§ Order of the Day for the second reading, read.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
said, he did not think anyone could entertain serious objection to the principle which the noble Marquess had introduced in this Bill,—namely, the admission of Life Peers into their Lordships' House. There were, however, certain considerations which he wished to put before their Lordships, and which, he thought, ought to be considered before the measure received their sanction. He should like to know what the object of the Bill was and how it would work? The noble Marquess, in introducing this legislation, had described it as having for its object the strengthening of the House and the power of removing objectionable Members. That power, he apprehended, applied to the second of the two Bills on their Lordships' Table, and what they had now to consider was the introduction of Life Peers. Now, he would like to know a little more distinctly what were the reasons in favour of the introduction of this measure. He could conceive that there might be two reasons; in the first place to increase the power of a Prime Minister by allowing him to confer titular distinctions upon his supporters; and the second was to strengthen the House. The first of these was not the object of the Bill. With regard to the second question, that of strengthening their Lordships' House, he believed that the country, as a whole, was satisfied with the manner in which their Lordships discharged their work, and he did not imagine that the introduction of any extraneous element would enable them to do it better. There was the plausible argument that by this means they would introduce elements into the House which at present 853 were not there. But, as a matter of practice, they had received among them the various elements which had been referred to by the noble Marquess. That House had cheerfully welcomed Lord Macaulay and Lord Tennyson, and they had among them distinguished Representatives of the Military and Naval Services and of the Civil Service; but what he wished to point out was that, gladly as they had welcomed them, as a matter of fact, those noble Lords had not done very much to enrich or strengthen the debates in that House. They had had among them several distinguished Members of the Civil Service, but he could not see from the records of Hansard or from his own experience that those noble Lords had done very much to add to their Lordships' store of knowledge. While Senates were listening to applaudTheir sober wisdom never learned to stray,They keep the even tenour of their way.He thought that they might take it as a matter of common experience that those who succeeded to Peerages comparatively late in life, unless they had had the training of the House of Commons or the Bar, were unfamiliar with Parliamentary habits, and in consequence not likely to strengthen their Lordships' debates; therefore, he thought it chimerical to hope for any addition of strength in that direction from the classes described in the Bill upon their Lordships' Table. If that was so, was it wise or right to look forward to this proposal as likely greatly to affect the character of the House? He was aware that the noble Marquess in introducing the measure had taken great care to repudiate the idea that it was to be regarded as a panacea; but, for his own part, he thought they should also consider the experience which they had gained with regard to this matter. With reference to the provisions of the Bill, he thought that it was a pity that an invidious distinction had been made between those who were specially qualified and those who were not. He saw the danger of fencing about a measure of this kind by narrow restrictions. It was provided that a person not specially qualified must have been not less than five years a Governor of some of Her Majesty's Colonies or Governor General of India. But why should not a person who might 854 have filled the office of Governor General of India for less than five years and in other respects be fit, be capable of being appointed a Life Peer? If fit to be appointed to so high an office, why should he, if returning home because the climate of India was injurious to his health, be prevented from sitting in the House because his tenure of office fell short by some months of the magic five years? It would be better to leave it open to the Crown to summon a certain number of Life Peers without placing them under this invidious restriction of not being specially qualified. It might be very desirable to summon Peers to their Lordships' House who might not have filled the office of Governor in any of Her Majesty's Colonies for five years. The case of the late Lord Kingsdown was an instance in point of the danger of such limitations. He had never held any qualifying office when appointed a Privy Councillor to strengthen the Judicial Committee. From what he had said it would be seen that he was not at all opposed to the principle of Life Peerages. He believed it was desirable to give facilities for entering their Lordships House to persons otherwise qualified, but who might be unwilling to accept the onerous responsibilities of an Hereditary Peerage. As to the discontinuance of the Writ, he did not see how it was to work. He did not think it desirable to leave to