HC Deb 19 June 1917 vol 94 cc1633-756

(1) A woman shall be entitled to be registered as a Parliamentary elector for a constituency (other than a university constituency) it' she has attained the age of thirty years, and is entitled to be registered as a local government elector in respect of land or premises in that constituency, or is the wife of a husband entitled to be so registered.

(2) A woman shall be entitled to be registered as a Parliamentary elector for a university constituency if she has attained the age of thirty years and would be entitled to be so registered if she were a man.

(3) A woman shall be entitled to be registered as a local government elector for any local government electoral area where she would be entitled to be so registered if she were a man: Provided that a husband and wife shall not both be qualified as local government electors in respect of the same property.


Perhaps it will be for the convenience of hon. Members if I indicate at the beginning in which order it appears to me, subject to anything that hon. Members may have to submit to me, the principal points on this Clause are likely to arise. I will deal in a moment with the first Amendment on the Paper, on which I have something to say. Apart from that, I think the questions will arise in the following order. The first is the Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury). It will be noticed that his proposal to leave out Sub-sections (1) and (2) of the Clause is not in this case equivalent to the rejection of the Clause, and therefore he is entitled to raise that Amendment at an early point. That will decide, so far as the Committee is concerned, the question whether or not any women are to be entitled to be registered as Parliamentary electors. After that we shall come to the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) and the Noble Lord, the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil), which proposes that if any women are to be entitled to be registered, they should be registered on the same terms as men. Their Amendment is to leave out the reference to a special age of qualification. Thirdly, there will be an Amendment, if it is desired to move it, which I will save when putting the Amendment last referred to, in the name of the hon. Member for the Westhoughton Division (Mr. Tyson Wilson) to substitute the age of twenty-five for thirty, as it stands in the Clause. Fourthly, there will be the Amendment, again, of the two hon. Members, the hon. Member for Devizes and the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University, to leave out the qualification for married women in respect of their husbands' qualifications. Those appear to me to be the four main points on the Clause. There are certain other minor ones which may come in between, but I do not think I need refer to those minor points at this stage. With regard to the Amendment standing first on the Order Paper in the name of the hon. Member for the Watford Division of Hertfordshire (Mr. Arnold Ward) and other hon. Members, proposing that the whole of this Clause should be subject to certain provisions for a referendum, I have to say that in my opinion that Amendment is not admissible. I found myself on Mr. Speaker's ruling given on the 11th June, 1912, when an Instruction was proposed to the Committee on the Government of Ireland Bill, giving power to the Committee on that Bill to make the whole of the provisions of the Bill subject to a referendum, and in giving that ruling the present Mr. Speaker quoted a similar ruling of Mr. Speaker Peel given on the 5th May, 1893, with which he declared his agreement, and clearly if it is not competent to propose an Instruction to the Committee giving power to produce a sort of Bill within a Bill establishing a new constitutional principle of referendum, it must be less in order to bring forward a proposal of that kind in Committee. In addition to that, I am bound to say, having prevision of what might happen in the future, I cannot see my way to depart from a ruling of that kind.


On a point of Order. May I submit to you one or two considerations, which, as this point is one of great importance, I should like you to consider before you finally rule this Amendment out of order? I desire to refer to the passages to which you have referred, namely, the ruling of the present Mr. Speaker and the ruling of Mr. Speaker Peel, on which our Speaker founded himself when he gave his ruling in 1912. The present Mr. Speaker, I think you will agree, did not add anything new to the ruling of 1893. He accepted that ruling and made it his own. If we turn to the ruling which was given in 1893 we find that the Speaker in 1912 had a case to deal with which marched entirely on all fours with the first case of 1893, but in 1893 the Speaker then had to deal not with one, but with two Referendum Instructions, and the passage quoted in 1912 only quotes the Instruction by Mr. Parker Smith, which was a proposal for an Instruction to adopt a Referendum to the electors on the Home Rule Bill. Mr. Speaker Peel on that occasion said: This Instruction is a proposal to enable the electors to override the decision of this House, to go over the heads of the elected representatives of the people, and to submit to the electors generally whether a Bill of this great magnitude should come into force or not. Immediately after ruling out that general Referendum Instruction, he proceeded to deal with another Referendum Instruction which, he said, was in order. He held that the second Instruction was so much in order that it could be moved by way of Amendment in Committee. The Instruction was in the name of the hon. Member for the Whitby Division of Yorkshire, and with reference to it he said: The Instruction is a modified ad referendum. I have alluded generally to the ad referendum, and I may say that in speaking of it, while I do hold that a Bill such as this cannot be overriden by an appeal to the electors, I am far from saying that in particular localities the ad referendum principle cannot be adopted; and in the case of No. 6 the House will observe that what is there proposed is that Ulster may be empowered to exclude itself from the Bill, Ulster, of course, might be excepted from the Bill as any other portion of the United Kingdom might be excepted from a Bill of general application, but this may always be done without an Instruction This local Referendum, it will be seen, is a very different thing from saying that the whole Bill can be overridden by an appeal to the electors over the heads of the representatives of the electors in this House. 4.0 P.M.

I submit that this proposal for referring the female Parliamentary suffrage first to the women and then to the men, although it is not precisely similar to either one or the other case which the Speaker had to deal with in 1893, certainly much more resembles the case which was ruled in order then than it resembles the one he ruled out of order. That was a case referring the whole Bill which had just received the assent in principle of the House of Commons, and notwithstanding that assent to refer it over the heads of the House to the electors themselves. In this case we do not propose to refer the whole Bill to the electors, and we are not dealing with a point which has received in principle the assent of the House. I think it was quite clearly in the minds of every hon. Member of this House when voting on the Second Reading of this Bill that ho was not either assenting or dissenting from the principle of women's suffrage. Therefore this is the first occasion in connection with this Bill that we reach this question. This Amendment proposes with regard to one particular Clause only dealing with women, that the matter should be referred first to that class themselves, and secondly to the electorate. I submit that that is on the whole governed by the precedent that it was in order to allow the people of Ulster to vote themselves out of the Home Rule Bill. Therefore I suggest that it is also in order to allow women to vote themselves out of the women's suffrage provisions of this Bill.

I wish to raise another point with regard to the last sentence which fell from your lips, Mr. Chairman, namely, the general grounds with regard to the future, and I think what was in your mind was that it would be dangerous to allow a precedent with regard to referendum Amendments of all kinds. I submit on that point that if the House entertains any opinion that it is undesirable to have Amendments referring matters back to the electors that that objection ought not to be entrusted merely to the discretion of the Chairman, and it ought to take shape in a definite Amendment of the Standing Orders. This principle of referring matters to the electors is perfectly clearly established in local matters, and it exists in a great number of Statutes, such as the series of Public Libraries Acts. It has been proposed on a national scale and voted upon by this House in an Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman now in charge of this Bill in the proceedings when the Parliament Act was in Committee, and all I can find in regard to that matter in the Standing Orders is that it shall be an Instruction to all the Committees of the House to which Bills may be committed that they have power to-make such Amendments as they think fit, provided they be relevant to the subject matter of the Bill. If any such Amendment does not come within the title of the Bill then you may amend the title accordingly. You, Mr. Chairman, have not suggested that this Amendment is not within the title of the Bill, but even if it were without the title there is authority to amend the title, and I submit that so broad and wide a ruling as you have given ought to be carefully considered by the House, and, if necessary, embodied in the Standing Orders.


Before you, Mr. Chairman, give your ruling definitely on this point, I would like to call the attention to the procedure of this House on the 26th of April, 1911, when your predecessor, now Lord Emmott, was in the Chair The Parliament Bill was before the House in Committee and an Amendment was moved by the hon. Member for Hammersmith on behalf of my right hon. Friend, who is now the Home Secretary, to leave out certain words, and insert the following words:

"That His Majesty may, by Order in Council, made after the close of the Session in which the Bill was rejected a third time, direct that the Bill there rejected shall be submitted to a poll of the electors, and thereupon such Bill shall be so submitted in manner provided in the Schedule of this Act,"—

that is, allowing a Debate on the Referendum, and that Debate did in fact take place. In view of the fact that a Referendum Debate was allowed on that occasion I submit that it should be allowed on this.


With regard to the submissions of the two hon. Members who have addressed me on this point, I have to say that, first of all, with regard to the quotation from Mr. Speaker Peel's ruling on the 5th of May, 1893, I humbly associate myself entirely with what was said on that occasion, but I also associate myself with the differentiation then made in the matter of the local Referendum; and the very words quoted by the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Arnold Ward) refer to a local Referendum. And the hon. Member followed that argument up by quoting the analogy of the Libraries Acts and similar Acts. After the most careful examination I am quite unable to see that it applies to the present case. Further, I would say that after he has been good enough to submit to me, as he kindly did, the points which he wished me to consider, I took the opportunity of consulting with Mr. Speaker on the matter, because, clearly, if there had been a proposed Instruction to the Committee on this matter, it was most important to know whether Mr. Speaker would have endorsed his previous ruling of five years ago. I understood clearly from Mr. Speaker that he is still of the same view as he was then. Therefore it follows that if the hon. Member for the Watford Division had, at the opening of the Committee stage of the Bill, proposed a Referendum Instruction, it would have met a similar case to the proposal made five years ago. Further, dealing with the point raised specially by the right hon. Member for Aston Manor (Mr. E. Cecil), he is quite correct in his quotation, and that was present in my mind in considering this matter. Clearly in that case there was exactly the proper occasion, because in the Parliamentary Bill we were then proposing an alteration of the Constitution, namely, a question as to by what means the will of this House should prevail in certain eventualities. The question was whether as an alternative to the proposals of the Government of that day certain matters should go to a Referendum. That case strengthens my view rather than weakens it in any way.


I should not have considered this point of Order still open if you, Mr. Chairman, had not added to your explanation your discretionary remarks with regard to the future effect, and the danger in the future of accepting Referendum Amendments. That entitles me to ask you, on a point of Order, whether there is not a still greater danger in this House making this great organic change in the Constitution without it having been submitted to the people of this country, and without our having ascertained the express view of the country in the ordinary way? I think you will understand, Mr. Chairman, why I consider myself entitled to put this point.


That is a question on which the Chairman would be the last person to express an opinion.


Would it not be always in order to allow hon. Members to move on each controversial point a Referendum Amendment like this?


The hon. Member evidently has some part of the vision which I had.


There are several Amendments on the Paper, one to leave out the word "thirty" and to insert "twenty-five," and there are other Amendments prior to that one. I have on the Paper an Amendment to leave out "thirty" and to insert "eighteen," and I would like to know, Mr. Chairman, how my Amendment will be affected by these other Amendments?


I desire to ask, in connection with the order in which you propose to call on the Amendments on the Paper, if it would be possible to test the feeling of the Committee with reference to the proposals to enfranchise women on the same terms precisely as men?


With regard to what the hon. Member for St. Pancras Division (Mr. Martin) has said in regard to several hon. Members moving Amendments at the same place in the Bill, I may say that it devolves upon the Chairman to decide which of those Amendments shall be called upon. It appeared to me that the indication I gave just now was the right course to pursue, and it will be open to hon. Members when the Question, "That 'thirty' stand part of the Bill," is put, to debate the insertion of any other age instead of thirty. If the Committee decides to leave out thirty, it can proceed to consider, not one, but more than one alternative. In that way the Committee will be enabled to come to the decision which it wishes and to embody it in the Bill. With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark (Mr. Whitehouse), he has himself an Amendment on this point on the Paper, but it is in the wrong place, and it also suffers from this disability, that it mixes up three questions together. I desire the Committee to have an opportunity of dealing with each question separately, and his point may be raised on the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Peto) to the effect that if any franchise is to be given it should be given on equal terms with men.


The Amendment standing in my name and in that of the Noble Lord, and which you have put down as No. 2, is, as you say, a perfectly separate question, and, as far as I am concerned, I am quite prepared to argue separately the omission of this arbitrary age of distinction to which I attach no value. At the same time, I think it right to point out that I have a complete Amendment, the one which you have put No. 4, for the omission of the words, "or is the wife of a husband entitled to be so registered." If that and my subsequent Amendment were carried it would, of course, limit the female vote to those women entitled to be registered as local government electors. I thought it right to point that out, although I am quite prepared to let the Amendments be discussed each under their own heading.


I had observed that, but I thought it was more convenient that the two points should be taken separately and not together.


Then your ruling is that if there are several Amendments proposed at the same point in the Bill, it is entirely in the option of the Chair to call upon any of the Members?


It is not a ruling of mine, but a Rule of the House.


Is it not the rule of the House that Amendments at the same place raising the same subject are called upon in the order in which they are handed in?


No; if the hon. Member will look at the Rules he will find that is not so.


I beg to move to leave out Sub-sections (1) and (2).

This Amendment raises at once the issue whether or not the vote should be given to women. I do not think anyone in the House will deny the importance of it. We are for the first time in our history going to consider the two questions whether or not women should be admitted to the franchise, and whether or not something like 6,000,000, or possibly 12,000,000, additional voters should be added to the register. We ought first to ask ourselves whether we are in a position to grant these enormous changes, and, secondly, if we are in a position to grant them, whether the changes are advisable and necessary. With regard to the first question, which is a very important one, it must be re- membered that in 1912 and 1913 the House decided that it was not advisable to admit women to the franchise. What was the position of the House in 1912 and 1913? We had been recently returned by an electorate, and we were in full possession of all the powers that the electorate had given us. In that position, and after two Debates in two consecutive years, we came to the conclusion that it was not advisable to give the vote to women. When this House was constituted in January, 1911, it was laid down under the Parliament Act that it should only sit for five years, and, if my memory does not betray me, the right hon. Gentleman who was then Prime Minister gave as his reason for altering the period from seven to five years that a House of Commons which was nearing the end of five years of existence had lost touch with the electorate and was not fitted to come to any great or momentous decision. If that was correct, how much more am I entitled, with regard to a House which ought to have died eighteen months ago, and which has prolonged its life upon its own intitiative with the sole object of carrying on the War, to say that it has neither any mandate nor any fitness for introducing a revolution of this character? My statement upon that matter cannot be contradicted.

The next question we ought to consider is whether women are fit for the vote. We have been told that the War has made a very considerable alteration in the situation. I should be the last person to deny that women have done well, and have been of very great assistance to us during the years of trial, but I fail to see any reason in that for giving them the vote. I will not repeat the quotation of Sir Walter Scott which I gave on the Second Reading of the Bill, though I think it a very apposite one. While it is indisputable that women have rendered valuable service during the War, there is no ground for assuming that women who want the vote and the women who have done the work are the same. The women who want the vote wanted it before the War, and they want it on grounds apart from the War, because no question of war was ever raised in the old Debates, and they are exploiting women's service during the War as a means to attain the object which they desired to attain before the War. There has been no Referendum taken and it has been impossible to ascertain how many women are in favour of the vote and how many are against it, but I do not think there can be any doubt that there are a large number of women engaged on war work who do not want the vote, and I would like to ask whether the anti-suffragists are to find, as a penalty for their patriotism, that it is made the very ground on which the revolutionary change which they do not want is to be thrust upon them?

This, to my mind, is the most inappropriate time that could have been chosen for bringing forward this particular matter. It has been stated that women require the vote in order to prepare for the change of circumstances which will take place after the War, and that without the vote they will not be able to exercise that influence which they are entitled to exercise on their own behalf. The vote, in my humble opinion and in the opinion of a much greater than myself, is not a reward to be given because somebody has done something which is meritorious. It should be given because the people to whom it is given have shown that they are fit and capable to exercise the duty which is thrust upon them— that is to say, that they are fit and capable of using the-vote, not in their own personal interests, but in the interests of the country as a whole. I have attended every discussion which has taken place upon this particular question during the last twenty years and perhaps longer, but I shall never forget the very excellent and eloquent speech which was made by the present Attorney-General on 11th July, 1910, not quite seven years ago. I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not in his place, because it would be very interesting to see what action he takes when we come to a Division either this evening or to-morrow. What did the tight hon. and learned Gentleman say? He said: The other statement, very closely resembling it, that.' women have a right, to vote '—aquestion-begging phrase - is made the basis of a great part of the propaganda which is circulated in the country by way of leaflets by the suffragist party. It will be, perhaps, worth while to discuss for a moment or two what is the meaning of the saying that 'women have a right to the vote.' For generations it has been recognised that no man has an abstract right to a vote. The theory that there is such a thing in existence as a right to vote is as dead as Rousseau. A vote is not a right. It never was a right. It is a capacity which is given on approved public grounds to such sections of citizens as in the opinion of the whole State are likely to exercise that quality with benefit to the community as a whole."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1910, col. 56, Vol. XIX'.] Then he goes on to say that is the reason why, when the suffrage was removed in the case of the Irish freeholders—and on many other occasions—no compensation was given. Those axe words which express in very much better language than I can possibly express them the sentiments which I hold and which I believe are held, not only by a very large number of men in this country but also by a very large number of women. It has also been said that the laws of this country are unjust to women, and favour men at the expense of women. Unfortunately for myself, I am not a lawyer, but, again, I cannot find a greater authority as a lawyer than the right hon. Gentleman the present Attorney-General, who in the same speech alluded to this matter. This is what he says: Before I address myself to the point, may I remind the hon. (Gentleman of what I think he has overlooked, namely, of what, after centuries of man-made law, is the position of women."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 11th July, 1910, col. 60, Vol. XIX.] May I draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman who cheered when I spoke a few moments ago to this statement, which followed: Considering the matter for a moment as the suffragists claim. I boldly affirm, taking in the first place the position of married women, that after centuries of man-made law, woman to-day occupies a position so preferential that no parallel can be discovered in any civilised country of the world. He goes on to give the reasons why he holds that opinion, and says: At the present moment every Member of this House who is married is under the obligation to provide for his wife, and I am not complaining of that. He gives other instances in the same direction. No Member of this House is a greater authority on law than the right hon. and learned Gentleman the present Attorney-General, and he, in a considered speech, has told us that so far from women having suffered from the fact that they did not have the vote, or have not been able to pass laws for themselves, they are in a far better position through that very fact than they would have been if they had held the franchise and had been able to pass laws for themselves. There is a little incident apropos of this which occurs to my mind. It occurred some six or seven years ago in Committee on one of the Coal Mines Regulations Bills. There a Clause was introduced, or it was in the Bill, dealing with the pitbrow women or pitbrow girls, as they were called. There was a discussion in the Committee as to whether or not some alteration ought to be made in that Clause. I have always been a strong opponent to woman suffrage, but I thought the women were being hardly treated by the trade union at the time; and I voted in the Committee for granting the pitbrow women what they asked. I remember perfectly well that the hon. Member for Ince Division (Mr. Stephen Walsh) supported my contention, and I think lie actually went so far as to vote against his friends in favour of the Amendment. In the Committee we were defeated. But what happened? The pitbrow women came to this House, and make such a good case that, on Report, the Amendment they desired was put into the Bill by this House. That shows that women do not suffer from the fact that they have not got the vote, and that, as a matter of experience, it is clear that they gain every advantage by the position in which they now are. No one can deny that women exercise a very great influence over their relations, and it is not at all certain that, if they had the vote, there might not be difficulties between them which do not occur at the present moment. It is perfectly certain that, if my Amendment is defeated, we are not going to stop here. The mere giving of the vote to women carries with it a great deal more than the right to go to the poll or the election booth and place a cross against the name of a certain person. I am sure that Mr. Gladstone is a person whose statements will be listened to with consideration, not only by hon. Members opposite, but by everybody in this Committee. He said: The woman's vote carries with it, whether by the same Bill, or by a consequential Bill, the woman's seat in Parliament. That is a question which has always been raised, so far as I remember, in the Debates we have had on this subject, but I have not seen it mentioned in the articles which have been written during the last few weeks advocating this particular Clause in the Bill. It is a matter that has to be faced, and it will be extremely difficult for this House to carry on its work if we have in your place, Mr. Whitley, a lady instead of yourself. It is quite clear that once you have women Members of the House, they are not going to stop as Members of the House. They are fit and will be fit to take the place of Mr. Speaker, of the Chairman of Committees, or to take a part in the government of the country. Mr. Gladstone said: A capacity to sit in the House of Commons, logically and practically, draws in its train capacity to fill every office in the State.


Hear, hear!


My hon. Friend below the Gangway cheers that. If he will allow me to say so—I do so without any desire to cast any aspersion upon him—he possesses a trait which in some ways is excellent, but it is a trait which some women also possess.


I should like to be associated with them.


Women are likely to be affected by gusts and waves of sentiment. So is the hon. Gentleman. Their emotional temperament makes them so liable to it. But those are not the people best fitted in this practical world either to sit in this House—not too many of them—or to be entrusted with the immense power which this Bill gives them. We must not forget—I shall allude to it further in a few moments— what may happen under this Bill in regard to the enormous number of women that may appear upon the franchise list. There is another aspect of the matter which deserves serious consideration, especially at the present time. I do not know whether a few years ago hon. Members opposite would have paid much attention to it, but now, when everybody in this House and in the country is a supporter of the Empire, what I am going to say deserves consideration. We have an Empire containing 450,000,000 people, of whom 300,000,000 are Orientals, distrusting government by women. Yet this is a time when the Oriental part of our Empire is behaving as well as any woman in the War—no one has done better—when we choose, to do something which undoubtedly is likely to destroy our influence over our great Empire.

Colonel GREIG

That Empire was ruled by Queen Victoria.


That is a very different thing from allowing a large number of women to come in and control the whole of the affairs and business of the State. We had one of the greatest Queens in modern history, and perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to point out that she was not an absolute monarch. She carried on the Government acting on the advice of her Ministers, who were men. It might be, if this Bill were passed, that not only should we have a Queen, but a Queen who would carry on the Government of the country not on the advice of her Ministers who were men, but on the advice of her Ministers, who were women. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] Why not? I am very sorry that some of the eminent members of the late Liberal Government are not in the Committee, but I happened to come across lately a little extract which I hope the Committee will allow me to read, because it puts the whole ground of opposition to this measure in most beautiful language, clear, explicit and short. I will take it for the moment as coming from myself: I oppose this on the broad and simple grounds that, in my opinion, as a student of history and of our own public life, experience shows that the natural distinction of sex which admittedly differentiates the functions of men and women in many departments of human activity ought to be recognised, as it always has been recognised, in the sphere of Parliamentary representation. That was the late Prime Minister in 1912. I cannot conceive anything better than that. What on earth has arisen to change the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman? I must admit I had hopes that he would have been here and would have been able to show some grounds why, having given such a considered opinion as that, he has thought it right to change it. I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to what has happened in America, where there are something like twelve or fourteen States which have women suffrage. Those States returned President Wilson at the last election on the ground that they were against war. The only woman—Miss Rankin, I think her name was—who had taken a seat in Congress in the United States, when a short time ago the question of whether there should be peace or war came up, became hysterical and could not give her vote. The official of the House—I do not know how they manage voting in America—whose duty it was to record the votes, took her vote as being in the negative. I do not in any way cast any aspersion upon Miss Rankin for the action she took. Her kindness of heart and her sex undoubtedly prevented her from giving a decision upon a question of peace or war. Already in America the women had decided that they did not wish their sons or relations to run the risk of being killed, and that action was confirmed by Miss Rankin when the question was put in Congress. That is a very important matter. It might not have been considered so important in 1912 or 1913, when this House rejected on those two occasions a Woman Franchise Bill, but it is certainly very important now, when all our views as to war and the possibility of war have changed, when we know that human nature now is the same as it was a thousand years ago, at any rate in certain parts of Europe, and that we have to face a, hostile and cruel enemy and may have to do it again before many years are over. If that is so, we do not want to put the power into the hands of women, who naturally feel so very intensely and who will be averse from taking very strong action. If anything is more evident than another, it is that we ought to have taken precautions be-for the War. I hope we shall do so after this War, but we shall not, if we have electors to return women to Parliament. The same thing took place in Australia. Who was it that prevented Mr. Hughes, I think a year ago, getting conscription? It was the women in Australia. They did exactly the same thing there, and I find on looking at "Whitaker's Almanack" where Finland is described as having women voters that this is the description: There is universal suffrage for both sexes. Women are likewise eligible for election to the Chamber. The Finnish troops exist only in name. I do not think myself that we desire to have a description of our constitution in a few years' time to that effect put into the Whitaker of that day.

Before I sit down I should like to say one word, and one word only, upon the very far-reaching results of this change. As the Bill stands, 6,000,000 electors will be added to the register—that is, women. Roughly speaking, somewhere about seven-and-a-half to eight million male electors are now on the register, and about 2,000,000 more will be added, making 10,000,000; while about 6,000,000 women will be added, making a total electorate of 16.000,000, instead of something under 8,000,000 at the present time. That is to say, it will be double, and a very large proportion of the increase will be women. But once you admit that sex is no disqualification, why are you going to stop at six millions of women? You will be obliged, as certainly as I am standing here, if you pass this Bill—later on, perhaps, I hope not now—to admit other women on the same terms as you admit the men. If that is done, what will the result be? The result will be that you will have added to your present electorate some 14,000,000 people. The electorate, instead of being 8,000,000 will be 22,000,000; of these 22,000,000, 12,000,000 will be women, and they will, therefore, have a majority of one-and-a-half millions of women. These calculations have been" made very carefully on the basis of the population before the War. They are not really accurate now, because we have, unfortunately, lost a large number of men in the War, and, consequently, the majority of women would be greater than the figures which I have given indicate. I think it was in "Punch" only the other day that a charwoman was supposed to ask another charwoman whether men would be in the future allowed to vote, and the answer was: "Yes, my dear—at first." It must not be forgotten that if you give women a majority you put the entire destinies of this country into their hands. It may be said quite truly that women and men will not all vote separately. That is quite true, but on the other hand when you come to have a question which is supposed—probably wrongly—to affect the interests of women, the nature of women being, as I said, hysterical and sentimental, the nature of women being —and I believe every man in this Committee will agree with me—that when a woman has once made up her mind you cannot move her, and arguments are of no avail; somebody has told her something, and she has come to a conclusion without investigating it thoroughly, but, having come to that conclusion," nothing can move her—something of that sort will occur, and I think we shall regret the day if the Committee does not accept my Amendment.

