HL Deb 14 March 1910 vol 5 cc140-228

THE EARL OF ROSEBERY had given notice to move, That the House do resolve itself into a Committee to consider the best means of reforming its existing organisation, so as to constitute a strong and efficient Second Chamber; and, in the event of such Motion being agreed to, to move the following Resolutions:—

  1. 1. That a strong and efficient Second Chamber is not merely an integral part of the British Constitution, but is necessary to the well-being of the State and to the balance of Parliament.
  2. 2. That such a Chamber can best be obtained by the reform and reconstitution of the House of Lords.
  3. 141
  4. 3. That a necessary preliminary of such reform and reconstitution is the acceptance of the principle that the possession of a Peerage should no longer of itself give the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, it is two and twenty years almost to a day since I last brought the subject of the reform of your Lordships' House before you. I then thought that that would be the last occasion on which I should trouble you, because I then recognised that some motive power external to this House would be required before this House was likely to take that matter into its serious consideration. But now it has seemed better when, by a large concurrence of opinion, it is felt that measures should be taken inside this House for the reform of this House—it has seemed better that the proposals should come from the Cross Benches, from some neutral source, so as to be rather the work of the House itself than to appear to be the action of the House dictated or controlled or inspired by that Front Bench which is usually believed to lead the opinion of this House.

My Lords, there has long been a body of opinion in this House that has been profoundly conscious of some imperfections in its structure, which it would be well in the interest of this House to remove without delay. We have been conscious, I think, in the first place, that we are too numerous a body for effective work; secondly, that we represent too much one interest, though, perhaps, that point of view has been somewhat exaggerated; and thirdly, that the principle of heredity, which is now the basis of our Constitution, has met with increasing criticism and objection in the great body of the nation. My Lords, I hope that while we are all conscious of these imperfections we are also conscious of the great and splendid history and traditions of this House. I am the last, I hope, in this Assembly to attempt in any degree to disparage them. No one can look at the history of this House without recalling the long list of illustrious men who have sat in it, and who are sitting in it, and without seeing that in every century and age of this Kingdom it has attracted to it perhaps the majority of all the military and political ability of this country, and of late, also, a large proportion of scientific and literary eminence. More than that, its antiquity is a fact which I think very few even of your Lordships realise, and certainly very few of your critics. It is claimed by Professor Freeman, not merely a great historian but a still greater Radical—for the name of Liberal he would have spurned—that this House is the lineal descendant and representative of the Saxon Witenagemote, and so illustrious a descent as this, prolonged through so many ages, is not a fact which any member of your Lordships' House, or any critic of your Lordships' House, can altogether afford to disregard.

There have been eulogies passed upon this House in terms more eloquent than any that I can use, one of which, at any rate, though I know how distasteful is an extract to an audience, I will venture to inflict on your Lordships:— Remember for one moment what the House of Lords is. It is an integral part of the Constitution of England. It holds a large place in English history. Most of the present holders of titles in the House of Lords are the descendants of the men who wrung the Charter from John on the plains of Runnymede. My Lords, I confess that I think that is an overstatement, and if any of my brethren in this House make that claim I desire to make a respectful exception as regards myself from any such assumption— They are the descendants of men who in the past history of Britain fought the battles of England against the world, and I say that to abolish that portion of the Constitution, which is older probably in point of antiquity, in point of history, than the House of Commons itself—to abolish that means a revolution greater than any that has taken place in the whole constitutional history of England. Those are the words not merely of a public speaker of great power but of a person of great political importance. They are the words not of an old fossilised Tory embedded in this House: they are the eloquent phrases of Mr. Redmond. They were delivered to an enthusiastic audience of his countrymen in the Rotunda at Dublin some fifteen or sixteen years ago, and though I am not in favour of disinterring old speeches, I do not think it out of place to recall this important extract as coming from one who at this moment is attempting, and not without success, to disturb the arrangements of the whole financial administration of the country entirely with a view to bringing about the abolition of the House of Lords. There is another point with regard to this extract which I should like noble Lords opposite to remember. It is that the enterprise on which he is engaged involves a greater revolution than any that has yet occurred in the history of England. What I want you to consider is that Mr. Redmond knows what he is doing and where he is going, and I think that there are a good many on the Ministerial side of the House who do not.

Now, my Lords, I ventured to say that I thought when I last spoke on this subject that some external pressure would be required to bring the House of Lords actively to bestir itself in the work of its own reform. In saying that I mean no censure. It is obviously difficult for any body of men to bring themselves to disturb a state of things which, though not wholly satisfactory, is generally comfortable. Quieta non movere is a great axiom of all lives, general and particular, and when in addition you are required to concede some part, at any rate, of your privileges it is, in my judgment, quite natural that the House of Lords should require some pressure to reform itself. But even if that pressure has come from without, this House in acceding to the movement is not acting under pressure, but is acting on the spontaneous results of its own action.

There have been various attempts within this House to reform this House. I will not go so far back as the almost pre-historic attempts of the third Earl Grey, Lord Russell, and the late Lord Salisbury, but among living men there are two who have moved in the matter, Lord Dunraven and Lord Newton. Lord Newton, alone of all the House of Lords' reformers, was able to bring his movement to a successful issue. He at last succeeded in bringing about the appointment of a Committee to consider the reforms that might be advisable in this House, and so far he has gathered the only sheaf in this somewhat barren harvest. I lay emphasis on Lord Newton's Committee—to which I shall have to return for a moment—for this reason, that it brought in a detailed Report to your Lordships before the present agitation began, and though no action was taken upon it in this House the reason was perfectly evident that there was no use taking action without the co-operation of the House of Commons, and that, of course, from the nature of things, could not be hoped for from the present Government. I am not blaming the present Government; I am only stating the facts.

Well, then, we come to the very important external pressure which has come upon us as a result of the General Election. The General Election, as has already been remarked, has this unique and remarkable result, that it disappointed every Party who engaged in it, and I am not quite sure that it is not for the benefit of the country as a whole that that result was obtained. But it is only as a philosopher and an onlooker that I make that remark. There was, however, one direct and positive result that this House cannot afford to overlook. There was returned a majority of 125 to the House of Commons violently and radically opposed to the existence, at any rate, of the prerogatives of this House. Even that majority requires some analysis. It is in the main made up of the Irish Party and the Labour Party. Now the Irish Party desires the abolition of the House of Lords, avowedly and declaredly in order to get rid of the last obstacle to what is known as Home Rule. After that obstacle is removed they will presumably remove to Dublin, and in all probability trouble themselves no more with our constitutional arrangements. Therefore, the majority against this House, so far as it is composed of the Irish Party, is one merely for a temporary object, and that an object to which the majority of the people of England have repeatedly shown that they are diametrically opposed. Then I come to the Labour Party. The Labour Party have no such temporary object. Their objects are much too permanent. They aim at the destruction of the House of Lords for the purpose of advancing various sweeping schemes, the nationalisation of this and the nationalisation of that, for which at present the population of Great Britain, so far as I know, has shown no marked desire, and therefore they also must be considered, with some deduction as regards their operations, against the House of Lords.

I am bound to say there are other elements in that majority which I regard more seriously in reality than either of those which I have indicated. There are the Scotch. Now, my Lords, I cannot flatter your Lordships by saying that the objection of the Scotch to the hereditary constitution of this Chamber is ever likely to be removed. Strangely enough, it is an hereditary objection to an hereditary principle. It is born in their bone and their blood and their flesh. It has come to them from a century back. I remember Mr. Gladstone telling me that, when he was a young man travelling south from his father's house to London, at the time of the great Reform Bill of 1832, he passed through Dundee and saw two placards which made his blood run cold. I have absolutely forgotten one, but I think I shall never forget the other. The other was simply this:—"To hell with the bloody tyrants!" And you, my Lords, or rather your predecessors, were the bloody tyrants in question. Very much the same sort of language is used now. I have sometimes wished that the people who use it could be brought by excursion train to the Palace of Westminster and invited to inspect this House on an ordinary working day, for anything less like a committee of "bloody tyrants" than the somewhat apathetic and sometimes somnolent, but always highly respectable body of men than those you see on these red benches I cannot, for the life of me, conceive. I say, then, that from Scotland, and from the north of England I think—of Scotland I am sure—you have an objection which you will never be able to mollify or break down in regard to the hereditary constitution of this House.

But, my Lords, there is much more than the mere fact of the General Election. There is the fact that the Government, both in the King's Speech and in a speech which, without disparagement to that gracious document, I consider is more important than any King's Speech, have submitted a plan which, I suppose, they have formulated in detail in private; a plan, first for the disabling of the powers of the House of Lords, and secondly at some remote period for its reconstitution. My Lords, I must ask you to follow me while I investigate the proposals and the plan of the Government, so far as that plan is known to us, for that is the necessary alternative to any plan that you may submit to the country. I do not wish to make any attack on the Government. I can conceive nothing more easy for a competent orator than to make a very rattling speech against the Government at this moment, with extracts from their speeches, and the windings of their policy, not without noticing in passing those financial measures of strategy which seem, to the casual onlooker, more subtle than beautiful. But that is not my object to-night. My object is not in the least in the world polemic. I only want to consider, from a practical point of view, what is the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to this House. The first notice we had of it was in the King's Speech. Proposals will be laid before you— were the words put into His Majesty's mouth— with all convenient speed, to define the relations between the Houses of Parliament, so as to secure the undivided authority of the House of Commons over finance, and its predominance in legislation. These measures, in the opinion of my advisers, should provide that this House"—[this undefined House]—" should be so constituted and empowered as to exercise impartially, in regard to proposed legislation, the functions of initiation, revision, and, subject to proper safeguards, of delay. Those words were sufficiently vague, but, through their lofty and somewhat foggy grammar, we seem to perceive a distinct intention that two parallel measures will be introduced into Parliament, one for the limitation of the prerogatives of the House of Lords, and the other for its reconstitution on a different basis. The week after we had more precise information from the Prime Minister. Immediately on the assembling of the House on February 28 he said— Subject, of course, always to unforeseen exigencies, we shall present our proposals with regard to the relations between the two Houses, and present them in the first instance, as I have already intimated, in the form of Resolutions. Those Resolutions will, I hope and believe, be both few and simple. They will affirm—I am speaking now in general terms—the necessity for excluding the House of Lords altogether from the domain of finance. They will ask this House to declare that in the sphere of legislation the power of Veto at present possessed by the House of Lords shall be so limited in its exercise as to secure the predominance of the deliberate and considered will of the House of Commons within the lifetime of a single Parliament. To which has since been added the fact that Parliament is to be a shortened Parliament. Further, it will be made plain that these constitutional changes are without prejudice to and contemplate in a subsequent year the substitution in our Second Chamber of a democratic for an aristocratic basis. In fact, my Lords, what is foreshadowed is our old friend the Campbell-Bannerman Resolution followed at some distant day, which is not indicated, and need not be indicated, by a plan for the reconstitution of this House on a different basis. My Lords, that plan will not follow the passing of the Veto Resolutions by the House of Commons. I am not now speaking of the question as to whether next year or in any subsequent year His Majesty's Ministers will be in possession of Downing-street. That is not the point that I wish to labour.

What I want to point out is that it is absolutely and practically out of the question that, when they have passed their Resolutions, if they ever do pass them, they should be followed at any subsequent day by the plan. Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, in the course of the General Election, made some very strong declarations in favour of an efficient Second Chamber to be maintained on an elective basis. Those who read those declarations were glad to see that in any case there was to be an effective Second Chamber, but surely Sir Edward Grey and those who think with him must see that all prospect of their pledges or declarations being carried out is absolutely removed by the declaration of the Prime Minister this day fortnight. If the proposals are not to be parallel, if they are not to be pari passu, they must know perfectly well that they will never come to fruition. I am perfectly certain that my right hon. friends Mr. Asquith and Sir Edward Grey and their colleagues are speaking and acting in perfect good faith, but the sons of Zeruiah will be too hard for them.

Just sketch out in your own mind what the prospects of the Liberal Party and of Ministers will be as sketched out by the Prime Minister. Suppose his own programme carried out. Suppose he carries the Resolutions of which I have just read the description to your Lordships. He will come back next year or in "some subsequent year"—I quote his own language—to his Party and will say to them:—"Now we have carried our proposals for the abolition of the Veto, it is time for us to consider the reconstitution and reform of the House of Lords." What will his Party say to him? They will say, "We are very much obliged to you, we are exceedingly grateful, we recognise your good intentions, but we do not mean to have anything whatever to do with it. You have done all we wanted. You have deprived the House of Lords of all privileges, of all powers, of its Veto "—as it is called, which is its right of concurrent legislation—" you have absolutely deprived them of it in the course of a single and shortened Parliament; what more do we want? You have brought the House of Lords to its marrow bones, you have bled it to death, you have reduced it to a moribund condition. We rejoice, you can hear our Te Deum, but do you think that we are such unutterable and doddering idiots as to restore what we have just been at so much pains to destroy?" I have the greatest opinion of the good sense of the Radical Party in the other House of Parliament, of the extreme wing of the Liberal Party, and I am as certain as though I heard the dialogue going on that, supposing the Veto Resolutions of the Prime Minister are carried out, that is what would result from the interview between the Prime Minister and his followers. And indeed would it be worth while for the Prime Minister or for the Liberal Party or for any one else, to set up the House of Lords when they had removed all its powers? Was there ever, if I may use the adjective with all courtesy, so preposterous a proposal offered to either House of Parliament?

I am induced for once to agree with the sons of Zeruiah, whom I do not propose to particularise at this moment. You may choose, if you are in the position of the Government, logically between two lines and only two lines. You can either reform the House of Lords and place it on what you consider a better and a more democratic basis, or you can deprive it of all its powers—that is the proposal of the Government—and leave it alone, but to combine the two proposals does seem to me one of the most remarkable instances of illogical proposition that has ever been submitted, as I say, to the public. When you have annulled and shattered and bled to death this Chamber, you then propose, at some moment of your leisure, to put it up again—I do not like to use any irreverent comparison—like that game of Aunt Sally, in which we were wont to spend the leisure hours of our youth. But I will give your Lordships another illustration which, I think, is more close, and which may appeal to that sporting section of your Lordships' House to which so many of us belong. Supposing one of us possessed a valuable horse to-day. According to the Government plan we ham-string it, we put an end to its power of motion, its power of volition, but at the same time we announce that next year or on some future occasion we propose to start it for the Derby. That is, so far as I can gather, the exact proposal that His Majesty's Government propose to submit to this House.

Now, my Lords, there is one ominous word in the Speech from the Throne and the speech of the Prime Minister, which is the word "predominant"—the word "predominant" in legislation as between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. My contention is—and I know my noble friend the Secretary of State for India who is going to follow me is a great authority, and I would ask his attention to this point—that the word predominant in that sense is absolutely unknown to the British Constitution, and in the second place that it implies without any further explanation the existence of an uncontrolled single Chamber. The predominance is to be established by three simple processes. I do not think it necessary to recall now what they are. In the Campbell-Bannerman Resolution, so far as I recollect, after a Bill had been read three times in three successive years in the House of Commons, and after a conference of the two Houses, it was to become law. In the picturesque words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Government, with this Bill in its hands, was to go straight to the Throne without any interference from any other body of men. If that is not single-Chamber government I do not know what is. I am not alone in that judgment, which, after all, must be the judgment of every unprejudiced person. I have a very important authority on my side who has lately written a letter to the papers—I mean Lord Marchamley. Lord Marchamley has written to say with regard to the Campbell-Bannerman Resolution that— although I was a member of the House of Commons at the time I never liked that Resolution. It would practically abolish two-Chamber government. It would decree the sole domination of the House of Commons. The noble Lord is too modest when he says he was only a member of the House of Commons at the time. He was one of the most important members of the House of Commons. He was Chief Whip. As Chief Whip he was the principal strategist of the Liberal Party, and kept the conscience of the Liberal Party. We now know that all the time this Resolution was being formulated by the Government and adopted by the House of Commons amid the loud acclamations of that Assembly, the Chief Whip, nourishing, like Cleopatra, an asp at his vitals, had an uneasy conscience that what he was approving was in reality most deleterious, as it would establish single-Chamber government, which, of course, all history tells us is pestilential to the country which adopts it.

But I would also point out that if our powers would have gone under that Resolution and if our powers will certainly go under the Resolutions to be proposed by the Prime Minister, our very existence will be at the absolute mercy of the House of Commons whenever they choose to put an end to us. What is there to prevent the House of Commons at any moment embodying in a Bill the famous Resolution of February 6, 1649, which runs as follows: Resolved, that the House of Peers in Parliament is useless, dangerous, and ought to be abolished, and that an Act be brought in for that purpose. That was done. I am not at all sure, if that Resolution had been proposed to the last House of Commons, that it would not have been carried by an overwhelming majority. What prevented it being carried into effect was this, that the powers of the House of Lords were still in existence and would have impeded the action of the House of Commons, so that it was not worth while to pass it, but under the Campbell-Bannerman régime it could be done after being read three times without the consent of your Lordships' House. So our emasculated institution would then disappear, "unwept, unhonoured, and unsung;" and I for one should not shed a tear for its disappearance if it ever reached such a condition as that to which His Majesty's Government propose to reduce it.

What followed the Resolution of February, 1649? The very next day the House of Commons passed this Resolution:— Resolved, that it has been found by experience, and this House doth declare, that the office of King in this nation, and to have the power thereof in any single person, is unnecessary, burdensome, and dangerous to the liberty, the safety, and the public interests of this nation, and therefore ought to be abolished. And an Act to this effect was brought in and passed. Well, it was brought in and passed. I do not in the least pretend that I anticipate as the result of the passing of the Resolution of which the Government have given notice any immediate or direct danger to the Throne, but it is important for any student of history to consider what was the direct sequence of events at that time, and to remember that when a body once abolishes one branch of the Legislature it might find it desirable to try that sort of operation again, eager to deal with some other object and that the Throne itself, without anybody to intervene between it and the Commons, would be at any rate in a precarious position. I am not speaking on my own authority, or from conclusions I may draw from history. Let me appeal to the greatest Sovereign who ever reigned in this country without the name of King. I mean Oliver Cromwell. In the last speech he addressed to his Parliament in the very year in which he died he made use of the following remarkable expression:— I tell you of one thing. I made it a condition—that is, for taking the supreme power—that I would not undertake it without there might be some other body to interpose between you and me on behalf of the Commonwealth to prevent the tumultuary and popular spirit. You granted that I should name another House, and I named it. With integrity I did it. That was the speech of the Sovereign who possessed far more power in this country than any Sovereign since his time and most before, and he said after an experience of five or six years that he for one would not undertake to sit upon what was virtually the Throne of this country without a House of Lords, without a Second Chamber to intervene between him and the tumultuary spirit of the people and of the Commons at large.

