§ Postponed proceeding on Amendment proposed on consideration of Clause 2 [see col. 1051], which Amendment was: In Subsection (1) to leave out the words, "any Bill other than a Money Bill," to insert instead 1128 thereof the words, "a Bill not being either a Money Bill or a Bill to extend the maximum duration of Parliament."—[Mr. Cassel.]
§ Debate resumed.
§ [The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. J. H. Whitley) in the Chair.]
§ Lord ALEXANDER THYNNE
When the proceedings were interrupted by Private Business I was saying that the Prime Minister had laid considerable emphasis both on the difficulties and on the expediency of endeavouring to place this country under the yoke of a written Constitution. The Prime Minister pointed out in some detail that the liberties and the privileges of the English people were drawn in the main from two different sources—that one large class depended upon the sanction of statute law, while another and no less important class depended upon usages and unwritten customs. Probably no more important class of customs and no more important liberties of the people of this country exist than those which depend at present upon the unwritten privileges of this House—privileges which have never received the sanction of statute law, but which have gradually grown from year to year and from century to century. It is the intention of the Government, under the present Bill to give to those same privileges the sanction of statute law. The Prime Minister then proceeded to his second contention, that discrimination between the different classes of legislation was a new principle to introduce upon the Statute Book.
I think we have in this very Bill an example of discrimination, in so far as the Bill in itself discriminates, very ineffectually I admit, between ordinary legislation and legislation which may be directly or indirectly classed under the heading of Money Bills. The Home Secretary tonight recognised the great changes which might ensue from the extension of the duration of the sittings of this House. But on April 13 he stated:—We have a definite Resolution on the Paper, and we shall have a definite Clause in the Bill, making five-year Parliaments necessary and inseparable from our constitutional system.It is quite clear that at that time the Home Secretary regarded Clause 5 of this Bill as the pivot Clause of the whole measure. Unless some such Amendment as that now suggested is accepted it will be quite within the competence of some future House to repeal Clause 5 with or without 1129 the assent of the Second Chamber, and so to remove that very portion of the Government scheme which the Home Secretary has characterised as both necessary and inseparable. Of all the arguments advanced against this Amendment there was only one on which the Prime Minister laid any emphasis. He stated that the Amendment was unnecessary. From the point of view of Members on this side the Amendment is not only necessary but of very great importance indeed, and I hope before the Committee divides upon it we shall hear some more cogent reasons why it should not be accepted.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
Earlier in the evening the hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. Bottomley) told us that the man in the street does not understand this Bill and that some electors consider it to be a sort of vegetable. If the man in the street takes the trouble to read the Debate of this afternoon, and particularly the speech delivered just now by the Prime Minister, he will be able to specify the vegetable included in this Bill and also its cooking. In other words, he may get some sort of glimmering of what the Bill really means. The Prime Minister told us that the machinery is to be used in this Parliament. To many electors of this country the Veto Bill may be a vegetable. But one thing is certain: to many thousands who are not contented at all with the legislation of this House the Veto Bill is not well understood, and appears as a vegetable. To the loyalist minority in the provinces of Ireland the Veto Bill has been well understood from the very beginning. To them it has meant Home Rule. They know perfectly well that if this Veto Bill is passed by this Parliament Home Rule for Ireland will ensue within the lifetime of this Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Well, I happen to be in a position to speak as a representative for that large minority, hailing, as I do, from the province of Munster, and being at the present time absolutely the only Member in the House of Commons who can claim to have been born and bred in one of these three provinces. We have faced this peril before on two occasions. But on each occasion we have been able to appeal to Cæsar. On this occasion we have not been able to appeal to Cæsar, either during the General Election or afterwards. We have been told that the Home Rule question was put before the country at the last two General Elections. Was it? Of the 270 Members who were returned to this Par- 1130 liament on the Liberal side how many mentioned Home Rule in their election addresses? [HON. MEMBERS: "Most of them."] Hon. Members are a little bit out of it. One hundred and eighty-six did not mention Home Rule at all. Yet hon. Members tell me that Cæsar was appealed to, and Cæsar said that the minority in Ireland are to be put upon by the Home Rule majority. Home Rule was not before the country at the last General Election. But if this Veto Bill is passed, if hon. Members opposite get their way, Home Rule will be before the country and will be passed, and the loyal minority in Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connaught will not have a chance to appeal. [HON. MEMBERS: "They will at the next election."] What is the good of that? Ireland will have had Home Rule.
