§ Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [11th July] "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Which Amendment was, "To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day three months.'"— [Mr. F. E. Smith.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of that Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ Mr. S. H. BUTCHER
I rise to resume the remarks that were interrupted last night at eleven o'clock. I was then trying to pursue a twofold line of argument—in the first place, that the Bill in the name of equality created such absurdities in the Parliamentary franchise, and introduced such stinging inequalities between those who were to receive it, that it could not be regarded as a temporary measure or policy at all. I attempted to point out that the chief cause of these inequalities was the effect that the Bill would have upon married women, that the measure was, in fact, one of penalising marriage. If there is one thing on which the mind of England is made up I believe it to be that marriage should not be penalised. Men 208 will not endure it, and women will not endure it. This absurd confusion results from the fact that the Bill is an attempt to make a restricted fancy franchise the basis of a larger extension of electoral rights. What surprises me most of all is the attitude of certain Friends of my own on these benches, because it is perfectly plain, and it has not been met in argument, that the only escape from the difficulties so created is adult suffrage. Yet hon. Gentlemen, Friends of my own, Unionists on this side of the House, have in the same breath declared that they are for this Bill and against adult suffrage. The point is this, the right of voting for a representative in this House carries with it, of necessity, the right to sit in Parliament. Yet, in the course of this Debate, not a single argument has been brought forward to show that the ground on which those who are in favour of woman suffrage have rested their case will not be equally strong, and will not be used with redoubled force, as soon as this Bill is passed. I own I marvel at my Friends, who, though strongly against the introduction of women into this House, yet believe after having given away the key to the citadel, that the invaders will not come in. Come in, of course they will, and in such force as they can. It will not be the mere logic of argument that will bring them in; it will be the same imperious sentiment which has carried them along all through this movement, and with it also there will be irresistable pressure of a practical kind from outside. The truth is: if this Bill is carried, from the polling booth to the House of Commons there will be an open road, and you must give men and women equal political rights all round. 209 I frankly admit that there is one argument which, if it holds good, would greatly modify, if not entirely alter, my views. If it can be proved that the grievances of women cannot be redressed without their having direct representation in Parliament, then I own the whole matter wears a somewhat different complexion. That seems to me to be the real strength of their case, if it can be made out. But if we look back to the Married Women's Property Act of 1870 and other Acts that followed it, to the Act of 1886, the Guardianship of Children, and a number of other and similar enactments, we find in all those years men have been ready to remedy every proved injustice that affect women, and they have never in the history of this country been so sensitive to every claim for justice and right. John Stuart Mill, in his book on the subjection of women, a good many years ago, supported the cause of woman suffrage, but the greater part of it has lost its force simply because the experience of Parliament has shown that these changes and reforms which he believed could not be accomplished without woman suffrage have, almost all of them, been carried. Those forty years have shown us that women cannot be regarded as an unrepresented sex, but rather as a well-represented class. They have got fathers, brothers, and husbands in every class of the community, and they have also got a sympathetic public opinion on their side, which is affected by all the various influences at work, and which is reproduced in the House of Commons itself. Another argument, slightly different in form, was pressed in the House yesterday, partly by the Secretary for War and in a more persuasive way, I think, by my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Lyttelton), who pointed out that in recent years the sphere of women's work has been enormously enlarged. New fields of activity in various departments of public life have been opened up to them. Women sit upon local boards and upon various departmental boards and committees; we seek their assistance in matters concerning the care of the poor, the nursing of children, and the health not only of their own homes but of the homes of others. Their influence, it is obvious, carries enormous weight, and are we, he asked, to say, when their influence is already so vast in those departments of public life, that we refuse them their final claim to have direct political rights. I accept the facts, but I draw from them a conclusion the opposite from that 210 drawn by my right hon. Friend. I admit the place that women's work has taken; I admit the far wider share they have in all those departments of public life, and that their influence is most naturally and most decisively felt in every work of social service in which women, I should say, are far more important than men, and who do the work far better. But my reply is that you have women, without the Parliamentary franchise, doing precisely the work that they are best fitted to do. Why are we to make this great alteration in the State—the suffrage, as I have already tried to show, carries with it enormous further consequences—when you get all the best services of women without any such change?
It is those larger consequences of this measure which deter me from accepting it, and I venture even to think possibly immense perils, because we are, after all, the only Imperial nation, and indeed we shall be, if we carry this, not only the only Imperial nation, but the only great sovereign State that has ever yet been governed by women.
We have before us problems of empire more complicated than those which have faced any other nation in the world, and at this moment many anxious problems. It is quite true that our Colonies have ventured upon various political experiments, and I think it is most interesting and valuable that the Colonies should be, as they have been, a sort of political pioneers of political experiments of all kinds. We may in time derive useful lessons from those experiments, but they may be lighthearted pioneers in all these things when an old country like ours, with its thousand roots in history and its fixed connections all over the world, cannot afford to make those admirable experiments. I cannot help thinking that there is some instability in our political system at present. I am quite certain that from time to time there are gusts of passion which sweep over the democracy, and I ask the House whether it would be wise to add to those a new and dangerous force of incalculable moment—I mean the collective emotion of women. At any given moment it is impossible to say what way it would go. It might be for peace or it might be for war. It was owing to the Boer women that the war was carried on for a year when it ought to have been closed. The singular emotion, the individual emotion, of women is pretty dangerous; the collective emotion of women got up on this scale is a thing of 211 which we have had no experience as yet in the world. Although it may be true that women will not vote solid, and that there are very few questions on which they will form a compact body, yet it is also true that in many critical moments the vote of the women will incline the balance. I therefore would urge on the House that they should not make this tremendous gamble in Imperial affairs, and that they result, if not at once then before long, in taking the supreme direction of the State out of the hands of those who now wield political power and of transferring it to the hands of women.
§ Mr. WALTER M'LAREN
I must say that, listening to all the speeches delivered here, I feel that the House is rapidly approaching a solution of this question. The speeches we have heard on the other side are in a certain sense speeches of panic; they are directed to an alarmist end. They desire to prejudice the House with the belief that this reasonable and moderate measure will lead to ruin, and to vast developments that the human mind cannot at the present time foresee. The Bill we are putting before the House is a reasonable, moderate measure which, probably after it has passed and for many years to come, will be accepted as a settlement of this question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question."] I am speaking with a very full knowledge of the views of the women who have taken part in this agitation. I do not think there is any other Member of the House who has been so mixed up with this agitation from its very earliest days, and who is so well able to judge the opinions of the women who are conducting it. I have never known a time when I was not mixed up in this agitation. I have known intimately, and know now all the leaders of this movement throughout the country. I say that in accepting this Bill as they have done, and as they do now, they are willing to accept it, I do not say for ever, because there is no such thing as finality in politics, but they are prepared, and I say this deliberately, to accept this Bill as a reasonable settlement of the claims they are now making. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. S. H. Butcher) asked what proof was there that this would be accepted. I can only say that all the woman suffrage societies, and the various societies, political and otherwise, that have urged woman suffrage, have cordially accepted this 212 measure, and they have not stated in any way that the moment of passing it will be the signal for renewed agitation. That I entirely deny. I say that this measure for the removal of the disability of sex as a barrier will be accepted for many years to come.
We are all familiar with the argument as to the thin end of the wedge in matters of the franchise. The Reform Act of 1832 was to be the thin end of the wedge for manhood suffrage, but it lasted thirty-five years without any alteration. It has lasted for eighty years without manhood suffrage being a practical question that excites more than a minute section of the country. There may have been a demand from extremists for adult suffrage, but there is absolutely no demand for manhood suffrage, and I do not believe that adult suffrage, in the right sense of the word, is likely to come within the lifetime of anybody in this House. I say, therefore, in proposing this measure, that we are proceeding on constitutional lines gradually, safely, and wisely. It is asked whether this is a democratic measure. The word democratic is not my shibboleth. I think it is a fair, reasonable, and just measure, and if it is so, I am willing to accept it. If you desire to know whether it is democratic, the answer is perfectly clear. In the Metropolitan area it will enfranchise about 197,000 women, of whom 95,000 work for their living outside their homes, and are therefore, of the poorer classes. Of the remaining 92,000 no fewer than 70,000 keep no servant, and therefore unquestionably belong to the poorer classes. That would simply leave some 22,000 who might be called well-to-do. That is a statement which is vouched for by Mr. Booth in his well-known book, and which does not admit of serious question. The same may be said of all over the country; the vast majority of women who will be enfranchised by this Bill are the poor and self-supporting classes, those who have to work for their living. To show that that is sufficiently democratic, I may point out that it does not take one section of the community and give to the women of that section only the suffrage. It cuts from top to bottom equally, and includes all sections of the community, rich and poor, practically in proportion to their numbers. I do not believe that we could have any measure that is more democratic in the sense that it gives fair and equal enfranchisement to all sections than does the Bill now before the House. 213 The million women whom we propose to enfranchise are the women who for twenty years past have been trained to exercise their vote. They have voted in municipal elections, which are in the main conducted on party lines, certainly in the boroughs and to a large extent in the counties too. It is a matter of notoriety that the women who will be enfranchised are the women voters whose praises are sung by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and who are lauded to the skies very often. The Anti-Suffrage League makes the second plank of their programme the encouragement of women in town councils and county councils, and thus the very women whom we propose to entrust with the Parliamentary franchise. If they are such admirable citizens from the point of view of the Anti-Suffrage Society, why should they not be equally admirable from the point of view of the Parliamentary franchise too? They are the same women. You do not go into a panic because of the municipal franchise. Nobody is at present disturbed by that, and, in fact, we are all fairly satisfied with it. When we propose to extend it to the Parliamentary area we hear at once about the thin end of the wedge, which is an old and exploded argument. If the thin end of the wedge argument had any real force as a means of intimidating us from going on with this measure, how is it that past leaders of the Conservative party were in favour of woman suffrage? Mr. Disraeli, Sir Stafford Northcote and Lord Salisbury were all convinced earnest supporters of the enfranchisement of women, and it is a matter of common knowledge that the present Leader of the Opposition is also in favour of it. I only mention that because if the thin end of the wedge argument were really to be the deciding question, how it is that those great statesmen, who were eternally cautious, cordially accepted the enfranchisement of women?
We are also told that it is not for us to pass this measure because no other great country has accepted it. It seems to me a strange argument to come from the mouths of Englishmen that we are to look to other countries for precedents. We create precedents, we do not follow them. Hon. Gentlemen who speak in that sense if the had lived in the time of Simon de Montfort would have said that we should not have a House of Commons because no other first rate Power had one. That is exactly the same argument. We do not 214 need, in this country, to be beholden to other countries. It is our privilege and our pride that we set the example to other countries, and as we have undoubtedly, in this country, placed women already in a greater political position than in any other country in the world, so it is our right and our duty and our privilege to lead the civilised world in this respect also. It may be said, although we have this suffrage in Australia and New Zealand, we have not got it in Canada and at the Cape. But it is well known that the Cape Prime Minister, General Botha, is strongly in favour of the enfranchisement of women. It is to be hoped he may induce the Cape Government to follow in that line. As to the desire of women at this moment, which is not a crucial but a very important factor, it must always be remembered that in getting up any political agitation it is not nearly so easy for women to do so as for men. Men for centuries have been accustomed to political agitation, and to the carrying on of all kinds of political campaigns. Let us remember too that only forty years ago no woman had ever addressed a meeting from a platform, that forty years ago that was entirely a novelty, and that women were tabooed if they came forward. On this subject look what women had to go through to achieve political liberty.
Every political party welcomes the help of women; every great meeting likes to have a good woman speaker at it; every political candidate appeals to the women for assistance. It is idle to suppose that when such is the case we can for any reasonable time go on refusing the franchise to women. If you want to know what is the force of this agitation as compared with the agitation for the reform of the franchise in 1866 and 1884, I say, with a perfect recollection of those two agitations, that the agitation now is more real, more alive, and more determined than the reform agitation of 1866. Though I was a boy at that time, I remember my uncle, John Bright, who took an active part in that agitation, saying that in 1866 it was like flogging a dead horse to try and arouse an interest in Parliamentary reform. But Parliamentary reform suddenly woke up, and we had the demonstrations which led incidentally to the breaking down of Hyde Park railings. Even in 1884 there was, on the part of the agricultural labourers, nothing like the demand for the franchise that there is on the part of the women at the present day. 215 Does the House for a moment believe that if it rejects this Bill it will stop the agitation? The rejection of this Bill would be the signal for an outbreak of agitation such as the country has never seen before; and I warn the House, with a sense of the seriousness of my language, that the rejection of this Bill would be one of the most disastrous things that could happen to politics in this country. There have been things that we have regretted; but they have come from a bitter sense of injustice, from a sense of hope long deferred, from the belief that Parliament would not settle down to redress the wrongs of women. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. S. H. Butcher) has boasted of the reforms for women which have been effected in this House. Have they been effected voluntarily and cordially? Have they not really been carried as sops to the woman suffrage agitation? If the woman suffrage agitation had never begun, those reforms for women would not have been carried as they have been. We know that the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act—in the agitation for which some of us took part—was carried after the bitterest opposition on the part of Members of this House; and it was carried only because the women of the country insisted upon it. The same may be said of other measures. None of these reforms were carried freely, and because men wanted to carry them. They were carried because the women insisted upon them. Why should they have had to insist for so long? If the women had had the vote they would have been carried more quickly. I am not particularly concerned to argue whether the majority of the women want the vote or not. There are a great number who are apathetic; but I say that the majority of the women who are the workers of the world, members of the medical and other professions, and all the organised women of the country, deliberately and strongly desire the franchise. Every women's organisation in the country, political, benevolent, social, temperance, what you like—all equally desire it. But I am not basing my argument for the franchise simply on the desire of women to vote; I am not basing it on the fact that women cannot get their grievances redressed unless they get the vote. I am asking for woman suffrage as a man, from a man's point of view, because I think it will be the best and the greatest reform we have ever had. I am asking for it for the sake of the country, for the 216 sake of the men, as well as for the sake of the women. By granting it we shall bring into our political life a force which is without compare, which is valuable beyond words, and which will be of the utmost benefit to the country as a whole.
Why should we reject the help of women? In what have women failed? What duty have you ever put upon women or that women have ever taken up in which they have not succeeded? Tell me one thing in which women have failed in any walk of life that they have undertaken? In their domestic life, in their public life, in their social life, or in their intellectual life, tell me anything in which women have not done good to the country? If you cannot tell me one single instance in which they have failed, why should they fail as Parliamentary voters? Why can they not bring to bear upon our public life the same intelligence, earnestness, and devotion which they have brought to bear upon everything else? You welcome them in municipal life. Lord James of Hereford, one of the strongest opponents of woman suffrage, said, when the Bill for allowing women to be elected to town and county councils was in the House of Lords, that in passing that Bill they had destroyed the last argument against woman suffrage. I ask you to take Lord James at his word. I ask hon. Members to bring in the women to the help of the country for the country's good. Is it not a common place on both sides that each side charges the other with ruining the country? Is it not a commonplace of platform oratory on the part of hon. Members opposite that we are deliberately ruining our country? And do we not say the same about our opponents? Are we sincere? Do we mean it? Members do not mean it when they are face to face with the offer of women to come and help them. I suppose they mean it when they are on the party platform. I invite them now to ask the help of women to save the country from being ruined, for I believe women can do a great deal in that direction.
Whilst I say that the country needs the help of women, I say also that the women are eager to help the country. I read in "The Times" yesterday or on Saturday an article about the Women's Congress, which recently took place, and in that article it stated:—One other main thought which must have struck the observant listener, was the tone in which all these women's questions were discussed. The ideal was not 'What rights have I as an individual?' but 'What 217 duties have I as a citizen of no mean city?' the cry running through it all. though women speakers came from such different fields. was. 'give me opportunity to do, to be, to serve: not to get, to gain, and to be served.'It is one of the unfortunate saddening features of political life just now that there seems to be a constant disposition on the part of men either to get something or to say that too many burdens are being put upon them. That is not the view women take. The view that women take is that they claim to be given an opportunity to do, to be, and to serve. I believe that they would introduce into the politics of this country a new element of devotion. heroism, and self-sacrifice, and of real earnest thought for the good of their country. This is a vast agitation, but it is not an agitation taken up by women for the sake of what they can get out of the vote. That is a masculine view of the vote. The women want the vote, not for what they can get for themselves, or for their own sex, but for what they can do for their country. They honestly believe, and I believe, that their advent into political life would be a good and desirable thing. This question is abundantly ripe for settlement. There is a question whether this House has a mandate. The doctrine of mandates is not at all a constitutional doctrine, and it is not a doctrine that other Parliaments have followed. That doctrine was ignored when Parliament passed the Household Suffrage Act of 1867. That Parliament was elected under Lord Palmerston's régime, and when elected it had no idea of passing household suffrage. The measure was carried by a compromise between the Tory Ministry and a group of Radicals. This question was deliberately put before the country as a real living issue by the Prime Minister, in his Albert Hall speech last November. In that speech the right hon. Gentleman said:—Nearly two years ago I declared. on behalf of the present Government, in the event, which we then contemplated, of Our bringing in a Reform Bill we should make the insertion of a suffragist Amendment an open question for the House of Commons to decide.Not to vote on in the abstract, but to decide as an Amendment to a Reform Bill.Through no intention and through no fault of ours that opportunity for raising the matter has been taken away. Our friends and fellow workers of the Women's Liberal Federation have asked me to say that my declaration survives the expiring Parliament, and holds good in its successor, and that their cause, so far as the Government is concerned, shall be no worse off in the new Parliament than it would have been in the old. I have no hesitation in acceding to that request.Therefore the Prime Minister, last November, on the eve of the Dissolution, 218 gave notice to the country that a Reform Bill was part of the programme of his party and that on that Reform Bill it should be left an open question on which the Government tellers would not tell and on which the Government would vote according to their individual convictions whether woman suffrage should be incorporated by an Amendment to the Bill. If that were done, one single day's Debate on the Motion to leave out the word "man," and put in the word "person," would have carried woman suffrage. That was the Amendment moved by John Stuart Mill in 1867. That is the position in which we are to-day, in consequence of the fulfilment of that pledge. The Prime Minister gave a pledge, and, having given it, he has carried it out in the spirit in which it was given. That is the reason we are having this three days' Debate. We are not debating this question in the abstract. There is a sense in the House that we are debating a real measure of legislation. We might as well have had an abstract Motion, "That, in the opinion of this House, the Parliamentary franchise should be given to women." That is all very well to vote upon, but we are voting on a real issue. Even our dear old friend the "Spectator," which is obsolete upon this point, has said that the time has gone by for playing with this question. Women are tired of having the question played with. The time has come when it must be dealt with as a real and living issue. Remembering that pledge of the Prime Minister, and the position taken up by the House of Commons in 1867, and again in 1884, We ought now seriously to grapple with the question, and to be prepared to take it to a final issue. I am certain that the opponents of the Bill cannot defeat it. They may delay the Bill. I do not know whether they can succeed in delaying it for a year or two; but I ask, Is it worth their while? Is it worth while, for the sake of a year or two at the most, to delay a measure of justice which a vast number of women unquestionably want? Is it worth while to arouse bitterness, antagonism, soreness, and hostility, and to exasperate the women who have worked so hard in this matter, and whose ranks will be enormously swelled if the measure is defeated? I ask that we may be allowed not merely to vote for the Second Reading, but to carry the Bill through to a successful termination so far as it is in 219 the power of this House to do it. "The Times" says:—There is a woman's side to every modern problem, which, as already stated, cannot be ignored in any permanent settlement of large social issues. Now that our universities have thrown open the gates of learning to all citizens, regardless of sex, there seem no bounds to the skilled public service which women may render to the race In fact, as 'The Times' has said elsewhere, 'with full educational liberty women inherited all liberty, and the enjoyment of the rest of her opportunities for complete living was but a matter of training and time.'May I appeal to the House to give graciously, freely, and generously what they cannot long delay giving; what for many years the House itself has by a majority expressed its desire to give. We shall have our Second Reading Division to-night. I think I am not unduly sanguine when I say that I believe the Second Reading of the Bill will be carried. What matters is what will be done after the Second Reading. If this Bill is to be referred, contrary to the Standing Orders, to a Committee of the whole House, we are playing with the question—we are shirking it, we are throttling it. If we do our duty we shall let the Bill, in the normal course of things, go to the Grand Committee upstairs. Whether it is altered or not, it will come down here again for the Report stage, and will be rediscussed, clause by clause, and word by word. Let me remind the House that when the present system of Grand Committees was set up by the Liberal Government three years ago, this very question of a Franchise Bill, and of a Woman Suffrage Bill was raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ashford Division, who moved an Amendment to exclude from such Committees any Bill relating to Parliamentary Reform or to the Franchise. The late Sir Henry Campbell—Bannerman opposed that Amendment on the ground:—That the House ought not to shut out such questions from the Grand Committees.And therefore ought not to shut out a Franchise Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who spoke on that occasion, it is reported, asked—Why the Government should exempt Budget Bills from the Grand Committee. and not Franchise or Woman Suffrage Bills?You have the point there. The Government replied by voting it down—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and they rejected the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ashford Division by 287 votes to forty-six. Most of those 287 Members are still in the House [HON. 220 MEMBERS: "No, no."] What? The Liberal party was not exterminated at the last election! All the Members on the Government Benches who voted in that Division are here to-day. They deliberately voted, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition put it, for allowing Woman Suffrage Bills to be sent upstairs to the Grand Committee.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he has not omitted a sentence from the speech of the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman? Did he not say that the Amendment was unnecessary because he could not conceive any Government sending a Franchise Bill upstairs?
§ Mr. W. M'LAREN
I have not the whole of the speech here, I have only an extract. But that was not the point. The point was that the right hon. Gentleman did not wish to tie the liberty of the House in the matter. I appeal to the House and to the Government to give the Members that liberty, and not to fetter it. The Government have acted loyally up to the pledge of the Prime Minister. They have left this matter to the House. In leaving it to the House, I appeal to them to be consistent and leave it to the House to deal with the later stages too. The matter is of much more importance than that of merely going to a Grand Committee of this House. It is a question as to whether we are to let it be seen that we are serious and in earnest, whether we are really to play with this question any longer, or whether we do not now take those concerned seriously, and acknowledge that this is a question not of great scope, but of great importance. It is because of that, because I know of the forces which are arrayed in front of this measure, because I know how deeply, passionately, earnestly, vast numbers, hundreds and thousands, of women feel upon this question, that I beg the House to carry this Bill into law.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Churchill)
I ask the indulgence of the House to allow me for a very short time, and in as few sentences as I can, to declare my own personal opinion upon the measure now before the House. It is, of course, a personal opinion. We are all talking here upon this matter as individuals and not for any Government or party. Sir, I cannot support this Bill. I do not want to roam into the abstract question of the relations between the sexes, their relative 221 capacities and capabilities. I shall not go into that further than to say that I believe that there is a proportion of women capable of exercising the Parliamentary franchise, not merely for their own satisfaction, but to the public advantage, and I believe that that proportion of women is found in every class throughout the community. I believe the State would be the gainer if they had the vote, and if, in consequence of the vote, they had what I think myself follows from that—access in the fullest sense to all positions in our public life. I feel that the line of sex disqualification is not in accordance with obvious facts. I do not think it is necessary for the security of society. On the other hand, I think the grievance is greatly exaggerated. I think the great mass of women are not in any sensible degree losers by the disability under which they lie. It cannot be proved that they suffer any disadvantage in legislation. The Statute Book in fact leaves them a privileged class. The greatest measure of social reform and social benefaction which has ever passed from the point of view of expense to the State is the Old Age Pensions Act, passed by a man-made Parliament, who at the very least considered the cause of woman as fully as that of man.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN at this point interjected a loud laugh.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
There is much more of bitterness than of hilarity in that laughter. That is the only comment I will make upon it. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith) in a part of his speech dealt with the question as to whether the franchise would have any effect in helping women to raise their wages. I fully agree with him that the standard of wages for women would not be raised by the possession of the Parliamentary franchise. It would be raised by making economic conditions better, and I think by further trade unionism amongst women. I do not believe that the great mass of women want a vote. I think they have made singularly little use of the immense opportunities of local and municipal government which have been thrown open to them. Although there are numerous brilliant exceptions, these exceptions do not alter the actual fact. I confess I am not in the least convinced that the male electorate of the country is in favour of making a change, and I also see a grave danger in creating without great con- 222 sideration a vast body of privileged and dependent voters, who might be manipulated and manœuvred in this direction or that.
I should just like on that point to mention to the House one fact that came within my own personal experience when I was President of the Board of Trade. The Amalgamated Association of Card-room and Blowing-room Operatives have a membership of 45,000. Of these 43,000 are women and 9,800 men. The association has an executive of sixteen members. Not a single woman had been elected at the time I refer to serve on the executive. The cotton dispute took place two years ago. The House knows that in every part of Lancashire this trade is interdependent. All portions of the trade in this dispute practically passed into the hands of these sixteen capable and determined men, who used the voting strength entrusted to them by the great mass of women and girls. They used it, I have not the slightest hesitation in saying, in opposition to the views and opinions of the great mass of male workers so far as the cotton trade was concerned, and prolonged the stoppage to a very great and undue period, without any advantage being gained by the workers, and with great loss and injury to the employers and the trade. I think that shows the grave danger of a body of fluid votes being held by persons who readily resign their rights to the keeping of others, and the consequent evil effects which may easily ensue to the State from that. All this argument, I am bound to say, I find serious and weighty. We do not get away from arguments by not looking at them and not facing them. We have got to face them. If we do not face them, they will face us. I am quite willing to admit that none of these arguments are conclusive against the admission of women to the vote. They do not alter any of that essential unreasonability of sex disqualification and the drawing of a sex bar. They do not in any way touch the grievance which individuals suffer from.
