HC Deb 28 March 1912 vol 36 cc615-731

Order for Second Reading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

I am sorry that this responsible and important duty has not been placed in abler hands, but I trust that my shortcomings will be forgiven, and that they will not be allowed in any way to prejudice the measure which I am recommending to the House. Whatever objections there may be to this Bill, I think I may fairly claim for it a merit of simplicity. It consists of only two Clauses, one declaring the principle of the Bill and the other defining the scope of its operations. The principle has already been affirmed by the House, and on the latest occasion, last Session, it was carried by a majority of nearly three to one. But the inexorable destiny which in our days dominates the legislation of private Members prevented further progress. Since then, however, we have had the promise of the Prime Minister, to whose courtesy we are indebted for the opportunity of discussing—the promoters of the Bill desire to express every thanks, that if the Bill again obtains a Second Reading with an adequate majority, facilities will be provided so as to enable the House to carry into effect its repeated decisions.

I think it will be conceded that up to this point the prospects of the Bill were bright. I am bound to admit, however, that within the last few weeks the prospects have been dimmed and darkened by the deplorable conduct of certain persons, who, though hostile to the Bill, are credited with a desire to obtain its object—the enfranchisement of women. The tactics of these individuals, a systematic interruption of meetings, personal insults to Cabinet Ministers, and the wanton destruction of private property, are to me absolutely repellant, and I believe this feeling is shared by most of the supporters of the Bill. But I do not wish to join in heaping reproaches on those who are now suffering, and suffering severely, for their errors. I prefer to regard them as the victims of a probably well-intentioned and perhaps earnest, but certainly misguided enthusiasm. All I can say, so far as our Bill is concerned, is that they have shown the truth of the German maxim, "Enthusiasts without reason are the really dangerous people." Though, however, these tactics have naturally shocked public sentiment and alienated public sympathy, I hope they will not be allowed to alienate the vote of those in this House who have hitherto supported the objects of the Bill. For what we have to consider and to decide upon is, not the conduct of individuals, but the merits or demerits of an important question of electoral reform. Individuals who are associated with this and kindred measures are, after all, but transient beings, here to-day and gone to-morrow. The great principles, such as justice and freedom, on which we claim to base our Bill, are immutable. Therefore I would express the hope that those who have voted in this House before for these principles will not desert them now, and that they will not crush the anxious aspirations of the many because of the excesses of the few.

Returning to the Bill, I need not trouble the House with any details of its origin or aim, for it is precisely the same Bill as that which was introduced to this House last Session. I will merely say now that seven Second Reading Debates lie behind us, and that on this occasion we hope to obtain a definite settlement. I should like, further, to mention that evidence of public support in the form of petitions and resolutions continue to flow in. Altogether 153 city and district councils have obtained or passed resolutions in favour of the Bill. These include such important trade centres in England, such as Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and Leeds; in Scotland, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee; in Ireland, Dublin, Cork and Limerick; and, in Wales, Cardiff, Carnarvon, and Swansea. These indications of the opinions entertained in the industrial centres, I think, offer emphatic testimony that the alarmist view as to the disturbing consequences of the female vote is not shared by business men. It seems to me that these alarmist views, which form, I know, the staple argument on anti-Sufrage platforms and in anti-Suffrage pamphlets, are the result of an exaggerated estimate of the responsibilities and functions of the voter.

Surely, if all the appalling consequences which are predicted by opponents will follow the introduction of women to the polling booths of a Parliamentary election, we should have seen some symptoms of their appearance as the result of the admission of women to the polling booths of municipal elections, for there is really little, if any, difference between these two forms of election. The machinery and methods are almost the same in both cases, and the objects are not dissimilar; for in nine-tenths of the town council elections that take place in Great Britain the contests are conducted on purely party lines. They are carried out as are Parliamentary elections under the auspices of the party agents, and party organisations, and with all those exciting and absorbing circumstances of party political conflict which the anti-Suffragettes describe as being so destructive to domestic life. Yet up to the present none of those startling consequences which we are so confidently assured will flow from the granting of the Parliamentary vote to women, have made their appearance. The fact is these arguments are both out of date and out of place. They would be suitable to Mahomedan countries, where women are veiled when they walk in the street, or hidden away in harems. They might have been correct and proper two or three centuries ago, when the duties of women were restricted to weaving tapestries and looking after children, but not in the twentieth century, when women have for years, by common consent, taken an active part in public affairs; when they are members of town councils, boards of guardians and Royal Commissions; when they speak on public platforms, and are prominent members of political associations, such as Primrose Leagues, Women's Liberal Associations, Tariff Reform Leagues, etc. It is surely ridiculous to draw a hard and fast line at the Parliamentary vote.

We are told, amongst the objections that are taken to this Bill, that the majority of women do not want the franchise. I am not quite convinced that this is so. Accepting, however, the statement as correct, is it a good reason that those who desire the franchise should not have it because there happen to be others who do not wish for it? There is nothing in this Bill to compel anyone to vote who does not wish to do so. If the majority of women do not care for the franchise they need not exercise it. I think, if I may use a homely illustration, that I may describe this argument as "the dog in the manger" argument. If there were any force in it at all, it seems to me it would destroy another argument, which I see occupies a conspicuous place in anti-suffrage literature, to the effect that if women obtain the franchise they will establish a numerical superiority, and that they will use that superiority to overwhelm the minority of male votes. This argument is, I gather, brought forward mainly with the hope of terrorising timid males. But it is obvious if the majority of women are opposed to the suffrage, they will either not vote at all—in which case the majority would disappear—or else they will use their votes to restrain the tyrannical tendencies of their more enterprising sisters. I do not think, therefore, that the unsupported assertion that a majority of women object to the objects of this Bill need be regarded as a point against it.

I have so far dealt with the arguments against the Bill. There is only one argument out of many that can be urged, and will be urged, in favour of the Bill with which I would trouble the House, and it is based on the old constitutional maxim "that representation should accompany taxation." This contains a principle which will appeal, I think, with equal force to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have so often made it the basis of appeal for a wider suffrage, as to those on this side of the House who are supposed to venerate constitutional doctrine. And surely it is not just or fair to apply this principle, which is a fundamental principle of our Constitution, to one sex and to make it, as it were, a monopoly of men. Of course, if the intelligence of women were inferior to that of men, there might be some shadow of a reason for depriving them of the benefit of this constitutional maxim. No one, I think, in these days, will raise such a contention. A few weeks ago a notable gathering took place at the Albert Hall. It was presided over by a distinguished and much respected ex-Viceroy. Amongst the speakers were two Noble Lords, the Lord Chancellor and Lord Curzon, whose speeches in this House in bygone days were welcomed with pleasure and applause. The palm of oratory was awarded to a lady. Is it not an amazing anomaly that anyone capable of the intellectual achievement then accomplished should be regarded as unfitted to exercise the franchise? As we know, the lady to whom I have referred does not stand alone in this disability. There are countless others, some of whom have won the highest distinction in the realms of literature, of science, and of art, but are yet considered unfitted to enjoy a privilege which, it may be supposed, requires some thought and judgment, and which we freely and cheerfully accord to the least intellectual of mankind. I hope the result of this Debate will be to place on the Statute Book, at no distant date, a measure based on the principles of freedom and justice—a measure long demanded and too long delayed.


I rise for the purpose of seconding the Motion of the hon. Member for Cheltenham that this Bill be read a second time. It is obvious on a subject, covering so much ground as the one we are discussing this afternoon it is impossible for the Mover and Seconder to deal with the whole subject. I enter that as a caveat, because if we do not deal with all the details of the Bill it does not follow we have not a full argumentative position. We are faced with two classes of opposition in connection with this question, one is opposition to the suffrage itself, and the other is opposition to the particular measure with which we are dealing this afternoon. The opposition to Woman Suffrage is based on two lines. The first is the effect which granting the Suffrage would have upon women, and the second is the effect it would have upon the State. I may say that most of the arguments on the first head, namely, the effect on women of granting them the Parliamentary vote, which forms a considerable part as anti-Suffragist speeches, is but a revival of the argument against the intellectual development of women as a sex which we have heard at every stage of that development. If you look back and read the speeches about the larger education of women, their admission to the universities, and the learned professions, you will meet with arguments about the hearth and home, and with arguments about the neglect of the husband, such as are put forward today, and those opposing the Parliamenary Franchise for women are doing so, largely in the idea that they can possibly stop the natural development of women, which has proceeded, is proceeding, and will continue to proceed whether you give them the vote or not.

There is a curious mental confusion among the anti-Suffragists on this point, which makes it so difficult to deal with this question in a narrow compass of time. It is the extraordinary refusal to take any lesson from experience which makes it difficult to carry the arguments much further than the exchange of mutual opinions. The fact that we have in this country over 5,000,000 of women engaged in earning their own living, over 2,000,000 engaged in industrial pursuits, surely is sufficient argument to those who still talk of setting up woman as a sort of china doll on a sacred hearth to be worshipped from afar, a caricature of a creature that in any time of human life has never existed and will never exist. The woman is to take no interest in her country or in the fate of her country, and in the economic conditions of the people among whom she lives, but she is to be confined to the home and to the wash-tub, to the cooking and the baby's cradle. Every one of these points may be affected by the taxation of the country and by the legislation of this House. You may narrow down woman's sphere as much as you like, but I defy you to prove she is not equally interested with men in what is done by Parliamentary legislation. To-day she is interested in all the widest spheres of legislation in every sense of the word. There is not a single political problem—Protection, licensing, or education—including the Insurance Act which you passed last year; there is not a Bill which comes before this Assembly or passes through this House which does not affect millions of women of this country. Therefore, you cannot say woman is to remain in seclusion—charming in idea, but incapable of being put into practice—a seclusion which would rob us of half the thinking part of the community in our deliberations. More than that, you cannot possibly any longer, having invited women into politics, refuse to her this demand as one step further in that direction.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcester is an anti-Suffragist, but he has not hesitated to address a large meeting of women on the question of Tariff Reform. What is the object of his addressing 2,000 women upon that important subject if when he has addressed them, with much labour to himself and much instruction to them, nothing is to come out of all this great effort? If they are capable of being addressed and instructed, surely they are capable of forming an opinion whether it is right or wrong, and if he has convinced them that his Tariff Reform theory is the only one to save the country, it remains, surely, for them to make good use, when the election comes, of the instruction he has given them. Tariff Reform leagues, Conservative and Liberal organisations, have women to work for them. I think women have been very patient. Many people who oppose giving them the vote think nothing of asking them to go out at election, times, day after day and night after night, canvassing the slums. Apparently they are quite capable of instructing men electors as to what to do; apparently that does not take them from the hearth and home, although they may be weeks out canvassing, but the moment they come to the ballot boxes they become unsexed. The anti-Suffragists would want to take a little counsel among themselves as to what really is the ground of their opposition. I ask those who are "hearths and homers" how they agree with women voting at municipal elections? There are two schools of thought. One says women's sphere is the hearth and home, another says it is sewers and drains; but surely looking after sewers and drains takes them away from hearths and homes. You cannot have it both ways, and I think the anti-Suffragists ought to make up their minds why the woman who is capable of looking after sewers and drains is not capable of having her energy extended further into political problems. It is absurd to put forward the argument that women are capable of administering legislation on our great municipal bodies and are incapable of forming any opinion as to how that legislation ought to be framed. That is absurd and illogical. Surely the people who administer the law are the best and only people to say what amendment the law requires. The people working the machine are the most capable of seeing what it wants.


Then they ought to be in this House.


I have no objection, if they can get any constituencies to send them here. We have them on the county councils and on the municipal councils and on other local bodies, where the work is often more important than in this House, and where they exercise a very beneficent influence. Some people would illogically try to cut a hard and fast line which does not exist between our municipal institutions and our Parliamentary institutions. Apparently they do not look to experience. We have a large number of Colonies, a number of States in America, and several European countries which have given women the vote. Am I to be told that the conditions of these countries are so very different to the condition of this country? That may be quite true in regard to foreign countries, but surely the men and women of Australia and New Zealand are the same flesh and blood as the Anglo-Saxon race here. Surely in giving the vote to the women of this country we may claim they have the same intelligence as those of Australia and New Zealand, and surely if neglecting of the cradle was to be the result of women getting the Suffrage that result would have shown itself in New Zealand and Australia. The Suffrage has existed there, and far from finding any deterioration in that respect that Franchise has never been repealed but has rather been extended. Neglect of the home and hearth is an argument that ought surely to be abandoned. Anyone who follows the movement of the world will come to this conclusion, that those races who keep their women in subjection, who keep the mental development of their women back, go back themselves, and that those races who keep the development of their women in step with that of men mentally as well as physically, like the Anglo-Saxon race, go forward and if you wish your race to go forward and the country to go forward you want to keep women absolutely in step with men. To widen the sphere of influence for women is a good thing in every sense of the word. It is good for the wife and it is good for the mother, and it is a good thing for the home of the citizen and therefore arguments against it ought to be abandoned. I would like to draw attention to a very important Resolution which was passed by the Australian Senate on 17th November, 1910. The Australian Senate is not a very revolutionary body, but rather the other way. This is the Resolution it passed:— That this Senate is of opinion that the extension of the suffrage to the women of Australia for the State and Commonwealth Parliaments, on the same terms as men, has had a most beneficial result. It has led to the more orderly conduct of elections. At the last Federal election women's votes in the majority of the States showed a greater proportion of increase than those cast by men. It has given a greater prominence to the legislation particularly affecting women and children, although women have not taken up such questions to the exclusion of others of wider significance. In matters of defence and Imperial concern they have proved themselves as far-seeing and as discriminating as men. The reform has brought nothing but good, although disaster was freely prophesied, and we respectfully urge that all nations enjoying a representative Government would be well-advised in granting the vote to women. That is one of the most remarkable resolutions ever passed by a responsible body in Australia, where they have this principle in working order. The giving of the vote to women has not made Australia a whit less willing to shoulder the burdens and responsibilities of Imperial defence, and surely it is not suggested that the women of Great Britain are less patriotic than the women of Australia or less capable of forming an opinion on political subjects, and that granting them the Franchise would be a disaster. All these prophesies of disaster have been disproved in every single case by experience. Can hon. Members who oppose this Bill point to one case. If they could they would be listened to with a great deal more respect on the subject than they are at present. It is perfectly true that the mentality and ordinary emotions of women are not exactly the same as those of men. It is, to my mind, an advantage to the State that that is so. It does not follow from that that they are incapable of forming very sound opinions or of looking at things from a different angle to that of men. It would, to my mind, impoverish the State itself if we do not bring this section of the community into our counsels. We know that men consult their women folk and take them into their counsel upon the most important matters of our lives. Men take women's advice very frequently and very often they find it better than their own judgment. To suddenly draw a sharp line in this matter seems to suggest that this is the ultima Thule, and it is utterly beyond any logical comprehension. There are some—I hope they are few—who have voted in the past for the principle of Woman Suffrage, and who have suddenly made up their minds that because of a certain disorder they should alter their opinion. The argument is to this effect. A certain section of those in favour of Woman Suffrage commit acts which we strongly disapprove of, therefore we will oppose the Bill, and thus punish all the other women who have done nothing at all. What a logically pitiable position they put themselves in who argue on those lines. [HON. MEMBERS: "We do not."] I have seen letters. [An HON. MEMBER: "By whom?"] Well, I cannot remember all the letters. [An HON. MEMBER: "The President of the Board of Trade."] That view has been taken by quite a number of hon. Members, but no great movement has ever succeeded without disorder.

At the time of the Reform Bill of 1832 you had a state of things with which, of course, the recent outburst does not in any sense compare. I have always condemned in every way what I call foolish and stupid action on the part of a certain section, and the speeches made by Cabinet Ministers on public platforms in which they jeered at those who were supporting this reform because they were not burning down castles. That is not the way to induce people who are violently excited to keep quiet. Parliament in 1832 did not refuse to pass the great Reform Bill because of disturbance and because Nottingham Castle was burned, and the House very wisely declined to listen to any argument about disturbances. Then, again, the disorders in Ireland some years ago were of a most serious character, and Mr. Gladstone, on more than one occasion, dealt with this problem. Mr. Morley remarks in his "Life of Gladstone":— Mr. Gladstone wag bent on bringing a revolutionary-movement to what he confidently anticipated would be a good end; to allow a passing phase of that movement to divert him, would be to abandon his own foundations. No reformer is fit for his task who suffers himself to be frightened off by the excesses of an extreme wing. By committing an injustice of this kind, punishing all to penalise a few, you are doing nothing but stirring up bad feeling and committing a gross injustice. Disorder is no argument and coercion is no remedy, and this is no answer to the reasonable demands of the many. I would appeal to all those who have supported this Bill on former occasions, not to allow themselves to be diverted from giving justice to the women of this country. On the other hand there are some who object to the Bill on many grounds, and one of the chief grounds is that the basis of it is not wide enough. On that point I would say that the base is the biggest and most democratic Franchise we have got, namely, the household qualification, and no less than 87 per cent. of the registration of this country is a household qualification. How much wider under our present Franchise law could you have made this Bill? You could have included the £10 qualification, but that would not make it more democratic. You could have included the lodger, but I doubt whether that would make it more democratic. Surely it is absolutely unjust to refuse to extend the Franchise to women because you do not agree with the Franchise given to men. It is no answer to say I do not like this or that qualification. When the proper time comes that will be the moment to consider it.

Think how long this agitation has gone on? John Stuart Mill, in 1867, proposed an Amendment of the Franchise Law on this point, and this House has approved time out of number of this principle. Surely you will not be surprised that those who take a passionate interest in this question outside these walls are becoming impatient, and are doubting the sincerity of Parliament. You always find some reason for putting them off. I would ask all those who believe that the admission of the women of the country to the citizenship of the country is not only an act of justice to women, but an act of benefit to the State to support this Bill on the Second Reading. The promoters have done their best to meet objections, and have brought in a Bill capable of Amendment. Millions of women in the country who have worked irrespective of party, class and creed, ask this House to give them at least what they have so long deserved and merited, and which has so long been withheld. I sincerely hope that all those who believe in the principles of the Bill will allow no point of detail and no small point of diversion to stop them going into the Division Lobby in support of this Bill.


I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."

I find myself in a position of some difficulty in the task which I have undertaken this afternoon. I know quite well that there is a considerable division of opinion on these benches, as well as on the benches opposite, on this question. I know also that the Cabinet are divided with almost mathematical accuracy upon this question. The opportunity of following the Prime Minister is one which we all enjoy daily, but I find no pleasure in being opposed to right hon. Gentlemen like the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The division is one which cuts deeply, but I feel that I have a duty to perform, and it is one that I intend to perform to the best of my ability. There is another difficulty which I feel, and it is that I have the strongest sympathy with the demands which are put forward by the women that they should exercise the Suffrage, but, on the other hand, I have never yet been able to come across one single argument which appeared to me valid in that connection. I have listened attentively to the speeches of the move[...] and seconder of this Motion. I am bound to say they have not done any injustice to the cause which they advocate, but I still remain unconvinced.

They did advance a considerable number of arguments, and I think I may divide them into three classes: (1) those which I deny altogether; (2) those which seem to me to be of no importance; and (3) those which I admit as a statement of fact, but which I deny utterly to have any relevance to the question of the vote. I think I did hear a faint whisper of some such phrase as "the principles of eternal justice," and I also think I heard something about the principle that you should have no taxation without representation. This House has had an opportunity of discussing those questions on two occasions within the last few years, and I think I shall be pardoned if I leave on one side those two particular forms of argument. The seconder of the Motion went on to deal with the industrial position of women, and in this instance he only touched—he did not go deep into it—a question which I think is of extreme importance when we come to deal with the question of Woman Suffrage. I attach great importance to it myself. We all recognise that women under modern conditions do compete in the labour market, and there they suffer some apparent disadvantage. It is not in the least true that in the majority of cases they compete with men, because they compete with one another. It is true their position is capable of improvement, and might well be improved. I represent an industrial Constituency which contains a very considerable number of working women, and if I thought I was depriving them of a legitimate weapon which might aid them in collective bargaining, I should hesitate about taking the part I do take in this Debate. Although the hon. Member for Swansea implied it, we know that the vote cannot and does not increase the wages of any single person. We have been discussing this very week a proposal to insert the figures of wages in an Act of Parliament. We did not insert them, but, supposing we had inserted them, does anyone for a moment suppose that Parliament could either have enforced its decree in that respect, or, if it had been able to do so temporarily, that it would have been able to maintain the wages at the figure it had inserted? Anyone with the most elementary knowledge of economics is aware that it is quite impossible for Parliament to do anything of the sort.

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) challenged me with regard to that Bill. Why, if votes have the power to raise wages, was it necessary that the Bill should be brought in at all? As a matter of fact, the miners did not ask that the Bill should be brought in, because they knew quite well, that so far as votes have any power at all they had the power without the introduction of a Bill. The whole history of the Franchise is against any such contention. I think there is the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) for the statement that history shows the greatest advance in respect of wages before the vast mass of the industrial population received the vote. Take, again, the agricultural labourer. What advantage has he gained since he received the vote? There is not an hon. Member who can maintain that he has made any advance at all. We know quite well that in the case of women there are three causes which prevent them enjoying the same advantages in the labour market as men. You have, first, the question of physical inferiority; then you have the question of the discontinuity of labour; and you have, in the third place, the question of the lack of organisation. I say, without hesitation, that whenever any one or more of those three causes cease to operate from that moment women's wages begin to rise and do rise to the same level as the wages of men. Of those three causes organisation is undoubtedly the most important, and the remedy for that lies at this very moment in the hands of the women themselves. Take the textile trade, of which I have some knowledge. There collective bargaining has been developed, and you find women in strong unions, and for piecework, which after all is the real test of equality, they are paid at precisely the same rates at which men are paid. It is organisation alone, and not the vote, which can neutralise those natural disabilities from which women suffer when they compete in the labour market. I pass from that to the intermediate class of argument. It does not move me either to know that our great self-governing Colonies have adopted the principle of Woman Suffrage, or to know, on the other hand, that no great sovereign power in the world has done it. The point we have to consider, and the sole point, is whether it is a good thing for an Empire situated as ours is at this point of space and time and here and now.

I now reach an argument, which occupied a very large part of the speech of the hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond), an argument which in so far as it was a statement of fact I am perfectly prepared to admit to the full; indeed, I am not sure I would not go further. I should not attempt to deny that women have effectively established themselves in public life, and that their entrance there has been fraught with great benefit to the State. They have, of course, the local Franchise; they act as guardians; they serve on Royal Commissions, and, what we ought not to lose sight of too, they render in a hundred ways of private endeavour most valuable services to the community. Yes, but let us not exaggerate the extent of those public services. I regret they are not more considerable than they are, but it is only two or three days ago one of my hon. Friends, I think the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Essex) secured a reply from the President of the Local Government Board giving the exact numbers of women who were serving in public capacities, and those figures are so striking that I may venture to repeat them to the House. On boards of guardians there were only 1,327 women serving out of a total of 24,824; on town councils there were only twenty-four women out of a total of 11,140; on urban district councils there were only six women out of a total of 10,561; and on county councils there were only four women out of a total of 4,615. I think those figures are very significant. I do not go so far as to say that, where this desire of women for more public power has been tested it has failed, but I do say that it shows a very undue reluctance to take advantage of the considerable opportunities which at this moment are offered to them. We know well there is a vast field open to them. There is an enormous amount which they might do in the protection and preservation of infant life, in the prohibition of child labour, in the direction of sanitation, and in the direction of many other social questions. The power to do all that is already theirs at this moment. They have the power to do that with all the prestige which attaches to independence of party, a prestige they would at once lose if they were given the vote, which would be exercised for party purposes. I say, if one quarter of the energy and the enthusiasm which have gone to the agitation for Woman Suffrage had been given in these directions the country at this moment would be a very much happier place for the masses and the toiling millions.

Then, again, I feel, as the hon. Member for Swansea maintained, that we are all of us, on both sides of the House, indebted to a large extent to those great bodies of women who assist us at election times and who form part of political associations. I myself, as everybody does, value their support very much. How many of them would be enfranchised by this Bill? Very few indeed. This is not a Bill to enfranchise members of political associations. I intend to show in a moment who would be enfranchised by it. The question is not the enfranchisement of any particular class, but the enfranchisement of politically inert masses who take no interest in politics, and who do not desire to do so. I go beyond the hon. Member for Swansea. I think the influence of women on legislation is pratically unlimited. We have no need to detail the long series of Acts to which women have contributed the substantial part by the advice and help they have given to the responsible Ministers. I mean the Midwives Act, the Probation of Offenders Act, the Children Act, and many others. Let me take a case fresh in the memories of all of us. I mean the case of the pit-brow women. You had there a case where twice in one generation—it happened before, not many years ago—by merely explaining their case in plain terms, women succeeded in avoiding what they conceived to be an injustice which was about to be inflicted upon them by an Act of Parliament. And after the pitbrow women we had the case of the Insurance Bill. I, with many other hon. Members, thought the provisions in regard to married women and women generally in the Bill in its original form, needed considerable improvement. What happend? The women made their protest, and those provisions were modified and made more favourable to women with as little delay as possible, and on that Act the impress of women has made itself felt. I think all those facts taken together are sufficient to show that at this very moment not only the whole form of our social life, but in particular our social legislation, bears the mark of women in an unusual degree. And if there was one thing which would show the unnecessary character of this movement it would be the success of the movement itself. I agree that women show enthusiasm, devotion, and intuition in the work which they are doing; but I deny, and it is a point on which I challenge argument, that work so performed and the qualities which are brought to the performance of it, have any sort of connection logical or reasonable with the granting of the Parliamentary vote. If it had, there might still be counterbalancing arguments against it, but I deny altogether that it has.

