§ Order of the Day for receiving the Report of Amendments, read.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received.
§ Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Viscount Morley of Blackburn.)442
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
My Lords, I have put down several Amendments for the consideration of the House, but before approaching them in detail perhaps your Lordships will allow me, on the Motion that the Report of Amendments be now received, to make a few remarks on the situation in which we find ourselves. I think such a course may possibly tend to shorten the subsequent work of considering my Amendments in detail. This is practically our last opportunity of considering the form in winch this Bill should be sent back to the House of Commons. At this stage we can make further Amendments affecting the character and construction of the Bill, but after this stage the Third Reading does not admit of any substantial change being entertained. We are therefore now on what may be called the final stage of considering in what shape we shall send back this Bill to the House of Commons, and I need scarcely press upon your Lordships that those who desire to get substantial alterations in the Bill accepted elsewhere may well take this opportunity to consider how those alterations should be made as little objectionable as possible.
This Bill was received by your Lordships in a remarkable manner. The question embodied in the Bill of a reconsideration of the relations between the two Houses of Parliament has been under consideration now for some time, and every one admits that the time has arrived when it is necessary to make substantial changes. More than that, the Bill itself in full detail was before the electors at the last election, and its meaning and consequences were pressed home on all sides for the consideration of the electorate. According to every test which is usual amongst us, two elections have approved of the principle of the Bill, during one of which the details of the Bill were before the electorate. The result of the two elections was substantially the same, and it was accepted that the mind of the nation had pronounced at least in favour of the principle of the Bill. Your Lordships so far recognised that as to pass the Second Reading without a Division. That being the case, it is not too much to expect that every attempt will be made to keep the character and the principle of the Bill as far as possible unchanged, and that some resentment might be caused, which your Lordships might be disposed to mollify and dissipate, if any appearance 443 were made of making a complete and thorough change in the Bill.
I think there has been apprehension elsewhere that more changes have been effected in the Bill than your Lordships have actually made. The changes are substantially one only, but it has an appearance which elsewhere has been exaggerated. What was the primary cause of inciting this discussion as to the relative powers of the two Houses? It arose out of the action of your Lordships' House—I am sorry to have to refer to it again—when two years since you rejected the Budget. It was a question of finance, the question closest to the minds of the House of Commons, and there can be no difference of opinion that the country at large decided in favour of the claim of the House of Commons. The claim of the House of Commons to have exclusive power over the finances of the country has been approved by the nation. Now, how has that claim been treated by the Amendment inserted in the Bill by your Lordships? Your Lordships have not been content to pass unchanged the first clause of the Bill which deals with financial measures. On the contrary, you altered it in a way so as to withdraw from the House of Commons the exclusive power which it claims. Those amongst your Lordships who were long in the House of Commons will know how keenly that will touch the feelings of members of that House. I think it is not impertinent to observe that the change made in the first clause of this Bill relative to the financial powers of the House of Commons was made by one of your Lordships—the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, Lord Cromer—to whom we all listen with the greatest deference and respect, but who will willingly allow that he has had no experience of the House of Commons so as to be in touch with it in regard to its claim to have authority in finance. And I would beg your Lordships to reconsider, even at this late moment, whether you could not usefully restore the first clause of the Bill to the shape in which it came up to us from the House of Commons. Your Lordships have yourselves fully acknowledged the right of the House of Commons to its claim over finance, but you object to that claim being extended to matters which are not financial. That is a danger to which you have been exposed in the past, and the clause in the Bill as it came up 444 from the House of Commons simply stated what was the practice in respect of finance before the year 1909. Questions as to whether a Bill was a Money Bill, and as to whether your Lordships interfered with the privileges of the other House in touching money clauses, were practically decided up to 1909 by the authority of Mr. Speaker, whom the House of Commons implicitly followed, and whose declarations your Lordships universally accepted. There can be no question before 1909 of the fact which I am repeating. I would therefore press on your Lordships the expediency of restoring this part of the Bill, before it goes back to the other House, to the shape in which it came to us from them, recognising and admitting the authority of Mr. Speaker as determining what are money matters, and leaving the action and the power of the House of Commons in respect to such matters absolutely undiminished.
I do not wish to press this in detail, but I cannot help referring for one moment to the remarkable speech of Viscount Peel when we last had this Bill under discussion, in which he rehearsed the occasions on which he had had to deal with the relations between the two Houses in respect of supposed intrusion or real intrusion of your Lordships' action in what was the proper domain of the House of Commons, and explained how he had ruled upon them, the House of Commons accepting the ruling and your Lordships deferring to it. That is all that the first clause of the Bill as it originally stood established; and I would earnestly press on your Lordships whether it is not, even now, expedient to restore Clause I to the shape in which it first came up to this House. I would with extreme earnestness bring this before the minds of those who desire changes in the second clause with respect to the power of this House over matters of general legislation. If you want to keep open, I will not say the chance, but if you want to keep open the power of persisting in that Amendment, it would surely be advisable to give way where you must be conscious that in the end you will have to yield. If you are certain that in financial matters the House of Commons will insist on its rights, and you will not insist in objecting to the maintenance of those rights on the part of the House of Commons, would it not be wiser in respect of the interest of your 445 powers in regard to general legislation to give way in the first instance?
As to general legislation also, what was the position up till recently between the two Houses? It will be acknowledged that ever since 1832 what the nation manifested a clear determination to have, what the nation resolved upon, your Lordships accepted as necessary to be done; but that resolution had to be expressed always through the medium of a General Election. It came to this, that a General Election was necessary in order to bring about that expression of national feeling to which your Lordships profess, and honestly profess, you are always ready to submit. But that was a very awkward way of ascertaining the national mind, because you cannot, except on rare occasions, have a single issue decided at a General Election, and even if you have one issue decided you cannot carry the determination on that issue to other questions so as to declare with any weight and conviction that the determination of the one issue also gives the mind of the nation on others. This Bill as sent up from the House of Commons proposed, instead of referring all questions to a General Election, that when a matter is determined upon by the House of Commons in the commencement of its existence after a General Election and maintained for two years, there is an actual certainty that that represents the national mind. We shall always admit that it is a fair presumption that what the House of Commons after the first blush of a General Election decides and maintains for two years does approximately correspond with what is the national will.
It is impossible to my mind to refuse the admission of this truth, that under the new conditions which would be set up by this Bill, supposing it became law, our traditions would be changed, our ways of action would be changed, our procedure in respect of consultation and deliberation would be changed, and the atmosphere generally of the political world would undergo a serious alteration. We all know how in the past changes of procedure, and apparently of procedure only, have brought about a change in the way of thinking in the House of Commons and in this House also, and if we establish as a new matter of procedure that what is determined upon in the House 446 of Commons in the first session of a Parliament and insisted upon for two years must prevail, I think we shall certainly lose during those two years the benefit of the consultation, the deliberation, the modifications which in past experience we have derived from delay under similar circumstances. Delay when it leads up to an uncertain General Election, when it cannot be peremptorily brought to an end, may well be productive of consequences which will not follow when the delay is for a fixed period after which the result is inevitable. Therefore I have myself supported, in voice at all events, the suggestion that on rare occasions and under closely-defined conditions and through the operation of a most responsible authority, an opportunity might well be given for matters of the highest moment to be referred, over the decision of the House of Commons even after two years of persistent declaration one way, to the determination of the popular will by way of the Referendum. The Amendments which I have put down are directed to making this reference available only on the rarest occasions on determination by an authority of the highest character, and again that it should be open equally to both sides. The action towards a Referendum might be set in motion by a requisition signed by 200 members of the House of Commons, thus allowing a minority in the other House to appeal against what night appear to be a perverse misrepresentation of the national will.
We have appealed in vain to His Majesty's Government to entertain any suggestion of a reference beyond the House of Commons to what may be the will of the electorate at large. Yet we are encouraged not to give up hope that even at the last there may be a possibility, under the strictest possible conditions, of having such a Referendum. The Prime Minister, who was almost the first of our public men to suggest that the question of the Referendum was one that might be seriously considered by political persons, has again and again reserved the possibility, on rare and extreme occasions, of resorting to the Referendum, and the last word spoken on this subject by the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War reserved the same power, that on rare and special occasions and in respect to certain subjects of paramount importance it might be well to allow a Referendum. 447 We are entitled to ask His Majesty's Government, if they object to what is proposed, to tell us how and when and under what conditions would they themselves allow the Referendum? Under what conditions, at the institution of what authority, or in what manner might the Referendum, which the Government now declare they will not look at, be entertained?
It may be that the Prime Minister and possibly the Minister for War think that upon some Bill going through Parliament a clause might he attached to that Bill keeping it back from becoming law until it had been submitted to and approved by a popular vote. In other words, whilst they object to the principle of the Referendum being enshrined in a general law, they would not object to annexing it to some special measure which might be going through Parliament. If that is the suggestion of the Prime Minister and of the Secretary of State for War, if that is what they rely upon, I do not quite know whether to wonder more at the simplicity or at the subtlety of such a suggestion. It is hardly likely that a House of Commons bent upon supporting a Bill and carrying it through all its stages would at the same time add this clause to its provisions, unless, indeed, it is to be taken that there is such insincerity in that House that some Bill is being promoted apparently with great earnestness and full force of conviction yet to which the members are in their hearts opposed, and on which they wish to see a defeat in the country. I am puzzled by both of these hypotheses, and I think we are entitled to ask, if the Referendum is to be used in any way on supreme occasions, what is the nature of those occasions on which it may be used and how may it be employed?
I will not refer to the special Amendments I have on the Paper more than to say this, that they reduce the Joint Committee from six to four, making it, I think, a very responsible and authoritative body. And whilst I am on that subject, perhaps I may refer to a question which was addressed to me when we were last considering this Bill by Lord Faber, who inquired whether I had realised what the power of the Speaker would be if the Committee were a Committee of four only, and the Speaker had a casting as well as an original vote. Yes, I had fully realised that power. I think that the Speaker, 448 if he carries one member of the Committee with him, should carry the day. I felt also that that was a suggestion which would not be regarded with an unfriendly eye in the other House of Parliament, because the practice of the House of Commons in respect to Private Bills is to refer them ordinarily to Committees of four, and give to the Chairman a casting vote as well as an original vote, so that they are quite familiar with this practice. It may be that everything is already settled, preordained, predoomed; that, indeed, there are men about us who at this moment are able to tell exactly what the remaining stages and ultimate fortune of this Bill will be as surely as if those stages had already been passed through. It may be that. I am wasting your Lordships' time. If so, I accept the responsibility. In dealing with these Amendments in detail I do press on your Lordships the considerations which I have ventured to offer.