Colonel GREIG

They will be fit to represent London.


I hope I shall be fit to represent London.

Colonel GREIG

No, the ladies.


There is one consolation in being a Member for the City —that there are no women there, or very few. Personally, I am not affected, but the Committee know me well enough to admit that personal considerations do not enter into the matter at all, and that I am taking up this attitude because I believe that it is to the detriment of the State to allow a revolution of this sort to be introduced into the Bill.


I am sorry that the Parliamentary rules have compelled those of the opponents of women's suffrage with whom I am more particularly associated to offer, as we are bound to do if we support, as we shall support, this Amendment, an unqualified hostility to the proposal to enfranchise women. We would have much preferred to proceed by another form of discussion —and as to that I shall offer a word or two later on—rather than by offering a direct negative, as we shall be forced to do. This is the only clause in a Bill of thirty or forty clauses which directly touches the issue of women's suffrage, and yet I do not think that any complete Suffrage Bill has ever proposed at any time to this House a greater revolution in the constitution of the country and in the number of the electorate than is proposed by these brief words of the two Subsections which my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) proposes to omit. He has stated, and it is well known, that the minimum number of electors who will be enfranchised will be 6,000,000. I am not sure that the Committee quite realises that if the maximum number of women electors is enfranchised that can be enfranchised, if some of the Amendments to the Bill are accepted, will be 12,000,000, and that you will not only have double the present electorate, but that you will have given for the first time, I believe, in the history of any country in any circumstances the balance of power into the hands of the women of the country. There are certain general arguments against women's suffrage which have often been stated in this House, and which for that very reason, although I have never spoken in this House before on this question, I do not propose to restate in any shape or form. Since we discussed this question, I think four years ago, there have been certain new considerations arising which have powerfully affected opinion in this House and outside it, and which have apparently affected, as we should say, the perversion of some of the most prominent Members of this House, which considerations I hope the House will allow me very briefly to examine and traverse.

The right hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) and the Colonial Secretary (Mr. Long) are the two principal exponents of conversion, and they are the more important and influential in this House because at one time, there were no Members of this House who were more convinced, more powerful, or more ardent opponents of women's suffrage than those two right hon. Gentlemen. Anything-that has converted them, therefore, and through their example has affected the opinion of this House, requires and deserves very respectful attention and examination at our hands. If I quote the statement of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Fife rather than the Colonial Secretary—who has told us, I may mention in parenthesis, that while he was going to vote differently from what he has done before, his convictions and opinions remain the same—I do so because he has so concisely and succinctly stated the reasons which have altered his opinion. He grouped his arguments under five heads, the first of which was what he called public expediency. He said, indeed, that his opposition always and solely had been based on political expediency. I do not know what importance ought to be attached to that phrase. I do not know whether political expediency connotes popularity, or feasibility, or wisdom, or possibility of opposition, and if my right hon. Friend had not put that argument into the forefront of the reasons which have caused his conversion, I should have treated it as a phrase which was intended to introduce the real and operating cause of his conversion which he went on to say was the conduct of women during this War. I think, indeed that it was a phrase designed to lead up to his later and stronger argument upon which he dwelt at considerable length and with very great force. He said that women had worked out their own salvation in this War, and that phraseology has been most potent with people in this House and out-side this House in altering their opinions. Whilst it has been thus potent with the perverts, in this matter the orthodox, such as the Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham (Colonel Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) have poured great scorn upon this argument, because they have said in this House and elsewhere that the courage and tenacity displayed by women during the War have not added a single argument to those which already existed for the grant of women's suffrage. Upon this point I should like to say this much: It is supposed by some of my hon. Friends in this House that we who are anti-suffragists must naturally have, because we are opposed to the grant of suffrage to women, some contempt for the capacity of women as compared with men. I do not think that is so at all, it certainly is not so in my case.

5.0 P.M.

We believe that the capacity of women lies in other directions than in public life, we believe that their capacity is best and most easily directed to the greatest advantage of the individual and of the public when it is directed towards domestic and local activities rather than to external and political considerations. My right hon. Friend who preceded me quoted something from the speech of the right hon. Member for East Fife dealing with the teachings of history. The most shallow acquaintance with ancient and modern history will tell us all that there has been no time in the military struggles of this or any other country when women have not displayed great and exceptional qualities on special occasions. Think, for instance, of the conduct of women during the Dutch and Spanish wars of the Middle Ages, or of the action of women during our own struggles in India in the Mutiny. Could there be better instances of their courage, fortitude, tenacity of opinion, or a better exhibition of physical courage in a situation which might otherwise have been lost? I will not argue that in these days women exhibited the fortitude to get the political suffrage in the way of a reward. I say rather that the teaching of history should compel a belief in the capacity of women to exhibit the qualities of unselfishness and great brilliancy and others that have always been her individual characteristic, or collectively, an extraordinary and quick perception which she has displayed. I think that is proved over and over again in the teaching of history. My hon. Friend, in his somewhat light way, spoke of men who have changed their opinions on this subject. One was represented as saying that it was impossible to wage war on a great scale even to repel, not only to defeat, the enemy, without the services which had been rendered by munition- eers, motor car drivers, and Red Cross and Army nurses. Not only do we not wish to deny such a statement as that, but there is no female who has taken her part in France or Italy or Russia who is not able to show some examples, small though they may be, of fortitude and courage. It is said that this is the basis upon which some have changed their opinions. See what the Bill does for these people who have exhibited this courage and endurance and fortitude. The bulk of the people are unquestionably under thirty years of age; therefore if you want to reward them at this particular time in this particular way you ought to alter the Bill fundamentally before you can grant the reward which is fit and proper reward for their endurance. The present Prime Minister, in a statement on this subject before the Bill was introduced, told us that it was an injustice which was ungrateful, and it would be an outrage if the munitioneers were not included in the draft of women's suffrage, and the Home Secretary, who unfortunately is not here now, in supporting him, said that it would be monstrous if the nurses were not brought in.

But neither the munitioneers, the Red Cross nurses, or the Army nurses—have been brought in. They are suffering what was described as a monstrous outrage, and the whole ground of my right hon. Friend has been cut away by the action of the Bill itself. There has been no statement on the part of anyone, either inside or outside the House, to show that the women want this reward for services they are doing in the country. They have not asked for any political reward and still less do they ask for this privilege. From what I know of the. methods of my hon. and my right hon. Friends who conducted the suffrage campaign for the last four years, they would not have been remiss in showing and advertising to the public the fact that there was a genuine concensus of opinion demanding the vote, and that that and that alone would satisfy them for rendering services to the country, and that this had animated them in giving that service to the country. There has been no attempt to show that, it would not be possible to show it, if the attempt were made. So the attempt has not been made and you are asked to make a complete change in the constitution of the country, not in accordance with the wish or desires of the people affected by this proposed change. There is yet another argument we have to deal with. It is proposed to make this reward for past services to the country, but future generations are going to exist when this War is over, and in these new and changed conditions women are to have a vote and, of course, office. Now as to whether all these great changes which are prophesied are going to take place when the War is over, whether all these practices, duties and customs all over the world are to be thrown out and reset in another place. We must also consider the position as regards trades, industry and commerce, which is going after the War to take a new aspect. Surely the consideration is forced upon us to some extent that we are the trustees of the future in this matter, and should consider before we force upon women, before we permit them to accept the new place in industry and commerce. We are forcing upon them a double obligation of motherhood and an artificial complication of industry and politics. Just consider whether they are physically capable of bearing all these burdens, greater burdens than have been put on the strongest man in the country. I have had an opportunity of talking with many different women on the subject, educated, thoughtful women who are giving great care and attention to it. So far as I can ascertain, they are clearly of opinion that it is not possible during the period when women are capable of bearing certain burdens that they should have the additional burden of taking part in Imperial politics or of taking service, and a large part, in the industrial and commercial life of this country. If it were possible that this House could be addressed on a subject of this sort by a non-member, I cannot conceive that there is any subject on which it could be better addressed than by a woman on this particular point. The pains and sufferings which are entailed upon some of them are beyond the imagination of any man to understand and comprehend. I believe in talking plainly on this subject, because it is important. They are subject to the strain of bearing children when men are devoting their years to the study and formation of character and ideals. It will put upon women a physical and mental strain which she is incapable of carrying. That is not only my view, but the considered opinions of others. I do not wish, on a subject which has been raised during the course of many Debates, to detain the House at undue length, but there is one consideration which it seems to me that has not yet been advanced to the House, and which I think it important should be advanced. You have at the present moment certain statistics which show that both the birth and marriage rate are decreasing. Can you adopt at this time a policy which might mean an immense destruction of the population of the country which it is essential should not only be retained, but increased.


That does not apply to the marriage-rate.


I thought it applied to both. If it does not, I am sorry to have mislead the House. The birth-rate has decreased. But you are adding to the troubles of women bearing children almost more than they can carry. I ask the House, before they do this, under what I believe to be a totally false conception of what women should be asked to do, that they should ask themselves what will be the effect in the future of greater burdens than they can possibly carry being put upon women.

I am not influenced by the argument I have often heard that women are coming to the point when they will be more numerous than men and will out-vote men, and that men are perhaps depriving them of their full power. That seems to be a fantastical idea which I will not discuss. But there is no social, or physical, or labour question on which you might not be faced with the possibility that the majority of women, combined with a minority of men, will force legislation to which there may be serious and strong objection. Whether that will want a solution I do not know. I see some representatives of the Treasury here at this moment. At the present, for the purposes of taxation, you combine the income of man and wife. The moment that women come in, that particular form of legislation will be swept away. That will be, in our judgment, a most unfortunate proceeding. Go a little further, and deal with labour administration. There are a great number of people who are supporting the change, but they must remember that you will enable women's labour to be utilised by employers against the present existing rule of trade union. I know quite a considerable number of persons who are in favour of the grant of votes to women upon that ground alone. Will that be accepted with equanimity by the great trade unions? The proposal may be quite fair and quite reasonable, but it would be in direct antagonism to the existing rules and regulations of labour. That is one of the difficulties which you will have to face the moment this grant of women suffrage is made.

I have only one other word to say. Those who think with me on this point would much have preferred to put this issue to the House not as a direct negative, as was done in former days. We recognise that there has been a change of opinion in this House, and we recognise that there has been a change of opinion outside this House. Those who are in favour of women suffrage are convinced that the change is so great as to justify them in reversing the verdict which this House gave four years ago. We, on the contrary, believe that this House is much more sensitive upon this point than is opinion outside, that the barometer of public opinion here changes and shifts more quickly than it does outside, and that the change of feeling here has gone far beyond the change of feeling outside. We should have liked to take this question over the heads of a House which is moribund and which renews, not its youth, but its age, and which on the last occasion that it renewed its age—on the very day that it prolonged its existence—brought this stupendous change as a serious proposal before the House. We should have liked to carry the verdict beyond the walls of the House to the people of this country. I should like even, if we are successful in rejecting this Amendment, to carry it from this House to the people of this country, because if a real change has taken place the verdict of the people of the country ought to be recorded upon it. Whether that verdict is in accordance with my views or adverse to them, I should be content to accept their verdict as a final pronouncement on the justice of the case which we have endeavoured to state to the House.


I am unfortunate enough, for the first time in the discussion of this Bill, to find myself in opposition to my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury). On this issue I am satisfied that he is entirely mistaken, and I want to explain why, though I am as Conservative as my right hon. Friend, I am an advocate of women's suffrage. I listened to the speeches of my right- hon. Friend and of the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Hob-house), and it struck me that the very first point that arises is the question, to which I think neither of them gave sufficient attention, of the strong feeling which animates a certain number of women in order to obtain the franchise. That is a very important consideration. I believe it to be a very serious matter that any important body of opinion should be discontented and dissatisfied, and it always ought to weigh heavily on Parliament in extending the franchise that there is a body of citizens who very much wish to have it and who wish it so keenly that it produces a disordering and disturbing effect upon them. That is a consideration all the more necessary to be borne in mind on this matter, because I really believe that a certain number of the women to be enfranchised by this Bill are almost the only persons to be enfranchised by it who care twopence for the gift that is to be given them. There is what has been delicately called the "swallow voter," who has to rest a whole thirty days before he gets the vote, and there is also the case so interesting to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Dickinson), the absent voters from St. Pancras, who are engaged in various convict prisons. The trained eagles of the broad arrow are to join the swallows in exercising the franchise. I shall look to his future election oratory when he addresses them in the prison yard or perhaps, in bad weather, in the Channel. But these classes of voters are not, I think, at all anxious to be enfranchised. The heart of vagrancy and misdemeanour does not thrill with the subject. They are still considering practical schemes for expropriating private rights in the interest of the deserving poor—I am still contributing to the right hon. Gentleman's election oratory—but they do not care about the vote. It is my conviction that the great majority of the male voters who will be enfranchised by this Bill do not care, but there is a section of the women who do vehemently care, and it is extraordinarily unstatesmanlike not to have regard to them—not an absolutely decisive regard, but to have regard to it as a most important element in the merits of the controversy. It is true that is answered by saying that some women do not want the vote, but there is no real equality between the wish of a person to have a vote and the wish of a person not to have a vote, because obviously a person who has not a vote cannot exercise it, whereas a person who has a vote can very easily not exercise it.


A person who wants a vote is able to exercise it for the other people who do not want it.


There is no parity in the argument. They are quite different. The argument goes on, with my right hon. Friend and others, to draw a picture of all the things which may happen as a consequence. We are told they will become Members of Parliament. Nothing could be more untrue than that that follows logically. The fundamental error which really lies round the mind of tooth my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Hobhouse) is clearly to exaggerate both the difficulty and the importance of the Parliamentary vote. The right hon. Baronet, in a very eloquent passage, dwelt on the great sufferings of womanhood, and how great a strain was put upon them by the vote. Really, has he ever given a vote himself, and has he felt the smallest mental wear and tear? I survived it quite easily. I did not need a tonic or a stimulant to get through it. Even if I had a severe toothache I should still have been able to go through that simple clerical process of putting a cross opposite the name I least disagreed with. When I am told you must go on to admit them to Parliament, it is obvious that quite a different question arises. I am not arguing whether it is right or wrong. Apart from the immensely greater complexity of the task of a Member of Parliament there is this enormous difference, that you are bringing men and women together in the same single assembly, and it is amazing that the opponents of women's suffrage who, goodness knows, think enough about sex in discussing this matter, do not observe that that is a very essential point in relation to sex that sex is unimportant as long as you keep people separate but it begins to be important as soon as you bring them together. That is obvious to the meanest capacity of anyone who addresses his mind to the subject. In regard to so trivial a thing as a dinner party it is quite a different kind of dinner party where you have only men from what it is if you have a mixed company of men and women. The mass of human beings interact on one another and in an assembly like this you might easily change the whole character of the body if you had a large number of women in it. But there is no co-operation be- tween different human beings in giving a vote. It is a purely individual and single act. Therefore a wholly different set of considerations come in, and if it be said that you might go step by step from one thing to another, how is it that hon. Members find it possible to resist the Parliamentary vote when they have already conceded the municipal vote? Giving the municipal vote is at least immensely more like giving the Parliamentary vote than either, is like sitting in Parliament. I do not understand how the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Hobhouse) faces the fact that women survived getting the municipal vote without damage to their moral character, and when he talks of the sentimentalism which is to be introduced into politics I do not see that the County Council is particularly sentimental. There is no great wave of sentimentality in municipal politics.


It is limited to women of property.


My right hon. Friend is departing from the question of sex. I agree it is immensely more important whether men or women have such qualifications as fit them or unfit them for the franchise, but my point is that it has nothing to do with sex. He was arguing that you must not allow women in however limited a number, or any woman at all, to have a vote, and I answer, "Did you see any great harm happen in the case of the municipal vote? Did you see all these tremendous consequences?" You find that municipal politics are very like Parliamentary politics. It is very difficult to see any distinction whatever. I believe the women who have actually got the municipal vote are on the whole a conservative class, but that is the only distinction, and that depends by common consent entirely on the circumstances of their life and not a bit upon their sex. I do not build at all on the argument that many people entertain that there is some claim of equality which ought to be admitted. I have always disliked anyone who talks about equality in politics. It is almost always a mistaken argument, because equality of capacity does not exist, and wherever you are dealing not with a question of right but of capacity, equality is out of place. What you have to argue on is whether so exceedingly simple an act as giving a Parliamentary vote, as choosing between two or at the most three candidates, whose selection depends entirely on a political organisation in which women may and do now have a considerable interest, is beyond the capacity of any intelligent woman. Why should we enter into all these far-reaching dissertations and discussions as to the capacity of the sexes when you are dealing with so simple a matter? I agree with the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Hobhouse) that the argument from experience of the War is very often overstated, but it may at any rate be legitimately used to this extent, that the War has shown that there is an enormous number of things which before were supposed specially to appertain to men and which women can do almost as well as, or even sometimes better than, men. That argument is a quite legitimate one, but I hardly like to use it. It carries you so much beyond the point that is at all necessary, because who can really soberly maintain that any woman, however weakly or however foolish, is unequal to the very simple mental and physical task which is involved in giving a vote?

The main part of the right hon. Baronet's speech was directed to the general effect of giving the vote upon the position of women and upon the part they play in life. He dwelt upon the effect on their health. My right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) dealt with their alleged pacifist tendencies, basing himself upon that amiable but singularly foolish lady who voted in the American Congress. So far as that argument goes, it is quite clear that there is no pacifist feeling among women in England, because they have gone in for making munitions of war, without the slightest scruple or hesitation, in enormous numbers.


Because they are well paid!


No one can have talked to women without feeling that they are at least as combative and belligerent as any men in the country.

As to the general question of capacity, whether women are fit for the vote and all the rest of it, and then again the talk about Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, and Catherine the Second, and the control of the Government of India, may I point out that the voters do not control the Government of India? They only choose between two candidates. They do not control the great bodies of Mahomedans. All these things are overstating the whole question. I quite agree that it would probably be very injudicious to send out a woman to govern a Mahomedan province in India, but it is an extravagance to say that women are not to have the vote because women could not govern a Mahomedan province in India. But that main question, I am persuaded, which lies behind these arguments, or sometimes in front of them, is the effect on the general relation of the sexes and on the general position of the man in life. I am most strongly convinced that both the extreme advocates of suffrage and the extreme opponents see their side of the question absolutely in a distorted light. I might apply to them a distinction which seems to be very useful in politics—I might call them either the pinks or the whites, according to whether they get red in the face or pale when they discuss the matter. The pink and pale suffragists and anti-suffragists believe that the effect in one case would be very good and in the other case would be very bad if you give women the vote—that is the general effect on the character of women.

I sometimes imagine that you might have two very interesting and amusing romances written from the opposite points of view, illustrating these strongly-held opinions as to the extreme manner in which the character of women will be transformed by voting. The first romance, which will be written by an extreme suffragist, might be called ''Saved by the Vote: A Tale of Lawless Love." It will be the traditional story of love and suicide, and the author's mind will skilfully work up how the female will be saved by the franchise; and while the villain is pressing his suit, a chance phrase of the lady will remind him perhaps that there is a Parliamentary vacancy involving a by-election in the neighbourhood and that she is a voter. In a moment he will feel ashamed of what he is doing, and the fear of the vote will restrain even his licentiousness, and rushing from the house he will concede to civic duty what he had denied to constancy and to chastity. Then you might have the other romance written by an extreme anti-suffragist, entitled "How Mother Voted," or "The Ruined Home." There you would have a graceful picture of the happy and contented home before the franchise was given. Then the franchise would come and the mother at home would begin—the story, it is presumed, would be told by a child—to be disturbed exceedingly. She would litter the simple parlour with editions of the evening paper and drive her husband to the public-house by reading out extracts from the leading articles. As the day grew nearer for voting she would become more and more strange and excited; she would rush from public meeting to public meeting, and she would secure in alcoholic stimulants the support necessary to bear the wear and tear upon her nervous system caused by the responsibility of having to give a vote, and she is so profoundly affected by the terrible strain that she becomes an inebriate for life. But she would be able to give an absent vote under the provisions of this Bill, whatever the nervous crisis in her mind, whenever a General Election came round.

I am firmly convinced that this extreme view, the view that the whole character and attitude of women are going to be modified considerably by the vote, is profoundly untrue. Good women and bad women will remain just as they are. To suppose that the fundamentals of life are to be affected by some trivial circumstance, as it is in comparison, of giving a Parliamentary vote is to read the whole of human nature wrongly from the beginning to the end. Let us look at it from what, I venture to submit, is the reasonable and businesslike point of view, the aspect of how far the vote will make for the legitimate interests of women and their legitimate claims on public attention. Here, again, I think it reasonable, without pressing the argument—I largely sympathise with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the effect of the War—from the experience of the War too far, to point out in support of the case for women's suffrage that the War has brought into existence great classes of women who, after the War, will have interests affected by legislation independently of their husbands or fathers or other male relations. There have been other classes, and very important classes, of women, even before the War, who were in that sense independent citizens, who were not merely affected through some man; but after the War there will be great numbers of work women who will have a real interest in the industrial and economic policy of the country which they are entitled, not in the right of their sex, which has nothing to do with it, but in right of their interest as being citizens of the country, to have properly represented in Parliament. And while the individual voter has very little authority, and the person considered as an individual can exercise very little influence, classes of voters have, of course, very considerable influence, and classes of work women will undoubtedly have very great influence and very legitimate influence in getting their industrial and economic interests defended.

If you do not give women suffrage, then in Parliamentary discussions in the future on industrial and other questions, with which great bodies of women are concerned, every Member of Parliament would be subject to the bias, which operates sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously on the mind of a Member of Parliament, that if he treats badly the female workers who are not his constituents he will not suffer, while if he treats the men badly, or they think he treats them badly, he will suffer a great deal. We want to have the ordinary security given to women engaged in industrial work—the ordinary security that the vote gives, that they shall not be neglected or oppressed by Parliament. Surely that is a reasonable argument. It has nothing really to do with their sex. It has only to do with their occupation and position in life. The vote will only give them influence in this respect. It will not produce any of the fantastic effects that are imagined, but will give them that legitimate political influence that is necessary. I am convinced from that point of view that women's suffrage is a reasonable act of justice. I am convinced that it is an act of policy, because it will satisfy them and remove a very formidable body of discontent. I am convinced that it can have no possible harm. I am encouraged by the simplicity and ease with which the municipal vote has been used by women without any evil effects. Viewing the whole subject together, it seems to me that to give women suffrage—I do not know how many are going to be enfranchised; I will not go into that question now; it will arise later on—is to adopt a conservative measure which is likely to allay discontent, to promote justice, and to maintain the efficiency of representative institutions in Parliament.


We have listened to the very interesting speech of the Noble Lord, which is one of the most delightfully humorous and delightfully illogical speeches with which he has ever favoured us. When I heard him say that to give the vote to women was a very trivial matter, that it really made no difference and that to a certain extent it would be perfectly useless, but that it was a pity to deny it, I confess that my mind went back to the years of organisation and of agitation which have gone on among women to obtain this very limited and trivial privilege. It is quite true that the Noble Lord, having established that curious proposition, went on to say that the reason why women should have votes was that many subjects of interest to them would come up for decision after the War and that they should have some voice in deciding them. I do not see that the War has made any difference to the industrial position or the industrial claims of women or to those conditions which under a male electorate have been for many years consistently and greatly improved, no doubt perhaps at the suggestion and with the help and advice of women, but always done by a male electorate. I do not see what great difference the War is going to make to women in that respect. Having said so much in answer to the Noble Lord, I desire to refer in my remarks on this occasion mainly to the position of this question in connection with the War and in connection with what is needed from a new electorate. But I may be permitted to make one or two preliminary observations upon the principle of woman suffrage, all the more because I do not suppose that there will be many other opportunities of discussing that principle in this House. And I ask on my own behalf and on behalf of those who agree with me that those who think otherwise should credit us with the same strength of conviction and sincerity of purpose and high sense of public duty that we freely and without stint or qualification attribute to them. We on this side of the question are charged with many things. I put aside the unreasoning and exacerbated charges with which we are all familiar in the more violent forms of partisan publication and declamation. And, dismissing those, there still remain two fixed ideas in the minds of women claiming the vote, the irritating nature of which, industriously exploited as it has been for a long time, has, I believe, been responsible for a very large adhesion to their cause: First, that we are inspired by a sort of sex-jealousy of women interfering in what men consider their own legitimate domain in relation to the government of the country. I have always thought that charge too trivial and too unworthy to require refutation. If it does need an answer, that answer will be found in the great number of capable and intelligent women in all classes who are themselves the strongest opponents of woman suffrage. Those who have met these women in council, as I myself have done only once or twice in my life, or who have examined the list of their names with such personal knowledge as most people have or can easily obtain, must have been struck by this significant fact, that their leaders, the most active and prominent among them, are women of independent mind, and not by their character or special circumstances at all likely to have their opinions formed for them by men. There is another charge, that we men base ourselves in this matter, instinctively and whether we say so or not, on a sense of sex-superiority, fundamental and natural. My answer to that can be brief but emphatic: that I believe all men know and recognise and I pity the man whose experience has not led him to do so—on what an infinitely higher and purer and nobler plane the influence of woman over man rests than the influence of man over woman. If I feel like this, what is my reason for opposing the inclusion of woman in the Parliamentary franchise? I make no claim to originality in saying that it is twofold or in defining its two parts. I do not believe it would be in the interest of the State, of the strength and stability of this country and nation, in relation to other countries and nations—a, relationship which surely this great War must make now and in the future the supreme consideration to all people who love their country. And I do not believe it would be in the interests of women themselves in relation to the human family—a relationship which, as I have already said, has always had the highest place in man's regard, and which stands now', without the vote, higher than it ever stood before.

