HL Deb 18 June 1888 vol 327 cc387-414

My Lords, I rise to draw your attention to a subject which has already occupied your Lordships during the present Session—namely, the constitution of this House, and I am going to lay upon the Table a Bill with respect to it; but, warned by the fate of my Predecessors, my efforts will be exceedingly modest. I shall indulge in none of those far-reaching schemes whose ambitious character has been their destruction. The first provision to which I will call attention is the question of Life Peers. It is not a new one in this House. It has been considered on more than one occasion, and it is not new to myself, for when I first came to the House, some 20 years ago, I had the honour of supporting Lord Russell in connection with a measure not very dissimilar from that which I shall propose this evening. The fate of that measure was curious. During the discussion there was no great difference of opinion as to the desirability of a moderate and carefully guarded power of creating Life Peers to be placed in the hands of the Ministry. But though the Bill, with expressions of good-will more or less accentuated, passed the second reading and afterwards through Committee, where it was modified, when it came to the third reading it was met by resistance on the part of the Chiefs of the Party then in Opposition. But the ground taken by the Opposition for resisting it at that time was not an objection to the principle of the measure, as may be seen by referring to the speech of Lord Cairns, who was then the Leader of the Opposition. His ground for resisting the Bill was that owing to delays which had occurred, and which appear to have arisen from a cause with which we are not familiar—namely, the enormous amount of Business which there was in the House at the time, the measure had been delayed until the end of the Summer, when there was no hope that it could pass through the House of Commons in the same Session. Lord Cairns took a strong objection at that time, an objection which he repeated three or four years ago, shortly before his death—to bringing forward a measure of this kind unless there was some very fair reason to hope that it could pass into law during the current Session. The only criticism that I really fear in bringing forward this measure is that some people may think that the time of its introduction infringes the rule which Lord Cairns sought to lay down; but I am happy to say that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury assures me that he can pass the Bill if it goes down to the House of Commons, and that considerations of mere time will not stand in its way. The great question in connection with all these Bills is the amount and nature of the restriction that should be placed upon the Ministers of the Crown in the exercise of the power of creating Life Peers. But for the necessity of some such restriction I do not think there ever would have been any doubt or difficulty as to the adoption of the measure. In the earliest history of this House Life Peers were exceedingly common, and they continued to be made from time to time down to what we may call the end of the first stage in the history of the House of Lords, down to the end of the Wars of the Roses. You may take that to be a break, as it were, in the history of the House of Lords, because when they re-assembled after the battle of Bosworth there were found to be only 29 lay Peers in existence. Down to that time a considerable number of Life Peers were made; but there was this peculiarity about several of those creations—they were not made by the sole Prerogative of the Crown, but they were made in Parliament with the consent of Parliament, so that even then it was thought that the exercise of such a Prerogative ought not to proceed unchecked. That is the consideration to which we have to address ourselves to-day, and it has always been in my mind one of the most indispensable conditions of any legislation of this kind that the extent to which it should be exercised should be distinctly limited by Parliament beforehand. Otherwise the existence of the power might be fatal to the independence of your Lordships' House. If there was a power of creating Life Peers to an unlimited extent, the temptation would inevitably be too strong for some ambitious and imperious Minister, and he would attempt by such creations to force the decision of the House, as it was once forced in 1712. I know that the noble Earl opposite who leads the Opposition has said again and again that he does not understand why there is more necessity for restriction in the case of Life Peers than in the case of Hereditary Peers. It is very difficult to convey it to the noble Earl's mind if it does not occur to him instinctively, but I am quite sure that most of your Lordships will recognize that anybody would feel much more responsible in advising an unlimited creation of Hereditary Peers than in advising an unlimited creation of Life Peers. Not only would he feel much more responsibility, but he would have much more difficulty in inducing the Sovereign to accept his advice, and he would have much more difficulty in obtaining the support and approval of public opinion in such a course. As your Lordships know, the creation of Hereditary Peers for the purpose of influencing the decision of the House of Lords has only been resorted to once. It was at the very commencement of our Parliamentary history, and it was done for the purpose of passing the Resolutions which were necessary in connection with the Treaty of Utrecht. Only 12 Peers were created, and yet, for creating those 12 Peers, among other things, Lord Oxford was impeached by the House of Commons as having done a thing which was derogatory to the honour of Parliament and fatal to the public interests. That was one of the chapters of the impeachment afterwards drawn against Lord Oxford. It was never done again, although it was threatened once on a memorable occasion. Lord Brougham has expressed his great doubt whether, if matters had come to an issue, that course would ultimately have been taken; and if my memory serves me right, the Duke of Richmond has stated that he had it from his father, who was in the Cabinet at the time, that he would never have consented to go to that extreme. It is, therefore, a measure from which Ministers have obviously flinched, and I am dwelling on the point for the purpose of reminding your Lordships that they have flinched from it, and that the threat of it has been very rare. I think I have seen it stated in a book of which, on account of its authority, I should always speak with great respect—I mean Professor Dicey's Constitutional Law—that it is settled Constitutional Law that when the House of Lords resists the House of Commons the vote of the former should be decided by the creation of Peerages; but I think that Constitutional Law requires general acceptance and the acceptance of both sides in politics: and I can safely say that no such doctrine has ever been accepted by the Conservative Party. I am dwelling upon this for the purpose of pointing out that Lord Brougham, who may be said to have been a good judge, stated that if it had been a question of the creation, not of Hereditary Peers, but of Life Peers, very much less difficulty would have existed, and much less apprehension would have been felt, and Ministers would have resolved upon the step with very