§ Order read for resuming Adjourned debate on Amendment to Question [12th February], That the Bill be now read a Second time.—[Mr. R. A. Butler.]
Which Amendment was, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which leaves the House of Lords overwhelmingly hereditary in character and with unimpaired powers to frustrate and obstruct the will of the elected representatives of the people.
§ Question again proposed, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Newport)
We have already had one full day's debate on this small Bill. Looking back on it, we can say that we all enjoyed ourselves very much. It was a kind of hunt-the-slipper debate. Hon. Members on both sides of the House spent the afternoon and the evening trying to discover what on earth was in the Government's mind which induced them to introduce this small Measure.
The victim of the debate was the small Measure itself. I say that because I think I am correct, and within the recollection of the House, in saying that very few hon. Members on either side had anything good to say for the Bill at all. For example, the hon. Baronet the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) called it "cock-eyed" and "timorous". The hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher), fairly late in the day, said that he regarded himself as rather exceptional in having anything to say in its defence. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) begged the Government to have second thoughts about the Bill. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), in one of those characteristic, racy and invigorating speeches which we all enjoy from him, said that unless he could alter it very drastically in Committee he proposed to do his best to strangle it on Third Reading.
Finally, last but not least, we had the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South- 582 West (Mr. Powell). He damned it outright with a wealth of scholastic erudition which impressed the whole House. We were left, almost out of pity, trying to discover whether there was anything we could say in defence of this little Bill. The poor, little mousy thing was chased backward and forward across the Floor of the House and it ended up in very bad shape indeed.
Yet, diminutive though it may be in stature and scope, it is really far from being a mousy little Bill, because it seeks to introduce a change into the Constitution itself. It is not simply a sort of amiable exercise in parliamentary draftsmanship which we were discussing to while away an afternoon when there was little other business. It is a most important constitutional Measure and it came like a bolt out of the blue, unheralded until just before Christmas, and it descended into—of all places—the lap of the Opposition because it was described as a gift, a present, to us.
While we very much appreciate the kind thought in the mind of the Government which instigated them to offer us this gift we must say that we do not want it. We were never asked about it. We do not like the look of it. Above all, we do not know how to work this gadget. More than that, we are convinced that the Government have not any idea how they intend to work it. If it is something which can be worked we in the House of Commons expect that the Government spokesman should tell us what they mean to do with it and how they mean to operate it.
On this side of the House we have sympathy with Government supporters. They desire to be loyal to their leaders and to give support to proposals which their leaders introduce, but they have not the remotest idea what it was that they were being asked to support. That was why we had that curious and inconsequential debate yesterday, interesting and, indeed, fertile as containing an exposition, forceful in many cases, of the widely differing views on the hereditary principle in the House of Lords, but we got very little to help us to make up our minds about what we were discussing.
If the Government wish to woo us to the Bill they must tell us what they wish to do with it. No amount of wooing, however cajoling it may be, will have the 583 least prospect of reconciling us in the very smallest degree to the maintenance in any sense of the hereditary principle, far less to its enhancement. The first thing we say is that we object to the Bill because it leaves the House of Lords—as we say in our Amendment—overwhelmingly hereditary.
I listened carefully to the speech of the Leader of the House and of the Attorney-General, and I could not gather, however attentively I listened, whether they agreed that that was so or not. Do they agree with what we say in our Amendment, that this is a Bill which leaves the House of Lords as it is already, overwhelmingly hereditary in make-up and character?
It really is hardly good enough for the Leader of the House to tell us that because of the presence in the House of Lords of the Lords Spiritual and the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary the House of Lords is not, at the moment, 100 per cent. hereditary in make-up. If I may say so, we knew that already and it does not very much advance the argument to remind us. Nor did the Leader of the House advance the argument at all when he reminded us that centuries ago the prelates and abbots outweighed in a particular case the influence of the hereditary nobles.
Either the Government accept that this is an objection—the objection as to the hereditary composition of the House—which is well-founded, or they challenge it. If they challenge it, we are entitled to know, how do they challenge it? Membership of the House of Lords is now between 800 and 900, and the vast majority of those 800 or 900 are hereditarily created peers. I ask the Government this: how many life peers do they propose should be created under the terms of this Measure? They must have given thought to that.
If they challenge the complaint we make that this Bill is irrelevant in that itleaves the House of Lords overwhelmingly hereditary in character,then, presumably, it must be that they have it in mind to appoint several hundred life peers in order to outbalance the 800 or 900, the vast majority of whom, at the moment, are hereditary. I cannot believe that that is the case. Obviously, it would be utterly impracticable and I do not 584 suppose that the Government have contemplated numbers anything like that. I should have thought, if they had any figure in mind, it would be more like 20 at the outside, or even fewer.
The first point I make in this debate is that if that is so, if the Government are not in a position to tell us that my estimate is far too small and that they have in mind something far larger in scale, the objection raised from this side of the House must stand unchallenged, that this Bill does nothing whatsoever to alter the overwhelmingly hereditary character of the House The right hon. Gentleman described our Amendment as "hysterical". I am sure that nobody in this House objects to a little modest vituperation, provided it is crisp and to the point, but I must say our sympathy goes out to the right hon. Gentleman if he is driven to that kind of thing in this context in substitution for argument.
Perhaps the Leader of the House may defend himself by saying that, at any rate, the terms of his criticism of our Amendment were far less severe than the criticisms of many hon. Members opposite of his own Bill. We may hear that in due course from the Minister of Education. Whatever the Government answer, we must know what they propose in terms of numbers. They must have thought of this matter.
I say this to the Minister who is to follow me: if he and his colleagues have introduced this constitutional Measure without having a fairly clear idea in their own minds what they mean in terms of numbers of hereditary peers to be created, they are being absolutely irresponsible in their dealings with this House. They are acting irresponsibly it they are asking us to make up our minds on this Measure and do not tell us the results of their deliberations.
Therefore, I press the right hon. Gentleman, and emphasise my request to him, that as a measure of elementary fairness to the House he should tell us what has been the thinking of the Government. About how many do the Government intend should be appointed? What would be the approximate composition of the House of Lords in, say, six months' time—if the Government lasts so long—or, in the much less likely event of it lasting for twelve months, in twelve months' time?
585 I pass on to a second point. It was put in the form of a question by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, but did not receive any answer at all from the Attorney-General. I wish to put it again to the Minister of Education. Have the Government the smallest reason to think that they will be able to achieve any purpose they have in mind by the creation of life peers as distinct from the creation of hereditary peers? That question was put by my right hon. Friend, and it really needs an answer. Will the Minister who is to speak on behalf of the Prime Minister in this debate be able to tell us that the Prime Minister, in times past, has found himself seriously hampered because of the Wensleydale case? Has he found it difficult to recruit Members of the House of Lords because he could not get citizens to serve as members through the creation, by the Crown, of peerages of an hereditary character although he would have been able to get citizens to accept peerages had they been merely life peerages? If we are to approve this Measure we must know that.
I tell the Minister that I feel sure that unless he is able to tell us that there has really been some such embarrassment the House will not believe that the fact that the peerages are to be life peerages instead of hereditary peerages will make it easier to recruit suitable members to take part in debates in the House of Lords Has the Prime Minister found real embarrassment? I cannot ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether this, that or the other suitable recruit was offered an hereditary peerage and refused but would have accepted if it had been a life peerage. Clearly, those are confidential matters and I cannot ask him to divulge them, but I would ask him to say, in general terms, whether there has been real embarrassment. If there has, can he give an approximate idea of the numbers of cases of such refusals where there might have been acceptances if the peerages had been life peerages instead of hereditary peerages?
Over what period of time has this embarrassment been experienced? I make the assumption that the Government have devoted some thinking to this Measure. If they have not, they should be taken to task seriously. Suppose this Measure had been law last year, or 586 two years ago, what does the right hon. Gentleman think would have been the composition of the House of Lords today? How many life peers would have been created over the last two years? Of those created, how many would have been those distinguished citizens to whom the Lord Privy Seal referred? Unless they fell into the same category, how many would have been Labour peers, to be recruited without our request, to assist the present Labour peers in the House of Lords to carry the heavy burden which, by common consent, they carry so efficiently?
Unless the right hon. Gentleman is in a position to tell us that there has been real embarrassment and is really able to assure us that life peers could be created whereas hereditary peers cannot, he is being completely irresponsible in asking us to pass this Measure; and in the absence of knowledge we cannot be expected to make up our minds upon it. All the information we have is that this Measure will leave the hereditary principle of the House of Lords virtually exactly as it is at the moment.
Having made those points to the Government, I want to pass to a subject which I think almost everybody who has spoken in this debate to date has already mentioned. That is the question of pay. It is common consent that it would be impossible to recruit membership of the House of Lords unless they were guaranteed what is an adequate salary to make it possible for them to be able to afford to give full-time membership to the House. I do not think that anybody will seriously contest that, unless it is envisaged that life peers are to be solely selected from persons already in the position of enjoying ample private incomes. If they are to be offered salaries, are they to be life salaries, are they to be salaries for a term of years, or for the life of a Parliament, or what are they to be? If they are to be life salaries or salaries for a term of years, I ask the Government whether they have considered the implications of what they are doing.
Have they considered what a vast new field of patronage is being created? The Prime Minister already has to distribute patronage in the sense that he recommends the appointment of Ministers, already large in number, but they, after all, are paid their salaries so long as they 587 are Ministers and no longer. They are paid those salaries for discharging crushing tasks and working extremely hard, and they get their remuneration solely for that.
If they are to be created, what is to be the position of these new life peers? Obviously, I suppose, they will only put in service in the House of Lords so long as the House of Lords is sitting. For a large part of the year, they will do nothing at all, and for the whole of it they are presumably to be paid the same salary. If this is what the Government have in mind, it will make it possible for them to give up their ordinary avocations. If they pursue any gainful occupation, presumably they will not be able to carry it on simply in the Recess periods of the House of Lords or in the evenings. We should have to offer some remuneration adequate enough to induce people of standing, who, by their record and achievements, ex-hypothesi, have shown themselves suitable for appointment, and that salary would have to be disbursed to them either for life or over a period of years.
I suppose that these people are likely to be from 35 to 45 or even 50 years of age, many of them with young, growing families. It was pointed out to us yesterday that a desirable feature of this new scheme was that young men would be recruited; but that if we wish to recruit young men and make it economically possible for young men with growing families to take part as members of the House of Lords, we must make it possible for them to be able to afford it.
I put it seriously to the Government that if they try to operate the Bill, and make any use of it, they will be embarking upon a most dangerous precedent. They will be placing any Prime Minister in future under the disagreeable and invidious necessity of having to distribute largesse or to recommend the distribution of largesse on an immense scale. When I say an immense scale, I speak in the dark, because we do not know how many new peers are contemplated. If it is only a matter of 20 or 30, I would ask whether it is desirable, as a necessity of our governmental life, that the Prime Minister should have at 588 his command the distribution of largesse even if only on that scale?
If we knew what were the Government's intentions, we should be in a position to form a clear judgment upon it and I press the right hon. Gentleman on this point. I hope that he will inform himself, if he has not done so, about it. I have no doubt that his colleagues have given some consideration to it; I hope they have. I hope that he will be able to tell us what kind of thing the Government have in mind about this. I must say to him in all seriousness that the speeches of both the Lord Privy Seal and the Attorney-General were lamentably and woefully barren upon these most important aspects of the Bill.
I envisage this Bill not only as a Bill which does not begin to meet the major objection which we have to it through the perpetuation of the hereditary principle, but as something far worse than that. It is a Bill of evil presage. If we start doing that sort of thing, we are embarking on an extremely undesirable course, and I think that it would be extremely invidious for any Prime Minister in the future to contemplate the discharge of the new duty which would be put upon him.
I want to pass to another point. Let it be assumed for the moment that the Government have a reasonable answer about the numbers they intend to appoint and also about this question of economic provision for the new life peers. Let us assume that they can persuade us that there would be a contented, happy band of life peers, drawn from citizens of distinction throughout the community, with varied experience and knowledge, flocking in adequate numbers into the House of Lords. Personally, I do not think for a moment that it is possible, but let us consider that the Government really could do that. Surely that would bring us sharply up against the second objection which we raised in our Amendment.
The Bill leaves the powers of the House of Lords completely unchanged. Both Ministers who spoke in the debate gloried in it. They said, "We do not deal with numbers or with the powers of the House of Lords; all these things remain exactly as they are at the moment." I put this point to the Government. We are described as "hysterical" in the language which we use, but can 589 hon. Members opposite expect us, if peers go flocking into the House of Lords, to view with equanimity the prospect of their exercising in an active form powers which, at this moment, are to some extent quiescent?
Our Constitution presents some very curious features. The powers of the House of Lords, except in financial matters, and subject to the limitations of the Parliaments Acts, 1911 and 1949, are substantially co-equal with those of the House of Commons. If they mean seriously to commend this Bill to the House, the Government must try to understand the Opposition's point of view about this. We understand the point of view of hon. Members opposite. It was most forcibly expressed by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. He believes in the virtue of the authority of prescription. We do not; we do not like it, and the Government must understand our point of view about it.
If they are trying to make an objective and fair estimate of the problem which confronts the House at the moment, can anybody dispute that the House of Lords is overwhelmingly, traditionally and passionately hostile to the Labour point of view? This is a free country, and Members of the House of Lords are entitled to their own opinions. We do not complain about that. What we want to do is to change the composition of the House of Lords, if we leave it there at all.
As it is, the practical effect of the existence of the House of Lords in its present set-up is that a Labour Government, which may have a vast majority of public opinion behind them, know perfectly well that when they govern they will govern in the face of a constant and bitter hostility, suppressed for the most part, but exercising—and this I say without fear of challenge—an unremitting pressure on Ministers, and, from time to time finding active and, indeed, virulent expression.
I do not propose to retrace past history, to which frequent references have already been made in the course of this debate, but the fact nevertheless is that a Labour Government in office must, to a very substantial extent, govern by sufference of the House of Lords. The only sanction which there is against interference by the House of Lords is the fear entertained 590 by their Lordships of what public resentment would do if their interference went beyond a certain point.
Furthermore, during, at any rate, a large part of the last year of office of a Labour Government, in spite of the limitation on the Lords' powers introduced by the Parliament Act of 1949, a Labour Government in a very real sense governs by permission of the House of Lords which can interfere materially with the proceedings of the Labour Government, as it did with the last Labour Government.
With the House of Lords as it is, the consolation offered to us on this side of the House, such as it is, is that the powers of the other Chamber are not often used. I emphasise the words "not often". Undoubtedly, they are used from time to time. The very purpose of the present Bill, at any rate as explained by the two Ministers who have so far spoken in the debate, is to galvanise the other Chamber into activity.
Nobody can suggest that in the creation of their life peers the Government mean to give the Opposition a majority of life peers. Whatever creation of life peers there is, there will still be a majority because of the hereditary peers who are Conservative. It is not as if the present majority is in any sense being reduced in our favour. There will still be, both amongst the life peers and amongst the hereditary peers, a Conservative majority. That is obvious and goes without saying.
Do the Government ask us to believe that they will appoint life peers to go into the House of Lords with a view to keeping their mouths shut and not exercising their votes? Obviously, if they manage to get anybody to go into the House of Lords as the holder of a life peerage, whether paid or not, he will actively exercise the power of the House of Lords, a power which, subject to certain qualifications, at this moment is coequal with the power of this elected Chamber. That, at any rate, is the Government's intention.
What the Government are asking us to do, in introducing the Bill, is to exchange for a comparatively—I emphasise the word "comparatively"—and generally quiescent Conservative majority in the House of Lords, which is bad enough in all conscience, an active Conservative majority which will be there when we 591 get back into office, no doubt in the course of the next, if not this, year. They are asking us to do that without even giving us any kind of indication of their purpose in numbers and composition.
It is too preposterous of the Government to expect us to view with any degree of content a proposal of that sort. It is a proposal made to us on the morrow of Rochdale and on the eve of a General Election which will almost certainly sweep us back into power. [Laughter.] I am surprised that the Chief Whip laughs. I rather sympathise with him. I can well understand that he is very exhausted, because he has a lot of trouble and tribulation. He has only to look towards his back benches, where he has trouble. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South gives him trouble. If the Chief Whip laughs he must be suffering from a surfeit of ebullience which should command our admiration.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The Chief Whip has most trouble in his own constituency, because he is not likely to come back here after the next Election.
§ Sir F. Soskice
May I appeal to my hon. Friend to exercise a measure of mercy in this matter?
Those are the two main objections which we have to the Bill and I want now to say one or two things about our general point of view. We have made it perfectly clear already but it ought to be restated. We are inevitably opposed to an hereditary Chamber with powers to do what, in effect, would amount to blocking the will of the elected representatives of the people in this House. If there is to be a second Chamber—and I underline the words "if there is to be a second Chamber"—it has to be a second Chamber which can in no sense offer any effective challenge to the will of the people as expressed by the elected representatives in this House. Those two considerations are fundamental. I would add that if the difficulties created in solving the two problems which I posed are insuperable, it may be—I do not say that it necessarily would be—that the only answer which one can reach is that there should be no second Chamber. Those are the views which we hold on this side of the House.
Many hon. Members opposite have voiced their opinions about the House of 592 Lords as it is. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Armstrong) went so far as to describe the House of Lords as possessing the prestige of antique furniture. It was a graphic description, but I confess that I thought it a little unkind. After all, they are alive—
§ Sir F. Soskice
—and often extremely active. I prefer to adopt the description of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South-West, who used the expression "authority of prescription". Whether the prestige is like that attaching to ancient furniture, or whether it is a prescriptive authority, the possession of that prestige and that authority, in our view, does not pre-eminently qualify the hereditary Members of the House of Lords to claim to be sensitive exponents of the movements of popular opinion. They have consistently demonstrated that, sensitive though they may be, they feel only winds blowing from one direction.
It would be ill recompense to the very attractive defence of the House of Lords made by the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) if I myself contributed to poking more fun at the examples which she gave of what she regarded as beneficent interference by the House of Lords in the proceedings of the present Government, but one cannot take the example of the Copyright Bill and, I think she also mentioned, the Inventions and Designs Bill, very seriously in that context. The same comment applies to the Protection of Birds Bill. I am very fond of wild birds and, personally, I feel quite strongly on this subject, but I am sure that the hon. Lady will agree that it is hardly an epoch-making subject.
If the hon. Lady visualises the House of Lords as having been beneficient in its interference with the present Government, may I put to her a question which many of my hon. Friends have asked? Why did it not interfere in the Rent Act. What of the Shops Bill? It was not a very happy example for the noble Lady to choose because, although I know there is reason for opinion both ways, many people might take the view that possibly that was a case in which the House of Lords interfered because it thought that the present Right wing Government was not Right wing enough.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
I can remember the Upper House coming to the rescue of the Labour Government over one Section of the Criminal Justice Act.
§ Sir F. Soskice
Mr. Speaker, I cannot recognise the characteristic that the noble Lady has attributed to another place in the examples to which she refers, but even if it were the case—and it is not—that the other place came to the rescue of the Labour Government once in the history of many hundreds of years, that would not be enough to justify it, and if the House of Lords is left as it is it will be many hundreds of years before it happens again.
I therefore put it to the noble Lady that the examples she gave were not very happily chosen and, if I may say so, the Rent Act was a case that argued directly against her own contention. The Government claim that there are certain merits in that Act. We strongly dispute that, but I should have thought that both sides of the House would have to agree that popular feeling in the country as a whole is dead against the Rent Act.
It is one of the most unpopular Measures that this Government have introduced. Look at Rochdale. Look at the various other catastrophic by-elections that have strewn the line since that Act was passed. One would have thought that if the House of Lords really was so sensitive to the reactions of public opinion to what a Government were doing, if it could, as it were, exercise a paternal influence in the background to prevent right hon. Gentlemen opposite going wrong, there was the case par excellence.
One knew perfectly well how the House of Lords interpreted public opinion in that, as in several other instances. I therefore put it to the noble Lady that the House of Lords undoubtedly puts its interpretation on public opinion but, unfortunately, it always interprets it in one way, and that is in the way of reaction. That, if I may say so, does not really conduce to the promotion of the public good, and a Labour Government, with a progressive platform, and a large majority of public opinion behind them, cannot really be expected to welcome the paternal admonition of the House of Lords when they know, in advance, that that admonition—so far, indeed, as it 594 does not exceed admonition—will always be in one direction.
I very respectfully put it to the noble Lady—and I do not wish to use a pejorative term—that it is hardly reasonable to think that noble Lords, brought up in the circumstances which they grace and moving in the circles in which they move, really are more receptive of public opinion than are right hon. and hon. Members of this House, buffeted as we are, and quite rightly buffeted, by our constituents, made painfully aware of every feeling of resentment at our behaviour, on either side of the House—and of the views we express—in the most pungent and unmistakable form, by correspondence and by interview, and by questions when we address them from public platforms. If, in those circumstances, we cannot interpret public opinion, I just cannot understand what assistance we can expect to get by asking noble Lords what the public really thinks—
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I hesitate to interrupt again, but I have had definite questions asked of me. I do not wish to go over the same ground as was covered yesterday, except to say that I tried to make clear that my view was that the powers of the Upper House were not to frustrate the will of this House but to ensure that the will of the people should prevail.
In explanation of that, there were, in the first place, the many nationalisation Measures that were passed by the Upper House because, although that Chamber had a predominantly Conservative majority, it thought that was right for the elected new Parliament here. And on two occasions, under a Labour Government and under a Conservative Government, another place interpreted the real public feeling about the death penalty.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I can only reiterate the question asked by my right hon. Friend; how does the noble Lady know? I am sorry, I hate to disagree with her and I do not wish to appear unchivalrous, but I must confess that my ideas are diametrically opposed to hers. I think that she is fundamentally mistaken.
If we want to put the case to the acid test, let us take the case of the death sentence. That was a matter decided on 595 the free vote of this House. Hon. Members, freed from any compulsion from their Whips, stated not only what was their own view but what was the view that they would be able to commend to their constituents. We had a free vote and came to a decision on that matter. And the noble Lords, whether from the backwoods or wherever it is that they are said to reside, thronged to the House of Lords and said that we were all wrong.
If there were any justification for their saying that a Government are mistaken because they are out of touch, is it not rather absurd for noble Lords to say, "All you Members of the House of Commons, coming straight from your constituencies, subject to the perfectly proper constituency and other pressures that you experience and react to, do not know public opinion, but we do"? I put it to the noble Lady that one really has only to state the proposition in order to bring out its patent and inherent absurdity—and I am sorry if I use strong language.
I do not want to take up much more of the time of the House, but I want to say something—and I am sorry if I should appear to disturb the learned Attorney-General. I should hate to interfere with his evident comfort. Perhaps I should apologise less for disturbing him, because I want to pay him a tribute. I thought that the right hon. and learned Gentleman introduced much light into our debate. As I have said, we were groping about, because the Lord Privy Seal gave us no information. It was my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition who, perhaps rather ungallantly, suggested that the Bill was simply a piece of sham, a device to cloak the unrespectable with a respectable cloak.
That was the way he put it to the Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House, and he did not know whether he was right or wrong until the Attorney-General addressed the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman then made it perfectly clear that my right hon. Friend was absolutely right. It was the first piece of concrete information we had had in the debate—that is to say, any information dating to a period later than 1865, when the Wensleydale case was decided.
596 The learned Attorney-General, without qualification, said, "Oh, yes," the object of the Bill was—and I quote him as reported in The Times:…to enhance the respect and confidence generally held of that Housethat is to say, of another place. Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we suspected. We thought that all along, and we still think that this Bill is really a subterfuge. It leaves the substance of our objections, but changes the outward form a little, if it changes it at all.