The claim for the passage of this Bill is that the mind of the nation must prevail, and that the mind of the nation is expressed in the House of Commons. It is the second proposition which we know is not always accurate, not always true. The mind of the nation is not always accurately expressed by the House of Commons, and the sense of conviction of the failure of the House of Commons occasionally—I might say often—to convey the mind of the nation, and of its untrustworthiness as expressing the mind of the nation, is a growing conviction. You hear it on all sides. You hear it not merely from Conservatives, you hear it from the most democratic quarters; and a similar feeling has been entertained in other democratic countries, and has resulted in action in consequence there. I admit that the Referendum has not been long before the public in this country, though the late Lord Salisbury some eighteen years ago said a word in favour of it, and the Prime Minister some eight or nine years ago spoke of it, and other men have spoken of it from time to time. Still, it may be that the Referendum will not now be entertained, but the thing upon which the strength of the claim for the Referendum stands—namely, the conviction of the uncertain character of the House of Commons as a reflection of the national will—remains and will remain, and it becomes greater with the giving of further power to the House of Commons.
449 When this Bill is made an Act it will become of transcendent importance that the House of Commons should be a real mirror of the mind of the nation, and our work should be to set to work to make it so in future. Whatever else comes out of our deliberations, I think there must come a practical resolve to take into consideration not merely the reform of this House but the reform of the House of Commons, so as to give to the other House some substantial reason for asserting the claim On which this Bill is founded. Burke gave to the House of Commons more than a century ago the title of being the express image of the nation. How far it is from being that now we all know. If no other result follows from these deliberations, I hope that at all events there will follow an earnest conviction of the necessity of taking the reform of the House of Commons in hand, so as to make its character such as it is claimed to be in this Bill.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, I should like to say one word on what the noble Lord has just said, because I think it may be misunderstood by others. He spoke of our having assented to the Second Reading of this Bill as if that was conclusive proof that we had all assumed that the Bill was to pass. That is a great mistake. I can answer for myself and for a good many of my noble friends beside me that their object in voting, for the Second Reading was simply to have the opportunity of discussing at full length the different clauses of the Bill in Committee. So far from assenting to the principle of the Bill, I may say for my part—I cannot speak so positively for others—I would never have assented to the principle of the Bill, and I do not undertake to say now that I shall vote for the Third Reading.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
My Lords, may I say a word in reply to the noble and learned Earl who has just sat down? The noble and learned Earl says that he will not undertake even now that he will vote for the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
Supposing the noble and learned Earl takes his seventeen, or whatever the number may be, noble Lords with him, what will 450 be their position? Noble Lords opposite have read the Bill a second time. They have then amended it freely, and made it just such a Bill as they would like. [Opposition cries of "No, no."] At all events, you have amended the Bill. Yet after doing that is it to be suggested that you should refuse to go any further? With all respect to the noble and learned Earl's experience, I do not think that such a case as that has ever happened.
I turn for a moment or two to the speech of my noble friend behind me. I believe noble Lords in all parts of the House will agree that my noble friend Lord Courtney owed us no apology for making those observations. I listened to them, as we all did, with close attention, and I confess that I have very little to quarrel with my noble friend upon until he came to a certain practical suggestion. We on this Bench agree with my noble friend that the necessity for the Bill is admitted—it is admitted partially by what offends the noble and learned Earl, the passing of the Second Reading. It cannot be denied that another of my noble friend's observations is perfectly good. He referred to the result of the General Election after the Parliament Bill in full detail had been before the electors. By far the most cogent part of my noble friend's speech—I feel sure it must have been felt to be cogent even by noble Lords who detest this Bill—was that in which he pointed out—and it was a matter on which the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, had spoken—that the very thing to provoke and irritate the House of Commons is the persistency of the. House of Lords, with no really good and sound object, in the claim to interfere with finance. Noble Lords opposite reproach us on this Bench with not being conciliatory and refusing concessions. Yet to insist on this claim, as you do under Lord Cromer's Amendment, is the very way to make an understanding impossible. All my noble friend's arguments on that head were as cogent as they could be. In effect, it comes to where the noble Viscount opposite left it the other day when he did not vote with his friends, but voted with his opponents. The noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, asked why you should interfere with the recognised position of Money Bills and demand a power for the House of Lords which has never vet been claimed by it. So far I go entirely with my noble friend.
451 There are now, since my noble friend has put his Amendments on the Paper, three schemes before the House. First, there is the scheme of the Bill. Secondly, there is that of Lord Lansdowne, winch in our view, as I have ventured to say since his scheme was propounded, is a traverse of the Bill. The third is Lord Courtney's proposal, which if he will allow me to say so, is a rather amphibious kind of scheme. He quarrels with some of the proceedings of the noble Marquess and of noble Lords opposite, and on the other hand he goes with the Government in very important particulars. For example, he replaces the first clause—the Money Bill clause—as it was originally proposed. What is the cardinal proposition we have to resist? It is the Amendment of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition. My noble friend behind me is for giving up the special exemptions—the exemption of a Home Rule Bill or such a Bill—from the operation of the Parliament Bill. But then my noble friend appears to find no fault with subsection (c) of the noble Marquess's proposal. Then my noble friend would omit from the Committee proposed by Lord Cromer and the noble Viscount opposite the Chairman of Ways and Means of the House of Commons and the Lord Chairman in your Lordships' House. I should have thought, with all deference to my noble friend and to the other persons proposed on this Committee, that that would be to omit the two men whose advice the Speaker would most like to have, and I should think the noble Viscount would agree with me there.
Then, lastly, the Bill says that the Speaker of the House of Commons may, if he thinks fit, refer a given Bill to the Joint Committee to ascertain whether it does or does not raise an issue of great gravity; and, second, whether the opinion of the country has been effectively taken upon it. My noble friend proposes to make that compulsory—that the Speaker shall refer to the Joint Committee the question whether a given Bill does or does not raise an issue of great gravity, and whether the opinion of the electorate has been ascertained. My noble friend adds a proposition which he has taken from the Reference to the People Bill introduced by Lord Balfour of Burleigh in March last, and which since then has been in a state of very suspended animation, if animation is the right word. My noble 452 friend borrows from that Bill the proposal that the Speaker shall be bound to call the Committee together and set them to work to settle this question if a Minister of the Crown requests him to do so, or if a Resolution of either House is passed calling for it, and he provides that a minority of 200 members of the House of Commons may make such a request. My noble friend is an expert in these matters, and I put this point, to him. Can we suppose that this House would let a Bill pass under Clause 2 without a Resolution—I mean after it has gone through all its stages in the Lower House and been rejected here—would they let it pass under Clause 2 without passing a Resolution calling upon the Joint Committee to set their powers in motion? Therefore I submit that my noble friend's proposal is, shall I say, nugatory?
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
My noble friend has not understood the proposition. I referred to the case of a Bill passed by both Houses. A minority in the House of Commons would still be able to make the recommendation.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
Then. I have read the words wrongly. But that fact does not much affect the point. My noble friend's scheme, meritorious as the spirit of it may be, is not a scheme that we at all events can look upon with favour. Nor do I think it will be looked upon with favour elsewhere, because it includes an almost imperative recommendation of the Referendum. And then he proceeds—shall I say somewhat coolly?—to call upon us here to say what would be a good way of passing the Referendum. We are against it.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
That may be. My noble friend quoted some sentences that fell from two important members of His Majesty's Government, but those words did not arise on any proposal now before the House. It would be fairer if my noble friend asked the noble Marquess opposite to tell us what the Referendum means and all the rest of my noble friend's catechism, because the noble Marquess has put the Referendum into the Bill. In a sentence almost as dubious as if it were a preamble, he says 453 that if the Joint Committee think fit the issue is to be submitted to and approved by the electors "in manner to be hereafter provided by Act of Parliament." Why does not my noble friend ask the noble Marquess to tell us how? You have introduced a tremendous innovation in the Joint Committee. That Joint Committee you entrust with the power of deciding whether a question is of such magnitude as to make it proper to refer it to the constituencies. We naturally ask how this is to be done. There is no suggestion in the Bill as to how the machinery of the Referendum is to be adjusted for the purposes of the noble Marquess's Amendment. Therefore I think our withers are unwrung after my noble friend's catechism, though I am grateful to hint for the way in which he has expounded his views, and the spirit and temper, in which I beg earnestly to join him, in which he asks the House at this hour to consider the proposals and the arguments that will come before us this afternoon.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I have often observed that members of this House who have had the advantage of sitting in the other House are fond of telling us who have not had that advantage that our habits of debate are somewhat irregular and disorderly. I must confess that it seems to me that the conversation which has been taking place certainly daring the last twenty minutes has been of a most desultory and inconvenient description. I take no exception whatever to the introductory statement made by my noble friend Lord Courtney, but since he unfolded, as he was entitled to do, the general outline of his scheme we have been discussing seriatim the Amendments which are on the Paper, and which we shall have to discuss over again seriatim when we get further into the business of the evening. I certainly prefer to reserve what I have to say on the different Amendments—and I have something to say upon them—until we reach those Amendments.
But I desire to enter a respectful protest against two statements which were made by the noble Viscount during the course of his speech. In the first place, he told the House that he conceived that by the insertion of certain Amendments in this Bill we had rendered it one of which, 454 in a general way, we were prepared to approve. Nothing could be further from the fact than that statement. We read the Bill a second time, reluctantly I admit, and we deemed it our duty during the Committee stage to make such Amendments as seemed to us essential in order to deal with some of its most objectionable features; but if every one of those Amendments was accepted we should still regard the Bill as a very dangerous measure and one of which we could not approve. We regard it, above all, not as a measure which would permanently take its place upon the Statute Book, but as admittedly—and I think the admission is made on both sides of the House—a provisional measure intended to deal with a temporary state of things. The other statement to which I take exception is the noble Viscount's assertion that we on this side desire to claim for your Lordships' House powers over finance which we had never ventured to claim before. That is not the case. We desire to prevent this House from being deprived of rights in the region of finance which we conceive to be ours and which, beyond all question, are taken from us in the most arbitrary manner by the Bill on the Table.
