§ Mr. WALTER LONG
I beg to move an Amendment to the Address, to add, at the end thereof:—But humbly submit that it would be improper to proceed further with measures of so great importance as the Government of Ireland Bill and the Welsh Church Disestablishment Bill while the constitution of Parliament is still incomplete and without reference to the electors.I desire to emphasise, at the commencement of my remarks, the fact that the Amendment which I have the honour to move does not follow precisely the ordinary course, and is not one of those Amendments which are usually connected with the Address in answer to the Gracious Speech. It is customary for the Opposition to move some Amendment dealing with some question they regard as of great national importance which they support, but with which it is well known that the Government of the day do not intend to deal. This is an Amendment of a different kind, and we—I am permitted to speak for those with whom I act—have deliberately framed this Amendment, differing, as it does, from the ordinary Amendment, because we believe it to be our solemn duty to call the attention of this House and of the country to the very grave consequences which we believe will follow if the Government of the day pursue the course they have for the present adopted. We believe that those consequences may be averted if the Government and their followers will face 256 facts and awake from the dream in which they now seem to be indulging. I do not propose to discuss in more than a sentence or two the question of a mandate, or even that pledge of which we have heard so much. I shall make a reference to it presently, but I am not going to base my Amendment upon the position the Government occupy in regard to these Bills or upon the position they, occupy, unpleasant as I hold it to be, in regard to their pledge in reference to the reform of the House of Lords, but I am going to ask the House to adopt this Amendment upon other grounds. I am going to ask them to adopt it on the plain and, as I believe, incontrovertible facts of the case, which I will endeavour, as briefly as I can, to present for the consideration of this House. What is that position? It is that the Government have shattered the Constitution, and that they, in shattering the Constitution, have deprived the people of this country of their right to be consulted before measures of great importance are finally settled and disposed of. What is the position at this moment? Two great measures which we on this side, and we believe the majority of the people in England, hold to be measures of destruction, and not of construction, are to be forced through while your Constitution is shattered and in its present condition, without asking the people whether they desire these great fundamental changes to be made or not. We say that these are violent and unconstitutional methods. We say that this is not the way to carry legislation of the character which is discribed in my Amendment, and we invite this House to ask itself to-day what must be the utlimate effect of legislation of this kind carried in this way. I am not going to rely upon my own powers of prophecy, nor am I going to make a forecast of my own. I do not believe that, in the course of the remarks I shall have the honour to address to the House, I need to rely upon evidence drawn from any source other than ones which usually support the Government and the party opposite. I shall not have to fall hack upon declarations made by those with whom I usually act, nor shall I have to point to the language of fervid and enthusiastic politicians on my own side, but I shall have to call the attention of the House to the deliberate language of men who are not supporters of ours, and who see as plainly as we do what must be the result if the course the Government has adopted be 257 steadily pursued. I am going to read a letter which appeared in the "Times" on 15th January last. In that letter the writer says:—The vote on the question of compensating the (ill-paid) Welsh curates reveals once more in the most crucial way the political injustice that is being done. The Home Rule Bill, if it becomes law, will deeply change the conditions under which laws for the rest of the United Kingdom can be passed. Were it law to-day it is clear that the Welsh Church Bill would be to-day dead. The proposal of Mr. Goulding would have been carried, and the Bill would have had to be dropped. The more likely thing would be that the Government, uncertain of their issue, would have accepted the proposal. It is now perfectly plain that the Bill, if it becomes an Act, will have been carried by the dying votes of a large Roman Catholic contingent who have no personal or equitable interest in the matter. The rest of the United Kingdom, even without a fresh appeal to the country, would have refused the terms the Government demand. Many of us who have supported the principle of Home Rule fondly believed that Mr. Redmond at least and some of his more influential supporters would have felt some sympathy with the least fortunate of the servants even of another Church than his own; that on the question of Disendowment we should have heard at times a word from one of them in favour of generosity. We have not heard one word. The Labour party alone supplied the few independent Liberals with outspoken support. If this Bill is forced through on terms such as these, when political proportions are possibly on the eve of immediate alteration, who can expect Churchmen to accept it as final?Who is the writer of that language? Whom does that writer represent? The writer is the Dean of Lincoln, a consistent Liberal. As he says in the letter, he is a supporter of the principles of Home Rule. Whom does he represent in this country? He represents the most orderly, quiet, peace-loving section of the community, and if this is his view, being what he is, and representing whom he does, what do you think is likely to be the view of the Welsh laity when they realise that the Church they love and revere, the Church they have fostered and strengthened and which they hold to be the Church of the poor and needy, is to be Disestablished and deprived of most of its resources and its power for doing good under powers which the Dean describes in the language I have just read? If you turn from the Welsh to the minority in Ireland, and if this is the language and the opinion of the Dean, what do you think is likely to be the language and the opinion of the men of Ulster, who believe—you may say that they are wrong, but you cannot upset their opinion; you cannot convince them that you are right and that they are wrong—that, under the Bill you are going to force through, they and those who are to follow them will lose everything they hold most dear? If the Dean of Lincoln takes this view of the situation to-day, do you think that they are likely in the not distant future to take 258 a materially different view from that which I have read to the House? I venture to say it is an act almost of madness to try to force through this House by methods such as these legislation which, however much you may regard it as right and necessary, is regarded by a very large section of the community—you do not know whether it be not a majority of the people in the rest of the United Kingdom, England, and Scotland—with hatred and detestation, and which they regard as involving grave injustice to them and those whom they represent, legislation which they have declared, carried as it is to be under a shattered Constitution, they will not accept, and which they will not regard as legislation which has been constitutionally passed by the Parliament of this country.
Is this a good beginning for your new legislation for Ireland and Wales? Is this the laying of the foundation of a peaceful solution of those questions in the immediate future? Where outside of this House have you got support for the method you are adopting? Here is the opinion of one of your own newspapers. The "Daily Chronicle," in an article on the Franchise Bill and the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, said:—If an important proposal affecting Great Britain only were defeated by Irish votes that would gravely prejudice the future of Home Rule. All the Conservative taunts about their wanting at the same time to govern themselves and govern us would seem startlingly verified, and a breach of confidence would be created between them and the British democracy which would be the worst possible preparation for the waiting period under the Parliament Act.That language does not come from us. It comes from those who generally support the Government. I ask again where, except on these benches, do you find support and justification for the legislation you are seeking to pass, and the methods by which you are seeking to pass it? I venture to say the justification you have is the shattered Constitution. I do not think anybody will venture to complain that that phrase is too strong. By your Parliament Act you have rendered the House of Lords impotent. You constantly rejoice over the work you have done, but are you quite sure in your inner selves that you are wise to rejoice as you are now rejoicing? You may, it is true, have deprived the House of Lords of its powers, the exercise of which you resent, but in striking at the House of Lords you have gone beyond them, and you have struck at the people of this country, whom you have 259 deprived of their ancient right given to them under the old Constitution, which enabled them from time to time to say for themselves whether they approved of your actions.
On this point I would say the one or two words I desire to say about the pledge. What is the Constitution under which we are living? Two Chambers, one rendered, as you boast yourselves, impotent, paralysed for all effective work. We contend it is practically a single-Chamber form of government under which we are now living. What are your views? You have protested times out of number that you do not favour the single-Chamber principle, and that you believe in the double-Chamber principle. Tell us frankly what are your opinions, and act accordingly. If you believe in Single-Chamber Government, have the courage of your opinions and abolish the Second Chamber altogether. If, on the other hand, you really and honestly believe in a double Chamber, then come forward with your proposal for a real Second Chamber, and let us feel that the legislation of the future will go through the two Houses in an ordinary constitutional way, and that we shall no longer be exposed to these dangers with which we contend we are to-day confronted. Some reference was made yesterday to language used in regard to this pledge in another place. Some doubt was expressed precisely what that language was. I will read two sentences from it now. Lord Loreburn, then Lord Chancellor, speaking in the House of Lords, said:—Everyone knows what the nature of our proposals with regard to the Preamble is. The Noble Lord has referred to it and of course we adhere to what was said. As regards the question of how long this Bill is to remain in force until the other Bill is brought in I will point out that these two Bills are what I may call twin Bills.The Prime Minister yesterday told us that they were twins in the sense of people being twins who are born at or about the same time.
§ Mr. LONG
The Prime Minister is sure to be absolutely accurate in any definition he gives. I thought, as a rule, twins were suppose to arrive in this world very shortly one after the other, so much so that we have been told people have had to resort to special methods in order to distinguish them. It is not necessary in this case. 260 There is no difficulty in distinguishing between an Act by which you destroy the House of Lords and an Act by which you create a Second Chamber. The one is here, and under it you are in office. The second has, so far as we know, no existence even in your minds, and it certainly is a remarkable fact, when a spokesman in the House of Lords describes these two Bills as so closely connected, that we should have been allowed to come to this period during which much Parliamentary time has been exhausted, without any attempt being made by the Government to complete the Constitution and to keep their pledge. The Prime Minister at the time described the obligation of the Government as a debt of honour. I was rather surprised at that description being given. I am not a lawyer, and I do not know what the precise definition of these two kinds of debt is, but I have always understood that the real distinction between a debt of honour and an ordinary debt, lies in this fact, that a debt of honour cannot be enforced by any process of law, whereas an ordinary debt can be enforced. That possibly was the real reason why the Prime Minister used that particular definition. The one debt has not been enforced, the other debt has been enforced and paid in full. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. T. M. Healy), with his ordinary acuteness, foresaw the situation in a speech he made last Session when he said, "Why not say at once that you mean not to submit this to the electors, that you mean to exercise the powers you have got?" The Government have not discharged their debt, and, while they have destroyed the House of Lords, what have they done to the House of Commons? I ask any old Member of this House who has sat through our Debates for a period of years whether he does not realise that, whatever you may have done to the House of Lords, you have struck a fatal blow at this great Assembly? Anybody who was present during the Debates on the Home Rule Bill all this last long and weary Session, anybody who has followed closely our proceedings, could not recognise in this gagged and manacled board of registration, for that is all that we have become, the old home of full debate and free discussion, where every measure was submitted to the full consideration of an unchained House of Commons, free to express their opinions and able also to help materially in moulding the legislation. What has happened, under 261 your procedure, to the powers of private Members? I appeal to all those who have sat in this House for years, as I have done, whether it be not the case that in the old days and under better ways private Members took a prominent and active part in all the legislation which was carried through this House, whether it came from the Government or from other sources, and whether many and many a great Act of Parliament now on the Statute Book is not an infinitely better Act than it would have been because of the intervention of the private Member and the consequent action upon that intervention of the Government of the day? That is all over now. Debate in this House has been stifled and destroyed, and the result has been not only that you have destroyed the power of the people, but you have destroyed the power of this House and you have constituted the Cabinet of the day an absolute autocracy, able to give its orders and see that a docile majority discharges them. That is what you have done to your Constitution.
What of the measures themselves which you are seeking to pass under this shattered Constitution? I said I am not going to discuss the vexed question whether you have a mandate or not, but neither at the General Election nor at any other time were the people of this country informed, nor had anybody dreamt, that you would under the name of Home Rule introduce a Bill which separated your British and Irish Post Office, and which established a system of Customs, and which created a method of finance which has been condemned in the strongest terms by one of the men who knows more of Ireland and Irish finance than anyone else, the present Lord MacDonnell. Did anybody in the country know or imagine that this was going to be the kind of Bill you were going to pass under these special powers? Not only was it not foreseen, but, under your new system, wholly inadequate time was given for its consideration. Again I appeal to your own supporters. "The Nation," which is not a Unionist paper, on 18th January said:—The existence of the House of Lords and its limited powers have cast a shadow over the Debates on the Home Rule Bill, and are indirectly but really responsible for its deficiencies.It goes on to say:—It is idle to pre end that the Bill is as perfect as it might be made by entirely free and unfettered discretion among people sincerely desirous to make as good a Constitution for Ireland as possible. We should have wished to see much fuller and freer discussion of several vital points, such as the position of the Irish Members in the House of Commons and, above all, finance, than has actually been allowed.262 That criticism is as strong as anything we could utter ourselves, and it is a complete condemnation of the methods that you have adopted. I would remind the House in a sentence of the past history of this question of Home Rule. Twice before Home Rule Bills have been introduced. The first was rejected in this House, the second was rejected elsewhere, but both these measures, when they went to the country, were rejected by overwhelming majorities, and I ask anybody whose memory carries him back to that time, especially the second occasion, what were the grounds on which those Bills were rejected? Those Bills were rejected by the country because they could not stand public examination and the test of public opinion. You know as well as we that you dare not risk submitting your Bill to the country, because you know that the same fate would overtake it that overtook both its predecessors. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Somebody says "No," but if that was the fate of the Bills of 1886 and 1895, how much more certain is it that the same Fate would overtake this? You have based your main argument for these Bills upon the majorities which you say there are in favour of them both in Ireland and in Wales. But what about the rest of the United Kingdom? You have no right to say, and you have no means of proving it, that after all these weary months the Home Rule Bill is fully understood in this country. Who can wonder, when we remember the mass of Debates here and the confusion and difficulty and doubt which prevailed, that there are many people who followed our debates who will tell you that they do not themselves profess thoroughly to understand the financial provisions of the relations between the two countries. Then you pretend to say that the country knows what you are doing and approves of your action. If you look at this question from the point of view of the rest of the United Kingdom, whatever may be the opinion of these Bills in Ireland or in Wales, the people of the United Kingdom are entitled to have their opinions and an opportunity of expressing them. Both these Bills, although affecting two particular portions of the United Kingdom alone directly, yet indirectly very closely affect the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Home Rule Bill, in the opinion of those with whom I have the honour to act, and in the opinion of the majority of our countrymen, gravely imperils the union 263 between England and Ireland. Its financial proposals will impose a very heavy burden upon the English people, and yet on two great questions of this kind you decline to let them express an opinion before you pass the Bill. The Welsh Bill, indirectly, undoubtedly assails the Church of England in England. I am not going to say, because I do not believe, that its effect upon England is confined to the Church of England. I hold that once you start upon the policy of confiscating endowments, you will find that you have entered upon a very dangerous course. Once you begin to deprive Churches of the money which is their own, and which they spend for religious and useful purposes, you cannot say how and when you are going to stop, and you cannot say that others will not in the end suffer by this example. Surely, if the people of the rest of the United Kingdom are to suffer as we believe they are, and are to pay, as they most assuredly will have to do, the least you can do is not to flout them and treat them with contempt, but to give them an opportunity of telling you whether they approve or disapprove of your action. You deny to our people the most elementary rights of citizenship, and it was indeed with the powers almost of a prophet that my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) foretold what would happen in a speech which he made in 1911, in which he referred to the—interval in which only one Chamber should regulate what the future Constitution is to be and only one Chamber decide whether the United Kingdom is to be split up into its constituent atoms or remain as it is. The programme of the Prime Minister is indefensible and has never been defended.4.0 P.M.
My right hon. Friend foresaw what would happen, but he did not realise, as we realise now, that it would be a case, not merely of government by a Single Chamber, but government by an autocratic Cabinet, relying solely upon the docile majority in the Single House. I would like to look at this, if I may, from the Home Rule point of view. What is the position if you pass this Bill as you are going to do now? So far as anybody can judge, it means that it will come into force about the time when this Parliament comes to an end? It will have to be followed at no distant date by an election. We have asked—we have never been answered, and I think we ought to be answered, and that the country is entitled to know—what the facts are. We have asked repeatedly what it is you have got in your minds that you intend to do when 264 this Bill passes, and you find that the men of Ulster are determined to resist it with all the force at their command. This was said at the beginning of our debates in the early stage of the Home Rule controversy. Does anybody who has followed what has been going on in Ireland up to this time doubt that that resistance has hardened; that the men of Ulster are more determined now than they were then, and that the danger is more acute and more serious to-day than it was twelve months ago? Yet you have never told us what steps you mean to take when you meet with this determined opposition. We say that you are entering upon a course of great and serious danger. We say that, if you, as the result of a General Election, were returned to power, you dare not use British bayonets and British rifles upon men whose only offence would be that they were claiming the same rights and privileges that you enjoy yourselves. We say, on the other hand, that if the result of that election made us responsible, no power on earth would make the Unionist party responsible for Government to turn British guns on men who are their best friends, and who are anxious only to stand by the national flag and to preserve the union of the United Kingdom. Is it possible for you any longer to ignore this situation? Is it possible for you to pretend that these facts which I have briefly described do not exist? If it is not possible to ignore them, then I say it is cynical recklessness to proceed in the course and in the programme that you have laid down for yourselves. Let me remind the House that in the course of our Debates my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition took up the challenge thrown upon the floor of the House by the Prime Minister. Surely it would have been worth your while in the interests of Home Rule, of which you profess to be such heart-whole advocates, to have secured for your measure, if you could, the approval and support of the people. You have deliberately abstained, and are abstaining now, from any attempt to do this. We at least believe that, relying, as you apparently are, solely upon force, the result will be one disastrous to Ireland and Irish Home Rule, and will bring profound, perhaps irreparable, misfortune to this country. Force, aye, and even insult, have been the watchwords of the party opposite, in many cases, in regard to Ulster and Ulstermen. What attempt, through all this long controversy, has 265 there been made in order to obtain conference and discussion? What attempt has there been made to conciliate opponents and to remove reasonable grounds of objection? I venture to say none.
Through the long history of this Home Rule movement you have done nothing to heal sores or to bring together combatants. You have done all in your power to add to bitterness and to increase the determination of those who are opposed to Home Rule, to resist you by the same methods by which you seek to force them against their will to have that which they do not want. Is there no precedent that you, the Government of the day, as great Constitution makers, could have adopted? This is not the first case in which a Constitution has been framed and formed for a country. You had when you started upon your task many precedents and many examples in our own British Empire. First and foremost among them you had the great and glorious example of the Dominion of Canada. I do not know, in my limited experience, of any reading more interesting or which appeals to one more completely than when one reads the history of the work which preceded the formation of the great Dominion of Canada. All the great statesmen who formed that Dominion, Sir John Anthony Macdonald, Sir Charles Tupper, who now lives to see the splendid results of his own labours, and other men like them who formed that splendid band of, I think, eighteen—did they try to force their measures on parts of Canada? They travelled about the country, and had conference after conference. They met every objection they could. They appealed in every way to the sympathies and hearts of men, and eventually they laid the foundation of that magnificent structure we know now as the Dominion of Canada, one of the greatest glories in the British Empire. To Sir Charles Tupper, who contributed so much to it, we offer our hearty congratulations that he is living to see the result of his great labours. Why was this splendid success attained? It was because the foundations were well and truly laid. Their methods, which I have described, were entirely different from those we have here to-day. It was by those methods that friendship, support, and the result were secured, whereas you have brought nothing but opposition and enmity.
You pass from Canada to South Africa, the latest example, and there exactly the same steps were taken. There was convention after convention of men who but 266 a few months before had been engaged in the horrible contest of war. They were called together in the council chamber, and after a very long series of meetings and discussions, and the presentation of varying proposals, the great Act of Union of South Africa was produced. The same, with certain limitations, may be said of Australia. All these examples, all these precedents you have ignored. You have derided them as not suited to your requirements. In all these cases there has been a great and glorious success. You have adopted other methods, and I believe in my heart and conscience you will have other results. I do not desire to occupy longer the attention of this House, and I thank hon. Members for the patience with which they have listened to me and for the indulgence which they have generously bestowed upon me. I can safely say that never through the many, many years that I have had the great honour of a seat in this House, or on one of these two benches, have I approached this Table with a more profound sense of responsibility than I did to-day when I rose to move the Amendment which stands in my name. Never have I felt more profoundly convinced that the line which I rose to advocate to the House, and the course which I venture to recommend to the House, is the line and is the course that in the interests, not of a party or of a section, but of the whole country, they would, if they were wise and prudent, adopt. The cause that we believe we are advocating through this Amendment to-day is the cause of freedom and of fair treatment for the whole of the United Kingdom, and of justice, especially for the two parts of it, England and Scotland, which will have to take their risk of what may follow. It is, in fact, the cause of our country as a whole. I believe, as firmly as I have ever believed anything in my life, that if the Government, blind to facts and deaf to arguments, persist in their mistaken course, the result will be disastrous to the country, and hereafter shame and humiliation for themselves. I appeal, in my last words, to this House and to the country, to pause before it is too late, and to make up their minds, ere the sands of the glass have quite run out, to turn to wiser counsels, and to invoke a broader and more far-seeing statesmanship.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman began his speech, the sincerity and eloquence of which 267 I can assure him we on this side most heartily appreciate and admire, with the admission that the course which he is taking on behalf of his political Friends on this occasion was unusual. It is quite true that it has been customary, at least, in my Parliamentary experience, for the Front Opposition Bench, when they move an Amendment to the Address, to put forward something in the nature of an alternative policy from that which the Government had announced in the King's Speech. And the present Opposition, to do them justice, pursued that course tenaciously and consistently, not, perhaps, with much success, though they were none the worse for that, during a number of years. Now it has been abandoned for reasons into which it is quite unnecessary for me to enter, and we have, as the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged, an Amendment which, coming from such a quarter at such a time, is of an extraordinary, and probably of an almost unprecedented, character. I do not complain in the least. I do not even emphasise the morals that might be drawn as to the capacity of the Opposition at this moment, if they were called upon, as they seem to be anxious to be called upon, to resume the reigns of government, to submit to Parliament, and to submit to the electors, a coherent, intelligible, and united policy. I am quite content that they on this occasion should adopt, as they have done, a negative and an aggressive rather than a constructive and a positive policy. What was the charge which the right hon. Gentleman made in his Amendment? I have gone over this ground so often that I must really apologise to the House if I repeat myself. The charge is—I use the right hon. Gentleman's own language—that we have "shattered the Constitution" and thereby deprived the electors of the country of their legitimate voice in the determination of legislation and policy.
Who shattered the Constitution? I do not say our old Constitution, but our old constitutional arrangements were shattered when, some three or four years ago, the House of Lords rejected the Budget of the year; and everything which has since happened in the rearrangement of our constitutional system was the direct, legitimate, and inevitable consequence of that arbitrary and revolutionary proceeding. The people, to use the right hon. Gentleman's language, who "shattered the Constitution"—the people, in other words, 268 who are responsible for the change that was introduced by the Parliament Act—are the electors of Great Britain and Ireland. That Bill—and no one now disputes it, whatever else you may say, were the issues of the General Election in November and December, of 1910–that Bill, as a Bill, in all its terms, was clearly and directly submitted to the electorate. This House of Commons was returned with express authority, yes, and more than that, with the direction of the electorate of the country, that their first step was to pass that Bill into law. When the right hon. Gentleman makes a charge of shattering the Constitution the persons against whom he ought to direct it, the real defendants to his indictment are not those who sit on these benches, but they are the electors who returned us here. The right hon. Gentleman, I think rather wisely, in that respect set an example which might well be followed by some of those who sit behind and around him. The right hon. Gentleman said he would not go into the question, or go at length into the question of the mandate which was given by the electorate to this House of Commons, especially in relation to Home Rule and the Welsh Bill, which are the two Bills named in this Amendment. I think he was wise not to go into that question. I have dealt with it frequently; I spoke about it in response to a challenge from the Leader of the Opposition only two nights ago, and I am not going into it again at any length, but I should like, in order to make what is already clear, abundantly clear, to refer to two, and only two, incidents which happened before and during that election. I have been accused, and my Friends have been accused, of having concealed from the electorate our intention to make use of the Parliament Act, if and when it became law, to pass a Home Rule Bill for Ireland first and before everything else. I have here a message which was sent by the then Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) in the middle of the election to the Unionist candidate for the Barnstaple Division. I am quoting from the "Times" of 12th December, 1910.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I was wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman intends to read anything of his own. [An HON. MEMBER: "Wait a minute."]
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I have got plenty of my own to quote. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to see what I said, let him look at the speech which I made at Hull in November. I was referring to discreditable attacks made on us as a party and on the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) that the whole thing was being run by American gold—that was the charge which was also made, a charge which I am bound to say had no meaning whatsoever unless it was made perfectly clear we were going to bring in a Home Rule Bill. With reference to that charge, I said in the most explicit terms, that I adhered to and repeated what I said a year before, namely, before the election of January, in the Albert Hall, on the subject of Home Rule. I am not the least afraid of my own language. Let me read what the right hon. Gentleman said, the then Leader of the Opposition, and I do not know why I should be prevented from doing so. The then Leader of the Opposition sent this message to the candidate for Barnstaple in the heat and stress of the election. He said:—The avowed intention of the Government—the avowed intention, not an inference to be drawn, but the avowed intention of the Governmentis in substance to abolish the Second Chamber, and then, without any reference to the electors, to grant a sweeping measure of Home Rule to Ireland in obedience to the orders dictated to them by the Leader of the Irish party.That, in the view of the then Leader of the Opposition, was the avowed intention of the Government. The only other fact I will refer to on this matter as bearing it out, and showing how clearly that was in the minds of everybody when Parliament met immediately after the election, is the Debate on the Address in the month of February, 1911, when the Member for Croydon (Mr. Malcolm) moved an Amendment to the Address which was supported by the great bulk of the Opposition, and in support of which the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, made a speech. The Amendment was in these terms:—We humbly represent that our effective deliberations on the proposed changes in the relation between the two Houses of Parliament are seriously hampered by the obscure and conflicting declarations of Your Majesty's Ministers on the subject of Home Rule, the attainment of which is openly avowed as one of the main reasons for altering the existing Constitution.That was the interpretation, as soon as the new Parliament met, put by the Opposition on the declaration which Ministers had made in the course of the 270 General Election which preceded the meeting of Parliament. It is not worth while pursuing that subject further. I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman devoted very few sentences of his speech to that particular topic. I have shown that this supposed shattering of the Constitution was really nothing more than giving effect by Parliament to the declared will of the electorate, and that purpose, so far, at any rate, as Home Rule was concerned, was a purpose which everybody in every party, whether upon this side or that clearly recognised at the time of the election was a purpose to which it would be put. What is the right hon. Gentleman's complaint? He objects, and his Friends object strongly and vehemently, and I am not in the least quarrelling with them in that regard, to the Irish Government Bill and the Welsh Church Bill. It is the business of the Opposition always to object to the principal measure in the programme of their opponents. But the right hon. Gentleman appeared to suggest in regard to these two Bills that a course should be taken which I never remember—and I have been in this House a good many years—being suggested by anybody when he and his Friends were in power, that because they are particularly obnoxious to the Opposition of the day, they should go back to the electorate before they are passed into law. Talk about revolution and innovation—that is the most monstrous novelty that has ever been foisted on Parliamentary discussion. It means the absolute negation of the whole principle of representative government. Let us look at these two Bills for a moment and see what are their particular dimensions. In the first place, it cannot be disputed as regards either that one affects Ireland primarily, the other affects Wales primarily. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that in dealing with these matters you cannot confine and ought not to confine your view to the mere community which is in the first instance affected by the measure. You must look at it so long as we have a united Imperial Parliament from a larger and wider point of view than that. I quite agree. First, as regards the communities immediately and directly concerned, no one disputes that each of the Bills is supported by the overwhelming majority of the representatives of those communities, in Ireland in the proportion of something like four or five to one, and in Wales of ten to one—there is no doubt about that.