I would gladly have sat down in a spirit of amity and gratitude to the learned Attorney-General for his helpful remark, but there is one bone that I must pick with him before sitting down. If I may say so, he tried the rather well-worn device of representing us as opposing equality of status for women. I should have thought that device rather dangerous for an advocate of his persuasiveness and distinction to adopt. What he said was that it should be clearly known that if the Opposition voted against this Bill they were voting against a Bill that would give equality for women in the House of Lords.
I cannot really believe that when he uttered those very dangerous words the right hon. and learned Gentleman had forgotten the hereditary peeresses. Whose Bill is it that prevents the hereditary peeresses—many of them—from taking their seats in the House of Lords? I very much like to picture the right hon. and learned Gentleman explaining that point to each of them. I do not believe that he would be very well received. I hope that neither he nor the Ministers following him will seriously use that as an argument to be considered by the public in their estimation of the merits or demerits of this Bill.
I know the difficulty of trying to avoid answering an awkward question, but it was not a very good answer for the learned Attorney-General to rely upon the Short Title of the Bill to avoid having to answer the question put by my right hon. Friend both to the Lord Privy Seal and to him, and which the Minister of Education will have an ample opportunity of answering. Why will the Government not allow the patents of peers so to be amended that their sons can sit in the House of Commons? The Minister must know that there was an 597 hon. and learned Member of this House who would have been affected and that there is an hon. Member now who would be affected.
I put that question to the Minister of Education. May we now, at long last, have an answer to it? If we are to be said to be unprogressive in our attitude to the Bill, the Government are being really obstinate and obtuse about it. It is not enough to use the legal device of saying that the Short Title will not allow it; the Government are responsible for the Short Title of the Bill and they can change it.
For those reasons, we feel that we must vote against the Bill. We regard it as a most discreditable sham and we regard the Government's method of suddenly forcing it upon the Opposition, without even being prepared to say how they mean it to work, as discreditable, also. Unless we hear arguments which are altogether overwhelming—which we certainly have not begun to hear yet, and I very much doubt whether we shall hear them—we shall be obliged to vote against it.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of Education (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) began his speech by saying that, after listening to the debate yesterday, he was very puzzled to know what we were discussing. I will tell him why he was so puzzled. There are really two debates going on simultaneously in the course of our two-day discussions; one is a real debate and one is a sham. The real debate is upon the merits of the Government's proposal for life peers, and the sham debate is all the party and parliamentary sword play going on around the Amendment put down by the Opposition.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in his opening remarks, said that he thought the Bill was a mousey little nothing. He had hardly said two or three sentences more before he was describing it as a most important constitutional Bill.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I listened very carefully to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, 598 and I dare say that I can hear as well as his right hon. and hon. Friends.
What the Opposition do not seem to realise is that, in putting down the Amendment and in calling in question the present powers of the House of Lords, they are, in effect, moving a Motion of censure upon themselves, because it was the Government of the party opposite which prescribed the present powers of the House of Lords in the Parliament Act, 1949. They had the power; they were not acting under duress, and they took the action which results in the present situation.
The real point is this. Having the power when they took action, why did they take action which left the position as it is at the present time? That is the point.
§ Mr. Lloyd
That is really the nub of the argument, and it touches at once on the one substantial point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Newport. He said that a Labour Government were bound to meet the constant and bitter opposition of the House of Lords. The truth is that the reason the Parliament Act of 1949 was passed in the terms it was, and the reason our debate today is proceeding in a relatively minor key compared with debates on the House of Lords in times gone by, is that when it came to the point a Labour Government did not find that at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Find what?"] I assert chat the Labour Government, on the whole, found the House of Lords pretty reasonable.
§ Mr. Lloyd
When my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal was speaking yesterday, he quoted some remarks of the late Earl Jowitt as a tribute to the House of Lords, and hon. Members opposite objected. Why did they object? They objected because they said that those words were said in 1946, when the Lords were cowed by the great majority of 1945 and before they had given trouble—of course, about the Steel Bill particularly. I do not think that that is fair, and I will show why.
599 Lord Jowitt's tribute to the House of Lords is not by any means the only appreciation of the work of their Lordships' House coming from distinguished leaders opposite. One has only to read the recent series of four-day debates in the House of Lords and read the observations of noble Socialist Lords themselves to see that there was a very great measure of appreciation of the work done coming from Socialist leaders in that House. It is a little ungenerous of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite never to take any account of remarks made by their own leaders in another place.
As a matter of fact, I have no need to rely upon Socialist statements in the House of Lords. I can quote a reasoned judgment on this matter by a man of great authority, a right hon. Member of the House of Commons. I refer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) who, after all, is the greatest Leader of the House of Commons that the Socialist Party has ever produced and who certainly knows more of the conduct of business between this House and another place than any hon. Gentleman on the benches opposite. He has, much later than the date of Lord Jowitt's remarks published some most authoritative observations in his book, Government and Parliament—if I may say so, a most valuable book, having a claim to be described as the modern Bagehot. It is a very good book. It is described also as a "Survey from the Inside," so we shall get inside news from it.
I want to make one or two very short quotations from this book, and I shall endeavour to be fair, for the right hon. Gentleman himself is here and, obviously, can correct me if he wishes. Talking about difficulties with the House of Lords in the old days, he went on to say:Generally speaking, however, during the Labour Governments of 1945–51, they treated us with consideration, as indeed was our due"—
§ Mr. Lloyd
— "This was largely owing to the ability, tact and wisdom of two men: Viscount Addison, the Leader of the House, and the Marquess of Salisbury, the Leader of the Conservative Opposition."
600 Then he said:It will be seen, therefore, that this two-way legislative traffic"—that is to say, between the two Houses—is not only valuable in ensuring good legislative revision and bringing two types of mind to bear upon legislation, but also most certainly saves time and is helpful in preventing legislative congestion in the House of Commons.I want to be fair and say that he mentioned the difficulties with the Steel Bill earlier, but, summing up, he made the position quite clear. He said:The fact that the Labour Governments of 1945–51, with their controversial and heavy legislative programme, managed to live with the House of Lords—not without some trouble, it is true—without reaching any final, "last-ditch" irremediable crisis, was an extraordinary achievement. That this happened is in itself a great compliment to British political genius.
§ Mr. Lloyd
Perhaps to the Labour Government, yes, but also, I think, as the right hon. Gentleman said in his book, to the Conservative Leader in the House of Lords in its common sense as well. Thus we see that actual experience in this matter has wrought a considerable change in the outlook to the House of Lords of many people on the Left in politics.
I should like to give two particular examples. There is no doubt that in the old days, which were mentioned yesterday by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), an almost complete majority of those on the Left believed in outright abolition of the House of Lords. The right hon. and learned Member himself used the phrase "end them". He said yesterday that as a result of a lifetime's experience in this House, his view had changed and he had come to the conclusion that a second Chamber was really a valuable complement to this House.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is not the only one. The view that he takes and the change of view that he expressed yesterday are shared by many other distinguished parliamentarians, both in this House and in another place. I would add only two other names of great distinction. Both of them have said it and they have said it quite definitely. One, again, is the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South and the other is Earl Attlee himself, who, apart from the right 601 hon. Member, has more experience of this matter than any other living Socialist leader.
§ Mr. Lloyd
No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will quote them later in the debate, but I am entitled to quote men who are of undoubted distinction in his party. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is jealous of their distinction. The party opposite has not treated the right hon. Gentleman in a way that his great distinction and record justify.
Another very important matter in which there has been a big change of opinion among those of the Left in politics concerns the basis of a second Chamber. At one time, there was an almost universal view that it should be upon an elected basis. It is an interesting fact that the Preamble of the 1911 Parliament Act itself, although recognising that it could not be done immediately, envisage a second Chamber "on a popular … basis".
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite will, I think, agree with me again that here, also, there has been on the Left in politics a very big change, because I would say that if there is one thing which is certain among those who believe in a second Chamber—I have demonstrated that there is a considerable number of them on the Left, although, possibly, not including the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)—it is that none of them believes now that it should be upon an elected basis. On these two points, there have been very big changes of opinion on the part of the Left in politics concerning the problem of a second Chamber.
That brings me to the problem of consultation, which was mentioned yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition and also during the debate on the Address. It is true that during the debate on the Address, the Leader of the Opposition said that he had no complaint that the Opposition had not been consulted. I should, however, like to say a few words on this important point. It may be that it does not interest the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, but there are other 602 people who may be interested. As we know, the views of hon. Members opposite are not always unanimous on this subject.
First, I should like to acknowledge the attitude of the Socialist leaders, in 1947, in response to the request made by the Conservative Party for talks about this problem. That response by the Socialist Government of that time led to the talks of 1948, which, so it seems, very nearly reached agreement.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am sorry that they did not. The preliminary conclusions and referendum are on record and the hon. Member can consult them. It would carry me too far to go into those details today. As I say, we regret—and, I am sure, there are a good many people who regret—that the agreement which was nearly reached was not finally consummated.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The hon. Lady misunderstands me. I was not, at this point, wishing to put some disagreeable responsibility upon the party opposite for not agreeing. I was merely saying that it was a pity that both parties could not reach agreement and that it was a hopeful feature that they got as near agreement as they did.
After that, in 1953, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) wrote to the Opposition leaders to ask whether they would consent and agree to further talks on this matter. I can sum up quickly what was said by quotations from The Times concerning what occurred next. The Times said thatMr. Clement Davies accepted the invitation with alacrity. Mr. Attlee wanted to accept on condition that the question of powers was not raised, but the Parliamentary Labour Party preferred refusal by 58 votes to 51. … Mr. Attlee therefore wrote declining …That was the position.
Then, in 1955, Earl Jowitt made it absolutely clear, in a statement in the 603 House of Lords, that the party opposite was not prepared to engage in further talks. In those circumstances, and since we had good reason to believe that the position had in no way changed, either in the House of Lords or here, it was felt that no good purpose would be served by any formal consultation with right hon. Gentlemen opposite about this Bill.
I would like to say a word about the comments of the Leader of the Opposition concerning the possibility of further talks. He threw it out as a possibility. The most informal method possible would, I think, be found to be the most fruitful if it is desired to make progress on that matter. [Interruption.] The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the possibility of talks and I am saying that if it is desired to make progress, the informal method is the best.
§ Mr. Bevan
This is very important. It may be entirely misrepresented outside. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition threw out the possibility of talks. We now hear from the right hon. Gentleman, speaking, I understand, on behalf of his colleagues, that if there are to be talks, they should be of the most informal kind. If there are talks of an informal kind, do they include the possibility that the talks themselves will turn round whether there should be a second Chamber at all?
§ Mr. Lloyd
Certainly not. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I was not intending to call in question the existence of the House of Lords, if that is what the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting. I was thinking entirely in terms of the kind of discussions that previously took place—for example, the 1948 talks—when a great many subjects of importance were discussed.
§ Mr. Lloyd
No, Sir. The Leader of the Opposition put three conditions yesterday. I am not putting down conditions except to say that, obviously, we are not ready to enter into discussions which would call in question the existence of the House of Lords. I want to make that quite clear. Nothing that I have said should for one moment lead anybody who wished to help in this matter to come to such a conclusion.
I would like to proceed by saying that I am very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition thought that we were being in any way patronising in bringing forward this proposal, especially, so to speak, on doctrinal grounds. That was far from our intention. I approach the matter from a much more practical point of view. When I first came into the House of Commons, after the 1931 Election—I think the right hon. Gentleman was in it—there were only between 50 and 60 Socialists in the House and 550 Conservatives and supporters of the National Government.
At that time I could see—and I have never forgotten it—the real difficulties of an Opposition in carrying out their duties when they are very severely reduced in numbers. I can well remember at that time the strict instructions given—I was his Parliamentary Private Secretary then—by the late Mr. Stanley Baldwin, that our party was to observe the strictest courtesy towards the Opposition to help them in carrying out their duties under these considerable difficulties. [HON. MEMBERS: "Patronising."] It is not being patronising; it is simply being straightforward.
In the House of Lords, also, the numbers of the Opposition are very small. I would therefore like to make our position plain. We have not brought forward this Bill to assist the Opposition. That view was corrected by the Leader of the House. [Interruption.] I am sorry; have got the reference here. Our position is that we want to help to bring 605 forward a Measure which will assist in the work of the House of Lords. It happens that this Measure is likely to be of considerable assistance to the Opposition in carrying out their constitutional duties. [Laughter.] We do not think that this is anything of which we need be ashamed.
Various views have been put forward about the proposals in the Bill. Its aim is modest and practical, but I would agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that it is certainly not unimportant. I agree that no proposal affecting the Constitution can be unimportant, particularly an unwritten Constitution like ours.
When I was preparing myself to take part in this debate, I naturally consulted Bagehot, who, I think, although in some respects old-fashioned, is the greatest authority on the spirit of our Constitution. I find, as a matter of great interest, that in his chapter on the House of Lords he deals at considerable length both with the question of the life peers and the Wensleydale judgment mentioned yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. I cannot hide from the House that I think that the Wensleydale decision was a great mistake. It was very unfortunate, as Bagehot says, that the opportunity could not have been taken to achieve a tacit reform of the House of Lords by the use of the old prerogative powers.
The House, as Parliamentarians, might be interested to know that I read Lord Lyndhurst's speech on that occasion—a magnificent achievement by a man of 8:3 who was nearly blind—in which he rehearsed all the legal authorities. He then said that the only life peerages created in recent times were those given to the Duchess of Kendal and other celebrated lady friends of Charles II and George II, and that even in their more adventurous moments they never claimed a seat in the House of Lords. He finished by rehearsing certain unedifying incidents that had recently taken place in the French Senate and gave the proud Victorian nobility the idea that unless they were very careful they would find themselves in the same case.
The gist of Bagehot's argument is this. As we know he was a great admirer of this House. But he said that it had one 606 great defect, which was the lack of leisure. We know that since his day we have not improved in that respect. He also attached very high importance to what he called the teaching function, by which he meant, in the broadest possible sense, debates in both Houses of Parliament, not merely on current business, but upon long-term issues of great public importance.
I would like to ask hon. Members to consider for a moment whether they still feel that Parliament has a teaching function or not. I think that there are other views. Some people might say that the growth of popular education, the greater circulation of the Press, the cinema, the television, and so on may have made it unnecessary. I do not know what hon. Members think, but I do not take that view. I think that there are grounds for anxiety about a great many of these media. I still feel that a part can be played by a strong lead from Parliament. It appears to me, particularly with regard to the House of Lords, that tremendous influence was exerted by the late Lord Cherwell—it was a completely non-party matter—in awakening the country to the need for scientific and technological education by the debates he raised in the House of Lords.
I would like to carry the House one degree further on this point. Bagehot thought that Parliament would be strengthened, particularly the House of Lords, in his day by an infusion, through the principle of life peerages, of the rising social classes of that age, which he called the representatives of the new trading wealth. We have to remember that we are talking of a period when there was considerable class antagonism between the landed aristocracy and the rising manufacturing middle-class. Bagehot was right, in that fifty years after the date he was discussing, that class became a class of increasing importance.
Since, in a constitutional Measure we are right not only to look back a considerable way, but also to look far forward we should ask: what are the classes of expanding importance in our community at present, if they exist? I was interested in what the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) said about his analysis of the social situation. He was talking 607 about a social revolution which he regarded as static and which he thought had finished. I take a completely different view from the noble Lord. I say that our society is still in full and fast evolution at the present time.
If I were asked what were the two classes of expanding importance in the country at present, I would say, first, that the professional, scientific and managerial classes have been expanding at a tremendous rate recently and are likely to continue to expand at a great rate for a considerable time to come. The technological character of industry and the general complication of life is leading to that. Moreover, this class under present educational circumstances is being drawn from a wider strata of the nation as every year goes by.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
In that particular, we are doing better than Bagehot. They are in the House of Lords already.
§ Mr. Lloyd
My noble Friend has made an interesting point. There is no doubt at all that, whereas some of them are in the House of Lords already, life peerages will make it much easier for a wider representation of that class. There can be no doubt that in a large sphere of ordinary life today, where valuable work is being carried on, a young man who inherits a hereditary peerage is at a considerable disadvantage.
The second important class of growing importance in the country at present is the class of highly-paid workmen in modern industry. They are the people whom we in the Midlands call the new industrial middle-class, the people with middle-class incomes and working-class traditions. Hon. Members may ask what relevance has this class to the House of Lords. I would say that we have to think not only of the immediate present but of the future, and it is the fact that the children of these people at present are growing up in a situation which has never before existed, namely, that of a relatively high standard of living and the advantages and all the opportunities of the new secondary education provided under the Education Act, 1944.
It means, therefore, that the old boast which we used to make years ago, that a boy in the humblest position could rise 608 to the highest state, which was then true technically, today is true in real possibility in a very large number of cases. I should like to feel, and I am sure that it is true, that while we want a large number of those people to come into the House of Commons there are many others with slightly different gifts who could make a real contribution in the future, as our country develops, in the House of Lords in the position of life peers.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
Could I question the right hon. Gentleman on the significance of what he is saying? He is saying that the statement that the Bill was introduced to bolster the Opposition in the House of Lords is no longer the Government's case for it. The right hon. Gentleman is now putting forward all these reasons for what he believes to be a reform of the House of Lords, but this is in absolute contradiction of what the noble Lord, Lord Home, the Leader of the House of Lords, has said. He said on 3rd December, 1957, that for this Bill…the arguments are strictly and severely practical.He went on:There is, as all your Lordships know, a small number of noble Lords opposite who enable us to present to the world a picture of a House which is efficient and informed … But, equally, we know that this is a brave façade …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 3rd December, 1957; Vol. 206, c. 610.]The noble Lord added that the ship was breaking up and the Government had to help Opposition peers. Those were the strictly and severely practical arguments for the Bill. Who is right, the noble Earl or the right hon. Gentleman?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I said earlier, in response to cross-examination by hon. Members opposite, that our purpose was to improve the working of the House of Lords, but we knew that one incidental effect of that would be that it would help the party opposite in the duty of opposition.
I know that the approach which I have just put to the House is not likely to commend itself to the Opposition, because the theme which has been running through the speeches of hon. Members opposite throughout these two days of debate is that they do not really want to see the House of Lords improved. They fear that it might be a rival of this House. 609 I think that that attitude is both unrealistic and ungenerous. The general view of all who have studied this question seriously is that the rôle of the House of Lords is to complement and not rival this House.
There is something rather mean in the attitude of the Opposition in this matter. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite are asking us to play a kind of game of parliamentary dog in the manger. Moreover, it is against the public interest to keep one of the Houses of Parliament in a less efficient condition than it could reasonably reach. Hon. Members opposite plead the substantial injuries that were done to the whole of the Left position in British politics by the House of Lords in the time of the great Liberal majority of 1905. That is exactly the trouble with the party opposite. It is always looking back instead of ahead.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite are always looking back at the grievances of half a century ago. It is a kind of new reactionary radicalism. Their attitude is not a good or sound basis for objecting to a Bill which may be modest and practical but which we on this side of the House feel is in tune both with the spirit of the Constitution and the needs of the future of our people.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I put to the Minister a number of questions, and I put them seriously. I was not trying to be frivolous. I wanted to know the Government's thinking on this matter, but the right hon. Gentleman has not answered one single question. Before he sits down, finally, I should be very grateful if he will either answer the questions or say perfectly frankly that he does not know what the answers are.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I answered the substantial charges made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman about the bitter hostility which he felt his party would receive from the House of Lords. As to the question of payment, which was one of the most important points he raised, that is one of the reasons why we on this side of the House have always hoped that we could have a comprehensive settlement by agreement. The problems of dealing with that point at this moment are very great. It would be much better, if it were possible, to deal with it when there was agreement over the whole 610 issue. I do not think that I can go further than that.
§ 5.8. p.m.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
I am very happy about the general tenor of this debate, both yesterday and today. It has done something about which the Minister of Education obviously cares. Towards the end of his speech the right hon. Gentleman regretted that not enough general education was imparted during debates in the House of Commons. I agree that there are periods when we have to confine our attention very strictly to narrow, practical points, but no one could have listened to the speeches yesterday and today without learning a great deal about the first principles which operate for hon. Members opposite and for us on this side of the House. It is important that the House of Commons should get its first principles right, because when those are known and the general design is settled it is easier to deal with detailed points.
What has impressed me in the speeches of hon. Members opposite has been the quiet insolence of so many of their assumptions. The Minister of Education talked about my hon. and right hon. Friends being selfish in their attitude towards the Bill. Is he aware that he takes it for granted in the Bill that there should be a permanent Conservative majority in the House of Lords? Could the Minister imagine for one moment his own party conceding a situation in which there would be a permament Socialist majority in a second Chamber? There is only one explanation for this lop-sided attitude. It is partly psychological and partly historical.
On this side of the House, we too have a sense of history. That is why some of us were quite willing to allow the House of Lords gently to fade away. We were willing to regard it as an historical hang-over. Every country has its own method of adjusting the present to the past and then carrying on from the present to the future. We made no great fuss in the 1945 Parliament about abolishing the House of Lords. Then the House of Lords began to misbehave itself. The House of Lords made concessions in the first year or two because it knew that if, in the first wave of feeling following 1945 it had dared to conflict 611 with the will of the House of Commons, popular opinion would have swept it out of existence. As soon as it dared creep out of that position, it began to show its teeth, and its teeth are always used on the side of the vested interests and against the working people of this country.
§ Miss Lee
Perhaps the word "dentures" would be more appropriate. As we are all in an educational mood today, we may as well be as exact as possible.
The Minister also wanted to be told why it was that in 1947 and 1948 there were discussions between Leaders on both sides of the House that came to nothing. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite thought that everything was going well, and that they were getting a great deal of their own way. Then they found to their dismay that those agreements did not go through.
They did not go through for the simple reason that ours is a democratic party and we respect one another's right to argue and disagree. In that respect at the moment the Conservative Party is showing signs of democracy. The outcome of our counsels was that we did not want to make these concessions. The Conservative Party was too greedy. It asked too much on that occasion. Now, clearly, the Conservative Party thinks that it is being extremely cunning; it is asking so little that we are bound to agree. Or so it would like us to view the matter.
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are under-estimating the awareness not only of hon. Members on these benches but of our friends throughout the country. Every time one listens to a speech from hon. Gentlemen opposite one gets caught in a complete tangle of contradictions. They try to pretend that they are in favour of equality of the sexes. We are in favour of equality of the sexes. I am no more in favour of ladies being Members of the House of Lords than men, because I do not believe in the House of Lords. There is logic in my position, but I can see no logic in the position of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are talking in terms of life peeresses but who are opposed to hereditary peeresses. That 612 is one of the questions to which my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench have so far had no reply.
With what are we presented? We are presented with a Bill which claims to be put forward in the interests of this side of the House. Take it back. We do not want it. We shall not only move Amendments in the Committee stage. We are voting against the Second Reading of this Bill, which means that we are voting against the principle of the Bill in toto. I agree entirely with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) who said that this was a Bill of evil presage. We will not have anything to do with it.
I know that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would like us to treat the Bill as if we were all playing a nice little game of parlour tiddlywinks. So much time spent on its Second Reading, so much more on the Committee stage, then at the end of it all a nice quiet agreement to implement a Bill we had voted against. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think that in politics there is one rule for themselves and another rule for us. I did not find that they were playing parlour games when we thought it was our duty to take away all the powers that lay with private interests in the control of steel. They fought us, and that was part of the struggle that led to complications over the House of Lords. They fought us, and when they got back to power they made it clear that they would undo, in the interest of vested interests, what we tried to do in the interest of the people.