Only one other point will I notice. The noble Viscount took me rather severely to task—I do not exactly know how he introduced the subject into the course of his speech—because I had moved an Amendment to the Bill which contemplated resort in certain circumstances to the Referendum, and he said with perfect truth that there is at the present moment no machinery for the Referendum in existence. But if the noble Viscount Will kindly recall what I said the other evening he will remember that I dealt fully with that point and that I called his attention to the fact that there were already two schemes for the machinery of the Referendum before your Lordships' House, and I added that if we received the slightest encouragement from noble Lords opposite we were prepared at two or three days' notice to lay a Bill On the Table containing our views as to what that machinery should be. I hope, my Lords, that we shall now be allowed to approach the discussion of the Amendments.
§ On Question, Motion "That the Report be now received" agreed to.455
§ Clause 1 as amended in Committee:
§ Powers of house of Lords as to Money Bills.
§ 1.—(1) If a Money Bill, having been passed by the House of Commons, and sent up to the House of Lords at least one month before the end of the session, is not passed by the House of Lords without amendment within one month after it is so sent up to that House, the Bill shall, unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary, be presented to His Majesty and become an Act of Parliament on the Royal Assent being signified, notwithstanding that the House of Lords have not consented to the Bill.
§ (2) A Money Bill means a public Bill which in the opinion of the Joint Committee contains only provisions dealing with all or any of the following subjects, namely, the imposition, repeal, remission, alteration, or regulation of taxation; the imposition for the payment of debt or other financial purposes of charges on the Consolidated Fund, or on money provided by Parliament, or the variation or repeal of any such charges; supply; the appropriation, receipt, custody, issue or audit of accounts of public money; the raising or guarantee of any loan or the repayment thereof; or subordinate matters incidental to the provisions of such Bill; but if, in the opinion of the Joint Committee, the governing purpose of a Bill, or of any portion of a Bill, is such as to bring the Bill within the category of general legislation, the Bill, or such portion thereof as aforesaid, shall be subject to the provisions of section two of this Act. In this subsection the expressions "taxation," "public money," and "loan" respectively do not include any taxation, money, or loan raised by local authorities or bodies for local purposes.
§ (3) There shall be endorsed on every Money Bill when it is sent up to the House of Lords and when it is presented to His Majesty for assent the certificate of the Speaker of the House of Commons signed by him that it is a Money Bill.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH moved an Amendment to leave out "Joint Committee" at the commencement of subsection (2) and to insert "Speaker." The noble Lord said: This Amendment is to reinstate in the clause the Speaker as the authority to determine whether a Bill is a Money Bill.
Page 2, line 2, leave out ("Joint Committee") and insert ("Speaker").—(Lord Courtney of Penwith.)
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
The noble Lord has moved to restore this Bill, so far as Money Bills are concerned, to the position in which it was when it was introduced, by substituting the Speaker for the Joint Committee to which your Lordships agreed. We have discussed this matter on two occasions already, and on both occasions your Lordships accepted the substitution of the Joint Committee for the Speaker, the second time without a Division. Therefore I hope I may be excused 456 if I do not repeat the arguments with which I troubled your Lordships on former occasions.
But the noble Lord opposite has raised to-day two fresh arguments. He suggests that because the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, who addressed your Lordships the other clay with so much authority on this matter, had informed your Lordships that on the only two occasions on which he had to decide questions of privilege against the action of this House your Lordships had assented to his decision, it was therefore practically agreed that the Speaker was the proper tribunal to decide such questions; but the noble Lord entirely forgot that, even while he said that, Lord Peel expressed his own very strong opinion that the Speaker was not the proper tribunal on which to impose this duty. Further, I would entirely controvert the statement of the noble Lord opposite that it has been universally agreed that the decisions of the Speaker of the House of Commons in this matter are conclusive.
I can refer to two occasions during the last few years, long after Lord Peel's Speakership, when certain decisions on the question of privilege were given by the Speaker of the House of Commons and were energetically protested against by your Lordships' House. The first case was in the year 1906 on the Irish Labourers Bill, when some change, made by your Lordships, I believe in the process of arbitration, was held by the Speaker of the day as possibly imposing some increased charge upon the ratepayers. Your Lordships protested against that view, and did not agree with the reasons which the House of Commons gave for considering it a question of privilege. Again, there was a very notable instance in the year 1908 upon the Old Age Pensions Bill. That was not a Money Bill; nobody will contend that it was; but, of course, it contained provisions with regard to the application of funds towards old-age pensions. Your Lordships made two Amendments, among others, in that Bill. The first was to decrease the period of imprisonment which disqualified a person from receiving a pension; the second was merely to substitute borough councils in London as the pension authority in place of the London County Council as proposed in the Bill. For some mysterious reason both of these Amendments were 457 ruled by the Speaker to be questions of privilege, and were dissented from on that ground by the House of Commons. Your Lordships did not insist on your Amendments, but while accepting that position you protested most strongly by a special Resolution against the action of the House of Commons and expressed your opinion that it ought not to be taken as a precedent. Therefore I contend that the noble Lord opposite was entirely wrong in saying that the decisions of the Speaker had been universally accepted or, matters of finance. Of course, there are always two sides to a question of the kind. I must not be understood for a moment as saying that the Speaker of the day decided wrongly on those matters. I am not qualified to express an opinion; but it is the fact that your Lordships held a totally different view, and it is also the fact that it is now proposed to make the arbitrator deciding between the two Houses on disputed questions of this kind the Speaker of the House of Commons alone. I hope your Lordships will adhere to the Bill as it stands.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, I trust that Lord Courtney will acquit me of any want of courtesy if I do not go again into all the arguments in connection with this question. They have been thoroughly threshed out, and I do not think they need be repeated. But I do desire to make one remark on something which the noble Lord said. He said with truth that this proposal had been made by a member of your Lordships' House—that is to say, myself—who had no House of Commons experience. I am painfully aware of that, but I would. point out that this proposal has received very warm support from many of your Lordships who have had that experience; and although the noble Lord invoked Lord Peel's testimony in his favour, I think my proposal had the singular good fortune of being supported by Lord Peel, who can speak with greater authority on this subject than any one in the country. My only regret is that we cannot have the opinion of the noble Viscount's successor, the present Speaker of the House of Commons. That it is impossible to have I know, but if the Speaker could have given his opinion it would have been received with the utmost attention.
Both Lord Courtney and the noble Viscount opposite proceeded on the assump- 458 tion that we propose to take away from the House of Commons the exclusive right to deal with finance. I know that is the way in which it will be represented in the country, but it is wholly incorrect. Let us come back to what we are really discussing. Is the Speaker to be the sole arbiter as to whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not, or is he to have a Committee joined with him to advise him? That is the sole question we are discussing. Our proposal is not only supported by noble Lords on this side of the House, but I certainly had imagined that there was a considerable section of the Liberal Party who entertained grave doubts as to whether the Speaker should be left with sole power. I therefore hope most earnestly that your Lordships will reject the Amendment and adhere to the Bill as it stands.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ *THE EARL OF CROMER moved an Amendment to omit from subsection (2) the words "but if, in the opinion of the Joint Committee, the governing purpose of a Bill, or of any portion of a Bill, is such as to bring the Bill within the category of general legislation, the Bill, or such portion thereof as aforesaid, shall be subject to the provisions of Section 2 of this Act," and to insert—"But if, in the opinion of the Joint Committee, the main governing purpose of a Bill imposing taxation, or of any portion of a Bill imposing taxation, is not purely financial in character, the Bill, or such portion thereof as aforesaid, shall be subject to the provisions of Section 2 of this Act."
§ The noble Earl said: It will be within your Lordships' recollection that when subsection (2) of Clause 1 was under consideration the Amendment as it now stands was passed, but on the distinct understanding that some further change would be made when we reached the Report stage. I hope that the Amendment which I now propose will at all events meet one of the objections raised by Lord St. Aldwyn. My noble friend said with perfect truth that the Amendment as originally drafted would enable Money Bills which dealt with loans to be referred to the Joint Committee, and I think he gave as illustrations Naval and Military Works Bills and the Uganda Railway Bill. It was never the intention either of myself 459 or of those who have been co-operating with me in this measure that these matters should be brought within the cognisance of the Joint Committee. Those are Money Bills properly so called. They have always been in the exclusive province of the House of Commons, and there is no reason why they should not remain so. I hope the change now introduced will meet that objection. Your Lordships will observe that under the proposal now made the matters which are brought to the cognisance of the Joint Committee will be limited to Bills imposing taxation.
I pass on to the question of the necessity on occasion of referring Bills which impose taxation to the Joint Committee. Surely a provision of this sort is very necessary. I should like to remind your Lordships that we have to safeguard ourselves against two different forms of tacking. There is, first, the old form of tacking which has been called by noble Lords opposite "extraneous tacking," by which I understand the addition to a Money Bill of some matter which is entirely foreign to the immediate purpose of the Bill. And then there is the other, and as I venture to think much more dangerous, form of tacking, which has been called "moral tacking"—that is, the endeavour to accomplish by a side wind in a Money Bill some important political and social change which ought to come in the category of general legislation. In the Resolution which your Lordships' House passed last November the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition safeguarded himself against both of these forms of tacking. That Resolution declared that—
the Lords are prepared to forego their Constitutional right to reject or amend Money Bills which are purely financial in character,
thereby leaving it to be inferred that they were not prepared to forego their rights in regard to Bills which were not purely financial in character. In voting for this Amendment your Lordships will be doing nothing inconsistent with the Resolution passed last November.
