- (1) If at an election for one member of Parliament there are more than two candidates, the election shall be according to the principle of the alternative vote as defined by this Act.
- (2) At a contested election for a university constituency, where there are two or more members to be elected, any 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 this Act.
- (3) At a contested election for a university constituency in England or Ireland, the voting paper shall be signed by the voter in the presence of one witness who personally knows the voter and attests the fact of the voting paper having been signed by the voter in his presence at the place therein mentioned by signing his name thereto, and adding his designation and place of residence.
- (4) His Majesty may by Order in Council frame Regulations prescribing the method of voting, and transferring and counting votes, at any election, Recording to the principle of the transfer-
1602 able or of the alternative vote and for adapting the provisions of the Ballot Act, 1872, and any other Act relating to. Parliamentary elections thereto, and with respect to the duties of returning officers in connection therewith; and any such Regulations shall have effect as if they were enacted in this Act.
- (5) Nothing contained in this Act shall, except as expressly provided herein, affect the method of conducting Parliamentary elections in force at the time of the passing of this Act.
§ Lords Amendment:
§ At the beginning of the Clause, insert as a new Sub-section,
§ (1) In a constituency returning not less than three nor more than five members of Parliament, 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 this Act.
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
§ Sir WILLOUGHBY DICKINSON
On a point of Order. Before the hon. Member moves this Amendment, I wish to ask you, Sir, whether it is possible now or at what time to move an Amendment to the Amendment as inserted by the Lords? I am anxious to move as an Amend ment to substitute the word "two" for the word "three," and I have various good reasons for that, which I should like to put before the House. In these circumstances is any and what opportunity available to move to substitute the word "three" for the word "two"?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is open to the right hon. Gentleman to move that Amendment. He must do it on the supposition that the House has accepted this proposal.
§ Sir W. DICKINSON
May I make the matter perfectly clear? I understand that the Motion made is that we agree with the Lords Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, disagree!"] If the Motion to disagree be not carried, shall I be allowed to move an Amendment?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Motion which is moved by the hon. Member for the City of Westminster (Mr. Burdett-Coutts) is "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment." If that 1603 be negatived, there will be still an opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman to move his Amendment.
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
In making this Motion I propose to say very little on the merits of proportional representation, firstly, because that subject has been amply debated in this House on three occasions, on which it was defeated by increasing majorities, and, secondly, because a much more important question is now raised concerning the credit of this House and the elementary safeguards of which it ought to make certain before it passes legislation. The latter subject is involved in the present Amendment and a new Clause which appears later on on the Amendment Paper. I have already had an opportunity of saying something about them, and the Committee opposed to proportional representation, to which I belong, has had an opportunity of saying something in the form of a letter which has been addressed to all hon. Members of this House. It is obvious that it is impossible to discuss this Amendment without discussing also the new Clause which is intended to afford a means of making the Amendment effective, and without discussing also another equally remarkable proposition sent down to us, the new Schedule, which is intended to present a faithful picture or plan of how the proposals will affect Members of this House as future candidates and the constituencies for which they will stand. History repeats itself very often in curious ways as to events, but generally with very different results. A scheme of minority representation was introduced into the Reform Bill of 1867. After a long debate it was rejected in this House by 314 to 151, after a speech by Mr. Disraeli, which ought to be read from end to end by every member of the party to which I belong. I will quote a few lines from it, even if they have been heard in these Debates before—I have always been of opinion that this and other schemes having for their object to represent minorities are admirable schemes for bringing crotchety men into the goose They are the schemes of coteries and not the politics of nations, and, if adopted, will end in discomfiture and confusion.Mr. Bright made an equally powerful speech against the proposal.
The Bill went to another place, where they have favoured this principle so long, so persistently, and with such force of heredity, that while my hon. Friends who 1604 promote the principle in this House may look upon it as a shining virtue in their Noble Friends, I am compelled on the other hand To look upon proportional representation as a congenital defect of the House of Lords. Institutions, like individuals, have their misfortunes. If the House does not go with me in that definition and thinks that the display of consistency by the Upper House for over fifty years is deserving of great praise, the only remark I have to make is that the value of consistency depends upon the merits of what you are consistent to, and therein, of course, I differ from my hon. Friends who promote this principle in this House. In the other House that proposal was carried by 142 to 53, almost exactly the proportion that carried the present proposal the other day. When the Bill came back to this House Mr. Disraeli, who no doubt recognised the very important part that the Upper House then played in the fortunes of the Conservative party, with great reluctance, we are told, advised this House, out of deference to the House of Lords, to assent to the change, and it was put into the Bill. It had disastrous results. I am not saying it was the same scheme as is before us now, but it was based on the same principle, which I believe over a hundred different ways have been invented of carrying out. It became an intolerable burden on the electors, and at the first available opportunity, which did not come for eighteen years, it was buried without a mourner, and the country, by agreement between Lord Salisbury and Mr. Gladstone, turned with relief and enthusiasm to the single-member system under which we have lived ever since. But that measure of minority representation led to a baneful invention and left behind it a hateful memory, in the shape of the Birmingham caucus. I well remember that when I stood for Parliament thirty-two years ago we had no better platform weapon than repeating over and over again in a sentence the name of Mr. Schnadhorst, and I am not sure that it would not serve the same purpose now. Under that system the work of the caucus was, of course, far simpler than it will be if this system ever comes into operation. All the caucus had to do under that measure was to divide the electors into three groups and with three candidates, A., B., and C., to order one group to vote for A. and B., another for B. and C., and the third for A. and C., and they carried the whole of their 1605 candidates and kept them for many years. But the multiplicity of ordinal preferences, second, third, fourth, fifth, up to tenth, which the single transferable vote system would involve, will require a more scientific handling in party interests, and neither party will be able to face an election with any hope of success without the assistance of the most drastic form of caucus and without its orders being 'carried out by the electors.
When you contrast what happened in the House of Commons in 1867 with what is going to happen here to-day, is there any leader of the Conservative party or of the opposite party who is going to ask this House to agree with the drastic changes which have been sent down to us by the House of Lords? I do not think so. After so long a membership of this House I may be permitted to inflict my own opinion in this matter on my hon. Friends. I have—always had a sincere respect for the place of the House of Lords in the history of this country and the great part which I believe it has performed in the welfare and progress of the nation. In my opinion it has been in no small measure due to the existence of the House of Lords that, in contrast with the French Revolution, which illumined the world with its genius but, like a flashlight, left it in darkness for many succeeding years, the light of freedom has burned with a steadier and surer glow in this country until, out of what the professors and theorists who are urging this scheme upon you call our haphazard and unscientific methods, there has emerged the freest and most democratic Constitution in the world. Therefore I do not propose for a moment to question the constitutional right of the House of Lords to make this or any change in a Bill sent up to it from this House. But I draw a sharp distinction between right and claim, and I question the claim of a non-elected Chamber to alter a decision three times given in this House with regard to the methods by which we, the representatives of the people, are chosen for the elective branch of the, Legislature. I think the circumstances under which the Upper House now stands weaken any such claim, and I earnestly hope that at an early date that claim will be strengthened by a reconstitution of that assembly largely upon another than a hereditary basis.
There is another point. I and many of those who belong to the 1606 same party have always defended the House of Lords on the ground that it formed a barrier against any great fundamental changes being passed into law upon which the people had never been consulted, but I am sorry to say that plank in our platform breaks into pieces under their present action and lets us down somewhat seriously, because I do not think in the whole range of past legislation this House has ever been asked to place upon the Statute Book a fundamental change so completely unknown to the people as this scheme, so strange to every election address they have ever read, so ignored on every party platform, and yet so vital to their first privilege as citizens—the Parliamentary vote. I do not confine myself to the other end of the corridor in making this criticism, because those hon. Members who promote the change in this House come under it., in so far as the limited measure which they proposed on the Report stage goes. But now what is the position? We have received here a proposition for an infinitely larger and inure sweeping measure of proportional representation than was ever contemplated by the Speaker's Conference, or by the promoters in this House in ally definite proposition they placed before us, which constitutes a complete upheaval of the existing electoral basis throughout the country, and a new task of enormous proportions to be assigned to a new set of Boundary Commissioners.
This is not the worst feature in the new Clause by which this great revolution is to be carried into effect. We are asked to enter upon a method of legislation which can bear no other description than that of law-making in the dark. Hon. Members with whom I act have said something of what we think on this point in the letter to which I have referred, and I will not repeat those criticisms except to say that if this House of Commons were to anew itself for a moment to enter upon that kind of legislation and place an Act on the Statute Book, the real practical results of which upon the country and on the electors we deliberately ignored, and did not even inquire into at the time of the passing of the. Act, this House of Commons would abandon any pretence to be an intelligent legislative assembly and would become the laughing stock, I believe, of the nation.
But the proposition we have to deal with has still graver aspect, and perhaps this is a part of my remarks to which 1607 those in charge of the Bill may be kind enough to pay attention. It affects the fate of the Bill to which we have given so much labour during the past year. I have, no hesitation in saying it will be absolutely impossible to pass that Bill into law unless the present Amendment and the new Clause founded upon it are rejected. The Noble Lord who leads the promoters in another place sent a remarkable telegram to the Labour Conference at Nottingham and, as far as I know, that was absolutely the first announcement of the plan which that Chamber proposed to adopt. When I saw the particular channel selected for giving this information for the first time to Parliament I could not help thinking to myself that at that conference there must have been many men of sufficient classic reading to say to themselves and to others when they read the unfamiliar address of the House of Lords, Timeo Danaos et done ferentes. In that telegram the Noble Lord stated that the plan to be adopted- -these are his words—"obviates all delay," and "makes it possible to pass the Bill into law at once." Hon. Members have only to give a cursory glance at the Clause to know that such a promise is absolutely illusory. The very principle of the Clause upon which this Amendment depends, this legislation in the dark, is certain to give rise to long debates in this House—longer than can take place on this occasion. There are in the Clause, in its subject-matter, many important provisions, each one of which will require ample time for examination and debate. In addition to that there are the Instructions to the Boundary Commissioners, which we shall have to debate at far greater length than we did the first Instructions because the latter were the outcome, so to speak, of the Bill to which we had given a Second Reading, and they naturally emerged before that from the Speaker's Conference. But these are in largo measure entirely new Instructions, and they give to these Boundary Commissioners who have not yet been appointed an amount of discretion which only adds to the insecurity that we are placing ourselves in when we pass this Bill without knowing what is going to be done with it. I do not desire to enlarge upon this matter, but I think it only fair to point out to the Home Secretary, or to the President of the Local Government Board, who is now in his place, and to the Colonial Minister, 1608 who has taken such an interest in this Bill, that we who are opposed to proportional representation will feel bound to subject the whole of this Clause to examination and prolonged discussion if we should ever reach it on the Paper. Looking to the circumstances in which the Clause has been produced at the last moment, under conditions with which I have no doubt the House is familiar, I can only describe it as a bolt-hole of the theorist who finds himself in a practical impasse. What particular designation to affix to the extraordinary document called a Schedule, with which also this Amendment is closely connected, passes my power of language. It has had a mysterious history, a most mysterious history, in another place. It was bruited about, and it was quite obvious from the final form this Amendment took on the Paper of the Upper Chamber, compared with the form in which it was left for several weeks after Christmas—it was, I say, quite obvious that the promoters had a Schedule, and it was a very remarkable thing that it was not produced in, another place before the Debate took place, or at least before, the Division. I cannot help thinking myself that if it had been produced, if it had been submitted to the knowledge of the public, or to examination, it might have had a very marked effect on the Division in another place. I do not want to say any more about that, except to ask one question which I think hon. Members will admit is important: What part does it really play in the scheme which is before us in the minds of the promoters of that scheme? I wonder whether they will tell us in this Debate. You have two somewhat contradictory views for them! There is a. statement by a Noble Lord who holds an authoritative position in the other Chamber in this matter. I do not complain in the least of his devotion to proportional representation because he is the son of a very noble-minded gentleman, the late Earl Grey, who, as we all know, was a great promoter of this same principle. Earl Grey said:We have not put it forward thinking it can he accepted as a Schedule which can be imposed on the country."—There is a somewhat different statement from the Noble Lord who leads that school of thought in the words spoken of the House of Commons:We must consider the possibility that they will not accept a Schedule which we intend to insert in the Bill.1609 I feel bound to take the latter statement, that of the Leader, rather than the words of his very active lieutenant, in the other House; and the meaning of it is that we were quite expected to accept the Lords Schedule. But I will not put it higher than this, that in that Schedule we do find in black and white the plan accredited by the promoters which they intend as far as they can to have accepted by the Boundary Commissioners who are still to be appointed.
I need not detain the House any longer except to remind hon. Members that the three parts of the proposal which is now before the House—the main Amendment, the new Clause—a very contentious Clause, as I have described it—and the Schedule—hang together, and must be taken together before we can appreciate and decide upon the proposition which is now made to us with regard to proportional representation. We who are very strongly opposed to the principle of proportional representation are so strongly opposed to it that we cannot accept any modicum of it—anything in the nature of a compromise that would introduce it in any form. I have no hesitation in asking the House to reject it in the form in which it is now presented for the sake of the honour and credit of this House, and in order to save the Bill upon which so much labour has been expended, and in which so many hopes centre for the future welfare of democratic government in this country.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I understand that the Motion of my hon. Friend requires a Seconder, and I rise for the purpose of seconding it. My hon. Friend has dealt with certain aspects of the case before.us, and with the action which has been taken on the Bill by this Amendment in another place. He has dealt with that action with a moderation to which some of us will find it difficult to confine our observations. I shall say nothing about the risk incurred of losing the whole of the labour which has been spent upon this Bill by an attempt at the last moment in another place to reverse a well-considered and three times, by in creasing majorities, reaffirmed decision of this House, in a matter which primarily concerns us, and which does not concern the other House at all. I shall say nothing about the threatened fortunes of the Bill, because I think that had better come from those who have piloted the Bill with such success through this House 1610 in its long and difficult course. Neither do I wish to deal with the special claim put forward at this late stage that proportional representation is in some way going to find a remedy for the ills from which agriculture suffers. Personally, I think that something more practical than an attempt to gerrymander the opinions of the constituencies is needed to give to agriculture that vigour and that progressive spirit which we desire to see it enjoy. But I do want to ask the House whether, as Members of this great Assembly, they would in any circumstances be content to make so profound a change as this Amendment proposes in a Bill on its last stage, and to part with the Bill for ever, without knowing what kind of shape or form is going to be given by Commissioners hereafter created to the scheme which they will have adopted in theory, but without having it before them in any final form. As regards the distribution scheme of the Bill as it left this House, the Commissioners were appointed in time for us to have the whole scheme before us, and to discuss it before we parted with the Bill.
Now, without any control, we are to be content with the promise that the scheme ultimately provided by the Commissioners shall lie on the Table of this House for a certain time, and that it shall then be open to us to move a Motion against it. That is not procedure consonant with the vital interest we have in the matter, nor is it consonant with the dignity of the House or the greatness of the issue. This Bill, as it left our House, and without any further changes, was going to produce a revolution in our electoral system, a peaceful revolution, a revolution on the lines on which we have proceeded hitherto, and therefore the best kind of revolution, but still a revolution. That would have been true of it had it extended to the extent to which it does the suffrage among the male population and them alone. But in addition we have, in the last years of the prolonged life of this House, reversed all our earlier decisions, and resolved by overwhelming majorities, both here and in another place, to confer the Parliamentary franchise for the first time on several millions of women. I make no secret of the fact that I think the House has made a mistake in the interests alike of women and the country; but at least you can say dais about that change—that everyone 1611 had discussed it, everyone had formed an opinion, everyone was familiar with the arguments on both sides, that no one would hesitate to explain at once what women suffrage meant and what the House of Commons was doing. Opponent as I am of it, and voting against it as I did up to the last moment—in a small minority of fifty, I think it was, which recorded a vote against it—I am free to recognise that, while my opinion is unchanged, the opinion of the country has changed, and I believe that in that matter the changed opinion of this House has responded to and reflects the changed opinion in the country.
Yes; but none of these things are true al the change which has been made in the Bill in regard to proportional representation in another place. How many of our constituents can explain it? How many in this House can explain it one to another? I observe that hon. Members say it is the simplest thing in the world, but they do not undertake to explain it. They console us, and tell us we may console our constituents, by saying that all the complexities are in the counting of the votes, that that is no business of the elector, that it will be done for him, and that all he has to do is to record his vote. I wonder whether it ever occurs to hon. Members that any system of voting which is not on the face of it fair, which does not on the face of it produce a certain result clearly and definitely from certain defined premises, is a system calculated to breed a suspicion in the elector's mind that behind his back and after he has cast his vote by some process of counting and recounting, the result is altered and perverted, his intentions frustrated, and a result brought about which he never contemplated. Any system which is riot capable of easy explanation and easy understanding is for that reason, in my opinion, a bad system. Is it a system that the country has ever seriously considered'? We have had minority representations tried in one form or another. We have had the old three-cornered seat, with the results described by my right hon. Friend opposite.
The city which I represent is one of those where the party in the majority was in a sufficient majority to enable it, by severe discipline and complete organisation, to defeat the intentions of the minority vote, and through the whole of 1612 its continuance it returned three Members, all of one party complexion. We have had the School Board, with its attempt at minority representation in a different way.
Do either of those experiments commend themselves to the House? They do not commend themselves even to those, the lineal successors of their supporters, who still seek a method of minority representation. We are told that the system of proportional representation is to destroy the party organisation, and give independence to the candidate. I venture to repeat that it was an attempt to create an artificial minority representation which gave rise to the party organisation as we know 'it to-day, and that any attempt to proceed again on the same lines will not weaken the party organisation, but will render it more complicated, more all-embracing and more impossible. for the independent man to stand with any chance of success. Did you have in the School Board any more success? What did it tend to produce? Did it give you representation of the great currents and movements of opinion in educational matters? Not a hit of it. It secured that any crotchet which could gather together enough people to give a vote for that in preference to anything else—enough people who had no sense perspective, no sense of proportion, no ballast in their political judgment to vote for sonic narrow sectional interest—could get a representative, and the great currents of opinion on one side or the other were at the mercy of these small coteries.
The House abolished, with satisfaction, and with practical unanimity, the old three-cornered seat. The House abolished the School Boards, and transferred their authority to the town councils arid similar bodies, and I venture to say that one of the arguments which had weight with many Members of the House was that in so doing they destroyed the system of the cumulative or minority vote. Now we have another system. If one system of proportional representation fails, it is not the fault of the principle; it is merely that its exponents hit upon the wrong method. We are told to try another, and if that fails the supporters of this system are not disconcerted; they are hardly surprised, and' they will produce you another. If that does not succeed, do you think you have come to the end of the story? I wonder if hon. Members have read—I hope some 1613 of them have done so—the very interesting pamphlet circulated by Lord Eversley, as an appendix to which he prints an article contributed to the "Times," describing the working of the system in Tasmania. It is obvious from its contents that it is written by a strong advocate of proportional representation.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I have sufficient evidence in the fact that I have read it. I cannot conceive of anybody reading it, and not seeing that the writer was strongly in favour of proportional representation. He himself is obviously not discouraged. He tells you that one result has been that very often a man whom, of all others, the constituency would have desired to see elected has failed to secure election because voters, feeling that that man was safe, had concentrated their votes on the doubtful candidates, the result being that the real first preference man has failed to get in. The elector has felt that A. would succeed in any case, and has consequently put B. first. On the other side, the real preference being for C. the elector felt that C. would get in first, and has voted for D, with the result that B. and D. are elected and A. and C. are left out, a result for which as the writer says, not 10 per cent. of the electors would have wished. That is not all. He says:It was hoped that it would produce a better class of man. It has had exactly the opposite result. It seemed at first as if the new system was going to do away with many of the unsavoury features of the single-seat contest. It seemed to make it possible for a man to run successfully on purely political lines—on his public record in the past and his general political appeal in the present. That dream is shattered. Candidates are faced with much of the old necessity of fighting and scheming for personal support, under conditions which are worse than the old ones; for they must do so against their friends; and they must do so in constituencies six times larger, where the size adds to the expense of time and money, and to the coarseness of the electioneering methods.He continues to say that the by-products of the system are of the most dangerous character. Then he goes on—and I commend this to the hon. Member who thought there was no internal evidence that Lord Eversley was in favour of proportional representation—to say,But the advantages are too great to be lightly given up.What is the consolation he offers?There are said to be over 300 methods of proportional representation already devised. The problem is to find one which will preserve the good results that Tasmania has already experienced, and reduce to a negligible quantity the dangerous effects which the recent election has brought into startling prominence.1614 We are to go on trying all these 300 nostrums which the quack doctors offer us! I venture to say that it really is preposterous to ask the House to introduce into the Bill at this stage a novelty which is without precedent in our political system, without any experience to justify it, without any popular demand for it, and which is brought forward in face of the thrice-declared opinion of the Members of the House of Commons.
A good deal of nonsense was talked about the character of the individual member, and the position of the member in regard to his constituency. If the member has no principle or character, no electoral system will supply his defects. If the member has principle and character, he can fare very well under our present electoral system. The evils of the personal connection between the member and his constituency are not felt by the good members, and are not experienced in constituencies which have not been debauched. I sat for more than twenty-one years for a single constituency which in that time grew from an electorate of 10,000 to an electorate of 25,000 or 27,000. There is nothing that I value more, and there is nothing that I so much regretted to lose by my severance of that connection in order to accept the candidature in another constituency, which had special personal ties for me, than that long personal connection between the member and his constituents. I knew them and they knew me, and it was a, good thing and a strength to both of us that it was so.
