§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir G. Cave)
I beg to move, "That the Lords further Amendments be forthwith considered."
I think it will be for the general convenience of the House if, in snaking that Motion, I explain as clearly as I can to the House both the nature of the Amendments which are proposed for our consideration and also the course which His Majesty's Government recommend the House to take on them. I need deal only with two Amendments, because they govern the whole. One relates to the alternative vote. With regard to that proposal in the Bill, the other House have resolved to insist upon their Amendment striking the alternative vote out of the Bill, and as 2250 regards that Amendment there is nothing but a clear option before the House either to agree with that Amendment or to lose the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] That is the constitutional position. I am dealing now with the Amendment which relates to the alternative vote, and I am sure all those who are familiar with the constitutional practice of both Houses will agree with the statement I have just made.
As regards the other matter, the proposal relating to proportional representation, the course which the Lords have taken is this. They have agreed to abandon their proposal for introducing proportional representation in the boroughs, but they propose in lieu thereof a new Clause for insertion in the Bill, which represents in their view a compromise on the questions which have arisen between the two Houses. The effect of the proposed new Clause is this: That Commissioners shall be appointed—
§ Sir G. CAVE
My hon. Friend surely knows that when a Bill says "His Majesty may appoint Commissioners" that means that the Government will recommend His Majesty to appoint Commissioners, and that they will in fact be appointed. Therefore, Commissioners will be appointed with instructions to frame a, scheme under which about 100 Members of this House— which amounts to one-seventh of the House, roughly speaking—will be elected upon the principle of proportional representation. The Clause provides that the Commissioners shall be at liberty before they frame their scheme to hold local inquiries, for the purpose, of course, of ascertaining local opinion upon the proposal. Having made those inquiries they will frame the scheme, combining together constituencies already in the Schedule of the Bill. It is further provided that they shall have regard to the advisability of applying the scheme to both town and country. The Clause then contains a Subsection which is most material, and which I will therefore read to the House. The Sub-section is to this effect: A scheme so prepared by the Commissioners, shall be. laid before both Houses of Parliament, and if both Houses by Resolution adopt the scheme 'the scheme shall, with any modifications or additions which may be agreed to by both Houses, take effect as if it were enacted in this Act; and then the proper machinery follows. In 2251 other words, the Commissioners are to frame the scheme, but it has no effect until this House, as well as the other House, has considered and adopted the scheme; so that the hands of the Members of this House will not be tied by this Section, but they will be at liberty to consider the scheme, both in principle and in detail, before it can have the force of law. It has been said by many Members of the House—by myself among others—that we recognise the great force of opinion behind the proposal for proportional representation, and that if a suggestion could be made for trying an experiment on fair lines, with due regard to the opinions of the constituencies affected, and so as to make it applicable to the country as well as to the town, we should have no objection to seeing that experiment tried.
This proposal follows those lines, and it differs from those hitherto considered by the House in very material respects. In the first place, the experiment is to be applied only to a limited number of typical constituencies. Secondly, it will no longer apply to boroughs alone. It will include typical agricultural constituencies as well as typical boroughs. The selection will be made not after a long Debate in this House, but by an independent body. Of course, the Commission will be independent, and I am certain that no party element will be found upon it. Next, that authority has to ascertain local opinion. Objection was taken in the House, not least by myself, to the suggestion of forcing proportional representation upon boroughs which were averse to it, whose representatives in this House had expressed their strong aversion to being subjected to that experiment. That objection no longer holds good as regards this scheme, because it is provided that local opinion shall be ascertained in regard to it.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I would willingly give way to my lion. Friend, but I have no doubt I shall be able to answer questions sooner or later, and I think it would be better ii I were to proceed with what I have to say. Lastly—and to this I attach the greatest importance—this proposal, of course, leaves the House free to deal with the matter on its merits at any time. When I say free I mean this. The proposal is that if this House agrees to the Clause the Commission shall be appointed and shall report; that then the Government 2252 will give this House an opportunity of expressing its free opinion upon the general question of the adoption of the Report; if the opinion of the House so freely ascertained should be generally in favour of its adoption, then the Government will put the Resolution for adoption in the hands of a Minister of the Crown, who will deal with it upon the same lines as we have dealt with the Report o the Speaker's Conference—that is to say, the Minister, whoever he is, will not be bound to insist on the use of the powers of the Government in the passage of every detail of the Report, but lie will have the discretion which has been so freely exercised on this Bill, and in that sense the question will he left to the free decision of the House.
§ Sir G. CAVE
If the House rejected the Report, that would be the end of the whole matter. That would necessarily be so by the Clause, which provides that only if both Houses adopt the scheme can it have any effect. That is the proposal which comes down to us for consideration, and I am sure the House will believe that we have most anxiously considered the course which we ought to take upon that proposal. The position of the Bill was this: That the other House, having made a proposal for proportional representation which we had refused, were in a position to insist upon that proposal, and thereupon this House would in substance have had no option except either to agree to the full proposal made by the other House, and rejected in this House yesterday, or to lose the Bill. That was, I am sure the House will agree, a very serious position indeed. Hon. Members may have their doubts as to whether the other House would have gone so far. They are not all of them in as good a position for coming to a conclusion on that matter as I am or as members of the Government are. At all events we looked upon the matter in so serious a light that when this proposal was made in the other House my Noble Friend Lord Curzon, as Leader of the House, said that the Government would agree to this substituted proposal, and would ask the House of Commons to accept it. That is the position to-day.
I know very well the nature of the objections which will be taken to the proposed Clause. I can well understand them. With many of them I think I shall 2253 be in sympathy, but I beg the House to remember one or two considerations. First, we are passing a Bill which might have been of a very contentious nature, and to many parts of which grave objection was taken, and in the ordinary course would have been pressed to the end in another place. This particular matter of proportional representation was included in the Report of the Speaker's Conference, although, wisely as I think events have shown, it was left to the free judgment of Parliament. There was for the full application of the principle an overwhelming majority in the other House—a majority at one time of four to one—and, if the majority had persisted, although not in the same volume, to the end of the chapter, the other House, having a constitutional right to enforce its opinion, was in a position to put us in the dilemma. which I have mentioned, and to make it our duty either to adopt proportional representation in the form in which they had adopted it or to drop the Bill.
To us it seemed, and I think to all Members of the House it will appear, that that was a very grave position indeed. I have lived with this Bill for a great part of a year. I have—with other Members on this bench—bent all my energies to the passage of this Bill in some form agreeable to Parliament. What is much more important, I believe that upon the passage of this Bill much depends for the future of our country. It is not too much to say that the stability of our Constitution hinges, as I believe, upon the early passage of a measure of this kind, and I can conceive no event which could more fitly be described as a real disaster than the failure of this Bill, through whatever cause, at the very moment it should find its way to the Statute Book. In that position of things we had a choice to wake. I believe that we took the right view when my Noble Friend Lord Curzon accepted this Amendment in another House. I propose, when the time comes, to ask this House—putting aside, as I well understand I am asking them to do, much of their own opinion, many of their own views, freely expressed, and which will still be held—to accept this as a fair compromise in the controversy which has hitherto divided the two Houses. I will finish with this observation. So far as we are concerned, we intend that this shall be a band-fide experiment tried in good faith. But it remains true that the House as a whole will be masters of the position, and that when the time comes 2254 for consideration of the Report of this Commission they will be able to take whatever course appears to them to be best in the interests of the country.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
May I pat a point of Order? The right hon. Gentleman has told the House that with regard to the alternative vote there is only one course open—that is, either to accept the decision of the House of Lords or lose the Bill. I want to ask you, Sir, whether it would not be possible for this House to treat the question of the alternative vote by Amendment exactly as the House of Lords has treated the question of proportional representation? What I mean is, could we not so amend the proposal now coming before this House as to apply the alternative vote, say, to 100 constituencies, in exactly the same way as the House of Lords proposed to apply the other method?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think that would be quite possible. When the new Clause for proportional representation comes up it would be quite possible to move an Amendment to give power to the Commissioners for the selection of a certain number of constituencies on which to try the alternative vote.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I will put myself right by saying that I did not negative that, but was only dealing with a particular Amendment.
§ Sir F. LOWE
I wish to have an explanation as to the statement of the Home Secretary, because it is very desirable to know what we are discussing. He said that before these Commissioners framed their scheme they should ascertain the opinion—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That is not a point of Order.
Question proposed, "That the Lords Amendments be considered forthwith."
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg leave to offer some observations in reference to what my right hon. Friend has just said. I am quite certain that I do not presume if I say that the House, without exception, sympathises deeply with my right hon. Friend. We have watched his conduct on this Bill with growing admiration, and if we have so nearly reached safety on a Bill which might have been so contentious, the largest share of the credit is due to my right hon. Friend. That only makes my task, and the task of those who think with me, the more difficult, for nothing is more 2255 deadly to those who are unhappily divided from him than the sweet reasonableness of my right hon. Friend's oratory. But we have to take a very grave decision. I recognise that. We are asked to accept experimentally a scheme of representation to which some of us are profoundly, and I might even say passionately, opposed, not on grounds of personal convenience or of parochial interest, but on broad grounds of principle, and having regard to what we believe to be the real national objective of our popular representation. I ask myself, and I ask the House. whether their Lordships in their so-called compromise have gone any way to meet us? But before I answer that question, perhaps even at this stage I should say that the decision we take to-day on this Amendment is not fatal to the Bill. This is a new proposal before us for the first time. It is new matter. It is not an Amendment with which we have already disagreed, and upon which the other House insist, and on which there remains for us nothing to do but to accept their decision. This is new matter that comes to us for the first time. We have the same liberty that we had when we considered the first of the Lords Amendments, and we may deal with it freely at this stage, at any rate, without fearing that the fortunes of the Bill are in danger.
