§ House again in Committee (according to order).
§ [The EARL of DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Consideration of Clause 2 resumed.
THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY had the following Amendment on the Paper—
Page 22, line 33, after ("sessions") insert ("Provided further that the provisions of this Act shall not apply to a Bill to establish a separate Parliament and Executive for Ireland.").
§ The noble Marquess said: As the Amendment which your Lordships passed last night on the motion of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition covers the Amendment standing in my name, I imagine that my Amendment will not be in order now. I indicated to your Lordships in the course of the debate last night that that was my view, and consequently my friends and myself devoted our speeches to that part of my noble friend's Amendment which related to Ireland. In these circumstances I do not move the Amendment standing in my name.
LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE had an Amendment on the Paper to insert the following new subsection—
A Bill shall be deemed to have been submitted to the judgment of the electors and approved by them if, after it has been passed by the House of Commons and rejected by the House of Lords three times
§ The Amendment was withdrawn as consequential.284
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE also withdrew the Amendment standing in his name, which proposed to insert the words—
Provided that every amendment inserted by the House of Lords in a Bill sent up to that House in pursuance of the provisions of this section shall be considered by the House of Commons severally and separately.
LORD NEWTON moved an Amendment to insert at the end of the clause the following words—
And provided also that if the Bill rejected as aforesaid by the House of Lords be a Bill for the further limitation of the legislative powers of the House of Lords, that Bill shall, on its rejection for the third time by the House of Lords unless it has been referred to the Joint Committee under this Act, he postponed until after the general election then next ensuing, and may then, if passed by the following Parliament, be presented to His Majesty and become an Act of Parliament on the Royal Assent being signified thereto notwithstanding that the House of Lords have not assented to the Bill.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it will probably be recollected that at an early stage of our proceedings, upon an Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Ancaster, the views embodied in this Amendment were put forward in the shape of a question addressed to His Majesty's Government, and I am bound to admit that the reply which was then received from one of the triumvirate who represent His Majesty's Government on this occasion was not of a favourable and encouraging nature. But I am emboldened to think that the proposals in this Amendment are so fair and reasonable and moderate that I am justified in again bringing them before the notice of His Majesty's Government in the hope—possibly the vague and illusory hope—that they will look upon them with a more favourable eve than on the last occasion.
§ This debate has, in one respect at all events, shown a considerable amount of monotony. Every noble Lord who has spoken from these Benches, without exception, has expressed the opinion that this Bill constitutes single-Chamber government. I think it not improbable that from mere force of habit I may myself, perhaps, say the same thing before I have finished. But the replies made by the representatives of the Government have been characterised by equal monotony, because whenever an Amendment has been moved from this side of the House it has invariably been rejected upon two grounds—one, that it unduly interferes with the independence of the 285 House of Commons, and the other, to use the stereotyped phrase which is so common in Parliament, that it strikes at the root of the measure, the plain truth, devoid of all rhetorical embellishment, being that His Majesty's Government have been told by their so-called followers not to accept any changes whatever in this Bill, under threat of severe penalties.
§ I submit that the Amendment which I am moving at the present moment cannot be fairly described either as sapping the independence of the House of Commons or as being in the nature of a root-cutting Amendment. As a matter of fact, it preserves the Bill intact in its pristine shape and beauty; and I should like to point out that it has this recommendation, that it is perfectly consistent with the Amendment which was carried by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, last night, but should that Amendment not be carried into effect, with the alteration of a few words this Amendment is perfectly capable of standing by itself. We have been told, not once but on innumerable occasions, that this Bill in its present form represents the passionate desire of the British democracy, the British democracy being synonymous, of course, with the Liberal Party, although I am bound to say there does not appear to be any very passionate enthusiasm for the Bill amongst noble Lords who sit behind the representatives of the Government. I think the state of the Benches opposite at the present moment is a fair indication of the enthusiasm felt for this Bill. The Bill appears to resemble one of those delicate articles of export which suffer in the process of travelling. In the process of its journey from the House of Commons to this Chamber it appears to have lost a considerable amount of its attractions for a large proportion of noble Lords opposite, and. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that on no occasion on which the Government have divided against an Amendment to the Bill have they mustered in the Division Lobby, unless reinforced by noble Lords from this side, as many Peers as have been created since the Liberal Government assumed office.
§ Now, my Lords, this Bill represents more than the passionate desire of the Liberal Party for justice and fair treatment, or whatever it may be that they claim. It represents the climax, the quintessence I might say, of Liberal constructive states- 286 manship, and it is avowedly brought in to deal with a transitional state of things, which is only to last until a new Second Chamber is set up, to use the words of the Prime Minister, "as and when the proper time arrives." This Amendment of mine, as I have already said, leaves the Bill absolutely intact, and all that it provides is that any Bill which proposes to inflict further restrictions upon our legislative powers shall, at all events, not be passed until an opportunity has been afforded to the people, by means of a General Election, in the ordinary course of things to pronounce an opinion upon the subject, and to sanction the proposed change. The other day when I raised this particular point the noble and learned Viscount opposite, Lord Haldane, told us that he did not know any Party worth talking about, to use his own expression, who desired to tear up or to alter the Constitution. I cannot help thinking that the noble and learned Viscount must have made use of this phrase in order to illustrate and to emphasise the isolation in which members of this House are supposed habitually to dwell with regard to all political questions. Is it possible that the rarified atmosphere which the noble and learned Viscount has been inhaling since he became a member of this Assembly has blinded him to the existence of some prominent politicians to whom he owes, directly or indirectly, a good deal of support?
§ The Olympian ignorance of the noble and learned Viscount reminds me of the ignorance which is occasionally displayed by the Judicial Bench, and which I certainly disclaim owning myself. I do not live in the least in the same atmosphere as the noble and learned Viscount opposite. The existence of those politicians in whom he disbelieves is painfully evident to me. I have no illusions whatever on the subject, and I have not the smallest illusions as to what the feelings of such a man as Mr. Keir Hardie or Mr. Snowden are on this particular subject, however ignorant the noble and learned Viscount opposite may be. I know perfectly well that the opinion of these gentlemen—an opinion which I do not think is shared by anybody in this House except my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu—is that under this Bill we are treated in far too generous and kind a manner, that in fact we are getting a great deal more under the Bill than we probably deserve. It is just as well on 287 these occasions to look facts in the face, and to assume the worst. I will do so on this occasion, and assume that this Bill becomes law. It does not require much of a prophet in order to anticipate what certainly will happen. I do not share the somewhat fanciful apprehensions of some of my noble friends who sit around me. I do not imagine that the Crown will be swept away, or that some of the terrific contingencies which alarm them will take place. But what I feel perfectly certain about is this, that if under this Bill we exercise the statutory power of delay to which we are entitled and which really is the only safeguard we still possess, there will be immediately an outcry for restricting and taking away possibly altogether the powers of delay which we possess under this Bill. I do not think the most sanguine optimist, no matter on which side of the House he may sit, can feel any sort of confidence that if a demand of that sort is put forward in the House of Commons there is any certainty that it will be resisted by noble Lords who are members of the Government at the present time.
§ Under this Bill we are placed—I do not exaggerate in the least when I say so—absolutely at the mercy of the House of Commons. We are placed in a position which, as the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, pointed out last night, it; not occupied by any Second Chamber in the civilised world, and there is absolutely nothing in this Bill to prevent, not only further restrictive powers being used against us, but our being practically abolished altogether. I do not think that this is a question which needs much elaborate argument. I have never used particularly strong language about this Bill, but I confess it seems to me a perfectly intolerable injustice that it should be possible, as it undoubtedly is possible, to utilise a Bill brought in for dealing with a temporary situation in such a way that it may permanently destroy such future rights as we are accorded under this Bill. After all, if you submit yourself to a dentist, and allow au opiate to be administered to you for the purpose of dealing with a tooth, you do not authorise the dentist to take out every single tooth in both your jaws. Yet that is the position in which we are deliberately placing ourselves under this Bill.
§ Whilst I cheerfully acquit noble Lords opposite of any desire or intention of using 288 the Bill in the way in which I have indicates, unfortunately we know perfectly well that noble Lords opposite are not masters in their own house. That being so, it seems to me that without asking anything abnormal we are absolutely justified in asking for some safeguards against the dangers which I hare endeavoured to indicate, and all I ask under this Amendment is that the powers of the House of Commons shall not be utilised to further deprive us of such powers as we enjoy under the Bill until at all events the opinion of the country has been taken upon the subject at a General Election in the normal course of things. In conclusion, I can only repeat that the proposal which I venture to make seems to me so modest, so reasonable, and so obviously fair, that it is almost a matter of surprise to me that the Government have not given some indication of dealing with us in this matter without an invitation from me or from anybody else on this side of the House. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 22, after ("Lords") insert ("And provided also that if the Bill rejected as aforesaid by the House of Lords be a Bill for the further limitation of the legislative powers of the House of Lords, that Bill shall, on its rejection for the third time by the House of Lords, unless it has been referred to the Joint Committee under this Act, be postponed until after the general election then next ensuing, and may then, if passed by the following Parliament, be presented to his Majesty and become an Act of Parliament on the Royal Assent being signified thereto notwithstanding that the House of Lords have not assented to the Bill").—(Lord Newton.)
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN)
My Lords, the noble Lord's Amendment is one which he said he thought he was justified in presenting to your Lordships. It is true that it goes very near to the points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Ancaster, which we discussed and dealt with. We parted from that Amendment on the understanding that it would be covered by discussion on the noble Lord's Amendment, and there it was left. Still I do not say for a moment that the noble Lord is not justified in presenting this Amendment, but I could indeed have wished, from the point of view of legislative business, that he had left out some of the decorative facetiæ, which are quite harmless and with which we have become familiar. The noble Lord commented upon 289 our meagre numbers in the Division last and said that the minority was entirely composed of Peers who have been created since we came into office.
§ LORD NEWTON
What I said was that the number of Peers the noble Viscount was able to put into the Lobby last night did not amount to the number of Peers which have been created since the Liberal Government assumed office.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I will not discuss the bearings of the noble Lord's point, but, as a matter of fact, after one of those anxious scrutinies of the Division Lists which take place on both sides on the morning after an important Division, it appears that out of the forty-six noble Lords who voted against the Amendment twenty-seven only owed their Peerages to the present Administration. But that triviality of the noble Lord has no real bearing upon what is undoubtedly a serious Amendment. I admit that this Amendment is one of the very few Amendments—I am not sure it is not the only one—which does not directly contradict the fundamental principles of the Bill. But it is a very serious thing to go on piling up an indefinite number of new exceptions to the restrictions in the legislative power of the House of Lords. I say indefinite, because the words "further limitation of the legislative powers of the House of Lords" are vague and tremendously wide words. Everybody, and I am sure the noble Lord himself, will see that they are capable of an elasticity of construction which might undoubtedly involve a traverse of the principle of the Bill. On detail, as I have said, the words are vague and wide. But there are other points which, though they may be called technical, are of vital importance and which all make against the noble Lord's Amendment as it now stands.
The noble Lord will pardon me for saying that his Amendment would create, or might create, a really absurd position. Supposing there had just been a General Election raising points not very far distant from the points mentioned in this Amendment—if the noble Lord's Amendment were free from conjunction with the noble Marquess's Amendment there would be more to be said for it—and that that election showed that the opinion of the electorate was in favour of the measure which the noble Lord has in view "further 290 limiting the legislative powers of your Lordships' House," then according to this Amendment—notwithstanding that decision—another General Election would have to follow which might or might not reverse the previous decision. If the Amendment as it now stands were incorporated in the Bill you might have the absurdity of forcing a second General Election within a very short and measurable distance of time from an election which was just over. That is a point which the noble Lord, with his practical experience and his shrewd judgment about elections, will see is a fatal point against his Amendment. I do not want to detain the Committee on drafting points, but, after all, drafting points are very important, and the Committee stage is the stage at which you have to look at them. It would be extremely difficult to say whether any particular Bill did or did not come within the description of a further limitation of your Lordships' powers. I would commend this to the noble Lord, that if he has any chance of further pushing forward his Amendment he had better include the definite points which he would consider as further limiting the legislative powers of this House. I take it that the points he has in mind are the three sessions, the two years, and the duration of Parliament. If I were in his place I should regard those, as I think he does, as being the points to be covered, and I would therefore have them specially dealt with. If Parliament were to adopt the policy of the noble Lord's Amendment it would be far better to limit it in the way I have indicated. The Amendment probably should not take effect in cases where there has been a General Election during three sessions. It is a most important point, and if the noble Lord had expected, which he tells us he did not, that the Government would accept the Amendment, the wording would have had to be, in these and other particulars which I will not dwell upon, more carefully guarded and more fully thought out. I merely mention that as a point which would have to be considered if the noble Lord could successfully persevere with his Amendment. But certainly at the present juncture, taking the Amendment in conjunction with Lord Lansdowne's Amendment—which your Lordships have accepted by so enormous a majority but which we regard and must regard as fatal to the Bill—it is impossible for the Government to accept the proposal of the noble Lord.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, in the course of his observations the noble Viscount took my noble friend Lord Newton to task for what he described as a triviality of which he had been guilty in the course of his speech. The triviality in question was a reference on the part of my noble friend to the very meagre support received by His Majesty's Government from the large number of Peers whom they have lately added to this House. The noble Viscount may consider that point a trivial one, but I can assure him that it is one which is attracting a great deal of attention out of doors. What are the facts? As far as I am able to ascertain, His Majesty's Government have added to this House since they took office in 1906—I exclude from my calculations those Peers who were ex-Civil servants, Colonial Governors, and so on—about forty Peers. What has happened since we have been in Committee on this Bill? The supporters of the Government have varied in number from forty-four to forty-eight, and taking the number who voted last night—forty-six—I find that only twenty-six came from the category of those newly-created Peers to whom my noble friend referred. That is a very striking illustration of the manner in which the old Liberal Party in this House has been dissipated by the policy of noble Lords opposite, and also of the very hesitating support which they are receiving even from those who have been most recently rewarded with Peerages for their political services. When the noble Viscount tells my noble friend that this is a triviality, may I venture to remind him that comments of exactly the same kind were made from the Bench opposite when, for various reasons into which I need not enter, the famous Resolution of my noble friend Lord Rosebery was supported in this House by a majority considerably below its usual strength. So I do not think that my noble friend was out of order in referring to that matter. I am bound to say that I congratulate my noble friend, whose eloquence I always admire, upon the fact that on this occasion he has produced more effect on the Front Bench opposite than any of us during this long discussion have been able to produce. For the first time, if I may quote a phrase with which the noble Viscount is familiar—a ray of reason stole Half through the solid darkness of his soul.The noble Viscount, in effect, admitted 292 that my noble friend's Amendment was in principle a perfectly reasonable proposal.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
That is quite good enough. We never have risen so high in the noble Viscount's estimation as that. But beyond all that it would, indeed, be a perfectly monstrous and intolerable proposition that any Government should take advantage of a Bill of this kind for the purpose of altering the machinery of the Bill itself. That is my noble friend's point, and, as he truly said, his Amendment, far from being aimed at the root of the Bill, is intended to protect the Bill against innovators even more audacious than those who now sit on the Front Bench opposite. The noble Viscount's criticism, which we had some difficulty in following, was of a somewhat technical description. I think he pointed out and he probably pointed out successfully, that in some particulars my noble friend's Amendment might not fit in exactly with the scheme of the Bill, and particularly with the scheme of the Bill if we regard it as including the Amendment which your Lordships carried last night. Those really are technical difficulties, which could probably be overcome without much trouble. That being so, I would venture to suggest to my noble friend that he might consider what was said by the noble Viscount in regard to these technical difficulties and perhaps bring up his Amendment on the Report stage in a shape which would meet the objections urged by the noble Viscount opposite. These are really little more than drafting difficulties, and I feel sure they could be easily overcome.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.
*THE EARL OF CROMER rose to move the following new clause—
.—(1) At the beginning of each Parliament a Joint Committee (in this Act referred to as " the Joint Committee") shall be appointed, consisting of the Speaker of the House of Commons, together with seven members of each House of Parliament, who shall be chosen by the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons jointly in such manner as they think best adapted to provide an impartial tribunal for the purposes of this Act. The Speaker of the House of Commons shall be Chairman, and he shall have a casting vote only.
(2) The Speaker of the House of Commons may, if he think lit, and shall, if so requested in writing by a Minister of the Crown or upon a Resolution of either House of Parliament in that behalf, call together the joint Committee for the purpose of deciding any question which under the provisions of this Act may be decided by them.
(3) The decision of the Joint Committee on any question so referred to them shall be final and conclusive for all purposes and shall not be questioned in any Court of Law.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I do not often detain your Lordships for long, and as this matter has been so thoroughly thrashed out and I am fully aware that your Lordships desire this debate to be concluded to-night, I will detain you even a shorter time than usual in moving the Amendment that stands in my name. We now have to deal with the very important question of the composition and mode of appointment of the Joint Committee of which we have heard so much in the course of this discussion. That Joint Committee, let me remind your Lordships, will have to deal with two classes of subjects. In the first place, it will have to decide whether a Bill is or is not a Money Bill properly so-called. In the second place, it will have to deal with all the very important questions which are catalogued in the Amendment moved by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, to which your Lordships assented yesterday. Those two functions are distinct, and although I may, perhaps, be in error, I think I am right in saying that the attitude which His Majesty's Government have assumed in respect to them is not quite identical. If I am wrong in that respect, I shall, of course, be corrected. The difference may not be very great, but I think there is a difference which is appreciable.
§ As regards the Committee fulfilling those functions which were set forth in the noble Marquess's Amendment yesterday, I understand, from what the noble Viscount the Leader of the House said, that he did not attach any importance to the composition of the Committee—that he cared very little whether it was composed in the manner I have proposed, or in the manner which is about to be proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, became he objected to a Committee of any sort or kind. Therefore I think I may infer that any minor alterations in the mode of the composition or the appointment of the Committee would not appreciably affect the noble Viscount's 294 position. But as regards the functions of the Committee in respect to Money Bills, I hope and believe that I am not wrong in stating that the position is not quite the mine. The noble Viscount, indeed, did on the occasion of our dealing with Clause 1 of the Bill criticise very adversely the composition of the Committee which I proposed. I think—though speaking from recollection I ant not quite sure—that he also criticised the method of appointment. He further said that he entertained strong objections to the functions which the Committee would exercise, more especially executive functions, and he also criticised the method of putting the whole of this machinery into operation. Let me say at once that I am not going to deal with the last point now, because it will come under your Lordships' consideration after this Amendment has been dealt with. Although the noble Viscount did criticise all these points, I hope I am right in saying that he did not, in the case of the Committee to deal with Money Bills, discard so absolutely the proposal of a Joint Committee as was the case in dealing with the functions under the noble Marquess's Amendment. He left us, with regard to that at all events, some glimmer of hope that on this point he was open to conviction and persuasion.
§ I am all the more desirous of going on with this, because I cannot forget that we had a very distinct admission from the noble Earl, Lord Crewe, that the Government were not absolutely wedded to making the Speaker the sole arbiter as to Money Bills, and that they would be prepared to consider proposals for any reasonable tribunal to take the place of the Speaker. I think I am correct in saying that the noble Viscount in the course of his remarks said he fully adopted what the noble Earl promised, but he coupled it with the condition that he and his colleagues must be persuaded. That is a very natural condition, but at the same time a very onerous and almost leonine one, although I do not abandon all hope of being able to persuade him. Before I go further, I must allude to one episode in regard to Money Bills which has occurred in the course of this debate. In spite of the very explicit declaration that I made in my first speech, and in spite of the fact that similar declarations have been made by noble Lords behind me on the Front Opposition Bench, there still appears 295 to be great misapprehension in the minds of noble Lords opposite and of the public generally as to what we are really aiming at in reference to dealing with Money Bills. There appears to be a suspicion, almost a conviction, that our avowed intentions are not identical with our real intentions. The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War gave utterance to that feeling in the course of the debate yesterday. He said, in allusion more especially to some remarks that fell from the noble Earl, Lord Selborne and myself, that what we really wished to do was to invest the House of Lords with financial powers such as it had never possessed before. I really think that both the noble Earl and myself, as well as your Lordships collectively have some very fair reason to complain of that statement being made. I need hardly say I do not challenge it on any personal grounds, because I am sure the noble Viscount never intended anything discourteous. But I observe that that statement has been taken up by the whole of the Radical Press, who have rapturously echoed the noble Viscount's sentiments and criticised us sharply, not for proposals we have made, but for proposals we have never made, and proposals which I will undertake to say not one single individual on this side of the House has ever had the slightest intention of making. I repeat the emphatic denial which I gave to the noble Viscount's statement whilst he was speaking, and which was given again by the noble Lord, Lord Curzon, shortly afterwards on behalf of the Front Opposition Bench. We do not at all want to assert new powers. We do not even seek to retain those powers which we have hitherto possessed. All we want to do is to prevent tacking, and nothing more. I do not pursue this question further now, because although possibly our own proposals may be defective we shall have a further opportunity of discussing them on the Report stage of the Bill.