May I say quite coolly what I think the grievance actually is. It is a twofold grievance. First of all, there are a number of women who take a very keen interest in politics. They belong, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War told us, to the different political organisations. They work with the utmost keenness and enthusiasm for the success of their various parties, and they are 223 bitterly disappointed when they find that at the concdusion of all their labours those who have invoked their aid, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, suddenly turn round and say, "Your assistance is not now required; you are unfitted to exercise the franchise, although you are fitted to exercise every other function leading up to it." I think that is a grievance. It is a serious grievance. But there is a second grievance which is a more serious one, though it is purely sentimental. It is a grievance which deserves attention and respect. I mean that the denial of a recognised political status for the whole sex implies, and women think it implies, the slur of inferiority—a slur of inferiority, not to individuals, but to the entire race of women. I frankly say I should like to see that grievance redressed and that slur effectively removed. I believe that there are—I speak only for myself—only two ways in which the House will be able to redress that grievance. They can give the vote to some of the best women of all classes. That is the first way. Or they can give the vote to all women. I believe these are the only two ways in which that grievance can be redressed. First of all, you may give a vote to a comparatively small number of women of all classes by means of a series of special franchises—which, no doubt, will be disrespectfully called "fancy franchises"—franchises, that is to say, arising from considerations of property, arising from considerations of wage-earning capacity, or arising from considerations of education. You could give a vote to a comparatively small number of women on a series of special franchises which would be fairly balanced one against the other, so as not, on the whole, to give an undue advantage to the property vote against the wage-earning vote. That, I believe, could be done, and could only be done by agreement among all parties. I had always hoped that the conciliation committee would move forward on that road. That would not be giving votes to women on the same terms as men; neither does this Bill. That would not be a democratic proposal, but, at any rate, it would not be anti-democratic as this Bill is. It would not provide protection for the weakest and feeblest among women. It would provide for the representation of the sex through the strongest, most capable, and most responsible women of every class, and that would meet the main grievance in my humble judgment. I have urged the 224 friends of this movement in the House not to close their minds altogether to some attempt to advance along that path. Apart from that method, which I quite recognise is not likely to excite any enthusiasm, there is only one other, in my judgment, that is worthy of consideration, and that is a broad measure of adult suffrage, or practically adult suffrage, by which every person should have a vote over the age of twenty-five years.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am sorry the Noble Lord would be outside that. After all, I agree with my hon. Friend who has just sat down—we are not discussing an abstract Resolution, but this particular Bill. This Bill is neither one thing nor the other. It is not a genuine democratic reform nor a fairly balanced restricted mitigation of the grievance which exists. It is an enormous addition to the franchise of 1,000,000 persons, and altogether a capricious and one-sided addition to that franchise. It is the Bill we now have to divide upon. We have to decide and vote not for a principle, not for a Bill, but for this Bill now before the House of Commons.
I have been making as good an examination as is in my power of the actual proposals, and shape, and character of the Bill. The more I study the Bill the more astonished I am that such a large number of respected Members of Parliament should have found it possible to put their names to it. And, most of all, I was astonished that Liberal and Labour Members should have associated themselves with it. It is not merely an undemocratic Bill; it is worse. It is an anti-democratic Bill. It gives an entirely unfair representation to property, as against persons. I have only to turn to what we have heard quoted frequently in the Debate—namely, Mr. Booth's figures in regard to London, on which the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Keir Hardie) relies so much. Out of the 180,000 women voters it is calculated that 90,000 are working women, earning their living. What about the other half? Half of these voters are persons who have not to earn their living. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] At any rate only half of them are workers. I say, in any case, the distinction shows quite clearly that the proportion prevailing in the new electorate is wholly disproportionate to the proportion which exists now between propertied and non-propertied classes generally throughout the country. 225 That is not denied. Take the figures on the hon. Gentleman's own interpretation. What I want to know is how many of the poorest class would be included? Would not charwomen, widows, and others still be disfranchised by receiving Poor Law relief? How many of the propertied voters will be increased by the husband giving a £10 qualification to his wife and five or six daughters? After all we are discussing a real Bill, and we are entitled to know what it is we are asked to commit ourselves to. I want the House to consider very carefully the effect of this on plural voting. At present a man can exercise the franchise several times, but he has to do it in different constituencies. But under this Bill, as I read it, he would be able to exercise his vote once or twice or three times in the same constituency if he were a wealthy man. If he had an office and residence in the same constituency he has only one vote now, but if this Bill passed he could vote for his office himself, and he could give his wife a vote for his residence. If a man votes in respect of town and country properties, under this Bill he could give one vote as his wife's occupation qualification; one qualification to his daughter, and he could keep his own vote for a property qualification elsewhere. If he owned a house and land he could keep one vote for the land for himself, and put his wife in for the house. If he owned a house and stable, or other separate building, then under this democratic Bill brought forward by the hon. Member for Blackburn he could give one vote to his wife in respect of the house, and take the other himself in respect of the stable.
I am told it is quite open to question whether it would not be possible for a wealthy man with a large family or retinue of dependents to multiply faggot votes by letting to them any property of the value of £10 within his own residence. From every point of view it is clear that there would be a great multiplication of property votes, while no such expedients would be open to the working people and the poor. I do not wonder a bit that the hon. Member for Crewe said he thought this measure, if passed, would not be the thin end of the wedge, but would be accepted for many years to come. I think it is very likely that a large mass of the propertied women who, without any fair proportionate addition to the democratic electorate will be added to the franchise, will not be in any hurry for further change. The Noble Lord the 226 Member for Oxford (Lord Hugh Cecil) said last night, in a very brilliant speech, that property was often a truer bond of union than sex, and I think it is much more likely that women voters will join together on their property considerations rather than that they will vote in great masses on a purely sex consideration. I think we will find these proposals which are put forward now, and which we are told may be the thin end of the wedge, may prove to be only a very vicious and unsatisfactory halting-place.
I think it very creditable to the Unionist party opposite—though they do not wish any testimonial from me—I give them one nevertheless—that so many of them should resist a measure which I have not the slightest hesitation in saying would be a great party and electoral advantage to them. I can easily understand some of them voting for it. I can easily understand the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford hurrying from his academic groves to welcome this windfall, but I am bound to say when I see a Liberal Member or a Labour Member voting for provisions like this I feel he must either be very innocent or must have been intimidated. But quite apart from this one-sided aspect, apart from the question of the property or the non-property, let the House look at the absurdity of the Bill. I can understand a man who says, "I am in favour of votes for women," and a man who says, "I am against votes for women," but what is to be said for a man who says he is in favour of votes for women, but not for mothers and wives, unless they are faggot votes? The basic principle of this Bill is to deny votes to mothers and wives—that is to say, to deny votes to those who are upon the whole the best of their sex. Fancy this proposition that we Members of Parliament are asked to commit ourselves to, and to defend on the platforms of the country, that a young, inexperienced girl of twenty-one should have a vote, and the mother of seven or eight children, who for twenty-five years has kept and directed the policy and economy of a family, should be refused the vote; that a woman who has nobody to keep but herself out of her wages or income is to have a vote, and the woman who keeps by her labour an invalid husband and her family is to have no vote unless the unfortunate husband is rich enough to put her in for a property qualification! We are asked by this Bill to defend the proposition that 227 a spinster of means living on the interest of man-made capital is to have a vote, and the working man's wife is to be denied a vote even if she is a wage earner and wife. This is the new democracy. There is no end to the grotesque absurdities that would follow the passing of this measure. It would be possible for women to have a vote while living in a state of prostitution; if she married and became an honest woman she would lose that vote, but she could regain it through divorce. I cannot believe that these proposals will commend themselves to the thinking man of this country or to responsible men in this House, and I cannot conceive why we should be asked to associate ourselves with a measure so ill-conceived in its practical details as this is.
Now, Sir, if this were an ordinary Bill there would, I think, be something to be said for those who approve the principle but dislike the method, voting to-day and seeking to amend it later. But you cannot amend it in any democratic direction. It has been carefully phrased to prevent its being amended in any widening or democratic sense. It can be altered in favour of property by this House or by the other House: it cannot be altered in favour of poverty. It cannot be broadened in any democratic sense. Therefore we have got to recognise what a vote on the Second Reading of this Bill means. It means really, except on minor details, a vote for the Third Reading of an ordinary Bill. Members say, "Oh, well, but, after all, we have always been in favour of votes for women and this Bill is not going any further." I do not think that it is a fair way of treating the question. I think it is not at all a brave way and not a very honourable method of dealing with a matter about which, whatever views are entertained of it, passionate feeling and earnest hopes are deeply stirred. What are the methods and what are the further stages which are to follow on the passage of this Bill? The hon. Member who has just sat down has said that if the Bill is rejected by the House a most frightful series of events will take place. Well, that is a new statement of the position. I had always understood that the women had said, "The House of Commons has, by a large majority, repeatedly affirmed the principle of the Bill and yet we get no further." But now we are to be told that lawlessness and disorder are to follow, 228 not upon the burking of the question, but upon an adverse decision by the House of Commons after full consideration. I do not think those questions ought to influence anyone. I thank the House very much for the great kindness with which they have listened to me. I have said nothing but what I absolutely think and feel on the subject. In my judgment the Member who can honestly say, "I want this Bill passed into law this Session, regardless of all other consequences. I want it as it is, and I want it now. I want it sent to the House of Lords. I am prepared to fight the House of Lords if they reject it, as they very likely would"—the man who is prepared to say all that, who can think it honestly and sincerely, is fully justified in voting for the Second Reading of this Bill. I am not such a Member, and as it would be cowardly of me to seek immunity by abstaining from the Second Reading of this Bill, as it would be cowardly to allow burdens to be borne by others, I shall, after long reflection, and without any doubt whatever, give my vote this evening for the rejection of this measure on the Second Reading.
§ Mr. J. H. M. KIRKWOOD
A slur of inferiority has been cast upon members of the other sex by hon. Gentlemen who have opposed this Bill. I think there is no inferiority whatever. One cannot but realise that members of the other sex have the gentler qualities much more marked; they transcend men in those qualities. They have also various qualities which fit them for assisting in local government matters. They have qualities which are virtuous in them, but which, in the male sex, would probably not be virtuous at all. My argument in connection with that is based on this ground: You can certainly give women the power to vote by legislation, but that does not mean that you give them legislative functions by so doing. It has not been denied by hon. Gentlemen who support this Bill that this measure would be extended so that women would undoubtedly be allowed to stand as Parliamentary candidates for the suffrages of the electorate. I say most distinctly that those rights which you administer by legislation do not necessarily involve administering those qualities to those who are given the legislative rights any more than by making men, by legislation, the nurses of England you would naturally fit them to become nursery maids. I do not wish any more than the right hon. Gentle- 229 man the Home Secretary to touch on abstract subjects, but I do not think you can get at the root and basis of these questions without looking into those abstract subjects somewhat. It is impossible to summarise the divergent views which are held by hon. Members on both sides of the House who wish to support this Bill, but there are one or two points that I should like to criticise. The argument that women are not in favour of the Bill is not, I think, an argument which could be used, and for this reason: It conveys the sentiment that if they were in favour of it you would let them have it. I am one of those who hold that women are not fit to have the vote at all, and therefore I do not admit that argument. They are at present unfranchised. The corollary is that if a majority of the unfranchised voiced their views loudly enough, therefore we in this House, who are representatives of the enfranchised, should give way to them. I do not think that that is a right way of looking at this question.
There is another argument. We have heard a great deal about certain foreign countries, Norway and Finland, having this measure, and having benefited thereby. We have also had our Colonies quoted. I should like to ask hon. Gentlemen, in the first place, whether they can state any foreign country which has benefited by, or which has become great through, the assistance of the suffrages of women in the past. It is a rash experiment to embark on anything from what we have seen of Norway and Sweden. I quite admit that, as an hon. Member has said, in respect of this Bill we should not think of what foreign countries have done. Because we stand as the greatest Power that exists. Why should we follow simply what Norway and Finland has done? If we do want to do what foreign countries have done, and also our self-governing Colonies, let us turn to a policy which has more unanimity behind it, and follow them in their fiscal system. In regard to woman suffrage, I do not think we need follow them at all. My view in opposing this measure is that already the problems of our electoral system are extremely complicated. Why should we wish to make them more complicated on the eve of what we hear so much about—a change in our present constitutional system? As to complication, no one can say that the qualities that lie behind each vote recorded are all in the same category. We have the vote which find its nativity in the alehouse, and we have the votes which are recorded after 230 mature thought. It cannot be said that the qualities which go to make those votes are the same qualities, and if you bring in an entirely new element which we know nothing about you naturally make the question of voting still more complicated. You will have the whole gamut of the female nervous system varying from gross materialism on the one hand down to absolutely altruistic interference on the other. Therefore if you involve the female element you make our whole voting system most complicated and difficult. I oppose this Bill, not from any spirit of levity or for the mere sake of opposing it, but because I feel most strongly on it. Already we have enough sentiment in the country; or, rather, not sentiment, but sentimentality. I think we have the sentimental members always with us, and I do not think we wish to bring in any more sentimentality. There is nothing more derogatory to a country than to purchase peace at the expense of the nation's rights. There is nothing worse for a country than to be involved in war through hysterical influence, and there is nothing worse than problems being tampered with without getting at what is the real subject and approaching them by sentiment. I feel we might involve all this if we accepted this Bill, and there is every danger, if we experiment in this way, of emasculating the nation. Those are the reasons why I oppose this Bill.
§ Mr. ARTHUR A. W. H. PONSONBY
I rise for a few moments to support the Second Reading of this Bill. I listened with great attention and interest to the very damaging criticism which was brought against it by the Home Secretary. I think that that part of his speech, though it requires a very close scrutiny and really raised points which would be considered in Committee, was of great significance, but the opening part of his speech in which he suggested alternatives was, if I may say so, extremely weak. He could only point to adult suffrage—of which I myself am a most ardent supporter, but which I do not see is possible for some little time to come—and his other alternative was a fancy franchise, which I do not think could be introduced with anything like success. Before I deal with the actual Bill itself, I should just like to give my reasons for supporting women's enfranchisement. I do it not so much on the grounds of the work that women have done and are doing in this 231 country, although a very just tribute has been given to that work, nor do I support their demand for the vote because of the fact that they are taxpayers. I chiefly support their demand because I think women represent a different element to men. It is not because they are able to compete with men and to do a great deal of men's work as well, and, perhaps, even sometimes better, that they are qualified to vote, but it is because they represent a huge mass of opinion, which is different from male opinion, which does not correspond to the male opinion, but which is complementary to the male opinion. A woman's qualities, whatever may be said about them, do not correspond with a man's qualities, they are complementary and co-relative to a man's qualities, and for that reason if you want representation of the whole country you ought to have female opinion represented as well as male opinion.
Everybody in this House, unless there is some very confirmed misogynist, will admit that female influence on our social life is very beneficial. We are not like the Mahomedan community who think it best to exclude females from social life. We believe in the softening and at the same time stimulating influence of woman in our social life. Within the last thirty or forty years there can be no doubt the chief work of this House has been in connection with social affairs. The real conflict of parties in this House is on questions such as factory legislation, housing, land taxation, licensing, and education, all of which affect very closely the home and social life. If we admit that woman's influence in our social life is a good one, why is it we think it necessary to exclude her from any partisanship in our political life? I think we make a very great mistake, and I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. Walter McLaren), who said their influence in politics and their contributions to the vote for membership of this House would be on the whole most beneficial to the general good government of the country. I look at it from that point of view, from the point of view of the good government of the country. I think the government of this country will be improved by the contributions made to it by the women's vote, whether they want it or whether they do not want it. I think it very difficult to estimate whether they want it. A very large number of them are absolutely indifferent, but I think they 232 ought to be called upon to give their votes in order that the government of this country, being thoroughly spread and democratised, may be more completely represented and therefore on a sounder basis.
It is extremely important we should properly understand where we are with regard to this Bill. If this Bill passes we anyhow have admitted 1,250,000 women to the vote. If this Bill does not get as far as the Committee stage I believe we shall have lost the only opportunity we are likely to get for a great many years to come of breaking down the sex barrier. Do not let the Government suppose for one moment that in introducing an Electoral Reform Bill they will be able to break dawn the sex barrier by a private Member's Amendment to that Bill in favour of enfranchising women. They will not be able to do it simply because when the Electoral Reform Bill is before the House hon. Members opposite will oppose it Clause by Clause all the way through. Therefore this will be the only opportunity we shall have of breaking down the sex barrier. I fully admit it is an extremely clumsy way of doing it, but a compromise is always very clumsy, and it is by its very clumsiness we are able to gain votes for it on the other side of the House. It is by this compromise we can bring in hon. Members, who, in their desire to give women the vote, will unite together even though the actual Bill doing it is unsatisfactory in a great many ways. I am sorry the Home Secretary has made the speech he has, and has made such a definite attack on the Bill, because we cannot in this House deal with this as with other measures. There is no machinery for dealing with a non-party contentious measure; it can only be done by the Government just keeping the field and allowing the House of Commons to fight the matter out for itself. This Session, which has been rendered very sterile by this secret Conference which is going on, is a singularly favourable opportunity. I do not myself believe the Conference is really taking place at all. I believe there are eight distinguished gentlemen meeting together very often, but not conferring.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I was only pointing out that our labours having been very much reduced by the existence of the Conference, and the energy of the House 233 having been very much weakened, it is a very suitable opportunity for passing a contentious but a non-party measure. If this Bill were allowed to go upstairs, it would be knocked about very considerably, and there would be the possibility of Amendment.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George) dissented.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I can only say when the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Members here take up so firmly the position that it is not a sufficiently democratic Bill, I must accuse them to some extent of regarding it purely from a party point of view. The hon. Member for South Edinburgh began by talking about the moral aspect of the case, but later on I found he took the purely party point of view. He simply was measuring which constituencies would be lost to Liberals by passing this measure. I put the force and the utility of Liberalism extremely high; I think I put it higher than the admission of women to the franchise, but for all that I think when we have this unique opportunity we ought to take full advantage of it, and I shall certainly vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, and also against it being committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ Sir WALTER NUGENT
The Debate has shown there are few supporters in this House of the Bill we are discussing. Those who support it may be divided into three classes. First, those who, like the hon. Member who seconded the Bill, believe it would work as a compromise; secondly, those who do not like the Bill, but who will vote for it on account of what they believe will follow, and, thirdly, those who do not like the Bill nor like the Movement, but who think they may safely give a pious expression in its favour, and trust to the Prime Minister to prevent its becoming law. In regard to the first, it is inconceivable to believe that any Labour Member of the House would be satisfied or would vote for this Bill if he believed it to be final.
§ Sir WALTER NUGENT
I think I may take it as a rule they only vote for it because they believe greater consequences will follow, because they believe some day women will be admitted to Membership of this House. Once they get here we may look forward, and I am sure they look 234 forward joyfully, to the time when a woman will occupy the Speaker's Chair. I am sure they would also like to see a woman the Prime Minister, or possibly a man the Prime Minister and his wife the Leader of the Opposition. I do not desire to turn this into ridicule. I merely wish to emphasise what the hon. Member for Manchester said the other day—you cannot ignore the reality of sex. The Bill will really lead to a very absurd situation. We have those, thirdly, who do not like the Bill, but who will vote for it simply as a pious expression of opinion. If they are so susceptible to pressure from outside, of what value will their vote be when there are militant suffragettes inside this House?
The position of those who oppose this Bill is perfectly plain and straightforward. We say the women of the country do not want it; we say we have no right to impose on the women of this country a Bill they do not want. Anyway, if they do want the franchise it must be considered in a great scheme of adult suffrage, and under no possible circumstances can there be any finality about this Bill. What are the arguments used in favour of the Bill? First, we have been told it is working successfully in foreign countries. I will confine myself to the countries with which I am acquainted. I will take Wyoming. It has worked well there. We all know that in new countries the liquor and saloon interests predominate and the gambling dens are very numerous. What was the argument used to admit women to the franchise there? It was that their influence would be for the good; it was because they wanted to build up home life. I supported it there, and for the same reason I am opposed to it here. Instead of building up home life, it would break up home life here. We have had several references to the great Queens in this and other countries. I cannot see what argument that is in favour of imposing upon every woman the burden of voting. Queen Elizabeth has often been quoted. Yesterday, as I sat here and heard her name so frequently mentioned, I thought what an interesting thing it would be if the editor of "The Review of Reviews" would get his medium to interview Queen Elizabeth and ask her what her opinion is of the woman suffrage question and of the modern suffragette. I doubt very much if hon. Members who quoted her yesterday would be inclined again to do so. 235 There was only one argument used during the Debate which appealed to me, and that was the suggestion that if the Parliamentary franchise is extended to women they will be able to better their social position. I doubt very much if that will be the case. It might very possibly be a result of universal suffrage; but the effect of giving votes to a million women, most of whom would not be connected with the working classes, could not, so far as I can see, improve their social position. Suppose you passed a law compelling women to be paid the same wages as men, would not the result in all probability be to reduce the number of women employed? As for the Irish point of view, I do not believe it will make the slightest difference in Ireland whether the Bill is passed into law or not. I do not believe the majority of women in Ireland are favourable to it, and I have not the slightest doubt that even those who are not opposed to the principle would be opposed to making a class distinction and to discriminating between the wealthy woman and her poorer sister. No case has been made out for this Bill, and though sentimental reasons may induce hon. Members to vote for it, I believe that to-day will see its burial.
§ Mr. LEACH
It takes some courage on the part of one who has participated very seldom in the Debates in this House to speak in favour of this Bill after the strong deliverances of the Home Secretary. I have no intention of following the right hon. Gentleman in the arguments he used; I will simply say that of all the speeches I have heard him make in this Assembly—and they have been many—he has never made one based on a more slender foundation than that he delivered this afternoon. If hon. Members will read it carefully tomorrow, when they get the Report, they will find it can be easily attacked. I support the Bill not merely to redeem my election pledges, but as a measure of justice to women, who too long have been kept from what, I think, is their right. I regret that the Bill goes such a very small way. I am in favour of giving votes to women on precisely the same terms as they are given to men. But this Bill does not do that. You make the woman pay rates and taxes, and extract them from her to the very last shilling. Why should you not give her the same privileges as you give to men from whom you also take rates and taxes? Men have votes on many qualifications; this little Bill gives 236 votes only in two directions—to the householder and to the ten-pounder.
What grounds are there for the rejection of this Bill; woman has proved her fitness by the way she acted on boards of guardians and on school boards and in many other directions. I believe there are some men in this House who are opposed to this Bill because they fear women—they absolutely fear what may happen if the vote is granted to them; they oppose it, in fact, on grounds of prejudice. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, made a very excellent speech yesterday, and he said very frankly at the beginning of that speech that all his prejudices were against votes for women, but that reason compelled him to be in favour of the Bill. I repeat men are opposing this Bill because they are giving way to prejudice and they fear what may happen. The hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division made a speech yesterday, and I venture to express my opinion that no speech ever made in connection with this subject has been so capable. But even behind that speech, if you look carefully into it, you will find prejudice and fear of women. Anyone who has far less power of analysis than the hon. and learned Gentleman himself will find in it prejudice and fear. He used these words:—I confess if I were convinced that every woman in the world wanted the vote it would not influence me one bit.When a man says that there is very little doubt that it is prejudice and not argument that influences him. Several Liberal Members are going to oppose this Bill because it does not go so far as they wish. I do not understand for the life of me a hungry man refusing a breakfast which I may be willing to give him because I do not also undertake to entertain him at luncheon and dinner, and to serve him with the finest champagnes. I cannot understand why any man should object to this Bill if he is in favour of democratic principles simply because it does not go far enough. I am a hearty supporter of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I was delighted to hear the speech he made in introducing his Budget last week—an extraordinary Budget, and one styled by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire, an "unusual Budget." "Unusual" in many respects it undoubtedly was. I heartily approved of its main features. I am, however, altogether opposed to the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in certain 237 directions. I deeply regret that old age pensioners are to receive their pensions partly from the local authorities, and that invalidity and working insurance are to be delayed another year. But I should be very foolish indeed if I refused to vote for the Budget because it does not go the length I should like. Bearing this in mind, I hope Liberal Members who are talking of opposing this Bill will reconsider their position. Every argument used against this Bill, so far, was used against the measures to give votes to men in boroughs and in counties. There has been nothing new advanced, and, indeed, I am surprised that they should have been brought up again. Is there any hon. Member of this House who can say that he has been influenced by any of the arguments used to vote against this Bill? We trust women in local affairs, on school committees, on health committees, on housing committees, and even on borough councils, but we seem afraid to trust them with the Parliamentary vote. I believe if they are given the vote it will raise the tone of public life, it will lessen the bitterness which obtains at elections, and it will hasten those social and humane measures for which we have too long been waiting.
Mr. LEONARD BRASSEY
I am addressing the House for the first time, and I hope I shall do so with that modesty which is becoming a new Member. But I do it with particular diffidence, because I know I am intruding on a Debate of the greatest importance to the suffrage movement, and, indeed, to the whole country. I have been interested, in listening to the speeches of the promoters of this Bill, in the great differences of opinion which they apparently entertain as to the objects of the measure. We were told by the hon. Member for the Clitheroe Division that this was the thin end of the wedge, and that the Bill was to be used as a stepping stone for further legislation on the suffrage question. Another hon. Member contradicted that, and said that the "thin-end-of-the-wedge" argument was a bogey. The hon. Member who has just sat down declared that the arguments used by the opponents of the Bill were actuated in most cases by prejudice and fear. Speaking for myself, I beg to state that, in opposing this Bill, I am not actuated by any such sentiment. There are only two things which should commend this Bill to the House, and they are either that the Bill, if passed into law, would be good for the 238 community in general, or that it would do an act of common justice to the other sex. In all the arguments that have been adduced in favour of this Bill I am bound to say I have been struck by the absence of all proof that this Bill, if passed into law, will operate in the direction of better government for this country, or that it will do anything to advance the cause of the other sex.
The effect of this Bill on different parties has been discussed by various speakers. It is said by Members on these benches that if this Bill is passed it will operate to the advantage of the party with which I am associated. Hon. Members opposite think it will assist their party, while I believe that the hon. Member for the Clitheroe Division was of opinion that, in all probability, some assistance will be given to his party by passing the measure into law. But, so far as I have been able to judge, the general consensus of opinion is borne out in some remarks by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) and by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil). That general consensus of opinion is that it will not operate very greatly to the advantage or the disadvantage of either of the existing parties in this country. In my opinion, too, there is no evidence whatever that the Bill will operate greatly to the advantage of the country. I cannot help thinking that one of the objects some of the promoters of the Bill have is to use it as a lever for further legislation. As has been pointed out by the Home Secretary, its provisions are most illogical, for they exclude almost all married women from the vote unless they belong to the more wealthy classes. Another point which should be borne in mind is that unless it can be proved it is to the advantage of women that they should be given this privilege the whole case falls to the ground. There is no argument, so far as I have heard, which has been used in support of this measure which shows that the position of women in this country can be in any way advanced by the passing of this Bill into law. It cannot be proved that in any way it is likely to raise the wages of women workers. It cannot be proved there has been any question affecting the position of women which has not in every case received generous and sympathetic attention from Members of this House. An hon. Member said that legislation for women was only carried in this House because of 239 the agitation of suffragist bodies outside it. I have been but a few weeks a Member of this House, and my experience is of little value, but I think hon. Members who have been for long Members will bear me out in saying that there is no question affecting women which has been brought forward in the past which has not had a most sympathetic and generous consideration.
