§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
With regard to the first Order of the Day, the Franchise and Registration Bill, I desire to ask you, Sir, a question suggested by the intimation which you gave or foreshadowed to the House in answer to a question put to you on Thursday last by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. You then said that in your opinion it would be premature at this stage for you to express your view as to whether or not particular Amendments in Committee of which notice has been given in regard to this Bill would, if adopted by the House, involve such a fundamental alteration of the Bill as to bring it within, not the rule, but the practice as regards withdrawal. I wish, with all deference and respect, to ask you this: Having regard to the fact that the Amendment now under discussion, that standing in the name of my right hon. Friend behind me (Sir E. Grey), would, and is intended to, open the door to the discussion of some three, I think, concrete proposals for the incorporation in the Bill, in one form or another, of what is called Women Suffrage, whether, with a view to the general convenience of the House and in order to avoid the sense of unreality which would otherwise prevail and an abortive employment of Parliamentary time, you would not, notwithstanding what you said the other night, so far relax the strictness of our ordinary procedure as now to intimate to the House which, if any, of those Amendments, if they were adopted in Committee, and therefore came before you upon Report and subsequent stages, would in your opinion effect such a transformation or such a fundamental alteration in 1020 the Bill as to bring it within the practice to which you then referred.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
In reply to the Prime Minister, I think I must still maintain what I laid down on Thursday, namely, that the proper time to answer questions with regard to my general view of the Bill, is after the Bill has passed through Committee, and I am able to see the position of the Bill as compared with the Bill when it was brought in. But I quite recognise what has fallen from the Prime Minister —that is, that the statement which I made on Thursday last does leave the House in very considerable difficulty in reference to the Debate which, in the ordinary course, would occur this evening; and I believe I should be meeting the general convenience of the House if I were to state now what my view would be supposing certain Amendments to the Franchise Bill were to be admitted. I will say this: If the Amendments of which notice has been given by the Government, and one or two of the Amendments designed to grant Women Suffrage were to be inserted in the Bill, my opinion is that under those circumstances the Bill would be substantially a new Bill. Therefore, in accordance with the practice of the House, it ought to be withdrawn and a fresh Bill ought to be introduced. I may leave aside for the moment as not being immediately pressing the question of the new Amendments of which notice has been given by His Majesty's Government. The question I have to put to myself and have to answer now is whether, if any of the Amendments designed to grant the suffrage to women were admitted, they would make so great a change in the Bill as to constitute it a new Bill. Let me take the Amendments seriatim. With regard to the Amendment to leave out the word "male," I suppose it is intended, as the right hon. Gentleman said, to open the door to one or other of the Amendments being proposed. If the Bill were amended by leaving out the word "male" and leaving in the word "person," it would not, in my judgment, make the difference intended. I understand that in all franchise Acts, the word "person" has always hitherto been held to mean "male person." To come to the other three Amendments, I am told — though I have no means of verifying it myself—that the first Amendment, if carried, would admit some eleven millions of women to the vote, that the second Amendment would admit some 1021 six millions, and that the third Amendment would probably admit one million to one million and a half. If that be so— and I am bound to accept those statements from persons who have authority to make them—I have formed the opinion that the admission of any one of those Amendments would so alter the Bill as practially to convert it into a new Bill. Under those circumstances, I shall advise the House that the Bill be withdrawn, and that a Motion should be made to ask leave to introduce a new Bill. It has been suggested to me that in the Representation of the People Bills of 1867 and 1884, Amendments designed for somewhat similar purposes were moved in Committee, and that no exception was taken to them. In regard to that, I would first of all take the technical point—and I admit it is only a technical point—that these Amendments were not carried, were not inserted in the Bill, and that the Speaker of that day did not have the opportunity of considering the Bills with the Amendments in them. Therefore, there is no strict precedent there. I would, however, take very much broader ground than that. I would say that the Representation of the People Bill, 1832, the Representation of the People Bill, 1867, and the Representation of the People Bill, 1884, were all designed, and purposely designed, to open the franchise to a large class, or many large classes, of the people of this country who, up to that moment, had not had the privilege of the franchise. Those Bills were, I say, purposely designed for that object. The present Bill is not designed with any such object. The present Bill is limited in its scope; the chief object of it is to abolish plural voting, while the secondary object is to add rapidity to the system of registration. There are other minor objects and purposes. The effect, it is true, of those provisions may be very considerably to increase the electorate, but as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education pointed out very clearly last Thursday night, the Bill did not propose, and did not in fact add a new class, nor was it designed to add a new class to the electorate. If one of the Women Suffrage Amendments were to be inserted it would add to the electorate a very large class, and would establish an entirely new principle. In my judgment, leave to introduce the Bill did not contain that principle, and that principle was not assented to on Second Reading. Therefore, I am driven to the conclusion that the Bill would, if 1022 altered by the insertion of a Women Suffrage Amendment, practically constitute a new Bill.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I need not, say, Sir, that I do not rise for the purpose of presuming to discuss, still less to criticise, the ruling that you have just given from the Chair. Perhaps, however, by the indulgence of the House, I may be allowed to say a few words upon the change which that ruling necessarily involves in the procedure of the Government—
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
May I, Mr. Speaker, interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, as I understand there is no Question now before the House, and the right hon. Gentleman intends to make some statement about business. I would like to know whether it would not be necessary that he should end by moving the Adjournment of the House so that those of us who desire to do so may express our views upon the subject?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not yet know what course the Prime Minister is going to propose. I think we had better hear the Prime Minister.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
In my experience, as a rule, very large latitude has been given by the indulgence of the House to the Leader of the House—
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
If the indulgence I ask is not to be accorded, I shall certainly conclude my speech with a Motion, though perhaps not such a Motion as the right hon. Gentleman anticipates. I was saying, Mr. Speaker, that I was not going to presume in any way to discuss, still less to criticise, the ruling which you have just given from the Chair. Indeed, I think the House is under a great obligation to you for having saved us from what would have been a regrettable waste of Parliamentary time by stepping for the moment outside the strict province of established procedure and telling us in advance what you were not bound to tell us—what your ruling would be in the event of any of these Amendments being accepted. I feel bound to say in the first place, though, as I have said, with no disposition or desire to criticise your ruling, that it was not in the least degree anticipated by His Majesty's Government or as I believe, by the great majority of the House. You have referred, Sir, to the precedents of 1867 and 1884. We 1023 carefully studied those precedents, because it would be a mistake to suppose that this point had escaped attention, or that it was not deliberately considered by His Majesty's Government, and by the skilled advisers to whose counsel they resort. Our opinion was that as both in 1867 and in 1884 Amendments in Committee had been moved extending to women the franchise measure which in its terms was confined to men—in the one case without any objection, and in the other case after objection taken by a very great Parliamentarian of those days, Lord Randolph Churchill, on the ground that the Amendment was outside the scope of the Bill, and would at any rate, require an Instruction to give it foundation, an objection which was over-ruled by the Chairman of that Committee, as he said after consultation with the Speaker —having regard, I say, to these two precedents, it certainly was our opinion that it would be open to anybody in this measure, which is a measure of enfranchisement, which is a measure that by limiting the period of qualification does introduce, quite apart from the abolition of plural voting, a large new element into the electorate—not, I agree, new in the sense that they are a different class from those who are there before, but new in the sense that hitherto they have been disqualified by what we regard as an artificial limitation from rights that belong to other members of the community—we did in these circumstances come to the conclusion that an Amendment of this kind would not only be admitted as in order in Committee, but would not be regarded as outside the scope, or irrelevant to the general purposes of the Bill. Further, as I shall have to point out in a moment in another connection, we were in this matter under a very special obligation to those promoting the cause of Women Suffrage.
I myself, as is well known, am an opponent of this cause. Many of my colleagues take a different view, but I thought it right—I am not going into the matter now, whether for good or for bad reasons; it is immaterial—I thought It right, speaking on behalf, not of myself, but of the Government as a whole, to give an undertaking that if we introduced, as we were obliged and bound to introduce, a Franchise Bill substantially upon the lines of this Bill, we should frame it in such a form as would admit for discussion, and, 1024 if it was the opinion of the majority of the House, for adoption, an Amendment for the inclusion of women as well as men within its scope. And with that object, and solely with that object, we introduced into this Bill, in the very forefront of its first Clause, an epithet which has never previously appeared in our franchise legislation, the word "male," because it is well known that in franchise law, whatever may be the interpretation of the word "person" in any other department of our jurisprudence, in franchise law it is always held to be confined to men and man alone, and by introducing the word "male" and putting it into the first line of the first Clause, it was our honest intention to carry out the pledge we had given, as it were, to challenge, in the most pointed way the decision of the House when the Bill came into Committee as to whether the Bill should or not be confined to one sex.
I think I am speaking within the general recollection of the House when I say that in the Debates, both on the introduction of the Bill and upon Second Reading of the Bill, it was universally assumed in all quarters of the House, by the opponents as well as by the advocates of Women Suffrage, that when we reached the Committee stage it would be possible to have, and indeed it was the intention of the framers of the Bill that full and free opportunity should be given for the discussion of this matter of Women Suffrage in any of the various concrete forms in which the principle might be embodied. I am bound to say so much lest it should be suggested either that in this matter we have treated an important point of procedure with inadvertence and neglect, and, still more, that it should be suggested that there has been anything in the nature of sharp practice. So far I hope I may command the general assent. Now, Sir, you have given this ruling. The expectations that were certainly entertained by us, and I think generally entertained, have thereby been frustrated, and it now appears that any Amendment—I am not speaking of the Amendment associated with the name of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, which was moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square; that, I agree, is more or less neutral in its character, and was only moved as a preliminary step—but any of the three Amendments which appear upon the Paper in which the extension of the franchise for 1025 women is alternatively embodied would not indeed be out of order in Committee, but would, if adopted in Committee, be held by you, Sir, when the Bill came up on Report for Third Reading, to have so vitally and fundamentally transformed its character as to make it a different Bill, and, in accordance with the established practice of Parliament, to compel its promoters to withdraw it and to introduce a new Bill. As I say, that came upon us as a surprise. We loyally, and without any kind of reserve, accept the ruling which you have given, and we have to consider what in these circumstances is our duty, in view, first, of the general convenience of the House, and next of the specific pledges and undertakings which we ourselves have given. Now I do not hesitate to say, and I believe here again I shall be fortunate enough to command something like general assent, that in view of that ruling it would be a futile and otiose thing to prolong the discussion upon the Amendment which is now before the Committee. It would be an unreal discussion. I do not say an insincere discussion, but an unreal discussion. Any decision which the House under such conditions should arrive at would not be regarded I think—and certainly would not be regarded by the supporters of Women Suffrage, I am not sure, it would be regarded even by its opponents—as a decision which would accurately reflect, or at least necessarily reflect the predominant opinion of the House of Commons. Speaking entirely for myself personally, as an opponent of Women Suffrage, I very much regret that that should be so. I hoped we should have had that discussion and should have come to a Division. I did not look forward to it from my point of view with any apprehension whatever. That must be taken as a mere personal aside.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I did not hear what was said, but I was saying I hope that will be taken as a mere personal aside. I think we all know that the prolongation of this discussion would be a useless waste of Parliamentary time. Then, Sir, I come to another and more serious matter. Supposing the discussion upon this Amendment be by general consent put an end to, is it right for the Government to proceed to the prosecution of the Bill? In my opinion, and that is the opinion which is shared by my colleagues, whatever views they may take about 1026 Women Suffrage, it would not. I will tell the House in a sentence or two why. This is a Bill—I am not, of course, going to trench in any degree on the controversial question of its merits or demerits— which would undoubtedly have the effect of adding to the male electorate of this country a number of persons—the estimates vary, some people say 1,500,000; some people say 2,000,000, and I think the other night in Debate it was put as high as 2,500,000—at any rate, it would involve a very substantial addition to the male electorate of the country, and I do not think it would be fair and right, and certainly I do not think it would be acting up to the spirit of the obligation which we undertook which were, in substance, that in any Bill for the extension of the franchise we would give a full and free opportunity for the discussion, and, if it was the view of the majority of the House for the introduction of Women Suffrage into that Bill, if after that door had been finally closed, so far as this Bill is concerned, we were to proceed with the enfranchisement of the male electorate, and therefore as a mere matter of common honour and common-sense if we agree that the discussion of the Women Suffrage Amendment is precluded by the ruling which you, Sir, have given we cannot in fairness proceed with the Bill as it stands and with its other provisions. Then, Sir, the question arises what further ought to be done?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not think I should allow myself to be diverted from pursuing the statement I am making in view of the clear definition of the position of the Government and I hope for the general convenience of the House of Commons. Having laid down these two propositions, namely, first, that in view of your ruling, Sir, it is useless to proceed with the discussion of the Women's Franchise Amendments, and, next, that these being debarred from consideration we ought not to proceed with the Bill, I have to say, first, that in the opinion of the Government while that will prevent them, and I think necessarily prevent them from pressing or prosecuting any further proposals upon this subject during the present Session that must not be taken as in any sense an 1027 abandonment upon their part of their intention to proceed, if and when opportunity offers, with electoral reform, including registration and what is not less, but in my opinion more important, Redistribution. We think it essential so far as it may be within our power to deal effectively with the abuses of plural voting within the lifetime of the present Parliament.
Now I come to what is a much more difficult and delicate matter, and that is the position which we, and indeed all parties, are now placed in regard to the question of Women Suffrage. Let me recall to the recollection of the House the actual undertaking which the Government have given with regard to this matter. We promised—I promised on behalf of the Government—in, I believe, in the clearest and fullest exposition of our views, to be found in a reply I gave to a deputation of ladies in November, 1911, two things. We promised, in the first place, that if a private Member introduced a Women Suffrage Bill, which then went by the name of the Conciliation Bill, that, provided its title was so framed as to admit of amendment—that is to say, to admit of other proposals beyond the conciliation proposals—for the extension of votes to women, we would give that Bill facilities; in other words, that we would devote to it an adequate amount of Government time, and, if the House passed its Second Reading, those facilities should extend to its subsequent stages. That was our first promise. Here it will be convenient to remind the House that that Bill was introduced by a private Member at the beginning of this Session, that we did give it the facilities we had promised, the House rejected it on the Second Reading, and there was an end of it, so far as that Bill was concerned, of our pledge in regard to it. We gave a further pledge, and it was that if, for any reason, as indeed happened, the Bill introduced by a private Member was either rejected or met with some other mishap, we would in our own proposals with regard to suffrage, so far as we could—we thought then we could do so—completely open the door to the amendment of these proposals at the will of the majority of the House to include women as well as men. We did that too; we fulfilled that honest intention in perfect good faith, and, as we believed, with complete security, and we fulfilled the second as well as the first branch of the pledge we had given in this matter.
