§ *EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON rose to move to resolve, "That in the opinion of this House, the advice given to His Majesty by His Majesty's Ministers, whereby they obtained from His Majesty a pledge that a sufficient number of Peers would be created to pass the Parliament Bill in the shape in which it left the House of Commons, is a gross violation of Constitutional liberty, whereby, among many other evil consequences, the people will be precluded from again pronouncing upon the policy of Home Rule."
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion which stands on the Piper in my name. Yesterday a Motion in identical terms was debated and rejected in the House of Commons. In ordinary circumstances we might, perhaps, regret that the discussion on such a Motion should not be taken simultaneously in both Houses of Parliament; but on the present occasion there is, I think, no reason for such regret, for the debate yesterday in another place, which some of us heard and which all of us have read, threw a light, a most illuminating light, upon the course of proceedings to which it will be my duty to call your Lordships' attention, and confirmed the worst impressions that many of us had formed; and, secondly we learned from that debate the answer that is made by His Majesty's Ministers to the charges which in both Houses of Parliament are levelled against them, so that in formulating those charges in this House to-day we shall be able to take 816 note of the defence which is likely to be made against them.
§ My Lords, the language of this Resolution, which I do not think I need read to your Lordships, is explicit. Our indictment is couched in strong and uncompromising language, but not, I think, language in excess of the necessities of ' the case. For, my Lords, in our view! the action of His Majesty's Government which we ask this House to censure is not merely startling and unparalleled in its character, grave in its nature, and tremendous, I think I might even say appalling, in its probable consequences, but I shall hope to convince your Lordships that this action has been in contravention of the principles and practice of our Constitution as hitherto understood and observed, that it is really action revolutionary in violence, and that the Ministers who are responsible for it have been guilty of an abuse—an unpardonable abuse, as we think—of their duty to the Throne, to Parliament, and to the people. That is, roughly speaking, the nature of the indictment which it is my duty to bring.
§ I do not think that I need trouble your Lordships with any lengthy recapitulation of recent events. They are too fresh in your Lordships' memory to lender it necessary for me to recall them. During the last few weeks we have been engaged in this House in debating the various stages of the Parliament Bill, and I do not think that the most embittered of our opponents will say that your Lordships have been at all immoderate or partisan cither in the speeches or in the Amendments which you have directed to that measure. We passed without a Division the Second Reading of the Bill, thereby paying deference to the general character of the verdict of the preceding election, and carrying out what we have always regarded as the Constitutional function of your Lordships' House. In accepting the Second Reading without a Division we did, although many of us may-have done It reluctantly, accept the main principles of the Parliament Bill. We accepted without amendment, or at any rate without substantial amendment, those clauses of the Bill which establish the financial supremacy of the House of Commons. We further accepted those provisions which abolish what is rather fancifully, and, I 817 think, absurdly called the absolute Veto of the House of Lords. That is to say, we accepted the provisions under which measures in future that have three times passed the Lower House of Parliament will become law over the heads of your Lordships' House.
§ The Prime Minister in his speech yesterday in the House of Commons said that we had mutilated the Government's Bill, that we had turned it inside out, and that we had put our policy into it—a policy which, he said, had been repudiated at the General Election. My Lords, is it possible for the language of Party exaggeration further to go? This Bill, even in the form in which we sent it back to the House of Commons, is not our Bill. It does not contain our policy. It neither contains our policy for the reform of your Lordships' House nor for the adjustment of difficulties and deadlocks that may arise between the two Chambers. Our policy is a very different one, and some day, perhaps, we may have an opportunity of putting it into practice; but that was not the situation with which we were confronted. We had to take the basis and the framework of the Government's Bill and, proceeding upon that, to do what we could to render it, if not more acceptable, at least less dangerous in our view to the general interests of the country. Accordingly, my Lords, the Amendments which we introduced into the Bill, notably those which were associated with the name of my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, were Amendments directed to preserving the rights of the people, with which we conceived that the policy of His Majesty's Government most wantonly and unpardonably tampered. Our object was to restore to the people their Constitutional prerogative of being the final Court on all great and fundamental changes in our country. And then, having introduced these Amendments into the Bill, we sent it down to the House of Commons, from which it has not since emerged.
It was at this stage that on July 21 there came into the hands of the two Leaders of the Opposition a letter from the Prime Minister, the salient words of which I must ask your Lordships' permission to read to the House. They were as follows:
When the Parliament Bill in the form which it has now assumed returns to the House of
Commons we shall be compelled to ask that House to disagree with the Lords' Amendments. In the circumstances, should the necessity arise, the Government will advise the King to exercise his Prerogative to secure the passing into law of the Bill in substantially the same form in which it left the House of Commons, and His Majesty has been pleased to signify that he will consider it his duty to accept and act upon that advice.
That was the first intimation that reached us—for previously there had been nothing but vague rumours or vaguer threats—that at some previous date, without the knowledge of ourselves or of the country, His Majesty's Ministers had possessed themselves of the Prerogative of the Crown—a Prerogative unused in any such case for 200 years, and uncontemplated for eighty years—and that they were about to employ this Prerogative for the creation of Peers, not to effect a settlement honourable to both Parties, but to crush and subjugate their opponents and to force on to the Statute Book a measure-which is destructive of the Constitution, and which is passionately resented by nearly one-half of His Majesty's subjects. We learned then—on July 21, not yet three weeks ago—that this measure is to be forced upon us, whether we resist it or not, and that if we do resist we are to be beaten to the ground by a phalanx of Peers. The Home Secretary was kind enough in the House of Commons yesterday to let out the actual number of the mercenary host by whom we are to be overwhelmed—400 or 500, I think it was, Peers to be created, if they are created, in circumstances which it is scarcely possible to mention, without a blush, and to be used, as long as their political fidelity lasts, not merely for the purpose of this Bill, but in order to facilitate the carrying, into law of a series of measures which we have no reason to believe the majority of the people either desires or demands.
§ Can it really be wondered at if in these circumstances we regard the action which I am describing as an outrage? And should we not fail in our duty as Peers of Parliament if, powerless as we may be to avert the catastrophe by which we are threatened, we did not take such opportunity as it presented to us to expose the whole character and enormity of this offence to the country, to pass in review the proceedings which have led up to it, and to place on record our opinion of them? More than that, ought we not to take this opportunity also to record our pledge as soon 819 as may be to wipe away this stain from the Statute Book, if it is going to be placed upon it, and not to rest until we have done our best to restore balance and stability to the Constitution?
§ By way of prelude to what I have to say, may I briefly recall the events of last year beginning not further back than the month of May? Before the death of King Edward in May last, the Parliament Bill, as your Lordships will remember, had only received its First Reading—a purely formal stage—in the House of Commons. It had never been discussed there except in the form of Resolutions, and with all deference, as an old House of Commons man myself, I decline to admit that Resolutions, however ample, however long discussed, or by whatever majorities they may be carried, are, insusceptible of detailed amendment as they are, in any degree equivalent to or a substitute for a Parliamentary Bill. The policy of His Majesty's Government had only been seen in the form of Resolutions in the House of Commons, and in this House it had never been seen at all. Then occurred the lamentable death of the King, followed by a. truce, as it was called—I am afraid a very deceptive and illusory truce as it afterwards turned out—in which the leaders of the two Parties were engaged in conference. That Conference, as we all know, greatly to our regret and that of everybody else, proved abortive.
§ And then it was that suddenly, in November last—I believe on November 18—to our surprise, and I will say to the stupefaction of the country, the noble Marquess opposite (Lord Crewe), whom I am sure we are all delighted to see again in his place and who we hope will before long resume that position to which he has lent so much distinction in the past, came down here and told us that the Government, without any excuse, with its majority still unimpaired, and with its mission still undischarged, was going again to the country. I have never been able to discover any shadow of justification other than Party justification for that General Election. The Prime Minister in his speech last night in the House of Commons said it was justified by two reasons—in the first place, we had entered upon a new reign, and, secondly his plans had now been formulated in the shape of a Bill. My Lords, is it possible to imagine any flimsier reason for the 820 turmoil, the expense, the agitation of a General Election? I do not think any of us has the slightest doubt now, even if we had then, that the General Election of December, 1910, was a tactical election and a tactical election only. Was ever an election, I ask you, conducted in such circumstances before? His Majesty's Ministers tell us that they went to the country upon the details of their Bill; but their Bill, even if it had been formulated, had never been debated in the House of Commons, and your Lordships will have in your minds that it was only in the last days of the session, when the last embers were flickering out, that the noble Marquess came down here and, so to speak, flung upon the Table of this House, with a gesture almost of contempt and disdain, the Parliament Bill. Even if our self-respect had enabled us to discuss it under these conditions, we could not have done so with any advantage, because he told us that not a single Amendment that we might make would His Majesty's Government consider.
§ We were left, therefore, with only a few hours in which to formulate our own views as to the manner of dealing with the Constitutional situation, and then the General Election was upon us. I venture to say that in these circumstances to pretend that the country decided at that election with any knowledge or circumspection between the two policies that were submitted to It is absurd. Does not every fair-minded man know and admit at the bottom of his heart that the country neither understood the Government's Bill nor our Resolutions? The Prime Minister said last night that his Bill had been accepted In principle at the first election of 1910. I dispute that in toto. He then went on to say that it had been accepted in detail at the second election of 1910; and I remember at an earlier stage in our debates hearing the noble Earl, Lord Russell, who is seated opposite, in one of his somewhat rare but always able interventions in our debates, say that the Parliament Bill at the last election had been carried by the people word by word and line by line.821
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I dispute that also. But the noble Lord's colleagues, less moderate than himself, go very much further; and the Prime Minister whom he follows alleges that it was accepted by the people in all its details. Really if the noble Earl were to compose an examination paper upon the Parliament Bill drawn up in a manner which nobody could do better than himself, and if he were to submit it to the electors who voted on his own side, will be seriously contend that 50 per cent. of them would get more than 20 per cent. of full marks in their answers to those questions? A General Election conducted in those circumstances may be indicative of the general temper and political complexion of the country at the time. That I do not deny, and as such we bowed in our treatment of the Parliament Bill to the general feeling of the country. But, my Lords, to say that such an election gave authority for every word and every line of the Bill and that the Bill was invested with a sort of pontifical character by reason of that election, and that you were entitled thereby to use all the forces of the Constitution in order to drive through that Bill without modification and without amendment is, I venture to say, a monstrous claim. It is a prostitution of any reasonable doctrine of a mandate that has ever been employed. And, my Lords, it is all the more absurd when in the same breath you tell us that the same election is held to have decided other independent and separate issues, such as Disestablishment and Home Rule.
The full gravity of the situation was only revealed to us yesterday in the speech of the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. I pass by the somewhat misleading reply to the Leader of the Opposition which was given by the Prime Minister at the beginning of the proceedings—a reply which I suppose was intended to disconcert and to take the sting away from the attack that was about to be delivered, and a reply which was misleading because we only had to wait to hear the speech an hour later in order to realise that everything we had suspected or believed was more than true. It appeared from that speech that on November 15 last the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, submitted a Memorandum to the King and obtained his assent to the conditional creation of Peers. Will your 822 Lordships allow me, although you have no doubt read it, to repeat the words?His Majesty's Ministers cannot take the responsibility of advising a Dissolution unless they may understand that, in the event of the policy of the Government being approved by an adequate majority in the new House of Commons, His Majesty will be ready to exercise his Constitutional powers, which may involve the Prerogative of creating Peers, if needed, to secure that effect shall be given to the decision of the country. His Majesty's Ministers are fully alive to the importance of keeping the name of the King out of the sphere of Party and electoral controversy. They take upon themselves, as is their duty, the entire and exclusive responsibility for the policy which they will place before the electorate. His Majesty will doubtless agree that it would be inadvisable in the interests of the State that any communication of the intention of the Crown should be made public unless and until the actual occasion should arise.Thus, my Lords, it is abundantly clear that on November 15 last His Majesty's Ministers did go to the King, before the situation had developed; before their Bill had passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons; before it had even been considered in the House of Lords: before they had any reasonable idea of what our attitude would be; before the Sovereign could possibly know in what form or over what difference the case for the ultimate exercise of the Prerogative might arise; and that they did use their influence with His Majesty to place themselves in possession of the Royal Prerogative in circumstances of such a character that, to use their own words, "the King had no alternative but to assent." And, my Lords, having done this, these scrupulous guardians of the Constitution sat down and recorded their conviction, in the words which I have just quoted, of the extreme importance of keeping the King out of the sphere of political controversy into which they had just successfully inveigled him and the inadvisability of making any statement upon the transactions to which I have referred. Once more I take off my hat to the strategy, or perhaps the better word would be the tactics, of His Majesty's Government, but I cannot compliment them either upon their constitutionalism or upon their candour.
