§ Order for Second Reading read.
Mr. W. M. ADAMSON
I beg to Move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
In moving the Second Reading of this Measure, I fully realise the honour which the fortune of the ballot has bestowed upon me. I know that the Press has named this Bill a Leap Year proposal, owing, I suppose, to the fact that it is being introduced upon this, the 29th day of February. I rather think, however, that, if it had been a Leap Year proposal, probably one of the lady Members of the House would have been in the fortunate position of putting it forward. It is not within my function to-day to go into any great detail with regard to the proposals contained in the Bill, but I want very briefly to survey the ground that they cover, and to deal with one or two points that arise in connection with them. The first, and the most important, probably, is the conferring of the franchise on women 21 years of age. The second is the basing of the qualification for the franchise solely upon residence, except in the case of the university franchise. The third point is the assimilation of the local government and the Parliamentary franchises. Clause 4 of the Bill is intended to deal with the abolition of that portion of the 1918 Act which imposes a registration fee in connection with the university franchise, and Clause 7 is an addendum to Section 10 of the principal Act, to remove certain disqualifications that apply to local guardians and district councils. These are briefly the provisions of the Bill which we are proposing for Second Reading to-day.
The first great point is, as I have already said, that of conferring the franchise upon women 21 years of age, as in the case of men to-day; and I wonder if, after the experience of the last ten years, there can be an hon. Member of this House who is prepared to put forward a logical argument to show why there should be a difference in the franchise of women as compared with that of men. So far as I can recollect, during 860 the period of the old franchise agitation, the only argument logically put against that extension then was that women were not entitled to the franchise until they were able to rear a race of men that was prepared to confer it upon them. We have overcome that difficulty, and the only question now is as to whether women are entitled to the franchise on the same grounds, under the same conditions, and at the same age as men are entitled to and exercise the franchise to-day. I would remind the House that on previous occasions within recent years Measures of this kind have been before it. In 1919, a Measure for the complete citizenship of women on the same terms as men went through its various stages in this House, and even went to another place. In 1920 a Bill, almost exactly like the Bill I am moving to-day was given a Second Reading by this House and proceeded to the Committee stage. I would remind the House, also, that various parties in the House are, to a large extent, pledged to this proposal. The Labour Party manifesto, issued before the last Election, stated:Labour stands for equality between men and women; equal political and legal rights.That manifesto was signed by the Prime Minister, by the Lord Privy Seal, by the first woman to be a Government Minister, and by the Home Secretary, who will be bringing the beneficient breeze of Burnley with him very soon; and they supported this Measure as indicated in that manifesto. My friends the Liberals also issued a manifesto, in which they said:Liberals aim at securing political, legal and economic equality between men and women.That manifesto was signed by two ex-Premiers, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Consequently, I think that, at least on this side of the House, we can be assured that there will be united support for this Bill. The party to which my hon. Friends opposite belong did not issue a manifesto as a party undertaking, but I believe that some 60 Members of the Conservative party elected to this House are pledged to an equal franchise, and we trust that they will carry out their pledges to-day in support of this Measure.
861 The second point, namely, that the qualification for the franchise shall be purely that of residence, is dealt with in Sub-section (2) of Clause 1 of the Bill. The third point is probably one that is somewhat more contentious. I refer to the assimilation of the Parliamentary and the Local Governments franchise. I have had some representations made to me not through the usual channels indicating that there might be some slight difference of opinion upon this point due to the fact that very little opportunity has ever been given to discuss this question in the House. I have reconsidered the whole position and, to be quite accurate, I want to read the statement that I wish to make upon this point. Having given the question of assimilation of the Parliamentary and Local Government franchise further consideration, and recognising that this principle has received very inadequate explanation, I now agree the two franchises are not inseparable and I will leave the question to the general sense of the House with a decision by Committee, should the Second Reading be agreed upon. I make that declaration because I feel that it would be too serious a matter to jeopardise the equal enfranchisement of women as with men on that ground.
The provision in Clause 7 is, perhaps, one also which may not be perfect in its draftsmanship, but yet contains a very serious principle which ought at the same time to have the deliberation of the House and action taken. I refer to the provision of the Act which under the conditions of to-day disqualifies a member of a board of guardians, and frequently and synonimously of a district council, from carrying on his work if he has received Poor Law relief. That certainly wants some consideration and I trust that at least if the whole House is not in entire agreement on the point they will be prepared to consider it very favourably.
On the general question, I want to appeal to hon. Members to give consideration to the main principles which I am trying to outline. The Bill not merely confers equal enfranchisement for women at 21, but removes many of the inequalities and anomalies that exist to-day. There are many women in this country over the age of 30 who are not in possession of the franchise. The conditions of the 1918 Act are such that unless she is in a position to occupy unfurnished rooms 862 or to be the occupier of a house she is not entitled to the vote. Secondly, we have the case of even married women living with their husbands who, if they have unfurnished premises, are entitled to the vote upon their husband's legal qualification, but should the premises be furnished, in spite of their age being over 30, they are not entitled to the vote. A more serious anomaly, to my mind, is that in many of our industrial districts, particularly in mining aras where the houses are under the control of the companies, in the case of the death of the husband, though the widow may over 30, because she may have a son in the employ of the company, his rent is deducted from his wages and the house is consequently in his occupation, and the mother is disfranchised. Certainly that was never intended, and I trust this Measure will receive support on that consideration.
I note that there are certain Amendments down, some half dozen. The first is in the name of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil), who considers that six years since the passing of the 1918 Act is too short a period to give any extension of the franchise. Those six years have been abnormal years. There have been three general elections during that period, and that ought to have been a sufficient test to show that the women of the country are not satisfied with the franchise as it is to-day. I would ask the Noble Lord if it is because there are merely 717 women upon the Oxford University register that he adopts this attitude. The second Amendment, in the name of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer), evidently considers that this Measure does not go far enough, and he wants to introduce proportional representation. It is a difficult matter to include electoral reform along with the franchise in a private Member's Bill. I hope the Noble Lord will have an opportunity at a very early date of supporting that system of proportional representation. He has a further Amendment to reject the Bill. It is somewhat illogical that we should have the two types of Amendments, one that we are not going far enough, and the other to prevent the passage of the Bill. The other Amendments are in the nature of altering the age from 21 to 25 and in that way wrecking the Measure. I want to appeal to the Government, and to plead with them 863 not merely to give the Bill its blessing, but to give us an opportunity for facilities in the event of the Second Reading going through, and to say in a practical form that they stand by the manifesto of a few-months ago that they will give those facilities that can carry a Measure through its various stages, and I trust I can have the support of hon. Members in carrying it through this stage to-day.
§ Miss JEWSON
I beg to second the Motion.
I desire to draw attention to the fact that the principle of the Bill, to grant equal franchise to women, has been acknowledged and accepted by the House on a very large number of occasions by an overwhelming vote. Following on the 1918 Act, which was only accepted as a compromise and a temporary measure, the Coalition Government at the General Election in 1918 declared in their election manifesto that it will be the duty of the new Government to remove all existing inequalities between men and women. I think the women of the country interpreted that as an intention on the part of the Government at least to remove the existing inequalities in the franchise. That pledge was never carried out. In 1919–20–22–23 Bills came before this House and were carried on Second Heading, and in some cases on Third Reading. The time has come when the House ought to consider not merely talking about this question of equal franchise, but acting on it
We believe that the 1918 Act was a compromise. It was only accepted, very reluctantly, by women's organisations in the country because it was agreed that to add 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 of new electors to the register was a very big experiment. I think no hon. Member will deny that that experiment of 1918 has been amply justified. We have had six years in which to consider whether or not that experiment was justified. In that time, we have had three elections, and I think every hon. Member will agree that in those elections women have shown very great interest, and an increasing interest, in national and international affairs. Uncertainty was expressed at the time as to how women would vote. I think everyone must now admit that they have exercised their vote wisely and well. Some fears were 864 expressed that women might combine as a sex, and it was felt that that would be dangerous, because women who would be in larger numbers than men might so exercise the vote that we might have petticoat government. Events have shown that those fears were not founded on fact. The women have shown that they differ, like men differ, in their opinions; they have divided into parties in just the same way as men, and there is really no fear that women will combine as a sex and vote against the men. In an electorate of 26,000,000, it has been estimated that if women receive the vote on the same qualification as men there will be only about 500,000 more women on the register than men, and that half million would, of course, be spread over many constituencies.
In supporting the Second Resolution, I wish to draw attention to the very great injustice that is done to large bodies of women by their exclusion from the franchise. There is a large body of young wives and mothers who feel, very naturally, that if they are capable of bringing children into the world, and of being responsible to the State for those children, it is only right that they should have the privilege and protection of the vote in helping to mould the laws which will govern themselves and their children. Then there is the large body of wage-earning women. It is estimated that 70 per cent. of those women are under 30 years of age and are now excluded from the franchise. They have suffered intensely, and are now suffering, from low wages and under-employment, and as this House will be discussing during the next few years questions of a minimum wage, hours of work and other questions which vitally affect these women, the time has come when they should have some opportunity of exercising their control over the laws that are going to affect them. There are also large numbers of wage-earning women, professional women, business women, nurses, governesses and a large body of hotel and domestic workers who are altogether excluded, or practically excluded, from the exercise of the vote. It may be argued that domestic workers have not any knowledge of politics, and should, therefore, be excluded, but I do not think that is a fair argument, because the women have shown in exercising the vote that they have gained knowledge and that the vote in itself has been a liberal 865 education for them. I would particularly draw attention to the report of the inquiry into domestic service, which was set up by the Minister of Labour in last Government, the Committee on which definitely recommends that to improve the status of domestic workers the women should be allowed to exercise the franchise.
I have carefully looked through the Debates on this question in the House, and I have found no justification for the ago limit of women being fixed at 30, whereas for men it is fixed at 21. It has been pointed out on more than one occasion that, legally, it is possible for a girl to marry at the age of 12, whereas a boy cannot do so until he is 14. Many speakers have pointed out, and, I think, we all recognise it, that women do mature much more quickly than men, and we know that a girl of 21 has quite as much commonsense, if not, more, than a young man of that age. All these disabilities are relics of a by-gone age, and ought to be swept away. Great Britain could claim at one time to be the pioneer of representative government, but it is now very much behind on the question of the franchise. Great Britain is alone in Europe, with the exception of Hungary, in granting equal franchise to women Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Germany have all given equal franchise to women with men, and in our own Dominions. New Zealand and Canada have done the same. Even in the East, Madras, Bombay and Burma have given equal franchise to women with men. Surely the time has come when the Mother of Parliaments should do the same.
The Bill has the backing of all the women's organisations, religious, political, social and economic. I would remind hon. Members that of the 32 Members who in 1919 opposed the Women's Emancipation Bill only 10 are now Members of this House, and of the 60 who opposed the Bill in 1922 only 40 are now Members. I thank the House for the very great courtesy it has shown in listening to me, and in conclusion I appeal particularly to hon. Members to give this Bill their whole-hearted support. I appeal also to the Government, who have long been pledged to this principle of equal franchise, and I ask them to realise that the women look to them to carry out their promises. Great disappoint- 866 ment was felt by the women at the reply of the Prime Minister on this question recently, when he said that the Government had not had time to consider this important question. That reply came definitely as a shock and disappointment to many women. I ask the Government to give full facilities for this Bill to become a Government Measure and to go through all its stages in the House, without any delay.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the. Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsin view of the fact that the previous extension of the franchise was founded upon recommendations made by a conference of all the parties, this House is of opinion that a similar conference should be called before deciding what further alteration of the franchise is desirable.The very sympathetic and reasoned speech to which we have just listened dealing as it has done with only one of the provisions of the Bill, and the flattering notice which the Press of this country is apt to devote to anything that can be described as a woman's question, particularly this question of equal suffrage, have, I think, largely tended to obscure the fact in the eyes of the public and of this House that this Bill is not merely, or even mainly, a Bill for equal suffrage for women. The Mover in his speech, did indeed refer to some of the other provisions in the Bill, but did not enlarge upon them, and I hope that the House will forgive me if I try to make clear how many provisions this Bill contains, and how very varied and far-reaching they are. They are not concerned merely with the question of the franchise of women, but also with the parliamentary franchise for men, as well as with the question of the local government franchise. It is, therefore, not too much to say that this Bill proposes to deal, and deal drastically and radically, with the whole electoral basis I upon which the Government of this I country rests, both national and local.
I should be trespassing too much on the time of the House if I were to attempt to deal with all the main provisions of the Bill. I will only draw attention to a few of them, and those which seem to me most, fundamental. In the first place, I should like to say a few words on what the Bill proposes with regard to the 867 Parliamentary franchise for men. To-day, it is well known to hon. Members that one of the qualifications by which a man of 21 may obtain the suffrage is in respect of the occupation of business premises. That is an important qualification and one to which the business community of this country attach considerable importance. This Bill proposes to sweep that qualification out of existence altogether. I am not a member of the business community and I cannot claim to have business experience. Therefore, I am not going to say anything further on that point, but merely draw attention to the fact, which no doubt will be emphasised by hon. Members who follow. Then, as hon. Members are also aware, the other main qualification by which a man of 21 obtains the parliamentary vote is in respect of residence in premises on the last day of the qualifying period and during the qualifying period, namely six months, in the constituency or in another constituency within the same Parliamentary borough or county, or in a contiguous constituency. The residence in premises covers not only the householder but also the man who resides in lodgings. Now it is to be necessary only that the last day of the qualifying period must be spent by a man in premises. There is to be no necessity under the Bill for him to reside in premises, that is to say, in a house or lodgings. He can thus obtain not a household franchise or a lodger franchise but an existence franchise. The mere fact of a man being in existence in a constituency for six months, and spending the last day with a roof over his head is to be sufficient to enable him to claim a parliamentary franchise.
I wonder if hon. Members opposite realise the far-reaching implication of that proposal? Do they realise that it means giving the Parliamentary franchise to people who travel about in caravans?—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—or to those who travel the roads as hawkers, and last, if not least, to those who are known in my part of the country as tinkers? I take rather an interest in tinkers. I have been doing what little I could on a local education authority to get tinkers to send their children regularly to school, in order that when they grow up they may be ready to settle down and take up steady work like any 868 other citizen, and to become peaceful, settled, self-respecting members of the community. But the tinker to-day cannot be so described. He has no settled home and no steady work. He is deprived of what every ordinary man can learn of politics and citizenship through the companionship of other men. Will you tell me of any community in which tinkers mix with and are received by other members of the community and enjoy the opportunities of discussion?
Duchess of ATHOLL
If hon. Members opposite saw the tinkers in the north of Scotland wandering about the roads all the summer and camping during winter in the woods, I do not think that they would be so ready to entrust them with the great responsibility of the Parliamentary vote. There are hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, whom I am sorry not to see in their places to-day, who represent constituencies in the North of Scotland where this class is particularly numerous, and I would ask these hon. Gentlemen if they are prepared to receive this section of the people among their constituents, or if they will be ready to send them their election addresses or ask their supporters to convey them to the roll? I do not think that the Post Office would be ready to undertake the responsibility of tracing the addresses of these people, and I do not think that there will be any overweening desire among the supporters of the hon. Members to whom I refer to convey these people to the poll on election day, Therefore I do not believe that those responsible for the Bill can have considered fully the very far-reaching implications of this proposal. If they had done so, I imagine that they would be ready to reconsider it, as already the Mover of the Bill has intimated his readiness to do in regard to another proposal.
I come then to this other proposal, which is a very far-reaching one. That is the proposal to make the Local Government franchise the same as the Parliamentary franchise. This proposal seems to me to be even more drastic than the one to which I have referred. The reason for the difference between the two franchises must be well known to hon. Members opposite. It is simply an embodiment of the principle that we must have no taxation without repre- 869 sentation, and no representation without taxation: the one is the corollary of the other. I think that what I have said should have a good deal of support from hon. Members of the Liberal Party, for it is a sound Liberal principle. The reason why the franchises are so different is simply this; that the local funds on which local services depend are drawn from the rates, and the rates are levied only on certain forms of wealth, that is on land, houses and machines in factories. Local Government has rested on the basis that the local franchise is given only to those who contribute to the rates. The Parliamentary franchise can be very much wider because, while many people may escape payment of rates for the reason I have stated, the subjects on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer can levy taxes are infinitely more varied and greater in number. There can be comparatively few people who escape payment of national taxation in one form or another. Therefore, I think it will be generally recognised that we have been justified in having a very much wider Parliamentary franchise than the local one. But this Bill will bring every man over the age of 21 who lives in lodgings, or lives at home with his parents, on to the local register, though he will be contributing, in these circumstances, nothing to the rates.
