§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee, read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Morley of Blackburn.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL of DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ 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 Speaker of the House of Commons 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 those subjects or any of them. 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 hint that it is a Money Bill.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, the three Amendments which stand in my name and the first of which I now move would, if agreed to, make subsection (1) read as follows—A Money Bill having been passed by the House of Commons 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.The object of these Amendments is to make clear what is the avowed intention of this Bill. It is freely urged by members of the Opposition that the whole effect of the Bill will be to reduce your Lordships' 1032 House to the level of a debating society. But whatever difference of opinion there may be as to the effect of Clause 2, there can be none at all as to what would be the effect of Clause 1, for it is framed for the express purpose of preventing your Lordships from amending or rejecting a Money Bill. Any amount of discussion in this House cannot have the effect of inducing or enabling the House of Commons to make any change in a Money Bill which they have sent up to this House, and it seems to me a waste of time that we should debate the matter. If we disapproved of taxation which was proposed and expressed our opinion, we should only provide material for paragraphs in Radical papers winding up with the congratulation that by this Bill our teeth had been drawn, and that, however much we might bark, we were unable to bite.
Personally I quite agree with what was said on this subject by Mr. Keir Hardie at Merthyr Tydvil. Speaking of the House of Lords he said—They are not to have power to amend a Money Bill, nor to reject it, nor to suspend it. Then why send it to them? Why make two bites at the cherry? Why not say here and now that the House of Commons shall be supreme in finance, and send Finance Bills direct to the Crown without going to the House of Lords at all?It is true that the Prime Minister expressed a different opinion. He said that he thought the country ought not to deprive itself of the advantage of hearing the financial proposals of the Government discussed and reviewed with all the vast resources of dialectical skill which your Lordships possess. But if the Prime Minister is unable to take advantage of the discussions and debates on these matters in your Lordships' House—and he certainly will be unable to do so—I cannot see how he is to benefit by having heard the view of your Lordships upon the Government's proposals. If this Bill passes and in the future some financial measure is brought forward which your Lordships think will be very injurious to the country as a whole, it is not a feeble whine from an impotent House of Lords which will prevent its passing into law. That can only be done by the action your Lordships may take outside this House. A few more speeches such as that which was made at Manchester by the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, will do more to convince the country than any amount of debate in the House of Lords constituted with the powers which it would 1033 then enjoy. It seems to me that our position with regard to this is very much that of surgeons who have a patient brought before them and placed in the theatre for the purpose of operation, and who see that it is absolutely necessary that an operation should be performed to restore the patient to health, but who are unable to perform that operation themselves; and not only that, but those who, as the Prime Minister told us, are anxious to have our advice on the subject are themselves unable to perform the operation although they may agree with our diagnosis of the case. I submit that this is an unworthy position for your Lordships' House to occupy. That is why I have placed these three Amendments on the Paper, the first one of which I now beg to move.
Page 1, line 17, leave out ("If").—(Lord Oranmore and Browne.)
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN)
My Lords, on the Second Reading of this Bill the noble Marquess opposite asked me whether it was the intention of His Majesty's Government to give a fair hearing to all Amendments that might be moved in this House, and I said, in reply, that nothing was nearer to my heart and to the hearts of my colleagues than that we should pay all attention to Amendments that might be moved and to any arguments that might be brought forward in support of those Amendments. But I am afraid I must make a bad beginning, because the Amendment which the noble Lord has just moved is really, if he will allow me to say so, an Amendment without any substance whatever. It is an Amendment turning upon the dignity of your Lordships' House; and when the noble Lord implies that he is induced to move this Amendment by paragraphs in Radical newspapers and by speeches such as that of the Member for Merthyr Tydvil, I do not think those are points that ought to weigh with your Lordships for a single moment. Nobody is more bound than I am to pay attention to paragraphs in Radical newspapers, but I would not think for a moment, standing where I happen to stand now, of asking your Lordships to take a single step in one direction or another because you were alarmed or perturbed by paragraphs either in Radical or Conservative newspapers. We are here to look at these things from the point of view 1034 of this House. The Amendment of the noble Lord is to the point that the dignity of this House is affronted by the Bill as it stands, and that therefore you had better say, "Do not trouble us with your Money Bills. Take them, and let us be done with it." I do not think that is the right point of view from which to open the discussions we are to-day beginning, and therefore, in spite of my very sincere desire to meet any Amendment and to listen to any arguments from noble Lords opposite, I am afraid we must oppose a negative to the Amendment of the noble Lord.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I think the noble Viscount has treated the proposal of my noble friend on the Cross Benches rather hardly. He told him that he regarded his Amendment as one of no substance, and the reason he gave for that statement was that the Amendment was one turning on the dignity of this House. I trust that that is not an indication of the general attitude of the Front Bench opposite towards questions concerning the dignity of this House. I am sure we do not desire to be meticulous on these points or to stand too much on our dignity, but I do trust, on the other hand, that when questions affecting the position of this House and the respect to which it is entitled at the hands of the country are raised, we shall not be told that those are questions of no importance and that they merely concern the dignity of the House of Lords.
My noble friend's Amendment is founded upon a feeling on his part that the opportunities for consultation which will be afforded under this clause are so meagre that they are really not worth having at all. I gather that, sooner than have what might appear to be a sham consultation with this House, he would have no consultation at all. The noble Viscount suggests that that might not be the right point of view, but it is a very natural point of view indeed, and it is one which I cannot help thinking will be somewhat widely entertained. But I own that I attach more importance than my noble friend does even to those very meagre opportunities which will be afforded to us under this clause of discussing financial measures in this House. To my mind even slender opportunities are better than no opportunities at all, and I for one would be reluctant to part even with those slender 1035 opportunities. The discussions which may take place here in regard to Finance Bills may not be without effect upon the public mind. I can almost endeavour to persuade myself that they may sometimes not be without effect upon His Majesty's Ministers. There is an indication in the clause which leads me to hold this opinion rather more strongly. I notice that under the words of the clause a Finance Bill must be passed in this House within a month "unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary." Those words evidently are not put in without some meaning, and I hope I am right in interpreting them as meaning that in special cases the period of one month might be extended—in other words, that the period of one month is a minimum and not a maximum. For these reasons I would venture to suggest to my noble friend that we had better leave the Bill as it is on this point. I hope, therefore, he will not press his Amendment to a Division.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, after the appeal that has been made to me by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, I will, with the permission of the Committee, withdraw my Amendment, and not move the other two standing in my name.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
VISCOUNT GALWAY moved to omit from subsection (2) of the clause the provision under which the Speaker of the House of Commons had to decide whether or not a Bill was a Money Bill, with the object of subsequently moving the insertion of the following new subsection—
(3) The question whether a Bill is a Money Bill within the meaning of this section shall, on a resolution in that behalf being passed by either House of Parliament, be referred forthwith for final decision to the Court of Appeal, and that Court shall, in private deliberation and without submission to it of argument or evidence, determine whether the Bill is a Money Bill within the meaning of this section, and the decision of the Court shall be final and conclusive, and shall be communicated to both Houses of Parliament: Provided that a Judge of that Court who is a member of the House of Lords shall not take part in any proceedings relating to the consideration or decision of any such question.
§ The noble Viscount said: I am sure your Lordships will fully understand that in no remarks that I make do I wish to reflect in any way on the Speaker of the House of Commons. The position which the Speaker has gained for himself by his
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne1036
§ ability and tact is well known, and the last thing I would wish to do would be to see anything placed in this Bill which would militate against his high position. Personally I am rather surprised that the members of the House of Commons should run the risk of the Speaker losing the great position which he new holds, for any measure which he may have to decide upon will no doubt be a measure which will give rise to Party discussion, and whichever way the decision is given one side or the other will be dissatisfied. I may be told that this is a matter for the House of Commons to consider for themselves; but when it is proposed that the Speaker should be the sole arbiter as to whether a Bill comes under the category of a Money Bill or not, it is a matter which concerns this House very seriously. We must remember that the Speaker is the representative of the House of Commons, and that when he attends in this House to receive His Majesty's approbation on his election he claims for the House of Commons, as their representative, all the rights and privileges which the Commons alone enjoy.
§ It is rather stretching the point to say that one who solely represents the House of Commons—and we must remember with regard to this that the Speaker is elected to that position by the majority of the House of Commons—should be the sole arbiter in this matter. It has been the custom for the Speaker to be re-elected in successive Parliaments, but if the idea is entertained that the Speaker is actuated in any way by partisan motives, however unreasonably that idea may be held, I am afraid we shall not see that continuity in regard to the Speakership which we should like to see. The object of my Amendment is to endeavour to remove the whole question as to what is and what is not a Money Bill absolutely and entirely out of the way of any Party feeling whatever. So anxious am I to do that that in a subsequent Amendment I propose that there shall not be any Party argument or discussion before the tribunal to which the question goes, but that the point should be decided on its abstract merits. I propose that it should go to the Court of Appeal; and as we have begun for the first time to have a written Constitution, it is not unreasonable that we should ask that a written Constitution should be interpreted by 1037 legal authorities. That is the case in other countries. In America the Supreme Court is called upon to give a decision in such cases, and I cannot see what objection there can be to a written Constitution being interpreted legally by the Court of Appeal. So anxious am I to see that there should be no Party feeling whatever introduced that I have carefully provided that any Judge who should happen to be a member of this House should not sit on that Court of Appeal. That is practically the object of my Amendments. I move the first one now, and in due course I will submit the other.
Page 2, lines 1 and 2, leave out ("which in the opinion of the Speaker of the House of Commons").—(Viscount Galway.)
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
There are alternative proposals before your Lordships. The noble Viscount proposes to leave out twelve words, six of which are necessary should the Amendment standing in the name of Lord Cromer be discussed. I think, therefore, that the most convenient course would be that the question put to your Lordships should be that the first six words proposed to be left out by the noble Viscount—namely, "which in the opinion of the"—should stand part. The other words can follow as a consequential Amendment if that is carried.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
My Lords, the change in the form of the Amendment proposed by the Lord Chairman is well founded. This Amendment is one of a not very large but very important group of Amendments, and the object of that group is to substitute for the Speaker of the House of Commons or for any other body—a Committee of the two Houses, for example—a judicial tribunal. The noble Viscount proposes the Court of Appeal. In another place the proposal was made that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council should decide whether the electors at a given moment intended this or that. It is not becoming to read in your Lordships' House long quotations, or, indeed, any quotations, from speeches made even by important men in another place, but if any of your Lordships are captivated by the arguments which the noble Viscount opposite has brought before you, I would refer you to the speech made by 1038 the Leader of the Opposition in another place if you want a complete and emphatic repudiation of all attempts—whether the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council or the Court of Appeal is proposed—to transfer to a legal tribunal questions which are distinctly and unmistakeably and inevitably Parliamentary questions. We may quarrel as to the exact share the House of Lords should have in discussing a Money Bill, but if anybody wants a complete answer to proposals of this kind he will find it in the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition in the other House, in which he repudiated all ideas and proposals of this kind with great emphasis.
It is surely an untenable position that the two Houses, distribute the respective powers of each as you will, should submit their views and convictions as to what is or what is not pure finance to a legal tribunal. A legal tribunal—of which I would, like Mr. Balfour, speak with all respect—is guided by precedents and very strict construction of terms. That is not the way in which either this House or the other House does its business. It is not the point of view from which either House has been accustomed all these years, I might almost say all these centuries, to regard these distinctions. Consider what would be the effect of transferring to a legal tribunal an issue of this kind—whether a given Bill is or is not pure finance. The effect would be to set up precedents. You would have a great body of case law established. We have always been accustomed, and I hope it will continue to be the custom, to look at all these financial proposals from a practical point of view, without reference to a great body of case law, important as that is in dealing with legal business. This is not legal business.
I admit that we are embarking to a certain extent upon written elements in our Constitution. I admit that it might seem natural, in an operation of that kind, that there should be a legal tribunal to interpret the writing. Upon that we shall hear more by and by. But whether this business is to be discharged by the Speaker of the House of Commons, as we propose, or by a Joint Committee such as the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (Lord Cromer) proposes—however you may settle that, it should be decided upon Parliamentary 1039 and public considerations and not upon strict legal technicalities. Of course, one could elaborate this to any extent, but I will only refer to the arguments used by the Leader of the Opposition in the other House against a judicial tribunal, and I ask your Lordships not to accept the noble Viscount's Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, the speech of the noble Viscount who has just sat down was very determined as regards the transference of this power to a legal tribunal, but he was not equally determined, or he said nothing which justified us in thinking that the Government were prepared, to stand by the letter of the Bill, leaving the matter as at present proposed, in the hands of the Speaker. On this side of the House we hold, perhaps not so strongly as the noble Viscount, the view that it is undesirable to set up a legal tribunal. If you come ultimately, as we are coming, to a written law as regards our Constitution, it seems not improbable that then certain matters will have to be decided by some legal tribunal, but our practice and our traditions are equally divided from that position at present, and I apprehend that, though my noble friend behind me has made a great case for change in the practice proposed in the Bill, there will be no general acceptance by your Lordships of the proposal to make these decisions a judicial question.
We have seen in the last few days something of the danger of dragging judicial authorities into anything like the political strife of the day. Unfortunately there have been a number of election petitions, and in some quarters there has not been the same readiness as there has always been in the past to accept the Judges' decisions as absolutely impartial. In reference to one matter—it was not a matter of elections, but a matter of politics—which had to be decided by law, we have had grave reasons to complain of language used with regard to the Judges from a very high quarter—from a quarter which should have been the first to defend them. That is an indication to us that, if men in high positions cannot in a moment of strife refrain from ill-considered and ill-balanced remarks of that kind, there would be considerable danger that when political feeling ran high on a question so vital as that which is
Viscount Morley of Blackburn.
1040 now before us, recourse to the judicial authorities might result in their being dragged into the arena of politics, from which we desire to keep them free.
But if we cannot go the whole length with my noble friend who has moved this Amendment, we by no means accept the position of the Government. The Lord Chairman will put the question that these words stand part of the clause. We cannot agree that they should stand part. Like my noble friend behind me, I have had a long experience of Speakers in the House of Commons, and I am not going to do more than follow my noble friend in saying how earnestly I associate myself with him in respect for the present Speaker and for the office which he represents. But do not let us conceal from ourselves that the position of the Speaker has changed very much in recent years. He has become in closer relations to the majority of the House of Commons year by year, and by the action of both Parties in the State, than were the Speakers of the last century. The Speakers of the Tudor period upheld the right of the Sovereign against the House of Commons. They managed the business of Parliament, and they settled in some cases what subjects should be discussed. The Speakers of the present day uphold the rights of the House of Commons against all comers. The Speaker has been again placed in the position of settling the business to be discussed, and also of settling, not the prerogative of the Crown which former Speakers in old days upheld, but the privilege as it is so called, but in reality the prerogative, claimed by the House of Commons.
Many of us who have sat in Ministries may be to blame, but I ask your Lordships to consider how great has been the change. When in the eighties the closure was first adopted the Speaker was limited, by the most careful language, to imposing the closure when the evident sense of the House desired that there should be an ending of debate, but he had to take a responsibility for the management of business which he never had before. A few years later closure by compartments was adopted, and in that case it became necessary for the Speaker, at a time when the evident sense of the House could not be shown, to decide that certain portions of a Bill should be debated and dismissed in a certain 1041 number of hours. But now, by reason of the new fantastic system under which Bills are sent up to this House, the Speaker or the Chairman as the case may be decides, not merely what time shall be given to a measure, but what subjects, in a list containing fifty or 100, should be discussed in relation to it before a Bill leaves the House of Commons. That is the greatest invasion of the rights of Parliament, the greatest invasion of free speech, which has ever been attempted in this country; and it is quite impossible that the Speaker or the Chairman, as the case may be, who has to administer this power should be entirely at one with the minority of the House when he has to impose such regulations and has to settle, without hearing arguments at all, whether eleven Amendments out of twelve should be placed altogether out of court and out of discussion.
Remember that from this despotism there is no appeal. Under this clause a Bill so manipulated, so undiscussed, could be sent up to this House, where we could not reject it and could not discuss it. Your Lordships would have no remedy, the people of the country would have no remedy; and I cannot but feel that to ask an official like the Speaker, who is charged already with difficult and onerous duties, to put on the cloak of impartiality between the two Houses and to put aside all that he is bound to consider on behalf of the House to which he is attached—to ask him then to decide that your Lordships have no right to touch a certain Bill because it is a Money Bill, and still later in this measure to decide the other intricate questions that may arise, is a burden too great to put upon the shoulders of any man, and one, moreover, that must have the effect of causing people to challenge the impartiality of the Speaker when he has to stand between the two Houses on a purely political subject.
Without impeaching the Speaker's impartiality I wish to say this, that no man who has looked into the precedents can deny that the privilege claimed for the House of Commons has grown, is growing, and ought to be diminished. In the last measure on which this question arose both sides of the House concurred. On the Old Age Pensions Bill, when Amendments were sent back broadcast to this House which had been ruled out of order 1042 by the privilege of the House of Commons, the noble Marquess behind me observed—Amendments have been rejected, not on their merits; they have been rejected in spite of the fact that their merits are in some cases incontestable, and that they help to carry out the objects of the framers of the Bill. Privilege has never been asserted in so aggressive a form as in connection with this Bill.What was the comment of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for India (Lord Crewe), whom we are all so glad to see amongst us again? The noble Earl said—and this is very remarkable and most important for the discussion in which we are now engaged—The grievance of the noble Marquess is not against us but against the authorities of the House of Commons, who put a certain interpretation upon the question of privilege.So that, reading between the lines, we might even infer that had not the question of privilege been raised on some of these Amendments the noble Earl would have been prepared to assist in placing them in the Bill. I am only going to ask your Lordships to consider two of those Amendments in order chat you may see to what a distance and how far apart we have run from the Speaker of the House of Commons in our notion of privileges.
