§ Debate resumed (according to Order) for the third day on the Motion of Viscount FitzAlan of Derwent, That in view of the long standing declarations of Ministers that reform of the Second Chamber of the Legislature is of urgent importance to the public service, this House would welcome a reasonable measure limiting and defining membership of the House and dealing with the defects which are inherent in certain of the provisions of the Parliament Act; and on the Amendment moved by the Duke of Marlborough to the foregoing motion, namely, to leave out all the words after that" and to add "in view of the failure of any scheme of House of Lords reform to arouse interest, this House regards further discussion of the question as inopportune and unprofitable."955
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT CAVE)
My Lords, before the general debate is resumed, I hope your Lordships will give me permission to make a short personal explanation. In referring, on Monday last, to the power of the Speaker of the House of Commons to determine whether a Bill is, or is not, a Money Bill, I said in a passage reported in column 780 of the OFFICIAL REPORT thatSome of the Speaker's decisions, however impartially reached, have in fact given rise to doubt and anxiety,and after referring to some other Bills I mentioned the War Charges (Validity) Bill, which I saidwas at its first introduction not certified as a Money Bill and on its second introduction was certified as a Money Bill.I admit at once that the reference seems to indicate that the two War Charges Bills, the one of 1924 and the one of 1925, were identical, and when I spoke I was under that impression. To-day, I hare been informed that there was a difference between the two Bills—that the Bill of 1924 contained certain provisions by reason of which the Speaker thought he could not certify it as a Money Bill, and that it was because those provisions disappeared in the Bill of 1925 that he certified the second Bill as a Money Bill. That puts a wholly different complexion on the matter, and I should like your Lordships to take my comment as regards that Bill as not having been made.
It is hardly necessary for me to add, but I should like to add, that I have always had the greatest respect both for the office of Speaker and for Mr. Speaker himself. I have more than once borne witness—indeed, I did so on Monday last—to his desire to be impartial in this and other matters and if in this particular matter I have done him less than justice I very much regret it.
My Lords, during the forty years that I have sat in your Lordships' House I have heard a considerable number of discussions, particularly during the last part of that period, upon the reform of this House. Those debates were very largely academic. In the debate in which we are now engaged there is this great difference, that there is a reality in it and a prospect or a threat—I do not know 956 what to call it—of immediate action being taken on this subject. In the course of the discussion which we have now had for two days some animadversion has been made upon the occupants of this Bench—not unfriendly, although I think one observation of Lord Banbury's did not perhaps quite reach his usual level. But it has been said that we are not fair representatives of Labour in this House.
Speaking only for myself, I admit with all humility that that charge is quite true. I have not during the greater part of my life, lived in a condition of uncertainty in which I could not tell from day to day whether my children would be without food owing either to the caprice of an employer or to fluctuations in trade; I have not engaged in the heavy and dangerous manual labour of working in a mine (a labour which noble Lords opposite have increased from seven hours in the day to eight); I have not experienced the poverty and the stress of struggling in a prolonged strike which reduced everybody concerned almost to the verge of destitution, if not beyond it. I admit fully that in those respects I am not qualified to speak for Labour. I can only claim a passionate conviction of the justice of the claims which Labour puts forward, earnest sympathy with their objects and views, and a desire to be permitted for that reason to have what I regard as the great privilege of speaking for Labour in this House.
We have been told in the course of this debate by both the Government spokesmen that one of the objects of their reform is to make a greater provision for the adequate representation of Labour in this House It is very kind of them to be so thoughtful of our interests and we fully appreciate it. We have not gathered from the proposals made what are the exact steps that they are going to take. The noble and learned Earl opposite (Lord Birkenhead) when he came to the reason for bringing these proposals forward at this stage, gave that, I think, as one of his principal reasons. Is it suggested that the Conservative Government, or the head of the Conservative Government, is to nominate for seats in this House certain selected Labour members who, it seems to him, would be properly representative of their class and would add to the liveliness, the interest and the reality of your Lordships' de- 957 bates? It would be possible, no doubt, to nominate Jimmy Maxton, Dave Kirkwood, Buchanan and some of those who are sometimes called our "wild men." We are told that representatives of that class are wanted here, but I do not know by what process noble Lords opposite are going to ensure that these nominations are accepted or that seats in this House will be taken. It is, I believe, open to a man when he is offered the privilege of a Peerage to decline it if he thinks fit. Is it suggested that a man is to be unable to decline this new suggested privilege of a Lord of Parliament and that he is to be nominated whether he is personally willing or not? If not, I do not quite see how that result is to be obtained.
The noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, in one part of his observations, pointed out that what we are discussing to-day is not, technically, the proposals of the Government, but the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan of Derwent. I only call attention to that observation because of the very considerable volume of cheering which followed it. And I only call attention to that because the way in which I interpret those cheers is that the noble Lords from whom they spontaneously came meant to imply that these proposals had struck them with so much surprise and so much astonishment that they had no desire whatever to commit themselves to them, and were not prepared to go beyond an abstract and general Resolution. I propose for a few moments to examine the proposals that have been made. The first question that would naturally, I think, occur to anyone is: What mandate have this Government for making these proposals, and why are they made at this time? So far as I know, the only official reference by the Prime Minister was in one isolated speech at Perth in the course of the General Election. The immediate reform of this House was not put forward as part of the Party programme, and three years have passed during which this powerful Government have been in office, with their unprecedented majority, and during those three years they have let this obligation of honour sleep—this obligation whose immediate discharge they felt bound to undertake: I am quoting from the noble and learned Earl opposite.
958 If they had a mandate and a mandate for so important a, constitutional change, why did they not bring it forward at the earliest possible moment when they had been able to frame a scheme? I am inclined to suspect that the motive—not perhaps the mandate, but the motive—for the bringing forward of these proposals at this moment may be found in the result of recent by-elections. There have been three by-elections in which His Majesty's Government have polled, I think, far less than one-third of the total votes, and there has been a fourth election in which their candidate has been returned by two-fifths only of the total votes cast—less than half. It may well be that in those by-elections His Majesty's Government saw the writing on the wall, and thought it should take precautions against it.
The proposals that have been made are that this House is to be reconstituted on the basis of something like half its present number—a number which I should be in dined to think even then too large, be cause not more than about 250 of your Lordships can be said to make even an irregular attendance at this House, or to take part in its deliberations—and of that number some indefinite proportion is to be elected by your Lordships yourselves from among your own body. Before I come to the nominated Peers I pause for one moment to ask how that election is to be conducted. Is there to be some quota allotted to each of the three Parties in this House, some quota arbitrarily allotted by the Government now in power which is to be voted for, or are noble Lords simply to choose those whom they prefer to sit in this House? If that is the case who can doubt that all the nominated Peers would naturally belong to the Conservative Party, who have an overwhelming majority? Am I to understand that noble Lords opposite would willingly cast their vote in favour of members on this Bench, whose activities they fear, whose beliefs they deride and whose future plans strike terror into their hearts? Are they going, for the sake of camouflaging the result, to put a few Opposition Liberals and a few Opposition Labour men into this House just in order that there may be some show of fairness to the country? Or, if the election is to be free, how and why are any members of the Opposition to be elected? I would like to ask your Lordships why should any member of the 959 Oppositions—either the Labour Opposition or the Liberal Opposition—hold his seat in this House at the will and pleasure of his political opponents? That is not a thing that is likely to commend itself to an independent mind.
Then there is to be a proportion of nominated Peers—nominated to what extent, exactly by whom, at what stage and in what proportion, if any, of the Parties I do not understand. I turn back to that oft-expressed desire that Labour should be adequately represented in this House. Several speakers have mentioned that. You delude yourselves when you say that is what you want. That is not what you want. If there was a Socialist majority in the other House, with a majority comparable to that which is now held by the Party opposite, adequate representation of Labour in this House would be at least 200 Peers out of your 350. Is the noble Marquess, when his turn comes to reply, going to tell me that that is what he desires? If so, these proposals may commend themselves somewhat less to the Duke of Northumberland and his followers than they appear to do at present. No, what I think is desired is that the House should remain on the whole constituted as it is now, and, that being so, I do not see what very great advantage is to be obtained from this reconstitution.
We come now to another question to which an answer should be given. Although the Government's proposals are not before us, the question has already been put by the noble and learned Lord behind me [Lord Parmoor] and it is a vital question: Is the Royal Prerogative for the creation of new Peers to be abolished? Are new members of this House to be unable to be created except by this method of election and nomination. If there is a majority in this House hostile to the proposals of the Government of the day and determinedly hostile to the expressed will of the country, is the power which has existed for one hundred years to override that hostile majority by the creation, or the threat of the creation, of Peers to go? If so, I ask your Lordships, how can any Prime Minister of any Party, except the Tory Party, be expected to carry on the business of this country and the business of Government? We have got along in this House because we have never stressed the power which this House possesses to 960 its full limit. The members of this House, and particularly those who attend its debates regularly and are familiar with political affairs, have recognised that it was and always will be impossible to precipitate a crisis in which this House permanently sets its will against that of the elected Chamber.
I have heard in the course of this debate the usual mention of Single-Chamber Government with the usual shudder. That is humbug. For twelve or fifteen years out of every twenty when a Tory Government is in power this country has Single-Chamber Government. There is no measure passed by a Conservative Government which is not assured of its passage in this House. We have had an illustration in the life of this Parliament. Arrangements were made by this Government with mine-owners which depended upon their having the House of Lords in their pocket. They made arrangements upon the basis that any Bill which they sent up from another place would pass your Lordships' House as a matter of course. We have in these circumstances Single-Chamber Government. What we complain of is the same thing which I remember being complained of at this Table by Lord Crewe at the time of previous discussions. What we complain of is that Parties of another complexion are always subject to the veto of your Lordships, that the Party opposite only have a Second Chamber which can be relied upon to consider proposals from a Party point of view and pass their measures by an overwhelming majority. That is an objection which the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp took when he spoke yesterday. The Liberal Party, when they passed the Parliament Act, passed the Parliament Act after two Elections in the country to put an end to precisely that state of things, to decide that the will of the people as expressed in their representatives should prevail.
Now we hear, in the silver and seductive tones of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, that this Government do not propose to repeal the Parliament Act. No, you propose to amend it. You propose to amend it in such a manner that its repeal is hardly likely to be necessary. Yet, although you do that, you have left many of its major provisions untouched. The noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland, whose 961 support you have happily obtained for your proposals, instanced in his speech as the things which a reformed House of Lords was desired to oppose, nationalisation of land, nationalisation of railways and nationalisation of mines. I am right, I think, in saying that even under these proposals a Bill for nationalisation could be passed under the Parliament. Act. If so, you have not obtained the security for which those interested in capital are looking. The noble and learned Earl opposite [the Earl of Birkenhead] said with absolute frankness, having a clearer vision than is vouchsafed to some of his followers, that no paper Constitution could ever avail, nor could ever be relied upon to avail, against a wave of popular feeling in this country which insisted on the passing of a certain measure. It is well to recognise that truth. If, then, you erect what you are pleased to call a bulwark against Socialist legislation and that bulwark is in the shape of a paper Constitution and cannot stop it, what is the object in doing it? The only result will be that a measure which would pass with strict legality and with strict constitutionality will have to pass in an atmosphere of threats, of revolution, of excitement, quite unnecessary to provoke, which will have no effect upon the ultimate result.
