§ LORD RIBBLESDALE had the following Notice on the Paper—
§ To invite the attention of the House to the recent pronouncements (on I 17th July) of the Leader of the House upon the propriety of putting questions down on the Notice Paper with a view to receiving replies from His Majesty's Ministers; and to ask whether, for the future, permission will be required to do so.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not think I need assure the House that I have not put this Notice on the Paper on any 73 private, or still less on any personal, grounds. On the contrary, in common, I think, with all your Lordships, I always listen with pleasure and interest to the agreeable speeches of my noble friend the Leader of the House, and I admire the urbane eloquence which he ungrudgingly gives to the routine business of the House. But I am bound to say that on July 17, and the various incidents prior to July 17 which led up to the pronouncements that I am examining this evening, my noble friend was not fortunate either in his choice of methods or his choice of phrase, and the more I reflect upon this, and the more I peruse my Hansard, the more disquieted I feel about our future. I have put this Notice down in the hope that I may give my noble friend an opportunity—I dare say he will not thank me for it—of retreating from what (looking at it quite as a backbench and unofficial Peer, merely one of your Lordships' House) I think is an untenable position and one which I think is hazardous to our liberties as a House and to our practice.
§ I would claim your Lordships' attention for one moment to a postulate. I am sure you all agree that postulates are almost platitudes. Let it be granted that the two main safeguards, perhaps the two main distinctions of our free and unwritten Constitution are, first, the right of free speech; and, secondly, Ministerial responsibility. To amplify the postulate for a moment, I think it will be generally admitted that free speech in this House has been sanctioned by theory, ratified by practice, and secured to us by the troubles and by the controversies of the 17th and 18th centuries, As to Ministerial responsibility, I have no need either to labour or to belabour that. Ministerial responsibility is, after all, the pièce de resistance of all Constitutional history and practice. I shall only be preaching to the converted if I affirm that nothing should be allowed to molest or to impair free speech, and that nothing should be allowed either to excuse or to diminish Ministerial responsibility. As to Ministerial responsibility, I say that this vigilance on our part is especially requisite in these days. As it is, Ministerial responsibility has become a remarkably intermittent apparition—almost that. It is extremely evasive, and it is really wonderful how it is able to take cover under the skirts of D.O.R.A. and to hide itself away, thanks to the various bureaucratic controlling contrivances of the 74 emergency days in which we happen to be living.
§ Now I submit that the Leader of the House the other night in what he said—though I do not wish to go back to the merits of that in his dealing with Lord Wimborne's Motion—to borrow a once famous phrase, has dismissed free speech and Ministerial responsibility "to Jupiter or Saturn." I ask you what becomes of us and of this House, of our liberties and our ways, if the noble Earl's pronouncement the other night stands. I submit that we become in the jargon of the day a "controlled establishment," regulated as to our ancient freedom and rights at the discretion of a Government and of a Leader of the House, just as hay, corn, and bacon are now regulated by authority.
§ And now, my Lords, I ask, Will that do? It is quite possible that the present Leader of the House, having, as it were, had his excursion the other day, may be very careful of these things. Byron told us that the Tyrant of the Chersonese was Freedom's best and noblest friend. I believe that is rightly quoted, but, whatever Byron said, we have never had any opportunity of knowing what the inhabitants of the Chersonese thought about it. It is this conjuncture of affairs and influences that, I will not say causes me alarm or perhaps dismay, but honestly I have been here a long while and I do not like this state of things, and it does, as I said just now, cause me disquietude and anxiety.
§ The other night my noble friend Lord Crewe, to whom in former years I had the honour of acting as Chief Whip when he was leading this House, on the spur of the moment intervened, I thought in perfect taste, as he always does, and with very good sense. He put in what I understood to be a caveat to what we had just heard from the noble Earl the Leader of the House. I think, having regard to the rather strained circumstances of that evening, the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, could not have said more. But I felt very strongly then, and these few days have matured the impression I then formed, that things cannot be left as Lord Crewe left them. Lord Crewe suggested a remedy. In that particular ease the remedy might apply, but it would not apply in ordinary cases. Lord Crewe adumbrated this kind of remedy, that all this kind of thing, where it was an awkward Question, could be done 75 by friendly conversations outside. The Minister would show his whole mind to the inquirer, and the inquirer would go away perfectly satisfied that all was for the best in this best of worlds. I think it very possible that if the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, or if the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, had Questions of that kind on the Paper, they would have had immediate access to the noble Earl, and they might go away satisfied with all lie told them.
§ But I will just put it to you: perhaps a Peer who lives in some remote part of Ireland, who feels very strongly about something which is happening affecting Ireland, who knows nobody up here, who perhaps does not even know the Whips, puts down a Question which, it may be, is inconvenient to the Government. Do you mean to tell me that that Peer, coming up to London, trying to do the kind of things which Lord Crewe recommends as the palliative to Lord Curzon's ratter violent medicine, would have very much chance, however strongly he felt about the matter at issue, of either getting the House to know his views or getting any satisfaction? It is quite clear that it is impossible.
§ I would also put this hypothetical case which arises out of this. Let us suppose that we may find ourselves in this position very shortly: a Government in office pledged and plighted to some very extreme Irish policy, an Irish policy of the colour which I approve of, for I am one of those dangerous characters, an English Home Ruler. Assume a Government of that kind, and assume that my noble friend whom I see in his place opposite, Lord Londonderry, feels that he must put forward the case of Ulster in a manner which cuts directly across the Government policy, and wants to put down a statement of argument in his Question which is extremely inconvenient to the Government. Are we to understand, on Lord Curzon's pronouncements, that because it is inconvenient to the Government the Leader of the House is henceforward to say: "I do not like this Question of yours, and if you do not take it off the Paper I will not answer it"? I do not think that this will commend itself to the House as a very desirable outcome of the Tables of Stone which were delivered to us the other evening.
§ Take the case of a Government plighted to the secularisation of the Establishment. Let us assume that the Archbishop of 76 Canterbury or the Bishop of Oxford in the same way put down a Question, as they would be bound to do, which again struck a vital blow at the general policy of the Government. Are they, again, to be told on the authority of the Leader of the House, "This is inconvenient; you can go on if you like, but no one will answer you? "
§ Well, my Lords, I do not know that I have very much more to say. As you see, in the latter part of my Question, which gives me, if I like to exercise it, some right of reply, I ask whether in future we are to ask permission to put down Questions at all. Because it really amounts to that If the reply is to be withheld, having regard to the custom of the House by which we generally put down Questions to convey arguments, it is an automatic piece of machinery if we are not to be replied to; it is no use putting down Questions. Therefore you have the censorship of a Question and the discretionary authority of the Leader of the House for the time being, which means the Government, as to whether a Question is to go down at all or whether it is to get an answer.