much greater ease. I, therefore, think it ab- solutely necessary that we should establish narrow limits within which this power should be exercised, for whatever the destiny of this House may be, whatever you may desire that it should do or not do, whatever powers it should wield, or character it should bear, I am sure that no man of common sense would ever wish that it should become the supple instrument of a Minister of the Crown. But I go further. I say nothing at present as to the number to which the creation of Life Peers should be restricted, but I think the creation ought to be restricted in point of nature and kind. Fears have been expressed that if unrestricted power of creating Life Peers were given to a Minister it might be used simply for the purpose of getting rid of applicants who could be got rid of in no other way, or for the purpose of disposing of Members of the other House whose presence was inconvenient. Now, I have the greatest possible respect for that Corporation generally represented by Lord Kintore. I have great respect for the valuable services they render to the country, but I am anxious to eliminate to the utmost possible degree their influence in the creation of any Life Peers for the future. If Life Peerages are to be a useful institution, they ought to have as little to do with the Whips as can be. I will state what the proposals are that we have to make. We propose that it shall be lawful for Her Majesty from time to time by Letters Patent to appoint a Peer during his life "any person qualified as shown hereinafter," and then come certain categories which I will read. Of these not more than three persons shall be appointed in any one calendar year. Either he must have been for not less than two years a Judge of the Superior Court in some part of the United Kingdom, or have served in Her Majesty's Naval Forces and have obtained the rank of Rear Admiral or higher rank, or he must have served in Her Majesty's Land Forces, and have attained to the rank of Major General or higher rank, or have been an Ambassador Extraordinary. These categories deal with the legal, military, naval, and diplomatic professions. With respect to the Civil Service there is a difference. There is no rank or mark like that of Ambassador, or Major General, or Rear Admiral which you can select as showing their merit or their experience. But it appeared to us that the requisite security might be obtained by relying upon a Body whose constitution has received an expression of admiration from the noble Earl—I mean the Privy Council. I do not think Ministers are generally disposed to appoint unfit persons to the Privy Council, and I think we may say that if a man has been in the Civil Service of the Crown either in this Country or in the Colonies, and has afterwards been made a Privy Councillor, that he is a fit person for a Life Peerage; and, besides that, we propose that any person who may have been five years a Governor General or a Governor in any part of Her Majesty's Dominions out of the United Kingdom or a Lieutenant Governor in India shall be eligible. We further propose that Her Majesty shall have the power to appoint to be a Peer of Parliament any person on account of any special qualification other than one of those mentioned, provided that not more than two persons shall be so appointed during any one calendar year; and that a person shall not be appointed under this section until Her Majesty the Queen has, by a message to the House of Lords, stated Her Majesty's intention to appoint such person and the special qualification on account of which he is proposed to be appointed. That restriction has been introduced for the purpose of avoiding the danger which I distantly glanced at. That will make a power of creating five in all. We then add— The number of Peers at any one time entitled in pursuance of this Act to vote shall not exceed 50, and it shall not be, lawful to make any appointment in pursuance of this Act which will make such number for the time being exceed 50. Of course, these numbers may be regarded as excessive; but I wish to point out that they are a maximum. I am not entering into any kind of engagement on the part of the present Government, still less on behalf of the Sovereign, that five Life Peers will be created every year. I have the greatest doubt whether the possibility of finding five proper persons for Life Peers every year will present itself with the facility that some people think. My noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Pembroke) said, in a recent debate, that he wanted us to create at once 200 Life Peers; but the prospect filled one with alarm, and I do not think that the most inventive imagination will discover 200 fit candidates for an immediate Life Peerage. I consider five Life Peers a-year to be a maximum, and I do not believe that number will be filled up every year. Of course, it is a matter of speculation in what way they will be received. Some persons have suggested that they would feel themselves in a position of inferiority, which would hinder their usefulness in this House. I think we are dispensed from any apprehension of that kind by the position Life Peers have already obtained in this House. Their position is not only not one of inferiority, but in many cases it is so distinctly superior that I think we may set aside the fear that if the men are men of merit there is the slightest danger of anything of that kind. A totally opposite fear crossed my mind. Ultimately it may come to be thought that as Life Peers are created for merit that is recorded, and Hereditary Peers for merit that is not recorded, an Hereditary Peerage is a less desirable dignity of the two. But whatever may be the case, I am quite sure that when the Life Peers are properly selected they will not only find a hearty welcome, but a very attentive audience. I know that several noble Lords behind me will say in their hearts—"What necessity is there for any Life Peers at all?" I have never put forward Life Peerages as a great panacea; but I think they will be of use, and there are several reasons why. One which has been constantly suggested in previous debates was supported by a striking instance by the noble Earl who leads the other side. It is that it often happens that a man who would be very useful in this House and would contribute very much to its debates is unable to accept a Peerage because of the burden that a title would impose upon his descendants. Another reason why we should desire the presence of Life Peers is furnished by consideration for the work of the House itself. Some of your Lordships may ask—"Is not the work sufficiently well done at present?" I reply that that is a question that must admit of a double answer. In some respects, and on some subjects, the work of the House is admirably done. Nothing could be better attended to than legal matters in this House. Nothing could be better as regards knowledge of the subject than the treatment of land questions in this House. Nothing can be better attended to than Church questions are in this House; but when we get outside these three categories I do not think that we are sufficiently well manned. We have some distinguished soldiers and sailors, and some soldiers, as we know, are not allowed to speak so often as we could wish. Still, on these subjects, I doubt whether the representation is sufficient to make our debates