§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
This is a Bill for again extending the life of this Parliament. This is the fourth time a Bill of this kind has been introduced and carried through the House of Commons. On the last occasion I was criticised for not making a speech in introducing it, but the fact I have just mentioned is the best justification for the course I adopted then and which I intend to adopt now. The reasons are all familiar to the House of Commons, and, in my opinion, instead of it being a mark of respect to the House to make a speech on such a subject, it would be the reverse. It would imply, what is certainly not the case, that all the reasons are not as familiar to every Member of the House as they are to me. It is obvious that the longer the life of Parliament is prolonged the further it gets from contact with the electors, who alone give hon. Members the right to speak in this House. On the other hand, unfortunately, the longer it continues, while the register remains as at present, the more it is evident that that register is less fitted to give expression to the views of the people of this country. But beyond that, the House, I am sure, feels, as I do, that, if it is avoidable, all the dissipation of energy which is involved by General Election is to be avoided at a time when the whole energies of the House and the country are required for something quite different. I have never taken the view that under no circumstances ought there to be an election, even with the present register. I can 241 imagine contingencies arising which would make it absolutely essential. There are two which occur to me. If we found—and such things have happened in other assemblies—that no Government could be constituted in the present House of Commons which would command the support that is necessary for a vigorous prosecution of the War something else would have to be done. Or if, on the other hand, we found that the House of Commons was ceasing to put its heart into this business or faltering in the task which I know the country intends to see through, that also in my judgment would make an election necessary, and bad as that register is, I have little doubt that in the present temper of the country any register would reflect what is the feeling of the country in regard to this matter. But none of these contingencies have arisen. We have to look at this assembly, or any other democratic assembly, not from the point of view of what is ideally perfect under all conditions, but from the point of view of what is possible to human nature, and after the experience we have had since the War began I can say that on the whole no free assembly in the world has behaved so well as the present House of Commons in regard to the conduct of the War, and in no period of our history has this great assembly shown a keener desire to sacrifice individual opinion and to support any Government which was entrusted with the conduct of the War.
This Bill differs from the previous one and the one before that in one respect only. The last Bill prolonged the life of Parliament for seven months. I am asking the House to extend this period to eight months. The reason for that will be obvious. If the Representation of the People Bill is carried through all its stages before Christmas, as we hope, the Home Secretary tells me he has good reason to hope that by the time put in this Bill the register will be available for an election. If that is so, it would be a mistake to tie our hands with the probability that we may have to pass another Bill of this kind for the simple purpose of enabling the new register to come into operation. But if my right hon. Friend has that hope, he cannot tell me that he has any certainty of it. Therefore, I considered whether or not we should make the period still longer. I thought, on the whole, it would not be right to ask the House of Commons to do it. The House of Commons itself has the right to be 242 jealous of the length of time for which its life is prolonged under the present circumstances. But it is not merely a question of the House of Commons. After all, the House of Commons ought not to be the sole judge of a case of this kind. The country has a right to say something in regard to it; and, in present circumstances, whatever view hon. Members may take in other circumstances, it is desirable that they also should have a say in regard to the matter. Therefore I have come to the conclusion that, on the whole, eight months is as long a period as we are entitled to ask the House to prolong the life of the present Parliament.
I notice that there is an Amendment on the Paper proposing that facilities should be given, in certain circumstances, to electors to produce an election in a particular constituency. The object of that is to get rid, if my hon. Friends can, from this House of Members who are not at one either with the House of Commons or the nation in the determination to prosecute the War to a victorious conclusion. I have not had much time to consider the arguments one way or the other, but the Government is not prepared to accept this proposal. In the first place, no suggestion is made as to how you are to find out whether a reasonable number of electors will desire this change. I do not think that would be an easy thing to ascertain. There is a proposal which has been adopted in some at least of the States forming the Union of the United States of America. I have no special information about it, but I do not think it has been found specially useful. As I understand, the principle is that you have to get a third of the electors to sign an appeal for a special election, and there is another provision, which I think would be fair in the circumstances, that they are to deposit the money to pay the expenses of the sitting member in the event of his being returned again. It must be obvious that in ordinary peace times that is an arrangement which would be absolutely intolerable. Let the House consider what the effect of it would he. In the first place it would do still more to make the Members of this House delegates, as the tendency of modern times is making them more and more, though I do not think any of us wish to see it accentuated, and not people elected to give their opinions in regard to all questions. For example, on some particular local ques- 243 tion, something affecting, let us say, dockyards, a Member may take a course which he thinks is in consonance with the interests of the country. He may be very unpopular for the moment in his constituency, and the result might be that he would be turned out for something which, if time were given, his own constituency might consider to be right.
But there is more than that. If you go back to the old peace times, or if we ever again return to the party system as we knew it before the War, the result of such an arrangement as this would be that it would not depend on the House of Commons, it would not depend on the Government either whether there was to be an election—it could be brought about at any moment by either of the parties which desired it. If this arrangement were carried, and we had the usual two party system in the constituencies, the moment it was thought that the Government had ceased to be as popular as it was when it was elected, an arrangement would have to be made by which this could go on all over the country and the present system would disappear. But of course I know my hon. Friends have no desire of that kind. What they think of is something during the War alone, and their view, I presume, is that it is not right that in this House hon. Members should express views which the House believes, and I think those hon. Members themselves believe, do not represent the views of their constituents. I do not think it would be wise for the sake of this object to make an innovation so great as this. After all, would not that be, instead of a proof of greater strength and determination a proof of weakness in the House of Commons? We are not afraid of these Debates. We have had them pretty often, and, so far as I can judge, we have not lost by the arguments, and I think we have gained. The Divisions have shown how small is the number in this House who represent the view which does not agree with that of this country. and on the last occasion we did not have a Division. Hon. Members thought it wiser not to put it to that test. For these reasons I hope the Amendment will not be pressed. I am sure it would not be wise. I hope the House will allow the Bill to pass without taking too much time in consideration of it.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I am not sure that my right hon. Friend has not devoted an 244 almost undue amount of attention to the Amendment, which is one of the most impracticable proposals I have ever seen. I say nothing more about that. With regard to the Bill itself, my right hon. Friend says this is the fourth time the House has been asked to grant what is obviously under normal conditions a very invidious thing—a prolongation of its own statutory existence. But the necessity for these applications has arisen from the fact that in an earlier stage of its existence this House, under the Parliament Act, deliberately cut short the life of Parliament from seven years to five. If we-were still under the Septennial Act this would have been the first occasion on which it would have been necessary to ask for a prolongation of its own life, as this Parliament would not have expired until January next. I hope the House will agree without any real dissension to the proposal which the Government has made. In the first place, it is in the highest degree undesirable that unless one or other of the contingencies to which my right hon. Friend has referred arises, and I quite agree with him that they have not arisen, the country should not in the stress of war be involved in the unnecessary and distracting turmoil of a General Election. Quite apart from that, there are two most material facts which point in the same direction. The first is that the register now in existence is not only no real reflection, but it is a most attenuated and possibly distorted reflection of the actual opinions of the electorate of the day. The second fact, which is of equal importance, is that the House has now been engaged for some months in elaborating a new scheme of franchise and of the distribution of representation which happily seems likely, without much more controversy, to come into law within a very short time, and it must inevitably take weeks and months to get the new register compiled for carrying out locally the provisions which Parliament has enacted before that electorate can be asked to pronounce its opinion. It would be almost a mockery of our proceedings, when we have resolved upon changes of that kind, to contemplate an election before those changes have been carried through and brought to fruition. The case is irresistible, I think, for the prolongation of the life of Parliament. I am not at all disposed to criticise the length of the term—eight months, I think it is, until the end of next July—which 245 the Government has proposed. The circumstances are abnormal in every respect. The House is not giving itself an indulgence. It has no interested motive of any sort for prolonging its existence, but it is acting in the best interests of the country in the prosecution of the objects on which the country is united in making this exceptional and necessary provision for the postponement of the election. I hope, therefore, that the House will, without dissent, give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ Mr. PETO
I beg to move to leave cut from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words "in view of the period which has elapsed since the last General Election, this House declines to assent to any further prolongation of the present Parliament by legislation which does not ensure to the electorate an opportunity of demanding a by-election in any constituency in which a reasonable number of the electors in such constituency call for the resignation of any Member sitting in the present Parliament for such constituency."
