*THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE rose to call attention to the manner in which the great Public Departments are officially represented in this House; and to move to resolve—
That this House condemns any departure from the well established usage under which the more important of those Departments have in past years been represented in this House either by the Secretary of State for the Department or by one of his Under-Secretaries.
§ The noble Marquess said: My Lords, the matter which I desire to bring before your Lordships this evening is one which has attracted a good deal of attention out of doors, and has, I know, given rise to feelings of very considerable dissatisfaction in your Lordships' House. I wish to mention the manner in which the different Government Departments are represented in this House, and I am going to suggest that that representation is at the present time inadequate, that it has never been so inadequate as it is at the present moment, that it is inconsistent with the proper conduct of Parliamentary business, and that it is conceived in a spirit wanting in respect for your Lordships' Home. I am not going to discuss the legal aspects of these Ministerial appointments. I prefer to rest my case, not upon technical grounds, but upon grounds of broad commonsense and Parliamentary usage. So far as strict legality is concerned, I believe I am right in saying that there are in force Acts of Parliament from which it may be reasonably inferred that this House is not strictly entitled to more than one Secretary of State and more than one Under-Secretary. But I will acid this. If the noble Marquess, who will no doubt follow me, intends to base himself upon legal considerations, I will ask him whether he can tell us how it has come to pass that, whereas under the Acts of Parliament to which I have referred the House of Commons is entitled to only four Under-Secretaries, there are at this moment in the House of Commons not only four Under-Secretaries of State but four Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, who, so far as I am aware, are absolutely undistinguishable from the Under-Secretaries of State. A good illustration is the case of Lord Lucas, who a very short time ago was an Under-Secretary of State and who is now no longer an Under-Secretary of State, but, strictly speaking, a Parliamentary 259 Under-Secretary. I dare say the noble Marquess will make a note of that point.
§ But, as I said just now, I have no intention of resting my case upon legal considerations. I wish to say a word rather about the unwritten conventions, the time-honoured usage which has governed the conduct of successive Governments in dealing with this question of Ministerial appointments. That usage was, in my belief, inspired by the conviction that the representatives of the Government of the day ought to be reasonably divided between the two Houses of Parliament. And when I say reasonably divided I do not for a moment suggest that they should be equally divided, because there are reasons, which must be obvious to all of us, why the House of Commons is at certain points entitled to the lion's share of these appointments. There are, for example, appointments connected with financial administration which are the peculiar property of the other House. Then there is apparently a well-established usage under which both the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of the Home Office sit in the House of Commons. I do not know how that usage has been established, but I admit that it exists. But, my Lords, the bedrock of this question is that we live under a double-Chamber system, and that legislation has to be justified in each House of Parliament; that opportunities for discussion and criticism have to be brought within the reach of each House of Parliament, and that therefore there should in each House of Parliament be representatives of the different Departments familiar with the business of those Departments, concerned in the preparation of the measures which those Departments produce, having had throughout constant access to the papers and documents upon which such legislation is based, and therefore in all respects competent to discuss and to defend the policy of the Government of the day.
§ Until quite lately these principles certainly prevailed in the case of the five great Departments which I proceed to enumerate—the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the India Office, the War Office, and the Admiralty. I have not pursued my researches into a very remote past, because what I think concerns us most is the more modern practice, but I 260 have taken a period beginning with the year 1886 and lasting until the present time, and I find that during that period in the case of these five great Departments it has been an almost unbroken practice that there should be either the head or the Under-Secretary of the Department sitting in this House. In order to justify my case I will give your Lordships the facts as I have ascertained them. I take, in the first place, the Foreign Office. Up to the year 1906 the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs sat constantly in this House, and when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Government was formed the duty of representing the Foreign Office in this House fell to a relative of mine who had had long experience of Foreign Office work as Under-Secretary in the House of Commons and whose knowledge of foreign affairs was probably equalled by very few living statesmen. That takes us up to the year 1908. But in the year 1908 both the representatives of the Foreign Office had seats in the House of Commons. The Department was until a few days ago represented, unless I am mistaken, by Lord Herschell, although I understand that some other arrangement is now in contemplation, but, at any rate, neither the Secretary of State nor the Under-Secretary of State is to sit in this House. In the case of the Colonial Office during the same period, except under the Governments of 1895 and 1902, we have had the Secretary of State sitting in this House, and when he sat in the House of Commons at the time when he was not in this House we had the Under-Secretary of State—Lord Selborne was, I think, one of them, and the Duke of Marlborough was another—sitting in this House. At this moment we are fortunate in having at any rate the Under-Secretary of State here, and we have therefore, I freely admit, no right to complain of the manner in which the Colonial Office is represented. In the case of the India Office, during the same period that Department has been constantly represented here either by the Secretary of State or by his Under-Secretary. At the present moment it is, as we know, represented by the noble Marquess who leads the House, and I need not say we cannot complain of that arrangement, and my noble friend Lord Curzon may be congratulated that on the occasion of the important discussions which he has lately initiated he has found opposite to him a foeman worthy of his steel.261
§ Now I come to the Admiralty. Again during the period from 1886 up to the present the First Lord has usually, but not always, been a member of this House. At the present moment the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Civil Lord and the Parliamentary Secretary all have seats in the House of Commons, and the Admiralty is without any representative here who is really connected with that Department. I have been endeavouring to ascertain who is likely to represent the Admiralty in the immediate future. I understand that these arrangements have not yet been completed. Now I come to a Department in which this House takes a special interest—I mean the War Office. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and myself are the only Peers who have lately held the office of Secretary of State for War, but there has always been until now an Under-Secretary of State to represent the Department here. Now the Secretary of State for War, the Under-Secretary, and the Financial Secretary, the three representatives of the Department, all have seats in the House of Commons, and we shall have to depend in any debate concerning the affairs of the War Office upon the information which we can elicit from a member of the Royal Household, Therefore, taking stock of these five Departments, we may say that in the case of the Colonial Office this House has lost the Secretary of State but keeps an Under-Secretary, and that in the case of the India Office we have got the Secretary of State, but in the case of the Foreign Office, the War Office, and the Admiralty the whole of the eight representatives of those Departments now sit in the House of Commons. We remain in the case of those Departments without any representative who can properly be described as belonging to the Parliamentary staff of those Departments.