§ I have no desire to over-interpret or overweight in any way what Lord Curzon did and what he said in this matter. I should be sorry to do that. I think that every allowance is to be made for every Minister owing to the great overwork and strain which is put upon them by these troublesome days. I also think that I must personally make some excuse for the noble Earl for his comparative newness to the more delicate transactions of the Leadership of this House. Perhaps, too, he may have been uneasy at the back of his mind that from the first in the management of this affair he had made a mistake. All those things are possible, and I make every allowance for them. But I submit that the new dispensations laid upon us the other night will not do. I do not know what other noble Lords think about it, but I shall not acquiesce in any hoc rolo, sic pro ratione voluntas pretensions or pronouncements. I invite the House to share toy view that any such pretensions should be withdrawn as categorically as they were advanced.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I think your Lordships will feel very grateful to the noble Lord for having opened up this discussion, and I am sure that in the very temperate manner in which he 77 has alluded to it he does no more than fully carry out the ideas and feelings which are in the hearts of the majority of your Lordships; but I think we must agree that this is a matter of vital importance and one which, in the important affairs in which we are standing at this moment, should not be lost sight of. I am bound to say I fully sympathise with the noble Lord's apprehension that circumstances are gradually bringing your Lordships to finally abdicating those remaining powers which belong to you. The House of Lords has occupied a very honourable position in the State. It can boast a record which no words of mind are required to establish, and we know well that on more than one occasion it has proved itself to be more fully representative of popular opinion than is the House of Commons, and when we consider the action of your Lordships' House in reference to the Declaration of London in the year 1911 we know well that it is due to the action of your Lordships on that occasion that the greatest possible disaster was averted in connection with the war at the present moment. Yet the conscious and sub-conscious thought which is gradually entering into your Lordships' minds is that this House as an effective force, as a necessary balance in the Constitution, as a revising body, and as a cheek to the initiation and passing into law of hasty legislation—that as a force in that direction, your Lordships' Rouse is rapidly ceasing to exist.
I can only say that I welcome this discussion, and there are two particular points to which I would venture to draw your Lordships' attention. I should like to say at the outset that my remarks are more in the nature of an appeal to the noble Earl who leads the House and are certainly not an indictment, and when I appeal to the noble Earl it is because I am aware of the very powerful position which he occupies—a position in which he alone can assist us to retrieve the position of this House. Therefore I would venture to ask him to use his great influence and great powers to establish this House in the position which it should occupy as a legislative chamber in this country. My Lords, the first point to which I wish to refer, and which has been most eloquently stated by my noble friend who sits opposite, is that we have seen that a custom is developing that no Question shall be brought forward in your Lordships' House unless it receives the special sanction and special approval of the noble Earl who leads 78 this House. I agree and fully agree that there are many amenities and courtesies in this House which not one of your Lordships would like to see omitted, but when it conies to what we who are on the outside are inclined to think we are coming to—namely, that the noble Earl should occupy and maintain a complete jurisdiction over the liberty which has been traditionally enjoyed by noble Lords—it seems to me that the main object for which your Lordships' Home exists is rapidly going through a process of complete destruction.
Now, my Lords, our opportunity and our chief duty lie in this direction, that we are able to bring forward any Question on any subject, and that we can receive an answer from the Government to satisfy us on those points. There is a system which we know well in the House of Commons which goes by the name of negotiations behind the Speaker's Chair, and I am bound to say that as a member of the House of Commons I always looked with the greatest suspicion upon those negotiations which took place behind the Speaker's Chair, and when that system is to be introduced into your Lordships' House I am bound to say that I look with still greater suspicion upon it. We know that in this House such negotiations are completely unnecessary, because there is a feature in your Lordships' constitution which I think obviates any difficulties or harmful results which are supposed to ensue from inconvenient discussions, and that is a Motion "that the noble Lord he no longer heard." Now, my Lords, there is one great reason which has been paramount lately, and necessarily paramount, and that is what is known as the public interest, and I would not endeavour to minimise what is meant by those words when used by a responsible Minister. The public interest is something to which we are necessarily bound to bow, but under the shadow of that phrase, "the public interest," I foresee that it is possible to enact the greatest tyranny. I would venture to define what is public interest, but I feel that this phrase is likely to become a habit, and I have seen it very frequently used in the House of Commons as what I may call a "get out" for harassed Ministers.
I claim to be one of those who firmly believe that confidence has never been misplaced in the British people, and I believe that if a little more latitude were given to dis- 79 cussion it would be found very soon that that confidence would in no circumstances be misplaced. I believe that it is far better that questions of broad policy should be discussed, and one usually finds that on these questions on which so much secrecy is insisted there is a great deal more knowledge outside the House than is enjoyed by members of your Lordships' House or of the House of Commons; and when we see that questions are put on one side in your Lordships' House and not brought forward for discussion, I am inclined to feel that most of your Lordships' discussions are carried on more or less in the guise of a secret session. We know very well, whether the position of your Lordships' House is decreasing or not, that the Press do not pay much attention to your Lordships' debates.
Let us consider the position at the present moment. We see the House of Commons wielding autocratic authority and in possession of smaller elements of a representative character than has ever been possessed by any House of Commons in the past. A measure was passed through the House of Commons which enacted that no House of Commons could efficiently carry out its mandate for more than five years, and yet we find the House of Commons enjoying an enormous amount of power after an eight years session, and we also see measures of far-reaching importance wholly unconnected with the war carried out by this moribund assembly. It has proved itself on many occasions a docile and subservient body, and members who are inclined to be critical are usually told that their criticism is unpatriotic, and, what is a far more serious feature, there is a steadily increasing body of Government officials in the House of Commons, and the House of Commons bids fair soon to be a body of Coalition Placemen and nothing more. With regard to some of these appointments one considers that they have not been made on the merits of the candidates, but that those Members of the House of Commons who are inclined to criticise the Government, and be inconvenient in their criticisms and speeches, are much more likely to occupy positions on the Treasury Bench than some Member of far higher intellectual capacity who is inclined to hold his peace. One is forced to the conclusion that the only free and independent assembly—by that I mean your Lordships' House, which is the sole instrument for guarding popular interests, and which, moreover, is the sole vehicle 80 now for the expression of popular opinion—is rapidly going through a process of decay. That is the first point which I would venture to put before your Lordships' House.