§ Noble Lords opposite virtually recognise that there is a defect in the Bill, and that an abusive use might be made of the powers which it is proposed to confer on the House of Commons. The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War said, in the course of last week, that a definition 460 of tacking was difficult to give, but that it was clear there were things which came in the category of tacking. Then the noble Viscount said we could get at this by illustration. We can; and a good deal of illustration has been given during the course of this debate. But the noble Viscount went on to say "It is impossible to define tacking." Does not an admission of that sort in itself constitute a very scathing condemnation of bringing in a Bill of this sort at all? It amounts to this, that there is an admission of the evil but the English language is not flexible enough to provide a remedy. Other nations have solved these linguistic difficulties and why should not we? The reason is obvious. It is because under this Bill we are going to live under a hybrid Constitution unknown to any other country in the world. Our Constitution in the future is to be partly written and partly unwritten, and it appears to me that it will possess all the disadvantages and none of the advantages of both systems. All those portions which will give the most absolute and complete liberty to a Government which is daily becoming bureaucratic and a House of Commons which is daily becoming more caucus-ridden are to be written, but those portions which would provide checks on the democracy such as have been elsewhere considered necessary will be unwritten. Surely that can hardly be considered a satisfactory state of affairs. I venture to assert that it is not our business to find a remedy for this evil. Our business is to point out the defect, and if the defect is not denied it is for the authors of this Bill to find some remedy for it. As they cannot do so we must try our best to help them. It is no answer to my argument to say that this Bill will provide a remedy against the old form of tacking—that is to say, extraneous tacking. That may or may not be the case; but we now have to deal with a situation which has been created by this Bill. Formerly there was a guarantee against moral tacking. It rested in the power which resided in your Lordships' House, but now that that is to be done away with I say something else ought to be substituted in its place.
§ It has been stated in the course of this debate that every financial Bill that comes up from the House of Commons embodies some sort of policy. I agree, and I know it is very difficult to draw a distinctive frontier line between those 461 matters which should be referred and which should not be referred to the Joint Committee. But I say that an attempt should be made to do this, and that the constitution of the Committee affords ample guarantee that the powers entrusted to them will not be abused. In practice they will bring into the category of Money Bills all such Bills as can reasonably be brought into that category, and, moreover, all Bills which according to ancient custom have always been brought into that category. But on the other hand they will have the power, when there is a manifest attempt to evade the Act of Parliament and to bring in some social and political change in the garb of a Money Bill, of allowing your Lordships to have a say in the matter. For these reasons I hope your Lordships will accept the Amendment which I now move.
Page 2, line 11, leave out from ("Bill") to ("In") in line 15, and insert ("But if, in the opinion of the Joint Committee, the main governing purpose of a Bill imposing taxation, or of any portion of a Bill imposing taxation, is not purely financial character, the Bill, or such portion thereof as aforesaid, shall be subject to the provisions of section two of this Act").—(The Earl of Cromer.)
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
The noble Marquess reproached me just now, good naturedly enough, with speaking at too great length. I hope I shall not now be charged with being perfunctory if I say only a few words on the Amendment of my noble friend. He will be well aware that it is not from any want of respect for any course that commends itself to him. The only question to-day is how this Amendment which the noble Earl has just moved affects the Amendment inserted in Committee. The only difference that I can discover is that my noble friend's new Amendment is rather wider in language. It remains that if the main governing purpose of a Bill imposing taxation is not purely financial, then it is to be treated not as a Money Bill but as a Bill coming under Clause 2. My noble friend has altered his Amendment in consequence of what was said about loans and so forth by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, and has confined it to Bills imposing taxation. In that I am sure the noble Earl has taken a wise course, but the difficulty we have in accepting my noble friend's Amendment is one of principle.
462 I would ask my noble friend how anybody, how any board or committee, can decide what is the main governing purpose of a Bill. The question must be really one of the motives, intentions, purposes, and principles of those who introduce the measure. How is it in the power of any committee to decide the intentions, purposes, and so forth? If the committee looks at a Bill from a political point of view, they will decide on political grounds. In the Budget of 1909, along with certain financial provisions inserted only for raising revenue, were proposals which had a more general object, and the committee would have had to answer the question whether those social provisions did or did not destroy the financial essence of the Bill. How they could have found that out I am really at a loss to imagine. A non-political committee, an ideal committee such as my noble friend desires, would be bound to decide without material to decide upon except what they found in the Bill itself—the internal evidence in the Bill itself. If it had nothing but provisions such as are mentioned in my noble friend's Amendment imposing taxation, they would obviously have to decide that it was a Money Bill. The alteration in the form of the Amendment makes no difference in our view. Has my noble friend considered that it is possible and not at all improbable that this Joint Committee might come to a conclusion that would impinge upon the undoubted money privileges of the House of Commons? That is a very serious contingency and one which might lead to an extremely critical and disagreeable situation. That is only a by-point against my noble friend's proposal.
§ LORD FABER
Your Lordships will remember the difficulties that this House had to encounter in the years 1908 and 1909. In the year 1908 a more or less stringent Licensing Bill was sent up to this House, and, rightly or wrongly, your Lordships thought it an unjust Bill and threw it out. There was no difficulty in getting at the intention of the framers of that Bill. They went about the country and said that the Licensing Trade had been lashed with whips in 1908, but that in 1909 as regarded the Licensing Bill they would be whipped with scorpions. When the Budget of 1909 was introduced the Licensing Bill was added to it. Your Lordships did not, in the true sense of the word, 463 throw out that Budget. You threw out the Licensing Bill, which, entirely contrary to every rule of this Muse, had been tacked on to the Budget, and I venture to think that if in those days there had been a Joint Committee such as is now proposed that Committee would have said that the Licensing Bill could not be tacked on to the Budget.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I am quite unable to understand the objection of the noble Viscount to the change made in this Amendment. I understood him to say that he thought it widened the scope of the provision—that the change made was rather to widen the scope of the Bills which would come before the Joint Committee.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I did not mean to say that I objected to its widening the scope. I meant that that was the only change in the Amendment and we should object to it equally.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I will not pursue that further. But take the words of the Amendment as they stand. If you really mean what you say, what can be the possible objection to it? It is admitted on all hands that what is called tacking is an unfair invasion of the privileges of this House. Now can you draw words which would give more strictly a definition against tacking? Look at the words—If, in the opinion of the Joint Committee, the main governing purpose of a Bill imposing taxation, or of any portion of a Bill imposing taxation, is not purely financial in character …If it is purely financial in character, then every member of this House admits that it is within the sphere of the House of Commons and the House of Commons alone. But if it is not purely financial in character, surely it ought to be stopped; or else you have what I understand even noble Lords opposite admit to be an invasion of the just privileges of this House.
Lord Courtney, in his first speech, gave us to understand that the decision of the Speaker had always been accepted. That was proved by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, not to have been the case. Admitting to the full that the other House of Parliament is to be supreme in matters of finance, is it not necessary that there 464 should be some definition of what pure finance means and some authority to decide whether any particular proposal comes fairly within that definition? What can be more fair than this, that if it is not purely financial in character it should come under the general provisions of Clause 2? If I understand rightly the object of the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, in moving this Amendment, it is to go more in the direction of the wishes of the Government than his original words did, and to make it perfectly clear that there is no intention on the part of this House to invade the just privileges of the other House.
In the first speech which he made the noble Viscount used words to the effect that if such and such an Amendment were not withdrawn it would make an understanding impossible. I have not had the privilege of being present at all the debates on this important Bill, but I can truly state that I have read every word which has been reported. Those who are outside sometimes get even a more distinct view of what is going on than those who are engaged in the contest. When the noble Viscount says that if we do not do so and so it will make an understanding impossible, I should like to ask the Government whether they think that their conduct of the Bill, their answers to the Amendments and the arguments which have been made on this side, have been such as to encourage us to think that any understanding is possible? If there is one thing distinct to my mind in the whole procedure on this Bill, it has been the absolutely unyielding front on the part of noble Lords opposite; and it does not seem to me to come fairly from them to say that anything which has been said on this side of the House has been with any desire to make an arrangement impossible. Surely, if you are going to have any distinction between Bills which are financial and Bills which are not financial, you could not have a more favourable or reasonable set of expressions than those in this Amendment.
§ LORD EBURY
My Lords, in order that I may account for the value which I attach to this Amendment, perhaps I may be permitted to recall the attention of your Lordships' House to an incident which occurred on June 29, when we were discussing an Amendment from the same source and somewhat similar in terms. My noble friend Lord Midleton, in the 465 course of that discussion, let fall the expression that the pretensions of the House of Commons in regard to privilege had increased, were increasing, and ought to be diminished. For that phrase my noble friend was gravely taken to task by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who was, by the way, then not on the Woolsack, but formed part of the trilingual combination of law and literature on the Government Front Bench. He told my noble friend that his remark precisely reflected the attitude which he (Lord Midleton) and his friends desired to persuade your Lordships to take with regard to this Bill, but the noble and learned Lord admitted that this is a Bill intended to increase the privilege and power of the House of Commons. He also said that privilege and finance were synonymous terms, and, further on, that finance was at the root of all government and controlled policy. Well, if finance is at the root of all government and controls policy, and one House alone is to have complete control of finance and all that appertains to it, that is single-Chamber government, and it was single-Chamber government exactly that the first clause of this Bill, as originally drafted, aimed at establishing.
But, my Lords, the incident did not close there. After a few remarks from the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition the noble Earl on the Front Opposition Bench, Lord Selborne, pointed out to the Government that as Clause 1 was drafted a financial Bill might contain clauses practically involving the nationalisation of land, of railways, and, consequentially, of all other property and sources of production, and he asked the Government whether it was intended that the Second Chamber should have no control whatever over the House of Commons even if that House endeavoured to confiscate all the property in the country. I cannot say he got no answer, because he elicited the following, phrase, or a phrase to the following effect, from the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War. The noble Viscount said that the object of the Government and the object of the Bill was to stereotype the true sense of finance—that was that the House of Commons was to have complete control. Yes, complete control of that finance which his colleague had just told us is "at the root of all government and controls policy." 466 I am afraid that the Amendment of the noble Earl will not extend very far in the direction at which he is aiming, but I certainly hope that the House will adopt and adhere to it, because if the Bill is to pass this Amendment is the only available alternative to absolute and naked single-Chamber government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I think, one word of acknowledgment is due to the noble Earl on the Cross Benches for the pains which he has taken to frame this Amendment in terms approved certainly on this side of the House, and, it seems to me, in terms which might well be accepted even by noble Lords on the other side. He has, to begin with, considerably narrowed the scope of his Amendment. We thought that the noble Viscount who leads the House was under a slight misapprehension on that point. The new version of the Amendment gives it a very much narrower scope than the original version. The clause in the Bill mentions, I think, from fifteen to twenty different subjects, which are all included as subjects to be dealt with by Money Bills My noble friend has taken only one out of that long enumeration. He has taken measures dealing with the imposition of taxation, and the imposition of taxation alone. That is a considerable curtailment of the original scope of the clause.