The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) yesterday, in an eloquent speech in support of the measure, gave us his own experience of voting at Oxford. He told us how he went to the polling booth, which was situated picturesquely in the shadow of Magdalen Towers, and told us what a simple matter it was to find out the way to place a cross against the name of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford City, although I think he told us that he had some uncertainty as to where to place it in the proper position. He pointed all that out, and he argued from it that the actual voting was a very simple matter, and that women—a great many of whom took a great interest in political affairs, and who are now denied a vote—should have one granted to them. He said it was a very simple matter, and on these grounds it might be given to them. I think, however, when we look at our experiences of polling day, and the days which come before it in many districts of the country, especially in industrial centres—I should hardly think that many of us would like to see the women of this country engaged in a prominent position in Parliamentary warfare. Moreover, between election and election there is in many constituencies a continuous political propaganda carried on. This goes on for weeks before the polling day—meetings are held, literature is issued, megaphones are used, and every other sort of means is used for rousing enthusiasm among the electors. I am bound to say I cannot see what advantage all this noise is to the men of the nation, but I am certain that it does rouse in the male voters the worst passions, and does not bring forth the best side of their character, and for my part I should dislike to see women given a full part in this political warfare, and taking their share in the rough-and-tumble of political life. I think that by so doing women as a whole would perhaps lose some of the respect which is felt for them by every decent man, and which is one of 240 the greatest safeguards which they possess. Unless it can be proved more conclusively that women as a whole are going to get some advantage which they do not possess at the present moment by the passing of this measure, it would, I think, be fatal to accept it and to impose upon them the duty of voting.
Mr. H. G. CHANCELLOR
In rising for the first time to address this House I feel great trepidation in doing so, but I know I may rely upon its indulgence. The hon. Member who has just spoken has pleaded that if women have conferred upon them the rights of citizenship they will not have the respect paid to them which has been paid to them in the past. I suppose he is afraid that men will lose their chivalry, and that we shall hereafter treat them exactly like men, and more roughly than in the past. Unfortunately for his argument that has not been the experience wherever women have been admitted to the franchise. I will quote on this point a statement made by a prominent New Zealand politician, who says:—The result in New Zealand of the grant to women of the right to vote has falsified every prediction of its opponents. They said that the women cared nothing for it, and would not use it if it were granted. But the proportion of women voters who have voted is noticeably large. It was predicted that it would breed discord in families, but since it has been granted nothing has been heard of such discord, and former opponents are silent on the subject. The interest now taken by women in New Zealand in the politics of the country is remarkable, and is regarded as a decided gain to the community. Their influence on party politics is probably small… Since the franchise was given elections have been conducted with more than usual quiet and decorum, and I know from my own observation that it is as easy for a woman to vote at a polling place as to visit a shop in the ordinary way.Nearly all the arguments against the admission of women to the franchise take the form of prophecy. Members are afraid that if once they are allowed to have a share in forming the laws under which they live, and which they have to obey, certain things will happen in this country, and it is of no use for us to point to the experience in those States and in those countries where they have exercised this right for many years past, and show that this kind of thing has not happened there. I suppose this is because it is thought that the women of England presumably are different from those in any other country in the world. I am sufficiently a patriot not to believe that our women are inferior to the women of New Zealand or of those States in other parts of the world which have granted them the right to vote for the Members of their various Legislatures. 241 What does this Bill really do? We have had some very damaging statements which I contend are not accurate. The Bill simply takes and extends the use of a register which is already in existence and contains something like a million names of women who, for years past, have been allowed to take their share in electing members of various local bodies, and who have been expected to understand the questions which come up for decision at these various elections. They have been allowed to elect those who are to carry out their will and the will of the majority of the electors, and they have been allowed to vote for their election in regard to these matters. All that this Bill does is to take that register, and to enact that these women who are already supposed to have accustomed themselves to the decision of public questions shall be allowed to vote for Members of Parliament, and shall be allowed to have their share, not only in the administration but also in the passing, of the law. I cannot see that there is a very revolutionary change. It seems to me to be rather an evolutionary step—a step in the direction of granting to them a right which men value, and would not give up without violence, and which women have desired for long years past. Many conflicting arguments have been expressed in regard to this matter. We were told yesterday by two or three Members who spoke against this measure, that women did not want a vote, and that women could not and did not get up big meetings in its favour. I asked one of those hon. Members if he had heard of the meetings in Hyde Park, which two or three times has been filled with the huge crowd which has been called together to demonstrate in favour of this measure being granted, and I venture to say that never since the Corn Law agitation has so much been done in the way of public agitation or public meetings as in regard to this question. I think from all this that it is very evident that the large mass, if not the majority, of the women of this country are desirous of entering into this heritage, which we men feel we would not give up on any account.
Let me point out also that in regard to that agitation there are one or two features which indicate, I think, that the women who have taken part in it are qualified to enter into public life. You had the militant suffragettes organising all kinds of unpleasant things, which I deprecate as much as anyone. We were told that this whole agitation was 242 hysterical and dominated by sentiment, but as soon as this Parliament was elected the women who desired this boon agreed that they would drop this form of agitation, and so perfect is the discipline among them that we have heard nothing of it since this Parliament has come into existence. I say that that fact in itself is a sufficient answer for those who say that the women who desire the vote are a shrieking sisterhood, and are not governed by reason. There are one or two things I would like to say about the criticisms directed against this Bill. They have come mainly from two quarters. They have come from those who desire to continue this age-long injustice in the exclusion of women from the framing of laws which they are expected and obliged to obey. [An HON. MEMBER: "They do not obey them."] My hon. Friend behind me says they do not obey them, but if they do not, they have not the same reason for doing so as they would have if they had a voice in framing them. But as a whole they do obey them. You will find that there are fewer criminals amongst the women than amongst the men, and, as a matter of fact, the women are more law-abiding than the men. Those who desire to continue this age-long denial of an elementary act of justice which men have had given to them for long years past say that this is the thin end of the wedge and must inevitably lead to adult suffrage, but is that so? Is there any reason in that argument? It might have been said equally well that the first extension of the franchise in 1832 would inevitably lead to manhood suffrage. Has it done so? We have been waiting for eighty years, and some of us on this side are waiting still for a Reform Bill which will bring in a large number of men who are excluded, and you may have to wait eighty years before this measure leads to adult suffrage. I wish it would, now or in the near future, because I wish to confess that personally I am by no means satisfied that this Bill goes far enough.
I would prefer that the Government should bring in an Adult Suffrage Bill which would enable us to fight that question out, but I say that the passing of this measure need not bring adult suffrage any nearer at all. What it will do when the Reform Bill is brought in is that it will make it inevitable to bring the women into it and prevent their exclusion from any measures of that kind which may be brought in. Then there is the criticism of those who say that this Bill does not 243 go far enough, and, as I have said, it does not go far enough for me. They say it is not democratic. Not democratic, a measure which will at once enfranchise nearly a million of those who now have no votes—a million who have been drawn from all classes of society, not belonging to any one class! It may, perhaps, confer more benefits upon a certain limited number of persons belonging to the well-to-do classes, but for every one of those it will bring into the exercise of citizens' rights it will enfranchise at least four belonging to the unprivileged classes, and I say that a Bill which deals with a million who are now excluded cannot be undemocratic. It may not be perfectly democratic, but it is a step in a democratic direction.
I sincerely hope that my Friends on this side who would prefer a democratic measure will not deny this step towards democracy because it does not go so far as they desire. The Prime Minister, not very long ago, promised that the House should be left to deal in this Session effectively with this measure.
The impression derived from the right hon. Gentleman's answer to one of the deputations which waited on him was that the House should deal effectively with the question. The term "effectively" was used in his reply, but perhaps I misunderstood him. A mere Second Reading Debate will not be an effective dealing with this matter. A mere declaration of our opinions on the general principle of woman suffrage will not deal effectively with this question, and it will satisfy no one. Especially will it not satisfy those who desire that the matter shall be dealt with effectively. The only possible way of securing an effective dealing with the question this Session will be to send the Bill upstairs to give a Grand Committee the opportunity of thrashing out its details, and to give us an opportunity here of a Debate on Report and Third Reading. I earnestly appeal to the Prime Minister, as one of his most faithful followers—at any rate as faithful as anyone else—to give us these facilities so that we may, at any rate, as a free House of Commons, without any dictation from Ministers whatever, decide once and for all the principle which this Bill embodies. All kinds of fears are expressed as to the effect of women being allowed a fair share 244 in directing the legislation of the country. Let me put this point to the House. When we deal with measures affecting women, or affecting any other class of the community, can we deal effectively with them unless we can deal with them from their point of view? We may be as generous as we like. We may be desirous of doing the utmost justice, but we are likely to make serious mistakes if we exclude their views. I suggest that the wider the experience, the deeper the insight and the greater the knowledge gained from experience we can bring to bear on any proposals which this House sets out to deal with, the more likely are our measures to be effective for the purpose for which they are introduced, and the more likely are they to be a settlement of the various questions which come up. I hope sincerely that the House will vote by a large majority in favour of granting this small concession towards the aspirations of the women of the country, and that we shall have an opportunity effectively to deal with it before the end of the Session.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The great interest which has been excited by this Debate and the high level of argumentative ability with which it has been sustained, I think, amply justify the decision of the Government to allow, for the very first time in our Parliamentary history, a full and adequate opportunity for the discussion of an issue which is not less grave because it does not belong to the domain of party politics. I am sorry not to be able to respond to the appeal of my hon. Friend (Mr. Chancellor) in the sense which he desires. I do not know what is his standard of fidelity—I am sure it is very high—but I am bound to say at once that I agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Haldane) that, having regard to our practice and procedure in such matters, this is not the class of measure the details of which ought to be left for discussion and settlement by a Committee upstairs. In what I am about to say I wish it to be clearly understood—it is not a question of fidelity at all—that I am speaking for myself. I do not profess in any way to represent even the views of my colleagues in the Cabinet or those of my hon. Friends who sit behind me. If I intervene at all, instead of adopting the much more convenient and comfortable course of recording a silent vote, it is simply because I think it would be almost a dereliction of duty if, after many years' experience and reflection, I was not prepared to offer to 245 the House such counsel on a matter of this kind as seems to me to be wise and just. We have heard a great deal about the "principle" of this measure. I am unable to discover—and as the Debate proceeds I am increasingly unable to discover—what is the principle which is supposed to have combined together those who promote and support it. It is called, I know, a "Conciliation Bill," and that phrase is apparently intended to convey to us that it is a Bill which has succeeded in uniting for the moment and for its own particular purposes all the various sections, carrying different flags and aiming at different goals, who are devoted to the cause of the political enfranchisement of women. The hon. Member (Mr. Shackleton) who is the Parliamentary father of the Bill, speaks of it in terms scarcely even of parental affection. He admits that it is a makeshift, an experiment, an instalment, even the thin end of the wedge, but he has no regard for it and no affection for it except as the first step upon a longer and steeper road which is to lead to adult suffrage without discrimination of sex. But my hon. Friend's most powerful supporters in the course of this Debate, I think, even on the opposite side of the House—I take even the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lyttelton) and the Noble Lord (Lord Hugh Cecil)—entirely repudiate this construction of their intentions, at any rate, in supporting and voting for the Bill. They both declared in the most explicit terms that nothing will induce them to go a step further in the direction of adult suffrage, and the Noble Lord shrinks in horror and trepidation from the first, the simplest, the most inevitable, logical application in passing a measure of this kind, namely, that the persons whom it enfranchises should be eligible for seats in this House. What, then, is the principle at stake? It is certainly not the political equality of women and men. That is not it. I have no doubt the hon. Member (Mr. Shackleton) says he is a supporter of that principle. Let him embody it in a measure, and I predict that he will not get the support of half the Gentlemen who are going to vote with him in the Lobby to-night. It is not a question of the political equality of men and women. On the contrary, the sole difference between them and some of us—whom my hon. Friend no doubt regards as even more reactionary—is at what particular point you are to draw the line of demarcation which is to recognise the political inequality of men and women. It is impossible, therefore, to pretend, having 246 regard both to the character of the Bill itself and to the kind of arguments which have been used to justify their support by some of those who are going to vote for it, that this is a Bill which in any true sense of the word lays down the principle of the political equality of the two sexes.
What its principle is I do not know. It is some principle not yet defined, which, in the opinion, at any rate, of a large number of those who profess it, has exhausted its practical application when, out of the millions and millions of women there are in this country, you have selected one million—it may be a little more or less—as the sole depositories and recipients of political rights, while you are incidentally excluding, by the very framework of your measure, from all share in the possibility of exercising political power or privilege in this country the great majority of the wives and the mothers of our countrymen. It seems to me impossible to practice conciliation at the expense both of logic and of common sense. Here, again, I am speaking entirely for myself. Those of us who object, not only to this, but to what I conceive to be the much more reasonable scheme for the partial or total enfranchisement of women, proceed upon the principle which, whether it is right or wrong, is certainly intelligible and capable of being stated in plain English. I believe, having regard to the social and political expediency of such a country and such an Empire as ours, it is better to maintain the distinction of sex which has always hitherto been treated as lying at the root of our Parliamentary system, and which has been, and is, recognised, with exceptions trivial in number and not in any way relevant in their circumstances, by all the great civilised nations of the world. I do not wish in the least degree to disparage the experiments which have been made by our own Dominions and Colonies. New Zealand and Australia are great fields of social and political experiment. No one who is acquainted with the circumstances of those countries, their vast areas, their sparse population, their social and economic conditions, separated by almost as great a distance as they are in point of geography from ourselves, can say that even had the experience been long enough, and the lessons taught by that experience been more generally agreed upon, they form any relevant guidance as to what is to take place here.
The principle which I have just endeavoured to enunciate involves no adverse 247 reflection whatsoever upon the intellectual capacity of women. We have to deal in politics not with individual cases, and not even with classes. We have to deal with causes and tendencies—physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual—operating and interacting on a large scale and over a wide field. It is quite impossible, in my judgment, to determine what will be the practical consequences, both to women as a sex and to this country as a State, of such a measure, or any measure of political enfranchisement, if you confine your attention to the intellectual capacity of this woman or that, or even of women as a whole. You have to look at much larger and wider considerations than those. You have to look to the functions which, by nature and by our social development, they as individuals and as a class are equipped to discharge in such a community as ours. Nor is the principle—in my judgment, at any rate, for reasons which I have pointed out at length some years ago, and which I will not repeat to-day at length—in any way inconsistent with the doctrines of democracy. Democracy wages war against artificial, and not against natural, discriminations. It is true—and I am glad it is true—that women have of late years been admitted, with good results, to occupations and spheres from which, in days gone by, they were excluded. No one would deny—I should be the last personally to deny—that there is a large field where mutual kinds of co-operative work may be carried out by men and women jointly, and in many parts of that field not only does sex not disqualify, but, on the contrary, it imparts special qualification to women in the pursuit of the duties specially appropriate to them. I will give one illustration which came within my own administrative experience. When I first went to the Home Office as Secretary of State, now nearly twenty years ago, I found that the inspection of factories and workshops was entirely confined to men. There are employed in these factories and workshops a vast number of women and girls, and it seemed to me irrational and almost grotesque that the administration of our sanitary laws and our protective laws in these factories and workshops, in so far as they affect the lives and health of women and girls, should be left to men, who cannot claim any special knowledge of their own regarding the particular care of women in such places. I therefore, and not without a good deal of perturbation and trepidation on the part of the officials 248 with whom I was surrounded at the Home Office, instituted a system of women inspectors which has since had a large development by my successors at the Home Office, and which has had the most beneficial results in the administration of our factory laws. That seems to me to be precisely the ground on which it may fairly be said in the light of rational experience that women are peculiarly qualified for the functions they were called upon to discharge, and with which in the public interest they should be invested.
These experiments do not, in my opinion, form any kind of ground for the proposals that we should invite, or even compel, women—for an invitation would really amount in the long run to compulsion—to come into constant competition and collision with men in the daily work of national and Imperial Government. It has been said, I know—I have heard the argument used more than once in the course of this Debate—that the absence of women from the roll of electors has led, and does lead, to a neglect of women's interests on the part of the Legislature of this country. I do not believe that that is a statement which is historically accurate. I challenge comparison of our Statute Book with any code of legislation in any part of the world in regard to the degree of protection and care which it gives, not only to the property of women and to the status of married women, but to the position of women workers. I do not think you will find women fenced round with the same number of legislative safeguards in other parts of the world. I will give an illustration, which is also a concrete fact. We had a very good illustration in the course of last Parliament. I think it was in the first Session of last Parliament that the then Home Secretary introduced a Bill which involved a large extension to new classes of workers of the Workmen's Compensation Act. That Bill did not include domestic servants as originally presented to the House, and an Amendment to include them was resisted in the first instance by the Home Secretary, but such was the pressure from all quarters of the House that these women, as the vast majority of domestic servants are, should not be excluded from the protection of the law that my right hon. Friend had to yield, and he yielded very gladly, to that pressure. That was solely in consequence of the insistence of a Parliament elected by men. These are facts, and I do not think 249 that anyone who has followed the course of our legislation will deny my general assertion that there is no country in the world where the interests of women are so zealously safeguarded and so sedulously respected by the Legislature as they are in this country.
I do not base my objections, such as they are, to this extension of the suffrage on any abstract theory or on any supposed code of natural rights. My objections are based on knowledge of the inevitable tendencies of human nature which seem to me to involve consequences both to the sex and to the State—consequences injurious to the real interests, as I shall endeavour to show in a moment, of the one, and not without peril to the stability of the other. I shall not go over the ground which was covered in the able speech of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Smith), who moved the rejection of the Bill. I will content myself with two illustrations, and two only, of what I mean by that proposition. I will first ask this question: If you extend the suffrage to the other sex, with whom will the ultimate political control of this country rest? Of course, in answering that question I look far beyond the scope of this half-hearted and unstable compromise. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe that if once this step is taken, it does not afford a logical halting place. You must go farther. You must go at least as far as you are prepared to go in the case of men. For my part I should not regard any measure of woman suffrage as satisfying my conception of equality which did not confer the suffrage on women on precisely the same grounds as, for the time being, it is enjoyed by men. I cannot imagine a position more unreasonable, illogical, and inconsistent than that of the Noble Lord the Member for the University of Oxford (Lord Hugh Cecil). He is in favour of this Bill, and he says that after all it is quite a ladylike thing to go into a polling booth and put a cross on a voting paper as if that exhausted the whole matter. And yet when the Noble Lord is confronted, first of all with the prospect of adult suffrage, he begins to tremble and shiver, and when confronted with the inevitable and logical conclusion that if a woman is a voter, she must be eligible to be voted for; and if eligible to be voted for, she must be entitled to sit in this House if she is returned by a constituency; if she is entitled to sit in this House, she cannot he debarred from being placed in your Chair; and if she is 250 fortunate enough to command the fidelity of those who sit behind, she may sit on this bench. If you grant the suffrage to women, all these things must follow, and ought to follow. I do not shrink from these conclusions in the least. I think they are inevitable. What I cannot understand is the position of the Noble Lord, who says that nothing will ever induee him to sit in a House where women have seats. The moment he is exposed to the full glare of such a logical consequence he is to retire at once to the most sequestered nook of the camp of conciliation. Let there at any rate be no misapprehension as to what we are doing. In the long run, if you grant the franchise to women, you will have to grant it on the widest possible basis, and with all the consequences to which I have referred, and the result will be that you will have in this country, as at present constituted and as its population is likely to be constituted for a long time to come, a very distinct majority of women voters. I am not so foolish as to suppose that we are likely to see all women voting in one camp and all men in another. Nor is that a point which any sensible controversialist is disposed to make, but what you will see, or may see, is that on some particular issues, and in particular constituencies, and in reference to particular controversies, the male vote will be dominated and overborne by the female vote. That is a state of things which is very likely to happen.
It appears to me that you are exposed to one or two dangers, or rather let me say, one or two undesirable contingencies. The first is that you may have a decision taken by the electorate which will not be regarded by the nation, the Empire, or the world at large, as decisions of the electorate now are, as having behind it the requisite moral and physical authority. That is one contingency. The other which I would deprecate almost even more, is that you would have what is not without parallel in other parts of the world, namely, a nominal and paper majority—of all political fabrics the most fragile and insecure—which exists only so long as it has the tolerance of the minority. In my view, and I think it will be the view of a great many Gentlemen in all quarters of the House who have observed political developments carefully, one of the great dangers of democratic Government is what I, for want of a better phrase, will call intermittency of interests. That is to say, you have waves of enthusiasm and of 251 movement which for the time seem to sweep everything before them. A particular cause, or a particular controversy, excites almost passionate interest among thousands or millions of people, and that is followed, or is very apt to be followed, as a wave is by the trough, by a period in which there is lassitude and indifference. In my opinion you will introduce what the Home Secretary a few moments ago so well described as this fluid and mobile element in your electorate, for everybody who knows the facts knows that in the long run, if you are going to introduce that fluid and mobile element in the electorate, you will enormously increase the danger of having fitfulness and capricious movement followed by intervals of indifference. What you want is something like continuity and concentration of interests, and anything which tends to impair that continuity or disturb that concentration appears to me so far and pro tanto to cause the Parliamentary machine to be a less perfect instrument for the expression of the wishes of the nation.
We are dealing here. not with the general controversy so much as with the merits of this particular Bill. I ventured to say a year ago, when I was approached by some of the supporters of this movement, that I did not think any measure of woman enfranchisement would commend itself to the House of Commons or the country unless it satisfied two conditions. In the first place, there should be the fullest and clearest proof that it was in accordance with the wishes and desires of the women themselves, and, in the second place, it must be democratic in its character and scope. Neither of those propositions is satisfied by the measure now before us.
What evidence is there that ought to influence the judgment of a tribunal such as this House that this measure is desired by the majority of the women, or by the majority of the electorate? We can all recall the circumstances of a very few months ago of the General Election of last January. Is there a man sitting on these benches in any quarter of the House who will tell me that woman suffrage was a question which influenced his return? I do not think there is a single man here who would say it did: And why? I do not want to press, I never have pressed, the doctrine of mandate, as it is called, to its extreme, and it seems to me sometimes its extravagant, conclusion. I quite agree 252 that the majority for the time being are entitled, and are clothed with constitutional power, to alter the laws, and, if they please, the fundamental institutions of this country. But when you are trying to answer the question as to whether a particular measure is desired or not desired by the people, you are bound to go back to the circumstances of the election. As everybody knows, the circumstances of the last election were such that what with the constitutional controversy about the House of Lords, the financial controversy as to the merits of the Budget, the fiscal controversy as between Tariff Reform and Free Trade, woman suffrage played an insignificant part. It was not only not a predominant but it was not a prominent, it was not even a subordinate, issue at the General Election. What House of Commons without pressing the doctrine of mandate too far has any moral authority to make a vast change like this in the Constitution of the country by adding a million of votes to the electorate without its being proved to demonstration that it has in making such change the support or, at least, the sanction of the electors? Look back upon our previous reforms in the franchise. Everyone of them has been the result, often the tardily attained result, of years of agitation. Lord Derby described the passing of the Reform Act of 1867, which gave the household suffrage to towns as a leap in the dark, and no doubt that Bill did undergo a most marvellous transformation in the course of its progress through the Houses of Parliament. But even then the question of suffrage—household suffrage—had been the dominating issue at elections, and had been the dividing line between the two great political parties of the State for years before that measure passed into law. But here you are taking a leap in the dark without any of those precedent conditions which alone justify a responsible Legislature such as this in making a great change in the very constitution of the body by which it is elected. So much for that point.
The second condition, it apears to me, is equally ill-satisfied by this measure. Is it a democratic measure? My hon. Friend who has just sat down said it was democratic because it adds 1,000,000 people to the electorate. That is not my notion. By democratic I understand a measure which does not create but removes distinctions—a measure which, in granting new political rights, grants them upon 253 some intelligible principle of equality as between the different classes of claimants. I do not understand by "democratic measure" a measure such as this, which, as has been pointed out with admirable and unanswerable force by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (Mr. Churchill), is really a measure which in its personal application would enable an enormous number of new qualifications to be manufactured by well-to-do people, and, as I believe, would enable them to adulterate the constituencies of the country. It is really no answer to say, as I think was said a few moments ago, that it is already in force for municipal purposes. That does not deal with the case at all. That register is in force for municipal purposes, but when you add it to the Parliamentary register the man who has got property may at once transfer his property qualifications to his wife and daughters, and may multiply votes to a very considerable extent if he holds a sufficient amount of property, and if he divides his property. It is no answer to say that this thing works well when the conditions are totally different. What the Leaders of the Labour party who are responsible for this Bill are really doing is in the name of democracy to introduce into the electoral roll of this country a number of property voters, a number of persons who are possessed, so far as I understand, of no special claim of any sort or kind to be distinguished from their fellow-women, and at the same time, as has been pointed out over and over again in the course of this Debate, they are deliberately leaving off the electorate that class of woman who would be entitled to be on it, who are best fitted by the circumstances of their lives and by the functions which they have performed to exercise political rights, the wives of our citizens and the mothers of our children.
It is a travesty of democratic institutions to have a measure such as this that does not satisfy the most rudimentary requirements of democratic ideas. I very much regret on this occasion to be at variance with many of my Friends, but on this latter point I was glad to see that a very large number of those who are entirely in favour of the enfranchisement of women agree with me. The Division which is going to be taken here to-night cannot be regarded as a Division upon a clear issue as to whether or not there is to be political equality between the sexes. I will add one word, and it is with very great regret: Some of us who have the 254 courage of our convictions are told that our votes against this measure, if we do vote against it, will expose us to considerable peril, and the threat is held out of a life of persecution and perhaps something worse. Well, I am very sorry that such language should be used. I do not believe it will affect a single vote. The House of Commons would indeed be unworthy of its traditions and false to its duties and treacherous to the country if there is a man in it who is capable of allowing his vote to be influenced for a moment by such threats. It has been expressed on the very highest authority that all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. I venture to say, and say with all sincerity and earnestness to the promoters of this movement, high-minded chivalrous men and women as I know the great bulk of them to be, that the cause which cannot win its way to public acceptance by persuasion, argument, organisation, and by the peaceful methods of agitation is a cause which has already in advance pronounced upon itself its own sentence of death.