A further illustration suggested is in the matter of Money Bills. Comment has been made upon the fact that the Speaker, and the Speaker alone, has to certify what is a Money Bill. I admit that the Speaker might well complain of the great responsibility that is placed upon him but he is the representative and the officer of the House of Commons, and in giving Money Bills an unhampered passage in this House you are merely recognising the privilege of the House of Commons, a privilege which has been asserted for well over a century, which was asserted definitely and finally at the time of the passing of the Parliament Act, and the maintenance of which is embodied in the Parliament Act itself. The Parliament Act in so many words says that nothing in that Act shall be held to diminish the privileges of the House of Commons. One of the privileges of the House of Commons is to deal with finance, and to have their measures of finance unamended in this House and passed by this House. Now you are proposing in terms to leave them 962 that privilege, but in practice to leave it to somebody else—to a Joint Committee, I understand, appointed partly by this House—to say what is a Money Bill and what is not a Money Bill. That is to say, you are taking from that House the right of deciding for themselves what is a Money Bill. Therefore, you are filching from them that privilege which they have asserted and enjoyed for a century. We have yet to see what reception these financial proposals will receive in another place even from your own political adherents.
Then what you are going finally to propose seems to me the most audacious of all these audacious proposals. You are going to propose that when you have altered the Constitution of this House to your own sweet will, when you have packed it with members of your own choice, and when you have so established it, then its constitution shall never again be altered except by its own consent. This edifice which you take upon yourselves to erect, of which you take upon yourselves to be the sole judges and the sole makers, is to be so sacred that it is never to be tampered with again under the Parliament Act, and the House of Commons alone is to be powerless ever to interfere with it in the slightest degree. How can you justify such a proposal as that and one so contrary to the spirit of our Constitution?
We, in the earlier part of this Parliament, were much attracted by the many speeches which Mr. Baldwin made when he spoke of peace in industry, of increasing good will and of doing everything that could be done to restore tranquillity. We believed then, and I am prepared to believe now, that the Prime Minister meant what he said. But the Jekyll has been replaced by a later Hyde, driven by I know not what force which has taken a very different line and which has proclaimed—and in our view proclaimed deliberately and without provocation—a class war. I will illustrate what I mean in a moment. I have turned for information as to the real meaning of these proposals to the Morning Post, an organ which I under stand represents the views of a large number of your Lordships opposite. In the first article on this subject I found that the Parliament Act was an Act which was an illustration of the tinker- 963 ing with the edifice of Parliament by jerrybuilders who had left it unfinished, and it had now to be mended. "Jerrybuilders" is the epithet which was thought fit to describe the majority of 1906—that enormous majority returned by the electors of this country—and the epithet truly represents the insolent contempt with which noble Lords who favour these proposals look upon democracy and all its works, Then on a later day in the same organ I find that these proposals are "spiking the Socialist guns." Here we have, I think, the true reason for the proposals and here we have their true object.
This Government wants, if it can, before it is driven from office, to entrench privilege in a position from which it hopes it cannot be driven, to entrench capital and property and the interests of capital and property in a position where they hope they may be for ever secure from attack. Your own speaker has told you that that hope is vain, and if that hope is vain, why should you suddenly introduce into public life this new, this acute controversy, this controversy which, added to all the other controversies you have raised, will lead to the most bitter recrimination and the most bitter fight in the constituencies?
Let me cast an eye for one moment at what you have found time to do with your great majority in this Parliament and what you have not found time to do. You have found time, or you are finding time, to pass by your majority a Trade Union Bill cutting down the hard won liberties of trade unions, cutting down their right to manage their own affairs, cutting down their freedom to take political action and to maintain members in another place. You have not found time to pass a Factory Act. You are finding time to introduce next Session, so we are told, these proposals for the reform of this House. You have not found time, and you are not finding time, to undertake that long overdue reform of the Poor Law which affects so many people in this country. You found time to pass an Eight Hours Bill for miners. You have not found time to pass, or to consider, a measure for lunacy reform and other reforms affecting the population of this country. You are finding time to pass a ridiculous Bill about seditions and blasphemous teaching to school- 964 children, a Bill affecting a mere handful of people in this country. You have neither time nor inclination to deal with the ravages of the lead paint industry.
When we go to the constituencies it will be said of this Government, and it will be said with truth, that they found time and they found opportunity to entrench property, to entrench capital, but they found no time for social reform, no time for the things that were urgently required for the happiness, the health and the wellbeing of the people. And I say that, if any class war is provoked, then it will be this Government that has provoked it. If, by sitting on the safety valve in this manner, you force this country and the extremists of this country into revolutionary methods, then you, my Lords, will go down to history, and this Government will go down to history, as those primarily responsible for revolution, if there ever should be such an unfortunate event.
For many years the Liberal Party stood between this country and revolution, from the time of the Reform Bill, when equally violent passions were excited, until now. Wise reforms and wise concessions have always precluded revolution. This Government have done and are doing all they can to provoke the revolutionary spirit, and they are bearing a very heavy responsibility. Of that provocation these audacious proposals which have been put before your Lordships are not the least feature, and I warn your Lordships, and I warn the Party opposite, that they are treading a very dangerous path, that when the polls come at the next General Election they will learn how dangerous that path has been and that the things that now, in their and in their pride and the insolence of power of a large majority, they are attempting to do will recoil upon their own heads. But I fear that in the process they will do infinite damage to the peace, the wellbeing, the good feeling and the prosperity of this country.
My Lords, the course that this debate has taken has perhaps not unnaturally, wandered wide of the terms of the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan of Derwent, and of the Amendment that has been moved to that Motion. I shall have an opportunity in the course of my few remarks of dealing with one or two points made by the 965 noble Earl opposite, but in the first place I might be allowed to comment upon his question as to what mandate the Government have for introducing this proposed measure. I might point out that, in so far as a Preamble is law, the mandate is already contained in the Preamble of the Parliament Act, which lays down that a measure for the reform of the House of Lords is to be introduced as soon as possible. Accordingly I think that, so far as both the older Parties are concerned, they have declared that it was necessary to introduce a measure of reform, and, so far as this Party is concerned. I can say from personal experience, as I imagine can most of your Lordships, that there is not an association in the country that has not sent up a petition to the Government that they should introduce a measure of reform. It is this Party which is anxious to introduce the measure, and it is obvious from the noble Earl's speech that he deprecates it both on constitutional and on Party grounds.
It is not perfectly clear which of the two Amendments the noble Earl prefers. At one moment I thought that he intended to vote for the noble Duke's Amendment, because he seems to question whether it was wise to introduce any reform at all; and at another moment he seemed to prefer to support the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, by suggesting that it was necessary first of all to consult the people, because this Party had no mandate to introduce reforms. The noble Earl claimed some experience of this House during the forty years that he has sat here. I have sat here for ten years longer, and in the course of that period there occurred something which many Years ago brought me to the conclusion that reform was absolutely essential if the country was to be safe. I refer to the gigantic majority which threw out Mr. Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill. I was not in the country at the time, but it struck me that this amounted to a menace that it was impossible for any Government or any Party to overlook, and it is to that date that I refer my own feeling that sooner or later reform was bound to come.
Now that the time has come for the introduction of these proposals I join with other noble Lords in expressing gratitude to the Government on taking their 966 courage in both hands and introducing a skeleton scheme which we shall presently see filled up into the shape of a Bill. I do not propose to attempt to discuss the particulars of that framework. It seems to me that it is rather premature to do so until we have seen it in its final form, and it is not very easy, until we have seen the actual Bill, to direct criticism and ask questions about it. It has always been the difficulty about the reconstruction of this House that destruction is so much easier than reconstruction. Mr. Disraeli was telling his constituents this nearly a hundred years ago. The Government have faced the difficulty, and personally I am warmly grateful to them for giving us an opportunity of considering shortly some concrete proposals.
The noble Duke suggests that there is not sufficient interest taken in the reform of the House of Lords to justify this Motion. Surely the noble Duke must remember as well as I do many occasions on which there has been considerable excitement about the question of reforming the House of Lords, and I should have thought that this was sufficient evidence, apart from any other that we have, that the opportunity that has come now, having regard to the Preamble of the Parliament Act and the pledges of successive Prime Ministers, is an opportunity amply sufficient for introducing this suggested reform. The noble Duke rather seems to prefer a policy of laissez faire, and perhaps he is going to have the support of the noble Earl who has just spoken. He certainly has the support of the noble and learned Viscount beside him, Lord Haldane. I think the noble Duke said that he was ready to accept any assistance and any leadership. Well, here is a leader ready to his hand. The noble and learned Viscount is there, leading the Labour Party on those Benches, and he unquestionably in his speech expressed a preference for leaving the thing alone. I think it was Lord Melbourne who, whenever he was pressed to introduce legislation, said: "Why cannot you leave it alone?" That seems to be the suggestion both of the noble and learned Viscount and of the noble Duke.
The noble and learned Viscount not only expressed a preference for laissez faire but he also addressed a warning to your Lordships. He suggested that 967 reform was full of danger to us and that we were out of harmony with the people of this country, and that, I think, was the view of the noble Earl who has just spoken. But surely he can remember as well as I do several occasions on which that point can be judged from actual facts. The noble and learned Viscount gave no illustration of his contention that this House was out of harmony with the feelings of the people, but there are two or three instances which we can both remember very well that I should like to recall to your Lordships. First of all there was the occasion when Mr. Gladstone introduced the Agricultural Labourers Franchise Bill. I think the date was 1884. The House of Lords said that an increase of enfranchisement was always accompanied by a Redistribution Bill and we held to that view. There were the usual demonstrations of indignation at the House of Lords daring to interfere with the view of the House of Commons and with the will of the people. There was a demonstration in Hyde Park. It was the first of those windy, wordy and somewhat futile demonstrations. It was specially marked by a forest of clothes props from the East End of London which were supposed to represent hop-pickers and their hop-poles. I remember very well the editor of the Newcastle Chronicle telling the Conservative Whips that, if they liked to put up the money, he could arrange for an equally important demonstration on the following Sunday. What actually happened politically? So far from the representatives of the people expressing their indignation, Mr. Gladstone accepted the remonstrance or reproof and introduced a Redistribution Bill. Were we out of harmony with the people on that occasion? It does not appear so from the facts.
I turn to Mr. Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill which was thrown out by your Lordships' House by an enormous majority. What was the result? Was the indignation of the country at our audacity expressed? Not at all. Mr. Gladstone accepted our remonstrance and in the course of time he went to the country, with the result that Lord Salisbury was returned by a large majority. What was there there to show we were not in harmony with the people of this country? The fact seems to me to be quite the contrary. The third occasion 968 to which I would draw attention is the Finance Bill of 1909 when, with an outrageous disregard of the practice of Parliament, the land clauses were tacked on to it. If there was one body in this country that was capable of an intelligent discussion and amendment of those clauses—and they needed it badly enough—it was this House. Owing to those clauses being tacked on to the Finance Bill we were unable to amend them. What was the result? Mr. Asquith went to the country and I dare say the noble Earl will claim that the return of his Party on the second occasion showed that we were not in harmony with the people of the country. Yet what was the loss that Mr. Asquith suffered by that manœuvre? He lost a hundred seats by tacking those clauses on to the Finance Bill.