May I say a word on this last point first? I do not join with those who say that the possession and exercise of the franchise will have a deteriorating effect on women themselves; that it will take them away from their home duties and occupy their minds with subjects and their time with forms of activity which in the end will have a hardening effect on their nature and character. That is a matter, I freely grant, for women themselves to judge. I only know that there are a great number of earnest, intelligent, and high-minded women in all classes in this country who have formed an opinion on this subject which I should be justified in taking as a support for my general views on woman suffrage. But I do not claim for men any-right to form such an opinion themselves, or, at any rate, to be guided by it in their decision on that matter. What I do claim is the right to form, to hold, and to express an opinion upon the effect on men, on man's mental attitude towards woman—I might say man's spiritual attitude towards woman—of making this great and drastic change in the latter's position in relation to men.

It would require an abler student of what I may call inter-sex philosophy, and a far more gifted exponent than myself, to do justice to the postulate that woman's influence over man for good is enormously increased by the eternal inequality that nature has ordained between the two sexes. I can only put it in the simplest language, that woman's weakness is her real strength. It is because woman is weaker than man in respects which have always appealed to man, and which still appeal to man when action has to be taken, when the law of force has to be applied, that woman's moral influence over man, her formative, educative, guiding influence over man, is infinitely greater. I claim that in that matter Nature—the nature of man as well as of woman—has given woman a full compensation in moral influence for what it has taken from her in physical strength. But when you destroy this fine balance of nature, which indeed is always imperceptibly weighing down the scales in favour of woman, when you give her the same physical right in the government of the country as man, when you arm her with the same weapons and say that she is to fight for herself independently of, and, if she likes, against man, then you bring her down to the level of man, and you impair the very foundations of that moral and spiritual influence she has exercised over man to man's unspeakable benefit. Therefore, whatever effect this great change may have on the character of woman—a matter I leave entirely to women themselves—I have the right to say that in my opinion you are doing a deep and irreparable injury to our sex, and that women cannot be excluded from the operation of that injury in that you are destroying the delicate equipoise which Nature herself has adjusted between the moral influence of woman and the physical strength of man.

I turn to my other main objection to woman suffrage, that it would not be in the interests of the State or of this country and nation, from the point of view of its international position. I base myself upon two premises which I think will be admitted by everyone. First, that if you make this great change it will be irreparable—you can never go back upon it. Secondly, that if you make the change to the measure proposed in this Bill it will lead inevitably and automatically to the expansion of that measure and to the admission of women to the franchise on the same terms as men as to age and other conditions. I do not think that proposition can be seriously questioned. I say that step will come automatically, and I add that it must come very quickly. It is actually proposed by more than one Amendment to this Clause. But, assuming that the Government stick to their limit— we really do not know what the Government are going to stick to in this Bill— it will come very soon afterwards. Do you suppose that the wonderful organisation which the Suffragists have at their disposal, the like of which we have never seen before in any political propaganda, with all its power of agitation all over the country, will suddenly be dropped, and that the whole question will calm down, and they will do nothing when they get this limited measure of woman suffrage? Not at all. The whole of its forces will be put into operation at once, and we shall have the same agitation again in favour of full extension of the suffrage to women, which will necessarily lead in a very short time to complete adult suffrage.

That brings me to the point that in a short time this country will be in the hands of a majority of 2,000,000 women voters. My Noble Friend (Lord H. Cecil) spoke of the triviality of the woman's vote, and what a simple thing it was to go to the poll and make a cross on the paper. It seemed, in his judgment, to end there. I ask him whether he thinks it really ends there. With all the great Indian Empire, with all the other great nations with whom we fire brought into contact all over the world, how will the position be when they know that the sovereign power of this country, which from time immemorial, ever since the nation was a nation, has been in the hands of men, has passed into the hands of women? Is that really a trivial matter? If we were really approaching the Millennium, in which there will be no more war, there would be no reason to argue the particular aspect of the question to which I am now addressing myself— namely, the strength and safety of this nation under such a system of government, with a great majority of women voters, in relation to other nations of the world.

6.0 P.M.

I do not believe there is any such prospect before us, or that we can safely rely on any such assumption. We are not approaching the Millennium. The spirit of nationality has received a tremendous impetus from this War. During the last three years it has become infinitely stronger than it ever was before. It will remain a fixed and potent force in the affairs of the world, and it is bound to be guarded by each nation against all sources of weakness, whether they spring from sentiment or temperament or other qualities which in other respects might well exercise an ameliorating and ennobling influence over mankind. What will be the sentiment or temperament—the mind—of women if we have to face another great war? You cannot get your answer to that question from the way women have behaved in this War, or from the brave and splendid spirit they have shown with regard to it, because woman had nothing to do with making the War. When the War was made man was the sovereign power. Do you not think the awful experiences through which the nation has passed, which have been more terrible to women than to men, and will be more lasting in women's memories, and will be handed on to their children of to-day, the women of tomorrow, will make a difference to the attitude of mind in which women will approach the question of another war? I am not doubting their patriotism, their loyalty and devotion to their country. I am only asking whether their attitude of mind will not be such as may imperil a decision upon which the safety of the country and the Empire, and the great causes embodied in the British Empire, may hang, and may be turned in the wrong direction. I come to the striking illustration on this matter which has been given by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir F. Banbury), and referred to by my Noble Friend—the case of the American woman representative. I would not repeat that if it were not for two reasons—first, because my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) I think gave an erroneous account of the incident; and secondly, because of a phrase which I was sorry to hear fall from the lips of the Noble Lord. When the great decision was taken in the American House of Representatives, a little over two months ago, Miss Rarskin— the first woman representative who has sat in that House—was called upon to vote. I was sorry to hear the Noble Lord describe her as an "exceedingly foolish woman." I have heard from her friends, who are well authorised to speak, that she is a woman of remarkable force of character, widely known and honuored in her own country, experienced in politics, and thoroughly qualified to represent her sex in the novel position in which she found herself in the House of Representatives. This is the true account of what happened: When the roll-call was finally taken, the House listened breathlessly. Each member answered in clear-cut tones, until the name of Miss Jeannette Rankin, the woman representative from Montana, was reached. After she had been called several times without making any response, Miss Rankin at last rose, and. in a trembling voice, said, I want to stand by my country, but I am a woman. I cannot vote for war. I vote "No."' The 'No' was scarcely audible. The pathos of the scene needs no comment. But its significance to the case I am putting is, I think, all the more unanswerable, because it must be remembered that women in America, women now living, have had no experience of war and have known none of the terrible sufferings which hundreds and thousands of English women have known and borne so bravely, and which they must carry in their minds to the end. It is my argument that that incident suggests, if it does not definitely show, what will happen when the question of a great war, entailing sufferings perhaps even greater than we have seen in this War, is submitted to an electorate in which there is a majority of 2,000,000 women.

I am quite aware that there are some Members in this House who will probably consider the argument I have submitted about war is the strongest argument in favour of woman suffrage, because they have been so consistently opposed to war at all costs that they would welcome that solution of the problem. I need not address myself to them, because I cannot argue with them.

But there may be many others who will say that my argument is founded on an assumption—the assumption that women would act in a certain way under certain circumstances, and that they do not believe they will act in that way but in a quite different way. To those hon. Members I want to put a more fundamental proposition, and one that certainly is not based on hypothesis. As long as war is possible; as long as it may be necessary for the safety and strength and honour of the nation; woman is not and never can be—it is an unalterable law of nature—a complete unit of responsibility in the national life. You cannot separate the life of the nation from the capacity to fight for it when it is attacked by other nations and the obligation to die for it on the field of battle. I submit you have no right to give woman the power of deciding when a complete measure of responsibility for carrying that decision into effect does not, and cannot, by the law of nature, reside in women.

I know that it has been said in this Debate and has been said over and over again in this House and most prominently by the right hon. Gentlemen the ex-Prime Minister and the present Prime Minister—that the work women have done in connection with this War constitutes a full answer to the argument just put forward. But it is the War that has brought out more strongly than anything else could the fundamental difference to which I have alluded between man and woman. And whatever women have done in this War—put it as high as you like, and no one living puts it higher than I do —those women have been produced: their character, their efficiency, their energy, their devotion and self-sacrifice and patriotism—aye, and the proud and splendid courage with which they have borne themselves under heart-breaking grief-all these things, all these noble characteristics have been formed in English women without their having the vote. Nothing could be better than what English women have grown to be without the vote. Are you certain what effect the vote will have upon them? The same argument applies to a male electorate, but with greater force, because it covers the demand of the immediate future in connection with the reconstruction of the Empire. Is it not better, is it not safer, for the purposes of the new Parliament and the great task it will have to undertake and the great problems it will have to solve, to restore the present electorate to its normal strength and efficiency—to enlarge it if you will on its existing lines—but to keep it in form and kind the same as it has been in the past; the same electorate that England has grown great under, has won her name for justice and freedom, has made her Empire, and come to her present position. Was that position ever greater than it is now? Ever morally greater? She has been the mother of liberty for her children, and for the nations of the world. She is now the apostle of liberty for the whole universe. And she has done all these things under a male electorate.

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Frederick Smith)

I do not rise with the object of taking up the time of with the object of taking up the time of the Committee for more than two or three moments, but some observations have been made in regard to a speech which I delivered in this House some years ago, and some misconception has arisen on the subject and also in reference to what I said the other night in Debate on proportional representation. I shall therefore ask the indulgence of the House for a brief moment to explain exactly the position I myself occupy and which in my belief other Friends of mine occupy in relation to the discussion of this matter. It is not true, speaking for myself, that I am a convert to this proposal. It is not true, speaking for myself, that I have modified the objections which I had previously and repeatedly expressed in this House on the question of votes for women. My right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) has been good enough to hand over to me a copy of the speech which I made in this House on a previous occasion, and which I had not read since that date. Re-reading it, as I have had an opportunity of doing, I can say that I agree with the conclusions at the end of that speech, though I no longer adopt, or should be prepared to use any of the arguments by which these conclusions were supported. Whatever else this War has shown, it undoubtedly has shown many of us that some at least of the arguments which we most strongly relied upon, are not arguments which can be supported in the light of our present experience. Anyone I think must concede that. I founded myself on the occasion of which I have spoken, as many of those who took part in the Debate in opposition to votes for women founded themselves, and as, indeed, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down founded himself, upon this distinction, that force in the last resort was the decisive element in every community, that the one sanction upon which majority rule depended was the power of that majority in the last resort to make its decisions effective, if necessary, by the adoption of coercive means. That is an argument which was used by many speakers, and was used and relied upon by myself, and it has been used and it has been relied upon by my hon. Friend who has just resumed his seat. I should greatly doubt whether there was anyone so inattentive to the lessons of the War as not at least to realise this, that great inroads have been made upon that argument. I do not say it has been completely destroyed and dissipated, but great inroads have been made upon it.

Directly contributory military services have been rendered by women in the course of the War. Many women have incurred risks comparable to the risks which have been incurred by men, and we must not omit to notice that in this War we are not merely using selected gladiators to represent their countries, but that whole peoples are engaged both as aggressors and as the subjects of attack, and that the position of women in this City of ours, where an air raid may take place tomorrow, requires from them the same combatant qualities and constancy and courage as are required from every section of the population. I still am averse to the concession of votes to women, but many of the old arguments no longer seem to me to have the old force. It may be asked; ''How do you find yourself in the position of being still, as you tell us, opposed to votes for women, and yet are able to give support to this Bill, including all the recommendations of the Conference?" That is a very reasonable question, and it is one upon which it is proper I should give a very candid answer to the House. I may be right, or I may be wrong in attempting to guide my own course through the difficulties of the position in which the recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Conference involve me and, I suppose, involve almost every individual Member of this House. There is none of us can have failed to be embarrassed in determining his own personal course in the light of those recommendations. Unionists, lifelong political friends of my own, object profoundly to many of the recommendations unanimously come to by that Conference, many, with whose views I am acquainted, who are members of the Liberal Party, object just as strongly to others, and I have no doubt there are members of the Labour Party who also object just as strongly to still others. What is to be the position of every individual? There are two courses, and two courses only to be adopted. Every Member of this House has two alternatives, and, in my judgment, there is no third. You can either oppose all the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference root and branch, and devote all your Parliamentary influence and power to destroy them or you can make up your mind that you shall support them in their entirety.

I know of no other course. Indeed, if any Member is prepared to take the responsibility of saying, "I will set myself, if it is in my power, to destroy the recommendations in toto of the Speaker's Conference," I will invite him to do what I, amongst others, had to do in the last eighteen months. As a member of the late Government, and as a member of the present Government, it has been our duty to apply our minds with the object of making practical suggestions in the immense difficulties with which we are confronted to-day in the attempt to bring our Parliamentary representation in contact with the changed conditions of the War. The late Government strove not once, but repeatedly, to arrive at a solution. It will still be within the memory of the House how the then Home Secretary came down to the House with the authority of the then Government and invited the House to form a Committee which might by suggestion and by collective responsibility relieve the House of some of the burden of responsibility. The House of Commons was not at that time prepared to receive that suggestion, and the proposal was dismissed. From that moment the complexities of dealing with this question grew, and the solution which had been suggested by the then Home Secretary and rejected was afterwards in another form adopted. It was adopted by the appointment of a Commission over which Mr. Speaker presided, and the Commission has arrived at an unanimous conclusion which I should imagine surprised even the most optimistic amongst those who watched its formation and considered the progress of its deliberations. If that fails I, at least, having spent many hours in consultation with more experienced people in considering these things, know of no other way by which the objects which I think everybody in the House must have before them can be attained. That Commission included members of the greatest experience of public affairs—old and respected members who were the mouthpieces—the admitted mouthpieces, I think—of every section of political thought in this House. After giving the best attention, and after lavishing their industry and their time upon their inquiries they made certain recommendations. I think all those recommendations were unanimous.


This was not.


I had not completed the sentence. All the recommendations except this one and this recommendation was adopted by a majority in favour of the concession of the votes to women. I applied my mind in going through the process through which nearly every hon. Member I am sure has gone through, as to my own responsibility in relation to the recommendation of this Commission. The conclusion I reached was this: there was so much that was essential to the vital interests of the country in their recommendations, and there was so much which I saw no other method whatever of attaining under existing circumstances that I came to the conclusion, although I objected strongly to many of those recommendations, it was on the whole worth while and justified to one's conscience to support the whole of those recommendations in the consideration that above all that if one obtained a settlement one secured some degree of leisure for the House of Commons to devote itself to the problems which will arise after the War, when the War is ended, instead of spending long and fruitless years in controversy over the stale disputes of the last twenty or thirty years. Under these circumstances I decided, and it seems to me I was right, that the fact that the Commission had only rcommended in favour of the concession of votes to women by a majority was not a circumstance which ought to distinguish that finding from their other findings. It was the fact that the majority of the members who sat on that Commission did reach that conclusion. I made up my mind, as I know other Members of the House did, that the, would abandon their opposition to the concession of the franchise to women if the recommendations of the Commission were accepted in their entirety by the House of Commons. I am not sure that I should have arrived at that conclusion except upon the severely practical basis that I thought, whether the conclusion b' right or wrong, whether I continue to oppose it or not the women may get the vote. I make no secret of that. I may be quite right or quite wrong, but if I am right it affords some practical justification for the course I have adopted. There is much in this settlement which I greatly desire, and if the condition of getting that settlement is that I am to abandon my opposition to that which I very much dislike but which I cannot successfully continue to oppose, then, confronted with the dilemma of that character, a man of business cannot hesitate, and under those circumstances I decided I should support the recommendations as a whole, as 1 stated some days ago.

A very serious thing has happened since I stated that conclusion. A recommendation of this Commission, not the recommendation of the majority, but a unanimous recommendation of all the members of the Commission, having the same title to support from this House which every other recommendation of that Commission has, and the whole Report has no other, because there is no other single recommendation in that Report, which would appeal to the House of Commons on the whole, has been rejected. The only argument upon which these recommendations entirely depend is that they were the united representations of the body to whom Parliament committed the task of making recommendations. That was a part of the settlement which many of us regarded as vital and which I tell the Committee very frankly, was one of the most powerful considerations which operated upon my mind in the decision winch I arrived at. Confronted with that dilemma, how is one to deal with the intermediate stages of the Bill? I will tell the Committee the course I propose to adopt. There is still an opportunity for the House of Commons, when it may be hoped there will be a more representative Division, and when the House of Commons, thinking of all that is involved in the decision and as to whether or not they will ever be able to pilot this Bill into harbour at all, if they once stray from the line of the authority of the unanimous recommendations, and when the question of proportional representation will again be presented to the House it may be that the House will take a different view. For my own part, I very much hope that the House will take a different view. If it does it will still be possible to attain what I believe to be the only road of safety for this Bill, and to carry it by the only sanction on which it depends. If that course is adopted I shall certainly accept it as a whole, and, much as I dislike this and other proposals, I shall give it all the loyal support of which I am capable. In that hope, at this stage I shall support this proposal. I shall reserve to myself, as I know many hon. Friends of mine have done, if the Bill as a whole breaks down the most complete liberty of action, at a later stage on woman suffrage.


The Attorney-General has spoken because of the reference which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) to the speech which the Attorney-General made on the question of women suffrage some years ago. Now that the Committee has heard the Attorney-General's very frank and interesting declaration, I am sure we are all very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having brought it about. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City put his finger at once upon one of the principal considerations -which we have to weigh and analyse in coming to a conclusion upon this question. He said that in 1911 or 1912 the House of Commons decided against women's suffrage, and here we are in 1917 and it looks very much as if we were going to decide in its favour by a large majority, and what is the reason of that? That, I think, is a question which we all of us do well to consider for a few moments. What is the reason that there is this change, because, be the change great or small, there is a palpable change in the view on this subject? There is one false reason given for it, and I would like to deal with that false reason before I state what I believe to be the true reason. The false reason is one which was analysed and ridiculed by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Bristol (Mr. Hobhouse), who seconded the rejection. He said why cannot people come forward and argue that women, have done magnificent work during the War and that therefore they must be rewarded with the vote. I have heard that parody, and a very insulting parody, of the real argument put forward, but I have never heard it put forward by a supporter of woman's suffrage. It is not an argument which any woman suffragist would desire to put forward; it is not a true argument at all. We all feel deeply the splendid part that women have played in this time of national emergency, but if there is a thing even more striking than the extent of their contribution it is this, that it is a contribution which women have given without thought of the consequences to themselves, and we are really grossly insulting the real character of the argument now presented in 1917 as justifying change of view if anyone were to suppose that it proceeds on this line that women have rendered splendid service and the vote is due reward for their service. I am sure we all desire to have the argument put on a different ground from that.

There is an argument, and to my mind a very strong argument, which may be deduced from the facts as we know them now in this time of war as compared with the facts as we knew them, or thought they might be, in 1911 or 1912. If I may presume to pick from among the arguments of anti-suffragists the argument which has always seemed to me in times past to hold the most weight and was the one that it was most necessary for a supporter of women suffrage to deal with, and overthrow if he could, was the argument that in the last resort the due security for law and order depends upon force. More particularly if women are, as in many communities, more numerous than men, there was the argument, so it was said, against conferring the vote upon women, because that was possibly conferring the vote on a very influential portion of the total votes, upon a part of the community that could not contribute towards the very necessary support of law and order. All of us, I think, who in times past have paid attention to the arguments used by anti-suffragists have felt the force of that argument, and have felt that it was an argument that needed to be dealt with and overcome. That argument used to go on further in this way: If you would take what is the supreme test of the permanency and solidity of the State and imagine that your community was in the throes of war, then you will find, even more than in the days of peace, that women, owing to physical weakness and the like, are not able to make that contribution to their country in times of war, with all its violence and strife, which makes their claim for a vote comparable to the claim of men. I confess quite frankly that if I had to take the arguments which in times of peace I have feared most, that would be one, and it is one which has been impressed upon me time and again, and has been very powerfully put in this House by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General and my lion. Friend behind me in a speech which many of us remember. When we say that the facts of the War have very greatly modified public opinion on this subject of women's suffrage, what we mean is that that argument of the anti-suffragist, in view of those facts, has suffered a very serious overthrow. That is what we mean. Nobody to-day can say that the fact of sex has resulted in the women not being able to make a contribution as great, involving as much sacrifice, and producing as much support to the State even as the sacrifices made by men—


No, no!


Even as the sacrifice made by the men! Yes, and for this reason: why is it that everybody's calculation as to the extent to which one of the communities engaged in the War could hold out has been falsified? Those who made these calculations never allowed enough for the extent to which women were able to maintain and support the State in order that the War might go on. I say nothing about the obvious and practical contribution made by mothers and wives—that is a matter which is better left to be thought of than spoken. But the contribution which women have made to support and maintain the working of the State during all these years is a contribution as necessary to the carrying on of the War as the actual contribution of the men at the front. That, to my mind, is a large fact relevant to the issue, and one which does justify the suffragists in urging that the change in public opinion is well based upon observed facts which have arisen since the War broke out.

There is a second reason. If we did not now concede the claim of women to the vote it appears to me that we are in danger of inflicting an injury upon women which is greater exactly in proportion to the way in which women have succeeded in helping the State at this time. Women have shown themselves capable of taking part in industry necessary to the carrying on of the War. If they had really been as unimportant in their contribution as some people thought they would be, then I do not know that much additional harm would be done if at the end of the War they found themselves still without votes. The injury would be a grave one, but it would be a continuation of the old injury. But the fact that women have been able to make this contribution has resulted in this, that unless before the War ends women get some measure of franchise the very fact that they have taken this active part in maintaining the State in time of war is going to do an injury after the War is over. You have got now tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of women who are working in industry who were not so doing before the War began. You have 1,000,000 of them, I think, according to the estimates of the Board of Trade, actually taking the places of men while the men are away. You have another 2,000,000 of them who, although they are not actually taking the places of men, are none the less contributing immensely to some industrial or military effort. The moment that we endeavour to return to the conditions of peace the question will at once arise, What is to be the position of these women in contrast with, or side by side with, the men whose places they have temporarily filled, or the other men who will be their competitors? That will be a question of the most immediate and pressing urgency, the solution of which cannot be delayed, but which must be discovered promptly. Observe, it is a question which is critical and of importance just in proportion as the women have assisted in this time of crisis. That is the real reson why the argument from the experience of the War is so strongly reinforcing the whole case for women's suffrage. On the one hand, we have discovered, in the light of our experience, that women are essential elements in the structure of the State for the immediate purposes of the War. On the other hand, we realise that when we return to the way of peace it is equally impossible to restore or to recreate the industrial and social state unless we make provision for meeting and reconciling women's with men's labour in all sorts of directions which were not before exploited.

May I just develop that by pointing out' these further considerations? Here are two obvious facts about the industry of this country. On the one hand, whatever may be said as to the necessity of the War or the economy with which it has been conducted, all war creates an immense void which has to be filled up by the effort of industry when the War is over. There never has been such an immense void, such an enormous hole, created which must be filled up by industry as has been created by this tremendous War. Therefore the moment the War is over the whole thought and energy of the community has got to be addressed towards filling up this enormous gap. That is one thing. The other fact is that having to do that as an additional piece of industrial work, the industrial army, by means of which it has to be done, will, on the one hand, have lost immense numbers of those who would otherwise have been working as men, and, on the other hand, have gained immense numbers of women who have learnt the ways of industry. Consequently, the moment the War is over the industrial problem is going to be, in a greater degree than before, an immediate problem. Here comes in the point made by the Noble Lord the Member for the University of Oxford, in a speech which was to my mind not less convincing than his argument, and immensely amusing in its methods—a point so well made—to the effect that Members of Parliament may claim, and, I think, on the whole rightly claim, to guide themselves by a sincere view of high public policy. I do not share the newspaper view that merely because a man becomes a Member of Parliament, therefore in every vote he gives and in every choice he makes he is making some wretched calculation as to how it is going to affect him. I do not believe there is any community in the world where more constantly and obviously people deliberately take a line which they know is going to incur some inconvenience to themselves. But whilst that is true, while a man is really conscious that he is under that influence, it is not true in the much com- moner case, that a Member of Parliament, in a time of stress—many times every year —whilst persuading himself as honestly as possible that the vote he is giving is in fact based upon a sound reason, is less conscious that there lies at the back of his action, at any rate, a certain spring or influence of conduct which may in reality be the opinions of his constituents. He believes that he is acting from pure logic when he is, in fact, very much influenced—and I do not think altogether wrongly influenced — by considering, "What are my constituents thinking?"

If we are going at the end of the War to have to solve facts, tendencies, and contradictions which are bound to arise in industry, you cannot expect justice to be done to that part of the industrial army which consists of women if you provide every Member of Parliament with an exclusively male electorate. It is asking of human nature something that human nature cannot possibly provide. To my mind these are the two real arguments which even in the midst of this War it is right that we should recognise. There is this great change in public opinion, and we should make due provision in this Bill for the representation of women in the Parliament which will come after us. Here let me point out—and it is the only other observation I wish to make—for I do not wish to argue the abstract merits of the case—the fact of this change of opinion cannot possibly be gainsaid. We know examples of it in this House of Commons. We know distinguished Members of the House on one side or the other who have avowed it openly, and we know many other examples which, we believe, will be proved to those who study the Division lists to-night. But the change which has taken place in the House of Commons is in itself only the reflection of the change which has taken place throughout the country. If you examine the great newspapers of the country, with hardly an exception, you see indications of the change. There is no subject on which, undoubtedly, there have been so many conversions, whether willing or unwilling, whether grudgingly or whether accompanied by all the new-found enthusiasm of the proselyte. There is no subject on which so many conversions have been announced in the course of recent history.