The nerves of the ratepayer throughout the country have not been steadied by certain occurrences which were the occasion of a debate recently in this House. I shrink from thinking of what the effect on those same nerves, would be if the country thought that this House was seriously considering a proposal to assimilate the two franchises in the way that this Bill proposes. I was interested to see that even the Minister of Health, whom I do not think anyone would regard as a specially stalwart champion of the ratepayer, did agree that he had some sympathy for the non-resident ratepayers of a certain parish of which we have heard a good deal lately. I would very much like to know how the right hon. Gentleman views this proposal. If he is inclined to consider the non-resident ratepayer with sympathy, surely he must have an equally generous measure of sympathy to extend to the resident ratepayer. Under this Bill both the resident and the non-resident ratepayer will be swamped by all the young men brought in who are 870 not contributing anything to the rates. I know that the Mover of the Second Reading signified his readiness to leave this proposal to the judgment of the House in Committee. I suppose he realises how this proposal is likely to jeopardise his Bill. It seems to me a rather odd thing that he should not have thought it out a little before he produced his Bill. Though I agree that a death-bed repentance is better than no repentance at all, yet I hope the hon. Member will forgive me if I say that his admission that this vital provision in the Bill received at his hands inadequate consideration, does not lead me to feel that I am ready to trust to the hon. Member's leading in other matters in the Bill.
I come next to the proposals in the Bill in regard to women. I quite agree that there are women voters who have grievances. There is the grievance of the woman university graduate who, though she may have taken a much better degree than many of the men of her year, finds she has to wait until the age of 30 before she can exercise the Parliamentary vote, while the young man who has taken an inferior degree gets the vote at the age of 21. There is also a grievance to which I do not think the Mover of the Second Reading referred. That is the grievance of the married women who are registered as voters in respect of their husbands, and who, if their husbands pre-decease them, are removed from the register until they make a fresh application to be enrolled in their own names. That is a grievance which would be recognised on all sides of the House. There is a further grievance of which I have seen something, and it is one of those to which the hon. Member has referred. It is the grievance of the single women over 30 in various professions, who find it difficult to get the vote because they are in lodgings and have not their own furniture. That is a grievance specially felt by many women assistant teachers in the country. These women often find it difficult to get lodgings, and if they took their own furniture with them they would have less chance than ever, and it would inconvenience them as they move on from one poet to another. They are entitled to have a vote.
This Bill, however, goes very much further than those grievances and very much further than the remedies to which the hon. Member referred. Whatever their occupation, whether married or single, 871 women are to be given the Parliamentary franchise from the age of 21. In brief, the woman tinker is to be enfranchised. The hon. Member for Norwich (Miss Jewson) spoke of the general desire among women for this change. I agree that there are women's societies that are very anxious to see this change, but I would like to ask what evidence she has that there is a widespread desire for this among women in general, and, if she asks me why I doubt her statement, I point to the fact that at the last General Election not more than 62 or 63 per cent. of the electors recorded their votes. That does not seem to indicate a very widespread desire for a wide extension of the franchise. I should say that there are many women in this country, married women, the wives of wage-earners who, living their busy lives—I think the wife of a wage-earner with a large family of young children is the busiest person in the country, except, possibly, Cabinet Ministers—have had in the past very few opportunities of hearing about political subjects. They do not get the opportunies of going out to meetings that their husbands have. My experience is that the I men go to the meetings and leave the wives at home to manage the children. Women have not the opportunities of going to meetings that their men enjoy. I think that, particularly at the last General Election, many of them felt that they had not had many opportunities of hearing about the subjects that were before the country and many of them in consequence were diffident in recording their votes.
There is another point to which I attach great importance. I think Members of all parties will agree how invaluable is some experience of local government in helping people to form sound judgment and to take a broad outlook on political questions. I think Members of all parties, and men everywhere in the country, are very ready to give generous recognition to the value of women's services on public local bodies. The fact that a certain number of women are generally recognised as having given valuable services on these bodies, has tended to obscure the fact that the number of these women is relatively small. I do not know if hon. Members, generally, realise how small the number is, and I hope I may be allowed to give a few 872 figures. In England and Wales on 62 county councils, only 70 women are serving. On 7,664 urban district, rural and parish councils there are 353 women. On 364 borough councils including London, there is a rather larger proportion, the number being 226: but out of 24,000 members of boards of guardians, there are only 2,323 women. Looking at the figures for Scotland we find that on 37 education authorities there are only 44 women and on 16 of these education authorities there are no women at all, leaving an average of a little over two women per education authority for the others. Turning to the parish councils, we find that on 869 of these there are 115 women, and on the 33 county councils of Scotland only two women are serving.
Yet these are bodies on which the services of women are not only invaluable but necessary. No public body can efficiently administer poor law, education, public health, or maternity and child welfare without the assistance of women. These local public bodies are not receiving the benefit of all the special service which women can render, and I feel sad to think that we have not yet entered more into our kingdom. I feel, also, that before we ask for so great an extension of the franchise as this Bill proposes, we ought to wait until we have made our position more secure on these local bodies, and through service, gained more of the experience and the knowledge which is invaluable in political life. It is said that this proposed extension of the franchise will mean an addition to the electorate of 3,500,000 women, or as some say, 5,000,000 women. Whichever be the correct figure, no one will dispute that the proposal means that women will be in the majority on the Parliamentary register. When I reach that point I cannot forgot that that preponderance, whatever the exact figure may be, will have been largely due to, or at least greatly increased by the fact that we lost 740,000 precious lives of men in the great War, and that that War is still taking its toll of the ex-service men. Therefore, I cannot help saying that I feel that to propose a great extension of this kind looks like taking advantage of the heroic sacrifices of those men. [Interruption.] Yes, I do feel that, though hon. Members may not view the matter in the same way; to me it looks like taking an advantage, 873 and, therefore, I cannot associate myself with the claim to so great an extension of the franchise at the present time. But, as I have said, I recognise there are many women who have grievances under the present system, and it is on that account that my Amendment does not take the form of asking for the rejection of the Bill. Had the Bill contained only those other provisions from which the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading seems inclined to run away, I should have tabled a Motion for rejection, but because I recognise that there are matters in connection with the present franchise concerning women which require consideration, I ask that the precedent be followed which was adopted when the last extension of the franchise was made, and I ask the House to accept the Amendment standing in my name.
§ Sir SYDNEY RUSSELL-WELLS
I beg to second the Amendment.
I wish to say, first of all, that I am one of the older advocates of women's suffrage. Many years ago I was nominated to serve on a deputation to urge the claims of women to a very limited reform, namely, the granting of votes to University women. I cannot help thinking that those of us who, in those days, were in favour of women having the vote, have some claim to speak now, and I cannot help feeling also that those of us who then believed in votes for women, and in the presence of women in Parliament, have been justified, and have had to-day ample illustration of the soundness of our judgment. The two ladies who have spoken to-day have made most valuable contributions to the Debate, and all of us who formerly advocated this cause feel that we are thoroughly justified in our views by this Debate. There is no question whatever to my mind that at the present time many women are under grievous disabilities among which I may cite the University franchise. It is a ridiculous thing that a woman who takes a degree, frequently a high degree, should have to wait until she is thirty before she gets the vote, while her brother can get it when he reaches the age of 21. I am not going into all the other forms of disability under which women are labouring. I fully recognise, and feel that the question of votes for women, has to be very seriously considered, and that the present regulations will have to be 874 revised, and I should support anything which would bring about that result, but I cannot support this Bill for the following reason. It seems to me that behind the skirts of the women voters, the promoters are sheltering a large number of drastic proposals which would never be considered by this House were they not hitched on to a women's Bill, and I should like to detain the House for a few minutes to analyse some of those proposals. The first proposal which must attract the attention of anyone reading the Bill is that we are totally altering the whole of our electoral law. It may be wise to alter that law, and it may be wise to make extensive additions to the franchise, but it is not fair to do so in a Bill which is ostentatiously for the promotion of women suffrage. The property qualification has gone. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That I know is in accordance with the wishes of the party opposite. It is a perfectly legitimate measure for them to bring forward, but let them bring it forward, straightforwardly and openly, and not surrounded by the idea that this is simply a women's Bill. I have spoken to many of my friends in the House pointing out to them what this Bill is doing, and they have been astonished because an impression has been created, that it is merely a measure to extend female franchise. It is not, to my mind, a proper way of bringing such a measure forward. Go through this Bill Clause by Clause, and you will find that great care is taken to eliminate from the Act everything which provides for a man or a woman having any vote for business premises. I happen to know several women who have votes, and who, I think, are doing valuable work for the community in the City of London, training other women, employing women, having offices, and I know that many of these women value their vote for their business premises quite as much as, if not more than, the vote that they have on a residential qualification. That goes in this Bill, largely on account of the Schedule at the end. It is not a thing which is openly brought forward as the main object, or one of the main objects, of the Bill. I know that the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading states that he would be willing to dissociate the proposal to assimilate the Parliamentary and local franchise.
May I remind the hon. Member that I distinctly said that I would leave the matter to the House.
§ Sir S. RUSSELL-WELLS
I thought the hon. Member was willing to amend these Clauses, but apparently he is not willing to do that, but will leave it to the House. I am very sorry if I misrepresented him. I had no intention of so doing. Therefore, we find that in this Bill, as it is drafted, we have another tremendous alteration in the present electoral system. The local franchise and the Imperial franchise are intimately associated, but we are by this Bill to make thorn identical, and that is not a proposal which should be contained in a woman's franchise Bill, but a proposal which ought to bet brought forward as a measure by itself and be debated across the Floor of the House on its own merits. Again the promoters of the Bill are hiding a drastic alteration behind the skirts of the women voters.
Now I come to the lesser provisions, and I find that the promoters are going to abolish by this Bill the fee charged by many Universities for the registration of their voters. I cannot help thinking that when they made that proposal, and made it without any other provision, they could not have studied the existing law. At the present time, the duty is thrown upon the University to keep a register. That register in some cases, and in my own University in particular, is a very expensive matter, requiring nearly the whole of the services of one clerk continually. The register changes frequently, and it is kept up-to-date at the expense of the University. Moreover, the University has to conduct the election, because the Vice-Chancellor is the returning officer for a University, and elections are an expensive matter to a University such as mine, which has a large constituency. Those expenses have to come out of the University chest, and they are unlike the expenses of an ordinary returning officer, which are defrayed by the Treasury; under the existing law, the expenses of the Vice-Chancellors have to be paid by the Universities themselves. Surely a provision ought to have been put in, if you are abolish- 876 ing the registration fee, providing that the Treasury should find the money for the University elections, for otherwise you are taking away from the Universities the source from which they derive money to defray those expenses, and you are putting those expenses on funds that should be devoted to education. That, I cannot help thinking, is a most improper proposal. For myself, I should very much like the registration fee to be abolished. I do not think it is fair that the University voter should be asked to pay a farthing for his vote. I think the present system is anomalous and bad in principle, but when you are abolishing the registration fee, it is not fair to take the money required for Parliamentary election expenses out of the funds which should be devoted to education. I think this is indicative of the way in which this Bill has been loosely drafted, and I think it shows that those who are very anxious to bring in all sorts of reforms in a sort of omnibus Bill, and cover it up with the name of a Bill to extend the feminine franchise, were in such a hurry that they had not really digested the existing Acts.
Here is another important point. There is a provision to repeal a paragraph in the Local Government Act, 1894, and the paragraph in question is as follows:A person is disqualified for being elected or being a member or chairman of a council of a parish or a district other than a borough or a board of guardians if he (inter alia) has within twelve months before his election or since his election received union or parochial relief.It is proposed to abolish that proviso. I can quite understand that, according to a certain school, the inmates of a workhouse may be the best people to administer the workhouse. They may have, no doubt, more intimate knowledge of what affects their comfort and convenience than others outside, and according to a certain school of thought those who live in the house ought to administer and control the house. That is a position which is quite understandable. [An HON. MEMBER: "In mental hospitals!"] In exactly the same way, the inmates of mental hospitals, as I am reminded by an hon. Member opposite, should form the governing board of the institution—a perfectly understandable position. They might do it quite as well as the present guardians, but that is not usually the position 877 taken up by this House. There was a fundamental principle, which was laid down many years ago, to which I think the majority of the House will agree, that any system is fundamentally vicious under which the trustee and the beneficiary are united in the same person. That is a principle which this House has maintained for centuries. The proposal now is to enable the beneficiary to be the trustee for the community. If the Clause in question be passed, it will be quite possible for the inmates of workhouses to be elected to boards of guardians. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That, I see, meets with the approval of some hon. Gentlemen opposite. I put it to the House, does it meet with the general approval of the House?
Let us think for a moment what we are doing. We are told that we have got to be logical. I think this country is to be congratulated on never having been logical. When one says that logically we must carry out a principle to its ultimate end, one neglects the real facts of life, and the real laws which govern the universe. The logical pursuance of a particular idea, without considering other factors, leads to disaster. Every law in the physical world has countervailing laws. Nobody can have studied any science without realising the importance of what are called limiting factors. I have for many many years been absolutely convinced that women should have the vote, and in the view that women should have, as far as possible, equal opportunity, I have been a profound believer. That there are at the present time grave disabilities which could be removed I am sure, but I am not sure that we have got to be what is called logical. What have the draftsmen of this Bill done? In order to remove, as they consider, certain disabilities from women, they have removed many privileges from the other sex. This is not a Bill conferring on women equal rights to men. It is a Bill for taking away certain rights from both men and women, because there is some difference in their treatment. This is not a woman's enfranchisement Bill; it is a man's disfranchisement Bill. That is the position. A certain amount has been made in this Debate of the fact that if this Bill is carried, there will be more women voters than men. Personally, I am not disturbed about that, but I do not think it is an 878 advantage. I cannot help thinking that there is a good deal of opposition among many section of the voters. We have got away from patriarchal government; I do not think we want to get matriachal government. And I cannot help feeling that it is not right at the present juncture to press this Bill when so many men have been killed, and put the female vote in a majority.
To give the House my own opinion on the matter, I believe this Bill is bad. I believe that women ought to have many of their grievances removed, and, because I am anxious to remove them, I say they should not be removed in any party spirit, or by any particular party, and that none of us should try to get a temporary party advantage by claiming that we are the people who gave them the franchise. I cannot help supporting with all the force at my command the Amendment which the noble lady has moved. It is not moved as a means of shelving the question—certainly not so far as I am concerned, and I believe I may say so far as she is concerned. It is really meant to get what I am sure all of us wish, namely, a measure of justice separated from these extraneous matters to which otherwise alter or reform the law. We wish to deal with the women's question alone. If we can get all parties to join in seeing what can be done to remove injustices, and promote a real and not artificial reform, I think we shall get what many of us desire. Therefore, I wish strongly to support the proposal that a Conference of all parties should be called to see how best to remove those grievances.
§ Mrs. WINTRINGHAM
I wish to congratulate the Mover and Seconder of the Bill, and particularly do I wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Norwich (Miss Jewson) on her maiden speech. I am delighted that it should have been made on such a subject, because no subject deserves more attention at the present time from the women members of this House. Perhaps the best argument that can be urged for giving women the vote at 21 is to refer to the one that is always used against giving them the vote, that is, that when women once get the vote, they will all work together, and there will be essentially a women's party against a men's party. This Debate shows that women are not at all in agreement. 879 With regard to statements made by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, I feel, of course, truly sorry if the Bill is going to disfranchise men; but if this Bill be passed, and allowed to go to Committee, the men will have an opportunity of standing up for their rights, because they are bound to be in a majority, and, I think, the Bill will come back to this House not at all showing that men are disfranchised. It is a matter of regret that many Members who were supporters of the proposal are absent from the House to-day. The hon. Member referred to several who were not supporters, and inferred, perhaps, that they were returned because of that. But we had many good supporters in recent Debates, and a good many on the Unionist side of the House, and I do regret that so many are not here to-day to help us fight the battle. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not a straight Bill."] I do hope, in the discussion today, that the House will realise what the hon. Mover has said, that he is quite prepared to take the sense of the House on the question of local government and certain other points.
So much has been said regarding the construction and limitations of the Act of Parliament which in 1918 broke down the sex barriers and gave to certain women the full rights of citizenship that I feel it is hardly necessary to enter all over again into the arguments for and against the extension of the Act so that it may embrace both men and women upon equal terms. There are one or two points, however, I should like to reiterate at the risk of being wearisome now that the matter is once again before the House. Reference has been made to the question of the shortage of women on Committees; but that has existed for a great many years, and, after all, could not the same thing be said of Committees in the earlier days when it was desired to put on working men—I do not like the term working men, but men who did not have the opportunity, perhaps, and the spare time, to attend Committees? Was not their difficulty in those days the same difficulty as at the present time in regard to women. Women perhaps have not quite so much time to be members of Committees, but there is a genuine desire to serve if possible. There is a genuine desire that 880 women should be on Committees, and they, possibly, will be more and more put on by the extension of woman's votes.