There was much in the Prime Minister's speech from which I dissent. There was much in his speech on which I may have to comment before I sit down. But before coming to these controversial matters, let me state clearly and emphatically that I am wholly at one with him in the closing sentences of his speech. I have always regarded with pain, and with the strongest moral disapprobation, the violent methods which have been adopted in this controversy, although I know, as the Prime Minister himself has stated, they have been often adopted by persons with motives as high, I believe, and as pure as the Prime Minister's or my own in this matter. But that in justice being admitted, I still think, as I have always thought, that in the long run, though momentary appearances may be to the contrary, the adoption of these methods will be ruinous to the cause in which they are adopted. I do not suppose it is necessary for me to make that statement, and yet I could not well leave the statement of the Prime Minister, following on him immediately myself, without saying that in that regard at least he and I are entirely at one. I do not suppose there has ever been a Debate in this House conducted under such unique circumstances as the one in which we are now engaged. We have had from that bench strong support on general grounds 255 of the claims of women, and strong support not only of the general proposition, but of the particular application of that proposition which is contained in this Bill. We have had it from the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Haldane). We have had it on this side of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Lyttelton), has made an eloquent appeal in the same direction. On the other hand, there is my right hon. Friend the Member for the Strand (Mr. Walter Long), who has already spoken against this, and my right hon. Friend near me, the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), will speak later in the same sense. Therefore the two Front Benches are absolutely divided, and so are these benches behind them. The division, at all events, that has been exhibited by speeches on the other Front Bench is not merely a division between those who, speaking generally, are in favour of some concession to women's claims, and those who, on the other hand, like the Prime Minister, lay down sex as an absolute bar to the larger class of political rights. There is not merely that division on that Front Bench, but there is the further division between those who desire to do something in the direction of what is called enfranchisement of women, but who think that that something ought not to be done by this Bill, and those on the other hand who think that it ought to be done by this Bill. The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Churchill) made a speech earlier in the evening in which I understood he expressed his willingness to approve of adult suffrage, male and female, or of something short of adult suffrage in the shape of various fancy franchises so arranged that every class in the community would have some kind of proportionate representation. He expressed his readiness to accept that principle. But on the other hand nothing will induce them to accept this Bill; and if rumour speaks truly not dissimilar views are held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am not going to discuss the details of this Bill. The Secretary of State for War said it would have a strong Unionist effect, and that it would greatly strengthen the representation of those who sit on this side of the House, and pro tanto weaken those on the opposite side, It may be so; at all events, that is the 256 view of the Home Secretary. That being so, I really do not think that the right hon. Gentleman need have ended his speech by putting his hand on his heart and telling us that he really had expressed all his convictions upon this difficult and delicate question, and that we must not believe he was animated by other than sincere motives in the vote he is going to give. I would believe the word of the right hon. Gentleman on far more difficult matters than that. His speech, to put it shortly, was this: "You ought to enfranchise women, but you ought not to enfranchise them in a Bill which would add to the Unionist minority or increase the Unionist power." I quite believe that is the right hon. Gentleman's opinion. No protests are necessary to induce me to believe that he was speaking out of the depths and sincerity of his soul when he gave that assurance. I really do not know how he is to reconcile, except on that simple party ground, the principles enunciated in his speech with the vote he proposes to give. There is no use in manipulating the word "democracy" and turning it round and round when we all know exactly why it is used. It is used in order to enable hon. Gentlemen opposite, who willingly or unwillingly have allowed themselves to become inconveniently pledged to women suffrage, to get out of those pledges on some broad ground. I, like the Prime Minister, would prefer to have given a silent vote to-night. It is never very tempting to speak in a cause in which you differ from so many of those who are in daily, constant, and most intimate relation and agreement on all great political questions. That is not very agreeable, but I am in even a worse position than that, because, hardened speaker as I am, it is not a pleasant reflection in what I am going to say I do not think I will please anybody. I know, of course, I shall not please my Friends who differ from me on certain very important issues connected with the status of women. I am afraid that my advocacy of their cause will be very far from being satisfactory to the more ardent spirits of those who support the movement to further women's enfranchisement. There are some arguments used in favour of the Bill upon which I must express my own personal view. I am one of those who do not believe that the enfranchisement of women will have any important effect upon their material well-being. I cannot honestly say that I believe it will raise their wages. 257 I cannot honestly say that in my judgment it will initiate schemes of social reform which will take a different, complexion, and be cast in a different shape, if women have the vote, from what they would be cast in if women had not the vote. I do not believe that is so. I believe in what the Prime Minister and others have said in that respect.
I am one of those who are extremely sceptical about the effect of lowering the franchise on what is called social reform. Some effect, I daresay, it has, and perhaps not always a good effect. I do not believe that the movement of social reform, which has characterised our legislation for the last seventy years or thereabouts, is due to changes in the franchise which have occurred in that time or before. The trade unions were already called into existence, before the first Reform Bill of 1832, under Lord Liverpool's Administration in 1824. The great series of Factory Acts dealing with the condition of our working classes, all that boon of social reform, came in long before you extended the franchise to the workmen in our great towns. It was initiated again by the Tory party, because at that time the Liberal party had got itself entangled in the extreme situation of the utilitarian school, which has become since then the common property of both parties. I do not believe that it had that close and intimate relation with franchise alterations which it is fashionable to say. If you want some proof of it, consider what has gone on at the same time in other nations. Consider the great bureacratic reforms in Germany at a time when Germany had an Absolutist Government, and Germany even now is not a fully democratised State. Consider at the same time that you have the franchise in its broadest form in America. Nobody, I think, will say that America has been in advance either of this country or of Germany in its desire or its success in pushing on these schemes of social reform. I do not wish to dwell too much upon that point. I do not believe that the extension of the franchise to women will, broadly speaking, have any effect whatever for good or for evil upon the legislation which this House passes. There is another point on which I do not quite agree with my Friends. I should find my whole attitude on this question altered if I thought the majority of women were against the extension of the franchise. My Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil), who 258 made a very amusing, very able, and important speech last night, said the fact that a great many women did not want it was in his view irrelevant, because a great many women did want it. He said: "Let the women who want it use it, and the women who do not want it abstain from using it." I cannot quite agree with him in that. I never heard of a great class excluded from the franchise being included unless that class itself desired it. I do not say every member of that class, but I do say the class speaking of it as a whole; and if it be the fact, as some assert, though I take leave to doubt it, that women do not want it, then, although some may ardently desire it, I think they themselves ought to be the first to recognise that they are not the spokesmen of a downtrodden class of our fellow citizens. They cannot claim to be preaching the redress of wrongs extended to half the human race when that half of the human race do not want those wrongs redressed. However, that is rather a question of fact.
After all, what is the reason why I desire to see women included? It is not any of the abstracts grounds which used to figure in Debates in this House, and which figure even now in the written constitution of many countries. It is not any view of the equality of the sexes, nor any view that every adult citizen, irrespective of sex, has the same rights and that to withold those rights is an act of injustice. That appears to me to be not merely metaphysics, but. extremely bad metaphysics, and certainly I should never adopt it as the principle on which I should recommend the House to give women, or any class of women, the power to vote. My principle is much less precise; it is much less capable of accurate and clean statement, and it is on that account, I venture to say, that it is much more near to the realities of political wisdom. My view is that a democracy, properly understood, is government by consent, broadly speaking. The idea that you can give to every citizen in this country of a given age exactly the same weight in the councils of the Empire, or that if you did give them precisely and exactly the same weight, that we should get on better than now, seems to me to be rather visionary; but I do think that whenever you get to the point that a class feels itself as a class excluded, and outraged by being excluded, then those who believe that democracy, properly understood, is the only possible government for any nation at the stage of political evolution which we have reached, 259 must consider whether it is not his business to try to see whether the government which is by hypothesis not a government by consent, can be turned into government by consent. I do not speak of the whole class of women, because it is hard to know exactly what their views are, but I think everybody must feel that the number of ardent spirits who are doing admirable work—I am not talking of the militant section—in public life at this moment, and who think they ought to have the same rights as are given to every male occupier, is a large and growing number which cannot and ought not to be ignored, and a number which, so long as you ignore it, will prevent your being able to say with any truth that our government is government by consent. Do not answer me by saying, "How loose is the phrase 'government by consent.' How are you going to define it? How are you going to put it in an Act of Parliament? You cannot define it; you cannot put it in an Act of Parliament; you cannot put it into any neat fromula." Is it on that account worse suited to deal with conditions so complex and so difficult as those of our modern civilisation? Are we not sufficient of statesmen to refuse to reject a system because we cannot clean cut every frontier of our case, and be able to say, with perfect precision, this instance falls outside our rubric and that instance falls within? Therefore, my ground, broadly speaking, is not a ground of right, and I refuse to be frightened by all these arguments used by the Prime Minister, that if you once admit a right you do not know where it will end. I do not admit the right, but I do say that when women have begun, or any large and important section of women have begun, to feel that they suffer under hereditary disability, it is your business to consider the situation, and to see if you cannot remedy their grievance.
Remember that in former times there was no grievance. I think very often women were abominally treated in that the laws were atrocious and in that the conduct of affairs was worthy of the laws; but I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Belloc) that probably, taking all in all, women have had their way pretty well, whatever the laws were, or whatever the Constitution was. But there was, without those things being too carefully formulated, a perfectly well understood division 260 of work between the two sexes. It was the business of the man to fight, it was the business of the woman to look after the children and the household; it was the business of the man to earn the living of the family, it was the business of the woman to see that what the man earned was spent economically and that the family lived on it. As long as that division of labour was an accepted fact there was no grievance. It is no longer an accepted fact; it is no longer an accepted fact because society has undergone a great change which it is folly for us to try to ignore. It has undergone great changes in many respects connected with this problem, but I will only mention two. The number of women who now have to earn their own livelihood has enormously increased. They are now in the position that they have no family to depend upon, they are in a position, so to speak, of social isolation. The other new circumstance is one which has been often referred to in this Debate, and that is that at our invitation women of all classes are being dragged into politics. On our invitation they are taking an active part, and it is extremely difficult to say to people whom we ask to do all the hard intellectual work of politics: "Thus far shalt thou go and no further. The last proof of your fitness we will not give you. You may canvass for us, you may speak for us, you may sing for us, you may get your husband in; but you must not vote, you cannot put a cross after his name. That is a thing you must not do. It is beyond your competence. You are a woman."
That is not an easy proposition to defend. When the Prime Minister comes down and deliberately puts his objection to this Bill upon grounds of sex, and sex alone, that is the position he has got to defend. I quite admit we are practical men, or ought to be practical men, and that we must look at these things as far as we can in a practical way. What are the dangers which are supposed to be associated with this change? We are told by some that women are incapable of rising to the height of all those considerations which influence Imperial politics; they are good enough to manage New Zealand, but they cannot manage or help to manage the Empire; they are good enough in this country to look after our municipal affairs, but they are not good enough to manage our national affairs; they may have a vote for dealing with the police, but they must not have a vote for dealing with the Army—rather a subtle 261 distinction. I venture to say that there is not the slightest ground for thinking that at all events the women enfranchised by this Bill would be less competent to deal with those great Imperial questions than any other class of the voting population. Then, Sir, it is said, that there would be a sex division and great danger in the future that the political community will be so divided upon important questions that men will be ranged not wholly but largely on one side, and that women will be ranged not wholly but largely on the other. I do not wish to put it too high, but I understand that is the argument. Nobody has alleged that all the men will be on one side, and that all the women will be on other, but what has been most distinctly alleged is that there will be great political issues decided against the will of the men by the preponderating numbers of women.
I do not know that that is wholly consistent with the view of the Home Secretary, which is that men who have got qualifications will certainly multiply them and give them to women who are going to range themselves, by hypothesis, on the other side of politics. Quite apart from that, I ask anybody to consider whether these dreadful contingencies are likely to occur. For the life of me I cannot imagine, and as far as my own personal experience goes I have never found, women differing from men as women upon this class of question. Never. Sometimes they have given very intelligent grounds for their opinion, and sometimes very stupid grounds, and men are much the same. But has anybody gone about amongst his friends and found that all the wives took one line and all the husbands the other, or that there was anything corresponding to the sex division with which we are threatened? It has never happened, and I do not think it ever will happen, but if there is a danger of it——
I will come to that, but, after all, underlying this Debate, I say, there is not, and never can be, that broad division. But if there is, and if the men are in danger from the women, then let us keep them down. Orientalise the whole structure and put them under lock and key. Use your physical strength not merely to prevent any vote or franchise like this, but to prevent women having that influence from which you anticipate 262 such disastrous consequences. I myself do not anticipate the danger, and therefore do not suggest the remedy. Those who do should surely be wise in time, and should do their best not merely to prevent women having this power of putting a cross opposite the candidate's name, but also to see that they go back to their domestic work, that they do not meddle with things they cannot understand, that they leave all the big issues of life to men, and that they must content themselves with managing their households, including the men, as best they can. May I at this point say one word with regard to the lessons of experience? I perfectly agree with my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. F. E. Smith), who made so admirable a speech yesterday on the other side of the question, that we cannot press this argument from our Colonies or from small countries like Norway and Finland too far. I am altogether of that opinion. But I think we can learn something from New Zealand and Australia. I confess I was rather surprised at my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. S. H. Butcher) in his excellent speech, which he finished this afternoon, he told us last night of all the dire consequences that had happened in Finland. He told us of no dire consequences that happened in New Zealand. I would ask whether it is not the fact that in the first place there has been no attempt, or, at any rate, no successful attempt, for New Zealand women to sit in the New Zealand Legislature? In the second place, whether it is not the fact that there has been no beginning of the appearance of any sex division in matters legislative? And I would ask, in the third place, whether there is any part of the British Empire in which the flame of patriotism burns with steadier lustre, or where the population are more ready to make all these sacrifices to the Imperial cause, which undoubtedly that cause deserves but which it does not obtain always, in the same ungrudging spirit with which New Zealand has given it? I do not wish to put too much stress upon that, but may it not be some anodyne and some soothing argument to the anxious fears of some as to the effects of this Bill?
The Home Secretary interrupted me quite courteously just now with regard to married women, and I observe that the fact that in the main, though not particularly, married women are excluded from the franchise of this Bill has played a very large part in the Debate. The argument 263 took this form in the Prime Minister's speech, and in another very able speech I heard yesterday from the other side of the House by the hon. Member for Salford: "Why, if you must have women you ought to have the best women, you ought to have the most experienced women, you ought to have the women on whom has fallen the heat and burden of what is most characteristic of women's work and women's sphere." "What are you to say to a Bill"—so runs the argument—"that enfranchises those who are not married and leaves unenfranchised those who are married?" That there is some force in that observation I do not deny, but that it has the force the persons who used it imagined I do most emphatically deny. Remember that our social unit is the family. It is the family, even though the wife is the breadwinner, and in most working-classs families still the wife is not the breadwinner. In all cases the family is and ought to remain the unit. Our legislation has so appointed it, our legislation admits and acknowledges it, and if it gives to the head of the family privileges which other members do not possess, there is on the head of the family responsibilities and burdens which other members of the family do not have. He is responsible for the financial results of any misdemeanour his wife may be guilty of. He is pledged to provide her with a living and so forth. Now, if that is so, let the House observe that the argument, which I never thought as an argument very sound, is far more complete in the case of the family than in the case of the solitary breadwinners, who have nobody to depend upon, who under your present legislation do not belong to this unit of the family, and are not represented by the husband or the breadwinner, but depend on themselves and on themselves alone. You may say, if you like, that the bread-winner or the male head of the family is not sufficiently representative of the family. I do not think there is any great feeling in that respect. But what are you to say of the political position in which you leave the solitary woman bread-winner? She has no vote; there is no man on whom she legally has a claim; there is no man pointed out either by law or by custom who can represent her in the councils of the community. It seems to me that of all the classes of women who require the franchise, it is not the married woman who wants it, but the 264 woman whom this Bill will enfranchise. That is my reply to the Home Secretary and others who have used that argument.
When you analyse the arguments against this Bill, what do they all come to? They say that if you grant this Bill it will logically drive you to this or that other step of which you disapprove. In the earlier part of the Prime Minister's speech, when he was dealing, not with the narrower issues of this particular measure, but with the broad question of sex, the word "logic" appeared in every other sentence. If you do this you will be driven to that; if you admit that, you will be logically driven a step further. He derided my Noble Friend (Lord H. Cecil) because he had suggested that you could pass this Bill without being logically driven either now or at any future time to permit the intrusion of women into this House. I think my Noble Friend is absolutely right. I see no logic in saying that you cannot remove this particular difficulty without doing something else which, as my Noble Friend pointed out, will profoundly modify—as he thinks, and as I think, for the worse—the constitution of this Assembly. I do not believe we should be made more useful by the introduction of women among our number; I suppose it is arguable whether we should be made more ornamental. But why you should be driven to that conclusion from the premise on which, as I have explained, I base the vote I am going to give to-night, I see no logical reason at all. You might as well say that it is the logical conclusion, because women now have a vote in the management of the police, therefore you ought to introduce women into the police force. It is true women have a position in municipal affairs. They may not have a position on the watch committee, but nobody will say that the watch committee is wholly independent of the rest of the municipal organisation. It is a separate body, but it is organically connected with the whole.
I do not wish to press that too far. My point is that the House of Commons is an entity with a long continuous history and traditions of its own, and it has a right to see that those traditions are continued. I believe the country would support it in maintaining those traditions. I believe the country would agree unanimously, or almost unanimously, with those who say that the admission of women to our deliberations would entirely alter the character of those deliberations. Therefore why 265 should we grant something which will do harm merely as a consequence of granting something else which you think will do good? This is altogether a misuse of the word "logic," which I deeply resent. I do not think it represents the facts; I do not think it represents the theory; I do not think it represents anything but a misuse of language. May I give an example to show that even where logic does or might come in it does not produce these disastrous consequences? We have never admitted—at any rate, I have never admitted—that all this controversy is based upon rights. The word "rights" does not come into our Constitution. But there are two great nations into whose constitution it does come, namely, America and France. Their constitutions declare formally that all men are equal; but neither country, I think, is bold enough to say that when it says "man" it includes "woman." They are the two countries where we are told woman makes the least progress. The very countries which lay down these abstract principles of equality are the very countries who do not drive those principles to what may truly be called their logical conclusion. How can we who have laid down no such principles be driven to this logical conclusion? I do not think we shall be. I do not believe that either the country or the House or the constituencies will ever desire to see introduced into our numbers any member of the opposite sex. I am quite unable to see how either the logic of facts or the logic of deductive argument is ever going to drive us out of the position which in that respect we occupy.
Therefore I end my speech with an appeal in the exact contrary sense to that of the Prime Minister. He seems to think that sex is an absolute bar not to politics, but to the exercise of one particular kind of political function. If he said that we ought to keep women out of politics, I could understand it; but he does not say that. He says they may canvass, but they must not vote; he says they may speak, but they must not vote; he says "urge them to agitate," but they must not vote. They may do everything connected with the active political life of a country in which political life glows in every section of society—they may do everything in connection with that life except the single formal operation of putting a cross after the name of a candidate. Talk of logic, Is that logic? Talk of the bar of sex, Is that where you wish to draw the distinction between the duties of the sexes? Talk 266 of any change of this sort being injurious to the future of women as women; if the future of women as women is injured by their being mixed up in political life, their cause is lost already. They are mixed up with it; they are daily more and more mixed up with it. You who oppose this Bill are yourselves urging them to mix themselves up with it. In these circumstances you cannot complain if they feel that by this exclusion under the existing law there is a hereditary slur put upon their sex. That is a policy which might have been justifiable, and I think was justifiable, in times gone by, but with the development of political instincts, political institutions, and political discussions, it is tolerable no longer.
§ Mr. ARNOLD WARD
The Secretary of State for War, when replying to the onslaught of the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith), said that his arguments were all very well for the early Victorian epoch, but that new facts had come to light which made those arguments out of date. The new facts which the right hon. Gentleman adduced were the rise of great bodies of women engaged in political work, such as the Women's Liberal Federation and the women Tariff Reformers, and, on the Imperial side, the Victoria League. What do these facts prove more than this—that when women associate themselves together to take an indirect, auxiliary, and consultative part in politics, they are admirably fitted to discharge the duty which they undertake? What the right hon. Gentleman did not say was that the same period had witnessed also the rise of societies, such as the Women's Social and Political Union, the Women's Freedom League, and other large and powerful societies drawn from the same classes as those societies to which he referred, and composed of women who in private life are exactly the same as the women Liberals and Tariff Reformers, but which societies are engaged in agitation for direct participation in the vote, and acting in the course of that agitation in an entirely different way from the way in which they act when advocating Liberalism or Tariff Reform. It seems to me that the hysterical action which has characterised their agitation for the vote will remain inherent in their political activities after they have secured it. Why did they commit militant acts? Why did they run through the whole gamut of excesses? Because they believed quite honestly 267 that not to have the vote was an intolerable injustice. Does anybody think that after they have obtained the vote, even after they have obtained everything which they could possibly desire in the way of political rights, there will not still be left in their view intolerable political injustices? It seems to me that they will act in precisely the same manner to obtain any other political object, whether it be the diminution of public-houses, or Free Trade, or Protection, and that you are proposing, by taking this departure, to incorporate that hysterical activity permanently in the life of the nation.
The right hon. Gentleman also lent his great authority to the theory that the vote would help women to improve their own material positions. I believe he is entirely right with regard to some classes of women. I do not believe that women in private employment any more than men in private employment can possibly obtain any material advancement by the exercise of the vote. But women in public employment, in the service of the State, undoubtedly would gain so far as their private interests were concerned by the possession of the vote. If a post-mistress or a telephone operator in my Constituency were to ask me, "Do you think I should gain by the vote?" I should say "Yes, certainly." Postmen have gained by having the power—and they are quite right in exercising it—of putting pressure upon Members of Parliament who control their employment. I should go on to say that I should regard it as a great public misfortune, in the first place, that postmen have this power, and, secondly, that under this Bill you are going to double the extent of that public misfortune to enable women also to apply the same pressure as the men. There is one point in our present situation to-night which powerfully illustrated the indirect influence of women in politics at the present day. I do not know whether it is indiscreet to mention it, but in the course of making inquiries among a great many Members as to their attitude upon this question I find nothing more striking than the number of instances in which, I will not say the opinion, but the course of action, of a given Member is being influenced—wisely and legitimately influenced—by some particular individual woman. Innumerable unseen women will guard the entrance to those Division Lobbies to-night, and will be voting through us. It is now proposed, in addi- 268 tion, that they should have votes for themselves, thus practically having two votes, while we have none at all. Lastly, the composition of the two forces which are going to oppose each other in the Lobby is really of an extraordinary character. So far as I can gather from this Debate all the suffragist forces in the House are composed exclusively of party politicians. There is hardly one who does not feel gravely anxious as to the immediate contents of this Bill or as to its ulterior effect and offspring. With regard to its immediate contents I think it is not disputed; I think everybody, whether Unionist or Liberal, admits that this Bill will confer a great advantage upon the Unionist party. I have not met anyone who does not think that its first substantial practical consequence is to make it an absolute certainty that our party will win the next General Election. It does seem to me that the fact that there is a majority in each party going in voting against this Bill to vote against the immediate interests of their own party, goes a long way to show that there is some courage left even in Members of Parliament. Liberals and Conservatives feel some anxiety with regard to the subsequent instalments which the Mover of this Bill has so frankly demanded. Liberals, on the one hand, are unsettled and nervous about the foreground, and, on the other hand, Conservatives are nervous and unsettled about the background. These supporters will go into the Lobby to-night to their last victory, or it may even be to their first disaster. But there is no one of them but what is profoundly apprehensive as to the effect of the development of this policy on every political cause which he holds most dear. We, on the other hand, while we acknowledge that we shall meet with no inconsiderable help from suffragists who do not regard this Bill as conferring fair representation, yet our main body, while not divided into this or that kind of anti-suffrage party, as a body of men are absolutely opposed to giving any kind of Parliamentary vote to any kind of woman. We asknowledge the enormous help and support received from that devoted band of women who have emerged in order to retire; are agitating against the cause of feminine agitation; and purchasing by the garrulities of the day the silence of a lifetime. We feel, Sir, that we can rely upon the rising tide of popular opposition to this measure, and to the principle that is enshrined, which will support us in affirming our belief that 269 the responsibility of Government belongs to man alone, and that it will be cowardly and unmanly to lay it down.
§ Mr. KETTLE
The hon. Member who has just sat down will not, I hope, accuse me of discourtesy when I say that he has proved himself to be a good son. In the intellectual eminence of Mrs. Humphrey Ward I myself find one of the chief arguments in favour of this Bill and of the cause of woman suffrage. I am sorry that I cannot enter whole-heartedly into the peroration of the Prime Minister. I rather fear it is not historically accurate to say that the conception of political freedom so far as it exists in this country has come about by the peaceful pressure of agitation. There is a small brass plate in Westminster Hall, which Members no doubt have seen, which, on an occasion when there there was a conflict between the Crown and the Constitution, records the peaceful method by which that question was settled! The Prime Minister said it has been a noble tradition of this House always to listen to justice and never to listen to violence. I cannot but regard it—we cannot but regard it—as an unhappy coincidence that the passage of one of the most important Franchise Bills should have been accompanied by the pulling down of the railings in Hyde Park. I do agree with the Prime Minister that violence is to be deprecated. The charge I have to make against the Prime Minister is this, that, being confronted in the country with a state of feeling which practically amounts to a dormant revolution, he has not, by his attitude, endeavoured to meet the demand which lies behind that wave of feeling to give some hope that this cause, which is held so much at heart by these vast organisations of women, shall come to success. Having said that constitutional freedom has, happily, not been won in these countries by foolish methods, I hope we have now come to better days and that argument and agitation will prevail. But in the interests of historical accuracy I think it is, perhaps, permissible at this moment to recall a two-line description of the fashion in which freedom has been obtained according to Mr. Rudyard Kipling, formerly a poet, and now a contributor to the "Daily Telegraph." I remember very well in the Boer War agitation, which gave such a magnificent opportunity to masses of the masculine voters in this country to show their absolute freedom from hysteria, their self- 270 restraint, their dignity, and their intellectual balance, I remember a poem published in the "Daily Telegraph," in which Mr. Kipling—and I suppose he is one that will carry weight—put forth in high sounding periods the methods by which that freedom has been obtained:Axe and torch and tumult, steel and gray-goose wing, Wrung it inch and ell, and all slowly front the King.I say I hope we have arrived at better days, but I very much fear, whatever our personal views and our personal desires may be, that the attitude of the Government has not conduced to a peaceful settlement of this question. Having retreated from what I think is the standpoint of Liberalism, they have endeavoured to shelter their retreat under the covering batteries of democratic principle. The Home Secretary, I think, has taken the wrong turning. He has ceased to be a reformer. He is now on the point of becoming a mere statesman. The definition of a statesman which I have in my mind is a man who devotes himself with such strict impartiality to hearing both sides of the question that he ends by voting on the wrong side. The Leader of the Opposition is anxious to find a principle upon which the cause of woman suffrage can be based. Well, where he fails to find a formula it would certainly be impertinence for me to supply the lack. But I support the cause of woman suffrage on the very simple ground that a woman living in an organised State, and accepting the life of the organised State, should have a vote, otherwise she is an alien, an inferior, an outlaw! That is a grievance—perhaps not of a material kind. I agree that on the whole women have had fair treatment in matters of labour legislation, but what women who have come to the stage of political self-consciousness feel—and it is a feeling which anyone called an Irishman and representing an Irish constituency naturally feels sympathy with is that that state of things is a sort of political and spiritual bondage. They are in the State. They fulfil the duties of the State. They pay taxes. They obey the laws or they break the laws, as the case may be. When it comes to the point of obtaining the vote, which is the symbol and weapon of political equality, the chivalry and justice of men is to object to it, for women, no matter how able they may be in administration, no matter how weighty may be their knowledge of special questions, no matter how well-balanced may be their judgment, no matter how many valuable reforms they 271 may have to carry into legislation, they are denied this power, solely as women, from participating in political life. That is the essential grievance. It does not matter, it is no answer whatever, to say that they have not suffered materially. You may have a slave well-fed and kindly treated. Does that make him less a slave? Does it to anyone to whose mind has come the consciousness of what freedom means? Does it meet the needs of the case?