the majority of that House the right to exclude any of its Members. They had passed within the last 10 or 12 years an Act providing that Peers who had been made bankrupt should not have the right of sitting and voting in that House. Bankruptcy was a fact of which the law took cognizance, and not a voice was raised against the proposal. But there were many offences which might deprive a Peer of the right to take part in the proceedings of the House of which the law took no cognizance. It would not be desirable that their Lordships should take cognizance of offences not known to the law. An illustrious Member of that House at the beginning of the century incurred the censure of the Jockey Club. Could their Lordships take cognizance of such a censure? He did not know how their Lordships could take cognizance of questions which might arise in the Divorce Court or in the Kirk Sessions in Scotland. He did not think, as reasonable men acting 855 with a sense of responsibility, that they should be content to accept a burden of that kind. Such a power might be open to great abuse, and nobody conversant with the history of England during the last two centuries could say otherwise. There was a far better way of strengthening the authority of the House and restoring its dignity. If those who distributed Parliamentary Business would take care that an adequate number of measures of public importance should originate in that House the influence and authority of their Lordships' House would be very much increased. Then, as to Bills coming up from the other House, it tended to injure very much the authority of their Lordships' House when those Bills were hurried through. He did not think that the conduct of any Members of their Lordships' House had done so much injury to its influence as that, when a Bill dealing with Army purchase was rejected by them, a Minister of the Crown should have proceeded by the authority of the Crown and done that for which that House, acting with a full sense of responsibility, declined to give the necessary powers. Again, what was done in the case of the Local Government Electors Bill very seriously affected the authority of that House. Their Lordships had no opportunity of expressing any opinion whatever as to the constitution of the electoral body which was to choose councillors to deal with the rural finances of England. When any Bill was brought up at the end of the Session and passed at a time when their Lordships could not give it the full consideration it deserved, a very great blow was struck at the influence of that House. It was all very well to bring in Bills dealing with the constitution of the House, either touching the creation of Life Peers or the exclusion of those Peers who were not elegant ornaments of the House; but it appeared to him far more simple and effectual that their Lordships should possess the authority which they ought to have with respect to Parliamentary Business, and that they should have ample power of discussing it.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, he would not go into some of the subjects touched upon by the noble Earl. He did not differ from the noble Earl as to the possibility of increasing the power of the House by a different arrangement of Business; 856 but that was not a matter within their power, because the other House of Parliament would have a word to say on the subject, and it was a question not involved in the present measure. Neither would he deal with another Bill shortly to come before their Lordships. There was a great deal to be said about dealing with Members of the House not fit to take part in its proceedings; but that was the subject of a separate measure, and it would be convenient to treat the two measures distinctly. The practical argument, apart from merely theoretical considerations in favour of some such measure as this, seemed to him to be that if the present system was continued unaltered one of two things must be done, both of which would be inconvenient. Either they must exclude from the House a large number of persons eminently qualified to sit there, or else by admitting them, and ennobling their posterity, they must increase the number of the House to an altogether disproportionate extent. He could not think, for his own part, why a useful public servant should not be allowed to pass the latter part of his political life in the Upper House without the necessity at the same time—a necessity which might be extremely inconvenient to him—of introducing his children and grandchildren to all future time. The principle of Life Peers was more or less admitted by nearly every Member of the House. The question might have been settled more than 30 years ago, if the endeavourhad been made in a different way. What seemed to give most offence in the case of the Wensleydale Peerage was, first, the attempt to revive an obsolete prerogative of the Crown; and, next, that the power of creation being absolutely unlimited, the House could have been swamped by numerous creations. Since that time the principle had been partly acted on, and the whole question now was, under what conditions and to what extent it should be enlarged. There were some points in connection with this subject upon which some amendment appeared to be desirable; and though they