§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I beg to move,That this House regrets that the Government has put forward a scheme for fundamental changes in the House of Lords which gerrymanders the constitution in the interests of the Conservative party, deprives the House of Commons of that control over finance which it has possessed for generations, entrenches the House of Lords, on a hereditary basis, more firmly against the people's will than for centuries past, and, in defiance of every precedent of modern times, robs the electors of power to deal with the House of Lords; and this House declares that it will be an outrage on the constitution to force such proposals through Parliament without a mandate from the people.The Prime Minister and the Government will require no explanation of why this Resolution has had to be put on the Paper. On 20th June, the Lord Chancellor in another place made a speech which, since then, I think has eclipsed the major part of our political interests. It was a speech which bore all the traces of official instruction and inspiration. It was a speech which, we were informed, had been delivered after full reflection. We were told the proposals made by the Lord Chancellor had, first of all, been produced by a Committee of the Cabinet, and, having been produced and considered by that Committee, had been discussed by the Cabinet, and that what the Lord Chancellor was saying and proposing and announcing was practically on the instructions and with the knowledge of the Cabinet. Two other Ministers took part in that Debate. One of them went the length of saying that not only were those proposals the result of a Cabinet decision, but that that decision had been carried still further, and that before this Parliament came to an end those proposals should be embodied in a Bill and carried through both Houses.
There was no doubt at all as to what was in the minds of the Government and the Lord Chancellor and others on the 20th day of June. Some things have hap 1280 pened since. There has been a serious revolt on the benches behind the Prime Minister. I have had various figures supplied to me, and according to those figures—I shall take them on the authority given to me—80 Members have shown hostility, 103 have shown such lukewarm interest in supporting the Government that that interest amounts to a warning, that if they are pushed a little further they will cease to do it altogether, and 14 have endorsed the fully-considered proposals of the Cabinet regarding the Second Chamber. As soon as my hon. and right hon. Friends read the speech of 20th June, they thought the Government would do the only decent and appropriate thing and give this House an opportunity of considering what was happening. The proposals made in the other place very seriously curtailed the privileges of this House. They made fundamental alterations in the structure of the Constitution, and there is no doubt they entrenched upon the Royal Prerogative.
My colleagues and certainly myself are old-fashioned enough to believe that the first place—not the second place, but the first place—where an announcement like that should be made is the House of Commons. They assumed—I was not in it—that the Prime Minister and the Government had probably overlooked that fact, possibly through pressure. At any rate, they were charitably inclined and they were prepared to let the matter alone provided that, as soon as they approached the Government, the Government would say to them, "Certainly, we desire to give the House of Commons every opportunity for discussion." Contrary to that, they found that the Government were very anxious that there should be no discussion at all in the House of Commons, and when the Government were asked to make a statement in the way that statements have been made before—to inform the House what they proposed doing, to enable us to have a discussion, and on that discussion to make up our minds about what policy we should pursue—the Opposition was denied that right and, I venture to say, that on that occasion it was not the Opposition, it was the House of Commons that was denied it. Therefore, the only alternative open to us was the one that we have taken, the alternative of moving a Vote of Censure.
1281 I do not think a Vote of Censure is the appropriate method in such circumstances, and we have only adopted that method because hon. Members opposite as well as those sitting on this side, but for that Motion being put down in that form, and in that form only, would have no opportunity of discussing the speech of the Lord Chancellor. Various Amendments have been put down. I am now told none of these Amendments will be moved. The Government cannot get a united vote except upon a negation. There is not a single proposal that can be brought forward in this House by the Government themselves or by any section of their following, regarding a Second Chamber that can have a united Tory vote behind it. Therefore, they have adopted the expedient of saying, "Let us have no Amendments; let us have no declaration at all so far as the House of Commons is concerned, but let us unite our divided party and go into the same Lobby against a Vote of Censure"—as, of course, hon. Members are in loyalty bound to do. The Government say, "Let us raise this question of fundamental and primitive party loyalty upon a Resolution, the form of which we have forced the Opposition to adopt, and on which we, have declined to allow the House of Commons to discuss the Constitution of this country after it has been discussed for two or three days in the House of Lords, and at 11 o'clock at night after the Opposition has moved, you will come into the Lobby with us—a united following upon nothing except that you do not want your Government to be censured."
I do not care about the Division to-night, and I do not care about the figures, but I do care about the discussion that is going to take place. The proposal which has been made is going to change seriously and, I sincerely think, for the worse—perhaps hon. Members do not agree with me—the political temper of this country. I think it is going to change the confidence that outsiders have in Parliament. I think it is going to re-orientate our political minds, and, this is certain, it will continue to influence politics long after those of us who are on the stage to-day have ceased to play any part in mundane affairs. I therefore think, whatever Division Lobby hon. and right hon. Gentlemen find themselves in to-night, we ought to use the opportunity 1282 of this discussion to make perfectly plain how we stand regarding this proposal or similar proposals.
Now what are the proposals? They are threefold. They limit the constitutional privileges of individual peers and thereby limit the prerogative of the Crown. The power to appoint a peer will no longer carry with it the privileges that it carries with it at the present moment. The second thing is that they fix the membership of the House of Lords, and they thereby establish for ever the ascendancy of the House of Lords over this House, and the House of Lords, which is to enjoy that ascendancy, is one which is firmly based upon the hereditary principle. The hereditary principle is enshrined in our Constitution, and not only enshrined in it, but is abstracted from the democratic principle in that Constitution and made absolutely independent of it. The third point is that the Government propose to deprive this House of its hard-won right to be the sole authority on the disposal of national finance. If madness is a mark of the favour of the gods, this Government is peculiarly endowed by that blessing.
Let us see in Parliamentary terms what the working of that Constitution means. First of all, whoever is in office, the Tories are in power. I am not at all sure but that the Prime Minister, in so far as he has agreed to this, has agreed to it with a great sense of relief. So long as he remains the head of the Government, he, as indeed is the case with everybody who is in that position, has an exceedingly difficult job, an exceedingly worrying, troublesome job. He proposes to give up that job, perhaps, to transfer himself over here, and while he sits here, in the place that I now occupy, he is still the ruling authority in the country. It really is a most attractive and most enviable proposition from the point of view of a Tory Prime Minister. We have heard, with an air of superiority and with either a breathed or an unbreathed prayer of thanksgiving that we were born happy British children, that in foreign countries, when they want to secure that a certain party shall remain in office after a General Election, they send soldiers to guard the ballot boxes and prevent Oppositions and supporters of Oppositions placing 1283 their ballot papers in the ballot boxes. We hear of other countries that stuff ballot boxes. The representatives of the party in power come in with their pockets stuffed with ballot papers made out, which are conveniently placed into the ballot boxes in order to keep them in power.
We have here a far better method. I wish, if they want to keep in power, they would send soldiers down to guard the ballot boxes. It is a good, old, honest, straightforward way of doing it. I wish they would try to stuff the ballot boxes, but no, what they do is this: They say, "There is a key position in the Constitution, and we do not care what happens in the ballot boxes in future. General Elections are to be mere farces. There are King, Lords, Commons. If we give the Lords a position which makes them more powerful politically than the King and more powerful politically than the Commons, and if we capture the Lords, then we are safe. We will let the Liberals, we will let the Socialists, we will let the Labour party, individually or collectively, go to the ballot boxes, have their propaganda, spend thousands upon thousands of pounds in General Elections, get public opinion converted in their favour and against us. What does it matter to us? We will go to an election, and we will have a majority in the House of Lords who will see to it that our work and our policy prevail."
There is no Prime Minister, there is no man of any self-respect, who would undertake the arduous and thankless duties of being a Prime Minister and of being personally responsible for the Government of this country, who would sit where the Prime Minister is now sitting and be in a position of not being able to guarantee that what he and his colleagues desire to be done, because they believe it ought to be done in the national interest, should be done—who would sit there and feel that up there there is a permanent Tory bloc, charged, not with looking after national affairs, but with looking after Tory affairs. There is not a man of any self-respect, with any ability to carry out the responsibilities imposed upon that office, who would sit in that place, because he would feel that he was being 1284 made a mere fool of and that, instead of a working Constitution, he had to deal with a machine which condemned him to failure before he began his work.
Another Parliamentary point, another historical point, a point which is well worth looking back upon, so that Ministers and those who support them may know exactly what they are doing. The point is one for which this House has stood—sometimes against one element in the Constitution and sometimes another—that no power within the Constitution is going to be able to decree its dissolution except itself. We have had fights against the monarchs, but that has now gone. It is the result of very important fights that we have taken that power from the Sovereign, who used to be able to summon his Ministers one morning and say, "Thank you very much for what you have done, but I will be very much obliged if you will hand in your seals, because I have decided that somebody else shall take them." That has gone. Hon. Members opposite, however, say that what this House would not take from the hands of a Sovereign, it is going to take from the hands of a few Peers. The idea that all that a progressive Minister has to do, when the other place, the reconstructed other place, stands in his way is to go to the country—what does it mean? That is exactly what the Monarchs used to do. They never acted in their own interest; of course not. They always acted in the interests of the country, and that which the House of Commons did not tolerate, and will not tolerate now, the Government propose should be exercised by the Peers, because, forsooth, the representatives of 700 gentlemen drawn from one set of interests, and one social class, are to decree in respect of this, that and the other thing, that the House of Commons is for the time being exceeding its authority, and is not in step with the public opinion that sent it there. No, we shall not surrender to them the right to dissolve us when they think fit. We know how they would exercise it. To-day we have a Second Chamber, the House of Lords, which claims to be an impartial authority, and which, according to those Debates—the reference we can make to them must be somewhat limited—is prepared to take on 1285 this job. Why not take it on next week? They have got a very good chance. They have now got a Bill before them which, I am perfectly certain, had we an impartial Second Chamber, would not be passed. I admit that I have, over and over again, been inclined to agree that, as a purely academical proposition, as a proposition one likes to work out at one's own fireside, at one's own desk, writing on sheets of foolscap, discussing all sort of proposals for constitution building, a most attractive problem is, could we fit into our Constitution some sort of mechanical device so that if and when a Government democratically elected for a constitutional period of years—now five—nevertheless in the interval should be guilty of some step which was obviously contrary to the will of the nation—could we fit into our Constitution some sort of supplementary brake which would mean that the Government acting in that way within five years of office should be compelled to go to the country?
It is a most enticing proposition. I am not prepared to discuss it; it would only be wasting the time of the House to do so. But whatever answer you give to that, whether you say you can or cannot do it, one thing that you cannot do is to make that brake of little pieces of mechanism of a purely partisan description. The Government propose to make this brake out of people, some of them the most admirable and worthy men, mixed just as we ourselves are, but all of one interest, and that interest a Tory interest. Supposing we were in this position. Supposing we had a majority of 200. Whether we had a majority in the country or not, we will leave out of account. But supposing I and my colleagues were in this position, that we had 200 good, loyal men behind us, and we said we believe in a Second Chamber, we believe in creating something that will guard the country against a Government that is abusing its power, but that the mechanism for that is not to be found in the raw material of the Peerage, but it has got to be found in the raw material of trade union general secretaries. Why not? They are men of experience, men who have come up from the ranks. I will undertake to say that if it is an alternative between the Peerage and trade union general secretaries, we will 1286 put up a far better case, and that none of the obvious objections to our proposal are special to our proposal, but are shared by our proposal and the proposal of the Government. That is the position, and if the Prime Minister would only use his imagination, and put himself in other people's shoes, imagine what he would feel if he were the leader, not of the Tory party, which is going to get that power, but the parties which are fighting to get public opinion in their favour, and when they succeed in the country, find themselves in such a position, then he will understand why we regard his proposals in the way we do. The very worst type of Second Chamber is the type based on heredity.
There is a third point I want to make from the point of view of the working of these proposals, and from the point of view of Parliamentary genius and of requirement. This act of the right hon. Gentleman's Government is a purely revolutionary act. It is the act of a revolutionary junta. I have read the Debates in the other place, and I have read various speeches that have been made outside. A speech on Saturday was an illuminating speech in which the Secretary of State for War displayed the red light. For the purpose of this argument, I am not going to say anything about their having no mandate at the General Election. I am not going to say anything about their having no support now. What I do say is that no Government, placed as this Government is, can, except by a revolutionary act, divide the Constitution into two absolutely watertight compartments from the point of view of Parliamentary working, and then place the House of Lords, the new Second Chamber, in a position quite independent of the country, and do that by a purely temporary Parliamentary majority. It cannot be done, and nobody knows better than the Prime Minister himself that his action is the action of a temporary majority making permanent changes, without our consent, without Parliamentary consent, without any attempt being made to get a national agreement upon it, but using his Parliamentary majority to effect a change in the Constitution which is to be permanent, and which, when made, cannot be unmade in the same way that it is being 1287 made. If that be not revolution, I do not know what is. We have always been accustomed to talk of our Constitution being a constitution of balancing power. Now the essential condition of a balanced constitution is that one party or the other should in the background have the power to solve a deadlock.
That no longer exists. There is no power now in the constitution—neither the Sovereign, nor the Lords, nor the Commons has the power now to solve a situation which arises on account of a breakdown owing to a lack of the balance of the constitution. The right hon. Gentleman is destroying the balance of constitution, and he is creating a constitution with a deadlock right at the centre. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will very seriously concern himself with those points before this Bill, which, we assume, he is going to force through, is produced, because it certainly means that as soon as he leaves off, he puts his successor in the unfortunate position that he is responsible for adopting some such device as withholding Supply, or some other revolutionary act in order to undo a revolutionary act which the right hon. Gentleman is contemplating.
There is one other point which I would submit with great seriousness and deference to the whole House, and that is, why is this being done now? I am told that the Labour party has arisen, that the Labour party throws a shadow of possible revolution, that we may go too far and too fast, and so on. I do not believe it and I do not believe those who use the argument believe it. No country has ever yet gone too fast without having been compelled, first of all, to go too slow, without in some cases, as it is to-day, being compelled to go too fast backwards. I doubt very much whether all the Prime Minister's historical reading will enable him to produce a single case of a country, that from contentment and confidence in its Government, that from a feeling of security that whoever is in office legislation is always more or less in its hands, that if it disagrees with what is being done it can always put a check on it—I would be very delighted indeed if he would tell me of a country in that condition which indulged in revolution as a pastime. But I will 1288 tell him of scores of countries which have Tory Governments, with rigged constitutions in their own favour, that blocked progress, that went back, that deprived the common people of their rights and privileges, and that then went into revolution.
The problem I put to the right hon. Gentleman is this: Who is to blame for that revolution? The men who appear to be the leaders of the revolution, or the men who were at the head of the Tory Government who created it? That is going to happen. That is what is happening now. If there is any danger in this country now, it is not that we are going too fast, but that we are going too slow. The right hon. Gentleman knows it. Take the history of his own party. For 40 years the Unionist party opposed Home Rule for Ireland. For 40 years we were told that Home Rule for Ireland was going to disrupt this country, was going to smash us, and for 40 years they ruled as a Tory Unionist party in order to prevent Home Rule for Ireland. They then underwent one of the most disgraceful surrenders that any party in this country has ever undergone. For 40 years the name of the party "Unionist" has shown that in their thoughts it was a most important thing to fight for and defend! At the end of the time they had to surrender, not because there was a Coalition, but because they were compelled to. I am bound to confess that if I could ever do anything to get a change made—a necessary and effective change made—before I was compelled to do so I should consider I was doing a very great public service. Those people who, are always standing back, those people who are always seeing red, those people who are always objecting to change, those people who never get fears or nightmares of worse prospects for the world, they are the people who, by going too slow, create revolutions and compel successive generations to go too fast.
Take the question of coal. Nothing done; they are too slow. If there be any trouble, the right hon. Gentleman opposite is responsible for it. All those opportunities lost; too slow. Your Trade Union Bill; too far back. That is where the danger lies, and, instead of talking about creating a Constitution which will prevent this country from going too fast, you would be far better 1289 employed if you were trying to create a Constitution that would oil the wheels of both industry and politics in order to enable the country to go faster than it is going. Therefore, under present circumstances and under present inspirations, it is not the pace that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen object to. They are not afraid of revolutions; they are afraid of ideas. What they want is to create a sort of Vatican Council that will look after the Faith. They do not want to protect themselves against these large evils. They want to be able to criticise every little "tuppenny halfpenny" pamphlet that comes out in the form of a Bill and condemn it or circulate it. They are far more interested in preventing town councils running omnibuses, and they want to create a Constitution which will enable them to stop that. But to stop a revolution or to stop large tendencies—they are not afraid of revolution; they are afraid of reform.
There is no case for this change at all. There was not even a case in regard to a Money Bill. I hope I am not out of place, or in any way out of order, in reflecting upon the fact that the only definite case that was brought up as being a possible dereliction in the application of your authority, Mr. Speaker, in settling what was a Money Bill, was occasioned by a blunder, a stupid blunder. Because two Bills had the same title it was assumed by one of those City gentlemen that they must also have the same contents. There has been no case made out even in favour of this Joint Committee for Money Bills. As regards this proposal for a Money Bill Committee I say this. I do not care whether your Committee is going to have Mr. Speaker as Chairman with a casting vote or Mr. Speaker with an absolute right of decision over and independent of his colleagues. This House, and this House alone, is the only authority that has any business to interfere with finance.
When a Constitution is ripe for change two things happen. The country is interested and the country is agitated before we are. That is not the case now. The next point is that when the Constitution is changed the country supplies the initiative for change. I have read speeches by people who profess to be great constitutional historians and lawyers, talking about the British Con 1290 stitution, and that they are all protected this way and that way. Would the right hon. Gentleman, or anybody who is going to speak following him, tell me now or henceforth of a single case of a Constitution having been made by a party majority? Will he tell me of a single case of a Constitution being imposed upon a country without an election or without a referendum? What is more, will he tell me of a single case of a Constitution that has once been written, with all its safeguards, with its First Chambers and its Second Chambers, and so on, that cannot be changed by a direct vote of the people themselves? Why, there is none such. The proposal of the Government is not a constitutional proposal; it is a makeshift, a temporary revolutionary proposal occasioned by the flutter that is in their minds as the result of by-elections. It is really nothing more. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may laugh as much as they like, but it is nothing more. If any of the right hon. Gentlemen whom I have the greatest pleasure in seeing opposite me, and whom I always admire, believed that they had another five years of office, the Lord Chancellor would never have been instructed by the Cabinet or permitted by the Cabinet to make the statement that he made in the House of Lords. No; never was there a constitutional proposal made with less justification or less excuse than this proposal. Never was there a constitutional change made that was more patently a partisan move and not a constitutional one. For these reasons, I move the Resolution which is down in my name.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
May I express to the right hon. Gentleman the great pleasure which I have in seeing him in his place again and the pleasure of all those behind me? I hope very much he may soon be restored to complete good health. This matter, which we are going to debate to-day, must be approached from a slightly different angle, according to whether one's speech is in support of the Vote of Censure or against it. The only observation I would make at this moment on the Motion is that I am interested to see that the word "gerrymander" has now the high authority of His Majesty's Opposition, as it now appears in their form of 1291 Motion. The only comfort I derive from that fact is that, if my memory serves me rightly, that most distinguished gentleman, Mr. Gerry Elbridge, was not really guilty of the sin to which his name has been attached. No, Sir, this question which we are discussing to-day, and which I am very glad to have the opportunity of discussing, is one to which certainly two parties—the Liberal party and our own party—have given a good deal of attention and, I think, also a good deal of examination has been given to it by Members of the party opposite. The reform of the House of Lords, whatever that phrase may mean, is explicit in the Parliament Act. We will leave for the moment what kind of reform, but reform is explicit, and I was peculiarly interested in that part of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in which he dwelt for some moments on the attractive prospect which is opened up of trying to devise a better system of a Second Chamber than in his view exists to-day. It only makes me regret that he did not devote his great powers to-day in giving us some help in the problem which is before us. But he addressed himself to the question as if it were embodied in a Bill which was at this moment before the House of Commons.
I do not want to take up more time to-day than I am obliged to because many hon. Members want to speak, but before I come to the proposals themselves I must make a few observations upon a Second Chamber as such and upon our own Second Chamber in this country. The necessity for a Second Chamber, I imagine, is felt by a great majority in this country. I think the reasons that make people feel that there is this necessity may be summed up perhaps in some of those reasons which were put forward by that extraordinarily able Report of the Bryce Committee, which was held during the War. The tendency during the last generation—and I am afraid it is a tendency which is bound to increase—is for each Government to bring forward more and more legislation. The work of this House tends to become congested. We have tried to meet it as far as we can in recent years by the device of upstairs Committees, which has been adopted more by previous Governments than by this, and by what I fear has been the necessary curtailment of De 1292 bates in this House, and by the use of the Closure by compartments and measures of that kind. The necessary result of that has been undoubtedly that a mass of legislation within the last decade, or perhaps more, has gone up to the other place in such a condition that examination and emendation is absolutely necessary, not only for the sake of the legislation itself but for the sake of the particular Government that may be in charge of these Measures, who find that in the hurry of legislation in this House they have left out Amendments of their own which they deem to be essential to the framing of the Bills.
Arising similarly out of congestion of business a Second Chamber is of great value for the introduction of Bills of a more or less non-controversial character which the Government yet desire to pass, and in that Chamber they can be so shaped, examined and framed that when they come down to this House there remains but little work to be done upon them, and the Government of the day find themselves able, without unduly trespassing upon the time of this House, to increase the mass product of their legislation.
Then there comes a third point, which I was interested to find was touched upon by the Leader of the Opposition. It is a point, of course, which has always been made with regard to Second Chamber. In some quarters it is made with, perhaps, some exaggeration; certainly an exaggerated view compared with the one which I hold myself. In some quarters, on the other hand, perhaps on the left wing of the party opposite, they may not feel any necessity at all for that point which was alluded to by the Leader of the Opposition, and that is, the interposition of so much delay, and only so much, as may be needed to enable the national opinion to be given when a government brings in proposals of a very novel kind which have not been adequately before the country or examined lay the country—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Trade Unions Bill."]—and on which a very great difference of opinion exists: in other words, where opinion may be said to be more or less evenly divided.
There is yet one more function which a Second Chamber performs with the greatest efficiency, and that is to give 1293 the country the opportunity of having full and free discussion on matters of great public interest, such as foreign policy, for which it is often difficult, especially at this time of the Session to provide time in the House of Commons, and where those matters may be discussed without the fear that an unhappy division may bring the life of the Government to an end. Those are great advantages, because when people with knowledge are enabled to speak freely, without the fear of being compromised by such a division, you are then apt to get the very kernel of the truth. So far as the position of our Second Chamber goes, I think there will be general agreement amongst all parties, and not only amongst all parties, but amongst Members of both Houses of Parliament. There can be nowadays, no question of a Second Chamber, whether it be called the House of Lords, or whatever it may be called, or whatever form it may take at any time in the future, becoming a really effective rival of this Chamber. I want the House to bear that in mind at this point, because I may have something to say about it later.
There can be no power in a Second Chamber in this country to make or unmake Ministries, and there can be no equal rights in finance. These points have been long established in this country, both by custom and by tradition. Constitutionally, the Executive of this country depends, first and last, on the support of this House, and of this House alone. I am quite sure that everyone in this House would agree with one point that was touched upon by the Leader of the Opposition, that it is not a good thing that we should gradually have evolved a position in this country where the Second Chamber contains such a large majority of one school of thought. It was not always so, by any means. I do not propose to take up time this afternoon in tracing the steps that have led to the present state of things, but that is the present state of things, and it is one that does not make for the strength of the Constitution.
I want at this point to say a word on the question of what is, shortly, termed the Speaker's veto. That question has been examined by the Bryce Committee, by the Coalition Government and by our Government, and I think there has been 1294 a feeling amongst all those who have examined this question and, so far as I know, the view has been shared, I do not say wholly by all parties, but I think amongst all parties, that it does throw a most difficult and invidious task upon that great officer, the Speaker of the House of Commons, to be the sole arbiter between the two Houses as to what is and what is not a Financial Bill. Of some Bills, of course, anyone can see in a moment whether or not it is a purely Financial Bill, but there may easily be Bills which, while purporting to deal only with the raising of money and the spending of money, may have effects in action, both industrially, commercially, socially, and politically of far greater importance than the effects that will arise from the actual finance.