I do not propose in the few observations with which I shall trouble the House to argue this upon its merits. It has been argued, and I suppose vigorously argued, for seventy or eighty years; so much so that one feels it almost discreditable to one's self personally to have to argue again in favour of it. The cause of woman suffrage, after all, is part of the general cause of political freedom. Political freedom is not an argument; it is an axiom. One would just as soon think of going about trying to prove by legal argument the existence of the sun, or of organising a league to enforce the claims of the Fifth Proposition of the First Book of Euclid. But passing from the general cause of woman suffrage, exception has been taken to the special Bill now before the House. The same sort of criticism was directed in the last couple of Sessions of Parliament in the case of other Bills with which a beginning was made. Hon. Members who object because they do not want to give any votes to women object to this Bill because it does not give every woman the vote. I am not at all concerned to deny that there was considerable force in the criticism of the Home Secretary. This is a Conciliation Bill, as it is called, and it bears upon it traces of its origin. That was why so large a number representing Members in all parts of this House took upon themselves the responsibility of framing a Bill upon which common agreement would be obtained, and promoting it for a settlement on lines such as that which it suggests. The Conciliation Committee was endeavouring to discharge responsibilities which lie by right on the shoulders of the Government. It was that fact, and that alone, which exposes the defects of this Bill. If the Home Secretary represents the predominant influence in the Cabinet, and if they are really in favour of a Woman Suffrage Bill founded upon democratic lines, then, as has already been pointed out to them, they have practically a whole unfilled Session before them, and let them therefore produce their plan, 272 and the more democratic it is the better we shall like it. This Bill is founded upon a certain limited property franchise which is found in the Statute Book, and the aim which the Bill accomplishes is to remove for ever the sex disqualification for the franchise. Enfranchise not one million women as this Bill does, but ten million women. Accept the basis and the principle, and you remove the sex disqualification for ever, and the further development will only be a question of time.
The only case made against the Bill of any force was to the effect that it is too narrow. Well, it lies in the hands of the Government to widen it, and they would unite the democratic majority in this. House upon the Bill if they did widen it. I have been somewhat interested and rather surprised to find the general attitude of Members of this House toward the franchise has been in the direction of considering it merely as a right. In giving the vote you are not merely conceding a right; you are imposing a duty. The vote seems to me to be much less a privilege than a burden. By giving the vote to these women you are calling them in to take up a task and burden of the State. You are laying a duty upon them and not conceding them a privilege, and that I think is the attitude that the men themselves adopt. I, myself, from some points of view very much regret that anybody should vote. All my own instincts lead me towards a system of beneficent tyranny. I think the greater part of the history of the world since the Catholic middle ages have been towards sharing power with the people, and those who did not possess votes felt themselves outlaws and aliens of the State. They claimed that they should come in and they were brought in. It was only then that the franchise was widened and extended. Precisely the same process is working now in the minds of the womanhood of this country, and it is not material or a strictly political aim, but it is a moral psychological and spiritual problem with which we have to deal.
I am sorry to have missed yesterday a powerful speech made against this Bill by the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool (Mr. F. E. Smith). Little of its criticism was directed to the Bill and most of it was directed against the whole principle of the woman suffrage movement, but although I missed hearing it I read it with the most scrupulous care, and I am sorry to say that having read it carefully, and 273 not under the magic of the spoken word of the hon. and learned Gentleman, it did not appear to me to be so very substantial as represented. Two-thirds of the case of the hon. Gentleman as I understood it was this, that women are not capable of dealing with the problems of Empire. He pointed out that the Hindus have not got votes, and that consequently you must not have them governed by a Government with which women have anything to do. That seems to me to be an extraordinary feeble attitude to adopt. Personally, I think that not only ought women to have political autonomy, but that India should have political autonomy, and to say you must oppress women in order to be strong enough to oppress India is not an argument which carries very much conviction to me. As to the other part of his subject, so far as I could discover, it was a ringing appeal to the public-house. Public-houses, he declared, may be closed if you enfranchise women. The hon. Member for South Salford (Mr. Belloc) said you must not pass a Woman Suffrage Bill, because the sentiment of the songs of the population—that is of the Music Hall—is against it. I readily conceive that these institutions may have something to fear, but I do not think that any respectable cause, or any cause that stands for social advancement and reform, has anything to fear from the passage of this Bill in favour of woman suffrage.
The House will pardon me a personal reference. I happen, so far as I can find out, to be about the only Member whose constituency is likely to be affected by the passage of this Bill into law. It does so happen that in the North of Ireland the Constituency which I represent is always very hardly fought, and the passage of this Bill might conceivably, I do not think probably, change the political destiny of the constituency at the next election, if such a Bill as this were passed. I do not think myself that that is an established fact, and I do not say, if I were perfectly convinced that it was an established fact, that I would be able to support this Bill. I mention it simply to show this, that we who have most to fear by the passage of this Bill, and we who take exception and objection to the Bill because it is so narrow and limited, are willing for the cause of conciliation and for the appeasement of public opinion to make a very substantial sacrifice, and I do not think it lies in the mouth of any speaker or any other part of the House to taunt persons of demo- 274 cratic sympathies who have supported this Bill at considerable personal sacrifice in order that they might unite for it the largest possible vote in this House.
The Prime Minister already has pronounced sentence of death upon the Bill. He has not told us whether he is going to put the Government Whips on when the Motion is made to send it to Grand Committee. If he does put the Government Whips on, he can count upon a majority to kill the Bill to-night for this Session and for all time, but let not him nor the House imagine that by such a vote they have settled this question or in any way satisfactorily dealt with it. Anybody associated with the suffragist movement in the country knows the tumult of passion depth of sincerity the unspeakable conviction, and strength of purpose behind this movement. Value social peace as much as you may, deprecate violence as much as you may, and I join in all that, you are still confronted with the great mass of feeling at this moment trembling upon the edge of something like rebellion, and when this Houses realises, if it does now realise, the full seriousness of the inevitable decision which, under the Prime Minister's guidance, they propose to take, not upon the Bill to-night, but upon its future fate, I think, although the Prime Minister does put on the Government Whips, he will find himself in a minority in the Lobby.
§ Mr. HAROLD BAKER
The hon. Member who has just sat down gave vent to the suggestion which, indeed, has been made in other quarters, that the conduct of Members on this side of the House who oppose this Bill is inconsistent with Liberalism. I do not propose to occupy much time, and therefore I will put on one side the general arguments against the Bill. I will put on one side the argument of the fundamental distinction of the sexes about which we heard so very little although it is probably the most important argument of all; the arguments again that women are unfit to govern the Empire and that probably this Bill, or indeed, any Bill of the kind carried into law would disturb those finer relationships upon which men and women count so much, and the argument finally that votes will not give women in the slightest degree that which they are seeking for, and that they are not a means towards the end which they have proposed for themselves. All these arguments have already been exhaustively dealt with by the hon. Member for the 275 Walton Division of Liverpool in that speech yesterday which certainly deserved the thanks of every Member on this side of the House who agreed with it.
As a Liberal I protest against this measure because from its very inception it has been illiberal and anti-democratic. In the first place, in its origin it bears the mark of a most illiberal measure. Critics of the suffrage movement have shown considerable forbearance in the comments they have passed upon its agitation. I will put no finer point upon it than to say it has been thoroughly anti-democratic in its measures, and illiberal in the steps it has taken. It has not proceeded by the orderly conversion of large bodies of citizens to its way of thinking, and it has adopted methods which are the very antithesis of democracy, and which, if carried out on a large scale, would make representative government impossible. That is one reason why, as a Liberal, I vote against this Bill, but let us consider for one moment the further situation in which we find ourselves, and the circumstances under which this Bill is presented in the House. The Bill has no backing whatever in the country. It is true that evidence is rather difficult to arrive at, but we have the figures given by both sides, and some, no doubt, have personal experience of investigations conducted by members in their own constituencies.
Take that evidence all round, and I think it clearly points to the fact that there is not a majority of either sex, and not a majority taking the two together, on this point. If that is so, look at the position in which a Liberal finds himself. We have spent the last six months in a severe constitutional agitation, the expressed object of which has been to ensure that the House of Commons should more accurately reflect the will of the people; and yet, by voting for this Bill, what you are going to do is to deny the very premises on which our case has in that respect been founded. It may, of course, be that that struggle is for the moment in a state of suspended animation, but the affirmations we have made, the professions to which we have given voice, remain all the same, and a vote in favour of this Bill is a vote in direct opposition to the Liberal position on that point. How can we on the Liberal side reasonably complain of the House of Lords if we are prepared to vote for a Bill brought forward, as I say, in direct 276 opposition to the will of the people? I am no pedantic upholder of the theory of the mandate, but this is not a case of a Bill being an intelligent anticipation of what is likely to take place. It is the case of a Bill deliberately ignoring the opinion of the vast majority of electors, and, indeed, of non-electors also, in this country. I am not complaining that anyone should hold adverse opinions. I am not complaining that they should be expressed, or even that this subject should be discussed; but I do say that the attempt to pass the Bill into law at this moment is a denial of the cardinal principles of Liberalism, and those on this side who hold those opinions should surely hesitate before they stultify themselves in this fashion.
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
I should not have intervened in this Debate but for the fact that we have had a very powerful appeal addressed to us both by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, whose advice as a rule we are only too glad to follow. The Prime Minister made an undoubtedly weighty speech, bringing all his ponderous eloquence to bear on the situation, whilst the vehement remarks of the Home Secretary were also made with a great deal of effect. But I cannot say that the right hon. Gentlemen have demonstrated to me that the decision that I should give a vote for this Bill, and also for its going to a Grand Committee, should be altered. This Bill has been attacked from many different points of view. It has been attacked on the one side as being too limited and on the other side as being too wide—on the one side as not being democratic and on the other side as leading to adult suffrage almost in the immediate future. It has been attacked because it is a conciliation Bill and because it is not conciliatory.
I was rather surprised that the Prime Minister should criticise a Bill of this character on what he would, perhaps, call the ground of pure principle. When the Government introduces a Bill, all the broad ground of principle has been deleted, and we are told that in this country we always proceed by compromise—that the great thing is never to look for logic in our legislation because we are not a logical Legislature. Whenever a private Member introduces a Bill, the Front Bench turn and rend him on the ground that the Bill he introduces is not logical and does not fit into a theoretical principle. That is an argument that comes with a bad grace from the Front Bench. We have had con- 277 demnation of this Bill from those who are against the franchise any way; from those who do not want women to have any kind of vote; and from those who want some excuse, having committed themselves to female franchise, to get out of their obligations. We have had condemnation also from those who, because they cannot get adult suffrage are afraid of taking any step which they say will hamper adult suffrage. The right hon. Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Walter Long) opposed it on the ground that it must lead to adult suffrage, whilst the Home Secretary opposed it on the ground that it must put an end to adult suffrage ever being arrived at. And yet those two contradictory Gentlemen are to walk arm in arm through the same Lobby. There are, no doubt, many sitting on this side of the House, of whom I am one. who are not exactly enamoured of this Bill, and who do not regard it as the ideal Bill we might have wished to see. But, being practical politicians and being anxious that the franchise should be extended to women at the earliest opportunity, we are going to support this Bill, which does not deserve all the abuse that has been showered on it by the Home Secretary. The word "democracy" seems to him confused with poverty-stricken, and he seems to think that nobody can be democratic who owns any kind of property, no man with a property qualification. What is the property qualification in this Bill? The household qualification is not a very high-class qualification, and there is the £10 occupation. To represent the qualifications included as being immensely undemocratic, not giving enfranchisement to working women, is entirely contrary to facts. It may be a little different in the counties, but in industrial districts, particularly in the North of England, a very large number of working women will be put on to the register.
A great many people are doubtful how they are going to vote. We are told that if all vote with the party opposite, Liberalism will be killed. I do not believe that is so, and, if it were, it would not make any difference to me. It seems to be a principle in these franchise discussions that you should only franchise people who are going to vote for your side; in other words, that you should deliberately keep out of their right of citizenship people whom you think are going to oppose you politically, and keep them out for that reason. I think that feeling has been very much 278 exaggerated. On the whole, women who are now on the municipal registers vote very largely with their political party, and in Parliamentary elections they will vote very much in the same way. There is one theory used by many hon. Members which I confess I have never been able to understand. We are told that we are letting loose a vast horde of voters—a vast body of womenkind who are going to interfere in our politics, and then only Heaven knows what is going to happen to the Empire in the future! One would think a great many hon. Members have never seen an English woman, that they have no relatives, have never fought an election. The women to be enfranchised vote now for county council and municipal elections, and yet they are pictured as a horde of creatures who, as Parliamentary voters, are going to displace man's sovereignty and dismember the Empire. How can it possibly be argued that a person voting for the London County Council suddenly becomes an entirely different individual when voting at a Parliamentary election; that she is perfectly capable of dealing with one section and absolutely incapable of dealing with another? A woman may be chairman of the London County Council, but is mentally incapable of putting a mark on a ballot paper! Surely illogicality cannot go any further! How can it be said that a woman who takes part in county council and municipal work is not fit to do what the most uneducated people in the country do at election time? To say that we intend to fill the country with a lot of untried voters is not true. The people whom it is proposed to put on the Parliamentary register are people who are used to voting, used to political machinery, used to studying public questions, and who constitute a most moderate, modest, and reasonable type of elector to put on to the register. I am not dealing here with the high question of principle as to whether women ought to have a vote at Parliamentary elections or not. I agree with the Secretary of State for War that that is a perfectly antiquated question, very interesting to discuss, perhaps, forty years ago, but as interesting to discuss at this time of day as the habits of the dwellers in caves or of neolithic man.
You have given women everything—right to local representation, right to enter into most of the professions. You cannot now argue, having done all that, that she is not capable of doing what, 279 after all, is not so very wonderful a thing as some people seem to think—namely, voting at a Parliamentary election. You cannot say that a woman is capable of exercising the difficult profession of a doctor, of taking life and death into her hands, of performing delicate operations, and yet that she is not capable of marking a ballot paper every five years. We have heard a few arguments on the question of the morality of the home, the breakup of the family. That argument, I am glad to say, is dying out. It is absurd to represent that because a woman goes to a polling-booth for half an hour, every four or five years—she must necessarily break up the home, put the baby into the frying-pan, the frying-pan into the cradle, and, with her hair streaming down her back, go out shouting and scattering abroad, alternately, Tariff Reform and Free Trade pamphlets. That is an absurd, imaginary picture, drawn by those who wish to prejudice the cause, and have no other means of doing so. We have frankly taken women into partnership in politics. We do not ask them merely to study political questions. We ask them to tell a man how to vote; we put them on platforms, and say, "You are capable of telling intelligent male citizens how they are to vote; you are capable of telling an audience of 2,000 people how to vote, but you are not capable of voting yourselves." This is the logicality on which our sex prides itself! The sooner you give up the line of argument of unsexing women the better. Most of the arguments we have heard have gone far in that direction. The Prime Minister undoubtedly entertains conservative prejudice in this direction. He is afraid that something may happen in the future by which we may logically be driven to a point we do not like. Personally, all the terrors he holds out have no terrors for me. I do not think we should reject any such measure merely on the ground of being logically forced to do something else in the future. That should not frighten anyone in this House.
The fact that someone tells you logically you may have to do something in the dim and distant future is no reason at all why somebody who wants to do elementary justice to women now should not go and do it. It is a question of simple justice. I listened with amazement to the statement of the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith) that 280 the old doctrine that representation and taxation went together has practically no existence. I remember in the Debates on the Plural Voting Bill we were continually told the old system of representation was based on property; it was not the individual who voted at all, it was property. If hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House wish to retain that, it is curious they should deny it as soon as women are introduced. As soon as women are introduced the hon. and learned Member says it is an absurd doctrine which never existed. I suppose when the plural voter is to be protected, it will come into existence again. As long as we have the franchise on the property qualification, it is unreasonable to deny it to women.
The Home Secretary argued on the lines that if you are to make changes in your register it was an unreasonable thing, an unliberal thing, and an undemocratic thing to add to your register a large number of voters on a property basis. It would be just as logical to argue that because you do not like our present system of registration you should not add a single voter to it until you have altered it. If you drop women out and simply say persons, the Home Secretary's arguments amounts to this: "Because I do not like our present qualification I will not add any person to the register until the qualification is altered." We add every year half a million men to the register on the basis of the old qualification, and it is a curious thing for the Home Secretary suddenly to come forward and say "No, you are a woman, and until the law is changed, no woman is to come on the register at all." I cannot understand the sudden zeal of the Home Secretary for a democratic franchise we cannot get. We never have the Bill we can get. There are many paying lip service to the cause of female suffrage, and the sooner we know whether they are sincere or not the better. I should like to see nobody voting for this Bill who would not like to see it passed into law. Let us see where we stand, and let the women know where they stand. It is grossly unfair for hon. Members to vote for Bills simply because they know they will not go any further. We have had demonstrations of that kind, but I hope we shall have no more such demonstrations.
Many of the objections which have been raised have no foundation in fact. The further you go back in the history of this country the less reason you find for them. Women have had votes in this country for 281 centuries. They led the British nation in war—Boadicea is one practical instance at any rate—and high places were held by women in the Saxon councils. If you go right through the feudal tenure, the position is more remarkable. The idea that women have always looked after the household and nothing else is a very pretty one, but it has no foundation in fact. Women inherited land and titles, and they were subject to military tenures. They received summonses and appeared in person or by proxy when arms had to be raised. They not only had the right to vote, but in the time of Henry III. they attended Parliament in person. Women recorded votes with knights and squires, and there are cases on record where women were actually returned, as Lords of the Manor, as Members of this House. What we are asking for now is, therefore, nothing very wonderful or new, but something which women had centuries ago. The only argument I have heard throughout the whole of the Debate which has any power at all, or at any rate of some plausibility was that used by the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division yesterday. His argument was that all government was based on force, and, if you allowed women to have the franchise. they might pass laws, but they would be physically so weak that they could not coerce the minority, and government would therefore come to an end. It sounds a very plausible doctrine, and I noticed it went down with marked effect and was cheered by the opponents of woman suffrage. I think there is a very false analogy in the whole of that argument. This force has not only been the force of the majority of the country, it has been the force of the minority, when tyrants governed the country, they were in the minority, but they were rich enough and powerful enough to obtain troops to keep down the rest of the population, and I they certainly managed to govern by force. The Romans were certainly in the minority throughout the Empire, but, with a better organisation and being better armed, they managed to govern by force. The real fact is government rests on force, but not on force by a majority of voters, but at the hands of an Executive. If the Executive has control of the armed forces of the country, it can very soon coerce a minority of voters. There is another point which does not seem to have occurred to the hon. and learned Member. I wonder whether he would say if his party gets into office with the assistance, which as a rule 282 they do, of a large number of plural voters, they ought not to be allowed to rule until all the plural voters have been abolished, and they have a clear majority over their opponents? With these facts staring us in the face, the hon. and learned Member's argument has little practical use in modern politics. We have passed the stage when we can imagine a majority of voters in our country carrying on a war against the minority.
We do not conduct politics in that manner in this country, and we are not likely to if we enfranchise a certain number of women. Therefore I think the only argument so far used which was at all relative pretty well disappears. A great many speakers, including the Prime Minister, have referred to our legislation with regard to women, and have asked whether it is possible to point to any other country in which women are in a better position. Let me refer those speakers to the Code Napoleon. In England a man with a large fortune gets married, and when he dies can leave his money to a dog's home or some institution of that kind and not bequeath anything to his wife. Under the Code Napoleon, however, the wife is entitled to half the man's fortune whatever kind of will he may have made. Again, there is considerable weakness in our marriage laws and in the law of divorce in this country. I do not think there is any civilised country which has such a barbarous law of divorce as we have. The inequality of that law is deprecated by the great bulk of the Members of this House. A great many Members flatter themselves that the interests of working women are well looked after, but I would point out that that is largely due to long continued agitation. We know in this House how many clamorous claimants there are on our energies, and naturally those who are most powerful when an election comes round—those who have control of the largest number of votes receive the most attention. It would not be human nature if it were otherwise. Therefore it may be well understood that the claims of women are not attended to quite so promptly as they would be if the Government were aware that their votes would have a considerable effect at the next General Election.
Again, it has been pointed out that the House has always been chivalrous and generous in its treatment of women. I think it would be wise not to press that argument too far. Women for forty years have been asking for the suffrage, and 283 yet to-day there are a number of Members of this House actually engaged in trying to defeat their object. Is there anything chivalrous in that? If women want a vote, why, if chivalrously inclined, do we not give it to them? We need not pretend to chivalry. During the Debate we have been told that women will gain nothing by having the vote. But surely we can learn something from the experience of other countries. I think it is very much more unusual to compare the women of England with those of France, Italy, and Germany than with the women of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. I do not think the comparison has been quite fair, and I certainly cannot understand why the hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division placed so much emphasis on the female population per square mile in Australia. What has that to do with the question whether women are or are not able to exercise the franchise in a reasonable way? I have spoken to those who hold opinions both for and against the enfranchisement of women and who have experience of the results in Australia and New Zealand. Everybody is willing to admit that the enfranchisement has been a distinct advantage, and I believe the same may be said to be the case in the United States of America. I do not think anybody will propose to take the franchise away from the women there now they have got it. I feel certain, too, that the beneficial effects which have been experienced in the countries to which I have referred would become equally apparent if the franchise were given to the women of England. It will bring into politics people who will take not merely a temporary interest in them, but it will bring in a number of qualified, thoughtful people who will take a deep, abiding, and conscientious interest in politics. Undoubtedly in most matters connected with home life women are much more conscientious than men, and when they take up a question they take it up more seriously. I am certain if you enfranchise women you will bring in a number of people who will study social questions from fresh points of view and bring a new light to bear upon them. Would it not be valuable to have fresh facts, aims, and ideas brought forward? I think it would be of immense value, and therefore I contend that the introduction of women into the franchise will be of very great advantage to the community at large.
284 I do not put the question forward merely on the grounds of women's grievances. You have a highly intelligent part of our population—our mothers, wives and sisters, who, in ordinary life, are able to form opinions on which we place great value. If this element is introduced into our political life, you will have a greater volume of wisdom available for the conduct of national affairs. There is not one problem in modern politics which does not affect woman. Take the fiscal system. She is far more interested in that than man. No man knows the price of articles which have to be bought for the household. He may profess to do so on the platform, but you may take it that he has to ask his wife first. She it is who is most interested in the question of food and the dearness of commodities. The Home Secretary spoke in eloquent language of the danger of creating an enormous number of faggot votes. Well, I should like personally to see more married women enfranchised than is proposed under this Bill. I must say that the arguments put forward by the Home Secretary against the franchise were hardly fair. It is not fair to taunt the promoters of this Bill with all the existing absurdities of the different franchises now in existence. You cannot ask the promoters to bring forward an entirely new form of franchise as yet unknown in this country. I think the Home Secretary used most fantastic arguments. There will be no difficulty about giving married women the vote; they have only to pay the rent and get their names on the rate book, which they can do if they are earning money, and then they will be eligible for the vote.
I was amazed at the statements which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary made. He did not seem to know that there were a large number of women who support the household and their husbands. Everyone knows that very often one thinks a man is on the register and he is not, because when you look at it you find his wife's name there, and after people have been used to this state of things for many years past it is hard that women should be bounced out of their votes by such statements as were made by the right hon. Gentleman, which were entirely unworthy of his dialectical talents. I have detained the House longer than I intended to, and I thank them for the way in which they have listened to me, but I feel strongly that this is merely an elementary 285 act of justice which ought to be carried out. In conclusion, I would point out that we have not heard one single word of argument during the whole of this Debate as to why you should give women the vote and why you should enfranchise her. The whole argument has been in the other direction that you should exclude her. I can only say I shall give my hearty support both by voice and by vote in favour of this Bill.
§ Mr. C. T. MILLS
The present Bill is called a Conciliation Bill, but I venture to say that that is a very inappropriate name, because I do not think that anyone who listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Shackleton) in introducing this measure can possibly think that it is intended as a compromise or a conciliation with those of us who oppose the extension of franchise to women, although I admit it may be conciliation between the various sections of suffragists. Yet there are a number of people in this country and in this House who would support the Bill because they think that this measure of franchise to women is just, although they would strenuously oppose any extension of it. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, I maintain that that is an altogether illogical position. If once the principle is admitted that women may have votes, the large extension of that suffrage is bound to follow, and also inevitably will follow the demand of women to seats in this House and also to seats in the Cabinet. I think the franchise is bound to be extended, first of all, because the Home Secretary and many hon. Members on that side of the House have told us that this Bill is likely to be a Conservative measure, and they will lose no time whatever in extending the suffrage; and, secondly, because, once you have admitted the principle, there seems no reason why you should oppose a large extension of the franchise. We have been told that this is the thin end of the wedge, and it is obvious that it is the beginning of a long series of agitations until women are admitted to seats in this Chamber, and ultimately in the Cabinet. I wish I could hold the optimistic view of the hon. Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil). He seems to think that the giving of the vote to women will have no serious consequences whatever.
I respectfully submit to the House that this is a question of the very greatest im- 286 portance. It is of far more importance to my mind than the constitutional crisis which we were discussing at the beginning of the year, for then we were contemplating the alteration of our Constitution, and now we are asked to sanction a vast change in the very bases upon which that Constitution rests. If we come to a wrong conclusion with regard to the House of Lords it may be possibie to repair our error, but if we come to a wrong conclusion in this matter—if we admit to the suffrage a vast number of people who subsequently prove themselves unworthy of that suffrage—we shall never be able to repair that error or retrace our steps, and we shall have utterly ruined the prosperity and happiness of this country. Some people argue this question as if it were only a question as to whether the majority of the women want the vote or not. Personally I do not think that the majority of women or anything like the majority of them, do want the vote; but I submit that that is not a consideration which ought to weigh with us. The men of the country at present are responsible for the well-being of the country and the well-being and happiness of all the people in it, and we must consider not whether the majority of women want the vote, but whether they will use it in a way which will be conducive to the increased prosperity of the nation. We are told that women have a right to the vote, and I quite admit that if this be so there is no argument whatever against the suffrage, but that seems to me to be rather a feminine argument, and to take as granted and proved what is, after all, the whole crux of the matter, and I cannot concede that, as has been said, they have the right. They certainly have not a legal right, or they would not be asking us to sanction this franchise by passing a law to do so. Therefore, it must be some natural right. But I cannot follow the line of argument that every human being over a certain age has a natural right to a Parliamentary vote.