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for having referred to the Motion which stands in my name and in the names of other hon. Members, in more sympathetic terms than those which fell from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith). When I lay before the House an outline of the machinery which I propose for giving effect to this Resolution, I think I shall be able to show that, whatever defects there may be, it is not wholly impracticable. At any rate, the speech of the Leader of the House shows that he is vastly more in touch with popular opinion throughout the country in dealing with this question than the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke. This is the fourth occasion on which the life of the present Parliament has been extended. It has been extended for eight months, seven months, seven months, and now it is proposed to extend it for a further eight months, or, in all, two years and six months beyond the time named in the Act which this Bill is to amend, namely, the Parliament Act of 1911. This Bill will extend the life of Parliament by 50 per cent. in advance of what was considered right in the Parliament Act of 1911. This Parliament was elected before the War, and the work that it has had to do for over three years has been to 246 render assistance, so far as it possibly can, to the Government in the active and effective prosecution of the War. That has been its main purpose. Therefore, I hold that since the authority of the Government in the conduct of the War depends esentially upon the confidence of the people, anything which impairs the confidence of the people in this House must weaken and interfere with the action of the Government in carrying on the War. I think it is beyond dispute that there is a very strong belief that this Parliament does not represent truly the views of the people, or, at any rate, that there are Members in this Parliament who constantly speak and act in a way which is contrary to the sentiment of the country as a whole which, as the Leader of the House said, is perfectly sound, and would support this Government, or any Government, which would actively and effectively prosecute the War.
The Leader of the House truly said that there is nothing in the present condition of affairs, such as the practical disappearance of parties in this House and in the support which the House as a whole gives to every proposal of the Government, to make a General Election necessary; but surely that is no argument against our setting up machinery, if we can, which would effectively purge this House of the discordant elements that are in it, and which are acting in a manner contrary to the will of the people as a whole, and of their constituents in particular. The principal objection of the Leader of the House to my proposal is that it is not possible to define "reasonable number of the electors." Obviously, it would be utterly unreasonable and impossible to demand at the present time a majority of the electors in any constituency to signify their desire for an opportunity of testing the question whether or not their sitting Member represents the views of his constituency. Of many constituencies I should think it is more than doubtful if-there exists now 50 per cent. of those who were on the original roll of electors which returned Members to this Parliament in 1910. The Leader of the House objected to my Amendment because he thinks it would tend to make members delegates rather than representatives. I frankly admit that I cannot follow that argument. There is all the difference in the world between a member having the approval of his constituents to every act 247 and every minor detail of his actions and every vote given in this House on such questions as dockyard labour and so on, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and a member who persistently month after month and year after year represents in his speeches and actions a policy in direct opposition to the policy of the Government and the policy which commands the adherence of practically the whole of the electors of the country.
We ought to consider what are the causes of the growing belief, to which I have referred, that to some extent this House does not fully represent the views of the country, and that the country cannot speak as it would wish through the mouths of its elected representatives. There is no doubt that one of those causes, and it is a very patriotic cause, is that so many members who in ordinary peace times would represent their constituencies are serving in His Majesty's Forces, and are not in the House to represent their constituencies. There is another cause, and that is the growing number of hon. Members who are either members of the Government or who are attached to the Government in some minor capacity, or who have for patriotic motives very often taken up work and are performing valuable service on one or other of the innumerable Committees which have been set up to manage one part or other of the War. We know that as a result of that these members are practically silent, either from the point of view of speaking or of asking questions which concern the affairs of their constituencies. Therefore, we are reduced to a very small number of members who are still free to do what they were elected to do by their constituents, namely, to represent them not as delegates, but as representatives of the views of the majority of the constituents in this House. There is a third reason which I think is a far more potent reason for the disrepute in the public eye which has been continuously falling upon this representative Assembly, and it is that there are Members in this House who constantly express in speech and in question views which are utterly repugnant to the sentiments and belief of the majority of the constituents, and of the main purpose of the Government, namely, the effective and active prosecution of the War. The constituents consequently feel that they are absolutely helpless and paralysed, and can give no 248 expression to their views, and cannot render that assistance to the Government which they would like to render, but that, on the contrary, they see their sentiments violated every time certain Debates take place which the Leader of the House says he does not fear, but which I do not think he would say are useful for the prosecution of the War.
My Amendment suggests a remedy. I knew I should be asked to indicate what I mean by a reasonable number of electors, and by what sort of machinery this proposal should be rendered effective. It is impossible to suggest that we can get even a majority of the electors in any constituency at the present moment, and it would be almost equally impossible to get even one-third of the electors on the register to signify their desire to recall their members, as the Leader of the House said is the practice in America. But surely it is not unreasonable to suggest that a number, be it very large or be it only of moderate dimensions, of electors in a constituency who not only sign their name but verify their signatures in the ordinary way before a magistrate or commissioner of oaths, should be able to sign a petition, which I suggest could most properly be addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, memorialising you and asking that a writ should be issued for a by-election in that constituency. It is not always numbers that count. If I received a memorial signed by the Chairman of the Unionist Association of my Constituency and half a dozen of the other members of the executive committee saying that these men, who were very largely responsible for my having been nominated and elected to this House, and who have been in the constituency all the time that I have been here at Westminster, were convinced that I no longer represented the views of my Constituents, and asking me to retire, I should not wish for any further machinery to be put into operation, but I should be only too glad to give that constituency the opportunity of a by-election.
