HL Deb 15 March 1910 vol 5 cc232-76

Debate on the Motion 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 resumed (according to order).


My Lords, I think none of your Lordships will dispute what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Cawdor, last night in the opening of his weighty speech as to the far-reaching importance of the discusion in which we are taking part. The Motion before us, and the Government proposals which are, throughout this discussion, in the background, raise issues, I suppose, as grave as any which Parliament has for many years had to face. It will not be thought unnatural that, sitting where I am called to sit, I should wish to say something on so great a theme.

We heard last night about the antiquity of the hereditary tenure in this House. The office which I hold had already been in active occupancy for some six centuries or more when the ancestors of noble Lords who sit here by the oldest tenure took their place some 700 years ago in the Legislature of the country. If you want to find out when the Archbishop first took his place in what may be called Parliamentary affairs you must investigate the germs and origins of Parliamentary or conciliar life in the days of the Saxons. In the earliest, in the most embryonic Witenagemote he had his place, and when, as we were reminded last night, the scene took place at Runnymede, wherein the Archbishop led the Barons to exort their Charter from King John, the Archbishop was already the forty-second of his line. Therefore I offer no apology for asking to be allowed to say a few words on this subject now.

I do not know whether your Lordships have noticed on what day it is that we meet. To-day, my Lords, we have reached the Ides of March. You will interpret the omen variously, according to your bent. The position as I seem to see it is this. The Government of the day is about to invite us to take a step for crippling, and for crippling by Statute—and I emphasise that point—the power of one of the Houses of Parliament. It is hardly necessary to point out that, with the single exception of the brief and troubled Commonwealth years, such an act, such a step, is absolutely without precedent or parallel in the constitutional history of this country. An occasion may arise in a nation's story when something has taken place grave enough to justify a complete breach with the past: a sweeping departure from immemorial usage, but to justify it I suppose that the situation must be not merely grave to the point of peril, but that the peril must be actually within sight, and all other means of bringing about a remedy must be barred.

For some six or seven centuries of our history Englishmen have been able to effect in their constitutional system changes and reforms and adaptations of a far-reaching kind without, so far as the Legislature is concerned, any violent breach with the historical past. Changes have been as frequent as were naturally to be expected in the long development of a living, growing organism. Nothing in our public life or our great institutions corresponds to-day to what it was 500 or even 300 years ago. The Crown itself; the status and modes of action of the House of Commons; the position of the national Church; the growth and character of our municipalities; the condition of our judicature; the mode of trial by jury; the question of the freedom of the Press—to name but a few—every one of these has changed and changed again by means of quiet common-sense developments, and processes rather than by cataclysms or violence.

With regard to the Legislature we may go further. In no instance, speaking roughly (or rather speaking almost with precise accuracy), has either House of the Legislature been interfered with by Statute during the whole history of England as regards the mode of doing its work or as regards its relation to the other House. There are trifling exceptions as regards the internal workings of either House. There was some years ago a change, which I believe was obtained with characteristic perseverance by the Scottish members, for abbreviating the procedure in reference to Scottish private Bills in the House of Commons. That is the only example unless we go back to the reign of Henry VIII, when there was a Statute to regulate the order in which my right rev. brothers the Bishops of London and Durham and Winchester should sit on this Bench and the relative precedence that should be observed. I hope that they are observing that statute carefully this evening! But the rule is unvarying that changes with regard to Parliamentary action and life have in either House been made by the action of that House and not by statutory enactments. It has been Mos pro lege. It is an example of the difference to which our attention was drawn in weighty and far-reaching terms by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack when he called our attention a few weeks ago to the difference between constitutional and legal action.

It is said that some change is now necessary in the Constitution or procedure of the House of Lords, and that we must amend things considerably. Well, so be it. But how? Is it to be done by the processes hitherto universally adopted or by a new process for the first time in our history introduced for a purpose of this kind? The House of Lords has already amended and modified its arrangements a great many times in recent centuries. I do not need to go back 400 years, to the times that were referred to in the great and memorable speech of the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, to which we listened last night, the days when the hereditary principle was not dominant as regards the majority in this House, for the majority was frequently, if not invariably, ecclesiastical, and, whatever the shortcomings or inadequacies of ecclesiastics, the ecclesiastical position was not an hereditary one.

In more recent times the contrasts between the House of Lords to-day and the House of Lords of a century and a-half ago are manifest. There were, I think, 149 effective Peers—I am leaving out minors and Peeresses—in the year when George III came to the Throne. Throughout the eighteenth century the balance of power between the two Parties in this House was, of course, fairly equal, contrasting very markedly with what it has been in our own day. Again, down to the year 1868 the whole position and action of this House was affected by the use of proxies, which were only then abolished. All these changes, my Lords, came about, I think, incidentally. No one of them can be described as a deliberate attempt to do something for the bettering of the position or the workableness of the House. They were rather incidental to something else that was taking place, independently of the question how we were to conduct our business.

I think the position is a different one now, and I for one believe and desire to say as strongly as I can that we ought to go to work deliberately, with definite intent, and with unflinching courage, for amending that which needs amendment with regard both to the composition of the House and to the manner of our procedure. But it is we ourselves who ought to do it instead of letting it be forced upon us from outside. But to say that we are to do it courageously does not mean that we are to do it violently. The unwritten Constitution which we possess is a heritage which is venerable in a sense that very few things even in this old country are venerable. It is venerable not least by means of the respect, the reverence and the self-restraint with which it has been handled by successive generations of reformers during the last 250 or 300 years. The Shakespearian words apply— We do it wrong, being so majestical To offer it the show of violence. The value of an unwritten, as contrasted with a written Constitution, is a matter on which it is quite unnecessary to trouble your Lordships.

Any writer you choose to refer to who has dwelt upon the story of the growth of English constitutional life tells us the same thing of the gain that has ensued from our having an unwritten Constitution, and how that value consists in no small degree in the claim and demand such a Constitution makes upon public men for restraint and tact and carefulness, in the true sense for statesmanship in dealing with or handling that living thing. It contrasts at every turn with a written Constitution embodied in specific enactments. Its elasticity gives a wider sweep, and enlists and evokes in the conduct of affairs a far greater variety of powers. If any of your Lordships is unfamiliar with that subject, I would ask him to refer to the chapters written by one who sat not long ago on the Government benches in another place, and who is certainly not to be regarded as a bigoted Tory, the present illustrious Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Bryce. If you read the chapters in which he develops, with extraordinary vividness and skill, the growth of the American Constitution in its first days, and the way in which it has been worked since, you find, not necessarily expressed, often unexpressed, but always there, the sense he has of the value of the unwritten Constitution of our own country, upon which so much was based when that wonderful American Constitution was drafted and put into shape by Alexander Hamilton and his colleagues. The marks of our unwritten Constitution were stamped indelibly upon the pages of the written one across the Atlantic. The contrast between the two systems is great. It is the contrast between a living, pulsing organism and a formulated table of artificial enactments, however excellent these may be.

As I understand, what is now proposed is to introduce into that living, breathing thing that we have had in this country for so many centuries a perfectly new feature. The Government propose to thrust into it by formal statutary enactments something hard and unmalleable, something that will be a foreign element in an organism such as ours, laying down in specific terms precise questions of detail as regards the internal mechanism of our machine in a manner that must run counter to the whole manner and principle on which that machine has been handled during the centuries that are past. I believe this to be all wrong. But our difficulties at the present juncture are not small. For, my Lords, to keep that living thing, if I may go back to the parallel, fresh and strong, you must beware lest you strain any of its nicely-balanced parts. One of these overstrained, and persistently overstrained, may throw the whole very easily out of gear. It is because we have been able for centuries to avoid that kind of overstrain, or, if it occurred, so to relieve matters that the strain was not persistent, that we are able to look with thankfulness and pride to the continuous life and adaptableness of the Constitution, of which we are the inheritors.

But we are now told that that is exactly what has happened, that we are standing now in a position where there has been that overstrain, and that the whole life has suffered or must necessarily suffer. So we are told. We are told that the House of Lords has so acted that it has strained the organism to breaking point, that it has over-balanced the Constitution. I fully admit that the events of last year do bid us consider afresh how we stand. I think most of your Lordships would agree about that. They will agree that there has been overstrain, but they will differ as to which set of men were responsible. Those who sit upon the Benches beside me [the Government Benches] will say:—"My Lords, you have yourselves to thank for the position in which we stand. It was you who violated the unwritten rule, who upset the balance of our Constitution. By your act in rejecting the Finance Bill of the year and in forcing a dissolution of Parliament, whether you call that one act or two, you called attention inevitably to the hopelessly anomalous and out-of-date composition of this House. We must amend that forthwith. Such a thing can never be allowed to happen again. It is an outrage in a country professing to be governed in accordance with the people's will." I think I have not unfairly put the way in which that matter has been presented both in this House and outside by those who take that view. But then they are met by those who throw the blame exactly upon the opposite or opposing shoulders. "Not a bit," they reply. "You produced a Budget which the country had not asked for. You desired mischievous, irritating and unfair things to be done. You devised a plan which was outrageous in its inception. It was still more outrageous in the way you thrust it upon this House with the imperious demand, 'Pass it forthwith or reject it, if you dare,' and the House refused to take that course until the country should declare its mind." That is the other side. So the controversy goes on and the recriminations are bandied to and fro on either side.

