§ *EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I rise to call attention to the debate on the Committee stage of the Voluntary Schools Bill on the 2nd Apirl, 1897;and to ask His Majesty's Government whether they intend to adhere to the views laid down by the Lord Chancellor, and adopted by the House on his advice, with regard to its procedure on the forthcoming Committee on the Education Bill of this year. I am taking this somewhat noval course for the convenience of debate in the different stages of the Education Bill and especially in the Committee stage, which will be taken next week. This Question raises the very important question of the privileges of the two Houses of Parliament. I believe that it is undisputed that this House can throw out a financial Bill and even throw out a Clause of the Bill as long as that Clause is a separate issue from the rest of the Bill. I am not going to try to minimise the privileges of the other House;all I wish is to be quite clear as to what comes within the question of privilege and what does not. The Resolution of the other House which now regulates this matter was passed in 1671, and is asfollows—That in all aids given to the King by the Commons the rate or tax ought not to be altered by the Lords,and there is a second Resolution dated July 3rd, 1678, which declares—That all aids and supplies to His Majesty in Parliament are the sole gift of the Commons;and all Bills for the granting of any such aids and supplies ought to begin with the Commons;and that it is the undoubted and sole right of the Commons to direct, limit, and appoint in such Bills the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations, and qualifications of such grants which ought not to be changed or altered by the House of Lords."†† The first of these Resolutions gave rise to fierce controversy between the two Houses.824 That Resolution is a very sweeping one, and it has been applied in a very sweeping way by the greatest legal authority in this House, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. I should also like to quote the opinion of the late Prime Minister and Leader of the House. The noble Marquess has on several occasions spoken on the subject, but not always, I think, distinctly and clearly. In 1891, on an occasion to which I will presently refer, Lord Salisbury said—I think, in assenting to the Amendment" we ought to indicate that, though we do so for the sake of the Bill being passed, we cannot consent to the doctrine stated in the reasons sent up by the House of Commons being made a precedent hereafter, that anything which may indirectly lead to an increase in the public charge is outside the competence of this House.That is a very strong opinion. In 1896 the noble Marquess said, on the Second Reading of the Agricultural Rating Bill, that—We cannot, according to our ordinary practice, when we get into Committee, alter the details of the Bill, and therfore comments on the mere Committee part of the measure are not very relevant to the issue which is now before us. No one can say that this Bill has been insufficiently discussed in the other House of Parliament.I take the following from the same debate—
"The EARL OF ROSEBERY"
It is a little difficult to tell where to take the noble Marquess with regard to the Bill. He has told us, though not in very clear terms, that we are not exactly competent to discuss so financial a Bill.
§ "The MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My doctrine is that we are perfectly competent to do what he proposes, namely, to throw out the Second Reading, but according to the practice of Parliament—I do not say we are intrinsically incompetent to do it—it would be a grave departure from ancient practice if we altered the Bill in Committee."
That is not a perfectly clear statement, for the noble Marques sad admitted thatSeveral Conferences were held, and the precedents, back to the time of the first Edward, were examined. (See Parliamentary History,IV., 480). The Lords Journals during the Seventeenth and eighteenth centuries contain a number of "Protests" of great interest in connection with this subject.—[ED.]825 we were not intrinsically incompetent to do it, and yet said it would be a grave departure from ancient practice if we altered the Bill in Committee.
I wish to refer to the interpretation which has on different occasions been put on the Resolution to which I referred in the beginning of my speech. First of all I will take the great Education Measure of 1870, which provided grants out of the Exchequer in aid of education. When that Bill came to this House the Earl of Powis moved an Amendment in Clause 94 to the effect that the proceedings should be carried on by a teacher certificated by the Education Department. That was allowed to be put but was not carried, and Lord Salisbury then moved to add at the end of Clause 94 the words:—Provided that no conditions shall be requried to be fulfilled by an elementary school in order to obtain an annual Parliamentary grant by any Minutes of the Education Department not in force at the time of the passing of this Act, unless such Minutes shall have been laid for six weeks upon theTable of both Houses of Parliament and shall not have been objected to in an Address to Her Majesty from either House.This Amendment was carried. Therefore I think it is clearly shown that Amendments which might almost come under the term "conditions" were permitted in the Bill of 1870 to be moved in this House. To the Elementary Education Bill of 1891 over twenty Amendments were moved by noble Lords. One remarkable Amendment, which was carried, went down to the House of Commons, where attention was drawn by, I think, Sir Henry Fowler, to the fact that its effect would be to increase the rate or charge under a section of the Bill. The Speaker gave his opinion that the Amendment was against the privileges of the House of Commons, and the Government of the day having taken time to consider it, Lord Cranbrook, who was Lord President of the Council at the time, said that he did not agree with the decision of the Speaker, but as it was important that the Bill should pass he would modify the Amendment so as to stipulate that no increase of rate could be made. The amended Amendment was then agreed to. Lord Salisbury, although he concurred on that occasion in the change, thought it necessary afterwards to move the following Resolution which was carried:—That this House, in agreeing to the said Amendment, makes no admission in respect of any deduction which may be made from the 826 reasons offered by the House of Commons, and does not consent that the said reasons should hereafter be drawn into a precedent.The Voluntary Schools Bill of 1897 was not solely a money Bill, for it raised the whole question of the settlement of 1870, but it did deal with money payments. When the Bill came before your Lordships I moved the first Amendment, to provide for a representative of the local authority, or the parents, on the management.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Duke of DEVONSHIRE)
The noble Earl ought to read the firsrt words of the Clause he then proposed to amend. That Clause dealt with grants that were to be paid.
