuade himself that that was the reason this Amendment was moved. We do not object in the least to the particular order in which hon. Members opposite choose to destroy the Constitution, or to destroy the Established Church, so long as they have a certain common regard to what I may call decency and truth in the matter. We have no right to object to their bringing in Home Rule for Ireland, or to their wishing to bring in a Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church, so long as there is a proper safeguard somewhere else by means of which the people will have a chance of dealing with these measures before they become law. The last people who wish the people of the country to be the arbiters of their legislation appear to be the democratic Liberal party. It is not a question of what hon. Members opposite think, but it is a question of what view the enlightened and independent electors took at the last Election, and what the electors thought of their speeches. I think it is perfectly impossible to get over the fact that the impression made upon the country was that the Veto of the House of Lords should go. I quite admit it, but immediately after that they were going to deal with the Preamble. That was the general impression, certainly in my part of the country. The Under-Secretary for India said last night:— If I can go on to prove that that is the natural and logical order in which to carry out their election pledges, that this proposal should take precedence of a proposal for reform of the House of Lords, then I shall have completely answered the case of the right hon. and learned Gentleman."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1912, col. 407.] I do not think he made out his case at all. I do not deny that it was perfectly natural they should not have made good their promise with regard to reform, but I cannot agree with him for a moment that it was logical. He knows perfectly well that the idea of the people was that, naturally, before they set up a Second Chamber such as the Liberal party wanted it would be necessary, first, to destroy the Veto, but they understood when that was destroyed that then you had the opportunity of proceeding to set up a reformed Second Chamber. I think that was a perfectly logical impression, because in all their addresses in Scotland, and probably in the address of the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for India they put first the question of the Veto and reform of the House of Lords and all those other questions, including Welsh Disestablishment and Home Rule for Ireland, and so on came after. Therefore, in the mind of the hon. Gentleman himself and in the mind of other Members of the Government when they wrote their election addresses the most important question was the question of Veto and reform, and naturally people thought that that was the relative importance of these matters from the way they were put, and that that was the way in which they would be dealt with. The hon. Gentleman talks about things being natural, but I think it is perfectly unnatural that people who want to reform: the Second Chamber should be so unconstitutional as to pass outside legislation before they made their reform, and after they have taken away the power of the House of Lords. Surely it is only natural to think that the Government would not take a mean advantage of the hiatus to pass legislation which would not pass in a Second Chamber composed even of Radical Members. I see an hon. Member for one of the Scottish constituencies opposite, who is probably going to speak later on, and I would direct his attention to some of the election addresses issued by Scotch Members. The whole contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite was that the question of reform was not dealt with in such a manner that people would think it was going to be dealt until long after the suppression of the House of Lords. I have a lot of the election addresses which were issued in Scotland. I take the first half-dozen of them. The first that comes to my hand is that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leith Burghs. He said:— I support the division for the suspension of the Veto of the House of Lords, regarding that as the first step towards a constructive policy, and for measures of devolution and for a reconstructed Second Chamber, and such amendment of Parliamentary procedure as would promote the general interest of the State. Then we will take the next. It is the address issued to the electors of West Aberdeenshire. What were they told? The hon. Member who issued it said:— I am in favour of a Second Chamber, not a hereditary unrepresentative Chamber which cannot be dissolved, but a Chamber consisting of eminent, fair-minded men. Naturally, people thought the first thing you were going to do was to set up a Chamber of that sort. The next is an address issued to the electors of the county of Inverness, and it was issued both in Gaelic and in English:— It is now for you to say whether you are content to leave reform of the House of Lords to be carried out by the Lords themselves, or whether you would prefer to trust it to your representatives. It is for you to settle this question of the Veto of the House of Lords. The next is to the electors of Forfar, and it says:— I am in favour of a Second Chamber, but I consider its members should be chosen for fitness. The hereditary principle should be abolished. What have hon. Members done to abolish it? They began by trying to appoint 500 new Peers. Now we come to the electors of Caithness, and the hon. Gentleman who has spoken last should be interested in this. What did the Member for Caithness say? He said:— To solve the problem of the future of the House of Lords was the hope of all reformers. It was impossible in this age of enlightenment and education that a system based simply upon birthright should continue. I favour the entire abolition of the hereditary principle as a basis of the Second Chamber. Do hon. Members mean to say that in all these election addresses there was not held out the idea of the reform of the Second Chamber and that the hereditary principle was to be done away with? So far as I am concerned, I knew that in the opinion of hon. Members opposite, being a landlord, I was bound to be a scoundrel, and for being the son of my father I was a sort of double-dyed scoundrel. The whole of the election was fought upon the hereditary principle, and what single thing have hon. Members opposite done to make good their promises of reform? Not a single thing except to make a great many new Peers. Among the more or less unimportant Members of this House from Scotland there was one who was really very important, and he issued an address. That is the election address which had great weight in Scotland, because it was the address of the present Secretary of State for War. The people of Scotland were prepared to follow what he said because he was called a solid man, and they did not believe he would be guilty of any misstatement or any juggling with the question. He said:— But while these provisions are a necessary first step they are only a means to an end. We believe in the usefulness of a proper Second Chamber, and if you entrust the House of Commons with the powers we ask, we propose to use them by endeavouring so to reform the Second Chamber as to make it a more adequate reflection of popular opinion than it is now. We shall be glad to welcome as part of this reform opportunities for conference and interchange of views between the two Houses.… We seek nothing revolutionary. Do hon. Members opposite deny that the people of Scotland thought they were going to deal with the question of reform of the House of Lords? Now that finishes my quotations from election addresses. I think hon. Gentlemen will agree with me that in every one of these election addresses the promise is made that the question of reform will be dealt with. The only persons who were perfectly honest were the Labour Members below the Gangway opposite, who said frankly that they were in favour of Single-Chamber Government. I honour them for having stated their intentions plainly. Now how were the people dealt with as regards the speeches that were made? The best person to go to in Scotland so far as that is concerned is the head of the Government, the Lord Advocate. What had he got to say? It is very difficult to follow the Lord Advocate, because when he spoke in the South of Scotland he beat the Home Rule drum as loudly as possible, but when he went to the North of Scotland it was always muffled. He never said a word about Home Rule in the North of Scotland. Not a word about Single-Chamber Government, but when he went to the South he spoke about Home Rule and Single-Chamber Government. Speaking in the South on the 9th April, the Lord Advocate said:— It is quite unnecessary to have more than One-Chamber Government in this country. When he spoke up in the North, in Dingwall, he said:— In not one of the speeches delivered by my opponents could they make good the allegation that the liberal scheme contemplated Single-Chamber Government. I shall be glad if the hon. Gentleman who follows me will say which of these is the correct interpretation. In the South of Scotland he said:— If the House of Lords refuse to play the game, they would sweep it out of existence without a moment's hesitation. It is very difficult to find out what it is really the Lord Advocate intends. I will again take up the speech of the Under-Secretary for India. He advanced a new theory altogether in regard to mandates. He said:— As I understand the theory of mandates, it is that the people elect one set of Ministers or another knowing full well the kind of policy that is associated with their names and professions, and as a general rule, that the Ministry elected have a right to bring in a legitimate programme embracing almost everything which they have not definitely pledged themselves not to bring in.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1911, col. 408.] That is to say, in future the Liberal idea is not to put in the election address what you mean to do but what you mean not to do. That, of course, may suit the conscience of the Under-Secretary for India, but it is a new code of honour so far as political pledges are concerned. It may be a good or a bad code, but it certainly is not democracy, which generally demands that you should tell the electorate exactly what you mean, and then if they return you you are entitled to deal with those questions.


Hear, hear.


Did the Government do that with the Insurance Act? Did the Under-Secretary for India explain the Insurance Act to the electors at the last election? Holding the democratic views he does, no doubt he did, but it would be very interesting to know what he said in relation to the reform of the House of Lords. In his speech the hon. Member went on to speak about the order in which the great measures were going to be dealt with this Session, and he said:— The Veto of the House of Lords first, Home Rule for Ireland second, Disestablishment of the Church in Wales third, and then a change in the franchise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1912, col. 409.] That, he said, was the programme sketched out by a right hon. Gentleman sitting on the Opposition side of the House. If that is so, why did the Government take the Insurance Bill first? Now let us see what the Lord Advocate said upon this question. He put it much more simply. He said that Irishmen supported it because they wanted Home Rule, Welshmen because they desired to disestablish an alien Church, and Scotchmen because they wished to carry through some of their own pet projects. Consequently we see this extraordinary anomaly—that in order to get rid of the Constitution, because Welsh Nonconformists want to get rid of the Church of England, they are going to accept the help of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Because it is so perfectly illogical. The Welsh Nonconformists have to pay a price for it, and the price they are paying for that assistance is that they are to help the Roman Catholics of Ireland to swallow up, so to speak, the Presbyterians of Ulster. That is a natural result. As far as Scotland is concerned, you find exactly the same thing there. It is all finance. I do not believe that in Scotland they care 2d. about the other side of the question. The fact is that the Welsh Church has to be disendowed, Scotland has got a Land Bill which they find is of not very much use to them, and now they are going about in Scotland saying, "Never mind that, we have got £200,000 a year besides." [An HON. MEMBER: "But they would not have got it without the Land Bill."] I quite agree. They supported the Bill because Scotland was going to get £200,000. The result is the majority of Liberals and Home Rulers in Scotland are Members of the Free Church, and the Free Church is exactly the same as the Presbyterian Church in Ulster. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In order to get that £200,000 for Scotland hon. Members are prepared to sell their brother Presbyterians in Ulster.


I would like to ask you, Mr. Whitley, whether this is really relevant to the Motion now before the House.


I think the Noble Lord is in Order and he is entitled to put his case in his own way.