I should very much like to know, if we are to consider the trend of public opinion, and to quote the judgment of individuals or names which carry weight, whether there is any individual in this country whose name can be quoted at this time, man or woman, of real standing and authority, who can say: "Before the War I was a pronounced supporter of women's suffrage, and now, after the War has come about, I have changed my mind?" I do not believe such a case can be produced. A very considerable swing of public opinion is indicated by that! There has never been mentioned any corresponding changes the other way. I venture to say that we are not doing wrong in taking the responsibility of this matter—and it is a great responsibility— at the end of this Parliament. After all, when it is queried that we should do these things at the end of a Parliament, may I remind my hon. Friend of the course of reasoning of which he and others are fond? When we propose an extension of the franchise they tell us: really when you come to revise the list of voters you ought to have one vote and one value, and a system of redistribution. I do not quarrel with them, but how can you possibly have a system of redistribution except at the end of a Parliament? It never has been done at any other time. I should have thought it was almost impossible to do it at any other time, and therefore, if you are ever going to have a comprehensive measure of franchise reform at all, it is bound to be carried not very long before the election will take place upon that new election scheme, because the very carrying of such a scheme involves this, that we recognise that the existing machinery requires to be much repaired. Therefore it is no use saying that we are at the end of a Parliament, and the question cannot be dealt with now, because these questions are almost necessarily dealt with in those circumstances.

In the next place, some complaint is made because this matter is not dealt with by way of referendum. I do not wish for a moment to suggest that those who urge a referendum on this subject are doing it simply for the purpose of postponing it. Not at all. But they must recognise that if they had their way they would postpone it. The whole justification for proposing a measure of this sort in time of war is that it cannot wait, because the next House of Commons ought to contain representatives who speak for constituents, some of whom are women. Therefore, if this analysis is anything like sound it only goes to show that this is a matter which we have got to deal with in time of war, serious as it is; which we have got to deal with at the end of this Parliament, serious as that is; and which we have got to deal with without these elaborate methods of testing further public opinion, because, whatever be the object of those methods, they essentially involve the postponement beyond the time when it is necessary to have this change.


Am I to understand an election is going to take place immediately afterwards?


That is not for me to say. But if the argument is put forward that this is late in the life of Parliament, I say it is; nevertheless, it is necessary to do this in order that the new Parliament may be constituted on a wider franchise. Further. I do not myself believe that the argument is at all conclusive, or indeed at all powerful, which suggests there is some body of women who are content to leave things as they are. Let me assume that in a given class of voters some are content to leave things as they are, and some are not. You do not, by pointing to that fact, justify your refusal to deal with the grievance of those who are not willing to leave things as they are. The argument involved in this criticism is as old as the hills, and was refuted long ago by Mr. Gladstone. "It is no use telling me," he said, "that there is a great body of agricultural labourers who do not want the vote. It is no use telling me that if you polled the agricultural labourers, some would say they did not care whether they had the vote or not. If it is in the real interests of a community that you should get a means of expression, and cultivate the expression, of the opinion of a section of the community, it is not an argument against it that you can produce some people who are content with things as they are," It is a complete falsification of the real principle of representative government to say that the only persons whose opinion should ever be asked, the only persons whose representations should ever be focussed, are those who show themselves resigned to things as they are.

The argument for women's suffrage is that you find a very large body of women who feel most keenly on this subject. Ought you not to satisfy, as far as you can, the claim which they make? Certainly you ought to satisfy it, unless it can be shown that to satisfy their claim is to do an injury to the whole body politic. That argument is one which has been advanced time and again in women's suffrage Debates in the past before the War, and it has prevailed much more than I think it is likely to prevail to-night. If the true position now is that public opinion has made this great change, then I invite members of the Committee when we vote to-night to follow the example of the Attorney-General and take their courage in both hands about this. After all, the Attorney-General very frankly said that if he is going to have some women constituents, it is just as well to vote in advance that the women should have the vote. I am sorry my right hon. Friend is not here, but I understood him to hint that that was a consideration which might prevail with some of the less philosophic Members of this House. Whatever the reasons may be, women's suffrage, as we believe, is bound to come, and I am very glad to have the opportunity to-night of a straight vote on that issue.


My right hon. Friend who has just sat down is the most courteous opponent, and he made a genial reference to myself which I thoroughly reciprocate with regard to him. My right hon. Friend and the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University are strange yoke-fellows in this respect: they arrive at the same conclusion from premises which, I think, are as the poles asunder. They have both this in common, however. I think neither of them ever speaks upon any subject but he illuminates it. My right hon. Friend illuminates the subject with a gentle, lambent, all-pervasive light which casts no shadows. The Noble Lord equally illuminates the subject with a dazzling, flashing, coruscating light which throws many dancing shadows. I listened to him to-day not only with interest, but with pleasure, because, although I often think him wrong and often think him right, yet, even when I think him wrong, I find that he no less illuminates the subject, and suggests new arguments, new points of view, and new thought for those who differ from him. I must make one remark about His speech. I tremble to think what would have been the consequences if he had made a speech, couched in the tone in which his speech was couched, in opposition to women's suffrage. What a cry of horror there would have been at this frivolity, this flippant treatment of a great subject! I was almost tempted to think the Noble Lord was a crusted old Tory who was opposed to women s suffrage, and who would have liked to have made a speech against women's suffrage, such as we were accustomed to in the old days—a flippant and cynical speech in opposition to women's suffrage; but, finding it was no longer possible to make a speech of that kind, he made a speech in support of it. I hope to apply later some of the points which were suggested to me by his speech as being capable of being used in the contrary sense to which he used them. But I would only mention one in passing. He referred to the vote as a trivial circumstance—a thing of no note. I am sure that is not the attitude of my right hon. Friend. I think that this argument can be turned directly against the Noble Lord. If the whole thing is a mere trivial circumstance, why is it he is giving such vehement opposition to this measure for extending the vote to men? After all, it ought to be equally trivial whether a man marks a cross on the ballot paper or a woman does so. If it is trivial in the one case it is trivial in the other. I hope my right hon. Friend and I hope all my hon. Friends in the House will recognise that it is just because I believe this question of the vote in the destinies of our country and our Empire to be a matter of deep and vital importance, that I am not able to fob it off, however much one may be tempted to it by some of the arguments which were submitted to the House by the Attorney-General. But one must give expression to the faith that is in one, what one's sincere belief is in regard to the welfare of the community, the commonwealth and the State.

There is one other speech to which I should like to make more detailed reference, and that is the speech of the Attorney-General. I find his position somewhat difficult to understand—I will not say to sympathise with, because I do not sympathise with it, but I find it difficult to understand, which is quite a different matter. I understood him to say that he was still as unrepentant an opponent of women's suffrage as ever he has been before, but that he was supporting it on this occasion because he found himself in this dilemma, that he was confronted with the Report of the Speaker's Conference, and he must either accept all its recommendations, or reject them all. I suggest that there is another course, a via media, which I am surprised did not suggest itself to him, since he claims to approach these political questions from the standpoint of a man of business. Why should he not support those recommendations of the Speaker's Conference which were unanimous and leave the others to look after themselves? Surely the whole essence and meaning of the Speaker's Conference are contained in those recommendations which were unanimous. Just let me recall the circumstances of the calling together of that Conference. It arose out of the failure of the House to discover any policy with regard to those matters of electoral reform which would avoid serious and acute controversy.

7.0 P.M.

I think it was in August last that the President of the Local Government Board, in a discussion in which we failed to come to any agreement, stated that he would make this proposal in the hope that it might result in "an agreed system." On the invitation of the Prime Minister, the Speaker convened a Conference representing all parties and views. The whole value of the deliberations of that Conference depended upon the extent to which it was able to find an agreed system. I lay emphasis on the words "an agreed system." The Conference has succeeded in finding an agreed system to an extent which no one would ever have anticipated beforehand, and that agreed system is contained in its unanimous recommendations. As to the other matters, in regard to which the Conference was unable to come to any agreement, and in regard to which it is stated it was only able to come to its conclusions by a majority—we are not given any information as to what the nature of the majority was—I think we are entitled to say that there is no agreed proposal and no compromise, and therefore it is wrong, either as a matter of fact or as a matter of fairness, to advocate and support women's suffrage as part of an agreement or compromise arrived at by the Speaker's Conference.

I speak as I have spoken before, as one who has been, and still remains, an opponent of women's suffrage, and nothing has occurred to make me change the views which I have previously held and expressed in this House. I know that some very distinguished Friends of mine have changed their views, and those of us in the Liberal party who remain opposed to women's suffrage find ourselves in a somewhat forlorn position. We have lost our Leader. I am glad to have the support of my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Simon) in saying that our Leader left us with a very bad argument, one which he had denounced and one which he would not have listened to on any account, which he thought was insulting and degrading to the women in whose favour it was used.


That is not my reading: of what my hon. Friend said at all.


Then my right hon. Friend on which I understood the late Prime Minister acted, and his reason for changing his views was on account of the magnificent work done by women during the War. That seems to me to be the very argument which my right hon. Friend denounced, namely, that the vote should be given to women as a reward for the magnificent work which they had done in the War was insulting to women.




Then my right hon. Friend agrees that it is insulting, and he must be with me when I state that the late Prime Minister changed his view on the strength of an argument which he regarded as insulting to women.


I do not want to involve anybody else. I draw a distinction between these two arguments—one that, women have bought the vote by the services; they have given, and the other the fact that women can render such services shows that they are capable of being responsible citizens of the State.


It justifies their claim.


That is the argument which is put forward, and which has undoubtedly influenced many people. It is that the women have done war work on account of which they ought to receive the vote. That argument has affected a good many people in this House. I want to submit that that argument is one which is insulting to women. Is it the case that before this War women were neglecting their fair share of national work? On the contrary, they were doing work in every sphere as important and as vitally important to the State as any work which was being done by men. The work which they have been doing during the War is also of vital importance, but no more vitally important to the State than the work which they have always been doing, and which I believe under any circumstances, suffrage or no suffrage, they will continue to do. This argument is not only insulting to women, but it is also disingenuous and dishonest. We are told that on account of the magnificent work these girls and young women have been doing in munition factories and other spheres, on the land and elsewhere, that the suffrage ought to be given to women, and when the proposal comes to take concrete form it is not to these women who have done the work that the suffrage is to be given, but it is only to those who are over thirty years of age. That is not merely insulting, but disingenuous and dishonest.

My opposition to women's suffrage has never been based on any belief that women were doing work which was less important to the State than men's work. I have always held the contrary view. I have always believed that the work which the married woman was doing at home by her domestic labour which set the man free for industrial work outside, by the rearing up of children to be good citizens, quite apart from other work women were doing in the industrial sphere, was of the most vital importance to the State, and one of the strongest pillars upon which the security and well-being of the State was based. Therefore my opposition was not based upon any idea of that kind, nor was my opposition based on any lingering belief in the intellectual or moral inferiority of women as a class, nor upon any belief that they were less capable of forming a sound political judgment than men. Such views I regard as relics of the dark ages, when witches were burned, in fact, I think these views are chiefly held by the advocates of women's suffrage. It is they who on account of some fancied inferiority are afraid to trust women with the vote on the same terms as men. Why should the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil) be opposed to women standing for Parliament and being elected members of this House? I am an opponent of women's suffrage, but I never have had any objection to women being elected Members of Parliament, provided that they are elected by male electors.


Then why should not they vote?


I will explain that later on. If a woman from the point of view of political judgment is not inferior to a man, I do not understand why any of my hon. Friends should stop short of giving them the right to be elected to this House. What is the basis of my own opposition to this Bill? It is a very simple one, based upon a very definite and clear conception of what is tine basis of government. It is based upon the idea that the ultimate basis of political power and of stable government in a democracy is that the same hands that hold the balance of political power should hold the balance of physical force, without which there can be no stable government. To go into this question thoroughly, and to analyse the ground on which these views are held, would involve far too deep and speculative a research than would be proper on an occasion such as this. At this stage I can only state what my conception is in its broadest outline, and if it is not self-evident, I am afraid there is no more to be said. Like any other practical politician, I am bound to recognise that the time has come when one has got to accept the decision of this House, and I ask no more than to have this matter discussed, and to have a definite decision and an opportunity to express my views by a vote. I have on a previous occasion summarised my views in. a number of simple direct propositions, and, with the permission of the Committee, I will repeat them. In the first place, I would put forward the proposition that there can be no stable form of government which does not secure that the balance of physical force is in the same hands as the balance of political power. In the second place, I would submit that the unit of physical force is the individual male citizen. In these days of conscription the average male citizen is a soldier, and I think I have heard the Noble Lord (Lord H. Cecil) say before that you must take things in the rough and you cannot go into a meticulous definition with regard to particular individuals. If you count heads among men, you do secure a rough—a very rough—but an approximate index of the balance of political power in the country. You can tell whether the Government of the day, elected on such a franchise, provided it is broad and democratic enough, has behind it and in support of it the balance of physical force, and whether it is capable in the last resort of enforcing its policy, not merely upon enemies without, but upon recalcitrant minorities who may be tempted to defeat the will of the majority by the exercise of physical force. Lastly, I would lead up to this proposition: while from the ballot-box you can get some approximate index of the balance of physical force, you can get no index whatever of the moral value of the decision. The ballot-box will tell you how many people are in favour of any policy and how many people are against it, but it will not tell you which is the right policy and which is the just policy. Justice and right and moral power do not declare themselves through the ballot-box. Their sway is in quite a different orbit. It is in the minds and souls of men and women, and I firmly believe it to be supreme over everything. This work is done and finished before a single vote is east in the ballot-box. Therefore, when you count the heads of women as well as the heads of men you destroy the ballot box as an index of physical force in the country, a very important thing in these troublesome days, and you add nothing to do it as an index of the moral value of the policy which is adopted.

These are the grounds which have influenced me in the decision to which I have come. How are they affected by the War? Not at all. If they are affected at all, they are strengthened rather than diminished. I have given expression to these views before, and the then Foreign Secretary, Viscount Grey, in speaking in this House, made a humorous reference to them and challenged me if these be my views to come out in the Division Lobby and settle the matter by physical force. I have no doubt that he would have had the advantage of me, but within two years his was the hand which touched the lever which plunged this country into the greatest contest of physical force in which it has ever been involved and which I have just submitted must, in the ultimate resort, be the basis of government and of State. There are some also who have said that these ideas are ideas from the Dark Ages; that they are ideas of Prussianism, and are ideas from which we have long advanced in a civilised State. We do not settle things by physical force now. We settle them by moral force, by moral suasion. We do not go to war. We have peaceful arguments in committees, in Parliaments, or in the Chancellories of Europe. Are there any who hold these views now? Has not the veil been rent asunder and the naked raw foundations of society, of State, and of government been revealed? He that hath eyes to see, let him see. If the proposition on which I have based my opposition be not a self-evident one, I am afraid that no argument in detail which I could put forward would make it more evident.

My right hon. and learned Friend (Sir J. Simon) referred to Prussianism. I promised to say a word about democracy. I oppose this proposal because I believe that in the end, in the long run—and when we are dealing with these ultimate considerations we must take a long view—it will be fatal to democracy to destroy the stable balance on which alone democracy can be based. The advocates of women's suffrage, my right hon. and learned Friend among them, as he revealed by using the word "Prussianism," believe themselves to be the true democrats and the true friends of democracy. I claim to be just as much a democrat. Let us examine the matter a little further. If the suffrage is to be granted to women, on what terms is it to be granted? As a democrat, I say that if the suffrage is granted it ought to be granted on the same terms as to men. If the principle is once accepted, everything that I can do will be done to secure that women get the vote on the broadest possible scale, that they get it in a democratic fashion, and that they get it in a manner which will not be a drag upon the wheel of democracy and on the democratic vote which is extended to men. The franchise which this Bill gives to men is the most democratic that has ever been granted in this country. It is a franchise based upon the principle of residence. The vote which is to be given to women is based on a much less democratic principle, the principle of occupation, a principle which I submit is in itself dangerous as being narrower and as being capable of considerable gerrymandering.

There is another restriction. It is proposed only to give it to women who have reached the age of thirty, to women whose views have become fixed and hardened, and who have lost the zeal, the enthusiasm. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] What would be said if we proposed to give the vote only to men of thirty years of age? What effect would it have upon democracy? Would it not rob democracy of a large portion of that zeal, that energy, that driving power, and that enthusiasm which is the very soul of democracy? If it were done, it would sterilise democracy. While we are giving the vote to men on a democratic basis, what are we doing with regard to women? We are bringing in another element which will counteract it and which, if it will not sterilise, will at least neutralise what we are doing in this Bill. Who then are the true friends of democracy? I think my hon. and right hon. Friends love women's suffrage more than they love democracy. Who is to judge between us? I would ask the House to repeat the judgment of Solomon. Who loves democracy most? Those who, in order to obtain women's suffrage, are willing to sacrifice democracy, or those who, if the principle of women's suffrage is accepted, insist that it shall be granted in a democratic manner?


It is pretty evident from the course the Debate has taken that this matter has already been fought and won. Some hon. Members are prepared, like gallant gentlemen, to go down with flags flying; others, like more cautious business men, without changing their opinions, have declared that they have changed their side. I think the House ought to be quite certain that it is doing the right thing, and that a mere majority decision is not an affair either of a passing emotion, which we will regret a little later on, or a matter of expediency, in view of the fact that at the next election we shall probably have women voters. Therefore, I listened with a good deal of pleasure and interest to the speech, for instance, of the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Burdett-Coutts). My hon. Friend's speech was an echo from very far distant times. It brought me back to a somewhat mid-Victorian frame of mind. His conception of the relation between man and woman is a relation in which the woman is inferior to the man in everything except moral character and moral inspiration. Surely there never was a time at any period in history when that was less true than it is at the present time. He admitted that the relations between man and woman have recently very much improved. I would venture to suggest to him that improvement upon the fanciful, mythical, and romantic relationship in which woman is morally superior but in everything else inferior, has been steadily going on until to-day there is far more equality between men and women in the economic, in the social, and in the intellectual field than there has ever been before.


I did not say or represent that the sole superiority of woman was moral. I did not touch upon the question whether they might have other aspects of superiority, spiritual and otherwise. I put the moral influence of woman against the physical strength of man, and that is as far as I went in defining the two.


If I have misrepresented my hon. Friend, I am exceedingly sorry, but certainly the impression which he made on me—and I believe on other members of the Committee—was that he said that any attempt to put women on anything like terms of equality with men, as far as politics are concerned, would result in destroying that special moral and spiritual position of superiority which women enjoy. My reply to that is that I doubt very much if ever anything of the kind existed. Every time the relations between men and women have improved there has been some marked advance in the independence of thought and freedom of life that woman herself has enjoyed. As a matter of fact, if these relationships are to be really worth anything at all, there must be some bond of respect between the two, and there can be no such thing as a really effective respect between one who is conscious of his own superiority and who regards the other as something over which he must exercise the right of protection. That has all gone. The State would be tremendously benefited by men and women being more companions than dependants. It would be immensely benefited by the two classes contributing freely to common problems their different experiences. We are not in favour of woman suffrage because men have the same interests as women, or because men have the same points of view as women. We are in favour of woman suffrage because there is an impassable gulf fixed between the two sexes so far as experience is concerned, and because, in an industrial and well-developed State, those two experiences must be mingled together in legislation and administration if the State is to be adequately looked after by whatever Legislature may be elected to look after it. I take my stand upon inequality rather than equality, and say that the pressing need for woman's enfranchisement now is that inequality rather than any idea of equality. At the same time, the free woman, the woman who is to be consulted, the woman who expresses her own opinion, the woman who carries out her own destiny, that is the sort of person who, in companionship with man, is going to solve, or try to solve most effectively, the problems that we shall have to face after the War is over.

My hon. Friend (Mr. Burdett-Coutts) still regards this problem as one of the novels with which the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) favours us so much. His argument is like the romance of the Noble Lord. Nor was he any more effective in his argument when he dealt with the practical consequences. He referred, for instance, to India, and he assumed that the granting of woman franchise in this country would somehow or other weaken the influence of this Parliament with the Government of India. That is a profound mistake. Anyone who knows the details of Indian life knows that the Indian woman, both as a heroine and an active pressing force on the mind of the Indian man, occupies a tremendously important position. The gallery of Indian heroes is full of Indian girls, and whoever knows the details of modern Indian life knows perfectly well that, whatever may be the views held by certain people in this country, the Zenana has quite as much influence as the market place on Indian public life to-day. Moreover, the fact that we had a Queen once has rather endeared this country to India than the opposite. If you go about discussing historical politics with Indian students you find every one of them goes back with a big sense of affection for our Sovereign authority because once upon a time that Sovereign authority was embodied in the person of a woman. So far from woman suffrage doing anything to weaken the respect which Indians, both Hindus and Mahomedans, have for this country I believe it will enormously increase that respect. That is the great problem we have to solve in regard to India. It is not a question of force, not a question of holding down, but how we are to increase the respect which the Indian has for ourselves if India is going to remain as a happy, contented, and progressive part of our Empire.

Nor was my hon. Friend any more fortunate when he dealt with the War. I am not going to deal with that question and mix up how far there is justification for granting woman suffrage on account of our experiences during the War. But I do say that when hon. Members introduce; talk about force they are still in the frame of mind their ancestors were in when they fought the battle of Waterloo. What do you mean by force nowadays? It is not the force of army pitted against army, apart from the State. The force which the nations of Europe are using at the present moment is the force of organised social resistance. You have not an army over in Flanders apart from yourselves, fighting a German army apart from the population of Berlin. That is the mediaeval form of militarism. That system of national offence and defence is as dead as Queen Anne. Since it was last exercised in an oppressive form by the Germans in the Franco-German War, a change has taken place in the military organisation of the nations which makes the use of force in the way hon. Members have used it this afternoon in this Debate altogether antiquated and misleading. When my hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Mr. MacCallum Scott) referred to the organisation of physical power that is going on just now, he gave an absolutely bankrupt description of what the War is. What is happening to-day is that the whole of the nations of Europe engaged in this War—men, women, and children; factory, workshop, and Army— are organised in one complete unity of social resistance, to defend themselves both by offence and ordinary defence. When my hon. Friend talks about the force that is being exercised in Flanders now, what is that force? The force of shells made by women in British factories hundreds of miles away from the scene of battle. When he talks about force which is used to bring victory, what does he mean? The force of public opinion, the power of the public, united as a whole and feeling its unity, to go through all sacrifices, to face all dangers, and to accept common burdens, not until the Army prevails, but until the national will prevails, either by political or by military means. If we are going to talk, as my hon. Friend did, in a somewhat philosophical way about the relations between democracy and force, for goodness sake let us talk about a democracy of 1917 and a force of 1917! If you are to relate the two things together, you must relate them up to date, otherwise your conclusions are apt to be as wrong as my hon. Friend's conclusions were this afternoon.

Nor was my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. Burdett-Coutts) any more happy in his reference to Miss Rankin and her attitude in Congress. However our views on that may differ, I am sure he will agree that he forgot who Miss Rankin was. Miss Rankin's attitude, to which he takes so much objection, was not the attitude of a woman voter, it was the attitude of a woman representative in a House of Commons. As the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University pointed out, the two things are totally different. It was not that Miss Rankin went and put a cross opposite a name that was standing for the House of Representatives in Washington, but it was that she herself, elected to the House of Representatives in Washington and fulfilling the functions of a representative at Washington, did certain things to which he objects. All that this Bill does is to put women in the position of voters. My hon. Friend was confused in his argument that woman as a mere voter would have no share in the act of making or unmaking of war, and that man, once having made a war, would be followed in a most adequate way by the women outside.


I did not say that. What I said was that woman has had no word in the making of this War, that when this War was brought about man was the sovereign power, and that I thought woman, by reason of her suffering, probably would have a different attitude of mind in deciding upon the making of war in the future.


We are on the verge of a somewhat troublesome controversy.


I did not begin it.


And I am the last man at the present moment to engage in it. I know that perfectly well. All I want to say is that the distinction is a real distinction, that the case which my hon. Friend made out is a case against allowing women to come into this House and vote for or against the making of war, and that in actual political experience a woman who is purely a voter and a woman who, say, voted in 1910 would practically have said nothing whatever as to whether there was to be a war or not at the beginning of 1914. The position is practically the same, because my hon. Friend makes it his case against bringing women into this House and not a case against allowing women to vote for or against men coming into this House. Apart from that, there is this practical consideration, which this Committee ought to take into account. The Noble Lord said, and I consent quite freely, that all that this Bill proposes to do is to give woman the power to put a cross against the candidate's name. It is a very small thing in itself, but it is going to have a considerable influence upon women and upon the State. Let us see what is happening now. You are not taking' woman from a state of idyllic innocence so far as politics are concerned and saying to her, "My dear innocent lady, you have never devoted five minutes of your life or attention to politics You know nothing whatever about Liberalism or Conservatism or Labour or Socialism. You have done nothing whatever except darn stockings, mend clothes, and dress yourself to look pretty. Suddenly, because a war has happened, your House of Commons has changed its mind. We are going to alter your world by a wave of a magician's wand and give you the vote."

That is the situation that is assumed by those who are opposing this Bill. What has happened? The hon. Gentleman below me has never said a word against the Primrose League, the hon. and learned Gentleman above the Gangway has never said a word against the Women's Liberal Federation, and I have never said a word against the Women's Labour League. What does that mean? Have we been cheating the women all the time? Have we been asking them to join those associations under the impression that we were protecting them all the time against the evil of political interests? Of course not. As a matter of fact, they read the newspapers as members of those associations, or if they do not they ought to be ashamed of themselves, because in that case they are not entitled to be members of those associations. They discuss political issues, and they are supposed to know something about them. A member of the Primrose League is supposed to give as good a reason as the hon. Gentleman below me could give for belonging to the Conservative party. So it is with the Liberal and with the Labour women. That has all happened before you give them the vote.