were, perhaps, more fitted for consideration in Committee, it might probably be convenient to state them now. The noble Marquess, in imposing conditions on the creation of Life Peers, set a limit on the numbers and the qualifications. As to the limit 857 of numbers, he was not going to raise any objection. He thought that in principle it was quite right. It was, at any rate, harmless, and it was probably desirable that some check should be put on the power of a Minister to obtain a majority in that House by a large creation of Life Peers. But the noble Marquess had carried his precautions to a superfluous extent, because not only did he confine the number of these new creations to five in the year, but he also confined the total number to 50; so that, supposing the Bill passed and creations took place at the rate of five a-year for 10 years, there would then be only such vacancies as might arise from death, and possibly in some years there would be no opportunity of creating any at all. It seemed to him to be a much simpler plan to leave the ultimate limit of the number unfixed, and only to fix a limit to the number that might be created in a single year. He thought it would be much better that these five or six should be appointed every year without any reference to the number of vacancies, so as to obtain a continuous and not a fluctuating increase. As to the qualifications, the noble Marquess had devised an elaborate system, which might or might not be as good as any other; but he was afraid that all these attempts at minute definitions of personal qualifications were sure to have some weak points, and consequently to fail in some respects. In the first place, he observed that any man was qualified if he had been an Ambassador, but not if he had only been a Minister. But surely a Minister, say at Washington, or in China, might very well have performed valuable public services such as would qualify him for a seat in the House. Then, again, under the Bill any man who had been the Governor of any Colony was to be considered qualified; so that a man who had been a Governor of the smallest and most insignificant Colony—Heligoland or St. Helena—might be chosen, and the Minister at Pekin or some other important capital excluded. Then, again, he noticed that to be a Privy Councillor was a qualification in itself. So that if the Minister of the day desired to appoint as a Life Peer some person not included in the list of qualifications, all he had to do was first to make that person a Privy Councillor, thus perpe- 858 trating two jobs instead of one. He ventured to think it would be better and wiser to leave these qualifications out of the measure altogether. He believed it would be perfectly safe to leave the choice of Life Peers to the judgment and discretion of the Minister of the day, subject to the control of public opinion under which they all acted; and he would point out that while they were devising all these elaborate qualifications for Life Peerages no qualifications whatever were required for the higher honour of a hereditary title. He did not wish to complain of what was not in the Bill. Personally, he had no objection to see something in the nature of an elective element introduced into the constitution of the House; but he was bound to say that, so far as he was able to ascertain, he had not found two people to agree as to what should be the nature of the elective element to be introduced, and there was something almost absurd in searching for a constituency which might serve as a method of introducing elective Peers into the House. He passed no other judgment upon the question of the elective element than this—that it did not seem to be ripe for practical solution. He thought the Bill, notwithstanding the defects which he had indicated, and which were easily removable, was a step in the right direction, and he, for one, should give it his support.
§ LORD COLCHESTER
said, that though he had been opposed to the principle of Life Peerages, he gave a general support to the Bill in consequence of the safeguards accompanying it. If Life Peers were men like the Lords of Appeal, the foremost in their Profession, their position would be fully equal to that of other Peers; but he feared that if the power of creating Life Peers were not thus restricted, no patronage would be exercised more carelessly, as the immediate bad consequences in any particular case would not be so atrocious as in the case of an appointment involving responsible duties. He, therefore, hoped that some provision would be made in the Bill so that not ordinary men, but men who had achieved eminence in their particular professions, and were most entitled to speak with authority, should join the House, and add to its strength. Those who most loudly clamoured for the reform of the House of Lords were not actuated by any desire to see the 859 strength and authority of that House increased; but the moderate reform which that Bill would bring about would, he believed, have that effect, and so tend to balance the monopoly of power in a single Chamber. Without suggesting that there was any fear of an abuse arising, he nevertheless thought it would be better to insure that a man should not be made a Privy Councillor one day in order to be made a Life Peer on the next.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