It is clear from the quotations I have made from the election addresses that, behind the question of removing the Veto of the House of Lords, there was some ulterior motive. Most of the speeches at the last Election dealt with the question of a reform of the House of Lords, and that is the very thing which hon. Members are not dealing with now. I do not believe that there is a single hon. Member who placed before the electors the fact that all these other measures were going to be taken before the reform of the Upper House. I am perfectly certain that they did nothing of the sort. The reform of the House of Lords ought to have been the second question dealt with, and then you might have brought in any other measures, and you would have a right to take that course. I think I am entitled to complain of the action of the Lord Advocate who took up the attitude I have already alluded to, for he said one thing in the South of Scotland and another thing in the North. The same sort of statements were made about the reform of the House of Lords and the Insurance Bill. At the present moment the Insurance Bill is being dealt with by absolute bribery and there is no other word for it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] I think I can make good that statement. Has the right hon. Gentleman read what happened, for instance, down in Norfolk quite lately. The following appeared in the "Downham Market Gazette" of 10th February, 1912:— Following on the crowded meeting held on Wednesday in last week. Mr. R. H. Buscall, J.P. (President of the Liberal Association for Watton and District), and Mrs. Buscall invited Mr. Winfrey's supporters to two social evenings in the Wayland Hall. The chair on Thursday night was taken by Mr. Whalebelly, J.P., who said they had come strong in numbers and valiant in courage. Mr. R. Winfrey, M.P., at this stage entered the meeting and was received with loud cheers. The purpose of the evening was social rather than political, and an excellent and somewhat lengthy programme had been prepared by local artists and pleased the audience immensely. Refreshments were subsequently handed round by a good number of waiters and each person present received a packet containing two cigars.


How does the Noble Lord make this refer to the reconstruction of the House of Lords?


It is not absolutely directly connected with it, but I wish to show that the methods, which we can now prove are being taken to popularise unpopular Acts, are exactly the same methods as were pursued when the question of the reform of the House of Lords was dealt with. Next came a character song on 'Paper Bag Cookery,' Mr. P. Bird for an encore gave 'My Wife's Cake.' Mr. W. B. Taylor roused the enthusiasm of the audience by his song 'Give Ireland back to her people.' Refreshments were next handed round, followed by cigars, during which time Miss Butcher favoured with selections on the piano, and the musical programme concluded with the amusing duet, 'Washing Day.' I am perfectly certain the electors will find out the way these questions have been dealt with throughout the country and the way they have been tricked. They will require a washing day, and I am perfectly certain the party opposite will not stand the mangling then.

Captain MURRAY

The House, I think, is much indebted to the Noble Lord for his very interesting speech. I do not propose to follow him in every detail of that speech, or in his incursions into the region of free cigars and other refreshments with which he delighted the House just now. The Noble Lord, in the course of his speech, addressed several questions to me. He referred to a statement made by the Prime Minister to the effect that the deliberate will of the people as expressed at a General Election must prevail, and he went on to ask how the Government was justified in having introduced and passed the National Insurance Act. I might ask the Noble Lord how the late Unionist Government justified the introduction and the passage of the Education and Licensing Acts of 1902–4.


Two wrongs do not make a right.

Captain MURRAY

I believe Members-of Parliament are sent to this House, not as delegates to do this or that particular thing, but generally to carry out the wishes of their constituents as expressed at the General Election. The Noble Lord, proceeding to deal with the gravamen of the charge as expressed in the Amendment, said no Scottish Liberal Member would have been returned had the electors thought when Parliament assembled Home Rule would come before reform of the House of Lords.


I qualified that and said, except certain Members who said boldly they were in favour of Home Rule.

Captain MURRAY

Well, let us say many Scotch Liberal Members would not have been returned had the electors imagined that previous to the introduction of some Bill to reform the House of Lords Home Rule would be introduced and passed into law. The Noble Lord quoted the election addresses of many Scotch Liberal Members in that particular respect. I think it is a matter of opinion. It is open to the Noble Lord to say many Scotch Liberal Members would have lost their seats, and it is quite open to me to retort that would not have been the case. It is purely a matter of opinion. The Noble Lord certainly quoted remarks and observations in those addresses which went to show that the candidates expected and desired a reform of the House of Lords to take place. I do not think the Noble Lord has found any definite pledge in any of those election addresses to the effect that the Liberal candidate, whoever he might be, expected that, as soon as the Parliament Bill had been passed into law, the reform of the House of Lords would be immediately taken up by His Majesty's Government.


That was the idea conveyed to the people.

Captain MURRAY

I am bound to say, listening as I did, to the election addresses read by the Noble Lord, that certainly was not the idea conveyed to my mind. The Noble Lord said the general impression in the country was that, as soon as the Parliament Bill had been passed, the provisions of the Preamble would be carried out. I do not think that was the case, or that that was the impression given either by Members of the Cabinet or by leading Members of the Opposition. The late Leader of the Opposition went down to Reading on 1st December, 1910, during the contest in which the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney-General was the Liberal candidate. He said:— For my own part, I consider Tariff Reform is one of the questions upon which the country is asked to decide. It is not the only one. There is the great problem of constitutional reform and constitutional revolution, and, even apart from these questions, there is a third question—the question of Home Rule. It is quite evident the late Leader of the Opposition imagined that when this Parliament reassembled, should a Liberal Ministry be in power, one of the questions that would be brought before this House would be the question of Home Rule for Ireland. I now come to the present Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bootle, and I wish to add one quotation to that already made this afternoon by the Prime Minister from a speech of that right hon. Gentleman. It is taken from the "Manchester Guardian" of 22nd November, 1910. During the course of the opening speech of the campaign of the right hon. Gentleman on his adoption as Conservative candidate he said:— The best way to judge what the Veto Resolutions mean— I presume the right hon. Gentleman meant the Parliament Bill, because the Parliament Bill was introduced on 14th April, 1910, and this speech was made on 22nd November:— The best way to judge what the Veto Resolutions mean, is to consider what their effect would be if they were law to-day. The first measure that would be passed would be the one demanded by the most, powerful section. Home Rule would become law just as certainly as you and I are in this hall. I consider it is quite evident that the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the Opposition was convinced in his own mind, and this speech proves it, that as soon as the Parliament Bill had passed into law a Home Rule Bill would be the first measure introduced by a Liberal Ministry, for he said:— The first measure that would be passed would be one demanded by the most powerful section. These are the words of the right hon. Gentleman. He might retort that he did not expect the Government to break its pledges. I notice that these words were used by the Noble Lord who has just spoken. He, too, referred to the broken pledges of the Government. But the Leader of the Opposition made no reference in that speech, so far as I can see, to any pledges of the Government on this particular point. Had it been his intention to accuse the Government of the possibility of breaking its pledges, I think it is only reasonable to suppose he would have made mention of it in that speech. But there was no hint in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that the Government had made a definite pledge to introduce a measure for the reform of the House of Lords before introducing and passing into law a Home Rule Bill. I think, in face of this pronouncement, that it is surely, if I may use the term without offence, pure and undiluted hypocrisy to come down to this House and denounce Ministers for introducing a Home Rule Bill before reforming and reconstituting the House of Lords. There can, in my opinion, be only one assumption underlying the arguments among right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in support of this Amendment, and that is this, that any reformed Second Chamber which might be set up by this Government would assist the party opposite in its endeavours to destroy the Home Rule Bill. That would, in my opinion—I may be wrong—account for the desire of the Opposition that the House of Commons should immediately undertake to reform and reconstitute the Second Chamber. They imagined that a reformed and reconstituted Second Chamber would be such a one as would favour the purposes they have in view. Do they really, honestly suppose that the Government intends so to reconstitute and reform the Second Chamber that it will carry out the views of the Unionist party?

The Noble Lord referred to the necessity for proper safeguards. That is going back to old ideas. The "proper safeguards" he had in mind would no doubt allow the House of Lords to do what it liked with any important Liberal measure that came to it from the House of Commons. But as an hon. Member who spoke from these benches a short time ago remarked, there is one thing that has been made clear in this Debate, and it is one for which we on this side of the House are grateful, namely, that to any Second Chamber set up by this Government there is not to be restored the unlimited Veto which existed in the days of old. I am inclined to think it is quite possible, had the Government undertaken to reform the constitution of the House of Lords prior to entering on the Home Rule Bill, the Second Chamber, reformed and reconstituted on a democratic basis, would have assisted in a more speedy passage of the Home Rule Bill. I am therefore of opinion that the Government are conferring a benefit on the Opposition, if they can only realise it, in not having undertaken the reform of the House of Lords previously to entering on the Home Rule Bill, which will shortly be under the discussion of this House. One other thing which has been made perfectly clear is the attitude of the Opposition upon the question of reforming the House of Lords. It is just as well that not only we in this House, but the country outside should understand exactly what that attitude is. As defined by every speech made from the benches opposite, the attitude of the Unionist party with regard to the reform of the House of Lords is that if and when it is in a position itself to reform the House of Lords it will again set up a Second Chamber armed with the unlimited veto which the House of Lords possessed a year or two ago. There is every proof of that. There is proof in the speeches which have been made to-day and yesterday, and in the speeches made by Unionist Leaders at the last General Election and during the past year. I have here a speech made by the Leader of the Unionist party in the House of Lords, Lord Lansdowne, at Glasgow, on 25th November, 1910, which bears upon this particular point. In that speech Lord Lansdowne made reference to the first Education Bill of 1906, the Licensing Bill of 1908, and to the Budget, and he then went on to say:— I hope I have said enough to show you that in the case of these three Bills, which after all are the only foundation upon which rests the charge of obstruction against the House of Lords, the House of Lords acted as any self-respecting Chamber would have acted in the circumstances. That proves, to my mind, that any Second Chamber set up under the ægis of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would be such a Chamber as was the House of Lords previous to the restriction of its veto, and that it would continue to exercise in the future, as it exercised in its palmy days of old, those methods of wrecking and destruction in respect of Liberal measures which I for one dare to say have now been relegated to the limbo of the past. It is because I believe there is a possibility that when the Unionist party has been returned to power it will carry out its policy in that respect that I consider it essential that this Government should, before it goes out of office, whenever that may be, itself undertake to reconstitute and reform the House of Lords on a democratic basis. I do not think that any arguments have been advanced by hon. Gentlemen opposite to show that this Ministry should have embarked upon that task as soon as the Parliament Bill had been passed. We have the assurance of the Prime Minister that the task will be entered upon within the lifetime of the present Parliament, and I for one, looking to the possible result in the future should this task be left to the Unionist party, will, when the Government enters upon the task of reforming and reconstituting the House of Lords on a democratic basis, give it my most hearty support.


I do not think the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Murray) is altogether right in his diagnosis of what we on this side will do if we have a chance of reforming the Upper Chamber. He is right in two things. We shall certainly be sitting on that side of the House before very long, and we will certainly undertake the reform of the Upper House before we go out of office. Those who have listened to the two days' Debate on this Amendment, and politicians outside who have read it, must be astonished to see how far apart the two great parties in the State have drifted in connection with this great controversy. Little more than a year ago four leading men on this side of the House and four leading men from the other side of the House tried to thresh out a compromise. We on the back benches imagined that a compromise was going to be arrived at. Suddenly there came a certain by-election, and we were told the compromise could not be arrived at. The conference was broken up, and I suppose we shall never know exactly why it did break up. At any rate we realise now that the time for conference has gone by, because there is too great a difference between the two great parties. They want one thing, we want the other. We want a Second Chamber armed with the necessary powers that a Second Chamber possesses in every civilised country; they want the Second Chamber kept as it is, with only a suspensory veto, and distorted in some way to suit themselves.