§ I do not know whether it will be suggested to us that we ought to find consolation in the manner in which other less conspicuous Departments are represented in your Lordships' House. My researches have not resulted in giving me any consolation of the kind. I take the office of Secretary for Scotland. To the lasting regret of my noble friend Lord Camperdown, Lord Pentland has been removed to another post, and we know that the business of the Scottish Office will be transacted here by a noble Lord who told us a few moments ago that he certainly did not plead guilty 262 to any acquaintance with Scottish business. Then there is the Post Office. The Post-master-General sits in the House of Commons, and a member of the Household answers for the Department here. In the case of the Board of Trade, a very important Department, both the President and the Parliamentary Secretary sit in the House of Commons, and I understand that we are to rely upon the good offices of the Master of the Horse for any information as to the affairs of that Department. In the case of the Local Government Board the President and the Parliamentary Secretary both sit in the House of Commons, and one of the Lords-in-Waiting will represent the Department here. As to the Board of Agriculture, this House again remains inconsolable for the departure of the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, and we shall, I have no doubt, find our suggestions carefully attended to by- Lord Lucas, who has left the War Office for a more peaceful Department. As to the Board of Education, both the President and the Under-Secretary sit in the House of Commons, and the Department is to be represented here by a noble Lord who is also Chief Commissioner of Works and who, so to speak, will double those two parts. And, my Lords, it is a little remarkable that while all these offices are given to members of the House of Commons the old practice of putting the Chancellor of the Duchy into this House and treating him—the phrase was Lord Bufferin's—as "maid of all work" of the Government of the day seems to have dropped into desuetude. If I may again summarise the facts in a rather different way I may say that in the year 1907, when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman formed his Government, we had six Cabinet Ministers in this House and two Under-Secretaries of State; that when Mr. Asquith became Prime Minister we still had six members of the Cabinet in this House and one Under-Secretary of State; but that under the new distribution we have only four Cabinet Ministers out of a total of, I think, nineteen or twenty, with one Under-Secretary of State and one Parliamentary Secretary.
§ I maintain that, having regard to these facts, this House is placed at a very serious disadvantage when we have to discuss questions affecting any of these important Departments in the absence of a Minister really entitled to speak on behalf of the Department concerned. I need not dwell 263 upon the importance of discussion in your Lordships' House. The subject has often been treated, and we all know what an immense body of authority and experience this House can produce whenever any subject of public interest comes forward for examination. To illustrate my meaning, let me suppose that an important debate on naval policy takes place. We know what a very large space in the foreground of our political life this question of naval policy now occupies. Questions of strategy, questions of finance, questions of international relations are all mixed up with these questions of naval policy. Now supposing my noble friend Lord Selborne desires to raise a question of naval policy. There is no representative of the Admiralty here. I believe it is the Master of the Horse who would answer?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I think it has been the Master of the Horse who has replied hitherto, but some other arrangement is evidently in contemplation. But let me suppose a military discussion. This House is particularly interested in military topics. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack and I have both known what it is to be heckled in this House over military questions, and there are undoubtedly a number of Peers who have made military questions their special study. Suppose that a debate is initiated by my noble friend Lord Methuen, or by Lord Roberts, or by the distinguished soldier whom you have just added to the roll of this House—for you are always continuing to add distinguished men to the roll of this House—I mean Sir William Nicholson. If any of these distinguished soldiers chooses to raise some important question of military policy he has to be content with a reply from a member of the Household. I venture to suggest that debates of this kind lose their reality when the protagonist for the Government is not an official of the Department concerned but some perfectly honourable and perhaps not undistinguished Peer connected with an appointment about the Royal Court. He comes down here coached for the occasion, armed with a brief with which he does his best, but I do not think any one will impute to me want of respect for these noble Lords when I say that in spite of their courtesy, which is unfailing, in spite of the obvious industry with which 264 they apply themselves to mastering the subjects which are committed to their charge, it is quite impossible for them, merely on the strength of an office brief, no matter how voluminous, to speak with weight and authority in defence of the Department whose case they are bidden to take up. We have all seen the thing happen. The noble Lord does the best he can with his brief; he gets to the end of it, and then he is at the end of his tether. I noticed a very frank statement which was made to us two nights ago by Lord Herschell, of whose excellent work in this House I desire to speak in terms of the highest praise because we all appreciate it. He announced to us that he was going to represent the War Office in this House, and he told us, with evident candour and a sincerity which pleased us all, that he intended to do his best to represent the case of the War Office to us, and that if he found himself faced with any point which was not familiar to him he would not fail to convey the substance of your Lordships' remarks to the Secretary of State. We want, however, something rather more from the representatives of these Departments than that they should merely take note of what is said on these Benches and communicate it to the Department, with a view, perhaps, to a renewal of the discussion at some future time.
I hope, then, that I have said enough to show that this departure from the old practice is opposed to the whole spirit of our Parliamentary system and inconsistent with the respect due to this House of Parliament. I should like to remind the noble Marquess opposite that he and his colleagues are two-Chamber men. They often proclaim it. They are at this moment pledged to deal with the constitution of this House, and to deal with it at an early date. That has been said again and again. But in the meantime we still have our place in the Constitution, and we still have powers which, although they may be not a little diminished, are not inconsiderable powers, and which some members of His Majesty's Government have told us are even too considerable. At any rate, it is conceded to us without question that we have the right to discuss the proposals of His Majesty's Government, to revise Bills, and, within certain limits, to delay their progress through Parliament. If that is so, is it not necessary, if we are to discharge these duties in an efficient manner, 265 if the whole proceeding is not to be a sham, that there should be in this House representatives of the great Departments whose affairs have from time to time to come before us? If we are to have a Second Chamber at all, is it not right that it should be properly equipped in respect of the representation of these Departments? We have, I venture to think, a right to ask for an explanation of this marked departure from the old usage. I hope we shall have from the noble Marquess opposite not only an explanation, but some kind of assurance that these arrangements are likely to be reconsidered, and that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to revert to that sounder practice which until quite lately they themselves did not fail to observe.
Moved to resolve, That this House condemns any departure from the well established usage under which the more important of the great Public Departments have in past years been represented in this House either by the Secretary of State for the Department or by one of his UnderSecretaries.—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, I certainly have no desire to protest against the action of the noble Marquess in bringing this Motion before the House, and if I had entertained any such desire it would have been dissipated by the exceedingly genial and almost friendly manner in which he made his criticisms, strong though in effect those criticisms were. I can assure the noble Marquess that I have no desire to lay any stress or to attempt any defence on the ground of mere legal considerations. I fully recognise the importance of this question, and I recognise also that it is one which must be dealt with on general grounds of fairness and commonsense, and not in mere obedience to rules and laws which the wisdom of our forefathers may have laid down. I think it is important to note that the noble Marquess practically confines his Motion, as lie also did his speech, to a condemnation of our action in leaving the more important of the great Public Departments unrepresented in a form in which they have been represented in some past years in this: House. I think the word "important" demands a certain degree of examination, because the classification made by the noble Marquess seems to me a somewhat arbitrary one.
