HL Deb 17 July 1924 vol 58 cc696-711

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, may I rise to a point of order of which I have given private notice to the noble Viscount who is in charge of this Bill? The point of order is this: I submit that the Bill which the noble Viscount proposes to read a second time deals entirely with the Prerogative of the Crown, and therefore can only be considered by the House if introduced by a Minister of the Crown. Your Lordships are all aware of the form which the Patents we so often hear read at the Table take. His Majesty confers a certain title of "His special Grace, certain knowledge, and mere motion," and there are limitations to every honour which he confers. In most cases it is conferred upon an individual with remainder to his heirs male, and those heirs male are given a right to a seat and voice in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. In some cases there is remainder to the daughter of the person, and in that case the Patent specially omits to confer on that lady the right to a seat and voice in Parliament.

May I read to your Lordships the Patent conferred recently on the late Lord Rhondda? It confers upon him the state, degree, style, dignity, title and honour of Viscount Rhondda of Llanwerth, with remainder to the heirs male of his body lawfully begotten and to be begotten, and in default of such issue remainder is given to his daughter Margaret Haig Mackworth, who is to have and to hold the name, state, degree, style, dignity, title and honour of Viscountess Rhondda of Llanwerth. The patent proceeds:— … willing and by these Presents granting for Us Our heirs and successors that the said David Alfred Baron Rhondda and his heirs male aforesaid and in default of such issue the heirs male of the said Margaret Haig Mackworth and every of them successively and respectively may have hold and possess a seat, place and voice in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. As your Lordships will see the lady is omitted.

I submit that this Bill is an attempt to deal with the Prerogative of the Crown, and I should like to know whether, in the opinion of the House, it has not been the habit in the past, to deal with such matters only when the measure is introduced by a Minister of the Crown. I believe it has been nearly always the custom when dealing with the reform of this House to deal with it first by Resolution, and I believe that was the case when Lord Lansdowne introduced a series of Resolution". I therefore desire to put this point of order.


My Lords, on the point of order I should like to say just one word, if I may be allowed to do so, although I have no claim to speak with any kind of authority. I have just looked into the authorities on the point, and as I understand the rule of Parliament it is this: that if a Bill is introduced which affects the Prerogative of the Crown, before the House parts with it—that is, before the Third Reading and before the Motion "That this Bill do pass"—there must be the consent of the Crown signified by a Privy Councillor. That, I understand, is the practice of Parliament. It is not the case that it need be introduced by a Minister of the Crown. So far as I know that only applies to measures to increase taxation, which are introduced in the other House, because we cannot impose taxation.

If I understand the law rightly as stated in Sir T. Erskine-May's Parliamentary Practice, at pages 542–3, the position is as I have said, and I find that in a Bill which was discussed, it is true in the other House—but in this respect the practice of the two Houses is practically the same—which proposed to restrict the number of Irish Peers, and therefore was a very clear interference with the Prerogative, the Second Reading was moved without objection, but just before the Question was put the point was raised that it was a matter on which the Prerogative of the Crown ought to be safeguarded by the Assent of the Crown, signified by a Privy Councillor. Thereupon Mr. Gathorne Hardy, the Home Secretary at the time, said this:—He believed the practice was settled and although this Bill might be come to the last stage without receiving the Royal Assent it could not go beyond that stage. He did not think it was a measure that was at all pressing in its character, and could not undertake to advise Her Majesty as to its progress. Considering, therefore, the great pressure of other and more important business, he appealed to the hon. and learned baronet not to proceed with it. In other words, he announced that in no circumstance" would the consent of the Crown be given, and it was not worth while pressing the Second Reading. It was not suggested that there was anything out of order in proceeding with the Second Beading. Therefore, before the House parts with the present Bill, I think the consent of the Crown should be signified through a Privy Councillor.


My Lords, even in the event of this being a Bill which goes a long way to alter the law, and even if, on the hypothesis of the Prerogative being affected, there is a doubt about whether what the noble and learned Viscount has laid down is sufficient to cover the case, I do not think any real question arises. This is, in effect, a Bill to take away a disability which prevents a woman from availing herself of her Peerage to claim a Writ to sit in this House. Your Lordships decided, through the Committee for Privileges, on a claim of the Baroness Rhondda, that the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act did not cure that because it gave her no affirmative right. It was treated as not extending so far as to enable the Baroness Rhondda to claim. But there were certain things about which I think your Lordships were all agreed, even then. One was that since the Earl of Bristol, in the reign of Charles I, established that every Peer had a Common Law right to a Writ of Summons the granting or the withholding of the Writ did not depend upon the Prerogative at all, but depended upon this, that when a man has a Peerage he has a right to claim a Writ and to sit in this House. It is not the words in the Patent, but it is the status belonging to the Peerage which gives the right to the Writ.

