§ Order for Second Heading read.
§ Mr. GRUNDY
I beg to move "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I feel it a very great honour and pleasure to move the second reading of this Bill, which is designed to amend the Representation of the People Act of 1918. It is to confer the franchise on women on exactly the same terms as it is given to men, first, by removing the age limit of thirty years and substituting the same age limit as applies to men, that is to say, twenty-one years. The Bill also seeks to secure equality between the sexes of all classes, first, by abolishing the occupational qualification and the qualification of women as the wives of local Government electors; and, secondly, by placing the whole franchise for both sexes for Parliament and local government bodies on the single basis of residence, with the exception of university electors. Clause 1 of the Bill repeals the first section of the 1918 Act and substitutes a general franchise for both Parliamentary and local government purposes for all women and men who have attained the age of twenty-one years, who are not subject to any legal incapacity, and have a requisite residence qualification. Clauses 2 and 3 are consequential amendments, following up the effect of Clause 1. The 1918 Act while it simplified the franchise in certain directions, also created certain anomalies. For instance, for the first time in the history of the franchise law a wider franchise for Parliament was established than for local government bodies, for the supreme authority, having the power of legislation, the 1918 Act provided a wider franchise than for the local authorities concerned only with administration.
The effect of the restriction of the women's parliamentary vote to the age of thirty was to keep off the register the great mass of industrial working women It was claimed that the vote was given to women by the 1918 Act as a recognition of their industrial service during the War. I should place the recognition of the right of women to vote on an equality with men 2068 on a much higher plane than industrial work during the War. As an actual fact, only about one in fifteen of the industrial working women were enfranchised. The great mass of the factory and office workers among women are under thirty years of age, and many of those over thirty years of age have not the necessary local government qualifications under the 1918 Act. It is estimated that 90 per cent. of the women now on the register are wives in the homes of the country, and that single women are still largely disfranchised. The retention of the occupational qualification for local government affects the women adversely, as their Parliamentary vote depends on their husbands' local government qualification. The only way to clear up these anomalies and to settle the vexed question of lodgings and the value of homes, the distinction between apartments and dwelling-houses, and the difference between the occupation of furnished and unfurnised rooms, is to have one general basis of qualification, that of residence, for the whole of the electors.
§ Clause 4 of the Bill remedies an injustice, never intended to be a result of the 1918 Act, whereby male, naval and military voters are entitled to the vote at the age of nineteen, but if demobilised before reaching the age of twenty-one cease to be registered as voters and as civilians have to wait until they are twenty-one before they can be registered again. If military service is a qualification at nineteen years of age, it ought to remain so until the ago of twenty-one is atained in a civilian capacity. Clause 4 of the Bill prevent the Naval or Military voter who has been demobilised from losing his vote on the ground of age alone. Clause 5 restricts the right of the voter to vote once for any constituency in which he or she has a residence qualification. The effect of this is to abolish the business vote, which would disappear as a result of the operation of Clause 1 of the Bill—that is the establishment of the residential qualification for all purposes. At present women are entitled to be registered in respect of their husbands' local Government qualifications. The business qualification enables both the man and the woman to be registered for such premises, and gives the woman the option of voting in the constituency where she resides or in the constituency where her husband has a business qualification. 2069 The general effect of this Clause will be that political power will depend, not upon business or upon occupation or mere house holding, but on residence, upon manhood and upon womanhood. A man will secure the vote because he is a member of the nation and resides in the community; the women will receive the vote for the same reason, and will not have to depend upon their husbands' qualifications or upon the higher age limit. Clause 6 of the Bill abolishes the registration fee that is now charged in connection with registration of electors in university constituencies. This is a hardship upon the poorer students, who in many cases have had a struggle to raise the money for payment of their fees. In many cases that are personally known to me it has been a very great hardship. The idea of a charge being made for the registration of a voter is repugnant to the whole spirit of the franchise, and either the university franchise should be abolished or this registration fee should cease to exist. Clause 7 comprises consequential amendments arising from the previous Clauses. Clause 8 provides the necessary alteration in the registration rules in the first Schedule of the 1918 Act.
§ I feel that my task is a very light one. I know that all political parties are pledged in favour of the equality of the sexes in respect of voting qualifications. I have mentioned that I disagree with the idea that the vote should be given to women on the ground of the excellent work they performed during the country's hour of need, and I stated that I placed the matter on much higher ground than that. Probably no one has had greater experience, and certainly no hon. Member in this House has a greater appreciation of the work that women did during the War, because I was in an industrial neighbourhood and saw the work of these women. I saw thousands of them rushing to the munition works, where they were engaged in every class of industrial activity and performing duties with an industrial efficiency that amazed me. I remember these women not only in the munition works, the iron works and the steel works, but as taking over the tasks in many other spheres of industry of our depleted manhood. The women answered the call in such a way that, looking back, I can again say that we marvelled at them. They were in all our public services. I 2070 saw them in the gas and electricity works doing work for which their frail frames hardly fitted them. They took over our tram services. In every way those women did remarkable work, and much as we owe the men, and we can never repay them for what they did, the same is to be said of the women. Amongst other things they discarded the style and dress of their mothers and grandmothers and adopted a garb more suitable to their work, which showed very high courage. During frequent air raids in which a public position necessitated my being out, I saw these girls coming back from their work and heard them singing "Keep the Home Fires Burning," and next day they went back to work and redoubled their efforts in respect to output. I remember on the occasion of the last Bill of this kind a witty speech made by an hon. Member. That hon. Member met with a great sorrow, unspoken in this House, but a sorrow in which he had the sympathy of every Member. In that speech he drew attention to the wonderful work performed by women in our home life and particularly in general hospitals and tuberculosis dispensaries where the dangers were equal to those on the battle field. The women without any thought or fear ran those dangers.
§ While I mention all those matters I ask for the unanimous acceptance of this Bill, on the ground that women are equal in intelligence and ability to men, and if granted this vote will use it with the same rational common sense which has characterised the men—[HON. MEMBERS: "More so:"]—or, as some hon. Members think, they will do so with a great deal better judgment and care. As to intelligence and ability women compete successfully with the men in every sphere. It is so in scholastic attainments. They hold the same degrees and impart education in our technical and secondary schools, our colleges and universities. They have also taken medical degrees, and hold their own in those qualifications necessary for medical men. In science, art, literature and languages, women successfully compete with men. In local administration, of which I have had considerable experience, in our parish urban district and borough councils women are giving of their best to help forward all those ideals which stand for the good of the nation. On Boards of Guardians and education authorities, I am sure that 2071 women's work has been co-equal with anything the men have done, and it is on those very broad grounds I ask the House not to prolong the discontent of these younger women. Just as those women were wanted in time of war, so they are wanted now in the rebuilding of this nation; the percentage of voters at recent elections shows that the enfranchised women realise their responsibility and appreciate the fact that they have a voice in the affairs of the nation. Look at the case of a married woman of 29 years of age with three or four children who watches a young man of 21 exercising the vote while under the old Act she cannot do so despite all the knowledge and mature judgment she has gained. I ask hon. Members to give the Bill a unanimous second reading. I ask the Government to expedite this Bill so that it may speedily become law, and I do so because I believe that in every sphere and on the grounds I have attempted to enumerate the time is opportune to give these women the franchise. I feel certain it will help in the uplifting and rebuilding of this nation of ours. Our lady Member is present. The women have sent at least one Member into this House, and I am positively sure that her presence adds grace and charm to this assembly. I was unfortunately unable to hear her speech some nights ago, but I read it with considerable interest and profit and I think hon. Members will agree that it was an educative and helpful speech. If the number of lady Members to increased, I am sure none of us have anything to fear. If gifted and talented women who are in their midst are sent here to help the one solitary lady Member we have here I believe it will be for the well-being and welfare of this country.
§ Mr. ROBERT YOUNG
I beg to second the Motion. I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend on his excellent explanation of the Bill, and I wish also to condole with him on the fact that I know he has been speaking under very great disadvantages, he having risen from a sick bed and come here largely against the orders of his physician to take his part in introducing this Bill today It is indicative of the readiness that is felt throughout the country by young men generally on behalf of the young women of the country to enable them to get the vote. I also remember 2072 the last occasion on which this great issue was discussed here. Everyone in the House, I think, on that occasion expressed sympathy with the intentions of the Bill, and in every way indicated support of the measure. I felt at the time, that perhaps some of us—I trust I was wrong—had an eye on our constituencies while these speeches were being made, because the area had considerably widened, and speeches made in this House are not only made now to male electors but to female electors as well, and therefore we all expect to influence them to the best of our ability. I trust that in the course of this discussion today much that was said on the last occasion will not be repeated. We departed a great deal from the great principle that was being discussed of giving the vote to women, and entered into a discussion as to what trade unions and other bodies would do in relation to women. I am sure that that is a matter for discussion, but not on the present occasion, and I am afraid that those who advocate the introduction of discussions along that line are not realising that women desire that we should get down to first principles in relation to this great question. They will settle the questions that divide men and women in other directions immediately they have had the franchise, and I have not the least doubt that the extension of the franchise to women on the same conditions as to men will mean a great deal to us in our national and home life.
Some people seem to be afraid of the influence of women in our parliamentary elections, and nearly every candidate except Labour candidates apologises for his defeat by the fact that the women have not just yet understood politics. I am not going to say that is at all true. I believe the influence of women operates very largely at the elections now, and I am certain that it was the influence of women that won the elections, even to the disadvantage of Labour, at Plymouth, at Paisley, and Ashton-under-Lyne, but even if that be so, I do not regret the fact and would not recall the vote for one moment even if all the Labour members temporarily disappeared from this House on account of its exercise. We hold that women of the same age as men should be entitled to the vote on the broad basis of citizenship. They are citizens of the country, and they have got their functions 2073 to perform just as the men have got their functions to perform, and I think we must; now admit that they carry out their functions excellently in every direction, and that their functions are probably in many respects superior to those that can be performed by men. Consequently, on that ground alone, on the mere basis of citizenship, we cannot understand why any woman should be deprived of the liberty of exercising the franchise.
During the Debate in the last Session some of us were under some misapprehension as to why the Government at that date had fixed the age of thirty. You yourself, Sir, were very kind in explaining to us that the age was fixed at thirty to keep the women of this country from having a predominant voice in our parliamentary elections. In other words, it was that there should not be a majority of women electors over men electors in the country. I for one cannot at all agree that that is a good, solid reason. I would like to know why it was a good thing that the vast majority of men should be for a long time allowed to exercise the franchise without any women getting votes, and to suppose they did it to the advantage of the women folk. The women may doubt that, but I am certain that even if we had a majority of women electors in this country it will not be to the disadvantage of the men folk of the country. Therefore, I think that from that point of view the argument about a majority of female electors entirely falls to the ground. I quite agree with the mover of the Second Reading of this Bill that, departing for a moment from the broad basis of citizenship, the five years of war in itself has given us sufficient indication of the ability of women to do good service for the State. They were occupied in all branches of industry, they undertook heavy responsibilities, and the nation is indebted to them, as to others, for the success which attended our efforts in the Great War, but I do not wish to stress that, because we are putting it on the highest basis, namely, citizenship.
I also wish to say in connection with this Bill that while we have to a certain extent in the past agreed that women should have the vote for Parliament, the restrictions imposed on women in relation to local government are altogether unjustifiable. There we, as it were, get down to the domestic life of woman. 2074 She has and should have a great interest in municipal government. There are many things that come directly home to her in her everyday life, and it seems to me to be altogether unfair that she should not be entitled to exercise her local franchise just on the same conditions as the men voters in this country. I trust the Government will recognise that in that direction also steps are necessary for the emancipation of our women folk, and I quite agree that any restrictions on educational facilities imposed on women in any universities or elsewhere should be immediately abolished. Such a thing as a registration fee should be regarded as unnecessary in connection with that work. I therefore trust that the Government will help, as the hon. Member has said, to expedite this Bill, but if the Government are afraid that by passing this Bill it means that we must immediately go to the country—for I heard that suggestion made on the last occasion—I trust they will realise that their very fear is an argument for going to the country to get the matter settled definitely whether they should or should not continue to be the Government of this country. In any case, I ask my right hon. Friend opposite to give us some indication whether the Government will undertake to make the franchise to men and women equal before they do go to the country if they intend to last out their normal period. At all events, we should have some indication in that direction, and the next General Election should not take place unless under conditions of equal suffrage for men and for women.
I want to say one word about the soldier who has been in the Army and who has been demobilised. It seems to me altogether incongruous that the Government should have offered to the soldier in the Army, even if he were only nineteen, a right to vote and then immediately he discards his military uniform deprive him of that vote. If the vote was given to him as a soldier, it was not merely given to him because he was wearing the uniform or because he was under military control, it was given to him as part recognition of the service he was rendering to the State under the most arduous and trying circumstances. The Government recognised at that time that the soldier should have a voice in determining which Government was to carry on, and I would say, by way of 2075 parenthesis, that the right to vote was given him under very difficult circumstances, and many of them were unable to exercise the franchise on the last occasion; but I want to say that if the soldier was entitled at 19 while in military uniform to exercise the franchise because of the service he was rendering to the country, that service is not ended by his really becoming a civilian again. He is more than ever, perhaps, interested in what the Government is going to do for him arising out of what he has done as a soldier, and I - therefore suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that that is an unfair way of meeting the soldier, by saying that immediately he gets back to civilian life he will not be entitled to vote. All I am asking for is that we do not extend in any other direction the franchise under 21, but I say once you put a man on the franchise for certain definite reasons in connection with military service, the mere fact that he is demobilised does not, in my estimation, do away with the justification for continuing his vote, and, therefore, I trust we shall hear something of a sympathetic nature in connection with this from the right hon. Gentleman.
Then I want to say a word in relation to women haying a vote on the same principle as men. I have never been converted to this principle. Ever since I was a boy I could not understand why my mother should not have a vote. I want the womenfolk, especially working women in the country, to have the vote because they are keenly interested, as they should be, in industrial and economic affairs. I want women to have a vote, not for the purpose of getting into industry, although I do not deny their right to get into industry. I do not think any man should be compelled to keep an unemployed family of daughters any more than keep an unemployed family of sons. I leave it open to them to get into industry and secure that which is necessary for their own livelihood under comfortable circumstances. But I hope the woman will get the vote and exercise the vote in a great many cases for getting out of industry, so as to get back to her life and attend to necessary things at home, and not enter into unfair competition with their husbands, brothers, or other male relatives. I regard it as their duty to exercise the vote so as to secure that the father of the 2076 family shall earn sufficient to maintain the family in comfortable conditions. I look at it from an economic point of view as well as a labour point of view.
Therefore, I trust that the right hon. Gentleman who will reply to the discussion will give us some indication as to the intentions of the Government in relation to this question, whether the Government does really desire to place the women on the same footing as men; if so, whether they are going to undertake, if they do not allow us to get our Bill through, to place the women on the same footing as men; and whether they will give a pledge that that undertaking shall be carried out before they appeal to the country, if they are permitted to go on to make the appeal at their self-appointed time? In addition, I ask them to give a pledge that the inequalities that are inherent in the local election system will be abolished and the same conditions extended to women as to men in that connection. I think the House must be in entire sympathy with this proposal. On the last occasion it evidently was. I do not think anything has happened to alter its opinion in relation to the need of this measure. If the House is in sympathy with it, I urge that not only we of the Labour party, but all parties in the House should bring pressure to bear on the Government. I am not content merely to discuss this thing Session after Session, if we are sincere, and hon. Gentlemen sitting on the other side especially should always be prodding those on the Front Bench to get on with this particular reform. I trust, as a result of the discussion to-day, if we get no further than the discussion of the measure, we shall, at any rate, have got something from the Government indicating that before long these matters will be set right.