266 It is quite true that in the official hierarchy a Secretary of State ranks above other Ministers, but it does not necessarily follow that the office which he represents is more important than any other. For example, we should bracket together the War Office and the Admiralty in degree of importance, but the one is represented, as we all know, by a Secretary of State and the other by the head of the Board. As time goes on the attitude of political observers towards various Departments in this matter of relative importance is liable to some alteration. There was a time, for instance, when it was hardly thought necessary to represent the Irish Office in Parliament at all. The last occasion, I think, on which the Irish Office was altogether unrepresented in the Cabinet was in Mr. Disraeli's Government when it was formed in 1874. Noble Lords opposite in later times generally had three representatives of Ireland in the Cabinet. Therefore the fate of a Department in public estimation, judging by that single instance, changes as time goes on. To take another instance, both the Board of Trade and even more markedly the Local Government Board have attained a rank in public estimation which when some of us were young they by no means enjoyed. Therefore the noble Marquess's classification, if he will forgive my saying so, appears to me from that point of view a little wooden, and I think it is advantageous to examine somewhat more closely what the representation of different Departments in this House has been in the more recent past and to endeavour to extract from those facts what has been the governing principle of Governments during that period in allocating representation here.
The noble Marquess began by alluding to the Foreign Office. It is quite true that in the appointment of my right hon. friend Sir Edward Grey to the Foreign Office the late Prime Minister made an almost new departure. It has been the almost invariable practice within living political memory for the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to be a member of your Lordships' House, and the noble Marquess pointed out that, although we were deprived of the presence of the Secretary of State here, yet for a considerable period we had the advantage of the services of his relative Lord Edmund Fitzmaurice, whom we miss from this Bench more than I can say, 267 and who entirely for all practical purposes filled the place here usually filled by the Secretary of State. But from that time my noble friend Lord Morley, since he has been Lord President of the Council, has taken the care of Foreign Affairs in this House under his special charge, and I think it may fairly be claimed that their conduct here has suffered nothing in my noble friend's hands. As your Lordships will realise, this particular matter of foreign affairs when discussed here practically always involves questions of Cabinet policy, and the Peer who for the time being is leading the House has always been accustomed to take a more or less prominent part in debates on foreign affairs. I do not think, therefore, that it can be said with any approach to reality that foreign affairs have been discussed with less information in this House since Sir Edward Grey has been Secretary of State.
I will venture to run rapidly through some of the other Departments. The Colonial Office, as the noble Marquess stated, has always been represented in this House since 1886, except a during a few months in the life of the present Government when my right hon. friend Mr. Harcourt and Colonel Seely were for a short time both together in the House of Commons as Secretary of State and Under-Secretary. But it is only fair to add in respect of those few months that I had myself only just given up charge of the Colonial Office, and therefore I was, I hope, fairly competent to answer any Questions which noble Lords might put on Colonial affairs. Then as regards the India Office. Only twice since 1886 has the India Office been unrepresented directly in this House. In the years 1902 and 1903, when noble Lords opposite were in power, there was no India Office representative in this House. Lord George Hamilton and the late Lord Percy were the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary, and I have no doubt that the reason which would have been given for that is the same as that which I have just indicated in regard to our experience at the Colonial Office. The noble Marquess himself was on this Bench, and with his Indian experience I have no doubt he felt fully competent to receive from the India Office any information which they could give and to deal with it fairly—
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
But after a year the noble Marquess insisted that we should revert to the old practice. When I became Secretary of State he particularly asked that there should be an Under-Secretary in this House.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I do not dispute that for a moment. I simply drew attention to the fact that that interval of want of representation did exist. Then the noble Marquess mentioned the Home Office, and he said there appeared to be an unwritten law that the officials of the Home Office were always in the House of Commons. The same has usually applied to the Local Government Board. As a matter of fact, the Home Office has, if I remember right, never been directly represented in this House since 1886, which is the date the noble Marquess took. It was represented before that, because my noble friend Lord Rosebery was Under-Secretary at the Home Office for a period, as the noble Marquess will remember; and I shall have later on to draw attention to the curious omission of representation of this Office and to suggest a possible reason for it. The War Office has, as the noble Marquess accurately stated, been always represented in this House by either the Secretary of State or by the Under-Secretary until this moment. But the case of the Admiralty is altogether different, and perhaps some noble Lord opposite will be able to explain why. I notice that during the time noble Lords opposite were in power after we were turned out in the middle of 1886 until we came into office again in 1892 Lord George Hamilton, Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett, and the Financial Secretary were all in the House of Commons; and what the representation of the Admiralty was in this House during those years I confess I do not recollect. Then, again, after our second expulsion in 1895, for five years when Mr. Goschen, as he then was, was First Lord, he and Mr. Austen Chamberlain and the third representative all sat in the House of Commons and nobody represented the Admiralty here. It is quite true that the Admiralty has been poorly represented in this House in an official sense, except, of course, during the few years during which our lamented friend Lord Tweedmouth was First Lord.
Then I come to the Board of Trade, which, after all, I think, ought to be 269 ranked among the important Departments which the noble Marquess mentioned. During our tenure of office from 1892 to 1895 it was not officially represented here. But then equally from between the years 1902 and 1905 Mr. Gerald Balfour and Mr. Bonar Law divided between them the offices of the Board of Trade. Almost the only- Department which has been invariably favoured in this House and has always had a Parliamentary representative here is the Board of Agriculture, since the foundation of which this House has always enjoyed the presence of either its President or its Secretary. I ought, perhaps, to mention the Scottish Office, to which allusion has been made. It is true that it is our misfortune that with the exception of my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack we possess nobody who can by the furthest stretch of imagination be described as a Scotsman holding any kind of office in this Government, and to that extent I heartily sympathise with the chagrin expressed by the noble Lord opposite at the departure of my noble friend Lord Pentland, whose company here I am bound to say did not always appear to be so much appreciated by noble Lords opposite, because I do not think he always received the most handsome treatment from the Benches opposite in spite of his complete knowledge of the subject, and, I venture to say, the sympathetic manner in which he dealt with the various subjects raised by noble Lords of the Opposition.