adequate, or the examination of measures which come under our consideration sufficient. But outside of these things, when you come to questions of finance, mercantile matters, engineering matters, and a number of other departments of thought and activity, they are hardly represented in this House at all. If the House should pass this measure, it will make the House more efficient for its debates in these respects. And there is another advantage which I think will commend itself to the noble Earl the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who first introduced this question in the present year. He indicated, in no obscure terms, that he thought the creation of Hereditary Peers had been too extensive in recent years, and he was rather inclined to suggest that it was the fault of those atrocious persons the Conservatives; but I think, if he will look back on the years that have passed since we last discussed this subject in 1867, he will find—it is my impression, at all events—that the largo creation of Hereditary Peers has not originated with the Conservatives. But detaching ourselves from all questions of individual responsibility, and merely asking ourselves what is better for the House and the country, I entirely agree with the noble Earl that the rate has been rather high. One of the hopes I have of this measure is that it will diminish the creation of Hereditary Peers, and in that case it will give more freedom and more elasticity to the Crown in the distribution of honours, as well as more fitness to the House for discharging its important duties. There is another subject which I have to call attention to. It is one that does not admit of much discussion. The noble Earl kindly spared us the difficulty of lengthy definition by introducing a phrase which has been generally adopted, so that this has come to be known as the question of the black sheep. I doubt whether the evil is so great as it has been represented to be. I have not had the pleasure of meeting the black sheep supposed to be in every corner of the House; but, assuming that they are there, a step towards the removal of them will be taken by the passing of this Bill, for it will give the House a power which it does not now possess—that of expelling a Member. It can only have that power on the same conditions on which the House of Commons has it—that is to say, it must always remain with the constituent authority to restore a peccant Member of the House if it should seem good to it to do so. In our case, the constituent authority is the Crown, and, therefore, it must always remain in the power of the Crown to issue again a Writ of Summons, if it should be advised to do so, to the noble Lord who has been the subject of this operation. The Bill proposes that it shall be in the power of the Queen, on an Address presented by the House of Lords, praying that the Writ of Summons to every Peer named therein shall be cancelled, by Royal Sign Manual to direct that the said Writ shall be cancelled. Such cancelling will be good during tile currency of that Writ—that is, during the existing Parliament—and unless Her Majesty shall issue a special Order to the contrary, that Writ shall remain permanently cancelled. Of course, both for the purpose of repairing errors and of dealing with offences which do not seem to call for so much severity, power must be reserved to the Queen, under Constitutional advice, to re-issue at a later period of the Session the Writ of Summons which has been cancelled. That is merely giving to this House a power which the other House possesses. If it should be the pleasure of Parliament to give that power to this House, it will then be our duty, in the framing of our Standing Orders, to determine how that power shall be exercised, under what conditions, subject to what checks, and under such restrictions as shall prevent the possibility of injustice. I have to apologize, perhaps, that there is nothing more startling in my measures. They are simply designed for the purpose of strengthening the House of Lords, and of giving it a power of removing that which is objectionable, and of adding to itself that which is powerful and strong, and of doing its duty better before the country. They are not designed for the purpose of introducing any new principle into the Constitution, or of heralding any revolutionary changes in a Body which has lasted so long and which has done so much service to the State.

Bill to provide for the appointment of Peers of Parliament for life—Presented (The Marquess of SALISBURY).


My Lords, I do not know that it is necessary, or, indeed, respectful, to the economical measure which has been presented to us by the noble Marquess opposite, that we should inaugurate any debate upon it without further consideration. It is a modest measure, and it has been introduced by the noble Marquess in a singularly modest speech. He told us that the plans which were proposed to your Lordships by the noble Earl opposite and myself were killed by their own ambition. That is not my view of the subject at all. I do not know what my noble Friend's view may be; but my belief is that they were killed by the direct intervention of the noble Marquess. I share entirely the views and the extreme vigour with which the noble Marquess put before us the regret which he would feel if he ever thought this House should become the subtle instrument of a Minister of the Crown; but I am bound to say that, viewing the relations of Parties in this House, it cannot but be felt that this House—I do not doubt by sincere conviction—is infinitely too much on the side of the Minister of the Crown, and even of the noble Marquess himself. I do not say whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. That is not the point I am discussing at this moment. But what I have pointed out before to your Lordships is this—that the real danger to the House of Lords does not consist in the absence of five Life Peers appointed annually, or in the presence, the supposed presence, of what are called black sheep, who do not so often attend the House, but whose character, to some extent, invalidates the decisions of the House of Lords—the real danger, to my mind, has alway consisted in this— that under certain conditions, which it is not very difficult to imagine, there might be an utter want of sympathy between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and the vast majority of the House of Commons might be entirely opposed to the vast majority of the House of Lords. Now, my Lords, recent events appear to show that that danger is not so remote as might be supposed; but, in any case, whether it be remote or not, the provisions of a wise Minister, I should have thought, would have been to guard against that, and not to attempt to deal with the House of Lords at all, unless he has some large, far-seeing, and exhaustive measure in view which would meet this very grave difficulty. Now, my Lords, as regards this particular measure which the noble Marquess has proposed this evening, while I do not think it respectful to deal with it on the present occasion; at the same time I do not see any great difficulty in doing so. It is not of that character as to offer insuperable obstacles to its discussion. But when you come to think that after the various Motions which have met with more or less favour at your Lordships' hands, after the very wide discussion in the Press and