What was the result legally? In the course of a few years, after having been condemned by almost every court of law, those clauses and the taxes had to be repealed, after doing an amount of mischief which probably brought more suffering to the people of this country than anything that has ever been done. The noble Earl talked as if this Party had been doing an injustice to the people of this country and bringing suffering upon them. I doubt whether there was ever anything done by any Party which has produced so much suffering as the land clauses of that Act because, as I have said before now and it has been agreed to by Lord Crewe from that side, the land clauses discouraged the builders and there was in consequence a paucity of houses after the War. Were we right or was Mr. Asquith right? Were we right or were we wrong in condemning these clauses? Time has proved that we were right and not Mr. Asquith. These results seem to me to prove that we were right. On three occasions we have been shown to have been in harmony with the people. The noble Lord may fairly say to me: "If you are so satisfied with the House of Lords as it is, why are you prepared to vote for House of Lords reform?" I am going to vote for it. I am thankful to the Government for having introduced a scheme of reform, but I would in any case have supported the Motion. The reason why I am doing so is that the majority on this side of the House is too great. It is a danger and a menace. For thirty years I have been pre- 969 pared to vote for some change which would avoid any menace, not on the insidious grounds that the noble Lord suggests—namely, for the benefit of our property or our Party—but because I believe it will strengthen the Constitution.
I think it was the noble Viscount, Lord Haldane, who made the suggestion that he thought he detected in the speech of the noble Viscount on the Woolsack an insidious attempt to strengthen this House. I do not believe that a reformed House of Lords is going to be any stronger than the House of Lords as it is. In some ways it would be, but on the whole and in the affections of the people I think not. I believe the great majority of the people of this country are fond of the House of Lords. They are proud of it, they have confidence in it, they believe in its impartiality, they know its debates are conducted with gravity and high intelligence and they have confidence in it for that reason. I do not believe that a new House is going to be any more popular than this House is, but I do say that, as we are constituted to-day, the politicians among the people find the foundation of the House of Lords to be inexplicable. The hereditary groundwork of this House is inexplicable. All you can say is that it has worked for centuries and on the whole has worked well. It is questionable whether you could introduce anything better. With a Constitution amended as it is proposed we would, however, be put into a better position to defend that part of the Constitution.
I solemnly and determinedly deny that there is on the part of noble Lords on this side—I have the temerity to speak for them as well as for myself—any arrière pensée in our vote. We are actuated simply and solely by a desire to improve the Constitution and by a fear that under the Parliament Act very great dangers threaten and may affect this country. It is the honest desire of this Party to improve the Constitution and not by voting to-night to protect either property or Party. It seems to me to be rather ignoble, and absurd at the same time, to suggest that your Lordships would be prepared to make the enormous sacrifice that you contemplate doing for the sake either of Party or person. This is the most momentous vote, in all probability, which has ever been given in 970 this House, so far as it affects your Lordships. It is not merely that we are sacrificing something which belongs to ourselves, and something which belongs to our families, but something which belongs to our order. It is a most momentous and heavy responsibility. There is a great impression, I should think, in the hearts of every noble Lord, that by our votes to-night, if we give them for the Resolution of the noble Viscount, we are yielding up something that we can never recover and destroying something that we can never restore. That is a very heavy responsibility, and I should think there is not one of your Lordships, who is going to vote for Lord FitzAlan's Resolution, who does not hope, in the words of that part of the Litany which offers up a prayer for the nobility, that we shall be, in giving our vote, "endued with wisdom and understanding."
§ LORD CRANWORTH
My Lords, in rising to support the Motion of the noble Viscount, I must appeal for that indulgence and commiseration which your Lordships are wont to give in such generous fashion to those who address you for the first time. I think it is generally admitted that the situation in which I find myself is one which warrants considerable alarm, and the alarm which I feel is not made less by the feeling that practically everything that can be said about this matter has been, or will be, said by much more eloquent tongues. I have but one excuse for addressing you, and that is that when the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, enumerated and outlined the proposals of the Government, he showed that there was one definite principle, and that was that your Lordships would be divided into two parts, as it were, the sheep and the goats; that one part were to be left with all their privileges and their duties as they existed before, or even possibly greater, and that the other part were to be thrown into a darkness more utter than that in which they already are. I venture to think it is possible that, of those who have addressed, or will address, your Lordships, I alone am likely to be of the submerged majority.
A good deal has been said in the course of the debate, and strong argument put forward, to show that the re- 971 form of this House is necessary in order that the matured opinion of the country and of the people should prevail. Strong argument has been produced both for and against some restoration of the powers of this House, which have during the last twenty-five years been gradually filched away. Less has been said, I think, as to the adequacy of this House, as at present constituted, to conduct the functions which are left to it. I believe it is well admitted that from the point of view of oratory and debate there are few assemblies to equal this House, but oratory is not everything. You require, as some noble Lords said, also the cohorts behind that, and I think it is admitted that for a debate of any magnitude eighty to one hundred members is a fair attendance, and that when a comb is put through the backwoods the attendance may rise to something over two hundred.
I have no intention of casting any aspersion upon those of your Lordships who do not attend regularly, and for very good reasons. One is that I do not wish to join myself with that flock of birds which foul their own nests, and, secondly, because I think there may be good grounds for their absence. I believe that if you were to examine in London, in the boroughs, and in the counties, the various public works that are carried out voluntarily, such as the Territorial Associations, hospital committees, asylum boards, county councils, and other public bodies of that sort, a charge levelled against even your backwoodsmen of being lacking in a sense of responsibility would be difficult to justify. But if it is a fact not only that the attendance is as I have said, but is also very often not more than half what it was twenty or twenty-five years ago, I venture to suggest that it is our duty to examine the cause of this change.
I have heard during the debate two reasons given. One reason was that in response to some imperative call a certain number of your Lordships had formed themselves into organisers of the country's recreation. That may be so, but in the limited sphere where I have been I have not seen it. It is also suggested, I think by the Lord Chancellor, that a lack of opportunity caused by the 972 eloquence of other members of your Lordships' House, kept members away. I feel certain that there are a number of Peers who, when they weigh the duties which stand at their hand against those duties which lie before them in coming to your Lordships' House and listening to a debate for a length of time which they are unable to calculate, and of which they sometimes have doubt as to the utility of its purpose, are very likely to choose the former.
I think, however, that there are two other causes which have not been mentioned, and one of them is this: to-day, members living in the comparative security of a position such as your Lordships occupy, have the expectation of a very much increased length of life as compared with what their ancestors had. Fifty years ago the lack of science and sanitation, and possibly even a more brave application to the bottle than our generation dare indulge in, would reduce their expectation of life by ten years; that is to say they might expect their end nearer seventy than sixty, whereas this generation might expect it nearer eighty than seventy. That means that the hereditary legislator will enter upon his duties ten years later than was formerly the case. But there is one more reason, I think, which is greater than all these combined, and that is this. Hereditary legislators and Death Duties are not congenial companions. When you ask where are these 300 or 400 who are missing, one answer is that a great many of them are engaged in earning their own livings. Some of them have gone to the Colonies, some of them are in the City trying to restore the family fortunes, others are engaged on the estates that they have inherited from their ancestors, trying to keep those estates in the condition in which they have received them, and also to provide food, clothing and education for themselves and their children. That is a task beside which that of Sisyphus was mere child's play.
Proposals have been introduced by the Lord Chancellor, and have been received with a certain amount of surprise—why, I am unable to understand. If a pledge so nebulous is given on a subject so full of doubt as that which is to be dealt with in the proposed Bill, surely the promise must be honoured, and I have no doubt will be honoured. The Lord 973 Chancellor said that these proposals called for sacrifice on the part of your Lordships' House. Might I humbly suggest that that sacrifice does not fail on all your Lordships' House, but only on a portion of your Lordships' House—namely, on that portion which will not be elected? In some cases that sacrifice may be small, in some cases it may be large. There are those who value the privilege as having been worthily received by their ancestors, and worthily borne over many generations; there are others who are looking forward, either by their own efforts or by inheritance, to having money to resume the duties that are theirs by right. It may even be that in some cases feminine influence is against the signing of the warrant for their extinction. But I think that when they have digested the arguments that have been put forward by so many here they will do as their ancestors have done before them, and they will place patriotism before privilege.
Further, knowing what a contentious measure this is likely to be in its particulars I do not believe that they will stiffer much destructive criticism in the matter. But I think that these people who are called upon to make the sacrifice have one right, and that is to receive an assurance, and an assurance detailed so that it carries conviction, that the nation as a whole will receive that benefit which their sacrifice has given it, and that the re-modelled House will be of such a nature and such a composition as will maintain the benefits that their sacrifice has given. I do not think it can be suggested that they have had such an assurance yet, and with all humility I would submit that in due course it is for your Lordships to see that you get it.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I rise to express my hope that your Lordships will support the Resolution which was moved in so terse and cogent a way by my noble friend Lord FitzAlan. The House has very seldom in the course of its discussions had to handle any subject which is so closely interwoven with the whole history of out country from the very beginning as is this question. We are here dealing with something which, if we are to go back to its origins, we must search for in the very infancy of the national life, even before it became one coherent whole. Every 974 body knows that this subject, the reform of the House of Lords, divides itself at once when it is discussed, under the two heads of the powers that ought to be given to the House and the constitution of the House which is to exercise those powers, and there is no difficulty at all in arguing on either side as to which o[...] the two ought to come first. It is quite easy to say that it is futile to reconstitute a House till you know what it has got to do. It is also quite easy to say that it is futile to prescribe its powers until you know who is going to exercise them. I am leaving on one side the question of the powers, though about that I have my views and am prepared some day to express them, but I want to dwell for a few moments upon the second of the two questions, the constitution of the House and the elements of which it is to be formed.
If you look back into history you find that right from the very infancy of the Council of the nation there has been a position of responsibility given to some body of ecclesiastics, who were appointed to represent more or less the religious element in the national life. I do not know whether your Lordships are all familiar enough with our constitutional history to remember that during many centuries the ecclesiastical clement preponderated to an extent which now seems almost incredible over the lay element. During the greater part of the Middle Ages there were more than twice as many ecclesiastical persons sitting in this House as there were lay persons, and even when you come to the time of Henry VII you will find that there were 49 spiritual members of this House to 29 lay members. A little later, after the dissolution of the monasteries, when mitred abbots had ceased to sit in this House, the numbers were reversed to the extent that there were only 26 Spiritual Peers or Lords of Parliament, and 50 laymen. The numbers of those who then sat in the days of Henry VIII onwards have remained absolutely unbroken. From that time until now the same number has sat during all the changes which have come about with regard to the lay members of the House.