1028 We are now, it appears, disabled— I am not complaining or making any criticism —by the technical procedure of the House from completely carrying out the undertakings which in intention and spirit we tried to perform. The question is—and it is a very serious question—what is, I will not say the law, because it is not a matter of law, but what is it, in honour and good faith, we ought to do to give effect to those intentions and those undertakings? One thing has been made quite clear by your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and it is that Women Suffrage cannot, under our procedure, be introduced into any Bill the main and primary purpose of which is to enfranchise or enlarge the enfranchisement of the male electorate. If that is the purpose of the Bill, if that is its main object, no Amendment can be introduced into it which would have the effect of enfranchising women without so fundamentally transforming its character that it would be a Bill which ought not to have been introduced, because it can be compelled to be withdrawn. That being the position, there are obviously two, and only two, possible courses to be taken. The first would be that the Government, on its own account, should introduce a Bill in terms enfranchising women, but that the Government will not do for reasons which must be obvious and upon which it is not necessary to enlarge. The alternative course, and the only other course, to pursue, is the course we propose to adopt— that is, to engage in the next Session of Parliament, if a private Member's Bill for the enfranchisement of women is introduced, the Government will give it facilities, by which I mean an adequate share of their time, for its reasonable discussion and amendment in the House. It must be a Bill which corresponds to the conditions I laid down two years ago in regard to the Conciliation Bill, which is so framed that it does not exclude the possible amendment of any of the various proposals of enfranchisement, and it shall be a Bill in regard to which the Members of the Government will be perfectly free, and their supporters and everybody else, to give their votes at every stage one way or the other, but a Bill introduced under those conditions and provided with those facilities we should be perfectly prepared to supply with the same opportunities both as regards the time of its introduction and its Second Reading, and if it is carried by this House as regards its career through subsequent Sessions the same facilities as regards the expenditure of Government 1029 time as we are prepared to give to any controversial measure of the Government itself.
As I have said, we retain individually and as a Government our complete freedom of action with regard to any such matters. I believe that is the best way, and indeed the only practical way, by which we can give effect lo the undertakings we have given, and I hope the House will agree that in a situation which none of us anticipated, which, indeed, I do not think it was possible to foresee, we are doing the utmost in our power to give effect in complete good faith to the understandings and undertakings on which we have hitherto proceeded. That is all I have to say, and I hope I have made the position perfectly clear. I have spoken with complete frankness to the House. I remain myself as strongly opposed as ever I was to the principle of the extension of the franchise to women. I regret for myself, and I regret deeply, that we have not had the opportunity of bringing that matter to an issue here to-night, and that circumstances have intervened which have rendered that impossible. I have endeavoured, and my colleagues have endeavoured, holding as we do diverse views on this subject, to hold an even balance between the various interests of the parties concerned, and so far as I am personally concerned, I trust the House will agree that I have striven and have succeeded in giving effect, both in the letter and in the spirit, to every undertaking which the Government has given.
Perhaps, before I sit down, I ought to add a word as to what change it will make if we should not proceed further with the Bill in regard to the business of the House. I think that will be the most convenient course. I shall conclude with a Motion, but before I do so, though it is not strictly relevant, I wish to say that we shall proceed to-day with the Second Order on the Paper—that is the Trade Unions (No. 2) Bill—and to-morrow we shall, instead of taking it on Wednesday, take the Committee stage of the Established Church (Wales) Bill, and on Wednesday, continue the Report stage of the Trade Unions (No. 2) Bill. On Thursday, the first two hours of the sitting will be devoted to the Resolution for the Allocation of Time on the Report stage of the Welsh Bill, and we hope, thereafter, to conclude, if not already finished, the Report stage of the Trade Unions Bill. We should take the Second Reading of the 1030 Railways (No. 2) Bill, and the Third Reading the Trade Unions Bill on Friday. The Motion which I had better conclude with, is to discharge the First Order. I beg to move: "That the Order be discharged and the Bill withdrawn."
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman misunderstood my earlier interruption, which had no other object than to enable any hon. Member who wished to do so to have an opportunity of taking part in the discussion, which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman himself must realise is necessary. I cannot say that I regret what has happened from the point of view of Women Suffrage. In my belief the opportunity which the right hon. Gentleman holds out next Session will be a fairer opportunity than would have been possible under these conditions, for the reason that many of us who on general grounds might have supported Women Suffrage would have been bound to vote against the Third Reading of this Bill. From that point of view there is no serious objection to the course which the right hon. Gentleman suggests. I may say also that I, at least, have no doubt about the perfect good faith of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken, but I am bound to say that the other alternative is one in regard to which I do not think he has acquitted himself quite so satisfactorily. As a matter of fact, the difficulty which has arisen was not only foreseen, but pointed out in some of the newspapers more than a year ago, and I really cannot understand how any Government, with the talent, which we see in front of us now, could have failed to make it perfectly certain that this difficulty should not arise. But this is simply commentary which the House will easily understand on the way in which the business of this Government has been conducted. They are rushing from Bill to Bill; they are living from hand to mouth, and not one of them has time to think about anything except how they will continue in office for another year. Better proof of the absolute want of consideration to which I have referred could not have been given than was afforded in an incidental remark by the right hon. Gentleman himself. He spoke of his new Franchise Bill, and ho said it would include registration, which was even more important than the other topic.
§ The PRIME MINISTER indicated dissent.1031
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Even more important than the other topic. Yet he has brought down to this House a Franchise Bill which left out the most important part, and he has proposed to carry it through by means which certainly were never heard of before in any free assembly in the world. I cannot profess to regret what has happened. I do not think it adds to the strength of the Government, and I think it will probably shorten the Session. There is only one thing I regret, and I am sure that regret is shared by every Member of the House in whatever quarter he sits. It is that we have not had the opportunity of hearing the Chancellor of the Exchequer reply to the speech of a specially friendly kind made by the Colonial Secretary.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
We on these benches cannot allow the Order to be discharged without expressing an opinion as to our position with regard to the new situation which has arisen out of the ruling you, Sir, have given this afternoon. The Leader of the Opposition in the speech he has made appeared to me to be much more concerned in scoring a party advantage than in putting before the House the seriousness of the situation so far as some thousands of honest women in this country are concerned. It may be that the two orthodox parties in this House are so much at sixes and sevens with regard to women enfranchisement that the less the position is seriously faced the better it may be from their too purely party standpoint. We on these benches occupy an entirely different position. We are not at sixes and sevens on this question. I think it can be said to our credit that, not only do we stand solid and united in favour of women enfranchisement, but it can be said of us, as it can be said of no other party in this House, that the more women we could have secured in the Bill which is to be withdrawn the more satisfied would the whole of this party have been and the more satisfied would those whom we represent in the country have been. I suppose the more women that might have been included in the Bill the more dissatisfied would either of the other parties in the House have been. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] I am delighted to hear that is contested by some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House. I am only sorry I have not the opportunity of moving the Amendment standing in my name, because I would have been glad to have put those cheers to a very definite test. I 1032 am inclined to think that at seven o'clock to-night many of those who are now protesting against my statement would have been found in the Lobby against the enfranchisement of the whole of the women. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
I want to turn attention to the statement just made by the Prime Minister. So far as I have been able to follow the course of events, I believe the Prime Minister, notwithstanding his opposition to women enfranchisement, has done his very best to give effect to the pledge he has not only made, but reiterated time and again to deputations of women when they have approached the Government on this matter. I am not, however, satisfied upon this. The Prime Minister in the proposal he made at the end of his statement set forth the future intentions of the Government. I do not think he quite kept up to the standard he has all through this business set. We must not underestimate the value of the pledge which the Prime Minister gave. We must not undervalue the position it has created in the country. I want to remind the House of the use that has been made of it over and over again by Members of the Government in order to carry with the Government in its programme the great mass of non-militant women. I want to call attention to a statement made by the Foreign Secretary. He said:—The introduction of the Government Bill provides a better opportunity than Women Suffrage has ever yet had of making real progress in the House of Commons.Compare that statement with the statement the Prime Minister has just made as to the intention of the Government to redeem the pledge by allowing a private Member next Session the necessary time to introduce a Suffrage Bill. Is that the redemption of the pledge? I want the House to notice that if a private Member introduces the Bill he has got to be responsible for it until it goes to another place. I think the Prime Minister gives assent to that. I could quite have understood if, in his statement to-day, the Prime Minister had said, "In order to give effect to my pledge, a pledge made in the name of the Government, we will afford time for the Second Beading of the Bill."
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
Yes but we say, "Afford time for the Second Reading of the Bill, and if the Bill succeeds in obtaining a Second Reading by a majority of the House, our position will then be what 1033 it would have been during the present week if a Suffrage Amendment had been carried by the House." The pledge, as we understood it, was that the Government would take charge of the amended Bill and hold to the amended Bill in this House or in the other House during the necessary time to carry it into effect under the Parliament Act. That is the interpretation we placed upon the pledge, but to say that not only shall a private Member introduce the Bill, risk its Second Reading, and risk all the tricks that may be played during the Committee stage of the Bill—
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
Yes, tricks. I do not withdraw the word. I am too well aware of what has been going on in the Smoke Boom and in the Lobbies during the past two or three months. Every Member on this side of the House knows—
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
It is not necessary to mention names. Cabinet Ministers have been busying themselves more during the last six or eight weeks than I have ever known in the cordiality and friendship they have shown to every Member who was suspected of being sufficiently weak-kneed to listen to their tales about the embarrassment of His Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
Those. Cabinet Ministers who have not been working quite so hard as the Colonial Secretary, those on the other side of the question who have been making these statements that the pledge of the Prime Minister—
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
I was about to say that those Cabinet Ministers who on the other side of the question had not been working so hard as some of us who are with them with regard to Women Suffrage would have liked to have seen 1034 them work, and who have been making these statements to deputations that this Bill afforded a better opportunity than we had ever had before, expect us to-day to be content with the Prime Minister's statement made in their name, made I assume, in the names of all the Members of the Cabinet. They expect us to be satisfied with this fulfilment of this important pledge—that a private Member shall carry the whole responsibility of the Bill from its introduction until the time it leaves this House. I protest that this is not a fulfilment of the pledge. I was hopeful, in spite of the speech delivered on Friday by the Colonial Secretary, that having a strong desire to carry out their pledge honourably and having denied the women this golden opportunity—I have in my hand speeches by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by the Foreign Secretary, and by the Solicitor-General—
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
I am speaking of the statement made by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government as a whole. If there was a desire to give full effect to the honourable pledge made it seems to me that nothing short of the Government making themselves responsible—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I may be wrong, but I am perfectly sincere when I say that nothing short of the Government making themselves responsible for a Bill which includes the women would it seems to me meet the case and the expectations which have been created. But, if they will not go so far as that, surely we have a right to expect—and I hope it is not too late— the Government even now to reconsider their position to this extent: That after this private Member has been provided with the time, the Government should, providing the Bill meets their demands as laid down in the speech of the Prime Minister and the House gives it a Second Reading, assume charge of the Bill. The Prime Minister dissents. Then all T have to say, in conclusion, is that I fail to see that this pledge which has been hawked about the country, the pledge by which the non-militants were kept quiet— hon. Members object to that statement, but surely it is a very reasonable one to make; it is true that the non-militants have been resting on the complete discharge of this pledge, and to that extent they had been kept quiet—and they have gone about the country to meeting after 1035 meeting, saying, "We believe that the Prime Minister is going to carry out in letter and in spirit this pledge."
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
I venture to say that to ask a private Member to be responsible for this Bill, when, in the present case, the Government were themselves going to take the responsibility immediately any one of the three Amendments was carried, and would from that time hold that responsibility till the Bill passed, under the Parliament Act, on to the Statute Book, I venture to say it cannot be accepted that they are discharging their pledge by throwing the onus on a private Member to see the Bill right through all its stages to the other House. I hope, therefore, the House will recognise that we have a right to press the matter still further and to ask the Government itself to take charge of the Bill after it has succeeded in getting a Second Reading. From that point the Government should be responsible for its passing into law.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
The hon. Member has made a very powerful appeal to the Government to carry out the full effect and meaning of the pledge of the Prime Minister, and I propose, before I sit down, to say a few words upon that matter. The hon. Member's suggestion that after the Bill has been read a second time it might receive the assistance of the machinery of the Government as well, as time is well worth consideration. The first thing that strikes me about the situation is the extraordinary mess Parliament has got into entirely through the operation of the Parliament Act. But for that ill-starred and unfortunate piece of legislation we should never have been in the situation of having to discuss, for the first time, a matter of such vital importance at the end of the month of January, and at the end of a Session which has already lasted nearly twelve months. Supposing we had been working under a more rational Constitution, we should merely have postponed the Bill for one year and no particular harm would have been done; the Bill would have had just as good a chance next year as this. I quite agree, from the Government point of view, that some change of procedure is desirable, but instead of having this ridiculous plan of hanging Bills up for three years, it would have been far more rational to have given an appeal to the country, by means of the Referendum, 1036 against the decision of the Second Chamber. If such a system had obtained, we should not have been in the difficulty in which we now find ourselves.
The next thing that strikes me very forcibly about the situation is that the question of Women Suffrage is one of the first importance. Here you have a matter which has destroyed a Government Bill, and the Colonial Secretary would do well to consider that fact very seriously. This is not a matter that may be treated in the way he is accustomed to treat it; it ought to be treated seriously and in good faith; it is not a matter for those intrigues and proceedings which the hon. Member for Barnard Castle has recently been describing to the House. That is not the way of dealing with a question which can have such effects on the fortunes of the Government. I am not at all astonished that this particular method of dealing with the question has miscarried. I never believed it was possible to deal with it in the way the Government proposed. I have always said so, although, it will be admitted, that I did my best to act loyally to the Government, while doing all I could in the interest of Women Suffrage. I have always said that it was a wrong way of going about the business, and that is why I do not agree with the hon. Member for Barnard Castle. I do not think it is possible for the Government to introduce a Bill and make themselves responsible for a proposal such as Women Suffrage if the Prime Minister regards it as a national disaster.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I believe the actual words were, "a political mistake of a very disastrous character." I am quite ready to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the distinction between these two phrases. I will simply say I do not believe that any Government measure containing a proposal which, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, is "a political mistake of a very disastrous character," will ever reach the Statute Book, especially if one of the colleagues of the Prime Minister has the peculiar talents of the Colonial Secretary. Therefore, in my judgment, if Women Suffrage had got over this particular difficulty the Bill would have certainly been wrecked under this procedure sooner or later. I am glad that we are going to return to the franker and more candid system adopted in the Conciliation 1037 Bill. I hope that that system will not be departed from again. What is the proposal of the Government? It is that we are to have the Bill introduced by those who thoroughly believe in it and who continue to believe in it; they will frame it in the way which they think best in the interests of the public and most feasible in view of the Parliamentary situation. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Barnard Castle that the difficulties in the way of a private Member or of a private organisation under our party system are very great; I do not underrate them. You are always exposed to subterranean currents which have their origin in the Whips' rooms on both sides of the Lobby; you never know what is going on. But I hope we shall be able to take means to ward off those untoward occurrences. I feel the enormous advantage of the Bill being in charge of those who believe in it. I believe that is a tremendously good thing if the House will only treat this subject fairly. If hon. Gentlemen who have given pledges in favour of Women Suffrage have changed their opinions, in heaven's name let them get up and say so. I should prefer even the First Lord of the Admiralty to people who, having given pledges, apparently stick to them, but yet will never come up to the scratch and vote when the matter goes to Division. It is not respectable; it is not a really possible attitude to take in reference to a matter of this importance.