I believe that that would be the case with the vast majority of Members, and I would like to think that it would be the case with every Member of this House. It is the character of the people who sign, as well as the number, which would have to be weighed. Only a very limited number of electors in any constituency follow politics closely from 249 election to election. They are on district committees and ward committees; they are always the active politicians in the constituency, who have their finger on its pulse, and can fairly speak as to what are the views of the great mass of the electors. Therefore, even if such a memorial were not very largely signed, not signed by a majority, or even by one-third of the electors, if it contained the names of a considerable number of electors of weight in the constituency, and if there were a third condition to which I will refer in a moment, a primâ facie case would be made out that it was only reasonable to suppose that a certain Member no longer represented the views of the majority of his constituents. The third condition would be the reasons set forth in the memorial, going to show that a Member did not represent the majority of his constituents.
The Leader of the House recalled that it was customary in America for those who signed such a petition of recall to put up the money for a by-election in case the sitting Member were re-elected. I do not think that that would offer any difficulty, though I submit that this is really a national question, which attracts an enormous amount of interest outside, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife certainly does not represent the view of the great mass of the electors when he says that the proposal is wholly impracticable, and waves it away with a word. It may be difficult, but this Parliament is altogether an abnormal Parliament. We live in abnormal times, and we cannot dismiss a state of affairs which violates the feelings of an enormous number of the most patriotic of Englishmen without making some attempt to see whether machinery can be devised to make this House as representative as possible. As it is a question of national interest, I do not think it unreasonable to provide as part of the machinery that in case of the petition resulting in a by-election which results in the re-election of the sitting Member, showing that the views of the constituents were misrepresented in the petition, then ether from public or local funds the election expenses of the sitting Member should be paid. I think that it would be a very cheap way of getting over a difficulty which weakens the authority of Parliament and the authority of the Government, and therefore, though 250 we have been asked not to spend too much time on this Amendment, I consider it my duty to move it.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
I rise to, second the Amendment. My right hon. Leader attempted to demolish in anticipation the arguments of those who move and second this Amendment. I desire to second it on rather broader grounds than those of my hon. Friend, because I think it of the utmost importance that we should do everything possible to restore the House of Commons to the confidence of the country. One hears on all hands, personally I think quite wrongly, of the degradation of the House of Commons. The House of Commons is sneered at, and its Members are regarded as. politicians and people of no importance, and it is said that the sooner the House of Commons is shut up the better it would be for the country and for the carrying on of the War. When I hear some of the speeches made in this House I can to some extent understand the feelings of men who talk like that. On the other hand, I think that the Leader of the House has given us the proper answer to that. The House of Commons derives its power from the people, it is what the people make it, and the Government derives all its power and authority from the people, through the Members of the House of Commons. Therefore, it is essential to take every possible step to bring the House of Commons into the closest touch with the people, so that the House of Commons and the authority which it derives from the people and conveys to the Government may be the exact reflex of the opinion of the people. That being the case, it would be better to have elections at more frequent intervals, but I have been convinced by the arguments which the two right hon. Gentlemen have addressed to the House this afternoon that it would be not merely inconvenient, but almost impossible, to have a General Election at the present time, and I am convinced by my own knowledge of the position that this Bill should be carried into law. But if we know, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House admitted his own personal knowledge of the fact, that there are Members who are in direct conflict with the views of their constituents and of the country generally, are we not in honour bound to take any steps that we conceive possible to remove that blot from the House of Commons and to restore to 251 the House the authority that it should have as the representative of the people?
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House urged that this proposal would make the Members of this House delegates rather than representatives. I have always claimed that we are representatives and not delegates, and I have no desire whatever to see Members of this House made into delegates, bound to vote in whatever way the caucus directs them to vote. But, on the other hand, the constituents are entitled, as my right hon. Friend had in mind, and as Burke said in his address to the electors of Bristol, not merely to the vote but to the thought of their representative, and the whole question here is whether these hon. Members whom we desire to send back to their constituents are not here, not as delegates of their constituents, but as delegates of outside powers foreign to their constituents, foreign to this country, some body such as the Union of Democratic Control, and bodies of that kind. We know, and the constituents know, before a Division in this House which way certain Members of the House are going to vote, not in accordance with the views of their ,constituents, but as if they were delegates of that body, or some other body, which is contrary to the main body of opinion in the country. The proposal of my hon. Friend would tend to restore to the constituencies the position of not having hostile delegates, but of having friendly representatives in this House. I do not know whether my hon. Friend proposes to go to a Division, but I do ask the Government to consider whether they can adopt some modifying proposal of my hon. Friend, because I am convinced that in the interests of the House of Commons itself, the Government itself, and the prosecution of this War, it is desirable to, bring this House more closely into touch, certainly in respect of some of its Members, with the main trend of opinion in the country.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
I should have thought, after hearing the arguments of the Leader of the House, that the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment would not insist on going further in the matter. As showing the impracticability of this Amendment, I may give a personal example of what happened some three or four years ago. The Liberal Executive in my Constituency withdrew their support of myself because of certain votes 252 which I gave when I voted with the hon. Gentlemen in favour of the Unionist Motion in the Marconi case. I voted with the Unionists on that occasion because I believed in the Amendment which they proposed. I do not wish to cast any aspersions on the present Prime Minister, but as I understand that Amendment, it expressed the regret of this House that the then Chancellor of the Exchequer had engaged in certain operations which the Unionists thought were not in accordance with the high traditions of the House. Does the hon. Member suggest that on that occasion I, as a Member of Parliament, should not have exercised my right to support what I believed to be a right Amendment? Does he suggest that I should resign my seat because of my vote? It is ludicrous. You have only to examine these cases to see the result. It just happens that these two hon. Gentlemen, in the excess of their patriotism, which I fully share, do not wish to see here certain other hon. Members who express views which run counter to their pronounced views on the question of this War, and therefore they favour this Amendment. But, as the Leader of the House has pointed out, it is an impracticable Amendment, because if you examine the matter you will see that I should have been failing in my trust as a Member of Parliament if I had not voted with the hon. Gentleman and the Unionists on that occasion. The constituencies are entitled not only to the vote, but to the judgment of the individual Member. He is not only a representative of his constituents, he is a Member of Parliament, he comes here to offer his opinions such as they are, though they may not be in sympathy with those of the Mover or Seconder of the Amendment, and the House of Commons is entitled to have the honest and sincere opinion of every Member of this assembly, however unpopular they may be.