The second point is the apportionment of Ministerial appointments between the two Houses. This is a question which it is always very difficult for any one to approach, and I would ask your Lordships to believe that I am bringing this forward entirely on its intrinsic merits. T should not like your Lordships to attribute to me any unworthy suggestion of desiring to be a recipient of one of these posts, although I am certainly going to say that I do not think there is any member of your Lordships' House who is not ambitious, if the opportunity offered and if his conscience was agreeable, to do whatsoever he could, all that lay in his power, in whatever minor or unimportant post, to carry out the duties of the country to the best of his ability. I view with grave misgivings the decrease of what are known as Ministerial appointments in your Lordships' House.
With great respect, may I ask the noble Marquess to consider whether the subject to which he is now addressing himself is germane to the Notice put down by my noble friend?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY:
I fully agree with what the noble Lord has said, and I have taken the Question which my noble friend has raised as drawing attention to the position which your Lordships' House has occupied, and whether or not it has those powers which intrinsically belong to this House and which, I believe, it can exercise for the benefit of the country and the Empire. I certainly feel—I say it with the greatest possible respect to the noble Lord who interrupted me—that this question of Ministerial appointments, which I will venture to develop very briefly, is one which strikes at the root of the authority which we desire that your Lordships' House should possess. I would say at once that it always has been the idea, and up till quite recently has been the custom, that in this House we should have the benefit of a responsible official belonging to each of the Departments, or as many of the Departments as possible; and I say that I view with grave apprehension and misgiving a very sinister feature, which is becoming more and more prominent in the Ministerial appointments 81 in this country, and that is that responsible officials are placed in the I louse of Commons while other officials are brought into this House, placed on what is known as the front Bench, and are called upon to give the answers of the Department to which they are accredited.
I think all of us will agree that on the Front Bench of this House there are men who, from their intellectual capacity, from their own records, and front their experience, are capable of occupying the highest posts in the land. I venture to say that there is not one who, if he were a Member of the House of Commons, would not be occupying a very responsible and important position. Yet, because he is a member of your Lordships' House, we find that he is not good enough to be an Under Secretary, but he is asked here to take up those duties in a very patriotic spirit and to give your Lordships the information which it is possible for him to give. It seems to me that the trend of this policy is obvious. It is destroying the power which your Lordships may have for good in this country, and, because the noble Earl who leads this House—fortunately, I may say—occupies a very important and a very powerful position and, apart from a very few positions in this House, stands by himself in a position of importance in the counsels of the State, I would venture to appeal to him to use the power of his great position and also his influence to establish the character of this House and so enable it to carry out those duties efficiently and properly, which I believe are necessary to the good government of this country and this Empire.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, my noble friend who introduced this subject told the House that he had been a long time a member of it. I, too, have been a long time a member of this House—so long that I think I may, perhaps, be pardoned for saving half a dozen words as to the manner in which the Motion of my noble friend strikes me. I was not present on the occasion of the debate of the 17th of this month, but I have read it pretty carefully in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I say nothing as to the sufficiency of the reasons for which the noble Earl who leads the House declined to discuss the particular Question which had been suggested by my noble friend beside me (Lord Wimborne) for discussion. I say nothing as to that, because I do not know what the reasons of the Government were; nor do I wish to enter into a minute exami- 82 nation of every phrase that was used by the noble Earl. But of this I am certain, that he did not intend to claim, and did not claim, any right to put a veto on the discussion of any subject that a member of this House might desire to discuss.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I find nothing in the words that he used to suggest the idea that he conceived that it was the duty of a private Peer to come to him for permission before a Notice could be put on the Paper or debated. Such a claim, if I may say so, would have been monstrous and absurd, unsupported by any kind of authority. There is one authority and only one authority that can decide whether a particular subject is to be debated or not, and that is the House itself.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
It does not rest with any Minister, however powerful; it rests with the House itself. I venture to think that the position was quite fairly summed up by the noble Marquess opposite, Lord Crewe, when he told the House on the 17th that in his view it was part of the ordinary comity of this House that debates on delicate questions should not be attempted without at least giving the responsible Minister a chance of suggesting that the moment was an inopportune moment for the discussion. When I say "inopportune" I do not mean for a moment inopportune because it is inconvenient to the Minister to come down and make a speech. The only plea upon which a Notice can be put on one side would be that the discussion of it was inadvisable in the public interest, and not with reference to the convenience of Ministers.
I have had some experiences of these matters. I was Secretary of State for War at a time when war was going on; I was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at a time when very delicate foreign negotiations were in progress; and I can recall many cases in which noble Lords came to me, or I went to them, in order to consider whether at some particular moment it was, or was not, desirable in the public interest that there should be a debate upon this question or upon that. I am glad to bear witness to the invariable courtesy and to the reasonable spirit in which I was always met upon those occasions.
83 I think something was said with regard to the practice, which is sometimes resorted to, of meeting an undesirable Motion by silence on the part of the Minister responsible for the Department involved. That, no doubt, is the last resort. If the Peer persists with his Motion, and the Government are unable to discuss it, they are obliged to take refuge in silence. It is a very disagreeable solution of the difficulties for all concerned. It is not pleasant for the Peer who desires to provoke the discussion, and it certainly can never be pleasant for the Minister concerned. The Minister concerned will always feel that, if he declines to open his mind, he is liable to the suspected of shirking a difficulty. I am sure my noble friend behind me remembers the line in Pope's "Ode to Silence," which I think runs thus—And routed reason finds a safe retreat in thee.I daresay the Minister who, for reasons of prudence, is not able to say what he might like to say, feels all the time that he is liable to an imputation of that sort.
But, if I may sum up what I want to say, I do so by expressing my belief that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred these difficulties can be overcome by amicable discussion out of doors, as they have been overcome in the past. I am not very much alarmed by the picture which my noble friend drew just now of the diffident Irish Peer. I have never observed such diffidence, which can scarcely be said to peculiar to members of that race, and I doubt whether any Irish Peer is likely to be deterred because of the awful reception he might encounter from some member of the Front Bench. I do not believe the difficulties are really as formidable as my two noble friends suppose. I venture to express my hope that, as these misgivings have arisen, and probably do exist in the minds of a good many of your Lordships, the noble Earl who leads the House will take an opportunity of reassuring them, and saying (as I am sure he will be able to say) that it never entered into his head, or into the heads of the Government, of which he is so distinguished a member, either to menace freedom of speech in this House or to attempt to shirk that Ministerial responsibility to which, in all parts of this House, we attach such a great amount of importance.