Parliamentary rights are, after all, quite a different thing from civil rights. Every man or woman in this country has civil or personal rights naturally belonging to them as being a member of a free and democratic community, but the right to vote is a trust imposed by the State upon those people whom it thinks are likely to exercise the vote in a way conducive to the happiness of the community. The State can withhold the suffrage from the people whom it considers morally unfit to use it, such as lunatics, paupers, and peers. Again, 287 it can withhold the suffrage from women, because it considers the duties they have to perform already are of such national importance that it would not be fair to burden them with the additional cares of government, and, in spite of the arguments which have been used by the hon. Member who has just sat down, I maintain that even in the most civilised countries all government must ultimately rest upon force. We obey the laws because we know that the Government has the power to enforce them, and we tolerate a Government with which perhaps we do not agree because we know—or think we know—that the Government has the support of the majority of the country behind it, and that in the last resort that majority would have the power to compel the minority to comply with its will. Suppose we give the suffrage to women, what is inevitable is that the women largely outnumber the men. It is quite conceivable that measures may be passed largely by the votes of women to which men strongly object, and the Government would be put in the artificial position of not having the physical force to carry its demands into effect.
This may seem to be a purely theoretical objection, but ultimately men would find out that a form of government was being imposed upon them which they bitterly resented by a section of the community which had not the actual force to compel them to obey its commands. And in a time of crisis, when men's passions were deeply stirred, it would put the Government in a very serious and dangerous position. We are asked by this Bill to try an experiment which must alter the whole character of government in this country, and we have been given no adequate reason at all why we should try the experiment. Those who wish to alter our Constitution do so because they say that our present system has failed, and they say that the country would be better governed under the new form which they intend to set up, though they do not tell us specifically what this form of government is going to be. But here it is very different. We are asked to sanction a change which is at least equally great, and no one has attempted to show that this experiment will tend to the better government of this Empire. Nor have they tried to show that men have proved so inefficient in the government of the country that it is necessary to call in the women of the country to their aid. We are asked to let 288 the women govern this country simply because they have asserted with a great deal of vigour that they have a right to do so, without in any way considering the probable effect which this concession will have upon the government of the country.
I think most people will agree that the great danger of our electorate is at present that it is too emotional, too liable to be swayed by party cries or by the passions of the moment. Are we justified, then, in adding a large number of voters to this electorate who must tend to make it even more emotional than it is at this moment? Can we be certain that an electorate which is partly composed of women will be likely to give an equally calm and fearless decision on some great national question as would an electorate entirely composed of men? When one listens to the arguments of Gentlemen who support this Bill one is driven to imagine that men are an organised and highly privileged class, fighting desperately to enslave women and rob them of all the rights of citizenship. If this argument has any truth in it, the case for woman suffrage is absolutely unanswerable. But I submit that the difference between men and women is not one of class at all, but one of sex. As Mr. Gladstone said, a permanent and vast difference of type has been impressed upon men and women respectively by the Maker of both. To say that the interests of men and women are opposed, and that any measures for the good of women would not be wisely and sympathetically listened to in an assembly composed of men, is the merest hypocrisy. There is not an hon. Member in the House who is not more attached to at least one woman than to any man or group of men in the world, and he would be more inclined to consider her interests and the interests of her sex than the interests of any man, possibly even than his own. To men has been entrusted the responsibility of government and the defence of this Empire, and whether they perform this great duty well or badly must depend upon their moral and mental fitness to carry them out, and we can only look to the mothers of England to maintain this standard of moral and mental fitness in the coming generation. Are we justified then, seeing that the responsibilities of women to the country are already far greater than those of men, in imposing upon them the additional burden of Government, and are we justified in running the risk that we shall tempt them to neglect those natural 289 functions which are absolutely essential to our national existence, in order that they may devote their efforts to those duties where they certainly are not indispensable, and where many of us think they will be directly harmful.
§ Mr. HARWOOD
I should not have intervened in this Debate, but that I feel that my position resembles that of a number of other Members of the House, none of whom have quite given utterance to our difficulties. I saw the other day a copy of a book which was once much in vogue, called "The Politician in Trouble About his Soul," and that somewhat describes my position in this matter. I am too old a Member of the House to be in trouble about my seat, but I am in trouble in this matter in a certain way, because I find myself as it were in a cross-current of conflicting principles. I say this because I daresay there are other Members who find themselves in my position. I own in the first place that I have been for many years and still am a fervent supporter of young manhood suffrage as the ultimate basis of citizenship. I say manhood suffrage because the distinction is quite clear. I treasure that ideal and I am very unwilling to consent to anything which will in any degree impede or delay realisation of that ideal. Therefore the second thing I have to say is that I am absolutely and bitterly opposed to granting the franchise to women on the same terms as to men. To me it seems that a constitution like ours with a majority of women voters would be very much of a reductio ad absurdum. I employ a great number of admirable young women, but I should not feel that my patriotism would allow me to recommend that the bulk of them should ever become voters. I believe also that the granting of the suffrage to women on the same terms as to men would for ever kill the hope of realising manhood suffrage. You will never, whatever you think and whatever excited agitators may think, persuade the English nation to take a step which would result in a majority of voters being women. I know the difficulty of finding a basis of citizenship. In days gone by I have absolutely failed to find any scientific basis of citizenship. To say people have a right to the vote is to me unmeaning and I can only fall back upon the principle of wisdom. Is it wise, is it good for the country, is it good for the future of our nation that we should give the franchise to this or that citizen? If 290 so, give it. If not, do not. On that ground I absolutely decline to grant the franchise to women on the same terms as to men.
The third principle, if I may call it a principle, in which I find myself in difficulty, is this, that whilst I am opposed to granting franchise to women on the same terms as men, I believe, on the practical ground of wisdom, that the State would benefit by a certain infusion of women voters. In these things we are so very apt to be guided a great deal too much by what people call high principles. I have heard a good many Debates in this House on this question, and this is the first time I have ever heard it debated on becoming gravity and thoroughness. For that I am glad. But I am also afraid that we have been a little too grave about it, and we are putting it a little too much on the ground of high theory, and a little too little on the ground of practical wisdom. That, I think, is the mistake we are liable to make. All this idea of opening the door to the floodgates is hypocrisy when you are dealing with people like the English. Therefore I say I am in favour of a certain infusion of women voters. I believe that the whole trend of our political development points in that direction. We want the co-operation and help of womankind without their predominance. I think we shall gain by that, and this is a scheme by which to get it. I know that many objections may be made to the scheme. There are objections to every positive thing you try to do. The Home Secretary has made merry in a field where it is easy to make merry. It is easy to make objections, particularly where the proposal involves a very difficult task. If I may offer advice to hon. Members, I would say, be content to be a little practical. The people who are concerned in this measure have brought it forward as a compromise. There are over 5,000 women voters in my own Constituency, and my experience is that the bulk of them are Conservatives. I believe that the temperance woman is Conservative. I should like to say quite frankly I believe that in taking the step which I and many of my Friends are taking we are sacrificing something. I believe if this Bill is carried into law it will mean the disappearance from this House of a good many of my Friends, and very probably of myself, but that does not weigh with me when I consider the practical principle of the good of the State as a whole. I say that the State would benefit by the participation of women in Parliamentary elections.
291 9.0 P.M.
The promoters of this Bill have come to terms after considering this matter. It is a curious thing that nobody has offered any other practical plan. This plan has one great recommendation, namely, that it would be so easily carried out. It is not like starting something new; it is simply an enlargement of something we have; it is simply taking the same list for the Parliamentary franchise as we have at present for the municipal franchise. What could be simpler? I compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Shackleton) on his undiplomatic frankness. It was like him, and it was beautiful, but it was not diplomatic for him to say that this is the thin end of the wedge. He thinks this is the beginning, but what he thinks about it will not determine it in the long run. These things are not determined by what the advocates of a Bill think, but by certain causes outside their control. There is another view of the matter. I am not sure whether this is a wise step for those who are very much in favour of the general principle of woman suffrage. I think it is not. This Bill, if carried, will dish woman suffrage for more than twenty years. Why? Because, as anyone who has studied the political operations of the English nation knows, and as we have heard ad nauseam in these Debates, we are not logical. It may be said that those who vote for this Bill are breaking down the line of sex and starting a new and great principle, the consequences of which it is almost impossible to describe. I do not think that is so at all. I think that is too fine language to use in a matter of this sort. It is not the hon. Member for Clitheroe, and not the Prime Minister, but only the stupid blockhead who represents the voter in English constituencies who will ultimately determine the matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!" and laughter.] When I use the term "blockhead" I mean the ordinary dull, phlegmatic, stupid man who is a fair representative of the average English voter, and let me say that this stupidity and slowness of apprehension, this lack of logic if you like to call it so, is one of the features of the ordinary elector, and is one of the strongest elements of the English nation and in English history. Had we been a logical people we should have disappeared long ago. [Laughter.] Yes, our whole Empire has grown up, not by logic, but by circumstances. It has not been by preconceived ideas that we have developed. We have 292 always protested that we did not wish to do it. It is by our practical initiative that we have built up the Empire and preserved the Constitution.
Once you pass this Bill, as I hope we shall, what will the average English elector say when you talk to him about woman suffrage? He will say, "Let us see how it works. We have tried it on a small scale, and we will do no more in it until we see what comes of the experiment." I am certain that is the view he will take. You will find suppression of this agitation. I do not say that it will die out altogether. I do say to those in this House who are opposed to woman suffrage that they might do worse than vote for this Bill, for I believe it will put back the movement twenty years. I want to bring the House back to a practical view of the matter. A celebrated statesman once said that the wise politician is the politician who takes short views. We have been taking much too long views. We have been looking far ahead, and we have talked about this change as something horrible and tremendous, and as opening the flood-gates. What is the real truth of the matter? We have had woman suffrage in our municipal life for some time, and bear in mind that party passions operate as strongly in municipal elections as in Parliamentary elections. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Yes, quite as much in my part of the country.
A great deal more, I maintain, depends upon local politics for the happiness of the people than on anything which this House does. At any rate, it is in force, and I have never heard of any of these consequences ensuing which we have been told will follow from the extension of the franchise now suggested. I think I have over 5,000 of these voters in my Constituency. We are very good friends, but they mostly vote Tory and vote against me; but I am bound to say this of them—that they are an admirable element in the community. They do not indulge in any of those vices which the Home Secretary pictured. Therefore we have a right to ask, Is it not likely that the same will be the case when the franchise is extended to Parlimentary elections? What is peculiar about Parliamentary franchise that we should expect it to be accompanied by consequences different from those which accompany municipal franchise? Therefore I said I was a politician in difficulties, and that I did not find 293 anyone to agree with me. I shall certainly support this Bill, and do my best to help those who wish it to become law, because I believe that on the whole it is a wise thing for the nation to do—is a wise thing for us to take this number of women into political partnership. As to what will come after, let those who come after us deal with that. Why should I be scared from doing what is wise now because I am told that my children will have to fight a universal feminine suffrage? Let them fight it when it comes. But I am quite certain it is not coming now. This Bill will not bring it, and therefore I hope the House will pass it.
§ Earl RONALDSHAY
I listened to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Harwood) with considerable interest. I wondered during the whole course of that speech on which side of the fence the hon. Gentleman would climb down. As in the case of the successful sensational novel, interest was maintained up to the last moment. But now I understand that though the hon. Gentleman is opposed to woman suffrage in its full meaning, yet he is going to vote for this Bill. That is to say, he is going to vote for the Bill because he thinks it is a little one. That is not an argument which appeals to me in the very slightest. If one should concede the principle of this measure, then it is inconceivable that it will be possible to resist the tremendous pressure which would inevitably be brought to bear to give that principle its necessary and its logical extension. I have listened to nearly every speech, I think, which has been made in favour of this Bill during the past two days, and I was greatly struck by the poverty of argument in its favour, even on the part of those to whom I usually look for guidance in matters of political interest. I find very little that carried conviction to my mind in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. It was, I think, perhaps the only speech from him to which I ever listened and which entirely failed to carry conviction to my mind. He started by blowing to smithereens the main argument upon which the promoters of this Bill based their cause. He told us he did not think for one moment that the wages of women were likely to be raised in consequence of the women being granted a franchise. But that is one of the main 294 arguments which have been urged in the Labour Press in this country in favour of granting woman franchise. He went on to say he did not think for one moment that the fact that Members of this House have invariably been elected by male votes showed that in our legislation there was any bias in favour of the male sex. Very well. That is the second great argument that those who promote this Bill bring forward in support of it. If I may express an opinion as to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I will say that if any right hon. Gentleman's speech has damned the cause with faint praise, my right hon. Friend was that right hon. Gentleman. We come to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Secretary of State for War. I frankly confess that that speech carried no conviction to my mind. Very likely perhaps because I found myself wholly incapable of understanding it. That, of course, was not the fault of the right hon. Gentleman. That was my own fault. But he took us with such lightning rapidity from Victoria in our own days to Tiberius in the days of ancient Roman history, that he quite succeeded in bewildering my mind as to what he was really aiming at in his argument. He, however, did make one remark, which, coming from a man of his immense knowledge and his great intellect, struck me as being a very extraordinary one. He said that an argument against this Bill was that if we in this country based our government largely upon the votes of women, that would have a very bad effect in our Indian Empire. Against that argument he urged that the Indians had for a great many years tolerated, and, indeed, respected and enjoyed, the reign of Queen Victoria in this country as their Empress. But those two cases are not in the least analogous or comparable. I might just as well say that because in heathen mythology there are female deities, therefore, the Hindus are in favour of woman suffrage in that country. Anybody who knows anything about the East knows that that is a perfectly laughable proposition.
§ Earl RONALDSHAY
The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil also took up that question last night, and I must say I was so astonished at what he said that I looked at the OFFICIAL REPORT this 295 morning to see if I really, correctly interpreted his sentiments. What he said was this:—It has been further urged by more than one speaker as an argument against this Bill that it would weaken our power over Oriental races, especially if the people of India knew that this House was partly elected by votes of women.Then he went on to say:—May I remind hon. Members that the women of India are already in possession of the vote, and that under the Councils Act, passed two years ago by this House, women who have the necessary qualification are entitled to vote for the election of members of these councils."—[OFF1CIAL REPORT, 11th July, 1910, cols. 142 and 143.]I suppose that the hon. Member referred to the Councils Act of last year, which gave extended councils to the various provinces in India. I absolutely deny that women are entitled to vote for members of those councils. And if the hon. Member wants authority, I shall be very pleased to give it to him. I have looked up the Blue Book of Regulations which were published under the said Act, and in the Regulations with regard to the qualifications of those who are entitled to vote for Members of the Indian Council this is what I find:—Disqualification for votes.—No person shall be qualified to vote at any election held under these regulations if such person be (A) a female.And then it goes on to give various other disqualifications. Those are the facts of the case as regards the Imperial Council and also the other councils. And what the hon. Member meant by saying that under the Act passed last year enlarging the councils of India the women of India were entitled to vote, really passes my comprehension.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
May I interrupt the Noble Lord? The women have the municipal franchise in India, and those municipal councils elect a certain proportion of the members to those new councils. Therefore, the women have the vote in India for the election of a certain proportion of the new councils.
§ Earl RONALDSHAY
The hon. Member certainly did not make clear that that was what was in his mind last night. What he appeared to say, at any rate, was that under the Act of last year we had actually made women eligible for votes in the election of members for the new council. I have shown that, by the rules drawn up by the Council of India, that is precisely what they do not do. In fact, they do the very reverse of that, and disqualify them 296 on the ground that they are women. The argument in favour of female suffrage on that ground, therefore, entirely falls to the ground. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil apparently paid a great deal of attention to the catchwords—"No taxation, no representation." I have always understood the hon. Member to be one of the strongest supporters of the Veto Resolutions recently passed by this House, the object of which was to prevent a very large number of taxpayers in this country from having any representation in connection with the taxes they pay. But the hon. Member now comes forward, in the face of his own support of those Veto Resolutions, and bases his claim for woman suffrage on the catch line—"No taxation without representation." In regard to the argument that wages would be raised if women were given the vote, I do not believe that has been proved in those countries where the vote has actually been given to women. I read a very interesting review of a book published not very long ago by a prominent supporter of the woman suffrage movement in America, Miss Sumner, and in her report to the Equal Suffrage Society of New York I find the observation that the difference in salaries of men and women teachers in Colorado instead of being unusually small is unusually large. That does not appear to bear out the argument of hon. Members who support this Bill on the ground that if the vote were given to women there would be an increase in their wages. As everybody knows, wages are not determined by Act of Parliament, they are determined by economic causes. That is quite well known in the North of England in the textile trades. There women have been able to band themselves together, and their wages have proportionately increased during the last twenty years to a greater extent, I believe, than the wages of men. If the women of this country really believe they are being sweated and underpaid, I think they would find a real and effective remedy of their grievance, not in voting for Members of this House, but in banding together in trade unions and making their demands in that way.
It seems to me that the speakers who have supported this Bill have themselves provided us with an answer to the argument they brought forward, namely, that all legislation by mere males always suffers from a male bias. The Mover of this Bill referred to the Trades Boards Bill as an instance of the way in which the claims of women were demanding attention at the 297 present time, and he pointed out how that Bill very largely affected women's labour. Does he not realise that this is an answer to his argument that Members of this House cannot be persuaded to pass legislation in the interests of women workers? An hon. Member on this side of the House declared that it was a very great hardship that, if a woman of this country had illegitimate children, even if she was married after the birth of those children, nevertheless the husband could not be made liable for their subsistence. I believe that is the case so far as England is concerned, but north of the Tweed it is not so. In Scotland marriage at once gives legitimacy. My point is that if that grievance could be remedied in Scotland without giving women the vote, it is quite as easy to have the same law in this country without giving women the vote. I really do not think that any hon. Member is in doubt as to whether or not the majority of women of this country desire the vote. Any hon. Member, who is in doubt on that point, however, ought to pause before he decides to thrust on women this great responsibility. The hon. Gentleman, who moved the Second Reading, asked us to try this Bill as an experiment. It is not an experiment at all. As I understand the meaning of the word "experiment" it is the adoption of a certain course of action with a view to continuing it if it proves successful or expedient, and to drop it if it does not prove successful or expedient. Let us realise that once we take the step of granting women the franchise we will never be able to retrace that step, we will never be able to turn back, and it is a fallacious argument to say that we may at least try the experiment on a small scale.
I grant that it is not very easy to ascertain at the present moment whether the majority of women in this country do or do not desire the franchise. My own opinion is that they do not. I quite admit that there is a certain number of women who do ardently desire the franchise, though possibly they do not want it really as much as they think they do. On the other hand, it must equally be stated that there is a very large number of women who are distinctly opposed to having this responsibility thrust upon them. Anyone who has heard, as I have heard, women—good women—who are attached to their homes, who believe that their sphere in the social structure is not identical with but supplementary to the sphere of man, knows that they oppose 298 with passionate intensity this responsibility being thrust upon them. I know very well that the answer is that those who do not want to vote will not vote. I am not at all impressed by that argument. I believe that once you give the vote to women, whether they like it or not, they will be driven by moral force to exercise that vote. One section of women may get up an agitation in favour of some particular measure that another section might think would be bad for them, and whether they like it or whether they do not like it, they will be thrust into conflict, and they will be obliged to drag their way through the political mire. Moreover, I hold that in those countries where the franchise has been widely extended the tendency has been to make the exercise of it compulsory. In Belgium, in 1894, manhood suffrage was adopted, and very soon afterwards the exercise of the franchise was made compulsory. The same thing occurred in Austria. In Austria, I think, manhood suffrage was adopted in 1907, and certainly at the present time in some of the Austrian States it is made compulsory on those who have the right to exercise the vote to present themselves at the polling booth. I am not the least impressed by the argument so often used by supporters of this Bill that those who want to exercise the franchise can be left to do so, while those who do not wish to exercise it need not do so. For myself I shall strongly oppose this Bill, because I believe it to be not only bad, perhaps disastrous for the future of this Empire itself, but because I believe that in the long run it will be inimical to the best interests of the women of this country.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Runciman)
The Noble Lord who has just sat down has offered the same objection to this Bill as might be offered to any Woman Suffrage Bill that has ever been before this House or is ever likely to come before it. I take it that his view of women's work in politics is that the less they have to do with them the better. That view is unfortunately out of date, and, unfortunately for the Noble Lord, I believe it is out of date for the good of this country. In no sphere into which women have intruded, as the Noble Lord might say, into our political affairs have they come in without raising the standard of public life and the efficiency of our public assemblies. Whatever criticism may be offered to-night on the proposal now before the House I think its 299 main weight is likely to be on the construction of the Bill itself. I freely admit that the criticism offered by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was apparently destructive of the Bill as he stated it, but I would like to point out that he first of all described the Bill in his own terms. He stated that the Bill would create a franchise altogether unknown in this country, and then he destroyed it bit by bit. We have had votes similar to that created by this Bill in municipal affairs for many years past. Though it is said that municipal affairs are altogether different from our Imperial politics, I would point out that in nearly all the great municipalities the division in municipal politics is on political lines. In Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Liverpool, and in other centres Liberal and Conservative candidates run, and you have Liberal and Conservative women voters giving their votes on one side or the other. My right hon. Friend referred to the fact that many undesirable women, for instance, under this Bill would come in, secure the vote and exercise improper influence on our political affairs. I think he referred to one class of the community who live by the proceeds of immorality, but I would point out to him if this Bill would include large numbers of those who live by the proceeds of immorality an adult suffrage Bill would include still more; and, indeed, you cannot have any suffrage Bill in which a certain number of those who live by immorality would not be included in the list of voters
I agree with some of his criticisms. I think it is running a great risk in enfranchising those whose main qualification, and probably whose only qualification, is that they possess property. That is a serious risk, but I do believe that there will be enormous numbers of women added who do not possess property, but whose qualification is that they are heads of households, and no nobler qualification has been held by men. I had the pleasure of speaking at the Women's Co-operative Guild, a very fine assembly, composed entirely of women, and of women who take a serious interest not only in our local, but Imperial affairs. Those women are responsible for the running of their households. Many of them are married women, and I do not believe that in any assembly in this country will you find a higher standard of public thought or more public spirit or more shrewdness than you would find in that remarkable assembly. My 300 right hon. Friend the Home Secretary says that there are two ways of dealing with this question, either by way of a fancy franchise, which would make our voting lists representative of every class of the community, or by way of adult suffrage. I am sure my right hon. Friend is aware that any fantastic franchise would be open to the same criticisms that he offered to this Bill. I find myself therefore in considerable difficulties. I cannot say I am altogether satisfied with this Bill, but I have long held the view that the extension of the municipal franchise to our Parliamentary election was the best and easiest way for the moment of securing voting powers for women, and I cannot alter that view merely because of the exigencies of the moment. I do not like some of the elements in it, but I think it is the only way in which progress can be made.
I know that if an adult suffrage Bill were brought in it could not be carried. I believe in the present constitution of the House it could not be carried, and that this measure has a better chance. That therefore is my reason for giving my vote in favour of it. It is not on the merits, because, as the title of the Bill now stands, and as under the ruling of the Speaker it will be impossible to make it more democratic, I certainly could not give the Bill support in its later stages unless some means were applied of getting rid of that difficulty, and I know of none except the introduction of another Bill. I am prepared to give my vote on the general principle of woman suffrage, because I believe the time has now passed when we can get out of our responsibility on the mere details of the measure. There is another very serious responsibility which I think is taken by anyone who votes for this Bill. It has been said, and said in the course of this Debate, that if the Bill is thrown out very serious conse quences would ensue. It has been darkly hinted that those who may be responsible for its rejection will run some physical risks. If any of my colleagues are to run any physical risks, although I support this Bill, I wish to associate myself in those risks with them. I think nothing would be more monstrous than that right hon. Gentlemen who sit on this bench, or on the other, and who oppose this Bill quite conscientiously—that they should run any physical risk any more than those who support it. For my own part, I would never consent to be bullied into changing my views. 301 The next statement I have to make is that I oppose this Bill going to Grand Committee. There could be no more serious question brought before this House than the alteration and extension of the basis on which this House is constituted. When the Grand Committee was set up I remember the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman being challenged on this very question by an hon. Member on the other side of the House. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, in declining an Amendment, stated quite emphatically the reason why he declined it. I am not sure that it was very correctly reported in "Hansard" at the time, but the subsequent speeches will show the meaning of his statements. He said that he thought it was absurd to suppose that any Government would send a franchise Bill upstairs. This matter is of such great importance that I believe that every one of the 670 Members of this House ought to have the right to take part in it. I have said that the matter was of importance, but I must qualify that by saying that I do not believe that the result of passing this Bill, if it passed into law, will be in any way sensational. It would leave many of our Imperial questions where they are. The Bill does not oblige any woman to play a prominent part in political affairs, and no more obliges her to play a prominent part than is played now. An hon. Gentleman on the other side who delivered his maiden speech to-day had the help of a very distinguished lady (Mrs. Humphrey Ward), who wrote some very powerful letters to her son's constituency. I cannot think it would be any more degrading for Mrs. Humphrey Ward to have an actual vote in that constituency than to have written letters.
It would give the right, it is true, to some women to express their views in an election, but there is nothing sensational or evil in that. I do believe it would have a serious effect on women themselves. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that they labour now under a sense of grievance. I for one want to see that grievance removed, not because I believe it would have a very large effect on our Imperial affairs. In only one effect am I absolutely certain that it would to some extent affect the complexion of this House. I believe if you had a large number of women voters on the register it would be impossible for any party which has as a candidate a man of bad character to succeed. I am quite sure we do not 302 want them in this House, and one of the ways of keeping them out of this House is to have a large solid block of the electorate who will take no part in their election. I go further and say that the reason which was brought forward by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that by the intrusion of this element into our elections you would add a fluid and mobile element to the present caprices of the electorate is a fear which is not well founded in fact. My own point of view is that women are just as stable, and that they are guided far more by their opinion and judgment in moral causes than men. On the whole, you will find that women voters, so far from being fluid and uncertain, may be relied on even more than many of the men who compose constituencies not far removed from this House. It is because I believe that that element would have a good effect in the selection of candidates and a steadying effect upon many constituencies that I am in favour of woman suffrage.