on the platforms, and after that most significant sign of all, the revolt of the eldest sons, when you come to think that the noble Marquess has nothing to propose but that a Rear Admiral shall be made a Life Peer, or that a Major General shall be made a Life Peer, or that a Privy Councillor shall be made a Life Peer, or that an Ambassador shall be made a Life Peer, one begins to feel that the subject is almost hopeless, and that it is hardly worth while proceeding with a reform of that character. I confess if I took into view simply the Bill proposed by the noble Marquess—speaking as an individual, for I have no notion whatever of the feelings of my noble Friends behind me—I should not care to see the Bill carried into effect. But with regard to another point, I confess that I should be inclined to give it my humble vote. My view is this—supporting it as well as I can—that when you once open the sluice-gate of reform into this House you will not be able to stop at this limited measure. I myself am not a very great believer in the remedy as the noble Marquess proposes it; I think, as I have already indicated, that it may even tend to degrade the quality of the Hereditary Peers hereafter to be created; because I think that, when a man has been hereafter created a Hereditary Peer, the tendency of the cynical observer of the House of Lords—and I must say I rather put the noble Marquess himself in that category—would be to say that that Nobleman has been created a Peer because he did not come within the various categories of fitness for Life Peerages. And my fear is this, which I believe the noble Marquess also shares—that the Hereditary Peer may hereafter come to occupy a very subordinate position in relation to the distinguished men whom the noble Marquess proposes to introduce. I do not know whether 50 or 100, or even 200, distinguished men would come in under the clauses of this Bill; but, at the same time, I think that its operation will be, as I have already said, rather to degrade the hereditary character of this House than to improve it. Now, my Lords, there is another process. The first proposal in the Bill is to make an addition; but it also contemplates a process of subtraction. With regard to the process of addition, I think it will not be very operative; but as to the process of subtraction, I venture to affirm that it will be absolutely inoperative. Is it quite clear, to begin with, that this House has not the power of expelling any of its Members by Resolution? I do not care to discuss that point; but if it has not the power, is it the least likely that for petty offences which in many cases unfit a Peer, in the opinion of the public, for the exercise of his legislative functions, that you will be able to get a House together and get an authority to move a solemn Address to the Crown for the removal of a Peer? My Lords, I do not believe it for a moment. I believe your process of expurgation will be a dead letter. No one will dare to take upon himself the invidious functions of censor without authority or inducement. I am firmly convinced of this—that the only possible method by which you can exclude undeserving Peers from the House of Lords is the method proposed by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Dun-raven) as well as by myself—a process of delegation. My Lords, under these circumstances, I do not think I have anything further to add to the remarks I have ventured to make on this Bill. I shall give it my humble support, not because of the intrinsic virtues of the measure, but because I believe it to be a certain precedent for larger, and more extensive, and more operative proposals.


said, that he had deliberately abstained from taking part in the discussion of this subject during the past two years, because he had had great doubts as to the practical character of the measures brought forward, and he had desired to defer any observations he might have to make on so important a matter until some definite proposal had been submitted to their Lordships. He was one of the last survivors of those who more than 30 years ago proposed to revive Life Peerages. His noble Friend who led the official Opposition in that House the other day was reported to have said that if the measure which they then proposed had been allowed to take effect the agitation for an alteration in the constitution of the House would probably have been delayed some time. Speaking for himself, he was not now of opinion that that would have been the result. Whatever movement there might have been for an alteration in the constitution of that House, it was much more deeply seated than would have been satisfied by such a change as was then proposed. He did not know whether his noble Friend would contradict him, but he submitted that the Government of Lord Palmerston 30 years ago had more in view the strengthening of the judicial element of that House than anything else. Looking back to that time, he felt bound to say that he thought the Government of Lord Palmerston rushed into that measure hastily and without due consideration. He did not think that there was one Member of that Government who believed that there was any doubt as to the legal and Constitutional power they had to create Life Peerages. Lord Campbell laid it down that they had the power. It was a curious fact, and it formed a piece of political gossip at the time, that if Lord Wensleydale had been well enough to take his seat on the first night of the Session no question would have been raised by the Law Peers. But as he was ill, he was compelled to delay taking his seat for three weeks or a month, and during that time the Law Peers got up the opposition. They did not fully consider—at least, speaking for himself, he did not fully consider—the influence which that measure would have on the independence of that House. His noble Friend (the Earl of Rosebery) had expressed doubt whether there would not be in the hands of the Ministry a much greater responsibility in that House if the creation of Life Peers were extended. For his own part, he could not help agreeing that the difficulty was very considerable. No doubt, there were other means at the disposal of a Minister; but, on the whole, he could not doubt that it would be more easy for an unscrupulous Minister to swamp that House if he had the unlimited power of creating Life Peers. If they were to continue to have two Houses of Parliament, he thought it should be agreed by all men that they ought to be independent of each other; that both Houses should have in their own sphere the character of independence of the Minister of the Crown, otherwise they could not perform their duty to the people. He agreed with the noble Marquess that there ought to be some limit on the creation of Life Peers; but this was not the proper time for discussing what should be the precise limit. He did not, however, understand the speech of the noble Earl who bad spoken last, because the noble Earl said he would vote for that measure, but that he thought it would degrade that House. He could not quite understand those two propositions. The noble Earl said the Bill would open the door through which other measures would come in afterwards for further reforms of that House. He hoped that the noble Earl did not mean that those other measures were also to have the character of tending to degrade that House, and that he would also vote for them.


