HL Deb 26 April 1888 vol 325 cc518-62

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that he had not taken upon himself with a light heart the grave responsibility of submitting a plan for the reform of that House. He approached the subject with an amount of anxiety he found it difficult to overcome—anxiety he could not have overcome but for two reasons; first, that he had to the best of his ability thought out this matter for many years; and, secondly, that he entertained hope, and even confidence, that the House, recognizing the difficulties before him, would make a liberal and considerate allowance for them. More than four years ago, in February, 1884, he first gathered together his views on this subject in print, in the shape of an article in The Nineteenth Century. Since then he had thought much, and had spoken and written a little, on the same theme; and now, finding his opinions to be practically unchanged, he ventured to put them forward for the consideration of that House and of the country from his place in Parliament. The subject would have been more easily dealt with in the shape of a Motion merely affirming the necessity of reform, or by Resolutions; but he believed he was best consulting the dignity and convenience of the House, and best recognizing the gravity of the subject, by placing before the House what he deemed necessary to be done as clearly and distinctly as he could concentrated in the clauses of a Bill. The Motion of his noble Friend (the Earl of Rosebery) brought forward just before the Easter Recess, supported and debated in an eloquent, statesmanlike, and prudent temper, was criticized particularly on the ground that it foreshadowed no plan of reform; that it embodied, in fact, nothing definite upon which a scheme could be erected; nothing which could be referred to a Committee. The course now taken was, at any rate, not open to that objection. The Bill which he should ask the House to read a second time contained a precise plan. Whether that plan in its details, or even in its principles, might win their Lordships' approval he could not say. He earnestly hoped it might. At least, he could show that it was an honest attempt at reformation, and introduced a practicable plan. The proposition that some change in the constitution of that House was called for by the circumstances in which they found themselves placed, and also by the voice of the nation, was, he thought, incontestable. Let them consider the position of the question. Public opinion, so far as it could be gathered from the Press, was strongly in favour of reform—public opinion of all kinds, but rather of a Tory than a Radical character. Not only his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Rosebery), but the noble Earl (Earl Granville), who had so often filled the Office of Foreign Secretary, had pressed upon the House the necessity for reform. Several Members of Parliament had publicly set forth their views in the same direction. A prominent Member of the present Administration—Sir Michael Hicks Beach—also joined strongly in the invitation addressed to them from so many quarters favourable to that institution to adapt themselves to the requirements of the time. The other night, when a Resolution for "mending or ending" the House of Lords was before the Commons, the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith)—a man of singularly prudent and cautious temper—said, without defending the present constitution of the House of Lords, what was looked for was the initiation of reform by the Chamber itself. How was that suggestion received by the noble Marquess the Leader of that House? Not, as he understood his speech, by anything in the nature of a non possumus, but, while reserving his judgment, by a strong expression of opinion that proposals of reform should be made in a concrete form—in fact, in the shape of a Bill. There was thus a consensus of opinion among all sections fo political thought, with the exception of merely Nihilistic and purely destructive Radicalism, that constructive reform was necessary; that, to use a common expression, "something must be done." "Something must be done" was too often a paraphrase for "nothing shall be done." He trusted that was not the opinion and temper of the House; but that the House meant that something really should be done. What was that something to be? That was the question. Fortunately, they were not left without "light and leading" as to what the main points of a good plan should be. Speaking in April, 1869, upon Earl Russell's Bill for the creation of a limited number of Life Peers, the present Prime Minister said— A Peerage has a double function. It is a great honour conferred by the Crown, and it is also a membership of political Assembly. Now, in dealing with the Peerage and the modes by which it is recruited, it is not only our duty to consider what classes of persons are most worthy to receive the honours which the Crown desires to bestow, but we must consider also how we can best strengthen and make permanent the political Assembly in which we sit. And again, in the same speech, the noble Marquess added— It appears to me, however, that the deficiency which may be recognized in the constitution of the House of Lords has been imprinted upon it by lapse of time, and does not belong to its original constitution. That deficiency consists in this—that we want a larger infusion from those large classes among whom is to be found so much of the wealth and power of the country. We belong too much to one class, and the consequence is that with respect to a large number of questions we are all too much of one mind. It is now nearly 20 years since the noble Marquess gave expression to these views. Less than four years ago he repeated them in this House. Speaking on the same subject in 1884, he said— It is a misfortune that we have not persons of a faith different from that of the Church of England and Roman Catholics, and it is a still greater misfortune that we have not representatives of the industry and commerce of the country in very much larger numbers. There are, no doubt, many subjects with which we cannot deal as thoroughly and efficiently as we could desire, and the presence of such representatives would greatly assist our deliberations. Such men have been raised to Peerages from time to time …. but they have always been exposed to the difficulty that in the second generation, if they remained in trade, the stability of their position was open to some doubt, and if they left trade, in the next generation they ceased to represent the industry on account of which they were created. Those were weighty utterances. They appeared to him to indicate in strong relief four great facts for consideration. They emphasized the difference between a Peerage as conferring an honourable distinction and as conveying legislative functions. They showed that altered circumstances necessitated change in order to restore the House to its former position; that by an infusion of secular and religious representation was reform to be sought; and that by no amount of creation of Hereditary Peerages could that reform be brought about. Those four truths had been his guiding stars throughout. The principal fact was representation, and that was the foundation and ground work of the Bill—representation of the Peerage and of the material interests of the nation and of the main phases of her religious life. Such of their Lordships as had read the Bill would have perceived that his medium of reform or engine for bringing it about was the creation of a body within the House styled "the representative section." This expression might be open to cavil. The section was not exclusively representative in the usual sense, as it contained what might be called ex officio Peers—that was to say, Peers of the Blood Royal, Spiritual Peers, Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, and a limited number of Life Peers. But the preponderating numerical strength would lie in the hereditary division composed of representatives of the British, Irish, and Scotch hereditary Peerage. To these elements he proposed to add Lords of Parliament representing the great interests of the country, to be recommended by County Councils, one for each county, whenever and as soon as those Councils were formed. He also added Representatives of religious denominations other than the Established Church, of science and letters, and of our Empire beyond the seas. Into this body the House—the Peerage as a Legislative Assembly—would be eventually and automatically absorbed. It was necessary, therefore, that it should from its inception contain the non-representative elements, Peers of the Blood Royal, Law Lords, and others to whom he had alluded. But as representation was not only the predominant characteristic, but far outweighed all other elements, he thought the term "representative sections" described it with greater accuracy and justice than any other. To this body the House would be able to delegate any and all business and functions which it thought fit. But even if the House did not see fit to do so, and he assumed that it did not, and this section became merely a nominal body for the time being, their Lordships would presently see that it was essential to the carrying out of his plan that it should be immediately formed. To the component parts of this section he would call attention later on. He proposed not to destroy the present character of the House and substitute elements of a representative nature, but to add representation to the essential characteristics of the House as at present constituted. Representation was the basis of modern government. It was, in his opinion, by representation, and by that alone, that that Chamber, in the altered conditions in which they were placed, could find those elements of strength and that power of inspiring confidence which would enable it to fulfil without dangerous friction the difficult, the increasingly difficult, duties it was called upon to perform. To strengthen that House was his one and only motive, and in doing so representation was his main guiding principle. But other great considerations also had influenced him in preparing this Bill—respect for the principle of heredity, for the sacredness of existing rights, and for the rights and prerogatives of the Crown. In one respect only did he touch the rights of the Crown—namely, by enacting that for the future Peers on creation should be entitled to a Writ of Summons only after election. This was not vital to the Bill, but was highly desirable in order to bring about rapidly that reduction in numbers which was one of the main objects of reform. And it must not be forgotten that he proposed to grant powers to the Crown not hitherto enjoyed. As to the hereditary principle, of one thing he was convinced—that whatever changes might be considered necessary the hereditary character of that Chamber must be retained. The nature of the case required it. The nation wished it. The people were filled with ineradicable affection and respect for the great institutions under which our country had grown so prosperous and great, together with an equally deep-rooted conviction that those institutions, in order to remain the same in reality, in practice, and results, amid the changing circumstances of national life, must be themselves subjected to timely and wholesome change. The essential characteristics of the House must be preserved, but it must be adapted to the requirements of the time. That was the essence of true Conservatism; reverence for the past, efficiency in the present, forethought for the future. That he believed to be the temper of the nation, and he wished to act up to it. He went further; he desired not only to maintain but to strengthen the hereditary principle. How could this be done? Only by preserving it in its best and strongest form, and by eliminating those elements that were, he thought, universally admitted to be a source of weakness to the House. As to existing rights, he interfered with none of them. He deprived no man of his right to sit and vote in that House. He might be too Conservative—superstitiously Conservative—on this point; that was a matter for their Lordships to decide. Personally, he was loath to touch existing privileges and legal rights. Broadly speaking, what he aimed at was this. That House had rested, and still rested mainly, upon a territorial basis. In it was recognized the great fact that the strength and fate of a nation were intimately bound up with the soil and everything appertaining to it. It existed largely on the assumption that possession of land and the training, duties, and responsibilities connected with it afforded the best school for a political life. And this House had amply