I should like to ask, although I cannot say that I expect a reply, Was it ever suggested to the Sovereign at those interviews that your Lordships might possibly accept the Second Reading of the Parliament Bill? Was it ever placed before him that the General Election to which 823 his assent was asked was going to be fought upon other issues than the issue of the Parliament Bill? Could he anticipate that the point of difference upon which Peers might be demanded at a later date would be the question whether Home Rule should be passed without the assent of the people? Did he know that when the creation of Peers would be asked for it might be a question not merely of forty or fifty, but, to quote the Home Secretary, of 400 or 500? I venture to say that there is no parallel or precedent in the whole course of British history for the incidents to which I have referred. At least Lord Grey waited, before he went to King William IV and obtained his pledge, until his Bill had twice passed the House of Commons and had been rejected by the House of Lords. You could not wait for that. You obtained your blank cheque—I have to use that familiar metaphor because there is no other which adequately describes it—before the Bill had been passed by the House of Commons at all and before it had even been seen by your Lordships' House. There is a phrase in one of the Letters of Junius to the Duke of Grafton in which he says—You began by betraying the people; you ended by betraying the King.We do not in these days use the rather full-blooded language of the eighteenth century; but, my Lords, if any modern Junius were to arise and were to address His Majesty's Ministers at this moment and say to them—You inverted the process. You began by coercing the King; you ended by betraying the people,I, at any rate, should not quarrel with him either for his language or his sentiments.
It may be said, of course, that we were great, simpletons to be taken in by these tactics, and that we ought to have guessed all the time what was going on. Last night the Prime Minister referred to two statements that he had made in the House of Commons—one on April 14 and the other on November 18, 1910—which he seemed to think ought to have let us into the secret at an early date. Perhaps in the light of knowledge which we did not then possess we ought to have read into those subtly chosen phrases the dark meaning which they were intended to conceal rather than to convey. But I own that we did not. At any rate I did not, and I do not think any of my noble friends 824 sitting on this Bench did. Perhaps we were very stupid not, to know what was in hand. But, my Lords, the main reason why we failed to understand those sentences was that they had been preceded by another sentence from the same source which the meanest intelligence could not fail to understand. This was the language used by the Prime Minister on February 21, 1910—In my judgment it is the duty of statesmen and responsible politicians in this country, as long as possible and as Far as possible, to keep the name of the Sovereign and the Prerogative of the Crown outside the domain of Party politics. To ask in advance fur a blank authority for an indefinite exercise of the Royal Prerogative with regard to a measure which has never been submitted to or approved by the House of Commons is a request which in my judgment no Constitutional statesman could properly make, and it is a concession which the Sovereign could not be expected to grant.Yet this was the very request which the same Minister was nine months later to address to his Sovereign, and this was the very concession which that Sovereign was to be compelled to make! My Lords, were we such simpletons when we interpreted the language of February in the way we did? Was it language which was susceptible of more than one interpretation? We were not justified in believing that the Prime Minister who used it could possibly be guilty of the act which he had himself described as unconstitutional, or would place upon the Sovereign the pressure which he had himself condemned.
In view of these proceedings what a farce the General Election and the subsequent proceedings in both Houses of Parliament now turn out to have been! When you (the Government) went to the General Election I wonder how many of your speakers and supporters when they were denouncing the hereditary principle amid the cheers of the crowd on popular platforms knew all the while that you had a blank bit of paper in your pocket on which your own Patronage Secretary was beginning to write the names of hundreds of hereditary Peers whom for your own ends you were going to add to this House. You thundered against the iniquity of Conservative measures being passed by a crowd of Conservative Peers in the House of Lords, and all the while you were contemplating constructing a similar advantage for yourselves. And then when, the General Election over, we all came back to our work, when the House of Commons for weeks discussed 825 the Parliament Bill, and when we on our more modest scale in this House devoted two or three weeks to the consideration of the same measure, it now appears that the whole thing was a mockery and a farce! It was what Disraeli in his cynical language would have called "an organised hypocrisy." I can imagine every night as noble Lords opposite went home from the futile proceedings in this House, from our marchings and counter-marchings over a field which was not even a field of battle, they must have consoled themselves for the labours of the day by taking down from the wall and looking to the priming of the blunderbuss with which they were afterwards going to shoot us down.
The Prime Minister now asks us to believe that he held his hand during all this time and said nothing about the guarantees because he believed that we were going to accept his Bill. My Lords, if that is so, why was the Prime Minister so confident of our intention to reject it in November last, before the Bill had even reached us, that he must have a General Election in order to put terror into our souls? What I wonder was the use of the Prerogative if the Prime Minister really believed that we were going to accept his Bill without substantial amendment? Reviewing these proceedings, as I have attempted to do, I do not know which is worse—the injury that was done by Ministers to the Crown by the coercion of its independence, or to the Constitution by the destruction of its safeguards, or to the people by the deception which was practised at the people's expense. At any rate these debates in both Houses of Parliament have had this advantage. They have torn asunder the veil from these proceedings. They have revealed the whole transaction in its true light. They have enabled, or they will enable, history to pass its verdict upon a course of events that has really been worse than revolution, because it has accomplished without physical violence what physical violence by itself would never have been allowed to effect.
Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say a few words about the precedents upon which His Majesty's Government rely. I note with interest that not one word has been said, so far as I have seen, about the case of 1711—the only case in which 826 the creation of Peers was actually accomplished in order to carry the policy of the Government of the day. I think, if I may say so, that Ministers have been wise to give a wide berth to that illustration. For, as your Lordships know, it was a creation in the first place of twelve Peers only, three of whom were eldest sons—a creation hardly to be compared with the generous addition to our ranks which is contemplated by the Home Secretary; it was a creation which was intended, not to carry a Party measure, but to put an end to a long and desolating war; and yet, excellent as its intention was, it was so generally condemned that the authors of it were impeached, and the principal of them, Lord Bolingbroke, at a later date, in a letter which has been published, declared that his act was unprecedented and invidious, to be excused by nothing but the necessity and hardly by that. So much for the events of 1711.
I pass to the precedent of 1832, upon which, and upon which exclusively, I understand that Ministers rely. I am not going on this hot afternoon and in a debate in which so many speakers wish to join to recapitulate the history of that momentous time, which can be found in any Constitutional History or text-book. I will only draw the conclusions to be derived from such a study. I venture to say it is impossible for any one to rise from a study of those proceedings without seeing that the difference between that case and this is so great that it vitiates any attempt to draw an analogy from one to the other. In the first place there is the notorious fact that the Reform Bill of 1832 was a measure which the great mass of the people earnestly desired. A fierce agitation had sprung up in all parts of the country, riots had occurred in several of our principal cities, Peers had been attacked, the country was really almost on the brink of Civil war. I do not suppose that even the most heated of our opponents would contend that there is any such wave of feeling now. There certainly have been few signs of it on the part of noble Lords who sit opposite. Their enthusiasm for this Bill seems to be of a very tempered description. It has been singularly shy of expression, and has for the most part taken refuge in absence. It has needed an almost pathetic appeal on the part of the noble Viscount opposite to bring even his latest recruits on to the battle-field 827 to-morrow; and although I congratulate the noble Viscount on the relatively encouraging nature of the reply which he has received, I cannot help thinking that the attitude of his followers is due quite as much to a reluctance at the prospect of seeing the comfortable spaces of those Benches invaded by a number of their colleagues, less obviously deserving than themselves, as it is to a real devotion to the Bill.
Whether the attitude of noble Lords opposite really reflects the feeling of their supporters in the country I do not pretend to say. I am quite prepared to believe that it does not. I am quite ready to believe that already many of them have been so tainted with the atmosphere of this House that they are out of touch with the constituencies, and that their followers in the country are as warm about the Bill as they themselves are relatively cool. But, at any rate, you cannot deny this, that the forces against this Bill in the whole country are scarcely inferior, and in England are numerically superior, to those which you can boast. And while Lord Grey received his powers for the creation of Peers to carry a Bill which the overwhelming mass of the people desired, you are going to force a Party measure upon political opponents who are nearly as numerous as yourselves. That is the first difference between the two situations. The second is this. Lord Grey did not go to King William IV for the creation of Peers until the Reform Bill had three times passed its Second Reading and had twice passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons, or before it had been defeated in the House of Lords. You sought and obtained your "guarantees" in November before the Bill had passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons, before it had been introduced into this House, and at a later date you sought to put those powers into operation when three-fourths of the Bill—or one-half of the Bill, if you like— had been accepted by your Lordships here.
I call your Lordships' attention to a third difference to which I venture to attach the greatest importance. There was a stage in the proceedings of 1832 which is conspicuous by its absence on the present occasion. King William IV did not give his sanction to the creation of Peers, after 828 twice refusing it, until he had ascertained that the Opposition was not in a position to relieve him from the anxieties of the position or to form an alternative Government. I believe I am historically correct—the noble Viscount opposite will correct me if I am wrong—in saying that it was not only with the knowledge but at the instance of Lord Grey that King William IV sent for Lord Lyndhurst and the Duke of Wellington and discussed the situation with them. We all know the conditions which rendered it impossible, after ten days' discussion, for the Duke of Wellington to form a Government. But at any rate the discussion and the consultation took place. Now, I do not know whether the present Leader of the Opposition, if he had been similarly called into council, might have been able to do more than the Duke of Wellington did in 1832. I have no knowledge on that subject. But my point is this—that he never was so consulted, that he was kept in the dark, that he knew nothing of what was going on. Ministers—I speak only, of course, from such knowledge as I have from what has appeared in the newspapers this morning—Ministers in November had taken the King and placed him, so to speak, under duress; they had taken him into captivity. They deprived the Sovereign of the opportunity open to every Constitutional Monarch under our system, and assuredly one which ought not to have been denied to the Sovereign in those trying conditions, of hearing the two sides of the case and of receiving advice from those who, although they may not be members of the Government, are equally the guardians of the Constitution and the servants of the Crown. There are many other differences between the two occasions upon which, if I had time, it would be easy to enlarge. But obviously no analogy can be drawn between the creation of forty or fifty Peers, slightly modifying the total number and political complexion of this House, and the creation of 400 or 500 Peers, swamping and destroying one of the two branches of the Legislature. There is no analogy between the creation of Peers for a single measure complete in itself and a creation of Peers intended to promote the enactment of an entire group of measures, the fatal and illegitimate offspring of the Parliament Bill. Above all, there is no analogy between the creation of Peers for a measure to extend the rights and privileges of the people and a measure 829 to rob them of a Constitutional right which they have always hitherto enjoyed.
I see that the Prime Minister lays great stress upon the opinion of Constitutional lawyers, and more particularly of Professor Dicey. I wish that any Minister before he quotes Professor Dicey would write to that learned man and ask how far the dictum which they quote applies to the present case. I think—indeed, I know—that Professor Dicey would reply, in the first place, that there is all the difference in the world between a single and homogeneous Government pressing a particular policy, and the case of a coalition making a bargain with separate factions for carrying measures which all do not equally or wholly approve. And, secondly, he would say that, while the creation of Peers may conceivably be justified in the last resort to carry a definite measure unmistakably sanctioned and desired by the people, there is no justification or excuse for obtaining beforehand an indefinite authority to create Peers to support the general policy of a Government.
But I should like to quote an authority to which I think your Lordships will be inclined to attach greater weight than to the dicta of the most learned jurist—the authority of the great Statesmen in the past, whose lives have been spent in the service of Parliament and whose wisdom and character and eloquence have been used to guide the councils of their Sovereign and to shape the destinies of the State. In 1856 there was a famous debate in this House—it was, indeed, a combat of giants—on the case of the Wensleydale Peerage. In that debate there participated not only illustrious veterans such as Lord Lyndhurst and Lord Brougham, themselves the survivors of the Reform era—and there are still in your Lordships' House three members who, I believe, heard that debate—but there also spoke in it Lord Derby, Lord Campbell, Lord Cranworth, who was at that time Lord Chancellor, Lord Granville, and the Duke of Argyll. The most remarkable feature of that remarkable debate was the almost prophetic unanimity with which the whole of those noble Lords anticipated the danger of a great creation of Peers in the future, and condemned, by anticipation, the course which their less scrupulous successors have pursued. I wish those of your Lordships who are interested in the matter would take the 830 trouble to read that debate. I have not the time, of course, to make more than a passing reference to it, and I will only trouble your Lordships with two short extracts from the speeches of two of those-eminent men. Lord Lyndhurst said—It does not follow that this or any other exercise of the Prerogative, merely because it is strictly legal, is therefore consistent with the principles of the Constitution. The Sovereign may, by his Prerogative, if it should be thought proper, create 100 Peers with descendible qualities in the course of a single day, and this would be strictly legal; but everybody must feel and know that such an exercise of the Prerogative of the Crown would be a flagrant violation of the principles of the Constitution.The second quotation is from Lord Granville—Such a case as that of 1832 happily does not occur once in a century, or once in two centuries—He little knew what was to come—but I believe, whenever it should occur, any Minister would be alarmed at the idea of making use of the Crown's Prerogative in such a way.Then he discussed the idea that had been mooted of creating forty Peers for the measure in question, and he said—Your Lordships must feel that to make forty Peers is as unfeasible as it would be unconstitutional.Before I leave the famous men of the past may I refer for one moment to an example which is familiar to the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, because he has himself explained and commented upon it in his book—I mean the example of Mr. Gladstone? In 1884, when there was a great controversy between the two Houses of Parliament about the franchise, a controversy which was ultimately closed by the wisdom and moderation of the leaders on both sides, assisted by the sagacious counsels and the immense experience of Queen Victoria, Mr. Gladstone placed on record in a Memorandum to the Queen that he had declined to consider the alternative of the creation of Peers or of making an organic change in the House of Lords. I hope I have said enough to show, therefore, that neither in history, nor in the Constitutional writer who has been principally quoted, nor among the eminent Statesmen of the past can any justification be found for the course which His Majesty's Government have pursued. They have indeed cut themselves adrift from all experience and all authority. They have created an entirely new precedent of 831 their own. They have started a revolution of which no man can see the end, and it is for this, I think, that they deserve the censure of this House, and later on will receive the judgment of posterity.