It is all very well to denounce the militancy of militant women; conceive what any body of men would have done if they had been treated in the way women have been. It would not have been a casual outrage; it would have been an insurrection. You would certainly have had riots. It was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who pointed out that men under similar circumstances burnt down Nottingham Castle. I have said quite openly the spoiling of letters in letter-boxes and the breaking of windows are very regrettable and indefensible, but my objection to them is quite as much that they are utterly silly and futile. I disapprove of violence altogether; I hate lawlessness. But if you are to have it you must have it on the same scale as you have had it when men are suffering under serious political grievances. I am not defending that kind of violence; I hate it, and would do all I could to suppress it; I have done everything I could to suppress it; I have never said I was in favour of any form of law-breaking in my life. I have never said I am in 1038 favour of women law-breakers. That being so and holding that view as strongly and as vehemently as any Member in this House, I repeat that you have no right to treat women in the provocative and treacherous way in which they have been treated, in fact, by the procedure in this House. I protest in the strongest possible way against it. If any hon. Members have changed their opinions let them get up and say so frankly, and take the electoral consequences which may ensue, but if they still wish to be regarded as supporters of Women Suffrage they must give effect to their pledges by their votes.
With those qualifications and reservations, I am prepared to say that if hon. Members who pretend to be in favour of this measure will stick to their pledges, I have very little doubt that the plan suggested by the Prime Minister will really afford a serious and honest opportunity of carrying out the right hon. Gentleman's pledge. I myself deeply regret the position in which we find ourselves; I know of no question which has given greater cause for distrust in our Parliamentary institution to a large section of the population. But for my part, if I thought that we were to be met next Session by a similar unfortunate incident —I am quite ready to admit that it was a pure accident in this case—but if next Session it were found impossible for this matter to be decided by the House of Commons on its merits, then, for my part, I would reject the proposal of the Prime Minister, and I would tell the women that, as far as I am concerned, they have nothing whatever to hope from this Parliament, that they must adopt some other method for achieving their end, that they must proceed to organize effectively their political forces, but that as long as this House is in being they have no chance of receiving that justice which has been so frequently promised them.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I rise to ask the Government whether, in the position in which, through no fault of their own, they find themselves, they cannot make some special arrangement which will prevent the important question of plural voting being delayed indefinitely? Can they not do something to ensure that it shall not be placed at a disadvantage? There is a Bill which has already been read a second time in this House, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Harold Baker.) It 1039 was read a second time a year ago. It is perfectly obvious that under the conditions of this Parliament, and the amount of existing legislation, the fortunes of a Bill which has passed its Second Reading would obviously be better than those of one which has only passed its Second Reading now, or may pass it at some future time. I am sure that if the Government realise, as I hope they realise, the extreme interest taken in that question in all parts of the country, the long delay which has already taken place between the expression of the desire of those who sent the majority to this House and its realisation on this point, and the recollection which many on this side of the House have of what was said in the last Parliament but one on the Bill brought in by the present Colonial Secretary—I am confident that in all the plans the Government have to make on this subject, they must not leave that out of sight. I ask them to take over the Bill of the hon. Member for Accrington, and to use the last days of this Session in putting it into the position which it would have occupied if it had been taken up by the Government, instead of this Bill which, for reasons we all understand, has had to be withdrawn by the Government.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I do not rise with the intention of making any considerable contribution to the Debate which has so unexpectedly arisen, but merely with the object, if it be possible, of obtaining a little more light upon the proposal indicated by the Prime Minister in reference to next Session. Before I address myself to that subject I may perhaps make an observation upon something that fell from my Noble Friend the hon. Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) in the interesting observations he has just made to the House. He reflected upon the speech or the attitude of the Colonial Secretary, and he said something of the lack of good faith of the Colonial Secretary. I do not very frequently find myself associated in political matters with the Colonial Secretary, and, as he certainly satisfied the House a few days ago, he is perfectly well able to take care of himself, but I will make this observation; that whatever other criticisms may reasonably be launched at the head of the right hon. Gentleman, he has never shown a lack of good faith on this question. That is the last of all charges anybody who has observed the right hon. Gentleman's 1040 record can bring. Another observation which fell from my Noble Friend appeared to be worth a moment's consideration. He commented with surprise and indignation, which I can perfectly understand, upon the fact that there were large numbers of Members of this House who, having promised to vote for women's franchise did not, to use his expression, come up to the scratch. That circumstance is undoubtedly true. There have been large numbers of this House, not sitting in any one quarter of the House, who have promised to support women's franchise, but who, when an opportunity has been given to them, and particularly since the opportunity has become a real one, have not, in the expression of my Noble Friend, come up to the scratch. I draw very different inferences from that than were drawn by the Noble Lord. I draw the inference that those pledges were given partly in levity, partly in indifference, partly with no realisation that the issue was a living one, or that it was to be practically tested in the near future. My Noble Friend says that a number of those who have given these pledges, when they had a real opportunity of making them effective in the House of Commons were immediately found somewhere else. My Noble Friend could not discover an argument which shows so clearly how lacking in any real strength and motive power the cause of Women Suffrage is.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
My criticism of his Friends and supporters is not that they did not vote, but they continue to describe themselves as Women Suffragists.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
A sufficient answer to what my Noble Friend says is to be found in the circumstance that it is only in the last two or three years that anybody who has given a pledge upon this question has really thought that there was the slightest chance of a measure passing through this House and becoming law. No pledge which was given before that time matters at all.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
I should have thought that the value of the pledge, as the hon. Member will have seen, has already been stated by the Noble Lord, with whom, I understand, the hon. Member agrees. My Noble Friend says the pledge has no value because nobody carries it out.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
Then I may address myself to the question I was endeavouring to put before the House. Why is it that the pledge is of no value? The hon. Gentleman is surely not so inattentive to what has been going on before our eyes as to suggest that this is true of the great number of pledges which are given by Members of Parliament. It would be obviously untrue. Most pledges have some reality and some value. Why is it that this particular pledge, both in the view of the hon. Member and of my Noble Friend, has no real value? In the absence of any other explanation it must be because these pledges were given inattentively and as long as those who gave them thought that they were to bear no real fruit, but the moment there was a prospect of legislative effect being given to those pledges candidates no longer gave them, and Members who1 have given them take every opportunity to escape from having given them. I draw a wholly different inference than that which is drawn by the Noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman. The inference I suggest to the House is both reasonable and necessary. It is that those who have given these pledges in the past are brought to ask themselves, and have been particularly brought to ask themselves by the events of the last two years on this question of Women Suffrage, whether they have approached the point at which they are not merely meeting the apparent disagreeable ness of making answers, possibly unpopular, to women workers in their constituencies, and believe at the time they make those answers that whatever be the sense of their answer the occasion for meeting the cheque so thoughtlessly given would never arise. They are face to face with the position that the thing is really going to happen, and the moment the thing is going to happen you cannot get anybody here when there is to be a Division on Women Suffrage. In whatever form it is brought forward the criticism is equally well founded. I do not think that those who are in favour of these proposals are particularly able to draw consolation from this reflection, but while it is an accident which may have been foreseen, although it was not foreseen, I cannot help thinking, and I believe this will be the sense of the majority of the House, that it is not merely the unexpected decision, or, at any rate, the unanticipated decision, which has been given by Mr. Speaker 1042 which has plunged us into the present difficulty.
We have been brought to our present position by difficulties which go very much deeper. What are those difficulties? Surely they are these: We are dealing with an issue which deeply concerns large numbers of sincere people in this country. The question is a very big one; it cuts across-all parties. So far as I am aware, in the political history of this country no great political issue against which strong antagonism is felt has ever been successfully carried into law unless there was some party which as a homogeneous whole was prepared to make itself responsible for it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Catholic emancipation."] If the hon. Member will refresh his memory he will, I think, find that the keeping of an open mind in the Cabinet at the initial stages of that controversy was not a very happy experiment for those who tried it. Surely this question must fail if one examines the position in which we are placed. It is no answer to say that no one party can take it up because all parties are divided. The answer to that is this, that the moment this issue is able to found itself upon a sufficient degree of popular support: Ministers will be swept out of the way if they will not make themselves responsible for it. Until they are able to find themselves with a Ministry strong enough to gain and to retain the support of the country they have no right to the support of the House of Commons. What is the position in which the supporters of this movement find themselves to-day? They have no majority among the male voters. This is a point upon which it is very easy to dogmatise. It is common knowledge that no one dare fight an election on Female Suffrage, and no one will. If you get anyone to do it he is beaten by four thousand votes. [An HON. MEMBER: "So will you be on food taxes."] Does the hon. Member think that that is a relevant observation?
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
On a point of Order, Sir. If the right hon. Gentleman is allowed to go into the merits of Female Suffrage and whether it is or is not popular — considerations which are quite relevant to my right hon. Friend's Amendment—it will be difficult for me and others not to reply.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think that under the guise of discussing the discharge of the Order we ought to continue the 1043 discussion on the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. Lyttelton). The question for discussion now is the situation which has arisen. On that we cannot go into the merits for or against Women Suffrage.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
In view of the ruling you have just given, although I should have been glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman explain how far he has been successful in torpedoing the Conciliation Bill, I will not go into that. Speaking with direct relevance to what the Prime Minister has indicated as being the intentions of the Government, as I understand it, he has stated that in the next Session of Parliament an opportunity will be given to a private Member to introduce a Bill dealing with this topic. On that point 't appears to me that some additional information is desirable. In the first place, it is quite obvious that a great deal depends upon the form in which these proposals are brought forward The right hon Gentleman said very clearly, if I understood him aright, that it would be a condition of the concession of the facilities of which he spoke that the Bill should be brought forward in an amendable form— that is to say, if in its inception the Bill should be introduced in a limited form, it must be extensible in Committee. I should like to know, and this matter can easily be explained, who is to determine the form in which the proposal in the Bill for next Session is to be brought forward? The Parliamentary fortunes of the Bill may very likely depend altogether on the form in which it is first introduced. I would make a suggestion on that point which I hope he may think not unworthy of his consideration. On this question it is quite obvious that you may eliminate altogether where any of us sit in this House. With the exception of the Labour party, who, I understand, are all in favour of it, we all differ. So far as these proposals are concerned, there are two parties; the first is in favour of the concession of votes to women and the other is opposed to the concession of votes to women. My suggestion is this: Let those who, in the Noble Lord's phrase, desire this change form a Committee, almost as if they were a Government, almost as if they were a Cabinet, and let them decide among themselves what scheme they intend to bring forward—what scheme they think they can recommend to the greater number of the House of Commons. Let those who are in favour of 1044 it attempt to carry it through, and those who are against it, resist it like a regular opposition. That would, I think, be EII extremely convenient course and it would test the real feeling of the House as nothing else would test it. Someone made an observation on the subject of the Closure. It is obvious that if the responsibility for a measure of this kind were undertaken by the Government of the day they would have it in their power to give assistance to those who were forwarding the measure, either by a Resolution imposing the guillotine or by the Closure on individual occasions. Surely, the right method of dealing with that is not indeed to authorise those who were criticising such a measure to attempt to destroy it by obstructive methods, though I greatly hope no such methods will be adopted, but still, facing them as a Parliamentary possibility, surely the best method of dealing with them is to enable those who are supporting this measure and attempting to carry it through the House of Commons to obtain the Closure if they can obtain the consent of the House of Commons at any given moment to give them the Closure. Let them in other words be precisely as if they were a Government in charge of a Bill.
I will make one final observation, and this is a point on which some clearer statement is desirable than has yet been made. As I understand it, tracing the history and the development of the present difficulty, it would appear that the position in which we have found ourselves, has been largely caused by the fact that many Ministers who do not agree with this particular policy were in danger of being involved in it had any one of these Amendments been adopted. I do not think I need say anything in elaboration of what must be obvious to everyone who has reflected on the peculiar Parliamentary position in which we so nearly might have found ourselves. Suppose this Amendment had been carried and any one of the individual Amendments following upon the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Grey) had been adopted, what would have been the position? The Government, as a Government, if I understand the Prime Minister aright, were pledged to carry forward a measure, using for that purpose all the strength of the Government and all the resources of the Government, which half the Members of the Government believe to be disastrous to the interests of the country. I hope 1045 it is only necessary to state that prospect to show how utterly unworkable it would have been found in practice. Such things cannot be done. I listened to every word of the most excellent and witty speech of the Colonial Secretary the other day with the greatest approval and admiration, and we anticipated with a degree of pleasure not less extreme the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But if that kind of thing happens in the very first week of the novel position in which we find ourselves, really where should we have been in three months—and this thing has got to go on for two years. It is no real answer to say that myself and my right hon. Friend (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) differ just as profoundly as right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Undoubtedly we do, but if we were to come to the exchange of controversial tu quoques we should be entitled to point out that we are not at the present moment introducing a Bill and that hon. Gentlemen opposite are. Surely we have experience which may guide us, and may be useful to us all. As I understand it, what the Prime Minister means—and this is the most important point of all—is that when the Bill is introduced in the next Session of Parliament all Ministers are free to go their own way, and if that proposal should be carried by a majority in the House of Commons all Ministers are equally free thereafter to use such means as conscientiously they believe to be required.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
Under these circumstances, I can only say, as a very strong opponent of this proposal, that I believe we have now arrived, almost for the first time, at a real prospect of testing at an early date the real feeling of the House of Commons, and I welcome the statement made by the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I have gathered from the speeches of the Noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil) and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. E. Smith), and also from the Leader of the Opposition, that, on the whole, the course which has been outlined by the Prime Minister is one which commends itself to all sections of opinion on this question on the other side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman made one practical suggestion which I cordially approve of, and that is that those who are in agreement on the question of Women Suffrage, both on this side and the other, should form some kind of Committee with 1046 Cabinet responsibility in the matter, that they should prepare their scheme and undertake collectively the responsibility for pressing it through the House. Though the gift comes from an enemy, I think on the whole we can accept it without close scrutiny because, on the face of it, it seems to be a very sensible suggestion. I should like to say a word in regard to what fell from the hon. Member (Mr. A Henderson). I think it was one of the least helpful contributions. If any explanations were needed as to why Women Suffrage has not made greater progress, I should think it would be found in leadership of that sort. I cannot imagine anything being more un-tactful, as well as ungrateful, than the hon. Member's reference to the Liberal suffragists when he suggested that they were not prepared to vote for Women Suffrage when the opportunity came. He has no right to say such a thing. If he will only look at the Divisions which have taken place in the House, he will find, not merely that the vast majority of those who pledged themselves to the suffrage voted for it, but that the vast majority of the Liberal party voted for every kind of suffrage proposal that has ever been submitted to the House. Besides, if his object is not merely to damage the Liberal party, but to help the cause of Women Suffrage, I should have thought it was hardly the best method of approaching the question and of winning support for it.
