§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I wish to ask you, Sir, a question with reference to the Notice of Motion which appears in the name of the Prime Minister on the Paper to-day. It is, I think, a novel Motion, of which there has been no previous experience, and it might be to the convenience of the House if I ask whether it is right to take the three Bills mentioned in that Resolution in one Resolution, or whether it would not be more in accordance with the practice of the House that we should have a separate Resolution dealing with each Bill. I am quite aware that in some Motions the difficulty is not so great, because you allow a series of Amendments to a Motion, whereas in others you only allow one Amendment. I do not know to which class this Resolution belongs, but in any case, even if it belonged to the first, may I submit that such very different considerations apply to the three Bills that it is really scarcely fair to the House to ask them to consider one Resolution fixing the procedure of all.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The question which the Noble Lord addresses to me is really rather a question on the merits for the House itself. He asks whether there is any precedent. There is a case in which two Bills were combined in one Allocation of Time Motion. It was in 1908. I am not aware of any case in which three Bills have been combined. With regard to the question of Amendments, all Amendments will be reserved, and therefore there will be an opportunity of striking out any one of these Bills to which the Noble Lord thinks the Resolution is not properly applicable.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
May I ask whether in the case to which you have referred, where two Bills were combined in one Motion, they were Bills ejusdem generis, and therefore the same, or closely allied?
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I beg to move,
The Motion, I am perfectly sure, carries out the procedure which I have on more than one occasion, particularly on the 817 Second Reading of the Government of Ireland Bill, outlined to the House. As regards the question put by the Noble Lord just now, namely, the inclusion in a single Resolution of these three Bills, that was really done for the convenience of the House, because it was seen that to go through all the particular provisions of a Resolution of this kind three times over when the same considerations apply in substance to them all would be rather a waste of Parliamentary time. I quite agree that any special consideration affecting any one of the three Bills might appropriately and no doubt will be raised by Amendments in regard to that Bill. But the Government thought it for the convenience of the House to provide the general proposals, subject to that consideration, in a single Resolution. This Resolution, although I agree novel in form, is really the necessary consequence of the provisions of the Parliament Act. In this the second Session in which the three Bills referred to have come under consideration, we have had the question before us whether or not they should be read a second time and debated under the ordinary conditions of Parliamentary procedure. I think that in only one of the three cases—there has been no allocation of time regarding any of them—was it necessary to move the Closure. These three Bills in this the second Session they have been before the House of Commons, have been respectively carried on the Second Reading by majorities of 98, 99, and 113. I think, without going into any of the more controverted questions, that seems to show that they still receive the support of overwhelming majorities of this House as far as the principle of each Bill is concerned.
- "(1) That on the Committee stage of the Government of Ireland Bill, the Established Church (Wales) Bill, and the Temperance (Scotland) Bill, the Chairman shall forthwith put the Question that he do report the Bill without Amendment to the House, and no other Question, and that Question shall be decided without Amendment or Debate.
- (2) On any day on which the Committee stage of any Financial Resolution relating to the Government of Ireland Bill is put down as the first Order of the Day, the Chairman shall, at 10.30 p.m. on That day or, if that day is a Friday, at 4.30 p.m., bring the proceedings on that stage (if not previously concluded) to a conclusion.
- (3) If the proceedings on the Committee stage of any Financial Resolution relating to the Established Church (Wales) Bill are not brought to a conclusion before the expiration of three hours after their being commenced the Chairman shall, at the expiration of that time, bring those proceedings to a conclusion.
- (4) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are so to be brought to a conclusion, the Chairman shall put forthwith the Question on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair, and shall next proceed to put any other Question necessary to dispose of the Committee stage of the Resolution, without putting the Question on any other Motion or Amendment.
- (5) On the Report stage of any Financial Resolution relating to the Government of Ireland Bill or the Established Church (Wales) Bill, the Speaker shall forthwith put the Question that the House doth agree with the Committee in the Resolution without putting any other Question, and the Question so put shall be decided without Amendment or Debate.
- (6) On a day on which any proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under this Order proceedings for that purpose shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order relating to the Sittings of the House."
Assuming that under the Parliament Act a Bill which has passed through this House in all its stages in the first Session and has been rejected by the House of Lords either, as was the case with two of the Bills on the Second Reading, or, as was the case with the third, that the Amendments made by the House of Lords were not assented to by the House of Commons—assuming that these three Bills coming here a second time in the second Session have been carried, as they have been, on the Second Reading, what is the procedure under these conditions which is contemplated and prescribed by the Parliament Act? To come under the operation of that Act when they go up a second time to the 818 House of Lords they must be the same Bills as those which received the assent of the House of Commons in the earlier Session. In other words, they cannot take advantage, if that be the right expression to use, of the provisions of the Act unless they are identical as they leave this House in the second Session with the Bills which left the House in the first Session. Anything, therefore, which destroys that identity prevents the Bill, or any of them, from coming under the operation of the Parliament Act. Let me remind the House of the language of the Act itself. Section 2, Sub-section (4), in so far as it is material, is in these terms:—
A Bill shall be deemed to be the same Bill as a former Bill sent up to the. House of Lords in the preceding Session if, when it is sent up to the House of Lords, it is identical with the former Bill or contains only such alterations as are certified by the Speaker of the House of Commons to be necessary owing to the time which has elapsed since the date of the former Bill, or to represent any Amendments which have been made by the House of Lords in the former Bill in the preceding Session.…So that, subject to these exceptions, namely, the formal alterations of dates and the acceptance of Amendments made by the House of Lords, the Bill as it goes up to that House a second time must be in the strictest sense of the term identical with the Bill which passed this House in the preceding Session. If that is so—and clearly it was within the contemplation of the framers of the Act and of Parliament that passed it—a Committee stage in the ordinary sense of a Committee stage, except for agreed Amendments, cannot have been contemplated as part of the normal procedure on Bills to come under the Act. It is quite obvious, and it is admitted already, that it would be a waste of Parliamentary time to propose Amendments which ex hypothesi cannot be adopted without destroying the identity of the Bill, and that clearly was contemplated when the Parliament Act was passed. But at the same time I must lay stress upon this: It was part not only of our expressed intentions when we supported the Parliament Act as a Bill in its passage through this House, but it was part of the declared policy of the Act itself that there should be an opportunity, if the House desired—there was that limitation—both in the second and in the third Sessions for submitting and discussing, and it 819 might be for Divisions, in the House of Commons, changes in the Bill consistent with its governing purpose and seen upon reflection to be improvements, either as correcting inadvertencies and mistakes, or as mollifying and making more acceptable its substantial provisions. It was for that reason, not by way of Amendment while the Bill was passing through the House, but as part of the original proposals of the Government, that the proviso to Subsection (4), Section 2, was inserted. That proviso is as follows:—Provided that the House of Commons may, if they think fit, on the passage of such a Bill through the House in the second or third Session, suggest any further Amendments without inserting the Amendments in the Bill, and any such suggested Amendments shall be considered by the House of Lords, and if agreed to by that House, shall be treated as Amendments made by the House of Lords and agreed to by the House of Commons; but the exercise of this power by the House of Commons shall not affect the operation of this Section in the event of the Bill being rejected by the House of Lords.You have therefore in that provision an enactment to this effect, that Amendments which in the case of our normal procedure in regard to ordinary Bills could only be made in Committee will, without actual incorporation in the Bill, without destroying its identity with the Bill previously passed, be taken in the second or third Session and be presented by this House by way of suggestion to the other House. I know it will be said that in this Resolution which I am about to propose we are destroying, not only the Committee stage but the opportunity of discussing details, but what I have said is a complete answer to that argument. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I agree that it would not be a complete answer if it had been contemplated or intended that in the second and third Sessions these Bills should go through the ordinary procedure of the Committee kind through which they have already gone most carefully and laboriously. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, line by line, and word by word. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] And, be it observed, exposed to Amendments, the intention of which, avowedly or thinly disavowed, was not to improve the Bill, but to wreck it altogether.
I remember I quoted before a speech made at a time when the right hon. 820 Gentleman opposite was sitting on these benches by one of the greatest Parliamentarians who ever sat in this House, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and in that speech, in reference to this very matter, he says that you must distinguish between the two classes of Amendments, those which accepting the principle of a Bill, are designed to modify or to improve its practical working, and Amendments which, though they appear, because they are made in Committee, to proceed upon the assumption that the principle of the Bill as passed upon Second Reading is being assented to, are Amendments, the object of which is to wreck it, destroy its effect and make it unworkable. Nobody who has followed the course of our proceedings with regard to, say, the Irish Government Bill, which I take as an example, and, least of all, the authors of the Bill, can doubt that many of the Amendments proposed were of this character. I am not complaining of this. It is a perfectly recognised form of Parliamentary procedure. We have resorted to it in the old days, and very likely we shall resort to it again. [HON. MEMBERS: "Very soon."] I do not care whether it is sooner or later. As far as I am concerned, it may be soon or late. I will not say that I should be sorry if within a measurable distance we had an opportunity of showing what we can do, but I go back to what was said so truly by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham as to those two classes of Parliamentary Amendments which everybody recognises as being within the acknowledged categories of Parliamentary procedure It was certainly never intended under the Parliament Act to expose a Bill which had gone through the whole of this procedure to a similar ordeal in the second and third Session. It was intended to give the House of Commons, if they chose to take advantage, full opportunity in the second Session by way of suggested Amendment, to improve the Bill and correct the Bill consistently with is governing provision, without being incorporated in it, to accompany it when it passed this House and be submitted for the judgment of the House of Lords, and that procedure we have been careful to keep alive by the Motion which we have before the House. Of course, it follows that if the Committee stage does not take place there is no Report stage. There is one other matter.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. Before he passes from that point, when he speaks of keeping alive that procedure does he refer to specific words in the Resolution or to the absence of words?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The absence of any words. It is a new procedure. I have told the House exactly what I mean. Each Bill has now been read a second time. If the right hon. Gentleman now puts down any Motion suggesting an Amendment to any one of these three Bills or any number of Motions to that effect are put down, the Government will certainly consider it to be their duty, if they thought that the. Amendments fairly fall within the description which I have given, that is if they are not merely wrecking Amendments, but Amendments accepting the principle of the Bill ——
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Will the Noble Lord put down an Amendment? If so, we will certainly consider whether it falls within that category or not. But Amendments which are consistent with the principle of the Bill may be put down on the Paper as a Motion and the Government will then consider it, and, subject to the confidence of this House, they will have power to say how many days shall be given to that Resolution. That will not be any part of the procedure of the Bill. The Government will consider to what extent the opinion of the House of Commons ought to be invited on the question.
§ Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
Have the Government made up their mind not to make any suggestions themselves?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Government will not make suggestions themselves. So far as they know, these Bills in their present form adequately represent their view.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
One other question. Do I gather from what the right hon Gentleman says that the Government are to be judges in reference to any suggestion which is to be put down whether the sense of the House should or should not be taken on any suggestion, or 822 will the Government undertake to give an opportunity for the sense of the House to be taken on all suggestions?
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No, obviously that would be a new Committee stage of amendment by way of suggestions. We do not believe that it is the intention of the Parliament Act or within the scope of its spirit. With regard to what the Noble Lord asked me, I certainly think that all the suggestions ought to be before and not after the Third Reading, because it might very much affect the judgment of individual Members as to whether they should vote for the Bill or vote against it on the Third Reading. I am giving credit to the Noble Lord of having an open mind on some points. Therefore, the time for suggestions ought to come before the Bill is presented to this House for a Third Reading, as it might affect his judgment as to whether he should vote for or against the Third Reading. There is one other point in this Resolution which calls for a word of remark, and that is the provision which it contains in regard to finance. The House will observe that as regards that, we propose to give to the case of the Irish Bill—the question does not arise on the Scottish Temperance Bill as to which there is no Financial Resolution—if it is desired, a Parliamentary day, and in regard to the Welsh Bill where the Financial Resolution is of minor importance, three hours, which is very nearly half a Parliamentary day, for the discussion in Committee of the Financial Resolutions. It may be said, "Why, after what you have said about the Committee, should it be proposed to give that? Is it not unnecessary?" I think not. When a Bill is read a second time in this House some of the Clauses cannot, according to our procedure, be embodied in an Act of Parliament unless they are founded, at some stage or others, on a Financial Resolution in Committee. The assent of the House to the Second Reading must always be taken as subject to that qualification. In old days—I am not quite sure that it is not so now—these Clauses would appear in italics, and it has always been the rule of the House, and it is still part of the recognised and normal procedure of the House that the Clauses which depend upon a Financial Resolution should not be considered till that Resolution has been passed. We therefore think it right, in 823 the Welsh Bill, where these Financial Clauses are very few, and in the Irish Bill, where they are considerable and substantial, to give to the House on the Financial Resolution in Committee the opportunity for what I may call a Second Reading Debate in reference to those financial provisions. The Report stage, if the House agrees to the Government Resolution, we propose should be merely formal—that is to say, that the Question shall be put from the Chair and simply be, "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thought I should hear a certain amount of protest against that.
That was the proposal, let me remind the Noble Lord, which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, when he was Leader of the House, in regard to all Financial Resolutions. One of the rules in his new code of procedure, which unfortunately was never reached—otherwise, the Government would have escaped a certain amount of their present difficulties—was that in all cases the Report stage of Financial Resolutions—I am not, of course, speaking of the Budget, but of ordinary Bills—should be taken merely as a formal stage, and that, without Amendment and without Debate, the Question should be at once put from the Chair. We are only incorporating in this Resolution with regard to the Financial Resolutions that proposal of the right hon. Gentleman—a proposal which, I confess, might very well be made part of the general procedure of the House.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am sorry to say my recollection does not quite agree with that of the right hon. Gentleman. The opposition took so much interest in the earlier parts of the scheme that this particular part was never reached or discussed. Since I have been in office my opinion in that direction has been confirmed and strengthened; at any rate, we propose to make an experiment, and try the rule of the right hon. Gentleman. I think I have gone through the various 824 points that are novel in connection with this Resolution. I submit to the House that it carries out in spirit, intention, and effect the obvious purpose of the Parliament Act, and, if Bills such as these are to come within the operation of that Act, and get the benefit of its provisions, it is in this way, and in this way alone, that that intention can be carried into effect.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to insert instead thereof the words, "this House regrets the proposal to suppress its right to amend the provision of Bills vitally affecting the Constitution as a gross infringement of its ancient prerogatives and liberties."
I rise at the request of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to move this Amendment. The Prime Minister has made so many similar Motions that we have become accustomed to his manner, and can, without the aid of the Order Paper, judge of the Resolution which he was moving by the methods with which he chooses to commend it to the House. The briefer his observations, the more merry his mood; the more mellifluous the language in which he commends it to the House, the greater is the outrage which he proposes to perpetrate upon our ancient privileges and liberties. Though he has made many Motions for the curtailment of our rights, he has made none more monstrous and more destructive, not merely of the elementary rights but of the elementary duties of a free Parliament, than that which he has just submitted. For the first time the right hon. Gentleman includes in a common Motion for suppression of free speech three Bills raising wholly separate issues, and which are wholly dissimilar in the nature of their provisions. He says the same considerations apply to them all, and then he proceeded to explain what those considerations were. This Motion, he tells us, is a necessary consequence of the Parliament Act. If these three Bills are to have, as he rightly phrases it, the advantage of that measure, then, he says, this Resolution follows as a matter of course, and there is nothing to distinguish one Bill from another; it is useless for the House of Commons, having made up its mind that it desires these subjects to be cleared out of the way—and the majority, I suppose, have made up its mind to that 825 effect, and I do not wonder at it, for until they shake themselves free of those subjects they have a millstone about their necks that is likely to sink them—then it is necessary that this House, whilst going through the form, which becomes a farce, of professing deliberately to consider their provisions again, to judge whether they are or are not in the interests of the nation, must pass them in the identical form in which it passed them last year.
It would be a waste of time, says the right hon. Gentleman to discuss Amendments, for to include an Amendment in any of the Bills would destroy its identity, would destroy the charm by which alone its passage can be secured without any appeal being taken to the greater court of the people, which controls even the High Court of Parliament. Accordingly the right hon. Gentleman links together in a common Resolution three Bills, one purporting to deal with the whole Government of Ireland, and, as we have learned, not only dealing with that but with the Government of the rest of the United Kingdom as well, for the Government of the rest of the United Kingdom will not be the same as that which we have known; if once the Bill passes our rights and our privileges will not be the same, our duties will be altered and our interests will have suffered, as many of us think, an irreparable injury. The second deals with the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Welsh dioceses. These two measures are alike not merely in dividing the House broadly and deeply, but in stirring to the depths the dearest feelings of great masses of our fellow citizens in Ireland and in this country, and then with them as of like nature, is a Bill which is in all respects similar, and whose fortunes are to follow the same fate, is linked the Scottish Temperance Bill, a measure, the principles of which have been accepted on both sides, a measure which was accepted in principle in the other House, a measure which went to shipwreck not on any profound party or national differences, but on the obstinacy and of the Scottish Secretary. It is within the knowledge of all that that Bill might have been saved with the exercise of a little tact, a little judgment, and a little of that spirit of conciliation which nowhere would have been more welcome than on the benches opposite.
I am profoundly separated on many Questions from the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr.Sherwell), but he is one 826 of the Members of this House to whom, I think, on whatever subject he speaks—and he does not often address us—Members, whatever their opinions, and however much they differ from him, listen with respect and with interest. Of all the subjects on which he might speak, there is none on which he is more entitled to be heard than on this question of temperance. Long before he was a Member of this House he studied it deeply, he studied the working of the various legislative schemes in different parts of the world, and especially among the men of English-speaking races, which have been adopted in the effort to put down the evils of excessive drinking. What did he say on Friday last? Did he support the action of the Government? If you care for temperance, and if that is your sole aim, listen to the hon. Member for Huddersfield. He is no unkindly critic, he is no unfriendly observer of your proceedings. He is a Member of your own party; he gives you loyal support on all questions, and here on this question, which he has studied more deeply than any man in the House, and on which he speaks with great knowledge and with a candour which is often absent from speeches on this subject, we can rank him with us as one of those who will protest against the attempt to dragoon through this House in the particular shape which it pleases the Scottish Secretary to give it, a measure which, out of our common endeavours, and by common consent, might make a great step forward in Scottish temperance reform. Why is it to be done? Not in the interests of temperance, but it is the party interests of the Government opposite, in order to hold together a combination which, judging any of these measures separately, would make grave Amendments in them, but by which, by linking the three measures together, you can drive into your Lobby to carry all sooner than sacrifice the fortunes of the party opposite. The right hon. Gentleman rightly said, this is a consequence of the Parliament Act, and it is a condemnation of that measure. It means that you erect log-rolling into a science, that you have made it not the deplorable accident of special circumstances, but you have based your whole policy upon it; and, knowing that, as the right hon. Gentleman says, they could not venture on going through the ordeal again on these measures which they went through last year in Committee, they use this combination of interests to relieve them of that peril. They think that the endurance of 827 their majority, their much tried majority, will be sufficient, at any rate, to vote half a dozen times on what they are pleased to call the principle of their measure, though they would not trust them to vote sixty times on their details.
The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that that part of his Resolution which dealt with finance needed some explanation, and I agree with him. I wonder even now whether he would not like to reconsider his position. He has given a whole Parliamentary day to the consideration of the Resolutions on Irish Finance, and he has actually given three hours Parliamentary time to the consideration of Financial Resolutions on the Welsh Church Bill. Is not the right hon. Gentleman over-generous? Why give any time at all? What is the use of it? What is the result of it? The right hon. Gentleman is providing that what the House does at that stage it shall have no opportunity of reconsidering on Report. But that is not all. He has further provided what it does at that stage, if it makes any alteration in what is previously agreed upon, shall not be embodied in the Bill, for the Committee stage of the Bill in which alone we could embody it is entirely eliminated by this Resolution. Was there ever anything so farcical? You can see at a glance the way in which the minds of himself and his right hon. Friends have worked. The financial provisions of the Bill, amongst the many which have come in for criticism, have come in for the most severe and universal criticism. I was taken to task not very long ago for being uncharitable by a leading organ of the party opposite—the "Westminster Gazette." I do not know that that criticism by my opponents would touch me very much under ordinary circumstances, but it came at a moment when they had been, or some of them, expressing very kindly their congratulations to me on attaining my Parliamentary majority, and it moved me the more. The point of my offending was that I said that, left to themselves, I did not believe that a majority of this House would pass these Bills. I did not mean, of course, that you would not get on the Second Reading of any one of them, a vote by practically your full party majority for what would be described as an abstract declaration in favour of Home Rule for Ireland or Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. What I did mean to say, and I adhere to it, is that there are in each of those Bills, 828 and, I believe, in the Scottish Bill too, provisions which, submitted to this House on their merits, without regard to the fortunes of the Coalition with which they are tied up, would be rejected by a majority in which probably representatives of every part of the House would find a place.
There is no more striking instance of that than the financial proposals of the Home Rule Bill. Where is their friend? The single man who loves them is the Postmaster-General. He has all a father's affection for his ugly child. I do not believe, apart from the Postmaster-General, that there is a man in this House who believes that those provisions are the best that could be devised, and I know that there are a great many men not confined to one section or to one school of thought or feeling who think they are very bad. You have only got to read Lord MacDonnell to know that a convinced Home Ruler thinks that the Irish Government may and will go shipwreck. There has not been, as far as my memory serves me, from any of these benches (the Nationalist) a single Member to rise and say that he thinks they do justice to Ireland, and I am here, at any rate, as an English Member to say that they do gross injustice to England. And yet the only opportunity which we are to have when this Bill comes up for review and revision, to consider those Clauses, is on the Committee stage of the Financial Resolution, and if we accept that opportunity, and if we try to argue these questions, what is the last and unanswerable argument which the Government will address to their followers, perhaps not across the floor of the House, but in the Lobby, in the Whip's Room behind the Speaker's Chair, is, they will say, "Recollect, if you make any change in the Financial Resolution, the Bill loses its identity and cannot obtain the advantage of the Parliament Act." The whole house of cards falls if you take one card out, and so, not voting on the merits of the particular proposition which is submitted to it, the majority of this House can be relied upon to go into the Lobby to carry the Resolution as the Government proposes it, so that they may pass their Bill a second time as they have passed it once.
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister is very sensitive, and I should be sorry if he were not, to any charges of breach of faith with the House. I am not going to make a charge of breach of his 829 word against him, but I am going to ask him whether he told us the whole truth, or whether he thinks he was candid to the House, lie and his colleagues, when they passed the Parliament Act? The right hon. Gentleman has explained to-day that this Resolution is the natural corollary, and that once you agree to the Parliament Act, for whatever Bills are passed for which you desire to secure the advantage of that Act, you must henceforth follow the course which he is now setting up for the Bills under our immediate discussion. Was he of that mind when, in speaking in 1911 in this House, he said:—
The delay of three Sessions or of two years when the suspensory veto of the House of Lords is interposep, precludes the possibility, and I say this with the utmost assurance, of covertly or arbitrarily smuggling into law, measures which are condemned by popular opinion,[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I did not mean to elicit a cheer from hon. Members at that point. In consequence of it I pause in the middle of my quotation. Do you think that the country knew the nature of your legislation when it gave you such a mandate as you have? I am not going to reopen the old dispute as to whether you have a mandate for Home Rule or not. Suppose you have—let it be granted. How many Members on the opposite side of the House told their constituents when they stood before them at the last General Election, that in their view, Home Rule bore as a necessary consequence, the payment of two millions per year from the British Treasury to the Irish Exchequer? How many Members standing before their constituents explained that it was a necessary part of Home Rule that the Post Office, which elsewhere throughout the world is the symbol of national unity, should be split into two? How many of you told your constituents, when you stood before them, that you, the Free Trade party, with all your deep seated horror of Customs barriers, are going to set up Customs barriers between Ireland and Great Britain, and authorise your Irish Parliament to establish different Customs rates from those which prevail in this country? I do not believe there is one of you, unless, and he is absent, the possible exception of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington (Mr. Lough). I go a little further. How many of you, if you would answer this question, and I think you will not, would not agree with the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Cathcart Wason), and how many of you would not be obliged to agree with him if you put to yourselves 830 the same question he put to himself last year. He said, "If I had been asked that question by any heckler in my constituency, I would have said, 'No.' Then as I am asked that question now, I must vote 'No' now when I have to decide the question." I venture to say that there are not a score of Members, and I do not believe there are two on the opposite side of the House, who would not have precluded themselves by answers they would have given from voting for these Bills in their present form, if those specific questions had been put to them at the last election. Then, you will say, that it is impossible for you to "covertly or arbitrarily smuggle into law" under this procedure, measures which are condemned by popular opinion. That was not why I began the quotation; it was for the concluding words of the same sentence:—
and it (the procedure under the Parliament Act) will at the same time ensure an ample opportunity for the reconsideration and revision of hasty or slovenly legislation.I do not charge the Prime Minister with breaking his word, but I ask him, did he deal candidly with the House? He says that this procedure, which gives the House no opportunity of revising its legislation, but which expressly takes away the opportunity from it, was a necessary consequence of the Parliament Act. Why did he not tell us so when he asked us to pass the Parliament Act? Then at least we should have known on his authority, and should not have had to search speeches of Members of the Opposition in order to find out what the consequences of that Act would be. The right hon. Gentleman raised the defence that while the Committee stage was excluded, and with it sub silentio fell the Report stage, there was still the stage of Suggestions.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Act. of Parliament makes it perfectly clear. What I said was simply a repetition of what I have said before.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I will leave that question where it stands between the right hon. Gentleman and myself, and take the judgment of the House upon it. It is a thankless task at 831 any time to examine too narrowly the words of any Member of this House to see how they are fulfilled. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he conveyed to this House that the procedure which he now adopts would be followed, I tell him that he is wrong. I had to discuss this matter with my own Friends and colleagues, and I said, "One thing, at any rate, is clear from the Parliament Act and from the language of the Prime Minister himself, and that is that if there are parts of the Bill which last year passed without discussion he is bound to give us an opportunity of discussing them this year." If the right hon. Gentleman says that he made it clear, I say for what it is worth, that, long before this Resolution appeared on the Paper, I last year expressed to my colleagues and Friends the belief that he had precluded himself from adopting the attitude which he has taken up to-day. The right hon. Gentleman justifies himself by saying that he gives us the opportunity of a new stage of Suggestions. I do not thank him. It is worthless. I should have said it was worthless under any circumstances, but his declarations to-day abundantly prove it to be worthless. It is worthless under any circumstances as applied to such Bills as the Home Rule Bill or the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, because the right hon. Gentleman considers it to be applicable only to Amendments propounded by Gentlemen who accept the principle of the Bill. I do not think there is any Amendment of the Home Rule Bill that would make me accept its principle as I understand it. That is not to say that if there is to be a Home Rule Bill founded on that principle there are not Amendments which might make it something less grievous to those who will suffer under it—something less intolerable than it will be now. But do you think that I am going to make suggestions under your procedure on that condition? No. You announce that you twill accept no suggestions from anyone who is not prepared to accept the principle of the Bill. You state that as the basis upon which you will act.