My Lords, I have only one more observation to make. It is to call attention to that which, after all, appears to us to be the culminating point in this course of Constitutional outrage, I mean the fact that this Bill is to be used, these Peers are to be created, and this revolution is to be achieved because the Irish faction demand it, and that the firstfruits of this measure are to be the passage of Home Rule without the consent of the people. If every other circumstance of this and previous eases was similar this alone would differentiate the present from any previous occasion. Bolingbroke obtained his Treaty by the creation of Peers, and Lord Grey secured his Bill by the threat of Peers; but neither of them went on to use the advantage so obtained to dismember the United Kingdom behind the backs of the people. We know now exactly what is contemplated. The Home Secretary, with that sublime candour which is all his own, told us last night. He said—You censure us because we are going to pass Home Rule in this Parliament. So we are.There is no doubt about that. The full nature and intention of the conspiracy is revealed.
Home Rule may be a good or a bad thing. I do not pause to discuss that. The country may or may not have changed its opinion about it—I have no right to form a judgment upon that question. All we know is that on the two occasions on which it has been submitted to the country the country has rejected it with scorn. That it was so submitted again for the third time at the last General Election in a manner enabling the country to give to the question any conclusive or reasoned reply is a contention which no fair-minded man can put forward. The only argument used about it by the Prime Minister last night was that at the last election it was a bogey set up by the Opposition. But whatever the people have pronounced in the past or whatever they may pronounce in the future, at least I say—let them pronounce. That is the whole of our case. To utilise the Prerogative of the Crown 832 and the creation of Peers to pass a measure like Home Rule before it has been again referred to the people would, I submit to your Lordships, be a public crime. That any Liberal Government should contemplate such a plan is an indication of the reckless extremes to which, when you embark on the path of revolution, you may find yourselves impelled. That the country should acquiesce in any such plan is to my mind quite unthinkable. There is, after all, a Prerogative of the people as well as a Prerogative of the Crown. The Prerogative of the people is and always has been in this country, at any rate in the last century, that they are deemed to be the final raid supreme arbiter of all great political issues. You are going to usurp the Prerogative of the Crown in order to deny and to extinguish the Prerogative of the people. That is the nature of the offence for which we on this side indict you in this debate. It is an offence which I believe the people of this country will never forgive; and when they realise it—and it may be sooner than you expect—they will rise in wrath and tear your ill-omened work to pieces.
§ Moved, to resolve, That in the opinion of this House, the advice given to His Majesty by His Majesty's Ministers, whereby they obtained from His Majesty a pledge that a sufficient number of Peers would be created to pass the Parliament Bill in the shape in which it left the House of Commons, is a gross violation of constitutional liberty, whereby, among many other evil consequences, the people will be precluded from again pronouncing upon the policy of Home Rule.—(Earl Curzon of Kedleston.)
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, I hope I may venture to ask for the indulgence of your Lordships' House, which I cannot claim, I am afraid, on the ground upon which it is usually requested; but I have not felt able to take any part in the recent discussions in this House either upon the Parliament Bill, the care of which has been undertaken by my noble friend the Lord President, or upon the far-reaching proposals of the noble Marquess opposite for the substitution of a different Second Chamber for the existing House of Lords.
833 I have thought it right, and it has been thought right by those to whose opinions I am accustomed to defer, to appear just for this once in my place to-day as I took a somewhat continuous part in the events which have led up to the present crisis. I have listened, as I always do, with deep interest and great admiration to the noble Earl, and I do not offer any complaint of the fact that he has brought forward a Vote of Censure of His Majesty's Government. He and noble Lords opposite have no doubt good reason for doing so, as they are able thereby to indulge in the more natural pursuit of assailing us than that of differing among themselves. But in reading the terms of the noble Earl's Vote, I do not feel quite sure what it was for which we were to be particularly censured—whether we were to be censured for having advised the Crown to do something which it never ought to have done in any circumstances or for giving advice which might be reasonable under some conditions, but was not warranted in this particular case. Or, to put it differently, have we in the noble Earl's opinion been guilty of a deliberate breach of duty or have we been guilty of an error of judgment which of itself of course might form the foundation of a vote of censure?
Those who take the view that advice of the kind which was given last month never ought to have been given at all have not been inactive in this controversy. We have seen plenty of random talk of the impeachment of Ministers, sometimes, I think, from those who, unlike the noble Earl who has just sat down, have a somewhat vague idea of what that process historically was. The noble Earl touched on the wide field of Constitutional history, covering just 200 years, with which this question may be held to be concerned. He spoke of the creations in 1711, but perhaps he will allow me to leave to some of my noble friends anything like a close discussion of the Constitutional history of this question. I would merely say, as regards 1711, that I think the noble Earl would hardly satisfy the history school of the great University over which he presides by maintaining that the impeachment of Bolingbroke was founded mainly or to any great extent upon the fact of the creation of Peers in 1711.
The noble Earl did not go on to allude to the Peerage Bill of 1719 which would 834 have stereotyped the number of the House of Lords at 184, and I only mention it because it is described by Mr. Lecky, who, whatever he was, was not an extreme Radical, as having the effect—and I have no doubt he would also have added the intention—of abolishing the only means which the Constitution provides of overcoming in extreme cases the opposition of the Lords. Neither did the noble Earl allude to the fact that by their steady flow of creations from the year 1770 Lord North and Mr. Pitt practically doubled for Party purposes the House of Lords. That is of interest because the noble Earl quoted a letter which he had received, as I understood it, from Professor Dicey, in which Professor Dicey said there never had been a case of indefinite authority being given to alter the composition of the House of Lords with a view to passing Party-measures.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
Then I am afraid I must have misapprehended the noble Earl. What the noble Earl might also have alluded to, but did not allude to, is the case of the creations of the Irish Union. The creations of the Irish Union are often spoken of, and not always favourably spoken of, but they are generally spoken of as though they had no effect but to carry the Bill for the Irish Union through the Irish Parliament. But what is sometimes apt to be forgotten, and it is not by any means irrelevant with regard to the present issue, is that not only at that time were a number of English Peerages given to Irish Peers for purely Irish services, but in addition to that twenty-eight Irish Representative Peers were nominated by the Government of the day for services connected with the Union, and therefore amounted to a special creation for the purpose of giving Mr. Pitt a majority in the British House of Parliament. As regards the events of 1831 and 1832, I shall have to say a word later on. They have, as we know, been eagerly discussed in the course of this controversy, and I have no doubt the main details are familiar to your Lordships. I, however, prefer, as I said, to leave the discussion of these historical points to some of my noble friends who are to follow me.
835 But, as I was intimately concerned in the events of last year to which the noble Earl has so fully alluded, I desire to deal, so far as I can, with the specific charge—namely, that, even if in some circumstances in the last resort the advice for the creation of Peers might have to be given in order to prevent the British Constitution ending in an absolutely blind alley, as it otherwise would, without the existence of some; such outlet, at any rate on this occasion the advice was wrongly given, and that this was not the time, when the means could properly be employed. Now I ask the House to look back for one moment at Parliamentary history since Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's statement in the House of Commons in the year 1907, when the original Resolutions embodying the main features of the Parliament Bill were carried in the House of Commons. Ever since then I think it is safe to say that it has been the steady view of progressive thought in this country that the relations between the two Houses could not indefinitely persist in their present condition, and that while the more progressive members of the Party opposite were prepared to alter the character of this House, apparently almost to any extent, if it only might be allowed to exercise its powers freely, yet we, the Party represented on this side of the House, thought that the relations must be directly dealt with. The bold step of the rejection of the Budget of 1909–10 brought this question to an issue, and, in the point of view of the majority of the country, made our declared policy inevitable. That rejection ipso facto dissolved Parliament in January, 1910, and in parting from the Budget in this House I used words to the effect that we might have to obtain, and probably would have to obtain, statutory guarantees to ensure that no repetition of that rejection took place. That statement was further developed by the Prime Minister, Mr. Asquith, in the Albert Hall on December 10 of that year, when he said that—We shall not assume office and not hold office unless we can secure the safeguards.that is to say, the safeguards to be supplied by the Resolutions upon which the Parliament Bill was afterwards framed. Then came the statement of my right hon. friend in another place on April 14, which the, noble Earl has quoted, that we should either have to resign or to recommend a Dissolution of Parliament if we were not able to carry our Bill.
836 Then came the deplorable event of the death of King Edward, followed by that effort for settlement of which the noble Earl, I am bound to say, did not speak very sympathetically, but of which I am inclined to think the noble Marquess beside him would speak more sympathetically, which took the form of the Conference, at which he and I sat together for so long. Now last winter the noble Marquess and I had a friendly contest in this House as to the proper reading of the breakdown of that Conference, and I will repeat in effect, in a very few words, what I said then—that in our view the breakdown of the Conference closed a chapter, not because we particular men had failed to agree round a table, but because we had gained so complete an insight into the public opinion on the two sides which we respectively represented that it was vain to hope for an agreement upon this question. The breakdown of the Conference, therefore, brought us face to face with the position which the Prime Minister had indicated in his speech of April 14. And the words which the Prime Minister used on that occasion indicated that we should either resign our offices or ask for a Dissolution of Parliament. As the Prime Minister yesterday stated in another place, we resolved to ask for a Dissolution of Parliament for reasons with which I will deal later, and on November 16 the Prime Minister and myself, as representing the two Houses of Parliament, had the honour of being received by His Majesty and of placing before him the decision which the Cabinet had reached.
I have His Majesty's leave to state plainly what occurred, because, since this question of that interview has been made the subject of so much comment, the King naturally desires that the facts should be plainly stated. The effect of that interview was that we ascertained His Majesty's view that, if the opinion of the country were clearly ascertained upon the Parliament Bill, in the last resort a creation of Peers might be the only remedy and might be the only way of concluding the dispute. His Majesty faced the contingency and entertained the suggestion as a possible one with natural, and if I may be permitted to use the phrase, in my opinion with legitimate reluctance. His Majesty, however, naturally entertained the feeling—a feeling which we entirely shared—that if we resigned our 837 offices, having as we had a large majority in the House of Commons, the only result could be an immediate Dissolution in which it would practically be impossible, however anxious we naturally should be to do it, to keep the Crown out of the controversy. The mixing up of the Crown in a controversy such as that was naturally most distasteful to its illustrious wearer, whom we may regard as the first guardian of its prestige, but it could scarcely be more distasteful even to His Majesty than to myself and my colleagues, for reasons which I need not, I am sure, dilate upon.
But, my Lords, it is altogether inaccurate—and I might use a stronger phrase—to say that at that time we asked His Majesty for guarantees. The whole position was obviously hypothetical. The question whether at any time the advice to create Peers should be given must necessarily depend for one thing upon the adequacy of the majority with which we were returned to the House of Commons, assuming that we were returned at all. On November 18 last the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition used these words—If the Government secure a majority of half a dozen votes the Bill is to be imposed upon a muzzled and helpless House of Lords.That contingency has not arisen, and it is not for me to say whether, if it had arisen, we should have been in a, position to give to the Crown the advice which we tendered last month. What was also hypothetical was, before any question of the advice being actually given could arise, what would be the magnitude of the point in dispute between the two Houses. I do not know whether the magnitude of the difference between the two Houses in this case is disputed. The noble Earl opposite seemed somewhat disposed to dispute it and to argue that, after all, the Amendments which noble Lords opposite had proposed were all of them so comparatively innocuous in character that it would be easy for us to arrive at an agreement upon them, and that the fact that it was so easy was what made the possibility of this last resort being used so monstrous on this particular occasion. I can only say that to me, although I have not been able to follow the discussions in this House, the Amendments proposed by the noble Marquess opposite—I am speaking, of course, 838 of the main Amendments—do practically mean an altogether new Bill. When the noble Earl said that the House had accepted the principle by passing the Second Reading of the Bill I am altogether unable to follow him, or, indeed, to understand what he meant. Nor does it seem to me to make it very much better that the proposals of the noble Marquess, according to the noble Earl, are neither your policy nor ours. There is apparently something which satisfies nobody, and how a basis of agreement is to be made out of a proposition which apparently is liked as little by its author as it is by us I confess I am altogether unable to understand.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I did not say that of the Amendments which had been put into the Bill. I said it of the Bill as amended, if the noble Marquess sees the distinction.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I see the noble Earl's distinction, and I beg his pardon if I misrepresented him in any way. But I can put my case in a somewhat different form. Speaking not altogether without experience of leading this House in difficult conditions, I say quite categorically that I would infinitely sooner continue for the rest of my life to lead the House or to be a member of the House in the conditions under winch I have sat in it hitherto than attempt to perform the same feat or be obliged to hold the same position under the Bill as amended by the noble Marquess. I would infinitely prefer to go on as we have gone on since 1905 than attempt to proceed in the conditions outlined by the noble Marquess. I hope I have made that quite clear, because the noble Earl pressed strongly on that point, and seemed to consider that our conduct was of such an infamous kind because we were throwing away a chance of something like a harmonious agreement.