9.0 P.M.

A great statesman said some time back that the true function of the Second Chamber, if it is to be of any use at all, is to make good the deficiencies of the First Chamber. I think every Member of this House will agree that that statement has a good deal of truth in it. If we had a perfect First Chamber then we should not want a Second Chamber. The question is, have we in this House a perfect First Chamber? A short while ago the Prime Minister asked whether the House of Commons as it is at present elected is a mirror of the national mind. He himself in his speech this evening answered that question in the negative. He asked was it an ideal assembly, and he had to say it was not. A short time ago he appointed a Royal Commission, and in its Report I came across some very valuable information touching the Second Chamber. A Mr. Corbett was examined by this Commission, and his analysis was accepted by the Commission. This is the evidence that he gave. He gave the figures of the General Election of December, 1910. He told the Commission that there were cast on the Ministeial side—the coalition side, Labour, Nationalist, and Liberal, 3,278,308 votes, which gave the Ministerialists 398 seats, while on the Unionist side there were cast 2,922,263 votes, which gave 292 seats. That gave a majority to the coalition of 355,945 votes, and a majority in seats of 126, but supposing the seats had been allocated on any more fair and rational plan they would have been altered from 398 on the Ministerial side to 354, and on the Unionist side they would have gone up from 272 to 316, giving the Ministerial party a majority, not of 126 but of only 38—something quite different.

More than that, an hon. Member on the other side of the House has had the great good fortune, which only occurs once in a lifetime, to pull off in the last few days a 669 to one chance. He came out first in the ballot for Private Bills and the lucky Gentleman is going to introduce a Bill on 1st March to abolish Plural Voting, that intolerable anomaly; and, as I understand, if this child that he is going to bring forth, is a fair child and not an "anæmic bantling," as the Prime Minister describes this Amendment, the Government will adopt it unless, of course, it is kidnapped by some suffragette. It is to be tacked on to the Government measure which was adumbrated in the King's Speech, and the Government measure, as I understand, is going to be One man One vote; and if the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster can be induced to leave the Cabinet and go to the Lords, in addition to "One Man, One Vote" it may be "One Woman, One Vote." But there is going to be also a short residential qualification. All the intricacies of the electoral law at present are being swept away, and there is going to be an age limit of twenty-five years. All these three things are fairly reasonable, or, at any rate, worth arguing, but the one real issue is going to be evaded. If we are going to have One man, One vote, we ought to have One vote One value, and without that any form of electoral reform is absolutely laughable. If you do not have a fair distribution the whole thing is unfair. When I say fair distribution, I mean fair distribution. I do not mean the distribution that we had in 1885, when, to make a safe seat for an hon. Gentleman in Chelsea, a certain Radical portion of London was tacked on to Chelsea. On the undeveloped estate of the London County Council, half way up the Strand, there is a working model supplied by the ingenuity and resource of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Morrison-Bell), and I can imagine when the average Member of Parliament walks up the Strand he takes a glance at the little structure. If he is an Irish Member he must feel rather smaller than the small fairy and leprechauns that his nurse told him about in his childhood. If he represents a Division in Middlesex or Essex he must be a son of Anak. The chief argument about redistribution advanced by hon. Members opposite is that there is a certain rough justice. Take the whole thing all round, Middlesex is under-represented and so is Essex.


May I ask you, Sir, whether this discussion on redistribution and voting is relevant to the Amendment?


I was trying to follow the hon. Member's argument, but I have not, so far, been able to see the connection.


I was going to try and prove that, as we are not a fully representative Chamber, we ought to have a fully equipped and up-to-date Second Chamber. There was a certain pamphlet on Home Rule, written by the hon. Member (Mr. MacVeagh), and the First Lord of the Admiralty wrote a short introduction in which he made a very clear statement. He said:— Parliament is not sufficiently representative of the local and permanent life of the nation. Of course, we all know that minorities have to suffer, but what we all ought to do in reforming the Upper Chamber, or this House, is to see that minorities should not suffer, and every minority in the country should be represented either in one Chamber or the other. Now that Sweden and Norway have gone, we shall not hear much about them in the discussion about Home Rule, but we shall hear a certain amount about Austria-Hungary. Curiously enough, during the last few years, Austria-Hungary has been remodelling both her Upper Chamber and tier Lower Chamber, and what she has done I think we might with advantage do. The reform was carried out as lately as 1907. Seats are redistributed by provinces, and each province has the right of sending so many representatives to the Viennese Chamber, and the Lower Chamber has strictly defined powers and relations with the Upper Chamber, all remodelled since 1907. There are many nations in Austria-Hungary. Each nation is allotted so many seats in this Lower Chamber and it has to vote by nationalities, that is to say Poles have to vote for Poles, Czechs have to vote for Czechs, Germans for Germans, and so forth. Therefore you have absolute representation for every one of these nations. The Chamber below is fairly constituted, and the Chamber above is equally responsible to the Lower Chamber. Are we going to do that in any scheme of reform of this House or the Upper House? I think not. We shall do nothing of the sort. We are not going to give our minorities a chance at all. What chance are we going to give a minority in county Cork?


I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman has mistaken the Amendment before the House. He appears to be anticipating the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Morrison-Bell) dealing with electoral inequalities. It would not be in Order on the present Amendment to anticipate that.


If our Second Chamber is not too representative we ought to have a representative Upper Chamber. We have not got a truly representative House of Commons, and until we have got that, Members on both sides ought to combine to make our Upper Chamber truly representative of the nation. I, for one, will support the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division. If hon. Members opposite believe that the reconstitution of the House of Lords should be proceeded with at once, they will accompany me into the same Lobby, but I do not suppose they will do it.


I should like to bring to the attention of the House what the Amendment really aims at, and what is the difference between the Government and the Opposition. We seem to be all agreed about the reconstitution of the Upper House being necessary, and the question is whether it ought to take place at once or not. Hon. Members opposite seem inclined to press for an immediate alteration in the constitution of the Upper House. They have been very well satisfied with it for a great many years, and it is rather surprising, if a great step in the way of change is to be taken, that they should wish it to be taken without further consideration. We have all been a good deal among our constituents during the last two years. There were two Elections in 1910. At the first Election the question was whether the Upper House had power to reject financial measures or not. The country could understand that issue, and the country voted upon it and decided it. At the second Election the question was whether the Veto of the House of Lords should any longer continue, or whether it ought not to be limited on the lines indicated by Mr. John Bright and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. The country could understand that issue, and the electors voted on it and settled it. I wish to ask any hon. or right hon. Gentleman who was before his constituents at these two Elections whether he ever heard any definite opinion expressed as to what the reconstitution or reform of the House of Lords should be. Did he ever really find that any real interest whatsover was taken in that matter? What the electors were able to grasp and understand and vote upon was the question of the Veto.

I do not believe there are half a dozen Members in this House who would agree, if you gave them carte blanche to-morrow morning, as to what should be done with the House of Lords. Hon. Members opposite have a vague idea that if they could do something to the House of Lords that Chamber would get back the Veto, and even the right to interfere in financial business. Is there any practical politician in the United Kingdom who would say that that is a change even to be thought of? The question we have before us is a very difficult one. What are we going to do as to the reconstitution of the House of Lords? It is pretty well agreed that you cannot reconstitute the Upper House without interfering with the hereditary foundation. The question of the reconstitution of the House of Lords is difficult because there is no formed public opinion on the subject. We know that Noble Lords in another place, that statesmen in this House, and that public men, both on the platform and in the Press, have been advocating various schemes and proposals for the reconstruction of the House of Lords. I think everyone in the House will bear me out when I say that these reformers bring forward what may be described as their own fancies. They are proposals which no one very much believes in, and which the public do not care very much about. I think what we ought to aim at is this. Give the country a little time to form its opinion on the subject. There is no better means of commencing to deal with the constitutional question than by first facing the question of devolution.

A good many quotations have been brought before the House to-day, and I am going to give one which is very much older than those we have already heard. I do not know how many years it is since the late Lord Beaconsfield was a young man in this House. On one of the first occasions when the perpetual Irish question came before the House after he entered Parliament, he said that he wished some statesman would rise up and tell them what the Irish question really was. At one time it was a religious question, at another time an agricultural question. He went on to say that Ireland was cursed with an alien Church, an absentee aristocracy, and a starving peasantry. He said, further, that in some countries the remedy for that would be revolution, but in Ireland revolution was impossible. The question was one for some far-seeing statesman to grapple, with the view of accomplishing a settlement which others, up to that time, had been unable to bring about. Words to that effect were used by Lord Beaconsfield, then Mr. Disraeli, in this House probably seventy years ago, and yet the problem is just as clearly before us to-day as it was then. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are opposed to the policy of the Government in regard to Ireland. Let us suppose that their dearest wishes were realised, and that in the course of another Session or two they were able to put us in a minority, with the result that they themselves came back to office. Do they think that the Irish question would disappear? Do they not feel that the Irish question is the very first with which they would be confronted? Let me remind them that this and similar problems are like the riddles of the Sphinx. If you cannot solve them, they will devour you.

I need not go back into the history of the party opposite on this matter. They have not been so well able to avoid considering this question. We know what happened in the case of the late Lord Carnarvon. We know what happened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), and we know that Lord Dudley himself said that Ireland should be governed according to Irish ideas. Hon. Gentlemen should face the situation and realise that there would be no greater salvation to them as a party than that the Irish question should be got rid of. I do not believe that the dangers and difficulties are as great as they were in the days when Lord Beaconsfield spoke. You have got rid of the alien church in spite of the opposition of predecessors of hon. Gentlemen opposite. With regard to the absentee aristocracy, hon. Gentlemen opposite are very fond of considering themselves as the supporters of an aristocracy. May I remind them that no class in Ireland has suffered so much from the Act of Union as the Irish aristocracy and the landed interest. I would make one appeal to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to realise the facts of the situation, and instead of accusing the Government of not dealing with remote and theoretic questions, such as the reconstitution of a Second Chamber, help them to deal with the problem before us. I trust that the time may come when they will help us to deal with this question, and that we shall deal with it from all points of view in the best interests of Ireland. Personally I should like to see the land question dealt with at the same time as the question of local self-government. Mr. Gladstone's belief was that this should be done, but hon. Gentlemen opposite and their predecessors made a fatal mistake on this matter, and the land question was divorced from the question of the self-government of Ireland. This great matter of the Irish question is the most important that affects the British Empire. The ex-President of the United States was in this country some years ago. He had interviews with various persons in high stations, and he made it clearly understood that if we want the friendship of America we must have settled the Irish question, because he said that no political party in the United States can possibly afford to disregard the Irish vote; and so long as the Irish question remains unsettled so long will a full friendship with the United States be impossible.