I will trouble you with two cases, one to prove that the Speaker himself, although he is called upon so often to assist the majority in carrying a Bill, is not always listened to when he asks the House not to insist on their privilege. On that occasion the Speaker, with regard to one Amendment—an Amendment which prevented a man putting a sum of money into a security at very low interest and then saying he came within the purview of the Old Age Pension Act—used these words:It would be the doctrine of privilege run mad to insist upon it in regard to this Amendment.But the Government, who had it in their power, advised the House to insist upon their privilege, which in itself is an indication that the Speaker is not able always to guide the House to the position which he thinks right as to those very measures in regard to which he will have to act as umpire. I come to the second case, where I venture to think the judgment of the Speaker was a very extreme one. Lord St. Aldwyn had carried an Amendment in your Lordships' House which everyone 1043 who had that Bill at heart must have regarded as a fair Amendment. It provided that if two persons living together as husband and wife, each of them having £800 in Consols and therefore an income of £20 a year each, claimed an old age pension, in fairness to others their means ought to be calculated actuarially on their life interest in the sum. No one contested the principle of that Amendment, but the Speaker of the House of Commons felt himself bound to rule that it was a breach of the privilege of that House, and that astonishing provision is at present in the Bill.
I have chosen those two instances merely to point out that it is impossible to take an official, however high, who is the mouth-piece of one House and make him the arbiter between the two Houses. What we desire to do when we come to discuss the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, is this, to take the Speaker out of the position which he now occupies as counsel for the House of Commons and put him on the Judicial Bench with an adequate surrounding of impartial men whom he may assist to guide to a decision, but who will themselves influence him by their impartiality and their arguments. I am glad that the noble Viscount opposite did not in his speech shut the door to any such proposal. It would indeed be a sorry thing for this great Parliament if between us we could not find a body of impartial men who could decide what the noble Viscount called a purely Parliamentary question, but one which must be decided as a Parliamentary question and not as a Party one.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD LOREBURN)
My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Viscount in his anticipation of the discussion which will arise upon the Amendment standing in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, and I cannot help thinking that the references that he made to the Amendments on the Old Age Pensions Bill which were refused by the House of Commons on the ground of privilege are more germane to the coming discussion than to the present. The Amendment now before the House proposes to forbid the Speaker of the House of Commons from being the judge as to what is and what is not a Money Bill, and to substitute for him some
1044 judicial body—the Court of Appeal. It is quite clear that whenever you have a written Constitution, and for broad practical purposes we may say we have not any such thing—in the wide sense we have not any such thing now—you must have some body to discriminate between the different classes of business and the different duties that arise under the written Constitution. That is essential and elementary. The noble Viscount proposes that it should be a judicial body. Mr. Balfour in the House of Commons protested against Parliament being placed under the domination of any Judges, however eminent, and no one could feel more strongly than I do how inadvisable it is to have a judicial body to decide a question of this kind. It is not a legal question in the sense in which such matters come before Courts of law. It is a question of mixed law and Constitutional custom, usage, and point of view, of which a great number of the most eminent Judges have no experience whatever. They have never been in Parliament, or, if they have, they have not addicted themselves to the particular study of this matter, and I do not think any question of this sort ought to be decided by them.
This Amendment as it will be put from the Chair will decide the point whether the Speaker's opinion is to be the dominating opinion or not. On that I wish to say a few words. The noble Viscount said, and I think with truth, that the position of the Speaker of the House of Commons has in some degree become different in regard to his functions from what it was quite a short time ago. When I first entered the House of Commons there was no rule as to closure of any sort, kind, or description. I will not describe to your Lordships the state of suffering in which a good many of us were placed by reason of that circumstance. At the commencement of my life in the House of Commons it was found necessary to introduce something in the nature of the closure. I say these things because the noble Viscount expressly referred to them. That was resisted with the utmost strength of the Conservative Party, and naturally, for it was a great innovation. But gradually it was found by reason of the pressure of business to be indispensable, and from 1881–2 down to quite a short time ago successive amendments of procedure in the House of Commons have been made by both Govern 1045 ments. The noble Viscount will agree that if one Government was to blame the other is equally to blame. I think neither was to blame; and the noble Viscount will also agree that most of these enlargements of the closure were at the necessary instance of the Government of which he was a member. The remedy for that I will not enter upon now. It is to give the House of Commons a little less work to do and a little more time in which to do it.
Now see how that bears on the position of the Speaker. He has to decide constantly on the question whether a matter is to be put to an issue at once. A great deal of difficult work has been put upon him. What has been the result? Everybody who knows the House of Commons will admit that it has not cast the smallest shadow of any kind upon the reputation of the Speaker. He would tell you that the exercise of these functions has not in the smallest degree impaired the reputation, character, or standing of the Speaker of the House of Commons for impartiality. How are you to find a better man than the Speaker for the business we have in hand—to decide not what is a legal question but what is a Parliamentary question, a question with close affinity to other questions which he has to decide. The view of the Government is that, after all has been considered—and you have to consider not only the merit of this proposal that the Speaker should be the arbiter, but the merit or demerit of the alternative proposals—the Speaker is the best tribunal. As I read the Bill, if this Amendment is rejected it does not prevent the raising of the question in the Amendment standing in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Cromer.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I take it that it may be for the convenience of the Committee that we should reserve for future discussion the points raised by the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Cromer, and I will therefore say one word, and one word only, in regard to the limited question which I conceive to be now before us—that question whether, if we desire that these duties should not be imposed upon the Speaker of the House of Commons, we desire to put in his place a Court of law. Upon that point I am bound to say that I 1046 agree rather with what has just been said by the noble and learned Lord opposite than with what has been said by my noble friend behind me. I think it is desirable that we should avoid placing the control of these matters in the hands of any Court of law. I can well understand that my noble friend should argue that now that we are about to introduce into this country a Constitution which will, in part at all events, be a paper Constitution, we are coming nearer to the time when the introduction of something like a Supreme Court on the American lines might become inevitable, but I do not think we have arrived there yet; and I have it strongly in my mind that the general desire of Parliament is to maintain its independence of Courts of law. Whatever tribunal may be invoked to decide this question—I mean the question whether a particular Bill is or is not a Bill of a purely financial character—it seems to me clear that the decision will have to be given, not upon strictly technical and legal grounds, but upon what I think the noble and learned Lord described as broad Parliamentary grounds—grounds of general convenience and of common sense. The noble and learned Lord referred to an important speech delivered by the Opposition Leader in the House of Commons, in which Mr. Balfour declared himself decidedly opposed to bringing in a Court of law for this purpose. I have no doubt that speech was read by most of your Lordships and has not been without weight. But I think it right to remind the House of another consideration which I think will be regarded as entitled to weight by your Lordships, and that is this, that in the month of November last year your Lordships passed a Resolution under which it was expressly stated that the question of deciding whether a given Bill was a financial measure or not was to be referred to a Joint Committee presided over by the Speaker of the House of Commons. That, I must say, seems to me to tie our hands considerably. But quite apart from that think, upon the merits of the case, that if we are to have a tribunal it is better that it should not be a Court of law, but a tribunal of the kind which by and by my noble friend on the Cross Benches will propose. I fear, therefore, that I cannot support my noble friend behind me, although many of the arguments which he brought forward were of a kind which were certainly entitled to considerable weight.
My Lords, as I understand that if my Amendment were persisted in it might prevent the noble Earl on the Cross Benches bringing forward his scheme, I will withdraw my Amendment now, reserving to myself the right to reopen the question at a later stage should it be necessary.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *THE EARL OF CROMER moved to leave out the words "Speaker of the House of Commons," at the commencement of subsection (2), and to substitute in their place the words "Joint Committee."
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, three Amendments stand in my name, and although as a matter of procedure it may be necessary to take the sense of the Committee separately on each of them, at the same time they are so intimately connected that it is impossible to deal with the arguments which bear on one Amendment without bringing in those which bear on the others. I propose, therefore, with your Lordships' permission to speak on all three Amendments at the present stage of our proceedings. These Amendments deal with two subjects—first, the constitution of the tribunal which is to decide whether a Bill is or is not a Money Bill; secondly, with the functions which are to be exercised by that tribunal. After what fell from the noble Viscount who moved the previous Amendment and from Lord Midleton, I had not proposed to say anything as to the unsuitability of the Speaker to be the sole judge of whether a Bill is or is not a Money Bill; but I rather understood the noble and learned Lord opposite to contend, in his speech just now, that the Speaker was the best judge, and that obliges me to repeat to a certain extent arguments similar to those already used by the two noble Viscounts to whom I have referred.
§ I wish to speak with the utmost respect, not merely of the personality of the present Speaker, but also of the high and dignified office which he holds. Successive Speakers have established an honourable and well-deserved reputation for impartiality. But, my Lords, what is the precise nature of that reputation, and on what does it rest? I maintain that it is a reputation for dealing impartially with internal questions 1048 which arise in the course of discussions within the House of Commons itself, and that it is based on the acknowledged fact that when a member of that House, to whatever Party he may belong, is chosen to be Speaker, he at once lays aside all spirit of partisanship and deals impartially with the views laid before him from every quarter of the House. But, my Lords, is there anything to show that this strict spirit of impartiality will be preserved when it is no longer a question of dealing with the internal affairs of one House, but with questions relating to the respective functions of the two Houses? I cannot think that there is. The Speaker would really be almost more than human if he were not influenced by the political atmosphere by which he is surrounded, and if he were not unconsciously biassed by a desire to assert the privileges and extend the functions of the House over which he presides. There is an old law maxim, with which the noble and learned Lord opposite must be well acquainted, to the effect that it is the function of good Judges to enlarge the jurisdiction of the Court to which they belong.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
Will not the Speaker be very much tempted to act on the principles of that maxim? Will he not almost certainly be animated to a certain extent by that esprit de corps which runs through the whole of English political and social life, the spirit which makes every one educated, say, at Eton, pass through life singing Floreat Etona, and which makes every officer in the Army or Navy think that his own regiment or his own ship is incomparably the best of regiments and the best of ships? Moreover, my Lords, what guarantee have we that all future Speakers will possess the high qualifications of Speakers of the past and present? Is it quite certain that in course of time the Speaker will not come to occupy in this country the same position as he holds in the United States—that is to say, the position of a strong political partisan? It appears to me that we should not lose sight of this danger. I need not dwell any more on this point. I believe that the majority of your Lordships will agree with me in thinking that it is not a fair or reasonable proposal that a high official of one House should be able 1049 on his own ipse dixit to curtail the legislative functions of the other House.
What tribunal, therefore, should be substituted in the place of the Speaker? I will not dwell on the question of establishing a purely judicial tribunal, for that has been already discussed and settled. I will proceed at once to state how, from my point of view, the Joint Committee which I suggest should be composed. I propose that it should be composed—exclusive of the Speaker, who will be Chairman and have a casting vote—of fourteen members, namely, seven members of your Lordships' House, and seven of the House of Commons; that the individuals should be chosen jointly by the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons; and that these two high authorities should make their selections in such a manner as they think best adapted to provide an impartial tribunal. In the course of the discussions which have taken place on this subject, both inside and outside Parliament, a great many suggestions have been made as to the proper constitution of this Joint Committee. I admit that the question presents some practical difficulties, but I submit that it is by no means insoluble. It is very easy in ordinary parlance to express what I believe we all want. We want a Committee which will be composed in about equal proportions of supporters and opponents of the Government of the day. It is more difficult to translate this simple idea into language which will be suitable for insertion in an Act of Parliament. What constitutes being a supporter and what being an opponent of the Government of the day? We have long passed the time when political Parties were represented by a solid phalanx of Tories on one side and of Whigs on the other. It is, I think, regrettable, but it is certainly a fact that the whole tendency of the day is towards the formation of groups. A Liberal Government would, I conceive, find it very difficult, amidst the rather confused jumble of Parties which now exists in the House of Commons, to state precisely who were and who were not to be counted as their supporters, and even in this House a difficulty might arise, although probably in a less acute form. A question which naturally comes home with very special force to myself is, How is an occupant of the Cross Benches to be classed? The Roman jurists had an old saying to the effect that 1050 in civil law all definitions were dangerous. I think it applies in the present instance. I propose, therefore, that no attempt shall be made in the Act of Parliament to define the precise qualifications which it will be incumbent on a member of the Joint Committee to possess, but that the choice should be left to the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Chancellor, subject to the general direction that they must use their best endeavours to constitute an impartial tribunal. I think that every one will agree that the Speaker of the House of Commons is the proper person to select the members from that House. The case of your Lordships' House presents somewhat greater difficulties, for the Lord Chancellor does not, politically speaking, occupy a position analogous to that of the Speaker. He is a member of the Cabinet of the day, and therefore necessarily and avowedly a Party man. But, my Lords, when it is remembered that the Lord Chancellor must always be one of the most eminent lawyers of the day, that he must necessarily be accustomed to deal with matters in a judicial spirit, and that further, not only the present occupant of the Woolsack, if he will permit me to say so, but also his predecessors, to whatever Party they may have belonged, have always commanded in a high degree the esteem and confidence of the whole House, I think it may safely be anticipated that no future Lord Chancellor will abuse his powers by attempting to take any Party advantage, and that he will conscientiously carry out what will be the manifest intention of the Act. As regards the actual members of the Committee, the point is not one on which it is possible to entertain any strong opinion, but I may observe that in adopting an uneven number it will be possible to represent in some degree the normal Party preponderance in each House, and thus to a limited extent introduce the principle of proportional representation.
I have heard it said outside that it is useless to appoint a Committee of this sort, for that each set of representatives will be certain to vote on strictly Party lines. I am not altogether sure that this will be the case. We may charitably entertain a pious hope that even political partisans will be occasionally open to conviction and will not be altogether deaf to argument. But even supposing this assumption to be correct I should like to point out that the House of Commons will, at all events, have no cause 1051 to complain, because in these circumstances the decision will virtually rest, as they propose, with the Speaker. There will, however, be this notable difference between the amended procedure and that proposed in the Bill—that the Speaker will at all events have had the advantage of hearing the House of Lords case fully and ably put before him, whereas under the Bill as it now stands there is no certain guarantee that the House of Lords point of view will be considered at all. I have now said all I have to say on the subject of the tribunal. I will only add that it is quite possible that in the course of this debate some suggestions, both as regards the members of the Committee and their mode of appointment, may be made which will commend themselves to your Lordships in preference to that which I have embodied in my Amendments. In that case they will, without doubt, be fully considered.
I now proceed to deal with the other main object to which my Amendments are directed—namely, the functions of the Committee. When I speak of the functions I am perfectly well aware that at a later stage, under the Amendment which will be moved by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, those functions will be extended to other matters than Money Bills. To discuss that now, however, would be entirely outside the scope of the Amendment before the Committee at this moment. I therefore propose to limit my remarks entirely to the functions of the Committee on Money Bills. Any member of your Lordships' House who attempts to deal with this question lies under a certain disadvantage. That disadvantage is that we all of us labour under the suspicion of wishing, not only to reassert all the powers which constitutionally this House has up to the present time possessed in respect to Money Bills, but even to extend those powers. I gather from some remarks made a few days ago by the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War that I am more especially the victim of these suspicions. I hasten to assure the noble Viscount that, so far at all events as I am myself concerned, he may dismiss these suspicions from his mind. Without going into the question of what ought or ought not to be, in theory, the functions of a Second Chamber in respect to financial measures, I take as my point of departure the Resolution of the noble Marquess to which I have already alluded and to which this House
The Earl of Cromer.
1052 has already agreed. It is worded in the following terms—The Lords are prepared to forego their Constitutional right to reject or amend Money Bills which are purely financial in character, provided that effectual provision is made against tacking.The only practical question to be discussed is, as it appears to me, whether the Bill now under consideration provides any effectual provision against tacking.
The intentions of the Government on this subject have been stated over and over again in the most positive terms. The subject is so important that I feel constrained to trouble your Lordships with some quotations from Ministerial utterances. On April 11 the Prime Minister, in dealing with the clause we are now discussing, said—The object of the Government on this Definition Clause is two-fold. It is, in the first place, not to enlarge the boundaries within which, as we believe, Constitutional practice and usage has established the authority of the House of Commons in matters of finance. On the other hand, it is to include by a statutory definition everything which is within the boundaries so established by usage. That is our governing principle.And again later, on the same day, he said—These words are most careful to exclude, first, the possibility of including in this Clause a Bill financial in form or title of which the object of its other provisions was the real and governing purpose; and, secondly, to exclude the annexation or tacking on to a financial Bill of extraneous provisions intended to be applied for political or social purposes.Your Lordships will observe that the identical phrase used by the Prime Minister—namely, "governing purpose"—is introduced into the Amendment standing in my name on the Paper. Mr. Winston Churchill also used very similar language on May 9. The intentions of the Government are therefore quite clear.
But, my Lords, in spite of some minor and salutary changes which were made during the passage of the Bill through the House of Commons, can it be seriously contended that the Bill as it now stands gives effect to those intentions? I cannot think that it does. I maintain that this Bill provides no sort of adequate guarantees against tacking. There is practically no limit to the political and social changes which may not be effected by "the imposition, alteration, or regulation of taxation." And, my Lords, it is especially to be observed that the Bill does not in any way authorise the Speaker to include in his 1053 purview of the situation the political and social changes which any alteration of the fiscal system may make. He has merely to ask himself whether the Bill on the face of it ostensibly deals only with the imposition, alteration, or regulation of a tax, and unless he can answer this question in the negative he will have no option but to sign the certificate including the measure in the category of Money Bills.