It seems to me desirable to attempt to draw some conclusion from the facts which the noble Marquess and I have laid before the House, and I think that the moral to be drawn is that this House has expected direct representation of this kind, not so much in relation to the intrinsic importance of the particular subjects as to the fact that the subjects were those over which this House has thought itself entitled to exercise a particular degree of control. The fact that the Navy has been so much less represented in this House than the Army is, I take it, largely due to the fact that we are always favoured here with the presence of far fewer Admirals than we are of Generals and Field-Marshals. It so happens that the sea Service, for one reason or another, does not seem to lead, either by way of inheritance or by way of creation, to these Benches so often as the sister Service does, and consequently this House has regarded the Army as being in 270 some respects its special province, dating probably from the days when the class from which the officers of the Army were almost exclusively drawn was the class which is represented in this House. Now there has been, as noble Lords are all aware, a considerable change in that respect. The classes from which officers in the Army are drawn are far more numerous, and I am sure we do not regret that fact. Still the tradition remains that this House has some peculiar kind of interest in the Army over and above that which it would claim in respect of other subjects, and which is considered, as I gather from what the noble Marquess said, to give it some special title for discussion here, and discussion which has to be met by a regular representative of the Office. If you come to importance you have the Home Office, and nobody will say that a Department which has to look after all the prisons of the country, to look after all the factories in the country, and which has the charge of the conduct of the Metropolitan Police can be treated in any respect as a less important Department than either the War Office or any other. One might say much the same of the Board of Trade, so often unrepresented here. Is anybody going to say that a Department which has charge of all the railways in the country, of the whole of the mercantile marine, which is continually concerned with matters affecting both the Dominions overseas and foreign countries everywhere yields in point of rank to any other? On the other hand, the Board of Agriculture, as I have pointed out, has been permanently and regularly represented here, and for very obvious reasons—because noble Lords are intimately concerned in that matter, and because the bread and butter of many of us depends on the prosperity of agriculture; consequently the concession has been made of always placing a direct representative of the Department here.
But I am disposed to ask, Is this direct representation quite so important as the noble Marquess has indicated that it is in his opinion? Anything in the nature of autobiography is al ways rather offensive on an occasion like this, but I cannot help recalling my own experience when I represented a Department here. I held an office in the Household and represented the Board of Trade. It happened to be a very busy and a somewhat anxious time 271 at that Department, because it was the time when the first Electric Lighting Bills for London and other great towns were being introduced. They were introduced in some cases into this House by the Department of which I was the unworthy representative, and I can well recollect the consideration which I received from noble Lords opposite who knew so much more of the technical aspects of the subject than I did. All I could claim was, as the noble Marquess was kind enough to say is the rule, that I did my best to answer the questions and argue the points when they were raised in debate, but I cannot see that I should have been in a very much better position if I had been the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade. As it was, the Department were good enough to give me a room there and I had the use of a clerk as private secretary. I worked there regularly. If I had been the Parliamentary Secretary I should have been no more competent to argue the question of volts and amperes with scientific noble Lords than I was merely as a Lord-in-Waiting. I cannot help thinking, therefore, that the importance which appears to be attached, not to the work a man does or the time he gives to it, but to the particular title which is conferred on him, may be rather too great.
I come to the particular case of the War Office, and in this matter I am quite in agreement with the noble Marquess opposite that the departure is an unfortunate one; and I think so for the reasons that he has stated—namely, that War Office questions are raised in this House with such a degree of knowledge by many noble Lords, in addition to those who sit on the Front Bench opposite, that it is desirable that so far as possible they should be dealt with in an expert manner. At the same time, my Lords, I revert to the opinion which I have ventured to express that the office which a man holds or the title conferred upon him is not the only thing to be borne in mind. I do not feel certain that my noble friend on the Benches opposite, Lord Portsmouth, when he was Under-Secretary for War entirely enjoyed his experience on this Bench. That may have been—I do not ask him to say whether it was so or not—that he was not in reality in full sympathy with all the policy of the Government of the day. He has shown that this may 272 be the case by crossing over to the other side of the House. But I do not feel certain if the noble Lord had been a member of the Household and had undertaken the War Office business, or if he had been in some other office and some other noble Lord had taken the conduct of the War Office business, that there would have been any practical difference as regards the conduct of the debates. Having taken this departure, which, as I have stated, His Majesty's Government do not think in the abstract a fortunate one—it was taken for reasons of the particular experience possessed by the various members of the House of Commons who now hold the three offices—having taken that step I am prepared to state that it is not one which we should desire to regard as a precedent or one which we should desire to regard as permanent in itself. I quite agree that as matters are it is a desirable thing that there should be a direct representative of the War Office in this House, and I hope it may not be very long before we are so favoured again. But in the meantime I am certain that my noble friend Lord Herschel], who I am sure will he grateful for the kindly manner in which the noble Marquess spoke of him, will not merely do his best, but will do his work well, and he will have every advantage, in the sense of access to the office and the use of the services of those who are accustomed to instruct Ministers, which he could enjoy if he was holding the office or had conferred upon him the title of Under-Secretary.
The noble Marquess drew a picture of the unhappy fate of a noble Lord, not a member of the Department, furnished with an ample brief which he has, perhaps, barely been given time to study, being asked upon such a brief to carry on a discussion in which skilful speakers take part. I should be sorry to consider that picture true of any of my noble friends who represent Departments, and I am quite certain that it will be in no way true of my noble friend Lord Herschell, who, coming new to the work, which, after all, might be equally true of an Under-Secretary, will I am sure give his time and his remarkable ability to the purpose of satisfying the needs of debate on subjects so difficult as these War Office matters often are in your Lordships' House. I may add that when it is not merely a question of the number of men whose time will expire on a par- 273 ticular date or of the number of rifles of a particular pattern served out to a particular corps, and when we get on to a wider area, the area of policy, whether in connection with the Regular Forces or with the Territorial Army, we can hardly suppose that my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack will remain altogether silent, and the House will enjoy the benefit of a knowledge which in some respects noble Lords will admit to be unique.
I do not know whether the noble Marquess desires to press his Motion of condemnation. If he desires to press it in the sense that it is intended to censure His Majesty's Government for this particular appointment and to lay direct blame upon the Prime Minister and his colleagues for the manner in which these arrangements have been made, then we should be obliged, of course, to take a Division on the subject. But if the noble Marquess merely desires to express the opinion that there ought to be in general a proper representation of the great Departments in this House we certainly have no quarrel with him there, and in such a case, if we are so assured, we should not put your Lordships to the trouble of a Division.
I cannot before I sit down help reflecting how entirely different is the fate of noble Lords opposite. Speaking generally, it is no doubt true that in the formation of Governments and the allocation of appointments a Liberal Government has to think more of the House of Commons than the Conservative Party is compelled to do, and equally noble Lords opposite think more of the House of Lords. As I say, I cannot help reflecting that if and when the time comes when noble Lords opposite find themselves in office in how different kind of difficulty they will be placed. When one thinks of all the capacity and experience on the Benches opposite, quite apart from the drafts which the Opposition may be able to make, for all I know, from the Cross Benches, one wonders whether when a Conservative Government is formed any place will be found in it for members of the House of Commons, except, I suppose, possibly one or two for the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. friends of noble Lords opposite, including their new leader in another place. When the time comes and noble Lords opposite sit here certainly it will not be our lot to raise any complaint 274 of the kind which the noble Marquess has raised, because the House will be simply crammed with Secretaries of State and Presidents of Boards, and we shall only wish that our numbers were larger and that we were able to carry on more sustained discussions with them.