Then the right hon. Gentleman tells us to-day that, not only so, but no Amendment which does not commend itself to him and his colleagues will be brought before the House at all. They are judge and jury, and executioner before they are either, and they carry out the functions of judge and jury very much in the spirit 832 of the executioner. A stage of Suggestions under these circumstances is a farce. If both sides accepted the principle, the stage of Suggestions properly used might be valuable, but if one side of the House does not accept the principle of the Bill and means to fight that principle to the last and to their uttermost, then it is not for them to make suggestions which would be rejected by the Gentlemen sitting opposite, because, poor creatures, they cannot help themselves—suggestions which, if they were inconvenient to Members opposite, if they exposed them to that ordeal from which the right hon. Gentleman shrinks, would not even be allowed to be discussed at all, and would never be called up by the Chair. I am not going to put down, under those circumstances, suggestions bound to meet with rejections, useful only to the Government, in order that they may go into the country and elsewhere and say, "Your Opposition recognise that the game is up. They are seeking to compromise." That is not the spirit to which we have yet been brought. The game is not up. Doubtful and dark as is the future, of one thing I am certain—that a Government with no more moral force behind it than the Government opposite cannot dare to put this Bill in force, whatever Parliamentary support they may receive in this House. I have spoken of one of these Bills, the Scottish Temperance Bill, and I shall say no more. My Amendment refers especially to the other two. What are they? They are Bills which go to the very root of our feelings. I doubt if you could take two Bills which stirred more deeply the hopes, fears, and passions of our countrymen.
You have the Home Rule Bill offered as a great gift of peace and goodwill to the Nationalist majority in Ireland, and received by them with a tempered joy, which does not preclude their seeking, if ever they get the Parliament thereunder to be established, at once to better their position and extort further concessions. It is received, on the other hand, by the people of Ulster, or the Northern counties of Ulster, with something akin to loathing and dismay. To them it is not a message of peace; to them it is not a free-will offering; it is the cowardly surrender of those who ought to be their friends to those who have been and whom they have every right still to consider their enemies. To that surrender, driving them out from the justice and the protection of this Parliament, and not leaving them to fashion 833 their own fate as best they may, but placing them under the power of their foes, they will offer—every man in this House by this time ought to know it—passionate resistance to the death. That is the first of the Bills which you think it fair, reasonable, and statesmanlike to pass under a Resolution of this kind. What is the second? A Bill for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales and for the dismemberment of a great religious body. I can understand Nonconformists who hold strongly the old doctrine of Disestablishment holding strongly its concomitant, Disendowment, though I think that that is a waning side of Nonconformist opinion. I was born and bred in Nonconformist circles. I met in my early days great. Nonconformist divines. I do not see and I do not hear in the Debates in this House the spirit which animated them in the campaign for Disestablishment, and I think that if they could be called back and could reconsider the position in the light of what has since happened, they might take a different course. I think that they might be shocked by the uncharitableness of some of those who support this measure, and by the bitterness which they introduce into their speeches. I think they might feel that in these days the danger to Nonconformity comes not from the Established Church, and that the common interests of Churches, whether Nonconformist or Established, are greater than their differences.
Be that as it may, no Nonconformist would tolerate the interference of the State with the unity and the conduct of his own religious denomination in the way in which a majority of Nonconformists are seeking to deal with the unity and the conduct of the Established Church in Wales. I say to Nonconformists opposite, as I have said to Members opposite in relation to the question of Scotland, you would not endure that treatment for the body to which you belong. By what right, with what conscience, can you inflict it upon a sister Church? Be our opinions as Nonconformists what they may, what are the feelings of Church people? There is a small minority, including the Prime Minister, whose interest in and affection for the Church no one who has heard his speeches in these Debates, contrasting so singularly as they do with those of some of his colleagues, can deny, who still are in favour of the Diststablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales, and who can reconcile themselves to the dis- 834 memberment of this body, which to many of its members is a sacred whole which the State has no conceivable right to divide. But the great body of Churchmen hold a different view. My right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Bonar Law) was brought up in a different Church; we are not members of the Church of England; yet, as we walked away together from the service at St. Margaret's the other day, my right hon. Friend said to me, "Neither you nor I was born in this Church, but can you not understand how those who were so born love it and cherish its services?" I feel that feeling. It exists in thousands of breasts. In the minds of those men you are doing irreparable wrong to the Church which they love, which has brought them up in youth, which has encouraged them and rendered solemn their movements of greatest thanksgiving and happiness, which has consoled them in sorrow and softened the bitterness of grief. It is for a Bill of that kind, dealing with those holy and sacred interests, that you take up this procedure to serve your party interests; and for fear of undergoing once again the ordeal you went through last year, you deprive not only the Church of a fair hearing, but the House of Commons of its immemorial rights.
Deeply as I feel the bitter grievances, as I think, of the men of Ulster, deeply as I feel their desertion, much as I can and do sympathise with them, and with Churchmen—though I am not one of them—in their struggles, I am not sure, having spent twenty-one years of my life in this House, that I do not feel most deeply of all the degradation of this great Assembly. A little time ago the Prime Minister on some occasion repelled the idea, expressed in more than one quarter, that the House of Commons was losing its hold on the affection and respect of the country. It cannot keep its hold upon its own Members. Our benches are poorly occupied. Again and again I have seen what was unknown in the days when I entered this House—that is, a man gathering up his notes and his hat when he has finished speaking, and leaving the Chamber, without caring for a moment what might be said by way of answer. Such a thing was unknown when I, who still am not very old, came to this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh!"] In reply to the hon. Member below the Gangway who may wish to contradict, I will not say that it may not here and there have happened; but it was not common. The House would have regarded 835 it as conduct meriting censure, that quiet censure which it gave much more effectively in those days than it can now. As a result of these repeated Resolutions for the Closure and the guillotine is that the House feels the hollowness of its own Debates. Members only stop to listen to their own speeches. That is not all. The contempt that we feel for ourselves we cannot keep to ourselves. The country feels it for us. We are losing our hold upon the country. I do not believe it is possible for anybody to contend that our Debates hold their interest or attract as they did in the days of which I have spoken.
I suppose, looking back on any career that one follows, from one's schooldays onwards one always thinks that "there were giants in those days." Most of those, nearly all of those, who played the greatest. part in the Debates when I first entered this House have passed away. I do not think that those of us who occupy their places, fill their positions in. the public eye in the same way. But it is more than that. It is not the individual only, it is the corporate existence of the House. It is the House, not of 670 men; it is the House of Commons as a whole that is losing its grip on the people, its command of their respect, and, what is more important, of their obedience, When you use these methods of violence—for they are methods of violence—to pass your measures through the House lest the ordeal of ordinary discussion should be fatal to them, or to you, you go one step further down the road that we have been travelling. You do something more to destroy that respect, and to dissociate from us the obedience of the people. It has been the most marked feature of British Parliamentary development that what has been once settled here by the free play of Parliamentary forces, under fair conditions, has secured for better or for worse the assent of the people of the country; and that, in spite of the turn of the tide, in spite of the swing of the pendulum, in spite of the return of the Opposition to power; what has been done has in the main stood the test of time. Unlike some other democratic communities we have never had those great waves of revolutionary action followed, by reaction which upsets the whole constitutional growth, shook the social and national life of the people, and left great chasms and yawning cracks behind. We 836 have avoided all that, because every interest called to the Bar of this great House felt it here had a fair trial and full hearing. Here you are destroying that confidence. You are destroying it on those very subjects on which men feel most dearly. Your measures cannot carry the moral sanction which the legislation of our fathers did. You will not have either the willing or unwilling obedience rendered to them if they ever become law, which every previous Government has been able to count upon, no matter how hot the conflict has been while it has been in progress: As I look back over my years of service in this House and think of that great man who led it when I first came in, the picture of Mr. Gladstone that most often comes to, my mind is not of him as he sat there on the Treasury Bench, or as he stood in triumph at that box repelling his enemies and delighting his Friends: it is of him sitting in the Lobby with bowed head on the night of the adoption of the guillotine on the first home Rule Bill, which produced a scene of violent disorder on these benches. Deep as was the disgrace of the House at that time, great as may have been the injury done to it, in my heart of hearts I hold that one passionate outbreak like that is far more pardonable and far less lethal to our honour and to our credit than this continued trampling underfoot of our oldest privileges and liberties.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Churchill)
The Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman has moved is couched in extreme and high-sounding terms. The speech by which it was supported, most able and eloquent speech as it was, makes it necessary that someone should, on behalf of the Government, call the attention of the House as a whole to the, real merits which exists between the parties in regard to the procedure which we ask the House to sanction to-day. The, right hon. Gentleman with all his desire to do justice to the subject, does not seem to me to be any nearer understanding the position of his opponents in regard to Parliamentary procedure than at the beginning of our long controversy with the House of Lords. He has spoken of this Resolution in terms of great severity. He says it is a blow at the elementary liberties of Parliament—at the elementary liberties of the House of Commons. What liberties does he refer to? There is no other party in this country which would have had the power to create the series of Debates which 837 are taking place this year on the passage of these three Bills except the party to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs. The elementary liberty—the immemorial liberty—to which he refers is, when stated frankly and bluntly, no more than the elementary liberty of the Conservative party to impose a permanent veto on Liberal measures. We have tried during the five years when these questions connected with the passage of legislation through the House of Commons have been the greatest questions in British public life—we have tried over and over again to get those from whom we differ, and whose opinions in many ways we respect, to realise that our claim is simply a claim for equality. We ask for nothing more. The righht hon. Gentleman spoke of the procedure unfolded by the Prime Minister as if it were a procedure which involved some hardship to the Conservative party. This procedure, which they deem a hardship, is a privilege which they alone enjoy. What chance should we have, if we were to occupy their seats, of debating over again, even in a limited form, and even under a restricted procedure, measures which had already been disposed of by the House of Lords? Every facility, every power which the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends enjoy in respect to these measures under the Parliament Act to-day is a pure advantage to them and a pure windfall to them which would not under the existing Constitution be enjoyed by any other body of Members in the House, and every burden which we must support in carrying these measures over and over again, or every risk we must run in their passage through this House, every labour we must exact from those who support us, every one of these is a risk and a burden and a labour which, were the Conservative party in office tomorrow, they would find themselves wholly immune from. The right hon. Gentleman in every portion of his speech beside that which referred to procedure showed himself unable to appreciate in any respect he contention made upon this side of the House for equality of treatment. In his remarks, with which we do not at all quarrel, in regard to the Welsh Disestablistment Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said that no Churchman would treat Non- conformists in the way Nonconformists are treating Churchmen under this measure. But the right. hon. Gentleman entirely ignores the situation as it exists. The 838 situation as it exists does in fact treat Nonconformists in a way that Churchmen of this country have never been treated by them. We ask for equality in procedure and we ask for equality in legislation, and although the right hon. Gentleman was very confident in some of his remarks we are inclined to think that we shall have the power to obtain both.
The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to talk about the degradation of the House of Commons. I am not at all inclined to disagree with him in his very proper and becoming opinion that there were much greater men in former times than exist to-day, and that our Debates proceeded much more satisfactorily in the House of Commons, but if we are to speak of the degradation of the House of Commons, let us take a real and practical instance to begin with. My Parliamentary experience has been short, but I remember that we spent the greater part of three Sessions walking through the Lobbies, debating night after night the details and provisions of measures which had for their support the largest majorities which in our lifetime ever assembled within these walls, and that after all these immense proceedings had reached their conclusion in the House of Commons the whole of these measures were cast out and ruined by the partisan vote of the House of Lords. Is not that the degradation of the House of Commons? Would not that, be a blow at their immemorial liberties and their elementary rights? The right hon. Gentleman felt in no wise humiliated by that spectacle. He thought it was the most natural thing in the world that a Liberal Government, with a majority of 200 or 300, should have its measures in a long Session rejected and cast out by an Assembly which received its directions from the recognised heads of the Parliamentary Opposition. But those, who took part in those proceedings and who cared about these measures, and those who had come back to the House refreshed by contact with great majorities in the constituencies, felt it as a cruel and a burning injury and an insult of the vilest kind not only to the Members, but collectively to the dignity and authority of the representative Chamber by which this country has for so long been governed.
There is another way in which the degradation of the House of Commons may conceivably be brought about and that is where a tendency grows up to deny full opportunity of debate on any particular 839 subject. That tendency is not so prominent in the afternoon as it is sometimes in the evening. I have never spoken upon this subject in the House before because I had not had an opportunity, but we have noticed there is very great difficulty indeed for Ministers, rising from this bench, to make reply on controversial subjects to a speech of the Leader of the Opposition or some other right hon. Gentleman upon the bench opposite. I have frequently experienced myself, or witnessed in the case of my right hon. Friends, that they are interrupted repeatedly upon frivolous pretexts, that cries of "Withdraw" are raised when no unparliamentary expression or argument has been used, and that a state of confusion and interruption arises which, in the limited time often available in our sittings, makes it perfectly impossible for a fair and adequate debating reply to be given; and when the right hon. Gentleman says the House of Commons must preserve its hold upon the minds of the country, I believe it is an essential condition for the preservation of that hold that there should be considerable opportunity of debate, and that controversial opinions should be stated by both sides across the floor of the House and that debate should be maintained so that the sequence of argument on one side or the other should not be broken down or interrupted by violent and foolish clamour. We shall welcome most certainly any attempt which the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends may make to free the House of Commons from any risk of having its Debates degraded by any denial of full opportunity of freedom in debate when debate is in progress.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I might help the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps, if he would begin with himself.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The House knows perfectly well what justice there is in the remarks I have made, and I am quite prepared to be content with the very large measure of agreement which those remarks have obtained on both sides of the House, and I accept from the right hon. Gentleman his promise to co-operate as far as he can in regulating the enthusiasm, on the whole well meant I quite admit, of his Friends. There is one other point of view from which I must regard the speech just delivered and the Amendment which has been moved. That Amendment and the 840 speech which so well and powerfully submitted it to the House does, in fact, challenge the whole principle of the Parliament Act. It undoubtedly constitutes a condemnation by the Opposition of the whole principle and system of that measure. We had long discussions upon the Parliament Act, and we do not at all consider that the present constitutional situation is perfect. We think that for the working of the Parliament Act properly there should not be a partisan Second Chamber which will always try on Liberal measures to force us to go over the course three times while they immediately pass through measures of the Conservative party.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
But with the exception of the fact that the Preamble has not yet been passed into law, we are very well satisfied with the measure. We still regard it as absolutely necessary to safeguard the elementary rights of the House of Commons and to free our Parliamentary proceedings from degradation and from farce. We are perfectly ready here and in the country, to reopen and to persevere at any length in the great controversy from which, so far, whenever the electors have been addressed upon it, we have always found ourselves supported by overwhelming majorities. The right hon. Gentleman opposite then proceeded to examine the three Bills which are affected by this Resolution, and he made various complaints about them. In regard to the Scottish Temperance Bill, his complaint was that we did not follow the advice of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sherwell). We have the greatest respect for the opinion of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, and we are very glad to see the very great importance attached to his opinion upon the opposite side of the House. We trust when on temperance questions his opinions are expressed, that the very handsome certificate presented to him this afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman opposite will be borne in mind and the rest of the Opposition will be left to give a fair and open-minded consideration to the arguments on temperance questions which the hon. Member for Huddersfield is so well qualified to address to the House. But in regard to this Bill as in regard to the other Bills in this Motion there is a fact which ought to be kept in the forefront of our considerations. All 841 these three Bills—the Scottish Temperance Bill, the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Disestablishment Bill—apart from having on previous occasions commanded large Parliamentary majorities in this House are supported and have long been supported by the overwhelming majority of the people whom they will affect. They are supported and are to-day supported probably by four-fifths of the nations whose affairs and interests they deal with, and if these measures, any of them or all of them had been Conservative measures they would long ago have been placed upon the Statute Book by another place, and would have afforded that satisfaction to the national demand of those different portions of the United Kingdom which justice and policy alike require.
The right hon. Gentleman complained that we had not at the last election stated to the electors the details of these Bills, and in a powerful though somewhat tautological passage he asked, "how many of you told your constituents that the Home Rule Bill would give £2,000,000 a year of British money to Ireland," and other questions of that kind. We might have asked how many of the Conservative Opposition to tell their constituents that they were prepared for all time to support a policy of giving not merely £2,000,000 a year, but as it may be in a short time if Home Rule is not passed, a very much larger sum regularly and permanently to Ireland. I will not pursue that line of argument, because I see another line which I prefer, and which is more full of promise. The right hon. Gentleman asked, why had we not at the last election put the details of these measures before our constituents. It is not usual to put the details of measures which are to be debated in the House before the constituencies at a, General Election, and the tribunal of a General Election, powerful and august as it is, is one not suited for the detailed discussion of lengthy Bills. It is because the country cannot go into the details of these measures that the wisdom of the past has erected a Parliamentary tribunal for their discussion and debate.
It is quite open to the right hon. Gentleman and his party, if they choose, to set up a high standard in this respect. They assure us that they will very soon be called upon by an enthusiastic nation to assume the responsibilities of governing the country. If that is their belief, we have no objection at all to their taking up the occasion before them to lay before the 842 country the details of some of the measures which they are going to propose. We should be perfectly willing to have a draft of the schedules of their Budget. We should be very glad to know the general principles of any legislation they may be contemplating in the direction of compulsory service. We should even be interested to know the details of any Landlords Endowment Bill upon which they are exercising their ingenuity, and I am quite ready to say that if by this exercise of political virtue, they raise the whole standard of our debate and discussion at General Elections, they would make it undoubtedly to some extent incumbent upon others at subsequent periods of our party history to be more precise. At any rate, we should be very glad to consider the possibility of reciprocity on those lines. I have made these remarks because the right hon. Gentleman made a speech which rightly held the interest of the House, and because he raised issues which are indeed the great lines of division between the two parties and go far beyond the actual scope of the Parliamentary procedure under which these matters are brought before us this afternoon. I hope the right hon. Gentleman and the House, whatever they may say for the purposes of party warfare, will not undervalue the system of procedure by suggestion. I think something fell from the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The Suggestion stage has no value of any kind whatever to persons who are unable or unwilling to make any suggestions. That is self-evident, but I can very well imagine, and I believe most hon. Members of this House can imagine, that if advantage were taken of the opportunity to shape the Resolution which is now passing through the House in such a way as to arrive at a settlement, and to shape it in such a way as to produce a permanent termination to the long and distressing quarrels which have arisen, it would be found that the suggestion not only offered a favourable opportunity, but a full and complete opportunity for any such proceeding to take place. It will be open for any Amendment to be put down, and in judging of the Amendments to be adopted the Government will have regard to those which promise most favourably to facilitate a discussion upon 843 the great issues on which a settlement might be effected. Of course, we are limited by time, and time of itself imposes limitations which must sweep away Amendments which are of less importance, which are not Amendments of significance, and which are merely Amendments of a party character, designed to keep up the ordinary Parlimentary disputation. The Suggestion stage is not for that, but it is adapted to enable either small points which are oversights to be set right by general agreement or to enable suggestions of compromise to be put forward and debated. The root principle of the Parliament Act is that every Amendment which makes for agreement, and for a change in a Bill which tends to lessen disagreement, can be incorporated in the Bill without depriving it of the advantages of the procedure of the Parliament Act. That procedure is a very valuable one, and the Government have no intention and do not desire to do anything which will strip it of its reality and its importance, but if it is to be treated with disdain, if we are to have this important and useful stage of Parliamentary discussion dismissed with a guffaw, the Government, so far as time and their business is concerned, will not be the losers, and we shall certainly not be weakened in our determination to press forward the measures we have long advocated to the final occasion when they will receive the assent. of the Crown and take their place upon the Statute Book.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
The right hon. Gentleman has made an amusing and interesting speech of which I can guess the origin. He is a person of great method, and probably classifies his notes under the lotters of the alphabet. Under the letter "P" he finds "Procedure," and by an unfortunate coincidence the Parliament Act and his notes for the platform. This is a speech which he thinks he did not deliver, but which he did deliver several times on the Parliament Bill, and a speech which he no doubt designs to deliver several times on the platform. What is that old speech on the Parliament Bill? We have heard it very often. It is that politics are only a game, and the important thing is that one party should have as good a chance as the other party. It does not matter in the least whether the people want a particular Bill, or whether the Bill has particular qualities or not. It may be a Bill of very small importance or great 844 importance. It is just the same; it is a counter in the game, and the right hon. Gentleman cares nothing as long as the party game is won. Bills are the means by which the party battle is fought by hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have never accepted that view of the British Constitution. We do not think that this House or the other House, or both of them together, sit merely in order that one set of politicians should score off another set of politicians. Our conception is that legislation should be passed fundamentally in accordance with the will of the people. We are perfectly prepared to judge either the proceedings of the last Parliament, the late Government, or the present Government by that test. Did they conform or did they not conform to the will of the people Are right hon. Gentlemen opposite prepared to submit themselves to that test? Do they care two straws whether their Bills do or do not command the will of the people? All the world knows that they shrink from such a test. All the world knows the real hypocrisy of their policy. The real truth is they are trying to force upon the country Bills which the country does not want, and which the people would prevent them passing into law if they had the chance.
The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the clamour that takes place in this House. One cause of that clamour is the unfortunate effect of the Eleven o'clock Rule, and I think the present Government made a great mistake in closing the Debates at Eleven o'clock, because this rule makes the later speeches not so interesting to the House as if a longer time were allowed for them. Another cause, of course, is, as my right hon. Friend stated, that the House has ceased to attach importance to its Debates, and when it is in a clamorous mood it does not care to listen to either side. But clamour arises not on one side only, but on both. My point is that clamour is only another sign that the House of Commons does not take the Debates seriously. The old tradition was no doubt that Members submitted to hearing things which they did not like to hear, simply because they thought debate was an important function of the House of Commons, and they respected it, and then clamour did not disturb its even course. Now they do not think so. They come down to the House in a clamorous mood and they will not listen to what they do not like. Therefore, it does not matter whether the Debate is carried on in a 845 formal and regular manner or not, because Parliament has ceased to believe in the value of its own discussion. We are told that these Resolutions are to carry out the principle of the Parliament Act. That is what the right hon. Gentleman said. I should like to know what is this principle if the Parliament Act which the right hon. Gentleman desires to be carried out? If it be that the opinion of the majority of the House of Commons is to prevail, then this Resolution does not go far enough. Why should you have a Second Reading or a Third Reading, or why should you have any discussion at all? Why should it not be made an order of the house that these Bills are to be passed without any discussion or Division, and sent up to the other House.
What the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister think they advocated, although neither of them did, is the pro- position that the principle of the Bill has to be reaffirmed on the Second and the Third Reading, and in the two following Sessions. Under those circumstances the details of the Bill do not need any scrutiny or discussion at all. If the will of the House of Commons is to prevail without discussion and without deliberation, by all means let us have it so, and not waste our time discussing these matters at all. But if the will of the House of Commons is to prevail only after it has itself deliberated and discussed the details of the measure, then you want discussion. The Government know very well that there is much more likelihood of the majority of the country changing its mind about the details of a Bill, than about the principle involved in the Second and the Third Reading. This Resolution conforms to no rational principle at all in the Parliament Act or any other Act. It is a mere negation of discussion where it happens to be inconvenient, and allowance of discussion where it does not very much matter. Discussion is accepted and allowed in so far as it seems to be in reality affirming the principle of the Bill; it is cast aside in the scrutiny and details, though that is just the place where the Government might find it difficult, and Members inconvenient, to support it.
Is it not quite certain that if we go on these paths we shall destroy discussion altogether? The Liberal party are at present in office, and they are proposing measures which they believe to be of importance. In time, no doubt, another party will be in office, and they will in 846 their turn propound their legislation. What will be the process they will take? The principle now laid down, as far as I understand it, is that if it is quite certain beforehand the House of Commons will come to a particular decision, there is not much use in having a Debate; if you are agreed upon the principle of the Bill, you need not therefore waste time in discussing any of those details, disagreement with which would wreck the Bill, and therefore destroy the principle. That is applicable not only to the second discussion, but to any stage. Take, for example, a Tariff Reform Budget. Supposing in the future my right hon. Friends propose such a Budget and it is read a second time, what is there to hinder them coming down and saying, "Such and such items in the Schedule appear to us necessary to the principle of the Finance Bill. We cannot contemplate the fact that the House of Commons will stultify its decision by modifying those particular details." They therefore pass a Resolution saying that no Amendment shall be admitted, except in respect of subordinate items. That is in strict analogy with what the Government are doing. They propose to allow suggestions—suggestions, in form, are an extremely silly way of amending a Bill—in accordance with the principle of the Bill, and they themselves, the majority, are to be the judges of what is the principle of the Bill. What is the use of having a deliberative assembly on those terms, if the majority are to decide what points are to be submitted to the assembly and the minority are not even to question that decision?
It is perfectly plain that the Constitution, as it is now organised, cannot last. No one supposes that a country accustomed to self-government will go on with a House of Commons and a House of Lords constituted as they are at the present moment. The right hon. Gentleman, in his somewhat degrading conception of the, Constitution as the rules of a game, conceives that he is badly treated by the partisan inclinations of the other House. It is entirely due to the present Government that they are still an Assembly which has a strong body of partisan opinion against them. They might quite well have spent this Session in reforming the House of Lords. They would even have had the unusual luxury of fulfilling their own pledges if they had done so, but even the pleasure of eating a delicacy out of season has not tempted them. Observe 847 that, if they had done so, the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's argument such as it is would have lost its force, because then they would have had an Assembly which would have judged quite fairly on the merits of the Bill. I have never quite understood why they should assume that a reformed House of Lords would be free from all the partialities, Liberal or Conservative, which hang round this Chamber. I should have thought that the true defect which underlies all these diseases of the Constitution is the exaggeration of party spirit, and no actual adjustment of the machinery of the Constitution will destroy that unless you are prepared to set up a machinery which will give the minority a fair chance of appealing against the judgment of the majority. That is the view of the Government. They think that by reforming the Second Chamber they will have a fair chance, but they have deliberately refused to reform the Second Chamber. What they want is not a fair chance, but an unfair chance. They want not equality, which the First Lord of the Admiralty professes to desire, but to carry Bills whether the country wants them or not, and whether the rules of the game would give them or not. They want "money," as the old saying was; they want Bills, rightly if possible, but anyway Bills. They do not want to carry out a particular scheme of constitutional reform, they propose to achieve the ambitions of a particular organisation of agreed wirepullers.