271 How as regards the rest? I have got here an analysis which has been made of the Divisions on these two Bills. There were 234 Divisions on the Home Rule Bill and there were ninety Divisions on the Welsh Church Bill. In the 234 Divisions on the Home Rule Bill the average majority of the Government was 116, and in the ninety Divisions on the Welsh Church Bill the average majority was 109, so that it is perfectly plain, and it never was plainer in the history of this House, with regard to any measures that have ever been passed, that there was a majority for them independently of the communities which were especially concerned; it is a matter of arithmetic. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] I know the practice of deducting the Irish on one side of the count and leaving them on the other. If you apply the ordinary rules of arithmetic, the ordinary rules of political arithmetic which have hitherto prevailed, then it is perfectly true in regard to both those Bills that they were supported, steadily supported in an enormous number of Divisions, lasting in the case of Home Rule for a great number of months, by a majority independent of the communities directly affected. In the case of Bills which have those two characteristics, first of all supported by an enormous majority of the representatives of the communities directly affected, and next supported by a substantial majority of the House of Commons independent of those communities, what possible ground is there for saying they ought to be referred back to the electorate? I should like to see that principle applied, or should have liked to have seen it applied, by right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they sat upon this side of the House. I never heard any such suggestion made in regard to the Education Act, about which I spoke the other night, or in regard to the Licensing Act, or in regard to any of the measures which they ever proposed. To single out these two Bills for special treatment on these grounds is really, as I have said, to deny the fundamental principle on which representative government has hitherto been upheld and practised by all parties under all conditions in this State. Apart from the two Bills what is the remainder of the right hon. Gentleman's complaint? It really, so far as I understood it, resolves itself into three separate and distinct heads. First, that we have done wrong to the House of Lords and the Second Chamber, and then that we have done wrong to the people, 272 and that we have done wrong to the House of Commons. First, as regards the House of Lords, nobody defends the House of Lords as it at present exists.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
At the earliest available opportunity. It is very curious and interesting to observe the insatiable and unquenchable thirst with which hon. Gentlemen opposite look forward to proposals for the reform of the House of Lords. We have had to wait a great many years before they suggested that, but it is now common ground between both parties that the House of Lords as at present constituted cannot continue to exist as a Second Chamber. As I pointed out only two nights ago, there is no party in this country which, from a purely party point of view, has a keener or a more direct interest in the rapid and effective settlement of that question than the party which sits on this side of the House. The House of Lords as it exists at the present time, even with the fetters placed upon it by the Parliament Act, is, as everybody knows, a serious and formidable obstacle to Liberal legislation. Everybody knows perfectly well that if by the vicissitudes of political fortune we were to be turned out of office to-morrow and the party opposite were to take our places here, the House of Lords as a revising Chamber would cease to have any effect. The Parliament Act would be a dead letter. We should live, as we lived for ten years—many of us remember it well—under a system of unadulterated Single-Chamber government. I honestly wish—I say it in all sincerity—that hon. Gentlemen opposite would put themselves imaginatively in our place in this matter. Suppose you came back to office to-morrow with a majority, consider what our position would be as an Opposition. You know perfectly well that any measure that that Government proposed, and which its majority in this House sanctioned—I do not care how revolutionary that measure might be; I do not care how fundamental the changes it might make in our social, political, industrial, or fiscal system—would go through automatically without any difficulty whatever; without, in the first place, any chance of effective revision; and, next, without the possibility of any reference to the people.
You know that to be true. Is it fair? Put yourselves in our position. You may doubt how many of the electors we represent. Whether we represent a majority or 273 not, at any rate we represent a very large number of the electors of the country. The number fluctuates from time to time; sometimes it is a majority, sometimes a minority. It is always a very substantial proportion. Put yourselves in our place, and in the place of those whom we represent. Is there a man among you who could tolerate that system, or would regard it as the fair holding of the balance which any Second Chamber worthy of the name would regard as its function to discharge as between the two great political parties in the State? As fair-minded Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen, you know that it is not. It was from a profound sense of the permanent and lasting injustice which that state of things inflicted upon one of the great parties in the State that a large majority of the electors of the country gave us the authority to pass the Parliament Act. The Parliament Act, I agree, is in itself an imperfect and incomplete measure. It leaves to an unreformed Second Chamber a power which, in our opinion, it ought not to possess; and I say with unaffected sincerity that I shall welcome the day, which I hope will soon arrive, when I shall have the honour of proposing from this box a measure which will completely reconstruct that Second Chamber and turn it into a true, impartial, and judicially minded revising authority. The right hon. Gentleman says that we have deprived the people of their ancient rights. Of what ancient rights?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am dealing with the people at present. I will come to the House of Commons in a moment. Of what ancient rights have we deprived the people? They sent us here. They were as free to vote at the last election as at any other election. The only change we have made in the position of the electors is that, by shortening the duration of Parliament, we have secured that they shall have more freedom, instead of less, to say whether or not the House of Commons accurately and faithfully represents their wishes. So much for the people. Now I come to the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that we have struck a fatal blow to the dignity and authority of the House of Commons. To quote his own picturesque phrase, we are "a gagged and manacled board of registration." Let us see how this gagged and manacled body has been occupying itself 274 in the last Session. Take the Government of Ireland Bill. Leaving out altogether the days that were devoted to matters of Time and Money Resolutions, fifty-two days were occupied by this gagged and manacled body in the discussion of that Bill. Go back to the days to which the right hon. Gentleman looks with such wistful and affectionate regret—the days of freedom. Did they ever spend a longer time than that in the discussion of any of the great measures submitted to them? I do not believe they ever did. Nor, looking back to the debates on the Home Rule Bill, do I believe there was ever a Bill in regard to which the really important and fundamental questions involved were discussed so fully and completely. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I say deliberately I do not think there has ever been a Bill in regard to which every really important point was so freely and completely discussed. If you compare the discussions which took place upon it and those which took place on great fundamental measures like the Representation of the People Bill, 1867, or the Irish Church Bill, or the Irish Land Bill, or the Ballot Act, or the Education Act, in the days of Mr. Gladstone's Parliaments, I am perfectly certain that you will find there were much freer, fuller, and ampler opportunities for debate on the Home Rule Bill than on any one of those measures.
What about the Welsh Church Bill? That measure from first to last occupied twenty-seven and a half days. I do not carry in my mind for the moment the precise figure with regard to the Irish Church Bill, but I should be very much surprised if the time on that Bill was as long. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nineteen days."] I thought so. The time given by this gagged House of Commons to the Welsh Church Bill was considerably longer than the time given to the much more elaborate and complicated measure of Mr. Gladstone in 1865–half as long again. When these rhetorical charges come to be analysed and tested by reference to the actual facts, they are really totally devoid of foundation. People speak as though the House of Commons carried on its discussions under unreal conditions. I do not believe that anything of the kind is the fact. I think the country respects the House of Commons just as much as it ever did. There is just the same eagerness on the part of men of intelligence and character to get into the House of Commons as at any previous time in our history.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Those are not the people of whom I am speaking. You will find people of character, intelligence, and independence just as eager to enter the House of Commons as at any previous time of its existence. I would add, too, that you will find in the electorate just as ardent an interest in the choice of their Members and in the prosecution of the electoral campaign as at any time in our Parliamentary history. This theory of the decadence of the House of Commons, of the declining interest of the country in its proceedings and composition, and of the decline in its dignity and authority is, I believe, a pure fiction. I shall be very much surprised if that is the view in their heart of hearts of the vast majority of those whom I am addressing. I have endeavoured to go through the various points made by the right hon. Gentleman. I submit to the House that, in our proceedings, both in reference to the Parliament Act and to the uses to which the Parliament Act has been applied, we have been carrying out faithfully and accurately the authority and direction of the electorate whom we came here to represent, and I myself have not the faintest fear of the verdict that they will pronounce on the fidelity with which we have adhered to their wishes.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
My right hon. Friend moved his Amendment on broad grounds. Without in the least forgetting that we still maintain our criticism of the Government in the way of denying the mandate which they claim, he did not on this occasion desire to discuss that question so much as others. The Prime Minister has in a most amusing way carried the Debate back to what I may call the ordinary and hackneyed grounds. With that extraordinary dialectical skill which he possesses, he gave what I may call without offence oblique answers to the charges that were made. Take, for instance, the question of the character of the House of Commons in the view of the country at the present time. The Prime Minister bore his witness, which we must all respect as the witness of one of the oldest and most experienced of our Members, to the fact that you have men of character in the House of Commons at the present time, and men of character attempting to enter the House of Commons. Yes, that is so; but the commentary of the country as a whole 276 —I am not talking of partisans and party organisations, but of the keen men whom you find in the professions and businesses is the essence of what we mean. It is not mons contains so many of the able men of the country, and that so many such men are willing to enter it, and yet it is so futile and so ineffective in its work? That is the essence of what we mean It is not the composition of the House of Commons as far as the men in it are concerned, but the conduct of the business of the House of Commons in such a way as to render futile and ineffective all the efforts of the men who come here to take part in the government of their country. The right hon. Gentleman dealt with our position in regard to the House of Lords in exactly the same way. He met very eloquently a charge which was neither made nor indicated in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment. He was very eloquent indeed in his appeal to our feelings, and doubtless to the feelings of the country in respect to the partisan character of the House of Lords. That was exactly the ground—the ammunition used during the last election. It was on that ground that the party opposite undoubtedly obtained their mandate—such as it was—but very many Second Chamber men voted for them.
Many men who believed that a Second Chamber is essential to the working of our Constitution, and that without a Second Chamber our Constitution must be inevitably shattered, voted for hon. Gentlemen opposite, and in this Amendment which we are now putting forward we complain that expression is not given to the wish and will of these men who supported the party opposite on the ground that they had criticised the present House of Lords. They admitted, as many of our people admit, the justice of the claim which the Prime Minister has just made as to the partisan character of the House of Lords. They elected you. Now you go on to pass all manner of legislation, neglecting the fact that one large section, as we believe, of those who put you into office and gave you the mandate that you claim were men who believed that legislation could not properly be carried on in this country without a Second Chamber. The reply of the Prime Minister, eloquent and powerful as it was, was of the extraordinarily skilful character of the great advocate. He answered, but he answered points which it was not our intention to 277 make. I want to recur for a very few moments to the broad ground upon which this Amendment is based. The Prime Minister asked, "Who shattered the Constitution?" He took us back to the time when the House of Lords rejected the Budget of 1909. Why was it, I would ask, that the House of Lords rejected that Budget? Because the House of Lords saw no ordinary financial proposals in it, but the beginning of a new regime in our Constitution. How is it that one hears up and down the country in all directions from well-informed people the statement that they are tired of party government? Every hon. Member here must have come across many people at the present time who care neither for one party or the other, and believe one to be almost as bad as the other.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I simply say that people believe it so. No doubt it is impossible. What is the reason for their belief? It is worth inquiry. Our complaint is that the Government are neglecting one of the conventions of the British Constitution, namely, that party power must not be pressed to the ultimate extreme. In our Constitution we entrust a party with the whole physical force of the State—to take only one aspect of power. We entrust that force to the majority of the nation—on an occasion it is not even a majority. We entrust to a party the power of the Army and the police, the power of prosecution—though not perhaps the actual controlling of the law — and practically of legislation, because the minority is impotent in divisions. We entrust to a party the whole power of the State. It is a most extraordinary position, when one comes to think about it, that the whole power of the nation is entrusted to a party representative of a bare majority of the nation, and on occasion not even that. On what principle is it possible to carry on a Constitution like the British Constitution? Only if that party power is not ruthlessly exercised. Only if there is a spirit of "give-and-take," such as we believe to be consonant with the practical British character. I believe one reason people at this time are doubting the value of party government in our modern State is that they see an attempt to push to a ruthless and tyrannous extreme the powers that formerly were exercised under very different conditions.
278 You have removed in the House of Lords one—imperfect, I admit—but one controlling force over both parties; and by your payment of Members you have made people doubt the effective action of that more secret, but as we know very effective, control of the Government, the revolt of their supporters, revolt and remonstrance in the Lobby and elsewhere. The belief in the country is that that revolt and that that remonstrance is no longer effective. It is for that reason, among others, that there is this disbelief in party government and disbelief in the effectiveness of the restraint which formerly pressed upon the Government of the day. The people believe that we have come to a time when you ruthlessly push your party advantage. For that reason we have used in this Amendment a mild word. We say that it would be improper to press your advantage under present conditions in regard to these particular Bills which have been brought forward. It is a mild word, but it was designedly chosen, and chosen because we wish to appeal to the Constitution in no mere party spirit, but to conventions which English people of character have recognised. Government by a Constitution like ours—it has been an unwritten Constitution—can only be worked by fair "give-and-take." We complain that at the present time the securities for that fairness, for that "give-and-take" that gave the chief characteristic to and made possible the British Constitution, have one by one been removed. For that reason we protest firmly, though we protest in language which is carefully measured—because our object is not to press any party advantage on our own side—but to make an appeal to what we believe is essential to the security of the nation at the present time. People, I believe, also doubt this system of party government thus pressed, because they believe that in an age in which we are demanding every corner of our life to be scientifically efficient we are not obtaining efficient government. The right hon. Gentleman told us of the majorities obtained for the two Bills in question. An hon. Member near me reminds me that there was a minority on one occasion. Perhaps that minority was even more important than many of the majorities.
In "Alice in Wonderland" I believe it is said that a thing was true because it was repeated several times. Is it not 279 a farce when the majority in the House of Commons is forced to the trouble of voting again and again, really to put that forward as a solid reason why you are armed with greater authority for measures than if they had been supported a few times by the same majority! Our Constitution, I repeat, can only work with "give-and-take." After all, in modern times, when all men are more or less educated, or when all at any rate read the newspapers, very small minorities may determine the great majority which the Government have in their Lobby. You have a thousand voting one way and a thousand another, and twenty extremists turn the balance. The deep belief in this country is that we are ruled by our extremists, and not by the general mass of the country. The great majority that you have in the House of Commons is the product in the several constituencies of the minority as well as the majority; of protest as well as advocacy. In many cases your man is here to give you that vote only because of a small difference in votes obtained, let us say, by an appeal to ultra teetotalers or other extremists who supported him, and who sold their votes practically to the man who would give them what they require! It is because, if you look at our Constitution, not according to the hackneyed conventions of debate, but to the facts, that you can only have a majority in this House wielding the full power of this nation if there is a reasonable "give-and-take." Deep down everybody knows that these majorities are not the product of any sweeping opinion in the country; they are the product of small minorities, casting their votes on this or that side, and very often because of the extremist opinion of people who themselves are in the smallest possible minorities in the country. We appeal, therefore, at the present time to the Government to regard this matter not simply from the Point of view of party advantage, but from the point of view of the maintenance of the best traditions of our nation. We ask them to be moderate in the exercise of their power, and we ask them to use that power in a proper manner.
The statement has been made by the Prime Minister that in regard to these two particular Bills which are dealt with in this Amendment you had the greatest possible authority for drastic action in this 280 particular House of Commons. He took the case of Ireland. He said there was a great majority in that nation that required Home Rule. He totally omitted the fact, repeated so often in this House that one is almost ashamed to repeat it again, that this is not a case of a majority and a minority in a single community. It is the expression of the opinion of two communities, each of which in its own region in Ireland has the majority—only the one happens to be larger than the other. In no sense except by an abuse of words have you any right to represent the majority for Home Rule in Ireland as an expression of the will of the majority over the minority, as it would be in this country, as it would be in any homogeneous community. You have the expression of majorities, one majority in one part of the country, and another majority in another part of the country. The right hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment referred to the precedent of Canada. May I venture to point out that Canada in this respect not only is an example of good to us, but also contains a warning of evil? Prior to the federation of Canada, in 1867, you had from the time of the legislation which followed on the report of Lord Durham a period of a whole generation during which two nationalities, Quebec and Ontario, were boxed into a single Constitution. They could not consort together. We know it was only with the greatest possible care that it was possible to work the Constitution of Canada as it stood during the fifties and sixties of the last century. It was only because during the later portion of the time they knew that the greatest preparations were being made in order to reverse the decision that had been come to, and in order to give free expression to these two peoples, that they submitted to the Constitution at all.
In face of that warning we claim you have no right to press this measure. In face of that warning you are repeating precisely the conditions that prevailed in Canada. You are placing together two majorities, in Ulster and in the remainder of Ireland, and making them work a Constitution under almost precisely similar conditions to those under which Quebec and Ontario failed to work. That is one of the reasons why we say that you have no mandate at the present time in the ordinary sense of the word from Ireland for Home Rule. You have a mandate from a portion of Ireland, but you have also the 281 protest of a majority of a separate community in Ireland. I will not detain the House further. I merely wanted to point out that the Debate, as opened by the right hon. Gentleman below me, was based on broad grounds. The Prime Minister carried it back to hackneyed grounds that we have here debated in this House so often. In the careful, moderate wording of the Amendment put forward the intention has been to make an appeal from partisan feelings, and to represent in this House what is a commonplace outside—the weariness of the country in this interchange of party abuse and an attempt to draw attention to the real facts of the case, which substantially are that you can work our Constitution only if there is reasonable "give-and-take," and if the authority which is given to the majority, a majority produced very fortuitously under our conditions in this country at the present time, is used only with restraint and with proper British effect. Our protest is against the ruthlessness and inefficiency of the present system.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, unfortunately for us and fortunately for his party, is possessed of great knowledge, and has great aptitude for putting a superficial gloss upon any case he wishes to represent, either in this House or in the country. And the right hon. Gentleman, I admit, has put a superficial gloss upon the case so ably put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Strand (Mr. Long). But I venture to say it is nothing but a superficial gloss which would not deceive anyone cognisant of the facts of the case. He devoted little time to looking beneath the surface. What did the right hon. Gentleman say in reference to the House of Lords? He told us that if the Unionist party were in power the House of Lords would pass any measure we introduced. That is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not know on what he founds it. No one can tell what will take place in the future. Our party is not upon the Government side of the House, and, if it were, and were to introduce bad legislation, I earnestly hope the House of Lords would reject it. I do not know whether they would or not, and the right hon. Gentleman does not know either. There is no doubt our party has a majority in the House of Lords in spite of the numerous creations of the party opposite in the last few years. It has always 282 been a surprise to me that, holding the opinions which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite say they hold, and which, of course, I accept in all sincerity, they should be so anxious to leave this House and go to another place, which is to them the conception of everything antagonistic to real Liberal feeling. It is a curious sign of the times that the first wish of hon. Gentlemen opposite who cannot get on to the Treasury Bench is to get some sort of a title, and, if possible, to go to the House of Lords. That is a curious thing, but it is a fact which no one will venture to controvert.
What was the position of the House of Lords a few years ago? I venture to say that up to 1885 there was not a majority for the Conservative party in the House of Lords, and it was only the introduction of the Home Rule Bill of 1885 which created a majority in the House of Lords which turned out to be permanent for the Conservative party. Is that to the credit or to the discredit of the House of Lords? I venture to say it is to the credit of the House of Lords and to the people of this country. What did the country do? It endorsed the opinion of the House of Lords in 1885 when they rejected the Home Rule Bill. Since that time, I admit, the House of Lords has rejected a considerable number of Radical measures, but why? Not because they were Radical but because they were bad. No good measure which the Radical party would introduce would have been rejected by the House of Lords. Unfortunately, I have not been able to look at the actual facts, but my impression is that in the first Liberal Parliament of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, which lasted for four years the House of Lords only rejected four measures, one was the Budget of 1909, the other was the Plural Voting Bill, the next was the Scotch Land Bill, and the next was the Licensing Bill. After all that was not a very large number of Bills to reject in four years. I brought these figures forward at the election of 1910, because this was a question constantly raised by Radical Members, and while the House of Lords only rejected four Bills they passed something like 230 Bills. The right hon. Gentleman says that never in the past did the House of Lords reject Conservative measures. I admit that during the fourteen or fifteen years in which my party was in power from 1886 the House of Lords only made amendments to Bills. They did make amendments to Bills, I forget the exact number of Bills 283 they amended, but I think it was about ten. But then let it be remembered our party made no revolutionary proposal, and consequently the right hon. Gentleman has missed a point, namely, that his party introduced revolutionary measures and our party did not.
Now what is the function of a Second Chamber when a revolutionary measure is introduced? The function of the Second Chamber is to give to the electors an opportunity of saying whether, after hearing or reacting the debates upon a particular measure, the opinion of the country upon that measure should be tested, and that is all the House of Lords has ever done during the last hundred years, and that is all they claim to do. Take the case of the Budget of 1909. The House of Lords rejected that, and as a matter of fact the House of Lords was right, because the Land Taxes in that Budget was the worse piece of finance ever introduced into any Parliament, and as my hon. Friend, Mr. George Faber, reminds me, there was a majority in this House against it. The House of Lords having rejected it, and the country having been bamboozled by the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his Friends unfortunately gave the right hon. Gentleman a coalition majority. But what happened then? The House of Lords passed the Budget because, I admit, a majority of the votes in this House were then in favour of the Budget. I venture to say that is the true function of a Second Chamber. Whatever Second Chamber there may be, and however that Second Chamber is elected, the function of a Second Chamber is not to contain a number of men who are the supporters of a particular party after a particular election, and who are prepared to pass the majority of the Bills of that particular party, but a Second Chamber is, or should be, a Conservative body to guard against a sudden fancy which may strike the electorate, and which after due consideration they may regret and desire to change, and it is to give to the people of the country an opportunity of reconsidering their choice that a Second Chamber should exist.
The right hon. Gentleman asks who is prepared to accept the House of Lords as it exists? I am for one; I do not know that I should have many supporters in this House; but the House of Lords in my opinion has done great services to the country, and it is composed of a very large 284 number of eminent men, and I venture to say, taking the years that have passed—I do not know what is to happen in the future—the House of Lords will compare favourably with any Second Chamber in the world, and I think it is extremely ungrateful to try and make out now that the House of Lords is an effete Chamber because in many ways it is a better Chamber than this House, and contains far abler and more sincere men than the House of Commons at the present time. The Prime Minister said that my right hon. Friend spoke of the House of Commons as having been gagged and manacled. So it has been. The Prime Minister said that fifty-two days were spent in discussing Home Rule, and that, as far as he remembered, that was a longer time than was given to any other Bill in any other Parliament. I have not looked up the figures, but my recollection is that the Home Rule Bill of 1893 took a much longer time.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I know it had been, and I remember the scenes that took place when, not for the first time, but very nearly the first time the unfortunate guillotine was introduced. But it was not gagged until a much later stage than the present Home Rule Bill, and it took a great many more days in discussion. I had the privilege of being in that House, and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister made his first speech in that Parliament, and he will not contradict me when I say that the Debates upon the Bill of 1893 were as interesting as any Debates that took place in our recollection during the time we have been in Parliament, and I also venture to say, and I hope he will agree with me, that the Debates that took place last year upon the Home Rule Bill were not to be compared to the Debates that took place in 1893.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I am sorry the hon. Gentleman does not agree with me, but I remember being much struck with the great attention that was paid to those Debates and with the fact that the benches were crowded every day from four o'clock, except perhaps for the dinner-hour, until twelve o'clock, which was the time the House rose in those days. It was very different from what took place during the Debates last year, and that, I venture to 285 say, was entirely owing to the fact that the guillotine did not fall during the discussions of the Bill of 1893 until a great many days had been spent in debate, and then it was such a new and novel procedure that the effect of it was not fully realised, whereas last year it fell so early that hon. Members felt that they were only taking part in a farce, and that the Debates were of no consequence. The right hon. Gentleman says the discussion on the Home Rule Bill of last year occupied fifty-two days. What sort of days were they? First of all, we rise now at eleven o'clock, whereas in the old days we rose much later. The Debates we had last year were Debates which everyone knew would have no effect at all. The speeches made from the other side—I do not say this in any discourtesy—were not made to meet the arguments advanced on this side of the House. They were not made by hon. Gentlemen opposite with any real desire to show that they were right and we were wrong, but they were perfunctory speeches to occupy time until seven o'clock or 10.30, when the Closure fell. Consequently, I say that Parliament has been gagged and manacled and that interest, not only in the House itself but in the country outside, was not what it used to be in the days when discussion was free and unfettered. There is a very strong reason why I should support the Amendment of my right hon. Friend, and it is that at the present moment the Constitution is in a mutilated state.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Member opposite seems to be pleased that it is so, and I gather from his interruption that he hopes soon to go to the other place. I feel quite certain that the hon. Gentleman will be a great ornament to the Upper Chamber. The Prime Minister says that at the earliest possible opportunity he is going to effect this change. That is rather a vague phrase, but presuming that it will be done shortly, why should not the right hon. Gentleman next Session make his change, and then allow the country to decide, not upon the change, but whether or not it desires to see a Home Rule Bill and a Welsh Disestablishment Bill passed? The right hon. Gentleman says that when we sat on the benches opposite we never suggested that we could not carry a measure until the country had been consulted upon it. May I point out that in those days the Constitution was not mutilated, and there was always an opportunity of a measure 286 being referred to the country through being rejected by the House of Lords? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Certainly, I believe if we had passed a bad measure the House of Lords would have rejected it. I remember well when the Education Bill of 1902 was brought in the Chancellor of the Exchequer was extremely angry that it had been introduced without having any mandate from the country. I know it was said that we were returned in 1900 to finish the war, and that we ought not to pass any legislation. I am not very eager for legislation, and I should not have minded if we had not passed any legislation, for then probably we should not have lost so many votes. At any rate, the legislation we passed was not revolutionary, and the Constitution was in such a form that if the House of Lords thought a measure was a bad one it was within their power to reject it, and thus enable the country to give a decision upon it.
My right hon. Friend has appealed to the Government not to press these measures forward, but I am afraid it is useless making any such appeal to the present Government, because they have their majority, and they have made up their minds in regard to these two Bills. I appeal to hon. Members to endeavour to defeat the Government, not only here but in the country. I know that that is not likely to happen here, but something might turn up. I ask hon. Members below the Gangway to pause and consider whether they are not being a little foolish in hurrying forward this sort of legislation, and whether it would not be better for them to exercise a little more independence, because I feel that many of these measures are not approved of by hon. Gentlemen opposite in their own hearts. I appeal to them on this occasion to vote for this Amendment. Only last Thursday the Labour party challenged me to vote against a Motion agreeing with the Lords Amendment on the Railway Bill, and they said they were going to defeat the Government. I now return the challenge, and I say we might defeat the Government if Members of the Labour party will come over to us, and in that way they would be doing great service to the country and showing that independence about which we hear so much. I intervened in this Debate because I was anxious to show how the right hon. Gentleman had successfully skated over thin ice, and had put an interpretation upon my right hon. Friend's speech which it did not bear. I hope I have convinced the 287 House on this point, and I feel sure that if the Whips were not put on, my right hon. Friend's Amendment would be carried.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I have a great deal of sympathy with hon. Members opposite, not in regard to this Amendment, but in their desperate efforts to keep the Debate going. Yesterday the Debate petered out at an early hour, and the same fate seems in store for this Amendment. We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment were not issues at the last two elections. Of course they were not. The only question at issue at the last two elections was the land question, and Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment were not put before the electors. The only point that strikes me is whether the Constitution really is mutilated or not. It seems to me that the Constitution is in an admirable condition, because now you have a House of Commons representing the people which is supreme in the Government. I can quite understand that this fact strikes hon. Members opposite with horror and amazement, but it is a state of affairs that has come to stay for all time. Even if hon. Members come back to power in the dim and distant future, they would never revive the House of Lords as we once knew it, because they would find it so unpopular to restore the House of Lords to its old condition and power that they would fight shy of it at election times, and drop it out of their programme just as they have dropped out the food taxes when they found that they did not take on at a critical moment. Perhaps it would not be out of place if I were to say a few words about the reconstruction of the House of Lords. To my mind it is necessary if we are to have a democratic Government in this country that the House of Lords as we know it at the present time should cease entirely to exist and that it should become a purely elected body and not one nominated in any way either by the Crown through the Ministers, by the county councils of the country, or even by this House. To my mind the important thing is that the House of Lords should be an elected body if they are to have one at all. Let it be a body elected by a thoroughly democratic franchise. I plead that it should be elected by large constituencies on the basis of proportional representation.