My Lords, I propose to confine myself quite closely to the Question of my noble relative opposite, and not follow the excursion into the general powers of your Lordships' House to which we have listened. My noble relative began, and I entirely agree with him, on the great importance of preserving not only the liberties of the House as a whole but of preserving the liberties and privileges of each individual Peer. I am afraid I find myself rather parting company front him if he thinks that those liberties are, at the moment, in danger, and therefore I find myself much more in agreement with the noble Marquees, Lord Lansdowne.
I have been a member of this Assembly for thirty years, and I have occasionally in the course of that time put down Questions which I am sure have been inconvenient and disagreeable to the Government. Indeed, they were often not intended to be agreeable. I have never been approached by any member on behalf of the Government on the ground that my Questions were disagreeable or inconvenient and asked to remove such Questions from the Paper. What I understand the noble Earl the Leader of the House to say—and I agree—is that in the case of delicate matters, and particularly in the case of foreign affairs, the mere putting down of Questions might, in itself, be against the public interest. That is a matter on which the Government must be the judge, and in cases of that sort they would naturally approach any one who had put down such a Question and would ask him not to press it. I think I shall be right in saying that there is no member of our Lordships' House who would not, in those circumstances, leave the responsibility to the Government and not press such a Question.
In passing may I say, lest I should be thought reflecting on the noble Lord in connection with whom this Question arose, that I am quite sure it was not clear to him that the Question would be embarrassing to the public interest; otherwise I could not imagine it would have been pressed. It is, of course, necessary also for the liberties of this House that when we are offered that advice the decision should be acted upon, and remain in the last resort, with the individual Peer. If he likes to take the responsibility, and if he thinks in the public interest, and his own conception of the public interest and his duty 85 to the country, he must take the responsibility of pressing some Question which he is told is embarrassing then, undoubtedly, he must be at liberty to press it; otherwise if that were not so, it is quite obvious the Government could suppress what many people would regard as legitimate debate. I very much doubt whether your Lordships have any reason to complain in the past as to the non-compliance on the part of any Peer with such a request.
Let me add where, I think, the mis-apprehension arose. The noble Earl the Leader of the House rather suggested the other day—I have not studied the language in Hansard, but I was present at the discussion—that you must not put down a Question if it is inconvenient. I am sure what he meant to say was, that you ought not, and of course you would not, to put down a Question if your attention was directed to the fact that it was against the public interest. To that I do not think your Lordships could take any exception, although the ultimate decision must remain with the individual Peer. I trust that the noble Earl when he replies will make it clear that he meant no more than this. It has been in my experience of this House the invariable practice, and I think in that case we shall have really nothing to apprehend. It is true that in another place, as in the Press, we are suffering from a great deal of muzzling, and it is very important that in this House we should retain completely in theory full liberty of discussing anything we like, inconvenient or convenient to the Government.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, I only want to say a word or two because the other evening I intervened when this Question was raised. I said that several times I wished to put down Questions about Persia, and have been asked to postpone them by the noble Earl the Leader of the House. When I made that interjection it was not by way of complaint, but only to show the noble Viscount, Lord Wimborne, that it was nothing unusual for any Peer to be asked not to press his Motion or Question
I remember perfectly well that when the noble Earl was in Opposition and I wanted to put down a Question to the Minister responsible and that Minister had asked me to postpone it or remove it, if I consulted the noble Earl he always said, "Of course, you must post pone it; you cannot possibly ask the Question if the Govern- 86 ment say it would be inopportune." It seems to me that this evening a most exaggerated and highly coloured description has been given of a very ordinary incident indeed—an incident which is ordinary both in this House and in another place. It constantly happens to members of both Houses that they are told that it would be against the public interest that a particular Question should be put. I think that the noble Earl behind me did not know what were the exact words used the other evening. What the noble Earl then said was—What I did was to ask him not 14, pursue it in the public interest, and to that appeal he turned a deaf ear".I can only imagine that the noble Lord who has put down the Question this evening has introduced this subject again because on an occasion that I remember—although I was not present—he had down what I thought was a very indiscreet Question—a very improper Question—in connection with the war and having a fellow-feeling I suppose he thinks it necessary to raise this topic again. I think that it is most unfortunate that such a debate should have been again raised, and also that it should have been brought forward in two such very exaggerated speeches covering a very ordinary incident of Parliamentary life.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, may I say one word. I am sorry to stand between your Lordships and the noble Earl, but the noble Earl will see the reason directly. It is perhaps fitting that I should say a word, because I am one of those who have been getting into hot water for putting down on the Paper a Question which, I am informed, is not in the public interest. I wished to ask a certain Question—I will not say what it is, because it is as undesirable to allude to it now as it was then. I informed the noble Earl, and he wrote to me a certain letter to which I did not send any answer. I intended to come down to the House and tell your Lordships that I did not mean to press my Question. I wish to tell the noble Earl now, and also your Lordships, that in not having answered the letter of the noble Earl who leads the House I was guilty of something which was worse than a crime. It was not only a mistake and a breach of good manners, but it was a tactical blunder. Since then I have had a friendly meeting with the noble Earl, and 87 I then expressed my regret to him for not having answered his letter. I shall be very glad if your Lordships will allow me this opportunity of expressing my regret now.
But in the letter which the noble Earl wrote to me he raised an important point, To that point, without however desiring to introduce anything of an acrimonious character at the present moment, I should very much like to direct the attention of the noble Earl. There are two ways of looking at this matter. 'There is, first of all, the influence that a member of the Government or the Leader of the House has when a Question has been put down upon the Paper which he considers it detrimental to the public interest should be put. There is also the tradition of this House. Nobody for a moment will question the right of the Leader of the House to ask a noble Lord who has put down such a Question to withdraw it. Then, as the noble Earl, Lord Russell, said, it is open to the member to decide whether he will proceed to the bitter end and raise a debate.