Who are to be my constituents under the proposed system? Birmingham, if we take this Schedule, which they have been good enough to suggest to us in another place, although they have not been audacious enough to propose it, is to be cut into three constituencies of four members each. I am to have a constituency of 100,000 electors, I suppose—how many thousand inhabitants do not know. Every effort will be made to prevent any of those electors knowing—in fact, it would be impossible or any of them to know—whether they Toted for me or not, or at any rate whether they effectively voted for me or not, or whether the vote which they wished to give to me was really diverted to somebody else. I give my own case as in illustration, and I hope the House will not think it is egotistical, because my position may be the position of other hon. 1615 Members in similar circumstances. It would be impossible for me to know who were my supporters, and who where not. The personal relationship would be destroyed, and I should have to answer the letters and attend to the business and demands of a constituency not of 25,000 inhabitants, but of 100,000. In many cases, as hon. Members know, the correspondence of our constituents leads to our visiting a Government office. I might go to the Home Office only to find that three other members from the same constituency had been to tell my right hon. Friend the same story in pretty much the same words. What a multiplication of useless labour: What a complexity of electoral system, to gain no advantage!
Is it going to make it more easy for independent people to stand without the aid of a party organisation How many Members are there in this House, and how many will there be in a House to come, who can afford to stand by themselves without recourse to a party organisation or to some organisation? It need not be a party organisation. It may be a trade organisation. It may be a financial organisation which has an interest for which it wants a representative. It may be a professional organisation which requires representation. How many men will be able to stand, and to afford the expense of standing on their own bottom, without the support of an organisation of that kind, and what chance would they have of being elected if they were prepared to run the risk?
I beg the House to consider what is the object of the electoral system. I hear it sometimes said that it is to produce a House of Commons which shall be a microcosm of the nation. I am not quite certain what a microcosm is, but I understand it to mean that in proportion to our numbers we are somehow to reflect accurately all the shades and differences of opinion throughout the country. Is that what you really want? That way lies impotence. That way lies weak Government, always at the mercy of a shifting, changing majority, which alters from day to day, when that little group or this little group is dissatisfied or discontented. In that way you convert this House of Commons into a place of barter and sale. Instead of being a great, free, deliberative Assembly, it will be a place where business is conducted by 1616 niggling and haggling behind the Speaker's Chair. That is not my conception of what this great Assembly should be. That is not what this great Assembly has been in the past. I, for one, would rather preserve our great traditions which have served us so well, and I believe will serve us well in the critical times before us. What has been our system? The object of our system has been to represent in this House, in the main, the great currents and forces of our national life, and to find within the ranks of parties, produced as a result of those forces, sufficient diversity of interest and divergence of opinion to represent the country adequately, and, on questions where parties have no fixed or definite creed, to allow that play of independent judgment which admits of a Conservative sometimes agreeing with a Liberal, and even admits of a Liberal agreeing with a member of the Labour party.
Surely what we want here is not an exact adjustment of the numbers of parties in this House to the numbers of electors who voted for any particular party outside. The first necessity is that His Majesty's Government should be carried on, and that the Government which possesses in the main the confidence of the country at the time should have sufficient force behind its back to drive the legislative, executive and administrative machine. If, then, I am told that our present system exaggerates a majority now on one side and now on the other, I say that I would far sooner it was exaggerated than that every majority was minimised and every Government weakened. I think it is far more important that the Government should be strong, and that when the country returns a Government, that Government should have a chance of carrying the policy which it was returned to carry, and the country of judging the results of what they have done, than that I, sitting in a minority, should be quite sure of going into the Lobby on everything that is proposed in exactly the proportion of members to which the number of votes cast for my side would entitle me.
I cannot speak too strongly of the effect of these vast constituencies, with the tremendous claims which they would make upon members, in purse and in person, with the separation of the member from the individual elector and the individual elector from the member, and 1617 with the destruction of all the traditions which have grown up around so many constituencies, and which are the really broad and solid foundations on which our political system rests. I cannot speak too strongly of the effect which I think this proposed system would have upon the character of the representation in this House, upon the independence of Members, and upon not merely the willingness, but the power of many men who ought to be here to give the time, the labour, and the money which will be required to serve the country under such conditions. But strongly as I feel that, I feel more strongly about this effort to get, not the representation of the great national forces, not an effective representation of the national will, but some balancing judgment, the representation of this interest or that interest, of this little group or that little group—anything but the will of the nation. Strongly as I feel upon the other point, it is this which makes me so profoundly opposed to the introduction of this revolution in our electoral system. It is astounding that this revolution should be proposed in another place, where they are supposed to be the guardian of our traditions, and where they are supposed to check revolutionary change. Under these circumstances, even strong Unionists and Conservatives may, it seems to me, come to the conclusion that it is time the Second Chamber was reformed.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I thank the hon. Member for that interruption, because I think that is exactly the place where proportional representation should be tried. Hon. Members will observe that their Lordships, who are the proper victims for this experiment, propose to make it upon our vile bodies. Why do I say that the House of Lords is the proper place? Because, in the first place, I do not conceive of their being elected by vast constituencies such as would be required in our case. In the second place, because their business is not to be the driving force of the legislative machine, but the balancing, considering, and checking force. I think the driving force of the Constitution resides in this House, and ought to be represented on the Government Bench and in the supporters of that Bench. The reflective force, that element of the Constitution which leans to the 1618 opinion of yesterday until it is quite certain that the opinion of to-day is also going to be the opinion of to-morrow, should be represented across the Lobby. Therefore, not looking to them to maintain the Government in office or to displace it, not looking to them to find the energy which is necessary to drive the legislative or executive machine, I say that they are the body on which to try this experiment. But they are not to be; it is to be tried upon us, and I resent it and intend to oppose it. I feel deeply upon this matter. Is it conceivable that this House should, with the levity which has been shown in another place, embark upon this great and profound change, without any direction from the popular will, it this moment and amongst so many grave distractions?
Rumours reach me that my right hon. Friend the Member for Fife (Mr. Asquith) has some inclination towards this proposal, and is going to appear to-day in the unofficial and unaccustomed capacity of defending changes in the legislative machine proposed in another place. I suppose hon. Members would scoff at me if I claimed to be a Radical. I have long ceased to claim that title but I was brought up as a Radical. I imbibed my early faith from Radicals, and I ask where is the Radicalism of Mr. Bright or the Liberalism of Mr. Gladstone among the followers of my right hon. Friend the Member for Fife on the present occasion? Mr. Gladstone bitterly opposed this change on a similar occasion. Mr. Bright, with the strong, bold, commonsense which clung to him always, repeatedly and consistently condemned all freakish schemes of this kind throughout his long career. Now the party which claims them as two of its most illustrious leaders is, I am told, invited by its present leader to go into the Lobby in support of this Amendment. If so, a profound change has been worked on their part. This scheme used to be the monopoly of a few cranks—very distinguished men in some cases, but always unable to work in harness with other men, unable to make the concessions which are necessary, I do not care whether in politics, in business or in life, if men are to get on together and help one another. protest against facilitating the entry into this House of that class of person. I protest against embarking on a scheme which sets sectional interests and little cliques above the broad genuine 1619 opinion of the nation, and I protest against our electoral system being settled in defiance of our expressed wishes by the Amendment introduced by their Lordships at the last moment into this Bill.
§ Colonel SANDERS
I hope that hon. Members will acknowledge that I am neither a professor nor a theorist nor a leader of the Conservative party, and yet I hope that the House will not carry this Motion of disagreement with the Lords Amendment. I wish, in the first place, to guard myself from the suggestion in the speech of the right hon. Member, which was brought home to us very forcibly this morning by the barrage of heavy artillery and leaded type which greeted us at the breakfast table, that the supporters of this Amendment were quite aware that it was bound to wreck the Bill. I believe that to be an absolute and an entire delusion. I wonder if the Government thinks that? If so, I wonder why Lord Milner, who is a member of the War Cabinet, voted in support of this Amendment in the House of Lords? Lord Curzon, who is the Leader of the House, it is true, did not support it, but he said if it had been moved in a modified form he would have been quite ready to support it. But the difficulty as to the passage of the Bill would have been just as great had the change been made in a large or a small form, and yet we have members of the Government ready to support it if a small modification was made. Of course, it is quite true that you can always use the procedure of the House as a sort of camouflage for your real opposition to a measure, but in my short experience of the House I have always found that, where there was a will to carry out an object, in spite of the Rules of the House. a way by which it could be done was always found, and I believe that the way pointed out by the Motion carried by Lord Balfour of Burleigh in the House of Lords is a perfectly feasible project, and that under it the Bill would become law with very little delay. The terms are that. Instructions should be given at once to the Commissioners to revise their Schedule, but that meanwhile the work of registration should go on. The revised Schedule would come before this House next Session, and would be before the House for three weeks, and the House would then be able to make any Amendment in it. It would simply be a question of 1620 passing a Bill in one Session and altering the redistribution Schedule in the next, which is by no means impossible, In fact, with good will, it is perfectly easy to do.
The Bill has gone through at a pretty fair pace. It is the largest suffrage Bill that has ever been introduced. If you compare the time which it has taken with the time taken by the other great Franchise Bills of 1832, 1867, and 1885, this is by far the quickest Bill. We all know that it could not have been got through in the time without the almost uncanny skill of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (Sir G. Cave), who may congratulate himself on having beaten the record, but if the Amendment is passed he would beat the record just the same; for, even if another two months were given—and more would not be necessary—this Bill would be passed in a, very much quicker time than happened in the case of any other big reform measure. The registration would take more than a month or six weeks. It is going to take a good long time. During that good long time there would be no difficulty whatever, except in the case of deliberate obstruction, in arranging a new Schedule. So much for the question of procedure. When the original proposal for proportional representation came forward I voted against it. It was a half-hearted proposal which deserved the fate which it got. If I may venture to do so, I would suggest that those who promoted proportional representation have suffered all through from the timidity of their proposals. They brought forward a proposal to be applied to certain great cities. Someone remarked at the time in this House, "Try it on the dog!" The dog growled, the dog in this case being London, and they adopted an attitude which never leads to success. One knows the individual who says, "I am all in favour of proportional represention, but, my dear fellow, it would never do to apply it to my constituency." That is the sort of man whom you ought not to try to conciliate. It was thought that, by leaving London out of the proposal, that it would get a larger measure of success. The effect on those who have some belief in the principle was that they said to themselves, "Its supporters do not believe in it at all or they would never whittle it down in this way," and the consequence was, and was bound to be, that the number 1621 voting in the division against the proposal was very much greater after the change was made than it was before the change was made.
Now we are getting a broad, sweeping scheme, something that is worth having. On this subject I am a whole-hogger. I am for proportional representation if you take it on broad lines, and apply it to the whole country. But if you are going to whittle it down, and pick out this and that constituency and say, "We apply proportional representation here, but will not apply it over the whole country," then I will have nothing to do with it at all. There is no doubt that proportional representation does cause a certain amount of inconvenience to Members, but I am not prepared to vote for other people undergoing inconvenience which I am not willing to undergo myself. I do not think that it would be fair to do so. I do not want to go through all the arguments as to the principle of this matter. I am not going to talk- about Tasmania or Belgium, or the results of previous elections and how the figures would work out under proportional representation. That ground has all been covered. The only remark I make about it is that I have never yet heard of a country which has adopted proportional representation and which has gone back on it. I wish to deal more with the practical questions affecting Members of this House, both collectively and individually, which wound arise from the adoption of this system. First of all, I have often heard it alleged. before I knew anything at all about proportional representation myself, that it was very difficult to understand. I got hold of a treatise on the subject and T would undertake to say that anyone could master it in an hour and a half. I do not say that the elector would require an hour and a half to be taught how to vote. He would not need any time for that. That is absolutely simple. But the working of the system is perfectly simple, and any educated man could understand it, if be gave his mind to it, in an hour and a half.
Then there is the question of the influence of the caucus. One hears a great deal about that. It is a curious thing that if the influence of the caucus, as it is called, is going to be promoted so largely by the adoption of proportional representation, the members of the party organisation on both sides are its strongest opponents. After all, the in- 1622 fluence of the caucus means simply that a candidate is not likely to have a very great chance of success unless he is adopted by the party organisation in his own constituency. That is really the meaning of the influence of the caucus—the chance of anyone not being returned to Parliament unless he is. adopted by one of the party organisations in his own constituency. An independent member does occasionally get in, but from the little I have seen of it, it has. always seemed to me that, with very rare exceptions, he has not a very good time while he is here, and his stay here is not very long. As a matter of fact, a man who is unsupported by the party organisation is considered a crank, but I do not think that he is necessarily a crank because he is not supported by a party organisation. But any man who is riot supported by a party organisation would have a chance of getting through under this new system. Take the case of a Unionist Free Trader, he practically had no chance of getting in at the election of 1906, and very little chance of getting in at the election of 1910; yet there was a good enough body—I do not say which side is right or which was wrong—of Unionist Free Trade opinion in the country, to carry a good many candidates in constituencies where you have five seats. Under the proportional system, a body of Unionist Free Trade opinion would have got in, but perhaps what would have happened would be that the Unionist Free Traders would have had to choose between having to vote on one side or on the other, and I am afraid a good many of them would have voted Radical. rather than take the middle line.
Next I come to a question on which my right hon. Friend dwelt so very forcibly, namely, the question of a large majority. I was very much struck by his point that you wanted a strong Government that had a large majority and that could push its measure through against the Opposition. I am not so sure about that. What a. small majority means is that there is great difficulty in the way of heroic legislation. I am not sure that heroic legislation is an unmixed good. I do not want to touch more than I can help on any controversial topic, but in the latest instances of really heroic legislation there have been conferences and conventions, one sitting at the present. moment, to devise. some way out of measures forced through the House of Commons by a Government with a very considerable majority. There is 1623 another point about small majorities, and it is this: If you had small majorities, I think it very probable that if the Opposition party were properly worked the Government could be defeated on snap Divisions about once a fortnight. The result of that would be that certain measures would be adopted to stop Divisions, because the Government would pay no attention to them. I know something about the snap Divisions, and I have helped to make them. Regarding them as a game, snap Divisions are rather good fun, but I do not think that they are very wise or desirable for the business of the country, nor do I think it is a proper course on which great issues should ',depend. I think that if, as a result of a small Government majority, snap Divisions were to be abolished, I, for one, would not shed any tears over them. Another point I wish to submit bears more or less upon the personal relationships of Members, and I want to say a word upon it. I feel very much what my Tight hon. Friend said in his speech as to the individual relationships between Members and their constituencies. I can quite understand my right hon. Friend's point. He said that under a system of proportional representation you would never know whether a man had voted for you or whether he had not; you would never know if a man had put No. 2 on his voting paper, or whether he had voted for you or not. Does the right hon. Gentleman know now whether a man has voted for him or not 4 When he gets a request from a constituent, does he ask whether his correspondent has voted for him or not? The view I have always held on that subject is that, once a Member is returned for a constituency, he is the representative not only of his own party supporters, but of all the electors of that constituency, and if anyone writes to him from his constituency, he does not for a moment in-quire to which party the writer belongs before he tries to carry out what his correspondent asks him to do. That feeling would to a certain extent diminish in the big constituencies, but I do not think it exists to such a very great extent as the right hon. Gentleman imagines. During the last six months I have frequently had letters from my own Constituents, and from constituents in two neighbouring divisions whose Members are abroad. Persons in those divisions have frequently written to me to do something 1624 for them; but I do not get very many more communications than usual, and I have not found the additional work intolerable, for it has not even made it necessary for me to keep a secretary. With proper organisation between Members, there would be really no formidable difficulty about proportional representation.
As to the question of expenses, so far as I can understand the Schedule of the old Bill, it already provides for that case, and the expenses would be strictly limited by the Act. Then there is a further question to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and that is the practice which exists as to the subscriptions which a Member is asked to pay. If it is intended to stop the existing system from continuing, then I say that is a point in favour of proportional representation and not against it. Then, again, it is said that with these enormous constituencies a candidate will not be able to get about, that it would be impossible for anyone, except perhaps a young man, to canvass his constituency or to speak in every village, and that he could not go about and make himself known to every elector. That would be impossible—and a very good thing too!—in a constituency fifty miles long, and with 20,000 to 25,000 electors. You might try to carry it out, but you could not do it. The difference, under proportional representation, would be that, with bigger constituencies, you need not try, and you would actually save the candidate a very large amount of not very productive labour. In a great many county divisions you would find that you would have one or at most two elections, and very likely you would get no contest at all; so that, purely from the point of convenience to Members, I think the result is that more is to be said in favour of this proposal than there is to be said against it. I own I do not think that the unknown man, coming down at the last moment and trying to get round the constituency by an appeal to the electors, would have a very good chance, and I think that also is rather a good thing. I must say that I am in favour of the man who has worked in his own district, in his own county, or in his own town, and who finds himself more easily elected than the stranger who comes down with his carpet bag at the last moment.
One further question on which I want to say a word or two is that which has reference to agriculture. Undoubtedly it is because of the effect. of this system on 1625 the agricultural interest, and the realisation of its effect upon the agricultural interest, that a good many agriculturists are urging that this reform should be adopted. It is a remarkable fact that the agricultural organisations, both central and local, all over the country, have been passing resolutions and urging their Members to exert what influence they can in favour of proportional representation. Agriculturists have no doubt that under the present system, in a great many cases. they are swamped by other districts. I could give instances in a good many counties. Take the Thornbury Division. There the farmers' vote is swamped by Bristol. Then take the agricultural division of Frome, where the agricultural interest is swamped by the miners' vote. That occurs time after time. The farmers do not say that it is unfair that those interests should be properly represented, and they do not complain for a moment of their having representation, but they do wish to have a fair share of representation. After all, the fact that it does not get representation in one part of the country, but gets it in another, does not deal sufficiently with the problem, because the farmer in Devon is not a man who can speak about the interests of the farmer in Durham, and it is no consolation for the farmer in Durham whose interests have been swamped to know that the farmer from Devon has got more than his fair share of the representation. The object of this proposal is that agriculture should get its fair share where it has its fair proportion, and that each other interest should get its fair share where it has its fair proportion. Those are briefly the reasons for which I hope that the Motion of my right hon. Friend will not be carried. I hope that the House will agree to this Amendment; but, whether it agrees to it or whether it does not, I hope that the House will decide this question on broad lines, and that it will settle it as a great principle that ought to be settled by this House on its merits, and not settled on some pettifogging point of procedure; and that it will settle it in the national interests, and not because of individual interests of Members themselves.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I only desire to say a very few words upon this subject. I happen to have been one who has at each stage supported the proposals for proportional representation which were before 1626 the House. I wish to state why I do not intend to do so to-day. I represent an agricultural constituency, and I am, of course, moved by the same views, to a certain extent, as moved the last speaker, but I do not myself think that agriculture is going to benefit in the very least by the introduction of proportional representation. I have listened practically to every minute of the Debates on this question, and throughout the discussions in the House, and I have come to a very strong conclusion against the proposal now before the House. Apparently, if you ask any supporter of proportional representation for his views, he will tell you that the proper number of members for a constituency under proportional representation is from five to seven. I cannot understand why it is, if that is the proper method, that from start to finish we have never had any such proposal put before us. Three seems to me to be a wholly improper number for proportional representation, and four wholly ridiculous. Apparently, Birmingham is to have four. I have not been able to find anyone who agrees with the principles of proportional representation to agree that four is a propel. unit. I think, as one Member said, speaking to-day, that the proposers of proportional representation always suffer from a lack of courage, and I think they would have a much greater chance of success if they had gone for the large constituency, and told us how it would work. For myself, I was prepared to support an experiment in proportional representation out of loyalty to the decisions of the Speaker's Conference. But when the House of Commons came to a perfectly definite conclusion upon that by majorities constantly increasing I came to the conclusion that, so far as that compromise was concerned, it was dead. I still think so, because, although I believe there are a certain number of people who have changed their views and are now in favour of proportional representation, I do not think that they would support the original Speaker's Conference proposal, and therefore I think that the original proposals are dead, and we have now to argue the question as to whether or not we are going to apply proportional representation to the entire country. Upon that I hold quite definite views.
I do not know what right we have to decide this question, which goes to the very basis of our electoral system, when 1627 we are a House of Commons which has had an unduly prolonged life, and when, therefore, it seems to me we can only deal with a question of this kind if there is any great public demand for it, not if there is a demand in the House of Lords for it. If they like it, they can have it in any future reform of that Chamber. We have got here to consider what the country demands, and I cannot see the slightest trace that the country has given us any authority to apply this tremendous reform all over the country. I object to it particularly for these great agricultural constituencies, and because I have never yet heard of any real arguments in answer to practical questions which seem to me to be of some importance. Nobody, for instance, has given us any suggestion as to how to deal with the by-elections. It is all very well at the fag end of a Session to tell us that we can settle these difficulties at some future date. These practical difficulties have been real difficulties to me, and no one has attempted to deal with them. Take a constituency like Norfolk, where you would, I suppose, have a five-member constituency, how are you going to deal with the question of a by-election there? We have not had any definite proposal on this point, and some of the supporters of the scheme give us one proposal and others give us a totally different set of proposals. After all we must know the practical details of this scheme if we are going to have it carried into force at all. There is another question. We are told that the matter of expense is a matter of small importance. I think the matter of expense is a matter of vital importance. Not only are you going to have the question arising at by-elections when the question of expense will he of colossal importance, but even at a General Election it will be precisely the same. Unless you have a very big constituency you will never get this independent number for whom everybody is clamouring. In a three, four or five-member constituency you are always certain to get a party member such as you get at present. It is only when you get the very large constituency that you really get the full effect of proportional representation, and when you get that type of constituency it seems to me that the practical difficulties are almost overwhelming.