The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken associated his arguments with the speech of the Prime Minister. I trust that he will not think me discourteous if I do not reply at any length to his speech. He has founded his argument for the immediate introduction of the Home Rule Bill upon a sentence of a speech delivered in Parliament nearly a century ago, which blamed the misery of Ireland upon the existence of an alien church, an absentee aristocracy, and a starving peasantry. The alien church has been removed; absentee landlordism is being removed by the beneficent action of the Unionist Land Purchase Act, and it would have been removed faster had it not been for the last Land Purchase Act, which was introduced, not without the blessings of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, three years ago. As for the starving peasantry, it is admitted by all parties in Ireland that Ireland was never so prosperous and never enjoyed such continuous and abundant prosperity as at the present moment. I turn to the speech of the Prime Minister. It is always rather presumptuous on the part of comparatively inexperienced Parliamentarians to critise a master of debate like the Prime Minister, but there are one or two comments which ought to be made on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He began by some very excellent chaff about the order in which the Opposition had thought fit to present their Amendment to the Address. I say this to the Prime Minister; at all events we are in the position that we are free agents in selecting the order in which we present business from the Opposition point of view. It does not seem clear whether the Government can say the same thing about the order in which they present legislative business to this House.

Brilliant as was the Prime Minister's dialectic, the substance of his argument was very meagre and very jejune. He had two lines of defence, which were mutually inconsistent and mutually destructive. The first was: "we promised a reform of the House of Lords and we mean to keep our pledge and set up a reformed Second Chamber when time permits." That statement was not received with resounding cheers by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. The Prime Minister challenged us to point to any statement of the Government with regard to their intentions as to when this should be done, and I will come to that in a moment. In the next breath he proceeded to advert to to the speeches with regard to Home Rule and the probability of the introduction of Home Rule which were made by my two right hon. Friends who sit below me, in the 1910 Election. He said that they warned the country in 1910, that if the Government were returned to power, a Home Rule Bill would be introduced. Is there any hon. or right hon. Gentleman on that side of the House who went down to his constituents in 1910 and said, "What the Tories are saying is true. If we are returned to power, a Home Rule Bill will be introduced." There was not one Member of the Government who went down and said that what we were stating on public platforms was true.

What is the Prime Minister's argument even if that were so? It is really a most extraordinary argument. It is, "You, the Tories, state that if we, the Government, were returned to power we would break our pledges, that we would introduce a Home Rule Bill in advance of any measure for the reform of the House of Lords. That is what you state. We have been returned to power, and, therefore, we are justified in breaking our promises." It is just as if a burglar were arrested by a policeman, with the family plate in a tablecloth, outside the house, and the burglar said to the policeman, "You warned the householder that if he left a window open a burglary would be committed in his house, and, therefore, you have no right to complain because I have committed burglary in his house." The truth is that the argument of the Prime Minister does not touch the whole point of our complaint. We say that, "You, the Government, undertook, as we think unwisely and as we say for purely party purposes, to resettle the Constitution. By your own admission, and the Prime Minister's admission to-night, the Constitution is not yet resettled. You are in the interim, according to your own admission, and while the Constitution is not resettled but is in a state of flux, bringing forward a great mass of legislation on partisan subjects for purely partisan purposes. You bring forward the Home Rule Bill as well as the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, and you put aside this convenient stalking-horse, laying it on the shelf, until a more convenient period to produce it." That is th case which has not yet been met on the Government Benches.

Their only excuse is that Members on the Treasury Bench, Members of the Ministry, are not even now agreed among themselves as to the expediency of the policy which is contained in their own Preamble to the Parliament Act. There was a time when, under great Parliamentary leaders like Mr. Gladstone, Ministerial responsibility was a real and living force, and a real and living idea. Now it is the mere shadow of a name. There are as many voices on that bench as there were gates in Thebes. I will come to the Lord Advocate in a moment. I do not propose to hold a symposium, interesting though it might be, of the various opinions which have been expressed at different times by Members of the Treasury Bench; but there are one or two which I think are worth noting. The First Lord of the Admiralty, for instance, so far as I have been able to discover, has crystallised his idea of the policy which the Government are to pursue in the following pellucid sentence, which he delivered on the First Reading of the Parliament Bill. He said:— Reform may come in the near future, or, possibly in the more distant future. That is a Delphic sort of utterance which has the merit, and I daresay its crowning merit, of leaving a means of escape. The Prime Minister challenged us to produce any statement by a responsible Member of the Government which gives any indication as to the time at which the Bill for the reconstitution of the House of Lords would be introduced. I will do my best to meet that challenge. The statement to which I refer was not made in this place, but in another, and perhaps more appropriately in another place, because the House of Lords is the immediate bone of contention. This is what the Lord Chancellor had to say in the House of Lords on 6th July, and I think he completely answers the question of the Prime Minister as to any indication of the time that was specified for the introduction of a Bill for the reform of the House of Lords. The Lord Chancellor said:— Everybody knows what the nature of our proposal with regard to the Preamble is. That is rather a large assumption. As regards the question of how long this Bill is to remain in force until the other Bill is brought in, I would point out that these two Bills are what I may call twin Bills. Poor twin Reform Bill, separated from its legislative sister, the Parliament Act, by a long progeny of partisan measures. I do not know what the Prime Minister has to say with regard to that definition as defining the point of time. It seems to me he could hardly have had the speech of the Lord Chancellor present to his mind, or at all events it may be capable of some explanation that I am unable to point out. The Prime Minister, as he did on the occasion of the Debates on the Parliament Bill, and just as he has again done tonight, becomes very indignant when we venture to impugn the bona fides of the Government. If we venture to suggest that the Government are not very anxious to pursue the policy of reform, the Prime Minister seems to bind the Preamble as a phylactery round his brow, and he says the reform of the House of Lords is an integral part of the Government policy. And I understand that he still sticks to it.

When the Prime Minister sends the Lord Advocate and the Patronage Secretary down into the highways and byways of the country to make proselytes to his party, the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate does not say it is an integral part of the Government policy. On the contrary, he says the reform of the House of Lords is the merest moonshine and humbug. He was reported in the "Times" of 15th April last — if the right hon. Gentleman refers to that journal he will see the report—as having said, speaking at Paddington, that the reform of the House of Lords is the merest moonshine and humbug, and then, as if that was not enough, and in order that there might be no doubt as to what he meant, he went on to say— One of the institutions was false. It could not be improved, therefore they must sweep it away as a cumberer of the ground. The Lord Advocate says that the reform of the House of Lords is the merest moonshine and humbug. I am not altogether certain that he is not even a more accurate interpreter of the intention of the Government than the Prime Minister. I wish to ask, whether the Prime Minister, as the head of the Government, endorses or disavows the language which the Lord Advocate used. If he endorses it, what becomes of this Preamble? If he disavows it, why is it that the right hon. Gentleman is to reply for the Government? I do not wish to prolong this symposium any further. At all events, if the position of Ministers is obscure, and the position of the Treasury Bench is somewhat obscure, the position of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on this side of the House has always been perfectly consistent. They insisted on the Parliament Bill because it would lead to Home Rule. They insisted on the Parliament Bill because by an inversion of what we believe to be the principles of democracy, it provided an avenue for the Home Rule Bill, without the possibility of any pronouncement by the country on its terms, which are unknown even now, not only to the country outside, but I firmly believe to many hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench.

The hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond), and the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and their friends thought it was a good day for them when, having the fate of the Parliament Bill in their hands, turned up their thumbs and allowed it to pass into law. It is true that they avoided the inconvenience of having a national vote on the question of the government of Ireland, or they thought they had avoided the inconvenience of a national vote on the question of the government of Ireland, and that the administration of the King's laws, and the collection of the King's revenue and the preservation of the King's peace were to be entrusted—[HON. MEMBERS: "Belfast."].—Hon. Gentlemen thought that they did well for themselves when they devised a Parliamentary state of things by which those things of which I have spoken were to be entrusted to the hands of themselves and the Dublin Corporation and Major McBride, and other eminent loyalists of that description. [An HON. MEMBER; "Dublin University."]. I tell hon. Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway that they mistake alike the temper of Unionists and the feelings of the country, and they mistake the lessons of history if they believe that by those means, or any such means, a Home Rule Bill can be smuggled into effect. No, Sir. The Government have, by a conspiracy against the Constitution, passed the Parliament Act, and they now tell us they are going to introduce a Home Rule Bill. Do not delude yourselves into the belief that by doing so you have either effected a permanent constitutional settlement or ensured the effective passage of Home Rule.

We hear a great deal about free speech for the First Lord of the Admiralty. I am not sanguine enough to believe that under this regime even the elements of free speech will be accorded to us in our opposition in this House to a Home Rule Bill. The shadow of the guillotine is almost across the very pages of the gracious Speech, which we are now discussing. I say this to the Government tonight: Be well assured that this is not a game which will pay with the country in the long run. You can gain, no doubt, in the House, and you can stifle debate, and you can boast of having tricked your political opponents, but you cannot gag to the country, and you will find that out; and you cannot cozen, and you cannot coerce—and you will find that out—a free and resolute people in Ulster. Now wait and see, and you cannot, although you would, stifle the real cry of democracy for government by the people and for the people, and not as your shoddy sham would give it, government by twisting the Constitution, by log-rolling in the House of Commons, and gerrymandering the electorate to serve the sordid ends of your own political party.


I want to elicit, if I may, from the Leader of the Opposition the meaning of the last three lines of the Amendment. No one yet has explained the significance of those. The whole Debate seems to have been concentrated on the first two lines. Before I put my point in regard to that may I express personally my satisfaction at the manner in which the spokesmen of the Government have cleared up the position so far as we are concerned on this side with regard to the future reconstitution of the Second Chamber? We have it now beyond any doubt at all that the limited Veto of the Parliament Act is to be a permanent part of the Constitution so far as those who sit on these benches are concerned. Having taken that premiss, we have, I think, an answer to the point which has been put several times already in most of the speeches from the other side, namely, that it is not exactly a point against us to argue that we have not sought a very early opportunity to reform the Second Chamber, but that it should be attributed to us for virtue for this reason. It would probably be very much easier for us to get our Home Rule Bill through into law, and certainly very much more easy to get our Disestablishment Bill into law, if we had already in existence a reformed Second Chamber. We know now that the powers under the Parliament Act, while that Chamber remains constituted as it is, are very extensive powers indeed.