said, he thought that the Bill was to be welcomed as being calculated to secure the presence in the House of men who would add dignity and value to its deliberations. He was of opinion that the best men of all classes should be collected within that House. He should have been glad to see literary talent distinctly recognized as one of the qualifications for a Life Peerage, but no doubt literary men could be appointed Peers of Parliament under the general terms of the third section. He regretted that it had been deemed necessary to fix so low a limit to the number of Peers to be appointed in any one year, but this was a point that could be dealt with in Committee. The eldest sons of Peers who were Members of the other House had recently expressed their views, and recommended to their Lordships a species of Japanese "happy despatch." They were not, therefore, entitled to any very special consideration at the hands of their Lordships, but in the interest of the country and of the constituencies he thought that some alteration in the law should be made providing the Members of the House of Commons on succeeding to a Peerage should be entitled, if they chose, to retain their seats in the other House until the expiration of the then existing Parliament. Instances had occurred, and they might occur again, in which the enforced removal of a Member of the House of Commons to the House of Lords had caused grave political complications. Therefore, in the interest of the country generally, he thought it would be well if the proposal he suggested were adopted. It would also be for the advantage of the constituencies, for at present a constituency which elected as its Member the eldest son of a Peer had to run the additional risk of a vacancy caused by his succession to a 860 Peerage. He knew of several instances in which men who would be valuable additions to the House of Commons were prevented from offering themselves as candidates because the age of their fathers was such as to make it improbable that if elected to the House of Commons they could sit there long. He might add that it was not very clear that a Member of the House of Commons who succeeded to a Peerage had not the right to retain his seat until the expiration of the Parliament to which he was elected. He once consulted the late Sir Erskine May on the point, and he expressed his opinion that it was a moot point. There was another matter to which he desired to refer—namely, the advisability of some test to qualify a Member to take part in the proceedings of that House. At present there was a considerable number of Peers who took no part whatever in the deliberations of that House. One Member of their Lordships' House was permanently domiciled in Australia, another in South Africa, while another was admitted an American citizen. Others for various reasons never attended. He thought it would be well if there were some provision that any Peer not being in the service of the State abroad who did not attend during the whole of one Session, and who did not produce a medical certificate to account for his absence, should be deemed to renounce his right to take part in the deliberations of the House until he intimated his desire to do so. Many Peers would be induced to attend the House more regularly than they did now by the knowledge that if it were found at the end of a Session that they had not concerned themselves in its Business they would not afterwards be summoned to attend. Then the plan which he advocated would obviate a considerable difficulty that might be expected in connection with the exclusion of "black sheep." He thought that under his proposal unworthy Peers would probably absent themselves of their own accord and thus lose their right of attendance, and in that way their Lordships would be saved the pain of submitting special names to Her Majesty with a view to punitive action. His plan would also have the effect of relieving their Lordships from the sudden attendance on special occasions of Peers who were unknown by sight even 861 to the officers of the House, and who disappeared as suddenly as they came upon the scene. It would be well to prevent such spasmodic attendance, for it was not likely to increase the influence of the House. This measure was really a small one, but it embodied a very important principle, and probably in the future the application of that principle would be extended. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government had said that the present was not a favourable time for the introduction of large measures. He confessed that he was rather surprised to hear such a statement from the head of a Government that had introduced the Local Government Bill; but he recognized that it was difficult to carry large measures, and he therefore accepted this instalment of legislation with gratitude.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