There is the by-election point, and there is the expense point, and there is 1628 also the question of mobility. How could anyone get about a division of this size? We are told that it is undesirable that anybody should. I believe that to be absolutely and entirely wrong. An hon. Member says that we shall probably find that after a time the counties will settle down, and in these big constituencies return three of one colour and two of another, and he thinks that that will be desirable. I believe it to be wholly undesirable that we should get a state of things when public interest in politics gets smaller and smaller. If that were to happen we should really get into a state of being a second-rate mutual admiration society. I do not believe it is desirable that party Government should disappear after this War. and I am perfectly certain that it will not. I have no misgivings on the question. If you are going to take away from the ordinary village in the counties the great interest in politics, that has been increasingly shown in recent years, you are going to strike a very real blow at the cleanness and reality of our politics. I want to be absolutely convinced that the single-member constituency is a bad thing, before, at the end of a controversy of this sort, and at the end of a very prolonged Parliament, we alter the whole system. I believe, with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) that the personal tic between members and constituencies is a very real thing and a very valuable thing, and I want to be thoroughly convinced that we arc going to put something in its place that is better. Having heard these discussions from start to finish, I see no reason to suppose that you are going to get a better type of member under this new system, and I believe on the whole you will have a tendency to get a worse type. I think that we have had no arguments at all to leave one to suppose that we are going to get these independent people, and I do not believe that even the most convinced advocate, of proportional representation will say that we are facing to get any particularly independent members in three-member constituencies. To me, these practical difficulties outweigh all the advantages that were offered under the scheme, and, I think, until we are given a thorough, consistent, well thought out scheme for the House 1629 to consider we ought to stand by our present system of single-member constituencies.
I think the only way for the supporters of this scheme to deal with this question is to let us have a Bill with machinery for a proper election and a proper electorate under that system, and then think out the Bill which can be introduced and discussed in another Session and see where we stand, and then we may be in a position to deal with it. Before they can do that they have got to show that Parliament is justified in doing it. From what I can find out, apart from resolutions passed by chambers of agriculture which I do not think really represent any considerable section of the agricultural element, I have not had the slightest signs from my own Constituency that the opinions of the chamber of agriculture are in any way shared by the agricultural labourers in the constituency, who, after all, are the majority of the agricultural voters in the district. Whatever these chambers of agriculture may do, and the people who rather arrogate to themselves the representation of the whole interests of agriculture in this country, I think, as a matter of fact, that the labourers, who arc the majority of the people in these constituencies, would much rather have this personal bond than have some system under which they would lose entire touch with their members. I think you have got to consider not what great organised bodies and so-called representable bodies like chambers of agriculture desire, but what the voters desire. At the present moment we do not know in the least what they desire. No one acquainted with party politics can say there ever has been a local demand that we should alter the present system and adopt this system because it has happened to have worked fairly well in Belgium and possibly better elsewhere. In this country there has been no demand for it. I think when the House of Commons has determined upon an electoral matter by increasing majorities that it is perfectly intolerable that we should have the system altered by people who are not elected themselves, in another place. For that reason, though not only for that reason, I shall certainly vote against these proposals, because I do not think that the non-representative Chamber has anything to do with matters of this sort. We have to consider simply what our constituents want, and I see no signs that our constituents want any change of this 1630 sort. I do not think, after having had every chance of convincing the House of Commons, that the supporters of the scheme have ever dealt with the real practical difficulties against it. I shall unhesitatingly vote in favour of this Resolution and against the attempt to put back into the Bill what the House of Commons by increasing majorities kept out of it.
§ Captain Sir CHARLES BATHURST
I share with many other hon. Members of this House regret that the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken has changed his views on this subject during the last few weeks, but I am hour unconvinced by the reasons which he has put forward for his conversion. He said, first of all, that the country has given no mandate for this enormous electoral change. Surely that applies with still greater force to woman suffrage, about which the electorate have never been consulted at all and which has been carried by both Houses over their heads. The other argument which he puts in the forefront, and which I acknowledge is an argument of importance, is the difficulty that members will experience in getting about these large constituencies. Whatever difficulty may accrue to individual members out of the present system, I am not a; all sure that the country generally benefits by the fact that it is open at the present time to what may call the lightning adventurer, wino his pockets full of money and wholly unknown previously to the constituency, to come down and snatch a majority at short notice on the strength of some political promises, which in many cases he has no desire himself should be carried into effect. it will be the greatest protection against the political adventurer, particularly in the country districts, and for that reason I. welcome the fact that this system will put a premium upon a man who is known in a county area, who has taken some trouble to nurse the constituency, and for whom the electors will vote with some knowledge of his merits and his capacity to represent them.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham whom, if this new Clause were carried, I should have the privilege of describing, as I should like to describe him, as the Member for Birmingham, put before the House what, to my mind, is rather an extraordinary proposition, namely, that it is not desirable for this House to be an exact reflection of 1631 the relative strength of parties in the country. The right hon. Gentleman put forward no very convincing arguments in favour of that contention; but does he carry that so far as to suggest that it is really desirable that this House should be no reasonable reflection of the respective political complexions of large areas in various localities in Great Britain? Yet this is exactly what is the position at the present time. Does he think that it is really desirable that Wales, from a Conservative standpoint, should go wholly unrepresented in this House for a period of five to seven years? Does he seriously think it is equally desirable that a large number of Liberal voters in the South of England, and over a large track of country, should be wholly disfranchised? If this House pretends to be at all an adequate reflection of public political opinion, it is most essential that we should have some reasonable representation of minority interests, rather than that through a mere accident of geographical location, you should possibly disfranchise altogether large interests and important classes in this country.
I have been a somewhat reluctant convert to woman suffrage. I am so reluctant a convert that I, for my part, would like to see soma steps taken to provide against the possibly revolutionary result of giving 6,000,000 women in this country for the first time the enormous privilege of a vote. Women have their virtues, but some of them, at any rate—of course, I speak with some apprehension on this subject, for one does not know what is likely to happen in one's constituency hereafter—are rather apt to be carried off their feet in face of some doctrine or some policy which appeals strongly to their passion or to their sentiment. I should like to see, at any rate, some buffer, and I know of no better buffer than proportional representation, which would intervene between—shall I say?— the more level-headed male opinion on political matters and the more—may I use the word?—flighty opinion of the other sex. [An HON. MEMBER: "Emotional!"] I accept the alteration—the more emotional opinion of the other sex towards matters of enormous importance which might even conceivably result in a revolution. But when the right hon. Gentleman uses the expression "a preposterous nostrum" as applied to this 1632 proposed innovation, I cannot help thinking that expressions of ridicule and sarcasm are not likely to result, in the long run, in defeating a great movement—as this is, and has been found to be in every part of the civilised world—in the absence of more convincing arguments. If it is a preposterous nostrum, it does scant credit to those countries which have already adopted it, or to those countries who are in process of adopting it; and not a single country that has adopted it has shown so far any likelihood of abandoning it. But it does scant justice to this House, because this House has already adopted the principle of proportional representation some six years ago in the Home Rule Bill as applied to Ireland. If it is applied to either House of the Legislature it matters not, and if it is the opinion of this House that it is desirable to apply it to either House of the Legislature in any portion of the United Kingdom, surely it cannot be justly described as a preposterous nostrum.
London, by a large majority, has objected to this system if applied to them, and to those who resemble them in urban complexion. Their objection appears to be that London constituencies —in fact, all urban constituencies—are the better for being coterminous with administrative areas. I am not at all sure that under this system many of the London constituencies are going to be materially affected in this respect, but this very argument, as applied to the country districts, lends a good deal of force to the support I am able to give to this new Clause. Speaking for myself, and I think for a good many others in this House, I should feel far prouder of being the Member for the county of Wilts than being the Member for a small portion only of that area which has to an exceptional extent so many county traditions. But I oppose this Amendment mainly because I apprehend serious difficulties as regards agriculture, unless we take this last opportunity of securing something like fair representation of agricultural interests in this House. It came as a shock to agricultural England when it was discovered that, as the result of the activities of the Boundary Commissioners, large agricultural areas would cease to have any separate representation in this House, especially in view of the fact that such a very large number of agricultural areas in the North of England and the Midlands 1633 had already so little, if any, voice in the affairs of the nation as applied to themselves.
The great peril which has faced us in this War, and which appears still to face us, is due entirely to the very serious and short-sighted neglect by this House of agricultural interests during the last generation or more. This House has in no sense reflected the opinions and views of agricultural interests during the last decade, and even in the days when what I may call the country gentleman class was more largely represented in this House, the influence of agriculture was a waning political influence. The political neglect of agriculture is, to my mind, the most serious blot on the statesmanship of the last forty to fifty years in this country. Political apathy towards agriculture has accentuated the evil which political ignorance has inflicted upon this, the most vital industry in this country. Lord Selborne, in the admirable speech which lie addressed on this topic in the other House last week, made one statement from which I entirely dissent. He said agriculture will never again be the Cinderella of industries. I am not at all sure. Memories are very short, and if, as I believe, as the result of this Bill agricultural representation is going to be substantially reduced rather than increased, and the interests of the so-called industrial population arc going to be emphasised by people who come to this House elected preponderatingly by aggregated interests, I venture to think, and fear, that the House will give scant attention after the lapse of some very few years to those which, after all, are the most vital interests in this country, namely, those which are founded upon a due consideration of the requirements of the most important and fundamental industry in this country. It was Disraeli who said that a nation which neglects its agriculture is bound to decay. I do not foresee any probability of the nation, through this House, as constituted under this Bill, showing any improvement in its attitude towards agriculture.
It is suggested that this new Clause would have the result of increasing independent parties, and of accentuating the caucus system. As regards agriculture, I should like to warn the House there is every indication that, if the last chance which agriculture has in making its voice heard politically fails, there is not the smallest doubt that there will be brought into existence, 1634 as a result of the organised support of agriculture, applied not to One class engaged in the industry, but to all classes, a great organised agrarian party, which will be a source of menace to all parties in this House, which will be in a position to sell its vote to those who are prepared to do most justice to the industry, and which will have, unless I am a very poor prophet, a far greater power than most people imagine. If such a party comes into existence, I, for my part, am absolutely bound by my own activities in the last twenty-five years to associate myself with that party, and I have every reason to know that there are other Members at present in the House who will find themselves in a similar position. It may, or may riot, be desirable to have an agrarian party, but I am quite sure that it will not help the existing caucuses and the existing parties.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham spoke as though there were only two parties in this country. He spoke as though every voter in future would have in most constituencies to consider two parties only, between which he would have to choose. All those who have any political foresight will realise that in nearly every constituency in this country there will in the future be three parties to choose from, and not two only. For this reason it. seems to me that it is specially desirable that there should be this system, which will enable the voter to express his preference as between the three candidates representing the three different political parties and groups of political views, and not to have to confine himself to choosing between two parties only. This he will be able to do in the enlarged area by exercising the single transferable vote, and by, of course, putting the numbers in order of his preference against the names of those for whom he desires to vote. I do sincerely hope that this House will not allow themselves. from any idea that there is no time to put this matter straight, or from any idea that they are running counter to the wishes t f the Speaker's Conference, to reject a, proposal which, in my humble opinion, is calculated to be a great buffer against possible revolution, and will, as a result of its working, bring into existence a House so constituted as to be well fitted, with level and well-instructed minds, to set themselves to the enormously important task a after-War reconstruction.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I do not propose to detain the House for more than two or three minutes, and I wish to make it perfectly clear, as I did on the only other occasion on which I addressed the House on this subject, that I speak only for myself, and do not claim to exercise any kind of influence over the opinions or the votes of any of those with whom I have the honour and pleasure of being politically associated. When the matter was last before the House, in July, I spoke for the first time in my life upon the subject. I then expressed the desire—I think I spoke without passion and also without enthusiasm—that the experiment in the direction of proportional representation, which had been suggested by the Speaker's Conference, should be embodied in the Act, and should receive a trial, and that according as it failed or suceeded on that modest scale it should be rejected, or expanded and more generally applied. I am not again going over the ground which I then took up.
I think there is a strong case, a grievance in our existing electoral arrangements, which, to a considerable extent., is emphasised and accentuated by the large addition to the electorate—into which I will not go—made by the Bill, and that this means an artificial non-representation of minorities—of which many instances have been given in the course of this discussion, and perhaps might easily be multiplied. I, myself, should be very glad to see an experiment tried in the direction indicated which would have the effect, I hope, of mitigating anomalies, and giving to unrepresented minorities that representation which, under the present system, they do not appear to receive. The doctrine to my mind is absurd that you get virtual representation because in one part of the country you get a more than adequate representation, and in another part of the country a less than adequate representation by the majority in the one place being set against the minority in another. I brush that aside as a fallacy. I shall be very glad to see a more adequate representation of minorities. I do not in any way recede from the opinion which I formerly expressed, but I shall be glad, even now, if we can come to an agreement among ourselves—it was rejected, I know, by this House by a considerable majority—and with our fellow legislators in another place, to adopt, by way of experiment, the 1636 very moderate and reasonable scheme which has been suggested.
I cannot, however, possibly bring myself to entertain as a practical proposal the Amendment of the House of Lords. It is not for me to give counsel to those who advocate proportional representation, but I do not think, speaking with all deference and respect, that they could have done a greater disservice than by the issue of the Schedule which to-clay for the first time we have had the opportunity of studying for ourselves.
My hon. Friend opposite spoke with contempt of what he called "political adventurers," who, with pockets laden with money, make a sudden decent, as strangers and outsiders, at the eleventh hour, with a view to capturing any one of the rural constituencies by plausible promises from the keeping of the well-established and old-fashioned resident. I was one of those "adventurers," but I am sorry that there was one very material exception. My pockets were not then, any more than they arc now, stuffed with gold. I followed precisely so far the description of the hon. Gentleman. I went with my carpet bag, one of the traditional accompaniments of the political adventurer. Not only so, but I crossed the border, and being an Englishman, went into Scotland. I do not. know whether I could describe it as by plausible promises, but rather more than thirty years ago in East Fife I snatched a majority, and I am still Member for East Fife. The confidence which I then, perhaps in a moment of credulity, at any rate of partial acquaintance on the part of the constituency, had accorded to me, I have been able to retain to this day. Therefore, I am not afraid of the political adventurer. If he is an adventurer in the bad sense of the term, and promises that which he has no intention of performing, he will be found out, and sent about his business. I do not think that the argument, based on the supposed expediency of confining constituencies in effect to persons with whom they are already acquainted, has any justification in our experience. That by the way.
I have been looking at these Schedules. I find that the whole of Fife—the county divisions and the boroughs—are converted into one constituency. Nobody in Fife wants that. Nobody in Fife has asked for it. Speaking as by a long way the oldest of the members of that ancient 1637 and famous constituency, I look with horror, and more than horror, at the experiences and difficulties which I myself, and my fellow-Members—or fellow-adventurers who, no doubt, will come along—would have to encounter if the whole thing were thrown into one gigantic area. The North Riding of Yorkshire, of which my right hon. Friend (Mr. H. Samuel) represents a fraction, would become an appalling proposition. My remarks apply to Cornwall as to Fife.
We, in this House, are practical men, and we know what are the conditions of electioneering. We cannot possibly face a revolutionary proposal of this kind, which is really brought forward simply in order that proportional representation may be tried on the largest possible scale. My hon. Friend has spoken in rather vague and general terms of the advantages of large constituencies. He has spoken of the representation of existing conditions. Would anybody, unless it were for the sake of introducing proportional representation, put a schedule of this kind into a Redistribution Bill? They would not, and everybody knows it. I really cannot, even in my new-born zeal—I was going to say my real conviction—that proportional representation should have a trial—I cannot really be a party to putting into the Melting pot the whole of the electoral areas of this country. I do not for the moment mind them going into the melting pot if you bring out better results. But to put them into the melting pot with the result of having a comparatively small number of vast, unwieldy, unworkable areas, in which I think it would be far more difficult even than now to elicit by your representative machinery the real opinion of the constituency, is a mistake. As I said, I am in favour of proportional representation upon an experimental scale. I think a case has been made out. If those concerned were content with the comparatively moderate proposition which was originally presented to this House, or will be content with it now, they shall certainly have my support. But I could not possibly, having regard to the larger interests which we have in view—the permanent workability of the electoral system—accept the Amendment of the House of Lords.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Long)
I shall endeavour to follow the example of my right 1638 hon. Friend the Member for East Fife in respect of the brevity of my contribution to this discussion. also to follow that impartiality and the absence of any sign of or inclination to excitement. This is certainly not one of those subjects which lends itself to any wild state of controversy or profound feeling. I speak as an opponent of proportional representation all my life. One of my reasons of opposing proportional representation, and all other forms of the alternative vote, is that though I am a Conservative and a strong Conservative, I do not think that any of these attempts to interfere with the deliberate expression of the opinion of the electorate of this country is worth anything, or ought to be supported. I believe when you have got that, although it may be open to criticism you will have on the whole a system which has worked well, and, I think, it is a profound mistake to try any particular machinery by which you will not be able to escape the result of the consequences in front of you. My right hon. Friend has said that he is in favour of the proposal which we discussed in the Speaker's Conference, and which has been adopted three times in this House, and he showed in his speech that that compromise or reduced form of proportional representation is in itself impossible. The advocates of proportional representation put their case with great ability during the Debate, and they proposed to apply that principle to London and the great towns. The Debate had hardly commenced before the supporters of proportional representation themselves, without a shot being fired, abandoned that part of their proposal, which applied the principle to London. The London Members came down here charged to the muzzle with all sorts of speeches about their constituents, but it was not necessary to deliver those speeches, because we were told that the advocates of proportional representation had abandoned London.
Then the big towns took exactly the same view, and their representatives said: "If you like to make this experiment you may do so, but do not make it in my constituency." When hon. Members realise that the scheme is applying to themselves, they cannot possibly accept it, and those they represent will not tolerate it. It is for these reasons that I maintain that proportional representation has failed, and even in a modified 1639 form will continue to fail. The hon. Member for South Wilts (Sir C. Bathurst) has made a number of prophecies in regard to agriculture, but I think he will leave behind him when he ceases to be a Member of this House, which I hope may be far distant, a better record as a Statesman than as a prophet if he is going to indulge in many prophecies like those which he gave us to-day. It was bad enough when he told us in regard to agriculture that the fatal hour had struck, and when he pointed to the words printed in large capital letters upon the circular issued by the Secretary to the Central Chamber of Agiculture. My hon. Friend reminds us of the threat contained therein that agricultural members had better beware, and he practically said, "Our eyes are upon you; this is your last chance, and if you do not take care now we shall look after you later on."
§ Sir C. BATHURST
I had nothing to do with the drafting of that circular, and I myself greatly deprecate the words to which my right hon. Friend has referred.
§ Mr. LONG
That does not alter the effect, and the hon. Member prophesied that the hour was striking, and he said that agriculturists must make up their minds what they were going to do themselves with the idea of assisting agriculture. The hon. Member went on to speak of the great agrarian movement which is going to come across cur political life, and of which he is going to be one of the leaders. That does not alarm me. If it is true that we are going to have a great agrarian party, proportional representation will not affect it. I would like to ask the supporters of this principle what they mean when they ask the House to accept proportional representation in the interests of agriculture. What do they mean by agriculture? These various agricultural associations—I have been associated with them all my life—have never pretended that these gatherings of farmers in London represent the ordinary working farmer in the country, and I am sure nobody has ever pretended that they represent the agricultural labourer, and yet the agricultural labourer is by far the most numerous and in some respects the most dependent of the three classes involved in the proper treatment of the agricultural question. As an old agriculturist myself who has done his best to serve agriculture in this House and out of 1640 it, I say that to talk about agriculture demanding proportional representation in order that it may receive further representation in this House is ignoring altogether the fact that no labourers' organisations who have been consulted on this subject have suggested that they want proportional representation. If my hon. Friend means by representation of agriculture that occupying tenants should be represented here, that is a very different thing to any representation of agriculture. That may be desirable, and it may be a good thing in itself, hut that is not the representation of agriculture as an industry. If you are going to have a special representation for agriculture, you must have a representation which will speak not only on behalf of owners and occupiers, but also of the labourers, whose fate and prosperity are just as much bound up in the land as those other interests to which I have referred. I submit that none of my friends who advocate proportional representation have attempted to show, or can show, that the conditions I have laid down are fulfilled by this proposal.