Mr. GIDEON MURRAY
I regret that it is necessary for me at this very early stage of the proceedings to raise a note of discord after the very excellent and admirable speeches to which we have listened. But I do not find myself in agreement with this Bill for several reasons which I will explain directly. In anything that I have to say I do not wish the House to think that I am not deeply indebted and grateful for many women's votes which were cast for me during the last General Election. At the same time I do not think that we ought to approach this subject in this House from only a 2077 sentimental point of view, or only from a point of view so simply expressed as was done by the last hon. Member who just sat down, on the very broad basis of citizenship. I am not one of those who in the past was opposed to women's suffrage. I believe for many years that a measure for women's suffrage was necessary in this country, but I do believe that measures which affect the country to such a degree as this one should go by degrees, and the measure which was incorporated in the Representation of the People Act of 1918 went, I believe, as far as possible for the present. At the last General Election, upon every occasion on which I was asked a question upon this matter, I never committed myself; in other words, I always took the consistent policy that women's suffrage was on trian and that trial was not yet finished. We have only had one General Election, and I do not think hon. Members will believe that one General Election is sufficient to give a full trial to women's suffrage. Furthermore, is this Bill desired by the country? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I do not think it is desired by the country. I represent a very large working class constituency and I have inquired from many of the male voters of that constituency.
If the hon. Member will give me a chance, I was about to say I have enquired from many female voters in the constituency, and I have not found, certainly in the St. Rollox division of Glasgow, that there is any general demand for the extension of the franchise which is embodied in this Bill. Therefore, when the Minister comes to reply, I sincerely hope he will inform this House that the Government has no intention either of accepting this Bill or of extending the franchise beyond the present measure before the next General Election. There are certain reasons why I believe this franchise should not be extended. Girls of twenty-one are, I think hon. Members will agree, far more emotional than men of the same age. I speak, of course, with all respect in the presence of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor). Still, she must allow me to express such views as I have, because this is a very important subject, and I think it is one of which we should try to get to the bottom.
2078 Having said that, I want to say that, in my opinion, there are very few young men in this country of the age of twenty-one who are equally capable of exercising the vote in a proper and an efficient manner. I wish to carry the discussion into this particular field; that the best solution, to my mind, of this subject will be to increase the age of the franchise to men to twenty-five, and to lower the franchise to women to the same age. I do not believe that the country is in favour of this measure. If the country is not in favour, it means that we are going to go through a somewhat similar period of strife and struggle on the part of the women below the age of thirty as rent this land before the War. I think that is greatly to be deprecated. After all, compromise is the soul of nearly everything that is good, and I believe that compromise on these lines will go far to meet the women's demand, and at the same time, if it were carried out in a gradual way, there would be very little objection in the country from the men's point of view, if properly explained to them.
One more point to which the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down referred; that is the question of the predominence of women voters which will be the effect of this Bill. In July last I asked the Minister of Health a question as to the number of electors registered in the first register of voters under the Representation of the People Act, 1918. His reply was that there were 12,913,000 and 8,479,000 women. I asked further if the franchise were made equal to men and women what was the estimate of the number of women who would be added to the register? The reply was that, of course, no definite estimate could be made, but that it certainly would be over 5,000,000. The result of that, if this Bill were passed and equal franchise given in this country, would be that there would be 12,913,000 male voters and 13,479,000 female voters. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] That is what I should like to explain, if I may. Hon. Members do not agree that that is any reason for not giving this vote. I, however, contend that that is every reason. What is demanded is equal opportunities for women? This is not giving equal opportunities but greater opportunities than to the men. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] 2079 Yes. In other words there will be very nearly three quarters of a million more women voters in the country than there are male voters. Hon. Members say that does not give the women a superiority over men. I cannot see how they can put forward that contention. Supposing the women were to bind together on any question, like, say, prohibition.
Where would we be in this country? We should be in exactly the same condition as the United States, as many of the States of Canada, and of New Zealand. I am, however, wandering from the point, but I have done so to answer the observations of hon. Members on the opposite Benches. I merely wish again to say that I prefer to record my vote against this Bill, not because I do not believe in women's suffrage, but because I do not feel that the time has arrived when the measure should be extended.
§ Mr. MYERS
I think it will be an exceedingly difficult thing to say anything new upon this grave and important question after the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Motion. After that somewhat protracted and very bitter conflict in which many scenes were enacted which we all regret Parliament was persuaded to give some measure of franchise to the women of the country. It is generally conceded throughout the ranks of the industrial workers of the country that the operation of that franchise is altogether too limited. There might have been some reason, when this initial step was taken, for a half measure of this character, but I think we can now regard the period which has elapsed since the measure was put upon the statute book as being something in the nature of an experimental or probationary stage. All the experience of this period goes to justify the belief that every argument that was used, every reason that was urged, every point of view which was accepted, as the point of view of putting this limited franchise into operation can now be urged and accepted for the extension up to the point provided in this Bill.
I think the general position could and should be laid down that if women in any sphere of activity are called upon to render service they are entitled to the 2080 same degree of citizenship both in its local and its national aspect. I am not of the opinion that we should make a claim for the extension of the franchise for women purely upon the exceptional services that they rendered during the War. I have no desire to depreciate those services—they were magnificent in all departments of our national life. But the same point could have been urged before the War in respect to many departments of national activity where our womenfolk cut themselves off from the many functions of womanhood, went into hospitals, sanatoria, the teaching profession, and so on, and sacrificed themselves upon the altar of national service. They were so few in proportion to the general mass of our women population that the service they rendered was not recognised to the extent that it ought to have been in various directions, and it was not urged as a great point that the great mass of women should have the franchise extended to them.
As a point of detail. I think a measure of chivalry might be extended to the women of the country. There are very few hon. Members in this House who, during the period of an election campaign, do not rope in all the women's assistance that they can secure. If a woman, of whatever age, is fit to be trusted with the responsibility of soliciting the votes of other people, she ought at the same time to be able to exercise the vote herself and on her own behalf. If she is fitted for one she is fitted for the other. There are other sentimental considerations which could be effectively urged in this direction, but the great point, I think, is that every law and every custom touches our women population at every conceivable point, and a limited acceptance of the functions of women in respect to civic and national life of our country is very fast passing away. I do not think we ought to urge the claims of women on the limited terms of chivalry or sentiment, and we have to put it on a higher ground.
§ Mr. MYERS
Are women fitted to fulfil the rights of citizenship in all departments? There are very few hon. Members in this House who would be prepared to go into their constituencies and assert anything to the contrary. Women take 2081 part in the industrial world in large numbers, and I agree with the hon. Member who seconded this Motion, that the whole of the industries of the country ought to be open, without restriction or limitation, to the womenfolk who care to enter therein. I recognise at once that there are industries for which women are not physically fitted, but in such industries as they care to enter there ought to be an open door for them in all departments and all directions. I believe the whole tendency of industry is in that direction, and for every responsibility that a woman takes in these directions there ought to be a corresponding right added to the responsibility that they undertake.
In the field of local administration in I he country a rather important tendency is in operation. Every regulation and circular which local authorities to-day-receive from departments of State carry with them a recommendation that committees of various sorts should co-opt women upon them. We have pension committees, unemployed committees, health committees, maternity and infant welfare committees, and housing committees, and all committees of local administration of the sort to which I have referred are now being asked by the Government to co-opt our womenfolk into those departments. That has been clone. I have worked alongside these women in local administration, and I am bound to say, from my own experience of their activities, that they have added to the efficiency of all those administrative departments. If we call upon our womenfolk to take their place in these administrative functions, we ought to be prepared to extend to them the same rights of citizenship that we give to men in other offices of life. The housing problem, to which I have given some little attention, is one of the factors of our social life which presses exceedingly hard upon women. The evil effects of the existing housing system penalise our womenfolk more than any other section of the community. I am of opinion that the more we take women into the active life of the community the less possibility there will be of the evils of our existing housing conditions being repeated. The women of the country will not tolerate a repetition of the housing conditions 2082 under which they live at the present moment.
In all departments of public administration which make for the improvement of child-life, the improvement of home-life, and all the great social factors, one of which was so ably referred to by the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) the other night, are all matters which affect the womenfolk of the country. That all counts, and it appears to me that the position is quite clear why the franchise should be extended to women on the same terms as to men. There is no argument in my judgment which can be applied to men, but which can with equal force be applied to the women of this country. Mr. John Stuart Mill in this House as far back as 1867 fired the first shot, if I may say so, in the direction of the complete enfranchisement of women. I notice that Italy in July of this year puts into operation a measure which enfranchises women on the same terms as men, and this country, which has been in the great forward movement of the past in the direction of liberty and freedom, ought to take unto itself this responsibility, and remove all disabilities from a section of the population which are applied purely from the standpoint of sex alone. On the ground of equality, simple justice, and social progress the case is definite and clear for this Bill to go forward.
§ Mr. D. M. COWAN
On the last occasion on which a Bill of this kind was before the House I supported it, and I feel that it is my duty to do so again on this occasion. I should like to congratulate the mover and seconder of this Bill, because I think the speeches they have made have not only been eloquent but have also been conclusive, and have shown that this question is almost out of the region of discussion altogether. We are now simply seeking to give effect to the expressed wish of the country. We have heard arguments put forward against this Bill, but what do they really come to? To me the most important one is that in some ways it may be regarded as a breach of the arrangement made some years ago when the last enfranchisement Bill was passed, and when it was decided that the vote should not be given to women until they had reached the age of thirty. It is quite possible that that may have been the best arrangement at the time, but I do not think an agreement 2083 of that sort should be binding upon the present House of Commons, and we must deal with matters as they present themselves to us from time to time.
On the merits of the question, this matter appeals to me very strongly, because I have the honour to represent a constituency in which a very considerable number of women are voters, but not so many as I should like to see. I have the honour to be one of the representatives of the Scottish Universities, and it has also been my privilege to have been associated with educational matters for a very long period of years. I think that gives me some little right to speak as to the relative capabilities of men and women. I can assure hon. Members that if you ask for and get the honest opinion of the male students of the various schools and universities, you will find that in their opinion the women are at least equal to men as regards average study, and the average consideration of the ordinary affairs of life. [An HON. MEMBER: "No, No!"] It may be that my hon. Friend takes a different view. I know-that this is regarded from different points of view. I always like the story of the old captain who was proposing the toast of the ladies and who said, "The Ladies; once our superiors, now our equals, God bless them." I do know that some hold the opinion that for women to take the vote and use it is rather a come down from the high pedestal on which they have hitherto been, but women really are far too educated to be taken in by any argument of that sort. As I say, I represent, a particularly enlightened constituency, and many of those who should have votes have not got them at the present time The injustice of it is manifest from this fact. Many of those young women be tween the ages of twenty-one and thirty are at present engaged in very important work which enables them to earn fairly good remuneration, carrying with it the obligation to contribute very materially to the public revenue under the head of Income Tax and otherwise. Therefore, on the old ground that taxation should carry representation with it, those women are entitled to the franchise equally with men. With regard to one small point in the Bill, might I point out that the registration fee, at least in our Scottish universities, is not primarily a fee that has to be paid for the right to vote. It is 2084 really to make the students members of the General Council. It gives them the right of attendance at meetings and the right also to receive reports of all meetings and of all proceedings of that council. It is a small matter which can be dealt with in Committee, but, if anywhere the vote is in any way made dependent, upon the payment of a fee, certainly I shall be in favour of the abolition of that fee.
Although, as I have said, the speeches delivered by the Mover and Seconder should have been absolutely conclusive to any person who listened to them, we still find that the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. G. Murray) has not been convinced. The hon. Member said that so far as he had been able to judge, there was no great demand in his constituency for this reform. Far be it from me to make any reflection whatever upon the intelligence of the electors of St. Rollox, but I know that in my own constituency there is a very strong and earnest demand that this reform should be passed and passed at once. The hon. Member for St. Rollox also gave us his views upon the psychology of women. I am not quite sure whether the married man or the bachelor is the better entitled to speak on the psychology of women, but I should like to have had some proof from the hon. Gentleman as to his reasons for stating that women about the age of 21 are more emotional than men. My limited experience would lead me to conclude quite the opposite. Having had a good deal to do with the education of young people of that age, I have come to the conclusion that it is just about the time in their whole lives that they look at things from a remarkably acute and business-like point of view. If there were a few foolish women electors of the age of 21, I am quite sure that the number would be counterbalanced by the stupid men of a corresponding age. I think it was Mrs. Poyser who said, "If God made women fools, He did so only that they might match men." The hon. Member for St. Rollox said that if this franchise were given, the number of women elected would far outstrip the number of men electors, and that seemed to cause him acute distress in anticipation, because he pictured a possible occasion upon which all the women would unite together for some particular purpose. The very fact that the hon. Member put forward that suggestion 2085 shows that he has no knowledge whatever of the psychology of women, because nobody who knows women would imagine fifty of them, taken haphazard, that is, agreeing upon any one subject. I feel that on every ground of justice this is a claim which should be admitted. While I believe that it must be admitted, and must be admitted very soon, I do ask the Government seriously to consider whether they cannot admit it graciously. We have had a good deal of unrest caused already by this tinkering with the equal rights of men and women, and I do hope that the Government will take to heart the words that have been addressed to them from the other side, and that they will seriously consider how they can at the earliest possible day give effect to the proposals now before the House. I do not know that there is any considerable body of opinion against the Bill, and I hope that to-day will mark a step for ward, and that we shall carry what is undoubtedly a very just measure of reform.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I should not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for the remarks of the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. G. Murray). He has argued from his own knowledge. It is always dangerous to argue from the particular to the general, but I am equally justified in arguing from my particular knowledge to the general, and, arguing from that knowledge, I must controvert the arguments that he has used. May I tell the House what is the peculiar knowledge that I possess. I worked in the factory alongside women at the age of twenty-one. I belong to a trade where women and men have worked side by side earning the same piece rate of wages on terms of perfect equality, and, speaking from that actual personal living knowledge, I venture to assert that so far as Lancashire is concerned the women of twenty-one is far more fittted to cast a vote in either a local or a national election than a boy of twenty-one. The girl of that age in our factories is certainly more rangé if one may use a French word. She takes a keener interest in what goes on, and she is a better judge of the position of affairs than the young man. My experience therefore is quite different, radically different, from that of the hon. Member who speaks about girls of twenty-one being more emotional than young men of twenty-one, and I 2086 venture to suggest, if our experiences are contracted, that I have as much right to form a judgment as to what women are likely to do as the hon. Member. The argument that twenty-five years of age is a better age than twenty-one may be open to consideration, but that is not the question in dispute. The question in this Bill is whether women at the same age as men ought to have the same political rights. In my experience, having worked with women in the actual rough-and-tumble of industrial labour, women are quite as capable of forming a judgment as are men.
