§ LORD DARLING had given Notice to move, That it be resolved that henceforth any Minister of the Crown who is a member of the other House of Parliament shall have the right to sit and speak in this House, but shall vote only in the House of which he is a member. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I would venture to bring before you, because I 227 think it is a very important question, a question of which I dare say your Lordships are becoming excessively tired. It is some years now since attempts were made to what was called reform the House of Lords. The reforms were carried, not all of them as they were designed to be carried, but carried in a form which left this House crippled, in a bad condition to do such public service as it may do, and in a state which made it necessary that further legislation in regard to it should take place. So much so that the Prime Minister of the day said that further reform of this House would not brook delay. That was years and years ago, and nothing effective has been done, although a good many proposals have been advanced, some before this House, some before Committees and some have simply appeared publicly in the Press.
§ In December last the need was so obvious to many of your Lordships, and particularly to the noble Earl, Lord Clarendon, that proposals were made to restore this House to something like its pristine glory and usefulness. Those proposals were carried. Your Lordships will remember that they contained provisions for reducing the number of Peers entitled to sit and vote here. They would have permitted, if legislation be necessary to permit it—I myself do not think it is—but they would have permitted the creation of Peerages for life in favour of other persons than the noble and learned Lords, the Lords of Appeal. Those Resolutions were carried by your Lordships' House. I think it was by Resolutions that the noble Earl proceeded; at all events the proposal was carried by 52 votes against 8, and the 8 were entirely on the Opposition side of the House. The Government of the day—those who were on the Front Bench—I think did not vote. Whether the Government of the day were satisfied with things, or whether they thought they would continue in office eternally, I do not know. I rather think it was the latter. They thought that they would always be on that side of the House and that noble Lords who now are there would be here. But there are vicissitudes in affairs political, and now the case is totally different except in this, that this House is in no better position than it was before. If anything it is in a worse position. I do not say that 228 of my own authority for what it is worth; I say it because it was solemnly written and published only on Sunday last by the noble Earl who has just taken his seat here, Lord Peel. He wrote this in a Sunday paper.
§ LORD DARLING
Yes, not the Sunday at Home, the Sunday Times. He wrote this:—I notice, too, with much regret, that there is no representative of the India Office in the House of Lords. Everybody knows that in that Assembly it is hardly possible to go a step without stumbling up against ex-Viceroys and ex-Governors and other persons experienced in Indian affairs. It is deplorable that the Government Bench is the only place in that House where ignorance of Indian matters prevails. No doubt one of the Socialist Ministers may be selected to answer, as the phrase goes, for India, but we are all aware that the modest and limited information extracted from a Department with which the spokesman is not familiar is very different from the fertilising streams of information that the political head of a Department can direct.He then went on to enforce the moral which I have put before your Lordships. This evil is not a new one, and what I have quoted from the writings of the noble Earl shows that it persists still.
An attempt was made to remedy it in proposals put to us, advocated with all the authority of the late Cabinet, advocated by the noble and learned Lord who then occupied the Woolsack. We voted for them. We were induced to do so by arguments put before us, and I suppose we thought that the Government would proceed with them, and that the condition of things which we had been told years before would not brook delay would at last be dealt with so that that reproach should no longer be made against any Government. I do not know what happened. The proposals for the reform of this House left this House assented to by us, and they went somewhere where they perished; of what complaint I really have never learned. All the explanation we got—and that is the explanation generally given when any kind of change is proposed such as that I am proposing—was: "Oh, well, it may be all right, but the moment is ill-chosen, it is inopportune." I wish to express this not in my own language but in the language of one of 229 our philosophers. I do not quite know whether it would be strictly in accordance with the consecrated language of Parliament, and so, perhaps, I may express it much as he wrote it, but with a slight difference, and say that when such proposals as those of the late Earl Cave or the Earl of Clarendon, or this humble one of my own, are brought before us we are always met with something of this sort—it is inopportune: "never the time, and this place, and another place all together."
That proposal having been abandoned and the Earl of Clarendon's proposals having come to nothing, I venture to bring this one before your Lordships because of what happened in the debate upon the Karl of Clarendon's proposals. The Earl of Clarendon, in introducing his Resolution, made use of these words, quoting them, as ho said, from a speech made by the noble Duke, the Duke of Buccleuch:—What I think we have to consider is not so much how details affect us, but what is really good for the country.That, I venture to think, is the spirit in which your Lordships would desire that this House should approach the question of its reform, and it is the spirit in which it certainly will approach it. Even the humblest proposal on the subject is dealing with a very great matter, a matter which one almost thinks one should not touch, because it is so bound up with the history of England.
When we are proposing to do something to reform this House, I take these words from a document which was written by Viscount Bryce, whom your Lordships will remember was Chairman of a Commission to enquire into the reform of this House, a Commission which did enquire into it very carefully and made a Report. Viscount Bryce addressed a letter to the Prime Minister in 1918, in which he wrote:—The Great Council of the Nation, from which the House of Lords directly descends, the House of Commons having been added to it in the thirteenth century, is the oldest and most venerable of all British institutions, reaching back beyond the Norman Conquest, and beyond King Alfred, into the shadowy regions of Teutonic antiquity.I read that to your Lordships for this reason: that I think there is a good deal of misconception as to the powers of this House over its own constitution 230 and a good deal of want of information as to the Statutes which recognise the powers of this House, and what it can do without waiting for an Act of Parliament but can do by Resolution of its own. I read that because I wish to show to your Lordships that the suggestion which has led to my bringing this matter before you is contained in the debate which took place upon the Earl of Clarendon's Motion, a debate in which the noble and learned Lord who is always listened to in this House with peculiar attention, Lord Buckmaster, spoke.
I do not pretend that I have discovered this way out of the difficulty for myself. I have not. It was suggested by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, who has himself occupied the highest position that a lawyer can occupy in this country and has since then even added to the good opinion which he obtained upon the Woolsack. In what I am proposing to-day I have only attempted to give concrete shape to that which he expressed. On December 11 of last year he said:—What I want to do is to persuade the Government at this late hour that they ought, now to make some provision that will enable a Labour Government, if it be returned, to function. It could be done by passing even a small Resolution enabling the Government, during the period in which it is in office, to appoint people to assist in your Lordships' House in order that their Bills might be properly presented.That, your Lordships will see, would obviate the dreadful condition of things lamented by Earl Peel. Viscount Hailsham, who was then Lord Chancellor, spoke in the debate. He said this, speaking of Lord Buckmaster:—We had, on the one side, a statesmanlike attempt to make a real contribution towards solving a difficult problem.That is how Viscount Hailsham spoke of the proposal which Lord Buckmaster made in debate and which I simply bring before your Lordships to-day, hoping to obtain your Lordships' approval.
Of course, I know it will be said: "Oh, this is such a great question. You only touch a small part of it." I acknowledge that that is so, but suppose we reason for a moment by analogy. Suppose that a man had been grievously wounded either in the house of a friend or of his enemy or in his own house. Suppose that his arm had been broken, 231 that his leg had been broken, and that he had received a cut on the head, and that somebody came in and said: "I have not knowledge enough nor strength enough to set your leg or your arm, but I have a simple remedy which will cure the wound on your head." Ought it to be said to that amateur:" Oh, what is the good of that?" Do you think the man who was bleeding would ask "What is the good of that? If you cannot mend my arm and my leg never mind, let me bleed to death from the wound on the top of my head."? Of course he would not. I maintain that if we can do anything to improve the usefulness of this House for the good of the country it is our duty to do it. If your Lordships can do it without an Act of Parliament, by a Resolution of your Lordships' House, which in your opinion may do good and can do no harm, why then your Lordships will pass that Resolution, no matter that it is only myself that proposes it, no matter that it may be opposed by giants in Parliament.
I do not know, I have not enquired who is going to speak on the one side or the other. I have not canvassed any one, and I have done nothing to secure support except to lay the ease as well as I could before your Lordships. I do not know what line may be taken against it. I have attempted to express that which Lord Buckmaster suggested—namely, that a member of the other House, being a member of the Government of the day, should be allowed to come here and explain to your Lordships the affairs or the measures for which his particular Department was responsible. This is not an unknown thing in other countries. If any one will look at Lord Bryce's Report, he will find that in many other countries a Minister may speak in either House of Parliament as is convenient, but it generally happens that he is not allowed to vote in both. Accordingly, what I propose here is, in the words of the Resolution—That it he resolved that henceforth any Minister of the Crown who is a member of the other House of Parliament shall have the right to sit and speak in this House, but shall vote only in the House of which he is a member.I have taken part of this Resolution from the South Africa Act which was passed in 1909.