What guarantee is there that under the Bill as it now stands a 50 per cent. Income Tax will not be imposed, or a tax placed on landed and other property which will virtually deal a death-blow to all property? None whatever. And yet, my Lords, surely measures of this sort, which would involve social and political changes of the highest importance, cannot reasonably be regarded as mere Money Bills. I know I shall be told that we must rely on the commonsense of the people of this country not to sanction monstrous proposals of this sort. I am perfectly aware that in a democratic country we must rely ultimately on the commonsense of the democracy. But, my Lords, I submit that vague generalities of this description, which may equally well be used to justify the most subversive changes in the laws of this country, are not a sufficient answer to my criticism. We have, I think, a full right to claim that there should be a definite statutory provision which will, as far as legislation can prevent it, put a stop to any attempt being made to evade the spirit of the Act of Parliament. We want, at all events, a clear provision that the Speaker and whatever other tribunal may eventually be instituted shall be authorised to consider whether the real and ostensible object of any proposed measure are identical, and whether under cover of a Money Bill political and social changes are not contemplated which would reasonably bring the Bill within the category of general legislation. The object of my Amendment is to bring these considerations, which are at present excluded, specifically within the purview of the authority which has to decide.
To sum up, my Lords, in respect to the tribunal I ask the Government to act in the spirit of the declaration made by Lord Crewe in this House, which was to the following effect—I may perhaps venture to say that if some other tribunal within Parliament can be found which can be expected to carry out these duties with equal authority and impartiality, this is not a matter we should regard as vital to the Bill.1054 Although I do not wish to forestall what the noble Viscount opposite will say on my Amendment, I hope I gathered from his preliminary remarks earlier this evening that he is prepared to give this proposal reasonable consideration. In respect to tacking, I merely ask His Majesty's Government to place on the Statute Book a provision which is in entire conformity with their declared intentions. I maintain that these proposals are reasonable and moderate and although, in common with many of your Lordships, I hold strong opinions as regards the conduct of His Majesty's Government throughout this Constitutional crisis, I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to advocate them in reasonable and moderate language. I would earnestly appeal to noble Lords opposite to meet these suggestions in the spirit in which they are brought forward—that is to say, in a spirit of conciliation. Other important issues await discussion, but if this very important question of the treatment of Money Bills could be settled by a reasonable compromise, a considerable step forward would, at all events, have been taken to arrive at that general settlement of the Constitutional question which I believe every sensible man in this country earnestly desires.
Page 2, line 2, leave out ("Speaker of the House or Commons" and insert ("Joint Committee").—(The Earl of Cromer.)
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, no one could have listened to the speech of the noble Earl who has just addressed the Committee without having a sense of the sincerity of his desire to do what he thought to be best in getting over the difficulties with which we are faced. If I have to criticise his arguments it will be largely upon this ground, that I think his propositions owe their support to arguments of a too abstract kind, and have too little reference to the actual living Constitution which is ours, and to the history and traditions which we are bound to recognise. It is not possible to go back to a state of things where you have a blank sheet of paper on which to write. The noble Viscount opposite referred, by way of illustration, to the change in the position of the Speaker. He contrasted the position of the Speaker as it is now with what it was in the days of the Tudors, when he was the exponent of the wishes of the Sovereign in the House of Commons, and when the form of a Bill used to begin 1055 with a petition to the Throne. The position of the Speaker as it is now is the result of evolution, and the result of functions of the House of Commons as they have come to be defined with the growth of our unwritten Constitution.
The noble Earl said he wished to prevent tacking. I agree that we do not want to enable tacking to take place. We desire to prevent it. But how does the noble Earl propose to prevent it The Joint Committee is to have the power to declare that a Bill comes not under the category of Clause 1, which deals with finance, but of Clause 2, which deals with general legislation. The position of the Speaker under this Bill, and necessarily also the position of the Joint Committee, is a statutory position. There is no appeal against their decision. Something that fell from the noble Viscount made me think that he had it in his mind that the House of Commons could control the Speaker if the Speaker were taken as the judge here. That is not as I read the Bill. If the Amendment were carried, the Joint Committee would have statutory authority also absolutely free from the control of Parliament. Under the noble Earl's Amendment the Joint Committee could declare a Bill which was financial on the face of it, because of what they conceived to be its purpose and its policy, to fall within Clause 2 and therefore to be the subject of consideration under a wholly different procedure. The effect of that would be to give to this House larger powers than this House has claimed to possess for many a long day past. The old Resolutions of 1671 and 1678 are, I believe, Resolutions which your Lordships have in practice at all events accepted. You have given up explicitly the Constitutional right to reject a Money Bill; and even upon the question of amending a Money Bill it is by no means clear that your Lordships put forward your right in an abstract form. But the Amendment of the noble Earl does not confine the situation to the position in which it is at the present day, in which the House of Commons exercises control over the general character of finance, but enables the policy underlying that finance to be taken into account.
The noble Earl referred to a speech which I made on the Second Reading of this Bill in criticism of something that fell from himself. I think I was right in that criticism, and I am rather confirmed by
1056 what he said to-day. He means by tacking something quite different from what we understand by tacking. He means by tacking that a Finance Bill is to be altogether colourless and to have no policy in it. If you applied that definition you would at once give this House control over a number of Bills and over measures of a character as to which control has never been assumed. Take the Appropriation Bill—a Bill which your Lordships have never amended or rejected. What is the Appropriation Bill but a Bill embodying in many cases general policy? It is a Bill which gives effect to the Votes of the House of Commons for Supply for carrying out the policy of the Government of the day. Very often most important questions of general policy come in under that Bill, and the Appropriation Bill would come within the words of the noble Earl's Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
What I mean by tacking is what the Prime Minister described as the annexation or tacking on to a financial Bill of extraneous provisions intended to be applied for political or social purposes.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I am dealing with the noble Earl's Amendment, and it is an Amendment which carries things very much further than the question of tacking. The second Amendment which the noble Earl has on the Paper provides that 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 is to be subject to the provisions of Clause 2. A Bill introduced by the House of Commons in order to give effect to the financial policy of the Government would become subject to this kind of consideration. The truth is, it is impossible to define in writing what is general policy and what is not. There is hardly a financial Bill which comes from the House of Commons which does not embody general policy. A definition of tacking may be difficult to give, but it is clear that there are things which are undoubtedly in the category of tacking. One gets at these things by illustration. It is impossible to define them. You cannot separate general policy from finance, and there are Finance Bills which do not aim at tacking but which do bring in general policy. That is my first criticism on the 1057 Amendment—that it goes further than the situation at the present time, and that it would in effect repeal many of the things in the Resolutions of 1671 and 1678 which now form part of our Constitution, and would diminish the position of the House of Commons. But I cannot separate in my mind the proposal to set up this Joint Committee from other proposals with respect to it not moved by the noble Earl but to be moved by the noble Marquess opposite. I do not propose to discuss them, but I do feel that the introduction of this Joint Committee is the introduction of a principle which is wholly foreign to anything we have yet known. It is a statutory Committee to have enormous powers—the power to say that the country has not sufficiently pronounced on a subject, and to refer the matter to a Referendum. That is a proposal of great magnitude. It is not a proposal which can be limited, and it is not limited even under the words of the noble Earl, to tacking.
Let me for a moment glance at the other difficulties. I will put out of count those that I have stated, in order to ask your Lordships to come face to face with what would be to my mind the overwhelming difficulties of procedure in the House of Commons if this Amendment were carried. In the passage of a Money Bill through the other House there are Amendments constantly brought up which it becomes the duty of the Speaker as the guardian of the rules of order to rule out, and for the purpose of ruling them out, either as not having originated in the proper form or as not being germane to the character of the Bill, the Speaker has to give rulings from time to time and rapidly. But supposing this proposal were carried he could not give those decisions, and if he could not do that he could not discharge his present functions as Speaker. He could not give a ruling without calling together the Committee, and in that case the condition of business in the House of Commons would become even more congested. What has been the reason for the closure? It has been the want of time in the House of Commons to deal with the increasing mass of business which it has to handle. Until you relieve the House of Commons from that mass of business the duty of the Speaker must be heavy. But how much heavier would it be if business had to be interrupted because 1058 the Speaker could not prejudge questions by giving rulings without calling together the Committee? Therefore if this Amendment were carried, not only would it involve enormous difficulties of the kind I referred to in the earlier portion of my remarks, but it would paralyse the conduct of business in the House of Commons. It is quite true, as the noble Earl said, that our Constitution is one which in theory leaves you defenceless against all sorts of wild people whom the imagination can conjure up getting into power, but I am not sure that there has been any great danger shown of our proceeding in that fashion. Undoubtedly legislation is getting increasingly democratic. That is because the democracy is more and more getting the control of affairs. You cannot stop that by any measure you can introduce. You have to accept it and make the best of the situation as it is. You have to judge the proposal contained in the noble Earl's Amendment not merely as an abstract proposition to be written on a blank sheet of paper, but in the light of the actual situation to-day and the position of Parliament and its responsibility to the country; and if this Amendment were passed in such a form as we have it now, not only would it lead to embarrassment of public business, but it would run counter to the very proposals which seem to me to be the foundation of the Constitution as it is to-day.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I am placed in some difficulty, because there are surely two subjects which have become somewhat confused in the course of this discussion. There is the subject which is directly raised by the Amendment of the noble Earl, and which places before the Committee the question whether the tribunal to decide upon Money Bills should or should not be the Speaker of the House of Commons. That, I thought, was the subject directly raised by the Amendment, and the one to which our speeches ought to be directed if they were strictly in order. There is the further question, if the Speaker of the House of Commons is not to be the tribunal, whether there can be suggested from this side of the House or from any quarter a better tribunal, and upon that point the noble Earl on the Cross Benches has submitted to us his ideas. Then there is the further question, what is to be the procedure of the Committee when it sets to work to 1059 decide whether or not a Bill is a Money Bill. I confess to being in absolute doubt whether I am to discuss all three, or whether the proper procedure would not be to recall the Committee to the direct order of our business and to say a little more than has hitherto been said upon the question of the Speaker. Perhaps your Lordships will permit me, as I feel somewhat strongly on the question of the Speaker, to say a word or two at any rate to start with on that point. I confess I was very much disappointed with the remarks which fell from the noble and learned Earl the Lord Chancellor. I gathered from him what I take to be the intention of His Majesty's Government—namely, that they mean to adhere to the position as to the prerogatives and the authority which they are giving to the Speaker of the House of Commons by this Bill. I do not know whether I am justified in drawing that inference from the few sentences of the noble and learned Earl relating to the subject, but unless he contradicts me I must proceed on that hypothesis.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
In the first place that is a great disappointment to us, because it throws absolutely to the winds the hopes that were undoubtedly aroused in our bosoms by the passage in the speech of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for India which was quoted by Lord Cromer. When the noble Earl, Lord Crewe, told us in a previous debate that, if some other tribunal than the Speaker within Parliament could be found which might be expected to carry out these duties with equal authority and impartiality, that was not a matter which the Government would regard as vital to the Bill, we certainly were encouraged to think that if we were in a position to submit a suggestion for such a tribunal to this House—a tribunal to be created within Parliament and a tribunal which I venture to think would carry with it great weight and authority—at least it would receive respectful consideration from His Majesty's Government even if it were not adopted by them. And there was another reason that might have led us to hope for some modification on this point. I allude to the debates in the House of Commons. Probably most of us, even if
Lord Curzon of Kedleston,
1060 we did not have the pleasure of attending those debates ourselves, at any rate followed them more or less closely in the newspapers, and I shall be in the recollection of your Lordships when I say that on no part of the Bill was a more destructive and unanswered and unanswerable criticism directed against the proposals of the Government than on that which related to the Speaker of the House of Commons. Yet those arguments appear to be thrown away, for when we come to this House the Lord Chancellor, in a couple of sentences, adheres to the position which has been taken up by His Majesty's Government. He seemed to regard the matter as so much settled that it was hardly worth while for him to give us any arguments in its favour.
As we have not been favoured with any arguments in support of the proposal in the Bill, may I be permitted to give one or two arguments against it? I understood the Lord Chancellor to say that it was a most reasonable thing that the Speaker of the House of Commons should be asked to exercise these functions because they were more or less strictly analogous to those which he at present discharges in the House of Commons. Speaking as an old House of Commons man—and there are many in this House—I say that there is really the widest difference between the two. At the present moment the Speaker of the House of Commons has, roughly speaking, to discharge two sets of duties. In the first place, he is the custodian of the Rules and the order of the House of Commons. As such he does not utter obiter dicta. He is largely guided by the volume of precedents; to that he adds, no doubt, from time to time; but, broadly speaking, those are functions confined entirely to the business and order of the House of Commons. Then he has a second function to perform as the custodian of the privileges of the House of Commons. It is for him to say, when Bills go down from this House or when Amendments are introduced by this House, whether in his judgment those Bills or Amendments violate the privileges of the House of Commons as he conceives them to be. But when he makes that pronouncement it is common knowledge that he commits nobody beyond the House to which his pronouncement is addressed. He is laying down the law for the House of Commons. He is not laying down the law 1061 for the House of Lords; and has it not happened over and over again within the last fifty years that the version of privilege which has been given by the Speaker in the House of Commons, binding though it may be upon that Chamber, has been repudiated by us—that we have expressed our dissent from it? We may not have contested the point, but we at any rate have not accepted it. Also should not this be borne in mind, that there has always hitherto remained in the hands of the House of Lords the power in the last resort, if they disagreed with what happened in the House of Commons, to adhere to their own Amendments and throw out the Bill? That makes the whole difference in the situation.
What are you going to do now? You are going to place upon this great official duties no longer confined to the interpretation of the privileges or to the enforcement of order in the House of Commons. You are going to make him decide political issues of the greatest importance. You are going to empower him to say not merely whether a Bill is or is not a Money Bill—that might seem to be a question on which he was well qualified to pronounce—but also to say whether a Bill, if he pronounces it to be a Money Bill, shall be brought before the House of Lords with no power of amendment whatsoever; or, if he pronounces it not to be a Money Bill, shall go through a course of two years' dispute in the two Houses of Parliament. In other words it is proposed to put it in the hands of the principal officer of the House of Commons to say whether a measure introduced by the Government is to be carried into law in a single session or shall be protracted over two or three years. Those are entirely novel functions, which raise grave issues of politics, and which it will be most undesirable to ask the Speaker to perform. The Speaker surely is not appointed for functions of that description. The Speaker is selected partly because of his high character, partly because of his dignified manners, partly because of his regard for the privileges of the House of Commons, and most of all because he is not a politician or a partisan. I know of no case in modern times in which a strong partisan has been selected for the office of Speaker. Yet in future the Government are going to call on him to discharge these difficult 1062 political duties which must almost inevitably throw him into that category.
Much has been said about the great character which has been built up by recent occupants of the Speaker's Chair. No doubt in the last forty or fifty years the authority and prestige of that Chair have increased. There is now sitting in this House the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, whose manner of conducting the business of the House of Commons from the Chair is a memory which all of us who sat under him will for ever cherish. A more dignified or more noble exhibition of dignity and impartiality in the discharge of a Speaker's duties it is impossible for any man to imagine, and that high character has been carried on by his successors. But it does not follow that it will be eternal. In the future one might conceivably have a Speaker suddenly called upon to decide these momentous points in the early days of office before he had years and authority behind him; or there might be a weak Speaker, who bore in mind that Parliament was likely soon to come to an end, and that his own re-election would depend on the votes of those who sat before him. There might even conceivably be a partisan Speaker. Would it not be a danger to hand over to him the great authority contemplated under the Bill? I agree that the impartiality and prestige of the Speaker's Chair are one of the great assets of the nation. Speakers of the House of Commons were once partisan, but they have ceased to be so in this country, while corresponding officers have remained partisan in other countries. I hope nothing will be done to impair the great authority which we have so laboriously and successfully built up.
Before I pass on to the question of the Committee, there is one other point I should like to take about the Speaker as Chairman of a Committee. It may be said—I am not certain it was not hinted at—that if you appoint a Committee and then put your Speaker as Chairman of the Committee, you are practically calling upon him to perform the same or similar duties to those which the Government themselves propose to place upon him. That remark is greeted with applause by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. Is there really any analogy between the two cases? There is a great difference between calling upon the Speaker alone, in private, 1063 without any consultation so far as one knows with other authorities, to decide these difficult questions, and providing him with a Committee drawn impartially from the two Houses of Parliament and composed, as I am certain it would be, of the best men in both Houses. I do not believe such a Committee would be animated by partisan feeling. In these questions I think some people are inclined to take too low a view of human nature. I believe if you have a Committee of this description appointed by Statesmen who hold the position of the noble and learned Lord in this House and the Speaker in the House of Commons you will get a body of men animated with the sincerest desire to give their decision impartially and without regard to the interests of the Party to which they belong. And if you did get such a body as that, am I to be told that it is not to the advantage of the Speaker to hear their deliberations before a decision is arrived at? Am I to be told that it would not be a great advantage to them to have the Speaker in the Chair and to listen to his advice? Am I to be told that there is any analogy between the two cases of the Speaker deciding alone and the Speaker assisted by such a tribunal as that proposed by the noble Earl?
