HC Deb 19 May 1914 vol 62 cc1792-9



On a point of Order, Sir. I should like to have your ruling as to whether this is in accordance with the spirit of introducing Bills under the Ten Minutes' Rule? I understand that the hon. Member is going to give us the speech we wanted to hear two Fridays ago, and I should like to know whether the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) would be entitled to give us the long speech he has prepared for introducing next week the Sale of Titles (No. 3) Bill?


There is nothing irregular in this. I do not think the House did want to hear the hon. Member. My recollection is that certain proceedings took place which effectively debarred the hon. Member from bringing his Bill forward.


If the House did not wish to hear the hon. Member, is he entitled to get round the wishes of the House by withdrawing one Bill and introducing an exactly similar Bill and making a speech?


That was on a Friday afternoon. The House may be anxious to hear the hon. Member now.


I beg to move, "That leave be given to introduce a Bill to prohibit the traffic to recommendations for titles and honours."

I am gratified by the suggestion that anybody wishes to hear me speak upon this Bill. I do not wish to be needlessly partisan or provocative in what I say in regard to it, but any fair-minded observer will admit that the acquisition of titles by rich nobodies has reached a point which is really nothing short of a crying scandal. I may be asked what evidence I have that such traffic in titles takes place. If I really required any evidence I had it that Friday, a fortnight ago, mentioned by the hon. Baronet (Sir H. Verney) when the Bill dealing with the advertising of watering places was discussed for the whole afternoon; when hon. Members divided three times upon it; loitered long in the Lobbies, and raised rather frivolous points of Order, so as to avoid discussion on my Bill. Quite apart from that, the question of concrete cases is a very difficult one. I am told that anybody who contributes to party funds does not get a receipt, that there is no correspondence, and that there are no records—


Ask your own Whips.


It is obvious that if any such records did exist and came into my hands, being confidential, it would be perfectly impossible for me to make use of them, and I should be the last person to make use of them under those conditions. But it is conceivable that confidential documents might be voluntarily given to me by people involved in the payment of money for a title. I am sorry to say that, so far, I have found nobody who has recently purchased a title sufficiently considerate to allow me to use his name in this Debate. I have therefore got to do without that, while as for those still without titles, it is a very astonishing fact that one never meets anybody in this world who wants to be a peer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] At any rate I never met anybody who desired to be one. I am told that even the hon. Member who pays, let us say, £30,000 to the party funds in the hope that some day he may be translated to another place, is at great pains to explain to his friends that it is not he who wants to be a lord, but his wife who wants to be a lady. [An HON. MEMBER: "Votes for Women."] I suppose she wants something more socially compelling than a vote. Yet the fact remains that the astonishing mediocrity of many of the people who have recently received titles, and the amazing size of some of the party funds which have recently seen the light, cannot be wholly unallied, and that titles, like boots and shoes and even potatoes, have become marketable commodities and are dealt in as such. There is a division of labour on the Front Treasury Bench, because while the Chancellor of the Exchequer is busy catering for the million, the Chief Whip of the party is busy catering for the millionaire.

I think the sale of titles absolutely wrong. One need not discuss—and I am not now going to discuss—the question whether or not an aristocracy is an advantage in a country like ours, but assuming an aristocracy to be wrong, surely the worst form is an aristocracy of wealth! After all, a man may be rich and may be given a title because he is good or because he is great, but he ought not to be given a title merely because he is rich. It seems to me that wealth bears with it its own recompense, and that if a man makes money he ought to be satisfied with that. Surely the successful sale of sausages in the North of England is in itself a sufficient reward, and does not entitle a man to sit in an ancient and honoured House beside Lord Roberts. I may be asked, "Why is there any traffic in titles?" I cannot help thinking that there may be some subtle connection between this traffic and the Parliament Act passed not very long ago. That Act was brought in in order to do away with the House of Lords, and to create a democratic Second Chamber in its place. The powers of the House of Lords were cut down, but we have not yet had a Second Chamber democratically elected in its place. When we inquire why that is so, I feel that the question of the traffic in titles has no small connection with it. The Prime Minister in bringing in the Parliament Bill was anxious not to create a democratic Second Chamber, because a really democratic Second Chamber would not only vie with this House as the interpreter of the will of the people, and so throw out various Bills, like the Home Rule Bill and other Bills that have been brought forward, but (and this is the point) it would not offer that attraction to the socially inclined among the supporters of the party opposite which the Prime Minister requires. Whereas by leaving the existing House of Lords shorn of its powers and impotent to do any harm, there remains a Mecca for snobs, there is still a receptacle into which he may dump the unfortunate, the unhappy, the vulgar—if I may say so—of his party, and at the same time fill the coffers of his party with that cash which is so necessary at election times.