Women have been encouraged to come to a political judgment in. precisely the same way in which my hon. Friends have come to the same political Judgment. That is not all. When my hon. Friends stand for an election they never say, "Oh, no, my dear friend, I desire you to keep in that relation with me which will enable me to see your spiritual superiority to my poor, humble, inferior self, and therefore when I am fighting with the wild beasts during my contests on platform after platform, you must stay at home, because it would soil your soul and your garments at the same time." That is not what they have said. They have gone to women on their bare knees. They have said, "As you value your King and country and the political principles for which we stand, come out and help us; whether the weather is wet or cold, or sunny or warm, go into the streets. You will find people who are against us, and you must be able from your own intelligence to show those people who are against us that they are wrong, and you must convince them that they should vote for us and not for our opponents." What does that mean? It surely means again that whatever they say here to-day they know perfectly well that women have been encouraged by them —even more than encouraged, urged by them—to take part fully not in the pleasant, philosophical, fireside, or social aspects of politics, but in the very worst aspect, the aspect which a very honourable man often wishes he could be relieved of. "What is the use of coming and putting forward this artificial, glass-case specimen, which they label a woman, and saying, "Let us protect her against the evil which we have contributed very largely to make"? They go further. They ask her to go on the platform and to make speeches. That is done. It is encouraged by candidates and candidates' agents, and what is the use of insulting a woman by asking her to make a political speech on a political platform if you tell her she is not fit to come to political judgments and to take part in political affairs? It is insulting to do it. You have either to do the one or the other. I say that if a woman stands on my platform and advocates my case before my election, or in connection with any party to which I belong, I expect that she will understand what she is talking about and will deliver an intelligent speech to impress her views on an intelligent elector. It does not stop even there. When the day of the election comes these women who are not qualified to vote are fully qualified to take men up to a polling station and tell them how they should vote. The woman is exercising all the functions of an election, its pleasantness, its evils, its goodness, its badness; she is exercising them all right up to the door of the polling place, but for some mysterious and inexplicable reason she cannot cross that threshold, but can put scores of men across it to vote as she wishes. What does it all amount to?


Moral influence.


You cannot use moral influence in a degrading way and still call it moral influence. I say that a woman goes through all those processes, does all that work, and then on the day of the election goes and takes men to the very threshold of the place where the only thing that is going to happn inside is that a cross is going to be put on the paper. There is nothing else. A man does not discuss politics with the returning officer. A man has gone through all the political processes which end in crossing the ballot paper; a woman helps all the time and goes through all the things he goes through but leaves him at the door, while the only act he does alone is to put this crows on the ballot paper. Let us face the facts. Where does the difference and the moral evil come in? Where does any evil come in in asking them to cross the threshhold and in addition to all those processes to put a cross against the name of the candidate of their own choice? That is all it amounts to. I, therefore, associate myself very heartily with what the Noble Lord said when he tried to get the House back to a proper proportion as to what this Bill means. The only difference it makes is that it gives the woman the opportunity to put a cross on a. ballot paper.

I am going to vote for that for one very simple reason, if for no other. Woman has now the power and has no responsibility. Woman would look at all this from a totally different angle if she herself were appealed to as an elector and not merely as an irresponsible friend of the candidate. If you get a constituency composed of men and women the mind of the candidate and of the member will insensibly be changed. It must change, otherwise there is nothing at all in representation. We do our best to represent them. We do not always succeed, but we do our best; and if we have to face the minds of women, the experiences of women, the desires of women, if we have to remember in conducting our political campaign that women's interests have to be appealed to so that they may have a real influence on the decisions of this House, then you will have a different quality in your representation from what you have at the present day. I have always voted for women's suffrage mainly for that reason, namely, that it will give them that responsibility, and that responsibility, without altering the power they have now, will change the character of the representation so that those who come into this House by women's as well as men's votes will do something to represent the State in its fulness and not on one side of its interests.


I only want to say a very few words, because I do not feel that there is time, now that this urgent decision is upon us, to go into all the arguments that have been advanced on previous occasions. I cannot, however, bring myself to give a silent vote after for many years having taken a part in those discussions. I cannot follow the Attorney-General. I cannot follow him in his arguments or into the Lobby into which he proposes to go, because it has been my experience that having honestly expressed a view the women who wish for the vote have respected that view and have left me alone. Those who have varied their views have had a considerable amount of trouble. I hold that view to the very end. If this change is going to come about, then in my belief those who change their views to order at the last moment will not be respected by the electorate of the future, even if that electorate contains the women. We know perfectly well that we have often in the course of our political history had to face those who have been enfranchised, and that the newly enfranchised have universally in the past recognised that it is British politics to fight to the end and then to accept the decision of the majority, and to try to work the new law which is brought in by the decision of the majority. That is our method, and I take it we are not going to alter our method. Those of us who have opposed women's suffrage, and who intend to-night, or to-morrow night, whichever it may be, to give a vote against it will not, of course, carry on our opposition after the decision has been taken. If it is carried against us, we have then loyally to try to make the system work. I go further. I think also that we have to take up the attitude that we hope that our own fears are wrong. In the interests of our nation, since this House has made the decision, let us hope in all goodness that the fears which we still feel and which we have the duty of legitimately expressing are wrong.

8.0 P.M.

I have this feeling, and very strongly, that this House has no right to take this decision at the present time. It is idle to talk of this change as though it were similar to any of the other changes introduced in this Bill. Those changes are more or less what you have already had. This is a vital change in kind. It is a. question of principle. It has been recognised by those who have spoken this, evening that if you once make this change other changes will follow upon it. This-is the single vital change. The others will be questions of more or less. You will enfranchise more women. You may have the question before you of introducing women into this House. You have an endless vista of changes which may or may not follow on the decision taken by this House, and therefore my feeling is that we have to discuss this question on quite different grounds from those of the variation of the men's franchise which occupies the remainder of the Bill. This House notoriously has no mandate in this matter. If it has a mandate, then why did it twice decide against women-suffrage? Really it can have had no mandate and cannot have been conscious of a mandate before the War, but it now becomes conscious of a change in itself; that is to say, there is an impression—there is no precise evidence, but there is an impression—that has become apparent that there is a change in the views of the majority of the people in this country. I venture to think that the decision of this House ought to be taken, therefore, with a very great sense, of its gravity. If there were a mandate from the country, even if that mandate were three, four or five years old—I grant the argument that a Parliament elected to bring about a change in the franchise very often does not bring it about before it becomes old, but that it is recognised that it makes the change before it dies. I believe that has been the case with all the Reform Bills in the past; that it has been recognised that a Reform Bill was due and that it was not convenient to bring it in in an earlier Session of Parliament—this Parliament has no right to assume that in regard to women's suffrage. If this Parliament had a mandate it exercised that mandate in its former votes. It is, therefore, in a totally different position in regard to women's suffrage from what it is in regard to the remaining portions of the Bill. I cannot follow the Attorney-General for another reason. I do not see that this proposal is any portion of the unanimous compromise arrived at at the Speaker's Conference. I venture simply to take my ground on this. I voted, on the Second Reading, for this Bill, and I did so, expressly because it was announced from the Treasury Bench that on this issue, and also on that of proportional representation, the Government, at any rate, did not treat these questions as portions of the compromise arrived at. I regret that the House has not seen its way to refer this matter to a Referendum. I still hope that in the course of the translation from this House to another place it may be possible to arrange some reference to a higher power than Parliament. I venture to do so on democratic grounds. Surely, if those who are in favour of this believe in democracy, they would be willing to defer this question to the democracy. The late Home Secretary said there was not the time. He urged that the Referendum would take time. That argument will not bear a moment's examination. The constituencies to whom the Referendum would appeal are the constituencies set up in this Bill. You are going to take elections in future upon a single day. You can take a Referendum on a single day. The machinery was prepared. It would require simply the signing of the Proclamation by His Majesty, and the machinery would be set in action, in a few days. I think the whole process would take less than a month. A few days would have sufficed to obtain an answer, so that the answer from the Front Opposition Bench will not hold water for a moment. Behind this lies a far more important question. We are told that a certain number of women want the vote, and we are told that it is no argument to use that there are a certain number of women who do not want the vote. I think we ought to examine this matter. If they do not want votes it is because they believe sooner or later a fundamental difference will be produced in the position of all women, and those women, therefore, who do not want the vote do not want other women to have the vote, They fear the other women, in exercising their vote against men, in our single-member constituencies, may be the deciding party between too narrowly balanced parties, and will bring about changes in the whole status of women and men which others do not want to see. It is honestly believed by many women in the country who would not give the vote to women, they themselves not wanting it, that the position of those who do not want the vote will change gradually as the women's vote is exercised. Therefore, it is important, to my mind, that a large body of women do not want the vote. What we want to ascertain is whether they are the minority or the majority. If they are the majority, it is idle to say that every great reform has been introduced by minorities. Some women who want the vote are said to be rather leading the van. They are the bold people, the people of imagination, the rest trailing behind. But those who are trailing behind are not doing so out of a sluggish imagination, but recognise the whole contemplated change, and they wish to fight by not obtaining the vote. That is the position. I for one would be perfectly content to recognise the decision so taken.

My chief ground for opposing women's suffrage is that I believe a fair body of women, for careful and deep reasons, do not wish to have the vote. If I felt that still more—the great majority of—women wanted the vote, my position would be different. Convince me of that, and I recognise that under present conditions the democratic decision would be final. But I feel that this House has no mandate, even from the men's electorate, to settle this question. So far as this House is concerned, it had a mandate, as it showed by its votes in the opposite direction; and if a majority of women do not wish for a vote, you are doing violation to the best views of the sex by forcing this vote upon them because the minority want it. Convince me that the majority of women want the vote. It must be for the men to have the final voice, but I believe the vast majority of men, whether soldiers or civilians, would attach immense weight to the women's view. Why do you shrink from it? The machinery is easy, it is all arranged. Those who call themselves democrats shrink from taking the decision and cutting the ground from under the feet of those who oppose them.


What machinery?


I refer to the machinery for taking the referendum, which we regret has not been put into action. The whole thing stands in the Order Paper in the names of six Members of the House, the whole machinery was drafted to be inserted in the Bill, and because Mr. Whitley, acting in perfect harmony with the orders of the House, decided that we could not under the forms of the House bring forward we were stopped in doing this. I only want to refer to one other matter because it seems to me very poor arguments have been used in connection with it. We had what was called the argument from force by the Member for Leicester (Mr. Macdonald) and the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon). They were both involved in the same fallacy that confuses persuasion and force. Supposing two men are fighting and a woman intervenes to stop them, the function of the woman by persuasion is something different to the two men who are seeking victory. Those who do not think the vote is a counter representing force should remember the position of the woman. To pursuade those who have physical force or the vote representing that force is a totally different thing from using the force or voting. We are told that we are doing a despicable thing when we ask women to exercise their persuasion in politics and yet refuse them the vote. All that is false because the vote costs nothing at all and is but a representation of force. What we do from our platforms and in every kind of way in connection with politics is to persuade those who have the power to use it in the way we want. What does it matter to almost any Member in this House if he has the vote or not? Every Member who gets into the House uses persuasion from his platform and seeks to influence the power and votes of a great constituency. He is doing the same thing as the women. He is seeking to influence the disposal of power. The hon. and learned Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) put to us the case of this War. He said that women in this War have given their support to those who are fighting the War. That is not the same as giving their force. It is totally different. I venture to say that women have done nothing new in this War that has not been done by women in the past wars. What we have to consider is the change in the method of fighting. There was no necessity in former times that women should make shells and fill shells, but the women who drove the plough and took charge of the garden when the peasants had gone to fight, those women, by supplying the food and strength to their men who had gone to fight, were doing the same thing under agricultural conditions as the women who have now gone to the factories. There is no absolute change in the relation of women's work. The relation of force to the vote does not apply when one nation is fighting another nation. It comes when you have a civil war within a nation—comes when the police control the mob. Who proposes at the present moment that the women should go and fight in the trenches? No one. You have not changed the fact that the men do the actual fighting to-day. The woman merely supplies the weapons with which the man has to fight, and the weapon, whether it is food for him to eat reared by her spade or her plough because he is absent, or whether it is a shell to be fired, bears precisely the same relation to his force. The test comes when you come to internal convulsion. The test comes when you come to a situation such as that of the Civil War in North America. Let us never forget that probably the next greatest war which was ever fought in the world was the Civil War between North and South, in which perhaps, so far as the part of the North and the part of the South were concerned, you had conditions similar to the War in Europe to-day. But in the States, along the line of separation between North and South, you had neighbour against neighbour, and you had the physical force, and not the mere equipment of the physical force, used by the men citizens of each separate municipality and each separate parish in the region.

You are bound to take a long view of this question, for you can never reverse your decision to-day, and if you take a long view you cannot attach too great importance to the fact that you must not, in the broad and general sense separate the political sovereignty as shown by the exercise of the vote from the physical sovereignty as shown by the power to fight, because if you once get to the position that the minority has all the power you have got one of the most dangerous conditions you can possibly have, for which posterity will never thank you. You will have a position in which free institutions are thrown over because civil authority is based on votes which no longer represent real physical sovereignty. That is a dangerous position, and the right hon. Gentleman who spoke second in the Debate put a quite conceivable case, a case quite near enough to our times and to our conditions—whether it is going to occur or not is not the point at the moment—to render it not fantastic, not merely academic, and that was the situation which you might have if the trade unions of the country, or any considerable body of them, set themselves against the women attempting to exercise their influence through the vote in the process of the reconstruction of industrial conditions after the War. You can easily imagine a very serious position brought about in this way, not that a great body or the great mass of women voters would set themselves against the whole of the men's unions, but that these very people who have so successfully led by various methods this suffragist agitation should organise a certain number of women into bodies in most constituencies for the purpose of putting pressure upon candidates to give support to the women's claim. You might easily get a condition in which, in a large number of constituencies, those minorities of the women organised would be able to give a casting vote and to determine that there shall come to this House of Commons a body of, perhaps, 100 or 150 Members of Parliament, elected in constituencies where party feeling runs high, where the figures are close and the majority small, who will come here definitely to support, because they have been elected on the balance by them, the views taken by these small bodies of extreme exponents of women's rights in those 150 constituencies, and the great men's unions of the country might set themselves wholly against the decision which would then be forced upon Parliament. It is a quite possible condition of things. I hope it will not happen. I believe our people are sensible, and will try to prevent it happening. But at the same time we have no right, when we erect political machinery to trust that the people will work bad machinery by good sense. I know that has happened before. It has happened because, on the whole, our people try to be sensible, but, so far as political machinery is concerned, it is quite a possible position, and it is a position in which you ought not to place this nation.

If you took a Referendum on this question among the women there would be one of three results, either a great majority of women against it — and that ought to be a conclusive argument against it under the circumstances—or a great majority of women in favour of it; and then I believe you would have a great majority of men in favour of it, that would settle the question against those of us who are opposed to women's suffrage, or an indecisive vote on the part of the women, and then it would fall to the men to settle the question. What do you know at present of the view that is likely to be taken by the soldiers in the trenches? What possible ground have you for knowing what view they will take? What right have you to decide it in this House in their absence? I challenge those who are supporting women's suffrage, however much they may believe they are right, to consider the whole of these circumstances—the fact that this Parliament has no mandate, the fact that a democratic decision is asked for by the opponents of women suffrage, and the fact that the great body of men are at present absent whose opinion we have no possible means of knowing, and at present we in this House, the people in this country, and even the men at the front, are moved by sentiment. Our judgment in a moment like this, in this great crisis of the War, is a little bit disturbed. Let us have the calm of a decision taken after a careful preparation of a fortnight's or a month's discussion on this question, after the Bill has gone through, during the winter, when we have not got an active campaign, and let us have it taken in that way by the nation, and in a manner which will not be subject to the dangers to which this decision is subject.


To get the truly representative system of government in this country which I desire to see established it would be necessary to have adult suffrage, women enjoying votes on the same terms as men. I recently visited Australia and New Zealand, and in both those democratic communities they have adult suffrage. I discussed the question of the result of having given equal rights to women with men to vote in those great communities, and I do not think I met with one single citizen who did not say that the system had worked well. Those of them who had previously opposed the granting of the franchise to women, after the experience they had had of its working, became convinced that there was no longer any ground upon which to raise objection to women having a voice in the government of their country equally with men. This Bill has my support, even though it does not go as far as I should like, because at any rate it is a great step in the right direction. A Bill which will give to 6,000,000 women for the first time a right to have a voice in the making of the laws which they have to obey equally with men and a right to have a voice in the levying of taxation which they have to pay equally with men, is a great constitutional change, a great national act of justice, which I believe is the forerunner eventually of equal political rights for women with men. The right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) tried to make the Committee believe that the legislative measures passed by men had treated women justly and generously, and afforded them all the protection that they could possibly need. I wonder if he has forgotten that according to the law of this country to-day a man, no matter how much wealth he is possessed of, has the power to leave his widow and children penniless and to will away the whole of his property elsewhere t That is quite contrary to the law of France, where legally a reasonable provision for the family is compulsory. I do not wish to enter further into details as to the injustices and inequalities which by man-made legislation have for generations been inflicted upon women, because they are too well known. For how long a period did we deny women the right to practise as doctors in this country? What is the position of women to-day in regard to their right to practise as lawyers in this country? America has shown us that women can be most successful in the profession of solicitors. Go through America, and in every city you will find successful women solicitors. I contend that men have not done justice to women in the legislation they have passed in this country. They have not given women equal rights with men; very far from it. It is as a great measure of justice that I support this Bill embodying the whole of the proposals of the Speaker's Conference, even though I disagree with some of the points. I believe that this time of all other tunes, when we are in the midst of this great War, struggling to maintain the existence of our country and of our Empire, is a unique opportunity for men of all parties to meet together and come to largely agreed proposals to effect great electoral reforms such as those embodied in this Bill. If anyone had told us a few years ago that we should have a Bill of this revolutionary character brought forward as a practically agreed measure, supported by men of all parties, we should have thought it was a vain dream. But it seems to me that without any doubt this Bill will be passed, including this great proposal for the enfranchisement of women.

It has been said that it is an insult to women to say that they are to have the vote as a reward for self-sacrificing service and splendid assistance in this War. I have advocated all my political life equal rights for women with men—political, social, industrial, and otherwise. Some speakers have threatened us with the great danger that in the reconstruction after the War the men workers of the country and the women workers of the country will fall foul of each other, and will be antagonistic. I do not believe that that will happen. I believe we are going to see after the War such an economic reconstruction, such an adjustment between Capital and Labour as we have never seen before. I believe that with wisdom we shall have a more prosperous country as a whole, that we shall have a higher standard of living and comfort amongst the great masses of the people, and I believe that will be brought about not by men and women workers fighting each other politically to get certain industrial rights, one class over the heads of the other, but by co-operation between both men and women workers in order that they may have, not superiority over one another but equal rights and equal payment for the same work, which has not been true where we have had sweated industries. I support this Clause and this Bill believing that it is one of the greatest measures ever brought into this House to stimulate and promote a higher and better standard of life and living throughout the country.

Major Sir B. FALLE

I had not much to say on this Amendment, and the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Mackinder), has said practically all I wanted to say, and said it very much better than I could hope to do. We have had two speeches this afternoon, one by the present Attorney-General and the other by the ex-Attorney-General (Sir J. Simon). The two speeches are not comparable. I cannot say that the principal argument advanced by the present Attorney-General has any weight with me whatever. It is a curious argument for a "gallant soldier" and it would be a curious argument for a present-day "Business man," many of whom are doing their country's business and consulting their own at the front. The Attorney-General did not seem to follow the example which was set at Albuera when the wings of the British were turned and the centre was pierced. Even then the British soldier did not give in; he did not go back on his courage or his convictions. I have no absolutely fundamental objection to the woman's vote, and I should not adopt my present attitude if I thought that the electorate of this country had been given an opportunity of giving an opinion on the matter. It seems to me that those "who should be giving an opinion and who should be the real rulers of the country are not to be asked and are not to be consulted in any shape or form—I mean the men who are now in the field and fighting for us, without whose gallant efforts we might not even be here. Those men are not to be allowed to give, an opinion on this matter. This vast and enormous change, of which no man can foresee the end, is to be made without consulting the flower of our manhood, who ought to be the real rulers of this country. We are going over their heads. This is to be their reward for months after months service in the field. They are to come back and to find a changed Constitution and a changed England, in which perhaps their most cherished wishes have been put aside. They are to come back—let us hope they do come back—to practically a new country. The right hon. Baronet who moved the Amendment spoke about honour. This House has done many things in this last Parliament which, in my opinion, it should not have done. It has paid its own Members without any reference to the electorate. It has pledged itself to raise no controversial issues. If this is not a controversial issue, then I do not know one. It has also three times prolonged its own life, and will continue to prolong its life probably as long as the War lasts. The ex-Attorney-General said that when redistribution comes it must come at the end of the life of Par- liament. That we all know. Is this the end of this Parliament? Is this Parliament in a proper sense alive or is it, as the gentleman in the Police Court said, only lingering. Is it not in the position of a resuscitated corpse?

If you could make this House into an individual would the right hon. Gentleman accept its signature to a will, or would he say that the hand had been guided by somebody else? This House has no right and no business to pass a Bill of this sort at the present moment. No doubt if we are going to give women the vote, and to pass some of the other very controversial points in this Bill, it is wise not to give the men at the front the chance of giving their opinion. It was a brilliant French writer who said, "Si on veut dessécher un marais on ne fait pas voter les grenouilles." What will the men at the front say when they come back and see that that is what we are doing for them? It may be very clever. It may be very slim. But it is not right. The object seems to me under this Bill to give the vote to every possible voter who has not fought and who will not fight, to the conscientious objector and the naturalised alien, and those who, like women, cannot fight, and to exclude all those who have fought, who wish to fight, and who will fight. My hon. Friend the Member for one of the Divisions of Glasgow made a point as to what would be the attitude of the trade unions when these men return from the front and' find that their places are in a great many cases taken by women who have not the smallest intention of giving them up. Various things in the way of dilution have been promised, but suppose that the women at the end will not give up their places, and have the vote to insist upon keeping them, will not the same weak-kneed, jelly-fish backbone which gives them the vote, in the way that the Attorney-General says that it should be given, keep them in their places?

There was another point made by the seconder of this Motion in which he said that even if every woman were given a vote in this country, which would make them from one and a half to two millions more in number than the men voters, he was not afraid of a majority of the women overriding a majority of the men. I think that there he is bold, and he faced the problem, as it should be faced, but what he was afraid of, and what is undoubtedly the fact, is that the minority of men backed by the majority of women may very easily and undoubtedly in many cases override the majority of the men backed by the minority of the women. My whole point in the matter is that we are in this House are practically moribund. We have no mandate. We have twice thrown out the proposition of women suffrage. We have no right to give it in the present instance without consulting the electorate. There are some who think that if they do not vote for women suffrage in this House the woman voter will retaliate on them later on. I represent a very large constituency, and I believe that the woman, if she has the vote, will recognise honesty of purpose, and she will not be vindictive to the man who has stuck to the opinions which he expressed when he was elected, and who will continue to stick to them until a new decision of the electorate may allow him to change his vote. There are some who think that by giving women this vote they are ending trouble. That is a most fallacious argument. I believe that it is the beginning of trouble, and it is because I believe those things that I have great pleasure in voting for this Amendment.


I would not have intervened in this Debate except that I would feel in a somewhat anomalous position if some of us who have for many years been advocates of the enfranchisement of women were on this occasion to give a silent vote. I am, happily, not in the position of having to assume the white sheet of repentance or to discover arguments why I should cast a vote for an object in which I do not believe. I believe in, and have stood for, woman suffrage ever since I entered political life, and most of the reasons that led me and others to adopt that policy have become stronger and emphasised and more clearly silhouetted against the political sky than they were in peace time, and we have witnessed the striking change of the somewhat remarkable conversions which we see, both in this House and outside it. We haw slated, I am afraid with wearisome reiteration, the fact that millions of women are engaged in industries in this country, are interested in industrial work, are doing work similar to that of men in many branches, and have no power at present of having their views represented in after by what is the strongest constitutional means in this country, namely, a Parliamentary vote. We see that the War brings in its train undoubtedly an intensification and accretion of the work of women, though it has-by no means increased in such an enormous proportion as is commonly imagined. This has suddenly led many politicians and the public at large to realise the enormous influence of women in the industrial life of the country. We have reached the point, I think, at last in which many of us can say in the matter munc dimittis. Those who have fought most strenuously against granting the vote to women have long seen that the strongest argument which they possess, and the one which they produce with the greatest effect, namely, that in a state of war women would not count, and that men alone would be the deciding factor, has broken down and become a broken reed in their hands. The argument is that if you have compulsory service man alone is compelled and that woman takes no active part in warfare, and that therefore it is wrong that she should have a deciding voice in political matters.