I come to the actual proposals which have been submitted by the Prime Minister for dealing with the question. I agree with the Noble Lord, and with the right hon. Gentleman, the Prime Minister's offer is the best method, under the circumstances, of obtaining a free, unfettered and unprejudiced vote upon the question of Women Suffrage. No one who has watched the proceedings of the last few days and weeks can have imagined that we are going to have a clear issue upon Women Suffrage on this Bill. I certainly thought we should have had some time ago, but I have ceased to hold that opinion. It was quite clear that on both sides men would be influenced in their vote by considerations which were very remote from the immediate issues before he House. Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House and hon. Gentlemen from Ireland were thinking of the effect upon the position of the Prime Minister. They were thinking of questions which were irrelevant to the merits of the particular proposal before the House. On the other side 1047 of the House I have no doubt there were considerations of the same character which might have been helpful to Women Suffrage, but which had nothing whatever to do with its merits, and it is clear, whatever happened to the Grey Amendment, the result would have been that there would be no direct vote upon Women Suffrage under the conditions in which we found ourselves. Having come to that conclusion, and especially after the ruling which has been given by Mr. Speaker, there was no other course which the Government could have adopted, having regard to their pledges, except to withdraw the Bill and give a full and free opportunity to the House to vote upon that issue alone, because when the private Member's Bill is introduced there will be no other issue which can possibly affect the decision of the House. It cannot have any effect upon the life of the Government, and it cannot have any effect upon the position of any individual Member of the Government, because they will be perfectly free to vote upon the issue.
May I also point this out to my hon. Friends below the Gangway, that even assuming there were a General Election before the Bill eventually went through, this is a Bill which would not be affected by the particular Government that came into power after the General Election? If it were incorporated in the Government Bill, if you had a different Government in power, the Bill would go and the Amendments incorporated with it would go with it, but if it is a Bill standing by itself, assuming it is carried in the first or second Session, and that something happens—the Government was defeated—there would be a General Election, a different Parliament would come in and a different Government and the Bill would be reintroduced a third time, and the complexion of the Parliament and of the Government which happened to be in power would not affect its fate in the slightest degree. One thing is quite clear. You cannot, after the experience of the last few days, ask Members of the Government to accept responsibility for a measure on which they profoundly disagree, and my hon. Friends may take that into account. The hon. Member (Mr. A. Henderson) says truly that it is more difficult for a private Member to get a Bill through than for a Government. The difficulties are of two kinds. The first is the difficulty which is experienced as far as time is concerned, and it is time that, in the vast majority of 1048 cases, defeats the measures of private Members. There the Government assists them by saying, "We will give you such time as is adequate to carry your Bill through."
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Certainly, the same facilities will be given in the second Session, if it is rejected elsewhere, as in the first Session. The Prime Minister said, "any subsequent Session." Therefore the difficulty with regard to time has been disposed of entirely, and I am not sure that the hon. Member (Mr. A. Henderson) quite realised that when he got up and made his speech. The second difficulty is one with regard to party discipline. With a Government Bill you put on the Government Whips, and there is no doubt what is the effect upon the Government. There is an advantage in that where you have a Government Bill. But, on the other hand, my hon. Friend must bear in mind that that is a consideration which militates against the case so far as the Opposition is concerned. It would be rather difficult for very keen suffragists on the other side of the House not to take advantage of the situation if they knew that the effect of a certain vote on a Government which they disliked and did not altogether trust, and of whose legislation they did not entirely approve, even on Women Suffrage, would have a disastrous effect on the life of the Government. It would be a great temptation for suffragists on the other side to waive the view they have simply on a particular Amendment. Therefore, dealing with these two points of difference, I say with regard to the first, that it does not exist, because the Government guarantee time. They guarantee that the Bill will be given such time as is allocated for any controversial measure which they themselves are responsible for. They also guarantee that if the Bill is thrown out, not in the House of Commons, but elsewhere, there will be the same facilities given in the second and third Sessions as would be given to any controversial Bill of their own which might happen to meet the same untoward fate elsewhere.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
One mistake made with regard to the Parliament Act is to imagine that it only refers to Government measures. The second mistake is 1049 that it is imagined the Act only refers to one Parliament. If a General Election intervenes between the second and third Sessions, you have only to pass the measure through another Session, and then you have completed the number of times it has to pass through the House of Commons.
§ Mr. GOULDING
Has it not to be successive Sessions? And is there not a chance in connection with the ballot that, while a Member may be successful in the ballot one Session, no single Member may be successful in another Session?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am very glad the hon. Gentleman has put that question. It is successive Sessions. Then the hon. Gentleman says it depends upon the ballot, and that suffragists might not succeed in getting a place in the ballot. It does not depend upon the ballot. The Government have guaranteed to find whatever time is necessary to obtain the free and unfettered decision of the House on this question standing alone. Of course, my hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle says, "Here you are, you are subject to all the vicissitudes of Parliamentary procedure. You have to meet all the tricks and devious practices which people engage in." But, after all, my hon. Friend has had some experience of the subject, and he and his Friends must use such talents as they have got to see that these machinations are overcome. I think they are quite equal to that. Judging by any sample I have seen up to the present, either recently or before, they are able to exercise any intelligence required in argument or othewise to over come a difficulty of that kind. That has nothing to do with the merits of the case. Therefore I do not think we need pursue that argument any further in discussing the matter of Parliamentary manæuvring. We can all do that. Even my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) can do that. He is perfectly capable of that. Everybody in the House of Commons knows that in everything legitimate in Parliamentary manæuvring he is quite capable, but still we must exercise our own ingenuity, and I am perfectly certain that he is quite competent for any tactics of that sort.
The only thing I would say would be this: It is not that I am so much afraid of as disunion among suffragists themselves, and speeches such as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnard 1050 Castle are far more fatal to the cause of the Bill than any Parliamentary trick I could ever imagine, and I do hope that is not going to be the measure of his idea of getting a Bill on Women Suffrage through the House of Commons. The Leader of the Opposition denounced us for changing our minds. He said that we live from hand to mouth. Well, hand to mouth suggests food. Really, that the right hon. Gentleman in such infelicitous terms, and in such reminiscent terms, should denounce us for changing our minds, baffles anything he has done up to the present time, and he has done a great deal of that sort of thing. He said that we should have no time for anything. It seems to me he has no time for anything except to change his programme in such a way as to get into office. May I just say one word in reference to the only question which he put? The right hon. Gentleman assumes that electoral reform and redistribution might be put in the form of a Bill. It does not necessarily follow. The Government will consider the best method of doing it. At any rate, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has given a pledge generally that we will deal with that question. So far as the suffrage question is concerned I am convinced, like the Noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil), that this is far away the best method of obtaining a clear issue, and I am perfectly certain, having regard to Mr. Speaker's ruling, that it is the only method which is available for us to enable us to do so.
I rise really to ask a question on procedure, and not to continue the Debate on the merits. The Chancellor of the Exchequer interrupted my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. F. E. Smith) in the course of his speech, and asked you, Mr. Speaker, whether he was not rather travelling beyond the strict limits of the Motion now before us. I certainly thought that towards the peroration of the right hon. Gentleman's own speech he seemed to be travelling very far afield into the commonplaces of party recrimination. I do not rise to continue that discussion, which even I think Gentlemen least acquainted with our Parliamentary procedure will not regard as very strictly in order. There was one little interchange of ideas between the right hon. Gentleman and somebody sitting below the Gangway which I am sorry to say I did not quite catch. Something was said of machinations in connection with Women Suffrage. I must say that I thought no one was better 1051 qualified to talk about machinations than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because, I think, he has indulged in machinations, but be had the indiscretion to boast of their success. More cautious controversialists are usually most anxious to avoid boasting in that way. I think it was he who talked of the Conciliation Bill being torpedoed. If he had not torpedoed the Conciliation Bill we should have had exactly, as I understand it, what he now wishes. He tells us that he has for many weeks been a convert to the view that you never could have a fair issue upon a general Franchise Bill into which a Women Suffrage Amendment was introduced, or attempted to be introduced. Well, it was he who compelled that course to be taken. He, and he only, prevented a fair issue by his machinations. It was he, and he only, by his machinations that prevented that question coming before the House of Commons in a perfectly clear and specific form.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I was referring in that phrase to a Bill which was so drafted as to be incapable of amendment. That was the Bill I voted against. When the Conciliation Bill was introduced I voted for it. I was referring purely to the first Bill, which was quite incapable of amendment.
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's history, and I do not wish to go back upon the past. I really only got up to ask a question upon procedure, and I will not pursue that matter further. I would not have referred to it but for the introduction of the word "machinations." The question I wish to ask is this. I agree with those who think that you cannot get a fair issue upon this question in this, or indeed in any other, House if you mix up the question of Women Suffrage with other questions. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made the same observation. Nothing whatever would induce me to vote for the Third Reading of the Bill which has just been abandoned, even if Women Franchise had been dealt with exactly on the line which would commend itself to me. That is not a fair position in which to put those who agree with me. From his own particular point of view, every Member of the House is in very much the same embarrassing position. Therefore I agree that the course suggested by the Government is the course far most likely to give a clear issue to the House on the question of Women Suffrage. 1052 Leaving absolutely on one side the merits of this particular case, on which my views are known, may I be allowed as one deeply interested in the procedure of the House to elicit a reply from the Government, or, at all events, to use the information they have already indicated to us? There is just one word of caution and warning to the House generally. What said the right hon. Gentleman? He said by this expedient, namely, of bringing in a private Member's Bill, and then giving it Government time, you can introduce the most far-reaching change in the Constitution. No-Government is responsible for it; no Minister will go out if it is defeated; no Minister will go out if it is carried; it stands entirely outside ordinary party procedure; it does not affect one way or the ether the position of the Government. So far so good. That in itself is, if it is to made a precedent, an extraordinarily important change in our procedure. I do not deny that I have never been able to see any other way of meeting this particular question. That, I entirely agree, I indicated many years ago when I held a more responsible position than I do now. But it is the way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer treats it with which I am concerned. I tell the House that in his method of treating it they are only establishing what might become an extraordinary precedent for the future, and I want to press that a little further.
In the first place, I may begin with the circumstances of the introduction of the Bill. Let the House remember simply and solely, and because it is notorious, that a private Member's Bill, if it be controversial, has no earthly chance of passing all the stages which we require a Bill to go through. For that very reason we give extraordinary facilities for introducing a Bill and for passing its Second Reading, because we know that if it is controversial it cannot get any further. It will be destroyed in Committee upstairs or destroyed on Report, or settled in some other way. But how great are those special privileges. A private Member can introduce a Bill without making any speech at all, however important the Bill and however far it should go towards upsetting the Crown and Constitution. I want to know whether the Government think this Bill should be introduced as a private Member's Bill? In the second place—and this is much more important— I want to know whether it is going to have the privileges of a private Member's 1053 Bill up to the Second Reading? This is not a question of the Standing Orders of the House, as the first question is. It is a question of the practice of the House and of the view that successive Speakers have taken of the privileges which ought to be accorded to private Members. When I was a young Member of the House—Wednesday was then the day on which they took private Members' Bills—no controversial private Member's Bill ever got to a Second Reading. They were always talked out. That was thought a great abuse, and it is an abuse. On the other hand, it is very easy to fall into the opposite extreme and to say that for the biggest measure possible a Friday afternoon is sufficient, and the Closure may then be moved, and probably, though I am not certain, would be accepted, and the fateful decision on the Second Reading taken. And then, on the view given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the fate of the Second Reading has a very peculiar importance because it involves in the date of the Second Reading certain further privileges for the Bill on which I will say a word before I sit down.
The second question which I want to ask is, whether the Government, while giving the time of the House for this as a Government Bill, propose on the First and Second Reading, and that it should be treated as a Government Bill, that it should be treated with all the pomp and circumstance of debate as a Government Bill with time before it? The third question is as regards a later stage: are the Government going to give time to this Bill? Are they going, in addition to other privileges, to give the privilege of the guillotine? Is the Prime Minister, who thinks Women Suffrage a political mistake of a disastrous character, going to come down to propose a Gag Resolution? Is the Committee, of which I suppose I shall be a member—I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to be the Chairman of the Committee—going to propose through his authoritative mouth a question of Closure, gag by compartment, or any other of the modern expedients for hastening legislation? That evidently is a question to be answered. But far more important than all these questions is the last question, which is the relation of the Bill with the Parliament Act. The House can see that I am not, speaking either for or against Women Suffrage. I am speaking because when I 1054 heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer dilate on all the many advantages of this mode of procedure, from the point of view of Members of the Government as a whole, and the prospects of the Bill becoming law even after a General Election, I could not help saying to myself, "Is this to be the new method by which future legislation of a difficult kind is to be passed? So this is not to be regarded as a special and exceptional case."
The right hon. Gentleman dilated upon mistakes which are made about the Parliament Act. He mentioned two; one is to suppose that a General Election interferes with it; another is to suppose that it applies only to Government measures. I object to the Act, both root and branch, but I must honestly say if we had to live under a provisional system—and it is a provisional system, mark you, by the confession of the Government themselves, for by every pledge, preambular and otherwise, the present system of one-Chamber Government is only a provisional system which should be terminated as soon as possible. That is their view; but if we are to carry our constitutional life in our hands, if every institution in the country is to depend upon this transitory and provisional form of government, surely those abnormal, unusual, and passing powers which this House in an unfortunate and disastrous moment arrogated to itself, if exercised at all, should be exercised under the deliberate control of the Government of the day. I again repeat, entirely irrespective of the particular measure which is proposed, whether I am opposed to or approve of the measure, I should say exactly what I now say. It is of procedure and procedure alone that I speak, and I do ask the House to remember that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is merely sketching out a new way of dealing with difficult questions, which will endanger no-Government but will be left to an unguided majority in the House absolutely supreme, whatever the other House will do, without the safeguard of a Referendum, which I believe is the only way of dealing with the question, then you are really taking a step which requires great thought.