232 There must be many now in this House who were responsible for that Act, who voted for it and approved of it. Section 52 of that Act says:—A member of either House of Parliament shall be incapable of being chosen, or of sitting, as a member of the other House; Provided that every Minister of State who is a member of either House of Parliament shall have the right to sit and speak in the Senate and the House of Assembly, but shall vote only in the House of which he is a member.Your Lordships see that, with regard to the two Houses in South Africa, the privilege is reciprocal. My proposal differs from the procedure in South Africa in that I do not suggest that any Minister who happens to be a member of this House should have the right to sit in the House of Commons.
§ LORD DARLING
A noble Lord asks me why not. It may be a mere matter of taste, but that is the way that I have drawn it. If your Lordships should desire that it should be reciprocal and should carry it in that form I should not say a word against it. I have explained to your Lordships that I wanted to get this agreed to, if I could, with as little friction as possible. Beyond that, I think that in English jurisprudence one must always notice that precedent counts for a great deal. Our greatest reforms have generally followed some precedent a considerable distance and have then diverged, and I am of opinion that, if this were limited to the higher officers of the Government, this Resolution would not be necessary at all. It would greatly strengthen a Government which proposed to do what I believe they can do—I will explain to your Lordships in a moment what that is—if your Lordships passed this Resolution, but I hope I can show your Lordships good reason for thinking that already, with regard to some Ministers, the Resolution is not necessary, although, if it is passed as I have put it down, it would apply to some who have never been permitted to speak in this House before.
Your Lordships may perhaps have noticed that, when I first handed in the Resolution, it limited this privilege to the Principal Secretaries of State. I then extended it to other Ministers following the precedent of South Africa. When I 233 say that this proposal is possibly unnecessary and that, if necessary, it is certainly in harmony with the existing Constitution of this country, I would refer your Lordships to the Statute 31, Henry VIII, c. 10. I have satisfied myself that this Statute is still in force. It has never been repealed, either in whole or in part. Its effect is to give certain people who are named a right to sit and speak in this House, but not to vote here. That is not my opinion only. Your Lordships may have noticed in The Times—not the Sunday Times—that this is the opinion of Professor Pollard, a man known for his erudition and his great authority upon all such subjects as this; and I think he cannot be effectively contradicted. I will read to your Lordships the words of the Statute which apply to this matter. Section 8 of the Act that I have mentioned runs:—And be it further enacted, that if any person or persons which at any time hereafter shall happen to have any of the said offices of Lord Chancellor "—his Lordship sits there by reason of this Statute—Lord Treasurer, Lord President of the King's Council "—there he sits—Lord Privy Seal "—I look in vain for him at the moment—or Chief Secretary shall be under the degree of a Baron of the Parliament, by reason whereof they can have no Interest to give any Assent or Dissent in the said House, that then in every such ease such of them as shall happen to be under the said degree of a Baron shall sit and be placed at the uppermost part of the sacks "—that is, the Woolsacks—in the midst of the said Parliament Chamber….I read to your Lordships what Lord Bryce wrote in his letter to the Prime Minister because it shows that this House is certainly, with regard to those who are Privy Councillors, the direct successor of the Great Council of the Realm.
The King might wish to have his Council about him and act upon their advice. As time went on there were some of his Councillors, and some of the most learned, who were not of the degree of a Baron. There were Barons in those distant days who could not read or write, although they could give excellent advice in Council for all that. Writing was looked upon much as typewriting is now. 234 But it was decreed in this Statute with regard to those beneath the degree of a Baron—and the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Treasurer, the Lord President of the Council, the Lord Privy Seal and the Chief Secretary might all be under the degree of a Baron—that, as it was desired that they should come to this House and gave His Majesty counsel, they had a right to come to advise—those are the terms of the Writ—and they came. I believe it has been suggested that, because the Statute says that they "can have no interest to give any assent or dissent in the said House," they cannot speak in the House and that they would only come here for other noble Lords to look at. Of course it is for no such reason. The King did not bring the very highest officers in the Kingdom into this House simply that other people should admire them. What it says is that they are not to give, unless they are Peers of Parliament, assent or dissent, but your Lordships know, and the Lord Chancellor now know? by experience better than any of us, that assent or dissent in this House is shown by saying "Content" or "Not-Content," and not by making a speech.
I have heard very eminent people in the other House, and particularly the head of the Government, make a speech, and I did not know which side he was on, nor did some of his followers. The Minister may point out that if you do this you will get into war with such and such a country, or that if you do that you may have trouble with some other country. He may point out that if you impose this tax it may have a bad effect, or that if you impose that tax no one will pay it. All those things can be said in speeches, but when you come to assent or dissent it is done by saying "Content" or "Non-Content." That is what Ministers who were not members of your Lordships' House were disqualified from doing. There were others who were summoned and they are summoned still—namely, the Judges of the High Court. They are summoned, although they are not, most of them, Peers. I, myself, during the twenty-five years I was a Judge of the King's Bench, received with every Parliament, just as your Lordships receive, a Writ ordering me to come here and give my advice and opinion. How was one to give if? Some of your Lordships may remember that whenever Parliament 235 is opened the Judges come and sit there on the sacks in front of the seat now occupied by the Lord Chancellor. They have no right to speak unless they are asked and no right to give assent or dissent to any proposition before the House.
There is an Order of the House which I found in the Journals. It is a Standing Order of Saturday, June 9, 1660, and it is still in force. It says this:—The Judges and such of the Kind's Privy Council (as are called by Writ to attend)—your Lordships see there that members of the Privy Council, although they are not summoned as Barons or Earls or Dukes, are summoned to attend—sitting by are not to be covered, until the Lords give them Leave, which they ordinarily signify by the Lord Chancellor, and they being there appeared to attend the House are not to speak or deliver any Opinion until it be required and they be admitted so to do by the Major Part of the House in Case of Difference.It used not to be very unusual to summon the Judges to give their opinion, until the Lords of Appeal were appointed, who are among the most learned of those on the Bench, selected fur their learning and made members of this House. Until that was done the Judges were frequently summoned. When cases came before your Lordships' House in its judicial capacity, the. Judges were summoned to give their opinions, and I will give your Lordships a case in regard to it.
It is a well known case constantly cited. It is a case in which the law is laid down concerning responsibility for crime. It is the case of Macnaughton, who was charged with murder, having assassinated Mr. Drummond, intending to assassinate Sir Robert Peel. He was convicted of murder, but found insane. There was a desire to have the law set at rest, and rules were drawn up by which we still try prisoners. In the Parliamentary debates of March 13, 1843, Lord Lyndhurst said this:—My Lords, if with respect to the general law, your Lordships think it necessary to take the opinion of the Judges, and to have their united authority on the subject, I will request the attendance of those learned persons…. Let us know from the highest authority, from the voice of the Judges, what the law is, let it be laid down by them in precise terms, together with what is to be in future the administration of that law according to their opinion.236 They gave their opinion, the Lords voted and came to a Resolution upon the matter—of course, not the Judges—and the law now is administered in criminal cases in accordance with what was then laid down.
I think I have shown your Lordships sufficient reasons for saying that one need not necessarily be a member of this House to take a very considerable part in the work that it does. There is a Statute of Henry VIII which gives to certain named officers of the Crown the right to come into this House and sit. I cannot conceive for a moment that they had not a right to speak, but that they had no right to vote is laid down in plain terms. Ministers of the Crown are entitled to come here and sit, and I should like to ask, supposing the Lord Privy Seal—he is one of those named, and I should very much like to hear him—were to try to come on the floor of this House, what would Black Rod and his myrmidons do if the Lord Privy Seal produced the Statute 31 Henry VIII, c. 10, and read him the section to which I have referred? Supposing he came and sat down on that sack, as the Statute says he should do, is there any Lord Protector who would rise and say: "Take away that Seal"? I hardly think so. I think he would be permitted, if he got up, and certainly if he were asked, to tell us how he was going to get rid of unemployment.
I have read to your Lordships what the noble Karl, Lord Peel, has lately said upon this subject. When Lord Clarendon's Motion was before your Lordships' House the noble Earl opposite. Lord Russell, whom I am delighted to see a Minister of the Crown, said that the condition of things was such that the Party to which he belonged were so few and their position so mean and humble that the Party on this side, like the ranks of Tuscany when they were led by Lars Porsena to Rome, "could scarce forbear to cheer." The position is worse, and it is not only that this House may be better served and more capable of doing well that I would submit this question to your Lordships, but it is because I cannot help having some sympathy with the brave and devoted men I see on those Benches opposite. They remind me of the thin red line of Minden and of Inkerman. Their tenuity even exceeds their redness, and it is chiefly that this House may resume its proper place in the Constitution of England 237 to some extent, and also to relieve noble Lords opposite, Ministers of the Crown, of many embarrassments which bring upon them such reproaches as Lord Peel has delivered himself of, that I submit to your Lordships this Resolution.