But what followed this double abolition carried out in forty-eight hours? In a few years Cromwell was trying, with an eagerness almost pathetic, to restore the House of Lords, which with great difficulty, and in a very imperfect shape, he was able to do, and simultaneously with his attempt to restore the House of Lords the House of Commons, almost on its knees, was begging him to restore the Monarchy which it abolished eight years before. And, of course, as we all know, eleven years after the abolition of these branches of the Legislature was carried they were restored by acclamation unaltered as they were before the great revolution. Speaking of Cromwell, I should like to say in passing that the Government, if they wished for it, will get no encouragement from him for the arrangement they propose. He who had fought against the King on behalf of liberty called it "the horridest arbitrariness that ever was known in the world." That is what he called government by single Chamber, and that is what the Government are about to propose to us.

What is the policy of the Government in a word? It consists of a Resolution declaring the complete domination of the House of Commons, and placing the existence of the House of Lords at the hazard of the whim or momentary mood of the House of Commons. Then some day they propose to establish a precarious, muzzled, impotent phantom of a Second Chamber. They propose to do so, and I think I have shown conclusively they will never do so; but if they do it, let me suggest one difficulty to them. Of whom would this House be composed? What self-respecting person would sit in this House who could sit in the most ordinary vestry in any country parish? Of whom would this House of puppets and cripples be composed? We see from the King's Speech that the Government are in some difficulty as to the name which they shall bestow on this legislative body. Let me assist them in that. There is in this Palace an apartment well known to historians as the Painted Chamber. Let the Government, if they ever form their Chamber call it the Painted Chamber, for it will be no more. If they like they may sketch in frescoes on the wall the image of the respectable and sagacious people who would represent the House which they have in their mind's eye. Or if they want something a little more material than a mere fresco—I do not think they would—it would be more convenient to walk straight through to the steps of the Throne, through a Chamber such as that, unembarrassed by any figures in it. But if they desire some more visible embodiment, they might go to the friend of our childhood, Madame Tussaud, and ask for some of her waxen images, dressed up in the robes which Peers are supposed habitually to wear, and they would form a very suitable Chamber for the advancement of His Majesty's Government's enterprises. And if they wanted something that could articulate they might easily get a division of the A Police or a couple of well-drilled companies of Guards and they would fulfil all the functions that His Majesty's Government require for a Second Chamber.

With a single Chamber people, at least, know where they are. They know whom they are voting for. They know where to place responsibility of Acts and of Law. But a Second Chamber that is but a sham of a Second Chamber, that will be without a shadow of responsibility and power, that is to act as a whipping-boy, where necessary, for the failures of the House of Commons, is a dangerous and a futile hypocrisy. The worst thing you can do with an ancient and illustrious House like this is first to degrade and disable it, and then to try and keep it in apparent existence for the purpose of deception. I am as confident of this as I am that I stand here. When you had carried your measure, when you had got rid of the House of Lords, when you had substituted for it your ghosts and phantoms, there would very soon be a violent reaction and a loud and almost universal demand from the country for the establishment of a stronger Second Chamber than exists at present. Meanwhile, there is to be an interval—a very considerable interval—between the revision of our powers and the reconstitution of the Second Chamber. Mr. Balfour in the House of Commons made a very clever gibe, as I thought, at the Government, in which he pointed out that the interval between the destruction of our powers and the reconstitution of the Second Chamber might possibly be done intentionally, with a view of carrying a Home Rule Bill in that interval. That, of course, was only a gibe, but it was a very amusing one. At any rate, there would be a very considerable interval, and even if it were not for the purpose of carrying a Home Rule Bill, the whole country and all its interests would be at the mercy of any chance majority, of any sudden ebullition of momentary wrath, such as swept over the country in 1906.

We are told this is the voice of the people, that when you come to the last resort the House of Commons represents the voice of the people. We are frequently reminded of it in this House almost ad nauseam. But this phrase, "the voice of the people," like the majority at the last General Election, does require careful analysis. In the first place, the voice of the people would be much more effective and true as a phrase if redistribution were carefully carried out. The voice of the people is uncommonly partial in its operation. No one has a greater respect for the voice of the people than I have—the deliberate voice of the informed people judging as between right and wrong on issues with which they are acquainted. But the voice of the people is so oddly constituted. In the city of Kilkenny, 1,742 votes represent the voice of the people; and in South Essex the same voice is represented by 53,000 votes. And yet I am perfectly certain of this, that the voice of the city of Kilkenny— I do not know in the least who the member is; I am speaking from general conviction—I am perfectly certain that the voice of the people as coming from the city of Kilkenny is quite as loud as the voice of the people coming from South Essex.

There is another puzzle about the voice of the people. I am not going into figures now—I am sure Lord Avebury has them at his fingers' ends—but statisticians will point out how very small a plurality of votes is sufficient to return a very large majority to represent the voice of the people in the House of Commons. I will not labour that point now; but I will point out this very curious circumstance. In the year 1889, twenty-one years ago, we established county councils, and there was an election for the London County Council. A Conservative Government was then in power, and the London County Council that was returned was almost entirely Liberal, even more than Liberal, in character. Now that was the voice of the people. Since then, I think hardly without an exception, whenever the voice of the people returned a Parliamentary majority on one side it returned an entirely different majority on the other side to serve it on the London County Council. Though that point is not a conclusive, one, yet it is, so to speak, a deduction from the large term, the voice of the people, which is always used against this House, and it has some value at the present moment. The voice of the people, whatever it may be, requires everywhere some protection against its own unguarded moments. The voice of the people, like the voice of individuals, requires some interval for reflection. None of us, no individual in this House, not even on the Right Reverend Bench, but has not at some time spoken and wished he had taken a little time for reflection before he had spoken. A Second Chamber if it is kept in efficency, does, at any rate, secure that the voice of the people should be deliberate and not impulsive. We all remember the familiar instance of the majority of forty that was returned in 1892 in favour of Irish Home Rule. This House—utterly kicking outside the traces in a manner worthy of the severest condemnation of the House of Commons, and one which would be impossible under the Resolutions about to be proposed by my right hon. friend the Prime Minister—threw the Bill out, The odd thing was that when we came to the next General Election, two years afterwards, the country by an enor- mous majority, by a much larger majority than was given to the other side in the year 1892, went in the other direction. That, I think, shows that the voice of the people, when it is given time for consideration, has not always pronounced in the same absolutely consistent manner as is represented by those who constantly mention it.

I want to touch upon one other point in regard to the voice of the people. I frankly admit that in this part of what I am saying I am hoping that my voice may reach those outside rather than those inside, because the facts that are familiar to you are not always familiar to the great multitudes who read the newspapers in this country. The point I would endeavour to indicate in a passing sentence is this. I spoke just now of the revolution which followed the abolition of the House of Lords at the time of the Commonwealth. Revolutions, as a rule, are not carried out by the voice of the people. They are carried out by a small and determined minority. The very House of Commons which carried this revolution was a mere rump, a fragment, of the original House of Commons. The very execution of Charles I was carried, according to the testimony of all historians, by a comparatively small minority of the British people. Those who effected the beneficent revolution of 1688—most of whom, by the way, were members of this discredited House of Lords—those who brought over William III, were, it is universally held, a minority of the people. Those who brought about the fall of the French Monarchy by the storming of the Tuileries in 1792 were not even France, not even Paris, but a deputation from Marseilles that came to Paris for that purpose. The execution of Louis XVI, his wife, and his blameless sister was not carried out either by France or by Paris, according to all testimony, but by a comparatively small minority of the capital. Therefore, it is not the voice of the people that we have—whether well-founded or not—in great revolutionary movements, but it is the voice of a small, determined, and intrepid minority.

Well, my Lords, this is the effect of the policy of the Government on these hapless islands upon which we live. They are deliberately about to establish government by single Chamber without regard to precedents or authority or history, with a sole view to their own apparent convenience and the wishes of a large section of their followers. That is the effect on these islands. What will be the effect on the Empire when these Resolutions are made known to the Empire? You will announce from that Bench to the great Dominions of the Crown outside these islands that the House of Lords has been first emasculated and then abolished; and that a paulo post futurum Second Chamber is about to be brought in, or may be discerned in the political mirage which is never likely to be realised. Will not that bring about some diminution of confidence on the part of those Dominions of the Crown with regard to this Parliament? A single Chamber which is liable to every form of impulse, which is liable to every gust of popular enthusiasm, is a singularly strange centre for a disseminated Empire like ours. Our strength as a centre does not lie in forcing the pace for our Colonies, but in moderating, sobering, and guiding them, and so careful have we been that not merely should they be moderated, sobered, and guided from the centre, that wherever we have granted a Constitution to a self-governing Colony we have taken the greatest pains to plant side by side with an elective Chamber at least an equally strong and efficient Second Chamber. I am afraid the Dominions would ask their bewildered representatives in this country, "Are these Second Chambers for external application only? Are they of no use to the Mother Country which insisted on our receiving them, sometimes very unwillingly? And are we now to be told—these great self-governing communities will say—this is all very well for you; but we, the heart, the parent, and the mainspring of the Empire, are going to be satisfied with a rump of a Senate, or no Senate at all?"

Now, what will the Greater Britains say? The Greater Britains, I think you will all acknowledge in this House, are day by day influencing, more and more, our convictions and our proceedings in this country. These great forward communities, which some of us have visited, represent, to some extent, our future; and, therefore, we take into account their counsels and their opinions every day more and more. Will your announcement cement or inspire the confidence of these great communities? How shall we explain our proceedings to them? Take the case of Canada. The noble and venerable High Commissioner of Canada has a seat in this House. I do not know if he is here now, certainly I do not expect him to answer me now, but I shall be curious some time or another to learn in what form of despatch he proposes to communicate the Resolutions of the Imperial Government to the people of Canada. He will inform them that the people of Canada were granted by the Act of 1867 a strong Senate possessing control over finance, and endowed with all the authority which a Second Chamber could possess. Lord Strathcona would have to tell the Senate of Canada that that was all very well for them, but that for Great Britain it has now been thrown on the dust heap. A High Commissioner has just come over from Australia—the first High Commissioner, Sir George Reid, a man of infinite ability, popularity, geniality—no better choice could possibly have been made. But it is hard upon him that his first task should be to write a Despatch to his Government in Australia, which must also begin:—"In 1900 an Act was passed for Australia giving them a strong and efficient Senate, with financial rights, with financial control. It is my painful duty to inform you that the Imperial Government considers that, though that is very well for Australia, it considers the purpose of a Senate to be useless and inefficient as regards the Mother Country."

But all their difficulties rolled into one will not equal those to be encountered by my noble and unfortunate friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He will have to write a Despatch to South Africa. He will have to state to South Africa:—"Last year we concurred with you in producing a Constitution for you with two Chambers, a lower Chamber, as it used to be called, and a Senate with financial control and the power of rejecting, but not amending, Money Bills. We took it to our Sovereign for his signature and approval, and we obtained that signature and approval. Now I regret to inform you that we are about to submit for the signature and approval of our Sovereign regulations doing away with all the powers of the Second Chamber in this country and reducing it to a nullity. You will understand in South Africa why this is done without any unnecessary explanations from me." At least if my noble friend takes a hint from me, that is the form which his Despatch will take. It will be addressed, with a strange irony, to the last of the Peers, who has reluctantly submitted to the yoke of entering this dis- credited, dishonoured House. I am afraid South Africa will consider that for the last eighteen months we have been going through a sort of pantomime in Great Britain. And now they are to be told that the Government are not merely going to take up these Resolutions to the same Sovereign who signed the Constitution of South Africa last year, but they are going to demand from him guarantees of a nature which have not yet been specified, to reverse the very principle which they insisted upon for South Africa last year. If this is not deliberately digging the grave of Empire, I cannot conceive any measure more likely to do it. What a spectacle we shall present—the Mother of Parliaments digging up her Constitution by the roots, then cutting away the roots, and planting what remains at some future time in some barren and unfruitful soil to wither alone! You will have shaken faith in every part of your Dominions in your Constitution, and in the validity of your Constitution. You will have shaken faith in the stability of your institutions, and, what is worse than all, in the stability of your race, and when all belief in the stability of your race has gone, your Empire will not be long in following.

My Lords, I would ask you to turn your eyes away from the melancholy spectacle presented by the contrast between what we enact for the great Dominions of the Crown outside and what we enact for ourselves—I would ask you to turn for a moment from that spectacle to two other great democracies from which we may take some warning in the course that we are invited to pursue. Think of the United States. I must say I tremble when I think of the scorn of the United States when it witnesses our one-eyed, one-legged search for a Constitution in the twentieth century of the Christian era. What will they say to us? "One hundred and thirty-four years ago we set out on a lonely and dangerous voyage in order to get away from the tyranny, as we considered it, of a Parliament in which we were not represented. What did we do when we began to keep house for ourselves, to frame a Constitution for ourselves? We at once instituted the double veto which we had left behind in England—the veto of the Sovereign and the veto of the Second Chamber. We have, unlike you, retained both those virtues, and the veto of the Sovereign, that is, the President for the time being, is stronger than it ever was, the veto of the Senate is stronger than it ever was. Both vetoes have gained strength with our strength, and grown with our growth, and you are now trying with your eyes open, in spite of our experience and our example, to put your neck under the yoke of what Cromwell truly described as the cruellest arbitrariness in the world." I tremble to think of the scorn of the United States when it witnesses our constitutional operations.

There is another country, France, with which we are daily endeavouring to enter into more and more cordial relations. France has had a longer and a more diversified experience of democratic revolution than any country in Europe, than any country in the world. It began with the great Revolution of 1789, and that Revolution has not burnt itself out yet. It is still seething in the body politic of France. After four or five revolutions France at length, in a moment of reaction from Empire, set about framing its own Constitution. There seemed a great opportunity then for carrying into effect some of the democratic proposals which find so much favour with His Majesty's present advisers. They were an advanced community; what did they do? Did they do away with the veto or the Senate? They constructed the strongest Senate that they could possess, with control over finance—a control which it constantly exercises, and, what is more—what has never been possessed by this House, or, so far as I know, by other Senates, though I am not deeply versed in the history of the minor Senates—with a veto over the dissolution of the whole Parliament, which it constantly exercises. What will France think when it sees our search for a new Constitution based upon a single Chamber?

What will all countries say, for, after all, the experience of all countries is identical in the matter, it does not vary? It does not give you any chip or spark of encouragement. You have to follow blindly in the dark without any precedent to help you. I beg your pardon—there are precedents, there is something from which you can get some encouragement; there are two exceptions to the general protest of all civilised communities against being governed by a single Chamber. I will name them. They are Greece and Costa Rica. I have been a phil-Hellene in my time, and I am sure we all wish very well to Greece. I am sure also we do not wish to say anything which could be in any way offensive to the feelings of the Greek nation, but I do feel that even though we are in some perturbation at this moment, we do not particularly envy the condition of Greece. Nor does it inspire us with any great encouragement to pursue the visionary search for a single-Chamber Government. As for Costa Rica, I know less, and I have not studied the history of Costa Rica. It has not been accessible to me so much as I could wish. But from the imperfect means at my disposal I gather this, that the existence of Costa Rica has been pretty evenly divided between government by a single Chamber and government by a dictatorship—I think more often government by dictatorship than government by a single Chamber. There seems to be a necessary alternation between the two. That is our position, that is the path sketched out for us by His Majesty's Government in the first decade of the twentieth century. We are going under their guidance to turn our backs on all experience, to scorn all precedent, to flout all tradition, to embark on a cheerless and perilous journey, without any guide or compass or encouragement, every omen portending disaster in the strenuous emulation of Greece and Costa Rica.

Will the country, when it is face to face with this course, be likely to adopt it? I have a very strong opinion on that point. I am quite convinced that the country, when it is asked to embrace single-Chamber government at the invitation of Ministers, will not do so. But whether or not they do so, our course is clear. We, representing the most ancient Chamber of Legislature in this country, are bound to submit our plan to the country, to avoid this overwhelming evil and this catastrophe of Empire. The choice before us is this—you can choose from two options. One is the preservation of the present House exactly as it is but with greatly diminished and indeed vanishing power; the other is the reconstitution of this House with the maintenance of legislative rights. That is, you may choose between being a Chamber of titled phantoms or a Chamber effective to exercise all the proper functions of a Second Chamber. I cannot doubt your choice as between those two options, and still less can I doubt the choice of the country. So, my Lords, we come by natural evolution to the question of procedure and the question of proposals. I must apologise for having detained you so long in examining the plan of the Government, but it was a necessary procedure to adopt to examine what the alternative was which the Government have to offer the country before we sketch out in any way whatever our own proposals.

I suggest, and I think it is the general idea of this House, that we should proceed by Resolution and not by Bill. We proceed by Resolution for two obvious reasons. The first is that a Bill is an affair of the Government—that nothing less than a Government can offer a Bill on a great measure of constitutional reform; and, secondly, a Bill must go into accurate details of administration which it is not, in my judgment, expedient for this House to attempt to do. What we have to do, as I conceive, is this—moving slowly perhaps, but so far as possible with the consent of a large body of opinion in this House—to frame general Resolutions of principle on which some future Government may propound a measure of reform. I think some people have thought that the Committee of the Whole House is too large a body to undertake the work of considering a scheme such as this, but it was not possible in reality to take any other. You have already appointed a Select Committee. It would be useless to appoint another; and it would be worse than useless because it would have been a work of procrastination and delay.

The Resolutions should, I think, one by one embody the principles on which reform in this House should proceed. I have laid on the Table three Resolutions of a preliminary nature which I hope your Lordships will be able to consider without delay. Indeed, I am sanguine enough to think that they might be passed before what has come to be called the ecclesiastical holiday of Easter. I do not know whether that is too great a demand, but I would point out that the first two Resolutions are, I think, practically unopposed by any considerable body of opinion in this House, and might be passed without difficulty. The third, I admit, is more contentious, but at any rate it could be passed without many days debate, and if so it would be eminently desirable, I think, that it should be passed before Easter. Then we would lay other Resolutions. I am anxious to take the largest possible body of opinion in the House with the proposals as they are formulated, and therefore I should be in no undue or indecent hurry to lay them on the Table.