said, he could not look upon the Bill as satisfying the demands for the reform of the House which he had put forward on a former occasion. He was inclined to think, with other Members of the House, that it would be better if the qualifications laid down for Life Peers were struck out of the Bill. He could not quite understand the object of these qualifications. There were already in the House several distinguished lawyers, while over 140 Members had served either in the Army or Navy. Twelve of their Lordships had arrived at ranks as high as Major General and Admiral, and he failed to see why two or three additional Representatives of Services already so well represented should be given seats in their Lordships' House. The Diplomatic and Civil Services were also largely represented already. Many names would occur to their Lordships of men eminently qualified by their attainments to adorn the House and to add to its wisdom, who, nevertheless, would not be qualified by the Bill. Then, Her Majesty's Colonies and Dependencies would not be adequately represented under the scheme of the Government. He admitted that the Bill might do considerable good, but he welcomed it rather as justifying the hope that further measures would be received by the Prime Minister with benign consideration, should they become necessary. He believed himself that the necessities of the case could only be met by extending to English 862 Peerages the principle of co-optation, now obtaining in connection with the Irish and Scotch Peerages, by introducing adequate representation of the great and vital interests in this country, and providing also for the representation of the Colonies and Dependencies of the Crown.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, he agreed almost entirely with the observations made by his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby). He was by no means inclined to think that this Bill, humble as its dimensions appeared to be, was at all insignificant in character. Through the doors which the Bill would open important additions might undoubtedly be made to their Lordships' House. But of the proposed categories he did not approve. It was hardly possible to draw up categories which would not exclude men who might be admitted to that Assembly with great advantage to all concerned. The persons mentioned in the categories were mainly representatives of institutions already very fully represented in the House. It had, for example, long been the custom to summon to that House naval and military men who had rendered great service to their country. Having drawn up categories, ought the Government to exclude from them persons elected by large bodies of their countrymen to discharge important civic functions? Men accustomed to conduct the affairs of great cities, with populations larger than those of many States in the Middle Ages; men accustomed to manage the business of immense areas having enormous revenues, ought surely to be included in the categories, if there must be categories.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I should like to make a remark with reference to an important communication which, I understand, has been made to the other House of Parliament—namely, that all Bills except one or two are to be postponed with a view to an Autumn Session. I presume that this Bill will not be one of the exceptions to that general rule. I have little to add to what I said the other day on the general subject. Having long been an advocate of Life Peerages, I regard the discussion of this evening as singularly satisfactory. The speeches on both sides have indicated something like a general agreement in favour of the principle of Life 863 Peerages. My noble Friend who spoke second in the debate stated his approval of the principle, but objected to the limitation of it by qualifications and numbers, and it appeared to my noble Friend that the Bill was utterly spoiled and made ridiculous by the qualifications. I should really trust that that limitation is likely to be removed. There is one additional point which has somewhat weighed with me. I noticed a few minutes ago something which has been rather unusual this Session—the Sun smiling agreeably upon the Government side of the House. I was glad to observe that there were two or three Peers who still retained what Mr. Disraeli used to describe as dark and curly locks. I was sorry to see revealed a great many heads whose thin hair was not only gray, but even decidedly white, and in some instances there was almost an absence of locks altogether. The fact is that we are not only a middle-aged but even an aged Assembly; and the categories proposed to be introduced by the noble Marquess will add a considerable percentage to those noble Lords who, like myself, are approaching a time of life when they are utterly useless in an Assembly of this sort. This is really a serious matter. As regards the limitation of the number of Life Peers, there appears to be a general agreement that there should be some limitation, but even there on both sides of the House objections were raised to limiting the whole number of Life Peers. When we go into Committee—though I expect I need not exercise my mind about it this Session—I shall venture to go much further than those who have stated objections—I shall repeat some of the arguments which have been alluded to as having been used by the noble Marquess, and which he described as weak, in favour of doing away with fancied safeguards which are no advantage. I reserve the full right of doing that in Committee, unless the noble Marquess and the Government should be previously induced to abandon these fancied safeguards.