Then I may pass on—and I can only assume I am in order, otherwise the speakers before me were equally out of order—to deal with the points that have been made against this Committee. The noble Viscount, Lord Haldane, said that the principle of such a Committee would be wholly new. No doubt the application of the principle is new because the situation is new. You have a Government introducing revolutionary proposals. How can you possibly hope to deal with those proposals or cope with them by ordinary measures? Our plans have to be adjusted to their proposals. If that answer is thought, as it seems to be, quite inadequate, is it not fair to point out that the principle of conference between members of the two Houses of Parliament is one to which noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite have frequently signified their adhesion during the last year or two, and one which figured prominently in the proposals of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman for dealing with the Constitutional situation and was alluded to pointedly and with great approbation by the noble Earl, Lord Crewe, last year? It was contemplated
Lord Curzon of Kedleston.
1064 that if there was a disagreement between the two Houses over a Bill it might be settled by a Conference between a small number of members of both Houses. I cannot, therefore, see anything startling in making such a body the arbiter on the question of Money Bills.
Then the noble Viscount went on to say that the existence of such a Committee would give great powers to this House. I confess I did not understand that objection. In what way does it add to the powers of this House? As I understand, it is proposed that the composition of the Committee shall be, half and half, from members of the two Houses of Parliament seven of one and the same number of the other, with the Speaker in the chair. In other words, the members of this House would never be in a majority, and in the case of a division between them and the Speaker voting they might be overruled. But it is most unreasonable to suppose that members of the House of Lords will all vote as House of Lords men, and that, on the other hand, House of Commons men will vote as House of Commons men. Surely we may presume to think that they will vote as sensible men and as patriots. I fail to see the situation which the noble Viscount predicates, that the presence on this Committee of a certain number of members from this House would add to the power or authority of this House. I may, of course, have quite failed to understand his argument, and it may, perhaps, be put before us later on; but I am unable to see that the members of the Committee belonging to this House will give any more to this House of Parliament than the corresponding members of the Committee from the House of Commons will give to the other House of Parliament.
In the course of his remarks upon that point the noble Viscount made one admission for which I think we ought to be grateful. He said that there is hardly a Finance Bill which comes up to this House that does not involve some question of general policy. My Lords, that is the whole of our contention. It is because finance is so inextricably interwoven with these other questions that we want some impartial tribunal to decide this matter in the first place, and are not willing to leave it to the arbitrament of a single man. Then there was one small point made by the noble Viscount which again I did not quite understand. He seemed to 1065 contemplate that the existence of this Committee would paralyse the conduct of business in the House of Commons, that there would constantly be occasions arising in which the Speaker would, so to speak, have to leave the Chair and run away to a room in the background, collect his Committee together, and find out what they thought. Surely we do not contemplate anything so absurd as that. I understand the noble Earl proposes that this Committee should be set up at the beginning of the session and that it should deal at a preliminary stage with the Bills that it is contemplated by the Government to introduce.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
That was a provision as to which I did not make any remarks, but I attach great importance to it. I do not propose to have the Committee appointed ad hoc when a particular question arises, but to have it appointed at the beginning of the session before they know what questions they will have to decide. The point is one of great importance.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Yes, and not only would they be appointed at the beginning of the session, but surely their work would be done at the beginning of the session. It is not a case in which they would be suddenly summoned.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
How could it be done at the beginning of the session? There is no Money Bill ever passed then.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I mean when the Money Bill is first brought forward by His Majesty's Government.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I referred to Amendments, and I asked how this Committee was to deal with Amendments arising in the course of Bills.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
The Committee is surely not called upon to decide as the Amendments are introduced. The Committee has the Bill before it when the Amendments have been put into it, and then it decides the question. I think my point is a correct one.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
Amendments are constantly arising in the course of Bills, and the question is what is their character. The difficulty is to give a 1066 ruling on that on the spot; otherwise the Bills cannot proceed. The Speaker may negative them or allow them, and how is that to be done by the Speaker without prejudicing his functions as the head of this tribunal?
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I assume that the Speaker will discharge on those occasions exactly the same functions as he performs at the present moment. I do not conceive that those are the cases which the Committee will be called upon to assist him in deciding. It is rather difficult to carry on this discussion across the Table, and I have no doubt other speakers, and the noble Earl himself, will be prepared to elaborate it later on. Starting with the question of the Speaker, I hope I have not unduly deviated into the other branches of the discussion which were taken up by noble Lords opposite. All I will say, in conclusion, is that we shall have opportunities of discussing this Committee later on when the larger and wider functions proposed to be attached to it will come under consideration. But do let this House pause before it accepts the advice of His Majesty's Government and decides to impose upon the Speaker of the House of Commons functions foreign to his office, functions entirely different from those which he has hitherto been called upon to discharge, and functions which must, if thrust upon him, bring his office into disrepute and impair the great position which a series of renowned Speakers have built up.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
My Lords, I need not say that I entirely subscribe to the noble Lord's panegyric to a great Speaker under whom both he and I had the honour of serving, and I entirely agree with what he has said as to the character of past Speakers and the character which we may expect future Speakers to maintain. We are asked what attitude we really take with regard to the advantage of the Speaker of the House of Commons being the deciding authority upon the point whether a Bill is or is not a Money Bill. If noble Lords opposite can persuade us that there is any better plan of erecting a deciding authority I can promise that we will listen to it. But this at all events is certain, that nothing will induce the Government to assent to this Joint Committee. And why? Lord Cromer very naturally said that his proposal affects not only Clause 1 but Clause 2, and is deeply 1067 involved also with the Amendment which stands on the Paper in the name of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition. On that we shall have a great deal to say, and so will noble Lords in every part of the House, when we come to it, because I think we apprehend that if that Amendment in its present form is maintained anything like a possible agreement between us on these Benches and noble Lords opposite vanishes.
As to the Committee proposed by my noble friend, does the House realise how that Committee would be composed? It is to be composed of seven members of this House, seven members of the House of Commons, and the Speaker, who is only to have a casting vote. They are to be men chosen by the Lord Chancellor and by the Speaker—men of impartial mind. Whether those are the exact words or not, we know what is meant. That sounds very easy, and I cordially agree with the noble Lord in thinking that we do habitually assume that the character of noble Lords here and of members of the House of Commons is lower than it really is, and that they will abandon themselves to purely Party or even factious purposes with a culpable facility and readiness. But, nevertheless, when you get a large body of fifteen gentlemen I do not believe it is possible, taking a high view of the character of public men in both Houses, to divest such a body entirely of Party considerations. Supposing my noble and learned friend in this House were to choose seven noble Lords to decide upon an issue of this kind—to decide whether a Bill is or is not a purely financial Bill, or whether it does not involve all kinds of social and ulterior considerations—I do not believe, speaking candidly, that we should assume it was quite easy for my noble and learned friend to be certain that he would find seven men who would, when it came to a critical point—say the Budget—divest themselves entirely of Party considerations. He might, of course, look to the Cross Benches, but I am not at all sure that he would find such men even in that latitude. Now look at the House of Commons. Men are sent there as politicians. They are not sent there to meditate upon human affairs at large; they are sent there as Party men, and what is commonly meant by this choice of men of broad minds and flexible convictions, and so forth, is that you will have the seven men chosen from the House of Commons either cranks or Party nobodies. I submit that it would be
Viscount Morley of Blackburn.
1068 exceedingly difficult to constitute a fair and impartial tribunal in the nature of a Joint Committee with the object of deciding political questions, because the effect of that decision is a political and Party effect.
Some language used by the noble Lord opposite just now, and by a noble Lord previously, implies that this Joint Committee is simply to advise the Speaker, who would advise the House of Commons. It is not merely that. The Joint Committee is to decide and to impose upon both Houses its own view of the question submitted to it. That is a very serious thing. You want something much more than fourteen meditative minds, and you certainly will not get fourteen meditative minds. You will get fourteen upright men, straight men, and careful men, but they will be essentially politicians. What are they to do? What is the real object of the Joint Committee. To construe the definition of a Money Bill given in the first clause of the Bill under discussion. It is no good talking in this high vein about impartial men. In one sense it would be wise to have a Court of law as the tribunal. But you do not want men to construe this defining clause from the technical and strict view of a Court of law; you want men well acquainted with Parliamentary practice and usage, men of Parliamentary habits of mind. I can imagine there being added—I hope the Committee will not think that I am for a moment recommending it—one or two men of special and almost technical acquaintance with the practice and custom in respect of Money Bills. That might or might not be an advantage. I myself do not believe that the Speaker would have any more important decisions to make than he has to make at present. The noble Lord obviously foresaw one of the answers that would be made to his argument. He said how unfair and disadvantageous it was to throw on the Speaker alone this invidious duty which the Bill proposes that he should discharge. I submit that it would be far more invidious for him to go against the seven men whom he had himself put on the Joint Committee—at all events, it would be just as invidious for him to go against the views and wishes of those seven men as under the provisions of the Bill—
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Why are we to assume that the seven men will be all united? It is exactly that against which I protest. Why are we to assume 1069 that the seven men of the House of Commons will be united and that the seven men of the House of Lords will be united?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I am rather astonished that the noble Lord puts that point. He knows very well, with his immense experience of the House of Commons and his considerable experience of this House, that supposing a Chancellor of the Exchequer brings in a Budget which is palatable to his own Party it is probable that out of the seven men of the House of Commons four or five of them will represent the Government view. You could not get seven whose minds were entirely empty, and they would not be worth very much if you could. The probability, almost the certainty, is that five of the seven from the House of Commons would go one way, and you are putting the Speaker in a tremendously invidious position if you tell him to overrule those men. Surely we have had in the last few months in this House evidence enough that men go with their Party, and of course these fourteen men, or most of them at all events, would go with their Party, and I for one should respect them the more for it. Now there is one remarkable feature in my noble friend's proposal. This Joint Committee is to be set to work either at the request of a Minister of the Crown or by a Resolution of either House of Parliament. I think I am right in that.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I cannot for the life of me make out why on earth a Minister of the Crown should request the Joint Committee to set to work to find out whether his Bill is or is not in order. I cannot understand it. The Minister has his majority in the House of Commons, or else he would not be a Minister. He brings in his Bill, and he is supported by that majority or else he would have to give up his office. What is the sense, then, of allowing him to move the Joint Committee? Perhaps my noble friend will explain that, but it puzzles me enormously. It leads me to suspect that my noble friend—and I say so, as he knows, with profound respect—has not quite thought out all that his proposals involve, or else he would not have put in a proviso of that kind.
Do remember—and it is almost the only other observation with which I will trouble 1070 the Committee—that Clause 1 is a clause which does nothing but put into legal form, according to the best judgment and knowledge that we have been able to procure, what has been the custom and practice of an indefinitely long number of years. We do not want a Joint Committee to determine matters of that kind. The Speaker decides now questions more important than can arise upon the construction of the definition of a Money Bill, and on that ground, at this stage at all events, we must adhere to the placing of this authority in the hands of the Speaker, who by his office, his history, and his experience is better acquainted with what the custom and practice has been than this Joint Committee, as to which I am afraid. I shall have to say a great deal more before we get to the end of the Bill. In the meantime we cannot accept the Amendment.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, the argument of the noble Viscount who has last spoken amounts practically to this, that the Speaker of the House of Commons is the only person who can be trusted to deal impartially with questions that may arise as to whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not. Very likely the present Speaker of the House of Commons or any of his predecessors would have been more capable of dealing with such questions than any possible tribunal that could be imagined, but, if we may judge at all by what has happened elsewhere, the giving to a Speaker of great political powers has a remarkable effect upon his position and upon the attitude he assumes. I have been looking at what has happened in America, according to Mr. James Bryce in his well-known book on "The American Commonwealth." He says there that the Speaker of the House of Representatives in his title and attributes is taken from the English original, but the character of the office has greatly altered from that of the original. He has immense political power. It is not necessary for me to amplify what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Curzon, as to the great political power which would be given to the Speaker by the proposals of the Bill we are discussing. It would lie with him to decide whether any Bill was to be debated and decided on exclusively by the House of Commons, or whether it was to be subject to prolonged discussion in this House and outside. Mr. Bryce, in a very few words, draws a striking contrast between the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The note of the Speaker 1071 of the House of Commons, Mr. Bryce further pointed out, is impartiality; custom as strong as law forbids him to render help to his own side even by private advice; it makes little difference to any English Party whether the occupant of the Chair comes from their own side or not. But of the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States Mr. Bryce says that he may, and does, advise the leaders of his Party privately; that he is expected to serve his Party in all possible directions; that a "certain measure" of fairness to his opponents is required of him, and that he must not palpably exercise the rules of the House to their disadvantage though he may decide all doubtful points against them. That official, as regards his title and attributes, and, I believe, his original functions, was modelled, we are told, on the English original. The change I have mentioned has been brought about by giving him immense political power, and I do not think anybody can argue that the Bill we are discussing does not give immense political power to the Speaker of the House of Commons.
§ LORD MARCHAMLEY
My Lords, I only desire to say one word on one particular point. I cannot help thinking that the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl is a step in the wrong direction, and a very dangerous step. The danger will, I think, be apparent when it comes to the constitution of the so-called Joint Committee. The Bill proposes that in all cases the decision as to whether a Bill is or is not a Money Bill should be in the hands of the Speaker—that he should be the sole arbiter. I have the greatest possible respect for the judgment and the impartiality of the Speaker, a respect which has been shared by every speaker throughout this debate. I do not think it is in any way his wish, nor is it to his advantage—and I have had some experience in these matters—to aggravate or increase difficulties between the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It is rather his business, if possible, to smooth difficulties away. Such matters are questions of the most anxious consideration and deliberation by the Speaker. It is not as if he acted, as some suggest, if I may so describe it, "off his own bat." He refers to precedents, consults with his Clerk, and with his legal advisers in the House of Commons, and he never comes to a decision without the matter having first been well thought out. Some noble Lords seem to regard the
1072 Speaker as a hot-headed youth who rushes in and gives ill-considered decisions. Nothing of the sort. He desires to be absolutely impartial and to act in a strictly fair and unbiassed way.
What is the alternative proposed by the noble Earl—an alternative which I may say deals not with the question of Money Bills alone; it is one that is going to be developed, if we may judge by the Amendments on the Paper in the name of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition. The noble Earl proposes a Joint Committee which is bound, in my judgment, to be a political Committee and to assume the political aspect of the Government of the day. The noble Lord says that surely it ought not to be impossible to get seven impartial men in the House of Commons and the same number in the House of Lords. The noble Lord has greater faith in human nature than I have. He thinks that everything is for the best; that all men are good and true, and honest, unbiassed, and impartial, and that they will do their duty. The noble Lord has been in India lately and it may be so there, but it is not so in the House of Commons. Just see how this Joint Committee is going to be selected. There is to be a delegation of seven Members from the House of Commons chosen by the Speaker or by the Whips. All these Committees are bound to be chosen and selected in proportion to the representation of the Parties in the House of Commons. Whether they are selected by the Whips or by the Speaker they are bound to give a majority to the Government of the day, and I suppose the representation would probably be: the Government four; the Opposition, two; and the Irish, one. Then we come to the seven noble Lords appointed by the Lord Chancellor in this House. Consider the invidious and painful task you are putting upon the Lord Chancellor. It is one that he cannot carry out to the satisfaction of both sides of the House. Supposing the Lord Chancellor says, "I recognise there is bound to be a majority in the House of Commons delegation of one in favour of the Government, and I will neutralise that by appointing four of the Opposition and three of the Government." How could he either neutralise that or accord to the Opposition the majority vote in that Committee? He could not do so. Unlike the Speaker in the House of Commons he 1073 is a politician and a Party man, and he would be bound to consider the complexion of that Committee. He could not appoint a delegation from this House that would give the control of that Joint Committee to members of the Opposition. He would neutralise all the desires of his own Party if he did. I am certain that the Lord Chancellor would do his duty, but at any rate he would be in a dangerous and invidious position and one which no Lord Chancellor would desire to be in.
To sum up, you have at the present time in the Speaker an arbiter with whom every noble Lord who has spoken to-night has expressed himself satisfied. It has not been even hinted that the Speaker would not act fairly in these matters. Instead of him you are proposing to set up what is bound to be a political Committee—the Whips would endeavour to make it a political Committee. It will not only be Money Bills that will be referred to it, for, if you read one of the Amendments in the name of the noble Marquess, a vast variety of topics, embracing almost every subject that comes before the House of Commons, will have to be so submitted. The suggestion of the noble Earl is, in my opinion, a mistake. I feel sure that if noble Lords carry the Amendment they will do wrong, and will make this Committee a battle-ground for politicians in the future. It would, I think, be better to leave the decision in the hands of the Speaker of the House of Commons, as the Bill proposes.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, there is a well known saying that no one makes such a good keeper as an old poacher. To-night the noble Lord who has just spoken, and spoken with the authority of a late Chief Whip, tells us that there are not to be found in the House of Commons seven impartial men. He made some other remarks about this House, though his acquaintance with this House is not so great as his acquaintance with the House of Commons. But I was very much surprised when the noble Viscount who leads the House said very much the same thing. He said that House of Commons men are Party men, and are sent there for that purpose, with the exception of a few cranks. He further asked, How could the Speaker vote against his seven men?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I only said it would be more invidious than anything he has to do now.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
The noble Viscount asks, How can the Speaker incur this invidious task of voting against his seven men? The Speaker, being an upright man, will vote against those seven men if they are wrong just as readily as he will vote against the other seven. Then we were told that we interfered with the Speaker in his present duties. The noble Viscount, Lord Haldane, said that. How do we interfere with the Speaker in his present; duties? So far as the House of Commons is concerned, I presume the Speaker will continue to act in that House as he does now. He has at the present time questions of order and so on to settle. Why is he not to continue to decide those questions just as he does now?