May I say a word about the Report of your own Committee? That was the one result of all the motions that have been made on this subject in my lifetime. I am not responsible for the Report of that Committee, though it is generally named after me as I was Chairman. It did not follow the lines I particularly cared about, and though I was glad to get it, I did not think it by any means adequate, even at that time, to the necessities of the occasion. But that Committee laboured under very considerable difficulties. The Government ostentatiously washed their hands of its proceedings and declined to have anything whatever to do with it. Therefore, though we had a Committee nominally of twenty-six, but really of twenty-five owing to the lamented absence of the late Duke of Devonshire, we had only three Liberals—three bold and audacious Liberals—who broke through Party discipline and ventured to sit with us. One was our lamented friend Lord Selby, who was an orthodox Liberal and of most valuable assistance to our Committee; the other was Lord Courtney, who, I think, is less orthodox, if he will allow me to say so, because he has a rooted antipathy to being in a majority of any description or kind, and therefore, with a defect so uncommon and so unorthodox, he must be ranked as a Liberal who is not quite according to the letter of the law. And then we had my friend Lord Ribblesdale, who was also a valuable addition to the Committee, but who, to use his own expression, is rather a freebooting Liberal, and came on an independent footing to join us. What I want to point out is that of twenty-five members, two of whom may be reckoned as independent and three as Liberals, we had nineteen Conservatives, which was an undue and unbalanced proportion. I honestly do not think that anybody who had been in that Committee and listened to its discussions, which were very long—too long as some members thought, but not too long as the Chairman thought—would have known, if his eyes were shut, to which political complexion the speaking member belonged. There was a real and anxious desire on the part of every member of the Committee to throw his mind without prejudice into the common stock and to endeavour to produce the best result obtainable in the circumstances. On that I think I can appeal to my noble friends behind me who were on the Committee for corroboration.

I will not conceal from your Lordships even at the stage of going into Committee that it seems to me there are two vital principles at stake so vital that without adopting them it is useless to touch this work of reform at all. The first is the question of heredity and of doing away with the hereditary right to a seat in this House, which forms the third of the Resolutions on the Table, and which was the unanimous, spontaneous recommendation of your Committee.




My noble and learned friend behind me says no. Technically he is right, but in spirit he is wrong. He opposed all our proceedings without any exception whatever; but if he will allow me to say so, there were two occasions on which this Resolution was passed. One was when we were deliberating at the commencement of our sittings, and the other was when the draft Report came up for adoption.


If the noble Earl will forgive me, I was not there on either occasion.


Then I am precisely right in saying it was the unanimous vote of our Committee. My noble friend can hardly claim to have voted against a proposal when he was absent.


I was engaged in the public service of the House and in the administration of justice at the time.


I am not disputing the validity of my noble friend's contention. I am quite sure that, wherever he was, he was usefully and honourably employed. What I am saying is that when the Resolution was put to the Committee it was unanimously passed. I want to point out, however, that the hereditary principle is not inherent in the constitution of this House, and did not originally form any part of the constitution of this House. Your Lordships must be aware, I think, that a majority of Peers in this House up to the time of the Reformation did not sit by any hereditary right at all, and, therefore, three centuries and a-half ago it was a majority of Peers sitting by personal and life tenure that prevailed in the House of Lords.

Hereditary tenure was no doubt very useful for feudal purposes, and in that way it came to be the practice in this House; but I think we shall all admit that as a legislative engine it is open to grave objection, and that it has outlived its usefulness in our community. It is the part of our constitution which is most objectionable to the country and most resented by the people at large. It is the most easy to attack and the most difficult to defend. The defence used to be that it works well in practice; but it has ceased to work well in practice. It is no sufficient answer, as has been frequently given during the late election, to point to the eminence of our members and to the excellence of our debates. In the mind of the nation at large that does not touch the question. Suppose, if you can suppose, a House composed of Shakespeares, Bacons, Newtons, and Burkes. Even then you would not remove the objection to the hereditary constitution of the House because its critics would at once say that these are men of high and exalted genius, but how are we to ensure that their successors will inherit their genius with their names, and so far as we know anything about the progeny of these great men, and so far as they have had progeny, it is not the case.

There is the further objection that I sketched at the beginning of these proceedings that we are given a great many more Peers than we want. It is enlarging the numbers in this House to an extent which is almost dangerous. A fertilising stream like the Nile flows annually, almost weekly, into this House; but unlike the Nile it does not retire. The stream is copious and constant, but there is no outlet, and when we consider the rate at which Peers have been created and are likely to be created in future, even without the mysterious guarantees which are in certain circumstances to be demanded, we may well begin to think that we shall have to ask the House of Commons to provide us with a more spacious Chamber if anything like our present constitution is to be preserved. Under the present Government, as far as I recollect, thirty-six or thirty-seven Peerages have been created, three in the last fortnight—at any rate nine or ten every year the Government have been in existence, a surprising number considering the extreme distaste which the Liberal Party express of any contact with the House of Lords. Of course, if one may believe the statements of those who fix a coronet of promise on certain names outside this House, the number will be very considerably increased, almost to the extent of the guarantees that are to be demanded of the Crown. I venture to think that, although that is a matter which may raise a laugh, it is a grave subject. It bears upon the whole question of the hereditary principle, and I think I may say on the broad grounds which I have stated, without going into any that are more invidious, that the hereditary principle is a source of weakness and not a source of strength to this House, strength being what we want.

The second principle which I would ask you to adopt, and which I regard as vital to any reform which may be made in this House, is that of election from outside. That is a new principle in this country; but it is not new elsewhere. It is almost unanimously the practice elsewhere, and I will name it as being the practice in one specially Conservatives country—the Kingdom of Prussia—where the House of Lords is freely recruited from the representative element. The House of Lords in Prussia has more strength and more constitutional power than is possessed by this House. But, even if it be a new principle, if we are to deal with this question at all we must not be afraid of new principles. They will soon lose their novelty in application, and if we are not to adopt any new principle in the process of reconstitution, I am afraid our reconstitution will be a futile enterprise. After all, nothing can be so anomalous as the British Constitution itself. We are afraid to introduce new principles into it. But, really, when you come to analyse the Constitution itself one might be inclined to think that a little novelty might to some extent improve it.

You began with a House of Commons with a double Veto over it—the Veto of the Sovereign and the Veto of the House of Lords. The Veto of the Sovereign has not been exercised since the reign of Queen Anne, and is dormant, so dormant that it may be said to have perished of disuse. At any rate, it is not likely to come into action in our time. Having got rid of one Veto by disuse you are seeking to get rid of the other by enactment, leaving the House of Commons free to pursue its own devices. If you are to get rid of all the old principles that animate the British Constitution you will have to embrace some new ones if you want to place your Constitution upon a satisfactory footing. I venture to think that nothing but the elective principle will give new life and strength to this Second Chamber. Nothing else will give you that contact with national life and national opinion which is necessary for the strength of any Chamber exercising the functions with which we are endowed. The hereditary principle has not given and cannot give us that strength. The addition of life Peers, which has sometimes been suggested, has not given and cannot give you that strength. Let me give a familiar illustration. Take two popular men and make them life Peers. Take the two gentlemen who, I understand, are most popular on Liberal platforms at this moment—Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Winston Churchill. Both are very able orators. Make them life Peers and put them in this House, and in a year, or two years at most, they would have no more contact with the people than any other member of this House, and they would lose all the advantages which elective principle gives them, and the strength they receive from delegation, and would have to rely upon their mere sheer ability alone. I give that as an illustration of how little strength you may hope to get from life Peers alone.

When I speak of election I do not wish to be misunderstood. I do not wish it to be supposed that I would venture to propose that any addition to this House should be arrived at by means of popular election. That would only give an understudy, a feeble understudy, of the House of Commons; and, further, it would multiply all the horrors of a General Election, which we must all be anxious to avoid. If by any action, direct or indirect, of this House we should put another General Election on the national programme it would be, I think, imputed to us as a crime. That all the misstatements, all the personalities, all the foolish and erroneous placards, all the actual lies which are employed at a General Election should be repeated for our benefit and selection would, I think, be a most detestable and impossible proposition. I do believe that this ancient and illustrious Assembly would derive new strength, new grace, new dignity by association with the corporations and county councils of this country formed into elective bodies very much on the French basis; and I am bound to say that this representation, in my judgment, so far as it has any value, should form no inconsiderable proportion of this House. Remember that even if elected they might still be Peers. It would be open to any member of your Lordships' House to stand for election outside; and I venture to think that any Peer, however illustrious his name and however long his descent, would gain, not lose, in dignity by entering this House as the representative, say, of Yorkshire or Lancashire.

I will not go further into details. I only want, on this occasion at any rate, to establish two principles, which I repeat I believe are vital to any work of reform and without which it is no use entering upon any operation at all. These principles, with all my heart and soul and with all the earnestness which I can use on so great and so solemn an occasion, I implore your Lordships to recognise and adopt. I believe that at this critical moment you have an opportunity of rendering your country a greater service than has fallen to any body of men since the Barons wrested the liberties of England from King John at Runnymede. You, like them, may rescue the nation from an impending despotism, not the despotism of a King, but the even more formidable despotism of a single and irresponsible Chamber. You have to preserve and to vindicate the balance of our ancient Constitution. You have to protect the nation from the legislation of impulse and of passion and of excess. You have to guard the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority. You can do all this by surrendering privileges which day by day are growing less valuable, which act as a barrier between you and the rest of the nation; and, having made that concession, by framing ungrudgingly and unselfishly, in a large and generous spirit, a reformed House of Lords which shall claim and deserve the confidence of the country.

My Lords, the Government must soon go to the country with its plan. Let us, too, go with ours. Let us, in our turn, appeal to that supreme tribunal—for, after all, in the long run, in the last resort, it is the nation that must judge—not the High Court of Parliament, not the House of Lords, or even the House of Commons. Demonstrate to your countrymen that the plan of the Government is a single-Chamber plan and therefore spells disaster to the nation, and offer your alternative plan, which you may truly say is offered in the interests of the nation and not of a Party or of yourselves. What is the alternative? The alternative is to cling with enfeebled grasp to privileges which have become unpopular, to powers which are verging on the obsolete, shrinking and shrinking until at last, under the unsparing hands of the advocates of single-Chamber government, there may arise a demand for your own extinction, or the Second Chamber, the ancient House of Lords, may be found waiting in decrepitude for its doom.

I daresay in the course of this discussion you will be reminded of a memorable night in the great French Revolution, the night of August 4, 1789, when to successive waves of passionate enthusiasm the aristocracy of France surrendered privilege after privilege, until those who had entered that hall a proud and powerful aristocracy left it as simple citizens. My noble and learned friend appears to have that incident in his head. He, perhaps, will tell you that that great concession brought about the French Revolution. If he tells you so, and he does not say he will tell you, he will tell you wrongly. The Bastille had fallen and the Revolution had begun. The lesson to be learned from that memorable night is not the lesson of privileges conceded to a popular demand. They were in themselves gross and exorbitant privileges, such as would not have been tolerated in this country during the last three centuries—privileges of forced labour, privileges in some cases of serfage, privileges of total exemption from taxation and what not, privileges as unlike as possible to that modest right of concurrent legislation which we are still permitted to exercise. The lesson from that night is a widely different one. It is the lesson of too late. Had the French aristocracy made that surrender a hundred years earlier they might have saved the Monarchy and the State. What would have been the salvation of France in the reign of Louis XIV came too late in the reign of Louis XVI.

My Lords, the words "too late" are written across the history of every national catastrophe. Those words shall not be written here. I am confident of the wisdom and patriotism of this House; so confident that I am convinced that they will rise to the height of this great occasion and vindicate the balance of the Constitution. You will, my Lords, if I am not greatly mistaken, save the Constitution by maintaining the guarantees that that Constitution demands; you will save the future of your country, for nothing less than the future of your country is involved; and for yourselves you will earn the imperishable honour and imperishable gratitude not merely of the nation now, but of generations yet unborn so long as the history of this country survives.

Moved, That the House do resolve itself into a Committee to consider the best means of reforming its existing organisation, so as to constitute a strong and efficient Second Chamber.—(The Earl of Rosebery.)


My Lords, my noble friend who has moved this Motion has spoken, as he always does, of course, with eloquence, with passion, with feeling, and with knowledge. I could, if this were the suitable place, follow, I am afraid with dissent, some of his historical analogies. First of all, I distrust the application of experiences of other times and countries to our own political difficulties and perplexities. You can never be quite sure that you thoroughly understand all the conditions which produce such events, for example, as the night of the Fourth of August or the Fall of the Bastille. You can never be sure even in details, and I am not certain that my noble friend is perfectly free from remark.

My noble friend dwelt with great force on the case of our great Colonies, of Canada and Australia, and asked your Lordships to consider with what scorn they would look on any action in this Parliament which abolished the two-Chamber system. My noble friend surely overlooked the fact that the Senate, or Second Chamber, in Canada and Australia is purely a nominated Chamber. Therefore, there is no argument whatever to be drawn from that part of my noble friend's case. I will not delay the House by following him in some of these details. I shall have a word to say about Cromwell by-and-by, as to whom my noble friend and I have often differed.

But to-night, my Lords, you have got to consider not historical analogies nor eloquent appeals as to your Lordships' making great sacrifices—you have to consider what my noble friend, I venture to say, has overlooked, the practical emergency by which you are confronted. I think I shall be able to show that my noble friend's proposal does not really come to the fringe of that emergency. He analysed with great skill and a good deal of justice, I do not deny it for a moment, the nature of the last election, and the majority which retains the present Government in power. Well, but a remarkable thing has happened. My noble friend has done what is described as treating great questions as if they were great and solemn realities—as if they were real. He has done that, but he has overlooked a remarkable circumstance. The last time I had the honour of addressing your Lordships I ventured to wind up my remarks with this observation, that there was no such battleground for ferocious Party conflict as the revision of the Constitution. I pointed out that we were entering on a tremendous journey which would be long, fierce in antagonisms, and probably perilous. Whether the tremendous drama which was opened at the end of November last year is to be a five-act drama or only a three-act drama I do not know. My noble friend to-night has, at all events, opened the second act of the play.

I am a little surprised, I must say, and I should think that your Lordships at large must be, that he was not content to wait until the proposals of the Government were before the House. He drew an enormous number of inferences from those proposals as he depicts them in his own mind, but for my own part I think that the noble Marquess opposite was far wiser when he took exactly the opposite line from my noble friend on the first night of the session, and said that he thought it would be better, and I am not sure that he did not say fairer, to defer discussion of these things until the proposals of His Majesty's Government were laid before the House. I shall be glad to know how it is that if my noble friend is to have the support of the Leader of the Opposition the noble Marquess has changed his mind? My noble friend will remember that the first Motion that he made on this subject in this House, I think in 1888—


In 1884. That was the last in 1888.


The second was in 1888, and was very similar in purport to the Motion raised to-night. It was then met by an Amendment from Lord Wemyss to the effect that if any change in the constitution of this House were required it ought not—it ought to be not the result of any proceedings of a Committee, but ought to spring from proposals made by the Ministers of the Crown of the day. That evidently was in the mind of the noble Marquess and it would have been a far more convenient course if that principle had been accepted.

But, my Lords, an extraordinary transformation in the drama has taken place since November, 1909. At that time, when the object was to reject the Budget, we heard from all the benches opposite that this House was a model of impartiality, that it was prefectly fair, and had all the virtues that a Legislative Chamber could possibly have, far removed from all the base arts of mechanical confederacy in ordinary political warfare. But to-day what is the foundation of the case which my noble friend is pressing on the House. It is that this House is indefensible in its constitution, is in urgent need of reform, and ought to strip itself of its rights and privileges, or some of them, at all events, at any price, and that you must drop the principle of an hereditary Legislature; in fact, that it is as little a decent revising Chamber as could be possibly devised or imagined. That is a very remarkable transformation. I heard the other day a story of a noble Lord—I do not know who it is, but he is not one of the working bees in this House—who voted against the Budget and went down to his northern domain, where he spoke against the Budget, greatly to the disgust of the people who listened. They broke his windows and expressed their disapproval in the roughest way. The noble Lord felt that that being the result of the last vote he had given, it was rather hard that the next vote that he was going to be asked to give, after sacrificing his convenience to that extent, was for his own extinction. That is only an illustration of the transformation that has taken place. You first of all commit homicide by slaying our Budget, and then proceed to commit suicide by denouncing yourselves as entirely unfit to have done the very thing that you did.

The House will wish to know what is the view taken by the Government of my noble friend's Motion. When the subject came up before in 1907 the Government then took the view that it was illusory and worse than useless to discuss any proposals for changing the constitution of this House unless attention was paid to and a decision arrived at in relation to the differences and disputes which arise between the two Houses. It was on that ground that they did not enter the Committee, of which action my noble friend has just severely complained. The Government adhered to the principle of my noble friend's Amendment on that occasion. We still think it inexpedient to discuss proposals for reforming this House until provision has been made for an effective method of settling differences that may arise between this House and the other House of Parliament. But as our own proposals will be, we hope, before your Lordships at no distance of time, we do not think it necessary to move an Amendment to that effect to-night. We shall lay them before you, in the words of the King's Speech, "with all convenient speed." It is our intention to lay them before you as soon as they have passed the House of Commons. The House of Commons will be invited to discuss the proposals on Tuesday in Easter week, so that your Lordships will be able to compute from that date when they are likely to be here.

The difference in the policy and the tactics recommended by the noble Marquess opposite on the first night of the session and the course actually taken by my noble friend looks as if there had been some forcing of the noble Marquess's hand. I suppose it has been forced on the noble Marquess by the intelligence that must have reached him from all his colleagues, from members of his Party who got in at the General Election, and from candidates who were defeated, by all manner of supplications, asseverations, and indications that it was the hereditary character of this House which, in my noble friend's words, "broke the shins" of candidates. I wonder what my noble friend's real expectations are of good coming from the action that he has to-night begun, because this is only the beginning. He said, on the occasion which I have already referred to, that— a Tory Government is the only Government that can carry through a reform of this House.


Hear, hear.


But, he asked— Is it in human nature for a Conservative Government to do so when they are in power? What is more convenient to them than the constitution of this House? So a Conservative Government, when it comes in, will find more urgent questions to deal with than the question of the reform of the House of Lords.


When was that?


May 17, 1907.


A good deal has happened since then.


Then as for the Liberals, my noble friend cannot have forgotten what happened in 1894. He was then the head of a Government, and he made an admirable speech, not less admirable than the one which he has made to-night, against the House of Lords, and I hope I am not betraying Cabinet secrets when I mention that the result of that state of mind of the head of the Government was the appointment of a Cabinet Committee. And when that Committee had sat for a considerable time, the question was put how they were getting on, and it appeared that, though they had had considerable deliberation and frequent meetings, they had not yet settled the question whether they wanted to make this House stronger or weaker.