On three occasions when the Parliament Bill was going through last year I ventured to express apprehensions, which I have not yet been able to drop, that the powers of the Second Chamber over a Home Rule Bill and a Disestablishment Bill will be very serious indeed. Let hon. Gentlemen recall the fact that it will be necessary for us to carry those Bills through every stage in this House subject to all the ingenious obstruction of the reconstituted Opposition, and that we shall have to carry them through every stage without alteration, with all the intricate financial details and all the little attempts to be generous, as we all shall be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—Hon. Members are premature—to be generous with regard to the endowments under the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, and let them recollect all those intricate details, many of which will be matters of compromise undoubtedly and give and take in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Take, not give."] All those details have to be carried through every stage three times in succession without alteration. Really, hon. Members when they come down and boast of the opposition that they are going to make to Home Rule and Disestablishment, and when they talk of marching to Dublin and all that kind of thing, do very little credit indeed to their own power over public opinion if they thick it is going to be easy for this House, in the face of an awakened public opinion, to carry the measure through without considerable difficulty. I also am glad to think that the other Chamber is going to be reformed for another reason. While the present Members are there, and those serried battalions are available for the next reactionary Government whenever it comes into power, so long will there be the temptation for that reactionary Government to restore the powers to them at the first opportunity. But give us a changed Constitution in personnel, and even on the Lansdowne model, not to mention an elective one, there will be just a possibility that Conservative measures like Tariff Reform will receive that same discriminatory consideration that a Second Chamber would give to Liberal measures, and then I can quite conceive the possibility of a Conservative Government hugging this very limited Veto as if it were the child of their own bosom and a thing very helpful to them.

The discussion has been concentrated for these two days upon pledges. I have no doubt that hon. Members have taken that course quite fairly and honestly, because, after all, I take it that the House of Commons point has been that of pledges. But I suspect that the portion of the Resolution that is intended to impress the country is not the first portion, but the last three lines, where there is the implication that the measures we are going to carry through will vitally affect the safety of the State, and that the safety of the State is due to the safeguarding influence of the House of Lords with its Veto. What is the significance of this statement? As to the safety of the State from external complications, imperial or international, the House of Lords has never been allowed seriously to touch the question of war at all. This House, and this House alone, could starve the Navy or the Army to-morrow, and the House of Lords, even with its old powers, would be helpless. In regard to home affairs, is it contended that the passing of Home Rule will seriously affect the safety of the State? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Will the Leader of the Opposition here and now repeat the old bogey that was prevalent even in 1894, and certainly in 1885 and 1886, that if you give Home Rule to Ireland, the Irish people will entice a foreign enemy to that land, and assist that foreign enemy to attack this country? Is that what this statement is intended to imply in the tory club-rooms, in the little sawdust floor places in the country villages? Where does the safety of the State come in? Will it be affected by Welsh Disestablishment? Will the right hon. Gentleman, in his position of responsibility, repeat what some of the bishops have been repeating in their irresponsibility—I mean English bishops; no Welsh bishop would do it—that if you take away the tithe from the Church of England and a few of its ancient endowments you will affect the safety and the stability of the country? I do not want to argue the question of Welsh Disestablishment, though I am very much tempted to do it by the speech of the hon. Member for Dudley (Sir A. Griffith-Boscawen). I will mention only one point. I will take Rhondda Valley, a great mining centre, the case upon which the Established Church in Wales relies when it comes to England to prove the progress it has made. In the twenty years from 1861 to 1881 that district was converted from an agricultural to an industrial district, and the population sprang up from 3,000 to 55,000. For that increase of over 50,000 all the riff-raff of every industrial district of the country came in a conglomerate and chaotic mass into the new district. What did the Established Church—State-aided and all the rest of it—contribute to the formation of the civic character of that 50,000 people? The building of three small churches presented to them by wealthy donors, whereas the Nonconformists, by their voluntary principle, put up seventy chapels in the course of the same period. I give that to show that, so far as Wales is concerned, you might remove your Established Church, lock, stock, and barrel, and the Welsh people would be hardly conscious that it had disappeared from their midst.

I put this in all seriousness to the right hon. Gentleman. These things, after all, are but the forms of society. The real forces of society upon which the safety of the State depends are the forces that are working in the terrible apprehension that are filling the minds of men to-day in England. This industrial unrest is not a passing phenomena. It is going to increase and deepen in its intensity. What can the Second Chamber do in regard to that? Here, if you get a great upheaval, is something that may shape perhaps the whole of your Parliamentary institutions and your other social institutions. Where have the House of Lords been this week? They could have met to-day; they could meet to-morrow. They have time and leisure. If they are so useful to the people, why do they not endeavour to provide some way out of these difficulties, and find some solution that will affect these vital matters and forces in society? But they do nothing, absolutely nothing, because they stand to-day paralysed by their traditional indolence and ineptitude. If you grant that they cannot initiate, what about their powers of repression in the matter of insuring the safety of the State? If this strike begins, and rioting and violence break out, as they may, their repressive effect will be about as much as that of a champagne cork in the crater of Vesuvius. This discussion of the last two days has been fiddling while Rome is burning. I invite the right hon. Gentleman and his party to drop these proceedings, to sit down in the spirit that was manifested last Thursday, which I was delighted to see, and to get at the real forces that are leading society, towards which this constitutional reform is, in our opinion, the first step.


I had not intended to take part in the discussion of this Amendment, as—I should like to say to my hon. Friends behind me—I do not consider it part of my duty to speak on every subject because it is important. If I had so considered it, I do not think I should have been willing to accept the position in which I now stand. I speak to-night only because my right hon. Friend (Sir E. Carson), who is able to take part in the Division, is not able to speak as he has intended. No one is more sorry than I that the speech of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. E. Jones), which threatened to be so eloquent, was brought to such a premature conclusion. His simile of the champagne cork was delicious. It was almost the more effective because he left out the champagne. He has asked me what we mean by the latter part of the Amendment. Every one of the speeches from this bench has been directed to that very point, and I mean to direct my remarks to it also. The hon. Member asked whether we really consider the granting of Home Rule to be a danger to the State. I say, without the smallest hesitation, that we consider that it is not only a danger, but a great danger. I say that under any circumstances two democratic Parliaments, sitting side by side, cannot be certain of working without friction. That friction is dangerous, and if a state of war were to arise where those democratic Parliaments took different views it would not be merely a danger, but a danger that might be fatal to the existence of the Empire. I am not going to follow the hon. Member in what he said about Welsh Disestablishment, but I would like to refer to his generous reference that he was going to be kind in regard to existing endowments. In that connection I would remind him of a Spanish proverb that is very much to the point:— He stole a pig, and in God's name gave the trotters to the poor. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in the speech which he delivered before dinner, gave us even a larger variety than usual—and that is saying a good deal—of delightful phrases, phrases to which apparently he had devoted some little attention, with the view, which I am sure has been realised, that those phrases might serve to hide the weakness of the case which he was attempting to make to the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman in the beginning of that speech was very much interested about the particular nature of the official Amendment. There were several alternatives which apparently he would have preferred. He referred to a speech made by me in a large hall in London, which, by the way, though I did not think it was very remarkable at the time I made it, must have been extremely successful, because the standard of success which I set up is the amount of irritation which my speech has caused to my opponents.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the charge that I had made in that speech that our soldiers were carrying weapons which were so inferior from those of other countries that it was a serious danger to the country. He challenged us—that is me, I presume—to make good that statement. I am quite ready to say to the right hon. Gentleman that I consider that that subject should be dealt with on the Estimates, but if he is willing to give us a day to discuss the matter I shall gratefully accept it. The next subject which the right hon. Gentleman considers we might have made our official Amendment is what I described in the speech to which I referred as the "spoils system." The right hon. Gentleman may keep his mind perfectly easy. We shall give him every opportunity of defending his Government from all such charges. I have put down a Motion for a Return giving the particulars of Gentlemen who have been appointed to public position without examination. That Return, I am sure, the right hon. Gentleman will grant. It can be given, I think, in a short time, and I can assure him that the moment we receive it we shall lose no opportunity of giving him the occasion he desires.

10.0 P.M.

But there is one other incident in connection with my speech at the opening of the Session which apparently was the cause of virtuous indignation among the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. I was rather surprised that they referred to it. In that speech I put a question which the right hon. Gentleman regarded as an insult. He summarised my question in this form. I will quote his exact words:— He— That is I— asked the question whether public money has been expended for the purpose of agitation or meetings in connection with this measure. I had said that it had occurred to me that the defence of the Government might be, although I did not think it was legitimate, that as the Bill had become an Act it would be justifiable to spend public-money upon it. The right hon. Gentleman gave his answer:— No, not a halfpenny of public money has been spent or will be spent in that way. So far the Prime Minister. The matter was carried a step further yesterday. I put this question to the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary:— Mr. Bonar Law: Did I understand the hon. Gentleman correctly to say that no meetings had been held except at the express desire of the societies which had been addressed by these lecturers? Mr. Masterman; I think that is true as far as the English Commission is concerned. Perhaps I had better make further inquiries. Mr. Bonar Law: Is it true as regards the United Kingdom? Have practically public meetings been held which have been paid for out of public money? Mr. Masterman: Addresses have been given both in Scotland and in Ireland— He might, of my certain knowledge, added, in Wales— which have not been limited to the organisations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th Feb., 1912, Vol. XXXIV., col. 292.] We are getting on. This question shows clearly two things. It shows that the right hon. Gentleman had no conception of what is being done in the Government of which he is head. It shows, further, that when he considered what they had done impartially, and before he knew that they had done it and was bound to defend it, he regarded it as something which was an insult and utterly indefensible. This is the first round in this controversy. I am not dissatisfied with the result, and I have every reason to expect that I shall be quite satisfied with the further development. The right hon. Gentleman next objected that we have not introduced a fiscal Amendment as our official Amendment. I do think it was hardly worth his while to raise that. I should really have considered that every Member of this House would have recognised, quite apart from what my convictions are upon this subject—of that I must be the judge—from my past record in connection with the subject that my hon. Friends behind me would not have chosen me to be their Leader unless they had known that this plank of our policy would be pushed forward without the smallest hesitation. Now I say to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who thinks we are weakening upon Tariff Reform because we did not make it the subject of our official Amendment, although he knows we could only produce one official Amendment, during the long years he was in Opposition did he ever once move an official Opposition Amendment upon the subject which is now so near to his heart, Home Rule for Ireland? I think we have a good justification, if our view is right, in the choice we have made. We believe in the words which were used by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) that this question of the degradation of the House of Commons is the most important matter in British politics to-day. The country has not a system of representative Government; it is living under the tyranny of Cabinet autocracy. We believe that that is true, every word of it, and, believing it we make it naturally the subject of our official Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman, in one of his delightful phrases to which I have referred, spoke of the Amendment as pallid and anæmic. It is a strong phrase, but it does not seem to have very much meaning, and I prefer the description given of the Amendment by the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for India. He said it was an extremely simple Amendment. So it is; and the case made by my right hon. Friends and by my hon. Friends behind me by which it is supported is equally simple, and it is for that reason that the Government have found is difficult, I believe impossible, to give-any answer to the case which we have made. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General taunted my right hon. Friend the Member for Walton, who moved the Amendment in a speech which the Prime Minister described as full of blank cartridges, but blank cartridges have at least this advantage, that they can evidently leave their wounds—the Solicitor-General taunted my right hon. Friend with his industry in raking up old speeches. It is a natural taunt. When the Government are engaged in carrying out a policy which is not only inconsistent with their speeches but with definite pledges, it is natural that they should object to be reminded of those speeches. I am not going to requote the references which, as I believe, have established our case up to the hilt, but I am going very briefly to restate the case.