§ Mr. MASON
I do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman has quite followed my argument. I think that the constituencies are fully alive to the fact when they appoint Members of Parliament They send them here as Members of Parliament and, though they may not be in accordance with those of the hon. and learned Gentleman, this House is entitled to have the views of these men.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Suppose that a constituency, by a substantial body, repudiates the opinions expressed by an hon. Member, what is the proper course for him?
§ Mr. MASON
I have endeavoured to give an illustration in my own case. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has followed my remarks. I then voted with the Unionists, because I thought it perfectly proper that the House should express its regret that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should engage in certain transactions, and I would ask the hon. Member does he think that I should have resigned because my opinion did not commend itself to the Liberal executive of my constituency? Why, it would be an intolerable situation, and the hon. and learned Gentleman must know it. I join with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, who has shown the impracticability of this proposal. It is often the fact that opinions which are expressed by some of us do not commend themselves to the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Butcher), but if he likes to apply his impartial and judicial mind to the matter, I think he will be bound to agree with Burke that this House is entitled not only to the votes but to the judgment of its members.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
The Leader of the House told us when he moved the Second Reading of this Bill—and if I may say so he told us with great truth—that the longer a Parliament lasts the less becomes the authority of the members to speak for the contituencies with which they have been so long associated. That is perfectly true of all; it is true of some of us even more than of others. But I would urge upon this House that when a member has been distinctly repudiated by his own constituency, when meetings have been held of the executives of the bodies which sent him to Parliament, when meetings have been held of the council of the party which sent him to Parliament, and when they have repudiated in the strongest possible terms in their power the views of that member and, as has happened in some cases, called upon him to resign, then it is an absolute scandal that the member should be allowed to come to this House and profess to represent the opinions of the people who originally sent him here. It is a gross injustice to the constituency to have their views misrepresented; it is a gross injustice that a man whom they sent to Parliament to repre- 254 sent them should advocate precisely opposite views to those which they hold at the present moment. It may be urged that it is not desired that members should become mere delegates. You may use any other theoretical observations you like in order to justify the taking up of such a position, but I say it is not a position which the people and the country understand. If it is not unparliamentary to say so, I would say it is a position which honest men can hardly understand. What is the effect? The effect is this, that speeches are made in this House by members of particular constituencies, speeches which the constituencies loathe, speeches which are distasteful and repulsive to the vast majority of the people of this country, and which are acceptable only to very small—I might say contemptibly small—bodies of opinion in this country. Doubtless they are highly acceptable amongst our enemies—they are highly acceptable in Berlin and other circles where they are appreciated. But that is not all. These speeches go out to our enemies as being the voice of large bodies of opinion in this country when in fact they are the views of only contemptibly small bodies and are absolutely rejected by the mass of people. They are, however, quoted amongst our enemies as showing that we are weakening in this War, as showing a desire to make an ignominious peace. They give comfort to our enemies, and, whatever their object may be, they cause grave dissatisfaction to the true friends of this country and to all who are assisting in the prosecution of the War.
This is not an academic question. There are cases to which this most definitely and most urgently applies. I hold in my hand a list of eight Members of this House—possibly the list is not exhaustive, but I have done my best to see that it is accurate—who have been repudiated by the men through whose aid they were returned to Parliament. I do not know whether the House would like to hear one or two of the names. I am not disclosing any secret; I am stating what has appeared not only in the local Press but also in the general Press. I am speaking of facts with which, perhaps, some hon. Members are unfamiliar or, perhaps, not so familiar as they are to the constituents of the hon. Gentleman referred to. I will take as typical that of the hon. Member for the Elland Division (Mr. Trevelyan) whom I am glad to see in his place. If I 255 misrepresent his position in any way and he corrects me I shall be only too glad to apologise, but I think my facts are correct. On not one but on three different occasions his executive council has repudiated him as their representative and called upon him to resign. What is the hon. Member's answer? I confess that had I been in his position I should not have had the courage to make such an answer. But he told them that he was really acting on the truest principles of Parliamentary representation, and he relied on the great speech of Burke in his address to the electors of Bristol in order to justify his coming to this House and making speeches repulsive to the majority, as far as can be judged, of his constituents. What Burke would think of his abuse of the great declaration made to the electors of Bristol I leave the House to imagine. Then I take the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark (Mr. Whitehouse). He has been asked by the Liberal Association in his constituency to resign. That was not more than a year ago. He refused. I am not quite sure that he quoted Burke: perhaps he had some other authority on which he relied. Then take another case, that of the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs; he has been asked by his association to resign on, I think, more than one occasion.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I apologise. But am I right in saying that on one occasion, on the 25th August, 1915, the hon. Member's action was condemned at a meeting, and that on the 27th December, 1916, the Liberal Association passed a vote of want of confidence in him? That being the case, it seems to me very much the same as asking him to resign. There may be a verbal difference, but were I in the same position as the hon. Gentleman I should take it as a request to resign, and probably should resign and see whether or not I had the support of the constituency. Yet the hon. Member still sits here. I turn next to the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite). I hope I shall not misrepresent him when I say that his Liberal committee has repudiated him.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
No; but they had a meeting to consider the policy and action of the hon. Gentleman, and I must say 256 I am astonished that flimsy, ridiculous, and unsubstantial objections of this sort should be made by the hon. Member. He admits that his association repudiated him, and says, "I did not resign because they did not ask me to." If that is his standard of public life—if that is the standard professed by members of his party—then I think the country will know even better than it does now what to think of the speeches they make in this House. I pass to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Morrell). If my information is correct, the support of the Liberals who returned him has been withdrawn. He has sent a letter to his constituency which is a satisfactory and proper one, and the only amendment I would suggest, if he will accept my suggestion, is that, instead of postponing his resignation until a General Election, he should hand it in at once. Then there is the case of my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. D. Mason). He will correct me if I am wrong in saying that he has been repudiated by his Liberal friends. I understand that that is the case. We have heard the hon. Member's explanation as to why he does not resign. He has referred to his previous action in regard to the Marconi Debate. A more extraordinary justification for his present action I cannot conceive! What happened in the Marconi Debate? The Marconi case was a case which, although disagreeable enough in a particular aspect, was in no sense a national question. The question whether a man had bought so many more or less Marconi shares arose, but the fate of the country did not depend on it. The whole future of our people, the whole success of our cause, the civilisation of the world did not depend upon it. A speech or a vote on the Marconi case was nothing in comparison with speaking or voting on a question like this War on which the fate of the world depends on the action of this House, of our country and of our Empire, and I hope the hon. Member will on reflection see what a distinction there is between the two. I should not have troubled the House had I not thought the time had come when it is desirable that the people outside this House should know the measure of the mandate which is behind the speeches that are made here. There are only two more cases I want to refer to. One is that of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Denman). He, I understand, had a vote of want of confidence passed in him. He had been repudiated 257 but he still sits here and he still makes speeches against the wish of his constituents.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
I am not responsible for the acts of the Government. I do not know and I do not care whether the hon. Member is a private Parliamentary secretary or not. It does not affect my argument. What I do say is this, that if my information is correct he has been repudiated by his constituents and yet he goes on voting contrary to their wishes. Let me deal lastly with the case of the hon. Member for Central Hackney. I gather from the public Press that in February last year he was repudiated by the Liberal Association. We all know he is engaged in very active propaganda in favour of peace. I do not quite know what his position is in this pacifist organisation, but we do know he is very active and that he speaks in this House in a direction contrary to that which his constituents desire. I believe there are others, but as I have not accurate information myself I do not want to make myself responsible for those others. [HON. MEMBERS "Hear, hear!"] Yes, I prefer to rest exactly on what I have verified for myself.