May we come a little bit closer? I followed the Debates in the House of Lords, and I have listened to the various Debates on this question in this House. My two hon. Friends from Somersetshire and Wiltshire who spoke to-night say that this proposal will secure a more representative system. But let them come down from generalities and tell us how it is to be done. My hon. Friend said that anybody can easily learn how to vote under proportional representation. Of course they can. Anybody can learn to take a pencil and put down numbers opposite names; but that is not the question. The supporters of this system in both Houses have been much wiser and much more discreet in the things they have left out than those to which they have referred. They kept the Schedule back until the very last moment, and I believe if it had been produced earlier in the House of Lords we should not be dealing with this Amendment to-day. They not only left the Schedule, but they did something else. My hon. Friend says it is easy to learn how to vote, and I think lie said that he had read a treatise upon it. Does he propose to distribute treatises to all the working men in the country on this subject? Then again, my hon. Friend said nothing about the most difficult part of it, and that is the counting itself. We 1641 have heard nothing about that, although it is admitted by many advocates of proportional representation that counting does constitute a most serious difficulty.
§ Mr. LONG
I think it is admitted that the process of counting opens up great difficulties. If you adopt the system as it is proposed, one of the results will be an enormous number of disputes as to the returns made. You may produce the most perfect machinery in the world. I will take it that the machinery of proportional representation is all right, and that it will do all that is professed for it, and that it will work easily and smoothly. That is not enough. That is not going to give representation in this House to agriculture or to minorities. If you produce a perfect machine that by itself will not, be enough, and you must do something else. When my hon. Friends say that this system is not going to add to the power of the caucus, then they fail to understand how this system would be worked. When you have made the machine perfect, how is by minority going to secure representation There is only one way, and that is by minorities working together as one man; and the only way in which they could secure representation under this system would be by a great amount of organisation and preparation, and that would be valueless without the use and aid of the caucus. I believe, myself, that one result would be. to strengthen rather than to weaken the power and influence of what we call the caucus for want of a better name. I do not want to dwell upon the agricultural side any longer, because I do not think the claim should be made unless those who make it are prepared to say that they speak in the name of the agricultural community.
I do not believe that if you give agriculturists, farmers, owners, and labourers some special form of representation they will get that representation or get what the hon. Member for South Wilts desires —that is legislation of the kind they want —until they are absolutely agreed amongst themselves as to what it is they want and until they put their claims before Parliament, not only clearly and plainly, but with an amount of agreement behind them which has never yet existed in the agricultural community, and which I do not believe ever will exist, because the needs and difficulties of agriculture vary in the 1642 most rmarkable way in all parts of the country. The hon. Member for South Wilts sits for the southern end of my county, but that is as different. from my part and the north as the soil of Yorkshire is from the soil of Lincolnshire. I am sure that many farming communities with proportional representation would hesitate before they adopted my hon. Friend himself as an agricultural candidate, although I am sure they would take him as a man of discretion and worth, or if he shared their views in politics, without this proposal to secure representation for a particular interest. I do not know whether it is necessary to say anything on that point after the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), but what I said in the previous Debates on this point I will repeat now. I have taken an active interest in this Bill from the appointment of the Speaker's Conference down to this moment, and I believe myself that there is no need for these artificial methods. One argument used by the promoters—I do not know whether it. is well-founded or not—is the election of 1985–6. We are told, whereas the party of which my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Asquith) is the distinguished Leader had a majority in that Parliament of 400—I forget the exact figure, but it was an overwhelming majority—that if you had had proportional representation it would have been only thirty-eight. That, in my judgment, is the strongest argument against proportional representation that you could possibly advance. I went through that election, as many other hon. Gentlemen in this House did, and, however indignant we of the party to which I belong may have been at the charges brought against us, and however convinced we may have been that they were baseless, will anyone deny that feeling was profoundly roused and that there was a determination to get rid of the existing Government and to put another Government in its place? Does anybody believe, if by some peculiar system of majority representation you had had a majority of thirty or forty, that you would have satisfied the people of this country? If you had not the relief to be found in an election and a return of that kind, I believe there would be a much greater danger to face than any likely to arise if we do not adopt proportional representation. It is because I believe that these reforms, 1643 closely and carefully considered and generously carried through Parliament, have not only been the foundation of the greatness of our country, but have guarded us against those misfortunes and troubles which have overtaken other countries, that I would deprecate any attempt to introduce a scheme which I doubt very much would work as smoothly as its advocates claim, and which at all events, if it had those results, would really strike a blow at one of the foundations of that freedom and liberty which the people of this country have enjoyed so long, and which they largely attribute to their right to say who shah govern them and who shall he the Government of the day.
It is suggested that you are going to secure the representation of interests by this method. You have never done that in this House. You do not return agriculturists or shipowners, or any ocher industry, in that way. You get landowners, agriculturists, and representatives of all kinds of industry, but you take them because they are prepared to devote themselves to public life and because they hold certain definite opinions upon great leading public questions. Surely we do not want to alter that. Is it suggested that by some machinery of this kind you are going to open the doors of this House to men who will come here pledged to a particular policy or question and to a certain extent to disregard others? I believe that would be to strike a heavy and a fatal blow at our system, which has hitherto not worked badly. I cannot understand why it is that at the eleventh hour we should be asked to run this risk. My hon. Friends have said that the adoption of the Amendment which has come down from the other House would not imperil the passing of this Bill. I am speaking, of course, only for myself—in this Debate everybody speaks for himself and as he thinks fit—but I believe that it would greatly imperil this Bill. I will tell the House why. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith), in his speech just now, spoke in terms of indignation of the attempt to deal in this extraordinary way with the ancient and distinguished constituency which he represents, the kingdom of Fife. It is not the worst case by any means. Take my own county, which comprises five divisions. My hon. Friend behind me (Captain Sir C. Bathurst) challenged me in a letter 1644 which he was good enough to write to the papers, and suggested that I was not quite of the stout fibre of my grandfather, who represented the whole of the county of Wilts. He need not have gone back to my grandfather, because I sat for Wilts in 1880. Yes; but how can you compare the two? In 1880 there were 3,000 electors for North Wilts. When this Bill passes, there will be 90,000 electors. What will happen when the people of Wiltshire realise that the whole of those five constituencies are going to be thrown into one? They do not realise it now; there is no use in pretending that they do. Wait till the Commissioners go down and say to the people of Wiltshire, "All your boundaries are to be swept away, and you are to have one constituency."
Does my hon. Friend really think that he would get this representation? wonder if he has made the same examination of Wiltshire as I have made. I know it very well, and I have been at some pains to make a little examination based upon the hopes held out by the advocates of proportional representation. I believe that we should lose the representation that we have now. My hon. Friend, I suppose, in future wants men like myself. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) has told us how lie wandered into the great constituency for which he has sat ever since. Take my own case, if I may compare a small case with a great one. I wandered into the City, in the Strand, and before that, in another period of adversity, I wandered into the Southern Division of the county of Dublin, not really an agricultural constituency. But I do not think that my hon. Friend would disown me as an agricultural representative because I happen to sit for the Strand. What about my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary (Mr. Balfour), who is the Member for the City Is he to be disowned as an agricultural representative and not to be claimed as a representative of agriculture because he does not sit for an agricultural constituency? It is a mistake altogether to take Members and imagine, because they do not sit for agricultural constituencies, that they disown all their old connections or are not prepared to fight for the interests in which they are directly concerned. I hope that we shall do nothing which will tend to drive men into different channels and tend to make men in this House represent particular 1645 interests rather than the general interests of the whole of the country. It is because, in the first place, I believe, that this attempt would interfere with our old system of Parliamentary elections which has worked well, and because., in the second place, I am sure that it would not have the results which its advocates claim for it, that I hope we shall not falter and shall not consider alternatives or compromises. If we come to a compromise we shall find that it will fail as the compromise did before. The real truth of the matter is that you have not got to your hand the vile carcase which is prepared to be experimented upon in this way. Just as it is better to catch your hare before you cook it, so I respectfully submit to the House that it is better, first of all, to find the constituency that wants proportional representation before you decide to adopt it.
§ The MINISTER of BLOCKADE (Lord Robert Cecil)
The concluding words of my right hon. Friend must have somewhat dashed the hopes of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith). He must see at once the kind of opposition that proportional representation has to meet. No compromise! Not the smallest experiment in this way!" Why? I think the real reason is that, if it were once adopted, and if it were shown to be workable, its natural and inherent reasonableness would be so great that it would be impossible to resist it. I have the greatest possible respect for my right hon. Friend, and I never differ from him without the greatest reluctance and the greatest doubt as to the wisdom of my opinion. In this matter, however, I am afraid that I cannot forget that my right hon. Friend has been closely connected with the party organisation for a great number of years. I do not mean to say that there is anything discreditable in being connected with a party organisation, but it undoubtedly does bias the mind of the most honourable of men. Do not let us blink the fact that the great opposition to this proposal comes from the party machine on both sides. There is no doubt about it, and that is why the House of Lords, who are not dependent upon the party machine, are able to take a strictly impartial view. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) found it difficult to control his indignation, so great was his objection to the House of Lords having put this Amendment into this Bill. I really do not 1646 know what is the use of a Second Chamber unless they are to present to the Lower Chamber for reconsideration, and with a view of obtaining their acceptance by the Lower Chamber proposals in which they are not in any sense personally interested. but which they adopt merely for the purpose of improving the government of the country, and which, at any rate, whatever may be said against them, cannot be said to be dictated by any party, or by any desire to forward one particular set of opinions rather than another. I confess that I think this is just exactly the kind of question on which a Second Chamber may fairly and ought to express its opinion. There is apparently an opinion in this House that the constitution of the House of Commons is a matter which only concerns the House of Commons. Surely that is a profound mistake. The constitution of the House of Commons is that on which the whole Constitution of the country depends. If it is well constituted, the country is well governed. If it is badly constituted, the country is badly constituted. Hence, if you have a Second Chamber it must try and secure what it honestly believes to be the best Constitution.
My right hon. Friend (Mr. Long), in concluding his speech, said that he thought, if this proposal were adopted there would be a great danger to the Bill. I really cannot understand on what that belief is founded. I can understand, although I should not myself think it, that the rejection of the Amendment might endanger the Bill. I do not think it would, and I do not suggest it. But how the adoption or the acceptance of the proposal by the other branch of the Legislature can possibly endanger it passes my comprehension. He apparently thinks that there would. be such grave indignation at the county of Wiltshire being asked to vote as a whole that the peace of the country might be endangered and the course of the Bill rendered unsafe. I think that is a very exaggerated view of the situation. The truth is that we have got to consider this proposal on its merits without any of those extraneous considerations, and as far as any difficulty of a political or procedure character is concerned, I do not believe that any such difficulties exist. I know that the Government as a whole do not believe that any such difficulties exist, and that some of my distinguished colleagues, at any rate, have no fear of the result if this Amendment is carried.
1647 My right hon. Friend the Member for East Fife was very much afraid of the size of the new constituencies. I do not myself see why the county of Fife should not vote as one county now, as it did, I believe, just before my right hon. Friend became connected with it. I think he was the first or the second Member for East Fife.
§ Lord R. CECIL
The real difficulty is a geographical one. I do not believe there will be such a great difficulty as the right hon. Gentleman thinks. What I wish to point out to him is that if he is in a position to make a firm offer of a real experiment of proportional representation, that is one thing, and I should be very glad, as far as I am personally concerned, to accept it on the principle that I am always for taking what one can get. If, on the other hand, he is unable to restrain the enthusiasm of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Strand (Mr. Long) and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir T. Whittaker)—if those vehement and violent Tories and obscurantists are to be allowed to resist all and every change in the Constitution of this country, then I venture to hope that my right hon. Friend will reconsider his decision, and will be able to give us the support of his vote in the Lobby to-night. As to the merits of the question, I wish to say a very few things. If I thought that the Constitution of the House of Commons and the Constitution of this country were so satisfactory and so completely answered all the purposes for which they were established, I should not be in favour of any change. It seems to me to be wilfully shutting our eyes to suppose that the House of Commons occupies the same position of influence and authority as it used to occupy or that it is in a position to stand the very serious test which I am convinced the next few years will impose upon all our constitutional machinery. I believe we must go hack to the first principles of democracy. I am not saying that a good deal might not be said for and against democracy as 1648 a general principle. I am quite certain that a democratic form of government is the only possible form of government for this country, and that it ought to be made the very best form of democracy that we can make it. I am perfectly convinced of that. If you once admit that, it seems to me that some change in the direction we are now discussing is absolutely essential.
After all, the great glory of this country has been the discovery and enforcement of representative institutions. What does "representative institutions" mean? An institution is not representative unless it represents. The essential thing is that it should represent the real values of opinion in the country. We recognise that in a thousand ways. We are accustomed to speak not only of His Majesty's Government, but also, very rightly, of His Majesty's Opposition. We recognise the importance of minorities. We recognise that our system cannot go on unless we have due regard to the opinions of minorities and unless we make their task as easy and as effective as it can be made. When we constitute a Select Committee of this House we recognise that principle to the full. We apply the principle of proportional representation in that case. We recognise that a Select Committee shall represent this House, both majority and minority. If my right hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite are right, why do they not constitute their Select Committees entirely representative of the majorities of this House, and why do they not advocate sonic form of change which will sweep all minorities out of existence? The truth is that minorities are essential and that proper representation of minorities is essential. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Strand said that a great majority of 400, or whatever it was, would have been reduced to thirty-eight, and he thought that was a condemnation of the scheme. The point my right hon. Friend was making does not depend upon the actual figures, which I am merely accepting as illustrating his argument. Assuming these, I deny altogether that a Government with a majority of 400 in this House is strong for useful purposes. On the contrary, I remember very well that when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife came back in 1906 with a gigantic majority I am quite sure that if we were in the palace of truth they would have told us that they very much wished that their majority was not so big.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I pointed that out in my speech. I said that I was a member of the Government which had the smallest majority on record and of a Government which had the largest, and I left it to the House to say which was the happier position.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I remember very well their attitude of profound terror of what their majority was going to be next. A relatively small majority makes a stronger Government in this House than these enormous majorities. Everybody knows it is so. It does so for two reasons, not only for the reason that it is actually easier to work in this House, but also because I am convinced—it is an important consideration—that the strength and authority of this House depends on how far it really feels that it represents the opinion of the country. I do not want to say anything about the present House, but we all know that a Parliament when it gets towards the end of its life has less authority and less vigour than a Parliament fresh back from the constituencies. Why? Because it doubts not in its own mind that it really represents the proper balance of opinion in the country, and the moment that happens the true strength of the country is given to it. I was talking to a distinguished gentleman connected with Wales the other day and he said to me, "Under proportional representation there will always be about one-third of the members Unionists, whereas we practically have a complete unanimity of Liberal representation. I am sure that has been bad for the interests of Wales. It has made it very difficult for Conservative administrations, for instance, to concede demands from Wales. Not only that, it has made this great difficulty: that when the Welsh Members as a whole come and demand something, it is said, 'After all, you only represent one set of opinions in the country.' If in a thing which really mattered to Wales they had also the support of a considerable body of Unionist colleagues, their authority would be far greater than it is at present." That is a sound view.
I believe that proportional representation would make the House of Commons more accurately representative of the electorate of this country. That is the true function of representative institutions; that is the true principle of democracy. I advocate it because I feel it would restore and increase the character 1650 and the authority of this House, and I advocate it still more because I am convinced that in the coarse of the next few years we in this country, and, I believe, the people of every country in Europe, are going to have great tests applied to the solidity and the reasonableness of our institutions and to many of our most cherished beliefs. I wish to see our Constitution made as strong, as vigorous, and as well-founded as possible, in order to resist the shock of the times that are coming upon us. I say quite frankly that I look with some dismay to the possibility of a temporary feeling, it may be a very extreme opinion, sweeping over the county, carrying into the House under our present system a gigantic majority not representing the real electoral feeling of the country, but greatly exaggerating the electoral feeling of the country, and then doing something which might be irreparable to the whole fortunes and interests of the country. That is one of the nightmares we have to face. It is because I feel that, and because I claim to be as good a Conservative as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, or my right hon. Friend the Member for the Strand, that I urge upon Conservative Members not less than upon Liberals, the importance of carrying this reform into effect, and preparing, while there is yet time, to meet all the dangerous storms that lie ahead.
§ Sir ERNEST POLLOCK
With much of the reasoning of the Noble Lord I agree, but it is precisely because I follow that reasoning that. I conic unalterably to an opposite conclusion. I differ from him absolutely in his conclusion, and it is because I do so and believe that proportional representation is an absolutely bad system that I dissociate myself from any effort of any sort to apply it to any constituency. I am not prepared to make any concession on what I believe to be a had thing. No one in the House will support me more strongly in holding those views than the Noble Lord himself. I approach this matter wholly independent of any question of existing organisations or their views. I cast aside the menaces that are offered to us. I am not afraid of the menace of the hon. and gallant Member for the Wilton Division (Captain Sir C. Bathurst), who said that if we did not consult the body of agricultural opinion we should have a great association started which might create some difficulty and 1651 cleavage in this House. I cast aside the menace that is offered by those who desire to see the Bill passed when they say that we shall be quite unable to deal with the Schedule or to make a workable plan within the limits of this Session. I cast aside also the aspersion that is made that the associations or organisations at the present time have organised hostility to the present proposal.
We are up against a very important question, and toe issue which presents itself to my mind is, Are we going to have a system of government in this House by groups or not? That is the real issue. The hon. Member for the Wilton Division, with whom I am usually in agreement, has emphasised that point. He has said that agriculture demands that it shall be represented—that it shall have an opportunity of particular representation in this House. 'that has secured the adhesion and change of opinion in the hon. and gallant Member for the Bridgwater Division (Colonel Sanders). What does that mean? Let us press that home. It means that they desire to see a group of Members who are going to put agricultural questions in the forefront in their conduct this House and who are going to tie themselves together in order that they may become so large and important a body that they will be able to impose their will and secure that the objects they desire shall be satisfied. I suppose they are going to say that, if not, they will stand apart and take no other share of their duties in the government of this country.
That is what it really means. I think that is one of the most unfortunate views which could be adopted. My own view is that a member who conies to this House ought to be prepared to consider a number of questions with which he cannot be altogether familiar, but it is because he is not familiar with them and brings a new and impartial mind to bear upon them that he very often forms a far better judgment. in due relation to the other interests of the country, as to what policy should be pursued. One hundred and fifty years ago or more this country was governed by a system of groups. Are we going to find my hon. Friend saying, "I will vote with you on agricultural questions provided you will deal in some particular way with industrial questions"? Such a position would be wholly antagonistic to my hon. Friend's conception of his duties and the work he has clone in this House.
1652 The Noble Lord tells us that this is a constitutional question, and I agree with him. I believe the House of Lords has every right to send this question back for reconsideration. We had left the Bill faulty in two respects. We had inserted the alternative vote and had not provided any system by which it could be carried out, and we had had three votes on proportional representation, and the Second Chamber, whose duties, as I conceive them, are always to require the representative Chamber to pause, had every right to point out that these faults existed, and they also had the right to say, "You must deal with this question of how you vote and the particular value of each vote as a whole. You have sent up a scheme which, at present, is unworkable. We therefore think you had better reconsider the matter from every point of view." Accepting the view of a Second Chamber and its functions on those lines, I think it is perfectly right that these problems should be sent down to be reconsidered. But this is a constitutional question, because there is no doubt, if I am right in saying that the establishment of proportional representation would mean government by groups, a very important constitutional issue is raised. At present the Standing Orders under which we carry on our business are designed to safeguard the interests of minorities, and I can quite believe that a considerable alteration of them would be rendered necessary if we resorted to government by groups.
But there is one matter of paramount importance which must not be overlooked. Does any hon. Member really desire that we should have a perfect mirror of the nation and of its thoughts—a microcosm? I frankly say I do not. I desire to have the general trend of the nation's thoughts adequately represented in Parliament, with also a considerable momentum given to that majority, so that it may have a comparatively sure time of governing the country, for I regard the government of the country as of far greater importance than the legislative functions of the Government. I believe the idea that it is our business every Session to turn out a great quantity of legislation is all wrong. I believe it is far more our duty to see that the government of the country is carried on with due regard to economy and the liberty of all persons, and also that the law is properly obeyed, and I do not at all desire to see a House of 1653 Commons which has the energy to pass an enormous number of Bills every year. But quite apart from that, we have to consider the question of our own relations to our constituencies. I believe at present this House does not command as much respect or have the same importance in the country that it had some years ago, but the reason for that is, to my mind, quite different from that given by the Noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil). I believe it is a real misfortune that we are always detained in this House sitting for ever and ever without any long adjournment. We have a short adjournment during which necessary refreshment and holiday is secured; but the system which prevailed a generation ago was far better, under which there was every opportunity for members to spend a. certain amount of time in their constituencies, and both to impart their views to their constituents and, even more, for the constituents to instruct the members, and possibly by being in close touch with members in those circumstances the House of Commons was felt to be of primary importance and due regard was paid to its authority. I believe that on whatever system you elect members, so long as members are always segregated from their constituencies and kept here in attendance, so long the House of Commons will cease to command the authority which it had in the past. I believe the personal relation of a member to his constituents and of the constituents to the member is of so great importance that I would forego a great many other so-called improvements or methods of procuring precise opinions rather than forego that great privilege.