I agree with the Prime Minister that the only course open to you is to give time for this measure. That in my opinion carries one consequence with it, that all the precautions upon which this House insists shall surround a Government measure shall surround this measure. It does not carry with it in my opinion the further- 1055 consequence that a measure introduced even by the most powerful Committee, carrying with it even the greatest body of opinion behind it in the House, whatever may be the character of the Bill, should be passed under that Parliament Act. If such a Bill is to get through this House, I think it is perfectly contrary, even to the spirit of the Parliament Act itself, that the machinery of that revolutionary change should be used to force it through that other Chamber. If you like to qualify that by introducing a Referendum, then that objection would go. The people are supreme over both Chambers. Certainly the other House has not the slightest title or right to go against their considered judgment upon any special question. But you do not contemplate that. Then you have no right whatever to set a private Bill up, on which the Government themselves are vehemently and violently divided, and to apply to it all the temporary but all-powerful machinery which you devised to get through one or two of the other revolutions of which you are enamoured. That is not a proper way to act, and I felt bound to get up in my place and give a word of warning to the House.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Edward Grey)
I rise only to reply as far as I can to the questions which the right hon. Gentleman has just put. He raised a very curious point, and a somewhat unexpected one. I have hitherto assumed that the great iniquity of the Parliament Act, from his point of view, is that it enables measures to be passed into law of which we on this side of the House approve, but which he disapproves of. He has now raised an entirely different point. Surely the great objection brought against the Parliament Act is that it enables the Government of the day to pass controversial measures which are disapproved of by the Opposition. I am not talking about the merits. I am talking of the objections brought. The right hon. Gentleman raised an entirely different point, which is, that a Bill, of which presumably he would approve, and to which he would be favourable, should nevertheless not have the opportunities and facilities and privileges which the Government would give to its own Bills under the Parliament Act. As far as the Government are concerned we are bound by our past pledges. The Prime Minister 1056 has premised on behalf of the Government that if Women Suffrage was put into the Government Bill by the House of Commons after a perfectly free vote, that should then proceed as part of the Bill with all the privileges and all the force which go behind a Government Bill. We have been debarred from giving effect to that opportunity by circumstances over which we have had no control and which we had not foreseen. But if we are to make another opportunity I think we should be false to our pledges if we made that opportunity one in which the measure of Women Suffrage, which was no longer to become part or to have a chance of becoming part of a Government Bill, was yet to be placed in a position inferior to such a Bill. I think it follows that in giving the pledge for a separate Women Suffrage Bill, which is not a Government Bill, and is not going to become a Government Bill, it should have time for the majority of the House to express its opinion upon it. I think it follows that the majority of the House, if they do sanction the Bill, must have the same opportunity and privileges that would be afforded if it were a Government Bill. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman need be really disturbed about this point, or that I need labour it at the present moment. Until the Bill is passed for the first time the Parliament Act has no effect upon it. It is only when it comes before the House of Commons for a third time that it rests, not with the Government, but with the House of Commons to decide whether the Parliament Act is to have effect upon it or not. That is the proper time, I think, for the right hon. Gentleman to raise his point. The Women Suffrage Bill is not going to be a Government measure. It is a-measure which will be the measure of the majority of the House of Commons, and as such we say it would be unfair on the part of the Government to interfere with or deny to the majority of the House of Commons the opportunity of using the Parliament Act, if they so desired, to give effect to the measure as if it were a Government Bill. Of course, it remains and remains at the last moment, in the hands of the majority of the House to decide whether the Parliament Act shall have effect. That is a perfectly fair position. The House will have the matter in its own hands. But it would be most unfair if we responded to the right hon. Gentleman by saying that after the 1057 Women Suffrage Bill has been passed the first and second time by the majority of the House, the Government are going to interfere and prevent them from passing it the third time, and deprive it of the advantage of the Parliament Act. That would not do for one single moment.
With regard to the particular question of time, which the right hon. Gentleman raised, for the different stages of the Bill on its first passage through the House of Commons—I think my phrase is correct— the Government have promised, and the Prime Minister has stated that it shall have time, and when he said time he meant time as effectively as a Government Bill would have time.
§ Sir E. GREY
It follows that the Bill must have all the time which is necessary to enable it to be passed if it has a majority of the House of Commons behind it. If it fails to pass, if it does not complete the journey through the House of Commons, the reason for that must not be want of time. The Government give a pledge that it shall have this time. Probably it will be found, after the Bill has been introduced and read a first and second time, that there is a general opinion in the House as to what would be a reasonable time; but it is quite clear that if the Government allocate a special amount of time to the Bill, and say that it should have that time and no more, then the Government must clearly be responsible for a Guillotine Resolution which would enable those who are the promoters of the Bill to say that the Bill had not failed in that particular limit for want of time. If, on the other hand, that is not done, the Government, of course, will see when the Bill starts without a Guillotine Resolution that the time given is such as would be found necessary to secure the passage of the Bill. But I imagine in this case, as in other cases, there will be a general feeling in the House as to what is a reasonable time, and anyhow the pledge of the Government amounts to this, that it will not be want of time that will cause the failure of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman asks one other question about the special facilities given to private Members' Bills. I understood him to mean that private Members' Bills on Second Reading were given somewhat perfunctory treatment because it was assumed they would go no further if they were controversial. But in this case there would be a controversial Bill going further, 1058 and therefore it would not be reasonable that it should have the same perfunctory treatment on the First and Second Reading.
One may differ from the right hon. Gentleman on a point of principle, but I think he ought to bear in mind that we are not without experience on the question of time, for earlier in the year a Women Suffrage Bill passed the Second Reading, for which, I think, two days were considered sufficient; so that this is one of the questions which is not new to the House of Commons, and it is not the first time such a measure has been introduced. But I quite agree that it ought not to receive perfunctory treatment, and it will not receive it; only I think the right hon. Gentleman, in turn, ought to bear in mind that when time does come to be allocated for the introduction and Second Reading of the Bill, it will not be quite the same as a new Bill, and we have got a precedent already for the amount of time to be given on the Second Reading in this particular year. I think I have answered the right hon. Gentleman's questions, which were to a certain extent hypothetical. I will only say that I am convinced, after the experience that has taken place, that it was a mistake to suppose that the attempt to put Women Suffrage into a Government Bill was the way to give it the best chance. I had not foreseen all the machinations of which the hon. Member spoke, and it is to me, at any rate, a relief, and I believe is consistent with the best chance of the measure, that it should be treated as forming a separate Bill, with all the privileges and facilities which I have indicated will be given.
It is felt that to put into a Government Bill something to which many Members of the Government, and notably the Prime Minister, are opposed, is to create a situation which is very embarrassing. Some of us also, who hold opposite opinions, are relieved from the embarrassing situation of being obliged to support an extension of the suffrage to men without anything being done to remove the barrier to Women Suffrage. Next Session Women Suffrage will, I trust, be treated purely on its merits. There will be no question of embarrassing the Government if it is carried, but time will be allowed by the Government, and will not be grudged, though it might be fixed. But there can be no question of embarrassing the Government or individual Members of the Government before the Bill is passed, and I would most earnestly reinforce the 1059 appeal made earlier in the evening by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) that the House of Commons should bear in mind that its record in regard to Women Suffrage has hitherto not been a good one. It has excited hopes again and again by passing the principle of the Bill on the Second Reading for many years past. It is not fair of the House to encourage those expectations; we have to bear in mind the feeling created outside, and which in some quarters, has been intensified by what has happened on this question. I think we must bear in mind that the continual delay in bringing to an issue a matter of which the principle has been accepted in past years, is very largely responsible for the feeling which has been created, and I hope, after the offer which the Government has made to give time and opportunity, that this question will be really treated on its merits and in a way which will set at rest any charge against the House of Commons of its having trifled with the question and neglected and refused it opportunity.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The observations of the right hon. Gentleman invite some comment, but I am afraid that I shall not be in order if I entered into a discussion of them, but I only wish to protest that a great deal more might be said on the subject than he has said, or than it is possible to say on this occasion, without transgressing Mr. Speaker's ruling at an earlier stage. I rise only for the purpose of making one or two reflections upon the right hon. Gentleman's answer to the questions put by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour). What the Secretary for Foreign Affairs said about the Second Reading was in substance satisfactory. My right hon. Friend was not asking for any given number of days to be allowed to the Second Reading of the Bill, but that the Second Reading of the Bill should be treated as if it were a Government measure in point of time and not be looked upon as a private Member's Bill which is disposed of on a Friday afternoon, because in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, if the Bill is at all contentious, the Second Reading of the Bill is nothing more than an abstract Resolution of no effect. I do hope that the Government will give a little more consideration to the question of the use of the guillotine before they hastily commit themselves to the 1060 position which the Foreign Secretary adumbrated just now. It is very difficult to answer such questions as my right hon. Friend put without their having been subjected to a certain amount of consideration beforehand, and I hope that Members of the Government will not feel bound, and that the Foreign Secretary himself will not feel bound, by that opinion, to which I think no one should be held, and which has been expressed in the House, as I think, without due reflection. In the first place, why is it necessary to contemplate the use of the guillotine in a case of this kind at all? There is no party object either on the one side or the other, and why cannot we, under those circumstances at least, try to discuss the Bill under the old form of Closure? We have only had the guillotine in the last six years, I think, and it was previously a very exceptional Parliamentary proceeding.
§ Sir E. GREY
I do not want to exclude the methods which the right hon. Gentleman has indicated, and it seems to me that it would not be excluded, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will realise, in what I said, that I will not be considered as giving a pledge that the guillotine will not be used.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I was only afraid that the words of the right hon. Gentleman might be quoted as something in the nature of a pledge that the Government would use that weapon to pass the Bill through. If a guillotine becomes necessary, again I would say at least leave it open upon the suggestion made by my right hon. and learned Friend. Surely, if a guillotine is to be proposed, it is better that it should be proposed by those responsible for the Bill. That is what ordinarily happens; ordinarily the guillotine is proposed on a Government measure by the Ministers themselves. It is suggested that there should be a sort of Ministry for the occasion formed of Members in all parts of the House who are supporters of Women Suffrage to produce a Women's Suffrage Bill next Session. Let them also, if there is to be a guillotine, produce the guillotine.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I would point out that, if the Government is going, as we are promising, to give Government time, circumstances might arise in which we could not possibly allow an indefinite expenditure of time. That is the point I have in mind.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
If the Government make themselves responsible for the guillotine, they introduce into the discussion of the new Bill exactly those party elements which have been most inconvenient for all of us who wanted a straight decision, and I am one of those who did, and which has been most inconvenient for all such on this occasion and which we hoped we were going to avoid next Session. I think it would be a good plan, and I hope the Government will not lightly set it on one side, and that at any rate we may take it that it is not decided against on this occasion. It would be a real pleasure to me for once to hear the Prime Minister criticising a Guillotine Resolution, and to hear it commended by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City in conjunction with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is one other point as to which I do greatly differ from the Foreign Secretary. I think it is a very serious abuse of our procedure to apply to a Bill of this character concerted in this way the powers and provisions of the Parliament Act, and, let me say, I do not stand alone in that view. I do not know what consultation there has been amongst members of the Cabinet since Friday, but I have still fresh in my memory the speech of the Colonial Secretary. Unlike my right hon. Friend the Member for the City, the Secretary of State for the Colonies was a strong supporter of the provisions of the Parliament Act, but he agrees with my right hon. Friend that to apply that Act to a Bill of this character is not only a thing that was never contemplated when the Act was passed or by those who opposed it, but I think he used language to say that it would be a grave scandal in Parliamentary procedure. If I remember aright, the Colonial Secretary said that it would go far to ruin the experiment of the Parliament Act, which he thought a very valuable experiment. I may just recall that one who is no longer a colleague of his, but who was a colleague, declared that it would be a constitutional outrage to apply the methods of the Parliament Act to a subject so little considered by the electorate as this has been; I refer to the late Lord Chancellor. I must take it that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has pledged the Government to that point, and, if so, he has pledged some of them very much against their will, and he has made them accomplices in constitutional procedure which they deplore and denounce 1062 in language as strong as any I could employ. I know that as an opponent of Women Suffrage my words cannot have the same weight as my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London, but nobody could have listened to him, a supporter of Women Suffrage, but one who is jealous of the honour of this House and careful of its procedure, and who has been so long responsible for it, without feeling that if the House assents to the proposal of the Secretary of State in that respect it will be making a new and very damaging precedent.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I hope the House will turn to the occasion out of which the Motion has grown, and not begin to discuss points of Parliamentary procedure for next Session which may or may not arise. I find myself, I am sorry to say, in disagreement with the line taken by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) in regard to the attitude now assumed by the Government. He has said, and the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to agree, that a private Member's Bill, brought forward and supported only by those who are in favour of the suffrage, will stand a better chance than a Bill forced upon a Government, the members of which are divided upon the question. One has only to remember the Bill enfranchising women, even on the lines of what I may call, as an example, the Dickinson Amendment, enfranchising some five or six millions of women. It is an absurdity to suppose that that measure could ever become law without the power and authority of the Government behind it. I am sorry to have to say that the speeches delivered from the Government Front Bench, both by opponents of the measure and supporters, have shattered my faith in the honesty of the intentions of the Government. I hope hon. Members behind will keep silence. Some one behind interjected a remark that I never had any faith in the intentions of the Government. That statement is untrue. So recently as Saturday of last week I was defending against imputations the good faith of the Prime Minister and the Members of the Government generally on this particular question. In common with the women outside, I trusted implicitly in the word, not merely of the Prime Minister, but of his colleagues. The proposal before the House was this, a proposal which women accepted, women of all shades of opinion who support the suffrage: that if the House of Commons 1063 carried an Amendment to the Franchise Bill we are now engaged in dismissing, the Government would then take the Amendment, incorporate it in the Bill, and take the responsibility for seeing it would pass into law. That was the position. What is now the offer that is made? The offer is that private Members of the House shall get together, as they have done before, and produce the Conciliation Bill; that the private Members of the House shall get together to make a Bill, and that the Government will give time. What for?