It may be interesting to note that in James I's time there were ninety-six laymen to the twenty-six ecclesiastics; at the Restoration there were 142 laymen 975 to the twenty-six ecclesiastics; and now there are more than 700 laymen to the twenty-six ecclesiastics. All the while the twenty-six Spiritual Lords of Parliament have retained the numbers that were theirs at the beginning. But although they are few in number compared with the lay members in these centuries, their work has never been either unimportant or ignored. The wording of every Act of Parliament which we pass will remind your Lordships that theoretically we attach great importance to their position and their work:Be it enacted by the King's most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons. …They are put in the very forefront, and I venture to think that that is significant of what has happened in history. But the conditions of England have completely changed since then, and no one suggests for a moment that a dominant position in this House and in the conduct of its affairs should be given to the eccelesiastical persons who still sit in the same numbers as they had in the days of Henry VIII. None the less we do claim a real position, and a position which I believe to have its own importance in the debates of this House and in the general legislation of the country. It is not for me to claim credit, or to belaud what has been done by those who sit on the Episcopal Bench in this House in regard either to the discussions or their outcome, but I venture to think that the records of recent years will show that both with regard to home affairs in very many of their departments, and with regard to the care for the peoples overseas, those who sit upon the Episcopal Benches have had a very real share in the work that has been done. I believe that it would be a very real detriment to this House were there to be taken away from it the element which the Episcopal Bench has contributed.
In the speech of the Lord Chancellor the other night no mention was made of any proposed change which, if these Resolutions become effective, would come about in the number of ecclesiastical members of this House—the twenty-six Spiritual Lords of Parliament who have sat since the reign of Henry VIII. The Lord Chancellor did not say whether it was proposed to make any change or not. I do not think it would be difficult 976 to argue, looking to the part they have taken and to the work they are capable of doing, that twenty-six is not an inordinate proportion out of a total of 750. I do not think indeed it is difficult to prove that twenty-six would not be an inordinate number out of the 350 to which it is proposed now to reduce the numbers of this House. I am not, however, arguing for that. I do not, to-day, stand here to protest against the legitimacy of any possible change in the present number of Spiritual Lords of Parliament. Any one who will refer to the Reports of the Committee presided over by Lord Rosebery in 1908 or of the Committee presided over by Lord Bryce in 1918 will find that the matter was there discussed. I had the honour of being a member of both those Committees as well as of the other Committee which sat upon this subject, and I have a vivid recollection of the detailed discussion which was given to the whole of this subject of the number of Spiritual Peers that there ought to be and to the way in which they ought to be appointed if the present numbers were reduced.
Both in those Reports and in the debates which have followed upon them it has always been more or less taken for granted—and I do not dispute the legitimacy of the argument—that if you are reducing the number of lay members of this House it is not perhaps unreasonable to say that there should also be a reduction in the number of the Spiritual Lords of Parliament. I would only urge that if there be such a reduction it should be made with great care and that it should not be so drastic as practically to take away their power or reduce greatly their opportunities. Upon that point I should like to say this. If you had 26 Bishops in this House who were able to attend constantly and with reasonable regularity, I should urge that it was undesirable to diminish the number at all. People are fond of taunting Bishops with having votes that were given many years ago in slavery days and when the Church as well as other institutions in the nation was in rather a corrupt condition, but I do not believe, if you care to check the votes that have been given in this House during recent Years, you will find that the Bishops' votes have been either partial in their character or ineffective, or that the contribution the 977 Bishops have made by speech to the thoughtful handling of a number of important questions has not been considerable.
I repeat that if we had twenty-six men here able to give considerable attention and to come here regularly, I personally should deprecate the diminution of that number, but it is quite impossible that they can do so. The work of the Church at this moment is such, and the demand upon the time of the Episcopal members of it is such, that it is impossible to expect that there will be more than a comparatively small number able to attend except upon occasions when ecclesiastical knowledge is specially required or for some particular reason the contribution of Bishops to the discussion is thought to be essential. Otherwise you will not ordinarily find—and the experience of your Lordships shows it—more than a comparatively small number present. Therefore I cannot honestly contend, if it be really desired that some reduction should take place, that it is unreasonable to reduce the number of Spiritual Peers, but I do think it is most desirable, if there be a reduction, that those who come to sit here should do so by the choice of somebody, by an elective process. If you are going to reduce the numbers of the House and make most of its members sit by virtue of their having been elected by somebody, I contend that that ought to apply very markedly to the Episcopal section of this House.
In the Report of Lord Rosebery's Committee in 1908 it was suggested that ten Bishops should sit in this House and that they should consist of two Archbishops and eight Bishops elected by the rest of the Bishops and by them alone. In the record of the debates and recommendations of Lord Bryce's Committee it is stated that the number should be reduced to five and that those should be elected by what is called the Joint Standing Committee which was to elect certain members of this House in accordance with the group of recommendations which Lord Bryce put forward. Of those two proposals which have been made I venture to think that the second one goes too far, and that it is most important you should not reduce to insignificance the number of those who, after all, are the oldest portion of this House and who 978 for a long period of its history were perhaps the most important part of the House. I think the Spiritual Peers who are to sit here should be elected by the Bishops and not by the rest of the House. That seems to me important both on practical and on sentimental grounds; on practical grounds because the Bishops would best judge whom they found it possible to appoint and who would be best capable of doing good work if they were appointed. Besides that, we should, by making the votes come from the Episcopal Bench itself, retain that marked characteristic which there has been from the first, the quasi-separate quasi-independent entity belonging to the Episcopal branch of your Lordships' House.
There is one other point that I want to mention. In the debates which took place on this subject in 1922 Lord Buck-master called attention to suggestions which had been made to the effect that it would be desirable if there should be, as he thought there should be, a preservation of the ecclesiastical element of this House, that it should not be confined to the Church of England but that other denominations should have a corresponding place here. That matter was gone into at very great length in the Report of Lord Rosebery's Committee in 1908 and their statement was this:—The Committee would gladly see within the House representatives of the other great Churches of England. Scotland and Ireland, but they have not been able to formulate any definite recommendations with that object.That is absolutely the fact. Everyone was in favour of our endeavouring to procure representation for others besides those who belong to the national Church of this country, but the moment you try to tackle that subject you find that it is one of insuperable difficulty.
What bodies are you going to have represented? There are some fifty-eight Churches or Communions in this country of one kind and another. Are you to say that all those Christian Communions are to have a vote in selecting representation? And through what channel are they to vote? There is no central body of any kind which acts for them all. There is no Free Church Council or federation or anything else which claims to represent them all or to be 979 able to speak in their name. The voting by such a number of Communions independently is obviously out of the question, and the task proved quite insuperable of finding a mode by which you could bring about the sort of result that you wanted. There is another difficulty. In all these Communions, except the Roman Catholic Church, the chief men at the head occupy their positions for one year or, at most, for two years. The Moderators of the Assemblies in Scotland, for example, or the Presidents of the various denominations in England are elected annually, and the moment that you begin to look for the right man to represent the whole community you will discover how great and complicated the question is.
I only want to say that my objection or difficulty about that is not due to any principle. I do not want to exclude such people. On the contrary, I believe it would be the greatest possible gain that we should have them here. But I have honestly failed so far—and I have taken part in discussions about it for ten years—to find any mode by which we could produce the results that we desire. I should welcome it if we could find a mode and, as I said in reply to my noble friend Lord Buckmaster, seven or eight years ago when he raised the question. I should be most grateful if he or others could discover a mode by which that result could be brought about. My object in rising to-day is simply to emphasise the importance of this branch of the subject, though it is not one of the great leading factors in the problem, and to emphasise the need for care as to the way in which it is effected. There are principles involved and practical considerations to which discussion should be directed, and I have no doubt will be directed, before proposals are brought forward in the form of a measure.
§ LORD THOMSON
My Lords, I know that your Lordships are waiting with impatience for a statement from the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, and the time available for me is brief. My only complaint is that yesterday we were told that twenty-five noble Lords desired to speak and that the time was limited. Nevertheless, the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, whose temporary absence from his place I regret because I am going to refer to him, devoted twenty 980 five minutes by the clock to a bitter, personal, and so far as I could gather entirely irrelevant, attack on my noble friend Lord Parmoor. Personalities are always most unpleasant things. It is true that yesterday they were directed against the noble Lord, a member of this House who could defend himself. Therein they differed from the remarks made on the last occasion when the noble and learned Earl indulged in this practice. On that occasion his remarks were directed against a number of noble ladies of ancient lineage and Peeresses in their own right who were not in a position, and will not be for some time to come, to defend themselves. Perhaps that was fortunate for the noble and learned Earl, because I understand that some of these ladies at any rate are quite competent to reply to him, and that if they did so they might fill him with some sense of shame.
Yesterday the attack was upon the alleged political inconsistency of my noble friend Lord Parmoor. I think I am right in saying that at the moment the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, was absent from his place. After his own change of front in regard to Ireland, surely the noble and learned Earl should be more charitable in regard to political inconsistency. Personally, I admired his courage then and I attributed his desertion of a cause of which he had been the most exuberant champion to honest doubt—or it may have been to remorse. But it surely does not lie with him to denounce in others the same offence of which he was then guilty. With possibly one exception no living politician has made a more complete somersault than the noble and learned Earl.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD)
Will the noble Lord explain what it was?
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
I will not interrupt the noble Lord further than to say this. I never said anything in opposition to Home Rule except in so far as the Home Rule Party of that day attempted to include Northern Ireland. I opposed it upon that ground. I never used any other argument, and the 981 moment the attempt forcibly and against their will to include Northern Ireland was abandoned I never said another word against Home Rule. There was no inconsistency.
§ LORD THOMSON
I think the noble and learned Earl had better address that statement to his former associates.
§ LORD THOMSON
I said "his former associates." Certainly I think it will be generally agreed by members of your Lordships' House that the oration we heard yesterday was a very striking instance of Satan rebuking sin. Now, to return to the subject of this debate—the noble and learned Earl himself was somewhat irrelevant yesterday and I am only replying to him in this portion of my speech—as far as I understand the proposals of the Government, and it seems to me that we are already going very much into details, their purpose is to fortify this House against the day when a Labour Government will be in power as well as in office. They realise, as men or the world, that for this a price has to be paid, and the price is a reform of the character and composition of this House. If I were a Tory Peer, or to be more exact, if I were a scion of one of the illustrious houses of this land, I should object most strongly to paying that price. I should think it was too high. Though I am not a scion of an illustrious house, but only a Peer by fortuitous political circumstances, I do consider that the bargain is a very bad bargain from a national point of view.
Various explanations have been given to us as regards the methods to be adopted, and I should like to address myself briefly to one or two of them. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack professed, like the noble and learned Earl, that he wanted to redress the balance against the Labour Party in this House and to give us stronger representation. The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, on the other hand, said the Parliament Act suited the Labour Party very well indeed and that it was necessary to amend that Act in order to make it less suitable to the Labour Party. Those views are not so contradictory as they might seem at first sight. Both the Lord Chancellor and the Earl of Sel- 982 borne have the same object or objects. They desire to check the growing power of Labour in this country and its reactions in this House. They desire to make this House a stronger driving force in the Tory Party, and the net result of their efforts, as I see it, will be to make this House, not equal but supreme. This House, so far as I can understand the proposals that have been submitted and their consequences, will absolutely govern Great Britain and the British Empire, because no Liberal or Labour Administration in another place could, under these proposals, put any progressive measures through.