said, he did not want his words to be misapprehended. He had said that he thought the proposed introduction of Life Peers might rather have a tendency to degrade the Hereditary Members, and that in that respect he shared the surmises of the noble Marquess himself. His other argument was that that measure would open the sluice gate to other measures of reform.


The noble Earl said that the measure would tend to degrade the Hereditary Peers, but nevertheless he would vote for it. For himself, he did not believe that the creation of Life Peers would have any such effect. They would be regarded as other Members of the House were; they would be respected for their individual character and ability, and many of them were men of great ability and took an active part in the Business of the House. They had heard some able speeches from the noble Earl about the reform of the House of Lords—a subject which he must say he had treated with great ability, but at the same time with an ability which was consistent with the avoidance of committing himself to any definite scheme. The noble Earl told them that there was a danger of that House coming into collision with the other House of Parliament. Of course there was. That was a necessary danger attending any Constitution under which they had two Houses of Parliament. But he asked what his noble Friend was driving at in his speeches in that House and out of the House? He must say that he thought persons in the position of his noble Friend who had been Ministers of the Crown, and who hoped again to be Ministers of the Crown, should not throw the great institutions of this country at the heads of the people without any indication of the direction in which they themselves would wish their reforms to go. It was pretty plain what his noble Friend meant. He meant that there should continue to be a Second Chamber, as it was commonly called, but one that should always agree with the House of Commons and which should say "Ditto" to the House of Commons—a House of Lords whose voice was never to be heard except in the symphony of "Amen." If that was so, let him say it openly—let him tell them and tell the people that he wished to have a second House of Parliament that would never take an independent view of anything, and, therefore, would never be in danger of a possible collision with the House of Commons. They would then understand him. That reminded him of an incident which he witnessed a few years ago. Some American steamers, as their Lordships might know, were like Noah's Ark, and covered like a house with a roof, and no passenger was allowed to go on to the top of that roof without the special leave of the captain. It happened to himself to be on board one of those steamers, and the captain invited him to go up and see the views from the top of the ship. An American lady was there also at the time. An essential part of the machinery of such a steamer which wished to avoid danger was a steam whistle; and on the occasion to which he referred the whistle being set going the lady put up both her hands to her ears to shut out the dreadful noise. The captain afterwards said to her—"I am very sorry, madam, to have inconvenienced you, but you will be glad to hear that our great inventor, Mr. Edison, is about to take out a new patent for a steam whistle that is to make no noise at all." "That would be delightful," she thought. Well, his noble Friend was a sort of political Mr. Edison, who would undertake to produce a House of Lords, which would never dissent from the House of Commons, would never cry "No," and would always say "Ditto" to that House. He could understand the doctrine that they should not have a House of Lords which would be in perpetual conflict and collision with the House of Commons. A greater calamity to the country could not well be conceived. He desired an Upper Chamber such as they had over had for 600, 700, or 800 years, which should be gifted with insight into the great political instincts of the English people, which should be able to detect the movements of political opinion that were really such, and to distinguish those movements and the conclusions to which they pointed from the movements of impulsive passion which might at some unhappy moment threaten disaster to the State. That must involve the danger of occasional difference with the other House of Parliament. That was the use of the House of Lords—that was the use of the Second Chamber; and without that danger there could be no such use. His noble Friend, in a speech made in the North of Scotland the other day, said that the reform of the House of Lords was not pre-eminently, but only partially a Party question, and he agreed in that. But his noble Friend went on to say that the House of Lords was eminently obstructive of Liberal measures. He wanted to know what his noble Friend meant by "Liberal measures?" He supposed that he meant measures which emanated from the Party to which he belonged; and that the House of Lords ought never to dissent from measures proposed by the Party which he honoured with his Membership and adherence. Well, that was a very large order. But how far, he would ask, was it true that that House, in any large sense of the word, had been obstructive of the great changes which during the last half-century had been in the interests of the people? He himself had had the honour of being either a Member of that House or a close attendant on its debates as a boy on the steps of the Throne for very close on half-a-century—for 47 years; and he looked back to see what were the great movements of legislation in the interests of the people to which that House had been an obstruction. Besides many others of considerable importance, he found five or six changes which were considered almost revolutionary in their character. First of all, he found a series of measures, not promoted solely by the Liberal Party, but heralded and defended and promoted and patronized by one man who was throughout life more or less a Conservative—the late Lord Shaftesbury. Had the late Lord Shaftesbury any serious difficulty in carrying those measures through the House of Lords? No; the opposition offered to them in the House of Commons was much more serious than that offered in the House of Lords; and when they came to the House of Lords, although they were not received with enthusiasm—for that was not the special quality of their Lordships' House—they were passed with much less difficulty. He had no hesitation in saying that the Factory Acts were at that time considered to be measures of almost a revolutionary kind. They introduced an entirely new principle in our legislation—a principle full of doubt and difficulty even in the opinion of our most philanthropic and public men. Among the many measures which, during the last 50 years, had tended to prove the wisdom of Parliament and the political instincts of the British people, and which had tended to the happiness of the working classes, none, in his opinion, stood before the Factory Acts. He came now to the next question, the abolition of Protection. Protection of native industries was dear to the hearts and convictions of the leading men on both sides of the House, and in both Houses of Parliament. He remembered very well when Lord Melbourne sat in the place now occupied by the