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
He has to rule on Amendments arising on these very points, and thereby would prejudice his judgment as statutory head of the Joint Committee.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
So long as he is dealing with the Bill in the House of Commons he has a perfect right to exercise, and I presume he would continue to exercise, his judgment, and deliver his judgment in any way that he saw fit.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
The Bill is not before the Joint Committee at that time. That is exactly what the noble Viscount forgets. The Bill will come before the Committee at a later stage, and if the Speaker has formed his judgment I presume that he will vote according to the way in which he has formed his judgment. I know a little more of this House than I do of the other, but if you cannot find seven independent men in the House of Commons I am quite convinced the Lord Chancellor will have no difficulty whatever is finding seven impartial men in this House. Anyone who has any knowledge of this House knows perfectly well that when men are picked out in this House, whether it be as Chairmen or in any other capacity, and are told that they have to put aside their personal predilections 1075 and give a judicial opinion—anyone who has any knowledge of this House knows that there are a great many men here, and I believe on both sides, who are quite able to perform that duty.
I cannot see how the Speaker' position will be prejudiced in any way. You say you are only giving to him duties which he discharges at the present time. Is the Speaker at the present time called upon to decide questions of tacking? The questions which he will be called upon to decide are new questions to him altogether. Hitherto the Speaker has been occupied with questions relating to the House of Commons only, and now you are going to put him upon the entirely new duty of deciding questions which concern the relations of the two Houses. I know if I were Speaker I should be most grateful to have the assistance and advice of, and to take counsel with, fourteen men chosen from the two Houses. Remember you are not proposing to give the Speaker any advice to assist him. He will be called upon, as has been already stated, to decide without any outside assistance and according to his own unaided judgment. I cannot conceive that the Speaker, possessing a vote and at the head of fourteen men, seven of whom were chosen from his own House, would not then find himself in a much more easy position and one in which he would be much more able to perform his duty than if he were called upon to decide this question alone and in private.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I think everyone must see the extraordinary difficulties we get into—I say this with great respect—the moment we begin to depart from the integrity of the Constitution. Noble Lords opposite need not think that, having said that, I am going to support their proposal, because in my opinion their proposal is a great deal worse than the proposal which is put forward from the Cross Benches. I shall reserve the remarks I have to make with regard to this Joint Committee till a later stage, because I learn from the Amendments on the Paper that it is proposed that this Committee shall not only apply itself to finance—and I can conceive a Constitutional body which might be able to adjudicate on what was finance and what was not finance being set up with a certain amount of advantage—but to the consideration of a variety of other matters, and that almost
The Earl of Camperdown.
1076 any Bill which comes to your Lordships' House will have first of all to run the gauntlet of this Committee.
It is very refreshing to notice that during the whole of this debate, with the exception of Lord Marchamley, not a single Peer on the Back Benches opposite has got up to defend this proposal on the part of their own leaders that the Speaker of the House of Commons should be placed in this exceedingly invidious position. We must have listened with delight to the erudition which Lord Fortescue brought to bear on this extremely important subject, from which it appears that the Speaker in another Assembly has become in effect, as the Speaker is bound to become here if the Government's proposal is persisted in, the dominant wire-puller of the Party in power. We have a Speaker now in whom we all have the most profound confidence. That is a line that the adherents of this proposal always take when they are defending it, but it must be repeated for the thousandth time that the present occupant of the Chair is not always going to occupy it, and a Speaker can conceivably be found who will meet the demands of those who put him there. Another thing to be considered is that by the proposal to pay members of the House of Commons you will be introducing a type of politician who will be much more prone to make bargains with officials and to create Speakers of the kind wanted. The proposal to pay members will bring into our public life a type of politician who will be less scrupulous than the friends of Lord Marchamley whom he described just now, I have no doubt in perfectly suitable terms.
Some noble Lord suggested that it was unfair to assume that you could not find seven impartial men in the House of Commons. Whoever made that remark said, I believe, nothing more than was absolutely true, because all the best men in both Houses of Parliament—with every apology to noble Lords who sit on the Cross Benches—are those who take an active part in Party politics in this country; and whatever may be said with regard to the House of Lords, there is no doubt whatever that, in the condition things have got into now, there is no political hope whatever for anybody in the House of Commons unless he is a very pronounced Party politician. I should not at all mind seeing finance Bills of the character of the 1077 Chancellor of the Exchequer's referred to seven gentlemen who hold views such as Mr. Harold Cox does. I believe we should be perfectly safe in his hands. Mr. Harold Cox spoke against the Budget of 1909 every time he had an opportunity of saying anything in the House of Commons, but I also notice that he went into the Lobby with the Government, so far as I could follow his movements, as often as he possibly could. But on account of the non-Party character of Mr. Harold Cox's career there is no place for him in public life at the present day, and there is no morn in the House of Commons under our Party system for anybody who is not a rabid Party politician.
My Lords, I am going to support this proposal for a Joint Committee to adjudicate upon the question whether a Bill is a finance Bill or whether it is not, but I give no pledge now as to whether I am going to support it as applied to other Bills. I for my part am not much in love with the idea that what used to be the functions and privileges of this House should be usurped—I do not mean it in an offensive sense—or handed over to some other body constituted in any way whatever. Human nature is, after all, human nature, and I am afraid that sometimes I am rather inclined to take a higher view of human nature when it agrees with what I wish it to agree with than when it does not. It is quite easy to conceive in future a Committee which might possibly, when you have a complaisant Speaker and a Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords also a partisan—I do not mean the present Lord Chancellor, but some successor—consist all of Conservatives, or all of Liberals. I have risen for the purpose of entering a protest against this proposal to place the Speaker in a position which he ought never to be placed in, and never will be placed in if we can possibly help it. I shall support the alternative proposal, although I do so with a certain amount of misgiving, and I must not be taken as supporting the proposal of this Committee as applied to subjects other than finance.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
My Lords, the few remarks I ask leave to address to your Lordships on this question I will confine entirely to the operation of the Amendment before the House in relation to the first clause. I think a good deal may be said as to the distinction between the action of the proposed Committee in reference to finance Bills and in reference to 1078 general legislation. I do not wish at all to prejudge what may be considered proper in respect to general legislation, but in respect to pure questions of finance I must confess, having considered this question as dispassionately as possible, I have arrived at the conclusion that the proposal of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches is totally inadmissible. I say this confessing great regret that it should be necessary to bring in the Speaker in the way proposed in the present Bill, and admitting also most fully that the argument founded upon the past reputation of Speakers is not completely convincing with respect to what may happen in the future. The quotation made by my noble friend opposite from the book of Mr. Bryce does show that Speakers can deteriorate, and although I hope that the character of the Speaker here will not deteriorate and may be strong enough, and I think will be strong enough, to withstand all the temptations involved in the present proposal, we cannot rule the point out, and if there was an alternative which could be admitted I, for one, would be quite ready to consider it and almost eager to embrace it.
Consider the proposition in the Bill as it stands. It is nothing more or less than what we have understood to be the operation of our Constitution in past years—at least up to two years ago. It is with reference to Money Bills and Money Bills alone that I am now speaking. A Money Bill we all held could not be amended, and most of us held that it could not be rejected by this House, and the question whether it was a Money Bill or not ultimately depended upon the opinion expressed to the House of Commons by Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker's opinion on that subject in reference to the Old Age Pensions Bill ruled the matter so that no Amendments inserted by your Lordships were considered; and, with regard to another question of recent occurrence, the decision of the Speaker was practically final and unquestioned that a Bill was a Money Bill and could not be amended by this House. Now if, under the guise of a Money Bill, a system of tacking had been adopted in the past, what would have been the procedure This House might have proceeded to take out the tacking clause. The Bill would then have gone back to the House of Commons, and it would have rested with the Speaker to decide whether or not that interference was an interference with the privilege of the 1079 House of Commons. The Speaker himself has been the authority up to the present upon the question of whether a Money Bill is purely a Money Bill or not, and the clause in the Bill now before us leaves that matter entirely as its stands. The vital alteration is this, that the Speaker might have decided what he liked, but your Lordships had definitely the power of rejecting the Bill in the end, and you might have done that if you had liked in respect to the Old Age Pensions Bill, but you did not. In future, if this Bill becomes law, you will have no such power, and the Speaker's decision will be final. It is that which makes the matter very grave, and it has been brought upon us unfortunately by what happened two years ago. It is necessary to decide this matter now. The country will not stand the interference which your Lordships have exercised in the past. You all recognise that.
Now what is the alternative? It is to set up a Joint Committee of fourteen, presided over by the Speaker. A good deal of language has been used as to the selection of those fourteen which does not appear to me to be in agreement with the terms of the proposal in question, Over and over again your Lordships have spoken of seven Peers being selected by the Lord Chancellor and seven Commoners being selected by the Speaker of the House of Commons. That is not the language of the proposal as it stands. The language as it stands is that the fourteen are to be selected jointly by the Speaker and the Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor will have a say theoretically as to the members of the House of Commons to be chosen, and the Speaker will have a say theoretically as to the members of the House of Lords to be chosen. Surely that is a matter that will have to be corrected before it can go any further. Then supposing the Lord Chancellor has agreed upon a certain number but not agreed as to the remainder. What is to happen? The noble Earl on the Cross Bench does not tell you. You have this Committee of fourteen to decide, under the presidency of the Speaker, as to whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not. There is this novelty, which was pointed out by my noble friend the Leader of the House, in the proposal before us, that this Committee is of superior authority to both Houses of Parliament. This Committee is to govern us. That is one of the novelties of the situation. This unprecedented Committee is to be brought into
Lord Curzon of Penwith.
1080 operation and its conclusions are to govern us altogether. Another point which I may refer to, in passing, is with regard to the position of the Lord Chancellor in having to exercise a function of this kind. Hitherto the Lord Chancellor has exercised a most noble influence in this House, but he has not in any sense had the functions of a Speaker here, and this proposal gives him new powers and new authorities totally foreign to those hitherto vested in him. You now propose to set up this Committee of fourteen, with the Speaker as the Chairman, to decide a question whether a Money Bill is a Money Bill or not, not knowing how your Committee is to be appointed, not having settled it clearly in your own mind, not knowing what the influence of the Speaker will be, and exposing the Speaker to the embarrassment pointed out by Lord Haldane, that having already taken action in respect to the Bill in the House of Commons in his individual capacity there, he will have to consider it again in reference to the Bill as it comes up here.
There is another point as to which singular divergence has been displayed. When is this Bill to be submitted to the Joint Committee? Lord Curzon spoke of the Committee being appointed at the commencement of a session, and said that when a Bill is introduced into the House of Commons it was to be submitted to this Committee. On the other hand Lord Camperdown, who always speaks after close attention to all the details of the case, spoke of it as being submitted to the Committee at the stage of its being brought up here. I should suppose that that would be the proper stage at which it should be submitted to the Committee, because then, and then only, could the final question arise as to what the possible action of this House might be. But looking at the matter on both sides, and sincerely desirous, if possible, of getting the Speaker out of this trap, and conscious that the introduction of this novel power may possibly have a deteriorating influence on the character of Speakers in future, I confess I fall back reluctantly to the conclusion that the scheme of the Bill is the only scheme possible with respect to Money Bills, and that the proposal of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches—I say it with all respect—is totally inadmissible.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I was rather glad when I heard my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke say 1081 a few minutes ago that though he intended to support this Amendment he did not regard the vote he was about to give as in any way prejudicing Ids decision in regard to an Amendment standing in my name. In two of the speeches delivered from the Bench opposite reference was made to that Amendment, and I think I may say that a certain amount of prejudice was brought against the Amendment of my noble friend on the ground that the Committee which he contemplates would, under my Amendment, have other and more extensive duties imposed upon it. This Amendment has, however, nothing to do with my Amendment. We are at this moment voting on the Amendment of my noble friend, Lord Cromer. We on this Bench shall certainly support it, for we attach the greatest importance to it. It seems to us to be one of the most vital Amendments to this Bill. The question of the tribunal which is to decide whether a Bill is or is not to be withdrawn from the cognisance of this House is most import ant. The definition of a Money Bill, I do not care whether you take the definition contained in the Bill as it now stands or any other definition which may be suggested, must necessarily be to a certain extent vague and undefined, and everything to my mind depends on the weight and authority and confidence to be reposed in the tribunal by which that definition will be interpreted.
The Amendment raises two questions. Are you to have for your tribunal the Speaker without any aid or assistance whatever? If you are not to have the Speaker unassisted, what tribunal are you going to adopt in his place? Let me say frankly that I should have been very glad indeed if His Majesty's Government had seen their way to keep the Speaker out of this clause altogether. I am not going to travel over the ground covered by my noble friends, but I think they must have satisfied the House that whatever respect we may have for the present Speaker, or for his illustrious predecessors, however deeply we may be convinced that they have been successful in maintaining an attitude of impartiality between the two Parties in the House of Commons, no Speaker of the House of Commons can really be wholly impartial as between the two Houses of Parliament. The business of the Speaker is to claim for his own House everything which he thinks the practice of Parliament permits him 1082 to claim, and it is undoubtedly the case that in recent years that claim has been pressed with much greater insistence and pertinacity than in former times. In our view it is unfair to the Speaker himself and unfair to both Houses of Parliament to impose this new burden on that high official.
When we remember that under this Bill the Speaker is to have this new duty imposed upon him, and that he is to discharge it without assistance, the case from our point of view becomes very much worse. So far as the House of Commons is concerned the Speaker is in close and constant touch with it, familiar with the currents of thought that prevail within it, and familiar with every item of business that comes before it. What opportunity has the Speaker of making himself aware of the feelings of this House? He has none whatever, he is completely cut off from us, and therefore in our view it is absolutely necessary that he should be assisted by persons competent to assist him. The suggestion that that assistance should be given by an impartially constituted Joint Committee seems to us to meet the necessities of the case better than any other suggestion that has yet been made. What more reasonable can be suggested? We understood the noble Viscount to express a kind of general readiness to consider whether some other tribunal might not be discovered, but the noble Viscount went on to say that our proposal was one which nothing on earth would induce His Majesty's Government to accept.
If you are to exclude a Committee, what else is there to fall back upon? I venture to attach great importance to this Committee; and for this reason. It seems to me that the Committee would establish, what is very much wanted, a bond of more intimate contact than anything we have got at present between the two Houses of Parliament. To my mind the greater part of our inter-House troubles arises from the fact that we have no such point of contact. Some of us have had experience of those hurried conferences which take place in the last days of the session in regard to contested measures, and know how unsatisfactory those conferences are. We want something better than that. Our troubles have arisen because the two Houses in the past have been too much in the habit of holding one another at arm's length. The noble Viscount told us that the proposal 1083 of a Joint Committee was one wholly foreign to our Constitution, or words to that effect. My noble friend Lord Curzon pointed out that in principle there was a certain amount of similarity between this proposal and the proposal of conferences between the two Houses which formed a conspicuous part of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's proposals. Another proposal is that there should be Joint Sittings of the two Houses. The Joint Committee now proposed is conceived in the same spirit. I believe that by setting up some machinery of this kind we should add a most valuable element to our Constitutional system. As to the constitution of the Committee, the number of members and mode of selection, I understood my noble friend to say that his mind was open as to these details. I can quite conceive that someone may be able to invent a better mode of composing the Committee, or a number which would work better between the two Houses; but what we care about is the principle of the thing. Amend the proposal if you can, but we desire that something in the shape of this Committee should be added to the machinery of this Bill. I must say that I have not been in the least intimidated by the gloomy prognostications we have heard from noble Lords opposite as to the hopeless difficulty which would be encountered in forming a body of fourteen honest men drawn from the two Houses. As usual on these occasions we had an illuminating speech from the noble Lord on the Back Bench, once Chief Whip of the House of Commons, who not for the first time has thrown light upon the manner in which business is transacted in the Whip's room elsewhere. But, my Lords, although we must accept the noble Lord as a high authority upon House of Commons matters, I venture to express my confident hope that when he knows us a little better he will be of opinion that we could provide seven members of a Committee of this kind, chosen impartially, and so chosen that every one of them would be able to contribute usefully to the deliberations of such a Committee as this. My Lords, I have said all that I desire to say at this time of the evening. I presume we shall now proceed to a Division, and I for one shall very gladly give my vote to the proposal of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, before your
The Marquess of Lansdowne.
1084 Lordships go to a Division, I desire to say a few words, and they shall be very few. I confess to considerable disappointment at the result of to-night's discussion, first because of the hope which I had understood the noble Viscount to hold out to us of not merely a friendly hearing, but of what he described, I think, as a full discussion of the Amendments that were proposed. With an honest desire to agree if I possibly could with the noble Viscount's case and with the Bill as it stands, I have, literally, heard no arguments, I was going to say worthy of the name—I do not mean it disrespectfully—but worthy in point of adequacy, brought forward in answer to the objections to the sole arbitrament of the Speaker in this matter. I held myself perfectly open to conviction on that very difficult question, but I have had no opportunity of being convinced, because the arguments have been very far short of dealing adequately with what is obviously a most grave and serious question.
In the next place I am deeply disappointed to hear the opinion that is held, not in one part of the House only but in many, as to the difficulty of finding men who for this purpose would be impartial in dealing with such a matter. Surely, my Lords, there is a good deal of something more than misunderstanding as to the use of the word "impartial" in this particular matter. What is it that these men who are here suggested have to decide? It is not primarily a Party question at all. It is this—"Is there, or is there not, within the four corners of this document something that covers such and such a branch of legislation." I entirely decline to believe that there would be any difficulty in either House of Parliament in finding men able to state that, which is not primarily a Party question at all. I should be sorry to believe that it is impossible to find in either House seven men who would be perfectly able to decide such a question. Then the noble Viscount Lord Morley said that the men selected would vote for their Party, and that he would respect them the more for doing so. I am totally at a loss to know what voting for the Party means when the question is a question whether there is or is not within the four corners of a Bill something which is not a money question; and how I should respect a man more because he voted with his Party on such a subject I fail to understand.