The opposition to woman suffrage in this House has been based on many of the old grounds—not on the ground that women are less moral, or less well educated than men; not on the ground that their political activity is wrong, for it is already a recognised fact; not on the ground that there is any want of quickness or intelligence. The objections are, first of all, that women do not need the vote, that a man-elected House does for them all that can be desired. The fact that women have gained so much without the vote is no argument against their exercising voting power. Indeed, there was a saying of which the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman used to be very fond, that self-government was always better than good government, which may be very well applied to the people of this country. The physical force argument has been pressed with very great effect by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Not only did he appear to infer that physical force was in itself the ultimate sanction, but he appeared to believe that a decision dependent largely on votes given by women would be without the requisite moral and physical authority; that, indeed, it might be a decision with the majority of men against it, and resting on the tolerance of a minority. That is a very highly refined view of the physical force argument. Surely, it crumbles to the ground when we realise that physical force is not the ultimate sanction in any constitution; it is not the mere fighting 303 capacity, it is the brain which directs the fighting capacity. The fact that women do not fight does not disqualify them from exercising a very large part in the control of the country.
Then it was said that chivalry would go if this Bill passed. The hon. and learned Member for the Walton Division (Mr. F. E. Smith) made great play with this. He drew a beautiful picture of what happened during a shipwreck a few weeks ago, when the men stood by until the women and children had gone into the boats. Surely the hon. Member will not suggest that if this Bill were passed men would immediately push into the boats first?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I say further, that chivalry and political power have nothing whatever to do with one another. Chivalry is based on an appeal from the weak to the strong. We do not feel less chivalrous towards an old man who is incompetent because he has a vote. Votes will not make women physically stronger than men, and so long as they are physically weaker, so long will chivalry remain. It is said that Imperial politics are outside woman's normal sphere. It is no more possible to draw a circle round the sphere of Imperial politics than it is possible to draw a circle round woman's legitimate activities and interests. Imperial politics travel far outside the Government and control of armies and navies. Housing, education, the care of small children, and of the feeble-minded, the regulation of women's and children's labour—these are all subjects peculiarly within woman's province, and once you have invaded her province you are in justice bound to give woman an equal right to express her view on these great questions.
I leave on one side many points which naturally occur to one, in order to deal with a matter which seems to me of very vital interest, and that is the suggestion that the extension of votes to women will in some curious way injure the interests of home life. My belief is that a woman does not love her home less because she cares that the homes of her fellow - citizens shall be purer and cleaner, and she wants to have a voice in the selection 304 of those who control those conditions. I do not believe that a woman will love her children less because she happens to have a vote, or that she will educate her children worse because she shares the responsibility of electing their educators. I go further and say that the argument that the sacred qualities of motherhood would be endangered if women were empowered to vote in Parliamentary elections is nothing more or less than sheer fiction. Anyone who knows anything about the state of Europe knows how grave is the danger of the fall in the birth-rate. The fall in the birth-rate may become a grave danger in England, but I prophesy that if there is such a fall in the birth-rate it will be due, not to the part which women play in public affairs, but to the spread of a selfish frivolity which makes women shirk the responsibilities of motherhood. My right hon. Friend says that under this Bill none of these mothers will have votes. I say frankly that I go further than this Bill. This must go further; but I think this is the best way of breaking the ice. The very small political function here proposed to be given does not involve domestic incompetency. During the recent election a woman in my Constituency was jeered at by one of the voters whom she canvassed, who told her that she ought to be at home looking after her own business. She said, "I think my retort was a good one. I told him that this morning I made fourteen loaves, cooked dinner for eight persons, and after I had done my own household duties I went into my neighbour's, who was ill, and did hers. I thought then that I was surely entitled to go out and try to get my candidate elected." That work absorbs time and attention, but the mere making of a cross on a voting paper will not absorb much time. A woman who is prepared to take that part in political life, who takes an interest in the affairs of State, and who is anxious to see her fellow-citizens' standard of living raised, surely has a grievance when she is unable to take part in a Parliamentary election. I say that this is a good thing, and not a bad thing. It is a good thing that women should be interested in the welfare of their country, and should wish to share the power of furthering causes in which they believe. I believe that the stage which we are marking to-day is one stage in an inevitable and reasonable movement. I have no apprehensions about the future. Though in many respects I dislike this Bill, I give my vote on the general principle, believing 305 that anything we can do to further the political interests of women will be for the best interests of this Empire.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
I do not think it is really necessary for me to take part in this Debate, and I would apologise for taking up time, because my point of view was presented with such power and force by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary earlier in the evening. I agree with almost every word that fell from my right hon. Friend. I agree with the irrelevant things he said. On the question of woman suffrage I am entirely with him. I agree with him in condemning the Bill, but for the life of me I cannot see the connection between the two. I have always voted for woman suffrage in this House. I have voted for Bills that were badly drafted, but I never voted for the Bill which was incapable of Amendment in Committee. That is the position here. I should like, with the indulgence of the House, to say one or two words in order to make my position clear. I have said that I agree with my right hon. Friend. I do not think that any case has been made against the extension of the franchise to women. Women in this country are affected by good Bills and by bad Bills, by good government and by bad government, just as seriously as are men. I have never been able to find out why they should not have a hand in fashioning the laws which effect their lives and happiness, and why they should not also have a voice in choosing the Government under which they live. I have always taken that view. After the argument of intellectual inferiority has been abandoned, as it has been very frankly in the course of this discussion, I think that the last shred of argument against woman suffrage has disappeared. Women who suffer wrong in this country can seek redress from every tribunal high and low equally with men except one. They cannot approach the highest court in the land. They have no more right to appear before the High Court of Parliament than lunatics have. They can only approach it through somebody else. I think that is a position which cannot long be defended. I have always taken that view. You cannot discriminate between the two. The questions that are coming before the House or that now are before the bar of this House, awaiting settlement, are questions which affect women quite as closely as they do men. These questions are questions upon 306 which women have just as much right to speak as men. They can speak with as great authority and with as great experience as men. Questions of temperance, of the education of their children, of insurance against unemployment, of insurance against invalidity and sickness, questions of the improvement of the home, of the taxation of food in every form—all these are questions where women can speak with the same authority as men. Therefore when you come to the question of whether you are going to extend the franchise to women I still adhere to the position I have always held, and do not depart from it in the slightest degree. But let me remind the House what the question is before it at the present moment. The question which will be put from the Chair is not "That this House extend the franchise to women," but "That this Bill be read the second time." That is a very different question. I have listened very carefully to most of the speeches in this Debate, but I cannot recall a single speech, with the possible exception of the very ingenious speech which the Leader of the Opposition has made, which even attempted to defend this Bill. My right hon. Friend beside me frankly said that if he knew this Bill was going through in its later stages he would oppose it.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I cannot conceive the attitude of mind that induces anyone to give a Second Reading to a Bill which cannot be amended in Committee, and which he says he will oppose in its later stages. It is not a defensible position, and if I did not know my right hon. Friend I would say it was not a very frank position. What does it mean? This is the first Bill which has been framed in such a way that it is out of order to move an Amendment, and to expand it in the sense in which a majority of the Members of this House would like to see it expanded. It is not a question of whether or not you are in favour of woman franchise. It is a question of whether you are in favour of this form of experimenting. No, it is more than that. It is a question of whether you are going to decide that the House of Commons shall have no right to adjudicate between the various methods of settling this question. I know it has been said by my two right hon. Friends that they would rather have this Bill than none at all. Why should that be the alternative? 307 [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the other?"] Well, I cannot say for the moment; but allow me, I am trying to concentrate really for the sake of others who desire to follow me in this Debate. What I want to point out is this: When you say that you are in favour of this Bill rather than of no Bill at all as being the alternative, it is not a fair way to put it, as the House of Commons, at any rate, ought to have the privilege of declaring whether there are not other alternatives. Supposing this Bill were so drafted that you could in Committee put forward other alternatives. If the House of Commons declares that it prefers this alternative to any other, then the friends of this Bill may very well come and say, "This is the only form in which you can get it through; therefore you ought to vote for it." That is not the position. The Bill is framed in such a way that nobody can move another alternative. What does that mean? It means that this Committee of Conciliation, whoever they may be—a committee of women meeting outside—come to the House of Commons and say that "not merely must you vote for woman suffrage, but you must vote for the particular form upon which we agree, and we will not even allow you to deliberate upon any other form." That is a position that no self-respecting Legislature can possibly accept. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling said, "You can move Amendments." This is not the view of Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker's view is that you cannot move Amendments.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
At any rate, Mr. Speaker was the only authority in this House to declare upon the matter.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Well, I do not like to raise the question of the Chairman of Committees as against the Speaker. At any rate, you have had no other intimation from any other authority of this House that Amendments can be moved, and for the moment we must accept that view of the Chair with regard to the possibility of amendment. But has there been any concealment in this House about the question? It is not merely Mr. Speaker's view; it is the view of the promoters of the Bill. They themselves avow that they have 308 framed the Bill in such a way as to make amendment impossible. It is one of those very, very smart things which overreach their purpose. That is what has happened in this case. I should like to put this question. I am told this is the thin end of the wedge, but may I just point out that is not the view of the promoters? Their view is that this is final. My hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading of this Bill said, "This, after all, is only the thin end of the wedge. I am going on, and the promoters will go on." Let me point out what was said last night by his friends at an anti-suffrage meeting in the Queen's Hall, when Lord Cromer was the speaker. Lord Cromer said exactly what the hon. Member said:—It may be a moderate Bill, but there will be an ultimate demand to give votes to all women.And then the report goes on:—Five tall women, garbed in white and purple and green ribbon, rose and solemnly said, 'Liar.'That is the view which the promoters of the Bill take of my hon. Friend when he makes statements of that kind. They take up this position. They have framed the Bill in such a way that it is quite impossible to test the question as to what form the extension of the suffrage ought to take in the opinion of the House of Commons. After all, when the time comes for discussing this in Committee—and it has got to be discussed very carefully; it is a gigantic change, I am all in favour of it; I think it will have very great results; and it is a change of very great moment in the history of this country—and it ought to be considered very carefully by a full Committee of the Whole House, and it ought to be considered when the House of Commons is perfectly untrammelled, when every method of dealing with the question should be fully canvassed and considered, when every alternative should be fully discussed, so that the House of Commons, after full and deliberate reflection, can come to a conclusion as to the best means of settling the question.
How have these ladies chosen to dictate to the House of Commons the manner of discussing the Bill? They have deliberately framed the Bill in a way that it is impossible to amend it, and for that reason I shall absolutely not only refuse to vote for it, but with very great reluctance, and for the first time I shall give a vote against a Bill which appears to be a woman suffrage Bill, but which is really an attempt 309 to dictate to the House of Commons the way in which the question should be solved. I have a suggestion to make to hon. Members who support the Bill, and I think it is a test. The hon. Member for Blackburn is going to reply. I put this to him: I am anxious to vote for this Bill; it is with the deepest reluctance that I will give any vote which appears to be against it. I can assure him that is the case. I put this to him. If the promoters of this Bill say that they regard the Second Reading merely as an affirmation of the principle of woman suffrage, and if they promise that when they reintroduce the Bill it will be in a form which will enable the House of Commons to move any Amendment either for restriction or for extension I shall be happy to vote for this Bill.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That is a question for the Prime Minister. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn will take exactly the point which I put to him. If he is able to give that assurance on behalf of the promotors I shall be happy to vote for this Bill. If not, I cannot see how I can, and for the simple reason that this is not a democratic Bill. It is purely a Bill to pick and choose different classes of women. I do not want to say a word about the class of women who will be chosen, but no one would say they would be the best representatives of the working classes. They do not represent them, and for that reason I appeal to the supporters of this Bill in the interests of woman suffrage that they are not taking the best method of proceeding. If they brought a Bill to this House, even this Bill, framed in a way that anybody could have moved Amendments for extending it and taking the opinion of the House of Commons upon the best method of settling it, I would not say a word against it. But since they have chosen deliberately to say to the House of Commons "we will not allow you to discuss any alternative," I with the deepest reluctance, and for the first time in my life, and perhaps for the last, will go into the Lobby against the Bill.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down will not, I hope, think it is discourteous on my part if I do not attempt to follow the line of argument he has pursued. Certainly the peculiar character 310 of this Debate alluded to by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition earlier has not changed since he spoke, and our discussion up to this time has lost nothing of the piquancy or strangeness by which it is surrounded. I do not wish to intervene in the discussion between the two right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite who last addressed the House. Both of them are supporters of woman suffrage, and the one for that reason is supporting the Second Reading of this Bill, and the other for the same reason opposing it. My position is different from that of both of them. Like every Gentleman who has spoken in this Debate, I cannot claim to speak for any party in the House. We on our side are as profoundly divided as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite by a question which cuts athwart all our ordinary party divisions and separates men who are not only accustomed to act, but to think together on all ordinary political questions. But although our divisions be so great, there is one point on which we must all agree, and that is that this is no small matter that we are discussing. Whether we be for the Bill or against it, whether we be in favour of the movement for woman suffrage or against it, we are all agreed that it is one of the gravest questions this House could be called upon to settle. It goes to the root not merely of our constitutional and political system, it goes to the very root of the whole construction of society and its whole conformation as we have witnessed it in its growth and development in the centuries of our history.
It is quite true that some efforts have been made to belittle this question. My Noble Friend the Member for Oxford (Lord Hugh Cecil) said he thinks this essentially a small matter. I cannot take his view. For good or evil I think it is a very great question, and I think my Noble Friend is entering rather lightly on a path the end of which he does not see and which may contain surprises as disagreeable to him as they would be to me, though in my case they would be less unexpected. We are told the Bill is a Conciliation Bill. Whom does it conciliate? It does not conciliate those who, like myself, are opposed to woman suffrage in any shape or form. It is no conciliation to us to be told that we may proceed at first by easy stages towards the precipice over which we are ultimately to be pushed. Does it conciliate anyone among the real advocates and promoters of this movement? The 311 hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. W. S. B. M'Laren) alone among the supporters of this Bill declared that this was a settlement, that he would seek to go no further. I do not doubt his good faith, but I doubt his authority. He has been repudiated by every other advocate who has spoken for the Bill.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Then even the hon. Gentleman thinks there is very little conciliation about this settlement which is only to exist for a year, and which leads those who are in favour of carrying the movement much farther from exercising the same means and the same processes which they have hitherto used in order to carry their measure farther. I prefer the frankness of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education. Why does he support the Bill? "Because," he says, "it is the best way of breaking the ice." Yes; he means that if he passes this Bill he has got over the one difficult barrier, and henceforth he can march on as far as he wishes until his ultimate goal is attained. If we pass this Bill we have not arrived at a settlement of this question. We are at the beginning of a revolution, and I, for my part, am not to be conciliated by being told that the first step is only a little one, for it is not the amount, but the thing itself to which I object. It is not the number of women who are to be admitted, but it is the extension of the franchise to women as such to which I offer my resistance.
Here I have to reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Lyttelton). I do not know whether it is the result of party prejudice—from which even in this Debate, perhaps, I have been unable to break myself—but it seems to me that the best speeches in favour of the Bill were those delivered by my two right hon. Friends. But I am obliged to reply to my right hon. Friend's speech on this point because he directly challenged me. He said that I had addressed women's meetings; that I had asked for women's help and encouraged them in political activities; and he asked with what consistency after that could I refuse to them the vote. He even went further and he said, in tones of obvious and deep sincerity, that to him it 312 seemed that it was going dangerously near to sacrificing the standard of personal honour to ask or to accept this assistance and then to refuse the vote. I feel called upon to answer that challenge, and it is not a difficult thing to do. My honour would be at stake if I asked women's assistance, or accepted it, under false pretences. I have never made any secret of my views on this question. The first question I was asked when I first stood for Parliament in 1892 was whether I would vote for the extension of the franchise to women. My answer was "No," and it has been repeated on every occasion when a similar question has been put to me. On the first occasion on which, in my own Constituency, I had the opportunity of addressing a general meeting of the very large Unionist Women's Association which exists there, I chose this as the topic of my remarks, and in order that there should be no misconception, and that no assistance should be given to me under any false idea of what my attitude was going to be, I told them that I was opposed to the extension of the franchise to women. Well, then, I say we may put on one side the question of honour. But how about the question of consistency? My right hon. Friend said, and said rightly, that any man would be an ass who, on many questions which come before us in this House as well as out of it, would not seek the counsel of women and gladly welcome their advice and even invite and press for their co-operation. I agree with him.
Is it supposed that we reject the counsel or advice of women—we who are opposed, I do not say to giving them the vote, but to imposing upon them the responsibility and labour which that involves? We welcome their counsel and advice, as every man will do who is a wise man, in his private concerns. Every man who is a wise man will listen to the advice of the women who are near to him. He will often take it. But has the man who leaves to the wife or to the woman the predominant and the decisive voice the respect, either of his fellow-men or of women at large? I have yet to learn that either among men or women it is thought that that man wins honour and credit who leaves the decisive and predominant voice to women. There is no inconsistency between welcoming their counsel and advice, and saying that the ultimate decision should be the decision of men, and that with them the final responsibility and power should rest. Let me ask my right 313 hon. Friend one question: On what evidence does he assume that those ladies who have given me their assistance, and whom I have thanked for the assistance they have given, desire the vote? I have my own opinion, but I will not express it, for I have never tested it by a canvass as to the views of the great majority of the women of my association. But at least I may say, not going further afield than the circle of my own family, I owe in this respect a debt of gratitude to a wife and a sister, who would be the first to withdraw their support from me if I attempted to impose upon women the vote. Then let me observe that in my temporary separation from my Leader I find some comfort in the fact that he has stated to-day that if we can show to him that the majority of women do not desire this vote, then his support of the movement ceases. We are speaking on both sides in lamentable ignorance, as far as proof is concerned. Many of us have convictions amounting to certainty, but on neither side can we advance proof as to the attitude of the majority of women. For my part, I am convinced that the great majority of women not only do not desire the vote, but are directly opposed to the obligation to vote being placed upon them.
I say this is no small matter. I cannot understand the views of those who think, whether on the doctrine of consent, on the doctrine of justice, on the doctrine of equality, or on any other of the various pretexts which have been put forward for this Bill, that you can grant this Bill and go no further. I hesitate to say, after the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that such a course is not logical. Yet I venture to say that he is almost alone in the House in believing that it is. My right hon. Friend is a master of logic, and I suppose that is why he treats it with a good deal of contempt. Those of us less happily situated feel obliged to pay a little more attention to it. I have listened to this Debate almost from beginning to end, and I have not heard a single argument adduced in support of this Bill which cannot be adduced, and with equal force, in support of womanhood suffrage, and not merely of womanhood suffrage, but of that very right to sit in this House of which my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford (Lord Hugh Cecil) said that it would change the whole atmosphere of the House and spoil the whole of its traditions. What is so dangerous to this House may not be a good thing for the electorate. Why is that good for the 314 electorate which would spoil the whole of the traditions of the House, which is the creation of the electorate?
What are the arguments which are urged in support of this Bill or of the demand of women to vote? for in truth in the short time that is mine I am not going to argue this Bill. Its absurdities are so palpable, its inconsistencies are so glaring, that it is not really this Bill that we are discussing, and it would not be worth while if it were for me to delay the House for a moment. But what are the arguments urged in favour of giving the vote to women? Where they are not abstract arguments as to the rights of men or of women, in the style of Rousseau, they all come back to this: Woman cannot be represented at the polls by man. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) agrees with me. He accepts that. If I, a male voter, cannot represent women by my vote, can I, as a male Member of this House, represent women here? No answer has ever been given to that question. Every argument which has been urged in support of the demand of women to the franchise can be urged with equal reason to support that ideal which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Haldane) pictured and to produce which, he said, in earlier years he had himself introduced a Bill—that ideal world in which there is no distinction in law between man and woman, and where what distinctions there are to be are to be left to nature to enforce. I think it is better the law should conform and that we should follow in our laws the distinction thus laid down. It is on that ground that I am an opponent of woman suffrage. In my opinion the sex of woman is a disqualification in fact, and we had better continue so to regard it in law. I altogether decline to argue this question on the narrow ground whether individual women are not the equals or superiors of individual men in intelligence, or whether property in the hands of woman is not entitled to the same influence as property in the hands of man. We do not measure votes among men according to their individual intelligence or individual wealth, and we cannot create special qualifications for women. It is not on a narrow ground of that kind but on the broad ground of principle that there is by nature a profound difference between woman and man and that that difference is of a kind to disqualify woman for the political duties which fall upon man that I base my opposition.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I decline to follow the hon. Member into the discussion of the bearings on this question of the long honoured and successful reign of Her late most gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, but, as he challenges me, I will say that no woman ever more deeply felt the cruelty to women of thrusting these great responsibilities upon them than did Her Majesty Queen Victoria. I have said that there is this great disqualification: we recognise it in every other sphere. I notice my Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University, though he is in favour of the greatest liberty for women in public affairs—being in a position of greater freedom and less responsibility than I occupy—is still an advocate for stern domestic autocracy.
In my opinion women are not qualified to exercise the franchise, with all the succeeding steps which it will entail—not because they are inferior to man, but because they are different from man, and because these differences are of a kind which are vital in the consideration of this question. Their qualities which we most admire and respect are their lofty devotion to ideals, their dependence upon others—upon husband or brother or the hero of their imagination, their willingness to yield their opinions, their almost passionate desire for self-sacrifice—often, it must be admitted, on behalf of objects very little worthy of their great devotion; their unwillingness to compromise; their insistence, without compromise, on what they believe to be right—these are qualities to which the world owes much which help to make not only woman, but man what they are. But these are not political virtues, and they do not qualify for the exercise of the franchise. Politics are every day a matter of compromise; wisdom in politics is nearly always compromise, and politics consist daily in the acceptance of the second best—in a choice between evils—in taking something which is not ideal, but because it is the best it is possible to obtain at the moment. Politics require the separation of the individual from the cause, and the ready sacrifice of the individual for the cause, the strict subordination of personal preference to great principles, and a steadfast pursuit of the same objects for long periods—qualities which are found not with too great frequency among men, and which are found 316 very rarely among women. I hear it said in answer to that from time to time, if you give women the vote and call upon them to exercise it, they will be assimilated to men in these respects, they will acquire the qualities which men possess, and will surrender something of those qualities which have been theirs before, but that is no consolation to those of us who oppose this measure. God forbid that they should abandon the qualities which are our pride and theirs. God forbid that they should assimilate the qualities of men. The whole world would be the poorer for it. No worse service can be done to the cause of the nation and the women than to obliterate those attributes to which society and the nation owe so much. It is not therefore because I think women inferior to men; it is not because I give way to any man in my reverence or regard for them, but just because I place their qualities so high, because I respect them so greatly, because I think those qualities are so valuable an asset of the national life and that they cannot be maintained unimpaired in the turmoil of our political and party system, that I am reluctant to take this first step, though it is a small one, on the path which is now opening before us. To impose upon two sexes so unequally constituted equal burdens and equal rights, if you will, to ignore the distinctions set up by nature and to treat them as if they were artificial, to regard as ephemeral those differences which are profound and which have existed through all time and grow greater rather than less with the progress of civilisation, that is not to remove inequality or to alleviate injustice. It is to perpetrate injustice and create inequality. And it is not from any fear of women, from any selfish desire to preserve exclusive rights or privileges for man; it is from the profoundest reverence for woman's real work in her own great sphere that I beg this House at the outset not to tamper with this question, but to declare that they will maintain the great distinction which now finds its place under our laws for the benefit of women no less than to the advantage of the State.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I am sure that I shall receive the sympathy of every section of this House in the difficult task before me of attempting in so short a time to deal with points which have been urged by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down and by other speakers who have spoken in opposition to the Second Reading of the Bill. I must do so as rapidly 317 and as briefly as possible. I must stick strictly to facts without calling upon my imagination, and will, unlike the Secretary of State for the Home Department, endeavour to address myself to this House and not to make a speech in the hope of attracting the attention of the gallery outside this House. In approaching this question one is faced with exceptional difficulties—the arguments against the extension of the franchise to women are so contradictory. We have, for instance, in the course of this Debate had opposition to the Bill because of its limited character—opposition from those who want a wider extension of the franchise than is proposed by this Bill. On the other hand, we have those who are in favour of a very moderate and very restricted extension of the franchise. We have the argument that woman's sphere is the home, and then there is the objection that the extension of the Parliamentary vote to women will take women away from the useful work they are doing at present in local government. So it is very difficult to meet these contradictory arguments. There are, however, two features of this Debate which have been constantly put forward. All the speakers—and in no speech, I think, was it so marked as in that of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Austen Chamberlain)—have shown themselves unable to look at this question except from the point of view of men. The story is told of a man and his wife, who, after a long day's tramp, arrived late one evening at a country inn, hungry and footsore. They asked the landlord for a meal. He said he was very sorry, but the only thing he had in the house was one mutton chop. "What," said the man, "is there nothing at all for my wife?" Now the man in that case did not object to the woman having a meal, but she was to come after the satisfaction of his appetite.
Another point has been urged by those who oppose the measure that this House has done for woman everything that women possibly could do for themselves, and the Home Secretary gave what I thought was a particularly unfortunate illustration of that. He referred to the Old Age Pensions Act, and claimed that it treated women and men alike. The right hon. Gentleman was forgetful of the fact that when the Old Age Pensions Bill was introduced it did not treat men and women alike, and in the case of married couples it reduced the amount of the pension by 25 per cent., and it was only after an Amendment, moved from these benches, that we 318 got equality of treatment for men and women. In other respects the Old Age Pensions Act does not treat men and women alike. A considerable number of women have been disqualified for pensions because they married foreigners. According to the law of this land, the wife takes the nationality of the husband. But if an Englishman marries a foreign woman, he does not lose his right to an old age pension. Another way in which the Old Age Pensions Act does not treat men and women alike is that the receipt of Poor Law relief by the man disqualifies the wife. The Prime Minister, using a mistaken argument, referred to the inclusion of domestic servants in the Workmen's Compensation Act three or four years ago. Surely the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten the circumstances under which that was accepted and carried. It was not the result of representations made by the Government. The whole thing was done in about five minutes, and I remember the whole incident perfectly clearly. The Home Secretary of the day opposed the Amendment which was moved by an hon. Member on the opposite side of the House, and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman rose, evidently on his own responsibility, and accepted the Amendment. I would point out further that Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was a strong and convinced supporter of woman suffrage, and that the concession was given by the majority in order to do justice to women.