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite must realise that at this time of day we will not agree with them to build up in a second Chamber a barrage behind which they can defy the will of the majority of the people. Again and again in this debate the position on rents has been raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) referred to it yesterday in a brilliant and witty speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) not only referred to this issue in a speech which, because of his great experience of Parliamentary procedure, I recommend hon. Members to read carefully, but he went in great detail into the number of hours worked by the Committees set up to deal with Bills dealing 613 with housing and rents. His words are so important that I shall quote them, because they represent the gist of the problem facing us:In other words, I say quite seriously that the House of Lords' use of revisory powers is derisory. Let the final revision … come after we have finished with the Report stage of our Bills. Let us have one final stage, which I might call the revisionary stage, between the Report stage and Third Reading.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1958; Vol. 582, c. 445 and 446.]It is no secret, and it is to the credit not the discredit of this House, that there are different points of view among hon. Members on this side of the House and among hon. Gentlemen opposite on this issue. I am never uneasy when this takes place. Frankly, I do not like the kind of politics which consists of two great monolithic parties with private judgment completely exterminated. I believe that this House does its job best when we all say what we truly believe. There is no dispute on our benches as to where our fundamental loyalties lie, but on this subject some of us believe that there ought to be a second Chamber; others of us do not. Some of us believe—and this is why I have quoted the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton—that the time has now come, not for the reform of the House of Lords, but for reforming the House of Commons. We think we are making extremely heavy weather out of a relatively simple constitutional point.
As I have said, I am happy about the tenor of the debate yesterday and today because the more speeches that are made, the more muddled and contradictory becomes the defence of the House of Lords, and the more our attention is concentrated on the practical steps which could very well be taken to make our own Chamber equal in every respect to the duties it must carry out. The more our attention is directed to the revisory work carried out by the Lords, the more we can study how to do this necessary job ourselves.
Some may say that the House of Lords does its work well. Some may say it does badly, but this is a relatively small matter. Why should we carry on our shoulders the paraphernalia of a second Chamber? Why should we run the risk that if this Bill is implemented we may have life peers—inevitably salaried life 614 peers—who might not even carry out the purposes for which they were nominated?
Leaders of the Government might appoint salaried life peers and discover that once they were there for life they ceased to be Conservatives and became good Socialists. That has been known. My right hon. Friend might nominate life peers from this side of the House. We would have no guarantee that for the rest of time they would uphold the point of view of this party in a second Chamber. That, too, has been known. My right hon. Friend might even decide to invite me to become a peeress. If he does so, do I go into the second Chamber saying that I do not believe in a second Chamber? Or will it only be those Members of the Labour movement who believe in a second Chamber who will be nominated for it? And if men and women are nominated to a second Chamber who believe in a second Chamber, will we then expect them to co-operate at a later stage in eliminating or revising it in the way that we desire?
The more we consider this subject, the more ridiculous is this concept in a dignified democracy, which can elect its representatives and which can sack its representatives. It would be ungallant to say too much about Rochdale today, but the important fact is that we can be elected, we can be controlled, and we can be sacked. Also we have all the machinery of modern communication. we have newspapers, we have quick transport, we have every conceivable means of testing what is wanted by our constituents and by the country generally. So why have a House of Lords?
I hope that the outcome of this two days' debate will be that this dishonest, this furtive Bill, this Bill which insolently leaves out of account those of us who do not believe in the House of Lords at all, will be exposed in all its self-contradictory folly. The B.B.C. has been equally blind. It is not so much a matter of deliberate prejudice. It is simply that the establishment is too strongly represented.
There is a great sector of public opinion whose views are not broadcast by the B.B.C. or I.T.A. Those organisations are supposed to be completely nonpolitical and completely just between the parties, but in debates broadcast on the B.B.C. and I.T.A. Lords from both 615 parties have spoken repeatedly, but all pro a second Chamber. Not a single speaker in a single major debate has been selected to put the point of view which may well be that of the majority of the British Labour Party.
Many of us think that the time has come to stop this fooling around and to revise our own Chamber so that it will be ready to meet the very great social and economic problems ahead of us. Those problems will not require delaying powers. On the contrary, they will call for a House of Commons on its toes, able to do its job, and able to do it quickly and efficiently.
§ 5.21 p.m.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
The House will be grateful to the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) for at least one thing, which was that she made her position absolutely clear. She does not support the principle of a second Chamber and she said so. However, if she thinks that the politicians who appear most frequently on television and who speak most frequently on the B.B.C. are those who are most representative of the political thought of the country, then all I can say is that she is prepared to believe anything.
The right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) achieved the distinction of speaking a good deal longer than any other speaker in the debate so far, but he still left me in some doubt about the official Opposition attitude towards a second Chamber. It has struck me throughout the debate that the attitude of the Opposition, at any rate of the Opposition Front Bench, has been, to say the least of it, equivocal.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition paid a certain amount of lip service to the principle of the second Chamber, but also moved an Amendment very close to being destructive of the whole principle. The Liberal attitude, if accurately reflected by the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) is most fascinating because, as far as I can see, it has not changed in the slightest detail since 1909.
The two right hon. Gentlemen, the Leader of the Opposition and the right 616 hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, had one point in common, which was that both were under the illusion that the House of Lords has always had a Tory majority. As a matter of history, that is not the case. The difficulty of the Leader of the Opposition and so many of his friends is that they seem quite unable to appreciate what is meant by "a man of independent views." They think that anyone who is not a Socialist must be a Tory—it is as simple as that.
The most interesting speech to come from the Opposition was that of the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) but that was not in tune with the general line taken by his party. Indeed, his was an argument not for the Opposition Amendment, but for strengthening the Bill, for going a great deal faster and a great deal further.
We are left with the curious fact that the serious opposition to the Bill has come from two of my hon. Friends, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell). As one who supports the Bill most strongly, I shall endeavour to reply to some of the arguments which have been advanced against it from my side of the House.
However, I agree with my hon. Friends that this is a Measure which will have a profound significance and a profound effect on the membership on the House of Peers. It is an illusion to suppose, as has been stated very often, that the effect will be small and delayed. That is not so. After all, as the Lord Privy Seal explained when moving the Second Reading, the Bill has to be read in conjunction with what can be called the attendance rule which is under consideration by the House of Peers.
I would like the meaning of this attendance rule explained in plain English. Am I right in thinking that in future a noble Lord will have to make up his mind at the beginning of each Parliament whether he intends to obey his writ of summons and thereafter come regularly, or stay away? Will that apply equally to the new life peers, and does it apply to the bishops? Assuming that that is roughly the meaning of the attendance rule, then the Bill taken in conjunction with the rule will completely change—gradually it may be, but not all 617 that gradually—the constitution of the House of Peers and put it back on its true historical course.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
With great respect, I cannot agree. The Lord Privy Seal made it clear that this was a matter which should be at the discretion of the Prime Minister of the day and no member of the Government, not even the Prime Minister himself, can bind the actions of any successor in that office.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
It is not all that important to know how many life peers any given Prime Minister at any given moment intends to create. We are always being told by hon. Members opposite that the Government will fall from power the day after tomorrow, so what can it matter what the present intentions are in the long vista of time ahead?
My objection to the Amendment is that it shows an urgent desire to accomplish this same change of course, but to accomplish it so violently and suddenly that the vessel may well capsize and sink and that is exactly what a number of hon. Members opposite would like to see happen. I would greatly regret to see the end of the House of Peers, and equally regret to see its continued decay.
Having said that, I must confess that where I am not in agreement with my hon. Friends who are opposed to the Bill is that I am opposed to the hereditary principle as applied to the House of Peers. I entirely accept the theoretical arguments that have been advanced by some of my hon. Friends in favour of the hereditary principle. I appreciate the hereditary argument; indeed, popular opinion upon this subject could hardly be more inconsistent. In almost every realm of living matter today we practice the hereditary principle, in 618 the form of breeding, in anything from potatoes to pigs, or roses to racehorses, but for some reason we stop short of homo sapiens.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
We are bound to face the political realities of the day and accept the popular outlook in these matters, and I believe that we should do the House of Peers the greatest disservice if we tried to tie it permanently to a lost cause. The only argument that I know of which is accepted by modern people in favour of the hereditary principle—and it has been advanced on several occasions during the debate—is that it is the only way to ensure the presence of young men in the Upper House.
To that I would reply that there are other more appropriate ways in which a young man who feels that he has a contribution to make to public life can make it. Such successes as I have achieved during my professional career have been achieved largely by adopting the ideas of officers and ratings much younger than myself. But before we can pick a young man's brains we have to pick the young man, and, great though my trust in providence may be, I prefer to do that myself rather than to leave it either to the work of primogeniture on the one hand or the electronic computer suggested by the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East on the other.
Besides, there is nothing whatever to prevent a life peerage being conferred upon a young man, provided that he has something to contribute. It may well be that in the realms of new sciences and techniques we shall find quite young men who are most eminently suited. On the other hand, it is surely wrong to defer too much to youth just because it is youth. It is very easy to go too far.
Let the House take note of, and let some hon. Members take comfort from, the recent investigation carried out in America into the ageing process in human beings. I dare say that some hon. Members have read the report, but those who have not will be glad to learn that a man who keeps himself fit and healthy, and takes an interest in things, ought not to reach his intellectual prime until he is nearly 60, and after that the 619 decline is so slow that even when he reaches the age of 80 he still possesses the intellectual output that he possessed at the age of 35.
§ Vice - Admiral Hughes Hallett
I thought that the right hon. Gentleman would be encouraged by that quotation. It may be some explanation of the rather unfortunate quotation which his right hon. Friend made from a speech of long ago made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill).
The main argument against the hereditary principle, when applied to the House of Peers, is surely that it is founded upon a complete mis-reading of history. Hon. Members on both sides of the House—and particularly hon. Members opposite—still think of the House of Lords as an hereditary Chamber, and so it has become; but only in comparatively modern times. Most people seem to think that in breaking with the hereditary principle we shall be breaking with some very ancient tradition, but that is not so.
Let us look at the past history of the House of Peers. Any suggestion that when King Edward I issued writs of summons to his Parliaments of 1283 or 1290 he had any idea or intention of creating hereditary peerages, or hereditary rights to sit in the House, is surely a complete legal fiction. Nobody would be more astonished at the idea than His Highness himself, were he alive at this day.
We were reminded yesterday by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General of the way in which the title to sit has changed since that time. For a long time it was by tenure of barony, then by writ of summons, and afterwards by creation by letters patent. It is true that from quite early times the great landowners, or magnates, as they were then called, sought to monopolise the right to sit and vote in the House of Peers, yet even as comparatively recently as 1607—bearing in mind that the House of Lords has a history of 800 years—I find that in Cowell's 620 Interpreter there is the interesting definition of a peer, as one of thosewhom the King summons by special writ to Parliament.As everybody knows, it was not until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the hereditary principle was finally and firmly established. Ironically, though inevitably, it was established as a consequence of successive Governments creating new peers in order to control the House, until finally Mr. Pitt created them on such a scale that the House became forever uncontrollable in about 1820. The story was aptly but not entirely accurately summarised by Dr. Pollard, over thirty years ago, when he wrote:The hereditary principle is not the rock on which the House of Lords was founded, but the rock on which it foundered.Fortunately, he spoke too soon, because the House of Peers has not foundered, although even its best friends must admit that it is a little low in the water. The new attendance rule is a kind of pumping-out operation. This Measure is intended to provide light, buoyant material to fill the emptying compartments as they are pumped out.
It has been pointed out several times in the debate that the Bill makes no change in the legal powers of the Upper House, and that is so. Yet I have no doubt that the change in membership will, in fact, whatever it may do in law, increase the authority of the Upper House and, in addition, change its nature.
It is quite foreign to our constitutional tradition that changes of this nature should take place by legislation, or be embodied in rigid Statutes. In that respect the Parliament Act of 1911 was something alien to the growth of British constitutional law and practice. It is something unnatural, as also was the Parliament of 1949. It is not part of my business to criticise or apportion blame and say who was responsible; I merely state as a fact that it is an unusual thing in the growth of our Constitution to have such a fundamental matter as the working of parliamentary constitutional relationships changed by a Statute.
Much has already been said about the powers of the Upper House, and if I trespass for a moment upon the patience 621 of the House to add a few words in support of my views I do so because they are not quite the same as those which have so far been expressed. I believe that the purpose of the House of Peers is, fundamentally, precisely the same as it was when it began 800 years ago—and, indeed, as it was intended to be right up to Tudor times, namely, that it should be a great Council of State sitting in Parliament rather than a second legislative assembly, duplicating the work of this House and possessing powers of veto. That is a relatively modern conception, and it has always seemed to me to be both dangerous and unsound. The important thing is that the Upper House should have the power and the duty of debating Bills which have been passed by this House, and criticising what we have done.
This is a matter of particular importance in a country like ours, which has no written Constitution. I attach no importance to the Upper House having a specified period of delay, but I attach every importance to it having the power to criticise what has been done in this Chamber to give us the opportunity of reconsidering decisions in the light of that criticism. If that check by the Upper House were to come to an end, I should reluctantly join with some of my hon. Friends who have suggested that we should then, as a safeguard, have to adopt a written Constitution, with all the elaborate paraphernalia for changing it which we see in other countries.
After all, the House of Peers had its origin in times when the monarch was the political as well as the legal and titular sovereign. Today, no one denies for a moment that it is the people who are the political sovereign and we are their principal agents. The people have a right, and I think that those who consider these matters have a desire, for our actions—and still more for the actions of Ministers—to be discussed publicly by men of independence, knowledge and achievement. Of course, whether or not the advice they may give in their discussions is taken or rejected is a matter entirely for this House; just as in the days of the great Plantagenets it was the king who decided whether or not to listen to whatever was suggested from the House of Peers.
622 If life peers are chosen for their independence of outlook, for their known integrity, for their knowledge and experience and, above all, for their record of achievement, we can be quite sure that their advice will not be lightly set aside. The Opposition know this and that, I believe, is why they fear and dislike this Measure. This is a wise and far-reaching Measure likely to benefit not merely the Upper House, but also the country at large, and I strongly support it.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
The Amendment we are discussing states thatthis House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which leaves the House of Lords overwhelmingly hereditary in character and with unimpaired powers to frustrate and obstruct the will of the elected representatives of the people.The main issue in this debate is the hereditary powers of the House of Lords. We have heard a great deal about its history. Quotations have been made by Members on both sides of the House, against the Bill as well as in favour of it. For a considerable time now it has been almost an annual event for us to discuss the powers and limitations of the House of Lords. In this twentieth century civilisation and after nearly a hundred years' experience of elementary education, I do not think we would agree that the hereditary system is the right system of government for this country.
I have been trying to understand what the Bill is about. There are 877 peers. The Bill intends to perpetuate the hereditary principle for the whole of that number and to add a number of life peers, how many we have not been told so far. When I was a young man Parliament was discussing the Parliament Bill of 1911. Then, the cry was, "End, bend, or mend the House of Lords." We have not proceeded much further since. We have neither ended, bent nor mended the House of Lords. We have endeavoured to reduce its power. We did that to some extent in 1947. From 1911 until now it would appear that the Tory Party has been in travail over a House of Lords which is the buttress and bulwark of Toryism and that it has brought forth a miserable Bill.
This is a one-Clause Bill. I do not know whether the Government thought 623 that it would be too small for us to notice, but we have noticed it. There is one Clause to deal with a bulwark of Toryism. We should not have a one-Clause Bill to patch up the House of Lords. We should abolish it. We are just patching it up by putting in new life peers. We are putting a new patch on an old garment. We are trying to put the same material and the same power into a different mould. Long ago I concluded that we do not want a new mould or a new patch on an old garment. We want a completely new garment, a new instrument of legislation to replace the present House of Lords. This Bill appears to me to be camouflage to make the House of Lords look something like a democratic assembly.
At present, all our peers are hereditary. By giving the Prime Minister the right to nominate a certain number for each Parliament people will be given the idea that the House of Lords is a democratic assembly, but all the time the fundamental principal of heredity remains. So long as that principle continues, the House of Lords will be undemocratic. The sons of peers will follow their fathers into the House of Lords. If 800 peers have 800 sons, in the next generation we shall have exactly the same number as at present.
But all the sons of peers are not wise. Not all of them make good legislators. In the old parable five were wise and five foolish. If we have the same proportion in the case of the sons of peers, 400 of them would be wise and 400 of them would be foolish, and we should he governed by 400 wise men and 400 foolish men. Can we risk that? It is nepotism of the worst type and the most dangerous for the country.
Yesterday, we were told of the good breeding of the great families of this country. We also know something about the "duds" to be found in those great families and the "duds" have come to govern us. We know that the men who sit in the House of Lords are there because they are the sons of fathers who contributed largely to the party funds. There can be no question but that we have allowed the country to fall into the hands of people like that. I know there are wise men who have foolish sons and foolish men who have 624 wise sons, but that is a risk that we can ill afford to take.
Is there anything good that the House of Lords has done that could not have been done without it? Consider the numbers. I said that there were 877 peers. I am told that the maximum number that turns up is about 200. There are, therefore, more than 600 on the redundancy list. If this happened in industry we should scrap the 600, because we could not carry them. The Government are sacking their redundant employees. Here we have 600 redundant peers.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that the last time 200 peers turned up at the House of Lords it was for the specific purpose of thwarting a decision of this House?
§ Mr. Awbery
Because only 200 turn up, the House of Lords is asking us to pass a Bill to give the House more life peers; it says that it has not enough Members present to revise legislation. That does not seem a right policy to adopt. Because the great-great-grandfather of a Member of the House of Lords happened to become a landowner by filching land from the common people. there is no reason why the present Member should maintain and own the title of a Lord of this Realm. It is not logical or moral.
Nothing appears more absurd in our political history than that we should depend upon heredity for the appointment of legislators. The system is out-of-date. Last night the argument was put forward that the antiquity of the House of Lords was a strong point for its retention, because it was established in 1295. On that argument we would have retained slavery, feudalism and poverty. Antiquity is not an argument for the retention of the House of Lords. [interruption.] I did not catch the interruption from the Government benches, but I have been watching Government supporters during the debate. My impression is that their bodies are here, but their minds are down the corridor. They will go into the Lobby tonight and vote in favour of the Bill and then they will wait for the Patronage Secretary to appoint them to their places down the corridor.
625 The times demand new measures and new men. We cannot stand still. We cannot go back; we must go forward, but the Bill is not carrying us forward. It is not even holding us where we are, but is sending us back. We have heard quotations about the House of Lords from my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). With the permission of the House, I want to offer one or two quotations from friends of the House of Lords, to show what they have had to say about it.
Disraeli, with his beautiful and charming phraseology, made speeches and wrote books, one of which was Coningsby. This is what he wrote:We owe the peerage to three sources: spoliation of the Church; open and flagrant sale of honours by elder stewards; and the borough-mongering of our own times. These are the three main sources, and in my opinion disgraceful ones.That quotation was from a great friend of the Tory Party and of the House of Lords.
Lord Rosebery said:In my judgment the House of Lords is not a second Chamber at all. It is a permanent party organisation controlled for party purposes and by party managers.The reason for the Bill is that the House of Lords should continue as such. Its power would not be reduced. Its prestige may be enhanced, but the Tory Party will use it all the time. The Bill may even tie us up. I do not know whether, when the Bill becomes law, we can make any more hereditary peers. If not, the Labour Government will be tied down. We shall only be able to make life peers.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
There are additional powers in the Bill to cover the granting of hereditary peerages.
§ Mr. Awbery
It is quite clear that our powers will be limited in future. I do not want to weary the House unnecessarily with quotations, but I would offer two more. One is from "Joey" Chamberlain, who said:The House of Lords never contributed one iota to popular liberties and freedom or did anything to advance the common weal. It has protected every abuse and sheltered every privilege.Those are quotations from friends of the House of Lords and friends of the Tory Party. I make this last quotation: 626The House of Lords represents nobody. Its members are there by accident of birth. Some have more questionable titles. Nearly all of them represent the interests of property.That was the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), in 1909.
§ Captain Richard Pilkington (Poole)
Will the hon. Member include in his quotations that from one of his own leaders:There is such a standard of debate in this House that it has become the admiration of people all over the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 30th October, 1957; Vol. 205. c. 597.]
§ Mr. Awbery
No one has disputed the standard of debate. It is a high standard; we have good men there. What I am afraid of is that in future we may have four hundred of the "duds" I have been talking about. Then we shall not have the high standard of debate we have at present.
We had a similar Bill to this in 1922. It appears to me we have not advanced very much since. At that time it was stated that the reconstituted House of Lords should consist of 300 Members. I want the House to note particularly what followed:Peers of the Royal Blood, Lords Spiritual, Law Lords, Hereditary Peers elected by fellow Peers would form the great majority of the new House, a few nominated by the Crown for the purpose of giving some representation to the Labour Party.How kind and generous. In 1922 they were going to give some representation to the Labour Party. The time will come when we take it and do not ask.
An equal number of Lords and Commons were to decide what was a Money Bill. At present, that is left to Mr. Speaker. Finally, it was said, "We are going to make the House of Lords the House of Lords for ever and ever. An alteration of the House of Lords is not to be made without the consent of the House of Lords." That is what they wanted to do, and this Bill does the same in a rather different way. It seeks to bolster up the hereditary principle.
Yesterday, I sat through most of the debate. No attempt was made to justify the past of the House of Lords, only an attempt to bend it into a new shape so that it could continue the antics of the past. No attempt was made to bring it into harmony with advancing democracy. In 1911, the Tories accused the Liberals 627 of coming back after the 1906 Election for the purpose of quarrelling with the House of Lords. The Liberals taunted them by saying, "You are returned here to hold the power when you lose the Election—to retain the power after you have lost the Election."
That is what will happen when the next Election comes. We shall have a repetition throughout the country of what happened yesterday at Rochdale. We shall be sitting on the other side of the House, but the power is to rest in the House of Lords. The Act of 1911 did not establish equity between the Liberals and the Tories. Neither does this Bill satisfy the Opposition.
I have listened to the promises which have been made, but the knowledge of the past actions of the House of Lords takes away the honey of promises made to this House. The time has come when the Tory Party must discard the idea it has cherished for so long, that Parliament was made for the Tory Party and that we representatives of the workers are intruders in it. In the nineteenth century the House of Lords could have been tolerated, but in the twentieth century—in 1958—we cannot carry on our legislation with the House of Lords as at present constituted. The time has come when we should bury it out of our sight.
This Bill seeks to tinker with the Constitution in the sacred name of progress and political liberty. That idea may go down with some people, but it does not go down with us. I have no doubt that hon. Members opposite will go into the Lobby and carry the Second Reading of this Bill, but our children and grandchildren and history will shame them for what is being done tonight. It will be quoted against us in this House for decades to come. Hon. Members opposite will go into the Lobby and defeat us, but the struggle will go on in a more intensified way between the ancient, feudal privileges as represented in the House of Lords and the young, energetic democracy that is arising around us today.
This relic and buttress of feudalism, the hereditary principle, must go. It dis-honours our free, democratic institutions and our people. This cannot be the century of the young men so long as this aristocratic principle of hereditary power 628 remains in existence. The House of Lords, as constituted today, must come to an end sooner or later. All the efforts of the Tory Party will not prevent that. It wants to make sure that it holds power after the people have elected their representatives to this House.
Hon. Members opposite may carry this Bill. They wish to preserve their institution because it has served them well in the past. We on this side of the House believe that the legislative machine must be modernised and we propose to create one which will meet modern requirements in a modern way.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
No one can say this has not been an interesting debate. I got a great deal of pleasure from the speech of the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery). Why he is so much against the Bill I cannot quite understand, for if anything were specially designed to create an impossible situation in the House of Lords it would be this Bill going through the House unamended.