Let me take the only other argument that I heard the hon. Gentleman use, the argument that it would be extremely dangerous to the State to enfranchise women in such measure as to give the vote to a larger number of women than of men. There again I speak from my own particular experience, and argue from the particular to the general. My experience has been that women are not likely to combine as a sex, that women have different views and different temperaments, and will roughly split into the same parties as men. Indeed, I believe that if there is one particular tendency of the woman's mind it is the tendency to be conservative rather than reckless. I do not expect any accession of strength to the Labour Benches by the enfranchisement of women. Rather do I believe the tendency will be for Labour candidates to be defeated by the women's vote, because in my opinion women are constitutionally more careful and more loth to enter into experiments than men are, and if I was merely arguing for the advantage of the Labour party I should argue that it was extremely dangerous to give any woman any votes at all. To argue from the point of view, as the hon. Member did, that there was a danger that an access of women would endanger the men's position in the country, is, I think, to argue from a false basis altogether. I do not believe that women will combine as a sex upon definite sex questions against the interests of the whole of the country. What are definite sex questions'? I do not know of any. I know of no single political question in which women and men are not equally interested. I know of no question, either local or national, in which the advantage of the experience, the knowledge and the wisdom of both sexes cannot be brought 2087 into play. I am not at all frightened, not in the slightest degree frightened, that women will deliberately combine to vote against what men desire. Rather do I believe that we shall have the different types of mind in women shown as they are in men. We shall have the woman who is constitutionally of conservative type and loth to experiment, and we shall have the women who believe in undertaking experiments, who are what is generally termed progressive in mind.
The whole question boils itself down to this: Is there any right that men possess that women ought not to posses as citizens of this country? Is there any right that one sex should make the laws that are applied to the other without the other having an equal voice? Every man and woman in the country has to live under the law, and the plain commonsense point of view is that every man and woman ought to have an equal right to make the law. I am not going to enter into the general discussion that took place. The points there have been fully covered by the other speakers on these Benches, but I am going to repeat, and repeat emphatically, that from a very long experience of a trade in which, more than any other in the country, men and women work together on terms of equality, that the argument that women are too emotional to have the vote and are likely to use that vote against the men is an argument that will not bear the light of experience and of investigation.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Dr. Addison)
As one who has heard many Debates in this House, this appears to me to be a singularly one-sided discussion. I can well remember the time, and so can many of us, when there was great competition amongst Members to catch your eye, Sir, as speakers in opposition to the extension of the franchise to women. Apparently we are living in changed times. Before I make any general remarks on the Bill it would be better, perhaps, to inform the House more fully than it has been informed as to what changes this Bill will effect if carried into law, and I will, in the first place, recite some of them. The main issue upon which the Debate has centered is, of course, the general proposal, the big proposal of the Bill, to lower the qualifying age to twenty-one in the case of women, with resulting consequences to 2088 the size of the electorate so far as women are concerned. So far as that particular proposal goes, the effect it would have would be that it would increase the electorate by, we estimate, about 5,000,000 persons. The resulting electorates, after making certain deductions to which I will refer in a minute, would consist of a little less than 13,000,000 men and rather more than 13,000,000 women, perhaps about 500,000 more women than men.
The change that is proposed in the Bill in other respects is equally important, though not perhaps so obvious. It changes the whole basis of our existing qualifications in respect of the local government franchise and makes considerable alterations in respect of the qualifications for Parliamentary franchise. The first section of the principal Act, that is the Act now in operation, provides that a man, in order to have the requisite residential qualification, or business premises qualification, must on the last day of the qualifying period be residing in premises in the constituency or occupying business premises in the constituency. Those words, "occupying business premises in the constituency," and words with a like effect in other places, would disappear, so that if the Bill were passed as it now stands, based on a residential qualification simply, it would remove altogether that business qualification, and the effect of that would be, we estimate, to remove from the register in respect of that qualification 159,000 men who are now on the register.
That brings me to another point which arises out of Section 8 of the principal Act. The effect of Sub-section (1) of Section 8 is that a man may have two votes, roughly, one for his place of residence and the other for another place in which he has a qualification from the occupation of business premises, and it will be that second qualification, as my gallant Friend opposite reminded me, that will disappear if the Bill as it now is becomes law, and we estimate that about 159,000 persons now on the register for that qualification will be removed therefrom. That is a considerable question of principle which has not been argued at all to-day When the Bill gets up to Committee I think it is worthy of very much more careful consideration than it has received to-day whether we should altogether take that step. The whole question at the 2089 moment is overshadowed by the big proposal in the Bill with regard to the sexes, and other important matters have not come into the discussion as I think they ought to have done.
Collaterally, you remove the Second vote which any person may possess except in the case of the University franchise. Then another effect of the Bill, if adopted, would be to alter the Local Government franchise altogether. That is based at the present time on the occupation of premises. The occupation qualification will disappear. A man may be registered now as a Local Government elector in virtue of his occupation, either as tenant or landlord, of premises in the Local Government area and a woman, over the age of 30, by virtue of being his wife, as well as by virtue of occupation, is also entitled to be registered. This practically means that the two electorates are the same. The effect of these changes on the preparation of the register we have estimated. It has been found by experience that the time allowed for the mechanical processes, for the preparation of a register so greatly enlarged is scarcely enough. There is the work of printing and distribution; notices of objection have to be published, and all this mechanical work, it is evident, cannot be efficiently done within the period of three months now allowed. I have been discussing with those concerned in these matters what should be done and probably proposals will be made later on for allowing a further period. At least a period of four months is required, in my opinion, for the mechanical work of preparing the new register. If you have 5,000,000 voters added to the register the work will be correspondingly increased, and it may be that there will be consequential proposals for additional time for the work of preparation later on. We estimate that the additional cost of preparing the register which this Bill would involve will be between £300,000 and £400,000, which will be charged equally on the Exchequer and on the rates.
§ Dr. ADDISON
Yes, for every year. We have gone into these matters with great care. With regard to that portion of the Bill which affects soldiers' votes, the Cabinet have already investigated the question of limiting the period for allowing 2090 absent voters to record their votes with a view to lessening the time between polling and counting. We have also had under consideration the question of soldiers disqualified by demobilisation, and it is felt that so far as men under the age of 21 who are already on the military register are concerned, there should be no question that by demobilisation they shall be deprived of their vote. We have therefore framed proposals to provide against that. I do not think that on that point there is much to be said as far as this Bill is concerned. But on the question of the military and naval register, it is not felt that any additions to the register should include voters below the age of 21. I need not remind the House of what happened last year. We are all familiar with that. There was a general understanding that the present franchise should be allowed a fair trial. It will also be within the recollection of the House that on these questions the Government agreed to leave the result to the free decision of the House of Commons. We propose to pursue that policy on this Bill, and therefore I am free to express my own opinions apart from my position as a member of the Government.
I think there has been a good deal of unreality about many of the discussions which have taken place. A fear has been expressed as to the effect of women combining together. As a matter of fact women differ amongst themselves just as much as men do, if not more so, and there is just as little likelihood—indeed it is almost a moral and physical impossibility—of all women thinking the same as there is of men doing so. It would be a very dull world were it otherwise. Personally, I think it is quite outside the realm of possibility. There may be great questions involving big moral issues on which women may think more strongly as to the matter of principle and less strongly as to grounds of expediency. That is one distinguishing feature between the sexes. Men in many respects in actual workaday life are inclined to practical compromise and that is the way in which they carry on business, while a woman is more inclined to insist on the ideal. But I am not afraid of any danger in that direction, and if the effect on a big moral issue of one kind or another is greater on the woman than upon the man, if the view of 2091 the woman is right, it is well and good that it should be given effect to. I regard this Bill as an inevitable result of former extensions of the franchise, and especially of the extension of it to women, and I agree with my hon. Friend below the gangway in one particular observation which he made. If we could start with a clean sheet, which, of course, we cannot, there is a good case to be made for the age of 25 as applied all round. But we cannot start there now. As to the soldiers below the age of 21 who have been on the military and naval register, the claim is unanswerable. If they were put on the register because they were in khaki, you cannot take them off the register merely because they have changed their clothes.
Mr. G. MURRAY
I do not suggest that anyone who is on the register should be taken off, but that after a certain date no one until he reaches 25 should be put on the register.
§ Dr. ADDISON
I was dealing with practical, political possibilities, and I was giving this as an illustration of the practical impossibility of altering your age once you have adopted it generally. With regard to the age of 21 I agree with my hon. Friend behind me. I think the woman of 21 is, as a rule, somewhat more mature and a little stable than the average man of 21. The balance is rectified afterwards. She merely develops a little quicker. One difficulty which the Bill presents is that it means an immense addition to the electors, and, quite apart from the enormous alterations which I have mentioned, it means, in respect of both Parliamentary and local government elections, a material difference to the expenditure which they will involve and to the machinery gene rally of elections. I think, myself, that there is greater safety in a large electorate. It is less personally get-at-able than a small one, and less open to particularise influences, and generally more likely to judge on the merits of a big general issue. Politically we, as a nation, stand to gain by a large rather than a small electorate. Considerations of the parish pump are not so influential with a large body of persons as with a few, and that is all to the good. But it means a profound change in the whole basis of our local government electorate. It 2092 means, of course, that the local government electorate will be enormously increased, and will be, in fact, the same as the Parliamentary. I should not like to be sanguine on this, but if it should so happen that the addition of a large electorate to local government means a quickened interest in local affairs, it well be of great advantage. At present we are governed by bodies which are elected by 10, 15 or 20 per cent. of the electorate, and there is a serious deficiency of local interest in the very important functions of the local governing authorities. Some times after borough council elections in London people have come to me and complained of the results of the elections in cases where only 30 per cent. of the electorate have gone to the poll. It was the elector's responsibility. If they will not bother to go and vote, they must take the consequences. On the whole, probably this would increase the interest in local government issues. At all events, if it would it would be an advantage. But there is much more involved in this proposal, as is shown by the matters which have been merged into the discussion up to the present, and that is why I am dwelling on this particular aspect of it, that it alters the whole basis of our local government elections.
My hon. Friend (Mr. Young) made some observations on the work of women during the War. Taking the view I have always done, I do not think that affects the question as to their right, or lack of right, to be upon the register. I do not think this Bill rests its claim, nor has any other Bill rested its claim, in regard to the qualifications of electors on occupation—whether a person is a worker or not, because no one can define "worker." The work of the home is just as important as the work of the factory, indeed, it is even of more importance. Large numbers of women who did no war emergency work, equally did their duty somewhere else. There is one point I should like the hon. Member and his colleagues to reflect upon, and that is, that the principles they have urged so forcibly of equal facilities for women in respect of the electoral register has not been observed in the way women who have worked in the War have had to be displaced after the War was over. The principle should be carried out consistently, and they should have the same opportunities as men in the industrial 2093 world. The fact that one or two of the older universities are still interposing artificial barriers against women is ridiculous. I think the same principle should be acted upon by trade union leaders. That is only an aside, but it is a reflection which we are entitled to make, and to urge on the hon. Member.
The Government proposes to leave this matter to a free Vote of the House on the Second Reading, reserving to itself—in view of the various considerations which I have advanced of a very important kind with respect to other matters respecting the Bill—the right to bring forward amendments in Committee as they may think desirable. Subject to that I have no qualification to make. Personally I am entirely in favour of this principle. It is a right principle. The application of it was inevitable, and I believe the benefits in the long run will be wholly to the public good.
I oppose the passage of this Bill, not because I disagree with the principle of the extension of the franchise to any section of the people at the proper moment, but because I have listened to the discussion to-day, and I have not heard one single valid argument in favour of what the House must agree is a very vital and very momentous extension of the franchise. My right hon. Friend has come very near to the essential points involved in the changes proposed by this Bill, and he has pointed out the sweeping character of the alterations which we, on this Friday afternoon, in a very thin House, are asked to accept. The speeches from hon. Gentleman opposite were very sincere, but of an extremely sentimental kind. What relevance has the question of the service of women during the War to the question of the franchise? What relevance to the franchise has any point affecting our particular view of what women have done or have not done, or what men have done or have not done during the War?
Citizenship is open to all. It is not necessarily wrapped up in the exercise of the vote.
We have citizens on the Parliamentary roll and municipal roll, and the great danger which threatens democracy to-day is the fact that at a Parliamentary election or a municipal election or other election an enormous mass of the electorate is unpolled and never will go to the poll.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It would be better if the hon. Member reserved his remarks for his own speech and refrained from interrupting.
The main paint is that we are asked in a casual fashion to alter the basis of the electorate and to make the women electors the majority of the electorate. We are asked to do this at a moment when we can scarcely get more than forty or fifty per cent. of the present electorate to go to the poll. We want to know more about the matter before the House comes to a hasty decision upon it. I had the honour to be sent here largely by the aid of the votes of women electors, but I have never secured, and I hope I never shall secure support by talking nonsense to the women about the great power they can exercise in politics. I have constantly told them that they must educate their own sex to take an active part in politics, and I have never heard them dissent from that. I have said frequently that the vote is not a magic wand that can secure anything that any woman who is concerned in any project may desire; far from it. I have told them that if women are to be effective in the political life of this country, they must organise themselves and educate themselves, and play a serious and a sustained part in ordinary electoral work. They agreed, as all sensible women do. It is just as well to be perfectly clear about these matters. I take a very high and very serious view of the responsibility of public life, and at the last meeting I held in my constituency, which was a women's meeting addressed by several women, I told them what I wish to repeat now, that I hope that the women's movement will not be allowed to sink into the morass of ridicule. We have in this House the Noble Viscountess, whose election was not marked—and I say this without any fear of contradiction—by that dignity which many of us would have liked to see. After reading 2095 every available account of it that I could discover in the Press, I am bound to say that it seemed to me more like a circus than a Parliamentary Election.
I do feel that before we get talking what is no more than mere sentiment about the enfranchisement of this vast number of women electors we ought to be perfectly plain with ourselves and perfectly frank with the women who are present on the register. The first occasion on which the women were given the Parliamentary vote was fifteen months ago, and before that time the campaign for the vote was marked by very disgraceful episodes. Here, to-day, in this off-hand way, we are asked to do something which will swamp the judgment of the women who are already enfranchised by the inclusion of a vast number of women, a very great proportion of Whom do not want the vote, because they know nothing about the vote, and would not thank you if you gave them the vote. We ought to face the facts. There is no real difference between the mover and seconder of this Bill and myself in regard to the women's question. The only difference between us is whether it is wise to do this thing now—I have heard no argument in favour of the wisdom of doing it now—or whether it would not be better to consider the question carefully before we take any effective action. The hon. Member for Newton (Mr. E. Young) suggested that the women who were going to be enfranchised would use the vote for economic purposes, by which I suppose he means that they are going to use the vote, if they get it, in order to safeguard their economic position in face of the men who are returning to civil jobs upon demobilisation. That is a very dangerous argument to use. It means the introduction of a very subtle and effective form of sex war, which may lead us into very great industrial and social trouble. The time is not ripe for this sweeping change. We have no real experience, nor have the women, of the effect of the Parliamentary franchise which was exercised by women for the first time at the last general election. We have an enormous mass of unpolled voters in this country, but the danger, as my right hon. Friend observed, was that you cannot get many 2096 people to come to the poll. There was an interruption by the right hon. Member for Derby placing the age at 19.
I made no such interruption. I merely said that my right hon. Friend said that he understood that at 21 a woman was more developed than a man, and I suggested that in that case they might become equal again if the woman began at 19.
