§ [3RD ALLOTTED DAY.]
§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Clynes)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I recalled the declarations which the Prime Minister made in this House, very soon after the last General Election, on the subject of electoral reform. Certain statements which I then quoted are on record, and I need not repeat them to-day. A Second Reading was given to the Bill by a quite substantial majority, and I offer the Bill to-day in a slightly amended form for a Third Reading by this House. The House by this time has a complete knowledge of the objects and details of the Bill. It has been before the House for some months, and has been the subject of extensive and detailed discussion. It has approached its final stage, and with confidence I ask for a majority that will emphasise the opinion of this House in favour of the changes in our electoral law which this Bill suggests. In the main, our discussions have been conducted with knowledge of the subject, and, if they have turned out in the main to be unexciting, they certainly did not show a lack of interest in the proposal to make a further advance on the subject of electoral reform. It cannot be complained by those who attended the Debates that ample time was not given for discussion. Although the Debates took place within the ambit of a Resolution approved by the House, experience showed that the days allotted for debate were adequate, and that no important body of opinion lacked its opportunity.
The Bill contains some quite new features, and, naturally, they provoked rather searching criticism, but in principle the Bill is in harmony with the general lines of successive proposals to improve our electoral law by the agency of what are termed Reform Bills. There have been but a few outstanding changes 44 made by the House during the Committee and Report stages of the Bill. Indeed, the only substantial alterations made are the deletion of the Clause abolishing university representation, and the amendment of the Clause dealing with restriction of the use of vehicles at Parliamentary elections; and, indeed, this latter change was made by the House in accordance with almost unanimous opinions expressed in the course of our Debates. Therefore, after the long discussions that have taken place on the Bill, it is difficult at this stage to find anything new to say about it. I submit its principles as being in keeping with the wishes of the country—[Interruption]—and with the necessity for equalising the conditions in Parliamentary contests as between party and party. The Bill marks a definite step in the establishment of democracy on a surer and broader basis, on the one hand by the device of the Alternative Vote, which endeavours to secure that Members are not returned to this House against the wishes of the majority, and, on the other hand, by those Clauses which abolish plural voting, restrict the use of vehicles at Parliamentary elections, and fix a maximum scale of election expenses. By these methods the Bill goes a long way in the direction of equalising the conditions as between the poorer candidates and the richer in our Parliamentary contests.
The Alternative Vote, which is to be an addition to our future system as outlined in the first Clause of this Bill, was considered by a Commission in 1910, and was unanimously recommended by that Commission for adoption as part of our electoral system. I need not here speak of its fate thereafter, but the fact that a Commission charged with the duty of thorough investigation unanimously recommended this change says a great deal in favour of the change. I recall that in course of the Debates many quite doleful speeches were made, and that we listened to verbal lamentations as to the greatly reduced number of electors who in these days were going to the poll. If that be so, as indeed it is, it at least proves that there is no very furious desire on the part of the constituencies to turn this Government out of office. Although our electoral system is always, as the saying is, going to the dogs when 45 the party opposite is not in power, while when the party opposite is in power there could not be a more perfect method of governing the country, this electoral indifference is some proof that no great hostility has been manifested in the country against the Government of the day. In the main, the Bill offers a wider choice to the individual elector, and that choice may in itself tend to a greater Interest in our electoral contests.
The necessity for the Alternative Vote is clearly due to the defects of the existing system of Parliamentary election. With three main political parties in the field, the present system is likely to result, and has already resulted on two occasions, namely, in the General Elections of 1922 and 1924, in a minority of votes returning a majority of Members to Parliament. At the last election, in 1929, there was a large increase in the number of three-cornered contests, and no fewer than 308 Members were returned to Parliament on a minority vote. Moreover, under the present system, with three or more parties in the field, it is more likely to happen that a candidate will be elected who, so Ear from representing the constituency as a whole, is the candidate advocating a policy which is objected to by a majority in his constituency. That is a condition which I submit cannot be defended, and certainly cannot be welcomed or approved by any Member of the House, no matter on which side he may sit. The Alternative Vote system is a simple device for effecting in one operation the same result as is achieved by the system of a second ballot. The system of the Alternative Vote effects this same result without putting the electorate to the trouble, and without involving the candidate and the public purse in the expense, of holding a second election. Where there are only three candidates, the Alternative Vote system proceeds by eliminating from the contest that candidate who at the first count has the lowest number of votes. The ballot papers of the eliminated candidate are then searched, and the second preferences shown on those ballot papers are transferred each to that one of the two remaining candidates for whom the second preference has been indicated.
The system of the Alternative Vote has worked very well in organisations and societies covering collectively a few 46 million people interested in the Government of great bodies and organisations. In the course of the discussions on the Second Reading and during the Report stage, some speeches were heard from the opposite side of the House as though this were imposing a tyranny upon the individual elector, requiring him to do something totally against his will. As a fact, there is no compulsion and no element of force of any kind. The elector is offered a greater freedom of choice if he wishes to exercise it. He is not compelled to do anything, but he is enabled to do much if his mind is in that direction. This choice, if exercised, will at least lessen the risks of both minority Members and minority Ministers. Finally, under that head I submit that the growth of parties in our present-day electoral system justifies this change in the direction of a wider choice, in order that no longer shall the Government of this country be conducted on a minority basis.
Clause 4 of the Bill proposes to abolish plural voting entirely. Under the present law, an elector at a General Election can exercise two votes, and half-a-million of them do so. One vote is in respect of a residence qualification and the second is in respect of either a business or a university qualification. I have heard it said that, after all, the number of plural voters is not very large, but half-a-million, in these days of narrow majorities, is a great consideration, and a plural voter can, by present-day methods of organisation, become the determining factor in constituencies where he has no right whatever to intervene.
As originally introduced, the Bill proposed to abolish university representation altogether. That Clause was deleted by a majority of four votes only, but the Government decided to accept the decision of the House, with the result that university representation remains, but no university elector who votes in a university constituency can any longer vote in any other constituency as well.
A further advance made by the Bill in the direction of curtailing the advantages enjoyed by wealth is the proposal in Clause 7 to abolish the business premises qualification. By its decision the House has recognised that the continued exist- 47 ence of a property qualification is an anomaly surviving from the time when the franchise altogether was based upon some form of property qualification. I do not see present the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) who, in discussing this subject in one of our earlier Debates, endeavoured to justify what he termed the premises vote. He made this statement:It may be said that these premises are only working premises and not sleeping premises but, surely, work is as essential to the welfare of the nation as sleep, and the centres where work is usually done have their importance just as much as the centres where people carry on their ordinary domestic life.That statement so puzzled me that I put this question:Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that a workman employed in a workshop should have a vote for that workshop as well as for his residence?Certainly that was the meaning, if meaning it had, of the whole of his argument. The right hon. Gentleman in reply said:As a matter of fact, for convenience, the great mass of people are better represented according to the places where they live."—[OFFCIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1931; col. 1759, Vol. 247.]I suggest that, in these days, even the right hon. Gentleman ought not to be guilty of this atrocious differentiation as between the class that has to labour in a workshop owned by another and the class owning business premises which they are able either to purchase or rent, as the case may be. Why should it be said that the rough classification of having a vote for where you sleep is good enough for the larger class of workers, but that you must have a dual right if at the same time you have a house to sleep in and a workshop in which other people are employed? There were many things said in the course of our discussions about this new-found level of working-class power. It has been acquired in the teeth of sustained opposition from the party represented by hon. Members opposite. It is true that, when the point was reached of there being no longer any advantage in resistance, there was submission and there was concession. Indeed, our political history is full of proofs of changes of that kind on the part of the Conservative party. Speak- 48 ing for myself, at any rate, I prefer in this matter of political alignment the basis of numbers rather than the basis of mere class distinction. Those who talk to us to-day about class distinctions may well recall the fact that long, long before the working classes had any vote, or approached the prospect of one, many examples were set to them in the matter of class distinctions by great groups of well-to-do and comparatively favoured people, the privileged classes, owners of land, owners of property and possessors of power.
There is a part of the Bill which deals with the relations of the motorist to the voters who may be brought to the poll. This part of our proposals greatly incensed many hon. Members opposite, who naturally resent any disturbance of the great advantages which they have enjoyed in the race to bring to the poll the electors who may be brought there within a comparatively short time. Clause 6 imposes certain restrictions on the use of vehicles in Parliamentary elections. In its present form it provides ample facilities for enabling voters who require conveyances to be conveyed to the poll, while at the same time it imposes such restrictions on the use of vehicles at elections as are necessary to bring about some equalisation of the opportunities between candidates for bringing their supporters to the poll. The only other point to which attention need be called on this Clause is that limiting the number of registered cars which may be used at an election in county and borough constituencies respectively. Constituencies which are very scattered and extensive or mountainous and troublesome to cover are exempt from this provision and may use as many cars as the candidates can secure. Clause 7 reduces the maximum scale of election expenses from sixpence to fivepence in a county constituency and from fivepence to fourpence in a borough constituency. This Clause met with no opposition and was received, apparently, with unanimous approval on all sides of the House.
I commend the Bill to the House for its Third Reading. As a believer in democracy and in the equalising of opportunities, I count myself fortunate to be in charge of a Bill which, as far as the franchise is concerned, is the 49 culmination of a century of effort and, as regards other matters dealt with in the Bill, is a great step forward in the direction of the levelling up of opportunities between candidate and candidate—[Interruption]—If you will, levelling down. You can often get a condition of equality by a process of levelling down, but it would appear in this instance that the objection is to the Government's endeavour to level up. These reforms have been long delayed. Had it not been for the War, and all that the War has meant, I am certain that long before this many of these reforms would have been placed upon the Statute Book, perhaps even by others than a Labour Government. These proposals bring us nearer to a state of equality in the fight, and, as I said, I think, in an earlier part of our discussions, hon. Members and right hon. Members opposite might well be ashamed of their wishing to keep, by legal restraints, the peculiar kind of advantages which their wealth has enabled them to enjoy. This wider range of choice given to the electors will, I say, go far to put an end to minority government, and the tendency to greater equality in the contest will bring rich and poor candidates nearer to a mark where the contest will be conducted under conditions of fair play.
§ Captain BOURNE
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day three months."
The Home Secretary, in moving the Third Beading of this Bill, has done so in a speech of unusual tepidity for a Cabinet Minister bringing forward a first-class Measure. I can quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman is not really very enamoured with the Alternative Vote, for until quite recently he was vice-president of the Proportional Representation Society. I notice, however, in the last publication of an interesting volume which reached me yesterday, his name had been withdrawn, so I suppose that at the moment we must regard him as at any rate, possibly under compulsion, a convert, to the Alternative Vote. He did not, however, seem to regard that particular proposal with any enthusiasm, and the one moment when his speech rose to any fervour was when he was dealing with the question of the business premises. In touching upon 50 that question, he managed to drag into the Debate a little class warfare. Otherwise his speech reminded me of an argument put forward to the governor of a foundling hospital regarding the future of an infant of doubtful paternity for which he had no use himself. But there was one thing which struck me in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He repeated, for I do not know the how many-eth time, that the last Parliament in 1924 was returned on a minority vote, That may be true of any Parliament if you add up all the heads and then count the total votes cast all over the country, but nothing in this Bill, and no proposal which has been made in any part of the House, proposed to alter counting by constituencies. On the basis of constituencies, the right hon. Gentleman's argument is palpably false.
Before I deal with the general demerits of the Bill itself—and they are many—there is one question I want to put to the Government, and I hope that whoever replies on behalf of the Government will give us an answer to it. There have been many Electoral Reform Bills in the course of our history. In every case of a Reform Bill that has reached the Statute Book, the Government of the day have gone to the country at the earliest possible moment when the register could be prepared. If this Bill reaches the Statute Book, are the present Government prepared to dissolve forthwith? Whatever may be the argument in the case of the last election—and I do not propose to enter into hypothetical calculations as to what might have happened if the conditions had been different—one thing is pretty certain: Had the Alternative Vote been in operation, then the composition of the House of Commons would be different to-day from what it is. Therefore, once the Alternative Vote is in force, and once the business premises qualification is abolished, I think we may say that none of us represents the people any longer. I wish to know, therefore, whether His Majesty's Government intend to follow the constitutional practice and dissolve at once, or whether they are going to hang on as long as the Parliament Act will permit them, although none, or few of us, actually represent our constituents. I can say of myself that that is not true, 51 because the Alternative Vote would not have affected me.
The other point in the right hon. Gentleman's speech that interested me, because it has been a sort of motif which has run through his argument in this Debate and other stages of the Bill, is that a Parliamentary contest is a sporting affair. He seems to look upon an election as a glorified sort of test match, the object of which is to have as jolly a game as possible— "We hope we shall win, but, after all, let us have a good sporting contest." I venture to suggest that an election, which carries with it grave consequences for the future of the country, possibly the prosperity or otherwise of our children or grandchildren, is hardly a sporting contest, and, in looking at it from that point of view, the right hon. Gentleman has displayed a perfectly unnecessary flippancy throughout of which I should never have regarded the right hon. Gentleman as being guilty.
This being the last occasion on which we shall discuss this Measure, it is rather interesting to look at the genesis of the Bill. The first indication came in the King's Speech of 1929, when the Prime Minister announced that he proposed to set up a commission to investigate the experience of the last Election and to see what changes, if any, were necessary in our electoral law. As a result of that, a conference was set up. We sat many times over a long period, and the great bulk of our discussion was taken up entirely with the question of Proportional Representation. It was not until quite late in the discussion that Lord Craigmyle brought forward the Alternative Vote, which I do not think was very popularly received by any section of the conference; in fact, I feel certain that Lord Arnold had some even more scathing remarks to make upon it than my party. It was regarded as very little preferable to the second ballot, and generally perfectly useless for the purpose which the Liberal party had in view, namely, to achieve the representation of minorities.
Next, we came to the reference to electoral reform in the King's Speech last year, and, in the Debate on the Address, the Prime Minister said that the object 52 of their Bill was to check the escapades of parties which had more wealth than was good for them, or something to that effect—I forget the exact words—and I remember that when he used those words he seemed to look rather pointedly at the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I quite agree, and I think all may agree with the Prime Minister, that modern conditions have, perhaps, produced electoral anomalies which were not thought of in 1882. I would suggest that there are questions like the relaying of speeches, and questions of that kind that may very well be worth consideration, as also the expenditure of money, not by candidates, but by outside bodies. We were led to expect that the Government would bring forward rather wide, sweeping proposals to deal with this matter. We came to this Bill."Parturiunt montes; et nasctiur ridiculusmus."The mountain laboured and this foolish mouse is born. The only proposal to reduce the average expenditure of a candidate, as the right hon. Gentleman said, met with no serious opposition from any quarter of the House. The bigger question of whether, not the individual, but outside organisations, should spend money, is left untouched and unchanged. A recent scandal as to whether big and powerful newspapers should, by their propaganda, influence electors by spending untold fortunes at by-elections, is left completely alone; in fact, the Government have not been a good and faithful steward.
Next, the right hon. Gentleman waxed very eloquent on the subject of the reduction of motor cars. I think most hon. Members opposite exaggerate the part played by motor cars, but the House must have listened with some interest to-day to the list of the 54 constituencies in England, Wales and Scotland which had been exempted from this Bill. The limit of 400 square miles is not very logical. I can think of two adjacent constituencies, both of which I know well, one of which is within this Bill, and presumably, my hon. Friend who represents that constituency can have 300, 400 or 500 motor cars if he can get them. The other part of the county is smaller, but access is worse and the difficulties of getting to the poll are as great. But, under this 53 Bill, that constituency will get 38, while the other one will have unlimited number. I cannot see any justice or any sense of logic in these proposals. It may be argued, though, I for one, will not admit it, that 300 motor cars may be too much for one constituency in Herefordshire, but by no possible logical argument can it be maintained that South Herefordshire should not be treated on the same equality. Like many other proposals in this Bill, this one is founded neither on justice nor on logic. The right hon. Gentleman brought forward a proposal whch was so fantastic that not even from the benches behind him did he get any support whatsoever. He altered it, not because he wanted to get something less fantastic than the original proposal, he again amended it, under pressure from the benches below the Gangway, not because he liked their Amendment, not because he believed in the principle for which they fought, but because he feared he would be defeated if he did not concede it. That is the history of this proposal, and the history, I believe, of much of this Bill.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to talk of the business premises vote, and why it should be abolished. I would remind him that it was the last vestige which remained of the original function of this House to represent the taxpayer, because, after all, it is the historical function of Parliament to protect the taxpayer, and look after his interest as against the King's Government, Whatever may be, or may have been, the merits of the business premises voter, he, at any rate, was, for the most part, drawn from those who have to pay the biggest share of taxation. For that reason, if for no other, I regret the change which the Government have made. But look at the logic of their action! In England if you have business premises and two votes, you become an evil person, a plural voter, but go across St. George's Channel, and you may have a vote for business premises and one for your residence. On what principle is the right hon. Gentleman attempting to act? Why he has any enthusiasm for Northern Ireland, I do not know. go far, the constituencies in that part of the country have shown little sympathy or little enthusiasm for the party of which the right hon. Gentleman is such a distinguished ornament. Perhaps by leav- 54 ing Northern Ireland alone, the right hon. Gentleman and his pasty hope to gain their favour. What is the object? If the thing is fair in England, it is fair in Ireland. If it is not fair in England, it is unfair in Ireland, and I should like to hear the defence of the Government for this distinction in treatment between the two countries. I equally cannot see why the right hon. Gentleman has not left the business premises vote, if he must insist on the rather rigid "one vote one man," and so let people choose in which constituency they desire to exercise the privilege of voting. He has done it for the universities, and therefore why could he not have done it for the other? That would not have transgressed any of the feelings, tenets, or beliefs of the party opposite, but it would have given a little latitude and a little convenience to the voters.
We all realise that the really important part of this Bill is the proposal dealing with the Alternative Vote. It is the proposal which perhaps arouses the least enthusiasm in the House. I have heard and I have listened to all the Debates in the many days during which this Bill has been in progress, and I have found few if any Members who really believe in the Alternative Vote as such. We have not had a great many speeches in favour of the system of the Alternative Vote. It does not appear to commend itself very greatly to its friends, and it is disliked by everybody else. It is very interesting to notice the document—I do not know whether other hon. Members have received it, but it arrived yesterday morning—issued by the Proportional Representation Society. I notice that among the vice-presidents and other officials of that distinguished body there are no less than four Members of His Majesty's Government. It is there pointed out that the Alternative Vote does not give the true representation of the people. If it fails to do that, what on earth is the use of it? The only possible object which one can have in altering the system of elections is to give a true representation in this House of the people of the country. Nobody pretends—not even the right hon. Gentleman attempts to pretend—that the Alternative Vote will do that. He said in the course of his argument that perhaps it might 55 prevent a Member from being returned by a minority of his constituents and it might prevent Ministers being returned by a minority also. But will it?
I want to put a case to the right hon. Gentleman. We will take it that there is the usual three-party constituency; that you have a Conservative, a Liberal and a Labour candidate. I will take the point of view in my argument that the Liberal is at the bottom of the poll, and that therefore he is excluded. It will be his supporters who will use the Alternative Vote. The Liberal has against him a Socialist who believes strongly in nationalisation, and a Conservative who is a whole-hog protectionist. Whatever votes those Liberals may give, they are neither protectionist nor do they believe in nationalisation. The Member returned by the second vote, be he the Conservative or the Labour candidate, has really no mandate from his constituency to vote either for Protection or Nationalisation, and to say that a Government supported on that basis has a mandate to carry its own policy into effect is certainly not true and is deluding the country.
Think of the elector. He will say "I voted for Jones because I preferred him to Robinson as a man, but that did not mean that I gave Jones a mandate to go and nationalise the railways or the coalmines. I am opposed to that very strongly." What will he think of the system when it comes into operation? He will be greatly puzzled. He will say, "Why did I give that second vote? It is really taking such control as I had, or thought I had, away from me, and it makes matters more confusing and less certain than before." I believe that the elector will far more prefer to vote for one candidate; if he is beaten, he knows where he is. That sort of thing will lead to trouble, confusion, and wire-pulling. In fact, the only people who will benefit will be the political wire-pullers who will try their best to shift blocks of votes from one candidate to the other and will try and wring concessions out of the two most likely to be at the head of the poll in order that those blocks of votes may be transferred. Think of the opportunity given to people who believe in total prohibition, and really care for very little 56 else. You may have, and probably will have, candidates—the two most successful ones—who are not prohibitionists, but pressure will be brought upon them to say that they will support some form of temperance legislation of which both candidates may disapprove. But the few thousand prohibitionist votes turn the balance and turn the constituency and may make either A or B elected. There is nothing in this to get the representation of minorities; there is nothing in this to add to the authority of political life, and there is nothing in this to give more homogenous parties a strong mandate to govern and to carry out their policy.
After all, we are coming to a time when many of the most competent observers outside politics altogether are beginning to think that the national political sense of our people is tending towards the formation again of two parties. I do not know, and it is not for me to judge, whether such observers are right or wrong, but there appears to be some reason to think that in the future the main dividing line of political thought will be on the queston as to whether society should be organised upon the basis of the State or the individual. If I am right, then the voter will have to make up his mind which of those two main principles he wishes to adopt, and minor questions, however much he may wish to support them, will have to be dropped whether they be matters like Free Trade or something of that kind. If that is the right view of the Alternative Vote, what is the use of bringing in this Bill at the present moment?
The Liberal party have complained that they are unrepresented in this House in comparison with what they did at the last election. That may be so. But do they believe that they are going to repeat the performance of the last General Election? It seems to me, if I may for a moment lapse into rowing parlance, to be what I should call a gallery spurt, showy, meretricious, apparently evincing energy, determination and strength, but nevertheless futile, started too late to stave off the inevitable defeat, and bound to lead to utter failure without achieving anything. I would ask hon. Members below the Gangway to look into their hearts and ask themselves: are they not 57 afraid that my words are true and that their last great effort is unlikely to be followed by such an effort again? [An HON. MEMBER: "Why worry?"] An hon. Member says that, if I am right, why worry? I agree that there will be nothing as far as his party and my party are concerned to worry about. But why choose this moment to bring in a Bill which was never before the country at the last election, which nobody wants, and which has wasted a very large amount of Parliamentary time that might have been devoted to something more useful.
One of the objections to this Bill is the increase it will make in the power of the party machine. I have been very greatly struck in regard to another piece of work which I have been doing recently in London by the criticisms of this House. I notice how general is the opinion that Parliament is losing prestige. I believe that the party caucus was invented by Joseph Chamberlain somewhere about 1870 to deal with some such extensive electoral arrangements as this which was put into the Reform Bill of 1868. It was, I believe, entirely successful, because it upset the calculation of the framers of that proposal, which was to enable minority members to be returned to Parliament, by effectively capturing for Joseph Chamberlain all the seats in Birmingham.
Surely these proposals of the Government are going to strengthen the party machine and weaken the representative character of Members of this House. What we want now is more independence in the House of Commons. That opinion seems to be universally shared. When you get Members who pledge themselves to two parties, at once you get less independence in the House of Commons. The prestige of Parliament is likely to be lowered by this proposal rather than raised. That is what we as Members should think about. Parliamentary institutions are not having too happy a time now. People are criticising us because we spend our time here wrangling over party tactics instead of attending to the more serious business of the country. We are passing through an economic crisis perhaps unparalleled in our history but certainly unparalleled for a century. This is the time His Majesty's Government choose to introduce an electoral reform Bill which reforms nothing, which is not wanted, and was not asked for by the 58 country, which has occupied a great deal of time, and which has roused party feeling to the boiling point. [Laughter.] Hon. Members below the Gangway may laugh, but do they think that they are going to get the Prime Minister's ideal of a Council of State when the Government bring in a Bill which must inevitably be regarded by one party of the House as designed to do them as much damage as possible? Can he expect co-operation in those circumstances? No, Sir. This Bill is conceived in envy, born of hatred and nurtured in all uncharitableness and I for one beg the House to reject it.
§ Mr. DUFF COOPER
I beg to second the Amendment.