We have come to this point. I welcome the speech of the Prime Minister, not the substance of it. but the tone of it. I think it is a very good thing that we should have come to treat these Motions in the spirit of jesting, because now we know where we are. The liberties of the House of Gammons have become a joke, and it is proper that these Motions should be treated in a manner appropriate to them by those who make them. I do not believe that the people of this country want to have the principle of government by discussion reduced to a mere matter of pleasantry across the Table of the House of Commons. They still believe that it is of value that legislative proposals should be submitted to elaborate scrutiny and should be debated in a free Assembly, but they gave begun to realise that this Assembly, as it is constituted, does not do that work. It is a little significant and coincident that the Committee to reform the pro- 848 cedure of this House has never been appointed. The Government, pressed no doubt by other business, in face of the opposition of some hon. Members below the Gangway, have not been able to give the time necessary. But, quite accidentally and incidentally, it shows what value the Government attach to procedure. They really do not want to make the House of Commons more efficient than it is. They have no real intention and purpose of making it so. They only want to carry through their purpose, their purpose of satisfying the different groups which support them, and, as long as that object is achieved, neither the liberties of the House of Commons, nor the rights of the House of Lords, nor the will of the people are more than empty phrases which they utter on their lips but which they care nothing for in their hearts—being, indeed, the unworthy inheritors of a great inheritance, being those who exercise constitutional power without the smallest reference to the Constitution in whose name they speak.
§ Sir W. BYLES
We have had from the Noble Lord, as indeed we are always getting from the other side of the House, charges of unreality. I think that the unreality is entirely on the other side. The Noble Lord knows perfectly well that the Liberal party has for more than a generation found it impossible as regards its greater measures to translate its policy into Statutes, and he knows that it has been absolutely necessary for us to concentrate, as I think Lord Rosebery advised us to do twenty years ago, on the House of Lords. He knows that it has been absolutely necessary to force our way through the other House in order that the Liberal policy may be effectually achieved, and to say that these Motions, like the one the Prime Minister has moved to-day, are brought forward in a spirit of jesting, that the attitude of the party to which I belong is an unreal attitude, and that the Debates under the Parliament Act must be unreal, is really only a pretence on the part of the Opposition. They know perfectly well that we are in dead earnest about this and that we mean to win. The Noble Lord said that the Bills which are embodied in this Allocation Motion are Bills which the country does not want. What right has he to say anything of the kind? The Home Rule Bill surely is a Bill which the country does want! I fought my first election in 1892 on the Home Rule 849 Bill, and even then the question was eight years old.
The country over and over again at General Elections has endorsed the policy of the Liberal party to give Home Rule and national freedom to Ireland. Never once has that policy been defeated in the country. It has been asserted over and over again on the other side that Home Rule has been rejected by the country. It has never really been rejected. It was only rejected in 1886 because it was running in double harness with a land reform policy which the country was not then prepared to adopt, but which in a very much larger sense was afterwards proposed by the Tory party and was ultimately accepted. The whole election of 1892 turned upon Home Rule and the country returned a majority to carry it, and we did carry it through this House. The next election was in 1895, and the Tory party took very good care that Home Rule should not be an issue at that election, because they put before the electors and almost forced them to vote upon a policy of social reform half as long again as my arm and one of the first items of which was old age pensions. Again, in 1900, the Tory party took care that the issue should not be Home Rule. It was fought, as everybody knows, on finishing the Boer War. As soon as we came to the next General Election in 1906, the whole of the country voted for the Liberal party because Home Rule was the very first item on its programme. In 1910 we had two elections, both of them concerned, and one of them directly concerned, with the Parliament Act, and the other no doubt with the general policy of the Government, social as well as Irish. I have been in politics now for a good many years, and I have been entirely engaged in trying to put forward the Home Rule policy. I have fought six elections, and I have won four of them with Home Rule printed on my forehead. That is the reason why the people have returned me, and I have no doubt it is the same with many of my colleagues. What is the use of our appealing to Radical constituencies where there are Irish Nationalists unless we are in favour of Home Rule? The country have voted in favour of it over and over again. I felt surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) should the other day move the rejection of the Home Rule Bill. I remember that he was in the very thickest part of the Nationalist struggle in Ireland. No one knows better than he does that 850 the policy which he pursued, and which the Liberal party also pursued before him, was a failure. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech with great interest and deep respect, as I always do, for I believe he is a wise guide to the House of Commons. But one does not forget that he was the inventor of the battering ram, an instrument designed to knock down the homes of poor farmers in Ireland—to destroy houses sanctified to them by every historical memory, and these poor farmers were consequently sent into the ditch or into the workhouse, or over to Canada, or elsewhere, because of the destruction of their natural homes. It was not only the Tories who pursued this policy of coercion. Even the late Mr. Gladstone sent, in the Chief Lieutenant of Ireland—Mr. W. E. Forster—
Sir W. BYLES
I was going a little too wide, I admit, but I was carried away by my memories. Mr. Forster's policy wan the same as that of the party opposite. He seemed to regard hon. Members opposite, the leaders of the tenants' movement, as village ruffians, and he put thousands of them into gaol at that time. But I have merely mentioned these facts in order to show that under the policy of both parties British rule in Ireland has been an absolute failure. The time has arrived when Ireland should be given freedom and self-government, in order that we may make the Irish people a loyal part of the British Empire.
§ Sir W. BYLES
All I wish to point out is that the bad history of the past shows what has been the cause of the failure of British rule in Ireland. It is that which has made this Parliament Act necessary, and the Parliament Act has made this Motion for the allocation of time also necessary. We say that the Parliament Act was passed, in order to give Home Rule to Ireland, and this Resolution is being opposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, in order to prevent Home Rule being granted to Ireland, and for no other reason. I believe, and I think there must be a very large majority of hon. Members in this House, including a great many 851 hon. Members opposite who also believe—although they will do all they can to oppose these Bills—that the country desires that we should pass the three great measures to which this Motion refers, and it certainly desires that we should give Home Rule to Ireland. The party sitting on these benches is resolute in its determination to accomplish this great work upon which we have been engaged for many years. Our efforts have failed so far. They have been defeated by those who had no right to defeat them. They have been defeated by events of the most unfortunate character—events which have dashed the cup of freedom from the very lips of the Irish people over and over again. This time I believe we are going to attain our end. I believe that the men who represent Nationalist constituencies, those who have sat with us so faithfully for so many years, who have proved such admirable Members of this House, who have done their duty, not only to their constituents, but to their country, and have suffered in a manner for which they deserve our honour and respect, I believe, that they will at length attain that which they are out for, and which we are out for, and that we shall pass, not only this Allocation Motion, but that we shall finally translate this great policy of freedom and Home Rule into law.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I have been trying to understand how the speech of the hon. Member who last addressed the House can be attached to this Resolution. We have had a very interesting piece of history given us, but one portion did not quite come up to the standard of his interesting recital of the different elections in connection with Home Rule. He rather slurred over the events associated with the election of 1906, and if there was on that occasion such an overwhelming majority of the electorate declaring in favour of Home Rule, it is difficult to understand why the Government of that date so studiously avoided bringing in a Horne Rule Bill. I also thought that the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty contained arguments scarcely apropos to this Resolution. He gave vent to a great deal of indignation as to the manner in which Liberal measures were treated during three Sessions of extremely arduous work, and he described in very vivid language that treatment; but I do not notice that any one of the Bills we are now dealing with under this Motion 852 are Bills which were under discussion during the Sessions to which the right. hon. Gentleman was alluding. We have not, in fact, taken up the work of that Parliament which was rejected by the House of Lords. During those particular Sessions we dealt with an Education Bill and with a Local Veto Bill, but neither of those measures is concerned with this Resolution. They did not come up in connection with the great fight with the House of Lords. I do not think it is quite fair that a Motion should be made regarding the manner in which Bills have been treated in Parliament when the Bills we are asked to consider in it are not those which actually engaged the attention of Parliament. I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman admit one thing. He said that General Elections did not deal with details; they established principles, and elected a Parliamentary tribunal to sift details. This Resolution does not look very much as if the Government acknowleged that, because, as has just been pointed out by the Noble Lord, they are trying to deprive us of the opportunity of sifting any details at all in connection with these questions. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman tells us that this is one of the functions of Parliament, we are justified in pointing out that he and his colleagues are endeavouring to prevent Parliament exercising that function, and are trying to take away from it the one privilege which, according to the right hon. Gentleman, it is its great object to retain.
I do not very much care about recrimination in connection with politics. But I do regard this question on different grounds from either of the Front Benches—I regard it after an experience of twenty-one years on the back benches, and I say that this is the most serious infringement which has yet been made on the procedure of Parliament, and it is a direct consequence of what we have been doing in the last few years. In an attempt to fetter the House of Lords, we have fettered ourselves. In an attempt to reduce their powers, we have reduced ourselves to impotency, and it is on these grounds that I rise to protest against this new advice—this amplification of the Guillotine Motion. We are told that, as a consequence of the Parliament Act, we must pass this Resolution, and that such a course will always be consequent, in subsequent years, on any application of the Parliament Act. We have to trace 853 history back a little bit. We have to recollect that last year these Bills were passed under the extremest rules of this guillotine. We know that the time given to their discussion was in no way measured by the importance of the subject; it was decided merely by the exigencies of time at the disposal of the Government. Take the ease of the Welsh Bill. We know that the whole time given to its discussion was so inadequate that it was impossible to discuss anything but the main principle; some of the largest matters were never referred to in this House at all. The question of tithes was never debated. We have therefore, the fact that, by this infringement of procedure, there is by degrees being taken away from the House the power which it has had in the past, and from the back benches the chief powers they have hitherto possessed.
We had a very interesting piece of enlightenment by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in connection with the Suggestions stage. The Government seem very indignant when any criticisms are offered with regard to that stage. But what was that stage as described by the right hon. Gentleman just now? He says the house is to be at liberty to put down any Amendment it likes, and the Government will then choose what Amendments they think are matters most suitable for debate. That is the "kangaroo." You are taking the power from Mr. Speaker or from the Chairman, and you are placing it in the Front Bench. The question as to what is to be debated is no longer to be decided by the authorities of the House, it is the Government who are to say whether an Amendment shall or shall not come before the House. That is a form of "kangaroo" which has never before been contemplated as possible, and yet the Government tell us that this Suggestions stage is a most valuable stage! As described by the right hon. Gentleman, it seems in itself to be a sufficient condemnation of this new procedure under the Parliament Act. This House in its Rules of Procedure, allows of no superiority as between Members of this House, but now the Front Bench, for the first time, claims not only the right to direct our Debates, not only the right to limit them, not only the right to abolish particular stages of procedure, but it claims that, even in details, it shall decide whether the House is or is not to discuss any Amendment in connection with the 854 Bills that they put forward. That is really going further than anything ever before suggested, and it is a proposal which this House ought to protest against, and which ought to be fully explained to the country. I cannot conceive in what further direction the Government could extend this infringement of Debate. Soon we shall have no right whatever, if this sort of thing goes on, to debate even the principles embodied in the measures before us. We must not lose this opportunity of entering our strongest protest against this Motion—a Motion of a novel character, which, for the first time, embraces several matters of importance in its scope, which carries further the whole system of infringement of Debate, and which has gone further under this Bill than anybody could ever have anticipated. We must not lose this opportunity of objecting to this power of dealing with procedure, which has been followed by the Government all through their tenure of office. We have at last had taken from us our last weapons of defence in this House. I hope that we may carry those weapons more successfully in the country, so that the liberties of Parliament may be safeguarded by better hands than those which now hold the reins of office.
§ Sir THOMAS WHITTAKER
I think every Member of this house will agree that if the whole of these arrangements could be avoided it would be more satisfactory and desirable, for unquestionably every step we have taken in the matter of the Closure and the Parliament Act tends to limit the power of Members, and of private Members in particular. But what is the alternative? Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have none to suggest. Is the Liberal party to be permanently prevented from realising and giving effect to the opinion pressed by the electors at a General Election? If that is to be the case, what is the alternative when the House of Lords again and again rejects Liberal measures? It is all very well for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to talk as they do. They have not this difficulty to face. When they are in a majority in this House they can carry their measures and give expression to their will. Unless, when we are returned with a majority to this House, we are also enabled to give effect to our measures, Parliament will break down and popular control will come to an end. By what means do hon. Gentlemen opposite propose 855 to give the Liberal party power to legislate as effectively and as certainly as they can do themselves? I admit that this arrangement is unsatisfactory, but I hope and believe that much of it will be temporary, and that we shall have much better arrangements when the Second Chamber is reconstituted. With the measures we have had before the country for nearly a generation past, and with the expression of the opinion of the people of the country that those measures ought to be enacted, we are entitled to take the steps we have done in order to give effect to the will of the people. Therefore, although there is much undesirable and unsatisfactory in what we are doing, we get no suggestion of an alternative as to how the Liberal party can give expression to the will of the people.
§ Mr. SAMUEL ROBERTS
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down based his arguments upon the fact that the Welsh Bill and the Irish Bill had public opinion at their back. Our case is that they had not public opinion at their back. At the last General Election those two Bills were not put before the people as test questions. What we are now asking is that the Government of this country should put these Bills to the test before they become law. That is the whole ground of our opposition to this guillotine and that is our alternative. When the Prime Minister introduces this Resolution, which we say is an unprecedented form of guillotine, I am not quite sure whether I can forsee what will take place. I remember that in the year 1911, when the Parliament Bill was in Committee, I said in a speech that I believed that a developed kind of guillotine and a more severe kind of guillotine than we then knew would be introduced to force these Bills through. The allies of the Government knew what the process was going to be. The Leader of the Irish party told us, in a speech in March of this year, what the procedure in the second and third Sessions under the Parliament Act was going to be. He said it would bean automatic process.This is the automatic process which has been dictated to the Government by their Irish masters. The Prime Minister this afternoon, in a very halting way, told us the reasons why the Financial Resolution was to be allowed a day in this House, as distinct from the other parts of the Bill. 856 I quite understand that the Financial Resolution of the Irish Bill is a most important one, but, as my right hon. Friend (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) pointed out, what is the use of discussing a Financial Resolution if the Bill cannot be altered? If it cannot be altered the discussion will be a farce.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The Financial Resolution, as the Prime Minister pointed out, is not included in the sanction given to the measure by passing the Second Reading.
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
I quite understand what the right hon. Gentleman means, but we can make no alteration in the finance of the Bill, therefore why should we discuss the Financial Resolution? I quite admit that the finance of the Irish Bill is most difficult. It is not accepted by either of the parties of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and it is not accepted by our party. The principle of that finance goes dead against the Government's own Committee's Report. They appointed a Special Committee to advise them as to the financial principles upon which they should proceed. They neglected their advice, and brought forward a very complicated system of finance, which is quite incompatible with their principle of Federal Government They propose that this country should go on levying and collecting all taxation in Ireland, and that out of the money we should allow Ireland a fixed annuity to be fixed by a Joint Exchequer Board. She has got to make that do. Anything extra that Ireland requires for the development of the country Ireland must raise herself. Out of the balance of the taxes which we receive, we British taxpayers are to pay for reserved services and are to go on paying for those reserved services.
§ Mr. S. ROBERTS
I rather thought I was going beyond what was proper upon this occasion. I pass to what the Prime Minister said in regard to the Suggestion stage. He said that when he made his speech introducing the Parliament Bill what he alluded to was the Suggestion 857 stage. We have been told this afternoon that no suggestion we make which is incompatible with the principle of the Bill can be accepted. What is the use of our making suggestions? We shall not make any suggestions from this side of the House under these conditions, because it would be simply useless to do so. If we had any suggestions to make they would be against the principles of the Bills, because we are against the principle of both the Irish and the Welsh Bills. In introducing the Parliament Bill, the Prime Minister said:—
The delay of three Sessions or of two years, when the suspensory Veto of the House of Lords is interposed precludes the possibility—and I say this with the utmost assurance—of covertly or arbitrarily smuggling into law measures which are condemned by public opinion.Are these two Bills condemned by public opinion? You cannot raise any enthusiasm for either of them at your public meetings, whereas the enthusiasm against them is apparent. Look at the magnificent demonstration against the Welsh Bill held in London on Saturday last. You could not produce a demonstration like that in favour of the Welsh Bill, try as much as you like. That is an expression of public opinion. The Prime Minister went on to say that at the same time the Bill insuredan ample opportunity for the reconsideration and revision of hasty and slovenly legislation.The Prime Minister says that what he was alluding to as an opportunity for revision, was the suggestion stage. We cannot accept it. When the Parliament Bill was in Committee in 1911, Lord Peel, who was then a Member of this House, proposed an Amendment, the effect of which would have been that only one Bill should be brought under the Parliament Act in one Session, and the Prime Minister said:—It is difficult enough to pass a single controversial measure, and nobody knows that better than the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury), in the course of one Session.The Prime Minister went on to say:—There is not the least real prospect of the difficulty to which the hon. Member refers being realised.Later on in the Debate, having listened to what the Prime Minister said, and as showing that the impression created on my mind was the correct one, I said:—The Prime Minister said it would he very unlikely that this House would be able to pass more than one highly controversial measure in a Session.The OFFICIAL REPORT says:—The Prime Minister made an observation which/was inaudible.858 I believe that observation was that he agreed with what I said. I sincerely trust that the Amendment will be carried upon two grounds: first, that the Resolution creates a bad precedent for our procedure in the future, and, secondly, because we on these benches are dead against the principle of both the Irish and the Welsh Bills.
§ Mr. BARNES
I desire to offer a few observations from our distinctive point of view. As far as I understand the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) he holds the view that this Resolution and the carrying out of the Parliament Act interfere with some traditional rights of Members of this House. The obvious answer to that is that prior to the Parliament Act the progressive majority in this House at any particular time had no rights. That was manifest immediately after the election in 1906. We had then an immense majority, and although it could not be said that it was a composite majority, because the Liberals had a big majority over all other parties in the House, and although at that time there was a mandate clearly given for measures which had been discussed for nearly a generation, those measures, which were supported not only by the Liberal Government, but had the whole-hearted support of the Labour and Irish parties, were contemptuously treated and thrown out by the House of Lords——
§ Mr. BARNES
There was the Education Bill and the Bill which has been reintroduced this year in regard to plural voting. I believe the Plural Voting Bill was carried in the first or second year after the Government came into office in 1906, and although that was a Bill agreed upon by all those making up the progressive party in this country for over a generation, it was thrown out without the slightest compunction by the House of Lords. Under these circumstances, is it not idle for the right hon. Gentleman to talk about the Parliament Act and the traditional rights of Members of the House? The traditional rights were enjoyed by one party and by one party alone. It is perfectly obvious to my mind that the Bills which are intended to be passed by the operation of this Resolution are Bills upon which the people of this country have made up their minds. I do not say they understand the whole of the details of the Bills —I do not think anyone ever suggested 859 anything of the sort—but on the principle of the Home Rule Bill I have no hesitation in saying that the people of this country have made up their mind. The Govern-men were taunted by the hon. Member (Mr. S. Roberts) because in coming into office in 1906 with a majority over the Irish party, and therefore in a position to pass Home Rule, they did not do it. The answer is perfectly simple. There were matters then before the country which were pressing or at all events the Government had given pledges prior to coming into office that that particular election was not to be fought on Home Rule. But that Home Rule even then did not frighten the people, and that it has ceased now to be the bogey that it was, is perfectly obvious from the fate of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) who went to Scotland a few days ago and was immediately followed by the hon. Member (Mr. Devlin) and was snowed under in the enthusiasm of the people of Scotland for Home Rule.
Again, in regard to the Welsh Church Bill, I do not know, and I am not going to say, if the people of this country have any enthusiasm for that Bill, but the Welsh people have some enthusiasm for it, and if we are going to have any regard for the principles of democracy at all, it is perfectly obvious that the Welsh people are entitled to that Bill, on which their mind has been made up for the last generation. Speaking as a Scotch Member, I can say without the slightest hesitation that the people of Scotland, by three or four to one at the very least, want the Scottish Temperance Bill and have demanded it over and over again. That being so, coming to what is the real practical point so far as I am concerned, and having regard to the fact that the people of this country have made up their mind upon these three Bills, why should the House of Commons again smother itself in talk about them? They have been discussed, rediscussed and discussed in every Clause and in every line, sometimes in every word, and if you discuss them over again this year in just as great detail as we did last year, we should find the same opposition from hon. Gentlemen opposite, because they are not concerned in discussing these Bills with a view to perfecting them in detail, but they are simply concerned in talking and talking and talking until the things are killed by talk. We are not going to lend ourselves to anything like that, and therefore we are glad that the Prime Minister has 860 brought in a Resolution to-day which will have the effect of getting these Bills through with a minimum of talk.
I should like on my own behalf, and I think on behalf of all those with whom I am associated, to enter a protest even against the limited amount of talk upon these Bills that we are going to have. I have been in public life for a good many years, and I know tae difficulty of getting any measure of democratic reform passed though this House. I know all the interests which are against any measure of democratic reform. I know the difficulty, even apart from financial or public interests, in getting the people of the country educated up to a measure of democratic reform, and I think it is a sufficient safeguard for all the interests involved that that, measure should be brought here and discussed as it is discussed, and if it passed this House, I think it ought to be passed into law altogether. Our experience of the last few weeks amply justifies me in saying that when a measure has been ripened, so to speak, by passing this House once, and is not passed into law at once, there is some danger of its not being passed into law at all. Those who are concerned in pushing some measure of democratic reform, once it has got through this House automatically, allow their energies to slacken. They themselves are going away somewhere else, scaling other walls of privilege and monoply, directing their energies to educating the people upon something else, and during that time of slackness the interests involved and attacked by the measure of democratic freedom concentrate their forces again to mislead and prejudice the public against that measure. That is the simple explanation of the apparent success of the demonstration in Hyde Park on Saturday. That is the simple explanation of a great deal more that has happened from time to time in regard to the Bills which passed this House last year and the year before, and I protest against the danger of these Bills being ultimately lost, not only by that but by lapses of Ministers which have nothing whatever to do with the merits of it; therefore, for my part, on behalf of the party to which I belong, I am glad that the Resolution has been submitted to the House. At all events it will get this Bill through with a minimum of debate. We shall gladly vote for it, but I was sorry to hear either the First Lord or the Prime Minister, I forget which, 861 make a reference to-day to a matter which may come on before us before long, and that is the reconstitution of the House of Lords, because we on these benches have no faith in any reconstituted House of Lords. We believe that that will be an even greater barrier than the present House, because it will have the form and semblance possibly of a democratic mandate—[Interruption]—I know what is in the mind of hon. Members opposite. They hope at all events, if they do not believe, that as the result of pressure on their side they may have a House of Lords set up with large areas of election, possibly some fancy franchise, possibly an admixture of glorified lord mayors, or something of that sort, or returned Proconsuls from foreign parts. A House of Lords of that character will be even worse than the House of Lords we have now, and when the time comes to discuss some reconstituted Second Chamber of that sort it w ill have the firm and unhesitating opposition of every one of the Members with whom I am accustomed to associate.
§ Mr. SANDYS
The hon. Member has made a most interesting contribution to the Debate. He has made it perfectly clear that, so far as those for whom he speaks are concerned, they are absolutely and completely opposed to any Second Chamber at all. They are out and out Single-Chamber men. That statement is more particularly interesting in view of the fact that he has just made another statement with regard to his views on the Lower Chamber—the Single Chamber—in which he completely believes. His view is that there should be no Upper Chamber at all, but, on the other hand, he desires that the restrictions on the freedom of speech and liberty of action in this Chamber should be increased by the extraordinary provisions of this proposal. He made one other remarkable statement and that was with regard to the attitude of the general mass of the people on these two Bills which are again coming up, not for discussion but for automatically passing through this House. He said he believed the people had made up their minds upon this question, although they admitted they did not understand anything about the details. That I am inclined to think is an attitude of mind which is rather encouraged by the Leaders of the Labour party.
§ Mr. BARNES
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent, but I 862 said nothing of the sort. What I said, or what I intended to say, was that the details had not been put before them.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I think when the hon. Member reads the OFFICIAL REPORT he will find he said that the people had made up their minds, though they did not understand the details. That is, I think, an attitude which is largely encouraged by the Leaders of the Labour party, and which they desire to see amongst their supporters in the country. I do not think it is necessary to deal with the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, because a considerable proportion of his remarks seemed to me to be irrelevant to the matter under discussion, but I think we are entitled to strongly dispute the statement of the Prime Minister that he regarded it as a complete answer to any objections which he might make that in the original Committee stage of the Bill it was discussed Clause by Clause and word by word. Our recollections of what occurred differ from his. He-went on to refer to the two classes of Amendments. He said there were Amendments which might be regarded as-intended to improve the Bill or make it more acceptable to certain classes of the community, while, on the other hand, there were Amendments which were obviously proposed for the purpose of-wrecking the measure. That is a distinction to which the right hon. Gentleman attached very great importance to-day, but, so far as I remember, no distinction of that kind was drawn during the original discussion of the Home Rule Bill, because practically all the Amendments of any-importance whatever were rejected, and a large number of them were never even discussed at all, and the question whether they were improving the Bill or making it more acceptable was never suggested until this afternoon. I have not the slightest doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to pass this Motion with the usual majority, and there are two reasons why this proposal will present no difficulty whatever. The first is because the mass of the people of this country have now completely lost their interest in the proceedings of this House. They rightly regard the proceedings of this House at present as a melancholy farce. They have come to the conclusion that we are not here to deliberate upon or to examine proposals which may be of the greatest importance to the welfare of the country and the future of the people—in fact the more important they are, the less opportunity 863 we usually have to discuss them. But they have come to recognise that under the accepted rule of the new Constitution with which the right hon. Gentleman has provided us, we are here as part of the Parliamentary machine for the purpose of automatically registering decisions at which the Cabinet have already arrived.