The Prime Minister made what I may call an omnibus reply this afternoon. I am trying to put forward an omnibus objection. I have myself many pages further down the Paper an Amendment dealing with this very subject, though it is possible that the matter will have been discussed long before my Amendment is reached. I take therefore this opportunity, as one of the loyalist minority, of putting forward my objections to the Veto Bill as likely to be the means of thrusting Home Rule upon us, and putting the loyalist minority under the heel of men not altogether loyal. I am convinced that even many, if not most, of the Nationalist Members would prefer that Ireland should get Home Rule with the full sanction of England, Scotland, and Wales; that Home Rule should not be shoved through in this underhand manner.
I want to emphasise what was said just now by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Basingstoke Division. I would like further to thank him on behalf of my Friends on these Benches for having at last drawn away a curtain from the pretence so often put forward on the opposite benches of a real wish for a Second Chamber. Single-Chamber Government has been shown in all its nakedness. Because the only time the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in the course of a long speech, dealt with the Amendment at all was for about one minute. He then dealt with it in this way. He said he could not accept the Amendment, because if he did it might lead in the future to a Liberal Government, when they tried to extend their time of office, being vetoed by the Second 1131 Chamber; on the other hand, if a Conservative Government were in office, they might, by collusion with the Second Chamber, be able to get the extension they wished. The very fact of the right hon. Gentleman putting that forward shows any wish on their part to get a reformed and reconstituted Second Chamber is worth nothing at all. If they really wished this reform they speak of they would be able to secure what everybody on both sides of the House wants, a strong but impartial Second Chamber. For that reason I think we on this side of the House and the Unionist party throughout the country owe a great deal of thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for his speech this afternoon. It showed in clear and unmistakable terms the policy of practically virtual Single-Chamber Government.
§ Sir R. FINLAY
The Prime Minister gave as his reason for rejecting the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the fact that in our Constitution hitherto no distinction has been recognised between laws effecting great constitutional changes and ordinary legislation. That is perfectly true. But I venture to think that that is the strongest possible reason for having as a check an effective Second Chamber. It is just because we have not the security which the constitutions of other countries provide against great organic changes being carried out without the people being consulted that it is essential that we should retain the protection which an effective Second Chamber affords. In this country Parliament is omnipotent. It is not fettered by any constitution. Whatever Parliament chooses to enact is law. The omnipotence of Parliament was all very well so long as within the forms of the Constitution there was some security that vast, momentous changes should not be carried out without the people being consulted, and without their acquiescence. That security we have in the House of Lords. The House of Lords was strong enough to resist the House of Commons until it appeared clearly that it was the settled will of the people that such great changes should be made. The House of Lords was not strong enough to oppose the will of the people when that will had been sufficiently manifested. For that very reason we have in that institution a security that no great change would be carried out until it appeared that the people, not merely owing to a passing 1132 gust of opinion, but in their settled and determined will, desired that some organic change in our institutions should be made.
In this Bill by the second Clause it is proposed to sweep all that security away. There is absolutely no change which if this Bill becomes law may not be carried out over the heads of the people, and without their having been consulted upon it. You will have parted with that security which ensured that before such changes were made the people of the country should have some voice in the matter. The question never has been, as was represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite at the election, whether the House of Lords or the House of Commons should be supreme. Both Houses exist merely for the purpose of giving effect to the will of the people; for the purpose of securing that in matters of vital importance the settled will only of the people should prevail. That security you are now preparing to part with. I venture, most respectfully, to submit to the Committee that it is simple madness to apply to Single-Chamber Government, which the Prime Minister has to-night advocated, those doctrines which form part of the Constitutional law of this country, as long as we have security in the existence of an effective Second Chamber that the people should be consulted before any great constitutional change was carried out. The Prime Minister went on to give another of his reasons for rejecting this particular Amendment—namely, that a strong presumption must be taken that the House of Commons, at all events until it had passed middle age, represents the will of the people. That may be so if the House of Commons is supposed to deal with a subject upon which the people have been fairly and adequately consulted at the General Election which returned that House of Commons. Is it not preposterous to apply that doctrine, as the Prime Minister sought to apply it, to one great change which we now know it is proposed to carry out as soon as this Bill becomes law? It was not by accident, that the subject of Home Rule for Ireland was left out of the addresses of most of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, and from the addresses of a vast number of their supporters. Just enough was said about Home Rule to secure the Irish vote, and care was taken not to say more, for fear of offending the susceptibilities of English and Scotch electors.