§ But besides that clause, which will come up for discussion on the Report stage, we have another anti-tacking proposal now before us—that is, the substitution of a Joint Committee in the place of the Speaker. I do not think I need trouble your Lordships by going over again all the arguments which militate against making the Speaker the sole arbiter of whether a Bill is or is not a Money Bill. The subject has been thoroughly thrashed out in both 296 Houses, and I think everybody who has paid the least attention to it must be perfectly familiar with the arguments for and against. I therefore proceed at once to the question of the composition of the Committee. The proposal I originally made, and which still stands on the Paper, was, as your. Lordships will remember, that there should be a Committee composed of fifteen members, the Speaker being the President and having only a casting vote, seven members to be elected by your Lordships' House, and seven members to be elected by the House of Commons. At the time I stated that although I attached great importance to a Committee of some sort I did not feel myself at all pledged to the particular details of the proposal I brought forward. I may now go a step further and say that when I put down that proposal I had very considerable doubt as to whether that was the best possible solution of the question, and I really put it down merely to form a basis for discussion. What I anticipated would happen has happened. The noble Viscount (Lord St. Aldwyn), who has very much larger Parliamentary experience I need hardly say than myself, has come forward with another proposal, and I wish to say, so far as the matter rests with me, that I accept that proposal, and I think that the noble Marquess, when he speaks, will say that he and the Front Opposition Bench are in favour of it also.
§ I will not forestall what the noble Viscount is going to say, but I should like to state very briefly why I think, on reflection, that the proposal of the noble Viscount is an improvement upon my own. I quite accept the criticism, which has been made from many quarters of the House, that the Committee ought to be a small Committee, and that my numbers are too large. My proposal is that the Committee should be composed of fifteen members. The noble Viscount proposes six. That is a large reduction. I wish to point out that there is one important change to a certain extent of principle made by the noble Viscount's proposal—that is, that whereas under my proposal, having an uneven number, the Speaker only has a casting vote, under the noble Viscount's proposal, having an even number, the Speaker will have two votes. I merely point that out, though not by way of taking exception to it. The noble Lord, Lord Courtney, in 297 the very interesting speech to which we all listened attentively yesterday, said, if I understood him rightly, that he thought six too many and that he would prefer four. I do not suppose that the question between four and six is one upon which it is possible to have any very strong opinion, and I hope that in the course of this debate the noble Lord will give us the advantage of his assistance and advice, and state the arguments which he thinks can be adduced against six and in favour of four. But I must say that, as at present advised, though I should like to keep an open mind on the question, I am rather inclined to think six a better number than four. My reason for holding that view is this. I cannot help thinking, although the number ought to be small, that when you get to such a very small number as four it will scarcely be possible to adequately represent on the Committee all those interests which ought to be represented. On that account I say, whilst keeping an open mind on the subject, that I rather prefer six, but your Lordships will be better able to judge on that point, which is, after all, only one of detail, when you hear the views set forth by the noble Viscount.
§ Again, although I think my Committee would be an impartial one—I certainly intended it to be so—I think perhaps the noble Viscount's Committee gives greater guarantees for impartiality, which is a point to which all of us must attach the greatest importance. When any Party man deals with these questions the first thing he asks himself is whether a proposal of this nature is likely to militate to the advantage of his own Party or to that of his opponents. I do not know that I am a very good judge in a matter of this kind, because I have very little experience of Party tactics and management, and to say the truth they are not matters that very largely interest me. But since the noble Marquess put down his Amendment I have conversed with several Party men on this subject, and I find this remarkable result, that whereas my Liberal friends rather object to the noble Viscount's proposal on the ground that the Committee is likely to be too Conservative, my Conservative friends, on the other hand, object because they think the proclivities of the Committee proposed by the noble Viscount will be too Liberal. I do not say that that testimony is a 298 conclusive argument in favour of the noble Viscount's proposal, but I think it does involve the pretty fair assumption that he has hit the happy mean. At any rate, he has deserved the greatest compliment that can be paid to an arbiter in drawing up a proposal of the kind, that he has failed to completely satisfy either Party.
§ I say, again, I bring this proposal forward in a spirit of conciliation, and although I have very little hope that it will be accepted I ask His Majesty's Government to deal with it in the spirit in which I have brought it forward. I have already made, in deference to the views particularly of noble Lords opposite, certain concessions, and I wish it to be understood that so far as I am concerned I have not yet said my last word. If I thought there was the smallest hope of arriving at some amicable and mutual arrangement with noble Lords opposite I would be content, speaking entirely for myself, to consider any further suggestions. This matter of the Committee is a matter which could be settled, and I think, with a little amount of good will and give and take, it could be settled. If it is not settled it certainly will not be my fault or the fault of the noble Marquess or noble Lords behind him; it will be the fault of His Majesty's Government. Let me explain that, according to what I am told by the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees, I ought, as a matter of procedure merely, to move the Amendment as it originally stood in my name. But your Lordships will understand that is a mere matter of form, and that after the noble Viscount has spoken I am prepared to withdraw all the latter part of my Amendment and substitute the words which he proposes in its place. I beg to move.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
I think the most convenient course will be for the noble Earl to move his first subsection.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 3, insert the following new clause—
.—(1) At the beginning of each Parliament a Joint Committee (in this Act referred to as "the Joint Committee") shall be appointed, consisting of the Speaker of the House of Commons, together with seven members of each House of Parliament, who shall be chosen by the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons jointly in
such manner as they think best adapted to provide an impartial tribunal for the purposes of this Act. The Speaker of the House of Commons shall be chairman, and he shall have a casting vote only.—(The Earl of Cromer).
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I do not propose to detain your Lordships more than a minute or two on this Amendment. When my noble friend says that he brings forward this Amendment with a desire for conciliation, we, of course, give him the fullest credit for that; but what an absurdity it is to think that there is anything conciliatory in bringing forward a proposal which involves from beginning to end a complete supersession of the principles of the Bill? Nobody is more anxious for conciliation than I am if I thought it could be reached at this stage, but he might as well ask us for the sake of conciliation to drop the Bill altogether.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I promised not to speak for more than two or three minutes, and I do not propose to go into that. It is not really relevant, if my noble friend will allow me to say so. It is ridiculous to say, Why do not we show a conciliatory spirit? for when it comes to the points on which conciliation is demanded we find that they are points which mean neither more nor less than destroying the structure of the Bill. We are reproached with being slow and sullen in the matter of concession, but I have gone through these Amendments more than once and if I could I would have been delighted to find an Amendment which would have been a fair subject for concession. A more keen eye than mine may find one, but up to this point I have been unable to find any Amendment which could be the subject of a concession which would not be a complete betrayal and traverse of the object of the Bill.
I only make one single point on what my noble friend has said to-day. We have gone over this ground in three sittings, but my noble friend again says that the impartiality of the fourteen gentlemen, whom he has now thrown overboard, might be trusted. Who are they? Seven Members of the House of Lords and seven Members of the House of Commons. Every one of those seven Lords and every one of those seven Commoners have, if they have been attending to their legislative duties, already 300 given votes for or against the Bill. How can it be pretended, therefore, that when they go into committee to say whether a question of great gravity has arisen, and that the Bill in question raises it, they are by their antecedents perfectly impartial and free to judge independently? We object to this Committee, either as regards a Money Bill or as regards deciding in respect of any other Bill whether it does or does not involve a question of great gravity, and whether the judgment of the country has been sufficiently ascertained with regard to it or not. We object to any such Committee, either as superseding the Speaker of the House of Commons, or as the solitary authority, or otherwise. Therefore it would really be a farce for us to-day to intervene in the discussion among noble Lords opposite as to which of the two kinds of Committee they would like to accept, whether that of Lord Cromer or that of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn. That is your question. It is not ours. Our opinion is perfectly well known. We have recorded it in these debates, and therefore I hope it will not be thought impatience nor want of respect either to the noble Earl or the noble Viscount if I say that we must leave this discussion to those members of your Lordships' House who approve and desire the formation of a Committee.
§ *VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN proposed to amend Lord Cromer's clause by substituting as members of the Joint Committee "the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords, the Chairman of Ways and Means of the House of Commons, a Lord of Appeal to be chosen by and from the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary and other Peers of Parliament holding or who have held high judicial office, and a member of the House of Commons to be appointed by the Speaker"; and by omitting the word "only" at the end of subsection (1).
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I have often been surprised at the attitude noble Lords on the Government Bench have taken up towards Amendments moved to this Bill, but I am completely astonished by the speech of the noble Viscount. The noble Viscount has said that the Amendment of my noble friend on the Cross Benches and my own Amendment in proposing a Joint Committee is a complete supersession of the principles of the Bill.301
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
For the purposes indicated in the noble Marquess's Amendment and in the Amendment of the noble Lord.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
The noble Viscount did not add those words. I will deal with this, in the first case with regard to Money Bills, and in the second case with regard to the other matters. With regard to Money Bills, does the noble Viscount really mean to say that either the noble Earl's Amendment or my Amendment is as regards Money Bills a complete supersession of the principles of this Bill? Is it possible to suggest that?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I raise it most emphatically in regard to the Amendment carried last night by the noble Marquess.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
I am not dealing with that. I am endeavouring to address myself to the question of arbitration as to what is and what is not a Money Bill. Does the noble Viscount really contend that to suggest another tribunal instead of the Speaker to conduct that arbitration between the two Houses is to propose a complete supersession of the principles of this Bill?
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
The noble Viscount amends his language in rather curious ways, but I will address myself to what he has said. The principle of this Bill is that there shall be a distinction between the treatment by the House of Lords of Money Bills arid of other Bills, and that therefore there shall be a tribunal to decide what is and what is not a Money Bill. That, I admit, is the principle of the Bill. But is it the principle of the Bill that the Speaker shall necessarily be that tribunal? Can it be contended for a moment, that at the election of last December the country supported the proposal that the Speaker should be the sole tribunal for arbitrating what were and what were not Money Bills? It cannot be so contended, for the simple reason that only last December the noble Earl, Lord Crewe, distinctly told us that the proposal that the Speaker should be the arbiter was not vital to the principle of the Bill.
302 I will, in spite of what the noble Viscount has said, endeavour to address myself to this Amendment as a proposal which does not supersede the principle of the Bill. I do not wish to repeat what I have already said on the subject nor to repeat what was said by my noble friend Lord Cromer, who gave such good reasons for my Amendment that I really thought he might have moved it instead of his own. But I will venture to say that as regards Money Bills I have never been able to see how the Speaker could be a fair tribunal as between the two Houses. I am not questioning for a moment the impartiality in political matters or as between political Parties of the many distinguished men who have held the high office of Speaker. I have had the honour of serving in t he House of Commons under five Speakers, all of them but one held different political opinions from my own before they took their high office, and I venture to say—and I am sure that what I am saying will be approved of by all who served under those Speakers—that no one whatever his political opinions could, from the moment each one of those right hon. gentlemen assumed the Chair of the House of Commons, have told what their previous political opinions had been. There never was, as far as political Parties were concerned, any doubt as to the impartiality of the Speaker. Neither, my Lords, is there any doubt as to the duty of the Speaker. The first and foremost duty of the Speaker is to maintain the privileges of the House of Commons, and how an official whose first and foremost duty that is can possibly be considered a proper arbiter as between the two Houses in matters which directly and enormously affect the privileges of the House of Commons I confess passes my understanding. Therefore, my Lords, I have ventured to propose this form of joint Committee in place of the Speaker in regard to Money Bills. On that matter the Commit tee's duty will be solely to interpret the provision of the first clause of this Bill.
Now I come to the further duties imposed upon the Joint Committee by the Amendments which have been subsequently passed, because I first suggested this proposal when the sole question for the Committee was the decision as to what a Money Bill might or might not be. The Committee now, according to the decisions of your Lordships' House, would have to decide whether as 303 regards a Money Bill its governing purpose was financial or not; and it would also have to decide, under the proposal carried last night by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, whether a Bill affected the existence of the Crown or of the Protestant succession, whether it established a National Parliament or Assembly with legislative powers in any part of the United Kingdom, and whether it raised issues of great gravity upon which the judgment of the country had not been sufficiently ascertained. So far as regards the existence of the Crown or the Protestant succession, or the question of Home Rule, which also must be a matter for interpretation, I can conceive no great difficulty in the way of members of the Committee addressing themselves to such matters; but I confess the difficulty in their way is greater to my mind when it comes to a question of what is the governing purpose of a Money Bill, and the further question of what is an issue of great gravity upon which the judgment of the country has not been sufficiently ascertained. Speaking for myself, I very much doubt whether those proposals, if this Bill ever becomes law, will be retained. But assuming that they are retained in the Bill, and taking the Bill as it now stands, I venture to say that if it be possible to appoint any tribunal capable of dealing with such matters as these—matters not of the interpretation of a Statute but matters of opinion—the kind of tribunal I have suggested to your Lordships is the best that could possibly be framed. I have endeavoured in suggesting this tribunal to do two things—first of all, to suggest a tribunal which shall be absolutely fair between the two Houses as representing the opinions of both Houses and yet shall give a preponderance to the House of Commons; and, in the second place, to suggest a tribunal the members of which should by their ordinary duties be accustomed to decide impartially matters of grave importance affecting Parliamentary procedure or the interpretation of the law.
May for one moment, call the attention of your Lordships to the list of names which I have suggested for this Committee? In the first place, I have suggested the Lord Chancellor. The noble and learned Lord is not now in his place, and therefore in his absence I venture to say that I would trust his impartial decision in any matter referred to him judicially as much as that of any man I know. He is, no doubt, a member of the Government, and 304 as such not quite in the position of the other members of the Committee I have ventured to suggest. But it has always been the practice, the laudable practice, for the Lord Chancellor of the clay to separate himself as far as possible—while, of course, defending the measures of his colleagues—from Party controversy, and to deal even with subjects of Party politics with a more or less judicial gravity as compared with the manner in which they are dealt with by his colleagues. He is not only a Minister of the Crown but Speaker of your Lordships' House, and I venture to say that, being Speaker of your Lordships' House, he is qualified for such a position as I have proposed. Next comes the Speaker of the House of Commons. I need say nothing more with reference to him. Then the Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords is also in a position in which he has to decide every day impartially as to matters of procedure in this House and matters of great importance with regard to private legislation, which places him in a position entirely apart from ordinary Party controversy. I next suggest the Chairman of Ways and Means in the House of Commons, who is in a similar position to our Chairman. He never, I believe, votes or speaks on any Bill which comes under the consideration of the House, unless it be with regard to private legislation. Then I suggest that some one Peer should be chosen by and from the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary and other Peers of Parliament holding, or who have held high judicial office. I need not dwell on the position which those noble Lords occupy in the estimation of the country and of the Empire, or of the nature of the judicial duties which they have to perform. Finally, I suggest as the sixth member of the tribunal a member of the House of Commons to be appointed by the Speaker. He would necessarily be someone experienced in Parliamentary work, and a man of an impartial mind, who would bring his best ability to the judgment of any questions referred to the tribunal. The Speaker would have, as the noble Earl on the Cross Benches has said, not only one vote, as one of the six members of this tribunal but a casting vote, so as to ensure the preponderance of the House of Commons.
I have not thought of what the political opinions might be of those of whom this tribunal would probably be composed, because I believe that they would be able, 305 in dealing with the matters referred to them under this Bill, to throw off their political opinions and act in a perfectly impartial manner. It would be far more difficult for the fourteen members proposed by my noble friend on the Cross Benches to take up such a position, because they must necessarily have taken in the other House an active part of some sort or another in the previous consideration of Bills that had cone before them, and therefore I think they would necessarily be somewhat prejudiced in dealing with them afterwards. I hope your Lordships will be pleased to accept this proposal. I do not say that it is by any means perfect. It is a matter of enormous difficulty to frame a tribunal for the purpose of dealing with the provisions of this Bill. But, such as it is, I commend the proposal for your Lordships' approval, and I wish to conclude by thanking my noble friend on the Cross Benches for the manner in which he has himself dealt with my Amendment.
Amendment moved to the proposed new clause—
In subsection (1), line 3, leave out from the first ("of") to ("tribunal") in line 7, and insert ("the Lord Chancellor, the speaker of the House of Commons, the Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords, the Chairman of Ways and Means of the house of Commons, a Lord of Appeal to be chosen by and from the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary and other Peers of Parliament holding or who have held high Judicial Office, and a member of the House of Commons to be appointed by the Speaker").—(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The question before the House is that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed new clause.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
My Lords, I ask the indulgence of your Lordships for a few minutes, not so much for the purpose of stating my opinion upon the grave Constitutional question which your Lordships are discussing as for the purpose of stating the effect that the Bill and the Amendments of Lord Cromer and Lord St. Aldwyn will have upon the position of the Speaker of the other House. I had the honour of being Speaker of the House of Commons for many years, and I can speak with some experience of the responsibilities which attach to that high office. I gladly recognise the approbation which the status of the Speaker has received at the hands of your Lordships during this debate, and I take 306 this public opportunity of expressing my grateful acknowledgment to Lord Curzon and to the Leader of the House for the kind words which they expressed with reference to myself personally.
The Speaker of the House of Commons is a responsible office. He undertakes that responsibility very willingly, but it is a little hard that his responsibility should be added to by any other duties of the kind proposed by this Bill. The Speaker has to decide questions of very great gravity arising within the House of Commons, and also in relation to questions arising between the House of Commons and your Lordships' House. I have tried to recollect what were the occasions on which I gave any decisions against your Lordships' House in maintaining the privileges of the House of Commons. I have found two instances only. One was in 1891 when, in the Elementary Education Bill, your Lordships introduced a clause for grouping elementary schools. I held it to be my duty to rule that if that Amendment of your Lordships was introduced it would increase the charge upon the public, and that if in any case the charge was exceeded in any particular school it was a clear violation of the House of Commons' privilege. The other case was in reference to a Local Government Bill. Your Lordships had made some alteration in the financial relations between the owner and the occupier, the result of which would have been to increase the charge upon the public. On those grounds I decided that your Lordships had committed a breach of privilege against the Commons, and the Amendment was disregarded. Those are the two occasions, and the only two occasions, on which. I gave any decision on the question of privilege as between one House and the other. I do not know whether the present Speaker has given any decision upon any question affecting the relations of the two Houses, but that he has decided questions of great gravity with great impartiality no one, I think, will deny for a moment. For instance, on the Redistribution scheme in the year 1905 when Mr. Balfour, who was then Prime Minister, proposed to substitute Resolutions for a Bill, the Speaker held that Resolutions would be incompatible with the privileges of the House, that he was not able to put the Resolutions before the House en bloc, and that discussion upon them could only be taken separately. No time, therefore, 307 would be saved in proceeding by Resolutions, and Mr. Balfour withdrew his Resolutions.
Your Lordships may ask, "What is the use of these precedents you have quoted?" I quote them only for the purpose of showing that the Speaker of the House of Commons may decide questions of privilege affecting the relations between one House and the other, and questions of privilege affecting the internal relations of the House of Commons, but to place upon him other duties is quite another matter. It would be impossible, in my judgment, for the Speaker to maintain his high position were such a duty as this Bill proposes saddled upon him. At present the Speaker is able to take advice from any quarter; he may consult anybody he pleases, but he is not bound to state the means by which he arrives at his decision. But this proposal, if accepted, would fetter, I feel sure, the responsibility of the Speaker and expose him to a suggestion of suspicion which would be unworthy of his character and position in the House of Commons. The Speaker of the House of Commons occupies a great position, and is recognised as a responsible officer. It is that responsibility which I believe attracts to him the admiration of your Lordships' House and of the House of Commons, and it is the impartiality with which he exercises it that is at the base of the universal admiration and respectful affection in which the present Speaker of the House of Commons is held, and I should be very sorry indeed if at any moment the fair fame of the Speaker's character should be blown upon by a breath of suspicion, or if any alteration were made in his position which might derogate from his high office.
As to the Amendment now before the House, my objection to Lord Cromer's proposition is to the magnitude of the Committee he proposes. I think it is very important, if we are to have a Committee at all, that it should be a small one, for the reason that unanimity is a great object to be gained, and you are more likely to get unanimity by a small Committee than by a Committee of fourteen or fifteen. I would not despair at all of selecting fourteen impartial members from the House of Commons. I believe there are as good men in the House of Commons as ever there were, and that their character is as high, and I have not the least doubt that you 308 would be able to select as many impartial men from that House as you required. I need not say that I could say the same of your Lordships' House; and the method proposed by Lord St. Aldwyn for the selection of the members of the Committee guarantees, I think, the impartiality of the Committee quite apart from the number of members it is proposed to put upon it. It is a high question which I leave to your Lordships to decide as to what their duties should be, but that they should assist the Speaker in defining what is a Money Bill, for instance, is, I think, a most wholesome proposal. I do not wish to address the House any further, and I thank you for the kind attention with which you have listened to me.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, like a good many other Members of your Lordships' House I had the honour of serving in the House of Commons under the noble Viscount who has just addressed us. I have grateful recollections of the way in which he exercised his great Authority- as Speaker and of the respect and affection in which we all held him, without distinction of Party, and I am grateful to him to-day, as one who has recently left that House, for the tribute he has paid to its character, a testimony derived from his own observation of the way in which the old traditions are carried on to-day as they were carried on of yore. The weight of authority of the noble Viscount is very great. So is the authority of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, on a question of this kind. Speaking for myself, and, I think, for others, I say at once that we would rather that the question had not arisen of imposing the burden of new statutory judicial duties upon the Speaker of the House of Commons, but we know of no way out, and your Lordships appear to know of no way out. In dealing with the introduction of a statutory authority in the shape of a Joint Committee it may well be that it would be desirable to relieve the Speaker of the House of Commons, if he could be relieved, of this burden.