We hear too much talk on both sides of the House of the vote as though it were a general term with no specific significance. There are all sorts of votes. People have a vote for an orphanage because they are subscribers; they have a vote as shareholders in a company; they have the municipal vote, and there is the Parliamentary vote and it is the Parliamentary vote alone which we are discussing this afternoon. I assert, and I challenge contradiction, that between all the arguments brought forward by hon. Members and the Parliamentary vote, there is a chasm which has never been, and I believe cannot, be bridged. It appears to me there are at least three—there are I have no doubt many more—distinctions which constitute that chasm. Even the hon. Member for Swansea recognised there was some distinction, and I take that as a sign of grace. In the first place, I say the Parliamentary vote deals with a far larger subject matter. It covers not only domestic but the whole of our Imperial affairs. In the second place, it requires a different set of qualities from all the other categories we have been considering. It is a judicial function in a sense, which none of the others are. In the third place, it is founded on a different basis, and it rests for its ultimate sanction—ultimate only, I say—on the latent element of physical force in the aggregate male population. I say that distinction is logical and is not open to question. What inconsistency is there in inciting women to contribute their best to the common good and then asking them to stop at just that point where their activities might prove dangerous not only to the State but to themselves? What inconsistency is there in saying that although they do valuable work in remedying social evils, at the same time there is no justification for inviting them to control the Army and Navy, to decide the issue of peace and war, and to assume despotic control—it is nothing else—over all this vast Empire, with its many millions of different races and different creeds. An hon. Member laughs, but, although he may not recognise it at all times, that is what the Parliamentary vote means and nothing else.

5.0 P.M.

The supporters of the cause frequently talk as though it meant something very different. We who oppose it certainly do not contend that it is in any way a reward of virtue or that it is a testimonial of intellectual or moral excellence. It is none of those things. It is a badge, not of superiority, but of difference, a difference of the masculine character and coercive power, a difference which is ill adapted to many of the delicate situations in which we find ourselves in this life, but a difference which is adapted for the governance of alien races and for the safeguarding of our Empire. The vote is a specific power which is granted by authority of the State to those whom it conceives to be most fitted to exercise it for good. There is no superior virtue there, but by decree of nature—possibly it may be alterable in centuries to come—at present it resides in the male sex. Supporters of Woman Suffrage speak as though, in using the vote a man strikes a selfish blow in the face of the rest of the community. But more and more as political education increases, and as general education also increases, the vote tends to become a register of all the active forces in the community, and of those forces the far more considerable and far more potent are women themselves. I hope I have made my argument on that quite clear. I will only add one qualification. In a few weeks we are going to embark on a large scheme of devolution of legislative powers. If that were successful, and if we had separate Parliaments for the separate nations which form the United Kingdom, then I would admit this question might take on a different aspect. But I say at this moment, with one single Imperial Parliament, of the functions of which we are well aware, it is premature at this date for us to accept such a proposal as that contained in this Bill.

I have dealt at some considerable length with the general question. After all it is very difficult to know exactly in what position we stand this afternoon. What Bill is it we are discussing? The meagre text which is before us deceives no one. Is it Suffrage for the whole sex, or is it the very narrow, but at the same time indefinite proposal which is contained in the Bill, is it to add one or eight or twelve millions of women to the electorate? Is it the flicker of conservatism or the moderation so characteristic of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, or the large view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is never content with eight millions if he can get twelve. If extension is the object of this Bill, if it is desired that the Bill be extended, why is it not put in the Bill? If extension is not the object, whom does anyone think that this Bill is going to satisfy? There is just the same duplicity—for it is nothing else— about the arguments which have been, raised on previous occasions in connection with this Bill, and which, I am quite sure, will be raised again to-day. We shall be told on one side that this Bill is only a prelude to Adult Suffrage. We shall be told in the next moment that it forms an insuperable barrier against Adult Suffrage. We shall be told it prevents altogether the introduction of women into this House. We shall also be told that that is the only desirable and logical conclusion of passing such a Bill as this. We shall be told, probably by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil), that it is a small matter hardly worth our attention except in the Division Lobby. We shall be told by others that it is a social revolution fraught with incalculable benefits for both sexes. We shall be told that it is an experiment with no ulterior consequences to follow. On the other hand, we shall be informed that it is a grain of mustard seed which will grow into a mighty tree that will overshadow the feeble plant of male domination. This deliberate suppression of fundamental discords is the only thing which secures it any support, and I think that the Bill will get even less support when it is stripped of its concealed possibilities and tested on its merits.

I find four objections, any one of which is sufficient for an advocate of Liberal or Progressive principles. In the first place it is based on a property qualification test. I admit our whole Franchise is based on such a test, but this advocates a property qualification of one Franchise only, one which deals with the richer classes only, and it does so in the crudest possible form. Worse than that, and this is a point which will have to be met, it puts a direct stigma on marriage. I say, in respect of that, the words of the Bill are misleading. The Bill tells us that no disqualification is imposed on marriage, but in its very next phrase, in the same context, it at once proceeds to destroy the value of what has gone before. Husband and wife are not to vote in the same constituency. Before I go on I should like to ask this. If husband and wife are not to vote in the same constituency, and if they both happen to be on the list, who is to give way? But I have very much more serious objections than that. In practice wives and mothers by this Bill will be excluded from the Franchise, whereas daughters will not. Daughters, to any number may exercise the Franchise and may make laws for their mothers. What I regard as an even more serious effect is that married working women especially will be excluded from the provisions of this Bill. Surely if there is any class entitled to the Franchise it is the married working woman. But she has not a chance in a million of getting a vote under this Bill. It not only omits married women, but it actually penalises marriage. A woman may have enjoyed a vote before marriage, but she automatically loses it by marriage, and, after that, her only gateway to the Franchise is through widowhood or divorce. Why should the Bill make this distinction between one class and another? A married woman, if fortunate enough, may get a vote in one place, although not in the place where she lives. Why is this distinction of place introduced when the whole argument, the whole body of speeches in favour of Suffrage, is based entirely on an alleged inequality, the distinction of one sex from another; yet they now introduce an irrational and absurd distinction based on the place of living.

The third objection is that it opens a door to a very peculiar, and, in my opinion, very objectionable form of Plural Voting. I can only call it that, because, in practice, it will amount to that. There is no restriction whatsoever in this Bill placed on voting by husband and wife in different constituencies. A woman may get a vote at once through her husband. She will be able to collect votes just as she now collects jewels, and she will be able to do it at far less cost under this Bill if her husband happens to be a rich man. If she herself is rich, she can do precisely the same thing without the intervention of her husband. If the husband is anxious to accumulate votes, then under this Bill he will be able to put half of his plural votes in his wife's name, and he will thereby at a General Election double his powers of locomotion. It may be said that these are trivial and fanciful objections, but I am certain that if this Bill passes as it stands, everyone of these, in some different degree, will be put into practice.

Lastly, it appears to me to be the most undemocratic measure ever brought before this House. The hon. Member who seconded told us that 87 per cent. of men at present exercising the Franchise were included on the household basis. That may be so, but what he omitted to point out was that this Bill excludes married women from the Franchise, yet so far we have had no penalty put upon man for marriage. The whole argument of those who support this Bill is based on the alleged inequality in this respect, but it is one which they are only going to aggravate and intensify by the provisions of this measure.

The Bill before the House is exactly the same as we have had before, but the situation is very different. We have had recently what I may call a working model of Woman Suffrage. I think the breaking of windows has let in a good deal of fresh air on this subject, and has enlightened a good many Members. I do not intend to deal with this question of violence. I say frankly I do not think it is very important. When it began it served to divert attention from the true issue, and it has ended by bringing back attention to the real issues before us. I am content that that should be so. So far as it goes it shows us that those who claim to have most power to persuade women are exactly those who are least fitted to exercise political power. That throws considerable light on the nature of the demand which is being made for the Franchise. I am not so much concerned to deal with the nature and qualities of that demand, as, after all, that is a thing which must very largely be a matter of opinion.

Before I conclude I will deal for one moment with the extent of the demand. I know the advocates of Woman Suffrage have said that they do not care whether there is any demand for it or not. That, to them, is a consideration of no importance. I think, however, it is a very important consideration for this House in making up its mind how it is going to vote to-day. We ought, I suppose, to begin with the General Election. I need not labour that point, because it is a matter of common knowledge, and has never been disputed, that the question of We man Suffrage was not the issue before the electorate in any single case at the last General Election. I believe only fifty-nine Members mentioned it, in any form, in their election addresses. Since the General Election we have had a great many elections, and we have had a great many by-elections. There was South Manchester, for example. I do not think that South Manchester brought very much pleasure to any Liberal Member of this House, but it must have brought less pleasure to the Liberal Members who are supporters of Woman Suffrage, because there you had a deliberate and professed anti-Suffrage candidate returned by a large majority, and you had, in addition, from the defeated candidate—I regret very much that he was defeated—an admission that his votes in favour of Woman Suffrage had contributed to his defeat. There is not only South Manchester; we have had four other elections. There have been elections in the north, west, east, and south, and an unbroken sequence of five anti-Suffragists have been returned to this House, four of those being unopposed. There was an opportunity for a Suffragist candidate, because there was no Liberal candidate, and the opportunity of testing opinion on the direct issue might have been taken in the case of these four elections.

It may be said that is only the opinion of men and that behind that there is the opinion of women. There I agree that the evidence is so much more difficult to obtain, but, so far as we have evidence, I think some importance must be attached to the canvass of women municipal electors, which has been steadily carried on, and which is still being carried on. I will give the House the results up to date of that canvass. Of the replies which have been received, there are against the Suffrage 47,795, in favour of it there are 22,176, neutral 9,404, and the number of those who gave no reply at all was 57,025. I ask the House to note that this canvass has been conducted in 103 districts of all types in all parts of the country. It has been conducted amongst the class who would be enfranchised by this very Bill, and among the class who on other grounds might be expected to be peculiarly favourable to the extension of the Franchise to women. No pressure has been put upon them at all; the canvass has been by postcard. It will be seen that the neutrals are very few, and that by far the largest number have given no reply. I say that the very same motive which induces some women to record a vote against the Franchise induces a much larger number still to take up this stronger attitude of refusing to record either way their opinion. That is the opinion of women so far as women's opinion can be discovered, and I venture to say that we who oppose the grant of the Suffrage are on the side of women, and that those who are urging it should be granted are against them. This is a man-made Bill which they are forcing upon the vast majority of women against their wishes, so far as those wishes can be discovered.

I say that the electorate does not demand this or any Bill dealing with Woman Suffrage. I submit there is no reason to think that the very large body of still unenfranchised or disfranchised men demand anything of the kind. There is every reason to believe that the vast majority of women do not wish for anything off the kind. Under the circumstances I say it would be—to use very well-known words of the Lord Chancellor—a constitutional outrage to pass this Bill. I do not believe there is any difference between the various parties in this House as to the theory of the Constitution. It is perfectly true that the moment it becomes a question of applying it in a particular case many difficulties immediately arise, but I believe the theory can be expressed in a set of formulæ which are equally acceptable to hon. Members sitting in all parts of the House. I am not going to make any extreme assertion of the doctrine of mandate. I fully admit the paramount authority of this House to deal as it pleases with any matter that comes before it, but custom does ordain certain limits—wide limits, I admit—to the exercise of that authority. There are many presumptions. The mandate is presumptive, and that is only one of them. Its presence presumes that Parliament should act; its absence presumes that Parliament should not act. In this case we have many presumptions against, and those presumptions taken together are so overwhelming, that they amount to a positive prohibition of legislation upon this subject. Not only have you no mandate from the electors, not only is this Bill not approved by a majority of either sex or of both, but it is not even what every other Bill is—it is not backed by a responsible Government who may be thought to represent the collective wisdom of the country. I say it would be an abuse of the ordinary prescribed limits if we accepted this Bill weighted with such constitutional defects.

We have heard from the Opposition that the Government are going to attempt to smuggle the Home Rule Bill through in the course of the next few months. They say it is against the Constitution that such a thing should be done. I do not think that is the right word to apply to a process which has been trumpeted and accompanied by excursions and alarms, as in the case of the Home Rule Bill. However, if it be so, I am unable to find any words to apply to the process under which it is proposed to pass this Bill. How could any hon. Member sitting on those benches opposite oppose the passing of the Home Rule Bill on that ground if he had voted for the Second Reading of this Bill? If I may turn from hon. Members opposite to hon. Members sitting on these benches, I would appeal to them to remember that we have fought the battle, a hard battle, in order to secure that the theory of the Constitution should also be its practice. The Opposition derided us, and told us that our attempt was doomed to failure. After two elections, we succeeded in passing the Parliament Act. Is the very Parliament which passed that Act to be the first to reduce it to an absurdity? Are the first fruits of the Parliament Act to be a deliberate transgression of all the cardinal principles with which we fortified ourselves in the struggle with the House of Lords, and a direct negation of the very doctrines we maintained in the face of so much difficulty and opposition? I venture to think that if the peers, with a sense of humour which has possibly been sharpened by the adversities of the last few years, should contemplate our proceedings in this respect, they would contemplate them with contempt. I know that we are not much moved by the contempt of the House of Lords, but it would have an added sting upon this occasion in that many of us feel it would be richly deserved. I apologise for having spoken at so much length in this matter, but I have endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to express my convictions, and to deal with the arguments brought forward by the Mover and Seconder of this Bill. In conclusion, I would ask this House to reject the Bill, without phrase; to reject it because it confers no benefit at all on womanhood, because it is illiberal and unfair in its provisions, because it is contrary to the views of all sections of opinion in this country, and because it violates the settled principles of the Constitution.


I beg to second the Amendment.

I rise to speak upon this subject with very great reluctance, a reluctance which I think must be felt widely by those who take part in this Debate, but which is not so much due to one's individual feelings as to the fact that the very nature of the subject involves a very regrettable sex antagonism, which anybody who takes up an attitude of strong hostility and who feels keenly on this subject cannot but regret. I especially deplore the way in which the question comes before this House. For the first time in the history of the Debates on this subject, the question of Woman Suffrage is of real, vital, practical importance, and the vote which hon. Members will give to-night will no longer be in the nature of a platonic expression of opinion, such as it has often been in the past, but it will, or should be, a genuine expression of their convictions on the subject, with a sense of the responsibility which devolves upon every Member of this House who does anything towards passing or rejecting this Bill. This Bill is nicknamed, as the House is well aware, the "Conciliation" Bill. I cannot imagine a much more, inappropriate name, because it certainly makes no attempt to conciliate the opponents of this measure. It certainly seems to me to give this advantage to the promoters, in that it affords them a ruse whereby they hope to storm the position they desire. It is an attempt, if I, may adopt the military metaphor, to capture the hill which commands the position under the guise of the white flag.

It is quite possible, and I think it is so, that those who really desire that this Bill and no other should pass, can be trusted upon the matter, and that if this Bill passed they would not wish it to go any further; but the point I would commend to my hon. Friends on this side of the House is, that if they once allow the hill which commands the position to be taken by these methods, how can they prevent the conciliators being swept aside by the on-coming horde of those who wish to extend the provisions of this Bill into adult suffrage and the total and complete enfranchisement of women? We have heard, even this afternoon, something which I think would be new to most hon. Members who have hitherto given a sort of support to the proposals contained in this Bill, namely, that it is contemplated by the supporters of this Bill that it should be so extended in the future that women should even sit in this House. The hon. Member for Swansea told us that.


I do not think the Noble Lord is quite entitled to say that. He asked me a personal question, and I gave him my own opinion in answer. I did not speak for the supporters of the Bill.


What the hon. Member said will be within the recollection of the House. He says it is his personal view, but he seconded the Bill, and I am quite content to leave it at that, and to ask the House to judge whether there are not others who hold the same views, and whether, indeed, it is not the only logical position that anybody who votes for this Bill can take up. Can the House contemplate that position with any degree of satisfaction? It is amazing to me that any Member of this House should suppose that the deliberations and the legislation of this House could proceed on the same level as they do now if women were Members of this House. I maintain that the whole position and functions of Parliament would be altered, not because—let this be well understood—that I in the least degree underrate the intelligence of women. I agree with what the Mover of the Bill said, that there are women—and he mentioned an example—whose intelligence and brain power is equal to that of the most intellectual of men, and in some cases superior to that of men. I do not deny that if you had women here they might make most valuable contributions to these Debates, but it would alter the whole tone of Parliament, because a mixed assembly of men and women can never deliberate and can never act in any degree in the same way as an assembly of men only or as an assembly of women only. The fact of the two sexes sitting together in an assembly such as this would no doubt alter the whole tone and the whole feeling of this Parliament. I do not think that can be denied. I do not think any man will deny, if he examines the question, that he is conscious when he is deliberating in common with women of an entirely different feeling, a sort of feeling it is difficult to describe, but which the House will quite understand, a feeling of reserve, which is very different from the feeling which men have when they are discussing freely and debating freely only with one another.

If my hon Friends on this side of the House support this so-called Conciliation Bill they are giving up the key to the whole position, and sooner or later, to my mind sooner, the whole situation must be Surrendered and adult and complete female Suffrage must be introduced. It seems to me that the Bill, so far from being a bar to adult Suffrage, is a direct step towards it; and, indeed, I can conceive no argument by which the complete enfranchisement of women could be resisted if once this Bill was passed into law. The hon. Member (Mr. H. Baker) gave a very interesting and a very acute analysis of the provisions of this Bill. He showed how it is based, if there can be found any basic principle at all in the Bill, which I very much question, principally upon property, and that it is very far from being a democratic measure. Could anyone doubt for a second that if the Bill passed in that form the anomalies which would become apparent by it would lead inevitably to a very speedy extension of the Bill in the direction of universal female Suffrage? The Bill seems to me to be designed to meet an argument which is a very old friend on this question. I call it, for the sake of simplicity, the lady and the gardener argument—the lady who says, "It is monstrous that I should not have a vote when I pay rates and taxes, and am a person of intelligence and education, and my gardener, who has not the same education and intelligence and does not pay the same amount of rates and taxes, has a vote." I admit at first sight that is a hard case. I admit that it is difficult to say to a woman of that kind, a woman no doubt of intelligence far greater probably than the ordinary run of electors, "You are not to have a vote," and it is difficult to say that, especially if one were forced to say it in the way that the hon. Baronet (Sir A. Mond) proposes that it should be said, by saying, "You are not fit to have a vote." The question of fitness does not arise. What you have to say is, "Although yours may appear to be a hard case, yet, at the same time, when you consider the way in which our franchise is based, your hardship is not greater than that of a man who perhaps owns half a county and only has one vote, exactly the same as the poorest householder or the poorest lodger residing in the same county." The argument is purely a property argument. If our Franchise were based on property there would be more to be said for it. There might conceivably be franchises and systems of representation entirely based on property in the same way that the votes of shareholders are allotted in consideration of the number of shares held. That is a conception of representation, but this country, whether rightly or wrongly, has long ago abandoned that conception, and therefore it is no harder for this lady whom I am quoting than it is for the man who has large property and yet who only has exactly the same voting power as a man who has no property at all.

The hon. Member (Mr. Agg-Gardner) made rather a striking observation when he said that the prospects of the Bill had been darkened by the deplorable conduct of certain individuals, and I thought that admission was a very true and a very valuable one, because, in spite of the jeers of the hon. Baronet (Sir A. Mond), I think there can be no doubt that this House is bound to take into consideration all the factors which have led up to the present situation. It is true that the promoters of this Bill are non-militant, but is it not equally true that they are content to advance as far as possible under the shelter of militantism, and I do not think it is true to say that the militant section of the Suffrage movement are not interested in the success of this Bill. They adopt rather a neutral attitude as far as one can observe at present, but reading the issue of their paper, I think a week ago, I noticed that they had a leading article headed "Deserters," and it referred to certain Members of the House who had announced their intention of not supporting the Bill because of the action of the militant section. If they are deserters because they are not going to support the Bill, I think it shows that the non-interest which the militant section are supposed to take in the Bill is pretended rather than real. At all events, can anyone doubt that if this Bill achieves success to-day that success will be attributed by the militant section to militant tactics? The hon. Baronet said, in effect, that the House should not be deterred from doing what in its judgment it considered right by militant tactics. I admit that is a plausible argument, but I would ask the House whether it is really in conformity with the fact. Can anybody deny that the question has been forced to the front by militant tactics, and can anyone pretend that this House would be discussing this situation with the full sense of responsibility with which it ought to discuss it to-day if it had not been that the question had been forced to the front by militant tactics? That being the case, what influence is the militancy going to have upon the House? Is it going to encourage the House to pass the Bill or to reject it? It must have an influence in one of those two ways, and the question having been forced to the front by this advertisement which we all deplore, yet at the same time this House cannot dissociate itself from the result of that militancy, and must be influenced one way or the other. I claim that there are valid reasons why it should be influenced towards rejecting the Bill.

There is no punishment involved in refusing this vote to women, but I think there is indisputable evidence that it is very far from being desired by the vast majority of women, and I think there are lights thrown upon certain types of the female mind by this militant movement which the House ought not to neglect. The House has noticed the absorption which those who are engaged in the militant movement get in the subject, an absorption which amounts almost to a monomania which leads them to act without any sense of proportion or of restraint, and which leads a political subject and a political question far away from the normal ground where those subjects are considered and discussed into a realm where they ought never to intrude, and that is even to the realm of sex antagonism. It would be unfair, I quite agree, to judge women as a whole by the action of a few. No one would wish to do that. No one would wish to pretend that because some women have acted in this way that is the way that all women would act under political stress. Far be it from me to suggest anything of the kind, but the way in which certain types of women, easily recognised, have acted in the last year or two, especially the last few weeks, lends a great deal of colour to the argument that the mental equilibrium of the female sex is not as staple as the mental equilibrium of the male sex. That argument has very strong scientific backing, and I feel supported in venturing to bring it before this House by the extraordinary able and interesting letter in the "Times" of to-day. It seems to me that this House should remember that if the vote is given to women those who will take the greatest part in politics will not be the quiet retiring, constitutional women under whose auspices this Bill is supposed to be at present, but those who take the principal part will be those very militant women, those very absorbed women who have brought, to my mind, so much disgrace and discredit upon their sex. Can anyone contemplate with any equanimity the public discussion in this country o[...] in this House of any public question if there are going to be certain individuals who will take it up with violence and want of restraint, and with all the symptoms of mania in the way in which this question has been taken up by these particular people. It would introduce a disastrous element into our public life which might have most far-reaching effects, and I fear that the sensible women, the majority of women, would be so disgusted by the conduct of the extremists of their sex, that you would find that gradually they tended to drift more and more out of politics, and you would be left with this type of woman only, exercising the vote which you are proposing to confer up them to-day.

It seems to me that women, in appealing to force, appeal to a very unnatural argument, and I think the unnaturalness of the weapon which these militants have been using constitutes the peculiar ugliness of the whole movement because of the odiousness to men of employing force against women. One feels that it is not cricket for women to use force, because men have only got to exert their force to wipe away all the force which women can possibly employ. If men really exert their force there can be no question that they are bound to suppress any exhibition of female force whatever; therefore it seems wrong that women should rely upon the argument of force. Is it not entirely unreasonable and illogical for those women who justify this action to pretend that it is nothing but the same sort of agitation which men have used to gain their objects in the past? I maintain it is absolutely and entirely different. In the case of these women it has been a cold-blooded, deliberate violence, very different from the unpremeditated spontaneous outbursts of riotous feelings which have in the past overwhelmed great masses of men, and which no doubt will overwhelm them in the future. In the case of men you deplore it. You may regret that they should have burst the bonds of restraint in this spontaneous manner, but in the case of women doing it, cold-bloodedly and deliberately, then you say it is little short of nauseating and disgusting to the whole sex. Let us remember that if the Bill is once passed, whether we like it or not, it will be attributed to the militant methods. If it is passed, it certainly will be passed at the wish of a minority of women, and certainly against the wish of the majority of men. There were female Suffrage candidates at the last election in two divisions. In very few divisions was the question of female Suffrage mentioned in the election addresses, and can anybody who looks at the ridiculously paltry numbers who supported these candidates—I think twenty-two in one case, and thirty-five in the other—fail to realise that, although there has been noisy clamour, taking the country as a whole there has been no feeling in favour of this reform among men, and I think very little but a sort of sex adhesion among women. I believe in the case of women who do support it platonically, it is largely due to the feeling that they do not want to resist anything to their sisters who do themselves believe in it.