We are hoping to give a large and generous measure of reform—the largest measure that has ever been given under any Bill. I believe under proportional representation you would create great disappointment. You are going by a sort of system of refraction to take away the direct effect of the vote which is given by the constituent to his member, and if it is found by this large and newly enfranchised body of voters that, instead of securing the direct representation that they ask for, something different has happened, they will feel that what has been given with the one hand has been taken away with the other, and, instead of having the great effect I hope it will have, I believe you will create deep and profound disappointment. In every Reform 1654 Bill this proposal, or something like it, is made. It was so in 1884, and in 1867 the minority vote was introduced. Whenever this House begins to talk about a Reform Bill these proposals are brought forward. After they have been tried for a time they are cast away joyfully. The minority vote which was put in in 1867 was rejected in 1884, practically with the assent of all Members of the House, because it had been tried and found wanting. The cumulative vote of the School Board which was established in 1870 was also cast aside with satisfaction by those who had tried it, and it is because at the present time we are at a more remote period from one of these experiments that so large a body of opinion has been found to accept the proposal. If we had been nearer to one of these experiments, if we had in more recent times had experience of one of these systems, there would have been less sup port for it, and those who had tried it and found it wanting would have been ready. as they were in 1884, to cast it aside. For the very reason that I desire to eliminate all fear and all need of the caucus, and because I desire to have direct representation and a stable Government, with political education between the member and the constituents, I am reluctant to accept the system of proportional representation; and while I am quite as apprehensive as the Noble Lord has expressed him-self to be as to the urgent, importance of the deeply serious questions which any new Parliament will be called upon to solve, and because I am anxious that they should be solved by a Parliament directly responsible to it and elected by the electors, I reject altogether any system of proportional representation, thinking it to be a bad system. I reject any suggestion that I ought to accept a portion of a bad thing or to make any experiment with a system which I believe to be -not only bad, but designed to produce great disappointment and to counter the effect which I hope will be produced by this generous and well-deserved, but at the same time experimental, measure of reform.
§ Captain Viscount WOLMER
It will always be a matter of the greatest regret to me to find myself differing in opinion from my hon. and learned Friend, but I am amazed at the attitude from which he approaches this question. He has more than once made use of the phrase that he supported the principle of direct election. That is exactly what the single-member 1655 system does not give you. Under proportional representation you do get direct election. Under our present system the electors are unable to choose the men they want. The men whom they are to elect are largely chosen for them. They are chosen by the party caucus first. In 99 constituencies out of 100 you have all the forces of the constituency marshalled into two or, perhaps, three camps. There is no opportunity for the electors to select their own representative. They have to take the ready-made candidate who is shoved at their heads by the party machine. If my hon. and learned Friend is referring to direct election he should attach the real meaning to his words, which is that the elector should have freedom of choice, that he should have a wide scope- -of choice and not be limited in his choice to what it pleases the party machine to put forward. That can only be secured by some system different to our present single-member constituency.
We have heard a variety of arguments against proportional representation. I cannot say that any of them are very new and perhaps we have thrashed the question out very thoroughly already. But there is one point that was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) which I should like to mention. He said, and the hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington agreed, that there was no mandate for such a proposal as this from the country, that there was no demand from the country for it, and consequently that this House had no moral authority to make such a change. We must all admit that this House is in a very anomalous position on the question of mandate. Remember the period at which we were elected. We are now in the eighth year of our existence. It is difficult for this House to claim that authority which a newly elected House of Commons can claim. I would say to my right hon. Friend that I believe there is a very strong feeling in the country against our party system, a very strong feeling indeed. Over and over again the word "politician" has almost become a term of abuse. How many men does one hear say, "I am no party man, I beleve in principle before party," and such like expressions, all of them conveying the fact that the country distrusts the politician and does not sympathise with the rigidity of the party system as it is expressed in this House. We know quite 1656 well that the rigidity of the party system as we find it here does not reflect the opinion of the country, and as a consequence the country on the whole has lost confidence in the House of Commons. My hon. and learned Friend (Sir E. Pollock) gave us as one of the reasons why he objected to proportional representation that it would mean the rule of the caucus, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said practically the same thing. I suppose that is the reason why every single caucus, Liberal or Conservative, is against it. Surely the party wirepullers know their own business. They know their game, and if we find such extraordinary unanimity among the Tapirs and the Tadpoles, among the Blues and the Buffs, it shows that they, at any rate, do not believe that their influence and prestige would be increased by proportional representation.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said one of the effects of proportional representation Would be to bring into this House currents of opinion and parties that were elected not on what one may call broad national principles, but by the whims or idiosyncrasies of their cranky supporters in the country. I deny altogether that because certain currents of opinion do not happen to dovetail with the programme of one, two, or three of the great political parties, they are therefore unworthy of representation in this House. Does my right hon. Friend say a man must be either a Conservative, a Tariff Reformer, in favour of Establishment and against Socialism, or, on the other hand, must be a Liberal, a Disestablisher, and a Free Trader '? Are there no cross differences of opinion in this country? Is it not absurd to try and put the political thought of this country into leading strings in that way? One of the reasons why this House is unrepresentative of the opinion of the country is that we have not got men of that sort here. The Liberal Churchmen was a very large force in the country. He is now conspicuous by his absence. Unionist Free Traders constituted a very important section here when the fiscal controversy was raging, but they were practically driven out of this House by the simple method of running Unionist Tariff Reformers against them in order to allow Liberal Free Traders to come in. You could not have a clearer instance than that by which the 1657 single-member constituency throttles the representation of currents of opinion which are entitled to be represented here. This House is greatly the poorer for their absence. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham spoke as ii everyone who departed from party lines was a crank whose words would bore the House, and whose councils would be superfluous. Let us consider the names of a few men who have refused to toe the party line. Sir Edward Clarke was turned out of this House because he could not see eye to eye with his party. Mr. Harold Cox was also turned out because he could not see eye to eye with his party. Mr. Gibson Bowles, one perhaps of the most acute men, a man of great experience in Parliamentary procedure and methods, was driven out of this House because he could not toe the line of either the Liberal or the Conservative party. From the Labour party we have seen men driven out because they could not go the whole hog with their party, and as this process goes on so does the representation of the House of Commons suffer, and the House becomes less worthy and less able to reflect the opinion of the country. So, too, are our debates made poorer, and that is the reason for this wide demand for proportional representation which so surprises my hon. and learned Friend. It is because all Englishmen are not Tories of the St. Stephen's House school, or Liberals of the National Liberal Club school. It is because Englishmen do think for themselves and have their own opinions, and would desire to sit on cross benches if there were any instead of taking their seat on the ordinary party line. It is for that reason that there is a great movement in this country for some improved method of representation. I do not claim a mandate from the country for every detail of proportional representation, or for every Clause in the Schedule that the Lords have sent down, but I do claim a mandate for dissatisfaction with the present way in which our political business is conducted.
Another point which has been mentioned is with reference to the personal touch between a member and his constituents. The Member for the City of 'Westminster (Mr. Burdett-Coutts) told us that if he were divorced from the sole representation of the City of Westminster, or rather if he were obliged to represent other boroughs as well, he would not have 1658 the same pride in his representation, he would not have the same touch with his constituents, he would not in any sense occupy the position he now does. But the fact is that in the Lords Schedule, Westminster is left exactly as it is, a fact for which the hon. Member might show some gratitude.
§ Viscount WOLMER
Apart from the fact that it is not linked up by the system of proportional representation with any other borough, I should like to answer the point. I see before me my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington. Does the fact that he represents those places prevent him from being in personal touch with the electors of the two great cities? Does he find any ambiguity in his position? Does he find any practical difficulty about it? It would be exceedingly interesting if he would tell the House, because here we have a practical example of the grouping of areas, of cities, and towns in order that they may send a joint representative to Westminster.
§ Sir E. POLLOCK
May I tell the Noble Lord that the two boroughs are contiguous and that they are only divided by the narrow waterway or the Avon?
§ Viscount WOLMER
And many of the constituences dealt with in the Lords Schedule are contiguous, and would not even be divided by the Avon.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I know the Ayr Burghs are not contiguous, neither are the Denbigh Boroughs. But here we have the fact that two distinct local government areas, such as Warwick and Leamington, can in their wisdom unite to return such a representative as my hon. and learned Friend. What better example could you get of the merits of joint representation? I claim that as practical proof that it is possible to have municipalities and boroughs united for the purpose of representation in this House, yet returning splendid men who are in touch with their constituents and are honoured by them. 1659 My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham complains that under proportional representation a member would not have an opportunity of knowing who his constituents were. That was one of his great complaints. Then he told us that he had been, I think, for something like twenty years a Member for East Worcestershire, where there were 27,000 electors. I wonder whether he wanted us to believe that he personally knew all his 27,000 electors' Was there ever an idea so absurd? We all know perfectly well that we do not know our electors personally, and that it is impossible for them to judge of our personal character beyond what they can infer from our speeches, our public conduct, and our attitude to public questions. I believe it is perfectly possible to form an accurate and just estimate of a man's public character without knowing him personally, and it is by such methods that electors at present judge. A great many of them do not even go to meetings. If any hon. Member would count up the number of meetings that he addresses in the course of an election and the size of the audiences he has addressed, and would then deduct from that the band of enthusiastic supporters that follows him about from place to place, he would always find that lie has only spoken to a very small proportion of the total electorate. The great majority of the electors form their opinion by what they read, and therefore there will be no distinction in principle between what would happen under a system in Birmingham, where a constituency returned four or five members, and in West Birmingham, which only returns one. If our constituencies were small enough to enable, constituents to know their members personally, as they know their representatives on the parish council, then I quite agree affairs would he different, but the present size of our constituencies appears to me to combine all the possible evils. It is not small enough for the member to know his constituents personally, it is not big enough to allow the electorate a variety of choice, and therefore a vast organisation is created on either side to drill and cajole the people into voting for blue or for buff, for red or for green, and to get one party dominant over the other. That is not the road by which the right opinion of the country is arrived at.
1660 We have been told that proportional representation would mean weak government in the country. My right hon. Friend who spoke from the Front Bench just now (Lord R. Cecil) dealt very effectively with that Point, but there is one thing I would like to say, not only to my Liberal friends, but also to my Conservative friends, and that is that I do not believe you get real progress by sweeping majorities that pass extreme measures, which are only reversed by the next party in power. Let me take the history of the Education Bill. You had the Parliament of 1900 elected by an overwhelming Conservative majority. They proceeded to pass an Education Bill which created violent resentment in the minds of a large section of the community. If I may say so, I think they were exceedingly ill-advised to try to force down as a national settlement anything that evoked such strenuous opposition. The retribution came. In 1906 you had an overwhelming Liberal majority in this House, and they proceeded to pass an Education Bill, which was an extreme measure, and which excited among those of my way of thinking quite as violent an opposition as the Education Bill of 1902 ever did in the minds of Passive Resisters. Then, if it had not been for the action of the House of Lords in that case—they took up an attitude which was acclaimed at that time by my hon. Friend the Member for the Strand, as he then was (Mr. Long), who supported the action of the House of Lords and their Amendments at the tail end of the Session with a great deal of eloquence, to which I well remember listening as a visitor in that gallery up from Oxford—exactly the same thing would have happened again. That would have been that the Education Bill of the right hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Birrell) would have excited among Churchmen exactly the same opposition as it did among Dr. Clifford and his friends, and you would have had Churchmen passively resisting, going to prison, and all the rest of it, in four or five years' time a great revulsion of feeling, and then the other man would have been top-dog once again. That is not the way in which sound, progressive legislation can be carried out. If legislation is going to be permanent it cannot be extreme, generally speaking. If anybody wants a further example of this I would refer them to Russia, and I would, therefore, claim that if both Liberals and Conservatives, both 1661 those who believe in progress and those who object to violent changes, that the House of Commons that would be best fitted to produce measures that are desirable would be one which more accurately reflected the opinion of the country than the House of Commons ever does at the present time.
I believe that with proportional representation we should have a better balance in this House. I believe there would always be a working majority for a Government whenever there was a wave of public opinion such as in 1895, 1900, and 1906. I believe, further, that you would have a small nucleus of independent men, of the type of Mr. Harold Cox, Mr. Hilaire Belloc, Mr. Gibson Bowles, Sir Edward Clarke, and men of that sort, whose presence in this House would be of enormous value to our Debates, and would add greatly to the prestige of this House. I believe the work produced by a House of that composition would be, on the whole, greatly superior to what is done in the heyday of our party bitterness. After all, we must not forget the bitterness of party warfare because it is now quiescent. We have seen on this Bill a model attitude on nearly every occasion, men of all sides combining to produce what they think will be the best measure. That was not, however, the temper of the House of Commons when I first entered it seven years ago nor was it the temper of the House of Commons when the War broke out. We were all then at. loggerheads. The Conservatives sat up night after night trying to obstruct; legislation, and the Liberals passed guillotine resolutions to throttle the discussion of what they wanted to pass. That was the inevitable result of party bitterness. It was the inevitable result, I believe, of the single-member system. The single-member system sent to this House two drilled armies. It sent a solid block of Conservatives and a solid block of Liberals. They were under strict Whips' orders; they were servants of a caucus for the most part, and came here and preached preconceived ideas; they were not open to argument, and they had no desire to assist the other party in its legislation but only to obstruct it, just as the other party was determined to throttle the voice of their opponents. That is really the result of suppressing minorities under our electoral system, and of driving independent men out of the House. It is the result of being entirely caucus-ridden, and of having men dependent on the 1662 caucus for the seat in their constituency. The fate of every man who has stood up against his caucus and fought it under our single-member system has shown that the independent cannot possibly exist unless you have some method of proportional representation.
I should like to say to those hon. Gentlemen who, like the right hon. Gentleman. the Member for West Birmingham, talk about the ancient glories of this House of Commons—which I believe the House had largely forfeited before the War broke out, for the reasons I have given—that I believe events in the future are not going to be the same as they have been in the past. In the first place, instead of having two great political parties, you are going to have three great political parties. There are three great political parties in this country now, and the Labour Members who sit in the House of Commons at the present time are only the advance-guard of a very large party who are coining in before we are all a very few years older. I welcome them because they represent a large section of opinion in this country which ought to be represented in this House. The idea that we can have the old Liberal and Tory fights and single-member constituencies over again must be abandoned altogether. We are now faced with the situation that there will be in a great majority of constituencies in England, Wales, and Scotland, three candidates, and I do not know how you can hope to get any satisfactory reflection of public opinion under these conditions except by some method of proportional representation. The only other alternative is the alternative vote, which has equally been rejected by the House of Lords, and which I myself believe to be a very unsatisfactory method. You cannot get anything like the old conditions to which we have all been accustomed in the past, and therefore I really do ask hon. Members who oppose proportional representation to wipe the cobwebs from their eyes in this respect. You have to face a new England, a new party situation, and a new set of problems, and those cannot be dealt with by the old methods. You have to take count of the fact that there are at least three great parties in the State, and that large sections of public opinion do not care a snap for our political parties, but wish to have their representation on entirely different principles. The hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Hemmerde) spoke about the 1663 practical difficulties of proportional representation. One might almost think from his speech and from that of the right hon. Member for the Strand (Mr. Long) that proportional representation had never been tried. It has been tried in half a dozen different countries, and, so far as I am aware, there is not a single movement of any importance in any of them for abolishing it. It is no use the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir E. Pollock) telling us that the School Board elections were conducted on art unsatisfactory principle. He might as well tell us that trial by ordeal was an unsatisfactory method of justice. It has nothing to do with the case at all. We are not proposing the system under which the School Boards were elected. We are not proposing any system such as that which Lord Eversley directs the large part of his pamphlet to abolishing. Those are not the kind of things we are proposing at all. Therefore, all those remarks are not relevant. We are proposing a practical system which has been tried in several of our Colonies and in other countries of the world, democratic countries, and in those countries there is no movement of any force for abolishing proportional representation and returning to the system of single-member constituencies. For these reasons, I believe that we should be well advised to agree to some form of proportional representation in this country.
The House of Lords in this matter have no axe to grind. They are in opposition to a large section of the party to which most of them belong; but I believe in this matter they more truly reflect public opinion than does the House of Commons. What is the objection that really militates against proportional representation in this House? It is that Wiltshire may return so many Liberals, that solid Sussex may be contaminated by a representative of the Labour party, that Wales, glorious Wales, may be defiled by having its due representation of Tories, that Scotland may have its fair share of Tories. It is because the Scottish Liberals do not like the idea of more Scottish Conservatives and because English Conservatives do not like the idea of more English Liberals in their counties that I believe there is this great difference between the two Houses. We are apt to look at things from our own narrow point of view. I believe the House 1664 of Lords and the public outside look at things from the national point of view, and when the matter is looked at from the national point of view it must lead inevitably to the conclusion that the House of Commons, as at present constituted, does not and cannot reflect the true opinion of the country, that some of the best elements of the country are excluded from it, that freedom of thought is cramped, and that debate becomes more of a parade and a sham fight than an attempt to win people by argument. For these reasons the system which has been tried successfully in a great many different countries in the world might be, and ought to be, tried.
§ Mr. GILBERT
I rise to put one view which I do not think has been put before the House, and that is the view of London, which I am entitled to represent. I speak specially for one party in London, and I think I can do so quite authoritatively. We have had a speech from the right hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) who, when he found in the Schedule that in its application to the county of Fife it made a large constituency, including all the boroughs and the county of Fife, he objected to it and said, "No one wants it and no one has asked for it." I want to ask the House, and I want to ask the right hon. Member for East Fife, to apply that quotation to this great county of London. Certainly no one has asked for proportional rpresentation in London, and, so far as I know, no one wants it. I am putting in this caveat now because, as I understood the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, lie spoke as if he was in favour of a compromise and that compromise was to be the one he favoured before, namely. to go back to the original proposition made by the Speaker's Conference. Speaking on behalf of the party with which I am associated in London, I say that we object just as strongly now as we did before to the Speaker's Conference proposals being put forward as a solution. We object to London being experimented on in patches under the proposals of the Speaker's Conference. The Amendment of the House of Lords is another kind of experiment for the county of London, because they do not propose to deal with London on one basis. It is proposed that London shall have four two-member constituencies. I do not quite understand, from reading the Schedule and the subsequent Amendment proposed, whether the two-member constituencies are to be elected on the principle of proportional representation 1665 by the marking of candidates who have numbers, or whether they are to be elected in the way that two-member constituencies are elected at the present time, namely, that people should vote by a cross for two members. In addition, it is proposed that there shall be five three-member constituencies, six four-member constituencies, and three five-member constituencies. That gives us the total number of sixty-two members provided for under the Bill.
I have been a fairly enthusiastic supporter of this Bill, and I have stated in Debates that one of the reasons why I am strongly in favour of it was because it simplified our election. I have always been in favour of simplification of election, but if this proposal of the House of Lords is carried it will make not for simplification, but for confusion in the county of London. You cannot have in the county of London, where the constituencies adjoin each other and where main roads are so often the boundaries between the constituencies, two-, three-, four-, and five-member constituencies. You want a simple system of election. Those of us who have been in favour of single-member constituencies in London up till now are strongly opposed to this new complicated system which was proposed first under the Speaker's Conference Resolution. Another scheme was proposed on the Report stage of the Bill by the supporters of proportional representation, and now we are considering in the House of Lords Amendment a new scheme of proportional representation for London. We in London have taken some interest in this matter, and know what the people of London wish, and we are as strongly opposed to this scheme as we were to the previous scheme. Under the Bill we have already had Boundary Commissioners who have sat in every constituency in London in order to deal with the question of the boundaries of the constituencies. In the Bill as it left the House they proposed that in certain divisions in London Members should be taken away, and that wards and divisions should be cut up and altered. In all these cases in London—and from what I read it was the same in other parts of the country—the greatest local interest was taken by local authorities representative of political associations, Members, and, in some cases, candidates, in obtaining the local view on these matters. The Commissioners heard all the evidence. In some cases they have given way entirely to the local view; in other 1666 cases, where there has been great divergence of opinion, they have perhaps made an independent report, but in the result this House decided to divide London into certain constituencies; and now, if this Schedule of the House of Lords is carried, and if the new Clause which is to be moved after Clause 40 is adopted, that as soon as practicable after the passing of this Act the Local Government Board shall appoint Boundary Commissioners to revise the distribution of constituencies set out in the Schedule to this Act, so far as respects England and Wales, while, the Secretary for Scotland deals with Scotland, then, even if you pass this Schedule from the House of Lords without any Amendment, the electorates of London will not know what the future constituencies of London are to be, because you set up new Commissioners, who will have to hold new local inquiries, and the constituencies will be entitled to go before the Commissioners and put forward their case as to why they should or should not be joined up, as the House of Lords proposes, and you will have in London very long and, in some cases, bitter inquiries end a condition more or lees of chaos before. you get the constituencies defined.