Speaking quite seriously I desire to say, and to say in all sincerity, that there is not the least idea or intention of inflicting any slight upon the House in this particular allocation of War Office business, which, as I understand, is the allocation that has given rise to the noble Marquess's Motion. That is the last thing we should desire to do if only for this reason, that we have taken the line throughout the recent Constitutional changes that I his House ought to depend more upon argument and discussion and less upon mere voting than it has in the past. Holding that view it would be obviously altogether wrong and also foolish of us if we were not to do our best to see that that discussion, by which it is desired to justify the exercise of that important power of delay which, as the noble Marquess has stated, is still the possession of this House, is not merely full and free, as it always is, but that it is carried out in the best possible manner before the country; and I can assure the House that so far as I am concerned I shall always do my best to see that this House receives its proper meed of consideration in the representation of the different Departments.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I question very much whether the so-called explanation of the noble Marquess will afford any more, satisfaction to his followers than it has done to noble Lords who sit on this side of the House. It is quite evident that the noble Marquess is not going to do anything for them. Their aspirations, it is evident, are going to remain ungratified, and the explanation of the noble Marquess has been nothing more than a laborious and totally unsuccessful attempt to show that regard has been had to equality of representation in the two Houses. I submit, and I think everybody here will agree, that the noble Marquess has entirely failed in explaining away the fact that the representation of the Government in this House at the present moment is infinitesimal compared with what it has been under former Administrations.
275 I would like to be allowed, if I may, to submit some additional explanations of my own. The first explanation which occurs to me, and I expect it has occurred to a good many other people besides myself, is that the Government, not the whole of the Government, perhaps, but a certain very influential portion of the Government, desire nothing so much as to make this House look ridiculous, and I am bound to say I think they have largely succeeded. What they have done is to increase our numbers to positively portentous dimensions, and the more numerous the membership of this House is the less important become its duties, and no doubt this policy of humiliation and discredit is extremely palatable to a section of the Radical Party. There is another reason. When offices fall vacant and it is possible for them to be filled by a redistribution of Under-Secretaryships, you avoid by-elections—things which Governments are very glad to be able to avoid on certain occasions.
The third explanation is that, oddly enough, the action of the Government is largely due to one of the most meritorious qualities of this House. Whatever may be the faults of this House there is one thing that you can most emphatically assert about it, and that is that it is infinitely the most good-natured and long-suffering Assembly in existence, so much so that the biggest bore might die without ever discovering that he was anything but the most acceptable speaker in the House. Nobody can have sat here without being struck by this fact, that no resentment is ever shown—at all events it has never been shown in my experience—against any evidence of ignorance on the part of noble Lords who are supposed to represent Government Departments. Over and over again we have most of us heard minor Court officials glibly reading off opinions on the most abstruse subjects and delivering equally confident opinions upon intricate legal points, and it is no exaggeration to say that if they were called upon for an explanation of the sentiments which they had delivered themselves of they would be no more capable of giving it than if they were faced with Sanskrit or Hebrew for the purpose of translation. Nobody ever thinks of worrying noble Lords in those circumstances. It is considered bad form. I admit myself that I have in a private capacity been responsible for Bills which I should have been very sorry to have been 276 forced to interpret. That is a state of things which does not prevail anywhere else, and any member of the House of Commons who was in charge of a Bill which he did not thoroughly understand would have his life made so thoroughly miserable for him that he would be glad to escape here or anywhere else to avoid the persecution to which he would be subjected.
When, therefore, vacancies occur in the Government—and vacancies, whether created by death or not, are, I expect, generally hailed with great satisfaction by Governments—they argue to themselves somewhat in this fashion. "Now is the time for rewarding our friends. This is a stroke of good luck which we must take advantage of. Here is Mr. A., for instance, a well-connected gentleman who has done a great deal of work for the Liberal Social League. We ought to give him something. Then there is Mr. B., who has been stumping the country on behalf of the Insurance Act or some equally unpopular measure. Something ought to be done for him." Then there is another gentleman who is capable of making himself disagreeable. It may not be possible to get rid of him by making him a Peer as he may have an unsafe seat, but it is quite safe to make a gentleman of this kind an Under-Secretary because there is no risk of a by-election involved. And suppose anybody ventures to suggest that, after all, there is the House of Lords, and that there ought to be some sort of representation there, of course the answer would be, "The House of Lords! What does it matter whom you send there? Anybody will do for them. Lord So and So, we believe, is in the habit of reading the lessons in his parish church; he will do perfectly well to represent one of the great spending Departments."
So little value is attached to expert knowledge or to previous training that Governments have been known to commit the enormity, I might almost say, of appointing noble Lords to the position of Master of the Horse who were absolutely ignorant of the art of equitation, and therefore it is not the least incongruous, when a representative has to be found for the War Office, that a noble Lord, admirable in every other respect, is selected for the appointment who has never done ten minutes' drill in any sort of capacity, even as a Volunteer, in former days. I observed in a newspaper only a day or two ago that 277 the principal measure of the session—the Home Rule Bill—is going to be committed to the charge of a noble Lord who, I believe, is not even a minor Court official; and unless some alteration is foreshadowed the Mediterranean policy will be replied upon, or the Government statement with regard to it will be read out, by the noble Lord who I think acts as Master of the Horse at the present moment. I therefore feel inclined to suggest that the second great Liberal measure should be committed to the charge of the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, who has not had, so far, any opportunity of distinguishing himself.
This practice of deputing noble Lords not to answer for Departments because they do not do it but to read for Departments, is a practice which detracts enormously from the interest and value of debates in this House; and there are debates in this House which are not only interesting, but, strange to say, valuable as well, and I believe that the intelligent public pays more attention to debates on certain subjects, perhaps not many, in this House than it does to debates elsewhere. Take, for instance, the Department which has been so frequently referred to this afternoon—the War Office. The great difficulty with regard to military questions in this country is to arrive at facts, and there are only two ways, so far as I can see, of arriving, not at the truth, but at simple facts. One means is when military gentlemen are entertained at banquets and blurt out the truth, and then their official chiefs have, if they can, to explain away their statements. The other method, and the sole efficacious method, is to pursue a Minister by cross-examination, as is frequently done in this place with successful results. Those long and imposing statements on behalf of the War Office, or, in fact, of other Departments, which are made by Ministers in charge really often convey little or no information at all, because they are not intended to do so. For instance, I am perfectly certain—and I think I am paying the noble and learned Viscount a high compliment when I say so—speaking for myself I have been no wiser at the end of one of his long speeches regarding certain military facts than I was at the beginning. Those speeches are made for the purpose, first of all, of dishing their ex-official political opponents, and, in the second place, of throwing dust in the eyes of the public.