I do not know how many of your Lordships will agree with me, but my own firm conviction is that, if a thoughtful and really competent observer from another land were now summing up the situation in the light of what has happened in the last twelve months, or if we could imagine one of the statesman-soldiers of the seventeenth century, one of the men who had borne a part in the really great and tremendous emergencies in the English life of that period, rising from his sleep to watch us in the last six months, such observer would be lost in amazement at our supposing that anything has really and truly occurred big enough to justify the suggested sweeping departure from the whole usage of English life for centuries as regards the manner of constitutional reform. He would say:—"There has been the grossest exaggeration on either side. It may be quite true, it is true perhaps, that the House of Commons' proposals did not correspond with those of former years. They were legitimately open to criticism, to censure, if you will, but there was nothing in them so appalling, so disastrous, so necessarily mischievous and terrible in character as to justify the epithets with which the Houses of Parliament and the country outside are familiar respecting that measure." And, on the other side, granted that the House of Lords did depart from precedent, that it did, by rejecting that Bill, and by forcing an appeal to the people themselves throw big questions on the carpet, to say that what it did "reduced the House of Commons for the future to a mere dummy" or "trampled contemptuously on the people's rights"—I quote the words actually used by responsible men—that is a misuse of language which verges on the grotesque.

Nothing has, in my belief, so far gone wrong in our public life as to be incapable of reasonable adjustment if it be approached in the right way. We are invited so to approach it by the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery. We are invited to look afresh at the composition—and be it always remembered that the composition affects the action and conduct—of a House of the Legislature, and to consider whether it needs amendment now and, if it does, what that amendment ought to be. The composition of this House has not only been open to challenge and criticism for a great many years, but, as we have constantly been reminded, it has been challenged and criticised within these walls. The memorable speech to which we listened last night was a natural sequel of speeches equally remarkable delivered in 1884, in 1888, and on other occasions, and we have to remember—every one who has studied the subject does—the weighty words that were spoken from the Government Bench by the late Lord Salisbury not many years ago. What we have now to do, as it seems to me, is to get these proposals into shape. It is possible to do it, it is worth while to do it, and, in my belief, the result will be to produce the adjustment that we need. At all events, surely, we ought to find by experience that it has failed to do so before we manufacture, under the plea of readjustment and reform, a brand new constitutional system unlike any that exists in any great nation in the world.

For it is, surely, nothing less than the manufacture of a new and untried single-Chamber place that the Government invites us to undertake. That is the alternative set before us. I listened last night with great care to the speech of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for India, and if I understood him aright he told us that it was wholly wrong to speak of the Government's proposal as a single-Chamber plan, and further, he reminded us that at present we did not know what the plan really is. Well, had it been any one else than the noble Viscount, who is incapable of anything but the most straightforward and lucid utterance, I should have said that that was really trifling with us. We may not know—I do not know—what the Government's plan is to-night on the Ides of March; I do know what it was a fortnight ago. The Prime Minister then used these words:— The Resolutions 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 this House within the lifetime of a single 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 the democratic method of representation. If this House should assent to the Resolutions, a Bill to give effect to them will without delay be introduced. If these words do not mean that a Bill on any subject may become an Act by the action of one House of the Legislature against the will of the other within the lifetime of one Parliament, I do not know what English words mean. And if it does mean that, then it is simply and explicitly a single-Chamber system, disguise it as you may.

I am absolutely in favour of a large and liberal readjustment of the composition, and possibly in some ways the work, of this House. It is a very difficult task. It will take time, and will involve controversy. It is merely childish, in my judgment, to taunt those who want reform with the fact that they cannot readily agree upon all details. Of course they cannot. There must be patience, there must be controversy, and there must be time. It is impossible for any large body of men to take up a subject so complex and arrive at an agreement at once as to exactly what they want, but there is no reason for doubting that, if the proper steps are taken, that agreement will ultimately be arrived at. I believe that result to be obtainable, but it needs patience. In effecting such readjustment we Bishops are perfectly ready to take our part, both in the work and in the outcome. It would be out of place to go into detail now, but without professing to represent the opinions of every member of the Episcopal Bench—that I have no means of doing—some such plan as is suggested with regard to the Bishops in the Report of what is known as the Rosebery Committee, if it be part of a great whole, and consistent with that whole, would certainly, I think, not find obstacles or difficulties proceeding from the Episcopal Bench. More than that it is difficult to say now, but personally I should not imagine that any practical difficulties would be found to arise to the production of a wise and well-considered scheme.

I would end as I began. In what we do we have to bear in mind the venerableness, the historic worth, the proved workableness of the House of Lords, and its place in the National life. It is vain at any time, and especially in our own, to rest and to trust only to the traditions of the distant past. I entirely agree in the desire to amend whatever is inadequate or inappropriate or amiss, but we are called upon to remember too that what we are handling is a unique possession balanced in all its parts, and were we to tear lightly its unique records or rend one of its limbs, we should make ourselves deservedly the scorn of the civilised world. Your Lordships will remember, and most of all the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, will remember, how the greatest political thinker of our land, or, perhaps, of any land, spoke on that subject in eloquent terms 140 years ago, and surely his warning has lost nothing of its weight and force to-day. I quote his words— Our Constitution stands on a nice equipoise, with steep precipices and deep waters upon all sides of it. In removing it from a dangerous leaning towards one side there may be a risk of oversetting it on the other. Every project of a material change in a Government so complicated as ours, combined at the same time with external circumstances still more complicated, is a matter full of difficulties in which a considerate man will not be too ready to decide; a prudent man too ready to undertake; or an honest man too ready to promise. My Lords, those words were never more needed than they are to-day. I give my support to the Motion of the noble Earl, believing that we shall thus be led to the best kind of remedy for admitted needs, be they great or small. That by that process we shall at once secure all that we want neither I nor any of your Lordships can imagine; but that we shall be on the right path towards securing it I most firmly believe; and I hope your Lordships will give effect to the Resolutions.


My Lords, I think your Lordships will all agree that in the speech to which we have just listened the most rev. Primate has approached this subject in a spirit which is worthy of him. He recognised, as we all recognise, the great gravity of the crisis at which we have arrived, and yet he urged your Lordships, and, indeed, I think his voice was intended to go far beyond your Lordships' House, to counsels of moderation—moderation of statement and moderation of policy—which we shall do well to follow. And, lastly, he reminded your Lordships that such matters of moment as we are now discussing cannot be decided without difficulty.

We listened last night to one of the great speeches which are from time to time delivered in this House by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches. I think that he, if he will allow me to pay him what little compliment I am capable of paying, has added one more reason to the many reasons for which your Lordships and the country have to be grateful to him. I know that my noble friend Lord Ribblesdale, speaking last night, expressed the opinion that the opportunity was not well chosen for these debates. I recognise that there may be legitimate difference of opinion upon that point, but, for my own part, I think that the noble Earl on the Cross Benches has judged rightly that this is not a case upon which we can remain silent; that we are bound—the House of Lords is bound—to have a policy of our own, and to take an early opportunity of considering that policy. Beyond that, I venture to express the hope that the treatment which the noble Earl gave to the single-Chamber policy of His Majesty's Government may have far-reaching effects.

I do not think, if I may say so, that the noble Viscount opposite seriously attempted to deal with the arguments of the noble Earl. It is quite clear from what the noble Earl said last night, and from what the most rev. Primate has just uttered, that the policy of the Government is nothing more nor less than a single-Chamber policy, and it is also true that, if both Houses of Parliament should agree on the present occasion to destroy your Lordships' Veto and to postpone till hereafter the changes and improvements which are foreshadowed by the Government in the composition of this House, though the first may have an effect, the second will never be heard of again. The most rev. Primate spoke very properly of the exaggerated language which was used with respect to the action of your Lordships' House last winter. The expressions used in criticism of what we did were, in my belief, entirety undeserved, but undoubtedly the step we took was a strong step. Any candid controversialist would admit that. The justification for that strong step was the great change in the circumstances with which we had to deal—the most rev. Primate has reminded you of it in very moderate language—the very striking nature of the Finance Bill which was submitted to this House and the very remarkable manner in which that Bill was passed through the House of Commons.

Upon this point I should like to trouble your Lordships for a few moments regarding the great change which in our time has taken place in the House of Commons. I desire, of course, to speak of the House of Commons with all the respect which is due to that great Assembly. If I required any other motive, I might say that for seventeen years I was a member of the House of Commons, and I suppose that I took as much interest in its proceedings and was as devoted to its great traditions as any member of that honourable House; and it was with a feeling of growing disappointment that one watched all through those years what I cannot but describe as a certain slow process of decay—decay not only in the procedure of that House, with which, of course, the public and your Lordships are all familiar, but, as I believe, in the reputation which the House enjoys amongst the people of this country. I do not wish to use any extreme language; it still remains the greatest representative Assembly in the world, but undoubtedly there was, even in my time, a marked change, which was to me, and must be to anyone who values our great institutions, a matter of profound regret.

In the first place, the attitude with which the people of this country regard the House of Commons has changed. Your Lordships have recently had an opportunity of judging from a very close point of view the conduct of a contested election in this country. A great many of the noble Lords who sit behind me, and a few who sit in front—though not so many there—took part in the General Election, and did their utmost to persuade the electors to adopt the views which they entertained. The noble Earl last night reminded your Lordships of the condition of things under which a modern election is carried out. Speeches, leaflets, and placards of every kind and degree of inaccuracy—I am afraid even a stronger word must be used to describe them—are the constant feature of modern General Elections. I do not know whether one has any right to say that that is altogether avoidable. Mendacity, no doubt, should be avoidable, but inaccuracy is almost inevitable. I believe that if an archangel addressed an election meeting he would be bound to be inaccurate. The truth is that in explaining political policy and in defending political conduct to a public meeting a certain amount of largeness and looseness of expression is absolutely requisite. If all the qualifications which correspond to the precise truth were put into a public speech they would not be understood; and any speaker who was so sincere as to do so would probably be set down as belonging to the other side. Inaccuracy, therefore, I am afraid one must make up one's mind to; but when the operation is entrusted, not merely to accomplished speakers, but to all the supporters of a candidate and is reduced to leaflets and placards, that inaccuracy degenerates, of course, into something much more grave than that.