The second reason why the right hon. Gentleman will have no difficulty in passing this Motion, is because in each of these oases where an important decision has to be taken hon. Gentlemen opposite do not fail to recognise that their political existence and their political salaries are at stake. Under these circumstances I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will have any difficulty in forcing this Motion through the House of Commons. It will only unfortunately make our position more ludicrous in the eyes of the nation than it is even at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman stated in his speech that this Motion was one of the necessary consequences of the Parliament Act. I read with very great interest only a day or so ago the discussions which took place during the different stages of the passage of that Act through this House, and I am bound to say that the procedure which the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends forecasted as coining into operation under the Act is very different from what we now find when the Act has come into practical operation. It was stated time after time when the measure was under consideration that the Liberal Government attached very great importance indeed to the powers of delay which were being granted to the House of Lords, and also to the powers of this House for the revision and reconsideration of measures which might be submitted to it for a second time. One quotation from the right hon. Gentleman's speeches has already been read to the House, and no answer to that, I may say incidentally, was vouchsafed by the First Lord of the Admiralty when he had an opportunity of making quite clear and explaining what the Prime Minister really meant when he made that speech in 1911. The First Lord of the Admiralty himself made a very similar statement about the same time. He said:—But we do not propose Single Chamber Government it is not in our Bill; it is not in our Preamble; it is not in our policy. We propose that the absolute Veto of the House of Lords shall now cease and be determined for ever, and that in the place of that absolute Veto they shall exercise a delaying power over all legislation, which will give ample time for fair consideration by the 864 country and full opportunities for revision."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1911, col. 2035, Vol. XXI.]Where are the opportunities for revision at the present time? The Prime Minister made a speech on the Third Reading of the Bill very much to the same effect. He was exaggerating the difficulties in which he thought the Liberal party would be placed. He said:—The House of Commons will be embarrassed, hampered, and fettered at every moment by the elaborate series of safeguards and precautionary provisions which this second Clause has introduced, and that it will not be enough for the purpose of an Education Bill, or any Bill, introduced by the Government of the day to pass it through the House of Commons in the first Session. It will have to go through that ordeal during the second and third Sessions. I have sufficient belief in the power of public opinion in this country, in the ventilating and enlightening effect of Parliamentary and outside discussion and criticism, to feel confident that a met sure which was really being forced by the House of Commons outstaying or misreading its mandate, and forcing legislation against the opinion of a large majority of the people would never stand, and could never stand, the series of checks to which it would be exposed under this Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1911, cols. 1697–8, Vol. XXV.]I cannot help recalling a prophetic speech made by the right, hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), who pointed out how this Bill would actually work when it came into operation. He said:—Let us consider for one moment how the plan will work. The Government bring forward a Bill, let us say for illustration, a Home Rule Bill. The more it is considered the less it is liked because it appears that undue burdens are laid on the taxpayers of England and Scotland and because it introduced dangers of a kind for which no compensation is found, and for which no safeguard is provided. In is forced through this House, and the Upper House rejects it. Let us suppose the Bill is profoundly unpopular, let us suppose that if It were sent to a Referendum, it would be rejected unanimously. Let us suppose it is as much hated by the constituencies of this country as were the two previous Home Rule Bills. How is that public opinion to work under your two years' delay? Is the controversy to go on? We know exactly the sort of thing that would go on.…There will be petitions, great deal of public speaking, letters to the papers, and all the ordinary and familiar machinery will he set to work without any power of bringing out a clear and definite issue. There will be no opportunity given to the people, whom you are in this unsatisfactory fashion endeavouring to consult during these two years to express their views."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1911, col. 1705, Vol. XXV.]That is exactly what has occurred. I think that was a most remarkable forecast by the right hon. Gentleman which has been absolutely borne out in every possible respect. I think it is perfectly clear that right hon. Gentlemen opposite and their Friends are willingly blinding themselves to the real state of public opinion and the real facts that exist at the present time. They are still, as I understand, ignoring, or affecting to ignore, the unyielding opposition of Ulster to the proposals of the Home Rule 865 Bill. The proposed Home Rule scheme, they tell us, is a sort of fantastic basis for a system of federalism which is ultimately to be extended to the whole of the United Kingdom. Do they really think that at the present moment on the Home Rule Bill they could command a majority among the electors of the United Kingdom? As to the Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales, they are perfectly well aware that it is execrated and detested by every supporter of the Unionist party in this country, and, in addition, that there are, as I am personally aware, a very large number of those who were formerly adherents of their cause who will no longer support them on account of the strong objection they have to the spoliation of a religious body to which they may not belong themselves, but for whose work and objects they have the highest respect and admiration. Taking these questions on the widest possible ground, I do not for one moment believe, nor do hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves sincerely believe, that they have any mandate whatever from the people for any of those measures which are before us in this Motion. I am convinced that if they were now forced to go to the country—I do not attach very much importance to the right hon. Gentleman's statement that a General Election is within measurable distance; I do not know what he meant by measurable distance—their party would be overwhelmed a disaster not less than that which overtook the Conservative party at the General Election of 1906. A want of political sagacity is not a charge that I should care to bring against the Prime Minister. I think he is perfectly well aware of the position he and his party now occupy in the estimation of the country. I do not think he is likely to take any risks of that kind whatever, but I, for my part, shall certainly vote for the Amendment proposed by the right hen. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), because I believe that the Motion moved by the Prime Minister would constitute not only an outrage on the House of Commons, but an insult to the electors whom we represent.
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down made, it seems to me, one very incorrect inference and another very unfair inference. He said that the people of the country have lost interest in the proceedings of this House. I have not had the long experience of the right hon. Gentlemen who have taken part in 866 the Debate to-day, but I do want to say in the reminiscent vein, seeing that we have had the example set from the Front Bench opposite, that when one comes to the House of Commons he expects great things from it. I have always been led to believe that this was the ultimate acme of ambition of most public men, and that they found in the House of Commons room for the exercise of their great abilities. I think that is so after listening to the speeches of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have discovered that the House of Commons has an enormous interest for the public of this country. I am sure of that because of the anxiety displayed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to make speeches in this House and to have them reported outside. If the House of Commons had not this importance and if hon. Members did not want the public to have the advantage of what they can contribute to the Debates, then I cannot conceive what induces some of them to get into every Debate and talk on every conceivable subject. If it is true that the Debates in this House have no weight at all with the public, surely the remedy which will allow Parliament to take part in the discussion of its own affairs is to relieve this Parliament of a great deal of unnecessary talk and discussion that goes on in it, and let those of us who belong to other parts of the United Kingdom manage our own affairs in our own way and with our own abilities in our own countries. In the second place, the hon. Member (Mr. Sandys) said something which was unfair—I hope he will agree that it is unfair—namely, that we on this side, recognising that our political existence and salaries are at stake, will vote for this Resolution. I wonder what the hon. Gentleman means? I wonder if he thinks that we on this side are so anxious to secure the salaries that are paid to us, less Income Tax, each quarter, that we will be induced to do certain things. I think a protest ought to be made against this argument and this point of view. Does it mean that the hon. Gentleman thinks we could not live unless we were paid these salaries? Does it mean that those of us on this side make a profession of our politics? [An HON. MEMBER: "Some of you."] If the hon. Member who says, "Some of you," will take part in the Debate he may name hon. Members on this side who do make a profession of their politics. Some people make a profession of interruptions of a kind that do 867 not do them credit. I wish to emphasise this point of view. It is an unfair deduction to draw, that we are governed at all in any way by the salary attached to the post of Member of Parliament. It is an excellent thing at any rate that that has been done, because it has widened the choice of Members in this House, and I think that Members in discussing this ought to bear in mind this other consideration that the average elector in this country could not even go to the ballot if it were not that the candidates provide them with the opportunity. That is one of the great shames of public life, that the average elector in this country cannot come to the ballot unless we, who are returned to this House, and those whom we defeat, put down the actual hard cash to allow them to vote. That is an absurdity which I hope the House will remedy very soon. With regard to the Motion before the House, the case for the Government has been proved up to the hilt in reference to the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. The case is not nearly so strong as regards the Scottish Temperance Bill. In reference to that Bill, I think I can defend my vote on this Resolution on those grounds, that the people of Scotland are clearly of opinion that local veto, whatever else they are against, is one of the methods by which the temperance question will have to be dealt with in Scotland. The majority of the Scottish representatives over and over again have been returned with that at the back of their minds.
We Scotsmen have a special grievance against the House of Lords. We have only sixteen representatives in that Chamber. We do not want any more, but everyone of those is a Conservative in politics. [An HON. MEMBER: "Make some more."] We cannot make peers in Scotland. We are limited by the Treaty of Union to a selected number of peers in the Upper House, who are chosen by their peers from time to time for that Second Chamber. Every one of those Scottish representative peers is a Conservative. There was one exception. That was previous to the introduction of this Budget, when there was one Liberal. After the Dissolution a new election of Scottish representative peers was necessary, and the House of Lords being against the Budget, the one Liberal was removed from the Scottish representative peers, and they were made entirely Conservative. 868 The Scottish people believe that they should have power to deal with a situation of this kind, and therefore the Government, looking at it from that point of view, are entitled to take up the attitude which they are taking up on this matter. But what I do not understand is this: I think that the first two Bills are in a different category from the third Bill. I want to see the Scottish Temperance Bill passed, and I am content to take it even with local option, though my own view is that it will not be operative in industrial centres in Scotland, and that, therefore, we shall require to come back for further legislation in the matter of Scottish temperance. But here is the point of difference, which I think we are entitled to take up. Why does the Government put the Scottish Bill in the same category with the Irish and the Welsh Bill? These two Bills went through the House of Lords, and the House of Lords rejected them ignominiously. It refused to discuss them at all, and would not give them a Second Reading. Contumacy of that kind I think deserves to be met with the Parliament Act.
In the other case the House of Lords did deal with the Scottish Temperance Bill. They made Amendments to that Bill, and dealt with it faithfully or faithlessly according to your point of view in regard to the country. Why, in those circumstances, do the Government avail themselves of the Parliament Act, and refuse altogether to consider the suggestions that are made by the House of Lords? I put the point, because I am anxious for this reason. The Prime Minister suggested this afternoon, and the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University suggested that there would be changes in this House. In fact, the Noble Lord's anxiety does not seem so much to leave the House, because it has no influence with the public as that he should come over to this side. If he was seated on this side of the House, the public would be more interested. Bearing that in mind, we shall be sitting on those benches for a short time. [HON. MEMBERS: "In a short time."] Perhaps in a short time, and for a short time, and we may be subject to the same kind of power as our Government is exercising at present. We may find ourselves in the position of having an Amendment which we may desire to consider, especially if you have a Second Chamber, which I hope you will not. I associate myself with the labour position 869 on this point. The Prime Minister will find when he tries to reform the Rouse of Lords that a good many Members of this House will not follow him on that subject, even at the expense of our salaries. Even then we ought to be in a position to object to a process of this kind when the discussion of the topic has not received fair play. The House of Lords did amend this Bill, and gave reasons, whether you agree with there or not, for their views, and I think that the Government should deal with those suggestions, instead of bringing this Bill under the provision of the Parliament Act.
Sir GILBERT PARKER
The speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down is illuminating in one respect. His conscience is not stirred when it is a case, as he calls it, of contumacy on the part of the House of Lords. When the House of Lords rejects two Bills because it disagrees absolutely, with the principle of the Bill, he says that you are justified in forcing these Bills through under the Parliament Act to punish the House of Lords, which has obeyed the dictates of its conscience in regard to the principles of these Bills. But when it comes to a Bill dealing with that particular section of the United Kingdom in which the hon. Member is especially interested, and it is not a matter of principle as he suggests, then the Government ought not to apply the Parliament Act. Was there ever so clear a condemnation of the Parliament Act? If a supporter of the Government says that this is not a Bill which ought to be dealt with under the Parliament Act, does it not show that the door is opened by the Parliament Act to every kind of abuse, which the hon. Member has pointed out? Quite clearly the hon. Member is dissatisfied with the first operation of the Parliament Act upon one of three Bills brought down to this House from the House of Lords. The hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Glasgow was equally illuminating. He said that he had no faith whatever in any reconstituted House of Lords. I think we know now why it is, apart from many other reasons, that the Government have not thought fit to carry out the Preamble to the Parliament Act and reconstitute the House of Lords. The coalition that exists at Leicester is the coalition that exists in this House, and the Labour party, not the independent, but the dependent Labour party, supports the Government and assist its purpose and prevent the 870 Government from carrying out its own pledges and promises when it suits their purpose.
We have established clearly this afternoon that the principle of the reconstruction of the House of Lords, on which the Government went to the country at the last election, is not to be applied in this House because a body of thirty odd hon. Members sitting below the Gangway prevent them from doing it. That is the coalition. When this Parliament Act was before the House in debate on the Second Reading, I happened to make certain remarks to which the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretary had the melancholy pleasure of listening, and I spoke rather strongly about this very question of Amendment. I said that I believed from my reading of the Clauses of the Bill that this so-called opportunity for discussion during three Sessions was wholly illusory, and that it might just as well be two weeks, because either period would be just as immoral, as there would not be adequate-discussion. I then pointed out that the Bill offered, as I thought, no real opportunity for discussion or amendment. The Prime Minister shook his head and remarked that there would be adequate opportunity of discussion of Amendments. He led me to suppose in that Debate that there would be a Committee period in the Bill in which Amendments dealing with principles should be brought forward, and that after the Bill had been to the House of Lords and been discussed in the country, and fresh light thrown upon it, when it came back here there should be a Committee period for discussion. We are now informed through this extraordinary Motion to-day that there is to be no Committee phase at all, that we are to be thrown back upon a possible Suggestion stage or period, but that the Suggestion stage or period must only include Amendments which would not interfere with the principle of the Bill, and which, indeed, cannot effect any serious Amendment to the Bill.
We will say, for instance, that the suggestion is put forward that Ulster should be excluded from the scope of the Home Rule Bill, and that even now the Government, to rid themselves of a great peril in front of them, might consider it, because it suited their purpose. But that, it seems to me, is the only kind of suggestion that the Government would not consider. Certainly the thing is, I will not say a farce—it is worse than pantomime. The procedure under this particular Motion is mere harle- 871 quinade in view of the fact that I have these figures which I collected just before I came down to the House, that there were 104 private Amendments discussed and 1,746 not discussed—those were not repetitions—and that there were sixteen Government Amendments discussed on Report stage, and 127 not discussed. I have a list here of subjects which might well have been bases for compromise on a fresh Committee stage of the Bill, and I ask the Chief Secretary to listen to a few of them, to see whether, if one desired to bring in an Amendment or make a suggestion on any one of those subjects, such suggestion should be considered. I would ask him if he does not think it wrong to exclude from a possible Committee stage, questions which were not dealt with at all in Committee on the Bill, because the Amendments were not moved. I will mention a few of those subjects. There was the position of Irish Ministers. I had an Amendment down on that subject which was not discussed, though I considered it an important one. Other Members also had Amendments on the same subject. Then there was the questions of the power of the Lord Lieutenant to withhold assent and the elections of Irish Members, two subjects in regard to which the whole of the important Amendments were not discussed at all. Another question was the Irish Members of Parliament at Westminster, on which there were very important Amendments which were never even considered. Then the taxing powers of the Irish Parliament, excluding the general power of altering Imperial taxes and the revision, after a number of years, of the financial conditions, was a question which was never discussed on any single Amendment before this House. Then the establishment of the Civil Service Committee, the powers of concurrent legislation in the Imperial Parliament, Orders in Council, and the Irish constituencies are only a few of the very grave and important subjects -on which there were Amendments down on the Paper, but which Amendments were never discussed.
Does anyone think that this so-called Suggestion stage—which is not only illusory, but intended to be illusory—offers any opportunity for dealing with these very grave and important matters which, if Home Rule became an accomplished fact, would involve the Irish Parliament—as they were not dealt with—in very grave 872 future difficulty? I think I am not unfair in stating, that the attitude taken up by the Government is true attitude of the First Lord of the Admiralty, whose whole view is this: "We have brought in Bills; those Bills have been rejected by the Second Chamber; the Second Chamber must be rendered powerless in order that we may put through such Bills as we desire, whether the country wants them or not." [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Yes; whether the country desires them or not. The hon. Member shakes his head, but we know perfectly well that at this moment, if the signs are worth anything at all, the Government have not behind them the opinion of the people of this country, and they would hesitate—[An HON. MEMBER: "No"]—they would if the by-elections are of any value at all—to ask the country to decide now, in the middle of this year, upon the Home Rule Bill.
Sir G. PARKER
The hon. Member says they will come in again. Of course that is just as idle as any prophecy I could make, but I have evidence in favour of what I say, and try evidence is that the country is pronouncing against the position of the Government and the situation which they have created for themselves. We heard the First Lord of the Admiralty riding off this afternoon on a very playful and freakish steed. He was reproving Members of the Opposition for their lack of consideration for the logical arguments put forward by the Members of the Ministry. I can remember when the ordinary procedure of this House was rendered a farce by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, who sat just below the Gangway here, where my Noble Friend and other hon. Members now sit, and, on these Opposition benches, prevented the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. A. Lyttelton) from speaking, I think, during a whole hour and a half, one evening. If ever there was an example of a criminal accusing someone else of committing a crime that was the case of the First Lord of the Admiralty this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman has learned in the school of political discussion that the thing to do when wrong yourself is to accuse your opponents of being in the wrong. If we were to depend for the coming procedure of this House upon the past history of the right hon. Gentleman 873 himself and his Friends the future of this Parliament would be deeply in danger. The right hon. Gentleman avoided discussing the real question at issue. He did not point out that we were at liberty to discuss in the Suggestion stage one thing and one thing only, namely, the principle of the Bill, but not the application of the principle to any individual Amendments or any considered objection which the Opposition might bring forward. From my point of view, and from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, it is quite clear that the Government intended from the beginning, I will not say directly, to mislead the House. I will not say they intended to do it directly, but they so mapped out their Clauses, they so divided the phraseology that, during the whole of the proceedings on the First, Second, and Third Readings in the past Session of Parliament, there was not a single Member of this House who believed that the only opportunity there would be for the discussion of Amendments would be this so-called Suggestion stage. I say that the Government have misled the House and the country, and Parliament, as my right hon. Friend who sits below me said, must suffer for a very long period, or at any rate until another Government comes into power who will revive some of those ancient traditions of which Liberals have been so proud.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member who has just sat down through his review of past incidents in this House, nor to follow him into his forecast with regard to the electoral future as it may affect hon. Members of this House. But I think I am justified in saying that his speech, like a number of the other speeches delivered on that side of the House on the Amendment, sought rather to challenge the Parliament Act than to offer a direct attack upon the Motion now before the House. Inasmuch as that measure has been sanctioned by the electors of the country on two separate occasions, we may be forgiven on this side of the House if we regard the challenge as coming rather late. The only reason why I intervene in the Debate is to say a word or two about the inclusion of the Scottish Bill in the Motion. I think I echo the view of much the larger number of Scottish Members when I say that they are glad that that Bill has been included in the Resolution. In fact I do not know that a stronger case could be made out, if indeed so strong a case could be made out for the 874 inclusion of any measures as can be made out for the inclusion of the Scottish Bill. What is the history of the Scottish Bill? It is well known to Members of this House that the measure has been on five separate occasions read a second time in this House, and has passed through three Committee stages without the Closure being applied. Therefore, is it surprising that we have come to the conclusion that a Bill supported by the vast body of the electors in Scotland, and a Bill with such a Parliamentary record, will never reach the Statute Book unless by means of the Parliament Act and its provisions. Therefore, those of us who believe in the support which has been vouchsafed to the Bill, and also doubt the possibility of its getting on the Statute Book in any other way, welcome its inclusion in the Motion moved by the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment made certain criticisms in this connection of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland. He said that it was really due to the "obstinacy" of the right hon. Gentleman that the Bill which we are now discussing is in the position in which it is to-day. I think there is the gravest reason to question that view.
It may be that in the case of our Friends we prefer to speak of "obstinacy" as consistency, and that in the case of our opponents, we are apt to regard consistency as obstinacy, but I venture to say that the overwhelming majority of Scottish Members regard the action of the Secretary for Scotland in this matter as reflecting the overwhelming body of Scottish opinion. The right hon. Gentleman said something about a conciliatory attitude on the part of the Secretary for Scotland, and suggested that he might have compromised at another stage of the measure. I ask the right hon. Gentleman what were the terms of compromise to be? Was the Secretary for Scotland offered anything in exchange for any proposal which he might make? I have always understood that compromise involves giving something and getting something. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland was asked to introduce a new time limit; he was asked to insert an Amendment on disinterested management; he was asked to insert an Amendment dealing with compulsory insurance; he was asked to concede all three points and get nothing. That was the situation as I understood it. [An HON. 875 MEMBER: "No."] If the right hon. Gentleman had made those three concessions, would the Bill have been worth having? We think not. Concessions of that character are really not a compromise at all, and another name would have more accurately described the Secretary for Scotland's action if he had seen fit to follow the suggestion which has been made. It would not have been a compromise; it would have been a surrender, and, many persons in Scotland would have been apt to think, a betrayal as well. Therefore I am quite certain that the Scottish Members entirely approve the attitude of the Scottish Secretary in this matter, and will support the Motion, which includes the Scottish Temperance Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh in the speech he made seemed to think that the Parliament Act can only be applied to Bills which have been rejected by the House of Lords on the Second Reading, but if he looks at the Act again he will find that it applies equally to a Bill in regard to which Amendments have been introduced in the House of Lords with which this House disagrees. That is the position of the Scottish Temperance Bill. The right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite paid a very high tribute to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sherwell). I do not yield to anyone in my respect for the hon. Member for Huddersfield. I have the highest admiration for his qualities. But I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman's admiration will extend to approval of the hon. Member's views not only on the Temperance Bill, but with regard to the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Church Bill, because his views on those two Bills are very strongly expressed and very well known? When it comes to a Scottish measure, we may perhaps be excused for preferring to adopt the views of our own people and of our own Members rather than the views of any English Member, however distinguished he may be. In this particular matter of disinterested management, I think I may say that there has been a good deal of newborn zeal shown on the opposite side of the House which has never before been shown by any Member on that side. I should be surprised to learn, though I may be wrong, that a single speech in favour of that principle which is now so applauded by the opposite side has ever been delivered in the country or the House. [HON. MEM- 876 BERS: "Yes."] I say, if I am wrong, I am sorry, but I should be glad to be referred to the occasion.
§ Earl WINTERTON
If the hon. Gentleman will look up the Debates, he will find that on every one of the occasions on which the Scottish Temperance Bill has been before us I have made a speech on every Debate during the last six years in favour of that principle.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) made a speech on that subject more than once.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
As my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chamberlain) is referred to, may I say that before ever he was a Member of this House he persuaded the Birmingham Corporation to adopt the suggestion, and they submitted it in a Bill?
§ Mr. MUNRO
Of course, I at once withdraw the universality of the proposition which I had advanced. I have read a great many speeches made in the country on the subject of temperance by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and, so far as my recollection serves me, they never showed such zeal in this subject in former times as they have in the last few years where this particular Bill is concerned. So far as the principle of the Bill is concerned, we were told a few moments ago that it was accepted in the Amendment which was moved the other day. I think if the right hon. Gentleman had been here he would have recognised at once that while the Amendment which was moved professed to accept the principle of the Bill, that principle was, in Debate, hotly resented by a great many of the speakers from the opposite side. I remember that the Member for Aberdeen and Glasgow University (Sir H. Craik) said that the principle of the Bill was repugnant to him that he was opposed to it root and branch, and that view was reiterated from the opposite side. I do not wish, however, to pursue that particular 877 topic. I say looking to the attitude of people in Scotland in this matter, to the attitude of the overwhelming number of Scottish Members, and to the impossibility of securing that this Bill shall be placed on the Statute Book in any other way,—for those reasons I think its inclusion in this Motion abundantly justified, and, speaking as a Scottish Member, I welcome it.
§ Mr. MALCOLM
I think we are coming perilously near a Second Reading Debate on the Scottish Temperance Bill, and I do not propose to take any part in it. Leaving the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. J. Hogge), and the last hon. Member who spoke, to settle their differences as to the effect of the Parliament Act, and what should come under it, I may say they have made their bed and have got to lie on it. If they will be partners in a coalition majority, they may expect that a triangular guillotine will cause some of them to suffer. I rise to say how aghast I feel at this Resolution, and at the bullying methods which the Government choose to adopt towards the minority in this House. I cannot understand why they are speeding up their legislation at this very high velocity. They are supposed to be here to serve the country, and not to serve themselves. I ask myself, and I ask anybody else whether they really think that the country wants these measures. There is absolutely no sign of it if you judge by the ordinary tests that used to obtain. Petitions used to count for something. They have been poured on this House against two of the main measures which are included in this guillotine. Demonstrations used to count for a great deal with Ministers on the Front Bench, but they now seem to count for nothing at all. There have been demonstrations of a most remarkable character against Home Rule, and Welsh Disestablishment, and there have been none I know of in its favour. These demonstrations might just as well never have been held for the amount of effect they have on hon. Gentlemen opposite and right hon. Gentlemen who cling to the Front Bench. Then there are by-elections. But petitions, demonstrations, by-elections, not one of those things seems to change the right hon. Gentlemen from their unalterable opinion that the Bills are most popular Bills in the estimation of and in the eyes of the public. That being so, might we not ask the right hon. Gentleman to reflect that by paying no attention to those three ancient 878 methods of protest, have they not rather driven the men of Ulster to the line which they have been forced to adopt? The excuse I heard to-day from the Prime Minister for the speeding up of this legislation was very remarkable. He said that since he had introduced the Bills a second time they had majorities of ninety-nine, ninety-eight, and something a little over one hundred. He said that only once in three times had he to stop debate by a Closure, which shows how the appetite grows by eating.