278 As I said before, the only way of arriving at what the French call the real truth is by the process of cross-examination. But you cannot cross-examine a noble Lord who knows nothing whatever of the subject, whatever his merits may be. He is really in the position of a gramophone or any other mechanical instrument which has run down and has to be set up again at some future period. It is not fair, of course, to blame those automatic noble Lords too much, because it is ridiculous to expect that they can become thoroughly versed in the affairs of a Department with which they have no real connection. I desire on this occasion to be, as I always desire to be, as impartial as possible, and I must admit that it seems to me that we are partly to blame for the mean and shabby treatment to which we are exposed at the present moment, again largely owing to our own virtues. The one quality which I personally admire more than anything in this House is the superb reticence which is displayed by it as a body. Here we are some 600—perhaps it is more correct to say 700—Members, for our number is tending steadily to increase. Any Member can come down here four times a week during eight months in the year and can make a speech upon any subject that he fancies. Under the guise of asking a Question he can deliver himself of any opinion under the sun. And yet he does not do so. The number of people who do it is infinitesimal. Where in the civilised world will you find a similar example of self-restraint? It is not surprising that we are still able to extort the unwilling admiration oven of some of our opponents.
Even this virtue, which we must all admire, has its drawbacks. I often wish that members of this House were animated by rather less modesty. Nobody can ignore the fact that during the present session, for instance, there has been a want of activity amounting I might almost say to lethargy. I should be inclined to guess that during the present year we have sat less and enjoyed longer holidays than upon any previous occasion, and I should also be inclined to suspect that the average attendance had been also smaller than in previous years. I confess it strikes me that it will not be very creditable to us as a Party, in view of this somewhat scanty and sparse attendance, if large numbers of Peers flock down here in the autumn should their services be required for the purpose of 279 defeating a Government measure. In short, my Lords, I venture with great respect to point out that if we displayed rather greater activity and more obvious interest in current proceedings the stronger would be our case against the mean and vindictive treatment which has been commented upon this afternoon.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, the concluding words of my noble friend who has just sat down did not seem to me to contain as strong an argument as the rest of his speech. Lord Newton is inclined to argue that by an abnegation of your rights your Lordships had encouraged the Government in the course for which we have received so ample an apology from the noble Marquess who leads the House. But in that respect Lord Newton is going too far. This House, it is true, has sat less this year, but the number of military debates has been in excess of those in former years, and yet this is the Department of which, under this new arrangement, we have not a single Parliamentary representative in this House. It is difficult, after the speech of the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, to press home many of the points on which we feel strongly. The noble Marquess has disarmed us by the candour with which he has expressed his disapproval of what had taken place, though with much ingenuity he endeavoured to make out that practically no change had taken place in the representation of the great spending Departments in your Lordships' House. So great has been the change during the last five years that the representation here of Public Departments has practically fallen by fifty per cent.; and if you look at the representation in the House of Commons you find that at this moment there are thirty-two representatives of Departments there, whereas in this House there are only six or seven. My noble friend Lord Lansdowne did not claim that there should be equality between the two Houses in this matter; but certainly an arrangement by which four-fifths of the Ministers sit in the other House is an unreasonable one.
I should like to take, first, a point personal to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. I shall be prepared afterwards to deal with the argument which he used, which I think was a false one, with regard to the position of Under- 280 Secretaries. I wonder if the noble Marquess has ever considered how great a burden has fallen upon himself owing to the present arrangement. I have taken the trouble to pick out the topics with which, in little over a Parliamentary month at the beginning of last year, the noble Marquess was forced to deal in this House through the absence of any official spokesmen, except on what Lord Newton called the gramophone principle, which has been so largely adopted. The noble Marquess at that time was carrying a pretty heavy burden. In the year 1910 he had the control of one of the heaviest Departments and he had, like other Ministers, a large accession of business through the change owing to the demise of the Crown. Then there were his duties as a member of the Cabinet and of the Defence Committee, and he also had the special duty, which went on for many months, of acting upon that Conference from which so much was hoped with regard to the relations of the two Houses but which unfortunately came to no agreement. But in that single month at the period to which I refer Lord Crewe made a speech in this House of some length covering the whole field of foreign politics, and he also made important speeches on the Parliament Bill, on the Referendum, on House of Lords Reform, on the Territorial Army, on beet sugar, on local rating, on the Finance Bill, on Sir Arthur Wilson's Memorandum, on Colonial Governments, on Persia, on the Ne Temere Decree, and on half a dozen other questions—all matters requiring careful consultation with different Departments of State. Within a few weeks of the last of those speeches, to our great regret, the noble Marquess's health broke down, and our pleasure at seeing him with us again is tempered in my. case with astonishment that his colleagues, having seen the effect of that process before, should have laid upon the noble Marquess such an intolerable burden by the changes they have made in reducing the number of Cabinet Ministers in this House from seven to four, and the number of Under-Secretaries of State from two to one.
I ask myself, On what ground is this action taken? The noble Marquess has assured us that it is not taken from any desire to humble this House or to withhold information. I take leave to say that no case can be made out, from the point of view of the business in the other House, 281 for the enormous increase in the personnel of the Government in that Chamber. The debates in the other House are not as prolonged as they were twenty years ago, and the time allotted to Departmental criticism on the Estimates is less than it was twenty years ago. The attendance in Parliament on average evenings, we learn from the newspapers, has been lessened greatly by the continued interposition of the Closure and the consequent unreality of the debates; and so much has the practice arisen of leaving matters to Under-Secretaries in the other House that it has frequently been my experience to read in the newspapers that the Under-Secretary has been the previous night defending his Department in the House of Commons and also parrying, in his absence, attacks upon his chief, whom one has had the advantage of seeing in more congenial atmospheres in a costume betokening the festivities of the hour. The habit is growing of Ministers absenting themselves even when the business of their Department is under consideration. I venture to think that this requires explanation and defence, but we have not heard one word with regard to it to-night. The particular instance of the War Office is only one of a long series of changes in the hitherto well-established usage of Parliament. May I ask the noble Marquess to bear with me for a moment while I contest the argument which he set up, that it does not very much matter whether a man is in the Department or merely briefed by the Department so far as regards his effectiveness in dealing with experts in this House?