288 If we are to have a second democratically elected body in addition to the House of Commons we must have it elected, to a certain extent, on different principles from the House of Commons. It would be absurd to have a Second Chamber elected by the same constituencies that elect the House of Commons, although the times of the election happened to be different. I would suggest that the House of Lords should be elected by a constituency as large as an English county, with fewer members, of course, than the present House of Commons, but those members should be elected on the basis of proportional representation, which would give an opportunity for the representation of minorities in the Second Chamber. At the same time I think the Second Chamber should not have any advance upon its present powers. Those powers should remain the same as they are at the present time, and they should rely, not upon a paper constitution to carry their wishes into law, but on the strength of their democratic support in the country. In that way you would get the opinion of the country really represented in legislation far more than it is with a House of Lords that represents nobody but themselves, and a House of Commons which may be getting rather stale and rather distant from the electors. For these reasons I think it is possible that the House of Lords might be improved on those lines. I demur to the suggestion that we are at the present time suffering from "an incomplete and demoralised Constitution" because we are really enjoying for the first time comparative freedom compared with what we have suffered during the last two hundred or three hundred years. If the Opposition really puts this Amendment to the vote I shall support the Government with great satisfaction.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
I have no doubt that the views of the hon. Member opposite with regard to the reconstruction of the House of Lords will be of the greatest possible service to the Government when they consult him about their coming measure. For my part, I regret that the hon. Member did not continue upon the lines which he first advanced, because when he talks here about land and about the taxation of land, although he is not always instructive, he is always amusing, and I think our proceedings this afternoon would have been none the worse for a little of the entertainment 289 which the hon. Member might have imparted to it. I listened with great interest to the speech of the Prime Minister earlier in the Debate, and I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman, in replying to the Member for the Strand (Mr. Walter Long), spoke with a good deal of scorn of the phrase which my right hon. Friend used when he said we were working under a shattered Constitution. With the evident approval of hon. Members behind him, the Prime Minister went on to say that if the Constitution was shattered that the shattering had been the work of the House of Lords themselves. I do not know that it would be worth while to go over ground which was covered before in earlier times, but I would point out that there is not the smallest justification, either in historic or constitutional law, for any such statement. I would like to ask the Prime Minister what in the world that statement has got to do with this question. What does it matter if the Constitution be shattered, whether it is the work of the House of Lords or of the Government?
The Prime Minister always approaches these questions rather from the standpoint of a schoolmaster who has a number of naughty boys to deal with, and if he finds one of them, like the House of Lords, guilty of some little dereliction of duty, he thinks it is his duty to put that naughty boy in a corner or give him a whipping; but the last thing he thinks about is whether the responsibility of that particular portion of the Constitution affects the value of the Constitution to the people. After all, what we have got to do with is not whether or not the House of Lords is responsible for the mutilation of the Constitution, but whether or not the people of this country are equipped with an efficient engine of government at the present moment. You do not touch that point at all by contending, as the Prime Minister did, that the House of Lords themselves were guilty of destroying the Constitution. You might just as well argue that because the guard of the train had possibly been guilty of some negligence you are entitled to jeopardise all the passengers and send the train along. Another point made by the Prime Minister struck me as rather a curious one in the connection in which he used it. He said:—Every person is now agreed that the House of Lords as at present constituted cannot continue.I gathered that even the hon. Member who spoke last is in agreement with us on this side, at all events to the extent that the House of Lords as at present con- 290 stituted cannot remain. I should like to put this question to the Prime Minister: Why does he say the House of Lords cannot remain as at present constituted? Why does he speak of it as a matter of general agreement that the House of Lords cannot remain as at present constituted? Surely, if there is any meaning at all in the Prime Minister's statement, it must mean that it is an admission on his part that the House of Lords as at present constituted is not a fit and proper and efficient assembly for the discharge of the functions of a Second Chamber in our Constitution. If that is so, is it not a most extraordinary circumstance that a Prime Minister who says that at the present moment the Second Chamber is in a condition in which it is admitted on all hands it cannot remain should use the Constitution in that condition for passing the most weighty and far-reaching legislation that has been proposed in this country during the present generation? If I may use another illustration similar to the one I introduced just now, I should say the Prime Minister has practically admitted that a certain bridge over which the train has to travel is in a dangerous and shaky condition. Yet, without waiting to do the necessary repairs to that structure, he chooses this particular moment of all others to send across it the most heavy load which it has ever been called upon to bear.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present; House counted, and forty Members being found present—
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles) is well satisfied with himself for having spoilt the tea-time of some of his Friends, but I think the fact that he has been able to call attention to the smallness of our number is a very good illustration of what my right hon. Friend mentioned in this Debate with regard to the interest the House of Commons takes in the proceedings, whether of legislation or otherwise at the present moment. The hon. Member points to our own Front Bench. I have not been drawing any comparison between one side of the House and the other, nor, so far as I am aware, did my right hon. Friend. I think the circumstance is equally significant whether the great paucity be pointed out among the followers of the Government or among 291 the followers of the Opposition. The Prime Minister laid great stress, as we have often heard before in Liberal speeches, on what he called the unfairness of the House of Lords towards the Liberal party. I suppose, so far as it had any reference to the Amendment, that was intended as a justification for the long-continued delay of which the Government are guilty in reconstituting the Second Chamber. May I just examine that proposition for one moment? My right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) some time ago pointed out and it is undoubtedly the fact, that in the recent Past, at all events, the number of Liberal measures which have been rejected by the House of Lords has been exceedingly small. Anyone who heard the Prime Minister's speech and his tone of indignation on this point would really have imagined that the fate of every considerable Bill brought in by the Liberal Party was to receive immediate execution at the hands of the House of Lords. Nothing could possibly be further from the truth. Sometimes the Liberal party are in the habit of boasting of the great mass of beneficial legislation which they hare succeeded in carrying through. At other times, when, as this afternoon, it suits the book of the Prime Minister or of his followers to have a reproach to hurl at the House of Lords, then we hear nothing of the legislation which the House of Lords have passed, but only of the few, the very few, measures which from time to time they have been called upon to reject.
There is another point to which it is worth drawing attention in this connection. Surely it is the fact with the possible exception of America whether at the present time or in past times that the Second Chamber in all bicameral Constitutions has—and rightly has—a tendency towards what may be called the Conservative side in legislation. I am not using the word "conservative" now in the sense of our party term. You will find in all countries that men's minds in legislative assemblies naturally group themselves into those who are anxious for rapid and far-reaching change, and those who view such change with a certain amount of suspicion and reluctance. Those are the natural tendencies. The reproach is often made against our party by hon. Gentlemen opposite that we are too reluctant to carry out legislation, and that when legislation is carried out by the Conservative party it is halting and experimental, that 292 is, does not go far enough and lacks altogether in boldness and largeness of scope. That is the historical reproach which has always been hurled against the Conservative party. I dare say from the point of view of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite there may be, at any rate, comparatively speaking, some truth in that objection, but that shows it is natural that a Second Chamber, the whole purport of which in the language of the Prime Minister himself, is to revise and to delay hasty and far-reaching legislation should find their opportunities for that particular part of their function when legislation is introduced by the Liberal party, and not by the Conservative party. Therefore, apart altogether from any party disposition or party prejudice on the part of the Members of the House of Lords, you must in every bicameral Constitution, if you have a really efficient and fearless Second Chamber, almost always find over any long course of years, that the Bills which they reject will be those Bills which by the nature of the case are introduced not by the more conservative of the two parties, but by the more radical of the two parties.
The Prime Minister, with reference to the two particular Bills aimed at by my right hon. Friend's Amendment, said in justification of the course of the Government that those Bills had been overwhelmingly supported by the communities which were primarily and mainly affected by them. The argument of the Prime Minister, not used now of course by any means for the first time, is simply the old arbitrary selection of your political unit. It is a pure convention to say these particular units which you happen to deal with in these Bills are to be consulted rather than any larger unit that might be selected. It is, for example, perfectly true, if you take as your political unit the people who will inhabit the island of Ireland and call them by the collective term of "Ireland," that a very large majority of the representatives of Ireland are in favour of the Home Rule Bill, but it is equally true that one large community of men—I mean the community of the Protestants of Ulster—are just as strongly opposed to the Bill. It is an absolutely arbitrary and conventional mode of approaching this question to reject the overwhelming opinion of the smaller community in the one case and to pay the utmost attention to the overwhelming opinion of the larger unit.
That brings me to say just one word upon what the Prime Minister said with 293 regard to our old friend the mandate. Nothing could be more amazing than the plea which has been so often put forward on this point by the Prime Minister—that the mandate which the Government claim for the legislation they have brought before the house and the country need not be sought in any speeches they themselves have made or in any manifesto or declaration of their policy to the country, but that they are amply justified in seeking their own mandate in the declarations which have been made by their political opponents. There could not be a more amazing political doctrine than that. I am not in the least disposed to question in any shape or form the facts, so far as they are facts, upon which the Prime Minister relied. I remember on one occasion a speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. A. Lyttelton), was brought out, just as a message of my right hon. Friend the senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) was brought out to-day, amidst the greatest possible hilarity and delight of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who hailed it apparently as an argument which blew our idea of no mandate absolutely out of court. I agree that my right hon. Friend wrote to some candidate at the time that it was the avowed intention of the Government to carry the Parliament Act and to use the Parliament Act in order to carry the Home Rule Bill. That was said not only by right hon. Gentlemen who sit upon our Front Bench, but I believe by the great majority of Unionist candidates at that election. That was the point that we were trying to bring home to the masses of the people of the country, and the point which right hon. Gentlemen opposite were sedulously endeavouring to conceal from them as far as they could. It is quite true that was the avowed intention. We have never questioned that, because, as the Prime Minister has been able to show, there were occasions, as in the famous Albert Hall speech, in which he referred to it, but in the shortest possible manner and laying the least possible emphasis upon it, and you could take from those speeches of the Prime Minister and the Government enough to show the policy at which they were then aiming.
Of course my right hon. Friends and those others who were candidates at that election, whose business it is to find out from the speeches of our opponents what they are driving at, to read between the lines, and to see as far as they can a little below the surface, saw what their 294 policy meant. We all saw what the aim of the Government was and we tried to bring it home to the country. The point is—I am speaking from my own experience—that so meagre, so hidden, so cryptic, and so rare were the statements made upon this point by the Liberal party that we were met at every turn by the contention of those whom we tried to persuade that we were raising a bogey, and that in fact it was not the intention of the Government or the Liberal party, and that if it had been the intention of the Liberal party it would have played a much more prominent part in their public programme. I was a candidate at that election for a constituency which is now represented by an hon. Member opposite, who sits for Kirkcudbright, (Major G. M'Micking), and time after time the electors in that Division told me that I was attempting to raise an old bogey, and that they did not in the least believe that the result of the return of the Liberal party to power would be a Home Rule Bill for Ireland. That was the experience of candidates in all parts of the country. Every attempt we made to bring it before the electors and to show that it was the avowed intention of the Government to carry Home Rule was received with absolute scepticism by the constituencies. The Prime Minister has told us to-day, not for the first time, that it is quite unnecessary for us to demand any further consideration in the country or otherwise for these two chief Bills that have passed through this House in the last Session, because they were, as he said, amply discussed, and the right hon. Gentleman, in his most moving manner, made an appeal to us on this side of the House in another connection, as fair-minded Englishmen, Scotsmen, and Irishmen, to put ourselves into his position and the position of those who agreed with him. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would sometimes attempt to act in that fair-minded way towards us. Does the right hon. Gentleman or do hon. Members opposite at the present time really and sincerely think, so far as they are able to put themselves in our position, that the Home Rule Bill, for example—I know more about that than I do about the Welsh Bill—can be truly and fairly described as having been adequately and fully discussed? Really, you cannot measure this by a mere question of columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT and the numbers of days and hours given to it. Hon. Gentlemen must give us credit for 295 believing this, that it is a measure for good or for evil which is of stupendous importance to everyone who is closely connected with Ireland. I think it is of stupendous importance to the whole country, but, speaking as an Irishman, I cannot imagine any proposal for legislation in this House which is more far-reaching, more deeply important, or bearing upon all the most vital interests of the people among whom I live. You cannot measure the adequacy of an examination of a Bill of that sort by merely totting up the number of hours that have been spent upon it in this House, and the fact remains that in the long list of Clauses to the Bill we find that quite half of them have never been touched at all in the House.
Surely it is idle for the Prime Minister to get up in this House and dogmatically tell us that although half of that Bill has never been touched upon at all in the debates in this House, yet there is no important principle of that measure which has not been adequately discussed. Take Clause 3 alone. If I remember rightly, it is the Clause which sets out the matters which are to be withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Irish Parliament. How can the right hon. Gentleman say that every important principle or every important provision has been amply discussed unless he can go through the innumerable Amendments which we should have liked to have moved and discussed with the object of enlarging the number of those matters with which the Irish Parliament could not deal? If the Bill had been framed upon the opposite principle which we supported from this side of the House, and if the powers it conferred had been enumerated, it might have been much more easy for us to have exhaustively discussed the principles involved, but when it remained for us to suggest those matters which we thought the Irish Parliament ought not to have jurisdiction over, surely there was an almost endless possibility of important principles being brought forward for discussion under that Clause. I do not wish to go over the old ground and to bring up numerous examples of that. I will only say there were one or two Amendments standing in my own name and others in the names of my hon. Friends that were never discussed. The Prime Minister probably does not even know that they were upon the Paper, or if he does, he has long ago forgotten what they were. Having swept away into the wastepaper basket all the proposals we had put down 296 which we thought were of far-reaching importance, the right hon. Gentleman is, I think, not treating Members on this side of the House with that fair-minded endeavour to put himself in our place, which he appealed to us to accord to him to-day. I think that on these grounds we have most ample justification for the Amendment which has been moved by my right hon. Friend, and I certainly think it would show a little more consideration than we have been in the habit of getting from the Government and hon. Members opposite if they would approach the Amendment with a little more sympathy than we have seen to-night.
§ Mr. AMERY
I do not propose to follow my hon. Friend in going exhaustively into points about the Home Rule Bill which he has covered so well, and which were also dealt with in the eloquent and restrained speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Long). Nobody can deny that what the Government propose to do in this Home Rule Bill constitutes a great constitutional change, such a revolution as in any other country in the world would require not only the gravest deliberation, but the overcoming of serious constitutional barriers deliberately placed in the way to prevent such a change. In the Constitution of this country as it existed up to the other day there was an actual power residing in the Second Chamber making it possible that such a measure, even if its general idea had been before the people at one election, should be again referred to the people in its whole detail and in all its provisions. That measure, indicated vaguely by some Ministers in the country, ignored by others, and referred to by ourselves before an electorate unwilling to believe our warnings, is to go through with all its terrible consequences without any reference whatever to the electorate of this country. The argument which the Prime Minister made in a speech, which was admirable in its expression and one of the best speeches perhaps I have been privileged to hear from him, was in essence what, I may call an argument of the pot-and-kettle style: "The Constitution is in suspense?" "Oh, yes, that is due to your fault in rejecting the Budget some years ago; you brought it upon your own heads." "You have no mandate in connection with Ireland?" "Why the former Leader of the Opposition himself in a letter or telegram, dictated in the midst of a General Election, used the word 'avowed.'" The Prime Minister based 297 his case for the Home Rule Bill being carried through without reference to the electors on the fact that the right hon. Gentleman once used the word "avowed" with regard to his intention to introduce a Home Rule Bill. Will he equally accept, not only the word "avowed," but the rest of that message, which refers to the subservience of the Government to the dictates of the Irish party? How can a case ever be based upon the statements of opponents?
The Prime Minister said that at Hull he had referred to the fact that a year before he had made some reference to the question of Irish local government in the Albert Hall. That reference, only two sentences in length, was so vague that it might have applied to any conceivable measure of local government. Then he dealt with the old statement that when a Unionist party is in power there is Single-Chamber government. My hon. Friend has dealt with that question so far as showing that any Second Chamber naturally tends to be of a Conservative temperament, and therefore to have a majority against any startling change—at any rate on first introduction. Can anyone deny that the political complexion of the House of Lords to-day is not due merely to the fact that hon. Members opposite are in favour of certain changes? It is due also to the fact that they have embarked upon changes of policy which do not arise from the principles underlying their party, but are attributable to combinations of party exigency which naturally would not be reflected in the opinions of men who were Liberals at one time, but now being in the House of Lords are in an independent position. It was a compact like that on the first Home Rule Bill which created out of men who were made peers by the Liberals the present anti-Liberal majority in the House of Lords. I do not think it is really worth while to pursue the pot-and-kettle argument. The real vital question which is raised in this Amendment is that our Constitution is in fact weakened and is in process of being discredited. The Prime Minister denied that with calm assurance, but how can anyone deny it? Is it not evident from this very Debate and the deadness of interest, the lack of any sense of reality, while we are discussing a most vital constitutional issue? I am not going to say that the situation which we deplore is entirely new, or that it is altogether created by the Parliament Act. Anybody who 298 has studied the working of the Parliamentary machine has been confronted with the fact that during the last generation the growth of the power of what may be called the machine in the country and of the Cabinet, or an inner circle of the Cabinet, in the house of Commons has insensibly tended to modify our whole Parliamentary constitution, to weaken the effectiveness of debate, and to make Governments more and more inclined to consider themselves as absolute rulers. There may have been faults in a Government from this side of the House as well as in the present Government, but what is striking is that every one of the evils which were noticeable a year or two ago have become immensely aggravated since the Parliament Act. In all our past history the result of the clash of party conflict has been to bring about changes which have tended to adjust the working of the Constitution to the needs of the time. The result of the Parliament Act has been to throw the whole Parliamentary machine violently out of gear. Inevitably the three years' system has tended to make every section in this House more than ever subservient to the party Whips the moment one of the Bills in which it is interested is on the stocks. For at least two years any section interested in the fate of that measure is bound to vote for the Government on every measure that the Government introduces. I dare say some hon. Members are acquainted with the practice in shipping circles known as deferred rebate. Every section of the coalition opposite, Irish or Welsh, which is interested in a Bill going through under the Parliament Act is a tied section, bound to vote steadily to keep the Government in power. The same three years' provision forces all serious legislation into the first Session. That, again, has tightened the control of the Whips over the party, and has caused the Closure to be carried to lengths which have reduced Debates to a farce and unreality, and made it impossible ever to get serious arguments n reply to criticisms of measures, or to get any real attention paid by the country to those measures.
The whole function of Parliament is tending to be destroyed. Parliament in this country rests upon full and free discussion in this House, which is followed with interest by the electorate. If you destroy discussion in this House you destroy interest in the country, and, whatever the nominal form of the Constitution, 299 you have destroyed free government. We are reaching a break-down of our whole political machine. The Parliament Act has not been a solution, on the contrary, it has precipitated a great constitutional crisis. What we have got to face seriously is how to overhaul and reconstruct our Constitution so as to make it real and alive once again, and to make impossible the present state of things in this House and the present state of things in regard to legislation—I mean the sort of proposals it is contemplated to carry without reference to public opinion. What those changes are to be I cannot do more than indicate. An hon. Member opposite has referred to a particular method by which he would like to reconstruct the Second Chamber, for reconstruction the Prime Minister has declared to be essential. I agree very largely with the hon. Member opposite, and am not only in favour of a reconstruction of the Second Chamber, but of a very thorough-going reconstruction of the Second Chamber. I would be prepared to make it an elective Chamber, elected on a basis different from the method of election for this Chamber. However that may be, we on this side are in favour of a reconstruction of the Second Chamber in order to give it a real moral basis in the country, for it lacks that basis to-day. But we are also in favour of its exercising the functions a Second Chamber ought to exercise. The reconstruction of the Second Chamber in our opinion must be accompanied by the abolition of the Parliament Act, that measure which has aggravated every evil which exists in the House of Commons to-day. I admit that even the reconstruction of the Second Chamber will not wholly do away with one of the difficulties between the two Houses, which has in practice worked unfairly to right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I mean the difficulty into which the two-Chamber system, without qualification, puts a Government, of either being forced into an immediate election and risking other measures in which it might be interested, or of deferring the election until its own unpopularity may cause an otherwise popular measure to be wrecked. In that position we ought to have recourse in some form or other to a Referendum.
The point I should like to press upon hon. Members is that the real cause of our difficulties has not been so much the dispute between the two Houses as the composition of this House. In my opinion the existing 300 method of election has strengthened too greatly the power of the machine in the country, and diminished the independence of Members in this House as against the Government. I think that as the result of this crisis, both parties are bound to consider seriously some amendment of our electoral machine. We shall have to face the question of what is called proportional representation. I do not wish to argue the case on its merits on this Amendment, but I do say that if we can secure a system of election which will strengthen the independence of the individual Members and the freedom of the elector in his choice of a Member, we shall have done a great deal to restore once more the importance of debates in this House, and once more make legislation the legislation of the House of Commons, and not the dictation of a small group within the Cabinet. I am not sure that it might not be necessary to make even more drastic changes. I remember the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) some years ago suggesting in this House the desirability of the voting of Members in this House being taken by ballot. It might be said that that would undoubtedly introduce the element of real interest, at any rate into Committee debates, and that many Amendments, whether on the Welsh Bill, or on the Home Rule Bill, would have been not only very much at issue and in doubt, but would have been attended by full and crowded houses, because Members would have been anxious to hear when they knew that they could be influenced by argument and could allow that influence to tell upon their votes. I am not recommending that particular solution. All I wish is to take the opportunity of trying to bring home to hon. Members that we have now in consequence of the Parliament Act to consider the overhauling of the whole of our Parliamentary system, unless we are prepared to see the whole spirit, life, and reality of our Parliamentary system perish, the mere husk of it remaining as a cloak for a Government oligarchy, with an occasional plebiscite.
§ Mr. MUNRO
In the very few observations I desire to address to the House I shall confine my attention to the precise terms of the Amendment which this House is asked to affirm. The Amendment, as I read it, embodies two complaints. It insists, as a condition precedent to the further progress of the Welsh and the Irish Bills, that there should in the first place be a 301 completion of the constitution of Parliament, by which I suppose is meant the reform of the House of Lords; and, in the second place, that there shall be a reference to the electors, in other words another General Election. Let me inquire what the warrant is for those two contentions. I submit that they are ill-founded. With regard to the first of them, namely, that before these two measures shall proceed further reform of the House of Lords should be carried out, that seems to postulate two propositions; in the first place, that someone in a responsible position has either said or implied that before those measures of Home Rule for Ireland and Disestablishment for Wales shall be carried out reform of the House of Lords shall first be carried out. It further postulates that the reform of the House of Lords, if carried out, would make some appreciable difference to the passing of those two measures. Both those assumptions are equally ill-founded. Let me examine them. The first is that some person in a responsible position has said that prior to these reforms being caried out the House of Lords shall first be reformed. I recall very clearly the challenge which the Prime Minister made not so very long ago as to where, when, and by whom any such statement was made, either by him or by any responsible member of the Government. I do not think that challenge has yet been met, but apart from that, the contention is negatived not only by the speeches and messages of members of the Opposition to which reference has been made, not only by speeches of the members of the Government before the election, but by the terms of the Parliament Act itself. Those were quoted so recently by the Prime Minister that I will not detain the House by referring to them in detail.
The truth is that everybody knew that the machinery of the Parliament Act was devised and set up not to rust but to work, and that the work to which it was to be put is just the work to which it has been put, namely, the carrying through of those great measures propounded before the last General Election of which the people of the country were thoroughly seized when they voted at the election. Accordingly, I suggest that that assumption is not well founded, and that is the first assumption upon which this Amendment is based. The other assumption is that if the House of Lords were first reformed, the passage of these two measures, the 302 Welsh Bill and the Irish Bill, would, or might be, attended with greater difficulty than under existing conditions. I think the truth is quite the other way, and that, as the Prime Minister hinted the other day, so far from the reform of the House of Lords involving the delay of those measures it would rather involve their accelerated passage into law. Accordingly I submit that, so far as that part of the Amendment is concerned, it ought to be rejected.
The other part to which I have referred is the suggestion that there should be a General Election before these measures are passed into law. The desire for elections seems to be insatiable now-a-days. We had two in the course of one year, and the last of the two is just about two years ago. Really one would like to know from the Opposition, if one might respectfully put the question, for what we had any mandate at all when we were sent back to this House after the last General Election if it were not to pass just these two measures which have been passed by the House of Commons. Surely it cannot be doubted that the Government got a mandate to do something. If it was not to pass these measures I do not know what it was to do. Certainly, not to sit with folded hands and pass no legislation at all. I therefore think it would be idle to have another election, and the country, so far as any signs one can see are concerned, does not in the least desire or require that there should be another General Election upon these two matters, but is satisfied with what the House of Commons has done. Much of the paralysis of Parliament which has been referred to, and the lack of interest in debate, and so forth, is in my judgment not due to the working of the Parliament Act but to the fact that the country has damped down the fires of these ancient controversies long ago, and that on the other hand the desire of Members of the Opposition seems to be to rekindle those fires. It is for that reason very largely that there is a certain lack of interest in the debates which take place upon subjects on which the country has already delivered its considered judgment, and which it does not desire to hear further discussed in the House of Commons. I was interested to hear the hon. Gentleman say that one of the first duties of another Government would be the repeal of the Parliament Act. I have no right to ask for a reply to a question on that 303 subject which I may put, but perhaps it may be asked from the Government Bench. One would like to know whether in that matter the hon. Member is speaking for his party and whether part of the official programme of the Opposition is, if and when returned to power, to repeal the Parliament Act as one of the first items upon its programme. Perhaps one may hear whether that is so. We shall see. I think the grounds on which the Amendment has been proposed are not sound, and that accordingly the House will do well to reject it.