If those are the facts, and hon. Members do not deny them, I ask if that is not a state of things in which the Government should take some action? What are we asked to do? We are asked to allow this state of things to go on for eight months more. It has gone on far too long already. If the life of this Parliament had been brought to an end at its legitimate time we should have got rid of what I venture to describe as a scandal, but now the Government come forward and say, Prolong these things for eight months; give these Gentlemen an opportunity for eight months more to misrepresent their constituents, and send messages to Berlin which will bring joy to the hearts of the Germans. My hon Friend asks, and I think it is a very reasonable and proper request, that if the Government feel it -necessary for the public advantage—and I do not deny their right to ask us to do so—to prolong the life of Parliament for eight months, do let them accompany that Bill by a Bill which will take out from our midst, or at any rate give an opportunity to the constituents to take from our midst, 258 what we believe to be a very grave scandal. What was the answer of the Leader of the House? He made some admirable observations as to what would be the duty of this House in peace time in regard to a measure of this sort, and when Parliament was sitting within its appointed time; but what has that to do with it? In a state of war, when these utterances may do our country the gravest harm, what are those arguments to do with a case where Parliament has already sat for more than two years beyond its appointed time and where it is proposed to ask the House to give it eight months' further prolongation? Therefore, so far as the Leader of the House's answer has gone, I attach no weight to it whatsoever. The late Prime Minister (Mr. Asquith), indeed, dealt with the matter most summarily. He said, I content myself with saying that this is impracticable—rather a remarkable expression, by the way. He did not say it was undesirable, and I should have liked to hear his views about that. All he said was that it was impracticable—meaning, I suppose, that the machinery is not easy to work out. That may be; but I do ask the Government, either before or after they have passed this Bill into law, to bring in a measure—not so difficult to frame, because such a Bill has been framed in other countries—for the purpose of carrying out the object aimed at by this Resolution. I venture to assure them that if they do so they will receive the gratitude of very large numbers of patriotically minded people in this country.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
As the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down has referred to me, perhaps the House will permit me to say just a few words. I do not altogether disagree with the intention of this Amendment. I have often thought it would be an excellent thing if some means could be devised by which we could at any time have a by-election in a constituency where a member notoriously misrepresented the views of those who had returned him. The hon. and learned Member referred to an hon. Gentleman sitting here, who was repudiated by his executive, as a scandal. He used words both of violence and virulence. The impropriety of that was brought home to me quite recently, in the case of one of the very latest by-elections, where a member of the Government had to go and seek a return from his constituents. I allude to the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. H. Roberts), who is Minister for 259 Labour. When he went up for re-election his executive had almost unanimously repudiated him, and demanded for the party another candidate. The Government was cute enough to rush the election, so that another candidate could not be provided, and the hon. Member sits in this House as a member of the Government although he has been repudiated by his executive. That does seem to me to partake of the nature of a scandal. I am going to refer to my own case a little later on, but there do seem to be very great difficulties in carrying this provision into effect. For my own part, I may say at the outset that nothing will do me more good than the attacks which have been made upon me by members of the Unionist party. I shall go down to the constituency, as I have done, and I shall be able to point to the speeches of the Tory reactionaries who at any time would have been glad to get me out of this House. I was really sent here to look after the actions of such men as the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution, and I have been performing all through the duty I was sent by the miners and potters of Hanley to perform in looking after the reactionaries in this House. I have done it to the best of my ability, and I have fulfilled every pledge I gave to the voters of Hanley who returned me. This Resolution says that a third of the electors are, at any time, to be able to call upon a Member to resign. A third of the electors of Hanley would, at any time, have been able to have an opportunity of calling on me to resign, because more than one-third are Tories. I suppose we should have had a by-election every few weeks. The Tory vote would have called upon me to resign. I should have resigned; and as soon as I had been re-elected—I suppose they would have allowed me a few weeks before calling my conduct into question again—and then they would have called upon me to resign again, and we should have had a series of by-elections in Hanley. I would not mind so much, because it would have been entertaining, and I should have beaten them every three weeks; but there is this matter to be considered. I think that those who call the by-election tune should pay the piper. They should put up the money, and there is no suggestion in this Amendment that that should be done. At any rate, it should be pointed out that one-third of an electorate, at any time, can 260 nearly always be raked up from the opponents of the sitting Member. I have no doubt that could be done in York—
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Might I tell the hon. Gentleman that I have received no such suggestion, and I do not think I am likely to receive one?
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I hope for the best; but my point for the moment is that at any time any party could get one-third of the opponents of the sitting member and bring about a by-election. The hon. Member referred to the fact, as he puts it, that, I think he said, I was repudiated by my executive. My executive and the electors have been, I think, very considerate and extraordinarily good to me, seeing that the truth is so well concealed from them, and that misrepresentation is at its fullest. At the beginning of the War—at the very outset—I made my position perfectly clear. I said that I believed that this War was a war of Eastern ambition, and that I could not take part in recruiting. That is where the split came between myself and my executive. I said that if I believed in the War I could. say, "Come and fight," but I could not, and would not, say, "Go and fight for me." I met my executive and put before them in the plainest and most unvarnished way my views as to the origin of the War, and they passed a resolution—at my suggestion, because I told them I was going to follow a path that I did not expect them to take with me, knowing the sort of weapons that would be used against any man who stood up for what he conceived to be the absolute truth in this matter—holding themselves free to elect another. candidate for the next General Election, and leaving me free to pursue my way. Since that time, at the beginning of the War, there has not been any action taken by the executive, and I have not received a letter or a postcard of protest. I do not wish to mislead the House. At any rate, at the beginning of the War the views of the constituents were quite contrary to my own, but at the same time I think the majority of those who voted for me, and perhaps almost the whole of them, believed that I was doing only what I thought was right, and they were not going to interfere with me in doing what I considered to be my duty. Perhaps it was because they took a somewhat different view to that expressed by Unionist Members as to the duty of a Member.