But have their Lordships succeeded in meeting us at all? I think they are trying the House of Commons rather severely. This is a matter in which we have no selfish interest as an Assembly. Some of us might benefit by proportional representation, some of us might suffer, many of us might be exactly where we are, and some of us might be here by dividing the representation among the two parties, and thus bringing to an end the great clash of public opinion which has hitherto taken place in our General Elections, and out of which our political life has derived all its vigour and all its authority. I think no individual interest is concerned. But we have as an Assembly a profoundly greater interest in this question than another Assembly which has no electorate, which woos no constituency, which has not to travel up and down half a dozen counties in the vain endeavour to reach the electorate which their Lordships think is proper for a Member of this House. That is not all. I understand that in another place they are afraid of innovation.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Who is defending the old ways here? We are the champions of the settled and considered system which has been known and practised throughout this country without a single exception ever since the last Reform Bill, when the exceptions were eliminated by common consent of all parties in the State. And the other House, whose business it is to put a check on rash experiments—they are attempting to force upon this House— and in a matter which concerns us a hundredfold more than it concerns them, in a matter in which no man can say we have abused our rights as Members of this House—they arc attempting to force upon us an innovation for which there is no precedent in the whole of our political system. I think they are trying us rather severely, and I do not call that compromise between the two Houses. I go further. I say that the other House is thrusting itself into a field which is not properly the field of its operations, that it is presuming to make the decision which of all decisions ought rather to rest with this House than with them. It is for us to suggest changes; it is for them to make comments.
May I deal with the broad question? May I examine what this so-called compromise is? Observe, first of all, the complete uncertainty in which one and all of us will remain as to the kind of scheme which the Commissioners will produce. They are to select a limited number, 100 seats, for the experiment. The great object, we are given to understand by their Lordships, is to secure a due representation for agriculture. Is there any provision in their Amendment that even one half of the experiment shall be made in agricultural constituencies? Not at all ! It is left to the Commissioners to secure the 100 seats where and how they please, having regard only to the advisability of applying the principle of proportional representation both to town and county. It would be perfectly competent for the Commissioners to act on the advice tendered by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Fife the other day by replying that they had -selected 100 borough constituencies, because, having regard to the arguments which he had used in connection with the county of Fife, they were convinced that it was not advisable to apply the scheme to any county constituency at all. In any case, if it be 2257 thought, and it may be thought—they would never do it—and I think that is probable—what I wish to draw the attention of the House to is the fact that they are left free to distribute these seats in arty proportion they like between town and county. The agricultural gentlemen who hope that the experiment will be made upon them are likely to find that it is instead made upon the borough members, who wish to have nothing whatever to do with it.
My right hon. Friend said that it had several novel features. He said it applied only to a limited number of constituencies. I say at once that in my opinion that is the most hateful particular in it, the most invidious, the most unjustifiable, the most illogical to commend it to this Assembly. That is not a novel proposal. We began that way. The House would not have it. We began with London and certain large boroughs. Then London was dropped out and it was to be the boroughs. The House would not have it. Twice they have tried with their limited proposal. [An HON. MEMBER: "Three times!"] Three times, and every time when we taunted the advocates of proportional representation with their "tuppenny ha'penny scheme" and the arbitrary and illogical selection, they assured us that it was as a compromise they offered it, for they were dying to extend the scheme to the whole country. I say at once, if there is to be a scheme at all, the only basis on which it should stand is that it shall apply to the whole country. Is it tolerable that one-seventh of the membership of this House should be selected willy-nilly for an experiment which the other six-sevenths would not have applied to them? I say that is not tolerable. The only tolerable system would be one which is logical and complete, and applies to the whole country. What their Lordships are offering to us in this proposal is no new idea which is not open to the old objections; it is the scheme we have twice or three times rejected, and which the supporters of proportional representation do not care to defend, but only put forward as an experiment. If we are to have any experiment at all in this matter—and prodigious it will be!—let it cover the whole country. [An HON. MEMBER: "It would!"] Let it not merely be an experiment, which, I tell my hon. Friend, would break down in practice—if it were ever put into practice —because the thing is unworkable. 2258 The depth of my objection to this so-called experiment is that you should select a few constituencies which are not typical, and where the difficulties are less, in order to try what you call an experiment there, with the knowledge of the supporters of proportional representation — and they have that knowledge—that even if they should make a tolerable show of success there, they could not produce a scheme for the whole country at which this House could look ! I say it is not unfair that if we are to have this Commission at work at all they should produce, not something which is called an experiment, and this arbitrary and illogical choice of a few constituencies, but a scheme, the best scheme they can devise. I do not care if the whole of them are in favour of proportional representation. I think they ought to be. The best minds among them should go to work to produce the best scheme they can; then let them and us be judged by the merits of that scheme as applicable to the country as a whole. Do not let us have this partial thing; this unfair and invidious selection of particular constituencies. Do not, above all, tell me that this is a compromise. It is not. It is adding insult to injury.
The second point of my right hon. and learned Friend was that this applied to boroughs alone and not to typical counties. There is no word about typical counties in this Amendment of their Lordships. This is "counties,"—"such counties as they may think advisable." They would not be typical counties. They will be selected counties which will give the best chance of getting the thing to work somehow. Let them try it upon the Orkneys and the Shetlands, or, if they think that is not a typical county, let them try it on Fife, with the Orkneys and the Shetlands thrown in. That will give them a variety of experience, and a pleasant course of yachting. Then, says my right hon. Friend, always with the same gentle reasonableness— until you really think the proposal, put so persuasively, must be reasonable in itself —then he says the selection will not be by any interested body like the House of Commons, but by an impartial body. Is this House really going to part with its rights in matters of such vital concern to all of us and those we represent, and to put them into Commissions? You might as well shut up the House of Commons at once, and suspend all its functions. You are going to ascertain local opinion. There is no Instruction to the Commis- 2259 sioners to follow it—none ! There is, for instance, no Instruction to take note of the fact that my right hon. Friend who is to follow me (Mr. Balfour) and his colleague in the representation of the City of London desire to see the experiment tried, and that they think that that constituency will be a suitable one for the experiment. Not at all ! Commissioners hear local objections, but they do not always give way to them. If they did, they could not produce a scheme. There is no guarantee in it. Finally, when this scheme comes up it is said that the House has to deal with it on its merits. But I understood from my right hon. and learned Friend that when this scheme is produced the Motion will be made, not by the Government—I should like him to correct me if I am wrong—the Motion to approve of the scheme will not be made by the Government, but, if it is carried by a working majority—I do not mean by one vote—the Government will make the Motion theirs.
§ Sir G. CAVE
May I make it quite clear? I did not say it would not be moved by a member of the Government. I am not quite sure whether that will be the better course to pursue or whether it will be better to leave it to some hon. Member. But at all events the Government will leave the House absolutely free.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The House will see that though the Government Whips may not be put on, if the Government makes itself responsible for moving the Resolution, the House is riot quite as free as it was in regard to the Amendments in which the Government left the matter to private Members. That is not a very large point. I only commend it to my right hon. Friend if anything should happen. Suppose general approval is given to the trial of an experiment; thereafter, as a general rule, the Government Whips are put on. If any constituency is selected by the Commissioners against the will of the representatives of that constituency, what chance will that constituency have of protest? Absolutely none. It is bound hand and foot, and handed over to the Commissioners, and the only question we shall ever be able effectively to answer will be the question, "Will you have this scheme as a whole or will you not?" I do not think that is satisfactory. I am sorry that even to-day the Government have intervened in this question after a majority 2260 of the House has several times declared itself, whilst on all former occasions they have left us free to vote as we pleased without any pressure from the party machines or the Government Whips.