I confess that I looked forward this afternoon to hearing once again a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and I must confess also that I was bitterly disappointed. I do not suppose for one moment that the Home Secretary's powers have suffered any diminution since the last Parliament. I feel certain that he is as capable to-day as he was then of delivering as good a speech provided he has as good a brief as any Member of this House. But I do not suppose that anybody ever heard the Third Heading of an important Government Measure moved in such a sad oration than that to which we have just listened. The empty benches behind him were suffciently discouraging, and the complete lack of even one cheer when he rose to his feet naturally did not stir up enthusiasm. The fact that he had to de-fend a Bill which neither he nor a single Member of his party likes, which the whole of our party hate, and for which perhaps one or two Members below the Gangway—certainly, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel)—have a genuine affection, was a task which, no doubt, damped the courage and lessened the eloquence even of the right hon. Gentleman.
He told us that one of the great evils from which we were suffering to-day was minority Members and minority Governments. I forget the exact number of Members who, he said, were elected to the present House on a minority vote, but he did not tell us what proportion were Members of his own party. I think the majority of them are, and that perhaps accounts for their lack of enthusiasm in supporting him. After all, the evils of 59 minority Government, great as they may be, are not such evils as naturally stir up the oratorical ability of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, since the only two Governments the Labour party have ever formed have been Governments supported by the smallest minority that almost any Government has ever had.
If these evils do exist, and I think they are exaggerated, he omitted entirely to show how the principle of the Alternative Vote will do away with them. He told us what the Alternative Vote was, but he failed completely to show that it would deal in any way with the particular illogical situation which does occasionally arise when a Government or a Member is returned against the wishes of the majority of the voters. That the present system is illogical, we do not deny. The whole system of representative government is illogical, but hitherto in this country it has worked fairly well. If we were going to supplant something which is illogical by something which is perfectly logical there might be a case for the Bill, but we are displacing one illogical thing by another which is equally illogical. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) has shown that this is perhaps the most illogical system of representation that has ever been put forward. It has been shown by the quotations from those people who have gone into the question of representative government and have studied the problem, most of whom are probably members of the Proportional Representation Society, that they all condemn the proposal of the Alternative Vote in unmeasured language and would prefer to go on with the existing system rather than embark on a new one which they think worse.
I cannot claim, as my hon. and gallant Friend has claimed, to have been present at all the Debates on the Bill but I have followed them as well as I could in the printed records. As a former Member of this House, one of those brief respites of comparative leisure at the suggestion of former constituents has enabled me to get into closer touch with feeling in the country than is enjoyed by one who remains for a long and unbroken period a Member of the House. In one respect non-Members are closer to the outside world than Members. When Members are elected to this House they find that 60 the day after the election their friends and acquaintances, who are people of ordinary civility, no longer refer in their presence to Members of Parliament in exactly the same phrases as they have done before. Therefore perhaps I can tell the House a little of what I believe to be the feeling outside the House in regard to the Bill. I would not go so far as my hon. and gallant Friend in saying that it has stirred up very violent party feeling. I do not think that there is intense indignation in the country as a whole in regard to the Bill, but I think there is something far worse. There is complete lack of interest.
Far be it from me to diagnose what particular subject is filling the minds of the majority of the electorate on this Tuesday afternoon in June, but I doubt very much whether we should find that a large percentage were wondering and puzzling and asking themselves questions in regard to the fate of the Representation of the People Bill in the House of Commons. That is the official title of the Bill, but to the country as a whole it is known as the Alternative Vote Bill. The Alternative Vote Clause is the only Clause in the Bill in which people are interested, and it is the only Clause by which it will be remembered. I doubt very much whether as large a percentage as 50 per cent. of the vast modern electorate could explain exactly what the Alternative Vote means. In the Debates on the Bill some hon. Members opposite have assumed righteous indignation and have suggested that the intelligence of their constituents was being insulted by the statement that they would not understand the new system. It is not their intelligence that is at fault. I have no doubt that 100 per cent. of them could perfectly well master the principle of the Alternative Vote if they were prepared to take the trouble to look into it, but they are not interested.
So far as the supporters of the Conservative party are concerned, they have already lost the faculty of being surprised at anything that the present Government may do. They are merely waiting and hoping for the opportunity ofreplacing the present Government by a more able Administration. The people who are really puzzled what to think of the Bill are the supporters of hon. Members opposite. It is they who are asking 61 questions. It is they, no doubt, who are taking great trouble to understand what is in the Bill, in order to see if they can possibly justify it to their own sense of right and reason. When they have asked their Member of Parliament why it is that the Government fulfil none of their promises and why they carry out not a single pledge that they made at the General Election, they have been told time after time, "It is because we have not an independent majority." Yet when they have had the real nature of this Bill Carefully explained to them they are obliged to recognise—no doubt the right hon. Member for Darwen has already recognised—that the one party which it is likely to benefit, if it has any effect at all, of which I am doubtful, is the very party which prevents the present Government from having an independent majority. It is therefore natural that the supporters of hon. Members opposite should be puzzled and want to know why it is when we have 2,000,000 people unemployed, when we have urgent economic problems to face, when we have problems in Europe and Asia to deal with, the Mother of Parliaments spends day after day arguing about a Bill which is going slightly to alter the system of representation and which is going to allow, perhaps, in a few cases where there are more than two candidates, the candidate to be returned who is liked second-best by the majority of the electorate. Why, they ask, is their Government wasting the time of the House of Commons, of their supporters and of the country over such a Measure!
How do hon. Members opposite reconcile the Bill to their consciences? Why do they vote for a Bill which will be known as the Alternative Vote Bill, when they know that there is not a single hon. Member opposite who mentioned it in his election address, that there is not a single Member opposite who mentioned it once on the many platforms on which he spoke at the General Election? We know that the Labour party in conference have decided by a large majority against this Measure. We know that the Independent Labour party have taken the same line. We know that the Trade union Congress are equally emphatic, and we know that many hon. Members opposite spoke against the Alternative Vote during the Committee stage, and voted against it. 62 Will they allow their consciences to be salved by the little jam in which the right hon. Gentleman responsible for the Bill has wrapped up the unpalatable pill which the Government are obliging their supporters to swallow? Will they be able to explain to their constituents that the Clauses about the reduction of expenditure, the use of vehicles and plural voting will really affect to any appreciable extent any constituency, and really make up for the important constitutional change which is being made, and which has the support of nobody belonging to either of the two major parties? Will they not conclude, as they are already concluding, that this Bill is the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual bargain? That has been denied more than once and it will be denied again, but the sound sense of the people has already come to the conclusion that the bargain has been signed and that here is the evidence of it.
When Welshmen and Scotsmen bargain together the English are usually wise in refraining from any interference and in sitting back and endeavouring to learn something; but I must say as one who has some claim to Scottish affiliation, that for those like myself who are proud of such relationship it is disappointing to feel that on this occasion the Welshman has got very much the best of the bargain. When this question was first mooted, when the Prime Minister attempted to persuade his followers to swallow the pill, what was it that he held out to them in return. It is common knowledge that the Trade Disputes Bill was going to be given to them. No doubt that was what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) promised. What has been the result? That Bill, in our opinion, was a worse Bill even than this Bill, but it had one quality which this Bill has not, and that was that it was very much desired by a great number of people. A great number of Members of this House were enthusiastically in favour of it, a great number of Members of the Labour party were in favour of it, but there is not one who is enthusiastic in support of the present Bill. The Trade Disputes Bill was the quid pro quo. Here is the quo. What has happened to the quid? We know that it has been done to death in the Upper Chamber.
63 The Labour Government are in the absurd position of giving everything and getting nothing in return. Perhaps they are having their lives prolonged, and possibly they may say that as the existence of the Government is being continued they have to be thankful for that. But that is not a very great gift on the part of the Liberal party, because their lives, although there are not so many of them, are just as precious to them as are the lives of hon. Members opposite. In preserving the Government they are preserving themselves. They are making no sacrifice but they are getting a Measure which they hope and believe may prolong their distinctly unhealthy lives. Those who support the Bill from the Labour party point of view, when they recommend it to their constituents, will have to lay great weight upon those Clauses—bad Clauses as we think the majority of them are, and comparatively unimportant Clauses—in regard to which the Home Secretary was able to drag in the class war this afternoon in order to whip up a little enthusiasm into his speech—plural voting, the reduction of expenditure and the use of vehicles. The Clause limiting expenditure seems, as far as I am concerned, comparatively innocuous. The plural voting Clause, for the reason given by the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford, is a bad Clause and a further step in the wrong direction, but it will not do very great harm. In regard to the Clause dealing with the use of vehicles at elections, I think it is one of the feeblest, pettiest and most indefensible Clauses ever introduced into an important Measure. Hon. Members opposite say that great injustice is caused when the candidate of one party is able to command more motor cars than the candidates of another party. The Labour party ought not to be afraid of motor cars. Their existence has grown with the growth of motor cars. As motor cars have become more popular so has the number of Labour Members increased. Why, then, should they be so frightened of motor cars? Evidence was given in the Debates on the Bill from various parts of the House, from Labour Members and Liberal Members, that people who go to the polling booths in a motor car by no means always vote for the owner of the car. As often as not, because of the 64 peculiar British sense of humour, you drive to the booth in one man's car and vote for another when you get there.
Even if such an injustice does exist is it such a very grave one? And do not other injustices exist? Hon. Members opposite say that we on this side of the House represent wealth and that therefore more people are willing to lend us motor cars at election times. I will admit, although it is entirely wrong, that in the mind of many people we are the party which is supposed to represent the wealthy classes and that we get the advantage of more motor cars being placed at our disposal on the day of the poll. That is one of the advantages of being thought to be the party which represents the rich, but think of the innumerable and enormously unfair advantages enjoyed by the party opposite which is supposed, equally wrongly, to represent the poor! Think of the numbers of voters who vote Labour not because they approve of the economic theories of Karl Marx or the more old fashioned Cobdenism so tenaciously held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who vote Labour not because they think that the present Secretary of State for India or the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is more able to conduct these momentous questions than other Gentleman sitting on the Front Opposition Bench, but who vote Labour simply because they are labouring people themselves and therefore think that the party which calls itself the Labour party is their party.
Think of the enormously unfair advantage enjoyed by hon. Members opposite from the very name Labour party, as though they represented Labour any more than any other party. You cannot do away with these unfair advantages. But that is not the real danger. The real danger, the real problem, is the unwillingness of the electorate to vote at all. Not long ago I took part in a by-election which excited about the usual amount of popular attention. It was by no means boycotted by the newspapers, in fact, it enjoyed a very fair share of publicity, and no means were omitted for calling the attention of those in the constituency to the fact that an election was taking place. It was not in a remote part of the country, where problems are sometimes apt to lose their urgency, it was almost under the shadow of these walls. There was no 65 lack of motor cars on one side or the other, yet, despite all the publicity and interest, only 50 per cent. of the electors could be persuaded to vote. That is a serious problem which should engage the attention of the Government.
We have created in this country a now sovereign, a new tyrant, the whole body of the people, and already half of this new corporate body proves to be apathetic. It would be worth while considering means to create a greater interest in political affairs, but instead of doing that this Bill makes it more difficult for the elector to get to the poll and makes more complicated the forms which he will have to fill when he gets to the poll. The pettiness of the motive is only equalled by the incompetence of the method. The Bill will not work; and that is why it is bad law. It seeks to make illegal the normal and natural habit of a plain honest man. It is always wrong to make illegal something which no one will think the worse of you fur doing. In future, on the day of election a man who gives another a lift to the polling booth will be committing an illegal act. Policemen will not be willing to inquire into illegal acts of that nature and magistrates will not he very willing to convict. If you make laws which have no moral sanction behind them you are making bad law and bringing the law itself into contempt. There are a few Members in this House who I recognise as being in the last Parliament who firmly believe in Socialism in our time. I should like to remind such Members that their time is short and strictly limited. Two years of it have already been wasted, and every day that this Government remains in power diminishes the chances of their being granted another tenure of power. Every Bill introduced of such a character as this present Bill makes their defeat more certain at the next election. The electorate, although they are not very interested in this Bill, have made up their minds that it is the printed record of a discreditable bargain with a discredited party. They see in it the birth certificate of a coalition; and the English people do not love coalitions. When they get an opportunity of registering their opinion no Alternative Vote, or any other method of representation, will prevent them dealing just retribution to 66 those who are responsible for such a Measure.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
The hon. Member for Westminster, St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper), will not expect his views to be received by the House with anything approaching unanimity, yet the House will be unanimous in one respect, and that is in welcoming him back to its benches and in congratulating him on his return to an Assembly in which he sat for so long and whoso Debates he adorned so often. He has come back as the result of a strenuous and indeed famous election, and he has expressed his surprise that in spite of the great efforts made by himself and his opponent only 50 per cent. of the electorate took the trouble to vote. That may have been, not because they did not take sufficient trouble to vote, but because there was neither a Labour nor a Liberal candidate in the field, and it is obvious that half the electorate, even in St. George's, Westminster, do not desire to be represented in the House of Commons by a Conservative of one section or another. If the Alternative Vote had been in force possibly the election might have been of a more representative character.
The hon. Member in the course of his observations made one reference at which we on these benches are entitled to feel some resentment. He said that obviously this Bill was the outcome of a bargain, that no doubt the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had promised to support the Trade Disputes Bill and that in return for that promise this Bill had been introduced by the Government. The hon. Member must be well aware that such statements have been repeatedly denied on behalf of the Government and also on behalf of hon. Members on these benches, and, as a matter of fact, the Trade Disputes Bill did not pass into law, largely owing to the action taken by hon. Friends of mine during the Committee stage, but there was no complaint either public or private on the part of the Government that there had been anything in the nature of a breach of a bargain. The fact is, of course, that no bargain was ever made. In a previous Debate the right hon. Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) said that the Trade Disputes Bill and the Representation of the People 67 Bill had been aptly referred to by the Attorney-General in a Shakesperian quotation because it came from "Measure for Measure." His observation was received with some amusement by the House, but now that the Trade Disputes Bill has disappeared his reference has somewhat lost its point, and the quotation should have been taken from "Much Ado About Nothing."
The two hon. Members who have moved and seconded the rejection of this Bill have presented to the House opposite reasons for their proposal. The hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) said that the Bill had roused party feeling to boiling point, but I cannot see any signs of that in the present appearance of the House. The hon. Member for St. George's said that the Measure had been received by the country with complete indifference and that it was doubtful whether it would have any effect at all. If that is so, why all this ado? The two hon. Members should have conferred behind the scenes before they made their histrionic speeches upon the stage and should have decided whether they were going to attack the Bill as an abominable outrage or as one which was so negligible that no one need trouble about it at all. But neither of them complained that there has been inadequate time for the discussion of this Measure. It is an example of how well a time table may work. No one can say that this Bill has not been adequately discussed in every one of its provisions. On more than one occasion hon. Members above the Gangway found it very hard to keep the Debate going until the moment came for the Guillotine to fall. They had to use oxygen to keep the discussion alive until the time fixed for its decapitation. It is an example of how a properly devised time table may work satisfactorily, and supports the view held by Members in all quarters of the House that it would be well if important Bills were as a rule subjected to a time table, but one fixed by an impartial authority, like the Panel of Chairmen, which could determine how much time should be allotted to each section of an important Bill.
This Bill is also an example of the fact that the House of Commons does frequently, indeed almost invariably, considerably alter Measures brought before 68 it by the Government of the day. I do not believe in all this talk about the House of Commons losing its prestige. It has been the cry for many years. During the 30 or 40 years in which I have been in touch with Parliamentary work I have never known a time when it has not been said that the House of Commons is not what it used to be. It puts me in mind of the often quoted reply of Burnard to a lady who said "Punch is not as good as it used to be." "No, Madam, it never has been." So it is with these observations which are frequently made by the right hon. Member for Epsom and many others—I mean the right hon. Member for Epping—(Mr. Churchill)—
§ 5.0. p.m.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
—who since he has been out of office has discovered that the House of Commons is sinking to a position of degradation. In this case the Bill has been subjected to a very thorough examination with a considerable spirit of independence on the part of the House of Commons. The motor car clause as introduced by the Government was recognised as one which would not work satisfactorily and it has been entirely transformed. The procedure with regard to the Alternative Vote where there are more than three candidates, has also been modified in accordance with the desires generally expressed, and one alteration of great importance has been made which I must regret, though it represents the majority of the House as voting—the old anomaly of university representation is to be retained. But whatever may be said for or against these proposals, here at all events is an example of how the House of Commons does mould Measures that come before it, and it shows how untrue it is to say that every Bill introduced by the Government is a foregone conclusion and will reach the Statute Book exactly as proposed.
There are some provisions of the Bill to which there has been no opposition at all, or very little. The Clause dividing the two-Member boroughs has passed with unanimous or almost unanimous assent, and we shall get rid of what has long been regarded throughout the 69 country as an anomaly in our Constitution.
The reduction of the scale of election expenses, although it has been objected to by some hon. Members, has not aroused any very vehement controversy. The motor car Clause in its present form, is indeed, based upon a principle proposed by the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford himself, although he certainly objects to the too strict limitation of numbers. I observed that the hon. and gallant Gentleman to-day raised a strong objection to the discrimination between the very large county constituencies to which the Clause is to apply, and said that it was extremely unjust and a very wrong discrimination, that it would give rise to all sorts of anomalies, and also that the Government had accepted the Clause only because they were afraid of defeat in this House. Defeat by whom? Not by the small group on the Liberal benches. We are incapable of defeating the Government. Therefore it must have been mainly by the votes of the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford and his friends. What then are we to think of an argument which in one breath declares that the Clause is an abomination, and in the next says that they would have voted for it and forced it on the Government of the day?
We think that this exemption is necessary in the case of those large constituencies, but at the same time we do not regard this as the last word in dealing with the problem. We have been in favour, and have put on the Order Paper—unhappily the Motion was out of order because of the restrictive Title of the Bill—a proposal to establish a system of travelling polling booths, polling stations which would visit various parts of the exceedingly extensive constituencies in the course of polling days, and enable the people of particular localities to come to them from moderate distances and there record their votes. Unhappily the very restricted title of the Bill prevented that Clause being moved. But I hope that on some future occasion—here I speak for all my hon. Friends—when Parliament is again dealing with electoral matters, it will be found possible to introduce that principle.
70 With respect to plural voting, at last Parliament is enacting a reform which is very long overdue. This suggestion that business men are to have two votes because they have a special interest both in the place where they live and in the place where they work, while working men and others are not to have two votes, although surely they have just as much interest in the place where they work as well as in the place where they live, is a perfectly impossible position to maintain nowadays. I am amazed that Conservatives should still pin their faith to the principle of the plural vote in this form. One hon. Member from Birmingham said that every day the business men of Birmingham come in and out of the City to and from their dormitory constituencies. But they are not the only ones in the trains who come in and out of Birmingham. It is wholly inadmissible for Parliament to enact that the first-class passenger shall come in and exercise his vote, and that the third-class passenger shall not do so.
Nor do we believe—though here opinion is divided—that there ought to be any form of plural voting with respect to university constituencies. The Junior Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) on one occasion made a very amusing speech in which the House was greatly interested, proving quite conclusively—it is not hard to prove—that no two men are equal. But if carried to a proper conclusion the argument should be that no two men should have the same number of votes. Obviously no two men are equal, but you Cannot effectively discriminate the electoral power in proportion to intellectual capacity, or, indeed, civic wisdom. Certainly an academic qualification is not a criterion, and the world is agreed that Government by philosophers would probably be one of the worst forms of Government, and certainly constituencies of university graduates may be rejected for precisely the same reason.
What is the position that is left now by the Bill? University constituencies remain, 12 of them, but plural voting is abolished. No one will be able to vote at a university election who has voted or proposes to vote at another election. He will have to choose. No one can tell beforehand how many will choose the university and how many 71 the residential vote; experience only will tell. But it is not an extravagant assumption that one-half will vote in the one place and one-half in the other. Mark the kind of constituency that will be left if that should come about. Already the discrepancy in the number of electors between university seats and other seats is very great. There are only 120,000 university electors, and they are represented here by 12 Members.
I put a question to the Home Office a few weks ago, to ask what was the average number of electors in an ordinary constituency and in a university constituency, and the reply for England and Wales was that in the case of a non-university seat the electors numbered 49,325, and in the case of a university seat 10,217. That is, roughly speaking, 50,000 electors in an ordinary seat and 10,000 in a university seat. In future the university number may be halved. That will mean 50,000 electors for the ordinary Member of Parliament and 5,000 for the university Member. If you take the extreme, the largest and the smallest, the largest constituencies at the last election were Romford and Hendon, which had resepectively, 98,000 and 84,000 voters. I understand Romford now has 120,000. The University of Wales has 3,623, Belfast University 3,361. That was with plural voting, but now, if the number is decreased by half, we shall have this condition of things; the hon. Member for Romford will sit here as the representative of 120,000 voters, and the hon. Member for Queen's University will sit here as the representative of 1,600 or 1,700 voters. I feel sure that the lack of quantity is not adequately made up by the superior quality even in that university.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
The right hon. Gentleman forgets that the Bill does not apply to Northern Ireland.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
It does in the case of the universities. The hon. and gallant Member is mistaken. I do not know whether he or anyone else on the Conservative benches, who belong to the school of thought which at one time used to inscribe on its banners, "One vote, one value," as one of the most essential principles of our Constitution, 72 whether he or they can defend a state of things which will allow, on the one hand, a constituency of 120,000 voters, and another which may attract fewer than 2,000. Here, again, a proposal was made by some of my hon. Friends—it was once more out of order, on account of the title of the Bill—to group the universities. The universities of the North of England are already grouped and return one Member. The Scottish Universities are grouped for the return of three Members. We had it in mind that if the university seats were to remain others might be grouped in order to get over some of the discrepancies of numbers, that Members should be returned by proportional representation and if possible that there should be a considerably smaller number of university Members than now. If university representation remains that proposal will have to be considered in future. But I live in hopes that before long the principle of no privilege will be carried out fully, and that university representation will disappear as the anomaly which it is.
With regard to the Alternative Vote, the hon. Member who has just spoken said that all those who have studied this subject denounced the Alternative Vote as the worst possible of all methods, and he said that it was quite indefensible. The hon. Member forgets that the only Royal Commission which has ever sat upon this question of electoral systems, as was mentioned by the Home Secretary in his introductory observations, unanimously and definitely recommended the Alternative Vote as the right policy to adopt. There was no reservation whatever. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young) stated in the House some time ago that there was a reservation, but there was none. These were the words used by the right hon. Gentleman:Let me remind the Committee that when the scheme of the alternative vote was recommended by the Royal Commission in 1910, a recommendation upon which so much is based in the arguments adduced, it was specifically recommended by them as applicable to the conditions which then prevailed, that there were practically only two parties in the field. It was specifically said by the Royal Commission, who gave to this question the most profound consideration, that it was unsuitable for the three-party system."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1931; cot. 1018, Vol 252.]73 There is no such passage in the report of the Royal Commission—none! The only reference which has any bearing upon it at all was in a long examination of certain drawbacks which apply to the system, as to all systems, and they said that these drawbacks would be intensified if there were more than two parties in the field generally over the country. They were considering the balance of arguments, but when they summed up there was no reservation of any kind. This is the final paragraph of the Royal Commission's Report:Our final conclusions may be summarised as follows: We recommend the adoption of the Alternative Vote in cases where more than two candidates stand for one seat.That is all; there is no qualification whatever. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks was very much in error in telling the Committee that it was in accordance with the views of the Royal Commission that the Alternative Vote should apply only as long as the two-party system prevailed. But the Royal Commission is not the only authority. There came the Lowther Conference of 1917, the three-party conference, which recommended unanimously in favour of Proportional Representation for a certain number of constituencies, and by a majority recommended the Alternative Vote elsewhere. True, the recommendation was not unanimous, but there was a majority of that very authoritative body recommending the Alternative Vote, although we are now told by the hon. Member for St. George's that every one who has examined these questions with an expert eye rejects the Alternative Vote as an impossible suggestion.