The Prime Minister this afternoon said he had looked forward with perfect equanimity to the fate of the Amendment that was to be voted upon to-night. Was that the reason why facilities were offered and a promise made by the Government? Was it because they knew that by their machinations they could secure the defeat of this proposal, and thereby, whilst keeping the appearanece of good faith to the supporters of Women Suffrage, yet absolve themselves from all further responsibility in regard to it. If the Government, or those Members of the Government who are opposed to Women Suffrage, could look forward with equanimity to the defeat of the Amendment this evening to leave out the word "male," they can look forward with still greater equanimity to the fate of the Women Suffrage Bill when it comes forward in the new Session, and, therefore, I want to say this deliberately. In regard to procedure I am not blaming the Government—[Laughter.]—Allow me to finish my sentence before you indulge in vain laughter. I am not blaming the Government for what has arisen, I accept their statement that the Bill could not be proceeded with; but, in view of the speeches made and of the levity with which this, the greatest of all British political questions, has been treated, I believe the promise now made is mere chaff to deceive the supporters of Women Suffrage outside into the belief that the Government means business when the Government knows it means nothing of the sort. The decision of the Government will cause not only disappointment but will cause despair in thousands of hearts outside the walls of this House to-night. Talk about militant tactics! What else is left to them but militant tactics? I agree with the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin that the one fault to be found with the tactics is that they are not big enough, that they are too petty.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
The Noble Lord, the Member for Hitchin is not in his place, but I must protest against that statement. He said he disapproved of militant tactics in any form.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
He said he disapproved of militant tactics, but he objected particularly to the tactics recently indulged in because they were petty and small. [HON. MEMBERS: "He said 'silly.'"] I agree with him there. Those are not militant tactics, but we shall see militant tactics now, I very much fear. It is not only the women of the Women's Political and Social Union who will now feel they have been betrayed again by the Government, but tens of thousands of women hitherto Liberal women who have put their trust in a Liberal Government will find their trust shattered and their faith in their party destroyed. We are now told this chance for next Session is a better one than we have had hitherto. I wonder when that was discovered. I hold in my hand here expressions from speeches made by some of the same right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken to us to-night. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking on the 16th December, 1911, said:—Our success next year, I think, is assured. I do no ee what there is to prevent it,and speaking to a deputation, or rather in a communication to the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies on 23rd November, 1911, he used these words:—Next year provides the supreme opportunity, and nothing but unwise handling of that chance can compass failure.The President of the Board of Agriculture went one better when he said:—He considered Mr. Asquith's latest suggestion a much better offer than the granting of facilities for the discussion of the Conciliation Bill.I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is still of that mind, and, if so, why he now consents to go back to a plan which has been discarded as not being so effective as the one the Government now propose to throw overboard. If the Government agreed to assume towards the Bill of next Session the same attitude that they adopted towards the Amendments which were to have been discussed to-day and to-morrow, I could have seen an assurance of good faith in their new proposals. If they said, "If the Franchise Bill passes its Second Reading we will take it up and see it through," that would be redeeming the pledge and keeping their word of honour. But to leave a great measure like this to the chance of private adventure in 1065 the House of Commons, with the weight of responsible Ministers and leaders of the Opposition in the scale against it, and the whole of Parliamentary precedent against it, is another matter. I do not want the House of Commons to be bound by precedent, or to be restrained by the dead hand of the past; but if this Bill gets through its two Sessions and comes up for its third, the question will then be raised, "Is it consistent with Parliamentary precedent that a Bill involving this great revolutionary change should go through as the measure of a private Member?" If the present Government Bill, with all the consideration of a Cabinet behind it, has not succeeded in escaping the rocks of Parliamentary procedure and precedent, what possible hope is there of a private Member's Bill going through? Let the Government be honest. Let the Government say either that they will take this matter up in earnest and in sincerity or that they will drop it altogether. One course or the other would command the respect both of friends and of opponents of Women Suffrage. But to trifle and toy with the question in this manner will disgust the women outside, and shock the confidence in the Government's own good name.
I therefore emphatically protest against the new proposals of the Government. I consider them a fresh trap in which to catch the women outside. I believe, however, that the long and bitter experience which they have had will teach them that if they walk into the trap this time they will do so with their eyes open, and that therefore they will refuse the new proposals. The enfranchisement of women sooner or later must become a Government question. It has gone a long way towards attaining that position when it has succeeded in defeating a Government Bill. It is the first real sign that we have had in the country and in Parliament that the enfranchisement of women is now a grave issue. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith) sought to say, I think, that hitherto pledges had been given in favour of Women Suffrage in a spirit of levity and frivolity. [An HON. MEMBEII: "Hear, hear."] Yes, and that was why they sought to evade a direct issue when the question came before the House of Commons. But the fact is overlooked that no supporter of Women Suffrage would object to a Member who had given a pledge in that spirit getting up and saying openly that he had done so, 1066 that he regretted having done so, and that he now withdrew from his promise. That would be honest at least. But still to pretend, like the hon. Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles), to be enthusiastic supporters of Women Suffrage, but to say that this is not the time or the occasion to fulfil their pledges, it is that kind of contemptible conduct against which we protest, whether on the part of Ministers or ex-Ministers or of private Members. I ask the Government, therefore, to reconsider this matter, and to realise that the change proposed is not one which the House of Commons will ever accept on the initiative of a private Member. If they say that if we carry the Second Reading of such a Bill it will then become a Government measure that will be substantial. But the offer as it stands at present can only be regarded as a mere delusion for those who are taken in by it, and certainly, speaking for myself, I am not one who is going again to be deceived.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
I cannot help thinking that the last speech to which we have listened is an extremely regrettable one. I have not risen really to speak about Women Suffrage, but I cannot allow to pass the utterance which we have just heard without expressing the feeling that that is the kind of spirit most calculated to destroy the chances of Women Suffrage. Although there may be electioneering advantages to the hon. Member in the kind of speech he has just delivered, it is indeed deplorable that under cover of a warning, he should try to whip up once more those futile militant tactics which have done so much harm to the Women Suffrage cause. I have protested once before in this House against the detestable hooliganism of the movement. The hon. Member tells us now that in his opinion it ought to grow more serious. No words of mine are likely to have any influence upon those who conduct those proceedings. All I can say is that if his advice is taken by those who have the conduct of this movement outside, then; indeed, it will go far to destroy the chances of Women Suffrage in this House which are still there, and which, in my opinion, should be carefully husbanded, and not recklessly jeopardised by actions such as that suggested. I do not pretend to say that the procedure which the Government have thought fit to adopt wholly commends itself to my mind. I would have preferred one of the other 1067 alternatives that were before them. At the same time I recognise the difficulties of the position. Of course, if you had a Government all in favour of Women Suffrage, the case would be very easy. But you have not; and we had better recognise the facts as they stand. And we have not got a chance, whatever we do, of getting a Government wholly committed to Women Suffrage—not even after a General Election. If we had a General Election and the present Government were turned out, we should then have in power perhaps a Government still more hostile to Women Suffrage than the present Government. Under the circumstances, I think it is the duty of suffragists in this House to get together and use all the skill they can to secure the very decided advantages which the semi-official patronage of the Government to the new private Members' Bill provides.
There is one other point, Sir, I wish to put, with all respect and great deference to your ruling. A question arises in respect to the rights of private Members. I am not going to question, or in any way discuss the ruling which you have given or the precedent which results therefrom. But certain consequences must follow in the relations between private Members and the Government. I imagine that the precedent set by the Motion to discharge this Order will long remain in the minds of Parliamentarians. The most valuable power which private Members possess at the present time, is the power, by Amendments which they move or by representations which they make to the Government to secure modifications in Government measures. We have largely lost our powers of initiating legislation, and those who know how to use this power of modifying Government measures are really using the power which remains to private Members to the greatest possible advantage. Let us see what will happen in the future. We shall go to Ministers and ask for substantial changes in a Government measure. We shall, of course, be met sympathetically by the Government of the day, but they will tell us "We cannot risk making the changes which you propose—"
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
"We cannot take the risk of making a change the effect of which either by itself or in conjunction with other Amendments it is quite impossible for us 1068 to calculate in advance. Consequently we must keep on safe lines and refuse the Amendment which otherwise we should have been prepared to accept." That is the position which results. I do not know if this is the time at which I should mention it, but I think we private Members are put in a very unfair and an almost impossible position if we do not know in advance what will be the effect of our Amendments moved in Committee. I have been serving this year in a Committee on a Bill which was very largely reconstructed and finally withdrawn. I have not the faintest notion whether, if that Bill had gone through Committee and reached its Report stage, those changes in Committee would have been of such a character as to transform the Bill and so destroy it. We are bound to take note of the fact that your ruling has stiffened up the old rule which we find in Erskine May, and that it is impossible to do this year what it was possible to do in 1867 and 1884. Under these circumstances I beg to submit that we private Members have a right to ask you whether we cannot ascertain in advance the effect of any Amendment which we may propose in Committee, cither by itself or in conjunction with others. As the matter stands at present, there will be hanging over us in terrorem in all our Committee stages a cloud of uncertainty which will really destroy our knowledge of what we are actually doing. I would also ask whether we could not have a clearer definition of the class of Amendments which, though relevant to a Bill and in order in Committee, has the effect of so tainting a Bill with novelty as to transform and destroy it? Unless we can on those points get your ruling, and some clearer definition than in the well-known passage in "May," I think the rights of private Members, of which you I know are a jealous guardian, will suffer the most serious curtailment.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has directed his speech chiefly at me, and I shall be very glad to give him a reply at once. May I say, first, that I do not consider that the addition of a million and a half persons to the franchise is in any sense a "modification" of the Bill; I should call it a great extension. The hon. Member said that private Members will no longer be able to make modifications to Bills. I think, on reflection, he will see that to add very largely to the franchise, and to establish an entirely new principle for which leave had not been 1069 given on the introduction of the Bill, and which had not obtained the sanction of the House on the Second Reading, can hardly be termed a "modification." Then the hon. Member asked me whether I could give rulings in advance as to Amendments which might be moved. I should be very glad to give rulings in advance if I could also be informed what would be the ultimate state of the Bill. If hon. Members will in each case assure me that a Bill will emerge from Committee in a particular state, I shall be very glad to give information on Amendments proposed. Thirdly, may I say that I have not added one jot or tittle to what my predecessors have done in this matter. If the hon. Member will refer to the Tithe Rent Charge Recovery Bill, 1889, he will see that (he simple change of giving to the tithe owner relief against the owner of the land, instead of against the occupier, was held to entirely reconstitute the Bill. He will see that an Amendment which adds so largely to the franchise as any of these Amendments would have done is of far greater moment, and makes a far greater change in a Bill, than the precedent I have laid down.
Mr. W. REDMOND
On a point of Order. May I, with great respect, ask you whether in the year 1884 your predecessor gave an indication to the Parliament then sitting that the extension of the franchise in the Representation of the People Bill of that year would have made the Bill practically a new one, and have brought about its withdrawal?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am afraid the hon. Member could not have been present at an earlier stage of the afternoon.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I dealt very fully with that matter. I showed that the three Reform Bills—the Representation of the People Bills of 1832, 1867, and 1884—were all drawn in the widest possible manner, and were not limited, as this one is. Quite possibly in the year 1884 my predecessor may have given some private ruling. No such ruling appears in "Hansard" or in any of the books to which I had access.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
May I ask what would be the effect if the Government introduce a Bill specifically to carry out a pledge given, and have an Amendment in view to include women—the very thing you say is impossible—and discussion takes place with the full knowledge of that fact? Should 1070 not the discussion have been confined to males? My point of Order is that unless some indication is given from the Chair when a Bill is first introduced, the House will waste its whole time until the Bill subsequently comes to you, and you rule it out of order. Could not that ruling have been given earlier?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
There is no opportunity for a ruling to take place earlier. In this case I should have been very glad to have given an earlier ruling, but no opportunity was given to me and no question was asked me until last Thursday morning. It was not my business to go about seeking to destroy!
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
On a point of Order. With very great respect to you, may I not ask whether, in view of the fact that the discussion which took place included women, you ought not to have ruled that this discussion should have been confined to men as the Bill itself referred only to men?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It certainly is not my business to restrict discussion. Hon. Members are fully entitled to discuss the question if they like. It seems to me to be perfectly relevant. I think the hon. Member himself would have blamed me if I had so restricted discussion.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
With the greatest possible respect, Sir, and without criticising in the least your ruling, in regard to the inclusion of women in this Bill, may I ask whether your ruling given on Thursday last is to hold good in the future; and in relation to the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench confining the franchise to a residential qualification—whether you did rule, or whether you have since ruled that an Amendment on those lines would invalidate the Bill, or whether your ruling is confined solely to the question of Women Suffrage?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member will look to-morrow at the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will see that I gave no specific ruling with regard to Government Amendments, it not being necessary on this occasion. I particularly said that all that was required of me, and all that I was asked to reply to was on the question of Women Suffrage.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
May we take it that the Amendment to which I refer would not invalidate the Bill if it is carried?
§ Mr. DILLON
I have taken no part in these Debates upon this question, and I would not to-night have done so, had it not been for the surprise and the antonishment occasioned in my mind by the constant complaints which have come to us from supporters of Women Suffrage in this House of the machinations which have been directed against it. I cannot very much admire the firmness or the faith of women suffragists in this HOUSE and in their deplorable complaints of those machinations. I am an old Member of this House, and I never remember any question on which there was not machinations. As a humble and obscure opponent of the proposal for Women Suffrage I have not taken any part as regards the machinations of old friends of either sex who had served the Irish cause in dark days in the past, and appealed to me in great numbers to remember their services and to abstain from voting. The effect was that I cast a vote against Women Suffrage last spring.
As a humble Member of this House, and an opponent of Women Suffrage, permit me to say what has not up to this moment been stated in this Debate, that the machinations in favour of Women Suffrage have been, so far as I could observe much more active than the machinations against it. Yet none of us who are opposed to the Women Suffrage have risen up with winnings, or complainings, or weepings, on account of those machinations. I myself, looked upon as hopeless, have, nevertheless, been subjected to a continual fire of those machinations during the last fortnight, not only inside, but outside this House. Every form of appeal which is supposed to influence Members or Parliament has been directed against me in the Lobbies and outside the House. We have been subjected to machinations, to entreaties, and pressure, and we have been also subjected to threats—threats, I think, of a most disgraceful character, which ought never to have been made. Yet I never would have dreamt of making the protest which I now do, nor would I have mentioned it—I would have scorned to mention the matter in this House—such threats, such appeals, because they are 1072 so common, to Members of Parliament who are always subjected to them—had it not been for the extraordinary tone adopted by champion after champion on both sides of the House on Women Suffrage, which has given me a very poor idea of the strength and vitality of the faith that exists in these supporters of the suffrage. The main burden of their speeches was the complaints of those who had been frightened and seduced away on the cause of Women Suffrage by the machinations of certain mysterious Gentlemen who moved about the House. Hints were given of the dark influences of Ministers. One would suppose that all the Ministers were on the one side. If some of the Ministers used their influence with individual Members, they were perfectly entitled to do so; because other Ministers not less active, certainly not less able, and not less versed in Parliamentary machinations, were working for all they were worth on the other side. I cannot for the life of me see what cause the champions of Women Suffrage have to complain in this matter. I think that that particular aspect of the case ought to be dropped.
One thing the women have to congratulate themselves upon, and that is that they have succeeded in inflicting a great deal of humiliation on the House of Commons, and not the less humiliation seeing grown men getting up, and before the public— because we speak here before the public— whining and complaining of the machinations to which they have been subjected. Let me say a sentence or two, I will be very brief, on another extraordinary aspect of this case. It was the consideration put forward by the right hon and learned Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division. He raised it first, when he spoke of pledges given lightly, without consideration, and without serious intention. I have seen that sort of thing going on myself pretty often, and I must confess it did not strengthen my admiration for, or faith in Parliamentary institutions. When hon. Members claim, as did the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil just now, that this is a thing which can only be decided, and must be decided by a Government measure, that they will counsel the women of this country to accept no other solution but a Government measure, I say they are talking absolute nonsense. Every Member of this House, and every intelligent man and woman in the country, knows that they cannot get a Government measure, That 1073 any man should use that language, that any man should tell the women that they blame the Government for deceiving the women of this country—well, I say it is they who are deceiving the women, by telling them to abandon all practical means of advancing their cause, and pursuing a "will-o'-the-wisp" that will only lead them into an impassable morass. How can you get a Government measure on this question? The two sides are divided, and as we have seen in our own experience of the last few days, rather bitterly divided. They are divided almost in two equal halves.