I understand that this has been made a subject of complaint in another place. Their Lordships who used constantly to say that the House of Commons needed to be watched, and its decisions jealously regarded because Members are under the crack of the party Whip—they are the servants of the machine—complain that the Government do not make the whole machine work to get a decision in their favour. Such is their love of independence ! Such is the real test of the sincerity with which they put forward this proposal! I am no enemy to this Government, God knows ! I resigned from it frankly against my will. I was sorry to give up the work in which I was interested. I think I can say honestly—and right hon. Gentlemen know it—that I have done everything I could to help them since I retired. I have taken no step, I have uttered no word to embarrass them. But this is one of the questions on which I do not think the Government has any right to force upon this House a decision which it has freely, uninfluenced by Government Whips on one side or the other, again and again rejected. Whatever the consequence in respect to this proposal, in this form, for this partial application of what I believe to be an unsound principle, I shall give my vote against it. No Whips will make me go into the Lobby and declare to be right what I profoundly believe to be wrong.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Balfour)
Everybody in the House, and most of all those who sit on these benches, will agree with what my right hon. Friend said in the concluding words of his speech—I mean they will all agree that since, unfortunately, we lost the benefit of his services as a member of the Government his whole efforts have been directed, not towards hampering the Government machine, but lie has done everything in his power to aid and assist them. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that fact, which we are all glad to endorse, in order to emphasise the difference of policy which he now proposes to pursue. I confess that his statement that he proposes to do all he can to hamper the last stages of this Bill [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!" "Withdraw!" "Play the game!" and "That is not a correct state- 2261 ment!"] I am sure my right hon. Friend will not object to my statement until he has heard it completed. I do not think he can object to the statement that he does wish to hamper the progress of this Bill, so long as it contains any yielding to that principle of proportional representation which he objects to, not merely like one who objects to any proposal which one dislikes, but he has an objection to it so passionate and so strong that I confess I cannot imagine any subject on which he would express himself more vehemently, and with more sincerity and white emotion, than he has done upon this relatively innocuous proposal I. HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!"]—even from his own point, of view, which the Government now recommends to the House. So far has my right hon. Friend been carried away with his emotion that he made a speech about the conduct of the House of Lords, and about the relations between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, which certainly I should rather have expected from somebody who was a member of a slightly different complexion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Well, those are my expectations, and I expected those views from a. somewhat different quarter.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Evidently, in spite of having had the happiness of working with my right hon. Friend for many years, I am mistaken. Certainly, I think anybody coming into the Gallery without any previous knowledge of my right hon. Friend's action upon this subject, and merely listening to this Debate as an example of a conflict between the two Houses, would imagine that my right hon. Friend was leading an opposition not merely to this proposal, but to the whole conduct and temper of the House of Lords. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] It is quite right if you think so, but I am expressing surprise that my right hon. Friend does think so. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is a principle!"] I am sure the auditor in the Gallery would imagine that my right hon. Friend was an ardent member of a party which desired government by a single Chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "Time!"] I think my right hon. Friend's criticisms of the House of Lords were somewhat unfair. He first said, "Here is an Assembly whose business it is to prevent, rash changes and who desire to see us develop our Constitution along ancient lines, and they come 2262 here with this tremendous revolutionary proposal." The last thing that most of us who desire proportional representation would say is that it is revolutionary; and, putting that on one side, let us see what the next attack is upon the House of Lords.
The right hon. Gentleman says that, having first started by suggesting that this should be a general experiment in proportional representation, the Lords now ask as to make a small, illogical experiment. Surely these two statements are inconsistent. In the first place, the House of Lords has not made a revolutionary proposal, but it has suggested an experiment; and my right hon. Friend's criticism is directed to the fact that it is a moderate experiment and not one extending the whole scheme to every constituency throughout the country. It seems to me that this is exactly the way in which all important and beneficial changes are introduced. Are we always to be logical in the sense of driving to its extreme every proposal. which is made? Is it not the part of a wise man to start a scheme modestly? if my right hon. Friend is right, which I do not believe, and this is going to cut at the root of our public life and alter the whole manner in which the public is brought into relation with this 1-louse, surely you ought to do it in a relatively modest and tentative form, rather than do what my right hon. Friend suggested as being a complete and logical scheme.
Surely this attack upon the House of Lords is one of the most extravagant that was ever made in this House on any subject—I mean by extravagance the violence of the criticism in relation to the thing criticised. I have taken a share in the periodical contests between the two Houses, and I have heard very strong language used on both sides with regard to the differences which separated us from the House of Lords, but never have I heard such violent criticism provoked by so small a cause. Why do I say that? For this reason, that, after all, this House still retains complete control even under this experiment. You would suppose from my right hon. Friend's speech that he thinks we are for ever giving the right to deal with this subject and yielding to the ardour of the House of Lords for revolutionary changes, and that we were now committing ourselves for all time to the experiment of proportional representation. We are doing nothing of the kind. We are giving directions to an impartial body of 2263 men to select a certain number of constituencies on which an experiment may be made. When they have selected those constituencies they come to this House and they ask this House whether it accepts the experiment or not, and then it will be for this House to decide whether the experiment shall be made. When that time comes the revolutionary House of Lords, to which my right hon. Friend takes such exception, will have no control or power over this House at all. They will be yielding to no threat of Bills being dropped and public inconvenience happening, and it will be for this House and this House untrammelled either by Government Whips or the consequences that may be supposed to ensue to freely exercise its judgment.
You may say at this moment that we are hardly free to exercise our untrammelled judgment. So great would he the public inconvenience of allowing this Bill to perish you may say that there are propositions this House cannot accept on their merits because they would imperil the Bill. You may say with regard to other things that the Government of the day will exercise their party control through the Whips and force some decision down the throat of a reluctant House of Commons. Neither of those perils will occur when the labours of the Commission come to an end and they lay on the Table of the House their proposals in regard to these experimental changes, and then it will be for my right hon. Friend to freely indulge, without any constitutional danger. against what he calls the iniquities of proportional representation. If he carries the House with him, then the revolutionary attempts of the House of Lords will be completely frustrated, and nothing they can do will set proportional representation on its legs again so far as the measure now before the House and the measures swinging from it are concerned. The question will be settled by the House for the constituencies.
What my right lion. Friend said about the House of Lords having less concern than the House of Commons with electoral matters is a proposition from which, speaking constitutionally, I entirely dissent. Even if it were true with regard to this one measure, this House will have absolutely the power, when the Resolutions came before it, of deciding as a single Chamber whether it will or will not have this modest experiment tried. I think that is surely a complete answer to my right 2264 hon. Friend's passionate appeal, and it is a complete vindication of the course the Government propose to pursue. It settles the difference between the Houses, not an undesirable thing in itself, in a manner with which the most quarrelsome of my lion. Friends below the Gangway will agree. It settles this question smoothly and equitably, and it leaves this House in full control of the whole question. It is in my opinion an eminently statesman-proposal, moderate in its character, safe m its application, and one which will give an opportunity if we are wise enough to take it, to try on some relatively humble scale this method of election which to me and many others in this House seems more absolutely democratic than any other which the wit of man has ever devised.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
We have listened to two very interesting speeches, and I do not know whether it will be considered presumption on my part to remind the House that the only question now before us is whether the Lords Amendments should be considered. I should otherwise be very much tempted by both the speeches to which we have just listened to indulge in a retrospective survey of Parliamentary history. I heard not only with satisfaction, but, as far as I am concerned, with an enthusiastic and almost palpitating response, the well-considered and well-phrased denunciations from my right lion. Friend (Mr. Chamberlain) of the action and of the ambitions of the House of Lords. I only wish that eloquent voice had been raised at an earlier date in our Parliamentary annals before this supremely important issue of proportional representation, and, in particular, of the position of Birmingham in a future House of Commons, had revived and rekindled my right lion. Friend's old and native faith. I gather that my right hon. Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Balfour) somewhat shares my surprise. They have sat together side by side in intimate political comradeship for years, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary never till this moment suspected the seething though carefully-restrained reservoir of democratic sentiment that all this time has been kept under such admirable control. In a still more intimate relation in life, that of husband and wife, we sometimes find that the wife all the time has been une femme incomprise. That appeared to be the position only to-night disclosed 2265 to the House and to the country of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham. These are all very interesting revelations. but I am not sure that they carry us very far on the road to a settlement of what is a very serious problem.
I would venture to suggest to the House that we should assent to this Motion that you have put from the Chair, and should proceed to the consideration of the actual terms of the Amendment. I will explain in a sentence what is my primâ facie impression about it. I think it all important that this Bill should pass into law. It would be an almost immeasurable disaster if it were to be lost after all the time, pain, and energy and good will which the Members of this House have expended and displayed from the time that you, Sir, were good enough to assemble and to preside over the Conference which was the initial stage of the Bill, down to this moment. I agree that to no one are we under greater obligation than to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for the manner in which he has conducted the Bill through this House. I am not using the language of exaggeration when I say that in my judgment it would be an immeasurable calamity to the country and to the Empire if this Bill should not now pass into law, and as far as I am concerned I am prepared to make great sacrifices, I will not say of conviction, but certainly of inclination and prepossession for that purpose.
With regard to this matter of proportional representation, I have indicated, both by speech and by vote, that I am in favour of a limited experiment in that direction, such, indeed, as was proposed by the Conference over which you, Sir, presided. I see nothing revolutionary in that; I see nothing even novel. We have experimented before. We tried an experiment, not, indeed, of proportional representation, but of something like it, in 1867, and after less than twenty years' experience we abandoned it. Why should we not try a similar experiment now, and, if it fails, abandon it again? That is my position. It is not the position of all my Friends. It is not the position, I believe, of the majority even of those who sit on this bench. When I speak, therefore, from that point of view, I represent nobody but myself.