I do not rise to debate the general question—my noble friend has expressed all we have to say upon that—but I desire to point out that in the speech of the noble Viscount opposite, and, I think, throughout this discussion, what to us is the dominant 309 consideration, the dominant difficulty, has been ignored. It is not merely a question of setting up the Speaker as a judicial authority who, before a Bill conies to this House from the other House, has to give a certificate, but of setting up an authority who is to decide and to give guidance as to whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not—not a Money Bill in the abstract, but a Money Bill of the kind described in subsection (2) of Clause 1, a Bill which may be one of a number of different species. One of the unavoidable peculiarities of this position is that in the course of its passage through the House of Commons a Bill may alter its character. Having begun as a Money Bill, it may cease to be a Money Bill and become a general Bill, subject to Clause 2. If that happens the whole finance of the year may be thrown into confusion. A Budget Bill may thus come under Clause 2, and then we may have the legitimate exercise of your Lordships' rights in that case and the Bill hung up for an indefinite time. That is just the situation which we look upon as impossible, as reducing the financial stability of this country to a state of confusion. The noble Marquess did not agree with me when I made the statement before, but perhaps he will consider the real force there is in what I am saying now.
Unless you can get somebody who can give authoritative guidance right through all the stages of the passage of a Bill through the House of Commons confusion is unavoidable. For example, take a Budget Bill. In the Committee stage there are all sorts of discussions and Amendments by private Members, and it is very easy to turn a Bill which originated as a Money Bill into a general Bill which comes under Clause 2. The Government of the day may wish to make Amendments. It may be most desirable to do so, because there may be slips to be rectified and necessary improvements to be made. As I say, unless there is authoritative guidance as the Bill goes along, guidance which can be relied upon to steer its course correctly, confusion and uncertainty seem to be unavoidable, and there would be a serious risk of the passage of the Budget Bill of the year being delayed. That is one cogent reason why we have adopted our plan. We quite recognise that a burden is being placed upon the Speaker, but somebody must be entrusted with the duty, and unless the authoritative exercise of the 310 Speaker's functions is employed right through from beginning to end of the Bill there is no certainty that confusion will not result. These questions arise from hour to hour. How can you get a Committee of the kind together from time to time to deal with the points as they arise? It is on that ground particularly that we object to this Amendment. If the deciding authority in the House of Commons could always exercise the influence over us all and command the confidence of us all in the way recent Speakers have done, as the present Speaker has done, and as the noble Viscount who has just spoken has preeminently done, then I think your Lordships would be satisfied to accept the authority of the Speaker. We must hope that the great traditions of the past will be continued in the future. It is better to put up with a mere question of the balance of convenience and inconvenience than to set up machinery which would put the financial stability of this country in peril.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, like my noble friend who has just sat down I had the honour of sitting for many years under my noble friend Viscount Peel, and I should have hoped that the Government, after hearing what the noble Viscount with his great experience has said and the strong reasons which he urged against the duty that is proposed being cast upon the Speaker, would have at least intimated their readiness to give careful consideration to the Amendment now before the House. The remarks which have just fallen from the noble Viscount, Lord Haldane, are therefore very disappointing. His speech, moreover, makes the prospect, if possible, even more alarming than it was before, because I understood him to say that during the course of a Budget Bill through the House of Commons additions might be made to it which would make it a Bill coming under Clause 2, and yet your Lordships were to be precluded from dealing with it, although those additions introduced into the Budget Bill might refer to anything on earth. That is a very alarming prospect.
My noble friend opposite repeated an argument which seems to me—and I speak from having had the honour of sitting for, more than 30 years in the House of Commons—not to have any foundation whatever. He has told us this evening, not for the first time, that it is necessary to have an authority at hand 311 which would determine from day to day whether an addition to a Bill left it a Money Bill or made it an ordinary Bill, and that unless this were done the finances of the country might be thrown into confusion. I venture, however, to say, and I appeal to other noble Lords who have had seats in the House of Commons, that there is a complete answer. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that a Bill is brought in quite properly as a Money Bill and that provisions are introduced into it which, in the opinion of this Joint Committee sitting at the end of the Committee stage of the Bill in the House of Commons, bring the Bill under Clause 2, and that in the opinion of the Government it was most important that it should remain a Money Bill and that they should be able to pass it without coining to this House. I venture to say, and I doubt if any noble Lord who has had the honour of a seat in the House of Commons will contradict me, that all that need happen would be that the Government would move that the Bill should be recommitted, that the clauses in it which prevented it from being a purely Money Bill should be omitted, and then the Bill would go through without coming to this House at all. If I am correct in that statement, what becomes of the argument of my noble friend opposite that it is necessary to have a decision from day to day, the only alternative being that it would throw the finances of the country into confusion? If the account is right which I have ventured to give of the procedure in the House of Commons, I submit that no such confusion need arise, and I would ask any one of your Lordships who has had a seat in the House whether he can deny that the description as to procedure which I have given is a correct one.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
My Lords, after the very grave pronouncement of the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, I think it might almost have been well if we could have suspended for a while our proceedings and bethought ourselves what effect his statements should have on the future progress of this Bill. I enter upon the discussion under the influence of the statement of the noble Viscount with much hesitation, and with grave consideration, I hope, of what I am about to say. I must at the outset say that I regret that the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War should 312 have given us—and on this point I agree with my noble friend who has just sat down—a perfectly imaginary statement with regard to the conduct of a Bill through the House of Commons. I have had the honour of presiding over Bills in Committee in the House of Commons, and I was never aware that the Speaker was always at hand to determine what was the nature of any Amendment that was moved, and to rule from day to day upon the character a Bill might assume. That guidance is not given, and it is not wanted.
I deduce from at all events the first part of the statement of the noble Viscount, Lord Peel—under whom I also had the honour of serving—a very different moral, and one which seems to me more appropriate to the Bill as it stands. What did Lord Peel tell us? He told us that he had examined the records of his own action as Speaker and found that on two occasions, and two occasions only, had he pronounced on the question as to the action of your Lordships in relation to the money privileges of the House of Commons, and that those pronouncements were explicitly accepted in the House of Commons and observed and respected by your Lordships. In other words, the experience of Lord Peel confirms the statement that the Speaker has been in the past the real arbiter of the question whether the action of this House has or has not been interference with the money privileges of the House of Commons, and his sole and independent decision has been accepted as final.
What the noble Viscount has said is a confirmation of the view that I ventured to submit in the first discussion that arose here—that the only real solution consonant with the practice of the past and with the maintenance of the privileges of the Commons, which we must hold to have been asserted at two successive General Elections, is to accept the scheme of the Bill in respect to Money Bills, and leave to the Speaker, and to the Speaker alone, the absolute authority of determining what is a Money Bill. There was, as I admitted, some little risk that in the future there might be a deterioration in the character of the Speaker, and that your Lordships would lose under the Bill now before us the power which you did nominally possess, but never until 1909 exercised, of rejecting a Money Bill. But taking into 313 account all the considerations on the one side and on the other—and, I am pleased to be fortified by the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Peel—it would be wise, in my opinion, to maintain the first part of the Bill as it stands, and leave to the Speaker the sole determination of what is and what is not a Money Bill.
Now I come to the composition of the Committee in relation to the subsequent part of the Bill. Here I am pleased to be again supported by Lord Peel in my view of the great importance of having a very small Committee. The noble Viscount did not intimate any opinion as to whether six would be too many, but he much preferred the smaller number because he thought there would be not only a greater feeling of responsibility but greater authority on the part of individual members, and that you might hope to secure greater unanimity. I do not think you could look for that so much with six as you could with four, and I hold strongly that the proposal of the noble Viscount opposite would be unproved if he consented to a reduction from six to four. In the first place I would cut out—I hope the noble Earl who is presiding over us to-night will forgive me for saying so—the Chairman of Committees of this House and the Chairman of Ways and Means of the House of Commons. I propose that, not merely because of the greater responsibility that will be created by having a smaller Committee, but because by including those two officers you are making an entirely new departure. These two officers hold their office on different tenures.
I dare say your Lordships read in The Times the other day the history of the position of Chairman of Committees in this House. I think I am right in saying that our Chairman of Committees is formally voted to the Chair every Session, but when he gets there his tenure may be said to be life-long. But in the House of Commons the Chairman of Ways and Means is voted into the Chair at the commencement of a Parliament and only holds his position during the duration of that Parliament, and until very recently the position of Chairman of Ways and Means was filled by a Party man. Lord St. Aldwyn has told us that that officer now very rarely votes still less speaks on what may be called a Party discussion. It used to be quite the custom to vote, 314 but I am not sure how far the process was carried. When I was Chairman of Ways and Means I always abstained from voting on the Second Reading of a Bill Over which I was going to preside in Committee if it raised any question of Parliamentary importance, but there was no such duty recognised on the part of a Chairman of Ways and Means in those days and he is still largely looked upon as a Party man. He is displaced when a change of Party arises in the House of Commons. He does not sit, as the Chairman of Committees does in this House, through successive Ministries. He holds his office at the will of the House of Commons, so to speak, at the commencement of a Parliament, and if he fails to be re-elected at a General Election he is displaced. I remember looking up the past history of Chairmen of Ways and Means, and I found that during thirty years riot one of them had ever been re-elected at a General Election, so unlucky had been their experience. Somehow or other they do not come back. These considerations, therefore, lead me to think that it would be as well if these two officers were excluded from the Committee. They do not add to the weight of it, but by appointing them you do add to the Committee persons who, for the reasons I have stated, are subject, at all events in some measure, to considerations which make it desirable to my mind that they should not be on the Committee.
Then the noble Earl on the Cross Benches said—I do not know that it was repeated by Lord St. Aldwyn—that it was as well to have a sufficient number on the Committee to represent all the interests involved. I strongly deprecate the suggestion of interests in this matter. What you really want on this Committee are men with a large knowledge of affairs and as much aloofness from Party considerations as possible—men who have been accustomed to look at things in a broad way, and who would be able to bring to the determination of the questions submitted to them large and broad views of policy and of national movement. I am talking perhaps too vainly, because there emerges out of this discussion the determined and uncompromising attitude of His Majesty's Government. But I do not despair. I still think that if the Government could by any means bring themselves to recommend to the House of Commons the 315 appointment of the Speaker as the sole authority to decide what is a Money Bill, and again as to other Bills, should, assisted by four persons of presumably the highest character, decide, not whether a Bill is to be defeated or even to be set aside, but whether before its finally becoming law it should be approved of by popular vote, we might still have a solution of this question. But I think it can only be done by having a very small Committee.
Two members have been indicated—the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons. I will not at this moment traverse the suggestions the noble Viscount made, but I do not much like, as I said on a former occasion, the introduction of the Law Lords as the electors of one member of the Committee. I think it would be better for the third and fourth members of the Committee to be elected, one by your Lordships' House and the other by the House of Commons and not by the Speaker. If your Lordships at the commencement of a Parliament elected a member of your House to the Committee the act of election would be a very serious business, and you certainly would choose one who would command the respect of all. The same may be said of the House of Commons. The Lord Chancellor, the Speaker, and two other members elected in the way I have suggested would form a Committee to which the questions involved in the Amendment of the noble Marquess might well be referred. I conclude with the feeling that I have been occupying the attention of your Lordships too long, not because I am diffident of the propriety of what I have submitted, but because I really fear that the determination of my noble friends below me shipwrecks all hopes of arriving at a solution of this question by compromise.
§ LORD NORTHCOTE
My Lords, may I be permitted to supplement the remarks of my noble friend Lord Avebury with a single observation addressed to the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War. I wish to remind him—he must know it from his long Parliamentary experience—that the class of Amendments which may transform a non-Money Bill into a Money Bill or vice versa are necessarily much more often moved when the House of Commons is in Committee than in the full House, and, as Lord Avebury pointed out, when the House is in Committee it has not the 316 advantage of the immediate guidance and direction of the Speaker. The noble Viscount, therefore, can hardly claim that the Speaker will be constantly there to advise the Government at a moment's notice. As we know, Amendments are accepted in the course of Committee—the Government are obliged to do so—on the spur of the moment without having the opportunity of consulting the Speaker as to whether they are changing the character of their Bills in doing so. The noble Lord, Lord. Courtney, spoke somewhat despondently of the general attitude of His Majesty's Ministers with regard to this Bill. May I make an appeal to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House? He told us last night that compromise and concession were two great political jewels. Will he not take the present opportunity of exposing those jewels to the open air, or is he afraid of tarnishing them? I must confess that the Amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, appears to me to be of a most reasonable and nonpartisan character, and if His Majesty's Ministers will not accept an Amendment of that kind I really think the noble Viscount opposite might spare himself the trouble of praising compromise and concession.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, under the Bill as it stands the whole working of the measure may at any time be brought to a standstill. We all remember how his late Majesty was disabled on the eve of his Coronation, and even Speakers are not immune from such commonplace complaints as influenza and colds, which for a time may render them quite incapable of attending the House. There is no provision of any sort in the Bill for anyone to take the place of the Speaker. The Deputy Speaker is not mentioned, and if he were the Deputy Speaker is not the same thing by any means as the Speaker—instead of being chosen by the House he is the nominee of the Government of the day. These difficulties are disposed of if the functions of arbiter are given to a Committee instead of to the Speaker, and I think that point of some importance in this consideration.
§ LORD FABER
My Lords, I listened with great interest to the remarks that fell from the noble Lord, Lord Courtney, but I was not quite certain at the close of his speech whether he was in favour of the Speaker being the sole arbiter or whether he preferred a Committee. I should think, 317 however, that after listening to what Lord Peel said as to the great burden that this additional duty would impose upon the Speaker he was inclined to the opinion that the Committee was the better solution. The noble Lord suggested that the number of members should be reduced from six to four. It will not have escaped him that in Lord St. Aldwyn's proposal the Speaker has a casting vote. When there are six members on a Committee a casting vote is powerful, but when there are only four it becomes much more powerful still. I do not know whether that point has been considered.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, two speeches which we have heard this evening from this side of the House certainly received, and I think deserved, the earnest attention of your Lordships. I refer to the speech of my noble friend Viscount St. Aldwyn, and the speech delivered by Viscount Peel, to whom the House listened with attention and pleasure. Lord Peel, speaking with the immense weight which attaches to his record and position, told your Lordships that in his view it would be impossible for the Speaker to maintain his high position if the duties which this Bill contemplates were imposed upon him. That seems to me to be a warning of the utmost significance. What was the reply that was made by the noble Viscount opposite? He said that there was no other way out—I think those were his words. We have endeavoured to show that there is another way out, and I do not think that anything which has yet been said has been sufficient to show that the way we have ventured to indicate is one which might not safely be pursued.
The noble Viscount who leads the House, it is true, dwelt upon certain difficulties of procedure which were likely to arise during the passage of a Bill through the House of Commons if our proposal for a Joint Committee were adopted. His argument was, I think, to the effect that the complexion of a Bill might alter during its progress through the House of Commons, and that at any moment or at any hour a question might arise as to whether a Bill was a Money Bill or not. I speak with great deference upon this subject because it has been my misfortune never to have held a seat in the House of Commons, but I am led to believe that what would happen would be this. The Speaker would 318 still watch over a Bill during its progress through the House, and if at the end of that progress the result of any changes which had taken place was to convert the Bill from a Money Bill into a Bill which was no longer a Money Bill, or to raise a doubt upon that point, he would then call the Committee together and obtain their decision upon the matter.
Then there is the question of the composition of the Committee. We are inclined upon the whole to think that the composition suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, is preferable to that suggested by Lord Cromer, and, indeed, I understand that Lord Cromer has withdrawn his proposal in favour of Lord St. Aldwyn's. But, my Lords, I venture to say that the composition of the Committee, though no doubt very important, is not a matter which is really fundamental in this case. I can conceive many ways of constituting a body of this kind. But surely what you want, and what it should not be beyond your power to obtain, is some small body of cool-headed, clear-headed and experienced men who can—I think the phrase was Viscount St. Aldwyn's—throw off political prejudices when they address themselves to the important task which is imposed upon them. Viscount St. Aldwyn suggested that although his Committee might be a very suitable Committee for the purposes of Clause 1 of the Bill, he was not equally convinced of its fitness for the duties which Clause 2 would impose upon the Committee under the Amendment which your Lordships agreed to last night. I cannot help thinking that there is a certain amount of misapprehension as to the functions of the Joint Committee, and as to the place which it would occupy in our political system. One misapprehension, for I think it is one, is that the services of this Committee would be constantly invoked. I believe myself it would be upon the rarest occasions that recourse would be had to it.
I noted that the noble Viscount last night, when criticising our proposal that the Committee should deal with the gravity of questions which might come before them, said—You are contemplating a measure which has been three times rejected by the House of Lords, and is it conceivable that such a measure should not be a crave measure?319 I think it is perfectly conceivable that it might be very far from being a grave measure. Let me take a measure which we were discussing not very long ago and which occurs to me at the moment—it dealt with the camping grounds of gipsies or some subject of that kind. A Bill of that nature might be three times rejected in this House, but it would still remain a measure of second or third rate importance, and would certainly, if our clause were reasonably interpreted, be regarded as in no sense a grave measure. What has to happen before the Committee is invoked? There must be three rejections in this House and a lapse of two years, and surely after a question has been as thoroughly discussed and debated as it must have been during that period the Minister, or the House, or the Speaker of the House of Commons—the three authorities who can invoke the assistance of the Committee—will have had ample opportunities of considering whether it is really worth while setting the Committee in motion, and they would not do so unless the matter was of such importance as to require the solution of the knot by a tribunal of that kind. Neither the Minister, nor either House of Parliament, nor, I venture to think, the Speaker of the House of Commons, would be likely to risk what would be a kind of rebuff at the hands of the Committee, if they sent to the Committee a measure which the Committee did not consider of sufficient moment to deserve their investigation. And, my Lords, not only will both Houses of Parliament and the Minister consider what the Committee is likely to say when the subject comes before it but they will consider what the people of this country are likely to say supposing the Committee sends the measure to a Referendum. Therefore, everything points to this, that this piece of new machinery will be handled very cautiously, and that it will not be set in motion except when there are quite sufficient reasons for doing so.
Then we are told that the appointment of this Committee indicates that we have a complete distrust of the House of Commons. Surely that is an unreasonable imputation. If the proposal indicates distrust at all—and I do not admit that it does—it indicates distrust of both Houses equally. The Committee has to decide between the two Houses, and is that not a fairer arrangement between House and House than the 320 arrangement contemplated by this Bill, under which, when the two Houses differ, it shall always be assumed that one House is right and the other House is wrong? I may remind your Lordships that, unfair as the procedure of the Bill is as between the two Houses, we accept that procedure except in the special circumstances covered by the Amendment which your Lordships have accepted. And when we propose that the issue should go to this Joint Committee be it remembered that we are going to a body not independent of the two Houses, but a body which draws its very existence from, which has delegated authority accorded to it by, the two Houses of Parliament. It is a kind of reasonable arbitration, as Lord St. Aldwyn said, between the two Houses when they differ. In these days we are all great believers in arbitration. We are at the present moment much interested in the project of a new Arbitration Treaty between ourselves and the United States of America. Is not this a case where we may safely submit ourselves to arbitration? Be it remembered that there is this difference between our proposal and a proposal for arbitration in the ordinary sense of the word, that if you go to the arbitrators and they decide against you their decision is final; there is no more to be said; but if you go to our arbitrators the worst thing that can happen is that you are referred to the country, and it is the country who decides which is right and which is wrong. As I said before, we prefer the Committee suggested by Lord St. Aldwyn and if he goes to a Division we shall certainly support him.
§ On Question, Amendment to the proposed new clause agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN then moved that the word "only" at the end of the first subsection of the Earl of Cromer's new clause be deleted, thus giving the Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee, a vote, as well as a casting vote in the event of the Committee being equal.