We are told that to make up for this Resolution of unparalleled audacity there is the futile and fantastic stage known as the Suggestion stage, or, as it might be described, the "Suggestion stage whisper," which is going to be of absolutely no use, and, as far as I know, no responsible person will take part in it. When the Prime Minister introduced the Parliament Act we were told something was going to be done to revise ill-considered legislation. This afternoon, as far as I can gather, there is the safety of this Suggestion stage, which we were told was going to be useful, if useful for anything, to correct inadvertencies in drafting, or other minor matters of that kind, and which, if the Government had paid proper attention to its own legislation, need never have been necessary. I cannot believe that the Government imagine that their legislation, like other evils, can be cared by suggestions. There is no possibility of it. Is this Suggestion stage their counter to the charge we are always bringing forward that they are afraid of debate and discussion, and are smuggling these measures through the House of Commons and through Parliament. I would wish, if they had any view of that kind, that they would take their courage in both hands, and that they would not sham any tenderness for tradition, and that they would do away with the Report and Third Reading stages, and try to pass all these Bills at once, this evening. There is cue thing worse than treating Parliament with these constant guillotines and efforts at repression of speech, and that is to make a farce of the Parliamentary opportunities which we have. I believe Parliament would stand even higher, much higher than it does at present, if the Prime Minister would make an end of all this and do what he means to do, in fact and not only in theory, and pass all the Bills in a night, and then go on to something else, and then go to the country 879 and see how the country likes it. There is one thing about the Suggestion stage I should like to know, and that is, if those suggestions are made, whether Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means will preside over our deliberations in that stage, and whether the Chair for the time being will be able to regulate those suggestions, and able to say which are in order and which are not, or whether it really will be settled by the fiat of a prejudiced Cabinet? There is a great deal as to this left very nebulous at the present time which really we ought to know, if there are people still on the opposite side who take any pride or delight in the procedure of the House of Commons. If it should be the case that it is left entirely to the Government what suggestions are to be discussed and what suggestion are to be dismissed, then I say that is bullying unheard of in the annals of Parliament, and shows, as I have long thought, that the power of the Cabinet is increasing, and it ought to be diminished.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
This Resolution is not a startling apparition. We have been accustomed to Closure Resolutions and even to stringent Closure Resolution, but I think hon. Members opposite, while agreeing to that proposition, are trying to represent this as an innovation even among Closure Resolutions. I do not think that can be sustained. This procedure does not appear before this House for the first time. Everything that is in this Resolution is implicit in the Parliament Act; it is merely an explication of the procedure laid down and deliberately determined by the House in the Parliament Act. The consequence is that every speech, or practically very speech, which has been made against this Resolution to-day is really a Second Reading speech against the Parliament Act. I have no doubt hon. and right hon. Members opposite are trying to create the impression in the country, and quite legitimately from their point of view, that by this Resolution and by this procedure we are attempting to smuggle through these measures of first-class importance. It is legitimate enough for them to endeavour to create that impression, but that impression is quite contrary to the fact. I do not think, in view of the attitude of the country towards the Parliament Act and in view of these long discussions, they will succeed in creating that impression. An ordinary Bill must be passed through First Reading, Second 880 Reading, Committee stage, Report and Third Reading, but the Bills we are now dealing with have to do far more. The proceedings which we are now entering upon are not complete in themselves. Those proceedings were commenced last year and they do not end this year, but they will next year. These proceedings are merely the continuation of the long and almost interminable discussions on each of these Bills which we had last Session.
Instead of checking discussion, and. instead of smuggling these Bills through by this procedure, we are giving a longer discussion and a fuller discussion. Formerly, without the Parliament Act, a Bill required only one Session and one discussion to pass into law. Now it is having the opportunity of three Sessions, and there will be plenty of opportunity for further discussion. The Bills will go to the House of Lords, and if mere discussion is wanted, and if mere propaganda and advertisement is wanted, there will be an excellent platform in the House of Lords. They can discuss them there to the limits of human endurance. Not only is there the opportunity of discussion in the Lords, but there is the opportunity which is provided here of the Suggestion stage. I think that hon. Members opposite have done less than justice to the opportunity that they will have in the Suggestions stage for the further discussion of this Bill. They will have an opportunity which they can use to great effect. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) was very contemptuous about the Suggestions stage. He said that Amendments would be accepted only from those who were willing to accept the principle of the Bill. I do not know what authority he had for that statement.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I do not think that because a Member makes a suggestion as to Amendments, he necessarily accepts the principle of the Bill.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I quite agree with the hon. Member. What the Prime Minister said was that it would rest with the Government to decide what suggestions should be discussed, and that for the purpose of that decision a distinction would be drawn between those that were put forward as improvements in the Bill, when the principle of the Bill was accepted, and those put forward as 881 wrecking Amendments; and that any Amendment not put forward on the basis of the acceptance of the Bill would not be suitable for discussion.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I can quite understand a distinction being drawn between a wrecking Amendment, which, if it were carried, would destroy the Bill or make it inoperative, and an Amendment which would still leave the Bill workable and which might quite fairly be moved by one who rejected the principle in toto. I can quite appreciate the right hon. Gentleman saying that no Amendment would make him accept the principle of the Bill. Not even a General Election would make him accept it. Not even the determined will of the vast and overwhelming majority of the people of the United Kingdom would make him and his colleagues accept the principle. No one expects them to accept it. If one believes that a thing is wrong, one does not accept the principle even though one submits to its being passed. But it must be recognised—the right hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot help recognising—that as the term fixed by the Parliament Act expires the passing of the Bill becomes inevitable. It is quite true that they may not have given up hope of ultimately defeating the Bill. They may hope to do so by other methods. I do not know how far the idea of revolution or other means enters into their mind, but they must recognise that as the third Session draws near the passing of the Bill becomes inevitable. They must then put to themselves the alternative: "Would it not be more desirable for the country, even though we reject the principle, that the Bill should be passed in a somewhat different form? We regard them both as evil; we regard the principle as unsound in both cases; but of two evils we will choose that which we believe will inflict the lesser injury on the country." I think I am only doing hon. Members justice when I say that that is the view that will appeal to them, and that if they honestly and straightforwardly approached the Suggestions stage they might find a much wider field for discussion and even for educating the country on what they believe to be the evils of the Bill than they are now inclined to think.
The right hon. Gentleman delivered a very eloquent speech, which made a profound appeal to Members on this side. He is always courteous; he always impresses us with his sincerity, his desire for conciliation, and his desire not to exasperate 882 feeling. Our opposition to him on this matter arises from no personal feeling, from no desire to humiliate those who are for the time being in a minority, from no desire for revenge. We honestly and sincerely think that these are good Bills. We have put them to our constituents, and we believe that our constituents agree with us, and that we have a mandate to carry these Bills into law. We believe that by the procedure laid down by the Parliament Act, and expressed in this Resolution, we have done hon. Members opposite more than justice in the opportunities which we have given them to oppose the policy which we were returned to carry into force. The right hon. Gentleman devoted a great deal of his time to discussing the merits of the three Bills before us. In fact, he delivered three Second Reading speeches against those Bills. I was under the impression that we were discussing procedure rather than the merits of the Bills; therefore I will not attempt to follow him in that respect. But I wish to make only one reference to what he said about the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. I think he showed a peculiar misunderstanding of the attitude of hon. Members on this side towards that Bill. He commenced with a personal statement with regard to his own associations from the religious point of view. It was rather a vague statement. It left me in some doubt as to whether the right hon. Gentleman still adheres to the Church of his fathers, or has found a new tabernacle. But, with his Nonconformist associations, I was amazed at the misunderstanding that, be showed of the attitude of mind of Members on this side. He said that no Nonconformist would stand the interference of the State with the unity and policy of his Church which we now propose with regard to the Welsh Church. He has a completely false impression, not, merely of the intentions, but of the effect of the Bill. We do not propose to interfere with the unity and policy of the Church.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
Hon. Members opposite are wholly and entirely Erastian in the attitude that they take up towards this Bill. It is they who are in favour of State interference with and 883 State domination over the policy of the Church. The Church can do nothing without the assent of the State. Rightly or wrongly, the attitude adopted by hon. Members on this side is that we desire to free the Church from that interference. The right hon. Gentleman referred to his Leader and himself as having been present at a recent service in St. Margaret's. I was struck by the fact that his Leader is a Canadian Presbyterian, and ho himself has Nonconformist associations. By the policy which they support and the system which they desire to maintain, they, if they come into power, will be in the position of rulers and legislators over this Church to which they do not belong. It is we on this side who are trying to liberate the Church from the interference of alien sectarians like the two right hon. Gentlemen. The right hon. Gentleman was speaking more ad rem when he came to what he described as the degradation of this House. I could not but think that he was wrong in using the word "degradation," and mistaken in the examples which he quoted as showing the change of feeling which has come over the House. He referred to hon. Members refusing to listen to any speeches but their own, the objection to interruption, and the intolerance of which we have had some displays in recent Sessions. I do not think there is anything new there in the traditions of the House. I have not a long experience, but as far as I have been able to study history, the House has not changed very much in that respect.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman is laudator temporis acti. He does not believe that the House is as good as it was. I believe it never was. It is simply the tradition of the good old times. These particular aspects are not typical of the change which has come over the House. It is certainly true that it is being held in less respect by the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I assent to some extent to that view. In some respect in its procedure it is deteriorating. Why? For very different reasons from those indicated by the right hon. Gentleman. It is deteriorating both in its procedure and in the respect in which it is held in the country because it is ceasing to be an efficient legislative machine. It is not 884 doing its work. It is not attempting to do it. Under present conditions it is impossible for it to do it. The sphere of our international relations, the scope of Imperial interest, the matters of Imperial and foreign concern upon which we are called upon to decide, and even more particularly the matters of domestic reform in regard to which the State is being called upon to interfere as never before, have increased so much during the past generation that the House has no time to do the work that lies before it. We are accumulating vast arrears of legislation. We are almost a generation behind in certain classes of legislation. It is not merely in regard to legislation, but in the still more important matter of administration and the control of administration. We are completely losing control of the great Departments of the State. How -is control exercised over those Departments? By means of the discussion of the Estimates and the discussion of the action of Ministers in charge of those Departments. We have not time for that. We pass millions every year without discussion. One year recently we passed about £50,000,000 sterling without any discussion. This congestion has been increasing and accumulating during the past generation. We have tried to deal with it by all kinds of means. Standing Committees were created to get relief from some of this congestion. So were the Closure Resolutions which right hon. Gentlemen opposite set us the example of introducing. The conditions will get worse and worse, until, by the help of the Resolution which we have now before us and the help of the Parliament Act, we have secured a measure of devolution which will cut free from this House all that mass of local and domestic legislation which concerns part of the United Kingdom only and not the whole, and not the Empire, and which leaves the House of Commons free to deal with matters which concern the United Kingdom as a whole and of the Empire as a whole. I think the remedy for the state of affairs to which the right hon. Gentleman called attention lies in quite a different direction from that which he indicated, and that it will be considerably accelerated by passing the Resolution which we have before us to-day.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
There were two points in the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, which, when he was not dealing with specific Bills, 885 emerged. So far as I gathered, the first was that the Opposition were unwise in not making more use of the Suggestion stage. He went on to say that the Opposition seemed to think by asking for more discussion in this House, and by resenting this Resolution, we would influence the country. He said, "Oh, you would influence the country quite well by discussions in the House of Lords." In discussing this Resolution, I propose, rather naturally, to focus my observations upon the Welsh Disestablishment and Disendowment Bill. Taking the two main points of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I think I can show him that he is entirely wrong. The first point was that we should make snore use of the Suggestion stage. We know perfectly well that is useless. It is no use making any suggestions about the Welsh Church Bill, because we at once come up against the blank wall sitting on the Treasury Bench and the announcement by the Home Secretary that no conceivable concessions could be- made. The right hon. Gentleman said it in Wales, and he said it in this House.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
The hon. Member says "Hear, hear," thus confirming what I say. We know perfectly well there is no chance of any Amendment being inserted in the Bill, whether the House of Lords reads the Bill a second time and accepts an Amendment or not. The Government are adamant. They say the Bill is perfect in its present form. What, therefore, is the use of suggestions from us? Under these circumstances it is a waste of time. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman. He also says that we might influence the country, and suggests that we might do so by suggestions on the Bill if only for the mere sake of advertisement. I think we are advertising in a better way now. We are holding demonstrations amongst the people themselves and being listened to remarkably. Why we want discussion in this House, and why we feel this procedure such an outrage, is that some of us—I am one of them—think a discussion in this House is of real value in getting concessions and in modifying the legislation of this House. Take the case of this Welsh Disestablishment and Disendowment Bill and its discussion in this House. We obtained very considerable concessions last Session. If this 886 House considered the question on its merits; if, for instance, it considered the question of the compensation of curates on its merits; if we were able to have, as we were unable to have last Session, discussion on the latter part of Clause 3 and on the latter part of Clause 8, we ought to get valuable concessions. Take the question of the burial grounds. There was no Division on it. There was, I think, a discussion on the question of whether or not the burial grounds should be taken from us. Later, when the burial grounds had been taken away, there was a discussion about the respective allocation of them. You could not get a straight vote then as to whether or not the burial grounds should be taken away. We were told the principle was already prejudged.
These are instances, and I am perfectly certain of this fact, that if you went through another Committee stage of the Welsh Bill, that the Bill would be destroyed. The hon. Member says it is perfectly easy to see the difference between wrecking Amendments and Amendments put forward to improve the Bill. We know that any Amendments to improve the Bill will be treated by hon. Gentlemen opposite as wrecking Amendments. If we pass our Amendments to, say, compensate the curates, we know the Bill will be dropped. We know perfectly well, any single modification of the Welsh Bill will be regarded under the Parliament Act by hon. Members opposite, and by the Government, as a wrecking Amendment. Let me take the instance where the hon. Member who has just sat down, showed the extraordinary exercise of the provisions f the Bill. He said, "You are being freed in Wales; your Church is being made free to govern itself." It is not. We are not going to be allowed to be represented where we desire to be represented. We are not to be allowed to have the constitution that we want. We are to have a new constitution forced upon us which we do not want. We are not to be allowed to send the represenatitves we desire to Convocation. The hon. Gentleman will say that if we put down an Amendment, and the Amendment gives the power to allow our members to go to Convocation as heretofore, that the Government will say that that is a wrecking Amendment. From the Treasury Bench it has been said that, "Dismemberment is the essence of our Bill." That was the phrase of the Under-Secretary for the Home Department. Directly we put down a suggestion asking 887 to remain part of the ancient constitution of which we now form part, and which is the desire of 999 of every 1,000 Churchmen in Wales, we are told it is wrecking Amendment.
It is perfectly clear that the Government have got these Bills, as the Leader of the Welsh Liberal party said, into a legislative machine. It is merely machine-made legislation. This Resolution is a piece of mere machinery. It is an attempt to steamroller the Opposition. It is an attempt to pass into law ill-considered, unconsidered measures over the heads of the people, and against, I believe, the will of this House. It is in regard to the details of your Home Rule Bill and of your Welsh Bill that we quite see and say that these measures are sham measures. They are sham from top to bottom. It is sham Disestablishment—though I admit it is not sham Disendowment. You propose drastic terms of Disendowment. It is not merely Disendowment, but secularisation as well. What is the real argument of the Government on this occasion? We do not agree with the Parliament Act, but, accepting the principles of the Parliament Act, what is the object of these second and third Sessions? It is to review any hasty or ill-considered legislation, and to consider the effect of public opinion in the new year upon any measure. Last Session these Bills had to be crammed through at a perfectly unprecedented rate. These are the circumstances under which we meet. The time allotted last Session—the longest Session on record—was wholly inadequate, and was dictated not by the amount of time that these Bills should have been discussed, not by the number of Clauses which ought to have been discussed, but by the obvious necessity of the Government to bring the Session to an end some time. They, therefore, allotted the minimum amount of time possible to the discussion of both the Home Rule Bill, and the Welsh Disestablishment Bill.
I think I can show with regard to the Bill, in which I am particularly interested, the Welsh Bill, that the result was perfectly absurd. You had a dozen Clauses that were never discussed—not one single word or single line of them was discussed either in Committee or on Report. Should there not then under the principle of the Parliament Act be an opportunity? Is not the demand of the Opposition fair that what you refused to give us time to discuss 888 last Session, we should have time to discuss this? There are vital points in the Bill which were never discussed. Other things have arisen since last Session which obviously necessitate the attention of the Government in redressing matters in the Bill. Last Session, for instance, in reference to the Welsh Bill, the Government accepted an Amendment excluding the museums from receiving the spoil. Why? Because one of the governors of the museums, the hon. Member for Monmouthshire, stood up in the House and said, "We do not want a national institution in Wales starting on its career with one-third, or whatever is given to us; the Church people are quite determined that they will have nothing to do with these institutions if that is the case." For that reason the museums were struck out. Since then we have had the treasurer, Dr. Owen, writing to the "Times," and saying that he hopes the National Library will receive nothing of the Church funds, because exactly the same thing will happen. He says, and quite rightly says, that if the Welsh Library receive funds taken from the Church against the wish of the whole body of the Church people of Wales, you will get—no doubt the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Llewelyn Williams) will say it is an ugly word—but you will get a boycott of the Library by the whole of the Church folk of Wales. Do you want to cut out the whole of the Church people of Wales from any participation in the National Library? This is an alteration in the question. It was not discussed last Session, and ought to be discussed now, and ought to receive the attention of this House. It is perfectly clear, if you are going to have Parliamentary discussion at all, and have Parliament-made law, if the consent of the country is to be won, you must have, above all stages, a Committee stage. You must have these details threshed out with full and free discussion. We had last Session on the Home Rule and the Welsh Bills a most drastic guillotine. We had a most limited form of discussion, and the least the Government can do, even on their own principles, is to give us fair discussion of the details of these Bills now. After all, the main point is this: Your Parliament Act has now broken down, and this is a necessary corollary to the Parliament Act. The hon. Member for Glasgow, who spoke from the Labour Benches, is a Single-Chamber Government man. He came out this afternoon quite honestly as opposed to any secularisation. He said he 889 wanted a real Parliament Act—that is to say, the power to force legislation on the Opposition and on the country without any real discussion at all, without any attempt at winning their approval, and in a perfectly machine-made way. That is the real first fruits of the Parliament Act. It is leading the House of Commons downhill, so that inevitably that discussion upon Bills will become less and less. Mere principles underlying Bills will have assent given to them. The Prime Minister will say to his followers, "You assent to the principle of this Bill," and we shall have Bills put upon the Statute Book without Parliamentary discussion of any real kind, simply drawn up by their draftsmen in their office with the assent of the Cabinet, conducted in secret. You might as well clear the Reporters' Gallery, have no public discussion on your Bills at all, simply introduce them and say, "We, the great Liberal party, have a majority of representatives for the moment in this House, and we will force them upon the country whether the people like them or not." Look at the demonstrations against this Bill. Where are you going to get a demonstration of popular enthusiasm for this Bill? If we get up a demonstration against these Bills the party opposite laughs. If we get up petitions, which are a perfectly legitimate way of approaching this House, we hear the President of the Board of Agriculture last week saying that petitions are useless and out of date. That is the way you seek to steam-roller the Opposition. The "Westminster Gazette," commenting upon the Welsh Disestablishrnent Bill treat the opposition to this Bill not merely with contempt, but with their intellectual superiority they have started a system of snobbery which is a most disgusting and most unpleasant feature of your high, intellectual Liberalism. What did they say? They said that the London Church people passed resolutions saying, "We will not have our Church dismembered," and it says that "These asseverations, in our opinion, show a spirit of wilfulness which is a thoroughly bad symptom in the body politic." We are not allowed to demonstrate our opposition to the guillotine without being accused of wilfulness. Any opposition to the sacred Liberal party in their Bills and methods of procedure is a bad symptom in the body politic. That is the spirit behind this Resolution this afternoon. That is the 890 spirit of superiority, and the Opposition are to be treated as wilful children, and no attention is to be paid to the traditions of the House of Commons and the spirit of Members of Parliament and of the country.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken recalls to my mind the state of things that existed ten years ago. At that time the Unionist Government, when in power, was passing al Education Bill which trampled on the rights of Nonconformists, and a Licensing Bill that gave useful privileges to the licensed trade. They passed these Bills by drastic closure far more drastic than anything proposed by the present Government.
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
I think I am more likely to be right than the Noble Lord, for I followed these things very closely.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The hon. Member is wrong on the facts. No measure brought in by the Unionist Government was passed under a closure so drastic as the closure under which measures were passed in this House this year.
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
I was watching the Licensing Bill of 1904 with extreme closeness, and if the Noble Lord looks at the facts he will find that that Bill was passed under a severity of closure which cannot be paralleled by the more modern development of closure. I remember also—and here I am in a position to sympathise with hon. Members opposite—the fierce anger which we who were fighting these measures felt towards the Government for riding roughshod over us. The whirligig of time has brought about a different state of affairs. When the hon. Member opposite complained that no attention was paid to his demonstration in Hyde Park, does he remember that the Unionist Government paid no attention to our demonstrations in Hyde Park? His Government were losing by-elections, yet no attention was paid to that, petitions were ignored, and his Government claimed the right to pass these measures through because they had got a majority, and they used their Parliamentary majority to pass them. It is a little surprising that they cannot see that we claim simply the same right to pass our measures through that they claimed when they were in power, and which no doubt they would claim again.
891 I have listened to a great many Closure discussions, and I find they are all marked with similar features. The Opposition complain; the majority insist upon their right to rule. I cannot help thinking after watching the proceedings in this House that sonic day we shall get away from a system which I think is purely obsolete and serves no earthly purpose at the present time. When the House of Lords is reconstituted, as I trust it will be by the exertions of the present Government, we may then be able to treat this procedure under the Parliament Act as a temporary interlude, and I think anybody who has been watching Parliamentary procedure will realise that the attempt to defeat Bills by the mere use of time has absolutely broken down. The defence has mastered the attack and obstruction has no power, and I believe that it would be a wise course for the Opposition to abandon methods which were very effective in their day, but which have no effect now, and instead to try and attempt to defeat measures if they can upon their merits. I could not help thinking that the hon. Member for Denbigh Borough showed singular confusion in his speech. He claimed the right of further discussion, and he urged that if given further discussion he could make points which would melt the hearts of the Government, or at all events, convince the House at large, and yet at the same time he will not use the opportunities given him. He would use them if they are given in what he calls a Committee stage, but he will not use them if they are called the Suggestion stage. He was quite convinced that if he had a Committee stage he could break down the Bill. If he could appeal to the House of Commons as to the unreasonableness of the Welsh Church Bill and secure majorities for his views in the Committee stage, why not do that on the Suggestion stage?
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
The hon. Member refuses to use these opportunities which are left him. I really think the reason at the back of his mind is not that the Government are adamant but that he and his Friends apparently decline to recognise the procedure under the Parliament Act, and therefore they sweep aside the Suggestion stage which, if discussion is of any use, would be 892 of great value. They decline to avail themselves of that and prefer to cherish their grievances. I think that is the interpretation that must be put upon the refusal of the hon. Member to contemplate this new Suggestion stage as of any real value even though he is quite confident that if he could put his points to the House he could convince it on the very matters he wishes to. I would like to know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite regard it as a greater outrage that the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Church Bill should be passed under this Resolution or that the Scottish Temperance Bill should be passed under it. They are all equally bad in their view, but a distinction has been drawn at times. What I want to know is what is the kind of Bill that they think we may pass under the Parliament Act. According to them, I presume, we must pass none. They say, quite truly, that this Resolution runs back into the procedure of the Parliament Act; that it is a necessary corollary. Of course if you deny that we have any right to pass any of our legislation obviously this Resolution should not be passed. They say it is an outrage to pass the Scottish Temperance Bill because its principle has been accepted by the House. I confess I am surprised at that assertion because I should have said that the principle of local option as applied to Scotland and the Scottish Bill has been accepted without, any great enthusiasm by the Front Bench opposite. Opposition to it has been protracted to the last possible point of resistance, and I do not believe it is accepted now. At all events we are told it is wrong to pass the Scottish Temperance Bill because the principle is accepted, but it is equally an outrage to pass the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Church Bill under this Resolution because their principle is not accepted. It is very difficult to see what Bills we may have a right to pass under the Parliament Act; practically none, I suppose. In that case I think we are justified in going on with the Resolution. I say of all Bills which may be passed under the Parliament Act I think the Scottish Temperance Bill has the best claim. You cannot refuse to pass it on the ground that the opinion of the country is against it. No one ventures to claim that Scotland is against it. You cannot claim that it is hasty and ill-considered legislation. It has had three Committee stages already. Does anybody consider it is necessary to have a fourth? I am an Englishman and cannot claim to set up my 893 opinion against that of Scotch Liberal Members. Everybody knows that the opinion of Scotland is in favour of this Bill in this form, and I venture to think that that is the greatest claim that can be put forward for including the Bill in this Resolution and for passing this Bill on to the Statute Book, and in my humble opinion it is a perfect outrage that the House of Lords have so long refused to pass this measure. It can only be explained as an act of subservience of the House of Lords to the liquor trade.
[At a Quarter past Eight o'clock, the Order for the Second Reading of the North-Eastern Railway Bill [Lords]—set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8—was deferred until to-morrow.]
§ Mr. EDWARD WOOD
I think those of us who have been listening to the speeches of hon. Members opposite will have come to the conclusion that they have reached the highest stage of self-deception. The hon. Member who has just addressed the House said that no blame should he attached to his party for doing what had been done by the Unionist party some years ago. Even if we grant all the hon. Member opposite puts forward about the injustice and the iniquity of the Licensing Acts passed by the Conservatives, or the Conservative Education Act, I would humbly ask, is it an argumentatively sound proposition that because one wrong has been committed sonic years ago, that therefore you are entitled to commit another wrong presumably on the supposition that two wrongs make a right, which is one of the first propositions every child is taught to distrust. The hon. Member invited us to make a comparison between these Bills and those passed by the Unionist Government, and he claimed that they should have exactly similar treatment. I ask the hon. Member to charge his memory with what those particular Bills were concerned, and then ask himself the question whether it is possible to advance equal claims for all those measures. Neither the Education Bill referred to nor the Licensing Bill were as far-reaching as the measures dealt with in this Resolution. The hon. Member asks which of these Bills we considered it was an outrage to bring under the Parliament Act. I consider it is an outrage to pass all three under the Parliament Act. There may be different reasons for constituting it an outrage, but that does not alter the fact that in each 894 case it is an outrageous form of procedure. I should like to ask hon. Members to consider one or two wider considerations with regard to what we have been asked to do here to-night. I think hon. Members opposite have unconsciously deceived themselves as to what they are really doing. I am prepared, for the sake of illustration, to accept their arguments at their own value, and I am prepared to believe, for example, that the Chief Secretary for Ireland honestly wishes to pass only such legislation as he thinks the people outside require. There are only two broad ways of getting to know what the people outside this House want, and one is by the machinery familiar to us within the walls of Parliament, and the other the machinery which is extra Parliamentary.