§ THE EARL of FEVERSHAM
said, that most of their Lordships appeared to be in favour of some change, and some in favour of a large change, and therefore it might not be inopportune that expression should be given to the views of one who held somewhat dif- 864 ferent opinions from those that had been expressed. The speech of the noble Earl who introduced the subject this Session was a great contrast to the speech he made four years ago. He then made mild and moderate proposals, and this Session he came forward with a strong and drastic proposal. This contrast reminded him of what a once distinguished Member of their Lordships' House said of the Whig Party, that they were oligarchs in Office and democrats in Opposition. Then a noble Earl on the Ministerial side of the House brought forward a very strong and stringent Radical measure; but they could not place much confidence in the counsels of the noble Earl, who had migrated to and from every part of the House till at last he had found a home on the Ministerial Benches, without ceasing to bring forward Radical measures. For himself, he need hardly say that he had not much sympathy with large and sweeping changes, and he believed the result of them would be the subversion of the hereditary principle. He trusted the Committee on the Standing Orders, which had been appointed on the Motion of the Lord Privy Seal, would recommend nothing which would affect the freedom or the ancient privileges of this House. The action and speeches referred to had been followed by the Bills of the Government; and it was a remarkable thing that none of those who had proposed these various changes had adduced any reasons showing adequate causes for the changes proposed. No fault had been found with the mode in which the House had done its Business; in fact, it was generally admitted that the debates of this House were characterized by ability, and that its work was done well both in Committee of the Whole House and in Select Committees. He would not offer any objection to the principle of this Bill. For a long time the House had had distinguished Members who were Life Peers; these were right rev. Prelates and eminent members of the Legal Profession. Therefore, as he understood, it had been determined to carry the principle further, and the principal question was how far it should be carried. The noble Earl the Leader of the Unionist Party thought that the ultimate number of Life Peers ought to be unfixed. From that opinion he differed. In the Wens- 865 leydale case it was stated by Lord Lyndhurst, by the late Earl of Derby, and by Lord St. Leonards that the danger of creating Life Peers was the ultimate subversion of the Hereditary Peerage by the unlimited increase of Life Peers. There was one evil which this Bill and which no Bill would touch, and that was the great evil of having to consider measures of the greatest importance at the close of the Session, when it was impossible to give them that consideration to which they were entitled. He believed that the hurrying through of those measures in the manner witnessed Session after Session affected injuriously the influence and the just weight of this Assembly. Before he heard the announcement about an Autumn Session he had intended to appeal to his noble Friend at the head of the Government to be satisfied with the second reading of the Bill on the present occasion, deferring the further consideration of it till another Session. In conclusion, he could only express the hope that the result of the deliberations of their Lordships on this important question might redound to the honour of this Assembly and the welfare and stability of the Empire.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I share the opinion of the majority of those who have addressed your Lordships on the subject of this Bill in being a somewhat Platonic admirer. We have ranged from the small censure, as I understood it, of the noble Earl to the somewhat guarded panegyric of that hope of a stern and unbending Toryism who has just sat down. But I do not know that, in spite of that, the debate gives very much to remark upon. The Bill is a small Bill, and the details of it do not require a very large treatment. The noble Earl who commenced the discussion said that a noble Lord who succeeded to his heritage in middle or mature life did not usually take an active part in our discussions; but I think he forgot my noble Friend on the Cross Benches (Lord Wemyss), whom we are happy to see among us.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
said, that he had specially excepted those who had been accustomed to public life in the House of Commons, or who had gained distinction at the Bar.
THE EARL of ROSEBERY
Then I entirely withdraw what I have said. 866 The noble Earl, then, who certainly did not succeed in the first flush of juvenility, is excepted from the sweep of the observation. When I come to the question of the reception of the Bill I confess I want to enter into the feelings of the noble Marquess who introduced it. I do not know if he is gratified with the reception his Bill has met; I do not know if he feels it has been received with any marked degree of enthusiasm. But I strongly suspect, whatever opinion the noble Marquess may entertain as to the warmth of the reception, that it quite corresponds with his own feelings in introducing it. I have had occasion to study with some care the utterances of the noble Marquess on this question, and I confess that they have been gradually diminishing in warmth. When he first entered it he appeared to be a somewhat Radical reformer of this House; but now, after almost annihilating me when I brought forward my Motion this Session for the idea of entertaining any reform of the House at all, he has at last produced this very remarkable measure. We know what its reception has been in this House. We have the guarded laudation, of which