Amendment moved to the proposed new clause—
In subsection (1), line 9, leave out ("only").—(Viscount St. Aldwyn.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Subsection (1) of the proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.321
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, we have now to deal with subsection (2) of my proposed new clause, which treats of the manner in which the Joint Committee is to be put in motion. Your Lordships may observe that a change of some considerable importance has been introduced into this Amendment since I first put it down on the Paper. The first proposal was that there should be two means of bringing this Committee into operation. One way was by the action of the Minister of the Crown, and the other was by a resolution of either House of Parliament. I now propose to add a third method, and to allow the Speaker of the House of Commons to put the machinery in motion on his own initiative if he should think fit to do so. As regards the Minister of the Crown, the noble Viscount opposite has said that it is quite unnecessary to put him in because ex hypothesi he will never wish to summon the Committee. I agree to a certain extent. His insertion is the least important, but I think it is better to put him in, as before proposing any measure such as would come under the noble Marquess's clause the Minister might like to consult the Committee. Then with regard to the next method—upon Resolution by either House of Parliament—that was intended to deal with a situation arising where there was difference of opinion between the two Houses. I do not think I need say any more on that point. The other method is by the action of the Speaker himself. I put that in because, even before the criticisms of noble Lords opposite, I had noticed that as there was no machinery for bringing this Committee into operation where both Houses were in a majority in favour of a measure, there was no means of safeguarding the rights of a minority. That was a defect that certainly had to be remedied. There are only two ways of doing so—either by allowing a certain minority in one or both Houses to have a right to enjoin the Speaker to set the Committee in motion, or the way I suggest. Lord Weardale in the course of the debate yesterday proposed, as I understood, that a minority of 200 should be allowed to set the machinery in operation. I have no objection to a minority power of that description, but there are certain objections to it. If once you begin to say that a minority can put the machinery in motion, you at once have to consider what is to be that minority, whether it is to be 50, 100, 150, 200, and so on. I do 322 not suppose anyone would suggest that the Committee ought to be summoned by a very small and insignificant majority—10, 15, or 20 people; but when you get above that number the difficulties become considerable, because the moment a thing of this sort is proposed all the Party wire-pullers and managers put their heads together and ask themselves whether it is conceivable that their Party in the House would ever sink below the required minimum. I do not consider that a fatal objection, but it is a thing to be considered. It would be wiser, I think, to leave the decision of the question to the Speaker. He is always in touch with all Parties in the House; he would be perfectly impartial in this as in other matters; and he would be able to judge whether there was a substantial minority in the House of Commons in favour of bringing the Joint Committee into operation. For these reasons I think that this matter might confidently be left in the hands of the Speaker. I beg to move that subsection (2) of my proposed new clause be here inserted.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 3, insert the following new subsection—
(2) The Speaker of the House of Commons may, if he think fit, and shall, if so requested in writing by a Minister of the Crown or upon a resolution of either House of Parliament in that behalf, call together the Joint Committee for the purpose of deciding any question which under the provisions of this Act may be decided by them.—(The Earl of Cromer.)
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
My Lords, I only rise to put in one word of caution. The noble Earl proposes that the Speaker should have the sole right of intervening on behalf of a possible minority in the House of Commons whom the Speaker might think were entitled to have a reference to the country of a particular Bill. That appears to me to be an impossible task to place upon the Speaker, and I propose on the Report stage to move an Amendment in the sense of Lord Balfour of Burleigh's proposal—that a certain number of Members of the House of Commons should be entitled to summon the Committee. I do not think that anyone in the position of Speaker of the House of Commons would for a moment undertake the duty the noble Earl wishes to place upon him.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.323
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
I now move that the third and last subsection of my new clause be added to the Bill.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 3, insert the following new subsection—
(3) The decision of the Joint Committee on any question so referred to them shall be final and conclusive for all purposes and shall not be questioned in any Court of Law.—(The Earl of Cromer.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to, and new clause as amended added to the Bill.
§ LORD SALTOUN had the following Amendment on the Paper—
Page 3, insert the following new clause—
—(1) Whenever a Bill is, under the provisions of this Act, to be submitted to a poll of the electors, His Majesty may, by Order in Council, direct the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain and the Lord Chancellor of Ireland to issue writs for the taking of the poll which shall be taken throughout the United Kingdom on the day appointed by the writs. The writs shall be directed to the persons appointed to be returning officers for the election of members returned to Parliament.
(2) Every person whose name appears upon the Parliamentary Register of Electors in force at the time a poll of the electors is taken shall be entitled to vote once and no more on such poll. A person shall not vote or ask for a ballot paper or voting paper for the purpose of voting more than once at one and the same poll of the electors, and if a person acts in contravention of this provision he shall be guilty of personation within the meaning of the enactments relating to personation and to voting.
(3) The ballot papers shall be in accordance with the form set out in the schedule to this Act.
(4) if it shall appear that on the poll of the electors a majority of the electors voting (not being less than twenty-five per cent. of the total number of persons on the Parliamentary Register of Electors) have voted in favour of the Bill the Bill shall be presented to His Majesty and on receiving the Royal Assent shall become an Act of Parliament as provided by this Act, but otherwise a Bill which has been submitted to a poll of the electors shall not be presented to His Majesty or become an Act of Parliament without prejudice to such Bill being introduced as a new Bill in any subsequent Session.
(5) A poll of the electors shall, as far as the circumstances admit, be conducted in the same manner as the poll at a contested parliamentary election is by the Ballot Act, 1872, directed to be conducted, and subject to the modifications prescribed by regulations under this Act, the provisions of the Ballot Act, 1872, and of the Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Acts, 1863 to 1883, relating to a poll at a parliamentary election shall apply to a poll of the electors under this Act.
(6) His Majesty may, by Order in Council, make regulations not inconsistent with this Act prescribing all matters which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this section.
(7) Before any Order under this Section is submitted to His Majesty in Council a draft thereof shall be laid before each House of Parliament for a period of not less than thirty days during the Session of Parliament, and if either of those Houses before the expiration of those thirty days present an Address to His Majesty against the draft or any part thereof no further proceedings shall be taken thereon without prejudice to the making of any new draft Order. Every Order in Council made in pursuance of this section may be revoked, amended, or varied in like manner as made, and shall, while in force, have effect as if enacted in this Act.
|Form of Ballot Paper.|
|POLL of the PARLIAMENTARY ELECTORS of the UNITED|
|KINGDOM, BALLOT PAPER.|
|(1) The counterfoil is to have a number to correspond with that on the back of the ballot paper.||(1)||(2)|
|If you wish the above-mentioned Bill to become law, place a cross under the word "Yes."|
|(2) Here insert the short title of the Bill submitted to a poll of the electors.||If you do not wish that the above-mentioned. Bill should become law, place a cross under the word "No."|
§ Clause 3:
§ Certificate of Speaker.
§ 3. Any certificate of the Speaker of the House of Commons given under this Act shall be conclusive for all purposes, and shall not be questioned in any court of law.
§ On Question, Clause 3 agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN had an Amendment on the Paper to insert, after Clause 3, the following new clause—325
.—(1) In every Bill presented to His Majesty under the preceding provisions of this Act, the words of enactment shall be as follows, that is to say—
Be it enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliament Act, 1911, and by the authority of the same, as follows.
§ (2) Any alteration of a Bill necessary to give effect to this section shall be made, in the case of a Money Bill, by the Speaker of the House of Commons, and, in the case of any other Bill, by the Clerk of the Parliaments, and for the purposes of this Act shall not be deemed to be an amendment thereof.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, I propose to take subsection (1) of the Amendment first. The second subsection really relates to machinery, and I will not trouble your Lordships with if at this moment. This clause, or some such clause, is absolutely necessary in consequence of the new kind of Act of Parliament which is created for the first time by this Bill. Hitherto all Acts have been passed after obtaining the consent of both Houses, but under this Bill, as I say, there is to be a new kind of Act. This Bill says that a Bill shall become an Act of Parliament "notwithstanding that the House of Lords have not consented to the Bill. "In those circumstances it is quite clear that the enacting formula to which we are accustomed is absolutely inapplicable. The existing formula runs as follows—
Be it therefore enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, …
This Bill departs from that altogether, and creates a wholly new kind of Act of Parliament.
It would have seemed hardly necessary to argue a thing of this kind before your Lordships had it not been for the extraordinary conduct of the Government in the other House. A clause very similar to the one I propose was brought forward in the House of Commons and objected to there. It was to a certain extent argued in Committee, but when it was renewed on Report the statement was made that the clause had already been considered and rejected, and it was thereupon again voted down. It is worth while, I think, to point out the action which the Government have taken with regard to this matter and the line of argument they have followed. The Attorney-General opposed the insertion of this
clause. He began by admitting that it was necessary to deal with the matter, but he ended by saying that it was not necessary now. His words were—
One aspect of the policy of the Government is to avoid making any distinction between Bills which are passed under the provisions of the Parliament Bill and Bills which are passed in the ordinary way. … What we desire is to accept no formula which would make a different formula to be applied to Bills passing under the Parliament. Bill and to Bills passed under the ordinary procedure.
In other words, a Bill passed by one House alone and a Bill passed by the two Houses are to be described by one and the same formula.
§ Let me examine those two statements. Why is it not necessary to make this change now? If the change has to be made and to be made by Statute, as was admitted, why not insert it in this Bill? This Bill is the proper place in which to put an amendment of this sort. You are creating a new kind of Act of Parliament altogether, and therefore you must create a new formula to describe it if you wish to describe it correctly. With regard to the other argument of the Attorney-General—that they would accept no formula which would make a different formula to be applied to Bills passed under the Parliament Bill and Bills passed under the ordinary procedure, and that they did not wish to recognise any distinction between those two kinds of Bills—the question is not whether the Attorney-General wishes to recognise a distinction between the two kinds of Bills. The Government have by this Bill created that distinction. They have introduced an entirely novel Act of Parliament different altogether from that to which we are accustomed, and what we want now is some means of stating it correctly. I quite understand the motive of the Government in offering this opposition, which appears to me factious and not very much to their credit. Their desire is to conceal from the public as far as they can the revolution which they are making. We are accustomed to that line of argument from them. It has been adopted over and over again in this House.
§ Noble Lords opposite deny that they are creating a one-Chamber Act of Parliament. We are not a set of special pleaders refining upon the meaning of individual words. What we are dealing with here are facts. And what are the facts? This Bill deals 327 with cases in which the Lords decline to pass Bills. It is limited entirely to cases in which this House declines to pass a Money Bill within a month or rejects other Bills three times during two years. The very words of this measure state that the particular Bill referred to is to be passed "notwithstanding that the House of Lords have not consented to the Bill. "What do your Lordships think of a formula which says that this Bill is passed "by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, "when the Lords Spiritual and Temporal have not only not given their consent but have done everything in their power under the Constitution to resist the passage of the Bill? I am reluctant to use strong words, but so far as I can see no words will describe an action of this sort except to say that it is enacting a deliberate falsehood, a falsehood which is patent upon the very face of the Bill which contains it. So far as I know there is no precedent whatsoever for legislation of this sort, or for enacting a formula which obviously does not apply to the cases for which it was made to apply. If there be anything approaching to a precedent I can only find it in the ridiculous Preamble of this Bill—a Preamble which contains all kinds of things which the Bill does not deal with, and which holds out a kind of shadowy promise that things will be dealt with which noble Lords opposite know quite well in their own hearts their most extreme supporters will never permit them to deal with.
§ I have mentioned the way in which the Government treated this matter in the other House. The Bill has now come to this House, and I am submitting an Amendment to your Lordships which appears to me accurately to describe what will take place under this Bill with regard to any measure which is passed under it, and until I hear it I will not believe that noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite will insist upon supporting the enactment of what I have already described as an untrue statement. We know that the present leaders of this House are willing to destroy as far as they can, and possibly it may be in their power to curtail or destroy, the liberties of this House, but I will not believe that they will insist upon retaining the present formula as the formula to precede Bills passed under the Parliament Bill. If they do, they will be really doing what amounts to calumniating this House. I beg to move the first subsection of my Amendment.328
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 3, insert the following new clause—
.—(1) In every Bill presented to His Majesty under the preceding provisions of this Act, the words of enactment shall be as follows, that is to say:—
Be it enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliament Act, 1911, and by the authority of the same, as follows."—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
My Lords, I do not propose to spend one sentence in replying to the language which the noble Earl has permitted himself to use as to the motive and spirit and falsehood on the part of the Government. The noble Earl raises a very natural and good point which is independent of all that ugly declaration. It was admitted to be a good point in the House of Commons, and, although the noble Earl will perhaps not believe what I say, it is true that great pains and trouble were taken in discussing this question before the Bill was laid before the House of Commons. It is not an easy point to settle off-hand, but we admit, and it was admitted by the Attorney-General, the necessity of altering the enacting words. What was said was that it was desirable—and I do not believe any noble Lord will deny that it is desirable if it can be done—that we should have one common form of enacting words for all Acts, and it is proposed, and we shall try as hard as we possibly can, to find a formula of that kind. It is a great deal less easy than the noble Earl thinks. Let me say only one word more. The occasion cannot arise for two years. There can be no case of a measure becoming an Act under this Bill before then, and it ought not to be beyond the wit of man, and of lawyers especially, to find out before the need arises a formula which will meet the perfectly just objection the noble Earl has made.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
It is not only a question of what is desirable with regard to a formula. It is infinitely more desirable that Parliament should speak the truth, instead of saying that an Act is passed in one way when it is nothing of the sort.
LORD ZOUCHE OF HARYNGWORTH
The noble Earl used most appropriate words 329 in proposing his Amendment, for it would not be a truthful statement to say that such a Bill was passed by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal. I think he might even make his Amendment a little stronger than he has done by adding words saying that it was passed without their advice and consent.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
I am not sure that the words of my noble friend's Amendment are complete, because it might be that after the two years the House of Lords withdrew their objection to a Bill. There is not a syllable here as to the absence of the consent, and therefore I am disposed to think that my noble friend should put in some words to make it complete.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I merely rise to ask, How does it require two years in the case of a Money Bill? I should have thought that it might arise in six weeks.
§ EARL STANHOPE
Supposing this House rejects a Bill and two years hence that Bill becomes law. The noble Viscount says that before that time he will bring in some phraseology altering the enacting part of the Bill. This House may refuse to accept the alteration, and so far as I can see this situation will arise. The Bill has been refused three times by this House, but under the Parliament Bill it will become law, though the enacting part will not have been then accepted by this House. Unless you bring it in at the same time the two years will not run from the same period, and the Bill will then become law "by and with the consent of your Lordships" although that consent has been got practically at the point of the bayonet. I do not pretend to understand anything about legal matters, but I ask the noble and learned Viscount opposite, if he has got consent at the point of the bayonet, whether at law such consent is of any value whatever; and I should like further to ask him whether an Act passed against the consent of this House and with the present enacting clause really becomes an Act which the general public need take any notice of at all.
§ LORD STANMORE
The strongest point in favour of the noble Earl's Amendment is that every year there must be a Finance Bill. If it is not passed by this House "within one month," is it supposed to be passed with our advice and consent?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, considering that you are about six to one of us I think your Lordships might approach the consideration of this Bill upon the hypothesis that we really do not necessarily wish to include lies in an Act of Parliament. Of course we do not want to do anything of the kind, and it can be no profit to any human being to put in a formula which is not an accurate statement of the facts. Surely there can be no deep design in our objecting to an Amendment of this kind. It is quite clear that something will have to be provided either in this Bill or in some other Bill. That has always been admitted in the House of Commons. If you like to put this Amendment in, it may be considered necessary on Report to alter it; but as to asking our consent, it seems that it does not matter in the least what the Government say. We are told repeatedly that we are desperately wicked and will not consent to this, that, or the other, but your Lordships have the power and can do exactly as you think right.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, we do not wish to argue this matter upon the footing which the noble and learned Lord has just described. What we do feel is that we ought not to asked to agree to the use of an enacting formula which will not only be absurd hereafter but will place this House in a very false position indeed. My noble friend said that the formula would be untruthful, and the noble Viscount had to admit that Lord Camperdown's point was a natural and good point. He said that it was the intention of His Majesty's Government to meet the point by legislation, and that they hoped to be able to discover a uniform formula which would be applicable to all legislation. He further observed that he hoped to discover it before any case could arise under the Bill we are now discussing. Upon that my noble friend on the Cross Benches pointed out very pertinently that in the case of a Money Bill the issue might be raised long before the expiration of the two years, or whatever period the noble Viscount had in view. What we want to know is, How are you going to deal with a Money Bill next year? Do you propose to use the old formula, which I venture to describe as in the circumstances a very misleading and absurd one?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The answer of my noble friend about the two 331 years, for which I may say I was responsible, was really in relation to Bills coining under Clause 2. As regards Clause 1, if a Money Bill is not accepted by your Lordships within a month by that time I should think we would be able to draw up a formula which would contain no misstatement. But I hope there is no probability of your Lordships throwing out another Money Bill within the next two years.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, I jump at the first notion of any offer of conciliation. I am quite willing to accept what the noble and learned Lord has said, and I will withdraw my Amendment on the present occasion. But I repeat that every word I have said is justified by facts. With regard to the noble Viscount's idea that he can invent one formula which will correctly describe Bills passed by one House and Bills passed by the two, he has, as we know, a very fertile mind, and I have no doubt, if anybody can, that he will succeed in drawing up a formula of that sort. But I do say that this Amendment ought to be inserted, because you are creating by this Bill a new kind of Act of Parliament. That is an undoubted fact, and if you apply the existing formula to the new kind of Act of Parliament you will be stating that this House has given its consent when it has done nothing of the sort. It is not sufficient to say we must look forward to some alteration in the future. I always observe when there is anything brought home in this House to noble Lords opposite and remedies are proposed, we are relegated to the dismal and uncertain future to have them carried out. I venture to hope, therefore, that on Report the noble Viscount will be successful in producing a formula. No one will be more pleased than I shall if he succeeds. I will withdraw my Amendment on this occasion, but will put it down again on Report.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 4:
§ Saving for existing rights and privileges of the House of Commons.
§ 4. Nothing in this Act shall diminish or qualify the existing rights and privileges of the House of Commons.
§ On Question, Clause 4 agreed to.332
§ Clause 5:
§ Duration of Parliament. 1 Geo. 1 stat. 2, c. 38.
§ LORD STANMORE had an Amendment on the Paper to leave out "five years" and to substitute" two years."
§ The noble Lord said: As I believe only about a dozen noble Lords agree with my view, I should perhaps be unwarranted in pressing my Amendment merely to air my own view on the subject of the duration of Parliament, my belief being that if the duration of Parliament is to be shortened at all it should be shortened very much more than is proposed. I therefore do not move the Amendment standing in my name.
§ On Question, Clause 5 agreed to.
*LORD BARNARD moved the insertion of the following new clause—
A Peer shall not, by reason of being a Peer, be disqualified from being elected, or, if elected, from serving as a Member of the House of Commons for any constituency in the United Kingdom, but a Peer shall not be entitled to sit or vote in the House of Lords while he is a Member of the house of Commons.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I ask your indulgence for a few moments while I call attention to the proposition which I have placed on the Paper. I shall not attempt any flights of eloquence, but will tell you in a few plain words the object I have in view. Neither shall I weary you by quoting pages from Lecky and other distinguished authors, and I hope I shall be saved from the temptation of referring to such a remote subject as marriage with a deceased wife's sister, as has been done in the course of the debate in the last few days. I do not think that the point to which I wish to call attention has been previously referred to.
§ Under Clause 1 of this Bill your Lordships will be deprived once and for all of the privilege, enjoyed by almost every British citizen, of having a voice in the taxation of the country. Your Lordships are expected to pay taxes and perform all the duties of citizenship, but you are being relegated to a class of political outcasts. You are not allowed to express any opinion whatever on the taxes which are to be laid on your shoulders. And Clause 2, 333 although to a lesser extent, will also considerably affect and reduce your right as British citizens of a voice in the management of the affairs of the country, and I am surprised that a Party professing themselves as the champions of liberty and enfranchisement should be guilty of practically disfranchising 600 of His Majesty's subjects. I am surprised at the indifference—I might say the almost callous indifference—displayed by the Government in this matter, I wonder what would be their attitude if we were depriving a considerable number of seamen, or dockworkers, or railway men, or any other class of the body politic of their rights or their votes. When it comes to Peers, however, it seems to be regarded by His Majesty's Ministers as a matter of no account whatever. I am sure they will pardon me if I say that I can only attribute it to some vindictive purpose—I hope I am wrong—to pay out members of this House for not agreeing with them in their political opinions by saying that in future they should not enjoy the same political rights as are now enjoyed by the humblest working men.
§ What have your Lordships done that we should be utterly deprived of this right? Can anyone for one moment assert that members of this House are any less intelligent, or less honest politically, or less honourable, or—may I add—even less patriotic, than the rest of our fellow-countrymen? Reference has been made this evening to the considerable number of additions to your Lordships' House since the present Government has been in power. I wonder what those newly-made Peers think of the Government's proposals. I wonder if they have any sense of the fact that they will be freed from all duties and all responsibilities to the public in the future, or practically so. I wonder what their feelings are on entering a House so emasculated and deprived of all powers and functions of government. In some cases they may not be sorry; it may afford them an opportunity of devoting the whole of their time to amassing wealth; and in the case of younger men the opportunity may be seized of saying, "Nothing is expected of us. We will therefore devote our lives to pleasure and amusement; we have no longer any responsibility to the State or the country," and probably what will happen will be that they will spend the money their father made.334
§ I hope His Majesty's Ministers will not meet my proposition with a mere statement that they cannot accept or even entertain it. Personally I will not be satisfied with being denied what I consider are my rights as a British citizen, and if I am deprived of those rights on the present occasion I shall not cease to take every step I can to have them restored to me. The reasons which have been given by the Government in objecting to some of the other Amendments do not apply in this case. This is not a root and branch Amendment and does not affect any of the principles of the Bill, and I hope I shall not be told that I am proposing a Constitutional revolution. I admit that it would be a large Constitutional change, but, as we have been told in the course of this debate, no change could be of greater Constitutional importance than the one proposed by this Bill. If we embark on revolutionary changes of this kind nobody must be surprised if further changes are proposed to meet the altered circumstances. I sincerely hope also that I shall not be told that this matter will receive consideration on some future occasion. On the very day that any Bill of this nature becomes law our rights and privileges as British citizens will be to a large extent taken from us, and I maintain that we are entitled to have at least some part of them restored to us.