§ Moved, That it be resolved that henceforth any Minister of the Crown who is a member of the other House of Parliament shall have the right to sit and speak in this House, but shall vote only in the House of which he is a member.—(Lord Darling.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I do not wish to detain you for any length of time in offering what is purely a personal view upon this Motion. Like the noble and learned Lord, I have not discussed the matter very much, but I think it is my duty and that of all your Lordships to express a view, if they think it is one which is deserving of the consideration of your Lordships' House. I would ask you to consider one particular point, and that is the possible repercussion which the adoption of this proposal might have on the general character of your Lordships' House. The suggestion is that Ministers who have seats in another place should be allowed to come to this House and address your Lordships. It is not suggested, and I think that Lord Darling when he was interrupted by the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, thought that it would not be right, that a Resolution from your Lordships' House should suggest that Ministers who are members of this House should be allowed to address another place. Admittedly the reason for this expedient is that the adherents of the present Government in your Lordships' House are, it is said, insufficient, although I join with the noble and learned Lord in admiring the magnificent fight which the noble Lords opposite put up when they were sitting on this Bench, and the defence they put up now that they are sitting on the Front Bench opposite.
It is said that their numbers are insufficient to defend the policy of His Majesty's Government at present, and so it is necessary, in order that that policy may be properly explained to your Lordships, to find some means of strengthening the representation of the Socialist Party on the Front Bench opposite. Of course, there are other ways 238 in which it might be done, as the noble Lord admitted, but this is a particular proposal which he has laid before your Lordships. Supposing this particular proposal were carried and put into force. The first result would be to make it really unnecessary in the future for any Minister of the Crown, except the Lord Chancellor unless he happened not to be a member of Parliament—of course the Lord Chancellor can now sit on the Woolsack, and has sat on the Woolsack, although not a member of your Lordships' House—it would render it unnecessary for any Ministers, except the statutory minimum, which is one Secretary of State and one Under-Secretary, to be Peers. Is that a state of things which your Lordships would wish to see brought about? I very much doubt whether that would be your wish. In the eloquent speech in which the noble and learned Lord advocated his proposal it seemed to me that he was suggesting that possibly this proposal, this expedient, might be limited. He did not lay any great stress upon it, but if he had made that suggestion I would say to your Lordships that possibly it might be feasible in theory, although I very much doubt whether, having undertaken this expedient, it would be practicable not to continue it as a regular method of procedure.
I have suggested what would happen if this proposal were adopted. But supposing a similar Resolution was passed in another place, and that members of your Lordships' House who were Ministers were permitted in the same manner to address the House of Commons. I think then that things would be very different, and I can imagine that instead of the Government representation on the Front Bench being reduced to its statutory minimum there would be a galaxy of Cabinet Ministers sitting on the opposite Bench. Busy Ministers with large Departments, like the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, would, I think, be wise men if they took advantage of the provisions which would release them from the heat and burden of the work of the House of Commons and the necessity for doing routine work there, and took Peerages and came to sit here as members of your Lordships' House, without sacrificing one tittle of the influence and authority which the right to address the House of Commons affords to Ministers. 239 That, I think, would be the result if the proposal were reciprocal. And so either all but the statutory minimum would be members of the House of Commons, or a number of Ministers in charge of big Departments would accept Peerages who otherwise would have remained members of the House of Commons.
But—and this is the important point—in either of those two cases no junior Peer would ever be appointed to Ministerial office, and therefore the opportunity of the comparatively young Peer to obtain office in any Government would disappear altogether. And indeed under this proposal I can hardly imagine any Prime Minister offering a junior post to a Peer in his Government, because he would not be so valuable a man, he would not be so mobile. A man who was able to address both Houses and had the right to vote in the House of Commons, would have a great advantage, of course, over one who has only the right to speak in your Lordships' House and to vote here. And the influence which this House exercises on public affairs is not mainly by means of the Divisions. I do not think the noble and learned Lord had thought of this point; I do not think he mentioned it in his speech. Of course, noble Lords may say that it does not matter whether a young Peer does or does not get the chance of pursuing an active political career in your Lordships' House. Perhaps it does not matter that any particular Peer should do so or not, but if you shut the political door to all young Peers you will deal a very serious blow at the efficiency of this House as a political body.
I agree entirely with the quotation which the noble and learned Lord gave from the speech of the noble Duke, the Duke of Buccleuch, when he said that we should not think of ourselves, we should think entirely of the public interest and it is on the detriment to the public interest which this proposal would involve rather than the disability under which you would put any particular Peer that I wish to insist. The members of your Lordships' House vary very much in degree. On those Benches there sit or may sit the most distinguished citizens in the country, those eminent in commerce, in the Army or the Navy, in the law, in banking or agriculture, in science, art, medicine, industry, and so forth, and with them a number of those who have 240 reached the highest distinction in politics, but who, for the most part at any rate, have retired from the heat and burden of the political arena. Although they are, as we know, most patriotically ready and eager to tender their advice and their counsel, they have, and no doubt rightly, decided to leave the routine of politics to the younger generation. Undoubtedly—nobody would say the contrary for a moment—the presence in the Councils of the State of so many men of great distinction in all walks of life is of incalculable value, and I imagine that your Lordships' House, of all Second Chambers in the world, offers a better chance for obtaining the advice and assistance of such men.
For a Parliamentary Chamber to be a workable entity, something more is required. It must not be formed entirely of what I may call, to use a very expressive Japanese term, Elder Statesmen. There must be a leaven of younger men coming on; men who are keenly interested in politics, men with political ambitions who are desirous of making politics their career in life, and who will do the ordinary hum-drum routine work of any House of Parliament. That element, that very necessary element, is now supplied by the younger hereditary Peers, some of whom have had experience of legislation and of Parliament in another place before succeeding to their seats in your Lordships' House, while others have had great experience in other walks of public life. Both members of your Lordships' House and members of another place are members of Parliament; but although they are both members of Parliament the position of members of your Lordships' House differs in a very considerable degree from that of members of the House of Commons.
In the first place, we have no constituencies to occupy our time, and the deliberations in your Lordships' House are necessarily very much shorter than those in another place. It is true to say, I think, that while a member of the House of Commons can pursue a full, useful and active political career as a private member without desiring office, indeed even refusing office when offered to him, if a Peer desires to follow politics as a whole-time occupation it would be very unlikely that he would find full scope for his 241 energies unless he found a seat on the Front Bench opposite. In fact, if he had any ambitions in polities at all, those ambitions must tend towards a seat on the Government Front Bench. If those younger hereditary Peers were excluded from an active career in politics I think it would be a serious public disadvantage. The kind of man who enters your Lordships' House at a comparatively early age is one of the most useful assets this country possesses, and I do not think we want to lose his services to the State because of the accident that he happens to be a Peer. We want to encourage him to give those services. If that door were closed to his political ambitions it would have the effect that I submit this proposal will have, of depriving your Lordships' House of the services of such men. And that, of course, would deprive the House of that essential foundation of younger men without which no political chamber can usefully continue.
Noble Lords may say that there are ways of meeting this difficulty. There may be. Others may think, perhaps, that my apprehensions are exaggerated or even unfounded and that no such results would occur if this suggestion were adopted. They may be right. I am open to conviction. I should rejoice if any means were found to remedy the difficulties under which, admittedly, your Lordships' House labours in this particular. But while feeling that possibly a suggestion of this kind might mitigate certain of the difficulties, in its present form at any rate I very much doubt whether it could be altered so as to have that effect. It would create fresh difficulties and, possibly, to use a vulgar expression, what we might gain on the swings we should lose on the roundabouts.
THE MARQUESS OF OREWE
My Lords, I cannot venture to claim the indulgence of your Lordships as one who has not addressed you before, because I have been responsible for so many dreary columns in the OFFICIAL REPORT in the past, some of which I should be very sorry to have to read again. But it is so long since I had the honour of taking part in one of your Lordships' debates that I venture to ask for a little more consideration than is ordinarily given those who rise to address yon. Everybody, I think, has regarded with sympathy 242 the purpose of the noble and learned Lord in bringing forward this Motion; that is to say, he has evidently desired to add to the reality of the debates in your Lordships' House, and to do something practical to reduce the marked numerical discrepancy that exists between the numbers on the Government Benches and those who represent the Government in another place. At the same time, the question has to be regarded not merely from a legal point of view, as the noble and learned Lord seemed to be tempted to do, but also, I think, from its practical side, which has been touched on by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow.