We have had some very interesting speeches. We had one yesterday from my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), a very strong and eloquent criticism of the Bill, and this came from the Government benches. Then we had from the Opposition benches a speech by the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), in which he pointed out what a perfect instrument for the Labour Party this Bill was, and, in his concluding words, said:Let us not make any mistake about it. When the Leader of the House said that there was no upper limit to this process he was creating for us a weapon which I hope a future Labour Prime Minister will be ready to use."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1958; Vol. 582, c. 500.]These words show the curious situation we are in, because the Bill is not liked on this side of the House because it favours the Opposition, and, at the same time, the Opposition does not appear to like it. The most irrelevant part of the speech of the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East was that in which he said that he was going to vote against the Bill.
Then we had a very interesting comment today from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, which I found slightly confusing, because in order to 629 persuade us to support this Bill, the principal purpose of which is to create life peers and to allow peeresses to sit in the House of Lords, he quoted Lord Lyndhurst, that famous Victorian Chancellor, whose speech was against the legality of life peers and whose main argument towards that conclusion was that the peeresses already created had never sat there.
The right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice), who made the main speech for the Opposition today, put an argument about the second Chamber which also appeared to me to be rather odd. He seemed to think that a second Chamber, if one were to be tolerated, should be one which reflected the winds of public opinion and should be open to every popular gust. Whatever the composition of the second Chamber, it should be one not impressionable to the trends of public opinion, but should allow continuity of Government.
It appears to me that, when the Government turned their mind to this subject of the House of Lords, two choices were open to them, either to leave the House of Lords as it was and hope that it would continue to function halfheartedly, as it does today, or radically to reform it, cut down its numbers and try to make out of it an effective second Chamber. It seems to me a pity that the Government have taken neither of these courses. Fearing to offend those who demanded no reform by taking too much action, and at the same time fearing to offend those who demanded reform by not taking any action, they have produced a Bill which has fallen between two stools and is a sad compromise, representing the worst of both worlds.
It is a curious piece of legislation which benefits only the Opposition. It is a staggering piece of legislation that provides for the Opposition legislation which the Opposition does not want. The sole effect of this debate so far has been to damage the case for a second Chamber by laying it open to criticism, misinterpretation and the introduction of false issues. The real point of interest which has not yet been approached, and the one which, above all, has prompted me to speak, is the desire to understand 630 the intention of the Opposition. I hope that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) will deal with it tonight.
My question to the right hon. Gentleman is simply this. Is he going to speak against the creation of life peers, make political capital out of a pretended democratic stand, and then, when the Bill has become law, send his right hon. Friends the Members for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) silently along the corridor—
§ Viscount Lambton
Perhaps not silently, but to the House of Lords? The question is whether all the speeches which have been made from the benches opposite have been a waste of the time of the House or whether they can be said to represent an honest opposition to second Chamber government.
§ Mr. Chapman
May we not equally ask the noble Lord whether, after all the speeches which have been made on the Government side of the House in opposition to the Bill, all hon. and right hon. Members on that side are going to troop into the Lobby tonight in support of the Bill?
§ Viscount Lambton
That is quite a different question, and if the hon. Gentleman will answer my question, I will answer his. This is, after all, only the Second Reading debate, and perhaps the Bill may receive some improvement at a later stage. At least, we hope it will.
To come back to my question, are hon. Members going to make speeches against the Bill and then use it? Let us say that the Opposition has been completely and absolutely honest in its opposition to this Bill, and one may not impute motives against hon. Members of the Opposition. For then, what has this Bill done? It has tampered with the Constitution, splintered the Conservative Party. For what ends? For precisely nothing. To produce a Bill which does no good to anyone at all, which hon. Members on the Government benches do not like and which the Opposition does not intend to use, seems to me a rather curious performance.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
We have had an extraordinary speech from the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton), coming on top of all the other extraordinary speeches which we have had from the opposite benches. This is an incredible situation. Here we have some important constitutional alterations to the second Chamber which have been proposed by the Government, presumably on behalf of the party, yet not a single speaker who has spoken so far from the other side of the House has been in favour of the Bill.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I do not know whether I did not make myself clear, but I certainly support it.
§ Mr. Chapman
I must accept what the hon. and gallant Member says, but he must realise that he made so many qualifications in his support of the Bill that we did not know that he intended to support it at all.
This is precisely what has been happening all the time. Hon. Members opposite have got up, evidently thinking that the Government are in a bad way and that they should lend their arms in support. Then their consciences have intervened and they have said, "We support the Bill, but—but—but—" and so on. There have been qualifications and disagreements, and, in the end, their claims, in the first place, that they supported the Bill have been destroyed by their subsequent statements.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
Possibly, my meaning was not clear to the hon. Gentleman, but I support the Measure without qualification.
§ Mr. Chapman
I must accept what the hon. and gallant Gentleman says, but I suggest that he ought to try again to catch Mr. Speaker's eye to make another speech different from that which we shall read in the morning, which was mainly against the Bill we are debating. However, I do not want to enter the lists against the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
This is an unwanted Bill, and I should like this evening to be mainly more tolerant of the dilemma of the Government and to offer perhaps a few constructive words. Before I do so, let me say that the burden of what I want to 632 say to the House is that the Government's opportunity to introduce a grand Measure of reform is really much greater than the Government themselves believe. Opinion has been crystallising in the country as a whole, particularly in the ten years since 1948, and discussions have proceeded far enough and strongly enough for the Government to have produced today a Measure of popular reform.
This Bill, then, smells of lack of courage and of political cowardice. And we all know why it is—because on the other side of the House and in the Conservative Party as a whole there is a deep cleavage about the hereditary principle. The hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) ruined all his remarks by his condemnation of the hereditary principle, because the reason that the Bill was introduced was that the Government could not join him in that condemnation. This came out very clearly in the very acid exchanges which took place in the House of Lords. I am surprised that there has been no reference to them before now.
The Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Hailsham, made an extraordinary attack on Lord Salisbury, who had claimed that this was a footling Bill which did not tackle any of the problems. Lord Hailsham said that it ill became Lord Salisbury to make these attacks. He said, "He has been fishing in this stream for goodness knows how many years; it has become almost an hereditary river for him." He also said, "He has not caught a tiddler. Perhaps he has been fishing with the wrong fly."
This extremely acid exchange between two eminent gentlemen in the House of Lords who are supposed to be good hon. Friends is very significant. Lord Hailsham said that Lord Salisbury had been trying for years to do something about the House of Lords but had not even had a bite. Lord Hailsham continued:He never produced to your Lordships, nor was there produced to another place during his period of office, a single Bill which had the support of his colleagues or which was recommended to Parliament."—[OFFTIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 5th December, 1957; Vol. 206, c. 845.]Of course, we know why. It was because Lord Salisbury wants to retain 633 the hereditary principle. Lord Hailsham mentioned his "colleagues in the Government" and said, in effect, "Some of us do not want it". He made it clear in his own remarks that he stands where he stood some years ago in being unable to defend the hereditary principle. We know that the Bill has come before us because of the cleavage in the Government, never mind in the Conservative Party.
There was also an interesting speech by a young Conservative peer, Lord St. Oswald, who said, "Of course, public opinion would never be satisfied as long as birth confers an automatic right to sit in the House of Lords. In my view, the Government underestimates the great measure of agreement which exists in Parliament and the country." I think that Lord St. Oswald was right and I think that the Government could have come forward at this stage with a project of proper reform. The Minister of Education got himself in a lot of trouble today. He tried to pretend that this was a reform of the House of Lords, thus contradicting the Leader of the House of Lords who said that that was not the purpose of the Bill at all.
It could have been done. There could have been a great measure of agreement on the future of the House of Lords. Let us look at where that agreement could have been struck. We have to establish the need for a second Chamber. The constitutional need, as seen by the Conservative Party, was strongly expressed by Lord Hailsham in the peroration to his speech. It was a grand peroration; the words ran away with him, but there was a great deal of constitutional good sense in what he said, although I propose to try to destroy his theme.
The noble Earl said that this country has an unwritten Constitution and that the two Chambers—the House of Commons in particular—are supreme between Elections. He said that without either a Supreme Court or a written Constitution, this Parliament could become an elected despotism and, therefore, we want a second Chamber which can hold up any acts of such despotism by an elected majority in the House of Commons. I see hon. Members opposite nodding; I think they believe that this is an important constitutional principle—the danger 634 of a despotism arising from this Chamber and a need for an hereditary House of Lords to keep a general check on any such tendency.
There is a complete answer to that case. The first part of it was given by Lord Attlee, in his response to Lord Hailsham. Lord Attlee said, with great emphasis and from his own great personal experience, "If a revolution is on the way, you do not stop it by constitutional paper safeguards." He also said, "It has been said that if there had been a second Chamber in Germany, Hitler would never have come to power. But Goering would have burned down a second Chamber as easily as he burned the first." Lord Attlee rightly said, "You do not stop a revolutionary situation by a paper safeguard." That is the first point which hon. Members ought to get into their heads.
The second point, which follows from the first, is that the real safeguard in this country against a revolution of that kind is educated public opinion. Our ordinary citizens are steeped in their sense of the responsiveness of Government, in their unwillingness to accept any act of despotism, in their anxiety at all costs to preserve the democratic principle. The real safeguard against revolution in this country is that no dictator would be obeyed if he ever managed to come to power through an elected despotism here or anywhere else. He would not be obeyed by the Army or by the Navy or by the ordinary citizen. That is the second reason that there is no need to write a constitution involving the present kind of House of Lords, with its delaying powers.
The third reason was given in a very interesting speech by Lord Moran, who is a cross-bench peer, by no means a supporter of the Labour Party. He said that it is very odd that the Conservative Government are supposed to be so good and so able to reflect popular opinion that the check of the House of Lords is never operated when a Conservative Government are in power; it works only against the so-called follies of the Labour Government and never against the follies of a Conservative Government. He speaks in another place with great authority, and he came out flatly against the delaying power on the grounds, first, that it was completely irrelevant and, 635 secondly, that it was most unfair between the two parties.
The fourth reason that the delaying power need not exist in its present form was expressed by Lord Bryce, who said that what we want and need in-a country such as this is not so much a body with great powers as a body with great moral authority. If there is a revolutionary situation and a danger of despotism, then moral authority is about all that it will be able to exercise anyway, but it should be enough inside our British way of life to do the job. I do not think that this need for a constitutional check can hold water any longer. It has been totally exploded by the march of time and the education of our people.
I should like to add a point which has never been mentioned in this dabte. If we can reach agreement about the form of a second Chamber, I personally would leave with it the power which it has now—a power which I do not think hon. Members appreciate; it has the power to veto any Bill prolonging the life of this Chamber. I would leave that power with a reformed House of Lords. I think that is the ultimate point that could be left as a check because, if that despotism did come, there would be that ultimate power of the House of Lords to prevent this Chamber from legally prolonging its own life beyond the statutory five-year limit. I would leave that with a reconstituted Chamber—
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
I have been following my hon. Friend's remarks with very great interest indeed, but would he not agree that some of the matters in which he thinks that the House of Lords may act as a check are virtually the responsibility of the recognised Opposition in this Chamber?
§ Mr. Chapman
Yes, I have no quarrel with my hon. Friend on that. I say quite frankly that I think that most of this checking by the Lords is unnecessary, and that, provided that that one final power was left to an agreed second Chamber, I do not see any use in keeping all the other checks.
If we agree that the constitutional need is not what it is written up to be, is there then a practical need for a second Chamber? Contrary to the view of my hon. 636 Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee), my own belief is that there is such a need. The second Chamber should be there for the two jobs that it does best—the revision of legislation sent to it from this Chamber, and ad hoc debates on all sorts of subjects. I took part in writing a booklet on the House of Lords. We based that booklet on research into what the House of Lords does, and I want to give a few figures.
For example, we took the Session 1948–49 and tried to see what the House of Lords did in that year. It was not a very busy year for legislation. It was a very average year. The great nationalisation Bills had gone through, and only steel was left to be dealt with, but I calculate that in that year 916 Amendments to 41 Public Bills were moved in the House of Lords. It devoted hours and hours to painstaking revision of legislation.
I know that some of my hon. Friends disagree with me and, in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), but let me take, as a second example, the Transport Act, 1947. Over 240 Amendments to that Bill were moved in the House of Lords. My hon. Friends may say that that could have been done elsewhere, but once we get highly-contentious legislation in this Chamber, during which a Guillotine operates very often, then, under our present procedure, this Chamber does not consider the detail of these Bills, and, in those circumstances. it is good to have them debated—and I will come later to the question of what kind of second Chamber it should be—where those things can be done at leisure and without the Guillotine—
§ Mr. Chapman
My right hon. Friend may think that, but there were many other Bills where that did not apply. One example was the Companies Bill, in 1947—a very technical, legal Measure. About 400 Amendments were moved in the House of Lords. It is in such cases as that where some technical people can come in, and I do not agree with my right hon. 637 Friend that that could necessarily have been done in a further stage in this House. But I have no real disagreement with him, When I have finished, I think that he will end by agreeing with me—
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, may I say that he is making many points that have to be countered? He says that 400 Amendments were made, but can he tell us how much discussion there was upon those Amendments by these distinguished people? As far as I can understand, a lot of the things that are discussed here just go through on the nod. No interest is taken at all in many of the Amendments.
§ Mr. Chapman
I have not the figures for the Companies Bill before me. I can only say to my hon. Friend that if he looks at some of the other Bills he will find that many hours were spent in the House of Lords on revision.
My second reason for thinking that there should be some form of second Chamber is that I believe that the type of discussion that goes on in the House of Lords should go on for the good of the country. There, they are not so tied up as are we with the great party wrangles on Second Readings, and the main detailed debates on Bills. Under the Constitution, there is less preoccupation with financial Measures. There is time, in the Lords, for debates of all sorts of very interesting subjects for which we beg and pray the Government to find time in this Chamber, but never get a chance of reaching.
Examples of that in the Session 1948–49 are: court-martial procedure; Japanese war crimes; shortage of nurses; police pensions; artificial insemination and legitimacy—in all, 37 subjects, which many of us in this Chamber would almost have given our ears for the chance to raise, were debated there. I do not say that those debates were of a necessarily high standard, but I do say that in a reformed House of Lords, continuing in that tradition, they could be of a high standard and, for that reason, I would preserve that function.
If we are agreed that there is a need for this kind of Chamber, mainly revisionary and carrying on discussions in which experts from all walks of life could take part—and I say this to my right hon. 638 Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) because he did not hear the first part of my speech—a Chamber stripped of the constitutional powers to which we on this side object—if we could reach agreement so far, and I have obviously carried hon. Members opposite with me, surely we could have gone the rest of the way, and completed the reform of the composition of the second Chamber.
In terms of composition, agreement ought to be possible between the two sides, based on the knowledge of what is really happening now in that Chamber. We know that in the present second Chamber practically all the work is done by about 60 peers—nearly all of first creation. In addition to those 60, there are about 50—and we have examined exhaustively the attendance records of the House of Lords to prove this—who drop in when "their subject" is being debated. They are experts on this and that. The hereditary peers, those descended from great families and bearing titles of long-standing creation. hardly ever attend. The 170 new peers, 110 being the main attenders, do all the work.
My second reason for saying that we should be able to agree, having realised that, in any case, it is mainly the new creations that are doing the work, is that I imagine that there is enough respect for continuity under the present Constitution for us to agree on the members of a transitional form of a new second Chamber. I imagine that if we could agree on the way in which these people were to become members of such a second Chamber—by nomination or election—we could agree that it would be primarily the 60 now doing the work who would be in the reconstituted Chamber for a start—with a certain number of the other 50 who drop in nowadays.
To them would be added a whole number of people from other walks of life, expert in their various subjects and able to contribute to the discussions, or able and anxious to spend time on the revisionary work that would be the main duty of the second Chamber. Therefore, I should have thought that with this continuity in our political life, the Conservative Party could have accepted the fact that it would, in any case, be likely that the people who do the 639 work nowadays would form the main membership in a transitional period of a reconstituted second Chamber.
My third reason for thinking that agreement should be possible is based on the tradition of nomination to various offices in this country. My own belief is that we should have a second Chamber, and I am convinced that public opinion is crystallising around the proposition that the second Chamber should be one mainly summoned by the Queen, on the nomination of the Prime Minister. The Members of it might all be appointed for life or, let us say, a proportion of them might be appointed for periods of twelve years or so.
In other words, there would be some members who could form the core, taken from the present membership, who may be there for the rest of their lives; and we might add to them other members nominated by the Prime Minister who would retain their membership for periods of about twelve years. Alternatively, all members might be nominated for life. These are matters for discussion, the main point being that we would agree on nomination by the Prime Minister and summoning by Her Majesty in Council.
Some may say—I know that some of my hon. Friends think this—that such an arrangement would lead to a great deal of discreditable patronage, especially if Members were paid. I do not think that it would. The Prime Minister already nominates dozens of members of boards with salaries of as much as £5,000 a year. We nominate, through the Prime Minister, to all sorts of offices of profit under the Crown. We do it with a sense of responsibility. Indeed, one of the grumbles on this side of the House has been that a Labour Prime Minister paid too much attention to contrary views, to Conservative views, in making nominations.
Far from there being too much patronage on the one side, the Government usually go out of the way to show that they are not acting improperly in making these appointments. I should have thought that there is sufficient impartiality exercisable within our Constitution to face and grapple with the problem of nominating to a second Chamber.
640 At the same time—incidentally, this has not been mentioned—it would be important in the conduct of affairs in this revisionary, debating body that the Ministers of the Crown Act, 1937, should be repealed at once. It is quite intolerable today that we should be forced to have a certain number of Ministers in the House of Lords. That should go, whether or not we reform the House of Lords in the near future.
I should have thought that opinion had crystallised well enough upon some such solution as I have put forward for the Government to come forward with something better than this miserable Bill. Why have they not? It is because of the snobbery on the other side of this Chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, it is. The real reason is that Members opposite want to see hereditary peers still created. They believe in the peerage.
What hon. Members opposite fear is that, if we take away from them the right to sit in the House of Lords the peers will become a social anachronism, looking very silly, merely an outpost of snobbery in the modern world. [HON. MEMBERS:"No."] Yes, that is what hon. Members opposite must face. If they are prepared to carry out some kind of reform on the lines I have indicated, a hereditary peer will simply be shoved off to a backwater with a title to keep him happy; and that would not appeal to those on the benches opposite.
Consider for a moment the number of baronetcies which have been created since this Government came to power. That honour was left in abeyance by my right hon. Friend the Labour Prime Minister, but it has been revived for the satisfaction of hon. Members opposite, because they believe in snobbery and like the idea of handing on these titles if they can get their hands on them.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth) rose—
§ Mr. Chapman
I am sorry; I have given way a number of times, and I must finish shortly.
Because the party opposite will not face the real need to make up its mind about the hereditary principle, because there is this cleavage in the Government to which I referred at the beginning of my speech, the Government will not proceed any further than this Bill at present.
641 This is a time-wasting Measure. It is a question-begging Measure. To those of us who believe, as I do, in the honesty of politicians, it is a dishonest Measure, because it hides all the disagreements in the Government over the real basis for reform of the House of Lords. It is a repulsive Measure which does no credit to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They have killed better Measures than this by taking them upstairs and cutting their throats. If they really believe what their speeches have shown all the way through, that this is an unworthy Measure, then they can perform a public service now by taking the Bill away.
In the privacy of their party councils, let them say that it is no good, admit that it shows a dishonest face to the country, and grapple with the problem, prepared to forgo the hereditary principle in the constitution of the House of Lords. Let them realise that there is continuity and tradition within which they can fashion a new body based upon the working membership of another place at this time. If they do that, it will do them far more credit than trooping into the Lobby tonight to support a Bill in which they do not believe.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)
I am glad to have the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), with much of whose speech I agreed. Indeed, with the whole of the early part of his remarks I found myself in substantial agreement. I shall endeavour to follow the spirit of the early part of his speech and try to be constructive in my approach to the problem.
The hon. Member blamed the party which sits on this side for the fact that the Measure of reform which is now being brought in is not more extensive. I ask him to consider whether the reason that there is not a great opportunity at this moment for a substantial and agreed Measure for the reform of the other Chamber is that his right hon. and hon. Friends are completely divided over the question whether there should be a second Chamber or not. Until they have resolved that division within their ranks, it will be impossible for an agreed and substantial Measure, such as many 642 hon. Members of the House desire, to be carried through this Chamber.
I certainly do not regard this Bill as a small or unimportant one. It deals with the rules of the game of politics. What cards one holds in one's hand at a given moment or the state of the game at any time is of great interest, but what are of far greater importance are the rules governing how the cards should be dealt with.
§ Mr. Hobson
I assume that both sides play the game honestly without marked cards, and proceed upon that basis.
The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) referred to politics as a game of tiddlywinks. All of us who play games with our children know that those who want a sudden change in the rules half way through the game find in the end that it is not usually to their advantage. After all, the problems which divide us today may, in a very few years, be completely sunk in obscurity and quite different questions may then be dividing the country and the House. It may well be that those who now sit on the benches opposite will, in ten or twenty years' time, he faced possibly with a Communist or Fascist revolution or upsurge and be very grateful indeed for a strong and effective second Chamber in such a situation.
While I take the point made by the hon. Member for Northfield, that, of course, constitutions alone cannot stop revolutions or really dangerous situations, I believe it nevertheless to be our duty to see that our unwritten Constitution and the rules under which we play the game of politics are as good as they possibly can be to deal with crises likely to disrupt the nation. We have not, probably for several hundred years, had such a crisis, but it might come at any time, and it is, therefore, incumbent on this Chamber to see that we do everything possible to provide the country with a Constitution which can best meet the greatest dangers.
The hon. Member for Northfield suggested that no one who has spoken on this side of the House has been prepared to support the Bill. He cannot have heard my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett). I want to 643 make it plain at the outset that I do support the Bill and I will set out shortly the grounds on which I do so.
In the first place, I believe in a second Chamber as a stabilising and revising element in our unwritten Constitution. I go along with the hon. Member for Northfield in the reasons which he gave for that proposition. Secondly, I think that the House of Lords should be reformed, although I am in favour of retaining, at any rate temporarily while alterations and substantial changes are being made, a substantial element of the hereditary principle in that second Chamber. Thirdly, I take the view that no substantial revisions of the second Chamber or any other major constitutional reforms ought to be introduced without the agreement of both parties in this House. The lack of such agreement is the great stumbling block in the way of proper revision and the provision of a second Chamber at this time. Fourthly, agreed revision being impossible for that reason, after a delay of forty or fifty years, it is better to start now with some kind of reform of the second Chamber at this stage, even though it may be only moderate.
It is extraordinary that the majority of speeches from hon. Members opposite have been attacks on the hereditary principle coupled with an attack on the Bill, and yet the Bill is the first which has ever made any breach in the hereditary principle. One would have thought that if hon. Members opposite wanted that principle to disappear they would have welcomed the Bill, even though they may not have thought it adequate. The hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) is obviously in favour of a reform of the other Chamber, but is not, apparently, prepared to take even the first step in that direction.
I do not want to say anything about the question of whether women should be given life peerages or not. That is a minor problem compared to the greater problems raised in the Bill. It will obviously deeply and considerably affect the plumbing in another place and, of course, if some hon. Ladies who have spoken in this debate were to be elevated to the other Chamber, it might be that they would attract a better attendance among the members of that Chamber—but that is very problematic.
644 I want to elaborate the grounds which I have already given for my support to the Bill. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East that this House ought to be a great council of State. The right hon. and learned Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) tried to propound the proposition that the House of Lords as it now stands is the co-equal of this Chamber, but, of course, it is quite obvious that its powers at the moment are almost minimal. The hon. Member for Northfield suggested that they should be even further revised by retaining no more than the power to prevent this Chamber from extending its life indefinitely, I should have thought, however, that a power to delay Bills for a maximum period of a year and with no power to delay money or financial Bills was a minimal power of delay.