I bow to my right hon. Friend, who knows more about these matters than I, but I do not agree that a man is less developed at 21 than a woman. You may get an exceedingly well developed man at 21 or one of the other sex, but if you look at the whole breadth of the electorate it is not a question of more age or of the right of either sex to secure the vote. There is another point of view from which we have to look at it—whether it is a wise change to make in the constitution. My whole argument is, we cannot foresee what action may be taken in this matter according to the results of the Parliamentary Election. Whatever may happen, for us to be invited solemnly to-day at the beginning of the Second Session of this Parliament to vote for a Bill which has never been before the women of this country, and as to which I question very much whether many-women would show great enthusiasm for it, is something which will carry us far beyond anything that the House of Commons ought to be invited to do on a Friday afternoon. It is not because I am disinclined to sec any reasonable extension of the franchise to either sex, but because I think that the House could be more profitably engaged in the discussion of questions vital to us at this moment when there are many very urgent questions which might be taken up, because I feel that this is a matter of playing up to the women electors so as to be able to say, "Here is a section in the House which is more advanced in urging their claims than others," and because I think that the Bill in itself is a bad Bill that I shall vote against it to-day without in any way committing myself to the principle as to whether the franchise should be extended or not.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Captain BOWYER
There are three reasons why I wish most sincerely to support this Bill. The first is an educational reason. A boy and a girl grow up and are 2097 educated together. There is no educational age disqualification as between the girl and the boy. To my mind the girl comes at the age of 18 to the same educational standard as the man comes to probably at the age of 21. When I go down to my constituency and talk to the electors as to the future of this country from a social and economic standpoint I am first prepared to put that matter as intelligently as I can before not only the men but the women of 21—for, as I have said, I think that women not only are as quick in assimilating knowledge as men, but can do it three years earlier—and I am perfectly content to trust the future of this country to the votes of both sexes at the age of 21. The second reason is a professional reason. As I understand the present régime, we have the Sex Disqualification Removals Act which enables a woman to become a barrister or doctor and to enter all professions. Now a woman at the age of 28 can to-day become as learned in any of these professions as a man of 28, and yet under the present franchise is considered not to be adequately educated or to be too emotional to exercise a vote with due discretion. The thing has only got to be stated to be seen to be absurd. The third reason is economic. It is just between the ages of 21 and 30 that a woman runs the gravest danger of exploitation and of being inadequately paid. Not only, if you lower the franchise to 21, will it give those women who are themselves suffering from an intolerable injustice the opportunity of remedying it, but it may act in another way with employers of labour. The whole community may, perhaps from motives which are not the highest, consider that when they are dealing with people who have got the vote that the time has come when these inequalities and these disgraceful circumstances which are occurring even now after the great War should be removed. I do not put that forward as being in any way a main reason, but it might have an effect from that standpoint.
The main objection, so far as I can understand, is that women between 21 and 30 are too inexperienced to exorcise the vote. If you give a right to women between 21 and 30 to vote, I think that you also give an obligation and a sense of duty. Politics now, as never before the War, have come down to the everyday 2098 life of every man and woman. The question of the rise in prices, and these sorts of things, affects each one of us, and a woman of the age of 21, if she gets the right to vote, immediately is seized with a sense of obligation to arm herself with the political knowledge and interest herself in the two or three different aspects of each question. And so far from being uninterested, so far from our having any difficulty, and of getting only a 30 or 40 per cent. poll, I am convinced that the right will carry an obligation and a sense of duty, and personally, I want to see that obligation exercised by both sexes as and when they attain the age of 21. If I had been chosen earlier to speak in this Debate, I would have said lots of things that have been already said. I might have spoken in praise of women. I do not think that is cither necessary or to the point. It is perfectly true that service in the War is no qualification, qua service in the War, but I think that the experience of the War ought to have led us to change our views as to the way in which before the War, and in some cases since the War, many of us are inclined to dismiss these considerations as being matters of sentiment or, in the words of an hon. Member, "matters of emotion." The first thing that I remember after I had the misfortune or the good fortune—I am not sure which—to get wounded, was the sight of a woman, and the first impression on my mind was one of amazement that that woman was very far up under fire. I recall the capable way in which my wound was dealt with and sympathy extended to me. The fact that she was so near the trenches led me, I think, to take a wider view in judging the discriminations between the sexes, and prevented me from dismissing the matter as one of sentiment or of emotion. I would like to be allowed to congratulate the Mover and Seconder for having brought this Bill forward. As I did the last time when the Whips were put on, I shall again go into the Lobby in support of the Bill.
§ Captain LOSEBY
I rise mainly for the purpose of making a recantation, and of exercising the privilege which, I believe, is supposed to be the prerogative of the other sex, of saying that I have changed my mind, and that even on this particular point I have altered the attitude I have hitherto adopted in this House. I wish 2099 to oppose this Bill. As one who has been a supporter of woman suffrage all my life I must say that it seems just a little nauseating to see in this House, which has opposed woman suffrage for 500 years, Member after Member getting up in support of an extension of the franchise to this enormous extent only 15 months after there has been a tremendous advance in woman's enfranchisement. I do not think I could be accused of not realising that woman's struggle for existence is a very difficult struggle. I realise the tremendous importance to them in that struggle of a weapon that they can hold in their hands, to enable them to claim their just demands. But it appears to me that that is already attained. Like an hon. Member who has spoken, I regard the exercise of the franchise as a very sacred privilege, but I cannot see that it is right to bring in this very large extension within 15 months of the time when we have put 8,000,000 on the register, and before we have given women the opportunity of gaining the educational value to be obtained from the vote. Reference has been made to the professions of which women are now allowed to be members. It was stated that women can now be called to the Bar and enter other professions. That is no proof of their fitness or otherwise to exercise the vote, because there is an examination which they will have to pass and other proofs of fitness which they will have to give before they are allowed to enter a particular profession. I agree entirely with the view that women must and will be allowed to vote on the same terms as men. I plead merely that the time is not yet ripe for that, and for my own part I would like to see this Bill postponed for a period of not more than 5 years.
I do not agree that at the present time the woman of 21 is as capable of exercising her vote as is a man of 21. There is an educational value attached to the vote. In view of the fact that women have been deprived of the vote up to the present time, they have not taken that interest in politics which men have taken, and it appears to me that quite the majority of women between 21 and 30 are unfitted to exercise the franchise. We might give them a probationary period. As sure as we live they are going to get the vote, and they know they will get it. Women are beginning to take an interest in 2100 polities. I would not have the slightest fear of this change in five years time. If I thought for one moment that the extension of the franchise at the approved time would assist women in their struggle for complete equal rights with men in industry and in the task of earning their living, then I would vote for a Bill. I rose more from a sense of duty than anything else, and certainly not with any endeavour to gain cheap popularity.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I listened with great surprise to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just addressed the House. First of all he complained that women are not trained to exercise the franchise. What other training could you have for any elector except the possession of the vote? How will people ever become trained in political matters unless they are parties to political affairs. I remember when this Bill was proposed last year by the Labour Party, the same hon. and gallant Gentleman in the course of his speech taunted the Labour Party with not being willing to admit women into industries on the same conditions as men. Now when that Party, supported by such few of us Liberals as are here, propose to give to women the most powerful weapon to command equal rights, then the hon. and gallant Gentleman proposes to oppose the Bill. I am bound to say I do not see much consistency about that. I do not think myself people regard the possession of a vote as a boon to be conferred on people for good behaviour. It is a weapon to protect people from injustice. The hon. Member says that there are 8,000,000 women on the register and that they can call on Members to protect all women. I am informed that 70 per cent. of the wage-earning women are under 35 years of age, and if that is so, it means that the great bulk of the women who need this protection are women who are at the present time without the necessary means of protecting themselves.
§ Captain BENN
Thirty-five was the figure given to me. It is because women are less organised and weaker that we desire to see them enfranchised, and particularly these younger women. There is a Bill, for instance, to set up a commission to deal with the question of the minimum wage. Is it right that Parliament 2101 should deal with a proposal so vitally affecting wage-earning women, seventy per cent. of whom are without votes, without those women having a voice in what is done. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks that the women on the register already can afford the necessary protection I can assure him we do not. We have by no means seen the last of sweating amongst women workers. I was reading an article a few months ago about the wages of some women who work in London. There was one case of girls making children's muslin hats at a wage of 8s. 6d. per dozen, and it was good work to make a dozen in three days. Here is another case of girls of 18 years of age who had to work hard for a week to earn 15s. 3d.
§ Captain LOSEBY
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman if he does not recognise that the women on the franchise as it is at present can turn the balance in any constituency?
§ Captain BENN
I have given the hon. and gallant Gentleman two cases of young women drawing seated wages. My hon. Friends propose to give those women the vote in order to protect themselves. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman think it is wrong that those women who need the vote for their protection more than anybody else should have it? Take the case of the welfare of children legislation which has been passed, and much more of it will, I hope, be passed. Fifty per cent. of women under 30 are married and with children. Those people who have serious responsibilities to themselves and to the State are not to be enfranchised and have the rights of ordinary citizens. A Cabinet Committee upon the question of women in industry recommended that there should be substantial reforms, and extensions in the scope of the Factory and Workshop Acts. If that is necessary, how can this House be properly qualified to deal with such a subject, unless the persons so vitally interested have a voice in connection with it. I understand that this view very largely widens the Local Government Franchise for Women. This year in Scotland, Local Government voters have got to decide on the question of the application of the Temperance (Scotland) Act. What right or propriety can there be in excluding from expressing an opinion on this matter 50 per cent. of the women who are married women with children and who are vitally 2102 affected and who take a view very markedly divergent from any men on this subject. Take the case of the unfortunate women who, before the War, married alien enemies. I observed in the former Division List on this Bill that the very hon. and gallant Gentlemen who are hounding these women down and persecuting them were the people who voted against giving these English and Welsh and Scottish and Irish women votes in order that they might protect themselves against this second persecution.
Everywhere there are instances of inequalities. We had an answer from a Minister the other day in reply to a question telling us that the Medal and Wound Stripes could not be accorded to women who had served under fire and been wounded, because they were not to be regarded as in the same category as fighting men. On what grounds of justice should an honourable award and badge of that kind be denied to those women. When we come to the question of prices, which are so largely influenced by Government policy, what can be the justice of denying the vote to such a large number of women newly married, and beginning their careers, and with young families. Those are the very people who want to fight high prices, and who have every day to solve the problem of how to make ends meet. It is rather forcing an open door to press the matter further, because there seems to be a large majority of opinion in the House in favour of the Bill. I would remind the Government that they have to live up to the pledge of their manifesto on which the election took place, and in which they said:It will be the duty of the new Government to remove all existing inequalities as between men and women.That is a very definite pledge which most clearly covers the case of this Bill. The hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed to suggest that there was some sort of undertaking that the franchise should not be further extended and given to women below a certain age. What exactly was that understanding. It was this. Those who entered into the Speaker's Conference agreed that certain terms should be proposed, and that they should on both sides support those terms when they were laid before the House. That was the beginning and end of the undertaking. No undertaking of 2103 that kind given in the last Parliament could possibly bind this Parliament. If that were done the dead hand of the last Parliament might be laid on the proceedings of this Parliament, and what then would be the purpose of having an election at all. The fact is that every Parliament when elected is the sovereign assembly, and can make any decisions it thinks right and proper, and if this House is of opinion that the vote should be extended to women on the same terms as to men, then no undertaking arrived at by any previous assembly can be of the slightest moment.
The reason the age of 30 was fixed in the last Act was stated by Mr. Speaker during the Debate last year, when he said that it was thought desirable that women and men should be somewhere about on a parity. I understand that even that undertaking, which I do not consider binding now, would not be materially infringed. Hitherto it has never been kept, because 12,000,000 men and 8,000,000 women have been the figures, and now it is proposed to enfranchise four or perhaps five million women, so that I do not think that even in terms the scheme of the Conference which was that there should be something of a parity, would be outraged. The other argument, which I am very glad has not been put forward by the Government to-day, was that you cannot enlarge the Franchise unless you have a General Election. Of course, there will be an election, I take it, some time or another, and we are one year nearer to an election than we were when the Bill was pressed last year, and if something is needed to meet this argument, surely there could be some suspensory provision in the Bill that it should come into operation on the passing of an Order in Council, or something of that sort. But look at the other side of the case. Supposing you have an election, and you have not enlarged the Franchise. Supposing that the Prime Minister does what he has so often threatened to do when troubles arise, namely, appeal to the country in support of his policy on some matter, as he says of vital public urgency where is the justice of excluding from a voice in that decision such a large portion of the female population?
It is not only on the grounds of the right to protect themselves that I and 2104 many of us have always supported votes for women, it is because we believe that the counsels of the nations are enriched by the views of women and by their knowledge and experience. I have been, and I am proud to say it, a Member of this House for 14 years, and I have heard many temperance debates, and they have always been a contest between after-dinner pleasantries and a sort of shame-faced enthusiasm, but the temperance debate which we heard the other night, with the speech of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), was the first debate of that kind that had ever been a serious matter in my knowledge and experience in the House of Commons, and it was the first time we had the woman's point of view put forward at first hand, and it is a point of view which is going very materially to alter, and to reshape, the aspect of politics in this country. I am not afraid to say that the reason why I have always supported the suffrage for women, and why I support its extension now, is because I believe the influence of women will be exercised in favour of those things that I hold dear. Who is to destroy conscription in this country except the women's interest?
§ Captain BENN
Well, that is my opinion, and I will challenge the hon. and gallant Gentleman to find any body of support among women in this country for the continuation of conscription. To whom shall we look for a real policy of disarmament except to women? What about the Peace Treaties? Supposing the women's voice had been heard in Paris when the Peace Treaties were being carried out, do you think we should have had the unconscionable terms, in many ways, which have been inflicted on Austria? When the matter was dealt with by women, on the contrary, their action was to bring back to this country thousands of the children of our late enemies in order that they should be fed.
§ Captain BENN
I do not think so. I think that women do bring to bear a higher point of view. Take the ease of the League of Nations. We know that the Minister for War has not missed many opportunities of dealing with it lightly, 2105 and we know that the vital matter of friendship with America has been treated in a very contemptuous way in this House by the Minister for War, and I say that in matters of this kind, in all matters in which it is necessary to bring to bear a high moral tone on the subjects of political controversy, we can and shall rely on the influence of women in this country. For these reasons I support the extension of the vote to them on the same terms as to men.
§ Colonel Sir HAMAR GREENWOOD (Secretary of the Department of Overseas Trade)
I only intervene to correct what must be a misapprehension on the part of my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down. Neither the Minister for War nor any other Member of His Majesty's Government has other than the strongest, the daily, and the insistent desire to maintain and improve the best possible relationship between the British Empire and the United States.
§ Captain BENN
I accept what the hon. and gallant Baronet says, and I ask him to implement it by having a public withdrawal of the statement made by the Minister for War in this House the other day.
§ Mr. ROBERT McLAREN
It was to me a source of great gratification to-day to hear the Minister of Health give his blessing to the Second Reading of this Bill, for it seems that he has promised that the Government will accept the Bill and make several amendments in it. It is a very wonderful thing to think of the change of opinion that has taken place in the House of Commons and in the country in a few years on the question of women's franchise. As a supporter of that measure for many years, when it was not popular as it is to-day, it seems to me to be a very gratifying thing that even the Labour party, who in the old days were opposed to it, have changed their views, and I am glad to congratulate the Labour party upon having brought in this measure. We were never very sure why it was that a discrimination was made between the sexes in the matter of age in the Act which gave the women the vote at the last election, but we know now that it was meant to keep the balance close between women and men. All the same, it seems to me to be unjust that boys of 21 should exercise the franchise and that women of 21 should 2106 not be permitted to do so. We have heard a great deal as to whether a young man of 21 is as intelligent as a young woman of 21 and my experience of political meetings is that you find that very often these meetings are very rowdy, and if you look around you will find that the rowdiness consists of young men of 21 who have just got the franchise. On the other hand, if you go to a woman's meeting, composed of women of 21 and upwards, you will find an orderly meeting; and on the question of heckling, which Scottish Members know more about than English Members do, because heckling has been brought to a fine art in Scotland, we find the questions put by the women are, as a rule, more intelligent than those put by men.