I was not on that Committee.


Nor was I. Then my noble friend falls back on the people whom he calls "the thinking part of the nation." He says you cannot expect a Tory Government, you cannot get a Liberal Government, to take up this question, and he falls back, therefore, on what he calls the thinking part of the nation. That is a very unkind aspersion on the human race. It seems to follow from that that Liberals and Conservatives are the unthinking part of the nation. He excludes us, politicians, from the thinking part of the nation. I wonder what his idea of the thinking part of the nation is. I remember Mr. Bright once, when he was reproached for voting against Mr. Mill on some point or other and asked, "How could you vote against a great thinker," replying, in very gruff language, "The worst of great thinkers is they generally think wrong." I should be the last man in this House to fall into any vulgar or Philistine language about thinking people, but I am sceptical as to there being in existence a great body of men who are too good to be Tories, too good to be Liberals, but who, somehow or another, are to be good enough some day or another to carry a scheme for the reform of the House; of Lords. You will have to get the politicians into it.

My noble friend has said, though I do not think he repeated it to-night, and it is an important observation, that the thinking part of the country would prefer the House of Lords unreformed to no Second Chamber at all, and, if I may speak of the people who do not think, I agree, and I should share their prepossession. But my noble friend has gone too rapidly in assuming that all Ministers, or voters, or members of Parliament who support the Resolutions which will come before your Lordships' House by-and-by are all single-Chamber men. You may, if you care, draw out the chain of inference, as my noble friend did, showing that it may lead somehow or another, some day or another, to a single Chamber. That is not the intention of those who will send these Resolutions up to your Lordships' House. It is not inherent: in the Resolutions or in the purposes of the Resolutions, and there are many both in the House of Commons and outside of the House of Commons who would prefer a House of Lords unreformed—I mean unreformed in structure and in composition—to the most attractive single Chamber that the wit of man could devise or the most aerial fabric which could be devised out of rainbows by political ingenuity. I hope that that will not be thought inappropriate in reply to some of my noble friend's observations, and I hope a note may be taken of it by all those whom it concerns.

My noble friend did me the honour to appeal to me to say something as to the language of predominance, imputing predominance to the House of Commons. As to the word, I do not defend it, but I should think that no single man has ever used language in this House, neither Mr. Disraeli nor Lord Salisbury nor anybody you like, which could be taken to dispute for an instant the predominance in legislation of the House of Commons.


Within a single Parliament?


That was not my noble friend's limitation. That is quite another matter.


No, no. That is a point I put.


We do not know about a single Parliament. We shall see how it appears.


My noble friend must not get out of it like that. We know all about it from the Prime Minister.


My noble friend asks whether your Lordships would consent to be made puppets and cripples and so on, but when you talk of a single Chamber as something intolerable and unthinkable and so forth, well, do not overdo that, because for all real and effective purposes of government—I withdraw the word all—but for all the great real and effective purposes of government you have single-Chamber government now. Here is Mr. Balfour's account in his election address. It is perfectly familiar; no one here will dispute it for a moment. How does he describe it? It saves one the trouble of turning to books about the Constitution. These are Mr. Balfour's own words— The representative Assembly is no doubt the primary organ of the popular will. It determines, without appeal, the political complexion of the Government. It controls all the Estimates. It initiates all the taxes. In legislation, it is the dominating power. Its Ministers direct and sometimes tyrannise over its deliberations. They are, nevertheless, its creatures, and, while no veto of the House of Lords can reduce the salary of an Under-Secretary by a single shilling, the most powerful Cabinet is still obliged to bow to the House of Commons. Therefore when you are drawing this terrible hobgoblin of a single Chamber think how far off from single-Chamber government you are now. Foreign policy, and all policy outside legislation, is indisputably in the hands of a single Chamber. My Lords, this question is raised by a practical emergency. I will not argue whether this House of Lords' question was raised by you or by us, or, as I think, neither by you nor by us, if you are going to speak philosophically about it; it arose from the inevitable state of the case and out of fatal necessities of human things.

Think what Lord Salisbury said in 1894; how untrue, how mistaken it has proved. Lord Salisbury said in 1894 if once your Irish policy is out of the way—that was the policy of my noble friend and myself—the House of Lords would settle back into the old position when parties were fairly evenly balanced, though there was a leaning towards the Conservative side. That was a very natural opinion for a man like Lord Salisbury to hold, and a not unreasonable expectation, but forces, deep forces, were too strong, and they have been growing stronger and stronger. The gulf—yes, the gulf is not too strong a term—between your Lordships' House and the House of Commons has widened and deepened since 1894, not owing to a mischievous spirit in either one Party or the other, but owing to the fact that great new masses of voters have come into electoral power, and they are using that electoral power, and will continue to use it to satisfy their own aspirations and meet their own needs. If you had not, my Lords, been driven violently down a steep place against the Budget, if you had only steered clear—I hope you will forgive me for speaking in an oracular tone, but it is my convinced opinion that if you had only steered clear of exorbitant pretensions in the matter of finance this House might perhaps have faced the election—there having been no intervening election—the election in the normal course of things with a great deal more composure than any of you, on the one side or the other, can face the next election when it does come. The noble Earl, Lord Cawdor, has said something about his being in favour of reform, but not of destruction. When he listened to my noble friend to-night, and heard, first, that the hereditary principle is to go, and secondly, that the elective principle is to be largely adopted, and if he followed those thoughts out into all the devices that are connected with them, I wonder whether the noble Earl does not see something that might be called destruction in what lies before him. And when he says we do not know where we are going, I wonder if my noble friend and noble Lords opposite who are going to follow him into the Lobby realise with any clearness, firmness, and precision where they are going. The noble Marquess opposite, Lord Lansdowne, in a speech I think in Wiltshire—


Liverpool, I think.


In Wiltshire I think it was. I hope the House will listen carefully to these words. The noble Marquess said— For the future a Peerage should not entitle a Peer to take part in the legislation of the House and we recommended on the Committee— This is a remarkable expression— that there should be a kind of Inner House of Lords, composed partly of Peers whose qualifications and antecedents manifestly rendered them fit to take part in the proceedings in any legislative Chamber, partly of Peers selected from amongst the Peers by the Peers themselves, and partly of Life Peers appointed by the Crown on the recommendation of the Government of the day, and in our belief that would have given a very compact and very efficient House of Lords. Now some enemy may say ' Oh, but that does not go nearly far enough; we want much greater reforms.' Lord Lansdowne continued— Shall I say why I am opposed to much more far-reaching reforms? It is because I should always believe in the preponderating power of the House of Commons, and it is my belief that if you were to set up a House of Lords by some process of election, or otherwise placed in a position analogous to that of the House of Commons, you would inevitably find that the House of Lords would claim what it does not claim now—a coordinate power with the popular House. That is to say, the noble Marquess when he made the speech was averse, as his words seem to mean, to that principle of large and extended election which my noble friend quoted. Lord Salisbury made a very important criticism in the debate on Lord Wemyss's Amendment to my noble friend's Motion in 1888. Lord Salisbury said— Depend upon it, if you ever succeed in so altering the character of this House that it consists entirely of determined politicians who always attend all the debates and attach the same weight and importance that are attached to their own opinions by those who sit in the House of Commons you will have pronounced the doom of our present system of Government. That is to say, if you get this fancy Chamber full of busy, able, competent men you will then have, as Lord Salisbury said, pronounced the doom of our present system of Government. I submit that line of argument to the consideration of my noble friend and his supporters. Then I come to Lord St. Aldwyn. It is no secret what he would have liked and would like. He committed himself to the view that county councils should be empowered to send, or, that the Crown should be allowed to summon, to this House not more than eighty persons qualified for service—that is, if they had served ten years in the House of Commons or on a county council.


Whose proposal is that? I did not hear it.


Lord St. Aldwyn's. I think it is in the Report of the Committee. However these are his words. Then my noble friend proposed to give the right of nomination to representatives of boroughs of 500,000 population, and so on, but I hope your Lordships see what deep waters my noble friend's Motion is going to ask you to embark upon. You would find, supposing such a body could come into existence, a very different Assembly from that which we are now confronting. Extraordinary language has been used in the way of pretensions. Lord Balfour of Burleigh has actually said that he considers this House cannot fulfil its functions efficiently unless it has some power in the last resort to compel an appeal to the country, which can alone demonstrate what is the real wish of the country. That may or may not have been permissible in the case of the Budget last November, but for this House now to claim—I wonder whether my noble friend would back that—that you are to have the power of compelling a Dissolution whenever you think a Dissolution is expedient—I do not think that would be carried. And when language is used that this House has a perfect right to conduct its own internal reforms in its own way, I cannot imagine anything more entirely unreasonable and anything more entirely away from the facts. You can do nothing in the way of internal reform if it requires a Statute, any more than the House of Commons can reform itself without your assent.


May I ask who used this language about the House of Lords reforming itself by its own action?


I have not named anybody at the moment, but I should have said it had been continually used.


I have not heard it before.


I do not say my noble friend has used it, but I think I can undertake to find instances of that language having been used, and it is very plausible until people begin to think. The moment they begin to think, then, of course, it is absurd. I wish my noble friend had taken a little more trouble to tell us plainly what he means by the words "strong and efficient." What does he mean? I will tell your Lordships what I think the object of this Motion must be, and what the language implies. The language about "strong and efficient" means that this is a move—I do not use the word cynically—a move against the House of Commons. "Strong and efficient" in this House, on the scale contemplated by the mover of this Motion, must mean opposition to the House of Commons. And what are you doing? Your taking back—that is an observation worthy of your Lordships' attention—this demand for a great, strong, and efficient Second Chamber is really an attempt to take back that extension of popular electoral power which it is one of the glories of the Party opposite to have been instrumental in establishing. I should regard the erection, if you can do it, of a strong and efficient Second Chamber as a sort of counter to the policy of 1867. That policy was what Mr. Disraeli educated his Party to, partly, perhaps, to dish the Whigs, and this policy may be described by ill-natured people as designed to dish the Radicals. It is a retrograde proceeding, in my view, and will be judged as such.

If the association of strength and efficiency means that you are to have your own way against the House of Commons, then I repeat that it is a taking back of electoral and political power which the persons concerned will assuredly not stand. I want, then, to ask how the proposals indicated by my noble friend's Motion will deal with the practical difficulties. I cannot for the life of me see how what my noble friend proposes will abate a single one of the perplexities and difficulties of the present situation. Let me look at one or two. Will it lessen the liabilities to friction between the two Houses? Surely not. The stronger and more efficient the Second House, the more will the chances of friction be both multiplied and intensified, for reasons described by Lord Salisbury in the language I have already quoted. One of the great complaints of this House is that Bills are not sent up here in time to receive adequate discussion. That is a complaint made, I understand, whichever Party is in power. I think the noble and learned Lord who sits opposite has loudly complained before now of his own political friends begrudging time for adequate deliberation. But do you think that by having a strong and efficient Second Chamber that difficulty will be in any degree abated?

What is the most injurious of all the complaints which are made against your Lordships' House? I believe all your Lordships will admit that it is the differential treatment which is given by this House to Liberal and to Conservative Bills. The popular impression is that this treatment is due to systematic class prejudice and systematic Party prepossession. Indeed, I do not believe that either the hereditary principle or anything else does half as much to lower the credit of your Lordships' House as this impression. How will adding strength to and invigorating the efficiency of this House cure that particular evil? I doubt if anybody does not expect that the new elements which my noble friend wants to have contributing to this House would be in their main leanings Conservative, and that, of course, is one of the reasons why you want it, and it is perfectly reasonable to expect that. But my noble friend has given us no single idea how his mode of dealing with the Second Chamber is going to make deadlocks between the two Houses—which are the great mischiefs of the present system—less frequent, less troublesome, and less dangerous. I wonder if he thinks that it will. No reform conducted without a scrupulous and exact and comprehensive regard for your Lordships' relations with the House of Commons, however strong and efficient you may be made, can touch this vital and central difficulty. If you do not do that you bring no relief at all to the difficulties of our situation. Do what you like to make your new House, your renovated House, strong and efficient, whether by the simple plan of reducing the numbers and creating an Inner House of Lords, as the noble Marquess called it, or by calling into existence some Senate or another—do what you will it can never possess strength and efficiency except in the most strictly limited and narrow sense. Mr. Balfour used a very extraordinary expression the other day. He said you want this House to represent the permanent wishes of the nation. Nobody is a more exact speaker, but I declare I have not been able to think what he can mean by the "permanent wishes of the nation." Are there any? What, I wonder, was Mr. Balfour thinking of? Justice, freedom, equality before the law, and so forth—but the permanent wishes of the nation! Who thinks so ill of his countrymen as to suppose that the electors of the House of Commons will ever send to represent them men who will be any more blind to the value of these great principles and laws of a modern State, more or less, than the House of Lords?

I am only going to say a word more. All depends—and this is a point worth bearing in mind because it goes to all your proceedings when Resolutions come before you—all depends much more upon the powers that you are going to give to a Chamber than upon any dealing with constitution and function. When you probe the case to the core it is not the structure of a Second House which stands in the front. I say nothing against much that has fallen from my noble friend as to the great topics of internal reform of this House. Internal reforms, interesting, important, far-reaching as they may be, are essentially but secondary in comparison with the question of its powers over the legislation of the House of Commons. These are a few points which have been suggested to me by the Motion of my noble friend. He mentioned Cromwell. Whenever I pass the monument of Cromwell as I come to this House I naturally think of my noble friend. As I say, he and I do not agree as to all the achievements and policy of that illustrious figure. But I once wrote something about Cromwell, and if your Lordships would not think I was taking a liberty I would like to read a few sentences from it which are strictly germane. I said— There is no branch of political industry that men approach with hearts so light and yet that leaves them at the end so dubious and melancholy as the concoction of a Second Chamber. Cromwell and his Parliament— as to which my noble friend said some things which I am not sure I would say— set foot on this Pons Asinorum of democracy without a suspicion of its dangers. To call out of empty space an artificial House, without the hold upon men's minds of history and ancient association, without defined powers, without marked distinction of persons or interests, and then to try to make it into an effective screen against an elected House, to whose assent it owed its own being, was not to promote union but directly to promote division and to intensify it. Cromwell never thought out the scheme. Like smaller reformers since, Cromwell had never decided, to begin with, whether to make his Lords strong or weak; strong enough to curb the Commons, yet weak enough for the Commons to curb them. I then added that the riddle which perplexed Cromwell was still unanswered. And I do not believe my noble friend's contribution will be an effective answer to that riddle.


My Lords, I venture to address you upon this subject because, like the noble Earl who introduced it to-night, I twenty-six years ago stood up in your Lordships' House to implore your Lordships to give consideration to this subject. The only regret I have that the noble Earl should have brought the Motion forward—and it is no fault of his—is that it should be necessary to do so at the present moment. When the noble Earl first brought this subject forward in your Lordships' House he hoped, and I hoped, that it might be settled quietly and dispassionately at a time when the country was not divided by turmoil, was not in a state of paroxysm, as I venture to think it is at this moment, on this question. I should like to have seen the matter settled at a time when your Lordships could have given it a much more dispassionate consideration than I fear it is possible to give it to-day.

The question was asked by the noble Viscount who has just sat down why the noble Earl did not wait for the Government's proposals, and I think he attributed to my noble friend the noble Marquess who sits behind me a declaration at the commencement of the session that to wait for the Government proposals would be the best course which this House could adopt. Well, my Lords, what were the Government proposals then and what are the Government proposals now? From the gracious Speech from the Throne we gathered that a measure was proposed, or rather two measures were to be introduced, dealing both with the powers of this House and with the constitution of the House; and I venture to say if that course had been maintained by His Majesty's Government the advice of my noble friend, that we should wait for those proposals, would have been quite right and proper advice. What is the position now? The proposals affecting the constitution of this House have disappeared into thin air, and we know now from the Prime Minister that the proposal is not to be dealt with as a whole, but that your Lordships are only to be asked to curtail your own powers of legislation. There appears to be, from what the noble Viscount said, yet a fresh change in the plans of His Majesty's Government. The noble Viscount tells us they will propose some means of settling differences between the two Houses. I do not know, of course, what those means may be, but it is a new announcement from His Majesty's Government that they will introduce proposals for settling those differences. We shall look with interest and anxiety to the proposals His Majesty's Government are going to bring before us.

The noble Viscount said he thought it was the recent election which had induced the noble Earl to suggest to your Lordships, as he will do in a few days, that the hereditary principle should not of itself give a right to sit in this House. That proposal came from the Committee of which my noble friend was the Chairman, and, as he told you, with the exception of my noble and learned friend behind me that proposition was unanimously accepted by the Committee. No elections had taken place then, nor was anything of the kind in contemplation. Then the noble Viscount went on to say that we have single-Chamber government already. He read out to us a list of the powers possessed by the other House of Parliament but not by this House. I do not think there is a single member of your Lordships' House who would wish to take from or share with that House any one of those powers to which the noble Viscount referred. But what we do claim is the power which we now possess, and which I venture to think any Second Chamber should possess—the power to be satisfied that the country is in favour of great and drastic measures of reform, which have not been pronounced upon at a General Election, before those measures are allowed to pass through Parliament.

We are in the midst of a great drama, says the noble Viscount Yes, but when Lord Newton moved for the appointment of the Committee to consider this subject the curtain had not been rung up on that drama. Yet the members of His Majesty's Government entirely declined to take any part or lot in an examination into the question. I deeply regret that decision on the part of His Majesty's Government, and I cannot help thinking that there must be some members on that side of the House who in their hearts, seeing how evenly divided that Committee was on some important questions, regret equally that a greater part was not taken by noble Lords opposite. I cannot help thinking that if the Committee had had the advantage of the assistance of noble Lords opposite there might have been more guidance, more light and leading, for the people of this country. What did the refusal of His Majesty's Government to join that Committee amount to? It amounted, I think, to an admission that there was no conceivable Second Chamber, because the whole field of the reform of the Second Chamber was open to the Committee—


May I ask the noble Earl whether that was so? My impression is that the reference to the Committee was to consider schemes and proposals of reform that had previously been made.