The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) put forward a claim, which we have heard frequently from the other side, that the House should be absolute in all its powers and that nobody should have the right or authority to interfere in any way with the decisions of this House. I never find claims to infallibility particularly attractive. While it is right that in the long run the will of this House should predominate, nevertheless it can do no harm for another place to give the opportunity for reconsideration of matters which have been discussed in this Chamber.
The general view of the majority of the people of this country is that the House of Lords, even in its present unreformed state, performs an exceedingly useful function and that the standards of its debates are very high indeed. Many people take the view that its standards of debate and its approaches to national problems are a good deal better than those which sometimes occur in this Chamber.
I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend that the revising power of the second Chamber is exceedingly useful. The suggestion that the House of Lords spent no time dealing with the 400 amendments to the Companies Act, 1948, is fantastic, because the lawyers who were interested in company law were all available for the exceedingly important revisions which were made to that Act. Debates were extensive and took up 645 much time which could not have been the case in this Chamber with its Guillotine and ordinary party pressure for time.
There is another great advantage in a second Chamber and that is in its detachment. During the war I had the honour to serve on a great headquarters which was commanded by Field Marshal Montgomery. The most dramatic thing he did was on the day he arrived when he said that he would have nothing whatever to do with the headquarters except through his chief of staff. He removed himself five miles away and properly said that his function was to think about the future and about the enemy and not to get hogged down in all the multifarious details and processes of a great headquarters. The atmosphere of this House is not very different with all its constant rush of business, with its comings and goings, with its daily pressures, which are so intense that the majority of us do not find time to sit back and think about many of the great issues in a detached way. From that point of view, a second Chamber, properly organised and of respectable constitution, is and would be of the greatest possible advantage in our political life.
Of what should such a Chamber consist? The hon. Member for Northfield indicated some of his ideas. My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) gave some of his and told us that his ideas closely corresponded with the system successfully working in Belgium. I have for many years been interested in the question of a reconstituted Upper Chamber. I take the view that at least in the first stages of any major reconstitution, we ought to retain a substantial element of the hereditary principle and that we should build upon those foundations.
A third or a half of its members could be elected by the hereditary peers for the life of each Parliament and a third or a quarter of the remainder could be ex officio members—judges, bishops, leaders of other religious denominations, engineers, representatives of the unions, representatives of the great professions, and in addition to those, representatives of many bodies which are quite nonpolitical, such as our voluntary services, the Red Cross and even the sporting and 646 entertainment world—so that even the Chairman of the Football Association and the President of the M.C.C. might there be found—
§ Mr. Chapman
It is important to reach agreement on these things. Why does the hon. and learned Member stick to his point about the hereditary peers? Does he not realise that the work is done by about 60 peers, nearly all of whom are newly created peers? If the others never attend, why should they have the right to elect other members? There is a fiction about hereditary peers which should be corrected. Since the Boer War about 700 new peerages have been created and about 326 have become extinct, and they are nearly all new creations now.
§ Mr. Hobson
I am suggesting a measure of reform and I have always believed that it is better to hurry slowly and that, as suggested in the conditional agreement of 1948, we should build on the foundations of a House which we already have and for which the great majority of people in this country have a great deal of respect. If we have only a half or a third of hereditary peers as a foundation, it can always be amended later.
I think that it would be right not to abolish the hereditary principle of the second Chamber at once and not to jump into a completely new type of Chamber without any experience. I have mentioned already a foundation of the existing Chamber, plus ex officio peers who during certain times, while they held qualifying office, would be entitled to sit.
In addition, I would have life peers, because there are many persons who have performed great service to the State who could sit as peers of creation but whose titles would not be perpetuated. They would be people like Lord Attlee and Lord Samuel. If we abolish the creation of new hereditary peers so that that element would be dying down, all other peers, except those elected by their hereditary brothers—and those who would be ex officio—would be life peers, and the State would have the benefit of their continued services if they desired to serve in that Chamber.
I am not wedded to the particular details of a particular scheme, but I ask that those with good will on both sides 647 of the House should see whether it is possible to devise some scheme along one or other of these three lines which have now been suggested as a method of keeping a second Chamber. But because it is not possible at present, because there are so many hon. Members on the other side of the House who are, root and branch, opposed to any form of second Chamber, and because there are certain Members on this side of the House who do not desire any interference with the hereditary principle, I welcome the fact that the Government have had the courage at least to take the first step.
In the conditional agreement of 1948, life peers were an element in the proposed settlement, and in most other proposed settlements life peers would be a necessary element, in order that the services of distinguished persons should not be lost to the State. If that is so, future negotiations cannot be prejudiced by the Bill. It can provide the first step of a movement towards the improvement of a second Chamber. Why those who feel like that should vote against the Bill, I am unable to understand. The French have a motto, Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coûte, that is, it is only the first step that counts. I regard the Bill as an important first step towards solving a problem which has been outstanding for fifty years, and for all these reasons I welcome it.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
This has been a very interesting, but also rather a curious debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Education started his speech by telling us that there was a good deal of sword-play and shadow-boxing, and I admit that by the time he sat down I understood what he meant. I am about to add more quaintness to the debate because, although I believe that the Bill, by a stroke of quite delicious political irony, is the sort of Measure that we on this side of the House should be wholly delighted to welcome, it is nevertheless my party's solemn duty now ostentatiously to oppose it; and for the reason given—that as a party we must consider seriously whether there is a case for the total abolition of their Lordships' House.
This is a perfectly splendid little Bill, but I think that my party should oppose 648 it. What is the explanation for this paradox? Whenever we have a bicameral system, and I am an unrepentant believer in that system, there always remains the risk of a clash between the rival Chambers. In practice, nowadays, the supremacy of the elected Chamber, the Commons, must be absolute; yet I have a suspicion that we can assert this absolute superiority only if, by inference, we declare that another place is absolutely useless. But once we make that assertion plain, we run a very grave risk of so hurting the feelings and dignity of "another place" that we shall find it exceedingly hard to man it.
It is for these reasons that we have vigorously to advance the myth that the Upper House is very powerful and that any measure of reform is likely to make it even more dangerous; but of course we do not really believe a word of it. What we know is that the threat of abolition is the guarantee that no serious clash can ever take place. There is nothing like the excuse of extermination to ensure that foxes are readily available for the function which they have to perform. Indeed, as with fox hunting so I think with the Upper House, one cannot find a word to be said in its favour; nevertheless the nation greatly enjoys it.
I do not think that this is an innocuous Bill. It is nothing like as innocent as it seems. My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George) said that this was a simple-looking little Bill; but was she right when she asked us to believe that the party opposite wholeheartedly approves of it? A most interesting speech was made by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) when in a singularly effective argument he told us that on its merits the House ought to reject the Bill. I should be very interested to see how he votes tonight. He argued very cogently that there was no need at all for life peerages to be introduced.
I have been able to think of a reason which I believe to be valid. The House will remember vividly Mrs. Alexander's hymn:The rich man in his castle,The poor man at the gate,God made them high and lowlyAnd ordered their estate.In our grandparents' time most people thought that to be true and they accepted 649 those sentiments; but nobody does today. By the same token, since the maturity of the Labour movement and the widespread interest in democratic Government which has developed since the war, I believe that it is recognised that it is no longer an honourable thing to accept an hereditary title. It is accepted that this is to "visit the sins of the father" not only on the first but the second and third generation, and I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and the noble Lord in another place, whom I notice in my notes I have called "Little Benn" and the "Big Bell Ringer", will both understand what I mean.
I would guess, therefore, that once this modest little Measure reaches the Statute Book, and I hope that it does before Rochdale rocks the party opposite, a fundamental change of habit may well have occurred in our society, and the taking of hereditary peerages will not be regarded as proper at all. Another Miss Mitford will decide for us that it is no longer U to accept one, and who would dispute such a oracle?
Admittedly the Bill is a very small hole in the artistocratic dykes, but knowing what often happens to small holes in dykes, if my motto were "End not Mend" on this issue, I would pass craftily by on the other side.
Another reason why I favour their Lordships' House and am being a little gentle about the business of hereditary peerages has to do with pageantry. This may seem slightly ridiculous; but there is more in it than most people will recognise. I think pageantry is an enormously important part of the life of any society. Society must have its pageantry.
Anyone who witnesses the superbly beautiful spectacle at the opening of a new Parliament and listens to the Gracious Speech, as I have had the good luck to do several times, or who has had the fortune to be here for a Royal wedding or a Coronation, must understand the enormous emotional importance of this national historical pageant. He must also gravely doubt whether the glittering galaxy of noble Lords, Gold Sticks and King's Champions could play their delightful parts with such solemn and impressive dignity were not many of them proudly wearing the robes of their own ancestors.
650 I have, therefore, an inclination not to lop off too many of the hereditary branches from the tree of State. Rather I would quietly graft on to it, as I think this little Bill does, a tiny twig of what I guess to be a lively democratic vine.
§ Mr. Usborne
The trunk is not dying nearly as fast as my right hon. Friend would have it. I do not want to destroy, I want to build and to leave the old alone; although I have to admit that as a result of this little Measure the old will not stay as it was before.
There is a mystery. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has indicated that Labour has never had any difficulty in getting recruits for another place. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East, having consulted his friend Ernie, informed us yesterday that one in five of those of us who got into the House in 1945 have already received titles. Yet we are told by the principal spokesman of the Government in another place that this Bill is designed primarily to help recruit Labour peers, and this has been argued backwards and forwards in the debate. Moreover, some of our noble Labour friends have told me sadly and repeatedly how desperately overworked they are, and how thin they are on the ground; so much so that one of them once suggested that for all the difference it would make, the Committee stages of their Lordships' House might be held better in the "Grey Walls" of Abingdon than in the Palace of Westminster. So there is a mystery.
Who is this Horatius who holds the bridge that blocks the path to Rome? Why is it that Labour has not got enough peers up there already? Could it be something to do with this strange Scrutiny Committee, of which we hear so little? I wonder. If it is, would it perhaps encourage this Cerberus to let a few more cloth-capped gentlemen slip into the inferno if the dog could be assured that they were only "lifers"? I wonder. In the old myth I recall that Sybil got Aeneas through with the use of a titbit, and I am of the opinion that this Bill may also be "a piece of cake."
There is another point I want to discuss briefly and which is more serious. Indeed there are two points that I must make together. They concern function 651 and money. I think we are all in favour of curtailing, in some way or another, the present authority of the House of Lords, but authority is made up of a composite notion. It combines both power and influence. As I have said already, power should be here in the Commons absolutely, and the exercise of power involves the mechanics of voting. Therefore, inevitably it involves the machinery of its composition.
But the exercise of influence does not involve voting. I want their Lordships to have great influence—I hope that does not sound impertinent. I must add hastily that we could not take that influence away from them even if we would. They are influential people. As the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West rightly said, collectively their Lordships have enormous knowledge and experience, and the nation needs to make use of it. But since voting is irrelevant if one is exercising only influence, it seems to me equally pointless to fuss about the composition of what I am sure must be a powerless Upper House.
Indeed the more we insist that power is here, in the Commons, the less does it matter what is the composition there in the Lords. All that is required is to ensure that there are enough able spokesmen of the Left ready and willing to serve and to exert their influence. In parenthesis I must add that this has nothing to do with the Constitution directly, because in the exercise of influence it does not greatly matter where one exercises it. Whether one writes a letter to The Times or makes a speech in the Mansion House or at the end of the passage, one's influence is still felt and can still be made effective.
Yet I think it is true that, for the purpose we require to satisfy, we ought to get more Labour peers into the Upper House. I am convinced on the first count that the existence of the principle of life peerages makes that more easy. That is indisputable, and it leads me directly to my next point, which is money.
Pay is important, desperately important. It is fundamental to this problem, let us not deny that. I would not agree, however, that the Bill before us ignores this problem. I would say that with a little ingenuity it could be the neatest 652 means of solving it. We are told, are we not, that in this heavily taxed community nobody can afford to spend time working for nothing in another place? Presumably this applies also to backwoodsmen. Indeed it may be a very valuable disincentive.
I ask, therefore, is there any good reason why noble Lords should not hold more than one title? If not, I suggest that when the Bill becomes law the new "Lords of Parliament," or whatever we call them, should receive with their honour an honorarium, a kind of State retaining fee—something like a glorified fellowship of All Souls—and that together with the new people of distinction who are to receive this title and the honorarium, there should be a committee or some system to draw up a list of the present peers who might be similarly additionally ennobled with this remunerated title. I would then leave the economic disincentive to do its work.
Thereafter, if we are determined that voting is unimportant—being, as I have said, merely the mechanics of the exercise of power—does it greatly matter if some backwoodsman occasionally makes use of a lobby? If he has no power it will not matter, and if he has influence no one can stop him using it. In such circumstances a vote could merely mean "I agree with the noble Earl", and it might save him the bother of repeating the speech.
Let me conclude: there is, I believe, an important distinction which should be drawn between power and influence. It is time that the functions of our two Chambers of Parliament were much more clearly differentiated. The Commons must have absolute power, and because they have power they must have much influence, too; but their Lordships should be content merely with their very great influence, which they are always bound to exert. But as kings now reign but must not rule, so I think their Lordships should cease yearning for power. If they cannot cease this yearning, they may have only themselves to blame if they are collectively forced to abdicate.
I approve of the Bill. I think that the right thing to do with it is to pass it.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. William Whitelaw (Penrith and The Border)
I am bound to say that I agree almost entirely with everything 653 which was said by the hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Usborne). If, at the end of my speech, it can be said that I have put the case in support of the Bill half as well as he put it, I shall be very pleased.
I must also admit that his speech and that of the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman) have clarified the whole position for me. Up till then I was very mystified by the attitude of the Labour Party to this Bill. Let us consider what their leaders have been doing about it. Sometimes—I emphasise the word "sometimes"—they agree that a second Chamber is necessary; at least, the Leader of the Opposition has agreed, although others seem to think differently. At the same time, they oppose any efforts to strengthen it, without putting forward any alternative ideas of their own about its composition.
They say that they dislike the hereditary principle, but they oppose this Bill, which seeks to introduce life peers. We have not heard anybody on the benches opposite say that women should not be in public life or in Parliament, yet, by moving their Amendment, they are deliberately seeking to prevent women from entering the House of Lords. All these extraordinary contradictions were very mystifying to me, but now the position is abundantly clear.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
If the hon. Member is so anxious to have women in the House of Lords, why does he not provide for hereditary peeresses to take their seats, too?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
It is at least something to have some women in the House of Lords, which is proposed by the Bill, whereas the Opposition Amendment would have no women there at all. A few is better than none.
It is now clear that the Opposition are so divided among themselves about what they want that they are quite incapable of putting forward constructive proposals of any sort.
I entirely agree with much of the speech by the hon. Member for Northfield, but in one part of it he was so keen on seeing the mote in the eyes of the Government that he entirely failed to see the beam in the eyes of his own party. I think he will agree with that.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
On the other hand, I can appreciate the feeling and the logic of those, some on this side of the House, who do not like the Bill at all because they wish to preserve the hereditary principle intact. I can see the force of their arguments, but I must admit that I do not agree with them. I certainly do not want to remove the hereditary character of the House of Lords entirely and, equally, I do not see why we should so much deride the hereditary principle. I understand that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) breeds pigs. Is he interested in the boar? I imagine that he is, If he takes an interest in the boar, presumably he does so because he wants it to produce better pigs in the future.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I accept what the right hon. Member says, but the fact is that once he has selected his boars he hopes to produce more and better pigs all the time in the future. Presumably, therefore, if a man is the son of a peer of the first creation, he might well be a good Member of the House of Lords in the second creation. I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with the logic of that argument and with the analogy of his pigs.
I am convinced that in the national interest some life peers and peeresses should be admitted alongside the hereditary peers who already sit in the House of Lords and I should like to make it clear why I feel that this is so. It is generally agreed that we must have in Parliament men and women of experience and distinction in all walks of life. I think it will also be accepted that the type of person we want in the House of Lords may sometimes be different from that which we have in the House of Commons. Here I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), who said that we do not want the two Houses to perform the same function or to be exactly the same in character.
I come to a question which has fairly been asked in the debate: are there some people who at present, under a system of hereditary peers, are either unable or not 655 prepared to enter the House of Lords? I would say that the answer in the first category is, "Certainly, yes." For instance, all women are debarred. In the second category, I am personally convinced that there are some men who are not prepared to accept hereditary peerages.
My noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) pointed out that some sons of life peers of the future might feel deprived of some money which perhaps they would have been paid in time as Members of the House of Lords. That may be true of the future, but surely the reality of the present day is that the young peer of limited means suffers a disadvantage. It is still generally believed in this country that peers are wealthy men. They are undoubtedly expected to maintain a high standard of living. Probably they are expected to give better tips than others; I do not know whether they do, but I suspect that people think they should. It is also more difficult for a young peer to work in some business circles. There is an idea still abroad in this country that lords should not need to work for their living.
Of course, all this is utterly out of date, but I do not think that anybody would deny that the prejudice remains, and as long as it remains some fathers are bound to hesitate before inflicting all this on their eldest son and their grandchildren and beyond them into the future. I do not think anybody disputes that. I am, therefore, sure that the Bill will enable some men and women of distinction to serve the nation in the House of Lords who would not otherwise be there.
My right hon. Friend put forward this afternoon what I thought was a most important point when he referred to the managerial classes—what might be described as the social classes who are growing up and who are taking responsibilities which they did not take in the past. It is only right that some of them should be enabled to sit in the House of Lords, and I do not think that such people would be prepared to take hereditary peerages with all that that would mean for their sons. In that respect, this Bill will be most valuable.
I must admit that I hope it will be possible to go further in the future. 656 Because I am a Scotsman I favour the Scottish principle by which peers elect some of their number to serve in the House of Lords. I can never understand how it can be democratic to deprive a man of a vote merely because he is a peer. Under the Scottish principle he can at least vote to send one of his number to the House of Lords.
I agree with the hon. Member for Northfield about the composition and method of electing a second Chamber. I would merely like to see its composition broadened. It would be better if there were closer division between the two parties in the second Chamber, and if a system could be devised to produce that I should welcome it. The hon. Member for Northfield asked why there had been no agreement on any such principle. The answer can be found all around him. Many of his hon. Friends do not wish to have a second Chamber, and until they can get rid of that prejudice no agreement can be reached as to the composition or method of electing one.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, we are discussing the composition and method of electing a second Chamber, and it begs the question to say that a second Chamber is not required. If that is the case, there is no point in debating how it shall be elected and what character it shall have.
§ Mr. Bevan
There is another question behind this, and that is that changes made from time to time in the powers of the other place make a constitutional amendment necessary. We should like to discuss fundamentally what the amendment should be, and not be committed, before the discussions begin, to a second Chamber.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I understood the Leader of the Opposition distinctly to say that he wished to have a second Chamber. I should have thought that, in that event, there would have been a 657 basis upon which to start discussions as to the composition and character of the other place.
§ Mr. Bevan
That is not the position. I asked the Minister of Education today whether discussions between the two sides of the House could take place without the assumption that there should in any case be a second Chamber, and he said, "No." In fact, he said that we must have such discussions on the assumption that the House of Lords should remain.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
The right hon. Member is a much more able debater and Parliamentarian than I am. I merely stick to my view that it should be possible to obtain an agreement of some kind as to the character and composition of a second Chamber, which many hon. Members opposite want in any case.
I now want to mention the question of pay. Expenses and loss of earnings are both serious bars to attendance, especially in the case of the younger peers whom we all want to see in the House of Lords. I appreciate that many difficulties are involved. It may take time, and we may have to reach an agreement of a much broader character, before the question of pay can be settled.
Finally, I return to the Bill. In constitutional matters it is always right to walk before attempting to run. The Bill is an important step forward. It will give the nation the benefit of the valuable services, in the House of Lords, of some men and women who certainly would not be there without it. For that reason, I support the Bill and hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I hope that the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) will not expect me to pursue this comparison between pig breeding and the Members of another place. I thought that that was rather an indelicate metaphor to introduce into the debate. It is quite impossible to discuss what we should do about a second Chamber if, before we enter upon any discussions, we are to be tied to agreeing to any part of the existing membership.
658 This has been an extraordinary debate, and the speeches of an extraordinary character have not been limited to one side of the House. Some of my hon. Friends are keen on the Bill, but practically all the hon. Members opposite—with the exception of those who have now come in to show a little tardy support for the Government—have been critical, to say the least, and in many cases hostile, to the objects of the Bill.
The Bill and the debate remind me of the kind of notice one often sees over the bar in a public house, usually upon these lines, "We have made an agreement with the bank whereby the bank will not sell beer, provided that we do not cash cheques," the implication being that the publican is doing the bank a favour by not cashing cheques. In the same way the Government imply that they are doing us a favour by introducing the Bill. The whole point of not cashing cheques is to preserve the publican's solvency and liquidity, and the whole point of the Bill is to safeguard the privilege of the House of Lords, substantially in its present form.
Several hon. Members opposite have said that it is the first step in the direction that we should go. There is no doubt that the House of Lords can never be defended, and can never take an active part in interfering in the politics of the country, while it exists in its present form. Some hon. Members have also asked why we should oppose the Bill. since it provides for the introduction of women, which we welcome, and also breaks down, or at least dilutes, the hereditary principle. If we want to see a house fall down we do not waste money by slapping a coat of paint on the outside merely to give it a more respectable appearance. Before we decide what we are to do, by way of bicameral or other form of Constitution, we must get rid of the present House of Lords.
But to me this is not an urgent or an important issue. I have always been attracted to the present status of the House of Lords, partly because I think that one does not want to break with tradition unless it is necessary, but mainly because, in its present form, the House of Lords cannot interfere with the democratically elected Commons. The composition matters very little; the 659 important question is the power of the other place. I regret that when my right hon. Friends introduced the 1949 Act they left the Lords with so substantial a set of powers as they now possess. I regret especially the fact that the Lords have power to annul Statutory Instruments by way of a Prayer. It is true that they have not abused that power—otherwise it would have been taken from them.
But it is a very serious and unfair inconvenience when considered in its application to the Conservative and Labour Parties, respectively. The House of Lords can, if it wishes, restrict the effective life of a Labour Government to three years. We all know that although a Parliament is elected for a five-year term the effective term is four years and, with the operation of the Parliament Act, the House of Lords can restrict the effective term of a Labour Government to three years, whereas the Conservative Party need never fear that its legislation will be held up by another place. Even the delay of one month in respect of financial questions can be quite a serious problem for a Labour Government in the matter of Finance Bills.
Because of the Act laying down that it shall become law by, I think, 5th August, we have always to get the Finance Bill to another place with at least one month's notice, which commits us to the kind of all-night sittings that we experienced in the 1950–51 Parliament. The present Government, with their majority in the Lords, can, if need be, put a Finance Bill into another place with the certainty that it will be passed within a few days of the due date. That is a procedural difficulty with which we on this side have to contend.
I am not at all attracted by the idea of a nominated second Chamber, but I take the view that any second Chamber, other than one which is completely illogical, such as the present one, is bound to be a nuisance. Even were membership in another place always designed to give a majority to the party in power, I still think that, were they nominated, elected or in whatever way they arrived at the House of Lords they would be bound to be a considerable nuisance. No sooner is a second Chamber elected, nominated, or pro- 660 vided for any logical reason, than it is bound to want more powers rather than be willing to surrender powers, and a question of conflict between the two Chambers becomes very likely. I could not accept a second Chamber with any powers at all.