At the beginning of the 1910 Parliament the King's Speech promised as one of its measures the reform of the constitution of the House of Lords. That was, of course, dropped for the adequate and sufficient reason, as was frankly told us by the hon. and learned Member for Water-ford (Mr. Redmond), that he refused to support it. We then come to the General Election. The Government went to the country, as they admit, on the Parliament Bill, but the Parliament Bill contained two perfectly distinct and two perfectly clear proposals. One was the readjustment of the relations between the two Houses, and the other was the reform of the Second Chamber itself. Both of these proposals, one as much as the other, were the policy of the Government, and they chose, for strategic reasons which are dear to the mind of the Patronage Secretary, to have their election at a time when the country could not possibly understand what they meant by their Preamble, because they did not allow it to be discussed in the House of Commons. Now those two proposals were the proposals of the Government. They at least cannot contend that the Preamble was put in simply to catch votes. They cannot contend that its one object was to obtain the support of men who believed in Two-Chamber Government, while they intended to set up Single-Chamber Government. That cannot be their contention. Well, what did they mean? They came back, as they say, with the approval of the country for their proposals. If they were unable to carry out the whole of their proposals on which they had won support, there is no justification whatever for their carrying out one-half, and leaving the other half entirely untouched.

I shall now deal with the next stage in the proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in April, 1911, in a speech that has been often quoted, told us that this was a debt of honour. That in itself is interesting. In private life I am sure that no one would regard his debt of honour more scrupulously than the right hon. Gentleman, but political debts of honour are different. What would he think of anyone who in private life said, "I admit the debt, but I am not going to pay it; I am going to leave it to be paid by my heir." That is the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has acted. There is not a Member of this House in whatever quarter he sits who, after the Debates to which we have been listening for the last few days, and after the previous Debates, and with the knowledge that Members of the right hon. Gentleman's own Government have declared that they are in favour of Single-Chamber Government, who believes that the Government either can or will fulfil the pledges on which they were elected. I say the right hon. Gentleman in reference to that speech, which has been so often quoted, made this point to-night. He said there is no pledge as regards time, and time is in the essence a consideration. That is perfectly true. He never gave a definite pledge that it would be produced in a particular Session, but in the words that were quoted he gave this pledge. He said, when this part of our task is fulfilled, then we shall proceed with the other part of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Quote the words."] The words can bear no other meaning than this, that when we have fulfilled our first act our energies will be directed towards the carrying out of the second act. It is quite true that no time was mentioned, but that does constitute a definite pledge, that that would be the next important act. The right hon. Gentleman said neither he nor anyone else had stated the time, and that is true. An hon. Friend behind me just read a speech of the Lord Chancellor, to which I will direct the attention of the Prime Minister. In that speech he said:— These two proposals are twin Bills. Then he went on to say:— We do not wish, and we do not intend, so far as we can help it to be diverted from that branch of the subject until we have completed it, and when we have done that— Those are almost the words of the Prime Minister:— we intend to take up the other branch of the subject. No, Sir, the second branch of our Amendment, to which the hon. Gentleman who spoke last referred to, was our contention that while the Constitution is suspended, as they admit it is suspended— [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—they have no right to carry Bills such as those which they have proposed in the Speech from the Throne. The Solicitor-General yesterday attempted to meet this case. He said that for practical purposes it makes no difference, because nothing that we propose in regard to the amending of the Second Chamber will interfere with Liberal Bills, nor would it interfere with any of these proposals. That seemed to me to be such a surprising statement that I asked him:— Do the Government really intend to set up a Second Chamber which will not have the power to compel an appeal to the people of this country, on a specific measure before it becomes law? And what was the answer given by the hon. and learned Gentleman? It was this:— The House of Lords never claimed the power to compel a General Election. That is perfectly true, but there is no Second Chamber—at least, this is my belief—in the world which has not the power, if it disagrees with the other House, of delaying legislation until the men who sent them there, who are their masters, have decided whether or not the legislation shall be passed. I ask the Lord Advocate, who, I understand, is to follow me, to say definitely is that what they mean by the reform of the Second Chamber? Is that what the First Lord of the Admiralty meant when he told the people of Belfast that they are to have a Senate in which minorities are to be represented? Did he mean that that Senate could not prevent any legislation from passing without the sanction of the people of the country who had sent them? If that is the intention of the Government the sooner they say so the better. If that is their intention, then it is perfectly evident that the Preamble was simply a decoy duck. No, Sir, every one knows that the sole reason—it is a matter of history—for the proposals of the Government and for the position in which we stand to-day, is the question of Home Rule. Twice the Liberal party had tried to carry Home Rule with the consent of the people of this country. Now they have tried, and they think they have succeeded, in manœuvring themselves into a position in which they can carry it not only without the consent but against the will of the people. The hon. and learned Solicitor-General waxed almost eloquent about the way in which Home Rule was attached to the heart of the Liberal party. "For twenty-five years," he said, "we have been a Home Rule party." and the First Lord of the Admiralty in Belfast said, "Home Rule is our adopted child." "Step-child" would have been a better name. During the whole of these twenty-five years—I make the assertion in the knowledge that there is not a man in this House who does not in his heart agree with me—the Liberal party, as a united party, have never once practically taken up Home Rule except when they were dependent upon the Irish vote. Once in their career—and once only—they have had a chance of getting a majority independent of the Irish vote, and they deprived themselves by a self-denying ordinance. The hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary told us, "Oh, but we did that to kill Tariff Reform, but after it was dead we returned to our old love." Look at the death! In the Parliament of 1906 the majority against the Fiscal Resolution in this House was over 300; in the Parliament of 1910, when they again became in love with Home Rule, it had fallen to thirty-one. You cannot separate in this matter the Government from the head of the Government. I have been a careful student of his speeches. I have never read, and I should like to have pointed out to me, one single speech made by the right hon. Gentleman in which he pressed Home Rule upon the people of this country as if he believed in it and as if he desired that it should become law. Throughout this whole controversy his attitude has been that expressed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr (Mr. Keir Hardie) in another connection. He spoke of him "like a counsel defending a criminal," and I might add like a counsel defending a criminal whom he knew to be guilty. Now we are told they have a mandate for Home Rule. The only definition of a mandate which could fill the position is that given by the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for India. He realised the situation. He said, "The Government, any Government, has a mandate for anything which they have not expressly excluded themselves from doing." In that sense, and in no other, have the Government a mandate to deal with this question in this Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was taunted with this by my right hon. Friend who was Leader of the Opposition at the beginning of the last Parliament. He had a couple of days to make his defence. He looked up all his references to this subject. There were, I think either three or four of them—I forget which—and of what did the references consist? It was to refer the eager and hungering electors to a speech he had made somewhere else, and to say "we stand by it." We have heard in this House, but we do not like it, of legislation by reference: here we have mandate by reference. The right hon. Gentleman had the courage to quote from my election address. Why do Members of this House—Prime Ministers or other people—issue election addresses? I presume it is to interest electors in subjects which they think important, and not only important, but which they believe are coming up in the Parliament to which they seek election. The Prime Minister never mentioned it in his election address. He was taunted with this by my predecessor, and what was his defence? He said, "the Parliament Bill was the one issue before the country, and my address on that occasion was confined to that." That was in substance accurate, but there was one sentence in the address not confined to that Bill. It ran:— I have already addressed you so recently on other subjects that it is not necessary now to go into them. That is a reasonable reservation. I turn to the previous election address, in which he had gone into those other subjects. There he discusses every kind of subject, but the one he does not mention, and dare not mention, is the subject of Home Rule for Ireland. It is not merely the Prime Minister: they were all engaged in the same conspiracy of silence. If there is one Member of the Cabinet who might have been expected to refer to it one would have thought it was the Irish Secretary. He could hardly have forgotten about it for one minute, yet there was not a word about it in his election address. But he did not forget about it in his speeches. I have quoted a speech he made before the Election in Bristol twice, and the second time he thought it was unnecessary, for he reminded me of the fact that I had quoted it before. I shall quote it now a third time, and I wonder how he will like it now. He said:— If some of those persons present thought the Liberals would smuggle a Home Rule Bill through the House of Commons in the three years following, all I can say is their ignorance is beyond conception. Consider what the people who heard that speech thought of it. We were saying all over the country if you give the Liberals a majority it means Home Rule, and what was the answer of the right hon. Gentleman? "If anyone thinks that, his ignorance is beyond conception"! That is the defence of the Government. It is a defence so contemptible, intellectually, that I would not have referred to it unless it had been the staple of every speech made from the benches opposite. Is it not a reasonable description of your policy? We tried to make it the issue.


And succeeded.