The noble Marquees, Lord Crewe, referred to the position of the noble Lord who wished to do that the other day, and said that there might be a case in which a member of your Lordships' House might desire to persist in a Question, and it might even be, from his point of view, in the public interest that he should persist in it in spite of the fact that the Minister for the Government desired that the Question should be withdrawn. That is a matter for private judgment which every member of your Lordships' House has a right to exercise. Those who persist in asking Questions of that kind might perhaps be adjudged to be guilty of a lack of patriotism or a lack of good taste. That is one position. But quite another position arises out of these debates, and that is this. In the letter which the noble Earl wrote to me he seemed to think that before Questions of a certain character were put on the Paper he should first be consulted as to whether he thought them desirable. I can quite see from the view of the noble Earl and of the Government that he would like that to be done, and that it would be a convenience. But that theory, may I say with profound respect, I do not accept. For one thing, it would be difficult for any noble Lord who wished to put a Question on the Paper to destinguish between those Questions which he could take direct to the Clerk at the 88 Table, and those which the noble Earl thinks that he ought to be consulted about even before they are put on the Paper. Upon that point I hope that the noble Earl will say a word in explanation.
When my noble friend Lord Londonderry made his extremely able and statesmanlike speech he was interrupted by the noble Lord opposite, because, in the view of the noble Lord, he was bringing forward considerations which were not germane to this exceedingly important subject. I say with all the force that I can command that the speech of Lord Londonderry, to which I listened with very great pleasure, as also I believe did your Lordships, was exceedingly apposite, and bore most acutely upon the public position at this moment. If your Lordships search for what is really at the back of the industrial unrest, and of the general lack of confidence which exists among the disaffected elements of this country, you will find two kinds of persons. There are first of all the people who are far worse than the aliens—people who are dead against England, first and last and all the time. I could name them; everybody knows who they are. There are, in the second place, other people who have been led astray by the Bolshevists in this country. The reason that they have been led astray—I have had conversations with some of them—is that they are not confident that they are being told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the war.
I am well aware that there are things in the public interest, interpreting that term in its highest sense, which it is impossible for your Lordships to reveal. But let me tell the noble Earl with all the sincerity and all the respect at my command—and no one has a greater respect for him than I have—that there are a great many of our fellow-subjects in this country who are in a state of unrest to-day because they are being kept in the dark, or think that they are being kept in the dark, and because they are not quite sure whether the Government are really "bitter-enders," and whether they are out to destroy and humiliate—yes, I will deliberately use the word "humiliate"—the power and position of the German Emperor and the whole German race.
I put this consideration to the noble Earl with the very greatest respect. These questions which sonic of us have asked here, which have been suppressed, in our humble 89 view have been put forward in what we conceive to be the public interest, because we have been asked to do so by people outside who feel that they have been kept in the dark, and it is because these people feel that they have not such access to the intentions of the Government as they ought to have that some of them feel that the Government have been backward in their endeavours to win the war.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will excuse me if I do not follow the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat into the disquisition with which he concluded the less relevant portion of his harangue. Neither will I pursue the details of the incident to which he referred in his opening remarks. I will only say this, that I think it would be the initiation of a somewhat unfortunate practice in your Lordships' House if noble Lords felt themselves at liberty to come down here and either to quote or to refer in debate to private letters that have passed between members of your Lordships' House on other occasions.
I do not at all deprecate the raising of this discussion by my noble friend Lord Ribblesdale. His eloquence is always agreeable, even if it was not to-night positively urbane. My noble friend appeared to-night in what to me was a most unusual garb. We are accustomed in his speeches to a humour which every one enjoys, and to raillery which not even his victims resent. But to-night he appeared for the first time moving on the high platform of constitutional orthodoxy, discoursing to us at some length and with almost professorial gravity upon the great principles of freedom of speech and Ministerial responsibility. I must confess that I was some what startled at the exordium of the noble Lord's oration, and I was anxiously looking forward to the moment when, after some quarter of an hour or twenty minutes of high principle, we were coming down to the charges against me.
But though the noble Lord invited me to recede from what he described as an untenable position he did not inform your Lordships' House what that position was. He did not quote a single sentence from my remarks. The only sentence from my speech the other day which has been quoted to-night was quoted by Lord Lamington. To that I adhere. It cor- 90 rectly described the situation on that occasion. From it I have no intention to recede. And really when the noble Lord, having delivered this exordium about free speech and Ministerial responsibility, and having failed to supply any substantiation whatever of the implied charges against myself, then gave way to my noble friend Lord Londonderry, and when my noble friend Lord Londonderry enunciated as my doctrine that no Question can be put down that does not meet with my approval, and that I claim a complete jurisdiction over the proceedings of your Lordships' Houser, I must confess I was still more astonished. Not a shadow of foundation was offered by either of those noble Lords for this preposterous and ridiculous charge. It was not borne out by any other noble Lord who spoke. It was not borne out by my noble friend Lord Russell, who I thought alluded, if I may say so, both with candour and correctness to the facts of the situation, or by my noble friend Lord Lansdowne, who laid down, in language which impressed all who heard it, the true doctrine of the relations that exist between the Leader of this House and those whom he is proud to call his followers.
What is the position? In so far as I have been invited to state it, I will endeavour to do so to your Lordships' House. The constitutional position, consecrated by immemorial practice, is this—that it is in the power of any noble Lord to put down any Question, Notice, or Motion that he pleases. That I admitted the other day, although I also stated—and who can dispute the proposition?—that it is not in the power of any noble Lord to compel any member of the Government, if he regards it as not in the public interest, to give a reply. How is the whole matter regulated in this House? There are certain tacit limitations on the liberty that we enjoy here which are generally acted upon in the spirit of courtesy and friendly understanding that always prevails between the members of your Lordships' House. That understanding is not written down in books; you will not find it in the Standing Orders of your Lordships' House: it is a kind of unwritten code of manners. It regulates the proceedings of every one in this House front the highest to the lowest, and without it I venture, oven from my short experience, to say that the business of this House could not be amicably or successfully carried on from day to day. This unwritten code is. 91 really the corollary and consequence of the great liberties and advantages that we in this House enjoy. I doubt if your Lordships thoroughly realise how remarkable, I might say how unexampled, are the privileges and prerogatives as regards debate that we possess in your Lordships' House. Let me give an idea, from the point of view of a Minister of course, of what those advantages are, and let me compare them for a few moments with those which are in existence in another place.