noble Marquess, and seeing by his side old Lord Holland, whose form and features recalled to their Lordships the well-known form and features of the illustrious man who was a near relative of his and one of the greatest of our English statesmen. At that time there was but one Member of their Lordships' House who was in favour of the repeal of the Corn Laws. That was the late Lord Fitzwilliam. In a few short years the abolition of Protection was attained. The question was dealt with by the House of Commons under great difficulty, and under the pressure of circumstances connected with the potato famine in Ireland it was found impossible to resist the action of Sir Robert Peel. The question then came up to their Lordships' House against the individual convictions of the vast majority. There was no doubt about that; but their Lordships legislated on the question, and they submitted to the changes which they saw inevitable. The third question was the destruction of the Established Church in Ireland. If ever there was a measure which was odious to the feelings, the sentiments, and the convictions of a large part of their Lordships' House, it was the destruction of that Church. But their Lordships saw then, as the House of Commons had seen, that the time had come for the removal of that strange political anomaly. Instead of obstructing the measure, their Lordships' House made some alterations in it of a comparatively minor kind with regard to the interests of the clergy, and then allowed it to pass. He said, therefore, that in none of these cases was the assertion of the noble Earl true that the House of Lords had been an obstructive of Liberal measures. He came now to the question of the franchise. A large number of their Lordships were at that time in favour of the franchise, but he believed that if the Division had been taken as a more ques- tion of philosophy, without reference to political circumstances, that extension would not have taken place. But that franchise measure was carried. He came now to the question of the redistribution of seats. Here they came to the last case on which there had been something like a serious danger of collision between the two Houses of Parliament. At that time he sat on the opposite Benches, but, though not in Office, he voted with Mr. Gladstone's Government against the postponement of the Franchise Bill for the purpose of seeing the Redistribution Bill. He voted against the postponement of that Bill because he had some personal confidence in the sense of responsibility under which his right hon. Friend Mr. Gladstone acted in regard to redistribution. He felt a tolerable confidence that Mr. Gladstone would not produce a Bill which at that time was called a "jerrymandering Bill." He must say, however, that he had no right to expect other men to have that personal respect and confidence which he felt in the right hon. Gentleman; and he was far from saying that the House of Lords was not right in asking that the two Bills should go forward together, or, at least, that the proposals of the one measure should be known before the other was passed. This question nearly led to a serious collision on account of the passionate manner in which Mr. Gladstone discussed it. He accused the House of Lords openly in many speeches of wishing to destroy the Franchise Bill through a demand for the Redistribution Bill. He believed that was an entirely erroneous view. He believed that the great majority of their Lordships were willing to vote for the Franchise Bill, and that its postponement until the Redistribution Bill was forthcoming was a really bonâ fide desire on their part to have the full scheme of reform before them. But how did that matter end? Of course, if their Lordships had to deal with passionate men, with Ministers who would not allow the great elements of the Constitution to have free play, with Ministers who were so passionate that they would not allow the Second Chamber to have a say in such matters as this, then there would always be friction. But the whole British Constitution turned on legal and Constitutional points. The danger of collision did not come from their Lordships, who, while acting unfortunately, as he thought, at the moment, acted strictly within their Constitutional rights, and in the exercise of which their vote ought to have been respected. But how did this matter end? That House was firm, and it ended in a compromise. The two Parties met, and a Redistribution Bill was agreed upon. Could his noble Friend say that this was a case in which their Lordships' House obstructed a Liberal measure? It was a case in which the two Houses of Parliament, acting under a due sense of public duty, and acting to some extent on different opinions, procured a compromise which he believed would be happy in its results. His noble Friend spoke as if every measure of the Liberal Party should be received by their Lordships. Did his noble Friend remember the warning lately given to them by his illustrious Chief about the present state of the Liberal Party? His noble Friend had forgotten that. In the General Election of 1885 Mr. Gladstone said he had the honour of being at the head of the Liberal Party; he had long known it intimately; he had long known its virtues—he forgot the terms of the eulogium, but he remembered that it was very fine—and he warned the people of Mid Lothian that the Liberal Party was not to be trusted if it had to depend on the votes of the Irish Members. But what did the right hon. Gentleman do now? His right hon. Friend had fulfilled his own prophecy. The noble Earl forgot that by the confession of his Leader the portion of the Liberal Party which was under the influence and domination of Mr. Parnell was not in a position safely to represent the interests of the country. He was a thoroughly convinced Gladstonian on that point. But if that be the position of the Liberal Party at present by the confession and prophecy of its illustrious Chief, was it reasonable that his noble Friend should insist upon such a reform of the House of Lords that it should always accept whatever that section of the Liberal Party agreed upon? That apparently was the meaning of his noble Friend's language. He had spoken thus that evening because, having a full and anxious desire to see any changes made in their Lordships' House which should be in the direction of development and strengthening it for the great purposes of the Constitution, he wished to know whether they did or did not recognize what those purposes were. He had read his noble Friend's speeches, and he had been amused and edified by their extremely dexterous character. But he repeated that the noble Earl had given no indication, even last week in the North of Scotland, of the purposes and direction in which he wished their Lordships to go. He had felt it to be a public duty to say so much on this the first opportunity he had had of addressing their Lordships on the subject. He would not now discuss the proposals of the noble Marquess, preferring to wait until they were before the House, when he hoped their Lordships would enter upon their discussion with the full desire to do what they could, even if it should be only, as his noble Friend said, a first step towards enlarging and strengthening the constitution of their Lordships' House.