To return for one moment to the conversation which we had the honour of holding with His Majesty, I confess that the contention that that conversation gave any unreality either to the election or to the subsequent discussions of the Bill seems to me an entirely empty one; and when the noble Earl complains that nothing was said, I wonder what he would have said—and I think would have said 839 with perfect justice—if we had attempted to use that conversation as a lever in the General Election of last December for the purpose of securing votes. As a matter of fact, the question, so far as I know, was never mentioned in the election at all, and I am exceedingly glad that it was not, because the conversation was, although, of course, of a. formal character, eminently in the nature—I will not say of a private conversation, but not in the nature of a conversation which ought to have been made, or could properly be made, public at the time. Therefore I confess that I remain absolutely unrepentant as to the alleged irregularity of which, according to the noble Earl, we have been guilty. I cannot help asking, Cui malo? Who is the worse for it? What possible harm was done or, indeed, could have been done? The sole object, and indeed the sole effect, of the conversation was to authorise us in asking for a Dissolution of Parliament, and, as I say, I do not feel that any other course would have been a possible one.
The noble Earl questioned us about a possible resignation and the taking of office by his right hon. friend Mr. Balfour. I have already, I think, answered that in stating His Majesty's views on this subject—views which I venture respectfully to state that I entirely share. The resignation by us of our offices could only have meant an immediate Dissolution, and it would not have been possible, and I do not believe that noble Lords opposite can say that it would have been possible, to avoid giving some explanation of that resignation which must have led to a controversy in which the Crown might, and probably would, unfortunately have been involved. The allegation is that our action in presenting the views of the Cabinet to His Majesty last November was premature. The only answer to that is that it was not action at all. It was, as I have said, a conversation dealing with a purely hypothetical set of conditions.
The noble Karl recalled the events of 1831 and 1832. The Reform Bill passed this House and became an Act at the beginning of June, 1832. It was in the first days of January, six months before, that the King was formally approached by Cabinet Minute on the question of the creation of Peers, and for months before that, even before the Dissolution of the 840 previous April, this question of the creation of Peers had been the subject of frequent correspondence and communication between King William IV and his Ministers. Therefore, when the noble Earl tells us that it was premature even to allude to the subject as a conceivable hypothesis last autumn, there again, I think, he is not supported by precedent. Then the noble Earl dwelt upon the fact that this measure differs from others because it is not a single and self-contained measure, because if it is passed it may involve the passing of other measures, and in that respect it differs from the Reform Act of 1832 and from any other measure on which there has ever been a question of applying the Royal Prerogative. I turn once more to the measure of 1832. There is no doubt that a certain amount of the opposition to that measure was purely selfish opposition on the part of those who possessed nomination boroughs, and who disliked parting with the great influence which was given them, and also with the extremely valuable property which they were able to sell to gentlemen from India and elsewhere. The honest opposition, the really Conservative opposition to the Reform Bill was of an entirely different kind. The Reform Bill was objected to because of the kind of measures which would be passed by a reformed Parliament. It was thought that if places like Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester were to obtain an accession of Members, and gained enfranchisement for a disreputable sort of people who were likely to be returned for such places, they would bring forward and succeed in passing measures of a cataclysmal and dangerous character. Therefore the 1832 case offers a very close analogy to this present case, because noble Lords opposite are not merely affected with the idea that they personally are going to lose a certain degree of power of rejecting measures and that they therefore will be personally humiliated; what they are afraid of is that certain measures to which they object will become law without the possibility of their showing any resistance.
My Lords, I believe it to be the view of the majority of the people of this country that the powers given under the Parliament Bill as limited by that Bill will not be misused. The noble Earl alluded to the question of Home Rule, which, as he said, was dealt with in the House of Commons 841 yesterday, I think at some length by a former colleague of his, Mr. Walter Long, and more particularly by the Home Secretary. I do not see how it can be disputed that in accepting the Parliament Bill the country was aware that a Home Rule measure was included in the list of measures which it would be possible to pass under that Bill, if it could stand the racket of the two years' discussion, and that the country was content to see it so discussed under the limitations, pretty severe limitations as some people think them, provided by the Parliament Bill.
I have endeavoured to describe the steps by which we arrived at the advice which last month was given to the Crown. That advice involves what in our opinion is the last resort, the final resort in the absence of an appeal to the country, and a further appeal to the country has not yet, so far as I am aware, been asked for by anybody. I have not seen it asked for by any one of the newspapers which support the Party opposite, and it is not asked for because it is known that it would not be a reasonable thing to put the country to the trouble of another General Election once more confined to this particular issue. I can only say that His Majesty's Government would look forward with profound reluctance to the use of that last resort; but there is no alternative. There can be no alternative but to face that last resort in the terms of the advice given to the Crown the other day.
I will make a present to the noble Earl opposite of one argument. I do not pretend that, as a Party, we are all of one mind on this question of the creation of Peers. We there resemble the Party of noble Lords opposite, some of whom seem to look forward with positive enjoyment to the idea of a forced creation. Even the noble Earl, whom I cannot suspect of such a sentiment, spoke of the possibility in a tone of jocularity in which I am altogether unable to join. Most of us think that if this House is to be reformed that reform should be more soberly considered than by the immediate addition of a large number to its body, even though the effect of such an addition might be to redress in a larger or less degree the balance of Parties in this House. At the same time, as the noble Earl mentioned 842 the subject, I think it is desirable to attempt to remove the misapprehension which may exist in some minds. The noble Earl alluded to the bold figures mentioned by my right hon. friend the Home Secretary in another place yesterday; but this I do feel compelled to say, that if we are to be forced, to my keen personal regret, into giving advice which would have the effect of the creation of Peers we cannot pretend that the number to be so created could necessarily be limited by any newspaper list, of which there have been so many seen of late; nor would it necessarily have any reference whatever to any division lists of your Lordships' House which may be seen when the question of the Amendments once more comes before this House. All such lists will have become, if the lamentable necessity arises, altogether irrelevant, and I all the various combinations of noble Lords opposite of which we read in our morning newspapers must be assumed to be at an end, because they have reference to an entirely different state of things. I state this not, as I venture to claim, in a minatory spirit, because the whole business, I frankly admit, is odious to me. I can only assure your Lordships I that anybody who tells you a different story has either been misled as to the facts of the case or has a purpose to serve in making that statement.
I venture to claim that during the whole period in which this matter has been before us our course has been clear and consistent, and that there has been no change of purpose since we were first obliged to deal with the question. I go further, and say that even if his late Majesty King Edward had been spared to the country the course of events would not have been very dissimilar from what it has proved to be. Whether the Conference would have been held I cannot pretend either to affirm or to deny. Whether the influence of His Majesty in his lifetime would have been used in the same way in which the influence of his memory was used to bring about the Conference it is, of course, impossible to say. Neither shall I attempt either to affirm or deny that if King Edward had lived there would have been a General Election analogous to the General Election of December, 1910, with a view to submitting the Parliament Bill in its terms with the alternative favoured by the other side to the judgment of the 843 country; but I do say that our line of thought has been the same throughout. Our line of action has been the same throughout, and it would, speaking generally, have been the same if King Edward had lived. I therefore feel, though I recognise the full force of the manner in which the noble Earl presented his indictment, that we have nothing to plead in extenuation. I make no complaint whatever of the announcement of the noble Earl that his first step and that of his friends will be, if he has the power, to reverse the provisions which we desire to see made into law. The noble Earl has a perfect right to make that statement, and we do not dispute for a moment that he has a perfect right to carry his intentions into effect whenever he and his friends obtain the confidence of the country. In the meantime, whatever the result of tonight's vote, apart from the verdict of history to which the noble Earl really appeals, we are content to leave our conduct to be judged by the reasonable body of our fellow-countrymen.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, the Prime Minister last night based his justification for the action of His Majesty's Government on three statements—that at the last General Election the country had approved of the Parliament Bill, that at the same election it had repudiated the alternative policy of my noble friend behind me, Lord Lansdowne, and, lastly, that there was no alternative Government for the country to his own. I entirely deny and dispute every one of those three statements. My noble friend Lord Curzon has already dealt so admirably with the Prime Minister's statements that there remains very little for me to deal with, but I would remind your Lordships, in addition to what Lord Curzon said, that certain facts absolutely deprive of any moral basis the statement of His Majesty's Government that their action has been endorsed by the electors of this country.
Let me remind your Lordships that there are, roughly speaking, 8,000,000 electors in the United Kingdom, and that half of those, electors returned 458 Members to the House of Commons, and the other half only 212. This grotesque system of misrepresentation is so arranged that England has forty-seven fewer members of the House of Commons than she is entitled to, and England is against the Government. 844 It is a question not of opinion but of fact. The majority of English men and women are against the policy of the Government. The Government have done nothing more nor less than this: they have prostituted the Prerogative of the Crown to trample down the rights of English men and women. I would ask your Lordships to remember the moral attitude which the Party opposite have always taken on the question of Home Rule. They have said that the Union had no moral basis, that we were not entitled to maintain it, and that the majority of the Irish people were against it. Yet the same Government are going to tear up the whole of our ancient Constitution by the use of the Prerogative, although by so doing they know they are trampling on the majority of the people of England. England is still the predominant partner. We deny that the Government have any moral authority for what they are doing. This has happened in England before. We are seeing repeated now by the abuse, the monstrous abuse, of the Prerogative what was done at the time of the Great Rebellion.
I ask your Lordships to recall what the Great Rebellion was. The war lasted for more than seven years; the Parliament had to conquer England; it conquered Scotland and it conquered Ireland; there was pitched battle after pitched battle, besides hundreds of skirmishes. At the end of those seven years, when England had been deluged with blood, the Royal Prerogative was abolished, the House of Lords was abolished, and the authority of one Chamber was established unchecked and uncontrolled. Your Lordships remember how intolerable was the abuse that followed, and how intolerable the rule of that Single Chamber. It was, however, finally ended by the less intolerable domination of one man, the Master of the Legions, the ruler of the Army. Comparing the results of the Great Rebellion with the results which the Government are now going to achieve if they can, we find that they are going to absorb the Prerogative of the Crown as an ordinary instrument of Party machinery. The Prerogative of the Crown is to be at the beck and call of the Radical caucus for use when required. It is to be used simply as an instrument of Party machinery to destroy all independent action on the part of members of this House, and if need be for imposing on the majority of 845 this country the rule and domination of the minority. The House of Lords is not in form to be abolished, but gradually to be deprived of all power, emasculated of everything that made it a force in the Constitution.
I know there are members of your Lordships' House who think that this is the language of exaggeration. Let me test that. I appeal to what the Home Secretary said last night. He said, with the most perfect confidence—We are going to pass Home Rule for Ireland in this Parliament.The particular functions still left to this House under the Parliament Bill did not strike him as at all germane to the question of whether Home Rule was to be passed into law or not. No; "in this Parliament," he said, "we are going to pass Home Rule." I will apply another test which is simple and conclusive. There are noble Lords in this House who still think that some power will be left to this Chamber under the Parliament Bill. I will ask them, Is it not true that the House of Commons on its own motion, after the period of suspense, could destroy those limited powers altogether or abolish this House? This House would have absolutely no more influence over its own fate after that period was over than any debating society in the country. Therefore I am entitled to say that it is a mere hypocrisy and sham to pretend that in this Bill any real effective power is left to this House. The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, referred a little time ago to the utter humiliation which this Bill inflicted upon this House. The Prerogative is to be exercised. This House is to be abolished in fact if not in name, for what purpose? To establish the autocratic position of a Single Chamber, itself unreformed and unrepresentative, proved by the statistics I have given your Lordships not to represent the people of this country, and utterly to misrepresent the people of England. Yet that is the Chamber in whose favour this tremendous revolution is to take place; a Chamber which, in its turn, will be dominated by the junto of the day which has control of the machinery of the largest Party in the Chamber.
I offer my compliments to the Government of the day who have with such singular success, but at the price of their trust, manipulated this great conspiracy. 846 They will have accomplished in two years of intrigue by use of the Prerogative what was not accomplished at the time of the Great Rebellion except after seven years' Civil war. I cannot extend my compliments equally to my own Party in the constituencies and in the House of Commons. I do not think that, either in the House of Commons or in the constituencies, my Party have fought this question as it ought to have been fought from the beginning, or with a quick enough sense of the tremendous issues that were at stake. They allowed political lassitude, not unnatural after two General Elections, to have an influence over them which history will not justify, particularly when remembrance is had of the reason why the present revolution has taken place, why the Prerogative has been abused, and why the Cabinet has been false trustees to the Sovereign and to the people.
Never was there a more pitiless exposure of this Government than that given by the noble Earl, Lord Curzon. He showed us that their policy had not been due to the special amount of original sin that resided in the Cabinet or in their Party, but how they had embarked on the fatal policy of endeavouring to pass Home Rule into law without giving the country an opportunity of saying "Aye" or "No." Is there a noble Lord here who does not know that if the question of Home Rule had not existed the Government would have taken a wholly different course? I do not believe they ever would have contemplated this abuse of the Prerogative, or have set out for a partisan and temporary settlement. The spirit of statesmanship which animated them at the Conference would have prevailed. They would have come to the House of Lords and said, "We want a fairer representation in this House and equality of opportunity," and your Lordships would have met them. They would have said, "We want not only equality, but a Constitutional machinery for the readjustment of the differences between the two Houses," and again the House of Lords would have met them. There would have been a national settlement of the Constitutional difficulty. But the Government were dragged down to their present position because they are tied hand and foot to the chariot-wheels of Mr. Redmond, because by this abuse of the Prerogative, by this temporary device of the Parliament Bill, the Second 847 Chamber is not to be allowed to give the people of this country an opportunity of saying "Aye" or "No." That is the only condition under which Mr. Redmond thought Home Rule could become law, and so to their eternal shame the Government have accepted his conditions and abused their trust.