The Bryce Committee, a very representative Committee, representing all parties in, I think, 1916 or 1917, tried for a long time to find some definition which would describe such Bills and be able to differentiate between them, and they wanted to find a definition so clear and succinct that they could embody it in a Statute, if necessary. They failed to find that definition. It is an extremely difficult thing to do, but, at the same time, they expressed the view, with which I certainly agree, that the examination of all cases of doubt which have arisen showed difficulties, and I think this would be so in any case, which, it would appear, could be resolved in a comparatively short space of time round a table by about a dozen practical experienced men of goodwill, and such a body would be a Standing Joint Committee; a body which, in one shape or another, has been put forward by each Committee, to whatever party it belonged, that has examined this subject. The duty of that Committee might well be, as was suggested in the Bryce Committee, and as we have suggested, as I shall point out further on, to consider not only the professed purpose but the underlying purpose of the legislation, and to report which of its Clauses, if any, are strictly financial, and therefore only to be dealt with by the House of Commons, and which of its Clauses, if any, should be put in a category remoter from pure finance, and which might be dealt with in another place. But in any case, and let there be no mistake about 1295 this, there can be no question of finance being initiated in another place, nor of a charge being increased.
I want to speak for a few moments on the question of the elective principle. I want to do that because that, as I shall show, is the main difference, if not the only difference, at any rate the only difference of importance, between the proposals of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and those put forward by the Lord Chancellor the other day.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE indicated dissent.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
If my memory serves me aright, and I apologise to the hon. Member if I am at fault, the elective principle was one which the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) was inclined to favour.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I have read so much of what the hon. Member has written that I apologise if I am confused and have made a mistake. The elective principle is an extraordinarily plausible one, at first sight, for a Second Chamber. There are, undoubtedly, a number of Members in this House who believe that that would be by far the best way in which to attempt the reform of the Second Chamber in this country. The elective principle was mentioned in the preamble of the Parliament Act, and the elective principle was among the proposals put forward by Lord Peel in another place five years ago. But the moment you come to election for a Second Chamber you are immediately faced with this problem. I said five minutes ago, and I believe it commanded assent, that in no case could we contemplate a Second Chamber which would be a rival of this House. There is no question, in my mind, that the shortest way to find a rival of this House would be to set up an elective Chamber along the passage. There is no answer to the argument when they say to you, "Our mandate is the same as yours," and I always feel the danger of the same long struggle between two elected Chambers that we have had in times past between the elected and the non-elected. 1296 So far as finance is concerned, I believe that, ultimately, the result of having an elected Second Chamber would be that the supremacy of this House would be imperilled, and that the utmost we could hope for would be that the two Houses would end by being of equal authority.
There is another difficulty. Every proposal that has been made for reform of the Second Chamber has included limitation of numbers. For effective purposes the Chamber has always been made considerably smaller than this one. That would mean, in election, the constituencies would be far greater, and it would lead to considerably increased expense for those who fought them, and while the whole tendency to-day is to make it easier for men, whatever their means, to come into public life, that, I think, would or might tend to make it more difficult. Moreover, no scheme has been drawn up, that I am aware of, by any of the people who have considered this matter that does not make the tenure of a seat in an elected and reformed Second Chamber longer than the tenure in this Chamber, by providing definite periods for blocks of members to go out and new members to come in. It has always been felt that in making the longer term it would prevent that body from being so subject to violent changes of opinion that might sweep over the country and which, necessarily, would affect this House. If it so happens that that election gives a longer tenure to another place, the attraction of that other place to many of us with an election only once in eight or 12 years instead of once every three years, would, I think, draw many of us to it. Again, it has been suggested that the election, instead of being direct, should be by groups in this House—that has been put forward—or by local authorities, but the principle of election, it seems to me, is the same, and, whether you have the election by groups or parties in this House, or by local authorities, or directly, as we are elected, you never can get away from the fact that the power of elected Chambers must tend to become equal; and there is no question that an elected Second Chamber would never rest until it found itself, certainly not in an inferior position to this 1297 Chamber, and it might even find itself ultimately in a stronger position, as in the case of the Senate of the United States of America.
I do not think any scheme that has been brought forward yet has entirely omitted the hereditary element. The proportion may be small, but I cannot recall at the moment any scheme that entirely omitted that. The reason for that is not far to seek. In this country we do think a good deal of continuity in our institutions and whatever may be said against the hereditary system as it exists to-day in another place, there is no historical student who would not feel regret if the link were completely severed between that Chamber at the other end of the corridor and the Great Council which was still functioning in this country before the Norman Conquest. If that does not appeal to hon. Members let me remind them, if I may, that six centuries after that Great Council came into being—in the thirteenth century—the House of Commons was first formed to help that Council. The House of Commons would not have been called into existence had it not been that the fight for liberty in that century was won by that House, and if the hereditary element is to remain, I can see no fairer way, fairer to that House itself, than that they should select their own representatives in the same way as for so many years the Scottish and Irish peers have been selected from their own body.
After those observations I wish to pass directly to the matter at issue to-day. The matter at issue to-day would never have been comprehensible if I had not touched on those various points which I have touched upon. To many hon. Members opposite this subject is a comparatively new one and is of little, or only of academic, interest. But it is a real subject to all Governments and it may well be that it is a subject that may have to engage the attention of a Government from the other side when it comes into power, just as it has engaged the attention of each Government that has held office since the Parliament Act. As far as this Government is concerned, I would remind the House of the pledges which have been given by this Government, not pledges as to detail, but pledges to make the attempt to deal with 1298 this question. The first pledge was given before the General Election, at Perth, a pledge was given in a speech of mine at Brighton only two years ago, and a pledge was given by me at a joint meeting of Members of both Houses, when I said that whatever the Government ultimately undertook to do they would do it in the lifetime of the present Parliament.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It was a private meeting but it was reported in the press, and I think there was no secret about the pledge at all. I wish to answer one question which many Members have, I am sure, put to themselves. Are the Government in this matter acting in a hurry? Have they considered this matter? I think that question deserves a reply. As far as I am concerned, and as far as the Cabinet is concerned, the Leader of the Opposition was quite wrong in his inference that this question had been hurried because we had not held all the seats at by-elections that we held at the General Election. Whatever Government had come into power at this time I think would have made an attempt to deal with this question. Have we been in a hurry? Let me compare our action with that of the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and I take that because that was the Government which put in its programme that it would attempt to deal with this question. I take it for two reasons. It was a Government which, whether it be popular to-day or not, contained an enormous amount of experience and ability, and, secondly, it was a Government that during the four years of its life had to deal with a large number of most difficult, most contentious and most troublesome questions, and yet that Government set up a Committee to investigate this question early in 1921, a Committee of the Cabinet, and it was in the summer of 1922, or 18 months afterwards, that the Cabinet authorised the introduction by Lord Peel of certain Resolutions in another place. That was in July, 1922. We set up our Cabinet Committee in June, 1925. It sent in its first Report to the Cabinet early in 1926 and the discussions did not last more than six months. It was immediately con 1299 sidered by the Cabinet, but last year, owing to other preoccupations it was early winter before the Cabinet could give their attention to this Report. They examined this Report thoroughly, exhaustively, and they amended it, and they sanctioned the introduction of certain proposals in another place about the middle of May.
I give these dates to show the difficulty of this question. You often hear people say that this is a light task, but there is no more difficult and troublesome task, and it took nearly a year of work in the case of each of these two Governments, on the part of men of great experience and great ability, to arrive by a process of elimination at certain proposals. I will devote a few moments at this point to comparing the proposals. The fact that there is a family resemblance between the proposals does not arise out of our having copied the conclusions of the late Government. It shows that when any body of men are attempting to implement the pledge given so many years ago by Mr. Asquith—as he then was—there is a tendency by that process of elimination to arrive on examination at very much the same body of proposals. In regard to the Speaker's Veto the present Government proposals, which they put forward, were:That the decision as to whether a Bill is, or is not, a Money Bill within the meaning of the Act, or is partly a Money Bill, and partly not, shall be determined by a Joint Standing Committee of the two Houses and that Joint Standing Committee shall be composed of an equal number of Members of each House who shall choose their own Chairman. In coming to their decision the Joint Standing Committee shall henceforth have regard not only to the form but to the substance and effect of the Bill. Bills dealing with local rates shall not be deemed to be Money Bills and the House of Lords have power to deal with matters affecting the local rates.The Government of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs proposed this:That while the House of Lords shall not amend or reject Money Bills, the decision whether a Bill is or is not a Money Bill, or is partly a Money Bill, shall be referred to the Joint Standing Committee of the two Houses, the decision of which shall be final. Joint Standing Committees shall be appointed at the beginning of each new Parliament and shall be composed of 1300 seven Members of each House of Parliament, in addition to the Speaker of the House of Commons, who shall be ex-officio chairman of that Committee,The point of the rates was not mentioned in the Coalition proposal. I do not know whether that question was considered or whether it was omitted inadvertently—I have no recollection of that—but the rates point was put in the form which I have read out as one of the conclusions of the Bryce Committee, and it occurs also in the same portion of the Report, if I remember rightly, as their recommendation regarding the Speaker's Veto. As far as the members of that Committee go, or whether the Speaker shall be Chairman or not, my own view is that those are matters of detail that might well be discussed. Then on the other point, about the Parliament Act itself, I should like to remind the House that the proposal put forward by Lord Cave—
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman as he has quoted that? The question surely is whether the House of Commons has got a majority of that Committee. Under the proposals of 1922 there was a distinct majority. Mr. Speaker was added to the seven Members of the Commons. In addition to that, he was in the Chair, and had a casting vote as such. That is very vital.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Perhaps what I have said will appear clearer when I have got a little further with what I have to say. I shall have some observations to make very soon which will make it clear. The proposals put forward by Lord Cave were:The provisions of the Parliament Act, 1911, by which Bills can be passed into law without the consent of the House of Lords during the course of a singe Parliament shall not apply to any Bill which alters the constitution or power of the House of Lords as set out in the Parliament Act and these Resolutions.The Coalition Government's proposal was this:That the provisions of the Parliament Act, 1911, by which Bills can be passed into law without the consent of the House of Lords during the course of a single Parliament shall not apply to any Bill which alters or amends the constitution of the House of Lords as set out in those Resolu 1301 tions or which in any way changes the powers of the House of Lords as laid down in the Parliament Act and modified by these Resolutions.I cannot see the difference between these two. I need not waste any time in discussing the proposals of the two Governments regarding the composition of the House, except to say here that it was only after the most careful and lengthy examination of what we conceived would be the effect of admitting an elected portion to the Second Chamber that we finally rejected the idea of election and chose instead the principle of nomination. I wonder whether hon. Members recollect what was the complaint made in 1922 against the Government on the Resolutions which they introduced into the House of Lords. The complaint was that they were too nebulous, and yet I venture to think they were a little more precise than the Resolutions which Lord Cave introduced. No one has accused Lord Cave of being nebulous. Everyone has suddenly fastened on to the idea that a Bill will be presented next week in that form and passed into law.
Let me remind the House again of what happened in 1922. It was a situation not unlike that of to-day. The Leader of the House of Commons, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, was simply peppered with questions from the benches opposite. When the hon. and gallant Member who represented Leith at that time, and whom we all miss so much from this House, was in his place, he raised exactly the point which has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition to-day. My right hon. Friend said:I do not think we can enter into negotiations and produce a cut and dried scheme without reference to the discussion which is proceeding.I only give that to illustrate what went beforehand. Then he was asked this:Does not the Prime Minister think that the House of Commons might be asked to co-operate, too?
In due course they will be asked."
It was perfectly plain that had an unexpected sequence of events not occurred in the Autumn, this question would have come down as a live question into the House of Commons. What its fate would have been there it is impossible 1302 to say. There is also an interesting observation which was made by the Leader of the Liberal party in this House itself on 10th November, 1921. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Coventry (Sir A. Boyd Carpenter) asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George):if it is the determination of the Government to introduce and carry a Bill to reform the Second Chamber during the coming Session, and, if so, will such a Measure take precedence of all other legislation?The Prime Minister of that day answered:The answer to the first part of the affirmative. I cannot state the order of precedence of Government business next year, but this Measure will be among the first to be taken."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1921; col. 591, Vol. 148.]I have one other quotation, and one only, because I am not very fond of quotations, but I want to give it because it bears on this question. That was also during the Debate in July, 1922. My noble colleague, Lord Birkenhead, who was then Lord Chancellor said, having produced those proposals, that the details would be infinitely difficult and infinitely controversial when the discussion was attempted in the House. That, of course, is true. The Leader of the Opposition made great play, and perfectly fair play, in his speech to-day, with the differences of opinion in our party on this question. Of course there are differences of opinion on this question. There always have been and there always will be, and if anything is to be done you can only get the greatest common measure of agreement before you can proceed. This is a genuine attempt, made after infinite labour, to implement not only the pledges of this Government, but the pledges of previous Governments. We offer them for criticism and for ventilation, both here and in the country, and we must be guided in framing legislation by due consideration of that criticism and the results of that ventilation. To treat a matter like this by moving a Vote of Censure is like heaving half a brick at us.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No Government that had not a certain amount of courage would have touched this subject at all. What Lord Birkenhead said the 1303 other day is perfectly true, that it is a Sisyphean task to roll this stone up the hill, and my only comfort is that if the worst happens and the stone rolls back there is no record of Sisyphus ever having been hurt. In the light of what we may learn from this Debate, what we have learned from the other place, and what we learn from our friends in the country, we shall hope to be able to produce that greatest common measure in a form practicable for legislation. If we fail, I doubt very much whether further attempts will be made in the near future; because until to-day I had feared that this question had been always considered to be too much in the vortex of the most controversial party politics to hope for any success from any conference between parties to achieve the end which I believe we all desire. I did feel a little encouragement from some words the Leader of the Opposition used, and yet the one thing which I feel is not of good augury is this: If and when a Government make an honest and bona fide attempt to deal with a most difficult question, which has baffled succeeding Governments for many years, and they are met not with any constructive proposals, not with any help, not with any promise of co-operation, but only with a Vote of Censure, it makes it impossible for the collective wisdom of this House ever to solve any of the great controversial questions of the day.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
The Prime Minister has entirely failed to meet the challenge which was issued to him by the Leader of the Opposition, and has not made any attempt to deal with one single point which the Leader of our party put to him to answer. He has made a speech which was rather in the nature of an academic essay, suitable to a debating society or a mutual improvement club, but not suitable to the House of Commons. He has made the speech of a man who wishes to avoid every practical question that he has been asked, the speech of a man in retreat, the speech of a beaten and discredited man, a speech which was received without one single cheer from all his supporters behind him. This speech, perhaps unconsciously, has drawn aside the veil which hides Cabinet discussions, and, for the first time in this Parliament, has allowed the people to watch how these Cabinet, decisions are 1304 reached. We see from that speech, comparing it with the speeches in another place, that Members of this Cabinet apparently come to decisions without knowing what these decisions are. They make pronouncements contradicting each other in public. The Government issue proposals which their supporters describe as those of Gadarene swine. They present a picture of muddle and incompetence and incoherence which has no parallel in recent years. The people are watching the picture which is being unfolded to them now, and I venture to say that at this moment the stock of the Government stands lower than it ever has done since the General Election, that never have they been regarded by the public outside with such general indifference, ridicule and contempt.
The Prime Minister, as I have said, avoided answering practically every issue which these proposals Live raised; but on one point, and one point alone, he came down to particulars, and practically indicated that on one subject legislation would be considered by the Government. That was the proposal to take the power of deciding what is or is not a Money Bill out of the hands, of the Speaker of this House, and to hand it over to a Joint Committee consisting of equal numbers of Members of both Houses of Parliament. In another place, the Leader of the Liberal party there, Lord Beauchamp, gives his adherence to that proposal, and I gather that whether that adherence will or will not be made plain is being decided at this moment. That being so, it is necessary for us to state clearly now, and there is no further necessity for discussion, that that proposal will be most fiercely resisted by the Labour party; and we shall resist it, not only as Labour men, but as House of Commons men. For that reason I would venture, before proceeding to the right hon. Gentleman's other observations, to deal for a moment in detail with that proposal.
What is the position? The argument that the Prime Minister has used is that this was an invidious task for Mr. Speaker to carry out, and that greater confidence in the general impartiality of the decision would be secured if it were handed over to a Joint Committee of the two Houses. In this case, the Speaker is not an authority deciding between the two Houses; everyone knows that that is not 1305 the case. All these conflicts are conflicts between political parties, and the issue between the Houses merely expresses that larger conflict behind. Here in this country, when it comes to a conflict between political parties, we have, by centuries of experience, gradually built up a great officer of State, who, while in politics, is above politics, whose absolute impartiality is one of the most unquestioned traditions of our Parliamentary system—the Speaker of the House of Commons—an office and a tradition which are regarded with admiration and astonishment that we could create it by all politically-minded men in every country in the world. The idea that by taking the decision on these political questions out of his hands, and handing it over to a Joint Committee of Members of both Houses, who from the very nature of the case will themselves have been engaged in a furious partisan fight on the very issue that they have to decide—the notion that in that way greater impartiality is going to be secured than from Mr. Speaker himself, shows, I say, a lack of common sense and an insincerity which indicates that the Prime Minister's proposal is not due to a desire to secure impartiality, but is due to a desire to secure a packed Committee upon which the Tory party will always predominate. And it will be a packed Committee, for reasons which I would like at this moment to explain.
An equal number of members—seven is the number suggested—is to be chosen from each of the two Houses. So far as membership of this House is concerned, we in our party will undoubtedly, I presume, obtain our proportionate number; but half the membership of the other House is bound to be of a predominantly and overwhelmingly Conservative complexion, with the result that the Committee as a whole will have a Conservative majority. This means that, whatever the fortunes of politics may be, whatever the people may decide, however the Conservative party may be destroyed at the polls, they will, by the Prime Minister's one practical proposal this afternoon, at this pivotal point of the Constitution be always firmly entrenched in a Committee with a permanent Tory majority. The proposal before us is that the Speaker shall be dethroned, and that his place shall be taken by a party dodge.
1306 I come now to the main argument which the Prime Minister used. His argument was that powers such as these were necessary to a Second Chamber, because, without them, it would not be possible to elicit—I take his words—a national opinion when a Government had made proposals which were not agreed to by the country, and the function of the reformed House of Lords would be to ensure that the people's will had been achieved. That argument is a hallucination. There never has been a time when this House has been more closely watched by the public outside, and every one of us knows it. We live here and speak in a House whose walls are made of glass. Every one of our acts is being watched by millions of other people. If, in these circumstances, we pass fundamental legislation which is disliked by the people, it cannot be hidden from the people. The punishment of the Government that does it can be left to the people at the next Election, and the legislation, if necessary, can be repealed. But this proposal to take the House of Lords—an assembly of absentees, more than half the members of which never even take the trouble to appear in that House once in a Session, 150 of whom have not even taken the oath, an assembly which claims to read the feeling of the people when it has shown this week that it cannot read the feeling of its own party, an assembly which never has to stand face to face with any electorate—the argument that this unrepresentative assembly is needed in order to protect the people from the representatives whom they themselves elect, shows the grotesque absurdity of the whole structure upon which the Prime Minister relies.
There is no doubt about the party at whom these proposals are aimed. They are aimed at the Labour party. We say that this whole doctrine, that, even though we win the victory in the constituencies, we are to be impeded in another place, is unconstitutional, is undemocratic, is mean, and is cowardly. The property of the party opposite, as to which hon. Members are afraid, in the politics of this country, has already protection and security enough. They have the newspapers; they have the wealth, so that at the last Election the average expenses of a Conservative candidate were more than twice the average expenses of every Labour can 1307 didate; they have the secret party funds, which are obtained by the sale of titles, by appealing to the wealth and vanity and vulgarity of the members of the Conservative party and by prostituting the prerogative of the Crown. They have all these advantages. On our side, all that we have is the voluntary zeal of our workers, the unpaid labour of countless thousands of poor men and the rising youth of the land. We say, with the advantages that the party opposite have, and the advantages that we have, that if, by these legitimate and honourable weapons, we win the victory in the constituencies, then we have as much right to have free and unimpeded passage for our legislation as the party opposite always claims for itself; and, if the Prime Minister ventures to introduce a Bill which robs us of that right, then that will be the issue of the next General Election, and hundreds of Members on the seats opposite will find that their places in this House will know them no more.
I would now like to refer to the observations which the Prime Minister made with regard to the hereditary system, and with regard to the proposals which he explained for allowing the House of Lords to reconstitute itself. Let us see what this new House of Lords is, as pictured by the Prime Minister. I was amused, in listening to the Debates in another place, to find that the majority of the peers were afraid they were sacrificing too much. What are they sacrificing? They are sacrificing nothing. There are to be 350 members in the new House, and the vast majority, say, 250 to 300, are to be hereditary peers. But, of the present hereditary peerage, only about 250 ever take the trouble to attend. What are they sacrificing? There will still be plenty of room for every one of them who has ever paid for the petrol for his car to transport him to the House of Lords. I am told that a number of these peers attach great value to the right to sit in the House of Lords, although they never put in an appearance there, and that under these conditions there may be some loss in prestige as a consequence of these proposals. The only serious result of that, however, would be to diminish the price for which a peerage can be sold, and I am not surprised, in 1308 those circumstances, that, as is commonly known, the chief opposition to these proposals has come from the Chief Whip of the Conservative party.
There is to be one other element in the House of Lords. A minority are to be nominated, and this is a part of the scheme in which I think we should take special interest, because it is introduced for our benefit. As the Secretary of State for War explained on Saturday, members are to be nominated by the Prime Minister, in order that Labour may have some representation in the House of Lords. These proposals show a lack of any sense of real touch with public affairs which is amazing. They are the most insolent and the most insulting part of the whole scheme. Suppose this Bill is passed during this Parliament: The Prime Minister will then proceed to select a number of Labour members, those whom he considers the most respectable, and they will be sent to the House of Lords, and there they will be expected to scout out Labour doctrines in order that the hereditary peers may then vote them down. We are to go there as a kind of pro to send up lobs for the gentlemen to hit at, allowed to dress in a pavilion in a separate room, because, if we were not, the public would stop the game. The Prime Minister has not yet made clear whether or not he intends to carry there proposals into law in the lifetime of this Parliament, and we affirm that if he does that it will be an outrage upon the Constitution, because for any such step he has not got a mandate from the people of this country. I listened very carefully to the argument by which he attempted to support his statement that a mandate had been furnished to him, and I listened to the three instances he gave. He mentioned a speech at Brighton, which I believe was delivered after the election. May I ask him was it after or before the election?
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
The right hon. Gentleman then spoke of a meeting of 1309 Members of both Houses, which on inquiry was found to be a private meeting of his party. Finally, he referred to a pledge which he alleged was given at Perth, which I have read, and which consisted of a few vague and non-committal words uttered on the Saturday before the election took place, on the day of the publication of the Zinovieff letter and which were entirely ignored by the public because the Tory organisers came to the conclusion that Mr. Zinovieff was a better electoral asset than the Prime Minister.
Let me examine the question of the mandate. What does a mandate mean? The last time the House of Lords was dealt with was by the Parliament Act of 1911, and before it was held right that that legislation should be passed there had to be held two General Elections within 10 months of each other, in one of which the House of Lords was the main issue and in the second of which the House of Lords was the only issue, and even after that the Conservative party were so unwilling to accept the result that when the Prime Minister stood at that Box and announced his intention of carrying his proposals into law he was shouted down by the Conservative party, the House was broken up in disorder and one of the Ministers who sits upon that bench hurled a copy of the Standing Orders across the Floor of the House of Commons and hit the present Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the dome of his head—a choice of targets which was the only redeeming feature of this shocking episode. That is what two General Elections show what is meant by a mandate when the party opposite used the word.
The right hon. Gentleman claims that he has a mandate for these proposals from the people, when the events of the last few weeks have shown that he has not even a mandate from his own party. Let the country realise the lessons of this. The Conservative party and the House of Lords do not care about mandates, or about the will of the people, or about the constitution. They are, as has been said by the Leader of the Opposition, a revolutionary party who are now proposing a revolutionary Act. So long as they are on top they are all for defending the constitution, but immediately they have to play the part 1310 of the bottom dog they are ready to tear the constitution into pieces, as they showed in 1914, when they encouraged the Army to desert its allegiance to the Crown, and as they show by these proposals now. This new attack upon the constitution will be defeated. It will not be defeated by the Conservative party. It will be defeated by the passionate sense of freedom, which is still to be found in the hearts of the people.
§ Mr. BUCHAN
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken from the Opposition benches have presented a very simple argument. Some of us had hoped that the Leader of the Opposition, with his wide knowledge of history, his real flair for the past and his sense of its organic connection, might have offered certain constructive suggestions, or at any rate some acute criticisms. We have been disappointed. The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith), who has just spoken, have given us precisely the kind of rhetoric that we were all so familiar with in 1910, chiefly on Liberal platforms, sharpened by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman leads a party the majority of whom not only reject the hereditary principle but object to any Second Chamber. The right hon. Gentleman cannot be expected to offer much in the way of reform if he altogether objects to the thing proposed to be reformed.