Your Lordships held that the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act had not altered the disability of a woman to perform a public function as a Peeress in this House, and accordingly the Committee for Privileges advised that the Baroness Rhondda had not made out her claim. Rut that was not on any ground relating to the Prerogative. That was because the Common Law of the land disqualified Baroness Rhondda as being a woman. This is a Bill to enable a Peeress to be qualified to sit here. If she becomes qualified then she would be like anybody else, and could claim her Writ as a right, as was done by the Earl of Bristol in the time of Charles I. It is obvious, if that be true, that this is not a Bill which takes away any Prerogative of the Crown. It is a Bill which leaves the Prerogative of the Crown exactly as it stands, the Prerogative to create Peerages. If Peeresses are created then the persons created would have the full status of a Peerage ex debito justitiæ. Therefore it appears to mc that this is not a Bill cutting down the Prerogative of the Crown at all, and, accordingly, that the difficulty that has been raised is not a formidable one.


My Lords, I had not been apprised beforehand that this point was going to be raised, but I should like, if I may, to say a few words upon it. I am not sure that I go the whole way with the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. That is to say, I am not sure that this is not a Bill to alter Patents and to enable a Peeress, who by her Patent is not entitled to be called to sit in Parliament, to receive her Writ of Summons. That being so, I think it may well be, with great deference to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, that at some stage of the Bill the question may be raised whether the Assent of the Crown, through a Privy Councillor, should not be given to the Bill. Exactly what that stage is I would rather not say without further considering it. At all events, I am satisfied of this, that there is nothing whatever to prevent a Second Beading of the Bill being moved and debated, as things now stand, and the matter might well be further considered at a future sitting of the House.


My Lords, you have to-day discussed a variety of different subjects, contained in different Bills, and you have displayed a great measure of agreement on those subjects. I trust that I shall find the same measure of agreement indicated towards the Bill to which I am now formally asking your Lordships to give a Second Reading. I am aware that my noble friend Lord Banbury of Southam has a Motion on the Paper for the rejection of the Bill. If I did not see his name down to such a Motion I should feel, as a friend, some degree of anxiety lest his accustomed vigour was being diminished.

The Bill of which I am moving the Second Reading is quite a short one. it contains three clauses. Clause 1 proposes that Peeresses in their own right should be entitled to receive a Writ of Summons to Parliament, and to sit and vote here as if they were men. Clause 2 enables Peeresses in their own right to be entitled to vote at Elections of Representative Peers of Scotland and Ireland, and also to be elected to represent cither of those two countries. Clause 3 deals with an amendment to the Representation of the People Act. At the present moment a Peeress is allowed to vote at an Election. A Peer, as your Lordships know, has not that privilege. Clause 3 proposes to put Peeresses in their own right on exactly the same footing as a Peer. Your Lordships, some two years ago, had before you a Petition, moved on behalf of Lady Rhondda, that she should receive a Writ of Summons. The history of that Petition must be fresh in your Lordships' memory. It was decided by the Committee for Privileges that Lady Rhondda was not entitled to receive a Writ of Summons. That point was settled. This Bill recognises that there is no such right, and it asks your Lordships to make an alteration in the law on the lines which I have indicated. It is a totally different point which is before your Lordships to-day.

I want to make it quite clear at the outset that I do not look upon this Bill in any way as an attempt to reform your Lordships' House. It affects a very small number of persons—less than two dozen Peeresses. It is not contemplated that there would be any large addition to your Lordships' House. I say quite frankly that I have always been in favour of what is known as the reform of the House of Lords. I am in favour of that because I am in favour of having two Chambers. I contemplate the time coming when your Lordships may have to take a firm and definite stand, and, if and when that occasion ever arises, I want your Lordships' House to be in as strong a position as possible. I think there is a measure of common agreement between representatives of all Parties that some reform is necessary. If I were bringing this Bill forward as a measure of reform it would be more far-reaching and far more drastic than is this small Bill.