§ Mr. CAVE
I should like to say a few words in answer to the hon. Gentleman, because it is quite clear that he does not follow or understand the reasons which underlie this Amendment, nor does he appreciate why it is that we think, rightly or wrongly, that the course which the Government are following of forcing these two Bills through the House under the Parliament Act is full of infinite danger both to the House itself and to the country. Let me first say a word about the position of this House under present conditions. I think no one who is a Member of the House, and who is proud of it, as most of us have been, can do otherwise than feel both alarm and a certain amount of disgust at the prospect which lies before us in the coming Session. Last Session it was bad enough. I think we all felt the absolutely heart-breaking effect of the constant application of the guillotine. During the whole of last Session debate was sterilised, Amendments which were put down had a very poor chance of being either moved or debated, and I am sure not a tenth of the genuine Amendments intended to be proposed on the Church Bill and the Irish Bill was discussed or even moved, and the effect of such a process must needs have been what it was, to take the heart out of the Debate and out of any attempt to amend Government Bills. But if our recollections of last Session are discouraging and disheartening, what must we think, on both sides, of the prospect of the current Session? We are going, we are told, to be presented with two Bills of prime importance to the country, Bills which are far-reaching and highly controversial. But they are going to be brought before us with the knowledge, which everyone has, that no Amendment can be effectively applied to either one or the other. Was ever a legislative assembly in such a position as that before? No Amendment can be 304 seriously proposed even in this House and yet remember that as regards the Irish Bill many of its provisions have been condemned by the majority of those who have supported the Bill in debate. For that purpose I will take for a moment the discussion in another place. I say without fear of contradiction that of all the Noble Lords who supported the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill, except those who are on the Government Benches, there was not one who did not condemn the provisions of the Bill itself. The general trend of the speeches in support of the Bill was this: We think there ought to be a measure of Home Rule. We infinitely dislike the provisions of this Bill, but we will vote for the Second Reading in the hope that it may be hereafter amended. When you have that concession on the part of those who work with hon. Gentlemen opposite that the important provisions of the Bill cry out for amendment, is it not a striking thing that the Bill is brought before this House without the chance of any amendment whatever being made? The Church Bill, again, is full of faults. I think that is admitted. It was certainly admitted in another place in the same way, for there, again, those who voted for the Bill, other than Members of the Government, all said that while they voted for it on the Second Reading they were not satisfied with its provisions, and they thought it ought to be radically amended. Yet as to that Bill, as well as to the other, we have this position, that no possible amendment of substance can be made to it in this House. Surely it is obvious that that state of things is not only outrageous in itself, but tends to depreciate the position of any legislative assembly, even of this, which has hitherto been the greatest in the world. So this position must be harmful to this House, must take the heart out of our Debates, and take away all value which might otherwise reside in discussion in this House.
In connection with that, may I make one observation? I know it is provided in the Parliament Act that while we may amend a Bill without making it a new Bill, we have the great privilege of making suggestions to the other House on the passage of the Bill through this House. I do not know whether it has been considered how that particular Section is going to work. Are we going to be allowed to make suggestions when the Bill is in Committee or must there be a separate stage 305 of the Bill for the purpose of those suggestions, and, if so, will the stage be taken after Committee, after Report, or after Third Reading? There is no provision in our Standing Orders which would cover that particular case, and the House, unless you are able to cut the knot in some way, will have to consider its Standing Orders and make provision for taking a new stage in every Bill brought in under the Parliament Act—a stage of suggestion in addition to the stages of Committee and Report. I do not know how far that matter has been considered by the Government, and how far they are prepared to give guidance to the House on the point. At all events, it is a new phase of our proceedings, and one which must be sooner or later considered.
When Bills are discussed in the House of Commons under such conditions as these, surely then, above all, you need an effective and a free Second Chamber. If no amendment can be made here, surely there should be a Second House which is free to make amendments. The point with us is not, as the hon. Member (Mr. Munro) seems to think, that if there were an effective Second Chamber it would be more difficult to pass a Bill. The point is that, with an effective Second Chamber, there would be more chance of real criticism upon the Bill and more freedom to deal with it than there is now. Yet what is now the position of the House of Lords? They cannot amend a Bill except upon the terms of first accepting the principle, which they intensely dislike. No Noble Lord can move an Amendment to a Bill unless he has first let the Second Reading pass. Of course, in the ordinary course there would be no harm in that, but under present conditions, when no amendment can be made in this House, it is fatal to make it impossible to amend it in the other House except upon conditions which cannot be fulfilled. So we are in this position, that unless you are going to force the Upper House to accept the principle of those Bills which in their minds they detest there is no possibility throughout the Session of any effective amendment of any part of these two measures. Surely it is a truism to say, and everyone realises the fact, that that state of things is not only injurious to Parliament, but injurious to the country as a whole. The Prime Minister pointed out the other day that the Parliament Act is not intended to apply to the Parliamentary system when reformed, as he, at all events, desires it to be reformed, but is only in- 306 tended to apply to the transitional state of things in which we now live. That is, the Parliament Act is only to apply while there is the present House of Lords. But that is an admission that in his view, and in the view of the Government, the Constitution is in a transitory state. It is not yet complete. The Constitution, in other words, is in suspense, and it is in that state of things that you ask Parliament to pass these two great measures which must have a tremendous effect upon every part of our national life.
I think we all admit that the Constitution ought to be completed as soon as possible, and the only point between us, I expect, is in what way and when is it going to be done. At some time or other it must be done. I do not think it would be right to go into details as to the changes which must take place before our Constitution is restored to effective working order. We all agree that there must be a change in the constitution of the Upper House, and, indeed, the Upper House itself, as is quite right, has shown the way in that respect. The Upper House passed resolutions which should never be forgotten. I think the resolutions were passed unanimously, acknowledging that there ought to be a change in the constitution of that House, and so it is common ground for both parties, and, indeed, all parties, that the constitution of the Upper House must be altered. But, in addition to that, there is the question, not less important, I think, of the relation between the two Houses, and there may be there a question whether this country in the end will restore to the Second Chamber, when reconstituted, the full powers of a Second Chamber, or whether provision should be made for determining in some other way disputes between the two Houses. There are only two ways in which the latter can be done, namely, either by joint Session or by reference to a poll of the electors. We all feel that if the Upper House is reformed, there must be at the same time provision for making its powers again effective, and the purpose of that, whether you do it by enabling the Upper House to reject a measure altogether and so force the Government to a dissolution, or by enabling them to force a specific poll of the electors, is to get as soon as possible the judgment of the country on measures of great importance. You are not only pressing the two measures mentioned in the Amendment on the House while the Constitution is in suspense, and so while 307 we have not got an effective Parliament in the sense in which Englishmen have always understood it, but you are pressing them on the House without ascertaining definitely what is the view of the country upon them. We think, rightly or wrongly, that the country is not in favour of these two measures, and has never yet pronounced an opinion upon them. We, therefore, think that the Government should take that view into account, whether they agree with it or no, and go to the country on these two measures. They could do it perfectly well, without losing the advantage, if advantage it is, of passing these Bills through this House. Everybody admits now that a General Election following the second passage of a Bill through this House, if it results in the return of the same Government to power, would enable that Government to pass the measure into law by passing it once more through this House in the first Session of the new Parliament. It is that, above all, which is indicated in the last words of the Amendment. I think our position is logical. I am sure it is a strong position. We believe, whether right or wrong, that you are flying in the face of public opinion, and we believe that, for that purpose, you are using the transitory state of the Constitution in which we have no effective Second Chamber at all. That course of conduct is not only a breach of the Constitution as Englishmen used to know it, but it is likely to be injurious to the whole future of Parliament. We have not to-day criticised the manner in which the Parliament Act became law. I think it was by a gross misuse on the part of Ministers of their position as Ministers of the Crown. Although that is not before us to-day, it no doubt strengthens one's opinion that an Act so obtained ought not to be used for such a purpose as this. I am sure of this, that the feeling against these measures in many parts of the country is exceedingly strong, that among those who dislike them there is a strong feeling that they are being passed not by fair legislation, but by an abuse of power, and by what has been not unjustly stigmatised as trickery; and unless you have the courage to face that point of view and to put your proposals before the country, not only will you imperil the success of the proposals, if they are passed, but you will do infinite and lasting harm to the whole of our Parliamentary system.
§ Mr. C. E. PRICE
The Prime Minister declared that the Amendment was one entirely unprecedented. It is because that it is unprecedented that the hon. Member for South Birmingham (Mr. Amery) described the Prime Minister's speech as one of the best he had ever heard. He then went on to say that it was a speech in the pot-and-kettle style. I put it to the House whether that is an expression which anyone should use in cold blood in relation to a speech by the Prime Minister, than whom certainly no one can state a case better than he does. I think the use of a phrase of that kind was perfectly unworthy of the hon. Member. He also said that the Government could do as it pleased in this House. I would point out that we had recently an experience which did not justify that observation, and I am sure that the Cabinet fully realised the situation. When the Railways Bill was under discussion the House of Commons forced the Government to accept an Amendment limiting the duration of the measure to five years. That was against the wish of the men who sat on the Front Bench representing the Government on that occasion, but they were obliged to withdraw their opposition, not to meet the views of hon. Members on our side, but of Members of the other side. So far as the Government was concerned, they did not on that occasion absolutely rule the House of Commons. In what they did they gave way entirely to the House of Commons. The main object of this Amendment has undoubtedly to do with the Home Rule Bill. I remember the agitation thirty years ago in connection with Home Rule—I refer to the agitation in Ireland when it was seething with crime. Mr. Parnell was chosen as leader, and he appealed to his fellow countrymen not to believe in crime as a means of getting what they desired. He asked them to conduct their agitation in a constitutional manner. They accepted his advice, and for thirty years they have made their demand in the most constitutional manner that Ireland should have the right to govern itself. Having carried on that agitation in a perfectly constitutional manner, are we to be told now that they are not to have Home Rule?
An hon. Member, who is an Ulsterman, though he does not represent an Ulster constituency, asked what right we have to force the Home Rule Bill on Ireland if the minority will not accept it. He said the minority will have a perfect right to wreck the Bill—that is to say, they will have a perfect right to resort to crime. 309 What about the majority in Ireland? If they have asked for Home Rule in a perfectly constitutional manner, and if it is refused, would they have the right to resort to crime? Hon. Members opposite have never answered that question. What have they to say to the majority of the people in Ireland? If the minority say that they have a right to run into crime if the Bill is carried, we ask what they are going to do with the majority in Ireland if Parliament and the country were to reject the Bill. My belief is that the Debate on Home Rule is dead, because the people have made up their minds as to what is going to happen. We have helped to arrange large meetings in favour of Home Rule, but the people, having made up their minds, wish to get to something else which more closely affects this country. The great opposition to Home Rule has arisen because Ireland will get the legislation which she wants, and which has been so constantly denied by the people of this country.
The hon. Member also referred to the question of Disestablishment. What question is there on which the people of Wales have been more united than Disestablishment? For thirty years they have asked for it. Are they now going to be refused it? The Liberal party has been pledged for thirty years to carry Welsh Disestablishment. I am quite certain that if there had been a Parliament in Wales, the question would have been settled long ago. The hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Cave), for whom everyone in the House has profound respect, referred to the terms of the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. I am perfectly satisfied that one thing which has disappointed the Welsh people is the terms of the Bill. They are far too generous. Many hon. Members have risked their seats on account of the support they have given to the terms of the Bill. I say distinctly that the terms are handsome. Neither on the Home Rule Bill nor the Welsh Bill can we ever get the Opposition to state their acceptance of anything. Why do they not come forward and say what they will accept. It has been said that, when a Bill comes back from the House of Lords, there is never any chance of its being altered, because to make an alteration would destroy the opportunity of its becoming law under the Parliament Act. There is nothing to prevent a Bill being revised if, by revision, we knew that we would get the Bill this year. There is nothing in the Parliament Act to prevent 310 this House accepting an Amendment from the House of Lords if we had a guarantee that the Bill, as amended, would be accepted by them. We had that illustrated in connection with the Scottish Temperance Bill. It came back here with a great many Amendments that absolutely destroyed it. I specifically asked the question whether, if we accepted certain Amendments, the Bill would go through another place, and they would not give any promise. That is what I complain of. Speaking in relation to Bills that come before Committees, I can state that very often we say we will give way on certain things, but we never have a guarantee that, if we do give way, these Bills will pass in another place.
All we can do is to pass a Bill through this House in the form which we believe will be acceptable to the people, and if the Lords insert Amendments which are not acceptable, they should be rejected. As to one statement made by the Prime Minister, I have very great doubts. That is when we come to revise or recreate the Second Chamber the Parliament Act will cease to operate. For my part, I sincerely trust that whatever Second Chamber is created the Parliament Act will continue to operate. I have not known a single Second Chamber in any part of the world which has not ultimately come to stand against the Commons, or whatever it is called in different countries, that is, the people's representatives. The only way of getting over difficulties with regard to a Second Chamber is that their powers should be destroyed ultimately, and only in that way you can get a Bill through. Therefore, whatever Bill the Government may bring forward, I sincerely trust that the Parliament Act will still continue to exist, so that we shall have some guarantee that whatever Bill passes through this House shall be placed upon the Statute Book.
§ Mr. GERSHOM STEWART
I agree with one remark made by the last speaker, that the chief object of this Amendment was to stay, if possible, the progress of the Home Rule Bill. I will admit that when the other side claim that at the second election in 1910 they got a mandate to curb the House of Lords they have some reason for that statement. How they obtained that mandate is another matter. It was obtained, as many of us contend, by unfair methods of abuse, by misrepresentation, and by preaching class hatred to ignorant electors. Many of the electors in this 311 country have never seen a lord. They were portrayed to them as men living in luxury, and often in worse than luxury, upon money ill-acquired from the wage earning community of this country. It is a notable fact that in the counties where the lords were known they held their own, and had the confidence of everybody with whom they were connected. Granted that you had a mandate, is it right, is it morally justifiable, that in a balanced Constitution such as ours always was, one House should deprive the other of all power without replacing it in some effective measure? Many Liberals who took part in the campaign against the House of Lords avowed themselves Two-Chamber men, and the admission you so quickly made in your Preamble was also an admission of that on your part. And you are accepting the very gravest responsibility in refusing to carry forward your own pledge, and at the same time depriving the people for five years of any power of criticising your administration, or of any really effective exprespression of their wishes in the conduct of their business. I admit also that the electorate is apathetic. It is apathetic partly because trade is good—[HON. MEMBERS: "Free Trade."]—and some people have been busy counting the gains they have been lucky enough to acquire. On the other hand, other people are also apathetic who are packing up their slender gear and leaving this country for ever, because they cannot make a living in it. But apart from their private business, the public are apathetic because they have been gorged and obsessed with political matter during the last three years. They are now gradually awakening to the fact that when the abolition of the so-called veto of the House of Lords was carried into effect their power of controlling their own affairs was taken from them.
I admit that they wished, so to speak, to let a little blood out of the House of Lords, but they did not realise that their own circulation was going to be effected to the extent to which it has been, that they were going to be made inanimate for five years, and that while they hibernated in that condition the Cabinet of this country should be given a blank cheque to draw on the public account for whatever they wished. I am quite certain, allowing for a certain jealousy by a democratic community like ours, towards a body like the House of Lords, that you are making a 312 great mistake, if you deduce from their action of December, 1910, that the power they gave you to curb the House of Lords was also a power to coerce their brother democrats in the North of Ireland. Granted that you are wise and justified and right in driving the North-East corner of Ulster out of our community, have you got the right to force upon them an eternity of servitude and inferiority to followers of your own who have ever been to them their most bitter and avowed enemies? I am quite sure that the English democracy, when they gave you a certain authority to clip the wings of the House of Lords, will resent—and on you will fall the resentment—if you use your power with such unsparing hand. If the electorate gave you a mandate to curtail the power of the House of Lords, then you are not justified in using it to strike down the ancient Church in Wales or to dismember the United Kingdom with all its contingent risks. I think that the electors, before this business of Home Rule in Ireland is put into active force, will insist in some way or other that the question shall be submitted for their consideration.
I have been at two great demonstrations in Ireland within the last twelve months. Both took place after the passing of the Parliament Act; one in April and the other in September when the Covenant was signed. If you press your policy forward without knowing how the appeal from the democratic working classes in the North of Ireland is responded to by the working classes of this country, you are committing a very profound error from your own point of view. The first response to those meetings in the North of Ireland was a meeting of the workmen of Lancashire which I attended, at which there were present at the very least 100,000 able bodied men. If meetings of that sort mean anything, there is not the slightest doubt that you are up before a very serious proposition. You have been offering safeguards, but your safeguards have all been paper, and the only safeguard against the possibility of civil war in this country was the exclusion of Ulster which you scornfully rejected. You have Ulster beaten on paper, but have you got her beaten in fact? And even if you have Ulster beaten, would it not be well for you to extend some consideration to her and not with thumbs outstretched turn them down as was done in the ancient coliseum when it was decided that the beaten man should receive his quietus. Of course, you can coerce 313 her. One does not doubt your power to do so. But if the British electorate endorses such a proceeding, then you are relieved from a very great responsibility. But if you start a new era in Ireland with Ulster coerced, Ulster sullen, perhaps bloodspattered and defiant, if you do it with the constitutional permission of the British electors, then you are in a much better position in history. Your position in history will be very much weakened if you do it under a Constitution which is admitted to be both mutilated and impaired. I contend that this particular Chamber of which we are proud to be Members has, under the Government of the last two years, undergone a very considerable loss of prestige in the country.
I know that certain Members resent it, but the fact that we no longer render voluntary service to our fellow countrymen has impaired our reputation and influence with the whole of the British electorate. When it is a question of the defence of our country you speak up for voluntary service; you once had it in this House; now you have it no more, and the British taxpayer who is a voter is inclined, to look at his Member no longer as a heaven-born legislator, but as a hireling of his own, to whom he pays £8 a week. [An HON. MEMBER: "You should not take it."] There is no doubt whatever that the House of Commons is on a lower plane in the eyes of the people of this country than our predecessors, who in the days gone by rendered voluntary service. You talk about the people. Why not trust them? If you submit these Bills to the people, and they approve of them, then a veritable triumph awaits you; but if you are too stiff-necked and proud to do so, then you imperil your own position. Therefore I implore you to reconsider your position before it is too late, because the questions which we have to decide, if you thrust these Bills through, certainly the Home Rule Bill through, are far too serious. The Government, I admit, have been both adroit and audacious, and have attained in a Parliamentary way a very high level of success from the party point of view. But we think the position is too serious to be content with the point of view of party triumph. The Amendment points a way of escape and of relieving yourselves of what is a great responsibility. Of course you will reject it, and the Government and their followers will draw what satisfaction they may from the figures of the coming Division. But against that they 314 will have to weigh the possibility of grievous action in Ireland, and they will have to weigh the loss of public esteem and confidence which a callous disregard for interests entrusted to their care, and double-dealing and juggling with a grave constitutional position, always entails.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Colonel GREIG
We have had a very interesting speech from the hon. Member who has just sat down and also from the hon. Member who preceded him. I am not going to follow the details of the whole of the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Wirral (Mr. Gershom Stewart). He has given vent to jeremiads as to what is going to happen in Ulster. I do not know that it is necessary, but I may repeat what is the view of those of us who sit on the back benches with regard to that question. We do not believe that the state of circumstances he contemplates is likely to occur, because the people of Northern Ulster are extremely common-sense. They realise, no doubt, or they will realise when the measure passes into law, that the best thing for a man of common sense to do is to make the best of the situation. If they do that, there is not the smallest doubt that the intelligence, ability, and patriotism which always distinguish North-East Ulster will have its due share in any Parliament in Ireland. How will the matter affect them? Suppose that the Bill is passed into law, are they going to abstain from going to the polls to vote for Members who will represent their views and interests in that Parliament? If they do that, on them is the blame of having abstained from taking their share in the national Parliament for Ireland. Are they going to refuse to enforce their own debts against their fellow countrymen, because it happens to be a national Parliament which is going to enforce those debts? From the point of view of the hon. Member opposite, Ulster is to be put out altogether from the community of this nation. Why the position of all Irishmen under this Bill will be more powerful than that of any other section of the community. Irishmen will be represented in the Imperial Parliament on Imperial matters. They will also have the right here—and the argument was insisted upon with considerable strength on the other side—to put their fingers in the English, Scotch, and Welsh pies. In addition to that they will have the sole control of their own local affairs in Ireland. In no other part of the United Kingdom, until devolution is 315 obtained for England, Scotland, and Wales, will there be anything like the political rights which are conferred upon Irishmen. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the right of this Parliament to legislate upon these topics, and he talked about the electorate having given a blank cheque. The electorate did give a cheque, but they knew perfectly well what was on the programme. I will undertake to say that there is not a single Member on this side of the House who did not frankly and fully state in his election addresses in 1910, the earlier one and the later one, each of the subjects with which we have been dealing since. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]
I shall not worry the House by quoting my own particular election address. I had never been in Parliament before, and I mentioned all those subjects in my address, and I am perfectly certain that was the case with a great many other candidates. Questions which had been the subject of demand by the Liberal and Progressive party in the whole country for the last twenty-five years were put in the addresses at those elections, and those are the questions which we wish to see carried out, and which we intend to carry out. I am perfectly convinced that when we go back to the electorate, and we compare the programme put before them in 1910 with what has since been achieved, they will be perfectly satisfied with the work that we have done while we have been here. The hon. Gentleman opposite said the electorate would have no chance for five years to comment upon what we have done. Did his own Government or any Unionist Government ever stop their retention of office until the full period of the Parliament had run, seven years under the Septennial Act. If they did not sit absolutely for the full seven years, it was because there had always been more or less an understanding that Parliament should dissolve about a year before the full period had elapsed. The last two or three Conservative Governments continued in office for fully six years. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Yes, for the full six years; and they never suggested, nor was it ever suggested in the Conservative ranks, that any measure which met with considerable opposition from this side of the House, should be sent back to the electorate to be voted upon. The fact of the matter is, hon. Gentlemen opposite want it both ways. They want an effective Second Chamber, and, when they use that phrase, they mean a Second Chamber that 316 would stop all Liberal legislation and let through theirs without any objection whatever. They say, "We are in a heart rendering position; we feel debased and disgusted because we cannot get that, and until we get it we shall not be satisfied."
From the political point of view we who have so long experienced that to which they now object, can in some sense commiserate with them; but they have got to realise, and it is an unpleasant lesson to learn, that one party in the State is not alone entitled to rule the country. The Leader of the Opposition is very fond of comparing our present position with that which existed during the civil war in 1642. There was one particular part of those events which seems to me to have been extremely like that with which we are now confronted. In those days there was a party called the "Fifth Monarchy men," whose tenets were peculiar. Their first tenet was that the elect of heaven alone ought to rule, and the second tenet was that they were the elect. They are the tenets of the party opposite, and which they are very fond of holding. It is therefore very uncomfortable when they realise their position, and find that it is not so. The hon. Member for Kingston said he felt alarm and disgust at having to sit in this Parliament without an opportunity to discuss these measures. If he will permit me to say so. I do not think he has any cause to complain, and we are delighted always to hear him whenever he cares to come down and address us. What is the truth about the House being gagged and about debate being sterilised? Debates have been sterilised by reason of the very large number of Amendments put down on an occasion when there is what is called free discussion. The number of Amendments is so great that no Bill could possibly be got through the House unless some limit were fixed. What has happened? Under the Kangaroo Closure, as it is called, attention is concentrated upon particular Sections of a Bill, and in this way debate can be concentrated, which is far better than the method of loading the Notice Paper with Amendments, with a sort of free right of roving over the whole of the measure.
In order to meet the case which the Conservative party have put forward on their platforms in the country how was the Kangaroo Closure treated? A Section of the Bill under that form of Closure is put before the House to be voted upon at a certain time, and in reference to that 317 Section Amendments are piled up to such an extent that they form a thick folio when received in the morning by hon. Members. The Opposition further make it a point to discuss only two or three of the earlier Amendments to the particular Sections, and then they go to the country and tell the poor deluded electors outside that they have not had an opportunity of discussing the measure. Everybody here knows that they could have fully discussed the Bill if they had chosen. It was a matter entirely under their own control, and there was plenty of time for adequate discussion. One other word about the position of those Bills with which we are more particularly concerned in the House of Lords. It is suggested that the Bills cannot be amended and that they ought to be amended. Why on earth did not the House of Lords at least condescend to give us some sort of suggestion of what Amendments they wanted made. What is the truth about the situation? The Conservative party knows it perfectly well, and they tell it to their friends outside. They are being wagged by the North-East Ulster tail. The North-East Ulster party say that they will not accept the Bill nor will they accept its principle. Between the two parties in this House it is a matter of principle, which North-East Ulster says she will not accept. The Tory party accepted that position, and their friends in the House of Lords threw out the Bill without discussion. I can only say that if this Bill is not passed under the Parliament Act, or is not accepted by the other House in due course, there is not the slightest doubt that the question will come up again, and that it will certanly be the first one which will have to be settled, even if the other party came into office to-morrow.
§ Sir J. D. REES
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down need not have objected so much to this party taking upon itself the position of the elect, for he might have found that he did not find sufficient comfort in the fact that at present his party is elected, and I should have thought that this superiority might have induced him to bear with some composure the claims of this side to which he takes exception. I think he was wrong in most of his facts. I do not think the Unionist Governments have invariably sat for six years. I think a little research will prove to him that in that respect he has completely overstated the case. My particular object in rising was to refer to 318 what the Prime Minister said in answer to the powerful speech of my right. hon. Friend on the Front Bench. He asked, who shattered the Constitution, and he answered his own question by saying, that the Lords had shattered the Constitution when they rejected the Budget. What was that Budget? Was it a Budget in the ordinary sense, was it a Money Bill, or was it really the first of a series, with which the House has since become familiar, of revolutionary Socialism, or, shall I say, extreme social reform wrapped up in the form of a Budget? Was it the first example of what this House has become familiar with, of a Minister who is supposed to be the guardian of the public purse being himself the chief spender of its contents? Was not an entirely new position created when that Budget was sent up to the House of Lords, and did the House of Lords behave in so unusual a fashion—it is not suggested that it was unconstitutional—or did they depart from the ordinary procedure so largely as might appear from their action? Their action in regard to the Budget was expected by the country, and in financial circles it was hailed with joy. In business circles the author of that Budget, however great a statesman he may be, is not credited with any one of the characteristics of the financier. In regard to the effect of that Budget, was it not foreseen? Was it not foreseen what the effect of the taxation would be upon building interests and upon many interests in which the funds of the poor in this country are invested? It is idle, I submit, to say that the House of Lords, in rejecting that Budget, to use the Prime Minister's words, "shattered the Constitution."
§ Sir J. D. REES
If I may be allowed to proceed without further interruption front the Parliamentary pantaloon I will tell him. I was a Whip or Secretary of the Cave upon the Ministerial side of the House which fought the Budget as far as possible, and, subsequently believing as I do, whether I sit on that side of the House or whether I sit on this side, that the first duty of a Member of Parliament is to vote the Supplies of the Army and Navy and Civil Service, having done what I could to amend the Budget, I supported it. My conduct was perfectly correct, and I should act in the same way if exposed to similar circumstances again. The Prime Minister referred to the mandate of the second of 319 the elections which took place in 1910. It is undoubtedly the case that in the second election of that year a majority was returned, a very much reduced majority, on the same side as at the earlier election in the year. I believe the real fact was that the electors who voted in December said, "Why are we worried with another General Election in the same year? We voted in January, and are we likely to have changed our minds in the interval? We do not know what is going on in Parliament, and we will vote in December as we did in January, being consistent men." That does not argue any particular mandate as regards the particular provisions of the Parliament Bill, but rather a complete disgust with perpetual politics, and a feeling that the second General Election, as, indeed, I thought myself, was completely unnecessary. I therefore submit that an election taken under those circumstances really cannot be said to have given a mandate for the Parliament Bill. The Amendment makes reference to the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Bill. In regard to the Welsh Bill, it is said that there has been a very large Welsh majority in favour of the Bill. That, no doubt, is a strong argument, but you could get a majority in favour of almost any measure if you sufficiently restricted the area from which the majority was taken. I had again and again during the Debate to urge that there was no identity, political or otherwise, between North and South Wales, and I think you might argue that the feeling of North Wales, as a political unit, should be respected as well as the feeling of the whole of Wales. I would not allow that the conjunction of North and South Wales makes a political unit which is entitled to have its way in regard to a body which is not confined to Wales—that is, the Church, which belongs to the whole of Great Britain. The argument as to a majority fails for that reason, though I quite see it is a very strong argument and has to be respected.