I listened with profound admiration to the speech which Lord Curzon has delivered. He and I have for many years past worked together in a common cause, and I trust and believe that for many years to come, if we are spared, we shall work together in complete amity and cordial agreement. For the moment we are divided on a question with which you are all familiar. But that does not prevent me in the least from admiring his speech and associating myself with all that he has said. Let me refer to one or two of those noble and pregnant sentences. He said that Ministers had been guilty of an abuse of their duty to the Throne, to Parliament, and to the people. He spoke of the enormity of their conduct and the monstrous prostitution of the doctrine of the mandate. He said they had begun by coercing the King and had ended by betraying the people. He said this was a measure to rob the people of their Constitutional rights, and that the Government had usurped the Prerogative of the Crown in order to extinguish the Prerogative of the people. I associate myself with every single word that the noble Earl said. I have already alluded to the fact that he and I take a different view of our duty at this crisis, and I am not going to allude to that difference. But it does seem amazing and incomprehensible to me that there should be members of our Party who share Lord Curzon's opinions and my own in regard to this Bill, and who yet are going, from what we learn in the newspapers, to vote with the Government to carry into law the measure which has been denounced in such noble and eloquent language by my noble friend. I think that those who are going to take that action owe it to this House to explain the motives which are dictating their conduct. I know we shall be told by them that they are going to take this action in order to prevent the creation of four or five hundred Peers, to prevent this House from being swamped by an intolerable abuse of the Royal Prerogative.
848 My noble friend laid great stress on some words used by the Home Secretary in the House of Commons last night. What were those words? The Home Secretary said—Why should we shrink from the creation of 400 or 500 Peers.Who would suggest that Mr. Churchill would shrink from anything? It certainly never occurred to me that Mr. Churchill would hesitate, to create four or five hundred Peers if he had the power and if he thought it suited his purpose. But I would ask you to compare what the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, said were the "bold words" of the Home Secretary with the statement made by Lord Crewe himself here to-night. Those words are fresh in your Lordships' recollection. You will agree that they were uttered by a man who singularly dislikes the task to which he may have to put his hand presently, by a man who, although I think he has given a most mistaken interpretation of his responsibility in this matter, is yet obviously feeling his responsibility very keenly. Lord Crewe and his friends will not shrink from advising His Majesty to create as many Peers as are necessary to fulfil the pledge which they admit His Majesty has given to them. They will not make nice calculations drawn from lists published in The Times or in other journals. They will ask His Majesty to fulfil the spirit of his promise—that is, enabling them to carry the policy, of which they say the country has approved, in connection with the Parliament Bill. I ask them now to contradict me if they can. They have not a blank cheque to create as many Peers as may give Mr. Churchill that majority which he would like to see used for purposes entirely unconnected with the Parliament Bill. If Mr. Churchill's threat is the only reason which those Unionist Peers who hold the whole policy of the Government to be a monstrous enormity, if that is the only reason they can adduce for their intention to assist the Government with their votes, I do not envy them the verdict of history. They stand confessed, even on their own showing, as intending to do evil that good may come. The good they look forward to is the prevention of the creation of Peers; the evil they are prepared to assist is the passing of the Parliament Bill.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
May I interrupt the noble Earl? He did not state one fact which I pointed out with regard to this matter. I referred not merely to the newspaper lists but also to the division lists of the House, and I said it would be impossible for us to regard them as guides in this matter. I did not confirm the figures given by my right hon. friend in another place.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
When I said the lists published in the journals I ought to have mentioned the division lists, and I add them. What I do say to those noble Lords who agree with Lord Lansdowne and those who agree with Lord Halsbury is this—"We shall unite in our great life's work of restoration after usurpation." But nothing will make that work of restoration more difficult, nothing will weaken or destroy our moral influence in the country so much, as that this Parliament Bill—this outrage on the people—should pass into law by the votes of Unionists who believe it to be wrong.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just sat down concluded his speech in language which recalls the days of Charles II. I cannot follow him into all his metaphors, and I shall pass that part of his speech. The noble Earl has spoken of the majority of the men and women of England as being against the Government. I confess myself wholly unable to agree with or dissent from him in that. Unfortunately the majority of men and women in this country do not have votes; and if they had the existence of plural voting prevents us knowing what they would say. Then, again, the noble Earl went on to say that the desire of the Government was to absorb the Prerogative of the Crown into Party machinery. It is easy to make assertions. But what we are here to discuss are the Constitutional principles of the present situation. I wish to try to strip this question of some of the rhetoric in which it has been involved and which seems to me to be largely irrelevant.
What is the position? The quarrel arose between the two Houses long ago and has been becoming more and more acute, until it became very acute in 1906, and the result was that in 1907 a Resolution was carried by a large majority, nearly 300, 850 in the House of Commons asserting the principle which is embodied in this Bill. The next cause of quarrel was when your Lordships rejected the Budget by a large majority. That was met by a counter-Resolution, also carried by an enormous majority in the House of Commons, condemning your Lordships' action. Then the question came to a General Election and a large majority of the country pronounced for the Budget and also for the principle of what is called the restricted Veto. Then there was a long debate, and the Resolutions which were embodied in this Bill were again passed by a large majority in the House of Commons; and then at a General Election there was a further pronouncement of the electors. Even those on the other side who take most strongly the view that the proposals of the Government are not justified do not profess to desire an appeal to the country. It is common ground that an appeal to the country would not be likely to result in a change of opinion on this question.
How do we stand in this state of things? Two alternatives seem to me to be the only possible ones. I rule out as inconceivable the proposition that, assuming it to be the deliberate intention of the House of Commons after two elections to pass a certain measure, your Lordships should offer a permanent opposition to it—I rule, out as inconceivable a situation in which that should be left without a remedy. If that is so there were two ways only of dealing with the problem. One was for Ministers to resign and leave the Sovereign to choose other Ministers, who would go to the country. That would be a very proper and natural course under certain circumstances; but it was neither a proper nor natural course in the circumstances which occurred here. We were desirous throughout to keep the Crown out of this controversy. There is a great deal of confusion about the position of the Crown in this matter. The Crown is not a mere piece of machinery. The Crown is a very important element in the Constitution, but the Crown always acts upon the advice of Ministers, and always will so act as long as our Constitution remains what it is. If that be so, the Crown must have Ministers who have a reasonable chance of possessing the confidence of the country, and if the Crown has Ministers who could not hold their office for a week and who if they went to the country would 851 be defeated—it is not advisable that the Crown should be placed in that position.
The other alternative was the alternative which has actually been adopted. It was to tender advice to the Crown, and that advice was tendered only on the footing that there was to be a reference to the country and a reference in the only Constitutional way. That reference was taken, and the response was emphatic—the majority was undiminished. It is no answer to say it was a coalition. It was a coalition of men holding divergent opinions on various subjects, but unanimous upon one point, and that point the Parliament Bill. These were the facts which we had to face. I think the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, was miles away from the facts. I also think the noble Earl who moved this Resolution was very far away from the facts, but he spoke in measured language. The only part I shall refer to of Lord Curzon's speech is that in which he characterised the action of the Government. But it is not the characterisation by other people of the Government that we want. We want to be judged by what we have done, and in reference to the facts; and if the facts are what I have stated no amount of rhetoric will make the situation seem different.
Lord Curzon referred to Professor Dicey. I, for one, am not likely to be wanting in respect for Professor Dicey. He is a personal friend of my own. But I am not concerned with Professor Dicey's political convictions. What I am concerned with is his opinion as a distinguished jurist on the large question of principle which he has discussed in his book quite apart from all current policies, and it is because he has laid down that principle that we turn to his book as a book of authority. Lord Curzon also referred to what occurred in 1711 and again in 1832. To discuss what particular shades of opinion there were between this statesman and that, and what the controversy was at the time and how the circumstances have differed in minute details from the present situation, is not a very profitable course to pursue. What is a great deal to the point was that in 1711 it was admitted that there was this remedy for a breakdown in the Constitution, and that doctrine became even more definitely expressed in 1832. Does anybody imagine that between 1832 and now that doctrine has not got still more authority than it had in those days? 852 Why, our Constitution is not rigid, and does not stand still. It is unwritten; it is evolving itself in the direction of making the basis of government more and more a popular basis; and that being so I maintain that the value of the precedent of 1711 and 1832 is simply to show that there is in our Constitution a principle which has grown more powerful still—so powerful that t think no sane or rational Minister would have given any other advice to the Sovereign than that which was given by His Majesty's present Ministers.
Really the question is a very simple one. Your Lordships have been jousting with the House of Commons, and it is a serious matter to joust with the House of Commons, and when a trial of strength has arisen with the House of Commons, with the country behind it, there are those who think that the House of Commons ought to prevail. If that is so there is in this Constitution a remedy for the situation which has arisen, and that remedy, in the circumstances which are actually current, is a remedy which is proper to be applied. What my noble friend Lord Crewe said to-day, coming after the documents which the Prime Minister laid before the country yesterday, shows that the advice which was given was not advice directed to some state of things which was to be crystallised irrespective of what might happen hereafter, but advice directed to this, that it might prove necessary to obtain a creation of Peers, in which case advice would be given to the Sovereign that the creation should take place. It is not to the point to say that the matter appears to have been entered upon long before these discussions took place. Why, last year the Resolutions, the very substance of this Bill, were discussed in the House of Commons with a bitterness and a rancour which gave us a most lively anticipation of what would happen when they were crystallised into a Bill. We knew what we had to expect. We knew the position we should have to meet at the hands of a majority in this House, and under the circumstances there was no course open except the course which the Government have taken, unless we were to find ourselves in the humiliating position of acknowledging that the Constitution had broken down and that there was no remedy for the situation in which we were left.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like to express the pleasure 853 it has been to me to hear Lord Curzon to-day. I feel sure I may say, as a humble member of this House, that having listened to the eloquent words of the noble Earl, we all came to the conclusion that he thoroughly exposed the enormity of the conduct of His Majesty's Ministers. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House said that he welcomed the Vote of Censure. He seemed to get up in a frame of mind either of triumph or very good spirits. Whichever it may be, we are pleased that the Government rejoice at this Vote of Censure. For this Vote enables us to consider two distinct, points—the Constitutional soundness or unsoundness of the policy which His Majesty's Ministers have adopted in their advice to the Crown, and the action we shall pursue to-morrow evening when the Parliament Bill comes up again in virtue of that advice. As to the latter point, I find myself in agreement with Lord Selborne. I welcome this Vote of Censure, but I regard it more in the light of a preliminary to action than as a substitute for it.
If we compare the precedents which have been cited this evening, those of 1711, of 1832, and of 1884, when in one case Peers were made and in the others it was suggested that Peers should be made, we are able to see at once the extravagant position in which His Majesty's Ministers have placed themselves. They are attempting to shift the centre of Constitutional gravity and to take away from the Sovereign and from this House power which has been possessed for many years. It is ridiculous for His Majesty's Ministers to pretend that the precedents which have been quoted this afternoon can possibly cover and cloak their present intentions and actions. Their policy can be justified by one consideration and by one consideration alone, and that is success. Are the Government quite sure they will be successful? I have myself very grave doubts. Lord Curzon reminded us of the circumstances connected with the Reform Bill of 1832, and of the position of the two Parties in 1884 when Mr. Gladstone brought in his Franchise Bill and Lord Salisbury would not agree to it unless it was accompanied by a redistribution of seats. But to-day two elections have taken place, and, as Lord Selborne has reminded the House, opinion is almost equally divided in the country. The majority the Government possess in the 854 country is a very narrow one indeed. Constitutional changes which have been carried out in the past have had a proportionate amount of public opinion and fighting strength behind them to justify their passage into law; but to-day the Government desire to carry out a colossal change, though they have not that overwhelming opinion behind them which alone could justify them in embarking upon it.
Is it statesmanlike, is it prudent or wise, on the part of His Majesty's Ministers to attempt to force upon half the people of this country measures like Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment, contravening the very principles to which so large a section of the population is entirely pledged? Surely a reaction will take place. History furnishes many cases of reaction as the result of violent action on the part of Ministers. Are you sure that no reaction will take place, condemning in the most emphatic terms the policy which you now advocate, and especially the means by which you are carrying that policy into effect? On the Third Reading of the Parliament Bill the noble Viscount opposite, whom I am glad to see in his place, gave expression to an amazing sentence, a really astounding sentence. He said—What I would desire would be that this inevitable Parliamentary and political operation should be carried through without anything like a social shock.So his proposition is this—that this House which has existed for 700 or 800 years, which is older even than the House of Commons, is to have its powers taken away from it, and yet the noble Viscount hopes that it will be "carried through without anything like a social shock."
During the course of this debate nobody on the opposite side of the House has produced any precedent to justify the character of the step which the Government intend to take. Let me make one observation on the means that they are determined to employ. I claim that the maintenance of the dignity of the Crown is far more important than the success of any legislative proposal. I confess that in this connection the course which the Government propose to take causes me the most profound apprehension. No doubt the noble Viscount and his Party are perfectly entitled to take the risk of passing a Home Rule Bill through both Houses, although it is a measure which has been 855 twice rejected and never endorsed by any preponderant body of public opinion. But what they are not entitled to do is to force that measure through this House by using the Prerogative of the Crown. The Crown ought not to be placed in such a position that it can be accused of having violated popular opinion as expressed on two separate electoral occasions. By your action you do not protect the Crown; you expose the Crown. You do not keep it out of Party politics; you involve it in Party politics. By your advice you have compelled the Crown to become partial—I venture even to use the word partisan.