We tried to make it the issue, and the Solicitor-General stated, quite truly, that the country would not believe us. We knew the Government better than they did. They supposed that the Government were giving their own policy. They accepted their statments; they did not accept ours. Let me point out this fact. An hon. Friend behind me mentioned yesterday that whenever he mentioned the subject of Home Rule he was met with cries of, "That is not the issue." That was my own experience over and over again in Manchester. I am perfectly certain, for I have looked it up, and if anyone desires to look up the Manchester papers he will find a reference to it. Over and over again, when I tried to convince them that it was the issue, I was met with shouts of, "That is a bogey." If you want additional proof of what the effect of that concealment on their, part is, you have got it in a recent incident. Mr. Anderson, who was lately a Member of this House, and is now still Solicitor-General for Scotland, for his misfortune had to bear the sins of the whole Government, and has disappeared. During the election this incident occurred. I have the exact report here if anyone wants me to read it. The substance of it is this. An elector said to him, "Will you support Home Rule in this Parliament?" His reply was, "Yes, of course." The elector then said, "Did I not ask you if you were in favour of Home Rule at the last Election, and you told me that was a bogey." Mr. Anderson at once replied, as the right hon. Gentleman has replied, "But our opponents said it was the issue." The report goes on:— There were signs of discontent in the offing. There is the fact. The right hon. Gentleman asked us who is dissatisfied with him. He knows now. The electors of North Ayrshire. When Mr. Anderson's opponent tried to make it an issue the electors of North Ayrshire would not believe him, and they returned Mr. Anderson to the House of Commons. When he could no longer conceal it, when he had to admit that it was the issue, the same electors turned round and rejected him. We tried to make it an issue and we failed, and it is because we failed that you [indicating Ministers] are on that bench. Give the electors all over the country the same opportunity which you have been compelled to give to those in North Ayrshire, and you will find how long you have their support.


During the course of the Debate which is now drawing to a close I have been lost in admiration at the success, the conspicuous success, which has attended for many years past, apparently, the efforts of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to conceal and stifle affections now consuming them for a reconstructed Second Chamber. To dissemble your love in a sharp conflict with a formidable rival for the lady's hand was easy enough, but to suppress your ardour and never to tell your love during a lengthy courtship is a feat of which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may well be proud. If any casual visitor from a neighbouring planet had dropped in on our Debates during the past few days he would assuredly have supposed that the occupants of this bench were engaged in a cruel and heartless effort to deprive hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite of the long and dearly cherished object of their heart's desire. The topic of Debate is very clear and very simple. I have doubted gravely, during its course, whether any of the occupants of the Front Opposition Bench had taken the trouble to read their own Amendment. Their arguments seem to have no relevancy whatever to the Amendment now before the House. There is not a word in the Amendment about lack of mandate for the Government. There is not a word in the Amendment to suggest that we failed in our duty to lay our legislative projects before the country. The Amendment is confined to this simple statement, that His Majesty's Ministers ought not to proceed to the legislation announced in the gracious Speech from the Throne, because His Majesty's subjects are at the present moment deprived of the usual safeguards of constitutional law. I can only conjecture that the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment had been rummaging about amongst his resurrected speeches—


Your speeches.


Surely I am far too insignificant for that—and had discovered the famous Now or Never speech, and his colleagues on the Front Opposition Bench had also been reminding themselves of their utterances at the last General Election and discovered that they had announced with perfect clearness and distinctness to the country that Home Rule was not only an issue but the issue on which the whole Election turned. I note with satisfaction that the Leader of the Opposition, having levelled at us the most odious charge which can be directed against a democratic Government, avowedly embarking on a policy of social activity, that we have been guilty of introducing the spoils system into this country, and not having a single vestige of evidence to support it, announced his intention of rummaging about to see if he could find a foundation for it. Now let me turn to the topic in hand. There is no need to rummage or grope about to find what the policy of the Opposition is. A very brief survey of their recent history in connection with the Second Chamber will reveal that very clearly. The Second Chamber, which for ten continuous years was thought by hon. and right Gentlemen opposite quite robust enough to settle the fate of a long series of measures, none of which had ever been laid before the people of this country, and which was thought to have prescience enough and insight enough to discover that all those measures were supported by the settled will and final judgment of the people of this country—the Second Chamber which when it mangled or strangled a series of measures sent up to it and backed by unparalleled majorities from this House in a new and young Parliament fresh from the constituencies—was claimed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite as having done all things well. The Second Chamber which could play ducks and drakes with our finance and was actually hailed as the saviour of the country from the destruction of its industries was suddenly, without a moment's notice as by a bolt shot from the blue, discovered to be so frail, so feeble, and so nearly approaching senility, if not imbecility, that it must yield up its inglorious existence, must give up the ghost, and having done all things well, must now commit the happy dispatch, so that in its place hon. and right hon Gentlemen opposite might set up a brand new Second Chamber, 346 strong, and chosen by methods I will not dwell upon, but with an assured Tory majority of 40. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is your plan?"] If hon. Gentlemen opposite will only contain themselves, they will see that I am taking the most favourable test for them, that I am taking the Second Chamber, approved and upon the pattern fixed by themselves.

That is the Second Chamber which was carefully planned by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and which was produced after much consideration and soul-searching. That is the Second Chamber which, if they had had their way, would now have been in existence and working. I ask the House to consider whether if a Second Chamber on this approved pattern had now been in existence, the present political situation would have in any way differed from what it is now. Would the right hon. Gentleman opposite have thought fit to withdraw this Amendment on the ground that His Majesty's subjects were not deprived of the usual safeguards of constitutional law with such a Second Chamber to protect them? I suppose there is no man who will hesitate to answer that it would not affect the present situation in the smallest degree. The composition of the Second Chamber has no relation whatever to the safeguards enjoyed by His Majesty's subjects. You will not find in the ingredients of which the Second Chamber is composed either danger lurking or safety to be secured. It is in the powers of the Second Chamber that you will find the safeguards to which the right hon. Gentleman refers in the Amendment now before the House. That brings us to the one and only topic of controversy between the two sides of the House, and the only question raised by the Amendment, the question, namely, whether a Second Chamber in this country ought to have at its discretion the power to force an appeal to the people and to interpret the verdict of the people. For observe hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite always omit the last branch of the proposition. That is the question which, I think, has been decided twice over by the country. I do not say on abstract platforms. I am very well aware that the people of this country will not consider an abstract question. They will not consider the question of a Second Chamber in the air. They will only consider it in relation to some particular interest, some particular measure on hands. It is only, as we all know, when a Second Chamber damages or destroys some measure that the country will then consider its powers or functions, but only in relation to that particular matter. Those who are the friends of the measure will be the foes of the Second Chamber, and those who are the foes of the measure will be the friends of the Second Chamber.

What are Second Chambers to the people of this country if they refuse to consider abstract questions? The business of living, the keeping of body and soul together, is a grim fight for many of our fellow countrymen, and leaves very little room for the consideration of abstract questions which have no obvious practical bearing. But that is the question which this House is now to consider, and which this House has considered and has decided, and I say without hesitation that the meaning of this Amendment is that this House is now invited to repeal the Parliament Act. Hon. Gentlemen opposite know very well that it is only if they can get rid of the limitation which is now placed upon the Second Chamber that they will be able to secure what they call, in the words of the Amendment, the safeguards which every subject should enjoy by constitutional law. That is what the right hon. Gentleman means. There is a sharp, clear issue. The two sides of this House are brought to the brink of a gulf, wide, deep, so far as I can judge impassable at the present moment. Hon. Gentlemen opposite say that a Second Chamber should have the power, as I understand, to force a dissolution and to interpret the verdict. We, on the other hand, say that no Second Chamber, however constituted, shall be at liberty not only to force an appeal to the country, but also to interpret the country's verdict.

Speaking for myself, and, I hope, for those who sit on this side of the House, I say that in our view a Second Chamber should possess three powers and three powers only—a power of discussion, criticism, and examination; a power of revision and amendment; and a power of delaying for a reasonable time, but not for ever. Throughout the whole of our discussion on the Parliament Act not a single hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite ever challenged the amount of time given in the Act as unreasonable. No one ever suggested that it was an unreasonably short time. We believe that at the last General Election we won upon the Parliament Act, and if we won upon the Parliament Act that necessarily meant that we won upon the measures in the King's Speech. We could not help it. They were necessarily involved in the Parliament Act. No sane man suggests, I hope, that the Prime Minister brought forward the Parliament Act as a pleasant form of recreation and merely as an excursion into constitutional law. Everyone knew that the Parliament Act was a means towards an end, and not an end in itself.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite know very well that there are only two alternatives before us, either to abandon our projected legislation or else pass the Parliament Act. That is the only other course open. It is too much to expect that we should abandon the only means by which we can achieve our ends. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I daresay it would have suited hon. Gentlemen opposite very well if we had abandoned our intended legislation. How I put it is this: When hon. Gentlemen opposite enjoyed the confidence of this House, is it not the case that they were able to present their policy to the country as a whole? When they enjoyed the confidence of this House, were they not able to pass in one year, after one discussion, any measure which they thought, necessary for the welfare of the country? I ask whether we should not have conceded to us the same right? We ask no better opportunities of passing our legislation than right hon. Gentlemen opposite do. We are not disposed to take anything worse, and the effect of the Parliament Act is to place us substantially on the same footing. I tell the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, this, that we shall in due time—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"]—in due time pass the measure which is necessary to set up a new Second Chamber upon an elective basis in order that we may turn what is substantial inequality into something much nearer exact equality, in order that we may secure a Second Chamber which may give the same reasonable, impartial, and fair consideration to our measures.

I have often thought that this bitter controversy between the two sides of the House might quite easily have been brought to a close if only hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite had been able to place themselves in our position, and could see things from our point of view. Let me ask hon. Gentlemen opposite for a moment to give their imagination free rein. Let them try to picture to themselves a Second Chamber with an assured Radical majority of forty or more—a Second Chamber which would pass with smoothness and ease all the measures which the Government sent up, and which would present an obdurate front to all measures the Conservatives sent up—a Second Chamber which would implicitly obey the signals or commands of the Liberal Leader, whether in office or whether in opposition, and whether in a minority or not. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will allow their imagination to take that flight, then I need not inquire what their thoughts, their feelings, and, above all, what their language would be. I feel perfectly certain that if their powers were equal to this flight into the realms of fancy that they would now to-night troop into the Lobby with us to

defeat the phrases of the flimsiest Amendment that has ever been submitted to this House.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided: Ayes, 231; Noes, 324.