The House of Lords have from their own point of view gone through the London constituencies without any consideration of local feeling. They have joined certain constituencies together in order to get their ideal from the point of view of proportional representation. Under the Bill my own particular constituency should be merged in the new borough of Southwark, but under the Lords scheme we are to be joined up with Bermondsey. We have never been asked, and Bermondsey has never been asked, whether we think this is a reasonable or a workable unit. We are entitled to say that we might be much more fairly joined up with an adjoining constituency instead of being joined up with Bermondsey, and Bermondsey might put forward the same contention. This is going on all over London. You have joined up Bethnal Green and Shoreditch. If supporters of proportional representation are so keen on getting an ideal representation for London, it would have been much fairer to join up the City and Shoreditch, instead of Bethnal Green and Shoreditch. The City is a very much smaller constituency under the Bill, yet. under the House of Lords scheme it is left alone.. They join up Chelsea and Kensington; Westminster has been left 1667 alone; but Westminster, which consists of three single-member constituencies returning three single members, is now made a two-member constituency under this Bill. Marylebone lost a member under the Bill; it is now joined up with Paddington. At a local inquiry Marylebone might put forward the case, "Why should we not be joined up with Hampstead or some other constituency instead of with Paddington?" That is the kind of thing that will happen in London under the House of Lords Schedule if the whole of these constituencies are thrown into the melting pot.
Even if the registration goes on as has been suggested under this Bill until the new constituencies are settled, persons who are claiming to go on the register will not know for months to come, until the Commissioners' report is issued, in what particular constituency they will be allowed to give their vote. The hon. Member for Norfolk referred to by-elections. By-elections affect us particularly in London. There is no provision in the Bill for dealing with by-elections, and this is a great flaw. Another flaw is in connection with local elections in London. We have the county council elections, which are second only in interest to the Parliamentary elections, the local borough council elections, and the guardian elections. If you adopt proportional representation for Parliamentary elections there is nothing in the Bill dealing with the same thing from the point of view of local elections. We want all the elections in London on the same plan, and you would upset the system of public life in London if you are going to have one system of election for Parliament and another for the other bodies. We have heard a great deal of what has happened in Tasmania. Tasmania is often quoted by supporters of proportional representation as being one of the ideal places where that system has been carried out. The population of Tasmania in round figures is 200,000. They return to Parliament thirty members, who are elected by five proportional representation seats of six members each. Under the new scheme of the House of Lords the constituency with which I am connected if joined up to Bermondsey and Southwark will have a population estimated in 1914 at 313,000, and we shall have an electorate of 98,000; And when Tasmania is quoted as an ideal 1668 place for putting proportional representation into force, those who quote it cannot have realised what some of the figures are in the great boroughs which are proposed under this scheme in the county of London.
Some of the other constituencies are much larger still. Islington has a population of 325,000, and Tower Hamlets, which under the proposal is to have five Members, has a population of 435,920. Wandsworth has a population of 331,321, with an estimated electorate, under the new scheme, of 114,000. I think those figures ought to make any Member who has been through elections and knows what they are see the impossibility of having these large constituencies and of conducting elections on anything like a reasonable or workable plan. If we lumped these large constituencies together I wonder if Members have thought what the election expenses would be under the new scheme of proportional representation. In my own Constituency, taking the House of Commons Schedule as the Bill left this House, the expenses for one candidate in an electorate of 98,000—and the House of Commons Schedule is put at a very low rate—would be £2,041, and if the candidates were lumped together the cost would be £3,062. In Wandsworth the expenses of a single candidate would be £2,375, while for two or more candidates running together the expenses would be £3,562. I think these items ought to be considered by the House when dealing with the Lords Amendments. The main idea of the Speaker's Conference and)f this House when passing the Bill was that election expenses should be reduced, and that the man of moderate means, or a Labour candidate, should have a chance of representing the constituency; but if a man has to fight a large constituency in London such as I have mentioned, and has to find the amount of money I have just stated to the House, I think it would make it altogether impossible for any person of moderate means or any Labour candidate, off his own bat at any rate, to fight an election in any of these constituencies I have named. It may be said that the expense might be met by associations, or the party caucus, but if that were so the very thing the supporters of proportional representation have all along been advocating, namely, to get rid of the caucus system and of associations, so that individual candidates representing some 1669 particular view might have a chance of being returned as a minority Member, would not be attained.
I have only a right to speak for London. The party with which I am connected are strongly opposed to proportional representation for London. We believe that the single-member constituencies which we have in London have given us extremely good representatives. Some of them often include men representing both sides of politics, and men who have been connected with particular constituencies for a great many years, who have taken an interest in local matters for a. great many years; and it is because we believe that type of candidate is the right man to represent London constituencies that we are anxious that the individuality of the single-member constituency which we have now should not be lost and buried in those very large constituencies which are now proposed. The Member for West Southwark is the owner of a very large business in the particular division which he represents—a business established by his father, or grandfather, and he has been connected with a firm which has a particular local interest in that district. The hon. Member for Walworth was twice or thrice mayor of that borough, a member of the borough council, the county council, and of the guardians. I do not think anyone would say that gentleman is not a fairly good representative of a London constituency. I happen to have the honour of representing the constituency in which I was born, and I have represented it for something like twenty years on the county council. I have been mixed up in all kinds of local work for a good many years. There are other constituencies in London where you have the same kind of candidates. I read in one of the London papers an article by a celebrated novelist, whose idea was that London was represented by local mugwumps, but I venture to suggest that the figures and facts which I have given to the House rather discount that view, and that London really obtains representatives suited to the constituencies of London.
I enter my emphatic protest not only against the Amendments as they have come from the Lords, but also against any compromise on the basis of the Speaker's Conference, and if such a proposal is put forward, speaking on behalf of the London Members with whom I am associated, I say we shall put up just as strenuous an 1670 opposition to any proposal for compromise as we put up in the previous Divisions on this question. I have always thought, from what, I have read about proportional representation, that the ideal opportunity to put that principle into practice is to be found in very large constituencies. I should have thought that the ideal constituency to suit believers in proportional representation is a place like Glasgow, where there are fifteen members to be returned. There individual candidates, running a particular ticket, would stand a chance of getting elected out of the list of fifteen members to be returned. But in the proposal which has come down from the Lords there is no such thing as a fifteen-member constituency. The highest they propose is a five-member constituency, and the individual candidate who stands would have a very small chance of being returned as one of the five if the candidates are run by the three large parties in the constituency. As regards the two-, the three-, or the four-member constituencies, I fail for the life of me to see how the minority candidate is going to stand much chance of ever being returned for a constituency of that class. Therefore, it does seem to me that this scheme, proposed by the Lords and sent down to this House, ill-conceived and got up in a hurry, is one in. which the supporters of proportional representation seem to believe, but which does not seem to me one of which anyone can be very proud. But coming back to the question of London, I wish again to make my very strong protest against the Lords Amendments, and also against the scheme of compromise which is going to be made on the basis of the Resolutions of the Speaker's Conference. If you get a compromise of that kind it means that only certain constituencies in London are going to be treated to proportional representation, while other constituencies are going to he left under the present system. Those of us connected with London, and in this matter I think I can speak for Members who are on the opposite side of politics to myself, are anxious that the electoral system in London shall remain the same as it is now and the same all over London, whether in the South, North, East or West, and that in this great county of London, where we have a great number of removals, that when a person moves from one part to the other he shall find the same system operating. I shall 1671 vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Westminster to disagree with this proposal.
My hon. Friend who has just spoken tells us that he represents London, and he says that in London nobody has asked for this experiment, and he objects to London being made the subject of an experiment of the kind. My hon. Friend represents the party caucus, the Liberal party caucus in London.
Then the hon. Gentleman does not represent London. He cannot represent merely a division of London and London as a whole, and, therefore, his claim falls to the ground. As a matter of fact, this question is one of those questions which has come to the front in consequence of the suspension some years ago of the register, and in consequence of the necessity with which we are faced of finding a means whereby the people living now at home shall, when an election comes, be enabled to send representatives to this House. Therefore, the whole Bill is the creation of the conditions of the times. This question has not been rejected by London nor asked for, and it becomes our duty to consider the question on its merits because we are faced with the duty, which we did not anticipate when we were elected seven years ago, of finding some means by which the people shall be able to express their wishes when the next election comes. My hon. Friend criticised in detail the Schedule which has been suggested by the Lords. He pointed out that some of the constituencies contained two, and some three, and some four, and some five members. Why is that? The limit of five is laid down by the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference, and those who drew up this tied themselves as nearly as possible to the proposals of the Conference that such constituencies should be not less than three or more than five to have representatives elected on the principle of proportional representation. The reason there are certain two-member constituencies is because of difficulties in joining -those constituencies to those around without making constituencies which would exceed the: Speaker's Conference limit. Otherwise, from the point of view of a true 1672 proportion of members representing the opinion of the localities, a large constituency is, as tile non. Gentleman has said, very lunch more desirable than a small one. But we—and when I say "we" I mean those who have been working in connection with this matter—were tied by the conditions of the Speaker's Conference, and we desired to be as loyal as possible to, and to make as few changes as possible in, and to bring in the scheme in accordance with those recommendations. My hon. Friend is very anxious to apply the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference when they agree with his views, but when a matter of this kind comes up where the recommendation is one with which he disagrees he feels that he is not in any way tied to the acceptance of the proposal. Some of us have swallowed a great many things in the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference which we disliked very much. We did so because we regarded it as an instrument to ascertain a fair and just representation of the opinions of the country, and we desired very much that this as well as the other recommendations should be adopted. In regard to the difficulty pointed out by the hon. Member as to having two different systems of election in London, there is a proposal later on by my right hon. Friend the Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. Dickinson) putting these two-member constituencies under the proportional representation system which would make one uniform system of election in London.
My hon. Friend seems to be afraid that the people of London are so dense or so stupid that they will be unable to give an intelligent vote if they have to put a. figure instead of a cross against the names of those for whom they desire to vote. I myself have never insulted the electors of this country by believing that they were beneath the level of Tasmania or any other part of the world. I believe that the system, which is in operation in countries less well-educated than ours and which nobody proposes to supersede, although there are proposals to improve it in some parts, is one which would work with equal satisfaction in this country. I do not rate the intelligence of the people of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, or England as being lower than that of the working people of other parts of the world. I do not believe that the difficulty of voting is such that those who have been going through board schools for the last thirty or forty years would be unable 1673 to express their views by means of figures against the names of those for whom they desire to vote. My hon. Friend contrasts a constituency in Tasmania with the constituency here if the Schedule were adopted. Does he realise the fact that the 200,000 of the population in Tasmania are spread over an area immensely greater than the area in which his 300,000 population are, and that the difficulties of working this scheme in Tasmania are immensely greater than in densely crowded areas such as Bermondsey or Southwark? I want to refer to one other point in connection with London. There is no place on earth which suffers so much from misrepresentation as this area which we call London. Never, except since 1910, has the representation of London approximated anywhere near to the actual state of opinion in London. That refers to Parliament, and at the present time in the local governing bodies you have a state of things which I should think would not be very satisfactory to my hon. Friend. He is a very strong Progressive; he has been, as I know, a very earnest supporter of the Progressive cause, and I have had the pleasure of cooperating with him to the best of my ability. There are, I think, eight boroughs in London now without any single Progressive elected upon their councils.
If a system like this were adopted for Parliamentary purposes it would inevitably be adopted for local purposes, and it would be quite impossible not to have in some of the wards in those boroughs some representation of those who are not represented now. By a small majority you get a whole local council of one complexion elected without the possibility of any effective criticism or of any public opinion finding effect upon it. If you could only introduce a system whereby the opinions of the locality could be represented in proportion to their existence amongst the voters, that kind of thing would be quite impossible. In the pamphlet which Lord Eversley circulated, and in which lie tried to draw analogies between what we are doing now and what existed under the school hoards and the three-member system—a most preposterous thing to do—he himself pointed out the danger in the existing condition of things. He pointed out that if in a constituency it becomes difficult and almost hopeless for one party 1674 to win a seat, then public spirit dies down. To my mind the one element of health in the public life of our country is that public interest should be directed to public affairs; the one way to keep our local-governing as well as our national bodies clean, disinterested, public-spirited, is that the public themselves should take an interest in the affairs which are dealt with by those various bodies, and that in all parts of the country people should direct their intelligence and judgment to these questions, so that, whether in the national Parliament or the local Parliament, they should know that everything they do is done in the light of publicity and will receive the criticism of the people who sent them there, and that the members who sit on those various bodies are responsible to those who sent them there and will have to give an account when the next election comes.
The hon. Member for Westminster opened this Debate by a number of statements. to one or two of which I should like to refer. He referred to the fact that in the 1867 Bill three-member constituencies were set up in order to enable local minorities to secure representation, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, following on the same path, showed how the caucus had been able to defeat the purpose for which that system had been set up. They try to argue because, under a comparatively simple system, the caucus was able, by perfecting its organisation, by directing and disciplining the voters, to secure that one party should be obliterated for a large number of years, that under a totally deferent system, which will be far more complicated to work, which it will be impossible for any caucus to organise on anything like the same lines, and which, therefore, would defeat the purpose of the caucus, these evils would arise. One of the reasons why I believe in proportional representation, and especially in large constituencies, is that I believe that party organisations, instead of devoting nearly the whole of their work to that kind of engineering, would find that kind of thing quite ineffective, and would have to devote their attention to propaganda, to the education of the constituency. to the dissemination of facts and arguments in regard to the questions with which they have to deal. What happens under the caucus to-day? The caucus is able. to say to a locality that it must take the candidate 1675 of the caucus. Very often the local association has little option in the matter. Instead of having a number of candidates from whom the different voters in the different parties, holding different shades of views, may select two or three, and give their preference to the one who represents most clearly the views which they hold, they must take the one man who may be imposed upon them from the centre, who may be a carpet-bagger, who may have no touch and no connection with, and no knowledge of, the locality, but who, because the nominee of the party must be accepted locally, and the local electorate must be drilled to vote for him in the election. I think that a proportional system would give a much larger selection to those in the locality. I believe it would enable each of the large parties to have its different shades of opinion more generally represented in this House, and that the effect would be that this House would much more nearly than at present represent the actual opinions of the country. But that is a calamity; the critics of his proposal want, and all avow their preference for, the system called representative, which does not represent opinion. They desire exaggerated majorities, and that is the difference between us. Our desire is that the system called representative should actually represent opinion existing in the country. Their objection is that there might come into this House people whom they call cranks. What is a crank? A crank is a man who is in earnest about some particular subject. Very few cranks have only one idea in their heads. Nearly all those who have been cranks in this House have belonged to one or other party, and have voted for their party on most occasions, but there is one particular thing to which they have given attention, and which, by constantly keeping to the front, they have gradually brought their own party, and eventually the nation, to adopt. Let me suggest one or two. Wilberforce was a crank when he began his crusade against the slave trade. He was a follower of Pitt, and was, I believe, a Tory member in this House, sitting here for many years. He agitated this question until he managed to get leaders of public opinion on his side and eventually succeeded in destroying the traffic, which was a stain 1676 upon the honour of this nation for so many centuries. Do you wish to keep a man like Wilberforce out of this House?
Take another case—Cobden. Cobden was a crank when he started his agitation for Free Trade. It is true there had. been some notice given to the subject before, but he brought it to the front, and it was many years before he and his colleague, Bright, succeeded in converting this House to Free Trade, and then it was adopted. They ceased to be cranks when they had a majority on their side. Does anyone say they ought not to have been Members of this House? Take Samuel Plimsoll, who took up the case of the seamen and fought sometimes against his own party. He was called a crank and denounced by the public newspapers, but lie did a great work for seamen of this land and all lands when the load-line was fixed by law. Although he was at first regarded as a crank, and received the attacks of all party hacks, the work he did will live after him for many a long year to come. A crank is a person who is before his time very often, but, generally speaking, he is a person who is working inside a party, who adopts a large proportion of the principles and policy of his party, but who, in addition to that, has sonic particular question in which he is keenly interested, which he believes to he for the good of the country, and by working at which he eventually gets it adopted. May I refer to one other crank? It was my predecessor in the representation of Haggerston. Randall Cremer worked year after year for the purpose of establishing international peace. He built organisation after organisation until he founded the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which bid fair, had this War been postponed a few years longer, to create something like the League of Nations, which we hope will he the outcome of this War, and his statue to-day is one of the first put up in the Palace of Peace at The Hague. Randall Cremer was a crank. He was not an orthodox member of his party, but he worked with his party in regard to nearly all questions, and he brought his own party on in this particular question.
I think the jealousy of cranks is rather unworthy. I think we should be none the worse if we 1677 had more members who, whilst generally agreeing with their party, were not so tied to that party as always to obey the party Whip, and who were prepared to face even unpopularity in ventilating in this House questions which at the moment might not be popular, but which, as the result of their work, become popular later, and generally result in great good to the community. The argument against cranks is one which breaks down, and I think the historical references I have made justify me in thinking that that argument really is not worth very great consideration. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham protested against our desire for the correct representation of public opinion in this House on the ground that it was attempting to gerrymander the constituencies. Coming from Birmingham, the right hon. Gentleman ought to know something about gerrymandering. Our contention is that gerrymandering under a system of multiple-member constituencies would be infinitely less likely, and that with the system of one vote for each voter only—which is what proportional representation means—it would be infinitely more difficult to gerrymander than to-day. He protested, he said, against "a system of voting which was not on its face a fair system." But the real name for proportional representation is fair voting. At present the voting is quite unfair. At present representation is unfair. Nearly half the voters in every constituency in the country are misrepresented. Take the case of Exeter, represented here by a right hon. Gentleman whom we all respect and admire, but who only got in by one vote. Exeter desired almost by an equality of votes that he should not represent it. Exeter to that extent is misrepresented in this House. In the last Debate I gave a number of other cases where, by a majority of two, three, four, and six, hon. Gentlemen sat here for constituencies.
Not at all. I am not suggesting that. But in single-member constituencies at present nearly half the electors are disfranchised, and under this system no vote will be thrown away. Under the new proposed system every vote would count The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham lamented the fact that a man would not know who had voted for him, whereas 1678 now he does. I venture to say that he would better get into touch with his actual supporters than he does to-day. Those who had voted for him would know for whom they had voted, and would watch his career, and send their letters to him, and would riot watch the man for whom they had not voted. One criticism against this plan is that it would lead to groups. I do not believe that for a moment. It has not done so in other Parliaments which have adopted it. It has really had the effect of consolidating existing parties. It has consolidated them, because it has allowed within their own ranks a wider area of discussion and divergence. Whilst those parties have united for common purposes, they have allowed a wider area of opinion in their ranks, with the result that questions have got ventilated in a way that they would otherwise not do. It would not, I believe, tend to groups. Those groups would exist within the parties, and as a whole the party system, which I believe is inevitable and necessary for the conduct of our public affairs, would continue, but under more liberal, more progressive, and more enlightened conditions than now exist.
We have this curious thing—those who object to the principle of proportional representation for elections to this House mostly object on personal grounds. I have here a circular sent out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster. The most eloquent paragraphs are those which appeal to hon. Members of this House to vote against this measure because "of the work you have done, of the plans for the future made by your local organisations, of your assured and in many cases long connection which will he affected; you will have to travel from one part to another; each one of you will have to address so many more electors; your expenses will be greater; you will become a more number on a ticket." This Bill is conferring rights not upon Members of Parliament, but upon the electors of Members of Parliament. The one person left out of account in all these addresses is the elector of the country, the citizens, whose creatures we Members are. I am disinclined to attach so much importance to the personal chances and desires of the individual member. I think they should subordinate their desires to the desires of those who make members of them. I have no use for such. I notice an objection in regard to the expenses of this system. Emphasis is 1679 laid upon the expenses, and there is a comparison with the existing system in regard to expenses. I noticed that that objection is largely made by rich men. I have noticed in other countries of the world, such as I believe is the case in this country, that those who are strongest in favour of this change are the poorer parties. The working-class parties in Australia, in Belgium, I think, and also in Tasmania itself, are almost all unanimously in favour of this system. There are forms of expenses which do not come within the election returns which single-member constituencies afford opportunity to be incurred. It is a nice thing for a rich man to be able to oblige those who are getting up bazaars, to help people in distress, and to do all kinds of things which do not appear in the election returns.