I think this House ought not to forget that the vote means government, and the whole question, to my mind, as I consider this is the occasion when the principle is settled for good or bad, is whether or not you desire that women should take part in the government of the country. Would that not be going beyond the actual position of affairs if you look at any other branch of the undertakings in which the country engages besides Government? Where are the women merchants and the women bankers? Where are the women directors of great undertakings? Nowhere to be seen at the head of the great businesses of the country. In every department which you choose to look at there are men, and I can imagine very few undertakings in which women exercise an equal share of the control with the men, and to say that certain women, by the exigencies of the situation, have to go and work in factories, and so forth, is no argument for the control and government of those large undertakings by women, and I maintain that to give women a share in the Government of the country before they have, apart from any legislation, taken in the natural course of events a share in the control of those large undertakings is certainly to be premature if nothing else, and certainly to be putting women in a Parliamentary position which they have not attained by their own exertions in any other department of public life. It appears to me that it is one of the fundamental truths on which all civilisations have been built up, that it is men who have made and controlled the State, and I cannot help thinking that any country which departs from that principle must be undertaking an experiment which in the end will prove to be exceedingly dangerous.

It is true that women have been an inspiring force, helpers and counsellors of the men, and it seems to me that in that capacity they are exercising their legitimate influence and doing what the qualities which belong to their sex enable them to do best. It is not a question of general superiority or inferiority. No man can say that man is superior to woman, or that woman is inferior to man. They are so essentially different that they cannot be compared. The hon. Member for Swansea (Sir A. Mond) talked about female rulers and of the great success of the famous women rulers who figure in history. The success of such rulers as Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria was due to that very sentiment of loyalty which men have towards women, which makes them loth to resist them, and which commands their respect. It seems to me that as rulers, ruling through men, they have gained their chief successes from the fact that they commanded, I would almost say, the adoration of men in a way that no man ever could have commanded it. If no intellectual difference exists between men and women, the fact that men have the vote is no reason why women should have the vote. That is the logic and reason of the matter. I would ask every Member of this House, apart from that, whether there are not subjects in regard to which there is a feeling which is even stronger than logic or reason, and whether there is not an instinct, both in men and women, against the equality of the sexes in the matter of government. I think that instinct is very strong. I believe many who will vote for this Bill to-night because they have promised to do so in the past will admit that they are doing it against their instinct. I am inclined to think that in a question of this kind instinct is by no means an unreliable guide. I believe that the normal man and the normal woman both have, the instinct that man should be the governing one of the two, and I think the undoubted dislike that women have for men who are effeminate and which men have for masculine women is nothing more nor less than the expression of this instinct. It seems to be embodied in popular phraseology. We talk of a "masculine personality" and of a "virile policy," and there are no more amusing figures often on the music-hall stage than the henpecked husband or the man who submits to petticoat government. I think these expressions of popular phraseology are evidence that there is this instinct in both man and woman that man should be the dominant factor in the community, and that man, and man only, should perform the governing functions of the human race. It is not as if women were a disfranchised class. The hon. Member for Swansea seemed to think that was their position. When one reflects that there is not a single man who has a share in the government of the country who is not closely in touch with some woman who is not a voter, I think that absolutely destroys the argument that women should be considered as separate, or that they are in any way a class by themselves.

The hon. Member spoke about women and Tariff Reform, and he asked what was the use of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) going down to address 2,000 women on Tariff Reform if they had not got votes. I do not know whether he imagined that my right hon. Friend does not know what is to his own advantage, but it seems to me that the very action of my right hon. Friend is, from the hon. Member's point of view, a very strong argument against giving the vote to women, because he knows very well that Tariff Reform will never be carried in this country until the women of the country are converted to it. He knows very well one of the chief difficulties of carrying that policy which we have experienced is the reluctance of the women owing to the deception—[Interruption]—well, the mistaken policy which in the past they have trusted, and which trust is, I am glad to say, diminishing. But, at all events, that shows perfectly clearly that the women have influence, that they do exercise political power in what I maintain is the only legitimate way, namely, through the mankind of this country, who ought to be the governing party in the country. I think we too often forget the part which women should play in this country. There is, as the hon. Member pointed out, the whole sphere of local government open. They do not avail themselves of it except in a very small and insignificant degree yet that field opens out to them a wide prospect of utility, and would enable them, if they chose, to do a great deal which sadly needs doing in the way of education and housing, and in a great many other directions. Women wall always have their rôle to play, and I cannot help thinking that if you enfranchise them, as it is proposed to do by this Bill, you will be inflicting on them a great dis-service, inasmuch as you will be removing them from a sphere which they are qualified to fill to one which they are not so well qualified to fill.

6.0 P.M.


In one sense it seems to me almost unnecessary that we should be occupying so much time in the discussion of the principle of this Bill, because this is a matter, unlike most matters which come before the House, which has been decided in one sense so many times by the House of Commons that it really ought to be unnecessary to traverse all the old arguments over again. So far back as the year 1886 the Second Heading of a measure similar to this was carried in this House without a Division, and year after year onwards to the present time in Parliament after Parliament measures affirming the same principle as this Bill have almost uniformly met with the favourable acceptance of this House. To those of us who sit on this side of the House one circumstance which has happened recently makes the fact that the House of Commons has many times affirmed the principle of the Bill of more importance than it must have appeared to Members of Parliament some years ago. I refer to the great constitutional struggle which is now closed, and as the result of which we affirm the determination of the Liberal party that the decisions of the people of this country, as expressed by their representatives in the House of Commons should be respected. If the repeated decisions of the representatives of the people with regard to Women's Franchise are to be taken as of no account, if after Bills have been passed in successive years, last year by a majority of 179 and the year before that by a majority of 110, if those majorities are to be counted for nothing one of two things must follow. Either we have conducted our constitutional struggle upon a wholly false basis—because the whole of the basis upon which we have affirmed the right of this House to enforce its decisions against the House of Lords is the theory that the decisions of the House do represent the will of the people, and, to put it shortly, that what this House has thrice decided must necessarily be right—or it lies upon those who oppose, this measure to find some explanation to give to the women of this country why measures vitally affecting their interest, which have been passed by majorities in this House larger than those in favour of the Parliament Bill itself should receive a different kind of treatment from any other kind of legislation brought before the House. I shall be interested to know on what ground it can be maintained that a majority of 179 affirming the expe- diency of the principle now before us has less meaning or weight than if the votes were cast upon any other measure which has been, or will be, brought before the present Parliament?

I can hardly conceive that the opponents of this measure will tell the women who-are outside this House, anxiously waiting the result of this Debate, that this measure differs from other measures because in the case of non-party measures you cannot expect Members to vote with the same independence and freedom of control such as they would exercise in such a case as a measure of Home Rule or Welsh Disestablishment. I rather fancy that the converse of that proposition would commend itself to the mind of any logical person. If a majority of 125 in a Division, in which the Party Whips stand at the entrance to the Lobbies, and all the forces of the party are used irresistibly in one way, carries such tremendous consequences as it did under the Parliament Act, what about the majority of 179 when the Members went into the Lobby free from any party influence? It is suggested that for some reason the House of Commons is on this occasion going to stultify the position which it took up with regard to the recent constitutional struggle by reversing the vote which it so recently gave upon this great measure. I have heard it suggested on the one hand that Members of the Nationalist party feel an abhorrence in being associated with the cause which has lately been identified with violence, such as window breaking. I cannot believe that any Member of the Nationalist party would ever refuse to go into the Lobby because there had been minor acts of violence, such as we all deplore, in connection with this movement within the last few weeks. It has been also said that it might be considered probably a tactful thing on the part of the Irish Members in, this House to get out of their way this little measure which we are discussing this afternoon. It is urged by some that if this Bill could be defeated, if this question of Woman Suffrage could be removed from the political arena at the present time, that that would perhaps be a convenient thing for the Government in connection with the introduction and progress of the Home Rule measure.

I would appeal to any Irish Member who might be tempted by practical considerations of that kind to consider that this little Parliamentary barque which carries the fortunes of Woman Suffrage has not any analogy to that greater craft on which the Home Rule cause will presently be launched. It is a cause which has been fought in season and out of season and inside and outside the House for something like half a century. It is a cause which never had such an opportunity, in the belief of those who support it, as at present of achieving a measure of success. The Irish Home Rule Bill will, we all expect, in the course of a few weeks, commence its own progress through these Parliamentary waters and there will be difficulties, perhaps rough weather, in the future. For that Bill I cannot believe that, it will be a well-omened entry upon its Parliamentary course if that course were to be cleared at the expense of this little measure. Then it is suggested from this side of the House that there may be defections on account of the militant tactics of the Suffragettes. I cannot think that those who are, politically, descendants of the Reformers of 1832 are going to be influenced toy the window smashing. I was looking up in the Library yesterday afternoon the King's Speech in 1832, and I found close to one another in the King's Speech two paragraphs, one deploring the terrible riots then taking place at Bristol, and proclaiming the determination of the Government to repress those disorders with a firm hand, and the other stating that measures for the immediate redress of the grievances in connection with Parliamentary reform would be laid before the House. When our political ancestors were considering the redress of the Parliamentary grievance of a large part of the male population of this country they were not swerved either to the right or to the left by the fact that there were outbreaks of political violence in all parts of the country upon a scale which makes the little outburst which the magistrates are now inquiring into in London appear almost too paltry to mention.

If we take the opposite benches, is it suggested that the Unionist party are going to be deterred by militant tactics? I have yet to hear of any opponent of Home Rule upon those benches who has been in any way swayed or altered in his convictions by the somewhat abnormal proceedings which were recently threatened in connection with the meeting in the Ulster Hall. I will say no more on that part of the subject. I think that the House will best consult its own dignity by assuming, as I shall assume, that when we come to vote on this Second Reading of this measure we shall votes upon the merits of the measure, and not be influenced by anything that has happened outside these walls. The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Harold Baker), who moved the rejection, took the advice which I have seen given to an advocate when he comes to the difficult part of the case, to look the difficulty boldly in the face and pass on to the next subject. He opened his case by saying that he had heard something said about natural justice and taxation without representation, but upon those two subjects, as the matter had already been discussed once or twice before the House, he did not propose to say anything. The elementary principle which we say underlies this Bill is the principle that those who are subject to taxation and to the legislation of this country, those who have to pay the taxes imposed by the Government and obey the laws, should have a voice in the imposing of those taxes and the making of those laws. I have not yet heard in this Debate, or in the similar Debate which took place some time ago in this House, anybody attempt to controvert the plain proposition, that in a civilised state of society, those who pay the taxes and have to obey the laws should have a voice in making those laws.

For my own part, speaking frankly, the recent militant tactics have strengthened my desire to see a measure of Woman Suffrage placed upon the Statute Book. For this reason I find it abhorrent to my own thinking that any class or section of the community should expose itself to criminal punishment, and be, necessarily and rightly, brought within the rigour of the criminal law, and at the same time be in a position to say to the community at large, "Although you are making us subject to your laws, although you treat us as criminals, you deny us any voice in the making of the laws for the breaking of which we are now being punished." That, to my mind, is an added reason why this matter requires speedy settlement. The Noble Lord (Viscount Helmsley) who spoke last fell into some curious inconsistencies in dealing with the attitude of women in this matter. In the earlier part of his speech he drew an exciting picture of women whose political absorption on this question amounted almost to monomania. He said it was quite clear that the mental equilibrium of women was not so staple as the mental equilibrium of men, and he drew a contrast between the excitement and loss of all self-control in the case of these women in dealing with political questions compared with the judicial way in which political questions are decided by male electors. A little further in his speech, referring to the question of the militant outbreaks, he had forgotten what he had said before, because he went on to say what he most deplored in the case of these misguided women was the cold-blooded, deliberate character of their acts.


There is no inconsistency between monomania and being controlled by violence.


We are not on a point of fact, but on a question of opinion. He places the case against the women rather higher, and, in the first place, he says they are unsuited to exercise the vote, and then that they are unsuited to political power, because they are in a state of unstable mental equilibrium, amounting to monomania. Afterwards he said if it were a few window-breakings he should not mind, if it were done during excitement, as in the case of the men at Nottingham Castle, but what he objected to was cold-blooded, deliberate, and calculated violence. I do not think the Noble Lord can really have it both ways, and it appears to me that his arguments on that point answer one another. One other matter was pressed with great ability by the hon. Member who moved the rejection of this measure, that women do not at present avail themselves to anything like the extent which they might of the opportunity to take a part in the work of parish councils, town councils, county councils, and the like; and that argument was taken up again by the Noble Lord who spoke last, quite oblivious of the fact that he was again answering an earlier part of his own speech. In the earlier part of his speech he professed much concern at the observation made by the hon. Member for Swansea, lest the result of giving the Parliamentary Franchise to women might not in a short time mean the admission of women to sit in this Chamber.

Surely he cannot reproach women for not taking advantage of the opportunity freely open to them to sit in town councils, county councils, and at the same time express alarm lest in the immediate future they will exhibit a desire to sit in this Assembly, which they have not exhibited in respect of any assemblies for which they are qualified to sit. I hope that Members on this side, and indeed on both sides of the House, will not suppose that, because a great number of the woman Suffragist societies take little part in the militant demonstrations, and because comparatively little is heard of those supporters of Woman Suffrage who have not adopted the same sensational tactics, there is not a large body of women desirous of obtaining the Parliamentary Franchise in this country, nor think that that body of women are not actuated by feelings as profound and as deep as the feelings which lead to the militant tactics. I am sure that everyone on this side of the House must know from experience that a large proportion of women members of our own political associations in our own constituencies have very strong feelings upon this subject. We must have regard to our responsibilities towards them. Speaking generally, they have been, time and again, assured by members of this party that they must be patient, that there was the Parliament Bill, the Budget, and other causes supported by the party, and they must wait their turn, and when their turn came Woman Franchise would be dealt with fairly and properly.

If the House of Commons deals with Woman Franchise in this way, giving it a large majority year in and year out, and then, when it becomes a practical question, turns its back upon itself and refuses to proceed with the measure, I think we shall stir up a feeling of resentment and indignation among a very large mass of the women of this country, for whom in private life we have the highest respect, and in regard to whom it would be impossible for us to use language such as is used by opponents of this measure with regard to the sex in general. We have references to the unstable mental equilibrium of women, and we have such an extraordinary effusion as the letter which appears in this morning's "Times," that every one of us regards as an insult. I say that in the breasts of many, many thousands of women throughout this country a storm of indignation would be raised if this House of Commons were to turn its back upon itself and to stultify the vote which it gave when we last had an opportunity of considering this matter, and I hope that the result will be to justify those of us who have told the women of the country that they may safely trust the House of Commons to deal fairly with this measure, as with any other measure, brought before the House.

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)

I have not taken any part, nor do I intend to take any part, in the movement and demonstrations outside this House in regard to this matter. I therefore think I ought—I feel it altogether consistent with my duty—not to record a silent vote tonight. I am sure I speak with very great reluctance, and I shall not occupy much time. But I should like to state as succinctly as possible the reasons which will lead me to record my vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. I want to make it quite clear that I speak as an individual, and an individual only. I should be very glad to stand below the Gangway, and I believe it would be the more appropriate place for what I am prepared to say. I speak as an individual and as an individual only, and I speak in no sense either as the head or as a Member of the Government. I do not profess to speak for my Friends sitting on this side of the House who have given the Government such consistent and unwavering support; still less do I claim to speak for the Liberal party outside in the country. It is one of those matters in respect to which our fortune is not singular, that as a party we are not altogether at one. Nor shall I attempt to cover the ground, the very large and varied ground, which a measure of this kind necessarily opens up to discussion. I shall vote against the Second Reading of this Bill on the issue of the principle which it raises, and without any special regard to its details. What is that principle? I think I state it in terms which will be accepted both by the promoters and by the opponents of the Bill when I say that it is whether or not the distinction of sex ought to be regarded in a democratic country like ours as a ground of discrimination between those who are and those who are not admitted to the Parliamentary Franchise. This measure which is now before the House, like all Bills for Woman Suffrage, starts upon the principle that that question ought to be answered in the negative. I am bound to say with regard to this particular Bill that those who allege they are starting from the denial of sex differentiation, and proceed straightway to reintroduce the very principle which they repudiate, have a good deal to say for themselves. This Bill, if I read it aright, refuses to give the Franchise to women on the same, or on anything like the same, terms and conditions as those upon which by universal consent, the Franchise is enjoyed and exercised by men, and I know no ground of principle upon which that can be based, except the question of sex differentiation really enters into it. That, however, is a matter which may be left, if the Bill passes the Second Reading, to be fought out in Committee by the various schools of Suffragists.

I oppose this, as I should oppose more logical and more courageous measures which started from the same point, on the broad and simple grounds that in my opinion, as a student of history and of our own public life, experience shows that the natural distinction of sex, which admittedly differentiates the functions of men and women in many departments of human activity, ought to continue to be recognised, as it always has been recognised, in the sphere of Parliamentary representation. Everybody acknowledges that there are some things which women can do, and which men cannot do, or cannot do so well. Everyone acknowledges also that there are some things which men can do which women cannot do at all, or cannot do so well; and when you consider whether the giving of electoral votes and the sitting in Parliament—for, of course, the one follows logically and necessarily upon the other; you cannot discriminate between them unless you are going to bring in once more this sex differentiation—I say that when you consider whether the giving of the vote and the sitting in Parliament falls in one or other of these two categories, you must look not to individual cases, but to all classes as a whole, and above all to the country as a whole. There is no answer, I quite admit, to the old question, if it were relevant, which has often been put, "Why should you deny to a woman of genius like George Eliot the vote which you would give to her gardener?" It is equally difficult to answer the question, if it also were relevant, "Why do you give the same number of votes, and only the same number to Shakespeare or Bacon as you do to his property man or his tradesman?" But neither of those questions is relevant. When you realise, as I trust the House will realise, that you are dealing and must deal in matters of this kind, not with individuals, but with masses, in my judgment the gain which might result, and probably would result, in the wealth of our electoral and Parliamentary resources through the admission of gifted and well-qualified women would be more than neutralised by the injurious consequences which would follow to the status and influence of women as a whole, and the stability of public life and national policy. The argument, though deserving of most serious consideration, does not appear to me to stand careful scrutiny. I venture to say that the Statute Books will bear me out when I say that Parliament has shown itself to the full as regardful of the special conditions and the special interests of women and children, neither of whom are directly represented, as it is of those of the adult men who send us to Westminster. There is another consideration, and I am only mentioning two or three of the main considerations, on the political side of the matter which it is impossible to ignore.

In my opinion we have at this moment no adequate or trustworthy evidence that the change proposed by this Bill in any of the forms in which it has been presented to Parliament or the public is really desired either by the majority of women or the majority of men. There has been no case, as has been often pointed out, and it is indisputably true, in our political history of the enfranchisement of a new class without the clearest possible proof that both that class and the country at large were in favour of it. It is said, I know, and I desire to speak with the utmost respect of those who are promoting this change, that it is steadily gaining in public opinion. Well, as the hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading reminded us, last year the Second Reading was carried by a majority of 167. Meantime the case has been very conspicuously before the public. It has not been hidden under a bushel. It has been advanced concomitantly by methods constitutional and by methods revolutionary. I am not attempting to give a forecast of what the result of the Division will be to-night, but we shall be able to measure, when the numbers are announced at the Table, with something approaching to accuracy, what is the degree of advancement in public estimation since it was last submitted to the House of Commons. For my part, I state most sincerely and unaffectedly it grieves me in a matter of this kind to have to separate myself, both in sympathy and in action, from many old and devoted political friends. It grieves me still more to seem to be unsympathetic to the many public-spirited women outside who have done, and who are doing, so much in the cause of progress. But, Sir, I am bound to take what I believe to be, what I have always believed to be, throughout the whole of my political life the only sound and prudent attitude with regard to this question, and vote against any proposal of this kind which, I have no doubt, would in the long run prove to be injurious to women and fraught with the gravest possibilities to the future good government of this country.


I recognise the weight of the right hon. Gentleman's contribution to the Debate, and I am sure that he will not think me guilty of any disrespect to him if I venture to say that, though I listened very carefully to all that he said, I am not aware of any single argument which he brought forward in favour of the view which he has laid before us. He told us, and I think he is perfectly entitled to say so, that he should look to the Division evidently with some glee, because he anticipates the result of that Division will show that the cause of Woman Suffrage is not as strong in this House to-day as it was a year ago. I think that that is extremely possible, and everyone knows the cause. Everyone knows that the reason is purely and simply that certain women have broken the law in a way we all deplore, and that has so struck the imaginations of some Members of the House and of some people outside the House that it is likely that the Division will not be as favourable as it was before. To say that that shows any diminution in the advance of Woman Suffrage generally throughout the country is, I believe, totally without foundation. The right hon. Gentleman asks where was the demand for this, and what was the evidence that either a majority of women or a majority of men desired it. It is very difficult under our existing Constitution to show exactly what the majority of men do think; but if we are to apply our ordinary tests, what stronger proof could be desired? Here is a matter which has been discussed before the country for forty years. This Bill has been passed over and over again, two or three times by the House of Commons, and in the interval two General Elections have taken place.

The Prime Minister himself is, I think, the author of the phrase to the effect that if a majority was returned, either at the last Election or the last but one, in favour of Woman Suffrage, that that would show that the country was really in favour of it. I cannot quote the phrase, but the right hon. Gentleman will remember exactly to what I allude. A majority was returned, and hon. Members were pledged to this reform to quite the same extent as before, and now the right hon. Gentleman tells us that we have no evidence whatever that the majority of men desire this reform. As to the majority of women, I quite agree the case is much more difficult; but what are the facts? On the one side you have the canvass alluded to by the hon. Member for Portsmouth. A canvass by post cards is an exceedingly unsatisfactory method of ascertaining anything. It all depends on how the question is put and how the votes are collected; and even when you have made all those arrangements you can draw nothing from the figures unless you assume that everyone who did not reply was against. But if you apply any other test, then surely the fact that 140 of the local authorities of this country have petitioned in favour of this Bill is a very strong argument. Those are bodies which depend on the Franchise which we desire by this Bill to establish for Parliamentary purposes, and if they were not satisfied that the majority of their women voters were in favour of it, it is inconceivable that they would have petitioned in favour of it. It is a still more striking fact that there is not one single petition against the Bill from any one of those bodies. I do not know how we are to obtain evidence which will satisfy the right hon. Gentleman. There is the case of every woman's organisation in the country. Women's trade unions, every professional organisation of any kind, the National Union of Teachers, and wherever women have been consulted they have always shown that they are in favour of this Bill. I do venture to press upon the House, whether they are in favour of the measure or against it, that women have done their best to satisfy the House of Commons and to fulfil every test that has been put upon them to show that they do desire the change asked for in this Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that experience showed that distinction of sex should be preserved in political matters. What experience? I ask in vain, what is the experience on which reliance is placed? Where is the evidence that women are incapable of political judgment? I shall come to the provisions of this Bill in a moment; but do we think them incapable of political opinion? Reference has been made to the part they have already played in politics. Do we find that in the Colonies they are incapable of political opinion where they have enfranchisement? The right hon. Gentle- man turned to history, and as to that may I venture to say that which has been said often, but which has never been met, namely, how does he explain the fact that the Queens and female rulers have, on the whole, been quite as successful as men. Remember Queens are not chosen in some special way; they are chosen by what hon. Gentlemen opposite are so fond of describing as the accident of birth. It is a purely fortuitous selection, and yet, on the whole, I believe it will be found by any impartial examination of history that Queens have been quite as successful rulers as Kings. What is the experience then? I am anxious to know what is the experience on which the right hon. Gentleman relies when he says that all the experience of the world shows that this sex discrimination ought to be preserved. In the same way he says that this is going to be a great injury to women. I shall have to deal with that subsequently, but I venture to think that women have the right to say: We wish to run that risk, and we are not satisfied to leave our affairs absolutely in the hands of men.