justified the assumption. That characteristic should not be lost. He wished the House to contain the fittest Representatives of our territorial aristocracy. He wished it to contain something more. At one time agriculture was the one and only great interest and industry of the country. At one time the Established Church embraced the whole religious life of the nation. And a House composed of spiritual Peers and temporal territorial Peers was truly representative. But other gigantic interests and other forms of religious observance had grown up. That House now reflected an imperfect image, and to bring it back to what it once was—a true reflection of national, secular, and religious life—he desired to have those interests and those phases of religious thought represented as living, moving forces among us. Such was the outline of the objects and considerations influencing him in preparing the measure which he now submitted to the House. Before endeavouring to show how those objects were to be attained by discussing very briefly what was in the Bill, he should like, if the House would excuse the peculiarity of the process, to allude for one moment to what was not in the Bill. Two matters—the quorum and the functions, or rather want of functions, of the Lord Chancellor bore with disastrous weight upon the efficiency of that House. Anyone who had heard one noble Lord assuring empty Benches that he would not trouble the House to divide—an operation requiring personally applied vivisection—would realize the absurd insufficiency of the present quorum of three. He need not dilate on the point, and would only suggest that good results would ensue if it were raised for legislative purposes from three to 30. Nothing tended more to paralyze the energies of private Members than the absence of any authority to decide as to which of two or more noble Lords rising together was to have the privilege of addressing the House. It placed a man in a most invidious position. He had to decide three things; first, whether he himself was the more worthy to be heard—a question which he probably answered in the affirmative; secondly, whether the other noble Lord recognized that fact—a query probably requiring a negative reply; and, thirdly, whether; in the estimation of the House, he was the more worthy of the two—a point somewhat difficult to determine. And all these knotty points must be settled in about two seconds by a noble Lord suffering grievous agitation at finding himself about to be delivered of a speech. The result was that many capable men were intimidated from taking part in debate; and that where the head of neither aspirant to fame was adorned by any official halo the victory remained not necessarily with the fittest, but, perhaps, with him whose nature partook most largely of a metallic character. Those were matters for adjustment by Standing Orders, and not by a Bill. He mentioned them now because obviously if that Bill, or anything like it, became law they would have to be attended to. He passed on to a more important matter—the condition of the Irish and Scotch Peerages. Irish Representative Peers were elected for life, with the result that only one phase of political opinion was represented among them. The Scotch Representatives were chosen for a Parliament; but, like the Irish Peers, not being elected under any system of minority representation the same evil existed in that case also. A great and crying injustice existed in this respect which should be redressed. The position of Scotch Peers Was peculiar. If they failed to be elected for that House they could not get into Parliament at all. There were only three classes of Her Majesty's subjects who were debarred from taking any part in public life—criminals, lunatics, and non - Representative Scotch Peers. He was aware that the Scotch Peers deliberately accepted this strange companionship; but in mercy he thought they ought to be given an opportunity of reconsidering their decision. Moreover, the numerical proportion of representation required amendment in equity. Thirty - two Scotch Peers were represented by 16, so that each Peer represented just one other Peer; 90 Irish Peers were represented by 28—that was, one man represented about two. The British Peerage would, as proposed in the Bill, be represented by one for every three Peers, each Peer representing two others. He was of opinion that in a reformed and improved House of Lords the Scotch and Irish Peerage should for legislative purposes be amalgamated with the British Peerage; but he respectfully declined the task. Any inter- ference with the status quo in regard to the Scotch and Irish Peerages would require clauses amending the Acts of Union of 1707 and 1801. "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Without claiming angelic origin, he confessed he feared to tread this ground, and he declined to qualify for the other class by incontinently rushing in. It was ground upon which angels, unless they happened also to be Prime Ministers, might well hesitate to advance. But if Her Majesty's Government would undertake to introduce the necessary clause he should be glad. The main provisions of the Bill suggested the means where by the great and salutary principle of representation could be introduced. How was it to be applied? That was a difficult and crucial question on which he was left to his own devices. He found no guidance from the Prime Minister except that the principle could not be satisfied by creations of Hereditary Peerages. With that he agreed, and the House would agree. How, then, could it be done? By a large creation of Life Peerages? He thought not. The House of Lords could not be reformed in that way. Objections recognized in the case of Hereditary Peers affected Life Peerages also. Peers created for life to represent special trade interests must, in the nature of things, cease to fulfil the objects of their creation. A large creation of Life Peerages, giving the unfettered power of nomination to the Crown—that was to say, to the Prime Minister of the day—would simply be opening the doors of the House to a number of Members of Parliament who had served their Party at the polls or in the Division Lobbies of the House of Commons. Their accession would only tend to deprive the House of one of its best attributes—independence. There remained, then, as far as he could see, only one other method—representation by election—and that was the method he had adopted in the Bill. The most important provision in the Bill was the application of the principle of representation by election to the hereditary British Peerage. This, whether it be good or bad, constituted no new departure, seeing that it already applied to the Peerages of Scotland and Ireland. His object in extending this principle to the British Peerage was two-fold. The effi- ciency of Second Chambers appeared to be in inverse proportion to the number of their Members, the strongest being the smallest, as, for example, the Senate of the United States. It was advisable, therefore, to provide for a reduction in the numerical proportions of this House. That was his first object. The second and most important object was to perpetuate the hereditary principle in this Assembly. That could only be done by allowing that birth conferred a seat, but conferred it subject to one condition—primâ facie fitness. Taking the whole number of Hereditary Peers at 541, it would be impossible to find among an equal number of any other class in this or any other country so many men capable of exercising the duties of legislators, with credit to themselves and advantage to the State. But the intrinsic merit, the natural weight of their decisions, was unquestionably weakened by the existence of some among them who, it must be admitted, were devoid of any special fitness to rule. Men who took no interest in politics or in social questions, who did not pretend to do so, might have to decide great questions affecting the lives, properties, and welfare of many millions of men—men who would not be suffered to take a prominent part among their fellows in the ordinary affairs of life might upon the gravest concerns of the nation have a deciding voice. It might be argued that, though the evil existed, it was exaggerated. In one sense that might be so. The black sheep, as they had been styled, existing here as in every other flock, probably did not attend much to the Business of the House; neither did many others of their Lordships who were men of the most exemplary character. But both these classes of Members might affect the decisions of the House, and occasionally did so. Even the possibility of such intervention in the House caused scandal. It created prejudice, and he who would eliminate prejudice from politics calculated on human action without reference to human nature. If territorial influence was to remain a living force in our system, if the hereditary principle was to last among us, it must be purged from a scandal which, if it were not abated, would one day revolutionize the constitution of the House, which he wished to preserve. No man who had ob- served the signs of the times could fail to see wherein the danger lay. If the hereditary principle was to survive it must be respected; if it was to be respected, it must be relieved of this great disability and detriment. The principle of selection, of the survival of the fittest, must be brought into play. How was this to be brought about? There was but one plan that he could see, at once simple and efficacious. That was the election as proposed in the Bill, election by the Hereditary Peers of a certain number from among themselves to represent them. It was, of course, necessary that such a body should fairly represent all shades of political opinion, and that essential condition he believed he had secured in the Bill. In dealing with this subject he was confronted with many difficulties, and the inevitable three courses presented themselves. First, that the House should proceed at once to select a certain number, say 180, of its Representatives to sit and vote in the House. But that would disqualify those Peers not elected from sitting and voting in the House. Perhaps the House might be ready to make that sacrifice. In many a crisis the House of Lords had shown itself animated with the spirit of devotion to the public good, and if occasion arose he doubted not that the present House would be worthy of its historic fame. But although the idea of the immediate delegation commended itself for its simplicity, it would be an extreme step, and be thought it wiser to conform to the habits of the nation in proposing a gradual process leading ultimately to the desired result. It was also possible to propose that future Peers—that was to say, Peers on succession or creation—should be eligible for a seat, but should obtain it only on election. But in order to bring about any practical reform by this means within half-a-century or so, it would have been necessary to deprive future Peers of all possibility of obtaining seats by the election of their Peers until the existing Members of the House had been removed by death or resignation. They would have had the House getting smaller and smaller in numbers, composed of Peers getting older and older in years, until at last it consisted of a solitary survivor, literally a last of the Barons. Any scheme for recruiting the House by admitting a certain proportion of future Peers, say one in five to election, was open to innumerable difficulties, and especially that minority representation which had no place in the system. Most complicated machinery would have been required. It could not be worked equitably or automatically. The idea was impracticable. There remained a middle course, which he had adopted—namely, to create a body within the Peerage, which he had styled the hereditary section or division, to which a proportion of their numbers should be immediately elected by the whole body of the British Temporal Peers. This part of the representative section of the House would be elected for nine years, one-third. going out for re-election every third year. Every present Peer, therefore, and every person obtaining a Peerage by inheritance or creation, would constantly have an opportunity of being elected to this hereditary division. It would make no practical difference to present Peers whether they were elected to it or not, unless the House, by Standing Orders, conferred special functions on this representative portion; but future Peers—that was, Peers of succession or creation—would obtain a seat in the House only by means of election to this body. Consequently in time, in the course of a few years, deaths and resignations would reduce the British Temporal Peerage, so far as legislative purposes