Let us go back only three years to the period when the Labour Party held office. Then there were ten of us in this House, not counting any sympathisers we may have had on the Episcopal Bench. We did carry on—I will admit that we introduced no contentious legislation, but we carried on—and I would be the first to acknowledge that we did so mainly thanks to the courtesy and consideration of the Conservative leaders opposite. But I submit that this consideration was not due entirely to the natural courtesy of those noble Lords or to their public-spirited desire to see the King's Government conducted as smoothly as possible, even under conditions which they detested. I submit that it was also due to their political wisdom, their statesmanship and the fact that, as wise and experienced men, they kept their ears close to the ground. In the House as it is at present constituted I think we may always count, among the Conservative leaders, on men with equal statesmanship who will keep their ears even closer to the ground when there is a large Labour majority in the country and in another place. Accordingly the necessity for a change is not very apparent, unless it is introduced for those sinister motives which have been suggested during the course of this debate, and which I suspect must be the real motives.
As regards the attitude of the Labour Party to this question, it would be idle to say that we like the present situation. It would also be insincere to say that the Labour Party is enthusiastic about the House of Lords. But we do cherish, if I may say so, grateful and respectful recollections of the way we were treated, 983 and we certainly have no desire to destroy what is good—and there is a great deal of it—in this House. We certainly do not want to see it altered for the worse. What would these changes mean? If these proposals become law during the course of next Session, the Second Chamber will be reconstituted by the present Government. No one knows quite how that reconstitution is going to be effected, but I think it is fair to say that the new Second Chamber will be largely Conservative in composition. It is very much the same to us in the Labour Party whether we are defeated by 300 to 50 or by 60 to 1, as at the present time. In your generosity you may give us 50 members. Would they represent what will probably be a large Labour majority after the next General Election? If you are not going to give us something like that, then it is much better to leave the thing alone and give us nothing at all.
The real danger is this. Supposing that what I foresee takes place and that there is a Labour majority in the country, or even suppose the state of affairs that in fact exists already—I mean a combined Liberal and Labour majority in the country; supposing that those two Parties, seeing eye to eye, agreed to unite their forces on certain policies. Then, against the declared wishes of the masses of the people, this House as reconstituted would be singularly unfitted to deal with the resulting situation. What is the alteration that is going to be made in the character of the House? I submit that the new Chamber would no have the same sentiment of noblesse oblige which has inspired your Lordships so often in the past and which tided over a very difficult period in 1924. It would not represent any real sentiment in the country. It would be neither hereditary flesh nor elected fowl nor good red herring if the Labour Peers that were nominated were not picked. It would be temped to be arrogant and to exercise its newly-acquired powers. It would be a totally different body from this, and far less competent than is the House to-day to deal with the very difficult situation that would arise in the circumstances that I have indicated—circumstances which I am sure that most of your Lordships will agree are very likely to arise. Above all, as my noble friend Lord Russell has pointed out, that House 984 would create feelings of irritation in the country because it would have been created by a Government that has no real mandate.
My last point is this. Out of that impasse there would be no constitutional issue. What could we do? Wait twenty years while the new House of Lords turned down every progressive measure? Constitutionally it would be impossible to remedy the situation that would arise. We could not alter the composition of this House and the only means left would be violent ones. This proposal, if it becomes law, will play straight into the hands of the extremists, if not of the Communists. There are a very large number of men in this country who are Single-Chamber men, not only in the Labour Party but also in the Liberal Party up and down the country and even in the Conservative Party. Their ranks will be reinforced, and I do not think that the barrier that you are trying to erect against popular opinion through this Bill would be anything but a flimsy barrier that would soon be swept aside. It is because I am a believer in Second-Chamber Government, it is because I would like to be a worthy member of this most worthy House, it is because the prospect opened by this proposal fills me with dismay and seems to me to be so full of dangers and hazards, not only to my Party—that is nothing—but to the country as a whole, that I, like the other Labour Peers, will vote for the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, as the only practical means of expressing our disapproval of the Resolution of the noble Viscount, Lord FitzAlan.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, I have no complaint to make against the tone of the concluding remarks of the noble and gallant Lord who has just sat down. Indeed, he was very civil to us and to the conduct which we displayed when we were in Opposition but he has, as his colleague sitting by his side has, a profound disbelief in the disinterestedness of these proposals. The two noble Lords conceive that we are engaged on a great conspiracy, a conspiracy to rob the people of their liberties. The proposals which the Government have laid before the House in the course of this debate are intended 985 to protect the people, to protect the considered judgment of the people and to see that their authority is not abused by some temporary wave of opinion which may have put noble Lords in office and allowed them to work mischief which the country does not really desire.
The noble Earl, Lord Russell, who of course delivered, as he always does, a very able speech to-night, has the worst opinion of the Conservative Party. We are not only engaged in entrenching ourselves in new privileges at this moment, but we have done nothing to help the people when in office. He told us we were not going to pass the Factory Bill, though I do not know how he knows that. He told us that we were not going to pass a Poor Law Bill, though we have every hope of passing one which will be agreeable to all the parties concerned. He actually told your Lordships we had done nothing for the people. He forgot the Widows, Orphans and Old Age Pensions Act. Will he say that is not an example of the best kind of social reform, ministering to the protection of the weak and innocent when they are pursued by misfortune? That kind of rhetoric is really of no value in your Lordships' House. Let the noble Earl go down to a Labour platform in the country and tell his hearers that sort of stuff and he will get a great many cheers, but I am quite certain from what I know of the noble Earl that he can do much better than that in this House.
The only reason why I did not mention the Pensions Act was that I forgot it. I shall not omit it in the country.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
That is a candid confession which disarms me. I bow to the noble Earl for being good enough to admit he was wrong. We have to deal with this Motion, a Motion not made by the Government but upon the authority and initiative of independent noble Lords in this House. The Government will certainly support the Motion for it conforms entirely to the policy which we desire to submit to the country. It contains a statement that noble Lords are willing to limit their personal privileges because they believe that in doing so they will be able to carry at the same time improvements in the Parliament Act, improvements intended, designed and cal- 986 culated to protect the considered judgment of the people. That seems to me a very disinterested Motion to make. Noble Lords opposite think that it is only done by noble Lords who perpetually have their ear to the ground. There is no such mistake in public life as to attribute bad motives to your opponents. It is much better to look at proposals candidly and estimate them upon the value which they are put forward to serve.
In opposition to that Motion there are two Amendments upon the Paper. I understand privately that my noble friend the Duke of Marlborough does not intend to press his Amendment to a Division. Therefore I apprehend that your Lordships will be put in the position in a few minutes of dividing upon the other Amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Arran, which of course cannot be moved until the Duke of Marl-borough's Amendment is out of the way. Let me take Lord Arran's Amendment. It was, of course, put before us in a well-reasoned speech of great moderation. He alleges that we have no sufficient mandate to deal with this subject. I wonder whether the actual facts have been brought under my noble friend's notice. Let me remind the House for a moment what has passed. Before the last General Election the leaders of the Unionist Party, under the guidance of the present Prime Minister, undertook the task of laying a complete programme before the country. It was contained in the wellknown pamphlet called "Looking Forward." It was spread broadcast in every part of the country with a preface by the Prime Minister in which he gave his personal authority to everyone of the articles which were contained in that programme. There is no question about what that programme contained in reference to this important question. Let me read a few lines of it:The Unionist Party hold unswervingly to the conviction that the existence of an effective Second Chamber is essential for the purpose of securing a revision of hastily prepared measures and of safeguarding the considered judgment of the people. It recognises that the establishment of an effective Second Chamber means reconsideration of the composition and powers of the House of Lords.That is perfectly complete. One could not state the main principle over which we are contending in clearer terms.
987 What else? There is a Conservative organisation called the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations, which has great assemblages once a year. That body has passed unanimous resolutions in favour of this kind of reform ever since 1920. I am not going to trouble your Lordships by quoting them all. What is specially material is that in October, 1924, immediately before the General Election, such a resolution was passed. That resolution was not only passed but it was proposed to the National Union by a member of the present Government, my noble friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. This is what was passed and it was, of course, published broadcast in the country and announced in the most public manner possible. It goes a great deal further than the modest proposals which are now being laid before the country in the speech of my noble friend on the Woolsack:—That it is urgently necessary that the powers and composition of the Second Chamber should be so modified as to ensure that no far-reaching change in the law or Constitution of the country can be made by the House of Commons alone without the expressed assent of the electorate, and that proposals for this purpose should be given prominence by the leaders of the Party.That was on the very eve of the General Election. It goes very much further than any proposal for which the Government are responsible at the present moment. Finally, there is the speech of the Prime Minister at Perth during the Election—I shall not quote it again because it has already been quoted—in which he covered in very moderate language exactly the same ground.
To say in the face of that, that there was no notice given to the country of what the Conservative Government was likely to do when it came into office, is really playing with words. It is quite obvious that in the most authoritative manner, both by the statement of the Prime Minister himself before the Election and his statement at the Election, and by the action of the central organisation of the Conservative Party, repeated year after year, Second Chamber reform, involving as it does certain changes in the composition of this House and certain modifications of the Parliament Act, was put in the forefront of our programme.
988 I pass from that, for a moment, to the Government proposals. I know that my time is limited and I do not desire to keep your Lordships very long, but certain questions have been put to me which I shall try to answer. Let me say at once that the proposals of the Government, as they were detailed by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, do not pretend to be a complete statement of the case. They were only a sketch, liable to modification, of course, in accordance with the views of your Lordships' House and of public opinion generally. That was the design of those proposals. I have heard it said that people were astonished at how precise they were. I do think, if I may say so with due modesty, that the Government have done their work well, but at the same time it would be absurd to maintain that we have gone into all the intricate questions which noble Lords from every part of the House have put. I cannot give any reply to most of those questions on behalf of the Government, but I can give what, from my personal opinion, I think the answer is likely to be. Take the question raised by the most rev. Primate, as to the future of the Spiritual Peers. I contemplate that the Spiritual Peers will be treated just like the Temporal Peers. Just as we ask Temporal Peers to select from their number those most fitted to serve, so we shall ask the Spiritual Peers to do likewise.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I really cannot tell the noble and learned Viscount how many. I do not think the point is a very important one, but I should say something in the same proportion as the Temporal Peers, or perhaps a smaller number even than that. Then some noble Lord—I think the noble Earl, Lord Russell—asked me how all Parties were to be represented in the new House. Again, I can only give my own private suggestion, but has the noble Earl never heard of Proportional Representation? Has he never heard of a method of voting by which, in the delegated body, the exact complexion of the constituent body can be reached?