Now let me put this consideration to the hon. Member for Merthyr and other enthusiastic advocates of Women Suffrage. Supposing we did adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton, and supposing it was taken up vigorously, and that a Committee was formed from all parties in the House who support Suffrage, let them then form a Government. Remember the number of influential men there would be on that Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) intimated that he would join and would accept the Chairmanship of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—a combination which none of us ever expected to live to see. When women interfere in politics the results are extremely strange. On that Committee there would also sit, I suppose, the Noble Lord the Member for the University of Oxford (Lord Hugh Cecil), and the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil), and there would be the Leader of the Opposition, all presided over by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now I make a fair offer, as one who takes a strong view about this question being made a Government measure. Let this Committee form a Government and appeal to the people of this country on that issue. No one can say that the Government so formed would be wanting in intellectual and political experience. Let them, therefore, form this Government. It is the only rational and, I think, practical plan for those who really talk about a Government Bill, and let them appeal to the people of this country, and, although I do not profess to be a very great authority on the politics of England, still I doubt very much if they would come back to power. I say, although I do not expect my counsel or opinion will carry much weight with the women of England who 1074 are supporters of this movement, although hundreds of them are friends of my own and old supporters of the Irish cause, I say to them that if they follow the counsel of the hon. Member for Merthyr to press forward to have this made a Government measure and to refuse all other means of forwarding their cause or his counsel of throwing themselves back into the methods of the militants, instead of advancing their cause they will ruin their cause, and, although my counsel is that of an opponent, it is honest counsel, which they will find far more useful, if they choose to act upon it, than the counsel of their Friend the hon. Member for Merthyr.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I do not doubt for a moment that the counsel of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken is honest counsel, but I should like to know from him does he really think at the present moment that the friends of Women Suffrage should agree to support no Government until they have a Government of their own, and does he really suggest that the proper action for the supporters of the Women Suffrage in the Government would be to resign?
§ Mr. DILLON
That is exactly what I did not' suggest. That was the recommendation of the hon. Member for Merthyr.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Then I misunderstood the hon. Member. But my motive in rising was not so much to reply to the hon. Member as because I feel it is necessary for a Liberal supporter of Women Suffrage to rise to give some expression of his opinion in regard to the proposals which the Government has made at the present moment as an alternative by which to secure Women Suffrage. I think it is very much to be regretted that the hon. Member for Merthyr and the hon. Member for Barnard Castle, who both are supposed to be strong supporters of Women Suffrage, should have refused absolutely to consider with fair and impartial minds the position in which the supporters of Women Suffrage are placed by the withdrawal of the Bill to-day. I do not know whether they wish to complain of the action of the Government in withdrawing the Bill. For my part, I have no criticism whatever to offer of the Government or of the course taken by the Government for dealing with the difficulties which arose out of Mr. Speaker's ruling. I think, from the-moment that ruling was given, it was vital to all interested, whether they are 1075 supporters of Women Suffrage or whether they are opponents, that a Division should not take place. They knew that no clear issue, which it was an essential part of the Prime Minister's plan to provide in this House, could be voted on. The supporters of Women Suffrage were placed in that position from the moment that that ruling was given. It then became clear that a vote for the triumph of Women Suffrage would be a vote for destroying the Bill, and if we wanted to carry the Bill we should refrain from voting in favour of Women Suffrage. We would have to choose between Women Suffrage and the Bill, and this choice only being given it was obvious that there could be no fair Division on the merits of the question Personally, therefore, I am grateful to the Government for not going on with the Bill in the circumstances in which we found ourselves placed.
The really important question, and I think that will be accepted by all parties in the House, that confronts the supporters of Women Suffrage at the present moment, in whatever part of the House they sit, is whether the equivalent which the Government is offering in substitution for their old pledge, which was really a pledge for an opportunity of carrying Women Suffrage—the Prime Minister and the Government indicated many years ago that they would give the House an opportunity of trying to carry it—whether that pledge is being carried out. It was in response to a question of mine at a deputation that the Prime Minister stated that the Franchise Bill of the Government when introduced would be accessible to a Women Suffrage Amendment, and I accept in the fullest degree the statement of the Prime Minister that the decision of the Speaker was an entire surprise to him and to the Government, as I think it was to the whole House. The essence of the Government pledge was this, that in certain circumstances in the progress of Women Suffrage proposals, if they ever reached that stage, namely, after the Report of the Bill in this House, this Women Suffrage Amendment, if carried, would become part of the Government measure, and in future would have all the resources of the Government behind them in order that they might become part of the law of the land. That was the great merit of the opportunity in the eyes of the supporters of Women Suffrage. Undoubtedly it was a very great advantage 1076 from one point of view. It was an immense advantage to us to feel that if we could secure a vote in this House in Committee and on Report in favour of the Suffrage proposals, thereafter they would become part of the General Reform Bill, in support of which the Government itself would be bound up, and that these proposals could not disappear without the disappearance of the Government. That was the advantage which was opened up to supporters of Women Suffrage in the House and in the country, and upon which they laid great stress, and I think it must be realised that any departure from that demands calmness of mind and a most careful review of the circumstances. I do not think that ought to release us from fully considering the offer made by the Government. There was this great advantage in introducing Women Suffrage into a Government Franchise Bill; there was also the disadvantage which, I think, has become very visible in the last few days. I am quite well aware and fully realise that it is practically impossible to get a fair Division on Women Suffrage at the same time if it is to be a part of the Government measure. Many considerations are involved. The hon. Member for Mayo complained of the attitude of some supporters of Women Suffrage, and I think, especially towards Members of his own party. I think he must realise why that attitude was taken.
§ Mr. DILLON
My complaint was en-entirely about myself. Some Members of my own party are supporters of Women Suffrage.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I am aware of that, but I think the hon. Member would not deny that to himself and to all Members of his party the fate of Home Rule and the fate of the Government of Ireland Bill is vastly more important, whether they are supporters of Women Suffrage or not, than the question of Women Suffrage. I do not think he will deny that, and I do not blame him for a moment. I think it is a natural and proper attitude for hon. Members who have sat in this House for a generation in order to secure one thing for their own country that they should watch the Parliamentary situation, always giving first attention to the question which they are sent here to guard, and the very fact that they wish first of all to safeguard the position of Home Rule, that very fact prevents them from approaching the question of Women 1077 Suffrage solely on its merits. There are many hon. Members on this side who are in the same position. There is not a single Liberal Member on these benches who would wish by his support of Women Suffrage to endanger the existence of the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I confess I do not altogether understand how the minds of some hon. Members opposite work. I should be very much surprised to find if a Conservative Government was in power that these hon. Gentlemen in order to secure the passage of a particular measure would be ready to destroy the existence of a Government which in other matters they supported. I do not say that in any stage of the progress of a measure a Member might not have to separate himself from the Government of which he was a supporter, but surely those hon. Members will not deny that except in the last extremity that is not a course Members of a party would be likely to take.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I think it depends on how you think. I have given no pledges in this country that I am not prepared to carry out. Hon. Members would not find themselves in difficulty if they do not give pledges except as they think, and I commend that course to the hon. Gentleman who interrupts me. Mixing up Women Suffrage with the fate of the Government and Government measures undoubtedly tends to place Members from Ireland and Members upon these benches in a difficulty. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles) has quite frankly expounded the difficulties which a good many other Members feel but have not so frankly explained. I do see advantage in the new course proposed by the Government, inasmuch as that sort of pressure will now be removed from the women's cause. Hon. Members from Ireland will no longer feel that the cause of Home Rule is mixed up with Women Suffrage. Members on this side will no longer find Government measures mixed up with it, and will therefore find themselves in a much easier position. I would like to say that I myself had hoped that the Government would have adopted another alternative. They might have suggested that in the early part of next Session—I hope it is not too late to consider this point now—an opportunity should be given of debating Resolutions on 1078 Women Suffrage. We might have had a general Resolution in favour of women franchise, and then a Resolution on the particular form it should take. I see nothing inconsistent in that course with the pledge given by the Prime Minister. If the House by Resolution decides that it wishes Women Suffrage to be included in the Reform Bill, then the Government could insert such a Resolution in their Bill. That method was adopted by Sir Robert Peel when dealing with a situation very much analogous to the one in which we find ourselves to-day. A divided Government and a divided House of Commons in the case of Sir Robert Peel's Bill submitted a Resolution in favour of that emancipation, and after it had been adopted it was embodied in Sir Robert Peel's Bill.
§ Earl WINTERTON
As that is an historical fact of some importance, may I say that prior to that two Members of the Government had resigned because they did not agree with it?
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
We do not break up our Governments now on questions of reform, and I do not see that what I have suggested is a hopeless method. I fully recognise the difficulty in which the Prime Minister finds himself, but it does seem to me that it would be possible for the Government to have said, "We will accept a Resolution of the House and Amendments at the hands of the House." I suggest that as a possible alternative, and it would be carrying out to the letter the promises which have been made by the Prime Minister. I think the hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson) and the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) have very much undervalued the proposal which the Government have made for dealing with this difficult question. What is the offer which the Government have made? It is that in the early part of next Session opportunity shall be given for a Women Suffrage Bill, and time will be found for that measure to go as far as the House of Commons wishes to take it. If it carries it to the Third Reading, time will be found for it, and it will then go to the House of Lords. If it is rejected, time will be found in a second Session to pass it, and if the House of Lords again rejects it, and the Government are still in power, time will be found in the third Session to pass the measure into law and thus get the benefit of the Parliament Act. That is a greater offer of 1079 Government facilities than has ever been made to the supporters of Women Suffrage before.
As a rule when people talk about a private Member's Bill they mean those which have had practically no facilities in this House. We have never before been promised that a private Member's Bill should be practically placed in the position of a Government measure, and that full resources with regard to the matter of time should be at our disposal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) asked the Government not to pledge themselves to a Guillotine Motion, and he suggested that if such a motion was to be moved it rested with the supporters of Women Suffrage to move it and not the Government. I am not in favour of Guillotine Motions, and at any rate I do not want one for Women Suffrage, but the pledge of the Government is full time for carrying Women Suffrage. Even if they could give us plenty of time we are ready to argue the Bill through. We are not afraid to go on as long as necessary fighting the legitimate arguments at any length brought forward by hon. Members who are opposed to us. The inconvenience of all that would fall upon the Government and not upon the supporters of Women Suffrage. If they want to shorten discussion it is for the Government to introduce the guillotine. That pledge is very valuable and important because the amount of time which the Government can allocate is limited, and it is of the utmost importance to us to know as Suffragists that if it is necessary, and if the Government cannot give us time enough to carry it without a Guillotine Motion, then the head of the Government must come down and say how much time he can give to this question to enable us to get the measure through in the course of the Session. That pledge has been given to the Women Suffragists, and it is important, in view of the speech of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle, for Liberal Members to look fully at the proposal made by the Government. With regard to the operation of the Parliament Act I will assume that we have passed a Bill twice in the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire said we ought not to use the Parliament Act to carry a Suffragist Bill. I do not know why not. It would be very hard for the House of Commons, and indeed, would it not be ensuring the defeat 1080 of the Bill if, after the House of Commons had twice passed the Bill, we were told that the Government would not give us facilities for the third Session. All the Government can do is to give the House of Commons the opportunities of using the Parliament Act if it so desires, and the Parliament Act will not come into operation until the House of Commons acquiesces.
All the Government pledge themselves to is, if we pass the Bill twice we shall not lose it in the third Session for want of time if the House wishes to make use of the Parliament Act. There is one advantage of the proposal of the Government which I commend to the attention of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle, and it is that the operation of the Parliament Act might run over a General Election. If at the end of two Sessions there should come a General Election before a Women Suffrage Bill has become law, our Bill does not die with that Parliament or that Government. There might even be a change of Government and still a Suffragist majority, and if they united in the first Session of the new Parliament on the Bill which has twice gone through the House of Commons in that way we could ensure that it would become law under the Parliament Act. For my own part, though I did not at first welcome the proposal that we should proceed by a private Bill, I am bound to say that the more I look at it the more the advantages of the present proposals of the Government commend themselves to me. Some strange currents of opinion have been running through the House during the last week, and this House has been a kind of exchange, and there will be a very great advantage in the new proposal under which we shall not have a repetition of those proceedings which reflected very little credit upon the dignity or the honour of the House of Commons. I hope we shall not come to a definite decision to-night. I think it is only reasonable to give us time to consult our supporters in the country and the women outside. I think the proposal put before us merits the most careful consideration of Women Suffragists throughout the country. It seems to me that the Government have offered us an opportunity which well merits our most careful consideration, and if properly used within the next two years may give us the enfranchisement of women.
It is no doubt difficult nowadays to break up a 1081 Government, but I think if the hon. Member who has just spoken is allowed to have his own way he is just about the man to do it. I am not much alarmed at the prospect of a Government Bill upon Female Suffrage. I do not think that any Government in our time is likely to bring in a Bill to deal with that question. I am, however, alarmed a little about the Government pledges. The Government has been very free with its pledges, more free than I, as a free member of a free assembly, quite like. Not that their undertakings would affect my own vote, but because I desire to see this measure treated in a free House, and if the Government is entangled by entering into too many understandings, that result cannot be obtained. I have great sympathy with the Government, but I desire to protest against any entanglement which does not leave us free to deal with this question when it comes before the House. What with this influential Committee and the guillotine and the Parliament Act, I am not so sure that we shall be able to enjoy that complete freedom. Unlike the Colonial Secretary, I am not an unreserved admirer of the Parliament Act, but I agree with him that it would put a very severe strain upon it to carry a measure for Female Suffrage in this Parliament. The day for fancy franchises has gone, and there will be nothing of that kind in the future. The only real limitation that can be devised is one as regards age or conduct, and judging from my own experience, I should say that probably most of us commit more follies between twenty-one and twenty-five than at any other period of our lives. I think there is much to be said for making the age limit twenty-five years. None of these fancy limitations can be permanent. The only real Amendment is that put forward by the hon. Member for Bernard Castle, although I should vote against all the Amendments, but if I had to vote for this principle in any form, I should vote for it in that form, because none of the other Amendments can stand, and that means a tremendous addition to the franchise. I say it would be a great strain on the Parliament Act to carry an extension of that kind within the lifetime of the present Parliament. The electorate of this country, I believe, is against all the Amendments. I should like to see that opinion tested, and I do not know any way in which it could be tested except by the Referendum. I am no great admirer of the principle of the Referendum which I 1082 think would take away from this House any remaining shred of responsibility that hangs about it; but I see no other way, as no Government can deal with this matter, of testing the opinion except through the Referendum. I do not know how you would arrange the Referendum, and perhaps that will engage the attention of the House or the new Committee; but whether it were left to the present electorate of the country or to the men and women of the country I still believe the Amendments would be rejected.