There is one other point to which the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, alluded, and, I think, also the noble Viscount, Lord Haldane. It is admitted that the Prerogative of making Peers should be invoked only in the last resort. I believe the noble Viscount laid stress on the fact that it should be only exercised after the utmost limit of concessions has been exhausted. But this is not the case to-day. The Conference, to which allusion has been made, has kept its secret. None of us know its secrets. But it sat for five months and held 21 meetings, and I think it is reasonable to assume that at that Conference His Majesty's Ministers did not say to the representatives of the Tory Party, "You know the terms of the Parliament Bill. These are our terms. We have none other to offer you." We may very reasonably suppose that the representatives of both Parties went into the Conference prepared to offer the maximum amount of concession with a, view to arriving at a settlement which would be compatible with the wishes and goodwill of both sides. In fact last night the Prime Minister rather indicated that-much. I think, therefore, that it might be plausibly argued that the noble Viscount and his friends would be perfectly justified in embodying in their Bill the maximum of concessions which they were prepared to give, and in then invoking the Prerogative of the Crown to pass them. But what is to be said of a Government, what will the people of England say of a Government, which invokes the Prerogative as an excuse for withdrawing its concessions? For my part I think that that is an extraordinary extension of the right of advising the Crown to exercise this Prerogative, and I do think that their action, in the words of the noble Lord, 856 makes them guilty of a breach of duty. I deplore the action of His Majesty's Government, and I condemn the methods by which they have sought to put that policy into effect.
§ [The sitting was suspended shortly before eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, in asking your Lordships' leave to intrude for a few moments in this debate, I am conscious that I occupy a position which is supposed to be not a desirable one. My first observation is that noble Lords on the other side have rendered it extremely difficult for any one to speak upon the subject, and that is my main attack upon them. One of the cardinal principles that most of us have recognised has been the fact that we should, as far as we possibly could, keep the Crown out of our political debates. That has been recognised, I suppose, on both sides of the House. Noble Lords opposite know perfectly well that it is absolutely impossible to keep the Crown out of this debate. It is not a thing that you can speak of without considering what is the proposition which the Crown has permitted and what are the circumstances in which that permission was given. How is it possible to keep the Crown out of the debate?
What appears to me to be a very serious part of my arraignment of the Government is that we do not now know what took place. We have got one side. It is a dialogue in which there is only one person speaking. We do not know what His Majesty said, and we do not know what were the arguments by which His Majesty was induced to give that consent. I must say if ever there was a situation in which the Crown ought to have been protected against undue influence under such circumstances it was that in which, as I understand, in November last this agreement was come to. What was the agreement? We heard from the Home Secretary last night what it was, and we heard a very doubtful and tentative correction of that statement. It was said in bold words. All that the noble Marquess opposite said was that he could not confirm it, but that it must not be understood that he contradicted it. What does that mean?
857 Just consider what we are dealing with. It is no ordinary circumstance. The noble Viscount opposite very truly said that you cannot treat analogies as if they were absolute principles; you must see what the thing is, and argue on facts and not upon what people say to each other. I agree with each one of those propositions. But what were the circumstances? What was it that induced the King to give that permission? And what was the permission he gave? We are left in the dark. I should have thought that now, if ever, there are circumstances in which we ought to have had the whole story. If you are going to make a new departure and say, "We are going to abandon what hitherto we have done, and we are going to do what has not been done for 200 years," then you ought to let us hear the whole story, and justify it if you can. But do not let us have these mysterious hints as to what the King said, and how much His Majesty was going to give. Everything is in the dark. That seems to me to be one of the things of which we have a right to complain. Can any one doubt that this Bill which the Government desire to have, and without which they cannot get this power over the Constitution, would reduce the House of Lords to an absolute nonentity? Can any one gravely argue that the mere interposition of two years makes the whole difference? Surely when we are dealing with a Constitution which has admittedly lasted for 700 years we might have some reason given to us for this proposed departure, and as to why you should have these unlimited powers— if they are unlimited—and we do not know what they are. We ought to know what we are dealing with. The mystery maintained by the Government has no doubt this advantage to them, that it may divide those who generally think alike. Some people think that if there is going to be a complete change in the Constitution you had better force your adversaries into the open and see what they mean. Why do you not tell us what the truth is? It is because you want to divide your adversaries and so command them. That is the reason you have taken this line of action.
I do not wish to go through the history of the Reform Bill. I think the version given of it by the noble Marquess opposite —whom I, as well as everybody else in the House, I am sure, am delighted to see 858 again in his place—is absolutely inaccurate. I am afraid I am one of the few members of the House who can remember the riots on the Reform Bill; but, as a matter of fact, there is this distinction, which I will commend to the noble Lord's attention. The question of the Reform Bill differs from the present question in one remarkable respect—that the agitation for the Reform Bill was right, whereas the agitation for a Home Rule Bill is wrong. Although he may say that that is a matter of opinion, and I agree that to some extent it is, it is also a matter of fact. Can anybody doubt what the question in the country was with regard to the Reform Bill? And can anybody say that there is any agitation in the country for a Home Rule Bill now? I might go through the different classes of things that are to be dealt with under this Parliament Bill. There is the Church, for example; and I appeal to the Episcopal Bench to have regard to that question, which is also to be forced through under the same circumstances.
We are dealing now with an accusation ', against the Prime Minister, and I repeat that the grounds for keeping the King out of this controversy ought in my opinion to have been overwhelming in the circum- stances in which this pledge is supposed to have been given. A young King, uncrowned, suffering from the deepest grief which could afflict a loving son, is suddenly appealed to by a Minister, himself a lawyer of no mean distinction, and informed that the only thing to be done is to give him the authority he claims. Was there ever a grosser breach of trust than such a thing done at such a time and in such circumstances? Everybody must recognise the supreme importance of this occasion, and when I hear talk about a professor giving an opinion upon matters I very much concur with the noble Viscount opposite. I doubt whether it is a desirable thing to bring our professors into our debates. I speak with all respect to those who are professors. At the same time professors are sometimes not the best advisers in the active life of the present. I appeal to other authorities. Can anybody give me a single authority who will not denounce the precedent of 1711 as a gross and unconstitutional act? I admit it is difficult to give a definition of the word "unconstitutional," but my noble and learned friend opposite knows how easy it is to take the mere letter of the law and violate 859 the spirit of it. Can anybody doubt that this is a gross violation of the spirit of our law? We are dealing with what is really and truly the abolition of one independent legislative Chamber, and you talk about that being only a question of the Royal Prerogative. I observe that there has been a marked avoidance of the precedents of 1711 and 1719. I invite the noble Viscount, who is thoroughly familiar with Constitutional history and thoroughly competent to give your Lordships advice and information, to consider that question.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
The exact question is whether it is Constitutional or not Constitutional, and whether any authority can be found to suggest that the precedent of 1711 was Constitutional. The noble Viscount has been good enough to ask me, and I will give him authority if he likes. This is an authority with reference to the creation of twelve Peers in 1719. I am quoting from Lord Stanhope's History—The creation of twelve Peers to establish a majority for the Court has been justly reprobated in Lord Oxford's Administration, and formed an article in his impeachment.The 16th article of that impeachment alleged the very thing I am suggesting now—namely, an impression being made upon Queen Anne's mind of the necessity of what was being done. Lord Oxford, in his defence, said that every one who had known of one of these creations of Peerages had remarked the fact that without an appeal to the Privy Council or to any other of the authorities whereby certain things were given or granted, letters patent, or otherwise, it was always alleged to be ex mero motu, and it was only by the grace of the Crown and the selection of the individual for merit that a Peerage was granted. That seems to me to be a precedent that one would like to have asserted, because, apart from threats, no other such precedent can be found anywhere. Therefore, whatever was supposed to be done in 1832, it was not done, it was threatened; and those are the threats that we have held over us now.
We do not know what is to be done; it may be, for aught I know to the contrary, that the authority given has been grossly 860 exaggerated. At all events, whatever the authority is, it was given under circumstances which, as I say, are absolutely unprecedented and condemned by every authority. I do not except the precedent of 1856, because although the question there was to some extent a different one yet what was said and done in relation to Lord Wensleydale's Peerage was this: Each of the noble Lords who took part in that debate admitted that any such thing as a wholesale creation of Peers for the purpose of overbearing this House could not be Constitutional, or indeed, some of them said, imaginable. They had not any experience of His Majesty's present Administration or they would not have said that. What I am anxious to say is that I am not one of those whose loyalty is dependent upon a particular act of the Crown. We ought to recognise that the Crown was, in the circumstances I have described, not to be blamed, and certainly not to be regarded as the advising authority for any such proceeding as we are now considering. It was a proceeding taken in the interest of and for the purposes of the present Administration, and, I do not hesitate to say for the purpose of keeping themselves in office.
I do not desire to impute anything unworthy or improper, but I will say this—that the Government have a sort of impression, which I need not say I do not share, that it is absolutely for the good of the country that they should continue in office, and they, not unnaturally, regard that proposition as one which entitles them to do extraordinary things and make extraordinary promises such as shall keep them in office. They may, perhaps, be right. I do not think they are; but if they are, it is not unlikely that their judgment is a little swayed by that which follows upon it. In these circumstances it appears to me it would be burning daylight to go through what both Lord Curzon and my noble friend Lord Selborne pointed out as to the support the Government have in the country. You cannot deny the facts. You cannot deny the amount of support there is by the counting of the votes. Some mysterious calculation of the noble Viscount opposite is suggested to throw doubt upon them, but does anybody in the world doubt that on the whole the figures are correct? I do not deny that when you are dealing only with the votes, and if you have not examined that interesting little model which is to be 861 found in the neighbouring chamber to show how far one vote is from being of one value in the present state of the constituencies, you can manipulate the figures as you please. But if you take the broad facts, and take the numbers, about which there is no question, you can entertain no doubt that what the Government are doing is what was done in the first great French Revolution— a mere minority will be governing this country under circumstances which I venture to say have not been seen or heard of in this country for 200 years.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (EARL LOREBURN)
My Lords, I only desire to address a few observations to your Lordships, stimulated, I will not say provoked, by the eloquent speech of the noble Earl. The logical conclusion from the speech of the noble Earl is neither more nor less than this—that this House, alone among the institutions of the United Kingdom, is free from all control. The Crown can be controlled and has been controlled by the refusal of Supplies; the House of Commons is repeatedly controlled by Dissolution; but the whole gist of the noble Earl's argument goes to this—that it is unconstitutional for the only pressure that can be put upon this House to be put upon it under any circumstances. If that be the true doctrine of the Constitution—and, with a very unfeigned respect for the noble Earl and his great authority, I think it is contradicted in the pages of nearly every Constitutional writer that I am acquainted with—then Lord Grey was right in saying in the early thirties that this country would be governed by an uncontrollable oligarchy. I submit that no one who has studied our Constitutional system can for a moment entertain such a doctrine as the noble Earl desires in effect to maintain.
The fact is, as my noble friend Lord Haldane pointed out, the whole question is one of circumstances. Are we in such a situation that we are driven to take this unwelcome step? Let me very briefly remind your Lordships of what the facts really are. Ever since that step, which I have always regarded as the most fatal mistake that has ever been made in the long annals of this House, was taken—I mean the throwing out of the Budget—there has not been any question on any side of the House but that the Constitution ought to be changed. There is no dispute that the 862 situation in which that act left us and the apprehensions that it bequeathed to us for the future were such that the Constitution had to be changed. All of your Lordships agree with us on that point; it is only a question of competition between different methods for attaining that result. The Government method is to restrain the powers of this House, to alter the relations of the House. That has been our method all through. We have also stated in the Preamble of the Bill our intention to modify the constitution of this House, and the more I reflect upon it the more I believe that that will provide an avenue to common consent, and some day, I hope an early day, to the condition that all of us desire to see.
What is your method? It has only been gradually disclosed, a circumstance well worth bearing in mind. At first it was limited to a reconstitution of this House. But the proposals made were, as I have more than once pointed out, so vague and indefinite that one could not tell what the effect of them would be if carried into legislation. Gradually they became a little clearer, and then we found that it was contemplated that there should be a permanent Conservative majority installed in this House—a disputed majority, if you please, as to size and dimensions, but the fact was that a majority was contemplated. There was not a single proposal made from the Opposition side of the House which did not involve that consequence. It was defended by the noble Marquess himself in a speech not long ago in which he said that it was natural that there should be on the Conservative side a majority in this House, and he thought that we should not dispute that. Then we began to hear of some proposals for altering the relations of the two Houses and the powers of this House. It was proposed that there should be a Joint Session. There is a great deal to be said for a Joint Session if you have equality of opportunity between the two Parties in this House. But there was not that equality of opportunity between the two Parties in your Lordships' House. Then followed the last and I think the most unfortunate of all the proposals, that of a Referendum and the appendage of a Joint Committee to decide when matters were of such gravity that it should invoke this new fangled instrument unheard of in the previous history of this country. My Lords, I am not going to discuss the Referendum. I will confine 863 myself to one single sentence about it. If that system were introduced into our Constitution as a means by which this House could appeal against the other House, it would be destructive of representative government, and it would, in my opinion, be a dangerous and revolutionary innovation. Those are the two policies confronting each other.