Then, with regard to the noble Earl's formula, his formula seems to be a considerable improvement on the original formula. He still depends upon what he describes as "the main governing purpose" of the Bill. We have repeatedly pointed out that those were the words used by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, and I desire, at the risk of wearying your Lordships by repetition, to ask the noble Viscount whether he cannot give us this evening some explanation of that speech of the Prime Minister's upon which we rely, and from which we have taken the expression "main governing purpose." Let me remind the House that the Prime Minister spoke of Bills the substantial governing purpose of which was not financial, but some large or social policy, and then he went on to say—The criterion here is not whether an Amendment made by the House of Lords to a Bill is a technical infringement of the privileges of this House. An Amendment of that kind would not fall within our definition.467 And he said further—The test whether a Bill is a financial Bill or not is whether that is its main governing purpose.I think it is quite clear that when the Prime Minister was using those words he was not thinking or talking of tacking in the narrowest sense of the term—I mean that kind of tacking which consists in the addition to a Money Bill of provisions extraneous and not incidental to its financial purposes. Here are the two kinds of tacking described by the Prime Minister with utmost clearness. I want some noble Lord opposite to tell us what the Prime Minister meant by that distinction, or whether we are to understand that the Prime Minister did not really mean what he said; and if he did mean what he said, why the Amendment moved by my noble friend on the Cross Benches is considered as not giving effect to the Prime Minister's words.
Then my noble friend in his new version says that if the main governing purpose of a Bill imposing taxation is not purely financial in character, the Bill may become, or the part of the Bill may become, a Clause 2 Bill. I am glad my noble friend has used the words "not purely financial in character," because your Lordships may remember that those were the words contained in the Resolution which your Lordships carried in the year 1910, and that Resolution was, I venture to think, so drawn as to make it clear that just as the Prime Minister had in his mind the two kinds of tacking of which I have spoken, so we had in our minds the two kinds of tacking covered by the Amendment of my noble friend, and desired to deal with them both.
The noble Viscount dwelt, not for the first time, upon the insuperable difficulty of the task which we were going to impose upon this Joint Committee when we asked them to decide what is and what is not the main governing purpose of a Bill. He said, What can the Committee do? They have nothing before them but the Bill. They will have to limit their attention to the Bill itself and decide by internal evidence only whether it is a Money Bill or not. I am not at all sure that I should admit that the business of the Joint Committee would necessarily begin and end with the consideration of that which was contained within the four corners of a 468 Bill submitted to them. Let the House remember that we are setting up, not a Court of law, but a tribunal intended to deal in a Parliamentary spirit with these questions, and surely it would be competent for a tribunal of that kind to consider not only the actual text of the Bill, but the facts and the circumstances which surrounded its introduction.
We attach very great importance to this Amendment, and I agree with what was said a moment ago by Lord Ebury. In our view this Amendment is a vital one. The danger which we desire to safeguard against is this, that if you have—I will not use a stronger word—a very enterprising Minister, assisted by an ingenious draftsman, it could be comparatively easy, without some safeguard of this kind, to draft a Bill which clearly came within the Prime Minister's definition, a Bill having the most far-reaching political and social consequences, and which vet, owing to the manner in which it had been drafted, would come within the comparatively strict terms of the Bill, and be taken away from the consideration of your Lordships' House. If the Bill, therefore, were to stand as framed by His Majesty's Government, this House would find itself at once warned off the whole vast field of legislation into which financial elements enter. Some of your Lordships will be better able to judge, but I believe that if we were excluded from that field we should be excluded from by far the greater part of the whole field of legislation, because in these day there is scarcely an important Bill which does not contain financial provisions of one kind or another. If that be done, it will then come to this, that we shall only have the very slender opportunities which we are allowed in regard to general legislation under the second clause, and we shall only be allowed to exercise those functions within a comparatively small fraction of the total field of legislation. That is for us a very serious matter, and as I said at first I think we owe a debt of gratitude to my noble friend for giving it so much attention.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
If I understood rightly, the noble Viscount said that this Joint Committee might come to some decision which might impinge on the privileges of the House of Commons. I want to point out to your Lordships that 469 the fifth clause of this Bill contains these words—Nothing in this Act shall diminish or qualify the existing rights and privileges of the House of Commons.I quite admit that, in spite of that clause, the Committee might come to a decision which would dissatisfy one or other Party in the House of Commons, but the noble Viscount must remember that the same might be said about anybody who goes to law. As a general rule either the plaintiff or the defendant is dissatisfied with the judgment, but really that is no argument against this proposal.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, the noble Marquess opposite made again the point about the two kinds of tacking. There is in your Lordship? Standing Orders, as a result of the Resolutions of the House, a fairly clear definition of what we have up to now understood by tacking. I agree, however, that there may be something outside that over which it is well that, there should be sufficient control to bring a case under Clause 2, and it was of that the Prime Minister was speaking when he used the words which the noble Marquess quoted. But it is plain that while it is right that under the guise of a Money Bill you should not set up something which is really quite different from a Money Bill, it is equally true that there is another difficulty which it is important to avoid, and that is hampering yourselves with regard to your Money Bills—it may be the Budget Bill of the year—by excluding from them important questions of policy. It may be that you want money, the governing reason being that you wish to build more ships. That is for the Executive of the day. It may also be that there is some clear part of the policy of the Executive which requires money to be raised for special purposes, or which requires that taxation should be imposed in a certain form in order to be fair.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I am not talking of Naval Loans. I am speaking of raising money for building ships. You might think of putting a penny on the Income Tax in order to build more ships, and that might be in the Budget Bill of the year. 470 Although the new words of my noble friend are better in some respects than the old words, yet to say that a Bill imposing taxation, or any portion of a Bill imposing taxation, the main governing purpose of which is not purely financial in character, is to come under Clause 2 might be construed to apply to the Budget Bill of the year, with the result that the finances of the year might be imperilled. We are of opinion that you should hold by broad and simple principles in these matters, and that the tacking referred to should be the tacking which has always been understood by tacking. It is impossible to give abstract definitions which will cover all the intermediate ground, and our view is that the broad principle that the raising of the money which the Executive Government requires should be left to the House of Commons ought to prevail, notwithstanding that it is impossible to say that very important questions of policy will not arise as regard the shape which it assumes.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I do not wish to refer at any length to the speech which has just been delivered by the noble Viscount opposite, but of all the instances be has given in the course of this debate I cannot think of a more unfortunate one than the one he gave just now as to Navy Estimates. The noble Viscount knows perfectly well that if money is wanted it is raised by the Budget, and if ships are to be built the money is provided for in the Estimates. I have never known of a ship being mentioned in connection with the Budget, and an instance more totally irrelevant than that put forward by the noble Viscount I cannot imagine.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, the point I wish to allude to is a different one from that of the noble Duke. Although the noble Viscount favoured us with a cloud of words lie really gave no answer to the question put by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition. He said that it was impossible to give a definition. The whole point of this Amendment is that the Prime Minister did give a definition, and the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, has practically taken the ipsissima verba of that definition and included it in the Amendment which he has put before the House. The Prime Minister's words have been quoted over 471 and over again, and I must apologise for quoting them once more. He said—We are dealing here with Bills which are Finance Bills, and the test whether a Bill is a financial Bill or not is whether that is its main governing purpose.Those are the precise words the noble Earl has put into his Amendment. Might I remind your Lordships that in the same speech at a later stage the Prime Minister used these words—It may be a perfectly proper thing to tack what I may call political on to financial propositions, but a Bill of that character ought not to come under the exceptional machinery of this clause.That is the whole of our case, and it is to meet that difficulty that the words of the Amendment as altered by Lord Cromer are about, I hope, to be put into the Bill.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
I do not move the Amendment standing next in my name on the Paper—Page 2, line 11, leave out from ("Bill") to ("In") in line 15.
§ Clause 2 as amended in Committee:
§ Restriction of the powers of the House of Lords as to Bills other than Money Bills.
§ 2.—(1) If any Public Bill other than a Money Bill or a Bill containing any provision to extend the maximum duration of Parliament beyond five years is passed by the House of Commons in three successive sessions (whether of the same Parliament or not), and, having been sent up to the House of Lord's at least cue month before the end of the session, is rejected by the House of Lords in each of those sessions, that Bill shall, on its rejection for the third time by the House of Lords, unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary, 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 consented to the Bill: Provided that this provision shall not take effect unless two years have elapsed between the date of the second reading in the first of those sessions of the Bill in the House of Commons and the date on which it passes the House of Commons in the third of those sessions: Provided further that any Bill—
- (a) which affects the existence of the Crown or the Protestant succession thereto; or
- (b) which establishes a National Parliament or Assembly or a National Council in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, or England, with legislative powers therein; or
- (c) which has been referred to the Joint Committee, and which in their opinion raises an issue of great gravity upon which the judgment of the country has not been sufficiently ascertained
§ (2) Any question whether a Bill comes within the meaning of paragraphs (a) (b) of subsection (1) of this section shall be decided by the Joint Committee.
§ (3) When a Bill is presented to His Majesty for assent in pursuance of the provisions of this section, there shall be endorsed on the Bill the certificate of the Speaker of the House of Commons signed by him that the provisions of this section have been duly complied with.
§ (4) A Bill shall be deemed to be rejected by the House of Lords if it is not passed by the House of Lords either without amendment or with such amendments only as may be agreed to by both Houses.
§ (5) A Bill shall be deemed to be the same Bill as a former Bill sent, up to the House of Lords in the preceding session if, when it is sent up to the. House of Lords, it is identical with the former Bill or contains only such alterations as are certified by the Speaker of the House of Commons to be necessary owing to the time which has elapsed since the date of the former Bill, or to represent any amendments which have been made by the House of Lords in the former Bill in the preceding session and any amendments which are certified by the Speaker to have been made by the House of Lords in the third session and agreed to by the House of Commons shall be inserted in the Bill as presented for Royal Assent in pursuance of this section:
§ Provided that the House of Commons may, if they think fit, on the passage of such a Bill through the House in the second or third session, suggest any further amendments without inserting the amendments in the Bill, and any such suggested amendments shall be considered by the House of Lords, and if agreed to by that House, shall be treated as amendments made by the House of Lords and agreed to by the House of Commons; but the exercise of this power by the House of Commons shall not affect the operation of this section in the event of the Bill being rejected by the House of Lords.
§ LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE moved an Amendment, after the words "in pursuance of this section" at the end of subsection (5), to insert "Provided that every Amendment inserted by the House of Lords in a Bill sent up to that House in pursuance of this section shall be considered by the House of Commons severally and separately."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I was unavoidably prevented from moving this Amendment in Committee, and therefore I have brought it forward on the present occasion. Its object is simple. It is to ensure that after the passing of the Parliament Bill any Amendments inserted by your Lordships in subsequent Bills shall
be fully considered by the House of Commons. Before dealing with the merits of the Amendment itself, I should like to take a point that perhaps will be raised by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House—namely, that this is an attempt to interfere with the procedure of the House of Commons. I should like to call your Lordships' attention with regard to that to the last subsection of Clause 2 of this Bill, which says—
Provided that the House of Commons may, if they think fit, on the passage of such a Bill through the House In the second or third session, suggest any further amendments without inserting the amendments in the Bill, and any such suggested amendments shall be considered by the House of Lords.
The House of Commons, if they think fit, may direct your Lordships to consider certain Amendments, and your Lordships will then have to proceed to do so whether you wish it or not. If His Majesty's Government think that for the smooth wording of this Bill it is necessary that a clause of that kind should be inserted, it is not, I think, unfair to argue that it may help to make it smoother still if an Amendment such as I propose is inserted with the object of ensuring that Amendments which have been passed by your Lordships shall be considered in the House of Commons.
§ I would recall to your Lordships what happened in the year 1906 with regard to the Education Bill. I suppose there never was a Bill more thoroughly considered with the object of securing a reasonable compromise than was that Bill. Every sentence was discussed, every clause carefully considered; day after day we sat here, and time after time we tramped through the Lobbies in favour of Amendments to improve the Bill. Yet when at last the Bill was returned to the House of Commons what happened? On the motion of the Minister in charge, the whole of the Amendments of your Lordships were disagreed to without any discussion and without any opportunity being given to the House of Commons to consider whether some of those Amendments in themselves might not have tended to improve the Bill. I cannot say that I blame the Government for having done that, because for tactical reasons it may have been a very good thing to do. His Majesty's Government at that time were not only engaged in passing measures but 474 were trying to pick a quarrel with this House—as one of His Majesty's Ministers picturesquely and pithily expressed it, "to catch the rats in a trap." But circumstances have now changed; the rats have been caught in a trap, and we have the Bill before us showing what His Majesty's Government think should be the relations between the two Houses of Parliament. This Bill proposes that, for the time being at any rate, this House should be given power as a revising and advising Chamber. I venture to submit, therefore, that it is desirable that the advice which your Lordships give and the revision which you make of Bills should be considered, not by an arbitrary Minister of the Crown, but by the representatives of the people in the other House.
§ I appeal to the noble Viscount to give his careful consideration to this point. I am not particular about the exact words. I provide that every Amendment shall be considered, but it is more the spirit of the thing than the exact wording that I care about. I am anxious, if possible, that these matters should be fully considered, that the fact that this House is an advisory one should be recognised, and that when measures are returned with Amendments to the House of Commons they should not be treated with the contumely to which I have referred, and with which, if rumour speaks truly, the present Amendments of your Lordships are to be treated when this Bill is returned to another place. I hope the noble Viscount will recognise that this is not a root and branch Amendment that I am suggesting, but only a means of improving the procedure of carrying out the Bill.
Page 3, line 35, after ("section") insert ("Provided that every amendment inserted by the House of lords in a Bill sent up to that house in pursuance of this section shall be considered by the House of Commons severally and separately").—(Lord Oranmore and Browne.)
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
My Lords, I entirely agree with the spirit of the noble Lord's Amendment. It is, of course, desirable that any deliberative legislative body should consider carefully, considerately, and respectfully any proposition that is brought before it from another body, of similar authority. But let me put a practical point to the noble Lord. Is it conceivable that this House 475 is to pass a Statute telling the House of Commons how to manage its business? And with regard to serious consideration, is it certain that the consideration would be more serious and more deliberate if every Amendment was taken separately and. severally? I am not at all sure of that. But, apart from that, the objection to it is this, and I am sure every member of this House will appreciate it. We talked earlier this afternoon of proposals likely to irritate the House of Commons, and if this attitude were seriously taken by your Lordships' House—that the House of Commons are to be told by Statute how they are to manage their proceedings—I cannot conceive anything which would be more likely to give the House of Commons an excuse for irritation. Though I fully recognise what the noble Lord desires, it is quite impossible to accept this Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, after what has been said by the noble Viscount I hope that my noble friend will not press this Amendment. Although undoubtedly the spirit of the proposal is, as the noble Viscount admits, a reasonable one, I think it is fair to suggest to my noble friend that he would not find it easy to compel a reluctant House of Commons to consider Amendments made by this House separately and severally. I am afraid he would find that, whatever words were adopted, some means would be found of driving a coach and four through them.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
After the admission which the noble Viscount has made that any Amendments inserted by this House ought to receive consideration in the House of Commons, and after what has been said by the noble Marquess, I will with the permission of the House, withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD NEWTON moved an Amendment inserting at the end of the Clause the words—"And provided also that if the Bill rejected as aforesaid by the House of Lords be a Bill for the alteration of the provisions of this Act, so as to impose any further limitations on the powers of that House in relation to the rejection of Bills sent up to it by the House of Commons, such Bill shall, on its rejection for the 476 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 shall not become law unless it be passed by the House of Commons during the following Parliament, but when so passed it may 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, in moving this Amendment I do not propose to detain the House more than a few minutes, because I have already explained the provisions of it at an earlier stage. Briefly stated, the position is as follows. If this Bill becomes law it is the general if not the universal opinion of everybody sitting upon this side of the House that your Lordships' House will be reduced to something little better than a debating society, and will be left with only one asset of any value at all—namely, the power of delay—but under the Bill as drafted by the Government there is no guarantee whatever that this safeguard will remain. Personally I am quite prepared to admit that I do not entertain any distrust of the three noble Lords opposite who are acting, if I may say so, in the capacity of a political Cerberus in guarding their Bill. These noble Lords, I am inclined to think, are discharging their duty without very much enthusiasm, and I feel perfectly certain in my own mind that they have not the smallest desire either to humiliate this House or to take any unfair advantage of this Bill supposing it becomes law. But on the other hand, it would be perfectly absurd and ludicrous to ignore the fact that there are in the House of Commons a number of gentlemen who openly proclaim themselves to be single-Chamber men, and if there is one prediction that can be made with any approach to certainty with regard to this Bill it is that if we put into force the statutory powers of delay which we are accorded under the Bill a demand, possibly an irresistible demand, will be at once made from quarters well known to noble Lords opposite for the abolition of this power of delay; and I submit, as I submitted the other day that this House has a clear right, supposing this Bill becomes law, to be protected against any action of that kind by interposing a General Election in 477 the natural course of events before any such thing can be brought about.
§ The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition made the remark the other day when I moved this Amendment that it was perfectly intolerable that any advantage should be taken of this Bill for the purpose of altering the machinery of the Bill itself, and my Amendment, not exactly in identical terms, was received by Lord Morley in a comparatively sympathetic spirit—I might almost say in a markedly sympathetic spirit compared with the spirit in which he received other Amendments. The noble Viscount evidently found extreme difficulty in resisting it at all, and he committed himself to the view that it was not unjustified, and that it did? not contradict the fundamental principle of the Bill. Altogether the noble Viscount was so sympathetic and encouraging that my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition thereupon invited me to bring forward the Amendment on the Report stage, an invitation to which I have responded. Now, my Lords, whilst I am desirous personally of acknowledging the friendly and sympathetic spirit of the noble Viscount opposite, I do not entertain any very sanguine hopes that he is going to accept even this Amendment, because it appears to me that he, in common with the other two noble Lords who are in charge of this Bill, is bound by some mysterious punctilio to resist every Amendment that is proposed, whether it is important or unimportant or reasonable or unreasonable. At the same time, in spite of this unyielding front I have endeavoured to meet the objections of the noble Viscount to the best of my ability by altering the phraseology of my Amendment and endeavouring to make the object clear. My object, I repeat, is confined solely to endeavouring to secure the safeguard to which I have already alluded.
§ The Amendment as it stands represents a desire upon my part that at all events the following should be secured to us—namely, that with regard to rejections the period of three sessions shall not be interfered with, that the interval of two years shall equally not be interfered with, and that the duration of Parliament shall also not be interfered with, so that there shall be no opportunity of dealing with us in the way in which I have indicated unless a General Election has taken place 478 in the meanwhile. I do not know whether I have succeeded in my purpose. I always feel considerable doubt with regard to matters of this kind, and I am rather inclined to predict that with the ingenuity which characterises the old Parliamentary hand the noble Viscount opposite will not have very much difficulty in finding some word or words which will render it impossible to accept the Amendment. That at all events I am prepared for, but I do not altogether abandon a lingering hope that the noble Viscount will accept the principle of the Amendment, as to which I propose to say nothing more.
§ Before I conclude I would like to take this opportunity of dispelling some remarkable delusions which have arisen since this Amendment appeared on the Paper, and which have invested it with possibly greater importance than it deserves. Some lynx-eyed and imaginative critics have discovered in this Amendment a sort of corrupt bargain between the two Front Benches for the purpose of mutually selling the pass. In times past I have myself ventured to accuse the Front Benches of acting in collusion, but so far as I know there is not on the present occasion any justification for any suggestion of the kind, and as far as I am concerned the occupants of the two Front Benches may leave the Amendment without a stain upon their characters. There is also another point I desire to make clear. This Amendment, although it was suggested to me by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, is an Amendment for which the Front Bench is not responsible. I put it down entirely upon my own responsibility.