May I say this, and I say it without the least desire to be violent or extreme, all those who have spoken against this Bill this evening have started with the assumption that it is for us to prove that women ought to have the vote. I venture to say that the real true view of the case is exactly the opposite. Here are a number of citizens who discharge all the ordinary duties of citizenship. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] They may not serve on juries, but that does not seem to have any great bearing on this question. They serve on public bodies; they do an immense amount of philanthropic and public work in this country. They are the backbone of the religious organisation of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Here is this great body of citizens, and no one really will doubt that they are not quite as industrious, quite as public-spirited, and quite as self-sacrificing as men. They do not ask for any privilege greater than that which man has. What they do ask or is that where they are qualified, with certain exceptions, they should be entitled to votes. That is all the Bill asks for. I venture, then, to say that the onus is really on the other side. Surely when you have persons who have all those qualifications it is for you to show that those people have some special disqualification which would entitle us to keep them away from the exercise of the vote. A good deal has been said by the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Baker) about the nature of this Bill. What is it that those of us who believe in this Bill desire to do? I accept to a large extent the Prime Minister's words as to the difference in principle between us. We desire to say that the mere fact of sex is not in itself to be a disqualification. We really set out to establish that principle and no other. We have to take the Franchise law as it is. We take the Franchise law, and we find that at present the Franchise is exercised on certain qualifications. The disqualification of these particular aspirants for that franchise is their sex. Remove that disqualification and, subject to certain exceptions, you have done what you set out to do. I am not here to say, on this occasion, that that is the ideal form in which the Franchise should be. It is a matter well worthy of consideration, and I understand will be a matter of consideration at a later period of the Session, whether that is a desirable basis. If it is decided that it is not a desirable basis, and some other basis is laid down, I agree that it becomes a question whether you are to extend still further the franchise to women; but, at any rate, primâ facie as a proposition to lay before the House and the country, it is surely a rational, reasonable, and moderate course to pursue to say that we take the Franchise as it is. We remove the disqualification; we allow women to vote who would be entitled to vote if they were men. There are certain exceptions. The Prime Minister says that this really shows that we do not believe that women are equal to men. But the Prime Minister knows how these disqualifications came to be put in. They were put in in order to meet the view of hon. Gentlemen in various quarters of the House who thought that if the disqualification was removed without any conditions it would be an advantage or disadvantage to some particular form of political thought in the House. The right hon. Gentleman knows how the Bill came to be framed. Hon. Members in all parts of the House met and agreed that this was a fair solution as between the different parties in the House. They excluded the ownership vote and the faggot vote. When they excluded the graduate vote it was to prevent undue prominence being given to university representation, and when they excluded the lodger vote it was to meet some other objection of the same kind that was raised. Therefore that is the principle which we desire to lay before the House, and if you once grant that the basis of the Franchise is to be that on which it stands at the present moment, then I think that our proposal is a fair and reasonable one. If it is not we shall be glad to hear anything that can be said about it in Committee.

I notice that those who oppose this reform—I am not now referring so much to the Prime Minister's speech as to the speeches of previous speakers—go a great deal into general considerations as to the distinction between men and women. That is a most difficult point. There are no two people in this House who will really agree as to what is the mental distinction between men and women. It is an extremely difficult thing to lay down. One hon. Member said that women were capable of much more absorption, and that that was the explanation of the violence of which they had been guilty in the last few days. Men had been guilty of violence; there are all sorts of fanatics-amongst men; we do not thereupon condemn the whole sex. Surely it is really prejudice when you take the isolated case of a few women and say that it shows absorption, that it is evidence of a fatal defect in that sex, and therefore you refuse them the vote. That is an argument worthy of that very distinguished man of science, Sir Almroth Wright. I have the most profound respect for Sir Almroth Wright as a man of science, but as a guide to my political opinions I think I would select almost anybody else. No impartial person can read his letter in the "Times" this morning without rising from its perusal with the conviction that that, at any rate, is not the right way to approach this question. I want the House to consider the question from a much more pedestrian point of view. It is quite true there are differences between men and women. What I want to do, if I can, is to take some of those branches of knowledge and energy which are generally admitted to be properly open to women. I understand that a large section, at any rate, of our opponents think that women ought to have a voice in any matter which affects the home. Therefore they are very anxious that they should have a voice and take their full share in municipal matters. It is, indeed, made a ground of complaint that they have not taken a sufficient share in those matters as it is. I am asked to say that there is this broad, vital distinction between municipal affairs and the affairs of this Parliament. The hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill said there were three broad chasms—first, that our affairs here were far larger; secondly, there were judicial functions which we exercised—if we do I am sure we exercise them extremely badly—and, thirdly, that our work rests ultimately on the sanction of physical force. If it rests on the sanction of physical force, so does all government; so does municipal government; there is no distinction whatever. The municipal authorities have the direction and the control of the police; the Imperial authorities have the direction and the control of the Army.


Have not the municipal authorities the Army under the control of the Imperial Parliament behind them?


They may ultimately have the Army; but, at any rate, they do control the police, and the point is that women ought to have nothing to do with physical force. The hon. Member who is a strong opponent of this measure, will not deny that the police act by physical force. For my part, I have never been able to understand why the policeman is feminine and the soldier is masculine.


The point is that the laws which are handed over to the municipalities to be administered are made by a body which has behind it the supreme physical force of the country.


Then I understand the hon. Member to say that it is perfectly feminine to administer laws and perfectly masculine to make them. Surely no one really thinks that No sensible person can think it. That is what my hon. Friend below me calls the argument from instinct; I would call it the argument from prejudice. He says it is an instinct that men ought to rule and women ought not to have the vote. No one can argue with an instinct, and if the hon. Member has that instinct I shall never hope to secure his vote for this measure. Surely these distinctions between administration and legislation are all part of the instinct. I want to ask the hon. Member's attention to what are the legislative functions that we exercise here. Let him assume for a moment that there is no vital sex distinction between legislation and administration as such, but that there may be between the subjects with which we deal—which I think is a much more tenable theory. What are the subjects of legislation in this House? Are they subjects with which, on the whole, women ought not to have anything to do? What are the subjects which have been or are to be dealt with in this House this Session? There is the Minimum Wage Bill. Is it really contended that the women of this country have no interest in the amount of wages that are paid to the men? Surely that is a most extraordinary view. Have they no interest in the settlement of the strike? That is a most astounding view. We all know that these industrial disturbances, whether they are right or wrong, justifiable or unjustfiable, are paid for by the women. It is the women and children who suffer, and not the men to anything like the same extent. I venture to say in regard to the Minimum Wage Bill that it is an outrage that women should not have been entitled to vote for those who had to discuss a measure of that kind.

What are the other Government measures promised for this Session? The Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Church Bill. On the Home Rule Bill I will only say that I cannot see why women should not be entitled to settle under what Government they will live. As to the Welsh Church Bill, I am not for a moment saying whether it is right or wrong, but surely a measure which, according to one side, is going to be of the greatest possible advantage to the religious life of the community, and, according to the other side, is going to be a great hindrance to that religious life, is a matter upon which women have a right to be heard. Do not let us shut our eyes to the fact that women are as much interested in religion as men. Indeed, some say more. Unquestionably, as far as attendance at religious services, religious and philanthropic work, or anything of that kind is concerned, women are infinitely more entitled than men to a voice in any question affecting religious matters. What are the smaller Bills? There is the question of the control of the feeble-minded; the question of the milk supply, and the question of temperance in Scotland. Are not all these matters in which women are vitally interested, and on which we ought to be glad, if we have any sense, to hear what is the opinion of women before we finally deal with them? As to Private Members' Bills, first there is the Plural Voting Bill. That is a purely constitutional matter on which I will not say anything more in this connection. The other two Bills are an Education Bill and a Housing Bill. Why should education and housing be outside women's sphere of influence and activity? Surely they are matters upon which women have a right to be heard. Then it is said that we in this House consider a great deal more than those matters. We consider great problems of defence and Empire. We consider international affairs. It is suggested, I do not know on what ground, that if we once give a million women the vote—that is what this Bill comes to—we shall seriously imperil the prosperity and safety of the Empire. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Several of my hon. Friends, for whose opinions I have the greatest respect, take that view. I really cannot understand it. I quite agree that on the technical details of the Army or of the Navy, the women voters would have a very poor opinion. I wish to be very respectful towards those who sent us to this House, but I am not sure that the vast majority of my Constituents would have an opinion of very great value as to the relative merits of a "Dreadnought" and of a ship of the "King Edward" class. The technical knowledge of these questions must always be a matter for those who sit In the House, and not for those who vote at elections. On the broad principles of defence and of the Empire, I boldly assert that women have just as good an opinion as men. I do not see any difference in their patriotism. In spite of the right hon. Gentleman's great authority, I refer to history with the greatest confidence. I say that if you look at history, whether at queens or at people, the women have always shown patriotism and Imperialism In the best sense quite as strongly as any men. I do not in the least believe that their decisions on broad questions of Imperial policy are matters of which we need be in the least afraid in this House.

7.0 P.M.

I want to deal shortly with one or two other matters. I have been trying, as far as I am able, to examine the case made against this Bill in this Debate last year. I do not say the whole case, but I want just to indicate some of the imperative reasons why this reform should be carried out. I say, in the first place, it ought to be car-Tied out in the interests of women themselves. I say that because I am satisfied, in spite of what the hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection said, that the economic position of women requires that they should have the vote. It may have been arguable a hundred years ago that women did very well without the vote so far as their livelihood was concerned, but once the factory system was established, once they necessarily and inevitably came into competition with men, then it is absurd to say they should be fettered in that competition by want of political enfranchisement.

Some hon. Members say, "Nonsense; votes have nothing to do with wages." Have they not? Women have low wages because there are more women who want to work than there is work for them to do. The average wage for women is 7s. 6d. per week. That does not represent, so to speak, a woman's intrinsic value; it represents the fact that she has to compete fiercely against other women, and that therefore she has to take the wages very much lower. In one trade in which there is a trade union in which both men and women are members, the weaving trade, the women have wages equal to the men. When you say that 7s. 6d. is an average, it means that vast numbers of women have wages very much lower than 7s. 6d. Every one must admit that that is most unsatisfactory. Has the vote nothing to do with that? Are there not a large number of trades and professions from which women are at present excluded the work of which they might do perfectly well? Is it not the fact that there are perpetual at tempts being made still further to restrict their avenues of employment? An hon. Member had the courage to refer to the incident of the pit-brow women. That was an attempt to prevent women working at the pit-brow. I venture to say that there was no justification for that attempt—none whatever. I say, further, that if it had been men instead of women such an attempt would never have been made. The men have votes! The reason the attempt ever was made was that the women were incapable of defending themselves. I could give other instances of the same kind—


The same argument applies so far as the Noble Lord's own profession is concerned.


Yes; I have always said there is no ground for excluding women from the Bar. I have said so at meetings, and I am not afraid to say so in the House of Commons. But this is not the most serious aspect. Take the social side. We are told—the Prime Minister has told us—that in matters relating to women Parliament has always been regardful of women's interests. Well, consider the White Slave traffic. I am told, I may be wrong—I see the Home Secretary, and he will correct me if what I have been told is wrong—that the deputation that went to him was told by him, with a great deal of candour, great frankness, with great sympathy, that, though they had a strong case for legislation, he felt that they had not sufficient steam behind them to make it possible to legislate


Oh, no; I did not say so.


That was the impression that the deputation carried away from the interview with the right hon. Gentleman. What does it mean? Do we not all know that it is true? What it means is that the women have not got votes. That is the point. Do not let us hide from ourselves facts because they happen to be disagreeable. Take education. Are we sure that our educational system is perfect? I am not dealing with the religious side of it now, though I think that might be put forward as a very strong case. I am taking the ordinary side. Is it not the cry of every educational expert that our elementary education is most unsatisfactory; that it trends too much in a theoretical and too little in a practical direction? Is it not quite obvious that if we had the great practical ability of women—which no one will deny—in this matter that we should have had a much more satisfactory system than at this moment? We are told by the hon. Member that there are two great reasons why this measure should not be carried on the present occasion. The one is—and I think it is very much relied upon by the opponents of the measure—that this would be the thin end of the wedge. I think that argument is true up to this point: if a thing is bad, it is a very legitimate argument to say that the consequences of it will be worse. But the first thing to decide is whether it is bad. If it is good then I must say that I hear with a great deal of disapproval, if not with impatience, that I must not do a good thing because somebody else in future will do a bad thing in consequence of it.

I myself would be against allowing women to sit in Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why."] The Noble Lord said something about the curious effect of mixed atmosphere. I have sat on many committees, and in mixed assemblies, and I have never felt that curious effect. I am against women sitting in Parliament because I think the exertions of this House are very exhausting. I doubt very much whether women would be physically able, as a matter of fact, to bear them. The exertion of giving a vote is nothing. Anyone can go into a polling booth and mark a paper. That does not require any great physical strength. I am against it—I may be wrong—but whether against it or for it, I utterly refuse to say that because in the future some new reform may be suggested, giving women a place in this House, a bad thing, as I think, therefore I am not going to give them any votes for election purposes. The other argument is based on the window-breaking question. I do not want to say too much about this, because I do not think people are so fond of talking about it as a few weeks ago But surely, some of it is the greatest nonsense that ever was talked! What are the facts? Here are a few women, 500 at the outside, certainly not more, who have engaged in a practice we all deplore. It is protested against by other Woman Suffragists, by the Women's Liberal Federation, by the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, by the Conservative and Unionist Woman Suffrage Association; yet you are going to say because these 500 women have broken windows that you will absolutely neglect all constitutional argument, and all the self-sacrificing devotion of the women who have fought for this cause for forty years. I think that illustrates the argument better than anything that can be imagined as to the different position which women's questions have in this House to the position assumed for men's questions.

Let me give an illustration. I saw the President of the Board of Trade here a little while ago. There are, I am told—and I wish to be careful to avoid controversial matters here and on every subject—several persons in this country called Syndicalists. Some have been charged and convicted of breaches of the criminal law. They occupy towards the trade union-movement, so hon. Gentlemen opposite say, very much the same position—I am not sure I agree, but I am trying for the moment to look at the matter from a Liberal point of view—that the militant organisation occupies towards the rest of the Suffrage organisations in the country. They are a small body of extremists fighting in the main—I quite admit that the objects are similar in many respects to those pursued by the trade unions—but fighting in a manner which most of the trade unions or trade-union leaders disapprove. I wish the right hon. Gentleman had been here, because he wrote a very-striking letter to the "Times." I should have asked him why he did not abandon his advocacy of the Minimum Wage Bill because of the extravagances of the Syndicalists? Where is the distinction?

We on this side of the House take a different view. We take the view—rightly or wrongly—that the Syndicalists really represent a movement of labour. But that is a different proposition. If hon. Members had the least justification for the thought that the militants really represented the general Suffrage movement, then there would be something in their argument, though I do not say very much even then. No one who really approaches this matter with any attempt to be impartial can doubt that the militants are quite a small minority, and are not speaking for the general body of Suffragists in this country. It is really the height of unfairness to make the general Suffrage cause responsible for what they have done. After all—I say this to my Conservative Friends—we know that the militants are not asking for this Bill. In their paper they have constantly repudiated that. It is said that we should not legislate in obedience to threats. Why if one section are threatening you in order to make you do one thing you should not do another I cannot imagine. Why, if the militants are agitating with a view that the Bill brought in should be a Government Bill for the Suffrage and their outrages have been in furtherance of this design, we should not take the course we are now taking I cannot see. Strongly as I support Woman Suffrage, I should be opposed to doing anything from threats. But here is a measure which the militants do not desire; yet we are told we should be yielding to threats if we give in. My Noble Friend said, "Oh, but well, do they not regard the hon. Member for Salford as a deserter?" I am afraid I do not follow their paper quite so closely as my Noble Friend, but I believe in one of the issues they did refer to the hon. Member as a deserter. Very well; but he is a deserter. He may be quite right. But he has in fact abandoned the position which he held. That does not indicate that it is a right or a wrong position. You may despise—


I am not quite sure, but is the Noble Lord referring to me?




Perhaps I may be allowed to inform the Noble Lord and the House that I am no deserter. I do not know why anybody should accuse me of being one. I am not touched by the window-breaking arguments. I said publicly of the argument of window breaking that it puts off the question for this year and makes it impossible for this House to deal with it for many years. I shall only be too glad to get it as soon as ever we can.


Then I have no doubt the hon. Member will vote for the Second Reading. But whether he is a deserter or not does not matter—I mean it does not matter for the purposes of my argument. We are assuming he was a deserter. It was because these women thought he was a deserter to the cause which he had hitherto upheld that they charged him with being a deserter. But that does not show that the cause was right. You may attack a man for being a deserter whether you believe his previous opinion was right or wrong. However, I do not desire to take up too much time on that point. All I desire to say in conclusion is this. It is all very well to use very severe words about window-breaking. I disapprove of it as much as anyone. The Noble Lord below me said, we constitutional Suffragists have been content to hide behind the militant Suffragists. I have never done so. I disapprove of their policy. Hon. Members who have had the misfortune to have followed everything I have said in public know that is so. I utterly deny we are hiding behind the militants in any sense. Have the Suffragists any grievance at all? Is it true that what my Noble Friend called the odiousness of applying force to women has always been observed1? I was speaking the other day on a platform to a distinguished lady, perhaps there is no reason why I should not mention her name, the lady was Mrs. Philip Snowden. Some question was raised as to whether we should have a quiet meeting. "I expect it will be all right to-day," she said; but she added, "the first time I spoke here I was bombarded with pea-shooters. I did not mind except I was afraid that my eyes might be knocked out." What would be said if that was done to a Cabinet Minister? What an outcry would have been raised, and rightly raised, but not a word was said about this. Yet we are told to rely upon the chivalry of men, and we are told by the Prime Minister that if we venture to given women the vote we shall deprive them of some of the protection they already have. Surely there is a great deal of nonsense and cant talked in this matter.

Women have to suffer from the severest violence and indignity when pleading for the cause which they believe, and I think rightly so, is the cause of justice for their sex. I say they have infinitely more to put up with than any anti-Franchise Ministers. I venture to hope the House will not palter with this question. After all what has been said previously has a great deal of truth in it. We have not treated this question fairly. We have put it off over and over again for some reason. Sometimes we say it is because women take no interest in it, that they are apathetic, that they have done really nothing to show that they want it: if they venture to do any violence they are doing too much. Sometimes it is said that we have not time for proceeding with it; other proceedings must have precedence. We have a fair field now, and I thank the Prime Minister for it, to consider this matter fairly, in accordance with the pledges given at our election. I appeal to the House to give this Bill a Second Reading, and not only to give it a Second Reading, but to push it through its other stages.


The hon. Member for Northampton, who spoke earlier, asked hon. Members on this side to deal with this Bill, not in connection with anything that took place outside, and the Noble Lord who has just sat down spoke in similar strains. Yet he talked about pea-shooters. Up to the present time, and for many years past, I have voted for this question when it came before the House. Up to the present time I have given my vote in favour of giving the Parliamentary Franchise to women, and I know the vote that I am about to give to-night will give a great deal of pain to some of my best friends in the Liberal Association, who have given me invaluable service in my elections. I intend to-night to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. There are three courses open to every Member of this House on an occasion of this kind: He may either vote for or against the Bill or he may abstain, and I have been counselled by old friends of Parliamentary Franchise for women to abstain. Well, I think that would be cowardice, and I think it is far, far better to face the situation and to face the consequences whatever they may be. I want in the short time I intend to occupy to bring to the notice of the House just a very few points.

There was a meeting held at the Albert Hall on 28th February. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the Waltham Division of Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith), and the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary spoke there, and a letter was read from the Prime Minister in which he stated that the granting of the Parliamentary Franchise to women would be perfectly disastrous, and the Lord Chanellor said he should consider it a constitutional outrage were a measure of this sort passed. Now mark this. That was on 28th February last. On the 29th there was a full report of the speeches in the "Times." I read them all very carefully, and I think I may say without offence to any of the great guns who spoke upon that occasion that the speech of Miss Violet Markham was the most convincing I ever read. That report appeared on the 29th February. The next day was Friday, the 1st March, and it was on that Friday, the day after these speeches were published in the "Times," that those outrages took place in Regent Street, Oxford Street, Bond Street, and elsewhere. Why do I allude to that? I allude to it for this reason. I believe when these speeches were read those advocants of Woman Suffrage felt the case was put so strongly against them that they were beaten from the point of argument and that they should resort to violence. I do not know whether that may be or not, but I do know this, that for a long time back those opposed to the granting of the Parliamentary Franchise to women have been too apathetic. They have given those in favour of it too much of their own way. I do not want hon. Members to think that I am altogether opposed to giving the Parliamentary Franchise to women, but at the present time I have no hesitation whatever in recording my vote against the Second Reading of this Bill.

There were some interesting figures given with reference to the different bodies to which women in this country can be elected. They were alluded to by my hon. Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill, but his figures dealt only with England and Wales. In Scotland, where I come from, we have no boards of guardians. We have parish councils, county councils, and we have still, I am glad to say, the school boards, some 900 in number. To everyone of these women can be elected. In reply to a question I put to-day I was informed that there are 7,868 men members of parish councils and how many women? Only forty-four. On the school boards there are 5,566 men and how many women? Only 105. I asked for the numbers of those serving on county councils, but I did not get that. I know one lady in my own Constituency is a member of the county council, and a very valued member of that body she is. I feel so strongly, whatever may be said of giving the Parliamentary Franchise to women, it is necessary to show that the cause has not been advanced by those methods of violence, by endeavouring to break up meetings, by hurling insults at Cabinet Ministers when they come to address meetings, and that it is about time that independent Members like myself, should say, and say boldly, the reason why they are not prepared to support this measure at present.

I speak only for myself, and have no right to speak for anyone else. I do not know how many Members will adopt the same course as I do this evening, but if I were the only one to go into the Lobby against this Bill, having regard to the violent methods of those women and the outrages they have perpetrated, I should give my vote unhesitatingly against it, whatever the consequences may be. It is possible others may take a different view, but I am satisfied they have given a great set-back to their cause, which would be in a very different position to-night if they had adopted the ordinary methods of persuasion by interviewing Members and so on. Even in this House, owing to their action, you cannot meet your wife as you used to do; you cannot take your American cousin, coming over here, up to the Ladies' Gallery. All this has been brought about by the militant Suffragists. Therefore I am very glad to have this opportunity of saying these few words, because I do not wish to give a silent vote, and I shall vote on this occasion against the Second Reading of this Bill.


I do not propose to make a speech at any length upon the merits of this question; the arguments for or against are so well known on both sides of the House, and have so often been in principle pronounced upon by the House. Like my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, I speak only for myself, but I propose, speaking only for myself, to take exactly the opposite course to that which he has announced his intention of taking. We have apparently met at the same point of view with regard to this question. He supports Woman Suffrage. He is now going to vote against it. The main object of my rising is to say, as shortly as I can, why I propose to continue my vote for it. First of all, let me say that those of us who support Woman Suffrage ought, I think, to make our acknowledgments of the great fairness of the Prime Minister, especially those of us who are his colleagues. We all know his own opinion upon the matter; it has been very strong and very consistent, and knowing how strong and how consistent his opinion has been, it is but a mere duty, I think, from the general point of view of fairness, to recognise how much he has contributed by his action not only to giving perfect liberty to his colleagues, but to giving the question a fair run in Parliament. Of course, of that fairness we are entitled to take full advantage by expressing our views, even if we are his colleagues, and doing our utmost, although, we know he opposes the measure, to promote its success. Of the new arguments introduced there was one I think which, ought not to weigh with us. In a speech, of great ability my hon. Friend who moved the rejection of this Bill gave the Parliament Act as a reason why we should not vote for it. I do not think he can have realised the natural consequences of his argument. Does he argue that it is derogatory to the Parliament Act and calculated to make people afraid of that Act? We are not now discussing sending this measure up to another place for a third time, but we are discussing sending it for the first time. If the fact that the Parliament Act has been passed is to be used as a reason why measures should not be brought forward in this House and sent to another place for the first time, then I think it is going to have a very restrictive effect upon the action of the House of Commons. There is amongst the provisions of the Parliament Act one which encourages people who are in favour of something, but who may hold that there ought to be an election before it is finally passed into law, to do all they can to bring those measures forward in the House of Commons at any time, because under the Parliament Act it does not necessarily follow that a measure passed through the House of Commons the first time, or even a second time, becomes law; but it does follow that if an election takes place the position of that measure has been very much advanced, and it passes into law very much more readily afterwards. The Parliament Act is a means of advancing measures to a stage which would make their success secure after an election has taken place. Whether people hold that this is a measure which ought to be passed in this particular form, or whether they hold that an election ought to take place before it finally becomes law, in both instances they have a perfectly good case for supporting this measure.

I come now to the point of my right hon. Friend behind me. Apparently he has changed his opinion, or perhaps I ought to say that not his opinion but his vote has been changed by the militant tactics of the outbreaks of violence on the part of certain people who are professed supporters of Woman Suffrage. I should be the last to deny—but we have to look facts in the face—that those outbreaks of violence have done real harm. I once heard a man who was taken to task years ago because on some public question he was for the moment taking the line which was obviously prompted by provoked or wounded feelings rather than by settled intellectual convictions, and he silenced all argument by saying that he never pretended not to be human. Opinions are being held in suspense with regard to Woman Suffrage. There are people whose feelings have been provoked and wounded who will be influenced against Woman Suffrage, and unfavourably influenced against it, by these outbreaks of violence. All of us, and those of us who are most in favour of Woman Suffrage, especially after the Debate this evening, have reason to deprecate that action. But who is going to be penalised if right hon. Gentlemen behind me are induced to reverse their votes? Is it the authors of the violence? I do not think they will be penalised. My impression is what they want to produce by these outrages is an effect, and they are so reckless that they do not care what the effect is so long as it is an effect. I can imagine that there can be nothing more disappointing to those authors of outrage and violence than to find that the Conciliation Bill is brought forward, and that it has behind it approximately the same majority as it had before those outbreaks took place. In any case I have a natural reluctance to be driven out of my course, and to be driven out of a vote of which I approve by outburst of violence, just as naturally I object to be driven into a vote of which I do not approve by outbreaks of violence.