1085 While I am perfectly ready to be convinced by argument that the sole authority of the Speaker is the best arbitrament, I feel at present that we really have had no substantial argument to prove that to be right. The very name of that great officer means, if I understand it rightly, that he is the spokesman and the representative of the House of Commons, and if indirectly rather than directly a Party question between the two Houses must necessarily be raised, it seems to me that the Speaker, the definition of whose duties in the little Dodd which lies on the Table and which I have consulted is, in the forefront, to uphold the privileges of the House of Commons, is the last man almost upon whom to lay the sole arbitrament of a matter of this kind. Lord Courtney, who speaks with impartiality on these questions, expressed his desire to "get the Speaker out of this trap," and that is the kind of position I find myself in in regard to this particular proposal.
As at present enlightened, I am not greatly enamoured of the proposed Committee in all its plans and in all that lies ahead of it, and I am glad to think, if I understand the rules aright, that our first Division to-night will be on the question that the words proposed to be left out stand part. The words proposed to be left out are "the Speaker," and I am prepared to vote for leaving out those words although I confess to feeling very much less secure about putting in the words which are proposed in their place. That is a position with which one cannot rest satisfied very long, and I think there ought to be, and I hope there will be, alternative proposals before us for alleviating the gravity of the situation if the matter is left to the Speaker alone. I did feel a little hope when I heard Lord Morley say that "at the present stage" this proposal must be opposed. That led me to hope that there might be a readiness on the part of His Majesty's Government to consider other suggestions if they were made. But at present what I am personally conscious of is a lack of the constructive argument for what prima facie seems a strange proposal—that the man who is Speaker of one House of Parliament should be the arbiter when questions arise between the two Houses.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the most rev. Primate's view at present, apparently, is that he is not satisfied that the Speaker should discharge a duty which 1086 somebody must discharge, and he does not know who else ought to do it. He is asking us for a suggestion. Our suggestion is that the Speaker, if I may put it so, is the least bad instrument for an absolutely necessary work. What we are at the present moment discussing is whether the authority is to be the Speaker or a Joint Committee. Let me, very shortly, put the reasoning in favour of the Speaker. The Speaker is impartial. He is really the man who has decided hitherto, and his decision has been accepted by both Houses in the past.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I beg the noble and learned Lord's pardon. It was repudiated by a definite Resolution two years ago.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The year 1909 was not a very happy year to begin with. It seems to me all our trouble has arisen from this, that this House being above all the House which ought to be bound by custom, usage, and tradition, and not by the strict letter of the law, forgot that usages and customs, like houses, are supported by leaning one upon the other. The situation has been created. I say the Speaker is the person who has hitherto been in the habit of giving undisputed decisions on this subject. He has also this advantage, that he is in the House of Commons when a Money Bill or what is said to be a Money Bill is introduced. It conies up and he is present, and in the Report stage certainly he watches it and decides then, if necessary, and warns the House of Commons. He says "This will not be merely a Money Bill."
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Can the noble and learned Lord quote one single instance of his having done so?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am pointing out what he may be able to do under this proposal. I am not talking of the law as it is. I am referring to what may happen if this clause is inserted. I say the proper person—and I appeal to House of Commons men—in the House of Commons to warn the House by saying "This Amendment is not in order" is the Speaker. Supposing the House of Commons were warned by the Speaker that a particular Amendment would prevent a Bill being a simple Money Bill and would necessitate 1087 its transference to Section 2, the House of Commons could refuse the Amendment, and see that the measure remained purely a Money Bill. But such a procedure is not possible in the case of a Committee. I thought the noble Earl felt that to be a weak point. The Committee cannot operate until the Bill has been passed through the House of Commons. Whether the Bill is or is not one which the House of Lords is bound to accept depends upon the decision of the Committee, who have no opportunity of warning the House of Commons, and who may take a different view from what the Speaker took when he was in the House, and so disappoint and surprise everybody.
Then you have this situation. Suppose it is the Finance Bill of the year, does not that Bill contain a political purpose? My noble friend Lord Haldane said that nearly every Money Bill contained a political purpose, and the noble Lord, Lord Curzon, said the same thing. He said that nearly every Finance Bill contained political principles, and that was the reason he liked this proposal. That is so, and that is what would make nearly every financial Bill that came up amenable to the Committee, and probably, if the noble Earl is right, likely to be treated by the Committee as one to which Clause 1 of this Bill would not apply. In other words, it would dethrone the House of Commons from its hitherto acknowledged supremacy in matters of finance, and instead of things being better for the House of Commons, instead of your Lordships' powers being limited and restricted, as I thought was going to be the result of what took place two years ago with regard to the Budget, this would be an invasion of the privileges and rights of the House of Commons greater than any which has hitherto been proposed and it would really leave this House in respect to Money Bills, if the noble Earl is right, at the mercy of the decision of the Committee. What would be the position of the Government then? The House of Lords might reject the Finance Bill if they thought proper, and place the Government of the country in this position, that either they must dissolve or appeal to a Referendum. This is a proposal for a deciding Committee and not an advising Committee, and it constitutes a greater invasion of the liberties of the House of Commons and of the ancient usages that have been observed with regard to financial Bills than anything that has hitherto been proposed.
§ The Lord Chancellor.1088
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
I will only detain your Lordships for a few minutes. I should first like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Marchamley, on having thrown what is to me a very lurid and perfectly novel light upon the effect produced by long residence in the East. The noble Lord seemed to think that long residence in India and elsewhere in the East inspired people with a high ideal of human nature, and that long acquaintance with the House of Commons inspired them with a totally different feeling. Those remarks convinced me that the noble Lord was more acquainted with the affairs of the House of Commons than with affairs in the East. A good deal has been said with respect to the question of impartiality. I could not quite understand the line adopted by the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, on that subject. He began by saying that he agreed with Lord Curzon as to the possibility of finding impartial men, but he went on to observe that any man would certainly vote according to strict Party principles with the exception of some very unimportant individuals and other persons like myself, whom he designated as "cranks." Impartiality is a relative term. It is quite possible to find men who are Party men but who at the same time are not so deaf to argument as not to be convinced when convincing arguments are brought before them.
Lord Morley criticised the proposal for bringing the Committee into operation at the request of the Minister of the Crown, or by Resolution of either House of Parliament. He asked why that should be so, and I think said that I had not fully considered that point. I may tell him that that point was very fully considered and discussed by us. I quite recognise that the Minister of the Crown will not bring the Committee into operation. Why should he do so? But ex hypothesi there is a difference of opinion between the two Houses, and we therefore thought that we had done all that was necessary by allowing either House to move the Resolution. Of course, there are other ways of doing it. One method, which was a good deal discussed, was whether the Committee should not be brought into operation at the request of a certain number—say fifty—of members of the House of Commons, but on the whole we thought this was the best proposal. I think most noble Lords will agree with me that we have had a most disappointing debate after the promises 1089 given to us, and after the opening words of the noble Viscount. The noble Viscount invited us to bring forward suggestions, and said that if we could persuade him that our proposals were good ones they would be adopted. But I think the impression left upon our minds is that His Majesty's Government are open neither to conviction nor to persuasion, and I really think it is hardly worth the trouble of bringing forward any other proposals. It seems to me to be a very unfortunate result, but I think
§ that is the result. That is all I have to say, and we will now go to a Division.
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 44; Not-contents, 183.1091
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Boston, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Morley of Blackburn, V. (L. President.)||Brassey, L.||Pirrie, L.|
|Courtney of Penwith, L.||Reay, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Eversley, L.||Robson, L.|
|Farrer, L.||Rotherham, L.|
|Chesterfield, E. (L. Steward.)||Glantawe, L.||St. Davids, L.|
|Spencer, E. (L. Chamberlain.)||Glenconner, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Craven, E.||Grimthorpe, L.||Shaw, L.|
|Liverpool, E. [Teller.]||Haversham, L.||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Russell, E.||Hemphill, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Herschell, L. [Teller.]|
|Haldane, V.||Ilkeston, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Allendale, L.||MacDonnell, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Armitstead, L.||Marchamley, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Nunburnholme, L.||Willingdon, L.|
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Haddington, E.||Halifax, V.|
|Halsbury, E.||Hampden, V.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Hardwicke, E.||Hood, V.|
|Beaufort, D.||Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.)||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)|
|Bedford, D.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Portland, D.||Leven and Melville, E.||Iveagh, V.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Londesborough, E.||Llandaff, V.|
|Somerset, D.||Lovelace, E.||Peel, V.|
|Wellington, D.||Lytton, E.||Portman, V.|
|Macclesfield, E.||St. Aldwyn, V.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Malmesbury, E.|
|Ailsa, M.||Mar, E.||Bristol, L. Bp.|
|Bute, M.||Mar and Kellie, E.||Peterborough, L. Bp.|
|Exeter, M.||Mayo, E.||St. David's, L. Bp.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Morley, E.|
|Salisbury, M.||Morton, E.||Addington, L.|
|Winchester, M.||Nelson, E.||Allerton, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Pembroke and Montgomery, E.||Alverstone, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Ampthill, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Portsmouth, E.||Armstrong, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Powis, E.||Ashtown, L.|
|Bandon, E.||Radnor, E.||Atkinson, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Rothes, E.||Avebury, L.|
|Cadogan, E.||Sandwich, E.||Bagot, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Scarbrough, E.||Balinhard, L. (E. Southesk.)|
|Clarendon, E.||Selborne, E.||Barrymore, L.|
|Cromer, E.||Stanhope, E.||Basing, L.|
|Darnley, E.||Temple, E.||Bateman, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Derby, E.||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Belper, L.|
|Devon, E.||Westmeath, E.||Biddulph, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Wicklow, E.||Blythswood, L.|
|Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)|
|Eldon, E.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)|
|Fortescue, E.||Falkland, V.||Brougham and Vaux, L.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Falmouth, V.||Castlemaine, L.|
|Guilford, E.||Goschen, V.||Churston, L.|
|Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Gwydyr, L.||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Plunket, L.|
|Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Harris, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Clinton, L.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Clonbrock, L.||Heneage, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Colchester, L.||Hindlip, L.||Revelstoke, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Hylton, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Inchiquin, L.||Sackville, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, L.||Kensington, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|De Freyne, L.||Kilmaine, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|De Mauley, L.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)||Saltoun, L.|
|Deramore, L.||Knaresborough, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Desborough, L.||Langford, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Desart, L.(E. Desart.)||Lawrence, L.||Seaton, L.|
|Digby, L.||Manners, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Dinevor, L.||Massy, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Dunalley, L.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)||Sinclair, L.|
|Dunleath, L.||Monck, L. (V. Monck.)||Stanmore, L.|
|Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)||Sudeley, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Monk Bretton, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Elphinstone, L.||Monson, L.||Tennyson, L.|
|Farnham, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Farquhar, L.||Mostyn, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)||North, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Forester, L.||O'Hagan, L.||Wandsworth, L.|
|Greville, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Grey de Ruthyn, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.||Wynford, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ [The sitting was suspended at five minutes past eight o'clock and resumed at half past nine.]
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, I beg to move that the words "Joint Committee" be now inserted in place of the words "Speaker of the House of Commons" which your Lordships struck out immediately before the dinner adjournment.
Page 2, line 2, after the words "of the" insert "Joint Committee"—(The Earl of Cromer.)
My Lords, it is with the greatest diffidence that I rise to offer any remarks upon this Amendment, because having had no experience of the House of Commons I have no personal knowledge as to the practice followed by the Speaker in his consideration of what is termed a Money Clause or a Money Bill. But I listened with attention to what was said by Lord Courtney, knowing his great experience of the practices of the other House. There was a sentence in his speech which impressed me very much, and there was one in the speech of the noble Marquess which also attracted my attention. The noble Lord, Lord Courtney, said that the Speaker gave very careful attention to 1092 these questions, and consulted the Clerk to the House of Commons. Well, it seems to me that that is making what is already, from the point of view of some of us, rather objectionable, even more so, because that is merely consulting an official of the House of Commons. On a question of this kind materially affecting the House of Lords the Speaker of the House of Commons apparently consults an official of the other House. The noble Marquess said that one of the gravest objections that we have to the proposal of the Government is that this question is to be referred to the Speaker solely, without any opportunity of advice. It is upon that expression that I venture, with the greatest diffidence, to ask whether a suggestion I have to make, although I have not a resolute opinion on it myself, might not be worthy of some consideration. To put it without further argument, the suggestion is whether the same result would not in the end be secured if the Joint Committee were made an advisory Committee, instead of an executive Committee, by which I mean a Committee with the power of voting. The noble Marquess complained that the Speaker has no opportunity of getting any advice. That objection would be equally well removed by an advisory Committee, a Committee on which some members from the House of Lords would have an opportunity of advising as to the views of this House as to whether a Bill was purely a Money Bill or not.
1093 As regards the Joint Committee proposed by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, are we sure that that is going to be as impartial as he hopes? I confess that my experience of politics leads me to have some doubt on that point, and I cannot help thinking that people who attend closely to political matters do acquire Party bias. It is unavoidable, and there is a possibility—perhaps something stronger than that—that this Committee may become a purely Party Committee. It has been suggested in various quarters this evening that it is not reasonable to suppose that from both Houses of Parliament there could not be obtained impartial members who would not allow their minds to be biased by Party feelings. That may be so, but it is purely prophetic, and I do not know that my prophecy that it is possible that the Joint Committee may become as influenced by Party feelings as are ordinary politicians is not just as valuable as theirs. Were that the result, you would then arrive at practically what the position is now—that is to say, the Speaker, who would have a casting vote, would become the arbiter upon these questions. If that is the result of the Amendment of the noble Earl and the other Amendments dealing with the powers of this Committee, then you obtain a body which argues the question from a Party point of view, and the Speaker eventually decides, not from any Party feeling, but from his own experience of what has been the practice in the past. I am not sure that we should then arrive at a happier state of affairs than we should arrive at if this Committee were made purely an advisory Committee. I only throw this out as a suggestion.
It seemed to me that the idea of the Joint Committee was that the members of it should argue these questions before the Speaker, and that the object of giving him a casting vote was that, having heard the arguments on both sides, he should come to his conclusion. That seemed to me to be a reasonable proposal; but this Committee is to have very much larger powers than those merely dealing with decisions upon financial points, and. I certainly cannot pledge myself at this stage in the debate to vote for a Committee which should have powers of decision on subjects other than those of finance. I confine myself purely to the subject of finance, and upon that point I am not 1094 quite satisfied that the object that the noble Earl on the Cross Benches aims at will be secured. I am apprehensive that the Committee may become actuated or influenced by Party feeling, and that the Speaker will then decide, as he does now, from his own experience. If there is a possibility of that being the result, then I venture to ask those who have very much greater experience of these matters than I have, and whose advice I have followed all my political life, whether they are satisfied that this is the best form in which to frame this Committee. The Speaker has now been excluded from the Bill, and the proposal is to insert the words "Joint Committee." I do not know whether this is the right moment, but if my idea is a sound one possibly this would be the occasion to put in some such words as "Advisory Committee."
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. The Lord Chancellor gave us his view of the effect of this proposed Amendment. I imagine that he was assuming the other Amendments that are down on the Paper to be carried and the Joint Committee to be what is aimed at by the whole of those Amendments—a very powerful body as far as deciding a number of questions besides finance. I could not help feeling influenced by what the noble and learned Lord said—namely, that the setting up of such a Committee would be infringing very seriously upon the privileges of the House of Commons. If that is so, is it a very wise thing for us to press? Looking at it, from a purely Party and a tactical point of view, I am rather doubtful whether if we succeeded in carrying it we should have the sympathy of the country, because clearly we did not have it when we, from the House of Commons point of view, infringed their privileges over the Finance Bill. I venture with the greatest diffidence to offer these observations, having, as I said before, had no experience of the House of Commons or of the practices of the Speaker. Failing the suggestion of some better body, or some other individual, it does seem to me worthy of consideration whether the whole of the proposals concerning the formation of this Committee are not going rather too far in giving it an executive power, and whether practically the same result, and as useful a result, might not be obtained by making this a Committee more of an advisory than of an executive character.
§ LORD HYLTON
My Lords, I think that a great many noble Lords on this side of the House feel—it is one of the great complaints we have against this Bill—that the Bill puts the sole power into the hands of one Chamber, that you are creating a system of one-Chamber government. With regard to this particular clause now under discussion, not only does it appear to me that we are creating a system of one-Chamber government, but we are creating a system of one-man government. We are putting enormous powers into the hands of the individual who happens to be Speaker of the House of Commons. Like many others in this House, I sat for a short period in the House of Commons, and there is no one in this House or out of it who feels greater respect than I do for the office of the First Commoner of England, or for the gentleman who now fills that office with so much dignity. But, as has been said over and over again this afternoon, we are not discussing the character, the qualifications, the dignity, or the impartiality of the present Speaker. What we have to consider in this Bill is whether we shall give to any future Speaker these enormous and practically unlimited powers to decide whether a Bill is or is not a Money Bill.