May I point out that under the system of Proportional Representation no Labour Peer, if only Labour voted for him, could possibly get a quota?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I fully admit that the Labour Peers are in a difficulty. It is because of that difficulty that we come to the other part of the proposals of the Government. As my noble friend the Secretary of State for India has pointed out, we hope that by means of the nominated element Labour representation may be made good. I know that noble Lords said that they do not very much relish the idea of being nominated by their political opponents. Why assume that? It will be possible, I suppose, to ascertain the opinions of the Labour Party both in this House and outside this House. There is no desire to ride rough-shod over people in these proposals. On the contrary, the whole intention of the suggestions we have made is to treat everybody fairly, and we shall try to do that. Do let me persuade noble Lords not to suspect us of always being engaged in some nefarious design by which other people's rights are to be undermined, and to believe that we shall try to work out some scheme by which the legitimate aspirations and susceptibilities of noble Lords in every part of the House gill be studied, That is my answer to those detailed questions as to how the system would work out.
I hope the noble Marquess will not pass from these questions without at least answering my question about the Prerogative, which seems to us the most important of all.
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I hope to deal with that directly, if the noble Earl will forgive me. Of course we do not suggest that in the proposal we have put forward we are solving all the problems connected with this subject. Quite clearly we are not. Our proposal is confined to one or two limited issues, but we have thought it right to approach the subject cautiously and by degrees, and I hope that by so doing we shall earn the approval of your Lordships. There is no desire whatever, let me repeat, to repeal the Parliament Act. We wish to work within the framework of the Parliament Act.
I was struck by the speech of a noble friend of mine sitting below the Gangway, I mean Lord Astor. I believe he is not in his place, for he told me that a very important engagement would keep him away. Lord Astor, I gather, is not 990 opposed to the Parliament Act and he thinks that the arrangement under which legislation, in the case of a deadlock, is suspended for two years, and has to be passed three times, is an adequate safeguard. I am not going to discuss that at this moment, for it does not enter into the proposals which the Government have laid before the House, but I want to point out that anybody who holds that view ought to be very glad of the suggested Amendment of the financial clauses of the Parliament Act, because your Lordships will remember that in the case of a Money Bill there is no two years interval in which public opinion, as is contended, rightly or wrongly—I have not very much opinion of the procedure myself—can assert itself. That does not apply in the case of a Money Bill. In the case of a Money Bill the will of the House of Commons passes it immediately over the heads of your Lordships then and there.
If they are pure Money Bills, real Money Bills, we have nothing to say against that. But if they are not, if under the guise of a Money Bill a political proposal of a far-reaching kind—social legislation, political change—is really concealed, why, then the very protection which it is alleged the Parliament Act gives in face of differences of opinion between the two Houses is absent. Under the masquerade of a Money Bill it is to be passed over your Lordships' heads, even without the two years interval. It is obviously necessary to be very careful that no political or social change is allowed to masquerade under the guise of a Money Bill. And that is all that those proposals are intended to effect.
In the first place we relieve the Speaker of the invidious task of trying to judge fairly when the House over which he himself presides is a party to the controversy, and in the second place we insert directory words by which it shall not be the form of the Bill, but its substance and effect, which shall be taken into consideration before the Joint Committee decide that it is a Money Bill. In other words, we are doing our utmost to prevent political and social change being disguised under the semblance of a Money Bill, by which, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliament Act, not two years, not one year, but a single month's delay is allowed before 991 the measure passes over the heads of your Lordships. That, as I believe, is a perfectly accurate account of the financial proposals, as they were adumbrated by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, and I do not think that there is any answer to the contention that that is just and fair. I am not one of those, I agree, who believe in the Parliament Act at all, but I suggest that there is nobody who does believe in the Parliament Act who ought to be opposed to that particular amendment in the law.
I turn to the other objection which has been urged against our proposals. The noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, did not make very much of the lack of mandate which is referred to in the Amendment which he is going to support. He passed all that by. The real reason why he is going to vote for the Amendment is that he does not wish the numbers of your Lordships' House to be limited. That is an astonishing position for a Liberal leader to take up. Is there to be no reform in your Lordships' House? Are the Labour Party and the Liberal Party suddenly to be reckoned among the antireforming members of society, and is there to be no reform of any kind? Because, my Lords, please understand that any reform—I do not care what kind it is—involves limiting the numbers of the House. Supposing you went to the extreme limit of reformers, and had the House of Lords directly elected, the numbers would be limited. And the reason why the noble Earl, reversing the whole of his Liberal faith, is against any reform in the Second Chamber is that he is beset with the terror that the power of creation of Peers to swamp the House of Lords when occasion requires will be done away with.
As I say, that particular process of carrying legislation must vanish if you have any kind of reform of your Lordships' House. It does not matter what the reform is, it must limit the number of the House; and, of course, if you limit by Statute the number of the House that very undignified process which is called "swamping" would come to an end. That follows absolutely. And the noble Earl opposite said just the same thing to-night. I think he said that no Prime Minister would take office—and so the noble and learned Lord said last 992 night—unless he had the power of swamping the House of Lords. Really, to anybody who has lived as long as I have such a contention seems to be quite grotesque. The so-called swamping power of the House of Lords has only once been carried out in the whole of English history, although on two other occasions it has been used as an effective threat. But between these two very long-spaced occasions there was a vast period of time, in which there was no question of swamping the House of Lords. And am I to be told that during that time, because of the absence of the use, or even the threat, of such a power, the House of Lords opposed all reform? Because that is the sort of language that is used. You would sweep away at one stroke all the social reform legislation of the nineteenth century, everything which I and noble Lords as old as myself remember for years gone by—the whole of it apparently is to be ignored. Every one of these measures, the great legislation of Mr. Gladstone and his successors—all passed through the House of Lords without any question of swamping, without the matter even being hinted at.
And the reason is this that your Lordships' House has always known how to use its privileges with moderation. The noble and gallant Lord who has just sat down congratulated us; that was his own short experience. Yes, but it is not only in his own short experience, it has always been so. The House of Lords has not used, and never except on very, very rare occasions tried to use, its privileges against the final judgment of the House of Commons, and never against the considered judgment of the people. And that is the thing on which you must ultimately rely. My noble friend the Secretary of State for India, in his very powerful speech last night, said in effect that ultimately it is public opinion which must rule. Of course it is. I do not care if noble Lords opposite ransack the pages of history, they will never find a Conservative statesman who has used any other language than that. That has always been our faith—that when the people have made up their minds, when they have had the matter properly laid before them, then their will is to prevail; and that faith we still hold. But, 993 if possible, we hold even more strongly than we did that some kind of guarantee is necessary that it shall be the considered judgment of the people.
Nothing is more apparent or more deplorable than the gradual predominance of the political machine in politics. We are very familiar with it in other countries, but it has invaded our own country and we know that politics are regularly worked, not in one political Party only but I shall venture to say to some extent in all political Parties, by the caucus, the political machine. It is not the real opinion of the people always, it is the opinion of the wire-pullers with which we have to deal and that is a very great and growing evil. I do not, pretend to be familiar with the internal arrangements of the Labour Party, with their domestic system, but I understand that in the House of Commons those who sit upon the Front Bench are not free agents like the leaders of other political Parties, but that they are to some extent the servants of some committee, whether outside or inside the House I do not know. It is no affair of ours. If they think that is becoming to their dignity by all means let them continue to have such a system, but it contains great risk for the real liberties of the country.
I know of other countries governed by representative institutions in which this process has gone much further, where the Ministers who sit upon the Treasury Bench are avowedly the servants of a committee outside and who, in their places in Parliament, get up before their colleagues and say: "I, a responsible Minister, think one way, but I am going to vote the other because I am told to do so by the caucus." That is done now in certain parts of the world. Are we not wise, when we see the same dreadful disease creeping into our own country and especially into the Labour Party, to see that there shall be some authority that will say: "We will secure before this is carried that there shall be some guarantee that it represents the considered wishes of the people"? Is that undemocratic? Is that an example of class privilege? Not at all. It appears to me to be merely a confirmation of what is the universal experience of mankind, that representative institutions are not secure, are not safe without an 994 efficient Second Chamber. It is in that spirit that we have put forward these very moderate proposals. We believe that above all things we must try to maintain the old spirit of the House of Lords, the old statesmanlike, conciliatory spirit of the House of Lords, and by the process of devolution such as has been foreshadowed in these proposals we hope that we shall maintain that spirit. Then, with the assistance of representatives of Labour, nominated as I hope to suit their wishes, we may continue on a new footing but with the old spirit, a better House of Lords but not a different House of Lords, one which, at any rate so far as the fictitious use of financial legislation in order to carry political and social changes is concerned, shall secure that at any rate within the framework of the Parliament Act there shall be an opportunity for the considered judgment of the people to tell.
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My Lords, the Resolution upon which we are asked to vote to-night is of supreme importance to this House and to the country. I cannot agree with the noble Marquess who has just spoken that we were really voting upon the Resolution of my noble friend Lord FitzAlan. Originally when we came into the House we thought that the only question we should have to determine would be whether or not we should support Lord FitzAlan's Resolution, but in view of the declaration made by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, during the course of the debate, the aspect has been completely changed and we are not now merely voting upon the Resolution of Lord FitzAlan. In form I agree we are, but in substance we are discussing and either approving or disapproving the proposals put forward by the Government.
I know that it has been said during the course of the debate—and I think particularly by my noble and learned friend Lord Sumner—that in truth we must confine ourselves to the actual terms of the Motion and when we come to vote decide upon that. My contention is that that would be quite wrong, more especially when we remember the course of this debate. How many of the noble Lords who have spoken in favour of the Resolution have referred to its terms? What they have done and, if I may be permitted 995 to say it, in my opinion rightly, has been to address themselves to the proposals put forward by the Government. However important was the Resolution presented to us, immediately the declaration of the Government was made we were at once driven to say whether or not we approved the terms of the Government policy as laid down. I make that observation because, speaking for myself and I believe for the rest of my Party, I am by no means sure that it would have been necessary for us to challenge a Division upon the original Resolution if matters had merely stood there. We should have waited to hear what the particular defects were in the Parliament Act that were to be considered and we should have waited more particularly for the criticisms that might be made; for my part I am not quite sure whether it would have been essential for us to challenge a Division. But that has passed now.
What we shall now have to determine for ourselves is whether or not we support the Amendment of Lord Arran. As Lord Beauchamp has already said, speaking on behalf of the Liberal Party, we shall support that Amendment because we believe that it represents in substance the views that we, as Liberals, in this House hold. I am not so concerned with the precise terms of the Resolution. So far as I know the practice of this House, it is not our custom to pay undue attention to the language but rather to vote upon the spirit which the words are intended to represent. I say that because I do not desire to confine myself too strictly to the theory of mandates referred to during the debate. Whether or not there was a mandate in the strict sense of the word is no doubt a question to be discussed. I have heard it said during the debate that the Prime Minister had made one speech, so far as I am aware, and that a pamphlet had been issued some two months before the General Election; and that is said to constitute a mandate for the Prime Minister.