In connection with the original Act, we find a grave injustice done even to the women of 30, for while it is true that a man can have a vote for his business capacity and for his residence, a woman may have both of these, and yet she is only allowed to exercise one vote. I am sure the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) will agree with me that women after all are just like men—we are not all saints. Sometimes I think there is a temptation to these women to try and exercise a vote in both places, when they are only entitled to exercise one vote. I do trust under this Bill that that anomaly will be entirely removed, and that the privilege which a man has of exercising a vote for residential and for business occupation, will be given as a matter of fair play and common justice to the women. It has been stated, especially by the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Gideon Murray), that he is rather afraid if women get the vote after 21 they may combine and cause difficulty in the future. On one subject I am quite certain they will combine, and that is the prohibition of the drink traffic, because, after all, women suffer most from that traffic, and when the time does come I am quite sure the majority will be found on the side of temperance reform. And of that I am very glad. An hon. Member spoke about the soldier vote. I do not at all agree with him. When the vote was given to the soldier under 21 years of age, it was given for a special qualification, and immediately that qualification ceased, there was no reason why he should have the vote unless he was 21 years of age. I have in mind 2107 just now some young men who joined the Army at 18, and they will be coming back next month, not 21 years of age. It would be utterly unfair if these young people should be able to exercise the vote at 20 years of age, and other men who are under 21 not have the same privilege. I say there is no injustice at all in the position, and in a few years' time the matter will be entirely solved.
The hon. Member for St. Rollox said there was no real demand for the extension of the franchise in his constituency. I must be perfectly honest and say that in my own constituency there is no great demand for it, but I am convinced, notwithstanding, that the people who need the vote, and who ought to get the vote, will be quite glad when it comes, and if it is a good thing for a young man of 21 to get the vote, it is equally good for a young woman of 21 to get the vote. Women of 21 have, I think, far more commonsense than young men of 21. When a woman gets up to 21 there is one thing that is always before her, and that is she wants to get a home of her own, and then she becomes more staid and steady. The young man of 21 has not the same thought about getting a home. The young woman knows perfectly well that, unless she has some commonsense and tact and is steady, the young men will pass her by. In choosing a wife we want a wife with more commonsense than we ourselves possess. On the question of education I will say this to the credit of women, that the War has brought out the important fact that the women to-day are able to take a place they never took before. We have discovered that women are capable of undertaking responsibilities equal to men, and some of them are far more capable I have found women in my own constituency in positions of trust, some of them doing work which even three men could not do. I am satisfied that if we give the vote to women of 21 years of age, they will exercise it in a commonsense, shrewd and business-like way, and I am sure the House will have no reason to regret if they pass the second reading of this important Bill to-day. We do not want to give the Bill simply because of the work of women during the War, but we want to give it on the common ground of justice and fairplay. I think these women are justly entitled to the vote, and that they will exercise it equally as 2108 well as the men. More than that, I think when it comes to looking at things from the political or economic point of view, a woman of 21 is just as capable as, and even more capable than, a man of 21. For these and other reasons I have very much pleasure in supporting very heartily the second reading of this Bill.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir JOHN HOPE
I am cordially in favour of this Bill in respect of that portion which was said by the promoters to be the main object of the Bill, namely, the extension of the franchise to women at the same age as men. I think there is no logical reason for refusing this franchise, and those who voted originally for the giving of the franchise to women must have realised that sooner or later—and probably sooner—the franchise must be, and should be, given to women on the same terms as to men. When this Bill came before the House last session, the only reasons given by speakers against it were practically that it should be delayed, so that women could be further educated in the use of the vote. It was said then, as it has been said to-day, that we should see how the women used the vote. There is some limit to the time required for education, and also to the time required to see how the women use their present vote. I submit that they exercised the vote usefully, well and sensibly at the last election, and there is no reason why they should not have it at the next General Election. The objection of forcing a General Election by passing this Bill has not, I think, been raised this afternoon, but it was last-year. I submit that that is illusory. This Bill, if it passes, can easily be delayed so that the new women are not put on the register until January, 1921, and they will not be able to vote until April, 1921. Further, I do not think the mere passing of this Bill should in any case force a General Election. It has been in the past, no doubt, considered that when a far-reaching measure reforming the franchise and altering the distribution of seats has been passed, there must be a General Election as soon as possible. But though this measure would enfranchise 5,000,000 women, which, no doubt, is a large number, but which is not so very large when you consider the percentage, for it is only adding some twenty per cent. to the present numbers, I do not think the mere passing 2109 of this measure would be any reason for insisting on a General Election so soon as the enfranchisement of these women became operative.
The Minister of Health based his objection to a certain extent on the expense, and also on the practical difficulties of adding a large number to the electorate which would make the machinery of registration impossible in the time at present allotted. I do not think we can go into the question of expense or say that that is a valid reason for refusing the vote to those who are otherwise entitled to it. I admit that the delay and difficulties of framing a register with this large increase of electorate might be more substantial. At the present moment there is a considerable agitation in favour of having the register only made up once a year instead of twice a year. I suggest it might be possible to accept the yearly register and at the same time abolish the qualifying period for residence. That, I submit, would probably have the same effect as regards a lot of people going on the register as soon as possible after a change of residence, and it would certainly have many advantages that we should have only one register in the year. That point might be considered as a possibility if this Bill is passed.
Some people have dwelt on the danger of a combination of the one sex against the other for political purposes. I quite agree that this has been urged in the past as a danger. It was put forward as one of the greatest arguments against giving the vote to women. But I submit that the mere fact of at the present moment leaving the inequality between men and women is conducive to sex combination. There are certain associations at the present time which exist mainly for the object of removing the various disqualifications. We all know that these associations have written to Members of Parliament asking them to pass this Bill. For my part, I hope that in the future men and women will unite for any political purposes, and not on sex lines. If you continue inequality, however, you are actually encouraging these associations, which are solely of women to get women's rights, to continue the associations for other purposes. I have given my reasons for supporting this Bill as regards the main principle which has been adopted this afternoon. I think 2110 the only speaker who has referred to other parts of the Bill to any extent is the President of the Ministry of Health. I regret that this Bill introduces various other matters of far-reaching importance, but it does, as the Minister of Health has already stated, propose to abolish the business qualification. There may or may not be good reasons for that, but the business qualification was a unanimous recommendation of the conference over which Mr. Speaker presided, and the question of giving the vote to women was practically left to this House.
I submit that by overloading this Bill with a question like that of removing the business qualification raises the question of whether it is fair and right to accept the findings of Mr. Speaker's Conference on which the original Representation of the People Act was founded. You can deal with the, question of the women, because the Conference left that point practically to the decision of the House of Commons and did not give a unanimous recommendation on it. Again, this Bill as drafted also raises the question of the soldiers. It offers the vote to those who have been soldiers and have arrived at the age of 19 and left the Army. I am in cordial agreement with that. If, however, you raise that question at all, personally I should advocate that soldiers, whether in peace or war, who have enlisted, should have the vote, for I cannot for the life of me see where the argument comes, that because a man happens to be a soldier at 19 and has gone overseas that he should have the vote, while the soldier who enlisted at 19 and renders himself liable to go out of the country, but who up till now has been at home, should not equally have the vote That, however, may be a contentious point; and I am only raising it to show that by introducing other questions than the vote for women into the Bill you are opening up much larger and other questions which may really delay the passage into law of the principle for which the authors of this Bill state they are mainly anxious.
The Title of this Bill is "a Bill to amend the Representation of the People Act, 1918." I think I am right that if this Bill goes to Committee as it stands now it will be in order, either in Committee of the whole House or in Committee upstairs, to bring in Amendments to any Section or Schedule of the 2111 Representation of the People Act, 1918. By introducing other questions into this Bill you are encouraging Members to put down Amendments to every Clause and Schedule of the original Act. There is another Bill which is before the House, introduced by the hon. Member for Cleveland, and various other Members, which simply gives the vote to women on the attainment of the age of 21. It is based, as a matter of fact, on the same terms as men. It does not deal with any other question. I admit that that Bill does not give the vote to women under 30 for local government purposes. That can easily be added. But I do appeal to hon. Members who have introduced and supported this Bill that, if they are really anxious to give the vote to women between the ages of 21 and 30, they should withdraw all extraneous matters from this Bill, or agree in some way with the hon. Member for Cleveland and the supporters of the other Bill to combine. I believe that if they carry forward this Bill as it stands there is little chance of it being passed into law within a reasonable period. We all know how long it took to debate the principal Act, the Representation of the People Act, 1918. We shall be opening up in this House a similar prospect. I shall vote for this Bill if it goes to a Division, because I am in favour of the principle of giving votes to women on the same terms as men, but I do hope that the hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill, who equally believes that this is the sole and main object of the Bill, will take out other and extraneous matters which overload the Bill, and which, in my belief, will prevent the main object being given effect to at an early date.
§ Viscountess ASTOR
I really did not intend to speak this afternoon, though I feel, after hearing the Debate, that someone really ought to take up the cudgels on behalf of the men, seeing we have had so many gallant defenders of our sex. All the points have really been dealt with. I should just, however, like to say that I admire the courage of the hon. Gentleman below me, the Member for St. Rollox (Mr. G. Murray). He has only said what a lot of Members think but have not got the courage to say. I think he is deplorably wrong. I do not think he was ever more wrong; but I do admire his courage.
2112 There is only one thing I should like to say. It is not for the sake of the women that I want this Bill; it is for the sake of the country. If I thought this country was entirely governed by material considerations, then I should say. Take the votes away from the women and give them all to the men. But it is not. Women bring into public life and private life a sort of moral courage which the men need. They require it, and I say, with due respect to them, I think they like it. As to the argument about age, speaking from a woman's point of view, I should say we all know that women at the age of eighteen are far older and wiser in many many ways than the man at twenty-five. It may be a debatable point, but as the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities has said, it is really a well-known thing that we develop sooner, and we grow older sooner, and it is only natural that at eighteen we should be wiser than a man at twenty-one. Then there is the patriotic point of view, but we do not ask it from that point of view. I would like to tell hon. Members who are afraid of us forming ourselves into a sort of sex combination that we could not do it. We women disagree just as much as the men. I regret it very much, and I think the hon. Member was quite right when he said that there were a great many women who were not pressing for the franchise, but we who are a little more advanced must help them on. I do not think hon. Members need pay much attention to them, because they are not women who are looking forward.
The country never in its life needed women's courage more than it does now. I only wish hon. Members could see the letters I have received since my maiden speech. It would be an eye-opener. There were thousands of them, and they were on a high level, and of such hope, both spiritual and material. One hon. Member has referred to the Plymouth by-election as a sort of circus, but I can tell him that the lady who was elected was not the clown. I wonder whether the hon. Member took the tone he had at Plymouth. I was not afraid to talk about the things that really affected men; I was not afraid to bring religion into it. That is really not very much like a circus, and that is why I am not afraid of the extension of the franchise. If there are more women, that is all the more reason why they should have more 2113 representation, I have not come here to-day prepared to speak. There are so many gallant defenders here, and I am most grateful to them, and I urge them, if we are going to divide, to think the matter well over. This is coming about. The people who do not want women in public life are too late, and it is really madness. There are certain reforms we women want, and we are going to get them. It is for your sakes and their sakes.
I am so fond of men, and that is why I want more women to have the vote. It is really our love for them that makes us want to help men in public life as well as in private life. Something has been said about the double vote, but I do not think that is any objection to this Bill. I have not found that those who possess material things are better citizens than those who do not possess them. I put citizenship on a higher plane than material possessions. I do not think that is any objection to this Bill. Very often the possession of the things of this world makes us very callous to the things that really matter. That should not stop the Bill going through. There is so much I would like to say, but the House has been so patient, and I really got up just to thank hon. Members for the way they have put the case forward for women, and I would like to tell them that there is no reason to fear us. We are reasonable and we are not fanatics, and the people that fear us I cannot understand where they get it from. Fear never won anything. We did not win the War with fear. One hon. Member said we might get prohibition, and if the country is ready for it we will have it. I have told the House already quite fearlessly that I do not think it is ready for it, but if they could see my postbag they would think well before they oppose drink reform, and they should think well before they treat the women's question lightly. There is a soul and spirit in the women of England, a spirit to help which they are going to give you, and we are grateful to hon. Members for giving us a chance of asserting our views.
§ Major COHEN
I want to oppose this Bill. If I thought the women of this country wanted this Bill I would vote for it, but I do not think they do. I certainly think women ought to have all the privileges that men have. Had I been a Member of this House when the original 2114 Bill was brought forward, giving votes to women of 30 years of age and upwards, I would have voted for it, but now that has been done, I think it is quite far enough. I think a girl of 21 is very much too young to have a vote. (An HON. MEMBER: "So is a boy!") I agree, and were I able to prevent that I would do so. Not only do I think that a girl of 21 is too young to have a vote, but I think their mothers and fathers think so as well, and if we canvass our constituents and ask the parents whether they think their daughters ought to have votes or not, I feel certain that the answer would be in the negative. We have been told that we need not fear the predominating number of women in this country, but we know what happened to Samson once when he gave away the source of his strength, and there are still a great many Delilahs in this country.
§ Major MORGAN
I should not have troubled the House upon this question but for the remarks which have fallen from the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Leng-Sturrock) and two or three other hon. Members. I was very sorry to find that my hon and gallant Friend who last spoke has joined the very small band who are opposing this measure. I claim to speak upon the question of equal opportunities for men and women on the ground of the experience of my past 25 years of public life. I have always found that women, as far as they have had the opportunity, have on every occasion proved themselves equal to the average man we have upon our public Boards. That being so I put this question on the high ground already pointed out by speakers on this side of the House, that we do not claim votes for women because the women made special efforts to win the War. That was the only opportunity they got during the war of showing then-ability, as was pointed out so ably by the mover and seconder of this Bill. They have always shown their ability and capacity when they have had the opportunity.
The burden of the opposition of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Leng-Sturrock), and of the hon. and gallant Member for East Bradford (Captain Loseby), was not that the reform was not duo and should not be made, but that the time was inappropriate, though they did not produce a single argument why that was the case. I trust that the House to-day will be unanimous, and that we 2115 shall remove the barriers which exist in the present Act of Parliament. The reasons are overwhelmingly in favour of that course. So far as I konw, there is no point in local government work which does not in some way or another affect our domestic life, and I want to place on record our indebtedness, so far as my district is concerned, to the women upon our local governing bodies for the work that they have done. I hope also that we shall have more lady Members in this House. The hon. Member for North Lanark (Mr. R. McLaren) made an unwarranted and uncalled for jibe at the Labour party with regard to our views on extending the franchise to men and women on equal terms. We have always supported that course, and the statement of the hon. Member with regard to our attitude on that question is not true. I was very glad to find from the speech of the Minister of Health, that the Government are taking steps to see that the men who served in the War and who were given the franchise when they were 19 years of age, because they had put on uniform and were ready to fight for their country, were not insulted by having their names removed from the Register. If Parliament were at all grateful to the men, and if they were placed upon the Register, then all that I can say is, that it would be an insult to them to remove them from the Register. I am very glad, therefore, to find that the Government are taking steps to see that the men who were prepared to make the sacrifice are not going to be unjustly dealt with.