I wonder whether there is any need for a second Chamber. Until recently, certainly before I became a Member of this House, I accepted the text-book virtues of the House of Lords: that it was a forum for great debates; that statesmen used it as a means of putting right the ill-considered judgments of the House of Commons. I thought that all the Law Lords and legal luminaries in another place were responsible for correcting the legislation that went there. I thought that Private Bill and Provisional Order legislation was greatly facilitated by the fact that Members of the House of Lords combined with a few hon. Members of this House in carrying out this important but not very notable work.
Do we need any of these functions to be performed by the House of Lords today? The old saying has been repeated today that another place is the forum for great debates. I have not noticed any substantial contributions from another place during the occasions when I have been there, and within the eight years that I have been a Member of this House. If we take account of the complete change in the communications of the country, the advent of radio, television, and so forth, we must face the fact that the mere suggestion of a jest by Gilbert Harding has more publicity than any speech in another place—
§ Mr. Osborne rose—
§ Mr. Mulley
If I may finish my point, the hon. Member will see what I am getting at.
The only speech in another place which I remember receiving great publicity in recent years was when Lady Olivier made an impromptu speech from the Public Gallery. The fact is that anyone who is entitled to and can make a contribution to our affairs in another place, has another medium in which to do so; whether it be as a chairman of a bank, as a trade union leader, or in some other capacity. He can make his points much more effectively in that way than by making a speech in another place.
661 It is a significant fact that Lord Salisbury, when making his more important statements, prefers to do so in the columns of The Times rather than by making a speech, or asking for Papers, or whatever one does in another place. I do not think it necessary to have a second Chamber in order to provide people of real distinction with a forum from which to make known their views.
What about the revision of Bills? Since I became a Member of this House I have discovered that all the revision of Bills and so forth is done by the Minister, civil servants and Parliamentary draftsmen. The amount of revision which conies as the result of intervention by noble Lords is limited. If a noble Lord has a particular knowledge of any subject or of any aspect of the law, and is anxious to see that a mistake is not made in a Bill, he can do the same as is done by any expert, get in touch with hon. Members of this House who would raise the matter in debate.
The great bulk of our legislation is agreed between Government Departments and the interests affected. Often the Government make the excuse that they cannot support a Private Member's Bill because the necessary consultations with the interests concerned have not been held; so that it is absurd to say that we need a second Chamber to carry out that kind of revision. As to Private Bills and Provisional Orders, we ought not to have the lunacy of Private Bills being considered twice over by Select Committees, once in the Commons and once in the Lords. That is mere duplication, so I do not see what function remains for a second Chamber.
It will be argued, "What about safeguarding the Constitution?" It is provided in the Parliament Act, and we know that one of the most serious and proper safeguards is that this House shall not prolong its own life without the consent of another place. We have heard people suggest that the House of Lords could be a bulwark against authoritarian Governments, whether Fascist, Communist, or what you will. But that is complete nonsense. It would be quite within the constitutional usage for the Prime Minister of the day to go to the Crown and come away with a list of new peers big enough to carry any legislation in another place.
662 Our present Constitution does not safeguard us against a Government prepared to use its powers in an undemocratic way. The power to create additional peers, whether hereditary or life peers does not matter in this connection, is there. Against a Government which is going to destroy altogether the democratic system there is no safeguard by retaining the House of Lords whether in a reformed state or as present.
One might argue that if we had a single Chamber Government with some constitutional safeguards it would be more effective. Certain classes of Bills particularly, perhaps the Bill prolonging the life of Parliament beyond the statutory period of five years, should require a two-thirds majority of the Members of this House. That would be a more genuine safeguard than anything which a second Chamber could provide. I believe that those who argue that we need a second Chamber for the practical working of Parliament should reflect whether we could meet the need by a reform of the procedure of this House. For example, we might well take the Report stage of the less important Bills in an extended Standing Committee, and, as is done in another place, permit drafting Amendments during the Third Reading stage. But that is a matter upon which I will not enlarge, because we are to have a Select Committee on the subject.
§ Mr. Osborne
I understand that in his heart the hon. Gentleman would prefer a single Chamber form of Government and does not want the House of Lords reformed. Will he say how many of his hon. Friends share that opinion? Does he represent the majority of his party?
§ Mr. Mulley
I find it hard enough to speak for myself, let alone trying to speak for others. Until the Bill was produced I was a firm believer in bycameral system. When I considered all these matters I acquired doubts. I have not formed views, but doubts. We have to find the answer to these matters not in our hearts, but in our heads. We have to think about them. No case for the existing House of Lords has been established in the course of the argument. I would let it stay until it interfered and then get rid of it. If it did not interfere I should let it alone. If we are to start reforming, these questions must be resolved.
663 My final point concerns the doctrine of the mandate. The hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) and other hon. Members brought out the point that they thought it constitutionally correct for the House of Lords to throw out Bills if, in the view of their Lordships, those Bills conflicted with the opinion of the people. Incidentally, this is a very new constitutional doctrine, which I think we shall not find in Dicey or anywhere else. It was invented by the House of Lords and the Conservative Party during the period of the Labour Government, 1945–50, because it was clear that a Government were in power which would carry out their Election pledges.
The arrogance of the claim that another place can interpret public opinion absolutely appals me. A great number of the Members of the other place mix with the ordinary people in the street only when they go to see the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. With the advent of television they may not even go now, and have that advantage. It is impossible for elder statesmen or young peers to know more about public opinion than hon. Members here.
Moreover, is there such a thing as a clear mandate from the electorate? How can we possibly get the views of the electorate as a whole on any issue, without a referendum? Some members of my party have reservations on certain matters. There may be a minority on subjects like steel nationalisation. How can we argue that the Government have a mandate for a particular Measure. Indeed, the present Government had two Election manifestos, a little one and a big one. Is the mandate that stated in the big book or the small one? The Rent Act was hinted at in the 1951 large edition before the Election, but it was not included in the one which the party stuck through every door.
Not only was the Rent Act not mentioned during the last Election, but when my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) ventured to prophecy that legislation of that sort would be forthcoming he was denounced up and down the country, not only by Government back benchers but by their Front Bench. The Government thought fit to introduce the Rent Bill, for which 664 they had no mandate at all. I do not take issue on this on the lack of mandate, but on the merits of the Bill. There is no doubt that the Rent Act has affected more people than any of the nationalisation Acts that we introduced.
§ Mr. Mulley
I am not doing so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but since the question of the mandate, a bogus political philosophy, has been introduced into the debate. I thought that we could dispose of it once and for all. We who have stood as candidates, been elected and then have sought re-election, know very well that the powers of the electorate are retrospective. The electorate has a retrospective mandate in that if it does not like what we have been doing. either as a party or as individuals, it can get rid of us. That is the only control the electorate can possibly have. The fact that it can get rid of us by failing to vote for us colours and conditions what is done in the House of Commons, and very properly so.
There can be no question that before a party can do anything here it has to have it written in its Election address in detail; and there can be no question of the arbiter as to whether what is done is within or without a mandate by the other place. The only thing the electorate can expect is that a party will, broadly, carry out the policy it announces when it seeks electoral support. If ever there were a dispute between me and one of my constituents as to whether I had done my job, or we had carried out our Election promises, I do not think that he would choose a Member of the House of Lords to arbitrate. I therefore hope that we shall not hear anything more about this false doctrine of the mandate.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
There is no mention in the reasoned Amendment which has been moved by the Opposition of whether the party opposite is in favour of a second Chamber or not. That omission must be deliberate, because it has emerged that there are differences of opinion in the Opposition on that matter. I gather from the speeches made in the debate that if 665 we were to take the aggregate of the opinions on both' sides of the House we should find a definite majority in favour of the continuance of a second Chamber.
I would remind those hon. Members who think we should not have a second Chamber of the gap that would be created in our Constitution by its abolition. The second Chamber is a part of our Government institutions for which we have no written Constitution. To abolish it is not an act to be contemplated, and hon. Members should think seriously about it before they accept the view that we should not have a second Chamber.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice), who spoke for the Opposition today, used very definite language to indicate that their Lordships tended always to be hostile to Labour legislation. We are now at a late stage of this debate, so I shall not go into much detail, but I would remind the House of what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said yesterday, and as reported in columns 407 and 408 of HANSARD. He referred to the number of nationalisation Bills that went through the House of Lords between 1945 and 1951, when there was a Conservative majority in that House. The legislation did go through.
There is also in the column 408 which I have mentioned, a quotation from a speech by Lord Salisbury, then Viscount Cranborne, in the House of Lords, in which he called upon their Lordships' House to show statesmanship by recognising the mandate that had been giver' to the Labour Government in the 1945 Election. Viscount Cranborne went onIf there is one thing that has struck me in the short time that I have been in your Lordships' House it is this—whatever it may have been in the past it is now no mere party Assembly but rather a Council of State. This is an occasion, if ever there was one, to show statesmanship."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. House of Lords, 16th August, 1945; Vol. 137, c. 47–8.]That indicates the quality of statesmanship which we have experienced, and are justified in expecting always in their Lordships' House.
It has been suggested from the benches opposite that hon. Members have not all made their position clear. I want to do just that. I am in favour of the Bill. I will state my reasons in a moment. For the good of our country and the quality 666 of our Government I am in favour of the retention of a second Chamber.
There has been far too much emphasis on the so-called "hereditary principle." I rather think we have been so busy looking at and thinking about that principle that we have taken the floodlight off the actual work of their Lordships' House, the great quality of the debates they have on legislation from this House and legislation initiated in their Lordships' House, which comes to this House in due coarse and we have omitted to mention the high quality of debates they have on matters of public interest. Reference has been made tonight to the fact that we would welcome more opportunities in this House to discuss matters of great public interest, not necessarily initially involving legislation, although they may come to that later. In their Lordships' House they have ample opportunities, which they exercise very thoroughly and competently, to discuss these national matters. It is worthy of note that that position exists.
As to those who attend those debates in their Lordships' House, they are of a high quality. There are those who have been Governors in the Commonwealth and Empire, those who have had long experience, in perhaps more than one walk of life, those who have special and specialised experience in the professions. Above all, they have had the opportunity of informing themselves of and the leisure to expatiate on the matters they are debating, which leisure is not always available to us, engaged as we are on other matters in this House. In this debate we should do well, before making up our minds on a number of principles and facts about their Lordships' House, if we had regard to the quality of proceedings which take place there.
We have been discussing what to some people is undesirable, the hereditary principle. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) told us he had spent some time researching on the work of their Lordships' House. In a most interesting intervention, he gave some figures. I do not know how far hon. Members noticed them, but I hope for his sake and mine that I got the figures correct. He said that 700 peerages in the House of Lords were creations since the Boer War and 300 were extinct. The peerages we have been discussing in the last two days as 667 if they were antiquated and dating from 400 or 500 years ago are no older than this century. They have been created within the political history of some hon. Members in this House, and certainly in the political memory of many people in the country.
If we put the connotation of feudal, old or historical on this question of hereditary principle we are using a misleading connotation. They are comparatively new creations, and that is the House of Lords of today. We heard from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) that the whole system of peerages dates from the last century only. Here we are discussing, not something ancient and antediluvian and what someone called a historical hangover, but something of comparatively recent origin, something started in the last hundred years or so. We should be well advised to think more than once before we attempt to interfere with that principle.
I fail to understand the argument against the hereditary principle in the light of this Bill in that the Bill tends to attenuate the hereditary principle. It is true that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who opened for the Opposition today guessed that there may be twenty new life peers created. A little later, he talked about their Lordships' House being flooded with life peers. It must be one or the other. If there are to be only twenty added to the present membership of 887, that will not be flooding the House with life peers. I make no point about that, but if hon. Members who object to the hereditary principle—and, perhaps, other hon. Members as well—want a modern atmosphere and a new kind of thinking about the creation of peerages in the House of Lords, this Bill gives that opportunity. It does not create any kind of hereditary principle, but brings forward two brand new ideas, which have not yet been introduced or operated in their Lordships' House.
The first of those ideas is the creation of life peers to sit in that House and, on whichever side they sit, to assist with its work. Obviously they would be expected to take part in the work of the House, or they would not be created. The other 668 principle is that distinguished ladies in the same way should be created life peeresses who, also would sit in their Lordships' House. For the life of me I find it difficult to understand the cavilling to which we have listened to the effect that we are not introducing a modern viewpoint in the light of the Bill.
The underlying thought of the Amendment, expressed from both sides of the House in these two days, has been the sovereignty and importance of this House of Commons. I do not think we add to that sovereignty nor underline our importance, nor do I think we accentuate our greatness, if we go out of our way to denigrate their Lordships' House. If we are so great and important as we believe ourselves to be—I think this honourable House is most certainly great and important—we should be great and important enough to realise the value and importance of having another Chamber in many ways similar to ours. I understand that one of the definitions of democracy is government by discussion. Are we so infallible, are we so important, so far-seeing, so capable of immaculate prophecy that we cannot welcome another place when the democracy we all hold so dear can also be worked out by discussion by others of great experience and knowledge of life?
These are matters which I am sure the House would wish to take into consideration. These are considerations which are greater than the small ideas of whether or not someone occupies a place because of inheritance. These are matters we should look at, not in the light of the personal, immediate viewpoint of what may or may not happen from a particular aspect of things, but in the light of what is best for the government of the country and the will of the people we represent.
Effectively to carry out our responsibility, we cannot have too much discussion in more than one House. We have much to gain from listening to people and benefiting from the viewpoint of others. I hope we shall go on indefinitely having a second Chamber in this land. changed and amended, perhaps, as time calls for and events develop, altered as circumstances demand and progressing and improving all the time. As the first part of that principle, as the introduction of an idea which I believe and hope will 669 strenthen their Lordships' deliberations and their efficiency, I welcome this Bill and I hope this House will allow it to have a Second Reading and send it on its way.
§ Mr. Awbery
There is nothing in this Amendment which is opposed to a second Chamber. The Amendment says:this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which leaves the House of Lords overwhelmingly hereditary in character and with unimpaired powers to frustrate and obstruct the will of the elected representatives of the people.
§ Mr. Cole
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who, I think, did not have the benefit of being here when I started my speech. I started by making reference in the same terms as those in which he has just spoken. I pointed out, as other hon. Members will remember, that the Amendment does not make any reference to the abolition of the second Chamber for the very reason that Members on the other side of the House of Commons are not unanimous in their view about such a second Chamber. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I used the very same words in my speech. I had intended to finish earlier, but I now resume my seat in saying that I support the Bill.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
It has been observed more than once that this is a very curious debate. I think that the most curious and perhaps the most significant feature of it is that in all the speeches that we have had from the other side of the House, whether from the Treasury Bench or the back benches, there has been no attempt to meet what we on this side of the House regard as being the fundamental objection to the Bill.
That objection is that, however many life peers are likely to be created, the House of Lords will remain a Chamber in which one party has a permanent, unassailable majority. We are told, of course, that that majority is not likely to be unwisely used. Yesterday, the Leader of the House became almost lyrical when he described the moderation with which the House of Lords had acted during the years from 1945 to 1951, and his words have been echoed today by the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole).
670 We on this side of the House are not very much impressed by the moderation of this era. The House of Lords did not refrain from throwing out the legislation of the Labour Government for reasons of statesmanship. They did it for the perfectly obvious reason that if they had opposed those Measures they would have brought about the annihilation of their own Chamber.
I do not know whether the Tory peers ever met together on their own during those days, but if they did, I cannot help feeling that one or more of them must have addressed their colleagues in almost precisely the same terms as those used by Belial at the first meeting in Hell, described in "Paradise Lost". Hon. Members will recollect the lines:I should he much for open war, O Peers, As not behind in hate, if what was urged Main reason to persuade immediate war Did not dissuade me most, and seemed to cast Ominous conjecture on the whole success.A few lines later on, Belial says:And that must end us, that must be our cure—To be no more; sad cure; for who would loseThough full of pain, this intellectual being.Those thoughts that wander through eternity,To perish rather, swallowed up and lost In the wide womb of uncreated night Devoid of sense and motion.The circumstances in which that speech was delivered were perhaps slightly different from those in which the other place operated from 1945 onwards, but I think we may surmise that the reasoning was very much the same. The noble Lords knew that if they persisted, their Chamber would be destroyed. But, as in the case of Lucifer and his fallen angels, they retained and still retain a considerable capacity for mischief.
We have a second Chamber which, as many hon. Members have pointed out, is almost unique in the world. It is a second Chamber which discharges different functions according to which party happens to be in office in this House If we have a Conservative Government, then it is merely a revisionary Chamber, and I dare say that it carries out that revisionary function in a fairly satisfactory manner. If we have a Government in this House of a different complexion—a Liberal Government in the old days or a Labour Government nowadays—then the House of Lords begins 671 to exercise a quite different function. It becomes a kind of constitutional tripwire, something which in certain circumstances may be very dangerous indeed.
The reason we object to the Bill is that it strengthens the House of Lords without altering its inherent unchanging bias in favour of one party in the State. It seems to me that the Bill is open to another, and still more serious, objection. I know that there are some hon. Members on this side of the House who believe that we should dispense with a second Chamber altogether. Speaking for myself, I do not agree. I believe that the balance of the argument is very strongly in favour of the continuance of a second Chamber, and that probably the need for a competent and effective second Chamber is greater today than it has ever been before in our constitutional history.
I am not referring now to the task of revision. No doubt, it is true, as hon. Members have said, that a great many Amendments considered in the House of Lords are largely drafting Amendments, and that the other place does a very useful job in tidying up legislation after it has left this House, but I do not think that that in itself would be a sufficient justification for retaining a second Chamber merely to have, so to speak, a house of glorified draftsmen. None the less, there is a more important function than that. I believe that if we had a competent and effective second Chamber, it would be able to make a most valuable contribution to the working of our Parliamentary system.
We had a debate only a few days ago —an extremely interesting debate—on the Procedure of the House of Commons. I want to say a word or two about the Business of Parliament. I think that most of us appreciate that the Business of Parliament is not itself to govern. For three hundred years, ever since the days of the Civil War and the Commonwealth, we in this House have never sought to take into our own hands the actual work of administration. That is one of the big distinctions between a parliamentary system and a congressional system.
Under the congressional system, there are committees like the committees of the Senate of the United States, which 672 not only exercise control and supervision, but which very largely contribute to the shaping of policy. We live under a quite different system, which I myself hope we shall always preserve. We do not seek to run the affairs of State ourselves. We recognise that they are the responsibilities of the Ministers of the day, and we carry out our traditional function of raising grievances and demanding redress.
To put it in another way, what we have to do, and I think perhaps the most important thing we have to do—even more important than passing legislation—is to exercise continuous and effective supervision over what is done by Ministers and what is done by Departments. They must always know that they are liable at any moment to be called to account in Parliament. That function of supervision must, of course, always be discharged mainly by this House, but I think we all realise that in modern conditions it has become increasingly difficult for this House of Commons fully to discharge these responsibilities.
I referred a little while ago to a debate we had on the 31st January on procedure, as a result of which we are to have a Select Committee on the Procedure of this House. That debate was introduced by two most interesting speeches. The Motion was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram) and was seconded by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). Both those hon Members, and I think nearly every hon. Member who spoke in the debate from either side of the House, seemed to be. expressing a considerable sense of frustration, which we all feel from time to time in this House.
The reason is that we are so much the slaves of the timetable. It is constantly happening that there are topics of very great importance which ought to be debated, which sometimes ought to be debated as a matter of urgency, but for which no time can be found in the proceedings of the House. One has only to come here on a Thursday at the end of Questions, as today, when Business is announced, to hear hon. Members from all parts of the House asking that time should be found for some matter which is generally one of considerable importance and considerable public interest. We all know how impossible it is for 673 more than a small proportion of those demands to be met.
If we had an effective and competent second Chamber it would help to relieve that situation. It would give us what I believe is of very great value nowadays, whichever party is in office—an additional check over the operations of the Government of the day. I therefore take the view that there is a good deal to be said for a second Chamber which is not under the same pressure as we are here in the House of Commons but where, nevertheless, Ministers can be called upon to account for what the Government do. This could be a very important function indeed, but unfortunately the Government have not chosen to bring forward a genuine reform of the House of Lords. They have brought forward a Measure which merely props up the House of Lords as it is now.
I will not embark on this at any length, but there are various ways in which there could be a genuine reform of the House of Lords. One is the Measure which was tentatively agreed between the party leaders in 1948. Speaking for myself, I hope that that proposal will never be revived, because it was a proposal for a purely nominated Chamber. It was a proposal for some hundreds of Lords of Parliament who would have been appointed for life and who would have received salaries for the services which they performed. In initiating the debate today my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) spoke about patronage, but that proposal would have meant patronage on a very considerable scale. It would have been "Jobs for the boys" with a vengeance and, I presume, "Jobs for the girls", too.
There is another proposal which I think ought to receive a great deal more attention than it has received. That is a proposal contained in the Bryce Report, the Report of the conference presided over by Lord Bryce, which reported in 1918. That is the only occasion since the Parliament Act on which there has ever been anything in the nature of an impartial examination of this question.
That conference produced some interesting proposals which I think go a long way to meet the various objections. It proposed that the great majority of the members of the second Chamber should 674 be chosen for a fixed term of years by Members of this House sitting in geographical blocks; hon. Members for East Anglia would have elected their representatives, hon. Members for Wales would have elected theirs, and so on. It was further proposed that a smaller proportion of the second Chamber should be chosen on the grounds of public distinction by a Select Committee of both House.
I will not embark upon the merits of this proposal, but I would point out that if we were seriously considering the reform of the second Chamber these are the kind of propositions which we should have under review. Personally, I hope that we shall consider proposals of this kind at some stage, but the Government have not chosen to proceed in that way.
The last point I want to make, therefore, is that I think we are entitled to protest against the way in which this Measure has been brought forward. Contrast what happened in earlier days with this Government's method of proceeding. In 1917 Lord Bryce and his colleagues, who were a very authoritative body, were appointed by the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Lloyd George, to consider this question of the constitution of the second Chamber. As I have said, they produced an extremely interesting and authoritative Report. In 1948 the Labour Government followed a somewhat different method, but they at any rate invited the leaders of the other parties to meet them to see whether agreement was possible.
In the present case there has been no approach at all. The Government have embarked upon this Measure without even troubling to find out whether the gift which they purported to offer would be acceptable to the Opposition.
I believe that there is an explanation for all this. I do not believe that the Government are concerned whether they get the agreement of the Opposition or not. The Government know perfectly well what is in store for them at the next General Election. If they did not know it yesterday, they certainly knew it this morning. They are trying, I believe, as they have tried on earlier occasions in the history of their party, to undo some of the effects of the Parliament Act and to erect some kind of barrier against what is to come. They are like a set of 675 inverted Cannings, trying to call in the old world to redress the balance of the new.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Captain Richard Pilkington (Poole)
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. Foot). It seemed to me, if I may say so with respect, that it was a very Lib.-Lab. approach. It contained many interesting suggestions, particularly towards the end.
At the beginning the hon. and learned Member referred to what he described as the fundamental objection which the Labour Party have to the Bill. That fundamental objection was that as a result of the Bill there would still be an overwhelming majority of one party in another place. He and many other hon. Members who have spoken on that point are, quite understandably, looking at this problem primarily from a party point of view, but I maintain—and I hope that hon. Members opposite will not scoff at this—that the basic reason for producing the Bill has been not the Government's desire to improve their own position in another place but their desire to make the present House of Lords a better body than it is now by grafting on to it these life peerages.
The hon. and learned Gentleman has said that during recent years the House of Lords has functioned largely by fear, because it knew that if it withstood the Labour Government it would invite a head-on collision, with results possibly fatal to itself. That can be argued, but I put it rather differently and say that, today, surely, it is a fundamental principle of the other place that it should not obstruct the will of the electorate, as shown at elections. It can revise, it can discuss, it can delay, but it cannot block continuously what this House proposes to do.