Big constituencies of 100,000 voters will make that almost impossible. The advantages which the rich man has over the poor man now in political work will almost disappear, because it will not be worth the while of any man who is not a millionaire to expend over the whole area the proportionate amount to that which is expended now over a smaller area. Just one other point relating to the question of votes at elections—that independent minds should enter this House and give us the benefit of their studies and their interest in public affairs; no man could come in under the London Schedule unless he was able to poll from 20,000 to 25,000 votes. A man who had behind him in any particular area a body of opinion representing 25,000 votes has the right to be here, and the fact that that body of voters is excluded is a grave injustice to a considerable number of electors. The proportional system under the limited form proposed here would not be ideal, because the constituency should be very much larger in order to get anything like an exact expression, but why should we not do something to get away from the inexactness which exists at the present time? I hope the House will reject this Motion for the rejection of the Lords Amendment and not resent the effort of the, House of Lords to place this House on a representative basis. I have many times criticised the House of Lords, but when they do a good thing surely we may appreciate it, and I sincerely hope that this Motion made by the hon. Member 1680 for Westminster will be defeated, and that we shall insert this principle in the Bill and allow the Commissioners to remove any anomalies or injustices which may exist in the Schedule whilst we are away for our Recess, and when we come back let us have an opportunity to amend their work if necessary.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
The hon. Member who has just sat down told the House that the reason we were considering this question was not because London was either in favour or against this proposal, but rather because of the fact that we were considering the best method of putting into operation the new and enlarged franchise. Whether this may be the best method or not, does not the hon. Member think that before making such a sweeping change as is involved in this question, it should be put into operation before the electors of London and other parts of the country have been consulted regarding it? Whether the Members of this House think that proportional representation is the best method or not when putting into operation a larger franchise, do they not think that the electors who are most concerned in this matter ought to be consulted before such a sweeping change is made? The decision in another place to swallow in such a sweeping manner the principle of proportional representation is a little surprising, and brings hon. Members of this House up against difficulties that most of us thought we had got over for some time to come. The Conference over which Mr. Speaker presided fully considered the question, and in view of the very drastic change in our electoral system which would be involved by the adoption of proportional representation, that body thought it right to make an experiment in the first instance in the larger boroughs.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I am not an enthusiastic supporter of proportional representation, and I have three broad general difficulties regarding this question which up to the present time I am bound to confess that my proportional representation friends have not been able to remove. I do not think that such a sweeping change as is involved in the Lords Amendment should be put into operation before the people of this country have had an opportunity of considering and voting upon that proposal. I think before such 1681 a very great change is made in the constitution that the people should have the opportunity of saying whether they are in favour or otherwise of this method of voting. My second difficulty, and I have not heard anything in the speeches delivered to-night to remove it, is that I am of opinion that the adoption of proportional representation would largely increase the cost of elections. The hon. Member who has just sat down says he found that the people who used this argument were wealthy men.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I am not a wealthy man, and this is one of my chief difficulties in accepting the principle of proportional representation in such a sweeping fashion as is provided for in their Lordships Amendment. I do not think it is desirable for the cost of elections to be increased. I think we should be wise if we adopted methods to cheapen the cost of elections in order to make it possible for men of small means to get into the House more easily than has been the case up to the present. If we increase the cost of elections we either confine representation to the man who has wealth or to the man who is the nominee of a wealthy political party. My third difficulty in accepting the whole principle of proportional representation right away is the loss of personal touch. I think it is an admirable thing for a Member of Parliament to be in the closest personal touch with his constituents. That would be impossible if we had proportional representation applied in the manner now suggested. I will take my own part of the country as an illustration, which I understand has already been used. I represent West Fife. Under present conditions it takes sixty meetings to take me once round my Constituency. Under the proposals we are considering to-night Fife would be one constituency, and instead of having to deal with West Fife only, involving sixty meetings, under this proposal I should have to hold at least 120 meetings in order to get once round the proposed constituency under this scheme. I believe during the course of a fortnight or three weeks, which is about the average time that we have in front of us at a General Election, that it would be a physical impossibility for one to get round his constituency if it involved at least 120 meetings. When this question was before the House a. short time ago, I voted for the limited application of the principle for 1682 two reasons: First, because I wanted to give effect to the compromise that had been recommended by the Speaker's Conference, and, in the second place, because I was quite willing that in a limited degree the experiment should be made.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
My right hon. Friend in suggesting that forgets that it was in borough constituencies the experiment was to be tried. There a far smaller number of meetings are involved than in the county areas from which I was taking my illustration. On the occasion that I have mentioned the House rejected the proposal. Now in another place we have had introduced an Amendment adopting the principle of proportional representation or. a far wider scale. I think it would be correct to say, as some who have spoken to-night have already pointed out, that all the political organisations since the Bill left this House have been putting their house in order, having regard to the boundaries recommended by the Commissioners. Of course, if we agree to the Amendment, that work will require to be done over again by every one of the political organisations.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
There is no doubt that all that work would require to be gone over again, because we should have to approach the question from an entirely different point of view. The Lords Amendment will also in my opinion seriously upset fie Schedule, and I doubt very much whether the Boundary Commissioners could reshape a Schedule in conformity with the Amendment in as short a time as some people seem to imagine. Looking at the opposition that would have to he faced by the Boundary Commissioners if they had to give effect to this proposal, I do not think it is very likely that it could be accomplished in as short a time as many who have taken part in this Debate seem to imagine. I do not think that the House can accept such a sweeping Amendment as the one which is now under consideration.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
And in giving expression to that view, I am giving expression 1683 not only to my own view but to the view of those with whom I am associated in this House.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
I repeat that in giving expression to this view, I am not only expressing my own personal opinion, but I am also expressing the view of those with whom I am associated in this House. If my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) started to discuss the point that he has raised, we might have a very interesting Debate, but I have no intention of entering upon such a discussion. I regret that the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference were not accepted when this question was under consideration, and I think, in disagreeing with this Amendment, that it would be a wise thing if as an alternative this House accepted the limited application of proportional representation—that is to say, that it should be applied to the larger boroughs. I would further suggest, in view of the peculiar position of the London boroughs, that London should be excluded. If the House would agree to this and to the restoration of the alternative vote as contained in the Bill as it left this House, I think we should be finding a way out of our present difficulty. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) has already made practically the same suggestion. It is a suggestion that I hope will receive the careful consideration of the House as a compromise on this very thorny question and that the House by an overwhelming majority will see its way to accept such a solution.
§ Colonel ROYDS
There are very few of us who would object to seeing the experiment tried in a small way if we could find any area willing to be experimented upon. I notice that those who make that proposal are not willing that the experiment should be made upon them.
§ Colonel ROYDS
The proposal to extend proportional representation to counties seems to have arisen in consequence of the alarm of certain of our agricultural friends at the enlargement of the electorate. They think that the agricultural interest 1684 will suffer by reason of that enlargement. I have no such apprehension myself. They make two allegations in support of their proposal to extend it to the counties. The first allegation is that the agricultural community is practically unanimous in support of the proposal. The second is that without proportional representation agriculture will have very little chance of getting fair representation. I question the accuracy of both those allegations. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary (Mr. Long) that agricultural opinion has not been sounded on the subject at all. It is quite true that the Chamber of Agriculture, the Farmers' Union, and other associations, at the instigation of the supporters of proportional representation, have passed resolutions in support of it. If you observe the reports of the meetings at which these resolutions are passed, you will see that they are passed without any explanation whatever by the proposer or seconder, because they are quite unable to give one. None of them have any clear notion what proportional representation means. They are told in a general way that it is greatly in the interests of agriculture, and that unless it is passed agricultural members will not be returned to the House of Commons. I am chairman of the Lincolnshire Chamber of Agriculture. I raised the question at the annual meeting of the chamber last Friday. Lincolnshire is a very important county; I think it is our largest agricultural county. I raised the question in consequence of an urgent letter which came down from the Central Chamber of Agriculture. I raised the chamber to inform the Members of Parliament for the county that unless they voted fur proportional representation they were practically enemies of agriculture. I very much resented that letter myself, and I am very glad that it has been disowned by the hon. Member for the Wilton Division this afternoon. When proportional representation was raised at the meeting of the Chamber of Agriculture in Lincolnshire there were present some of the largest farmers, not only in Lincolnshire. but in England, and there was not a single farmer there who knew what proportional representation meant. I explained it as well as I could, but when they asked me to tell them clearly what benefit proportional representation would be to agriculture I referred them to Lord Selborne.
1685 I have not heard, either in this House or elsewhere, what benefit proportional representation is going to be to agriculture. Its supporters inform us that it is going to be of great benefit and that agriculture cannot live without it, but so far we have had no explanation of what that benefit will be. So much for the first allegation that agricultural opinion is unanimously in favour of it. It goes without saying that Labour has not been consulted at all, and they are by far the largest interest in agriculture. The next allegation is that we cannot get fair representation in future without it. That I fail to see. Ever since I have been in the House of Commons agriculture has had a. far greater representation than any other industry in the country, yet we are told by the hon. Member for the Wilton Division and others who are in favour of this scheme that agriculture has been. unable to make any headway whatever in the House of Commons. The supporters of this proposal have ignored the changed situation that exists in regard to agriculture. It is most unfortunate that Members representing county constituencies should be called agricultural members, because they represent all the other interests as well as agriculture. It is quite true that hon. Members representing county constituencies in the future, with the boroughs annexed, will have a bigger and stronger backing in the House than they had before. What has happened under the stress of the practical experience of War? A measure has been placed on the. Statute Book, the Corn Production Act, which sets up the finest national agricultural policy of which we have ever dreamed. It will do more to develop the land than any other measure passed in recent years. It links together labourers, owners and occupiers, and unites them in a common policy. In addition to that, it makes the interests of agriculture part of the policy of the country. That is an enormous achievement. That being the state of things, it is very unfortunate that we should attempt at this time to set up a clique of members to represent agriculture only. Who was it gave us that great national policy, which has done more for agriculture and set it on a firmer basis than it was ever upon before? It was not the agricultural members, so-called, of the House of Commons; it was the general consensus of opinion of all Members of the House of Commons. If in future we 1686 are to maintain that policy and ensure its support, to whom are we to look? To those agricultural members who are to be returned under proportional representation by agriculturists only? No. We have little or no chance at all there. We have to look again to the general body of Members of this House. It would be very much better in future that members representing agricultural constituencies should be persons capable of representing all interests, whether town or country, in the constituencies, and mat we should take the lesson taught us by this great War, and not sever agriculture from all the other industries, but look upon it as a national policy set up in the interests of all.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Although I have been an enthusiastic supporter and advocate of proportional representation for a good many years, I had no intention of taking part in this Debate until I heard the speech of my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Labour party. It is necessary that some other Member of the Labour party should put the other side of the question. I ventured to interrupt my hon. Friend, when he said that he spoke on behalf of those with whom he was associated, with the observation that. he certainly did not express the opinion of the Labour Conference which was held last week. I have not the least objection to my hon. Friend identifying with his opposition to proportional representation those who hold the same opinion as himself, but I certainly cannot without protest allow him, even by implication, to identify the whole of the Labour party with it. The largest conference of Labour ever held. in this country took place last week, and the question of proportional representation was there discussed. I want the House to remember that it was discussed in the light of the Amendment inserted by the House of Lords in the Franchise Bill. That resolution in favour of proportional representation, that is the resolution in favour of the Lords Amendment in regard to proportional representation, was carried at that conference of 1,000 representatives of Labour without a single dissentient voice. My hen. Friend put forward three objections to proportional representation. One was that the country had never been consulted upon it. He does not appear to have been aware that for more than twenty years this question has been dis- 1687 cussed by Labour and Socialistic conferences. Is he aware that in 1889 the International Socialist Conference carried a resolution in favour of it, and that was the first organised body of political opinion in the world to declare in favour of proportional representation? Is he aware that there is not a single Labour or Socialist organisation in the world which is not in favour of it? He may speak on his own behalf and in the name of those who are of the same opinion as himself when he opposes proportional representation, but he certainly does not speak in the name either of the British Labour movement or of the International Socialist movement. He says the country has not been consulted. Did he ask that the country should be consulted before the House of Commons took the extreme step of adding 6,000,000 women to the franchise? Did he raise the same objection when the Conscription Bill was before the House?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. He was one of the very few exceptions in the Labour party upon that question, but be has supported a great many measures of a revolutionary character about which the country was not consulted. I do not deny his right to do so, because I came here. not specially delegated to support particular measures, but as a representative of certain democratic principles, and my Constituency trusted my intelligence to deal with these questions in accordance with the democratic principles I professed. My hon. Friend's second objection to proportional representation was that it would involve too many meetings. He tells me it is necessary for him to address sixty meetings in his constituency. I sympathise not only with him but with the electors too. I have had a fairly considerable experience of electioneering both on my own behalf and on behalf of others who have aspired to be Members of the House, and I have no very great faith in meetings as an instrument for influencing votes. It is a rather curious thing—I wonder if other hon. Members have examined this question—what a small proportion of the electorate actually attend political meetings during election contests. I have gone very carefully into this matter. I get 1688 during my election campaigns everywhere large and crowded meetings, and yet I am. quite certain I have not in the course of an election campaign addressed more than 20 per cent. of the electors. [Interruption.] I am speaking now from my own experience. I address the same electors probably ten or twenty times. They go about from one meeting to another. A large proportion of those who attend meetings are nonvoters, and others come from outside the constituency.
My hon. Friend also said it was important that there should be personal contact between the candidate or the Member and the electors, but there is not very much in that. Electors do not, as a rule, vote on the personality of the candidate. They vote the party ticket. It is quite a common thing on the eve of an election for a candidate who is quite unknown in the division to be introduced, but he does not suffer on that account. It often happens that the less the electors know about a candidate the greater are his chances of election. A predecessor of my hon. Friend in the chairmanship of the Labour party was out of the country at the time of the last General Election, and it was the general opinion of that constituency that he was returned because of his absence. There is not the least need in the world to address the number of meetings that my hon. Friend considers it necessary to address in his constituency. The hon. Member (Colonel Royds) said every Member was willing to try proportional representation in every other place except his own. In the Schedule of this Bill my Constituency is to be annexed to three neighbouring constituencies. If we get proportional representation I will undertake to fight that constituency, and to win it, addressing a smaller number of meetings than f addressed at the last election. It will not be necessary to have the small meetings in schoolrooms which are necessary now. A few big impressive meetings are all that will be necessary. Then the very idea of proportional representation is the subordination of the individuality of the candidate and the exaltation of party and party principles. People then will vote for principles and not for personalities.
My hon. Friend's third objection was the cost of elections. This always seems to me to be the weakest of all the arguments which were brought against proportional representation. One of the heaviest items, of course, has been removed by this 1689 Bill, namely, the postage of election literature. Then, in considering the cost of an election, we have to look to results. It is far better to spend £1,000 and win an election than to spend £700 and lose it. What has been the experience of the Labour party in this connection? In the years between the last General Election and the outbreak of the War the Labour party contested fourteen by-elections. They did not win one seat.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
No. My hon. Friend does not see the point at which I am aiming. It was far better that we should spend more money and win than less money and lose. The Labour party spent on an average £1,000 in each of these contests—that is to say, they spend £14,000 and did not win a single seat, although they polled on an average nearly 30 per cent. of the total votes cast. Suppose these contests had been fought under proportional representation what would happen? Suppose it had been necessary for them to spend £14,000, with the votes recorded under proportional representation they would have polled a higher percentage of votes, because the fear of letting in the other man would not have operated. But If they had polled only 30 per cent. of the votes they would have secured at least four of those seats at the same cost, and, therefore, instead of proportional representation, judging by results, making elections more costly, it will greatly reduce the cost. These are the three objections which my hon. Friend put forward against proportional representation, and I submit that not one of them is able to bear the test of mature consideration. I rose in order to remove an impression that might have been created by my hon. Friend that he spoke the united voice of the Labour party. He did not. The Labour party of this country is in favour of proportional representation, and, although they have always been opposed to the House of Lords as a legislative institution, they are grateful now to that body, because it has on this occasion proved itself more representative of democracy than the House of Commons.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Sir ALBERT SPICER
I wish to support the Motion of the hon. Member for the City of Westminster. I am not going to stand another election, but I know that my Constituency bakes a very keen interest in this question, which is sympathetically 1690 regarded, not only by my own supporters, but by many of my opponents. I am aware that a strong resolution has been sent to the Home Secretary on this question, and, therefore, I think it is only right I should oppose this Motion. I have been occupied in London for over fifty years. I have seen its growth, both in regard to its municipalities and politically. I recollect the time when the City of London had three members, while the-electors only had two votes, and I shall never forget that when the late Lord Goschen spoke on questions here he spoke of him. position as the minority Member as if it were a humiliation. That is one of the reasons why I oppose proportional representation being applied to London. I only speak for my own Constituency. I do not venture to suggest that I am speaking for the whole of London. It seems to me that proportional representation, so far as it affects London, would destroy the individuality of the various constituencies, and I feel that that individuality ought to be preserved and that we ought to do all we can to build up and invigorate the local life of London, with the municipality on the one side and the representative of national interests on the other. The present single-member constituency system in that way best serves the interests of the Metropolis. Those who do not know London fail, I fear, to realise the shifting nature of its population, and how constantly the people are moving from one part to another, making it difficult even under existing circumstances four timbers to keep in touch with their constituents. If you are to deal with constituencies four times as large as would be my case under this Bill, I am sure the effect would be to prevent Members from doing their best work for their constituencies. It would be utterly impossible to keep in touch with the constituency, and surely with all the changes which are going on and which we cart see before us it is most important that the members for the different constituencies should know something as to what their constituents are thinking about. Londoners arc a difficult people to understand. Many Members of this House who occupy conspicuous positions here have, when invited to go round a constituency, come to the conclusion that it is impossible for one to become known to the electors. Londoners have a great idea of themselves, but when you have once got their confidence they are loyal, and at the 1691 same time, very helpful. Therefore anything which would prevent a member keeping in as close touch as possible with his constituency would be a weakness to the political and national life of this country. Then again these very large constituencies would practically mean that organisation would almost die away, or, if it is to be maintained efficiently, would become very expensive to carry on. That, too, would not be in the national interest. Neither is it the ease that this proposal would be in the interest of the poor man. I think it would be in the interest of the rich man, it would enable him to exercise greater influence than is proper to a candidate. I know it is said, and with perfect truth, that under the system of single-member constituencies, when there is a swing of the pendulum to one side, that side gets a larger share of votes than it is entitled to by its actual numbers. But after all that only means a strong Government, and I would much prefer a strong Government which is able to carry out its programme to a weak Government with such a small majority that it is afraid to do what it believes to be in the best interests of the country. Because I believe that this argument applies not only to London but to many large constituencies, and especially to counties, I shall give my vote most heartily in favour of the Amendment of the Member for the City of Westminster.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I am in a position in which I think very few Members of the House find themselves to-night, namely, that I have never either spoken or voted on this question of proportional representation. I have abstained from doing so up till now because I have always felt that the moment would come when the judgment of the House on this question might possibly be decisive of the fate of the Bill, and I was extremely anxious to keep my hands free for that moment when it came. I think that that time has come, and I hope that the House will permit one who above all things is anxious for the passage and for the success of this Bill to make a few observations upon the Question now before the House. Of course, I am speaking only for myself, because on this question the Government are leaving both speech and vote absolutely free to the House. I do not propose to enter into a discussion of the general question as to the advisability of adopting proportional representation. I should not be quite 1692 frank with the House if I did not say that for myself I have never yet felt that the difficulties attending on this proposal have been thoroughly met and overcome. Its advocates are not, as I understand them, yet fully agreed as to the size of the constituency in which this proposal might best be applied. They have not yet said whether it should apply to a small constituency of three or four members, or to what most of its advocates say it is most applicable to, a larger constituency of five or seven, or even more members. Then I have never yet understood why this proposal should be applied to a constituency returning, say, four members. I think it would be quite certain that under ordinary conditions the representation would be divided, and that the vote of that constituency would be for all practical purposes nugatory. Then, again, I do not think that the difficulty, which everyone has very freely and frankly admitted, of dealing with by-elections has yet been solved, and altogether I do not think the difficulties have been quite fully met by the advocates of this proposal.
For myself, I have always recognised the great weight of opinion in both Houses which is behind this proposal, and if it had come before us in any practical shape, if we had had a proposal for an experiment to he tried in this matter, and tried in constituencies which have had an opportunity of declaring their views—if the choice had been between accepting that proposal and losing the Bill I would have been quite willing, for myself, to entertain it. To-day we arc not in that position. We have not to decide as to the theoretical merits or demerits of the proposal for proportional representation. We have to decide, and to decide as I hope to-day, upon certain concrete and definite proposals, and the House has to give its judgment upon that. We have before us in substance two proposals, one depending upon the Schedule that it is proposed to insert in the Bill, and the other dependent upon the Clause which is associated with the name of my Noble. Friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, under which a Commission will be appointed to revise and settle that Schedule after the passing of the Bill. I want to say just a few words about each one of those two proposals. When I saw and read the Schedule adopted by the. other House I must say that I thought at once of the old Latin phrase, "Quem Deus vult perdere, prius dementat." It is astonishing to me that 1693 such a Schedule should be put before the House of Commons, or that anyone should suppose that it would receive acceptance here. I will mention to the House a few of its most notable characteristics. Take first the effect upon the boroughs. Seventy-four boroughs which have hitherto had a corporate and Parliamentary existence and characteristics of their own are proposed to be merged in the adjoining counties. I have a list of these boroughs. Many of them are county boroughs which for all purposes of local government are entirely separate from the county in which they are situated. It is proposed to destroy the separate representation of, and to merge in the adjoining counties, such boroughs as Derby, Exeter, Gloucester, Ipswich, Norwich, and others which I need not mention.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I should think few or no county boroughs are proposed to be merged under our Bill. There must be few or none of the size of those I have named. Then some of the boroughs which it is proposed to merge in the counties are boroughs which are purely industrial, such as Barrow-in-Furness, Blackburn, Bury, Darlington, Gateshead, and others of the same kind. Besides these seventy-four boroughs which are to lose their separate Parliamentary representation, there are, I believe, thirty-six which are to be grouped with neighbouring boroughs, with which they may or may not be in entire agreement, for Parliamentary purposes. That is, as the right hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) said a short time ago, a tremendous change in our electoral system. Take the effect on county representation. There are to be a large number of four-member counties, and as to this proposal I have already expressed my view. Many of the counties which it is proposed to make into electoral constituencies constitute a very large area indeed. The county of Cornwall will form one constituency. The county of Cumberland, which is to include Carlisle, is to be merged into one constituency. The county of Warwick, with Coventry, which has a population of 115,000, is to form one constituency and return members representing the whole. That would be a tremendous change. I would like those who represent, and very adequately represent, the agricultural interests in this House to consider what would be the effect of this proposal on the representa- 1694 tion of the agricultural districts. I do not think that point has ever been fully met or considered by those who have taken a view in favour of this proposal, nor do I believe that these great county constituencies could be adequately, I will not say canvassed, but adequately represented or their suffrage properly invited by any candidate under this system without enormous expenditure of time and of money. Take the case of London. I have been favoured with sheafs of telegrams within the last few days from almost every part of London, not one of them in favour of this proposal but every one of them vehemently opposed to it. It is proposed in London to merge borough with borough for this purpose. Most of us know London well. If there is one attribute of London to-day, it is the strong municipal feeling of the London boroughs. You have only to suggest to a London borough that it should be merged or combined with another neighbouring borough, to excite immediately violent opposition. Passing from that, I may mention a minor point. The authors of this scheme have not dealt with tee difficult question which would arise in connection with the representation of the county council. County council representation runs with the Parliamentary representation. I do not know whether it is proposed that each of these Parliamentary divisions in London shall be also a county council electoral division and return twice as many county councillors as it will return Members of Parliament.