I do not mean to refer to the Irish Bill except to this extent, that it certainly seemed to me to be most insufficiently discussed. Throughout the Debate, which I attended very regularly, I was very much struck with one aspect of the Bill, and that was that many of the provisions, financial and otherwise, and with regard to the interdependence of the new Ireland and the old England, bore a singular resemblance to the relations between the 320 provinces and the Imperial Government in India. As I had served in both the provinces and under the Imperial Government, that resemblance interested me very much. It did occur to me that those provisions which were rushed through in a crude and undigested manner, often with no discussion, and generally with little more than a perfunctory discussion, related to matters which had settled themselves by a hundred years of experience and precedents in the Indian Empire. These relations in regard to the new Irish Parliament and the Imperial Parliament are not less important, and yet they have been rushed through this House. Often without discussion, often with very little discussion, and generally, I think, without any real appreciation of the seriousness of the points involved. Reference has been made by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) to the position of the House of Lords as it is. It was said that few people would be bold enough to defend it. He did, and I should like to do the same. I rather myself agree with the historian, Gibbon, who is at any rate a respectable authority to quote, and whose words occurred to me while the hon. Baronet was talking, that the prerogative of birth is the least invidious of all human distinctions. That applies, of course, only to a small proportion of the House of Lords, but yet a considerable proportion. If anybody had the curiosity to read the page of Gibbon from which I have quoted he would see what reasons that eminent statesman and historian gave, but those only apply to a comparatively small portion of the House of Lords, which is recruited continually by captains of industry, great employers, soldiers, and lawyers and others, so that it really forms, however much some people may like to disparage it, one of the most admirable assemblies of persons instructed upon every conceivable subject that ever I believe existed on the face of the earth.
It is a common thing to decry the House of Lords. Why is the country gentleman generally any the worse because he happens to be called a lord? It is one of the most valuable institutions, and I cannot refer to it without mentioning the great loss the House and the country has sustained in the death of Lord Tredegar. There was a man in South Wales whom every rank and class of society would vote to have been the most admirable dispenser of a large fortune, the kindest and best of friends, the most generous and admirable 321 of landlords, and, in fact, a man of a type which does credit and honour to human nature. I venture to say I have not uttered a word too much about Lord Tredegar—words fail me, indeed, to express my admiration for his character, an admiration which is shared by everyone who came within the sphere of his influence. He was a member of the despised House of Lords. Was he exceptional? He was only exceptional perhaps in his great wealth, but not in the admirable use he made of it. There are hundreds of Members in the House of Lords who in their degree, are equally occupied in doing good. I believe there is no class in the world that spends a greater proportion of its resources upon its neighbours than the country gentleman, who is held up in diatribes to the odium and the contempt of the country, although in the country the people know them too well to accept those diatribes. I would like to add my humble tribute to that of the hon. Baronet. If the House of Lords as at present constituted is indeed a reactionary Assembly, how does it happen that, though the House of Lords possessed all those powers, yet this country, from an absolute monarchy, became a limited monarchy, and from a limited monarchy became a pattern of democracy? How could those things have happened if there was a reactionary Assembly which stood in the way of every progressive movement? It has never done so. It has only insisted that those movements should be well considered and that they should be the deliberate, matured judgment of the electorate before they consented to destroy that which, when once destroyed, as we well know, can never be repaired.
So many speakers have referred to the state into which this House has fallen in consequence of these changes, that I will only venture to say how thoroughly I agree with all that they have said, and how I believe all that happens here now is purely mechanical. Our debates have very little effect, and we really are governed by a tyrant. Is one man, who will have his way as a tyrant, any better than a dozen of an oligarchy? Hon. Members opposite sometimes dwell on the state of tyranny in Russia. I declare, as one who has lived in Russia, that there is no tyranny in Russia to compare with the tyranny of the Cabinet under which this House groans, and the only argument which closes every debate, which is the argument of the legions that are called in. 322 Every Member of this House was born under a Constitution of the King, Lords, and Commons. I declare that it is my firm belief that at the present moment there is not that respect for laws in the country which are being made, and there will not be until the Second Chamber which has been destroyed is replaced by some satisfactory substitute. For my own part I believe the country would do well to make selections or elections from the present body of hereditary peers, who though called hereditary, are to the extent of I think, 30 per cent. new comers, and to a very large extent creations of the present Government, recruited from hon. Gentlemen, who, in the House of Lords, find the subject of their invective and the object of their ambition. I cannot understand why if that Assembly is so bad as it is represented to be, hon. Gentlemen who continually decry it, are so willing to add to its numbers. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) said that the new Chamber should be purely elected. I sincerely hope that will not be the case because in that case the Upper House will have the same character as this House and differences of opinion and strife between the two Houses must be far more rife than they are now when the Upper House cannot claim to have a stronger basis in being elected by the people. At present it is not elected by the people, and it has always given way to the people. It would have given way about the Budget. What I mean is that the rejection of the Budget by the House of Lords was not irreparable and final. The Government could have sent up a Budget bereft of the particular features to which the House of Lords took exception, and that Budget could have been passed, while the opinion of the people could have been taken on the Budget which they would not have. I think it was a terrible error in tactics to reject the Budget and gave the opportunity to destroy the institution, but that it really was an irreparable act which made it necessary to shatter the Second Chamber as the Prime Minister argues, I am quite unable to allow. I am unwilling to trouble the House further, and I thank hon. Members for having kindly listened to me.
§ Mr. LYELL
The hon. Member who has just spoken has given us a very good example of what was described earlier in the Debate as a "pot-and-kettle" speech. He began by saying that in reply to the charge of shattering the Constitution, the 323 Prime Minister stated that the House of Lords shattered the Constitution by rejecting the Budget. But, said the hon. Member, it was not a Budget at all; it was a revolutionary Socialistic project, with all kinds of social reforms tacked on to it. At that moment I went out to refresh my memory as to how the hon. Member voted upon that Socialistic and revolutionary Budget, and I found that I was right in supposing that he voted for its Third Reading. While verifying that point I missed the hon. Member's explanation of his vote, but I am told that he explained it on the ground that it was necessary to provide the supplies for the year, and that, therefore, he reluctantly voted for the Third Reading. That may be a very excellent reason for his voting for the Budget, but it entirely knocks the bottom out of his case for the House of Lords. If he, a Member of the House of Commons, one of the elected representatives of the people, in whose hands finance is supposed to be chiefly vested, had to give his vote in order that the government of the country might be carried on and the money provided for the Army, the Navy, and the Civil Services, how much more ought the House of Lords to have given their vote for the same reason! We have a very good precedent. Take the Budget of 1894; that measure appeared to the Opposition of the day far more revolutionary and Socialistic than the Budget of 1909. It certainly introduced much farther-reaching and more novel principles, and it was carried by much smaller majorities. Hon. Members opposite are fond of taunting us with the fact that the Irish Nationalist party could, if they chose, have us out in a minority by voting against the Budget. But in the Parliament of 1892–95 the Irish Nationalist party could have put the Government of the day in a minority by merely staying away. It was nothing but their continued support that kept the Government in office at all. Yet that Budget, although Socialistic and revolutionary and passed by the help of Irish votes, was allowed to pass without hesitation by the House of Lords, who were then led by far greater statesmen than those who have led it of late years. That Budget was just as distasteful to them as the Budget of 1909, but they said that the services of the country must be carried on, and it was not their business to interfere with finance.
The hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave) said that it was quite im- 324 possible for the House of Lords to give a Second Reading to the Bills sent up to them under the Parliament Act and then suggest Amendments, because they could not swallow the principle of the Bill. I think the hon. and learned Member has entirely confused the significance of a vote on the Second Reading of a measure in the House of Commons and a similar vote in the House of Lords. In this House it is true that by voting for the Second Reading of a measure you definitely accept its principle, but in the House of Lords it is perfectly well known that they constantly vote for the Second Reading of measures which they intensely dislike, but which they think have to be carried, and of which the great majority are not prepared to accept the principle. Therefore, given the well-known convention that a vote for the Second Reading of a measure in the House of Lords does not commit any individual Member of that House to the acceptance of the principle, the least they could have done was to have given these Bills a formal Second Reading, and then to have amended them, and thus shown us how they might have been made less unpalatable. If they had then voted against the Third Reading we should at least have known in what direction their suggested Amendments went. What is the contention of hon. Members opposite? They say that when we bring forward measures which are distasteful to them we ought not to carry them without a General Election. I suppose that means an appeal to the country on every measure of importance. They are to have the advantage of a four, five, or six years' tenure of office, and to be allowed to carry all their Bills without any reference to the electors; while we, on the other hand, are to go to the country every year on every measure which is obnoxious to them. That is a proposition which a moment's reflection will show could not possibly be accepted by us. The Prime Minister appealed to hon. Members opposite to try to put themselves in our place. Would they accept such a condition of affairs? Not one of them would sit under it for a Parliamentary day.
While hon. Members opposite have been telling us that we ought to take the verdict of the country upon our measures, by-elections have taken place. What has been the moral of those elections? It is avowed by the party managers on the other side—they make no secret of it—that they have made considerable efforts to stoke up the old fire on the subject of Home Rule, but have absolutely failed. 325 There is no party capital to be made out of the opposition to Home Rule, and as a result they have had to fall back on such things as the temporary unpopularity of the Insurance Act—a party cry which I am glad to believe has now not much substance in it. Recent by-elections, since the unpopular period of the Insurance Act elapsed, have given no colour to the supposition that the country is prepared to return a Unionist Government hostile to the measures which are now in a state of suspense under the Parliament Act. If we have no reason for supposing that the country has changed its mind upon these great subjects since the second election of 1910, what possible ground can the party opposite have for demanding another appeal to the electorate, which, after all, could only be in the nature of a vexatious appeal? They have claimed that in the past majorities have been given against Home Rule. Those majorities want a little examination. They say that on the votes cast in the United Kingdom, there was an enormous majority for the principle of Home Rule. But they say that in England there was a majority against it, and that, as England is the predominant partner, England's voice ought to be specially consulted. That argument, in the first place, is pure separatism. But, even putting that aside, it is not true. Making due allowance for uncontested elections, there appeared to be a majority of some twenty-five thousand votes cast in favour of the Unionist candidates. The number cannot be worked out exactly, because you cannot tell precisely the number of votes that would be cast in those places where there was no contest. But that figure of 25,000 entirely neglects the plural voter. It is calculated that there are something like 300,000 plural voters in England, and it is not a very large supposition to suggest that three-fourths of those voted Conservative. If that is so, we have to deduct 225,000 from the votes cast on the Unionist side, and 75,000 from those cast on the Home Rule side. That turns the Unionist majority of 25,000, on the votes cast in England alone, into a Liberal Home Rule majority of 125,000. So that the argument that there was an actual majority against these proposals in England alone absolutely falls to the ground.
Many Members have been putting their finger on the Parliamentary pulse. Most of them have agreed that there is something wrong in the present position, and, in diagnosing the complaint, they have 326 attributed it to the Parliament Act, to the guillotine, and to the various forms of closure of debate. They are under the impression that these are the root of all the Parliamentary mischiefs from which we are suffering. I think that there is a root of those mischiefs, but it is not to be found in the direction which they suggest. Hon. Members are very fond of telling us that under the guillotine our debates are deprived of all life, or, as one hon. Member put it, are sterilised. I absolutely differ from that. It is perfectly true that under closure by compartments it is possible for an Opposition to force forward Amendments of comparatively trivial importance, and then complain that matters of much greater importance have been shut out. For all that, I have heard some of the very best debates in the House of Commons under the guillotine. I agree, however, that in regard to one matter the House of Commons has some right to complain, and that is that the power of the Government as opposed to the private Member and the House of Commons at large has undoubtedly become greater and greater. What is the cause of that? I put it down to the steadily growing habit of the Government to make every matter a question of confidence. I am not referring particularly to the present Government. The practice has been growing up for the last half century. I believe that seventy or eighty years ago it was the Parliamentary practice for the Government to go out if it was beaten on the Second Reading of its main measure, probably if it was beaten on an Amendment to the Address, and certainly if it was defeated on the Second Reading of the Budget. Ample notice was always given when the Division would be taken. Anything in the nature of a snap Division was out of the question. It was considered extremely unparliamentary. Hon. Members rolled up in their post-chaises from Yorkshire and Northumberland, and a solemn test was taken of the strength of parties in the House at the time. If the Government had a majority it went on; if it had not it went out. Having shown by this test that the Government had a majority, Members went home, and in Committee in comparatively small houses the Government were beaten constantly, but not the slightest attention was paid to the defeats. The result was that the House of Commons, as a whole, really shaped legislation in Committee.
I venture to think that that is a state of things much better in many respects than 327 that which obtains to-day. I admit that we have, to some small extent, recaptured a little power by the establishment of Committees upstairs, because in those Committees the Government are frequently defeated and nobody thinks much about it. I venture to think it would be well if the Government paid no attention to defeats in Committee or on details of Bills, and allowed the House of Commons as a whole to shape legislation very much more than they do now, and that they should not make every question that comes up in this House a question of confidence. We should then get back to the older, and I venture to think a very much more healthy, Parliamentary state of things. When, however, hon. Members diagnose our complaint, and say that it is due to the guillotine and due to the Parliament Act, they are making an entirely wrong diagnosis. Without some measure of curtailment of Debate, the conduct of the business of the House cannot be carried on, and, after all, though it may be true that it, is the business of the Opposition to oppose, it is still more true that it is the business of the Government to govern.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
With the latter part of the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, I feel very largely in agreement. There is no doubt that the circumstances under which modern governments insist upon making every question a question of confidence is largely the cause of that singular apathy in our discussions and that air of unreality which hangs around our proceedings, which is now alienating from us even that small remainder of public interest in what we do. The unreality of things in this House is not only due to the Parliament Act. I think it has been aggravated by the Parliament Act, but I am afraid I cannot at all agree with the hon. Member when he says that the Debates under the guillotine are good Debates. They are not good Parliamentary Debates. Our Debates under the guillotine are sometimes like those at a good debating society and sometimes like those at a bad debating society. You can get the sort of thing the hon. Member refers to at the Oxford Union Debating Society. You can go there on a Thursday, and sit in the gallery and enjoy it. He will find it like a very good Debate under the guillotine. But the whole difference between the Parliamentary Debate and a debating society's debate is that the Parliamentary Debate 328 is directed towards some result, sometimes a party position and sometimes an actual result. It seldom happened, even in the older days in this House, but that the Debate was in a general contest for a Bill, and a speech said to be a good speech was often a very important contribution to the debate, judged in the contest raging between the two parties, or in respect of the particular matter under discussion. That has absolutely disappeared. I may perhaps be permitted to say that I observed the destructive effect of the guillotine when it was my own party that was applying it, and when I was one of those responsible by giving my vote for enforcing it. It was very remarkable to note it in the debates on the Education Bill of 1902. The Unionist Government have never received sufficient credit that they held office for seven years without using the guillotine at all. In the seventh year, virtue often assailed fell at last, and they did apply the guillotine. The effect was very remarkable.
They had, of course, a perfectly enormous majority on that Bill, because the Irish Members as well as the Unionist party supported it, but after the application of the guillotine there was the greatest difficulty in carrying the Bill. All sorts of difficulties were encountered. The Bill was not in actual danger. No doubt the guillotine was not applied until the more critical Clauses had been passed. But still I do not think the change could be accounted for in that way. The moment the guillotine was applied all force went out of the opposition. It was more and more a mere party display. The thing was like the hand of a magician. The whole force went out of the opposition to the Bill, and the Bill went through easily enough, except in respect of a particular controversy which arose between myself and other hon. Gentlemen in regard to what is known as the Kenyon-Slaney Clause. I am glad to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer who has just come in, because he will remember what I am stating in respect to the guillotine of this particular Bill of 1902 that it took all reality and force out of the discussion. A dead mist sunk down over the House and the Government. The Government could do what they liked, though, up to that time, the opposition had been of a most formidable character. But the guillotine is not the subject that is really raised by this Amendment. It 329 only arises incidentally. The apathy of the people is, I think, the phenomenon which is more directly revelant to this Amendment. Here, no doubt, we have a phenomenon which is very remarkable, whatever else is said about it. But I do not think it furnishes the Government with any argument for passing the Bills which they are seeking to pass under the Parliament Act. Certainly, whatever else you may say, the people's apathy does not justify revolution. You cannot, because of it, say that we are entitled to turn the Constitution upside down. An absented-minded revolution is of all revolutions the least defensible. It is strange to find those who believe in democracy saying that in the name of the people that you are entitled to take the people, as it were, asleep, and transform their affairs in the most vital respect while they are not thinking about it, as you are doing. I do not believe in the least that it is that the people like either Home Rule or Welsh Disestablishment.
I think it is something quite different from that. I think, to begin with, that a great many people think that somehow or another these things will not come to pass. They see that Bills have been brought forward, and they know that a great hullabaloo has been made amongst politicians, who say that the country is going to be ruined and so on, but they think the Bills will be rejected somehow, and that what is prophesied will not happen. They do not think it is coming to pass. In this connection it is very remarkable that time Insurance Act, which has been referred to, was not unpopular until it had passed or was on the point of passing. It was supposed to be a very popular Bill. I believe the Government brought it in to get strength. It is a vote-catching measure. The Government went out to catch votes, and the only thing that caught was fourpences and a good deal of odium. The melancholy thing is that public attention was not really riveted on the measure until it was almost on the point of passing. The apathy of the people, therefore, is largely that they do not pay attention to what we are doing, and do not understand how Parliament works. They know that somehow or another the Conservative influence—I do not wish to use this word in any party sense, but in its relation to the Constitution—is strong and they hope that not very much mischief will be done. Another cause undoubtedly is that politicians have got into the habit 330 of using so much strong language that the ears of the people have become dull. Perhaps the more appropriate way in putting this would be to say that we have sown the wind and are reaping the whirlwind, or perhaps better still, that we have sown weeds and are reaping the desert. We politicians have so often said that all sorts of great issues are involved that the people have begun to think that politics is an unreal occupation in which people use a great deal of language to which they attach very little importance, and therefore the people put it to one side.
Finally the minds of the people are fixed on quite different issues. Hopes have been raised, sometimes in good faith and sometimes in not very good faith, that it is in the power of the legislature to make immense changes in the condition of the people so as sensibly to alleviate the evils of poverty. Naturally, when you are dealing with an electorate, very many of whom are poor, and very many of whom are in danger of poverty, it is natural that such proposals rivet the attention in quite a different way to any merely political changes, while the question as to whether or not the proposal is possible is lost sight of. It is not to be expected that poor men should really see political questions in the same light as some of us. It is very natural that their attention should be fixed upon the question as to whether or not it is possible for Parliament to make them a little better off than they are. I think those are the causes of the apathy of the people. But I cannot see in any one of them a justification for the Government in passing these Bills through without obtaining the definite consent of the people to them. We heard the hon. Member for Renfrewshire use the argument, or set of arguments, often heard on an occasion like this: "That it is no worse for us than for you, though indeed we are even now worse off, because the House of Lords does not delay your Bills; it passes them." That argument is not really worthy of a constitutional discussion. This is not a cricket match between the blue and yellow teams. It does not really matter whether the Constitution is fair or unfair to one party or the other. It is not a game we are playing.
For my own part I thoroughly desire that there should be a Second Chamber as an effective check upon Conservative or Unionist legislation as well as on Liberal legislation. I am very far front wishing 331 to see the Unionist party bring forward legislation without a check. I certainly desire to see an impartial Second Chamber, and a Second Chamber in the Constitution in which both parties shall have substantially an equal voice. Personally I should like to see a nominated Second Chamber, to be nominated by machinery to be devised, but nominated substantially in equal parts by the two political parties. Such a Second Chamber as that would be impartial, and have that influence, that conservative influence which an independent body of persons seated for life in a legislative Chamber would naturally exercise. The object of this Amendment is not in the least to maintain that we want a party advantage, or that we are complaining that we have lost a party advantage. No complaint would have been made if the Parliament Act had only been used for Bills of secondary importance. Other Bills should be submitted to the judgment of the people. The grievances alleged by this Amendment are confined to two Bills only which are selected, because of their supreme importance. The grievance and complaint is that these two most important Bills, far more important than any Bill carried under the Unionist Government of ten years ago, go to the very root of the Constitution of the country—Home Rule especially—are to be carried without either a check of a reformed Second Chamber, or the check of a reference to the people. No one, I suppose, contends that these are unimportant measures.
It would not, of course, be in order to discuss their provisions, but it is in order to point out that in respect of Home Rule at any rate there is a vehement feeling in North-East Ulster at this great and fundamental change in the Constitution of the country. Take these two points. I know there are some hon. Members opposite who do not think that the opposition of the North-Eastern counties of Ireland is a real one. I do not suggest that they do not think this sincerely, but they think that the opposition will be subsequently found to be not so very formidable as it seems. I am sure they are mistaken. The risk is a grave one. Those who desire to resist the Home Rule Bill will find that task is not a difficult one. All they have to do is to make provision for their own Government, and to leave it to the others to take their government from them—by force if they dare. I am quite sure the opposition to Home Rule in 332 the North-East of Ireland is quite strong enough and equal to taking a step such as that. How is your reformed Constitution going to work in respect to such a situation as that. The General Election will come probably shortly after Home Rule passes into law. It may be a year or less, but it will not be very long after Home Rule passes. Supposing that election results in a Unionist majority? What will the incoming Unionist Government have to do? Whoever will coerce Ulster, a Unionist Government will not. We may set that up on one side. We are assured by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) that Nationalist Ireland will not accept Home Rule without Ulster, and I do not know that Unionists could reasonably accept such an offer, because we are opposed to Home Rule on a great many other grounds beside the opposition of Ulster, and therefore the only remedy for the incoming Unionist Government would be to repeal Home Rule. What a contingency that is. Look at it for the moment, not as a contest between both parties, but as a Constitution so worked. Can you conceive anything worse than the conditions that result from once having passed such an Act into law and then repealing it before it comes into effect? The people of Ireland are immensely more peaceable than they used to be, but what a strain that would be upon the cause of good order and peace in the country. I think it would be a most formidable danger to expose the public peace to, and a most dangerous strain to put upon the patience of those who are anxious to obtain Home Rule, yet that is what inevitably must happen if you are going on as you are. That is one objection.
Take the other and more highly speculative one. Is there any Constitution in the world that would allow a constitutional change of this nature to be made by the votes of a Single Chamber during the course of a single Parliament? Almost every Constitution in the world has a special procedure for constitutional changes. This is a constitutional change of the utmost magnitude, and it turns our Constitution into the Constitution of the Austrian Empire, and it accepts the principle in the Austrian Empire and applies it in one instance. I heard a very remarkable illustration of the troubles and the evils which arose in adopting such a method as that in respect to the province of Galatia in that empire. There is a 333 situation there which absolutely resembles, almost as if written as an allegory or a fable, the situation foreshadowed by some critics of Home Rule in Ulster. There you have a dominant Roman Catholic majority of Poles and you have a minority belonging to the orthodox Russian Church. The dominant Polish majority works under a Constitution which abundantly secures religious liberty. There is no danger, but the Polish majority are at this moment engaged in a course of serious and petty persecutions against those joining the orthodox Church, as there is a movement towards the orthodox Church, and the orthodox people have no remedy at all, for although the Constitution is upon their side, it is practically impossible to enforce the Constitution, and the local Government have no difficulty in getting over the Constitutional change. Now we are just going to put Ireland in the place of Galatia; we are going to adopt this very difficult Constitution, and we are actually told we are going to do that by the vote of a Single Chamber and without the consent of the other House of Parliament and without any reference to the people. Does anyone who ever studied the constitutional question believe that is a proper method of procedure?
One is forced to ask why there should be this great reluctance to allow the people to decide. The hon. Member opposite spoke of by-elections. We often hear these arguments used that the people are not really opposed to Home Rule. As I ventured to say two days ago, the conclusive argument that shows the people are opposed to Home Rule is the reluctance of the Government to submit Home Rule to them. Reflect how much the Government have gone through to avoid consulting the people. They might have passed the Parliament Act through the other House without much difficulty if they had conceded one point—that Home Rule should be submitted to the will of the people. But they cared so passionately to avoid Home Rule coming before the people that they took the very odious course of obtaining permission from the Southern under one set of conditions and enforcing it under another set of conditions; they deeply offended the whole of the Conservative opinion of the country, so much so, that they were very nearly compelled to use the Prerogative of the Crown upon an enormous scale by creating peers to overcome the resistance of the House of Lords, and all that they did for 334 no other reason than this, that they would not submit Home Rule to the judgment of the people. What is the use of talking about what was put in somebody's address, or what was said in speeches and discussions during the last General Election? That shows how confidently certain the Government were that Home Rule would be condemned if submitted to the people. Is it possible any Government would have gone through all these risks unless they were certain there was no other course open to them in order to save their Bill? I believe the course the Government has taken is destructive both of the sanctity of law and the permanence of law.
I have spoken of Home Rule and the danger of its repeal. Even in the case of Welsh Disestablishment, its repeal is a very serious matter. Still, suppose a Unionist Government were returned to power before the date of this Disestablishment, I confess I anticipate that the Bill would be either repealed or substantially modified. Law rests upon a certain moral basis, and if you pass law by a disreputable Parliamentary intrigue, by using the Royal prerogative, by destroying debates in the House of Commons, and without the assent of the House of Lords, the laws you pass are not laws. They are sham laws, lacking the moral basis upon which laws alone can rest. You are doing this at the very time when, by common agreement, there is growing up a certain indisposition to obey the laws that used to be obeyed. People are more than ever disposed to say "it may be the law, but I will not obey it." How very short-sighted at such a time to undermine the moral basis upon which law rests. I believe it will be found sooner or later that we shall have to alter the Constitution altogether, both of this House and the Upper House, and the relation between the two Houses fundamentally, before we can restore that confidence in the law which used to be accepted. People will never obey what they think they ought not to obey. At present we have no Parliamentary government or representative government, or what our ancestors used to be proud of—the old mixed government in which the Crown and the aristocracy and the democracy took a share. We have none of this now. Instead, we have Cabinet government and Cabinet autocracy, and the Cabinet is not supposed, by any procedure to represent more than a very narrow body of opinion. We have a partisan Cabinet driven from 335 one point to another, not by the judgment of the people, not by the judgment of the House of Commons, or by the judgment of Parliament, or the commands of the Sovereign, but moved from one point to another by those influences in which wire pullers delight to rule the Ministry and by the movements of the party Whips. I do not at all call this disreputable or wicked interests, but they are not the interests that arise from the mass of the people. Groups of Members press their point of view, groups of people in the country press their point and say, "if this thing is not done we will withdraw our support." The Constitution is not in the hands of the people or of Parliament, or of the Crown, but is in the hands of a little knot of partisans who are all the less to be trusted.