Why have I ventured to trouble your Lordships with this description of public meetings, with which in other times we were not so closely familiar? It is because I believe the result has been to create in the minds of the electors much less satisfaction with their representative institutions than used to be the case. There is a certain disbelief in politicians in the present day, which is a very serious symptom. On the top of this has come the modern political organisation. I am speaking, of course, of what is commonly known as the caucus—the Conservative Association, the Liberal Three Hundred, or whatever it is called. The noble Viscount opposite is familiar with other such organisations. My Lords, that has a double effect. It affects, in the first place, the freedom of the electors, for there are only practically two doors to the suffrages of the electors. Either you must go through the door of the Conservative Association, or you must go through the door of the Liberal Three Hundred, so that the choice of the electors is very much limited. Therefore it is a very inaccurate phrase to speak of the freedom of election. It is a limited freedom. It is a freedom only between one or two candidates who are submitted to the electors, candidates who are very strictly controlled as to how they shall be submitted to the electors. And, my Lords, this close political caucus affects Dot only the choice of the individual candidates who are submitted to the electors, but controls the independence of the candidates when elected. Everybody is familiar with what. I am describing, and knows how a member of Parliament, when he is elected, is affected and controlled by the political organisations of his constituency. This subject forms a topic which has been dealt with by many speakers, but by none more eloquently and strikingly than by the noble Earl who is the author of this Resolution in a speech which he delivered a few weeks ago in the City. In that speech he was describing what I have ventured to describe in much less felicitous terms—the effect of the Party system upon the House of Commons, and he said— It has crashed out almost all independence from the House of Commons. These blemishes are, to a large extent, inevitable in any electoral system. I do not mean, of course, that the great representative House of this country could get on without any electoral system. An electoral system, of course, is of its essence, and therefore we must make the best of it. It has enormous advantages. It is a great method of governing a free people, but it has its great blemishes. But, my Lords, the noble Earl upon the Cross Benches in this same speech went on to compare the House of Commons, in which he had said the Party system has crushed out almost all independence, with another Assembly, and this is what he said— But there is another institution which I will hardly venture to name at this time and place, which is recognised by the Constitution as an integral part of Parliament, and which has this advantage, at any rate, that it is the only political Assembly that I am acquainted with in this country where it is possible to utter, with perfect freedom, perfect ease, and perfect sufferance, unpalatable truths. The noble Earl was speaking of your Lordships' House. The, noble Earl is specially entitled to make that observation, for I have heard him more than once utter unpalatable truths in your Lordships' House. Sometimes I did not quite agree that they were truths, though I am quite certain the noble Earl thought they were, but I am quite sure they were very often unpalatable.

Now, my Lords, if it be true that almost all independence has been crushed out of the House of Commons, and if in that respect the House of Commons forms a marked contrast with your Lordships' House under the present system and with all the supposed evils of hereditary right, are we to be expected to discard hereditary right without a sigh and without a groan? I cannot take that view. I share the noble Earl's appreciation of the contrast between the two Houses of Parliament, but it does not seem to me to load to the conclusion that we ought to totally and at once, abolish the hereditary right. Hereditary right was treated with a certain amount of disdain by the noble Earl last night. Yet hereditary right is the system under which the greater part of the world is governed. Hereditary right relies not on controlling a man by turning him out if you do not agree with him, but in trusting a man because of his sense of public duty and his determination to do right. The hereditary principle means that a man reverences the example of his father. It means that he is determined not to prejudice the position and prospects of his son. I believe that to rely upon those things which are dictated by Nature, and to enlist thereby all the security which Nature itself helps to provide, is, in the main, a far more reliable source of confidence than any other. But it might be said, if so, am I in favour of no change? Not so, my Lords. I venture to think that a change—a considerable change—is called for in the present position to which our affairs have arrived. But I should like first of all to draw two conclusions from what I have laid before your Lordships. In the first place, having regard to what I call these blemishes in the; reputation of the House of Commons, we ought to be all the more determined to resist the single-Chamber solution of the present difficulty; and, secondly, in determining the changes which ought to take place in our House we ought to profit by what has happened in the House of Commons.

It may be that those who propose an elective system are satisfied that a certain element of elective Peers would be a good thing, and that you could rest at that point. Well, my Lords, I hope before we decide upon admitting an elective element we shall be quite sure that that conclusion is just. Is it reasonable to believe that, having admitted a certain electoral element, we could stay there and go no further? I think there is grave reason to doubt that. I do not read in that way the teaching of history. Take the question of Parliamentary reform in another place. There were reformers in the early part of the Nineteenth Century who believed they could go a certain distance and no further. They believed in finality; but events proved them wrong. They had to go from step to step. First they had to reduce the franchise in the boroughs, and then they had to reduce it in the counties, in order to fit the franchise in the boroughs. That is a good example of how difficult it is to draw an arbitrary line and to say you are going a certain distance and no further. For my part, until I am quite satisfied that a line can be not only drawn, but can be maintained, I should be very loth to consider an elective system.

But I am in favour, as I said just now, of considerable modification in the constitution of this House, and for this reason. In the first place, the loss of reputation in the other House of Parliament throws greater responsibilities upon your Lordships' Houses. Their procedure—I will not dwell upon it, because it has been often discussed here—under which Bills are sent up for your consideration large parts of which have hardly been discussed at all, throws a great responsibility upon this House. And, secondly, the more extreme doctrines which prevail among certain sections of opinion in that House, and which seem to have a very formidable influence upon the counsels of the Party to which His Majesty's Government belong—that also throws an additional and very grave responsibility upon your Lordships' House. Are we, then, fit to bear this additional responsibility? There is, as it were, a new situation. It is not as if we had to go on in the old hum-drum way. We have to meet a new state of things—a Government largely in the hands of the extreme Liberal and Socialist Party; a Government acting by a procedure in the House of Commons which is really the very negation of a deliberative method. Those conditions do throw a very grave responsibility upon this House, and make it necessary that we should fit ourselves to receive and to bear that responsibility.

Well, my Lords, what line should we adopt? I have ventured to express my feeling of appreciation for the hereditary principle, but, of course, it has its weakness. My noble friend Lord Onslow and other noble Lords have called attention to it. There are a certain number of your Lordships who have not the aptitude, not the interest which fits them for the discharge of their important duties. Perhaps there are some even who are not worthy to discharge them. Undoubtedly such a state of things does call for a diminution in the numbers of your Lordships' House; it calls for some process of selection by which those, and those only, who are fitted to discharge such duties should, if possible, be left. Greatly as I value the hereditary principle, in the words of the Resolution of my noble friend "by itself" it is not sufficient. To my mind the importance of those two words have not been done quite justice to in this debate. If I vote, as I hope to vote, for the Motion of the noble Earl, it is not to condemn the hereditary principle, but to condemn the hereditary principle "by itself." That appears to me to be of the very essence of the Motion.

There must be some process of selection by which there will be a personal guarantee of the fitness of a particular Peer; not merely that he is the son of his father, but that he also is fitted for the discharge of these functions. There have been many suggestions with this object. There is the well-known suggestion that your Lordships should select a certain number of your own body to be the Lords of Parliament. By all means let us consider such a solution as that. It will achieve a great deal if Peers are selected by their own brethren, just as the Irish Peers are now selected. That would be a very valuable method of reducing the numbers of your Lordships' House and preserving as Lords of Parliament those who are qualified to perform that important function. But perhaps it may be said that selection of a certain number of your Lordships by the whole body of the House is not sufficient; that the great democracy may desire to have some guarantee over which they would have some control. I certainly should not exclude some arrangement with that object, so long only as the independence of your Lordships' House is preserved. By independence I mean that your Lordships should be able to act and speak and vote according to your consciences, without feeling that the result of indulging in your conscience would be the loss of your seat on the next occasion when your appointment came to be made. That appears to me to be the one thing above all others which we must avoid. Above all things, we must preserve the independence of your Lordships in the exercise of your duty. Is it impossible to combine a democratic influence over the appointment, say, of a certain section of your Lordships with this independence?

The independence of this House does not depend so much upon its hereditary charac- ter as upon the fact that your Lordships, once appointed, are irremovable. We are in the same position, for example, as the Judges. The Judges are irremovable, and therefore they are independent. It is the same with the Law Lords—those members of your Lordships' House who are Lords of Appeal. They are not hereditary, but they are irremovable and therefore they are independent. I do not doubt that that was the reason above all others why the Judges were made irremovable—in order that they should be independent. But both in the case of the Judges and of the Lords of Appeal the great democracy certainly does have a voice, and a most emphatic voice, in their appointment, for who appoints them? Why, the Crown; and the Crown is advised in these matters, as every one knows, by the Minister who is the elect of the people. The Minister represents the majority of the House of Commons. He is the man who is chosen by the process of election in the House of Commons and the votes of its members to enjoy the confidence of the great democracy of this country. He is the greatest democratic influence in the country, and in his hands lie the recommendations to the Crown which determine who are to be the Judges or who are to be the Lords of Appeal in your Lordships' House.