Now let me see what has been said by the country. Allow me to state my own view. In January of 1910 when we were driven to a General Election—that election at least was not encompassed by any strategy on our part but imposed upon us by a hostile vote in this House—this policy had been for three years before the country, ever since the Resolutions passed by the House of Commons in January, 1907, and it was substantially the same as the Parliament Bill which is now before Parliament.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Is a Liberal Government not entitled to govern with a majority of 125? I think it is rather an unfair thing to take an opportunity when we were somewhat at a disadvantage to do a thing which had never been done before, to stop Supplies in order to force an election in the interests of Tariff Reform. But I pass by that. The fact is that we had a large majority as majorities go. That policy of ours was adopted and approved of in January, 1910. It was then put forward in the form of Resolutions carried in the House, of Commons in the Spring of 1910. That was followed by a Bill being presented to Parliament which was an echo of the Resolutions. That Bill was passed by the House of Commons. We then came to this situation. Your Lordships' proposals had not been even then developed. We never heard of the Referendum until the end of last November. Did it not look as if this subject was being trifled with, as if the alternative proposals had not been put forward in their fullness, and that the time and patience of Parliament and the country was being exhausted and we should be driven into a backwater with the consequence that we should be prevented from carrying out the very measure which was before Parliament in January, 1910?
864 Then came the General Election of December, 1910. I should like very much to know whether that election meant anything at all. I am told that it certainly did not mean Home Rule. In the course of this debate we have been told that it certainly did not mean an endorsement of the Government policy which had been discussed almost ad nauseam in the country and in Parliament. Did it mean anything at all? I respectfully submit to your Lordships that the election of December, 1910, meant a second public approbation by the electors of the methods by which we propose to settle this important Constitutional question. That being the case, we are reproached for having given advice to the Crown in November of 1910. My Lords, we knew that this was a serious, matter. We had had an election only eleven months before. We risked another election and gave your Lordships and the Party in the country who agreed with you the opportunity of retrieving the disaster of January. But we also were bound to foresee the possibility that your Lordships might not be willing to give way to the decision of the General Election of December. Let me remind you how often it has been said here within the last two or three years, and by no one more explicitly or more clearly than by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, that this House never seeks to stand against the opinion of the country when it is clearly expressed. I will not reason with your Lordships, but it will take a great deal to convince plain men, after the short narrative I have given you, that the opinion of the country was not clearly declared with regard to the Parliament Bill. That being the case, we tendered the advice which we did to His Majesty in November. We are now confronted with the danger which we then apprehended, the apprehension of which led us to tender to His Majesty the advice to which I have referred.
Now that it has come, what do you propose we should do? Do you propose that we should dissolve? No one proposes that. There is a House of Commons returned upon this subject with strong views in support of the Government and equally convinced of the necessity of this step, and there can be no Dissolution. Resign when we are supported by a Parliament which you cannot dissolve! What is to be done? Is it not obvious that 865 your Lordships have brought the deadlock upon yourselves? What are we to do? We cannot resign. We should be wrong to do it. We have got the House of Commons at our back and we cannot dissolve. You are not prepared to form a Government which would have support. The noble Marquess speaks for himself alone. His Party has never asked for a Dissolution, and it would be an outrage to go to the country a third time in twenty months upon the same subject.
Then it comes to this, that the only resort left to us in your opinion is to submit to the noble Marquess's Amendments. Let us see what those Amendments are. The only one which I will dwell upon now is the Amendment incorporating the Referendum—the Referendum which is the very point and sting of the policy which was defeated in the country but which is supported by your Lordships. We are therefore expected, after having gone through the fire and the furnace and having succeeded in our appeals to the country, actually to accept into our Bill the very thing which you wanted the country to accept but which they rejected, and which would be destructive of our policy. I submit that you have indeed, as the noble Earl said, to look at the facts. In the first place you have to make up your minds on this, Is this House to be free from all sorts of control, different in that respect from any other part of the Constitution? If you answer that in the negative, as I feel you must, tell me what is the alternative to the course which we now propose to pursue.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the noble and learned Earl devoted a considerable part of his eloquent speech to a denunciation of that which he describes as the alternative policy of noble Lords who sit on this side of the House. I have never been able to understand why the noble Earl judges our alternative policy so severely. Let me take one by one the limbs of which that policy is composed. We have suggested that there should be a reconstitution of this House. That is common ground to us and to the noble and learned Earl. Our scheme is one which the noble Viscount who leads the House describes as a helpful scheme. It is a scheme, therefore, which clearly you cannot rule out of Court altogether as being a negligible contribution to this 866 great controversy. And we made it clear thoughout the discussion that we are ready to meet noble Lords opposite upon all points of detail. The noble and learned Earl says that under our scheme there would have been a permanent Unionist majority in this House. Well, opinions differ as to the way in which our scheme would work, but I am quite ready to say that if you could show that our scheme would work unfairly as between the two Parties we are ready to consider with you whether it could not be made to work more fairly. Then there was the proposal for Joint Sittings, and other means of extricating the two Houses when they found themselves involved in a persistent difference. Joint Sittings have been blessed in principle by noble Lords opposite. Joint Sittings and Conferences and all those palliatives find favour with noble Lords opposite. Why, then, is our alternative policy to be so severely denounced?
And finally we come back to the Referendum. I have ventured once or twice to cross swords, if I may say so without presumption, with the noble and learned Earl upon this question of the Referendum. The noble and learned Earl does not desire to see the Referendum made part of the standing machinery of the Constitution, but he is quite ready, he told us the other day, to see the Referendum adopted on particular occasions and to meet a particular difficulty. Let me make a suggestion to the noble and learned Earl. Here is a matter about which there is a persistent and somewhat acute difference between the two Houses. Will he not send this Bill and our Bill to the country and let the country decide between them? [A noble Lord: "We have done it."] The noble and learned Earl, as I expected, shakes his head. I venture to say that whatever be the merits or demerits of our alternative policy it is one for which there is a good deal to be said, and in our view it is a much saner policy than the policy of His Majesty's Government, which desires to give absolute control over all the Estates of the Realm to the House of Commons, or rather to the Minister who happens to control the House of Commons at the moment.
Before I go further, I want to say one word, and one word only, with regard to the speech delivered by my noble friend, Lord Selborne. I was unfortunately called 867 away from the House while my noble friend was speaking, and only heard a few of the concluding sentences of his speech, but I gather that he expressed himself with some warmth as to the conduct of those who, being determined to support this Motion of Censure, and who therefore take the strongest possible exception to the Government Bill, were yet prepared at a future stage to abstain from voting against it.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
No. I never said a single word about that. I only spoke of those who were prepared to vote with the Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I am glad to hear that. I only heard the last words of the speech. At any rate I suggest to my noble friends that whatever is to be said on that subject can be said more properly to-morrow evening and that to-night it is better to confine ourselves to the Motion of my noble friend Lord Curzon, and I assure my noble friend that though we do not see exactly eye to eye with him in this matter we do not yield at all to him in our disapprobation of the conduct of His Majesty's Government, and that far from having it in our mind to relent in any way in our opposition to that policy, we are determined in the long struggle that lies before us to offer to that policy an opposition every whit as convinced and as courageous as that which will be offered by him and his friends.
Now, my Lords, what is the charge we desire to make against His Majesty's Government this evening? We charge the Government of the day, holding as they do immense powers—powers which tend to increase with every year that goes by owing to the concentration of power in the Government of the day and the diminution of the opportunities given to independent members—with having used those powers, and particularly the special power of giving advice to the Sovereign, in a manner detrimental to the interests of the public and of the State; and we charge them with having done so in such a manner that when the Parliament Bill comes back to us as it will to-morrow we shall have the Bill before us, not in ordinary circumstances and with the prospect of a useful interchange of ideas between the two Houses on the disputed points of the Bill, but in circumstances which deprive us of 868 all opportunity of moulding the form of the Bill and which oblige us to discuss it with the certainty that we must in the end be overcome by coercion. It is upon this question that we shall vote to-night. We hold strongly that the conduct of His Majesty's Government has brought about a gross violation of the Constitution of this country, a very grievous wrong to the House of which we are members, a great injustice to the people of this country, and last, but not least, that, it has been the means of bringing about a most regrettable introduction of the august personality of the Sovereign into the arena of Party politics.
I will say a very few words as to the use of the Royal Prerogative for the purpose of creating Peers. The Secretary of State for War seemed to think that the matter was a perfectly simple one. The noble Viscount said that the Constitution recognises the Royal Prerogative as a remedy, and that, the remedy in this case was a perfectly proper and natural one. I think that was the gist of his statement. Now I am certainly not going to call in question the bare right of the Sovereign to create Peers, The Sovereign, I suppose it will be admitted by every one, can create as many Peers as he pleases as I he reward of signal virtue and distinguished merit. I think that is a formula with which the noble Lord is familiar. But what is the true place of this right of creating Peers in the Constitution? Surely that right is the corrective of the equally Constitutional and equally unlimited right of this House to obstruct all legislation to which it takes exception and, even if it thought fit to do so, to stop Supplies. You may have the unconstitutional exercise of a Constitutional right on the part of this House. You may have it on the part of the Ministers who advise the Sovereign. But if there is one thing to my mind clearer than anything else it is this, that the Royal Prerogative should not be exercised except as a last resort and when all other expedients have been exhausted. That was indeed admitted by the noble Marquess, whom we were so glad to see taking his accustomed place on the opposite Bench. Even when the Prerogative has been thus invoked or when its invocation has been contemplated, the idea has always been approached with reluctance, I would almost say with some degree of abhorrence. And surely there is an obvious reason why this mode of proceeding cannot be regarded 869 as a remedy to be applied in anything like ordinary circumstances. Is it possible, is it conceivable that any right should form part of the standing machinery of the Constitution unless it is a right that could be used not by one side alone, but with equal fairness and with equal convenience by the other side? Apply that to the Prerogative of creating Peers. Supposing the great bulk of your Lordships' House were going to follow my noble and learned friend into the Lobby to-morrow, and you were prepared to create 400 or 500 Peers or perhaps 600, if you were to allow for that wastage which seems so inevitable after noble Lords have taken their seats in this House, do you suppose that such a creation could be followed within any period of time which we can contemplate by a similar creation on this side, and that then there should be a third creation and perhaps a fourth creation? That is unthinkable and absurd, and therefore I contend that that does show how absurd it is to treat this power as being a part of the normal machinery of our Constitution.
It is a case which really seems to me to be one to which, we can well apply a doctrine which I remember was laid down by the noble and learned Earl when your Lordships insisted on reserving the Finance Bill of 1909 for the judgment of the people. We maintained that we had a perfect legal right so to deal with that Bill. The noble and learned Earl said he did not question the legal right, but he said there were a great many things that were legal but were not Constitutional. I say exactly the same considerations apply to the course which His Majesty's Ministers are about to adopt on the present occasion. And surely if there was illegality or unconstitutionality in either case the illegality is very much greater in the case of the creation of Peers than in the case of the action which your Lordships' House adopted in 1909. You are invoking the Royal Prerogative in order to cheat the people of an opportunity of deciding whether they want Home Rule and other important measures. We, on the contrary, did what the noble and learned Earl considered unconstitutional, but we did it for the purpose of giving the people an opportunity of saying whether they wanted the Finance Bill of 1909 or not, so that all the arguments are, I venture to think, on our side.
870 I will not go into what has already been said on the subject of precedents. I believe it would not be incorrect to say that there are no precedents in point. I notice that noble Lords opposite cling with touching affection to the precedent of 1832 in spite of the complete exposition which my noble friend made of the difference between the circumstances of that time and of the present day. Here again there is a fundamental difference which it is very easy to put one's finger upon. In 1832 the Government had it in contemplation to create Peers to ensure the passing of a great popular measure which was earnestly desired by the people of this country, and for which there was a universal demand in every large city throughout the United Kingdom. You, on the contrary, are contemplating the creation of Peers, not for the purpose of passing a popular measure, but for the purpose of preventing us putting into your Bill Amendments the sole effect of which will be to give the people an opportunity of passing judgment upon your measures when they happen to touch grave questions of public policy which have not already been adequately submitted to the judgment of the country.
But, my Lords, why is it necessary to cite precedents or authorities. Surely, on the face of it, the course which you have advised His Majesty to take is a course involving some thing which can only be described as an outrage on the Constitution of the country. I do not care whether you are going to ennoble 5 or 500 Peers; the point is that you are going to raise to the Peerage a number of gentlemen whose names cannot possibly have been before His Majesty when you first applied to him for this power. You are going to raise to this House a number of Peers, not in order to promote the efficiency of this House, which you yourselves already complain of because it is too large; you are not going to promote them because they have done anything to deserve promotion; you are going to promote them for one purpose and one only—to destroy the balance of the Constitution in order that you may, while the Constitutional machine is out of gear, pass measures which we believe are distasteful to very nearly one-half of the electorate of this country. I said a moment ago that these gentlemen for whom you are providing seats in this House will have done nothing special to deserve 871 that honour. I say more. I say that they will Lave done a great deal to show that they ore wholly undeserving of that honour, for every one of those gentlemen before he comes to the Table and signs the roll of Peers will have forfeited his independence. Not one of them will come in free and capable of giving a perfectly free and independent vote either upon the Parliament Bill or upon those other measures which we all know are to be the by-products of the Parliament Bill.