As regards Questions in the House of Commons, the Speaker of that House may refuse or modify, although he does it in very rare cases only, the terms of a Question when it appears on the Paper. Here no such power exists. In the House of Commons a Question is a Question and no more. It is put without even being read by the Member who desires to put it. It is answered in a sentence, and very often the Minister declines in the public interest to give any reply at all. Here a Question is very often not a Question only; it is the material upon which a speech may be hung, a speech of a quarter of an hour, or half an hour—I have even know speeches of an hour delivered upon what, as it appears on the Paper, is a Question only. In the House of Commons there is a Speaker in the Chair, who compels relevance to the subject of the speech or the Motion that is being made. If we had such a functionary in this House he would never be idle. He would have had a very busy time this afternoon. I sometimes wonder whether you realise the enormous advantages that you enjoy in the relative impotence of the noble and learned Lord who sits upon the Woolsack. Here in this House there is no one, unless we have some vigilant noble Lord like my noble friend Lord Harris, to call any one to order. And we frequently have this situation, that a Question is put upon the Paper about one subject and the noble Lord who puts the Question makes a speech entirely upon another. Still further, a noble Lord in this House may conclude his Question, as a noble Lord did ten days ago, with a Motion of the terms of which he had given no notice, and which was not divulged until the conclusion of his speech.
Then in the House of Commons a Question may, it is true, give rise to supplementary Questions, but supplementary Questions are only allowed in correction or in pursuance of the original Question, and it is a privilege that is very sharply restricted by Mr. Speaker. Here a Question 92 apparently small and innocent, may give rise, not to a series of supplementary Questions, but to a series of speeches. And, again, in this House noble Lords, in, I am sorry to say, flagrant defiance of the Standing Order, continually arrogate to them-selves the right of reply. May I take this opportunity, as we are all inquiring how far we observe the rules written or unwritten, of your Lordships' House, of reading to you Standing Order No. XXVII:—No Lord is to speak twice to any Bill, at one time of reading it, or to any other propositions" [and this, of course, includes a Question] "except the mover in reply, unless it be to explain himself in some material point of his speech (no new matter being introduced) and that not without the leave of the House first obtained.I trust the House will pardon me if, having drawn its attention to this rule, of which I am certain from my experience in this House that nine-tenths of your Lordships must be in innocent ignorance, I express the hope that it may be better observed upon future occasions.
Lastly, my Lords, a noble Lord in this House may choose his own time and date for raising any subject whatever that he pleases in debate. In the House of Commons a Member of Parliament can only raise a question—I put aside, of course, discussion on Bills, and I put aside Questions at the commencement of Parliamentary business—a Member of Parliament there can only raise a particular question, say on Foreign affairs or Irish affairs, either on the Votes for the Department concerned, or on a Motion for the adjournment of the House, or on one of two or three strictly limited occasions—the Appropriation Bill, the Consolidated Fund Bill, and the Adjournment of the House for the holidays, or, of course, on moving the adjournment of the House and getting forty Members to rise in their places to support it. Here no such restriction exists, and any noble Lord is at liberty to choose any day, any week, that he chooses for putting down any Motion that he pleases. Now these are—I think I have correctly stated them—in brief the great advantages which we enjoy. They are without parallel, I believe, in any legislative Chamber in the world. We would not voluntarily part with them. They are one of the attractions of this place; and they explain to us, I think, how noble Lords who perhaps in the evening of their life come up to us from another place to the ampler ether, the diviner air of your 93 Lordships' House, enjoy themselves so immensely here. It is like roaming about in a spacious park after being confined to the trim alleys of a Dutch garden.
Well, my Lords, those are the advantages which we enjoy, but I submit to your Lordships that these liberties can only be exercised without damage by the existence of the kind of restraint to which I was alluding a little earlier—namely, by the recognition of certain mutual understandings as to the way in which noble Lords use the great opportunities that are open to them. Otherwise your Lordships can easily see that liberty might well degenerate into license; and if the doctrines which have been laid down here to-night were pursued to the extreme, it would be possible for any noble Lord or any group of noble Lords to hold up the Ministerial Bench and hold it up at any hour or time that they please.
Lord Russell, quite fairly I think, drew some distinction between the claims of foreign affairs and the ordinary subjects that come before your Lordships' House. It is obvious that any noble Lord can, in the enjoyment of the privileges to which I have referred, raise a debate on foreign affairs whenever he chooses. He can select a moment, no doubt without premeditation on his own part, which may be a moment of extreme delicacy in international relations. He may choose a moment at which it may be quite impossible, or at which it may be seriously detrimental to the public interest for the spokesman of the Government to give him a reply. And, my Lords, the case is stronger, I think, in cases where the Foreign Office has not a direct representative in your Lordships' House. For many years, for the best part of the last century, the Foreign Secretary had a seat in your Lordships' House; he was here himself to say then and there whether it was or was not desirable that the matter should be raised. But during the last ten years, or more, the Secretary of State, in the person of Sir Edward Grey, and subsequently of Mr. Balfour, has had a seat in the other House of Parliament. And, my Lords, undertaking as I have done, simply as an act of respect to your Lordships' House and of regard for my colleagues, the task of representation of the Foreign Office in this House, my position is not rendered easier by the fact that the Secretary of 94 State is not here for me to consult at any time, so that I can refer to him and get his opinion upon the opportuneness of the moment that is chosen for discussion, or of the subject itself.
Observe this, too, about foreign affairs, that whereas if a Question is put in the House of Commons the Minister who replies can dismiss it in a sentence or can even say that he must ask the House to accept his assurance that it is not in the public interest to pursue the matter, this is hardly open to the spokesman of the Foreign Office in your Lordships' House. And for this reason. When the noble Lord who has put the Question resumes his seat, not after putting a Question, but, very likely after making a long speech, there rise after him two or three or four noble Lords who may pursue the subject for a number of hours, speaking with great responsibility, knowledge, and authority. I have often wondered to myself if noble Lords realise the position of an occupant of this Bench, having no notion in advance other than the terms on the Paper of what is going to be raised, coming down here with the material for a five-minutes' reply to a Question, such as would be given in the House of Commons and then finding himself confronted with a series of speeches by some of the most formidable speakers in this House, to which he is called upon to reply at decent length and in measured tones and with a due sense of responsibility. The position is one which I do not think anybody can be very keen to occupy.