It has been argued on the other side that in the last year or two years of a Parliament, the House of Lords can block legislation, but even were that true, surely, in our nation's long history, a delay of a year or two is not so serious as all that. At any rate, it has the advantage of giving the nation a little longer for reflection.
676 One brief comment that I would make is that I think it absurd that we should not, without any further delay at all, legislate for the payment of those now attending the other place. I do not think that any argument can adequately resist that now.
My main purpose is to deal with the question of the hereditary principle. I support the Bill because, while it proposes to enlarge the potential reservoir from which members of the other place can be drawn, it still leaves unimpaired the hereditary principle. I know that most hon. Members opposite, and some hon. Members on this side of the House, are opposed to that principle. I do not for one moment suppose that anything I may say will change their minds between now and the Division, but I do think that this is a matter that should be reflected upon rather more carefully than it has been in the past. I shall not couch what I have to say in any controversial form, but I will speak sincerely about what I think.
Some hon. Members have suggested that the membership of the other place is far too high but, in proportion to the population, the number is no greater than it has been in previous centuries. In 1600, there were about 80 peers in a population of some 5 million. Today, there are something over 800 peers in a population of about 50 million. It has been rightly said that the majority of noble Lords do not attend the other place, but I do not think that it can be denied that this bloc of hereditary peers at least forms, if I may use the term again, a great reservoir of experience and knowledge such as is equalled by no other second Chamber in the world. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] If any hon. Members can suggest another second Chamber to rival ours, I should be glad to hear of it—
§ Captain Pilkington
I doubt it. Another point is that our present system includes, in a way that it would not be easy to get in any other system, an element of youth which, I think, is a virtue. It is a wise nation that learns from history and experience. Noble Lords on the Opposition side in another place have paid tribute to the high standard of debate and discussion there is in 677 that place at present. One wonders, whether this is in spite of the hereditary principle or, to any extent, because of it.
The argument was made in the debate yesterday that, if the constitutional setup which we have in this country at present is as good as some claim that it is, why should it be that other members of the Commonwealth, when they have been drawing up their Constitutions, have not followed our example and had a hereditary House of Peers. The answer surely is that the history of these other Parliaments of the Commonwealth is completely different from ours, in that they stem from the Colonial Office, the Dominions Office, or whatever it might be, whereas our Constitution grew up over many centuries, through fortuitous experiences such as had not been the case among our present partners in the Commonwealth.
Anyone coming to this House has, to some extent, to make himself master of the history of our island, and all those who stop to consider it must surely accept that the great families in the past have played a tremendous part in the evolution of the State whose citizens we are today. Looking back, can anyone argue that the younger Pitt did not draw inspiration from Chatham, that Churchill did not draw inspiration from Marlborough, or that inspiration has not existed down the long line of families such as the Salisburys and the Derbys?
I should like to quote from something said many centuries ago, in the year 1625, by Sir Ranulphe Crewe, a favourite quotation, incidentally, of John Buchan, the father-in-law of my noble Friend the Member for Aberdeen. South (Lady Tweedsmuir):Where is Bohun? Where is Mowbray? Where is Mortimer? Nay, which is more and most of all, Where is Plantagenet?"—
§ Captain Pilkington
Not at all— "They are entombed in the urns and sepulchres of mortality"—
though I would rather change the quotation slightly and say, "of immortality", Their names are interwoven in the texture of our country's history; and if hon. Members opposite say that they do not know those names, I will give them another quotation, which I take 678 from a writer and poet of more recent times, is:'Let us now praise famous men'—Men of little showing,—For their work continueth,And their work continuethBroad and deep continueth,Greater than their knowing.—and greater than hon. Members' knowing.
Hon. Members opposite have said that to argue that there is some virtue in this hereditary principle is to argue for an anachronism, something outdated in this day and age. But how old fashioned, how antediluvian are hon. Members who think that. Is there anyone here in the House who could deny that the science of breeding is being given far more study today than ever before, and that if that applies in one way, it surely does in another? We have already had the metaphor used in respect of the pigs of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), in which I was interested, though I shall not pursue that, but I turn to another approach to the same principle. In face of the growing interest in the great science of eugenics and in face of the knowledge which there now is on that subject, can anybody doubt that this is a matter which will more and more occupy the minds of civilised people? Surely, the principle of the betterment of our race is one which' can, or should, command the support of all of us.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Is the burden of the hon. and gallant Member's argument that somehow there is more noble blood in the veins of people who sit in another place than in those who sit in this place?
§ Captain Pilkington
The very reverse. My whole argument is that the principle of heredity as such, which at present supplies the other place, is a principle which should not be attacked as it has been attacked by hon. Members opposite. This heredity and the long line of brilliance which in some cases has been produced should be prized and fostered wherever it comes from.
I come now to an illustration of what I have in mind. I recommend those hon. Members who have been disagreeing with some of the things I have said to read a book which has quite recently been published, entitled "Uncommon People"
679 written by Paul Bloomfield. It deals much better than I can do with the argument which I have tried briefly to put forward. I shall not go into it at length, but I will quote from a review which appeared in an American magazine, which stated:A dreadful book has recently been published in England God grant that it may never be published here. It masquerades under an innocent sounding title, 'Uncommon People' The arguments of its author Paul Bloomfield are so plausible and seductive that it is doubtful if even the Daughters of the American Revolution could hold out against them.The review goes on to deal with the part that the hereditary principle has played in English history as recorded in the book and it makes this comment:An inordinate share of all that is good, enduring, wise, beautiful or merely famous in contemporary England has sprung from this handful of uncommon men and women … No idea could be more subversive to mid-century America, dedicated as it is to the Common Man. Our whole way of life is now based on the theory that only the mediocre and ineffectual deserved to be especially cherished by society. The notion that exceptional people ought to get exceptional conideration—and that their abilities might be transmitted by heredity—is felt to be shockingly undemocratic and un-American … But this is too dangerous a subject to pursue further. It could lead to the most upsetting kind of revolution in American thought and conduct—a genuine respect for and effort to foster the Uncommon Man.
§ Mr. Awbery
Would not the hon. and gallant Member agree that many of our brilliant men through the ages have come from the ordinary common people, and many of the duds have come from the stock that he is talking about now?
§ Captain Pilkington
I could not agree more with the hon. Member. Cannot he see my point? Such families have to begin somewhere, and when we have a family that has within it a spark of genius, of whatever form, the argument for distinguishing that family and nuturing it is very strong. I am glad that the hon. Member interrupted me, because I should like to refer to something he said. I have the greatest respect for him, but not always for what he says. He spoke words which seemed to me to represent the outdated antediluvian attitude which some hon. Members opposite are adopting. I believe that I quote his words correctly. He said, "We, the workers, are only tolerated 680 in this place". It seems to me that that sort of attitude has gone with the wind. The whole nation wants those people who are willing to give service, and if it be that they can continue in their families that spark of genius for service, it is something that we should prize and keep for the nation.
§ Mr. Awbery
If I remember rightly, I said that for many generations the Conservative Party has cherished the idea that its members alone were made to govern and that we were intruders in the House of Commons.
§ Captain Pilkington
I do not agree. For many years, we who now sit on this side of the House thought that it was not the hon. Member's party but the Whigs that kept us out. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who are 'we'?"] I would remind the hon. Member that the Whigs had a monopoly of the House of Lords for a very long time and that we were in the position in which some hon. Members opposite think they are at present. In an age when quality is more than ever necessary to compete against a world in which there is in other nations so much quantity, we should do ill to try to suppress any means of distinguishing and fostering those people, from wherever they come, who produce something that can be of service to the State.
I agree that, like most principles, this principle of hereditary can be pushed too far and do harm, but it can also be too much diminished and that would do quite as much harm. Surely, there can be common agreement that our national genius has produced what no other country has produced, namely, a successful blend between the three elements of a monarchy, of an aristocracy, which is continually renewing itself from every quarter of the community, and of a democracy. An hon. Member said earlier in the debate that 300 peerages had been extinguished and 700 new creations had been made within a certain term of years. This continual re-creation is largely responsible for the strength which lives in our Constitution at present.
As I said, the third element in this make-up is democracy. Surely we can continue to make a successful blend of all three factors. If we lose or diminish any one of them, we shall be injuring the whole. I hope and believe 681 that there will be agreement ultimately on maintaining the good things in our Constitution on which I have dwelt and that thereby we shall continue to play an ever more worthy part in the world.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
It was interesting to listen to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Poole (Captain Pilkington), because his speech was like a flashback to many years ago. The hon. and gallant Gentleman described some of the remarks made from this side of the House as old-[...]ashioned and antediluvian. I could not think of a phrase more suitable to apply to what he has just been putting across to the House.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said, quite rightly, that the main point of the Bill is that it leaves unimpaired the hereditary principle. For that reason, he devoted all his speech to its defence, but I am afraid that I remain unconvinced. I cannot understand how anybody can defend the hereditary principle in the year 1958. No one will deny that there have been sons of peers who have proved a success in the other place. but to send a man to the other place and say that his son, the son of his son, and the son of the son of his son will have the right to sit there and vote, when he may be a complete nitwit—
§ Mr. Hynd
I do not want to be offensive to anybody, but nobody can deny that this is sometimes the case.
Whatever a man's mental capacity, whatever his behaviour, whatever kind of a person he is, he sits there with the right to legislate. Can anybody seriously defend that kind of thing today? We all admit that there are exceptional cases, but there are many cases on the other side. I took a cutting from a recent issue of the Sunday Express. It reads as follows:The Duke of Leeds has bought a small villa between Monte Carlo and Cap Martin. He and the duchess will go there in June to slay. The duke, who lives in Jersey to avoid taxation problems, is one of the wealthiest men on the island.Can we defend that kind of thing? Can we defend such people sitting as legislators?
682 Here is another extract from the same paper:Since his marriage last year, Lord Brooke, the Earl of Warwick's son and heir, has had no full-time employment. However, at his wife's urging, he has occupied himself a good deal with handicrafts. And, by covering match-boxes with scraps of velvet, wallpaper and suchlike, he has made several attractive little knick-knacks. He has also made a very useful sort of fretwork screen for the drawing-room of his Chelsea home.If hon. Gentlemen opposite quote one set of hereditary peers to us, we are bound to quote one or two examples on the other side, and I say that the whole thing is farcical.
§ Captain Pilkington
The hon. Gentleman has quoted two cases and I dare say there are others like them, but when they are set against the long history of this country, and the part played in it by the other place, the argument does not hold much water.
§ Mr. Hynd
I would hesitate to quote other cases of those who have appeared in the courts, and elsewhere, because I might get into deep water.
I have no objection to a man being sent to the House of Lords because of distinguished service in politics or because of playing a distinguished part in the war, or because he is a man of letters, or an ex-ambassador. If people go there on their own merits, good luck to them. They will probably do a good job. I think it is admitted on all sides that the people who now do the most valuable work in the House of Lords are the peers of first creation, but it is ridiculous to let their heirs for ever and ever sit there, whatever their merits or demerits.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman posed a question and answered it to his own satisfaction, but not to mine. He asked why it is that in all the Parliaments throughout the Commonwealth which are doing their best to copy the Palace of Westminster none of them has an hereditary second Chamber. The fact is that no other parliament in the world is so stupid as to have a hereditary second Chamber. We were challenged to mention any other second Chamber in the world which has as much ability as ours, and of course, we can refer to a few. I think that the American Senate is probably the outstanding example.
I am sorry that the Bill did not approach the problem in a way which 683 I should have thought a typical and acceptable British compromise, namely, to continue the present system of sending people to the House of Lords on their own merits, but simply to stop having their sons following them automatically.
To go even further, I should be prepared to accept the position that all those who are there now because their fathers had done something should remain there for their lifetime. I should be prepared to accept that as a "cushion", provided that from now on no other person should sit there simply and solely because his father happened to be a peer, for whatever reason he was so created.
That would be a simple solution and one which would be generally acceptable and1 hope that Amendments along those lines will be acceptable when the Bill goes into Committee.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
It will, I am sure, be agreed on all sides of the House that we have had an extremely interesting, and sometimes entertaining, time during the last two days, and that not least has been the entertainment which has been provided in the last quarter of an hour.
I am tempted to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Poole (Captain Pilkington) in his dissertation on selective breeding and on the great advantage of breeding from good stock. I did not understand that we were now to have a selection of those in the other place from whom to breed. I have been asked to remember pig breeding. I must say that I thought that that was an inelegant metaphor. I should never have thought of using it myself.
I am not quite certain what the test is to be. In pig breeding, it is length and leanness. I am not sure whether we are to make our tests on biological grounds or on sociological grounds. If we are to make them on biological grounds, we ought to have the Members of another place paraded before us, so that we can examine them, because, after all, they have been handed down to us by accident.
I was rather astonished by that, but it was not only the hon. and gallant Member who made this defence of the hereditary principle. Such a defence was made by 684 another hon. Member opposite and, by inference, by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South - West (Mr. Powell). The essence of prescriptive right is that one gets handed down power by accident and the Members of the House of Lords are there at present by historical accident.
It is a lot of nonsense to try to pretend that in institutions of that sort one gets descendants of great eminence. One might get them, but it would be by pure accident. Some of the most famous of history were bastards. I have not verified my facts, but I think that Leonardo da Vinci was a bastard—and he was not a bad painter—and so was Cæsar, while Shakespeare's ancestry is lost in the mists. We ought not to try to support serious contentions by such ludicrous arguments.
It is a fact—and this gives a very great deal of verisimilitude to the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West—that until recently mankind had invented only three methods of passing power from generation to generation or from one person to another. They were great historical conveniences, because, unless they had been invented, we should have had endemic civil war throughout society. These institutions had very great demerits, but they were convenient inventions.
They were dynasty, property and caste. There was no other invention until quite recently. If one belonged to a certain caste one had certain privileges and obligations, and it was not possible to pass from one caste to another. Dynasty was an obvious convenience. One inherited the power from one's father or mother, or both, and private property was another convenient way of passing power from generation to generation and from person to person.
Outside those three categories mankind had not invented a way of peacefully transferring power and privilege until, quite recently, by democracy. One of the difficulties of the Soviet Union is that it has not the fourth invention, after having destroyed the other three. It has had to rely upon primitive, judicial or non-judicial assassination. It is now trying to fumble its way towards a civilised way of carrying it out, and collective leadership is probably an interim phase. It may eventually invent democracy as a means of peacefully transferring power.
685 But we are no longer dependent upon those primitive institutions. We have invented for ourselves—and it is a comparatively new invention; that is why hon. Members opposite have not yet become accustomed to it—a way of transferring power by counting heads And not breaking them. This has been invented slowly, and has come to maturity only recently. It is still not sufficiently realised that political democracy came of age in this country as recently as 1929. It was not until the Election of 1929 that every adult of 21 years of age had the franchise in Great Britain. It is a very uncomfortable affair for hon. Members opposite, whose minds have been accustomed to transferring power amongst themselves by the other three more primitive institutions.
There is a fight going on in Great Britain between these institutions; and I appreciate the anxiety of hon. Members opposite, because it is very hard to accommodate privilege to liberty.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
What the right hon. Gentleman has said is rather strange, in view of the fact that two of the greatest names in connection with the extension of the franchise are Disraeli and Baldwin.
§ Mr. Bevan
If the hon. Member will study his history more closely he will realise that in the struggle that occurred between the two sections of the ruling class they either had to go to war with each other or call in arbitrators. The extension of the franchise was a means of calling in arbitrators. We cannot call in any more arbitrators, because everybody is in.
So it can be said that, having reached a mature, democratic system by which all the adult population have the opportunity of voting for their representatives here, we have reached a situation where we can, as peacefully as possible, dispense with the other three institutions for passing power from generation to generation and person to person. In other words, ownership of property as a means of doing so is now redundant. We do not require it. On this side of the House we are trying hard to get rid of that institution, only we are doing it as peacefully as possible.
All these three institutions are fused in the other place. They have joined 686 hands in the other place. It is, in fact, an ironical commentary on the structure of British society that the House of Lords is replenished—I would not say refreshed—from time to time by people who are overwhelmingly Conservative in character. It is a commentary on the structure of society that it is replenished by members of the very order—
§ Mr. Bevan
It is quite true that there are elevations from time to time in order to try to give it a feeling of contemporary respectability. But, nevertheless, it is a fact that no one will challenge that the House of Lords is recruited, in the main, by the same social pressures and influences as it was recruited over six or eight centuries; that is how unchanged it has been.
Of course, in the course of the rivalry between the political parties, its functions and powers have suffered attrition, but its membership has remained virtually unchanged. It is true that it now has only the residual functions; very small functions are discharged. But it still has powers and those powers can well be exerted in the most dangerous way. The House of Lords, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Labour Party mentioned yesterday, has the power of annulling all Statutory Instruments and Orders. If it used those powers, it would completely hamstring any legislation we might bring in, because modern legislation depends almost entirely upon Statutory Instruments and Orders. There is that power in another place.
It may be said that the peers would not exercise this power. How do we know? We have no reason to believe that they would not exercise it.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd
In fact, 2,800 Orders of that kind came up to the House of Lords during the time of the last Labour Government and not a single one was negatived.
§ Mr. Bevan
How can that be an answer? If that be regarded as a justification, it can also be an argument for taking away unnecessary powers. Why do not we get rid of this atavistic survival? Why should a Labour Party and a Labour Government be under such a threat?
687 I must say to right hon. and hon. Members opposite that I have seen them during my lifetime in this House in moods where I would not trust them not to use those powers at any time. Indeed, I have noticed, during the course of the last few days, and as the by-election returns have been coming in, a growing enthusiasm for the hereditary principle on that side of the House. We are, in fact, in the situation where all the legislation of a Labour Government could be obstructed.
Then there is the element of delay. Right hon. and hon. Members on the Government benches take this quite lightheartedly. The hon. and gallant Member for Poole, who has just spoken, asked, "What is wrong with having a year or two of delay?" Why did they not apply that to the Rent Act? What would have been wrong with that? I can tell them that it would have been very popular. Delay is only reasonable to Government supporters when it delays Socialist legislation. That is what has happened in the past.
We would be wise to consider the existing powers of the House of Lords, no matter what may happen to the Bill. We had to amend the Parliament Act on the last occasion because the Lords used their powers. It may be necessary, in an emergency, for legislation to go through quite quickly. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I hope hon. Members will not sneer at that. In 1931, the suspension of the Gold Standard went through all its stages in the House of Commons and the House of Lords in one day. We do not know what kind of emergency may arise when we may have to act very quickly and boldly in the national interest. It does not always follow that their Lordships' views and the national interest march together. In fact, they march separately quite often. Those powers would have to go. The Bill does nothing about those powers, except to leave them untouched and thereby make the Bill offensive to us.
We have been told in the last two days by several hon. Members from the Government side of the House that we were not ready to talk. What were the conditions? Right hon. Gentlemen have not approached us and said, "Some part of the fabric of the British Constitution is falling into desuetude and we want to 688 have a discussion with you as to what to do about it." They did not put it like that. What the Minister of Education said today was, "Let us have a talk about reform of the House of Lords, on the assumption that that reform must be a House of Lords reform and that there must be a House of Lords."
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd
I was referring to the observations made by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, when he said:However, assuming that there is to be a second Chamber—and it is an open question—the first condition …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 12th February, 1958; Vol. 582, c. 424.]and then he laid down three conditions. I thereupon said this afternoon that I thought the most hopeful method of reaching agreement which the right hon. Gentleman had thrown out as a possibility was the most informal method of consultation.
§ Mr. Bevan
I asked the right hon. Gentleman the question several times, and what he replied is irrelevant to what I said. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, "That is an open question", but from the point of view of the Government it is a closed question. They not only refuse to discuss whether there should be a second Chamber; they insist that that second Chamber should be a reformed House of Lords.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd
That is not fair. The Leader of the Opposition said. "Assuming that there is to be a second Chamber", and he indicated in an aside that it might be an open question. He then put forward his conditions. I said that the most hopeful method was informal consultation, and when the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) tried to pin me down to saying that I was agreeing that we should discuss the abolition of the House of Lords, I naturally said, "No", I was not prepared to discuss that situation at all, and that I was considering that we should talk on the basis of the 1948 discussions, in which such a question was never raised.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. Gentleman should not try to wriggle out of his own difficulties like that. I put the question to him twice today and on the second occasion he said that he would consult HANSARD. I hope that HANSARD has 689 taken it down properly. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not say that HANSARD takes things down improperly, but HANSARD does not always catch every word.
The right hon. Gentleman said in answer to me that he would not agree that it was not an a priori principle that there should be a discussion about a second Chamber. He said it precisely and went on to say, "We must insist that it must be a reformed House of Lords." So we have to start a discussion with right hon. Members opposite having given them 75 per cent. of the case to begin with. In point of fact, the responsibility for there not having been general discussions on wide constitutional reform lies with right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd rose—
§ Mr. Bevan
The case has been made and hon. Members will be able to judge between us when they read HANSARD tomorrow. Hon. Members who heard the interlude this afternoon will, I think, agree that what I say is right.
One of the other difficulties in which we find ourselves is a very serious one. As a consequence of historical attrition and the reduction of the functions of the House of Lords to purely residual ones, the question comes to us whether, in fact, an institution of that size, an institution of that status, is really required to perform the functions still left to it. I doubt very much that we would invent a second Chamber today to perform those functions if one did not exist.
When we come to think about it, what an enormous amount of nonsense has been talked about what the House of Lords does. I was a Minister for six and a half years and I was responsible for a great volume of contentious legislation. I have had as much experience, probably more experience, of dealing with the House of Lords on contentious legislation than other men in this Chamber at the moment. It is absurd to say that we never had any difficulties with the House of Lords. The fact is that any Socialist Minister framing legislation always has to take another hurdle on the way to his legislation—the House of Lords. He always has to consider what concessions he would have to make there to get his Bill through.
690 Over and over again Lord Addison and Lord Jowitt, and others whose names I will not mention now, used to come to me and ask what concession I could make to sweeten the Lords. It is, therefore, complete nonsense to suggest that the House of Lords as it exists at present exerts no influence on the content of legislation. Of course, it must be obvious to hon. Members with any experience of how legislation works here that if we have representatives in another place they want to try to make their task as easy as possible. They have to live with hordes of Conservative peers, so they bring pressure, in their turn, upon Socialist Ministers to frame their legislation in such a way as not to have too much trouble in the House of Lords. That is how it works. I have known civil servants suggest to me that in framing legislation I should put something in so as to be able to take it out in the Lords.
We have the innocents getting up one after the other—they know nothing about procedure and nothing about how legislation is prepared—suggesting that we suffer no handicap as compared with Conservative Governments. We always have suffered under these handicaps. As Lord Moran said in the House of Lords, they are unfair handicaps and ought to be removed.
We are now told about revision. What a mountain of error is carried on a grain of truth. Of course revision takes place in another place. It has been doing that now for centuries, yet people have paraded, as some of my hon. Friends did today, figures showing how many Amendments were made in the House of Lords. They were gabbled through. They were not argued. They went through pro forma. They were, in the main, alterations to the text and not at all to the content of the Measure.
It would be quite easy—and I could suggest several ways—to invent methods by which textual revision could take place here before we sought the signature of the Crown to a Bill. It could be quite easily done. Does anybody suggest for a moment that we want that vast apparatus over there to perform that trivial task? I never heard such nonsense in all my life.
691 Then, of course, we were warned of the virtues of a pause—the divine pause, second thoughts, and how useful it is to have a body of objective personalities, people who bring a dispassionate mind to bear on the legislation that comes, of course from a Socialist Government. When there is a Conservative Government, the divine pause is not necessary; on the contrary, it becomes an escalator.