This, as has been pointed out, is by no means a new question. I can remember for years and years this question of Ministers speaking in the other House of Parliament. But it has always been brought forward, so far as my recollection goes, on the principle of reciprocity; that is to say, that noble Lords who held certain offices would be able to go and speak in another place. The noble and learned Lord who introduced the Motion did not seem to think that a point of very great importance, but I am inclined to think that your Lordships would regard it as one of crucial importance. I remember that when this question has been discussed in the past, and it has often been discussed, one or two practical objections were made. The first was that a very heavy burden would be thrown on Ministers if they had to conduct the debates in both Houses. The second was somewhat akin to the point mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow—namely, that it would be hard upon seconds-in-command, the Under-Secretaries who sit in one House or the other, if whenever an important question arose their chief was to swoop down from the other House and take charge of the business, and they would not have the power of asserting themselves as in the past so many of them have. I might mention the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, among those who are still alive, and Lord Grey of Fallodon as men who first of all were conspicuous Under-Secretaries. We all remember such names as those of the Marquess Curzon, Earl Percy, and Mr. Edward Montagu. That, I think, was always a minor objection, because men of distinction will assert themselves sooner 243 or later, and if the reform were desirable in itself that would be no reason for not agreeing to it.
But the other objection was certainly considered to be very much more important. It was considered that it would add seriously to the labour of the head of a busy Department if in the case of an important Bill he had to be in charge of it in both Houses. And that is a point which so far has not been touched on at all in this debate. When it is said that right hon. gentlemen from another place should come and speak here it seems important to know exactly what is meant. If a right hon. gentleman were to come and make a brilliant speech on the Second Heading of a Bill, and then to retire, your Lordships would all be charmed and delighted, while no great result would follow; but in the case of long and important Bills, such as a Local Government Bill, an Education Bill, or a Licensing Bill, it often happens that the main principle of the measure has to be settled one way or the other on a particular clause in Committee. We all remember Bills of that kind which, in the Committee of your Lordships' House and the Report stage taken together, have taken something like fifteen or twenty sittings. If a Minister, having gone through that process in another place, is asked to come and do precisely the same here, I think the present occupants of the Front Bench would agree with me that it would be throwing an extremely heavy burden upon their colleagues in another place who hold important offices. Those, I take it, are practical points, which have to be borne in mind.
It is true that in other countries the habit exists of permitting Ministers to speak in both Houses, but, so far as I know, a regulation of that kind is always the creation of Statute, and I cannot help thinking that if it were to obtain here it would also have to be the result of an Act of Parliament. Speaking of one country of which I have some experience, in France, by the Constitution of 1875. Ministers sit at will on the Front Bench either in the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate, and take part in discussions whenever they desire. So much so that, outside those who study the politics of France closely, I am inclined to think that not many people would know whether the conspicuous Ministers who have lately taken part in the very important debate 244 on the ratification of the Debt Agreements with the United States and ourselves were Senators or Members of the Chamber of Deputies. The four Ministers who took a leading part in that debate were the President of the Council, who of course is Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice, who is the second Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Finance, and I should be inclined to offer a small prize to any noble Lord who could tell me off-hand which of those gentlemen has a seat in the Senate and which in the Chamber of Deputies. I think that in other countries where the same rule obtains there are always reciprocal dealings between the two Houses, and the arrangement is the creation of a Statute.
On the particular Resolution of the noble and learned Lord, I feel personally that I should be very sorry to record a vote against the principle. At the same time I should find it difficult to support it in the terms in which it is drawn. I am therefore disposed to appeal to the noble Lord not to press his Motion to a Division to-day, not because I regard it as inopportune—he said with great truth, the word "inopportune" is always being used—but because my impression is that there is considerable doubt in the minds of a great many of your Lordships as to what in reality it is in our power to do by Resolution. The noble and learned Lord pointed out that by a Statute of King Henry VIII, in his belief the holders of certain offices are entitled to sit in this House, and he argued, I think justly, to sit and speak, if not vote; but that could not apply to a good many of those who are described in the Motion as Ministers of the Crown. Without pretending to have any authority whatever to speak on a legal point, I should like to know whether, if your Lordships are empowered by Resolution to introduce into this House to sit and to speak certain members of Parliament who are not authorised to come here by Statute, why you should not equally pass a Resolution, if you so desire, to introduce various other gentlemen whom we should be delighted to hear speak on subjects which they understand, such as the President of the Royal Society, the President of the Royal Academy and other distinguished per-persons? It is because I feel a great 245 doubt as to what we should actually be doing if we were to vote for the Resolution of the noble Lord, that I am disposed to ask him to bring it up again possibly at some later period in the Session.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, it is only a few months since the question that is the subject of the Resolution moved by the noble Lord was considered by your Lordships' House. Only a few months have gone by and great changes have taken place. What was then nothing but a dimly apprehended possibility has become a realised fact, and we have to-day a Socialist Government in power whose Socialism is only thinly diluted by 57 members in another place. It is often said that one of the many unenviable attributes of advancing years if the habit of looking back, taut looking back has at least one advantage. The road behind is the only one that you can sec, and by looking back alone can you determine where that road is going to lead in the future. I cannot help thinking from the speeches that have been delivered this afternoon that not sufficient attention has been given to the lesson that can be learned by looking back. We have just been through a General Election in which five million of now, young, untried voters—untried voters with all the enthusiasm of youth and its illimitable power of making mistakes and then forgetting them—were asked to vote for one or two of the older Parties in the State, either by an offer of "Safety First" or by a promise that unemployment would be cured within twelve months. To my mind it is not surprising that they despised the offer and disbelieved the pledge.
After all, "Safety First" is not a very alluring cry. I very much doubt whether it ever has led to victory either on the field of battle or in the arena of politics. It certainly was not the cry of "Safety First and again Safety and for ever Safety" that still rings through the pages of French history, but something that was curtly interpreted by one of the new voters who wrote under the figure of the Prime Minister on one of the "Safety First" posters: "We'll risk it." And they did it, and we see the result. The thing which I think your Lordships may overlook is that this Government which we now see does not represent 246 Socialist opinion at its flood. It is nothing but the first wave of moving waters and the tide will not be held back either by lamentations or by mops. The legend surely is not without some meaning that says it is upon the site of this House where Canute attempted to rebuke the rising tide. We have to face the fact that the tide is rising and to see how far it is possible that our existing institutions can be so adapted as to prevent that tide submerging us altogether. There is one good reason why the Socialists are never very eager to reform this House. It is because they know that if some unusually extravagant Bill, which might not even have popular support behind it, comes up to this House, where it will be contemptuously rejected, they will then be able to appeal to the country, not on the merits of the Bill, but on the old, old question as to whether a House that does not owe its authority to any system of electoral representation shall be at liberty to deny and destroy the legislation of another place.
That is the position. What is it that we can do? The first thing of which I am quite certain is that it is no use attempting to get complete schemes passed all at once. No scheme could have been more thoughtfully prepared and to none, I am sure, has greater labour ever been given than that for which I think it is no secret that the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, was in part responsible. When once you got the whole of that scheme before the country it broke down and the more recent attempt of the Earl of Clarendon's Resolution met with just the same fate. Any attempt to propound and put forward a scheme for a complete change in the constitution of this. House, which is to effect once and for all its altered constitution, would, I am quite satisfied, meet with the same fate. It is for that reason that I feel strongly in favour of the principle of the Resolution that is put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Darling. That Resolution embodies three things, each of which I regard of the highest value. In the first place it gives definite recognition to the fact that creation of a Peer or inheritance of a Peerage should not be the only means of access to this House. That I think of great consequence. The next is this: that it would enable women to sit in this House. I have always said, and I 247 repeat, that any scheme for the reform of this House that does not include the introduction of women would meet with my humble opposition. You cannot reform this House so as to make it answer the feverish pulse of public opinion outside without allowing women to have their right of audience here the same as men, and this arrangement permits that. Finally it does this: it enables a Government, such as the present, to appoint people to sit in this House temporarily, so that membership of this House is not a permanent fact.