1133 That is the state of things under which right hon. Gentlemen have been returned to power, and I venture to say it is preposterous that there is, in these circumstances, any presumption whatever that on a great constitutional change such as that to which the Prime Minister adverted, the House of Commons, if it carried it into law over the heads of the House of Lords, would be representing the will of the people. What was said by the Member for Waterford? He said that the House of Lords was the obstacle in this matter. Why was the House of Lords the obstacle? Merely because it said, "You shall not carry a measure of this kind until the people are consulted." And it is for the purpose of having that obstacle swept away that this Bill is pressed forward. And it was because it was well known the electors of England and Scotland were very sensitive, to say the least of it, on this subject, that Liberal candidates as a rule in the great majority of cases endeavoured as far as they could to divert attention, both in England and Scotland from this subject. I venture to say the speech of the Prime Minister will be read in the country with amazement. It will open the eyes of a great many good people to the precipice to the brink of which they are being unconsciously led. It is well the country should see how things actually stand, and that it is face to face with Single-Chamber Government undiluted and undisguised which is to be applied to the greatest as well as to the smallest changes in our institutions.
§ Mr. NEVILLE
Members on this side of the House have been extremely interested in what has fallen from the Prime Minister, not only from the point of view of the matter, but from the very peculiar strength of the language which the Prime Minister found it necessary to use upon this occasion. It seems to me there is one aspect of the case which has been partially overlooked, or has not had that amount of stress laid upon it which ought to be laid upon it. The doctrine laid down by the Prime Minister, as I understand it, was that Members who are sent to this House merely represent the majority who have sent them there. Of course, upon purely party matters nobody will deny that that is so. But it must be remembered that we not only represent the majority in our constituencies, but that we represent the country at large, and all sections of the country. I suppose that there was never 1134 an election yet in which after the election the elected members did not make the statement after being returned that he hoped he would represent those who opposed him in his election as well as those who voted for him. I am sure that is the spirit of every Englishman. He looks upon himself as the representative, not merely of the majority, whether his majority be one, or ten, or a hundred, but he tries to represent, as a loyal English gentleman, the constituency that returned him as a whole. Therefore it seems to me the fundamental duty of every Englishman, whatever his party may be, is to give prominence to all considerations, and to meet all views of all sections of the country. We ought not to ram down the throats of a very large minority and a minority which has the largest representation in this House to-day, and which to-morrow will be larger, and we ought not to force these things through without seeing if we cannot arrive at a business solution.
Let us take another point of view. The point of view I take now is, we are the representatives of the country at large and not merely of the exigencies of any party. Parliament docs not exist for the benefit of any party but for the benefit of the country as a whole. We are the trustees, as the Leader of the Opposition said, for the future as well as for the present, and I would ask any Gentleman in this House who is a business man and looks at business matters from a business point of view, if he had to constitute any trust for anybody for whom he has affection, would he not devise and lay down the lines under which that trust was to be managed. The Prime Minister earlier in the Session made allusion to what he called the chapter of accidents, and he said a chapter of accidents is the bible of fools. It is exactly, and as far as ever it is possible, for us to prevent that chapter of accidents becoming the bible of fools in this country that these Amendments are put forward by the Opposition. It is to prevent this chance and change in a written Constitution these Amendments are moved. Up to the present time the Constitution of this country has been the matter of growth; it has been lopped here and watered there; it has been tended with loving hands and loyal friends in this country. But, of course, there is no one in this country who considers our Constitution as a scientific one. And when we are now dealing for the first time with a 1135 scientific Constitution and shaping the future Constitution of this country, surely that is the time that we should see that the safeguards should be safeguards indeed and not paper safeguards—safeguards which will ensure that the people who are here afterwards to be the trustees shall have an opportunity of knowing what their trust is and how to carry it out, and not say, as was said by someone in the country, "Trust Asquith—trust him and that is enough." I submit that it is a business proposition, when dealing with the Constitution of this country, that it is imperative to lay down in the strongest possible manner the limitations within which the power of this country is to be wielded. Up to the present time the Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite have been very much like boys quarreling about the rules of the game. You never go into the parks where—
The argument which the hon. Member is using does not appear to have any connection with the Amendment.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
May I point out, Mr. Whitley, that in your absence the Prime Minister made an entirely Second Heading speech, to which I think we have a right to reply.