The hon. Member who has just spoken has referred to the Parliament Act. That is one of the two matters now before the House in this Debate. I do not suppose that any piece of legislation has ever had a more curious fate. It was the embarrassed Act of a deeply embarrassed Government brought in to meet an urgent electoral difficulty. The Liberal party for years had inscribed on its banner its intention to end or mend the House of Lords. The Parliament Act did not end it and did not mend it. It only introduced a hiatus in its working. By the confession of its own promoters it was imperfect. It was to be followed by a great measure of internal reform, and so balanced a mind and so wise a judgment as that of the then Sir Edward Grey described the policy as "Death, destruction and damnation."
1311 The Liberal Government did not implement their promise, and I think their apathy has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The Parliament Act has been law now for 16 years. The crude facade is becoming mellowed by time, so that it looks almost like part of the old building. It has not been greatly used. It has scarely been used at all; but it remains a useful salve for anxious con sciences and a comfort to those restless, speculative souls who are always suspecting possible tyranny. I am inclined to think that the Parliament Act, this Measure begotten in haste and born in confusion, has turned out far better than its supporters ever dreamt. It has turned out far better than its Opponents imagined. I am sure it has turned out far better than any scheme of internal reform which was intended to supplement it. By a happy chance this admittedly crude Measure fell in with the natural evolutionary process of our institutions. There can be only two kinds of Second Chamber. Yon may have what is technically called a strong Second Chamber, with full powers of revision and rejection, and in a democracy like ours such a Second Chamber must necessarily be popularly elected. Or you may have a Second Chamber of the type that we have, which has been the result of the slow processes of time and not the work of a handful of constitution makers, a thing which I believe to be really representative but not directly elected by any popular vote. Such a Second Chamber must necessarily have its powers strictly limited. I believe that the Parliament Act has increased the prestige of the House of Lords, because it has done much to remove from it a certain atmosphere of popular suspicion.
The second matter which is before the House in this Debate is the scheme of House of Lords reform which, about a fortnight ago, startled the breakfast tables of this country. It was promulgated by a distinguished member of His Majesty's Government. It was blessed at once by other distinguished members. It is true that as the days passed the benedictions became more tepid. Some of them, like inverted Balaams, came to bless and remained to deprecate and modify. That scheme went to the country blessed by high authority, and the ordinary man in the country could only come to one con 1312 clusion. He believed that, though it might not be the direct policy, the immediate policy, yet it represented the ideal of the Conservative party.
The Prime Minister to-day has not sketched a detailed plan of reform. He has merely argued the case for reform. With the larger part of what he said, I am sure every Member on this side of the House is in full agreement. But I have one difficulty. If I understand him aright, he regards the scheme promulgated a fortnight ago as a reasonable basis for discussion. I desire to speak with all the modesty and deference which is fitting in one who is so new to the Debates in this House, but I would earnestly urge upon him the view that, before any serious, reform can be undertaken, the Lord Chancellor's scheme must be got out of the road. It seems to those who think with me, and they are not few, that that scheme cannot be a basis of discussion, because we regard it, not merely as inopportune, not merely as impracticable but as being definitely wrong and dangerous in principle, and a contradiction of the fundamentals of the Conservative creed.
I see two main difficulties in the scheme. My first difficulty concerns the composition of the reformed House of Lords. The scheme proposed will, of course, not satisfy those who object to bi-cameral government altogether. It will not satisfy those who reject the hereditary principle. It is designed as a compromise, something to make the present system a little more logical, a little more defensible. I do not deny that, judged by a narrow academic logic, there are many anomalies in the House of Lords. But so there are in every one of our institutions. We have never objected to things anomalous and logically indefensible, provided they work. The House of Lords, as at present constituted, is not a mechanism which can easily be tinkered with. It is an institution, the result of the slow growth of time, and its merits are those acquired only by such an evolutionary process. Can it seriously be denied that our way of forming a Second Chamber is in practice more satisfactory than the nervous, jealous, irritable, self-conscious, insecure, and, because insecure, domineering Second Chambers which politicians in other countries have created out of the void?
1313 We are told that the hereditary principle is unpopular. I wonder if that is really so. In any case, Lord Cave's scheme does not get rid of the hereditary principle. It only skims the cream from it, the argument, apparently, being that while the peer who attends to his duties and whose name appears frequently in the Press is not unpopular, the honest man who rarely appears at Westminster is anathema to the British public. I wonder if what is called the backwoodsman is really unpopular with the ordinary man. He may be infrequent in his attendance on his Parliamentary duties, but he may be very close to the life of the country. No one who lives in a rural district can deny the amount of good public work often done, and the very real respect and popularity often gained by men who never appear in the House of Lords. They may not be intellectuals. Are they any the worse for that? Why should ambition mock their homely toil? They are not ardent politicians, but they commend themselves the more to a country, the large proportion of whose inhabitants are not ardent politicians.
The House of Lords, as it stands today, seems to me a most remarkable repository of talent and knowledge. I see no objection to having a large reservoir of peers who very rarely appear at Westminster. The strength of the House of Lords is that it represents at present almost every interest, almost every avocation, almost every branch of knowledge, and, since its recent copious dilutions, almost every social grade. It is a most curious microcosm of the life of this country, and, therefore, it seems to me, to have admirable qualities for the work of revising and criticising. If the providence which watches over us has given us this kind of Second Chamber, why tamper with it? Why should we give up the creation of eight centuries in favour of the work of a few hurried and hustled gentlemen in the year 1927? I doubt very much if thereby you would increase its efficiency. I can imagine a House of Lords reformed on the most austere intellectual basis which would be far less efficient. It is notorious that there may be a dangerous collective un- 1314 wisdom, and a dense corporate stupidity in bodies, every member of which is a distinguished man.
We are told that the present system is unfair to the Labour party, that the Labour party on their return to power will be embarrassed by finding in the House of Lords so few men who adhere to their political creed. I confess that the Labour party does not seem to me to be very grateful to the Government for its tender consideration for its welfare. In any case, that embarrassment would continue under Lord Cave's scheme. It seems to me that the embarrassment would continue and be inevitable in any Second Chamber, however constituted. Surely it would be better to put the onus on the Labour party of meeting this difficulty when they return to power. I have no doubt that they have in their ranks a number of patriots who would be willing to be sacrificial lambs on the altar of public duty. I hope they will not be too hasty in their disclaimers, for remember that political orientations do not endure for ever, and that the wheel of time moves fast. The Liberal party, when it was triumphant in this House, was embittered because it had so few Members in the House of Lords; but the time was to come—the time has come—when that great party is more adequately represented in the Upper than in the Lower Chamber. I can imagine that the day may yet come when the last supporters of a discredited, antiquated, and almost forgotten creed called Socialism will be a small group of Noble Lords deriving their titles from various spots in the Clyde valley.
I see no practical advantage in the changes proposed under this head, and I see very real practical disadvantages. I strongly object to the principle which is behind it. It is an attempt to rationalise, to make more logical, to make less anomalous one of our institutions. But we have never worried about that question. The one question which our practical-minded people have always asked has been: Does it work? Hon. Members may remember the famous words of Edmund Burke:The old building stands well enough, though part Gothic, part Grecian, part Chinese, till an attemept be made to square it into uniformity. Then, indeed, it may come down upon our heads altogether in much uniformity of ruin.1315 If we once give in to the minor intellectual and attempt to rationalise our politics entirely, we may end in very deep waters. Take democracy, which is based, as we all agree, upon the doctrine of majority rule. Does anyone seriously argue in favour of what has been described as the plenary inspiration of the odd man? On a narrow logic, I can see an unanswerable case made out against democratic majority rule. It has been done to admiration by Signor Mussolini and his followers in Italy. Those of my Friends opposite who have toyed with the rather dreary literature published by the Bolshevist party before the Russian Revolution will remember with what acumen and sublety the followers of Lenin demolished the so-called democratic creed. I remain a democrat, because I do not think that that kind of argument matters. The British Empire from first to last has been illogical and anomalous, and if at any time we had attempted to make it a logical structure, we should have smashed it to pieces. The political genius of our countrymen lies in the fact that they can tolerate anomalies, that they can respect anomalies which are deep-rooted and close to the life of the country, and that they can make them work. The British Constitution seems to me like a pin-cushion, stuck full of the thin ends of wedges, which the common sense of our people has refrained from driving further in.
My second difficulty is far more fundamental and far more important. The Lord Chancellor's scheme proposes to take the powers and composition of a reformed House of Lords altogether out of the Parliament Act. It proposes at the same time to abolish the power of the Crown to create Peers at the request of the Government of the day. That must happen. If you limit the number of Peers it is bound to happen. The result is that the House of Lords, on this scheme, will become a permanent and unchallengable corporation. I think that is a most dangerous doctrine. The proposal is not new in our history. Hon. Members will remember that it occurred in the Peerage Bill of 1718, a Whig Measure, which was defeated by the strong good sense of Sir Robert Walpole. What does it involve? It means that we 1316 take an important part of our Constitution and give it the rigidity of a written document, a thing which is not only repugnant to Conservatism but wholly alien to the tradition of our public life. What is the argument used in support of this startling change? It is the fear of some future revolutionary intention of some future Government. I do not belive that there is any worse cant talked in our public life to-day than this cant about revolution, whether it is used by those who hanker after it or by those who fear it. I have read catalogues of political enormities compiled by noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen which they envisage as possibilities of the future, and which this extraordinary proposal is designed to prevent. I am as credulous and as imaginative as most men, but my imagination and my credulity cannot rise to these apocalyptic heights. But suppose there was any such danger of revolution, how could any paper barrier prevent it? There will be no revolution, no constitutional revolution, in Britain until the great bulk of the British people resolutely desire it, and if that desire is ever present what Statute can bar the way?
I have greatly trespassed on the patience of hon. Members, but, if I have not altogether exhausted the indulgence which this House grants to one addressing it for the first time, I ask leave to make one further and final remark. Up till the 17th century there was a doctrine very generally held in England, the doctrine that the true Sovereign was not the monarch, was not Parliament, but was what they called the law fundamental; those unwritten rules which hold society together and which can only be changed to society's destruction. That was the creed of great men—Sir Edward Coke, John Selden and Sir Walter Raleigh. After the Restoration it tended to fall into abeyance, when the doctrine of the legislative sovereignty of Parliament became the accepted creed. It disappeared, but it did not die. It is still sound doctrine; it is still the basis of our British polity. Just as there are certain things which no civilised country can do and yet retain its claim to civilisation, so there are certain things which Britain cannot do and remain Britain. That is the law fundamental; that is the true barrier against foolish and perilous change, the inherited political aptitude of our people, what our greatest political thinker 1317 described as the "ancient, inbred integrity, honesty, good nature and good humour of the people of Britain." I should be sorry indeed if in any fleeting moment of pedantry or of panic we were false to what is the first principle not only of the Conservative party but of the British Constitution.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I find myself specially fortunate that it has fallen to my lot to have the opportunity of congratulating the hon. Member who has just sat down upon making so brilliant, so wise, and so eloquent a maiden speech. The hon. Member has charmed us many a time in our leisure hours, but he has not only charmed but enlightened us to-day in our business hours, and it is a real piece of good fortune to the House of Commons that he should have come here in time to deliver a speech so sagacious and so full of good counsel at a time which may well be the parting of the ways in the history of the British Parliament.
The Prime Minister was good enough to say that he commended these proposals to examination and ventilation in the country. It is surely rather remarkable, when he is so anxious to secure ventilation for his project, that he denies an examination to the House of Commons whose rights and privileges are so fundamentally affected. He has put us in the position, as was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, of having to seek a Vote of Censure as the only means of expressing our repudiation of these proposals. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition, that it is not the best means of securing an examination, but we had no other course open, and I am grateful to the Opposition for providing us with the one opportunity which enables us to examine these proposals in the House of Commons before they go to the country. The Prime Minister has given us a very summarised account of the history which preceded this project. I should like to add one or two episodes and instances which are vital to a consideration of the problem.
I agree that you cannot examine any proposals that come before the House of Commons in this vital matter without also examining the history of previous efforts to settle the matter. Every previous 1318 effort to reform the House of Lords has come to grief. That is the one outstanding fact which ought to warn Governments not to touch the problem—I am including the Government of which I was the head, because that is part of the story. I will take, first, the Government of which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I were Members, and I believe also that the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) was also a member—I mean the Campbell-Bannerman Government. The first attempt made by the Campbell-Bannerman Government to deal with the relations of the two Houses was the appointment of a Committee with a view to examining the whole problem. This Committee came to the decision and reported in favour of reform on the basis of a considerable reduction in the number of the members of the House of Lords. My recollection is that there was no introduction of the elective principle into that first recommendation of what is known as the Ripon Committee. There were to be certain nominations, and efforts were to be made to secure representation of various views.
When that came before the Cabinet—I do not know whether it is a secret or nor—that very wise and sagacious old Scotsman, under whom I had the honour of serving as a Cabinet Minister for the first time, said "If you attempt to reform that Chamber you will fail. You will satisfy no one. Far and away the best plan is not to attempt anything in the nature of reform, but to do something in the way of adjusting the relations so as to secure the right of the Commons ultimately to prevail." And the project of the Parliament Act was entirely his advice. Everything that has happened since has confirmed the wisdom of the advice he gave us in 1906, and it is practically the advice given by another distinguished member of the same race to the House of Commons to-day. Repeated attempts have been made to reform; and in the Parliament Act there is a Preamble, not fairly quoted by Lord Birkenhead, which committed the Liberal Government of that day to a reform of the House of Lords not on a more popular basis but on a popular basis, which is a different thing. What happened then? We appointed Committee after Com 1319 mittee, that is Mr. Asquith, who was then the head of the Government, did, and various efforts were made.
No project could be put together which commended itself to the judgment of any body of men who examined it. There were efforts to make a popular chamber, election by groups of Members of the House of Commons, election by municipalities, but after each attempt we came to the conclusion that it would only make things much worse. Now I come to the proposals quoted by the Prime Minister, the proposals of the Coalition Government of which I was the head. I would remind him that the first step we took was to appoint a purely non-party conference to examine it, and I think the Government should have taken that step before they brought forward these proposals. They should have made some effort to secure unanimity in this respect. The Committee which the Coalition Government set up contained representatives of every party. It contained representatives of the Conservative party, of the Independent Liberal party, of the Labour party and of the Nationalist party. It was presided over by Lord Bryce, and the recommendations of that Committee, which were the result of a conference between all parties, were practically unanimous. Lord Loreburn and Lord Sydenham were the only representatives who dissented.
May I point out that the Prime Minister, following Lord Birkenhead—and I only want to say one word about this, but since the Prime Minister has raised it I am bound to put him right—said that they were practically the same as the present proposals. May I recall one fact. When those proposals were submitted to the House of Lords they were turned down with complete unanimity by the House of Peers. There was not an independent peer who got up and supported them. Lord Salisbury and all the peers who are now recommending these proposals were opposed to them. The present proposals, on the other hand, have received the same unanimous commendation from the House of Lords. If they were practically the same, the House of Lords did not think so at any rate. There was this vital difference, a matter of the greatest moment, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out in his 1320 speech—that when you came to the question of the determination of what a money Bill was, the House of Commons had a majority on that Committee. You may say that the House of Commons would not have appointed men all of one party, but, unless I am very much mistaken, I cannot conceive any Ministry letting that Joint Committee be appointed without having an assurance beforehand, after discussions with those responsible for the House of Lords, that they would have a, majority upon it. If they denied that, if they refused that, the only course for the House of Commons to take would be to appoint men who were all of one way of thinking, unless they ensured that they had a majority. That is a very important matter.
What matters here is that we are perfectly satisfied with the present arrangement by which Mr. Speaker decides. I would point out that the Speaker of the House of Commons, at any rate in recent times, has never been a party appointment. The Speaker who has decided most of these questions was a Conservative. He was a Conservative, chosen by the Conservative party, and when the Liberals came into power they retained him in office. That is the course which has been adopted with regard to every Speaker, certainly during the last generation or two—that the Speaker of the House of Commons ceases to be a party nominee or a party functionary, and his business traditionally and historically has been to stand up for the liberties and rights of the House of Commons. He would have had to exercise that function of standing up for the liberties of the House of Commons had there been no Parliament Act. On questions of privilege, when the House of Lords exceeds its privilege, it is the Speaker of the House of Commons who declares that it is a breach of privilege. Therefore, he is there by virtue of the fact that he is "the champion of the rights of the Commons of England," to use the old phrase. That is Why he is there. If it were wise and he desired to have a Committee in order to assist him in coming to a conclusion upon very difficult matters, that is another question; but at any rate it is vital that upon that Committee the House of Commons should be in a majority, and that if there is finally a dispute between the nominees 1321 of the House of Lords and the Commons, to use the old phrase, "the will of the Commons shall prevail on questions of finance."
That is why there is a vital difference between the 1922 proposals and the present proposals. May I point out another which the Prime Minister read very casually? Rates are excluded from the category of money Bills. Surely that is a very vital matter. It may be a key matter. I could refer to two or three other matters of vital difference, but the point I wish to make is this: Every effort which has been made up to the present to secure the reform of the Second Chamber has broken down. The Liberal Government of 1906 attempted it when it was fresh from the country. The Asquith Government applied itself assiduously to it. I have heard a good many taunts levelled at them, that they were breaking faith with Parliament. It was not true. I knew that at that moment there were committees considering the problem, and that they had been considering it for years. You could not come to a conclusion. We appointed a very able Committee under one of the greatest constitutional lawyers of this country or of Europe, Lord Bryce. It was a very able Committee. It made recommendations. Those recommendations are not accepted to-day by any party in the House. The Coalition Government attempted it; they compromised. It was taken to the House of Lords, and the Lords rejected it. That was dropped. What has happened to the right hon. Gentleman? He has put forward proposals. He has put forward proposals that were acceptable to all the peers who turned down the 1922 proposals. But he knows what has happened to his proposals. I do not know to-day whether we are at an inquest or an amputation, or whether we are sending the patient to the country so that he shall be able to endure an operation later on, but I do not believe that anyone here imagines that we shall see the Lord Chancellor's proposals again, put into the form Of a Bill. That shows that there is some inherent difficulty in the problem, and the sooner we face that fact the better.
If the House of Commons will give me its patience, I will point out exactly what the difficulty is, having been a 1322 member of a great many Committees which have tried to solve the problem. If you choose a Second Chamber which is elected, I agree with the Prime Minister that it will have co-ordinate authority in the end; however you begin, it is bound to have co-ordinate authority with the House of Commons. A conflict between the two Houses under those conditions would paralyse business. I agree with everything that has been said about that. I do not believe it is possible for you to secure a Second Chamber which would have direct representation from the people of the country, with the right to resort to the same electorate, without imperilling the authority of this House in the end. Then you come to the other alternative of nomination. If it is nomination during the lifetime of a Parliament, that House is purely a replica of this House; it will be purely an executive committee nominated by the Government of the day. If, on the other hand, you have a nominated Chamber like that in Canada, where the nominations extend for 10 years, or I forget how many years, at any rate over two or three Parliaments—[HON. MEMBERS: "For life!"]—I was under the impression that there had been efforts to limit it, but if it is for a lifetime that makes it worse. What does that mean? It means that a Parliament and a Government, which has been dismissed by the electorate of a country, still governs, still has half the responsibility for government, and can thwart the will of the Chamber which has been chosen by the majority of the nation. I do not believe, therefore, that you are going to solve the problem by either of those two methods. That is why, whenever we came up against an effort to reform the House of Lords, it always broke down, and we fell back upon leaving this ramshackle thing in the place where it is. What I mean is, that it is not formed upon any conceivable principle at all, but, on the whole, it might work.
Now I come to the third suggestion, that we should have a purely revising Chamber, a Chamber with powers of compelling reflection under the power of revision. That is all. That is the conclusion which Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman came to in 1906—that that was the only possible method of solving this problem. He had nothing to do with 1323 the Preamble of the Parliament Act; the Parliament Act, as drafted in his day, did not include the Preamble, and if he had been there when the Act was drafted, he would not have assented to the Preamble, not because of any views he might have upon the Second Chamber, but because he knew perfectly well that in practice it would always break down. But if you are going to have a revising Chamber and a Chamber with powers of delaying and referring back a Measure for further consideration, it must have two qualifications. What are they? The first is that it must be a competent body. The second is that it must be an impartial body. Take the question of competence. I do not know how many peers the Prime Minister suggests should constitute his new House of Lords. I take only the declaration of Lord Salisbury. Lord Salisbury's declaration was that the majority must be hereditary peers. Quite frankly, are there 200 hereditary peers who, by training, by experience or by mind, have the necessary qualifications for revising legislation that is sent up from the House of Commons? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] Not 200, not 200 with the experience. You might have 50, but they would be a minority in the Chamber. After all, the hereditary principle, whatever may be said for it, is not a principle upon which you run business. In business the hereditary principle has the check of the Bankruptcy Laws, but here what is proposed is that the hereditary principle should have a guarantee and that the nation should run the risk of bankruptcy.
I agree with the hon. Member who spoke last that the perils of revolution are exaggerated. They would come only if there were, as the Leader of the Opposition said, a constant denial of redress from the House of Lords of evils which the Commons of this country wanted to see remedied. But that is the danger of this particular proposal and I come, therefore, to the second point. What is essential is not merely that it should be competent; it should be impartial. I come to a statement made by a Minister. The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs was sent to a meeting of the National Union of Conservative Associations. He was sent there to quell 1324 the storm. He was launched like a coracle on to the waves, and I must say he received what was known then as "sympathetic support" from the waters. Nothing amazes one political party more than the kind of people who carry influence in another political party. However, the right hon. Gentleman was very successful and he quelled the storm, but he did so by means of a declaration to which I call the attention of the House, because it is vital and fundamental. He said it was essential to a strong House of Lords that it should represent fairly all views. What does he mean by that? Does he mean that all views should have equal representation, or that all parties should have an equal chance of stating their case, but that only one party should have a chance of securing a verdict? That is the test of reform.
The test of reform is that it should be impartial. Will the Labour party or the Liberal party have the same chance, in proportion to the numbers which they represent in this country, of having their views and their case presented in the House of Lords, as the Conservative party, or does the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs mean this: "We will see that each of these parties have their advocates there. We will see they have the best and the choicest advocates they can pick, but the tribunal must be a packed one"? That is the real crux of the question of whether the desire for reform is genuine or not. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to reply later on, I would ask him what is his view with regard to that matter. Does he contemplate the possibility of the House of Lords deciding these questions with either a Labour or a Liberal majority? If you do not give an equal chance to every party, then any reform is a mockery and I say, quite frankly, I would far rather have the present system exactly as it is. After all it is an august scaffold upon which progressive Bills can deliver their last sentences.
If we are going to send these proposals to the country for consideration and for ventilation, there are other things I should like to have ventilated even in the present system. You must not merely consider one side of the matter. I wonder how many Members of the House realise the extent to which even the present system is loaded against reform. If they 1325 are going to re-open the question—and it is they who are re-opening it and not those on this side of the House—it will have to be re-opened all round. See what it means. The Parliament Act never carried a Measure through without difficulty. Why? There is no doubt at all it is a tremendous handicap to have to carry your Bill through Parliament in a first Session, in a second Session and in a third Session. I cannot imagine Conservatives raising this question at all, and I say so in all sincerity. John Bright's proposition was, "One bite for the House of Lords." You have two. What does it mean? A Labour Parliament or a Liberal Parliament is a triennial Parliament. A Conservative Parliament is a quinquennial Parliament. The Prime Minister to-day has said, "I am going to send these things to the country to be examined. If my party agrees upon any proposition, then I shall legislate next year." That is substantially what he means. No Labour Prime Minister could say so in a fourth Session. No Liberal Prime Minister could say so. If a Conservative Prime Minister proposes it here, it goes through there. But in a fourth Session of Parliament neither a Labour nor a Liberal Prime Minister could propose anything except with the consent of the House of Lords.