The reference was— to consider the suggestions which have from time to time been made for increasing the efficiency of the House of Lords in matters affecting legislation, and to report as to the desirability of adopting them either in their original or in some modified form. I admit that that confined the Committee to proposals which had already been made, or to any modification thereof, but I venture to think if you look through the proposals made from time to time for the reform of the Second Chamber it will be difficult to find any which are not under consideration at the present moment. The noble Earl, in moving that your Lordships do resolve yourselves into Committee, made some observations upon the "voice of the people," and I think he made it quite clear that there is much difficulty in determining when and how the voice of the people can be truly said to have spoken. I would like to add to what the noble Earl said that I think the people of this country do not always express their voice at a General Election. By that I mean that there is a considerable amount of apathy when there is no great and burning question before the country, and that it is sometimes most desirable that one should know what is the view, not only of a percentage of the electors, but of all those electors who can be brought to the poll. I was told a story the other day by a member who stood for the other House of Parliament that when he called upon an elector the latter said— I suppose you have come to talk to me about the election. If you are a Radical I will kick you downstairs, and if you are a Unionist I shall content myself by banging the door in your face. That was the extent of the interest that elector took in the election. When you look at the figures you will see that at the election of 1910, eighty-four per cent of the electors of London went to the poll; in 1906 only seventy-eight per cent voted; and in 1900 not more than sixty-five per cent. To say that the voice of that sixty-five per cent of the electorate is the real voice of the people is a proposition which will not bear a moment's examination.

What are the desiderata which the noble Earl has put before the House? I think he claims that the House should not be un-wieldly in its numbers; that every member of it should feel it his duty to assist in the government of the country; and that such duty should neither be illsuited nor irksome to him. The noble Viscount said just now that your Lordships first of all committed homicide on the Budget, and then proposed to commit suicide yourselves. Well, how many noble Lords opposite voted for the Finance Bill? I think the Dumber was seventy-five. I defy any one to propose any scheme for the reduction of the Members of this House that would not leave more than seventy-five of those who voted against the Finance Bill of last year. I think that is a sufficient answer to the suggestion that the proposals of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches means the suicide of this House.

Then the noble Earl suggests that the House should be constituted, or a part of it, on some popular basis, but I rejoice to think that the basis which the noble Earl suggests is the basis of this House as it exists. His historical review I will not add to, because I do not think it can be improved, or that anything better can be said in favour of it; but of this I am quite certain, that one of the most valuable institutions in the whole of this country is the Peerage of England. I say that because I believe membership of it is the greatest incentive to good public work in this country. My Lords, after all what do most of us desire? We desire to be thought well of by our fellow men, and I venture to think, in whatever walk of life, whether it be science or whether it be politics, that a seat in your Lordships' House is looked upon as the greatest of honours and therefore as the greatest incentive to public work in this country. I should greatly deprecate anything which, by bringing in too great an infusion from outside, would destroy the character of this House. This is not the moment to go into any detailed suggestions for the reform of your Lordships' House. That will come by-and-by when you have disposed of the Resolutions that are on the Paper and consider the further Resolutions which the noble Earl will propose. When that time comes I shall venture to hope that it may not be impossible to put before your Lordships a scheme by which, while maintaining the character of this House—that is to say, maintaining it as a House of Lords, a House of Peers—it may be possible to submit some members of it to the opinion of their fellow men outside, so to get that current of fresh air and that contact with opinion outside this House which the noble Earl desires.

My Lords, I was sorry the noble Earl did not make any reference to what, I think, is a question which actuates a very large number of members of your Lordships' House as well as the public outside, and that is the possibility of bringing into this House some representation of the great Dominions overseas. The noble Earl pointed out to your Lordships how the proposals to emasculate this House might be received by these great Dominions, but he did not give us any hint or suggestion as to how he thought we might include them. I do not think there will be any difficulty in inducing your Lordships to make this House more of an Imperial House than it is at present. My belief is that the difficulty lies on the other side of the water, and I should greatly hope that the result of the Motion which the noble Earl has moved and the result of the attention which the subject is securing, not only in this country but throughout the Empire, will lead to some suggestions from overseas as to the manner in which it would be acceptable to those great Dominions to be included in the Second Chamber of this country. What we have to aim at is, above all things, to secure an independent Second Chamber. After all, we do not sit here for our own benefit; we sit here for the benefit of the people of this country, who, I believe, as the noble Earl said, will insist upon having a Second Chamber of some kind or other, such as is possessed by almost every other civilised country in the world. The House of Lords is the Second Chamber to which England has been accustomed, and with which I believe England will not entirely dispense. It seems to me that, having got a Chamber with the historical associations which surround this Chamber, having got the advantage that we have of the presence here of some of the ablest men in the United Kingdom and a few from the Dominions overseas, it would be madness to cast it aside and attempt to construct an entirely novel and different Senate. I sincerely hope your Lordships will be very careful in departing in any degree from the principles upon which this Chamber is at present constituted. I do not say that it is impossible to find means by which it might be altered and improved, but I do believe that in the opinion of the majority of the people of this country the Peerage ought always to continue to be the basis of the Second Chamber. The object which we have in view is the safe and continuous development of the institutions of the country. We want to get an Assembly which possesses patriotism, common sense, and, above all, independence; and I do not despair that, when your Lordships go into Committtee on this subject, you will be able to evolve a scheme which will commend itself to the people and be accepted by them in preference to the proposals of His Majesty's Government to deprive your Lordships of those powers which alone make it Worth while to sit in any Second Chamber at all.


My Lords, the speech of the noble Viscount, I think, laid him rather open to the tu quoque reply upon several points. For instance, I entirely agree with him when he quoted the great difficulties which attended the concoction of a Second Chamber; but the moral I drew from it was that that made it all the more improbable that we should see any of these misty reforms of the Second Chamber which have been vaguely shadowed forth. Then, again, the noble Viscount said that the proposal which the noble Earl made was in the nature of a move against the other House. Well, the noble Earl's proposal would lead to the reduction of the Conservative majority in this House and the abrogation of the hereditary principle, and if that is what the noble Viscount considers an attack upon the Liberal Party I think he is somewhat hard to please. Again, the noble Viscount urged my noble friend, Lord Rosebery, not to overdo a Single Chamber. I only hope His Majesty's Government will follow that wise advice; but our apprehension is that it is not the First Chamber which is overdoing itself.

The noble Viscount taunted us with what he called the transformation scene. Well, my Lords, we are not the only Party who have effected a transformation scene, for I seem to recall a statement of His Majesty's present advisers that when the new Parliament was elected it would be a case of Budget first and other measures afterwards. We do not hear very much about the Budget nowadays, but we are aware of obvious reasons why that measure is hung up. However, I did not rise for the purpose of making a very imperfect reply to the noble Viscount's speech, but just to recall to the recollection rather of the public than of members of this House that, whatever may be the upshot of the Resolutions of the noble Earl, there is no possible basis of agreement between the two political Parties in the two Houses of Parliament upon this question of the House of Lords. The noble Viscount said that in the able and exhaustive speech of the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, the fringe of the question had not even been touched. If that is the view of His Majesty's Ministers it is perfectly obvious that no amount of discussion on our part can lead to the adoption of a measure which will find favour on both sides of the House. Therefore an early appeal to the supreme arbitrators, the electorate, would appear to be inevitable.

I think we may comfort ourselves with the reflection that we shall go into the battle with the possibility of gaining, but with the knowledge that we cannot be worse off if we lose. We undoubtedly ran the very serious risk that the attack which is now being framed would be made upon this Chamber if we persisted last year in referring the Budget to the country. That attack has now come, and we must meet it as best we can, with the knowledge that, even if we fail, we can be no worse off than if we sit down quietly. We are doomed to political extinction by His Majesty's present Government, or, at all events, to such a measure of what we consider political extinction that we would risk all rather than submit to it. I imagine I am speaking the views of the great majority of noble Lords when I say that we are irreconcilably opposed to the principle that it shall be in the power of the other House of Parliament to force through any measure within the limits of a single Parliament, irrespective of any appeal to the electors of the country. I admit it is possible that the Government may succeed in passing a Statute which would place this House in the position they wish to see it occupy. I conceive that it is possible that, rather than run such extravagant risks as the swamping of this Chamber by the creation of 400 Peers, your Lordships might prefer to accept the situation and allow the Government to pass such a measure.

Then I would remind His Majesty's Ministers that, although one man may lead a horse to the water, twenty cannot make it drink. It would be quite impossible for them to continue with a Second Chamber the vast majority of which would probably decline to go through the farce of attending debates or criticising measures over the ultimate fate of which they would have no control. The necessary result of that, I take it, would be that this House as a House would have to be ended and a Second Chamber of a different kind constituted. We are told that that Second Chamber, if it is to be created at all, is to be created on a broad democratic basis and chosen by a large body of electors. As the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, put it, is it likely that any man in whom the country would be likely to have confidence would go through all the trouble and expense of getting elected to a Second Chamber unless that Second Chamber were to have at least as large powers as this House at present possesses. I do not, therefore, see that His Majesty's Government would gain all the advantages anticipated should they succeed in reducing the House of Lords to the very humble position which they wish to assign to it in the future. The question, then, comes whether we are not making a very real, substantial, and reasonably liberal proposal by the suggested limitation—I will own that I have looked forward to a considerable limitation—of the number of Peers in this House, and by the abrogation of the hereditary principle. It seems to me that in addition much good would result from the infusion of a considerable number of life Peers. I think that in addition to the limitation of our numbers and the creation of a considerable number of life Peers it might, under certain circumstances, be possible to arrange, in cases of disputed Bills of first-class importance, for a joint conference of the two Houses sitting, and perhaps voting, together.

I am not disposed to give unlimited acquiescence to Lord Rosebery's suggestion as to the electoral body by which the House of Lords should be chosen in future. I am still less disposed to favour the idea that a portion of the reformed House of Lords should be taken from the old members and a portion from outside. I think it would be much better that the whole body should be chosen either by the present House or by such outside body as may be determined upon. I am also inclined to doubt whether it would be well to lay down as a positive enactment that nobody should be eligible to a place in the reformed House of Lords unless he had held certain offices. I think that would be putting the younger members of the House in rather an invidious position. I also share the opinion that those noble Lords who might be deprived of seats in this Chamber under a system of reform should be able to present themselves as candidates for the Lower House. And, lastly, I should say I think in a reformed Upper House some system of providing for the representation of the minority would undoubtedly have to be introduced, so that the Liberal element should have its fair share of representation in this House.

One remark which has been made may, I think, be worth elucidating a little further—that is the remark made by the late Lord Salisbury as to the circumstances under which this House would cease to be so largely composed of members of one political Party. I dare say some of your Lordships remember as well as I do that it has only been within the last forty years that one Party has gradually assumed ascendancy in this House. I can recollect the time of a great division—I think in 1863—when a very full poll was taken of the House of Lords; of the Peers voting the Liberal Party, the Government of the day had an actual majority, and it was only by bringing up the proxies which then existed that the late Lord Derby secured a majority of Dine. That shows that the House of Lords has not always been in the past a Tory preserve, and that it acquired its present political complexion simply through the extraordinary rapidity with which Radical legislation has progressed and forced many moderate Liberals, not to desert their Liberal principles, but to join, perforce, that camp from which they were least divided. I do not wish to go into detail as to further proposals. There are certain reasons why I cannot agree with Lord Onslow as to the advisability of including representatives from the oversea Dominions, but that and other details I reserve for further consideration. I would express my general hearty concurrence with the noble Earl who has brought forward the Motion, and my general agreement with the greater part of his eloquent speech.


My Lords, in listening to the speeches made by noble Lords who have devoted a considerable amount of time and study to this question, it has been brought home to me how difficult it is to introduce changes into this House without running some risk of destroying much that is good. This House has played a part in the history of the kingdom of which it may well be proud. It is no light matter to talk of altering its constitution, and I feel that my connection with this House is of too recent origin to entitle me to put forward my views were it not that we have all had to meet a good deal of hostile criticism during the recent political controversy. If further justification were needed I should find it in the hostility which has been shown to the functions of this House, including the duties of ordinary revision, by Ministers in the House of Commons during the last few years. The sole object of the Government during those years seems to have been to put aside the functions of this House.

There may be—I fear there is—a great difference of opinion between Liberal Ministers and noble Lords on this side of the House as to what are the true functions of the House of Lords; but I certainly think, in regard to its powers of revision, we should be able to expect fairer and more-impartial treatment than that which has been accorded to us. I think a most unfair or, if that word hardly meets the case, a most un statesman like course, has been adopted in regard to many of our Amendments on the ground of breach of privilege. Let us take the Old Age Pensions Act. The clause dealing with disqualification for imprisonment would probably have resulted, as many of your Lordships will remember, in unjust and invidious distinctions in similar cases of offences dealt with by different magistrates. In one case a man might receive a day's imprisonment and find himself disqualified from drawing a pension for ten years. In another case of a similar offence a man might receive a punishment to which no penalty of that nature would be attached. An Amendment was carried in this House to rectify what was evidently a mistake and an injustice by altering the limitation of disqualification for imprisonment to a minimum period of one month; but although it was pointed out in the House of Commons at the time—I think by Mr. Keir Hardie—that this Amendment would merely remove the possibilities of grave injustice, yet in pursuance of their usual policy towards this House Liberal Ministers insisted on the rejection of that Amendment on the plea of privilege. Under the treatment which was accorded to us on our Amendments of this and of many other Bills it would be clearly impossible for this House to exercise its ordinary duties of discussion or revision on any of those large social measures which come up to us from time to time. For Amendments would frequently vary the charge to some small extent and thereby give the Liberal Government a chance of rejecting such Amendments on the grounds of privilege. There must be some friendly co-operation between the two Houses if we are to get the best legislative results. If the House of Commons desires to accept an Amendment it is always open to it not to insist upon its privilege.

But, my Lords, it is not only on questions of privilege that a determined hostility has been shown to this House. Take the Land Tenure Bill, now known as the Agricultural Holdings Act. Perhaps I cannot do better than quote very briefly one passage out of a speech by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition. He said— On the attitude of the Government towards our Amendments, I observe the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture took credit for his friends in the House of Commons that they did not reject our Amendments en bloc. As fifty-five out of seventy-one were inserted by His Majesty's Ministers themselves, to say nothing of twelve other Amendments to which they assented, I think it is straining the imagination a good deal to conceive that the whole of the Amendments could have been dealt with in that summary fashion. My Lords, further comment on my part as to the attitude of the Government is unnecessary. Have Liberal Ministers shown any desire to accept anything from this House which may tend to its credit in the eyes of the country? Their policy has been one of "filling up the cup," and when an election draws near, when as a discredited Party they see their hopes of retaining office ever growing fainter, they attack the House of Lords as the best means of obtaining public favour and to help them at the polls. For this reason, if for no other, I would support any measure of reform which would help to strengthen this House and enable it to carry out its duties to the nation in a more efficient manner.

But although I agree that it is necessary, for the reasons I have given, to strengthen this Chamber and relieve it of those disabilities which at present form the stock-in-trade of every demagogue in the country, I think the real reason why we should take this action is that I believe there is a sincere desire on the part of the nation for some measure of reform of this House. I believe there is a feeling among the more thoughtful members of our community, a feeling which has been growing for years, that certain anomalies in the constitution of this House should be removed, that the accident of birth unaccompanied by other qualifications should not of itself entitle any man to a seat in this House. The fact that there are a certain number of Peers who have not got the time or the inclination to attend to their legislative duties and who yet exercise their right to vote on the somewhat rare occasions when they attend this House, is not only an anomaly, but is a distinct source of weakness to the House. But as the constitution of the House of Lords is already based partly on the system of heredity and partly on the system of selection, I hope it may be possible to extend the system of selection to the hereditary element. I mention selection and not election in contradiction to the noble Earl who initiated this discussion, because I cannot conceive any fully-elected House being in a position to carry out its difficult duties as a Second Chamber.


I said I hoped the principle of election would form part.


I am not opposed to some elective element being introduced, but if any portion of the hereditary Peers are to be elected I think it would probably be wiser to have them elected by their fellow Peers or by one of the two Houses of Parliament. At present this House has an independent character which I would like to see maintained. It is removed from the fluctuations of political feeling and does not depend on any man's vote. At present it cannot be forced by any one section of the community to pass a measure at the expense of the remainder. These are very valuable qualities, how valuable one can only judge when one looks at the discreditable political bargaining which often takes place between factions in the House of Commons, and which I am not sure is not now taking place in that House.

What is the attitude of the Government in regard to this question of reform? I have not yet understood what their attitude is. I think many noble Lords on both sides of this House would welcome a statement by the Leader of the House as to the position the Cabinet now take up in regard to this question. Do the Government, or do they not, intend ever to bring forward any proposals for its reform? I am glad to see that they or at least their representatives in this House do not question the efficiency with which noble Lords transact the business of this House. I believe myself that the Government's chief objection is to the efficiency with which many noble Lords bring expert criticism to bear on many Ministerial measures. When Lord Newton moved the Second Reading of his Bill some three years ago the noble Earl opposite, the Leader of the House, boycotted the discussion on the ground of partiality. He informed your Lordships on this side of the House that, belonging to the Unionist Party, you dealt with measures of the Liberal Government in a Party spirit. I would like, with all due respect, to deny the impeachment, which hardly tallies with the statements of Liberal Ministers who have been recently going about taking a great deal of credit to themselves for the extraordinary amount of useful legislation which has found its way on the Statute Book in the last few years.

The noble Earl also admitted on that occasion that no reform of this House, no matter what distinguished men of impartial views were introduced, would ever produce a majority in this House in favour of the measures to which we are at present apparently offering an insuperable barrier. Our partiality, in fact, consists in our insistence on certain principles; in maintaining the unity of the Empire; in securing to parents the right to have their children educated in the faith in which they were brought up; in objecting to unfair burdens being placed in a vindic- tive manner on a particular trade or section of the community, and, finally, in referring a Budget to the people, who have fully vindicated our action by returning to the House of Commons a majority of representatives opposed to that measure. I know it is possible and it is one of the drawbacks to our Parliamentary system that a section of those representatives may yet be bribed by some measure of Home Rule into supporting a measure which otherwise they would heartily condemn, but even in that case our action has been fully vindicated by the country. In fact, the possibility of such a bargain being struck in the House of Commons is surely only one more proof of the absolute, necessity for maintaining a strong and efficient Second Chamber. Mr. Redmond recently asserted, at a public dinner, that the main issue on which the last election was fought was not the Budget but Home Rule for Ireland, and that the result of the election was a majority in favour of Home Rule. I do not question the truth of what Mr. Redmond said. I only question how many electors outside Ireland realised the issue on which they were voting. It is said our House is not representative; but who are the representatives of the million of people in Ireland who are bitterly opposed to Home Rule and of the millions of electors of England, Scotland, and Wales who were apparently misled as to the issue of the last General Election? I think every fair-minded man in the country would say it is the Second Chamber.