Arguments are being repeated that were prevalent before 1918. May I remind the House that Great Britain, in company with Hungary, is the only country in the world which, having enfranchised its women at all, has done so only partially. May I remind hon. Members that they are at this moment faced with the great responsibility of some millions of young women who are forced to fight their way into the world of industry, and to maintain their position without the weapon of the vote behind them. May I remind them that from figures taken shortly before the last General Election it was estimated that while there were just short of 300,000 men of over 21 years who were not able to use the vote, there were four and three-quarter million women, consisting of Government workers, professional women, women lecturers, matrons and nurses living in institutions, and the great army of domestic workers, who because, they have been willing to take up the work for which the entire nation clamoured, has been rewarded by being classed in that famous old list of the unenfranchised—criminals, lunatics, paupers and aliens! There should be no taxation without representation. We feel that there is a great loss to the country, a tremendous waste, in this material, which has no voice in the country's affairs. By the exclusion of these women it is a sad but obvious fact that the country is at the present time wasting the life and enthusiasm of a certain section of the community which is as keen and interested in affairs generally as any one well could be. Take the case of the women of 28 who, with two or three children takes a lodger of 22. She has no opportunity of exercising her voice in the country's affairs while the lodger has.
The argument is being used that the young women do not want the vote, that all the agitation for their inclusion is put up for them by the older women. That only goes to prove the strength of my argument. The mass of agricultural labourers did not want the vote before they got it, and in spite of the noise and hubbub of the women's suffrage agitation the mass of the women in those years between 1864 and 1918 did not care very 881 greatly one way or another. But the country needed the agricultural labourer. The country needed the women. To-day it needs the young women, and the professional women. There is no denying that the country has been the better for the agricultural vote. It has been and will be the better for the women's vote. There ought to be an open mind as to the desirability of extending the franchise so as to include the women who are not now included between the ages of 21 and 30. The result of the women's vote in the last six years is that both men and women have shared in the legislation and the prophecy has been falsified that the women would all vote in the same way as the husbands. They have not all voted Conservative. I think the last Election showed that!—and these were the political nightmares of the days before 1918. On the contrary, since women have had the vote more humane legislation has been introduced. There has been more consideration for the home, and for the children, and—perhaps I might venture to add—more for the old people. Petticoat Government has, after all, not been the reign of terror once anticipated by those who opposed the admission of women to the rights of citizenship.
During the last five years the question of putting the franchise on an equal basis with that of men has been raised four times, and every time it has received a substantial majority in its favour. We feel that the time for academic discussion has passed. We believe there is a genuine demand for the Bill. I congratulate my hon. Friends on having avoided contentious points; of leaving these over for further consideration in Committee. The Government is pledged to the principle. We know that Liberals are pledged to it. It has many strong advocates among the ranks of the Unionists. We do not want a special Committee set up. One of the Committees upstairs is quite capable of dealing with it. Such a Measure as we are putting forward is not only expedient; it is one of common justice, which is long overdue.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Rhys Davies)
It may be convenient that I should intervene in the Debate at this juncture. May I say how delighted I have been to hear the speeches of the lady Members of this House? I think that 882 they have proved conclusively that they are able to debate a subject as well as the male Members. In regard to the Amendment which has been moved by the Opposition, may I point out very respectfully to hon. Members that the case for another conference, like the Speaker's Conference of some years ago, in my judgment falls to the ground because the circumstances are altogether different. We got a measure of agreement then because political parties had submerged their differences to a large extent on account of the War; but now political parties have returned to their allegiance, and the position is much as it was before the War. Consequently, what has been said in favour of another Conference does not apply to-day as it did before; and if you had a Conference now I feel positive that there would be disagreement, and still the necessity for the matter to come before Parliament again. I welcome tins discussion. It is not the first time we have had a debate on this question in the House of Commons. I remember the opposition which was offered to a Bill of this kind years ago; and if that opposition had prevailed then women would not have been entitled to enter the House of Commons. I am sure the lady Members of this House have behaved with as much grace and dignity and have shown is much intelligence as the men. I cannot understand the arguments which have been used by the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross (The Duchess of Atholl). I would like to ask what is the difference between the tinker she referred to and the hotel butterfly; between the man who earns his living by tramping the roads and the rich person who moves from one hotel to the other.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I have not an intimate acquaintance with what the hon. Member describes as the "hotel butterfly," and he may know more about that than I do. But I do know the tinker; and, at any rate, the "hotel butterfly" can read and write.
§ Mr. DAVIES
My knowledge of that species is as great as that of the Noble Lady is of the tinker. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry) is not here, because I notice that he has a blocking Motion against this Measure. I saw him here yesterday leading hundreds of Welshwomen through these buildings, and I wonder what they 883 will think of his blocking Motion. I feel positively they will want to know the reason why he is adopting this course. Having said so much about the opposition which has so far been offered, it will be my duty now to say what the attitude of the Government is towards this, Measure; but before doing so I should explain what the effect of this Measure would be. It has been estimated that the alteration proposed by this Bill of the Women's Parliamentary Franchise will increase the female electorate of England and Wales by about 4,500,000. The current register for 1923 is made up of 10,497,023 males and 7,891,071 females. If this Bill becomes law as it now stands, it will bring in a sufficient number of women to outnumber the men.
The number of men registered for business premises qualification for England and Wales is 208,694, and the Local Government electors in the current register for England and Wales numbers 7,871,855 males and 7,818,919 females. There are a few points in this Measure which may lend themselves to amendment in Committee. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I do not remember any Bill coming before this House that did not require some amendment. There is one thing with regard to the disqualification for the receipt of the Poor Law relief that I think it will be well to point out. This disqualification does not prevent such a person sitting on a county council or a municipal borough council outside London. I think there has been some confusion as to the disqualification in that direction. I notice that the Bill also leaves out Northern Ireland; but if this Measure proceeds any further we shall have to inquire why Northern Ireland is left out. Another point is, that there is no date in this Measure when it becomes operative, although that is, of course, a small point. If the Bill does become law, it will be necessary for the Measure to state in what year it becomes operative.
Many arguments have been used to-day which personally I should very much like to combat. It ought to be remembered that prior to 1918 the Parliamentary franchise was based entirely on the occupation or ownership of land or premises, men only being qualified. With the march of education, I ask Members opposite to remember that the people of this country are more enlightened than hitherto; they 884 have now had 60 years of free elementary education. We have now opened the door to education for every labourer in the country. I do not think the argument about ignorance is now good enough; and it people are to be considered too ignorant to vote, the condemnation for that state of things must rest upon past Governments.
I have been looking into the figures relating to domestic service, and perhaps the House might be interested to know that, according to the 1911 census, the number of domestic servants of 19 years of age and under was 322,479; over 19 and under 30, 375,631; and over 30, 450,583, making a total of domestic servants of 1,148,698. A large number of these women would be qualified to vote under this Measure. I am aware that other people will be brought into a Bill of this kind, such as teachers employed in institutions, unmarried daughters living at home, and women working in hostels and living in lodging-houses. In my experience of electioneering—which probably has not been as wide as that of some hon. Members'—the most tragic case of all, and the disqualification that I would like to see removed immediately, is the one where a woman has lost her husband and has automatically lost her vote as a consequence.
The Government are in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill. It is unusual, however, for any Government to accept responsibility for Bills introduced by private Members, and I cannot, of course, give any indication now as to what the attitude of the Government would be if this1 Bill is sent to a Committee upstairs. That will be a reasonable point of view, I hope, for the consideration of every hon. Member of this House. For my own part, let me say that I welcome this Bill. Its adoption by Parliament would be a great step forward, because it means, if it does become law, that not only will you give the franchise to women on the same terms as you give it to men, but that you will remove that preposterous disqualification which has always existed in this country, that a person can only get the vote provided he owns or occupies something. I would like to see men and women securing the vote because they are human beings and good citizens. I care not whether they are sheltered by wood, by bricks, or by slates; as long as 885 they fulfil those qualifications they are entitled to the franchise of this country.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
Will the hon. Gentleman make it quite clear whether he means giving the vote because they are human beings or because they are good citizens? They are not the same thing.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Well, a person must be a human being to be a good citizen. I know that a dog may be a rational being, but that does not make him a human being.
§ Mr. B. TURNER
Does the hon. Gentleman mean, when he indicates that the Government accept the Second Heading, that they will give no further facilities for the remaining stages of the Bill?
§ Mr. TURNER
I take it that the Government will keep their promise, and give all the facilities possible.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Every Member realises that the Government is in a minority, and it will be a question for the House itself as to the exigencies of Parliamentary time. I hope Members will pardon me if I say no more on that subject.
§ Commander EYRES-MONSELL
I apologise for interrupting, but this is really a very important question. It is not a question for the House of Commons: it is a question for the Government, and I think the hon. Gentleman should give the House a little more indication of what is in the Government's mind. They cannot have it both ways. It is for the Government to say whether they intend to give time after the Bill has been upstairs in Committee.
§ Mr. DAVIES
The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows full well that any person speaking on behalf of the Government of the day has to speak with some responsibility. I do not intend to add anything to what I have said on behalf of the Government, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, as well as I do, what I have said means. I say that I, personally, shall vote in the Division Lobby for this Bill. I know full well that an ideal is aimed at; but unless you have an ideal you realise nothing at all, and I trust that the Bill will have a Second Reading by an overwhelming majority.
§ Mr. AMERY
I had not intended intervening at this stage, but the rather remarkable reply which the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department has made does really make it desirable that hon. Members should know where they are, and where the Government stand in this matter. We really have been put in considerable difficulty by the character of the Bill itself, but still more by the attitude of the Government with regard to it. The Bill deals with a matter of immense importance that effects the foundations of our own political system. It adds 4,500,000 voters to the electorate, and, in doing so, it is based, as regards its main feature, on a principle which, I think, is endorsed to-day by a great majority in this House, namely, that there should not be any differentiation in respect of age as between men and women voters. I do not think it would be seriously suggested that there is any social or physiological reason why women, if they are entitled to the vote, should only get it aft a later period in life. It is perfectly true, as has been said by more than one hon. Member, that the differentiation introduced six years ago was in the nature of a compromise, modifying temporarily a vast new change in the electorate. I think, on that ground, it was, at that time, advisable. I think it may even be argued that a further large extension should be accompanied, possibly by stages, possibly by some further measure of delay. But, broadly speaking, I think the majority of the House would feel that such differentiation should be abolished, and that there is no real reason why there should be, at any rate, long delay.
At the same time, this is a very serious matter, and it naturally raises—I presume that is the reason why the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading in a very able and temperate speech, brought it in—other cognate subjects affecting the franchise. It seems to me that it would have been the most satisfactory procedure for the hon. Member to have introduced a Resolution on this one question of equal franchise for women which would have commended itself to the great majority of the House. It would then have given the Government a definite lead, upon which it would have been for them to have recommended action to the House. That action, very reasonably, could have taken two forms. It is desirable that a matter 887 of this importance, especially if you introduce into it any further question beside the mere alteration—great though that is—of the age of women voters, should be fully discussed, and should have the very greatest measure of support behind it. From that point of view, I should have thought that by far the best solution would have been the one which preceded the last great extension of the franchise, and which was recommended in the Amendment which was moved in so admirable a speech by my Noble Friend the Member for Kinross (Duchess of Atholl). I do not see that that need involve any delay, and I believe that any solution arrived at by a conference of a non-party character, under your auspices, Mr. Speaker, if you can spare the time, would commend itself to the House as a whole. I was surprised to hear the Under-Secretary take the view that that was all very well in the happy non-party days of the Coalition. He never regarded them as happy non-party days then, nor did a good many Members below the Gangway. He said that it could not be treated as a possible solution when we have returned to party methods. Surely that is not at all consistent with the line taken by his Leader. When his Leader first came before the House and laid his policy before us, he then took the line that, in the particular position of Parliament to-day, his whole object was to settle matters, where-ever possible, on a non-party basis, because great issues could not be settled easily on a party basis.
I am really surprised that the Undersecretary should have rejected that solution on grounds so inconsistent with the line his Leader has taken. But if that be the view of the Government to-day, surely he must take the consequences of that and must have the courage of his views, and give to this Measure the full endorsement of the Government. A Measure of this importance should either be conducted on the lines of non-party conference or have behind it the weight and support of the Government, and I confess that the line the hon. Member has taken does leave us in very considerable bewilderment and uncertainty. I should have thought the business of the Government was to treat this as if it had been a Resolution, and then to have introduced its own franchise Measure, afford that 888 Measure adequate time for Second Reading, and then use the power and influence of the Government—naturally, with such support as it can get from other quarters, as it has not its own majority—and see that such a Measure was fully discussed in all its stages. But the Under-Secretary has not even given a shadow of assurance that the Government would try to give the time of the House to this Measure or try to induce the House to give this Measure preference over other matters We do not know in the least where we stand. All we know is that a Measure which not only adds 4,500,000 of new voters to the franchise, but which disenfranchises some 200,000 voters and which recasts the whole basi6 of our electoral system—not omitting tinkers or hotel butterflies from the franchise—that a Measure of this enormous consequence is to be passed after four or five hours of Parliamentary time on a Friday, and then go to Committee, and we neither know what will happen to it nor what chance it will have of being seriously dealt with afterwards. I quite appreciate the spirit in which the hon. Member who presented the Bill said he would leave various more controversial clauses not dealing with women's franchise to the Committee.
§ 1.0 P.M.
§ Mr. AMERY
Well, one. I daresay he will consider it in regard to the others. Surely, even leaving it to the Committee does not get over the fact that this Bill is one raising matters of immense consequence to the whole basis of our local and municipal franchise, and the relationship of it to the national franchise. The basis to which the Under-Secretary referred—as to whether some element of responsibility or the mere fact of existence constitutes a reason for the vote—is a very vital issue underlying the whole of our electoral system. Again, a very important question is that one part of the United Kingdom is allowed to have a different franchise from another, and that that part of the United Kingdom known as Northern Ireland should not share in the blessings of this Measure. Why should the women in Northern Ireland, who are just as much citizens as anyone else, not be given this franchise? I do not want to go into the details of the Measure, though a great many of the 889 details are open to the most effective criticism. But whether the hon. Member is prepared to leave that one Clause or all the Clauses open to alteration in Committee, it still means that a Bill of this immense consequence is thrown at the Committee after wholly inadequate discussion, and that we do not know in the least what may happen to it and in what form it may merge from the Committee, or what action the Government will then take. That, I do submit, is not treating the House fairly. What I would suggest and press upon the Government is that the Under-Secretary should take an opportunity of consulting with his leaders and that, before the afternoon comes to a close, he should inform the House definitely whether this is a Measure which they will accept on Second Reading from the point of view of making it a Government Measure here and now, or of passing a Government Measure on the main principle, i.e., the enfranchisement of women. Until that is done, I cannot see that we on this side are in a position to say that this is a matter which should go to its conclusion after inadequate discussion and then take its chance—as to which we are completely in the dark—as to what happens upstairs, and the line which the Government will take about it.
§ Mr. FOOT
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Amery) who just sat down complained bitterly of the action of the Government in arriving at an inconclusive result. He complained that the hon. Member the Under-Secretary for the Home Office was not quite definite as to the line he was going to take. It is unfortunate that in his own speech the right hon. Member came to an even more lame and impotent conclusion because it is quite evident that in spite of expressions of approval of the principle of this Bill which he gave in the early part of his speech, at the end he appealed to every reactionary in this House who would desire to see this Measure defeated. I want to congratulate the Mover of the Bill on his good fortune in securing this place in the Ballot and upon his wisdom and discrimination in bringing in a Bill which is very eagerly looked for throughout the country. We listened with great interest, not only to the speech of the hon. Member for Norwich (Miss Jewson), but also to two speeches on the other side of the 890 House. Surely the speech that was made by the hon. Member for London University (Sir S. Russell-Wells) ignored all the contentions made by the Mover of the Bill, because he laid all the emphasis of his speech on the incidental parts of this Bill and failed to deal with the parts which are vital, essential and intrinsic.
I am not acquainted with the tinkers of Scotland, but I have never known that the occupation of tinker was a dishonourable one. Some of us will remember that John Bunyan was a tinker. I understand that, in the mountainous districts of Scotland, the tinker does perform a most useful service. I understand many tinkers served in the War, and I suppose the tinkers even in Scotland may use sugar and tea and occasionally smoke, and in that sense they do contribute to the revenue. There is, further, the suggestion that these unfortunate persons were not to have any voice in this House. Only a week or two ago there was introduced a Bill affecting vitally their interest, called the Movable Dwellings Bill, dealing with their conditions and their livelihood, and it would be most unhappy if we in this House were to deal with a Bill touching their conditions, and that they should not have any voice in the matter. For myself, I am not at all impressed by the argument that we must give special consideration to property. I think that, of the two, as between him and the rich man, the poor man has the larger claim to the vote, for the simple reason that the vote is a protection. The rich man can always protect himself by his wealth, while very often the only protection that the poor man has is his franchise. That condition of affairs has obtained for many hundreds of years. It was a wise teacher hundreds of years ago who said that the wealth of the rich man is his strong castle, and the destruction of the poor man is his poverty. In the earlier Debates that have taken place, and particularly in the Debates of 1884, the same emphasis was laid which the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross (the Duchess of Atholl) laid upon what is called the stake in the country. I would only remind hon. Members of what I think is an edifying passage in which Lord Acton summed up the life-work of Mr. Gladstone. It was in these words:He divined that the laws should be adapted to those who have the heaviest 891 stake in the country, those to whom bad laws mean, not mortified pride and stinted luxury, but pain, and want and degradation, and risk to their own lives and to their children's souls.We claim, equally, I hope, with hon. Members above the Gangway, that, in giving to the poorer people a fuller share of the franchise, we are only meting out bare justice. What about the hardest-worked part of the community? I refer particularly to the young mother under 30 years of age, who has upon her all the cares of her home. No class of the community works longer, harder, or for less acknowledgment than this. They have no trade union to protect their interests, and there are thousands and tens of thousands of women in that position who have not even the protection of the vote to-day. That vote would be secured to them by this Bill, and that is why we give it a warm welcome. I did not understand the reproach of the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross against the hon. Member who moved the Bill, for not having given fuller consideration to this Measure. Surely, the Noble Lady will agree with an axiom expressed by a statesman here many years ago, that the sense of the House is better than the sense of any individual Member. We are glad to acknowledge that we are a deliberative assembly, and the hon. Member would be very unwise, I respectfully submit, if he desires to carry this Measure through, to lose it simply because he cannot carry through something that is incidental to it.