Fallacious as that argument always was, based on the idea that war was a normal state, it has fortunately been proved to be utterly and entirely wrong in the greatest War the world has ever seen. Not only in this country, but throughout the belligerent countries of the world, women have made progress politically, and from the point of view of legislation in a remarkable way, even in what have been considered backward countries. In fact, the War has stimulated and enhanced the position of women right through the world. What is the reason for that? It is this, that this War has brought home one truth as it has brought home many others, and that is that nations are not divided into men and women; nations are citizens, and it is not sex difference but co-citizenship which creates the State. Without the assistance and the help and cooperation of the vast female population of citizens a country in a modern war would soon become helpless, and could not even conduct efficiently military; operations. That is not merely so in the sphere of the creation of munitions, although there the work of women has been sufficiently remarkable. It is still more so in the field of domestic economy. I would ask the Committee to reflect for a moment upon the great food campaign that has been inaugurated in this country. Who are the most able helpers on the question of economy of food? Two women. To whom have they addressed themselves? To the women of the country. Who is it who can save the country from starvation and practise economy as a whole? The women. It is not the men fighting at the Front to whom the hon. Member has referred or the men in this country who are the vital factors when it comes to a food economy campaign. It is the women in the household, who, by their use of food, will do so much to help us to win the War. The conservation of food has become practically as important as the production of munitions and fighting in trenches. To enlist in this one direction alone the active support of the women in order to conduct your War to a successful conclusion is a great thing.

Another new and striking fact which cannot be gainsaid and which appeals directly to the imagination is the effect which women have had upon men engaged in this War. But I would point out that in peace-time the effect of women on the comfort of man, and on the utilisation of the food of the nation, and in bringing up the child of the future is just as great, and continues as great from year to year as it does during the few spasmodic years in which a war is being waged. The nation which does not recognise the citizenship of its women and does not admit women to its councils freely is cutting itself off from one-half at least, if not from more than one-half, of the intelligent support of its citizenship. The only argument the hon. Member who last spoke produced was that it was not possible to consult the soldiers in the trenches as to whether women should be given the vote. To my amazement his assumption was that the soldiers would unanimously be against granting the vote to women. I cannot for the life of me understand on what hypothesis he bases that argument. Most soldiers in the trenches are working men, and my experience on the whole has been that working men as a body are undoubtedly in favour of giving votes to women. The Labour party is in favour of votes for women, and most of the agricultural constituencies have always recognised the justice and fairness of votes for women. I am sorry we cannot take a referendum of the men in the trenches, for I have not the slightest doubt they would gladly welcome this act of justice which is being done to the women whom they have left behind, and who are carrying on so grandly. Too much has been made of the new kind of sex division which is supposed to be created by the War between, the male and female workers. I am sceptical about that sex division. I do not believe myself that you will see such a catastrophe as the kind of contest which has been referred to in the labour market between the two sexes. Where women have came into work they have been ready to join the organised forces of labour, as they have always done in the textile and other industries in which women have been engaged for so many generations. They have accommodated themselves to the men, and the men have accommodated themselves to the women, and they have worked in splendid co-operation. And I think that after the War they will still be comrades, and that there will not be that contest which has been hinted at. That there should be such a contest is not a consummation to be wished for either in the interests of industry or in the interests of the nation.

There is another question which has not been touched upon. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London asked why we should now reverse a decision come to by this House some years ago. What, has happened since that should cause us to do so? Very much has happened, and one of the things which undoubtedly has happened is the progress to equal rights and to the vote made by women in the English-speaking world outside these islands. I think it is too little realised that in the British Empire, in the Commonwealth of Australia, in New Zealand, and now in the major portions of the Dominion of Canada they have female suffrage. Surely the country which likes to be described as being the most advanced, the Mother Country, should not allow itself to be in the position of being behind the other portions of the English-speaking part of the Empire in this matter? Surely it will not be argued that the women here are politically less experienced and politically less capable and would be less useful as citizens and as advisers and helpers than the women in the Dominions? It seems to me a most curious and preposterous idea that in the one country in which women have taken so large a part in the life of the nation for generations and in which they have taken a prominent part in political contests they should be without the vote. Then take the great Republic of America. Women's suffrage has swept from the West to the East, and if it has not swept the entire East, that is largely due to the fact that in that part of the country large portions of the population are not Anglo-Saxon, and womanhood has not been educated politically as has the Anglo-Saxon womanhood. I therefore say that we are very late in the day in giving the vote to women.

In not one single case in which the suffrage has been given to women has it been regretted, and in not one single instance has it been revoked. I do not know what further evidence is wanted. However many elections you may have, and we have had a great many, you will never have an election decided alone on this subject. Some of us have never hesitated to place our views on this question before the electors. No voter who voted for me had the slightest shadow of doubt as to how I would vote on this subject, and I conceive that that is the position of a great many, or of most hon. Members. Therefore, those who wish us to take a Referendum and to postpone action to some other occasion and our final decision on this question, seem to me to be merely utilising the old art of postponement, which the country does not expect from the House of Commons during this great War. The War has taught us the lesson, and surely taught us the necessity of more rapid decision and greater speeding up. This is one of the questions on which I am sure the country has made up its mind much longer than most members of the House of Commons.

One curious feature is that there is no opposition, and has been no opposition of a vocal kind of any substance throughout the length and breadth of the country. Is it conceivable if the country at large were vehemently opposed to this measure that none of us who are Members of Parliament, and none of us who are members of the Government, would have received one single representation on the subject? It would practically be impossible to get up one large meeting, and certainly not more than one, to protest against this suffrage being given. We may be told there is no great agitation in favour of the suffrage. That is true, but it would be very unfair to argue from that that there is no demand for it. The loyal way in which all those interested in the movement who fought for it have, since the beginning of the War, subordinated all their activities to the purpose of helping to win the War and have never endeavoured during these years to bring any kind of political or other pressure to bear to enable them to secure the vote, is, I think, a feature of great nobility which ought to be recognised. But it does not mean that either they or the thousands or millions of women who are working in the munition factories, on the land, and in the hospitals do not feel that a great injustice is done to them when they do not have the ordinary rights of citizens. The Minister of Education told me that only this morning he received a petition signed by no less than 3,900 women workers in munition factories in Sheffield, asking that he should vote in favour of the suffrage being granted to women. I have no doubt that those could have been got in any quantity, but that the women expect that they are going to get the vote and they cannot conceive that the monstrous injustice would be done of refusing it. They are asking for it as an act of justice long deferred. I cannot believe that this House, acting as it will desire to do according to the wishes of the country and the expression of its constituents, will refuse, even in the midst of this bloodshed and destruction, to pass the franchise for women and thus repair an injustice from which they suffer.

9.0 P.M.


What is manifest in this Debate is its apparent dullness. That is its most helpful characteristic for the fight is out of the whole struggle. It is absolutely clear that the fight is won. I see here an hon. Friend who from this bench a little while ago was gallantly trying to bring some energy into a dead cause. He sung his swan song, he struggled valiantly and faithfully, but he spoke as a man who knew that he was beaten. He has made his last speech against it, knowing that very shortly he will come and support what is generally accepted. So long as I have been in political life, I have believed in the principle of woman suffrage, but I do not agree with my hon. Friend that those who have recently come over to support women's suffrage are by so doing in reality casting a slur or insult upon women. What has happened during this War? The War has given the greatest opportunity they have yet had to women to show their capacity for citizenship. They have seized their opportunity and they have used it in such a way as to bring home to men as well as to women of what they are capable. What has happened is that many of those who formerly opposed this, have recognised the capacity which they had not previously seen. My hon. Friend based his opposition purely on physical force. I wish he would carry his argument to its logical conclusion, because if he did I can see no conclusion but that we should hand over the government of this country solely to soldiers. If that is a logical conclusion, no clergyman could vote and no doctor could vote and the hon. Member himself could not vote, because he himself is not a fighter. The hon. Member recognises the right of the indirect influence of women, but he denies their direct influence. I am always very much afraid of indirect influence. Indirect influence may have a great power without, as the hon. Member for Leicester said, carrying with it a due sense of responsibility. We have all hailed for years past the advent of women into politics. They have taken a most active and honourable part, and instead of asking them to take the lower part of asking others to vote, why should they not have themselves the power to record their votes in the interests of the country?

The right hon. Baronet who moved the Amendment has an absolute fear of the power of women. He seemed to fear that a necessary consequence of giving women the vote would be to give them the right to sit in this House. I, for one, have not the slightest objection. There are so many matters which we have to consider here which women could consider as well, or better than some men, that it seems to me there is no ground for any anxiety on that account. I could not help thinking, when I was listening to the right hon. Baronet, of what I heard some years ago when this question was not quite so prominent as now. A man who was getting on in life and who realised that this was coming said he was very glad that the time was approaching when he would have to shuffle off this mortal coil. He said he had found it hard enough to compete with men, but if he had to compete with women as well he would regard the task as absolutely hopeless. It seems to me that is abject fear of women, who ought to have the right to take their proper share with men in the government of this country. Consequently, I am heartily in support of their introduction. It has been said, I think by the right hon. Baronet, that doing this practically involves the destruction of the Constitution. Instead of that, it seems to me the very fulfilment of the law. I am one of those who have always guided my own political conduct by the old phrase, "The government of the people by the people." But we have not got that. We have never had it! We have only had the government of the people by the men. You want to carry it to its full and necessary conclusion—'' The government of all the people by all the people." I believe that only by bringing all in can the sense of the responsibility of citizenship be realised which will enable all to take their proper part. One hon. Member speaking— I think it was the right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Home Secretary—said, and rightly said, that there was a great change not only in this House, but also in the country. All of us who have had any opportunity of mixing up with our fellow men and women have realised that.

It has been my lot to speak at many munitions gatherings. A little while ago, at a great meeting in the Midlands, where there was present altogether between 2,000 and 3,000 men and women, the manager of the works, of his own accord, said to me, "Thorne, I have always been up against women's suffrage, but after what I have seen during this War, and the way in which the women have acted, I am for women's suffrage every time." That, to my mind, is characteristic of what has happened up and down the line. Instead of forcing public opinion we are following public opinion. If we fail to do this now and to have this great settlement we shall utterly fail to give the women the opportunity of doing what is needful for our country's welfare. I commenced in the way in which I shall end. Women have seized the opportunity during this War to serve their country. It is our duty to give them the opportunity to serve it still more after the War. If at any time in our history we needed the support of women we need it in the reconstruction period which will follow this War. Because I believe, not with frivolity, not with lightness, but realising, as any man can do, the serious responsibility which will be cast upon them, because I desire their hearty and enthusiastic co-operation after the War, I give my support most heartily in favour of the extension of the suffrage to women.

Colonel Sir C. SEELY

I think those who have opposed the Amendment and who are supporting this proposal for the inclusion of women's suffrage in this Bill have not quite appreciated the position in which they are placed. The speech to which we have just listened, I think, makes that feeling stronger than ever. The proposal is one, I think, quite unexampled. This Parliament, when it was fresh from its constituents, rejected this proposal. It is now, after a longer period, when it has exhausted not only the term which it fixed itself—five years—but the seven years' period which has existed now for some two hundred years and which has never really been broken—after all this, I say, it is suggested to us that we should reverse the decision which the Members of this House gave. It is suggested that we should take a decision which, in my view, is not according to the opinion of the country; that we should adopt a proposal which, in my opinion, will be extremely far-reaching and which, once taken, it will be quite impossible ever to reverse. We have heard no real argument sufficient to justify the proposal. The Noble Lord The Member for Oxford University gave us an interesting and an amusing speech, but it was only at the end of it that he gave us any argument. The only argument he gave us— and that was an entirely sound one—was that there was the necessity for women having the vote on account of the work they were doing and the obligations that would be laid upon Parliament to make arrangements as between them and the men in connection with their work. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the late Home Secretary gave us two arguments. The first argument was concerned with the work done by women during the War. I will say this for him, that he repudiated altogether the argument as to giving the vote to the women as a reward for their work. He spoke only as to the fact that the work they had done justified them in claiming the vote on the same basis as men.

Women during the War have done a very considerable amount of work. That work has been entirely civilian work. Many of us knew that when the men were gone the women would be able to do some of the work of the world. They have done other work—work which they have always done in time of war; work that is especially theirs, and work that has earned the gratitude of every man who has fought for them, of every man whose relations have fought for them. They have nursed back to health and strength with that courage and skill, that self-sacrifice and endurance which only the women have, the sick and wounded who have suffered in their cause. If there had been any general demand from the women who have worked for us during this War that they should be given the right, if you like it, and the power and responsibility which is attached to the suffrage, then I do not think there is one man from one end of the country to the other who would have opposed that demand. But that is not the case. No one has suggested—and the right hon. Gentleman himself acknowledged it—no one has suggested that there is any sort of general demand on the part of the women of this country that they should be put on an equality with men, and that they should have the right to the suffrage. It is quite true that there are a certain number who are, and always have been, anxious for the suffrage. The right hon. and learned Gentleman stated, with a certain amount of correctness, that the remainder of the women were, in his opinion, indifferent to the vote. I think he did not put it quite accurately.

There are two forms of indifference. There is the indifference of consent—that is to say, the indifference of those who think that the vote will be granted, and therefore think they need not trouble. There is the indifference of dislike. This means that those who have that indifference do not like the subject, and dismiss it from their minds, and I am not at all certain—and I am not at all sure the right hon. Gentleman is certain himself— as to which kind of indifference it is the women of this country feel with regard to this proposal. One thing we do know, that there are a very considerable number of women who dislike it very much, and their opinions are entitled to be considered. It. was said by the Noble Lord that that was a matter of no consequence; if they did not like the vote, they need not exercise it. That was an ungenerous statement, which I was sorry to hear the Noble Lord make. What they feel is that so long as they are in their present position they are represented by their fathers, their husbands and their brothers. Once they are given the vote, once they are put on an equality with men, then they are in this position: Either they must exercise that power, they must go into public life, and exert themselves as men do, or they will be faced with this difficulty, that. those of them who do come forward, those of them who do take part in public life, many of whom are not typical of the women of the country, will be supposed to speak for the women of the country, and therefore I do not think it is correct to say that women will be able, if they wish to do so, to avoid all responsibility by not exercising their rights, and not taking part in public life. In what you are doing to-day you are putting an obligation upon women to take that part, and I do say that it is very doubtful whether you should do that without first ascertaining accurately two facts—first, whether the women themselves wish for it; and, secondly, whether the men who are your constituents, who, when you have recently been in contact with them, rejected this measure, and whom you have not seen for some seven years, but you presume to assume have changed their minds, are anxious for this proposal?

There is one real, good, solid argument which has been adduced, and that argument has been adduced by one or two hon. Members, but it was put most clearly and most distinctly by the right hon. and learned Member, and it is this—that after the War you will have a large number of women who are engaged in work which before the War was done by men, that there will be difficulties and troubles, that there may be questions in which legislation and the power of this House comes in, and that these women are entitled to have the same power as the men of electing members to this House, and thereby having a voice in any settlement that is arrived at. That is a good and a solid argument, and it is a reason—and the only one that has been adduced to-night—for bringing this measure forward at the present time and not waiting for a later period. It is an argument, but I think the strength of it has been very much exaggerated. First of all, the numbers of the women concerned are, I feel certain, very much exaggerated. You have at the present time a very large number of women who are doing men's work. You have also a very large number of men who are doing women's work. When men go into the Army they make their own beds, they cook their own dinners, they clean their own rooms, and they do all the work which, when they are at home, is done for them by their wives, their mothers, and their sisters. They do not do these things as well, as I think they themselves will acknowledge, as those things were done for them when they were at home; and when the men come back a very large proportion of the women who are now doing the men's work will go back and do the work which they have done in the past, and which they do so much better than any of us.

Therefore, I do not think you will find that very large number of women or that many of the difficulties which are foreseen will really occur; and if they do, are you sure this is a wise proposal for them? They will always be in a minority. No one supposes there will be a majority of women doing men's work. Is it wise to suggest to them that they should trust to fighting power, to quarrelling with the men, to exercising their authority, to influencing Parliament? Is it not wiser for them to take the present position under which every man who has fought at the front, every man who knows what it is, when wounded and sick, to be nursed, will feel himself responsible as a man and as a voter to see that absolute justice is done to every woman in any question that arises in regard to her? Do you assume that all chivalry is dead in England, and are you sure that it is wiser for the women to trust to political power than to trust to the chivalry of the men? In the industry with which I am concerned we have a question sometimes with regard to women in which we differ from a good many people of the country. We men in the coal industry have determined that we will not have the women subjected to the work of the pit above or below ground. It is not once or twice only that we have been obliged to stand up against that proposal, and I am not at all sure that from that point of view I would not much sooner trust to the chivalry of men than let that chivalry be destroyed, and have these women voters, who would know nothing about that particular circumstance, coming and defending their sisters and the other women in that industry. I do most seriously speak to this House. I think, as I have said, that no case has really been made out which would justify a moribund Parliament in altering at the end of its time a decision which it quite deliberately adopted when it was fresh from the constituencies and knew what their opinions were. I also say to you that this is a question of the gravest import—grave not only from the point of view of any particular question which may arise, but grave from the point of view of the general government of the country. After all, this House, do what you will, and say what you will, is the ultimate authority in this country. I think we all know that of late years, although the legal power of the House has grown, the moral authority of this House has to a certain extent diminished. All those of us who have been long in political life are aware of that fact, and I think every one of us who has known political life of late years will realise what a very grave injury to the country that fact has been. We all know the troubles that have occurred during this War. I think many of us can feel that if there had been greater moral authority in this House the War would have gone on better. What will be tine effect of this proposal? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir C. Hobhouse) said, quite rightly, that you will never have an actual division direct between the women and the men, but you may easily have a large majority of women on the one side and men on the other side. These are cases which occur not very often, but when they occur they are of the greatest importance, in which the decision of this House is a decision which rests ultimately upon physical force. Ordinarily and in ordinary circumstances countries like ours decide matters by discussion and agreement, but every now and then there are quarrels upon differences of principles which can be decided only in one way, and that is by a definite decision.

Every country has its arrangement for this. Some countries have a monarch, an emperor, and his frame of mind is, Sic volo, sic jubeo; stat pro ratione voluntas. That is the, Emperor's opinion; the matter is settled. Here, if it comes to a question of that kind where each side thinks it is right, it can only be settled by a vote in this House. Why has the whole of Europe come to the conclusion that counting heads is the better way of settling a question? It. is because the military opinion since the days of Napoleon and big battalions was that one man is as good as another. I do not think it is right, but that is the military opinion that all differences are differences of training or opportunity, and that initially one man is as good as another. Therefore, if you have to decide, if you cannot agree, if the question of who is right and who is wrong cannot be settled, it must be settled by those who are the strongest, and on that principle the majority rule. But if you have a majority of women on the one side and a majority of men on the other in which way is the physical force? Although I do not say that will happen often, I do say that the fact that that is possible injures finally: and fatally the authority of this House. I say that when you are face to face, as you were before the War, with the fact that the people of this country did not consider that the majority of this House really represented the physical force of this country, that fact is a very grave danger to this country. If you adopt this proposal now you will be adopting a proposal the result of which will be to cut from this House the real final basis on which it stands. This House asks the women to come in because they are the weaker party, and there is no other way of settling it. If you adopt this proposal you lose the whole principle upon which the power of this House is based, and you are doing a very serious injury to this House and to the whole system of constitutional government in England.

The PAYMASTER-GENERAL (Sir J. Compton-Rickett)

As one who has held real objections to women's suffrage, I wish to state why I, having held those views for a considerable time and in principle hold them still, intend to vote on the side of women's suffrage to-night. I think we have hardly struck the proper reasons for the objections of some of us to the intervention of women in the direct government of this country. We must be under no. misunderstanding, and I do not think we are. The vote means a fuller suffrage, and so it ought to be. A compromise is not a compromise for all time, and it ought to mean the right of women to enter into this House and take their part in debate, and just as in administration there is no reason why women should not take part, so the extension of the franchise to women means the entrance of women into this House, into the Government, into the Diplomatic Service, and into the Judiciary. I am perfectly prepared to face all that, for, having taken one step. I include all these other steps. What has been the objection to this in the past? It is something radical, something that strikes at the very root of things. We are not claiming superiority. It is not a question of equality, but of similarity, and things that are dissimilar may be of equal value. You will have, to go a considerable distance, perhaps, to find a common denominator between the sexes, just as you would have to go back a long way in zoology in order to find the common denominator between an antelope and an alligator. In administration women have had opportunities that we hope they will avail themselves more of. They have not done this to the extent many of us wish, but they have gained experience and have brought themselves nearer to this House.

But from reasons deep-seated in physiology woman has not the constructive mind that the male has. In legislation we do not want to unravel the work of one year the year after we have woven it. In administration changes can take place quite easily without affecting the principles or the main lines of government, but in its constructive power women have not shown the same ability as men. Women are less imaginative and more emotional and intuitional, and if anybody doubts that I ask them to search the centuries of civilisation for the women writers, scientists, and artists, and they will find only a few who are distinguished. There are exceptions which only prove the rule, but all that has been done by the male mind. We always know that genius will out, and it has sometimes broken out in the ploughman and in the prince. I do not think that is disputed. And you have only to look at the lists of writers arid artists, and if the women who had leisure and had been taken care of possessed those talents they would have displayed those powers had they possessed them. Even if it be said that these constructive qualities are not required for the ordinary work of Parliament, some change will take place, whether for better or for worse, and it is desirable that the change should generally be adopted by the Great Powers at the same time, so that their relations to one another may not be affected by a sex distinction. But to have the whole of Europe or the great part of the civilised world with only one sex voting, and for us to attempt the dual vote, at any rate carried some amount of doubt. Another argument is that the part women have played in the War affords ground for conceding to them the franchise. I do not think that is a very strong argument. Woman has done what we expected her to do. We knew her better than to suppose she would not take her part, and, if anything has come out into most lurid relief, it has been that at the back of all things the ultimate word is force, and that force is a combi- nation of natural forces—mental, physical and spiritual. A further argument that has been put to us is that there are so many women who have interested themselves in various industries during the War that they are bound to have a voice in what is done and how work is to be arranged in the future. That may be so by and by, but the great trade unions have insisted that those men who have gone out to fight shall have the opportunity and the right to come back to their employment, and, that being so, the continuance of women in tens of thousands of places cannot be assumed.

I must say, though not very fond of a Referendum, that I should have had some sympathy, if we were living in normal times, with the suggestion that this is just one of those questions that might be referred, clear of all other considerations, to the nation as a whole, and on which the women themselves and the electorate might pronounce their opinion. We cannot, however, divert the attention of the country from the War on the subject so completely as to obtain a real and true decision, and there are, moreover, so many voters, soldiers and sailors, away, as well as so many citizens who are otherwise occupied that the Referendum is practically impossible. We may have to make a sudden appeal to the country. There may possibly be a marked division of opinion in the country as to the terms of peace. With the register as it stands now, we should only obtain a result that no side would consider conclusive, and which the beaten side would rebel against as not proving the view and intention of the country as a whole. We must, therefore, have a reform of the register. The Speaker's Conference saves the situation and provides against it. I must say that I consider the addition of millions of voters to the list as an essential part of that compromise which cannot be set aside. The methods of voting, whether you merely manipulate the same number of voters, does not appeal to me as essential in the same way. There is, therefore, strong reason for not overthrowing that compromise and for making a considerable sacrifice in order to enforce it.

I have, however, one or two answers to the arguments that I have brought forward. The position has been modified even during the progress of the War. The Russian democracy, as far as we know, intend to adopt the suffrage for women. There are one or two European States which have already adopted it. The United States is on the road to it. If Germany should have to face a revolution anything like that which has swept across the neighbouring country of Russia we shall find that Germany may also call in women to her counsels. Therefore this country and this Empire will not be left alone in so revolutionary and complete a change in its franchise. Others will be on the same road, and we shall be only leading. There is also the greater employment of women in industry, partly due to a fall in the marriage rate and partly due to the fact that women have become accustomed to work during the War, have found that they have been successful, and desire to continue at it. There is further the fact that the very heavy Death Duties do not permit of that provision for the women and families of the well-to-do as was made in former days. The toll taken by the State generation after generation reduces large estates to small proportions, and therefore there will be more women who will have to earn their living and face the realities of life. Those arguments have, to some extent, modified the position that some of us quite candidly and against our will and sentiment have been obliged to take up. We are no longer in an atmosphere full of electricity, charged with anger and with outbreaks of violence. We have got about us a softer air and a kindlier spirit. We can Debate the question far better now than we could debate it a few years ago. There is still one other reason. The Angel of Death, coming not as in the old Hebrew story when he swept through the sleeping cities of Egypt, has struck almost at every door and at every home, and has brought to mother and wife and daughter and father and brother one common sorrow. I do ask those who, like myself, desire what the country desires and do not set themselves up as wiser than the House of Commons as a whole, not to give this vote grudgingly, but to hold out two hands to those who are coming in to help us, so that we may bring them in as friends and comrades and show at least, if we are the stronger sex, that we are also the most chivalrous.


Whatever may be the views of hon. Members as to the wisdom or unwisdom of granting the Parliamentary suffrage to women at the present time, it seems to me a very strange thing that so little account has been taken in this Debate of the experience of other countries. The women of some of the States of America have had the suffrage for a generation and I should like to draw attention to some of the results and see whether they have any lesson for us to-day. To begin with, it is interesting to note that there is the same difficulty experienced in the United States in getting women to vote as there is here in connection with municipal elections. In the Presidential election of 1912, in the six woman suffrage States of Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, and California, only 47.9 per cent, of the electors of both sexes entitled to vote did so; while in the six adjoining States of Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, Nevada, South Dakota, and Missouri, where men alone voted for the President, 69.1 per cent, of the electors went to the poll. If 69.1 per cent, of the men voted in the six female suffrage states mentioned, that means that only 19.1 per cent, of the women did so, which is less than one in five. That would indicate a great lack of interest in the affairs of the nation on the part of the electorate.