At the present moment it is a handicap. All those who were in the Parliament of 1910 know what a handicap it was. You had Sessions of Parliament cluttered with tasks that had already been accomplished in the previous Session. A Bill which had passed in one Session had to go through in a second Session. You could not put it through by a Resolution which only took one day. You had to give a certain amount of time to it. In the second Session you had to give a good deal of time. In the third Session you had to give less time, but still it occupied time. All that interferes with the work of the Liberal or Labour party. That is a handicap which at the present moment does not embarrass the Conservative Government at all. The Constitution, as it is now, with the Parliament Act, leans against reforming parties. The leaning tower of Pisa is not a model for a defensive stronghold, but the architect who proposes that it should lean still further in the same direction deserves to have rooms in the top storey. I am 1326 not sure which of them ought to occupy that flat. Judging from the newspapers, I am afraid my friend Lord Birkenhead would be somewhere about there. If you are going to re-open this question, as I say, it must be reopened all round. It is a handicap at the present moment, but I agree with the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) in thinking that the whole of this agitation, and the whole of the pressure behind it—whether behind this Government or the Asquith Government or the Coalition Government—is all based on a fundamental misconception of the character of our people. The idea that we are dealing with a revolutionary population that will suddenly, and without warning, come to the conclusion that it must pass some subversive legislation, is not consistent with the history of this country.
May I point out what is happening. There are three parties in this House—at least three. I invite the attention of the House to this proposition. There are some of us who have been in politics a great many years, and there are some of us who have been engaged in trying to persuade the people of this country to accept great changes—whether Home Rule, or Protection or Socialism. Let me ask those who have been engaged in any one of those tasks whether they have found it very easy to persuade the people of this country to rush at the great changes which they were proposing, and which they were firmly convinced would bring inestimable benefits to the country? The Liberal party in the main has been responsible for most of the changes in the franchise. I mean the initial agitation came from them, but the actual accomplishment, the final coping stone, is to come from a Conservative Prime Minister. But it has taken 100 years of agitation to get as far as we have got. I will take Protection and I will take Socialism. Here are two great parties in the State with enormous influence, with great organisations, and both of them with the kind of prima facie case that appeals to the ordinary mind. The Protectionist party can point out the fact that, whereas our goods are not allowed into foreign countries, the goods of those particular countries have a free market here. They can point to the fact that industries are suffering. They have the advantage of the natural prejudice against foreigners. But how long has it 1327 taken them to get in as far as they have got? Eighty years. They have had two great leaders, one of them a great democratic leader, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, a man with exceptional gifts of persuading the democracy. No man of our generation had the same gift of appealing to a great popular jury. They had Mr. Disraeli, probably one of the most brilliant minds ever placed at the service of the State. For 80 years this has gone on, and they have not arrived yet, and this is in a country where there is a danger of sudden changes!
Take my hon. Friends of the Labour party. I remember, 40 years ago, the Fabian Essays, written by very brilliant men. They were an extraordinarily attractive presentation of the case, and I remember the impression they made in this country. That is 40 years ago. They have, if they will allow me to say so, probably the most effective organisation in the country for presenting a case to popular audiences; they have means of training speakers possessed by neither the Conservative party nor the Liberal party; they have their training in trade unions and otherwise; and yet, in spite of that, with a programme that has a great prima facie appeal—great unemployment, great inequalities in wealth, and the fact that they can point out, here and there, ghastly failures in the existing system—in spite of that, even last time, with an electorate four-fifths of which was working class—men working with their hands, I mean—they had only one-third of the electorate. Although I do not like to make predictions—I am too old an electioneering hand to draw conclusions from by-elections to-day as to what will happen two years hence—I would venture to predict that there will not be a majority at the next Election for a Socialist State. What does that mean? They have taken 40 or 50 years of perfect organisation and very skilful propaganda, and hon. Members opposite have taken 80 years, and they are going to have a Second Chamber to prevent the conservative people of this country, who move slowly, who hate moving at all—it is one of the difficulties of unemployment—they are going to manipulate the Second Chamber, raise a great Constitutional crisis, in addition to others which will be 1328 manufactured, in order to prevent this people, this headlong, impetuous people, from rushing into unconsidered changes. Utter nonsense!
The vast majority of people do not want to change at all; they prefer to be left alone. Anybody who has tried to persuade them to change knows that perfectly well. But do not forget that, when they make up their minds to change, they resent intensely the people who prevent them doing so, and if, after years of consideration, they decide to act on the advice of hon. Members here, or there, or wherever they may sit, once they make up their minds, anybody who interferes with them will soon know it. I agree with the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities. If the people of this country made up their minds to get a thing done, and you had a Second Chamber with all these safeguards, if you had a House of Lords with all these safeguards, they would just be scorched into cinder—every safeguard. But there is a danger, and I exemplify it by one illustration. The danger is, with a partisan assembly, especially if you increase its powers, that every time a change is proposed by either this party or that party, in the heat of controversy you get exaggerated language often used, and, what is still worse, exaggerated ideas formed, as to what the proposal is. That is not confined to one party, but applies to every party in the same way. What is the result? You will get this partisan assembly, especially if its interests are affected, saying. "Ah, this is subversive; this is dangerous; it is essential in the interests of the community that we should throw it out." The moment you do that, in order to avert an imaginary peril, you create a real one. I remember the Budget of 1909. I had a good deal to do with it. Let hon. Members opposite think what they like about those proposals. The merits have nothing to do with this particular argument which I am putting. Let them think, if they like, that it was a bad scheme, let them think it was an ineffective scheme, but let me point out what was said at the time by a very distinguished statesman. He said, "This is the end of property; it is the end of religion." I do not know where religion came in, except in the Death Duties. "In fact," he said, "it is the end of all things." He was against throwing it out, 1329 but his language incited others, less intelligent than himself, to reject it. What happened? They raised the most savage Constitutional conflict that I have seen in this country. I have been in many by-elections and General Elections, but I have never seen anything like the fierce passions that were roused in 1910, and had it not been that there were very moderate men in charge of it at that time, you might have had a real revolution, merely in order to prevent—no, it was done for a political purpose, there is no doubt at all; it was done in order to be able to force an issue on Tariff Reform. That is the danger of the partisan assembly, and, therefore, I hope that the Prime Minister, whatever he may do with others, will stop thinking about it altogether.
It is a mistake. You are not going to have a division in this country between those who have and those who have not. There are three parties in this country, and they all contain representatives of those who possess property and of those who possess none. The Conservative party have men of wealth, and they have men living in great distress voting for them. The Labour party also have both classes, and if they continue making the very moderate speeches I have heard sometimes, they will probably have more and more men of property attaching themselves to them. It is the same with the Liberal party. You have not got a division of that kind. If you had, your paper Constitutions would be no good; they would be of no more use than the Constitution in Russia was when you had a conflict between those who were right down and those who seemed to have all the paper power behind them. If you are going to have a change, the old traditional right of the Commons of England to control finance must remain. The Prime Minister gave us, if I may say so, false history. It was not the Barons who won those liberties. What won the liberties of England was the fact that the Commons had the purse and that they insisted on having the power of it. That was the beginning of it; for that, they have fought for centuries, and if the Prime Minister goes on with these proposals, they will fight again for that power.
§ Sir ROBERT SANDERS
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Car 1330 narvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) devoted a large portion of his speech to showing the dangers of the present system, but concluded by advising this House and Government to do nothing to guard against those dangers. I want to deal first of all with a point that was made by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) in regard to the Government having no mandate for dealing with this question. I do not complain of that phrase being put into the Motion. It is a cry that is always raised by an Opposition. As a matter of fact, I think a mandate means not a declaration by the persons who are supposed to seek it, but a declaration by those who send them to Parliament. The Conservative party have been giving this mandate to their representatives for years past. At every meeting that they have held they have always passed, and generally unanimously, a resolution urging the Ministers of the day to deal with this very question. But even if they had not, I maintain that this question of a mandate is really one of those elements in the British Constitution which has been more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Take the question, under a Conservative Prime Minister, of the repeal of the Corn Laws. That was done without any mandate, but when the party that repealed them had actually gone to the country and pledged itself to maintain them. Take another very great Constitutional question, namely, the question of woman's franchise. Not only had the Parliament which passed it no mandate on that subject, but at the election in which those Members were returned, I think it would have been found that the great majority of them had committed themselves against woman's suffrage.
That is one case where there was a Conservative Prime Minister, and another case where there was a Liberal Prime Minister. The Labour party may say it does not apply to them. Had the Labour party when they were for a brief period in power any mandate from the country to guarantee a Russian loan? Yet that was what they proposed to do. Not only had they no mandate for it, but when they went to the country, I believe that there was nothing in the whole of their policy which did more towards bringing about their defeat than 1331 the fact that they were offering to guarantee that loan. You may talk about the Zinovieff letter, but that came so late that in many districts no one knew really anything about it. What did have an enormous effect upon most of the electors was the proposal of the Labour party to guarantee a loan to Russia. It may quite possibly be that a mandate from the electors is a very desirable feature of the constitution. I do not say it is not. I think myself that it is, but if you are going to admit that principle, you must have somebody to enforce it, and that is where I say the need of a Second Chamber comes in. It would be a desirable part of the Constitution if we had a Second Chamber strong enough to see that legislation of a heroic kind should not go through until the people had had a chance of pronouncing opinion upon it. In that form I admit the doctrine of the mandate, and I should be only too glad to see something done to carry it out.
As to the proposals, I have been asked—because I am Chairman of the Committee in the House of Commons on the subject—if I have had anything to do with them. I want to say quite plainly that I have had nothing at all to do with them. They were an absolute surprise to me, and as great a surprise to my Noble Friend who introduced his Motion in another place, and to those other Noble Lords who were acting with him. It is quite untrue to state, as has been stated in some newspapers, that what hapened was a put-up job. My proposals on the subject, of whatever importance they are, would be quite different from the proposals which the Government have put forward. I heard what the Prime Minister said, and what was said in another place, as to the elective system. Personally, I would like to see the House of Lords indirectly elected. I believe that works well in France—no one ever mentions France when speaking of the Second Chamber—where, as a matter of fact, the Senate is one of the most useful and important parts of their legislative machinery. It has worked well in France, and it has always seemed to me, at all events, that the best solution of the problem—and it is a very difficult problem—is that we should have an elective Second Chamber, and when 1332 there is trouble between the two Houses, it should be settled by a referendum, and by appealing to the opinion of the country.
I quite grant that you are not likely to get such proposals at present, but I do think it is a great thing that this matter should be brought prominently before the people of the country. I am not nervous of that in the least. I believe when this case is properly put before the people of the country, it will be more and more realised that our present system is indefensible, and that a rational scheme of reform would be brought about. I am ready to welcome this as rather a meagre instalment towards what we want.
I see an Amendment on the Order Paper urging the necessity for agreement on the subject. Agreement on this subject I do not think you are ever likely to get. It is one of those subjects about which every man holds his own opinion, and the cocksureness as to the efficiency of the remedy is in inverse proportion to the age of the holder. I should be only too glad to see any measure of agreement on the subject, but my own opinion is that it is so hard to get those who are discussing this subject to discuss it really on its merits, and not simply on the question of how it would affect the chances at the next election. I believe the real reason why a good many people are afraid of it is that they are afraid there is great popular feeling against any such alteration as is proposed. I fought the 1910 election, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has just been speaking, on the question of the House of Lords rejecting his Budget, and I turned out the Liberal and got the largest majority that was ever obtained in that constituency under the old suffrage. From what I hear, the idea that there is any strong feeling in the country against the sort of proposals—I do not say in every detail—that the Government are making, is quite wrong. I do not think that in our party, at all events, they are likely to be in the very least unpopular.
As to the proposals themselves, they are divided into two parts. The first is with regard to the provision as to Money Bills. There is the provision as to how a Money Bill should be dealt with, and the provision that rating should not be 1333 included under the category of Money Bills. Those proposals and the proposals for the constitution of the Committee which was to deal with that are all included in the Bryce Report—a Report which was agreed to by men of all parties. As to the composition of the House of Lords, possibly hon. Members, and especially hon. Members of my party, wish to see some 400 or 500 Peers remaining qualified at any time to take part in the Debates of the Second Chamber, but, as a matter of fact, never doing so. I think that is a futile proceeding, but if that be their view, I am not going to quarrel with hon. Members of my party.
As to nomination, that is not a form of alteration in the constitution of the Second Chamber that I myself should advocate, but in the Bryce Committee, it was apparent to most of us, it was by nomination, or, as he called it, by selection, that Lord Bryce himself, with all his great authority, thought the best means of making an alteration in the composition of the Second Chamber could be found. One or two speakers, and especially the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan)—whose brilliant speech we were all so glad to hear—have urged upon the Government that it is much better to leave this question alone. I doubt it. I do not think the question can be left alone indefinitely. It has got to be dealt with sooner or later, and if it is going to be dealt with, I would very much sooner have it dealt with by a Conservative Government than by a Government of any other composition. It is bound to come on sooner or later, and it may possibly be sooner. If the Government drop this question altogether, I think it very possible they may find that some Bill which a Conservative Government send up may be rejected by the House of Lords, and a crisis may arise in that way. If it does not arise in that way, it is almost inevitable that it will happen if and when a Labour Government get into power. That, I think, is generally recognised. I want this question to be dealt with when it can be dealt with calmly and in a sensible manner. I do not want it dealt with by an ad hoc Measure, as a solution in a hurry to provide a way out of a crisis, which, I think, is sure to occur sooner or later.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
It is probable that no speech made during the course of this Debate will be more welcome on these benches than the speech to which we have just listened, for the right hon. Baronet, with his customary acumen, has discovered that in these proposals the Conservative party has got an issue on which they can sweep the country. Long may he prosper in that view. My only hope is that he will persuade the Government that this is an issue which they may take to the electors with every prospect of success. But whatever the views of the right hon. Baronet may be, they afford a very strange contrast to the other speeches we have heard from those benches, including that of the Prime Minister.
To the right hon. Baronet, the proposals now advanced are a feeble installment of Conservative policy. To the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan), these proposals ought to be immediately withdrawn, as they were a fundamental contradiction of Conservative policy. In fact, we find the Conservative benches in a very strange condition on this occasion. When this Censure Motion was put on the Paper, we expected to be faced with a united army, an army in battle array, on the benches opposite in support of their proposals. In this Debate we have witnessed the ignoble retreat of a broken and divided party. What has happened since, with so much trumpeting and so much sounding of cymbals and brass in another place, these proposals were introduced? There has been a revolt in the Conservative ranks on an unparalleled scale. What the "Morning Post" described as a "Soviet" has intervened—a very respectable Soviet headed by the hon. Member for one of the divisions of Plymouth. Another Ministerial organ has referred to this revolt as a "Y.M.C.A.," which, I understand, is a reverent tribute to the evangelical character of that group of young Conservatives, a distinguished Member of which I see sitting on the benches opposite, namely, the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills).
§ Mr. MOSLEY
Well, young Conservatives have perennial youth. Their credibility reaches to eternity. But whether this revolt be correctly described as a Soviet or a Y.M.C.A—and in moments of excitement Conservatism falls very easily into these minor confusions of terms—it has produced a most extraordinary effect on the Government. It is quite clear to anyone who reads the speeches in another place, to which I have devoted some study, that these were advanced as quite definite proposals, to which the Government were formally committed, and by which, Lord Birkenhead said, the Government were bound by every consideration of political pledge and of public honour.
In the light of those declarations, what are we to make of the performance of the Prime Minister this afternoon? The Conservative party is suffering from internal convulsions, and the Prime Minister administered one of his well-known soporifics. I very much doubt whether it will work. He began by telling us that the Cabinet had sanctioned the proposals. He told us that a period of gestation amounting to no less than a year had previously taken place, that these proposals had been profoundly considered, and that they were produced as the considered judgment of the Government. Then what happened? He tells us he was very sad because these proposals, which had been considered for a year, are not regarded as entirely nebulous proposals. It is, apparently, the highest ambition of the Prime Minister to be regarded as nebulous. It used to be honesty; it is now nebulosity. Thus do we proceed on the triumphant path of Conservative government! Tonight he positively derided the suggestion that this Bill would be presented in the form of the proposals which the Cabinet considered. He said they were just tentative, nebulous proposals, thrown out in order to secure criticism and ventilation. I venture to believe that he will get all, and more, of the ventilation he requires. That ventilation will turn into a draught which will blow the Conservative party from power. Has there ever been a more miserable performance of this gelatine Government than that which we have witnessed this afternoon? After the pomp and circum 1336 stance of the Peers' Debate, the ignoble balancing trick of the Prime Minister and the precipitate retreat of his followers.
This is no light and idle matter; these are pledges and commitments of the Conservative party. What were we informed by Lord Salisbury in another place? He told us, as the right hon. Baronet has just told us that a resolution was passed just before the last General Election by the National Union of Conservative Associations which, in the words of Lord Salisbury, went a great deal further than the modest proposals which are now laid before the country. In the view of Lord Salisbury even these proposals scarcely fulfil the commitments to the party. He was doubtful whether they were going far enough to fulfil their pledges. Now even these modest proposals are thrown over for all time, given to the wolves of the Soviet to be devoured. Lord Birkenhead was even more specific. Knowing the political integrity of Lord Birkenhead, knowing his personal character, who can doubt that this painful surrender will be followed by the resignation of Lord Birkenhead? Lord Birkenhead said:I say that had it been honourably avoidable, had it been possible for us consistently with our pledges, our obligations and our duty to avoid or postpone this constitutional issue, I for one would gladly so have avoided and so have postponed it.This afternoon the Prime Minister's one concern about this constitutional issue was whether this stone of Sisyphus, when rolled up the hill, would roll back and do him any harm. Is this his conception of the honourable obligations to which the Conservative Government are giving execution? Lord Birkenhead addressed a positively impassioned appeal to his followers to live up to their obligations and their pledges. He said:Are they quite sure that. … exposed to the risks which the Noble Duke"—of Northumberlanddid not exaggerate"—he never does exaggeratethat it would have been possible for sane and prudent custodians of our public affairs, entitled by their public declarations to deal with this matter and expected by their supporters in the country to carry out these pledges, to let the years pass by and lay aside the opportunities of office with the admission that we had failed where were were most deeply committed?1337 It was not necessary for the years to pass by. Only nine days passed by before Lord Birkenhead wrote to the "Times" referring to the "late" proposals of the Government, and the Prime Minister admitted this afternoon, to use the language of Lord Birkenhead, that the Government were only too ready and too happy to fail where they were most deeply committed. We cannot feel surprised if the right hon. Baronet who has just spoken, and if the Duke of Northumberland whose well-known moderation was eulogised by Lord Birkenhead, should feel rather let down in this matter. In another place those debates formed a most admirable reflection of the Conservative mind. The Duke of Northumberland warned his party in the country of the danger which may be expected from letting this opportunity pass by. He referred to us on these benches as a whole party sympathising with a Powerfounded on massacre and pillage of which even Attila and Tamerlane never dreamed.Those were the considerations, reinforcing the solemn pledges of his party, which led Lord Birkenhead to say that the Duke of Northumberland had not exaggerated, and that something must be done immediately. The Duke of Northumberland performed an even greater service for the Government. He vindicated the innocent character of these proposals by referring to the absolute necessity of a strong second Chamber in order to checkthe vagaries, the follies, and, I may say, the iniquities of the Socialist party.Those are the expectations of their followers. What are the Government going to do about it? From the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon it seems they are prepared to break all their solemn pledges rather than risk execution without trial at the hands of the new Soviet in the ranks of their party. Since the Debate in the House of Lords what the Duke of Northumberland described as the old shibboleths of democracy have reasserted themselves, and I venture to say that these proposals are still-born, and are very unlikely to proceed further along the path of life. What is the position of Lord Birkenhead? That really must be one of the principal inquiries. Lord Birkenhead, who ever puts public principle 1338 before political expediency, a man who said that every consideration of pledge and of public honour bound him to this course, will at least proceed on the path ordained, and the resignation of Lord Birkenhead will be handed in to the Prime Minister this afternoon. His herioc resolve was expressed in a glowing peroration:We have reached the clear conclusion that we are entitled and bound to carry this matter forward. I am not discouraged and I shall not be discouraged by Parliamentary criticisms here or elsewhere, for with no small experience of the feelings of this country I am satisfied that we have a quarrel here which we can carry to the issue and bar of public opinion.Nine days later he seems to have decided that this great quarrel was to get no further than the bar of the Carlton Club, with which, of course, Lord Birkenhead is not nearly so familiar. But whatever be the fate of the individual Ministers who are responsible for this egregious blunder, it appears that Conservatism is at length going to cry check to the downward path upon which it has embarked. Even hon. Members opposite, even Members of the young Conservative party, could not quite stomach that third stage in the glorious trilogy of their policy, two stages of which have already been completed. The first step in the policy of the present Government was to reduce the standards of the poor in the interests of the rich. The second stage was to remove the industrial weapon by which the working class could recover what they had lost. The third stage was to remove the political instrument which was their last hope; and only at that stage, when they saw that the final execution of their designs would bring disaster to the whole fabric of the State, is the Conservative party, or a substantial element of it, crying "Halt!" to the course upon which they are embarking.
Can anybody who examines these proposals doubt for one moment that they would effectively rob the House of Commons, and the Labour party in particular, of any chance of carrying their major proposals through Parliament? The right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon that the House of Lords would have no control over finance. That may be true, but they are to decide what finance is, and the person who settles what is finance has a fairly good control over 1339 the finance itself. In this proposal to interfere with the right of the House of Commons to deal with Money Bills, the Government are endeavouring to destroy a principle which has subsisted in this country since the year 1628. That is a point which has not been brought out in this Debate. So long ago as 1628 the power of the House of Commons to control finance was recognised by the omission of any reference to the House of Lords in the preamble of Money Bills. Ever since that date, with ever-increasing success, the authority of the House of Commons over financial matters and matters of taxation has been asserted, until finally it found statutory recognition in the Parliament Act. It is that historic right, extending over centuries, which the Government propose to vary in this legislation.
What is their proposal? Their proposal is to alter the tribunal which decides what is a Money Bill, and, more than that, to alter the definition of a Money Bill. This Committee, composed of an equal number of representatives from both Houses, is, presumably, to be elected in accord with the proportional strength of parties. It is understood that with a House of Lords on an almost entirely hereditary basis the Conservative party will always have a larger majority in the House of Lords than any progressive party will have in this House. Consequently, if membership of that Committee is on a proportional basis in relation to the strength of parties, it would give Conservatism a permanent majority and a right to decide what is or is not a Money Bill. When we add to that the new definition which has been raised in these Debates, it is perfectly clear that any social legislation introduced by the Labour party would have no chance whatsoever of getting through under the two years' limit. Since the Lord's Debate we have a new definition of what is a Money Bill. The authority deciding what is a Money Bill is not only to look at the form of a Money Bill, which is precisely described in the present Parliament Act, but is also to look to the substance and the effect of a Money Bill. I trust and believe that the substance and effect of any Labour Budget will be to transfer purchasing power from the rich to the poor in some form or another, and I ask what chance has any Budget, 1340 the substance and effect of which is to tax the rich in the interests of the poor, of passing through a Committee composed in perpetuity of a majority of the Conservative party? It is perfectly clear that any social change in the direction of increased old age pensions, family allowances for mothers in respect of children, and any beneficent and far-reaching change which normally would be carried through under the auspices of a Budget as a Money Bill, would be checked and frustrated by this new provision which talks of substance and effect. It is a mockery, and this contention of the Prime Minister this afternoon that the position of the House of Commons would be quite safeguarded—
§ Mr. MOSLEY
The hon. Member for Oxford University (sir C. Oman) is only two years behind the time on this occasion; I have never known him so nearly up to date. The Act to which he alludes was passed two years ago. We are now referring to a Measure which was to have been passed next year. I am wrong; there was an interval of three years between the occasion which is troubling the mind of the hon. Member and the Measure we are now discussing. We will leave the eminent historian to consult with the eminent lecturer who sits beside him, as to the relative importance of something which happened two years ago and something which was due to happen next year. I hope they will resolve their doubts in due course and be enabled to illuminate this Debate with a disquisition not upon subjects two years old but upon the reform of the House of Lords, which we are now discussing.