I am interested in this matter because, when the last Parliament met, I put to the Prime Minister of the day a question asking whether it was his intention to introduce a Measure that would secure the franchise for women on the same grounds as men, and it was because he stated that he had no intention of introducing such a Measure that I brought in a Bill, about twelve months ago, which was intended to give the franchise to women on the same terms as men. When I secured a First Reading for that Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule, it was challenged by Sir Martin Archer-Shee, who then sat for Finsbury, but no Division was taken in the House. Just before the appeal was made to the country in November last, I put to the then Home Secretary a question asking for the numbers of men and women who were 892 disfranchised in this country, and the figures impressed me very much. They are almost similar to those which have been given by the Under-Secretary of State to-day. I learned, and it rather astonished me, that in this country there were only 304,202 men over 21 years of age whose names were not on the register. That is a very remarkable fact, because you have to exclude the criminals, you have to exclude lunatics, you have to exclude peers, you have to exclude those who are not able to comply even with the simple residential qualification that exists to-day. The figures show that there is practically a full manhood franchise in this country. But, from the figures given to me at that time in regard to women, it appears that there were, not 304,202, but 4,647,578 women over 21 years of age who had not the liberty of casting a vote; and a day or two later the then Prime Minister said he was going to throw himself upon the opinion of the country. How farcical it is to talk of collecting the voices of the country when, on the morning of the polling day, the doors of the polling booths have been deliberately shut in the face of nearly five million people who are just as qualified to express their opinion as any other portion of the community. It is a loss also to the House of Commons. It was our greatest political philosopher who said:The virtue, spirit and essence of a House of Commons consists in its being an express image of the feelings of the nation.That is true, although I do not suppose that Edmund Burke would have supported this Measure; but we cannot get the express image of the feelings of the nation as long as we deprive nearly five million women of their vote.
Another fact was brought out during the Debates of 1917. It is possible for a woman who is only just over 21 years of age to stand as a candidate for Parliament. At the last Election such a lady did stand in one of the Northern counties, and I think it would be admitted by her opponent, if he were here to-day, that she was a most effective candidate. We are left with this anomaly, that a woman under 30 years of age can stand as a candidate, and may be returned to Parliament, and yet she is not qualified to cast her own vote as an elector. In the Debate that then took place, the former Member for the City of London, then 893 Sir Frederick Banbury, spoke from this very seat, and I have the quotation here, though I will not trouble the House with it, in which, in moving an Amendment that no woman should stand as a candidate for Parliament unless she were 30 years of age, he said that, if that Amendment were not carried, there would be an irresistible case for reducing the age at which a person was qualified to vote. I notice that there is an Amendment on the Paper suggesting that the age should be raised to 25 in the case of all. There is some argument for that, but there is no case for the distinction. John Stuart Mill summed it all up in these words:The difference of sex is as entirely irrelevant to political rights as is difference in height or in the colour of the hair.But why should we raise the age at all? Youth is not taking too large a share in national affairs at present; it is taking too small a share; and I would remind the Noble Lady who moved what I think was practically a dilatory Amendment, of a famous speech made in her own country less than two years ago by Sir James Barrie, at the University of St. Andrews. It was an indictment of the old gang in their management of the world. He turned to the young men and women, and particularly to the young women, and said:Look around you and see how much share youth has now that the War is over. You got a handsome share while it lasted.Those who associate themselves with this Amendment excluding any woman from the vote until the age of 25, forget that Queen Victoria became Queen at the age of eighteen; they forget that Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne before she was 25; and they forget that Jane Austen wrote "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility" when she was 22 years of age. And all the leaders of to-day are now appealing to youth. The Leader of the Opposition now is appealing to the young men and women to take a larger share, although, apparently, there are some who are content if they simply take an interest in whist drives and dances, instead of giving them more serious responsibilities. There is a primâ facie case for this reform. Past legislation has made impossible any resistance to it. We want now a clear Measure so as to leave no rubs and botches in the work. The present law as between men and women is a trial and anxiety to every election agent. It is difficult for him to 894 explain it, and there is no Member who has appealed to the country at the last Election, or the Election before, who has not been disturbed by the resentment expressed by women who, for one reason or another, have been left off the register. As we have it now, it is what John Bright called a fancy franchise. Many hon. members have the same privilege that I have. I have boys and girls in my own family, and if there is any difference between them, the girls are sharper than the boys. At any rate, it is a franchise which could only have been adopted by a Parliament made up entirely of men, as was the Parliament of 1918.
The Noble Lady the Member for Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) said there might be more women voting than men. We have something better to do with our time than to put right in this House all the supposed mistakes of Providence. As to the War being an argument against this reform, I think it is an argument for it, for the simple reason that I am quite satisfied that when we can appeal to the opinion of all women in this country, it will be very much more against war than it has been in past years. The Noble Lady also asked where was the evidence of demand. We were told many women did not want it. That was the strong appeal which was made in 1884 in this very House against the Vote for the agricultural labourer, and Gladstone answered it in words which I commend to the attention of hon. Members. Even if it were true, it is irrelevant, because Mill again answered that.It is a benefit,He said,to human beings to have their fetters removed even if they do not desire to walk.But the argument does not happen to be true. If hon. Members turn to the Debates of 1917, they will find over them all an air of utter unreality. The Debates of 1917 upon the Representation of the People Bill have just as much reality as the account of the debate in the second book of "Paradise Lost" given us by John Milton, which has just as much correspondence with present-day facts. All the forebodings, fears and fancies of that time have been exploded and falsified. I am glad reference was made by the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs to what happened in this House yesterday. I 895 want to congratulate the hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry), whose name is down for an Amendment which would undoubtedly kill the Bill, upon the manifestation of women's interest as far as his own constituency in concerned. To see him yesterday taking that great body of women politicians through this House was surely the strongest argument, for this Bill, and when they met in the evening the Leader of the Opposition congratulated them. I saw them going through the House and I noticed their pride in their own representative. They were not a bit concerned to see the box from which Gladstone spoke, but they were all very concerned to see the particular seat generally occupied by their own Member. Later, when they were being led through the House, I was glad to see that a consistent opponent of the women's cause—I refer to the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon)—assisted as guide, philosopher, and friend. When some of us expressed our sympathy with him on the magnitude of his task he said: "My dear Sir, it is a labour of love."
We do not ask for this concession as a favour. It is the granting of a right. It is not simply that we want to give the right to those women who are at present shut out. It is because in their being shut out, the community itself suffers, and there is loss all round. The suggestion made in the Amendment of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil), that it is only six years since we made the last reform, is utterly irrelevant. If it is right, it is right now, and if it is wrong, six years or sixty years make no difference at all. We are told it was a compromise then. We do not recognise that compromise. It was simply a compromise carried out because of the abnormal time, and that is the main contention against the suggestion of the Noble Lady. She says a Conference, was adopted at that time. Why? Because we lived in abnormal times! Here was a great change being brought about at a time when the country was at war, when there was not the ordinary opportunity for party controversy. There is not the slightest suggestion in these more normal times for the abnormal method which was then adopted. This reform is inevitable. It is another case where the 896 Membere who sit on the other side of the House have to be educated.
§ Mr. FOOT
I am one of the constituents of the Noble Lady who interrupts me, and I should like to make this concession, that in the education of those on the other side she, at any rate, has taken a leading part. I am glad to include in that process the hon. Gentleman who represents Exeter City (Sir R. Newman). It is another evidence of what I said in the House only a week or two ago, that practically all the great movements had their rise in the West. I think the Noble Lady, had she been here yesterday and seen the political interest which was manifested, would have agreed that it would be impossible to get 1,000 men from Newport to come and interest themselves in the political doings of this House. The only thing that would bring them up would be a Cup-Tie. There was an annual invasion of Plymouth when Newport came to play Plymouth Albion. It was a fine example of political interest, and it is that political interest that we ought to encourage. I do not think any of those who are opposed to the Bill and have put their names down to these Amendments believe that this reform is not to come, and is it not wise that reform should come now and be peacefully conceded than later in anger and turmoil. I should like to give a quotation from a passage written by Burke to the Two Gentlemen of Bristol:If there is any one eminent criterion which above all the rest distinguishes a wise Government from an administration weak and improvident, it is this:—Well to know the best time and manner of yielding what it is impossible to keep.It is impossible to withhold this reform. Let us give it now, and I hope the Government, after listening to this Debate, will take a stronger attitude than has been suggested. I should like to assure the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs that the stronger the position he takes in carrying through the essential reform embodied in this Measure, the stronger will be the interest and support which will be given him from those of us who sit below the Gangway.
§ Sir WILLIAM BULL
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for the fact 897 that I have received a circular from the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship, in which the folowing paragraph occurs, in reference to the statement that after the passing of the Representation of the People Act, 1918, there was an understanding between the Government and the Women's societies that no further extension should be demanded:The answer is that this is emphatically not the case. No such pledge was asked for or given.The last speaker said that if any such arrangement had been made, this House was not bound by it, and that we should consider the question afresh. I have been a constant advocate of women franchise all the time that I have been a Member of this House, and I believe that justice will be done, but it is true to say that an arrangement was made.
§ Sir W. BULL
I will tell the hon. Member. Perhaps it will be useful if I give in brief form the story of how women got the vote in 1918. We showed characteristic British phlegm when, in the midst of a great war, we deliberately decided to have a Reform Bill. That was one of the most striking features of the time. While we were struggling on the Continent for our lives we decided that the time was ripe to have a great franchise reform. My old chief Mr. Walter Long suggested it, and the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), who was then Prime Minister, cordially blessed it, and got out certain headings whereby a Conference might be called. Everybody said that the Conference would come to nothing, but we were fortunate in getting the late Speaker, Lord Ullswater, to preside over the Conference, and we went into one of the Committee rooms upstairs to hammer out a great many of the anomalies of the franchise.
There was no idea at the commencement of the Conference that the women question should be dealt with. It was, in fact, felt to be such a thorny question that it would be utterly impossible to get it on to the stage in the Conference Chamber. The Conference was very stormy to start with, but owing to the matchless tact of Lord Ullswater, who switched us off on to another Clause when we got too heated on one question, we managed to make progress. I have been 898 an advocate of women suffrage all along, and I suppose it was due to that fact that certain ladies approached me, and asked me whether we could do anything with regard to women suffrage at the Conference. I told them that I was afraid it was hopeless, and that the various parties were all agreed that it was such a thorny subject—as it was in those days—that it would possibly wreck the Conference, and do no good to the women's cause. One of the ladies said to me, "We are prepared to go a very long way." I said, "If so, you will have to make a very high bid indeed." She surprised me enormously by stating that the women's societies would be willing to accept the franchise at the age of 40. I said, "That is a very generous proposal, but is it really the thin end of the wedge? If you get it at 40, will you immediately agitate for something further?" She said, "Of course, I cannot bind certain of the wilder societies, but this deputation represents the leading women's franchise societies, and I think we are justified in saying that there would be no agitation for further extension of the franchise for a reasonable time." I think 10 years was suggested. One lady has denied that, but I think we had in our minds the idea that the franchise should not be altered for a period of 10 years.
I took the proposal into the Speaker's Conference and, to my surprise, it was well received. Lord Ullswater said that the age of 40 was derisory. The result was that there were two Motions made—one that the age should be reduced to 30, which was lost, and another, which I moved as a compromise, that it should be fixed at 35. That resolution was carried, and if hon. Members will refer to the records, they will see that in the recommendations of the Conference the age for woman was put at 35. The Resolutions of the Conference were carried practically unanimously, and the Bill was ordered to be drafted. As Parliamentary Private Secretary to Mr. Walter Long (now Lord Long), who was President of the Local Government Board at the time, I attended the meeting of the Drafting Committee. Lord Long took the Chair, and there were also present the Home Secretary and the draftsman. When we came to the question of the age, Lord Long said, "This is rubbish," and he struck out 35, and put in 30. The Committee agreed to that. That is the story of how 899 30 came into the Bill. First of all, the age of 40 was suggested to the Conference, but the Conference made the age 35, and, finally, Lord Long cut down the age to 30.
I have been, as I have already said, a consistent advocate of women suffrage, but I think it would be a bad thing if, when a definite arrangement of that sort were come to, it should not be kept for the period arranged. The House must remember that had it not been thought that there was an arrangement of this sort, the women would not have got the vote then. Therefore, it would not be wise to repudiate that agreement and not to consider the terms upon which the votes were given. I think we are morally bound by the agreement come to.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
Could the hon. Member tell us by whom we were bound? I was a Member of the House, and I was quite unaware of the fact that the Conference bound the House of Commons. I repudiate it absolutely. We have had two Elections since.
§ Sir W. BULL
When arrangements are made by a sitting House or Members of that sitting House, and terms are come to in which certain things are allowed to be done, and we say that we are not bound by such an arrangement, it would be an end to all conference or compromise and we should never do anything in the way of conference.
§ Mr. ELLIS DAVIES
I was a member of the Conference. Does the hon. Member suggest that the Conference agreed to the age of 30? I certainly was not a party to it.
§ Sir W. BULL
I have told the story of exactly what occurred, and I ask hon. Members to put themselves back to the year 1917. Supposing I had refused to take that suggestion to the Conference, and supposing I had not understood that there would be quietude for a certain 900 time if that suggestion went forward, I should never have gone with the recommendations to the Speaker, and we should have been back in the dark ages still. I think the House of Commons ought to consider this point of view. It will be far better, considering that this Bill means such a vast change, to deal with the matter in conference. The Bill looks very simple; it is so cleverly drawn, but when you look into the Clauses you see what is done not only in regard to the women's question, but other questions. Therefore, it would be wiser for the Government to take the Bill back and say, "This is a Bill which should be considered by a conference. Let us set up a conference." The last Conference was thoroughly successful. It was one of the most remarkable things that have ever happened in the history of the House of Commons. As Waterloo was regarded as a great triumph compared with the other great battles which had preceded it, so the Reform Bill of 1918 was to the Reform Bill of 1832. The Bill of 1918 was the greatest stride in franchise law that has ever been made in any civilised country.
I ask that this Bill should be taken back, and that the Government should set up a conference of all parties to amend the various Clauses, and then bring it down to this House as an agreed Bill. I certainly say that a definite arrangement was made whereby the subject should not be brought on within a certain time. On the other hand, there have been three Elections, and there might have been ten Elections. I do not care how many Elections, but it will make an end to all compromise if a definite arrangement which was come to then be abrogated now by the House of Parliament. I am in favour of putting the age at 25 all round. I think that 21 is much too young. I think that 25 would be a fair and reasonable compromise, and in questions of this kind with regard to franchise it is far better, instead of fighting them out as a matter of party fight, to arrange them by means of a compromise. Therefore, as an older Member of the House, I humbly and respectfully suggest that there shall be a new conference which will settle this matter. I thank the House for listening to me so patiently. I do not trouble it often, but I do feel strongly that when a definite arrangement is made, it should not be broken.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I am sorry that the Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs has left the House, but I hope that the very indefinite promise which he gave with regard to the attitude of the Government will be reviewed. He stated that it was not usual for a Government to give support to a private Member's Bill. May I remind him that very many unusual things are being done to-day, and I hope that the new Government will do at least one more unusual thing so far as Parliamentary franchise is concerned, and give their unqualified support to this Bill when they are a Government as they did when they were not a Government. I was exceedingly interested in the speech of the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross (Duchess of Atholl), but I may remind her that in the days long ago over in Ireland, when they used to talk a great deal about the tinkers—probably tinkers of a character similar to that of those to whom the Noble Lady referred to-day—one threat which was used to frighten children was the tinker's curse. I was rather relieved to hear the Noble Lady say later on that those tinkers in Scotland, about whom she spoke, could not read, because I felt sure that if they did obtain and read the speech which s[...]e made in this House to-day, she would almost assuredly be the victim of the tinker's curse, and the tinker's curse is a very terrible thing to people who are superstitious, and the Noble Lady might have a very bad time of it.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sparkbrook Division of Birmingham (Mr. Amery) has referred to the fact that Northern Ireland is left out of this Measure, and he is rather upset about the distinction which is made between the franchise in this country and the franchise in Northern Ireland. But he must be aware that there is already a difference between the franchise in Northern Ireland and the franchise in this country. In Northern Ireland they have been exercising proportional representation, which makes a considerable difference as compared with the franchise in this country. So if a difference is being made, it would not be more serious than the difference that exists at present. Like most hon. Members, I was interested in the body of ladies who came up from Wales yesterday under the protection of a number of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I thought of a little 902 scene that occurred in a cripple school which we have established recently in the district which I have the honour to represent. One of the visitors to the school asked one of those crippled children how he liked the circumstances of the new school. He said "It is all right, Governor; two rides and a dinner for 3d." I am of the opinion that it would be exceedingly easy to get as many men as you can get women from places in Scotland, and other parts of the country, to come up and see the sights of London on the principle of two rides and a dinner for 3d.