I have often thought that one of the disadvantages from which we suffer is the fact of the permanence of member ship here. How is it that this House is from time to time recruited? It is recruited primarily, and probably in the best possible way, by the selection of men who, for public merit and the real cause of honour, are introduced into the House. It is also recruited, it must not be for gotten, by men who are afflicted by the canker of social ambition and who persuade the Whips to put them here in order that that ambition may be gratified. Finally, it is recruited on the principle of inheritance. One of the grave disadvantages of that system is that many of the better men who come here from another place are men who have been broken by the storms of State and who seek some repose in this House which is denied them in another place. I do not for a moment deny the enormous advantage that this House derives from the great experience that these men bring to its deliberations; but what this House lacks is neither courage nor experience: what it lacks are energy and youth, and I cannot see how, if you continue without change your present system, those needs are going to be supplied. It has been suggested that the difficulty which every one realises can be met by the appointment of Life Peers. Of course, the appointment of Life Peers is subject to nearly every one of the objections which I have put forward. It does not solve the question at all, nor does it provide, as it should provide, an avenue which will lead to a freer and better system.
At this moment it really is impossible to see how the Government is going to function. One of the great disadvantages of this House in the past has been that there never has been even equipoise of 248 the scales as between the two Parties, and we all know it. It is not a complaint, it is a necessary and essential result of the House constituted as it is. In the phrase I propose to use I do not mean anything in any sense disrespectful of the present Government, but the present Government are nothing but dust in the balance of this House. They have not the faintest chance of getting any one of their proposals accepted here unless something is done to strengthen and re-invigorate it. When the real difficulty arises, as arise it must, everyone can realise at once the serious disadvantage under which they will be placed. Further, there is at the moment great difficulty in filling up posts which ought to be represented here. It was pointed out by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and I thought there was some point in it, that the passage of this Resolution might mean that no member of your Lordships' House would be made available to fill the great offices of State. Of course, that is a possibility, but it is not very probable, and we have to deal with things as we find them and not with remote possibilities. It is, of course, possible, but that should not prevent the passage of a Resolution like this which at the moment would enable their ranks to be recruited from outside.
I know that the Government may well think, and with good reason, that the voting power in another place is not so super-abundant as to permit of its being depleted by the addition to this House of people unable to vote. That could be easily altered by some change in the form of the Resolution. I think the objection is a good one. But it really is not, to my mind, the particular words of this Resolution that matter. I felt this when I heard the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, say that you ought to have a reciprocal arrangement. I do not think that those things are at the bottom of this Resolution. The idea at the bottom of the Resolution is that we should adopt some scheme by Resolution of this House, to show that we do not intend to continue the constitution of this House on the sole basis on which it is at present erected. It is for that reason that I am so anxious that the Resolution should be accepted. I know that people will say that, if we accept it here, there is no reason to think that it will be accepted in another place. For the 249 moment that does not concern me, because what I want to get is the Resolution of this House itself on the matter. If once that Resolution is recorded, I think the rest may become more plain. We have to proceed little by little, and I say most humbly that in my view we have to make some proposal, and we must make it soon.
The story of the Sibyl is as old as history, but it is true to-day and it is just as true of what you offer as of what you pay. If you do not make an offer now, you may have to make a much greater one later on. I believe you will find that, in the history of every revolution that has ever broken down the social order of any great State, there lies at the root of it the fact that no proper offer was made at the proper moment, and the moment went by and could not be recalled. I may be wrong, but in my opinion, over the grave of every dynasty and every creed you can find the figure of the Sibyl with veiled features and averted face. I am as anxious as any one that this should not be found over our tomb. If we do not put these proposals forward now, there will be put forward to us, at a later date, some scheme which we shall have to accept with humiliation or refuse at the danger of being destroyed. I earnestly hope, therefore, that favourable consideration will be given to this Resolution.
§ VISCOUNT BURNHAM
My Lords, I find myself very largely in agreement with my noble and learned friend who has just spoken, and I am sure that your Lordships' House will feel sincerely grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Darling for having introduced this grave constitutional issue, not in the glaring generalities with which we have had to put up year after year, but by way of a definite and specific proposal. It has led to a notable debate, and let me add that it would have been notable, if for nothing else, for the fact that the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, has re-entered the arena of debate in this House with a fresh patent of public service brilliantly rendered to the Empire as His Majesty's representative accredited to the French Republic. He has, of course, been Leader of the House, and therefore I have no doubt that the House has been a good deal influenced by what he said. It seems to me, however, that the argument that this question can only be approached 250 directly, by frontal attack, breaks down when you think of all that has happened in the last half-century. It is sixty years since Lord Rosebery began his brilliant career of public service by putting himself at the head of what was really a crusade for the reform of this House. He wielded a vast influence in this country, and if we have had no substantial measure—indeed no measure at all—of reform or reconstitution during that time, it shows how difficult it is to proceed by way of a general attack. I think it is really better to approach the question in a small way, perhaps even in a covert way, if we are to attain practical results.
I am one of those who verily believe that the future of Parliamentary government depends on the successful working, not of the First Chamber, but of the Second Chamber. Unless the question of a bicameral Legislature is solved, I fear greatly for the fate of Parliamentary government on the British model. After all, this is not a startling or novel proposal. It has been tried and has proved successful in our own Dominions, as my noble and learned friend pointed out, and, also, as Lord Crewe knows, in the French Republic. I will venture to supplement the information that he has given with the result of an inquiry that I have made from a most authoritative source as to how the scheme works in France. In that country not only are Secretaries and Under-Secretaries able to addreses both Chambers, but the Government has the right, which it exercises, of sending special agents, or commissaires, to discuss a special issue. These men are limited to their instructions, but they are able to give the sort of information which we all lack and which sometimes I think we so greatly need.
It was said, I think by my noble friend Lord Onslow, that this House still has great influence. I very much doubt it. I do not think that, if we had, there would be the disproportion that there is between my noble friends who are sitting below and above the gangway on this side of the House and the small band of brothers who sit opposite to us. It seems to me that every year the influence of this House is diminishing, and if we are to be met with nothing but counsels of despair, 251 which is all that we have had to-day, I do not see why there should be any change. We have been told that the younger statesmen, as opposed to the elder statesmen, will have no opportunity of training if we interfere with the system that now prevails and give access to this House to Ministers sitting in another place. I think that point has been dealt with by my noble and learned friend. I do not think that the proposal would make one jot or tittle of difference in that respect. The social advantages which are admittedly enjoyed by so many noble Lords who sit here are such that, as we see in the case of the present Government, there will always be opportunities given to noble Lords who distinguish themselves here to make a national reputation. I see opposite to me my noble friend Lord Russell. It seems to me that he is a very good case in point, and if all the Peers were as able in debate as he is, then I do not think that there would be any necessity for adopting a new Standing Order—as I venture to think we should, quite regardless of what is done in the House of Commons—to give an opportunity of speaking here to Ministers who are members of the other House.
Our present practice is that the Departments of State are represented in turn by Lords-in-Waiting. I yield to no one in my admiration for the omniscience of Lords-in-Waiting, but I venture to think that it is hardly respectful, still less informative, to this House always to have to depend for information on special questions upon a noble Lord who has probably only the same morning gathered it in a room of one of the Departments of State. My noble friend Earl Peel wrote an able article in a Sunday newspaper, and it has already been quoted by Lord Darling. In it he pointed out this extraordinary fact, that although it is fairly certain that a great part of the time of this Parliament may be occupied by Indian affairs, there is no representative of the India Office in this House. I suppose that some Lord-in-Waiting will be told off to get the question up, without having had the advantage of informing himself, by direct methods, of the state of public feeling in India or of the necessities of the case. That cannot, I venture to think, work in a satisfactory manner, and I venture specially to draw your Lordships' attention 252 to this case, because I have had some concern with Indian affairs during the last few months, and I very much regret that this House is being treated, I will not say with so little courtesy, but with so little sign of confidence in this matter.
Sham securities are of no use for any purpose, and a shadow House, such as this has become, is a sham security. It is no good telling us, year after year, that we fill a great place in the public mind, when we know quite well that, although individual Lords may have a great hold upon public opinion in different parts of the country, this House, except as a platform, has very little weight, and that its very narrow sphere of usefulness is every year becoming more restricted. The Lords-in-Waiting, in the old days, used to be called the Household Troops. We cannot trust entirely to Household Troops in these matters, and I venture to think that we should benefit very greatly if those who are at the head of the different Departments of State were to address us, as they do in the Dominions and in many foreign countries, with the right of speaking but not of voting, and therefore not in any way infringing our long-standing privileges. May I also point out that we need hardly concern ourselves with what is done elsewhere. We are surely able to make our own Standing Orders and amend them, and if it is only necessary to amend the Standing Orders of this House, I think Lord Darling would be quite able, if this Motion were carried, to bring up such amendments of the Standing Orders as would render the course which he advocates possible, and do something, at any rate, to put this House in a position to inform and perhaps instruct public opinion.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
My Lords, I would not have troubled your Lordships—and I propose to intervene only for a few moments—but that I did not like that the speech of Lord Buckmaster should pass entirely without remark from those who were responsible for the schemes which he criticised. Lord Buckmaster is usually the most apposite of speakers, but I cannot imagine a more extraordinary divergence from the theory which he advanced and the practice which he indicated, than the speech which he has given us to-night. Lord Buckmaster pointed out, or declared, that there was a submerging 253 tide which was threatening this House. I entirely agree with him. What was his remedy? He pointed out the extraordinary and, as I think, unedifying inequality between the Parties in this House, and he proposed, not, as we should have expected from a man of his strength of character, a full and complete solution, but that we should proceed piecemeal to touch a fringe of the question, and thereby, as he submitted, establish a principle which would enable this House to be reformed.