We are not accustomed to define mandates in that way. I should have thought the more usual course, the more regular course, was to make a statement of policy in the Election Address of the Prime Minister and if the Prime Minister meant to challenge a vote upon this subject, which is what must be meant 996 when we are told that he obtained a mandate, he should at least have mentioned it in his Election Address. I think that in a matter of this character, and one of such supreme importance, it is not sufficient merely to turn to one speech made, to one pamphlet issued which was not a pamphlet by the Prime Minister——
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
Very likely, but that is not the same thing. There are many pamphlets authorised by the Prime Minister or by Cabinet Ministers which nevertheless certainly do not stand in the same category as statements made by Cabinet Ministers or the Prime Minister in an Election Address. It is a long time now since I have taken part in an Election, but I have always understood that a Prime Minister sets forth in his Election Address a manifesto of the policy which it is intended that those who support him should be authorised to follow if the electorate return him. That is absent in this case, and without pursuing the subject at undue length I desire to say for myself, and I am glad to say also for the rest of the Party, that we feel no compunction whatever in regard to this matter in voting for Lord Arran's Amendment. In our view it very well states the opinion we have formed. It puts quite clearly the argument that has been addressed—namely, that a matter of such grave concern as a change in the constitution of this House and therefore of the country, should be put before the electors of the country before being made law.
May I say why it is of grave importance in this case? I am not suggesting that every matter with which a Government wishes to deal either by legislation or by administration must be placed before the electorate. But conceive for a moment what would happen in this matter. If this Government proposal is carried, the result will be that never again, so far as I understand, could you change the law which had been passed amending the Parliament Act. We could never do it again. Make no mistake about it. The only way in which you can force—if I may use the expression—the assent of the House of Lords is by the creation of sufficient 997 Peers to carry a particular Bill. That, as the noble Marquess said, has only been resorted to once, or if more than once very infrequently. But if the course proposed is followed the Prerogative of the Crown will disappear. One must assume, and I do assume, that noble Lords who are responsible for putting forward this policy have considered what it means and what its effect may be. When once the King's Prerogative has been removed he cannot create Peers of Parliament with a right to vote in Parliament.
There is then no means of getting a Bill legalised as an Act under the Parliament Act, because under this present scheme what is intended is that reform of this House, or of the Second Chamber, shall be excluded from the operation of the Parliament Act. Consequently, neither by that way, nor by the Prerogative of the Crown, which was the only other means open before the passing of the Parliament Act, could you ensure that a Bill would be passed. Therefore, I submit to your Lordships that this is a matter of grave importance. If this House means to take the step of preventing the electorate giving effect to its view on this particular matter by not submitting it first to the electorate it is indeed taking a very grave action.
I would ask your Lordships to follow me one moment further. I assume that the Government is able to pass a Bill through the House of Commons and, of course, through this House, and it becomes an Act of Parliament. Then there is a General Election, which cannot tarry long after this Bill is through. It is due in 1929 whatever else may happen. Then the matter will, of course, be submitted to the electors. Assume the electorate return a majority opposed to it. How then, I would ask, is the Government to give effect to its policy? These are questions which really must be considered. It is impossible for this House to turn them aside and treat them as of no account. In my view this question ought never to be submitted to Parliament, ought never to become an Act of Parliament, until there has been an opportunity of presenting it to the electorate and until it has been endorsed by them. I shall have the satisfaction of voting for the Amendment of my noble friend the Earl of Arran, the effect of which was so well stated by him in a 998 very concise, but nevertheless forceful speech, and I believe that in taking that course we shall be following the wishes of the people rather than in adopting that advocated by noble Lords opposite who would insist upon carrying this measure without submitting it to the electorate.
I do not propose to detain your Lordships at any length, but I would ask you to consider what it is we are being asked to accept in this House. I am not imputing motives. I agree with the noble Marquess that it does not carry one any further, and I will go beyond that. I fully accept the view that those who may differ from me and from my friends are nevertheless just as conscientious, just as patriotic, just as desirous of doing right as we are. I am not suggesting for one moment, either by what I have said, or am about to say, that they are actuated by any interested motive in the sense of wishing to bolster up their own Party or to buttress this House against any measure which may come hereafter and which they, as a Party, do not wish to see passed. But, without imputing motives, I desire to look the proposal well in the face. Perhaps your Lordships will permit me within a few minutes to explain it as I understand it. If I am proved wrong I shall be the first to admit it, but, having considered very carefully what has been said, I gather that the proposal is designed to maintain the strength of this House—with limitations to which I will refer in one moment—with the addition of preventing the operation of the Parliament Act in regard to the composition of this House of reducing the control of the House of Commons over finance and of abolishing the Royal Prerogative to create Peers.
If these proposals are carried, the House of Lords will have infinitely greater power than it ever had before the introduction and passage of the Parliament Act. If those proposals are passed the House of Lords, which had come into controversy for some considerable time with the electorate of the country, will have taken upon itself, by a vote in this House approving those proposals, powers which, as I have explained, far transcend those that they had only so little time ago as in 1910, when the Budget was thrown out, leading to the Election at the end of 1910, held definitely 999 on the question whether the House of Lords was to have these powers and in consequence the Parliament Act followed. And yet, not content with striving to restore such powers as they had before, these proposals take us much further and would make the House infinitely stronger than it ever was in the days to which I have been referring.
I do not want to travel over the ground again. I am sure your Lordships are quite familiar with the facts, and I have given instances. Indeed, save for the nomination of a number of Labour Peers for a period of twelve years, there is, as I understand, no alteration. I am not quite sure—nothing was said about it—whether or not it is the intention also to nominate an adequate number of Liberals. I assume that it was perhaps thought that we had enough members, and I agree that we certainly do not stand in the same need as the members of the Labour. Party, who are in a much greater difficulty. I will deal with that question in a moment or two. What I have stated is really only putting in condensed form the proposals indicated by the Lord Chancellor. The first was the prevention of the operation of the Parliament Act. It is quite clear that this is intended—and indeed this is its foremost object—to allay the fear, which your Lordships are seeking to guard against, that some hasty legislation may be passed by the Labour Party—this seems to be most in their minds—that, notwithstanding the operation of the Parliament Act and that the measure would have to be passed three times, that a minimum of two years must elapse, and that agitation would be proceeding over the country in all quarters, a Bill might nevertheless be passed under the operation of the Parliament Act, as undoubtedly it could. Legally that is, in effect, what might happen, and there is nothing to prevent it, and if such a measure were passed the consequences must follow that I have just indicated.
In addition these proposals reopen to a certain extent the old contested question of the control of finance. The House of Commons is said to have this control by the Act of Parliament. I confess that at one moment I was troubled by the statement made 1000 by the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack when he spoke of the War Charges (Validity) Bill and when it appeared that the Speaker had given diametrically opposed decisions in succeeding years. It did seem that, if this were so, some means ought to be found of dealing with the position. But we now know, and are glad to have the fact stated to the House, that the Speaker was right in the view that he took on this question, that the Bill had been altered on the second occasion and that it was this, as I gather, that made him certify it then though it had not been certified when it first came up to your Lordships' House. I begin to doubt the force of the arguments which were based very largely upon this instance of what might happen, and all I desire to say before I pass from this subject is that, if there were any danger of a Bill coming up to us which was in truth not a Money Bill at all, but was a disguised attempt at destruction, spoliation or confiscation certified as a Money Bill, I confess that I should be quite ready to consider, as I believe my noble friends associated with me would equally, some better means of determining what was or was not a Money Bill.
But the proposals of the Government go much further. This is not merely a proposal to ascertain what is a Money Bill. They are really seeking to change the definition of a Money Bill, such as is given in the Parliament Act and is understood in consequence of a number of decisions given over a period of years. That is the attempt, anal I confess that I am not ready to go with them quite to such a length.
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If the noble Marquess will permit me, I will explain my meaning a little further. I am glad to hear that this is not intended, because if, as the result of what I am about to say, we can come to the conclusion that there is no fear of this result and that the danger to which I have referred is not a real one, the interruption will have been most valuable. Let me make my point quite clear once more. The noble Marquess in referring to Money Bills indicated the apprehensions 1001 of noble Lords that a Bill might come to this House disguised—I think that was the expression he used—as a Money Bill, but containing revolutionary, destructive, spoliatory provisions which would have most grave consequences to the country. My observation was directed to this point, that if there was danger, and if it could be shown that there was any danger, of that happening we should certainly be ready to consider any Amendment that might be made. But I must say that I should not myself be prepared to accept Committee such as is indicated. It does not commend itself any the more to me because I am told it somewhat resembles the decision of a Committee which was appointed under the Coalition Government. After all, I am sure I am not going too far when I say that your Lordships would not expect that it should bind either myself or those of my Party here associated with me who were not in the Government of the Coalition. We must be free to hold our own views. I certainly claim that for myself.
§ THE EARL OF BIRKENHEAD
As I used the argument may I say I never thought of attempting to involve my noble friend in any responsibility? It seemed to me though that the present Leader of the noble Marquess, Mr. Lloyd George, was affected with a very personal and constant responsibility from first to last. That was all I meant to say.
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My noble and learned friend will agree with me that if there is any quarrel it is with Mr. Lloyd George, to whom he has referred, and nobody is better able to answer him than Mr. Lloyd George himself. At any rate any proposals that - were laid by the Coalition Cabinet need not weigh very much with us here. I am not sure that proposals that emanated from them are very dear to some of my noble friends opposite. I pass from that and merely make the reference in case it should be thought we were in any way accepting the view. It is true my noble friend explained in terms that he did not contend that those of us who are Liberals were parties to this and would be bound by it.
I still desire to press the point with regard to the control of finance. I was saying that these proposals would reduce the control of finance. I have dealt with the question of disguise. There were 1002 three proposals with regard to finance. One was to appoint a Committee of seven members of each House who should choose their own Chairman. It differed, as I understand it, from the proposal that emanated from the Coalition, which was to have the Speaker as Chairman. If we were to have such a proposal at all, that would be an infinitely better course than that proposed. But the noble Marquess went further. What the Government propose is that they should decide whether it is a Money Bill, not by reference to the ordinary tests, but by considering the substance and effect apart altogether from the form and apart from the fact that there are money provisions in the Bill. That is what I understand is the proposal. That is what I meant by saying that you reduced the control of the House of Commons over finance. If not, it will fail to do the very thing held out as an inducement to members of the Party opposite as being the effect of the change.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It has never been contended by constitutional lawyers that there is any right in the House of Commons to use the form of a Money Bill in order to pass what is in substance and effect not a Money Bill.
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I should have thought that must be a matter which must be decided as it has been decided over and over again in the past. There are precedents enough upon it. I should have thought, if there was one thing that was understood by the Speaker and the two members of the Chairmen's panel whom he has to consult under the Act, it is what is and what is not a Money Bill. If there is any doubt about it, there is within the four corners of the Parliament Act an actual definition of what is meant. I said also that there was a third proposal connected with money control. I listened to the noble Marquess, but I do not think he dealt with this point. Presumably he meant to cover it and had not time. The proposal is that you should exclude charges on the local rates from the ordinary provisions so that charges on the local rates shall not constitute a Money Bill. I understand that is the third proposal.