I think the hon. Member for Bootle will admit that the Speech we have just been listening to is a little wide of the Amendment.
§ Mr. NEVILLE
I will not pursue the point with which I was dealing any further. I submit to the Committee that we are now dealing with an entirely new set of facts, which have never arisen before, and when you are manufacturing Constitutions it is idle for the Prime Minister to say, "I rely upon those usages and those precedents which, when we had an unwritten Constitution, every one of us loyally supported and paid attention to." When the Prime Minister finds out that he is pressed hard upon any one of those points he retires, and says, "After the Constitution is made as we want it let us make use of the same usages and privileges as were in vogue before." That is not playing the game. You cannot run with the hounds and at the same time be the hare. It is our duty, as business men entrusted with the future of this country, to see that these things are done on business lines, and 1136 ensure that there is as little friction as possible in the future. It is upon these matters that friction often arises, and if there is any possibility of avoiding friction I am quite sure it would avoid it—we shall be playing the game instead of quarrelling about the rules. The Prime Minister said the words "fundamental," "organic," and "constitutional" were unknown in our history. Of course they are unknown in our history, because there has not been any reason why they should be used. Go north or south or east or west in any country in the world, and you will find it is a fact that where you have a written Constitution it becomes necessary to have these safeguards so that the people dealing with the Constitution will know the rules of the game, and will recognise that those rules should not be altered at a moment's notice or at the caprice of any particular majority so as to give one particular party a greater advantage than another.
Hon. Members on this side have approached this Bill with every desire to see that it should be a workable Bill. We do not like the Bill, and we do not want it, but if we have got to have it I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite to make it something that will last not only our own time, but during the time of those who come after us. I hope hon. Members will do their best to foresee and provide against any possibility of friction and get the rules of the game settled in such a way as will produce the least amount of friction and inflict the least amount of inconvenience and hardship upon any particular sections of the community. There is not a game played in this country which does not have the rules carefully drawn up. In all games the fight has always been about the rules. We have now the opportunity of making the rules in Parliament, and I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite if they cannot see-something beyond their own party view on this question and look forward to something which is greater than party, and which is too apt to be left out of sight by people who are really thinking merely of the present and not of the future. When we have altered our Constitution and abolished all those safeguards which we have had up to now; when we have abolished the opportunity now given to constituencies and electors alike of expressing their opinion on these great constitutional questions, it seems to me that we must do our best to supply something in place of what has been taken away. One of the subjects alluded to by the Prime Minister was 1137 Home Rule. It is a most significant fact that the question of Home Rule was never mentioned at the last election by the Prime Minister until after the boroughs had polled Everybody knows that in the boroughs it is most important that the question of Home Rule should be kept in the forefront. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Albert Hall speech?"] I do not think the Irish Members were satisfied at all with the Albert Hall speech, and they prefer to have their money down. Until the election began the Prime Minister never mentioned Home Rule. He never mentioned it until he was heckled in his own Constituency on that point after the boroughs had polled. That is a very important matter, as everybody knows who has had any experience of constituencies in the West Riding of Yorkshire or in Lancashire. I have stood many times as a candidate in one of those constituencies—I am not a bit ashamed of it—and I know quite well that in the counties I have mentioned the question of Home Rule is one which has to be dealt with very delicately. It seems to me that the argument of the Prime Minister broke down when he dealt with Home Rule. On these benches we know that this Bill means Single-Chamber Government. The Prime Minister has stated that he has not changed his views. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite remember what the Prime Minister said on this point last year, and even this year. When they hear his words I think they will see that there has been a great change. On 13th March, 1910, the Prime Minister said:—I myself and my colleagues are of opinion that it is desirable in this, as in other democratic countries, to have a Second Chamber.On 29th March, 1910, he said:—A lung experience and perhaps closer study of the facts, possibly that insidious and potent influence, the growing conservatism of age, have brought me to the conviction that whatever may be the case elsewhere, in this country there is both room and need for a Second Chamber.This Session, on 21st February, the Prime Minister said:—No one proposes—I certainly do not—to dispense in this country with a Second Chamber. I will give a reason amongst many others—
I am sorry to intervene again, but I must point out to the Committee that we cannot have this discussion twice over. We must take the whole thing together, and we cannot have another discussion on the same question.