were concerned, to this body of 180. By this means, and by no other that he could see, was it possible to bring about the end at which he aimed—namely, gradually to introduce the representative principle, gradually to reduce the numbers of the House, gradually to weed out those elements that were a source of weakness to the House and the State. In his opinion no system of service qualification would avail. It would be invidious to point out cases where it would not produce the desired result; that undesirable results might ensue was shown by the fact that such a system would. have excluded the Duke of Argyll and Lord Rosebery. His proposition involved dissociating in the future a Peerage as an honourable distinction from a Peerage as necessarily conferring a seat, merely extending to British Peers the conditions attached to the Peerages of Ireland and Scotland. It was impossible that the Peerage as conferring honourable distinction could be maintained without, at the same time, weakening the character of the House as a Legislative Assembly; for many men who were most worthy of the honour were not, and would not themselves pretend to be, specially qualified to make laws. The dignity of the whole Peerage could not fail to be increased by a change which should result in the fact that the Peerage, as a Legislative Body, would be composed of the very best and most highly-qualified Members of the whole class. Their Lordships need. not fear he was unduly reducing the numbers of the House. He did not propose to bring it down to anything like its present working strength. According to his proposal the House would. contain 224 Hereditary Peers—180 British and, as at present, 16 Scotch and 28 Irish Representatives—exclusive of County Council Peers, Bishops, Colonial Representatives, Peers of the Blood Royal, Life Peers, and Law Lords, or about double the number of those who now did all the legislation and Committee work of the House. Coming to the introduction of a non-hereditary element, in that case also, he maintained, there was no real innovation in principle. Irish and Scotch Peers could not transmit any right to sit in this House. The right rev. Prelates handed down to their children no hereditary right, any more than did the very distinguished lawyers who sat as Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. Between the Sovereign and the subject there was a great gulf, but that gulf was legislatively bridged over by the presence in Parliament of Princes of the Blood Royal. Between the aristocracy and the democracy there was socially no dividing line whatever; they merged imperceptibly one into the other. But, from a legislative point of view, an absolutely impassable gulf existed between the Peerage and the people. An anomaly existed in the Constitution in this respect that ought to be done away with. He proposed to associate these classes in legislation, as they were associated in the affairs of life, by granting seats in the House to persons accepted by the Crown on the recommendation of the new County Councils to be created under the Local Government Bill. The House of Commons tended to become more and more based upon the repre- sentation of numbers. He desired that the popularly-elected portion of the Upper House should rest upon a territorial basis, and should represent interests rather than people. Power to elect to this House might be given to such Bodies as Chambers of Commerce and Agriculture, the Iron and Steel Institute, and so on. But such a plan was open to the gravest objection. It was impossible to draw the line anywhere, and say which Bodies should and which should not be represented. The only other possible electorate consisted of the Councils of Counties and Councils of Counties of Towns and Cities to be created under the Bill before the other House. His object, further, was to secure for the decisions of that House the sanction which was enjoyed by institutions resting ultimately on some form of popular election. That could only be insured by directing into it a constant stream of representation—by insuring that in the event of a Lord of Parliament ceasing to represent an interest or locality, that interest or locality might put someone else in his place. By reason of their constitution the County Councils would represent every interest, urban and rural. They would be in themselves "a picture in little" of the commercial, industrial, and agricultural life of the nation. What he proposed was that they should be treated as electoral colleges for the purposes of this Bill, each being invited to send up a Representative, who need not necessarily be a member of the Council, to the House of Lords. That, as it appeared to him, would fulfil, and thoroughly fulfil, all the requirements of the case. The House would become truly representative; it would, in fact, revert to what it once was. If the County Government Bill was delayed, this Bill need not be affected. Representatives of County Boards could be added to the House as reconstituted in this Bill from time to time and at any time, and need not, for that matter, of necessity be added at all. Both in co-optative election by the Peers, and in recommendation by counties, he proposed that the term should be nine years, and, further, that out of each body so chosen one-third should go out for re-election every three years, so as to insure true representation, to guard against sudden changes, and at the same time to secure that the House should wisely and gradually adapt itself to the movements of the national judgment. He would admit that there was a domain to which it would be impossible, without great inconvenience, to apply the elective principle. It was impossible to invite elected Representatives from every one of the innumerable religious bodies in the country, but they might be represented with perfect fairness so far as the purposes of Parliament were concerned, for among Protestant Nonconformists there was a certain uniformity of interest, although their theological opinions differed widely. The Established Church only was represented in that House, and in any change note must be taken of the extent, importance, law-abiding character, and loyalty of the religious elements in the population outside the Established Church. They had proclaimed religious equality, and they must be prepared to act up to it. The Established Church alone was officially represented in that House. Roman Catholicism was indirectly represented, but that was an accident. Nonconformists had no representation of any kind—both being omissions which, according to the high authority of the Prime Minister, should be redressed. He, therefore, proposed that the Crown should have power to nominate two Representatives of Protestant Dissenters, and two in whom Roman Catholics would have confidence. The same principle of religious equality and the proposed reduction in numbers of Temporal Peers necessitated a reduction in the number of Bishops who were also Spiritual Peers. Here, also, election appeared to him impossible, for the simple reason that he could not find a satisfactory electorate. Election by the Bishops of a certain number from themselves would, he thought, interfere unduly with the position of certain among them, and without any special benefit resulting. The best plan, therefore, appeared to be to retain seats in the House in connection with certain superior Sees which were peculiar in their status and rights. Without interfering, therefore, with the rights of any existing occupants of the Episcopal Bench, he proposed that in future the Sees of Canterbury, York, London, Durham, and Winchester only should confer the right to sit and vote in the House. As to Colonial representation, that was a matter of the utmost moment, but of extreme delicacy and difficulty. He had always held that the future welfare of these Islands and of the Colonies was bound up with the unity of the Empire. In practical union for mutual assistance lay the best insurance for the Colonies against the possibility of aggressive tendencies that might be developed in foreign countries by continued pressure of population at home. The potential strength of this Empire, if it held together, would become so enormous as practically to insure immunity from attack. The commercial welfare of this country depended upon the development of the material resources of the Empire, and upon mutually amicable commercial relationships. Therefore, holding, as he did, that no object could be greater than that of endeavouring to consolidate the British Empire, he desired to do something towards securing some representation for our Colonies in Parliament. The sentiments of affection and acknowledgment of mutual advantages were strong between the Mother Country and the Colonies now; but every day the general drift must be either towards disintegration or towards a closer union. The Colonies and Dependencies of the Crown ought to have some voice in deliberations affecting them vitally; but the difficulties in the way of adequate representation were great. No direct representation was possible in the House of Commons, where finance and taxation were dealt with. The same objection applied to a less extent to that House. It would be impossible for direct Representatives of the Colonies to vote on other than Imperial matters. How were they to discriminate between Imperial and other subjects? They had it on the high authority of Mr. Gladstone to be beyond the "wit of man" to do so. Direct representation, therefore, he held to be impracticable—at any rate, for the present. It might be brought about by the formation of a Grand Committee or Council, to consist of Colonial Delegates and Members of both. Houses of Parliament, and to which certain subjects might be referred at the will of both Houses of Parliament. But all that lay in the future. Difficulties also existed in the present condition of the Colonies themselves. Although population should not be considered in any scheme of Colonial representation, it would be somewhat out of proportion to give the same representation to Canada and to Newfoundland, or to the Federal Council of Australasia, and to any one of the Colonies not included in it. At first sight the immediate requirements of the case might appear to be satisfied by granting Peerages and seats to the Agents General their term of office. That course commended itself to his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Rosebery), but he ventured to suggest to him and to the House that it would be attended with many complications and difficulties. It would revolutionize the conduct of business at the Colonial Office. He did not think that the informal, and, for that reason, most useful interchange of ideas that now took place should be rendered impossible, as it would be if Secretaries of State and Agents General were to be confronted by each other in that House in the full publicity of debate. He doubted also whether the Agents General themselves would wish to have greatness thus thrust upon them, and he had still greater doubt whether the Colonies would approve of their undertaking these novel functions. He had, therefore, thought it, on the whole, best to leave this matter in a somewhat tentative or embryonic stage. A point of some delicacy remained to be touched upon—namely, the right of Peers to resign their seat in that House and their eligibility for election to the House of Commons. It appeared to him to be a great hardship that men should be compelled either to perform duties for which they had no liking, or lay themselves open to the charge of shirking their duties. Even a King could abdicate, but a Peer could not. Special circumstances might make it very desirable in a Peer to be able to resign his seat. The main function of an Upper House was said to be to insist upon the proper consideration of grave Constitutional measures; to prevent hasty and unconsidered legislation, but to give way to the well-considered opinions of the people. That might be so, and in many cases men might be perfectly ready to subordinate their own opinion. But in other cases they might not. How could men vote for a measure, or allow it to go by default, when their conscientious opinions were violently opposed to it? How could they, under such circumstances, retain the respect of their countrymen? Was it not fit and proper that men so situated should have the opportunity of retiring from Parliament, and so of relieving themselves from the dilemma of either provoking a serious breach between the two branches of the Legislature or of voting contrary to their convictions? He believed that this innovation would add greatly to the dignity and value of that House in the public estimation. It had always seemed to him a strange anomaly in a free