The hon. Member for Croydon referred at some length to that extra Parliamentary machinery. One item of that which has been ruled out is the General Election. From all the evidence we can gather at the present moment, we understand that a General Election is no part of the programme of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and, when it is made a part of your programme, you will not exist long after announcing the fact. Demonstrations you alternately ridicule and minimise in every way. I think we ought to be more concerned with the machinery inside Parliament. Throughout the Debate we find ourselves thrown back upon a discussion of the, Parliament Act period, and along that path I have no wish to tread. I asked one question which has been asked many times before, but it has not been answered satisfactorily. Assuming that the House of Lords was as vicious as you declare it to be, would it not really in the long run have been more statesmanlike to have reformed rather than destroy what has been, and might be again, according to your notion, if properly reformed, a proper working factor in the scheme of your Constitution? You ought to have assured yourselves that you will not mistake party passion in this House for the true popular demand outside the House. I was very much interested reading an article in the "Daily News" this morning by one of the most independent thinkers which the party opposite possesses, Mr. Massingham, and he showed with great interest that in every party there was of necessity two elements, namely, the desire to be a party and the desire while being a party to represent the nation. That is also true of this House. 895 This House is at one and the same time the National Assembly and it is also the meeting ground of two conflicting parties. In so far as the House recognises those two facts, will it adequately fulfil its function as a place of free and independent criticism? One of the worst services that this Government has rendered to our Constitution—and I put it higher than what it has done in connection with the House of Lords—is the additional importance and emphasis that in various ways and for various reasons it has given to the party system in this House. If I may give three reasons which occur to me as to why that has come about, I should, first, give the Parliament Act, and I should then give what hon. Members opposite do not like, namely, payment of Members. I have never myself thought or said that you would see the undesirable results, as I believe, of payment of Members all at once, but I am perfectly certain—and all Colonial experience proves it—that in the long run you will have undesirable results from that system which will operate unfavourably upon the independence of Members of this House.
Thirdly, I believe that this Radical Government have used their party Whips in a more vigorous manner than would have been customary a few years ago. During the short time that I have been a Member of this House, I can recall half-a-dozen occasions when it ought to have been perfectly possible for the party Whips to have been taken off without any discredit to the Government or without the Government feeling that they had in any way suffered by so doing. Why was it not done? Simply and solely because it has come to be a recognised theory of Government that the Government of the day is responsible for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. That means that when we are discussing a Bill in this House we are not exercising our judgment; there is no strain put on our intellect; we are merely asked to register the decrees of the caucus in the Cabinet. I do not think anybody could have listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Denbigh Boroughs (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), who referred to some of the instances of the lack of discussion—some Clauses which were not. discussed at all—on the Established Church (Wales) Bill without realising what a farce and what a make-believe this Suggestion stage really is. This Motion gives three hours to the 896 consideration of the Financial Resolution of the Welsh Bill. That is the only time this Session when it will be possible to raise any matter relating to that Bill in its passage through this House. Would hon. Members consider three hours an adequate allowance of time if it was a question not as affecting the Church in Wales but as affecting one of the millionaires who sit on the Radical Benches? Yet what you would not do in the case of an individual, you are attempting to do in the case of the Church. You are trying to do something which, if applied to an individual, would be seen to be flagrantly unjust. The only justification which has been attempted came from one of the hon. Members for Scotland. What becomes of the Prime Minister's declaration that the House of Commons would have three distinct opportunities for consideration and discussion, if when we come to the time it is said, "You only want one Committee stage. It has been through the House once, and you need not therefore take much further interest in it." You cannot have it both ways.
I listened the other day to a most interesting and impressive speech by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir E. Grey) in winding up the Debate upon a totally different subject, and he then said, "Is there not a danger that if this kind of thing goes on—he was referring to the unfounded charges, as they were said to be—that honourable men will hesitate to come to this House?" No doubt there is, but is there not also a danger if this kind of procedure goes on that men of any intelligence and independence will hesitate to come to this House? I do not think it is becoming increasingly attractive to men of independence to write the letters "M. P." after their names, and I doubt very much whether if this House proceeds as it has proceeded in the last five or ten years to further register its own impottence you will find it increasingly easy to get that class of man you want in this House to impart reality and above all criticism to your Debates. That is a consideration worth bearing in mind. You really invite people under these Resolutions, and especially under this most flagrant instance of them, to put their judgment in commission and to surrender their conscience to the party Whips and the Cabinet of the day. I have read of many abuses by Popes who attempted to interfere with the rights of private judgment and to dogmatise about matters with 897 which they were not supposed to be concerned, but they at least dogmatised on theological principles. You dogmatise on no principle except that you wish to pass these measures for which you can show no popular support in the country. For these reasons—because of the outrageous proceedings in which we are engaged, because of the evil effect which I believe this kind of procedure is bound to have upon the future composition of this House—I shall with all my heart support the Amendment regretting that this form of procedure should become customary in this House.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
I am quite sure that those hon. Members who have closely followed the arguments of the bon. Gentlemen opposite will realise that their real dislike to the Parliament Act is based more upon the fact that they are in future not going to reap the advantage which they have had in past years of checkmating and reversing the decisions of the House of Commons backed by the opinion of the people of the country, through the operations of the House of Lords. We can well imagine that all the speeches which lave been delivered to-day have been inspired by that consideration alone, although no doubt other grounds have been advanced. I feel satisfied that this Resolution is one which will meet with great approval in the country, because the country is not anxious to have Session after Session wasted through a repetition of arguments which have been fully exhausted, but is anxious to get business done and the Bills carried through at the earliest possible moment. After all, the question we are really considering to-day is whether, in carrying this guillotine Resolution, we are going to secure fair play for the programme of the Liberal party; whether we are going to avoid a loading of the dice against us in the future. Is the Parliament Act going to be used as it was intended to be used? I can understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not care to accept that situation. I rise chiefly to refer to this Resolution, so far as it affects the Scottish measure. Speaking as a Scottish Member, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Scottish Temperance Bill has very special claims to be dealt with under the machinery of the Parliament Act. It has, I submit, the strongest case of all three Bills. It has been suggested by hon. Members opposite that it is in a different category from the two other measures in respect that the House of 898 Lords did not reject it on Second Reading, but proceeded to amend it, and this has also been suggested by one or two Members on this side, who certainly cannot claim to represent the majority of the people of Scotland. I believe it can be shown, on the terms of the Parliament Act itself, that it was intended that the Act should deal precisely with this very case, and that provision was made for the case of amendments made in the House of Lords when those Amendments were not accepted by the House of Commons. Section 2 of the Parliament Act, Sub-section (3) provides:—A Bill shall be deemed to be rejected by the House of Lords if it is not passed by the House of Lords either without Amendment or with such Amendment only as may be agreed to by both Houses.Therefore, the Parliament Act clearly provides for such a case as the Scottish Temperance Bill, and the real question is; "Did the Amendments which the House of Lords insisted upon, amount to what was the rejection of the Bill in the opinion of this House?" Upon that point Scottish Members are entitled to give an expression of their views, and I have no hesitation in saying that, so far as the Amendments which were proposed in the House of Lords are concerned, they did, according to our view, destroy altogether the value of provisions of the Scottish Temperance Bill. There are two means by which the House of Lords can destroy a measure. One is by rejecting it on Second Reading, and the other by carrying amendments in such a form as, in effect, would destroy the principle of the Bill, and make it impossible to carry it out. It was the latter course which was adopted in the case of the Scottish Bill. I do not propose to deal in detail with the Amendments made by the House of Lords, but I will, with the permission of the Chair, show that they were of such a character as to be destructive of the Bill, and to amount to its rejection under the terms of the Parliament Act.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I am afraid if that were allowed it would lead to discussing the Bill on a Procedure Motion, and that has often been disallowed from the Chair.
§ Mr. MILLAR
Then I will only say that the feeling of Scotland was very strongly opposed to any extension of the time limit, and that as a Scottish Member on 899 that ground alone I would have supported the action of the Government in seeking to put the Bill under the Parliament Act. The two other Amendments, dealing with disinterested management and compulsory insurance, were also such as the Scottish Members and this House could not possibly accept, and, on these grounds, I submit that the House is entitled to insist on the Bill coming under the Parliament Act. I only desire to emphasise once more the view held in Scotland that we have waited sufficiently long for this Bill. It has passed its Second Reading six times; it has gone through Committee three times, and I believe it has been discussed here more often than any other measure. In fact, so much time has already been devoted to it, that really there is no useful purpose to be served by spending more time upon it, although, of course, the House will have an opportunity, if it so desires, of dealing with further suggestions during the Suggestion stage. I submit that the House, under the circumstances, should take special account of the strong expression of opinion in Scotland, as emphasised by the great majority of Scottish Members. With regard to the opposition which has come from this side, chiefly from the hon. Member for Huddersfield—the House will also take into account this fact, that, in speaking on this subject, the hon. Member does not directly represent the opinion of Scotland, whereas the Scottish Members who do represent that opinion by a very large majority claim that the Bill should be carried under the Parliament Act. We have waited for a very long period in Scotland for this Bill, and I am quite sure that public opinion in that country will support us in going into the Division Lobby to vote for this Resolution.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
I am not going to follow the last speaker in his quarrel with hon. Members on his own side as to whether the Scottish Temperance Bill should be included in this Resolution. That is a matter largely for the Scottish Members themselves. Neither am I going to follow him in his prognostications of what the country wants. He seems to be very confident that all the country wants is to get business through as quickly as possible. I venture to say that what the country wants most of all is a change of Government. In my opinion, the country takes not the slightest interest in these three Bills. What the 900 country is interested in is the attempt to force sending the Bills to it for its consideration before they become Acts of Parliament. We, on our side, believe that if the country were appealed to upon them, we should never hear any more of any one of the three Bills mentioned in the Resolution. I rose really not to discuss either the Scottish Temperance Bill or what the country wants. I rose because I have on the Paper an Amendment to omit one of these Bills, namely the Established Church (Wales) Bill from the purview of the Resolution, and as I see the Home Secretary in his place I will give him some cogent reasons for assenting to this step. I base them entirely on a quotation already read to this House—a quotation from the speech made by the Prime Minister on the Third Reading of the Parliament Act. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman said:—I have sufficient belief in the power of pnblic opinion in this country, in the ventilating and enlightening effect of Parliamentary and outside discussion and criticism, to feel confident that a measure which was really being forced by the House of Commons outstaying or misreading its mandate and forcing legislation against the opinion of I, large majority of the people would never stand and child never stand the series of checks to which it would be exposed under this Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1911. cols. 1697–8, Vol. XXV.]I venture to say, as regards the Established Church (Wales) Bill, public opinion has expressed itself extremely strongly against the measure. That being so, taking the conditions laid down by the Prime Minister himself as to the circumstances under which the Parliament Act should operate, there is no reason whatever why you should endeavour to force the Bill into law under the terms of that Act. I am not going into the many signs we have had of the intense unpopularity of this Bill throughout the country, but I might mention the one additional piece of evidence we had in the remarkable demonstration in Hyde Park last Saturday. I notice the Home Secretary smiles. I do not know whether he was there. If he had been it would have done him a great deal of good, for he would have realised that there is a vast volume of opinion in London—it was only London which was represented in this demonstration—against this Bill. I will put it to the. Home Secretary and the hon. Member for Carmarthen Burghs (Mr. Llewelyn Williams): Do they think they could get up a demonstration upon a similar scale in favour of the Bill in London? Let me state the position under which that demonstration was got up. Not a single 901 political organisation of any sort or kind had anything to do with it; it was got up solely by what I might call the machinery of the Church. I do not doubt that the Nonconformists, if there were some great cause in which they were interested, could get up a remarkably big demonstration in Hyde Park or anywhere else in London, but do you think you could get up a demonstration in favour of this Bill of Nonconformists or anybody else run on religious lines, with no attempt to bring in the machinery of political organisations? I say it is absolutely impossible, and I venture to predict that you will not try. If you did try, the effect would be somewhat similar to the attempt made to get up petitions in favour of the Bill, which resulted in two petitions with four signatures being sent up in favour of the Bill, while there were petitions with 2,500,000 signatures against it.
The First Lord of the Admiralty said that the only people concerned in the Established Church (Wales) Bill were the Welsh people. Doubtless he would criticise the demonstration of Londoners by saying that they were not concerned in it at all. I say that they and every Englishman is vitally concerned. The very first words of the Resolution adopted were—We will not have our Church dismembered.There you have at once the interest of Englishmen. You cannot carry this Bill without dismembering the Church of England as a whole. You therefore affect the interests and feelings of every English Churchman. To pretend that this Bill only affects Wales is to pretend what has no foundation in fact. When you consider that we are concerned in this matter you have to take into account the whole English people. What do we find? Taking the Members for England and Wales, who are concerned, there is a majority in this House now against the Bill, even reckoning the numbers on party lines. When you consider that some hon. Members opposite intensely dislike the. Bill, you find there is a very large majority in this House all representative of the peoples concerned in opposition to this measure. I will not trouble the House by going through the various signs we have had of the unpopularity of the Bill—petitions, by-elections and demonstrations in every part of the country. I overheard two Liberals discussing the Bill the other day. They were not Members of this House, but gentlemen engaged in the organisation of the 902 Liberal party. One of them described the Bill very tersely. He said:—This is a vote-loser for us all over the country.Hon. Members know that perfectly well. Although they think it is a vote-loser and that the people generally are opposed to it, they are determined to force it into law under the terms of this Resolution by means of the Parliament Act, without giving the people a chance, in the first instance, of pronouncing upon it. Take Wales alone, leaving England out of account altogether.
§ Sir A. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
Are you so sure that the Welsh people are in favour of the Bill? If so, why do you refuse every test whereby we can ascertain the fact? Why have you refused a religious census and why have you refused a Referendum? There has been in Wales for many years past a sort of general pious aspiration in favour of some vague thing called Disestablishment, but never has there been any distinct movement of opinion, or sign of any movement of opinion in favour of a concrete proposal like this. I believe that if you adopted either of the tests I have mentioned, a religious census or a Referendum, upon this Bill alone, not upon the mere abstract question of Disestablishment, you would find that there is nothing like the majority you imagine in favour of the Bill, in fact I think the chances are you would find there is a majority against you. To put it no higher, there is certainly no proof that there is any desire for this Bill either in England or Wales, and there are abundant signs that the Bill is exceedingly unpopular in the country and that what the people really want is an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon it. I will give another very good reason why this Resolution ought not to apply to the Established Church (Wales) Bill. It is that the Bill was never properly discussed on the first occasion it went through this House. It is perfectly true that the Prime Minister promised us a full and free discussion upon this measure. I think he used those words on the Second Reading. What happened? Directly we got into Committee, before, indeed, we had discussed a single Clause or a single line in Committee, the gag was put on. It has nearly always been the case that upon most Bills we have been allowed a short, free run in Committee to see how we could 903 behave ourselves before gagging us. Apparently the Home Secretary was so afraid of our arguments upon this occasion that he put on the gag at once. What was the result? Instead of a full and free discussion a great many of the most important topics raised by the Bill were never discussed at all.
Let me give one or two examples. The Bill is a Bill for Disestablishment and what is euphemistically termed Disendowment. Apparently Disestablishment is half the Bill. What time was given in Committee for discussing Disestablishment? One day, that was all. The Disestablishment part of the Bill consisted of two Clauses, but the second Clause was never discussed at all. We come to another aspect of the Bill—the dismemberment part. Dismemberment was achieved by a particular Sub-section of Clause 3, which, without consulting the Church, destroys the unity of the Convocation of Canterbury. In our opinion it was one of the most serious things in the whole Bill, because we hold that Parliament has no right whatever, unless it is desired by the Church, to destroy the unity of the Convocation of Canterbury. That was never discussed in Committee, but was guillotined right away. It is true that we got about a quarter of the gag day upon Report, but, speaking generally, the question of dismemberment was never discussed at all in this House. Then I come to another point, private benefactions. When you were considering how much you should take away from the Church, I suppose the chief material object was to ascertain in any way you could what were private benefactions. For that only one day was allowed, an arbitrary date, namely, 1662, was taken and no opportunity was given to discuss whether it was to be 1662 or any other date. Then I come to Clause 8, which was the principal Clause dealing with Disendowment. That Clause was discussed on only two days, although practically the most important part of the whole Bill was included in that Clause. A large part of it was never discussed at all. The question of whether tithe rent-charge should be taken away from the Church or left was never discussed either in Committee or on Report. The question of a repair fund for churches and cathedrals was never discussed. I fully agree that in a rather unwonted fit of generosity you left us the cathedrals and the churches, but the ques- 904 tion of a repair fund, which was essential, was never discussed at all.
Then take another matter. There is no part of the Bill which, I think, is more resented and upon which feelings run higher than the question of the alienation of churchyards, especially those which adjoin the church, and which are hallowed by every kind of memory, and through which people have to go in order to get to the church. No time whatever was given to discussing the question as to whether the churchyards should be alienated or not. This year the Committee is to be formal, and there will be no time whatever. Again, the question of the composition of the Church Synod was only discussed on one day, and no opportunity was given for reconsideration. On the question of the Welsh Commissioners, the Government would not tell us who they were, their powers and duties were gagged and guillotined, and we had no chance of considering it. So I could go on through the list. My contention is, first of all, that there is no demand for this Bill in the country, but there is every evidence that it is most unpopular, and that it ought to be dropped, and certainly not forced through under the Parliament Act. Secondly, if you force it through under the Parliament Act, you ought, at all events, to give us a fair opportunity of discussing those very points of importance which, thanks to your gagging Resolution, it was impossible for us to discuss last year. I had put down an Amendment to exclude this Bill from the Resolution. Owing to the course that the Debate has taken, it seems to me most probable that there will be no opportunity for me to move that Amendment. As to whether the Scottish Temperance Bill or the Home Rule Bill ought to be included in this Resolution or not, I express no opinion at present, but the case for excluding the Established Church (Wales) Bill is overwhelming, and if the Government are going to deal fairly with the country, if they are going to pay any attention whatever to the manifestation of public opinion, they have no right whatever to force this Bill into law under the Parliament Act, and to do it in the way they are doing it, without discussion, under the terms of this Resolution.
§ 9.0 P. M.
Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS
I always listen with respect and admiration to the hon. Gentleman, but I think the courage he has shown to-night misleads him in 905 speaking of Welsh matters. He and his Friends seem to divide their speeches into two parts. The first contains this proposition, that this House, neither on Home Rule nor on Welsh Disestablishment, nor on Scottish temperance, nor on anything else, represents the opinion of the country. It reminds me of the story that is told of George II, who said to Mr. Pitt, when he was his chief Minister and wanted something done, "You have taught me to look elsewhere than to the House of Commons for the opinion of England." That is the burden of every song from that side of the House. If you want to get the opinion of England or Wales or of Scotland or Ireland, you must look elsewhere than to the House of Commons for it. You can go to little meetings or to great demonstrations, or you can go to petitions which have been rejected by the Petitions Committee of this House. Over 300, if I remember rightly, were rejected.
Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS
Only one was gone into thoroughly and it was rejected. I am speaking in the recollection of a great number of people who heard the hon. Member (Mr. Haydn Jones) say his investigation shows that this half million petitioners, which was doubled by the Leader of the Opposition to a million, the other day, with his usual Tariff Reform arithmetic——
Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS
We are asked to look everywhere except in the only place where we ought to look in order to ascertain what are the settled wishes of this country. What is a demonstration? We have been told about the demonstration in Hyde Park on Saturday. It was a beautiful day and Hyde Park was in its best condition. The demonstration was well organized by the greatest organization of this country. I am told there were 100,000 people of England to 200,000 people who assembled in Hyde Park? There are something like 35,000,000 of people in England, and I dare say there are something like seven or eight millions of electors. We had a 906 demonstration in Swansea last year and there were over 100,000 people there. It was not organised by a great body like the Church, which has a representative in every parish. It was only organised by the Free Churches, and we were told by our Conservative Friends, "You must not look at a mere 100,000 people who may assemble at Swansea as representing anything except people who go to the seaside for a picnic." When we get to London, with its 7,000,000 people within a radius of twenty-five miles of Hyde Park, we are told we must forget everything that has happened in Parliament, and we must only look to Hyde Park for the settled opinion of the country. What an absurd contention it is when we really look into the matter! This House still remains the representative of the opinion of the people of England, as well as the people of Wales and Scotland and Ireland, in this matter. Hon. Members talked to-day exactly as if this Resolution was curtailing their privileges of debate or liberties of speech, instead of extending them.
Let me contrast the position of any of these three Bills—take the Scottish Temperance Bill if you like—under this Resolution and the position of a similar measure introduced by the last Tory Government in 1904. In that year a Licensing Reform Bill was introduced by the then Tory Government. It was introduced against the wishes certainly of all temperance people in this country, a great number of Liberals, and a great number of Conservatives as well. It introduced a new principle into our legislation. For the first time a licence was declared by Parliament to have a value which the licensee ought to be compensated for. That is a principle which had never been laid down in legislation before. It was a principle contrary to decisions of the House of Lords in Sharpe v. Wakefield and other cases. The Government could not say that they had any mandate from the country, because the Khaki Election took place in 1900, when the hon. Gentlemen opposite said they wanted a mandate to end the war and nothing else. Remember that the Licensing Act in 1904 was passel through Committee of the House of Commons without the alteration of a single comma; there was no Report stage. The Government refused to amend it in the slightest degree. If that measure had had the Parliament Act applied to it, and if the House of Lords had treated it as it treated the Scottish Temperance Bill, the 907 Bill would have come before the House of Commons in 1905, and then, after going through discussion here, it would have gone to the House of Lords again to be rejected once more. Next year it would never have come up. Why? By that time the election had taken place, and the party opposite met with the merited fate of being defeated more thoroughly than any party was ever defeated before. Therefore, if the procedure of the Parliament Act had been applied to the Bill of 1904, that Bill would never have been on the Statute Book.
Now the Government allow greater latitude to the Opposition than ever before; they are allowed to discuss these Bills in the second year and in the next year, and they will be allowed to demonstrate all over the country in the meantime. They will be allowed to make use of all these unpopular measures in order to return their own supporters at by-elections. We are risking all the changes and chances of politics and all the un- popularity which ma result from administrative acts which have nothing to do with these Bills at all. We are taking all the risks of the political situation for two years before these Bills will become law, and yet hon. Gentlemen opposite think it a grievous defect to give them these two years in which they can educate the country up to their views, while they are not allowed to have the same Committee stage as they had last year. Let me ask hon. Members to consider that they have the Suggestion stage. I have heard it said over and over again that the Suggestion stage is no good. The hon. Member for the Denbigh Boroughs (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) said, "What is the good of our proposing any sort of Amendment to this Bill? Why! the Home Secretary said in Wales and in this House some time ago that he would make no further concessions and would have no compromise. Therefore, what is the good of our suggesting any further concessions or any compromise at all?" Let me ask the hon. Member whether he has ever been in favour of any compromise?
Mr. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS
Then why put on my right hon. Friend the responsibility of refusing concessions or compromise? I think I know that the hon. Gentleman and his Friends would not accept this Welsh Bill at any cost. I re- 908 member an hon. Member said that if we offered 19s. 11d. in the £ he would not accept it. The hon. Member will not have any compromise on a thing which he thinks is wrong, but that does not prevent him from making suggestions. I am delighted that he does not put forward any suggestions. If any of them made suggestions which were accepted, I say at once that I would vote against the Bill, and I believe the majority of my hon. Friends from Wales would also do so. But, in fairness to the Parliament Act, there is no reason at all why the hon. Gentleman and his Friends, or anybody else, should not make suggestions. Take, for instance, the question of dismemberment. The hon. Member made a grievance of the fact that dismemberment was never discussed in Committee last year. That is quite true. We did not discuss it directly, though it was discussed incidentally many times. The real reason it was not discussed on an Amendment, as the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, was that we spent nearly the whole afternoon discussing small trivial matters. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I remember the incident perfectly well. I remember corning here thinking that we were going to discuss the question of dismemberment, but we spent three or four hours discussing the Ecclesiastical Courts, and so dreary did the discussion become at last, that the Noble Lord the Member for the Hitchin Division (Lord Robert Cecil) moved the Closure. The time was taken up mainly by hon. Gentlemen discussing matters which were of absolutely no interest to anybody. Supposing the question of the dismemberment of the Church was inadequately discussed, there is no reason why hon. Gentlemen should not make suggestions and have it discussed now on the Suggestion stage.
Take the question of tithe. It is stated that tithe has not been adequately discussed. Very well, if it is thought that it was not, it can be discussed on the Suggestion stage now. There is absolutely no reason I can see why, if they like to make suggestions, the question of tithe cannot be discussed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Will you accept it?"] No, I am against it. I think the Bill is much too generous, but that is no reason why the hon. Member for the Denbigh Boroughs should not have put down his suggestion and have it discussed. He does not want to have it discussed. He knows that every point in this Bill has been adequately 909 discussed. He knows perfectly well that every point of the subject was fully discussed. I sat through all the Debates in Committee, and no Bill in my recollection was more adequately and thoroughly discussed. There was hardly a point that was not discussed, not once, but twice or three times over during the Second Reading or the Committee stage or the Report stage. But if that be not sufficient, let hon. Gentlemen put it down on the Report stage. I do not think that they will do so, because they cherish their grievance far more than they regard the opportunity given by the Suggestion stage. I do not agree with the jeremiads which have been uttered from the other side of this House.