It is a truism to say that we are travelling pretty fast at the present day. I trust noble Lords opposite will not think for a moment that I wish to say anything personally offensive, but there is hardly anybody in this House who a few years ago would have expected to hear from a gentleman in such a high position the language used on public platforms by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. We should have been surprised that any gentleman who filled such a high office should have gloried, as I think he has gloried, in rendering poorer certain classes of the community. We should have been equally surprised to find a gentleman in the position of Home Secretary using the language the present Home Secretary has used, in regard not only to Justices of the Peace, but to Judges of the High Court. And I think I could refer to other cases of gentlemen in high office who nowadays appear to have a very different standard from that which obtained formerly. Therefore what I wish to lead up to is this, that I fear we cannot expect the high standard of the present Speaker of the House of Commons and of his 1096 predecessors for so many generations always to be maintained. The Government ask us to open our mouths and swallow what they are pleased to give us in this respect. Personally I cannot think that it is right that any future Speaker of the House of Commons should be afforded the practically unlimited despotism that would be given by the Bill unless some such Amendment as that suggested by Lord Cromer is carried. The solution suggested by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches may not be the best solution possible, but I think it is at all events a happy solution, and I am prepared to go into the Lobby with the noble Earl.
There were two things in the course of the debate this afternoon that may have struck your Lordships as rather curious. From the Front Government Bench we have heard over and over again language protesting against any innovations on our part, or anything that will impair the powers and prerogatives of the Speaker. I hope the Front Government Bench will forgive me for suggesting that among their many admirable qualities a sense of humour is somewhat wanting, because to hear from the Front Government Bench denunciations of us for attempting to do things contrary to tradition in this country, breaking up old traditions, and interfering with the prerogatives of ancient officials like the Speaker of the House of Commons, does appear to me, and, I think, to many of my noble friends on this side of the House, as—may I venture to say—somewhat ludicrous. And there was another thing that struck me, and, I believe, others who sit on this side of the House. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Marchamley, indicated such a profound distrust of the character of those with whom he had been associated in the House of Commons that one felt for the moment prouder than ever of belonging to this House. I must ask your Lordships' forgiveness for making these rather desultory observations on the Amendment moved by the noble Earl, but the truth is that if the Amendment of Lord Cromer is carried—as I hope it will be—I should be debarred from moving the Amendment in my name or saying anything upon it.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, I hope the Government do not propose to allow this debate to finish without giving 1097 us a little enlightenment as to their views. Your Lordships must have been struck before the adjournment with the fact that in the case of at least three gentlemen, who generally express themselves with such moderation, those three gentlemen made up by the extremity of their language for the absence of argument. The noble Viscount, Lord Morley, told us that nothing would induce him to accept this Amendment, but he hardly tendered a single argument for its rejection. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, said that it—dethroned the House of Commons from its hitherto undoubted supremacy in finance.How can that be said? This tribunal would decide, not on the ordinary Amendments which come before the House of Commons, but on the question whether a measure is in its governing principle a financial measure. How can this be dethroning the House of Commons from its hitherto undoubted supremacy in the matter of finance?
But the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War excelled his colleagues. First of all he said there was hardly a Finance Bill which did not involve general policy. Of course there is not, but the noble Viscount who is a lawyer knows that that proves nothing as to the governing principle of a Bill. Every measure must involve general policy; but the only question the Committee would have to decide is whether the governing principle of a Bill, if it is one of general policy, ought to be passed over our heads as a matter of finance. Again, the noble Viscount conjured up, as a sort of bogey, the assembling of this Committee, I think he said, on every afternoon. I assume that perhaps once every session, and probably not once in most sessions, this Committee would be called together. To say, because there is a difficulty in the matter of forming a tribunal which now and again may discuss these subjects, that therefore we must fall back upon an obviously prejudiced tribunal such as the Speaker of one Assembly to decide matters between the two Assemblies is really a distortion of language. I use the word "prejudiced" because the Speaker is the Speaker of the House of Commons, and it is no use endowing him with all the merits in the world, and especially those of impartiality between the two 1098 Houses when he is retained by his office to protect the privileges of one House. The Government find difficulty in seeing how to produce seven impartial men, and because they cannot see that to their own liking they leave us without any guidance whatever in this critical matter—a fact which cannot be passed over without leaving a sense of injustice.
The noble Lord, Lord Curzon, pointed out that in the House of Commons the Prime Minister had said, obviously feeling that the tribunal was not satisfactory, that if some other tribunal could be suggested he would be glad to consider it. I think we have a right to some help from the Government at this moment. My noble friend Lord Harris suggested that the members of the Committee might be advisory and not executive. Though personally I do not see much outlet in that direction, at the same time I think it is a proposal which should receive some reply from the Government. If the Speaker is left the sole arbiter he can go to the House of Commons and say, "This Bill, in my opinion, is a Money Bill, and the House of Lords cannot touch it." That is a position which no Government could defend. The arguing of the matter before him would be something, but our view is that he ought to sit as one of a body, if he sits at all. It has been suggested by more than one noble Lord that it would be well if the Speaker of the House of Commons, for his own sake, were not dragged into such discussions. I believe myself, for the future of the Speakership, that that would be the most satisfactory solution of the difficulty. I do not think anything shows more than does the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, our extreme desire to meet the views of the House of Commons and to avoid that which the Lord Chancellor, in what I submit was exaggerated language, described as dethroning the House of Commons from its hitherto undoubted supremacy in finance. Nothing can prove more our desire in that direction than that we have proposed to give the Speaker the chairmanship of this important Committee.
I sat in the House of Commons as long as did the noble Viscount, Lord Haldane. I venture to say that every member of the House of Lords who has sat there—and there are many behind me— 1099 knows that the vision which the noble Viscount conjured up and which is, no doubt, to play a great part in the arguments used, that you would have this Committee constantly interfering with the Speaker, is nothing but an exaggerated picture of what would occur. I cannot imagine that on any ordinary measure the Committee could do that. In all ordinary matters the Speaker will give his decision. It may be that after a Bill has passed through Committee the Speaker might choose to assemble this Committee and submit to them the question whether or not a Bill as it stands would be regarded strictly as a Money Bill. I submit that this is a practical and reasonable proposal, and it is one to which we attach great importance. It may be possible to change this Committee, or to find something which would be a better solution of this difficulty than a Committee, which we believe could be framed impartially. But of one thing I am certain. If you leave the Speaker as the sole arbiter, you will leave a sense of injustice and dissatisfaction in, this House. Bismarck said on one occasion—Flagrant injustice is not only unlovely, but it is unstatesmanlike in politics as in private life.I do hope we shall hear something from the Government before we part front this subject.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just sat down reproaches me and my colleagues, in a kindly way, for having used violent language. All I can say is I was not conscious of it, and I certainly did not intend to use violent language. I wished to compress what I had to say into as narrow a space as possible, because the limits of time forbid me from enlarging unduly upon any proposition. If one makes it clear, one can leave it to the judgment of the House. Now we have been prevented front having the Speaker of the House of Commons as the arbitrator or umpire. Every one agrees that there must be some authority to decide. We think there is difficulty at all times in applying arbitral methods to Parliamentary proceedings. We are not blind to the fact that there may be objections to the Speaker as well as to anybody else, but we think there is, for obvious reasons, much less objection to the Speaker than to anybody else.
1100 Let me criticise what the alternative is, because it is not sufficient for any one to take up the attitude of the most rev. Primate and say that he is going to vote against the Speaker being the person when he is really unable to tell us what the person ought to be. He does not seem to be favourable either to a Committee or to anybody else. There must be somebody. Let us see what can be said about the Joint Committee. Noble Lords opposite speak as though there had not been in the past a practical supremacy—an almost uncontrolled and undivided authority in regard to matters of finance in the House of Commons. I am not going to enter upon the history of this subject, which is long and complicated, and which did not, perhaps, receive assent on the part of the House of Lords all through. But practically every one knows that in substance the House of Commons has had control over finance for generations. We have always counted upon that, and every one has counted upon it who has ever sat in the House of Commons. We know also that there was a departure made two years ago—a departure which I think was fatal and lamentable, but which has been the basis of the whole of the trouble which has now arisen.
Now what does this Bill propose to do? This Bill proposes that in regard to finance the House of Commons should retain its supremacy and its sole authority, but it must be only in regard to finance; and the real question we have to determine is whether it is a useful method that a body should say that a particular Bill that is brought forward is a Bill solely relating to finance. Let us see what the Committee has to determine. Mark, not to advise, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, suggested in a speech which was well deserving of attention, but to decide. The Amendment says that the House of Lords is to have power in regard to Money Bills exactly the same as it has in regard to any other kind of Bill—a Drainage Bill or any other—if the governing purpose of the Bill, or any portion of the Bill, is such as to bring the Bill within the category of general legislation.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am reading the Amendment in connection with 1101 the other Amendments. Is it not to the point to consider what the duties of the Joint Committee are to be?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am taking the Amendments. The Bill does not contain the Joint. Committee. I think the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, does not quite follow me, and no doubt it is my own fault. The noble Lord discussed very properly the different parts of his Amendments taken together. Let us see what the different parts of this Amendment are. He takes away the power from the Speaker. He bestows it upon a Joint Committee, and what the Joint Committee have to determine surely is material to consider. What is the question that has to be decided by this Committee consisting half of members of the House of Lords and half of members of the House of Commons? Let us suppose that a Bill has passed through the House of Commons and comes up to this House. The Joint Committee can act either on the motion of a Minister, who is certainly not likely to move in the matter, or on the motion of the House of Lords or of the House of Commons. As the Bill has passed the House of Commons, it is not likely that the Motion will be passed there. The result is that the Committee is put in motion upon a Resolution or by the request of the House of Lords, and what it has to inquire into is what is "the governing purpose of the Bill or of any portion of it," and if the Committee comes to the conclusion that it is such as to bring the Bill within the category of general legislation, then away go the whole of the privileges of the House of Commons and the Bill becomes subject to the provisions of Section 2. That is to say, it can be dealt with in the same way as any other Bill, not a Money Bill, that comes before the House of Lords. The result is perfectly obvious. If this Joint Committee should decide that in regard to any portion of the Bill, or the Bill itself, the governing purpose is such as to bring it within the category of general legislation, all the privileges of the House of Commons disappear at once. The result would be very naturally this. Take the graduated Income Tax. It may be that the Committee would say that the governing purpose of the Bill was to tax rich people as against poor, and that it was a political subject.
1102 Take the case of Tariff Reform. They might say that the object of that was to find employment It is often said it would have that effect. Take the case of the taxation of the liquor trade. The Committee might say with truth that the object of that, the purpose of part of it, at all events, was to suppress drunkenness. The result is that all these different subjects could not be made the subject of the supremacy of the House of Commons. I have tried to put it as clearly as I can, and without any attempt at speaking violently.
The beginning of this trouble has been what the House of Commons has declared to be, and what many of us have declared to be, the invasion of their financial rights and privileges by the House of Lords, and here we have a more acute and exaggerated invasion of the privileges of the House of Commons than would be perpetrated by an occasional or by a very rare interference with a Money Bill such as took place in 1909. And the result, as have pointed out, would be this. Take a Liberal Government which brings in a Bill for the taxation of licences or the liquor trade such as I have already adverted to. The Joint Committee might come to the conclusion, on the invitation of the House of Lords, that the governing purpose of that measure was to suppress this particular form of selling drink in the country and to set up some other form of selling drink. What would be the position of the Government with the Budget of the year containing that clause left at the mercy of the House of Lords? By the decision of the House of Lords this proposition, I have no doubt quite conscientiously, could be thrown out for a period of two years, leaving the Government in exactly the same confusion that they were left in in 1909. They might have the Referendum, it is true, and they might have a Dissolution under the Amendments which are proposed, but I am entitled to show what the difficulties are. The whole subject is surrounded by difficulties of all kinds. We make a simple proposal, and I believe the Speaker will in the end, after all our discussions, really turn out, to the minds of all reasonable people at any rate, to be the best authority to deal with this matter.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has addressed himself to an Amendment which has not 1103 yet been incorporated in the Bill and has practically founded his whole argument against the proposal of the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, on the difficulties of that Amendment. If that Amendment should be pressed, personally I should be very much inclined to join with the noble and learned Lord in pointing out the difficulties that accompany it. But I wish to take the Bill as it stands. I wish to take this first clause as it stands, and to ask whether the Speaker is the proper tribunal to work that part of the Bill. Now the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, cannot touch any part of this subject without a reference to that King Charles's head—the rejection by your Lordships of the Budget of 1909. May I hope that at any rate I shall not be regarded as prejudiced in the observations I am about to address to your Lordships, because I did not agree in that rejection. I can assure the noble and learned Lord that I am as anxious as he can be to maintain the supremacy of the House of Commons in matters of finance. I do not think that the proper way to maintain that supremacy would be to pass the Bill making the Speaker arbitrator between the two Houses. This is not a question of supremacy in finance; it is a question of interpreting what finance is. That is a question between the two Houses of Parliament, and surely it is no more right that the Speaker, the principal officer of one of the Houses, should be made arbitrator between the two Houses in this matter than it would be right in the case of two municipal corporations or two companies to select the auditor of one of those corporations or companies as arbitrator on some point of dispute between the two. That really is the point which has been placed before you in many a speech this afternoon, and it was accepted by your Lordships' vote, not only by a large majority, but, let me point out to noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite, opposed by a very small minority indeed. The figures were 183 to 44, and that is a Division which means a good deal more than a mere Party Division in your Lordships' House.
I voted cordially with the noble Earl on the Cross Benches in support of the Amendment against the Speaker as the sole tribunal, but I frankly say, speaking for myself alone—and I have no right to speak for any one else—that I am not quite content with the Joint Committee
Viscount St. Aldwyn
1104 that is proposed as the tribunal in place of the Speaker. To my mind, however much the members of that Committee might desire to be impartial in their decisions, it is impossible that they should not have taken an active part on one side or the other in a matter which might come before them for decision, and I confess I think it would be better if some other and smaller tribunal of a more official kind could be suggested which should deal with the matter. Would it not be possible for the Speaker, the Lord Chancellor, and the two Chairmen of Committees in the two Houses to be associated together, and to select a fifth person who should be a member of the House of Commons and might, for example, be the Chairman of the Committee of Selection of the House of Commons, as the tribunal to decide this question as to what is a pure Finance Bill and what is not? I throw out that suggestion because my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition invited suggestions, and suggestions were also invited from the Front Bench opposite, but I do ask noble Lords opposite, as representing the Government, seriously to consider whether we have not a good case for some change in the tribunal proposed in the Bill. The Government surely wish that there should be a fair arbitration between the two Houses in this matter. It is not a question, as I have said, of the supremacy of the House of Commons in matters of finance; it is a question of interpretation alone. As was well said by Lord Midleton, it is a matter that should be settled by reasonable agreement, and should not be left to a tribunal which will cause dissatisfaction and leave a sense of injustice.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
My Lords, I concur with the noble Viscount who has just spoken in his observation that we ought not to leave an open sore of resentment and so forth, but his own idea did not strike me as a very promising one. It does not touch those difficulties which arise almost from day to day when you have what he is well acquainted with, an elaborate set of Budget proposals. At what point are you to invoke the decision of this Committee or tribunal, whatever it may be? I think the tribunal he has proposed would be very awkward. You would never know when exactly to call this body of men to work.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
I suggested a very small tribunal because it would be easy for the Speaker to consult all the members I have named at any moment.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
That is quite true, but recollect that by an Amendment lower down on the Paper my noble friend Lord Cromer proposes—and I think it would apply to the Committee of the noble Viscount—that the decision of the Committee should be invoked only at the request of a Minister of the Crown or on a Resolution of one of the two Houses of Parliament. No one will recognise more thoroughly than the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, that that is an impossible proposal, having regard to the daily course of business in the House of Commons. The Speaker will be put in the same difficulties if he has, as Lord Harris suggests, an advisory Committee. He will have to make up his own mind, and even in my noble friend's proposal he is to have the casting vote. Therefore in spite of all these proposals and suggestions, the responsibility in the long run must ultimately rest with the Speaker.
I invited noble Lords opposite to propose something outside of the proposals in the Bill. The difficulty of finding a better tribunal than the one set up in the Bill is shown by the fact that in substitution for it about fifteen different tribunals were suggested in the House of Commons. The first proposal was a Committee consisting of the Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, the Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, and three Lords Ordinary of Appeal, the Speaker to be chairman and have a casting vote. I wonder whether the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, with his long practical experience of Parliamentary affairs, would think that a good working proposal. Three Lords of Appeal. I rather gather that the House has already ruled out the reference of these issues to a judicial tribunal, or to any members of a judicial tribunal as such. Another proposal was the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, with the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker acting as assessors. I am President of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and therefore I am bound to speak of them with respect, but I cannot imagine a body less fitted to decide a question of this kind. And the idea of putting the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker as assessors to these gentle 1106 men, some of whom are entirely unfamiliar with Parliamentary practice and Parliamentary custom. That was the second proposal. Here was a third—the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker. How do you view the proposal that the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker should be the tribunal? That is for your Lordships to consider. And then there is the Court of King's Bench—that was moved by rather an important member of the other House. The Lord Chief Justice is there, and nobody will speak of him with more regard and respect than I do. He is arbitrator in some matters of administration, and I wonder if he would like, or whether the House of Commons would like, that he should be arbitrator in this matter instead of the Speaker.