It is not necessary to delve far into this matter to show, as has already been done this afternoon with extraordinary force by several speakers, that if this proposal of the Government be carried out, it would place any progressive party absolutely at the mercy of a House of Lords superior alike to a Sovereign and the House of Commons. The Prime Minister said that he would not establish a House of Lords which was a rival of the House of Commons. We never suggested that he was doing anything of the kind. He is establishing a House of Lords actually superior to the House of Commons. The 1341 merits of this case need scarcely be argued further, when we see on the Government Benches a dismay and rout which has not been witnessed in the Conservative party since the famous occasion when the Coalition Government fell through a similar event. But perhaps the issue is still in doubt; it may still be in doubt. The Prime Minister may yet be captured by either of the contending sections, and upon that internal contest in the next few months in the Conservative party depends very weighty and grave issues in this country. Always in the party opposite there has been a section of opinion which in order to entrench privileges, in order to snatch advantages, which are always illusory when matched against the will of the nation, has been ready to risk even civil strife, even to risk the whole structure of the State in the pursuit of its illusion; but, happily, in the struggles of the last century there has been a section in that party, not quite so strong as it was, which was ready to intervene on the side of reason and compromise. That element, I believe, is now weakened, and the obscurantist element, as a general rule, has been strengthened, for the simple reason that the character of the Conservative party has changed. Aristocracy has given away to plutocracy. The hereditary Samurai who on more than one occasion Wellington led from the House of Lords in order to permit the passage of reform, have passed to the land of shadows. They, at least, had the grace and the wisdom to bow to the inevitable. They are gone. Mammon rules in their place: Mammon, stiff-necked, myopic, has never had the grace or the wisdom to bend. It may well rest with the party on these benches, to teach him how to break.
Whatever be the issue of these events before this grave matter passes to its final proof, many of us will watch with interest and anxiety the struggle in the Conservative party, now proceeding, which may avert and stem grave disorder in this country. That struggle will be watched with interest by everybody who values our tradition of ordered progress. It will be watched with grave apprehension by everyone who recalls that in the past, in the stormy history of this land, quarrels very like this have passed beyond the arbitrament of reason to the decision of a sterner tribunal. That struggle in the Conservative party will be 1342 watched with solicitude by everyone who believes, as I do, or as I did believe, that we have passed beyond those primæval barbarities to an age in which the will of the people, driven by the urge of suffering, can find constitutional expression in social changes, vast but peaceable. I ask hon. Members opposite to believe that whatever happens and whatever their decision may be, those changes will come. They may come peaceably or they may come terribly, but come they will.
You cannot erect a dam of obsolescent privilege across the current of human evolution. You may change the character, as their reactionary administration has striven to change it, but you cannot arrest the advance of the tide of progress. I for one believe and hope that this great movement will become, in due course, a river in a firm bed, a river capable of carrying on a calm and steady current the freights of human happiness; a river to which may be harnessed, in due course, all the energies of our now adolescent science to lift from mankind the burdens of poverty and toil; a river which shall carry forward in serenity and dignity the noble cargo of human aspirations. That may be a conception which it is in the power of hon. Members opposite to cheek or to frustrate. It is open to them with their little measures to dam, to thwart and to change the peaceful character of this great development. It is open to them to alter the course of that river, and in doing so to create a storm and tempest that will smash its way to triumph through the wreckage of things that are, a force more powerful in its reckless and turbulent might than all the wisdom and custom of the ages. I believe sincerely and intensely that upon this issue by their decision and possibly by their votes in the near future, they may determine these great events, and I ask them to believe that by one method or another, by one course or another, the principles which they now seek to destroy shall rule in this land.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
I have listened with great interest to the whole of this Debate and I listened with pleasure, and with a greater sense of agreement than ever before, to the speech delivered by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). What struck me most about that speech 1343 was the extraordinary atmospheric effect which different conditions have upon the right hon. Gentleman. I recollect that in a speech which he delivered a few days ago at Conway he said that he went down to Wales to witness the corona but all that he saw, I understand, was the shadow of the moon and the shadow of the moon combined with the Welsh mountains, and the clouds and the sea seem to have had an extraordinary effect upon him. He said that he spoke in parables, and after a long diatribe against the House of Lords he proved to his own satisfaction that the House of Lords were responsible for the Great War. That is a gross exaggeration, to put it in no stronger terms. To-day his tone was very different, and I welcome the change.
The Vote of Censure which we have before us to-day is also couched in terms which are an exaggeration of the facts, and for that reason I think there will be no difficulty, whatever may be the opinion of various Members of the Conservative party, in recording our votes against the Vote of Censure. A good deal has been said this afternoon about the Constitution. Really, we have no Constitution in the true sense of the word, if we compare it with a written Constitution like that of the United States of America. I do not believe that a written Constitution is a real safeguard of this country. A written Constitution is too inelastic; there is no give and take in it. The only form of written Constitution which we have at this moment is the Parliament Act. I am not at all sure that far from removing us from any danger of violent upheaval in this country, a written Constitution would not actually Contribute to that end.
In regard to the proposals which were adumbrated by the Lord Chancellor in another place, I was very glad to hear the Prime Minister say to-day that they were put forward for criticism and ventilation. It is very difficult for any Member to take any strong action or any strong line against a Government of which he is a supporter, but I so firmly believe that if those proposals ever saw the light of day in the form of a Bill in this House, not only should I be compelled to speak against them but also to vote against them; and I am not speaking alone in this matter. It may be said that the House of Lords man for man is 1344 as good as this Chamber, or that any group in the House of Lords is as good as any group in this Chamber. It may be said that the House of Lords represents some of the best brains in the country. That is perfectly true. That is an argument for leaving things alone. I cannot subscribe to the idea that in the year 1927 if we are about to amend our Constitution we should maintain hereditary qualifications in order to obtain it. That appears to me to me impossible of admission. We know it cannot work, because you are going to make a brand new Constitution. That is really what it is. It is a brand new thing altogether, and therefore, I think, to preserve the hereditary qualification for membership of the House of Lords in this scheme is not one of its popular points.
I think it is possible to get a measure of agreement with regard to one of these proposals put forward by the Government, and agreement on any change in the alteration of the Constitution is one of the first things to be aimed at. I think there could be a measure of agreement reached with regard to what is known as the Speaker's Veto as to what is a Money Bill and what is not. We know quite well, Sir, that you, the occupant of the Chair, would take advice and counsel and only after great thought and consideration would give a decision as to what is or is not a Money Bill. But the responsibility is in your office, and I do not think the Chair ought to be brought into party politics, or that the responsibility should rest on the Chair. I agree with what has been said in this connection by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that in any Committee that might be set up to advise on this matter this House ought to retain its privileges, and that any Committee set up for this purpose should be composed of Members of this House and this House only.
One of the things that has struck me this afternoon is that I have not heard one Member on the other side say a single word about the abolition of the House of Lords. I cannot help thinking that hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they made up their minds on their return to office to endeavour to use the Parliament Act to abolish the House of Lords, would find that there is a very strong feeling 1345 in the country in favour of a revised Second Chamber. I think they would value the feeling which prevails, and therefore I wish it were possible that all three parties in this House could combine in order to devise a scheme. It may seem to many of us at this moment hopeless, but I do not think for that reason we ought to give up trying, and with the good will of Parliament on all sides some Constitution for a revised Second Chamber could be devised.
I heard the Prime Minister saying that an elected Second Chamber would have certain disadvantages. I agree with him. I do not care whether the Second Chamber is elected by county councils or groups in this House, the principle of election as applied to a Second Chamber is equally bad. The effect of having two elected Chambers must be a clash between them, a constant conflict of opinion which would certainly not conduce to better feeling between them or to the better conduct of the affairs of the country. I hope some way may be found to help us out of this difficulty, and I have come gradually to the conclusion that the only scheme, or rather the scheme which affords the smallest amount of objection, is a House constituted on the basis of nomination over a period of years that would gradually replace the present House of Lords. By gradually replacing the present Chamber, you will get that process of evolution which is so necessary to our national life, and by that means I think you would get the foundation of a Second Chamber in which the country would have confidence.
I have spoken in this discussion and have made these suggestions, because I would like to make my position clear, and, while I feel that I can with perfect justice register my vote against this Vote of Censure, yet, as the Prime Minister said he wanted consideration and criticism of the Government supporters and desired to have them ventilated in debate, I think it is right that we should make our position perfectly clear. I only speak for myself, of course, but I think there are others here on this side of the House who would be prepared to agree with me. But if we have a Bill introduced into this House founded on the principles underlying the proposals announced in another place the other day I should be able to do nothing but oppose it.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I listened with very great attention to the Prime Minister's speech, as I am sure every member of the House did. I waited to the end of that speech in the hope of having some elucidation of the riddle with which this House is confronted. When the proposals were made in another place with regard to the reform, so-called, of the House of Lords, they were put forward on the authority of the Government. What we wanted to know this afternoon was whether the Prime Minister stood by those proposals and was prepared to defy the oncoming tide or whether he was inclined to withdraw them. All we heard at the end of the speech, however, was that those proposals were intended to elicit criticism and ventilation, and that any Bill that was drafted in connection with those proposals would take into account the criticism delivered in this House in debating them. We have heard varying opinions from the opposite side of the House, and I think it would be extremely interesting if every Member of the Government party expressed their opinions. That is not likely to happen, but we have on the Order Paper a large number of suggestions put down in the form of Amendments, and it is perfectly clear from these that there is in the party opposite the very widest divergence of opinion. The Prime Minister said that one of the things that justified those proposals in the form in which they were was the Preamble to the Parliament Act, and the right hon. Member for Wells (Sir H. Sanders), in the words of an Amendment which is on the Paper, congratulates the Government on theirtentative proposals to reform the House of Lords, thereby carrying out the pledge contained in the Preamble of the Parliament Act.The words of the Preamble of that Act have not been read in the House this afternoon, and therefore I venture to think it would be of some service to the House if I read the following sentence from that Preamble:And whereas it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of a hereditary basis.Now this scheme which has been put forward by the Government through Lord Cave the other day does not propose to substitute for the House of Lords a 1347 Second Chamber constituted on a popular basis instead of a hereditary basis. Instead of that, it proposes to put the hereditary basis more firmly and securely into the Constitution of the House of Lords, more securely than ever, and therefore it is quite ridiculous for the Prime Minister to say that he is merely carrying out a pledge given in the Parliament Act and for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wells to congratulate him on those proposals for that reason.
Whether it is desirable for this country to be governed by one or by two Chambers may be a matter of opinion, and whether it is desirable that the Second Chamber, if there be one, should be constituted on a hereditary or on a popular basis may also be a matter of opinion. But I think there can be no question that a Second Chamber predominantly based on the hereditary principle, and therefore with its roots in the past should not in this twentieth century have its powers increased and should not be entrenched in a more impregnable form than it has had for centuries. Yet, in fact, that is what is proposed to be done in this scheme put forward on behalf of the Government to-day. Under the present constitution of the other House, that House has certain powers of delay and revision of Measures sent to them, but under the Parliament Act these powers are subject to being abated at any time. What is the proposal submitted to us at the present time? It is that the powers of the House of Lords are not to be changed except with its own consent. It is commonly assumed that this means that the powers of the House of Lords should remain as at present. But it is nothing of the kind. A Labour Government, for instance, could not reduce those powers, but a Conservative Government would have the power to increase and extend the powers of the House of Lords. This is not a view which has arisen out of my own imagination. To show that that is possible, I can only refer to statements made in another place when those proposals were being outlined. It was made perfectly clear that many Members of the Conservative party were in favour of giving the House of Lords, not merely a suspensory veto during the life of Parliament, but a veto suspensory over a 1348 General Election. That being the position, it is not merely possible but likely that a Conservative Government in the future might extend the powers of the House of Lords.
The objection we have to the proposals therefore is not only that the veto in its present form could never be reduced, but that when a Conservative Government was in office it might be greatly increased and extended. Over and above this, by these new proposals the Second Chamber is entrenched in a position very much stronger than it has ever been in before. By the removal of the prerogative of the Crown to create Peers to sit in the House of Lords, it would be rendered impossible for the will of the people to prevail by the constitutional methods which have been effectively employed by Governments of this country, not merely since the Parliament Act, but during a long period of our history. There would be no constitutional means of over-riding a hostile attitude on the part of the Second Chamber. It is a very dangerous thing to block constitutional means of reform. We have been discussing for a considerable time provisions which the Government alleged were intended to deal with the general strike, and the argument they used, and which was also used last year, was that the general strike was an improper method of attempting to carry out reform; that the workers need not use such a revolutionary method because in the Constitution of this country they have full power in their own hands. They have only, through the ballot box, to elect the Government of their choice, and the will of the people will be carried out. In this scheme for remodelling the House of Lords the Government would be taking away that constitutional means of redress. They would be blocking the normal path of reform and forcing the people to adopt one or other of revolutionary means. Therefore, whatever they may have been able to argue against the general strike in the past, they would not be able to make out that case to-day. One of the objects of this scheme is therefore to bridle the democracy, but the democracy of this country will never consent to be bridled in the way which this scheme would do.
1349 I now come to the control of Money Bills. It has been pointed out in this Debate that a great mistake was made in another place with regard to the Speaker's decisions on Money Bills. It was stated there that the Speaker had evidently so far failed to be accurate that, when dealing with the same Bill in two successive years, he had first refused to certify it and that afterwards he certified it as a Money Bill. That was the War Charges Validity Bill. Lord Cave, who made that statement, had afterwards to withdraw it and admit that it was entirely without foundation. The two Bills were essentially different, and the reason which prompted the Speaker in the first place not to certify was removed, and the Speaker was perfectly right on the second occasion in certifying it. But what has not been brought out in this Debate is another very interesting point, which shows the very great care which the Speaker has exercised, ever since the Parliament Act was carried, to see that his certificate with regard to Money Bills was only given on entirely proper grounds. There have been, I think, since that Act was carried, 15 Finance Bills carried through this House. It may be a great surprise to this House to learn that, out of those 15 Bills, no less than seven did not receive the certificate of the Speaker as being wholly Money Bills. That was true of all the Finance Bills during the War; it was true also of the Finance Bill of 1921 and of the Finance Bill of 1923, which represented the Budget of the right hon. Gentleman who is now Prime Minister. It was true of the Finance Bill of 1924, which carried out the Budget of my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden). In addition to that, the Finance (No. 2) Bill of 1915, which was passed in the autumn of the first War year, was also not certified as a Money Bill.
Thus half the Finance Bills since the Parliament Act came into operation have not been certified by the Speaker as Money Bills, and I think that completely disposes of the idea that the Speaker, when acting in his judicial capacity, is biased and is not a fit and proper person to exercise the jurisdiction which the Parliament Act gave him. He has been shown to have used the 1350 very greatest circumspection. We know, from our own experience, when an hon. Member is honoured by this House by being placed in the Chair in which you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, sit at the present time that, from that date, as the whole history of the House of Commons has shown, he discards party bias and acts with the high sense of duty which the present Speaker has always shown. It is in consequence of that that we regard him with the veneration which has always been accorded to the Speaker of this House. It has now been suggested that the power to certify Money Bills should be taken away.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
It is proposed to take away the power from the Speaker and to give it to a Committee, The hon. Gentleman who spoke last suggested that this Committee should be a Committee consisting solely of Members of the House of Commons. The objection to that, it seems to me, is that you would be placing in the hands of a body of men who are necessarily biased by party views a judicial decision which does not properly belong to them. But that is not the proposal in the Government's scheme; the proposal is that it should be a Joint Standing Committee of the two Houses, with equal numbers of both. The effect of that, as has already been pointed out by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) would be that there would be a permanent Conservative majority on that Standing Committee. If that Committee were to have the same purely judicial function to perform which is now exercised by the Speaker, it may be that, in spite of having a permanent Conservative majority, they would come to a perfectly sound and unbiased conclusion. But it is part of this scheme that the Committee should not have a judicial function; that they should be able to decide not merely upon the form of the Bill but as to the "substance and effect" of the Bill. That was what was said in another place. The Prime Minister to-day went further and said that there were money Bills which could be in the form of Money Bills but which, industrially, commercially and socially affected the life of the country, and that such Bills ought 1351 not to be classed as Money Bills. Under these circumstances I have no hesitation in saying that a Committee on which there would always be a party majority could not be relied upon to give a purely unbiased decision. I will go further and say that, inasmuch as these questions are largely decided by precedent, the whole position as to what was and what was not a Money Bill would change from time to time.
What would, in effect, take place would be that the power of the House of Lords to interfere with Money Bills would broaden down from precedent to precedent, and the power of this House to decide for itself what was a Money Bill, and to decide the whole policy of the finance of this country, would dwindle down from precedent to precedent. It is because we take that view that we most strongly oppose this idea that the decisions as to Money Bills should be taken out of the hands of the Speaker and handed over to any such Committee as is proposed.
I want to refer to the attitude which is taken up by other parties than our own. We had a very interesting speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), a speech which in its main attitude, I think, will find a great deal of support in this quarter of the House. But I could not help, while the right hon. Gentleman was speaking and belabouring the proposals of the Government, having this reflection: Who was it that enabled the present Government to have a large majority at the present time? How does it come about that, with a minority of votes in the country, the present Government are put in a position of power, if they choose, to introduce and carry through this legislation? It was the right hon. Gentleman and his followers who made a pact with the followers of the present Government and thereby enabled them to come into power. In addition to that, there is the opposition from the ranks opposite. I was entranced, as many were, by the wonderful speech of the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan). I hope it will not be very long before we hear him again. He exposed mercilessly the propositions of the Government in this scheme. We have had others, and, no 1352 doubt, before the Debate finishes, we shall have many more speeches from the Government side on the same lines; and I cannot help thinking that, although the Prime Minister did not say so in so many words, he will, before this Debate is over, recognise that his precious scheme is dead past resuscitation, that this little infant born into the light of publicity only a fortnight ago, has already passed away from this world. If that be so, I cannot help thinking that the most fitting epitaph which can be put upon its grave will be:If I were so soon to be done for,I wonder what I was begun for.
§ Mr. DUFF COOPER
I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) attack the Leader of the Liberal party for having put this Government in office, and for having made a pact with this Government. That is not true. The Leader of the Liberal party never made a pact with the present Government, and is not responsible directly for their being in office. The only party with whom the Liberal party ever made a pact is the Socialist party, and the only Government they ever put in office was the Socialist Government. It really, therefore, comes rather ill from the Socialist party that they should taunt the right hon. Gentleman with making pacts.
There was much else in the hon. Member's speech with which I find myself in considerable agreement. He dealt at some length with the various proposals of the Government for a new machinery for deciding what is a Money Bill, and he referred to the statements made by the Lord Chancellor in another place as to instances in which mistakes had been made by the present Speaker—statements which the Lord Chancellor had to withdraw the next morning, as he found that he had been utterly misinformed. Strangely enough, he gave one other instance. He also said that their Lordships would have liked very much to discuss the Safeguarding of Industries Bill, but that, owing to the action of the Speaker, they were denied that right. There, again, he was utterly misinformed: the Safeguarding of Industries Bill received the certificate of the Speaker, and there was nothing except their Lordships' disinclination, or, perhaps, pressure of work, that precluded them from discussing it. 1353 Another Member of the Government the other house used even stronger language with regard to the Speaker of the House of Commons. He said that over and over again wrong decisions had been given by Speakers, but he gave no instances at all, and, unlike the Lord Chancellor, he never withdrew those attacks on the Speaker. I must say that I think it is almost a breach of privilege that a Member of the Government in another place should make attacks upon the Speaker of the House of Commons, and, personally, I hope that, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, I believe, is to reply on behalf of the Government, speaks this evening, he will express regret on behalf of his colleagues that any such attack should be made by a Member of the Government on the Speaker of the House of Commons.
As for the proposal itself that the Speaker should in future be one of a Committee—whether he is to be the Chairman of the Committee seems to be still undecided—I do not think that there is very much to be said against that proposal, but, on the other hand, I do not see that there is very much in its favour. The Speaker hitherto has carried out his office to the satisfaction of everyone. It is one of the least satisfactory symptoms of democracy that people are always anxious to shift responsibility from the individual on to a Committee. The love of Committees is one of the most dangerous penchants of democracy, in my view. It is false doctrine that a Committee does better than an individual, because, every time you increase the number of a body responsible for any decision, you diminish the sense of responsibility among the members of that body. When one man has to decide a question of this sort, whatever may be his political bias—and every man has a political bias at the bottom of his heart—he puts that entirely aside, because he thinks, "I shall be judged by this decision; everyone will watch it; my foes and my friends will be eager to find whether I have been absolutely impartial." If you have a Committee of five or six Members of one party and five or six Members of another party, each and all of them will naturally be biased by their party feeling. They will feel that any decision is a decision of the Committee, and that, therefore, no one 1354 will say that it is prejudiced; and, meanwhile, each will do the best he can for his own party point of view.
For that reason I think it is better that this decision should be taken by the Speaker only. After all, he can be assisted now by two members from the Chairmen's Panel, and he also has his own professional assistants, permanent officials trained to this particular kind of work. This proposal means that he will have rather a larger Committee than before, but a larger Committee is not usually more useful or more expeditious than a small one. The work that the Speaker has to do in this connection often has to be done with great expedition. A Bill may be passed one night in this House, and may very probably have to be dealt with the next night in another place, and, therefore, the more quickly the work is done the better, and the smaller the Committee for the purpose the better. That, however, is one of the proposals of the Government which I think has met with the less criticism, and in which I think there is less harm, perhaps, than the others. The Prime Minister has said that he wishes to find out what the views of this Rouse and of the people in the country are with regard to these proposals. I, therefore, feel that we have been given a charter to say exactly what we think of the proposals without any disloyalty to the Government, and I intend to avail myself of that charter.
In the first place, it should, in nay opinion, be a principle of Conservative policy not to destroy anything until you are sure that you are going to put something better in its place. Can we say that the new House of Lords which the Government propose to set up will be a better assembly than the present House of Lords? How is it going to be chosen? Of whom is it going to be composed? In the first place, it is to be a very much smaller House. You are going to get rid of the people who never go, and that, upon the face of it, will not make a very startling difference to the real constitution of the House of Lords. You are going to say, to those who never go, that, as a punishment, they shall never be allowed to go. It is as though boys were punished for non-attendance at school by being granted a perpetual holiday.
1355 You will then be left with the members of the House of Lords who now go there, and we are told-on all these matters we only have the authority of one Minister for each statement—we are told by one Minister that the number will be about 350, and that a large majority will be hereditary peers. Supposing that the hereditary peers were only a small majority-putting their number at, say, 180—that is about the number of those who usually attend the House of Lords at the present time, so that we might think, on the face of it, that it would be exactly the same. That, however, would be too hasty a conclusion to come to, for these members are to be elected by themselves from their own ranks. Can it be supposed that, if the election is free, if they have the right to vote for whom they wish—and it is no use allowing them to vote at all unless you give them that privilege—is it to be supposed that they will vote for a single representative of the Socialist party? Is it even certain that the small body which represents the Liberal party in the House of Lords will be returned intact? I believe, on the contrary, that, with a free vote, not a single Socialist or Liberal will be elected.
How are you going to get over that difficulty? Various ways have been suggested. One of them is proportional representation. Proportional representation may be of some use in representing important minorities, but no system of election can possibly hope to represent a minority of 10 in a body of over 700. We might say that the number of hereditary Peers should bear some proportion to the respective numbers in this House, and, under that system, you would, perhaps, get all the present representatives of the Labour party and of the Liberal party returned; but it would be nonsense to say that they had been elected. They would not have been elected at all, but would, in fact, have been nominated. Then, having got rid of the backwoodsmen and the Liberals and Socialists, could it be said that you would have left even the cream of the Conservative party? I think there is room for considerable doubt as to that. In the first place, it is the truth that in any body of men, whether it be a trade union or a public school, whether it be the crew of a ship or an hereditary 1356 Chamber, there is a natural dislike of those who are of an original turn of mind, those who are individual in character, those who take their own line upon subjects on which other members of the community have very definite opinions. I think you would get in this re-elected House of Lords originality and independence stamped out. Hitherto one of the great advantages which has attached to that assembly is that every man who is a Member of it is free from that day forth. He does not have to worry about what his constituents will think. He does not have to think of the next General Election. He can take his own line and can speak and vote against his party if he wishes. Would it be the same? Those who still wish to be Members of the House would know that every time they spoke they were endangering their re-election. You would destroy one of the most important privileges of a Peer to-day, that is, his complete independence.
That would be the first cause of diminishing even the merit of the Conservative Peers who would be left, but there is another and a more important one. We may suppose that under the new system a Peer will have the choice of sitting either in this House or in another place. How are we to suppose that the more energetic, the more interested in politics, the more eloquent, the more ambitious—how will they decide when that choice is offered them? How have they always decided in the past, because we have had examples of how the system works, and it has been referred to by those who defend the system that it has been tried and has worked very well in the case of the Scottish and the Irish Peers. I remember only one incident during my short acquaintance with politics when the Scottish Peers have come into prominence, and that was in connection with the famous Budget which has been mentioned to-night. One Scottish Peer voted, for the Budget and he was turned out at the next Election. What is the history of the Irish Peers? The Irish, who have always been more privileged than the Scotch, had a unique privilege. They made their union on very much better terms than Scotland, though the Scotsman is supposed to be good at bargaining. Their Peers were allowed to choose, and they can be elected to the House of 1357 Lords or to the House of Commons. We know even from our own experience how much the Peers who have sat in this Assembly have contributed to it. In the past there have been Prime Ministers from the Peerage of Ireland, Lord Palmerston and Lord Melbourne, either of whom might, if they had chosen, have sat in the House of Lords. What happened then will happen again, and you will get all the talent that exists in the Conservative party in the House of Lords to-day eager to sit in the House of Commons. The new House of Lords will be incontestably an inferior body to the present one, and yet it is proposed to give increased powers to this inferior body.