I suggest to your Lordships that we cannot possibly postpone or reject this Bill on the ground that the point ought to be dealt with in a comprehensive measure of reform. Keen though I am on the reform of this House, wholeheartedly though I support that general idea, I am convinced that the reform of your Lordships' House is very far distant. I do not see any possibility of a Liberal Government bringing it forward. I do not sec any possibility of a Labour Government bringing it forward, and when, before the Election of 1922, my late leader. Mr. Bonar Law, made a public announcement that if returned to power his Government would not in the first year of office attempt to reform your Lordships' House, I realised, with great regret, how far distant was a measure of reform.

I suggest that your Lordships cannot postpone this particular question or wait until it is possible to deal with a general scheme of reform, but that until we do get that reform your Lordships' House should more accurately and fairly reflect those eight million women voters who now exist in the country. I think your Lordships will agree with me when I say that on a large number of questions there is, undoubtedly, a woman's point of view. Many men cannot understand the woman's point of view. Many men differ from the woman's point of view. But that there is such a point of view is unarguable. In my opinion the point of view of women is necessary and it is desirable that we should have it. It is a good point of view on a large number of questions. Your Lordships have to consider and to pass legislation dealing with problems affecting children, women, morality, and the employment of both sexes. It is essential, I think, that your Lordships should have the woman's point of view put at first hand before your Lordships' House. It may be a right or a wrong point, of view, but at all events it should be heard. I feel that it is impossible for a man to put it with as great conviction and as much comprehension as it would be put by a woman.

I am not going to take up any great amount of time in arguing the competence of women to act as legislators. Had I been introducing this Bill before the year 1919 I should have felt bound to argue that point and to indicate why I thought that women were qualified and competent to act a; legislators. I should have had to recall to your Lordships' memory the fact that England's fame was never greater in the past than when she had a Queen. I should have had to recall the fact that when Elizabeth came to the throne England was a third-or fourth-rate Power, and that at the end of her reign England occupied a position of far greater distinction in Europe. It is not necessary now for me to make out a case that women are qualified to legislate and to be members of a House of Parliament. In 1919 the first woman representative was elected to the House of Commons. That lead was followed about two years latter. Plymouth led the way and took the first plunge. Plymouth's lead was followed by an agricultural constituency, and the agricultural constituency was followed by an industrial constituency in the North of England.

I think that the representation of women in another place has proved itself to be an enormous success and I will tell your Lordships why I think so. In the course of less than five years the representation of women in another place has been increased eight fold. At the last Election Scotland followed the lead and every Party now has its women representatives in the House of Commons. The only country which is not so represented is Wales. We find in another place to-day that there is a woman occupant of the Ministerial Front Bench. In this House we deal with all subjects, except the question of finance. It seems impossible and ridiculous to argue that a woman can discuss finance in another place but is not competent and qualified to come to your Lordships' House and assist us in our deliberations and in our legislation on questions of morality and child welfare and questions affecting the employment and the position of women generally.

One interesting fact has come to light recently. That is the special faculty with which members of your Lordships' House are endowed for selecting as their mates for life ladies who, apparently, are selected subsequently by the electors to represent them in the House of Commons. I do not know whether that has anything to do with our being hereditary legislators, but it is an interesting fact. It seems ridiculous that a lady who has no particular knowledge of legislation or of administration should be qualified to be returned by a constituency to another place, while the daughters of your Lordships in certain cases, having all these advantages of contact with legislation and administration which come from their family, should not be qualified to sit in your Lordships' House.

One of the most notable happenings m the world recently is the advance in the position of women. Women are now taking an active part in the law and an active and able part in the conduct of business. Women are occupying positions of distinction and responsibility in the Civil Service. I understand that a woman holds the rank of Assistant Secretary at the Treasury, Recently the Government has always been represented at the League of Nations by a woman. The position of Deputy Chairman of the London County Council has been held by a woman. It seems to be impossible to say that a woman shall be competent and qualified to represent this country at the League of Nations, to occupy one of the highest positions in the Civil Service or on great self-governing local bodies and to sit on the Front Bench in the House of Commons, and yet shall not be competent and qualified to assist us in our deliberations in this House.