I am disposed to give an instance of the traffic in titles. Titled hon. Members opposite need have no alarm, because this instance occurred some years ago, so it will not affect them. I am reminded of one rather famous instance of the sale of titles. There was a gentleman known as Mr. Grant, who forty years ago made a lot of money not very well. He applied to each party in the State in order that he might be made a knight. Both parties refused. Mr. Grant went to Germany and was made a baron of a petty principality in the South and became Baron Grant. The next day in England a verse came out about Baron Grant. It may be known to some, but not to all. It runs as follows:— Honours a king can give, honour he can't. A title without honour is a barren grant. Titles without honour are, indeed, a barren grant, but I think titles with honour are yet a fruitful gift, and I can think of no higher homage which a civilised community can pay its great men for a noble life or fine deeds or signal virtue than that of titles carrying with them as they do, no material benefit whatever. And I wonder if there is any hon. Member in the House who will deny that the two Privy Councillorships which have been conferred upon two working-men Members of this House, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Burt) and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Burns), sit with a peculiar grace upon their shoulders. Speaking for oneself, as one must, all I can say is how proud I should be to earn an honour honestly, and how disgraced I should feel to buy one from the Chief Whip of my party.


I rise to oppose this Bill, not in the interests of the hon. Member nor in my own, because I think he would agree with me that neither this Government nor any other Government you can think of would give either of us a title. Neither of us is great and neither of us is good, and I know, so far as I can speak for myself, I certainly am not rich, so that there is no such danger on my side as may happen in the case of the hon. Member. There is an affinity, too, in the title of this Bill which repels one from giving it support. We have passed a Bill this Session for dealing with the traffic in worn-out horses, and I understand my hon. Friend now wishes to continue this traffic in worn-out political horses by sending them to another place. To be quite serious, are there not good reasons why we should continue to have a traffic in titles? There are certain gentlemen, even in this House, who have got titles whom one would never accuse of having trafficked for them. For instance, the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Younger) has secured a Baronetcy, and I am perfectly certain all his Scottish colleagues know that he would neither fetch nor carry for any political party, not even his own, and that he would certainly never dream of carrying anything between his own side and Members in another place with regard to conclusions which may be come to in this particular House. I think, for instance, we must bear in mind the fact that we want to preserve our nobility, and that an infusion of fresh blood will save it from declining. It improves the stock, and that is a very real point which may appeal, and certainly does appeal, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. For instance, look at the traffic in titles between this country and America. There is no tariff on the importation of American heiresses, and it surely is necessary, to maintain the capital which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is running through in this country, to secure increased capital from abroad, and that can only be secured by multiplying the present titles that exist in this country.

Then there is the question of maintaining the strength of our drama in this country. Certain institutions for the amusement of the masses in this country are largely maintained by being able to recruit from the opposite sex artists who are able to attract titles and a reward for their efforts on the stage, apart from the salaries which they secure from their managers. It would be a great pity to deprive the stalls in our various theatres of the clientèle of titles who have the leisure to attend in those particular places. Then I think, too, the traffic in titles ought to be screwed up to a much tighter pitch. When a man gets a title from this side of the House there ought to be a stipulation that he will continue to support us on this side, and that he should not be allowed to assume the character of the disappearing officer who recently appeared in the Curragh, and be allowed for a moment to disappear between two elections and reappear in another place. Therefore, for that reason we ought to have not only a traffic in titles, but very strict rules with regard to it. The hon. Member said one very true thing. He said the House of Lords was the Mecca of snobs. We are all agreed upon that, because it is there that the Members of

the Opposition always turn their eyes; it is there that they always go for support; it is there that they always worship. I am obliged to him for pointing out to the House and to the country that, like religionists in another part of the world—that is the position which that great House occupies in his eyes. Another true thing he said, which I feel that he meant personally, because he would not be offensive enough to say it in regard to us on this side, was that he was astonished at the mediocrity of people who received titles. That was extremely unkind of him speaking for those on his side of the House, because I am perfectly certain that that could not be applied to them. For these and various other reasons which I could give, but which would probably put me out of order, I hope this Bill will not be entertained.


put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 11,

The House divided: Ayes, 207; Noes, 42.