I want to deal not so much with the general question of woman suffrage as with the arguments advanced in opposition to this particular Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he had never heard any speech from any of the supporters of woman suffrage in support of the Bill itself. I am going to defend the Bill. I am going to vote for the Bill because I believe in it. I support the Bill for the best of all possible reasons—namely, that it is the only Bill which can unite the various sections of opinion which are in favour of the extension of the suffrage to women. That is the best recommendation of the Bill. We cannot carry a Woman Suffrage Bill except by a compromise of that kind. We can get no Government to take up this question. The present Government is hopelessly divided on it, and if we had a Unionist Government they would be disunited. Therefore it is only by a Bill which will be a compromise that we will conciliate the differences of opinion, and that we can hope 319 to carry the measure into law. I believe this is a tentative measure, and of a character which will do the least possible harm if it does not result in good. It will be useful for future experience. Theoretically, as a Democrat, I believe in adult suffrage just as I believe in Socialism. If somebody were to ask me if I am in favour of the nationalisation of the means of production, distribution, and exchange I would say "Yes," but I would not refuse a measure for the nationalisation of some part of the instruments of production, distribution, and exchange because, as a Socialist, I believe in the nationalisation of all the means of production, distribution and exchange. Although theoretically I believe that every person who is called upon to observe the laws ought to have a voice in the making of these laws, still I would not refuse to vote for a measure which will be a partial embodiment of that principle. That may be conservatism, but I believe in such matters, and, indeed, in all matters, in moving slowly and regularly. I believe in carrying the opinion of the people with me in every reform. I believe there will be no permanence in any reform which has not the support of public opinion at its back. Therefore, in defending such a departure as this for the extension of the franchise to women I want to move gradually. I would not deal with the enfranchisement of women by a proposal to enfranchise the whole of the 11,000,000 adult women in the country at once. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] I will tell you my reason. The women have never had much political education. Men have not educated women politically. Practically every hon. Member of this House invariably begins his political speeches by "Gentlemen," not "Ladies and Gentlemen." Women are not encouraged to come to political meetings. Women have not taken much interest in question of the hour. They have not had the opportunity of expressing their political opinion. Extend the Parliamentary franchise to a few women and you make all women potential voters. You increase the interest which women will take in political questions. A woman may not have a vote under this Bill, but she never knows when she may have a vote under this Bill, and, therefore, there will be developed by a partial measure of enfranchisement of this character a general interest among women in political questions.
320 There are, on this side of the House, a very large number of Members who are afraid that the effect of the Bill may be to give undue representation to property. That was the main point urged in the speech of the Home Secretary. That is an objection which those who have been agitating this question for many years have often had to meet, and we have met it fairly and fully. We have had investigations made to ascertain the number of people who would be enfranchised by this Bill, and the social standing of the women who would be enfranchised by it. Our opponents confine themselves to general statements. We give facts. Opponents like the Home Secretary never go beyond the general statement that the passing of a measure of this character will enfranchise a large number of property owners. The question I want answered is this: How will it do it? Practically speaking, the passing of this measure will give the Parliamentary vote to the women who have the municipal franchise at present. Is there a Member of this House who questions that even a fairly moderate proportion of the municipal voters are women who belong to other than the working class? Four-fifths of the municipal voters are women who have to earn their own living. The Home Secretary showed his most intimate knowledge of working-class life and conditions by the figures which he gave and misquoted from Mr. Charles Booth's account of the occupations of the women householders in London. In giving the figures to the House, let me say I am inclined to think that there is a larger percentage of women on the municipal register in London who are not of the working class than is the case in most of the large towns of the country. Take the occupiers of London and you find that 51 per cent. of the women are working for wages and, according to the Home Secretary, these were the only women who were entitled to be regarded as working women. Another very large and important class of working women the Home Secretary ignored altogether are the 70,000 widows of working men who are housekeepers, women who take in lodgers, women who have grown-up children to whom they act as housekeepers, they account for 38 per cent. of women occupiers, so that in those two classes you have 89 per cent. of the present women occupiers. I come to another large class still to be accounted for. There are 5 per cent. who have only one servant, but in that number there is a very con- 321 siderable number of lodging-house keepers, and the servant is really a domestic help to a woman householder employed in earning her means of livelihood. So that 94 per cent. of women occupiers in London who earn their living belong to the working classes. I am perfectly willing to give my opponents the remaining 6 per cent. who keep more than one servant, but they are not justified in assuming that the whole of those 6 per cent. belong to a class who are out of sympathy with the working classes. I have no sympathy at all with the argument which we sometimes hear that sympathy with the working classes or the desire to improve the working classes is confined entirely to those who belong to what we call the working classes in the ordinary sense of the term. Indeed, the cause of women and every reform in which women are interested owes most to women who do not belong to the working classes. Therefore my hon. Friends on this side of the House who are afraid that property power might be increased by the passing of a measure of this class need have no fear. "Oh," some of them may say, "but there is a proposal in the Bill to give the occupation franchise, and that would enable the multiplication of property votes." Facts are stubborn things. Let me put before the House one or two facts bearing on the point. We have a franchise for men, which lends itself admirably to the purpose of creating property votes—I mean the lodger vote. There is not a man of property in the country or a man living in a house of over £30 a year, with grown-up sons, who could not qualify those sons for the Parliamentary vote under the lodger franchise. But do they do it?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I am glad of that "yes" from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who really from his position in the past ought to have some knowledge of electoral matters. It is quite evident his knowledge in that respect is extremely limited. There are upon the Parliamentary register at the present time 7,775,000 voters. How many lodger voters are there? Considerably less than 300,000. A few moments ago I took the trouble to examine the Return which was presented to this House in regard to the division of electors in the various constituencies 322 of the country, and I took constituencies bordering on my own. In the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Shackleton), with between 20,000 and 30,000 electors, I find that there are twenty lodger voters. In Accrington, with nearly 17,000 voters, there are two lodger voters. In Darwen I find the number of lodgers there is eight, and my point is strengthened when I mention that in the Darwen Division the balance of parties is so extremely near that less than a dozen votes in more than one case has determined the result of the election. Therefore, although it might be possible, it will not be done. Occupation qualifications will not be created under this Bill. They would have to be proved to be genuine qualifications.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
If the right hon. Gentleman will refer to the roll he will discover that for himself. I want to deal with the challenge thrown out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He asked me if I could state on behalf of the promoters of this Bill whether we would be willing to withdraw the Bill in order that the opportunity might be given to the House to discuss the kind of Franchise Bill it would like to carry. My answer to that is in the form of a question to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am speaking, I think, the mind of the Conciliation Committee. By the way, may I correct the right hon. Gentleman upon this point? He spoke of the Conciliation Committee as a committee of women. There is no woman on the Conciliation Committee, not one. It is a committee of men entirely, Members of this House. With regard to the challenge of the right hen. Gentleman, we will withdraw this Bill if the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Government, or the Prime Minister himself, will undertake to give to this House the opportunity of discussing and, if the House desires, of carrying through its various stages another form of Franchise Bill. If we cannot get that, then we shall prosecute this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to give us that concession. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the House ought to have the opportunity of saying what kind of a Franchise Bill it would have. That comes rather strangely from the 323 right hon. Gentleman. He was in charge of the Old Age Pensions Bill, and did he give the House the opportunity of saying what kind of an Old Age Pensions Bill it desired?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Certainly, not merely the principle but the form of the legislation was discussed. I may remind the hon. Gentleman that the question of contributory pensions was discussed not merely once or twice but three times on a motion by the hon. Member for Preston.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Quite so; but the right hon. Gentleman knows that the Government opposed every Amendment with one single exception. I can give you an extract from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman, in which he said that if those Amendments were carried the Bill would be dropped. He taunted hon. Members opposite with moving unnecessary Amendments, and that they were really moved to destroy the Bill. That is the position of the Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is no chance of embodying in law their professions of sympathy with the cause of woman suffrage. They adopt the old familiar tactics. They are quite in favour of the principle, but it would pass the wit of man to put that principle into a Bill which would meet with the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary. I know that kind of opposition. We have had it through all the agitation in favour of votes for women, the usual opposition very often taken up by men, because they think they can take shelter and hide their opposition to the enfranchisement of women by pretending to be more democratic than those in favour of woman suffrage. I want to say further, with reference to the challenge of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if we agree to recommit this Bill will the Government then give us an opportunity of discussing an amended Bill? The Bill might be recommitted in respect of the title, to give it a wider scope, and if that were done the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have an opportunity of
§ showing that he was really in earnest in his desire to promote a wider measure.
§ This question has been before the House of Commons for more than forty years. It is forty years since the House of Commons declared, by passing the Second Reading of a Bill that the disability of sex ought to be removed from our franchise laws. During those forty years women have proved their capacity for public service in a hundred different ways. Women in those forty years have carried off against men the highest honours the universities can offer, and they have served the State with advantage and honour in many ways. Women now come to this House and demand the enactment of this measure. The united suffrage organisations of the country demand the enactment of this Bill, not as a favour, but as an act of justice far too long delayed. I speak in this matter as no formal advocate, I speak from a profound conviction of the truth and justice of the cause which I support. Women have no one of their own sex in this House to speak on their behalf. I esteem it to be one of the greatest privileges of my life to speak for them here. I know the women who are fighting the battle of their sex, and I desire to pay my tribute of respect to their heroism, devotion, and high-mindedness. I know something—at least as much as a man can know—of how they feel that the political status of women, even of the most accomplished and public-spirited women, is lower than that of the most degraded and ignorant man. I know, too, how tens of thousands of women are longing for the passing of this Bill, that they may have an opportunity of working in other great causes and standing side by side with men as comrades and friends in helping to solve the great problems of human misery. I do not speak to women; I speak to men; and I appeal to the men of this House to rise above political prejudice and masculine bigotry, and to honour themselves by honouring and respecting the womanhood of the nation.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 299; Noes, 190.327
|Division No. 89.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Arbuthnot, G. A.||Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Armitage, R.||Balfour, Robert (Lanark)|
|Adam, Major William A.||Ashley, W. W.||Banner, John S. Harmood-|
|Alden, Percy||Attenborough, W. A.||Barclay, Sir T.|
|Anderson, A.||Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Baring, Captain Hon. G.|
|Barlow, Sir John E.||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Barnes, G. N,||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Barton, William||Hall, E. Marshall (L'pool, E. Toxteth)||Newman, John R. P.|
|Benn, I. H. (Greenwich)||Hamersley,A. St. George||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Bentham, G. J.||Hancock, J. G.||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Hardle, J. Keir||Nield, Herbert|
|Bird, A.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Nuttall, H.|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Ogden, Fred|
|Black, Arthur W.||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||O'Grady, James|
|Boland, John Pius||Harwood, George||O'Malley, William|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Haworth, Arthur A.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Boyle, W. L. (Norfolk, Mid)||Hayward, Evan||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Boyton, J.||Hazleton, Richard||Palmer, Godfrey|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Healy, Timothy Michael (Louth, N.)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Brigg. Sir John||Helme, Norval Watson||Pearson, Weetman H. M.|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Peel, Capt. R. F. (Woodbridge)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Burgoyne, A. H.||Higham, John Sharp||Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Pembroke)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Hillier, Dr. A. P.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Hindle, Frederick George||Pointer, Joseph|
|Buxton, C. R. (Devon, Mid.)||Hodge, John||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Byles, William Pollard||Horne, C. Silvester (Ipswich)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Calley, Colonel T. C. P.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Radford, G. H.|
|Cameron, Robert||Hudson, Walter||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hughes, S L.||Rainy, A. Rolland|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hume-Williams, W. E.||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Cave, George||Hunter, Sir C. R. (Bath)||Rankin, Sir James|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Illingworth, Percy H.||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Rawson, Colonel R. H.|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Jackson, John A. (Whitehaven)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Johnson, W.||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Clough, William||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Clynes, J. R.||Jowett, F. W.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Joyce, Michael||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Keating, M.||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)||Kemp, Sir G.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Cooper, R. A. (Walsall)||Kettle, Thomas Michael||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron||King, J. (Somerset, N.)||Robinson, S.|
|Craig, Norman (Kent)||Knight, Capt. E. A.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Knott, James||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Crossley, Sir W. J.||Law, Andrew Boner (Dulwich)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Davies, E. William (Elfion)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lawson, Hon. Harry||Rutherford, Watson|
|Davies, M. Vaughan(Cardigan)||Leach, Charles||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Dawes, J. A.||Lewis, John Herbert||Samuel, J. (Stockton)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lewisham, Viscount||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Llewelyn, Venables||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-In-Furness).||Low, Sir F. (Norwich)||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Duncannon, Viscount||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Lynch, A. A.||Schwann, Sir C. E.|
|Edwards, Enoch||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (Hanover Sq.)||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyn[...])|
|Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Seddon, J.|
|Elverston, H.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Shortt, Edward|
|Falconer, James||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Simon, J. A.|
|Fell, Arthur||M'Callum, John M.||Smith, H. B. (Northampton)|
|Fenwick, Charles||M'Curdy, C. A.||Snowden, P.|
|Ferens, T. R.||M'Kean, John||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Fitzroy, Hon. E. A.||M'Laren, Rt. Hon. Sir C. B. (Leics.)||Stonier, Beville|
|Fletcher, J. S.||M'Laren, F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Forster, Henry William||M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)||Strauss, Arthur|
|Foster, H. S. (Suffolk, N.)||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Summers, James Woolley|
|France, G. A.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Furness, Stephen||Marks, G. Croydon||Sutton, John E.|
|Gastrell, Major W. H.||Meagher, Michael||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Gelder, Sir W. A.||Meehan, Francis E. (Leltrim, N.)||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Gibson, Sir James Puckering||Menzles, Sir Walter||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Gill, A. H.||Middlebrook, William||Terrell, H. (Gloucester)|
|Glanville, H. J.||Millar, J. D.||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Glover, Thomas||Mond, Sir Alfred||Thomas, D. A. (Cardiff)|
|Goldman, C. S.||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Thomas, J. H. (Derby)|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Greene, W. R.||Morrison, Captain J. A.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Toulmin, George|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Munro, R.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Gulland, John William||Murray, Captain Hon. A. C.||Twist, Henry|
|Gwynn, Stephen Luc[...] (Galway)||Muspratt, M.||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Verney, F. W.||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)||Wing, Thomas Henry|
|Vivian, Henry||White, Sir George (Norfolk)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Walrond, Hon. Lionel||White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)||Worthington-Evans, L. (Colchester)|
|Walsh, Stephen||White, Patrick (Meath, North)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Waiters, John Tudor||Whitehouse, John Howard||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Walton, Sir Joseph||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.||Yerburgh, Robert|
|Wardle, George J.||Whyte, Alexander F.||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Waterlow, D. S.||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Shackleton and Sir J. Rolleston.|
|Watt, Henry A.||Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Wedgwood, Josiah C.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Gardner, Ernest||Mooney, J. J.|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Gibbs, G. A.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Agnew, George William||Gilmour, Captain J.||Mount, William Arthur|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Nugent, Sir Waiter Richard|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Gordon, J.||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Giant, J. A.||O'Dowd, John|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Gretton, John||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Guest, Major||Pearce, William|
|Bagot, Captain J.||Guinness, Hon. W. E.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A.|
|Baird, J. L.||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Hackett, J||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Pretyman, E. G.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)||Priestley, Arthur (Grantham)|
|Barnston, H.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick, B.)||Hardy, Laurence||Primrose, Hon. Nell James|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.)||Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc.,E.)||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Proby, Colonel Douglas James|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Rawlinson, J. F. P.|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Ges.)||Heath, Col. A. H.||Reddy, M.|
|Bowles, T. Gibson||Helmsley, Viscount||Rees, Sir J. D.|
|Brackenbury, H. L.||Hemmerde, Edward George||Rice, Hon. W.|
|Brassey, H. L. C. (N'thamptonshire, N.)||Henderson, H. G. H. (Berkshire)||Richards, Thomas|
|Brassey, Capt. R. B. (Banbury)||Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Brunner, J. F. L||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hill, Sir Clement||Royde, Edmund|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Hills, J. W.||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Butcher, J. G. (York)||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Butcher, S. H. (Cambridge Univ.)||Hogan, Michael||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Campion, W. R.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. T. M. (Bootle)|
|Carson, Fit. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Holt, Richard Durning||Seely, Col., Right Hon. J. E. B.|
|Cator, John||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Cautley, H. S.||Hunt, Rowland||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Jardine, E. (Somerset, E.)||Starkey, John R.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Kelly, Edward||Stewart, Gershom (Ches., Wirral)|
|Clay, Captain H. Spender||Kerry, Earl of||Stewart, Sir M'T. (Kirkcudbright)|
|Colefax, H. A.||King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull)||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Compton, Lord A.||Kirkwood, J. H. M.||Talbot, Lord E.|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Lambert, George||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Cooper, Capt. Bryan (Dublin, S.)||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Layland-Barratt, Sir Francis||Tryon, Capt. George Clement|
|Cowan, W. H.||Lee, Arthur H.||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Lehmann, R. C.||Valentia, Viscount|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lloyd, G. A.||Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)|
|Croft, H. P.||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsay)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Crosfield, A. H.||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Cullinan, J.||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Dairymple, Viscount||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Wagon, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Ce.)||Lundon, Thomas||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Williamson, Sir A.|
|Dixon, C. H.||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droltwich)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude|
|Doris, W.||Mackinder, Halford J.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers.||Macmaster, Donald||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Du Cros, Alfred (Tower Hamlets, Bow)||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Winfrey, Richard|
|Du Cros, Arthur P. (Hastings)||Mallet, Charles E.||Winterton, Earl|
|Duffy, William J.||Manfield, Harry||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Mason, J. F.||Young, W. (Perthshire, E.)|
|Elibank, Master of||Masterman, C. F. G.||Younger, George (Ayr Burghs)|
|Eyres-Monsell, B. M.||Middlemore, J. T.|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir|
|Fleming, Valentine||Mitchell, William Foot||M. Levy and Mr. Arnold Ward.|
|Foster, J. K. (Coventry)|
|Main Question Put, and agreed to. Bill read a second time.|
§ Question put, "That the Bill be referred to a Committee of the Whole House."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 320; Noes, 175.333
|Division No. 90.]||AYES.||[11.14 p.m.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Hillier, Dr. A. P.|
|Adam, Major W. A.||Craig, Norman (Kent)||Hills, J. W.|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Cralk, Sir Henry||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Croft, H. P.||Hogan, Michael|
|Agnew, George William||Crosfield, A. H.||Hohler, G. F.|
|Anderson, A.||Cullinan, J.||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Dalrymple, Viscount||Hooper, A. G.|
|Archer-Shee, Major M.||Dalziel, D. (Brixton)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Horne, C. Silvester (Ipswich)|
|Armitage, R.||Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness)||Hume-Williams, W. E.|
|Ashley, W. W.||Dixon, C. H.||Hunt, Rowland|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Doris, W.||Hunter, Sir C. R.(Bath)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers.||Illingworth, Percy H.|
|Bagot, Captain J.||Du Cros, Alfred (Tower Hamlets, Bow)||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel|
|Baird, J. L.||Du Cros, Arthur P. (Hastings)||Jackson, Sir J. (Devonport)|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Duffy, William J.||Jardine, E. (Somerset, E.)|
|Baker, Sir R. L. (Dorset, N.)||Duke, H. E.||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Duncannon, Viscount||Kelly, Edward|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Land.)||E[...]bank, Master of||Kerry, Earl of|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Esslemont, George Birnie||Keswick, William|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Eyres-Monsell, B. M.||King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull)|
|Baring, Captain Hon. G.||Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Barnston, H.||Falle, B. G.||Kirkwood, J. H. M.|
|Barran, Sir J. (Hawick)||Fell, Arthur||Knott, James|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.)||Fitzroy, Hon. E. A.||Lambert, George|
|Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.)||Fleming, Valentine||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. B. (Glouc., E.)||Fletcher, J. S.||Leyland-Barratt, Sir Francis|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Forster, Henry William||Lee, Arthur H.|
|Benn, I. H. (Greenwich)||Foster, J. K. (Coventry)||Lehmann, R. C.|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.)||France, G. A.||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Bird, A.||Furness, Stephen||Llewelyn, Venables|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Gardner, Ernest||Lloyd, G. A.|
|Black, Arthur W.||Gastrell, Major W. H.||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsay)|
|Bowles, T. Gibson||Gelder, Sir W. A.||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Boyle, W. L. (Norfolk, Mid)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Brackenbury, H. L.||Gibson, Sir James Puckering||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Brassey, H. L. C. (Northants, N.)||Gibbs, G. A.||Low, Sir F. A. (Norwich)|
|Brassey, Capt. R. (Banbury)||Gilmour, Captain J.||Lundon, T.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Brigg, Sir John||Goldsmith, Frank||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)|
|Brunner, J. F. L.||Gordon, J.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Grant, J. A.||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Greig, Colonel J. W.||Mackinder, H. J.|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Gretton, John||Macmaster, Donald|
|Burgoyne, A. H.||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Guest, Major||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Guinness, Hon. W. E.||Mallet, Charles E.|
|Butcher, J. G. (York)||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Manfield, Harry|
|Butcher, S. H. (Cambridge Univ.)||Hackett, J.||Marks, G. Croydon|
|Buxton, Rt Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Mason, J. F.|
|Byles, William Pollard||Hail, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Masterman, C. F. G.|
|Calley, Colonel T. C. P.||Hall, E. Marshall (Toxteth)||Menzles, Sir Walter|
|Cameron, Robert||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Middlebrook, William|
|Campion, W. R.||Hamersley, A. St. George||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)||Mitchell,William Foot|
|Cator, John||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Mooney, J. J.|
|Cantley, H. G.||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)|
|Cave, George||Harmsworth, R. L.||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Morton, Alpheus Oleophas|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Mount, William Arthur|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Haworth, Arthur A.||Murray, Captain Hon. A. C.|
|Coates, Major E. F.||Hayward, Evan||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Colefax, H. A.||Heath, Col. A. H.||Newman, John R. P.|
|Collins, G. P. (Greenock)||Helmsley, Viscount||Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Hemmerde, Edward George||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)|
|Compton, Lord A. (Brentford)||Henderson, H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Henderson, J. McD. (Aberdeen, W.)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Cooper, Capt. Bryan (Dublin, S.)||Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor||O'Dowd, John|
|Cooper, R. A. (Walsall)||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hickmann, Colonel T.||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Cowan, W. H.||Hill, Sir Clement||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Pearce, William||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)|
|Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A.||Sanderson, Lancelot||Walsh, Stephen|
|Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Philipps, Sir Owen C. (Pembroke)||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. T. M. (Bootle)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Pollard, Sir George H.||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Pollock, Ernest Murray||Seely, Col., Right Hon. J. E. B.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Power, Patrick Joseph||Simon, John Allsebrook||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Pretyman, E. G.||Smith, H. B. (Northampton)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Priestley, Arthur (Grantham)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Watt, Henry A.|
|Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)||Soares, Ernest J.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Primrose, Hon. Nell James||Stanler, Beville||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Pringle, William M. R.||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Proby, Col. Douglas James||Starkey, John R.||White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)|
|Rainy, A. Ro[...]land||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Rankin, Sir James||Steel-Maitland, A. D.||Williamson, Sir A.|
|Ratcliff, Major R. F.||Stewart, Gershom (Ches. Wirral)||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claude|
|Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Stewart, Sir M'T. (Kirkcudbright)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Rea, Walter Russell||Summers, James Woolley||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.)|
|Reddy, M.||Sykes, Alan John||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Rees, Sir J. D.||Talbot, Lord E.||Winfrey, Richard|
|Rice, Hon. Walter F.||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)||Winterton, Earl|
|Richards, Thomas||Terrell, H. (Gloucester)||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Ripon)|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Robinson, S.||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)||Worthington-Evans, L. (Colchester)|
|Roche, John (Galway, East)||Thynne, Lord A.||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Ronaldshay, Earl of||Tobin, Alfred Asp[...]nail||Yerburgh, Robert|
|Rothschild, Lionel de||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Royds, Edmund||Tryon, Capt. George Clement||Younger, George (Ayr Burghs)|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Tulilbardine, Marquess of||Younger, W. (Peebles and Selkirk)|
|Salter, Arthur Clavell||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Samuel, J. (Stockton)||Valentla, Viscount||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Verney, F. W.||M. Levy and Mr. Arnold Ward.|
|Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Ferens, T. R.||M'Laren, Rt. Hon. Sir C. B. (Leices.)|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Foster, H. S. (Suffolk, N.)||M'Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)|
|Alden, Percy||Gill, A, H.||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry|
|Arbuthnot, G. A.||Glanville, H. J.||Markham, Arthur Basil|
|Attenborough, W. A.||Glover, Thomas||Meagher, Michael|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Greene, W. R.||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Gulland, John W.||Millar, J. D.|
|Barclay, Sir T.||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Mond, Sir Alfred|
|Barlow, Sir John E.||Hancock, J. G.||Montagu, Hon. E. S.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Morrison, Captain J. A.|
|Barton, William||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)||Muspratt, M.|
|Bentham, G. J||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Harwood, George||Nuttall, Harry|
|Boland, John Pius||Hazleton, Richard||Ogden, Fred|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Healy, Timothy (Michael)||O'Grady, James|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Helme, Norval Watson||O'Malley, William|
|Boyton, James||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Brotherton, E. A.||Higham, John Sharp||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Hindle, F. G.||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Buxton, C. R. (Devon, Mid)||Hodge, John||Pearson, Weetman H. M.|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, N.)||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Pointer, Joseph|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Hudson, Walter||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Hughes, S L.||Price, C. E.(Edinburgh, Central)|
|Chancing, Sir Francis Allston||Jackson, John A. (Whitehaven)||Radford, G H.|
|Chapple Dr. William Allen||Johnson, W.||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Clough, William||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Clynes, J. R.||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rawson, Colonel R. H.|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J. (St. Pancras, W.)||Jowett, F. W.||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Joyce, Michael||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Keating, M.||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Crossley, Sir W. J.||Kemp, Sir George||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Davies, E. William (Elf[...]on)||Kettle, Thomas Michael||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||King, J. (Somerset, N.)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan)||Knight, Capt. E. A.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Dawes, J. A.||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lawson, Hon. Harry||Roch, Walter F (Pembroke)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Leach, Charles||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.)||Lewisham, Viscount||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Rutherford, Watson|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Fenders, Robert A.|
|Edwards, Enoch||Lynch, A. A.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Schwann, Sir C. E.|
|Elverston, H.||M'Callum, John M.||Scott, A. H. (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Falconer, J.||M'Curdy, C. A.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Fenwick, Charles||M'Laren, F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Shortt, Edward|
|Snowden, P.||Vivian, Henry||Wiles, Thomas|
|Spicer, Sir Albert||Walrond, Hon. Lionel||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Strauss, A.||Walters, John Tudor||Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Sutherland, J. E.||Walton, Sir Joseph||Wing, Thomas|
|Sutton, John E.||Wardle, George J.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Waterlow, D. S||Yoxall, Sir James|
|Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||White, Sir George (Norfolk)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Thomas, D. A. (Cardiff)||White, Sir Luke (York, ER.)|
|Thomas, J. H. (Derby)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Whitehouse, John Howard||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Shackleton and Sir J. Rollesten.|
|Toulmin, George||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Twist, Henry||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for To-morrow (Wednesday).
§ ADJOURNMENT.—Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Master of Elibank.]
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-five minutes after Eleven o'clock.