Mr. C. PALMER
I know from my long association, in another sense, with the House that this great Assembly is not too anxious that new Members should intervene too early in its proceedings, but I have just come back from an election in which votes for women has been one of the burning questions, and, although I freely admit that I have been suddenly translated from the somewhat heated soil of that election to the cold and cool atmosphere of the House of Commons, yet I feel that it is my duty, thus early, to express with all humility my views to this assembly. I am in entire agreement with the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) when she says that we have nothing to fear from the women of England. Not only have we nothing to fear, but we have much to gain. 2116 I have been through a contest in which I owe much to the sober, sound commonsense of the women. Indeed, I think it is a tribute to the independence and the courage of the Labour party that they should have brought forward a Bill which is likely to do them so little good. The truth of it is that the remarkable wave of sanity which has come over the country at recent bye-elections is not in my view so much a proof that there is less love of the Coalition as more fear of the Labour party, not the gentlemen who with great ability and courage carry on the constitutional work of that party in the House of Commons, but those dark and sinister forces which lurk behind the honest, straightforward men who sit in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name? "] I will name them in good time. Have patience with me for one moment, and, if necessary, I will name them all. I say with all submission, having come straight from the people, that they are determined, and the women are determined, that they will have no strife or trouble in this country. If I am not going outside the scope of a Second Reading speech, I should like to say, with all candour, that the Labour party are losing in the country because the women of England fear the forces that stand behind them.
I am, therefore, a firm supporter of this Bill. I know that in supporting it I may be taking a line which may not be acceptable to many Members of this House, but I think it is my duty to do so. First of all, I made the promise that I would support any extension of the franchise to women, and I am one of those queer people who believe that election promises are made to be kept. Consequently, I say quite frankly that any extension of the franchise to women will always have my most sincere and hearty support. The women of England are the really true Conservatives of England. That is why I think the Labour party have done the heroic thing in introducing this Bill to-day. If it had come, not from the Coalition, but from a more independent and moderate source, I could have better understood it. During the election of which I have spoken we had great industrial trouble, which I think it is pertinent to this Bill to mention. A handful of 400 men struck work because they disagreed with a certain arrangement which 2117 had been made in regard to the quantity and the price to be paid for coal; 420 men struck, and it put out of work 6,000 men. It was the women of that district who resented this action; it was the women who said "Rather than that we should be starving and that our children should be without food and coal, the Government ought to compel those 420 men to go back to their work." That is the spirit in which the women of England intend to deal with every great industrial question that comes before them, and it is because I believe they will stand foursquare, a bulwark against all trouble and industrial strife, believing that capital and labour working side by side can best operate for the interests of this great country that we all love, that I stand here in my first speech to give a hearty and a wholly enthusiastic vote for this Bill. There is much more that I could say, and there are many points which I might, in other circumstances, have been prepared to make, but I will say that we are standing to-day in a new situation. The women of this country have been given the vote. They know nothing of parties and they know little of politics; they look inwards to the home, and they look to the nation of which they are members; and I believe truly that whenever any great policy is brought forward in this House, or ultimately goes to the country, it will be the women who, by their sanity and sobriety, will be the deciding voice. I know there is a tendency to treat this subject somewhat lightly. Personally I do not believe that any subject should be treated lightly in this House. We are here, if I may say so with all respect to men many years older than I am, to do our country's business. When the other night I sat in this House, having come down here perfectly prepared to give my vote on another question, the levity displayed did rather touch me and make me feel that I was possibly out of place. But I say again that we want the women to vote to-day. They are going to be the great stabilising influence in the years that are before us. I recall very well that the present Foreign Secretary, in one of those fearsome speeches which were made in the early days when women were shrieking for the vote, and before it was given them cap-in-hand by a grateful country, said that on the day when 20 millions of men and women had the vote we might put 2118 up the shutters of Empire and write Ichabod over Whitehall. Well, he had the distinguished honour in another place of moving that Bill which gives 20 million votes, and neither put up the shutters of Empire nor wrote Ichabod over Whitehall. That prophecy, so little fulfilled to-day, might, I think, be taken to heart by some of my Friends here in regard to the speeches they are making on this occasion, and they might realise that in the mutations which we are certain to have in the years to come it is the women who will write Empire, in bigger words, and who will write Safety, Honour and Contentment on the offices of Whitehall.
§ Sir R. PARK GOFF
My reason for rising this afternoon for a few moments is that I have a Bill on the same subject, which was circulated this morning, and by the accident of the Ballot my Bill has been anticipated to-day. The Bill which I circulated this morning is a one-clause Bill, giving the Parliamentary franchise to women on the same terms of equality as men. So far as regards one particular Clause, there is absolutely no difference between us. The only difference between the two Bills is that the hon. Member who introduced his Bill to-day is a married man while I am a bachelor. Hon. Members shout "Shame." I am bound legally and logically to defend my position. If marriage is a lottery, and lotteries are forbidden by law, I remain a law-abiding subject. The hon. Member who is a married man is evidently quite satisfied that this Bill will not disturb the domesticity of the home, and I, as a bachelor, in spite of my many disappointments, am doing my best to prove that I am not vindictive, but, on the contrary, have formed a higher opinion than ever of a good woman's judgment. I am perfectly willing that my Bill, which deals at present purely with the Parliamentary franchise, should be extended to deal with Local Government Purposes as well—I am willing to meet my Friends opposite in any way I can, and I maintain that in bringing this Bill in I am not only justified but supported by the manifesto of my two Leaders dated 22nd November, 1918, when they said:It will be the duty of the new Government to remove all existing inequalities of the law as between men and women.As I have a Bill of my own, I have no intention of detaining the House any 2119 longer. I think everything has been said which can be said in favour of this Bill, and after having heard the hon. Member for Plymouth, I am sure that no other of us could bring conviction to any man not already convinced. I maintain, whatever those who are opposed to this Bill may think, that this change has got to come, sooner or later, and as far as they are concerned it is only postponing the evil day. It has got to come, and the sooner it comes the better. Why make two bites at the cherry? I can assure hon. Members opposite that although my Bill does not go so far as theirs—on the one point it does go just as far—I desire to see this Bill go through in one form or another. I am only too willing and anxious to assist the hon. Member with his Bill if he will agree to assist me with mine. I wish to see women granted the only equality which the laws can create, equality of opportunity. For these reasons and for every reason which has been put forward from our point of view to-day, I desire, as a humble backbencher, to give this Bill my wholehearted support.
§ Mr. W. CARTER
I do not think I should have intervened in this Debate but for the charge which has been made by the hon. Member for the Wrekin Division (Mr. C. Palmer) against the Labour party. He will have the satisfaction of knowing that the first time he was privileged to speak in this House he made an attack upon the Labour party without any justification, without any evidence, and without pointing out the people who have been responsible for strikes. The Labour party and its representatives here have spent their whole lives in trying to prevent strikes.
§ Mr. CARTER
This country would have been in a state of turmoil and unrest, and almost in a state of anarchy, if it had not been for the sober thought, sober consideration and sober advice given at all times by the men of the Labour party to prevent unnecessary strikes. I should have been very pleased if the hon. Member had gone into the question of the cause of strikes, because up to the present time I know of no strike that has taken place without some justification. All along the line, at all times, the working classes of this country who are organised 2120 have had to fight for a mere existence. If it had not been for their organisation the leaders would not have been subjected to treatment of a character which should not have obtained in any civilised country. Therefore I repudiate the charges made that our party has been responsible for unnecessary strife. This is not the first time the Labour party have been the champions of the cause of women. They have always been in favour of adult suffrage. They have been the first to give people citizenship and equal rights, and it is not because we want to make any political capital that we are prepared to take the risks we have done. I am glad to speak in support of this Bill, because it gives me an opportunity to keep faith with the promises I have made. Promises are made by us all; by the Prime Minister, and by even the most humble Member of this House. I listened with profound interest to the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday, in which he declared that the British word was respected and revered by the whole world, and therefore the Government has taken a particular attitude in connection with Constantinople and Turkey, because we had given pledges, and he looked upon promises and pledges so given as sacred. I, too, look upon the promise given by the Prime Minister just before the election, when he said he was going to give sex equality, as being at least as sacred to the womenfolk of our country.
I am supporting this because I am a constitutionalist. I believe in the constitution. I am not one of those who go about preaching anarchy and advocating all sorts of new ideas. Everyone is taking a profound and intelligent interest in this movement. If you want loyalty you must trust the people. If you want service you must give them responsibility, and if you want sane thought on national and international affairs you must give them the vote. I was exceedingly pleased when I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that the Government were willing to allow the House to have a free vote on this question. I believe Parliament is in favour of this Bill. I believe the country is in favour of it, and although an hon. Member has told us that so far as he is concerned he has not found any desire for it on the part of his constituents, I am bound to say that in the constituency which I represent, whenever the question of adult suffrage is mentioned, it evokes more enthusiasm 2121 than any other question. One hon. Member has proposed that the qualifying age for women shall be brought down from thirty to twenty-five and that for men raised from twenty-one to twenty-five. I can hardly reconcile an expression of opinion of that kind with the action of those who in the past have thought and said that when a man joins His Majesty's Forces at the age of nineteen he shall be entitled to a vote. Why, when he is released from military duty and enters into civil life, should he be debarred from exercising the privilege of citizenship until he reaches the age of twenty-five? After all, these proposals are a long way behind the times. In the past all extensions of the franchise have only been secured as the result of great and sometimes violent agitation, and the people have almost been driven to rebellion in order to get enfranchised. I think the Government should support this Bill and not only give it a Second Reading, but, in order to keep faith with the pledges they have made, enable it to be passed through all its stages. I am sure that those who by the Bill will be given the Vote will thereby be induced to take a greater interest in the welfare of the country, and will become a valuable national asset. I do not think any hon. Member who votes for the Bill will ever have cause to regret doing so.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
I listened carefully to the remarks of the last speaker, but I think he failed to discern what I will endeavour to show is the real meaning of this Bill. I am not going to follow some of the previous speakers in arrogating to myself the position of only looking at this question from the point of view of advantage to the country. Of course, I think every Member has the right to claim that the advantage of the country should be our only desire in giving judgment on this question. Neither am I going to follow some of those who have endeavoured to discern the relative merits of the two sexes. I have lived long enough to know that these psychological researches lead to very little results, and therefore I am not prepared to lay down any general rule. I want to look at this Bill from a commonsense, business point of view, and I want the House to consider what are the real principles which underlie it. It is a Bill really for adult suffrage. It divorces local government from Imperial government, and that is a very considerable step to be proposed in a 2122 private measure. It is not only an enfranchising Bill, but it is also a disfranchising Bill, because it deprives of their right to vote certain people. It is only two years ago that we had the report of the Conference over which you, Mr. Speaker, presided, and at that time a certain compromise was arrived at which resulted in by far the vastest increase of the electorate which has ever taken place in the whole course of the history of this country. Is this the time, two years after the great change has been made, to tear up the whole compact, to neglect the whole report of the Conference, and to proceed upon directly opposite principles in constructing your new franchise? If the proposers of the Bill had confined themselves to certain parts of it, they would have had my support for one, for what it is worth. When the Franchise Bill was before us, I was from the first an opponent of Women Suffrage. But that question was settled. I accept the settlement and I am glad to welcome women on an exact equality. When the Bill was before the House I thought, as I still think, that the division between men and women in regard to age was entirely illogical, and I moved an Amendment in favour of reducing the age, and voted for it. It is no business of ours to examine how soon women and men develop intellectually. We must take a broad commonsense view, and if women are to have the vote, and I now cordially admit that the voice of the country has decided it, it is our business to put them on an equality with men. Again, had the Bill been confined to that, I should have been glad to support it; but I am not prepared at this time, after two years, to re-open a vast question of this sort which would necessitate an immediate appeal to the country, because we should no longer be representing this largely increased electorate of some two or three millions.
I am asked first of all to tear up the compromise which was reached, to set aside the results of the deliberate and careful decision of your conference, Sir, to divorce local government from the general Parliamentary franchise, to disfranchise that large body of my fellow citizens who derive their right from their business qualifications, and to introduce various other changes which have been super-added to this one essential point of the equalising of age between men and 2123 women voters which would have had, I believe, the support, had the Bill been so confined, of the vast majority of this House. But we were told when that question was discussed, and I moved my Amendment, that that would mean the break-up of the compromise, and the Amendment could not be supported on that ground. On how much larger a scale are we now breaking up the conference? Adult suffrage may be a good or a bad thing. The history of every country proves that political change, if it is to be sound, if it is really to carry conviction and not to leave heart-burning behind it, must not be at break-neck speed, and with a great measure enfranchising some 14,000,000 extra voters almost fresh from the printing press of two years ago, we are now asked, in the beginning of the second Session of a new Parliament, to start anew, to take our place, not upon the carefully considered compromise of your conference, but upon the entirely new proposals of adult suffrage. I regret that I have not an opportunity of voting for the equalising of ages between male and female voters, but that is the fault of those who have drafted and promoted this Bill. They have added to it something much larger and much more dangerous, and they now ask us, on a Friday afternoon, on the proposal of a private Member, to recast the whole of our Parliamentary suffrage, and to establish in place of it, and in place of the business and residential qualification, which represents and reflects the real strength and importance of the different parts of the community, by one swoop, the dangerous and new principle of adult suffrage. For these reasons I regret that, not being able to support one part of the Bill, I must refuse to support the Bill as a whole.
§ Mr. LYNN
The arguments in this Debate have all been on one side, and there is, therefore, very little that one can say in reply to the opponents of the Bill. I agree with the hon. Gentleman (Sir H. Craik) that it is a pity the framers of the Bill have introduced too much. I have for twenty years advocated equal rights for women, and I am strongly in favour of women getting the same electoral rights as men, and, therefore, though I may have in Committee to vote against many Amendments for the purpose of getting the Bill forward and for 2124 equalising the votes between men and women, I shall vote in favour of it. An hon. Member tried to make a cold shiver run down us by telling us of the fate of Samson. I cannot help feeling that if there had been a franchise in Samson's day he would never have lost his locks, because the ladies who indulged in shearing his locks would have been indulging in some other occupation—addressing meetings or trying to get into Parliament, or something like that. But we have to look at this question from a logical point of view. How can you give a vote to a man of 21 and not give it to a woman of the same age? I think the thing is illogical and only makes men who claim to be logical look very ridiculous. I agree with the hon and charming Member for Plymouth that women mature earlier than men, and speaking with considerable experience of them, always pleasant, I can say I have found that a woman's instinct is invariably more valuable than a man's logic. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir H Craik) referred to the compromise which took place at the Conference over which you, Mr. Speaker, presided. With whom was that compromise made? Was it made with the women of the country? We must discard these considerations and meet the central point, which is whether women should have the vote on the same terms as men. I think they should, and, therefore, I shall vote in favour of the Bill.
§ Mr. HOPKINS
I do not like to give a silent vote on this occasion. I am not going to say that the main proposal of the Bill is illogical. There is no logical objection to women having the vote on the same terms as men, but I do think that the Bill is singularly inopportune at the present moment. This is only the second session of Parliament since that great reform of the electoral law which we were told was to be so enduring and far-reaching, was passed. It is very unfortunate if we are going to revise our electoral machinery every session of Parliament. If hon. Members think that this is the final move they will find themselves mistaken. The hon. Member who moved the Bill pointed out the painful case of the lady of 29 with a large family who was deprived of the vote. It is quite true that that lady might have waited 12 months and got the vote. There is no real magic in the age of 21, and when you have come down to 21 I suppose that there 2125 will be a new society formed to agitate for votes for girls of 20, and so on down the scale. The hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) has already given us an indication of what the new franchise movement will be after this. She has pointed out that young ladies of 18 are much more intelligent than the average man of 25.