What are the extenuating circumstances? What is it that the noble and learned Earl urged upon us just now when he asked us what else His Majesty's Government were to do? The words he used were that His Majesty's Government were driven to take this step. I beg to suggest that the Government are by no means driven to extremities in this matter. I recall the words of the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, in a speech which he delivered at Winchester in April of last year. Speaking of the use of the Royal Prerogative he said—Obviously this is a power which only ought to be used in the last resort, and not until all other means have been exhausted.And in the same way the Prime Minister said the Government would take this course only in the event of the Lords declining to consider the policy of His Majesty's Government. Is it true that we have declined to consider your policy? What have we been doing during the last few weeks? What have we been doing but considering with the utmost attention and with the utmost desire to come to terms the proposals of His Majesty's Government? You tell us this House is unfairly composed. We are ready to reconstitute it. You tell us that deadlocks have to be avoided. We are ready to find the means. You tell us that in the meantime it is necessary to do something in order to prevent this House encroaching on the privileges of the House of Commons or unduly exercising what I think is most unfortunately described as its power of vetoing legislation. We have passed your Bill and sent it back to the other House in a shape which makes it impossible for your Lordships to do mero motu either of the things which you are so anxious we ought not to do. Under the Bill with the Amendments it will not rest with the House of Lords to decide whether they will or will not deal with a Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Surely in the noble Marquess's Amendment the procedure in regard to the Home Rule Bill, for example, is reserved and taken away from the operation of this Act.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I was at the moment speaking of the question of the interference of this House in matters of finance; but when you come to other matters, such as Home Rule, the noble Viscount does not, I think, realise that it could not rest with your Lordships to say that the Bill was to go to a Referendum.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Am I completely deceived? I thought that the noble Marquess's Amendment said in subsection (b) that Home Rule, so to call it, is to be reserved.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Yes, Home Rule is, of course, reserved for the Referendum, but in the case of the other category of Bills the Referendum conies in only in the event of the Committee which we propose to set up deciding that a Bill should be dealt with in that manner. We have insisted upon these safeguards for this reason. You propose to do away with the power of reserving legislation for the judgment of the people which this House has hitherto exercised, and our contention is that if that power is taken away you must give us some safeguard to take its place. Unless you do you will place the country absolutely and entirely at the mercy of a chance majority in the House of Commons, and that is a risk which we are not prepared to run.
One thing, however, has emerged clearly from these discussions. It is that in the present case the Royal Prerogative has been invoked, not, as Lord Crewe suggested it should be invoked, in the last resort, not when all other means have been exhausted, but long in advance and in cold blood. The evidence on that point is, I venture to think, conclusive. Lord Crewe, in the speech which he delivered on April 5, 1910, said this to his audience—To my mind it is altogether improper even to consider such a contingency" [the invocation of the Prerogative] "until the occasion has actually arisen.I venture to suggest to your Lordships that, properly speaking, the occasion has not arisen even yet. The occasion would 873 not arise until there was a difference between the two Houses as to the Amendments to be put into the Bill and until it was shown that all negotiations failed and that there was no prospect of arriving at an understanding. But at any rate the occasion could not possibly have arisen until the Committee stage of the Bill, when the Amendments were put into it. What do we find, admitted and proved in black and white? That eight months before that His Majesty's Ministers went to the Sovereign and demanded from him this hypothetical undertaking, as Lord Crewe called it, which we are discussing this evening.
Now let me remind the House of what the undertaking was. In the document which has been so often quoted these words occur—His Majesty's Ministers cannot take the responsibility of advising a Dissolution unless they may understand that, in the event of the policy of the Government being approved by an adequate majority in the new House of Commons, His Majesty will be ready to exercise his Constitutional powers which may involve the Prerogative of treating Peers, if needed, to secure that effect shall be given to the decision of the country.It was admittedly upon that understanding between His Majesty and His Majesty's Ministers that the Dissolution was granted. I want to call your attention to the extremely dangerous pledge which was extracted from His Majesty. Lord Crewe objected this evening, and I think rightly, to the use of the word guarantees in this connection. The word "guarantee" would be inappropriate because it conveys the impression of an extremely concrete and definite undertaking; that in a particular event a particular consequence will follow. That was not the promise obtained from His Majesty. What was obtained front him was a hypothetical undertaking, to use Lord Crewe's expression. That was an undertaking that was so contrived that it would cover anything which His Majesty's Ministers might afterwards read into the verdict of the electorate at the General Election. The real undertaking was that in whatever manner the decision of the country might be interpreted by His Majesty's Ministers the Royal Prerogative should be made use of to give effect to the decision so interpreted. The question has been asked, I do not know whether it will be answered, whether at the time it was explained to the Sovereign that o this ambiguity was to be found in the formula recommended by His Majesty's Ministers 874 and whether His Majesty realised that he was giving an engagement to make good the decision of the electors whatever interpretation might be put by his Ministers upon that decision. The fact is that the specific pledge which was given last month by His Majesty cannot be dissociated from the general pledge which was given by His Majesty eight months earlier. The two are absolutely interdependent. There is in the first place the hypothetical undertaking given in the month of November followed by the specific undertaking given last month.
The Prime Minister said last night that it was a great mistake to suppose that the Government had secured the Royal approval of what he called "any cast-iron scheme of legislation to be rammed through Parliament." That is quite true. It was not a cast-iron scheme. It was something very much more dangerous. It was a carte blanche scheme, and the blank cheque, as my noble friend put it so well, had to be filled up by His Majesty in accordance with the directions of his advisers. Let me add this one other observation. If I am wrong in believing that a really improper and dangerous undertaking was obtained by His Majesty's Ministers as long ago as November last, why was it necessary to go to His Majesty at all at that time? His Majesty is the son of a Sovereign who for ten years was, above all things, a Constitutional ruler. He is the grandson of a great Queen who during her memorable and glorious reign never departed a hair's breadth from Constitutional propriety. Was it likely, then, that the present King would show himself otherwise than amenable to the advice of his Ministers, if they deferred giving that advice until the occasion arose?
Why was it, then, they went months beforehand to obtain this hypothetical undertaking from His Majesty, except for the purpose of depriving him when the time came of that full discretion which would otherwise have been his? When we come to consider how that earlier undertaking has been interpreted by His Majesty's Ministers, I ask this question— "Are they going to tell us seriously that the decision of the electors at the last General Election was to the effect that they did not desire to be consulted as to great and important measures which had not yet been referred to them? Are we to 875 understand that it is your contention that at the last election the electors of this country told you that, although they had twice had the question of Home Rule referred to them and twice decided against it, they desired when Home Rule came up on the third occasion that they should not be given any opportunity of saying a third time what they thought upon the subject? That, nevertheless, was the advice which in the Constitutional exercise of the power of advising the Crown His Majesty's Ministers did not scruple to give to the Sovereign at the commencement of his reign, and truly it seems to me that this
§ was what was described once as a "desperate device"—a violation of the Constitution of this country. It is because we believe this that we ask your Lordships on this occasion—perhaps the last when you will have an opportunity of expressing your views as an independent Assembly—to place on record your strong disapprobation of the action of His Majesty's Ministers.
§ On Question whether to agree to the proposed Resolution—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 281; Not-contents, 68.877
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Eldon, E.||Bridport, V.|
|Argyll, D.||Essex, E.||Chilston, V.|
|Beaufort, D.||Ferrers, E.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]|
|Bedford, D.||Fitzwilliam, E.||Cobham, V.|
|Brandon, D. (D. Hamilton.)||Fortescue, E.||Falkland, V.|
|Devonshire, D.||Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Falmouth, V.|
|Leeds, D.||Guilford, E.||Halifax, V.|
|Marlborough, D.||Haddington, E.||Hampden, V.|
|Newcastle, D.||Halsbury, E.||Hardinge, V.|
|Northumberland, D.||Harewood, E.||Hill, V.|
|Portland, D.||Harrowby, E.||Hood, V.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Howe, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)|
|Rutland, D.||Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.)|
|Somerset, D.||Lauderdale, E.||Iveagh, V.|
|Sutherland, D.||Leicester, E.||Knutsford, V,|
|Wellington, D.||Leven and Melville, E.||Llandaff, V.|
|Lichfield, E.||Milner, V.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Lonsdale, E.||Peel, V.|
|Anglesey, M.||Lovelace, E.||Portman, V.|
|Bath, M.||Lytton, E.||St. Aldwyn, V.|
|Bristol, M.||Mehmesbury, E.||St. Vincent, V.|
|Cainden, M.||Mansfield, E.||Templetown, V.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Manvers, E.|
|Exeter, M.||Mar, E.||Peterborough, L. Bp.|
|Hertford, M.||Minto, E.||Abinger, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Morley, E.||Addington, L.|
|Normnby, M.||Morton, E.||Alington, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Munster, E.||Allerton, L.|
|Winchester, M.||Northbrook, E.||Alvorstone, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Northesk, E.||Ampthill, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Pembrok and Mantgomery, M.||Ardilaun, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Plymouth, E.||Ashbourne, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Poulett, E.||Ashtown, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Powis, E.||Avebury, L.|
|Bandon, E.||Roberts, E.||Bagot, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Rosslyn, E.||Balfour, L.|
|Brooke and Warvick, E.||Rothes, E.||Barnard, L.|
|Cadogan, E.||Saint Germans, E.||Burrymore, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Sandwich, E.||Busing, L.|
|Chichester, E.||Scarbrough, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Selborne, E,||Biddulph, L.|
|Cottenham, E.||Stanhope, E.||Blithwoods, L.|
|Coventry, E.||Stradbroke, E.||Bolton, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)||Botreaux, L. (E. Loudoun.)|
|Cromer, E.||Suffolk and Berkshire, E.||Brabourne, L.|
|Darlmouth, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Braybrooke, L.|
|Darnley, E.||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Brave, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Westmeath, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)|
|Denbigh, E.||Westmorland, E.||Burnham, L.|
|Derby, E.||Wharncliffe, E.||Carew, L.|
|Devon, E.||Wicklow, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)|
|Doneaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queenaberry.)||Winton, E. (E. Eglintoun.)||Cheylesmore, L.|
|Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.||Churston, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Yarborough, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Clinton, L.||Rathmore, L.|
|Clonbroek, L.||Kensington, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Colchester, L.||Kenyon, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Kesteven, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)||Rosmead, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, L.||Kinnaird, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Knaresborough, L.||Sackville, L.|
|De L'Isle and Dudley, L.||Lamington, L.||St. Audries, L.|
|De Mauley, L.||Langford, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|De Ramsey, L.||Lawrence, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Desborough, L.||Leigh, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Digby, L.||Leith of Fyvie, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Dinevor, L.||Lovat, L.||Savile, L.|
|Dunleath, L.||Lovell and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)||Seaton, L.|
|Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Sempill, L.|
|Ebury, L.||Macnaghten, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Ellenborouoh, L.||Massy, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Elphinstone, L.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)||Sinclair, L.|
|Estcourt, L.||Meredyth, L. (L. Athlumney.)||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Faber, L.||Middleton, L.||Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)|
|Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)||Southampton, L.|
|Farnham, L.||Monck, L. (V. Monck.)||Stanmore, L.|
|Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)||Monckton, L (V. Galway.)||Stewart of Garlies. (E. Galloway.)|
|Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)||Monson, L.||Stuart of Castle Stuart, L. (E. Moray.)|
|Foroster, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Gage, L. (V. Gage)||Monteagle of Brandon, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Grey de Ruthyn, L.||Mostyn, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Gwydir, L.||Mowbray, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Muneasler, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Harlech, L.||Muskerry, L.||Tennyson, L.|
|Harris, L.||Newlands, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Hatherton, L.||Newton, L.||Trevor, L.|
|Hawke, L.||North, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)||Northbourne, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Henrage, L.||O'Hagan, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Hindlip, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)||Waleran, L.|
|Holm Patrick, L.||Penrhyn, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Hothfield, L.||Playfair, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Hylton, L.||Plunker, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Kenlis, L. (M. Headford.)||Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhoesie).||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Loreburn, E. (E. Chancellor.)||Aberconway, L.||Ilkeston, L.|
|Morley of Blackburn, V. (L. President.)||Acton, L.||Inchcape, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Lucas, L.|
|Armitstead, L.||Lyveden, L.|
|Ashby St. Ledgers, L.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Northampton, M.||Ashton, L.||Marchamley, L.|
|Ashton of Hyde, L.||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Chesterfield, E. (L. Steward.)||Blyth, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Spencer, E. (L. Chamberlain.)||Boston, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Beanchamp, E.||Charnwood, L.||Pirrie, L.|
|Brassey, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Reay, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Courtney of Penwith, L.||Robson, L.|
|Craven, E.||Devonport, L.||Rotherham, L.|
|Durham, E.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Rowallan, L.|
|Granvilie, E.||St. Davids, L.|
|Liverpool, E. [Teller.]||Eversley, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Russell, E.||Farrer, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Furness, L.||Shaw, L.|
|Glantawe, L.||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Glenconner, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Haldane, V.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)||Stanley of Alderly, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Hamilton of Dalzell, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Birmingham, L. Bp.||Haversham, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Chester, L. Bp.||Hemphill, L.||Welby, L.|
|Hereford, L. Bp.||Herschell, L. [Teller.]||Willingdon, L.|
§ Resolved in the affirmative