Insert the following new clause—
.A Peer shall not, by reason of being a Peer, be disqualified from being elected, or, if elected, from serving as a member of the House of Commons for any constituency in the United Kingdom, but a Peer shall not be entitled to sit or vote in the House of Lords while he is a Member of the House of Commons.—(Lord Barnard.)
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, I should like to say one word in support of the Amendment. I think it should be received favourably by His Majesty's Government, as it affects particularly one part of the great Constitutional question which is now troubling us. The Government are always telling us that there is a great difference between the numbers of noble Lords who support them and those who support the Opposition, and it seems to me that if this Amendment is adopted the position will be changed, because noble Lords on this side will think it very little use sitting in this House with the restricted powers proposed by the Bill whereas the opinion of noble Lords opposite is that there are still 335 valuable duties which can be performed here. In those circumstances it seems to me we shall see a depletion of the benches occupied by the noble Marquess and his supporters, and in a very short time I have no doubt the numbers on both sides would approach equality. I put that forward as a reason why the Government should accept the Amendment of my noble friend.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
My Lords, this is to me a very interesting Amendment, because I recollect in my earliest days in the House of Commons bringing in a Bill enabling Members of this House to get seats in the House of Commons. I forget why I did not proceed with it, but I do remember an ultra-Radical saying that he did not think he would support my Bill, because, as he said, "those men will be very awkward customers to us as rival candidates, and you had better leave the matter alone." There is one feature in Lord Barnard's proposal which I never thought a possible element in any operation of this sort. I refer to the words which seem to imply that after a Peer has tried to get into the House of Commons, or has got in and has afterwards been put out by his constituency, he is to come back to this House——
§ LORD BARNARD
May I interrupt the noble Viscount for one moment to explain? I did not contemplate anything of that kind, and I must apologise if the phraseology of the Amendment gives that impression. I would withdraw any words of the Amendment which foreshadows any idea of that kind, for I certainly did not contemplate it.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
At a later date, in connection with another Bill, if this proposal comes forward I hope the House will adhere to what was my view in those days, that if a Peer once sits in the House of Commons he practically, in clerical language, unfrocks himself as a Peer for the rest of his natural life. All these points, however, are really irrelevant to-night, because they are wholly outside the scope of the Bill. This is a Bill for limiting some of the powers of your Lordships' House. It deals with powers and not with qualifications, and the noble Lord is surely wholly wrong when he says that this is a Bill disfranchising members of this House. There is not a word in the Bill which justifies that implication.
§ LORD BARNARD
Will the noble Viscount tell me what rights members of this House would have in controlling the financial regulations of the country by which they are taxed?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
We propose to limit the powers of this House over finance. That does not disfranchise noble Lords.
I hope my noble friend will press his Amendment to a Division. At the same time I trust he will make it clear that he means to shut out the possibility of noble Lords who have stood for and taken a seat in the House of Commons coming back to this House, because it would be grossly unfair if they could change in and out after losing an election. I would point out to the noble Viscount opposite that he has rather sold the pass on one point. Members of the other House have been constantly in the constituencies heaving abuse on noble Lords here. We have been called "backwoodsmen" and described as quite inefficient for our duties, whereas it has just been admitted by the noble Viscount himself that we would prove very dangerous as rival candidates at an election. You cannot have your cake and eat it. The Peers must either be the fools they are represented to be or efficient individuals able to fight an election, and I would point out that if this contention of the noble Viscount is correct—that they would be dangerous rivals in the constituencies—the treatment accorded to them by His Majesty's Government is even more harsh than one at first imagines. The Government are going to take away their powers and at the same time make them the only individuals who cannot take any active and real part in the government of the country. As to this question being outside the scope of the Bill, I am quite ready to concede that, but unless we fight for getting this done now we shall never have a chance of getting it done in the future. I therefore advise the noble Lord to go to a Division now while we still have a portion of our powers left. I trust that this Amendment will commend itself to the Front Bench below me. We on the Back Benches never know whether the Front Bench are going to sell the pass or not. We see them constantly going to the Table and thumping upon it with simulated enthusiasm in favour of one thing and another, but we never know whether they are going back on what 337 they have said, and we should like to know whether any noble Lord who wishes to continue his Parliamentary life will have an opportunity of exhibiting his forensic ability elsewhere.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, I confess I sympathise with a good deal that has been said about this Amendment. There is no doubt that His Majesty's Government are proposing to take away most valuable legislative privileges from the members of this House and leave them absolutely without the power of representing either their own interests or those of their fellow-countrymen in dealing with the taxation which the other House will alone impose. That is a grossly unjust position, and to my mind it is the strongest argument that can be brought forward for the very early introduction of a Bill giving those Peers who cannot obtain seats in this House the opporutnity which the noble Lord desires for them of seeking a place in the other House. Having said that, I hope the noble Lord will not prejudice his case by pressing this Amendment. I think it is impossible for any reasonable person not to see—and it was admitted by the last speaker—that this proposal cannot come within the scope of this Bill. I therefore think the noble Lord will only prejudice his own case, which I admit is an extremely strong one, if he asks us to divide on this Amendment.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, there is only one suggestion I would make to noble Lords opposite, and it is this. It does appear to me that the noble Lord who moved the Amendment made out a practically unanswerable case, but at the same time he himself admits that his wishes are not fully expressed in his Amendment and that it will have to be altered before it will carry out his intention. As the noble Viscount opposite has just said, this Amendment does not come within the scope of the Bill, and I would therefore suggest to noble Lords opposite that as they have the Government in a yielding mood on this point they should carry out their object by trying to induce the Government to help forward in the House of Commons a Bill on the lines suggested by the Amendment of the noble Lord.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, it is always a little difficult to follow the line of argument of noble Lords who have 338 just taken their seats in this House, because on this particular question they gave us no assistance whatever in the House of Commons when they were there and when we were endeavouring to obtain this very reform. I am glad to find myself for once on this subject in agreement with the noble Viscount behind me. Some years ago when three members now sitting on this Bench did their utmost to obtain this very reform, the noble Viscount told them in the bluntest manner that they were glad to get rid of them in the House of Commons, and that they had better stay in this House and be content.
There is no question whatever that my noble friend Lord Barnard has a very strong case indeed. I venture to say there is not a man on this side of the House who does not regard his position under this Bill, if it passes, as being an intolerable one. I do not think noble Lords opposite can appreciate the vehemence of our feelings on this subject. Money Bills represent one-third or one-fourth of our legislation, and yet a Peer is to be shut up here and debarred from touching them; and with regard to the remaining legislation, three-fourths of the power which this House has is to be taken away from it. And yet you ask a number of men who have had long experience of the House of Commons and long public experience in office and in this House to sit down under these limitations, to be content with them, and to thank the Government for what has been left to them. We do not believe that this can be permanent. Your proposal is so one-sided that in the last week you have not been able to establish it in debate. Indeed, we have reason to complain that some members of the Front Bench opposite were not present when the most important parts of the debates have been going on, and we know that some of their supporters have not been present here at all. The Government have created Peers for the purpose of supporting their measures in this House, and they have shown by not being present that they do not appreciate the legislation which you have asked them to support. I repeat that forcing us to remain here in these large numbers, unable to do anything effective for the legislation of the country, creates an intolerable position and one which cannot continue. However, I quite agree with the noble Viscount behind me, Lord St. Aldwyn, that it would be impossible to reconcile 339 this particular provision with the Preamble of the Bill. That being so, I trust my noble friend, being fully assured—however bad the opinion which Lord Lovat entertains of the backbone of the Front Opposition Bench in this particular—that we are to be relied upon to carry out to the full the view which he has expressed and which has already found its place in my noble friend Lord Lansdowne's Bill—will not think it necessary to divide.
§ The LORD CHANCELLOR
May I say two sentences in allusion to the absence of members of the Government from this debate? I am afraid the noble Viscount was alluding to my absence yesterday. I can only tell your Lordships that I began work yesterday morning at a quarter past eight and worked until 8 o'clock at night managing arrears of administrative business, which is very heavy at the present moment. If I had been present here I could not possibly have got through my work, and it is not possible for me to get through it unless I do take some time to myself.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I had no intention of making any personal allusion to the noble and learned Lord, but we do feel, quite apart from the noble and learned Lord, that for other Members of that Bench who are accustomed to take part in debate to allow discussions to go on for six or seven hours without a word being said for the Government view, is entirely unreasonable.
§ LORD BARNARD
Although I am not entirely convinced that my Amendment, is outside the scope of the Bill, I shall, of course, bow to the opinion of the Front Bench below me, as well as to that of the Front Bench opposite and ask leave to withdraw my Amendment. And in doing so I would express the hope that the course events may take will not compel me to do something more in the matter at an early period.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
VISCOUNT GALWAY moved to insert the following new clause—
The provisions of this Act shall continue in force until such date as the House of Lords is reconstituted under an Act which has been consented to by both Houses of Parliament, and no longer.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in my opinion this Act must only be a temporary one, and therefore my proposal is that whenever a measure has passed both Houses of Parliament for the reconstitution of the Second Chamber this Bill should at once lapse. My chief reason for the proposal is this. Very often when there is another Bill brought in there is a tendency on the part of the Government to only repeal some portion of the previous Bill. That creates a lot of confusion in the future. It also seems to me very important indeed, when you are going into the question of the powers of the Second Chamber, that you should start with an absolutely clean slate, and that everything should be embodied in one and the same Act of Parliament. The Secretary of State for War assured us that this Bill was only a temporary one, and that His Majesty's Government were going to bring in a Bill to reconstitute the Second Chamber. Feeling as I do that there should be an absolutely clean slate I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name, and I think it will very much simplify the procedure when the time arrives.
§ Amendment moved—
Insert the following new clause—
.The provisions of this Act shall continue in force until such date as the House of Lords is reconstituted under an Act which has been consented to by both Houses of Parliament, and no longer.—(Viscount Galway.)
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
My Lords, it may or may not be desirable that the provisions of this Bill shall not extend beyond the period of the reform of this House and the constitution of a new House. But there is plenty of time for all that. You cannot tell whether you would or would not apply the provisions of this Bill until you knew what sort of a House was the result of the process of reconstitution. Certainly at the present juncture my own view is that we ought not on any account to bind ourselves by a statutory provision against the continued life of this Bill. Therefore we cannot accept the Amendment.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I am very much surprised—I will not say disappointed—at the reply to which we have just listened. My noble friend behind me, it is true in only a few sentences, has raised a very important 341 question, and one which I think might well have been deserving of rather serious and long discussion at the hands of your Lordships. My noble friend has placed an Amendment on the Paper to the effect that the provisions of this Act shall continue in force until such date as the House of Lords is reconstituted under an Act which His Majesty's Government have promised to introduce. That really is a question of the most vital moment, because it raises the whole issue of the nature of the pledge given by the Government for the reconstitution of the Second Chamber.
As to the period within which that pledge is to be redeemed and as to the question whether this Bill is or is not regarded by the Government as a transitory measure, I would not presume upon the first question to doubt for a moment the sincerity of His Majesty's advisers. The words of the Prime Minister, over and over again repeated in the House of Commons, assure us that in the view of the Government it is a pledge of honour on their part that they will introduce a Bill for the reconstitution of this House. But when we come to the question of the date at which that promise is to take effect, His Majesty's Government have spoken in more uncertain tones. I could, if I had the time, read out to your Lordships various obscure and indecisive and sometimes inconsistent utterances by His Majesty's Ministers in the House of Commons on the matter; but they have committed themselves to this undertaking— that they will within the lifetime of the present Parliament introduce a Bill for the reconstitution of the Second Chamber.
But no promise has been given to carry such a Bill through the House of Commons. The mere promise to introduce the Bill there within the next four years does not carry us very far, because there is not one of us who does not know—allowing everything for the good faith of His Majesty's Government, as I am quite willing to do—that considerations will be at work in the House of Commons which will militate against the fulfilment of that pledge. There are plenty of supporters of His Majesty's Government in the House of Commons who will be anxious to extend the period of interregnum in order to get as much of the legislation that they favour carried within 342 it as they possibly can, and I doubt very much oven in the most favourable circumstances, if His Majesty's Government could command the numbers and the strength to enable them to carry a Reform Bill of this kind in the House of Commons. If that be so, how extremely important it is that now, on the last occasion that is open to us, we should get some indication from His Majesty's Government of what their real views are as to the temporary or permanent nature of these provisions. The whole; case of the Government up to this time has been that these powers are being withdrawn from the House of Lords and added to the House of Commons because of the opinion they hold as to the character, composition, and prejudices of this House. Is it not clear, therefore, that if you constitute a new Second Chamber on a more representative and democratic basis the case for restoring those powers is complete? I would ask His Majesty's Government when we may hope to receive their Bill, and whether they accept our interpretation of their case that the provisions of the Bill are temporary provisions only?
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I should have been sorry if the noble Viscount did not; otherwise I should have been tempted to say that His Majesty's Government had been guilty of a breach of faith to the country. We are all of opinion that these provisions are temporary only, and I think we should have some acknowledgment of the fact. I am not quite certain that the noble Viscount's words carry out fully his own intention. He proposes that the provisions of the Act shall continue in force until such date as the House of Lords is reconstituted under an Act which has been consented to by both Houses of Parliament and no longer. But, even allowing to the fullest degree the serious intentions of His Majesty's Government, it is quite obvious that if for any reason they are compelled to postpone the fulfilment of their pledge this Bill might remain in operation for five years or for an indefinite length of time, and I am sure that is the last thing that my noble friend desires. I would therefore 343 suggest to him whether he might not amend his Amendment with a view of introducing into it some specified period within which His Majesty's Government might reasonably be asked to carry out their own undertaking. The sort of suggestion I have in view is this, that we might amend the Amendment as follows—The provisions of the Act shall continue in force for three years"—let us say—"or until such time as the House of Lords shall have been reconstituted under an Act which has been consented to by both Houses of Parliament and no longer, whichever is the shorter period.I do not know that I attach overwhelming importance to the suggestion of three years, but surely that is a reasonable period within which, if His Majesty's Government remain in power, to ask them to carry out their pledge and send up the Bill they have promised to this House. I think those words will carry out the intention of my noble friend better than the words he has put on the Paper, and I submit them to His Majesty's Government in the hope that they will give us some clearer indication of their views as to the transitory nature of this Bill.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
The attendance is rather thin to divide on an important matter like this. Would it not be better for the noble Viscount to withdraw his Amendment now and bring it forward on the Report stage when the attendance will be greater? [Renewed cries of "Divide."]
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I move the words I have read out as an Amendment to the Amendment of the noble Viscount.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The noble Lord, Lord Curzon, proposes the following Amendment to the Amendment of the noble Viscount—namely, to leave out, in the first and second lines, the words "until such date," with the object of inserting the words "for three years or until such time."
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It may be convenient for me to say at this stage that this subject will come up upon the Preamble—I do not mean to say effectively—in the form of an Amendment. If the noble Viscount wishes to press the Amendment so be it, but, as I say, the subject will come up when the whole of the Preamble is discussed. However, I am quite ready in a few sentences to state our view upon it now. Everybody knows what the nature of our proposals with regard to the Preamble is. The noble Lord has referred to them, and, of course, we adhere to what was said. As regards the question how long this Bill is to remain in force until the other Bill is brought in, I would point out that these two Bills are what I may call twin Bills. It is the same as happens with redistribution on one side and representation on the other. When you bring forward redistribution you are told that you will have to remedy representation, and if you bring forward representation you are told that you have to deal with it together with redistribution. When Mr. Gladstone was faced with the question of Disestablishment in Scotland he said, "I am prepared whenever the Scottish Members will support Disestablishment to bring forward a measure," and each Scottish Member in his constituency said, "I am prepared whenever Mr. Gladstone brings forward a Bill to support that Bill in Parliament, and not before." We think it best to do one thing at a time. We have commenced with the powers of this House, which to our mind is the most important and also the most pressing matter. We do not wish, and do not intend so far as we can help it, to be diverted from that branch of the subject until we have completed it, and when we have done that we intend to take up the other branch of the subject—the reconstitution of your Lordships' House. That is an open statement of our position, and I do not think there is any difficulty in understanding either the strategy or the necessity for it.
§ [The sitting was suspended at eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, it is a great thing to be an after-dinner speaker, not only in ordinary life, but in this House. I think I can say without egotism that I am an after-dinner speaker, but only in 345 this House. It falls to my lot, I think, more often than to that of any other member of this House, to keep a debate going until their Lordships have returned from refreshment. But very different qualities are required to speak after dinner in ordinary life from what are required to speak after dinner in your Lordships' House. Although those qualities are different, I think they are equally deserving of credit and approbation. As a matter of fact, those qualities are precisely the reverse of each other. To be a successful after-dinner speaker in ordinary life you need to be brief, you need to be witty, and you need to be to the point in your remarks. But to be an after-dinner speaker in your Lordships' House you need to be precisely the reverse. You have to be prolix, perhaps even to the extent of being tedious; and with that, of course, it is impossible to be witty, for brevity is the very soul of wit, and generally it is impossible really to be very much to the point when you are obliged to fulfil the condition I have named.
I hope the noble and learned Lord on the Government Bench (the Lord Chancellor) will forgive me if I address myself to him, seeing that with one exception he is the only representative of His Majesty's Government present at this moment. It is also the case that he was the last speaker before the adjournment for dinner. As far as I remember, what the noble and learned Lord said was this. He called the Bill which we are discussing and the Bill which is foreshadowed in the Preamble twin Bills. That is a new idea, and it certainly struck me very much indeed when he gave utterance to it. It is one to which I think it is worth while to call attention in order that we may get at the meaning of the noble and learned Lord, for I confess his meaning was not entirely clear to me. I believe the noble and learned Lord was somewhat hampered by his courteous consideration for the convenience of members of this House. He knew that noble Lords were in a hurry, and he did not explain himself so fully as he usually does. When I say that, I am far from suggesting that the noble and learned Lord ever says a superfluous word. I am not going to flatter—it is not my custom to do so—but I really mean that there is no member of your Lordships' House who is more concise, more concentrated, and more clear in his language.
346 The noble and learned Lord proceeded to illustrate what is meant by twin Bills. The illustration he gave us—I hope he will correct me if I misquote him—was one which was concerned with Mr. Gladstone and a Scottish Disestablishment Bill. He told us Mr. Gladstone said of that Bill that he would do what the Scottish Members wished, and the Scottish Members said they would do what Mr. Gladstone wished. That was an interesting story, but I confess that since I heard it I have been puzzling my mind very much as to what on earth was the point in it. What was the allusion which the noble and learned Lord wished us to gather? I can only put one interpretation on it, and it is this—that it is the most frank, perhaps the only, admission we have yet had of the relations which exist between His Majesty's Government and the members of the Irish Nationalist Party. If we are to follow the illustration, the Government say they will do what the Irish Nationalist Members wish, and the Irish Members, according to the noble and learned Lord, say they will do what His Majesty's Government wish. Here surely is log-rolling extraordinary. It is a real illustration of the old and homely adage, "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours." I really think the Lord Chancellor is a little bit over-sanguine. I can well believe, in fact I have not the slightest doubt that His Majesty's Government will do what the Irish Nationalists wish. We all know that. We have never had the slightest doubt about it, although there have been denials. But I am not so sure that the Irish Members will do what His Majesty's Government wish, and it is in that respect I think that the noble and learned Lord is over-sanguine. I think that there his illustration fails.
The Lord Chancellor went on, to explain, in terms which were far too brief and which were unhappily cut short, that the Government are proceeding by stages in this matter; that they are dealing with this grave Constitutional question in two stages. The first is to deal with the powers of the Second Chamber and the second is to deal with the composition of the Upper House. The noble and learned Lord said that with tremendous solemnity, and for a moment I was almost deluded into the belief that he was enunciating some statement of policy which was new to us, and was of great importance. But after a 347 little reflection I realised that we have known that for a very long time. Not only have we heard it before, but we are actually faced by the fact. We can see it for ourselves. I was disappointed with the statement of the noble and learned Lord for what we wanted to know, and what he did not tell us, was whether the second stage—the stage of dealing with the composition of the Second Chamber—would involve any modifications of the first stage. That is the point of this discussion, and we wish to continue the discussion on the Amendment of my noble friend in order that we may elicit a little more information on that point. It is really of immense importance.
On the face of it this Bill is a temporary, a provisional, and transient measure, and we cannot doubt that what is written in the Bill expresses the intentions of His Majesty's Government. If that is so, surely we have a right to know what the next stage will be. If this is a temporary and provisional expedient, surely before embarking on a policy of such immense importance and so far-reaching in its effect His Majesty's Government, as all statesmen or men of business or men of common-sense would do, have looked a little ahead and have seen what the next step will be. Why do they not take us into their confidence? I venture to suggest it is hardly frank, it is hardly fair, either to this House or, what is still more important, to the country at large. You are seeking to alter the Constitution of this country which has existed for eight centuries, and to alter it in a manner which, to put it briefly, for I do not want to dwell on the point, has absolutely no parallel either in history or in the present circumstances of any other civilised country. Yet while doing this you will not tell us what the next step is to be. Either His Majesty's Government have a plan for the reconstitution of this House or they have not. It is hardly conceivable that they have no such plan. If they have a plan, why in the name of common-sense will they not tell us what it is and what it involves? Surely that is the only frank, the only fair the only honest and statesmanlike course to take. At least they should tell us what are the reasons for this secrecy.