§ *EARL SPENCER
I agree that it was one of the provisions that grants should be given. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack gave his opinion that the Amendment came within privilege, and therefore I did not press it. Several considerable Amendments which came in the same category were ruled out. I admit that they depended on grants, but at the same time they would have had a general effect on the management, just as would be the case with some of the Amendments we would like to make in the Bill of this year. I wish to know what the Government intend to do with regard to that Bill, as there are a great many points on which we should like to move Amendments, and the Episcopal Bench would doubtless desire also to move Amendents. Does the noble and learned Lord intend to adopt the same procedure that he adopted in 1897? I do not wish in the slightest degree to diminish the privileges of the other House, but I desire a clear and distinct statement as to the intentions of the Government and learned Lord on the Woolsack.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (THE Earl of HALSBURY)
My Lords, no one will complain that the noble Earl has raised this question in a preliminary manner. AS far as I am able to answer the noble Earl, I will tell him frankly what my view is. On the occasion last referred to nothing was ruled at all. In the interest and convenience of the House, and ,as I thought, of the regularity of our proceedings, I pointed out that this House 827 was the guardian of order and that I was not, but that I thought that in the case of that particular Bill it would be impossible to contend with the other House that it was not an infringement of the privileges of the other House to change the destination of money voted. The section of the Act of 1897 which the noble Lord then proposed to amend provided thatFor aiding voluntary schools there shall annually be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament an aid grant not exceeding in the aggregate 5s. per scholar.and so forth. I thought then, and think now, that unless the House of Commons agreed to waive its privileges, the only result would be that your Lord-ships would debate those Amendments and that they would be summarily rejected in the other House. One noble Lord, I think, rather protested against that proceeding—it was the Earl of Camperdown—and thought it was undesirable to lay down any rule. For my own part I protest that I never affected to rule at all.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
It seems a slight correction, but it is an important one. The House did not do anything of the sort. Every one of the noble Lords withdrew his Amendment on his own responsibility. The House did not act upon my advice. I should be happy and proud to think they had done so, but as a matter of fact they did not. The noble Lords themselves were convinced, I suppose, that what I had pointed out was the truth, and they withdrew their Amendments. Although I quite agree that this little discussion is convenient and advantageous to the House, when we are dealing with a question of this sort, to lay down a priori what you will do with reference to a particular Bill without knowing anything of the exact section which is the subject of discussion would be the most imprudent thing in the world. As far as I am concerned, I am prepared to look at the Amendments that are suggested, and if the House is good enough to desire my advice I shall tell your 828 Lordships what I think about them. There are two or three questions which will arise. There will be not only the abstract question of whether or not if the House of Commons were to insist on its privileges such Amendments could be passed against them, but there will be the question whether, in reference to a Bill of very great importance, one might not fairly expect the House of Commons, even if they took the extreme view that it was against their privileges, to consider and possibly to agree to the Amendments or some of them. I have a great number of precedents where that very question has been discussed. At the instance of Lord John Russell, and with the full approval of the Speaker, in the case of the Irish Poor Law Bill the advice and assistance of your Lordship' House in framing the different Amendments to give effect to the real intentions of Parliament were treated as of most valuable importance to the community. I will just read one or two of the observations made on the subject. On the Order of the day being read for considering the Lords Amendments to the Poor Relief (Ireland) Bill in the House of Commons on 24th July, 1838, the Speaker said:—He owed it to himself to make a few observations to the House on the subject. The House was no doubt aware that when Amendments were made in any Bill sent up to the House of Lords which were considered at all likely to be an infringement of the privileges of this House it was customary to communicate with the Speaker on the subject. It so happened, therefore, that he had been applied to by a very distinguished person in reference to this Bill. In reply to questions which were put to him, he them said that if his opinion were called for on the subject of these Amendments he felt bound to say that he considered them as an infringement of the privileges of the Commons' House. But, at the same time, as the Bill was one of a very peculiar character, affecting not only the proprietors of the land but the great mass of the people of Ireland, and as the principle of rating was necessarily incidental to such a measure, he considered that if the privileges of this House were strictly pressed in such a case they would almost tend to prevent the House of Peers from taking such a measure into its consideration in a way that might be on all grounds advisable. As the authorised guardian of the privileges of the House, he had thought it right to explain his conduct on the present occasion, which he trusted would meet with the approval of the House. At the same time he must add that he thought the privileges of this House would be best secured by being not too far pressed.829 After receiving that advice from the Speaker, Lord John Russell said—There was a very material Amendment with respect to which it was very probable that the Speaker might have to consider whether or not it came within the privileges of that House. It was, in the first place, an omission of a Clause inserted in that House with regard to £5 tenements;and, in the second