I venture to assure Lord Buckmaster that the scheme which Lord Clarendon brought forward in December last is not, as he stated, withdrawn or superseded. I hope that before very long this House may be willing to consider some full scheme, but surely it is almost trifling with us to suggest that by the introduction of a Cabinet Minister for occasional purposes of debate, you are going satisfactorily to establish three great principles. The first is that non-Peerage persons can be admitted here; the second, that temporary membership of this House is desirable and practicable; and the third, that the exclusion of women from this House will have been satisfactorily dealt with. Sydney Smith once said of an ecclesiastic who proposed some trilling change which was to satisfy the whole Church, that yon might as well try to please the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's by tickling the dome. I think the noble and learned Lord's proposal for dealing with these three great questions by the mere fact of allowing a Minister to speak here, once in a blue moon, for half an hour, was really to deal with present difficulties in a very similar manner.
I would gladly support my noble and learned friend if I thought that his Motion would have any good effect. I think nothing has been more truly said in this House than that the sands are running out in the glass with regard to this question. We have urged, and we were not fortunate enough to persuade the late Government in the plenitude of their power, that by some full means, which would give proper representation in this House to all the Parties in the country, this House should be brought up-to-date, and should become what it has ceased to be, a real tribunal of revision, and so regain the confidence which the country cannot have in such a 254 spectacle as we now have, of half a dozen members on one side and on the other as many out of 600 as choose to come. Therefore I earnestly trust that your Lordships will not pass this Resolution to-night, but will set your faces against a piecemeal solution of this question, which is now urgent and may at any moment become critical.
§ EARL PEEL
My Lords, may I be allowed to associate myself first of all with those who have expressed satisfaction and pleasure that Lord Crewe has returned to this Chamber? Perhaps I may respectfully say to him, that it maybe a great satisfaction to him to address your Lordships in the English language, as he has been for so long making such admirable speeches in another language. I felt, and do feel, a great deal of sympathy with the Motion of Lord Darling. I was, in fact, torn rather two ways on the matter, because, as he has said, I did express myself, perhaps in another form and in another place, on that question of the representation of India, and it seemed to me that it would be a very useful and admirable thing if we could have got either the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary of State for India to come and speak on Indian problems in this House. Because I really should like to support my noble friend Lord Burnham in very seriously calling attention to the fact that in this Session of Sessions there is no official representative of India in your Lordships' House. We may have to consider this Session the question of a new Constitution for India, or of the readjustment or alteration of the Constitution of India, as the result of Sir John Simon's Report. I should have thought that that alone would have made it essential for the Government to have a direct representative of India on those Benches. But that is not the whole thing, as my noble friend the late Viceroy of India so well knows. We have at the same time an epoch-making Report raising problems of the highest moment presented by the Harcourt Butler Commission, dealing with the relations of the States among themselves, of the States to British India, and of the States to the Government and the Crown. These important matters have to be considered together, because they react upon each other in the most 255 remarkable way; you cannot carry out I the proposals of the one without dealing I with the proposals of the other.
I hope I am not out of order in commenting on the distribution of offices among noble Lords opposite. After all, we do see the War Office represented, and we see the Ministry of Transport and the Paymaster-General's office represented. I quite understand that there are a great many important questions of roads, and I do not depreciate at all the importance of roads. But I should have thought in this very Session Indian questions ought to have at least some precedence over the question of roads, and that the Parliamentary abilities, for instance, of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, which have already been alluded to, would have been almost better employed in dealing with some of these problems than even in considering whether a road should run from Manchester to Birmingham. I am aware, too, that the great office of the Paymaster-General may present profound problems which may test the abilities even of the noble Lord who at present occupies it. I dare say that he will introduce very important reforms into that office, but at the same time I should have thought that his abilities might have been spared for one Session at least to deal with the affairs of India.
It is more especially important with reference to Indian affairs than in reference to any other office, because a Minister, however able ho may be, who is detailed to answer on Indian affairs, does not and cannot live in the perpetual atmosphere of Indian affairs, which a man ought to do if he is really to speak on those Indian subjects. I think the noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading, will also support me in this, that the great difficulty in addressing this House or the other House on Indian affairs is that you are addressing two audiences—not only an audience here, but an audience over there in India, probably far more critical than the one you are addressing here, an audience which certainly in point of importance is at least on a level with the audience in this country. Therefore I submit that it is a matter of the very greatest regret that there is no representative of India on the Front Bench opposite, and I hope that before these important questions are 256 considered in this House it may be possible to introduce into the House a member of the Government who really has to deal with the affairs of India.
But though, as I say, I am drawn very strongly towards the proposals of the noble and learned Lord on that account, yet for other reasons I associate myself with those who condemn them. With many of the suggestions made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, I am in agreement. I agree with him that it is difficult to introduce and pass through both Houses of Parliament a measure for any substantial alteration in the constitution of your Lordships' House, and I think I may say this, that anyhow my late colleagues in your Lordships' House were by no means backward in pressing upon their colleagues the importance of a change in your Lordships' House. But I did think that the further observation of the noble and learned Lord really had not very close relevance to the particular proposal made by Lord Darling, because he told us that it would establish a principle if members should come from the other House and speak here—the principle that the Peerage was not the only road to membership of this House. How could it establish the principle, because the whole point is that they should not be members of this House and should only come for occasional purposes? I differ entirely from the very gloomy prognostication made by the noble and learned Lord about this tremendous swamping wave of Socialism that is going to overwhelm us. On the contrary, I take a far more hopeful view. I think that the more Socialism advances and the more it is examined and practised the more it will recede; and if I wanted to go into controversial politics I should have said that even during the short number of weeks that the present Government have been in office they have distinctly shown signs of receding rather than advancing in a purely Socialistic direction.
There are really two main grounds on which I criticise this proposal. I listened with the greatest interest to the observations of the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, about what was done in France, and I am very much in sympathy with some of the observations he made about the practical nature of the proposal. I do not, indeed, entirely understand what 257 it is. Are we to have somebody summoned from another place? Is he to be invited to come from another place, and, if he comes, is he merely to make a statement, or is he to carry Bills through your Lordships' House? I have had a good deal of experience myself of carrying Bills through your Lordships' House, and it is really in the Committee stage and in the details that arise during the passing of a Bill that a Minister's assistance may be of most value—far more than in those general sentiments which it is so easy to pour out with satisfaction to listening audiences. Besides, what pressure can you bring to bear on a Minister who comes before your Lordships under those conditions? We know how to deal with Ministers who are members of your Lordships' House, and I am bound to say I have only met here with invariable courtesy; but I know very well that there are limits to that courtesy. I know very well, and every Minister knows, that he is under the moral pressure of the general opinion of the House, and one of the reasons why we like to have a Minister here and why we can deal with him is that we know quite well, and he knows quite well, that if he does not give us sufficient information we have the power to make ourselves exceedingly disagreeable to him. But we could not do that with a Minister from another place. Could we cross-examine him? And if we were pressing him a little too hard I suppose he would escape us and go back to the place from which he came. We may be able to control his entrance, but we certainly cannot have much authority over his exit.
And therefore I do not think as a practical proposition we should gain very much in this way. Indeed, I am glad to say that since this Government was formed we have seen a notable change take place. When we first met there was an absolute vacancy behind noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite. Now they are comparatively thronged with old and new members of your Lordships' House, showing that the tremendous weight and pressure of your Lordships on this side of the House is already making itself felt, and that the Government of the day are feeling that they must have something more than empty benches to give them all the moral force that they so very much require. Indeed, I am very much in sympathy with 258 an observation that has already been made. We all know that there is the most tremendous pressure on the Prime Minister of the day to fill up as many posts as he can in another place. He has a great number of gentlemen who are very capable, many more who think themselves capable and who, certainly, are quite ready to press their claims to occupy Ministerial posts in the Government. I may refer even to those persons who were criticised so severely by the Lord Privy Seal in another place, the Parliamentary Private Secretaries. Every one of them is ready, no doubt, to accept a position and even to take the place of his Chief. If the Government of the day had this loop-hole, if they were able to say to their Ministers: "After all if we do not send Secretaries of State and Under-Secretaries to the House of Lords we can send a Minister occasionally to tell them something of what is going on," I am afraid it would he an irresistible temptation, and we should see the Front Bench opposite, comparatively thronged—I do not wish to exaggerate—as it is to-day, diminishing to a most unfortunate tenuity.