There is another proposal as to which, I believe, I can speak for all my Friends, and that is in regard to what is called the alternative vote, which deals in another way 2266 with one of the most glaring and universally admitted imperfections of our present representative system. I mean the opportunity which it gives of a constituency to be represented, and to speak in this House through the mouth of a man who does not represent, and who the figures show does not represent, the majority. In looking at this new proposal of the House of Lords, I should be prepared myself to give it favourable consideration, provided it is amended, as I think it ought to be amended, by giving a similar opportunity to these Commissioners, by way of experiment., to deal with selected constituencies for the purpose of the alternative vote. I cannot see the reason or the justice, if you are going to adopt a plan with regard to the one, why you should not adopt it equally with regard to the other. I do not say that anything will come of their scheme. I quite agree with what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) has said, and what the Home Secretary has said, that as far as I read this new Clause complete control is reserved to this House over any scheme that may be brought forward by the Commissioners, and the Government cannot pledge in the first place to put forward any scheme which has not received their assent in principle, and are only pledged, if and when it receives that assent, to bring it before Parliament. I trust the House will now be prepared to look at the Amendment in its actual terms, in view of the considerations to which I have referred, and, if it can be amended in the manner that I suggest, I believe it may go a long way to solving the problem.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
I want to put what to my mind is a very important - point, which I believe will be in the minds of a great many Members. So far as I know now, I am unalterably opposed to proportional representation and to the alternative vote, and I do not believe that any Commission will be able by their assent to secure my assent. I want to know what is my position. If I assent to some scheme of this sort to-day, am I going to be free when the Bill comes forward to assert my dissent from proportional representation and the alternative vote, or is it to be said that by assenting to the proposal of the House of Lords now in order to secure the passage of this Bill I am really giving assent to some proposal which may be hereafter be brought up? I feel that it would be almost dishonest to as-sent to this proposal when I know, so far as I can 2267 judge at the present time, that when a further proposal is made by a Commission and it is suggested that I should agree to it I should vote against their proposal both with regard to proportional representation and with regard to the alternative vote. It seems to me if I have that opinion to-day that I ought to express it by saying that I differ and that I am not prepared, as a mere matter of camouflage in order to get the Bill, which I value intensely, to forego my opinion to-night. I recognise the value of this Bill. It has settled enormous controversies. It has settled matters which are almost insoluble, and I want the House to pass it very much indeed. But can I honestly assent to this scheme, or undertake to consider it, when, so far as my judgment goes, I am not prepared to hand over the question of my judgment to somebody else? I am prepared to exercise my own opinion upon it, and my opinion is against the proposal. I believe that will be my opinion when a fresh Bill comes forward. That is the difficulty which I feel, and I believe that it will be shared by a great number of other Members.
§ Colonel GREIG
I wish to raise a point of Order. Those of us who were present in another place just now understood—I may be wrong, and I want it cleared up— that their Lordships agreed to our disagreement with the principle of proportional representation, and then proceeded to pass an Amendment or a new suggestion. If we reject this Amendment now, are their Lordships bound or not bound to their previous acceptance of our disagreement?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It must be a matter entirely for them. This is a new Amendment which is sent here, and the House can deal with it in any way that it pleases.
Colonel Sir F. HALL
There is one thing that I would like to ask the Home Secretary. The majority of the London Members, from what I can find out, are in the same position as myself. They have received representations from all classes of political opinion that they are wholly opposed to proportional representation in any shape or form. According to this Amendment, it is to be tried in town and country in constituencies to be brought forward. I want to know whether, in the 2268 event of this measure passing in its present form, we shall be perfectly free—I mean in the event of London being selected—at a subsequent time to discuss the matter in this House, and if necessary to divide the House?
§ Mr. J. O'CONNOR
In the absence of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond), who would have been in his place if he were not engaged at the present moment on a matter which will be present to the minds of the Members of this House, I desire to offer a few remarks on the Motion. My colleagues during the passage of this measure through the House have voted in the main for the principle of proportional representation. I am expressing the opinions of my colleagues when I say that they desire most earnestly that this Bill should not fail at this particular point. They desire that it should pass the House and become the law of the land. It contains principles for which they have contended; it contains principles that deal with the enfranchisement of large masses of our people, and we are bound to use our position here today to enable a Bill to be passed that will have that effect on the position of our people at home. We would be failing in our duty to the Irish people if we did not say in this House to-day, no matter how humbly through me, that our anxious desire is that the Bill should not he allowed to drop. I have only to add that there is at present before this House a Bill embodying an agreement arrived at by a Conference over which Mr. Speaker has presided, an agreement come to for the redistribution of seats in Ireland. The passage of that Bill depends upon the passage of the Bill now being considered by this House. That being so, we are doubly interested in the Motion under consideration, and for the reasons I have stated, that our people at home are anxiously desirous to have this enfranchisement Bill passed and that the agreed redistribution measure shall follow soon, my colleagues in the representation of the party to which I belong, so far as they are present in the House at the present moment, must and shall support the measure before the Chair.
Question put, and agreed to.
Lords Amendments accordingly co sidered. 2269 Lords Message:
The Lords do not insist on their Amendment in Clause 18, Sub-section (1) [Alternative Vote], to which the Commons have disagreed, but propose the following Amendment in lieu -thereof:
- "(1) His Majesty may appoint Commissioners to prepare as soon as may be after the passing of this Act a scheme under which as nearly as possible 100 members shall be elected to the House of Commons at a General Election on the principle of proportional representation for constituencies in Great Britain returning three or more members.
- (2) The number of members of the House of Commons as fixed under this Act shall not be increased by any such scheme For the purpose of such scheme the Commissioners shall, after holding such local inquiries as they may deem necessary, combine into single constituencies returning not less than three nor more than seven members such of the areas fixed as constituencies in the Fifth Schedule to this Act as they may select, but in selecting these areas they shall have regard to the advisability of applying the principle of proportional representation both to town and country.
- (3) The scheme so prepared by the Commissioners shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and if both Houses by Resolution adopt the scheme, the scheme shall, with any modifications or additions which may be agreed to by both Houses, take effect as if it were enacted in this Act, and the constituencies fixed under the scheme shall be substituted, so far as necessary, for the contituencies fixed under the Fifth Schedule to this Act.
- (4) In any such constituency any contested election of the full number of members shall be according to the principle of proportional representation, each elector having one transferable vote as defined by the Act.
- (5) His Majesty may by Order in Council make any adaptation of the provisions of this Act as to the machinery of registration or election which may appear to him to be necessary in consequence of the adoption of the scheme."
§ Sir WILLOUGHBY DICKINSON
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords 2270 Amendment, in Sub-section (1), at end, to add the words "and under which one hundred constituencies returning one member each shall be selected in which if at any election there are more than two candidates the election shall be according to the principle of the alternative vote as defined by this Act."
§ Colonel SANDERS
On a point of Order. Can this Amendment be moved after the Motion to agree has been proposed I
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Yes. That Motion has not been put. We must take the Amendments first before putting the Motion.
§ Sir W. DICKINSON
The effect of the Amendment is that, whereas the Lords are proposing that a scheme shall be prepared under which, as nearly as possible, one 'hundred members shall be elected to the House of Commons at a General Election on the principle of proportional representation for constituencies in Great Britain returning three or more members, I propose to add words providing that the scheme shall also include the selection of one hundred seats in which the experiment of the alternative vote shall be tried at the same time as the experiment of proportional representation. Personally, I am very much in the position of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) in having consistently opposed proportional representation both at the Conference and here. I agree with him that it is by no means likely to work well, or achieve the results that its advocates have always thought it will, but I am quite prepared, and I take it that even he seems to be prepared, to accept the position that the House of Lords has insisted upon, namely, that all these various theories shall be put to the test, and that we shall try the experiment of proportional representation in a certain limited number of constituencies. I ask that we, also, in justice, may be allowed to try how far the other scheme will go that we have been advocating, which on previous occasions we have carried through this House with comparatively small majorities. [An HON. MEMBER "One vote!"] The experiment which the Lords wish to try is to see whether it is possible in an election to secure that the minority shall have representation. I submit it is equally important that we should have an experiment to see whether it is not possible to have an election on such terms that we can 2271 satisfactorily avoid a position in which the majority are unable to get representation. That is a simple point, and I hope that when it is put to the House of Lords, as I trust it will be in the form of this Amendment, they will see the reasonableness of the position I am taking up.
I do not want, no one wants, to do anything to lose this Bill. There is nothing in the Amendment which I am moving that will necessarily lose the Bill. If it is carried, the House of Lords will have their Amendment sent back to them with the addition I am asking this House to make, and if the House of Lords then feel that they cannot agree with it, the Bill will have to go out, and the House of Lords will have to take the responsibility. I appeal to my hon. Friends in this House -who have consistently spoken and voted against the proposal that we should definitely insert the proposal of the alternative vote in the Bill, to act fairly in this matter, and also to let us have the trial that is proposed to be made in a few constituencies. I have had the opportunity of listening to almost all these speeches that have been made by my right hon. and hon. Friends in opposition to the alternative vote, and I will say that I have never heard one object to the alternative vote on the ground that it would injure his own party. All of them have argued against it as a system. All of them have pointed out the effects it has, and have very forcibly argued that it will not work. All I ask them to do is to allow us to see whether or not it will work. If we pass this Amendment, at any rate we shall be able to ascertain that.