Look at the cost of elections in the women suffrage States as compared with that in the States which have only male suffrage. According to the figures for the 1914 election, filed with the Secretary of the United States Senate, the expenses of senatorial candidates for 1914 were three times as high in the women suffrage States as they were in the male suffrage States of the same average population, the average in the latter being $5,094 as against an average in the female suffrage States of $18,460. This is very significant when some further evidence, to which I shall refer in a moment, is considered. How did the State of Colorado, which has had women suffrage since 1893 and where the ratio of males to females is about 116 to 100, deal with a great crisis such as occurred in the miners' strike of 1913–14? To begin with, as a result of the indifference of the electorate, the liquor and mining laws were practically inoperative. There was no workmen's compensation law. Things were allowed to run from bad to worse, and for six months men, women, and children were being killed and a state of anarchy prevailed. The electorate refused at this time to urge a special session of the State legislature, the State militia failed to do its duty with the situation, and finally Federa troops had to be called in to restore law and order. The President of the United States actually sent an official protest against the inaction of the Colorado Legislature. Here you have a striking example of the weakening influence of twenty years of woman suffrage upon the electorate. At this point, perhaps, I may be allowed to quote the opinions of some disillusioned women suffragists of Colorado and elsewhere. Judge Lindsey, of Denver, who is still a suffragist, says: Where is our adult probation law? We are a suffrage State. Massachusetts is not, but they have an adult probation law. Where is our home finding society? We have suffrage, but our dependent children are put in homes for dependent children instead of being given the rights of family ties. We are twenty years behind Massachusetts in spite of suffrage. Mrs. R. C. Campbell, of the Colorado Board for the Care of Dependent Children, says: We did believe, of course, in our hearts that women in public life would purify politics and would make for a higher moral and political standard. After twenty years we are forced to admit that human nature, as displayed by women, is not different from that displayed by men, and if the appeal had been made on the ground of uplift of politics, it would have been disproved by the facts. Take another State, that of Washington. Judge Snell, of Tacoma, Washington, says: I favoured woman suffrage in Washington, and voted for it. I am so greatly disappointed at the way it has worked out that I would to-day welcome an opportunity to vote for its withdrawal; and I believe if it were resubmitted to the people of Washington, and every man and woman of voting age were compelled to vote upon it, woman suffrage would be defeated by an overwhelming majority. That was in a letter to the "Boston Posit" on 31st March, 1915. Take Mrs. Francis W. Goddard, one of Colorado's most prominent and respected women. She says: For years I believed in woman suffrage and hare worked day in and day out for it I now see my mistake. The experiment is a failure. It has done Colorado no good. It has done women no good. The best thing for both would be if to-morrow the ballot for women could be abolished. That is after twenty years of woman suffrage. Mrs. C. W. Kayser, on resigning her chairmanship of the Woman Suffrage Association, said: Men have been bad in politics, but the way women "are going on is worse. I want to get away from suffrage. The best element among the suffragists is hampered and insulted and mistreated by women who expect some day to land a big political plum. Miss Annie Bock, of Los Angeles, California, former secretary of the California Equality League, addressing a Committee of the United States Senate, said: I gave, without remuneration, over a year of my life working for suffrage. If I had to do it over again I would work twice as hard, if that were possible, against it. I hare had more than ordinary opportunity to observe and watch the workings of suffrage, and I consider the result not only unsatisfactory and disappointing but disastrous. If you turn to the question of divorce, you find that in the New England States, where they have only male suffrage, for the period 1887 to 1906 there were 7.4 divorces to every 100 marriages. In the nine woman suffrage States which adopted women's suffrage between 1869 and 1912, there were, for the same period, 13.6 divorces for every 100 marriages. In this period divorces in the whole of the United States increased 188 per cent., in the New England States 69 per cent., and and in the nine woman suffrage States 242 per cent. In Denver, the capital of Colorado, it is worse still. That is the State which has had woman suffrage since 1893. We have it on the word of Dean. Hart, the well-known P.E. clergyman in charge of the beautiful cathedral there, that in 1914 in that city there were 1,268 divorces as against 2,500 marriages. That is over 50 per cent. Do these figures indicate that woman suffrage makes for unity and peace in the home or for a higher conception of the duties of the married life? I should like to quote a letter I have received from a lady who has resided in Colorado, and who has taken ever since 1893 a very prominent part in politics. She is the sister of one of the foremost members of the New York Bar, a very gifted woman, from whom I tried to obtain the opinion which she had formed after twenty-four years' work in politics in the State of Colorado.


What did Brigham Young do?


The Mormon Church has been in favour of women suffrage, and has worked for it since the beginning. This letter is dated Colorado Springs, 18th May, 1917, and it says: More than ever I am disgusted with thx antics and the so-called principles of the suffragists. I have voted as a matter of principle ever since 1893, and have been in State, County and City Conventions, besides being a member for some years of the Republican State Committee. Everywhere I have been treated with great courtesy by the men, but the type of women who usually are present would in itself condemn the movement. They have become arrogant, aggressive, loud, and have lost all sense of womanliness. They are as eager and unscrupulous as men in seeking for public office, and are quite as susceptible to bribery and corruption. Probably that accounts for the very high cost of elections in the woman suffrage States. For over eight years I have been a member of the juvenile Court of this county and have been thrown in close contact with the different judges, having besides a large acquaintance among lawyers of the city. Without exception their testimony is to the effect that not one law had been placed on the Statute Books of Colorado, beneficial to women or children, by the votes of women. By the personal influence of women—yes— but not through their votes. The laws of Massachusetts in this respect are much better than those in other States where suffrage prevails— I will skip some of it because I see the time is limited. It goes on— Then in this present crisis they subordinate all patriotic issues to the one cause of suffrage, admitting frankly that they propose to give their whole attention to the furtherance of the suffrage movement no matter what the condition of the country may be. They are blinded to all else. I fear it is coming, and it will double the ignorant vote. As a rule the better class of women do not want the vote, and here many of them vote and I ask them to do. But the lower classes, particularly those from the Red Lights districts— that refers to the street-walkers and people of that kind— all vote as their men tell them, so you can imagine what type of creatures are put in office. No wonder our land is becoming demoralised and the prey of unpatriotic, half-baked Americans. I will close my remarks by quoting as my last words those of the well-known bishop of the American Methodist Episcopal Church, John H Vincent, the founder of the great summer schools of Chautauqua: When about thirty years of age I accepted for the time the doctrine of women's suffrage and publicly defended it. Tears of wide and careful observation has convinced me that the demand for women's suffrage in America is without foundation in equity, and if successful must prove harmful to society.

The MINISTER of BLOCKADE (Lord R. Cecil)

The speech to which we have just listened was full of information, and I have no doubt it deserves most careful examination. At the same time, I must point out to my hon. Friend that he has against him this broad fact, that at the recent Presidential election in the United States both the candidates, if I recollect rightly, pledged themselves to women's suffrage, and there is a great movement of opinion both in the United States and in Canada towards the extension of the suffrage in the various states of those two countries. If the results were as my hon. Friend's information makes them appear I cannot think that the neighbouring states would still desire to extend that system to their borders. As a matter of fact, it is very difficult indeed by collecting individual opinions to arrive at a real conclusion as to what has been the result of any particular measure in any particular country. I remember to have seen, though I cannot quote them at this moment, many statements exactly the converse of those my hon. Friends has just read to the House. This is a subject in which I personally have taken a considerable share for some years past, and I have listened to this Debate with great interest and have observed the reappearance of all the old arguments, or many of the old arguments, both in favour, but still more against, the proposal. I cannot hope in the observations that I shall venture to address to the Committee to add anything to what has already been said, and said far better than I can say it, on the subject. We have heard from one of my right hon. Friend's opposite the old arguments that women have so much to bear at present that it is unfair to burden them with the additional responsibility of giving a vote. If I understood him rightly he feared that the health of women which had withstood child-birth would be incapable of resisting the rigours of a vote for Parliament. I do not believe there is any substance in that doubt.

10.0 P.M.

I do not know whether my hon. Friend has even been through an election in Lancashire, but if he has he will know that the women of Lancashire take the keenest possible part in an election there, that they are at least as keen as the men who have the vote, that they attend all the meetings, cheer in all the streets, and welcome the candidates with an enthusiasm certainly not surpassed by their male relatives; and I have never heard that the health of the women of Lancashire has suffered from their political enthusiasm. We have had the argument at the thin end of the wedge. I am not going into that. It is said that we must not do this because it will lead to the presence of women in this House, and that that is undesirable. I am not going to argue whether it is desirable or undesirable, but so far as I am concerned I will never be deterred from doing what is desirable in the public interest because it may be used as an argument for doing something undesirable at a future time. I think the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Burdett-Coutts) was much alarmed that it would destroy the relation between men and women. He had the old fear that a man and his wife might differ in politics and that the marriage state was so delicately poised that though it could stand almost anything else it could not stand a difference on a vote in an election. I believe that to be a pure dilusion also. Then we have had pressed upon us by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury) and by various other hon. Members the immense danger that the extension of the vote to women would be to our Indian Empire. If I understood the argument rightly, my right hon. Friend said that the Mussulman subjects of the Crown would never submit to government by a House of Commons which was partly elected by women. I have the greatest difficulty in believing that there is any weight in that argument. I did not hear the actual words, but I think that is the substance. The point is that they will not stand being governed by women. Then why on earth did they stand being governed by Queen Victoria?


I am sorry my right hon. Friend was not here when I made the few remarks I did. That interruption was made by an hon. Member behind him, and I pointed out to that hon. Member who interrupted that Queen Victoria governed this country on the advice of her ministers, who were men.


Does my right hon. Friend seriously maintain that the population of India draws that extremely fine distinction? Of course they do not. Everyone knows that they refer to the Great White Queen who governed the Empire, and that, they were proud to serve her, as indeed all her subjects were. I do not believe there is any force or substance in that objection. Then the hon. Member for Mansfield (Colonel Sir C. Seely) was afraid we were making a great mistake in the interests of women. He said it were far better in the difficult times that will come on us after the War for the women to trust to the chivalry of the men. What does he think will be the answer if he addresses that argument to the male subjects of the Crown who have not the vote? Does he think they will be content to trust to the chivalry of those who have the vote already?


There is no parallel of any sort. There is no chivalry between one man and another. The right hon. Gentleman's statement is evidence that there is no chivalry between him and me.


I trust the hon. Gentleman will always treat me with chivalry.


It is not the same.


Chivalry is between the strong and the weak, whether they are male or whether they are female. It is perfectly evident that the male subject has always desired to have a vote for his profession. I cannot conceive any reason why a female subject should not have the same. Then an argument was addressed to the Committee by the hon. Member for one of the Glasgow Divisions that force was the basis of government. Arguments run in this kind of way, that the stability of the State depends upon its resting outwards on force, and that the majority of male voters shows on which side the force lies. Therefore the suffrage of this State is stamped on the majority of male voters. I do not deny that any such questions may arise which may have to be decided by force. On every political question objection is raised that there is no such issue at all. Only the other day political disputes took place in this country. We started with the assumption that we were agreed upon all the main conditions of civilised government. We started with the proposition that we were agreed on the maintenance of law and order, and ultimately the right of the individual to the maintenance of justice. There is no question of force arising. If you want machinery so far as this question of dispute is concerned, it is to settle what are the essential fundamental friendly masters. You do not want a machinery for deciding on which side the force lies. I venture to think that my hon. Friend mistakes essentially the object for which political institutions exist. If fundamentals are raised they have to be determined by force, by rebellion perhaps, and if rebellion is successful, by revolution, and when these issues are raised—issues on which men feel profoundly and deeply —they either settle or set aside any question of counting votes in the ballot-box. These are terrible moments for any nation to go through, but as a matter of fact, history shows the decision of them does not go to the Cabinet. I remember it was calculated that one of the leaders who directed the great Italy-French revolution only represented not more than one-fifteenth or one-sixteenth of the whole French nation. It cannot be, even in this case, for the majority to say a small batch of desperate or determined men could carry through what they believe to be essential to the welfare of the State in which they glory.

I agree that a true, healthy democracy makes for ability. I agree with that most fully for this reason, that a true democracy makes for the contentment and happiness of the people. That is the whole object. In this country I have always believed that our Government, whether it takes the form of aristocracy, oleogarchy, or democracy, has always been directed to devising measures which are, on the whole, for the contentment of the people. Sometimes our sections have failed from time to time, but the essential object for which a democracy exists is in order to secure the happiness and contentment of the people. It is not in order to find out on which side is the greater amount of physical strength, and it is by analysis of our Constitution which leads you to the view that in that sense our institutions rest on force, and that the real basis of government by democracy by a majority, by representative institutions, that you ascertain in that way on which side the greater force lies. It seems to me they rest on entirely false and misleading analyses of the true facts. I am very largely in favour of the suffrage, because I think it makes for the contentment and good government of the people. It is because I believe that, at any rate, by the feeling of the people of this country—and that is all we have to decide here—you have to secure not only that the governed like the administration are the best for efficiency. I think that is not enough. I think it is very odd in time of war, for instance, you will get greater efficiency from an autocracy than from a democracy, and in many other countries you may get greater efficiency from other forms of government which represent other interests. What you have to secure is a reasonable method for a good, sound, efficient Government, and, secondly, it is very important from the point of view of our people—the sense of the governed themselves—that every mistake is made by the people themselves and nobody else. It is for that reason it seems to me quite absolutely unfeasible to perpetuate a system under which one half of the population are not represented in this House. I cannot understand any defence of that, and I think the remark of one of the Scottish Members, that to maintain the vote on local government, and other experiments, is a hopeless position to take up. He therefore admits that women are fit to vote, and it seems to me that he is perfectly driven to the proposition that if you are to have real self-government you must enfranchise all those who are fit to vote. It is often alleged that men are essentially superior to women, and that women are not therefore really fit to vote. They always go on to say they have many moral and spiritual qualities—


I have already been called upon to correct the Noble Lord's representation of my words. I can assure him I did not say anything of the sort. I said nature had created a fine equipoise between the moral influence of woman and the strength of men. I went no further than that.


If my hon. Friend went no further than that I do not understand the bearing of that observation on the question of woman suffrage, unless he means that woman is not fit to exercise the vote.


I never said that.


Then I do not quite understand the observation about the moral equipoise. At any rate, that is the fundamental view which it seems to me underlies the objection to woman suffrage, and I think it essential that anyone holding the view that women should not vote should say either that he does not believe in representative government or that women are not capable or fit to exercise the franchise. I do not think there is any third alternative to that. I am quite aware that it is an extremely attractive view to those who have got the vote that those who have not got it are not fit to exercise it; but I am satisfied that women are not unfit to exercise the vote, and it seems to me that unless I am prepared to advocate a complete revolution in the institutions of our country I do not see how I can escape, and I never have tried to escape, the conclusion that those women who are in other respects as qualified as men are entitled to exercise the vote also.

I want to add a very few words upon the actual proposal before the Committee. The proposal is to give the vote to women of thirty and over. The effect of that undoubtedly will be that the very large majority of those who will be enfranchised will be married women. It appears to me—and I press this on those hon. Members who have a dislike to women suffrage but agree with the Attorney-General that woman suffrage is inevitable—that that is the extension of the suffrage which ought to be most in accordance with their views. The married women ought to be, I should have thought, those who on their owns principles are most likely to be capable of exercising the vote—certainly those who are least likely to exercise it in a revolutionary or radical direction. My right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) regards this as a very revolutionary proposal and a very violent change in the Constitution. I ask him and all those who agree with him to consider this. Assume for a moment—and I think it is not an unreasonable assumption—that, speaking generally, women in political matters move in the same kind of way as men do. Do any of them doubt that a franchise which was extended to men of thirty and upwards would be, in the best sense of the word, a conservative franchise? Does he not agree that to give the vote to the men who have some experience of life, who have made their homes, who have, in the old phrase, a stake in the country, is really a most conservative form of franchise? For myself, being, as I hope I am, a genuine Conservative, a genuine believer that rapid and violent change is dangerous, —also a genuine believer that resistance to all change is perhaps even more dangerous —holding that position, which I take to be the Conservative position. I do think that this Bill, which is a compromise Bill, would be very one-sided indeed and would list heavily on the Radical side if you struck out this provision for extending the vote to women over thirty. I feel very strongly that it is an essential part of the compromise, and a part which makes this fair, as it would not otherwise be fair, as between the two great currents of thought —I am not talking of party—which run through the country. This provision is essential in order to give fair weight to the Conservative party's stability, or whatever you like to call it, which exists in this country. We have been urged that a change of this kind should not take place until there has been a Referendum. I am a very convinced adherent of the principle of Referendum. I should like to see it established as part of the ordinary legislative machinery of this country. I believe it would be thoroughly sound, whether you look at it from democratic or conservative points of view, but I am not prepared to say that there would be any sense or any reason in selecting this particular provision out of all the provisions in this Bill, not to speak of the other Bills which have come and may come before Parliament, and applying the Referendum to this particular provision. That seems to me to be impossible to defend on reasonable grounds, and I feel certain that the supporters of women's suffrage would believe, and rightly believe, that it was only applied to this particular proposal because it was desired to delay it and, if possible, defeat it. This to my mind is the case for this provision in the Bill. My right hon. Friend (Sir Frederick Smith) said in his interesting speech that in his view one of the chief arguments for extending the suffrage to women was that at the end of the War many industrial problems will arise in which women will be mainly or largely concerned, and that it will be unfair to settle them without consulting women at the ballot box. I entirely agree with that. I would put it higher than that. My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Colonel Sir C. Seely) said that the moral authority of this House has diminished. I am afraid I am forced to agree with that. But he cannot attribute that to women.

Colonel Sir C. SEELY

I do attribute it to defects in our present system of representation.


It seems to me that facing these problems, which are not only the material problems of the employment of women, but which will raise problems which will go right to the heart of the people, which will raise moral and social problems, political and religious problems, which none of us in our experience of life have had to face, it would be criminal to disregard and to do without the advice of women, who, in my opinion, are not so much different from men as capable of looking at these same problems from a slightly different angle, who throw new light upon them, who approach the questions from different points of view, and without whose advice male judgment is incomplete. It seems to me that to disregard their advice and to do without them would be a criminal neglect on the part of this House, and I earnestly hope that by no uncertain voice they will reject this Amendment and accept the principle.


The Noble Lord has delivered a speech which was admirable in tone and temper, but which hardly mentioned the War at all, and which discussed woman suffrage as if it were a proposal which was being made in normal times and about to be accepted or rejected in the ordinary constitutional way. That is not the view which the opponents of woman suffrage take of the proposal before us to-night. We have no reason whatever to become excited or heated about arguments new or old about woman suffrage. Whether the War has altered the fundamental arguments of the case, whether it has been shown that women in war play a far more important part than anybody supposed before that they could do, and whether it has been shown as a result of the War that women are more in need of the special control and protection which the Parliamentary vote is supposed to give, those are issues which we could at the proper time debate without the slightest feeling, and on which we all recognise that our opponents have a formidable case which deserves to receive the most careful consideration at the hands of the country. But surely that is not the situation now. Our feeling is that, whatever the answer to these questions, this is not the time, with so many millions of the electors away, with such a large number of Members of Parliament serving at the front, when this House has three times prolonged its own life, and when all our political leaders solemnly promised to observe the political truce on controversial subjects, when, in spite of those promises, they should come now and ask us to do something which, if we do, is irrevocable. We feel that we are not being fairly treated, and our indignation is not in the least against the arguments good or bad for woman suffrage. We feel that something is being done unfair, un-English, utterly devoid of the slightest vestige of justice, or fair play.

I may refer in the first place to the Prime Minister who began this matter in the House of Commons. I notice that he is not in his seat this evening, and I should like to ask why he is not here? I suppose that he is away because of important business connected with the War. That would be a very excellent reason for the Prime Minister of a country at war to be away from his place in the House of Commons. But is it not a still stronger reason against having the subject raised at this time, that when you are proposing to enfranchise 6,000,000 new electors the Prime Minister of England is absent from his seat and cannot give his mind to it, and is pre-occupied by the War, and the House of Commons in his absence is asked to do something on which the head of the Government ought to be in a position to give it his counsel and advice? The Prime Minister did refer to this subject on 28th March. He said that we had always been told before the War began that women would stand aside when war came, and that nothing would be heard of them. No anti-suffragist ever said that with regard to women in time of war. What we said with regard to women was that they could not and would not fight. And they have not fought. That is the essential distinction —the question of bearing arms or not bearing arms. When I find right hon. and hon. Gentlemen addressing the House and saying that tie old test of the physical force argument which they recognised as formidable before the War has now broken down, I feel inclined to ask them in reply, do they really maintain that the work of women has had an equally decisive bearing on the result of the War with the work of men, and do they maintain that women have made equal sacrifices with men during the War? Do they say that women who have not been asked to submit themselves to conscription, who have not been asked to go into the firing line, who have been not asked to be killed or wounded have actually contributed the same to the result of the War as the men who held the line at Ypres and hurled back the German army?


What about the mothers who have not only given sons


It is not desirable to have interruptions.


Our case is that the work of men in the War has been the decisive factor. Women have, it is true, played a new part. The manufacture of munitions has been on an immensely greater scale than in any previous war was necessary, and it has been found possible to employ women in making them, but not, as one would think from some of the speeches to which we have listened, to make all the munitions of this country, but to render splendid assistance in making them. I believe, as a matter of fact, they have manufactured about one-fifth of the munitions that have been manufactured. But can anyone compare the making of the shells, or the guns, or of the ships, to the work of the men who man those ships or who serve those guns? Can anyone say that the argument based upon physical force has broken down as the result of this War? One often thought before the War that if really war would come to an end; if we were really to proceed to an era of universal arbitration that the argument for women suffrage would receive an immensely powerful reinforcement; but when we have received a world-wide demonstration to the contrary, and when it is only by sending the whole man-power of this country into the trenches, and not only into the trenches, but over the top of the trenches, that we have been able to resist Germany, surely that is the time not to say the argument from physical force has broken down, but that it has been immensely strengthened. The whole case against women's suffrage in its fundamental aspects is not weakened but radically consolidated by the demonstration of the War.

I pass from that to noticing that in this Debate it has not been thought necessary by any of the leading speakers who advocated woman suffrage even to try to persuade this House that the majority of women themselves desire this change. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow (Sir J. Simon) made a most eloquent speech this afternoon, but he did not attempt to suggest to the House that the majority of women desired to be enfranchised. What he did say was that if the mind of the House was clear that it would be a good thing to enfranchise women then they ought to give the vote, whether the women desired it or not. Surely that is an entirely new doctrine to proceed upon, and entirely differs from the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman's political Leader, the late Prime Minister, who, speaking in this House in 1913, said: What are the two conditions which have hitherto attended and been satisfied in all enlargements of the franchise? The first is one about which there can be no dispute, that there was a clear proof of a settled demand for that change by an overwhelming majority of the excluded class. Surely before this House consents to make such a stupendous change as that to which its agreement is asked to-night the right hon. Gentleman and his friends who represent the suffragist cause here ought to make some attempt to give some proof of a settled demand by an overwhelming majority of this excluded class. Instead of that they have furnished absolutely no evidence whatever of any demand, settled or not, of either a majority or even a substantial minority of the class which is now excluded from the franchise. I pass from that to deal for a moment with the movement of opinion which is said to have taken place on this subject. We are not in the least concerned to deny that there has been some change of opinion on the subject of woman suffrage at home. There have been many changes before. There have been in this House four different votes recorded on woman suffrage since 1910. I believe myself that it is quite true that those who have stayed at home and who have mainly seen the home side of the case in the manufacture of munitions and the replacement of men by women in industry have been, on the whole, favourably induced towards the grant of the Parliamentary franchise. But they have brought no evidence whatsoever to show us that those who have not stayed at home and who have been in contact with the realities of the War itself are in sympathy with the grant of the franchise to women. Speaking as one who served for nearly two years overseas, my experience was entirely to the contrary and that those who had gone from home to face actual military service abroad, so far from being more favourably inclined to woman suffrage have moved in the opposite direction. It is, of course, impossible for us to prove it and the Government know that it cannot be proved.

But is not that a reason for deliberation and delay when it is at least doubtful that we may not be going against the interests of that vast number of our citizens who are now fighting men? One has only to go to soldiers in hospitals, and one will find sentiments very different on the subject of the enfranchisement, from the sentiments, for instance, of a majority of the Members of this House. I believe myself that there is an overwhelming sentiment in the Army against this change. How are we to prove it? Can we agitate in the trenches, or are we to go to the camp's or barracks? The Government and the suffragists know that it is impossible. I think they also know that, just because that is impossible, this is a favourable opportunity to push through woman suffrage, while a vast number of men who are opposed to this change are unable to offer any effective resistance. But the real feeling of those who are most anxious to-night on the subject is that it ought not to have been brought forward at this time. One of the reasons upon which we base our opposition is the absence of a large number of Members of this House who, it so happens, were in the last Division taken in this House which, by a substantial majority, rejected the enfranchisement of women. I have no doubt that they are still opposed to it. I have received more than one communication from hon. Members who are serving at the front. Perhaps I may read one of these, which comes from the hon. Member for South Bucks. He is serving in France. He writes: I am entirely opposed to the raising of this highly controversial question during the War, and I hope that Parliament may decide to postpone the matter until after the conclusion of peace. It is well known that the Members of Parliament serving at the front comprise a considerable majority of opponents of women suffrage. I have no reason to think that they have changed their views. On the contrary I believe that the grim experiences of war have confirmed them in their opposition to this change. In view of the duty of remaining at their posts the bulk of this considerable section of the 1913 majority against women suffrage will be unable to take any effective part in resisting the proposal. I trust that the unfair disadvantage in which the opponents of the measure are placed will be brought to the notice of the House of Commons. Hon. Members who are in that position if they were here and if they could not merely have voted to-night, but could also have taken part in the proceedings leading up to the Division, would, I feel sure, influence hon. Members at home and influence them, perhaps, even more than their numerical weight justified. I believe the House, however, will be influenced by this complaint made on behalf of hon. and gallant Members who are serving at the front. Secondly, we feel that this Bill, if brought in at all, ought to have been confined to the unanimous recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Conference and ought not to have included any matter that evidently was highly controversial in the Conference itself, and is totally devoid of those elements of agreement and give-and-take, on which the right hon. gentleman in charge of the Bill has recommended it to the House as an agreed settlement. Thirdly, we feel that if women suffrage was to have been brought forward at all it should have been as a separate measure, disentangled from other issues, so that it would be possible to give what the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir J. Simon) called a "straight vote." But to night it is the least straight, the least fair, the least square vote which this House could possibly give, with the issue entangled with all sorts of other issues. For hon. Members know if they vote against women suffrage they are risking the fate of the whole Bill. [Hon. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Hon. Members say, "No." Yet the suffragists themselves Have over and over stated that if women suffrage is knocked out of the Bill they themselves would be the first to fail upon it and wreck it. [Hon. MEMBERS: "No, no !" "Quite right!"] The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University tried to treat women suffrage as part of the contract. He tried to enlist support for it by saying that if women suffrage were knocked out of the Bill the latter would list to the Radical side. I can quite understand that argument from the Noble Lord who has offered women suffrage as an infallible tonic to the House of Commons, and who, when the House refused his powder, is now offering it with jam, by which device he hopes the House will swallow the whole of his mixture. Let me add this further point—that although it is true that some hon. Members in this House, and some persons outside this House, have changed their views, yet the inquiries which we have been able to make have proved to us beyond all doubt that there still is in this country a very large, very representative, very weighty body of opinion which is entirely opposed to this change, which is perfectly willing to have the matter settled in a democratic and constitutional way after the War is over, but which utterly protests against the matter being settled now. We shall be in a position to publish in a day or two a memorial asking for a constitutional decision, and signed by such an overwhelming number of distinguished persons in all walks of life, both men and women, that will satisfy everybody at least on this point, that the opposition to women suffrage is not collapsed, though it is true it was disintegrated by the patriotic preoccupations of its members, which has led some to say that the Opposition, except for a few bigoted obstructionists, is dead.