The notion that it is only now, as the result of some sinister bargain between the Government Front Bench and the Liberal Front Bench, that this scheme is put forward, ignores utterly, as has been many times pointed out, the fact that when this matter was last before Parliament in 1918 the Liberals of that day and many of the leaders of the Labour party strongly supported and voted for and told for, the Alternative Vote as a method of reform. I myself was then speaking on behalf of the independent Liberal party in this House, and I repeatedly and strongly spoke in favour of the Alternative Vote. The present Foreign Secre- 74 tary and the present Secretary of State for the Dominions did the same, and they told in Divisions in favour of it. The present Prime Minister also voted for the Alternative Vote at that time. Is it not absurd, therefore, to suggest that this is some new-fangled scheme which has been vamped up for the occasion and which no one thought of before? Indeed, in the course of those Debates, three times has the Alternative Vote passed this House—though twice it is true by a majority of only one vote—only to he rejected in the other House, thus throwing us back into the position in which we have been since that time.
It is suggested that the Alternative Vote will not prevent minority Members being returned, and that it does not matter if minority Members are returned, but in our view it goes to the very root of the whole principle of representative Government that Members should come to this House and take the oath at that Table, when all the world knows that on the main issue of the day the majority of their constituents are against them. This very day the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Perkins) came to the Table—and I am sure we all welcome him to this House, and hope that he may take a useful part in our discussions—having been returned mainly, as he has declared and as others have declared, on the issue of Protection against Free Trade, while the voters who voted for the Free Trade candidates in that election were in a majority over those who voted for the Protectionist candidate. When that result was declared it was announced in the Press, and by hon. Members above the Gangway, that it was a great victory for Protection, although both of the hon. Member's opponents who specifically declared themselves Free Traders had, between them, a majority of the votes recorded.
Nothing has been said to-day I am glad to think, by the hon. Members who moved and seconded the rejection of the Bill, to the effect that the Alternative Vote gives some special privilege to the supporters of the third candidate in a contest. I hope that we have been able to convince hon. Members that that is not so, but it has been a hard task. It has been argued again and again but I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) who is to speak later from the Front Opposition Bench, 75 will not say that this is really a Plural Voting Bill, enabling the supporters of one candidate to vote twice while the supporters of the other candidates can only vote once. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman's intelligence is far too acute to allow him to believe that that is so. We all know that under the system of the Alternative Vote, there are two counts. At the first, the votes are divided among the three candidates. At the second, they are divided among the two candidates who remain. All the votes given to those two candidates are counted the second time. They do not disappear from the counting room, but figure at the second count just as much as at the first count, and, added to them, are whatever preferences the voters may choose to give who voted for the third candidate at the first count.
How this will work out no one can foresee. I say so with complete candour. I have no idea whether this will work out to the advantage of the Liberal party, of the Labour party or of the Conservative party. It may be to the advantage of one party at the next Election, and to the advantage of another party at the following Election. It will be for the electors to decide. Our business is to give them the opportunity, and it is for them to determine how they will use it, if they wish to use it. The suggestion that there is any compulsion upon electors who may not agree with either of the first two candidates, to transfer their votes is absurd. There is no such compulsion. They need not vote for either of the other two candidates if they do not wish to do so. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping is to take part in this Debate—[Interruption]. Well, coming events cast their shadows before. In the Second Reading Debate I ventured to quote from an article on this subject written by the right hon. Gentleman. He was not then present in the House, and perhaps he will allow me to repeat that quotation. It is from an article which he wrote in a weekly newspaper a few weeks after the last General Election:The Liberal Party will be obliged to demand an amendment of the electoral law.But the right hon. Gentleman went further than that: 76From a wider standpoint no one can pretend that the present system is satisfactory.Then later:Clearly, here we have a problem full of perplexity but nevertheless deserving earnest thought. It is not a question to be settled by gangs of men struggling for office. It is one to be maturely considered by those who wish to see British institutions conform ever more closely to the highest standards of tolerance and fair play.I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us to-day what his proposals are. I hope that he has not forgotten that article. The right hon. Gentleman has remarkable powers of memory, and also remarkable powers of forgetfulness. His capacity for remembering the things which he wants to remember, is only equalled by his capacity for forgetting the things that he wants to forget. I hope, however, he will remember this article, and will tell us whether he approves of this Bill—as I trust he may—or if not, what are the proposals which will fulfil these requirements. He says that the present system is unsatisfactory, and that this is a problem which deserves earnest thought. I hope that he has given it earnest thought and mature consideration, and that he will tell us how he would enable our institutionsto conform ever more closely to the highest standards of tolerance and fair play.I hope that he will not do, like so many of his hon. Friends, and merely take Proportional Representation and the Alternative Vote, and set one against the other, and say at the end, "Let us do nothing at all." That is not the way to secure that our institutions shall reach a higher standard of tolerance and fair play. We on these benches would prefer Proportional Representation, but we agree that the Aternative Vote is a great advance on the present system, and for that reason we accept it. It is just 100 years ago this very week since the country was in the throes of one of the most fateful General Elections in all its history. That was the election which followed the introduction of the great Reform Bill. At that time we were gradually establishing the principle of democracy in the government of this country. It has taken us a full century to work out the consequences and the implications of that great step. Only now, this very evening, in the House of Commons, are we reaching some of the later stages of that step, and still it is 77 not complete. But this Bill, introduced by the present Government, takes us another long stage towards the goal in view, and for that reason we on these benches most cordially support it.
§ Sir ERNEST BENNETT
The speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne), who moved the rejection of the Bill, was marked by that admirable care and almost funereal anxiety which characterises his Parliamentary work, and I, at any rate, was interested in the question which he asked as to when the Government intended to go to the country. That is a matter which does not rest upon my shoulders, and I must leave his question to those who are better qualified and better authorised to answer it. I merely suggest that, taking into account the changes and chances of Parliamentary life, when the Bill has been placed on the Statute Book—probably by the lapse of time—we shall then be, more or less, within measurable distance, say within one year, of a General Election. That is all the answer I can give to the hon. and gallant Member. I was also interested in his remarks about the party feeling which had been caused by the Bill. That remark was welcome. I think his expression was that feeling was "boiling" in reference to the Bill, but one of the gibes which we have most constantly to endure from hon. Members opposite is that we do not boil adequately on these benches. As to the remarks of the hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper) the only thing which I can remember in a rather desultory speech was the amazing argument that because the unemployed were with us, to the extent of 2,000,000, we were therefore debarred from considering electoral reform. That argument may go down in St. George's, Westminster, but I do not think that it will appeal much to Members on these benches.
I do not propose to go into any of the details of the Bill, because I think that, having reached the Third Reading, we have really exhausted the arguments as to the meaning of the Alternative Vote, and the regulation as to motor cars, and these other matters. I should like to deal generally with some of the broader objections made against the Bill. The hon. Member who seconded the rejection of the Bill said that this Measure, and 78 especially the proposal for the Alternative Vote, had aroused hate in the Conservative party. Why should the Conservative party hate the Alternative Vote? Are they so sure that it is necessarily going to injure them? As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has said, these things will lie on the knees of the gods in the future. We do not know what results the Alternative Vote will produce in the future, and I would point out to hon. Members opposite, with regard to Conservative prospects, a very interesting article in the current issue of the "Political Quarterly" by a very levelheaded young writer who makes out a good case on the lines that the Alternative Vote, instead of injuring the Conservative party may do that party positive good.
On our own benches here,? have no doubt, that a certain feeling has been aroused against the Alternative Vote, because it seems mathematically possible or probable, that a certain number of my own colleagues here will run serious risk of losing their seats when it is a fait accompli. I notice that some of those Members, at any rate, who think that they will suffer in that way—and nobody likes to leave the happy and interesting life in Parliament—have, nevertheless, loyally supported the Prime Minister and the Cabinet in this Measure. I was touched to see two of them who told me that they would almost inevitably lose their seats through the operation of the Alternative Vote, filing past the Prime Minister with a cheerful word to him and going into the Lobby to support the Government with the knowledge that it meant their own failure in the future. It was almost a case of:Morituri, Caesar, te salutamus!I think the proper way to look at the question, is this. Few of us are irreplaceable, and the mere fact that some people either on these benches, on the Liberal benches or on the Conservative benches are going to lose their seats is a very small and unimportant detail. The real reason why the Government have brought forward this Measure, and why we support it is because it is the just and reasonable thing to do. I have heard colleagues of mine express misgivings about the Alternative Vote on the ground that what they called "Socialism in their 79 day" would be checked and hindered; but in the case of all parties, what will ultimately determine either Socialism or Liberalism or Conservatism in our day, is not the method of electoral reform adopted, but whether the country wishes for those particular things or not. The Alternative Vote is really a necessity, due to the new phenomenon in our Parliamentary life, namely, the coming into power of more than two parties. I do not personally believe that we are necessarily going back to two parties. I think that the trend is in the other direction. I am not altogether dissatisfied with the prospect of this country of ours going more or less on the lines of other countries. Thanks to the greater flexibility of modern thought, it is quite possible that we may have in future, instead of two or three parties, four or five parties. Whatever our future may be in that respect, the existence of more than two parties has rendered some such change as this inevitable. I do not suppose there is a single Member of this House who would get up and say that the second ballot is in itself an unjust arrangement. The second ballot has always appealed to people as reasonable and just, and, that being so, it may be repeated once more that the Alternative Vote is really the second ballot in a more convenient and cheaper guise.
I would like to say a few words on the question of the university vote, which is another of the arguments brought against this Bill—the argument that we are, by diminishing the electoral advantages of university graduates, interfering with the service of education. That is an allegation that hits me very hard. I do not like to think of such a charge as that being made against our party, which has always put education in the forefront. We, on these benches, and hon. Members on the Liberal Benches—for the Liberals have always been against the university vote as an institution, ever since I have known anything about the Liberals, and so have the Labour party—support this Bill in that respect because the university vote is obsolete and indefensible.
Before the War the university vote existed in a good many countries. It existed in Austria, Belgium, and so on. In Belgium there were a good many fancy 80 franchises. A Belgian had a vote qua Belgian citizen at 21, another when he married, another when he entered the Army, another when he had a university degree, and so on. There were five altogether, and any Belgian might make use of any three of those votes. But there arose out of that feeling of equality which sprang from the War, and which is practically the only good thing which came from that disastrous business, the idea that since in the War all the peoples of Europe, rich and poor, had shared common sufferings and experiences and had done their level best individually and collectively, fancy franchises giving special privileges to individuals ceased to have any basis; and for that reason everywhere in the world the university franchise and other fancy franchises were swept away, except in this country. We alone have maintained the university franchise since the War.
To return to the charge that we are injuring the service of education, I want to be brutally frank. I claim to have a certain right to discuss the question of what is meant by the universities representing knowledge and science, because for 30 years of my life I was a Fellow of an Oxford college, I have been a lecturer at four or five colleges, a Public Examiner, and so on. During that time hundreds of men passed through my hands, and I secured a pretty good knowledge of the theory and practice of the university of Oxford; and the same would apply to Cambridge, though I have no claim to speak for the newer universities. I want to question this argument, which has been advanced from the benches opposite again and again, that in depriving Oxford and other university graduates of certain electoral privileges, we are interfering with people representative of a vital body of knowledge.
Let us clear this question up once and for all. How many people are there on the register of Oxford University? I believe the number is 15,000. In Oxford we turn out every year something like 1,000 graduates, and so it stands to reason that 15,000 represents only a portion of the graduates of Oxford turned out from year to year. In any case 15,000 does not represent anything like the number of graduates that ought in theory to represent the university. I 81 will not stress that point, because things are easier now. In the old days you could only represent your university on the payment of a fee of about 36s., but it is easier now. You have to keep your name on the books of the college, and by a nominal payment of 10s. anybody at Oxford or Cambridge can now become a voter.
But I am much more concerned as to the question whether graduates as such really represent a body of knowledge which entitles them to certain privileges, and I want to ask the House to consider what these graduates are. Of the people who come to Oxford—and the same applies to Cambridge—about 30 per cent., we will say, take a pass degree. I am the last person in the world to run down or to decry the value of a pass degree. It has its value. All of us have acquaintances, many of them lifelong acquaintances, up and down the country, in this House and elsewhere, who have taken pass degrees at universities. Some of them are our best friends, delightful people to dine with, to shoot with, to fish with, to play golf with, but not the sort of people who either deserve or desire indeed to be regarded as representative of any vital body of knowledge. No, emphatically no.
Those who do not take pass degrees, the TO per cent., take honour degrees, first class, second class, third class, fourth class, and occasionally fifth class. Here again let us be frank. Let us agree that the people who, after working hard, are able to secure a first class in an honours school represent a definite attainment of a certain amount of intellectual distinction. Let us allow that, and let us even allow it in the case of people who gain a second class in the honours schools; but as an old don, frankly, I flatly refuse to say that people who ordinarily, unless through ill health, only secure a third class, a fourth class, or it may be a fifth class in honours schools, have any claim to double the amount of electoral power in this country that is possessed, let us say, by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) or the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). It is a grotesque claim to make.
Please do not think that I decry the value of an ordinary university training. Quite the contrary. Both my boys shall 82 go to Oxford, but I maintain that you have no right to come to the House of Commons and to say that people who take pass degrees at our universities should have double the electoral power of other people. Pass degrees have advantages apart from mere book learning, but let us get out of the idea that it is a distinction which deserves an extra electoral privilege. A bishop's examining chaplain said to me once that of all the people who had come before him in the course of a large number of years, the feeblest intellectually were not members of theological colleges, but pass-men from Cambridge. To their credit, the Cambridge authorities have recently been very much concerned about the position of their pass-men and have taken measures to make pass-men at Cambridge attend a minimum of eight lectures a week and so raise their standard.
You may say, "You must not judge the universities by the less intellectual of their graduates, but you ought to address yourselves to the resident Fellows, professors, readers, and so on"; but they are, of course, a comparatively small body of men. They are the kind of men who signed this appeal to the House of Commons to support the university franchise. I read their names here. They are many of them personal friends of mine, men of great intellectual distinction, men who have specialised with great success in particular branches of knowledge, but when I look down the names and pick out one, almost at random, I find that he is the greatest authority in the world on the Samaritan version of the Pentateuch. There are not many competitors, but anything that can be known about the Pentateuch, he knows. We are not here, however, to discuss the Pentateuch. We may discuss the Prayer Book on occasion, but we should certainly say, "Hands off the Pentateuch." Here is another name, that of one of our greatest entomologists. If anyone is in any doubt as to the species, or genus, or sex even of a beetle, he could not go to anybody with greater confidence than to this gentleman, but we are not going to discuss entomology here, and in any case why should these men claim, as such, to have a superior position to anyone else in the country?
83 If you say, "Think of the distinction and of the utility of a university degree outside the bounds of the university, in the world at large," then let us take a gentleman well known to the whole of England, known indeed to the whole of the world, a gentleman who was described in the "Times" the other day as the finest flower of academic distinction—I mean the Dean of St. Paul's. You may say, "There is a man who represents university education if anybody does. Is not a man like that entitled to superior privileges in the electoral machinery of the country?" Very well, let us take him. He has been alluded to as an example of what a university can turn out; he is a man of learning, a facile writer on all kinds of topics, a man who was once described as a pillar of the Church and a column of the "Evening Standard," a man of varied gifts and the most profound attainments as a classical student and otherwise. But when a man with all these attainments is brought into contact with the realities of practical life and legislation, what do we find? The other day he was dealing with the unemployment problem—and every Member of this House who has any sympathy regards the unemployed with pity and distress. What light do we get from this finished product of university culture? He speaks openly of the unemployed as parasites taught by the State to do no work.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Dunnico)
If we go into the political opinions of all the people who sign documents, there will be no end to the Debate.
§ Sir E. BENNETT
It is an illustration of the mind of this finest flower of academic distinction. I have no wish to say anything more on those lines, but I think I have shown that there is no justification whatever for the claim that we are doing an injury to education by our treatment of the university franchise. That is not the case at all, and I think the universities have done themselves a disservice by trying to maintain the existence of an obsolete and outworn privilege which they have possessed in the past.
§ Captain EDEN
The hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Sir E. Bennett) devoted his speech almost entirely to an eloquent disparagement of those who passed 84 through the university with which he was for some time associated. It would hardly become me, a very humble member of that university, to attempt a defence where he has attacked. I will say only that those who have the particular professorial abilities such as are instanced by the examples he has given, are the only people who will be left to exercise the university franchise as the result of the action of the Government. The Government have only half accepted the resolution of this House, with the result that those who, though perhaps less distinguished as dons, are not less distinguished as members of the general public, and who have been in the past voters in the universities, will now find themselves resident in their constituencies unable to exercise two votes, and therefore less likely to exercise their franchise in the university than those who may be called the resident dons. What, in fact, the Government are doing is to reduce the university representation to representation by the university don instead of continuing that wider representation which the universities used to have in the past.
So far as the hon. Gentleman's speech had any force, it was an argument for the maintenance of university representation as it used to be before the Bill came in, rather than in the truncated form in which the Government are leaving it. There are a number of graduates in universities who have still that method of voting as the only one open to them, namely, graduates who live abroad in distant parts of the earth, of whom there are a great number, and I can see no reason why they should not be entitled to the exercise of the franchise. It is very curious that the party opposite should adopt this attitude towards the university voter. I am convinced that in a few years' time they will take their full share of university representation; it is perfectly just that it should be so; but their present intolerance of that representation, though perhaps excusable becase of its present party colouring, is short-sighted if they intend to play, as I believe they will, their full part in university life in future. But it is not about that that I want to speak, because, after all, university representation, important as it is, is by no means the whole of this Bill. The country will be interested in it as an electoral reform Measure.
85 The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) told us that this was almost the last stage in a great series of Reform Bills since 1832. I wonder if it occurred to him what a melancholy contrast is our position in this House this afternoon with that of the great Reform Bill of 1832. At that time a number of Members of this House were attempting to resist a reform for which there was an immense popular demand. To-day we see an unhappy Home Secretary plodding the last tired stage of his course on behalf of a Measure for which he has no affection and for which his supporters have less. There is only one sponsor, the right hon. Member for Darwen, if we except the hon. Member for Central Cardiff, and he also was not very long ago associated with the party below the Gangway. I find it impossible to understand the motives which urge any hon. Member belonging to the Socialist party to support this Bill. Have any of them taken the trouble to communicate with their colleagues in the same party in Australia to inquire how the Alternative Vote has worked there, and what the Socialist party there think of it? I happened to be in Australia in 1925 when there took place that extraordinary election of the Senate which resulted in the complete extinction for the time being of the Labour party. I remember very well the comments that were made not only in the Press but by the general public.
That result was far more unjust to popular feeling in Australia at that time than any result that we have had under our present methods in this country has ever been. It was far more fantastic, and was simply brought about by an agreement between the two other parties which resulted in the extinction of the second most important party in Australia at that time. Cannot the same thing happen here? Is it not conceivable that we, in conjunction perhaps with hon. Members below the Gangway, or hon. Members opposite in conjunction with the party below the Gangway, should work a scheme of that sort for the complete extinction of the other large party in the country? Do hon. Members opposite consider a result like that desirable in the interest of democratic government? I can conceive of no experience more undesirable than that.
The Alternative Vote is, of course, ideal for the political wangler. The right hon. 86 Member for Darwen told us that there is angling for votes now. Of course there is, but under the present method we try at election time, with more or less success, to convince the people that our own views are right. What we shall do under this Bill is different; we shall have to try and convince those who, we know, disagree with us to give us the second best vote. There will be the whole field open to political manoeuvring, just as there was in the Australian elections. Hon. Members opposite hope in the near future to have a Government in this country with a clear majority, but do they not see that they are making it impossible, by giving the political wangler such an opportunity, to control the future of Parliament? By this Bill they may postpone a strong Socialist Government or a strong Government of any party to the Greek Kalends. I would rather see a Socialist Government with a majority than a government such as we have today, able to excuse their mistakes by the circumstances of the time. If the country want a Socialist Government, I would rather have such a Government than the negation of a Government such as we have to-day. Hon. Members opposite, therefore, should be the last to place their names to a proposal such as this.
There is another consideration which should appeal to all Members. Many hon. Members must be aware of a class of member which exists in many parliaments on the Continent of Europe. Such a member has been elected subject to certain pledges given to another party which gave him their second vote. That is a common feature of a great many Continental elections, and it is an extremely undesirable one. It means that, instead of a member being free to support his party or to put forward his own views, his action is trammelled by certain conditions which he has given to another party with whom he is in disagreement at a general election. Now, for good or ill, if anyone of us is unwise enough to pledge himself to anything, it is to something which he believes, whereas, under the new system, pledges will be asked and extracted from Members, not in accordance with their beliefs, but in accordance with the force which can be exercised by a certain portion of their constituents who do not agree with them.
There are anomalies to-day under the existing Parliamentary system, but does 87 anyone deny that, speaking roughly, our existing Parliamentary and electoral machine has, over the last few years, contrived to reproduce what was the general feeling of the country at the time of a General Election? Would it not be true to say that the 1923 election was a verdict against Protection, and that it gave the Socialist party power for the time being with the aid of Liberal votes; and that when that experiment became disliked by the public, the public vented its wrath, not on the Socialist party which had been the Government, but on those who had kept that party in office, namely, the Liberal party? There was a rough sort of justice in that. As to the 1924 election, have hon. Members troubled to work out what would have happened in that election under the Alternative Vote? Under that system We should have had a majority, as we had in 1924, but not so large a majority. Actually there were only 80 Members of the Conservative party returned in 1924 without a clear majority. Supposing all those had not been elected—an unlikely supposition—there would still have been a sufficient majority for us to be a Government for five years, and yet it would still have been possible for hon. Members opposite to talk about a minority Government. The Alternative Vote would not have changed those conditions at all. There, again, we can fairly say that the country gave a rough representation of its views. In 1929 there was a desire for a change, forgetting perhaps that a change might be for the worse instead of for the better, and the change came about; and here we have the result in the present complexion of this House.
Does anyone seriously think that at any time under the existing machinery the country has failed to express its will? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen told us quite frankly that he does not know how this new system will work. I agree that is one of the weaknesses of this system. The only experience which we have, such as that in Australia, is hostile, and you will create in the minds of the electors an uncertainty as to the result of the working of this new machine. In a General Election under the existing system, the voter has a pretty 88 shrewd knowledge of the result of the expression of opinion by the country as a whole, but he will not know how this new complex machinery will work. Confusion will result in the minds of the electors, and with the opportunities this machine will give for political wangling the voter will not know that he will get the result for which he votes. If this House is going to spend its time on legislation such as this, it does not much matter what the method of election is, because nobody in the country will care about elections of Parliament at all.
It is something of a tragedy that at a time like this we should be devoting our time to legislation of such a character. I have heard the right hon. Member for Darwen many times explaining pleasantly and agreeably why this particular Clause will improve our electoral system. As I listened to him I recalled a description which Carlyle once gave of Voltaire:He was always found at the top less by his strength in swimming than by his lightness in floating.So the right hon. Gentleman can always be assured that his buoyancy will carry him through any difficulties which may submerge any less buoyant subject. The responsibility which the House has upon it this afternoon, however, is one of more than ordinary seriousness. I do not believe that in this country hitherto we have liked elaborate structures for electoral purposes. It is possible on paper to make out the strongest case for any particular form of electoral machinery, which, when the time for working comes, will break down under that stress. I would counsel hon. Members opposite not to be too enthusiastic in the search for a perfect mechanism. The Germans made that mistake. Their minds are far better trained for that kind of scientific research than ours, and they produced a scheme which every German will say, though mathematically perfect, has resulted in almost destroying the German Parliamentary system. [Interruption.] I do not care to what party he belongs, any German will tell you that the result of this mathematically-perfect system has been to reduce the individual member to a cypher, with the result that the quality of the personnel 89 has rapidly deteriorated. I do not say that the Alternative Vote system is mathematically perfect, it is extremely imperfect; and however sincere the motive of its supporters may be they will not be improving the quality of the House of Commons through their reform.