I like to address crowded Front Benches. I think it would be extremely disagreeable even to address one or two noble Lords opposite. One would almost be in the position of the candidate who, in old days, had to address two holes in a bank in the constituency of Old Sarum because there were no voters there whom he could possibly address. I am afraid the result on this House would be deplorable and that we should be left even more than we are out of the general current of affairs, that we should even have fewer Ministers than we have now to support us and the debates in this House would lose a great deal of the actuality which they have to-day. Therefore, though I very much sympathise on many grounds with the proposals brought forward by my noble friend Lord Darling, if he presses it to a Division I am afraid I shall be compelled, in spite of my sympathy, to vote against him.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, after the speeches which we have heard I think I can say in a few words what is my opinion and the opinion of those who sit with me on what has been referred to as the attenuated Front Bench. I am not troubled with that expression because 259 those who use the word have also referred to us as a band of brothers, which is certainly high praise from the Benches opposite. I do not object, I never have objected to the reform of this House. My own view of the present proposal is that, so far from being a reform of this House, it is wholly the opposite, and so far as it would have any operation at all it would not result in improving your Lordships' House or its authority or influence. On the contrary, it would tend to dissociate us further from what is called public influence and public authority than we are said to be at the present moment. There is no doubt—I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, in this—that the basic difficulty of this House is its present constitution. There can be no effective reform whatever if, by some slight measure of this kind, you leave out of account the real difficulty and the real matter in which reform is essential if it is to be effective. As for the halcyon views of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, regarding the future outlook in this House, if this Motion is passed, I am bound to say that, pleasant as they were to listen to, I think they were the Sirens' voice. There is no foundation whatever for the expectations which he suggested.
The second point I want to make has not, I think, been referred to to-day, and I make it, no doubt, from the point of view of those whom I represent. One of the real difficulties in this House is that when a Conservative Government is in power there is no effective Second Chamber. I regard that as one of the basic difficulties which must be overcome if this House is to take its place with ordinary authority in our political discussions. For instance, during the last Parliament, such matters came up as the trade union question and the question of mining hours, and it is ludicrous to suppose that our small numbers could make any views of the Second Chamber effective upon those extremely important social and economic questions. What is the result? Can you expect that a House of this kind can have the authority that a Second Chamber ought to have, when, under the conditions I have mentioned, there is really no Second Chamber at all, and this House never revises in any substantial form what comes up to us from another place.
260 How would the noble and learned Lord's proposal meet this great difficulty? It does not touch it at all. It may perhaps exaggerate it, because it might add to the abnormal majority of something like 500 or 600 in this House, the additional power of calling in Ministers from another place in order that the views of the Government might be stated in a more effective manner. I have no wish to be personal in any sense, but although that might be the expectation, I do not believe that measures would be more effectively or more intelligently put before your Lordships than they are under present conditions, by introducing a Minister from another place. The noble Earl, Lord Midleton, I think expressed my view very adequately upon that point. You do not want some one suddenly to introduce in this House what may possibly be a controversial, Party or political attitude, but some one who is used to our debates here, who knows that underneath all our differences we have a high sense not only of courtesy to one another but of the duty we owe in order to give the best assistance we can with regard to great national and other interests which, of course, have the primary position in our consideration of questions of the kind.
I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord will reply, but I should like to ask him particularly how his proposal could in any way affect one of the great standing difficulties of this House at the present time—that when the Conservative Party is in power we have no Second Chamber government at all. That is a very crucial question, and until, apart from mere words, we deal with the position effectively, we cannot expect to have the influence we ought to have and which our experience should enable us to utilise.
Another question has already been commented on, but no satisfactory answer has been given to it. I do not want to go into constitutional history, but I cannot imagine any one who has taken part in practical life and politics relying on the sixth article of our Standing Orders which, as we know, were brought into operation in 1660. Is it possible that this House can be reconstituted, reformed, and made more effective by reference to a principle 261 which has been discontinued for centuries, and for very good reasons? The noble and learned Lord, Lord Darling, knows that it was the custom at one time to summon the Judges to assist the Lords of Appeal on judicial matters. That has been abrogated. It is not done at the present time. The last time it was brought into force was in the noted case of Allen versus Flood, against the strongest protests of Lord Herschell, and there has never been any recurrence since that date to a practice of that sort.
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. It was mentioned by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe. I think I may not repeat but endorse what was said in reference to his speech by the noble Earl, Lord Peel. Let us consider the illustration which Lord Darling gave. It appears to me that without reciprocity a provision of this kind would never be effectively worked. It would mean, as I understand it, that we should persuade the very hard-worked members of the House of Commons to come here in order to explain a second time measures they have already dealt with in another place. How different that is from the South African case. I will not deal with the French case, because that was dealt with by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe. What is the case in South Africa? I will not go into the method of election; it is by proportional representation and the single transferable vote. You have thirty-two elected members of the Senate or Second Chamber in South Africa, and eight nominated members, and with a body so selected you have reciprocity, so that the Ministers in either House have a right of access to, and speaking in, the other House. How can that be cited in any sense in support of what the noble Lord, Lord Darling, has proposed this afternoon?
I entirely differ from him in another respect. I think it is impossible to think for a moment that this House can be reformed in a basic and satisfactory manner except through the medium of an Act of Parliament. That is difficult, of course. We all admit it. I do not want to reproach the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury), but if, with a majority in this House of about 500, and with a majority in the other House of 200, a scheme which passed this House, a scheme which came from a 262 Cabinet Committee, and which had been carefully considered, had to be dropped incontinently, what is the chance of a private member in the position of the noble Lord, Lord Darling, doing anything effective at the present moment? Of course it is impossible. It is heroic work which can never have any practical effect, and I join my voice with those of your Lordships who have expressed the view that if this matter is pressed to a Division we shall oppose it, not from a desire to obstruct any real reform of this House, but from having formed the opinion that this is no effective reform whatever. It will have none of the results which I understand the noble Lord hopes may come from it, and if it comes into operation it might stand as an obstruction to a more effective scheme when that is brought forward.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, perhaps you will allow me to say a very few words, because many words are not necessary lest I should merely repeat the arguments which have been so admirably submitted to your Lordships by other noble Lords. With reference to the speech to which we have just listened I should like to say this. The noble and learned Lord has said that the fundamental difficulty in your Lordships' House is the difference in the strength of Parties and the want of numbers among his own friends who represent the views of the Party to which he belongs.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Then it astonishes me that the noble Lord did not, when he was sitting on this side, take the opportunity of supporting my noble friends who did their utmost to put forward a scheme under which the Party opposite would have been represented in far greater numbers than they are at present. The noble and learned Lord supported neither the scheme put forward by my late learned and noble friend Lord Cave nor the scheme of my noble friends who sit behind me. The noble Lord had his opportunity. Many of us begged him to accept a system under which there would have been a great number of Lords who would have sat behind him at the present moment, but he would not do it.
263 I should like to give one or two reasons for the view which I take upon his proposal. In the first place I think we ought to thank my noble and learned friend Lord Darling for his Motion, because it is an effort on his part dictated by the unreality of the debates in your Lordships' House in consequence of the want of balance to which I have just referred. He puts forward this scheme as a method of mitigating it. For many of the reasons which have been advanced in the debate I do not believe it would substantially mitigate the difficulty, but my principal objection is that I think my noble friend's plan is wholly unworkable. That is my principal objection to his plan. I do not want to repeat what the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, said with great force. His return to your Lordships' House I welcome more than almost any noble Lord here. I do not want to repeat all he said, but I should like to emphasise his argument of the burden which this proposal would throw upon Ministers in the House of Commons. I wonder whether my noble and learned friend has ever asked a Minister in the House of Commons what he thinks of this proposal? My own belief is that they would one and all say the thing was impossible. I have had a conversation with a late Minister in the House of Commons and he said to me, what is indeed evident, that the weight and burden on Ministers in the House of Commons is now so overwhelming that to add to that burden the obligation to carry Bills through your Lordships' House would absolutely break the camel's back, and finally destroy the possibility of a man doing his work properly.