My Lords, these are the circumstances that render it, I respectfully submit to your Lordships, desirable to pursue a somewhat different practice about Foreign Office affairs, about Foreign Office Questions, from that about other matters. They explain the procedure which was alluded to by my noble friend Lord Lansdowne, and which within my knowledge has been the invariable practice of your Lordships' House. I have only had the honour of occupying my present position for a year and a-half, but I sat on that [the Front] Bench opposite for some years, and one of my most absorbing interests has always been foreign affairs. Did I ever put down a Question upon foreign affairs without going to the representative of the Foreign Office? Never. Did I ever pursue a Question if the representative of the Foreign Office asked me not to? Never. I did not talk about freedom of speech and 95 the rights of debate and all that rubbish in your Lordships' House; I accepted the advice of the responsible representative of the Foreign Office. I can recall on one occasion when Lord Morley was representing the Foreign Office in your Lordships' House I was very anxious to raise a debate, I think it was about Persia. Three times the noble Lord asked me to take the subject off the Paper. I did not get up and make a speech here; I acquiesced in his decision, and not until he gave me permission to put it down did I venture to bring it before your Lordships' House. I could give Scores of similar illustrations.
And here let me thank noble Lords for the general consideration which they have shown to me in this respect. There are noble Lords sitting in this House now who have wished during the past few weeks or months to raise questions of this sort. They have most courteously come to me in advance and asked whether it was opportune that it should be done, and I have either said "Yes, by all means," or I have asked them to desist. That is the way in which these things are done. I make no claim that they should be done in any other way. I am merely carrying on to the best of my ability the old traditions of immemorial courtesy and amity which prevail in your Lordships' House.
I do not know that I need say anything more. I should be very sorry if noble Lords, by a perfectly legitimate although an undue insistence upon their rights, were to drive the spokesman on this Bench to the position which was so wisely and rightly deprecated by my noble friend Lord Lansdowne. One does not want to be put into the position of ignoring a speech when it is delivered, still less of moving that the noble Lord be not heard. I should be ashamed if any Leader of this House were forced to take up such a position as that. And as regards not giving a reply, the case in which I declined to give an answer the other day was one in which I had tried without success to secure that the Question should not be proceeded with. But I am most reluctant to adopt that course. My desire is everywhere not only to give information but to give the maximum of information. Noble Lords must do me the justice to admit that. But if there is an obligation on the Leader of this House—and I frankly accept it—not to exercise any influence he may possess, not by any pressure to restrict the full rights 96 and liberties of your Lordships' House, equally, indeed I think I may say even more, is there an obligation on the part of noble Lords to respect the confidence which he endeavours to repose in them, to listen to the appeals that he may think it his duty to address to their feelings, and, in the event of his representing that it is not in the public interest to pursue a matter, to defer, not to his orders, but to his responsible wishes. No other claim do I make, and the principles which I have ventured to lay down in the remarks that I have addressed to your Lordships, entirely agreeing with the outline of them given by Lord Lansdowne, are, I believe, principles which the great majority of the House Will unhesitatingly accept.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I hope I may be allowed to make one or two observations on the Question which has been asked by my noble friend opposite, particularly as he alluded to me in some of his opening observations. I know very well that my noble friend Lord Ribblesdale is a most jealous guardian of the liberties of the House, and, like the noble Earl who has just spoken, I am sure nobody will complain that this subject has been brought up again. On July 17 last, when I said a few words, I then expressed a hope that the subject might be allowed to drop, but it is quite evident that the minds of a good many noble Lords were somewhat exercised upon the subject, and therefore no doubt it is well that has come up again.
It is well for this reason, that somewhat extreme views have been entertained by various members of your Lordships' House, and to some extent expressed. There is no doubt that the noble Earl who leads the House has been regarded by some as taking a too strict view of the right of the Government or of the representative of the Government to limit the putting of Questions on various subjects, especially those connected with foreign affairs. On the other hand, some noble Lords have been supposed to entertain and perhaps express in excess the right of all members of your Lordships' House to in the first place initiate and afterwards pursue debates on any subject on which they may desire to be informed. I am quite certain that neither the noble Earl nor my noble friend Lord Ribblesdale in reality hold those extreme views.
97 But it must be remembered that there are two sides to this question which have to be carefully borne in mind. In the first place, it is undoubtedly a temptation to the members of any Government to regard as contrary to the interest of the public Questions which are inconvenient to themselves. It is a temptation which everybody who has held office must recognise, because it is not always easy to separate the interests of the Administration from the interests of the public in such a matter. It is the natural instinct of all Governments to avoid discussion on awkward subjects. I s appose the most classical instance is that which we remember in another place in the years 1904 and 1905, when His Majesty's then Government absolutely forbade, and succeeded in forbidding, any discussion of the fiscal question. Here, on the contrary, with the liberty which my noble friend has just mentioned, we used to discuss it at stated intervals. That danger does no doubt exist. On the other hand, it cannot be disputed that there are persons who are so desirous of opposing the Government or its policy on a particular subject that they are apt, in the interest which they feel, to forget the possibility of public inconvenience or even public danger.
I am not at all, in mentioning this, saying de te fabula to the noble Lord opposite, or to my noble friend below the gangway, with reference to the debate in which he engaged. This particular case of a discussion on foreign policy—because war policy is foreign policy in these times—was considered to be untimely by the noble Earl who leads the House, and he acted accordingly. I only hope that we shall not fall into the way in this House of considering discussions on foreign policy or war policy untimely in themselves. I can remember, although I was not a member of the House, some of the great days of discussion on foreign policy in this House when speeches of great power and eloquence were made on subjects of the greatest delicacy affecting the foreign policy of this country. I am speaking of the time of the Russo-Turkish war and of the kindred history of the Afghan troubles which followed that war. Those debates were obviously carried on upon the thinnest of ice, but I never remember hearing that Lord Beaconsfield, who led your Lordships' House, objected to them on public grounds. Again, later in the early and extremely difficult days of the troubles in Egypt in 1882–3 continual debates were carried on in your Lordships' 98 House. I should therefore most greatly deprecate any assumption that discussions on foreign policy, and indeed on war affairs, should be considered improper in your Lordships' House without definite reason shown why they are not in the public interest.
The point as to whether the particular subject which was brought forward by Lord Wimborne on the last occasion was unsuited for public discussion must be a matter of opinion as between individuals; but I am bound to say—although I was not present in the House at the time—that, having read his speech, it seems to me that the noble Lord put his case with great care and discretion, and, I venture to think, not in a manner which the noble Earl who leads the House or anybody else could have regarded as dangerous. But I still adhere to the opinion that if it is at any time desired that a noble Lord should refrain from dealing with a particular subject, it should be a matter of private and friendly communication outside.