said, he did not wish to say anything about the Bill at present, because he thought any observations could best be made on the second reading stage. He rose merely to express satisfaction that the Prime Minister had introduced a Bill of this character, though he confessed that his satisfaction was derived rather from a hope of favours to come than from a conviction that the Bill would solve the problem or satisfy the requirements of the case. He did not believe that the House could be reformed in the necessary direction by any creation of Life Peers. With regard to that part of the proposal of the noble Marquess which related to the exclusion from that House of the so-called "black sheep," he admitted that he did not exactly know to whom that expression referred; but, at all events, those who were indicated by it did not sit either upon the Front Bench beneath him or upon the Front Bench opposite, and, in fact, they were very few in number. He fully recognized, however, that the feeling created abroad by the presence of delinquents in that House could not be measured by the number of those delinquents, but must be gauged by the view that was taken of the matter by the country, and by the amount of prejudice which might be raised against the House by the fact of their presence in it. He, therefore, attached great importance to that pro- vision in the Bill which gave powers to the Crown to cancel a Writ. Those powers ought to be exercised on the basis of attendance at the Sittings of the House, Rules being framed by their Lordships enforcing more regular attendance. He regretted that the noble Marquess, in introducing this measure, had given no indication that its provisions might be extended to the great Colonies and the Dependencies of the Crown.


was understood to say that he had already stated that the provisions of the Bill would extend to any person who had been the Governor General, and to any Civil servant who had served in the Colonies and who had been made a Privy Councillor.


said, he was glad to find that he had been in error upon this point. He did not think that any great advantage would be derived from conferring Life Peerages upon soldiers and sailors, seeing that both the Services were already well represented in that House. He had no desire upon that occasion to discuss the provisions or the merits of the Bill; but he might say that he did not agree with the noble Earl opposite in his estimate of the measure. He believed that the Bill, taken in conjunction with the results which might flow from the Commission which had been moved for the other day by the Lord Privy Seal, would prove a useful one. He did not suppose for a moment that it would meet all the requirements of the case, but he looked upon it with all the more favour because it appeared to carry out the view which the Prime Minister had emphasized so strongly the other day when he told their Lordships that he did not desire on the part of the Government to take up the non possumus position with regard to the reform of that House. He trusted that, a proposal for the reform of that House having been initiated by Her Majesty's Government, if this Bill should prove inadequate they would be willing to go a step further, and to supplement it by a fuller measure of reform.


said, that with reference to a remark which had fallen from the noble Lord opposite, to the effect that this Bill would not prevent collisions occurring between the two Houses of Parliament, he wished to ask him whether he thought that any measure that could be passed would have the effect of preventing all possibility of collision between those Bodies? He did not suppose that the noble Earl opposite entertained such an idea, any more than that he entertained the idea attributed to him by the noble Duke opposite of of rendering that House a silent partner of the House of Commons, which should exist merely for the purpose of endorsing and registering the decrees of the other House. He desired to call the attention of their Lordships to the wide divergence in point of principle between the Bills which had been respectively introduced by the noble Earl opposite and by the noble Earl who had last spoken and that under discussion of the noble Marquess. The proposals of the noble Earls involved the introduction of a new principle into the essential constitution of this House—namely, that its Members sat by virtue of Crown appointments, whether hereditary or for life; whereas, by the proposal of the noble Marquess, that principle would be retained intact. Nearly all those who had thought upon this subject were agreed that it was necessary that there should be a Second Legislative Chamber in all free Constitutions, and there was high authority in favour of that view, the framers of the Constitution of the United States having come, after the ablest and most exhaustive discussion, to the conclusion that to have only one Chamber would be fatal to freedom and to the continuity and stability of government. They recognized, as their greatest difficulty, the desirability of the Second Chamber being of entirely different constitution. Those who proposed to make the House of Lords partially elective failed to appreciate the great advantage that the two Houses should be differently constituted. It was the dissimilarity of constitution which had given the House of Lords its peculiar usefulness in relation to the Commons. By long and historical prestige it had been rendered what it was impossible for new Constitution makers to create. If once we destroyed the special constitution of the House its inimitable service in our Legislature could never be regained. He had heard it said that there was no historical record in existence of the peculiar original constitution of this House; but no very deep historical re- search was needed to establish the fact that the Barons, lay and spiritual—the one hereditary, the other for life—were an emanation from the Crown as the permanent branch of the Council of the Kingdom. They had found it desirable to separate themselves, in Edward the First's Reign, from the elective and continually changing portion of the Council, which consisted of delegates from shires and boroughs. It was a fallacy to suppose that popular election must, in accordance with some theoretic spirit of the age, be introduced into the constitution of every institution. Popular election, when in the hands of managers and Caucuses, ended less in popular representation than the constitution of this House. Election was not necessary to representation; and there might be too much of it for really popular interests. If such a principle were introduced into the composition of this House it would change it from being what it ought to be and was—a Supplemental Body, co-operating with the legislative action of the other House—into a more rival of the other House and looking always to the same agencies outside. On these grounds, he maintained the Bill of the noble Marquess was the only safe proposal that had been submitted to the House.