country that the right of constituencies to return any Representative to the House of Commons whom they pleased should be limited. Equity and analogy demanded the admission of Peers to the House of Commons. Any Commoner could become a Peer by the natural process of creation by the Crown. Why should it be impossible for a Peer to become a Member of the other House through the natural process of election by the people? What possible objection could there be on the part of anyone who trusted the people who had confidence in the democracy? The exclusion of Peers from the House of Commons and their non-interference in elections had an object at one time. Such rules were obsolete now. Peers did sit in the Commons—Irish Peers, and very good Peers too, Castlereagh and Palmerston among them. Why should not the privilege be extended? At any rate, eligibility to the other House was the necessary corollary of limiting the right of Peers to sit in this House. They could not deprive any man of his natural right to servo his country in Parliament. It was necessary to the carrying out of the principles of this Bill, and he had provided for it, subject to limitations of an obviously necessary nature. On the other hand, there was a proposal in his Bill conferring on Cabinet Ministers, who were Members of the other House, the right to speak in this House upon subjects appertaining to their Departments, although, of course, they would not have the right to vote. It would be ultra vires upon his part to propose any alteration in the Rules or constitution of the House of Commons; but the right was intended to be reciprocal, and his own idea was that Cabinet Ministers should have a right to speak in either House. Two or three other points remained to be very briefly alluded to. As already stated, the House of Lords was not to be reformed by a large creation of Life Peerages; but a limited creation would be most beneficial. Many men eminently qualified to adorn a Senate were deterred from entering public life in this House by a reluctance to accept an Hereditary Peerage, which required the possession of great wealth. The creation of Life Peerages also had the advantage of checking the creation of Hereditary Peers, and the consequent numerical increase in the Peerage, and would tend to increase the estimation in which a Peerage, as an honourable distinction, was held. Their Lordships would observe that the Bill limited the number of those who could sit and vote to five in every Parliament. That would fairly cover the number of distinguished men deserving and desiring this distinction, and it was just one for every Parliament more than Earl Russell proposed when he undertook, with the acquiescence of the noble Earl (Earl Granville) who then represented the Government in this House, to deal with this subject. For these reasons he had sought to revive the ancient power of the Crown, and had not hesitated by a declaratory clause—in view of the great speech of Lord Lyndhurst, who led the House in opposition to Lord Palmerston's proposal to create Mr. Baron Parke a Life Peer—to grant a right to the Crown to create Peers for life, who should sit and vote in Parliament. As already stated, he believed that by election, and by election only, could the House be relieved from certain dangers that embarrassed it. But relief in that way must take time, and the danger was immediate. He would have nothing to do with any proposition for investing this House with arbitrary power to deprive any man of his rights. That could only be done by recognized process of law. He held it would be altogether absurd for this House to exercise anything in the shape of a moral censorship. But he saw no reason why this House should not be armed with powers similar to those wielded by every other Legislative Assembly in the world for regulating the attendance of its Members. The House might frame any Rules it thought fit. Why did it not do so? Because it could give them no sanction; it could impose no penalty upon their infraction. He proposed to remedy this defect by enacting that if the House chose to make Rules regulating the attendance of Members it might, in the event of those Rules being violated, present an Address to the Crown, praying for the withholding or suspension of a Writ of Summons to Parliament in respect of the offending Member for such time as the House might suggest, and that the Crown might, if it thought fit, suspend or withhold the Writ by Order in Council. The provision with regard to the representation of learning and science contemplated the introduction into this Chamber, not only of distinguished men of letters and science, for whom in this country there was no special distinction, but particularly of men who had made science, with reference to the public health, a special study. The whole tenour of his proposals showed that he would guard existing rights, and it went without saying that there was no intention of interfering with the right of Peers of the Blood Royal to sit in that House. Such was the explanation he had to give. The few points remaining untouched required no comment on his part. He had gone through the Bill. He had done so as shortly as he could, and he was conscious that he had left much unsaid, and had done but scant justice to his cause. The House, reconstituted as he proposed, would be a composite Body. It was a composite Body now. It contained Peers sitting by hereditary right, by right of election for life, by right of election for the life of a Parliament, of Peers in virtue of their legal functions, of Spiritual Peers, some sitting by seniority, others in respect of their Sees. The reformed House would contain precisely the same elements, with one addition. The one novelty of the Bill consisted in the creation of Lords of Parliament, through the medium of the County Councils. That House resembled waters placid, profound, but stagnant. It required the breath of popular opinion to ruffle the surface, and to give it life and sparkle, and to confer vitality on its depths. He knew no other or better way whereby the vitalizing spirit of representation, so eulogized by the Prime Minister, could be conferred upon the House. If a better could be found, lie should hasten to adopt it. He asked for criticism. He did not shrink from objections conceived in a liberal spirit, though he did demur to the spirit which induced a noble Lord to move the rejection of the Bill before seeing it. What he dreaded was objection to any change whatever. He deprecated what might be called the "venerable structure" argument—the view that it was dangerous to touch so venerable an edifice. If that House was so rickety that it could not bear the touch of friendly hands, how could it stand the breath of popular opinion if once that breath became hostile? If it could not bear reform, they might be sure it was in danger of becoming a mere picturesque ruin—a romantic monument of the past. If, as he believed, its walls and entire structure were really strong, and that they rested on the solid foundation of popular respect, there could be no danger in such alterations as would fit it to become the habitation of the spirit and the genius of the nineteenth century. Were they to remain immutable while every other institution was, as it were, brought up to date? In reality, the unchangeableness of the House of Lords was upon the surface. It was the most ancient Assembly in the world. The direct and lineal descendant of the Saxon National Council; its record was in the traditions and glories of our history. And why? Because it had adapted itself to the developments of our history, passing safely through stages representing the dominance of feudalism, ecclesiasticism, and oligarchy. And what did he ask? Only that they should do now what the House of Lords had done hitherto; change to suit the progress of the times, only that they should broaden their basis, so as to admit the Representatives of religious belief and of those worldwide activities which were not in existence, or not reckoned with, when the House was constituted in its present form. A Chamber constituted as proposed by the Bill would be an epitome of all the great interests of the Empire, and of all the departments of national existence. Such a Chamber would be strong with wholesome, national, popular strength; and such strength was needed. The horizon of the Legislature was being enlarged through the delegation of some duties to County Governments. New problems would have to be dealt with; new and weightier responsibilities would be constantly imposed upon it. If they were to bear their fair share in these high duties, they ought to make sure of their own efficiency and capacity to do so. It might be argued that they would be only gathering strength for conflict with the other House. Why should they not be strong for co-operation? There was nothing more antecedently improbable than that there should be a struggle for supremacy between the House of Commons and a strong and well-ordered House of Lords. The House of Lords was not likely, under any circumstances, to forget its Constitutional duty. It was ago argued that the House would become tea weak if Peers were eligible for the House of Commons, because only those who failed in winning the coy affections of the constituencies would come to their Lordships' House. Such fears were purely chimerical, but they argued strongly for reform. If the opening of a door of escape was to be followed by a stampede of Members of the House, surely no other argument was needed to show that the House was in a perilous condition. He did not for a moment apprehend such an exodus of Peers. Besides, this branch of the Legislature would always offer many advantages over the other; and in proportion as the House increased in dignity and importance in the estimation of the country, so would a seat in it be coveted and appreciated. The strongest argument against the supposition that the House would become too strong or too weak lay in the fact that the Prime Minister foresaw the possibility of both those evils. The Prime Minister suggested the other day that reform might cause movement in two diametrically opposite directions; and if the acute intellect and immense sagacity of the Prime Minister failed to discern which of these two directions the movement would take, surely it was more than probable—in fact, fairly certain—that the real movement would lie in the direction of a safe middle course. He trusted their Lordships would deal with this Bill on its merits, and with no reference to the quarter from whence it sprang. The other day his noble Friend upon the Cross Benches (the Earl of Wemyss) evidently thought that as he was idle Satan had entered into him and possessed him with the idea of reforming the House of Lords and the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) thought it was owing to his personal dissatisfaction with various localities in the House. There seemed to him more sense in choosing locality in reference to opinions than in regulating opinions according to locality. But what had his motives and actions to do with the value of the propositions he laid before the House? He trusted this measure might meet with their Lordships' approval, in principle, at any rate, if not in detail. If it did not, if their Lordships rejected the Bill, he entreated them at least not to reject the present opportunity for reform. Public opinion would not long tolerate the existing state of things. Reform must emanate from their Lordships' House, as was admitted by Mr. W. H. Smith. Reform must be undertaken by the Conservative Party, as was admitted by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville). The Conservative Party were now in Office, and, humanly speaking, destined to remain there for some years. Owing to the fusion of Parties in the fierce heat of a great national danger, a close alliance existed between the Party in power and many of those generally opposed to it. No storm of popular indignation, genuine or spurious, beat against the House. The time was one of profound peace. Circumstances conspired together to render the moment favourable for the consideration of a grave Constitutional question. He prayed their Lordships not to let it pass; but, while occasion so singularly served, to take steps to relieve the House of all that was baneful to its worth and hurtful to its good name, to reinvest it with its former representative character, to give it strength to deal adequately with the great problems that were to come, to make it in every way worthy to be a branch of that Legislature that held in its hands the present welfare and future destinies of hundreds of millions of subjects of the Queen.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Dunraven.)