I believe that hon. Members below the Gangway, who are the people who have real enthusiasm for this Bill, entirely misconceive the true psychology of English electors. I do not believe that in a General Election the average voter says to himself, "Three cheers for A, a modified cheer for B, and no cheer for C." He says, "Three cheers for A—and down with B and C." That is where this system breaks down, particularly in the case of hon. Members opposite and Conservative Members. If you are a Conservative and believe in Conservatism there can be no second vote. If you are a Socialist and believe in Socialism, there can be no second vote. If you are a Liberal, and do not know what to believe in, there can be scores of votes! There seems to be no particular reason why the electoral system, of this country should be re formed in order to make way for the subtle intricacies of mind of the right hon. Member for Darwen. Our ordinary English system is much more simple, much rougher even, but so far it has worked effectually, and we have yet to be shown any single instance where this so-called reform has achieved results even moderately satisfactory.
Finally, I would say in all seriousness that we hear daily and hourly, whether the right hon. Member for Darwen does or not, a growing criticism of Parliament as it at present conducts its work, I have not as long a memory as he, and I have no doubt that a measure of criticism has always been directed against the House of Commons, but I have little doubt that such practices as that in which we are now indulging are calculated to give that criticism real sustenance. When hon. Members opposite were returned at the General Election it was not to enable them to bring in a Bill such as this. This Bill formed no part of their pledges, had no place in their programme. To-day, in the midst of an economic crisis, instead of considering what we can do to give work to the work-less, to restore confidence now sadly lacking, to give hope where hope is 90 almost dead, we are monkeying with the electoral machinery to save a half-dead party. Is it surprising that the country, seeing the House spending its time in this way, should grow to have less respect for it than it had before? Above all things a young party like the Socialist party should be the last to lend itself to purposes such as these. If we set up this new machinery and it fails to produce the satisfactory results for which hon. Members hope, but, on the contrary, as I fear it may, increases the unpopularity of Parliamentary institutions, and lessens the power and the authority of the voice of Parliament in the country, then that will be the fault of hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite and of their allies, who do them so little good by their association with them.
§ Lord ERSKINE
A remarkable feature about the Debates which have been held on this Bill is that, in spite of the operation of the Guillotine, very few supporters of the Government have taken part in it or have advocated this so-called reform. One of the very few who have continually advocated it has been the hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Sir E. Bennett), who has just left the House, and it is a remarkable fact that he and certain others of the Labour party who have advocated it were once members of the Liberal party. I do not see how anyone who believes in majority government and thinks that a Government should have a clear majority to carry out the reforms in which its Members believe can possibly advocate the Alternative Vote. In my view, it will act as a preventive of any Government getting a clear majority; in other words, it will continue the sort of situation which we see in operation in the House at the present time. No party except the dwindling number of hon. Members below the Gangway really delight in the situation we see to-day. I do not think the Government delights in it, and I do not think the country delights in it. As things are, if the Government make mistakes—and, after all, they have made many—they can always pass it off by saying, "Oh, we had not a majority"; but the country, when it elects a Parliament, likes to have a Government appointed which will really be responsible for its actions and which the country will be able to blame if occasion should arise.
91 No Government is a good Government unless it is one which can rely upon a majority in the House of Commons. Every good Government must be able to rely upon a day-to-day majority to pass its Measures, and any Government which cannot do that is apt to make bargains, as the present one has done, and is likely to fail not only from the mere party point of view but from the national point of view as well. In the position in which we are to-day, confronted with a great economic crisis, it would be far better to have a Government with a majority that could govern rather than a continuance of the present situation. There is no doubt from the silence of hon. Members opposite regarding the Alternative Vote that a great many of them are not only very doubtful about the wisdom of it, but are also quite sure that it will do a lot of damage to their party, and I am bound to say I share that view. I think it will do a great deal of damage to the Labour party, and I have a sort of sneaking feeling that a great many Members opposite who have been driven into the Lobby in support of this proposal are saying in their heart of hearts, though not for the world would they say it out loud, "Thank God for the House of Lords!" in the past a great many other parties have done the same thing. Other parties have had rather a shock. There have been previous Reform Bills, and they have all gone to another place. In 1918 another place, which seems to be in favour of extraordinarily complicated systems of voting, put in Proportional Representation. If hon. Members opposite are relying upon another place to upset Clause 1 of this Bill, I fear they will find they are relying upon a very broken reed indeed.
The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) is one of the great supporters of this Measure, in fact, he might even be described as the author of it, and he put forward, as usual, a powerful plea in its support. I do not want to go into the question of the Alternative Vote, because we have discussed it so often that a great many of us are probably rather tired of the whole question, but as this is the last occasion upon which we shall have an opportunity of dealing with the subject in this House I would like to say that I believe it is 92 a bad system, that experience in Australia has shown that it leads to ludicrous results, that it is bound to lead to further log-rolling, and is not a system which should be introduced into this country. A great deal has been said about the University Vote this afternoon. Everybody knows that the Clause which was in the Bill originally abolishing the university Vote was rejected, after a very full Debate, in a very full House. On the Report stage the senior Member for Cambridge University (Sir J. Withers), in the kindness of his heart, proposed to congratulate the Home Secretary for not having restored that Clause, but from the rather ungracious reply of the Home Secretary it became obvious that the only reason why Government had not tried to do so was because they were afraid they would have been in for an even worse hiding than they got before. It is not from any kindness to the universities that the Clause is no longer in the Bill, but merely because the Government felt they would once again be beaten if they tried to restore it.
I think hon. Members below the Gangway can draw some moral from the result of that division. It was a division on a major matter, on a main question of policy, and it was not a snap division, because it was taken at a stated time in a very full House. Most Governments would have resigned, but hon. Members opposite have no intention of resigning. When the tide is going out it is almost impossible to prise a clam off a rock, and hon. Members below the Gangway ought therefore to take their courage in both hands and vote occasionally for the principles in which they believe, even though their action may entail a defeat of the Government. Hon. Members below the Gangway can feel quite safe about doing that. Hon. Members opposite are not going to resign. Nothing will make them face their constituents at the present time, they are far too frightened of them. Hon. Members below the Gangway have been showing far too great subservience. Let them repeat what they did on that occasion. The Government will not resign, and they will get more kudos in the constituencies, and perhaps will be able once more to hold up their heads and say, "We are not the tied servants of the Labour party."
93 The Clause dealing with motor cars has had a chequered history. It was introduced in what everybody admits to be a quite unworkable form. Before the Debate had proceeded an hour it was obvious that in future no one would lend any car to take anybody to the poll, and therefore means had to be found to devise a new Clause. Hon. Members on this side of the House drew up a Clause, or a form of words, which would allow some people, at any rate, to be carried in motor cars to the poll, and that really is the Clause which is in the Bill to-day. We merely devised that form of words, however, not because we want any change in the law, but because we thought that our form of words was workable, and the Government evidently thought so, too, seeing they accepted it, whereas their own form of words was quite impossible. Another remarkable episode on the Report stage was this: An hon. Member sitting on the Liberal Benches proposed an Amendment that the Clause should not apply to motor cars in constituences with an area of over 400 square miles, and the Government were obliged to accept that particular Amendment. Surely hon. Members see that that Amendment makes nonsense of the object of the Clause, and also makes nonsense of the principle. The right hon. Gentle man the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Macpherson) is a Liberal who sits for a large constituency, and, according to the views of the Government, it is right that the right hon. Gentleman should be able to use Tory cars in his constituency. But supposing that the right hon. Gentleman's constituency happened to cover an area of 390 square miles, then it would be wrong and contrary to every view of public decency that has ever been held in this country that he should enjoy the use of motor cars in that way. How can you say that a constituency with an area of 390 or 350 square miles is different from a constituency with 400 square miles and over?
It is generally agreed, I think, that at elections the bigger the poll the better, but by the Clause I am criticising you are restricting the number of people who will be able to get to the poll, and this is being done because it is thought that more of those who come to the poll in motor cars will vote Tory. Clause 1 of this Bill is purely a gamble, and the 94 whole Bill is a hit at the Tory party. By accepting from their allies and, in some cases, their masters, the particular Amendment dealing with the area of 400 square miles, the Government have shown the ludicrousness of this Clause, Hon. Members opposite cannot say any longer that they are going to stop the wicked Tories travelling in motor ears when in some Divisions under this Bill you are allowing any number of motor cars to be used. In 54 Divisions there will be an unlimited number of motor cars in. use. We have never before had an electoral system under which 54 divisions will fight elections under one law and the remainder will fight under another law. The acceptance of that Amendment shows that the Clause is impracticable, and I hope that it will never pass into law.
I was reading the other day Lord Byron's Ode to the degenerate Greeks of his day and in it there appears the line:Ye have the Pyrrhic dance yet; where is the Pyrrhic phalanx gone?Hon. Members below the Gangway still have their dance, they still mumble their old tune, which really has no relation to present day polities; but where is the once solid phalanx of Liberal voters gone? They met their Cynoscephalae in 1924 at the hands of an. angry electorate, all because they put the Socialists in office. Once more they have become, as in 1923, the hewers of wood and drawers of water for the Socialist Government. And for what? For Clause 1 of this Bill, which contains the Alternative Vote. This is the price that the Government have been induced to pay and that the Liberals are willing to accept. Here, plain to the eyes of all England, lie the 30 pieces of silver.
§ Mr. BUTLER
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), in the course of his speech, said that those sitting on the Opposition benches had been obliged to sustain the Debate on this Bill with the aid of oxygen. Taking the right hon. Gentleman at his word, I believe that on past occasions Debates have been kept up to a certain extent upon oxygen, but I think it is necessary for those who follow such able speeches as those to which we have just listened to be armed with a certain amount of oxygen in order to 95 reach those higher flights of imagination after so many excellent arguments have been used. I intend to use a certain degree of oxygen before I conclude. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen said that it was quite wrong that the first-class passenger in a train should receive more votes when going to business in Birmingham than the worker travelling third class who is going from his dormitory constituency to work in a central part of Birmingham. This Bill proposes, by the Alternative Vote, to give those people who miss the train the second opportunity of putting the candidate of their choice into power in the House of Commons. This is the first occasion on which the man who misses the omnibus gets a better opportunity than the man who takes a first-class ticket, and I regard that as a wrong principle. The candidate who is elected on the first count and the candidate who comes second do not get the right to use their second votes. It is the weakest candidate who comes in third, fourth, or perhaps fifth, who gets the right to decide the election of a Member of Parliament. This Bill gives a chance to those who are the lowest on the poll to decide the issue, and I maintain that the Alternative Vote is a thoroughly wrong principle to apply to an election.
We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen a claim that the Alternative Vote was recommended by a Royal Commission in 1910, and that there was a report in favour of that principle in 1917. Surely, an argument of that kind has no claim on our attention in 1931. I have noticed since I have had the privilege of being a Member of this House that most of our theories and arguments are now totally and completely out of date, and it is seldom that we discuss modem theories in a modern way. The Government are now content to rest upon the decision of a Royal Commission in 1910 just as in the rest of their legislation they are content to rest upon such legislation as the Land Tax, which is based upon suggestions which were introduced as long ago as 1909. Is the pre-War period to be taken as the basis upon which to found legislation dealing with the problems of 1931? I do not regard 96 the arguments which were used by the Home Secretary when moving the Third Reading of this Bill as being applicable to a Measure dealing with the modern problems of our day, and I cannot agree with the argument that what was right in 1909 and 1910 must necessarily be right when applied to the problems of 1931. We all know the fate of the Education Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill, and now the Home Secretary brings forward a Bill which has been radically altered since it was introduced. The right hon. Gentleman will no doubt recollect the verse from John Gilpin which reads:Away went Gilpin, neck or naught,Away went hat and wig;He little dreamt whom he set out,Of running such a rig.I am convinced that the Home Secretary when he introduced the Representation of the People Bill never dreamt of running such a rig. In considering this question we should look at it from the point of view of modern eyes. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen said that no Member of this House had pleaded for the retention of the double-member constituency. I am descended from Members of Parliament who sat in other Parliaments for boroughs in Cornwall such as Lost-withiel which were double-member constituencies created by the Tudors, and they sat in this House for a long time. I am ready to support in 1931 the principle of double-member constituencies, and I should like to point out that in doing so I am defending a tradition which has been maintained in my family for a great many years. I maintain that the whole essence of Conservatism is constructive while the policy of the party opposite is destructive, and there is no element of a constructive character in this Bill. I think the Government ought to have preserved the double-member constituencies, and used them as an experimental basis for trying proportional representation in the great cities. That would have been fulfilling the spirit of Mr. Gladstone in 1885 when he pleaded for the retention of the civic entity of a city by keeping double-member constituencies, and spoke in favour of dividing cities into double or treble-member constituencies. Why should this principle not be used as the basis for Proportional Representation? At any rate, it might be tried in 97 that way as an experiment. The City of London has been treated separately, and why should not other great industrial centres in this country be treated in the same way?
Plural voting has been abolished and hon. Members opposite consider that the university vote ought to be abolished. The argument they used on this point was that the university vote was so small and the number of voters in each constituency was so small that it was not worth while having a representative for such a small number of voters. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen repeated that argument, and referred to the discrepancy in constituencies where there were 50,000 and university constituencies in the future with 5,000 voters. The right hon. Gentleman pointed to this as a weakness and deficiency in our electoral system, but by going into the Lobby, as he will this evening, in support of this Bill, he will make the university constituency a travesty of what it was in the past, and will make that weakness doubly as bad as it was before. Why should we be asked to support a Bill when we are told by hon. Members opposite that there is a certain weakness, which they propose immediately to aggravate by reducing the number of voters in the university constituencies?
I am grievously concerned about the effect of this Bill upon the future of the House of Commons. As I have said, our double-Member constituencies have been a feature of our political system for many centuries, and have a basis of sound democracy; and yet we come here this evening, in our pleasant and agreeable way, 100 years after the great Reform Bill, to sweep away the very basis of our political institutions, which has been since that period a vocational and territorial basis. We are proposing to sweep away what remains of the vocational basis of our institution. I maintain that that vocational basis has been a feature of the success of the House of Commons in the past, and, if we cut out from our representation all that is vocational, we shall give to those reformers who are going to rebuild our constitution an opportunity to put the vocational element into another place and take it away from us, I am of opinion that that to a very large extent will weaken the House of 98 Commons as we know it at present. In the last century, Carlyle told us that artisanism was the one thing needful for making the House of Commons a democratic and useful institution. To-day it is not artisanism that is needful, but aristocracy, in the best sense of the word—not in the snobbish sense, but in the sense of what is best in education, in business and in representation, of what is best in the vocational element. We are deliberately cutting out of our institutions the vocational element, which, with the territorial, has been the basis of our institutions since the beginning of time in this island. We are doing that in a light-hearted way, and I believe we are doing ourselves a very great disservice, and one which we as Members of the House of Commons will always regret.
I want now to allude particularly to the question of the geographical Clauses, as I call them—the Clauses about the postponement of the poll in islands, to which no reference has hitherto been made, and the Clauses about motor cars in constituencies over 400 square miles in area. It seems rather strange that those who have the privilege of representing islands should, with their scattered constituencies, get all the benefits of this Bill and none of its demerits. They are to be allowed to use motor boats, and, were there a legal representative of the Crown here, I should have liked to ask him whether a motor boat was entitled to take voters to the poll on an island, whereas a motor car would not be so entitled. I take it that the islanders would get the advantage of using their motor boats, while at the same time their scattered constituencies would enable them to use as many motor cars as possible.
With regard to the question of the use of motor cars in constituencies over 400 square miles in area, and with particular regard to Essex, in which there are eight county constituencies, I find that the constituency which I have the honour to represent is only 16,000 statute acres under the 400 square miles. I have in my constituency 241,667 statute acres, which means that my constituency is approximately 16,000 statute acres below the limit. It is nearly 100,000 statute acres more than any other Essex county constituency, and next to it comes the constituency of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon (Colonel- 99 Ruggles-Brise). Therefore, I should be entitled to use 40 motor cars in an election. On the other hand, there is the constituency of Romford—and I see the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Muggeridge) sitting on the Front Bench below the Gangway opposite—where there are 120,000 electors, and where the number of motor cars allowed, although the constituency is much smaller than mine—only 39,155 acres—would be 120. I would ask the House whether they consider that that is an equitable distribution of motor cars as between what are at present Labour and Conservative constituencies? My constituency, which is just on the edge of the limit of 400 square miles, is by far the largest in Essex, and also the most awkwardly shaped, being completely divided into two with a piece of the constituency of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maldon coming right through the middle of it; and I am entitled to 40 motor cars, whereas the hon. Member for Romford is entitled to 120, under the scheme of the Socialist Government. I am not surprised that in Essex at any rate the scales are weighted against the Conservative party by this Measure. I only hope that, when they are put to the test, our 40 cars will be of a more powerful and efficient make than those which the hon. Member is able to get for himself. I maintain that on examination this Clause relating to motor cars completely breaks down and is impracticable, and I only hope that at a further stage it may be drastically altered, in order that we may have something more nearly approaching perfection.
With regard to election expenses, I have no objection to their reduction, because I take what I think is a human attitude towards this problem, but, when my hon. Friend the Member for St. George's (Mr. Cooper) was speaking, an hon. Member opposite asked him how much the recent election in St. Georges cost. That is the sort of trouble and the sort of expense which the Socialist Government are leaving totally out of consideration. They are reducing the election expenses for the individual candidate, but, when great organisations come into the constituency and spend as much as they like, the Government take no steps whatever, although that is a very 100 much greater difficulty than that of merely limiting the expenses of private individuals. Because I think that this Bill is out-of-date, because it has no imagination, and because it cuts at the root of what have been our political institutions in the past, I oppose it with all the strength at my command.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I thought that I might, perhaps, be allowed take part in this Third Reading Debate, if only because of the fact that I enjoy, I believe, the melancholy distinction of having fought more contested Parliamentary elections than anyone else alive, and that I have had to fight an election, on an average, every two years out of the 28 years that I have actually sat in this assembly and offered to the House the benefit of my guidance and assistance. I feel, therefore, that I have a very special association with the subject of electoral reform.
To-day we have listened to the Home Secretary making a more-dead-than-alive speech upon the Third Reading of a Bill into whose conception and composition no thought of the public interest has at any stage entered. At this time, when of all others there is need for a more stable and earnest political foundation, for more structure and substance and gravity in our electoral system, we have a Bill which by all accounts, from the testimony of all sides, merely accentuates the existing formlessness of our political institutions, which aggravates the fluidity of the electorate, and which adds new features of caprice and uncertainty to the conduct of each individual election.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has referred to an article which I wrote nearly two years ago, after the General Election, pointing out that the subject of a reform of the electoral law must necessarily become a vital issue. I have in no way receded from that opinion. The motive power which has brought this Bill before the House is, of course, the Liberal grievance. It is impossible not to recognise that grievance. It is not only a Liberal grievance, for there is a constitutional defect which is before us as well, I am told, and the figures are well known, that 20,000 votes elect a Socialist, and 23,000 elect a Conservative, while 100,000 are required to 101 elect a Liberal. There is something to be said for and against that calculation, but in principle we have so shaped our affairs that it is actually easier for the most extreme opinion to obtain representation in this House than for Conservative or Liberal opinions to be represented. In addition to that, there is the great difficulty of 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 active citizens who feel that they have not received proper and fair treatment from the Constitution. It is quite impossible to make long plans for the Government of this country on such a basis. The denial of the redress of real grievances always breeds evils, and we are suffering now from the evil of an irresponsible Liberal party. We are suffering from the evil of a party which, necessarily perhaps, is concerned at the present time with little else but preserving its own existence. I think it is time, from every point of view, that some effort was made to remedy that evil.
No Conservative can afford to be indifferent to the fate of the Liberal party. If that party disappears, if it is liquidated or broken up, where will those 4,000,000 or 5,000,00 voters go? It may be that their ultimate destination will decide the foundations of political power in Great Britain, perhaps for a generation. People say there is the swing of the pendulum, but the pendulum does not always swing. For 30 years after the repeal of the Corn Laws, the Conservative party hardly ever held office, and when they did it was only precariously. For 20 years after the Home Rule Bill, the Liberal party only held office very rarely, and then precariously. We are now at a time when the metal of politics is fluid, is molten. The various moulds are ready, and we have now, perhaps, a chance in this next year or two to decide into which moulds that metal shall be guided.
I would earnestly appeal to the members of the Conservative party, to my right hon. Friends on this bench, as I have done from the beginning of this Parliament, not to disinterest themselves in a just reform of our electoral law. You cannot, I believe, make any sound plans, as long as democracy endures in Great Britain—and that will be for a good long time yet—upon any other basis than that a majority in the House of Commons should be based upon an in- 102 trinsic superiority of strength, I do not say always of numerical strength, in the country. No Government which is in a large minority in the country, even though it possess a working majority in the House of Commons, can have the necessary power to cope with real problems. People unfairly criticise the late Government and my right hon. Friend because, they say, that Government was not sufficiently robust, sufficiently full-blooded, sufficiently vigorous in its action. They underrate altogether the immense sub-conscious force of public opinion in this country, and the pressure that it brings to bear upon a constitutional administration in time of peace if that administration is not based upon clear majority decisions, and has not behind it a definite predonderance of the national will. For these and many other reasons a wise and faithful reform of the electoral law ought to hold a key position in our minds.
I am, indeed, glad that in the conduct of this Measure my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) has shown that the Conservative party, the strongest individual party in the country, has a constructive view upon tills subject. Merely to say that we do not like this, and we do not like that, and we will not have the other, is a policy which certainly will not succeed in the long run. Therefore, I was. especially interested and glad to find that the Conservative delegates to the Three Party Conference agreed with the Liberal party representatives that, if a change had to be made—for which, of course, we are not pleading at the moment—proportional representation in the great cities was the least objectionable way of meeting the Liberal grievance and the constitutional defect. I have always disliked proportional representation on account of its complications, and I have not infrequently spoken of it in contemptuous terms, but I accept this view of the Conservative delegates upon the Three Party Conference. Having to choose, as we shall have to choose if we are to redress the constitutional injustice, between the Alternative Vote, the Second Ballot and Proportional Representation in the cities, I have no doubt whatever that the last is incomparably the fairest, the most scientific and, on the whole, the best in the public interest.
103 I return to the need for more strength and structure in our Parliamentary life. A phrase of Mr. Gladstone's was used by my hon. Friend who has just spoken. The "civic entity" of great cities or, as I should call it, the collective personality of great cities, is an important factor. Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bristol—names which Tory democracy in the eighties used to conjure with—what effective expression have they now of their collective intellectual force? When they had, in the days before the great Reform Bill, perhaps only a couple of members apiece, they had a greater influence upon our affairs than eight or ten members representing carved up communities of no integral strength. They have far less weight than one or two men would have who spoke with the collective authority of these centres of British progress and culture. Under the Proportional Representation scheme, which the Government, in spite of protests, have rejected, with all its inconveniences, these cities would regain their collective personality and their members, of every hue, Liberal, Conservative or Socialist, would speak for the opinions of very large numbers of people forming an integral society. The leading figures in our political life would find, at the summit of these great cities far more secure and independent seats than is possible to-day. Our cities would become centres where keen and powerful political debates would proceed, and the public thrashing out of great questions, such as is almost impracticable now, would proceed again before an increasingly attentive audience, and the formation of new opinion in these centres would influence thought in the surrounding districts. For these reasons, I should greatly have preferred the method of Proportional Representation to the method of the Bill. If the framers of this Measure had been faithfully and nationally minded in their work they would, I think, have striven, first of all, to add more weight and fibre to the franchise and, secondly, to remedy the Liberal grievance in the most logical and scientific manner. By so doing, they would have achieved an enhancement of the repute and power of the House upon 104 which, after all, most of our fortunes still depend.