I am sure the country will not submit to government by a party Cabinet. I am sure they will insist on being governed as the traditions of the country suggest by representatives of the people. Why should not the Government get through their difficulty by accepting the true principle of democracy, reference to the people? Hon. Members opposite we are told are hardly treated because their Bills are hung up for two years. I agree that hanging up a Bill for two years is about as inconvenient a course as can be pursued. It is better to have it decided in one or two Sessions of Parliament. Why do not the Government, instead of bringing in these Bills over again and passing them through by some dreadful travesty in two or three Sessions and sending them up again to be rejected, bring in a Bill to refer these particular Bills to the vote of the people in the autumn and let the people so decide? Then we should be quit of the whole controversy. If the Government are right and we are wrong, these Bills would be passed, and if they are wrong and we are right, these Bills would be rejected as they ought to be rejected. These Bills affect the most vital institutions of the country and the Government could go on with its work; Parliament would not be changed. The Government could pass other things, educational proposals and other matters dear to its heart. It would give us no party advantage except the single moral advantage of being in the right in these two controversies. The rest of the work of Parliament would go on as before, and 336 we should be quit of a controversy which is steadily lowering the whole reputation of Parliament and bringing not alone one party but both parties into discredit by continuing a series of sham fights which everyone knows have no reality.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Then better recognise the facts of the case and drop the whole thing if you have not the courage to carry it through and if Ulster has the courage to resist. I am persuaded this Amendment is founded upon reason and consonant with the constitutional traditions of the country. I believe the Government would lose nothing if they were frankly democratic—if they consented to trust the people they would lose nothing in the estimation of their fellow countrymen and they would restore life and reality to the Constitution, which is now stricken with a mortal illness which can only end in the death of free institutions.
Mr. SHIRLEY BENN
I rise to support the Amendment and I want to give one or two of the reasons which actuate me. In the first place, I was returned in the House of Commons by constituents who believed that the House of Commons in conjunction with the House of Lords would pass laws for the good government of our country. This Parliament has handed over to the House of Commons the power originally held by Parliament. We are at the present time in a fiduciary capacity until the Second Chamber has been resurrected or a new one created. We are at the present time face to face with the Home Rule Bill coming back here for discussion. In looking at it one cannot help thinking why the Union of the two Parliaments was created. It was not created by the wish of Ireland, but because England believed it was necessary for her welfare. Some of the Catholics in Ireland approved of it because they did not believe they would ever get emancipation from a Protestant Parliament in Ireland. Sonic Protestants acquiesced for various reasons, some because they felt that Pitt was going to force Catholic emancipation upon Ireland, and that then the Protestant minority in Ireland would not be supreme. I cannot help feeling that it is a great pity that where a matter of this vast importance is being passed by the English Parliament we ought not to know what the people of England wish about it. If we are going to judge from 337 the representatives of English constituencies in this House, we know the majority are entirely opposed to the Home Rule Bill as at present before us. Of the 461 English Members of this House the majority are against it, and surely the voice of England as a country ought to be taken where the opinion of the two countries is concerned. If the people of England were willing to give Home Rule to Ireland, I am sure it would be quite in order for us to pass this Bill; but unless the voice of the English people has been taken, and they have decided that they will grant Home Rule to Ireland, I cannot help thinking that it is a very great mistake that this House should undertake, in its capacity as the sole Parliament of this land, to pass a Home Rule Bill to Ireland. I hope that this House will realise its responsibility to England. England in the past virtually forced Scotland to agree with her in many matters and she has forced Ireland, and as long as she is the paramount kingdom I believe that it will be her duty to see that no Home Rule Bill is passed unless it is satisfactory to the people of England.
§ Sir WILLIAM BYLES
The last speaker has really echoed, to some extent, the argument of the Noble Lord who addressed the House a few moments ago in an interesting and characteristic speech. The great basis of his argument was that on this side of the House we are afraid to submit the question of Home Rule to the people in order to get their sanction. On the other hand, our contention is that we have submitted it to the people, and we have got their mandate over and over again. At any rate, we got it at the last General Election just over two years ago, and that was a distinct mandate to pass a Home Rule Bill. I have not the slightest misgivings in my own mind and conscience on that subject, and I go further and maintain that the three last General Elections which have taken place and which have maintained the present party in power, have all meant that we were to pass a Home Rule Bill. Home Rule has been the policy of the Liberal party for twenty-eight years, and it has never been defeated by the country, but over and over again it has been ratified. In 1892 and in 1910, at any rate, the vote of the people was a vote to pursue the policy of Home Rule. I put that forward as an answer to the arguments of the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) and several other speakers in this Debate. The Noble Lord said that the 338 House of Commons had not now the freedom it used to have, and that we were being ruled by mere Cabinet Government. I cannot see any justification for that statement, because the Cabinet can do nothing unless it is supported by a majority, and, at any rate, we are not afraid of steadily supporting this Government in its Irish policy and other matters.
Another hon. Member stated that we have not now an effective Second Chamber. That is true, but it is better to have no effective Second Chamber than to have no effective First Chamber, and that has been our position for a great many years when we have been in power. As the Noble Lord knows, we are now in a transition stage. It has been abundantly explained to the House that a reformed Second Chamber is to be proceeded with and built up at the earliest possible opportunity. The hon. and learned Member for Kingston (Mr. Cave), whose speeches we always listen to with respect and profit, complained that Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment were coming before the House this Session without any power of Amendment. The answer to that is that we have already passed the Home Rule Bill through its First, Second, and Third Readings, and so far as this House is concerned it is a chose jugée. The Lords have the power of amendment by agreement, but they have not even attempted to amend the Bill. The Lords said at the beginning that they would not have the Bill at all, and they threw it out on the Second Reading. Therefore, it is not our fault that Amendments were not introduced into the Bill.
I do not know that it is worth while to dwell upon certain other arguments which appear to me to be rather frivolous. For instance, there is the allegation of the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Mackinder) that our party is no longer independent because we have passed Payment of Members. That taunt has been so constantly thrown at us that I think it is worth while to deal with it for a moment. It is true that I tried to amend the proposal for payment of Members so as to make the sum a smaller one, but I voted for the principle with a perfectly clear conscience. I have been a Radical all my life, and I have always commended the policy of opening the door of Parliament to poor men and to working men. The Tory benches have been filled for generations with rich men and landlords, people of property, and lawyers, and the doors 339 have been practically closed to poor men. I think the Noble Lord himself will admit that the leaven of Labour representatives we have in the House of Commons has not been an unfavourable one for the character of the House. I deny altogether that it deprives us of any independence, because I do not believe there is a Member of the House—there are certainly very few—who would not be better off if he was without his £400 a year and at the same time without his seat in the House of Commons. I therefore think it is time, if there is any truth in the argument addressed to the House, that taunt is dropped.
I referred just now to the repeated and heavy majorities with which the Government has been supported in its Irish and Welsh Bills. One hon. Member earlier in the Debate said it was a mere farce to quote these majorities, because it was the same majority repeated time after time. It was really always a different question which was put from the Chair. The hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) seemed to think our allegiance and devotion to the Government was due to the fact that we were bamboozled by the eloquence of the Prime Minister. I do think those are unworthy arguments. I am certain the majority in this House reflects the opinions of the country in regard to Home Rule. I have never had the slightest doubt that if we went to the country upon Home Rule, and if we could have that issue alone put before the country, we should be returned by quite a large, probably by a much larger, majority than we enjoy at the present time. If I agreed with the Noble Lord and believed the country would reject this policy I would certainly be the first to share his view that it ought to be submitted again to the country. It has been submitted to the country, not once, but many times, and many times it has been approved of by the country. We are therefore entitled, after we have passed the Parliament Act on purpose, to carry it in spite of the opposition of any irresponsible Member, and I believe it will take its course right through until it reaches the Statute Book.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
The hon. Member who has just sat down has eclipsed, I think, even his own previous record in persuading himself that to be which appears to most people is not. He began his speech very much in the same way as 340 he ended it. He said that in this opinion Home Rule had been constantly ratified by the people of this country. I must say it puzzles me to see how the hon. Gentleman makes that out, because, looking back to 1886, it is obvious Home Rule was then thrown out by the House of Commons itself. That, I presume, is not the occasion to which he is looking for confirmation of his statement. Then, if he looks to the second Home Rule Bill introduced in 1893, he must surely realise the result of that election was to turn out the Radical party.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I think the Noble Lord is forgetting that the 1892 General Election returned the Radical party.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
That was before the Home Rule Bill. When the Bill had been discussed and passed in the House of Commons and had been rejected by the House of Lords, then, instead of that wave of indignation which if the hon. Member is right there ought to have been, the country supported the action of the House of Lords and returned the party to power which was opposed to Home Rule. The hon. Member has really a wonderful knack of persuading himself if he takes that epoch as being a ratification by the country of Home Rule. He now says he is quite convinced there is a mandate for Home Rule at the present moment, but, if he were not so convinced, he would be prepared to consult the country. I always give the hon. Member great credit for sincerity and honesty of purpose. I have no doubt, if he thought there was the least doubt about it, he would be prepared to consult the country, but I do not think that observation applies to his party generally. There is at all events so grave a doubt in the mind of the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) as to whether the country wishes it or not, that he in particular and his party in general will not hear of any consultation of the people upon this point, but insist upon it being passed under the Parliament Act. The Amendment, of course, raises questions which we have dealt with often before in this House. This Session begins immediately on the close of the previous Session. We have been attacking the Government almost incessantly for the past year and they have been striving to resist our attack. It is useless to deny that on both sides of the House there has fallen a sense of lassitude and weariness of these questions. The one thing which the House is 341 thinking about more than anything else, is when it is going to get away. It is like flogging a dead horse to go on with these points which we have over and over again hurled at each other, but I still think hon. Members opposite have not quite appreciated the grievance which we feel. They always in their defence seem to me to pass it by; they always try to make out that what they are doing and what they have done during the last few years is merely to put themselves into a position of equality with our party. I do not think that is true.
The hon. Member for Renfrew (Colonel Greig) made some rather ungracious charges against our party as holding the view that we are the only party who should ever hold office. I think he said "we are the elect." I do not know where he formed that opinion or what justification there is for it. If he looks back upon the past history of this country, he will see that government by the two parties, taken on the whole, has alternated with very fair regularity. I do not think he gets any confirmation there for the charges he brought against us. The Radical party never seem to me to follow what is our grievance on this particular question. Our grievance is not that they wanted a reform of the House of Lords and not that they took steps to alter the Constitution when they found they could not get their Bill through, although I think a good deal might be said upon that point, but that they pretended to alter the Constitution in one way while in fact altering it in another. They alleged that the alteration in the Constitution was temporary, and they are trying under the cover of that temporary alteration to pass Bills which we have very legitimate reason to suppose the country does not want. What was their whole cry against the House of Lords? I read a good many Radical speeches during that time, and I heard a few. I heard very little, I must say, about the Parliament Bill. The whole of the attack against the House of Lords, as all the cartoons and as all the literature of the period will testify, was founded upon their hereditary character. It was the hereditary character of the House of Lords which certain Members on our side, as well as hon. Members on that side, agreed might be dispensed with or might be reformed. That was what one might call the weak spot in the House of Lords, and that was what gained for the Government the support which they 342 claimed for the Parliament Bill. I maintain, therefore, that that support was obtained in a fraudulent manner. Do the Government maintain for one moment that it was thoroughly appreciated by the country that the Government were going to alter the Constitution in the way they have done by the Parliament Bill in order to pass certain measures, and that not until these measures have been passed was reform of the House of Lords to take place? Did the country ever really understand that these measures were to be got through in a period of interregnum of the Constitution? That is the real crux of our grievance. We maintain that the country did not understand anything of the kind. They have every reason to think it was not going to be so. They were told by responsible Members of the Government at the time that the Bill was only a preliminary to the reform of the House of Lords. We had mention of twin Bills the other night. It came as a surprise to the Prime Minister to realise that his own Lord Chancellor has said that the reform of the House of Lords must be looked upon as a twin Bill with the Parliament Bill. He was surprised to learn that Lord Loreburn had said in the House of Lords that as soon as the Parliament Bill was passed the reform of the House of Lords would be taken up, and I dare say it will come as a surprise to a good many Members to hear that the present Lord Chancellor, who was then not Lord Chancellor but a member of the House of Lords, said on 27th February, 1911:—If this Bill is passed,—that was the Parliament Bill—we have pledged ourselves not to treat it as a final step. On the contrary, we have pledged ourselves to look upon it as a stepping stone to things beyond, to such reforms of the Constitution as I have been speaking about, and naturally that great one which the Prime Minister said in March last would brook no delay. This Bill is an indispensable preliminary: it is an instrument without which we cannot go further. It is in that sense and for that limited purpose thin we put it forward at this juncture of our history.A preliminary Bill put forward for the particular purpose as an instrument by which they could carry that reform which he quoted the Prime Minister as saying would brook no delay, and therefore I say the people of the country, with this statement and others like it to go upon, believed that the reform of the House of Lords itself was imminent, and I think they had every justification for that supposition or belief that as a matter of fact the Parliament Bill would be used to carry the reform of the House of Lords but would not be used to carry other legislation upon which 343 they had not been consulted. I do not see how anybody can pretend that there is any evidence for saying that the country took it at the last election that the issue in any sense was Home Rule. After all, the country surely must be expected to take the issue from the party which is asking for its confidence. The country, as my Noble Friend who has just sat down has said, no doubt does look upon all politicians as persons who are liable to exaggerate. I am afraid sometimes it is only too right. The electors are not prepared as a rule to take their view of the policy of a party from its opponents. Their sense of fairness, I think, as a rule is too great to let them adopt that method of arriving at their conclusions. I grant that sometimes that is not the case, and I grant also that sometimes, if unscrupulous use is made of misrepresentation of what your opponents' policy is, the country may be persuaded to look upon it in that way, but normally speaking, especially when a particular Government is in power and is asking for a further lease of power, the country looks to that Government and to its authorised spokesman for the policy which they are going to carry out if they are again returned rather than it will look to their opponents.
It is nothing to the point to say that hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House tried to explain to the country that Home Rule was the issue. It is quite true they did. Speaking for myself, as a humble member of my party, I always said that the Government would use the Parliament Act to pass Home Rule if they got a majority. I said so and lots of people on this side said so, but who said so on the other side? They did not believe us. We tried to make them believe us but we did not succeed. Why did we not succeed? Because there was absolute silence on the other side. In not one speech that one saw in the papers from the other side were there any arguments for Home Rule [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh, oh!"] I may be exaggerating again when I say, "not one," but in the vast majority of speeches from the other side there was no mention of Home Rule. I might be exaggerating if I said it was not mentioned in any election address, but in the vast majority of the election addresses of hon. Members opposite it was not mentioned, and therefore, I am not surprised, when that was the attitude of the Government appealing for public support, that 344 the country took the policy of the Government from them rather than from us, and came to the conclusion that we were the people who were exaggerating, and that the Government were only going to do that which they talked about most. Time has shown that we were right, and that the country was wrong, but there has been nothing to prove in any way whatever that the country thought the Home Rule Bill would be passed, or gave any mandate for it. Even if what I have been saving is not correct, though I personally think it is, they knew nothing of this particular Bill. Nobody can maintain for one moment that the details of this Home Rule Bill have been submitted to the country. They knew nothing about the financial arrangements which have been condemned by every competent authority and condemned even by a considerable number of people who are in favour of Home Rule. They knew nothing about how the difficult problem of representation at Westminster was to be solved. Was the mandate for complete exclusion of the Irish Members from Westminster, or the "in-and-out" proposals, or the partial inclusion which is actually provided for in the Bill. Can anybody suggest that there has been any mandate at all on that point, or that the country had the faintest idea, even going on the supposition that Home Rule would be brought forward, that it would mean so much expense to them, so much financial support from this country, and that it would also mean the interference in the domestic affairs of this country by Members from Ireland when there was nothing of a similar character giving this country any effective control of the legislative affairs of Ireland?
No one will pretend that this particular Bill was before the country, or that it is not such an important subject that it ought not to be submitted to the country. Anyone, if candid with themselves, and unless they have persuaded themselves, as Members of the Government seem to have done, that it is wicked and criminal folly in any way to criticise their actions, and that therefore the Opposition had better shut up shop at once and bow the knee to the Government's Baal—anyone, not tinged with conceit as the present Government, must recognise that their fallibility, not only in regard to the principle of Home Rule, but in their method of dealing with it, is a thing which can and certainly ought to be questioned. To put it on the lowest ground there is the doubt whether the 345 country would approve of it. I think it certainly becomes the duty of the Government, if they are to be loyal to the country and to Parliamentary institutions, to see that the country is consulted. The hon. Member who alluded to the payment of Members is no longer in his place, so I will not refer to that further than to say, when one is discussing the effect of all these changes in our constitutional machinery, that payment of Members is not without result. It is curious to note the greater result payment of Members would have upon our procedure than the payment of election expenses. I do not wish to make general charges, but it is only human nature to say that the receipt of £400 a year is an inducement—it may be only a small inducement, but it is an inducement to the extent of £400 a year—to continue a Member of the House of Commons, and therefore to support the Government in power. There is this further inducement, that an appeal to the country involves still further expenditure in the way of election expenses, so that for what it is worth—I do not wish in the least to be offensive—the argument of the pocket is in favour of Members keeping the Government in office. It would be less so if, instead of paying Members of Parliament, we paid their election expenses; then they would be less afraid of elections, because one of the pocket reasons which to the ordinary private Member makes an election undesirable is removed. If the Government had contented themselves with the payment of election expenses rather than the payment of Members, they would have done something quite as useful to make it possible for a poor man to enter the House of Commons, and would have not done something which has the possibility in it of being prejudicial to the best interests of this House.
It cannot be denied that that is one of the things which are destroying Parliament. The other features in the present situation have been referred to in the course of this Debate, and I will not go over them again. Some speakers have been inclined to dispute that the guillotine, for instance, which is in operation in an exaggerated form nowadays—a direct result of the Parliament Act—has had a bad effect upon our procedure. Hon. Members who have not been in Opposition—and there are a good many opposite—do not sufficiently appreciate the feelings of the Opposition under the guillotine. 346 It is not so much the fact that the time for the whole discussion has failed—this is where the Prime Minister's argument when he moves Guillotine Resolutions and quotes the time occupied in discussions in old times on similar Bills breaks down—but it is the fact that the time is divided up in such a way that it is quite impossible to put any pressure upon the Government. The Government of the day know perfectly well that it does not much matter what they say under the guillotine, whether they make their arguments adequate to the criticisms or whether they make their Bill watertight, because they realise, even supposing the Opposition are right and make criticisms which cannot be answered, and that the Bill does not hold water, that they need pay no attention to it, because at a given hour of the clock a Division will be taken in which they will have a majority, and if it turns out afterwards that the Bill is not watertight they either get it altered in another place, where time is not so precious, or they let it go through in an imperfect state and trust to an amending Bill later on. The weakness of the position for the Opposition, which makes us feel that the whole thing is useless and that we are wasting our time in coming here, is the feeling that we have no opportunity of putting pressure upon the Government in the only way in which it can be done, that is by making it difficult and uncomfortable for them to get their measures through unless they adopt a reasonable attitude. If the time were not divided as it is nowadays, you could hammer at the Government until they gave way.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)
I am afraid the Noble Lord is anticipating another Amendment dealing with the procedure of the House. That subject does not seem to arise on the present Amendment.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY
I am sorry if I have trespassed beyond the terms of this Amendment, but the effect of the guillotine upon this House has been dealt with in the course of the Debate, and I thought I was in order in pursuing it. The last thing I would wish to do is to take up the ground of the other Amendment, and I will not pursue the subject any further, except to point out that the use of the guillotine is largely the result of the Parliament Act, which has tightened up the guillotine and made it more distasteful to 347 the Opposition by reason of its frequency. Another evil feature of the present Constitution as designed by the Government is that you have all the main Bills of the Parliament crowded into the first Session. Could anything be more disastrous than that? It is disastrous to the House of Commons. It is one of those things which account for the apathy of the country and the impression the country has that the whole of our proceedings are unreal, because it is physically impossible for the ordinary voter, the man in the street, to understand in the least what is going on in the House of Commons if Bill after Bill is pushed through in so short a space of time. Our Home Rule discussions were hardly followed at all in the country. Tbey were followed very inadequately indeed, because the people at that time were busy mastering the intricacies of the Insurance Act, which they had at last realised had passed. Some time after the Insurance Act had passed, and when it was very shortly going to come into effective operation, I went about a certain amount to my constituency, and in a great many villages where I went on a tour people asked me, "What about this Insurance Bill? Surely it is never going to pass?" I think that was a few weeks before it actually came into force, and when it had been the law of the land for some considerable time. Of course the fact is that the country, in its interest in what is going on in Parliament, is a year behind this House of Commons at the least. If you are going to make it impossible for them ever to catch up because you are bringing in so many Bills one on top of the other, you are inflicting a grave injury on the country, but you are also providing a reason why they are so apathetic over these questions as we say they are and as I really think they are at present. But do not let the Government suppose that they will be able to do all this without a day of reckoning. If they persist in a policy of this kind, in crowding one contentious measure upon another, and in forcing through by these ruthless means the proposals which they have now got before the country, they will find sooner or later that the country will wake up to the fact that things have been passed and things have been abolished which they neither wanted passed nor in other cases abolished. Then I think they will find that, in spite of all the protestations of the Liberal party about de- 348 mocracy, and in spite of all their protestations at election time, that what they want to do is to carry out the will of the people, the country is no longer to be gulled but will turn to others who, if not perhaps so pretentious in their policy or so specious in their arguments, yet are really true democrats and really have the truest interest in constitutional government.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. KEATING
I listened with the greatest interest to the speech of the Noble Lord, and I feel for him very much the same sympathy as was expressed by a certain well-known character in literature, whose difficulty in this respect is that he is a good man struggling with adversity. His arguments, to my mind, did not carry any conviction whatsoever, and I am not surprised that, as the result of the last two or three elections, the country failed to give their confidence to the Conservative party, if the arguments put forward were so unconvincing as those we have just listened to. One of his arguments was that this Home Rule Bill, which is going to destroy the British Empire and to crush out freedom of industrial enterprise and freedom of citizenship, and is going to bring to Ireland all the evils that the most lurid imagination can picture, had no effect upon the English people, because their minds were occupied as to whether they would have to pay 4d. or 9d., or whatever it was, a week under the Insurance Act. This talk about Home Rule not being before the country is, to my mind, a sheer misrepresentation of what are the actual facts. I was reminded of a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) on the Debate on the Address in February, 1910, in which he accused the Government of all sorts of hypocrisy, pretty much the same as we are listening to now. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. John Redmond), who is now accused of endeavouring to keep as a secret from the British people the fact that the Irish people want Home Rule, made a speech in that Debate, and referring to a previous declaration of the Prime Minister—the declaration in the Albert Hall—said:—The declaration of the Prime Minister was to this effect, that he no longer trusted to half measures, that he and his Government and his party believed in granting to Ireland a full measure of self-government in purely Irish affairs, and, secondly, that self-denying ordinance which prevented him from dealing with the Measure in the last Parliament was to disappear and this Parliament was to be quite free, so far as he and his party were concerned, to introduce a full measure of self-government for Ireland. That was a most important declaration, but I may tell the Leader of the Opposition 349 that that was not the sole reason why we supported the Government heart and soul at the last election. We supported the Government because that pledge on Home Rule was supplemented by a pledge which we regarded from our point of view as more important still, namely, the pledge which was given with reference to the Veto of the House of Lords. We regarded the abolition or limitation of the Veto of the House of Lords as tantamount to the granting of Home Rule to Ireland.Mr. Balfour: Hear, hear.Mr. John Redmond: I know the simple nature of the Leader of the Opposition, yet I am surprised that he has expressed any astonishment at that statement.Mr. Balfour: I have expressed no surprise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1910, col. 65, Vol. XIV.]To my mind that makes it perfectly clear that not only at the last General Election, but at the previous General Election, Home Rule was a vital issue before the British constituencies, and they declared in favour of granting Home Rule to Ireland. If that contention is not accepted by the Opposition they must disagree with that announcement of surprise which was expressed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour). Anybody listening to the speeches of the Opposition would think that the people of England had never given this question of Home Rule a second thought, whereas if they are frank with themselves they will admit that even the Tory party themselves have from time to time seriously considered whether they would not settle this question, which has divided the two countries for generations, by some measure which would be satisfactory to the Irish people and the British people as well. Another hon. Member who spoke to-night gave an alleged account of the relations between the two countries. He said this Parliament has no right whatever to interfere with the present happy system of government in Ireland because it was an arrangement entered into with the mutual consent of the English and the Irish people and it ought not to be disturbed except with the consent of the English people. Any reader of the elementary facts of history knows that that contention would not stand the test of serious analysis. The facts are too well known, and the outstanding fact is that the union between the two countries, or the alleged union—the paper union—which existed until the coming of that great Statesman, Mr. Gladstone, who first held out the offer and hope to the Irish people, was such as no Irishmen, with the manhood of his race and the sentiment, of his nationality, would tolerate to exist any longer if he had the power to destroy it. The country was sold through bribes to venal representatives of rotten and corrupt boroughs under the old Irish Parlia- 350 ment. Why, even the Orangemen at that time protested loudly against the abolition of the Irish Parliament. In twenty-eight counties out of the thirty-two the people protested by every means by which they were allowed to protest against the abolition of the Parliament. The contention which the hon. Member went on to elaborate was that the union was brought about because the Protestants of Ireland did not trust the Catholics. I say that the Protestants of Ireland were the best Nationalists in Ireland during many stages of Irish history. The people of Ireland do not judge the merits of their public men, or revere the memories of men, because they are Catholics or Protestants. They revere and love the memories of some of the best men who were not Catholics at all. The Noble Lord (Viscount Helmsley) made great play with the contention—and I notice the same point of view was entertained by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) if interruptions are any indication of opinion—that the Irish question has never been endorsed by the British people.
The position which existed in 1895 was simple enough. I contend that there was a majority of voters for Home Rule, although there was a majority of votes against it. We all hope for the passing of the Plural Voting Bill, and when the measure becomes law there will be no misrepresentation of the opinion of the country in future. Had it existed in the past a majority of voters would have been in favour of Home Rule. It was only because of the fact that a number of plural voters had the right to vote many times that public opinion did not find true expression at that period. Apart from that, it is a travesty of the whole situation to say that Home Rule was the sole issue in 1895. We all know that the Leader of the Liberal party at the time (Lord Rosebery) was halting, weak, and unreliable as to his convictions about public affairs. It was distrust of him and his leadership which had as much to do with the defeat of the Liberal and Home Rule party as any other cause. I do not know what the future of the present Opposition will be, but I for one would not be very hopeful that their leaders will command the confidence of the people. They may have to go through a stage similar to that which the leaders of the Liberal Party went through in 1895 and onwards. The whole question whether Home Rule was before the country or not is, in my judgment, a 351 sheer fallacy from beginning to end. Even admitting, as some hon. Members do, that the principle of Home Rule was before the country, it is said that the details of this Bill were not before the country, and that, on that ground, it should not be allowed to pass through the present Parliament. I would like to ask the representatives of the Tory party whether they will submit the details of a Tariff Reform Bill if they get into power again. I do not know that they will get in on Tariff Reform, but the point is this: Would they submit the details of a Tariff Reform Bill? If not, what right have they to complain if the present Government refused to submit the details of the Home Rule Bill, the principle of which had been confirmed over and over again? The House will do well to continue firmly and determinedly in their policy, and to see that the House of Lords is not allowed once more to destroy the golden bridge built to bring together the affections of the Irish and the British peoples.