But, my Lords, the anomalies which do undoubtedly exist in this House are a great source of weakness. They were used with considerable effect at the last General Election, not only to discredit our action but to blind the people as to the real nature of the demands made by the Government in regard to the limitation of the powers of this House. I doubt very much if many people understood in the least what those demands were. If any elector asked Mr. Asquith when he was on the public platform if he were in favour of the Second Chamber, the answer was always "Yes." I wish the electors had gone a step further and asked if the Second Chamber was to have any power to appeal from the Government to the country. What answer would he have given? I have no doubt he would have delivered a clever and lengthy peroration which neither his questioner nor anyone could have understood. But at the next General Election a plain, straightforward answer will be demanded to the question, and the Government policy will be shown to be a deliberate attempt to gain autocratic power for the Cabinet of the day to pass what measures they choose and to prevent the people having any voice in the legislation of the country. When this is put before the people as a clear issue they will realise that, reformed or unreformed, the House of Lords is the only safeguard they have against such rule.

This, however, does not affect the issue before us. Our action must not be based on expediency, but upon the wishes of the people. I believe there is a growing conviction among the electors of the country that some reform in the composition of this House is desirable, and I also believe that in carrying out some readjustment of the House to modern conditions it should be possible to link up the House of Lords, with all its great traditions, more closely yet in the sympathies of the people. I venture to hope, my Lords, that you will support the broad principles contained in the Resolutions of the noble Earl. The principle of the third Resolution is, I think, a necessary preliminary to any reform. Without it, in face of the misrepresentation we have to meet, we should not be able to retain the confidence of the country, and without that confidence we could not have a strong and efficient Second Chamber.

[The sitting was suspended at eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]


My Lords, as one who spoke in favour of and advocated the reform of this House five-and-twenty years ago, I heartily support the Motion of the noble Earl. It is probable enough that there are not many who desire to see a single-Chamber Government in this country, or rather who dare to assert in so many words that that is their wish; but there seem to be a great many who would prefer to have a House of Lords possessing no greater power than that of merely putting in drafting Amendments or of correcting grammatical errors which have been unnoticed on Report in the other House. I believe, however, that the great majority of the people of this country desire to have a genuine and effective Second Chamber not less strong or effective than those which have been set up in the Australian Commonwealth and the South African Union, and one which, while able to resist democracy if it goes mad, shall be so constituted as to be in sympathy with modern developments and aspirations, and so composed that its criticisms shall command in any case attention and respect if not acquiescence.

The noble Viscount who followed Lord Rosebery rather made game of him on account of Mr. Balfour's enumeration of the points with regard to which the House of Commons in this country was always the predominant partner of the two Houses of Parliament, but unless I am very much mistaken there is hardly any one of those points in respect to which the representative Chamber in every country in the world and in all our own Colonies is not likewise predominant. I do not think there can be any self-governing community of any sort or kind in which the House of Representatives does not hold the power of the purse, which after all, is the mainspring of the Government of every country. Single Chamber Government, although condemned by the custom of the whole civilised world, would after all, be better than an omnipotent House of Commons subject in name, but in name only, to an impotent House of Lords, for if we had the misfortune to have only one Chamber, that Chamber having full responsibility for its actions, would be likely to be more careful of what it passed into law than the House of Commons is at present. We know well enough that it often occurs in the House of Commons that Members who thoroughly dislike a particular Bill vote for it in obedience to the Party Whip, relying on its being dealt with up here; while at the same time they exercise their privilege of abusing the House of Lords for doing that which in their inmost hearts they desired.

We had an example of that not long ago in connection with the Bight Hours Bill. It is notorious that the majorities by which that Bill passed the House of Commons did not by any means represent the feelings of the House of Commons towards it, and we only passed it here, in the words of Lord Lansdowne, with great misgivings, but feeling, notwithstanding our doubts, that the Government was ready to assume responsibility with regard to it. It is notorious that many of the criticisms passed upon that measure have since proved themselves to be only too well founded. It seems to me that there must be something wrong either with the composition of this House if a measure which undoubtedly commanded a great deal of popular support outside was practically without friends here, or else there must be something wrong with our position in the machinery of government if, after thinking that the measure was full of imperfections, we were unable to remit it for further consideration. The truth is, I am afraid, that we only passed that Bill because, in plain English, we thought there would be trouble if we did not, and because unfortunately the public is only too apt to discount any criticisms which are made here by attributing to them, unjustly enough, an undercurrent of self-interest.

The worst enemies of this House do not deny that the de-bates here reach a very high level, and that great questions are worthily discussed, but there is no doubt that those who opposed the Budget in the country at the late Election were seriously handicapped by the fact that it had been remitted to the constituencies by the action of the House of Lords. The People's Budget was not exactly fortunate in the country. The constituencies who returned the gentlemen who voted by a majority of 230 in its favour on Third Reading have only returned a majority of about the odd thirty in favour of it now, and, if the Irish Members are justified in their boast that they won for the Government as many as twenty seats in Lancashire and Yorkshire, that odd thirty in favour of the People's Budget would be represented in fact by a minus quantity. But the fact that we rejected it undoubtedly told largely in its favour, especially in Scotland and in the North. We do not get the credit for rejecting things on their merits; yet what is wanted undoubtedly in the country, as I believe, is a strong Second Chamber capable of steadying public opinion, of giving the demagogues time to talk themselves out, and so constituted that the weight of its criticisms shall not be lessened by any disparagement of the channel through which they may be delivered. In these circumstances, it seems to me that boldness will be the true statesmanship, and that we ought not to be afraid to make drastic changes in the constitution of this House.

My Lords, this is not yet the time to discuss possible changes in detail, but I venture to think we can best seek for guidance in the systems adopted in our great self-governing Colonies beyond the seas, and in the balances of power which are found to work well in those democratic communities. Those sys- tems vary in detail almost everywhere, but two or three general rules appear to underlie them all. The Council or the Upper House is about half the strength of the Lower House. The members of it, if not nominated for life, are elected for a term at least equal to twice the legitimate duration of a Parliament, and the electors, with one important exception, are chosen on a very much higher franchise than those who elect the Lower House. Moreover, in the latest Constitutions, at any rate, and the most important ones—those framed within the last ten years, the Australian Commonwealth and the South African Union—there are careful provisions made for deadlocks between the two Houses, whether on general legislation or on matters of finance. I believe that the best solution of the present difficulties will be found in taking example from what has been proved to answer well across the seas. It is likely enough that, for a period at any rate, the best solution may be found in a combination of the methods of co-optation and nomination and election, but I believe that if we are to have a permanent system and one which will not need to be revised within a limited period, it will be wise to arrange that the great majority of the members of the future Second Chamber of this country should be chosen by indirect election from outside.


My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Lord who has just spoken into the constitution and methods of electing Second Chambers abroad or in the Colonies. Even if I wished to I should not be able to, but at all events I may say that I listened with great interest to what he had to tell us about the plans which are pursued in those parts of the world. I am very much interested, however, about the whole question of the Second Chamber here, so I will confine myself entirely to those considerations. It is a good many years now since I came into the House of Lords. Although perhaps not the oldest, I have probably been a member of this House as long as anybody present to-night. I took my seat in 1877, on the same day as Lord Beaconsfield, though I recognise that this has nothing to do with the matters we are to consider to-night. I also remember that in my hotter youth I was something of a reformer myself, and I remember, like a nightmare, addressing your Lordships' House in an endeavour to give expression to my own ideas on that subject, those ideas being that nobody should be allowed to vote unless he had attended sittings of the House a certain number of times. The noble Marquess, the late Lord Salisbury, was Leader of the House at that time, and much to our regret he was absent from indisposition. On that occasion I received a tremendous castigation from Lord Cranbrook, and I was congratulated by all my friends that this unfortunate circumstance had kept Lord Salisbury away or I should probably have got it much worse than I did.

The other reason why I should like to say something to-night is that I was a member of the Rosebery Commitee. I propose to say very little about that, and I do not, I daresay to your relief, mean to say anything about Oliver Cromwell either. Oliver Cromwell slept for two nights in my house at home. I assure you I am very proud of that fact. But, after all, when we come to bring Oliver Cromwell into our considerations to-night, it is just as well to remember a characterisation of him by one of our great historians—that Oliver Cromwell could govern neither with nor without Parliaments. Under those circumstances I do not know that we need trouble very much about what he would have thought or said or done with regard to the matters which are occupying us now. I am sure that everybody in the House will join with me in expressing to Lord Rosebery how much we have been interested in the speech he delivered to us, and I think we all recognise his high patent to advise us in the contingencies which surround us. But I hope he will not think that I am out on a freebooting expedition if I rather question the opportuneness and the present advantage of the course that he recommends to the House. And here I find myself in quite unexpected agreement with the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, below me. On this question of advantage I address myself, for the moment especially to the Opposition Peers and the Cross Benches, and particularly to those who are acting with the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, though I have no notion who they are or whether they include the noble Marquess opposite, or what I will call the official Opposition Bench. I dare say later in the evening, when we hear someone from the Front Opposition Bench, we shall be illuminated as to how far the mover of the Resolutions to-night and the Front Opposition Bench are in complete accord with regard to the opportuneness of the motion.

It is quite unnecessary, of course, for me to trouble about what noble Lords below me think or what their official or semi-official supporters think. I remember quite well when Lord Crewe, with that gift of lucid and fair exposition of which he is a master, explained to the House the exact nature of the Campbell-Bannerman Resolutions. I understood from him then that he acquiesced to the last jot and tittle in the degree of nullity which those Resolutions established. I will go back for a moment, then, to the reasons why I think that, tactically speaking, apart perhaps, from any lofty principle, the moment for what we are considering to-night is not felicitously chosen. I think if we are going to discuss this question for four nights, as I believe is the case, it is inevitable that the discussion will reveal a great many divergences of opinion, a great many confessions of what may be indefensible, or thought indefensible, a great many suggestions of compromises, a recognition of Strength here and of weakness there, and that in the process, whilst outside this House we may lose our friends, I think it is quite certain that we shall retain our enemies. The noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, may say, in the same spirit that Lord Camperdown applied to the Budget, that if that is so he does not care; and I am sure he does not care, because he thinks it is right, and I quite recognise that he is the person who has the best right to advise us on it.

But really, speaking for myself, much as I am prepared to defer to his experience, I do feel a little uncomfortable about the moment chosen. I think if we could have waited for what Lord Rosebery described as the Cleopatra-like procession of Resolutions in the House of Commons, it is more than likely that events would have occurred which would have made the Government, I do not quite like to say ridiculous, but would have made them appear in not quite as strong a position as when they started on the operation. I have every confidence in the Leader of the Opposition in the other House to make the very most of any material for the defence of our position and of attack on the Government's position which it may be possible to make, and I think that all this would have been watched with lynx eyes by the noble Marquess opposite and by a great many observant critics who are sitting here. Then when our turn came it seems to me that we should have found ourselves, or noble Lords opposite would have found themselves, equipped with material, whether for attack of the Government's Resolutions or for defence of our own position, which would have been invaluable, and which I am afraid the course of this Debate may not give them here. And in that connection a Latin adage occurs to me which is not a bad one, although I believe it comes out of a Latin grammar—"Fas est ab hoste doceri."

Now, my Lords, I pass to Lord Rosebery's first and second Resolutions, which affirm the necessity of an efficient Second Chamber. In, I think, the best political novel in our language, "Coningsby," Mr. Milbanke, while talking to Coningsby, declared, in 1834, that— nobody wants a Second Chamber except a few disreputable individuals. That is not the view taken here, or, indeed, outside in 1910. We have just heard from Lord Morley that the Cabinet is like adamant about a Second Chamber. So that we may agree that what Mr. Milbanke thought in 1834 is not what His Majesty's Ministers think in 1910. Another thing which Mr. Milbanke said was that he never heard of a Peer with ancient lineage. Whether he was right or wrong about that, such lineage as we do possess and such legislative rights as it has given us, and gives us at the present moment, are, I understand, all to disappear under these Resolutions. But, be that as it may, it is quite clear that these are days when everybody thinks a Second Chamber is wanted. We live in days when Parliament is always being urged, even goaded, to interfere in many matters, and to render and to undertake services which have never previously been attempted. Interference by the State between labour and capital, with regard to freedom of contract, supply and demand, and so on, is recognised and practised by both Parties. It is not a question how to interfere, but only of how much to interfere, that is always the ground of controversy. This points, of course, to the necessity affirmed by Lord Rosebery's Resolution. I am not going into any academic elaboration on single or second Chambers. I would only point out that, whatever the rights or wrongs of single Chambers may be, when noble Lords opposite are in office we do live practically under single Chamber government and nothing very terrible seems to happen. My only explanation of that is that Mr. Walter Long and Mr. Chaplin must be looked upon by the general public as less formidable customers than Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Winston Churchill.

Now, my Lords, I come to the third Resolution as to the hereditary principle. Well, I am afraid, with all its imperfections and its virtues on its head, the hereditary principle appears to have gone by the board, or perhaps it would be better to say that it has been jetisoned. It is quite true that in the very early deliberations of the Rosebery Committee, everybody on that Committee came to the conclusion that that principle had to go. But where, I think, it really suffered most was in what I may call, perhaps, the perambulating oratory of the crisis Peers. The Rosebery Committee cheerfully affirmed a self-denying ordinance on the part of a very large number of persons who had not been consulted in the matter; in fact, I do not know that had they been consulted they would have agreed. I do not know that I should if I was one of them, but, anyhow, what we understand by the Anti-Budget Crusade gave that position away, and very effectually. Theoretically England, disposed, as it may be, to maintain existing institutions, is becoming, and very naturally becoming, suspicious that the hereditary basis for a Second Chamber is indefensible, and that it is no longer held to be defensible by the people who are most concerned, you would think, in maintaining the hereditary principle. We have yet to see what practical England, as opposed to theoretical England, will say about it.

As we have heard to-night, the ultimate appeal in this matter must be to the electorate. Speaking for myself, my own predilections are in favour of the House of Lords as I have known it, and of the House of Lords as I have seen it. I am afraid about these very ambitious schemes of reform. Gaily as I started in early life, I am becoming rather a waverer now. The noble Viscount below me will correct me if I am wrong, but I think it was Voltaire who said— Before you set about remedying the disorders of a State, it is well to study and consider the character of the people. I submit that the House of Lords, to a very considerable extent, does understand the character, not, perhaps, of a Radical House of Commons, but the character of the commons of England, and I also submit that the commons of England, though they may often disapprove of us and often be provoked with us, on the whole understand the House of Lords pretty well. Anyhow, whether I am right or wrong on a long survey of that, I venture to say that within the last twenty years—since Home Rule—the House of Lords have been more in sympathy with the commons of England than the House of Commons. When the noble Marquess opposite, advised you to take the line and to act in the way suggested on the Budget—and needless to say, you did so act on his advice—I thought you were wrong. I personally did not like it at all, and I do not like now, the feeling of the House of Commons forcing a Dissolution on Supply; but I am bound to say that the noble Marquess took very strong ground, and that that ground was made stronger by the many people who supported him; and I think that what the noble Viscount below me called the exorbitant pretensions of the House of Lords in acting in the way they did about the Budget was, perhaps, a little overstatement of the case. But, be that as it may, the assassins at all events have not committed suicide, and I only hope that we are not going to put our hands or minds to anything of that sort now. I rather deprecate an auto da fe of any sort before you are obliged to make your confession, and that is why, as I said at the beginning, I am a little nervous and uncomfortable about the particular line we have taken or are being invited to take to-night.

My Lords, I have only one more word to say about a Second Chamber, I quite understand, if you are going to reform this Chamber, that reform, except to strengthen, would seem a mischievous contradiction in terms. But my whole feeling is against a very strong Second Chamber in the acute and extended democracy under which we live. I am entirely with the noble Marquess in what he said about the Second Chamber and democracy, which was read out by the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, to-night—that, pushed to logical issues, after all, we all know that a Second Chamber system must be a deadlock system; and I should personally be extremely sorry to see popular liberties represented in and by a House of Commons arrayed against equal rights and claims set up by the House of Lords or the Second Chamber. I really do feel that unbending virtue and unyielding virtue is about the most formidable thing we can create in a Second Chamber, having regard to the character and the whole complexion of English politics in their representation as we now understand it.

In conclusion, my Lords, I should like to advance a plea for a little patience. The history of the House of Lords in its relations with the House of Commons is, after all, a history of adjustment. You had adjustments in 1407, 1671, 1678, and 1860. I quite agree that those were adjustments on Money Bills which were preceded by resolution. But, after all, we do not quite know what the Government are going to propose in this way. I know the noble Earl examined Lord Morley on it, and I am not sure that he got quite a satisfactory answer from him. But, at all events, when the noble Earl received the answer, which, as I say, I do not think was a satisfactory one, he got up and said that in fact he need not have asked the question because we know what it is—it is the Campbell-Bannerman Resolutions. But is it the Campbell-Bannerman Resolutions? Because after all, whether we admire the Government or whether we do not, it is a Government which is a little, what Horace would call, ventosus. It is certainly capable of chops and changes, and I do not think it would be far wrong for any of us to say that, although the Campbell-Bannerman Resolutions are supposed to hold the field, when the Resolutions we are asked to consider actually come up here they will not be exactly the Campbell-Bannerman Resolutions. But, my Lords, that is only my own view. It is quite possible that they may be worse than those Resolutions. It is also quite possible that, for all kinds of reasons which occur to me but which I will not trouble you with, they may be very diluted Bannerman Resolutions, and they may supply a basis which we should be quite willing to consider and see whether by compromises, or concessions, perhaps, here and there, we might not find room for a new constitutional understanding, and so carry on without anything very heroic. At all events, speaking for myself, I do not care very much about mortgaging my freedom or in any way embarrassing my rights of consideration by going into anything very detailed or very substantive until I have seen what the Government are going to propose.


My Lords, I think it would be very difficult to exaggerate the importance of the discussion in which we are engaged, for upon it, or upon the issue that takes place upon it, depend the steadiness of the legislative machine of the country and the security of obtaining the considered wishes of the electorate of the country, and of seeing that they prevail. It is worth while, perhaps, considering what should be the exact quality of the Chamber for carrying out such duties. First of all, I should say that the great essence in that quality should be independence and freedom from the pressure of perpetual election; secondly, that it should be in touch with local feeling in different parts of the country; and, thirdly, it should preserve as far as possible, as was laid down by the Committee over which the noble Earl on the Cross Benches presided, the fabric and position of the House of Lords in the Constitution.