The Government have done the exact opposite. In purely party and political manoeuvres, in a deal for a further tenure of office, they have swept away the second vote for business premises and they have tried, vainly even in this Parliament to destroy university representation. It would have been much better, on the contrary, to add enormously to the plural vote so as to increase the strength and vigour of the franchise. Suppose, for instance, a second vote had been given to every householder or breadwinner at the head of a family, the man or woman who pays the rent or the rates, 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 additional votes would have been given. That, in my opinion, which have restored something of the quality of the old electorate. It would have drawn the true distinction which should be drawn between those wage earners who are really bearing the burden and their grown-up children or dependants who live in the same dwelling. It would have called back into being that specially responsible political democracy to whose exertions and keen discussions the health and the fame of our pre-War Parliamentary institutions were largely due. The additional 7,000,000 or 8,000,000 of extra votes would have removed all need of legislating against the handful of plural votes which still survives. It would have swamped them in a much larger mass of responsible citizenship, and would have reduced their privilege to virtual nullity. Such a plan would not have drawn any distinction between one citizen and another on the ground of age, sex, wealth, class, education, or even intelligence. It would discriminate solely on the ground of responsibility and burden borne. It would take no existing right from anyone, but it would confer a new authority upon many millions of men and women, wage-earners and salary-earners, upon those who are, as it were, in harness, drawing the family waggon, and all together drawing the coach of State.
§ Mr. McKINLAY
On a point of Order. Is the right hon. Gentleman in order in discussing something which is not contained in the Bill?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The rule is that on the Third Reading only what is in the Bill can be discussed. On an occasion of this 105 kind I think the right hon. Gentleman is in order in using arguments against the Bill.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Needless to say, I do not intend to go into the positive advocacy of any alternatives. I am only contrasting the proposals of the Bill with proposals which should play a part in any Bill for a true and better representation of the people. If the Government reject Proportional Representation, I think—here I am giving only a personal opinion—the next best method is the second ballot. Compared with the Alternative Vote, it is far better, it is perfectly simple, a clear issue is presented to the electors and there is a straight fight, man for man, for the candidates. There is no serious disadvantage in having 100 or 150 second ballot elections a few days or a week after the main part of the General Election is decided. On the contrary, there is a real advantage in enabling a portion of the electors to correct, if they choose, an undue landslide in either direction. In the old days before the War, a General Election was spread over five or six weeks, and a far more closely reasoned decision was reached than is reached at present. I was never an admirer of all elections on one day. The deliberate verdict of the country plainly manifesting itself after prolonged discussion is a considerable safeguard against incontinent decisions and the mere elaboration of the process is a check upon too frequent recourse to the tremendous political weapon of a General Election.
One of the most alarming features of our present system is that the nation goes to bed on the night of the poll and wakes up to find that an irrevocable decision has been taken. No one knows what has been done until all has been done. It would have been a wise and prudent feature in our constitution if a substantial proportion of the constituencies voted a few days later in the light of the situation resulting from the first ballots. All the more is this true when such enormous masses of voters are attached to no particular party, and when vast numbers of electors take little or no interest in public affairs, when they have to be almost dragged out of their houses to poll, when millions of people treat the whole process on which the Government of the country rests with indifference or, again, may vote on some 106 sudden wave of prejudice. [Interruption.] I am not couching my argument in party terms. I am couching it in national terms, as this Bill should have been drawn. In these circumstances, to have second ballots in 100 or 150 constituencies would be a powerful insurance against a too violent lurch in either direction. I should not be at all afraid of the extra trouble involved in these second ballots. I believe it would be well worth while, and it would make for continuity and stability. Nor do I admit the validity of the arguments used on the Second Reading by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills), that it would lead to bargaining and huckstering between the first and second ballots. There is always a certain amount of bargaining and huckstering in human and political affairs. The same bargaining and huckstering will go on about the Alternative Vote, but then it will all be done individually, in holes and corners, whereas the declarations by leaders of parties after the first ballot, as well as the declarations of Members presenting themselves in each of the constituencies for the second ballots, would all be done on the public platform.
The Government have, as it seems to me, rejected without reasonable consideration both the method of Proportional Representation and this method of the second ballot. The plan that they have adopted is the worst of all possible plans. It is the stupidest, the least scientific and the most unreal that the Government have embodied in their Bill. The decision of 100 or more constituencies, perhaps 200, is to be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates. That is what the Home Secretary told us to-day was "establishing democracy on a broader and surer basis." Imagine making the representation of great constituencies dependent on the second preferences of the hindmost candidates. The hindmost candidate would become a personage of considerable importance, and the old phrase, "Devil take the hindmost," will acquire a new significance. I do not believe it will be beyond the resources of astute wire-pullers to secure the right kind of hindmost candidates to be broken up in their party interests. There may well be a multiplicity of weak and fictitious can- 107 didates in order to make sure that the differences between No. 1 and No. 2 shall be settled, not by the second votes of No. 3, but by the second votes of No. 4 or No. 5, who may, presumably give a more favourable turn to the party concerned. This method is surely the child of folly, and will become the parent of fraud. Neither the voters nor the candidates will be dealing with realities. An element of blind chance and accident will enter far more largely into our electoral decisions than even before, and respect for Parliament and Parliamentary processes will decline lower than it is at present.
Luckily we have not seen the last of this Bill. There is the House of Lords. The Parliament Act, which the Prime Minister and his principal colleagues, which the Leader of the Liberal party and his principal colleagues, and which I, myself, in a small way helped to make the law of the land, conferred a charter of new and modern powers upon the House of Lords. These powers are limited, but they are all the more effective for that very reason and, if they are used wisely, prudently and reasonably in a spirit of the national interest, they are tremendous powers. Never would such powers be exerted more potently or more beneficially than in the treatment of the further stages of this Bill. The House of Lords will render immense service to the House of Commons, to all political parties, and to the nation by giving further opportunities for considering this Bill in one form or another.
I see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in his place. He and his party seem to be in a very awkward situation, alternating between hope and fear. They are, as it were, standing on a trap door with the halter of public displeasure round their necks. The man who holds the lever, the Prime Minister, is the man they have disparaged and derided with every epithet which our printable vocabulary contains. The man who holds the lever is the leader of a party which can grow great or greater only by devouring them, and which is actually in the process of devouring them from hour to hour. They are going to stand on this trap door, according to the programme, according to the compact, per- 108 haps for two long years. What is to happen to them and their Electoral Reform Bill if the Prime Minister pulls the lever before the Bill is passed? What is to prevent him from doing so? No contract, no deal or gentleman's agreement, no unspoken unity or concord of action, nothing of that kind can prevent such a result. At any moment in these two years, when the country is a little more favourable, when trade begins to mend a bit, when some issue rises good to carry with hot prejudice to an election, the Government can have themselves defeated. The whole interest of the Socialist party is against this Alternative Vote. There must be 50 Members, many of them sitting opposite now, whom we shall not see in Parliament again if it is carried. They might so easily become at some time in the near future slack in their attendance. At any time during these two years the Government might say to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, "We are so sorry, we did so want to carry your Electoral Reform Bill; we are longing to put the Alternative Vote on the Statute Book, yet here we are defeated in the House of Commons on a major question. It would not be consonant with our dignity or our honour"—that would certainly come out then—"to continue in office. So we must have a General Election, and we must have it on the old basis."
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
There are some interruptions which are protected from repartee by their irrelevance. There is a terrible risk for the Liberal party and for the right hon. Gentleman. He is playing now for high stakes and long odds. Talk of gambling, where is the Home Secretary, who is always running about so busily in these matters? Yet he is here conniving at one of the greatest gambling episodes and transactions that I can ever remember having heard or seen, conniving at a disreputable and demoralising spectacle. I am really quite anxious about the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and I am advising him for his own good. I suggest to him across the Gangway, even though it has grown 109 broader than the Floor, that perhaps a study of these questions on their merits, and with a paramount purpose of improving and strengthening Parliamentary Government in this island, might afford him a less bleak and hazardous prospect than that which he has found it necessary at present to embrace. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman, if he should speak in the Debate., will consider what I have ventured to say.
The co-operation of all parties in the improvement of our parliamentary institutions is what is needed. It is our duty to strengthen the House of Commons. Parliament is all we have, and the House of Commons is the main part of it. We have no fixed constitution, no supreme court as in America. We have no elaborately built-up and strongly independent Senate as in France. We have no great organisation of state and provincial governments as in Germany and United States. In the main, we are just this assembly in this small Chamber based on Universal suffrage, and with our party machinery in disarray. Upon us have come economic problems with which many of us feel ourselves little qualified to deal, and upon us rests always the responsibility for a large part of the world and for the peace and progress of its peoples. We have responsibility concentrated upon us for the past and responsibility for the future. Surely the care of this central instrument ought to be a sacred trust? Surely the building up of practical, trustworthy, living organs of government ought to be one of our chief cares? The House of Commons a generation ago was honoured, a generation ago it was regarded almost as ideal for its purpose Now it is a threatened institution, and even a despised institution. Great popular audiences listen with approval, and have recently listened at by-elections with approval, to proposals to injure or fundamentally alter the House of Commons and to obliterate very largely parliamentary government, as we have known it, and to establish new governments in new forms—either from the right or from the left—new governments vaunting an altogether unproved efficiency, but governments fatal to our long-renowned freedom.
There is this thoughtless, careless section of our people—millions of them—charged with the direct responsibility for 110 the fortunes of this country, who would not take a tithe of the trouble to find out the rights and wrongs of grave political questions or even to cast a vote that they would take to buy a ticket in the Irish sweepstake. Look at the papers to-day! Look even at the "Times" newspaper to-day! Are they not a spectacle of immense democratic irresponsibility? I am pleading for structure in defence of our parliamentary institutions. I still believe in a great Empire united and guided by a great House of Commons and a teeming population of free citizens in this island, whose welfare does not decline. But, when I see this Bill and know, as I do perfectly well, all the forces, all the misunderstanding, all the stupidity, all the cunning, all the desperation, which have brought it about, it is impossible not to feel profoundly anxious.
Let us look at it quite nakedly. The Liberals have a grave constitutional grievance. Until that is rectified, they are fighting for their lives by weapons of faction and intrigue. No man, no party struggling for life, according to my experience, will stick at anything. There is the Government, on the other hand, a minority Government astonished to have lived so long, staggered by the blizzard they have encountered, astounded that they should have survived thus far in the teeth of it. There is this Government clinging to office by tooth and claw. There is the Prime Minister, not at the head of a majority in Parliament, not at the head of a majority in the country, making no secret of the fact to his followers that, if he were to appeal to the electorate now, he would be swept away. There is a hope that things will mend. Like an aeroplane pilot forced to come down in a short time, the Prime Minister hopes to find some better landing ground a little further on before the petrol is exhausted. Anything to keep going, anything to make it fly a little longer, anything to postpone, even if it cannot avert, the threatening crash. So, in desperation, these two parties come together and they make a bargain, in which no thoughts of the public merits, no thoughts of the well-being of the Commonwealth have played their part. Just a Bill called the Representation of the People Bill, some sort of botch, something to get through the Session, something to square the Liberals, something to stave off the evil day. It is a Bill which will 111 weaken the structure of Parliament and vitiate electoral procedure. Great sacrifices may be demanded of us for great causes, but rarely has so great a sacrifice been demanded of our country for so petty a cause as this, when the fabric of the House of Commons is rotted and popular elections are confused, in order to secure a few more months' experience of the bitter sweets of office to this dismal, fatuous and impotent Administration.
§ Mr. PERRY
I do not want to dwell upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) except to emphasise two points. He thought it would have been a far better proposal to have increased the number of voters in the constituencies by giving additional votes to the breadwinner, and one of the reasons which he gave for that proposal was the privilege held by the plural voter tinder the present system. One reason which compels me to support the Bill is the fact that the privilege which the right hon. Gentleman himself has enjoyed is likely to be swept away. There are many on these benches who have been fighting for years for the principle of one man or one woman, one vote, and it is because the Bill has gone a long way along that road that we welcome it and give it our support.
We were glad to hear the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman as to what will happen to this Bill in another place. I do not think that he was quite logical when he talked about the House of Commons being a small assembly with no independent senate to overhaul its work and at the same time expressed the hope that when the Bill reaches another place it will be considerably remodelled. I warn the right hon. Gentleman that there are many in this House who will welcome the challenge of another place if they seek to destroy this Bill and thus add one more burden to those which they have already placed upon the shoulders of the Labour Government during the present Session. I support the Bill because in many respects it appears to sweep away some of the privileges which we have been trying to clear away for many years. I confess that I would have preferred to have seen proportional Representation included in the Bill, but, not being able to get all I want, I am 112 prepared to accept the principle of the Bill. Whoever comes to this House, no matter from what constituency, he has no right to complain of an electoral system which provides for a majority of electors to decide the issues, and, as one who has faced a combination of both parties in my constituency, I have no complaint to make of any system which demands that I must have a majority of the votes recorded in order to be returned to this House.
I regret that university representation still remains in the Bill. A great claim was made for the special representation of those who had graduated at the universities. If that claim is conceded, I wish to claim that those of us who have graduated through the hard and bitter school of experience have just as much right to special representation in this House as those who have had that great privilege accorded to them. While university representation remains, I welcome the Amendment which now limits the exercise of the vote either to the constituency or to the university.
A great point has been made about the regulations dealing with the use of motor cars at elections. Surely my Conservative friends in this House are well aware that we know just as much as they do how their organisation has developed within recent years. The methods of organisation in the Conservative party have been remodelled within recent years, and now transport and the ownership of cars is the key to the situation in the rural areas. The hon. and gallant Member for St. Albans (Lieut.-Colonel Fremantle) shakes his head, but anybody who knows anything of Tory organisation in county divisions knows that Tory candidates in scattered areas have a tremendous advantage over candidates of all other parties by reason of the large number of cars they are able to use at election times.
I welcome, too, the proposals in the Bill to reduce the scale of expenses as far as elections are concerned. The Measure entirely abolishes plural voting: it gives that for which many on this side of the House have been fighting for years, namely, a great advance towards the great principle of one person, one vote. It is for these reasons that I heartily support the Third Reading of the Bill, and I await 113 the challenge which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping has thrown down, as to what will happen to the Bill in another place.
I feel some diffidence in speaking at this point in the Debate, because in the various stages of the Bill we haves had speeches from many distinguished Members of this House who themselves have taken part, somewhat before my time, in earlier discussions on the question of electoral reform. I am, therefore, all the more ready to ask for that indulgence which I know the House always extends to a Member who for the first time takes part in its Debates. I notice from the speeches to-day from the other side that it is still claimed for this Bill that it is, as it were, a coping stone of that system of electoral freedom and equality which was begun almost exactly 100 years ago amid such sciences of popular agitation as may always be expected where the liberties of the people are kept in check. But I do not think that that claim can be substantiated. After all, I have one advantage ever most hon. Members in this House, if it can be called an advantage, in that I have lately faced a portion of the electors of this country. While there was great interest shown in any question which had to do with trade depression or unemployment, I am not aware that a single question was ever directed to me on the subject of electoral reform.
I will not attempt at this stage to go over all the arguments which have been so forcibly put, and in such detail, against this Bill by Members on this side of the House; but there are two aspects of the Measure which seem to be unfortunate, not from a strictly party outlook, but from a national point of view. The first is the question of the Alternative Vote in which the Liberal party is naturally interested, because it is hoped that through this system that party will obtain a more proportionate representation in future Parliaments—a wish it is not necessary to be a member of the Liberal party thoroughly to understand. But is that system going to give a better representation to the smallest party in future Parliaments? If you must have three parties in the State, I think it is 114 inevitable that the electorate will gradually concentrate on the two parties which they think represent the cleanest cut issues and that the party who, for one reason or another, does not represent one of those two issues will, to a great extent, go to the wall. After all, an historic party has millions of convinced supporters who will not change their policy, who will not vote for any other party than that in which they have been born and bred; but if they do not vote for any other party then, inevitably, they will to a great extent be disfranchised. Is it right that while we have at present a system that is understood by the electorate we should change to a system which I believe will not give proportionate representation to the smallest party in the State? We know that where it has been tried, notably in Canada and Australia, that baa not been the result. The figures with respect to the provincial elections in Alberta in 1926 are very striking, and although they have been quoted in the House before they are well worth quoting again. The party which was bottom but one got 20,000 votes and no representation, while the bottom party of all which only got 5,000 votes secured three seats.
There is a much more serious point. In this country we have a strong, healthy, controversial party system which has been our pride and has made this House the model for Houses of Parliament in other countries of the world. Of late years, of necessity, the party edges have become somewhat blurred. I believe the Alternative Vote will further aggravate this position, and that at a time when the country was never more in need of clean-cut party issues. In the constituencies under the Alternative Vote the people with the strongest views who really understand politics will not care to give a second vote. The second votes to a great extent will be given by those who do not really understand politics, who do not understand the issues of the day, or the jokers, who will put another cross just for a lark. It is those people who to a great extent will control the results of elections. What a vista of bargaining and canvassing and cadging for votes this opens up. This system may well make party politics in this country something which exists in many other countries 115 but has not yet become operative in this country—something which those with ideals and beliefs, no matter what their shade of opinion, do not care to touch.
There is a second aspect of this Bill which is very unfortunate, and that is the question of the abolition of the plural vote and the loss to this House of a concentrated opinion upon certain national interests. I will not refer to the question of motor cars, except to say that I think the Clause regarding the use of motor cars seems to interfere with the liberty of the individual, and as such I am surprised that the Liberal party should find it in their hearts to support it. Still less am I referring to the question of election expenses. One finds quite well-to-do candidates in all parties nowadays. The position in regard to the abolition of the plural vote is far more serious. Clauses 3 and 4 are based on the theory of one man one vote. There have been many discussions whether that is right or not. The only way in which one can look at the question is this: that every citizen in this country should have one vote equally for himself as a private citizen but that there are certain people who hold positions of responsibility in relation to the national life who are entitled to an extra say in national affairs.
In the case of the business vote, certain men—I am not referring to women voting in respect of their husband's business, because that is another question—certain men between them represent the employment of millions of people, and those great interests which, whether we like it or not, in the last resort enable taxes to be paid and this country to exist. Those people are entitled to an extra voice in the management of national affairs; but such small measure of concentrated opinion as there has been in this House on such questions is to be scattered and broken up. Yet on the other hand the principle of the business vote is admitted, because the representation of the City of London continues. I think it was the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), in his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, who said that the Government out of the "kindness of its heart" was going to allow the representation of the City of London to continue. If you admit 116 a principle, it is not kindness of heart that you want but that the principle should be pushed to its logical conclusion, and that the man with a business vote in the City of London should also be allowed to vote in respect of his home, and that the business vote and the plural vote should be restored in the great industrial cities of the country. The same argument applies in respect of the university vote. There, we have certain men and women who, entirely through their own efforts, have attained to positions of responsibility and have the right to a certain special say in the affairs of the country. The university representation has been saved from the lion's jaws, but it is totally illogical to leave that representation, if you do not allow the plural vote at the same time.
I am sure that this Bill is unwanted by the country. It is very illogical. It is impossible for anyone quite unprejudiced in mind to say that it is otherwise than directed against certain interests and certain sections of the community. Therefore, it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called democratic. There is much in the Bill which goes against the Liberal grain. Is that party going to make possible a Measure which may do it no good in the way of Proportional Representation but may do very much the opposite, and at the same time will harm national interests? Moreover, if this Bill becomes law, it may be found much more difficult to repeal it than to place it on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. MANDER
The House will have listened to the hon. Member for East Toxteth (Mr. Buchan-Hepburn) with very great pleasure and will look forward to many opportunities in the future of hearing him, on account of the clear manner and the graceful way in which he has delivered his remarks. It is a peculiar pleasure to me to be placed in the position of saying these few words. At the last General Election we met in mortal combat, and I am glad to think that my success on that occasion has not long deprived the House of his presence. We had a very brilliant disquisition from the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) which I am sure we enormously enjoyed, but it seemed to me that the greater part of the speech had 117 very little relevance to what was in the Bill. He was more or less obliged by reason of the criticisms made and by his own professions in the past to give some indication of what he would have done. I presume that he was speaking for himself and not for the Conservative party, but that may remain a doubtful point. His programme, as far as I understood it, was that if they had the opportunity they would have done the one thing that the present Government have not done. We should have had Proportional Representation or we might have had the second ballot, but we should not have had the Alternative Vote. I submit that that as a practical solution of the problem before the House and the country is utterly useless, because we know perfectly well that the Conservative party have no intention whatsoever of making any contribution to a solution of this problem. The right hon. Gentleman himself said, in a hurried aside, that they did not think it was necessary to do anything, but that at some future time, at some dim and distant time, they would do something.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
We naturally have no disposition to press the urgency of this matter, but since it is raised we recognise that the position requires consideration.
§ Mr. MANDER
They do not recognise any urgency and so far as they are concerned they would not bring forward any immediate Measure, but when the time arrived they would be prepared to bring in something, and they would propose either the second ballot or Proportional Representation. That is no contribution to the situation at the moment. We feel that something needs to be done at once, and we have a practical Measure before us. I was very much interested in the speech made by the hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper) because he paid an extraordinary tribute to the Liberal party. I do not know that he intended to pay such a tribute, but he certainly paid it. He pointed out that the Bill was hated and loathed by hon. Members opposite, that hon. Members above the Gangway on this side have no use whatever for it, that the people all over the country detest it, and yet the small number of Members who sit on 118 these benches have, by their great influence, imposed it on an unwilling House, an unwilling Government and an unwilling country. I cannot imagine a greater tribute than was paid in those words.
While I support the Bill on its Third Reading, I do not think it is nearly so good a Bill as it was on Second Reading. It will be interesting to note to what extent the various recommendations of the Ullswater Commission have been carried out. There were nine recommendations. The recommendation dealing with the reduction of election expenditure has been embodied in the Bill. The recommendation with regard to the use of motor cars has been embodied to some extent. The recommendation with regard to plural voting has also been embodied to some extent, and also the recommendation with regard to the division of double-Member constituencies. There are five other recommendations which remain to be dealt with in some future Bill. Therefore, the Bill does not go nearly as far as many hon. Members would like, but I do think that it is sufficient for the purpose of giving to the electors a fairer opportunity of sending to this House the Members whom they desire to send here.
Hon. Members above the Gangway on this side raise objections continually. If there is the slightest suggestion that more Liberals may be returned as a result of the Bill, they seem to think that it would be a very improper thing. Our only desire is to provide electoral machinery that will enable the electors to send here the Members whom they desire to send. If, as may well be the case, they send Liberals in larger numbers, we think that that will be all to the good, because we believe that the more Liberal Members there are the better it is for the country. If on the other hand, as may well be the case, at some future election this machinery may be used to destroy the Liberal party, then we can have no possible complaint to make. The Bill is to provide the opportunity of giving justice to the electors, which is a most important thing of all. The hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) used a boating parallel, which came naturally from him, in which he suggested that this effort of the Liberal party was just a spurt and was not going to last. I would suggest to him another 119 parallel drawn from the same source. Up to the present time under the existing electoral system we have only had four men rowing in our boat. There ought to be not 58 but 140 Members representing the Liberal party, if the electors had had their will. In future we shall compete on even terms, rowing eight against eight, and I think that we shall successfully pull our weight under the conditions that will then prevail.
It is appalling to see the partisan way in which the Conservative opposition has been raised against this Bill. They seem to have looked at it on every occasion not from the point of view of what is good for the country but how it is going to affect this, that or the other party, and whether the Liberal or the Labour parties will return more Members to this House. It has been suggested that we should take a national point of view. The attitude of hon. Members above the Gangway has been, in the main, partisan right from the beginning to the end of the discussion. They have adopted the attitude which has characterised their party all through the centuries, in the main, in resisting to the last any removal of the privileges which exist to their benefit. I noticed with great interest in the Press the other day, though not with surprise, that the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) is, during the course of the summer, going to open or unveil a memorial at Old Sarum, a place where two Members were returned to this House, under three trees, not by any electors but by the noble owner. I dare say that is a very appropriate action on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. I have no doubt that hon. Members above the Gangway would be delighted to see Old Sarum's all over the country, so that they would not have to face the necessity of going through elections, and would not be called upon to explain that Protection is going to reduce prices, instead of making perfectly clear, what we all know to be the fact, that it will inevitably raise prices. Another reason why this Bill is extremely important is because of the revolutionary policy that has been adopted by hon. Members above the Gangway. During the last Parliament there was the policy of the gradual extension of safeguarding by the putting of small new duties here and there, but the matter is now quite different—
§ Mr. MANDER
I obey your ruling at once. I was just using that argument as an illustration of the necessity of passing this Measure, inasmuch as the policy of hon. Members above the Gangway makes it very important that there should be a majority of electors behind any majority of Members in this House, and that their policy to reverse a policy which has obtained in this country for 90 years is so revolutionary that unless it has behind it a majority of the electors it will be a very serious thing for our Parliamentary institutions.