The question comes up whether the House of Lords will again refuse it. If they do, they will have to bear the responsibility, and at any rate we shall be clear; but I am doubtful whether they will adhere to the position they have adopted at the present moment. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham used some very remarkable words when he said that the House of Lords are trying the House of Commons rather severely. If on this occasion they still adhere to the position that they will not allow us to give an opportunity to the majority in a constituency to have representation, then very likely they may be trying not only the House of Commons but the country rather more than is desirable. have had the pleasure of listening to the Debate in the House of Lords to-day and 2272 I heard a remarkable speech made by one of the Noble Lords, who has as much influence in the House of Lords as anyone, on this very question. Although I do not quite remember his words, the purport of them was that he thought and advised the House of Lords that serious danger might arise in the country if a large majority of constituencies were to return members who did not command the confidence-of the majority of the electors. I could not put it any better than that. It is probably certain that at the next election, if we have a large number of candidates for most of the seats and if in most of those seats the superfluity of candidates results in men being returned who have not the confidence of the majority of the electors, the country will resent it far more than we think at the present moment. I once more appeal to the House to give the House of Lords the opportunity of once more saying whether they will agree to this very modest proposal. I ask the Home Secretary to be consistent, seeing that the Government have always allowed this question to be left to the House and have always recognised that the question of the alternative vote was one to be left to the free will of the House and the House on three different occasions decided in favour of it—I ask them on this, the fourth occasion, to leave us free to vote as we wish and to leave it to the House of Lords to reject the proposal or otherwise.
§ Mr. A. HENDERSON
I beg to second the Amendment.
I want to make it quite clear in doing so that this Amendment is very far from satisfying either myself or the position which the Labour party has taken up since Mr. Speaker's Conference made its Report. I know that the vote taken at our recent conference has been very much used in another place and by Members in this House as indicating the position which the great organised labour movement in the country takes upon this Bill. That vote does not represent our real position. It is important that I should impress upon the House what our real position is. When the Conference reported, we held in London one of the largest conferences ever,held. It was called for the purpose of considering the Report of Mr. Speaker's Conference. The Conference came to the conclusion that the recommendations which had been unanimously adopted and the recommendations of the majority came very far short of the ideals for which we had been compaigning 2273 and fighting for a number of years. But we came to the conclusion that could we get a Bill on the lines of the recommendations of the Conference passed into law, it would be a splendid step in advance, and so we decided to take the various proposals of the Conference as they stood. I hope the House will realise that that and no other is the position of organised labour. If that is our real position we are face to face with an Amendment sent down to this House from another place which seeks to put into operation a principle five times rejected by this House. But what to me is more important is that the action of their Lordships House negatives a principle which on every occasion on which it has been voted upon during all these discussions has secured a majority.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I am amazed that hon. Members can look with approval upon a recommendation from another place which has been emphatically rejected by this House and which scorns a proposal which has always attained a majority, however small. We have to keep in mind that the Government has given its benediction to the proposal of their Lordships House. I regret that. Having regard to all that has taken place, it seems to me that the better course to adopt would have been for the Government to say, "We have left you to fight this out. You cannot come to an agreement. One House takes up one position on the alternative vote and the other takes up an entirely different position. You are opposed to proportional representation. Their Lordships House is in favour. We have decided to ask you to pass the Bill without either, and we are immediately going to set up a Commission, which will be induced to report with all expedition, and we will bring in a Bill dealing with the Report of that Commission entirely on its merits and we will allow Parliament to give its judgment according to the merits of the proposal." Had that course been adopted we should certainly have been in a much better position than we are going to be when we go to the expense of having this Commission, without any instructions, because I hold that the instructions in their Lordships Amendment were very rightly criticised by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain). They are not anything like satisfactory. It seems to me they are going to have a roving 2274 Commission to please themselves whether they accept the verdict of the local inquiry or otherwise.
So far as I am concerned—and I think I am speaking for most of those with whom I am in association—this Bill cannot be made acceptable to us if their Lordships Amendment is to be accepted just as it stands. We think it will be totally unfair —in fact, we think it an insult to this House—that we should be asked to accept from the other place a proposal which has been so often rejected, and I am saying that though I voted for it on each occasion. But it might be made acceptable, and it might avoid the risk of the loss of the Bill, if we could get this Amendment accepted. 1 want to put this point either to the Home Secretary or to the Leader of the House. In the event of this Amendment being carried, will the Government stand by the amended proposal as they intended to stand by the proposal as it came from their Lordships House? I hope we shall have an answer to that. It is all-important. We are trying to reach a compromise. We are trying to get out of an impasse, and we are trying to avoid the risk of the loss of the Bill. I say, with all the earnestness I can, that we do not realise in this House what will be the effect in the country, and especially at this moment. The seething discontent which exists in the great centres of industry will be intensified very considerably, to the danger of the country, in the event of this Bill being lost, and it behaves this House, as it behaves the other House, to reach a compromise which will not only be acceptable to a majority of both Houses, but which will assist in easing the situation from one end of the country to the other. I hope, therefore, that this Amendment will be accepted and that the Government will take charge of it as they were going to take charge of the proposal from their Lordships House, and I believe this is the only way to get Parliament and the country out of a very serious position.
§ General Sir IVOR PHILIPPS
I think we have some reason to find fault with the way this matter has been brought before us to-day. You would think we were deciding something quite different from the question as to how we are to be elected. You would think we were not the people who represent the electors of this country. It was with the greatest pleasure that I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain). I am sure 2275 all the older Members in this House must have felt a touch which made them look back on the time when his distinguished relative was with us. That is the proper way to treat these questions when they come from another place. I am not here, as representing my Constituency, to be told by another place how my Constituents are to elect their Member. We have worked out this Bill and come to certain conclusions on Mr. Speaker's Conference. They were amicably settled by this House and it is very unsuitable that we should have certain Resolutions forced upon us at the last minute from another place which entirely alter the way in which this House is to be elected. I deeply regret the way in which the Government Bench have treated this matter, but what else could you have expected from those who are sitting on the Front Bench and have spoken on the subject? I was bitterly disappointed when my right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) talked about this as if it was a trivial matter. [Interruption.] I very seldom address this House, but this is a point on which I am very keen, that this House should be supreme in the country; therefore I will not sit down for any shouting. I have not the eloquence that others have to put the case, but I feel that on the question of electing Members for this House this House should be supreme, and we should not be dictated to and told, as we have been by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench, "If you do not take the Lords Amendments you will lose the Bill." I do not believe they will dare to lose the Bill. If you only have the courage of your opinions—the courage that is wanted here; not those weak, backboneless creatures—and support your own views, you will have the House of Lords on their knees. Do you think it is merely a matter, as the late Prime Minister suggested, of proportional representation? It is not. It is a question whether the Lords are governing the country or the Commons. They are showing that they trample on our views and they spurn our Bill. We ought to show to-day in every way we can that we insist on having the Bill as we sent it to the other place.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I think that something should be said from this bench as to the view we take on this Amendment. I am not going to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his diversion into the wider question If the question before 2276 us really were whether the House of Lords was to have any power to amend the Bill or not, I think he would find that a very great majority of this House would feel. bound to go into the Lobby against him. We are dealing with a very much smaller matter, and I think there is some misunderstanding in the minds of those who couple the alternative vote with proportional representation in the manner proposed in this Amendment. The reason why we are recommending the House to accept this Amendment of the Lords is that unless we agree with the Lords on this matter we cannot pass the Bill.