§ LORD NEWTON
The only thing the noble Marquess had to do with it was to advise me in this House to bring it up again on Report. I do not know whether it is necessary for me to make the assertion, but in case any noble Lords on this side feel any doubt on the point I should like to assure them that I am not in the confidence of the Government, however strange it may appear to them. I wish that I was. I should like also to point out that though, as we all know, everybody who puts down an Amendment is usually enamoured of it almost to the point of infatuation, I have never felt so 479 enamoured of this particular Amendment as to imagine that it constituted a key which would unlock the Constitutional difficulty, either by means of affording an adequate substitute for the Amendment of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition or even as suggesting a form of what is called compromise. A compromise is an arrangement under which both sides agree to give up something. But in this particular case there is no compromise suggested. All I ask for is that if the Government get their way upon a particular point they shall not utilise that fact for the purpose of getting something which they are not asking for at the present moment.
In conclusion I may say that I only move this Amendment because it seems to me to be a perfectly just and fair and reasonable one, as was indeed admitted by the noble Viscount. It appears to me that it is one which the Government might assent to without loss of dignity and without the least inconsistency; and although I believe there are a number of noble Lords who, for some reason which is not plain to me, entertain a suspicion that if this Amendment were assented to it might tell to our disadvantage, I still hold to the opinion that it would be extremely valuable to us, and for that reason I respectfully commend it to the consideration of the House.
Page 4, line 5, after ("Lords") insert ("And provided also that if the Bill rejected as aforesaid by the House of Lords he a Bill for the alteration of the provisions of this Act, so as to impose any further limitation on the powers of that House in relation to the rejection of Bills sent up to it by the House of Commons, such 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 shall not become law unless it be passed by the house of Commons during the following Parliament, but when so passed it may 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.)
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
My Lords, the noble Lord, if he will allow me to say so, seems to me to have made a very sensible speech. He talked, however, in a passing sentence about this House being reduced to little better than a mere debating Chamber. I would remind him, and perhaps console him by pointing 480 out that this House is only a debating Chamber now over most of the area of Government and foreign policy. It is quite true to say that it is only a debating Chamber now over the great area of public policy, as it will be when this Bill becomes law. The noble Lord spent not too much time in clearing his own character, if it needed it, of anything in the nature of subterranean compromise or compact with the Party on these Benches. I most emphatically and sincerely confirm that statement so far as I am acquainted with the facts. It is a great weakness in political reform to be always seeking for some sinister motive and some underground machination in the conduct of others. The noble Lord put an Amendment on the Paper last week when we were in Committee. I considered it, and, as he has truly said, I used not unfriendly, but rather sympathetic language about it. The noble Marquess who spoke after me was, I think, equally sympathetic, and certainly not more unfriendly than I was to the Amendment, and he recommended the noble Lord to endeavour, if he could, to meet, at the Report stage, the objections which I had raised to his proposal. I thought then that the noble Lord would find it impossible, in view of the Amendment of the noble Marquess, which was carried by so enormous a majority the other night, so to remodel his own Amendment as to make it possible for us to accept it. Therefore I was not suprised, when the Amendment appeared for the Report stage, to find that it was not one—and I was sorry for it—that the Government could accept. If he will allow me to say so, it would have been far better if the noble Lord, instead of putting in general words like "further limitation" and so forth, had abrogated the use of the Parliament Bill itself to alter its own provisions and had said that the Parliament Bill must not be altered in those particulars to which the House takes objection—that the provision about the three Sessions or about the two years must not be altered; and he might, if he had thought fit, have said that the provision limiting the duration of Parliament to five years must not be altered. Those are the three great operative points in the Bill, and if the Bill is regarded as something in the nature of a compact between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, I can imagine something being said for a provision to prevent the machinery of the Act being used to alter 481 the contents and provisions of the Act. But that is not the way the Amendment now stands. It is improved in this respect, that it is not so vague as the Amendment in Committee was, but it unquestionably and to my surprise carries with it subsection (c) of the noble Marquess's Amendment. I am surprised that the noble Lord should introduce that element, because your Lordships will remember that when the Bill of Lord Balfour of Burleigh was before the House the noble Lord, in characteristically straightforward and vehement language, as did the noble Earl, Lord Ancaster, entirely repudiated it.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I have the noble Lord's speech here, but I will not go into it. That was the impression he left upon my mind at the time, and I think his words confirm it. But be that as it may, the introduction of subsection (c)—that is the reference to the Joint Committe of the question whether a Bill is of great gravity and so forth—is a proposal which we cannot in any shape or form, directly or indirectly, entertain. There is another curious point in the noble Lord's Amendment. He leaves to the House of Lord's when they have rejected a Bill three times, the choice of a Referendum through the Joint Committee or a General Election. I submit to anybody acquainted with legislation or policy that the House of Commons could not accept a proposal which left this House the opportunity of pleasing themselves whether upon a given occasion they would insist on holding a Bill up until there had been a General Election, or whether they would proceed by way of a Referendum. That is an obvious defect in any proposal of this kind.
There is another point that I ventured to raise in Committee. Let us suppose that a Bill is rejected by this House three times and passed three times by the other House, and that that Bill bad very speedily followed a General Election. Is it to be taken, as this Amendment would allow, that a Bill of that kind should be hung up until there had been another General Election or until there had been a Referendum, which I have always contended is tantamount to a General Election? Is that a rational proposal to put before a deliberative 482 body? I do not think it is. I pointed that out to the noble Lord on a previous occasion. I think it is an unanswerable difficulty, and I am sorry that he has not even attempted to deal with it. One other point about not altering the present Parliament Bill when it becomes an Act. I hinted at this on the previous occasion, and I return to it. Suppose there was a Lords Reform Bill on the Table, and suppose that that Bill contained a proviso for Joint Sessions, which is a conceivable thing. That Bill might come within the definition in the noble Lord's Amendment of a Bill further limiting the powers of this House. The Lords Reform Bill, for example, might provide that, instead of giving the House of Lords three chances of rejection, a Bill might become law by a majority vote in the Joint Session. In that case it might become law after one rejection, and both Parties might agree that it, was desirable that such a Bill should pass. But it would be necessary, in order that it; should go through, to alter the proviso which the noble Lord would have us introduce and enact. That is only one illustration. I could give more, but I have put the point, and I believe it is one which is thoroughly worthy of the consideration of those who are enamoured of this Amendment, and who may be angry with us because of that "mysterious punctilio" which the noble Lord referred to which makes us reject all Amendments. It is not punctilio and it is not mysterious—but still, there it is.
There is one other point in connection with this Amendment that I would like to make. It concerns what we have heard so much of to-night—tacking in connection with Money Bills. I could imagine such a thing as tacking an Amendment to this Bill. It is rather an abstruse sort of point, but I would like, if the House will allow me, to put it on record, and I commend it to the noble Lord for his consideration if he goes forward with his project. Will the noble Lord find answers to the following two questions. Do you intend that this should apply to a Bill which only incidentally alters the provisions of this Act, as, for example, in the case of the Lords Reform Bill, to which I have just referred, which made provision for Joint Sessions and so forth? Is that what the noble Lord and those who sympathise with him intend, or do you only intend your Amendment to apply to a deliberate alteration of the Bill 483 for the purposes of diminishing the powers of the House of Lords?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
It is not an easy point to put in a sentence or two, but it is a very important point which will be heard of later. In deliberating on all proposals of this kind, you have to consider whether you mean that you will not allow any of the provisions of the Parliament Bill to be meddled with, or whether you mean to limit your proposal only to cases where the cardinal and deliberate intention is to further limit the powers of this House. If the noble Lord proceeds with his Amendment I would commend that for his consideration. I have seen it observed, but it is entirely a delusion to suppose that the Bill will be immune from Conservative attack. It is quite obvious to everybody that if there be a case of Conservative attack, the Conservatives being in a majority in the House of Commons or being in control of Ministerial power, all that they have to do, if they want to amend or alter this Act—it is the simplest thing in the world—is to pass an ordinary Act of Parliament, without any reference whatever to the machinery of this Bill. I have kept you rather too long. I wish that I had been able to go further than I have done, but as it stands this Amendment is wholly inadmissible.
§ LORD NEWTON
With the indulgence of the House perhaps I may explain that my sole object in moving this Amendment was to provide against this Bill being utilised for the purpose of cutting down the period of delay which is accorded to us under the Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I do not know whether I ought not to say one word, perhaps, in the guise of a witness to character. I desire to support what was said by Lord Newton towards the close of his speech when he told the House that the Amendment which he had moved was one for which the Front. Bench on this side had no responsibility. I understand that it had been suggested that there was some kind of conspiracy between my noble friend and myself. All I can say is that if I wanted what, I believe, is commonly called a "bonnet," I do not think I should have employed 484 my noble friend in that capacity. He seems to be made of stuff out of which "bonnets" are not usually manufactured. The Amendment of my noble friend really has no connection whatever, unless it be incidentally, with the Amendment which your Lordships accepted at my suggestion, and the idea of setting my noble friend's Amendment against mine was obviously an absurd idea. The fact is that my noble friend's Amendment was intended to prevent this Bill from being altered. My Amendment, on the contrary, was intended to alter the Bill very considerably. If we regarded this Bill as anything in the nature of a final compact, to use the noble Viscount's expression, it might be a very attractive thing to some of us to frame it in such a way as to prevent any alteration of the restrictions which are placed under the Bill upon your Lordships' House. But, as we have said again and again, we do not regard this Bill as anything in the nature of a final settlement; we look upon it only as a provisional measure intended to cover an interval which we are assured is to be a short one. I ask myself how my noble friend's Amendment would operate in that interval. Now I confess I do not think that the particular danger which he desires to guard against is one of which we need be, after all, so very apprehensive, because I cannot bring myself to conceive that within the next three years we shall find noble Lords opposite desiring to disturb that part of the Bill which deals with the privileges and opportunities which are to be left to your Lordships' House. Apart from this, if it were indeed the case that His Majesty's Government did desire to pass during the next two or three years any particularly subversive measure without touching the present Bill they would have ample time to do so, because, after all, the life of this Parliament will, I presume, endure until the end of the year 1915, and within that time they will have ample opportunities of passing their measures, if this Bill become law, without any further encroachment upon the rights, slender as they are, which this Bill preserves to your Lordships' House.