There has not hitherto been such reticence or secrecy in regard to domestic legislation. We can understand His Majesty's Government preserving a discreet 348 silence in regard to any matter affecting international relations or diplomacy. We can understand them maintaining an air of secrecy on a strategical question in connection with the conduct of a campaign; but in regard to domestic legislation of such enormous importance as this, I say with sincerity and candour that this secrecy is really absolutely incomprehensible. I think we have a right, not only on our own account but on account of the people of this country, whom so far as we are members of a Second Chamber we represent, to demand that that information should be given to us. That is all I have to say in reply to the noble and learned Lord, who no doubt would have made a fuller statement if the arrival of the dinner hour had not unfortunately cut short the interesting speech which he had commenced. But in regard to this point I should like to remind the House what the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, has said, because the question has arisen once or twice before and we have pressed him on it. I hope I am not parodying what he said, but the effect of his words on each occasion has seemed to me to be this, that the Government could not say now what their intentions were as regards the permanence or otherwise of the provisions of the Parliament Bill, but that they must retain a free hand. That, again, seems to me to be a very ingenuous, but a very disquieting admission. It means, if I understand the English language at all, nothing more and nothing less than this. If the Radical Party cannot get a Radical House of Lords when the process of reconstitution and reform takes place, then they will do their best to withhold from the new Second Chamber those powers which are accorded to Second Chambers in every decently-governed civilised nation in the world. But if they succeed by debate, by discussion, by fair means, or means which are not fair, in getting a Second Chamber which is Radical in its complexion, then they will be perfectly willing to accord that new Second Chamber the powers accorded to Second Chambers in other countries. I ask, Is that statesmanship? Is it in accordance with the traditions of statesmanship or good government either in this country or in any other civilised country in the world? I say without the slightest hesitation that it is naked, shameless, Party opportunism.
The Liberal Party in the past have often been warned by their great leaders to keep 349 on the straight path of principle. They have been warned that if they leave the straight path of principle and go into the devious byways of Party and political expediency, then they are running to destruction and ruin. It seems to me that is what they are doing at the present time. They have no principle; at any rate, they will not tell us of any principle on which they are acting. Everything they do, everything they say, leads us irresistibly to the conclusion that their only concern is the present transitory expediency from their own Party point of view. Is that straightforward as regards this nation? When His Majesty's Government tell us that they are dealing first of all with the powers of the House of Lords and secondly with its composition, I am irresistibly reminded of a riddle. I wish the noble and learned Viscount the Secretary of State for War were here, because the riddle which I have in my mind is a German one which he, at any rate, would appreciate. Teutonic wit is not always appreciated in this country, but I remember in my young days this was thought an exceedingly good witticism. The riddle was this, "How do you make a cannon?" The answer was, "You take a hole and pour molten iron round it, and then you get your cannon." It seems to me that in dealing with the question of the reform of the Constitution in the way adopted by the Government you are proceeding in accordance with this German prescription for making a cannon. You arrange your powers first, powers which are intangible and immaterial, and pour round them the material and tangible substance of the composition of the House. A cannon made in that way will not be solid, will not be lasting, will not be effective—in fact, I doubt whether it will take shape at all.
To turn to another point, I should like to ask His Majesty's Government whether they think this policy will help them to anything more than a temporary retention of place and power? Will it help them with the solution of the Irish problem, in regard to which we know the noble Viscount the Leader of the House is tremendously in earnest? Will it enhance the credit of the Radical Party? Is it, I ask again, in accordance with the traditions of the old Liberal Party to preserve this reticence not to say what you mean, what you intend to do, or what you have in your mind? I am again reminded of an old saying that 350 "Honesty is the best policy." I believe that for the Radical Party at the present time it would be far the best policy to take the nation into their confidence and say exactly what their intentions are and how they mean to carry them out. If we cannot be told what those intentions are, at any rate let the Government give us some explanation why they cannot tell the people of this country what they intend to do, how they intend to do it, and when they intend to do it. I for one cannot believe for a moment that the nation will long rest content with the answer "Wait and see," which is given in response to every suggestion we make, however reasonably it is put forward, and however conciliatory and temperate may be the tone in which it is submitted. In spite of the fact that suggestions are made in accordance with our duty to Parliament and our duty towards the nation, the only answer we get is, "Wait and see." That may serve for a while, but I cannot believe, for I have a strong faith in the robust common sense and the innate appreciation of fair play of the people of this country, that the nation will long rest satisfied with being put off with such an answer on a matter of the most vital and important concern to the nation.
My Lords, as the debate was interrupted by the dinner adjournment before I had the opportunity of rising again, I think it only right to say at this juncture that I am very glad to-accept the Amendment to my Amendment proposed by Lord Curzon and to incorporate it in mine.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, we have not, I think, elicited the opinion of His Majesty's Government on the Amendment which is now before the House. The original Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Galway was, for reasons which seemed obvious to us, considered inadequate to effect the purpose which he had in view, and an Amendment in a different form was suggested by my noble friend Lord Curzon. Under that Amendment, as I understand it, the Bill on the Table, were it to become law, would have a limit assigned to its operation, not a single limit as proposed by my noble friend behind me, but a two-fold limit. It would remain in operation either for a period of three years, or until such time 351 as His Majesty's Government have been able to effect the reconstitution of the House of Lords; and my noble friend stipulates that that limit should be whichever of the two periods is the shorter. That is a very important proposal, and surely it is one which deserves some examination at the hands of noble Lords opposite. We have already elicited this from the noble and learned Lord. He regards the Bill on the Table, the Bill which is in existence, and that other Bill which is not yet in existence but which is to be called into existence before long—the Bill dealing with the reform of the House of Lords—as twin Bills. That is a very remarkable expression. It is a very unambiguous expression. I do not suggest that it is a case of Siamese twins, but twins in the usual sense of the word. We have throughout insisted on that view. We have throughout insisted that it was impossible to deal with the question of the alteration of the powers of this House except in connection with the other question, that of the reconstitution of this House.
Therefore we have again and again insisted, and I do not think we have been really contradicted by noble Lords opposite, that we were justified in treating the Bill on the Table as merely a provisional Bill. It must be obvious to anybody that if this Bill is to be defended at all it can only be defended as a provisional and interim arrangement. After all, what is the real point against the House of Lords? It is that it is unfairly constituted as between the two political Parties, and that we have taken advantage of that unfair constitution in order to obstruct the progress of Liberal legislation. We do not admit the charge for a moment. But assume that that is the charge. Is it not quite obvious that from the moment when the inequality is removed, from the moment when this House is fairly reconstituted as between the great political Parties, the necessity for imposing upon this House the extraordinary disabilities, the humiliating disabilities, which this Bill contains ceases to exist and disappears? That seems to me such an obvious proposition that I really cannot conceive that noble Lords opposite would seriously dispute it. What was the noble Viscount's comment upon that proposition? The noble Viscount will correct me if I do not quote him accurately. He said that in 352 the view of His Majesty's Government it may or may not be desirable that the policy of this Bill shall be made to extend beyond the period of restriction. May or may not be desirable! That is, it seems to me, a most unreasonable demand for latitude on the part of His Majesty's Government, and it is the more unreasonable because the noble and learned Lord told us earlier in the evening that His Majesty's Government have got their plan for reforming this House.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If the noble Marquess will pardon me, I do not think I made that observation. I neither affirm nor deny it; but I do not think I made the observation.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I think the noble and learned Lord used words which would certainly suggest that idea. At any rate, I will assume that His Majesty's Government have given some thought to their plan for reconstituting this House.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
How, as my noble friend suggests, could one of the pair have been produced apparently in full vigour—though not a very ornamental infant I must say—whereas the other twin is apparently in a dormant and suppressed condition? I will not pursue the metaphor, because I see a noble Lord on the Back Bench (Lord Ilkeston) who would probably find some fault with my metaphor if I did. But I do venture in seriousness to say that our claim that this should be treated as a provisional measure and that therefore a time limit of some kind should be imposed is a most reasonable claim. We suggest a time limit which appears to us to be reasonable and appropriate. That is really the effect of the Amendment as amended by my noble friend Lord Curzon, and it is an Amendment on which we desire to obtain some expression of the views of His Majesty's Government.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I have unfortunately trespassed against a precept which was instilled into me in early youth at the great college with which the noble Marquess and the noble Earl, Lord 353 Camperdown, are not, unfamiliar, by a very great master. He said, to me, "Never make use of any metaphors." I have made use of a metaphor, departing from the injunctions which were laid upon me, and the noble Marquess has made a very adroit use of it. When I spoke of twin Bills I meant, of course, that the one Bill is here in the body and the other is projected in the Preamble; and whether my metaphor was accurate or not, I think the sense of what I meant was pretty clear. The real truth is, of course, that we are bent on dealing with one side of this subject—namely, the powers of the Second Chamber. I think the noble Marquess will recognise that when you have this task on hand you will immediately divert attention and produce endless controversy and dialectics upon the other side, which has not yet been brought forward or discussed at the instigation of His Majesty's Government, if you hamper the present discussion by a forecast of what may come hereafter. In accordance with the dictates of the most common prudence we wish to keep our attention for the present fixed on the one side of this question. In the Preamble we have stated our intentions. They are, of course, the intentions of the Government and have been confirmed by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons in language that is quite clear. While apologising for making use of a metaphor and expressing the hope that it may never occur again, I cannot add anything further to what has been said.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Apparently I can only speak again with the leave of the House, and I am not anxious to continue the discussion; but we are really left in rather a peculiar position. The noble and learned Lord opposite employed a metaphor at an earlier stage of the evening contrary to the advice given to him by his Oxford mentor and mine. But do not let the House conceal the fact that the disappearance of the metaphor from the scene has left us with no real information as to His Majesty's Government's intentions. We are driven back now on the Preamble and the statement of the Prime Minister with regard to the Preamble, but these statements, explicit as they are as to the intention of the Government, give us no guarantee whatever as to the length of time during which these provisions are to apply. That is the difficulty which I sought to meet by my Amendment to the Amendment of the 354 noble Viscount behind me, and it is an Amendment which I believe the majority of your Lordships' House would not only be willing to consider, but to carry. I feel, however, a certain difficulty in asking your Lordships to proceed to a Division on an Amendment which I think is important in a House so sparsely attended, and when, owing to the hour at which we are sitting, some prominent members are absent. My suggestion, therefore, would be that my noble friend should not proceed with the Amendment at the present time, but that we should read in print the words of the Lord Chancellor spoken a little earlier in the evening and reserve to ourselves the right, if it seems best after consideration, to bring up the matter again on Report.
I am quite willing to withdraw my Amendment now and ask leave to raise the question on Report.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved to insert the following new clause—
Nothing in sections one or two of this Act shall apply to any Bill founded upon petition to either House of Parliament or subject to Standing Orders of either House relating to Private Bills or to any Bill for confirming a Provisional Order.
§ The noble Earl said: This Amendment is a very simple one. It is merely for the purpose of clearing up exactly what is meant by a Public Bill. As this Bill was originally drawn the word "Bill" alone appeared in Clause 2, but after discussion in the other House the word "Public" was added. It does not appear quite certain that the words "Public Bill" exclude private Bills, or at all events private Bills which are half public and half private. There is also another form of Bill known as a Provisional Order, which is carried out by means of a Bill, and which I believe is not intended by the Government or by any one to be included. I am not at all confident that the terms of my Amendment are quite right, but it is a point on which I think the Chairman of Committees could very likely give the House valuable assistance. I do not know whether the noble Earl, Lord Donoughmore, feels himself in a position to say anything with regard to the Amendment, but if he can I think he is the person who is most likely to tell us what really ought to be done in a matter of this sort.355
§ Amendment moved—
Insert the following new clause—
. Nothing in sections one or two of this Act shall apply to any Bill founded upon petition to either House of Parliament or subject to Standing Orders of either House relating to Private Bills or to any Bill for confirming a Provisional Order.— (The Earl of Camperdown.)
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
As the noble Earl has specially appealed to me, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say in three sentences how the matter strikes me. I have, of course, consulted my advisers on the point, and we have come to the conclusion that, whilst the private; Bill procedure of your Lordships' House would not come under the provisions of this Bill, there are certain Bills which, in the language of the noble Earl's Amendment, are founded upon a petition to either House of Parliament which might come under this Bill. Some of these proceed as private Bills and some do not. On the other hand, there is no doubt whatever that Provisional Order Bills, although practically private Bills in their procedure, are public Bills and would undoubtedly come, we think, under the provisions of this Bill.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
On that I should like to ask the noble Earl if he could point out what is objectionable in the form of this Amendment, or if he will suggest anything to us. If he is not in a position to do that at the present moment I am quite willing to withdraw the Amendment, and consult with him afterwards and bring it up later in a form which is not open to objection.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Bill is intended to deal with public Bills in the sense we ordinarily know them. If there is any question of the kind indicated by the Lord Chairman or by the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, we certainly will look into it. I think the best course now would be that suggested by Lord Camperdown, that the matter should stand over so that we should all be able to look into it.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Should I, then, communicate with the noble and learned Lord himself, or with the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees? The Government are responsible for this Bill, and it is probable that they would themselves prefer to put down an Amendment which is required for the purpose. If the 356 noble and learned Lord will undertake to communicate with the Lord Chairman I shall, of course, withdraw the Amendment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
We will communicate with the noble Earl himself, and also, of course, with the noble Earl the Lord Chairman. It is a thing we ought to look into and will look into.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD ELLENBOROUGH had an Amendment on the Paper to insert the following new clauses—
A.—His Majesty, notwithstanding any Constitutional usage which has hitherto obtained, may, without the advice of a Minister, submit to the Parliamentary electors by means of a Referendum any question; but at least one hundred and eighty days shall elapse between any two submissions to the electors under the foregoing provision. Provided that nothing herein contained shall prevent any Referendum during such period taken in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.
B.—His Majesty, notwithstanding any Constitutional usage which has hitherto obtained, may, at any time without the advice of a Minister, dissolve Parliament, but at least one year shall elapse between any two dissolutions under the foregoing provision. Provided that nothing herein contained shall prevent the dissolution of any Parliament which has lasted less than one year if that Parliament is dissolved in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.
§ The noble Lord said: With the permission of the Committee I wish to add the words "or Joint Committee" after the words "Prime Minister" at the end of my proposed Clause A. A year ago I should never have thought of putting such clauses on the Paper. But from the time that the Government introduced their Parliament Bill the whole of the conditions of our Constitutional existence have changed. Written laws are now to be substituted for custom. If part of our Constitution is to be written, the whole of it must be reconsidered and not merely such portions of it as may suit one Party. I expect to be told that my Amendments attack the whole theory of the British Constitution. But the Government is bent on destroying it root and branch by upsetting its balance and depriving the people of any chance of exercising their right of being consulted before the passing of important measures, as they leave no body, either hereditary or elected, with the power of insisting that they shall be consulted when the powers of this House are curtailed.357
§ The Government are throwing the whole of the Constitution into a witches' cauldron which already contains such noxious ingredients as "Gag," "Guillotine," and "Kangaroo" closures. What will eventually come out of it in three years' time it is hard to know. I understood the noble Viscount to say that he disapproved of the Referendum because it would over-ride the opinion of the House of Commons. Well, that is exactly what it ought to do. A vote of the House of: Commons cannot have anything like the moral authority of a vote by Referendum until seats are redistributed according to population and proportional voting is established. At one stroke the Referendum gets rid of the over-representation of Kilkenny and of the Irish Home Rulers, and of the under representation of Romford and of Irish Unionists. Incidentally it also abolishes plural voting, which ought to recommend it to democrats.
§ From the speech of the noble Viscount on Lord Avebury's Amendment, I think it is now perfectly clear that the majority of the House of Commons mean to keep the power of prolonging their own existence up their sleeve, ready for use in case of a Party emergency. If they never mean to exercise that power why insist on taking it? The noble Viscount said that that Amendment showed a complete distrust of the House of Commons. But the demand of the Government is merely a political form of the confidence trick by which foolish young men are induced to trust their purses to strangers in public houses. If this Bill passes unaltered we shall be at the commencement of what may or may not be a Long Parliament. There is nothing but the discretion of the present Government to prevent its becoming so. History shows that when rulers have commenced great reforms they become maddened at the idea that statesmen not in sympathy with their ideas may succeed them and prevent their intentions from being completely carried out. When in that frame of mind, it is easy for them to think it right to take any steps, however wrong they may be. Under such circumstances absolute Monarchs have killed their eldest sons. The Government at present declare that neither they nor the members of the other House would think of prolonging the life of a House of Commons, but in a year's time they may be in such a position as to have to declare that "circumstances alter cases." The Long Parliament began with excellent intentions and did useful 358 work during the first five months of its existence, which is more than I can say of the present Parliament. But it would not allow fresh elections to take place for fear of its work being undone.
§ The reason that I cannot put any trust in the discretion of the present Government is that I consider they commenced their career in this Parliament by deceiving the people. When they went to the country they declared to win on the "abolition of the hereditary principle in the Second Chamber." It is true that the Parliament Bill had been printed before; the election, but it had not been completely discussed in either House, and the chief cry on their platforms was "Abolition of the hereditary principle." But the moment that all the votes or seats that, they had wished to get had been duly booked, they scratched "Abolition of the hereditary principle," turned it out to graze in a clover field, and declared to win with "Single Chamber" in the first race, and "Home Rule" in the second race. They have further intimated that "Abolition of the hereditary principle" is to remain at grass for an indefinite period. From what the noble and learned Lord said I gather it is now their intention to take it from grass and put it into training again, but no exact date was given when that is to be done. Such conduct would not meet with approval on a race-course. Having strayed so far from the path of rectitude at the very commencement of their rule, to what depths may they not descend in the course of a year or two? Able to bribe the members of the existing House by an offer to double or treble the present salaries of £400 a year, with a firm conviction that their own prosperity and that of the people is bound up with their continuance in office, what likelihood is there of their being able to resist the temptation of putting aside their quinquennial innovation and making a permanency of the present House of Commons? If this Bill passes, what is there to prevent the House of Commons making itself into a close and self-elected corporation, and filling up its own vacancies? We have been told that public opinion would never permit such a usurpation of authority. But if all legal means of preventing a prolongation of the life of the House of Commons is taken from the people, what remedy is left to public opinion but that of raising barricades and using rifles in the streets? Hitherto the people of this 359 country have been a law-abiding people, but it is hard to say what they will do if you pass unjust laws without giving them an opportunity of rejecting them. Whether the War Minister has in him the making of a Cromwell and whether he would be, able to put down any such rising with a new model Territorial Army entirely composed of Socialists I do not yet know, and I would rather not have the opportunity of ascertaining.
§ From the legal point of view the King can do no wrong. But this maxim is singularly at variance with the generally accepted theory of our hitherto unwritten Constitution, which is that the King can do nothing at all without the advice of a Minister, with, perhaps, the single exception of dissolving Parliament. But if, under present conditions, the King were to dissolve Parliament in defiance of the advice given by the present Prime Minister, or of that offered by a future Prime Minister chosen from the ranks of those who are now sitting on the Opposition Benches, I am certain that he would be accused by some people of acting unconstitutionally. The Government is engaged in destroying part of our Constitution, and it proposes nothing in the way of reconstruction. The power of consulting the people must reside somewhere outside a Single Chamber. If these clauses are accepted they will tend to prevent conflicts arising between the House of Commons on one side and the King and people on another. It has been loudly declared that if this House does not accept this Bill in the exact shape in which it left another place, 500 Peers are to be created. Next year if this House refuses to pass a Home Rule Bill this threat is certain to be renewed. You surely do not expect that Mr. Redmond and Mr. Dillon will continue to give you their support for two years after you have passed a Home Rule Bill that has not become an Act of Parliament. They will insist upon its becoming law at once, and a fresh Constitutional crisis will arise. Ought not His Majesty to have the Constitutional power of consulting his people if approached by a Prime Minister with such a demand, or by demands still more outrageous—such as the prolongation of the life of an unpopular House of Commons beyond the statutory limit, or a Bill for the total abolition of the Second Chamber?
§ The objection, has been raised that if this clause became law and the Crown 360 were to insist on, a Referendum the Prime Minister would resign and the Opposition would not dare to take office. I think that in most cases the Prime Minister would prefer to remain in office, as is the practice in Australia when polls of the people go against the Government. At any rate a Dissolution would settle the question. But the consequence would be that the wishes of the people would be carried out in all important matters, whereas if the Parliament Bill becomes law in its present shape this is most unlikely. The knowledge that the King might either call for a Referendum or a Dissolution would make a Prime Minister more cautious as to what advice he gave, and therefore I think that the Crown would seldom require to make use of these clauses. If these rights were only exercised once in fifty years it would be a sufficient justification for these Amendments. I look upon, these clauses as a support to the Throne, and I think that on some future occasion they may prevent its being involved in the fall of some unscrupulous Prime Minister. I have heard that Louis Philippe was in the habit of saying that reigning in a Constitutional country was a very simple matter. All that he had to do was to ask Ministers, Messieurs, avez-vous une majorité? If the answer was Oui, he replied Alors, j'irai me promener. If the answer was Non, he said to them Allez-vous promener. Unfortunately he acted on this plan too often, and the result was that the Monarchy disappeared at the same time as an unpopular Minister who had a majority in Parliament but not in the country.