I should be extremely sorry to hear on the part of people who claim to be progressive the sentiments expressed by the Noble Lady in regard to dwellers in caravans, and those tinkers who travel all over the country. After all, I do not know whether it is considered now to be a crime to wander all over the country in search of a living. I have heard many arguments put forward by hon. Members of the party which is now in opposition that it was the duty of workers to be prepared to be more mobile, and to be ready to transfer themselves to any part of the country where a living could be found instead of remaining in that part where their permanent residence was if they had one. I do not ever hear the same objection urged in reference to those people who are described as globe trotters, who continually travel all over the world, not for anybody else's good but for their own. The only time in my opinion that they are doing any good to the people of their own country is when they are out of it.
Those tinkers to whom reference has been made appear to be ignorant. They do not seem to have learned to read and write, according to the description which has been given here, but no suggestion was made that they were not doing useful work in the community. They go about earning a living and doing useful work, and in my opinion, and I believe in the opinion of all those on this side of the House, if we had to choose between the tinker who does useful work and cannot read and write and does not live in a permanent residence, but prefers to roam all over the country, and the person who was referred to as the butterfly of the hotel, who does no useful work but wanders about the country and can read 903 and write, the balance of usefulness and decency is generally on the side of the tinker. If the franchise has to be given to one of them, I hope that any body sitting in this House would say that the tinker ought to have it, and that if either is to be disfranchised it is not the tinker but the other.
It has been said that there is no desire for an extension of the franchise. If you allow that statement to become widespread, you will get what you got before, when similar statements were made; you will get an agitation that will compel you ultimately to give that which you now refuse because it is asked for in a quiet and decent way. Why should we wait until haystacks are burned down and cattle are maimed, as happened in Ireland before anything useful was given to the farming community? Why should we wait until we have all the threats that we had in days gone by, before we are willing to pass legislation that will ameliorate the evil conditions under which industrial workers are working? Why should we wait until a body of women make the enormous sacrifices that many of them made in the past, and prove to you that they are in earnest by scenes such as those we witnessed a few years ago? The desire is there. It has been expressed in the past, and, undoubtedly, it will be expressed in the near future, unless something is done to extend the franchise to those who almost everyone believes—even those who have been speaking against this Measure—are entitled to the franchise.
A statement was made as to the heroic sacrifices of the men during the War. I do not think anyone would dare to say that there were not heroic sacrifices made by the men during the War. Nor will anyone, who had the knowledge that I had of the conditions prevailing inside the homes of the men who went to the War, say that there were not even more heroic sacrifie[...]s made by the women who remained at home. I was in the fortunate and the unfortunate position that I had to witness and gain some experience of the conditions under which women were living at that time. I recall statements that were made by all parties as to the value of the services given by the women during the War period, and I remember 904 the promises that were made to the women. It is a betrayal of those promises to refrain from giving the vote to the young women who are seeking the franchise to day.
There are one or two rather peculiar anomalies in the franchise, and this Bill would remove them. Reference has been made to workhouse inmates. It has been suggested that workhouse inmates were not the best people to legislate for the management of workhouses. That may or may not be, but I think I am right in saying that an inmate of a workhouse could become a Member of this House, and that there is nothing to prevent it. If that be so, what reason is there for preventing an inmate of a workhouse from exercising the franchise, unless it is that some members of this House think that the franchise is far more important than membership of this House? If they have such thoughts, they have a very much lower opinion of membership of this House than I have. It is quite possible, also, for a woman between the ages of 21 and 30 to become a Member of this House. I would not dare to hazard a guess at the age of those ladies who are already Members of the House, but I think it is quite probable that all of them are well under 30. That proves, at any rate, that they can come here, and that they do so.
There is a third point. Every extension of the franchise which has ever been made has been opposed as vigorously as this proposed extension is opposed now. An extension has been granted only when it cold be resisted no longer. Nearly all the arguments to-day in opposition to this Bill have been used over and over again against every suggestion for the extension of the franchise. We frequently hear that it is not good policy to apprentice anyone to a trade or profession after 21 years of age; that it is the young man who is more adaptable and quicker to learn, and that if apprenticed after 30 very little success is gained. That argument applies to the lawyer, the bricklayer, the medical man, the joiner, and to almost every calling and profession. It is a matter of teaching. If women are kept out of the franchise until they are 30, they will never take a very serious interest in it, but if they are given the vote at 21 they are likely to take an even greater interest in it than has been shown by those over 30. A greater and greater 905 number of them every year have proved their interest in affairs because of the franchise.
If it be taken as proved that since the franchise has been granted to women over 30, they have shown an increasing interest in the affairs of the State, it can be said equally that the same improvement will be shown in the case of the younger women between 21 and 30. To refuse citizenship to these younger women is a decadent policy. We are the last country, practically, in the whole of Europe, to make this progressive step. I often feel ashamed of my countrymen to think that Britain lags behind. We used to say that John Bull was typical of everything that was advanced and progressive. In our younger days many of us used to think this was so. When I saw the right hon. Member for Hammersmith (Sir W. Bull) standing at the Table opposite, pleading, not for advancement, but for reaction, I felt rather ashamed of the position of this country in relation to the advance movements of the day. I hope it will no longer be said of us that we are a decadent nation, refusing justice and right to our younger citizens, but that the passing of this Measure will bring us again abreast of other nations in Europe.
§ Mr. A. A. SOMERVILLE
The tinker has loomed very large in this Debate. I do not propose to say more about him except to mention that I have great sympathy with him and that he often does good service to the community. I must protest, however, against the assertion of the previous speaker that the Conservative party has continually objected to the extrusion of the franchise. The name of Mr. Disraeli is honourably connected with a very large step in the progress of the movement for extension of the franchise, and the conference which was presided over by Lord Ullswater, and which conferred the franchise upon a great majority of women, was a conference of all parties. I protest also against the attempt made by the Mover of the Second Reading and by the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs to label those who have put down Amendments as persons who are merely attempting to wreck the Bill. The case is far different from that. We have put down Amendments because we believe those Amendments to be necessary in the interests of wholesome legislation, and we protest strongly against the attempt made 906 by hon. Members on the benches opposite, under the pretence of conferring the franchise to a larger extent upon women, to effect certain objects which are very different. I am pledged to the principle of giving the franchise to men and women upon equal terms at the age of twenty-five and I shall vote for that principle, but I do not think it is possible to pass the Bill in its present form without most drastic changes. For instance, the Bill as it stands would very probably necessitate another Redistribution Bill, and it opens up opportunities for flagrant gerrymandering.
I ask hon. Members to look at Subsection (2) of Clause I, paragraphs (a and (b) and, taking these together, to apply them to an imaginary case. Imagine the case of a county in which there is a large city and contiguous to that city there is an agricultural constituency. Let us suppose that in this city there is a large Labour majority such as we find in certain cases. If the Bill passes in its present form it will be perfectly easy to gerrymander that agricultural constituency, which we will assume has, normally, a Conservative majority. If the Labour majority in the city is big enough to spare a couple of thousand votes, then a couple of thousand people can cross over to the agricultural constituency just before the end of the qualifying period, reside in that constituency on the last qualifying day, get the franchise in that constituency, and upset the Conservative majority—afterwards returning to the city. A Bill which produces these effects under the cover of extending the female franchise is not an honest Bill and is essentially a Bill which should be submitted to such a conference as is asked for by the Amendment before the House. I particularly draw attention, however, to the question of granting the franchise on level terms to all men and women at the age of 25. There seem to be ample reasons for such a reform and, as a matter of fact, in several European countries the franchise is not granted under the age of 25 and a person is not qualified to sit in the French Chambre des Députés until he is 25 years of age, showing that the French attach importance to that age. I do not think it can be doubted that at 25 a man or woman has more experience of 907 life, more sense of responsibility, and is much better qualified to exercise the franchise.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
The middle course in life is usually the best. There is no better rule in life than the golden mean, or what the Americans call, "Walking in the middle of the road." For instance, a man or woman of 25 will probably have had experience of two or three elections, and that is no bad training, because they will have learned that the performances of parties are not always equal to their election promises. They will probably learn, for instance, that a party may make use of Chinese labour 3,000 miles away as a means of influencing an election; they may learn that a party can say, "If you vote for the Conservatives and their policy, prices will go up," and they may note that when the Conservative party is not in power no reference is made to the fact that prices have, nevertheless, gone up, and that the rise is due, to some extent to the fact that our credit—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Robert Young)
I understand the hon. Gentleman is using illustrations with the object of showing what may be done under an extended franchise.
§ 2.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SOMERVILLE
I was merely giving examples of the effects of certain cries upon elections, and drawing the inference that the elector of 25 would be better qualified in sense, responsibility and expansion of intelligence to judge of the value of the promises put before him in an Election than the younger elector. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I favour the principle of granting the franchise at the age of 25 on equal terms to men and women, but we ought not, under cover of this principle, to try to make fundamental constitutional changes such as the sweeping away of the business qualification. Such changes should not be made by a private Member's Bill, and these are defects 908 in the Bill which it will be almost impossible to remove in Committee. In advocating the age of 25, I have behind me, to a large extent, the opinion of the women in my constituency. I am now advocating what I have always advocated, what I have placed before the women voters in my constituency, and what I have found to receive general approval. It is quite true that if we go back far enough we shall find that in ancient Athens and Sparta the age of citizenship was 21, but—and it is a big "but"—the boys had then done three years of service for their country. They had been tested, and if it seemed good to this House to insist upon three years of service—social service or service in the defence of the country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Or in the workshop."]—I do not see that the interruption is relevant—before the age of 21, then I would be ready to grant the vote at that age. These boys of Athens and Sparta had to go to the Temple of Minerva and swear on oath to serve their country for three years, and then they received their arms, and it is noteworthy that in that oath occurs for the first time, as far as I know, the phrase:Leave your country better than you found it.I think the oath was:I will not dishonour my sacred arms. I will not desert my fellow soldier by whose side I shall be set. I will do battle for my country whether aided or unaided. I will strive to leave my country better than I found it. I will honour the temples in which my fathers worshipped. Of these things the gods are my witnesses.If we could have a little more of that spirit in the training of our young men and women, it would be better for the country and for the world. I do not want to detain the House, but I say that on grounds of principle, on grounds of national training and discipline, it would be well to make this reform, and that a Bill of this kind, which one may call an omnibus Bill, involving so many constitutional changes and so many principles, can only be dealt with reasonably by such a conference as was successful in extending the franchise in many useful directions previously.
§ Mr. D0DDS
I fear that in a new Parliament the indulgence of the older 909 Members must be taxed rather severely by the Parliamentary fledglings who have to try their wings, but I think they may find some consolation in the fact that the process must now be drawing towards a close, and I am emboldened to address the House this afternoon because of the kindness which I have seen extended to all new Members of Parliament who have entered this House. I therefore submit myself with confidence to the indulgence of hon. Members. We have been discussing this matter not simply this morning, but for some years, and I notice that four years ago to-day—that is, on 27th February, 1920—the matter was very fully discussed in this House and that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, took no small part in that Debate. I do not know that the position has materially changed since that time, except that the case for the inclusion of the younger women has been increased by the lapse of time. I have in my mind a statement made to that effect four years ago by a Member who is not at present in the House, who summed the matter up as follows: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 this register, and before we have given women the opportunity of gaining the educational value to be obtained from the vote.He adds later on: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 five years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1920; col. 2099, Vol. 125.]So to-day, after a period of four years, we have a Bill introduced, the main object of which is to extend the franchise to the younger women, and I venture to say that if that gentleman were now present in the House, he would give his adhesion to the principle of the Bill to-day. I would like, quite respectfully, to say that to me as a new Member it seems a pity that private Bills introduced before this House are unfortunately over-weighted. If we could have a simple issue put before us, it would be much easier for us to come to something more nearly approaching a unanimous vote. However, the introducer of the Bill to-day very straightforwardly told us, at the out set of his introduction, that he regards 910 the main principle as that of the extension of the vote to the younger women, and that he is perfectly prepared to meet objections and leave to the House the objections which may be raised to the other and more contentious parts of the Bill.
We have had a speech from the Front Bench opposite leading us to believe that we were pledged by a Conference which took place some seven years ago. It seems a curious thing that in the discussion which has taken place on the franchise as between men and women in the intervening years very little, if any, reference has been made to any binding pledges, if they were binding pledges, that were given at that Conference, and I venture to say, as a new Member of this House, that we may regard ourselves as to a certain extent bound by what took place within this Chamber in times past, but that if we are to be stereotyped for a long period of time by Resolutions in a Conference which is not sitting in the open, then, indeed, our work here is stultified. Therefore, I think that, at any rate in essence, the spirit of the compromise which may have been reached on that occasion has been met, and there may have been some very cogent reasons why the franchise should not be extended to women in 1918 on the same terms as it was then extended to men, the chief reason for that being that the electoral market, as it were, was going to be flooded by a large class of new voters, some 8,000,000 in number, and arguments of caution may have led the House to believe that it would be just as well to take it by stages. In fact, one gathers, in reading the history of electoral reform in the past, that some of the greatest reformers have been, guided by that principle of not flooding the market by too great an influx of new voters at the same time.
I submit that that argument has now lost its force so far as the principle contained in this Bill is concerned, in that since the time when the franchise was extended to women, we have had a large amount of election experience. We have had a period of nearly six years, a very important period indeed, a period in which we have been living, as it were, intensively in our Parliamentary life, a period in which we have had three Elections, in which the women of the country 911 have shown that they can indeed exercise the vote with the same amount of responsibility as it is exercised by the men. The various arguments which were extended against women's suffrage prior to 1918 have been falsified, and we can, therefore, with the greater assurance now extend the principle of the franchise so as to put men and women upon an equality, so far as the vote is concerned.
I desire to support the Bill because of its principal object, that is, mainly because of the first Clause, and I do this because it is a logical extension of the work to which the Legislature put its hand in 1918. It is stated in some quarters that the franchise was extended to women in 1918 as a reward for patriotic services performed during the period of the War. I venture to assert that it was more than that, for if it had simply been for that, the claim for the younger women was overwhelming then, as it is now. I believe, however, that it was extended to women then because they had by that time amply proved their claim to the vote, and they had proved to us men, who have shown ourselves, after all, to be the slow-witted sex, that they can be of considerable value in working out the various problems which are presented to the citizens of the country. The main battle was won at that time, and those who oppose the extension of the suffrage to women are—and a good many of them know it—simply fighting a rearguard action. They may gain time, but they can gain little or nothing more than that, and in the measure in which they do gain time, we men lose the grace which we should get in giving freely that which is a right to the younger women.
We are not asked to concede a claim; we are asked simply to recognise a right, which is a very different thing. Why should we, as has been pointed out by other speakers, be the last of the great European nations to recognise this claim to equality? There has been mention of Hungary. Hungary does not stand upon the same level as Great Britain. We have had mention made of other countries which have extended the franchise to women on the same terms as to men in overwhelming numbers. We know we have great defects in our educational system, but as an educated nation and an 912 educated Empire we claim to be second to none. That education has been extended not to one sex, but to both sexes. We have been told that it is not six years since women were first admitted to the Parliamentary franchise. At any rate, they were admitted in 1918, and, for better or worse, we have women with the franchise. No sooner had the vote been conceded—you will pardon the word—than the doors of this House were opened to women Members. No great revolution followed, but I think the forces of progress were greatly strengthened in all quarters of the House by the admission of women, and each succeeding Election has increased the women representatives in the House of Commons, not in arithmetical but in geometrical progression. That may be a cause of alarm to some, but to all those who are interested in the cause of progress, it is matter of great congratulation.