place, a substitution of another Clause with respect to the charge which might be taken bt the owners on the payment by rates of such tenements. According to the Bill as it went up from that House, the occupiers of tenements under the value of £5 were not in the first instance to pay the rate, but that they should have the power of charging the whole rate on the landlords. They were, therefore, in limine, exempt altogether from the rate. Now, the House of Lords had determined that these persons should, in the generality of instances pay the rate;at the same time they did not alter the total amount of rate, whatever it might be, which was settled by the board of guardians on application to the commissioners, and they proposed another Clause by which an arrangement took place between the landlords and tenants with regard to the small holdings. What the House of Lords proposed was, in substance, that the owner and the tenant should make an arrangement between themselves by which the owner might agree to a certain deduction not exceeding 10 per cent. for the sum to which the small tenements were liable, and with the approbation of the guardians, and the sanction of the commissioners, that such payment by the owners should exempt the occupiers of tenements. He thought it would be a very vexatious and inexpedient proceeding if they were to insist on this privilege as a ground of objection to this alteration. He thought it one of those alterations which didnot touch the general question of taxation. It was not with the view of exempting those persons as being a class which ought to be free from such a demand that the Clause was originally introduced.The result of the discussions which then took place was that the whole of the Amendments of the Lords were discussed and some of them agreed to. If we substitute the question of Education for the question of Poor Law, every one of the observations then made would apply. I very much doubt whether, where the House of Commons was convinced that it was for the purpose of rendering a Bill more efficient, they would reject an Amendment. In those circumstances, I think it would be extremely rash for any one to predict, without hearing the discussion on each Clause, how an Amendment would be dealt with by the other House. If it were inconsistent with any control of the House of Commons over the funds provided by the Bill, very likely they would reject it, but if it were one intended to be ancillary and to give greater 830 effect to what the House of Commons intended, then I should very much doubt whether the other House would think it necessary to assert their privileges in such a way as to prevent the Amendments moved in your Lordships' House from being adopted so as to improve the provisions of the Bill. I can only say that if my advice were asked I should wait to see what the concrete case was before I ventured to give your Lordships any advice whatever on the subject.
§ LORD DAVEY
My Lords, I agree with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that we must wait to see what the Amendments in a concrete case are before we can say that any particular Amendment would be contrary to what has been called the privileges of the Commons, but what I should prefer to call the constitutional law of the country. But I wish to point out that, if the Amendments to the Bill of 1897 were struck out because it was not thought right to pass Amendments which should be contrary to the constitutional law of the country, that would, it seems to me, cover almost any Amendment of sunbstance—any Amendment that anybody would care to have—to the Bill that is coming before us. Suppose we find that the Bill grants a sum of, say, £1,300,000 for the sustenance of schools to be maintained, conducted, and managed in accordance with the provisions of the Bill. Can anybody possibly say that if we alter the provisions relating to the maintenance, conduct, or management of the schools in a material manner we are not altering one of the conditions, qualifications, and limitations—and I would say, even the ends and purposes—for which the money grant is made by the Commons? Let me give a concrete example. I will take it that the Bill proposes that the School Boards at present existing should be abolished, and that their powers should be vested in a new local authority, to be constituted in a particular manner. Now, suppose Amendments were moved, altering in any way the constitution of the local authority, or even proposing that the School Boards should be retained in certain places, such as in big towns, for example, or doing anything to substantially affect the local authority which is to administer the Act. Can it be said for one moment that, either as a matter of form or of substance, such 831 Amendments would not affect the condiditions, qualifications, of limitations upon the strength of which the grant had been made? As a matter of substance, I have no doubt they would. It seems to me that the principle upon which the House acted in 1897 would have a material effect upon the Amendments which might be moved, which were Amendments of any material value.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, it seems to me that the noble Lord who has just sat down has attributed an extremely wide effect to the advice that was given to the House in 1897, but has omitted to notice the preliminary words of the House of Commons Resolution on which that advice was founded. The Resolution which was quoted was as follows—That all aids and supplies and aids to His Majesty in Parliament are the sole gift of the Commons, and all Bills for the granting of any such aids and supplies ought to begin with the Commons.The rest of the Resolution applies to what is to take place in regard to any such Bill. In my opinion, and in the opinion of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, the Voluntary Schools Act was in its main purpose and intention a Bill for the granting of such aids and supplies. The substance of the Bill was to grant certain aids to voluntary schools, and, therefore, all the subsequent provisions in the Resolution of the House of Commons would apply to it. The Bill which your Lordships expect to receive this week does a great deal besides granting aids and supplies. In fact, a great part of the Bill does not refer to granting any aids and supplies at all. Therefore the provisions of that Resolution, which are directed to money Bills, nees not apply to a Bill which is essentially not a money Bill.