said, he had to beg pardon of the noble Earl for having given Notice of opposition to his Bill before he bad read it. The noble Earl who introduced the Bill appeared to him to wish rather to transform the House than to reform it. Lord Lyndhurst had. proved that there was no Prerogative enabling the Sovereign to create Life Peers with a right to sit in their Lordships' House. He had advised the creation of Lords Wensleydale and Kingsdown as Hereditary Peers, and no Life Peers were made for 20 years. At present there were only three Law Lords, with a limited period of usefulness; but there were nine Hereditary Peers learned in the law. The Offices of Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in England and Ireland had needlessly been abolished. Lord Redesdale wished those Offices to confer ex officio Peerages; but if noble and learned Lords would accept them, they would correct the great evil of an over-large Queen's Bench Division, in which no one could tell when his cause could be tried. There should be separate lists for each Court. The late noble and learned Earl (Earl Cairns) had experience of a law suit, and so had the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice of England, and they must have felt the evil of uncertainty. The Bishops were to be reduced in number in their Lordships' House; but, if so, the duties of the few left as Spiritual Peers would be increased. In 1886, being in the Gallery of the House of Commons, he heard Mr. Lowe (since Viscount Sherbrooke) say that the effect of it would be to eject the Bishops from the House of Lords; but Mr. Coleridge (now Lord Coleridge) said the right hon. Gentleman wished to induce the Bishop of Winchester to restore Convocation to its full powers. The noble and learned Lord had a Notice to reject the Church Discipline Bill on the Minutes. Many great changes had already taken place in the constitution of the House, and he was quite sure their Lordships would regret it if they assented to the proposal to introduce a representative system. In his opinion, the Bill attempted a great deal too much, and proposed that which was impracticable. There was an ample reserve of debating power within that House, and, indeed, many excellent speakers deserved great credit for declining to occupy their Lordships' unless time it was absolutely necessary that they should do so. He should be sorry to see any system of election introduced into that House. Lords Kensington and Palmerston were never candidates for the honour of being Representative Peers for Ireland, and if Peers of the Realm who had failed to be selected were to appear in the House of Commons they would be treated with very little respect. If the harmony that had so long prevailed between the two Houses of Parliament had been temporarily disturbed it could very easily he re-established. In conclusion, he wished to remind the noble Lord of an epitaph on a tombstone in an old churchyard, which was to the effect that "I was well; I tried to be better; and here I am;" and he might add that the best portion of the National Anthem was that in which they prayed that Her Majesty might defend their laws, for they were good, and were worthy to remain unchanged.


said, that he was strongly in favour of a reform of the House of Lords, and strongly opposed to many of the proposals that were now current. The necessity for a strong Second Chamber had greatly increased of late years—in the first place, in consequence of the extension of the suffrage; in the second place, by the fact that, owing to the increase of Party organization in the constituencies destroying the independence of Members and Ministers having gradually come to be regarded as the people's rather than the King's, the House of Commons had ceased to be an efficient check upon the Government of the day; and, in the third place, the reform of procedure in the other House, which would undoubtedly enable a temporary majority to pass many measures of which the country might not really approve, and which it ought, therefore, to be given a chance of reconsidering. He did not believe that the House of Lords, as at present constituted, was strong enough in popular estimation to do its work efficiently, without causing an amount of irritation that would endanger its powers, if not its existence. They must remember that the hereditary principle, on which the House was chiefly constituted, was, of all others, the most distasteful to the democratic spirit that prevailed in our time. He supposed he should be reminded that in the last struggle between the Houses the House of Lords at least held its own. But they must not forget that the battle was never fought out, and that no one could tell what the result would have been if Mr. Gladstone had appealed to the country with a cry for the reform of the House of Lords, For it was not abolition that they had to fear. With our political institutions, a Second Chamber was an obvious and undeniable necessity. The danger was that in a fit of democratic passion the country might insist on a reform in the direction of curtailing the powers of that House to an extent that would make it too weak to be of much use as a Second Chamber. He hold, therefore, that the object of any reform should be to strengthen the House in the estimation of the country without proportionately increasing the friction with the popular Chamber; and that the extent to which they intended to do this should be the test by which all proposals for reform should be tried. The proviso which he had stated was a very important one. They might construct a Second Chamber nearly as strong as the House of Commons; but if they did, the popular Chamber could never rest until it had crippled or destroyed it, so that its stability would be less than that of the present House of Lords. How did this Bill look when tried by such a test? He strongly protested against the provisions which enabled Peers to choose which House they would sit in. He was sure that such a scheme must greatly weaken the personnel of the House. Many of its most distinguished Members would never have been there at all if they had been able to remain in the House of Commons. Young Peers of ability would be the strongest and most acceptable candidates for the county divisions. When they were of any use the pressure put upon them by their constituencies to remain where they were would be stronger than they could resist, even when their personal inclinations pointed the other way. The result would be that, as a general rule, the strong men would stay in the Lower House and the weak ones would come there. It would be better to have no reform at all than to consent to a plan that would so seriously weaken the House. This proposal was a necessary consequence of the supposed necessity of reducing the number of the existing Peers under any reformed scheme. It was naturally felt that if they were going to deprive Peers of their seats they nust throw the House of Commons open to them. But let him ask what this necessity of reducing their numbers amounted to? So far as it was directed to reducing the preponderance of the hereditary element he had a certain amount of sympathy with it, though he thought the remedy worse than the evil. But they were told that unless that was done they would have such an unwieldy House. What was the meaning of that cuckoo cry that everyone seemed to repeat? What did the practical inconvenience amount to? They did not want to march the Peers all abreast through Piccadilly, and big Divisions in their Lordships' House were not so frequent that they need consider the time taken in passing through the Lobbies. If 200 Life Peers were added to their numbers they would be no larger than those of the House of Commons. But it was said they must cut down their numbers in order to exclude those Peers who took no part in their proceedings as a rule, but came up for big Divisions and swamped the working Members of the House by their votes. He admitted that it was a scandal that some of those Peers should vote, but the evil was commonly exaggerated. Without going into the merits of the country Peers, whose competency was generally underrated, he denied that in practice they did swamp the intelligent opinion of the House. How many important Divisions could be pointed to in recent years in which the issue would have been different if the last reserves from the country—"the Landsturm" of their Lordships' House—had not been called up on both sides? And if that was so, what did it matter whether a Division was won by 400 against 200 or 200 against 100? He did not believe that it told hardly, as was generally believed, against the opposite Party. It was the London quite as much as the country Peers who had come over to the Conservative side of the House. One of the most interesting sights on a big Division night was certain fossil Peers, if he might be allowed to call them so, on the other side of the House—interesting relics of a time when there was a Whig aristocracy—a happy time, when a large section of the upper classes found it possible to work in the ranks of the Liberal Party. But if it was, as he admitted, some scandal that such Peers should vote at all, it was not necessary to resort to such revolutionary methods as depriving Peers wholesale of their seats in order to prevent them, which reminded him of Charles Lamb's China- man burning his house down to roast his sucking-pigs. It might easily be done by rules making a certain minimum of attendance a necessary qualification for the right to vote; and he would remark, by the way, that such a rule would practically settle the difficulty of the "black sheep." By such a scheme all the difficulties and drawbacks that inevitably followed from any provision to exclude a large section of Peers would be avoided; for he wished to point out that any large reduction in their numbers would distinctly tend to weaken the House in popular estimation. He thought it was Mr. Morley who pointed out during the struggle in 1885 that the Peers individually were more popular than the House of Lords. He believed this was true. Most districts had their pet Peers, who brought home to them as nothing else could that a hereditary landowner might be a very proper person to have a seat in the Legislature. But it followed from this that a large number of Peers scattered over the country were a source of strength to the House of Lords, and that to cut down the House to a select body, of which great masses of the people knew nothing of any single Member, would be to weaken rather than strengthen the hold of the House upon the people. A good deal in this Bill was worthy of consideration, but its main proposal to appoint a Peer from each County Board was so premature, while its excision would necessitate such an entire redrafting of the Bill, that he felt that it could not pass in its present shape. This being so, he hoped he might be allowed, with the indulgence of the House, to give his views, as briefly as he could, of the lines on which a reform of this House should and should not proceed, always remembering that their object should be to strengthen the House in popular estimation without increasing friction. The thing that struck him most in considering this subject was the wonderful smoothness with which, on the whole, the House of Lords had