Division No. 111.] AYES. 4.0 p.m.
Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour) Currie, George W. Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.
Acland, Francis Dyke Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Holmes, Daniel Turner
Adamson, William Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth) Hope, Harry (Bute)
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Denniss, E. R. B. Hope, John Deans (Haddington)
Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud) Dixon, C. H. Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)
Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R. Donelan, Captain A. Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)
Archer-Shee, Major Martin Doris, William Hume-Williams, William Ellis
Arnold, Sydney Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness) Hunt, Rowland
Baird, John Lawrence Duncannon, Viscount Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.) Ingleby, Holcombe
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.) Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M. Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Barnston, Harry Faber, Captain W. V. (Hants, W.) Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)
Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick Burghs) Falconer, James Jones, Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)
Barrie, H. T. Falle, Bertram Godfray Kerry, Earl of
Barton, William Fell, Arthur Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Ffrench, Peter Lane-Fox, G. R.
Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George) Fitzgibbon, John Larmor, Sir J.
Bigland, Alfred Gardner, Ernest Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Gilmour, Captain John Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)
Boland, John Pius Gladstone, W. G. C. Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)
Boles, Lieut.-Colonel Denis Fortescue Glazebrook, Captain Phillp K. Lynch, Arthur Alfred
Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith- Goldstone, Frank Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)
Bowerman, Charles W. Gordon, John (Londonderry, South) Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)
Brady, Patrick Joseph Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton) Macpherson, James Ian
Buckmaster, Sir Stanley O. Gretton, John M'Calmont, Major Robert C. A.
Burn, Colonel C. R. Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.) M'Kean, John
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Gulland, John William Malcolm, Ian
Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight) Mason, David M. (Coventry)
Byles, Sir Wiliam Pollard Hall, Frederick (Dulwich) Millar, James Duncan
Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred Hamersley, Alfred St. George Morgan, George Hay
Castlereagh, Viscount Hancock, John George Morrell, Philip
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)
Cawley, Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood) Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence Mount, William Arthur
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds) Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert
Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin) Harris, Henry Percy Newman, John R. P.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)
Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry Nolan, Joseph
Clive, Captain Percy Archer Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Nugent, Sir Walter Richard
Clough, William Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon) O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Clynes, John R. Hewins, William Albert Samuel O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)
Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock) Hibbert, Sir Henry F. O'Dowd, John
Craik, Sir Henry Higham, John Sharp O'Malley, William
Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninlan Hinds, John Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William
Crooks, William Hoare, Samuel John Gurney O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend) Royds, Edmund Weigall, Captain A. G.
Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek) Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees) Wheler, Granville C. H.
Pearce, William (Limehouse) Sanders, Robert Arthur White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington) Scanlan, Thomas White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)
Perkins, Walter F. Sheeny, David White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Pirie, Duncan V. Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe) Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)
Pole-Carew, Sir R. Spear, Sir John Ward Wiles, Thomas
Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston) Wilkie, Alexander
Pratt, J. W. Stewart, Gershom Williams, John (Glamorgan)
Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) Sutherland, John E. Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)
Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.) Talbot, Lord Edmund Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Primrose, Hon. Neil James Tennant, Harold John Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset, W.)
Pryce-Jones, Colonel E. Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Randies, Sir John S. Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.) Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)
Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields) Thorne, William (West Ham) Wing, Thomas Edward
Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Vaientia, Viscount Wolmer, Viscount
Rees, Sir J. D. Verney, Sir Harry Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)
Remnant, James Farquharson Walton, Sir Joseph Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Rendall, Athelstan Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent) Yate, Colonel C. E.
Richards, Thomas Waring, Walter Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)
Roberts, George H. (Norwich) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan) Younger, Sir George
Robertson, John M. (Tyneside) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Robinson, Sidney Watson, Hon. W TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.
Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke) Webb, H. O. Locker-Lampson and Mr. Butcher.
Rowlands, James
Booth, Frederick Handel Hayden, John Patrick O'Donnell, Thomas
Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North) Hughes, Spencer Leigh O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Jones, William (Carnarvonshire) O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)
Clancy, John Joseph Joyce, Michael O'Shee, James John
Condon, Thomas Joseph Kennedy, Vincent Paul Phillips, John (Longford, S.)
Cotton, William Francis Kilbride, Denis Pringle, William M. R.
Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth) King, Joseph Raffan, Peter Wilson
Crumley, Patrick Lardner, James C. R. Reddy, Michael
Cullinan, John Lundon, Thomas Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.
Delany, William MacVeagh, Jeremiah Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)
Devlin, Joseph Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.) Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)
Duffy, William J. Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix) Wedgwood, Josiah C.
Farrell, James Patrick Molloy, Michael
Flavin, Michael Joseph Muldoon, John TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.
Hackett, John O'Doherty, Phillp Hogge and Mr. Watt.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Oliver Locker-Lampson, Lord Robert Cecil, Mr. Butcher, Mr. George Lloyd, and Mr. Rupert Gwynne. Presented accordingly, and read the first time; to be read a second time upon Monday next, and to be printed.