Still the Constitution stands, and works! But we are left with this curious anomaly. We do not seek to know the age of any woman admitted to this House. We do not make comparative youth a disqualification for voting and speaking here. We simply make it a disqualification for voting for representatives to be elected to this House. In fact, you can say that a woman between 21 and 30 years of age may do almost anything except register a Parliamentary vote. One would almost think the Vote was the most dangerous weapon that could be put in the hands of anyone. We withhold this from women when everything else is accorded to them. A woman between 21 and 30 may become a Member of the House of Commons. She may, and does, serve on many Committees. She may serve as a magistrate and take part in and control many administrative activities in the country. She may, and must, pay rates and taxes. But she must not vote for a Member of Parliament. She is of legal age to manage her own affairs. She can settle her money, or go bankrupt. She is amenable to all the laws of the land. She may serve the country in a factory, in the Civil Service, in the teaching profession, and in a hundred other ways. She may qualify for a university degree and may even become qualified to be an Under-Secretary of State. But, if under 30, she is not qualified to vote for anyone to sit here. It is not simply a matter of safety as to whether we can admit 913 another 5,000,000 electors. It is a matter of necessity to the State. This old world, as we have been reminded, not only can tolerate the younger people to help it, but it urgently needs help from that quarter. I remember, years ago, before the War, being greatly influenced by some words which fell from the lips of Mr. Balfour, as he then was, in addressing some young students. He quoted what had been said to him some years previously by Mr. Gladstone. He said that Mr. Gladstone remarked to him, "The problems which confront your generation are infinitely more complex than the problems to which my generation have been subject," and Mr. Balfour applied those words to the young men whom he was addressing. He said, "What Mr. Gladstone said to mo I say to you."
If that could be said in the years before 1914, what can be said of the years which have succeeded the great War, which brought experience not simply to the men who went out to the front, but to the women who held the fort at home, the women who gained great experience at home, who reared families and provided a good part of the munitions to assist the men at the front, the women who have found themselves in every direction called upon to help in the gigantic tasks which face the whole nation? It is mainly on those grounds that I should like to say that this Bill should receive in its general principles the unanimous support of the House. It is no figure of speech to say there is a great surge of feeling among the younger generation, by no means confined to one sex. There is a yearning to do something in the social and legislative sphere, to do something to uphold the ideals which upheld us in the worst terrors of the War, about which we have grown a little cynical at the present time. It is not confined to the young men; it is found amongst the young women, too. One finds at election times and other times evidences of societies which are being officered and manned by the younger women, who are carrying on an enormous amount of social service and displaying great self-sacrifice. We tell those women that they are not sufficiently educated, not sufficiently -responsible to exercise the liberty of electing Members of Parliament.
The suggestion has been made that instead of bringing the age of women down, we should level up the age of men. That 914 argument requires a moment's consideration. The hon. Member who spoke last, I think, said he found that he had his constituents behind him when he suggested that 25 was a low enough age at which women should vote. I wonder if he ever put to his male constituents the question of levelling up the age of young men from 21 to 25. Has this House any sort of mandate whatever for changing the age at which men can vote from 21 to 25? Those who raise this argument know perfectly well that no party in this House, and no party combination of which one could possibly conceive, would ever think of approaching the electors in that respect. Men must have the vote at 21, and, if you agree with equality, the only possible way in which you can act logically is to bring down the age from 30, and let women vote at 21, I do not propose to argue the point as to whether a women is bettor suited to exorcise a vote at 21 than a man. Perhaps it is a matter of personal predilection and temperament as to which side we come down upon on that subject. But I do appeal that the pent-up forces which are in this nation may find free outlet, that the women who are trying to do something, as well as the men, may have the opportunity given them not simply of serving in this House, but of supporting those who are trying to do their work here. Having once conceded, as we did in 1918, the suffrage to women, I submit that the only thing for us to do is to go forward, not in a sort of stingy way extending the franchise, but to do it with magnamity and loyalty to our convictions. I should like, in conclusion, to quote a paragraph from one of the speeches that Mr. Gladstone made in this House on the subject of reform so far back as 1866. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Well, what Mr. Gladstone said in 1866 is quite as relevant to what the hon. Member opposite said with regard to the Greek youth. This House will not tire, I think, of hearing quotations from one of the giants of former days. What Mr. Gladstone said was this:I believe that those persons whom we ask you to enfranchise ought rather to be welcomed as you would welcome recruits to your Army, or children to your family. We ask you to give, within what you may consider to be the just limits of prudence and circumspection; but having once determined those limits to give with an ungrudging hand. Consider what you can safely and justly afford to do in admitting 915 new subjects and citizens within the pale of the Parliamentary constitution; and having so considered it, do not, I beseech you, perform the act as if you were compounding with danger and misfortune. Do it as if you were conferring a boon that will be felt and reciprocated in grateful attachment. Give to those persons new interest in the constitution; new interests, which by the beneficent process of the law of nature and of providence, shall beget in them new attachment; for the attachment of the people to the Throne, the institutions and the laws under which they live, is, after all, more than gold and silver, and more than fleets and armies, at once the strength, the glory, and the safety of the land.
§ Mr. SAMUEL ROBERTS
Before the franchise was given I was always in favour of giving the vote to women. This was not because of any question of right; it was not because of any question of equality of justice. It was because I felt that by bringing the element of women into the franchise, we should possibly add something by that to the humanity of the legislation of this country, and also, what is of very great importance, the question of stability. The difficulty we are in at the present time is that, although everyone is willing to admit others, we ought to realise that while 60 per cent. of the electors of this country exercise the franchise with some thought or some reason which will pass muster, there is a large percentage—even if it is 10 per cent. it becomes very large—who exercise the franchise for very extraordinary reasons indeed. When we look at the results—and they can be verified easily—of the last two General Elections, we find in the General Election of 1922, as compared with that of 1923, that while there were 13,000 more voters for Conservative candidates in the latter Election than in the former, and whereas there were 101,000 extra votes given to all the other parties opposed to us, and therefore a majority of 88,000 votes out of 14,000,000 recorded by the electors, our majority was turned into a large minority of this House. I think we must realise that those 100,000 votes, or 88,000 out of 14,000,000, were probably not the most thinking or most intelligent members of the electorate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] If anyone tells me that we have not more than 100,000 unintelligent electors I flatly refuse to believe it. That being so, does anyone say that under our present electoral system we are not, at the present 916 moment, in very great danger owing to lack of stability? If we want to get stability for the Government so that the majority of the people really can rule, we must have a radical and a drastic change in our electoral law. That being so, I look upon this Bill as a Bill to increase the franchise without bringing in what is more important still, that is, an electoral law such as I have suggested. We shall have many millions of intelligent voters, but we shall have some of small account, to add to the 100,000 who are holding the balance in the constituencies at the present time. 100,000 voters can turn out Governments and put them in. We are adding to that 100,000. Put it mildly, and make it 150,000 or 200,000, and this makes the matter more dangerous still. Therefore, to my mind, it is absolutely essential that before we do anything in regard to the franchise, or adding to that franchise simultaneously with it, we should bring in a system of proportional representation.
There is an Amendment on the Paper standing in my name, and that of two other hon. Friends, dealing with this matter. I know that in this matter I am in disagreement within the majority of my party. I have not put down the Amendment as a blocking Amendment, but in order to get the opportunity of ventilating a cause in which I believe. I question if there will be any opportunity of discussion for my Amendment, but I think I am in order on the Amendment now before us to allude to what I would have alluded to in my Amendment. Perhaps the House will recall in the Representation of the People Act, 1918, there were Clauses for bringing in a scheme for proportional representation. Those Clauses were passed at the Speaker's Conference. It is suggested that a similar conference should be set up by the Amendment of the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross (Duchess of Atholl).
This is a Bill for very largely extending the franchise. But there is also a very pernicious part of it which disfranchises 208,000 men—according to the right hon. Gentleman opposite—and this Bill also has no provision for proportional representation. If we pass it, it will be out of order entirely in Committee to propose new Clauses which would bring in proportional representation because that would very greatly extend the provisions of the Bill. 917 I feel very strongly that something must be done in regard to the position, the very dangerous position, we are in at the present time, so that we may give a chance for a real photograph of the political views of this country to be taken at the Election, and not to leave it to mere chance; not to leave the issue to be twisted by misrepresentations and the cry of the moment. If you got 75 or 80 per cent. of the House elected definitely according to convinced opinion of those who elected them, and only one-fifth of the electors according to the temporary mood of the moment, you would get a much stabler Government; it is not that at this moment. I am not going to attempt to express the virtues of proportional representation, but the two questions I have put forward are alike. If we are going to extend the franchise we must get rid of what at the present time is the appalling danger of the irresponsible voter and his chance of turning Governments out and putting them in. I am not able to move my Amendment, but I shall strongly support all that has been moved by the Noble Lady. Let us have a conference, and at that conference once again thrash out this great question.
§ Mr. SEXTON
My object in rising is to express my great disappointment at the attitude of the Cabinet on this question. I say Cabinet, advisedly, because the various members of it are part of the Government. I do not think a majority of those sitting on the Back Benches on the Government side endorse the attitude of the Cabinet on this question. For the last 30 years the Conservatives have been the consistent opponents of the principle of this Bill, while we belong to a party which for 30 years has nailed not only equality of franchise to the mast but adult suffrage as well. Only the other day a friend of mine was asked what he thought of the new Government, and he replied, "It is one of the best Conservative Governments we have had for years." [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up!"] My experience has been that the property classes are to be found all over the country, and there is not much room for anybody else. I have lived in the days of open voting, and my own father, in his particular district, was known as a political boss, and I have seen him march a number of men into the backyard and looked them up until the polling was 918 closed, while others were allowed to go and vote. I have watched the progress of electoral law from that time to this. I am sure that we shall never reach the zenith of true electoral reform until we give equal votes to the sexes and adopt adult suffrage all round. If a vote is a good thing, what right have we to question how the people use it? I regret to see that in regard to this question the Front Bench is not going the whole hog.
§ Sir MARTIN CONWAY
I have been wondering, in listening to the various speeches which have been made this afternoon, whether I have ever committed myself to vote for equal franchise rights for men and women, and I think I have never even been asked to pledge myself on the matter. Nevertheless, I am glad to associate myself with what has been said by supporters of the Bill because I can see no logical distinction between men and women in this matter of the franchise. I cannot see how you can logically draw a line of distinction and say that a man aged 21 should have a vote and a woman should not have it until she is 30. On the other hand I do see, or I think I see, a really substantial reason why a woman of 21 should not have a vote. It seems to me that a woman between the ages of 21 and 25 should be concerned with very different matters from the question of voting.
I may be wrong, but I am putting forward what appears to me to be the correct view. A woman between 21 and 25 years of age arrives at her flowering time. That is the great flowering age of the human species. It is one of the great privileges of growing old that the stupendous pageant of life becomes more delightful to watch as one's years increase. As one passes away from the turmoil and the special interests and strivings proper to different decades of life and comes to a stage in which one can look on with a certain impartiality and a greater power of delight—as that stage arises, it is in no respect more enjoyable than in the impersonal manner in which the old regard the young. I must say that the older I get the more wonderful, the more beautiful, and the more admirable to me is that glorious flowering time of the young woman between the ages of 21 and 25. I hope that the young women of from 21 to 25 years of age will not be angry with me 919 when I suggest that at that time of life they possess great and peculiar privileges, a tremendous opportunity, enormous power, and a halo of glory which the Vote will not perhaps much dim, but which, at all events, it will not illuminate. I suggest that, perhaps, the young woman of that age ought to be paying attention to other matters than voting. She ought to have her eye upon the glory of life at the threshold of which she stands and upon the prospects of family, of man's devotion and all that area of activity and command which is open to a woman. Therefore, I would be very glad, if the opportunity arose, to support a proposal that both men and women alike should be given the franchise at the age of 25. It would not mean the disfranchisement of any man, because no one who is on the register would be taken off. It would disfranchise nobody. It would only mean that henceforward at the age of 25 men and women alike would come on the register.
The Noble Lady the Member for Kinross (Duchess of Atholl), who spoke from this bench and who spoke with disrespect of tinkers, rather hurt me, and so did an hon. Member opposite who spoke with disrespect of globe-trotters. I have much sympathy both with tinkers and with globe-trotters, and especially with tinkers. I also have met old tinkers, and among them have been some of the most interesting human beings that I have ever encountered.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I also have got considerable sympathy with tinkers. I spent some months serving on a Departmental Committee in Scotland which inquired into the tinker problem, and I have done all that I can to get the tinker settled down. But until he is educated and settled down, I do not think that it is fair to give him the vote.
§ Sir M. CONWAY
I do not want the tinker to settle down. I remember that my old friend Mr. Ruskin was one day having some painting work—I think it wae—done in one of his rooms, and he proceeded to make some remarks to the painter. The painter looked down on him and said, "Excuse me, Sir, but I am no scholar," and, said Ruskin, "What, you cannot read or write?" He said with great shame, "No," whereupon Mr. Ruskin rushed up the ladder and violently 920 shook hands with him as being a man of great value and great excellence in the community, in that he had not been spoiled by being made to read and write. My experience of men who can neither read nor write—and I have known great numbers of them in other parts of the world—is that lack of letters had nothing whatever to do with their education. Though I represent education in this House, I wish it to be clearly understood that education by no means consists only of reading and writing. There is a vast area of education besides which indeed most of us, if not on that side of the House at all events on this side of the House, have experienced. Many, perhaps most of us, left school pretty ignorant, and we have studied in after life and learned much more than we learned at school. Therefore, so far as education is concerned, give me the illiterate voter, if I have got to choose, as on the whole likely to be more intelligent than the merely ill-educated.
Let me come to another point. It has been represented to the House by some speakers that there is a keen desire on the part of the disfranchised in this country to obtain the franchise. I do not believe it. It may be right to give the vote to them, but I do not believe that they care twopence about it. At all events, they do not care five shillings about it. I will give my reason. I have, as the representative of the seven Northern Universities, upward of 20,000 potential constituents. There are over 20,000 graduates who might put themselves on the register to vote either for or against me. How many do you suppose will pay the necessary 5s. to go on the register? Only 5,008, so that out of over 20,000 potential voters, all of them graduates of the Universities, there are less than 25 per cent. who care 5s. for the vote. That is a fact which has always puzzled me. Why in the world will they not pay 5s. to put their names on the register? They do not and, though I energetically appeal to them all to come forward with their 5s. and put themselves on the register, they do not come. Therefore, I have some doubt as to the keen desire of people who are not University graduates, even if you imagine them to be more intelligent—I do not say that they are—to get the vote. One of the Clauses of this Bill proposes to let my potential constituents off paying this 5s., and I 921 shall be very glad if that is done. I shall pass at once from being a representative of 5,000 to being a representative of 20,000, because, of course, they will have the intelligence to vote for me. I wish, however, to make this reservation. If you take away from them the necessity of paying this 5s., you will still be leaving the work of registration to do, and as the Universities are all out at the elbows and terribly hard up you must surely give them a subvention to cover the expense. That, I think, is obvious, and I have no doubt that it will be done.
One speaker spoke of this proposed enlargement of the electorate as progress. It has always been progress every time that you have enlarged the electorate, and, if you enlarge it now, it will again be progress. If that be all, why not give the franchise to children? But progress does not really mean raking in more voters—it means wise legislation. It may be wise—I think it would be wise—to give the franchise to men and women on the same basis, but it would not necessarily be progress, simply because it would be an enlargement of the franchise. Why is Great Britain the last country to make this change? The answer is that Great Britain is the wisest country in the world, as we all know, and our wisdom has led us to go slowly. It should lead us now to take the final step. I hope that the final settlement will not be merely to enfranchise everybody, men and women, at the age of 21, but to enfranchise all at the age of 25. If you enact universal suffrage for manhood and womanhood at 25 I shall vote for it. There are plenty of criticisms I should like to make on the details of the Bill, but I will not delay the House. I agree with the Amendment, and I shall vote for it, and I shall also vote on every opportunity on the straight issue of putting the age of franchise for men and women on an equal basis.
§ Sir BURTON CHADWICK
It is curious to notice that in the arguments against this Bill the reasons for opposition are very divergent. If I understand the last speaker correctly, he would oppose the vote particularly as regards women because, among other reasons, he thinks that they have a higher function to perform and as young women should 922 have their minds set on those higher duties and should not be bothering about the vote. I agree with all he says as to their higher functions, but for the life of me I cannot understand why, if they are fitted to carry out those higher functions, they should be disqualified from the very much less important matter of exercising the vote. The Noble Lady the Member for Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) has referred to other conditions of society who for one reason or another she considers unfit to exercise the vote. She knows more about them than I do, and I have no doubt there may be something in what she says. But I can see that if the Noble Lady were to cast her net over parties in every section of the House—even over the impeccable party which sits below me—she would get it so filled with people who are unfitted to exercise the vote that the other people who were in the boat with her would be crying out: "Sit down, you are sinking the boat." I did not intend to intervene in this Debate, I was really only going to record a vote in support of this Bill.
§ 3.0 P.M.