§ As we are legislating for all time and not merely for the present generation I have, in drawing up this clause, put a time limit to the number of polls of the people or Dissolutions for which the King should have Constitutional authority. I have done this to prevent a dead-lock occurring, which might happen if a very obstinate King were to inherit the Throne at some future period. I scarcely expect these clauses to become law this year, but as there is no finality in, the present Bill I think that the principle of these clauses is one deserving of consideration, and that it should receive attention before these matters are definitely settled, and that some modification of them may eventually form part of our new Constitution. I look upon them as a possible alternative if the 361 Parliament Bill is amended a year hence, and as providing a Constitutional method by which the King could obtain the opinion of his people as to whether he ought to act on the advice of a factious Prime Minister.
§ My object in moving these Amendments is to make such appeals to the people not only legal but undoubtedly Constitutional. The ancient form of words Le roi s' avisera meets the case exactly, only in this case the advice that he will be able to take will be that of his people direct without the intervention of a Parliamentary caucus that may have lost its influence in the country. There is one point in the manner in which this debate has been carried out which should not escape notice. All through this debate those who sit on this side of the House have been championing the rights of the people. We say that they should be consulted on matters of importance, whereas the Government insist that they shall not. The effect of the Parliament Bill, if passed unaltered, would be to make it possible for the present House of Commons to keep the Government in power for ever. They insist that there shall be no power in the State with a Constitutional right to appeal to the people, and yet they declare that they represent democracy! I move Clause A first.
§ Amendment moved—
Insert the following new clause—
A.—His Majesty, notwithstanding any constitutional usage which has hitherto obtained, may, without the advice of a Minister, submit to the Parliamentary electors by means of a Referendum any question; but at least one hundred and eighty days shall elapse between any two submissions to the electors under the foregoing provision. Provided that nothing herein contained shall prevent any Referendum during such period taken in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister or Joint Committee.—(Lord Ellenborough.)
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I confess that I rather welcome the two proposals of the noble Lord. There is a kind, of nautical freshness about them which relieves the monotony of ordinary debate. I wonder if anybody has mastered the proposals of the noble Lord. I think the best answer to them is to read the substance of the two new clauses which he proposes. [The noble Viscount here read the two proposed new clauses.] I am sure your Lordships will have gathered the purport of these most remarkable clauses— perhaps the most remarkable clauses that 362 have ever been presented to either House of Parliament since Praisegod Barebones. I cannot imagine anything more remarkable, and I hope the noble Lord will not think me disrespectful because of what I say upon them. The noble Lord says, by the way, that he does not expect these new clauses to be brought into active operation immediately, but I should say they will not come into active operation until a very short time before the Day of Judgment. To put it quite simply in a single sentence, both these new clauses propose that there should be a statutory direction to the Sovereign to act without the advice of any Minister. Such proposals, I submit without much fear of contradiction, are hardly consistent with the usages which have governed the administration of the affairs of this country for a very long time. I am, therefore, afraid we cannot accept the clauses.
My answer to that is that the Government are altering a great many usages, and the only way to put things straight is to alter some more. I wish to provide a Constitutional harbour of refuge for the Monarch in times of difficulty and danger, and if the Monarch acts on the Referendum that is surely taking advice direct from the people without the intervention of a Minister. It is a great alteration, but as noble Lords opposite are throwing the whole Constitution into the melting-pot, and as nobody knows what the Constitution will be five years hence, I brought this subject forward so that people might consider it. Any sudden thing like this will receive no support at the moment, but by and by it will, and I daresay in five years time. With the permission of the Committee I will withdraw the clause.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I have an Amendment on the Paper, but I am not quite sure whether at this how of the night I ought to propose it. Rightly or wrongly, I feel it is a duty to do so. Indeed, I find myself on the horns of a most unpleasant dilemma. If I refrain from moving my Amendment because the House is practically empty, I lay myself open to the charge of want of modesty in not speaking because there is not a good enough House; but if I move it in spite of the emptiness of the House I am considered a 363 bore. And if I withdrew the Amendment it would be taken that I was not sincere in putting it forward, so on the whole I prefer to be thought a bore but sincere than regarded as immodest and insincere. I therefore beg your Lordships' attention to my Amendment. I move to insert the following new clause—This Act shall cease to be operative on the 1st of January, 1913, whether or not an Act of Parliament has then been passed altering the constitution of the House of Lords and regulating the relations between the two Houses of Parliament.This Amendment must be read together with the Amendment that I have on the Paper to the Preamble, and I express the hope that your Lordships have read them together.
These Amendments are somewhat different from the one which was proposed by my noble friend Lord Ellenborough and which we have just discussed. They are in fact, certainly in intention—I will not speak dogmatically about the effect—more in the nature of a proposal for a compromise between the two great Parties than an attempt to amend the actual Bill. I hope it will not be considered presumptuous on my part to suggest the basis of a compromise between the two Parties in the State. What has led me to do so is the fact that for many weeks past, in common I suppose with most other Members of this House. I have been anxiously brooding over this difficult problem and endeavouring to contribute my humble mite to a possible solution of the question, which I think is causing anxiety not only to the Unionist Party but also to the members of the Party in power. I put forward these Amendments for discussion principally to ascertain what are the objections to them. I presume that, like every other proposal, they are open to objections, and I sincerely desire to know what those objections are. I hope it is not presumptuous in me to entertain the idea that it might possibly be worth while to know what His Majesty's Government think of such a proposal, because it has happened more than once that a suggestion from insignificant and humble individuals has started important ideas in the minds of statesmen.
The proposal amounts to this. I will paraphrase it. The Bill is to be passed in the form in which it left the House of Commons—that is an assumption on which 364 I proceed in this Amendment—but it is only to be operative for eighteen months, during which time the reform of the House of Lords, which is now the object of the two great Parties in the State, is to be discussed in Parliament on the initiative of His Majesty's Government. The object of my several Amendments is to enable a fresh start to be made without prejudice in the consideration of a measure which alone can solve this Constitutional problem—that is to say, a measure for the reconstitution of your Lordships' House. It seems to me that if this proposal were adopted, though I am not so presumptuous as to suppose it will be, the effect would be this—it would be a drawn match in this great Constitutional struggle, and the match would be drawn in favour of the Radical Party. There would be an armistice in which the Party in power would have the advantage, and that, of course, I admit is only right. After that armistice a fresh match would have to be started. The hostilities, or, as I prefer to call it, the competition of Parties, could be resumed without loss of time, without humiliation, without disappointment on either side, and, above all, without prejudice to the future solution of this immensely important question.
Thinking out this idea, I proceeded on certain assumptions, and I feel confident that I can prove that those assumptions were not unreasonable. The first assumption was that the Government would be willing to find some compromise, at any rate that they would not be unwilling to listen to and discuss any suggestion for compromise which was made in a reasonable way. That is the first assumption, and if it is a wrong one I hope I may be corrected at once. His Majesty's Government surely cannot wish to leave behind a settlement of this question bitterness and humiliation, anger and resentment, in the hearts of their opponents—and their opponents, mind you, are not only in this House and in another place but they are half the people of this country. A question settled in that way, leaving such bitterness, humiliation, and disappointment, cannot possibly be final. Surely it is not unreasonable to assume that His Majesty's Government wish for a final settlement of this question, which has caused them more trouble than it has caused to us. They say, indeed, that this settlement is the one thing which delays all those great 365 objects which they have at heart and with which they wish to proceed. That is my first assumption, and I hope that it will be accepted as reasonable.
My second assumption is that His Majesty's Government sincerely intend to carry out the promise contained in the Preamble, and that they have a plan for doing so. If they have no plan, it seems to me incredible that they should have endeavoured to make a pledge. You do not promise to do a thing which you cannot perform. That is surely a matter of honest dealing and commonsense. If you promise to do a thing you know how you can do it, and you know how you are going to do it or to try to do it. Therefore I assume that His Majesty's Government intend to carry out that promise and that they have got a plan. The third assumption is, their intention being perfectly sincere and honest, that this Bill is merely a transient and provisional expedient. I do not see that that is an unreasonable assumption, and I cannot understand how they can possibly deny it. It is written on the Bill itself. The very first words of the Bill seem to imply that it is a temporary provision, that it is purely a tentative measure. What is the effect of the Preamble put into ordinary language? His Majesty's Government say that because it is necessary to reform the House of Lords and not possible to do so at once, they have, therefore, to make a certain arrangement. If that does not mean a temporary and provisional arrangement I do not understand the English language. That is my third assumption.
And the last assumption is this, that His Majesty's Government and the Radical Party generally have been perfectly sincere in saying on platforms and in Parliament that this question must be settled without delay. That has been to my mind the one burden of their speeches. They say that nothing can go on, nothing can be settled, until you have disposed of this House of Lords question. Some representatives of the Party opposite said that it must be settled before the Coronation. I do not think any member of the Radical Party of any importance has failed to say that this question must be settled with all possible speed. Will any member of His Majesty's Government or any noble Lord opposite say that any of the assumptions that I have ventured to set forth are un- 366 justifiable, unreasonable, or, to use a term which is oftenest on the lips of the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, ridiculous? If so, which of them is unreasonable? Which is unjustifiable? Which is ridiculous? That is what I should like to know, because if any of them are I am perfectly willing to stop. It is no use going on. But if I may assume that they are fairly reasonable then perhaps I may go on.
The only doubtful point is whether the Government would be willing in any circumstances to consider a compromise. That seems to me the only doubtful assumption, and perhaps on that point they would be good enough to tell us rather more than we have heard already. All we want to know is whether it is any use suggesting a compromise. Will they entertain any sort of compromise? If they cannot possibly entertain the idea, if they say, "we are not going to have any compromise," then it is merely wasting our breath and wasting your Lordships' time even to attempt to suggest anything. But if they are willing to listen to proposals for a compromise, if their attitude is that which I have just suggested, then I ask what possible objections can they have to stating more clearly and defining more precisely what they declare in their Bill to be their intentions, promises, and pledges. Is there anything unreasonable in that? Let me explain it more exactly. Why not say in the Bill that the House of Lords is to be reformed, and to be reformed as soon as possible. That is the intention; it is what you have said not only in this Bill but everywhere else. What is the objection to putting in your Bill a few words to make it a little more clear? You have said it all over the country; it is nothing new. Why not say a little more clearly that this Veto Bill is provisional? You say it is in the Preamble. You do not deny it when we ask you. Why not make it quite precise, why not make it more definite in the Bill itself than you have done, and say it is to tide over an interval until you have settled what you admit to be the vital points of reconstructing the House of Lords?
Lastly why not fix a limit of time? If this is a provisional measure, why not fix a limit of time. Surely it is necessary to put some limit to all this unrest, all this uncertainty, which is producing bad feeling all over the country, impeding 367 the consideration of every other important question, and undoubtedly doing harm to trade, commerce, finance, and everything else on which the prosperity of the people depends? That unrest will continue until this Constitutional question and the reform of your Lordships' House is settled. The grievance of the Radical Party, one cannot repeat it too often, relates to the composition and not to the powers of this House. That is a complaint which noble Lords opposite have made all over the country. To put it in popular language used by every Radical speaker, they say—"We do not want a hereditary House of Lords. Why should a man make laws for you or assist in making laws because he is the son of his father?" That is the way it is presented to the mind of the people, and they understand it. I maintain stoutly that that is the one idea present to the minds of the people, whose grievance is that there is a permanent overwhelming Unionist majority in this House. Will any one deny that that is a fair statement of the case? That is a grievance we admit. We cannot deny it. It exists. We understand it because we are human like other people and we realise that it must be vexatious and galling to you, and we say frankly that we are willing to do our utmost to remove the disability under which your Party labours.
But you are not going to remove that difficulty and that grievance by this Bill. It does not attempt to remove it. You are not attempting to remove that grievance about which you have complained and on which you have roused the indignation and wrath of the people. The Veto Bill only mitigates the grievance for three years, and during the last two years the whole of this complaint revives again in its fullest force. It is the composition of your Lordships' House, not the powers of any possible Second Chamber, which is the subject of complaint in the country and which has been the subject of political discussion for the past five years or more. What His Majesty's Government are doing, so it seems to me, is to ignore the grievance to which they have drawn attention and concerning which they have excited public opinion, and to establish a form of single-Chamber government—they must forgive me for calling it so, because that is the opinion we all of us hold—which has not been demanded by the country. There, 368 again, surely nobody will contradict me. To reform this House and reconstitute it in such a way as to be fair to all Parties is a matter on which we are all agreed in principle. The Radical Party have long advocated it. The Unionist Party have now agreed to it. Your Lordships' House is absolutely committed to some great change in principle. In this respect, circumstances have enormously altered since the Government first embarked on the policy indicated in this Bill. Surely reasonable men in all walks and conditions of life, alter their attitude, their policy, their method of business, in the face of altered circumstances. That surely is a matter which one need not dwell upon or argue. As a "man in the street," as a "backwoodsman," as a Back Bencher, as an ordinary man, I ask, Why not take advantage of that common ground for a national settlement of a national question? I can quite well imagine the sort of answer I may get from some of His Majesty's Ministers. They will say, "That is not our policy."
Let me try and suggest how these Amendments would work. You would pass your Veto Bill. That is the great object you have in view. That is a point of honour with you. You have pledged yourselves to pass it. You would do that. Your honour would be satisfied. There would be no loss of dignity. Your Party would have that satisfaction. On the other hand, the Opposition would have the satisfaction of knowing that, although they had given way to that extent, the Veto Bill would be harmless except in the matter of finance, and on that point I think that there might very well be an honourable understanding between the two Parties. How could you justify this to the people of your own Party? You could fairly say that your veto policy, as would be a matter of fact, had very largely had the effect you desired. It had brought about a recognition of your demand for reform. You have got the Unionist Party to recognise that it is fair to make some alteration in the constitution of this Chamber. You have accordingly passed the Bill for which the people gave you a mandate. "But circumstances have changed," you could then say, "It is agreed by all that there should be reform, and therefore we must try something else. We have passed your Bill, and now we ask you to agree to our fresh proposals for meeting the real difficulty 369 —the reform of the House of Lords." Surely there would be no loss of dignity in an attitude of that kind. On the other hand, the Unionist Party might say to their supporters, "We have had to give way before superior force, but the Bill is not going to do any harm to the questions which we all hold dear and have at heart. We have had the satisfaction of bringing about a state of affairs favourable to that final settlement of this question which is desired by every reasonable and patriotic man in this country. We have had the satisfaction of avoiding a grave crisis." So I imagine it would be possible for the leaders of both Parties to explain their action in the possibly inconceivable circumstance of His Majesty's Government accepting an idea of this kind. There would be no loss of dignity about action of that sort, and next year, without bitterness, anger, or humiliation in either Party, we could all set to work to make a fresh start, without prejudice, and devise a Second Chamber which would be satisfactory to all Parties.
We have pledged ourselves in this House to some measure of reform, and it seems to me that there is no more convincing evidence that some change is necessary than our experience during these debates. The very existence of this House has been at stake. No more important question has ever been discussed here; yet half the members of this House are absent. I say this just as much against my side as against yours. It is clear there are a large number of Peers who are superfluous, as far as the discharge of legislative duties in this House is concerned. Surely it is only right, only reasonable and economical, to relieve these members of duties for which they have no time or no inclination, and leave the work to be done by those, who are ready and willing to devote themselves to it.
I quite realise that these proposals of mine are unusual, but, as has been said by many others, the Bill itself is unusual in character and therefore cannot be touched in any way except by unusual suggestions. The noble Viscount, Lord Morley, at the conclusion of his speech in reply to the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, challenged us to say whether any of us seriously and candidly believed that it would be possible for His Majesty's Government to accept Amendments of the 370 kind suggested by the noble Marquess. I confess I did, and had I not been reluctant to interrupt the noble Viscount I should have answered him in the affirmative. I may have been foolish to entertain any such idea, but in all sincerity I prefer to believe that there are still men in the Radical Party who are open to reason, who are patriotic enough to forego a full measure of Party victory or Party revenge, or whatever else you like to call it, for the national good, and who prefer a peaceful solution of a question of admitted difficulty. It is in that belief, whether foolish or not, that I humbly and respectfully submit these suggestions of my own. I want His Majesty's Ministers to tell me what the objections are. Of course, I do not intend to press them. I have only put them forward for discussion and in order to elicit any reasons that may exist for regarding them as unreasonable, or unpractical, or, as the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, would say, ridiculous.
§ Amendment moved.
Insert the following new clause—
. This Act, shall cease to be operative on the 1st of January 1913 whether or not an Act of Parliament has then been passed altering the constitution of the House of Lords and regulating the relations between the two Houses of Parliament.—(Lord Ampthill.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The prospect of conciliation, reconciliation, or compromise is always inviting, but the noble Lord must realise that at this stage of this controversy it would be quite impracticable to commence an attempt to solve the whole Constitutional difficulty in that way. It has not been for "the fun of the thing" that the Government have brought forward this Bill. We have brought it forward because we believe that there is a great and real public necessity for it. The noble Lord is mistaken if he thinks that we have put forward in the country the composition of the House of Lords as the primary object to be considered. The history of the question is very short but very significant. We proposed to limit the powers of the House of Lords. Thereupon it was from the Conservative side that the project was started, as a substitute for the limitation of powers, that there should be a change in the composition of the House. As always happens when a course of that kind is taken, instead of being a substitute the proposal became a supplement, and both of these projects 371 have been before the country. But although both have been in a degree mentioned, the primary and main one was that relating only to the powers of the House in the first instance. The subject has been very fully discussed in the course of this controversy during the past eighteen months. There have been further proposals put forward which I will not discuss now or further characterise; but may I respectfully suggest that they are more revolutionary than anything contained in this Bill. Remember this, when once you begin pulling down something that is old and familiar you may find yourselves engaging in a very difficult enterprise and committed to it. But without the least desire to return to old stories or old grievances, I must say that it was not we who commenced the innovations upon Constitutional usage. I pass from that subject to say that I am afraid that the proposals of the noble Lord in this Amendment are quite incompatible with the maintenance of this Bill. With that he will agree. He put his Amendment forward in a spirit which everybody must respect—in the hope that it might lead to a compromise on the whole subject. I am afraid that this is a stage at which it is impracticable to anticipate any good results from a project of that kind.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
It is not, I think, necessary to say more than a word or two upon the few remarks to which we have just listened. The noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, was, I think your Lordships will agree, quite justified in moving his Amendment, not only because of the excellent arguments with which he supported it, but because of the spirit by which it was animated and the nature of the appeal he made. The noble Lord told us that he made his proposals solely in the interests of compromise and in the hope of eliciting some statement in reply from His Majesty's Government. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, gave us, not for the first time—and I very much doubt whether it will be the last—his version of the history of the last few years. I do not know whether my view of history is distorted or whether I look through a different end of the telescope from the noble and learned Lord, but I confess my version of recent events is quite different from his. But inasmuch as he apologised for what was not a novel but still an irrelevant disquisition, I shall 372 not have the necessity of following him. Other and better opportunities will occur of placing our version of history before this House and the country.
The main point of the noble and learned Lord's remarks was the obstinacy with which he refused to consider the idea of compromise or solution. I do not imagine any of your Lordships, perhaps not even Lord Ampthill himself, supposed that the suggestion for that purpose embodied in the Amendment would be accepted by the Government, and therefore I do not express surprise at this refusal. What I should like to take this opportunity of confessing some surprise in regard to is that the attitude of uncompromising refusal to which the noble and learned Lord has just given expression has not been confined to this case, but has been equally offered to every proposal, however reasonable and by whatever arguments supported, that has been advanced by noble Lords on this side of the House. And this is the more disappointing to us because on one occasion we had our views enforced by the powerful authority of one of the greatest Speakers of the House of Commons who ever sat in this Chamber. But those words fell upon deaf ears on the other side. Then, again, we had positive encouragement from the actual words of Ministers opposite. I allude, of course, to the often quoted remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Crewe. But although we had that encouragement, we meet with a stubborn refusal. And we leave this discussion, the present stage of which is now drawing near to the end, with feelings of natural bitterness on our side. We are satisfied at the opportunity we have enjoyed of stating our case. But we do feel that His Majesty's Government have not, so far, treated us in the matter with that courteous consideration which they led us to expect and which we had a right to receive.
There was another aspect of the noble Lord's Amendment which an opportunity will arise of discussing later on. One portion of Lord Ampthill's Amendment proposed that this Act should cease to be operative after a certain space of time. The space of time named was not the same as that suggested in the Amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Galway. The question of an attempt to secure a limit to the operation of the Bill will again come before your Lordships upon the Report stage. 373 We have a good many arguments which we have not used to-night to enforce that point, and we hope that they may then receive the considerate attention of His Majesty's Government.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 6:
§ Short Title.
§ On Question, Clause 6 agreed to.