If, then, there is to be a democratic title as well as a hereditary title in your Lordships' House, let it be by means of appointment through the Crown—that is, upon the recommendation of a Minister. But, above all things, let the House remain independent. Your Lordships are aware that this suggestion of appointment by the Crown finds a place in a great number of the constitutions which are proposed for your Lordships' House. There is what is called the proposal of life Peerages; that is, of course, appointments by the Crown to your Lordships' House for life. For life, be it remembered! That is to say, they are irremovable, and therefore they are independent. That is a very good proposal, but it lacks one thing. It lacks the hereditary element. They are life Peers appointed from outside your Lordships' House. Why not combine the two? Why should you not have a system under which members of the hereditary Peerage would be nominated for life to serve as Lords of Parliament? I do not say that the whole House should consist of Lords of Parliament appointed in such a manner, although personally I would be prepared to go a long way in that respect; but if you do wish to go further on what I may call the Irish model then I submit that the proper direction in which to look for a solution is towards the appointment of members of the hereditary Peerage for life by the Crown. Your Lordships will observe that such a proposal would be perfectly fair as between the two Parties.

The point has been made—I think it was made by the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, last night—that in no solution which has been proposed was there any attempt to strengthen the Liberal Party. I am not sure that we ought to go about with the express purpose of strengthening the Liberal Party in your Lordships' House, but I would ask the noble Viscount to observe that such a solution as that, entrusting as it does in the case of these particular Lords of Parliament their appointment to the Minister of the day, places the Liberal Party in precisely as good a position as the Unionist Party. The Minister, if he happens to be, as he is at this moment, a Liberal Minister, would have the opportunity of recommending to the Crown hereditary Peers of his own political complexion and thought to serve as Lords of Parliament. The effect which such a system would have upon the composition of your Lordships' House would be not only fair but gradual; it would be gradual, step by step, as vacancies occurred, and it would preserve what, above all things, I believe to be essential to the proper conduct of a Second Chamber—the independence of the members who composed it.

I was grateful to the most rev. Primate for the counsel which he gave that any reforms which we or the country undertake should be of a moderate character. I have no desire for the vast revolutionary changes which find favour upon the other side of the House. Moreover, I do not desire, any more than my noble friends who sit behind me, any fundamental change in the powers of your Lordships' House. I do not want to see them diminished. I do not want to see them increased. We took a strong step in the winter of last year, but, so far as I am concerned, any counsel which I ventured to give to your Lordships on that occasion was not with the view of increasing the power of your Lordships' House. It was because I believed that the policy of the Government in the Finance Bill struck a fatal blow at the power of your Lordships' House that I was anxious that it should be rejected. So far as I was concerned, the rejection of the Finance Bill was essentially defensive and not aggressive. I do not wish, and do not suggest, that there should be any increase of powers in your Lordships' House. I do not want it to have more influence over the finances of the country than was the case in the years which have preceded the one in which I am now speaking; but I do think that to diminish the powers of your Lordships' House, to allow the other House to ride rough-shod over our decisions, would be to destroy, and destroy absolutely, any use there may be in a Second Chamber. Therefore let us, so far as we are able, adhere to our powers, but let us give a hearty welcome to the Motion of the noble Earl upon the Cross Benches, so that we may make ourselves more fit even than before to discharge the great and important functions of the State.

[Lord STANMORE, Lord NEWTON, and Lord SHEFFIELD rose together to address the House, but the two first-named gave way.]


My Lords, two speeches on that side have been heard this afternoon, so I think it is only fair that somebody should be heard on this side. The debate, so far, has been conducted almost entirely by noble Lords who are more or less in complete sympathy with the Motion before the House, and subject to certain criticisms in detail the speech we have just listened to seemed to be a speech that the House might have heard when it had gone into Committee upon the Resolution rather than a speech upon the Motion itself. I gathered that it was not the wish of the majority of this House to discuss the details of a scheme on the first Resolution. I am perfectly willing to fall in with that view and I do not propose to discuss the details of a scheme, but to discuss the point of view of those who are advocating the proposal of the noble Earl as a solution of the present political difficulty.

I wish to direct my attention more specially to the speech of the most rev. Primate. He dwelt with great force upon the fact that in the history of this country changes have come rather by acquiescence than by statutory enactment, and he pointed out, with perfect truth, that this informal method of quietly modifying the Constitution required great tact and great judgment on all sides, and that if an assertion of right was made upon privilege and custom, it strained the situation, and might strain it almost to the breaking point. The most rev. Primate took us back to ancient history, and very suitably referred to the action of a great predecessor of his own in the Chair of St. Augustine, and the part he took at Runnymede. Runnymede is more remote than Oliver Cromwell, of whom we heard a great deal yesterday, but it bears more on the present question, and I do not think we should be wrong to pause for a moment and think what was the action of the people through the prelates and chief nobles who had the principal power in the country in dealing with the rudimentary Constitution of this country and amending it. In the time of the Norman Kings and the earlier Plantagenets the prerogative of the King was everything, and the rights of the subject were very minute. If we could call it a Constitution, it was a Constitution of custom. The custom was found insufficient in the time of King John, when these prelates and Barons had no hesitation in bringing in a Statute and enacting a Magna Charta for the rights of the people. But the danger to the rights of the people has been more from the Crown than from the House of Lords, and therefore if we study history we find that statutory modifications of the Constitution have been directed against the power of the Crown. This country has never hesitated to modify its Constitution by Statute whenever it thought it necessary.

Let me give your Lordships an illustration. No doubt the power of the Crown was very high in the time of the Tudors, but Queen Elizabeth had enough sense, although she had a great clinging to power, to use that tact to which the most rev. Primate referred, and to adjust her difficulties with her subjects without straining things to the breaking point. The Stuarts, unfortunately, seem to me to have borne a greater resemblance to the House of Lords. They took advantage of the letter of the law; they strained the law, and brought about such a conflict as ended in the greatest clash of rights and powers that the history of this country has ever witnessed. Your Lordships have been talking now as though the great object was to make some modification of the constitution and composition of the House which would apparently satisfy the public without sacrifice of the real essence of your power. But your Lordships make a great mistake if you suppose that at the present moment the questions which the people up and down the country are concerned in coming to a settlement with you upon are merely those of your constitution and not the powers that you exercise. I do not deny that both are main questions, but in the whole of this debate you have talked only of your constitution, and if you have mentioned your powers it has been with the demand that you should not see them diminished.

But in the opinion of a great many people outside this House this is a question which will not go back. Whatever may be the political vicissitudes for the next ten or fifteen years, this question which has been raised has come to stay; and the great question is whether what was believed by everyone to be the custom and rule of the Constitution, that the representatives of the people should be supreme in finance, should still remain the law and custom of the nation. Until that question is settled and until you acknowledge that you overstepped the limit last autumn when you threw out the Budget and refused the Supplies necessary to carry on the Government, there will be no settlement of this question however you may tinker at your composition. The most rev. Primate told us a good deal of what other people said; he gave us a graphic description of what the friends of the House of Commons and the friends of the House of Lords say. But he told us very little of what he himself would say, and I could not help feeling that his speech to-day was rather an echo of his action in November, when, seeing that there was a great chasm, he took one look at the precipice and walked away in the opposite direction. But the most rev. Primate did, notwithstanding, drop one word. It came very incidentally in the course of his speech. Perhaps some of your Lordships hardly noticed it; but he said he was in favour of some readjustment of the Constitution and also to some extent of the work of the House of Lords. He did not amplify it. We do look to the successor of Prelates who have been prominent in vindicating public rights against usurpation for a lead. I did think that perhaps in the Twentieth as in the Thirteenth Century, we might have had some indication and lead in guiding us to a decision. But we got nothing but a hint. There is a great advantage in constitutional custom as long as that custom is observed. I suppose there is no greater example of custom in directing and caring for and governing also a legislative body than the history of the Roman Republic. There the great officers of State had many and conflicting rights, and if they had used them to the utmost chaos would have come; but by their tact and experience they had the sense for centuries to see that no person pushed his rights to the extreme. But when that political tact fails, then you have to define the positions of various bodies by law; and I am no more unwilling to define the rights of either House of Parliament by law than our forefathers were unwilling to define the rights of the Crown by law.

The most rev. Primate seemed to speak as though the rights and constitution of either House were entirely within its own purview and consideration; but surely we must; all see that, whatever the outcome of the proposal of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches may be, no change can come about in the constitution of this House without an Act of Parliament. You cannot by Resolution turn out Peers who have a right to sit here. If once you begin to think that you can meddle by Resolution of this House with those rights, recollect that none of you sit here except by the Royal Writ of Summons, which is also a matter of centuries of custom, as are many other parts of the government of this country. Therefore I say if you begin to touch the constitution of this House you cannot keep clear of an Act of Parliament. I quite agree that all through the Middle Ages the rights of the people through their representatives were asserted as a matter of privilege, and I do not know that they were put on any Statute Book. But the right of the House of Commons to have control of finance is not set out in any Statute; it is to be found in the immemorial common law of the Constitution. But, of course, if you are determined to re-open those questions, I do not know that anyone could take a point of order against you. If you were to introduce a Money Bill, the only thing that would happen to it would be that it would be flung contemptuously out of the House of Commons when it reached that Assembly. The moment you break away from custom you will have to be regulated by law.

I wish to say one word on a point made by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches regarding the Constitution of other countries. I do not wish to go into details, but I think we have to study the practice of the United Kingdom and its customs and institutions in settling our own political difficulties, and We shall get very little, profit from looking at the customs and habits of other nations. The Senate of the United States, for example, has no relation to what we call the Upper House in the United Kingdom. It is of the essence of the government of the United States, because it is a Federation of States and not a separate government. The Senate represents the rights of the several States as distinct from the rights of individual citizens, and belongs to an entirely different set of considerations. As to the British Colonies, I would like to know whether, if any colony were offered, in place of its present Second Chamber, a body of hereditary legislators like the House of Lords, it would not at once say that, sooner than have such a Second Chamber, it would forfeit the advantages of a Second Chamber and have single-Chamber government.