performed its functions in the Constitution. In spite of its constitution being most repugnant to the political spirit of our time, in spite of the era of constant radical change that they had been passing through during this century, there had been wonderfully little serious collision between the House of Lords and the Representatives of the people. He did not think that most would-be reformers had devoted sufficient attention to this fact, and, consequently, they had failed to note one or two essential points in the nature of the House of Lords that had enabled it, in spite of all drawbacks and inefficiencies, to perform the duties of a Second Chamber so well. It seemed to him that two of the most important of these were, first, the fact that its constitution, and in a certain sense its duty did not clash with those of the House of Commons; and, secondly, the fact that its Members were responsible to no electorate, but to the nation as a whole alone. These two characteristics they must seek to preserve. On this ground he was opposed to all schemes for making it a representative in the sense of an elected House. Let him say, first, that if they introduced the elective element they must be prepared for its becoming a Representative Chamber altogether, for the elective and nominative elements would not harmonize. The former would always claim the superior authority, and eventually oust the other. It would say—"We represent so-and-so; you represent no one but yourselves;" and a Representative House would be worse fitted for a Second Chamber than the present House of Lords. It would not he nearly so easy for a House with an electorate behind it to yield gracefully to the Representatives of the people as it was for this House, which had nothing but its broad national duty to consider; and the House of Commons would be far more jealous of such an Assembly than it was of the present House, because it would regard it as trenching upon its own character and function of representation. Every dispute between them would be tried partly on the false issue of which really represented the better mind of the country. Nothing but harm could come of such a confusion of Constitutional functions. The House of Lords should claim to be representative of nothing but a large portion of the patriotism, good sense, talent, and independent opinion of the country, and the more of these they put into it by means of life and ex officio Peerages the better. On the same grounds he had no sympathy with any attempts to deal with the evil of the Conservative majority, on which the noble Earl who moved for a Committee on this subject before Easter laid so much stress. In the first place, any attempt to equalize Parties was futile, because Liberals became Tories nearly as fast as they could make them on coming into the independent atmosphere of this House. Secondly, it was mischievous, because it encouraged a wrong idea of what the spirit and functions of the House of Lords should be. This House should not be a place for constant Party contest and attempts to win Party victories in the Division Lobbies. They could not, of course, exclude altogether the spirit of Party; but it was certainly the peculiar duty of this House to take a national rather than a Party view of political questions, and for this purpose it was specially fitted by its constitution. Members of the House of Commons were returned as the Representatives of Parties in their constituencies, and their allegiance to Party was necessarily very strong. Members of the House of Lords sat as the representatives of no Party, and their chief duty was directed to the nation, to which alone they were responsible, and he wished to say that this ideal of what the spirit of the House of Lords should be was fulfilled in practice to a far greater extent than people were in the habit of thinking. Surely the noble Earl who moved for the Committee might have remembered that the long list of Liberal measures that had been passed during the present Reign, and which Liberals were so proud of, had all successfully run the gauntlet of the Conservative majority which the noble Lord regarded as so great an evil, and, in many cases, in their passage through this House had been improved rather than obstructed, as was the case with the Land Act of 1881, surely as distasteful a measure to the Tory majority as any that could be conceived. As a matter of fact there was never a Session when a Radical Government was in power that the Conservative majority did not put their Party prejudices and even their personal opinions into their pockets again and again. Their adversaries very often sneered at them on this very ground, but he said boldly that it was just this power of taking a broad national view of its political duty that fitted the House of Lords for its position as the Second Chamber of the country. He did not believe that any revolutionary reform would have the effect of strengthening their Lordships' House in the country, because any strength that might be gained in other directions would be more than counter-balanced by the loss of that strength which came from long prescription. It seemed to him absurd to believe that a brand new House of Lords, based upon any fancy franchise, would be more stable in a Constitutional struggle than the present House, which possessed that respect which always belonged to age, and which had proved both its right and its power to exist by seven centuries of trial. The only reform, therefore, that he wished to see was that the overwhelming preponderance of the hereditary elements should be qualified by a strong infusion of life and ex officio Peers. There were people who failed to see that there could be any middle course between condemning the hereditary principle altogether and approving the present composition of the House. Surely it was an intelligible view to hold that such men as the great hereditary landowners, brought up as most of them were with a greater sense of public duty than any other class in any other country in the world, might be very proper people to have seats in the Upper Chamber, and yet to hold that to have that House almost made up of such an element was intolerable in a democratic country like ours. It was objected to this plan that the life and ex officio Peers—say, 150 or 200 strong—would still be swamped by the Hereditary Peers, if the latter were allowed to remain in their present numbers. He did not think that anyone who knew the modest and retiring nature of the great bulk of the Hereditary Peers would be the least afraid that they would over-rule such an element either in fact or in appearance, either by their influence or by their votes. And if rules were adopted such as he advocated for obliging them to qualify by attendance for the right to vote there would be no danger whatever of this. It was absolutely necessary to institute Life Peerages if the personnel of the House was to be strengthened by the addition of able and distinguished men. For at present their selection was confined to those who were also rich. They could not make a poor man a Hereditary Peer, because his grandson without even wealth and social position to qualify him might be quite unfit for such a position, and thus some of the men who were most desirable were excluded. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government answered this argument in his speech on the noble Lord's (the Earl of Rosebery's) Motion by the remark that poor men were becoming less unwilling to accept Hereditary Peerages. He must say that this remark filled him with alarm. He could hardly imagine anything that would be more fatal to their Lordships' House than a body of Hereditary Peers, without even wealth and social position to recommend them in the absence of personal distinction, coming down from their homes in the suburbs, or, perhaps, begging half a day's holiday from their places of business, in order to record their votes in their Lordships' House against some decision of the other House. Patient as this country was of anomalies, he did not think they would long tolerate that. Then it was objected that men would think it beneath their dignity to accept Life Peerages instead of Hereditary ones. His answer was that he hoped the practice of creating new Hereditary Peerages would be greatly diminished if not altogether extinguished, and that when it came to be understood that Life Peerages were the reward of distinction and Hereditary Peerages the reward of successful money making, the former would come to be regarded as the higher honour of the two. But the most common objection to this scheme he advocated was that it would bring about all the dangers involved in a reconstruction of the House for a very small object. He denied both in toto. It would not involve those dangers, and the object was not a small one. Its chief merit was that there was no loss to set off against whatever strength it might add to the House. It would not excite the jealousy of the House of Commons, and there was no departure in it from existing lines. The principle of ex officio Peerages had already been admitted in the persons of the judicial Peers who had been such an addition to their Lordships' House. They had Life Peerages practically represented by several distinguished men, whose presence there was owing in part to their possessing no sons. When the reform was accomplished the House would be still what it had always been in theory and what it really was at its beginning-as assembly of the chief notables of the country. And yet he could not admit that the change would be insignificant. What he wanted to bring about was that when the ordinary citizen was asked by a foreigner how the House of Lords was constituted he should reply "Oh, it's in the main an assembly of all the great men in the country," instead of saying, as he would now, that it was chiefly composed of hereditary landowners and plutocrats. To call such a change in the popular view of that House a small one argued to him some lack of imagination. He earnestly hoped that if the Government could not allow this Bill to be sent to a Select Committee, they would give some pledge that if it were withdrawn they would deal with the question themselves. If they made the question their own they could construct a scheme which would avoid the numerous dangers that were involved in this question of reform, and they had plenty of strength to resist unwelcome alterations. The opportunity was a golden one, and might not recur. They could not strengthen the House of Lords when there was a Radical majority in the Commons. And the moment was one of profound peace. The agitation against the House was temporarily dormant, and they could reform themselves without interference or suspicion of weakness. Some would say that this was a reason for leaving things alone. He answered that it was only in time of peace that the House of Lords could be properly reformed. They could not do anything to strengthen it at a moment when there was a popular agitation against its powers. He believed it would be one of those mistakes which affected the destiny of nations if the present Parliament were allowed to pass away without such a reform of this House as would tend to insure the safe and smooth working of our Constitutional machinery for many a year to come.