Surely it is another axiom of Conservative policy that you should only reform when there is an urgent demand, when the abuse is so gross as to demand reform. Can it be true to maintain that that is the state of affairs at present? Can it be maintained that this Government has so much spare time on its hands that it should select this as a fitting moment to deal with so great a problem? The programme of the Government during the next year is full, and we believe all the Bills the Government intend to introduce during the corning year are Bills of great importance. We should not like to see a Clause in any one of them sacrificed in order to introduce a great constitutional reform. But much more than a Clause, more than a whole Bill will have to be sacrificed if this matter is to be dealt with. We have had examples lately enough to remind us of more urgent matters which await the attention of the Government. There is the Report issued only a few days ago on the conditions of housing in West-minister which will prove to the satisfaction of most people that there are houses in Westminster in greater need of reform than the House of Lords. It cannot be pretended that while the Conservative party is in office the House of Lords is a hindrance to good Government. On the contrary it is a great assistance. So long as this party is in power the House of Lords works smoothly, and so the need is not immediate. The need belongs to the future.
The reasons given here and in another place for the reform have been many. The Secretary of State for India protested that he had no idea of setting up 1358 a House of Lords which would stand as a bulwark against revolution. His main solicitude was to be sure that the Socialist party was properly represented in that Chamber. Whether or not we can persuade ourselves that the Noble Lord has spent sleepness nights over the proper representations of his opponents in the Upper House, I should have thought no one in the Conservative party need worry himself particularly about the welfare of their opponents over a matter of this kind, especially as their good offices are not likely to be met with gratitude and, as a matter of fact, have been met with the volley of abuse that is contained in the Vote of Censure we are discussing. But even if they could be persuaded that it was for their own good that we were doing this, in order to help the Socialist party, even if that had been the intention, this proposed reform would not carry it out, because how are we going to make sure that the Socialist party is properly represented in future? The Prime Minister is to have the power of nomination, but the House need hardly be reminded that every Prime Minister has always had a power of nomination to the House of Lords. He has always had the power of nominating which of his political supporters he wished to take a seat in that House, and the Prime Minister of the Labour party when he was in office had the same power and exercised it as he thought good. The only difference would he that under the new scheme it would be in the power of the Prime Minister to select those of his political opponents whom he desired to sit in that place. Presumably he would consult with the Leader of the Opposition, but even in that case can it be maintained that that would really properly represent the other party, or any other party, in the House of Lords?
But that is not the real reason. Even if it were the reason why this proposal is produced it is not the reason why it has found considerable support in certain quarters. That support come solely, if not entirely, from those who believe there is a great danger of revolution, and who think the only bulwark against revolution is to strengthen the Upper Chamber. That proposal will be applauded by many. Let us examine this danger of revolution. If a Government 1359 get into power, presumably they will endeavour to carry out the will of the people. Every Government has in the past, and we may presume that every Government will in the future, unless the time comes when we have a Bolshevik or a Fascist Government. If that time comes there will be a revolution indeed, but what use would the House of Lords be to stand up against a Lenin or a Mussolini? So long as we have a constitutional party working in a constitutional way they would endeavour to the best of their ability to carry out what they think is the will of the people. They may misinterpret it. There is always the danger of that. It is frequently done. We, for instance, thought we were carrying out the will of the people when we introduced the Trade Disputes Bill. I am still convinced we were. The Opposition, on the other hand, thought there would be such an outburst of indignation all over the country that it would sweep the Government away. It has been admitted even on those benches that they had been cruelly disappointed. They have found out that the feeling of the people on the subject is not at all what they imagined it to be.
It is possible to find out the will of the people even without a General Election. Under the existing system, if the Upper House thinks the Government of the day has misinterpreted the will of the people they can delay legislation for two years. There is a great deal to be said for that arrangement. In two years, with the power of the Press and with the power of public meetings, it is possible to gauge public opinion, and the Government would be in a strong position at the end of those two years if they were still satisfied that they had sufficient strength of public opinion behind them to go on with their proposals. But if, on the other hand, the House of Lords were in a position that when they thought the proposal made was not in accordance with the will of the people, they could dissolve Parliament and put the question to the country, that question would never reach the people at all, because it would not be that question on which the General Election would take place. It would be a question whether the will of the House of Commons or the House of Lords was to pre 1360 vail. What the result of that question would be—the democracy against the herditary principle—I have very little doubt.
At present the House of Lords works well, but once you get the hereditary principle up against the will of the democracy, there can be no two opinions as to which will prevail. The hereditary principle as it exists to-day is not interfering with the will of the democracy, even as it exists in the House of Lords. For that reason, the House of Lords is popular, and will remain popular. It might remain popular and continue to work under a Socialist Government. We had the other day in the House of Lords from one of those who speak for the Socialist party, and who held office during their period of power, a great tribute paid to the House of Lords. He said their work at that time would have been impossible if it had not been for the courtesy and for the policy and for the statesmanship pursued by members of the Upper House. That same policy may be pursued on another occasion. If it did not, then it would be for those in power at the time to find out a way in which they could escape from the difficulty.
But it must not be supposed that the House of Lords is ever going to prevent a revolution. It is not to be supposed that the hereditary principle can ever win against the democratic principle. The democratic principle is what we are all pledged to in this country. It may fail. It has failed in many other countries, and it may fail here. I believe it is likely to succeed owing to the long political education and the sound political sense of the British people, but, at any rate, it is the duty of those who pay lip service to democracy on every platform to try to the last moment to make a success of it. If it fails we must look elsewhere for our salvation, but, meanwhile, let us use our utmost endeavours to make a success of democracy. You will not stop revolution by a veto. A veto has never stopped revolution in the past, but it has sometimes caused a revolution—and it may cause one in the future. There is only one way of preventing revolution, and that is by removing the causes of discontent. There is only one way of preventing a powerful political minority from eventu 1361 ally being returned to office and doing all they wish to do, and that is by defeating them at the polls. I can assure this Government that if when we next go to the polls we have to defend the principle of an hereditary legislature, the principle and the permanence of the hereditary Chamber, then the fight will be a hard one and the prospects and hopes of victory will be faint and few.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The Prime Minister spoke of the labours of Sisyphus. I understand those labours were imposed on Sisyphus for crime. I would remind him—I am sorry he has gone out of the Chamber—that there was another criminal who was punished. That was Tantalus. Every time the cup was taken to his lips, it was dashed away and then, I believe, a bunch of grapes was lowered to his thirsty tongue, and it was raised just as he was about to seize the grapes. The Prime Minister might have thought of those unfortunate Tantali in this affair. There is the Earl of Birkenhead. Every time the prospect of a seat again in the House of Commons is held out to him, it is dashed away from him by his own colleagues on the benches opposite. He might think of the example of the Noble Lord, the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) and even myself, who one day may, absolutely against our will, be transferred to the other place. He might have seen our personal distress. I also, in addition to that, must register a little personal and political distress at the retreat of the Cabinet. I am sorry that the Conservative back benchers, all except the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) and the little gang of last ditchers, have saved the Government from themselves. The Foreign Secretary has a story he tells sometimes, and it is worth repeating, of the Jew in Spain, who was condemned by the Inquisition to the stake. A vast crowd gathered. At the last moment a message was received to say that the Jew had recanted and the crowd cried out, "Stand fast, Moses." I wish I could say that to the Prime Minister, who is not in his place. I wish I could implore the Prime Minister to have the courage of his convictions and go on with the scheme announced by the Lord Chancellor, the Marquess of Salisbury and the 1362 Secretary for India in the Upper House as the considered opinion of the Government.
To make the retreat and the scandal the greater, may I remind the House of the attitude of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? When first this matter was raised from this side of the House, and we asked for time in which to discuss this affair, "Oh," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "we cannot find time. Our programme is full. We have other matters of importance to discuss. Of course, if the Opposition were to put down a Motion of Censure, then, naturally, the Government would give an opportunity for that Motion to be debated." I took it upon myself to press the matter a little further, and he said, "Oh, well, of course, next Session our considered scheme will be brought forward, and then there will be ample opportunity for hon. Gentlemen opposite to examine the details." That is the position in which the Government find themselves at the present time. The faith of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is puffed up with pride because of his artificial majority, is shown now to be a mistaken faith, even in the docility of hon. Gentlemen behind him. I apologise to private members of the Conservative party for the hasty jibe that I levelled at them. When the noble Viscountess, the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) ventured, as the angel on this occasion to rush in where fools feared to tread, and asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether whether there would not be a chance of speaking, she hinted that some of her colleagues and herself were satisfied, and I, all too soon, said they were too docile. They are not too docile, and they have thrown the Lord Chancellor, the Secretary for India and the Marquess of Salisbury to the wolves. If, in particular, the Secretary for India does not resign after this Debate to-day—I am sorry to say I have searched in another part of the House, and I do not see him listening to-day—his skin is five times thicker than I thought it was.
I particularly wish to add my small meed of praise to our new colleague the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan) on his speech, and also I would like to congratulate those hon. Gentlemen opposite who cheered that speech, for that speech could not 1363 have been made more damaging if it had been delivered from these benches. I think the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities has introduced into this Chamber an independence which hon. Gentlemen opposite still need in greater measure. All the speeches to-day, with the exception of the Prime Minister's, have been in condemnation of the Government scheme. I heard the speech of the right hon. Member for Wells (Sir R. Sanders). He said that it was not his scheme and he could not approve of it, and as I have mentioned the right hon. Gentleman, may I remind the House what is the real mind of the backwoods Tory Member of the House of Commons. It is contained in an interjection of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wells on 15th February, when this matter was last debated. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was accusing the Government of wanting more power to protect the country, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wells interjected this remark:To protect the country against you.!That means, from the elected Members of the Labour party when they are returned to power. That is the real mind of the Conservative backwoodsmen. If the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Duff Cooper) believes what he has been saying he should join the Labour party. The Prime Minister made a feeble attempt to defend the hereditary system. He said that the House of Lords was linked with the Great Council of State. I have not looked up the facts concerning the Great Council of State, but I am quite sure that it was not hereditary in the sense of the present House of Lords. It comprised many of the great feudal owners of land. It may have been true that they were inheritors of land, but that is not the sense in which Noble Lords sit in the House of Lords to-day. There are many of them, scores of them, who do not own a rood of land to-day, and I think the analogy of the Prime Minister a very false analogy indeed. Do hon. Members opposite realise, going back only to the Battle of Cressy, no, I think it is the Battle of Poitiers, that of the English Nobility who rode as Knights and the English chivalry who fought there not one descendant of one of the Knights 1364 is in the Upper Chamber to-day. So much for the great traditions and the wonderful historical connections of the Upper Chamber.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
They may have fought on foot, that is not the point. At any rate, they rode to the battle even if they did not fight on horseback. The hon. Member for Oxford has not intervened in this Debate so far, but if he speaks I believe he will be the only Member who will support the Government proposals. That is the position to which the present Government finds itself reduced after three years of office. I should have thought the best thing they could do is to resign, but hon. Gentlemen opposite will cling like limpets to office for the last time. Rather than reform the House of Lords I wish the Chief Whip would direct the attention of the Cabinet to the need of a reform of this Chamber. When a representative Government is at last returned to power the trouble will be to get the necessary legislation through this House under the present conditions. I resist the temptation to enlarge on this topic but I think we shall have to find some method of reforming the machinery of legislation in this House or the people may demand many radical alterations in the representative system. I am in favour of devolution and also strongly in favour of the Committee system. I believe there is no other way of restoring the control of the House of Commons over finance. However, that is a large question and one which I hope we shall have an opportunity of debating very soon.
The trouble is this, and we might as well face the real fact of the situation. The real trouble is that a Conservative Government cannot bring forward a scheme which will be acceptable to Parliament and the country and at the same time be acceptable to the House of Lords. The House of Lords has one great privilege; social prestige, and if the Lords themselves are prepared to surrender it their wives and daughters are not. What are they saying of the present proposals? They are saying that if they give up the hereditary position then they are no better off than a baronet. It is a question of social prestige. You have this 1365 vested interest of social position and prestige, and no Conservative Government will ever make its will felt against the House of Lords. The only people who really can deal with this problem is a Labour Government, because we are not so closely bound up with the hereditary social prestige of the House of Lords. That is the real fact of the matter. The Government had much better have left the matter alone, although for political and personal reasons I am sorry they are abandoning their proposal. I congratulate the back-benchers opposite on having more sense than their leaders, but at the same time I am sorry their leaders have been forced to bow to the storm. I would rather it had come from the country than from the backbenchers of the Conservative party, but when a Labour Government is returned I hope we shall deal with this matter in a sane and sensible way.
§ Captain BOURNE
The hon. and gallant Member for Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) has said that I should be one of the few who would support the Government in this Debate. That, as he knows, is because I have had the luck to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. There are 103 Members who would have supported my Amendment, congratulating the Government on submitting their tentative proposals, although only the right hon. Member for Wells (Sir R. Sanders) and myself have had so far the luck to be called. But that does not mean that the supporters of the Government are limited to the right hon. Gentleman and myself. I am sure the whole House will sympathise thoroughly with the hon. and gallant Member because he knows that his fate one day will be to disappear into the gilded Chamber, where I am certain he will not feel so much at home as in this House. Possibly his colleagues may be prepared to regard this prospect with equanimity, but I am sure that we can all sympathise with the feelings of the hon. and gallant Member. I regret very much that members of my own party have spoken on this occasion against the Government. I feel that they must regret still more that they have given the hon. and gallant Member an opportunity to offer his congratulations. We 1366 have had a very interesting Debate, in which a great many points of view have been put forward, but it seems to me that many of the arguments against the proposals put forward on behalf of the Government have been based on the assumption that they propose to repeal the Parliament Act and thereby restore to another place the power of accepting or rejecting Measures. For one thing, I am supporting the Government on this question because they are not proposing to put up another House with equal powers to the House of Commons, and thereby to insure the deadlock which must inevitably follow. Deadlocks we have had before in the history of our country, and they have generally been solved only by the personal intervention of the Sovereign himself. We do not want to get back to that state. I have listened with interest to the arguments which have been advanced not only by hon. Members but by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. One would imagine that they were convinced that the Government proposed to give back to the House of Lords the power to delay Measures ad infinitum. They do not say that the reformed House of Lords is to possess precisely the same power which it has at present, with the one exception that a Measure which is to effect an alteration in the constitution of the Second Chamber can only become law after a General Election has taken place and that Measure has received the approval of the country.
It is quite obvious that many hon. Members, opposite do not believe in the necessity for a Second Chamber. For myself, I think there is probably no country in the world where a Second Chamber is more needed. I will give only one reason for the moment, and that is that we are almost the only country in the world in which legislation is passed through Parliament in the form in which it ultimately becomes a Statute of the Realm. Most countries legislate in broad principles and leave the strict language which will be interpreted by the Courts to be issued by experts belonging to the different Departments. Here, thank goodness! our principle is different. We legislate in this House and in another place, and where you adopt that system it is far more important to have a 1367 Second Chamber and to be as certain as you can that the legislation is word perfect when it receives the Royal Assent, because nothing is more disturbing than the fact that, if some loose phrase is agreed to in this place—as the Prime Minister has said, we frequently legislate in a great hurry—the promise of a Minister is assumed to mean one thing and the Courts eventually decide that he means something different. That is one reason why we require a Second Chamber.
I do not believe that any Second Chamber which we can devise can possibly do more than delay and revise legislation, and delay matters in regard to which public opinion is not very definite. I agree with the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan), and many other hon. Members who have spoken, that no paper Constitution can possibly stay a revolution if the country has set its mind to it. From that point of view a Second Chamber or a paper Constitution or anything else is utterly useless. But what a Second Chamber can do is to make the country think, "Do we really want this?" It can make certain that Measures are understood, discussed and reconsidered by the country before they are finally assented to. When a Second Chamber has the respect of the nation it can make the country think very seriously about any Measure which it rejects. I will give only one instance. In 1906 the then Liberal Government brought in, with a great flourish of trumpets, a certain Education Bill. It was rejected by the House of Lords. I was then beginning to take an interest in politics, and my recollection is that once that Measure was rejected there was no further demand for it in the country. That is a function that a Second Chamber can perform.
I think the proposals of the Government go some way towards producing a Second Chamber that will command more respect and even greater authority than the present House. To my mind, the greatest weakness of the present House has always been the small number of Members who habitually attend. I cannot see why it could not be strengthened if its Members were elected 1368 by their Order. Nor do I see how it is possible to get rid of a certain number, possibly a large number, of nominated Members. For one thing, any Government must have the power to choose whom it wishes to conduct and lead the other Chamber. That is a necessity. Unless it has that power of nomination I cannot see how it is going necessarily to have that power. I wish, and wish very much, that the Government had proposed that certain hereditary peers who have rendered great and distinguished service to the country, who have served in the Cabinet or have been Dominion or Colonial Governors, should be ex-officio Members of the other House. There is much to be said for such a proposal. It would at any rate ensure that nearly all the Noble Lords who represent the party opposite, and no small portion of those who represent the Liberals would be there to carry on the traditions of both parties. I do not want another House composed entirely of Members of my own party. I do not think it would be effective or command the respect of the country, nor do I think it would carry on the business as efficiently as the existing Chamber does now. But I do see a good deal to be said for cutting down numbers and for nominating people who are distinguished in other branches of life, and who, if they in their considered opinion rejected a Measure, would command the respect of the country.
Another point on which a great deal of argument has taken place is the question of the certification by Mr. Speaker of Money Bills. It has seemed to me that many of the hon. Members who have talked on this question have had a very limited idea as to what a Money Bill is and as to what is the exact effect of these proposals. The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) reminded the House that since the passing of the Parliament Act no fewer than seven Finance Acts have not been certified by Mr. Speaker. As a matter of fact I believe the only two Bills, in the course of a Session, which are bound to be certified, are the Appropriation Bill and the Consolidated Fund Bill, and that no other Measure which is produced is of necessity a Money Bill. I have never regarded the certification by Mr. Speaker 1369 or the fact that the House of Lords cannot amend or reject a Money Bill as being any particular derogation of the prerogatives of that House. For one thing, I do not believe it is possible to tack on to a Money Bill at any rate some of the terms of a Measure which would seriously alter anything in this country.
My reason for welcoming some such Committee as has been suggested in this proposal is quite a different one. I have never doubted that any Speaker who has been elected or who is likely to be elected to the Chair of this House, will attempt to carry out honestly and to the best of his ability the very difficult duty which is placed upon him of deciding whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not. The real trouble is going to arise when you have, as we have had for the best part of a century, a Speaker belonging to one political party and a Government dominated by another political party. Occasions will come when political feeling will run high, as it did over the Budget of 1909, which the then Speaker, Lord Ullswater, has since recorded in his Memoirs, he could not certify as a Money Bill. The trouble will arise when some Speaker refuses to certify some such Measure. That is a very real danger. My reason for hoping that some form of additional authority will be given to the Speaker is, not that I fear that any Speaker will misuse his power, but that sooner or later you are going to have the Chair dragged into the vortex of party politics, and that will be a loss of prestige not only to the Chair but to this House. Whether it would be wise for their lordships to be joined in such a Committee or whether the representation should be limited to the Law Lords, exclusive of the Lord Chancellor, I do not know. I put it forward as a suggestion. At least it would ensure that the representatives of another place would look at a matter judicially, and, I believe, impartially.
Finally, I would like to remind hon. Members who have spoken against these proposals that if one thing is more certain than another, it is that you cannot put up another Chamber in this country which is going to claim the right of being equal or superior to this Chamber. I do not believe the proposals of the Government would set up any such Chamber. If we were discussing the establishment of a Second Chamber in a new country 1370 which had no constitution, then we might consider an elective Chamber or a nominated Chamber or one partly elective and partly nominative. But we have to, remember that here we are dealing with an old Constitution, and with old traditions. As the Prime Minister reminded us, we are dealing with a House whose traditions go back for many more centuries than our own traditions. I believe it is only by combining the hereditary element with some degree of nomination and thereby carrying on without a break the continuity of tradition that we can get a Second Chamber which will efficiently fulfil its functions.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
To those of us whose Parliamentary memories go back to the days of 1906 the Debate of to-day wears a most astonishing aspect. The matter which we are asked to discuss is admittedly one of the greatest constitutional importance, and yet I make bold to say that now, as we approach the last hours of the Debate, nobody in this House knows where the Government stand as regards these proposals. Do the Government mean to introduce a Bill or have they raised all this pother merely for the satisfaction of gathering criticism and getting ventilation—and what is it all about? In the House of Lords the most specific assurances were given, not only that the Government intended to legislate, but that they felt it an obligation of honour to introduce and carry through their legislation before the end of this Parliament. Here, in the House of Commons, we have never even had a White Paper providing us with a statement of the Government proposals. The whole thing is left completely in the air; and if it is ventilation which the Prime Minister desires, he has had plenty of it to-day from his own side of the House, not omitting a very shrewd gust from the North from the hon. Member for Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan).
I desire to make two points, and two points only, though I am not so fortunate as to have the Government spokesman present on the Treasury Bench. Possibly the right hon. Gentleman who is to follow me, intends to make the same points, and I am sure he will be more fortunate in securing the attendance of the right hon. Gentleman who is to wind up on behalf of the Government. My first point is regarding the proposal about Money 1371 Bills. I should like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and if I may I will do so indirectly through the late Chancellor of the Exchequer—what is the meaning of the Government stating in the House of Lords, as Lord Birkenhead did, that there were notorious and almost admitted instances in which Mr. Speaker had failed properly to exercise his discretion and judgment as to what is a Money Bill. I am much obliged to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for coming in. I was just saying that in the House of Lords the Government spokesman asserted that it was indubitably true that indisputably wrong decisions had been given by Mr. Speaker from time to time as to what is and is not a Money Bill. I think the House of Commons is entitled to know to what instances the noble Lord referred. The words of the Secretary of State for India were:It is unquestionably true that over and over again indisputably wrong decisions have been reached as to what is and what is not a Money Bill—decisions inconsistent with one another.Perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be good enough to tell the House what it is entitled to know, namely, to what instances the Secretary of State for India was referring when he used those words. The only instance which was offered by way of particulars in the House of Lords was an instance which is to be laid to the charge of the Lord Chancellor. We are told that these things have been considered for more than a year, but it is astonishing, in view of that fact, how much in fault the Lord Chancellor was when he said that a War Charges Validity Bill on one occasion had been certified as a Money Bill, and on another occasion a similar Bill had been certified as not being a Money Bill. Anyone who looked inside the two Bills could have ascertained—any inquiry would have ascertained—that the two Bills, though they had the same name, had different contents, and that there was nothing whatever inconsistent in the action of Mr. Speaker in certifying the one and not the other. That was the only instance, and the Lord Chancellor in very ample terms withdrew it. What other instances are there? What case is there known to anybody since the Parliament Act where a Money Bill has been improperly dealt with by Mr. Speaker? 1372 The truth of the matter is, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows, that since the Parliament Act on no less than seven occasions, the Finance Bill of the year has been refused a certificate by Mr. Speaker, because of the precision with which he examines every Clause. I think the last instance was in 1922.
I am quite unaware of the ground upon which it is sought to contend that, on the basis of past experience, we are called upon to amend the Parliament Act in this particular. The only other point which I wish to make I can best put by asking the House to consider what will happen if indeed it is till the intention of the Government to embody these proposals in a Bill and to carry them through both Houses before the next General Election. Suppose the Government introduce such a Bill, carry it by their majority, and send it to the House of Lords. It is instructive to observe that every human being assumes beyond question that the House Lords will at once pass such a Bill. If, indeed, they were the guardians of the public against legislation which was not before the country at the previous General Election, they might be supposed to reject such a Bill. But everybody assumes that if the present Government send such a Bill to the House of Lords, the House of Lords will pass it at once. I ask hon. Members to consider what will happen then. You will have on the Statute Book a Statute which secures the House of Lords against reduction of its powers or changes of its constitution except with its own consent. Suppose there is then a General Election in which there is returned to this House a great majority of Members who have given explicit pledges and assurances that they will carry through the House of Commons a Bill to repeal that Statute—and if you go on like this, you will very likely get such a majority in the next House of Commons.