The militant tactics are those of a small minority of those who support Woman Suffrage, but what appeals to me most is the position of the large majority of the women who support Woman Suffrage, who have not abandoned constitutional methods and who have done their best to persuade and restrain the minority from departing from constitutional methods, and who will feel the sense of injustice of being deprived of the vote more strongly than any of the militants. Those are the people who will be really penalised, and who most deserve our consideration and sympathy, if hon. Members who have supported the measure before, like my right hon. Friend, vote against it now. On the general question I only wish to say this: If I thought that the removal of the barrier which at present prevents women from having a vote was going to impair their position in the State, or impair the relations between men and women, break up home life or impai[...] it in any way, I would not vote for this measure. If I thought it was going to remove women from a sphere for which they are particularly fitted, as the Prime Minister argued it would, I should not vote for it. But the vote is not going to do that. If you did not already invite women to organise politically, to attend political meetings and to take part in the rough and tumble of electioneering in all the public parts of political work, you might bring that argument against their interfering in political life. But we have got past that stage long ago, and there are women's Liberal associations on the one side and Primrose Leagues on the other side, encouraged, I should think, by almost every hon. Member on both sides of the House. The co-operation of women is invited at elections, their help is welcomed, speeches are made to them on political questions, and all that has gone on for many years. The vote is the one thing which may be exercised without the expenditure of time, without noise, without demonstration, without advertisement, and without anything which would interfere with the functions of women in the State.

I have not heard the whole of the Debate, but in the speeches I have heard I did not hear any reference made to the argument of experience. Is there any place where votes have been given to women, I mean political votes, where the experience has not been successful? In our self-governing Dominions where the vote has been given some of us have taken what opportunities we could of finding out what the experience has been, and in no case have I come across any opinion, either from men or women, in the self-governing Colonies where the vote has been given, which did not show that the effect has been good from every point of view. It has been admitted that the direct effect upon public legislation is not so very manifest, and it is difficult to point out particular measures passed, owing to women's votes, which would not have been passed but for those votes. But the indirect effect, as it was put to me by one who has had experience of it in Australia, has been the widening of the horizon of the home. The general position of women, the attitude of men and women towards each other, in all of those respects the effect has been most beneficial and marked. In other words, the effect has been good in precisely that way in which people here who are opposing the vote believe it to be bad. When you come to the direct effect on politics, this terrible effect upon the instability of the State and of politics has not been apparent. There is one argument which I think is shallow and weak, and it is the argument of the hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Mr. MacCallum Scott), who relies so much on physical force. He says that all law and order in the State rests upon force. But there must be the sanction of force behind what you do. Of course that statement is true. The sanction of force must be there, but what decides how the force is to be used? Public opinion decides that. Without public opinion behind it you will find it is not really the sanction of the force upon which the stability of public life rests, but the sanction of public opinion which directs the force, and in accordance with which force must be used. Hon. Members and others oppose giving political votes to women because they say women cannot serve in the Army or Navy. How many of them do it? Of course, in the Army and the Navy men alone must perform the functions which the Army and Navy may have to perform. That is but one of the functions. If the argument of physical force is to be pushed to its logical conclusion, why not decide our votes to-night by physical force? Why should not my hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division come outside with me in order that when we return we might both go into the same Lobby? The real effect of the matter surely is that, though the sanction of physical force must exist, and that it must be the lot of men to perform that particular function of the States, it is public opinion you have to look to for the stability of public affairs.

As for there being a natural law for the ascendancy of man in the State, I am not in the least afraid of it being upset by giving votes to women. I think if women have the vote to say that there will be some sex antagonism in political affairs is absolutely untrue. Does anybody suppose women are going to form themselves into a separate political party in which they are all going to vote together? No; their votes will be merged in public opinion on one side or the other, and on both sides their influence will be felt. I think what is true is that the indirect effect upon the position of women and upon the State and the home will be good, as it has been in our self governing Dominions where it has been tried. I believe that the perspective from which some questions—not necessarily questions which divide political parties, but questions of great importance—are viewed will be more true and more just than it can be without Woman Suffrage. I remember, more than twenty years ago now, when it was a question of extending the Franchise to men, hearing the argument that it would not be good to have Members from the wage-earning classes in the House of Commons because they would not have the time or leisure to understand foreign affairs. I heard that argument years ago. It has been a commonplace for some time. I have certainly stated in past years that industrial questions, especially in this century, are going to be more important in highly-civilised States than questions of foreign affairs. I admit that in foreign affairs the thing may be so important that it may lead to a catastrophe which may for the moment put industrial questions on one side, but permanently, and in their essence and substance, industrial questions are the most important questions in public life. Is it to be said those are questions from which women's influence should be directly excluded by their not being allowed to have the vote?

Surely, when you come to realise the perspective and the ratio of importance of different matters in public affairs, the things that affect women intimately have an equal share of importance as any of the things, such as the Army and the Navy, which can never be especially their concern; and when we find, as we do find, that not exclusively by any means, but to a very large extent, it is from those classes who are most concerned with the intimate matters of daily life that support for Woman Suffrage comes, it is a strong argument for not excluding them from having the vote. The Noble Lord on the other side of the House (Viscount Helmsley) said they were convinced Tariff Reform would not be passed until women had been converted. Can you really argue a question like Tariff Reform, which we are sometimes told from that side of the House is the question of most urgency and importance, can you really argue with women and try and instil into them an intellectual conviction and opinion in favour of Tariff Reform, and then tell them, having acquired that conviction, having studied and having realised this complex and important question in all its bearings, they must be content to take their chance of influencing the votes of men to get it. Of course, as the Prime Minister said, there are things in the State which men can do and which women either cannot do at all or cannot do so well, but political affairs are not exclusively concerned with the things which men can do and which women cannot do, or cannot do so well; they cover the whole of human life, and to continue to exclude women from having any chance of influencing them indirectly by the vote I believe is neither just to women nor good for the State.


The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has, with others, disclaimed the argument that the recent acts of window-breaking should influence voting in this House on this occasion. I quite agree. I think those who are only influenced by that argument cannot have any firm conviction upon the question at all, but when the advocates of Woman Suffrage disclaim those acts of violence they ought to remember that the cause of Woman Suffrage has owed a very great deal to the advertisement which it has gained from the very advocates they now try to throw over. It was only when these acts became unpopular, or when it became evident they were not doing good to the cause that these disclaimers arose. The real reason why there has been so much support for this question on previous occasions has undoubtedly been the very rash and, perhaps, careless pledges given by various Members of this House. Everybody knows what happens at an election. People go to perhaps a rather inexperienced candidate and ask him to promise to vote for various things. Suppose a deputation of very charming ladies interviews an inexperienced candidate and puts this case to him. In a great many cases naturally he has said he will do all they ask, and in consequence that unfortunate young man has begun with this pledge tied round his neck. It is very difficult to break a pledge once given, and so from Session to Session he goes on pledged to a Bill he does not like, but feeling bound to carry his pledge out when the Bill comes before the House of Commons. Now this outbreak of great violence has occurred, and I am perfectly convinced there are a great many people who will see in these outrages a chance of getting free from pledges which, in their heart of hearts, they really dislike. That, at any rate, is one of the reasons why a great many people are prepared now to change their opinions.

I do not believe this House of Commons has ever been so much in favour of Woman Suffrage as might be supposed from the votes given on previous occasions. Everybody knows Private Members' Bills and Resolutions passed on Friday afternoons, or on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, have very little effect. Everybody knows the House of Commons on those occasions resolves itself for the time being practically into a debating society, and to lay stress on the votes given on those occasions is to give them a value and an effect which they certainly do not deserve. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. MeCurdy) fell heavily on my Noble Friend the Member for Thirsk (Viscount Helmsley), and accused him of inconsistency. He said, "You bring up the fact that women have not taken their opportunities of sitting on town and county councils," and then you say, as an argument for not giving them the vote, that if we do give it them they will think it necessary to come here and sit in this House. It is, to use the converse, equally inconsistent to say because they are not likely to come to the House of Commons, therefore you ought to give them the vote. It must be evident to everybody that to force the vote on a lot of people who are not willing to carry it out to its full effect and to give it to a large section whom you are not in the least certain desire it, and when there is no proof they do desire it, is to do something for which there is no precedent in the history of this country. There is no precedent in the great Reform Bills for enfranchising a section of the community who have not clearly shown in every way possible their desire to hold and to exercise the vote. This is not the first time we have been asked to give this power of voting to a class when there is no distinct proof that they really and earnestly desire it. I myself believe a very large majority of women in this country do not want it. The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Harold Baker), alluding to the recent by-elections, pointed out that a number had gone badly for his party, and that in every case the unsuccessful candidate had been an upholder of Woman Suffrage. The one recent by-election which went well for the Liberal party was, I believe, Kilmarnock, and there the candidate was helped by a very well-known and historical name, and, if I may say so, by his own charming personality. All the other candidates were supporters of Woman Suffrage, and in almost every case their opponents were opposed to it, and in each case he did badly.

It is extremely difficult to know how to test the opinion of the women in this country. There is no greater upholder of the principle of the Referendum than my Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil). In any matters which suit himself he is quite ready to ask for and adopt the Referendum. He is in the forefront in asking for the Referendum on the question of attendance at various places of worship in Wales, or on constitutional matters, but when it comes to the question of Woman Suffrage I cannot find any supporter of the principle who desires the Referendum. They all fly off and make some excuse or other, and, as far as I can make out, the Referendum is the last thing they desire. I am not sure whether to-night we are merely expressing a pious opinion, or whether this is a dress rehearsal of the drama coming on. It is obvious, however, this is a very much more serious occasion than any of the others on which this question has been debated. Why is it there is this strong opposition which is beginning to show itself. I believe it is largely because it is the first time the people of this country have begun to see there is something real about this agitation, and that it is likely to lead to disaster. Before they treated it with, amused contempt, and thought it would never come to anything concrete, but now it is real, and it is possible under the Parliament Act to pass the Bill through the House of Commons without the country having another chance of registering their opinions about it. The country is becoming seriously alarmed, and they are beginning to awaken to the dangers of the proposal. I expect my experience has been the same as most hon. Members in this House. On this occasion, for the first time, I have been receiving a considerable number of letters asking me to vote against the proposal. On previous occasions we have always been inundated with letters asking us to support it. I have this time had hardly any letters in favour of it, but I have had many letters against it. I do not say that amounts to much, but, at any rate, it is a straw which shows which way the wind is blowing.

8.0 P.M.

I must repeat one argument which has been so frequently used by those who are opposed to the proposal. This constant allusion to some intellectual and gifted lady who has a gardener of hideous incapacity who has a vote is surely an argument which should not be used. It is ridiculous to take these exceptions and argue as if you were arguing for the mass. That, as the Prime Minister says, is not an argument which ought to convince anybody. The Noble Lord the Member for Thirsk felt it was unfortunate that in dealing with this question there was a certain amount of sex antagonism about it. I do not feel any sex antagonism. It is not because of contempt for women we vote against the proposal. It is because we have a respect for them, and it is because we firmly believe that by giving them this measure we do not put them in a better but in a worse position in the world. We are all prepared to treat women very much differently from the way we treat our fellow men. We respect them, we give way to them, we help them, and we make things easy for them. Once we give them the vote a certain amount of that will disappear, and no one will say it is for the good of women they should be deprived of the natural advantages which they at present enjoy, and the respect and the help which men are willing to give them. There are a certain number of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who imagine that by passing this Conciliation Bill they are going to get a certain electoral and political advantage for the party to which they belong. Even if I thought that were so it would not weigh with me, because I am prepared to vote against it even if I saw a great political advantage; but when you see hon. Gentlemen on the Labour Benches, who are pretty far - sighted, supporting this proposal, it must be obvious there cannot be any great political advantage to be gained by hon. Gentlemen sitting on these benches. There are many occasions on which the Labour party and ourselves can combine in matters of social reform and in other questions which Parliament may have to consider; but on the question of the Franchise I think it is very dangerous indeed for any alliance to be made by my hon. Friends on this side with hon. Gentlemen opposite if they expect to get any sort of political advantage. There is a considerable difference between women having votes in local government and in Parliamentary matters The Noble Lord asks me what is the difference? The answer is that the difference is as between the administration of legislation and the enactment of the legislation itself. In the case of local bodies women undoubtedly have done very good work. Those who have taken the trouble to do it at all have done valuable work, but it is extremely few who have taken the trouble to do it, or who have cared to give their time to it. Those who have done so have been administering and not legislating. They have been carrying out the wishes of Parliament. The supreme will of the nation, the supreme government of the Empire, rests in the hands of man. In him is vested the conduct, without appeal to anybody, of the affairs of this great Empire. But that is a very different thing to administering the laws which we pass here, and which we hand over to other bodies for the purpose of administration. To my mind the distinction is perfectly obvious.

The strongest reason, in my opinion, why we should not grant the vote to women is that it means the beginning of taking women away from the home into what must necessarily be the rather dirty game of politics. Everybody must know that men are incompetent to manage their own homes. There are some things women can do much better than men. A man without a woman to look after his home and his children is absolutely incompetent. The home cannot go on. It is one thing to say that women should stay at home and darn stockings. But everyone must admit that the sphere of politics is not one in which we should wish to see women solely and exclusively engaged, and that must be a strong argument against giving them the possibility of coming to this House. I hope this Bill will not pass, or if it does pass that it will be by a very reduced majority, because that will not only show that people disapprove of window-breaking, but it will also indicate that the country is waking up to the fact that there is a real chance of some measure of this kind being passed in the long run.


The main arguments advanced in the course of the Debate against the acceptance of the Bill now under consideration are, firstly, that in the distribution of work. Nature has drawn a dividing line between sexes of such a kind as to make it inexpedient that women should have political responsibilities; and, secondly, that the basis of the Franchise is manhood; by that is meant that the ultimate sanction of law is force which in the last resort compels the acceptance of the decrees that constitute our code of law. These things together, are the bedrock of the principle of this Bill. I will take the last point first. The objection that force is the ultimate sanction of law, and that therefore women should not be entrusted with the responsibilities involved in the Franchise is, I assert, a misinterpretation of the facts of our life. I think it can be proved, with even a superficial knowledge of history, that the progress of our civilisation is from the point where difficulties are settled by force to the point where they are settled by public opinion regulated and decided by moral principle. That was the point made by the Foreign Secretary in the course of his admirable speech in defence of the Bill. I do not propose to argue the point, because I regard it as indisputable. But I should like to give the House one or two illustrations that prove its truth. The first illustration is the manumission of slaves. That is one of the greatest acts that has taken place in the course of our modern civilisation. It was sanctioned solely by regard to the moral right of the individual to make the best of his own life.

Reference has been made to the fact that in the practical working of our Constitution we are ruled by the decision of the majority, and it has been implied that that sanctions the view that ultimately our laws rest upon force. That is again, I think, completely contrary to the facts of our political and constitutional life. The rule of the majority is merely a practical working rule and is accepted by us because the decision, of the majority is a decision taken within a sphere of moral principle recognised by all of us. But if the rule of the majority is contrary to the sense of right prevailing in the community as a whole, the decision taken by it is temporary and certainly will, in the course of time, be reversed. It is not that at all that justifies changes in the law. Although force, no doubt, has helped to keep men within the law, the principle of morality is the only one that has sanctioned force: it is not force that has sanctioned morality. Now I come to the objection which I mentioned first: the dividing line which makes it inexpedient that women should interfere in political activities. That objection I regard as valid only so far as it is true that Nature has not endowed women with the power of discriminating between right and wrong. If a woman has the same power of deciding between what is right and what is wrong as a man possesses, in the ordinary concerns of life, I personally can see no objection to her having her full right of expressing her judgment and of determining what ought to be the nature of the laws regulating our society. The movement for the Enfranchisement of women has been going on during the last half century, and we have so far recognised it politically as to give her the right to vote in the election of representatives on the local governing bodies. She has the right now to administer the law, but is precluded from the right to determine the nature of the law which she is thought competent to administer. I hold strongly that she ought to be entrusted with the final act of citizenship—the right to determine the nature of our legislation. And it is because I hold that I shall vote for the Second Reading of the Bill.


I do not think I am doing an injustice to those who are advocating the extension of the Franchise to women when I say that the basis of this demand is that there shall be greater equality between the two sexes, and that, to a certain extent, the barrier which has defined the activities of men and women, should be lowered and to a great extent their activities should be intermingled and not kept apart. I should be the last to support any proposition that women have not been just as great a factor in progress and civilisation as men. I hold most strongly that the cause of civilisation have been advanced by the co-operation of men and women, each allocating to themselves those spheres to which nature has adapted them, and each utilising their methods so as to bring about an amelioration of the conditions in which we find ourselves. I am sure that any measure which would bring about inequality of the sexes would be prejudicial and detrimental to advance and progress. I believe I am correct in stating that the only political party in which there is unanimity on this subject is the Socialistic party, and I can well imagine why that should be the case. If I am wrong in my belief, that the extension of the Franchise to women would be opposed to bringing about equality between the sexes, I can fully understand why they support it, because, if I understand arightly the idea of Socialism it is to bring about a greater degree of equality between classes, equality more or less between individuals, and equality in the wealth of the country. I venture the opinion that none of these theories is more Socialistic than any movement which will bring about equality between the sexes. If this demand is not based on the bringing about of equality between the sexes, on what ground is it based? I assert that no one can bring forward any conclusive proof that under a man-elected Parliament the needs of the women, or of the children, have been in any way neglected; on the contrary, it has been the first object of legislation, not only in this Parliament, but in every preceding Parliament, no matter which party was in power, that due consideration should be paid to the women and children. I will go so far as to say that in many instances, if the women had either been sitting in Parliament or electing representatives to Parliament, their condition under legislation in the past might not have been as favourable as it is at the present time. Those who oppose the movement have the right to know the exact position of those who advocate the extension of the Franchise to women, and whether they advocate that they should be admitted to Parliament or not. Sir Robert Peel stated, when the question of removing the disabilities of the Jews arose, that no one could adduce the argument that if they gave the right to elect they could refuse a legislative function. I am strongly of opinion that if you give the women the right to vote for representatives in Parliament you cannot deny them the right to sit and legislate in Parliament.

We have been told this afternoon of the valuable work women have done on local boards. I should be the last to deny it. I recognise fully that their co-operation has been most valuable whenever they have entered into local public life, which has not been so often as one might desire. The affairs of districts in which women live might be called the domestic side of public affairs, and I see no reason why, because they are well adapted to administer and regulate local affairs in the district in which they live, they necessarily have the same capacity of dealing with Imperial matters, which is a function of this House. The Foreign Secretary brought forward the experience of our Colonies in connection with this subject. He mentioned the cases of Australia and New Zealand, where women have the right to vote in an election of members to their Parliament. If my right hon. Friend were here I would ask him whether I am not justified in drawing a comparison between them and another of our Dominions which elects its Parliament on a male Franchise. Canada continues to adopt the principle which we have in force, that Parliament should be elected on a male Franchise. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he can assert that the progress of Canada is inferior in any respect to that of Australia and New Zealand. He would be bound to admit that the contrary is the case. It must be admitted that in Australia, where the Parliament is elected on the dual-sex vote, their progress has been of a restricted character, whereas in other Colonies where Parliament is elected on a male Franchies progress has been uninterrupted, and the development and extension of the country leave nothing to be desired.

Hon. Members have referred to the experience of the United States. I have some knowledge of the United States, and I can assert unhesitatingly that no one can say that in those States—I believe they are only four in number—where female Franchise has been adopted they show any greater progress than in those States which have confined themselves to the male Franchise. I am therefore justified in drawing the conclusion that from the experience of other countries there is no ground for altering the basis of our Franchise. This Bill is full of anomalies. I think that is admitted on all sides. The greatest anomaly of all is this: that those of my Liberal Friends and those of my hon. Friends below the Gangway who are so insistent and persistent upon the necessity of abolishing plural voting can support a measure of this kind. I can conceive no measure that could have been framed that would have accentuated plural voting in a worse degree than this Bill. If there were no other reason, am I, as one who since he has been in political life has done what he could to bring forward the injustices a large number of people suffer from through plural voting, to stultify myself by voting for a measure of this character? I acknowledge the valuable work of women in the past. I recognise that they should not be placed in an inferior position to men, but I am opposed to this measure because I believe it is undesirable in the interests of the women and in the interests of the country as a whole. Instead of improving the status of women in this country, I believe it will have exactly the opposite effect. In no country in the world are women held in greater respect or do they receive greater recognition than in this country. We have always prided ourselves, and I think rightly, that we have obeyed the word of command, place, aux dames. Anything which would interfere with that position would be detrimental to the women. This is not a general demand. I consider it is the idea of a small number of women, and, I believe, a very small proportion of the male electorate. I believe it is undesirable at this juncture, whatever may be the case in the future, and I shall therefore, with every confidence, vote against the Second Reading of this measure.


I have perhaps one qualification for saying a few words on the subject, though I have not the least intention of covering the whole ground. In one of my elections in the year 1910 my opponent thought it advisable to placard the whole of my Constituency with an appeal to the electors to vote against me on the ground of my known opinions in favour of Woman Suffrage. Whether the electors paid much attention to that I do not know. I survived the appeal, and I only state that fact because we are invariably being told that the electorate care nothing whatever on the subject, and so far as that little straw of evidence goes I think it shows that, at all events in one constituency, they do not regard the known advocacy of Woman Suffrage as being a disqualification for membership of this House. I think the House was impressed by the figures in relation to the work which is being done by women in local government. We are assured by the anti-Suffragists that nature herself has drawn the line between local government, which is fit for women and men, and Imperial Government, which is fit for men alone. It is very difficult to be sure how nature draws this line, and it is singular that so many other nations, including some of our Colonies, have not been able to appreciate this curious distinction which, if we are to believe the anti-Suffragists, is involved in the very constitution of nature herself. Assuming that that is right, it is said, at all events, that women have not taken a sufficient part in local government to justify the extension of votes to them in reference to Imperial affairs.

I wish to remind the House, on that point, of some very elementary facts. In the first place, women cannot walk into local government by the mere exercise of their own will, and they get on town councils by the vote of an electorate which is predominantly male, and a great number of the male electors have a large share of the instinct of the Noble Lord (Viscount Helmsley). They do not appreciate that nature has summoned women to the council chamber of borough councils, town councils or county councils, and there are other difficulties beside. Women are very often not qualified so as to be eligible. Look at the boards of guardians. I took down the figures in this respect, and I find that out of every 10,000 guardians there are sixty women, and of every 10,000 town councillors there are only two women. The real reason for that is that there is a different eligibility. Women are not eligible to be on town councils if they are merely residents inside the town, but they are eligible to serve on boards of guardians. I lay stress on that, because I have been for the last two years in charge of a small Bill to make women, and men too, eligible for town councils if they are merely resident in the town. The law was changed in the case of boards of guardians, and the immediate result of that was that you got a very large accession of strength on the part of women. When I tried to secure a similar change in the case of town councils and county councils, what happened? I introduced that Bill into this House, and day after day for the whole of the Session, although I was merely carrying out the very dictates of Nature herself according to the anti-Suffragists, the Bill was blocked by one of the leading anti-Suffragists on the other side, the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury). I think that qualifies the argument which can be drawn from the fact that women have taken, so far, a somewhat limited part, though an increasing part, in local government.

I do not wish to traverse the whole ground, which is now very well worn and familiar. It really depends to a large extent on the views we take of the nature of women. Personally, I have always distrusted about equally the generalisations which men make about women and the generalisations which women make about men. They are both, as it seems to me, extremely untrustworthy, and, as an eminent writer has said, when you look at all these generalisations they fade away, much like the cat in "Alice in Wonderland," into a grin. You come down at bottom to the instinct of the Noble Lord. I remember in a previous Debate the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Alfred Lyttelton) saying, and I thought it an extremely candid observation, that in his attitude on this question his instinct was against the measure and his reason was in favour of it. I think we know that instinct, if we will be candid with ourselves. It is nothing less than the crude and unregenerate sense of masculine domination. That exists, I suppose, and it is a very natural instinct, but I think the right hon. Gentleman was a great deal more fair when he allowed that crude instinct to be corrected by reason and by argument.