I can see no constitutional, historical or logical objection to the proposal which I am now making to your Lordships' House. This House has played a great part in the history of this country. It has always attempted, I think, to act justly and fairly. It is in that spirit that I hope your Lordships will deal with this Bill this afternoon. I venture to suggest that if we do not take this small step forward we shall be very largely stultifying ourselves and showing that we are out of touch with opinion in the country at large. This is a small and moderate Bill. It is a genuine attempt to bring your Lordships' House into relation with the aspirations and the point of view of nearly half the electorate and more than half the population. That is the aim of the Bill, and that, I believe, will be its effect if your Lordships pass it. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Astor.)

LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM had given Notice to move, as an Amendment, That the Bill be read 2a this day six months. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Bill has a very curious history. Two years ago Lady Rhondda applied to the Committee for Privileges in this House in order to enable her to take a seat in your Lordships' House. She founded her claim, entirely upon the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919. As the noble Viscount who has just sat down said, your Lordships refused that claim. The first Committee, consisting I think of eight members, agreed to the claim, but your Lordships referred it back to a larger Committee consisting of thirty members, and that Committee, by twenty to four, rejected Lady Rhondda's claim. There were on that Committee a number of learned Lords, and I find that the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Finlay, Lord Cave, Lord Atkinson, Lord Sumner, Lord Buckmaster, Lord Parmoor, and Lord Carson all found that her claim was unfounded, and the only two noble and learned Lords who voted for her were Lord Haldane and Lord Wrenbury. That is a very strong consensus of legal opinion—eight celebrated law Lords against two equally celebrated.

My noble friend Lord Astor says that Lady Rhondda fully recognises what took place, and he now brings forward this Bill, as I gather, on other grounds. I have taken the trouble to read the very voluminous document containing, if he will allow me to say so, the extraordinarily eloquent judgment delivered by the Earl of Birkenhead, and I found this. I find that your Lordships' Committee rejected Lady Rhondda's claim on the ground that in her Patent she was expressly disqualified from taking a seat in your Lordships' House. The question was raised as to whether other Patents of other Peeresses, being Peeresses in their own right, contained the same provision, and Lady Burdett-Coutts' Patent and Lady Beaconsfield's Patent were produced, and they both had the same provision. The promoters of this Bill are perfectly well aware of that, as is proved by Clause 1 of the Bill.

Clause 1 of the Bill says— A woman being the holder in her own right of any Peerage, other than a Peerage of Scotland or Ireland, shall, if otherwise qualified, be entitled to receive a Writ of Summons to Parliament and to sit and vote in the House of Lords as fully as if she were a man and notwithstanding that the loyal Charter or Letters Patent (if any) creating such Peerage do not expressly confer upon her the right to hold and possess a seat, place, and voice in Parliament.

Therefore, your Lordships must see that the promoters of this Bill are attempting by an Act of Parliament to alter a Patent given by His Majesty. If Peerages were conferred by Act of Parliament I should have nothing to say, but Peerages are not conferred by Act of Parliament; neither are Patents given by Act of Parliament.

I am only a very recent member of your Lordships' House, but I remember standing only a few months ago at that box while the Clerk read out my Patent before I was admitted a member of this House in order to see whether ray Patent entitled me to sit in this House. If there had been anything in my Patent which had prevented me sitting in this House no Act of Parliament could have given me that privilege. Therefore I say that if you pass this Bill you will set up a precedent by which a Patent can be altered by an Act of Parliament. If this Bill was carried there would be nothing to prevent me bringing in an Act of Parliament to say that in the event of my grandson dying without issue my granddaughter should sit in this House. Without going into the merits of whether or not Peeresses should sit in this House, with which aspect of the matter I will deal shortly, I venture to say that your Lordships will be committing a very great error, even if you are not doing something which infringes the Royal Prerogative, if you pass a Bill of this kind.

Let me now deal with the question of whether or not it is advisable for Peeresses to sit in this House. The noble Viscount who introduced the Bill gave us the history of certain lady members of the House of Common, and he alluded to the three lady members with whom I had the pleasure of sitting during the time that I was in that House. He said that one represented Plymouth, and one represented some other place, and another represented a constituency in the North of England, but he forget to mention the very extraordinary history of their election. They were all elected because their husbands had to give up their seats. Lady Astor was elected because the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, came to this House. Mrs. Wintringham was elected because her husband died in the House of Commons. Mrs. Philipson, who is a Conservative—and this is the most extraordinary election of all of them—was elected because her husband, who was a Radical, was turned out of his seat for corrupt practices. The constituents having lost a Radical Member, returned his wife as a Conservative Member to the House of Commons. Surely there is no argument founded on those elections that can be brought forward to show that there was any great desire on the part of the constituents in this country to return women to the House of Commons.