Division No. 4.] AYES. [10.58 p.m.
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Fell, Arthur MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh
Aitken, Sir William Max Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey Mackinder, Halford J.
Amery, L. C. M. S. Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Macmaster, Donald
Anson, Rt. Hon. William R. Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes M'Calmont, Colonel James
Anstruther-Gray, Major William Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A. M'Mordie, Robert
Astor, Waldorf Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)
Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J. Fletcher, John Samuel Magnus, Sir Philip
Baker, Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.) Forster, Henry William Malcolm, Ian
Balcarres, Lord Foster, Philip Staveley Mason, James F. (Windsor)
Baldwin, Stanley Gardner, Ernest Middlemore, John Throgmorton
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Gastrell, Major W. Houghton Mildmay, Francis Bingham
Banner, John S. Harmood- Gibbs, George Abraham Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas
Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester) Gilmour, Captain John Moore, William
Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Goldman, Charles Sydney Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)
Barnston, H. Goldsmith, Frank Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)
Barrie, H. T. Gordon, John (Londonderry, South) Mount, William Arthur
Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.) Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton) Neville, Reginald J. N.
Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton) Goulding, E. A. Newdegate, F. A.
Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks Grant, James Augustus Newman, John R. P.
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Greene, Walter Raymond Newton, Harry Kottingham
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Gretton, John Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Bennett-Goldney, Francis Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward Nield, Herbert
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Norton-Griffiths, J.
Beresford, Lord C. Haddock, George Bahr O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)
Bigland, Alfred Hall, Fred (Dulwich) Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.
Bird, Alfred Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue Hambro, Angus Valdemar Paget, Almeric Hugh
Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith Hamersley, A. St. George Parkes, Ebenezer
Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid.) Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Peel, Captain R. F. (Woodbridge)
Boyton, James Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry) Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)
Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence Perkins, Walter Frank
Bridgeman, William Clive Harris, Henry Percy Peto, Basil Edward
Burdett-Coutts, William Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Pole-Carew, Sir R.
Burgoyne, Alan Hughes Helmsley, Viscount Pollock, Ernest Murray
Burn, Colonel C. R. Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon) Pretyman, Ernest George
Butcher, John George Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.) Pryce-Jones, Col. E.
Campbell, Capt. Duncan F. (Ayr, N.) Hickman, Col. Thomas E. Quilter, Sir William Eley C.
Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.) Hill, Sir Clement L. Ratcliff, Major R. F.
Campion, W. R. Hills, John Waller Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Hill-Wood, Samuel Rawson, Colonel Richard H.
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H. Hoare, Samuel John Gurney Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Cassel, Felix Hohler, G. F. Rolleston, Sir John
Castlereagh, Viscount Hope, Harry (Bute) Rothschild, Lionel de
Cator, John Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Royds, Edmond
Cautley, Henry Strother Horne, W. E. (Surrey, Guildford) Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen)
Cave, George Horner, Andrew Long Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Houston, Robert Paterson Salter, Arthur Clavell
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Hume-Williams, W. E. Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)
Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin) Hunter, Sir C. R. (Bath) Sanders, Robert A.
Chaloner, Col. R. G. W. Ingleby, Holcombe Sanderson, Lancelot
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.) Jackson, Sir John Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East) Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'pool, Walton)
Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Collings, Rt. Hon. J. Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Spear, Sir John Ward
Cooper, Richard Ashmole Kirkwood, John H. M. Stanier Beville
Courthope, George Loyd Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)
Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.) Larmor, Sir J. Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Craig, Captain James (Down, E.) Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle) Starkey, John Ralph
Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet) Lawson, Hon H. (T. H'mts., Mile End) Staveley-Hill, Henry
Craik, Sir Henry Lee, Arthur Hamilton Steel-Maitland, A. D.
Cripps, Sir Charles Alfred Lewisham, Viscount Stewart, Gershom
Croft, Henry Page Lloyd, George Ambrose Swift, Rigby
Dalrymple, Viscount Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)
Denniss, E. R. B. Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey) Talbot, Lord Edmund
Dixon, C. H. Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R. Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)
Doughty, Sir George Long, Rt. Hon. Walter Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)
Duke, Henry Edward Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale) Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)
Faber, George D, (Clapham) Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo., Han. S.) Thynne, Lord A.
Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.) Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Tobin, Alfred Aspinall
Touche, George Alexander Wheler, Granville C. H. Worthington-Evans, L.
Tryon, Captain George Clement White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart
Tullibardine, Marquess of Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.) Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Valentia, Viscount Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud Yate, Colonel C. E.
Walker, Colonel William Hall Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E. R.) Yerburgh, Robert
Walrond, Hon. Lionel Winterton, Earl Younger, Sir George
Ward, Arnold S. (Herts, Watford) Wolmer, Viscount
Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid.) Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Weigall, Capt. A. G. Wood, John (Stalybridge) Mr. Pike Pease and Mr. Ashley.
Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour) Doris, W. Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)
Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda) Duffy, William J. Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)
Acland, Francis Dyke Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)
Adamson, William Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.) Jowett, Frederick William
Addison, Dr. C. Edwards, Enoch (Hanley) Joyce, Michael
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Keating, Matthew
Agnew, Sir George William Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid) Kellaway, Frederick George
Ainsworth, John Stirling Elverston, Sir Harold Kemp, Sir George
Alden, Percy Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Kilbride, Denis
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.) King, J.
Armitage, Robert Essex, Richard Walter Lamb, Ernest Henry
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Esslemont, George Birnie Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)
Baker, H. T. (Accrington) Farrell, James Patrick Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)
Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.) Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson Lansbury, George
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Ffrench, Peter Lardner, James Carrige Rushe
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Field, William Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward Leach, Charles
Barnes, George N. Fitzgibbon, John Levy, Sir Maurice
Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick B.) Flavin, Michael Joseph Lewis, John Herbert
Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.) France, G. A. Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas
Barton, William Furness, Stephen Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Gelder, Sir William Alfred Lundon, T.
Beck, Arthur Cecil George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd Lyell, Charles Henry
Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts., St. George) Gilhooly, James Lynch, A. A.
Bentham, G. J. Gill, Alfred Henry Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Gladstone, W. G. C. Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)
Black, Arthur W. Glanville, Harold James Maclean, Donald
Boland, John Plus Goldstone, Frank Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.
Bowerman, C. W. Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough) MacNeill, John G. S. (Donegal, South)
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland) Macpherson, James Ian
Brace, William Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward MacVeagh, Jeremiah
Brady, Patrick Joseph Griffith, Ellis Jones M'Callum, John M.
Brocklehurst, William B. Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) M'Curdy, Charles Albert
Brunner, John F. L. Gulland, John W. M'Kean, John
Bryce, John Annan Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Buckmaster, Stanley O. Hackett, John M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)
Burke, E. Haviland- Hall, Frederick (Normanton) M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Hancock, John George M'Micking, Major Gilbert
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale) Manfield, Harry
Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar) Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Markham, Sir Arthur Basil
Byles, Sir William Pollard Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) Marks, Sir George Croydon
Cameron, Robert Harmswarth, R. L. (Caithness-shire) Marshall, Arthur Harold
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Martin, Joseph
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.) Mason, David M. (Coventry)
Chancellor, H. G. Harwood, George Masterman, C. F. G.
Chapple, Dr. William Allen Haslam James (Derbyshire) Meagher, Michael
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Menzies, Sir Walter
Clancy, John Joseph Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Middlebrook, William
Clough, William Haworth, Sir Arthur A. Millar, James Duncan
Clynes, John R. Hayward, Evan Molloy, M.
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Healy, Maurice (Cork) Molteno, Percy Alport
Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, East) Money, L. G. Chiozza
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Helme, Norval Watson Montagu, Hon. E. S.
Cotton, William Francis Henry, Sir Charles S. Mooney, J. J.
Cowan, William Henry Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.) Morgan, George Hay
Crawshay-Williams, Eliot Higham, John Sharp Morrell, Philip
Crean, Eugene Hinds, John Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Crooks, William Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Muldoon, John
Crumley, Patrick Hogge, James Myles Munro, Robert
Cullinan, John Holmes, Daniel Thomas Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.
Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy) Holt, Richard Durning Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.
Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Hope, John Deans (Haddington) Nannetti, Joseph P.
Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich) Needham, Christopher T.
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Neilson, Francis
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Hudson, Walter Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)
Dawes, J. A. Hughes, Spencer Leigh Nolan, Joseph
De Forest, Baron Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus Norman, Sir Henry
Delany, William Jardine, Sir John (Roxburghshire) Norton, Captain Cecil W.
Denman, Hon. R. D. John, Edward Thomas Nuttall, Harry
Devlin, Joseph Johnson, W. O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Dickinson, W. H. Jones, Sir D Brynmor (Swansea) O'Brien, William (Cork)
Dillon, John Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil) O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Donelan, Captain A. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
O'Doherty, Philip Roberts, George H. (Norwich) Trevelyan, Charles Philips
O'Dowd, John Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.) Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Ogden, Fred Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford) Verney, Sir Harry
O'Grady, James Robertson, John M. (Tyneside) Wadsworth, John
O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.) Robinson, Sidney Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)
O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.) Roch, Walter F. Walters, Sir John Tudor
O'Malley, William Roche, Augustine (Louth) Walton, Sir Joseph
O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.) Roe, Sir Thomas Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Rose, Sir Charles Day Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
O'Shee, James John Rowlands, James Wardle, G. J.
O'Sullivan, Timothy Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay
Palmer, Godfrey Mark Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W. Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Parker, James (Hallfax) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek) Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees) Webb, H.
Pearce, William (Limehouse) Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel) Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M. Scanlan, Thomas White, J. Dundas (Glas, Tradeston)
Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham) Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E. White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)
Phillips, John (Longford, S.) Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton) White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Pointer, Joseph Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B. Whitehouse, John Howard
Pollard, Sir George H. Sheehan, Daniel Daniel Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir T. P.
Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Sheehy, David Whyte, A. F. (Perth)
Power, Patrick Joseph Sherwell, Arthur James Wiles, Thomas
Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.) Shortt, Edward Wilkié, Alexander
Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham) Simon, Sir John Allsebrook Williams, John (Glamorgan)
Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.) Smith, Albert (Lancs, Clitheroe) Williams, Llewellyn (Carmarthen)
Primrose, Hon. Neil James Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.) Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)
Radford, G. H. Snowden, Philip Williamson, Sir Archibald
Raffan, Peter Wilson Soames, Arthur Wellesley Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)
Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields) Spicer, Sir Albert Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough) Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Reddy, M. Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West) Winfrey, Richard
Redmond, William (Clare, E.) Sutherland, John E. Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Rendall, Athelstan Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Richards, Thomas Tennant, Harold John
Richardson, Albion (Peckham) Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Master of Elibank and Mr. Illingworth.
Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven) Thomas, James Henry (Derby)
Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)

Main Question again proposed; Debate arising, and, it being after Eleven of the clock, and objection being taken to further proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Wednesday).

Adjourned at Eight minutes after Eleven o'clock.