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I might, perhaps, state the argument rather differently. I should be far from saying that a man who merely received a brief for a Department was in the same position as one who was working in it. My object was to call attention to the fact that it is quite possible for the representative of a Department who may hold an office, for instance, in the King's Household to do regular work for the Department, and I ventured to instance the way I had done so myself in 1886.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My point is that I think the noble Marquess undervalues the objects which we set before ourselves in the discussions which we initiate. I am quite certain that Lord 282 Herschell will give us on all War Office matters as complete and as courteous an answer as he can, but he lacks one important function of an Under-Secretary. The object of these debates is not merely to extract information from the Government, or, as Lord Newton said, to cross-examine a Secretary of State, but to influence the course of procedure in the future. I speak with some little knowledge of the work of an Under-Secretary. I believe I hold the record in this House, for I do not think any other noble Lord has ever served as I did for nearly twelve years as an Under-Secretary under five different chiefs. Therefore I have some knowledge of what the functions of an Under-Secretary are. Lord Beaconsfield, complaining of an Under-Secretary for War, said to him. "You are not aware of the details of your office which it is your business to master for the benefit of the Secretary of State, who is occupied with other subjects." An Under-Secretary has this advantage, that every paper comes before him before it goes to the Secretary of State, and it would be impossible for Colonel Seely not to be made aware by his Under-Secretary in this House in his Minute of anything which had been forced upon the mind of the Under-Secretary here and which properly ought to find its way to the Secretary of State before he gave his decision; and if that is neglected one of the most important objects which are achieved by the criticism of the Government is lost.
I cannot help asking myself, On what ground was the present appointment made? I do not wish to say a word derogatory of the new Under-Secretary of State for War. I sat with him in the House of Commons and I know he was a most conscientious student of many sides of public activity. He was an authority on many social questions and questions connected with the Home Office, but I am not aware that he took the smallest interest in military matters or had in any way specially marked himself out for that particular Department. Therefore I ask why should not Lord Herschell have been appointed Under-Secretary of State for War? What was there which forced Mr. Asquith to select Mr. Tennant? Although the House of Lords has from time immemorial had a representative of the War Office, yet the Prime Minister, a few months after he has laid on this Chamber 283 the severest stigma which it was within the power of any man to lay on any Assembly, deprives this House of the opportunity of first-hand communication with the Department dealing with a subject of which it happens to have the greatest knowledge. There are in this House six Field-Marshals and nearly fifty chairmen of Territorial Associations, not to speak of ex-officials of the Department; and I am afraid that even the prospect held out by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House that before long the representation may be improved does not prevent our feeling that we have been hardly used in this matter.
It has been suggested in some quarters that it would be well if Ministers had the opportunity of sitting in both Houses. I believe that rule obtains in some other Assemblies. But there are two sides to that question, and the one which pre-dominates to-day is the practical side. How are you to add to the labours which a Minister now has to undergo? He is already forced to speak all over the country in defence of the Government. I hardly think that the plan of Ministers going from one House to the other would be feasible, and I am quite sure that, unless the temper of the present Government altered very materially, it would only result in this House being further deprived of the representatives of the great Public Departments, seeing that we should be told that if any difficulty arose some one would come across the Lobby and explain matters to us. I hope the result of this debate will be a little more than appeared in the speech of the Leader of the House. I cannot help thinking that in this matter not merely have we a serious grievance but that serious public inconvenience will follow unless some change is made in regard to representation in this House. What occurred last year certainly robbed the legislative power of this House of considerable force, but, as Lord Newton said, there are a large number of people who follow the debates in this House. I know many departments of the Government which have profited by the criticisms addressed in this Assembly, and I trust that the noble Marquess who leads the House will take pains to see that the downhill progress which has been so rapid of recent years with regard to effective representation in this House is brought to an end.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
There are a few words which I should like to say in comment on the speech to which we have just listened. We all appreciate the terms of acknowledgment in which the noble Viscount spoke of the laborious duties which were discharged by my noble friend who leads the House and the thoroughness with which he covered the vast variety of topics with which he had to deal. But I do not think that the situation is so serious as the noble Viscount would have us believe. It is true that the Ministry is at the present moment somewhat inadequately represented in this House, but the inadequacy I think is more superficial than real. The impression has got abroad that the important thing is numerical proportion, and that because somebody happens to be an Under-Secretary he can therefore in this House discharge equally well the functions which would be fulfilled elsewhere by the Minister who is actually at the head of the Department. I wish to contest that by a case with which the noble Viscount and I are both familiar. The organisation of the War Office has considerably changed since the noble Viscount was there. At that time the Under-Secretary- might be said not only to represent the views of his chief but to be a sort of deputy to the Minister at the head of the Department in regard to all the subjects with which he was concerned. But since the Order in Council which was the result of the Esher Inquiry that state of things has disappeared.
To-day the functions of the Ministers who represent the War Office are very different from what they were in the days of the noble Viscount. Besides the Secretary of State there are other members of the Army Council, of whom the Civil Member (the Under-Secretary) and the Financial Member are only two. The various duties are partitioned out very definitely. The Civil Member, for instance, deals with questions connected with the Territorial Force and with land, and he has nothing whatever to do with a subject which has been much discussed in this House—mobilisation. I take that as an illustration. The Civil Member has no more opportunity of knowing about mobilisation than an outsider would have provided that outsider had equal access to the office. It is not in his department, and it was not intended that the various 285 members of the Army Council should interfere in each others business. Again, the Financial Member has no official cognisance of the general conduct of business throughout the War Office. The only Minister who does know all that goes on in the War Office is the Secretary of State, and the only exception to that rule is when there is somebody of sufficient energy and capacity to go beyond the duties assigned to him and make himself master of all that is going on. The material bearing of that is that if a noble Lord who is a member of the Government is given facilities for making himself acquainted with the business of the War Office he will be at least as well qualified to discharge the duties which have to be discharged in this House as would be the Civil Member. The intention in the present ease is that Lord Herschell should make himself familiar with the whole organisation of the Army. He has a room at the War Office, I understand—
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
Will Lord Herschell be in a position, as the Under-Secretary would be, to attend the meetings of the Army Council?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
No; Lord Herschell will not be in a position to attend the A ruin Council. But the noble Viscount if he had had my experience during the last six years, would know that the work actually done before the Army Council is not a hundredth or even a five hundredth part of the work done in formal consultations which go on between members of the Army Council and the Secretary of State, and Lord Herschell will have at least as good an opportunity of access to the Secretary of State as will any of his colleagues, and I venture to think that my noble friend will show himself equal to the duties which will be cast upon him. The whole question of the changes which have taken place cannot be considered apart from the enormous increase of work in the House of Commons. Parliament sits for a large part of the year now and business has increased enormously in the House of Commons. Ministers are overworked; they have more to do in the country outside the walls of Parliament than ever before; and it is natural that there should be a gravitation on the part of the ranks of the Ministry to the place where the work is so enormous. I quite agree that this House should be guarded 286 against unfair treatment in this matter. It is one of the Houses of Parliament; all matters have to come before this House equally in theory with the other, and every Government ought therefore to be represented adequately here. But I think I have shown that as regards the Department to which I have referred the arrangement which has been adopted ought to provide this House with adequate means of informing itself minutely on the various matters of policy which from time to time must form the subject of debate.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, this discussion really raises a question of great Constitutional importance, because it is one that must affect the future prestige and character of this House. We have had replies from two important Ministers— from the Leader of the House and from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. The latter noble Lord dealt in the main with the question of the Department with which he has been so long associated, and there, of course, I shall not endeavour to follow him. I will say in a moment a sentence or two about his reference to the increasing gravitation, as he called it, towards the House of Commons. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House dealt with us, as he always does, with great courtesy. He gave us an interesting historical account of the representation of the Departments in both Houses of Parliament, and he drew a distinction, which seemed to me a fanciful and rather irrelevant, distinction, between the degrees of intrinsic importance which particular Departments might be supposed to possess in the eyes of this House.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I only did that in view of the particular words used by the noble Marquess in his Motion and the enumeration which he made of certain Departments as specially important.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
The noble Marquess the Leader of the House seemed to be of opinion that my noble friend behind me had based his case upon an arbitrary selection of Departments. I am sure I am expressing the view of Lord Lansdowne when I say that that was not in the least the case. He is quite prepared to take any Department, or any group of Departments, or the Departments as a whole, and whichever 287 test be applied he would equally make good his case. Conciliatory as have been the replies, no sort of answer has been given to the main gravamen of the charge that has been made. As I understand the charge it is this, not that His Majesty's Government have violated the law—though my noble friend did say that in respect of the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries he thought that it had been evaded—but that the unbroken Constitutional practice of Parliament, which has existed for a hundred years or more, has been broken down in the hands of the present Administration.