261 Later on, however, at the beginning of this year, so many statements have been made as to my position in the constituency, and so many hon. Members here, happening to have a majority behind them at the moment, had become accustomed to jeer at me, that certain people were emboldened to go down into Hanley in order to hold a meeting to call for my resignation. There is a certain union which seems to have funds from somewhere to spend. I do not know where they come from. We know that Bolo has financed Jingo organisations. They came into Hanley, took their president with them, and managed to rake up a Liberal Member for the purpose of attacking me. I refer to the hon. Member for East Glamorgan (Mr. Clement Edwards). They took a hall capable of holding four or five hundred people. They placarded the whole constituency—I saw the placards when I went down afterwards. The meeting was called to ask me to resign because of my action in Parliament. They had about fifty people in the hall. They could not get anyone to move the resolution from the audience, so they moved it themselves. They did not dare to pass that resolution, however. They were such a miserable crew of scallywags that the best they thought they could do was to move a resolution to call for a town's meeting to ask me to resign. No town's meeting was ever held. I went there and had an opportunity I had long been awaiting. I had told the executive that I would always hold meetings there, when I would be able to express to it the whole facts of the case before the constituency. I got somewhat more of an opportunity, from my point of view, when the Russian Revolution came, because then we were able to attack the man who I consider to be mainly instrumental in bringing about this War—that is, Nikolas Romanoff, now under lock and key. I had a very fine meeting at the first meeting, while the second meeting of miners was the best for enthusiasm I think I have ever held in my Constituency. The reason it was so enthusiastic was that at the beginning of my speech I just recited to the audience of Staffordshire colliers the circumstances under which again and again I had been howled down in the House of Commons by Tory reactionaries. That was enough for the miners of Burslem. There were some foolish supporters of the Tory reactionaries in the audience, and the main difficulty I had to contend with was to prevent 262 those men, when they foolishly interjected, from being thrown downstairs. On the resolution of vote of confidence or not, the meeting voted for me, and there were only six dissentients. That shows that one has only to put matters plainly before the electors, and state the facts of the case, and I, for my part, believe that I have a majority of my Constituents in my favour. There are lies being told about those holding my views giving assistance to the enemy. [An HON. MEMBER: " They are!"] If you want speeches which give assistance to the enemy, you got one yesterday from your Prime Minister—speeches which are quoted in the German Press; speeches, in the first place, that are the speeches of the Jingoes of this country, and which are calculated to encourage and stiffen the German soldiers, when they read that we are out to crush and dismember the German Empire. The speech which we had yesterday from the Prime Minister—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must call the attention of the hon. Gentleman to the fact that he is not discussing the question before the House.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I have been led astray, perhaps, by some little interjections, but what I desire to point out is that I have been attacked on the ground that I do not represent my Constituents. But the facts are coming out now. We have had a great revelation of the truth, and our position will be a very different one from what it is to-day. Under the Defence of the Realm Act it is almost impossible to present the truth to our constituents. I have never been afraid myself to state the truth, but under the Defence of the Realm Act I felt that if I went down to my constituents and presented the whole case as it should be presented, supporters of mine might repeat my statements in their desire to help me, and certainly they would then have fallen victims to the Defence of the Realm Act. We are prevented from presenting the facts. We have no freedom of speech, though a different state of circumstances may arise later on. I would suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he should add words to his Amendment to the effect that during any by-election there shall be absolute freedom of speech, and that the Defence of the Realm Act shall not be operative. If that were adopted, it would serve the purpose of the country at the present time. The 263 general idea of the hon. Member has in it a good deal which commends itself to me, but I would point out to him the desirability of the addition which I suggest. It is an absurdity, anyhow, to suggest that a number of Tories should gather together, or a number of some other parties should gather together, and after passing a resolution to the effect that I should resign, expect me to do so at their request. You should state in your Amendment some substantial ground for the suggestion, but at any rate in my case it must be for the majority to say that I no longer represent their views.
§ General CROFT
I do not want to make any individual reference to any of those sitting on the bench behind me, but I want to point out that I think the last speaker has no reason to object at all to the Amendment which stands in our name, for the simple reason, as he tells us, that he has overwhelming support in his constituency and therefore he has nothing to fear from the proposal which we make. It may be that other hon. Gentlemen also feel that they have nothing to fear.
§ General CROFT
But we hope the time will come, if we wait a little longer, when there may be an opportunity for those who are now in the trenches to express their opinion of the hon. Member, and I venture to think that the hon. Gentleman will then form a very true estimate of what is the feeling of his constituents. Reference was made just now to the case of the right hon. Member for Norwich. Surely that is hardly a fair criticism. Nobody who has held the confidence of the electors of Norwich, even in the very few days that were given to contest the constituency could have given expression to the views of the constituents. It is no fair comparison to take the case of a by-election and compare it with the cases where it is suggested that, rightly or wrongly, there are Members of this House who in no way represent the majority of their constituents. I think there are very few in this country who do not agree that, whatever may be the motives of hon. Gentlemen opposite, there is nothing more encouraging to the enemy than the fact that the so-called representatives of the people in this country are getting up and making speeches in this 264 House again and again, and with far more frequency than anyone else, while they apparently claim to be representing the views of their constituents, though at the same time their speeches are inevitably reported in the enemy Press. If you are going to prolong the life of Parliament still further you must see to it that you are not misrepresenting the electors of the country in cases where they might desire to be differently represented when you prolong the life of Parliament over and above the legal time. If there are no such cases, then we shall see many Members returned again, but if there are and if they really believe that they do represent their constituencies, what have they to fear? Why cannot my hon. Friends go into the Lobby on this question?