said, he agreed most cordially with the words with which the noble Earl who had just sat down finished his speech. He thought it would be a great mistake if this Parliament were allowed to pass away without a reform in the House of Lords. He agreed entirely with the noble Lord who had just spoken that a reform of the House of Lords was most desirable. But some of the noble Lord's arguments and even some of his conclusions appeared to him rather to point in the direction of leaving the House in its present condition. He would now adduce some reasons why the Government, if it could not accept all the provisions of the Bill, ought at least to allow it to be read a second time. The Bill embodied the first scheme of Constitutional reform that had been laid upon the Table of the House. He voted the other day for the Motion of the noble Earl below him, but at the same time he could not but admit that there was a good deal of force in the objection taken by the noble Marquess opposite, who said that, while he could not accede to any general proposition, such as that which had been laid before the House, he was perfectly prepared to give all due consideration to definite proposals for the reform of the House of Lords if they were made in the form of a Bill. For that reason he thought the noble Earl opposite took a wise course in preparing a Bill, and in submitting to their Lordships in a definite form proposals to which they ought, at any rate, to give full consideration. He knew that it had been said, and he dared say that it would be said again, that a Bill for the reform of the House of Lords ought to be brought in by the Government; but anyone who considered the question would probably conclude that it was very doubtful indeed whether that was necessarily the case. A Liberal Government could not hope to carry a Bill for the reform of the House of Lords. On the other hand, it would not be quite easy for a Conservative Government to carry such a measure, first, because it had many other Bills which it was naturally anxious to pass; and, secondly, because a considerable number of its supporters who did not perhaps interest themselves much in the Business of the House were opposed to any extensive reform of the House. He submitted that individual Peers were, in regard to the reform of the House of Lords, in a different position from that occupied by private Members of the other House of Parliament. The hereditary Members of their Lord-hips' House occupied a more independent position than members of the other House who might lose their seats at the next election. He thought they would all be of opinion that there was general feeling in favour of a reform of the House of Lords. He was sure that that feeling was very strong among the Members of that House who attended to the Business and took part in the debates. He was also sure that that feeling prevailed in the country. and that there was a real desire for the improvement of that House, and not an angry demand for a fundamental change in its constitution. The present moment was, for that very reason, especially favourable for them to consider the question. He believed the country wished to stop the creation of an unlimited number of hereditary Legislators. That opinion was prevalent in Scotland, where that House was anything but unpopular. There was, however, a feeling in that country that important measures ought not to be liable to rejection by the votes of men who owed their seats in the House of Lords solely to the favour of the Crown, and who did not, as a rule, attend to the Business of the House. He contended that the present exclusively hereditary constitution of the House must break down by its own weight if it were not otherwise put an end to. The number of Peers was unlimited, as the noble Earl had told them. It was increasing very rapidly, and he wondered not that so many but that so few Peers wore created. If one could get access to the pigeon-holes of the noble Marquess opposite, or knew all the secrets of the noble Earl on the Front Opposition Bench, a tale would be unfolded of requests ungratified which would exceed in number the sands of the seas. A strong argument for reform was the fact that so large a number of their Lordships took no part in the business of the debates of the House. Here was a House almost exclusively made up of landowners and persons interested in land. That being the case, one would have expected that a Bill dealing with railway rates would have commanded a large attendance. But when that Bill was in Committee only 132 out of 556 Peers were present. On the Motion of the noble Earl below him dealing with the same question as the House was now discussing only 147 Peers voted. On even the most interesting debates which had ever occurred—and he himself remembered no more striking instance than that on the Irish Church—the number scarcely attained 300. Moreover, the present hereditary constitution of the House would hereafter probably be a source of great political danger, because if on some occasion that House were to throw out a measure of first-rate importance, and the Government of the day were in consequence to appeal to the country, there would be great danger lest the appeal should turn, not on the measure so rejected by their Lordships, but upon the constitution of that House. Suppose, for example, that Mr. Gladstone's Bills in 1886 had been passed by the House of Commons, and brought up to that House, there was no doubt that their Lordships, whether acting as a Chamber of Review or from inclination, would almost unanimously have thrown out the Bill. If a Dissolution had followed such a course, was it not obvious that it would have turned much less on the merits of the rejected Bills than on the constitution of that House? The Bill, which he hoped would be read a second time, to a considerable extent preserved the hereditary principle. He did not wish to cry down that principle, but to see it modified in its application, Secondly, the Bill enabled Peers to sit and vote "elsewhere." The noble Earl said that the best men would never come to that House, but would go to the House of Commons, and he thought the noble Marquess had said the same thing. But was it absolutely certain that this would be so? He much doubted it. But if it were so the country would probably be all the better for it. In that House they wanted very little leading; ordinary good sense was enough. But in the House of Commons it was important that the ablest men should be present to defend measures which would have to be fought out chiefly in that House. It was not the duty of their Lordships to agree with the current of popular opinion. But they might insist on the country pronouncing its opinion, in which, when once expressed, it was their duty to acquiesce. He did not agree with the proposal in the Bill as to the creation of Life Peers, and thought it would not be wise to enact that there should be 10 for the Colonies, two for the Dissenters, two for the Roman Catholics, and so on. He would much prefer to leave the decision of the question to the Ministry of the day. The proposal to create Peers for a definite time was one which would have to be accepted in one form or another, although serious exception might be taken to it if the constitution of the House was to be settled on a permanent basis. It would be a good thing for the personnel of the House to be changed from time to time, and would enable it to keep in touch with the great industries of the country. Until they were more in touch with the country, the House would never command popular favour. For this reason he hoped that their Lordships would read the Bill a second time. No doubt, there were details to which objection might be taken; but if on this, the first occasion when a definite system of reform was placed before them, they were to throw out the Bill, their action would be thoroughly misunderstood in the country, and they would be playing into the hands of men who were opposed to a Second Chamber on the ground that it was an obstacle to the passing of measures which they promoted. All they had to consider was what changes would impart strength to the House and promote the good of the country; and their only duty was to promote reform which would give stability to the constitution of the House and increase the confidence of the country in it.


said, that he agreed with the noble Earl who had just spoken that if the Bill were thrown out the public might think that those who voted against it were against all reform. He agreed with what the noble Earl had said about the House being in touch with the country; and he thought also that the general opinion—which he believed was much exaggerated—that it had so lost touch was more to be regretted than the fact itself. He also thought the present Government had an unexampled opportunity of dealing with this question if they had been willing to do so, and difficult though it was—and it was the more difficult the more it was looked at—he could not but regret that they had not held out some hope of initiating some improvements in the constitution of the House of Lords. The question was one for the responsible Government rather than a private Member to carry through, although, in his opinion, a Committee might, perhaps, have been useful in paving the way for reform. Probably the most important provision in the Bill was that for adding elected Peers to the Hereditary Peers, but while not suggesting that the principle of elected Peers was impossible to carry out in practice, he gravely doubted the wisdom of having elective Peers, sitting for the term of nine years, recommended by the proposed County Councils. Those were bodies which had not yet come into existence; and, even supposing they had, it was impossible to say what kind of bodies they would turn out to be. They did not know whether the best men would come forward for election to the County Councils, or what amount of popular confidence the Councils would draw to themselves, and therefore he was not prepared to delegate to those new bodies so important a function as the election of Members to this House. With regard to the plan of reducing by election the number of Hereditary Peers, he was aware that the idea met with a good deal of favour, yet he did not see the pressing necessity for such diminution, the attendance of Peers never being so overwhelming as to make the Assembly unmanageable. The only reason he could think of for reducing the number of Hereditary Peers was that by so reducing them, and by electing Life Peers in proportionate numbers, they might to a certain degree swamp the hereditary element by making the Assembly partly elective and partly non-elective. But this would require the nomination of Life Peers in very large numbers—a prospect which he could not contemplate with equanimity. Nor did he like the idea of picking out special representatives according to their religious views. The very suggestion was in these days an anomaly and an anachronism. His own view was that they should proceed to reform the constitution of the Chamber in a tentative way, making one or two small improvements with which everybody would agree. There was a general opinion that Life Peers in moderation would be a good thing, and also in favour of Colonial representation; and he believed that such simple changes, made in a tentative and gradual manner, would be useful and acceptable both to the House and the country.