We are sometimes told that Peers should not of their hereditary right sit or vote in your Lordships' House. I agree that there are certain Peers who for various reasons are unable to take their due part and share in the work of your Lordships' House, but that could surely be remedied quite simply by a system of election by their fellow Peers, which system formed part of the recommendations of the Committee over which the noble Earl presided. That principle was accepted by the Committee, and I do hope that it will form a very considerable part of any scheme of reform of which your Lordships may approve. But I trust also that we may see beyond this a considerable number of Peers who have sat in your Lordships' House some of them for many years. Many of them have done great service to the State, and I think it would be very desirable that a large proportion of those should be allowed to sit as qualified Peers owing to their services to the State. The noble Earl this evening, in his most able speech, told us two things. Speaking of the hereditary principle, he said that the hereditary principle had outlived its usefulness, and he went on to add that it had ceased to work well in practice, but I noticed that the noble Earl said not one Word to justify either of those statements. He made them as broad sweeping statements—that the hereditary principle had outlived its usefulness and had ceased to work well in practice.

My Lords, I think that a charge of that kind, broad and sweeping as it is, might have been worth a few words of explanation as to how this system has ceased to work well in practice and as to how it has outlived its usefulness. I venture to take a very different view of the hereditary principle of your Lordships' House, and to assert that that principle has been no failure. I believe it has been of great value to the State. The great mass of those who are hereditary Peers are men who have trained themselves to know what their duties would be in order to bring themselves into a position to carry out those duties effectively and for the good of the State. And, my Lords, many and many a Peer who takes no very active part in politics, who is not a professed politician, is of enormous value in the councils of the State. He is a man who lives at home, who is respected at home, who knows his country and his fellow countrymen, and when that man comes to Parliament he comes imbued with a knowledge of his fellow countrymen and free from the bias of Party politicians, and he brings into the councils of the nation a weight which it would be very difficult to replace. It is very easy to sweep away what you have got, but it is very difficult indeed to be certain that you will replace it with anything better or even as good.

At an earlier part of this evening one of the noble Lords who addressed your Lordships—I think it was Lord Rosebery—spoke of the great services done by hereditary Peers in the past. If anyone will look up the record of the services of hereditary Peers in your Lordships' House in the past, either as Leaders of the House or as holders of high office under the Crown, I think he will find the services of hereditary Peers very difficult indeed to match in any other class or rank of life in this country. Therefore, my Lords, I do hope that in any reform which your Lordships may approve you will retain a very considerable body of hereditary Peers in this House, whether they are qualified by past services to the State or by election by their fellow Peers. We are told, and I do not deny it may be true, that under the pressure of a movement in the country it may be necessary to resort to some extent at all events—and there are many views as to the extent it should be resorted to—to an elective element from outside your Lordships' House. That may be so, but in dealing with this matter I do venture to suggest that great care should be taken. We have to guard very carefully against several dangers in this respect. I am not saying that I am averse to the proposal, but I do see in it grave dangers unless great care is taken in respect to how it is carried out.

In the first place, we have to watch with the greatest care the independence of those whom you bring in from outside. If they are to be subjected to election like ordinary Members of Parliament I do not think you can possibly say that they will have the same independence as life Peers or hereditary Peers. You have other dangers to guard against if you establish nothing but an elective system, which I understand is the view of some of the members of His Majesty's Government. I understand that some of the members of His Majesty's Government have stated distinctly and clearly that in their view a strong Second Chamber is required and that that Chamber should be an elected one. I do not say that that is the view of the whole of His Majesty's Government, because I think it would be very difficult to find any one subject upon which they were united in opinion; but I do not think it will be denied that that proposal has been put forward by a leading member of the Government. But, my Lords, if you adopt that plan, how are you going to guard against the danger, and the grave danger, too, of setting up practically two Houses which would be much the same as the present House of Commons? Does anyone know, if anything of that kind is done—and I am quoting it as being recommended by a leading member of His Majesty's Government—how it will be possible to guard against a very strong Second Chamber indeed, such as has been denounced so vigorously by the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India to-night? You must have one thing or the other. You must have either a strong Chamber based upon the hereditary system, or you must have a strong Chamber based upon the elective system; but the moment you get a predominance of the elective system you surely must take great pains and great care to guard against its competing unduly and unwisely with the House of Commons. The noble Viscount told us several things. He told us that before the election it was contended that this House was everything that was fair and reasonable and proper, but that now, after the election is over it was as little of a decent revising Chamber as possible. I am not sure whom the noble Viscount was quoting, and I should like to know who has said that the present House of Lords is as little of a decent revising Chamber as possible, because those were the words the noble Viscount used.


That was the general impression I got from the noble Earl's speech. I do not know what else it meant.


Then I take it as being a quotation by the noble Viscount from the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery?


Not a quotation; a representation of what the noble Earl said.


Very well, I will take it as a representation of the noble Earl's speech, although I am bound to say I noticed nothing in the speech of the noble Earl to justify such a representation. What happened at the General Election was this. I do not charge the noble Viscount with it, because I am sure he would not do it himself. But a good many of his colleagues, in the course of the last election, denounced your Lordships' House pretty soundly, chiefly on the ground of its hereditary character. "Why allow these hereditary Peers to interfere with us?" "What right have they to trample upon the people?" and so forth. And when that is answered by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches suggesting, "We will modify the hereditary system; we will modify the hereditary position of the House of Lords; we will try and leaven it with outside election; we will eliminate from the hereditary Peers those who do not want to serve or cannot serve or those who for some physical reason are unfit to serve," what is the reply of the noble Viscount? It is, "We want none of your strengthening of the House of Lords; we will keep you to those things that we have denounced. We will make use of those denunciations in the country for Party purposes; we will keep you as you are and take away your powers." My Lords, I ask—Is that fair play? If the denunciations are fair, why block the amendments to get rid of the flaws which you yourselves have been pointing out for your own benefit at the elections? Surely if there are flaws you should be the first to assist in removing them. The Government have denounced them. They have said that our powers are unwise, that they are improper, that we have no business to exercise powers of the kind, and when we want to cure them they say, "No, you keep them," and they will rub the sore in again when the next election comes. I do not think that is a very dignified position to take, but that is the position that is taken now by His Majesty's Government. I should have thought that if there were objections against the House of Lords as a hereditary House, any suggestion to remove those would have been received with open arms by the noble Viscount himself. But the noble Viscount says, "No, I am not going to have the House of Lords strengthened; any strengthening of the House of Lords means an attack upon the House of Commons."

Then the noble Viscount passed to the question of the single Chamber and took a view which I am bound to say I have not beard taken before. He told us, "For all important matters you have a single-Chamber Government now." My Lords, if we have a single-Chamber Government now on all important matters, according to the noble Viscount, why all this disturbance about the Veto? Why is the Constitution to be torn up if in all important matters you have got a single Chamber to-day? The noble Viscount was emphatic upon that. He dwelt upon it for some time. But, if so, what becomes of all your attack upon the Veto, if upon every important question you have already got all that you can possibly ask? One is a little inclined to ask what it is the noble Viscount is objecting to in my noble friend Lord Rosebery's Resolutions. His friends tell us that there are many Peers who ought not to be allowed to sit and vote in this House. Does he object to their elimination by the election of Peers in this House by their fellow Peers? The suggestion of my noble friend Lord Rosebery is that certain Peers should sit who have done good service to the State. Does the noble Viscount object to that qualification? The noble Earl suggests that we should get in Peers from outside so as to bring the House into closer touch with the people outside. As far as I know, the noble Viscount objects to every one of those modifications and improvements, and he wishes to leave your Lordships' House in the worst state in which his friends have described it. It does seem to me that the noble Viscount and his colleagues should take one line or the other. They should either drop their attack on the House of Lords because of the defects they find in it, or join hands with those who wish to remove those defects and make the House more in consonance with what his colleagues at ail events have endeavoured to describe it should be.

Now, my Lords, I think it is worth considering to what extent your Lordships' House in past years has really represented the considered wish of the country. If we pass back only over the last fifteen years I think we can learn a good deal. We have been told a great deal about the friction that exists between the two Houses, and the noble Viscount talked of the gulf being dug deeper between them. My Lords, is it a gulf between the two Houses that we are dealing with? Is it not rather a gulf between His Majesty's Government and the electors of this country that we are dealing with? Let us follow it step by step. Take all the important Bills that have failed to become law through the action of your Lordships' House in the last fifteen years. A few of them were enumerated by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack in the debate on the Budget last year, and they were very few. I will take one further back in date than those that the noble and learned Lord referred to on that occasion. I take the Home Rule Bill. Did or did not your Lordships then interpret the considered wish of the country in relation to that Bill, or did the Government of the day interpret it better? Is it not a fact that but for the action of your Lordships' House Home Rule would have been the law of this country fifteen years ago? Then we pass on to the Education Bill of 1906 and the Licensing Bill of 1908. We are told that we were there acting contrary to the wish of the people of the country. Since the Education Bill of 1906 and the Licensing Bill of 1908 there has been a General Election. For the first time since those Bills were introduced the people of this country have had an opportunity of expressing their wish on either of them. Is there anyone on the Front Bench opposite who will tell me that the House of Commons of to-day would pass either the Education Bill of 1906 or the Licensing Bill of 1908? We know that they would not, and, therefore, those two Bills, which were the great ground of offence against your Lordships' House in those years, are Bills with regard to which the people of this country have taken exactly the same view as your Lordships did, and have confirmed and justified your Lordships in the action that you took in respect to those Bills.

I now come to the last Bill—the Budget Bill of last year. We are still told by many, both by friends and foes, that we did the wrong thing when we referred that Bill to the judgment of the people. But, my Lords the plainest man can read, surely, what has happened. I think the last majority the Government had in favour of the Budget of last year was something like 300. How much of the Budget have His Majesty's Government dared to put before the House of Commons up to the present time? Is there one shred of that Bill that they dare bring before the House of Commons now without the certainty that it would be rejected absolutely, whatever part of it they might think of touching? When we hear of the friction between the two Houses, it really is not the friction between the Houses that is in question. The friction that has arisen is because your Lordships' House has interpreted the public mind against the Government of the day, and, therefore, it is not against the people that we have made our protest; it is not against the people that we have taken any action; but against the tyranny of a passing Government.

The Motion of the noble Earl that we are discussing to-night is as to whether we should go into Committee on the question of the reform of your Lordships' House. It appears to me that that Motion is a mere natural corollary to the Report of the Committee over which the noble Earl presided. I think we should certainly go into Committee upon that question. With respect to the Resolutions that the noble Earl has put upon the Paper, the first two are, I think, those with which the large majority of your Lordships' House would certainly concur. With regard to the third, that which lays down that a hereditary Peerage should not of itself give a right to sit and vote here, I am one of those who voted for that Resolution in the Committee and I am certainly in favour of it now. If you are going to do anything at all in the shape of House of Lords reform, whether it be great or whether it be small, you must in the first instance touch, in the way that the noble Earl suggests, the hereditary principle of your Lordships' House. Therefore, I trust that your Lordships will agree at all events to that. When we come to the wider questions that have been foreshadowed by the noble Earl as to outside elections I believe, as I have already said, that there is great difficulty in dealing with that question. I think it may be necessary and desirable to deal with it, but it requires to be dealt with with very great caution, for the reasons I have endeavoured to explain to your Lordships to-night. Upon that I shall hold my hand, and I hope all noble Lords will hold their hands also, until I see exactly what the proposals are, when I hope they will be dealt with generously, but wisely and with caution. The noble Viscount this evening took me to task because I had said—I do not know when or where, but I do not deny that I said it somewhere—


I can give the noble Earl the reference if he desires it.


No, I do not deny it for a moment, because these are exactly my ideas. The noble Viscount said that I was in favour of reform, but I was not in favour of destruction. Then he put it that if I was in favour of the reforms foreshadowed I must be in favour of destruction, or, at all events, must see myself just on the brink. I do not see anything of the kind. I am in favour of reform, but I think that reform is exactly what may save you from destruction. I think that what you are going to get by reform is increased strength. I think you want more strength, although I do not for a moment admit the insufficiency or the inadequacy of the present House of Lords to carry on its work. But there is undoubtedly pressure from outside that some reform should be carried out, and I will tell noble Lords what I am in favour of, and what I am opposed to. I am in favour of reform, certainly not of destruction. I am in favour of increased strength to a limited extent, though I deprecate very much that the Second Chamber should be made too strong. What I do oppose, and I hope your Lordships will oppose it too with all your strength, is a sham Second Chamber of any kind. My Lords, that is the policy of His Majesty's Government—to pretend to the country that they have a Second Chamber, and to take away from that Second Chamber every vestige of its strength. If we come to a conflict in the country on that ground I think we shall contest it with every prospect of success, because if it is made clear that what is proposed is a sham and not a reality, I believe that the people of this country will refuse it almost with unanimity.


My Lords, the noble Earl's first sentence in the particularly thoughtful speech with which he held the attention of your Lordships' House was that it was impossible to exaggerate the importance of this discussion. I think with that every single person will agree. He then proceeded at once to fall foul of my noble friend on the Cross Benches with regard to some statements he made in his brilliant speech this afternoon, and that clearly shows how deep the cleavage must be amongst the would-be reformers of your Lordships' House. Then the noble Earl, Lord Cawdor, went on to blame us because we would not join hands with him. I must respectfully ask him what are we to join hands with him about—to do what? Why should we join hands with him? To remove the deadlock? My noble friend Lord Morley, with unerring instinct, put his finger at once on the weak point in Lord Rosebery's great speech when he pointed out that there was not one single word in it, as far as I understood him, that in any way went to remove the deadlock between the two Houses—a deadlock which I believe both sides really deplore. Then the noble Earl, Lord Cawdor, blamed us because we do not help him to remove the flaws in your Lordships' House—flaws which he was quite ready to admit. But I most respectfully ask the noble Earl if he will be graciously pleased to allow the Government of which I am a humble member to remove those flaws in their own way. All through the debate it has been shown that there are three distinct lines of thought on this great question. There is the programme of the Labour Party They go for complete abolition, and this pestilential attitude, if I may quote the words of my noble friend on the Cross Benches—


Pestilential attitude?


I understood the noble Earl to say that the suggestion of a single-Chamber Government was a pestilential proposal.


I thought the noble Earl meant that I had described the attitude of the Labour Party as a pestilential attitude. I am quite willing to say that the proposal of a single Chamber was a pestilential one, but I do not wish it to be understood that I described the attitude of the Labour Party in that way.


I am sure the noble Earl would be the last person who would in any way accuse me of trying to misrepresent him. The attitude of the Labour Party, as I understand it, has one great virtue, that is its extreme simplicity, although it may not be very likely to recommend itself to your Lordships to-day. But the proposal of the Labour Party in the light of the past history of the attitude of your Lordships' House to the Labour Party is not altogether surprising. The second proposal is that of His Majesty's Government—the limitation of the Veto, as to which I need say nothing at the present moment. I believe that proposal was originally invented by Mr. John Bright. Of course your Lordships will not take the smallest notice of it, but I may remind the House that that proposal has been already carried in the Commons House of Parliament in a full House years ago.

Now we come to the proposal of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches. The two first proposals that I have mentioned are intelligible enough, but I am bound to admit that the proposals of my noble friend on the Cross Benches are not quite so easy to understand, though we are told that they follow practically the recommendations of the Select Committee of your Lordships' House which reported last year. That Report, as the House knows, stated that it was undesirable that the possession of a Peerage should of itself—and those, my Lords, are important words—give the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords. There were twenty-five members of that Select Committee, I believe, and seventeen out of those twenty-five voted on that recommendation and were unanimous with the single exception of Lord Halsbury. The fifteenth clause suggested that the representation of the hereditary Peerage was to be largely reduced, and under the twenty-fourth clause Peers with certain qualifications were to be entitled to sit as Lords of Parliament. My noble friend Lord Rosebery, in his great speech on the Budget last year, rather anticipated matters when he made what he called a practical suggestion of reform. It will be in your Lordships' memory what the noble Earl said. He said he meant no disrespect to the House—of course, nobody for one moment would accuse him of any disrespect to the House of which he is so conspicuous an ornament—in saying that the names of some of us would not greatly count in a Division, but if you selected 150 Peers from the majority—and he paid a great compliment to noble Lords who sit on this side of the House, because he left his old friends entirely alone and spoke of the Conservative Party only—they would have infinitely more weight than the 400 or 500 names taken without any selection at all. That proposal was not received with any great enthusiasm. All the members of your Lordships' House, with the exception of 145, I think, voted. But that was the proposal of the noble Earl last year which is embodied in the recommendations contained in the Report of the Select Committee.

I think even the opponents of the noble Earl's new scheme of reform must acknowledge that the Report of his Committee did contain two very noble ideals. In the first place, there is the suggestion of self-sacrifice on the part of your Lordships, and our old friend the survival of the fittest is also brought in—a principle which would, no doubt, give a spur and an incentive to every Peer to try to do the best he could to be worthy of and to win and to keep a seat in your Lordships' House. My noble friend Lord Ribblesdale, who has left the House, quoted Latin. I now propose to quote Greek, because I think the suggestion of my noble friend on the Cross Benches harmonises with that glorious sentence that we knew so well in our younger days. I believe it was in Homer, and as far as I remember it is what Juno said to Achilles when he was starting life— —namely, always to excel and be superior to others. Noble Lords treat that with a certain amount of merriment, and really, honestly, I am not surprised at it, because noble Lords opposite and the rank and file of your Lordships' House would say: "If you are born the son of a Peer, after all that is good fortune and that is good luck." There is not much difficulty, perhaps, about that. But if when you are born the son of a Peer you are supposed from that fact at once to be turned into a superior person or a super-man, that, I think, noble Lords opposite would agree, is a very different pair of shoes. Noble Lords are, I think, generally speaking, rather too modest a class of men. The rank and file at least do not generally claim to be representatives of religion, science, art, learning, administrative experience, or to represent the greatest naval or military talent, but I think we can fairly claim that the great bulk of the members of your Lordships' House are all really well-educated men. They are all men with a great sense of honour and probity, and they all do their best to lead useful lives, and to do their duty in that state of life in which it has pleased God to place them.