§ Sir G. CAVE
Unless we agree with the Lords on the question of proportional representation. [An HON. MEMBER "Or they with us "] Or they with us—it is really a point not worth discussing, if the hon. Member will kindly accept my words in the sense they clearly bear—unless the two Houses agree on proportional representation the Bill must fall. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henderson) seems to think there is a simple expedient—that is, to call upon the other House to abandon their views on this point on the promise of a Commission to inquire into the matter and report. I am sure he will believe that if we thought the end which we all have in view could have been attained by such a promise we should very readily have given it, but I am, so far as one can be in a matter of this kind, convinced that no such promise would have the effect of bringing about the end which he and I have in view. We ask the House to accept this Amendment because on agreement on this question the fate of the Bill depends. The same observation does not apply to the question of the alternative vote. On that matter there is wide difference of opinion in this House itself. If this Amendment is put in, two consequences ensue. Firstly, you gravely imperil this Clause itself. The effect will be to unite against this Clause the opponents both of proportional representation and of the alternative vote. It may also have the effect that when the Commission report on both subjects you would unite against the Report of the Commission the opponents both of proportional representation and of the alternative vote. Do hon. Members think that the putting in of these words will have any practical effect? You would very likely find that just as the Lords by large majorities have rejected the 2277 alternative vote Clause, so will they reject the Amendment now proposed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] That is likely, and it really will accomplish nothing except to keep alive controversy between the two Houses which we all desire should be brought to an end. Each day that this controversy lasts is a loss, and it is a danger to the Bill. I am quite sure that as time passes temper rises, as it has risen in this House to-day, and no doubt it has risen elsewhere. Each one of these discussions makes the controversy more heated, and makes people more difficult to conciliate and to bring to agreement. Our desire is, if possible, to put an end to the whole matter to-day. If the House will agree with us, the Bill becomes law. If, on the other hand, the House insists upon reintroducing this matter into this Clause, the Bill will go back again elsewhere, and it will come back again here, and there will be controversy on controversy.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I hope the House will assent to the Clause as it is sent down to us. At the same time, of course, we recognise that on this matter of the alternative vote we have from time to time left the House to express freely its opinion. We have no desire to depart from that on this particular Amendment. We are quite willing that the House should divide freely upon this Amendment, and I hope that we may now come to a decision upon a matter on which our opinions have been fixed long ago.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
Before the House goes to a division it is really necessary that a. few sentences should be uttered in comment upon the speech which has just fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. As a rule the right hon. Gentleman is most convincing in his arguments, but upon this occassion he has entirely failed, I think, to carry with him a very large proportion, at any rate, of the House. We are adjured to approach these matters in a spirit of compromise and good will in order to secure the safety of the Bill. That is the spirit in which I, for one, quite sincerely and unreservedly approach them. But if there is to be compromise, let it be compromise all round. Do not let us exclude from the area of compromise one matter to which a very large number of hon. Members attach supreme import- 2278 ante. The right hon. Gentleman has said that if this Amendment were put in, and the proposal that is now before us was carried, it would alienate support from that proposal, and that the opponents of the alternative vote and of proportional representation would combine against the whole scheme. It may be that a very few Members would be influenced in that way; but, on the other hand, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it would attract the support of a large number of other hon. Members. So strongly do I feel the importance of the alternative vote that it is only on the understanding that this Amendment is put into the proposal that I, and I am sure there are many others of the same opinion, am prepared to vote for agreement with the House of Lords on the Clause now before us. The right hon. Gentleman has said that to insert this Amendment will involve delay, that the matter must go to the House of Lords and come back here again instead of the Bill becoming law at once. Why are we to assume that their Lordships will be unprepared to make the experiment in respect of the alternative vote, which they insist shall be made with respect to proportional representation?
I heard in the other House the speech to which the right hon. Member for St. Pancras (Sir J. W. Dickinson) has referred—the very weighty speech made by one of the most distinguished Members of that House, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, which was received with a. considerable amount of favour in that House, so far as I could judge. He said that he thought the experiment of the alternative vote should be made, but he did not advise their Lordships to accept our proposal for this mason, that, by accepting our proposal, they would be enacting the alternative vote now while proportional representation would still be problematical. By the proposal which is now before the House the two questions are to be placed on exactly the same footing. It will no longer be the case that proportional representation will have to wait while the alternative vote will be enacted immediately. What we desire in this Amendment is to put the alternative vote in the same position as proportional representation, and if it were so put its fortunes would be united with those of the other question. What we ask is that the House should adopt the same attitude with regard to the alternative vote as to proportional representation.
2279 Objection was taken in the other House to the alternative vote, because it was proposed to put it into the Bill without a Schedule specifying the manner in which it was to be put into operation, and that we were quite content to leave the rules for its enforcement to be afterwards adopted by Order in Council on the lines suggested by the Government in their White Paper. If that were a defect in our proposal it applies equally to proportional representation, because that was inserted by their Lordships in the Bill without any Schedule providing for its application. Therefore, that objection falls to the ground. Their Lordships are very anxious that minorities should be represented as well as majorities. What we plead for is that, at all events, minorities should not. be represented to the exclusion of majorities, and ought not to be put into a position of superiority. If there are in the next House of Commons a large number of minority representatives, perhaps deciding the whole political complexion of this House, the authority of this House would be fatally undermined, and in the undermining of the authority of the House of Commons there would be the undermining of constitutional methods as well. Unconstitutional methods would be adopted because this House did not fairly and fully represent the opinions of the people. That, surely, is a consideration which ought to be taken into account, not only by this House, but by their Lordships also, who share with us the guardianship of our Constitution. For these reasons I earnestly hope that this House will insert in this proposal the Amendment now made and send it to their Lordships for their approval.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law)
I know that the House desires to come to a decision on this matter, and I am very reluctant to come between them and the Vote, but my right hon. Friend has made one observation in regard to which it is necessary for me to say a word or two. He asks, "Do the Government undertake, if the House passes this Amendment, to put the two things on precisely the same footing and to stand or fall by both?"
§ Mr. SAMUEL
I did not say that. The Government have never undertaken to stand or fall by both. They said that when the Report of the Commissioners is laid upon the Table of the House there is to be 2280 a free vote of the House on the merits. I only ask that the two shall be put on the same footing.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I quite misunderstood my right hon. Friend. He referred to the time when it comes back, but the right hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson) did put the other case and he put it quite definitely that we ought to stand or fall by both. I am sure the House will agree with me when I say that I do not desire to add to the controversy, but I do ask the. House to realise what is the motive, and the sole motive—whether we are right or wrong—which is actuating the Government in the course which we are taking to-day. Our one desire is to get this Bill through. On the merits of these proposals we are divided, as the House has seen, but whatever decision we come to is not in favour or against either the one proposal or the other, but because we believe as the responsible Government that the course we are taking is necessary to secure the passage of this Bill into law. I say at once as regards this Amendment that it is no use our pretending that we are not influenced by party feeling if we say that we are ready to ask sacrifices from everyone else but are not prepared to make them ourselves. I know that the whole of my party is against the alternative vote—we are divided about proportional representation—but I say at once that if I believed that the adoption of this Amendment would enable the Bill to go through, much as I realise that our party would dislike it, much as I should dislike it myself, I would accept it and be done with it in order to get the Bill through on these terms. But that is not the position. Hon. Members speak as if it was only the House of Commons we have to consider. If we were thinking only of the view of the House of Commons we should have made no compromise on proportional representation. The decision of this House has been perfectly clear with regard to that. The Debate here to-day bears eloquent testimony to the danger to which the Home Secretary has referred—the danger of rising passion on a subject which never could have reached this stage if we had not all been prepared to make sacrifices even on things which we would otherwise have regarded as vital. Let us put ourselves in the position of the House of Lords. [Horn. MEMBERS: "Impossible!"] It used to be a charge against the House of Lords that it was in the pocket of the. Unionist party. I freely confess that I 2281 think it would have been a much easier time if the majority in the House of Lords would have accepted the advice of the representative leaders of the Unionist party. They have not done so, and that is the reason of all this trouble. at is the case now.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
It is the Amendment,on proportional representation that has raised this acute controversy. Any Second Chamber, at all events the House of Lords, is naturally a Conservative institution. We admit that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed"] We agree also, I think, that, except in time of war, and the unity with which parties ware acting, it would have been utterly impossible to get the Second Chamber to adopt this Bill at all. It could only have been done after a big party conflict, in which the whole feeling of the country was roused against the House of Lords. In no other way could it have been done. You bring this measure to the House of Lords. They consider, rightly or wrongly, not that proportional representation is a revolutionary proposal, as my right hon. Friend would suggest, but they look upon. it as something which will give greater security in the immense changes which are taking place. This is the position. I do not believe that the country cares two pence one way or the other about either proportional representation or even the alternative vote, but I do say that the country does care about the passing of this Bill. I do say that, whatever might have been the effect at the beginning, if the Bill fails to go through now it will produce a feeling in the country which I am afraid to contemplate.