Let us think what it means. There are Motions in your Lordships' House. I take those in the first instance. Every time there is a Motion affecting the Department of a Cabinet Minister in another place, is he to be sent for and asked to come here in order to defend himself? What is to happen to the business in the House of Commons when he is away How can it be arranged that he should come whenever we want him? The thing cannot be done. Now let us turn to Bills. This point has been already mentioned by the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, and it was also mentioned by my noble friend Lord Peel. The bulk of the work on Bills in your Lordships' House is in Committee. Everybody knows it 264 who has worked as long as we have actively in the debates of this House. Is the hard-worked Minister to come here from the House of Commons in addition to all his other work and sit perhaps night after night in order to get a Bill through Committee in this House? What would happen to his work in the House of Commons in the meantime? How can it be done? I believe the thing to be wholly impracticable from the point of view of the physical strain upon the Ministers concerned, and not only the physical strain, but from the point of view of the actual time at their disposal. I am afraid, notwithstanding my admiration and gratitude to my noble and learned friend for doing his best to try to meet the difficulties with which we are confronted, that his plan will not work.
I do not want to dwell upon the other arguments. I should like to say that if it did work I should regret very much the loss of opportunity which such a result would cause to rising members of your Lordships' House. Why should not they have the opportunity of being promoted to the headship of Departments in the Government? I need not tell your Lordships, because any one can see, that the tendency is to concentrate the whole personnel of public life in the House of Commons. We have seen that tendency increase year after year. If in addition to all the other reasons it can be argued that at any rate a Minister can go to the House of Lords and give his views there, there would be no reason for promoting a noble Lord at all. Though, as I think one speaker said to-night, we need not carry the thing to its logical conclusion and say that there might be a time when there would be nobody on the Front Bench opposite—I agree that that would be absurd—still it is not absurd to say that nearly all the important posts of the Government would inevitably be concentrated in the House of Commons if the system worked at all. That I should regret, because I think to deprive the country of the administrative services of so many experts in political affairs as are contained in your Lordships' House would cause a great loss to the country and to its interests.
I will not dwell longer upon the actual proposals, but I should like to refer for one moment to the speech of the noble 265 and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster. Lord Buckmaster sketched the great dangers which in his opinion were confronting the country. I do not deny that there are great risks which we are running, but I cannot say that I take so gloomy a view as he does because I have an abiding confidence in the good sense of my countrymen. I do not believe that they will allow what is called the rising tide of Socialism to sweep away all barriers and all bulwarks. That is not in the least like English public opinion. They will vote for a Socialist Government under a misapprehension occasionally, but it will not require many months (I was going to say many weeks) of experience of a Socialist Government to find out that they—may I say, have been taken in, if noble Lords opposite do not think that is an offensive expression. I do not feel that the threat of a permanent Socialist tide overwhelming the institutions of this country is the least likely to occur, and when the noble and learned Lord speaks of the time being very short I would remind him that efforts have been made over and over again to solve this question. No charge can be made against your Lordships' House that you have not come forward and shown your willingness for reform, and for real reform. Not provision for an occasional speech by a Secretary of State from another place, not a trifle of that kind, but real fundamental reform has been offered over and over again by your Lordships' House and will continue to be offered.
The noble and learned Lord spoke of the impatience—I do not know whether he used the word impatience, but that was the effect—of public opinion. If reform asked for by the House of Lords is continually refused, public opinion will be impatient with those who refuse it. I yield to nobody in my great admiration for the representative institutions of this country, but the House of Commons is no longer looked upon as the last word of wisdom in this country. Great as it is, magnificent as is its history and great as is our admiration for the House of Commons, it has been tried like every other institution in the country. I look forward to the time when reform will be offered not only to your Lordships' House but to another place. In that faith and in the belief that our countrymen are 266 sound, essentially sound, and that public opinion is to be relied upon, I look forward to reform without great apprehension.
As to this particular proposal, I believe it to be unworkable. I do not think it would do a great deal of good even if it worked, but I believe it to be unworkable. I do not know what the noble and learned Lord intends to do this evening, whether he is going to ask your Lordships to divide. I do not want to use any influence I possess to persuade him not to do so, but I think on the whole he would be wiser not to divide. I do not believe even if he carried the Resolution that it would have very much effect and I do not think it is worth doing. Therefore, I wonder whether he will not be satisfied with the most interesting debate which we have had, with having drawn speeches of great importance from noble Lords of great experience in the House; be satisfied that at any rate he has done something to push forward the subject and allow the debate to end without going into the Division Lobby.
§ LORD GAINFORD
My Lords, I rise to move the adjournment of the debate. It seems to me that while it has been a very useful debate it has not really-covered the whole ground. It is intended, no doubt, that there should be a gesture to another place. That might be accepted or it might be rejected, but it will go forth to the country and to the nation as well as to the Government that this House is quite prepared to entertain a proposal of this kind if it can be made workable and if it is practicable and is likely to be of any use. It does seem to me, however, that there is a good deal more to be said on the legal aspect of the question. We have not had the advantage of a speech from the Woolsack, or from the Secretary of State for the Dominions, and from others who could give a great deal of additional information for our consideration. There are other points of view, I think, which might be considered in connection with a proposal of such a far-reaching character. No harm would be done if we adjourned this debate to a future time when the matter could be again raised either in this or in some other form.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Gainford.)
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, I cannot help hoping that your Lordships will accede to this Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Gainford. I think we are in a great difficulty. This proposal has a good deal to be said for it and, as is obvious from the speeches which we have heard, there is also a good deal to be said against it. But if it were pressed to a Division I should feel the greatest reluctance in voting against it. I feel so very strongly that the present position of this House is not only unsatisfactory but a public danger—it is not a bit too strong to say that it is a public danger—that I should feel reluctant to vote against almost any proposal for its reform or alteration, merely as a protest against the present state of things. I am a strong two-chamber man. I always have been, and I see no reason to change my opinion. I have listened to almost the whole of the debate. Everybody admits the unsatisfactory position. Many of us think, as I have said, that much stronger language ought to be used. I think it is a most desirable thing that we should not abandon this Motion or reject it, but that we should adjourn it to see whether, after this demonstration has been made, any proposal will be put forward for mitigating the very grave evils under which we suffer, and for the relief of those who, like myself—though that is a very small matter—would feel the greatest reluctance in voting against this Resolution, though we quite realise the strength of the case that has been made in opposition to it in detail.
§ LORD DARLING
My Lords, my noble and learned friend Lord Buckmaster, after making the speech which your Lordships heard, informed me that he would tell with me in the Division that I intended to ask your Lordships to take. If
§ he does not desire that there should be a Division, I would accept the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Gainford, that this debate should be adjourned, regarding it as a Motion, not for shelving the whole question, but with the object which Lord Cecil has just mentioned to your Lordships. I hold strongly to the opinion, which is not only my own, that the Resolution is not strictly necessary to enable those persons named in the Statute of Henry VIII to take their seats on those sacks if they are asked to do so, and as I have said, I should very much like to see the experiment tried. As to the criticisms that have been made, I gathered from the noble Marquess a view which I will express in the words of Laurence Sterne. However bad it may be for this country to go on as it is, "they order these things better in France."
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, said that we found ourselves in a difficulty. I think we should find ourselves in much more of a difficulty if we adjourned this debate and left this very trifling Motion on the Order Paper. If the desire is to have a discussion on the constitution of your Lordships' House it had better be taken on something fundamental and not upon something which, as the noble Marquess opposite said, is really a very small matter. I really think that your Lordships would be well advised to get rid of this matter to-day and, if it is desired to raise it again, to raise it upon a fresh issue. I cannot see that we should gain any advantage by adjourning the debate now, when we have reached the point of Division, and I hope that your Lordships will dispose of the matter to-night.
§ On Question, Whether the debate shall be now adjourned?—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 31; Not-Contents, 43.269
|Crewe, M.||Ullswater, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Alvingham, L.||Hanworth, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Atkin, L.||Hemphill, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Mildmay of Flete, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Buckmaster, L. [Teller.]||Newton, L.|
|Morton, E.||Carrington, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Charnwood, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Burnham, V.||Clwyd, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Cecil of Chelwood, V.||Darling, L. [Teller.]||Shandon, L.|
|Leverhulme, V.||Daryngton, L.||Somerleyton, L.|
|Sankey, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Russell, E. [Teller.]||Desborough, L.|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Forester, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Gorell, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Elibank, V.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.)|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Hayter, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Linlithgow, M.||Jessel, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Peel, V.||Marks, L.|
|Sumner, V.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Passfield, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Arnold, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Askwith, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Banbury of Southam, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Munster, E.||Bayford, L.||Thomson, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Carnock, L.||Wargrave, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Cottesloe, L.||Wester Wemyss, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and Motion for the adjournment of the debate disagreed to accordingly.
§ On Question, original Motion negatived.