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That is really a change. It cannot be contended that it is not a change. Would the noble Marquess contend that that is not making a change in the control of finance in the House of Commons?
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But I understood that it was part of the recommendations made by the Government.
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Yes, but whatever proposal the noble Marquess and his friends bring forward in this House I can assure your Lordships—I know it although I have been absent for some years—that he will find authority for it in some Committee or another. It carries no weight with us to say that it will be found in some particular Committee. I do not mean that attention should not be directed to what Committees have decided. What I do mean is that this is substantially a change which would limit the control of the House of Commons over finance. I ask again: Is it seriously contended that this House or that this Parliament should be able to make so important a change as that without ever having submitted it to the electorate? There is not one reference to it in the Prime Minister's speech. My contention, which I think I have made good, however much noble Lords opposite may differ from me as to the wisdom or otherwise of the policy, is that the effect will be to reduce the control of the House of Commons over finance.
I have already dealt with the Royal Prerogative so that there are these two vital changes made. I would ask one question to which I confess it would be of great use to us to have an answer. It was a question put by my noble friend the Leader of our Party in this House. Lord Beauchamp, when he asked about the composition of this new House when you have reduced your 716 Peers to 350 and when you have your addition of the Princes of the Blood Royal and the Bishops, or rather so many of them as are 1004 to be elected. Then there are the Law Lords.
Leaving those aside, what is the position? Of the 350 Peers who are to be members of this House, a certain number are to be nominated. I shall not repeat arguments, which have been addressed to the House and which seem to me to have great force, as to the difficulties of having members who are nominated against their will. I cannot myself see how their status can be changed without their assent. There are various obstacles to that course. They have already been referred to, and I will not delay your Lordships by mentioning them again, but what I want to know is how many of these nominated members there are to be. I have tried in my own mind to arrive at something like a computation. I thought perhaps I should be acting generously in putting the figure at 100 nominated members. It is a large number, and rather larger than was indicated, as I thought, by the language used when we were informed of the intentions of the Government. No specific number was stated and 100 is the highest figure which I can conceive. That leaves 250 to be elected or selected from the members of our own order. They are to be elected by the 716 hereditary Peers. As I follow, the Writ of Summons will have to disappear in the case of those who are not selected as representative Peers, but the 716 will have a right to take part in the election. We do not know how the election is to take place; we do not know what number they are to elect; all we do know is that they are to select those who are to sit and legislate. Is it intended, as I understand, that there should be a majority of hereditary Peers, selected from the whole body, and that in this House as constituted under the new provisions there will always be a majority of hereditary Peers, selected from their order?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I cannot give the noble and learned Marquess an answer on behalf of the Government. No special number was given either by myself or my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, because no special number has been determined, but if he asks my own personal opinion I certainly think that the hereditary Peers should be in a large majority.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I can hardly conceive that the Government will have directed their minds to the many Committees that have dealt with the subject, and to the many discussions which have taken place, and to the framing of their policy, without coming to a conclusion upon so important a subject, and I am quite sure that the answer of the noble Marquess is the right one, and I accept it as such. It could not be otherwise. You have 350 members, and I have given you 100 nominated members. Where are the other 250 to come from? They must be representative——
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I am sorry if I am detaining your Lordships, but my object is to try to ascertain and elucidate this question. It may be unpleasant to some members of the House, but I know the courtesy of this House and the desire to give information if it can be given. The point I am making is merely this: If you have a majority representation of hereditary Peers, as you must have, the consequence is that by the processes I have shown the hereditary Peers will be entrenched inevitably, and so far as I can see for ever, until you get some change to which the House of Lords itself assents. I admit that some noble Lords may think that that is what we should aim at, but I ask again, is it a matter which should be carried without the whole question being put to the country?
One further point. We are told that this is carrying out the Preamble of the Parliament Act. Is it? We have heard much of the Preamble, and we were told about the obligations to make the change. Let me recall to your Lordships the words of the Preamble:—. … it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation:I would ask whether it is really thought that, by the change now indicated by the Government, this new Chamber is being constituted on a popular instead of an hereditary basis? The conclusion to which I have arrived, and which I 1006 submit is inevitable, is that the effect of these proposals will be that, notwithstanding that in form there is a surrender of the right of the hereditary Peer, as such, to take his seat in the House and vote, in substance there is no surrender, but on the contrary there is greater strength acquired, making the House far stronger against any encroachment which may be directed against it.
I conclude my observations by referring to some remarks made by my noble and learned friend the Secretary of State for India, in which he said truly—and I think his words, at any rate in substance, were reiterated by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury—that you must depend upon the popular will, and that whatever may be done, whatever Bill may be passed and whatever provisions may be introduced into any Statute, the popular will must prevail. The only difference between us is that noble Lords opposite wish to prevent it from prevailing, as they think, too hurriedly. I gather, striving to do justice to the arguments put forward, that they want to ensure——
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
I think the words of the noble Marquess were that they wanted to ensure that the considered judgment of the people should prevail. When is it that the judgment has to be tested? The difficulty is that this test does not operate justly. It is the old question that we have had again and again with this House. If you have either a Liberal or a Labour measure introduced it may not be acceptable to this House, and then I presume it may be said that it is not the considered judgment of the people, and there must be an Election. Of course it will not happen if you have a Bill which is introduced by a Conservative Government. I know that there are many arguments put forward supporting that and giving good reasons for it. It is said that a Conservative Government does not introduce so many reforms. All I bring before the notice of the House, speaking with no desire in any way to claim a shrewdness or to make any pretence of vision which your Lordships do not possess, is that you are taking a step which is of the gravest consequence. 1007 And I believe that when this comes to be submitted to the country it will be found that you have misjudged the true view of the people, and your Conservative candidates, when they have to submit themselves to the electorate, will be in a difficulty in defending this composition of a new House on an hereditary basis instead of on the popular basis that was intended under the Parliament Act.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I have been asked to correct an impression which is held in some quarters, and has found its way into the Press, and which it is more important to correct after the speech of the noble Marquess who has just sat down. It is that there was some arrangement between my noble friend Lord FitzAlan and the Government, and that those of us who were concerned in this Motion were aware of the line which the Government would take. We were quite unaware of any of the statements that the Government would make. They were all new to us, and it follows that while we welcome the advance of the Government towards some practical proposals, we are entirely untied and unpledged as to any of the details of their proposals. I challenge the contention of the noble Marquess that what we are asked to vote upon now is anything except the Motion of my noble
§ friend Lord FitzAlan, pledging this House to surrender certain privileges for the general advantage of the reform of this House. As regards whatever action the Government may take, that is a question upon which, when it is embodied in a Bill, we shall all be absolutely free to give what vote we please.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
After ("Parliament Act") add ("but that in view of the omission of any mention of so grave an alteration in the Constitution from the official programme of His Majesty's present Government at the last General Election, it would be contrary to Parliamentary practice to introduce any measure dealing with the matter until after the electorate has had an opportunity of expressing its views").—(The Earl of Arran.)
§ On Question, Whether the proposed words shall be there inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 54; Not-Contents, 212.1009
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||Haldane, V.||Hemphill, L.|
|Reading, M.||Aberconway, L.||Marshall of Chipstead, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Arnold, L.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Northbourne, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Berwick, L.||Northington, L. (L. Henley.)|
|Chesterfield, E.||Bethell, L.||Olivier, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Biddulph, L.||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Boston, L.||Parmoor, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Braye, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Shandon, L.|
|Macclesfield, E.||Clwyd, L.||Shaw, L.|
|Russell, E.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Strafford, E.||Strachie, L.|
|Farrer, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.) [Teller.]|
|Chelmsford, V.||Forester, L.|
|Cobham, V.||Forres, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Devonport, V.||Gainford, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Gladstone, V.||Gorell, L.||Ystwyth, L.|
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Northumberland, D.||Bristol, M.|
|Portland, D.||Bute, M.|
|Cave, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Rutland, D.||Camden, M.|
|Balfour, E. (L. President.)||Sutherland, D.||Dufferin and Ava, M.|
|Wellington, D.||Exeter, M.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Ailesbury, M.||Linlithgow, M.|
|Bedford, D.||Ailsa, M.||Normanby, M.|
|Queensberry, M.||Templetown, V.||Hylton, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Ullswater, V.||Islington, L.|
|Younger of Leckie, V.||Joicey, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E. (L. Steward).||Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)|
|Cromer, E. (L. Chamberlain.)||Exeter, L. Bp.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Airlie, E.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Albemarle, E.||Annaly, L.||Knaresborough, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Ashfield, L.||Kylsant, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Askwith, L.||Lamington, L.|
|Birkenhead, E.||Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Latymer, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Barnard, L.||Lawrence of Kingsgate, L.|
|Cottenham, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Leconfield, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Bledisloe, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)||Lovat, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Carew, L.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Carson, L.||Merrivale, L.|
|Castlemaine, L.||Merthyr, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Charnwood, L.||Mildmay of Flete, L.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Chaworth L. (E. Meath.)||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)|
|Fortescue, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwillam.)||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Monson, L.|
|Grey, E.||Clinton, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Cochrane of Cults, L.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Harewood, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Mostyn, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Cranworth, L.||Newton, L.|
|Iveagh, E.||Crawshaw, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Lindsey, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Lucau, E.||Danesfort, L.||Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)|
|Malmesbury, E.||Darling, L.||Phillimore, L.|
|Mar and Kellie, E.||Daryngton, L.||Plumer, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Plunket, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Deramore, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Minto, E.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)|
|Morton, E.||Desborough, L.||Queenborough, L.|
|Mount Edgeumbe, E.||Dewar, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Northbrook, E.||Digby, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Dynevor, L.||Riddell, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Douglas, L. (E. Home.)||Romilly, L.|
|Powis, E.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Roundway, L.|
|Roden, E.||Elphinstone, L.||Ruthven of Gowrie, L.|
|Rosslyn, E.||Ernle, L.||Sackville, L.|
|Sandwich, E.||Erskine, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)|
|Selborne, E.||Faringdon, L.|
|Spencer, E.||FitzWalter, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Forster, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Stradbroke, E.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Sempill, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||Gisborough, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Yarborough, E.||Glenarthur, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Glendyne, L.||Southampton, L.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Glentanar, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Burnham, V.||Grimthorpe, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Grinstead, L. (E. Enniskillen.)||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Falkland, V.||Hanworth, L.||Suffield, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V. [Teller.]||Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Sydenham of Combe, L.|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Templemore, L. [Teller.]|
|Halifax, V.||Harlech, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Hood, V.||Harris, L.||Treowen, L.|
|Inchcape, V.||Hastings, L.||Wargrave, L.|
|Knutsford, V.||Hatherton, L.||Waring, L.|
|Lee of Fareham, V.||Hawke, L.||Weir, L.|
|Novar, V.||Hayter, L.||Wharton, L.|
|Peel, V.||Hothfield, L.||Wittenham, L.|
|Portman, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Sidmouth, V.||Hunsdon of Hunsdon, L.||Wynford, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before eight o'clock.