I very much regret the elimination from the Bill of the proposal to abolish university representation. That has always been essentially a Liberal proposal. I would recall to the attention of the House a fact which I mentioned in the Second Reading Debate that at the National Liberal Federation at Weston-super-Mare in June, 1926, a resolution was passed which, among other things, reaffirmed the view that the four reforms most necessary were the completion of adult suffrage, the abolition of the plural vote and the abolition of university representation. I regret the elimination of the proposal to abolish university representation for the reason that it gives to a special and limited class a privilege, of which they have no need owing to the great advantage they already possess, by the mere fact that they have been educated at a university.
It has been suggested by hon. Members above the Gangway that it is desirable to leave university representation because it is an embryo of what might arise if at some future time we decided to abandon the territorial basis of representation for an occupational basis, such as exists in Italy at the present time. That is an arguable proposition, but if we are going to give special representation to any class I can think of other classes which require protection and additional representation much more than the universities. There are people in my own constituency who are living in poverty who require all the support and strength and representation they can possibly have in this House, and if there is a case for special representation it lies not with the universities but with the poorest of the poor. The way to deal 121 with occupational representation in this country is on the lines of a national industrial council set up by voluntary action, or by the means of such a Measure as is before Parliament at the present time, where employers and employed can debate all industrial matters before they come to this House, thus relieving Parliament of a great deal of the detail work which now occupies so much time.
I hope the Government will press forward with this Measure, and, if necessary, by means of the Parliament Act will see that it is upon the Statute Book before the next appeal to the electors. The scales are already sufficiently over-weighted in favour of conservatism in this country; I do not mean in a party sense, but in the widest sense, against change of any sort. All our national machinery, our habits, our thoughts, our customs, tell in favour of conservatism, but every one must realise that there is a tremendous amount of suffering and poverty and injustice existing at the present time which need not be there if proper laws were passed. It is because I believe this Measure will do something to make it easier for progressive Bills to go through the House that I give it my warmest support.
§ Major DESPENCER - ROBERTSON
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton East (Mr. Mander) has referred to a visit which the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) is shortly to pay to Old Sarum and said that doubtless many hon. Members would wish that there were still constituencies like Old Sarum. If there were any such constituencies to-day and the Liberal party had them in their pockets, we should never hear of the Alternative Vote. I am perhaps able to speak without any particular bias on this subject because I represent a constituency where the Alternative Vote would not have applied at the last election, as I happened to have a clear majority over both my opponents, and as my constituency is one of those which is over 400 square miles in extent the motor car clauses will not apply. I oppose this Measure, however, because I believe that the Alternative Vote will not be of the slightest help in any election and is not wanted by any section of the ordinary electors in the country.
122 I do not oppose the Measure because I think that the Liberal party is likely to benefit by its operation. We have been told over and over again, and it has been tacitly assumed, that if the Measure becomes law the Liberal party must be the gainers, and, undoubtedly, the Liberal party believe that such will be the case, otherwise they would never have jockeyed the Government into producing this Bill. That assumption of the Liberal party is based on the fact that they think the Conservative voter will give his second vote for the Liberal rather than for the Socialist. The Conservative voter is not bound to give a second vote at all, and it does not follow that if he gives a second vote he will give it to the Liberal rather than to the Socialist. The assumption is also based on the belief that the Socialist voter will give his second vote to the Liberal rather than to the Tory. I do not believe that this is necessarily true. I have had some experience in different elections, in five, and it has been my experience that in a large number of cases the Socialist elector, if he has to give a second vote—and he is not bound to give a second vote—would sooner give it to the Tory than to the Liberal. My objection to the Bill is because it will not bring justice to the electors—precisely the opposite to what the hon. Member for Wolverhampton East has said. To my mind it brings anything but justice to the electors. Take any election where there is a three-cornered contest and where the figures may be 12,000, 10,000 and 3,000. The 3,000 candidate is a negligible quantity, yet his second votes, if he has any, are to be used to decide the election, whereas the 12,000 and 10,000 candidates are to have their second votes totally disregarded. There is no justice in that to the electors, and for that reason alone I oppose the Bill.
§ Mr. EDE
I desire to support the Third Reading of this Bill because I believe it does secure a good many of vantages of which the country has long been in need m its electoral system. Let me deal, first of all, with the speech of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). In form that speech was addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, as is necessary according to the Rules of this House, but it seemed to me that 123 through you the right hon. Gentleman was delivering a series of addresses to other more or less interested parties. His first few sentences appeared to be addressed to hon. and right hon. Members beside him on the Front Opposition Bench for their failure to arrive at a contract with the Liberal party before the House was as old as it is to-day; and then the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to send a telegram from this end of the corridor to the other advising certain exalted people who meet there on occasions to treat this Measure with a certain amount of leniency. A hope was expressed in the recondite language which it is necessary to use on such an occasion, that if it was not treated with kindness it should not be treated with too great a severity. Then the old acquaintance with the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) seemed to burst through some of the hostility recently displayed between these two right hon. Gentlemen, and he gave the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs a good deal of brotherly and friendly advice, which I have no doubt was given more privately in the days when Mr. Asquith used to refer to these two right hon. Gentlemen as the joint prodigies of a Liberalism which was then rather more robust and vituperative than it is to-day.
Then we had a burst of high moral fervour from the right hon. Gentleman which rather astonished the House until one realised that it was leading up to an admonition of the "Times," no doubt friendly, for the raps on the knuckles which that journal has lately been giving the right hon. Gentleman for certain speeches. He told us at the end that no man fighting for his life will stick at anything. The right hon. Gentleman at the moment is fighting for his life in his own party and in the country, and the speech he has delivered this afternoon is an eloquent testimony to the truth of his remark that in such circumstances a man will stick at nothing. He told us that he was in favour of Proportional Representation applied to the cities. I can understand Proportional Representation applied all round. That is a perfectly fair system if one is convinced of the wisdom of the policy, but I cannot understand why anyone should be in favour of 124 Proportional Representation applied to the great industrial cities and not in favour of it being applied to the home counties, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. If Proportional Representation is sound when it is applied to constituencies which are in the main represented on this side of the House, it is equally sound when it is applied to constituencies which are almost entirely represented by the official Opposition.
I have always had a sneaking feeling that Proportional Representation applied to the county of Surrey would be a very good thing. While Surrey would, no doubt, still be overwhelmingly Conservative in its representation, until the electorate is better educated, I think it would at least return one Labour Member in each of the two-Member constituencies proposed by the 1918 Act. The fact that the Conservative party is not prepared to apply Proportional Representation to the counties, except it may be the county of Durham and possibly Glamorganshire, is an indication of the extent to which their zeal for this policy may be expected to go. The hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) lamented the fact that this Bill was pre-War, and he progressed fairly well in poking fun at us in being in favour of a pre-War Measure. A moment or two later he was telling us that he desired to see re-introduced the Parliamentary system which had secured for an ancestor of his a seat in this House during the Tudor period, and he went on to pay a glowing tribute to the late lamented Simon de Montfort, who certainly did not take part in the last War. Indeed, I was rather doubtful to which war the hon. Member was alluding. Possibly he was thinking of the war that was conducted by William the Conqueror, and what he really desired was a reproduction in modern times of the Witenagemot.
A great deal has been said on the other side about the effect of this Bill on arrangements and pacts that are made at election times. It seems to me that the views of right hon. and hon. Members opposite are somewhat like those of Mark Twain. A deputation of women suffragists went to Mark Twain and ask him, Would he please support women having votes? He replied, "By all means. I do not care who has votes so long as I 125 count them." I gather from the way in which American politics are generally conducted that the personality of the counter is rather more important than it is in this country. But I feel that if there are any arrangements made under this Bin, when it becomes law, they will be arrangements made by the voters and not by the caucuses. I plead in aid of that argument the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Salisbury (Major Despencer-Robertson). The hon. and gallant Member quite rightly said that you cannot compel a man to use his second preference. After a voter has given his first preference, if that is all he wishei5 to do it is all he need do.
What happens now? What happened in my own constituency in 1924? In 1922 a Liberal Member had been returned with a majority of 25. In 1923 the Liberal poll was less than the third candidate had polled in the election of 1922, and in 1924 the Conservative party nominated a candidate. He actually opened committee rooms in the Borough. Two or three days before the election a visit was paid to the constituency by the leader of the Conservative party in the County of Durham. The Liberal candidate went to the committee room and answered four specific questions put to him. These questions were afterwards put to him in writing. He gave answers that the Conservative party regarded as satisfactory, and thereupon their candidate was withdrawn and the Conservative elector had no chance of voting for a Conservative. That was an arrangement made between the parties. The arrangement that we propose in the Bill is one that is left to the elector. What happened at the election of 1924 in Paisley, where the Conservative candidate was withdrawn? The Conservative women, wrathful at having been defeated by their own caucus, in their desire to vote Conservative turned and voted for the Socialist in order to secure the defeat of Mr. Asquith, whom they had desired to vote against by supporting a Conservative. Our arrangement is one in which the electors will have the choice as to the way in which the second preference is to be given.
I am one of those who wish to see the two party system come into vogue again, but I doubt very much whether we shall ever see the two party system again. 126 Very rarely in the past, since the Reform Act of 1832, have there been only two parties claiming the franchise of the electors. I was brought up at a time when a person could generally have a choice between three parties, Liberals, Liberal-Unionists and Conservatives, and in this House there rarely existed a clear majority, because there was another party that made no appeal to the electors of England, Wales and Scotland, except in the Scotland Division of Liverpool, and 36 Irish Nationalist votes quite frequently decided who was to sit on the Government side and who to sit opposite. At any rate the system under the Bill will enable the electors and not the caucuses to settle how the second preferences are to be distributed.
I regret that the Bill still retains, although in a far less harmful form, the survival of university representation. It would have been better if the Amendment that was very narrowly carried had been defeated, but, inasmuch as the Amendment was carried, the form in which the Government have now east the Bill does a great deal towards removing some of the purely theoretical objections to the university franchise. But I cannot help thinking that this Bill must inevitably lead to a further Bill whereby the weight of the university vote will be brought into some real proportion to the vote exercised in the ordinary territorial constituencies. Representing, as I do, a constituency of 70,000 electors, I can see no reason why the hon. Gentleman the Junior Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) should be elected by something like 3,000 electors.
§ Mr. EDE
If the hon. Member has only just come in he has not heard some of the remarks that have been addressed to the House to prove that the university vote generally will be exercised only by the resident dons, a highly estimable body of men but hardly the persons who ought to have 23 times the voting power that the miners and the shipwrights in my con- 127 stituency have. This Bill must inevitably lead to another in which that proportion will be redressed to something like parity. I also regret to see in the Bill special provisions relating to the City of London. I cannot help feeling that, great as the City of London may have been in the past as a champion of English liberty, its history during the past 40 or 50 years has not added to its prestige in that particular. If the Government had proposed to abolish the special privilege that is left to the City of London, they would have found a substantial body of opinion in the House in favour of that course.
The Bill does something to make this country less a place of privilege than it has been in the past. The hon. Member for Saffron Walden repeated to-day a phrase that was used during the Committee stage. He said then that he wanted to see greater weight given to aristocracy, and he curiously described the plural vote given to the man who has business premises, and the plural vote given to the university voter, as additional representation of aristocracy. His Tudor ancestor who came here some 300 years ago would have been horrified at the thought that persons engaged in trade and lecturers at universities represented the aristocracy. I say nothing about the lecturers at universities, but surely the business premises qualification is one of the tributes that this country pays at the altar, not of aristocracy, but of plutocracy, and inasmuch as political battles in. this country are being waged increasingly on an economic basis, it is surely desirable that we should see that the scales are evenly weighted between the two contending factions in the economic battle, and any proposal to continue, still more to extend, the power of plutocracy in this country, is one that the House would have to resist. The Bill is an eminently workmanlike Bill. It is not too pretentious. It is a Measure which will reduce the area in which privilege is able to function. It will enable the electors themselves, and not through caucuses, to exercise a greater and wiser preference in the choice of their representatives, and I hope that in due course, whether it is received elsewhere with the benevolent attitude that the right hon. Member for Epping pleaded 128 for, or is received in an atmosphere of severity that on the first occasion may nip it in the bud, eventually it will find its way to the Statute Book.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I do not know that I agree with a great deal or anything that the hon. Member bas just said. I am the more surprised, because the hon. Member has the honour of belonging to one of the learned professions—a profession which I could never adorn—that he should have made such remarks about professors and the university vote generally. I should have thought that he, of all people, would have respected the vote of men who, after all, vary from himself in only a small way. In making a speech against the Bill I recall that the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) talked as if the Bill were the baby of the Liberal party, which in fact it is. We have all along realised that the present Government never wanted the Bill and would not have introduced it had it not been that there was an underhand arrangement between the two parties. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] "Underhand" hon. Members may take to mean exactly what they wish, "Underhand" is sometimes underhand, and sometimes less underhand, but, undoubtedly, there has been an arrangement between the Liberal party and the Government and therefore one cannot be surprised that a Liberal speaker should have blessed this Measure far more than any Member of the Government has done up to the present—and far more than any Member of the Government is likely to do.
We have to remember that although the Socialist party may be defeated at the next Election, they will come back again at a future Election. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, I regret to have to acknowledge that such is the case, but facts are facts. With the Liberal party however it is a very difference matter. That party is dying fast. Why should it be resuscitated by artificial means as a temporary measure? Die it must, ere long. Why, then, should a special Bill be passed through Parliament to keep it going for a year or two longer? I do not think myself that this Bill, in the long run, will do the Liberal party any good, but evidently at present 129 they appreciate it. The hon. Member who spoke from the Liberal benches said that the country is very conservative. Why should he "grouse" about that fact? The country is conservative as would be shown if we had a General Election to-morrow, and to ray mind there is no demand whatever in the country for a- Bill of this kind. There may be a few Liberal Members in the House of Commons who are anxious to see such a Bill on the Statute Book, but, as far as the rest of the country is concerned, I do not think that the Bill is wanted at all.
We are going through a grave crisis, and at a time like the present we ought not to be arguing about Measures of this sort, especially when they have been introduced solely in the interest of one historic but small and dying party. We heard nothing about this Bill at the General Election. I fought a constituency at the General Election, and my opponent, who won on that occasion, though he promised nearly everything else on earth, did not promise this Bill. I certainly did not do so, and we never heard of it until there was this coalition between the two parties and this arrangement was arrived at, not in the interest of the Government at all—because I believe they will regret it ere long—but merely in the interest of the Liberal party. I object to the Measure because I believe it tends to political "wangling" and is likely to result in preventing the election of the man who ought properly to be elected, and in bringing about the election of somebody whom the electors do not really want to see elected. My knowledge of the electorate may not be as considerable as that of many other hon. Members, but I have contested three or four elections, and my experience goes to show that the easier the method of election the better it is appreciated by the electors. They do not like anything which is difficult.
Even under the present system it is sometimes difficult enough to get people to go to the poll and merely to put a cross opposite the name of the candidate whom they wish to see elected. I remember, when my father was standing for the London County Council and there were two other candidates in opposition to him, that a good lady, a cousin of his, came 130 all the way from Argyllshire to vote for him. She said that she had been glad to come from Scotland to vote for the colonel, and that she had put three crosses opposite his name. That, of course, spoiled the vote altogether, but she did not realise that one cross was all that was necessary. We are now proposing to set the electors a more complicated task. We are going to ask them in cases where there are three candidates to use first, second and third votes. We are making it a great deal more difficult for the electors. Under the present system we know, at any rate, that a certain section of the electorate desires that a certain candidate should be elected. There may be occasions when the result of the voting does not work out as some of the people in the constituency would wish, but a majority of those who vote secures the election of the particular candidate whom they desire as their Member.
I object to this Bill, because I dislike all political bargaining. Incidentally, it is quite wrong to surmise, as some members of the Liberal party do, that a Conservative voter would automatically give his second vote to a Liberal. I do not believe that such would be the case. Though I do not like Socialists myself I know what they stand for, and they know what we stand for. What the Liberals stand for nobody knows—not even themselves. Of course there are exceptions, but they are very few and it is likely that people will vote for a person whose opinions they know and who is likely to act up to the reasons for which he is elected in preference to one of whose views they are uncertain. I am not one of the intellectuals. I never was and I do not suppose that I ever shall be, but, having been in Parliament for some years I realise how necessary it is to have a few more representatives here of the intellectual people. For that reason I am sorry that there has been any interference with the university vote. I think we must realise that in these days when, far more than formerly, we have Members in Parliament representing trade and representing trade unions and such like we should also have a certain number of representatives of the universities. I think it a great pity that the university representation has been tampered with at all because I am sure that 131 it is in the interests of the country to have such representation.
Reference was also made by the last speaker to the preference given to the City of London. Had the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) lived abroad as I have, I think he would take a different view. I have lived in a foreign country for 21 years and I know that the people in that country looked upon the City of London as being different from any other city in the world. When we did business of any sort, the bank drafts, the charters, the insurances—even by foreign firms—were invariably negotiated through London. London is unique. It has really nothing to do with this country, one might almost say. London is a sort of transit line from one country to another. Take Holland. Her colonies in the East draw bills which go through London to Amsterdam. I believe that we should always accord to London special representation, because London holds a position which has not got a parallel anywhere in the world. I speak as a business man who has had a great deal of experience in these things, not only as merchant but as consul for various countries. I was during the War consul for no fewer than four foreign countries, and therefore I know a great deal about the position of London vis à vis the rest of the world.
I think the question of motor cars is put on an absurd basis. I do not think it is workable. There may have been a certain amount of hardship in some constituencies with regard to motor cars, but I do not think it was sufficient to worry the House of Commons with. Some of us have possibly profited by motor cars. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Perhaps the hon. Members who cheer have, and I am very glad to hear it, but it is a pity to have brought in this Amendment. It will be very difficult for the authorities to work. We know how difficult it is at a General Election for a returning officer already, and if, added to his worries, he is to have people going up and down the constituency to see whether people are in proper motor cars or not, whether a car has been hired, whether they are the owners of the car, whether the persons in the ear are the wife, or daughter, or husband of the 132 owner, and so on, I think he is likely to have a great deal of worry.
Generally speaking, it is a pity this Bill was ever brought in. It will not do a great deal of good to anybody. It has wasted a very great deal of time, which might have been spent in considering the questions of unemployment and economy, questions which are far more important than any wretched Bill of this sort; and I sincerely hope that even at this late hour something will occur to open the eyes of the Government to see that this Measure, which they are backing by their numbers but mot by their speeches, is merely a gift to the Liberal party.
§ Mr. LONGDEN
I certainly do not believe a word that the hon. Member who has just sat down has said. Evidently he has not grasped the implications of the Bill. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) that the Bill contains certain anomalies. I do not see why Ulster is exempted from the Bill, why the City of London business men should have any privileges, nor do I see why the university voters should have the privilege of voting in either one place or another. None the less, we hope that in an early Measure these anomalies will be corrected. I do mot think our attitude towards this Bill can be based upon the statements that have been made regarding the cutting down of the use of vehicles or of expenses during election times, nor even regarding the Alternative Vote, nor, may I say, of the fortunes of parties. I believe, with the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, something quite different. I think he said, in effect, that the poorest of the poor require more and not less political power. They require more, that they might balance their powers against all the privileges of the people who possess them in the higher reaches of society.
I wish to concentrate on that point, for this idea has been running through our Debates from the beginning to the end. The Noble Lord the senior Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil), who spoke on the Second Reading of the Bill, emphasised in the whole of his speech the point that democracy is not pure, that it is dictated to by cliques and bureaucrats, and therefore that the mere principle of "one man one vote" is futile. That is a statement that ought to be repudiated from this side. Obviously, a more equali- 133 tarian voting power on the part of the masses of the people, as implied in this Bill, will tend to curb both cliques and bureaucrats, and it will tend to redress the balance as between the classes in society. Educationally and economically, the privileged already dictate the lives of the masses. That is a staring fact that no hon. or right hon. Member opposite can deny.
It does not matter in which direction you look, that dictatorship will be found, in spite of the nominal power to vote on the part of the poorest of the poor. We know, for instance, that the working man is dictated to indirectly through his employment, which depends upon the employer at all times. We know the power of the Press and of the presumedly educated, who write histories that are not histories, and never have been, who prepare the curricula for the masses to read and learn. We know what the Press means, and its dominance. We know what the Civil Service means, and its privileged dominance, generally speaking, through men and women who have had privileges more or less through their family advantages and one way or another. It is plain that they do dictate, in spite of the nominal vote. Why not put it in a very simple way? If you wish to give an extra vote to the university-trained man, why do you deny an extra vote to the self-educated man who demonstrates his educational ability In many ways? If you want to give an extra vote to the business man, why not also to the mechanic, who contributes equally as solid a service to the community?
§ Mr. LONGDEN
If the Noble Lord wishes for a soviet, we will gladly give it to him on an occupational basis, as mentioned by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, if he will be big enough to advocate it from the Front Bench at any time. The second statement which has been made in the Debates, and which was emphasised by the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman), was that there should be no taxation without representation. The hon. Gentleman is an historian, and he should know what taxation has meant with or without representation. He would know by rereading the histories that he has written that up to 1867 the working-classes, even the artisan classes, were taxed very 134 heavily indirectly and in other ways, but they had no vote. The same applies to the unskilled and semi-skilled down to 1834. They had been paying indirect taxation for all those ages, but had had no votes. The historian as a Member of this House tells us that he is a stickler for no taxation without representation. That is a difference in time and age and attitude of mind, as the bon. Gentleman must know. He has told us several times during these Debates that be was being deprived of his vote, and that he was being taxed without having the right to vote. There is nothing in this Bill that denies the hon. Member for Oxford University the right to vote in his constituency, but presumably he wants something more than the right to vote because of taxation. He wants a right to vote for his university also, and that would be more than representation because of taxation.
A third statement that has been running through the Debates is that the educated should have direct representation. I wonder why, in view of the power possessed by the so-called educated and intellectuals. Who are they? They are not the skilled workers who are educated—
§ Mr. LONGDEN
Any workers. "Workers," I understand, covers all workers, skilled and unskilled, of mind and body.
§ Mr. LONGDEN
Yes; I am not denying him the right to vote as a citizen on equal grounds with the worker by hand or brain. I am simply asking who are the educated and the intellectuals. Hon. Members opposite will not tell us that they mean the skilled workers. They do not mean even the competent captains of industry, or the self-educated men, or even those who are the noblest minds and the more honourable types in society. The people who are educated, according to their principle, are simply those who have been up to the university: they have come down from the unversity educated, and immediately they become intellectuals, whether or not they went up with grey matter. That is the 135 astounding attitude that we get from our educated intellectuals. It does not follow because they were privileged, and have gone up—
§ Sir C. OMAN
People who have not grey matter are "ploughed," and are sent down after their first few terms. You must have brains to pass examinations.
§ Mr. LONGDEN
That is a mistake. I have been a workingman student myself. The hon. Gentleman knows that masses go to the universities and are taught, come down, degreed or not, and are immediately considered to be intellectuals and educated.
§ Sir C. OMAN
Unless they have passed the examinations, they are not allowed to vote. They do not come down merely because they have been through a university.
§ Mr. LONGDEN
The hon. Gentleman is assuming that a person is necessarily educated or intellectual on obtaining a degree. Surely that does not imply intellectuality or educability. The hon. Member knows very well that they come up, they are crammed, they manage to pass an examination, and they get some degree or other, and then they get a right to vote. The hon. Member wants to give them a privilege, and I certainly object to that. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy) wants a special vote even for the skilled worker. He is asking for nothing short of some kind of occupational vote or soviet. It would be very nice if we could found some constitution that would give adequate and honourable representation to all the classes whom we know to be useful and productive in the real sense of the term.