§ Mr. HOPKINS
I realise the advance there has been during the last few years. It will be the foundation of the new agitation that a girl of 18 is perfectly able to form a judgment and vote on electoral questions, that she has to live according to the law and that she is taxed and that she ought to have the vote. Then I suppose we shall proceed a little further. I have no doubt that some restless hon. Members, anxious to reconstruct the electoral register and increase the work of the registration officers, will say that it is most unjust that if we legislate for the education of schoolchildren the schoolchildren should not have a vote in determining the legislation that is to effect them. I am sure the hon. Member for Plymouth will not disagree with me in this, that it is of great importance that we should legislate for the care of babies, and later on perhaps, an agitation may be got up to give the babies the vote, and we shall have a procession of perambulators going to the poll. I have no doubt the decision of the baby voters, influenced by the guile of the nurses, may be as valuable as some of the votes that are given nowadays. If this Measure had been proposed after a considerable inter-vat, when no doubt other reforms will be required, and when perhaps there will be time to take to pieces and re-examine our electoral machinery, I should have great pleasure in supporting it, I regard it to-day as premature, and I shall vote against it.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I had not intended to intervene in this debate. I find myself in the position of the man who said that after listening to a Socialist he found himself a Conservative, and after listening to a Conservative he found himself a Socialist. I am in favour of the principle of the Bill that a woman should have a vote on the same terms as a man, but I admit that in listening to the speech of the Noble Lady the Member for Plymouth 2126 I began to have serious doubts on the question, because ringing through her speech came the challenge of the fanatic which we hear already coming across the Atlantic—"we are out to do you good, and good we shall do you, whether you like it or not." The proposal to enfranchise a large additional number of women voters is very important, but it is not the whole or anything like the whole of this Bill, and I think the other points have not received sufficient consideration in this measure, which means recasting the whole of our electoral machinery. As was pointed out by the right hon. Member for Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) this Bill is not only an enfranchising Bill but it is a disfranchising Bill. That point has not been sufficiently developed. It is all very well to say we can do away with business qualifications, but I have heard no hon. Member suggest that that means sweeping away the great and historic constituency of the city of London, and replacing it by the charwomen or office-cleaners who happen to reside within the limits of that very old and very honourable constituency. There are other points, one of which I was horrified to hear from the Minister of Health, namely, that this will impose an additional charge of between £300,000 and £400,000 a year. That has not been sufficiently met by the promoters of the Bill. The enormous change in our local government qualifications has not been discussed at all. It has simply been a discussion of whether the women should have the franchise on the same terms as the men. Here I found myself rather astonished to hear the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities saying that although a compromise had been come to, and this enfranchisement of additional women meant the tearing up of this compromise, if it had been limited to that he would vote for it if it had been brought forward in a single Clause Bill.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The question of woman suffrage was not part and parcel of the arrangement, proposed by the Speaker's Conference.
§ Captain ELLIOT
I apologise to my hon. Friend. The Member with whom I find myself most in sympathy is the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. W Carter) who seemed to take the sanest and most general view of the subject. The question of our parliamentary institution is one of the greatest questions which we 2127 can have under consideration, and anything which, even at considerable risk, can gain the interest of a large number of men and women of this country in that question is a thing to be supported. It is an astonishing fact that the system of non-parliamentary Government which has been set up in Russia, which the Minister for War last night or the night before called the home of advanced political thought, has not led to any permanent reform in the position of the working classes there. It is the home of advanced political thought, but it is thought which advances by a series of inclines until it makes a complete circle and finds itself back where it started. I was astonished to find, though I have seen no comment on it, that the twin Czars of Russia, Lenin arid Trotsky, have abolished the foundation on which their Government rested. The Soviet Government have now abolished the Soviets, their decree says:—The Workmen's Council, created to maintain order in the centres of production, have on the contrary produced grave disorder. They have caused demoralisation of the working men and complete demoralisation of the industries. In view of these circumstances the Soviet Government finds itself compelled to abolish the Workmen's Council and the Factory Delegates in all Russia.That seems to be an admission of bankruptcy, of the only other political system which has so far ventured to compete with the system of representative Government. That this great experiment has been made and carried through for three years with the utmost ruthlessness and has itself been compelled to abrogate its powers and return to despotism, seems to me to convey a great lesson for us in this country, that we should do our best to support what, after all, is the only reasonable alternative system of government. If our Parliamentary system is hurtful and out of place—for all the criticism one reads in the daily papers one is inclined to think that it is in a very feeble condition—still, it does represent the evolution of centuries as the best way of giving expression to the common will. Therefore, anything that can strengthen the interest of the people and lead them to support this system as against Societism should be encouraged. I do believe that the lowering of the age of enfranchisement of women to the same age as that of men will introduce a greater interest in it, not perhaps at once, 2128 but certainly within a short time. It will introduce a general interest in our parliamentary institution and in the question of the representatives who are sent here.
The sentiments of the hon. Member who represents Plymouth do not, I feel convinced, find an echo in the hearts of the women of the country. I am prepared to submit that to the judgment of the electorate. We have taken great risks in representative government. There is the Local Veto Act, which is coming into force in Scotland, which allows a bare majority, a 55 per cent. majority on a poll of 25 per cent., to alter fundamentally the social institutions of the whole area in which it is carried out. That is to say, one sixth of the electorate can dominate the other five sixths. It may be a good or a bad thing, but if that is ruthlessly pushed by the women electorate of this country banded together in the sex interest—because that is a subject on which we may get the banding together of one sex as against the other—you may get great danger to representative institutions as a whole. However, the fact remains that you cannot deny the justice of giving women the vote on the same terms as those on which you give it to men. The suggestion that if you admit women at 21 there will be a series of proposals to reduce the age to 20, 18, and so on down to the perambulator stage, is brought forward with a levity which is scarcely justifiable, and which I feel myself compelled to deprecate strongly.
These same unstable, emotional girls to whose admission to the franchise my hon. Friend deprecates have the power at 21 to graduate in medicine, at which age two of them may sign a certificate to put him into an asylum. When we entrust this gigantic and tyranical power to these girls of 21 it is scarcely just to suggest that the people who may clap our legislators into an asylum should not be considered to have sufficient stability to select one as against another. I think that that is sufficient for the scope of that argument. The British Medical Association which, after all, is not a gang of hot-headed revolutionaries, is willing to entrust these enormous powers, so that if one of these girls of 21 signs her certificate saying that there are no suspicious circumstances attending the death of a man, no one will question it. The man may be legally buried and the insurance collected by whoever 2129 has had the good fortune to insure him. When a power like that is exercised the giving of the power to vote at the age of 21 is really a negligible matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] My hon. Friends dissent, but if they had been put into a lunatic asylum they would realise that the power of putting a man into an asylum is a great power. It is a very serious place to be in. Therefore, I think that the claim of women to be enfranchised at the same age as men is just, but the case for the disfranchisement of the business constituencies such as the City of London and Glasgow is by no means made out. There have been no arguments brought forward to justify the enormous change in the Local Government franchise, and while we may support the main principle of the Bill with regard to the enfranchisement of women, we must insist on a Very stringent examination of the other clauses regarding which no case whatever has been put to the House.
§ Sir H. COWAN
The hon. Member, who, as far as I can gather, was speaking against the Bill, seems to me to have made out a strong case in favour of it. I am supporting the Bill on the ground that it is a logical development of the agreement emobdied in the Act of 1918 as a result of the conference over which you presided. It seems to me absurd that women of 21, who are admittedly equal in intellectual capacity to men of the same age, should be debarred from exercising the franchise merely because there happens to be more women than men in the country. The suggestion that the larger part of the community should be debarred from a fair share of electoral privileges merely because they are in the majority will not bear examination. The extension of the franchise to women in 1918 was a large experiment. The hon. Member for St. Rollax (Mr. G. Murray) has told us that that experiment has not yet received long enough trial, that it has been proved by only one general election, and that we should continue the experiment at least for another election. I would like to know what the hon. Member would propose to regard as a satisfactory test of the effect of the extension of the franchise to women under the Act of 1918. Does he suggest that if the next election should prove to his satisfaction that women are not qualified to exercise the franchise, presumably because they would vote 2130 against the party of a combination of parties to which he belonged, therefore the experiment should be considered as sufficiently disastrous to make its extension undesirable? Or would he accept the result of that election, whatever it might be?
It seems to me that all sections of the House are agreed that logically there is no argument against this extension, and that, after all, the main criticism of this Bill is that it was introduced by a private Member. The hon. Baronet, the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir H. Craik) has made a strong point of that fact, but I think we are entitled to ask why this Bill has been introduced by a private Member. Surely it is because the Government has not done its duty. Last session a Bill embodying similar provisions was introduced by another private Member. That Bill had in it a clause granting the franchise to women of 21. The Government accepted the Bill subject to that provision being deleted. But the Committee to which the Bill was committed endorsed the provision, and the House by a very large majority accepted it. The Government opposed the decision of the House on the ground, among others, that if a Bill was passed an immediate-appeal to the people would be necessary. What is the Government's attitude today? The Government says that it will not put on its Whips, but that if the House again confirms its decision of last session the Government will not accept it and will not refuse it. The Government now seems to consider that discretion is the better part of valour, and that "he who fights and runs away, shall live to fight another day." It forgets that silence is generally construed as consent. I think the Government would be wiser to face the situation and to realise that what they did in 1918 commits them to doing what this Bill requires. It is utterly illogical and unreasonable to say that women who are allowed to exercise most extreme powers at the age of 21 are not capable of taking part, through the franchise, in the government of their country. We all know from our personal experience and knowledge of women that the woman of 21 is at least as capable as the man of the same age.
There is no argument against the extension of the franchise to these young women except that the female sex might possibly act as a unit and defeat the 2131 males. It is an unworthy argument, it is an unsound argument, it is a dangerous argument and it is an argument which this House ought not to entertain for a moment. I do not know whether hon. Members who half-heartedly oppose the Second Reading are going to carry their opposition to a division. I do not know whether hon. Members who say that their constituents do not want this extension are prepared to face the enlarged electorate when this Bill is passed as having opposed that extension, but I very much doubt it. I think the House had better face the realities of the situation. This is a reform which is inevitable and can at best only be postponed. I do not think much of the courage of hon. Members who use arguments and then run away. I hope they will go to a division. I think the country ought to know who they are. If they do not I think the House and the country will have a very poor opinion of them. We have heard the constitutional argument that if this Bill is passed there must be an immediate appeal to the country. We have good reason to believe that there are many Members, and probably a good many of those in the Government, who do not desire an early General Election. I have never been able to see the force of that argument. The hon. Member representing the Scottish Universities said that if an extension of the franchise is granted, this House will no longer represent the people. Does anybody imagine, that it represents the people to-day. All the by-elections prove it docs not. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, No!" and "Yes!"] I do not think the little more or the little less matters. In any case, I am quite sure the promoters of the Bill are quite prepared to accept a compromise under which they will agree that they will not, because this Bill has been passed and because this extension of the franchise has been granted, demand an earlier General Election than circumstances are likely to force on the country.
§ Mr. F. C. THOMSON
I think that this Bill so far as it relates to women is merely carrying out the policy laid down by the leaders of the Coalition in their letter of November, 1918. In that view I supported it, and I still believe it to be absolutely sound. The hon. Member for Lanark (Captain Elliot), dealt with the subject in a most interesting way. After 2132 all, at the present time the world is in the most difficult situation. The Government has broken down in many countries, democracy is on its trial, and I think it is our duty to do everything we can to broaden the basis of representative government in this country. From that point of view I think this proposal to lower the franchise age of women to 21 is deserving of the support of all serious people in this country. You do not want any considerable class to be outside the franchise; you want them to have the vote and feel that they are bearing a part in the machinery of government. That is the essence of democracy, and now, when Government is on its challenge in this and other countries, it is our duty to do all we can to set our house in order. We are the pioneers of representative government, and at every stage we have been pioneers, not by revolution, but by an ordered development following on century after century, and now we have reached a critical time, and we want to take every step possible to broaden the basis of representative government and make it secure for the generations ahead. I think most sincerely in no way can we do this better than by adding millions of women to the electoral roll.
I cannot see—and perhaps as a new Member I owe a little apology on the point—why the passing of this measure should mean an early General Election. I differ from the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in thinking that it is likely, or that the Government has lost the confidence of the country. I do not think there is anything in the by-elections to justify him in reaching the conclusion to which he has arrived with such conviction. There were one or two remarks in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) which interested me. He spoke with his usual charm and vivacity, and one of the arguments he advanced in favour of the enfranchisement of women was that he thought that had women been engaged in drawing up the terms of Peace, those would have been very different. I am not so sure. I think women have fully as much sense as men, and they realise what a tremendous task it was. Without claiming that the Peace Treaty is perfect—and I do not think our women claim that any more than our men—I think they would thoroughly agree that what was essential was to arrive at terms that would make it unlikely that their 2133 husbands and sons should be called upon to fight again in another great and sanguinary War. That was what they were out for, and their view in that matter was just the view of the men. I think the idea that women would band together as a sex and take up a view contrary to that of men is totally opposed to all history. It has never happened. I am open to correction, but if any hon. Member whose mind is well-stored with history can tell me of any occasion in which the women of a community banded themselves against men, seized the power and governed the State, I should be glad to be told of it. I do not think it has ever happened. Women will have their divisions of opinion just as men, but they will not be sex divisions. I feel more strongly to-day than ever that that is an entirely groundless fear.
I would have liked much if the hon. Member who introduced this Bill had confined the Bill to the purpose of enfranchising women. I regret exceedingly that other considerations have been brought into the Bill, and I do wish that he would consider the suggestion put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland (Sir P. Goff) who has himself introduced a Bill dealing with this point of women's franchise, because I think the vast amount of opinion supports it, and I think a Bill of that sort might have an easy passage into law. It is a pity to introduce into the Bill these extraneous matters, which are highly contentious, and I agree with the hon. Member for Lanark that we are not likely to abolish a system of voting which would put an end to constituencies like the City of London or the Central Division of Glasgow, and I do not think it good for the country that they should be abolished. Therefore, I think it is a pity that these extraneous items should have been brought into this Bill, but because I think the question of women's suffrage so important I shall support the Bill most cordially on Second reading. I think it requires amendment in Committee, and I do appeal to hon. Members to see where they cannot agree with those who desire to push forward the lowering of the age for the women's vote without bringing into the Bill extraneous matters which will hamper its progress, and which are in certain respects highly controversial. I do wish to press this 2134 point with all the fervour I can. I think representative government is now on its trial all the world over. As a Coalition candidate, I may be pardoned for saying that the last General Election was a great tribute to the sagacity and sense of the women of Great Britain, and I shall never fear the verdict of the women electors of this country.
§ Mr. THOMSON
It is quite likely that they will. If they change their minds, I say it will be for reasons that will be to them adequate, and although that may be unfortunate for me and to others, we shall accept it. But I certainly think that the last election was an excellent start for women's franchise, and, though in later elections the result may be exceedingly disappointing to those who share my views, still we are not going to be deterred by a merely personal consideration. It is the broad consideration that should govern us. We look forward with full confidence in this matter. We remember the dismal foreboding in pre-war days about women's suffrage—that the British Empire was to come to an end and India would have nothing to do with a country governed by women, totally forgetting that Queen Victoria had ruled over the British Empire for some sixty odd years. Those arguments have all been proved false and are no longed adduced, and the hon. Member for St. Rollox has to think of others, though I do not think the new ones are any stronger. Let us look forward to the future in this matter with confidence, and let us realise that we are in this House of Commons attempting to work in the representative government and we want to feel, too, that we come back here representing the opinion of all the adult fellow-countrymen and countrywomen of ours. We must therefore put an end to this absurd anomaly which prohibits a woman of 28 or 29, whatever her responsibilities—a married woman with several children, or a university graduate of the highest distinction—from having a vote, whereas a younger brother, who may in no sense be as well qualified, is enfranchised. It is an absurdity totally unworthy of the British House of Commons, and because, in common with others, I wish to see this absurdity brought to an end, I cordially support the Second Reading of this Bill, although I 2135 do think certain matters in it call for consideration.