the Bill and its authors have been the subject; but the wildest imagination can hardly conceive what the reception of this Bill will be if it ever reaches the other House. I do not merely refer to the eldest sons. The eldest sons form a very prominent party on this question. They are an interesting feature of the other House of Parliament; and in the course of time—though it may be hoped not soon—they will probably form an interesting feature of this House. But it is not merely from the protests of primogeniture that I anticipate a very mixed reception for this measure, if it should reach "another place;" but from the noble Marquess's own Colleagues, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach and Mr. W. H. Smith, who have already expressed themselves on the subject of the reform of the House of Lords in terms which, if they do not seem very advanced, are, at least, sufficiently revolutionary as compared with the proposal of the noble Marquess. When we come to the Bill itself we have not very much to fear. We have two sections of Peers—what we may call the categorical Peers, and what we may call special Peers. The categorical Peers are Judges, or Major 867 Generals, or Rear Admirals, or Plenipotentiaries, or meritorious civil servants. Well, as to these categories, I share the doubts already expressed by some noble Lords. I do not know the use of them. For example, as to Judges, what is the use of saying that any Prime Minister may recommend to the Queen that a certain number of Judges may be added to this House. Of course, no one can misunderstand the value of the legal element; but, in truth, we are so little insensible of it that we have 14 Judges already in this House who would come within the category. Then we have the Rear Admirals. We have three of them. I do not know who are the further Rear Admirals on whom the noble Marquess has his eye; but I cannot see why they should not come in as Peers of special qualfication, because if they have no special qualification I cannot see why on earth they should come in at all. Then we come to the Major Generals. I think we have a dozen Major Generals. We are all gratified with the Major Generals—I wish there were more of them; but when we are told on the highest of authorities that it is undesirable that Major Generals should ever take part in the debates of this House, I begin to ask myself why it is the noble Marquess wants to increase indefinitely their number, except for the purpose of adding a few more mute votes to his Party. Then I come to the Plenipotentiaries. I am all in favour of the Plenipotentiaries; but I do not know what has happened to those eminent personages that they should not be admitted by the ordinary form of Hereditary Peerage or as persons presenting special qualifications. We have, I think, four Ambassadors in this House, counting the noble Marquess as a special Ambassador—he was once—and although we are rather below the proper figure in this respect, I am strongly inclined to doubt the wisdom of the method proposed for increasing it. Then there are the gentlemen who have served in the Civil Service of the Crown who are to be made Privy Councillors before being made Peers. I want to know if the noble Marquess really considers that the Privy Councillor test is any security in regard to the merits of a civil servant; because surely it is perfectly clear that a person who has the privilege of recommending to the 868 Queen that a civil servant should be made a Life Peer should equally have the power of recommending that he be made a Privy Councillor. I only see in the provision an indefinite extension of the Privy Council, one of the few Bodies which, I think, preserves its dignity at the present moment. Then there are the Governor Generals. Is there any necessity for putting them in the category of this Bill? There are many small Islands over which Governors are appointed—such as Heligoland, the Portland Islands, the Bermudas, and St. Helena; but the position is not one that necessarily fits a man for being made a Life Peer. These servants of the Crown in every part of the globe will not come here in the first flush and bloom of their youth; they will be by no means likely to take a vivid or important part in our debates, and what I fear is this, that you will not strengthen the House of Lords as a legislative Body, but that you will turn it into a sort of legislative Bath or Cheltenham, or, perhaps, if it is not disrespectful to say so, into a sort of legislative hydropathic establishment, where these noble persons will take more care of their constitutions than of the constitution of this House. Then, again, we have had an important addition suggested by the great moral adviser of the House, the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), whom I am sorry not to see in his place, but whom, following the example of the noble Marquess opposite, I will only distinguish as the patron of the Ayr Burghs. He has added a new category to this list, and he proposes that the mayors of provincial towns should be added to this House. I do not think that even the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Dunraven) ever put forward such a revolutionary project. It only shows how close is the union between the noble Duke and Her Majesty's Government when the noble Duke wishes to restore to them their selected Aldermen of which we have heard so much in "another place." Then we come to the Peers with special qualifications. Now, I do not see why some should be distinguished as having special qualifications, to the great disadvantage of those who are not so distinguished. What are the qualifications which are to distinguish the one class from the other? Why is it that hereditary Peers are to be pointed at as having no quali- 869 fications? My Lords, I do not think that the most revolutionary Radical ever attempted to inflict such a stigma upon