Another proposal was that the authority should be the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls. I need not go over again the arguments which were stated with great force by Mr. Balfour in the House of Commons. A further proposal was the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council sitting in private and no Minister of the Crown to be allowed to sit. Would the judgment of such a body as that sitting in private, and no Minister of the Crown allowed to sit, be worth a straw? Another Member moved that they were not to listen to counsel; they were not to listen to any arguments; and their decision was to be beyond question. Will your Lordships support a device of that kind? I think not. Then, a Joint Committee consisting of three members selected from each House of Parliament—three members, not seven with the Speaker as chairman. Well, if I were obliged to choose between three and seven, I would without hesitation give my vote for three. If you had six men, and the Speaker would be the seventh—I think the Speaker was included—it would be less apt to be what in my view a Committee of fourteen would be—a political body. Therefore I would go for this, but it is open to a hundred objections. The last with which I will trouble your Lordships is the Appeal Committee consisting of two Lords Ordinary of Appeal, together with a person selected by His Majesty. On whose advice? And a person elected by the House of Commons, and a person elected by the House of Lords. These proposals were not made by irresponsible men, but by men of judgment and men of a certain standing in the House of Commons. You 1107 have ruled out the Speaker and you have these rambling proposals before you as an alternative. Then there is the proposal of my noble friend, which is not at all rambling, but which, for the reasons already stated, is in my opinion thoroughly contrary to the whole spirit of the proposals before the House and will land you in enormous difficulties. The power of the House of Commons will be lessened. Let us reflect for a minute. The origin of this Bill—you will forgive me for referring to the events of November, 1909—
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: King Charles's head.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I don't want any forgiveness, because I respectfully advised your Lordships not to pass that disastrous vote. It cannot be denied that this Bill had its immediate origin in what happened in November, 1909, and we have landed ourselves here—or you have landed yourselves—into admitting that this House is not a Chamber of moral authority. That was implied by the noble Marquess's Bill which was passed without a Division. You admit your moral authority is not what it was two years ago—that follows from your assent to that Bill. The object of the Parliament Bill is to vindicate the supremacy of the House of Commons in finance, and noble Lords opposite are now going to entrust the decision of whether a Bill is or is not true finance to a Joint Committee of which half, less the Speaker—I admit the exception is worth taking into account—are to be chosen out of the House of Lords. To say that you are not weakening and restricting the powers of the House of Commons in so doing is to my mind an untenable position.
My Lords, it is easier to blame others for travelling beyond the Amendment now before us than to keep to it ourselves. The noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, in an earnest appeal to the Front Bench on this side, devoted most of his remarks to showing why the Speaker of the House of Commons should not be the tribunal. But as the Speaker had already been ruled out by the House his remarks were not very germane to the proposal before us—it was a case of slaying the slain. The same remark applies to the speech of the noble Viscount who spoke afterwards. Yet severe censure was offered to the Lord Chancellor because
Viscount Morley of Blackburn.
1108 in illustrating the operation of this Amendment he looked at the scope of all the Amendments. I am willing to deal with this Amendment apart from any prospective Amendment, and to consider what would be the effect. After all, the scheme which the noble Viscount has suggested as an alternative would come more properly in a new clause when we see how the Joint Committee is constituted. It might be a Joint Committee of Convocation and the London County Council. We do not know what it is to be "joint" of. Notwithstanding the remarks of Lord St. Aldwyn, who is very anxious to keep strictly to the Amendment before us, we cannot help travelling to the composition of the suggested Committee. I do not know whether the noble Viscount in making his suggestion spoke for noble Lords sitting round him.
It is hopeless to ask the Government to consider hypothetical propositions until they know that they come as firm offers from the other side as a whole. The Government will have hard work to persuade its supporters to accept any modification whatever of this Bill, but for the sake of peace, if we can possibly settle this question by anything approaching agreement, even though it may be a reluctant agreement, it would be much better than that the Government with the help of other means that the Constitution puts in their power should ride roughshod over every one who opposes the Bill.
I am not going to mention King Charles's head. But after the last two elections no one can doubt the feeling in the country. There has been a deadlock between the two Houses of Parliament, and the electors have affirmed that the House of Commons should be supreme.—[Several NOBLE LORDS: No, no.] That is my interpretation. If those noble Lords who say "No" took part in the elections perhaps they will remember what they said, and how they were received. Though it is distasteful to your Lordships, ordinary people, at any rate, will consider the result of those two elections as a declaration by the electors of the country in favour of the House of Commons as against the House of Lords. It is not fair to ask the Government Front Bench to express 1109 an opinion on a hypothetical new organisation to be set up until we have got what we may call a firm offer from the whole of the other side as to what they propose. It would be very foolish for any persons in authority on this side of the House to express a willingness to entertain a proposal until it is put substantially forward by the bulk of the other side. In the meantime, we have been having a very long discussion on a very small point, because, strictly speaking, this point should have been taken as consequential without discussion, because on the Paper the Amendment was that certain words be struck out in order that the words now under discussion might be inserted. I cannot help thinking that we should get something more definite from the majority in this House before we are asked to express our opinion upon it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I desire before this part of our discussion closes to protest once more against the assertion which has been so freely made on the other side of the House that this Amendment represents an attempt on the part of the Opposition to dethrone the House of Commons from its supremacy over finance. Nothing is further from our thoughts or intention.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I only said the effect of it would be that. I would never desire to question a statement of his intention made by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I am quite willing to accept the Lord Chancellor's explanation of his words, but my answer remains the same. I deny altogether that the effect of this Amendment will be to dethrone the House of Commons from its position with regard to finance. It is quite true that by the Resolution of 1910 we recognised the supremacy of the House of Commons over Money Bills of a purely financial character; but it never was our intention when we passed that Resolution to abdicate all authority over the whole of that vast field of legislation which is covered by measures which are partly financial and partly political. It was truly said by a noble Lord opposite that all financial legislation involved a question of policy. That is perfectly true. But what we urge is that the relation of political to financial con 1110 siderations varies infinitely according to the nature of the particular measure. There may be a financial measure with very little political effect in it, or you may have the converse case. What we desire is that there shall be some authority which in all cases of mixed legislation of this kind can rule and decide once and for all whether a Bill belongs to the region of pure finance or whether, to use the words of my noble friend in his Amendment, "the governing purpose" of the measure is not financial but political or social. Those words, as I think my noble friend pointed out, were the words used by the Prime Minister himself, when he was dealing with this Bill. If the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will look at the report of the speech, he will see that the Prime Minister explained that what he desired was that the old practice as between the two Houses of Parliament should be maintained, and he described that practice as being one which, when the governing purpose of any measure was other than of a financial character, placed that measure within the category of those which both Houses of Parliament might discuss. I shall be very glad to give the noble Viscount the reference to Mr. Asquith's speech. But supposing the Committee, or whatever the tribunal is, decides that the Bill is not a purely financial Bill, one would think from the language of noble Lords opposite that it would be taken entirely out of the control of the House of Commons, that that House would have nothing more to say. But the effect of that decision will simply be that the Bill will be dealt with under Clause 2; and under Clause 2, as we all know, this House has an opportunity of discussing the measure during two years, and if at the end of those two years the House of Commons is obdurate, then the House of Commons will prevail. Therefore it is idle to talk as if by taking a Bill out of Clause 1 and putting it into Clause 2 we ousted the House of Commons from all right to interfere.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I would remind the noble Marquess that it might be the Supply Bill of the year, and whilst you were making up your minds how you would deal with it the Army and the Navy and the Civil Service would be starving.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I take it that the very worst that could 1111 happen in a case of that kind would be that if there was some particular provision of the Finance Bill which was open to the imputation of being a political provision, that provision might have to be held up for further consideration. With regard to the constitution of the proposed Committee, as I have already ventured to say, we are by no means irrevocably pledged to the composition suggested by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, Lord Cromer. Personally I think it a very fair proposal, but there may be better proposals. My noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn, who always speaks with authority upon such questions as this, has suggested an alternative composition. By all means let us consider it, but I do not gather that it found more favour with noble Lords opposite than did Lord Cromer's proposal. The powers of destructive criticism of the noble Viscount opposite are immense, but he offers us nothing in the nature of helpful suggestion. At any rate, I conceive that if we pass the Amendment of my noble friend it will be open to us further on to consider whether we can improve the composition of that Committee or not. One word more before I sit down. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House suggested that because we had brought forward a Bill for the reconstitution of this House we had therefore, by implication, admitted that there was no moral authority behind our action when we threw out the Budget Bill.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Marquess. The abdication of the moral authority was not in throwing out the Budget but in the introduction and the passing without a Division of the noble Marquess's Bill for reforming this House. My point was, for whatever it was worth, that that was an admission that the House to-day has not got the moral authority that it had two years ago.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Then the noble Viscount's suggestion is that because we passed a Bill for improving the constitution of this House, therefore this House as we know it to-day is deprived of all moral authority. I must say I think that is not only a very ungenerous but a very unfair argument. Are we to be told, because we have shown our readiness to co-operate with noble Lords opposite in improving the constitution of this House, that therefore we have, pend
The Marquess of Lansdowne.
1112 ing that reconstitution, lost all moral authority? That is a monstrous doctrine. Let us see where it would carry us. Is the noble Viscount quite sure that the House of Commons as we know it to-day is perfectly constituted? I think Lord Morley would probably desire to see a Bill putting an end to plural voting, with the anticipation that the passing of such a measure would materially affect the constitution of the House of Commons. A great many of us think that the manner in which votes are distributed over the constituencies is little short of a scandal. We should therefore all unite in saying that the constitution of the House of Commons might be very much improved. But are we going to suggest that in the meantime, until these blots have been removed, the House of Commons has no moral authority behind it? The proposition seems to me to be an absurd one. I do not know whether your Lordships are ready to go to a Division, but I shall certainly support the Amendment moved by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I do not propose to detain you more than a moment or two before the Division, but I wish to refer to the Bill, because I think we have been getting a little away from the facts with which we have to deal. One always listens to the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition with the deepest respect, because he is a wise and moderate counselor. But if you want to see what the difficulties are, turn to subsection (2) of Clause 1, which contains this definition of a Money Bill—A Money Bill means a public Bill which in the opinion of the Speaker of the House of Commons 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," and so on.If a Bill goes outside that definition it comes under Clause 2. The noble Marquess seemed to think it was a small thing, or only meant a little delay. It may mean the postponing of Bills of the greatest financial moment. Take a Budget Bill. A Budget Bill may desire to provide for an increased Navy, for payment of Members, for the provision of old age pensions. It may be directed to half-a-dozen subjects. There are always governing purposes in all general legislation, which never have been, and I hope never 1113 will be, excluded from the purview of the House of Commons. Yet when a Bill is declared to be outside the definition in Clause 1 it may be delayed for over two years—for three sessions. Is it possible to work even the machinery that Lord St. Aldwyn suggested? When a Money Bill is passing through the House of Commons the Speaker is charged with seeing that it remains in the category of Money Bills, and he has to advise the House from hour to hour as to whether Amendments proposed will carry it outside that category. The Speaker has to see that it remains in the category of Clause 1. That can only be done by one who is free to act from time to time. It has been suggested that the proper time for the Joint Committee to come in is at the conclusion of the Bill; but that may come late, and the calling together of the Committee may come late, and it may result in the delay of a Bill for two years.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
It may mean a repetition of the financial confusion of which we have had recent experience. There is only one way in which the machinery of Subsection (2) can be arranged, and that is by a single person charged with the responsibility of dealing with these matters and guiding the House of Commons from time to time. Your Committee, whether it be that suggested by Lord Cromer or the better one suggested by Lord St. Aldwyn, is a clumsy and impossible instrument compared to the Speaker, who is on the spot and gives guidance to the House of Commons from time to time as the Bill goes on. It seems to me that we are at this moment on a very relevant consideration of the question whether the working of the financial machinery of the House of Commons is to be made impossible, whether it is to be hampered, or whether you are to adopt what I agree is the lesser of two evils—the decision of the Speaker, a decision which is to be a statutory duty and under our proposed amendments.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
I have had some experience of the financial working of the House of Commons, and I demur altogether to what has just been said by the noble Viscount opposite. He said that my Amendment, or the Amendment 1114 which will be moved by Lord Cromer, would make the financial working of the House of Commons impossible. I absolutely deny it. What would happen? During the progress of a Money Bill through the House of Commons the Speaker would guide the House precisely in the way he does now, and when the time arrived for the Third Reading he would take counsel with the Committee as to whether the Bill was anything more than a Money Bill. If the Committee decided that it was something else, it would be perfectly possible for the Bill to be recommitted and the objectionable provisions taken out. The whole thing would be done in a week, and to say that it would make the financial working of the House of Commons impossible is to my mind, and I say it with all respect to the noble Viscount opposite, ridiculous.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, I do not think there is a single noble Lord on this side of the House who would wish noble Lords opposite to feel that any injustice may arise between the two Houses if this Bill becomes law, or that the tribunal that is going to decide matters of importance is packed against them. But, frankly, I am unable to understand how any suggestions that have been thrown out better the position of noble Lords from what it would be under the Bill as it stands. Let us deal with the remark of the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, who said that if the Bill passed as it stood, they would go away with a sense of flagrant injustice. Were the Speaker of the House of Commons a violent Radical partisan, and to be retained in office because he was a partisan, that might be the case.
§ A NOBLE LORD: He may be in the future.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
The Speaker, as we all know, is a member of the Party of noble Lords opposite, and it is well known, not only to those of us who have sat in the House of Commons but I think to other noble Lords, that the Speaker is always chosen from amongst the most moderate men that can be found in the House. In my years in the House of Commons I sat under two Unionist Speakers and under one Liberal Speaker, and, if my memory serves me right, one of the great 1115 recommendations of the Liberal Speaker was that he had never made a speech of any kind in the House of Commons before he spoke from the Chair. I was struck by the alternative that was suggested by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn. He did not like the Speaker as the tribunal, and I understood him to suggest that four people should act, with a fifth chosen by them from outside. And who are the four to be? He suggested the Speaker, the Lord Chancellor, the Chairman of Committees in the House of Commons, and the Chairman of Committees in this House. The noble Viscount was speaking for himself, but I would like to know whether noble Lords opposite consider that a better proposal from their point of view than the proposal of the Government. Two of the four must be partisans. The Chairman of Committees of the House of Commons is not chosen as the Speaker is. He is put in by the Government and is supposed to press on the Government's business. He is impartial, but he is not chosen markedly for impartiality by either side as is the Speaker.
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
No, but it is well known what his political opinions are, and he is there to help on the Government work. Then there is the Lord Chancellor for the time being. The Lord Chancellor, as your Lordships will admit is not an impartial person as regards Government business. Those are two out of the four. The third is the Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords, a gentleman who is presumably a supporter of the Party opposite. We have one left—the Speaker. At present he is of the Party opposite, but, as the noble Lord just now said, it may very well be that he may later on be a Liberal. Therefore under the proposal put forward by Lord St. Aldwyn you will have the matter settled by four people, two of whom must be Liberals, the third may be a Liberal, and the fourth may conceivably be a Liberal. Is that a fairer proposal than the one put forward by His Majesty's Government? We have had important discussion all the evening, but the Government are unable to support the proposal of the noble Earl. But surely there must be something that noble Lords opposite can suggest on which the two. Parties might get nearer to one another.
Lord St. Davids.
1116 I was struck by a remark of the Leader of the Opposition. The noble Marquess said that some future Bill might be settled by a Speaker of the House of Commons over our heads without our being able to approach him or to put our case before him. May I throw out a suggestion? If that is the feeling, could not noble Lords put forward some Amendment to meet the point. The noble Earl has left the Speaker as chairman of the Joint Committee; in Viscount St. Aldwyn's suggestion the Speaker is left as one of the four—everybody proposes to leave the Speaker in in some shape or form. Could not noble Lords opposite propose something of this kind—that the Speaker should decide, but only after he is acquainted with the views of this House given to him by a Committee of noble Lords appointed by this House. That would make it impossible, as the noble Marquess said, for the Speaker to give his opinion without the views of this House being properly put forward and represented to That is the suggestion I make, as I think it is a pity, when we all wish to get the best tribunal possible, that noble Lords should be left with a feeling or a sense of injustice.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
I need not detain your Lordships more than a few minutes. I think the outcome of this discussion is this, that whereas we on this side of the House think that the leaving of this important matter to the decision of the Speaker is not only a bad solution but the worst possible solution of this difficulty, noble Lords opposite, although they recognise the objections to the proposal of leaving the whole matter to the Speaker, at the same time, for one reason or another, have not given the least indication that they are ready to accept any other solution. In the course of this debate one or two valuable suggestions have been made. Lord Harris suggested—and a noble Lord opposite said something to the same effect—that the Committee instead of having executive should have advisory powers. Perhaps it would be more suitable to discuss that later, when we come to deal with another Amendment I have on the Paper. The proposal is not altogether new to me, for I had already thought of it as one probably worthy of consideration. But in order to bring in a proposal of that sort we ought to have some indication as to the view of the Government. Up to 1117 the present we have had nothing from noble Lords opposite but criticism, and barren criticism at that. As regards the constitution of the Committee, let me say that I am not in the smallest degree enthusiastic over my own proposal, but I think that in default of anything better for the moment it holds the field. An admirable suggestion has been made by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, and possibly something may occur to other noble Lords. What has been the attitude of noble Lords opposite? The noble Viscount, Lord Morley, has given us a list of things which it is impossible to do, but; he has given no indication of the extent to which the Government would be prepared to go in our direction. It may be good Parliamentary tactics, but it is not the way to arrive at a solution. If a serious effort were made, and if their professions that they desire to help to get to a solution of this difficulty are sincere, I cannot help thinking that there is some way out of the difficulty. Meanwhile, in default of any other proposal, I must ask the House to give their opinion on my Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
Quite so. I understand that the noble Viscount's solution is in the Bill, and that he adheres to the Bill and will have nothing else. My contention is that there has been no indication of yielding one iota, and that if there had been any desire to come to a solution some attempt would have been made to arrive at agreement on the subject. That is the whole of my point.
§ House resumed, and to be again in Committee To-morrow: The Committee to have precedence of other Notices and Orders of the Day.