The noble Marquess who spoke early in the debate, Lord Londonderry, from his House of Commons experience expressed some suspicion of arrangements behind the Speaker's Chair. Such arrangements, however, are of a different sort from those which can be carried out here with courtesy and confidence in such instances as these. At the same time, I quite see the difficulty which the noble Earl who leads the House may find in invariably conducting such conversations himself. But the Ministers of the Crown are now extraordinarily numerous. They are approaching in number the tale of the wives of Solomon, and they may be supposed to have as close an access to the fountain of wisdom as those ladies could ever have possessed. Why does not the noble Earl tell off some Minister, who can regularly be informed upon foreign affairs—if those are the matters which it is specially desired to safeguard—who, when there is a question of an inconvenient discussion, should seek an interview with the noble Lord who placed the subject on the Paper and explain to him at full length why the discussion is not desired at that particular moment? Nobody, of course, would admit as a general proposition—as the noble Earl has so frankly acknowledged—that it is for His Majesty's Government to say whether a subject ought to be discussed here or not; but, of course, equally every private 99 member of the House and everybody on this Bench admits that where cause is shown, where His Majesty's Government are prepared to state that it is not to the public good that a particular Question should be put, the member will refrain and will keep silence, even from good words. I am quit certain that it is only by these colloquies outside the House that friction can be found that no such troublesome incident occurs again as that which we have been discussing this afternoon.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I think my noble friend Lord Lansdowne laid down the clearly doctrine of this House in respect of the matter which lies at the root of the speech of my noble friend Lord Ribblesdale, and as I understood the Leader of the House to accept that doctrine in its most unqualified form and to make no reservations about it, we may all congratulate ourselves that we are unanimous in agreeing as to what is the real practice and privilege of this House in these matters. But I think Lord Crewe touched on a very real point when he told us that it is not always easy to distinguish between the public interest and the interest of the Administration. All Governments must be liable to the temptation to consider their interests the interests of the public, and therefore we, on our part, should be jealous and retain to ourselves the right of personal discrimination.
We are not prepared to accept from any Government their opinion as our guide to what is or what is not in the public interest. It must always rest with the individual judgment of any member of your Lordships' House to decide that for himself. But in the present instance—and I am sorry my noble friend the Leader of the House is not here; perhaps the Lord Privy Seal will be good enough to tell him what I say—in this instance there is a third consideration, personal to my noble friend the Leader of the House. It is this—that he is so overworked a man, he has such an immense burden of responsibility put upon his shoulders (the whole duty of answering authoritatively for the War Cabinet rests upon him alone) that naturally it is difficult for him always to consider quite dispassionately whether a subject should be brought up on a given day or not.
I thought Lord Londonderry was abundantly justified in enlarging the scope of 100 this debate and bringing in, as he did, the question of the representation of the Departments on the Front Bench. Indeed, the Leader of the House himself admitted that, because in an eloquent passage he appealed to your Lordships to try to realize the difficulty it was for his colleagues on the Bench, who had been provided with a five minutes reply by a Department, to confront some member of your Lordships' House on a subject on which he was a great authority. That really is almost the root of this whole matter. What I would ask my noble friend to believe is that this debate is a sign of a certain amount of restiveness and hostility in this House, not to my noble friend as the Leader of the House, but to the attitude of the Government, of which he is an ornament, towards this House.
There is a very strong and growing impression that the present Government show very scant consideration for the convenience of this House, very scant consideration for its rights, and show us very little courtesy. I mean the Government, not the members of the Government who are sitting on the Front Bench opposite. I mean the Prime Minister and Mr. Bonar Law. Look at the enormous size of the Government; yet how many members are there sitting on that Bench who in any debate can answer authoritatively of their own knowledge? I believe my noble friend the Leader of the House and Lord Milner are almost the only two, and of the others of my noble friends there is not one who is not qualified, by his experience and his ability, to hold high office in the Government. The places they ought to be filling are filled by Members of the House of Commons, often of quite inferior ability and experience, and my noble friends here speak with no authority, have no opportunity of mastering the subjects they are so qualified to master, but are only able to speak from a brief furnished them for the moment by the Department which they are set to represent. That is the position, which is being more or more resented in this House, and there are other instances to which I need not call your Lordships' attention now. But that feeling does exist, and this debate is a witness to the impression that unless my noble friend who leads this House stands up for the rights of this House with the Government of which he is a member, your Lordships' House will receive very little courtesy and very little consideration.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
My Lords, I believe, under the Standing Order which the noble Earl himself read out, that I have the right of reply, but I am going to be very short because of the important Notice in the name of Lord Sydenham which is next on the Paper. The noble Earl disagrees. Well, perhaps I may be given a ruling; we are all under the Front Bench——
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I was merely asking my noble friend beside me why the noble Lord has a right to reply.
§ LORD RIBBLESDALE
Then may I go on by the indulgence of t he blous—I am most anxious to keep right. I was merely proceeding to say that I was sorry the noble Earl, a very old friend of mine, found me dull. Of course, that one cannot help; but I am still more sorry that he found me disagreeable. A great part of his speech was directed to very old jokes about the latitude enjoyed and and taken advantage of by speakers in this House in conveying arguments out of Questions, but I should like to tell the noble. Earl this, that there he is very much at variance with Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone was very kind to me when I first came into this House, and he said to me, "Now remember one thing. You are going into a House which will give in you very great opportunities. Questions in your House are not put down to elicit information; they are lout down to convey arguments. You be a wise man and take every possible advantage of that." Lord Curzon, I think, deplores very much that that should be the case; and I have no doubt in his own case, as Lord Selborne said, being a very much overworked Minister, he has suffered a considerable amount of inconvenience from that awkward habit which we claim from right immemorial. He spoke about my not having referred to various phases and incidents of duly 17. That was for this reason, that I thought it was an incident which was more or less closed. I looked at this much more from the larger aspect which I put forward of the rights of the House to free speech, and the importance of Ministerial responsibility. This Lord Curzon did not like, of course. I am bound to say that on a good deal which the noble Earl said I am as unlikely to meet him as opposite angles. I do not agree with a great deal that he told us. 102 I am animated by that certain feeling of mistrust to which Lord Selborne adverted just now, and I am still more so after the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Curzon. I do not at all understand that Lord Curzon accepted the noble Marquess's statement of the case. If he did, that would remove some of my objections; but why I still feel nervous is this. Lord Curzon seemed to tell us that because we had secured certain privileges, or, as he called them, advantages, we were to be good boys; and having got these advantages we were not to attach Importance to them or to be suspicious of any invasion of them. To that I do not subscribe. I am quite impenitent about the manner in which I have brought forward my Motion. I objected at the time to Lord Curzon's pronouncement, and I object to it still.