It has been pointed out over and over again here that the Rent Bill went through in four or five hours, but, of course, we are told that a pause is necessary, and so many editorials are written—pompous, flatulent and ignorant—about the virtues of this pause. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that this is poppycock. The fact is that the legislative process of this House is too slow.
Let us consider what happens when we are framing a great Bill. Long before it sees the light of day, all kinds of interests will have been consulted about it. Month after month, preparation of a great Measure for this House occupies a period of very considerable private gestation before it ever appears on the surface, and when it appears it is subject to critical debate here, to Committee examination, to newspaper comment, radio comment and television argument—a cacophony of communication—and it is only after months of that that, ultimately, the Bill is ready for the signature of the Crown.
After all that is done, it is seriously suggested by these modern thinkers that it may not be a bad thing to have a pause—a pause of a year or two—to find out whether, in fact, we have done something unintelligent or even intelligent.
This is 1958, and we have to adjust our institutions accordingly. In modern society, Government intervention in economic, financial and social affairs is the accepted order of the day. What we require now is to have flexible and effective ways of Government intervention that still leave private liberty untouched. That is our problem today. We are no longer able to say that that Government is best that governs least.
They cannot even say it in the United States. Nearly 25 per cent. of the money spent in the United States today is spent 692 on public account, in one form or another. This is a huge volume of expenditure even in a country dedicated to rugged economic individualism. A quarter of the whole of the money spent by the United States is directed by Government agencies in one way or another, and everybody knows that one of the disabilities from which the United States suffers is the division of powers. The constitution is becoming hopelessly unworkable, because it is not adjusted to the necessities of the modern world.
For right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to suggest in 1958, therefore, that what is wanted is a brake on the governmental process is ridiculous. I am not speaking now about the wisdom of what Governments do, but Governments must be able to act quickly and efficiently if they are to do their job properly. It is, therefore, nonsense to suggest that what we want are second, third and fourth thoughts, or a divine pause in which the pundits over there can make their speeches.
I have very few minutes left, but there are one or two more things which I want to say. I want to warn right hon. and hon. Gentlemen seriously about the consequences of what they are doing now. Everybody who has studied this subject knows that the inwardness of the situation today is the inability to find Socialists to go to the House of Lords to perform their functions there without payment. That is the main difficulty. We never have any difficulties when we are the Government. We can always give enough offices over there to have the job done; it is easy. What happens now, however, is that our noble Friends cannot attend. It is too onerous.
The proposal to make life peers is, in my opinion, the unimportant part of these proposals. That is the facade. The important point is that it is now intended. because of the acceptance of this relationship between the two Houses, that there should be remuneration for the peers. It was stated on the other side of the House by three hon. Members that the time had come to pay the peers. Pelf for the peers. It is now being said that it is fair not only that noble Lords should inherit powers from their parents, but that we should confer an honorarium upon them. That is the intention. Already, there is a beginning. Already, they are paid, I think, three guineas a day 693 expenses. It is not much, but it will go up. It is certain to go up. The Leader of the House of Lords begged Members, the other clay, not to press him at this delicate moment for an increase in pay. I do not know whether the delicacy derives from my friend Frank Cousins, or whether it derives from the fact that this Bill has not yet passed through this House.
The fact is that it is now intended to pay the House of Lords, but, of course, it is a big step to pay 867 people and an ingenious method is, therefore, being devised by which some of their noble Lordships can have leave of absence from the Crown. They can have exemption from attendance. That will leave, we do not know how many but a small number. perhaps 200 or 300, who will still attend. Then some life peers will he made—how many we do not yet know—and they will go to the House of Lords and a nice honorarium will alight on all of them. And here, the House of Commons, which has not given its own Members pensions, will give pensions for life to the Lords. That is exactly it.
Never was a slimier trick played. It is our view that the whole idea is that the peer's son should have a reward for his services. So, for the residual services that are left after the attrition of centuries, it is now proposed that the House of Commons, in its right senses, should confer upon their Lordships not only influence but pensions for life—
§ Brigadier Clarke
No, give them a "bob" for the job—not jobs for the boys. That is what the party opposite gave before.
§ Mr. Bevan
I would not have invented so vulgar a phrase myself but, of course, it is true that outside this Palace not very much interest is taken in this Measure. For us here, at present, it is a matter merely between ourselves. But Milton warned us about this. He said:Consider Liberty, and do not bind her when she sleeps.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)
I do not think that, in any circumstances, this would have 694 been a particularly easy debate to wind up, but there is a problem that makes it even more difficunlt than I anticipated. While I have a perfectly straightforward job to do in answering certain questions that have been asked about the Bill—and I am very ready; and will, in the course of my speech, I hope, justify the Bill in such a way that at the end of the debate the House will accept it—my real difficulty is to discover—and I have been listening as closely as I can all the time that I have been able to be present in the last two days—what attack I am to meet or am expected to meet.
There are differences of views on the merits of the Bill, but I think that I can exemplify very precisely what my problem is by referring very briefly to the argument that went on a short time ago between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education. The right hon. Gentleman asked what my right hon. Friend really meant about the possibility of talks, and on what basis. On what basis? I might well ask of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Leader of the Opposition as to which of them I am arguing with on this.
Let us see precisely what1 am dealing with here. In the OFFICIAL REPORT of our debate yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition is reported to have mentioned the conditions on which talks could conceivably be possible. He said:They were that the second Chamber should not be separately elected, as it were, parallel with the House of Commons. The second was that it should not be hereditary in character and the third that it should not have power to overrule or obstruct the House of Commons. If there were a question of real reform we would certainly think it right, if those general propositions were acceptable and particularly the point about powers, that there should be an attempt at reaching an agreement among the parties.What did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale do? He tried to insert that one of the conditions on which there should be discussion was whether there should be a second Chamber at all—
§ Mr. Maclay
Oh, yes, he did. Is he denying that that was the point that he put to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education?
§ Mr. Maclay
But what do the Leader of the Opposition's remarks mean? I agree that, earlier on, he made a rather careful and cautious remark, apparently remembering who was to wind up the debate for the other side of the House. He said—and this is quite straightforward:… assuming that there is to be a second Chamber—and it is an open question …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1958; Vol. 582, c. 424.]The Leader of the Opposition said that, and all the rest of his speech was made on the assumption that there should be a second Chamber; but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale did his level best to insert into the conditions for any possible discussions that the question of the existence of a second Chamber should be included. That is completely different.
§ Mr. Maclay
The position is precisely as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education said.
Really, what has emerged in these two days of debate is extremely interesting. Having listened all yesterday, I was giving some thought to how one might prepare the basis of a winding up speech, but today I find that I am dealing with an utterly different debate. All the discussion yesterday went on, with varying degrees of agreement or disagreement, on the assumption of a second Chamber. Can the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale deny that, tonight, he has deliberately changed the whole emphasis of this discussion to bring the existence of a second Chamber in the United Kingdom into question?
§ Mr. Maclay
The right hon. Gentleman really cannot get away with chang- 696 ing the question. I am trying to discover what position the Opposition is taking. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the Bill?"] I am asked whether I want to talk about the Bill. Did the right hon. Gentleman mention the Bill once in his speech? The whole of his speech was a deliberate raising of the issue of whether a second Chamber should continue to exist.
What I want to get clear—this is very important—before I continue to deal with the Bill, as I wish to do, is whether it is the general view of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the whole question of whether there should be a second Chamber is now an issue.
§ Mr. Bevan indicated assent.
§ Mr. Maclay
The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) made her position absolutely clear. I respect her for it. I disagree with it. She made it clear, but I still have not an idea what the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, her husband—
§ Mr. Maclay
I am sorry. We really ought to clear this up. I want to know whether the version of the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale is the authorised version or whether the version of the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock is the authorised version. I stand entirely on the reply of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, who made a perfectly reasonable reply also to what one understands from a reading of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.
I think that we have, at least, established that there is a great deal of doubt on the other side about what hon. Members opposite themselves think or mean. I suspect that the difficulty one is in in this debate is that we have heard expressions of extreme difference of view—all of them from the benches opposite, I admit, critical of the Bill—but violently divergent differences on the principle behind the attitude of the two distinguished Members of the front bench whom I have been questioning.
§ Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East)
There are divergent views on the right hon. Gentleman's side.
§ Mr. Maclay
I shall come to that. I think that it would be miraculous if any two speakers in this debate had found themselves in complete agreement either with each other or with what is in or is not in the Bill.
§ Mr. F.H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
Does that apply to the right hon. Gentleman's own Front Bench?
§ Mr. Maclay
It does not make my task any easier. In addition, there have been books, pamphlets and articles written on the subject since 1856, and there have been no fewer than twelve Bills introduced in one House or the other which have dealt with variations on the theme of life peerages. That is not to speak of ten other Bills which dealt with some form of reform.
I do not propose in the time available to go over the full hundred years of argument, but it is worth noting that with some individual aberrations, never so far, in either House, has any responsible consideration been given to the possibility of single Chamber Government in this country. I have tried to get elucidation from hon. Members opposite, and for the moment I propose to deal with the speeches of those who have spoken on the assumption of the existence of a second Chamber.
By and large, it has become clear that the classic statement of the functions for which a second Chamber is needed, given in the Bryce Conference's Report of 1918, still hold good with responsible people. Let me briefly run over them. To summarise, we need a second Chamber to examine and revise Bills brought from this House; to initiate comparatively non-controversial Measures; to interpose so much delay—and no more—in the passage of Bills which affect the Constitution, introduce new principles of legislation or raise issues on which the opinion of the country is equally divided—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Rent Act."]—as is needed to enable public sentiment to be adequately expressed; and to provide a forum for the discussion of important questions.
I will come back shortly to the one Bryce provision on which, obviously, 698 there is not complete unanimity today—the one which deals with delay—because I believe that hon. and right hon. Members opposite have argued themselves into a contradictory position on that point.
Before dealing with that, let me again quote from the agreed statement at the conclusion of the conference of party leaders. Incidentally, we learned something very interesting this afternoon—that the conference of party leaders did not, apparently, represent the views of any substantial proportion of the party opposite, even at that time. Nevertheless, it is worth realising that these very responsible people, who had had long experience, reached these conclusions and they agreed that the representatives of all three parties were united in their desire to see the House of Lords continue to play its proper part in the Legislature and to exercise the valuable functions which I have been describing.
It was regarded as essential, moreover, that there should be available to the country a legislative body composed of men of mature judgment and experience gained in many spheres of public life. It is all very well an hon. Member saying "Rubbish", but the people who signed that document were of all parties and they had great experience. It is almost incredible that this brave new world is assuming that the experience of all these years was wrong. The statement from the conference, coupled with the Bryce Report, is a very authoritative document. The quotation makes it clear that, certainly in 1948, there were no hesitations in the minds of any of the party leaders on the question of a second Chamber.
To return to the question of delay, on which a considerable number of hon. Members have spoken, let me give the reason why I say that hon. Members opposite have got themselves into a contradictory position. They, or most of them, seem to agree that the powers of revision are desirable and useful in a second Chamber. They certainly have been in the years since the war. I will not go over all the figures again—[Interruption.]—I agree that in 1947 and 1948 there were 1,222 Amendments within two years, even if a lot of them were Government Amendments. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale should remember that even 699 if they were Government Amendments, some of them concerned matters which he had had time to think about before he sent them up to the House of Lords. That is one of the purposes of having a second Chamber. One thousand two hundred and twenty-two Amendments in two years is not unuseful work. There were 283 Amendments in the last Session, 1956–57. Very seldom have any of these Amendments come into serious conflict with this House.
My point is this. Can one admit the principle of revision, which a great many hon. Members on both sides do, without admitting the principle of some element of delay? One really cannot argue that the only powers of revision that are acceptable are those which enable a Government to tidy up their own errors and omissions afterwards. That is not an adequate function.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how the House of Lords dealt with the Rent Act?
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
The right hon. Gentleman has stumbled over a very important point. Our view of the function of revision is precisely that the House of Lords should put right whatever the Government of the day think may inadvertently have been done wrong in the House of Commons. We do not accept the view that the House of Lords should have the right to override the majority in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Maclay
That is not what I was about to argue. That is quite another point. I was saying that surely it is not the right hon. Gentleman's view that the only revision that should go on in the House of Lords is when Government Amendments are sent up for tidying-up purposes. Does the right hon. Gentleman really mean that if a constructive proposal comes back for amendment in a Bill—and they do initiate in the House of Lords—it should be refused? The right hon. Gentleman implied that in what he has just said, and1 cannot believe that he means it. We are getting mixed up in this confusion between amendment, revision and delay.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would make his position clear. Is he saying that he regards the function of revision as involving the right of the House of Lords to challenge and over-ride and obstruct and delay a decision of the House of Commons to which the Government of the day adhere?
§ Mr. Maclay
It really is not the point. Let the House consider what happened with the Bill which nationalised the steel industry. It worked out in the end as the right hon. Gentleman wanted it. The point at issue is quite different from what the right hon. Gentleman is arguing. I am trying to establish that if it is said that there should be revision powers in the House of Lords it should not just mean that tidying-up Amendments thought up by the Minister concerned are the only Amendments possible. I am sticking to the point that I am arguing, and I will not be moved round to other points.
Some hon. Members have argued, or implied, that a drastic change in the composition of the House of Lords might alter their approach to the whole problem—with, I know, the qualification that no second Chamber should have the power to "frustrate" the will of the elected representatives of the people. That goes back to the revision and delay business which we have been discussing and the dilemma of that problem. But surely we have to face the fact that not only in this country, but all over the world, people have been searching for the ideal or even for workable forms of second Chamber; and hon. Members should please not quote the American Senate. The constitution there is utterly different and is quite irrelevant to our problem.
Certainly in this country none of us wants a rival Chamber, and certainly the party opposite has put forward no positive suggestions—as the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) has pointed out to them rather forcibly—about what combination of nomination, election or other form of getting people into a second Chamber will produce a body which can meet the contradictory requirements of hon. Members opposite. If we are to get the people we want,…men of mature judgment and experience…701 —and one should not laugh at that concept—these men must have something worth doing when they get there. I suggest with all humility that the party opposite takes the advice of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, South-East and does some serious thinking as to what it means. It is clear from the last two debates that the party opposite has no idea what it means.
The fact is that, however lacking it may be in logic for these modern days, the House of Lords is, and has been for years, an extremely effective body. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, effective in every way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] At last I have a point of agreement with hon. Gentlemen opposite.
It is an extremely effective body, acting with a very high degree of constitutional responsibility in recent years, with a very clear concept of precisely what is its function. Some hon. Gentlemen have appeared almost disappointned that it has done so. They have accused it of acting simply from an instinct of self-preservation. If I may say so frankly, an instinct of self-preservation is as good a sanction as any institution can ask for, and probably better than anything written on a piece of paper.
If, however, there is a general feeling that some radical alterations in composition are called for, it is clear that such reforms should be undertaken only with a large measure of agreement between the main political parties. Because that measure of agreement did not exist in 1947 and 1949, and still apparently does not exist today, is no reason for failing to attempt to meet some of the obvious problems with which the other place is faced today, and that is what the Bill does.
Now I should like to deal with the specific questions asked by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice). He asked these questions: Does the Bill leave the other House overwhelmingly hereditary? How many life peers will be created? What will the composition be at any given moment? I respect the right hon. and learned Gentleman too much to believe that these really represent the questions he had in mind. He knows quite well that they are irrelevant. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] The answer is that this Bill is not designed in anybody's 702 mind to get a precise balance of party in the other House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If it were necessary for me to explain that to the right hon. and learned Gentleman it would be extraordinary, Of course that is not the object of the Bill. The object of the Bill is to make it possible to get a wider representation in the conditions of today of people in different walks of life and the professions, since there is general agreement that they are needed in the House of Lords.
That deals with those three questions straight away. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Of course it does. They are entirely rhetorical questions; but I will add that it is obviously not possible to forecast the precise answer to any one of the three questions. That would rest in the decision of the Prime Minister of the day, working in the light of circumstances and in the availability of suitable individuals to go into the House of Lords.
The next point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman raised was, will it be easier to get life peers than hereditary ones? I should have thought the answer was quite simple. Of course it will be easier. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because I think that most hon. and right hon. Gentlemen know, and admit, that in modern conditions there is a certain resistance to taking an hereditary peerage, and there is bound to be. What is more, if I am pressed to say how many people have refused, I cannot answer that question. It is not the kind of question one could answer, but again that is not the point.
The point is, would not the Prime Minister in thinking over people he might recommend, instinctively keep off areas where he knew the hereditary peerage would not be very acceptable? The Bill is designed to simplify that.
I want finally to deal with the questions about our intentions about remuneration and salaries. One of the most interesting things to come out of the debate is the clear expression of opinion from both sides of the House that the matter of salaries is extremely important. Clearly, I cannot commit the Chancellor of the Exchequer or any other of my colleagues, but the Bill does not deal with salaries and would not deal with salaries. However, it is clear that both sides of the House regard salaries as an extremely 703 important element in all consideration of the reform of the House of Lords.
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale made some ridiculous deductions when talking about salaries and suggested that there would be patronage on a fantastic scale and that people would get salaries through all degrees of heredity for ever more.
§ Mr. Maclay
I have not said anything about what it will be. I have said that it is not in the Bill and that the comments and statements made about salaries have been among the outstanding features of the debate and will be very carefully and duly noted.
I have spent much time dealing with the general and not enough with the particular, but I have answered the questions which the right hon. Gentleman asked. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Oh yes, I have. I return to the main question which I want to get clear. I was about to say that I would give the right hon. Gentleman one last chance, but I cannot do
§ that, because I think that there is no hope. Are we now dealing with a Labour Party which is completely split on the issue of a second Chamber—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—
§ Mr. Maclay
—or dealing with a Labour Party which still believes in a second Chamber as a desirable thing in a modern democracy? The right hon. Gentleman spoke a good deal about the merits of the modern democracy taking the place of all the other methods of transfer of power. He should consider what some of the people who have thought carefully and fully on these subjects have said. I have a quotation, admittedly from some years ago, but from someone who should appeal to hon. Members opposite, John Stuart Mill, who said:The full effect produced upon the mind of any holder of power, whether individual or assembly, by the consciousness of having only itself to consult can be utterly disastrous.I remind the right hon. Gentleman that if he advocates single Chamber government, he is running into the most appalling danger to British democracy which there has ever been.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 305, Noes 251.707
|Division No. 40.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Bishop, F. P.||Corfield, Capt. F. V.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Black, C. W.||Craddook, Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bossom, Sir Alfred||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Boyle, Sir Edward||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Cunningham, Knox|
|Anstrnther-Gray, Major Sir William||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Currie, G. B. H.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Dance, J. C. G.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Brooman-White, R. C.||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Ashton, H.||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||D'Avlgdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Bryan, P.||Deedes, W. F.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Baldock, U.-Cmdr. J. M.||Burden, F. F. A.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Butcher, sir Herbert||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.|
|Balniel, Lord||Butler,Rt.Hn.R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Barbar, Anthony||Campbell, Sir David||Drayson, G. B.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Carr, Robert||du Cann, E. D. L.|
|Barter, John||Cary, Sir Robert||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Channon, sir Henry||Duncan, Sir James|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Chichester-Clark, R.||Duthie, W. S.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Cole, Norman||Elliott,R.W.(Ne'castleupon Tyne,N.)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Conant, MaJ. Sir Roger||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Cooke, Robert||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Cooper, A. E.||Erroll, F. J.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Farey-Jones, F. W.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lagden, G. W.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lambert, Hon. G.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lambton, Viscount||Prior-Palmer, Brig, O. L.|
|Fort, R.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'ombe & Lonsdale)||Leather, E. H. C.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Freeth, Denzil||Leavey, J. A.||Redmayne, M.|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Leburn, W. G.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Gammans, Lady||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Glover, D.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Godber, J. B.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Goodhart, Philip||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Russell, R. S.|
|Gower, H. R.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Longden, Gilbert||Soott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Sharples, R. C.|
|Grant-Ferris,Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Shepherd, William|
|Green, A.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Smithers, Peter (Win[...]ester)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||McAdden, S. J.||Smyth, Brig, sir John (Norwood)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Soames, Christopher|
|Gurden, Harold||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||McKibbin, Alan||Speir, R. M.|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'g.'n, S.)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Storey, S.|
|Harvle-Watt, Sir George||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Hay, John||Maddan, Martin||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Heald Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Hornoastle)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Hesketh, R. F.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Teeling, W.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.||Temple, John M.|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Marshall, Douglas||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mathew, R.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Mawby, R. L.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hope, Lord John||Medllcott, Sir Frank||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon, P.|
|Hornby, R. P.||Milligan, Rt. Hon. w. R.||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Horobin, sir Ian||Moore, Sir Thomas||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Howard, John (Test)||Neave, Airey||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral, J.||Nicholls, Harmar||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Hurd, A. R.||Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Wakefield, Sir Waved (St. M'lebone)|
|Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Hyde, Montgomery||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.||Wall, Patrick|
|Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Osborne, C.||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Page, R. G.||whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Panned, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Johnson, Erie (Blackley)||Partridge, E.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Peel, W. J.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Peyton, J. W. W.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Kaberry, D.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Woollam, John Victor|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Kershaw, J. A.||Pitman, I. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Kimball, M.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Mr. Heath and Mr. Oakshott.|
|Kirk, P. M.||Pott, H. P.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Anderson, Frank||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E)||Awbery, S. S.||Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Bacon, Miss Alice||Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Baird, J.||Benson, Sir George|
|Beswick, Frank||Holmes, Horace||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Houghton, Douglas||Paton, John|
|Blackburn, F.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Peart, T. F.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Pentland, N.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hoy, J. H.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Boardman, H.||Hubbard, T. F.||Popplewell, E.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hunter, A. E.||Probert, A. R.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Randall, H. E.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Rankin, John|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Janner, B.||Reeves, J.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Rhodes, H.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Carmichael, J.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St.Pncs, S.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Champion, A. J.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N,)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Ross, William|
|Clunie, J.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, s.)||Royle, C.|
|Cold-ick, W.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Short, E. W.|
|Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Jones, T. w. (Merioneth)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Kenyon, C.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Cove, W. G.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||King, Dr. H. M.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Cronin, J. D,||Lawson, G. M.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Ledger, R. J.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Snow, J. W.|
|Davies,Rt.Hn.Clement(Montgomery)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Sorensen, R. w.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lewis, Arthur||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lindgren, G. S.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lipton, Marcus||Steele, T.|
|Deer, G.||Logan, D. G.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Stonehouse, John|
|Delargy, H. J.||MacColl, J. E.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Diamond, John||MacDermot, Niall||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhali)|
|Dodds, N. N.||McGhee, H. G.||Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||McInnes, J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dye, S.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Edelman, M.||McLeavy, Frank||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mahon, Simon||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Timmons, J.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mason, Roy||Tomney, F.|
|Finch, H. J.||Mayhew, C. P.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mellish, R. J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Foot, D. M.||Messer, Sir F.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mikardo, Ian||Watkins, T. E.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mitchison, G. R.||Weitzman, D.|
|George,Lady Megan Lloyd(Car'then)||Monslow, W.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Moody, A. S.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||West, D. G.|
|Cordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Morrison,Rt.Hn.Herbert(LewiS'm,S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mort, D. L.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Moss, R.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Grey, C. F.||Moyle, A.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mulley, F. W.||Willey, Frederick|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Grimond, J.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Hale, Leslie||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Hannan, W.||Oram, A. E.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Orbach, M.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Hastings, S.||Oswald, T.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Owen, W. J.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Healey, Denis||Padley, W. E.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Paget, R. T.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Holman, P.||Parker, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Bowden and Mr. Pearson|
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Wills.] Committee upon Monday next.