§ LORD DAVEY
I would call the noble Duke's attention to the last part of the Resolution, viz.—It is the undoubted and sole right of the Commons to direct, limit, and appoint in such Bills the ends, purposes, considerations, conditions, limitations, and qualifications of such grants, which ought not to be changed or altered by the House of Lords.
§ LORD DAVEY
A Bill which contains a Clause granting a named sum to His Majesty for certain purposes is, I think, conceived within the Clause.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, as my name has been mentioned by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, though I had forgotten having made any remarks on the occasion to which he referred, perhaps I may be allowed to say that I entirely concur with all that the Lord Chancellor has said tonight. I agree that it is much better not to express any opinion with regard to any Amendment which may be moved before we see the Amendment. In the meantime, as a Member of your Lordships' House, I protest against the statement which has been made that it is not in the power of your Lordships to make any Amendment of substance in such a Bill as the Education Bill which is coming before us. It is a Bill of a much larger character than the Bill of 1897, and contains not only a grant of money but many other matters on which it is probable that your Lordships would wish to express an opinion. It would be premature and extremely unwise at the resent moment to impose any limit to any action we may see fit to take.
LORD TWEED MOUTH
My Lords, I wish for a moment to insist on the very great length to which the advice given by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack went with regard to the Bill of 1897. That Bill did not, as my noble friend has just said, deal merely with a money grant. There were four separate proposals in it firstly, the proposed money grant of 5s. per child;secondly, the abolition of the 17s. 6d. limit;thirdly, the relief of voluntary schools from the payment of rates;and, fourthly, the very important provision, which was purely permissive, which allowed associations of schools to be formed, and these associations were to be allowed to be the channel by which the money grant was conveyed to the schools within their area. The first Amendment that was moved by my noble friend Lord Spencer proposed to limit the 5s. grant to those schools which were willing to have a certain number of parents on the Board of Management. I can well understand 833 that Amendment being ruled out, because it struck out certain schools from receiving any grant at all. But Lord Kimberley moved an Amendment with regard to these associations which certainly did not involve any interference with the money grant. Lord Kimberley proposed that at least one half of the managers of these associations of schools should be non-clerical. Nobody can say tht would have interfered with the money grant, but on the advice of the noble Earl on the Woolsack that Amendment ws decided to be incompetent.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
There was no division. We on this side of the House are in a peduliar position, and have very often to exercise that discretion which is the better part of valour. My point is that if the noble Earl on the Woolsack advises the House to follow the asme advice that he gave with regard to Lord Kimberley's Amendment, theat advice will be far-reaching indeed, and almost every Amendment will be cut out. I contend that the advice now suggested by the noble and learned Earl is entirely opposed to that which he gave in 1897. He now says:Let us wait for the Amendments, and, even if there sholuld be one which clashes with the privileges of the House of Commons, the latter is very well able to take care of iteslf and can strike that Amendment out. In 1897, he said:Do not let us send down incompetent Amendments;do not let us discuss Amendments and be subject to the rebuff of having them struck out in the House of Commons.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
The noble Lord is inaccurate. I did not advise Lord Kimberley at all. Lord Kimberley came forward and said the argument appeared to him to cover his Amendments, and therefore he withdrew it.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
, in moving the adjournment of the House, 834 said: It is hoped that the Education Bill may be read a third time in the other House on Wednesday, and this House will sit to whatever hour may be necessary to receive the Bill. it is proposed to take the Second Reading on Thursday.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
The Bill, as amended on Report in the other House, will be circulated tomorrow moring.
§ House adjourned at Six o'clock, till Tomorrow, half-past Ten o'clock.