My noble friend Lord Lansdowne went on to give evidence which was incontrovertible. He took the case of Departments of Government which have two Parliamentary representatives—the Home Office, the Foreign Office, the Board of Trade, the Local Government Board, the Board of Education, and the Irish Office. Each of these Departments has two Parliamentary representatives, both of whom at present sit in the House of Commons. Then there are two other Departments each of which has three Parliamentary representatives—the War Office and the Admiralty—and each of those three representatives now sits in the House of Commons. That is a state of affairs unprecedented in our Parliamentary history, and I really think I should not be using extravagant language if I said it almost amounted to a Parliamentary scandal. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House said he would communicate to us what he held to be the governing principles of the matter. I listened carefully to the whole of his speech to learn what they were supposed to be, but he vouchsafed us no explanation on the point.
Now what are the governing principles? The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said there was an increasing gravitation towards the House of Commons. Let us admit that. Let us say at once that none of us would wish to draw up our code of principles with anything like the rigidity which would have been demanded fifty or a hundred years ago. We concede at once that as regards the great spending Departments it is only right that they should be adequately represented in the House of Commons. I think we should concede that it is not 288 unreasonable that a majority of the Secretaries of State should sit in the House of Commons, and, further, that it is not improper that the majority of the members of the Cabinet should be found in that House rather than in the House of Lords. That was not always the case. If you go back exactly 100 years from the present date to the Administration of Lord Liverpool you will find that a large majority of the members of his Cabinet were in your Lordships' House, and there was an even more famous case when Mr. Pitt formed his first Administration and was the solitary Cabinet Minister in the House of Commons. All that was inevitably changed with the Reform Bill. With the Reform Bill came a second era, in which Cabinet Ministers were fairly evenly divided between the two Houses. This went on until the latest phase began with Mr. Gladstone's Government in 1892. Then for the first time there was a marked disparity, and a large majority of Cabinet Ministers had seats in the House of Commons. That process has continued unarrested till the present day, and the movement—as I think a downward movement—has been so rapid that we have now got to the point, according to the figures given by the noble Marquess, when out of a Cabinet of twenty members no fewer than sixteen sit in the House of Commons and only four in your Lordships' House. That is what we protest against.
And this brings me to the last of the governing principles which I, at any rate, would venture to lay down. Making all the concessions to the House of Commons which the natural political gravitation demands, it is nevertheless entirely right and proper and becoming that this House so long as we have a bicameral system should, as regards all the important Departments of State, have a representative here. And by a representative I do not merely mean a courteous and amiable spokesman drawn from some Court appointment. I mean au official working in the Department, cognisant of its affairs, familiar with its papers, and capable of interpreting the mind of his chief.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
May I ask the noble Earl to explain why it was that for ten years when his friends were in power the Admiralty was utterly unrepresented in this House?
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I was not in the country myself at the time. There may have been special reasons, just as there was a special reason, as stated by the noble Marquess, for the failure to represent the India Office during a short time in this House. My noble friend behind me tells me that the Admiralty was at that time represented in this House by Lord Hopetoun, who was specially qualified to deal with the matter and had special knowledge upon it. It may be that there have been departures on this side from what I hold to be the correct practice. But whenever started the process has been steadily pursued by His Majesty's present Government to the destruction, as I think, of the prestige and privilege and authority of this House. I am one of those—and I hope the sentiment is common to most of your Lordships—who even in our present condition, maimed and mutilated as we are, feel a pride in belonging to the House of Lords. I feel that such rights as we still possess it is our duty to exercise. I feel that we have a right to all the information that the Government in its various Departments has to place at our disposal. Ministers come here not to please themselves; they come here because the House has a right to demand their presence. Ministers answer equally to both Houses of Parliament so long as the double-Chamber system continues, and this House has every bit as much right to authoritative information from any Department of Government as has the House of Commons. Destroy us if you will, take away our power altogether, drive this country into single-Chamber government, but as long as we retain a bicameral system you have no right to make these stealthy inroads upon the authority of the House of Lords and to rob us of the rights to which we are entitled.
I do not wish to pursue the matter, but there was a question put by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House at the conclusion of his remarks to which I think he will expect a reply. He said that his attitude and the attitude of his supporters would be governed by what was the real meaning of the Motion put down by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition. The object of the Motion was not to censure the Government or the head of the Government for any individual appointment or group of appointments. What my noble 290 friend desired to do was to state again the correct principles which have always hitherto been observed as regards the distribution of offices between the two Houses of Parliament, and to place on record our disapproval of the utterly inadequate arrangements which, as it appears to us, have been made by the Government in recent years in the representation in this House of the great Public Departments. If the noble Marquess, as I understand he will do, accepts the Motion in that sense, then I imagine there will be no necessity to put your Lordships to the trouble of a Division, and this Motion will remain on record as a demonstration of the strong views entertained by your Lordships on a matter really of no mean importance.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
After the explanation which the noble Earl has been good enough to make we do not propose to put your Lordships to the trouble of a Division. It is possible, of course—in fact I think it is undoubtedly the case—that we do not place upon the words precisely the same interpretation placed upon them by noble Lords opposite, but we do not propose to divide against the noble Marquess's Motion.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.