§ Mr. STEPHEN COLLINS
The Noble Lord opposite (Viscount Helmsley) said that the Parliament Act was passed to reform the House of Lords and not to pass Bills, and, in fact, I think that he used such strong language as that the Government were fraudulent, in the way they deceived the people. The fact is that the country cared very much more for the passing of legislation than for the reform of the House of Lords. I do not say that the country was not concerned with the hereditary character of the House of Lords. I believe the country is willing, like hon. Members in this House, to say that there is need for a change and for reform. I say that, so far as my experience goes, the country as a whole wanted the passing of Bills which we have had before us—Bills which the House of Lords had thrown out time after time. The Noble Lord challenged us to say why we do not go to the country on Home Rule. If the Cabinet resolved to go to the country to-morrow on Home Rule, would hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite say whether they would keep to that single issue? They never yet have done so in the by-elections which have been fought. They have brought forward all kinds of side issues—anything they thought they might win the election by. They have attacked the Insurance Act, and many other measures which I need not mention. I believe if we went to the country to- 352 morrow on Home Rule as a single issue, hon. Members opposite might even raise the question of Tariff Reform, though I doubt whether they would do so just now. I do not think they would consider it an opportune time, for I see that a Tory gentleman who is endeavouring to win a constituency gives out that he is an out-and-out Free Trader.
§ Mr. S. COLLINS
That is how I understood it. It is understood that he is against Tariff Reform, and that, at any rate, he is not going to run down the Insurance Act. I think he is a wise man in his generation. The Noble Lord said the country should be consulted on Home Rule. The country was consulted on Home Rule year after year at General Elections and at by-elections. What the country wanted was action. What the country wanted was that Home Rule should be passed into law. The Noble Lord said that we would destroy Parliament. Of course hon. Members opposite say that. They continually say that we are destroying the House of Commons simply because legislation is being passed which they do not like. If they sat on this side of the House and were passing measures which they cared for, no one imagines that we who are on this side now would be so silly as to stand up and say that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were destroying Parliament. It is a new argument and a silly argument to use. The Noble Lord complains about Bills being crowded into one Session, but there is a good reason for that. In my short experience of the House of Commons during six years we came here month after month and year after year, trapesing into the Lobbies sometimes into the small hours of the morning and debating those great measures which were carried through by large majorities.
The Noble Lords at the other end of the corridor flouted us and threw out all our measures with contempt. No wonder Bills have been crowded into one Session. We have had one of the hardest Sessions, I suppose, in the history of Parliament, but I believe that every hon. Member on this side has been proud to come and do all he can, as far as his physical strength would allow, to carry these measures. Now, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are beaten and confess that they are beaten. We have the Parliament Act now, 353 and the Leader of the Opposition only the other day said that he supposed we should be in for some time yet, and we are going to see our measures through. It is absurd to say that Home Rule was not before the country. It was in my election address the last time, and the time before, and I think it was in the election address of nearly every Liberal and Labour candidate, and on every platform the Irish question and the Welsh question came on for discussion. In my own Constituency we had it continually before us, and we had one night which was an Irish night. I cannot imagine where the Noble Lord has been for him to say that Home Rule was not before the country. To say that Home Rule was not discussed when we had fifty days' discussion on the Home Rule Bill is ridiculous. I am sure that this Amendment will be thrown out by a large majority, and I have very much pleasure in standing here and feeling that we have got now the means of helping our friends on the other side to the accomplishment of their wishes. I have always been a Home Ruler, from the time I was a youth and the longer I live the more enthusiastic I become about it. I trust that we shall all live to see the day when our Friends opposite will enjoy the boon which they have so long desired, and the dark forebodings which have been indulged in will fade away.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
After all that has been said I do not wish to refer to more than one point on the question of Home Rule and the Amendment so far as it affects it. There is one argument for submitting this question to the country before finally deciding it. The country does not know whether it is to believe the utterances about loyalty made by hon. Members below the Gangway in this country during the last year or two, or the utterances which they made in America and in Ireland for a long time previously. You cannot believe one without disbelieving the other. What the people of this country wish to know is which of those is correct—whether it is true, as hon. Members below the Gangway are saying now, that there is no question of separation, or whether it is true, as was said in America, that it is only a step towards complete separation from this country. The only way the people of this country can know whether what is said now is true is by hon. Members saying in America and in Ireland what they are saying in this country on the subject of loyalty.
§ Mr. KEATING
As this statement has been made so often, may I say there has never been any proof of any responsible leader of the Irish constitutional movement having ever declared that Home Rule was a step towards the separation of Ireland from the Empire.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman regards the hon. and learned Member for Waterford as an authority on this question. Everybody knows that again and again in America and in Ireland he said he stood where Parnell stood; and that was that this was only a step towards complete independence and driving English rule practically out of the country.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
Until the English people know which of these lines is correct—and the only way we can know it is by hon. Members going to Ireland and America and repudiating what they said before—we shall not be given a fair chance of judging on the question. What I really want to point out is that all through this Debate no one has attempted to say that the Welsh Bill has ever been properly approved of by the country; no one has ever attempted to say that there was ever any excuse for passing that Bill under the Parliament Act. Even among the Welsh Members only eight election addresses referred to the question, and only a mere handful of English Members alluded to it. Everyone recognises the hon. Gentleman who spoke last as a very honourable, straightforward politician, and I have no doubt that what he says is true, and that he enjoyed at least one Irish night in his constituency. I do not think he told us that he had the pleasure of a Welsh night.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I thought he would probably say that, because I know that he is one of those who have put this question forward and fought it perfectly honestly and straightforwardly, but he is quite an exception. Only one argument has ever been used in favour of forcing this Bill through under the Parliament Act, and that is that the majority of Welsh Members are in favour of it. Nobody seems to take into consideration that this is a matter which affects the Anglican Church as a whole, and if you are going to take 355 the majority there is absolutely no doubt that there is a majority of English Members and Members affected by this Bill against it, but I very much doubt whether the majority of the Welsh Members represent the feelings of the people in Wales. I was rather surprised the other day. We had a by-election in Flintshire. One thing we could not get the Government representative to put forward during the election was the question of Disestablishment, and, still less, the question of Disendowment. I was there myself and saw the literature. Up to within the last day or two, when he was obliged to say something about it, he kept the question entirely in the background, and I saw about the last leaflet that was published, in which there was a very vague reference to what was called religious equality, without any statement of the amount of which they were intending to rob the Church; and the one thing that was prominent in this leaflet—it was put in larger letters and certainly attracted my attention more than any other item—was that they were not after all going to devote money for the purposes of museums which hitherto had been used for the service of God. That was the prominent thing, and I suppose it was brought forward to affect the election with regard to the question of Disestablishment and Disendowment. It is very doubtful that the majority of the Welsh Members really represent the majority of Welsh opinion. I was very much struck by a speech put into my hand which was made by Mr. Green, the Liberal agent for Radnorshire for thirty-five years. He said—I do not think the statement made has ever been contradicted—that during that time, while Radnorshire was generally a Liberal county, the leaders of the Liberal party well knew the danger of this question of Disestablishment and Disendowment, and he said:—In the majority of cases at election time, instructions have been given to the agent to keep the question of Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church in Wales as far back as possible.These were the words of the Liberal election agent who held that Division for thirty-five years in Radnorshire, and he goes on, in the rest of that speech, to state that where a candidate in Radnorshire in the Liberal interest had insisted upon putting forward the question of Disestablishment and Disendowment he was unsuccessful. This argument about the majority of Welsh Members does not affect the question of principle at all. It is not 356 a question of the majority, but of what is right or wrong, or what is an injustice. If a thing is right and one man supports it, it does not make it wrong that three or four or five men are against it. It is a question of principle, a question of justice, and nothing else. But that is not the view adopted by the Government. They have never attempted to justify the Welsh Disestablishment Bill on the ground of principle; they have always attempted to justify it on the ground of expediency. On the 15th May, 1912, the Prime Minister himself said that the question of Disestablishment or Disendowment of any Church over which Parliament possesses jurisdiction must be a question not so much of principle as of expediency. It is only on the ground of expediency that the Government has ever attempted to defend this measure, and all I can say is that if it can only be supported on the ground of expediency, and cannot be defended on the ground of principle, it is not a measure which has any right to be forced through under the Parliament Act without consulting the people of the country upon it. Another matter with regard to this particular Bill which makes it seem to me most undesirable that it should be passed in this way is that during the whole of the debates last Session no one on the other side of the House succeeded in putting forward any single practical evil which existed under the present system, and which would be redressed if the Welsh Church Disestablishment and Disendowment Bill were passed. There were one or two endeavours to bring forward a few grievances, but the most of them could not have been affected by this Bill, and the others were of such a flimsy character that no Member of the House was in the least influenced by them.
I remember a speech—it was very much admired by many Members of this House—which was delivered by the hon. and reverend Member for Ipswich—a speech in which he endeavoured to point out the evils from which Nonconformists suffered under the present system. He never rose to any sort of enthusiasm during that speech except when he said there was some kind of indescribable line of distinction between ministers of the Church of England and ministers of Nonconformist bodies. I do not for one moment admit that in any part of Wales or in any part of England such a distinction exists. I believe that in Wales or in England the minister of religion who is really doing 357 his work properly as a Christian would be valued in proportion to the time and trouble and skill he put into that work, and, if you have a parish where the Nonconformist minister is doing his work thoroughly while the minister of the English Church is not doing his work equally well, I do not think that any real distinction would be drawn in favour of the minister of the Church of England; the distinction would be the other way. But even supposing there was some slight distinction—though I think it is a most inconsiderable grievance—is this Bill likely in any way to redress it? Instead of the line of distinction which apparently exists in the imagination of the hon. Member, if this Bill were passed you would have a steady, deep, and black line drawn between the ministers of the Church who feel that they have suffered an injustice, and those who inflict it. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member opposite imagine, when members of the Church in Wales feel a sense of deep injustice, that a better feeling is going to be promoted amongst the various religious bodies of the country? It merely shows how absolutely ignorant he is of the feelings of those who belong to the Church in Wales on the subject.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
What I was anxious to prove, and perhaps I was led away on the point, is that they have brought before Parliament a Bill in the discussions on which really no practical evils have been shown which that Bill would remedy. I say that it is a Bill which, in the circumstances, ought not to be passed under the Parliament Act, and without the people of the country being consulted. I do not think the measure if passed would make anybody the better, or that it would do anybody any good. What it will effect is that money will be paid to county councils and to other people instead of the Church. It does not do the Churchman any good because he finds the work which his Church has clone in the past is to be very seriously hampered in the future. It does not do Nonconformists any good, because it fixes upon them the stigma of having done an injustice to another religious body, a stigma from which it will take them years and centuries to recover. When you have got a Bill that does not reveal any practical evils to be redressed and which cannot be shown to be going to 358 do any good when it is passed, I say a Bill of that kind ought not to be passed under the Parliament Act. There is another and perhaps more important ground than any other for considering this Bill as one which ought not to be treated in this way, and that is that it was passed by the votes which were secured by the Government of the Irish Nationalist Members, who were in no way concerned by the Bill at all, and passed by the votes of Scottish Members, who were in no way concerned. It is a Bill which does not affect them in the least. [Sir JOHN JARDINE expressed dissent.] It is a very great question whether they have not committed a breach of the Act of Union by doing so. They are not in the least concerned; their Church is not affected, and I say a measure which is passed here by the votes of people who are in no way concerned, and which would not have been passed without their votes, and which affects deeply the religious welfare not only of Wales, but of England, I say that that is a Bill which you ought to be very slow to force through by means of this machinery you have set up. Is there too much or too little religion in this country at this moment? Do you not admit that if there was more religion there would be less need for legislation, and that if we were all true Christians you would not have to have all those laws regulating the conditions which prevail between masters and men and between husbands and wives, and between all the other people for whom we legislate in this country? You admit that, and then I say should you not be slow to do what a majority of the people of England and this body in Wales, and any number of people outside, regard as striking a disastrous blow at the cause of religion, and a blow from which it will take years to recover? Although I firmly believe that the Church will recover, yet this will have left feeling behind it which it will take centuries to put right and for which there was no absolute cause for proceeding.
§ Sir JOHN JARDINE
I will refrain as much as possible from going into the details of either of these great Bills under present discussion, but as a Member for the county of Roxburgh I think I have the right to protest that I and my colleagues from Scotland and the whole Scottish nation are deeply interested both in this Bill for the government of Ireland and in the Bill about the Church in Wales. So long as the Kingdom is the United Kingdom and Parliament represents the three 359 parts, or the four parts I should say, making my bow to the nationality of Wales, then I say that there is nothing that occurs even in Ireland or in Wales which is debated in Parliament that does not interest us who come from the country beyond the Tweed. As regards the particular kind of interest taken by my countrymen, some time ago before the passing of these Bills I made inquiries as to what the state of feeling was, both as a matter of curiosity and in order the better to represent my Constituents in Parliament. Many of them are keen statesmen, and many of the people in the villages are very clever and experienced in the affairs of both Church and State. I found among that large section which represents my views there, and I ought to confine my remarks rather to them, that they awaited the passing of these Bills with tranquillity, and almost I believe with indifference, because they knew that they had been before the country for many years, in fact for whole generations, and supported both from Ireland and from Wales in the only way in which such Bills can be supported by the great majority of the Members returned to this Parliament by the popular vote.
They were left in complete expectation, amounting to confidence, that Parliament in its wisdom would soon see those measures passed into law, and, indeed, they were wanting to go beyond them and put them on the shelf. They asked me what was going to be done next, and I found that their general interest in politics was far more concentrated on the question of plural voting and better registration laws. They were looking beyond these two Bills, and regarded them as passed and done with, and that then we would get into the Promised Land for which we passed, as I contend, and as in Scotland they think, the Parliament Act. Among the reasons that have induced them to come to that conclusion is the experience which we have had as regards the Australian Commonwealth, and as regards the Union of South Africa, and, to some extent, that of the reformed Constitution which we have given to India. They have seen all those things take place, and their belief is that this legislation will have the same peacemaking, beneficial effects in Ireland and in Wales as those Bills have had. They have seen the passing of the Bill for the 360 Disestablishment of the Irish Church, which was hailed at the time by many Members with violent censure, and in a good many speeches with threats of civil war. They have seen that pass away, and time after time the words of great prelates in Ireland have been quoted declaring that they preferred the present free spiritual constitution of the Episcopalian Church in Ireland to the Church that existed before the Disestablishment Act was passed. I would also like to point out that the Church Bill for Wales has been supported by some highly respected members of the Church of England. I do not think that matters so much when we have the voice of the Welsh nation expressed by their Members all in favour of the Bill, but still it is co-operation, and I think it shows that the Bill is not so bad as it has been represented to be. I will not go back on the Debates, because they must be well within the memory of all hon. Members here.
Coming back to the question whether the Scotch people take an interest in this matter, of course we do, because so much of the history of Scotland has been ecclesiastical. Historians say that the Constitutional questions fought out in England in the time of the Stuart dynasty were fought out on legal and Constitutional grounds, whereas in Scotland they resolved themselves into violent questions about ecclesiastical polity which convulsed the Kingdom. When I hear complaints made about the danger to religion and the pain given to devout men in the Church of England, I would again instance the case of the Irish Establishment. Has any real injury happened to religion in Ireland since the passing of the Irish Disestablishment Act? Under the present Constitution of the Church in Ireland, clergy as well as laity are more content than they were in their former anomalous position. I think we can look forward to the future without fear as regards either of these measures. There are devout men who think that religion and piety may come to an end, or, at any rate, be seriously affected. That feeling was strongly held by both sides, in the Church of Rome and by many reformers, at the time of the Reformation. But religion has survived in this part of the Kingdom in spite of changes far more, enormous than anything proposed in the legislation referred to in this Amendment. There are some things which last beyond all party politics, because they are enshrined in the heart of man, and I person- 361 ally anticipate no evil in Wales ecclesiastically any more than in Ireland politically from these measures. I have attempted to express briefly what I believe is the opinion of serious politicians in Scotland, who watch what is going on here, and are able to give good reasons for their opinion, who look upon questions in the light of history and take a keen interest in the struggles in Ireland and in Wales. If we turn to many other kingdoms, especially to the forty-six governments that make up the United States, we do not find any Established Church, nor has anybody in the American Union made proposals to create anything of the kind. I do not think we need have any fear of any grievous injury being inflicted by the measures of which the Opposition complain.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The hon. Member who has just spoken gave us the very interesting piece of information that his constituents look upon the Parliament Act as a means of reaching the Promised Land, and, according to the hon. Member, the Promised Land for my countrymen is to be found in improved registration and the abolition of plural voting. That is not my experience of the feeling in Scotland. I must do the hon. Member the justice of saying that he did not exaggerate his case. We have expressed the view that the people of this country are not in favour of the methods by which the Government propose to carry out their intentions. The hon. Gentleman put it in this way: he has been addressing his constituents; said very candidly that he spoke only for those who took his view on political matters, and in regard to them the furthest length to which he was able to go was that they regarded with tranquility the passing of these measures into law. The Prime Minister, in the course of his speech this afternoon, indicated the likelihood of repetition. I think under the circumstances that is inevitable. I am sure it can be no pleasure to anyone, and certainly it is no pleasure to me, to go over again the ground which we have traversed so often before. But the conditions have not changed in this respect since a year ago. The ground on which at times we thought it was most necessary for us to focus our opposition to the proposals of the Government still remain, and must be urged unless we are to take the view that under existing conditions discussion in this House is altogether a farce and ought to be abandoned altogether. I am bound to say that for that view something might be 362 said. Nothing in the speech of the Prime Minister seemed to me more extraordinary or more contrary to the experience of every Member of the House than the statement that there had been no deterioration in the quality of our debates. But unless we are to abandon discussion altogether, it is necessary for us to re-state the grounds of our opposition to the proposals of the Government. We have placed them in the briefest way possible in the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend in a speech which, I think, interested the whole House.
The ground of the opposition to which we wish to direct attention is simply that, in our view, while the Constitution of the country is admittedly incomplete—that is admitted by the Government themselves—it is not proper to pass great measures like those mentioned in the Amendment without obtaining the express sanction of the electorate. The Prime Minister at the outset of his speech made an appeal which did not fall on deaf ears. He asked us to put ourselves in the place of the party to which he belongs. It is not the first time I have tried to do that, because it has seemed to me very difficult to account for the fact that any Government should think itself justified in pursuing the course which has been pursued by this Government. In my opinion the only explanation, not only of the action of the Government, but to the fact that they have throughout been backed by their supporters, is that there is and has been on those benches a deep-seated feeling that in the political contests in this country they have not in the past had fair play on account of the position of the House of Lords. I recognise that feeling. I am willing to admit that if you look at politics or government in this country as a game between two parties there is some ground for the feeling which they entertain.
I can even sympathise with them in the way they feel in regard to it. But it seems to me that though the course which they have taken is very human—it is a course probably which would have been taken by most people — it is not a wise course. What they have really done has been to imitate what has been the experience of religious bodies when they have been in a small minority. They have then been all on the side of toleration. They have thought of nothing but their grievances; how everybody should treat everybody else fairly. The moment however they obtain power, I am afraid this has 363 been historically too often true, they inflict upon others the very intolerance from which they themselves have suffered. What this Government has done—in my belief it has not been wise from any point of view—has been not to try to get a system which would be fair and in the interests of the country, but the very moment they had the power to use it to wreak their vengeance upon those opponents whom they thought responsible.
I have said that I have tried to understand the grievances from the point of view of the party opposite. Now I shall, if I may, put our view of the present situation before the House of Commons. I do not ask hon. Members opposite exactly to put themselves in our place, but I do ask them to realise that this is the statement of the case as we believe it to be. We are not putting it merely as in an ordinary party conflict between one side and the other. We are stating what seriously we believe to be actually the position at the present time. That position is that in our belief the condition of the House of Commons and the damage which I think has been permanently done to the Constitution of this country and the position of the Government itself, is all due to this: that driven by circumstances which they could not control they have made an attempt to carry Home Rule without the consent of the people of this country. That in my belief is the whole explanation of the position on which we stand to-day. I have no doubt that will not be accepted by hon. Members opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do not expect it. But I ask hon. Members to believe it is our view. Neither will they accept what I am going to say now, that in my belief at the time of the conference which was taken part in by some of my right hon. Friends, and amongst others by the Chancellor of the Exchequer a settlement would have been possible, but for the fact that the Government were driven to take up a position which made any settlement for them impossible which did not enable them to carry Home Rule without specially submitting it to the people of this country. That is my belief.
As was pointed out by my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University, at the time the Parliament Bill went to the other House—and this is not in dispute—it could have been carried by consent then had the Government been willing to accept one single Amendment to the effect that be- 364 fore Home Rule became law it should be submitted to the people of this country. That is our belief. We hold that this attempt has been systematically and deliberately made, and not perseveringly persisted in, and that this has been done because the Government, and perhaps still more hon. Members below the Gangway who have considerable influence over the Government, know, or at least believe, that however good Home Rule may be in itself—and I admit many of them do believe it is a good thing—however good it may be, there is no chance of persuading the people of this country to accept it if it is put before them as a clear issue. I am going to put this to hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. Is there any one of them who honestly believes that Home Rule was put before the electors of this country at the last General Election as an issue—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."]—on which the electors were led to believe that they were giving a decision which was final, and which they would never again have the chance to, revise? If hon. Members will allow me to say so, the question I put was what they thought, and not what they were going to say in interrupting me. I do not honestly see how anyone could entertain the view I have suggested. I will give my reasons. The Prime Minister this afternoon rather taunted my right hon. Friend because he did not develop the question of the mandate. It was a little unkind, for I am perfectly sure the only reason my right hon. Friend did not do so was that, like ourselves, he was speaking because he had to, and did not want to speak longer than necessary. I am perfectly certain there is no part of our case which would be easier to prove than that no mandate was given for this purpose at the last General Election. If proof were needed, what better proof could be given than the defence of the Prime Minister. He warned us that there would be repetitions, and I am afraid that I should be guilty of more of them than he was, because I make so many speeches that I do not remember all I have said, and I am not conscious of repetition. What was the right hon. Gentleman's defence? He again reminded us that we on these benches had said that Home Rule was an issue. We never denied it. But we cannot make the issue for the party opposite. I am sure my experience was that of every hon. Member belonging to our party. If there was a hostile element in the audience, as at Manchester 365 when I spoke on Home Rule, I would be interrupted by cries of, "That is a bogey." If anyone doubts that they have only to refer to the Manchester newspapers. We cannot make the issue. We did know what the Government were driving at, because we knew the forces behind them. They did not say so, and the country believed them and did not believe us. The Prime Minister asked, when he referred to our making the issue, "What did you yourselves say?" There, again, is repetition. I have carefully on previous occasions studied the references of the Prime Minister to this subject. The best he could do was to refer us to the Hull speech. I was acquainted with it. I got the extract looked up again. It was a speech, I suppose, of an hour's duration, delivered to a large audience of possibly 5,000 people, most of whom were working men. This is all the Prime Minister said about Home Rule:—I spoke in view of the shameful things that had been said, and I feel bound to emphasise that point. I spoke of our view as to the proper solution of the problem of Irish self-government. To what I then said I adhere, and I believe the Liberal party adheres.'What a myth to obtain a mandate on one of the greatest questions—whether it is wise or unwise—which can possibly be decided by the people of this country! He does not tell them his view. They were largely working men, and in order to find it out the right hon. Gentleman refers them to a speech made the year before, and they have got to go home and turn up their papers to see it. And if they had done so they would not have been much wiser. The Albert Hall speech was also a long speech, and the reference to Home Rule in that speech did not occupy at most, I should think, two minutes to deliver. I have got it here, but I do not want to waste time, especially as the right hon. Gentleman opposite has to follow me. But I will say this of it, that nothing could be vaguer than that reference. In my opinion it could have applied or almost applied to a description of the Local Government Bill introduced by Mr. Gerald Balfour some years before. Now that is the mandate that was given. I do not say that right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not refer to Home Rule, but I do say that they referred to it in the vaguest possible way. They referred to it not only not often enough to make the people realise that it was the only issue, but that it was an issue at all. They referred to it only often enough to enable them when they came back to the House of Commons to say that they had 366 referred to it and to carry through their Bill on that ground. I maintain so far were the electors from being entitled to believe that they never again would have a chance of expressing their views upon Home Rule that they believed the contrary to be the security against such a contingency arising. They had a security, in the first place of the past record of the right hon. Gentleman who is head of the Government.
Home Rule, as everyone knows, is simply a phrase which may well mean anything or almost anything, and surely upon a question of this kind the people of this country, before they give a final decision, have a right to know what they are deciding, and have a right to know, not in detail, but clearly and definitely the general principles of the measure which they are asked to agree to. Remember that that was very strongly the view of the Prime Minister himself. As we all remember—most of us are old enough to have been interested in politics at that time—Mr. Gladstone fought the election of 1893 upon the question of Home Rule, but he was very vague, and in the cant phrase which we all remember at that time he never let the cat out of the bag. He always told us that the Bill of 1886 was dead, but he never said what was going to takes its place. The present Prime Minister thought that wrong, and at that time he used these words and he used them many a time, but I will only make this one reference—If they went to the country with a vague formula, calling it Home Rule or self-government or whatever they pleased, and obtained a majority on behalf of that formula, what would be the position when they came back to Westminster and introduced the Bill?And he went on to say such a Bill would have no authority. That is precisely what happened. Mr. Gladstone won his majority upon the phrase in the abstract; but when he put it into a concrete form in a Bill, the Government of the day were so certain that there was no chance of obtaining the sanction of the people to the Bill that, against the view, as we now know, of Mr. Gladstone, that Government refused to challenge the decision of the House of Lords, and refused to submit the measure to the people of the country. I put on one side—I do not admit it; I utterly deny it—but for the sake of argument I assume that you had a mandate for Home Rule in the abstract, and I ask, is there any hon. Member upon the other side of the House who would honestly say he is sure that now, after we have seen 367 exactly what Home Rule means, and how it will be regarded by Ulster, that if it was submitted to the people of the country they would obtain a majority in favour of that Bill? I do not think there is anyone will say that. The Prime Minister gave another security against the course he is now adopting. During the time of the last Unionist Government, when he was in opposition, he said many times that the Liberal party ought not to assume the responsibility of office unless they had an independent majority. He said that, not only while in office, but after the present Government had won their majority at the election of 1906. In the early months of that year the Prime Minister referred to what he had said previously, and said:—Three or four years ago I was bold enough to say that in my opinion the Liberal party ought not to take office unless they had a strong, decisive and independent majority, and that the Liberal in the next House of Commons will be master in his own house.Did not these views of the Prime Minister who is now head of the Government, give the people of this country a right to believe that a man who had so persistently expressed these views would never carry a measure like Home Rule in a position deprecated by Mr. Gladstone when people could say to him, "Do this or we will turn you out." Is the Liberal party master in its own House now? Was the right hon. Gentleman master in his own House while the Home Rule Bill was going through. I attended very closely all those Debates, and, if the time of the Prime Minister had made it possible for him to attend as often as I did, I do not think he would have said what he said this afternoon about every important subject having been discussed. What was our experience during the course of these Debates? I only remember one single case when the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite prevailed, and the Government had to give way. What was it that happened? It was in regard to the Customs. Did the Government in the Amendment they made then make it because they thought it right to make it. On the contrary; the very point in regard to the Customs on which they regarded as most essential was the point which they actually gave up. Why did they give it up? It was not a question of conviction of belief of what was right or wrong. It was simply this. Seventy Members, or thereabouts, of their own party—almost as numerous as hon. Members below the Gangway from Ireland—said, "Unless you do what, we wish 368 we will vote against you." Tactics! Not conviction! One set of people against another. And then hon. Gentlemen from Ireland below the Gangway for the first time, and the only time, had to give way or else they would lose their Bill.