§ Major MOLSON
I wish to explain that I oppose this Bill because of the extraneous matters which have been brought into it; also because I think the vote has been enlarged very extensively just before the last election, and I think also it is quite unnecessary and inadvisable to make any alteration at the present time. The Minister of Health explained to us that such a change would mean a great deal of confusion in the electorate, and be a source of injustice to those in business constituencies like the City of London, or parts of Glasgow. I quite agree that women are as fit as men to exercise the vote. It is not for that reason that I oppose this Bill. I do not wish to be misunderstood on this point. The extraneous matters in the Bill and the time it would occupy is my reason for not proceeding with it now.
§ Captain WATSON
Although I do not approve of the whole of the provisions of this measure, I intend to vote for the Second Reading in the hope that it may be amended in Committe. I spoke and voted in favour of a similar measure introduced about 12 months ago, and I spoke in favour of the main principle included in this measure in the first speech I made in this House. I have nothing to add to what I said on these occasions. The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities has told the House that if we carry this Bill it will mean tearing up the compromise arrived at by Mr. Speaker's Conference. That compromise has already been torn up. It was torn up nearly two years ago when the Representation of the People Act was passed. Every Member of this House knows that two of the most important provisions recommended by Mr. Speaker's Conference were not carried into law, the recommendations in favour of the alternative vote, and proportional representation. For my part, I sincerely hope, when the franchise is dealt with in the not distant future, that both of these provisions may find a place in the new Act. I also venture to suggest that when any new Bill is introduced some regard will be had to the representations coming from so many parts of the country in favour of having only one electoral register in the year instead of two, as now. In many parts it 2136 has been found that to have a by-annual register is a mistake. It has come to be expensive and burdensome. I suggestt that might be amended by having one register a year with the short qualifying period, say, of one month. So far as an immediate appeal to the country would be necessitated by passing this measure, I think every hon Member must agree that such would not be the case. We all know perfectly well that if a General Election is forced upon us in the near future it will not be because of the passing of a measure like this, but for reasons wholly extraneous to, and entirely different from, anything in this Bill. At the General Election of 1918, it will be remembered, in a manifesto issued and in speeches made on behalf of the Coalition at that time it was said thatThe Government will remove all existing inequalities between the sexes.It is because I think that such a measure as this would prove a partial redemption of that pledge that I intend to vote for it.
§ Colonel GREIG
There are one or two things I should like to say in order to make my position clear on this Bill. I have always been a supporter of women's franchise, and I voted for the last Act. With regard to this Bill I wish to add my voice to those who have said that they consider this Bill unduly overloaded with other matters. The proposal with regard to the assimilation of the parliamentary and local government franchises requires to be very carefully considered. There is also the question of the business qualification which it is proposed to abolish. As a Liberal of pre-war days I am rather in favour of that offhand, but when I recall the circumstances under which the recent Act was passed I confess I would like to allow myself time to examine this proposal a little more closely. If these two matters are left over I can offer a hearty acceptance of this proposal. We have heard a good deal about the so-called pledge as to removing inequalities of the law. At the time that pledge was made I am certain that that phrase was not used in reference to the Franchise Bill at all. I do not say that we should not remove what is an inequality, but that phrase was never used with reference to the inequalities of the franchise. The hon. Members whose names are on the back of 2137 this Bill, who are members of the Labour party, have used the argument that they are putting into the hands of women a new weapon of which they can avail themselves to insist upon their rights in the community. I perfectly agree with that argument, but it comes with ill-grace from the party opposite. Women want equality in the realm of work. On this point I will read a letter I have received from a woman who is a member of a Women's Society, and this is what she writes:The Amalgamated Society of Engineers has definitely decided to exclude women from its membership, At the congress held by them in the summer they decided not to admit women to membership for another five years. I have endeavoured to get a copy of their resolution, but they seem to have kept the whole thing very secret.Then she gives another definite instance of how women are being prevented from using their right of entering into competition with men in the labour world. It is all very well to say you are giving women a lever by the vote to make the laws, but those who are leading members of these Unions should see to it that the women are treated upon an equality in the realm of work, and their action in this matter is mere camouflage. [An HON. MEMBER: "One swallow does not make a summer!"] One woman in the Midlands prevailed upon the directors to permit her to take up an apprenticeship, and she entered the works with the consent of the directors and the workmen. She had been there for a few months when she commenced doing skilled work, and although the men in the workshop seemed friendly, the pressure from the Union was so strong that this woman was asked to leave the works. This case is only one of many showing open hostility on the part of skilled trade unions against the entry of women into their trades. I hope the women will use this new weapon to put an end to that sort of thing.
§ Mr. LESLIE SCOTT
There are two fundamentally different principles included in this Bill. One is a principle which, after the experience of votes for women that we have had up till now, I believe the great majority of this House will support, namely, the principle of extending the vote to women down to the age of 21. The rest of the Bill may be good or it may be bad, but at any rate it is very contentious. There is a great division in the House on the second 2138 half of the Bill, and I submit that the wise and sensible course is to let it be clearly understood that, while passing the Second Reading, the Bill in Committee will be limited to the first principle, and that the rest of it will have to stand over and be brought up in another Bill for separate consideration.
§ Colonel Sir R. SANDERS
I speak not in any way as a representative of the Government, and, although it is late, I ask hon. Members to bear with me, because I do not often trespass upon their time. A Whip has not many privileges, but one of his privileges is that he is allowed to speak on private Member's Bills when they are left to the decision of the House. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to introduce controversial and intricate legislation, but I am one of those unfortunate people who have a good deal to do with seeing how it is carried out when it is applied to such a knotty question as the franchise. Hon. Members may introduce a Bill which they may think will be put into shape and made all right somehow, but Bills have a way now, if they go upstairs to Standing Committees, sometimes of getting through very quickly with little consideration, and, if this Bill be not very carefully gone into, it will raise most fearful difficulties in administering the franchise in the constituencies. I think that we have some right to complain of this Bill. We heard that a Bill was coming forward for removing the sex inequality in the franchise. A great many of us are in favour of that principle. I am for one. I had no idea, however, when I came down here this afternoon, what sort of Bill this was. I do not say that the Memorandum is intended to deceive, but it is intended to make the Bill look a very much more innocent affair than it really is. The Memorandum says:This Bill has for its object the conferring of the franchise on women at the age of 21, and also assimilates the Parliamentary and local government franchises by abolishing the occupational qualification and the qualification of women as the wives of local government electors, and places the whole franchise for both sexes (other than university electors) on a similar basis of residence. Other minor Amendments are provided for.Would you imagine that the Bill, with such a very innocent Memorandum, abolished the plural vote, a thing that 2139 the old parties in the State have been contending about for generations past? I am not going to argue here whether the plural vote is a good thing or a bad thing, but I do say that when you are going to abolish it you ought to be honest about it. Do not try to get a big thing like this through by speaking under the covers of the women's petticoats on a Friday afternoon. This is a big principle, and we have some right to complain of the way in which it is introduced, and when you go to the Bill itself that complaint is reinforced. If ever there was a vile example of legislation by reference this is one. Except by taking this Bill and going very thoroughly into it, no one could possibly understand the alterations it makes in the Franchise Act of two years ago. I have referred to the matter of the plural vote, and I want to impress upon the House what a great bone of contention that has been. It is a thing the Liberal party fought for unsuccessfully for something like fifty years. They introduced Amendments into one Franchise Bill after another in order to bring in this principle of what they call "One man, one vote." It was a very old cry on one Liberal platform after another throughout the country. I do not want to argue, but I do want to say that it is a big principle and that we must not rush it through in a hurry. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Government tried to deal with the matter. It was thrown out by the House of Lords. They did not try again. Liberals brought it on again under the succeeding Government.
Then we had the new Measure with regard to the House of Lords by which, if a Bill were passed in three Sessions, it was enabled to become law without going to the House of Lords. But they were not very successful over the question of the plural vote. They passed the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Church Bill under the provisions of the Parliament Act; but the Plural Voting Bill was brought forward only in two Parliaments. On each occasion it was several days in Committee. I remember one all-night sitting, when we did not get up till half-past eight in the morning, spent in discussing this one question of the plural vote. Then came the War. People put their heads together and one Franchise Bill after another was brought in, and for one reason or another was withdrawn. 2140 Then came the Conference over which you, Sir, presided. That Conference discussed this question of the plural vote and came to a certain decision. That decision was avowedly a compromise. The Liberals who were on your Commission, Sir, no doubt wanted to abolish altogether the plural vote. The Conservatives, represented with his customary pertinacity and ability by my right hon. Friend, the Member for the City of London, fought tooth and nail for that principle, and although they did not get the plural vote preserved in its entirety, they did get this system of the vote for business premises, which, although it did not give them all they asked for, did give them a very important concession. That concession was that where a man lives in one place and has his business in another obviously he has an interest in both places and should be allowed to vote for both. That was inserted in the Bill, the first Clause of which provided that the Act should apply to the Parliamentary elector who had the requisite residential qualification or the requisite business premises qualification. But this Bill abolishes that altogether. It may be right or wrong, but such a thing ought not to be done on a Friday afternoon. One effect of the Bill would be that the City of London will be a constituency of caretakers and no one else. A division of Bristol would be in the same position. Glasgow and other big cities would be affected in like manner. In all these places there is a business quarter in which a very large proportion of the electors vote on account of their business qualification. But that is all to be swept away. Has the hon. Member who introduced this Bill considered what that will lead up to? If you are going to make constituencies like the City of London representative merely of a few caretakers in equity you must have redistribution: you cannot leave things entirely as they are.
Again, has the hon. Member considered the question of cost—the cost of elections? These are hard times for a good many of us, and I hope hon. Members opposite will be a little merciful in this respect, for many of us have not the same advantages as they possess. Do not put too heavy a burden on our backs. The cost of an election is regulated by the number of electors: you have to pay so much per head for every man and woman on the 2141 register, and by adding to the number on the register you increase the costs. The costs of registration, printing, and so on are also increased, and part of the burden will fall on the taxes. If you pass the Second Beading of this Bill a question of order may be raised as to whether it can go forward without a money resolution. I cannot express an opinion about that, but it does seem to me that if it passes it must increase the charge on the subject, because half the expenses of registration are borne by the Exchequer, and undoubtedly any addition to the electorate will mean an increased charge on the Exchequer. What I protest against is the proposal to pass the Second Reading and then to cut out a particular proposal in Committee. That does not always happen and it is not a safe principle to pass a Bill which after all contains the abolition of the business franchise qualifications when you have no assurance that one of its most important provisions will be eliminated. At all events, the House ought to be very careful before it is decoyed into the Second Reading of a Bill of this sort on such an assurance as that. We are put into the difficult position that if we want to vote for bringing in women under 30 we have to vote also for a lot of things of which we absolutely and entirely disapprove. We do not wish to oppose this inclusion of women. Especially we want to get rid of what has always seemed to me an absurd feature of the Franchise Act. That is putting women in on a different qualification altogether from men. I could never understand why women came in on this occupation franchise and men did not. It may be a good or a bad system, but I could never understand the line of reasoning which led your Conference, Sir, to give one qualification for men and another for women. We are all in favour of getting that abolished. It has been an absurdity that a daughter who may be over 30 living in her own people's house gets the vote and the domestic servant is almost entirely excluded whatever age she may be These are absurdities, to my mind, and we want to get them abolished. I myself have no fear whatever of the vote of women over 21. A woman over 21 nowadays is just as well educated as a man over 21. There is a Bill already brought forward that does all we want 2142 and does not do the things we do not want. It would be a very much better plan if that was the Bill we had to discuss for the settlement of this question, instead of the Bill now before the House. What I am contending for is the right principle. When the Bill gets into Committee I do not know whether anyone will move that the Bill be divided into two parts. That might be regarded as an obstructive motion, but if there is a case in which such a motion might rightly be submitted, this is the case. There is one part of the Bill of which many of us approve, but there is another part of which we disapprove in toto. It puts us in a difficult position. Though I could vote for the Bill of the hon. Member for Cleveland I could not vote for this Bill.
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question. Debate resumed.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I do not think the House ought to be hurried to a decision on this Bill. I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend the Member for Bridge-water (Sir R. Sanders) said. There are some provisions of the Bill in regard to which we are in agreement, and others to which we object. The present Act has in many cases led to the placing of women on the Register who ought not to be on. There are many women who have been placed on the Register as possessing the age qualification, who do not possess it. I had my attention called the other day, by a prominent registration official, to the astonishing fact that there are many young miners who are getting married, and that all the wives are over 30. I do not know that that argument has been used this afternoon as a reason for altering the present qualification and placing the two on the same level. I give it to the House as evidence of what is going on in some places. This Bill would abolish the business qualification. It would disfranchise the City of London without any kind of suggestion that there must be a re-distribution of seats. It does not even give an alternative to these people. It might give them the alternative of voting either for their residence or their business premises. I do not-know whether it docs not even abolish 2143 the alternative choice to any elector to exercise the right to vote either in respect of his residential or his business premises: that is a grave omission.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question. Debate resumed.
§ the Bill had been a little less extreme, there would be no objection to the Bill being passed.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 122; Noes, 38.2143
|Division No. 21.]||AYES.||[5.0 p.m.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Hanna, George Boyle||Palmer, Major Godfrey Mark|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Hartshorn, Vernon||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Barrand, A. R.||Hayday, Arthur||Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Bell, James (Lancaster, Ormskirk)||Hills, Major John Waller||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hirst, G. H.||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Rankin, Captain James S.|
|Blades, Capt. Sir George Rowland||Holmes, J. Stanley||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor-(Barnstaple)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Irving, Dan||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Johnstone, Joseph||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Briant, Frank||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool Exchange)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Kelly, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Seddon, J. A.|
|Bromfield, William||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Sexton, James|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Lawson, John J.||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Casey, T. W.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Lloyd-Greame, Major P.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Cowan, Sir H. (Aberdeen and Kinc.)||Lort-Williams, J.||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Lunn, William||Spencer, George A.|
|Davies, Sir Joseph (Chester, Crewe)||Lynn, R. J.||Sugden, W. H.|
|Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan)||M'Guffin, Samuel||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Denison-Pender, John C.||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Tootill, Robert|
|Edge, Captain William||Morgan, Major D. Watts||Turton, E. R.|
|Edwards, Allen C. (East Ham, S.)||Morris, Richard||Wallace, J.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Mosley, Oswald||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Edwards, John H. (Glam., Neath)||Murray, Lt.-Col. Hon. A. (Aberdeen)||Waterson, A. E.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Murray, Lt.-Col. C. D. (Edinburgh)||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Wedgwood, Colonel J. C.|
|Forrest, Walter||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Wignall, James|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Myers, Thomas||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Neal, Arthur||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Greenwood, Colonel Sir Hamar||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Grundy, T. W.||O'Grady, Captain James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Ormsby-Gore, Captain Hon. W.||Mr. Tyson Wilson and Mr. T. Griffiths.|
|Hallas, Eldred||Palmer, Charles Frederick (Wrekin).|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar||Grant, James A.||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H (Devizes)||Greig, Colonel James William||Stewart, Gershom|
|Burdon, Colonel Rowland||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Talbot, Rt. Hon. Lord E. (Chich'st'r)|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast, St. Anne's)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Terrell, George, (Wilts, Chippenham)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hopkins, John W. W.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Hurd, Percy A.||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Lindsay, William Arthur||Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Loseby, Captain C. E.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||Macmaster, Donald||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Gideon Murray and Sir G. Younger.|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
Question put accordingly, "That the Bill be now read a Second Time," and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second Time and committed to a Standing Committee.