In view of what I have said in regard to the Royal Prerogative, I very much doubt whether a Bill of this sort ought to be brought in by a private member. Ought it not to be brought in by the Government? I was in the House of Commons with these lady members. I have not been in the House of Commons with the other five who have been added, but my experience—and the noble Viscount was not in the House of Commons with these ladies—is different from his. I do not know about the Labour Party, but I never met any one else who did not regret that we had women in the House of Commons. Over and over again honourable Members have said to me: "We made a great mistake when we admitted women to the House of Commons." I do not ask your Lordships to accept my statement about that. It may be said that I am prejudiced. Though I am a great admirer of women, I do not like them in the House of Commons. I wall give your Lordships the opinion of one of the ablest men in the House of Commons, a man of great distinction, a man who has been many years in the House of Commons, and a man who is sincere and honest in everything he does, and who has, what is very much lacking at this moment in the country, the courage of his convictions I mean Lord Hugh Cecil.

What did Lord Hugh Cecil say, this year? I have taken the trouble to obtain a copy of the House of Commons OFFICIAL REPORT in order that I may not misquote him. This is what he said on February 29 this year:— I did support that [woman suffrage] and I should support it again, in spite of the many follies and excesses which have been associated with the feminist movement. I am sorry it has led to some of the consequences to which it has led. I am sorry we have come to include among our members persons belonging to the other sex "—

and then comes a little qualification, I am most anxious not to cut out anything which is favourable to the noble Viscount's Motion. This is the qualification:— but what we have lost in dignity, we may have gained in efficiency.

Your Lordships will mark the word "may." Do your Lordships wish to lose the. dignity of this House, which for centuries has been the model of a Parliament House, in order, perhaps, to gain efficiency?

Before I conclude I should like to read a few words from a letter which appeared in the Sunday Times last Sunday from Lady Rhondda. It shows really what is at the bottom of all this. It is not a movement on the part of the women of the country. Do you mean to tell me that the women of the country care two-pence whether Lady Rhondda or any other Peeress sits in this House? It is a movement on the part of a certain number of women who have formed themselves into a women's organisation and this is what Lady Rhondda says in her letter. She speaks of:— not the non-Party women's organisation only but also that growing body of individual women influenced by those who, while nominally adherents of the Conservative, Liberal or Labour party, are, in fact, most interested in reforms of special concern to women.

Then the reforms are given, and one of them is the right to sit and vote in the House of Lords. It is perfectly clear that there are a certain number of women who are desirous not to put the welfare of the country in the forefront of their object, but some small petty personal advantage which they can gain. One of the reforms is, I think, widow's pensions; another, equal rights. We are all going to be equal, and if widows are to have pensions why should not widowers have pensions as well? Where are you going to stop if you begin in this way? What we desire is not to perpetuate class legislation, but that everyone in both Houses of Parliament should be actuated solely by a desire to promote the interests of the country as a whole.

I am sorry to have taken up so much of your time, but this is a very important question. I will conclude, however, by summarising my arguments. First, I maintain that this House, by Act of Parliament, cannot interfere with the Patents creating Peers or Peeresses. If it did so, it would be creating a grave precedent which might lead to something which no one can foresee. Secondly, I say that we have done well in the past. Women in the House of Commons have not been a success. You must remember that men and women are different, and you cannot prevent a woman in the House of Commons exercising the privilege of her sex which she has been accustomed to exercise. You cannot treat her as an equal. I do not for a moment say that she, by malice prepense, exercises that fascination which a woman exercises over man, but she does it unwittingly. On these two grounds I earnestly entreat your Lordships to reject this Bill, and to reject it by such a majority that we shall not be troubled with Bills of this sort again. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out (" now ") and at the end of the Motion insert (" this day six months ").—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)


My Lords, I desire to say a few words in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill. I should be astonished, having known the noble Lord for so long, if a Bill upon any subject was introduced in this House without Lord Banbury of Southam moving its rejection. He has said that one of his objections to the measure is that an Act of Parliament cannot alter a Patent of Peerage. If that is so there is no harm whatever in passing this Bill. It may be we do no good, but I prefer to pass the Bill and see whether the legal opinion given by the noble Lord is sound or not. For myself, I prefer the opinion which was given just now by the Lord Chancellor. The noble Lord has given no real foundation for his objection. What is it? I think we should look back and consider the past, have some regard to history, and ask ourselves why it was, when Parliament was first summoned, that women were not summoned too. The reason is this. The Barons of that day were summoned. They were people like the noble Lord, strong in the upholding of their own individual and hardly-conquered rights, determined not to share them with other men, and certainly with no women. After a time the franchise was enlarged, and many men were, given the franchise who had not had it before. I am sure the noble Lord never assented to that. But women were not enfranchised.