People have thrown out challenges to us as to whether we are Second Chamber men. I may say that I am very strongly a Second Chamber man, for many reasons. I do not believe, with the complicated responsibilities in connection with foreign and colonial affairs that with the weight of centuries have come down upon us, we can do without a Second Chamber. I will go further and say that it should be a good, capable Second Chamber that could command the respect of the country and speak with authority. But you must have supreme power lodged somewhere. You cannot divide supreme power. Whether you like the word "predominant" or not, the fact remains that you are trying at this minute to steal away from the House of Commons some of the predominance that must remain with it if this country is to be properly governed. If you use your legal right to paralyse the whole administration of the country and refuse to provide funds necessary to support the Army and the Navy, what is that but attacking the House of Commons? If you once begin to use your legal rights not for the purpose of criticising legislation in the true sense but for paralysing the administration of the country, you will have to give way before that body which, being chosen by the people, must be the supreme and dominant power in the country.

The noble Marquess who last spoke told us that he had sat for seventeen years in the House of Commons, and that during his lifetime—and he went in there as a young man—he had witnessed a steady deterioration in that House. I am not prepared to agree with him; but I think he might have recalled that during most of that period you had a Tory Government and a Tory majority in the House of Commons. But in spite of that, I do not think the House of Commons has deteriorated, although its composition has not been always in harmony with my views. I do not know whether the House of Commons or the people of this country will quite like the suggestion that because the House of Commons is growing more and more out of touch and out of sympathy with your Lordships therefore this House must assert itself more resolutely than ever, must put on some appearance of popular constitution, in order to conciliate the bourgeoisie of the country, and then in order to exert greater power in the government of the country must put a check on legislation from this House of Commons which you think is deteriorating. I do not know whether that contention of your Lordships will commend itself to the people of the country. The noble Marquess spoke, towards the close of his speech, of "the terrible day," when the Labour Party and the Socialists formed the Government of the country, and said that then this House was to be a bulwark. I feel perfectly certain that when the Labour Party and the Socialists constitute the Government of the country they will make very short work of your Lordships and you will not be able to stand against them. It is because of the general moderation of the country and the reforms which have been carried that the Labour Party and the Socialists are not governing the country. They are citizens of this country and have a right to be heard like everyone else; they have to take their place in the conflict of politics and be represented according to their powers. You will not prevent their coming into power by assuming to yourselves arrogant pretensions which have not belonged to you in the past, or posing as bulwarks of society against their inroads. The noble Marquess said that last Autumn he and the House took a strong step. I beg to differ entirely from him. The step then taken was a violent one, but that it was not a strong one experience has shown.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down warned us in what was intended to be impressive tones that we are about to attempt what is an impossibility—namely, to carry out the purposes and the objects of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches by means of Resolutions. Surely everybody knows that an Act of Parliament is necessary, and I presume that these Resolutions, which no doubt will shortly be adopted, are merely preliminary to a Bill, and that Bill, if it is not accepted by the present Government, will in all probability be accepted when a Unionist Administration comes into power again. Listening to the various speeches which have been made during the last two days, I could not help being reminded of my experience three years ago, when, with perhaps unjustifiable temerity, I brought certain proposals before this House, not my own proposals at all but the proposals of other people put together in the shape of a Bill. I am bound to say my modest efforts were not received with much enthusiasm in any quarter. I may observe that they were received with less enthusiasm from the Front Opposition Bench than almost anywhere else. My noble friend Lord Cawdor, who was put up to move what was humorously described as a "friendly Amendment," displayed so little friendliness towards my proposal that I was under the impression he had mistaken his instructions and was about to embark upon the task of moving the rejection of the Bill. And therefore it was all the greater gratification to me afterwards to observe the gradual process of conversion on the part of the noble Lord, and to see him vote consistently in the Committee of which he and I were members for proposals which he had previously denounced in this House.

There has, I admit been some advance in opinion towards Lord Rosebery's proposals. The noble Marquess who spoke just now made use of the expression that he extended a kindly welcome, what he called a warm welcome, to those proposals. It did not strike me as being a welcome of a particularly warm nature, but, at all events, it was an advance on previous performances. Looking round the benches on this side of the House I am again conscious of a certain inclination in favour of the proposals for the reform of this House, and I attribute this advance in opinion largely to the experiences which were acquired by numerous noble Lords who sit around me during what was termed by the Liberal Press "the campaign of wild Peers "which was productive of so many incidents. But there are two parties in this House which throughout this controversy have remained perfectly consistent. One is the party represented by the noble and learned Earl below me, Lord Halsbury. I do not know how many followers he can count, but the noble Earl still continues, if I do not mistake him, to present an adamantine front to all these revolutionary proposals, and I do not for a moment think that one General Election, or even several, would alter his views upon the subject. And the other party which is equally consistent in its attitude in regard to this question is, of course, the Government. We have had two speeches from the Government Front Bench since the debate began, and I hope I shall not be accused of disrespect if I assert that they were not of a particularly illuminating nature. The only tangible fact that I was able to gather from the speech of the noble Earl the Minister for Agriculture was that he was closely related to a high dignitary of the Church—a fact which does not seem to bear very closely upon the present controversy.

The attitude of the Government remains precisely to-day what it was three years ago. Their object is to prevent any kind of improvement in this place, whether by change or otherwise. The only change which they contemplate and favour is to turn this place into a kind of elaborate sham, a sort of hybrid between a registry office and a debating society, and a place which is to fulfil the double function of serving as a reward to deserving members of the Liberal Party, and at the same time to afford a horrible object lesson to the electorate. This somewhat contradictory course is one which calls for some ingenuity, though not, perhaps, for more ingenuity than the Government possess. It is not uncommon to hear the policy of the Government with regard to this House described as fatuous. I do not look upon it as fatuous at all. On the other hand, I look upon that policy as being from their own point of view essentially a common sense policy, provided you do not seriously attack this place, provided that the House of Lords question is skilfully handled by a Liberal Government. When I say Liberal Government I wish to distinguish the Government from their Irish allies and the Socialists who masquerade as Labour Members, and so forth. From the point of view of a purely Liberal Government an unreformed House of Lords is a perfectly invaluable asset to them in some particulars, and I cannot help thinking that many of them must be well aware of it and must be deeply regretting the campaign in which they are now involved.

Consider for a moment the advantages which an unreformed House of Lords offers from a tactical and wire-pulling point of view, which is, of course, the only point of view from which the Government would regard it. It has enabled all moderate men in the Party, and I suppose even now there are still some moderate men in the Liberal Party, to vote steadily for measures in another place which they feel confident will be rejected when they, reach here. It has provided an excellent excuse for not dealing with questions which are highly favoured by the Party but which are not so popular in the country. I think the majority of people have at length realised the somewhat important fact that the Liberal Party and the people of this country, with a big "P," are no longer the same thing. The third advantage, not an inconsiderable one, is that if by any chance a member of this House shows himself to be an unsatisfactory or a foolish kind of person it has always been open to Radical orators to maintain that the whole of the House of Lords consists of persons of that description. Lastly, it has been the means of rewarding estimable gentlemen for valuable and substantial services which they have rendered, in the past to the Liberal cause. The bestowal of a Peerage upon a deserving Liberal gentleman always seems to me to be accompanied by a phenomenon which we do not observe in connection with other forms of dispensation of honours. It is a sort of double-edged business. On the one hand, you confer an honour upon a man, but on the other hand you exact a substantial sacrifice from him, because it must be perfectly obvious that there is considerable sacrifice involved in the case of a gentleman who enters an Assembly which he has been abusing during the whole course of his previous years. There is a certain amount of martyrdom involved, but the curious thing is that there always appears to be a large number of public-spirited Liberal gentlemen who are ready to undergo this particular form of martyrdom, of which the coronet is not an inappropriate symbol. It stands to reason that when these gentlemen enter this place they are subjected to an almost intolerable strain, and very often it is more than they can stand. Something snaps, their political equilibrium gives way, they desert their posts and come over to the enemy.

Well, my Lords, in spite of the determined opposition which was offered by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and by the Government to any proposals of reform with regard to this House, three years ago a Committee was appointed to consider the various proposals put forward, and for my part I feel profoundly grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, that he has at last forced this question to the front, and that we have got to express an opinion upon those proposals. Although I never found anyone who agreed with me, it always seemed to me highly desirable that the findings of that Committee should have been considered long ago. I confess it always appeared to me that if you openly admitted something had got to be done and appointed a Committee to consider what ought to be done, when that Committee made certain recommendations the obvious course was to consider those recommendations without delay. It would have been a more dignified and courageous course to discuss this question earlier rather than wait until the wreckers in another place have produced their programme. It is no use, I know, repining over lost time; but with regard to this particular Report I observe that the prevailing tendency at the present moment is to regard it as totally inadequate. Inadequate is the word which is used. And yet part of its proposals is that between 200 and 300 members of this House should be excluded from it. I hardly think that two years ago anybody would have used the word inadequate with regard to the recommendation of this Committee. As a matter of fact I contend that it only requires alteration in one important point in order to extract all the reforms which any reasonable person can desire. At the same time it seems to me that recommendations of this Committee, which have been carefully considered by members of this House, are worthy of a great deal more attention than the innumerable schemes which are being put forward by constitution-makers who are so vastly enjoying themselves.