§ Sir B. CHADWICK
My embarrassment at the support coming from the opposite benches is only exceeded by my embarrassment at the enthusiasm of my Noble Friend (Viscountess Astor). I would not have intervened had it not been that the hon. Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham) expressed regret that on this side of the House there were so many Members who would support the Bill who were not in their places—there are more of them in their places now—that I felt, at any rate, it was up to those who were hero to support the Bill, to be in our places, and to correct the delinquency to which she referred. It is very seldom I find myself in accord with Members opposite, but I am now. I confess that on this matter—and I only propose to speak in regard to the application of the vote to women of 21, because there are many other aspects of the Bill—in that respect I do feel that I must support this Bill, and I am in total agreement with all that has been said about it in support, and, if I may respectfully do so, I would like to associate myself with what has been said in congratulation to the hon. Member for Norwich (Miss Jewson), who 923 supported the Bill, on the reasoned, moderate, and unanswerable speech which she made. This is not a party question, and it is not a question of sex—it is a question of citizenship, and to me the arguments for extending the franchise to women over 21 are so overwhelming that I find it difficult to put one's finger on the more important of them. One hardly knows where to start. I have listened to all the arguments against the Bill and have not heard anything that moved me. As, however, there are a number of hon. Members who want to speak, and as I think the issue is a very simple one, I will just narrow it down to this point. Where is the difference in mentality, in commonsense, and in capacity of a woman compared with a man to take a part in the making of the law which affects women exactly as it affects men? I take it that the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross, who moved the Amendment, would agree with me that if there is any difference in comparison in this way, the women have it, especially where it is a question of young women and young men. It may be open to question whether in later life the woman retains her capacity for well-balanced judgment in the way that a man retains his capacity, but where it is a question of the comparison between youths of 21 to 30, from my experience—and I have had some experience—the woman of 21 can make rings round a man of the same age. There is just one other aspect of this matter, and I refer to it because an hon. Member spoke of our electoral system. If you have a bad electoral system, that is no reason for perpetuating a manifest injustice. Alter your system by all means, and try to improve it, but it has been suggested to me as a Conservative—and I think I must mention this, because it is a very common view—that to extend the vote to women of 21 will add to the strength of the Socialist vote in the country.
I do not believe that for one moment, but in any case it is entirely irrelevant. The matter of franchise and the matter of political party have nothing whatever to do with one another; but, even if it were the case that it would increase the number of people who would express political views with which I should not agree, it would not divert me from what 924 I think is the right course in supporting this Bill. I am prepared to fight a Socialist whenever I meet him on the merits of the principles of the party which I represent. If he finds that he can recruit women owing to the franchise, which they ought to have, being extended to them, then it is up to me as a Conservative—and I can easily do it—to point out the abysmal hopelessness of the Socialist doctrine, and persuade them that my principles and my party are right. I feel that we should bear in mind that this is really a very far-reaching matter, and one of the greatest importance—a matter affecting, as we were told just now, some 4,000,000 women in this country—and it is not one on which we should be biased by party. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
§ Mr. GEOFFREY HOWARD
I rise to give my support to this Bill. I regret that, in a private Member's Measure, we should not have restricted ourselves to one great reform at a time, and have dealt merely with the removal of the sex disqualification under the age of 21. Perhaps I might remind the Noble Lady who moved the Amendment, that she did not agree with us in the days when we were working for the enfranchisement of women. I hope and trust that, when we have passed this reform, she will, perhaps a little belatedly, agree with us in the future. There has been some talk this afternoon as to how women would vote. I think it is the experience of everyone who has fought a constituency that, if you can get any line at all on the women's vote, it is that the franchise is apt to be cast in families, and not by sex. Again, there are those who say that, where you have only 60 per cent. of the electorate voting, it is the women who have not voted; but at several bye-elections I had the figures taken out by the checkers who take the checks at the voting booths, and we found, by checking those figures, that there was not a difference of more than 2 or 3 per cent. between the men voting and the women voting.
I must say that I think the Government might have given us a little more guidance. Is this Measure to be a private Member's Measure, with only the allowance of time that it will get coming back from the Grand Committee upstairs, which, as we well know, will not give a Measure of this kind an opportunity of 925 passing through this House? Is the Government going to give us guidance in Committee and take up the question there? I feel certain that anyone who has had experience in this House knows that the treatment the Bill will receive in Grand Committee upstairs will differ greatly according to whether it is going to be a Government Measure, with the responsibility of the Government behind it, and, I hope, the opportunity of putting it upon the Statute Book, or if it is going to be merely a Bill for the ventilation of a ease which we all grealy desire to see furthered. I hope the Government will give us a little more indication as to whether they can give guidance in the Committee, and, if it comes down in a shape which they feel they can take up, they might tell us that they will give facilities in tis House to get the Measure through, with the support which this question has always had from every section of the House. Last week upon another Bill the Government certainly gave an assurance which was very much more definite that we have received to-day. It is open to say that the Government ought to have put down their own Measure. I do not greatly care whether they do or not. I think there is a great deal to be said for private Members having an opportunity, but we ought to know before we go to Grand Committee what fate it is going to receive when it comes back to the Floor of the House. I should be very much obliged if the Government could give us some greater indication than was given by the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs.
§ The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Mr. Clynes)
There must be at this stage many hon. Members present who did not hear the statement my hon. Friend made. Indeed, I think that statement was not fully or clearly understood in some parts of the House. I do not rise to discuss the general merits of the Bill, but I must say one or two things on a few of the points which have been submitted during the course of the Debate. The Bill appears to suggest itself to all quarters of the House as another milestone on the road to freedom. I came into the House some 17 years ago at a time when the constituency which I then represented included some 11,000 electors. That constituency has now some 40,000. In like manner, every Member has seen the 926 electorate grow, and with that growth he has felt that there still is a stage of growth which cannot be resisted, and therefore the promoters of this Bill are, I think, meeting what is a general desire in the country to complete this great enfranchisement begun very many years ago. It may be, as was said by the hon. Member for the Combined Universities (Sir M. Conway), that women between 21 and 25 years of age have many interests other than political, or that, as I think he inferred, it would be better for them not to have any political interests at all during that time. I submit to him, and to the House as a whole, that should this Bill become law, as we hope it will, some millions of working women who are the supporters of many a household would feel a very definite interest in political questions because the character of political questions has so enormously changed. Those women feel an interest in questions of wages, housing, the general conditions as to employment and the whole range of economic subjects with which the House is compelled more and more to deal. I think it may be claimed that they have not the highest qualifications for good judgment in respect to the larger problems of the world, but surely it is true that you can better educate them in those larger affairs of the world by bringing them within the arena of political activities than by keeping them outside any longer. Questions like prices and taxation, questions of food, home life, education, the treatment of children, and standards of health, are all matters in which women have a predominant interest. They should not be disqualified by any decision of male Members of this Assembly. Indeed I ask who are we, having ourselves the right to vote, that we should deny to others who have attained the age of reason a right which we ourselves enjoy.
I cannot regard as a suitable line of action the Amendment now before the House, which was supported so skilfully by the Noble Lady who moved it. I suggest in respect of such an Amendment that an endeavour to settle such an issue as this by conference now would be futile. Such a process during the War was appropriate, and it was effective, but such a process to-day would in no sense 927 help the cause which the Noble Lady herself may have at heart. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) criticised the Government for not having been more definite in its attitude on this question. Curiously enough, he would treat the Bill as though it were not a Bill at all. He would say that the proper procedure would be to regard this Bill as not having been before us, and to bring in some general Resolution affirming the right to an extension of the franchise, and on the basis of that affirmation build some Government Measure.
What are we to do with these Fridays? This is a private Member's day, and this is a private Member's Bill. This is, of course, a period when it is very unusual for a new Parliament to consider Measures for the extension of the franchise. It is usually towards the later period of a Parliament when work of that kind is taken in hand. [Interruption.] I gather that it is the view of hon. Members that this Government, in some later Session in the life of Parliament, when it has opportunity and greater leisure, should deal with this important question. But we do not know what will happen. My right hon. Friend asks us to declare what will happen. We cannot tell, we cannot now pledge absolutely the time of this House. This Government is unlike any other Government in that regard. We have not the same power for closure that has been possessed by other Governments which have had a majority behind them. We are more in the hands of the House than any other Government has been. As far as I understand the procedure and practice of this House, if I made a declaration such as I have been asked to make, that we will take over this Bill, make it our own and take full responsibility for it in its later stages, it would probably be killed this afternoon. That would do more harm than good.
At this stage, as is well known to the older Members of the House, no Government has ever made itself responsible for taking over any private Member's Bill. Last Friday we were dealing with a very different subject, in relation to a matter which is the first item in the Government's social programme, and the Government undertook to do whatever they could to 928 pass that Bill into law, within the limits of our own policy in regard to housing. In the same way we shall be glad to see this Bill pass through, and should the general support which it has received in Debate to-day be reflected in the proceedings upstairs, and should it be possible for the Government to find time for it during this Session, we shall be glad to keep as full faith with the purpose of this Bill as with the Bill which was before the House last Friday.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
In regard to the Committee stage, are the Government going to give help to the promoters of the Bill by giving legal advice upstairs, and an indication on the disputed Clauses of the Bill as to what lines the Government, would take in reference to those disputed Clauses?
§ Mr. CLYNES
If the memorandum of this Bill stopped say at the close of the first paragraph, and if it was merely a Bill to enfranchise a section of women on equal terms with men, it would be a simple matter, but hon. Members will realise that in the other Clauses there is a considerable amount of very controversial detail. How can I, therefore, speaking now for the Government, give, a pledge that in respect of all these questions of detail we shall make ourselves responsible? I can only say that if upstairs the treatment of this Bill is as friendly and as sympathetic as the treatment which has been accorded to it this afternoon, the Government will be happy to try to provide time for its passage. Repeating the promise of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs, who spoke earlier in the afternoon for the Government, I say that the Government are in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill, and they wish to see it passed into law. They cannot now at this stage indicate precisely what their support may have to be in point of time, when the Bill emerges from the Committee stage, but if the Committee genuinely wishes to extend these rights to the women of the country, the Government will not be behind in endeavouring to provide time to pass the Bill into law.
§ Sir THOMAS INSKIP
In the few words which I say about this Bill I represent my own views and commit no one else. Perhaps before I say these few words I may make one or two observations about the speech which the Leader 929 of the House has made in response to the invitation of the hon. Member for the Luton Division (Mr. J. Howard). I am still in doubt as to what is the attitude of the Government towards this Bill. If hon. Members opposite will forgive me, I am not in the least an opponent of this Bill, as I hope to show in a moment in respect of what is described as the principal object of the Bill in the memorandum. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said, in terms which perhaps convey more than he intended, that the Government hope that this Bill will become law. Are we to understand that that is an expression of opinion of the Government in relation to the whole of the Bill as it is drafted to-day or only in relation to what is described in the memorandum as the principal object? Speaking entirely for myself, if the principal object of the Bill were to assimilate the franchise of women to that which is enjoyed by men, and if the Bill were in a form in which that was made the object of the principal, or probably the only, Clause of the Bill, I do not think that the Government would find any difficulty in carrying the great body of the House with them, and if the Government were to say that they were prepared to give the assistance which Governments can give in the Committee, and to give the time to the House for passing such a Bill as that, they would not find that the promise would make any inroads upon the time which the Government want to take for other Measures, because I believe for myself, though others may differ, that, broadly speaking, this House is not only prepared but, in a large part, pledged to assimilate the franchise of women to that enjoyed by men.
When I say that I am still a little in doubt as to what is the attitude of the Government, I intend by that to say that if the Government means that they desire to see the Bill in relation to the franchise of women passed, I heartily support the Government. If, on the other hand, the Government mean that they hope the Bill will become law as a whole and as drafted to-day, I respectfully differ from them, and I imagine that there are many who will think that this is not a convenient way to alter the electoral law. The Bill obviously makes sweeping alterations in the law of to-day—alterations which have nothing in the least to do with the conditions on which 930 women should exercise the franchise. Proposals of that sort would be much better considered by the Government, and a definite statement made by the Government which would prevent the House, even in Committee upstairs, from wasting time which we all know is heavily mortgaged to other questions. Such a statement would guide us at the earliest moment as to the attitude which we are to adopt to the Bill. What is the good of private Members spending time in Committee if the Government are not prepared to give facilities for the Report stage? Time will be necessary if so widely drafted a Bill is ever to have an opportunity of getting the consideration which it deserves. What I invite the Government to do, before a decision is reached to-day, is to say that they will give time for the Bill to be considered by the House, upon the understanding that it really carries out the intention which has been associated with the Bill, that it is to give women the franchise on the same terms as those upon which men now enjoy the franchise. If the Lord Privy Seal or someone else will give us that indication, it will not only save the time of private Members, but it will do more to make effective that which many of us desire, than all the half-hearted support the right hon. Gentleman has given to a Bill containing many proposals besides those included in Clause 1.
As to the way in which the Bill is drafted, perhaps I may say that Clause 1 does not at present carry out what is stated to be the principal object of the Bill. What it does is, first of all, to alter the basis upon which men exercise the franchise and then to say that when it is altered women shall have the franchise on the same terms. A more simple method, instead of amending Section 1 of the Representation of the People Act of 1918, would be to amend Section 4 of that Act, which would, indeed, be a simple method of placing men and women on the same footing. If the Bill goes upstairs overloaded, as the hon. Member for Luton stated, with all the other Clauses, and if the Bill is lost because the Government are not able to give time, the responsibility will not be on private Members or on hon. Members on this side of the House, but upon the Government, who are not able to give a clear indication of how they, regard the principal object of the Bill. With those words I have said 931 all that is necessary, in view of the large measure of support which the Bill has received in relation to Clause 1. The view that I was prepared to express, if there had been more opposition, was that this step is a step which we must take now that we have embarked for good or ill in the good ship Democracy. We have long passed from the time when a bishop in the House of Lords could ask, "What have the people to do except to obey the laws?" Undoubtedly the people must now make the laws. We have been referred to the examples of other nations in relation to the enfranchisement of women. I do not know exactly what the political systems of other nations may be; I do not know whether women have any real power or influence in determining the government of other countries where they are given this form of power. In this country, at any rate, the franchise, connected as it is with a Parliamentary system, will give the women, and does give the women a chance to exercise real power. It is not because I have any particular faith in democracy detached from our British institutions that I am in favour of giving women the vote on as extended a scale as men, even from the age of 21, but because I have great faith in the British nation and in the common sense and sound judgment with which the British nation generally decides these questions, if it understands it has not only the power, but the responsibility of deciding them. I hope women may be given the vote at the age of 21 and may exercise it in the same way as men have exercised it, and that the Government will give that indication of their attitude which, with all respect, I invite the right hon. Gentleman to give to the House.
§ Mr. MADEN
In craving the indulgence which the House always extends to a maiden speech, I have a special reason for doing so to-day because I may not be able to make my voice heard as clearly as I should like it to be owing to the fact that I am suffering from a severe cold. Let me say at once I am heartily in favour of the Bill, but if certain of its proposals are going to endanger the passing of the Bill, then the Mover, I think, acted very wisely in saying he would accept the sense of the House or of the Committee in regard to those proposals. The main purpose of the Bill is 932 to secure equality as between men and women in the matter of the franchise, and surely that is a matter on which the whole House will be in agreement. It is not only necessary, however, that there should be equal franchise for women up to the age of 30, but that the franchise for women over 30 should be assimilated with the franchise for men. I shall give an example of what is happening in my own constituency. In one town of 4,000 voters, including probably 1,500 women, over 200 objections are being made against women at the Revision Courts with the object of removing women already on the register—not to prevent new women voters getting on. It is a matter of urgency to have the franchises asssimilated so that the intention of the legislature may be carried out and women over 30 shall not be disqualified on technical points. There are hundreds of other cases of this kind in other parts of the constituency and there may be thousands throughout the country. I earnestly appeal for a Second Reading for the Bill and I hope that at any rate the equal enfranchisement clauses will go through Committee. It has been said it would have been better if this were a Government Measure. It would have been better if the Government had shown more definitely what they propose to do with regard to the Bill, but if it cannot go forward as a Government Measure this Session we must do the best we can with this Bill which we have before us. If we have a conference, as is suggested in the Amendment, it will delay matters and as things are at present it may mean another Election before the Bill is passed. I think the vast majority of this House are in favour of the Bill, because, obviously, my hon. friends above the Gangway are in favour of it, since they are introducing and supporting it. We below the Gangway are equally in favour of it, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bewdley Division of Worcestershire (Mr. Baldwin) in the last Election said that his party were willing to consider this question if returned to power. So surely, for the women's enfranchisement Clauses, we can get a full measure of agreement. If the business vote is going to be left as it is, or, rather, if Clause 2 does not go through, I think the business vote ought to be altered so that women get it on the same 933 terms as men. I hope the House will resist the Amendment of the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross (Duchess of Atholl), and when the Bill has been dealt with and, if necessary, amended in Committee, that facilities will be given for its passage into law at the earliest possible moment, certainly some time during this Session.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I was unfortunate enough not to hear the opening speeches of this Debate, and I, therefore, speak with some diffidence upon it, but I was anxious to put before the House some grounds for rejecting the Bill, which seemed to me to be not inconsistent with the point of view of those who, like myself, originally supported woman suffrage. I did support that, and I should support it again, in spite of the many follies and excesses which have been associated with the feminist movement. I am sorry it has led to some of the consequences to which it has led. I am sorry we have come to include among our Members persons belonging to the other sex, but what we have lost in dignity, we may have gained in efficiency, and I still remain a supporter of woman suffrage. I do not want to detain the House over the smaller points of the Bill, but I must, in passing, say that I do, as a University Member, protest against diverting the funds of the Universities, which ought to be devoted to educational purposes, to perform the work of registration, which may very properly be defrayed by the people.