Whereas it is expedient that provision should be made for regulating the relations between the two Houses of Parliament:
And whereas it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation:
And whereas provision will require hereafter to be made by Parliament in a measure effecting such substitution for limiting and defining the powers of the new Second Chamber, but it is expedient to make such provision as in this Act appears for restricting the existing powers of the House of Lords:
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND moved the omission of the two last declarations. The noble Duke said: My Lords, I have not taken any part in this discussion because from my point of view the Bill is a hopelessly bad one. I am not very much in favour of trying to make a sieve hold water, and although we have had a large number of able speeches and the debate has been carried on at a very high level the net result, it appears to me, leaves the Bill still a hopelessly bad one. But although I have not wished to take part in the discussion on the Bill itself, I must say that I think this Preamble deserves the title "ridiculous," of which the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, is so fond, and I do not think it ought to become part of the Statute without strong protests from this House. There are only three points on which I shall trouble your Lordships with regard to this Preamble. In the first place, it is not the custom, I believe, of your Lordships' House to put Preambles in your legislation. At least it has not been done of late years, and I know of no 374 particular reason why you should select this Bill for a breach of your usual custom. In the next place, the Preamble, according to all precedent so far as I can understand, is absolutely out of order, because it has not the smallest reference to anything in the Bill itself. I cannot understand how this Preamble can have passed the purview of the Chairman of Committees in another place without being ruled out of order.
I ask your Lordships, especially those of you who have had experience in the Lower House, to consider this. Supposing this Preamble had been put forward as an Amendment to the Bill, can it be doubted that any one who moved such an Amendment would be told it was out of order? But because apparently it was part of the original Bill as it emerged from the Cabinet Council this utterly irregular Preamble has been allowed to pass. This remarkable Preamble says—
And whereas it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords," and so forth.
Who intends? This is an Act of Parliament, or is going to be. It is not an expression of opinion from the Bench opposite. Of course, originally it is the Cabinet who intends. Who are the Cabinet? The Cabinet are a body unknown to the Constitution, to begin with, and they are of all bodies the most ephemeral. They only exist as a rule for a few years, and, as far as my experience goes, if they exist at all for a protracted period they invariably fall out amongst themselves. We have been told to-night that "the Government intends," so that when this precious production left the Cabinet the Government adopted it. I wonder whether when the Cabinet framed this Preamble they ever thought of the old proverb of the way to a place which we never mention to ears polite being "paved with good intentions." I wonder whether they thought that perhaps their intentions would lead to a condition of things in this country not altogether foreign to the character of the place to which I have alluded. But they appear to have contrived to get the House of Commons to say also that it "intends." The House of Commons is a rather more permanent institution than the Cabinet of the Government, but even the House of Commons is very liable to be changed from time to time. What business has the House of Commons to put into an Act of Parliament that it "intends"?
But there is a much more serious question raised here. Are we going to pass this and say "we intend"? Remember what it is that we say we intend—
And whereas it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis.
I have heard a good many speeches in this House with regard to the reconstitution of the House, but I have never heard your Lordships as a body, or even any considerable proportion of your Lordships, say for one moment that you even thought of putting the Second Chamber on a popular instead of a hereditary basis. Upon that ground alone, if on no other, I say that your Lordships cannot pass this Preamble. Whatever other part of the Bill you agree to you must reject this Preamble as it stands now. I protest altogether against intentions. I say with all due respect that this House has hitherto been, and will be still, more stable than either the Cabinet, the Government, or the House of Commons, and I say that this House has no right to speak of its intentions in an Act of Parliament. You have no right to commit posterity. It is the commonest A B C of every other body that has anything to do with administration that it cannot commit its successors. I observe that the noble and learned Lord assents to this proposition. Then how does he defend this Preamble? Let me remind your Lordships that this is a Preamble expressing not the intentions of the Government but the intentions of Parliament. Parliament has a perfect right to legislate for the day, but it has no more right to commit posterity than any administrative organisation. It would make the whole of legislation ridiculous if we were to put into Acts of Parliament that we intended to do this, that, or the other. When I heard the noble and learned Lord say that the Government had not brought this Bill forward for fun, I could not help wondering whether they had not brought forward the Preamble for fun. I have given your Lordships my reasons for altering this Preamble. In the first place, we do not in ordinary usage place Preambles in our Bills; secondly, this Preamble is out of order because it does not relate to the subject-matter of the Bill; and, thirdly, we have no right to commit posterity and to speak of our intentions. We ought to reject this Preamble, and if I can get a teller I will divide upon it.
In the Preamble, page 1, line 4, leave out ("And whereas it is intended").—(The Duke of Northumberland.)
§ LORD HENEAGE
As I have an Amendment on the Paper which is practically included in the Amendment moved by the noble Duke, perhaps it would be more convenient if I said what I have to say now. I am ready to accept all that has been said by the noble Duke with regard to the Preamble, but I will confine myself to the second paragraph of it, which reads—And whereas it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but"—And I wish to emphasise these words—such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation.Whatever may have been the case at the time this Bill was drafted—some fifteen or sixteen months ago—it cannot be said now that "such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation."
A great many things have happened in the last fifteen months. Indeed we may take it that it was fifteen months ago when the Bill was drafted, because the Prime Minister said on February 21 of last year that the Bill had not been submitted to the House of Commons. That was in reply to an inconvenient question asked by one of his supporters. But after it had been printed and submitted to the House of Commons nothing more was heard of it, and then came the Conference. The Conference lasted for nearly six months, and according to the best authorities there was substantial agreement at one period of the proceedings. Although we do not know officially on what points there was that substantial agreement between the members, or what was the particular rock upon which they split, we have had a good deal of circumstantial evidence since which to those who follow public affairs affords a pretty good glimpse of what was agreed upon and the rock upon which they split. I am one of those who have done a great deal of magisterial business for fifty years, and those who have had similar experience know that a train of circumstantial evidence which is not direct evidence is very often of greater force than the evidence of a witness who may be able to give direct evidence but who may be wrong in what he says. But the Conference having resulted in no decision, the Resolutions 377 of Lord Rosebery and of Lord Lansdowne wore immediately proceeded with, and they were passed, if I recollect rightly, without a single Division—passed unanimously by the whole House. They were then put into a Message to the House of Commons and sent to them. But the door was slammed in their face and there was a Dissolution. The General Election took place within three weeks of the passing of those Resolutions, and the country was thereby deprived of knowing what the House of Lords were prepared to do to meet the Government on the question of the reconstruction of this House. And this Election was taken on an old register, thus depriving the new electors of an opportunity of voting.
The Bill which we are now discussing and the House of Lords Reconstitution Bill are practically twin Bills, about the same age, having been brought into this House, within a fortnight of one another. Therefore this Bill has no great precedence over the other Bill, either in age, weight, or authority. I should like to know this. If at the time this Bill was drafted it had been known that the House of Lords was willing to agree (1) that a hereditary Peerage should not give the right to sit in this House without some sort of election or nomination, (2) that the number of Parliamentary Peers should be reduced by at least one, half, and (3) to arrangements being made for Joint Sittings, with the Referendum on very grave subjects—would not that have made a great difference? I think it would have done. With all these facts before us it is impossible truthfully to say, as is said in the Bill, that "such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation."
I do not wish the House to be guided entirely by what I have said. I would refer your Lordships to the speech made by Sir Edward Grey at the National Liberal Club on June 1, when Earl Carrington was in the chair. Sir Edward Grey said—If the other side had been prepared to, agree that there should be a Second Chamber in which one Party should have for a term of years as good a chance as the other, that the Second Chamber should be smaller in numbers than the House of Commons, and that there should be some adjustment between the two Houses by which when the House of Commons had a substantial majority its will should prevail … it was much more likely they would not have been divided as they were at the present moment.378 I think that is a very significant speech. It was made after the two Bills had passed the Second Reading, and though I have, no doubt that Sir Edward Grey had not seen it, it was after my Instruction had been put down on the Paper on the Second Heading, but which, unfortunately, from circumstances over which I had no control, I was, unable to move. I can conscientiously say that I cannot vote for putting these words into this Bill. The words may have been appropriate when the Bill was drafted, but they are not appropriate now; they are not true now, and we cannot put them in. Therefore I shall support the noble Duke if he goes to a Division, and if his Amendment is not accepted I shall move the omission of these particular words.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Amendment moved by the noble Duke opposite is, of course, in accordance with the view that he has expressed about this Bill consistently and from the commencement, and also consistent with the view that I think he expressed with regard to the Bill of the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne. I am sorry if I am wrong; but the noble Duke regards this Bill at all events as a thoroughly bad Bill. He thinks the principle is wrong. The noble Duke, therefore, has taken no part, or very little part, in any of the discussions in Committee. I think also that the noble Duke's attitude towards the Bill of the Leader of the Opposition was not of a friendly character.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
I am sorry to interrupt the noble and learned Lord, but I do not know why we should enter into any question that is not before the House. With regard to the Bill of the noble Marquess, I have never expressed any opinion whatever upon it. I have often expressed an earnest desire for a reform of this House, but I have never expressed any opinion as to the particular way in which the noble Marquess wished to effect his object.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not desire to make it in any way a subject of complaint, and if I am wrong I am sorry, but I have been under the impression that the noble Duke did not take a favourable view of that particular proposal. Accordingly it is not to be wondered at that he not only dislikes this Bill but particularly dislikes the Preamble. The 379 Preamble states the intentions of the Government and asks Parliament to state its intentions also. [Several Noble Lords: "No."] Well, it asks Parliament also to state its intention to effect a reform of the constitution of this House in accordance with the terms of the Preamble. I agree that it is unusual to preface a Bill of this kind by a Preamble of this kind. I make that admission freely. But there is no rule, either of the Constitution or anything else, to prevent you from making an appropriate Preamble in an appropriate case. We think that this Preamble is appropriate in the particular circumstances in which we stand—namely, that we are bringing forward a Bill relating to one side of a subject alone; and we did not anticipate that we should meet with censure from noble Lords opposite because we also ask Parliament to announce its intention of dealing with the other side of the subject, to which they themselves attach importance.
Parliament, of course, cannot commit its successors, and we do not ask Parliament to attempt to commit its successors. It is this Parliament that we ask to express an opinion in regard to this particular Bill, and of course it will not bind any future Parliament if the other Parliament think proper to differ from it. If I rightly understood the noble Lord, Lord Heneage, his view is that at present it is not true to say that it is impracticable immediately to bring forward the Bill referred to in the Preamble. He must be more sanguine than I am. All I can say is that at present we have got our hands pretty full in carrying this Bill through Parliament. The task of drawing up and framing a new constitution for either one or both Houses of Parliament is one of extreme complexity and extreme difficulty. It has been found in many countries that to draw up a constitution for the Upper House of Parliament is no easy task. I do not believe that the noble Marquess opposite, in framing his Bill, found it an easy task, and with all respect to him I was not very satisfied with the result. When we bring forward a Bill we shall have to preface it by a great deal of labour, and we shall be confronted with a great many difficulties with which the noble Lord himself must be pretty familiar. If he thinks it is a light and easy task I am sorry to say I cannot agree with him. The Preamble was inserted by the Government; it has been 380 supported by the House of Commons, and, of course, we adhere to it in this House. Your Lordships are able, if you think proper, to do as you have done on former occasions and strike it out, or put another in its place, but we cannot be assenting parties to that course.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH
This is a curiously drafted Bill. As has already been said, the word "whereas" generally refers to something past, but in this case it refers to something which has yet to come. The third paragraph appears to be absolutely inconsequential. It commences—And whereas provision will require hereafter to be made by Parliament in a measure effecting such substitution for limiting and defining the powers of the new Second Chamber,and then it proceeds—but it is expedient to make such provision as in this Act appears for restricting the existing powers of the House of Lords.What on earth has the latter part to do with the former? It may be necessary to define a new Second Chamber but how is that necessarily connected with its being expedient to make provision entirely limiting the powers of the House of Lords? The formation of a new Chamber is one thing; limiting the powers of any such Chamber, or a future Chamber, is quite another. The provisions in this Bill appear to have no connection at all with the first part of the sentence which I have quoted. I certainly think that a Preamble like this, which has such a very shadowy connection with the subject matter of the Bill, is one that had far better be left out.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, I should like to say one or two words with regard to this extraordinary Preamble. The noble Duke pointed out the absurdities and anomalies in the Preamble, but I do not think he said what he might have said on this point. Where is the precedent for such a Preamble as this to be found? A Preamble, of course, should refer to things which follow it in the Bill. Undoubtedly in the usual course of legislation the Preamble to this Bill ' would run—Whereas it is expedient that provision should be made for regulating the relations between the two Houses of Parliament. Be it therefore enacted," etc.381 That is a Preamble of the ordinary sort which would be followed by the Bill. But when the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, came to answer my noble friend the Duke of Northumberland, he appeared to me to turn away altogether from the question which the noble Duke raised. He made no answer to the remarks about the Preamble, but began by saying that he believed the noble Duke did not agree with Lord Lansdowne's Bill—a matter which was not before the House. Then he proceeded to talk about this Bill, but said nothing in defence of what I venture to assert is a most ridiculous Preamble. If it appeared before any Committee of your Lordships' House upstairs it would be struck out without the slightest mercy, simply because it has no reference to what follows in the Bill and contains many things which are not to be found in the Bill.
The Preamble refers to all kinds of things. I shall not speak of its ridiculous grammar. Its grammar is simply beneath contempt. The noble and learned Lord was good enough to say he was at a great college of which I also happened to be a humble member. I would like to ask him what he would say if this had been read to him—And whereas it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation.There is grammar for you! We have often heard of the grammar in Kings' and Queens' speeches, but no noble Lord in this House ever heard of grammar approaching to that. The use of the word "but" is perfectly inappropriate. The next paragraph runs in the same way—there is another "but." I wonder whose invention this Preamble was, or which member or members of the Cabinet would claim the glory of having written it? We know that draftsmen are a long-suffering race, but when the draftsman was told to put this Preamble in the Bill he must have blushed with shame. If it was the noble and learned Lord who ordered him to do it, I am afraid he must have mentally observed that he thought the Lord Chancellor worthy of better things.
The Amendment of the noble Duke proposes to delete this Preamble. Of course it ought to be struck out. It is 382 perfectly ridiculous from beginning to end. It is not worthy of anything but ridicule and condemnation. But then comes this further question about this precious production. Is it worth while to strike it out? It is all of a piece with this Bill. Any one who reads this Bill and then reads the Preamble would probably say to himself, "The men who wrote this Bill are just the sort of people who would write a Preamble of this kind." I cannot find words strong enough to express my sense of the absurdity of this Preamble, but I ask the noble Duke, Is it worth while to strike this nonsense out? On the whole, if we are to look at it from a Party point of view, I should say, taking one thing with another, it is better to keep this trash in the Bill than to strike it out. Taking that view, I hope the noble Duke will not press his Amendment to a Division, though so far as the merits of the question are concerned I confess I entirely agree with him.
§ LORD NEWTON
I do not profess to have more intelligence than anybody else, but I have not the smallest doubt in my own mind as to the origin of this Preamble, or how it got into the Bill. It is perfectly obvious to me that the Government made up their minds that it was expedient that provision should be made for regulating the relations between the two Houses of Parliament. In the original Bill the portion proposed to be omitted by the noble Duke did not appear. Thereupon, some members of the Government said, "What is the meaning of this? There is nothing about a Second Chamber in your Bill. It only deals with the relations between the two Houses. You must, have a Preamble of some kind dealing with the construction of a new Second Chamber." It is so obvious. That accounts, not only for the curious language of the Preamble, but also for the fact that it has no relation whatsoever to the rest of the Bill. I was about to make the same suggestion as did my noble friend, Lord Camperdown. What the noble Duke said was perfectly accurate. I do not think he exaggerated the case. The Preamble is illogical. It is unnecessary. As far as I can see it is serving no useful purpose except that it satisfies the consciences of the so-called Second Chamber members of the Government. But the point of the whole thing is, Is it worth making a fuss about I should like to 383 support Lord Camperdown's suggestion. The Preamble need not be taken seriously, and nobody will care whether it was taken out or left in.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
It would be scarcely respectful if I did not say a few words with regard to the speech of my noble friend the Duke of Northumberland. I think he entirely made good his indictment of the Preamble. He said it was unusual to affix a Preamble of this kind to a Bill, and that count was admitted by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. Then my noble friend said that he believed the Preamble was out of order. I should have thought that it was certainly out of order to mention in a Bill dealing with one subject your intention of legislating upon another subject, although the two subjects may have some connection. I am sure my noble friend Lord Camperdown is right when he says that the grammar of the Preamble is more than suspect. I also agree with the noble Duke in holding that it would be most unreasonable that we should be regarded, by accepting this Preamble, as in any way pledging ourselves or pledging anyone else to legislation exactly corresponding with the principle of the first section of the Preamble—I refer to the reference to a Second Chamber constituted on a popular basis, by which I suppose is meant a merely popular as distinguished from a partly hereditary basis.
But, like my two noble friends who have spoken last, I regard the matter less seriously than does the noble Duke. After all, this Preamble has no enacting effect. It is a mere recital of the intentions and policy of His Majesty's Government, and I believe everyone is perfectly aware of the circumstances in which that recital was accepted and grafted on to the measure. We are not responsible for this Bill, nor are we responsible for the Preamble. We think the Bill a bad Bill, and the Preamble a bad Preamble. But there is one other point about the Preamble which, perhaps, has not been sufficiently noted. It does contain a definite pledge on the part of His Majesty's Government that they will—and we know that they mean to do so at an early time—produce a measure dealing with House of Lords reform. I am very anxious to hold 384 them to that pledge. Until we know what that measure is, we shall not be able to pass final judgment on their policy as a whole. Therefore I see some advantage in retaining these words in the Preamble because they embody a pledge to which we desire to hold noble Lords opposite.
With regard to our own intentions as to House of Lords reform surely there need be no misapprehension, because we have embodied them in the Bill which has been read a second time by your Lordships' House. Therefore we are in no way, it seems to me, prejudiced if we allow the Preamble to stay where it is. In these circumstances I cannot help thinking that my two noble friends are right in believing that it is really not worth while to wreak our vengeance on the Preamble. We have made one or two serious suggestions for the improvement of the Bill, and I confess I should be sorry, particularly in a somewhat thin House, to strike this portion of it out. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will not press his Amendment to a Division.
§ THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
I am sorry to address your Lordships again, but after the appeal which has just been made to me it would not be respectful if I did not say one word. I am very sorry, but I do not understand the argument. We are passing an Act of Parliament. We have not, as we might have done, ignored this measure altogether and taken no part in its amendment, leaving the entire responsibility to the Government. I do not know whether that would have been a satisfactory course or not. At any rate, the argument of the noble Marquess was that we are not responsible for the words of the Preamble or of the Bill. That might have been fitly argued and might have been upheld if we had ignored the Bill. But your Lordships have undertaken to amend the Bill. I cannot understand how we can make ourselves responsible for various amendments in a Bill of this kind and then when we come to the Preamble say, "Oh it is perfectly true there are things in the Preamble which we do not believe and which are contrary to our intention, but we are not responsible and we will leave them in." I would impress that upon your Lordships. If you pass this 385 Preamble, particularly after you have undertaken to amend the Bill, you are responsible for saying that it is your intention to have an elective Second Chamber. The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, said he was anxious to keep the Government to their pledge to deal with this question of a reformed House. I should have thought that after what has fallen from the Government Bench they were sufficiently pledged already, and I humbly submit that to put things with which you do not agree into an Act of Parliament is not a regular or proper way to pledge Governments. I am
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ House resumed.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
It might be convenient to your Lordships if the noble Viscount would tell us when he proposes to take the remaining stages of the Bill.
§ extremely sorry to differ from the noble Marquess. I quite feel the gravity of the action I am taking in differing, not only from Lord Lansdowne but from my noble friends Lord Camperdown and Lord Newton; but I really do think that I cannot withdraw this Amendment but must take a Division.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Preamble,
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 49; Not-contents, 24.385
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Plymouth, E.||Dinevor, L.|
|Morley of Blackburn, V. (L. President.)||Radnor, E.||Egerton, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Waldegrave, E.||Gwydir, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Wharncliffe, E.||Herschell, L. [Teller.]|
|Bedford, D.||Hindlip, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Churchill, V.||Kenyon, L.|
|Haldane, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Bath, M.||Middleton, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||St. David's, L. Bp.||Newton, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Allendale, L.||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Ampthill, L.||St. Davids, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Brodrick, L.(V. Midleton.)||Sanderson, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Crawshaw, L.||Seaton, L.|
|Granville, E.||Curzon of Kedleston, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Liverpool, E. [Teller.]||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Welby, L.|
|Lytton, E.||De Mauley, L.|
|Northumberland, D. [Teller.]||Halifax, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Addington, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Blythswood, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Devon, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Deramore, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Forester, L.||Torphichen, L.|
|Morton, E.||Hathorton, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Heneage, L. [Teller.]|
On Question, Preamble agreed to.
§ stage on Monday, but a certain number of members of this House, for good reasons, will be absent, and therefore I propose that we take the Report stage on Thursday, July 13. That I believe will be held to be ample time. As to the Third Reading I hope the noble Marquess will allow me to postpone the date for that till we see how we get on with the Report stage.
§ The Report of Amendments to be received on Thursday next, and Bill to be printed as amended. (No. 128.)