The fourth and last statement that has been uttered during these Debates, and particularly again by the hon. Member for the Oxford University, is that no two persons are equal. What I would emphasise is that though there are differential minds, it does not follow that the contributions to society from differential minds are different in quality and worth to society. A Hatry may not have contributed as much worth to the prosperity of society as a navvy. A good mind need 136 not contribute more than a good body. A working-class mother might contribute more to society than a Mrs. Merrick. An Oman might not contribute to an understanding of history so well as a Toynbee, for a Toynbee did understand how the workers had lived, how they were living, and how they might live. The Omans do not, presumably, either from their writings or their attitude in this Blouse, as we have seen. A Hume need not have as great an intellectual grasp as a Cobbett, nor a bestial Henry VIII be quite so grand a man in his contributions to posterity as an Alfred the Great. We find the same principle running through all stratas of society that no matter what an individual may be, or appear to be, he or she may contribute as much in actual worth to society as any other type of man, university, business or any other. After all, we cannot assess individual worth in its contributions to actual life and society.
Finally, I think the Greeks said—I am not sure; the educated will know better—that man, by the very nature of his being, is a member of a political society. Obviously, the layman sometimes is more competent to see what is needed—for instance, in Committees of this House or anywhere else—than the expert, the King's Counsel, the counsel for one side or the other. I believe that the average working man or woman is more competent to vote upon national and international issues than those who assume to be and are presumed to be educated and intellectual.
§ Sir C. OMAN
So many prejudices and views about the university vote have been expressed to-night that though I wandered into this House without any intention of speaking I feel constrained to make a few remarks in which I will endeavour to pursue the sequence of the observations of the hon. Member for Deritend (Mr. Longden). The hon. Member has some very curious conceptions about the numbers of university voters. At the present moment I represent 19,000 university electors, not 3,000 or 4,000. At the General Election there were only 15,000 electors for the university which I represent, but since then 4,000 have been added, and the numbers are going up every year. There will soon be 25,000 or 30,000 of these electors, if this unfortunate Bill is not in opera- 137 tion, and, as hon. Members opposite know quite well, there are many reasons why it may not come into operation. Hon. Members opposite have also spoken as if there will be left as university voters only a handful of resident dons, if this iniquitous Bill passes, but that is an absolutely erroneous view. To begin with, I have 1,500 to 2,000 electors who have no other vote except their university vote; and in addition to that there are many thousands of my constituents who have the misfortune to live in districts where a Conservative vote is of no practical value. If any of them live in Houghton-le-Spring or Chester-le-Street they will not vote there but will vote for their university.
§ Sir C. OMAN
So far from there being no more than a few hundred dons there will still be many thousands of voters, even if this Bill gets through. That view that the university constituencies will be reduced to a few hundred electors only is on a par with another argument I have heard from hon. Members opposite during previous Debates. One Member said the universities attached far too little importance to examinations. Speaking as one who has spent the greater part of his life in conducting examinations I must say that, if anything, universities attach rather too much importance to examinations.
§ Sir C. OMAN
The reason for that is, as the hon. Member for Deritend should be informed, that the university process is one for the elimination of the unfit. It is no longer possible for the dolt, or the idler, or the trifler to get a degree at the university. It may have been so in old days, when examinations were more or less farcical, but for the last 100 years examinations have been a serious matter. To say that a man goes up to the university and then goes down and is dubbed an intellectual and has a vote in consequence is entirely concealing the facts. To get into the university in the first instance the undergraduate has been put to a great deal of trouble, has had to pass a series of examinations; and if he prove an incompetent person he will find that he has been extruded long 138 before the end of his time of residence, and will have gone down. Anyone who has gone through a university course nowadays, whatever may have been the case years ago, is entitled to call himself an educated man. It is no longer possible to talk of a man going up to the university and taking the course and coming down no wiser than before. A statement was also made by an hon. Member that a man who retired from the university and went to live in Yorkshire or Cornwall got a vote, but did not have a vote if he resided in the university. That is an absolute mistake. Resident and the non-resident members equally have the intellectual vote. If they have passed their final examinations they are entitled to the university vote for the rest of their career.
§ Sir C. OMAN
Oh, yes; and not only a Bachelor of Arts, but any person who has passed the final examinations, but who, by some error, or on account of illness, has not taken his bachelor's degree, can vote as though he had got his bachelor's degree. The vote has also been conceded to the ladies, who have to pass the final examination before they are given a B.A. It is the passing of the final examination which gives the vote, and not the possession of a degree. Hon. Members opposite have to be instructed about that, as they have to be instructed in many ways. [Interruption,] It is said that there can be very little in the universities, since the most divine figure of all never passed through a university; that our Lord never went to a university, and therefore that universities are unnecessary. The answer to that is that it is recorded that at the early age of 12 our Lord stole away for three days to hear the lecturers in the Temple and to ask them questions. If that did not show a desire for university education in the heart of the most divine figure of all, I am at a loss to say what better evidence could be procured. But that is a point about which I was led to say something by what I heard from the benches opposite.
The point which I should have made if I had not had to clear up these curious errors was that this Bill, putting aside 139 the whole question of universities, is a step towards demoralising Great Britain, in the same way that America has been demoralised during the last 10 years, by making criminal offences of actions which no sensible man regards in that light. Under this precious Bill it will become an offence, punishable by a fine of £5, for a man to call for his mother, who may be living in the next street, and take her in his little motor car to the poll. It is obvious that any man of decent feeling, so far from regarding such an action as one of which he ought to be ashamed, will be extremely proud of it, will feel that he is carrying out the natural duty of a son. Just as in the United States the introduction of Prohibition has made every spirited person try to break that law at all costs, so this Bill will make men feel that it is a praiseworthy thing and not criminal to give a lift to the poll to an old man or a relation or one who does not live in your house. Any law which turns the common duties of humanity into crime is in itself a crime in that it demoralises our whole population and makes them regard law-breaking as rather praiseworthy than otherwise.
§ Mr. W. B. TAYLOR
In rising to support the Third Reading of this Bill, I do so as one who represents a constituency which is included among the few that are fortunate or unfortunate enough to cover more than 400 square miles. I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman who has piloted this Bill for the concessions which have been made during the Second Reading Debate, and for bringing some measure of elasticity into the provision dealing with the number of motor cars for use in scattered constituencies. I do not agree with some of the hard things which have been said by some of my hon. Friends in regard to the vice of having a motor ear to bring voters to the poll, no matter what party they belong to, in districts where the polling station is some miles from the residence of the voter. If crime there be in doing that, which I rather doubt—one is bound to bow to the superior intelligence of the junior Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman), who has referred to this Bill as being criminal—I am not inclined to think it is so much a crime as it is to 140 make a poor woman with a small family have to push a perambulator two or three miles in order to record her vote.
As a plain blunt man from the country who endeavours to speak what he thinks is right, I think that we hear a good deal of piffle to-day in regard to these matters. [Interruption.] I may be wrong. I am not going to give a definition of the word "piffle" and hon. Members need not be alarmed. A good deal has been said in this Debate about that wonderful word "education," but, as one who has been denied the privilege which one would have liked to have had of coming into touch with the wider fields of learning at one of the universities, and as one who has had to gain what he can in the university of life, I feel that it is still true, as Shakespeare said, that whatever class we may belong to ignorance is still the curse of God and knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly. If the university man with his culture and learning in the theoretical realms of life fails to touch human life in its more tragic and more practical sphere, who can say that he is more educated than the man who has had to hew his way through poverty to reach the higher things in the realm of intellect?
I am reminded that snobbery, in association with education, is not confined to any one party in this House. Let us be sure of our definition of education. I am reminded in this connection of the black man of whom Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote in Uncle Tom's Cabin. When Josiah Henson came over here and was asked to dine with Dean Swift, he was amazed to find this black-freed slave was speaking almost perfect King's English, and he asked him, "Where were you educated, Henson? In what college did you graduate?" Henson's reply was, "I was educated in the school of experience and graduated in the college of adversity." Such a reply shows that that man possessed an educated mind, although he had no opportunities such as some hon. Members of this House have been privileged to enjoy.
I wish people were a bit more anxious that all from the humblest walk in life should have similar opportunities for that wider national education which, after all, leads the nation to higher things. In my judgment, this Bill gives equality of opportunity in regard to representation 141 to the village citizen on wider lines than has been possible before. For these reasons, I think the Motion for the Third Reading of the Measure should be supported, because it regulates along lines of impartial control things which hitherto have been misused to a greater extern by one party in superior power to that of the other. The Bill brings motor cars under an impartial control, and to that extent it gives equality of opportunity.
I frankly admit, as the representative of a country constituency, that there is not always a guarantee that the colours on a motor car necessarily decide the side upon which the rider in the car votes. Some of us who represent rural constituencies are not ungrateful for the number of votes recorded for Labour by voters who were brought to the poll through the unconscious generosity afforded by motor cars supplied by hon. Members opposite. I know that hon. Members opposite are good sportsmen, and I hope they will give hon. Members on this side credit for possessing the same virtue. I do not think that we are doing this House justice, or doing any party justice, by assuming that the motives behind this Bill are purely partisan. It seems to me that it is merely regulating in the realm of transport and in the realm of equality of voting power, and also regulating in the general sense that, whether in the university or in the experience of ordinary work-a-day life, the principle of one person one vote is a fair principle. Because that principle is strengthened and enhanced in value, while robbing no one, I support the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
I rise to register a protest against this Bill, which I do not believe to be desired by anyone in this House—other than, perhaps, Members who sit below the Gangway on this side—or by the country as a whole. If proof of that statement be needed, I think it may be found in the number of hon. Members who have been present on the Government Benches during this Debate. During the earlier stages of the Debate to-day I was struck with the small number of Members of the Socialist party who rose to take part in the discussion. Whatever may be thought of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for 142 Epping (Mr. Churchill), it did at least have one good effect; it goaded hon. Members opposite into taking some vocal part in our deliberations to-day.
As is the case with other Members who have spoken, I can at any rate claim to represent a majority in my constituency. I was interested to hear the remarks of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). He and I have this, at any rate, in common, that we represent about the same number of constituents, namely, some 70,000; hut, if any example were needed of the futility of the provisions of this Bill, it is surely to be found in the case of the constituency which is represented, ably I have no doubt, by the hon. Member for South Shields. In that constituency there were at the last election some 19,000 voters who recorded their votes for the Socialist Member. There was an exactly similar number who recorded their votes for the Liberal candidate. I believe I am right in saying that the majority that the hon. Member got was about 40. There were about 7,000 voters who recorded their votes for the Conservative candidate. Can anyone doubt that the wishes of the majority in that constituency were adequately represented by the result of the poll? The vast majority of the people in that constituency were evenly divided in their opinions as to who they wanted to get in, and that keenly conducted contest resulted in a win for the Socialist candidate; and yet those 19,000 Liberals and 19,000 Labour voters are to have the result of that election determined by the second preferences of 7,000 people who voted for the third candidate, whose chances of getting in were practically negligible. I wonder what is the opinion of the 19,000 supporters of the hon. Member who now represents South Shields with regard to the provisions in this Bill for the Alternative Vote?
I think that all hon. Members in the House will agree that the criticisms we have heard to day of the impotence of our present Parliamentary system are really due to the existence of the three-party system which now obtains. We on these benches and hon. Members opposite have-at least one thing in common. We want. a return to the two-party system; and I think that the country wants a return to the two-party system. At any rate, be either Socialist or Tory in your 143 principles; but do not let us have the sort of "mixed grill" principles which obtain below the Gangway.
It seems to me that we are gradually returning to the two-party system. Voters in future will have to decide whether they are going to vote for Socialism or for Capitalism. The issue is perfectly plain. I am not concerned at the moment to defend either the one idea or the other, but that decision will have to be taken definitely by the voter. Does this Bill make it any easier for the voter to register a decision upon broad issues of that kind? Obviously it does not. The whole object of this Bill, in spite of what may be said on either side of the House, is to maintain the three-party system, and not to do away with it. As I have said, hon. Members opposite and hon. Members on these benches are at one in the desire to return to a two-party system, and yet this Bill was framed and designed and conceived with the simple and sole intention, of bolstering up the failing fortunes of the third party which is merely acting as a brake upon the wheels of progress in politics to-day. The bargain, so often denied, is so obvious and so shameless that I do not believe the denials deceive even those Members below the Gangway who so frequently make them both inside and outside this House, and certainly the results of the by-elections recently, so far as the Liberal vote is concerned, make it pretty obvious that those denials do not carry very much weight with voters throughout the country.
My hon. Friend the Member for St-George's (Mr. Duff Cooper) said he wondered what people were thinking. He chose an unfortunate day when he said that he wondered what they were thinking on this Tuesday. As the Member representing the Epsom Division of Surrey, I could hazard a very shrewd guess as to what the mass of the electors are thinking to-day; and I could also hazard a very shrewd guess as to what they will be thinking at this time tomorrow evening. We always hear from the Liberal benches the argument that at the last election there were 5,000,000 Liberals who cast their votes, and yet they only have some 59 representatives in this House. Why do we get that figure of 5,000,000? Because candidate after candidate during the last General Election was run by the Liberal caucus, to 144 which hon. Members opposite, no doubt, take great exception, for the simple and sole reason that it was desired to swell the aggregate number of Liberal votes, in order to create an argument that might be brought forward when this Bill came before the House. Candidates were run in constituencies where they had not the slightest hope of being returned to Parliament. If we are going to take a figure such as 5,000,000, and say that that is the number of Liberals who have been denied representation in the House of Commons, then, in order to get a true comparison, it would be necessary that three candidates should have been run in every constituency during the last General Election. Then hon. Members opposite could have said, "This is the real strength of the Socialist vote throughout the country," we on these benches could have said, "This is the real measure of the Conservative strength in the country," and that could have been compared with the measure of Liberal strength to which we hear so many allusions from the benches below the Gangway.
This Bill, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping has said, is going to give special powers to the hindmost candidate in an election. It is perfectly obvious that if in order to provide evidence for this Bill, we had, as I suggest, candidates run by the Liberals at the last election, candidates will be put up and carefully selected so as to run as the hindmost candidates, and, as my right hon. Friend has said, those candidates will be run for special reasons. Is that going to help the elector to keep his faith in present-day parliamentary institutions? The Home Secretary came down to the House and made a speech which I Venture to say was about as lukewarm as it could be. It was utterly unconvincing. I expect it was as unconvincing to the right hon. Gentleman himself as it was to the rest of the House. He talked of poor and rich candidates, and of the advantages to be derived from the use of motor cars, and he even referred to class warfare; but even the reference to class warfare did not arouse any enthusiasm in hon. Members sitting behind him.
Why is there all this talk about motor cars at elections conferring special benefits on any special brand of politics? In 145 the main any voter gets into any candidate's car. How can anyone tell how a man votes because he chooses to go to the poll in a car flying either the Socialist, the Liberal, or the Conservative colours? This is for the most part a sporting electorate, and no one denies the right of any opponent to go in any car. There is no real distinction drawn between the passengers in the car. It is the purest eye-wash to drag in this question of class warfare and differentiation between voters as far as money is concerned. In the speeches of hon. Mem-Members opposite there is a sort of accusation that under present conditions there is no equality, that a man who is employed as a mechanic in a works, is not really free to exercise his vote because pressure is brought to bear upon him. What possible pressure can be brought to bear upon a man who votes secretly in a polling booth? One has heard of pressure in trade union elections, but I have never heard of it at a General Election. I have understood that the suggestion of a secret ballot box has been stoutly opposed by trade unionists for the settlement of trade union questions.
I believe the supporters of this Bill fear its effects more than we do on this side. I am sure their belief in the Bill is no more than lukewarm. The lack of support in the speeches opposite has been sufficient proof of their dislike to the principles underlying it. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne) gave examples of what might happen at an election held after the Bill becomes law and of the difficulties which would face the elector when he would have to make up his mind. He has to give a mandate one way or the other on some particular principle. I wonder if the 5,000,000 electors who gave their votes to Liberal candidates at the General Election realise that those votes were being given for the support of a Socialist Government. I suggest that that was not the case. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) said, shortly before the election:We have made it clear that in any eventuality the Liberal party will not again lend support to the installation and maintenance in office of a Socialist Government.What have they been doing ever since?
Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Robert Young)
I think the hon. and gallant 146 Gentleman is going very wide indeed. As he knows, we are always supposed to discuss on the Third Reading what is in a Bill.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
I was trying to make this point in view of what was said by the hon. Member for East Woverhamption (Mr. Mander), that he wanted to devise machinery to enable the electors to send to the House of Commons the Members that they wanted to send. Presumably they wanted those Members to uphold the principles of Liberalism. At the last election hon. Members below the Gangway were sent to the House by the existing machinery of electoral law in order to uphold certain principles, and I was endeavouring to show that, if the Bill becomes law, it will be impossible for an elector to know what principles he is having upheld.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That is something for the candidate and the electors. I cannot allow the hon. and gallant Gentleman to continue to follow that point further.
§ Commander SOUTHBY
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton is now supporting a Bill which makes it virtually impossible for the voter to send to the House the candidate who has received the first preferences. The voters' will has to be subservient to the wishes of the supporters of the least popular candidate. The supporters of the man who is at the bottom of the poll are to have the casting vote which is to override the expressed wishes of those who have given their first preference and would not unnaturally expect their candidate to be elected. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton referred to the: conditions that obtained in Old Sarum, where, I understand, there were only three trees as the electorate. The by-election results would, perhaps, show that the country preferred three trees to three Liberals under existing conditions. The result of this Bill must be to have some form of political juggling going on at election time. The country distrusts all coalitions. It fears the wire pulling and the huckstering which the Bill is bound to increase. I shall vote against it secure in the knowledge that there are many Members opposite who would like to go into the same Lobby with me, because in their hearts they dislike the Bill and 147 fear its consequences, and they will find it extremely difficult to explain to their constituents how it will favour the Socialist party.
§ Mr. PRICE
It has been stated that the arguments that are used in support of the Bill are really out of date and are concerned with conditions that prevailed 20 or 30 years ago. I would suggest that the main object of the Bill is to bring our political institutions more up to date and more in keeping with the social and economic development which has taken place in this country and throughout the world in the last quarter of a century. One of the greatest dangers to democratic Government at present is the existence of minority Governments which cannot depend for any length of time on secure majorities. We see through history that the political institutions of a country always tend to lag behind its social and economic developments. It has on more than one occasion in history caused serious convulsions. The great convulsion at the end of the eighteenth century in France was largely due to that fact, and the smaller convulsions in the last century and the early part of this century in Russia were an indication of developments of that kind.
Various suggestions have been made to improve representation, and to make it more clearly reflective of public opinion. Proportional Representation had been put forward as one method, but I think that is rather like leaping from the frying pan into the fire. It tends to make the representation of public opinion too minute to be practicable in actual fact. During the time that I resided in Germany, some years after the War, I had a very good opportunity of seeing the effect of Proportional Representation there upon political representation. Those who penned the Weimar Constitution, if they were going to pen another constitution to-day, would not be so keen on drawing up that constitution in exactly the same way as they did in 1919. The tendency is towards the creation of the splinter parties and the creation of small groups of minorities which tend to develop on the lines of the least desirable features of public life. On the other hand, I think that the Government have done right in introducing the principle of the Alternative Vote into this Bill. That principle, although it may not 148 be perfect—and nothing is perfect in democratic representation—is, after all, the best that can be done in the circumstances to ensure that persons who are not satisfied with either of the two big parties, let us say, will, if there is no chance of getting their candidate in, at least have the satisfaction of knowing that their votes have not been wasted. For that reason, I think that the principle is right, and that this Bill is a step towards making it possible for the representation to be more a reflection of public opinion than it has been hitherto.
The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), in his speech, said that surely the care of this central institution should be our chief aim. I should say that that is so, but it is just because we wish to eliminate the unsatisfactory nature of our elections, and because we say that this central institution must be the great public tribunal of opinion, that we wish to see a better system of election. There is one great danger which stares in the face every country with democratic institutions, and that is the danger that the representation of the type which brings this House together will fall into disfavour, and that we shall tend, as many great countries on the Continent have already tended, to a representation on a functional and occupational basis. I need only refer to Italy and Yugoslavia. It was the case in Spain, but Spain is now going back to the institutions of which this country has been the founder. Then, again, there is the standard case of Russia. I am one of the few Englishmen who saw the foundation of the present Russian State, based, as it is, upon functional and occupational election. There is certainly much to be said for an institution of that kind in a new country with no political traditions behind it, and where oppression and dictation have been the tradition of political life. It is, of course, entirely foreign to Western Europe, and certainly to the Anglo-Saxon type of political activity. There is the danger that unless we bring our democratic institutions up-to-date in such a way that they will more clearly reflect public opinion in the country, there will be a reaction in favour of this kind of functional or occupational representation.
The idea of university representation has figured largely in the Debate, and there you have a case of functional and 149 occupational representation which is entirely foreign to this House. This House ought to be elected upon a geographical basis representing the citizen and the plain man-in-the-street. Some day, perhaps, another place may be altered in such a way that it will become a functional institution based on occupations more directly representative of the people than it is to-day. At present, it is representative of certain occupations, but only a very few. There is much to be said for altering the constitution in such a way as to make—
§ Mr. PRICE
I bow to your Ruling, and I will not pursue the point, but my object was to show that this House should be representative of the people on a democratic basis, and for that reason university representation was entirely foreign to it, because it belongs to an entirely different type of representation. For this reason, I welcome the Third Reading of the Bill, because I believe it will do much to bring the democratic institution of this country, which is the final tribunal of the realm, into line with modern institutions.
§ Sir SAMUEL HOARE
It has been my fortune, good or ill, to sit through almost all the Debates upon this Bill. I never remember a Bill in which two features have been so prominent throughout the discussions, first of all, the complete absence of enthusiasm behind the Government, and, secondly, the complete absence of principle behind the Bill. As the Debates progressed, even the ardour of the Liberal party seemed to cool. It seemed clear that they were in the position of people who are rather uncomfortable, and who were forsaking their first love, Proportional Representation, for a much more unaccountable and uncontrollable flame, the Alternative Vote. Hon. Members opposite have never disguised their indifference to the main proposals of the Bill. More than once hon. Members of the Labour party have risen in their places and described how the Alternative Vote will do their own party a considerable measure of injury. One of them, I remember well, calculated that, upon the basis of the last election, the Alternative Vote would lose the Labour party no fewer than 47 seats. You cannot 150 expect great enthusiasm from men who are knocking the nails into their own coffins.
As I watched some of those 47 Members trooping into the Division Lobby, reluctantly and regretfully, I could almost hear them saying to the Home Secretary "Morituri te salutant." The great battle which has ranged between the two parties gave me the impression of a fatigue parade of a suspicious and discontented regiment. Alone, the right hon. Gentleman for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) rejoiced in every word of this Bill and in every stage of our discussion. There, was the right hon. Member for Darwen always at the hand of the Home Secretary when the Debate was going badly, and when the Government were going through a period of bad weather. I congratulate the Government upon having so faithful a friend, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon his unswerving faith that could through all the discussions on this Bill move every mountain the Government placed in his way. It was the younger Pitt who said of his friend Dundas, "He is a man who will go out with you in any weather." Such a friend is the right hon. Member for Darwen, and I cannot help thinking that the Home Secretary was ungrateful when, in the course of his perfunctory speech to the House this afternoon, he did not say a word of thanks for the consistent and unswerving help he has received from the right hon. Gentleman from start to finish during the discussions on the Bill.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I thought that someone ought to do it, and I should have been shirking my duty if I had not performed the task.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Nor can it be said after our discussions that there is any coherent principle of any kind behind this Measure. It was a thing of rags and tatters when it was introduced, and during the last few weeks it has been still further torn to pieces, and the patches which we have put upon it during the Committee and Report stages have only made it more crazy and dis- 151 reputable than it was before. I was astonished this afternoon to hear the Home Secretary say that the Bill to-day is very much what it was when it was introduced upon its Second Beading. The exact contrary is the case. Every one of the main proposals of the Bill—the Alternative Vote, the University Representation, the use of motor cars in elections—has been changed almost entirely in the course of our discussions, and, at the end of these Debates, there is less coherent principle behind the Bill than there was two months ago when it was first introduced. I will justify that contention by one or two examples which I will give to hon. Members. The two parties to this Bill have attempted to justify it on two grounds. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen has claimed that the Bill will give a better representation to minorities.