We have already had evidence that two arguments are going to affect the vote—certainly on this side, and also on the other side—which is to be given to-night. In the first place, the vote will undoubtedly be affected by the tactics of the militants. We have already seen that the right hon. Gentleman opposite says his vote is going to be affected, and I gather that the hon. Member (Mr. Lane-Fox) also thinks that a legitimate argument. Then I hope if any hon. Member opposite is going to be influenced by that argument he is going to be logical, and that he will carry it further. I have not a word of sympathy with the tactics of the militants. They have always seemed to me, from the very first, detestable hooliganism. Even when there was some sense that these tactics gave a species of spurious and sensational advertisement to the cause I always believed they were not merely detestable in themselves but were very bad tactics, and I think they might have been condemned more strongly by some of the Suffrage bodies. Though some, certainly, condemned them strongly from the very first, some were hesitating in their condemnation, and far too late, and now they are reaping the reward of their misdeeds. I realise all that with regret, but if you are going to punish and to disfranchise because of hooliganism or violence you will have to apply that rule all round. Some of us remember an act of disorder and of hooliganism inside this House perpetrated by the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil). I do not know whether hon. Members opposite who may be influenced by that argument seriously think that university representation ought to be taken away on that ground. There may be other grounds on which that might be done. Again, we have recently heard speeches—I think not seditious speeches, but speeches which are highly inflammatory—from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench advocating disorder in Ulster and the breaking up of meetings. I think myself that that action, with less excuse than in the case of the militant Suffragists, is equally detestable. But are those who are going to vote to-night to punish the militants going also to take away the vote from Ulster because of the ill-behaviour of some of the spokesmen of Ulster? We know perfectly well that they are not going to do anything of the kind, and I ask those who are going to be influenced in their vote to-night against this Bill by that reason to listen to the words that fell from the Prime Minister. It is not going to be a momentary punishment which their vote will inflict. It is going to be counted and taken careful note of as indicating that the cause has gone back permanently in the public opinion of the country. Undoubtedly that is the argument which will be used. I have the most profound and ever-growing respect for the judgment of the Prime Minister, but I regret that on this occasion I am unable to follow him into the Lobby.

There are some hon. Members on this side of the House who have a real fear how this Bill is going to work. Mr. Gladstone said that in discussing the effect of any extension of the Franchise it was treason to first principles to think how it was going to operate. I would not use that argument, but I would say that as between parties all the prophets have been wrong in regard to all the extensions of the Franchise which have taken place. They were wrong in 1832, and they were hopelessly wrong in 1869, and as all the prophets have been wrong in the case of previous extensions of the Franchise there is every reason to think that they will probably be wrong in this case also. It has been said that the extension of the Franchise is going to damage the interests of women, and also to inflict serious injury upon the State. The experience of our Colonies has been already quoted by the Foreign Secretary. I am quite ready to admit that you cannot perhaps draw from their experience a final judgment as to the ultimate effects of this measure, but surely female Suffrage has been in existence long enough to enable us to form, at all events, a tentative judgment as to the effects which it is introducing. We ought surety, if there are bad results flowing from Woman Suffrage in New Zealand, to be beginning to see the results. You would at least begin by this time to see if it had broken up homes in New Zealand, and had other bad results on domestic life there. I will only give one piece of evidence. As it happens, the infantile death rate in New Zealand is the lowest in the world, and I do not think that that is much evidence that female Suffrage has done very great harm in the home. I do not advocate this because I believe the enfranchisement of women is going to bring about the millennium. You may talk to Colonial statesmen and those who have had experience of the operation of female Suffrage, and the one thing brought home to your mind is—it may not be a glowing judgment that can be formed—that no one seems a penny the worse. No bad results have yet developed, and that being so, we may expect much of the same kind here. I do not expect any very great or important social results, and I am quite content to rest my argument in favour of the Bill upon the statement of the Foreign Secretary that it will enlarge the horizon of the home, and bring into the circle of citizenship a great number of those who are at present left outside.

So far as the principle of the Bill goes I have no hesitation. Of course, this is not the right moment to speak about details. If it were the time to discuss details, I should dissent very strongly. I think this is about as bad a Parliamentary form of expressing the principle of Woman Franchise as could be embodied in a Bill. I am quite willing to agree with my hon. Friends in that respect. I think the prohibition on a wife voting in the same constituency as her husband is a most extraordinary surrender of principle, and an anomaly which it is quite impossible to justify. It gives away the whole case on which the Bill itself rests. Why should she not vote in the same constituency as her husband if she is a human being entitled to vote? Why provide that the wife should live in another house or constituency in order to gain the right to vote there? That is not my only objection. It certainly does penalise marriage, and I do hot think it will be at all satisfactory to extend the Franchise to this very limited class of women. Directly you did it, you would find anomalies. You would find in a group of women of your own acquaintance some enfranchised and some not, and when you asked why, as they are equally well qualified to vote, you would find that some had had the misfortune to lose their husbands, or else had never been married. That seems to me impossible of justification, and I should like to draw attention to the settlement come to in Scandinavia as having a real bearing upon our position. There, when the claim for the extension of the Franchise in the case of women came to be discussed there was universal male Suffrage at the age of twenty-five on a residential Franchise. There the advocates of Woman Suffrage did not merely blindly repeat the doctrinaire formula as to enfranchisement on the same terms as men, but they gave women the vote at the similar age of twenty-five on a Franchise which brought in married women as well as those who would be enfranchised under this Bill. They enfranchised about three-fifths of the women in the country, and I am bound to say that, though it may not be logical from the point of view of those who desire adult Franchise, it does give a much fairer representation of women than the present Bill.

The way in which the extension was done was this. They enfranchised on a property qualification all those who paid taxes on an annual sum of either £22 in towns or £17 in country districts. They were helped by a law under which a woman is entitled to an equal share in her husband's earnings unless special provision is made to the contrary, and where the husband paid tax on an income, which of course brought in, and was intended to bring in all the working-class population, that enfranchised the wife. Of course we could not have a Bill on exactly the same terms, but I do think that if you were to legalise joint occupation in the case of husband and wife you might get something of the same system, which would provide a far more satisfactory Franchise than is proposed in the very anomalous Franchise of this Bill. I know it is said that you must go further, and that that would be the thin end of the wedge, but in England you may stop exactly where you like. Our laws are full of thin ends of the wedge which ought, in strict logic, to be driven in up to the thick end, but they are not. Logically, a woman, if enfranchised, ought to have a right to sit in the House of Commons. A clergyman is an elector of this House, but he is not allowed to sit here. It is a statutory anomaly, which simply shows that if you choose to maintain such statutory anomolies you can do so; and if public opinion is against women sitting in the House of Commons, public opinion will probably insist on their exclusion. You may stop wherever you like when dealing with the British Constitution. I do not hope to arrive at a satisfactory or final or absolutely logical basis for dealing with this matter, but I do think that the case for Woman Suffrage is a sound one on the grounds of justice, and I hope that in Committee it will be possible to get a far fairer representation than the present Bill proposes.


I am rather puzzled to know whether the hon. Member for Lincoln is in favour of this Bill or not.


I am in favour of the Second Reading and of making Amendments in Committee.


The hon. Member was too honest to profess that the Bill would be a final solution of this question. I suppose that he came to the same conclusion as the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil), who was willing, as the hon. Member is that ladies should work hard for him to enter this House, and when he came to the door that he should shut it in their faces. The answer of the Noble Lord is the same that the hon. Member would give, that he did that for the good of the ladies themselves. Those of us who oppose this Bill in toto make the same answer. We do it because we think it better in the interests of women that they should not be dragged into political struggle. During the last two years we have had a succession of political crises. We are in one now, and we shall have another after Easter, but I think if this proposal which we are discussing to-day is carried, it will dwarf into insignificance all the great questions which have been debated during the last few years, and the great one which is ahead of us next month. The question we are dealing with now is a question whether the male or female element shall rule. That is a question which no doubt agitated the world before Parliaments came into existence. In fact it is a question which probably agitated the world before man could speak at all. Here it is up again in a new form, but it is really the same thing. Men and women have to fulfil their special spheres in life, and the question of equality in a Parliamentary and military sense cannot be maintained. The argument about the propertied lady, sounds very good as an electioneering point, but I should like to point out that it is always on the property, and that the property which would qualify the lady for a vote has in nine cases of ten been earned by some man and left to her.

There are also a good many men connected with this great State who pay taxes to this country, but who may have to live out of it, and cannot register their votes even if they are at home during an election. They have no means of voting for a Parliamentary candidate. There is no class of men so disfranchised as the class on which the whole prosperity of this great State rests—that is the British sailor. I think those men, who are prevented from voting by their calling, could be put against these propertied ladies, and you might write off one against the other. We contend that if you once inaugurate this question of women entering into political life by the ordinary process of political auction, all women will rapidly be endowed with the franchise. This Bill, I consider, is, as has been said already, a veiled vote of censure on every married woman in the country. On that point alone I should certainly vote against it, even if I were inclined to give women the vote. It is no use to say that a woman is represented by her husband. There are many women who hold views diametrically opposite to those of their husbands, and on no question are their views so diverse as on the question which we are now discussing.

Think of the possibilities if such a Bill became law. You might have two sisters; one is unmarried and gets the vote, while the other marries and loses the vole, and can only regain the vote either through the Divorce Court or on coming from her husband's funeral. It is a gruesome thing to make the cemetery gate an entrance to political Paradise. It reminds me of what happened once in my own hearing. A life insurance agent appealed to a friend of mine to insure his life. He laid the case before him, and thought that he had got him as a constituent. The reply of the man, who was an American, was, "Sir, I am obliged to you for what you have said, but I guess I play no game where I have to die to win." I will suggest to married men in the House that we play no game where we have got to die for our wives to win anything. If there is any good in this vote, I say let our wives have it now and let us enjoy it together. If this Bill by any chance put up women's wages ii might have some basis, but they can only be put up, as has been pointed out, by efficiency and combination, and if a Minimum Wage Bill passed to give every trade in the country a comfortable living wage, the main result of that would be, as men, after all, can do more efficient and strenuous work than women, the result of your Bill would be that hundreds of thousands of women now more or less content would have no employment at all. My own idea is that we should be well occupied if we were to go in more for doing something to increase the prosperity of this State, so as to encourage men and women to marry, and so that work is more regularised, even if that will involve some change in our economic system. I think that a combination of personal thrift and—I almost blush to say the words—Tariff Reform might do something to enable men and women to marry, and let this very difficult question tend to settle itself by love and not by logic; and I am quite certain that that would appeal much more powerfully to womenkind.

What solution do you offer for this difficult question? Single-blessedness and the Parliamentary vote—a most Malthusian and pessimistic philosophy. What share can women take in the conduct of our industrial life? It has been pointed out that they cannot be soldiers, or sailors, or miners, or policemen, that they cannot either construct or carry on railways, that they cannot conduct transport work, that they cannot build or sail ships, or build houses; but there, when we once come to the house, and it is built, then woman, and woman, alone, can make the house worth living in. Therefore, by Nature's law, it seems to me that their sphere of life is the domestic sphere, and is met by the local vote now accorded. The Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Birrell) made a speech upon this question, and the result of his remarks appeared to be that he was prepared to give the Franchise to unmarried women, but not to married women. That seems to me a philosophy which is based on two bad foundations, one of suspicion and the other of speculation. It really amounts to this, that the Chief Secretary lays down that, as a rule, you may trust the woman whom you do not know, but do not trust the woman whom you do know. I should like to know whether the meeting of the ladies in St. James's Park has altered his mind. I think I see that they are getting on the soft side of him, because they call him "Pansy." The point has been made clear that if the women have the right to vote, naturally they will have the right to sit here. How can it be otherwise? If they are capable of choosing representatives, they are surely also capable of supplying representatives.

9.0 P.M.

The support which this measure gets from the Socialist benches must strike anyone as peculiar, because it is an exaltation of property. The woman with the cottage has a vote and gets promotion; the woman with a child has no consideration extended to her at all, but I can quite see why the Socialist party back up this Woman's Suffrage. It is because they look to the time when twelve millions will be enfranchised, and that they will have an opportunity of capturing the greater part of them. I cannot understand how it is that hon. Members on this side do not see how they are being led into a foolish course, as I think it will turn out to be. Why should not women sit in this House? If they cannot do the rough work of the world, they can sit in this House, and they can talk in this House—these being the two main and essential things in a Member of Parliament. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) said he would welcome women at the Bar. I see a distinguished Member of the Bar opposite, and I do not know whether he entertains that view. But let it be granted that, if they could not be lawyers it is quite certain they could be put on the jury. Why should they not be put on the jury? There is only this about being put on the jury—that it would entail the absence of a woman from her home, and with the man at work what becomes of the children? The President of the Local Government Board looks after the children, but I think under these conditions even he would be rather overworked. This Bill has this monstrous thing in it: That a couple can get married and have one vote. They can quarrel and separate, and then get two votes. I ask the House to refuse to assent to a Bill like this, which gives 100 per cent. preference in connection with representation to a bad pair over a good pair. In my own Constituency I put to the Suffragette ladies in an interview this consideration: We have had great labour troubles in our Constituency, and I said, "Do you realise that if the responsibility of the vote is thrust upon you, you may be placed in a very awkward position at an election when feeling is running high. At the present time you take your part in an election, and everybody knows that it is voluntary service, and accord that respect which everybody gives to voluntary service. But if you are carrying the colours of the party which is seeking to enforce its will on another party who resent it, then I believe those who promote the Bill are saddling lady friends with the possibility of roughness and discourtesy which probably they do not contemplate." Men are under the potent influence of women already. They are controlled in childhood and cherished in old age. And between childhood and old age they are more subject to their influence than at any other period of life. Women have won the Empire by sending their sons forth to do its work, and they can win any election or carry any measure they set their minds to. I maintain that it is an entirely wrong and false analogy to compare the Colonial vote to the Imperial vote in this House, because the Colonial vote is a local vote, and is more in accordance with the local representation which is already possessed by married women. Our municipal vote meets that point.

The other consideration I wish to mention is that if you give votes to women with seats in this House, you must not forget that the sons of the women of this country sent forth into the world have gained this great Empire for us, so that we are now the greatest Mahomedan Power in the whole world. By giving this vote, when you come down to lodger franchise and the latchkey lady voter, you are giving to every Hindu and Mahomedan agitator ammunition which he will use to the fullest extent. That I believe is in itself an element of great danger. Hon. Members on this side of the House and the other, who try and delude themselves into the idea that by passing this Bill they are going to prevent the advance of a greater question, it seems to me are in the position of people who say they will take two bites at a cherry. They take the first bite, forgetting that the cherry contains a very nasty stone, which is the possibility of sex antagonism; and I believe that if that stone enters the Constitution there is possibility of an attack of political appendicitis which would require a very severe operation to eradicate. When we on this side oppose the Bill we are asked if we have any alternative. I would suggest the alternative, if women require the vote, of a National Council of Women, with marriage no bar, and representation apportioned according to the different parties in this House. I hope, however, that the place of meeting of that assembly would not be too near the House of Commons. But there is a compensating balance in this matter. If you carry your point and put women on the register, and eventually, as I contend you must do, permit them to enter this House, then, of course, you may be sure that an alarmed country with instinctive common sense, will insist upon having a much stronger Second Chamber than we have ever had before, and with twelve million women against ten million men, votes for women, so far from being a buttress and support to the House of Commons, will be its Delilah, and will, if ever instituted, be a direct means of depriving it of much of its present power and influence. I shall vote against this Bill with a whole heart and clear conscience, sure as I am that I am doing so in the best interests of the women and in the best interests of our country.


The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken is so desirous that we should not have sex antagonism that he is going to avoid it by denying to the other sex what I believe is an act of natural justice. To me the real argument in favour of this claim is founded on justice. It is not a matter of expediency. We deny to the other sex, simply because of sex, the right to take part in the affairs of the country. In my own case—not in recent times, and long before Woman Suffrage disturbances—ten or eleven years ago I presented to this House a petition from 29,000 working women of Lancashire and Cheshire in favour of the Suffrage movement. I believe if we want to promote sex antagonism the way to do it is to stick to the vote for ourselves and deny it to women. I am quite aware that the cause is at present very greatly handicapped. That handicap is the work, not of the women as a sex, as a whole, but it is the mischief that has been done by a very few women. The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Baker), in seconding the rejection of the Bill, said that those recent violent events had clarified our minds. I should think that the great dust kicked up would rather have the opposite effect. It was said by an hon. Member opposite that the movement had been overwhelmed by argument, and an hon. Friend sitting next tome remarked that it had been overwhelmed in uproar. The very thing has been done by this violence that the very greatest enemy of the cause might have invented. There is absolutely nothing that could have done so much harm to the cause, but is it just that a fair and righteous cause should suffer by the action of a very few women. Fortunately, it is not the action of reasonable-minded women—women who have been acting for years, speaking at meetings, and advancing good arguments in favour of Woman Suffrage. The newspapers do not insert much of those meetings, but let two or three women break windows and immediately all the newspapers of the country are full of it. That is the taste of the present day for sensation, which is not peculiar to one sex. Unfortunately, the public have formed an entirely wrong view of the kind of advocacy which women, as a whole, have employed in this movement. For every woman who has broken a window there have been a hundred women engaged in advocating the cause at hundreds and thousands of meetings all over the country, but the public forms its view of what is going on by the headlines in the newspapers.

I believe that the cause must be very good indeed to stand such a set-back as this, not in men's reasons but in their prejudices. I am afraid that the average man can claim no superiority to woman as a being moved not by prejudice but by reason. I know it is fashionable for us men to chuckle and say, "What superior beings we are! We are always guided by reason; and those poor creatures—they are emotional, and we are not emotional." I think that both men and women sometimes are very emotional, and I do not think that we men can really claim any superiority over women in the ordinary events of life. I would as soon have the opinion as to the government of a household of a woman as of any man. In fact, talking about government, it is the women that really are governing our homes in this country. That shows that they are fit for the highest forms of government. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is the highest."] Faithful in little, faithful in much! I agree they are doing higher work at home than we are doing at business or perhaps in Parliament, and I correct myself by saying that they are fit for other forms of government. I greatly regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. Eugene Wason) should allow his judgment, which has been in favour of Woman Suffrage, to be deflected by the action of the few, I think, false friends of the movement. His speech, however, has answered this useful purpose—that it will tell the public what is, I believe, the operating cause with some Members, though I hope they will not be many, who will vote against this Bill and who formerly voted for it. Does it ever occur to hon. Members to ask themselves how they would feel if women had the vote and we had not. An hon. Member says that is waste of time, but I think it is waste of time not to look at it in that way. I believe the way to see other people's positions is to try to put ourselves in their places. I know no way so good. It is, at all events, my rule in life, in politics and everything else, to try to put myself in the position of the man with whose opinions I disagree.

I agree that the tone of the Debate at present on this subject has changed very much during the few years I have been in the House. That tone has very much improved towards women. There is not that air of superciliousness and arrogance which marked our Debates many years ago. After all that is a mark of the advance of women. What are we saying to those women in effect? "You are fit at election times to go about and tell the men how they are to vote, but you yourselves are not fit to vote." Is there not inconsistency in that attitude? We do not say that, but we act it. Is that fair to those women whom we ask to do the unpleasant work of canvassing, for canvassing is always unpleasant, to deny them com- petency of expression of their own opinions through the ballot box? How should we feel if the positions were reversed, and if they said to us, as of course they do say, "We respect you and like you and we take some note of your opinions: we women pass laws which are good for both men and women, and we are influenced very largely by you men in the votes we give." What should we have to say if they said to us, as has been said this evening by an hon. Member against this Bill, that women's influence upon legislation is unlimited. Supposing they said that to us that they were trying to do what they thought was fair, should we be content, and should we not claim expression of our opinions in the ballot box as a right and not as a favour? We should say we prefer to speak for ourselves. We should say to the women, "We do not object to your keeping the vote, but what we want is a share in the national government of the country." Depend upon it that is the feeling of the women who really take an interest in politics, and I do not say all women do so, but that is the real feeling of those women who have an interest in public affairs as to this question. They claim, not as a favour, but as an inherent right as citizens of this country, a share in its government through their own votes in the ballot box. It is not denied in any quarter that women's work has an enormous social and national value—a value equal to that of ours. Probably most Members have received a red-backed pamphlet from the hon. Member for the Bridgetown Division of Glasgow (Mr. MacCallum Scott). I will give the House, from a pamphlet written against the Bill, the hon. Member's opinion as to the value of women's work. This is what he says, speaking of the married woman, and I agree with him:— The married woman is not merely the bearer and rearer of children, a manifold work in itself, but it is her daily toil in the home which sets the man free to concentrate upon the industrial work of the world. She is nurse, and teacher, and cook, and tailor, and washer, and mender, and administrator all in one. The working man's wife has to make a budget every week that might well baffle the Chancellor of the Exchequer. And yet she is not to have a vote in electing the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My hon. Friend says that it is because she cannot fight. Further down he says:— The married woman, whose work is done in her own home, who is rearing up a new generation of citizens, is generally doing harder and more continuous work than any wage earner. It is also work which is more valuable to the State. And yet this other part of the human race, whose work is invaluable to the State, is, for some mysterious reason, not qualified to exercise the right to vote in the ballot. The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Baker) told us how devoted and enthusiastic women are and what valuable work they do in remedying social evils. But, he said, there is no relationship between these qualities and the exercise of the Parliamentary vote. I cannot agree with that sentiment at all. I think there is a great relationship. I was surprised to hear trotted out the old argument about physical force—the bullock argument, as I call it—that because one sex has more bone and muscle than the other, therefore that sex alone is qualified to exercise the Suffrage, while the sex with less physical power has not the same moral right. I maintain that in every civilised State the powers of Government do not rest on physical force. The States in which in matter of actuality the powers of Government rest on physical force are either barbarous or semi-civilised. It is of the very essence of civilisation that moral force and intellectual power, and not brute force, should sway the Government of the country. The times when brute physical force is the only maintained of the social state are the times when, for the moment, the State relapses into semi-barbarism. Between the vote and no vote, said my hon. Friend, comes in the question of physical force and masculine power. He went on to allude to the necessity of having these things for the government of alien races. But the Government of alien races by mere force is not this country's ideal of government—at all events at home. That is not the fruitful root from which springs the tree of liberty. Government here, and in every really civilised country, must rest on moral power, not on physical force.

The hon. Member for Accrington said that he would discard two arguments which were equally indifferent to him. One was the Australian and New Zealand argument—that the fact that some of our Colonies had adopted Woman Suffrage was a reason why we should vote for this Bill. The other, which he said was equally irrelevant, was that no great modern Empire had yet adopted Woman Suffrage. The validity of those two arguments is very unequal. We generally consider positive evidence to be better than negative evidence. What do those great modern empires that have not adopted Woman Suffrage know about it? It is Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Finland, and some of the United States that know about it. I am going to take notice of those States where they have tried it. Surely it is much more practical and affords a stronger argument to take the evidence of people who have tried a thing than to take the evidence of those who have not. What is the argument that we may derive from Australian and New Zealand experience? I was present during the recent New Zealand election, which resulted practically in a tie between the Liberal party, which had held power for so long, and the reform party, which is opposed to the existing Government. It was a very exciting election. The returns as they came in in the city of Wellington, where I was staying at the time, created an extraordinary amount of excitement. You might have thought that at such a time women with their emotional nature would have been unduly excited or in some way personally injured. I made inquiries both before and after, as I did also in Australia this last winter, and what did I find? Not a trace of evidence in any quarter whatever that any single woman had been injured, mentally, morally, or physically, by her interest in the elections.

Not from any man in Australia or New Zealand, and I saw some of the leading citizens and statesmen of both countries, did I find any evidence—not even From those who have opposed Woman Suffrage—that it had unsexed women, divided families, or broken up happy homes. Quite the contrary. All I could hear was that it had given women a real and lasting interest in public life, that they were more and more interested in the things that interested their husbands. Surely that of itself is a great social gain. When men are disposed, as some men are, to twit women on the fact that they take interest only in the trivial affairs of life, it is an argument in favour of Woman Suffrage that it is an undoubted fact that women in these States have taken and are taking a more intelligent interest in the same great subjects that interest their brothers, fathers, and husbands. I believe it tends actually in the main and in the mass to unite husbands and wives, to bring brothers and sisters together on the same platform, and to cause them to take an interest in the same realities of life. I believe it has been a positive gain in those countries. Men in Australia and New Zealand told me that, although they had been opposed to Woman Suffrage, they did not now see much harm in it. I asked what had been the effect on the affairs of the State, and I was everywhere told—and I think this is a very important feature—that the men who chose candidates for Parliament were more careful to select men of good personal character. That is a result which we have always hoped for. I know it is said that women may be narrow and prejudiced. If they are, I believe that when they take a greater interest in public life they will become broader and less prejudiced. As regards the conduct of elections, there is absolutely no doubt that the Australian and New Zealand elections are conducted with as much decorum and as little evil as ours—in fact, with less evil than ours. The result on the State has been good, the result on the family has been good, the result on the women themselves has, I believe, been good.