The main point of the Measure is, of course, the enfranchisement of women between 21 and 30, and that is not really a proposal properly described as the enfranchisement of women. It is the enfranchisement of young persons. It is the enfranchisement of youth. From my point of view, it would be far wiser to limit the franchise to both sexes to 25. I quite agree that, sooner or later, you must have the same age for men and women. I quite agree that there is no real distinction, when you come to the very simple procees of voting, between the sexes, but I entirely disagree with the opinion that it is desirable to add to the number of young people, whether men or women, who already have the franchise. Perhaps years and years hence, when the process of political education has been 934 carried very much further, a different opinion might reasonably be held, but we have to judge things as they are, and we have to reckon that the development of the human mind is much lower now than it used to be 100 years ago. No one would be Prime Minister now at 25, and yet Mr. Pitt was Prime Minister at that age. Nor was his a unique case. Lord North was 32.
§ Lord H. CECIL
He and his mind developed more rapidly, probably owing to the very great quantity of port wine he drank. Probably our ancestors were much more barbarous people 150 years ago, and in all classes of life conditions were immeasurably harsher. I think that it developed human character much more rapidly, and, accordingly, people grew up and matured much more rapidly. At any rate, if you consider the ordinary person of 21 or 22, whether man or woman, it is quite absurd to say their opinion is as well worth taking as that of a man or woman of 30. Therefore, I do not want to increase suddenly, by 3,000,000 or 4,000,000, the least experienced and least trustworthy part of the electorate. It is neither a sex question nor a class question. It is the question of who would best fulfil the functions of voters, and I cannot help protesting against the recurrence of the theory that a vote is a right. It is nothing of the kind. It is a public function which those should have whose votes most conduce to the good government of the country. The object of a democratic system, like any other system, is to secure good government. If it is not to secure good government, it is a bad system. The hon. Member opposite, who is a friend of Poplarism, perhaps desires bad government. I am not surprised that, coming from that environment, he does like bad government better than good government.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
On a point of Order. The only bad Government I have ever known was the Government which preceded 1914, and the Coalition Government, the worst of all Governments.
§ Lord H. CECIL
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley knows that I do not want to hurt his feelings, 935 but, after all, at the moment here is a form of government, and it is only defensible if it is a form of good government. Therefore, the people you want to vote for a democratic franchise are the people who should vote for good and efficient government. Do not let us think that all these people, these women from the age of 21 to 30, have a right to a Vote. Nothing of the kind. The question is whether they will vote in such a way as to contribute to the good government of the country. That is the thing. At the present time, having regard to the circumstances of the time, the fact is that they would injure the democratic system, and not improve it. I do not know whether hon. Members have read—if not I earnestly and respectfully I recommend them to do so—Lord Bryce's book on "Modern Democracy." There are many very interesting things in that book, but I suppose the most salient lesson to be found in the comprehensive survey of the six great democracies is the comment he makes if you have too large an electorate and if you have too inexperienced an electorate the result is not democracy at all—it becomes government, not by the people, but government by an oligarchy, which is often a rather shady oligarchy, for it becomes the government of an organised machine. I am not saying that in this country anything of the sort is likely, but that certainly is not democracy.
The various party organisations have an oligarchical organisation. They work from the point of view of their own party, and they work not as an expression of or the functioning of the will of the whole people, but in order to impose on the people their particular point of view. I am not saying that they are not necessary parts of a machine, but having, as we have, a very large electorate this sort of machinery becomes unduly powerful, and the power that is given enables the heads to suggest to 50,000 or 60,000 people how to vote. These people vote in the main as they are told. They are thus told by bodies which they really have no share in choosing, which are invariably unrepresentative, and which possess the oligarchical influence. I do not mean, of course, an oligarchy of rich men and influences. There is a Labour oligarchical organisation of a different type, but that organisa- 936 tion is oligarchic. Organisations of the kind are not democratic in the true sense of the word.
If you increase inexperience, if you, after a few years, add to the great body which already exists, you will not improve Democracy at all. How much wiser to wait until the present very large electorate has got more experience so as really to use the powers wisely that belong to the vote. The people have changed as never before, and, therefore, there are great expectations to be fulfilled in regard to some great gain to themselves, or the particular industry or class to which they belong. They have got to the point of reasoning that they are exercising a public function in the interests of the public, and they must, therefore, go slowly and carefully to work. Let us give the electorate time to settle down. Let us get this very large body of electors well instructed and well educated in political affairs before we add new and inexperienced persons to them.
Would that not be a wiser thing, as I have already suggested, to raise the age to 25 for both sexes instead of making the present condition of things more cumbersome and difficult? I believe that would be the wise course, and the democratic course. One of the great lessons set forth in Mr. Bryce's book is, that where democracy works well is in Switzerland, where there is a real popular feeling and expression of popular government, whereas in larger democracies the whole thing falls into the hands of organisation. I regret this Bill because it deals in the wrong way with the difficulty, and it would be better to leave the matter until the present electorate is more experienced, and then we might raise the age of both male and female voters to 25.
What is the history of this Measure? This Bill is that most unpalatable dish of political diet known as the stewed crusade hashed up for our eating to-day. It is the old movement for equal citizenship and all that sort of claptrap which haunt like ghosts the scenes of their past crimes. I am a great admirer of a bonfire when it is at its height, but is there anything more miserable and ineffective than a bonfire when it is just dying out? [An HON. MEMBER: "Look behind you?"] This is a spark of an obsolete conflagration, and do let us get rid of all this talk 937 about equalitarian right. Mr. Bryce says that the law of human nature is not equality but inequality, by which we get over some dangers here and there. Inequality is the best system if you can make it sufficiently suited to human nature, but to put forward equality by itself is to gain for it a ground which is not scientific, and not corresponding to the realities of human life.
I suggest that we should refuse to pass this Bill, and I think the matter may very well be left over for a few years' further consideration sufficient to allow the electorate to get experience. We want to make the machine efficient and give it time to work properly and smoothly. Above all I seek to raise the conception of the function of the vote in the minds of the electorate generally. The Lord Privy Seal spoke of putting people into the arena of political activity, but what a dreadful thing that is in experience, for it consists in judging by the utterances of journalists and politicians with a growing feeling on the part of the electorate that they are not to be trusted, and it is really not a very elevating form of education for young women between the ages of 20 and 30. Let us rather compare this conception of the function of the vote to a man performing a public duty and not exercising a public right, and then when the electors are accustomed to that high notion of their duty then we may enlarge the franchise, though I should prefer the limit should be drawn at the wise age of 25.
It is almost impossible to say what I want to say in the five minutes that remain. If the Noble Lord who has just sat down represented anybody except people who are dwelling in the middle ages, he would not have dared to have made the speech that he has made. I rejoice to say that he does not represent the great body of the Unionist party. I represent the great body of the Unionist party that is winning. I would just like to deal with the people who are against this Bill—the people who have put down objections to
§ it, the University Members and the Noble Lady (Duchess of Atholl). The Noble Lady has always been against women suffrage. I admire her, but she is, like Canute, trying to keep the waves back. Who are the others? They are the University Members. They speak of tinkers. Tinkers know a little about I human nature. The University Members, I with a few shining exceptions, speak in a way which makes one feel that we need to look into the representation of the Universities.
§ I want to say a word on the principle of the Bill. It is a principle to which we are all pledged. The late Solicitor-General (Sir T. Inskip) has given his word for it, and the women of the country are pledged to it. I would remind our party that we are always saying that we stand for "God, King, and the Kingdom." Let me remind them also that God made both men and women, and "kings" have often been "queens." And as for the Empire the whole of the Empire has this form of suffrage. Some of the greatest champions of women's suffrage in the country have been members of the Conservative party. Social reformers in the Unionist party have always had a difficult time, but they have always won in the end, and we are very hopeful that sooner or later we shall either get rid of the others or convert them. We are not asking for any revolution. Have women since they got the vote ever pressed for anything that has not been for the good of the country and has not in every way added to the purity of the national life?
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 288; Noes, 72.941
|Division No. 10.]||AYES.||[4.0 p.m.|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Aske, Sir Robert William||Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Astor, Viscountess||Batey, Joseph|
|Alden, Percy||Attlee, Major Clement R.||Bellairs, Commander Car[...]yon W.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Ayles, W. H.||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-|
|Allen, D. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Baker, W. J.||Berkeley, Captain Reginald|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Banton, G.||Birchall, Major J. Dearman|
|Ammon, Charles George||Barnes, A.||Birkett, W. N.|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Hemmerde, E. G.||Oliver, George Harold|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Bonwick, A.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Owen, Major G.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Paling, W.|
|Briant, Frank||Hobhouse, A. L.||Palmer, E. T.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Broad, F. A.||Hodges, Frank||Perry, S. F.|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Hoffman, P. C.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Buchanan, G.||Hogge, James Myles||Pilkington, R. R.|
|Buckie, J.||Hood, Sir Joseph||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Potts, John S.|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||Purcell, A. A.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Hudson, J. H.||Raffan, P. W.|
|Chapple, Dr. William A.||Hughes, Collingwood||Raffety, F. W.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Raine, W.|
|Church, Major A. G.||Isaacs, G. A.||Rankin, James S.|
|Clarke, A.||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Rathbone, Hugh R.|
|Climie, R.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Raynes, W. R.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Johnson, Sir L. (Waithamstow, E.)||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Rendall, A.|
|Collins, Patrick (Walsall)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Compton, Joseph||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Richards, R.|
|Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Costello, L. W. J.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Cove, W. G.||Kedward, R. M.||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Crittall, V. G.||Kennedy, T.||Robertson, T. A.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)||Kenyon, Barnet||Robinson, W. E. (Burslem)|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Lamb, J. Q.||Romeril, H. G.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Ropner, Major L.|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Lansbury, George||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Laverack, F. J.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Law, A.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Savery, S. S.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lawson, John James||Scurr John|
|Dickson, T.||Leach, W.||Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Lessing, E.||Sexton, James|
|Dodds, S. R.||Lindley, F. W.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Linfield, F. C.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Dukes, C.||Livingstone, A. M.||Sherwood, George Henry|
|Duncan, C.||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Dunn, J. Freeman||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Dunnico, H.||Loverseed, J. F.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lowth, T.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||Lumley, L. R.||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Egan, W. H.||Lunn, William||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||McCrae, Sir George||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Falconer, J.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Spence, R.|
|Foot, Isaac||M'Entee, V. L.||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Franklin, L. B.||Macfadyen, E.||Spero, Dr. G. E.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Mackinder, W.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||McLean, Major A.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Gates, Percy||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Stranger, Innes Harold|
|Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Gillett, George M.||Madan, H.||Tattersall, J. L.|
|Gorman, William||Mansel, Sir Courtenay||Terrington, Lady|
|Gosling, Harry||March, S.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Darby)|
|Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Marley, James||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'd'ne, E.)||Thurtie, E.|
|Greenall, T.||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Maxton, James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Meller, R. J.||Tout, W. J.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Meyler, Lieut-Colonel H. M.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Grigg, Lieut.-Col. Sir Edward W. M.||Middleton, G.||Turner, Ben|
|Groves, T.||Millar, J. D.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Mills, J. E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Vivian, H.|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Mond, H.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Morel, E. D.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Warne, G. H.|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Hardie, George D.||Morse, W. E.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Harney, E. A.||Mosley, Oswald||Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Moulton, Major Fletcher||Webb, Rt. hon. Sidney|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Muir, John W.||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale)||Weir, L. M.|
|Harvey, C. M. B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne)||Murray, Robert||Welsh, J. C.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Murrell, Frank||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hastings, Sir Patrick||Naylor, T. E.||Whiteley, W.|
|Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wignall, James|
|Haycock, A. W.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Nichol, Robert||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Hayes, John Henry||O'Grady, Captain James||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Williams, Lt.-Col. T. S. B. (Kenningtn.)||Windsor, Walter||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Williams, Maj. A. S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)||Wintringham, Margaret||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Willison, H.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||Wright, W.||Mr. W. M. Adamson and Miss|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Gretton, Colonel John||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Backer, Harry||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Herbert, Capt. Sidney (Scarborough)||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Howard, Hn. D. (Cumberland Northrn)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Huntingfield, Lord||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Lorimer, H. D.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Wells, S. R.|
|Cockerill, Brigadler-General G. K.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wheter, Lieut.-Col. Granville C. H.|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||Wise, Sir Frederic|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Nall, Lieut. Colonel Sir Joseph||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Penny, Frederick George||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Philipson, Mabel||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Pownall, Lieut-Colonel Assheton|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Rawson, Alfred Cooper||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||The Duchess of Atholl and Sir S.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House."—[Viscount Wolmer.]
§ The House proceeded to a Division.942
§ The House divided: Ayes, 77; Noes, 247943
|Division No. 11.]||AYES.||[4.15 p.m.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Rawson, Alfred Cooper|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Hartington, Marquess of||Russell-Wells, Sir S. (London Univ.)|
|Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Herbert, Capt. Sidney (Scarborough)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Becker, Harry||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Savery, S. S.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Huntingfield, Lord||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Johnson, Sir L. (Waithamstow, E.)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Lorimer, H. D.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Lumley, L. R.||Wells, S. R.|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Wise, Sir Frederic|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut. Col. J. T. C.||Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Nall, Lieut-Colonel Sir Joseph||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Penny, Frederick George||Viscount Wolmer and Captain|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Phillpson, Mabel||D. Howard.|
|Guinness, Lieut. Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||Attlee, Major Clement R.||Birkett, W. N.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Ayles, W. H.||Blades, Sir George Rowland|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Baker, W. J.||Bondfield, Margaret|
|Allen, R. Wilberforce (Leicester, S.)||Banton, G.||Bonwick, A.|
|Allen, Lieut.'Col. Sir William James||Barnes, A.||Bramsdon, Sir Thomas|
|Amman, Charles George||Batey, Joseph||Briant, Frank|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Broad, F. A.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hughes, Collingwood||Rankin, James S.|
|Buchanan, G.||Isaacs, G. A.||Rathbone, Hugh R.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Raynes, W. R.|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Chapple, Dr. William A.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Richards, R.|
|Charleton,. H. C.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Church, Major A. G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Clarke, A.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Climie, R.||Kedward, R. M.||Robertson, T. A.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kennedy, T.||Romeril, H. G.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Ropner, Major L.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lansbury, George||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.|
|Collins, Patrick (Walsall)||Laverack, F. J.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Law, A.||Scurr, John|
|Costello, L. W. J.||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Sexton, James|
|Cove, W. G.||Lawson, John James||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Crittall, V. G.||Leach, W.||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Lessing, E.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Lindley, F. W.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Linfield, F. C.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Livingstone, A. M.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Dickson, T.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Loverseed, J. F.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Dodds, S. R.||Lowth, T.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lunn, William||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Dukes, C.||McCrae, Sir George||Spence, R.|
|Duncan, C.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Dunn, J. Freeman||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Spero, Dr. G. E.|
|Dunnico, H.||M'Entee, V. L.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Macfadyen, E.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Edwards, John H. (Accrington)||McLean, Major A.||Stranger, Innes Harold|
|Egan, W. H.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Tattersall, J. L.|
|Falccner, J.||Madan, H.||Terrington, Lady|
|Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H.||Mansel, Sir Courtenay||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Foot, Isaac||March, S.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Franklin, L. B.||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Thornton, Maxwell R.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Marley, James||Thurtle, E.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Maxton, James||Tout, W. J.|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Meller, R. J.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Gillett, George M.||Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.||Turner, Ben|
|Gorman, William||Middleton, G.||Viant, S. P.|
|Gosling, Harry||Millar, J. D.||Vivian, H.|
|Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Mills, J. E.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Mond, H.||Warne, G. H.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Morel, E. D.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Groves, T.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Morse, W. E.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Mosley, Oswald||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N)||Moulton, Major Fletcher||Weir, L. M.|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Muir, John W.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale)||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hardie, George D.||Murray, Robert||Wignall, James|
|Harris, Percy A.||Murrell, Frank||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Harvey, C. M. B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne)||Naylor, T. E.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||Nichol, Robert||Williams, Lt.-Col. T. S. B. (Kenningtn.)|
|Haycock, A. W.||O'Grady, Captain James||Williams, Maj. A. S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Oliver, George Harold||Williams, T. (York. Don Valley)|
|Hayes, John Henry||Owen, Major G.||Willison, H.|
|Hemmerde, E. G.||Paling, W.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Palmer, E. T.||Windsor, Walter|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfid.)||Perry, S. F.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Hobhouse, A. L.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Wright, W.|
|Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Phillipps, Vivian||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Hodges, Frank||Pilkington, R. R.||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Hoffman, P. C.||Potts, John S.|
|Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Purcell, A. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hogge, James Myles||Raffan, P. W.||Mr. W. M. Adamson and Miss|
|Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||Raffety, F. W.||Jewson.|
|Hudson, J. H.||Raine, W.|
Bill committed to a Standing Committee.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.944
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.
§ Adjourned at Twenty-eight Minutes after Four o'Clock until Monday next (3rd March).