I am not a particular respecter of persons, but I do maintain that the composition of this Committee entitled its Report to most careful consideration and respect. Let me recall to the House the persons who took part in those proceedings. It was presided over by an ex-Prime Minister, and its members included an ex-Foreign Minister, an ex-Lord Chancellor, the most rev. Primate, an ex-Speaker, ex-Viceroys, and several ex-Secretaries of State. In fact, with the exception of myself and two or three inconspicuous persons whose names, of course, I will not mention, the Committee consisted entirely of distinguished persons, and for my part I do not anticipate that I shall ever move in such distinguished political circles again. The appointment of this Committee was a landmark in the history of the House. It was the first serious attempt that had been made to deal with the question of reform. But owing to the policy that the Government pursued of ignoring the existence of this Committee we are still, to a great extent, in the dark as to what are the feelings of the House generally with regard to it. I must admit that when this Report appeared it was received with what amounted to little short of absolutely stony indifference. I hardly heard an opinion on the subject, excepting in the case of one noble Lord, a very infrequent attendant at the House, who was so indignant at the recommendations that he announced his intention of at once cultivating rhetoric for the purpose of overwhelming the proposer of the recommendations when they appeared.

The reason the Committee's recommendations did not receive the treatment to which they were entitled is perfectly plain. This Report came out with an absolute and complete disregard of what I may term political scenic effects. It was brought out at a time when people were thinking of entirely different things. It came out almost simultaneously with the withdrawal of one of the Education Bills of the Government and immediately after the rejection of the Licensing Bill, and that is one of the reasons why sufficient attention has never been paid to it. If anybody will take the trouble to read the Report he will see at once that the members of the Committee, as was pointed out by the noble Earl yesterday, recognised frankly and immediately the more glaring defects of this House. As for those defects, I think I can crystalise them in three or four words. I will put it shortly in this way—We are too numerous and we are too one-sided. By a strange and curious paradox we are now about to penalise ourselves for what appears to be somewhat inadequate reasons. It really is not our fault that we are too numerous. That is the fault of successive Governments in consequence of the number of Peers they have created from time to time.

As for the other fault, the so-called fault of being too one-sided—that is to say, being too Conservative—that is the greatest possible tribute to the honesty of this Assembly, because I have not the smallest hesitation in asserting that of all the temptations which beset the politician by far the strongest is to join the Party of noble Lords opposite. It is the one profession in the world, where greatness is deliberately thrust upon you, and you can hardly avoid it however hard you may try. Noble Lords opposite rise almost automatically to dizzy heights of grandeur, and they are invested at the same time—by the Liberal Press only, I must admit—with all the attributes of genius and the graces of oratory, whilst we who languish here upon the Back Benches are represented as a mass of inarticulate yokels, probably with vicious instincts into the bargain. Not only do noble Lords opposite enjoy these advantages in the present, but they are guaranteed to them in the future, because, under every scheme that I have seen put forward for the reform of this House, the future existence of these noble Lords is most carefully provided for. In spite of this, an unjust world refuses to recognise the rugged honesty which animates the great majority of the members of this House. Instead of crediting us with rugged honesty, the belief prevails—encouraged by Home Secretaries and Chancellors of the Exchequer—that we are a partial Assembly which exists for the purpose of destroying or mutilating beneficent Liberal legislation.

We may wish to be impartial, and we are impartial much more than people commonly suppose; but at the same time it must be candidly admitted, though I do not like doing it, that appearances are against us. That is really the strong point of our adversaries' case. There is in this House no clear and evident appearance of impartiality, although it does exist; and, though it is very wrong of me to do so, I cannot help sympathising for once in a way with noble Lords opposite in the position in which they find themselves. Their contention, and the contention of their followers in the country, is that this House never interferes with Conservative legislation, but destroys and mutilates Liberal legislation. They complain, with some justice, that they labour and toil in the wilderness for years, and that when they come into power with an enormous majority they are liable to see their measures upset by the permanent majority which is encamped here. As I say, I do sympathise with them, and I confess that if an umpire habitually decided against me I should perhaps entertain some doubts as to his impartiality before I had finished. No doubt the Government feel deeply the rejection of their measures, but I suspect that the people who feel more deeply still are those ardent and convinced Radicals who have set their heart upon some particular project which, when it conies up here, is defeated by noble lords who, they believe, skip up from Newmarket or Monte Carlo or some place of the kind where Peers are habitually supposed to dwell, and who come here only for the purpose of destroying those beneficent measures.

What is the real grievance against this House? I do not think it has been clearly pointed out in the debate yet. The real grievance against this House is not that it is unrepresentative—that is not really the grievance at all—but that it is not sufficiently Liberal. If it treated the legislation of both sides equally we should hear nothing whatever about the unrepresentative character of this House, and the Radical Party would be content to put up with whoever the members of this House were, provided they did their bidding. I remember in the debate which took place three years ago that the noble Earl the Leader of this House, when we were discussing the question of excluding unworthy members, members who have been described as "black sheep," explained that the colour of the sheep did not worry him at all. He did not mind what the colour of the sheep was, but what he objected to was their gregarious habits. In other words, the noble Earl and his friends apparently do not care much who the people are who constitute this House provided they will vote with them. Here is where the difficulty of the reformer comes in, and it lies at the root of the question. What you want to do, when all is said and done, is to convey not only an appearance but a character of impartiality, and that is the aim to which the efforts of all reformers are directed.

Up to a certain point there is very little difficulty in coming to an agreement. I hink I am justified in assuming that every one, or practically every one with the exception of the noble and learned Earl below me (Lord Halsbury), will accept the proposition that the hereditary principle must be modified. Everybody, I suspect, will also agree that the hereditary principle is to be retained in some shape or other. They will also agree that a number—I do not know whether a large number or not, but a certain number—of persons will have to go; and, of course, the persons who will be pricked upon on paper as having to go will be the 250 Peers who during the course of last session attended here fewer than ten times. All this looks very well upon paper, but, as I shall show presently, it is not quite clear that you will be able to get rid of these undesirable people. I think I may go further and say that the methods by which it is proposed to carry out this winnowing or sifting process, that of qualification and of election from inside this House, are also approved in principle. As I am on that point, I should like to be allowed to express my strong preference for the former system. I believe that every noble Lord who took part in the electoral campaign must have found when he was defending the House of Lords that the argument which was applied with the greatest force and met with the most approval from audiences was that nobody should sit here unless he had done something to deserve his seat. When we were discussing the Budget last year the noble Earl upon the Cross Benches, Lord Rosebery, made a proposal that 150 people should be delegated to represent the majority in this House, and I have often been rather curious in my own mind as to how that suggestion would have been carried out if it had been adopted. Whatever people may say, I expect everybody in his heart considers he is just as good as anybody else. I know, speaking for myself, that I should certainly have voted for myself as one of the noble Earl's nominees, and I venture to say that every backwoodsman who bad come up on the occasion would have voted for himself and have got, so to speak, his political money's worth.

If we are going to embark upon the principle of election these difficulties will occur. There will, first of all, be extreme difficulty in carrying out the election. It is proposed that the Peers should be elected upon the minority system, therefore everybody would have, let us say, 200 votes. If 200 persons were to be elected, the prospect of 200 backwoodsmen armed with 200 votes apiece might produce some rather remarkable results. Does it follow, as is confidently assumed, that if this plan were adopted—and I have no doubt it will be adopted because it is the best compromise that has been suggested—that the best men would be elected? The best men are not necessarily the most popular men in an Assembly. Very often the most useful are the most boring members of an Assembly. What really would happen, of course, everybody knows perfectly well. It would be that the election would ultimately fall into the hands of the Whips. For myself, I have the most profound distrust of Whips—in their official and not in their personal capacity. What is the object of the Whip? The object and the duty of a Whip is, I take it, to provide gentlemen who will come here when they are wanted, and perhaps, what is more important still, who will keep away when they are not wanted. A Whip does not want people to come here and talk about all sorts of awkward subjects and put the Front Benches in a hole. The result will be that the election will fall into the hands of the Whips, and anybody who shows traces or originality and is likely to cause trouble will be scrupulously left out. They will concentrate their energies on obtaining a docile body of men who can be counted upon to go anywhere and do anything at the command of the Government of the day.

A short time ago these proposals to sift this House by a system of qualification and by a system of inter-election, added to the principle of making life Peers, would have been considered not only adequate but almost revolutionary. Now I gather it is looked upon merely in the light of a friendly family arrangement. It is very curious what a remarkable effect the election experiences have had upon many members of this House. Considering that the Election resulted in the drawn battle, it can hardly be said to justify, logically, the extreme kind of reform which has been proposed by some people. Take, for instance, the question of election from outside. When I was a member of the Committee of which I have spoken I own to having voted against this proposal, but I have become a convert since. It appears to me that what was good enough two years ago is not good enough now. For my part, I am entirely in agreement with the noble Earl on the Cross Benches with regard to this question. What I think has been borne in upon those noble Lords who took part in the recent Election is that the present state of things is indefensible in theory, that you cannot defend it in principle, and that, therefore, you can hardly represent it to the voters as being tenable in practice. There is one tangible thing which you certainly cannot recommend, and that is the absolutely hopeless and almost futile position in which noble Lords opposite are placed in the House by reason of the small and permanent minority which they represent.