said, he was not at all alarmed by the suggestion which had been made that if this Bill passed it would not be final, but that something more might from time to time be done afterwards. When that something more was proposed the House would, of course, judge whether it would do good or evil. This was a subject as to which it was desirable to legislate from time to time upon matters which the House conceived to be practical, and which might be carried into effect consistently with the general principle of maintaining this House as an efficient Second Chamber. He was, therefore, not unwilling to contemplate the possibility of further measures. With regard to the Bill itself, he thought it was called for by the necessities of the country. He had been always one of those who thought that the House took a very strong measure when it laid down as a doctrine of Constitutional Law that the Crown, though it might create Life Peers, could not entitle them to seats in their Lordships' House, unless at the same time there should be some sort of remainder by way of inheritance. That decision had been acquiesced in so long by the Crown and the country, as to make it now, practically, part of the Law of Parliament; but he thought it rendered necessary some such measure as this in order to get rid of the general exclusion of Life Peers, and, so far, he welcomed the measure of the noble Marquess. With regard to the limitations proposed by the noble Marquess, he concurred more distinctly in the limitation as to time than in that as to the maximum number. He quite agreed that there should be such a reasonable limit put to the number of Life Peers to be created within a definite space of time as would prevent an abuse of the power for the purpose of overturning instead of strengthening the Constitution. He had, however, more doubt of the limitation of the number to 50. He could not help thinking that it would not be a permanent limitation; he doubted whether it was desirable that it should be. If, as was not now proposed, but as might at some time be rendered necessary by the multiplication of Hereditary Peerages, the number of Peers who were to sit in the House and exercise legislative functions were limited, it was doubtful whether there would be any need for a definite limitation of the total number of Life Peers. The noble Marques proposed, in certain cases, to take power to recall, or not to issue, Writs to Peers who would otherwise have a right to sit in this House. That proposition appeared to him fairly to raise another question, on which his own opinion differed from that of many others. So far from considering that this House would lose strength, if those entitled to succeed to it wore permitted to retain the status of Commoners until they applied for Writs, he thought the contrary. He thought it would be of considerable advantage if a person to whom the right to succeed to a Peerage had come were not compelled to resign a seat in the House of Commons until he applied for a Writ to issue summoning him to the House of Lords. He could not think that would in any degree tend to weaken the House of Lords; and if it were not done, persons, who, being in the line of succession to a Peerage had attained a position of eminence and usefulness in the other House of Parliament, might be dissatisfied with the hereditary part of the constitution of the House of Lords. His reasons for thinking that the House of Lords might gain more than it lost by such a change were, that, in the first place, it was most desirable that those who came to take a prominent part in the discussions of the House of Lords should have the opportunity of a good training in the House of Commons. They should accustom themselves to the prevalent tone and feeling of the constituencies and of the other House, and learn to understand and to be in sympathy with the views which prevailed there, and when they came to the House of Lords they should bring to it as much knowledge as possible of the other House and of its spirit and its way of doing Business. There had been cases where the necessity of a Member of the House of Commons leaving that House and entering the House of Lords on his succeeding to a Peerage had disturbed the whole political arrangements of the country. It was so when Lord Althorp became Lord Spencer, which caused almost a political revolution. Such cases might from time to time recur, and he thought it would be a great advantage if in these, and indeed in all cases, the successor to a Peerage might, at his option, remain a Commoner until he desired to take his seat in the House of Lords. It ought to be borne in mind that this was not a House in which young men, as a rule, took much part in the debates. Owing to what might be termed the absence of enthusiasm and the intermittent character of the debates, the younger Members of this House did not speak as often as the House of Commons would probably hear them if they sat in that House, and they had, therefore, not the same advantages in regard to preparation for the duties of a statesman as they would have if they remained longer in the House of Commons. Nor was it correct to say that if this choice were given, the most distinguished men to whom the right of Peerage came would always stay in the House of Commons. He believed that after they had acquired political influence and experience there, most of them would come to this House, when they could be of the greatest use to it. The late Lord Derby and Lord Russell came to this House of their own free will, and men who had made their mark in the House of Commons, but who were getting on in years, constantly, of their own free will, left the House of Commons to become Members of that House. The House of Lords was very much in the position of a Senate, and into the character of a Senate the idea of seniority usually entered.


said, he did not rise to prolong this discussion, as it was somewhat inconvenient to discuss a Bill on the Motion for its first reading, and before the House had had an opportunity of studying the details. The discussion, however, he admitted, had led to some pertinent remarks from his noble Friend on that Bench and some interesting suggestions from the noble and learned Earl. He should not, on the present occasion, enter into the merits of the Bill, nor did he feel inclined to follow the example of the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll), who imagined a speech as having been delivered by a noble Lord on that Bench, and then proceeded to demolish it. The speech which the noble Duke attributed to his noble Friend (the Earl of Rosebery) he had never heard delivered. The noble Duke attributed to the noble Earl a desire to make this Assembly subservient to the House of Commons. As far as he understood the arguments of his noble Friend the other day, it, on the contrary, appeared to be the object of his noble Friend to strengthen this House. The noble Earl very sensibly urged that every attempt should be made to bring the two Houses as much as possible into harmonious co-operation. He (Earl Granville) did not desire to go into the recent history of the House of Lords. It was not his business or wish to bring an indictment against it; but there were people who did wish to do so, and some remarks that had been made that evening would probably prompt those persons to show some recent instances in which certain measures certainly had been delayed by the House of Lords. Into this matter, however, he did not wish to enter; but he could not help referring to the attack made by the noble Duke against Mr. W. E. Gladstone, and the charge that Mr. W. E. Gladstone had some time ago stimulated the agitation against the House of Lords. No doubt, there was such an agitation of which a political Leader possessing Mr. W. E. Gladstone's power might have taken advantage and carried to a turning point; but their Lordships would, he felt sure, remember how Mr. W. E. Gladstone, on the contrary, abstained from fanning that agitation and was careful to do all in his power to calm it.

Bill read 1a. (No 161.)