It has been suggested by several hon. Members on that side that payment of Members has reduced this House to a condition of dependence, and almost ignominy, and I was surprised to hear one hon. Gentleman say that payment of Members would do for this Parliament what it had done for Colonial Parliaments, and make it a less trustworthy and less reliable legislative Assembly. I have been here for a considerable time, and as a paid Member I do not find myself less independent now than when I was an unpaid Member. I do not believe that hon. Gentlemen sitting anywhere in this House are less independent to-day than six or ten or twenty years ago. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire to eulogise the past at the expense of the present. I remember this Parliament twenty years ago, though I was not a Member then, and I am perfectly certain that it is to-day as worthy of the confidence of the people of this country as it was twenty, thirty, or even a hundred years ago. It is absurd to say, because there is congestion in our business and we have to resort to these devices which we are supposed to be discussing to-night, that therefore this Parliament is losing the confidence of the people. I believe that what would lose this House the confidence of the country would be to allow a small minority to dictate to the majority of this House, and to allow obstructionists on that side of the House to render futile the will of the people. The most popular thing that the Government has ever done was to pass the Parliament Act. If the Government will carry out that Act in its integrity as they are doing by moving this Resolution, I am perfectly certain that they will earn 910 the commendation of the people of this country.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
If I do not follow the discussion, which has been started on the relation of this Resolution to the Welsh Church Bill, it is not from any want of sympathy with the cause of my hon. Friend. In my own view, although the Home Rule Bill is the more dangerous, the Welsh Bill is infinitely the meaner of the measures, which are being pushed forward under this Act, and I most heartily sympathise with my hon. Friends, who are specially concerned in this subject for their intention of attacking it to the end. As to what has fallen from the hon. Member who has just spoken, his arguments, in so far as they are relevant, appear to point to the absolute necessity of a referendum on matters of this kind. He talks about the will of the House and the will of the people, as if they were interchangeable terms. I only wish that he would so consider them, and would be content on each of these three Bills to take the voice of the people as expressed at the poll, and not by those who for a moment misrepresent them. What I really rise for is to ask for some little more elucidation from the Government, as to the meaning of the Suggestion stage. Is there to be a Suggestion stage at all? I gather from what the Prime Minister said that there would be no setting up of any Suggestion stage. I gather that if hon. Members put independent Motions on the Paper, he will look at these Motions, and consider whether they should come on or not; but there was apparently no Motion to be made that on such a day the House will proceed to consider suggestions with regard to this Bill or that. All he said was, "if hon. Members put down a Motion, we will give an opportunity for inserting it, if we think it in consonance with the principle of the Bill." If I am right, what exactly will happen, suppose hon. Members will take advantage of the offer? Suppose one hon. Member puts down a Motion to suggest to the House of Lords that certain words be inserted in such and such a line, and another puts down another such Motion. At what date shall we know when the opportunity will be given for such Motions to be made, and if the Government proceed to allow any of them to be put, on what principle will they do it?
If they are put, will they be taken in the order on which they are put down, or in what order will they be taken? Will Mr. 911 Speaker be in the Chair, or will the House go into a Committee stage to consider these suggestions? I ask for further information to-night, because the matter, not being regulated by Standing Orders, seems to require some further explanation of the Government. On what principle is it to be determined whether the suggestions are really congruous to the Bill, or depart from its principle? For instance, take the Home Rule Bill. Would it be congruous to the principle of the Bill to move the postponement for two years? That, one would say, in ordinary cases, would be perfectly congruous. It would not interfere with the principle. It would only mean a different date of operation. Surely the fact that a General Election would come in the meantime, would not destroy the congruity of such a suggestion. Or, again, would a suggestion for a Referendum on the point be congruous? What is the tribunal to determine this? The Prime Minister said that if the House so decides, there should be suggestions. What does he mean by the House? Does he mean a majority of the House voting openly, or does he mean a kind of general concensus of opinion that is ascertained without a Division, or does he mean simply a decision of the Government themselves? I take it, in practice, that is probably what he meant, that he would look through the suggestions that might be on the Order Paper. and say what might conveniently be debated, and what could not. If that is the case, what a farce to talk about the Suggestion stage, and what a farce for hon. Members like the last speaker to say, "Why do you not put down suggestions?" If that is all that is meant, that we are to be invited to put forward proposals, so that the Government at their own discretion are to decide whether these suggestions should be debated or not, then the whole idea of this new form of procedure naturally becomes an absolute farce.
Its only use will be that the Government will try to get certain debated points which they might think favourable to themselves. How does the Government reconcile their present Motion with the statement of the Prime Minister, made before and repeated at any rate, by implication, to-day that at some period there would be full and free discussion not only upon the principle but the details of the Bill? My right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) said in the course of the Debate to-night that at any rate there ought to be discussion upon 912 those points that were not discussed in the former stages, and the Prime Minister said that there had been free discussion, line by line, and word by word. But take the Home Rule Bill. Of about 1,600 lines 200, were discussed; of 48 Clauses 24 were discussed. He might have forcibly argued that what in fact had been discussed should not be discussed again, and that it would be inviting obstruction to allow it to be discussed again; but how can he say that all the Causes, provisions and lines of the Bill have been discussed? If he wants this Parliament Act to be worked in the way now suggested as proper, he must meet this point, that it shall not be said that this Bill has passed through this House of Commons three times, while at least one-half of it has never been discussed at all. If he means that it is to be discussed at all he cannot allow this Motion to be put that the Bill be reported without Amendment to the House, but he must allow at any rate those Clauses and those provisions shall be discussed on which not one word was said in the last Session of Parliament. I ask the Chief Secretary, who I suppose is going to reply, to answer that point, and to justify the statement of the Prime Minister that the Bill has been discussed, line by line, and word by word. How is he to justify the Prime Minister's promise that no Bill should be put in the Parliament Act without full and free discussion if those Clauses on which not one word was said are not to be discussed? It would mean, if that proved to be the case, that the Suggestion stage is of no value at all, but merely a device on the part of the Government to make the passage of those Bills smoother.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
A great number of the speeches from that side of the House have been occupied either in discussing the defence of the Parliament Act or in discussing in more or less detail the various Bills which come under its purview, but it seems to me that little or nothing has been said about either the form or the scope of the Resolution which has been put forward by the Government. The principal feature of this Resolution seems to me to be the novelty of curtailing the Committee stage of a Bill and making it equivalent to a Suggestion stage. This novel procedure scents to me to invite this House to take a step which would form what appears to be a very dangerous precedent for all time. The Motion itself makes no mention of the Parliament Act; it makes no suggestion 913 of altering the Standing Orders in this House; it simply decrees that this House shall resolve, by a mere stroke of the pen, as it were, to eliminate one of the stages through which every Bill has been accustomed to pass in this House. If it is so easy for this House, by one short Act of that kind, to eliminate the Committee stage of the Bill, is it not likely that this precedent will be used for the purpose of eliminating any other stage of Bills in future, with the view simply to shorten their passage through the House? It seems to me that the House itself ought to be extremely jealous of any step taken to set up a precedent of this kind, and to allow one of the historic stages through which every Bill has had to pass in former times to be eliminated.
The second point to which I have to draw attention is that during the passage of the Parliament Act through this House we had assurance after assurance that the three years during which the Bill would pass three times through this House would be occupied by free and full discussions of matters, so that the country should not be in any way rushed. In lieu of the ordinary stage at which the fullest discussion takes place on a Bill in this House—that is the Committee stage—what is the suggestion? We have the proposal of the Suggestion stage. As my hon. Friend has pointed out, that Suggestion stage is at present very embryonic, and it is one the conditions of which it is very difficult to understand. So far as I can tell from what the Prime Minister said on the subject to-clay the Suggestion stage is not a definite stage in the Bill. He merely pointed out that it would be open to every hon. Member in this House to put down a suggestion in the form of a Motion, and that the Government themselves would be the judges as to whether that suggestion should be, not accepted, but even debated at all. I would like to ask the Government how is it possible, if the suggestion is to be made in the form of a Motion on the Paper, for any hon. Member to make a Motion or Amendment sufficiently clear to enable the Government fully to understand its scope? We know that it is by no means a rare occasion for an Amendment moved in this House to have a meaning very different from that which it would appear to convey as it stands on the Paper. If the Government were to merely sweep away suggestions without allowing any debate, because in their judgment they were not conducive to their interests 914 or in accord with the principle of the Bill, it seems to me that the Suggestion stage is very far from allowing that full and free discussion of these Bills during the three years they are before this House and before the country, which was promised.
But there is one other aspect of the case which has perhaps not been taken into account, and that is whether this House should not retain in its own hands, as it were, during those three years, the power of deciding whether the Bill, even though it has come under the effect of the Parliament Act in the first year, ought to remain under the Parliament Act. Is it not perfectly conceivable that owing to a change of circumstances, or a change of opinion in the country, it might become so desirable that some alteration should be made in the Bill in the second or third year that some Amendment should be introduced, and that this House might say, even at the risk of putting the Bill outside the scope of Parliament, that Amendment must necessarily be introduced into it. Yet under the procedure which we are now considering it would never be open to this House to even consider whether such an Amendment shall be introduced or not, and the only way in which the House can take the Bill out of the purview of the. Parliament Act is by rejecting it on its Second Reading. I fancy that there are a good many hon. Gentlemen who would accept the principle of the Bill, but who, nevertheless, even at the expense of losing the benefit of the Parliament Act, might desire to alter it in some particular.
There is still another point. The Parliament Act still retains its effect, although we may have a General Election during the two years. If, after a General Election, either the same Government or another Government, holding the same view view as to a particular Bill comes into power, the effect of the Parliament Act remains unaltered, and the Bill in question may be presented to this House, under a Resolution of the kind which we are now considering, in the second year. It would then be presented not to the same House of Commons that considered it the first year, but to a House of Commons after a General Election, with a large proportion of individual Members different from those who composed the former House. Is it not reasonable to suppose that in such a case as that the new House of Commons, at any rate, should not have to be content with merely passing the Bill after a discussion on the principle, 915 but that it should retain the power of altering by Amendment? If this House accepts this Resolution, it sets a bad principle. It is cutting out one of the most important stages of a Bill, which is a serious step for it to take. The argument that the loss of that stage is fully compensated for by this extraordinary proposal that suggestions are to be made in the form of Resolutions, which the Government are or are not to allow to be debated according as they may or may not find a convenient time, seems to me most inadequate. I hope, therefore, that the House will hesitate before accepting this Resolution, and that they will adopt some words restricting it in the way I indicated at the beginning of my remarks. It seems to me that the Resolution is a very wide form of Closure and most dangerous.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen District (Mr. Llewelyn Williams) is a very important Member of that section of the party supporting the Government which is described as the Coalition. He made tonight. a speech on a subject on which he is very well entitled to speak, namely, that part of this Resolution which deals with the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Welsh Church. It was a speech which was listened to with respect and attention from these benches, but I confess I associate myself with the regrets that were expressed by one of my hon. Friends from these benches, that having made that speech and having formulated certain charges and having committed himself to many highly disputable statements on facts, he should at least have remained in the House long enough to give those who wish to reply to him the opportunity of doing so in his presence. I do not desire to deal with the controversial speech which he made, in his absence, but there are one or two matters to which I wish to refer. The hon. and learned Gentleman stated that my hon. Friend was wrong when he put forward the view that the question of dismemberment of the English Church in Wales had never been discussed in the House of Commons. The hon. and learned. Gentleman made this comment. He said if it was not dismissed, it was under these circumstances that a most trivial Debate was in progress for three hours, and that many of his Friends, that is his contention, were most anxious to take part in the more serious Debate. He said that so dilatory and obstructive was 916 the discussion which took place upon the trivial subjects, that even the Noble Lord the. Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) was compelled to move the Closure. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had remained in the House, it would perhaps have been worth while to ask if the long and dilatory discussion of which he spoke was very largely conducted by his own Friends. It may be that they were very anxious to get from the less important to the more important subject. Certainly I have not sufficient knowledge of their motives to impute any motive, but the fact is that the Closure was moved by my Noble Friend upon those who were delaying that Debate and on those who sat on this side of the House.
I am glad now to have the pleasure of addressing my remarks to the hon. and learned Member. In connection with the somewhat different, branch of the same subject, if I understood the position of the hon. and learned Gentleman aright, and he will tell me if I am wrong, it might be described in something like the following language: "You have no grievance of any kind at all, because you can make proposals. True we call them suggestions, but under whatever name, it comes to the same thing. You can propose your views and upon your views so put forward it will be within the power of the House to pronounce." That argument would naturally carry, or might have carried, more weight if the hon. and learned Gentleman had not added a corollary, which was this: "For my part, and I believe I speak for my Friends, if the Government accept one further Amendment, we shall not vote for this Bill on the Third Reading stage," and I have no doubt that the hon. and learned Gentleman is supported in that attitude. What does this come to? He addresses my hon. Friend below the Gangway and he says, "You are most unreasonable in not putting forward your suggestions." His argument is, "Whether they are put forward in Committee stage or in Report stage is wholly immaterial, since you can at least bring them forward." "But," he added, "I warn you of this," and perhaps the warning was not so much addressed to us as to the Government, "if one single suggestion is accepted, I and my Friends will vote against this Bill." These suggestions as a means of amending the Bill is the final answer to the suggestion that there is any grievance.
We have heard in various other Debates, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief 917 Secretary is very familiar with the observation, that the Government are not free agents as far as a certain section of the House is concerned. The observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman would suggest to those who do not know the Parliamentary history of the Welsh party that the Government were not free agents in their case. Though I am not a very old Member, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is considerably older, we both know the Welsh Parliamentary party far too well to attach the slightest importance to what the hon. and learned Gentleman and any of his Friends say. If I had not heard so many loud protestations, and if I had not observed the sequel of those protestations and the subsequent docility of the Members, or, to avoid any offence, I might say, the amenability to sound arguments ably put forward which has marked the Welsh Parliamentary party during my experience of them, I might have taken a more serious view of the disclaimer of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. and learned Gentleman hardly addressed himself to what was the gravamen of the case put forward by my hon. Friend. He pointed out with regard to the Bill for the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church that there were three or four subjects of the most vital importance which never received any serious discussion in the House at all, and that there were others of even greater importance which had received a degree of consideration which every impartial Member will admit to have been wholly inadequate to their real importance. Let me take a few illustrations of that. There was, in the first place, the subject of Disestablishment in Clause 1, dealt with altogether in one day. I do not believe that even the hon. and learned Member who holds very strong views on this subject, will suggest. that one day was an adequate allowance for the discussion of Disestablishment.
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
The hon. Gentleman is as familiars as I am with the distinction between a Second Reading Dabate and a Committee stage discussion. He cannot suggest that because Disestablishment and other subject were discussed on the Second Reading it is unnecessary to have an ample allowance of time of the discussion in Committee. Clause 2, which contains many important provisions, was never discussed at all. There were not one 918 word of discussion in the Committee stage on that Clause. Take next a subject which deeply concerns many of us and our supporters in the country, the question of alienation of private benefactions. One day was given to that. The question of the alienation of tithes, which has most earnestly engaged the attention of those who are opposed to this measure, was never discussed at all. A further point to which some hon. Gentlemen may not attach the importance which some of my friends do, namely, the alienation of churchyards, which many people regard as something approaching desecration, was not discussed at all. I might take half a dozen different subjects, every one of them of the highest importance, and show that there was no opportunity of any kind for discussing them on the Committee stage last Session. Therefore, it cannot be pretended that the reason why we are to be subjected to a degree of curtailment of debate wholly unknown in Parliamentary history is that these Bills, in their most important features, were adequately considered in Committee last Session. Whatever other argument may be put forward, it cannot be defended upon that ground, and to do those Ministers who have spoken justice, they have not attempted so to defend it. I confess that as I listened to the speech of the Prime Minister, and, still more, to the extremely flippant and wholly irrelevant speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, I could not help reflecting—and this is a consideration which affects all parties—how much colour our debates sometimes give to the assertion that the whole of the proceedings of this House are a farce, that there is no consistency in either party, and that any party when in office will say and do precisely the contrary of what they said and did when in opposition. There can be nobody so inattentive to what is commonly being said in the country about the House of Commons as not to know that that is one of the most serious and most frequently made charges to-day.
I remember reading the eloquent speeches on this very subject of the guillotine which the Prime Minister made in the concluding years of the Parliament which came to an end in 1905. The guillotine was never denounced in more weighty, more convincing, or more carefully considered language than that used by the Prime Minister in those two or three years. I do not recall the precise rhetoric with which he dismissed our 919 claim to pass proposals for the curtailment of debate, which no one can compare with the provisions which year after year he employs with increasing stringency. The process has grown from its application originally to the Crimes Act, from its application by Mr. Gladstone in relation to the rule of which my right hon. Friend has spoken, until in the hands of the present Government it has reached a degree which has destroyed the last claim of this House to represent in free debate the view of the people. Consider what is going on at the present moment in Canada, a country to which we afforded the very example of Parliamentary institutions. It may be, I do not know, I devoutly hope it may not be so, that they too are drifting after our example to a form of closure, but under the most extreme temptation they hate resisted the tendency and retained, at least up to the present, the reality of free debate in the representative assembly. When we put forward considerations of this kind, with what arguments are we met by the Prime Minister, or, to be just, I ought to say by the First. Lord of the Admiralty, with whose speech I wish particularly to deal? The First Lord said—and this was loudly cheered—" Where is your grievance? You are at least afforded in the second year the opportunity of a Second Reading Debate to which you are not entitled. You may not be allowed a Committee or Report stage; but if you were in power, we should have no opportunity at all in the second year of discussing your measures." The Prime Minister cheered him then, and he cheers the statement now.
Let me attempt to deal with that argument. It means that, in the view of the First Lord, we have no right to complain, because had we been sitting on that side, and concerned in carrying these measures, we could have carried them last year, and there would have been no debate at all this year. Therefore, everything we are getting this year is to the good, and we ought to thank God and the Prime Minister for it. The whole suggestion is that we have no grievance if we do not get a Committee and Report stage. Surely, there is to that an answer which is both complete and final. The case made by the First Lord is that there is not a fair arrangement as between the two parties, the argument being, as I understand it, that because the House of Lords vote wrong, the House of Commons shall not vote at 920 all. What is the position of the Prime Minister who cheered that statement so enthusiastically? He went to the country at the last election, and told them he was going to cure that very quality in the House of Lords, the survival of which is the whole basis of the argument put forward by the First Lord of the Admiralty. What does that mean? It means that, having told the country that these two measures, the Parliament Act and the Preamble, were twin measures, and having postponed the birth of the second twin for three years, although he was under an obligation of honour to produce a twin within a normal period—having broken that for his own purposes, and as everybody listening to me knows, simply because there is no such sufficient agreement in the ranks of his own party as to make it possible for him to bring forward any proposal for reforming the constitution of the House of Lords, he brings that forward as an excuse for the unexampled degree of the guillotine which is proposed to-day, and as showing that we on our part have nothing to complain of. I reply, "If you had carried out the promise that you yourselves described as an obligation of honour the House of Lords would to-day be a body with a constitution with which ex hypothesi you were satisfied, and therefore you would not have the only excuse you put forward for applying the degree of coercion that you are applying by this proposal.
10.0 P. M.
The First Lord of the Admiralty did not discuss with that detail which some of us might have thought relevant to our discussion the effect of the suppression of the Committee and of the Report stages of the Bill which are included in this Resolution. I should have thought that it was a sufficient invasion of Parliamentary precedent, going hack to remote antiquity in our history, to suggest that at any rate a very considerable onus of justification was imposed upon those Ministers who made the proposal. So far as I listened to the Debate I heard no justification attempted at all, except the justification which attached a high degree of Parliamentary value to what is -Jailed the Suggestion stage. I ventured, I hope with not undue discourtesy, to intimate when the First Lord of the Admiralty was speaking that my opinion of the value of the Suggestion stage was not a high one. The observation of the First Lord upon that was that, "Of course, if nobody had sensible suggestions to offer it was quite obvious that 921 the Suggestion stage would not be a valuable one." It is, perhaps, sufficient answer to that to say that we put forward during the Committee and Report stages of the Home Rule and Welsh Church Bill in the last Session of Parliament, as we believe, a series of suggestions calling for serious answers, suggested by the great volume of public opinion in the country behind us. No suggestions of real importance were accepted in relation to either of these two Bills. Let me take the most striking illustration of all. We are told that suggestions are still possible if they do not go to the principle of the measure. Who is to be the judge of what goes to the principle of the measure? We have been accustomed in the last two years to an accession to the Chair of a discretion in these matters to a degree which was undreamt of ten years ago, and which I venture to say would have astonished, as well as it would have shocked, Mr. Gladstone. Those powers have been given either to Mr. Speaker, or to the Chairman of Committees or to his assistant. It is not for me to extol the impartiality of Mr. Speaker, nor is it for me to measure the degree of Parliamentary delicacy within which we receive fair treatment from, the Chairman of Committees or those who assist him in the discharge of his duties. I say nothing more except this: that we know it has always been the habit of the House of Commons to know, and each party has been secure in the knowledge—the whole House has been satisfied—that an attempt to be judicial has at least been made. What is the proposal with which we are confronted today; which is being put forward as a satisfactory and fair alternative to the old decision of Mr. Speaker and of the Chairman of Committees, and in which the difficulty is aggravated by the introduction of the Kangaroo Resolution? We are removing the question from the discretion of Mr. Speaker and of the Chairman of Committees to that of the judgment of the Government of the day, in other words, to the very men who are or who may be embarrassed by a particular Parliamentary discussion. Take the history of the Home Rule Bill. There was one proposal, a very serious proposal, which was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University, and which received, as I think it was entitled to receive, the careful consideration of hon. Members opposite. That was an Amend- 922 ment which proposed the exclusion of what we conveniently call Ulster from the ambit of the Home Rule Bill. I do not even know whether the proposal to exclude Ulster would fall within the Prime Minister's definition as something conflicting with the principle of the Bill. I do not know for a moment whether the Prime Minister knows himself. I do not know whether the Prime Minister has divorced himself from his political capacity and has reassumed the judicial capacity in order to sit upon these suggestions. I do not know whether the proposal to exclude Ulster would be a matter which, if admitted, would strike at the whole principle of the Home Rule Bill. I dare say the Prime Minister has not had the opportunity of consulting those who might desire to be consulted on a final decision. I know how this will strike those of my hen. Friends who come from the North of Ireland. They will say that the judicial discretion, in dealing with suggestions for the Home Rule Bill, has been vested somewhere; and I am not sure that they will come to the conclusion that the present holders of that judicial function sit on the bench in front of me.
If that be so, what is our duty in relation to the proposal that we should be content with the Suggestion stage; that we should acquiesce in the deprivation of the Committee stage and of Report, that have been immemorially associated with our Debates? With respect to the alternative that we may either acquiesce in the view that has been put before us, and accept your decision as to what conflicts with the principle of the Bill, or that we may make proposals, and make those proposals without the slightest assurance that you will accept them, those to which we attach importance were brought forward by us in the Committee and Report stages of the Bill last year. What reason whatever is there to suppose, if you were not willing to accept them when we brought them forward in Committee and on Report, that you are likely to be willing to accept them in this Suggestion stage? If we believed that this stage was a real stage, we might take part in it, if we thought any useful purpose would be served by so doing. I say deliberately that we have given the best consideration we could to this question. We have dealt with the two measures about which those whom we represented in the country felt deeply. We have come to the conclusion that no useful purpose whatever would be 923 served by our taking part in this Suggestion stage, and we do not propose to take the slightest part in it. It will be open to those who take a different view, and who are not convinced of the perfection of these Bills, to make their suggestions, and we shall be very interested to see how the hon. Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway receive such suggestions. It will be interesting to note whether they have suggestions to make, or whether, in their view, the Bills have reached such a degree of verbal inspiration that no further suggestions in Committee are necessary. We shall look forward to this stage of the discussion not without pleasure. The First Lord of the Admiralty said, sneering at my right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcester, "You are proclaiming that we did not put the details of our proposals before the country." My right hon. Friend made no such preposterous claim. That whole five minutes of cheap party sneering by the First Lord of the Admiralty, which was received with so much enthusiasm, was based upon an observation which was never made. My right hon. Friend did not say that the details should have been put forward. My right hon. Friend specified three fundamental points upon which he submitted the country should have been offered some information, and there was not one of them that any man could call details who addresses his mind to the subject matter of the speech of my right hon. Friend. Whoever else might have cheered the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty, I think the Prime Minister at least might have abstained. There are some of his supporters who are less familiar with the Prime Minister's record on this particular point than I am, otherwise the observation I have made would not have appeared to be so exquisitely humorous. There was a time when Mr. Gladstone was considering the very question which presented itself to the attention of this Government and that was whether it was sufficient to go to the country with a broad general statement that you intended to introduce Home Rule proposals, or whether it was convenient and honest that the country should be offered some further information.
The Prime Minister made a contribution to that discussion which was considerably agitating the Liberal party at the time, and the Prime Minister gave some advice to Mr. Gladstone, and his advice was that a series of propositions 924 embodying the principal points of the Home Rule Bill should be placed before the country before it was attempted to be claimed that the verdict of the country had been given upon the general principle. All these things were desirable when Mr. Gladstone found himself in great party embarrassment over the very same question, and when the Prime Minister was in a position of independence in which he could afford to give philosophical advice, but when the right hon. Gentleman finds himself in precisely the same position that Mr. Gladstone was in some years ago and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Worcester, speaking in the Debate to-day based himself, as a humble imitator of the claims of the Prime Minister, who was one of Mr. Gladstone's supporters, in the advice he then put forward, he is met by the badinate of the First Lord of the Admiralty and by the suggestion that we should place the details of our Tariff Bill before the country. The right hon. Gentleman came in contact 'with reality at one point of his speech and one point only, arid that was when he spoke of considerations of time. He said we had to deal with important considerations of time. The right hon. Gentleman was quite right. The one real justification for these proposals if we could have it plainly stated to us is that the Government is concerned by every means in its power to end this Session at the earliest possible moment. The most faithful supporters in the Press of hon. Gentlemen opposite put this matter perfectly clearly a few days ago in an article, "What is wrong with the Liberal party?"
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
The "Daily News." Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not repudiate the "Daily News." The article which I have in my mind, and I am not quite sure that it did not appear in the "Daily Chronicle" also, commented in the first place and then gave as an explanation of what is wrong in the Liberal party, "the protracted and unexplained and very disastrous absences of the Prime Minister from the House of Commons." [An. HON. MEMBER:" That was the Daily Chronicle.'"] Yes, that was the "Daily Chronicle." They gave that explanation and they also gave another. They pointed out that there was one prescription which would cure all the evils from which the Liberal party was suffering, and they said, 925 "What the Liberal party wants is to get away into the country"—not "to the country," but "into the country, and to think out again the whole abstract basis of Liberalism." That is a delightful occupation. For myself I sincerely trust that hon. Gentlemen opposite will be engaged at least more agreeably and usefully during the recess whatever its duration.