The noble Viscount, I must say, raised several points in regard to the operation of the Amendment which seemed to me rather difficult to answer. I do not know whether my noble friend is prepared to answer them, but I confess that I am not, 485 at any rate at this moment. But the argument of the noble Viscount throughout was based upon one very important reservation—a reservation which I think my noble friend must regard as greatly affecting his position with reference to the Amendment. What we understood the noble Viscount to say was that if my noble friend's Amendment had been one forbidding any alteration in the restriction placed upon the powers of your Lordships' House it would be differently regarded by His Majesty's Government from the present Amendment, because the present Amendment deals only with the question of the tightening of the restrictions to which we are to be subject. I think that was the noble Viscount's suggestion—that if it had been a case not merely of tightening but also of relaxation of the restrictions, His Majesty's Government would have regarded the proposal in a somewhat different light.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
May I point out that it was a preliminary condition that it was confined to three points—namely, the three sessions, the two years, and the duration of Parliament.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I think the noble Viscount suggested, in regard to those three points, that if my noble friend's Amendment were so framed as to prevent any change in the Bill whether in the direction of tightening or relaxing the restrict ions which it imposes he would regard it in a different light. I am glad I did not misapprehend the noble Viscount. That alters the whole case, because I feel sure that what my noble friend desired was to prevent the limitations on this House being made stricter still. But supposing we find ourselves in power with what I suppose would be called a mandate from the people of this country, and supposing we desire to relax some of the restrictions upon your Lordships' House, then under the noble Viscount's proposal we should not be able to do so until after a second General Election. I do not think that would suit our book at all. It would place us in what the noble Viscount himself described the other evening as an absurd position. He will remember the speech, and I will not quote it to your Lordships. I rather hope, in these circumstances, that my noble friend will think twice before he presses his Amendment. Our desire is that our 486 Amendments to this Bill should be few in number, and that they should be of a kind which will really make the Bill less dangerous as we conceive it to the liberties of this House. I am reluctant to add another Amendment, that moved by my noble friend, particularly as I am not altogether convinced that it is one which would greatly improve our position under the Bill.
§ LORD MARCHAMLEY
My Lords, the noble Marquess says that he does not intend to support the Amendment moved from the Back Benches opposite, but if it goes to a Division I shall myself support it. So far as I can at present judge, I do not see any connection between the Amendment of the noble Lord opposite and the Amendment of the noble Marquess already incorporated in the Bill, except the words "referred to the Joint Committee." It seems to me that the purport and scope of this Amendment are entirely different from those of the Amendment of the noble Marquess. The noble Lord says that this Bill, establishes certain relations and working arrangements between the two Houses of Parliament, that noble Lords on his side of the House have a right to the complete establishment of those relations, that if they are willing to accept the Bill there ought to be some guarantee of finality in the matter, and that the provisions of the Bill itself ought not to be used in order to further curtail and clip the powers of this House as formulated in the Bill. If that be his view, I am entirely in accord with him. I think noble Lords on that side of the House have a right to claim, if the Bill becomes law, that it should not be used for further limiting the powers of this House and increasing those of the House of Commons. The Bill itself I think is a fair and proper one, but I do not think it ought to go further. I am of opinion that we on this side and noble Lords on the other side of the House should have some guarantee that the provisions of this Bill will not be used to further curtail your Lordships' powers unless the people at a General Election have given their assent to that curtailment.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
My Lords, I moved in Committee an Amendment very much of the same kind as that of my noble friend. The effect of that Amendment would have been to make it impossible to cut down the period of two 487 years and the number of times a Bill had to pass the House of Commons. I rather gathered from the speech of the noble Viscount in Committee that if Lord Newton had moved an Amendment with the mere intention of stating that the suspensory period of two years should not be cut down he thought the Government would very likely have accepted it. They accepted an Amendment moved by another noble Lord to prevent the cutting down of the period of five years as the duration of Parliament, and it seems to me that the two things go together and have, as the noble Lord opposite said, very little to do with the Amendment of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition. It appears to me that this Amendment is a very important one. It only gives effect to the declaration of the Government that by this Parliament Bill there is to be a period of delay, and personally I can see no reason given by the noble Viscount for not embodying the Amendment in the Bill. I do not know whether it would be possible to move an Amendment to Lord Newton's Amendment, but it seems to me it would meet the case if the Amendment were to read as follows—And provided also that if the Bill rejected by the House of Lords be a Bill to impose any further limitation on the powers of that House in relation to the rejection of Bills sent up to it by the House of Commons, such Bill shall not be subject to the provisions of this Act.Such words would embody in the Bill the declaration of the Government themselves, and would stop the power that undoubtedly would be in the House of Commons to immediately sweep away, at the first breath of opposition to delay on the part of your Lordships' House, any safeguards which your Lordships would possess under the Bill.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I confess I am somewhat disappointed at the result of this debate. Although the Amendment I brought forward the other day was not received with a chorus of approval nobody found any fault with it and I was invited to bring it up again. It seems to me that, after all, there is some conspiracy between the two Front Benches, but as I do not want to complicate the situation I will, with your Lordships' leave, withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.488
§ Clause 3 as amended in Committee:
§ Joint Committee.
§ 3.—(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 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, for the purposes of this Act. The Speaker of the House of Commons shall be chairman, and he shall have a casting vote.
§ (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.
§ (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.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
I do not move the Amendments standing in my name on the Paper—Page 4, line 9, leave out from ("Commons") to ("a") in line 11.Page 4, line 9, lines 17 and 18, leave out ("may if he think fit, and")Page 4, line 9, line 20, after ("behalf") insert ("or on a requisition signed by not less than two hundred members of the House of Commons.")The last one is an Amendment which I borrowed from Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Bill, but I understand that the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, Lord Cromer, proposes to move a similar Amendment with the exception that he suggests 150 members instead of 200 as I proposed.
*THE EARL OF CROMER moved to amend subsection (2) so that it would read—
(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, or on a requisition signed by not less than one hundred and fifty members of the House of Commons, 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 noble Earl said: When we were in Committee I think it was fully recognized that there was a good deal to be said in favour of allowing a minority of the House of Commons to be allowed to set the machinery of the Joint Committee in motion. I beg to move.489
Clause 3, subsection (2), line 20, after the word ("behalf"), insert ("or on a requisition signed by not less than one hundred and fifty members of the House of Commons."—(The Earl of Cromer.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not know what His Majesty's Government intend to do in this matter. We are waiting for their guidance.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I thought I had said more than once that we regard this proposal with the strongest objection.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
That makes it difficult for my noble friend to persist with his Amendment, because its drafting as it stands is not sufficiently accurate to make it an effective Amendment to the Bill. If your Lordships think it worth while to look at the last paragraph of the Amendment which bears the name of my noble friend Lord Lansdowne, you will see that under that Amendment the provision does not take effect until a Bill has been three times rejected by your Lordships' House. I do not see, therefore, how that is to fit in with this intervention of a requisition by 150 members of the House of Commons. It requires further drafting, and in the face of the opposition of the Government I do not think my noble friend can persist in it. Whether his proposition is a right one or not is a different question. As I understand, he wants a minority of the House of Commons to have power to bring Lord Lansdowne's Amendment into operation. My noble friend's object in his Amendment was to solve the question of deadlocks between the two Houses of Parliament. Whether that should be carried further or not is another question, but I do not think the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Cromer as it stands can possibly carry it any further.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
I think that in the circumstances perhaps I had better withdraw the Amendment. It is a point about which I have no very strong opinion myself, and if anything of this kind is required it can be easily introduced by the House of Commons. If the Bill were sent back here embodying something of the kind I do not think we should have the least objection to it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.490
§ THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN moved to insert after Clause 3 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 authority of the same, as follows.
§ (2) Any alteration of a Bill necessary to give effect to this section shall not be deemed to be an amendment of the Bill.
§ The noble Earl said: Your Lordships will remember that in Committee I proposed a new clause which I have again put down on the Paper. My object was, and is, to provide a formula of enacting words which, when dealing with a Bill passed under the operation of this Act, will correctly describe the part which has been taken by each of the two Houses of Parliament. The noble Viscount opposite, as your Lordships may remember, said in reply on that occasion that the Government preferred to have one formula applying both to what I may call the old form of Acts of Parliament—namely, Acts passed by the two Houses—and this new form of Act passed by the authority of one House only. The noble Viscount rather doubted whether I knew the difficulties of framing such an Amendment, and he said that the matter had been under the consideration of the Government for a long time and that they wished to consider the matter further. On that understanding I withdrew the Amendment, and I rather hoped that they would be successful in finding a formula such as they desired. I must admit that I was fully aware of the difficulty, and I believe it to be quite impossible to frame one formula which would correctly describe an Act of Parliament passed by the authority of one House and an Act of Parliament passed by the two Houses. But, of course, that was a matter for the Government. The Government have not put down any Amendment for this purpose, and therefore I suppose I may presume that they have found that the matter requires still further consideration. How much further consideration will it require? That is the question. This matter has been in their minds now for several months, and specially in their minds during the last week, and I think we should have been given some intimation when we are likely 491 to obtain a result. In the absence of any step by the Government, I am afraid I must proceed with my Amendment as originally framed. If this formula is to be effective it must be enacted in this Bill, otherwise there will be only the old formula which says that Bills are enacted by and with the consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the Commons. For your Lordships' protection, therefore, I put this forward in the mere cause of justice. It has nothing to do with the Bill itself; it merely provides that the Bill shall contain a formula which correctly describes the action of this House, with regard to Bills passed under it. I do not think that I need argue the question further to-day, seeing that I placed the case so fully before you on the last occasion.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 4, 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 authority of the same, as follows.
§ (2) Any alteration of a Bill necessary to give effect to this section shall not be deemed to be an amendment of the Bill.—(The Earl of Camperdown.)
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, no one wishes to state at the commencement of an Act that the assent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal has been given when in point of fact such assent has not been obtained. What was said in the 492 House of Commons was that it would be better to have a form of words which could be at the commencement of all Bills. That is what was said, and it will be clone. Of course, that is the intention. The view of the noble Earl is not the view taken by the Government, but if he places this clause in the Bill it will recall attention to the matter and give the House of Commons another opportunity of considering it, and it may be that they will come to the same view as the noble Earl holds. At all events it is not a thing on which we need have any dispute, because the purpose of everybody must be the same—that at the commencement of a Bill the enacting words should correspond with the facts.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Will the noble Viscount tell me whether I am correct in believing that he desires to take the Third Reading of the Bill on the 20th—this day week
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
Yes, the noble Marquess is quite right. I propose to take the Third Reading this day week.
§ Bill to be read 3a on Thursday next, and to be printed as amended. (No. 132.)