§ Sir S. HOARE
If it is not the right hon. Gentleman's argument, I do not know what is his argument.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Then I am afraid that throughout all these Debates I have very much misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. I misunderstood his position at the Ullswater Conference. I thought that the whole origin of that conference and of this Bill was the fact that one of the parties in the State is, under present conditions, represented, according to the views of the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members beside him, by fewer Members in this House than should be the case. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, or, at any rate, of many of his hon. colleagues, is, that the Bill would give a better representation to minorities than exists at present. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary claimed that the Bill will bring more equality into our electoral contests. The Bill will do neither the one nor the other. As to the representation of minorities, the Alternative Vote, as we have often heard in these discussions, has been used, and can be used, to blot out a minority altogether. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Captain 152 Eden), in a very interesting speech this afternoon, told us that he had been in Australia in 1925 when the Alternative Vote was used to blot out the Socialist party from the Australian Senate altogether. I have been told upon good authority that a similar state of affairs may very likely take place in the next General Election in Australia, when the anti-Socialist parties will combine, as indeed they are already combining, against the Socialist party and do in the Federal Assembly what was done in 1925 in the case of the Australian Senate.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Because it is a very bad one, and does not carry out the professions of its promoters. It has been made clear over and over again that if it is the wish to give a better representation to minorities than exists under our present system, Proportional Representation is by far the best method to ensure that result. I have never taken the view of the more extreme supporters of Proportional Representation, namely, that this House should be an exact mathematical mirror of the various shades of opinion in the country. I have always thought that the main object of the Parliamentary system is to ensure a good strong Government in broad accord with the main channels of public opinion in the country. But within that framework I have ever disguised from myself the fact that there is a measure of grievance in present conditions, and I have always remained open-minded as to whether or not it would be wise to try an experiment of Proportional Representation, particularly in our great towns where, as we heard this afternoon, there is a very vigorous municipal common feeling and common interest. One thing that is clear is that under the Alternative Vote none of those better results will happen. It will be more difficult rather than less difficult for minorities to maintain their position.
It has been established that Proportional Representation and the Alternative Vote are self-contradictory. They represent two difficult conceptions, and we cannot harmonise one with the other. The adoption of the Alternative Vote so far from being a step forward towards Proportional Representation is a step 153 that destroys any chance of Proportional Representation ever being adopted. On that account I am the more surprised that, while the Home Secretary has, during the course of these Debates, withdrawn his name from the list of vice-presidents of the Proportional Representation Society, three or four of his influential colleagues, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, remain vice-presidents of that society; yet by their votes to-night they are striking a paricidal blow at the infant they have been attempting to nurture for the many years that they have been vice-presidents of the Proportional Representation Society.
It has also been established in the Debates that whoever is going to gain by the Alternative Vote, and it is very difficult to say who is going to gain and who is going to lose, the party of the third candidate, that is to say, the candidate who is eliminated, is not going to gain. A century ago there was a class of people who were known as the resurrection men. They used to collect corpses and sell them to the dissecting rooms of the London Hospital. It seems to me that the members of the Liberal party, the party that almost always comes out third in our elections as they are to-day, are taking the activities of the resurrection class a step further. They are not selling the corpses of other people, but they are selling their own corpses to be dissected by one or other of the bigger parties. I think I have said enough to show the House that so far as the claim is concerned that the Alternative Vote ensures the better representation of minorities, there is no foundation whatever for such a claim.
I come to the second claim, a claim made by the Home Secretary, that this Measure will ensure a greater amount of equality between the three parties. The Home Secretary wishes for equality. He told us so this afternoon. He is not getting it in the Bill, and he cannot get it. There is no equality. There is no equality, as we have heard often in our discussions, between Members of this House. I was very conscious during the Debates how very unequal I was when I was pitted against the Solicitor-General. I am sorry that the Solicitor- 154 General is not here, for I should have liked to have said in his presence how much we were struck by his ability during the Debates. I in particular was struck with his very exceptional capacity, a capacity which I very much envied, in answering accurately, quickly and eloquently questions that were not asked him.
The Home Secretary claims to obtain a greater measure of equality in this Bill but he is really not trying to get it, seriously. He is only picking out the changes that will help his own party. He is like the business man who is drawing up a balance sheet and deals only with one side and not with the other side. We Conservatives believe that we are suffering from many handicaps. We believe, for instance, that the time is overdue when there should be a reform in the present system of political libel. We believe that the time is overdue for dealing with the crying scandal of rowdyism at public meetings. We believe that the time is overdue for making it easier for service voters, particularly service voters overseas, to record their votes. The Home Secretary expressly excludes those questions by the narrow way in which he has drafted the Bill. He fixes only on motors, and the business and university votes, changes that in his view most help his own party. He fixes on plural voting and repeats the cry, that I have always regarded as a parrot cry, of one man one vote. How does this catchword give equality when some constituencies are three times the size of others?
He fixes on motors, and says, with a mind worthy of his most reactionary predecessors at the Home Office, the mind of the men who made people walk with red flags in front of motors: "We must put a stop to these new contraptions of the rich." He started by telling the House that we must have motor pools in every constituency, and that any motor that was not in the pool should not be used. In a few minutes that proposal was ridiculed with such unanimity from all sides of the House, that it was dropped. Accordingly, we are not now to have motor pools but motor quotas—quotas for motors for voters; a very fine alliteration. Let me say, in passing, that it is interesting to note that this is the first attempt in the Government's advance 155 towards quotas. Having adopted quotas for motors to-day we shall be interested to see whether they adopt quotas for wheat to-morrow. In any case, these quotas will not give the equality that the Home Secretary claims for them. They will not give equality to the aged, the infirm, and to the out-voters, who need as large a number of cars as the constituencies can provide. The Government have said to these classes of voters "Let them walk." They said, "Let them walk" upon another occasion, and the counutry resented it very much. I think the aged, the infirm and the outvoters, will equally resent the arbitrary restriction of cars at elections, because the result will be to prevent many thousands of them recording their votes at the next election.
The motor car proposal in its present form will create every kind of anomaly as between one constituency and another; there will be no shadow of equality between one constituency and another. Under the present proposals in the Bill a distinction was drawn between a county division and a town division, the county division being allowed twice the number of cars allowed to a town division. Think of the anomalies which will be created by such a proposal. Take the case of a county division of Middlesex with a Metropolitan Division of London next door to it, in which the conditions will be almost exactly similar. In the county division of Middlesex the candidate will be allowed twice the number of cars that are allowed in the Metropolitan constituency, where the number of outvoters will be much greater than in the county division of Middlesex, and the need for cars, therefore, much greater also. In the course of the Debate the Home Secretary accepted an Amendment moved by the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir D. Maclean) to exclude from the motor restrictions altogether constituencies of 400 square miles in area. Think of the anomalies which will be created by that proposition. An area of 400 square miles, although half of it may be water, is to have an unlimited number of cars, while an area of 399 square miles, although it is all land, is to have the number of cars rigidly restricted.
156 The Home Secretary's quest for equality has been sadly unsuccessful. The fact is that bad intentions vitiate great endeavour. If you start with a partisan attack on your opponents, you had better not attempt to disguise it under the cloak of high sounding criticisms. We are politicians and we have fought many elections. We should have understood the Home Secretary perfectly well if he had come to the Table and said, "I am a Member of the Socialist Government in office, and whilst I have the power and opportunity I am going to do everything I can to injure the Conservative party, my opponents." It would have been the good old principle of the Kilkenny fair, where you see a head, hit it! [lnterruption.] I should have said Donnybrook. We should have understood an attitude like that, but we do resent the attitude of the Home Secretary and hon. Members opposite when they come with this purely partisan Measure, which picks out changes which will help themselves and does not deal with changes which will help us, and try to disguise it under the cloak of equality and justice, and the representation of minorities.
And the more so when it is remembered that there are many changes in our political system which urgently call for the attention of this House. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in his interesting speech this afternoon dealt with two or three of them. There is the question of our Parliamentary procedure and the old question, which none the less is a live one, of the reform of the Second Chamber. Then again there is the question of the application of modern methods, such as wireless, to our electoral methods, and the use of them for creating greater interest in the course of politics, thus ensuring a larger number of voters at elections. Why has not the Government dealt with none of these things? In the first place, it is because they are impervious to all new ideas. They go on wallowing in mid-Victorian methods. They think that by taking a leaf out of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Wrong Box" they will be able to confuse the electors at the next election. And, lastly, they think that by doing a deal with Members below the Gangway they can get a reprieve of a few months more of in- 157 glorious office and incompetent administration.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Short)
After a prolonged discussion, we now approach the final stage of our consideration of this Bill. The right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) will not think me discourteous if I say that during the course of the Debate to-day no fresh facts have been presented and no new arguments have been adduced which would justify those who are supporting this Measure in changing their views. Despite the time given to the discussion of this Measure the Government have succeeded in carrying the Bill as it was originally drafted up to the present stage, except in two or three main particulars; that is, in the case of university representation, some Amendments to the Clauses having reference to the use of motor cars at elections and the extension of the preference in connection with the Alternative Vote.
The proceedings have been somewhat lightened by the last minute intervention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), and it is to be noted that although the Bill has been under discussion and has passed through all its stages after many days, it was not until the last moment that the right hon. Gentleman came forward to offer any advice which might have been incorporated in the Bill had it met with the assent of the House. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman arrived with a carefully prepared essay, with a choice flow of phraseology and language, the use of wild and extravagant statements and a resort to all the tricks of oratory; and we had his well prepared peroration, with the usual gibes at his opponents.
It should be noted, however, that the right hon. Gentleman did express the opinion that it would be wise for the Tory party, with which, I understand, he has still some association, not to oppose any just reform of our electoral law, and he condemned what has hitherto happened under our electoral system—a majority Government possessing only a minority of supporters amongst the electors of the country. The right bon. Gentleman put forward the theory that he would favour Proportional Represen- 158 tation in the cities, but he said nothing of the adoption of the principle in the counties. He would like to see a second ballot, though he entirely ignored the fact that in the Alternative Vote we get all the virtues of the second ballot without many distinct disabilities. But I was amazed at the right hon. Gentleman speaking slightingly of Parliament, in the sense, as he said, that Parliament was some time ago honoured, but to-day was despised. I know of no man in politics or public life who has done more to lower Parliament in the estimation of the people. If there has been a gambler in politics it has been the right hon. Member for Epping. I strongly protest against him constantly coming down here and delivering lectures based on the assumption and the insinuation that all men, and especially those on this side of the House, are less honourable and less honest than himself, and have less regard for the public interest.
I have to admit that the main pro-visions of the Bill are disliked by and are distasteful to the Opposition, but hon. Members opposite have offered no justification throughout the Debates for the present position of our electoral system and the incidents that arise therefrom. They have shown no inclination, but, instead, a disinclination, to advance any remedy. It may well be that an electoral system which enables the right hon. Gentleman and his friends to find themselves in this House as a Government with a majority of 200 but with a minority of supporters amongst the electors, satisfies the aspirations of Toryism, but it cannot be regarded as otherwise than subversive of the true principles of democracy. The right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) who has just been compelled to leave the House—[Interruption]—extended the franchise to women at the age of 21. unless a Government possesses a majority, unless it can reflect and mirror the opinion of the majority of the electors, it might well be that Parliament will fall from its exalted position in the minds of the electors, and will be discredited. If such a state of affairs as existed between 1924 and 1929 were to continue, if we had a Government which represented a minority of electors passing legislation which was an affront and an outrage to their sense of justice, and if 159 we failed to remedy such a state of affairs, the result would be fraught with evil consequences to the people and would put an intolerable strain upon the Constitution.
It will be generally admitted that in the main we are a very law-abiding people. Particularly is that true of those sitting on this side of the House. Legislation, from whatever source it may come, should coincide with the general and majority opinion of the electors. I agree with the hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Cooper), to whose speech I listened with great interest and pleasure, that there must be behind legislation the moral sanction of the people. I have no doubt that the prestige and the authority of Parliament, as was said by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), would be undermined and a strain placed upon the loyalty of law-abiding citizens, and that we should be lacking in our duty as representatives of the people if we failed to remedy what is recognised as a grievance and what indeed was emphasised by the right hon. Member for Epping.
We do not pretend that the Alternative Vote is mathematically perfect; we do not claim that it will remove every grievance that is at present within our electoral system, but we say that it will go a long way, if not the whole way, towards preventing in future such instances as that to which I have referred, in connection with the last Administration. We must balance the disadvantages with the advantages, having regard to our desire to secure the real opinion of the electorate. The Alternative Vote is a simple device; it is easily understood; it involves the creation of no complicated and intricate machinery, and its results will provide no conundrums for returning officers. It is a forward step towards greater freedom for the expression of the opinion of the great mass of the electors. There is no compulsion, and the Opposition have failed entirely to shatter the case of the Government. It has been seriously suggested by speakers on the opposite side that this Bill has been introduced for partisan purposes, in order to injure and cripple and lower the prestige of the Tory party. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea during the Second Reading Debate said: 160It is merely a petty, vindictive, electioneering Measures for scoring off the Opposition … The only thread upon which this Bill hangs is the conception that wherever you see a Conservative head, you must hit it.Then the right hon. Gentleman got a little bit off the rails. His language, as a rule, is in perfect harmony with his immaculate attire, and I was surprised when he began to use very strong language—when, indeed, he resorted to language suggestive of the tap-room if not of Billingsgate. He said:We are asked to adopt this novel and complicated plan in the hope that it will 'dish' the wicked Tories."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1931; col. 1492, Vol. 247.]I advise the right hon. Gentleman to be careful, because we have a high opinion of him and his language, and we should not like to see him fall from grace. But I have no need even to attempt to disprove the proposition which he put forward in those words, it is so preposterous and so ludicrous. Those who make such a proposition have no regard to the facts. They must be in some form of political blinkers. I did not know that the Tory party was in such a strong position. For some time past, owing to the dissensions within its ranks, the attacks made upon it from within and from without, and the recent secession of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, I have regarded that party as having become a conglomeration of disgruntled units or atoms. We have seen what has been appearing in the capitalist Press, and I will admit this, that though they have little to say in our favour, they do fear the alternative of a Tory Government. For 4½ years we had a Tory Government with a big majority in this House, but supported by a minority of the electors, and we saw that Government passing class legislation, strengthening the privileges of the wealthy and indulging in the most brutal inhumanities.
I was surprised that the party opposite should whine at all. They have got their good supporters. The right hon. Member for Epping, at the end of his lecture, warned us of what might happen, and threatened us with what would take place in another place. He held over the heads of the Government and over the Bill the possibility of some grave, 161 menacing danger that would come from another place. As I think I said some time ago when I intervened in the Debate, many hon. Members were looking forward and expecting something of that kind to happen. Then, of course, as I think the right hon. Member for Darwen pointed out, they always have the support of the Ulster Members, and the University Members cling to Toryism like the ivy. We, on this side, welcome the abolition of the business premises qualification, and we rejoice to think that it has fallen to us to introduce a Measure which disposes of plural voting, an anomaly of our electoral system which ought to have been abolished many years ago; and had it not been, as. my right hon. Friend pointed out, for the unhappy intervention, of the War, with all its dire consequences, I have no doubt that such would have been the case long ago.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made reference to a speech of the right hon. Member for the Sparkbrook division of Birmingham (Mr. Amery), and I want to make some reference to it myself. I think it was a monstrous suggestion that he put forward justifying the plural vote. He made the statement that men employed in business in and around Birmingham no longer lived on the premises or near the premises, but were fortunate enough to find solace in the leafy neighbourhood of Warwickshire. Every time that I visit my constituency I see thousands of working class people, men and women, in and from Wednesbury and the surrounding Black Country constituencies, going into Birmingham to work, but it is never suggested that those who perform the most useful work and turn and twist the raw materials from the bowels of the earth into things of beauty should ever be permitted to have a second vote. That is a privilege which is given only to the well-to-do and in the main to the parasites of industry.
I have already made reference to the abolition of university representation. I regret and deplore the decision of the House. In everything that has happened in these Debates, there is nothing that I regret more than that that privilege
§ is still to remain. However, we have decided loyally to accept the decision of the House. Much reference has been made to the Clause dealing with the use of motor cars at election time. The original proposal was a kind of pool, and I have never been convinced by the arguments from the other side that that proposal was not workable. We were told that there would be no cars under that proposal. I think that that view indicated a low opinion of the great mass of the electors and particularly of the supporters of the Conservative party. I have not so low an opinion of my fellow-citizens as to believe that there would not be sufficient public spirit in the country to secure that there were motor cars to take the old and infirm to the poll. We can say that this Clause now represents a universal opinion, or at any rate the majority opinion, of the House.
§ Throughout these discussions one thing I have particularly noticed is the combination of wealth and learning to retain their privileges and to give none of them up. I am not surprised, indeed I should have been disappointed, had the great Tory party failed us in this connection. We might call them the party of rent, interest and profit. They exist to preserve and conserve. Their policy is to hold what they have, to give nothing up, and to get more if they can. But whatever excuse may be offered for the Tory party, little or no excuse can be offered for the representatives of centres of learning, those centres which exist for the diffusion of knowledge and for the cultivation of the sciences. I have often regretted that I had no university education, but I am happy to think that I am not one of those with a university training using my power in this House to hold to a privilege which cannot be defended on grounds of reason or of sanity. I have a clear conviction that when this Bill reaches the Statute Book, it will go a long way to facilitate the rapid progress of democracy to a higher level.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 278; Noes, 228.165
|Division No. 268.]||AYES.||[10.30 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Arnott, John|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Alpass, J. H.||Aske, Sir Robert|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Ammon, Charles George||Attlee, Clement Richard|
|Altchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Angell, Sir Norman||Ayles, Walter|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Herriotts. J.||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Hicks, Ernest George||Palin, John Henry.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)||Palmer, E. T.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Parkinson, John Alien (Wigan)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hoffman, p. C.||Perry, S. F.|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Hopkin, Daniel||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Bowen, J. W.||Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Picton-Turbervill, Edith|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Pole, Major D. G.|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Jenkins, Sir William||Potts, John S.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||John. William (Rhondda, West)||Price, M. P.|
|Bromfield, William||Johnston. Rt. Hon. Thomas||Pybus, Percy John|
|Bromley, J.||Jones, Llewellyn-, F.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson|
|Brooke, W.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Raynes, W. R,|
|Brothers, M.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Richards, R.|
|Brown. C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||Kedward, R. M (Kent, Ashford)||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)||Kelly, W. T.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)|
|Burgess, F. G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Romeril, H. G.|
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Rosbotham, D. S. T.|
|Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||Kinley, J.||Rowson, Guy|
|Cameron, A. G.||Kirkwood, D.||Russell, Richard John (Eddlsbury)|
|Cape, Thomas||Knight, Holford||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George (S. Molton)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lang, Gordon||Sanders, W. S.|
|Chater, Daniel||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Sandham, E,|
|Church, Major A. G.||Law, A. (Rossendale)||Sawyer. G. F.|
|Clarke, J. S.||Lawrence, Susan||Scott, James|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge)||Scurr, John|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Lawther. W. (Barnard Castle)||Sexton, Sir James|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour.||Leach, W.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Compton, Joseph||Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Cove, William G.||Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lees, J.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Daggar, George||Leonard, W.||Shield, George William|
|Dallas, George||Lindley, Fred W.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lloyd, C. Ellis||Shillaker, J. F.|
|Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)||Logan, David Gilbert||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Longbottom, A. W.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Day, Harry||Longden, F.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Denman. Hon. R. D.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Sinkinson, George|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Lunn, William||Sitch. Charles H.|
|Dukes, C.||Macdonald. Gordon (Ince)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotharhithe)|
|Duncan, Charles||Mac Donald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Ede, James Chuter||Macdonald, Sir M. (Inverness)||Smith, Lees-, Rt. Hon. H. B. (Keighley)|
|Edmunds, J. E.||McElwee, A.||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Egan, W. H.||McEntee, V. L.||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|Elmley, Viscount||McKinlay, A.||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|England, Colonel A,||MacLaren, Andrew||Sorensen, R.|
|Foot, Isaac||Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Freeman, Peter||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Strachey, E. J. St. Los|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||MacNeill-Weir, L.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Sullivan, J.|
|George. Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)||McShape, John James||Sutton, J. E.|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Taylor, B. A. (Lincoln)|
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S. W.)|
|Gill, T. H.||Mansfield, W.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Gillett, George M.||March, S,||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Gossling, A. G.||Marcus, M.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Gould, F.||Markham, S. P.||Tillett, Ben|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Marley. J.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Graham, Ht. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Marshall, Fred||Toole, Joseph|
|Gray. Milner||Mathers, George||Tout, W. J.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)||Matters, L. W.||Townend, A. E.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Messer, Fred||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Griffith. F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)||Middletan, G.||Turner, B.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Millar, J. D.||Vaughan, David|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Mills, J. E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major J.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Hail, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Montague, Frederick||Walker, J.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Hall. Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)||Morley, Ralph||Watkins, F. C.|
|Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)||Morris, Rhys Hopkins||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Harbord, A.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Wedgwood. Rt. Hon. Joslah|
|Hardie, David (Rutherglen)||Mort, D. L.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Hardie, G. D. (Springburn)||Muff, G.||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Harris. Percy A.||Muggeridge, H. T.||Welsh, James C. (Coatbridge)|
|Haycock, A. W.||Nathan, Major H. L.||West, F. R.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Naylor, T. E.||Westwood. Joseph|
|Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||White. H. G|
|Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Noel Baker, P. J.||Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)|
|Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|Wilkinson, Ellen C.||Wilson, J. (Oldham)||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||Wise, E. F.||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)||Paling.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Albery, Irving James||Duckworth, G. A. V.||Muirhead, A. J.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent I)||Eden, Captain Anthony||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsl'ld)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||O'Connor, T. J.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Everard, W. Lindsay||O'Neill, Sir H.|
|Atkinson, C.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William|
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Ferguson, Sir John||Penny, Sir George|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Fermoy, Lord||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Fielden. E. B.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Fison, F. G. Clavering||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Ford, Sir P. J.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Balniel. Lord||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Beamish, Roar-Admiral T. P. H.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Preston, Sir Walter Rueben|
|Beaumont, M. W.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Purbrick, R.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Ganzonl, Sir John||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Berry, Sir George||Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Bevan, s. J. (Holborn)||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Remer, John R.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Gower, Sir Robert||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Grace, John||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Renn[...]ll|
|Boyce, Leslie||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Bracken, B.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Broadbent, Colonel J.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Hammersley, S. S.||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Buchan, John||Hanbury, C.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Savery, S. S.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hartington. Marquess of||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittom[...]|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Simms, Major-General J.|
|Burton, Colonel H. W||Haslam, Henry C.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfst)|
|Butler, R. A.||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd, Henley)||Smith, R. W.(Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Campbell, E. T.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hoare. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Castle Stewart, Earl of||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Stanley, Hon. O. (Westmorland)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth, S.)||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F.|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Inksip, Sir Thomas||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Thompson, Luke|
|Chadwick, Capt. Sir Robert Burton||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Thomson, Mitchell., Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Lamb, Sir J. O.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Chapman, Sir S,||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Christie, J. A.||Latham, H. p. (Scarboro' & Whitby)||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Churchill. Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Train, J.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Cockerill, Brig. General Sir George||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Wallace. Cant. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Llewellin, Major J. J||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Calville, Major D. J.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Lockwood, Captain J. H.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Courthope. Colonel Sir G. L.||Long, Major Hon. Eric||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lymington, Viscount||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lard C.||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Macquisten. F. A.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Croom-Johnson, R. p.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Withers, Sir John James|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Marjoribanks, Edward||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Dairymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Wright, Brig.-Gen. W. D. (Tavlst'ky)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Meller, R. J.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Merriman. Sir F. Boyd|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Milne, Wardlaw., J. S.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Commander Sir B. Eyres Monsell|
|Di[...]ey, A. C.||Morrison, W. S. (Glos. Cirencester)||and Major Sir George Hennessy.|
Question put, and agreed to.