My Lords, I quite sympathize with my noble Friend who has just sat down in re- gretting that it is not possible for us to give a second reading to this Bill, so as to examine the whole question in Committee afterwards, which we might have done bad the Bill been somewhat less extensive in its character. I had hoped that that course would have been possible for us; but it is idle to conceal from ourselves that the principle of the Bill consists in its most excessive changes. The two parts of the Bill which constitute its principle are the reduction of this House by the election of 180 of its number and the addition of some 130 Members elected by the County Councils and the great cities of this country. Now, my Lords, I am wholly unable to understand the advantage of the reduction of the number to 180. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Rosebery) again and again spoke of the necessity of reducing the numbers; but it seemed to me, when I was listening to him, that I must be dreaming. I have been a Member of this House for a great number of years, and I could count on my fingers the number of days on which it has been difficult to find a seat. What we have to complain of is rather a beggarly array of empty Benches. We have not to complain of overflowing attendance, or that our debates take up night after night, or any such symptoms of a plethoric House, and the remedy which the noble Earl proposes is the last one which I should have thought of applying to the complaint from which the House might be thought to suffer. It reminds me of the remedy of an exploded school of physicians, who used to bleed a man when he was suffering from either feverishness or weakness, and it is rather in the direction of too little than of too much that I should say the weakness of our constitution lies. Nor would it accomplish the object which my noble Friend behind me professed to seek. It would not exclude those whom we know as the black sheep. The House would be elected, I suppose, on the principles which guide elections everywhere else; and it would not always be the best or most virtuous who would find themselves among the 180. You would find people elected in consequence of great fortune, great name, or great connections, and some of these might form a portion of that ill-omened band to which reference has so frequently been made, and which, I suppose, still exists, though I have not! the honour of its acquaintance. If you are to introduce any species of purilication—a sort of Pride's Purge—if you are to get rid of a certain number of Members whose morality interferes with the higher morality of the House, I think you ought to turn your eyes to another defect to which Members of any House appointed for life must necessarily be subject, and that is the men—I know of none now, but there have been such on former occasions—who have continued their legislative functions after the decay of their intellects had set in, and whose presence was neither an ornament nor a credit to the Assembly to which they belonged. All this seems to me very hypothetical and hypercritical, for, as human nature goes, this House is as respectable a Body as any other Body which I know. But there are very serious objections to this election of Members. They have been referred to already, and I will not go at length into them; but it is undoubtedly the fact that if you allow those who are not elected to this House to sit in the House of Commons you will run this great danger—that your 180 will represent the weakest and not the strongest part of your Body. On the other hand, if you attempt to force men into the House of Lords by forbidding them to go into the House of Commons—if you make it true that only convicts, lunatics, and Peers are unable to gain admittance to either House of the Legislature—you will be inflicting an injustice which cannot be defended, which if you propose you will be unable pass, and if you pass you will be unable to maintain. Remember what our position is with respect to the House of Commons. We are excluded from two of the most essential and conspicuous powers which the House of Commons exercises. We have no voice in choosing the Executive Government or in determining how or on whom taxes shall be imposed, or how the taxes so raised shall be expended. These are two great disabilities. They are disabilities imposed on us at our birth. But the Constitution in exchange comes forward to the Peers and says—"In return for these great disabilities you shall have the great and conspicuous privilege of sitting in a Legislative Chamber without being elected, and have the same voice in dealing with all other laws as the elected Chamber. "This bargain, if I may so call it, has come down to us with the tradition of ages. I shall not attempt to decide whether the bargain is for our advantage or not; it would be a very difficult question to decide; but if you take away the compensation and retribution which our Constitution gives; if you say to the Peers—" You shall be marked out; you alone shall not be allowed to have any share in the choice of the Executive Government by which you are to be ruled; you alone shall falsify the maxim that there shall he no taxation without representation; you shall pay taxes in the manner of imposing which you have neither vote nor voice, and for this we will give you no compensation; you shall simply have the choice of being elected to an Assembly to which these powers are not given by a constituency of some 400 men,"—I repeat the injustice would be so great that you could not make it a permanent part of your Constitution. You are, therefore, driven to this dilemma. If you make the House an elective body, choosing those who are to sit here, if you allow the residue to go to the House of Commons, you run the great danger that all who have had any practice in public life will sit in the House of Commons. I feel, therefore, that the proposal of the noble Earl, though to a certain extent it rests on an analogy with the arrangements in the case of Scotland and Ireland, is one which is not practicable. Now, my Lords, as to another proposal of my noble Friend, I think he can hardly be serious in suggesting it. We are setting up County Councils, which we are told are a great experiment. All kinds of different estimates have been formed as to their character, their power, and the work they will do. It is the great problem of the future in what manner they will be composed. Before they are even called into existence you are going to give to this unborn life the tremendous power of electing something like three-fifths of the Second Chamber of the Legislature. My Lords, it is difficult to understand the genesis of such an idea in any man's brain. I can only conclude that it has been suggested to his mind by the idea ever present in it of the Federal Senate in America. Here let me refer to a remark of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) on the last occasion on which this subject was discussed, when he charged me with having said, "I wish we had a Senate here." I did not say that. What I said was, that I wished we had a state of things in which such a Senate was possible, that is to say, a state of things in which a Federal Constitution is possible, for that state of things is more favourable to good government than any other. But it is not a state of things you can command for yourselves or create by Act of Parliament. It is a stage, it is a phase in the growth of a community. At all events, you cannot command it here. You cannot sit down and write in an Act of Parliament that Kent and Lincoln shall be Sovereign States, and shall furnish their contributions to the Federal Assembly. We cannot make federations; they have consisted of agreements between so many independent States consenting to come together; it is a process of approximation, and not of division. That is the only account I can give of the origin of this strange idea. I am sure that if ever the elective element is used for the purpose of creating a Second Chamber, it will have to be found in some other way. But does the noble Earl believe that if half or two-thirds of the Chamber are made elective the rest would remain hereditary? It is an absolute change and revolution when, in place of the nomination of the Crown, which has hitherto given a right of sitting in this House, we substitute the right of election; and you may depend upon it that that new importation would soon destroy the old. Do not for a moment be misled by the idea that because there have been many reforms of the House of Commons therefore a reform of this kind is necessary for the House of Lords. I am repeating what I have said before, that it is not sufficiently recognized that all the reforms of the House of Commons have been within the confines of its original constitution with the idea of giving a more complete and literal meaning to the original theory upon which it is founded. But here you are proposing to make an entire change, and to abandon altogether the lines upon which this House was originally framed; you are abandoning firm rock of experience and taking a plunge into the unknown. Have you the guidance of any other community to help you? Yes; you have one. There is one Body which my noble Friend seems to have had before him when he sat down to draw up this Bill. The Body whose power and vitality and permanence have apparently dazzled him is the present French Senate. The French Senate is framed very much on the lines which my noble Friend recommends. There are irremovable Members, the Life Peers, and other Members elected for 10 years by the Councils General of each Department—that is, exactly the County Councils of my noble Friend. What is the history of the French Senate? It was constituted in 1873; it was reformed in 1877 or 1878, and it is now the object of a revisionist movement. I do not wish to express any opinion on French politics; but, at all events, a very powerful party in France desires nothing better than already to sweep away this Body, on the model of which my noble Friend wishes to reform the House of Lords, which has lasted for many centuries. For these reasons I cannot think your Lordships ought to pass this Bill. I quite admit there are good features in it—for instance, the noble Lord's introduction of Life Peers, though I think, perhaps, its application would be too scanty. I must say that the Government, since resisting the Motion of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Rosebery), have been considering this question; and, while very anxious to avoid the idea that they would undertake any great reform, they think that a measure for facilitating the entrance of Life Peers into this House is one which would be useful and which they ought to propose. Let us treat this question of Life Peers by itself. I am not quite sure that I am equal to the heroic measures of my noble Friend (the Earl of Pembroke), who thinks there should be a creation of 150 or 200 Life Peers. I hope if a Bill to create them should pass, my noble Friend will have the duty of selecting them. But, without professing at present to go the length of my noble Friend, I think that something might be done, and that we might make a beginning in that direction, and I shall be prepared to lay a Bill on the Table for that purpose. With respect to what may be called "the black sheep question," there is one peculiarity about this House which seems to want reforming. The House of Commons has the power of expelling a Member, but the House of Lords has not. I think the House of Lords ought to have that power; and when once we have got that power by Act of Parliament, it would be for us to determine, by consideration of the Standing Orders in Committee, the conditions under which we should exercise it. With respect to the question of a quorum, on which my noble Friend enlarged, and several other matters, I quite admit that our proceedings are open to criticism. I think it is probable that we shall ask the House to consider some of our Standing Orders in order to see whether anymore advisable arrangements can be adopted. I make this statement because I am very anxious, like my noble Friend, that I should not be thought to imagine that this House has reached perfection, and that there is no room for improvement. I am anxious not to seem to adopt a non possumus attitude, and at the same time I am anxious to avoid the idea that a great, flaring, dramatic reform of the House is necessary. On the contrary, I think that by a cautious and tentative improvement we may remedy any defects which may exist, and confirm that strength which I believe this House has always possessed in the opinion of the country.


said, he was heartily glad to hear of any steps which should be taken in the direction of the creation of Life Peers to sit in that House. It was his firm belief that if, when the creation of Lord Wensleydale as a Life Peer was in question, the principle of Life Peerages had been accepted, it would have diverted very much of the attacks which were subsequently made on the House of Lords. He very much doubted whether at this moment a small Bill, merely deciding the question of Life Peers, however good it might be in itself, would be sufficient to settle a question of such Constitutional importance and to prevent further agitation on the subject. But, as far as it went, he heartily accepted the promise made by the noble Marquess on behalf of the Government that he would take a step in that direction.


said, he hoped his noble Friend would, after the promise of the noble Marquess, withdraw his Motion. He could not himself accept the great changes which his noble Friend proposed; but, at the same time, he thought the House would be very ungrateful if it did not acknowledge the care, skill, and perseverance which his noble Friend had bestowed on the question.


said, that after the speech of the Prime Minister it was obvious that he would better further the object he had in view if he were not to ask their Lordships to divide. His great desire was that the Government should take up the question, and he thought he should have a much better opportunity when the measure of the Government was proposed to improve the position of the House. Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn: Then the said Bill was (by leave of the House) withdrawn. House adjourned at Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.