§ General CROFT
That is a perfectly fair question. I have left my party and joined the new party. The hon. Member will do me the credit of believing me when I state that I went immediately to my supporters who had adopted me and told them that if any large section of the constituency wanted me to retire I would resign my seat. They were satisfied with my conduct in the War, and they gave me a vote of confidence. I do not think that is the case of my hon. Friend behind me, because there is a large section demanding his retirement. The hon. Member for Hanley said it would be a monstrous thing that one-third of the constituency should be allowed to ask a Member to retire. He characterised the suggestion as monstrous, but I do not think my hon. Friend mentioned the figure one-third. As a matter of fact, if an election were to take place at the present moment, it is not likely that more than 50 per cent. of the electors would go to the poll—perhaps only 45 or 47 per cent. So that if you got one-third of the hon. Gentleman's constituents to demand an election under this proposal it would be, in fact, a large majority of those existing in the constituency at the time. Therefore, even if you take this figure, I think it is a reasonable one to adopt in this connection. It was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition that the Amendment was impracticable. I think the constituents will not find it so, and, if Parliament is to go on voting itself longer life, surely you should give the various 265 constituencies of the country an opportunity of saying whether or not their views are represented in this House. In nearly every case pacifist views have been invariably condemned, and only to-day I have heard of some eight or nine cases where they have been condemned. In peace time, when a resignation was demanded, an hon. Member thought it his duty to face an election by resigning his seat, but, because we are in the middle of a war, there is a departure from that honourable course, and, in spite of the fact that almost every association has condemned their action, they continue to make no movement towards consulting their constituents. If we are going to have a long Parliament, then I say you should give the constituents the opportunity and the protection of being in a position to say that their Member misrepresents their views, and that they want an opportunity of appealing to the electorate.
§ The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Hayes Fisher)
Whether the Amendment is practicable or not practicable, I am quite sure of this, having listened to the speeches made in defence of the proposal, that they were the result of motives not only of the highest order, but motives of the highest Parliamentary order. Both my hon. Friends stated, first of all, that they were anxious that this House should retain the fullest confidence of the country, and, in the second place, that they were anxious that no large number of the constituencies should continue to be misrepresented in any way against the views of the vast majority of the electorate. I think myself, and I think almost the whole House, would be animated by those motives, but whether the House has or has not the confidence of the electors of the country is a matter incapable of proof, for Parliament has now continued for nearly seven years, and if you go to an election it would be under the old register, on which 40 per cent. in all probability of the electors only can vote, and not a General Election, which would renew and exhilarate the manhood and womanhood of the country, if they could record their opinion. Do not let us forget when we are testing whether or not this House has the confidence of the country that since the beginning of the War there have been some eighty by-elections. Of those, twenty—I am speaking from memory—have been 266 contested. If anybody turned to the election speeches that were made and the general arguments advanced, they would come to this conclusion that wherever the candidate laid it down most strongly that he would only support the Government which would prosecute the War with the greatest possible activity and vigour and the Government which would listen to no terms of any false peace but which would wait until the War had been prosecuted to a successful conclusion and a permanent peace established on terms such as we thought desirable, that candidate was invariably elected over the other candidates. The hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Outhwaite) has, I think, made a most unfair and unwarranted attack upon my hon. Friend the Minister for Labour (Mr. G. Roberts) in connection with the recent election for his constituency at Norwich.
§ Mr. FISHER
It was an attack. It is an attack if the hon. Member means to say, and he did mean to say, that if hon. Members sitting by his side are capable of retaining their seats without retaining the confidence of the electors that the Minister for Labour retains his seat now without retaining the confidence of the electors of his constituency. I say that is an attack upon him.
§ Mr. OUTHWAITE
I never said anything of the kind about retaining the confidence of the electors. The hon. and learned Member for York (Mr. Butcher) spoke of retaining the confidence of the executive, and that men sat here who had been repudiated by their executives. I was replying to that argument and showing that the executive does not always represent the constituency, and in doing so I used the illustration of Norwich. I said nothing whatever about retaining the confidence of the electors.
§ Mr. FISHER
I apologise if I misunderstood the hon. Member, but I thought he was placing my hon. Friend in the same position as those hon. Members who have been told by their constituents.
§ Mr. FISHER
That they no longer represented them. I understood him to place my hon. Friend in the same category as those hon. Gentlemen. If I am mistaken, I apologise. The election of my 267 hon. Friend resulted, to the great joy of us all, in his return to this House. As to the statement of the hon. Member for Hanley about that election I say that it was not rushed in any way. It was absolutely necessary to move the writ because the House was about to rise. There was at least a week in which it would have, been perfectly possible for the executive to have another candidate nominated and put their opinions to the test if they desired to do so, but they did not desire to do so, they ran away from the contest, and if they did not run away from the contest I know Norwich and East Anglia well enough to say that my right hon. Friend would have been returned by an overwhelming majority to this House.
§ Mr. FISHER
I have referred to the motives which actuated my hon. Friends in bringing forward this Amendment. At the present time it is impossible and most undesirable to have a General Election. At the recent by-elections in East Islington, and North Salford there were polls of less, I think, than 40 per cent. We know that there are a number of members out doing duty in the War, we know about the paper difficulty and petrol and postage and other difficulties which make it undesirable to have an election. The strongest argument of all is that we have now only an old register, but we hope by about the 1st August next to have a new register reinvigorated with about 8,000,000 new voters, and then is the time when we may be able, at all events, to consider from the point of view of a register whether or not it is desirable to take the opinion of the country. My hon. Friends who brought forward this Amendment say, "If we cannot have a general election is it not possible to provide some machinery by which we may, at all events, give constituencies which are represented by those who differ fundamentally and profoundly from the opinions of the great majority of the constituents some opportunity of having a by-election?" That is a desirable thing in itself. The hon. Member for Hanley is not opposed to some machinery by which a by-election might under certain circumstances be fought, but if the hon. Member for Hanley really is so desirous that Members who do not represent their constituencies should subject themselves to by-elections, why does 268 he not persuade his hon. Friends who evidently do not represent the opinions of their constituencies—[HON. MEMBERS: "How do you know?"]—to take the law into their own hands and submit themselves to by-elections?
§ Mr. FISHER
I am quite certain that I do, and I have not had one single letter to tell me that I do not. I should be very glad to test the matter with the hon. Member, able though he is, and I am quite certain I should win on my opinions on the War as against his opinions on war and peace. I feel that, however desirable the object may be of the Amendment, the machinery to produce such a result is really impossible. What do the hon. Members desire to do? I thought at first they were going to give the go-by to the subject of whether or not the machinery was practical or not, but my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment faced it very boldly. He said that what they proposed was that where there was a considerable majority in favour of the resignation by a Member of his seat because the great bulk of the constituency did not agree with the votes given by the hon. Member and the opinions expressed by him, that they should be able to petition the Speaker to bring about a by-election in that constituency. The hon. Member said that you could not expect a majority, but he mentioned one-third, and said it would be possible to get a third, and that you could get a proportion. What proportion? Obviously if it is going to be a very small proportion of the electors we might bring about a great many by-elections very unfairly to the candidate. Who is to fix the proportion? My hon. Friend does not suggest that it should be fixed by Statute. Is it to be fixed by a, Government Department? If so, I should not like to preside over that Department.