I do not defend this Bill exactly as it stands. I hope I value the married women more than any other class in the community. They have more experience and more knowledge of life than the younger women. One hon. Member said that, under this Bill we should have daughters helping to make laws for their mothers. What have we now? We have boys just over twenty-one with votes, making laws for their mothers, who certainly know more about most things than they do. I am not defending every detail of this Bill, because we know what the Second Reading of a Bill is for. It is to set the approval or the disapproval of the House upon the main principle. I am frankly voting for this Bill because it is the best practical means known to me to make a step forward in this Woman Franchise question. I beg Members who have in the past believed in it, not to be deflected from the course hitherto taken by them, and not to be prevented from voting for the Second Reading of this Bill, to the very great aggravation and annoyance of the well-conducted women who desire the Franchise, by anything that has recently taken place.


It is obviously difficult to use any fresh arguments so late in the evening, but I am bound to confess that I think some of the arguments of the last speaker are exceedingly difficult to answer. Although I myself am not in favour of giving the Franchise to women, I should be the first to recognise, and no doubt there are a great number of other Members who feel the same, that I have in my Constituency obtained the greatest help from women. It will seem unchivalrous, recognising these facts as we all do, that we should falter in our wish to give the vote to women. But it does seem to me that too much stress to-day has been laid first upon the question as to whether we should or should not give the vote to women in view of certain events of the last few weeks; and, second, whether or not we should take into account the ordinary deserts of women in considering whether or not we ought to give them a Franchise, What to my mind we ought to consider more than these two aspects of the question is whether we are justified in arranging such a stupendous revolution as this must be without consulting the electors of this country. In view of the changes that are taking place it behoves us to pause before we take a step of this gigantic magnitude. This argument applies, I feel, more to this side of the House than to hon. Members on the other. Most of us have been urging that, owing to the Parliament Act, the Constitution of this country is in a state of what I may call suspended animation," and it does seem to me very risky and unwise, while urging this on the one hand, that we should encourage in any way such a change as this involves before going to the electors and giving them more opportunity than they have at present of expressing their desire on this question.

There is also another argument in regard to this matter. I do not think we should so much consider the deserts of those who are now asking for the vote as to what effect that vote is likely to have upon the State. The vote must have two aspects. We are accustomed to think of "One man one vote." We are accustomed also to think of the argument which has been raised on our side of "One vote one value." There is in every vote two values. We have not only to consider the value of the vote to the recipient or possessor, but the second aspect, the double value; what will follow the vote when given? We are told over and over again that this Conciliation Bill is a very small matter; that it will enfranchise 1,200,000 women. If for a moment some of us thought that we could stop there we would be inclined to vote for the Bill. I am not sure that I should. Still, I can readily understand there may be Members of this House who feel that if the Conciliation Bill would bring this matter to a finish that, at any rate, it would embrace a number of electors in the new Franchise who would be well fitted to exercise a vote.

I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other prominent politicians in the country have mentioned that they believe the result of this Conciliation Bill would be an advantage to the Tory party. Any of us who have any experience or knowledge of electioneering must surely be very simple if we imagine for a moment that a scheme which is said to be going to give an advantage to one party will ever be allowed to remain in the condition in which it is framed. It is perfectly certain that if the Conciliation Bill is going to be a good Bill for the Conservative and Unionist party the other side will never rest until they have extended the Franchise until it embraces the whole of Adult Suffrages of this country. It is because we believe that this Bill can never remain a limited measure that we feel that it is exceedingly dangerous and exceedingly wrong, without taking into account what the opinions of the electors may be, to run the risk of taking the first step of a change of such a size and magnitude as universal Adult Suffrage will undoubtedly be. It is not possible for a moment to imagine that this Conciliation Bill can remain where it is now. We must realise that we shall be committed before many years are over to the much wider question of universal Franchise. That is where I think the double value of every vote is going to be a matter of very serious consideration to the people of this country. The majority of this country is composed of women. The present electorate numbers about seven millions. Under Adult Suffrage it may be twenty millions or twenty-four millions. The vast majority of those electors would be women. It is perfectly easy to contemplate the possibility of many constituencies who might be fairly divided, and in which the preponderating vote of the women will just turn the scale. I only point this out in order to show that what is proposed is a very serious risk from a constitutional point of view—the granting of this first step towards what I consider is likely to be a very much wider issue that will face Parliament before many years are past.


I do not propose in the few observations I shall offer to introduce any arguments in support of the political enfranchisement of women. I do desire to say just a few words by way of attempting a reply to some contentions which have been made in the course of this Debate by those opposed to the Bill. I would like at the outset, as a supporter of Woman Suffrage, to associate myself with the remarks made by the Foreign Secretary with regard to the attitude of the Prime Minister upon this Question. We have recognised that the Prime Minister is an honest, sincere, and fair opponent of our proposals. We are grateful that he has given opportunities and facilities in this House for the consideration of this measure. I listened with a good deal of interest to the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon, and, like every Member of this House, I have the highest regard for his ability and wisdom and judgment. I think his speech was the strongest argument that could possibly have been given in support of the enfranchisement of women, because if a man of the ability of the Prime Minister is not able to make a better statement in support of his case than the Prime Minister did, then it must be a lamentably weak case indeed. The Prime Minister advanced two or three reasons in support of his position. His main contention was one with which we are not at all unfamiliar—namely, that there is some natural fundamental difference between men and women which qualifies men to exercise legislative and judicial functions, but the absence of which in women disqualifies them for such. I would very much like the Prime Minister to have said a little more clearly and in more definite terms what this fundamental sex difference is, because if he had done so I should be prepared to find for every man the Prime Minister could produce, possessed of these essential qualifications for exercising legislative and judicial functions, a woman equally qualified by the possession of the same qualifications.

A further objection advanced by the Prime Minister was one with which we are also very familiar—namely, that this House has no mandate to legislate on this question in this Parliament. It is very singular that the Prime Minister of all men should advance an argument or make a statement like that. Before the General Election of 1910 it was stated in the most unequivocal form, in a speech which was an election manifesto delivered by him at the Albert Hall, that if he regained the confidence of the country, and was supported by a majority in the House of Commons after the General Election, that he would consider that this question had been before the country and the Government would give the House of Commons an opportunity to legislate upon it. Then the Prime Minister further stated that those who were supporting this demand for the enfranchisement of women have never brought forth proof of the existence of a demand in the country for this legislation similar to the proof that was offered preceding all other extensions in the Franchise. If the Prime Minister were here I would like to ask him what further proof he wants than the existence of the widespread demand for the enfranchisement of women, and I would like to ask him what the women failed to do, or failed to show, that men did and showed previous to the extension of the Franchise. I am prepared to prove at great length, if time would permit, that the women have taken up every challenge which their opponents have thrown down to prove that there is a national demand for this measure. They have a national organisation the membership of which is probably larger than the membership of any other organisation demanding any other political enactment. They hold more meetings, and have done for many years, and more largely attended meetings, than are held in support of any other legislative enactment. I repeat that in every way possible, by constitutional and by unconstitutional means, the women have shown their enthusiasm and their determination to have this vote and they are supported, as they have proved as far as it is possible to prove, by the overwhelming majority of their sex.

Reference has been made this afternoon, particularly by the hon. Member for Accrington, who moved the rejection of this Bill, to the canvasses that have taken place, or are represented to have taken place, by those opposed to the enfranchisement of women. I think most Members of the House will agree with me when I say, given the framing of a question for a referendum, and given the direction of the polling, you can obtain any result you desire. The result of a referendum depends very largely upon the phraseology of the question put. The hon. Member described some of the methods and statements and arguments that were framed by those who support the enfranchisement of women as disreputable—at any rate that there were misrepresentations. What about the canvassing to which he refers by those opposed to the enfranchisement of women? In some cases the phrasing of the question put to the women was of a character as only to invite one answer. For instance, in one of those canvasses the question put to the women was this:— Would you like to be governed by women instead of men, as would be the case if women had the vote owing to their greater numbers in the community? And in some cases the question was put in this form:— Do you believe in the tactics of the militant suffragettes? Do you believe that the militant suffragettes ought to have the vote? Would you like to be governed by women of the character of these hysterical women? Those who support the enfranchisement for women have taken canvasses, and may I give two or three results of these canvasses? A canvass was taken a little while back in Bolton, a typical industrial constituency in the North of England, and out of 5,750 women municipal electors 2,660 were in favour of Woman Suffrage, while only 610 were opposed to it.


What was the question put?


The question was whether women ought to have the vote on the same terms as men.


Who took the canvass?


The first canvass was carried out five or six years ago by the Lancashire Women's Textile Representation Committee, and the later canvass was carried out by the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. A result more favourable was found in Warrington. I put forward these cases as an answer to the cases advanced by the hon. Member for Accrington. They are quite as important as the instances which the hon. Member himself quoted. May I put forward one or two other facts which prove the existence of a widespread movement supported not only by women, but by male electors. In the election of 1910, in my own Constituency, on the election day in my committee rooms, the male electors were invited to sign a petition in favour of conferring the Parliamentary vote on women on the same terms as it is or may be given to men, and voluntarily 7,300 male electors in my Constituency walked into the committee rooms and signed that petition. I take up this position, that even if only a small minority of women demanded the Parliamentary vote, the fact that the majority of women were opposed to it ought not to prevent the women who do want the vote from having it conferred upon, them by Parliament. The basis of democratic Government should be government by consent. The women who do not want the Parliamentary vote are governed by consent now. They are governed as they want to be governed, and they are satisfied with the present form of Government, but the women who want the Parliamentary vote are not governed by their consent, and that is a violation of the first principle of representative and democratic Government.

I will now deal with the speech of the hon. Member for Accrington which really was a good old Tory speech, because he argued against almost every one of the Liberal arguments for extending the Franchise. He said that the extension of the Franchise to women would not raise wages, and he said he was driven to the conclusion that the Franchise had had no effect whatever in improving the industrial conditions of enfranchised men. The hon. Member argued that the possession of the vote would not raise wages. An hon. Member sitting near me has distributed to hon. Members a pamphlet upon the question of the possible increase in wages by conferring votes upon women. I have never supported the extreme demand or the extreme statement of some Suffragists that conferring the vote upon women would raise the women's wages to the level of men's wages. The difference in the wages of men and women is not due to the enfranchised condition of one and the unenfranchised condition of the other. Nevertheless, I contend that the extension of the vote to women would raise their wages, and it would improve their industrial conditions, because it would give them better recognition. I am simply astounded at the statement made by the hon. Member for Accrington. What has the House of Commons been doing for the last week? I am simply astounded that any hon. Member can rise in his place and try to maintain that it is not possible by using political power and bringing pressure to bear upon the House of Commons to raise the wages and improve the industrial conditions of the wage-earning class. What is the reason you have forty-two Labour Members sitting on these benches? The reason we are here is because the workers recognise that the use of political power may be of service to them in raising their wages. [An HON. MEMBER: "Have you raised them?"] My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington sits for a constituency next to mine, and that constituency is interested in the great cotton trade, and it comes to me with amazement that an hon. Member who represents a constituency like that can stand up in the House of Commons and say that the possession of the vote by women would not improve their industrial conditions.


I never made any such statement. What I did say was that the possession of the vote would not in any way affect the question of wages, and I did not deal with the question of industrial conditions generally.


I am speaking within the recollection of many hon. Members, and the hon Member for Accrington was most unfortunate in his phraseology if he did not convey the impression I have started to the House and the construction I put on his statement. May I remind the House that he referred to the pit-brow women in Wigan, and that was not a question of wages, because he used that as an illustration that the vote for women was not necessary to improve the industrial conditions of the workers. No less than 60 per cent, of the workers in the textile trades in the hon. Member's constituency are women, and practically every one of them contributes towards labour representation in Parliament in order that through Parliament they may have their industrial conditions improved. The wages of these women and their hours of labour are regulated by Act of Parliament and by a hundred laws the industrial and working conditions of women are regulated. Really I do not think it is necessary that I should pursue this any further, because it is so perfectly obvious that this House will more and more be concerned with industrial conditions. That is the work which the House of Commons will have to direct its attention to.

I might cite scores of Acts of Parliament bearing on the industrial conditions of the people in my part of the country. I might mention the Mines Bill, which is now before Parliament, and I am sure the hon. Member for Accrington will not say I am misrepresenting him when I state it was not political power, but organisation which had improved the industrial conditions of the workmen. May I also refer to the experience of the last few days? Why was it necessary for Parliament to interfere in the miners' strike? Simply because the organisation of the miners was not sufficiently strong to secure their demands. Why, for instance, are the cotton operatives of Lancashire asking Parliament to deal with the question of the abolition of fines in cotton factories? For years and years the voluntary arrangements between employers and employed failed to protect the workers. Those were practically the only points that I rose to pat before the House, but I would just like, in conclusion, to refer to the effect of the proposals embodied in this Bill from a democratic point of view. The first part of the speech of the hon. Member for Accrington was an out-and-out opposition to the enfranchisement of women on any terms whatever. The latter part of his speech was a criticism of this Bill because it did not enfranchise a sufficient number of women. Surely, I should have thought the partial character and the limited character of this Bill ought to have appealed to the hon. Member. If it be a danger to enfranchise women, surely you minimise the danger if you limit the number of women who are to have the vote. The hon. Member criticised the Bill because, he said, it places a stigma upon marriage. It does no such thing as place a stigma upon marriage. If a woman possesses the qualifications that a man possesses she will be entitled to the vote, and the women are not responsible for the inconsistencies or the illogicalities of our present Franchise laws. The women have said, "We do not care what you make the basis of your Franchise qualification. We ask, whatever qualifies a man to vote, if a woman possesses the same qualification, that qualification shall also entitle her to the vote." The qualification for the exercise of the Parliamentary Franchise by women proposed in this Bill is based upon legislation passed by a Liberal Government forty years ago, legislation which conferred the municipal Franchise, upon women. And for forty years the Liberal party has evidently remained satisfied with what the hon. Members call this stigma upon marriage.

10.0 P.M.

Just one word about a matter which has been raised by a number of speakers, namely, the small number of women who are occupying positions upon the municipal bodies of the country. Owing to that legislation to which I referred just now, many women in the country at any rate are not qualified to be candidates for the county councils. The widest Franchise is that for the boards of guardians, and the House would observe in the figures given by the hon. Member that where the Franchise is fairly expensive and democratic to a considerable extent, women have taken advantage of it. If you take the country as a whole, not more than 20 per cent. of the municipal electors are women, and the reason there are not more women on these bodies is because of masculine prejudice against women being elected. Women can only be elected to such bodies by the votes of men. They have a natural reluctance to coming forward and being beaten, and they know it is extremely probably they will be beaten when they have to appeal to an electorate not of women but of men. One word about the physical force argument which has been brought forward. Who exercises this physical force. Do the electors exercise physical force? There might have been some force in this argument in olden times when every person had to fight, but to-day who makes war? Do the electors make war? Does this House make war? It is the Executive Government that makes war, but it is not the Executive Government that goes out to fight, and fighting is not the qualification for the vote, because we deny to the men who have to fight the vote. It is the soldiers and the sailors who are the disfranchised class among the male electors of this country. Reference was made, I think by the Noble Lord the Member for Thirsk (Viscount Helmsley), to the analogy—I thoroughly agree with him, because I think the analogy is perfect.—between the power of the municipality to use its police in the last resort to exercise force and the power of the Executive Government to use the Army. An attempt was made by the hon. Member behind me to draw a distinction. He said the municipality could eventually call upon the Army. Yes, but under our law the head of a municipality may be a woman, and there are cases where a woman is at the head of a great industrial community. I have Oldham in my mind. You have imposed upon this woman the responsibility of calling in the last resort upon physical force. This argument, like every other, is found when examined to be fallacious and unsound. The opposition to the enfranchisement of women is not argument; it is masculine prejudice. I am anxious this House should now come to a conclusion on this question. As the Prime Minister said not long ago, it is not creditable to the British House of Commons that it should go on year after year passing Resolutions professing to support the enfranchisement of women. We want deeds, not merely words. I do not want to see the women of this country having to continue this hard and lengthy struggle for their citizen lights—rights which are enjoyed by women of their own blood in different parts of the Empire, and which are exercised with advantage to the State as well as to the women themselves. I support this Bill because I could not do otherwise. I could not refuse support to the enfranchisement of women and continue to lay any claim to the profession of democratic principles. I support the enfranchisement of women because I believe the active partnership of men and women in political affairs will raise politics to a higher, a holier, and a purer atmosphere. I believe it will bring to the relations between man and woman in all affairs of life, domestic and social, holier and worthier associations. I believe this, and I therefore support this Bill. I appeal to the Members of this House to repeat, the votes they have given on former occasions, and to carry this Bill by a triumphant majority, and by that send a message of encouragement to the women who have been so long and valiantly carrying on this movement.


I understood the hon. Member who has just sat down to claim that since the Labour party have been an organised force in Parliament they have been instrumental in raising the wages and in improving the industrial conditions of the working classes. This is no Debate in which to make any controversial points against the Labour party, or any other party, but surely this House would agree with me that during the six years—I am making no criticism of the Labour party, because I do not believe, if they had been archangels from heaven they could have done otherwise—they have been an organised force in Parliament the wages of the working classes have not risen, although the cost of living has steadily increased. I should like to ask the hon. Member this further question. During the time he and his colleagues have sat here in Parliament, while doing their best for the working men whom they represent, have they not also done their best for the working women who have not got votes? That is not the point I wish to dwell upon to-night. I specially wish to deal with statements made by almost every Suffragist speaker in this Debate in their appeals to Members of this House who have changed their attitude owing to the recent development of militant outrages. I venture to say that every single Suffragist speaker I have heard this afternoon has incorrectly stated the facts with regard to the militant movement. The hon. Member who moved the Bill, and the hon. Member who seconded it, described, in varying language this change of attitude as the punishment of the many for the excesses of a small minority. That shows a considerable contempt for the intelligence of that considerable body of Members on both sides who have changed their attitude, but not one of whom desires to punish the many for the excesses of the few. I think I shall be able to show that those who have changed their attitude have withdrawn their support from two sections of the Suffragists, of which one section is guilty as principal and the other section is guilty as accomplices, and that of these two sections, that which is guilty as principal is almost, if not quite, as numerous as the section which is guilty as accomplices. If I can show this, it will prove that militarism and hysteria are inherent in and inseparable from the Suffrage movement. They grow and progress as the Suffragist movement grows and progresses, and, if that is so, then these militant outrages are a strong and serious argument against Woman Suffrage itself, and it shows that those Members who have changed their attitude are acting from no mere sentimental impulse, seeing that there has been brought home to them for the first time the widespread demoralisation caused by this movement among our people, and especially among our younger women, whose spotless modesty and self-restraint it is the highest interests of the nation to preserve.

The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin said that we charged constitutional Suffragists with hiding behind the militants. I do not charge them with that at all. I charge them with walking hand in hand with militants and at every point taking advantage of the advertisement and notoriety which the militants give them, while shedding convenient tears at intervals over their more deplorable excesses. I have before me here a public subscription list in connection with the militant society, and I venture to say it is far more relative to consider this list than it is to quote the actual numbers of those who have gone to prison, and who are very much more worthy of respect in some degree than those who have financed the outrages and have not themselves the courage to go to prison. In this list I find the names of Members of Parliament, of the wives of Members of Parliament, and of relatives of Members of Parliament. I find the names of many influential persons who subscribe to funds openly and notoriously dedicated to militant purposes, and only diverted from militant purposes when it suits their strategy to declare a temporary truce. May I take a conspicuous case. I find in the list the name of the hon. Baronet the Member for Newmarket (Sir Charles Rose). I notice that in the last published report for 1911 he subscribed £10 to the Women's Social and Political Union, and in the year before he subscribed no less than £100. The hon. Baronet the other day took the chair at a luncheon to the Prime Minister, and on that occasion, in responding to the toast of his health, said he thought they might congratulate themselves that, on this occasion at least, the Prime Minister Lad escaped the somewhat assiduous attentions of a certain section of the community who were, he was afraid, fast losing the allegiance of many of their most loyal supporters, of whom he had in the past been one. But the hon. Baronet seems to have forgotten to tell his audience that he had supplied these militant women with funds out of which came the expenses of militant demonstrations, the salaries of the organisers of outrages, the provision of hammers and other weapons, and the circulation of leaflets in defence of militant methods, such as "Why I went to Prison," by Emily Pethick Lawrence; "Militant Methods," by Christabel Pankhurst," and "An Open Letter to One who Condemns Violence"—an open letter largely paid for by the hon. Baronet and addressed to himself. I find other remarkable names in the list.

I notice amongst the subscribers the name of a Metropolitan Police magistrate, Mr. Cecil Chapman, and it certainly seems a rather extraordinary thing that one of those whose duty it is to administer justice in these cases should be openly subscribing to funds which are well known to be dedicated to violations of the law. I need only add that, in that company, I find attached, to a substantial sum, the name of His Highness the Gaekwar of Baroda. It is not only of the financial support furnished to the militant movement by constitutional suffragists that I complain, but it is also the moral support that is forthcoming from them on every possible occasion. They co-operated with them in processions; they appeared with them on platforms. The very Committee which is responsible for this Bill is up to the neck in complicity with these militants. The chairman of the committee, Lord Lytton, appears with them constantly on public platforms and deplores the outrages. I find that only last December, after regretting these forms of violence, he produced with him on the platform Mrs. Despard—a venerable offender against the law, many times in prison, and the inventress of the method of resistance by non-payment of rates. I find the secretary of the committee, Mr. Brailsford—a gentleman with whom we are in official relations from year to year, who presumably represents the constitutional Suffragist movement—I find him, too, constantly backing up the militants. He goes to Caxton Hall only last Friday night, the night when either the triumph of the cause was to have been announced, or measures of violence were to be concerted in the event of failure. I take from the "Manchester Guardian" a report of the speech on Friday last, in which he says:— He himself had watched the recent outbursts without surprise, and with a good deal of sympathy. The authors of them were not the women who led them, but the Parliamentarians who gave reasons for doubt and scepticism as to their intentions. So long as there was a prospect of success, they should use the utmost self-restraint. I should very much like to know whether these views of the secretary of the conciliation committee are the views of the conciliation committee, and whether they will be repudiated in this House to-night.

There is another point on which I wish to touch. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) tells us that these militant acts are the only foundation for the remarkable change of opinion which he admits both inside and outside this House. I should like to assure him, from positive knowledge, that that is not the fact. If I go back to 1911, I find that at that time the Suffragists were slowly gaining ground. I find that in the second Election of 1910—I can only speak as to what happened in the Unionist party, although, on balance, I think we came out the same as the Liberals—we lost within our own party something like eight or nine seats to our Suffragist colleagues. That process went on during the early part of 1911, and we lost four or five seats to our own colleagues during the by-elections. In nearly every case when an old member of our party retired—men like Lord St. Audries, and the former Member for the St. Augustine's Division of Kent, in nearly all these cases an anti-Suffragist was replaced by a Suffragist. It was in the autumn of last year that that tendency changed. The turning-point was the announcement of the Government with regard to Franchise reform. I have nothing to say about that from a party point of view, but it was that announcement which made it perfectly plain, both to Unionists, and, I think, to some Liberals who share the variety of Suffrage views entertained by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, that limited Suffrage has become an impossibility, that this Bill, with all its moderate seeming, is a hollow sham, and that the choice lies definitely between the enfranchisement of all women and of none. At that time there was a marked change in the by-elections. We have lost no seats since then. We have gained two, and we have gained half a seat in two other cases. What I mean by half a seat is either a Suffragist succeeded by an abstainer or an abstainer succeeded by a staunch anti-Suffragist.

Then came the outrages of 1st and 4th March, which I fully agree greatly advanced the change of opinion which had already been prepared by those events, and I believe that there would have been a great possibility, if the Division had taken place last week, apart from all consequences in Committee or on Third Reading, of our beating this Bill upon the Second Reading. Then came a further phenomenon—I only know what has happened upon the Unionist side—the reconversion of a certain number of those who were converted. We are going into the Lobby to-night some eight or ten weaker than we should have gone last week. A Member of Parliament on this question is a very elusive bird. You think you have caught him then someone unearths an old pledge and he is gone. But do not these facts throw an extraordinary light on the authority of this Parliament to settle this question? Would you see these movements and these counter-movements in the case of a subject which had been before the electors, the Budget, Tariff Reform, any of the great controversial issues we fight out at elections? Not merely was this House prepared very likely to reject this Bill last week because outrages had been committed, but it is prepared, very likely, to pass this Bill because more outrages have not been committed. If something approximately like that is so, has this House the right to pass upon this question the considered judgment of the nation? No Member here, whether Suffragist or anti-Suffragist, knows for certain that he represents the opinion of his own constituents. We who are opposing this Bill do not claim to give a negative final voice on behalf of the country. All we claim is to speak on behalf of an unconsulted country and in their name to insist upon delay, while ready and willing both to ascertain, and when ascertained to abide by the verdict of the people. I desire to put this question in the most respectful manner to the Leader of the Unionist party. How can he lead us against the Home Rule Bill on the ground, one of our main grounds, that the country has not been consulted, a point which no one has put more forcibly than he, and which no one will put more forcibly than he in the debates to come, and at the same time how can he support this Bill, involving, as everyone admits, an equally momentous change with Home Rule, one on which neither he nor anyone else in the House would pretend that the country had been consulted? But at least if he must support this Bill, I do ask him, and I believe that every anti-Suffragist will ask him, to qualify his support by endorsing the proposal which will be made in Committee—if this Bill gets to Committee—that the question should be submitted to the final and direct judgment of the electors themselves.