your Lordships' House as the noble Marquess has inflicted upon it by this clause. Well, there are to be people with special qualifications, and, in addition to that disagreeable innuendo upon those who are not within the class, their claims are to be stated in a special message from the Crown, which is to detail these qualifications. Why should not this apply to the Major Generals, the Rear Admirals, and the distinguished Civil Servants? What reason is there why a man whose interest in this House is only a transitory one should have special qualifications, while a man who, in the words of his noble Friend, is to inflict his posterity upon the House is to have no qualifications? Certainly that provision fills my mind with awe and apprehensions. I do not wish to urge these objections in any trifling or hostile spirit. I am sorry to be obliged to return to the noble Duke, but I have no option in the matter. The noble Duke upon the last stage of the Bill was good enough to ask me questions of a stirring and crucial character. The noble Duke must have his little joke, and he put this shorter catechism to the only person who was absolutely disqualified to reply, because, as your Lordships will remember, I followed the noble Marquess, and I was therefore unable to reply to the noble Duke. Well, we Scotchmen always stick together, and I confess to an unbounded admiration for the character and ability of the noble Duke—I stop short only on one point, and that is infallibility; and, stopping short of believing the noble Duke to be infallible, I would humbly offer him one piece of deferential advice—namely, that when he attacks anybody about a speech or public utterance he should take the trouble to read that speech. I have addressed your Lordships' House at considerable length; I have detailed my opinions in great amplitude; but I am not aware of any single word or utterance that gave to the noble Duke a claim, or the shadow of a claim, to make the statements which he did. I have nothing to answer, as I have no consciousness of the opinions which he attributed to me. The noble Duke said that I wished to make this House the mere echo of the other House of Parlia- 870 ment. I have never said or thought anything of the kind. I would never dream of trying to degrade the House of which I am a Member. Then the noble Duke accused me of throwing the great establishments of the country at the heads of popular audiences. I have always supported this House before popular audiences—not always with great success—and I would say one thing with regard to this, that the worst thing I have ever had to say of this House I have said in this House and to this House, and your Lordships have always received me with unvarying courtesy and kindness. Now, it is very easy for the noble Duke to come down and make complimentary speeches, to say that your Lordships' House is the salt of the earth and has never opposed any Liberal measure. That is an easy task, but it is not absolutely a friendly one, and those who come to this House and utter what they believe to be the truth are rendering a far truer service to it than the utterance of platitudinarian compliments. I have only one more word to say. I am one of those who would like to see the reform of this House go much further than is now proposed, but I am bound to take whatever I can get. We are told that the reform of this House must proceed piecemeal. I do not deny it; I only object that the pieces are so extremely small. The noble Marquess is always fighting an imaginary adversary, who is trying to convert this House into an American Senate. I think he need have no fear of that in the scheme of this Bill; there is not the faintest possible resemblance. It is as if, when one wanted to go to America, the noble Marquess offered you a Hansom cab; it would take you to Euston Station, but there would still be very many miles to go before reaching his destination. My lords, it is in this very moderate spirit of benediction that I support the second reading of this measure.
§ LORD TRURO
said, he considered that one great objection to the proposal of this Bill was that it would merely give power to the Minister of the day for Party purposes. It would also aggravate the existing evil of the too great numerical strength of the House, and he was not at all sure that its debating power would be increased by the proposed addition to it of men advanced it years.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
It appears to me from the result of this discussion that there is a unanimous decision in favour of carrying the second reading of this Bill. For that reason, I hope that the second reading will be carried. The debate generally has turned upon points which cannot be satisfactorily discussed except in Committee, if only by reason of the number of points raised. There is only the speech of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) of which on this occasion it is necessary for me to take any notice. I should not have brought forward the Bill this evening had I not understood from the Leader of the House of Commons that it was not one of the Bills which he was going to abandon. I should have been guilty of the grossest disrespect to your Lordships had I not so understood. But I have now learnt that a leading Member in another place has intimated his intention of offering his utmost opposition to any measure for the Reform of this House which is not introduced into the House of Commons at the beginning of the Session; and that my right hon. Friend, under the influence of a panic, which, in the face of such terrible threats, was not unnatural, has undertaken to abandon the Bill. Under those circumstances, I shall certainly not enter into a discussion which would only keep your Lordships for an unreasonable time.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly; Bill (by leave of the House) withdrawn.