§ Mr. PETO
I wish to state quite shortly what I did suggest. I suggested that Mr. Speaker would have to decide whether there was a primâ facie case made out by the constituency both on account of the reasons they put forward and the character and weight of the people who signed the document, and that if it could be shown that the whole of the executive responsible for the return of the member signed the paper that it would carry a great deal of weight.
§ Mr. FISHER
Now I understand what my hon. Friend means. But I know a great many executives at the present time, and I do not suppose, if you were to call them together, that there would be more than five or ten who would gather into a room. Are those five or ten actually to have the power of requiring a by-election? I do not think that the power he wishes to give to the Speaker would be acceptable to the Speaker, and I cannot think that if Mr. Speaker were to exercise it that he would gain in power or strength in this House. Suppose the executive are dissatisfied with my opinions—I do not say about the War, but about anything—and that I happen to know that the executive have been moved in this direction in order to obtain a by-election, am I to be allowed to go down and address my Constituents and call public meetings to show that my executive are moving against me, and am I to be allowed to innsist upon addressing my constituents, to see whether or not I have their confidence? I am not sure that I did not once forfeit the confidence of an executive without forfeiting the confidence of the electorate. Executives do not always and at all times represent the opinions of the electors. I think my hon. Friends would really, in order to satisfy us, have to give us something better than that. If it
§ is going to be a proportion of the electors, and if I knew that somebody was moving in my Constituency to get, say, one-tenth, to suggest to Mr. Speaker that there should be a by-election, should I not insist on my right to go down and call meetings to see whether I also could not get considerably more than one-tenth to support any opinions I held? I cannot say that the word "impracticable," used by the former Prime Minister, is too strong for this proposal. I cannot say that I think the machinery suggested is practical, or that the Amendment is one which could possibly commend itself to the House. But if we cannot find any machinery by which we may be able to free ourselves from Members who in no way represent their constituents on vital questions, I put it that there is that moral consciousness which has caused Members of this House in the past to resign and submit themselves to their constituents when they have entirely changed their views and no longer represent the great majority of voters in their constituencies.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 222; Noes, 18.271
|Division No. 108.]||AYES.||[5.46 p.m|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Carew, C.||Gilbert, J D.|
|Adamson, William||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Goldsmith, Frank|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland||Cator, John||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Cautley, Henry St[...]||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Alden, Percy||Cawley, Rt. Hon. Sir F. (Prestwich)||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William|
|Archdale, Lieut. E. M.||Chancellor, Henry George||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Arnold, Sydney||Clough, William||Hardy, Ht. Hon. Lawrence|
|Astor, Hon. Waldorf||Clyde, James Avon||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Fredk. G.||Cornpton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Haslam, Lewis|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hayward, Evan|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N .||Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.)||Helme, Sir Norval Watson|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Barnston, Capt. Harry||Crumley, Patrick||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Hermon-Hodge, Sir R. T.|
|Barton, Sir William||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Higham, John Sharp|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Hill, Sir James (Bradford, C.)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Hinds, John|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Hogge, James Myles|
|Benn, Capt. W.W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Edge, Captain William||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid.)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Elverston, Sir Harold||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Beland, John Plus||Falconer, James||Hudson, Walter|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue||Fell, Arthur||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Hume-Williams, William Ellis|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Flannery, Sir J. Fortesque||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Fleming, Sir J. (Aberdeen, S.)||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Gelder, Sir William Alfred||John, Edward Thomas|
|Bull, Sir William James||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Ogden, Fred||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)||O'Grady, James||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West),|
|Jones, William S. Glyn (Stepney)||O'Malley, William||Sutton, John E.|
|Joyce, Michael||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Sykes, Col. Sir A. J. (Ches., Knutsfd.)|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|King, Joseph||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Tickler, T. G.|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Parker, James (Halifax)||Tillett, B.|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Parkes, Sir Edward E.||Touche, Sir George Alexander|
|Larmor, Sir J.||Parrott, Sir James Edward||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Lewis Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Peel, Major Hon. G. (Spalding)||Wardle, George J.|
|Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Perkins, Walter F.||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Philipps, Captain Sir Owen (Chester)||Watson, Hon. W. (Lanark, S.)|
|Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Pratt, J. W.||Watson, John Bertrand (Stockton)|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Watt, Henry A.|
|MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Pringle, William M. R.||Weston, J. W.|
|Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk. B'ghs)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Mackinder, Halford J.||Randall, Athelstan||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Macleod, John Mackintosh||Richardson Arthur (Rotherham)||Whiteley, Herbert J.|
|McMicking, Major Gilbert||Roberts, Rt. Hon. George H. (Norwich)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Maden, Sir John Henry||Robertson, Rt. Hon. J. M.||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Maitland, Sir A. D. Steel-||Robinson, Sidney||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Malcolm, Ian||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Mallalieu, Frederick William||Rowlands, James||Williamson, Sir Archibald|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Rutherford, Col. Sir J.(Lancs.,Darwen)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Millar, James Duncan||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Morgan, George Hay||Scanlan, Thomas||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Morison, Hector (Hackney, S.)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Seely, Lt.-Col. Sir C. H. (Mansfield)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Newman, Major John R. P.||Smallwood, Edward||Younger, Sir George|
|Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Liverpool)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Nolan, Joseph||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Lord,|
|Norman, Sir Henry||Starkey, John Ralph||Edmund Talbot and Capt. F. Guest.|
|Nuttall, Harry||Stewart, Gershom|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Gretton, John||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.|
|Bellaire, Commander C. W.||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord C. J.||Terrell, George (Wilts)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth) I||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Yorks. E.R.).|
|Butcher, John George||Joynson-Hicks, William||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Carnegie, Lieut.-Colonel D. G.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Randles, Sir John S.||Pete and General Croft,|
Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow.—[Lord Edmund Talbot.]
§ Main question again proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I have no desire to oppose the Bill, but I think the time is too long. On the Committee stage I shall move to reduce the time by two or three months. We ought to retain in our hands some power of control over the Government. At the present time the House of Commons has no control over the Government. If we reduce the time it does not follow that we shall necessarily take advantage of that fact, but I think it ought to be in our power to say whether or not we shall continue the Government in office. Under these circumstances I wish to-morrow to move an Amendment which will reduce the time.