It would be very easy if we could simply go to the House of Lords and say, "The House of Commons have passed this proposal"—we have got to say to them, as regards the alternative vote, that they have passed it by a majority of one—"and that is the view of the House of Commons, and you have got to give way." What the Government have to consider are these two things: Is this Bill in danger because of the risk of the House of Lords 2282 sticking to their view; and what degree of reasonableness would there be in the attitude of the House of Lords if they did stick to their view? Remember that the two things stand together. The House must also remember that proportional representation was part of the proposals of the Speaker's Conference. [An. HON. MEMBER: "And the alternative vote!"] Yes, but there was this great difference: Proportional representation was carried unanimously, and I think that the alternative vote was only carried more or less by a party Division. They are on an entirely different footing. This is the question which the Government have to face. Is there any risk of the House of Lords sticking to their guns with temper rising on both sides until neither side will give way? If there is that risk, are the House of Lords able to present a case which would seem reasonable to the country? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I say they are. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] You must allow me to express my views. I say that they are entitled to say to the country, "Here is a franchise proposal, the biggest by far that has ever been made in this country. We suggest very unimportant Amendments." [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] That is their view, and I think that the country will take the same view— [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—to this great proposal, and if the Bill is wrecked it is only on the temper of the House of Commons itself. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] At all events, that is the position of the Government. I ask the House to ask themselves what they would do in such a case? It is obvious that this knot must be cut sooner or later. It cannot go backwards and forwards between the two Houses indefinitely, without the Bill being destroyed. There is only one way, in my opinion, in which the knot can be cut. That is by the Government taking the responsibility of saying, "If we cannot save it in any other way we will use the whole machinery of the Government to bring this conflict to an end." Sooner or later we must do that. Otherwise the Bill is endangered. Well, we are not going to do it on this Amendment. We are going to leave that to the judgment of the House. If the House passes it we will send it to another place, but I wish—it is rather dangerous to say this, for it may seem to encourage them: I am not going to say anything of the kind—I say, and quite sincerely, that the one interest of the Government is to get this Bill. We 2283 ask the House of Commons to help us, and we hope that the House of Commons will support us in taking whatever steps we think necessary for the purpose.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, in the Division in which he took part last night, acted not as the national Leader of a War Cabinet, but as a party leader, voting in a party Division. He told us that the Division on this question was a party Division. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!" and Divide!"] There has been no disguise about that, and there is no occasion for hon. Members to contradict me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] Those who, in a party Division, oppose a proposal of this nature little realise—and the House of Lords, which is acting in concert with them, little realise—the nature of the volcano upon which they stand, and upon which the country stands at the present time. The object of the proposal for the alternative vote is to secure that in those constituencies in which it is applied the candidate who does represent the majority of the people is elected. There can be no doubt on the minds of anyone who looks out over Europe at the present time as to the direction in which opinion is moving throughout Europe. There is a movement of opinion which threatens to assume the most dangerous and violent proportions, unless proper and adequate constitutional machinery is devised in the various countries to give effect to the true wishes and feelings of the people. Those who oppose a proposal of this nature, whether in this House or in the House of Lords, are deliberately and for party purposes endeavouring to take advantage of the imperfections and anomalies which exist in our representative machinery for the purpose of pre-
§ nting the people of this country returning to Parliament the people whom they desire to have there. I can conceive of no more dangerous attitude than that which has been taken up. It is an attitude which will provoke retaliation and revolt, and encourage and strengthen those forces in this country which make for the restriction of constitutional authority. I feel that owing to events which have happened in other countries we stand within measurable distance of similar attempts in this country. I feel that this tendency is encouraged by the attitude adopted by another Chamber. Throughout the War and at the present time the one desire which has been present in my mind has been to strengthen the hands of constitutional authorities. I feel that the prestige and power of constitutional organisation in this country will be sensibly diminished if we surrender to the demand which is made in this country by those who in refusing the alternative vote show that they do not desire to see the true will of the people reflected in elections.
There are others who want to get home as well as you, but we want the will of the people reflected in the results of the elections which take place under this Bill.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Lords Amendment."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 166; Noes, 184.2287
|Division No. 156.]||AYES.||[7.14 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Bentham, George Jackson||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)|
|Adamson, William||Bethell, Sir John Henry||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Denman. Hon. Richard Douglas|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Black, Sir Arthur W.||Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.|
|Alden, Percy||Bliss, Joseph||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartenshire)||Boland, John Plus||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Brunner, John F. L.||Elverston, Sir Harold|
|Anderson, W. C.||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Falconer, James|
|Armitage, Robert||Buxton, Noel||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Harbert Henry||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Firench, Peter|
|Baker. Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Chancellor, Henry George||Field, William|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Chapple, Dr. William Allec||Fiennes, Hon. Sir Eustace Edward|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Clough. William||Galbraith, Samuel|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Gilbert, J. D.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Collins. Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Glanville, Harold James|
|Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick Burghs)||Collins. Sir W. (Derby)||Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford|
|Barton, Sir William||Daiziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)|
|Griffith, Rt. Hon. Sir Ellis J.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Shaw, Hon. A.|
|Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Maden, Sir John Henry||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Alisebrook|
|Hackett, John||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Smallwood, Edward|
|Hancock, John George||Manfield, Harry||Smith, Capt. Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Smith, H. B. Lees (Northampton)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Millar, James Duncan||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Molloy, Michael||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Molteno, Percy Alport||Sykes, Col. Sir Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Morgan, George Hay||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Hayward, Evan||Morison, Hector (Hackney, S.)||Thomas, Sir G. (Monmouth, S.)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Morton, Sir Alpheus Cleophas||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E. H.||Norman, Rt. Hon. Major Sir H.||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Hodge, Rt. Hon, John||Nuttall, Harry||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Wardle, George J.|
|Hudson, Walter||Outhwalte, R. L.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Parker, James (Halifax)||Watson, John Bertrand (Stookton)|
|Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Parrott, Sir James Edward||Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H.|
|Jones, Sir Edgar (Merthyr Tydvll)||Peel, Major Hon. G. (Spalding)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Philipps, Maj.-Gen. Sir Ivor (S'ampton)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Jowett, Frederick William||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Wiles, Rt Hon. Thomas|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E,)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Kiley, James Daniel||Rendall, Atheistan||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|King, J.||Richardson, Alblon (Peckham)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Lamb, Sir Ernest Henry||Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Layland-Barratt, Sir F.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke) I||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Rowlands, James||Yea, Sir Alfred William|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Rowntree, Arnold||Young. William (Perthshire, East)|
|Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk. B'ghs)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|M'Kean, John||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir|
|M'Laren, Hen. H. D. (Leics.)||Scanlan. Thomas||W. Dickinson and Mh. A. Henderson.|
|Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Scott, A. MacCallum (Clan., Bridgeton)|
|McMicking, Major Gilbert|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Courthope, Major George Loyd||Hohier, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Archer-Shoe, Lieut,-Col. M.||Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewel||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanel)||Hope, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Edin., Midlothian)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hume-Williams, William Ellis|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Croft, Brigadier-General Henry Page||Hunter, Major Sir Charles Rodk.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lend.)||Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)|
|Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, South)||Denison-Pender, Capt. J. C.||Jessel, Colonel Sir H. M.|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Denniss, E. R. B.||Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Dixon, C. H.||Joynson-Hicks, William|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Du Pre, Major W. Baring||Kerry, Lieut.-Col. Earl of|
|Beach, William F. H.||Faber, George D. (Clapham)||Keswick, Henry|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Falle, Sir Bertram Godfray||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Fell, Sir Arthur||Larmor, Sir J.|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Benn, Corn, Ian Hamilton||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton|
|Bigland, Alfred||Fletcher, John Samuel||Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)|
|Blair, Reginald||Forster, Rt. Hon. Henry William||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue||Gardner, Ernest||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Gastrell, Lieut.-Col. Sir W. Houghton||Lansdale, James R.|
|Boyle, William L. (Norfolk, Mid.)||Geddes, Sir A. C. (Hants, N)||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)|
|Boyton, Sir James||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. H. C. (Appleby)|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Goldman, Charles Sydney||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||McCalmont, Brig.-Gen. Robert C. A.|
|Brookes, Warwick||Grant, J. A.||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Greene, Walter Raymond||Macmaster, Donald|
|Bull, Sir William James||Gratton, Col. John||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Maitland, Sir A. D. Steel|
|Butcher, John George||Haddock, George Bahr||Malcolm, Ian|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Marriott, J. A. R.|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Hall, Lt.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Cator, John||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Meux, Adml. Hon. Sir Hedworth|
|Cautley, H. S.||Hamersley, Lt.-Col. Alfred St George||Meysey-Thompson, Colonel E. C.|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord C.J.||Mitchell-Thomson, W.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh (Oxford U.)||Hanson, Charles Augustin||Mount, William Arthur|
|Cecil,Rt.Hon. Lord Robert(Herts,Hitchln)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Chamberain, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Harris, Rt. Hon. F. L. (Worcester, E.)||Newman, Major John R. P.|
|Cheyne, Sir W.||Harris, Sir Henry P. (Paddington, S.)||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Hermon-Hodge, Sir R. T.||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Colvin, Col. Richard Boale||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Norton Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir J.|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||O'Malley, William|
|O'Neill, Capt. Hon. H. (Antrim, Mid.)||Rothschild, Major Lionel de||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|orde-Powiett, Hon. W. G. A.||Royds, Major Edmund||Ward, Arnold (Herta, Watford)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Lancs., Darwen)||Warde. Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Parker, Rt. Hon. Sir G. (Gravesend)||Rutherford, Sir W. (L'pool, W. Derby)||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Parkes, Sir Edward E.||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||Whiteley, Sir H. J.|
|Pease, Rt.Hon.Harbt. Pike (Darlington)||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W:)|
|Peel, Lieut.-Col. R. F. (Suffolk, S.E.)||Stanton, Charles Butt||Williams, Thomas J. (Swansea)|
|Pennefather, De Fonbianque||Starkey, John Ralph||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Perkins, Walter Frank||Staveley-H ill, Lieut.-Cal. Henry||Wills, Major Sir Gilbert|
|Philipps, Capt. Sir Owen (Chester)||Stewart, Gershom||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray||Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald||Wilson-Fox, Henry (Tamworth)|
|Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest George||Swift, Rigby||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund||Sykes, Col. Sir Alan John (Knutsford)||Wood, Sir John (Stalybridge)|
|Pryce-Jones, Col. E.||Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord Edmund||Wood, S. Hill- (Derbyshire)|
|Quilter, Major Sir Cuthbert||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Randles, Sir John S.||Terrell, Major Henry (Gloucester)||Wright, Captain Henry Fitzherbert|
|Rawson, Cal. R. H. - -||Thomas-Stanford, Charles||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Rees, Sir J. D.||Thynne, Lieut.-Col. Lord Alexander|
|Remnant, Col. Sir James Farquharso||Tickler, T. G.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir G.|
|Roberts. Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Tryon, Capt. George Clement;||Younger and Col. Sanders.|
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
I want the House to understand exactly what it is that we are doing. I will take the words of the Lords Amendment, which propose that 100 Members shall be elected to the House of Commons at a General Election on the principle of proportional representation. That principle, in whatever form it has come before this House, has been five times rejected by this House, on Division, by increasing majorities. The House is now asked to stultify itself by placing that principle in this Bill. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when he said that this proposal was going to leave the matter in the future entirely in the hands of this House. I do not think that is the case. It leaves the proposal in the hands of both Houses; and if this House, when the proposal comes before it, were to make Amendments in the proposal, and the House of Lords were to reject those Amendments, it cannot be said that the proposal will be in the hands of this House, if the House of Lords were to insist upon them—
§ Sir G. CAVE
In the case which the hon. Gentleman puts, this House would be entirely master of the situation.