While I entertain the idea that reform should proceed, if possible, on historic lines so as not to make too great a breach with the past, I have come to the conclusion that an elective element will have to be provided as well if we are going to retain the confidence of the democracy and of the country. What I feel strongly is that it is no good making a sort of half-hearted sacrifice at the present time. I do not think it would be the slightest use to throw 100 or 200 "backwoodsmen" to the democratic wolves. There would not be much self-sacrifice involved in that. Besides it does not even follow that you would get rid of them. Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret. You might expel the backwoodsman by the front door, but he might reappear down the chimney or through the window. I would like to urge—and I urge it with great respect upon noble Lords—that the time has come when we really must show that we are prepared to make a substantial sacrifice. Hitherto we have not been called upon to sacrifice much beyond our convictions. We are now going to be called upon to sacrifice our privileges, and as far as I am concerned one of the privileges which I valued most highly has already been taken away because we no longer enjoy that immunity from taking part in contested elections which I always estimated to be one of the great advantages of being a member of this House.

I apologise for having detained the House. What I desire to say in conclusion is this. If the changes proposed by the noble Earl take place this House will certainly be a much less agreeable place than it is at the present moment. It will probably be filled with a large number of assertive and self-satisfied persons who will completely alter the tone of this Assembly, and honestly in my own mind I greatly doubt whether its real efficiency will be much improved. I entertain a very strong suspicion amounting almost to a certainty, that the decisions which a reformed House of Lords will arrive at will be precisely the decisions that are arrived at in the present day. But at all events we shall, if these changes are carried out, speak with an authority which we do not possess at the present moment; and instead of constituting what I am afraid is a somewhat frail barrier I think we shall form a solid and substantial defence against those dangers which threaten not only the Constitution but the liberties of this country.


My Lords, my noble friend on my left is a difficult man to follow, because he is possessed of a wit to which I can lay no claim. But he has dealt, I think, rather with the question of what shape any reform of this House should take than with the main question which was submitted to us by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches—namely, the desirability of reform and the reason why reform is necessary. It struck me very much that in the whole course of this debate, until the noble Marquess on the Front Benches rose to-night, scarcely anything was said about what I believe to be one of the main reasons why some change in the constitution of this House is necessary, and that is the condition of the Lower House. It has been the custom until lately of one House to speak of the other with respect, and with a certain amount of restraint. I cannot say that that good custom has been of late altogether preserved in another place, or by those who belong to another place. The noble Earl the Leader of the House told us the other day that there was something very like a state of war existing between the two Houses. I do not know whether the noble Earl quite appreciated the gravity of that statement. We have heard it more than once referred to. The only time in the history of this country when there was war between the two Houses, what were the consequences? I will not further refer to that, but I must remark that you cannot have a war of this kind fought in gloves, and it will be necessary, if this war is to be fought, that we should speak plainly. I desire for one moment to call attention to the state of the House of Commons. The noble Lord, Lord Sheffield, told us just now that he did not see any change in the House of Commons in his experience. He did not tell us why. He did not give any facts to show that the House of the present day is similar to the House of the old days.


I did not say that. I said I did not think it had deteriorated.


The noble Lord did not give us any facts to show that it had not deteriorated. The only reply of the noble Lord was that easy argument which is, perhaps, one of the comforts of the period of life to which he and I have arrived—to say we remember times before the speaker and that we have an experience which the speaker has not got. I was in the House of Commons for a good many years; I am not quite sure whether I was there before Lord Sheffield, but certainly I was with him a good many years, and I am quite astounded that he should say that the House of Commons has not deteriorated since those days. The real truth is that the House of Commons has deteriorated steadily ever since the Reform Bill of 1867, and it has deteriorated with still more celerity since the Reform Bill of 1884. I do not speak merely of the manners of the House; that is no affair of ours; but I speak of the powers of the House and of the way it transacts its business, and of its independence. When I first entered the House of Commons private Members could speak when they liked; they could bring forward Resolutions necessary for discussion, and many of them forced Bills through the House. There are many important measures on the Statute Book which bear the names of private Members who forced those Bills through the House.

Now, what is the condition of the present House of Commons? I will not describe it in my own words, because I might be prejudiced. I will take the words of Professor McKechnie, who published a book on the question of the reform of the House of Lords a short time ago, and who is, I may inform the House, lecturer on Constitutional History in Glasgow. Speaking of the functions of this House to check hasty legislation, he says— That such a function is at times useful and necessary hardly admits of doubt. The exact direction of its usefulness has, however, somewhat changed in recent years in consequence of the encroachments made by the modern Cabinet on the independence of the House of Commons. The House of Lords, which once stood guard over the action of a too powerful House of Commons, now stands guard over a too powerful Cabinet. In these days of inflexible Party organisation, enforced by threats of Dissolution and by the habitual use of such expedients as the guillotine, it is the Ministry of the day, not the Lower Chamber of the Legislature, which threatens to become omnipotent. The House of Lords is the only barrier, a frail one it may be, that offers resistance to the supremacy of the Cabinet unrestrained and uncontrolled. Does the noble Lord tell me that that was the case when he and I entered first the House of Commons?

But I confess that this statement requires some modification. It can hardly be said that the supremacy of the present Cabinet is unrestrained and uncontrolled, but the fact that the Cabinet is at the present moment under the lash of Mr. Redmond does not make the matter any better from a constitutional point of view. The events of the last few months have shown that it is possible for the House of Commons, which ordinarily speaking is under the power of the Cabinet, to become, in certain circumstances, under the power of absolutely irresponsible members of Parliament who can fetter its freedom. That is a state of things which I think necessitates some change in the general constitution of Parliament, and when I say of Parliament I mean of both Houses. The only remedy that noble Lords opposite have to suggest is to emasculate this House, to weaken it altogether. If the House will allow me, I will quote again from the author to whom I referred just now. I make these quotations because I think it desirable that we should know what thoughtful, trained intellects, what men whose minds have been given to this Constitutional question, think of the situation, quite apart from the turmoil of politics or any interest that any one of us may be supposed to have. By the way, we do not know what the proposal of the Government is, but it is to weaken the House in some way, and we will assume, for the sake of argument, that it is the Resolution foreshadowed by the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. Mr. McKechnie says of it— It would leave the House of Lords unreformed in the enjoyment of its purely ornamental and ancient privileges, but deprived of all legislative power. The Commons, after tolerating for a few months the futile criticisms of the Lords, would be empowered to ignore the existence of the Second Chamber and would proceed to pass Statutes on their own authority like the Ordinances of the Long Parliament in the Civil War. I cannot believe that noble Lords opposite, or the Government, seriously mean to put before the country such a proposition as that.

What is going to be the position of men whom they delight to honour and whom we are all glad to see honoured? I will take an instance in the late Home Secretary. The late Home Secretary bears an honoured name. He is the son of a very distinguished father, so distinguished that if a Peerage had been conferred upon him simply because of his father's services and not of his own merits it would have been only following a precedent which has often been followed in former years. But he has himself held high office, he has been for a great number of years in Parliament serving his country, and he has just been chosen for a high post abroad. The reward you give that right hon. gentleman for his services is a Peerage which will land him, when he comes back to this country, in a House whose duties would be merely ornamental; he will have no functions of any sort or kind worthy the name, and he will be utterly debarred by the fact of being in this House from ever serving his country as a member of the other House. I cannot believe that any man who has performed such services as these will expect such a degradation as that implies. I cannot believe that any Cabinet or any Government would offer to one of their own trusted colleagues a position which means utter disfranchisement, because I have heard Scotch Peers pitied on account of their not being able to get a seat in the Lower House, and they are the only individuals in the country who are utterly disfranchised. You are going to reduce the right hon. gentleman I have named to practically the same position. All one can say is that this is a curious proceeding on the part of the Government. It is a curious idea they have of solving their difficulties, and it reminds me of nothing so much as the account of the Red Queen in "Alice in Wonderland," who went about saying "off with his head" to every difficulty that confronted her. They are going to the House of Lords saying "Off with his head," and that is all they have to say regarding the problem which faces them, and a grave problem we know it is.

I want to say a word upon what I believe to be the real necessity for reforming this House—the defects which are supposed to exist in this House. I do not wish to set out my own imagination, but the opinion of one outside. There is an article this month in the Fortnightly Review, which lays down, I think very clearly, what is supposed to be the view of the outside public, on what the writer evidently supposes are the faults of this House. One obvious blot in the position of this House is said to be the indiscriminate application of heredity. That is the very proposition which the noble Earl on the Cross Benches has laid before your Lordships, but I must make one remark with regard to it. I am entirely in favour of some change in that respect. I should not like it to go to the country that we believe in the existence of certain members of this House whom I will call "undesirables." I do not mean to use this word in the least offensively; I use the word for shortness. But I should like further to say I can conceive many reasons which a member of this House may have for not attending which are positively worthy and admirable. A man's private affairs may be such as to make him think quite properly that he is the only man who can direct them, and he may think it more important that he should be in attendance upon his own affairs than that he should be one of a large body of this kind. As I say, I do not use the word "undesirables" in an offensive sense. But he is a man who is, as far as Legislation is concerned, undesirable because he cannot attend to it. Can any noble Lord give me two instances in which the votes of what I call the "undesirables" have ever determined one of your Lordships' decisions? I do remember one. It was on the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, not, of course, the last time it was in the House, because it was passed then by the deliberate intention of the regular attendants of this House. But I speak of former years. I remember one occasion when the Second Reading was passed by, I think, ten votes, when I did see a great number of persons in the House whom I had never seen before. But even then it did not secure the passing of the measure, and for this reason, that there is no staying power in these "undesirables." You cannot get them up the second time. You can whip them up on one occasion, but you can never get them twice, and ever since I have had the honour of being a member of this House I do not remember any decision of your Lordships being carried by the votes of the "undesirables." All those decisions in which the "undesirables" have figured would have been the same if they had not been there. True, I think that this is enormously exaggerated.