May I give two instances to your Lordships as to how the difficulty in the way of the Rosebery proposals would work? I happen to have the great privilege of being connected, more or less remotely, with perhaps a score or so of families the heads of which are members of your Lordships' House, and amongst those there are men of great distinction. Two or three of them are Lords-Lieutenant. Most of them are magistrates—in fact, as they are all Conservatives I think all of them are magistrates. Two of them are representatives of the oldest Baronies of England, going back to the Henrys and Williams; many of them have fought with great distinction for their King and country; and one of my relatives is a member of the Church of England, and I am bound to say he is a very great success in his way. I went once some years ago to hear him preach in his church, but the place was so crowded that I could not get beyond the porch. Then, again, in the historic county of Bucks, in which I live, I am surrounded by Peers, and by many others who are dying to be made Peers. We have Peers of all sorts. We have artistic, journalistic, pugilistic, ritualistic, and socialistic Peers. By that I do not mean revolutionary Socialists, but men of the highest social standing, and all these members of your Lordships' House have the great characteristics which have made the English nation the undoubted success that it is in the world at present. Yet out of this great collection of worthy men I can only think of one, who is a distinguished Field-Marshal, who would be passed as sound into that august body which a great leader of your Lordships' House, whom I will not name, but who took a great interest in the reform of the House of Lords in 1888, somewhat cruelly called "a mere zoological collection of abstract celebrities."

My Lords, what under these proposals are you going to do? You are going to ask these men to put themselves voluntarily in the position of defeated candidates for the House of Commons; you are asking them voluntarily to bang, bolt, and bar the door of their hereditary House, not only against themselves but against their children and their children's children for all time. Now I can understand—I think anybody could understand—the House of Lords in its generosity making such a sacrifice, if all shared in the sacrifice alike. If you say that the hereditary principle is frankly to be abandoned, and that you are going to substitute an elective House instead, well and good. If you make that proposal you will have a great many people who will agree with you, and if you go north of the Trent I suppose seven or eight out of every ten men would be found heartily in favour of your proposal. But to say that the hereditary principle is to be partially maintained for the benefit of some Peers who—I am speaking with all respect—are not in every case necessarily wiser or better, or more informed or more loyal, or more patriotic, or more useful members of the community than the rest, seems to me—I may be wrong—a wholly unreasonable proposal and one which could not be fairly maintained for one single moment. It is no business of mine, but I do honestly think that if those who support the noble Earl on the Cross Benches try conclusions with Lord Halsbury, that veteran champion of the hereditary privileges of your Lordships' House, who is one of the most conspicuous ornaments of this House, and who, I may, perhaps, remind your Lordships, obtained his Peerage because of his intellectual eminence and not because of his being the son of his father, they will probably find themselves in a minority.

As I have already said, the noble Viscount behind me, with unerring instinct, put his finger on the one weak spot of the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, when he pointed out that that speech contained no suggestion of relieving the deadlock which we regret to say exists between the two Houses, and which it seems to me is getting very serious indeed. There is no doubt that on this subject the temper of the nation is rising. Your own Press acknowledges that. All you have to do is to read Mr. Garvin's editorials in the Observer. He tells you, perhaps I might say with brutal frankness, that the existing state of things in the Second Chamber is indefensible in theory and untenable in practice. I would, however, rather not use that somewhat vulgar bludgeon of Mr. Garvin's, I would prefer to use the still more deadly rapier thrust of my noble friend Lord Rosebery, who on March 17, 1894, said that what he complained of in the House of Lords was that during the tenure of one Government the House was a Second Chamber of an inexorable kind, while when another Government was in power it was not a Second Chamber at all. You have two Chambers under a Liberal Government, whereas under a Conservative Government you have a single Chamber. "Therefore, I say," said the noble Earl, "we are face to face with a great difficulty, a great danger, and a great peril to the State." My Lords, will the proposal of the noble Earl in any way remove or even diminish these perils, these dangers, and these difficulties? I do not believe it will. If I thought it would I should be the first to follow my noble friend into the Lobby, just the same as I did years ago. The question before the country at this present moment is whether the Liberal Party shall or shall not have a share equal to that of the Tory Party in the management of the country, and to that question I believe the whole Progressive Party in this country—in England, in Ireland, in Scotland, and in Wales—would say "Aye" The Liberal Party is pledged to destroy by law the Lords' Veto in financial matters only, and to limit it, with proper safeguards of course, in other matters. A noble Lord laughs, but that is not a new proposal. I think I might cite to him in support of it the words of Lord Granville, quoted by Lord Wemyss in his letter to The Times this morning— The powers of the Lords should be properly limited and controlled. That was said thirty or forty years ago, and this, my Lords, I should think can be done by a very short measure, the main recommendations of which will, I believe, be in the near future laid before your Lordships' House.

In conclusion, all I have to say is that Lord Rosebery's proposals involve the very contentious subject which relates to the composition of this House, the most delicate and difficult of all constitutional tasks; but what we maintain is that the unfairness of the Party system which at present exists, under which the House of Lords has befriended so many Tory Bills and measures, and destroyed so many Liberal ones, must in some proper way no longer be allowed to continue, but must be brought to an end, and to an end at once. That is the great question before us, and before the country. This question was precipitated, I believe, by the action that your Lordships thought fit to take—although I am the first to admit that the action you did take last year was actuated by the highest and purest and most patriotic motives—in refusing to grant Supplies to the Crown. The real question remains, and this is the great question that we have before us. It is a question which the whole Progressive Party are prepared to fight, and it is a question which the Liberal Government proposes to lead them in the fight upon, and to stand or to fall by the decision upon it. I have to thank the House very much for allowing me to make these remarks, and I would only add that my reason for interposing in this Debate was that I thought it would not be right if I could not give expression openly in your Lordships' House to the same arguments that I and many of those who think with me used throughout the country during the last Election.


My Lords, I must confess that I regret that this discussion has taken place; in fact, so strongly do I feel on the subject that I have been tempted to place on the notice Paper an Amendment to the effect that "This House deems it desirable, before taking any steps in the matter of reform, to await the proposals as to its constitution and powers which are foreshadowed in the gracious Speech from the Throne." I have not moved this Amendment because I felt that any proposals made by the noble Earl, the only member of your Lordships' House who has occupied the high position of Prime Minister of this country, deserve to receive and would receive the careful consideration of moderate men in both political camps, and that it was therefore unbecoming of a member of the rank and file of your Lordships' House to move what amounted to a direct negative, unless he was assured of the support and approval of the Front Opposition Bench. But, my Lords, I think this need not prevent me from laying before your Lordships the reasons why I think that the Motion of the noble Earl is inopportune.

I am sure there is no member of your Lordships' House, at least on the Opposition side, who will not welcome any measure which may tend to strengthen this Chamber or add to its efficiency, but there is a time and season for everything, and in my humble opinion this is not the time nor the season for your Lordships to enter into the question of the reform of this House. Let me review the situation, very briefly, for the facts are known to us all. Last year your Lordships thought fit to refer to the country the Budget of the year, not only because in your opinion it was a bad Budget and because it contained revolutionary proposals, but also because a large amount of matter extraneous to the finances for the existing year was attached to it which constituted a breach of the privileges of your Lordships' House. I was astonished to hear the Leader of the House, in the course of the debate the other day, say that he imagined the contention that there was tacking in that Bill had been dropped because the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition suggested that if the Budget ever came before this House again it would be passed into law. My Lords, as I understand the position of this House we are always ready to pass what the country desires, whether it should be a Bill which affects our privileges or not; but we do not acknowledge that the ephemeral majority in another place always represents the fixed determination of the country. At any rate, in this case we were amply justified by results, and your Lordships have been proved right because in the new House of Commons there is a considerable majority opposed to the Budget. As in 1893 you were acclaimed as the saviours of your country from disruption, so at the present time we may be congratulated as having saved the country from a system of taxation which must have wrought serious and lasting injury. Even the Government acknowledge that your Lordships have got the best of it, and state that they dare not enter into another contest with this House until they have succeeded, whether by constitutional or extra-constitutional means, in tying our hands behind our backs.

The noble Earl the Leader of the House told us the other night that a state of warfare existed between the two Houses, and that on their side hostilities had already begun. He explained how the Radical Party in the House of Commons as a means of defence had blown up their bridges and pulled up their lines of railway. In other words, they had put the country to large unnecessary expense by resorting to borrowing instead of collecting taxes which the taxpayers are only too ready to pay and as to which there is no dispute, in order to secure a tactical advantage over this House. I should not complain if this kriegsspiel could be carried to its legitimate conclusion, and if in the event of your Lordships proving victorious a war indemnity could be demanded. I fear we shall be unable to recover from His Majesty's present advisers the vast expense to which they have put the country because they prefer to govern in the interests of a faction rather than for the welfare of the nation as a whole. Well, we have heard of the state of warfare that exists between the two Houses. The first steps in the hostilities have been taken, and ere long we may expect the first pitched battle to take place. Is this the time to take off our armour to see whether there are any rents in it or whether it requires repair? Is this the moment to parade our sick and inefficient soldiers? Take care lest while we are doing so the enemy fall upon us and we are completely routed. Is it not better to stick to the armour which we have and which has served us well in former battles, to try and persuade our sick and inefficient soldiers to be more valorous in the future, and, standing shoulder to shoulder strong in the consciousness of past victories, strong in the knowledge that we are fighting not for ourselves but for what we believe to be the interests of our country, defeat the enemy; and then when the fight is won, but not before, to set to work in the piping times of peace, and, if it is considered necessary, take whatever steps are desirable to reform this House, and, in the jargon of the day make it suitable to modern requirements. I know that this course does not recommend itself to the noble Earl on the Cross Benches.

The noble Earl, Lord Carrington, reminded us of the advice which Lord Rosebery gave to the House last year. Lord Rosebery came down in the midst of the battle on the Budget and advised the majority of your Lordships to pass a self-denying ordinance, to declare that in your opinion you were incompetent to take part in so vital an issue and to discharge the duties entrusted to you by the Constitution, and he counselled you to retire to the steps of the Throne, to be spectators of, but not participators in, the fateful Division on the Finance Bill. If that course appeared advisable to him then, I cannot be surprised that he should recommend another confession of your unworthiness now. I yield to nobody in my admiration of the noble Earl, and nobody listens with greater delight than I do to his speeches, but I hope he will forgive me if I say that sometimes at the termination of them I am reminded of the old song— The King of France went up the hill with twenty thousand men, The King of France came down the hill, but ne'er went up again, The noble Earl will, I hope, pardon me if I suggest that this is a course of action which has recommended itself to him on more than one occasion. May I ask noble Lords opposite if they remember being led up the Home Rule hill in 1893, although I am glad to say that the noble Earl has reached the level again, and does not propose to make any mountaineering feats in that direction.

Last year one of the most strenuous leaders of the anti-Budget fight was the noble Earl. The echoes of his speech at Glasgow reverberated to the utmost confines of the Kingdom. No more powerful or effective indictment of the policy of His Majesty's Government was made. I feel sure that many of your Lordships who up to then had not decided what your duty might be with regard to the action you would take in the matter, were decided by that speech that it was your duty, at all hazards, to deliver your country, if possible, from the peril with which it was threatened. Yet when the day of battle arrived the noble Earl was the first to come down to this House and deliver a most eloquent sermon to us for which he might have chosen for his text— He who fights and runs away Shall live to fight another day. And now, again, the noble Earl counsels us to take strong measures with regard to the reform of this House. Will the noble Earl forgive me if, with the recollection of his attitude on the Budget, I say I fear lest when the emasculating Resolutions of His Majesty's Government are produced, amended, perhaps, as has been suggested by Lord Ribblesdale, the noble Earl may tell us that the surest way of safety lies in accepting them.

My Lords, I, for one, cannot see what we can gain by entering into this question of reform at the present minute. We shall certainly gain no kudos in the matter, because we shall be told we refrained from doing so until the pistol was held to our heads. I do not see either that we shall gain anything in the way of tactics. The Government have a very difficult game to play, and I would prefer to see their hand on the table before disclosing my own cards. Their policy, as I understand it, is divided into two parts: first, the Veto of the House of Lords; and, secondly, what may be relegated to the Greek Kalends, the question of reform. The noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, has dealt so well with the first part of their programme that it is unnecessary for me to attempt to go over it again. The question of Veto has only to be submitted to the people of this country, and as soon as they realise that it means government by a single Chamber it is certain to be rejected. But if the Government attempt to deal with the second part, that of reform, their difficulties will be very great. If they try to create a strong Second Chamber, they will find themselves opposed by the vast majority of their supporters, and if, instead, they attempt to create what is only a sham Chamber they will, as the noble Earl told us, find it impossible to procure any self-respecting men who are willing to become members of it. In addition to this, they will have to deal with the question of hereditary rights, and it seems to me that that is a most difficult subject for any English Statesmen to deal with, for we must not forget that we, both Liberals and Conservatives, acknowledge one hereditary element which we all love and respect and which we regard as one of the most valued and valuable assets of the country. My Lords, it appears to me that it is not for the Opposition to present a constructive scheme. If we do so, our proposals will be attacked and our differences exposed and shown up, as has been done this afternoon by the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India. It is for the Government to enunciate their policy, and when we have had it before us and examined it, and when we have criticised its weak points—which there will be no difficulty in doing—it will then be time enough for our leaders to put forward an alternative scheme of reasonable and reasoned reform to lay before the electors of the country.


My Lords, at this late hour of the evening I shall not detain your Lordships at any length, but as there is the opportunity I should like to avail myself of it to make one or two observations in reference to the important matter before the House. One of the observations I should like to make is with reference to the question of qualification. The question has come very prominently before the country owing to the Return asked for by Lord Onslow, and it was generally understood that in the projected reconstitution of your Lordships' House by the noble Earl he would take that question into account. Without going into it in detail, I want to say on that that if the House is going to consider the question of qualifications it ought to remember that the present members of this House deserve very special treatment in the matter, because they are existing members of the House, with more or less vested rights and interests in it. Their qualifications may be great or they may be small, their public services may not be very conspicuous, the public may not be aware of what they have done, but the fact remains that a large number of the members of your Lordships' House have given a great deal of time and attention to their public duties and responsibilities, and have gone through a great deal of labour in qualifying themselves for fulfilling those duties and responsibilities as members of your Lordships' House, regulating their lives and their affairs in the past to that end.

I might even go further and say that owing to the very position which we have held in this House as Lords of Parliament we have been actually circumscribed and hampered in our ordinary interests and possible actions in life. If, therefore, qualifications are going to become important I do think that the personnel of this House as it exists to-day would be deserving of special consideration, and that vested rights and privileges, which are, after all, only the counterpart of vested duties and responsibilities, should be respected in any consideration of this matter. Therefore I hope, if the question of qualifications is gone into, a distinction will be drawn between the qualifications deemed necessary in the case of new members coming into this House, and the qualifications deemed sufficient in the case of members already existing in your Lordships' House. When the constitution of the French Senate, some twenty years or so ago, was changed from life members into members elected for each Parliament, the rights and privileges of the life members of the House were recognised, and they were left there. I think, my Lords, that if that were understood at all, it would mean that the full rights and privileges of the existing members of the House would not be ignored, and it would avoid going into what, I think, would be very invidious and petty distinctions between one Lord and another.

I am sorry I have not heard more this afternoon in reference to the reconstructing of this House by the creation of life Peerages. As far as I have heard, there has been very little said on that subject. I, personally, attach very great importance to the strengthening of this House by means of life Peerages. I consider it an excellent plan to add to the House a number of men of high distinction in science, art, literature and medicine, and in the public services. If we do go into that question I should wish to stipulate that the life Peers should be chosen in such a way that they would be representative of all parts of the Kingdom. The noble Earl this afternoon referred to the possibility of an elected element in this House, and I understood him to say that he thought, just adumbrating it, that several of these members might be nominated or elected by county councils. Whatever we do, I hope we will not do that. I am, and have been for many years, a member of a county council, and my belief has always been that a county council was not a political body, that in being a county councillor I was standing upon non-political ground, that I would have no legislative powers on that council, and that I was merely as a resident and a ratepayer appealing to my friends to place me upon it to represent them in that way with regard to rates and local affairs. I therefore look on any proposal that would bring county councils within the political arena as one which would work very badly, both for the county councils themselves and for this House.

I, personally, would have no objection to seeing a portion of this House elected, and as I am addressing your Lordships I might say how I consider that element should be introduced into this House. I think there should be, somehow or other, some reflection of the House of Commons within these walls. But although I am in favour of an elected element coming in, I am far from wishing your Lordships' House to become a replica of the House of Commons. I think the advantage of having two Chambers is not merely that all legislation must pass the two Houses. The great advantage of two Chambers is that they are of different origins, and different compositions, and different characters, and that they judge questions from different points of view. But while I feel that, nevertheless I do feel that there ought to be some reflection of the varying public opinion of the country in this House, and therefore I agree with what Mr. Balfour said the other day when he stated that there should be some direct and formal connection between public opinion and the Second Chamber. What I would like to see as a mode of reflecting that public opinion into this House would be that every House of Commons should have the power of electing sixty-seven members to this House; thus, every ten members of the House of Commons would have the power of electing one member, and therefore any candidate proposed would, after getting ten votes from the House of Commons, be thereupon declared a member of this House. That would mean an addition, if we take this particular Parliament, of sixty-seven elected members to your Lordships' House, representing all Parties in the House of Commons—Labour by four; Nationalists, eight; Irish Unionists, two; and the Liberal and Conservative Parties the rest between them. By that means you would bring into this House in the case of each Parliament some reflection of that Parliament. That is the way I would myself suggest that an elected element should be introduced into this House. I know it has often been said that that is an indirect way of introducing it, and that it is a disadvantage if you do it through the county councils—in other words, if you do it through a body elected for another purpose. That would be a great disadvantage. But in the House of Commons the members are elected for the purpose of representing the political views of the time, and therefore their elected members in this House would be carrying out the direct work for which they themselves were originally elected.

My Lords, I have only one other observation to make, and that is with reference to the suggestion that one mode of re-constituting this House should be by selection amongst the Peers themselves from among their own number. I hope that course will not be adopted. If we had a very small body to choose from it would mean, I think, that the choosers would be a very small body also, and I do not believe it would work well. One of the great arguments in favour of the hereditary principle is that we are independent. We are dependent on no one's votes and no one's good will for being here. I therefore look upon any form of election of Peers by their fellow Peers as possessing all the disadvantages of the hereditary principle and of election, and I think it would simply introduce into this House more Party feeling, which is the thing we wish to keep out. This mode of election has not, I believe, worked very well in either Scotland or Ireland, not on account of the way it was exercised by the possessors of it but because of the inherent viciousness of the system.

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.