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
There is one further point to which I should like to call attention, and it is that this proposal does involve the objectionable feature of grouping constituencies—grouping together single constituencies with a solid 2288 arity of their own, and each with a history of its own and all now independent. That has been definitely rejected before in more than one of the many experiments submitted to the House. I ask the House, of which over 370 individual Members have at one time. or another voted against the principle of proportional representation, to take the truly democratic line of resisting this proposal being imposed upon this House.
§ Colonel SANDERS
I merely want to say that I have always advocated, from the agricultural point of view and from no other point of view, proportional representation. I believe that this experiment, and it is merely an experiment, will satisfy the demand of agriculturists, and I am, therefore, going to vote for the campromise that the Government has suggested.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
Just two or three words. Whatever may be the consequences and whatever the Government may do in this matter, I want it to be clearly understood that I, for one, shall not be terrorised in the same way as some people and some Liberal Members sitting on that bench. The alternative vote has gone, because it was only carried by one. Now we are asked to support a measure of proportional representation, which was rejected by a majority of about 100. I do not know on what principle of democracy that occurs. All this talk about the Bill dying on the floor of the House is mere camouflage—everybody knows that. If this Bill dies there is no one in this House that does not know that the Government would have to bring it in again and carry it through the House within a fortnight. The mere idea that a difference of opinion in the House of Lords is to weigh in a matter like this is the mere invention of politicans. I, for one, do not care two pence what happens to this Bill to-day. I 2289 know perfectly well this Bill is going to be passed in the future, and if the Lords stand between the Bill and those who support it it will be their funeral and not ours.
§ Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 224; Noes, 114.2291
|Division No. 157.]||AYES.||[7.30 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Greig, Col. J. W.||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Gretton, John||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Sir Ellis J.||Parker, Rt. Hon. Sir G. (Gravesend)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Anderson, W. C.||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||Pease, Rt.Hon.Herbt. Pike (Darlington),|
|Armitage, R.||Hackett, John||Peel, Lieut.-Colonel R. F.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Hamersley, Lt,-Col. Alfred St. George||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Phillips, Sir Owen (Chester)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Hanson, Charles Augustin||Pratt, J. W.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Pretyman, Rt, Hon. Ernest George|
|Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, South)||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Haslam, Lewis||Quilter, Major Sir Cuthbert|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E,)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick, Burghs)||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Hermon-Hodge, Sir R. T.||Roberts, Sir S (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Beach, William F. H.||Hewins, William Albert Samel||Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Rothschild, Major Lionel de|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Hope, James Fitzalan (Shelfield)||Royds, Major Edmund|
|Bellaire, Commander C. W.||Hope, Lieut.-Col. J. A. (Midlothian)||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Samuel, fit. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Boland, John Pius||Hunter, Major Slr Charles Rodk.||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith.||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid.)||Jones, Sir Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Simon. Rt. Hon. Sir John Alisebrook|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Northampton)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Broughton, Urban Hanlon||Joynson-Hicks, William||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Kallaway, Frederick George||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Bull, Sir William James||Kerry, Lieut.-Col. Earl of||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (Aston)|
|Butcher, John George||Keswick, Henry||Starkey, John Ralph|
|Buxton, Noel||Larmor, Sir J.||Staveley-Hill, Lieut.-Col. Henry|
|Carew, C.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Beetle)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward hildred||Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton||Swift, Rigby|
|Cater, John||Levy, Sir Maurice||Sykes, Col. Sir Alan John (Knutstord)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Sykes, Col. Sir Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh (Oxford U.)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Cecil,Rt.Hon.Lord Robert(flerts,Hitchin)||Lonsdale, James R.||Thomas, Sir G. (Monmouth, S.)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Lowther. Maj.-Gen. H. C. (Appleby)||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Cheyne, Sir W. W.||M'Callum. Sir John M.||Thynne, Lt.-Col. Lord Alexander|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||McCalmont, Brig.-Gen. Robert C. A.||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||Mackinder, Halford J.||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Wardle, George J.|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||MacVeagh. Jeremiah||Waring, Major Walter|
|Courthope, Major George Loyd||Magnus, Sir Philip||Watson, John Bertrand (Stockton)|
|Cowan, Sir W. H.||Maitland, Sir A. D. Steel.||Webb, Lieut.-Col, Sir H.|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Malcolm, Ian||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradesten)|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Manfield, Harry||Whiteley, Sir H. J.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Whyte, Alexander F.|
|Croft, Brig.-General Henry Page||Mason. David M. (Coventry)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Denison-Pander, Capt. J. C.||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Meux, Adml. Hon. Sir Hedworth||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Moysoy-Thompson. Colonel E. C.||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Dixon, C. H.||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Dougherty, RI. Hon. Sir J. B.||Millar, James Duncan||Wills, Major Sir Gilbert|
|Du Pre, Major W. Baring||Mitchell-Thomson, W.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worn., N.)|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Molloy, Michael||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Winfrey. Sir Richard|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Morgan, George Hay||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Ffrench, Peter||Mount, William Arthur||Wormer, Viscount|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wood, Sir John (Stalybridge)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Wood, S. Hill- (Derbyshire)|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Newman, Major John R. P.||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Forster, Rt. Hon. Henry William||Newton, Major Harry Kottingham||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Gardner, Ernest||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Dancaster)||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Gastrell, Lieut.-Col. Sir W. Houghton||Nicholson William G. (Peterifieid)||Younger, Sir George|
|Geddes, Sir A. C. (Hants, N.)||Nield, Sir Herbert||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Norman, Rt. Hon. Major Sir H.|
|Goldman, C. S.||Norton-Griffiths, Sir John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Len|
|Grant, J. A.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Edmund Talbot and Capt. F. Guest.|
|Greene, Walter Raymond||O'Malley, William|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Gilbert, J. D.||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Alden, Percy||Glanville, H. J.||Parrott, Sir James Edward|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Goddard, Rt. Hon. Sir Daniel Ford||Philipps, Maj.-Gen. Sir Ivor (S'ampton)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Martin||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Randies, Sir John S.|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Hall, Lt.-Col. Sir Fred (Dulwich)||Rawson, Col. Richard H.|
|Barton, Sir William||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord C. J.||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arlon)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Hancock, J. G.||Remnant, Col. Sir James Farquharson|
|Bonn, Com. Ian Hamilton||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Bentham, G. J.||Harris, Sir Henry P. (Paddington, S.)||Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham)|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Slack, Sir Arthur W.||Hayward, Evan||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Blair, Reginald||Hemmerde, Edward George||Rowlands. James|
|Boyton, Sir James||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)|
|Brookes, Warwick||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Rutherford, Sir W. (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hickman, Brig.-Gen. Thomas E.||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Habhouse, Rt. Han. Sir Charles E. H.||Shaw, Hon. A.|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Smallwood, Edward|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Hudson, Walter||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Clough, William||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Jacobsen, Thomas Owen||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Jessel. Col. Sir Herbert M.||Tickler, T. G.|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Tryon, Capt. George Clement|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Jowett, Frederick William||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirkcaldy)||Kenyon, Barnet||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid.)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co)||Kiley, James Daniel||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Davies, Ellis William (Elflon)||King, Joseph||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Ciackmannan)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Kinloch-Cooke, SIC Clement||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.||Lamb. Sir Ernest Henry||Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Williams, Thomas J.|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid.)||Leyland-Baratt, Sir F.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Macmaster, Donald||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Falconer, James||Madan, Sir John Henry||Yea, Sir Alfred William|
|Falle, Sir Bertram Godfrey||Molteno, Percy Alport||Young, William (Perthshire. East)|
|Flennes, Hon. Sir Eustace Edward||Morison, Hector (Hackney, S.)|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Morton, Sir Alpheus Cleophas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.?Sir|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Nuttall, Harry||F. Lowe and Mr. Pennefather.|
§ Resolved, "That this House doth not insist on its consequential Amendments to which the Lords have disagreed."—[Sir G. Cave.]
§ Lords consequential Amendments agreed to.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Bill, with a Message from the Commons, will now have to go to the House of Lords, and there must necessarily be an interval before that Message is received. I understand also there is to be a Royal Commission. I propose to leave the Chair until such time as I hear that the Commission is on its way, and the bells will be rung before I resume the Chair.
Sitting suspended at Fifteen minutes before Eight o'clock.