The noble Lord apparently has been studying the law. Let me ask him this: Does he know that before women were allowed to sit, in the House of Commons they were capable of being Members of Parliament, and were Members of Parliament? If the noble Lord will look in Sir Erskine May's book he will find that Parliament is composed of the King or Queen and the Estates of the Realm, the Lords Spiritual, the Lords Temporal and Commons in Parliament assembled. But the King or Queen is a member of Parliament. There has been a woman member in this very House. Queen Elizabeth was a member, so were Queen Mary, Queen Anne and, last of all. Queen Victoria. I wonder whether my noble friend, when he was a member of the House of Commons, ever came to the Bar and heard the Royal Assent given to a Bill which—I was going to say, which he had helped to pass, but I will not. If he came to that Bar, how horrified he must have been when the last words of all that were said upon it were "La reyne le veult." All the opposition that had taken place, all the assent given in the House of Commons, all the assent given by your Lordships, were useless until a woman member of Parliament, a member of this very House, had said that she consented to it. Then where is the anomaly? Even in those distant times when Parliaments were first established the law was that a woman might sit upon the Throne and might exercise this right.

This is really an attempt to carry into another age that which might have had a very good reason in a time which has long passed away. In the old days women were not trained as they are now. They were not accustomed to take part in sports or public life, as they are now. But now the time has come which was foreseen by the gentleman in "Locksley Hall," when Iron-jointed, supple-sinewed they shall dive and they shall run. Catch the wild goat by the hair, and hurl their lances in the sun. That is now done by the daughters as well as the sons of "Locksley Hall." Only the other day, under very distinguished patronage at Wembley, there wore ladies—I saw their photographs—taking part in catching the wild goat by the hair. These things were never thought of by ladies in the days of chivalry. They sat down on a dais while the Barons, my noble friend's predecessors, killed one another for their amusement. Times have altogether changed.

What is the reason why a woman should not be entitled to sit in this House? My noble friend seems to think that this is a Bill for introducing Lady Rhondda into this House. I do not agree that it is anything of the kind. He said that it would be a shocking Bill, if we passed it, because we should lose dignity, as the House of Commons has lost it. It is not for me to talk about the dignity of the House of Commons, and I will not do so, but how should we lose dignity by allowing these ladies to come and sit upon these Benches and to vote? Who would they be? I will not mention who the modern ones would be, because they are very well known. There is not only Lady Rhondda, but there are certainly two others whose fathers rendered most distinguished military service to the State. But who were those whose presence here would detract from the dignity of your Lordships' House? They are ladies of the oldest blood in England and Scotland. These Peerages were given to heirs general in the distant past, and those who now inherit them would not, in my opinion, in any way detract from the dignity of this House. Indeed, if I were to express my opinion—well, I will not. I should be glad to know upon what grounds of logic or convenience a lady should be excluded from this House while admitted to the other. As for logic, I have already said that there have been ladies who were members, not only of Parliament but of this very House, and if they may sit upon the Throne, why may they not sit upon these Benches?


My Lords, if there is a question upon which the Party with which I have been identified have differed more than upon any other, it is the question of whether it is desirable or not that women should have seats in Parliament, and it is not my intention to suggest that the Liberal Party are in agreement upon this subject. On the other hand, I think most of us take the view that this is not the light method of raising a subject of such great importance, and that it should not be left to an unofficial member to try to extend to this House the principle of allowing ladies to sit and vote. If such an extension is to be made, it ought to be made on the responsibility of the Government of the day, in the same way as the franchise has been extended to female voters in the country. There is one other reason why most of those with whom I am associated would feel that we are justified in refusing our support to this Bill. The time is not far distant when it will be absolutely essential that the Government of the day shall take up the question of the reform of your Lordships' House. The question now before us is obviously one which should be raised when that reform is discussed, and an attempt should not be made to pass it through your Lordships' House by means of an unofficial member's Bill. For these reasons I, at any rate, am prepared to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill.


My Lords, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Wrenbury.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.