That majority will come here, and the first duty of that House of Commons will be to pass a Measure to repeal what it is now proposed to enact. What happens to the repealing Bill? You will then have made the House of Lords a body newly created, newly furbished, newly buttressed and founded, and it is quite obvious that the House of Lords will be under the strongest possible temptation to refuse to pass the repealing Bill. 1373 Then we must suppose that in a second Session the same majority in the House of Commons will pass the Bill a second time, and that the House of Lords will reject it a second time. Let us suppose that for the third time, within two years from the beginning of the new Parliament, the majority in the House of Commons passes a Bill to repeal the Measure which you now contemplate. In that instance, would the thrice repeated passing of that Bill of repeal through this House be effective to repeal or ineffective to repeal the previous law? it seems to me quite plain from the proposals of the Government that they intend to entrench the House of Lords in the next Parliament in this position—that even if a majority were immediately returned which three times over was to pass a repealing Bill, none the less the House of Lords would be master of the situation and could quite easily—[An HON. MEURER "No!"] An hon. and learned Member below the Gangway is good enough to give me private information. He says "No." Then I should be very glad to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer if it is not the result of the proposals which he now puts forward that, supposing there is a majority in the next Parliament to repeal the legislation he proposes to pass in this Parliament, it will be within the power of the House of Lords to prevent that repeal being made effective for as long as ever it chooses.
If it is not so, then you have not entrenched the House of Lords, but I say that it is the inevitable result of the proposals of the Government. Does any human being suppose that you are going to promote the stability and the peaceful progress of our own democratic institutions if you pass, in this Parliament, legislation of such a sort that it cannot be repealed and cannot be amended by legislation in the next Parliament, whatever be the circumstances under which that next Parliament is elected, unless the House of Lords itself is pleased to consent? It seems to me that that simple test brings the thing down to a not improbable future. It is quite sufficient to show, either that this scheme has never been thought out at all, but that it is as slipshod and as vague in conception as it certainly hitherto has been in state 1374 ment, or else that you are putting the House of Lords in your scheme in a position where it is not necessary to recommend it to damn the consequences, because there are no conceivable consequences which it will ever be under the necessity to damn.
There is a further consideration which very much surprises me when I am told that these distinguished and accomplished Gentlemen in the Government have been considering the matter with so much care for so long. I confess I thought the consideration was a very elementary one to those who have studied the question of the framing of Constitutions in any comparative sense. You may have, as we have had in this country, what is called a flexible Constitution, under which the law by which you change the composition or the powers of this House or that may be passed by the same ordinary normal machinery by which you pass any other Statute—and that is our system—or, again, you may have a system such as obtains in many Continental countries, where you think it wise to pick out certain important leading principles in your Constitution and say that those principles are sacrosanct and that they cannot be interfered with by ordinary process of legislation. But I never heard of a Constitution which adopts that, second alternative that does not contain within itself some special arrangement by which the rigid and fixed Constitution that you have removed from the interference of ordinary law can be constitutionally altered.
Take the French Constitution of 1871. It is impossible, of course, for the ordinary Parliament of France to change that Constitution—I rather think they could not introduce proportional representation—but that does not mean to say that the framers of the rigid Constitution of France have to face a revolution as the only way of amending it. On the contrary, they have in their Constitution a special provision by which they can call together a National Assembly, to sit at Versailles, where, if you get sufficient majorities, you may change this very rigid Constitution which you have preserved from the influences of ordinary law. Take the still better known case of the United States of America. Everybody knows that Prohibition could not be introduced into the United States without 1375 a change in the Constitution of the United States. That change could not be brought about by the ordinary legislation of Congress or the Senate; it required the bringing into operation of the special machinery which the Fathers of the American Constitution were careful to provide, by which you could change the Constitution whose rigidity was otherwise secured.
But here are these distinguished persons on the Government bench, and they have, for the first time in history, adopted the plan of fixing rigidly the Constitution and powers of one portion of our Legislature. They do not intend that they shall be capable of alteration or amendment or reversal by ordinary Statutory provision, and they have made no other provision by which they can be altered. Nobody who ever had thought this thing really out could possibly have supposed that it would be left in that position, and the only possible answer which could be made by the Government in this matter, I conceive, would be this: They would say, "If you were to have an election which returned to this House a very large majority, pledged and bound to secure a change or a reversal in our scheme, then you might be quite sure that the House of Lords would put no obstacle in the way of passing the necessary amending Act."
I can only say that, like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I remember, and had some small experience of, the days between 1906 and 1910. The fact of the matter is—it can be put in a simple sentence—that there are very few Members now present who were in the House in those days, but between the years 1906 and 1910 there was no single Measure that was carried through this House by the great majority then to be found here against which the remnants of the Conservative party chose to vote on Third Reading which ever reached the Statute Book at all on any subject whatever. Education, temperance, plural voting—what has the House of Lords to do with that?—Scottish land valuation, a whole series of Measures was passed through this House, supported by great majorities here—I am not now concerned with the question whether they were wise or unwise Measures—and if you could say of any one of them, whatever 1376 its subject, that the remnant of the Conservative Opposition voted against it on Third Reading, in every single case it was rejected or mutilated and prevented from reaching the Statute Book by the House of Lords. What is the good of telling me that, if we once fix this element rigidly in the Constitution and give it a guarantee that it cannot be changed, assure it that, however it behaves, it will be perfectly safe—what is the good of telling people with that experience in mind that in the end a General Election will secure, as a matter of fact, that any necessary Amendments can be made?
I do not desire to keep the House—I know others are going to speak—but I have ventured to make that point because it does not seem to me at present that the explanations offered by the Government, either in the House of Lords or in this House, have met the situation at all, and I repeat that I want to know whether, if this proposed legislation is passed in this Parliament, a General Election which puts a majority in this House that desires to repeal this proposed legislation will be a General Election which will enable that repeal to be effected, and, if so, how? I can see no method by which that result could be secured except the acquiescence of the House of Lords, which, in the case supposed, has just been assured by the Conservative party that it is so highly valuable that it is to run no risk even if it goes on rejecting legislation from this House till the crack of doom.
It is amazing to some of us that any body of public opinion in this country, and most of all a Conservative body of opinion, should have thought that legislation of this sort was really going to increase the security of this country against revolution. I cannot imagine how it is supposed that the ordinary voters of this country are going to rest content with a method which, as the example I have given shows, necessarily leaves the House of Lords in the position of having the last word. It would put the House of Lords in our Constitution in exactly the same position in which the Sovereign himself stood until the Sovereign became a constitutional monarch, giving his assent to laws on the advice of the Government of the day. The old Royal Veto was nothing more than an irresponsible interference with the will of the House of Commons and, 1377 as such, it had to go. Here you have these students of constitutional law and history—these persons who maintain the ancient ways and who claim that the ancient development of Conservatism in this country is a progressive force—actually proposing to put the House of Lords in exactly the same constitutional position in which the monarchy of this country was put long, long ago and which the monarch has long ago abandoned in order to adopt a position which he now holds to the satisfaction of us all.
Lastly, let me observe, there is surely a great confusion in all the talk about the respect for the hereditary principle. The hereditary principle, as illustrated in the Monarchy, has never, I am sure, had a more widespread and devoted support from the mass of the country than to-day, but why? Because everybody knows that the Royal Family discharge their very arduous and sometimes, I am sure, most trying duties without the smallest possible political partisanship. Can the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with his knowledge of the history of the House of Lords and with all the speeches he has made in the past, really put his hand on his heart and say that when he has effected these reforms he has turned the House of Lords into an impartial body? There is nothing whatever in history to make one think so, and the only reason why since the Parliament Act there has been hope that the Constitution would work reasonably smoothly is because there has always remained at the back of the Parliament Act the possibility of the Prerogative of the Sovereign, on the advice of the Government, to create more Peers, which was a very healthy corrective against extreme and foolish courses. I do not want to detain the House because other Members want to speak, but I venture to put these points, and I shall be grateful if the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deal with them when he replies.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he could put his hand on his heart and defend these proposals. I am quite sure that the Chancellor would do that without any difficulty whatever. I shall not intervene at any great length, because I 1378 want to give the House the earliest possible opportunity of seeing and hearing the right hon. Gentleman perform that feat. The Prime Minister stated this afternoon that he hoped to derive from these Debates some information as to the opinions of members of his own party. I am quite sure the Prime Minister has had his wish fully gratified. It is only within the last half-hour that one word has been uttered from that side in support of these proposals, and, quite fittingly, it came from the representative of the City of Oxford (Captain Bourne), the home of lost causes.
The Prime Minister complained this afternoon about the nature and the form of our Motion, but he very carefully refrained from dealing with it, and, in the course of a speech of three-quarters of an hour, the only reference he made to its terms was to say that his refined literary taste had been offended by the use of the word "gerrymander." The right hon. Gentleman has a high literary reputation as a man of very wide learning and extensive reading, but it is quite evident, from the ignorance he exposed this afternoon, that the standard dictionaries have not been among his reading or he would have known that "gerrymander" is quite a classic word. He will find in the Century Dictionary, for instance, a definition which describes exactly what the Government propose to do, namely, to use their temporary political and party majority to alter the constitution of Government. The fact is we have no choice in adopting the form of a Vote of Censure. For, as has been pointed out already in the course of this Debate, we had no alternative. We asked for an opportunity for, shall I put it, a nonparty and non-controversial discussion of these proposals. We wanted to give the House of Commons an opportunity of expressing its unfettered opinion and judgment on these proposals. That was declined, and we were told that if we wanted a discussion on these proposals we could have it only in the form of a Vote of Censure on the Government.
Coercion has evidently not been applied to this side of the House only, for the fact that the Amendments on the Paper have not been moved is evidence, I think, that coercion has been applied to the supporters of the Government sitting 1379 behind him. We have had a number of speeches—very brilliant and very eloquent speeches—from the other side of the House strongly condemning these proposals, but those Members who have made those speeches had their names attached to Amendments on the Paper. Why, therefore, have they withdrawn? They may continue to express those views, but it is quite evident they are not prepared to carry the expression of their views into the Division Lobby against the Government.
The attitude they have taken up reminds me of a story told by the late Speaker of the House of Commons. A man lost his dog. like some hon. Members opposite, it had gone astray. This was the advertisement he inserted: "Called Ben; answers reluctantly to 'Dash-you-come-here.'" That is exactly what hon. Members opposite do. The Prime Minister has determined the form of our Motion, and therefore it is little short of an impertinence on his part to make an appeal to us for help in the consideration of these proposals. More than once in his speech this afternoon he made such an appeal, but it is quite impossible, under the circumstances, for the House of Commons to express its views upon these proposals by means of a vote. What is going to happen is this, that the votes that go into the Division Lobby in support of the Government mean neither approval of nor dissent from these proposals, but are simply a vote of confidence of hon. Members in themselves. The right hon. Gentleman said that moving this Motion was like heaving half a brick at the Government. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it is not the last half brick that will be heaved at the Government on this subject.
The Prime Minister complained that we had put forward no constructive proposals. On an occasion like this it is not our business to put forward constructive proposals. Our immediate duty is to expose the character of the Government's proposals. When the time comes and the necessity arises for dealing with this question of the Second Chamber, we shall have our proposals; for the moment our duty is confined to dealing with the scheme which has been proposed by the Government. Never once this afternoon did the Prime Minister touch on the terms of our 1380 Motion. He spent the first 30 minutes of his speech in a dry, academic discourse about the constitution of various Second Chambers. At the end of 30 minutes he said he would come to the issue. The next 20 minutes he spent in giving an account of the various schemes which had been considered by previous Governments, the Bryce scheme and the scheme of the Coalition Government. We are not in the least concerned about the Bryce Report or about the scheme of the Coalition Government. We have no responsibility for either. We are concerned now with the scheme of the Government. The last part of the Prime Minister's speech said that he was trying to ascertain the opinion of the country. There is a way in which the Prime Minister can find the opinion of the country, a way in which he would have our hearty co-operation; it is the constitutional way of a General Election.
It is not clear at all, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) said, whether the Government intend to persist with these proposals. It may be that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to throw some light upon our difficulty. But whether they proceed with these proposals or not, the fact that they have put them forward is a clear indication of the mind of the Government. Why have these proposals been put forward? No one who read the debates which took place across the corridor can be in any doubt at all as to the reason why this issue has been raised at this time. There was not one speech in those debates which did not say that another Labour Government was a likelihood in the near future, and that therefore the present occasion must be used in order to strengthen the Second Chamber as a bulwark against legislation which might be introduced by a Labour Government. I think I should not be in order in referring to specific declarations made by particular Peers. A rather notorious Peer was quite frank about the matter, and said there must be a bulwark in the House of Lords against nationalisation proposals which might be brought forward by a Labour Government. Indeed, he said the House of Lords must be so strengthened that it would be the last line of defence against tyranny and chaos. The House of Lords has always been the defence 1381 of privilege and oppression. The House of Lords has always been the opponent of the extension of democratic rights and democratic privileges.
An hon. Member who spoke from this side a few minutes ago said that even if the Members of the House of Lords themselves were not very particular about, maintaining their hereditary legislative rights and privileges, they would oppose any radical change in the constitution of the House of Lords under the influence of their wives and daughters. That was a scheme actually put forward in the course of the Peers' debate. One noble Peer said it was their duty, on behalf of their ladies, to see that there was no radical change. The Prime Minister said this afternoon that it was neither the intention nor the purpose of these proposals to strengthen the power of the House of Lords. Are we to assume, then, that the Government are not united upon this question? A speech was delivered a day or two ago by a Member of the Cabinet, the Home Secretary, who, a little time ago, told this House that he was like a parrot; that he did not do much talking but he did a lot of thinking. If the Home Secretary did a little less talking and a little more thinking, he might be less of an embarrassment to his colleagues in the Government. The Prime Minister told us that these proposals were not intended to strengthen the House of Lords. What did the Home Secretary say a day or two ago:We are accused of trying to make the House of Lords stronger than it is to-day. That is our policy, and we have suggested these proposals for that very purpose.What is the scheme? It makes a pretence of accepting the Parliament Act. The two years' delay is intolerable, and I can imagine that it would be used very effectively by the House of Lords, with its existing powers, to hamper a Labour Government and make its harvest of legislation very meagre indeed. The worst feature of this scheme is one to which constant references have been made to-day, and that is the alteration of the Parliament Act in regard to Money Bills. That is a power for which the House of Lards are anxious. I am not very much concerned about the other powers of the House of Lords, provided the absolute authority of the House of Commons over money matters and other 1382 finance can be retained. If the House of Lords gets control of the purse, if they are able to reject a Money Bill, then they will have the power to destroy a Government. They can render ineffective all the other work of a Government.
The Prime Minister this afternoon said that there might be hidden in a Finance Bill proposals of an industrial economic and social character which would have far-reaching consequences. The desire of the House of Lords and the desire of the Tory party is to give the House of Lords control over Money Bills to give them the power to prevent legislation of a social character being carried into effect. That, undoubtedly, is the real purpose of these proposals. They are not only asking for these powers over national finance, but they are asking for the absolute right to interfere in regard to local rates. The question of local and national finance is now so inextricably mixed up that if the House of Lords had the right to interfere with proposals regarding local taxation, it would be impossible for a Labour or a progressive Government to carry out any real scheme for the reform of local taxation, and especially any scheme which proposed to appropriate for public purposes any part of the increment value on land.
I said a moment ago that if the House of Lords got this power they would have power to destroy a Government. They could throw out the first Budget of a Labour Government, and to throw out a Budget means the defeat of the Government. Therefore, there would be no further opportunity under the Parliament Act to carry those proposals into effect. The historic privileges of the House of Commons are threatened by these proposals. The Lord Chancellor said, and the Prime Minister almost in identical words repeated the statement this afternoon, that the Committee which it is proposed to set up to consider Bills, should have regard not only to the form but the substance and effect of the Measure, and a Committee composed as such a Committee will be of a majority of Peers and of Conservative Members of the House of Commons, would always be able to read into a Finance Bill that it contained something which had far-reaching industrial, economic and social consequences. Suppose that we were to propose a drastic addition to the Death 1383 Duties. Far-reaching consequences of an industrial, economic and especially social character would be involved in that, and, clearly, under these proposals that Committee would have the right to reject such a proposal.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the need for continuity in our institutions. Under this scheme, there would be something like 350 members of the House of Lords and an overwhelming majority of them would be hereditary Peers. The Lord Chancellor in outlining the scheme made that point quite clear. There would be, he said, a number but not a substantial number of nominated persons. The Prime Minister tried to justify his proposals this afternoon on the ground that they were to a considerable extent carrying out the recommendations of the Bryce Committee. I am not approving the recommendations of the Bryce Committee, but I would mention this fact, which disposes of that contention of the Prime Minister, that the Bryce Committee recommended that the House of Lords should consist of 246 persons, and that at first there should be only 81 Peers, to be reduced to 30. If the right hon. Gentleman is so anxious to maintain historic and feudal continuity, why did he not accept this recommendation of the Bryce Committee, for he would have got in those recommendations some relic of the prehistoric state of things? There are other points of view which we take in this connection. First of all, there is the point with which the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) dealt at great length. I agree with him that if any sensible construction can be placed upon the statement made in the House of Lords, it follows conclusively and clearly that it will be impossible, if this scheme be carried, to reform the House of Lords except with the consent of the House of Lords itself. He asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reply to that, and I understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say he did not agree with the point of view of the hon. and learned Member, so it would be interesting to have the Chancellor's point of view.
In these proposals there is a sort of democratic or small nominee element. When a Tory Government are in power a number of nominations will be made to 1384 10.0 p.m.
the Second Chamber by that Tory Government, a small number of nominees to give it a democratic flavour. Yes, a dozen Labour members nominated by the Tory Government will give as much democratic flavour to that institution as a pinch of salt would give to a cartload of muck. May I say to hon. Members who have so soundly condemned these proposals this afternoon, but who have Amendments on the Paper, that these Amendments are not at all consistent with the speeches they have made, because in those Amendments they have favoured an alteration with regard to the Speaker's Veto in certifying what is a Money Bill or what is not. Therefore, I take it they would be in favour of a scheme of the Government setting up a Committee to deal with that point. If they are in favour of that, they stultify everything they have said about the rest of the proposals of the Government. The Prime Minister dealt with another point this afternoon, that is, as to whether the Government have any mandate for carrying these proposals into effect. The Prime Minister quoted a speech he himself made just on the eve of the last General Election, but may I remind him that there was no reference to this important matter either in his Election Address or in the official election manifesto of the party to which he belongs, and I am sure the Prime Minister is too honest a man to maintain that votes cast for his party were cast in favour of these proposals. The Prime Minister's honesty always reminds me of Bunyan's definition of Mr. Honest. "Mr. Honest said he came from the town called Stupidity, beyond which lies the city of Destruction." I am quite sure the Prime Minister is too honest to maintain that votes were cast for his party on a statement in one sentence in his speech on the eve of the General Election, which could not have been read by the general body of the electors, or that a single vote was passed at the General Election on the statement of the Prime Minister that the Unionist party might consider this question. But we have evidence much more substantial and much more conclusive that the Government have no mandate. The Prime Minister this afternoon stated that he had given pledges in a party caucus to deal with this question. Does the Prime Minister or the party opposite 1385 maintain that if it could be proved that the opinion of the country is opposed to those proposals, they have a right to carry them into effect? What is the evidence which we have had, even granting that the Prime Minister's speech at Perth was read by the public and was approved at the party caucus, that they never got a majority for them? Ever since that time the support that they received at the General Election has been declining. At the last General Election, for every 115 votes polled by the Opposition party, 100 were cast in favour of the Conservative party. This year for every 100 votes polled by the Conservative party, 230 have been cast against them, and that effectively disposes of any contention that the Government ever had a mandate to deal with this matter. The Prime Minister said they had a mandate under the Parliament Act. He said their proposals were to implement the declarations of the Preamble of the Parliament Act, but they are no such thing. The Parliament Act in its Preamble states that this question will be dealt with by constituting a Second Chamber upon a system of popular election.Whereas it is intended to substitute for the present House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of a hereditary basis.Are the proposals of the Government then implementing Mr. Asquith's proposals? Are these proposals constituting a Second Chamber on a popular basis—proposals under which the hereditary system is still to be overwhelmingly entrenched? The Preamble of the Parliament Act says that when this question was dealt with it would be by limiting the powers of the House of Lords, and not by permanently entrenching and strengthening them as in this Bill. Now when statements were made in another place, those proposals were defended by spokesmen of the Government on the ground that they were intended to protect the people from ill-considered legislation and to ensure that any legislation carried through Parliament would reflect the considered judgment of the country. If that is so, what right have the Government to press these proposals forward in this Parliament when by all the evidence available they are not the considered judgment of the country, and judging by nine-tenths of the speeches made from that side of the House this afternoon 1386 the Government have not got the support of any considerable proportion even of their own followers.
One of the spokesmen for the Government there said that there is a danger looming up in our political life, the growth of the caucus, and it is most pronounced, he said, in the Labour party. He said that there were Ministers of that party who judged not a question upon its merits, but took their instructions from a party caucus, and the House of Lords must protect the country against such things. Yet the Prime Minister this afternoon attempted to justify these proposals on the ground that he had given a pledge to a party caucus. When the Trade Union Bill was under discussion in this House, it was defended, particularly the part dealing with the political levy, on the ground that it was demanded, not by the country but by the Tory party caucus. If it ought to be the aim of the House of Lords and the Government to protect the country against the rule of a party caucus, the Government have an opportunity of doing that in the Trade Union Bill. That Bill was defended on the ground that it was to prevent a Government being coerced by an outside body. This afternoon, we have the Prime Minister defending these proposals on the ground that the Government have been coerced into bringing them into operation by a party caucus and sections of their own party.
We have been criticised on the ground that we have put forward no constructive proposals. As I said, it is not our duty or our business to do so at this time. But we have had this request made by some Members on the other side of the House who opposed the Government scheme. I want to put this question. They say in their Amendment that no reform of the Second Chamber can be made except by general agreement. Upon what conditions can general agreement be obtained? Are hon. Members opposite, who are opposed to the Government scheme, to hold to the hereditary system? If so, no agreement is possible. Are they in favour of the elective principle? Are they in favour of a Chamber which should be a legislative or a revising Chamber? Above all else, are they in favour of retaining for the House of Commons its historic privileges in regard to the control of money? It is of no 1387 use asking for agreement in this question; no agreement is possible. The gulf between us and all who believe in the right of hereditary government is far too wide to be bridged, and this question will have to be fought out.
I do not envy the task of the Prime Minister if he persists in attempting to carry it out. He likened his task this afternoon to the task of Sisyphus; but he tried to derive some satisfaction from the fact, as he stated that there was no record that Sisyphus ever came to injury. That may be so, but he had a very hard and a very troubled, and a very harassing time. I do not think that the Prime Minister, when he made that classic reference, was quite aware of the close parallel there was between the task of Sisyphus and the task which he has undertaken in putting these proposals. This, I find, is a description of what Sisyphus had to encounter:With many a weary step, and many a groan,Up the high hill he heaves a huge, round stone.The huge, round stone, resulting with a bound,Thunders impetuous down and smokes along the ground.Again the restless orb his task renews,Dust mounts in clouds, and sweat descends in dews.Well, we have not been able to find, in the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon, whether he intends to continue his task. If he does, I am quite sure that the dust will rise and the sweat will descend in dews. Now I want to repeat, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to answer, a question which was put by the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me. Do the Government intend to proceed with these proposals? The Earl of Birkenhead gave a very categorical answer to that question when it was put in the House of Lords. He said, "Most certainly we do, and in this Parliament." We want to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Government intend to implement the pledge of the Earl of Birkenhead. We shall listen to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with interest, to hear what he has to say in reply to that question. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he 1388 came into the House this evening, brought a despatch box with him, and it possibly contains the reports of the speeches that he delivered upon this question some years ago. I wonder whether he will repeat this? Speaking of the House of Lords, he said:A played out, anachronistic assembly, the survival of a feudal arrangement utterly passed out of its original meaning, a force long since passed away, it only now requires a smashing blow from the electors to finish it for ever.If the Government persist in this scheme, then they will raise the whole question of the continued existence of the House of Lords, and, when that issue is placed before the country, I have no doubt what the verdict of the people will be. They will ask a question, and they will give an answer. They will ask the question, once put by the Chancellor of the Exchequer: "Who are these men that they should rule us? Who are they that their children should rule our children" They will ask that question, and, as I have said, they will answer it. From the point of view of party advantage, I hope the Government will persist in these proposals. If they are mad, as Mr. Garvin assumes that they are, if they are utterly indifferent to the political and electoral interests of their own party, then they may proceed with them; but, if they do, one thing is absolutely certain, and that is that the party, at the next election, will receive, by the verdict of this country, a condemnation without parallel in the electoral experience of any political party in this country.