There is one other alternative. We have heard a good many comparisons of the extension of the franchise to women in the Oversea Dominions and in the United States of America. The whole of this House is deeply committed to devolution, and to give the franchise to women in the domestic Parliaments would be the equivalent of giving the franchise in the Oversea Dominions or in the State Legislatures of the United States. I submit to the promoters of the Bill that their real object would be gained by that franchise. After all, what is it they are seeking? It is not equality. We hear a good deal about equality, but the thing does not exist. The real claim is one of justice; it is that when social legislation which is rapidly increasing in quantity affects the whole unit of society—women, children, education—women should have a voice in the settlement of it. Those are questions that would be conducted by domestic legislatures, and over those legislatures I hold women should have control with men. I believe, if the Government would pursue its settled policy of Home Rule all round, that in giving devolution they would settle at the same time the real need of women in respect to their protection and the protection of their homes, and in that way they would settle this question. If I am certain of anything, it is that whatever machinery you may invent this country will never give women the franchise in the Imperial Parliament.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I have listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and I confess I think whatever discouragement the advocates of Women Suffrage may have had by the events that have taken place, it will not be removed by a proposal that they should wait for Home Rule all round. Considering that so far the only step in that direction has been the passage of a Bill entirely inconsistent with any possible scheme of Home Rule all round, no woman 1083 who was not animated by an unselfish zeal for the political rights of her granddaughter would interest herself in the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. Nor can I agree with him that the day of the fancy franchise has gone. Surely it is very silly to say you cannot have them applying to the Parliamentary franchise when, as a matter of fact, you have them applying to the municipal franchise, and when very notably the Government did not even propose to change them in this Bill which related to local government. You have got the fancy franchise there, and you are likely to have it for a good many years. Why should you not have it in the Parliamentary franchise too? I should like to say one word with regard to what was said about militant tactics by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie). That was a deplorable utterance. I say that, not only on the ground that militancy has done the cause of Women Suffrage a great deal of harm, but on the ground that to suggest militant tactics, tactics of violence most of all, if they are to be extended, as in one regrettable instance they have been extended, so as to imperil life and limb, as in the outrages in Dublin and the attempt to burn the Colonial Secretary's house— called for, or could be justified, or could excite anything but the utmost loathing and horror among all respectable persons, whether supporters or opponents of the movement, is to lower people's conception of morality as well as to do bad service to the cause of Women Suffrage. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil cannot claim for militancy the slightest defence or the slightest excuse as long as Parliamentary methods are not exhausted, and no delusion could be greater than to suppose Parliamentary methods of giving women the suffrage are exhausted.
I am not in a position to give advice to hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, because I do not know what is precisely their point of view, but it is certainly obvious the scheme of the Government puts in the hands of the out-and-out supporters of the movement an advantage they did not before possess, because there are going to be two Bills brought in, one, a Government measure, relating to the general treatment of the franchise, and the other a Women Franchise Bill, which the Government are going to allow to be brought in. It is obvious it will lie in the hands of the advocates of Women Suffrage, who are quite numerous enough to 1084 make the difference, how much progress the Government are allowed to make with their own Franchise Bill. They can use that weapon to any extent they think proper for advancing the interests of the Bill properly brought in by the private Member in favour of Women Suffrage. It is, therefore, utterly untrue to say they are being cheated of their opportunity or that they are being placed in a worse position. They are actually being put in a position of great advantage for the purpose of carrying out the view they have at heart. Nor is it reasonable to accuse the Prime Minister of a breach of faith in this matter or to suggest anything of the kind. I have a very high opinion of the right hon. Gentleman's intellect and a very low opinion, not of his private, but of his Parliamentary character; but, bad as my opinion of his Parliamentary character is, I certainly should not have suspected him of this elaborate manæuvring to put his Government in the position in which he finds it to-day. It would be to carry suspicion beyond the limits of all reason to suppose that the right hon. Gentleman really designed what has come to pass.
The discussion has turned very largely on an interesting point in connection with the application of the Parliament Act. It is certainly true that Members on this side of the House who support Women Suffrage would on general grounds have great reluctance to overrule the other House of Parliament by any means except a reference to the people of the country. I hold very strongly that there never ought to be a question of this House overruling the other House except by appealing to the people. The question of the application of the Parliament Act, however, is not one that will arise next Session. It could only possibly arise when the Bill was brought up a second or a third time, and it is not inconceivable that by that time we may have a reformed Second Chamber and proper procedure of referring great questions to the judgment of the people. What is it that has produced this collapse of Parliamentary procedure? A great many people are representing that we are a foolish Assembly, strangled by our own deference to precedent and red-tape. We are strangled only because the Constitution has been upset by this present Parliament in passing the Parliament Act. If we were legislating under the old system, or, better still, if we were legislating as we should have been legislating if the view 1085 of the Unionist party had prevailed in respect of the Parliament Act, none of this difficulty would have arisen at all. How-has it arisen? It has arisen because, first of all, we are not able to invent a Parliamentary remedy for the difficulty. The Parliamentary remedy would have been to withdraw the Bill and bring in another Bill, but the Government have so managed matters that we are driven up against the end of the financial year and it is impossible to spare the time to begin the whole thing over again. You therefore cannot have recourse to the proper Parliamentary remedy. What is to blame for that? The Parliament Act. It has forced the Government into putting all their Bills together in a single Session.
If we were not under the Parliament Act, we should be perfectly able to take any measures we liked, and, if the Second Chamber did not accept the Bill, there would have been, had the Unionist view prevailed, a proper provision for referring the question to the people, and of deciding it. How immensely better that would have been both for the advocates of Women Suffrage and its opponents! Now, however, this matter is determined, there will always be a great deal of bitterness, and there will always be a sense of a trick played on the one side or the other, because there is no arbitrament which is really respected by the two contending parties. The idea of the Parliament Act was to make the House of Commons the supreme judge as distinguished from and as opposed to the electorate. That may have been an idea acceptable to some people, but in the opinion of the great mass of Members of Parliament on both sides of the House the House of Commons lacks the moral authority to exercise that sort of controlling voice. We do not really think the House of Commons ought, or is animated by motives which qualify it, to judge on a question on which feeling is deeply moved. Therefore, there is a dislike to the idea of passing it under the Parliament Act, and the supporters of Women Suffrage are constantly complaining that some indirect influence will rob them of the advantages they possess. On neither side is there a real belief that the House of Commons ought to be trusted as the supreme judge in a matter of this kind. But if we had the Unionist party's constitutional arrangement, the arrangement for which they are contending, it would be quite simple; the Bill would go up to the other House, and, if rejected, it would be referred to the people; it would be 1086 decided by the people, and in our view questions upon which the House is divided should be decided by the people.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I think the hon. Member is referring to an entirely different thing. There is a special Referendum and the normal Referendum; the latter is the cause of the difficulty.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
If it were not for the present arrangement they would not bring into question of dispute this extraordinary, foolish, ill-thought-out, partisan, gerrymandering measure called a Parliament Act. That Bill never had any merits whatever except the single merit found in it by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), that he could carry Home Rule by it, even although the people of this country disapproved. It certainly had not one single good quality. Talk about machinations; what were the machinations which passed the Parliament Act? They were machinations of the most impudent intrigue. Now this country is suffering from the miserable dish they cooked. It is feeling the indignity to which it is brought in this House; it is feeling how absurd it is that we should have all our measures brought into a single Session and be unable to withdraw a Bill or take any reasonable method of getting out of the difficulty because of this precious Constitution, which was only the work of the basest partisanship. The first duty of an enlightened Parliament, a duty far more important than any suffrage question, will be to place the Constitution on a more democratic and more workable basis.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I do not propose to discuss either the Referendum or the Parliament Act. But the Noble Lord will allow me to say that I differ in toto from his estimate of the Parliamentary abilities and character of the Prime Minister. I understand that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, when I was out of the House, and necessarily out of the House, made an attack upon me. As I did not hear it I am unable to reply to it. But I want to assure the House that I am perfectly prepared to stand by my original words, which he thought fit to criticise, and with which the 1087 hon. Member for RushCliffe and a great many of my hon. Friends, even those who are most earnest and enthusiastic in supporting Women Suffrage, will agree.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
I did not say that they agreed; I said they felt some of the hon. Gentleman's difficulties.
§ Sir W. BYLES
Perhaps I put it a little too strongly. At any rate, they did not disapprove of the position I thought it necessary to take up. I maintain that the view I put forward is one with which a great many Members of this House sympathise. I am an earnest and sincere supporter of the cause of Women Suffrage. But there is one thing I would not do, in order to give it; and that is destroy the present Government. We have undertaken great responsibilities in the country, and we must do our very best to achieve them. I would not allow this question or any other to come in between that achievement or between our hopes of final success. I would not have risen except that I was anxious to draw attention to a Bill which is on the Order Paper for to-day. I am, on the whole, quite satisfied with the proposal of the Government. I believe we shall achieve our object in the way in which it is proposed, and those who have shown themselves half-hearted in this matter will find out their mistake. But there is another and quicker way in which it might be done; there is a Bill on the Order Paper for this very day dealing with among other things the removal of Women's Franchise disabilities. It was brought into the House by the late Sir Charles Dilke, and I have kept it alive
§ since his death. It proposes to establish a single franchise at all elections; it would abolish university representation; remove the disabilities of women, and, in fact, it is entirely an Adult Suffrage Bill. If the Government thought fit to give facilities for that measure, or if the House of Commons read it a second time to-night and allowed it to go into Committee we might at once enter upon this great question and settle it before the end of the Session.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I only wanted to inform the hon. Member of its provisions, but he can get a copy in the Vote Office and satisfy himself. I sincerely hope that the solution of this question, which has been so skilfully and so ingeniously arrived at by the Government, by which they have convinced not only their own Friends but their opponents that they have acted in the most straightforward, frank, and generous way towards women, I say I can only hope their scheme will end in the success of the cause.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Rufus Isaacs)
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, 283; Noes, 112.1091
|Division No. 559.||AYES.||[7.55 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Brace, William||Cory, Sir Clifford John|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Brady, Patrick Joseph||Cotton, William Francis|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Brunner, John F. L.||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Bryce, J. Annan||Crooks, William|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Buckmaster, Stanley 0.||Crumley, Patrick|
|Alden, Percy||Burke, E. Haviland||Cullinan, John|
|Allen, Arthur Acland (Dumbartonshire)||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Davles, Timothy (Lines., Louth)|
|Armitage, Robert||Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Dawes, J. A.|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Byles. Sir William Pollard||Do Forest, Baron|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Delany, William|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick)||Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Delvin, Joseph|
|Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Cawley, Harold T. (Heywood)||Dickinson, W. H.|
|Barton, William||Chancellor, H. G.||Donelan, Captain A.|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts., St. George)||Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Doris, William|
|Bentham, G. J.||Clancy, John Joseph||Duffy, William J.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Clough, William||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Clynes, John R.||Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)|
|Boland, John Plus||Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Elverston, Sir Harold|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Leach, Charles||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Lewis, John Herbert||Richards, Thomas|
|Falconer, James||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Lundon, Thomas||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Lynch, A. A.||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Ffrench, Peter||McGhee, Richard||Robertson, Sir Scott (Bradford)|
|Field, Wiliam||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Robertson, J, M. (Tyneside)|
|Fltzgibbon, John||Macpherson, James Ian||Robinson, Sidney|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||M"Kean, John||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Gilhooly, James||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Rowlands, James|
|Gill, A. H.||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lincs.,Spalding)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Ginneil, Laurence||Manfield, Harry||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Glanville, H. J.||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Goldstone, Frank||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Meagher, Michael||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Greig, Col. J. W.||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrlm, N.)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Griffith, Ellis Jones||Middlebrook, William||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Millar, James Duncan||Sheehy, David|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Molloy, Michael||Shortt, Edward|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Hackett, John||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Smith, Albert (Lanes, Clitheroe)|
|Wall, Frederick (Normanton)||Mooney. John J.||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim)|
|Hancock, J. G.||Morgan, George Hay||Snowden, Philip|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Morrell, Philip||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Morison, Hector||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Muldoon, John||Sutton, John E.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Munro, R.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcllffe)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C.||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Neilson, Francis||Tennant, Harold John|
|Hayward, Evan||Nolan, Joseph||Thomas, James Henry|
|Hazleton, Richard||Norman, Sir Henry||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Norton, Captain Cecil W,||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Brien, William (Cork)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Henry, Sir Charles||O'Connor, John (Klldare, N.)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon. S.)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Higham, John Sharp||O'Dowd, John||Wadsworth, J.|
|Hinds, John||Ogden, Fred||Walsh, J. (Cork, South)|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||O'Grady, James||Walsh, Stephen (Lanes., lnce)|
|Hodge, John||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Holt, Richard Durning||O'Malley, William||Wardle, George J.|
|Home, Charies Silvester (Ipswich)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E, (Clackmannan)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Webb, H.|
|Hudson, Walter||O'Shee, James John||White, J. Dundas (Glas., Tradeston)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Outhwaite, R. L.||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|John, Edward Thomas||Parker, James (Halifax)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Jones, Rt.Hon.Sir D.Brynmor (Sw'nsea)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P,|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Jones, Lelf Stratton (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Pointer, Joseph||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Pollard, Sir George H.||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Jowett, F. W.||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Joyce, Michael||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Keating, Matthew||Priestley, Sir W. E. (Bradford)||Winfrey, Richard|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Pringle, William M. R.||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Radford, G. H.||Young, Samuel (Cavan, E.)|
|Kilbride, Denis||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Young, William (Perthshire, E.)|
|King, J. (Somerset, N.)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Reddy, M.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.-Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rid, Cockerm'th)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Blair, Reginald||Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchln)|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T, Griffith-||Chaloner, Col, R. G. W.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Boyton, James||Clyde, J. Avon|
|Balcarres, Lord||Bridgeman, W. Clive||Cooper, Richard Ashmole|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Burn, Colonel C. R.||Courthope, George Loyd|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Carlile. Sir Edward Hildred||Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)|
|Barnston, Harry||Cave, George||Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Croft, H. P.|
|Bird, Alfred||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxord Univ.)||Doughty, Sir George|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Lewisham, Viscount||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Lloyd, G. A.||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclcsall)|
|Fell, Arthur||Locker-Lampson, G. Salisbury)||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Forster, Henry William||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Gardner, Ernest||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Sandys, G. J.|
|Gibbs, George Abraham||Malcolm, Ian||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Smith. Harold (Warrington)|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Grant, J. A.||Moore, William||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Gretton, John||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. A. (Ashburton)||Strauss, Arthur (Paddlngton, North)|
|Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S.Edmunds)||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Swift, Rigby|
|Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Newman, John R. P.||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Hills, John Waller||Nield, Herbert||Thynne, Lord A.|
|Hill-Wood, Samuel||Norton-Griffiths, J. (Wednesbury)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Hoare, S. J. G.||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Hogge, James Myles||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Watt, Henry Anderson|
|Hope, Harry (Bute)||Parkes, Ebenezer||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Pease, Herbert pike (Darlington)||Winterton, Earl|
|Home. E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Perkins. Walter F.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Hunt, Rowland||Peto, Basil Edward||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Ingleby, Holcombe||Pollock, Ernest Murray||Worthington-Evans, L,|
|Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)||Quilter, Sir William Eley C.||Younger, Sir George|
|Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Viscount Castlereagh and Mr. Arnold Ward.|
|Larmor. Sir J.||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Lee, Arthur Hamilton|
Question, "That the Order be read and discharged, and the Bill withdrawn," put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Order read and discharged; Bill withdrawn.