The second objection is as to political partizanship. We all regret that, but on a former occasion I had the honour of asking who it was who spoiled the proportions of this House. I can remember the time, as can many noble Lords, when this House was fairly equally divided, and when there was no complaint of a preponderance of Conservative votes. But the Party opposite adopted the most unstates-manlike act that had ever been perpetrated by a Party in the acceptance of Home Rule. They revolted the feeling of the whole country. They revolted the feeling of this House and this House showed that it accurately represented the feeling of the country by throwing out that Bill by a large majority. From that moment the balance of the House has changed. Why has it changed? Because, speaking with reference to a period of twenty or thirty years, the balance of the country has changed. There are those who talk as though the country were Radical. How many years in the last twenty has a Radical Government had a majority in this country? Why, they have not got one, except of a very adventitious kind, even now. They have not been able to keep their majority such as it was for four years! The real truth of the matter is that this Home Rule Bill has been a weight around the necks of the Radical Party ever since it was first proposed, and the whole feeling of the country has, in consequence, been on our side of the House. The preponderance of the House of Lords is really the deliberate preponderance—not, I admit, the transient preponderance that we saw four years ago, but the deliberate preponderance—of the feeling of the country. But, my Lords, alter it by all means. I wish very much that we could see some change in the proportion of the two Parties in this House. Let me say, however, that I cannot congratulate the Party opposite on their efforts to improve matters.

There is another objection, and that is the enormous character of this House; the objection that we are too large a body. Well, the Government has added some thirty odd new Peers since it came into office. That is the Government's remedy for an overcrowded House. And those noble Lords are, I have no doubt, possessed of all the talents and the experience which fit them to be members of this House. We have welcomed them gladly, but I cannot say that they have added much to the strength of their Party in debate. We have waited for the support which this large contingent was to have afforded the minority in this House. I am afraid, however, that the Government's efforts in making this addition of a large number of Peers have not been calculated to redress, even in a small degree, the disproportion which exists in the fighting power and the debating power of this House.

There is one other charge that is made against this House, and that is its aloofness from public opinion. That, again, my Lords, I greatly doubt. I have already shown how in the case of the Home Rule Bill there was no aloofness from the opinion of the country on the part of this House. In these days members of Parliament very much more frequently than used to be the case have no connection whatever with the constituencies they represent. They are what are called in vulgar language "carpet-baggers," and I doubt whether these gentlemen do know very much about the feeling of the country. I doubt extremely whether they know very much about the feeling of their constituents, and, were it necessary, I think I could give reasons from my own experience for having that belief. I think your Lordships who live amongst your own people and have done so all your lives, who constantly mix with them, have a much better knowledge of their ideas and opinions than many of these "carpet-bagging" members of Parliament who profess their knowledge of the feelings of the people.

I have only one other observation to make with regard to the defects of this House. There is one very gross defect in the eyes of the people, a defect which makes this House very unpopular in certain quarters. It is the fact that when the Law Lords sit in this House and adjudicate upon the most intricate legal questions they are referred to as "the House of Lords." I have been quite amazed at the belief held on this subject by the public. In regard to such questions as the Taff Vale dispute and the property of the Free Church in Scotland, questions of the greatest intricacy, it was the belief that we laymen, sitting in this House, had decided those very difficult and intricate questions. The sooner we disabuse the public mind of that the better. But we go back to where we started. These are defects which do not really touch the efficiency of this House. They are defects which touch it in one sense, no doubt. They touch it indirectly because they are supposed to affect the House and its ability to perform its functions very much more than they really do. By all means let us address ourselves in an intelligent manner to removing all misunderstandings between this House and the country. Let us remove every excuse—and I believe it can easily be done—for supposing that this House is not as fully able to perform its duties as we really know it to be. If that is done, I cannot help thinking that we shall strengthen the Constitution. I cannot help thinking that even some of those who sit on the opposite Benches, and who now, with a light heart, are supporting a Government which wishes to tear up the old Constitution of England and to destroy some of its main features, will be very grateful when they are saved from the intolerable tyranny which any single-Chamber system would impose upon them, and the intolerable tyranny of that which would most certainly follow, as it has always followed, on an unfettered democracy—the strong personal tyranny of one individual man.

*LORD STANMORE had given notice to move, as an Amendment, to omit from the Motion the words "Second Chamber" ["so as to constitute a strong and efficient Second Chamber"] and to insert the words "Upper House of Parliament." The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is not proposed in any spirit of hostility to the Motion for going into Committee which has been moved by the noble Earl. On the contrary, so far from being moved in any spirit of hostility its object is to obtain for that Motion votes, which otherwise in many cases possibly, and in some cases certainly, would be given against it. Unless some such modification of language as that which I have proposed is adopted, there are those who would otherwise gladly vote for the Motion who will have to withhold their support. There are those who think, as I do, that the language of a formal Resolution of this House is a subject of the gravest importance, and that it should be couched in terms strictly and technically correct.

There are, no doubt, some who will say that if the general sense of the Resolution is understood exact accuracy of nomenclature is of no importance. From that opinion I beg leave to differ. It matters very little what others call us, but it matters a great deal what we, in a formal Resolution, call ourselves. In those days of unceasing hurry, constant movement, and perpetual platform talk, there is hardly time for men in public life seriously to think, still less is there time for them to read, and therefore I am not surprised that some noble Lords should have learned little from the lessons of the past. But the noble Earl who moved the Resolution is not one of these. As a diligent student of history, he is well aware how important a part words and names have played and must play whether rightly applied or misapplied, and how they have affected events in great crises. We have an instance before us just now of the way in which words which are inaccurate can, by process of usage, be generally adopted, and practically make the older and more correct designations mean what they do not mean. In the last few months we have heard a great deal about the Veto of the House of Lords, as if there was such a thing. There really is not anything of the kind; but, from repetition, it is becoming the fact that this word "Veto" is being used to signify the concurrent legislative power of the House of Lords, which is going to be utterly obscured under this inaccurate label. That is an illustration of what I mean as to the use of words which are inaccurate often being of importance.

The words which I propose to omit from the Resolution are distinctly inaccurate, ambiguous, and misleading. They are inaccurate in relation to the present position of the House of Lords. It is quite true that in common parlance, in ordinary familiar language, we talk of the House of Lords as a Second Chamber, In a broad, general sense so it is: but that term is not strictly or formally accurate. It is not the case that we are a Second Chamber only. This House has the same power of initiation as the other, and although no doubt, generally speaking, the measures we have to consider here have been first considered and passed by another body, that is by no means invariably the case. Every session numbers of Bills—obscure, if you will, but most useful Bills—are brought in first in this House. We read a second time a score of them a few days ago, and last year one of the most important Acts of the year—the India Councils Act—passed through this House before it went to the House of Com- mons. It is not correct to describe this House as it now exists as a "Second Chamber," and, when you apply that term to the Chamber which you are proposing to constitute, it is ambiguous, and, I think, misleading.

The words of the Resolution are that we go into Committee to consider, among other things, the construction of an "efficient Second Chamber." In the ordinary plain sense those words mean that we are asked to constitute a Chamber which is to be a Second Chamber and a Second Chamber only—a Chamber which will merely have the power of considering measures sent to it from another place; a Chamber which will have no active initiative of its own. That power of initiative I believe all your Lordships would be most unwilling to part with. Therefore I say that strictly and in technical language to speak of this House as a Second Chamber is inaccurate. In regard to formal Resolutions which, if passed, are placed on the records of this House, we ought to take care to confine ourselves to language which is strictly accurate and precise. Let me point out that if the words "Second Chamber" were placed in any formal Motion or document they would be so used for the first time. Therefore I venture to propose that instead of words which are unprecedented, inaccurate, ambiguous, and misleading, we should substitute words which are well known and have been formally authorised, viz., "the Upper House of Parliament." I cannot conceive why any one should have any objection to that change. We know from what the noble Earl on the Cross Benches has said that it is not his intention to propose anything like a Second Chamber which shall be a Second Chamber only. We know that his purpose is to propose a real and a strengthened Upper House of Parliament. Then why not use words which will conciliate those who, with the present wording, feel themselves, however reluctantly, unable to support the Motion. Depend upon it, if the House by a formal Resolution determines to consider the construction of a "Second Chamber." it will be pressed on us from without that we have of our own accord voluntarily surrendered all claim to initiate measures in Parliament.

I refrain from any comment on the constructive proposals that have been before us. Whether this is a good time to bring them forward or not is a matter of opinion, but I hope that in discussing this Motion to go into Committee we shall confine ourselves to the general principles laid down, and that we shall not attempt at present to go into details which are sure to create innumerable difficulties and give rise to an enormous diversity of opinion, which will be ruinous to the real success of the great principles which we hope to lay down in the Resolutions which the noble Earl has outlined. I cannot conceive that the noble Earl himself would have any objection to the substitution of the words I have proposed. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— To leave out the words "Second Chamber" and to insert the words "Upper House of Parliament."—(Lord Stanmore.)


According to the rule this Amendment ought to be disposed of now.


The noble Earl who moved the Motion is absent, and from what he said to me before he left the House I rather believed he was going to agree with it.


I was talking with the noble Earl before he brought forward these Resolutions, and he told me himself he did not mind what the name was, so that certainly he has no objection to the Amendment.


I move the adjournment of the debate.

Moved, That the debate be adjourned—(Lord Curzon of Kedleston.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned accordingly till Tomorrow.

House adjourned at half-past Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Four o'clock.