The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER
(Mr. Churchill) : It is a pity, I think, that the right hon. Gentleman should have disfigured his lengthy but well-considered constitutional oration by the use of such a disgusting metaphor as to compare the House of Lords to a cart of muck. [Interruption.] As one who has filled my responsible position, and who aspires, no doubt, to fill a still higher and more responsible position in this country, the right hon. Gentleman, one feels, is perhaps taking a lower view of the taste of his supporters than is actually justified by the facts. I must begin by reminding the House of what we are going to vote upon to-night. It is not upon the reform of the House of Lords, nor upon the relations between 1389 the two Houses, but only upon whether the Government have done wrong to allow their representatives in the House of Lords to take part in a discussion upon these topics. [Interruption.] To put it mildly, that is taking rather an extreme view. The question of the reform of the House of Lords may be inopportune; it may be undesirable; but it is certainly not indecent. We have often seen proposals to censure Governments for their action, or for their inaction, but this is the first time I remember any proposal to censure a Government for discussing a question—[Interruption]— for adumbrating a policy, or for taking an opportunity of warning and guiding public opinion. There would be nothing censurable if we had actually introduced a Bill—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
There would be nothing censurable if we had actually introduced a Bill. It has often been done. One would have thought the people who are opposed to any reform of the Second Chamber would have praised the Government for opening the topic in this careful and non-committal manner. They ought to be grateful to us instead of comng blustering out with a Vote of Censure. Nothing is more proper in constitutional matters than to proceed by way of Resolution. It is the recognised procedure on such topics. Nothing can be more proper than to proceed by Resolution in the Chamber that is specially concerned. I think myself it is a great pity that we do not adopt this venerable procedure by Resolution more frequently in the busy House of Commons and use it to explore add illuminate very large questions, instead of allowing ourselves to be over-pressed by detail and routine. Resolution is the proper procedure for opening these matters, and it was by this means that Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 1906 or 1907 first introduced the topic of the Parliament Act to the House of Commons. It would be impossible to have selected a more constitutional procedure or one that was more fair to the Opposition or more helpful to the country in its examination of the subject. Moreover, as I have said, of course it is right that a matter of this kind should, first of all, be ventilated in the House of Lords. That 1390 is the branch of the Legislature which is directly and immediately concerned with the question of its own reform. They also have a good deal more leisure to discuss these matters than we have here below, especially at this period of the Session. So, so far from being censured in these very gross terms, we ought to be praised by the right hon. Gentleman and those who sit behind him.
Let me inquire who are these people who seek to censure us for our procedure. Who are these guardians of the British Constitution who have rallied so eagerly to its defence, whose breasts are heaving with indignation that even a touch should be laid upon its sacred structure? Who are they? Would you believe me, Sir, they are the same gentlemen, the very same, the identical ones, who little more than a year ago were planning, organising, managing, or as I believe they now admit, mismanaging, the general strike. We have heard of Satan reproving sin. This Resolution speaks of a constitutional outrage. Imagine such muddle-headed political leaders suddenly posing before us as the august defenders of the Constitution and as the arbiters and judges of the niceties and perfections of constitutional law. [Interruption.] I have finished. I have dealt with the official Opposition. What is to be said about the Liberal opposition? What are their pretensions in this affair. The hon. Member for Silvertown's friend, Julius Cæsar, said that all Gaul was divided into three parts. In order to save time, I will deal with the Liberal opposition under only two heads. I will deal with them under the two heads of the impeccables and the naughty. What did the orthodox followers of, shall I say, Sir Herbert Samuel or Lord Oxford, commit themselves to in supporting the Preamble of the Parliament Act?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Certainly, and I support it now. What is their position? They have never compromised with fortune. They have kept the faith and have also run in the race. They are the pure and the unsullied, and I ask why should they complain that the question of the reform of the House of Lords has been raised by His Majesty's Government. How in the face of the Preamble of the Parliament Act can they object 1391 to that? Of course, it is quite true that they may not agree with the proposals which Lord Cave has put forward. That is quite true. They are perfectly free to differ from those proposals. Indeed, they have logical grounds for doing so in the very text of the Preamble of the Parliament Act. But what we are now being censured for, is not for any proposals or any Bill that we have put forward. We are now being censured because we have allowed this question to be raised and to be discussed in another place. [Hon. MEMBERS "Divide!"] Well, that is quite easy. Any party can do that, and, if it comes to dividing, we will divide. I thought the hon. Gentleman wanted a Debate. In the face of the statements that they have made about it being a pledge of honour and a pledge which brooks no delay to deal with the question of the Second Chamber, I ask them with what shadow of consistency can they condemn us, not for the method of our proposals, but for the fact that we have ventured to put some forward? So much for the impeccables. Now let me come to the naughty. I come to the black sheep that was lost, and warned and written off as "no earthly," but later on returned to his overjoyed companions and quite unexpectedly broke back into the pen. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was the head of the Government that made these very proposals five years ago.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGEindicated dissent.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The right hon. Gentleman says "No, no." They are as like as two peas. It is true that if you take two peas and put them under a microscope a certain number of minor peculiarities will be discernible in each pea, and I am quite ready to make the right hon. Gentleman a present of the minor peculiarities. Let me ask him this question. Assume we obliterate the minor peculiarities and make our proposals in the exact identical form with those he persuaded me to support five years ago, where does he stand? Can we count on his aid in the further exploration of this problem if we put ourselves directly in line with him and his Government?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to take now the line which he took in the Cabinet then, I shall be prepared to stand by him.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
It is quite true that five years ago I was rather shocked at the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman, and I somewhat deprecated his ardour for reform of the House of Lords, but everyone knows how compulsive and persuasive is his personality, how commanding his presence as the Leader of the Government, and in the end I deferred to his advice and wishes and, in consequence, I shared with him the responsibility for the proposals which were put forward five years ago by him and which have now been tentatively advanced for public discussion in a slightly different form by His Majesty's Government.
I now venture to depart from the strict terms of the Motion before the House and deviate, though it will be perfectly orderly, into the merits of the issue of the reform of the House of Lords. I took the trouble to re-read a large number of the Debates on the Parliament Act, and it is really difficult to believe that they took place only 16 years ago. How completely the political atmosphere has changed since those days! Not only have 16 years passed, but world shaking events have taken place and multiplied the ordinary passage of time. The scene is completely transformed. We have a new electorate, a new generation. We have a new world, battered and chastened, but still a new world, and undoubtedly the opinion of this new generation, of this new electorate, must be the supreme factor in any modification of our Constitution
But what is the main feature of the change which has taken place? Surely it is the attitude of the nation as a whole towards the Parliament Act. In those days the Parliament Act was the most fiercely controverted Measure of Liberal and Radical reform. Now it is accepted widely and generally; for good or for ill, it is accepted as having taken a lasting and almost an unchallenged place in the Constitution. Whatever the differences between parties may be, or whatever the differences in parties may be—there are still very clear differences, natural and honest differences, on this difficult topic of the 1393 reform of the House of Lords, in almost every party—whatever those differences may be, it may be taken as an agreed fact that the Parliament Act is the foundation and the starting point of all modern constitutional reform. The Parliament Act dominated the Bryce Committee; the Parliament Act dominated the Coalition proposals; and the Parliament Act dominates any proposals which at any time may be made by His Majesty's Government. It is accepted that the Parliament Act must remain as the instrument to regulate the relations between the Houses, unless or until some Second Chamber utterly different in composition from what exists to-day were actually called into being.
I am not going to dwell upon the proposal that is put forward, that a Joint Committee should be substituted for the Speaker's certificate to determine what are and what are not Money Bills. It was recommended by the Bryce Committee; it played its part in the Coalition proposals; and it presents itself in a somewhat different form in our own. The right hon. Gentleman makes a great point of the differences between his proposals and ours in that respect. I can assure him that if he is pinning his faith to being able to preserve his consistency by that quibble, the foothold will be withdrawn from beneath him, because there is no reason whatever why, in the course of fair discussion, the proposals which we put forward should not take the form of those which were put forward in the days of the Coalition. I cannot believe that the proposal to adjust the relations between the two, Houses on this matter in the form put forward by the Bryce Committee raises any issue which ought to divide sincere constitutional reformers.
Far more important, however, is the question, also included in the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, of whether the powers which are being left by the Parliament Act to the House of Lords ought to be capable of being altered by the Parliament Act within the lifetime of a single Parliament and without any intervening election. Everything in the British Constitution must be capable of alteration, either by the prerogative of the Crown or by some other lawful means, in accordance with the settled and 1394 persisting will of the people. The Government have no intention, and never had any intention, of creating any system for which there is no constitutional exit. The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) devoted a closely-knit argument to this subject, and I do not at all complain that he should have raised this question. Means must exist of procuring constitutional change by the manifestation of the will of the people, and those means could not be sufficiently provided merely by the constitutional practice of the House of Lords to defer to a direct expression of the popular will.
In the preliminary Debates in the House of Lords this point was not made sufficiently clear and exactly the same thing took place when the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs were introduced. The reason is very easy to understand. These proposals partake of two parts. There are certain minor modifications in the relations of the two Houses and proposals for the alteration of the composition of the House of Lords. Until it is known whether the House of Lords is willing to make alterations in its own composition and reduce its numbers in such a way that, through that very fact, the prerogative of the Crown to create Peers is affected—until that is known it is not necessary to alter the proposals for making sure that the Parliament Act is inalterable by means of the Parliament Act. But, of course, it is perfectly clear that once the issue is raised a method of continuous progression by constitutional means must be afforded and must always remain open to the people of this country. The question, therefore, is not whether we must make the Parliament Act inalterable by means of the Parliament Act, but whether it should be inalterable unless a General Election has intervened at some stage in the Parliament Act procedure.
I am going to examine this proposal because I think it requires attention. My part in the Parliament Act Debates was considerable. I wound up the principal discussions, and I took a great part in the Committee stage and, therefore, I can claim to be thoroughly well acquainted with all that went on at that time and with the views that were held. The then Liberal Government con 1395 sistently repudiated the idea of single-Chamber Government and in abrogating the Veto of the House of Lords they deliberately assigned to the Second Chamber, the Chamber of review, the extremely important and, as the right hon. Gentleman wisely indicated, formidable function of delay. That arose as a result of convictions formed in the days of John Bright. It was the opinion of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and, over many years, the highest possible value was attached by the Liberal leaders to conferring upon the House of Lords and securing to them the full use of the weapon of delay. The object was to enable a Chamber of review, a revising Chamber, however it might be constituted, to safeguard the country against sudden and precipitate action, against laws passed in passion and in violence, and to ensure a reasonable amount of revision. The right hon. Gentleman opposite asked me whether I could put my hand on my heart and say that I approved of this proposal and the other proposals. I will, not in any vanity, not because I am trying to prove myself the most or perhaps the only consistent man in this House, quote what I said on behalf of the Liberal Government in those days 16 years ago:I do not believe the bi-cameral system is necessary to the stability of the State. I think it is necessary for the passage of good laws. But we do not propose single-Chamber government; it is not in our Bill, it is not in our Preamble; it is not in our policy. We propose that the absolute veto of the House of Lords shall now cease and be determined for ever, and that in the place of that absolute veto they shall exercise a delaying power over all legislation, which will give ample time for fair consideration by the country and full opportunities for revision as well as for the exercise of a certain bargaining power between the two Houses. We do not say that this is the final settlement. Among the legislation which we shall submit to the delaying powers of the Lords will be included, if it be the general wish, a Measure for creating that fairly evenly constituted Second Chamber of which so many Members have spoken to-night."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1911; cols. 2035–6, Vol. 21.]I say that that truly illustrates the views held by the Liberal Government of those days, and it is only right that we should approach this question along the path of historical continuity. In the present circumstances there is no security at all that 1396 the safeguard of delay provided by the Parliament Act could not be swept away, through the machinery of the Parliament Act, in two years after a new Parliament had come into being, and swept away without the electors even being asked whether or not they wished to have the Parliament Act altered or repealed. It would only be necessary in this Statute, in Section 1: "If a Money Bill, having been passed," to omit the one word "Money," and let it read: "If a Bill, having been passed," to destroy altogether the safeguard of delay, which, in all these controversies in the last two generations, it has always been determined by the Progressive party should be attributed to the Second Chamber.
I think this is a serious danger, and it is reinforced by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. I saw him working himself up to an attack, not merely upon the proposals of the Government—and the proposals, incidentally, which he made himself—but working himself up to an attack upon the Parliament Act itself, pointing out all the inconveniences of the delay and generally making out a case to sweep away such safeguards as the wisdom which emerged from the controversies of generations have still left to the Second Chamber in this country. I have asked myself why this security was not demanded by the House of Lords and by the Conservative party at the time of the passing of the Parliament Act. The explanation is, I am sure, that owing to the passions which were then running and the keen resentment which was felt, no word of good could be spoken about the Parliament Act, and the many advantages which it confers upon the Second Chamber could not be recognised in any way, but I am quite sure that if the House of Lords had then said, "We will pass this Bill without a threat of creating peers provided it is understood that the powers now given to us are not to be taken away through this very instrument, but that there will be a General Election before these powers are taken away"—if they had made that request, the Government of the day, I say myself, giving my own personal opinion, would most certainly have accepted that request and I point as a precedent to a request which was accepted. It was proposed by the House of Lords that the provision of the Parliament Act which says that the life 1397 of Parliament may not be prolonged beyond five years should be specially exempted from the ordinary provisions of the Parliament Act, and that figures in that Act at the present time as an exception to the legislation which may be dealt with under the Parliament Act.
It is entirely reasonable and in the general historic sequence of events that the Parliament Act itself, and such privileges and rights as yet remain to the Second Chamber, should not be altered—without an appeal to the people, because that alters everything—through the ordinary automatic working of the Parliament Act. I am not here to say what are the proposals which the Government will put forward in due course, but, at any rate, it seems to be a matter which may quite fairly be the subject of discussion and which ought to be very carefully considered by all those who wish to see the Constitution of this country put into good order. Why should it be thought that such a safeguard is less needful now than it was in 1911 or in the days of my right hon. Friend in 1922? Why should it be less needful now? What has happened since then to make it less necessary? Whereas the party systems in this country which carried on the struggles of politics so fiercely in the past were not divided in former times on fundamental issues, we now have a party which would be greatly insulted if anybody were to suggest that they did not wish to sweep away and alter fundamentally the whole existing economic and social system of the country. I dare say they are not so red as they paint themselves, but, at any rate, they are a party which claims the right to proceed to nationalise all the means of production and distribution. At any rate, no one can say that the new fact which hon. Gentlemen constitute makes it less necessary that the reasonable safeguards which were approved by the Parliaments before the War should be limited or are rendered unnecessary to-day.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan), who interested us all so much this afternoon by his delightful speech, said, in effect, "Trust to the common-sense of the British people." I agree with that, and I am quite sure that, on the day when 1398 the constitutional parties of this country lose faith in the common-sense and good will of the masses of the British people they will have lost all influence at home. But how does my hon. Friend know that the good sense and common-sense of the British people is going to be consulted? [An HON. MEMBER: "Dare you consult them on this"] How much did you consult the good sense of the British people when you declared the General Strike? [An HON. MEMBER: "How much did you consult them over the Eight Hours Bill? "] I submit that these reasonable proposals which have been put forward are deserving of the careful and patient consideration of sincere men in all parts of the House. That brings me—and I have only a few minutes to spare, but quite enough—to the second part of these proposals, namely, the composition of the Second Chamber. I should like to point out that if the relations between the two Houses are satisfactory—if they are regulated by the Parliament Act and are satisfactory to the House of Commons—the composition of the House of Lords becomes definitely less important and sinks to an altogether less important plane. Nevertheless, I venture to think it is plain that among men of all parties opinion in this House has clearly turned against the brand new elective Senate which would be a rival to the House of Commons and would certainly interfere with the course of business and set itself up as an antagonistic and confident combatant with us at every stage. But our object is much more limited. Our object is to enable the House of Lords, if it chooses, and only if it chooses, to form itself into an assembly which can better and more fairly discharge the functions remaining to it under the Parliament Act. All parties, as the right hon. Gentleman for Carnarvon Boroughs has pointed out, have an interest in that, and I cannot see how the Labour or Liberal parties could possibly be damaged in their interests because of the House of Lords—wishing to put itself in better relations with the country and to fit itself better to discharge its duties—choosing to add representatives of other parties and to reform its body from within. I cannot conceive that we are to be blamed and censured because we have allowed it, encouraged it, to embark upon the study of 1399 such a matter. It may well be that we shall fail.
The right hon. Gentleman has said that every effort to solve this problem has failed, and that the House of Lords will long continue in that venerable and unreformed magnificence so dear to the heart and the historical sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities. If that should happen after there has been a fair and a free and an open and public discussion, if it should happen that the scheme fails, that agreement cannot be reached, that nothing which makes things very much better should be produced, we shall bear our disappointment with what fortitude we may. Nevertheless, I am sure that we are right, and, indeed, we are bound to assist in the ventilation of this subject. The House of Commons stands to lose nothing from the discussion, and it may well be that the Constitution will be the gainer. I trust my hon. Friends on this side of the House will not think that these constitutional matters are unimportant, or that they can be ignored. The task that we have before us is the defence of the Parliamentary institutions of this country from all enemies, from whatever quarter of the political horizon they may come, and in that task we shall be the stronger if an earnest attempt and a goodhearted attempt is made by both Houses to understand their own difficulties and to discharge their proper functions under
§ the Constitution with common respect and good feeling. Now I have finished, and I merely wish—
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
No, I cannot give way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] I shall trespass no longer upon the time of hon. Members. I know they wish to divide. If these proposals had been received in a sincere desire to examine this problem and carry it forward, and if we had been reproached with any fault in the manner or method in which we had brought them before the public, we should have been wounded by the censure; but when we see there is nothing in this but really hungry partisanship, and that it expresses itself in the gross, harsh and insulting language of censure, we shall show ourselves able to repel it.
That this House regrets that the Government has put forward a scheme for fundamental changes in the House of Lords which gerrymanders the constitution in the interests of the Conservative party, deprives the House of Commons of that control over finance which it has possessed for generations, entrenches the House of Lords, on a hereditary basis, more firmly against the people's will than for centuries past, and, in defiance of every precedent of modern times, robs the electors of power to deal with the House of Lords; and this House declared that it will be an outrage on the Constitution to force such proposals through Parliament without mandate from the people.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 167; Noes, 362.1403
|Division No. 244.]||AYES||[11.0 p.m|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Connolly, M||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Cove, W. G.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Groves, T.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Crawfurd, H. E.||Grundy, T. W.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Dalton, Hugh||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Baker, Walter||Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hardle, George D.|
|Barnes, A.||Day, Colonel Harry||Harney, E. A.|
|Batey, Joseph||Dennison, R.||Harris, Percy A.|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Duckworth, John||Hayday, Arthur|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Duncan, C.||Hayes, John Henry|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Dunnico, H.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)|
|Briant, Frank||Edge, Sir William||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)|
|Broad, F. A.||England, Colonel A.||Hirst, G. H.|
|Bromfield, William||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)|
|Bromley, J.||Gardner, J. P.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Garro-Jones, Captain G M.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)|
|Buchanan, G.||Gibbins, Joseph||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Gillett, George M.||John, William (Rhondda, West)|
|Cape, Thomas||Gosling, Harry||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)|
|Clowes, S.||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Greenall, T.||Jones, Morgan(Caerphilly)|
|Compton, Joseph||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coine)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Riley, Ben||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)|
|Kennedy, T.||Ritson. J.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Kirkwood, D.||Rose, Frank H.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Lansbury, George||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Lawrence, Susan||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Towne'id, A. E.|
|Lawson, John James||Scrymgeour, E||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Lee, F.||Scurr, John||Varley, Frank B.|
|Lindley, F. W.||Sexton, James||Viant, S. P.|
|Livingstone, A. M.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Wallhead, Richard c.|
|Lowth, T.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Lunn, William||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|MacLaren Andrew||Sitch, Charles H.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|MacNeill-Weir, L||Smillie, Robert||Welsh, J. C|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Whiteley, W.|
|Maxton, James||Smith, H. B. Lees (Kelghley)||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Morris, R. H.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Mosley, Oswald||Snell, Harry||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Murnin, H.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Lianelly)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Oliver, George Harold||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Palin, John Henry||Stamford, T. W.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Paling, W.||Stephen, Campbell||Windsor, Walter|
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Stewart. J. (St. Rollox)||Wright, W.|
|Ponsonby, Arthur||Strauss, E. A.|
|Potts, John S.||Sullivan, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Purcell, A. A.||Sutton, J. E.||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr. Charles|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-Is-Spring)||Taylor, R. A.||Edwards.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bullock, Captain M.||Davies, Dr. Vernon|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington. S.)|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Burman, J. B.||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Albery, Irving James||Burney, Leiut.-Com. Charles D.||Dean, Arthur Wellesley|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Butt, Sir Alfred||Diewe, C.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Eden, Captain Anthony|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Calne, Gordon Hall||Elliot, Major Walter E.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Campbell, E. T.||Ellis, R. G.|
|Apsley, Lord||Carver, Major W. H.||Elveden, Viscount|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Cassels, J. D.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)|
|Astor, Maj. Hon. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, city)||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth.S.)||Fairfax, Captain J. G.|
|Atkinson, C.||Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Fermoy, Lord|
|Balniel, Lord||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Fleiden, E. B.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Chapman, Sir S.||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Charteris, Brigadler-General J.||Foster, Sir Harry S.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Chilcott, Sir Warden||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Christie, J. A.||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Frece, Sir Walter de|
|Bennett, A. J.||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Clayton, G. C.||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony|
|Berry, Sir George||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
|Bethel, A.||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Gates, Percy|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Colman, N. C. D.||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Blundell, F. N.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Cooper, A. Duff||Goff, Sir Park|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Cope, Major William||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Couper, J. B.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Grant, Sir J. A.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Greenwood, Rt.Hn.Sir H.(W'th's'w,E)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Brockiebank, C. E. R.||Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Grotrian, H. Brent.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks,Newb'y)||Davidson, J. (Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Buchan, John||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hall, Leiut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovit)||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Hanbury, C.||Macintyre, Ian||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||McLean, Major A.||Sandon, Lord|
|Harland, A.||Macmillan, Captain H.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Savery, S. S.|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Scott, Rt. Hon. Sir Leslie|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Macquisten, F. A.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Makins, Brigadler-General E.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D.Mcl.(Renfrew, W.)|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Davon, Totnes)||Malone, Major P. B.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Margesson, Capt. D.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Mason, Lieut-Col. Glyn K.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Henderson, Lt.-Col. Sir V. L. (Bootle)||Meller, R. J.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Merriman, F. B||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Meyer, Sir Frank||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Mline, J. S. Wardiaw-||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Moles, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Holt, Capt. H. P.||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Homan, C. W. J.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||Styles, Captain H. Walter|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Fortar)||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid,|
|Hopkinson, Sir A.(Eng. Universities)||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Horllck, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Colonel C. K.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl'nd, Whitsh'n)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W. G. (Ptraf'ld.)||Tltchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Nuttall, Ellis||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Oakley, T.||Waddington, R.|
|Hurst, Gerald B.||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Hugh||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Jacob, A. E.||Pennefather, Sir John||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Penny, Frederick George||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Wells, S. R.|
|Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Perring, Sir William George||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dalrymple.|
|Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|King, Commodore Henry Douglas||Pllcher, G.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Power, Sir John Cecil||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Preston, William||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Radford. E. A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Raine, Sir Walter||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Ramsden, E.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Lloyd, Cyrli E. (Dudley)||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Withers, John James|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Loder, J. de V.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Long, Major Eric||Rice, Sir Frederick||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Looker, Herbert William||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Wood, E (Chester, Staiyb'ge & Hyde)|
|Lougher, Lewis||Roberts, E. H. G.(Flint)||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Lowe, Sir Francis William||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Ropner, Major L.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Luce Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Lumley, L. R.||Rye, F. G.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Lynn, Sir R. J.||Salmon, Major I.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Sandeman, N. Stewart||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
|McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Colonel Gibbs.|
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.