I mention these points becaues I doubt whether everybody in the House thoroughly realises the tremendous revolution which we are asked to make in our electoral system. I want to suggest to the House that you cannot fairly or properly make these changes without giving to the localities closely concerned in them the opportunity of expressing their views. I heard it suggested in another place that because the proposal is only to group constituencies which are already in the Schedule of the Bill that that is a simple process and needs no local inquiry of any kind. I wholly differ from that view. I think that the moment you begin to group constituencies you are closely affecting boundaries and you must give to the constituencies concerned a chance of expressing their views as to the effect of that grouping upon their Parliamentary representation. The same proposition applies with even greater force to the proposal to divide 1695 great boroughs, such as Manchester, Liverpool, or Glasgow into three-, or four-, or five-member divisions. A great deal depends in those boroughs upon how you combine the divisions which are in the Schedule to the Bill. I know from experience how much interest was taken, say, in Manchester in the ascertainment of the boundaries of the divisions of Manchester, and when you combine the divisions, with the result that your decision upon the question which divisions are to be grouped must have a tremendous effect upon the future Parliamentary position of those places, you would have no less interest in that problem than we have had in the problem of ascertaining the boundaries. The grouping is a question of boundaries, and I do not think it would be for this House to take a decision upon the subject of grouping constituencies without giving the localities concerned the same opportunity of expressing their views as they have had in reference to the Schedule already settled. I believe that if you went to the country and told them that you had adopted this Schedule, which had been proposed in another place, and had formed constituencies on that basis, they would be absolutely amazed at finding their old Parliamentary associations broken up without their knowledge and consent, and I am quite certain that the reception which those who had supported such a proposal would receive in the, country would be such as would cause them considerable surprise.
Quite apart from that. I submit to the House—and this bears closely on the fate of the Bill—that all this must needs take time. If we are to put this Schedule forward in this House, as we have heard to-day, there must be an opportunity for Members to propose Amendments to it. You would have most of the Members affected by the proposed grouping suggestions, proposing Amendments to the Lords Schedule, and we should have over again the. controversy, which was carried on with great good humour but at considerable length, in connection with the existing Schedule to the Bill. Apart from that, we could not adopt this Schedule without local inquiries. There again there would be a cause of further serious delay, and I do not think that the estimate which puts the time required for passing the Schedule into law at an additional two or 1696 three months is at all excessive. Of course, to go through the process this Session would be impossible. Interests more important even than those connected with the Bill require that we should enter upon the new Session within a short period of time. I suppose that it would be possible either by Resolution, if that be in order, or by a special Bill, to carry over this Bill into another Session, but even if that were done, will the House consider what the effect must be upon the chances of this Bill? Many things may happen in two or three months. No one can say, if this Bill loses the position which it now occupies of very nearly passing into law, and is to be postponed for such a substantial period of time, what the fate of the Bill would be. Of course, the Irish Registration Bill, which is proposed by agreement, hangs upon this Bill, and I do not know what might be the effect on that measure of an indefinite postponement of this Bill. I may be wrong, but to the best of my judgment the adoption of the Lords. Amendment, and the entering upon the Lords Schedule might very well be fatal to the Bill, and for that reason I ask the House to hesitate before adopting this Amendment.
There is, of course, a second proposal to appoint a Commission with certain Instructions, and with power to reconsider and revise the Schedule. I must say that I do not think that proposal is an improvement, and I do not think the House of Commons will ever consent to part with a Redistribution Bill without ascertaining the constituencies by which members are to be returned. It is true that the Commission might revise the Schedule, but the Instructions laid down for the guidance of the Commission would, I think, lead to very much the Schedule which we have before us. The very putting forward of this Schedule, I think, shows what the Commissioners might do, and nearly all that I have already said as to the Lords Schedule applies to this proposal. The Instructions are very interesting. It is proposed to give an option to, say, a seven-member borough to come into proportional representation or not, but no option is given to the five-member or the four-member constituency, such as Bristol, or to the larger boroughs such as Manchester or Liverpool to go out of the proportional system.
§ Mr. ANEURIN WILLIAMS
I think the right hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. The meaning is that the large boroughs have to be divided into three-, four-, or five-member constituencies, but that those with six members, who wish to poll as one constituency shall be allowed to do so. If Sheffield, with its seven members, chooses to poll as one constituency, it shall be allowed to do so. If there are words inconsistent with that they are there by inadvertence.
§ Sir G. CAVE
That is what I was pointing out, that under the Instruction a seven-member constituency would have the option of coming in or not.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
No, to come in as a seven-member constituency, or one three-, and one four-member constituency.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I do not want to dispute that point, because the hon. Gentleman understands the meaning of the Instruction, no doubt, better than I do. By the Instruction the number of members is to be determined according to the population of the group. Thus you are again to take our number of 70,000 of population as entitling a group to a member and so on till you get a remainder of some thousands. Counties which have their membership fixed now will be liable to have that membership revised and to have their members reduced. I have had taken out the figures on the basis of this Instruction No. 2. I find that the effect would be that not less than thirteen of the agricultural counties will have one member less than they have under our Schedule. You have Cumberland, Devon, Dorset, Gloucester, Rutland and Stamford, Leicester, Norfolk, Shropshire, Somerset, Wiltshire, the East Riding of Yorkshire, Merioneth, and Anglesey. Those include a number of counties known as agricultural counties, and if I am right the effect of this would be to deprive each of those counties of a member. I leave it to the Agricultural members of the House to say whether a proposal of that kind would advance the interests of agriculture. It is true it has been said that the proposed new Clause reserves to the House of Commons the right ultimately to accept or to reject the proposals of the Commissioners, but I 1698 think the House knows by experience now what the value of that right is, and remembers our Debates upon the Schedule of the Bill. It remains true, I think, to say that when you have a scheme put forward by Commissioners, such as these would be, it would be very difficult indeed to carry Amendments. So much for the substance of the alternative Clause.
May I say a few words about the suggestion made by my Noble Friend the Minister of Blockade, and by others? It has been suggested that it might be possible to restore the proposals in the Report of the Speaker's Conference with or without the inclusion of London. If that had been adopted by this House in the early days, I do not doubt that it might well have passed into law, but it will be very difficult, I think, to restore it now. The proposal has been debated, and has been the subject of more than one Division. It is difficult, at all events, for us at this stage to go back on it. The boroughs which under that scheme would come under proportional representation are, I think, all of them, or nearly all, objectors to the scheme. Of the Members who voted for the scheme not 10 per cent., I believe, would have come under it. Further, if we did go back to that scheme, you would provide no satisfaction for those representatives of agriculture by whom, after all, the proposal was carried in another place.
§ Lord R. CECIL
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will allow me to interrupt him? I made no suggestion of that kind. It was made by the right. hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife. Indeed, he did not make that suggestion, but he suggested that some more moderate scheme, some less drastic scheme, would receive his support, and I asked him whether that was a firm offer.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I do not see how an offer can be firm unless it is definite. We will wait until some definite offer is made.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I really do not understand. It is my duty to do what I can for the passage of the Bill, but when a 1699 question is left open I suggest that I have as much right to express my opinion as any one of my colleagues.
§ Sir G. CAVE
I will not go back on that, but I think my Noble Friend will rather regret that observation. I am afraid it is true that any proposal to-day for proportional representation including a Schedule of constituencies would be somewhat perilous to the Bill. I am afraid that whatever Schedule might be proposed we should be involved in so many objections and Amendments that the Bill might- be lost. I have said quite frankly to the House—I have expressed my own opinion, and that of no one else—that I believe the objections to this proposal are very formidable. If the House were in substance agreed to adopt proportional representation as to a definite number of constituencies, I think the objection might be overcome, hut I have seen throughout a deep division of opinion in this House, and that being so. I am bound to say that I think this proposal might have a very serious effect upon the whole fortunes of the Bill. I do not say we should close our minds, nor do I close my mind against any future proposal of this kind. I listened, as did the House, with the greatest interest to the arguments of the Noble Lord in favour of some representation of minorities. If a proposal could be made, if a way could be. found, under which an experiment might. be tried upon a limited number of constituencies willing to come into it— including towns and county alike—of course, we should be bound to consider such a proposal. Meanwhile I am confident that the acceptance of the Amendment would involve grave peril to the Bill, and that if we wish the Bill to pass the House should reject the Amendment.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Balfour)
I am not going to run the risk of talking tile Bill out. Although I have not been able to follow this Debate so closely as I could have wished had I desired to take an important part in it, I desire to say a word or two. My right hon. Friend who has just sat down has employed his usual persuasive moderation to the most admirable effect in the 1700 speech he has made. He has shown us, with much detail, which, I assure the House, I do not pretend to rival, all the practical difficulties that might ensue if we were to attempt to deal with the Schedule by adopting Lord Burleigh's suggestion. My right hon. Friend has drawn a picture of this Bill getting into a fog in the interminable discussions over the boundaries of this or that borough, and in the middle of those Debates, the measure, which not only ought to pass, but which really must pass, foundering in the process. I cannot help thinking that the common sense of this House will see that so disastrous a termination to our labour is in any case avoided. May I remind the House that, after all, we must consider this question from the point of view of general principles applied to our representative system, and not merely from the detailed difficulties which might be raised in connection with this or that constituency. I cannot help thinking that some of those difficulties have been unintentionally exaggerated by my right hon. Friend. I think his main instance was Manchester. The idea is that that city should be made into a single-member constituency containing a specified number of members, re-grouped under the new system. I was a candidate for an undivided Manchester. For years I had the great honour of representing one of the Manchester constituencies, following the Reform Bill of 1885. I see no insuperable difficulty in reintegrating what you have disintegrated. If that is the main kind of objection to a great reform, I confess that this House ought to brush it aside. My right hon. Friend has been careful to avoid committing himself upon the question of principle at all. I may be doing him a wrong, but I think he is rather against the principle and it is conclusive proof of that impartiality which in a hasty moment my Noble Friend was prepared to deny, but I am not quite sure, after listening to his speech, what is his principle. I have no doubt about the principles of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith). He is in favour of the principle.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
When applied to other people. It is important that my right hon. Friend and the House should not misconstrue the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife. He repudiated with indignation, with passionate indignation, the idea that it 1701 should be applied to the constituency or the county which he represents, but he is willing, without enthusiasm, that it should be applied to constituencies which other people represent.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
It is not for me to contest the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife in his absence, but what is the inference? It comes to this, that we do not always apply to ourselves the principles which we are prepared to apply to our neighbours. I put this question to the House and to every hon. Member: Are we most to be listened to when we are talking about morals which other people ought to follow or when we are trying to justify our own departure from them? I suggest that there is only one answer, and that my right hon. Friend's general principles ought to be listened to by the House rather than his natural anxiety to deal gently with a constituency which has been faithful to him for thirty years. What I wish to call attention to is this: We have now to choose between a certain position of a Parliamentary difficulty in regard to dealing with the details of this measure and the broad question of principle. I think that we have a unique opportunity of, at all events, showing our own preference for the principle. It would be preposterous for me to try at this hour to deal with that question.
I will state in three minutes one argument which I do not happen to have heard used in the time I have been able to give to this discussion, but which I think is of substance and of importance. It seems to me that this Bill has been too much argued from the point of view of interests. I understand that hon. Friends of mine representing agricultural constituencies and Noble Lords in another place have been deeply impressed by the fact that if minority representation were passed the agricultural interest would get better representation than it gets now. I do not know whether that is true or not. My right hon. Friend seems to doubt it, but I express no opinion about it. I am not out to deal with interests, or, at any rate, particular interests, and do not let us syndicalise our representative system. One of my strong reasons for approving of some form of proportional representatin is that in constituencies where the parties are evenly balanced small, persistent, and selfish interests have now too 1702 much power. That power will be taken away from them, or largely taken away from them, by the system of proportional representation. What is the experience of which one of us who has either taken part himself or has had an opportunity of observing what goes on in a constituency in a hotly-contested election when parties are evenly divided and when the managers on each side know not what the issue is to be? Is it not our universal experience that this little section or that little section, this particular group of faddists, or that particular group of faddists, come up to each candidate in turn and practically sell the promise of their vote? They are not Whigs or Tories, Unionists or Radicals; they are representatives of this or that trifling interest, trifling compared with the magnitude of the issues at stake. Yet they come up and say, "It is a mere turn of the dice whether you get in or whether your opponent gets in. If you promise us, when such-and-such a Bill comes up in the House, to support it, we will support you. If not, we go to the other side." That is not a correct practice. That is not open to legal proceedings. That is not supposed, under our ordinary code of ethics, to he dishonourable. I think that it is one of the worst diseases from which a representative system can suffer. The disease is inevitable in single-member constituencies where the parties happen to be evenly balanced. I believe that it will be, if not completely cured, largely remedled by this process. After all, candidates for this House are human. They throw every ounce of effort that they have into a contest. They firmly believe in the broad principles for which they are fighting. They have behind them an organisation to which success is everything and to which defeat is disaster. How can you expect them all to resist the sort of temptation to which they are subjected by action of the kind I have described, and with which we are all too familiar? That, I think, this will avoid; and if there were no other advantage, if this system, which by universal admission satisfies the extremist demands of theoretical democracy, had not in addition the advantage that it will give a Parliament more independence, in which capable men who have shown their value are sure to be able to find a sphere for the abilities which they intend to devote to the public service—surely when you have all these Merits it is worth while 1703 on the few occasions which we have before us to adopt a system which I am convinced will more and more commend itself to all sober and wise believers in democracy.
§ Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 223; Noes, 113.1705
|Division No. 150.]||AYES.||[10.55 p.m.|
|Adamson, William||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Sir Ellis J.||Morison, Thomas B. (Inverness)|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Guest, Captain Hon. F. E. (Dorset, E.)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Ronert|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Hail, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Alden, Percy||Hamaro, Angus Valdemar||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Chaves P. (Stroud)||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord C. J.||Nuttail, Harry|
|Archer-Shoe, Lieut.-Col. M.||Hanson, Charles Augustin||Palmer, Goolrey Mark|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Parkes, Sir Edward E.|
|Balfour, Sir Ronert (Lanark)||Harmood-Banner, Sir J. S.||Parrott, Sir James Edward|
|Barlow, Sir Montague (Safford, South)||Harris, Sir Henry P. (Paddington, S.)||Peel, Major Hon. G. (Spalding)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Philipps, Sir Owen (Chester)|
|Barnett, Captain R. W.||Hasiam, Lewis||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Barran, Sir R. Hurst (Leeds, North)||Haveiock-Allan, Sir Henry||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Bathurst, Col. Han. A. B. (Gloirc., E.)||Helms, Sir Norval Watson||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Hemsnerde, Edward George||Quilter, Major Sir Cuthbert|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Bentham, G. J.||Henry, Sir Charles (Shropshire)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arion)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Higham, John Sharp||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E)|
|Bird, Alfred||Hills, Major John Waller||Remnant, Col. Sir James Farquharson|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Hinds, John||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Blair, Reginald||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Richardson, Alaion (Peckham)|
|Bliss, Joseph||Mohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Bowden, Major G. R. Harland||Hope, John Doans (Hadolington)||Ropertson, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Horne, Edgar||Robinson, Sidney|
|Boyton, Sir James||Houston, Robert Paterson||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Rowlands, James|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Hudson Waiter||Royds, Major Edmund|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hunter, Major Sir Charles Rodk.||Rutherford, Sir W. (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Samuels, Arthur W.|
|Carew, C. R. S.||Jessel, Col. Sir H. M.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Carr-Gomm H. W.||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Cave. Rt. Hon. Sir George||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Shaw, Hon. A.|
|Clive, Col. Percy Archer||Jones, W. Kennedy (Hernsey)||Shortt, Edward|
|Clough, William||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Smallwood, Edward|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Joynson-Hicks, William||Smith, Capt. Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||Kenyon, Barnet||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)|
|Collins. Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||Kiley, James Daniel||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Compton-Ricketl, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A. H. (A-u-Lyne)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Boner (Bootle)||Starkey, Capt. John Ralph|
|Cory, James Heraert (Cardiff)||Layland-Barreit. Sir F.||Staveley-Hill, Lieut.-Col. Henry|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Lee, Sir Arthur Hamilton||Sutton, John E.|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Dow), E.)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Swift, Rigby|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Sykes. Col. Sir Alan John (Knutsford)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eiffon)||Lewisham, Viscount||Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord Edmund|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Tennant, Rt. Hon. Harold John|
|Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby H.||Long, Rt. Hon. Waiter||Terrell, Major Henry (G.oucester)|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Loyd. Archie Kirkman||Thomas. Sir A. G. (Monmouth, S.)|
|Duncan, Sir J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||M'Callum. Sir John M.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Elverston. Sir Harold||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk. B'ghs)||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Falconer, James||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Tootill, Robert|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||McGhee, Richard||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||McKenna, Rt, Hon. Reginald||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)||Macleod, John Mackintosh||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Fleming, Sir John||Macmaster, Donald||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Waring, Major Walter|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||Macpherson, James Ian||Warner Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Gelder, Sir W. A.||Maden. Sir John Henry||Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H.|
|Gibbs. Col. George Ahraham||Magnus, Sir Philip||Whiteley, Sir H. J|
|Gilbert, J. D.||Malcolm, Ian||Wiles, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Glanville, Harold James||Manfield, Harry||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Williams, Col. Sir Ronert (Dorset, W.)|
|Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Wills, Major Sir Gilbert|
|Greenwoe, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)||Meysey-Thompson. Colonel E. C.||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Yorks. E.R.)|
|Grelg. Colonel James William||Molteno, Percy Alport||Wilson, Col. Leslie C. (Reading)|
|Gretton, Col. John||Morlson, Hector (Hackney, S.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Wilson-Fox, Henry||Yeo, Sir Alfred William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir|
|Winfrey, Sir Richard||Young, William (Perthshire, E.)||T. Whittaker and Sir F. Lowe.|
|yate, Cot. C. E.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Forster, Rt. Hon. Henry William||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Goldstone, Frank||Redmond, Capt. W. A. (Tyrone, [...].)|
|Anderson, W. C.||Grant, J. A||Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Lieut.-Col. William||Haddock, George Bahr||Roberts, Rt. Hon. George H. (Norwich)|
|Armitage, Robert||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Rothschild, Major Lionel de|
|Ashley, Wilfred W.||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Rowntree, Arhc.d|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Load.)||Hodge, James Myles||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Holt, Richard Durning||Seely, Lt.-Col. Sir C. H. (Mansueid)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick Burghs)||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Snowden, Philip|
|Bathurst, Capt. Charles (Wilts., Wilton)||Hope, Lieut.-Col. J. A. (Midlothian)||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Hume-Williams, W. E.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, E.)||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||John, Edward Thomas||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||JoWett, F. W.||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Boland, John Plus||Keating, Matthew||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue||Kellaway, Frederick George||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)||Kerry, Lieut.-Col. Earl of||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||King, J.||Watson, John B. (Stockton)|
|Buxton, Noel||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Watt, Henry A.|
|Cater, John||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Crieklade)||Weston, Colonel J. W.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Lane-Fox, Major G. R.||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh (Oxford U.)||Larmor, Sir J.||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R.(Herts. Hitehin)||Mackinder, Halford J.||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Chancellor, Henry George||M'Laren, Hon. F.W.S. (Lines, Splading)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Cheyne, Sir W. W.||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Marriott, J. A. R.||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Collins, Sir W. (Derby)||Mason, David (Coventry)||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col_ Hon Claud|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Courthope, Major George Loyd||Morrell, Philip||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Craig, Norman (Kent,Thanet)||Mount, William Arthur||Wood, Sir John (Stalybridge)|
|Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Newman, Major John R. P.||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Wright, Captain Henry Fitzherbert|
|Dixon, C. H.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Younger, Sir George|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Parker, Rt. Hon. Sir G. (Gravesend)|
|Du Pre, Major W. Baring||Peto, Basil Edward||TELLERS FOR THE NOES,—Colonel|
|Field, William||Pringle, William M. R.||Sanders and Sir G. Baring.|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund|
§ It being after Eleven of the clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, further consideration of the Lords Amendments stood adjourned.
§ Lords Amendments to be further considered To-morrow.