The point is this, and everybody knows it. The Government is not only wholly uncertain of its position in the country—and I choose the most indulgent language —but they are wholly uncertain of their position to-day in the House of Commons. We talk of the Coalition Governments and of their being sustained in office by the loyalty of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald), who dare not show his face in Leicester to-day. How is it that we are told of the unity and strength that prevails in the ranks of the Coalition? How is it, if Gentlemen are so sure that the Bills we are discussing tonight—Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment—are popular Bills and have the people behind them, as some have not been ashamed to claim in the course of this Debate, how is it, if that be true, that whenever they have to go to the country the one thing they make certain is that they are not going on Home Rule or Welsh Disestablishment? For two years we were told that when next an appeal to the country was made it would be in reference to the subject of land. I see in the House now some hon. Members who two years ago deluded the country at by-elections, not upon Home Rule or a subsidy to Ireland, not upon the happy prospect of taking away from curates in the Welsh Church the tiny stipends they earn, not upon making liberal concessions of land to peasants in Norfolk, or upon proposals to connect inland towns by canals with the sea——
§ Mr. F. E. SMITH
The hon. Member says my speeches did a great deal to assist him. All I can say is I made a great many speeches, and apparently I have a great deal to answer for. My point is that the hon. Gentleman who interrupted me got into the House of Commons by using a megaphone in the market place, and he never mentioned the claims and the merits of the party below the Gangway or the desire of the democracy to possess them- 926 selves of the funds of the Welsh Church, but he echoed out promises in relation to the land. But I am concerned with more important Members than the hon. Member opposite, if I may say so. Why does the Chancellor of the Exchequer not approach the country with the Welsh Church Bill and Home Rule? For eighteen months we have been promised this land campaign. It was started eighteen months ago, but the war made it indelicate for him to deal with it. Most unfortunately there has been-war and rumours of war ever since, and so the campaign has been postponed. I see the Solicitor-General in his place. A short time ago he was making a speech in the country, and he intimated that the time had come for the Liberal party to move forward all along the line, the suggestion being, I suppose, that it had been moving in the opposite direction in connection with Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment. Why did the Solicitor-General think that was the moment when a general forward movement was required in the history of the party? You never have fought an election upon these issues, and you never intend to. Under these circumstances every effort being made to avoid any appeal to the democracy upon these quarrels you ask those who suffer deeply and believe that they will suffer permanently if your measures were placed upon the Statute Book to treat you as being possessed of the moral authority to deal with these great questions, in deference to any right which the democracy has ever given you to legislate upon any one of them. You may make that claim, but you know in your heart that it is not well founded upon any democratic principle, and it has not been conceded in this or any other country.
There is not an hon. Member of this House, and there is not an honest man on any side in politics who does not know that under no circumstances would you appeal to-morrow to England on these two questions which you are ramming down your throats to-night. But you have insufficiently considered the effect in the country. I am not dealing with this House of Commons, because this House has ceased to count. I am dealing with the effect in the country, and I say that hon. Gentlemen are greatly mistaken who think that by proposals of the character we are discussing to-night you can stifle the vehement and conscientious resistance of people in the country, who are convinced, rightly or 927 wrongly, that no decision has ever been given upon this question, and who think you could not obtain a favourable decision to-morrow. Consider the position of the population of the North of Ireland. Could you give them a more gross and more brutal proposition than that afforded by the terms of this Resolution? I will only say that by your procedure in the last three years you have made one thing certain, that this will happen to you as it will happen to any Government, which follows your methods or example, that the old theories observed through so many generations of our political history with results so fortunate to our political development will not be observed again. You will never again observe a recognition proceeding from one Parliament to another.
After all, it is a good thing that each party in turn should stamp its own individuality upon the legislation of the country. A great and ultimate public benefit flows from the fact that the Statute Book contains in alternation the product of two distinct, and often opposed, theories of Government. We have had in the past Liberal opposition when they became Governments content, however much they disliked them, to maintain on the Statute Book Acts placed there by their predecessors; and, similarly, in our turn, we have maintained on the Statute Book Bills we disliked. The product, on the whole, has been to the public interest, because you have had a true representation of what at different periods democracy has been thinking and desiring. You have ended all that. You have produced a state of things in which it is certain, just because you have insisted on placing upon the Statute Book measures for which you have not the moral support which is necessary for great measures affecting large numbers of your fellow subjects, that the first act which will be done should we occupy the place you occupy to-day will be to undo and repeal at least three of the cardinal measures which you have passed. If I am right in saying this, as everybody who listens to me knows that I am right—[Laughter.] Really, I can show it almost in a sentence. It is quite arguable—though I am not sure whether it is true—that we made the same mistake when we passed the Education Act. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I knew that view would meet with considerable volume of support. The complaint was made bitterly and generally by hon. Gen- 928 tlemen opposite that we introduced that Act and carried it into law without sufficient mandate from the people of the country. What did hon. Gentlemen say at once under the pressure and the stimulus of the very grievance of which we are complaining to-night? They said everywhere in the country, "We do not recognise the moral authority of the Bill." The Chancellor of the Exchequer went in open resistance of the law in order to defeat it, and it was said on every Liberal platform, "When we come back we shall repeal this Bill." And you tried to repeal it. You did not succeed for a variety of reasons. [Horn. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am astonished that anyone should be bold enough to ask "Why?" You did not succeed because the House of Lords—this is the first reason—would not agree to your Bill on three cardinal points, and you yourselves within twelve months introduced a Bill which contained everyone of the three cardinal Amendments on which the House of Lords insisted. Therefore, I say that you, when we were in power, complained of the very thing though in an incomparably less degree of what we complain to-day. You told us as a part that you would not hold yourselves bound by our legislation and would repeal it when you had the opportunity. We tell you to-day in a case far graver, with provocation more bitter, and as applied to subjects incomparably more important that we hold ourselves at liberty whenever and wherever we are able to show you what is the fact, that you have lost the confidence of the people, that we will alter the measures which you have carried against the wishes of the people.
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I do not suppose anyone will be sorry, although I did not myself anticipate the course of the Debate, that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have availed themselves, as they were entitled to do, of this opportunity of constructing it into a kind of political blowhole, through which they have very successfully and with great fervour and good temper and good spirits blown a blast upon all the subjects that have been under Parliamentary notice for a very considerable time. We have had Second Reading speeches—I confess they were so very familiar to me that they had lost all charm and all novelty—on Home Rule, on the Welsh Church, and on the Scottish Temperance measure. We have had so many of these Second Reading speeches that I think everyone will agree with me that, 929 although it may be complained that debate has been curtailed in other directions, no human being can deny that we have had Second Reading speeches over and over again until we are perfectly entitled to exclaim, "For heaven's sake, no Second Reading speeches again: we have had more than enough!" I do not, however, complain of that. But it is not possible in the short space of time at my disposal to attempt to reply even to the able and vigorous speech of the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke—[cheers from Unionist Members]—in the same spirit and at the same length as he has been able to speak. The habit of interrupting a speaker in the very opening sentences of his speech has now become a Parliamentary precedent, and will in time, I suppose, be held up to subsequent generations as the immemorial practice of Parliament. As the Prime Minister said on Friday, everything on this side of the House, and, I suspect, a good many hon. Members on the opposite side, must feel that this Motion is the natural corollary of and what was contemplated and indeed provided for by, the Parliament Bill, which became an Act of Parliament under circumstances with which we are familiar. We are now bound by it, like everybody else. We have to deal with it as an instrument—I think a somewhat clumsy instrument—but it was the best we could devise. Am I to understand from the rather futile cheers with which hon. Members opposite greet that statement, that they think the Parliament Act is a noble and admirable Act? It was the best weapon we could devise against an intolerable state of things—so intolerable that a great number of hon. Gentlemen opposite speaking to their constituents, and speaking sometimes in this House, admitted that it was a state of things under which no party commanding the support of a large section of the population could be expected to remain.
We had to do something; we were bound to do something or else all the measures behind us which we had supported—many of us for a quarter of a century—had very little chance indeed of ever becoming law. Therefore this Parliament Act was devised, and it became law in the ordinary course. It provides us with certain methods, and those methods require that a Bill in order to obtain the advantages embodied in the Act must pass three times in this House and must be exactly the same Bill on each occasion. Of course, there are reasons, very obvious 930 reasons for that, and you would have said it was very unfair indeed if this Parliament Act was to apply to Bills which were capable of alteration, or, as you would say, of getting what you believe to be worse and worse every time. That, you would have said, was an intolerable state of things. You would have said it was necessary, painfully necessary, awkwardly necessary to stereotype such a Bin. I quite agree that the Parliament Act stereotypes a Bill which gets through Parliament, which is introduced, read a first time and a second time, passed through Committee and Report, is read a third time, and receives the support and approval, which surely none of you Parliament men are going to ridicule and despise altogether, of the majority of this House—that majority which seems already in your imaginations to be within your grasp. A majority of this House must always remain a majority, to which all persons who recognise Parliamentary Government must bow. We have said that if a Bill passed through this House, was to become, under the machinery of the Parliament Act, the law of the land after a certain lapse of time, whether the House of Lords like it or not, it was of necessity that we should stereotype it from the first time it became a Bill of this House which had passed through all its stages, and that it should be the same Bill when we sent it to the Second Chamber the second and third time. We could not help it.
I agree that it would have been more satisfactory and more agreeable, that would have lent itself more to my frame of mind if we had been free this Session again to consider a Home Rule measure, and to discuss it afresh, within, of course, the bounds of nature—I must put in that qualification. So would every other Member of this House, except the man in charge of the Bill. If we had it again day after day and week after week in this Session, as we had it in the last, I should be left pretty well alone in this House, and hon. Gentlemen who have been vapouring about the dignity and glory of the House of Commons, would have been elsewhere. The moment of admit that, the Committee stage of this Bill becomes obviously a sheer waste of time. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] All right; it is perfectly true. That may be an argument against the Parliament Act, which is an Act of Parliament leaving you in possession of your right to pass anything you choose, even an Education 931 Bill of 1902, which has just come under the lash, the very half-hearted lash, but still the lash of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. You will still be at liberty to pass that Bill and send it up to the other place. Anybody who saw it go through in the House of Lords knows that there was nothing more humorous than the way in which it was rushed through that, House, the Lords not hardly knowing what is was about. I was there on one day—it was the only part of the history of that transaction I witnessed, because I was not then a Member of this House—and one could not but realise how true it was that that measure never did receive the deliberate, the careful consideration, the well-judged consideration, the long consideration of the other place. We are bound to dispense with the Committee stage of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) who introduced this subject in an admirable speech this afternoon, spoke, and other people have spoken like him about the degradation of Parliament. I am quite sure he believes it most convincingly, but I confess that I think that if there is one subject upon which a Member of Parliament should avoid the faintest tone of exaggeration it is when he uses such words as "the degradation of Parliament." He said, other people said after him, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman who just sat down said that there are people in the country who ridicule this House. There always have been for the last 200 years people who ridiculed this House. If you wanted examples of it, I would undertake without going outside the ambit of my own small library, to give you admirable examples of wit, humour and sarcasm in both prose and verse of all Parliaments that have sat here, even in the time of the Plantaganets. This House has always been and always will be exposed to ridicule and animadversion, and I doubt very much whether the country will leave off talking about golf and business and the Stock Exchange. Why should you suppose that all those people engaged in all these different pursuits will leave off thinking of any of them and will think of nothing but the speeches which you make and the reports which they read of them in the halfpenny newspapers?
I think it is a pity that hon. Gentlemen opposite should exaggerate what they 932 call the degradation of Parliament. I do not believe in it at all, but this I know, that neither this Parliament nor any other can be got to take an abiding and intelligent interest in debates or the Committee stage of Bills extending over thirty, forty, or fifty days when those subjects have become stale and used up. What would be the degradation of this House supposing we were now in the thirtieth day of the Committee stage of the Home Rule Bill of last year? How many people would be in the House? How many people would listen to it? You would indeed bear witness to the degradation of the House of Commons. You cannot compel people to think about things which they have left off thinking about. You do not think about them yourselves. The Debate is merely used for party purposes, to tire out and exhaust the faculties of the House and having exhausted the faculties of the House, you say it is degraded. The Committee stage of this Bill over and over again, another forty-seven days, or whatever it was, would be sheerly and frankly impossible. It is part and parcel of the Parliament Act, which I dare say you do not like, for reasons very obvious to all of us, but which we do like, for reasons equally obvious, and it follows that you could not have a Committee stage of the Bill, because you can have no Amendments. Really, what is the position of a Minister in charge of a Bill on the Committee stage? Let, us drop all cant and nonsense. Arguments very often present themselves to a Minister in charge of a Bill which he would be very glad to accept if he could, and very often he does accept them. I have always maintained that the Committee stage of important Bills is a most important stage, but you cannot give years and years to the Committee stage of the same Bill. The Committee stage is an important stage, but what would be the condition of a Minister listening to arguments and speeches all of which probably have been made before, and on all of which he can only say, "It is impossible for me even to pretend to listen"? Therefore, the Committee stage of Bills under the Parliament Act, of necessity, whether you like it or not, whether you think it is a good thing or not, goes by the board.
You say, "What opportunity is there then?" Where are all the promises of the Prime Minister? What are they worth? The right hon. Gentleman is a man of sanguine temperament, and I dare 933 say he honestly believes in every word of the cheerful prophecies which he delivers with all the assurance of conviction. What does he base them on? The Prime Minister said two years will afford opportunities. Yes, so it has. You may say in this House there has been no change. All I can say is that very few Governments in the future will be able to rely upon two years passing without seeing very great and more marked changes in the constitution of the House of Commons if the measures to which they are attached, and which are passing very slowly through under the Parliament Act, have become unpopular in the country, or lose their weight and support. You may say that these changes have not appeared in this House. Well, you cannot expect us to break ourselves in pieces to please you. I can imagine a Government succeeding this one which will very soon find itself toppling to pieces by the operation of time. You cannot really claim immutability. Under the law of human dissolution these things do occur. If they have not occurred in the constitution of this House, we are entitled to claim merit to ourselves for our measures on that account. What about the country? The speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman was full of glory in the fact that we did not hold Newmarket, that we did not succeed in winning Altrincham, and he was very sarcastic about some election that is going on elsewhere. These are matters to which the Prime Minister referred. He gave them to the Opposition. If our measures are unpopular, we give you time, but you never gave us five minutes to test the unpopularity of the great measures with which the name of the Conservative party is so gloriously associated. We give you two years, and in these two years you think you will be able to show that there are signs of disintegration which entitle my right hon. Friend to prophesy that he will be sitting on this side of the House to the glory of mankind, to the delight of the newspapers, and testifying to the newborn interest in politics. Why does he think it? He thinks it because he has been afforded those opportunities during the last two years. He may be afforded other opportunities. I am sure he is looking forward to the time when he will be in office and able to demonstrate by statistics of the most gratifying character to himself, that those measures are as profoundly unpopular as he conceives them to be with the people of 934 the country. He says that we never dared to go to the country on Home Rule or the Welsh Church. Well, I think we might be very pleased to do so. I, at all events, have never in any way kept back the Home Rule question in any constituency I was ever engaged in. I know that the right hon. Gentleman carried about in his waistcoat pocket a quotation from one of my speeches. I am not quite sure that he has not got it now. He has one solitary quotation from myself at Bristol, and he seems to think that I said nothing else during all those weary weeks and months when I was before the constituency, and during all the time I was their representative, except that one quotation.
I know at all events that he will never be able to rid me of the tar of Home Rule. I am smeared with it from top to bottom, and so I always shall remain. Great ridicule has been poured upon what is called the Suggestion stage. That, of course, has been the fashion with reference to everything connected with the Parliament Act, and the Home Rule Bill. It is said "Safeguards! How absurd. We do not want them." Then we are asked, "Why do not you give them." The opportunities for discussion are provided by the Parliament Act in order to mitigate some of the difficulties attached to the necessities of the case which required the Bill to be passed through three consecutive years to be the same Bill, and therefore a Bill which could not in any point except as regards dates be amended in Committee. It was essential, at all events, desirable, that opportunity should be afforded of accompanying the Bill as it goes to another place with suggestions which the House of Lords, if it saw fit, could incorporate in the Bill without the Bill losing its character of identity, which is necessary under the Act. There is nothing wicked in such a proposal. It seems to me as good a proposal as could be made in the necessarily rigid circumstances of the Parliament Act that opportunity for suggestions should be afforded to the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman, in his most histrionic and melodramatic manner, says that he will not have anything to do with it. Other people may. He rather indicated that he hoped they would; though why he would not have anything to do with something which he thought good enough for somebody else I am at a loss to understand. But we were asked what our proposal is. The Prime 935 Minister was not misunderstood by anybody in the words which he used in reference to that. The hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Sheffield hoped that 1 would provide an explanation. There was no necessity for me to do so, but he understood correctly, as everybody else who listened must have done, what the Prime Minister said on that occasion. An Amendment put down by way of Motion will appear on the Paper like any other of those Motions to which no particular date is assigned, and it will then be for the master of the time of the House for the time being, that is the existing Government, to give a day or two days, or whatever is provided for, to those Motions, which in their opinion could very properly accompany the Bill to another place for consideration. A good many Members of this House seem to have forgotten all its old traditions, and there has been some rather foolish discussion as to what is meant by putting down an Amendment of a kind which is not destructive of the Bill, and it is thought by some people that an hon. or right hon. Gentleman who puts down any Amendment of that sort thereby becomes at once a believer in, a supporter, a maintainer, and an upholder of the Bill.
Why have that test? The Second Reading of the Bill did that. It was conceived to be a point of honour in the old days, with very rare exceptions—indeed, it was a Parliamentary rule—to hold, that when the Second Reading was carried that was the view of the House, and it then became not only permissible but the duty of Members of Parliament, even of those who voted against the Second Reading, to introduce Amendments which in their opinion would improve it, or, if you like, would reduce the scale of its operations. But wrecking Amendments were unknown in those glorious Parliamentary days to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire looks back. The right hon. Gentleman would not be committed to anything by suggesting any Amendment of the kind which I have already indicated. We know his opinions, but if you have Amendments of such a kind as to make a Member who had voted against the Second Reading willing to vote for the Third Reading, why, then, he could do so. I cannot understand how hon. Members can lose caste or become Home Rulers, if—the Bill having passed the Second Reading in this House 936 by a very large majority—they endeavour, either in Committee, or by way of suggestions accompanying the Bill to another place, to make certain proposals.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question put to the Prime Minister by one of my hon. Friends: Is an Amendment to exclude Ulster from this Bill a wrecking Amendment?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
I was coming to the point. The right hon. Gentleman asks, would a suggestion about Ulster be a wrecking Amendment. Certainly not, but a suggestion about Ulster simply saying no more than that you propose to leave Ulster outside the scope and purview of this Bill, or, let us say four counties in Ulster, would be a wholly unintelligent exclusion, because it would not give the House the faintest idea of how you proposed to deal or how the inhabitants of those excluded counties wished you to deal with them after they had been left out of the Home Rule Bill. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Leave them as they are."] "Leave them as they are"—that indicates how little the hon. Member has considered the legal and administrative difficulties of the situation. By leaving them as they are you are simply leaving them under what is known as Dublin Castle rule, under the National Board of Education, under the Intermediate Board of Education, and under all legislative and administrative arrangements which now constitute the Government of Ireland. It is perfectly impossible. You must say what you want done, whether you want it to be an English county or a small self-governing province of their own, with their own Executive and Administration and their own education and their own country. As I say frankly——
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I should really like to know where we are in this matter. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that no suggestion will be considered which entails some other alteration in the Bill unless we make a new Bill at the same time that we make the suggestion?
§ Mr. BIRRELL
The answer is in the negative. I can only say that this Resolution, which, I suppose, will be dealt with after we have dealt with the Amendment which is now before us, is a Resolution wholly necessary and, indeed, almost commanded by the terms of the Parliament Act, and, although 937 I know hon. Gentlemen opposite believe honestly that not one of those three Bills has received a sufficient amount of discussion, I believe both the country and the House feel that in all essential particulars the whole of those measures did receive adequate consideration.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 294; Noes, 202.941
|Division No. 118.]||AYES.||[10.58 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Lardner, James C. R.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Alden, Percy||Esslemont, George Birnie||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Falconer, James||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Ffrench, Peter||Lundon, Thomas|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Field, William||Lye[...]ll, Charles Henry|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Lynch, A. A.|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Fitzgibbon, John||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||France, Gerald Ashburner||McGhee, Richard|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Furness, Sir Stephen Wilson||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J|
|Barnes, George N.||Gelder, Sir W. A.||MacNeill, J G. Swift (Donegal, South)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Glanville, Harold James||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||M'Callum, Sir John M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Goldstone, Frank||M'Kean, John|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)|
|Bentham, G. J.||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||M'Laren, Hon.F.W.S. (Lincs., Spalding)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil|
|Black, Arthur W.||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Boland, John Pius||Hackett, John||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Hancock, John George||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Rossendale)||Meagher, Michael|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)|
|Brocklehurst, W. B.||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Menzies, Sir Walter|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Millar, James Duncan|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Molloy, Michael|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Molteno, Percy Alpert|
|Burke, E. Haviland||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Hayden, John Patrick||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Hayward, Evan||Mooney, J. J.|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Hazleton, Richard||Morgan, George Hay|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Morison, Hector|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Hemmerde, Edward George||Muldoon, John|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Munro, Robert|
|Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Henry, Sir Charles||Murphy, Martin J.|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Higham, John Sharp||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Hinds, John||Nannettl, Joseph P.|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Clough, William||Hodge, John||Nolan, Joseph|
|Clynes, John R.||Hogge, James Myles||Norton, Captain Cecil|
|Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth)||Holt, Richard Durning||Nuttall, Harry|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Hudson, Walter||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Cowan, W. H.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||O'Dowd, John|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||O'Grady, James|
|Crooks, William||John, Edward Thomas||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Sw'nsea)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Cullinan, John||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Malley, William|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Davies, E. William (Eifion)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Shee, James John|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Jewett, Frederick William||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Delany, William||Joyce, Michael||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Keating, Matthew||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Kellaway, Frederick George||Parry, Thomas H.|
|Dillon, John||Kelly, Edward||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Doris, William||Kilbride, Denis||Pearson, Hon, Weetman H. M.|
|Duffy, William J.||King, Joseph||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Ot[...]ey)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Pointer, Joseph||Rowntree, Arnold||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Pollard, Sir George H.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon Trent)|
|Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Wardle, George J.|
|Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Samuel, Sir Stuart M. (Whitechapel)||Waring, Walter|
|Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Scanlan, Thomas||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Primrose, Hon. Nell James||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Pringle, William M. R.||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Webb, H.|
|Radford, G. H.||Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Raffan, Peter Wilson||Sheehy, David||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Reddy, Michael||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Snowden, Philip||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Wiles, Thomas|
|Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Rendall, Athelstan||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Sutton, John E.||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Tennant, Harold John||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Thomas, J. H.||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Robinson, Sidney||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Roche, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Toulmin, Sir George||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Roche, Augustine (Louth)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Roe, Sir Thomas||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Rowlands, James||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Kyffin-Taylor, G.|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Denison-Pender, J. C.||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Denniss, E. R. B.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Lee, Arthur H.|
|Archer-Shee, Major Martin||Dixon, C. H.||Lewisham, Viscount|
|Ashley, W. W.||Doughty, Sir George||Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)|
|Astor, Waldorf||Duke, Henry Edward||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Baird, J. L.||Eyres-Monsell, B. M.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)|
|Baker, Sir Randorf L. (Dorset, N.)||Falle, Bertram Godfray||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Fell, Arthur||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownies|
|Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S.Geo., Han.S.)|
|Barnston, Harry||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.)||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Mackinder, H. J.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Forster, Henry William||Macmaster, Donald|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Gardner, Ernest||M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A.|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Gastrell, Major W. H.||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish)||Gibbs, G. A.||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Bigland, Alfred||Goldsmith, Frank||Malcolm, Ian|
|Blair, Reginald||Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Dennis Fortescue||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Meysey. Thompson, E. C.|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Grant, J. A.||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Boyton, James||Greene, W. R.||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Gretton, John||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Guinness, Hon.W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds)||Mount, William Arthur|
|Butcher, John George||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Haddock, George Bahr||Newman, John R. P.|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.)||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Campion, W. R.||Hall, Frederick (Dulwich)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Carllie, Sir Edward Hildred||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Nield, Herbert|
|Cassel, Felix||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||O'Neill. Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)|
|Cator, John||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Cautley, H. S.||Harris, Henry Percy||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Cave, George||Helmsley, Viscount||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Perkins, Walter|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Hickman, Colonel T. E.||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Hoare, Samuel John Gurney||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rawson, Colonel R. H.|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Houston, Robert Paterson||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Royds, Edmund|
|Cripps, Sir Charles Alfred||Kerry, Earl of||Rutherford, John (Lanes., Darwen)|
|Croft, H. P.||Keswick, Henry||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Sanders, Robert Arthur||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Sanderson, Lancelot||Terrell, H. (Gloucester)||Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Sandys, G. J.||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, N.)||Winterton, Earl|
|Sassoon, Sir Philip||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)|
|Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)||Touche, George Alexander||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'pool, Walton)||Tryon, Captain George Clement||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart.|
|Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Valentia, Viscount||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Stanier, Beville||Walker, Colonel William Hall||Yerburgh, Robert A.|
|Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Starkey, John R.||Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.-Lord|
|Steel-Maitland, A. D.||Weigall, Capt. A. G.||Edmund Talbot and Mr. Pike Pease.|
|Stewart, Gershom||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
§ Question proposed, "That the Question be now put."
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
(seated and covered): On a point of Order. May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether the right hon. Gentleman should not have claimed to move, "That the main Question be now put"? The right hon. Gentleman moved, "That the Question be now put." The Question, therefore, on which the right hon. Gentleman moved the Closure is the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Baronet is wrong. That has never been proposed from the Chair. It was the Motion that was about to be put from the Chair.
§ Resolved, "(1) That on the Committee stage of the Government of Ireland Bill, the Established Church (Wales) Bill, and the Temperance (Scotland) Bill, the Chairman shall forthwith put the Question that he do report the Bill without Amendment to the House, and no other Question, and that Question shall be decided without amendment or debate.
§ (2) On any day on which the Committee stage of any Financial Resolution relating to the Government of Ireland Bill is put 942 down as the first Order of the Day, the Chairman shall, at 10.30 p.m. on that day or, if that day is a Friday, at 4.30 p.m., bring the proceedings on that stage (if not previously concluded) to a conclusion.
§ (3) If the proceedings on the Committee stage of any Financial Resolution relating to the Established Church (Wales) Bill are not brought to a conclusion before the expiration of three hours after their being commenced the Chairman shall, at the expiration of that time, bring those proceedings to a conclusion.
§ (4) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are so to be brought to a conclusion, the Chairman shall put forthwith the Question on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair, and shall next proceed to put any other Question necessary to dispose of the Committee stage of the Resolution, without putting the Question on any other Motion or Amendment.
§ (5) On the Report stage of any Financial Resolution relating to the Government of Ireland Bill or the Established Church (Wales) Bill, the Speaker shall forthwith put the Question that the House doth agree with the Committee in the Resolution without putting any other Question. and the Question so put shall be decided without amendment or debate.
§ (6) On a day on which any proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under this Order proceedings for that purpose shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order relating to the Sittings of the House."
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Adjourned at Eighteen minutes after Eleven o'clock.