Take the other Bill referred to in the Amendment. In that connection the right hon. Gentleman rather surprised me by the arguments he used to-night. He took the whole number of divisions on the Welsh Bill. Well, I think length of time has somewhat hardened the right hon. Gentleman. He uses arguments now the weakness of which he himself is thoroughly conscious. All that he asks is that he should be able to present them in a sufficiently plausible manner to win the cheers of hon. Gentlemen opposite. In doing that he is moving in a vicious circle. He can put the case, however bad it is, so well that he is always sure of the cheers of hon. Members, and therefore he has lost all sense of proportion. What is his argument? There is nobody in this House, and least of all the Prime Minister, who does not know that the moment the guillotine is set up the attendance of the Opposition is never to be relied upon, and their numbers do not represent in any sense their feelings. In regard to the Welsh Bill the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as anybody else, as was pointed out in a letter from the Dean of Lincoln which was read to the House this afternoon, that over and over again on a vital Amendment which would have defeated and ended the Bill the Government, who is master in its own house, was only saved by the votes of the Nationalist Members. I hold that in view of the past record of the Prime Minister the people of this country had every right to believe that Bills of this magnitude would not be carried through under these conditions. But they had another security. They had the security of the Parliament Act itself. The right hon. Gentleman told us this afternoon with great emphasis that the election was fought on the Parliament Act, and that they obtained a mandate to carry it cut. That is quite true. But what was the Parliament Act? It contained two proposals, one as definite as the other and one just as much as the other the policy of the Government. One was to alter the relations between the two Houses and the other was to reform the Second Chamber.
What is the contention—and I think it is an amazing contention—which is made by 369 the Government now? It is that they and we and everyone knew that the reform of the House of Lords, to which they referred, was not to be applied to any of the work of the Government in the Parliament which was then assembling. That is the contention now, and that surely is strange. If there were any subjects which could ever come before any Parliament or Government in any country in regard to which, if a Second Chamber was ever necessary at all and in which security is necessary for them, such subjects are above all great constitutional changes like Home Rule. If the Government really intended the electors to understand that those measures were going to be carried by Single-Chamber government they should have distinctly said so. No one can point to a single speech of any Member of the Government which gives an indication that that was the intention. How does that contention tally with the facts? What is the history of the Preamble? In the Address at the beginning of the Session of 1910 there was a paragraph in the King's Speech that they were going to reform the House of Lords, but a few months afterwards that was dropped. We all understood at the time, and we all understand now, why hon. Members below the Gangway did not want it—indeed, the hon. and learned Member for Waterford stated it very clearly. He did not bother to make a long speech, and he did not argue with the Government, but with that simple dignity which always accompanies the consciousness of irresistible strength he said:—I am glad that the Prime Minister has dropped all reference to reform in his resolution; had he promised a scheme of reform I should not have been able to support him.That was enough. The proposal in the King's Speech was dropped, but the proposal for a reform of the Second Chamber was not dropped. The Parliament Bill was introduced with the Preamble, and on that the election was fought. Now the contention of the Prime Minister is that it was obvious to everyone that must be the work of years hence. What ground is there for that? Let me take, as characteristic of others, the address of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Birrell). He says in his election address:—It is the work of the representatives in the House of Commons to create a Second Chamber in place of the House of Lords. That is the great question of interest dominating the election.370 Everyone said the same. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, we all remember—
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Not in his election address. The right hon. Gentleman said very little in that. He has taken very good care from the year 1902 up to the present day not to mention Home Rule. Every Member of that party from the Chancellor of the Exchequer downwards, if the Prime Minister wishes to be an exception, fought the election on the vice of the hereditary principle, on the absurdity of a man legislating because he is the son of his father. Did any elector who listened to these speeches suppose that meant they were going to win the election and then leave all the evils of the hereditary principle? The whole tone of that fight gave the electors the right to believe that one of the first tasks which the Government would undertake would be the reform of the Second Chamber, and that of course the security which that Chamber gave would be introduced in regard to measures which are now before the House of Commons. Indeed, what is the record of the Prime Minister himself in that connection? Early in 1911 the right hon. Gentleman said this was a question which did not brook delay.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
That is a year better. Well, it has brooked some delay. What is the defence of the Prime Minister in regard to that? He read out on the first day of the Session, as if it was something we had ever heard, the actual terms of the Preamble. These terms said, "This reform cannot be accomplished now." Quite true, but when was that Bill introduced? When was the "now" to which it referred? It was just on the eve of an election. It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that the reform of the Second Chamber requires time for consideration, and that is a question of difficulty, but is it more difficult than Home Rule? Does it require less consideration than the Constitution, not only for Ireland, but for England and Scotland as well? If it was possible in the time which has elapsed to do the one, surely it was equally possible, if they had wished, to do the other. The right hon. Gentleman actually said that everyone understood it was not to apply to the Bills 371 of this Parliament. How can he make such a statement? In April, 1911, the right hon. Gentleman himself said:—When the first part of our task——that is, the relations between the two Houses—is done, then, and not till then, shall we proceed to the accomplishment of the other part of our task.That was quoted a year ago, and the right hon. Gentleman gave his explanation. He said, "These words were purely negative; we will not do it until the other is done." If language has any meaning it implied more than that. "Then, and not until then, we will proceed with the other," surely means that when the first is done the other will be undertaken without delay. But what about another Member of his Government at the time? The Prime Minister says that we, and all the electors, and everybody, understood; but what about Lord Loreburn? He was an experienced politician and a Member of the Government, and he said, speaking of those two proposals, that they were twin Bills. The right hon. Gentleman on Monday said that Lord Loreburn was too good a lawyer and too good a phsysiologist to have used the words in the sense in which we mean them. He was a good politician, and he knew like the right hon. Gentleman, that twins are people who arrive in the world at or about the same time, and it was because of that fact that he used the illustration. He at least clearly understood, and said it was the intention of the Government to carry out the Preamble without delay. If it had been carried out, these Bills could not have been passed under the conditions in which we are now.
I do not wish to delay the House longer, but I would like to put to hon. Gentlemen opposite and to the Government this question: Do they really believe that questions like this, most of all a question like Home Rule, should be carried, unless they have the approval of the electors of this country? If they think it should not be carried without their consent, then why do they not tell us now that it will be submitted to the people of this country before it becomes law? If they really think it can be carried on other terms, what is the objection? There would be no delay. Hon. Gentlemen were quick enough to discover on Monday, when it suited them, that the Parliament Act would still work. If the Bills had the sanction of the people of this country 372 they would go through at once. Surely it would be wise for them, if they really think that sanction is necessary, to obtain that sanction before going on. My right hon. Friend (Mr. W. Long) put a question to the Prime Minister to-day which he ignored, and which I have often put before. He knows, and the Chief Secretary knows, that, under present conditions, this Bill will not be accepted by Ulster except under force. What does he mean to do? He has never answered that question, and I do not expect him to answer it now. I do not think he can answer it, because I think he does not know what he means to do, any more than I do. His motto, as we all know, is, "Wait and see." I am not going to-night, as I have often done before, to dwell upon the Ulster business, but I would like to put this to every Member of the House, and ask them to consider this seriously—whatever happens, in any circumstances, that will be a great difficulty, and surely no sane body of men would add to the certain difficulty in any case, this additional one, that the people of Ulster will have a feeling that they are being jockeyed; that they will have a feeling that what is being done is not being done by their fellow citizens of the United Kingdom, but is being done by a despotic Government. Surely, common-sense and common wisdom would say, if this great experiment is to be made there ought, at least, to be the sanction and authority of the people of this country behind it. If the Government do not think the consent of the people is necessary, if they really mean to carry it without that consent, that is not Constitutional Government; it is the negation of representative Government; it is the end of it. It means that these gentlemen consider that the mandate which they received was a mandate for absolute power for five years, during which they are able to do whatever they choose, without any regard to any will except their own. That is an intolerable state of things in a free country.
I believe, and I think most Members of the House will agree with me, that one of the worst signs of the times at present is a loss of respect for the authority of the law. I know quite well, and I was going to refer to it, that I have been accused of inciting that feeling myself. If I have done so, I would like to say this: that it is not, at all events, in any respect an indiscretion, because indiscretion applies to 373 something which is not deliberately done. I thoroughly realised the responsibility I took in that matter, and I am not afraid of it. I say that laws passed under these conditions cannot command respect or obedience and ought not to. I have said before in this House, and if I may be allowed for a moment to repeat it, I shall do so, because there is nothing which I think more important. What the Government is doing, in my opinion, is endangering the whole system of representative government. Representative government is not easily created. It is of slow growth; it rests on habit, and it is largely a convention. The real authority of a Government rests in the ultimate resort upon force, but representative government rests upon the assumption that in the long run majorities do represent approximately the balance of forces in any given country. In my belief representative government can only continue on two conditions. One is that the majority for the time being recognises that it is the Government of a nation and not the representative of a party, and that it feels at all times that its power must be used with moderation and with some regard to the forces which are behind it. It is for that reason, in my belief, that the whole experience of the world increasingly shows that effective Second Chambers are necessary, and for this reason: you cannot trust autocratic power to anyone with safety; you cannot trust it to an individual; you cannot trust it to a Cabinet; you cannot trust it even to a single Chamber, and the only way in which there is any security that the minority will receive fair play is that there should be some tribunal outside the Government which gives a chance of appeal to the people before a decision vital to them is taken. The Government are destroying that. The Prime Minister is cheered with the idea that that was the state of things when the Unionist Government was in power. I have already admitted, and I am prepared to admit now, that that arrangement was not fair to the party opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, but after all, you are surely not going to claim that in upsetting a Constitution which on the whole has enabled us to get more and more freedom, and has not been bad for this country, you are not bound to set up something else in its place which is better, and which is not, as this is, infinitely worse.
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the argument upon the important and grave question of Ulster to which he referred in his closing remarks, since this is hardly perhaps the occasion to do it, but I would in my opening words express the very deep regret with which we on this side of the House have again heard the right hon. Gentleman affirm the view that laws which are disliked by a section of the community, and which are passed under conditions which are regarded by them as unfair or even unconstitutional, may be resisted, and legitimately resisted, by force. Such a doctrine would have justified in the case of the Education Act of 1902 not the passive resistance with which it was met but active resistance, and if the right hon. Gentleman again finds himself in a position of power and responsibility he will find that his doctrine has carried him a very long way. He may reap differently from what he has sown. He may sow Ulster and he may reap suffragettes; and any other section, who feel deeply that they have been unfairly treated by the law, will be able to quote in defence of any lawlessness they may practice the doctrines which he to-night, as on other occasions, has enunciated. The Debate to-day has been an occasion on which the Opposition have had an opportunity of arraigning generally the policy of the Government. When we come to the Address in reply to the King's Speech, and the official Amendment moved to that Address, we usually have, with all the pomp and circumstance of full-dress Debate, a general onslaught upon the Government and its policy. There are very few Members indeed among those who within the last half-hour have entered the House who can have any conception of what the course of the Debate has been to-day. A listless and indifferent Assembly, rarely numbering forty Members, has maintained with difficulty during the afternoon the Debate on the Opposition Amendment to the Address. I do not think any Member of the House or any stranger in the Gallery watching our proceedings would really believe that this was an occasion on which a vigilant Opposition had detected red-handed a revolutionary Government, engaged in shattering the British Constitution. Of course, we are told that this is the fault of the Government itself, and that we are to blame for the fact that the Opposition have not maintained any effective and 375 vigorous attack, and in some remote and indirect fashion a connection has been traced between to-day's proceedings and what is called the autocracy of the Cabinet, and the reduction of the House of Commons to a mere registering assembly, existing only to carry out the decrees of an all-powerful Government. I remember a recent speech of the Leader of the Opposition, in which he complained when we were approaching the Report stage of the Home Rule Bill, that during our debates in this House on that Bill the Government had found it necessary to put down no fewer than 150 Amendments to meet points which had been raised in the House of Commons. Is that a proof that the Government drastically carries through, without discussion, consideration, or alteration, whatever measures it chooses to pass. As to the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, it is common knowledge, all the world knows, that important modifications were made in that Bill in deference to opinions expressed here in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
When we come to a different matter, which is also very grave in the eye of many of us, and fully of as great importance as either of these I have mentioned—when we come to the question of Women Suffrage and the Government say, "We are divided in this matter; we will stand aside, and instead of being an autocratic Cabinet demanding that the House of Commons should register its decrees, we shall leave the House of Commons to decide precisely the policy it will choose," then those who accuse us of not allowing discussion say that we are abrogating our first constitutional functions and abandoning our primary duties. I suppose every Opposition in every age has always accused the Government of the day in one way or another of injuring the reputation and lowering the character of the House of Commons and its debates. It reminds one of the fatuous remark of Sir Francis Burnand, the editor of "Punch," to whom a friend one day remarked, "Punch is not so good as it used to be." "No," he replied, "it never was." If you search the Debates of the House of Commons at any time you will find Members saying that the House of Commons has not maintained under the then Government the high reputation it 376 had in the past. It is now twenty years since I was first adopted as a candidate for Parliament, and I remember in those days the House of Commons was held in disrespect, not because discussion was unduly curtailed, but because discussion was allowed to proceed to undue lengths. The accusation against Parliament was on the ground of its futility. There was much debate and little result, and arrears of legislation were piling up, and I believe one of the chief reasons for the rise and growth of the Labour party in this country was that great bodies of working men were thoroughly dissatisfied with the House of Commons as a representative Assembly precisely because it neglected its work and did not get through the legislation desired. The credit of this House depends, not upon oratorical display and long debates, but upon its efficiency, and there is nothing which the country resents so much as a state of things in which useful reforms desired by the nation are lost in the sands of debate, and they would infinitely prefer, even if undue loquacity were somewhat curtailed, that the House of Commons should get through the work it is sent to Westminster to do. The House to-day has been uninterested in this Debate, not because of any fault of the Government or any deterioration in the House itself, but because it is recognised, both inside and outside these walls, that this particular Amendment is futile, that the arguments upon it are threadbare, and that the Debate is essentially unreal. There is one matter, however, on which both sides of the House are agreed, and which has been repeatedly declared by the leaders of both parties, and that is that the question of the House of Lords cannot be allowed to rest where it is and that a reform of that Chamber is essentially necessary. There are two defects in the constitutional arrangements which have been established under the Parliament Act that cannot make that the permanent state of things. The first is that limited as the legislative powers of the House of Lords are, they are still left in the hands of a Chamber which is composed predominantly on the hereditary principle, and the second is that the procedure under the Parliament Act allows in our view undue delay before legislation can become effective.
If, indeed, we had but a Single Chamber, as it has been suggested it was Our purpose to secure, already, of course the Home Rule Bill, the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, and the Scottish Licensing 377 Bill would now be the law of the land, but we still have this one-sided Constitution which is able to delay for three Sessions a Liberal Bill, while we have the certainty that all Bills, whatever their character, introduced by a Conservative Government will speedily become law. Suppose we had an election fought upon Home Rule, or the Insurance Act, or whatever it may be, and suppose we had a Conservative Government installed in power, and they thought it their duty to introduce a Compulsory National Service Bill, is there the smallest doubt that the House of Lords, without thinking for a moment whether that measure was sanctioned by the country at the election, would pass that Bill through all its stages? It may be that they would find some excuse, on the ground of urgent national necessity, or find a justification in one of those war scares that are so easy to manufacture. Certain it is that the Second Chamber as we now have it cannot be relied upon to secure reference to the people of any measure, however reactionary, introduced by a Conservative Government. Taking the House of Lords constituted as it is, we cannot forget all they did in the Parliament of 1906–1910, and we cannot forget all they did not do during the ten years 1895 to 1905.
All through this Debate, in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment, and in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and in other speeches from that side of the House, there ran the assumption that the reform of the House of Lords, to be introduced by the present Government in accordance with the policy which we have undertaken to carry out, would benefit the party opposite, and that it would necessarily act as a machinery for the rejection of Bills, such as the Home Rule Bill or the Welsh Disestablishment Bill. I do not know upon what that assumption rests. I do not know why it should be assumed that a Second Chamber which is really representative of the nation would refuse to pass measures of that character, and I think the day is not unlikely to come when, after the House of Lords has been reformed, we shall hear from the right hon. Gentleman and his friends in the future the cry, "Give us back the good old days of the Parliament Act, because then, at all events, we had the certainty of a Conservative Second Chamber, which could be relied upon to hold up for three 378 Sessions Liberal Bills, while now we have the risk, and perhaps often the realised risk, of a Liberal Second Chamber which will pass Liberal Bills in the first Session they are sent up." We know what policy right hon. Gentlemen desire to carry out with respect to the Second Chamber. It is because we know what their policy is that I would urge upon my hon. Friends on this side of the House that it is not only our duty, but it is expedient from the narrowest standpoint of party, that we should not leave to hon. Members opposite the task of reforming the Second Chamber. We know that their view is that the Second Chamber should have a predominently Conservative tendency. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] An hon. Member opposite—I cannot recall the name of his constituency; I think it was St. Augustine's—said practically that the Upper Chamber should be (he was not using the term in its narrowest party sense) characterised by Conservative ideas—that is to say, that it should act as a check upon the democracy. That idea is gathered not merely from speeches in this House; we have had proposals made in the other House. Although they may have forgotten the actual Bill laid on the Table of the House of Lords by Lord Lansdowne, we have not forgotten it; and we know that Bill provided that one-third of the reconstituted Chamber should consist of hereditary Peers, and that with that handicap, it was never possible that the Second Chamber should be of a progressive character. The hereditary Peers were to march out at one door as hereditary Peers, and march in at the other as representative or as so-called qualified Peers. Then under this Constitution, if a Conservative Government was in power, the two Chambers would agree, and the Parliament would run its normal course of five years. If a Liberal Government were in power it would, according to them, be the duty of the Second Chamber to refer to the electorate every Bill except the one Bill chosen by them which they considered to have been the main issue before the people at the previous General Election. They adopt now the principle of one election one Bill. It has been a matter of discussion among constitutionalists for a long time as to what should be the proper term for legislative assemblies. In the earlier days some advocated annual Parliaments; it was one of the points of the Charter. In later times democrats have 379 largely abandoned that idea, and they now favour quinquennial Parliaments. Hon. Members opposite combine both schools. They accept both the principle of the annual Parliament and of the quinquennial Parliament, but they apply the annual Parliament principle to their opponents, and the quinquennial Parliament principle to themselves. We know that should they in the fullness of time be returned to power, from their positive declarations made again and again, that they will deal with the question of the House of Lords, and will in the course of their legislation repeal the Parliament Act. They will carry out a colourable reform of the constitution of the Second Chamber, and a very real restoration of the Veto of the Second Chamber. We should indeed be blind if we did not in so far as in our power lay anticipate the policy so plainly avowed, and secure during the lifetime of a Liberal Government the reform of the constitution of the House of Lords, which is necessary, and which, carried out either by one party or the other, will inevitably be carried into force. Two characteristics there will be of the proposals which will be made. That new Second Chamber will contain not a vestige of the hereditary principle, and under no circumstances will the absolute veto be restored. "Yes," say the Leaders of the Opposition, and said the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, "if that is your view why do you not carry it out at once, why do you not table your proposals now?" That is indeed the claim of this Amendment. Is it to be done this Session—if so, one of two courses must be adopted. Either we should abandon in this Session the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, or else the House of Commons should again be required, and I mention the words with the utmost diffidence, to sit during an Autumn Session. I can hardly believe hon. Members opposite really desire we should have yet another Autumn Session this year. I must confess, if they do, they have reached a height of
patriotism, a strength of endurance, and a willingness for sacrifice which mere human beings find it difficult to emulate. But it is necessary to carry out those proposals this Session, says the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bonar Law), for we have given a pledge to carry out the reform of the House of Lords, and we ought to do it without delay. Hon. Members opposite will listen with attention and respect to a speech in which the right hon. Gentleman defined what he thought that pledge to be. Referring to the pledge of my right hon. Friend, he said:—
What would hon. Gentlemen opposite, what would the Prime Minister himself think of a man who admitted an obligation was a debt of honour, and said 'I am not going to pay it now, I am going to leave it to be paid by my heirs.' That is exactly what they have done. It is in this Parliament and in this Parliament alone that that debt of honour can be carried out.
That is the right hon. Gentleman's claim that we should carry out our obligation in this Parliament, and, as the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, it is the intention of the Government within the lifetime of the present Parliament to bring in proposals dealing with this matter. If we were to adopt the policy suggested in this Amendment, if we were to abandon the Bills on which Ireland and Wales and the United Kingdom indeed have set their heart—the Home Rule Bill which is supported generally by public opinion in the Dominions, which is supported by a majority of hon. Members in this House from Great Britain, excluding Ireland, and which is supported by the vast majority in Ireland, and which is supported now by a majority even of the Members for Ulster herself, if we were to abandon this Bill and the Welsh Bill, and the Scottish Bill in which the people of Scotland take so great an interest, then indeed, we should deserve the censure of the electorate, then indeed we should be blamed by the Nation for hopes which were disappointed, and for promises which were unfulfilled. That, Sir, we shall not do.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 169; Noes, 262.383
|Division No, 3.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Banner, John S. Harmood-||Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Blair, Reginald|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Barrie, H. T.||Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Bathurst. Hon. A. B. (Gloue., E.)||Boyton, James|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Bridgeman, W. Clive|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Bull, Sir William James|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Backett, Hon. Gervase||Burgoyne, Alan Hughes|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Burn, colonel C. R.|
|Butcher, John George||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Campbell, Captain Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)||Peel, Captain R. F.|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Harris, Henry Percy||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Cassel, Felix||Helmsley, Viscount||Pole-Carew, Sir R.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hewins, William Herbert Samuel||Quilter, Sir William Eley C.|
|Cave, George||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford Univ.)||Hoare, S. J. G.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Rawson, Col. Richard H.|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Horne, E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Hume-Williams, W. E.||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Coates, Sir Edward Feetham||Hunt, Rowland||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. J. (Birmingham)||Ingleby, Holcombe||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Jessel, Captain H. M.||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Joynson-Hicks, William||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Sandys, G. J.|
|Croft, H. P.||Kerry, Earl of||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Kimber, Sir Henry||Stanier, Beville|
|Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts, Mile End)||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Falle, Bertram Godfray||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Stewart, Gershom|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Swift, Rigby|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Thynne, Lord A.|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droltwich)||Touche, George Alexander|
|Fleming, Valentine||Mackinder, Halford J.||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Forster, Henry William||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St Augustine's)||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Gardner, Ernest||Magnus, Sir Philip||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Malcolm, Ian||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Gibbs, George Abraham||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Winterton, Earl|
|Goldman, C. S.||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Gordon, Han. John Edward (Brighton)||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Newman, John R. P.||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Greene, Walter Raymond||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Yerburgh, Robert A.|
|Gretton, John||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Younger, Sir George|
|Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Nield, Herbert|
|Guinness, Hon. W. E. (Bury S. Edmunds)||Norton-Griffiths, J. (Wednesbury)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord|
|Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)||E. Talbot and Mr. Pike Pease.|
|Haddock, George Bahr||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)|
|Adamson, William||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Esslemont, George Birnle|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Byles, Sir William Pollard||Farrell, James Patrick|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Clancy, John Joseph||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson|
|Alden, Percy||Clough, William||Ffrench, Peter|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Armitage, Robert||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Furness, Stephen|
|Arnold, Sydney||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Gelder, Sir W. A.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Cotton, William Francis||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewelyn A.||Cowan, W. H.||Gilhooly, James|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Gill, A. H.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Crean, Eugene||Gladstone, W. G. C.|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Crumley, Patrick||Glanville, H. J.|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Dalzlel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Goldstone, Frank|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick)||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)|
|Beaie, Sir William Phipson||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Dawes, J. A.||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Delany, William||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts, St. George)||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Griffith, Ellis J.|
|Bentham, G. J.||Devlin, Joseph||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Dillon, John||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Donelan, Captain A.||Hackett, John|
|Boland, John Pius||Doris, William||Hall, Frederick (Normanton)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Duffy, William J.||Hancock, J. G.|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Molloy, Michael||Richards, Thomas|
|Hayward, Evan||Molteno, Percy Alport||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Hazleton, Richard||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Mooney, John J.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N.E.)||Morrell, Philip||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Henry, Sir Charles||Morison, Hector||Robinson, Sidney|
|Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Muldoon, John||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Munro, R.||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Hogge, James Myles||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||Murphy, Martin J.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Holt, Richard Durning||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Needham. Christopher T.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Hudson, Walter||Nolan, Joseph||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Hughes, S. L.||Norman, Sir Henry||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Seely, Col Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|John, Edward Thomas||Nuttall, Harry||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Sheehy, David|
|Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||O'Brien, William (Cork)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Jowett, F. W.||O'Doherty, Philip||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim)|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Donnell, Thomas||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Albert|
|Keating, Matthew||O'Dowd, John||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Ogden, Fred||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Kennedy, Vincent Paul||O'Grady, James||Sutton, John E.|
|King, J.||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Lardner, James C. R.||O'Malley, William||Thomas, J. H.|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lewis, John Herbert||O'Shee, James John||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Low, Sir F. (Norwich)||Outhwaite, R. L.||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Lundon, Thomas||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wardle, George J.|
|Lynch, A. A.||Parry, Thomas H.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Maclean, Donald||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Philipps, Col. Ivor (Southampton)||Webb, H.|
|MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Phillips, J. (Longford, S.)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Pirie, Duncan V.||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Pointer, Joseph||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Pollard, Sir George H.||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Manfield, Harry||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Radford, G. H.||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Reddy, M.||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Meagher, Michael||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Middlebrook, William||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Millar, James Duncan||Rendall, Athelstan|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.384
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ ADJOURNMENT.—Resolved, "That this House do now Adjourn."—[Mr. Gulland.]
§ Adjourned accordingly at Eleven minutes after Eleven of the clock.