There are reasons why I do not desire to give a silent vote in the approaching Division. I intend to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill. That is in entire consistency—I hope I may say characteristic consistency—with all my past conduct with respect to this measure. I shall do so in order to express my firm and unshaken belief in the emancipation of women and in the justice of electoral equality for them. But unless the Bill is much widened and altered in Committee, I will on no account vote for the Third Reading of so partial and so delusive a measure. I have this day introduced to the House a Bill to simplify our Franchise and to remove disabilities of women. I introduced the same Bill last year. It was for several years before introduced by my late friend Sir Charles Dilke. That Bill embodies my views on this question, and I only wish the crowd that I shall meet to-morrow night, and that the Woman Suffrage societies themselves, were half as consistent on this question as I am, and that they would give me their support to that entirely just and democratic proposal. Why, then, should I be described as a deserter? I am not a deserter.


I did not desire to call the hon. Member a deserter. I merely quoted what was said about him by others.


Why, then, did the Noble Lord accuse me of vacillation. I will tell the House. [HON. MEMBEES: "Withdraw!"] It is because I have said publicly and emphatically, and I repeat it, that I feared that this question was becoming a dangerous question for the Government. The persistent attacks which have been made on Ministers and shop windows appeared to me to put the subject out of reach for this Session, and if I found that their effect was to impair the stability of the Government which I support—surely that is a proper view to take—I should leave this question severely alone until that situation had altered. To that opinion I adhere, notwithstanding the jeers of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I think it a perfectly reasonable attitude, and I shall hold myself free in any future development of this subject to act in accordance with it.


(who was heard indistinctly): I hope I may welcome back to the fold my hon. Friend who has just spoken. "Better one sinner repentant than ninety-nine just men."


Better wait till you have him.


I may reply to that remark with another quotation, "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." Until eleven o'clock this evening the eyes of myself and my hon. Friends around me will be fixed upon the form of my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend opposite the Member for Watford (Mr. Arnold Ward) complained that Members of his own party were elusive. I think that that is a mistake. They are very elusive as long as a thing has to go through a process of Lobbying, but when once we arrive at the point at which we vote my experience is that the great mass of Members of this House adhere to their own expressed opinions, opinions on this subject being the result with many of us of years of consideration. I do not believe that there is any large number of Members who are this evening about to go back on their opinion on Woman Suffrage, because of certain riots and disorders. My hon. Friend also said that we had no mandate from the country. That is perfectly true, but if we always waited for a mandate from the country we should give up our right as a House of Parliament to lead the country, and in the measure in which we give up our right to lead the country the country will suffer. On these great questions which come before the House of Commons we are better able by our debates and votes to instruct and consolidate the opinion of this country than if we were merely to wait until some mandate is given at a General Election.

I listened with mixed feelings to the speech of the Prime Minister, because I felt it was one which went beyond the question of Woman Suffrage and seemed, to me to be a denial of any possibility of the development of democratic government. Is not democracy going to develop just in the same way as other great movements? This country has led the way in the world in all questions of popular government. We have laid down the principle which has been accepted by many people all over the world, that the government of a country should depend upon the consent of the governed. That principle has made its way all round the globe, and has raised the aspirations of countless millions of people. It has been a success in every country in which it has been tried. Men have accepted and profited by that principle of government, and now women ask why should not they have the same right in a democracy that men have been allowed to exercise? It is a principle which is applicable, to all. It cannot be said that we have equality in our form of government, so long as women, numerically the greater portion of the community, are governed by the smaller number. I do not believe that the cause of progress is going to stop with the present system, and it is because I regard this question of the women's franchise as part of a movement of civilisation that I support this proposal. The Prime Minister said that the natural distinction of sex should differentiate women in the Parliamentary Franchise. What are we discussing? We are discussing whether or not women may have the right to record the vote at a Parliamentary election. Can anyone say that women are, by nature, incapable of performing that elementary act? We are not now discussing the question of whether women should be Members of this House. If a constituency thought fit to elect a woman as Member it is for that constituency to decide as to her fitness. What is to be the test of her fitness in regard to the vote? It is admitted that her intellectual capacity is not inferior to the ordinary man's. If it is to be education, then amongst the masses of the people at any rate we know the girl's teaching is equal to the boy's although it is true that in the higher grades of society it is often not so because we have not given so much attention to our daughters as we have given to our sons. All over the world woman is becoming more fit to exercise these functions. Not only here, but in other countries, the movement for the advancement of women is growing with remarkable strength. When we find that women all over the world are entering the same professions and the same industries and the same occupations as men, we can hardly expect but that they will seek to get the same rights of citizenship. Will this be injurious to women? They do not think it will. They consider it would be to the great advantage of the sex as a whole. I believe that the mistaken action of the Suffragettes is not due to mere hysteria, but to a very earnest feeling that by acquiring equal political rights with men they will lessen those social evils under which women suffer, and will raise the status of woman in the eyes of man throughout the whole world. My right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. Eugene Wason) has stated that he is going for the first time to vote against this Bill on account of events of which we have heard so much. I am very sorry to hear that he will take that action, and I hope many of our Friends will not do so. I know there are a considerable number of our Friends who desire to vote against this Bill because of it being of a limited nature, but may I point out to them that if we reject this Bill to-night we shut the door to the discussion of Amendments that would enlarge its scope. What we want is to get to the Committee stage where we can discuss the details. I appeal to my hon. Friends to assist us to do this.


The argument against Woman Suffrage which has always impressed me most is the physical force argument. I have heard it several times very emphatically condemned, but I have always thought that in those condemnations the argument itself was neither understood nor appreciated. If you are going to destroy an argument, the most effective way is first of all to understand it. I will endeavour to put the physical force argument in its elements in four propositions as simple and as direct as propositions in Euclid. First, I will put it forward as a universal maxim that the only stable form of government is one which secures that the balance of political power is in the same hands as the balance of physical force. Secondly, among educated people, among nations that we call democratic, and, above all, among peoples who have acquired certain habits of union and co-operation, the unit of physical force is the individual male citizen. Thirdly, by counting heads among such a people you secure a rough approximate index as to which government or which policy has the physical force of the country behind it. In the last place, women as physical force units are not equal to men. Therefore if you include women when you are counting heads, the result is not reliable as an index of the physical force in the country. Those seem to me to be the elements of the physical force argument, and, as presented in those four statements, it has not been met to-night.

So far I have spoken only of the material aspect of the argument. I agree that the moral aspect is the more important. Does the physical force argument involve a denial of justice and morality as a basis of the State? If I thought it did I would not advance it. I think the misunderstanding of the argument is due to a profound confusion of ideas—a confusion due in the first place to the conception that moral force and physical for 3e are separate and distinct entities, something existing apart from each other and not necessarily connected. Is there such a distinction in the world of reality, in the world in which we live and move? Certainly they are useful abstractions which we use. We speak of moral force and physical force, but can we isolate them? Can we say that they exist apart and separate from each other? Can we say that any more than we can say that the whiteness of sugar exists apart from the sweetness of sugar? To suggest that you can substitute moral force for physical force is as absurd as to say that you can lift a heavy portmanteau by moral force instead of by physical force. What happens in the world of reality is that the portmanteau is lifted either by the moral force of its owner, or a railway porter, or by the immoral muscle of a luggage thief. It is just as absurd to talk of substituting moral force for physical force in the Government of the State. What happens in the world of reality is that government is based either on moral physical force or on immoral physical force. Those who talk of substituting moral force for physical force are talking the language of Christian Science. Those who hold the doctrine that physical force in itself is something unjust and immoral must condemn the force of gravity, which is physical force in its most elemental form, and must say that the planets are immoral bodies swinging round in space that should have vigilance committees appointed to look after them. The truth is that physical force is neither moral nor immoral: it all depends upon the motive which lies behind it, and a Government which is based upon physical force is to be judged by the motives that lie behind its policy. The last point I wish to make and which I have every intention of making is—


Which side are you on?


I think I shall vote in the same Lobby as the hon. Member, who, if I mistake not, comes from Ireland. I want to meet what I think is a misunderstanding, that by giving votes to women you are in some way or other substituting moral force for physical force, as a basis of the State. That involves the idea that the majority is always right, and that a General Election settles questions of morality or justice. A General Election settles no such thing. It merely settles which policy and Government have, for the time being, a majority of the people behind them. A majority may be wrong and may be unjust, and if you give votes to women the majority of women are just as likely to be wrong and do injustice, and to act for selfish reasons as a majority of men; no less and no more. By giving votes to women you are destroying the value of a General Election as an index of the balance of physical force, and you are not one bit basing the State more on moral than on physical force.


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

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

The House divided: Ayes, 312; Noes, 113.

Division No. 62.] AYES. [11.0 p.m.
Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour) Buckmaster, Stanley O. Denniss, E. R. B.
Addison, Dr. Christopher Burke, E. Haviland- Dickinson, W. H
Agnew, Sir George William Burns, Rt. Hon. John Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott
Ainsworth, John Stirling Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Dillon, John
Alden, Percy Butcher, J. G. Donelan, Captain A.
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.) Doris, William
Amery, L. C. M. S. Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar) Doughty, Sir George
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Byles, Sir William Pollard Duffy, William J
Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A. Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)
Baker, H. T. (Accrington) Carr-Gomm, H. W. Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)
Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.) Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)
Baldwin, Stanley Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood) Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Essex, Richard Walter
Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester) Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin) Falle, Bertram Godfray
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.) Fell, Arthur
Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Chancellor, H. G. Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles
Barnes, G. N. Clancy, John Joseph Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson
Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick) Clough, William Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes
Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.) Clyde, J. Avon Gardner, Ernest
Barton, William Collins, G. P. (Greenock) George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd
Bathurst, Charles (Wilton) Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Gilhooly, James
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Gill, A. H.
Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts, St. George) Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Gladstone, W. G. C.
Bennett-Goldney, Francis Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.) Glanville, H. J.
Bentham, G. J. Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet) Goldstone, Frank
Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish Crumley, Patrick Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)
Bethell, Sir J. H. Cullinan, John Goulding, Edward Alfred
Bird, Alfred Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy) Greene, Walter Raymond
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth) Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)
Black, Arthur W. Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)
Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith- Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Greig, Colonel J. W.
Bowerman, C. W. Dawes, James A. Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward
Brady, Patrick Joseph De Forest, Baron Griffith, Ellis J.
Brocklehurst, W. B. Denman, Hon, Richard Douglas Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)
Gulland, John William M'Callum, John M. Rowlands, James
Hackett, John M'Curdy, C. A. Rowntree, Arnold
Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth) McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry) M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.) Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.
Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding) Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)
Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)
Hardie, J. Keir M'Micking, Major Gilbert Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)
Harris, Henry Percy McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustines') Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)
Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Manfield, Harry Sanders, Robert R.
Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.) Markham, Sir Arthur Basil Sanderson, Lancelot
Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Marshall, Arthur Harold Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)
Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Mason, David M. (Coventry) Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles
Hayden, John Patrick Masterman, C. F. G. Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Hayward, Evan Meagher, Michael Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.
Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, East) Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Shortt, Edward
Helme, Norval Watson Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.) Simon, Sir John Allsebrook
Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Menzies, Sir Waltor Smith, Albert (Lanes., Clitheroe)
Henderson, Major H. (Berks) Millar, James Duncan Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Henry, Sir Charles Molloy, Michael Smith, H. B. L. (Northampton)
Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.) Molteno, Percy Alport Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Higham, John Sharp Montagu, Hon. E. S. Snowden, Philip
Hill, Sir Clement L. Morrell, Philip Spear, Sir John Ward
Hill-Wood. Samuel Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton) Spicer, Sir Albert
Hinds, John Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Steel-Maitland, A. D.
Hoare, S. J. G. Munro, Robert Sutton, John E.
Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Neilson, Francis Swift, Rigby
Hodge, John Newdegate, F. A. Talbot, Lord E.
Holmes, Daniel Turner Newton, Harry Kotingham Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Hope, Harry (Bute) Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) Taylor, T. C. (Radcliffe)
Hope, John Deans (Haddington) Norman, Sir Henry Tennant, Harold John
Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Nuttall, Harry Thomas, James Henry (Derby)
Hudson, Walter O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)
Hume-Williams, William Ellis O'Brien, William (Cork, N.E.) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. (Bath) O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Touche, George Alexander
Illingworth, Percy H. O'Dowd, John Toulmin, Sir George
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus O'Grady, James Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh) O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.) Tryon, Captain George Clement
John, Edward Thomas O'Malley, William Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.) Verney, Sir Harry
Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil) O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid) Walton, Sir Joseph
Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth) Ormsby-Gore. Hon. William Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)
Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe) O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Wardle, George J.
Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) Palmer, Godfrey Mark Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney) Parker, James (Halifax) Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Jowett, F. W. Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M. White, Major G. D. (Lanes., Southport)
Keating, M. Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington) White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Kemp, Sir George Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham) White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)
Keswick, Henry Phillips, John (Longford, S.) White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Kimber, Sir Henry Pointer, Joseph Whitehouse, John Howard
King, J. (Somerset, N.) Power, Patrick Joseph Whittaker, Rt. Hon. sir Thomas P.
Lamb, Ernest Henry Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) Wiles, Thomas
Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Pryce-Jones, Col. E. Wilkie, Alexander
Lansbury, George Radford, G. H. Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle) Raffan, Peter Wilson Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)
Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts, Mile End) Ratcliff, Major R. F. Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud
Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld Cockerm'th) Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields) Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
Leach, Charles Reddy, Michael Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Levy, Sir Maurice Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Wolmer, Viscount
Lewis, John Herbert Remnant, James Farquharson Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)
Lewisham, Viscount Rendall, Athelstan Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey) Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven) Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)
Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Worthington-Evans, L.
Low, Sir F. (Norwich) Roberts, G. H. (Norwich) Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale) Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs) Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Lundon, T. Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall) Yate, Col. C. E.
Lyell, Charles Henry Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford) Young, W. (Perthshire, E.)
Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (St. Geo., Han. S) Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside) Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Roch, Walter F. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.
Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs) Roche, Augustine (Louth) Agg-Gardner and Sir A. Mond.
Macmaster, Donald Roe, Sir Thomas
Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Rolleston, Sir John
MacVeagh, Jeremiah Rose, Sir Charles Day
Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R. Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks Burdett-Coutts, William
Archer-Shee, Major Martin Beck, Arthur Cecil Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.)
Ashley, W. W. Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich) Campion, W. R.
Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J. Bigland, Alfred Cator, John
Baird, J. L. Booth, Frederick Handel Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)
Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.) Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.
Barnston, Harry Bridgeman, William Clive Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry
Barrie, H. T. Brunner, J. F. L. Cooper, Richard Ashmole
Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.) Bryce, J. Annan Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)
Cralk, Sir Henry Hunt, Rowland Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)
Crawshay-Williams, Eliot Jessel, Captain H. M. Primrose, Hon. Nell James
Croft, H. P. Kerry, Earl of Quilter, Sir William Eley C.
Dalrymple, Viscount Lane-Fox, G. R. Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Davies, David (Montgomery Co.) Larmor, Sir J. Ronaldshay, Earl of
Dixon, Charles Harvey Lee, Arthur Hamilton Rothschild, Lionel de
Du Cros, Arthur Philip Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Salter, Arthur Clavell
Faber, George D. (Clapham) Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston) Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)
Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich) Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)
Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh Smith, Rt. Hon, F. E. (L'p'l, Walton)
Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A. Malcolm, Ian Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Fleming, Valentine Marks, Sir George Croydon Stanler, Beville
Gibbs, George Abraham Martin, Joseph Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)
Glazebrook, Capt. Philip K. Mason, James F. (Windsor) Starkey, John Ralph
Goldsmith, Frank Mildmay, Francis Bingham Stewart, Gershom
Grant, J. A. Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Gretton, John Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton) Sykes. Mark (Hull. Central)
Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.) Munro-Fergusen, Rt. Hon. R. C. Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)
Guinness, Hon. W.E. (Bury S. Edmunds) Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. Thynne, Lord Alexander
Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Newman, John R. P. Tobin, Alfred Aspinall
Hambre, Angus Valdemar Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield) Tullibardine, Marquess of
Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Nolan, Joseph Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)
Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence Paget, Almeric Hugh Warner, Sir T. C. T.
Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend) Williamson, Sir Archibald
Helmsley, Viscount Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek) Wright, Henry Fitzherbert
Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.) Pearce, William (Limehouse) Younger, Sir George
Hickman, Col. Thomas E. Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Earl
Hills, John Waller Pirie, Duncan V. Winterton and Sir F. Banbury.
Hohler, G. F. Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)
Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)

Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand pat of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 208; Noes, 222.

Division No. 63.] AYES. [11.15 p.m.
Ainsworth, John Stirling Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)
Alden, Percy Doughty, Sir George Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)
Amery, L. C. M. S. Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Jones, Lief Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)
Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A. Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid.) Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)
Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.) Falle, B. G. Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J, (City, Lond.) Fell, Arthur Jowett, F. W.
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles King, Joseph (Somerset, North)
Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester) Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson Lansbury, George
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes Law, Rt., Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)
Barlow, Montague (Salford, S.) Gardner, Ernest Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)
Barnes, George N. George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)
Barrie, H. T. Gilhooly, James Leach, Charles
Barton, William Gill, A. H. Lewis, John Herbert
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Glanville, Harold James Lewisham, Viscount
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Goldman, C. S. Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas
Benn, W. W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.) Goldstone, Frank Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale)
Bennett-Goldney, Francis Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton) Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (St. Geo., Han. S.)
Bentham, George Jackson Goulding, Edward Alfred Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)
Bentinck, Lord N. Cavendish- Greene, Walter Raymond Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)
Bethell, Sir J. H. Greig, Colonel J. W. Maclean, Donald
Bird, Alfred Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Griffith, Ellis J. M'Callum, John M.
Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith- Gulland, John William M'Curdy, C. A.
Bowerman, Charles W. Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth) M'Laren, Hen H. D. (Leics.)
Buckmaster, Stanley O. Hardie, J. Keir M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lines., Spacing)
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) M'Laren, Waiter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.) M'Micking, Major Gilbert
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Hayward, Evan McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)
Byles, Sir William Pollard Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, East) Markham, Sir Arthur Basil
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Helme, Norval Watson Marshall, Arthur Harold
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Mason, D. M. (Coventry)
Cawley, H. T. (Lanes., Heywood) Higham, John Sharp Millar, James Duncan
Cecil, Lord Huqh (Oxford University) Hill-Wood, S. Montagu, Hon. E. S.
Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin) Hinds, John Morrell, Philip
Chancellor, H. G. Hoare, S. J. G. Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. f. (Ashburton)
Clough, William Hodge, John Munro, Robert
Clyde, James Avon Holmes, Daniel Turner Neilson, Francis
Collins, Stephen (Lambeth) Hope, Harry (Bute) Newdegate, F. A.
Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.) Hope, John Deans (Haddington) Newton, Harry Kottingham
Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet) Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)
Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy) Hudson, Walter Norman, Sir Henry
Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S) Hume-Williams, W. E. Nuttall, Harry
Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. (Bath) O'Brien, William (Cork, N.E.)
De Forest, Baron Illingworth, Percy H. O'Grady, James
Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Denniss, E. R. B. John, Edward Thomas Palmer, Godfrey Mark
Dickinson, W. H. Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea) Parker, James (Halifax)
Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M. Rutherford, W. (Liverpool, W. Derby) Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington) Salter, Arthur Clavell Verney, Sir Harry
Pointer, Joseph Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees) Walton, Sir Joseph
Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) Sanders, Robert Arthur Wardle, George J.
Pryce-Jones, Col. E. Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir C. E. White, Major G. D. (Lanes., Southport)
Radford, George Heynes Shortt, Edward White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Raffan, Peter Wilson Simon, Sir John Allsebrook White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)
Ratcliff, Major R. F. Smith, Albert (Lanes., Clitheroe) Whitehouse, John Howard
Remnant, James Farquharson Smith, H. B. L. (Northampton) Wiles, Thomas
Rendall, Athelstan Snowden, Philip Wilkie, Alexander
Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven) Spear, Sir John Ward Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)
Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Spicer, Sir Albert Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Roberts, George H. (Norwich) Sutton, John E. Wolmer, Viscount
Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs) Swift, Rigby Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall) Taylor, John W. (Durham) Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)
Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford) Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliff) Worthington-Evans, L.
Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside) Tennant, Harold John Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. St[...]art-
Roch, Walter F. Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.) Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Roe, Sir Thomas Thomas, J. H (Derby) Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Rolleston, Sir John Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.
Rose, Sir Charles Day Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton) Agg-Gardner and Sir A. Mond.
Rowlands, James Touche, George Alexander
Rowntree, Arnold Toulmin, Sir George
Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Addison, Dr. Christopher Davies, Timothy Lines., (Louth) Kerry, Earl of
Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R. Dawes, James Arthur Keswick, Henry
Agnew, Sir George William Dillon, John Kimber, Sir Henry
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Dixon, C. H. Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)
Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R. Donelan, Captain A. Lane-Fox, G. R.
Archer-Shee, Major Martin Doris, William J. Larmor, Sir J.
Armitage, Robert Du Cros, Arthur Philip Lee, Arthur H.
Ashley, W. W. Duffy, William J. Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley) Lockwood, Rt. Hon Lt.-Col. A. R.
Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J. Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.) Low, Sir F. (Norwich)
Baker, H. T. (Accrington) Essex, Richard Walter Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edghaston)
Baker, Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.) Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M. Lundon, Thomas
Balcarres, Lord Faber, George Denison (Clapham) Lyell, Charles Henry
Baldwin, Stanley Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh
Barnston, Harry Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Mackinder, Halford J.
Barran, Sir J. (Hawick) Fitzroy, Hon. E. A. Macmaster, Donald
Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.) Flavin, Michael Joseph MacVeagh, Jeremiah
Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. (Glouc, E.) Fleming, Valentine McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald
Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton) France, G. A. Magnus, Sir Philip
Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks Gibbs, George Abraham Malcolm, Ian
Beck, Arthur Cecil Gladstone, W. G. C. Manfield, Harry
Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich) Glazebrook, Capt. Philip K. Marks, Sir George Croydon
Bigland, Alfred Goldsmith, Frank Martin, Joseph
Black, Arthur W. Grant, James Augustus Mason, James F. (Windsor)
Booth, Frederick Handel Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland) Masterman, C. F. G.
Brady, Patrick Joseph Gretton, John Meagher, Michael
Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke) Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)
Brunner, John F. L. Guinness, Hon. W.E. (Bury S.Edmunds) Meehan, Patrick A. (Queen's Co.)
Bryce, J. Annan Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.) Menzies, Sir Walter
Burdett-Coutts, W, Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Mildmay, Francis Bingham
Burke, E. Haviland- Kackett, John Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas
Butcher, John George Hambro, Angus Valdemar Molloy, Michael
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar) Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.) Molteno, Percy Alport
Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.) Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry) Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)
Campion, W. R. Harcourt. Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.
Cator, John Harris, Henry Percy Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Harrison-Broadley, H. B. Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Chaloner. Col. R. G W. Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) Nolan, Joseph
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.) Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Hayden, John Patrick O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Helmsley, Viscount O'Dowd, John
Clancy, John Joseph Henderson, Major H. (Abingdon) O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)
Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Henry, Sir Charles O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, [...].)
Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock) Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.) O'Malley, William
Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.) O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)
Cooper, Richard Ashmole Hickman, Col. T. E. O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid.)
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Hill, Sir Clement L. O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth) Hills, J. W. Paget, Almeric Hugh
Craik, Sir Henry Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)
Crawshay-Williams, Eliot Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)
Croft, Henry Page Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Pearce, William (Limehouse)
Crumley, Patrick Hunt, Rowland Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)
Cullinan, John Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh) Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)
Dalrymple, Viscount Jessel, Captain H. M. Phillips, John (Longford, S.)
Davies, David (Montgomery Co.) Keating, Matthew Pirie, Duncan, V.
Power, Patrick Joseph Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells) Tryon, Captain George Clement
Pretyman, E. G. Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton) Tullibardine, Marquess of
Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.) Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange) Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay
Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham) Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.) Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B. White, Patrick (Heath, North)
Primrose, Hon. Nell James Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'p'l, Walton) Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Quitter, Sir William Eley C. Smith, Harold (Warrington) Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)
Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S) Williamson, Sir A.
Reddy, Michael Soames, Arthur Wellesley Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud
Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston) Winterton, Earl
Roche, Augustine (Louth) Starkey, John R. Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)
Ronaldshay, Earl of Steel-Maitland, A. D. Wright, Henry Fitzherbert
Rothschild, Lionel de Stewart, Gershom Yate, Col. C. E.
Royds, Edmund Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West) Young, William (Perth, East)
Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W. Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central) Younger, Sir George
Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood) Talbot, Lord E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir
Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland) Thynne, Lord A. M. Levy and Mr. Arnold Ward.
Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel) Tobin, Alfred Asplnall

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Second Reading put off for six months.