We feel that the conduct of the Government throughout the whole of the proceedings, beginning with the introduction of this Bill, has been not impartial, but heavily weighted on the side of the suffragists. The Prime Minister did not hesitate to receive a deputation on the day after a Resolution was carried in the House of Commons. At that deputation he simply laughed at the idea of confining women's suffrage to the age limit of thirty. He told them with simple frankness that they had only to wait for a time for that limit to be swept away. After receiving that deputation he was asked to receive an anti-suffrage deputation, and he refused in the most contemptuous way without even being willing to listen to what the opponents of the change had to say. When it came to the Second Beading of the Bill there were a considerable number of speeches—I think four—made by Ministers interested in the Bill, and everyone of those speeches contained passages of strong support of women's suffrage, so that it is really quite impossible for the ordinary private Member to dissociate women's suffrage as an independent part of the Bill, and not to feel that Government pressure and Government influence are being exerted on behalf of this Clause lest the whole of the Bill should become endangered.

I pass now to a speech delivered by a very eminent member of the Government this afternoon, namely, the Attorney-General. That speech, I believe, was received with surprise and pain, even by the suffragists themselves. The Attorney-General told the House with almost brutal cynicism—and I earnestly hope his words will be weighed by all moderate supporters of women's suffrage who are in doubt as to whether they ought to vote for immediate enfranchisement—he told the House it was quite clear women were going to get the vote, and therefore he decided to range himself on the side of the suffragists while there was still time. I do not believe that British statesmanship has ever reached a lower ebb. The right hon. Gentleman has had an honourable career in this House. He entered it in 1906, a year when it was quite clear there was going to be a large Liberal majority. Why did he not enter as a Liberal then? Why did he put up a gallant fight for the principles of the Conservatives, although he knew they were in a hopeless minority? We all knew in 1911 that the Parliament Act was going to be carried into law; why did he not vote for single Chamber despotism? Throughout the whole of his career the right hon. Gentleman has been actuated by high political principles, and the fact that he has found it necessary on this occasion to take a course which I do not believe will be held to be one of the most creditable episodes in his career certainly has not elevated the tone of this Debate, and it will injure the cause of the suffragists and, I hope, will induce many hon. Members to go into the Lobby with us to-night.

With regard to the Referendum, the Noble Lord opposite is totally wrong when he says that we have made this suggestion for the purposes of delay or to defeat the Bill. That is not so, because we have made this suggestion for neither of those two reasons. If we merely desired to delay or defeat women's suffrage, we should endeavour to persuade the undoubted majority in the House of Lords against women's suffrage to throw out Clause 4 and return the Bill to this House without that Clause. We are trying to act with a sense of responsibility and to find a course which will prevent a conflict between the two Houses, and our proposal would make it easier for our Friends in another place to act in a constitutional and patriotic way. Our solution fixes the earliest possible moment at which the considered opinion of the country can be ascertained free from the paramount preoccupations of the War. The right hon. Gentleman said the fatal objection to our proposal was that it meant postponement until after the War. The whole gist of his proposal was that women should be enfranchised now on account of their interests in the industrial settlement after the War. I do not feel that that was a candid answer, because, if that had been the objection, the suffragists would have said, "We will take the Referendum now immediately before the General Election." They would have done that if right hon. Gentlemen had really been willing to face the music. The real objection is that they are afraid of the verdict of both the women and the men. If you look at the history of events in America, of which the Noble Lord opposite gave an absolute travesty to this House, it will be found that between 1897 and 1908 women's suffrage was defeated 164 times, and no State adopted it. I know that since 1910 eight States have adopted it, but it has been defeated by Referendum in scores of other cases. Realising these facts, and especially bearing in mind that the defeats have been most severe in those States, the Eastern States, most resembling Great Britain, I understand why the suffragists should desire by every possible means to rush this thing through the Legislature now, without having to face public opinion either of the men or of the women.

Last week when we learned that our Amendment was going to be ruled out of order we approached the Government and asked for a day for the discussion of the subject. The Government told us that they would be willing to give a day, provided that the House consented. We understood that to mean provided that the suffragists consented. I understand that the suffragists are not merely opposed to a Referendum, but are even opposed to the matter being discussed and divided upon in the House of Commons. We feel that these women who do not want the vote are entitled to better treatment at the hands of the Government. At this very moment, when you have been releasing by the hundred Sinn Fein political prisoners, men who shot down British soldiers—I do not say you were wrong to do that—when you are showing such consideration to men who last year were rebels, you ought to have shown more consideration to people who can be numbered by the million and who have done as splendid war work as the suffragists themselves. I have spoken plainly to the Government to-night, not because I have any right to use this language to the Government, but because I

feel I am representing the views of millions of my countrymen and countrywomen, and I am fortified by the knowledge of their sympathy and their support, and because I know that they feel that this is not a constitutional course which the Government and which the House are taking. They feel most strongly that they are not receiving fair treatment. Their very confidence in Parliamentary Government itself is being shaken by being taken unawares at such a time as this. They feel from the bottom of their hearts that this pass into which things are brought to-night is a discredit to British statesmanship and that this transaction, if it is completed in this form, will be branded by English history with indelible disgrace.


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

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

The Committee divided: Ayes, 364; Noes, 23.

Division No. 57.] AYES. [10.50 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke Brace, Rt. Hon. William Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)
Adamson, William Brady, Patrick Joseph Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganshire)
Addlson, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Bridgeman, William Clive Denniss, E. R. B.
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Brookes, Warwick Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby N.
Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling Brunner, John F. L. Dillon, John
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Bryce, J. Annan. Doris, William
Amery, Captain L. C. M. S. Bull, Sir William James Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.
Anderson, W. C. Burgoyne, Captain A. H. Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward
Archdale, Lieut. Edward M. Burn, Colonel C. R. Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)
Armitage, Robert Buxton, Noel Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)
Arnold, Sydney Carew, C. R. S. Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)
Ashley, Wilfred W. Carille, Sir Edward Hildred Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid.)
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Carnegie, Lieut.-Colonel D. G. Elverston, Sir Harold
Astor, Major Hon. Waldort Carr-Gomm, H. W. Falconer, James
Baird, John Lawrence Cator, John Fell, Arthur
Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.) Cautley, H. S. Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson
Baldwin, Stanley Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George Ffrench, Peter
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, London) Cawley, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick Field, William
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Cecil,Rt.Hon.Lord Robert(Herts,Hltchin) Finney, Samuel
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Chancellor, Henry George Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)
Baring, Sir Godfrey Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Fisher, Rt. Hon. W Hayes (Fulham)
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Flavin, Michael Joseph
Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Clough, William Fleming, Sir J. (Aberdeen, S.)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N. Clynes, John R. Fletcher, John Samuel
Barnett, Captain R. W. Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Forster, Rt. Hon. Henry William
Barran, Sir Row. Hurst (Leeds, N.) Cochrane, Cecil Algernon Foster, Philip Staveley
Barrie, H. T. Collings, Major Godfrey P. (Greenock) France, Gerald Ashburner
Barton, Sir William Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth) Galbraith, Samuel
Beach, William F. H. Collins, Sir W. (Derby) Golder, Sir W. A.
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd
Beck, Arthur Cecil Coote, William Gilbert, J. D.
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Ginnell, Laurence
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Cory, James Herbert (Cardiff) Goldman, C. S.
Bennett-Goldney, Francis Cowan, Sir W. H. Goldstone, Frank
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred
Bethell, Sir J. H. Craig, Colonel James (Down, E) Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)
Bigland, Alfred Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet) Greig, Colonel J. W.
Bird, Alfred Croft, Brigadier-General Henry Page Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Crooks, Rt. Hon. William Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William
Black, Sir Arthur W. Crumley, Patrick Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)
Hike, Sir Francis Douglas Currie, George W. Hackett, John
Biles, Joseph Dairymple, Hon. H. H. Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)
Boland, John Plus Daiziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy) Hancock, John George
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W. Davies, Ellis William (Eiflon) Hanson, Charles Augustin
Boyton, James Davies, Timothy (Lincs,, Louth) Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence
Harmswerth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.) Martin, Joseph Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Alisebrook
Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.) Mason, David M. (Coventry) Smith, Capt. Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)
Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.) Mason, James F. (Windsor) Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)
Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale) Meux, Hon. Sir Hedworth Smith, Harold (Warrington)
Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West) Middlebrook, Sir William Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)
Haslam, Lewis Millar, James Duncan Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)
Healy, Maurice (Cork) Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Snowden, Philip
Hemrherde, Edward George Money, Sir L. G. Chlozza Spear, Sir John Ward
Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.) Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S. Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert
Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Somerset, S.) Morison, Hector (Hackney, S.) Stanley, Rt.Hon.Sir A. H.(Asht'n-u-Lyne)
Hewart, Sir Gordon Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness) Stanton, Charles Butt
Hewins, William Albert Samuel Morrell, Phillip Starkey, Captain John R.
Hibbert, Sir Henry F. Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)
Higham, John Sharp Muldoon, John Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Hinds, John Munro Rt. Hon. Robert Steel-Maitland A. D.
Hodge, Rt. Hon. John Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) Sutton, John E.
Hogge, James Myles Nicholson, William G. (Potersfield) Swift, Rigby
Holmes, Daniel Turner Norman, Sir Henry Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)
Holt, Richard Durning Nuttall, Harry Talbot, Lord Edmund
Hope, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Edin., Midlothian) O'Dowd, John Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Hope, John Deans (Haddington) Ogden, Fred Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Howard, Hon. Geoffrey O'Grady, James Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John
Hudson, Walter O'Neill, Capt. Hon. (Antrim, Mid). Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H.
Hughes, Spencer Leigh Orde-Powlett. Hon. W. G. A. Thomas-Stanford, Charles
Hume-Williams, William Ellis Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Thomson, W. Mitchell (Down, North)
Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H. Paget, Almeric Hugh Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York) Parker, James (Halifax) Thorne, William (West Ham)
Jacobsen, Thomas Owen Parrott, Sir Jomes Edward Tickler, T. G.
Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh) Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek) Tootill, Robert
John Edward Thomas Pease, Rt. Hon. H. Pike (Darlington) Touche, Sir George Alexander
Johnson, W. Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F. Toulmin, sir George
Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil) Perkins, Walter F. Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Philipps, General Ivor (Southampton) Tryon, Captain George Clement
Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East) Philipps, Captain Sir Owen (Chester) Turton, Edmund Russborough
Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe) Pollock, Ernest Murray Walters, Sir John Tudor
Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Walton, Sir Joseph
Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney) Pratt, J. W. Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Jowett, Frederick William Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest George Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)
Joyce, Michael Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) Wardle, George J.
Joynson-Hlcks, William Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.) Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay
Keating, Matthew Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Kellaway, Frederick George Pringle, William M. R. Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Kenyon, Barnet Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund Watson, Hon. W. (Lanark, S.)
Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr Radford, Sir George Heynes Watson, J. B. (Stockton)
King, Joseph Raffan, Peter Wilson Wedgwood, Commander Josiah C.
Knight, Captain E. A. Randies, Sir John S. Weigall, Colonel William E. G. A.
Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry Rawson, Colonel R. H. Weston, Colonel J. W.
Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade) Rea, Walter Russell White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Larmor, Sir J. Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon) Whitehouse, John Howard
Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle) Remnant, Sir James Farquharson Whiteley, Herbert James
Layland-Barratt, Sir F. Rendall, Athelstan Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton Richardson, Albion (Peckham) Whitty, Patrick Joseph
Levy, Sir Maurice Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham) Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)
Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven) Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas
Leckor-Lampson, G. (Salisbury) Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)
Long, Rt. Hon. Walter Roberts, George H. (Norwich) Williams, Liewelyn (Carmarthen)
Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs) Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Lowther, Col. C. (Cumberland, Eskdale) Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall) Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)
Lundon, Thomas Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M. Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)
Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk.B'ghs) Robinson, Sidney Williamson, Sir Archibald
Macdonald. J. Ramsay (Leicester) Roch, Walter F. Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs, N.)
M'Kean, John Rothschild, Lionel de Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)
M'Laren, H. D. (Leics.) Rowlands. James Wilson,Lt.-CI.Sir M.(Bethn'l Green,S.W.)
Maclean, Rt. Hon. Donald Rowntres, Arnold Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Macleod, John Macintosh Russell, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. Wing, Thomas Edward
Macmaster, Donald Rutherford, Sir John (Lancs., Darwen) Wolmer, Viscount
McMicking, Major Gilbert Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby) Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Salter, Arthur Clavell Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South) Samuels, Arthur W. Worthington Evans,' Major Sir L.
McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's) Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood) Yeo, Alfred William
MacVeagh, Jeremiah Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Clevelan) Young, William (Perthshire, East)
Maden, Sir John Henry Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur Younger, Sir George
Malcolm, Ian Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange) Yoxall, Sir James H.
Mallalieu, Frederick William Shaw, Hon. A.
Manfield, Harry Sherwell, Arthur James TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Captain
Marks, Sir George Croyden Shortt, Edward F. Guest and Mr. J. Hope.
Marshall, Arthur Harold
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G. Coats, Sir Stuart Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)
Blair, Reginald Gibbs, Coienel George Abraham Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)
Burdett-Coutts, W. Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Mallaby-Deeley, Harry
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor) Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord C. J. Meysey-Thompson, Colonel E. C.
Middlemore, John Throgmorton Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.) Yate, Colonel Charles Edward
Pryce-Jones, Colonel E. Terrell, Major Henry (Gloucester)
Quilter, Sir Cuthbert Walker, Colonel William Hall- TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Major
Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford) Hunt and Commander Bellairs.
Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton) Watt, Henry A.

Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word

The Committee divided: Ayes, 385; Noes, 55.

Division No. 58.] AYES. [11.12 p.m.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke Clancy, John Joseph Haddock, Major George Bahr
Adamson, William Clay, Captain H. H. Spender Hall, Captain D. B. (Isle of Wight)
Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher Clough, William Hancock, John George
Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D. Clynes, John R. Hanson, Charles Augustin
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)
Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling Cochrane, Cecil Algernon Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)
Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire) Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock) Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)
Amery, Captain L. C. M. S. Collins, Sir Stephen (Lambeth) Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)
Anderson, W. C. Collins, Sir W. (Derby) Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)
Archdale, Lieut. E. M. Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)
Armitage, Robert Condon, Thomas Joseph Healy, Maurice (Cork)
Arnold, Sydney Coote, William Hemmerde, Edward George
Ashley, Wilfred W. Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Cory, James H. (Cardiff) Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)
Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf Cowan, Sir W. H. Hewart, Sir Gordon
Baird, John Lawrence Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe) Hewins, William Albert Samuel
Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.) Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.) Higham, John Sharp
Baldwin, Stanley Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet) Hinds, John
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.) Croft, Brigadier-General Henry Page Hoare, Sir Samuel John Gurney
Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark) Crooks, Rt. Hon. William Hodge, Rt. Hon. John
Banner, Sir John S. Harmood- Crumley, Patrick Hogge, James Myles
Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple) Currie, George W. Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy
Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset) Dairymple, Hon. H. H. Holmes, Daniel Turner
Barlow, Montague (Salford, South) Daiziel, Rt Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy) Holt, Richard Durning
Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N. Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Hope, Lt-Col. J. A. (Edin., Midlothian)
Barnett, Captain R. W. Davies, Timothy (Lines., Louth) Hope, John Deans (Haddington)
Barrie, H. T. Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.) Houston, Robert Paterson
Barton, Sir William Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Howard, Hon. Geoffrey
Beach, William F. H. Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas Hudson, Walter
Beale, Sir Wiliam Phipson Denniss, E. R. B. Hughes, Spencer Leigh
Beauchamp, Sir Edward Devlin, Joseph Hume-Williams, William Ellis
Beck, Arthur Cecil Dillon, John Illingworth, Rt Hon. Albert H.
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Doris, William Ingleby, Holcombe
Bellairs, Commander C. W. Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B. Jackson, Lieut-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)
Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) Duffy, William J. Jackson, Sir John (Devonport)
Bennett-Goldney, Francis Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward Jacobsen, Thomas Owen
Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish- Duncan, C. (Barrow-In-Furness) Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)
Bethell, Sir John Henry Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)
Bigland, Alfred Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid) John, Edward Thomas
Bird, Alfred Elverston, Sir Harold Johnson, William
Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine Faber, George D. (Clapham) Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)
Black, Sir Artnur W. Falconer, James Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)
Blake, Sir Francis Douglas Fell, Arthur Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)
Bliss, Joseph Ferens, Rt Hon. Thomas Robinson Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)
Boland, John Plus Ffrench, Peter Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W. Field, William Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)
Boyton, James Finney, Samuel Jowett, Frederick William
Brace, Rt. Hon. William Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam) Joyce, Michael
Brady, Patrick Joseph Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham) Joynson-Hicks, William
Bridgeman, William Clive Flavin, Michael Joseph Keating, Matthew
Brookes, Warwick Fleming, Sir J. (Aberdeen, S.) Kellaway, Frederick George
Brunner, John F. L. Fletcher, John Samuel Kenyon, Barnet
Bryce, John Annan Forster, Rt. Hon. Henry William Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr
Burgoyne, Captain A. H. France, Gerald Ashburner King, J.
Burn, Colonel C. R. Galbraith, Samuel Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Gelder, Sir William Alfred Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford
Butcher, John George George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry
Buxton, Noel Gilbert, J. D. Lambert, Richard (Wilts., Cricklade)
Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton) Ginnell, Laurence Larmor, Sir J.
Carllie, Sir Edward Hildred Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)
Carnegie, Lieut.-Colonel D. G. Goldman, Charles Sydney Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)
Carr-Gomm, H. W. Goldstone, Frank Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton
Cator, John Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert
Cautley, H. S. Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough) Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)
Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George Greig, Colonel J. W. Long, Rt. Hon. Walter
Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich) Griffith, Rt. Hon. Ellis Jones Lonsdale, Sir John Brownies
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University) Guest, Capt Hon. F. E. (Dorset, E.) Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas
Cecil, Rt.Hon.LordRobert(Herts,Hitchin) Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William Lowther, Col. C. (Cumberland, Eskdale)
Chancellor, Henry George Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway) Lundon, Thomas
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Hackett, John Lynch, A. A.
Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk. B'ghs) Perkins, Walter Frank Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)
Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester) Phillips, General Ivor (Southampton) Sutton, John E.
M'Kean, John Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester) Swift, Rigby
McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Pollock, Ernest Murray Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)
M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.) Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Maclean, Rt. Hon. Donald Pratt, J. W. Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Macleod, John Mackintosh Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest George Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John
Macmaster, Donald Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)
McMicking, Major Gilbert Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.) Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H.
Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Pringle, William M. R. Thomas-Stanford, Charles
McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's) Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)
MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South) Pryce-Jones, Colonel E. Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Macpherson, James Ian Radford, Sir George Heynes Thorne, William (West Ham)
MacVeagh, Jeremiah Raffan, Peter Wilson Tickler, T. G.
Maden, Sir John Henry Randles, Sir John S. Tootill, Robert
Magnus, Sir Philip Rawson, Colonel R. H. Touche, Sir George Alexander
Malcolm, Ian Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough) Toulmin, Sir George
Mallalieu, Frederick William Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire Arton) Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Manfield, Harry Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir George H. Tryon, Captain George Clement
Marks, Sir George Croydon Remnant, Sir James Farquharson Turton, Edmund Russborough
Marriott, J. A. R. Rendall, Atheistan Walters, Sir John Tudor
Marshall, Arthur Harold Richardson, Albion (Peckham) Walton, Sir Joseph
Martin, Joseph Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham) Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
Mason, David M. (Coventry) Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven) Wardle, George J.
Meux, Hon. Sir Hedworth Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.
Middlebrook, Sir William Roberts, George H. (Norwich) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
Millar, James Duncan Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Molloy, Michael Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall) Watson, John Bertrand (Stockton)
Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M. Watson, Hon. W. (Lanark, S.)
Money, Sir L. G. Chiozza Robinson, Sidney Watt, Henry A.
Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S. Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke) Wedgwood, Commander Josiah C.
Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness) Rothschild, Lionel de Weston, J. W.
Morrell, Philip Rowlands. James White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Rowntree, Arnold Whitehouse, John Howard
Muldoon, John Russell, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. Whiteley, Herbert J.
Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby) Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.
Neville, Reginald J. N. Salter, Arthur Clavell Whitty, Patrick Joseph
Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster) Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood) Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)
Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland) Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas
Nield, Herbert Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)
Nolan, Joseph Scanlan, Thomas Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)
Norman, Sir Henry Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange) Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)
Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir J. Sharman-Crawford, Colonel R. G. Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)
Nugent, J. D. (College Green) Shaw, Hon. A. Williamson, Sir Archibald
Nuttall, Harry Sherwell, Arthur James Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)
O'Dowd, John Shortt, Edward Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)
Ogden. Fred Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrock Wilson, Lt.-CI. Sir M.(Beth'l Green,S.W.)
O'Grady, James Smith, Capt. Albert (Lanes., Clitheroe) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
O'Malley, William Smith. Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton) Wing, Thomas Edward
O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.) Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton) Wolmer, Viscount
O'Neill, Capt. Hon. H. (Antrim, Mid) Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks) Wood, John (Stalybridge)
Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A. Snowden, Philip Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Spear, Sir John Ward Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.
Parker, James (Halifax) Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert Yeo, Alfred William
Parrott, Sir James Edward Stanley.Rt. H on.Sir A. H. (Asht'n-u-Lyne) Younger, Sir George
Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek) Stanton, Charles Butt Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M. Starkey, John Ralph
Pease, Rt. Hon.Herbert Pike(Darlington) Steel-Maitland, A. D. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir W.
Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F. Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North) Bull and Mr. Dickinson.
Pennefather, De Fonblanque
Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G. Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord C. J. Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)
Barran, Sir Row. Hirst (Leeds, N.) Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence Quilter, Sir Cuthbert
Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc, E.) Henry, Sir Charles (Shropshire) Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Blair, Reginald Hibbert, Sir Henry F. Rutherford, Sir John (Darwen)
Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E. H. Samuels, Arthur W.
Burdett-Coutts, W. Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield) Seely, Lt.-Col. Sir C. H. (Mansfield)
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H. Hunt, Major Rowland Smith, Harold (Warrington).
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor) Layland-Barrett, Sir F. Talbot, Lord Edmund
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. Levy, Sir Maurice Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)
Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon) Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury) Walker, Colonel William Hall
Craik, Sir Henry MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)
Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley) Mallaby-Deeley, Harry Weigall, Col. William E. G. A.
Falle, Sir Bertram Godfray Mason, James F. (Windsor) Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)
Foster, Philip Staveley Meysey-Thompson, Colonel E. C. Wilson-Fox, Henry
Gibbs, Col. George Abraham Middlemore. John Throgmorton Yate, Colonel Charles Edward
Grant, James Augustus Molteno, Percy Alport Young, William (Perth, East)
Gretton, Colonel John Morison, Hector (Hackney, S.)
Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne) Paget, Almeric Hugh TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.
Hambro, Angus Valdemar Peto, Basil Edward A. Ward and Mr. MacCallum Scott
Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)

'she' ['if she has attained'], stand part of the Clause."

It being after Eleven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the Order of the House of the 12th February, proposed the Question, "That this House do now adjourn."


I rise for a few minutes to raise a question which I regard as no less important than that which has just been decided, that is the question of the situation of the Dominions in the so-called Empire. On previous occasions when I have raised this question I have been counted out but that circumstance has not in the least degree disturbed me because I intend to return to this question again and again, making it familiar to the public mind so that afterwards when we proceed to its ultimate realisation all the difficulties will be removed. Those who counted me out on an organised plan showed the weakness of their own position That, indeed, is their only argument. Moreover, at the present time I see victory from their ideas clearly defined, be- cause the Opposition have made one fatal mistake, and one might say, with Cromwell, "The Lord hath delivered them into our hands." [An HON. MEMBER: "Every time!"] The fatal mistake is that they have begun to argue—[An HON. MEMBER: "Very wrong!"]—and have always found it impossible to make headway against one type of mind. That is the mind which believes in the divine right of kings.

It being half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Half after Eleven o'clock.