§ Mr. NEVILLE
I do not wish to trespass in the slightest degree upon what may be 1138 coming afterwards. I am afraid I was only following the example of the Leader; of the House, but I have already sufficiently wearied the Committee.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HARRIS
The Prime Minister asked why we should distinguish between one class of legislation and another. I think the answer is because it is necessary to do so unless you are to have Single-Chamber Government pure and unadulterated. Let me give an example. Under this Bill the House of Lords could be abolished, and any change, however drastic, could be effected in the Constitution by a majority of the House of Commons without any appeal to the country. What use is it to give independent powers to the House of Lords when that House may be swept out of existence or have its powers curtailed by the House of Commons if it shows any independence whatsoever? Even if the House of Lords were reconstituted on a popular basis, it would be in such a position of subordination to the House of Commons that it could not discharge its duties of revising the Acts of the House of Commons freely and without prejudice. It is not proposed that the House of Lords should be reconstituted under this Bill, and I notice one of the prominent supporters of the Government, the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) said that an impotent House of Lords might be all right, but a reconstituted House of Lords would be a positive danger. I now gather the Prime Minister has adopted that policy, and, therefore, we are not to have a reconstituted House of Lords, but a House of Lords left un-reformed and exposed to all the prejudice of which we have had a recent experience and which is so easily, so cheaply, and so unfairly excited against an hereditary Chamber. It is impossible to expect the House of Lords, constituted as the Government propose to leave it, and with no assured position in the Constitution, could perform effectively the powers which the Government profess to desire it should perform in the future. It is essential, if the House of Lords is to perform its duties effectively—even those duties which the Government are professing to grant it—that it should have some security of tenure in the Constitution, subject, of course, to the people of this country. Otherwise, it is quite impossible to expect it to discharge those duties fairly and impartially. The Prime Minister asked why we should distinguish between one class of legislation and another—between 1139 Amendments of the Constitution and other forms of legislation. I think the answer is to be found in the fact that every civilised country in the world considers it necessary to safeguard its Constitution from hasty and ill-considered Amendments, not to mention deliberate attacks upon the Constitution itself. Elaborate precautions are taken—whether by a Second Chamber with effective powers, or by provision for direct reference to the people—to protect a nation against hasty and ill-considered Amendments of the Constitution. Apparently the Government do not think the British Constitution is worth safe-guarding. They are proposing that the majority of the House of Commons shall do what it pleases with the Constitution, and no one shall say them nay—not the Second Chamber, nor even the people of this country. I venture to think this is an example of the levity with which the Government have taken in hand the reform of the Constitution—a levity which I imagine will astonish our Australian brethren who are now coming to visit us. Mr. Bryce has pointed out the great care with which the Australians took in hand the establishment of their Constitution. He said:—The statesmen of this Convention which framed this latest addition of the world's stock of instruments of Government, had passed in review all previous experiments, had found in them examples to follow, and other examples to shun, and had drawn from them the best essence of the teachings they were fitted to impart. When the Convention prepared its highly finished scheme of polity, it delivered its judgment upon the work of all who had gone before, while contributing to the materials which will be available for all who come hereafter to the work of building up a State.Can anyone describe the scheme of the Government in the words used by Mr. Bryce in reference to the manner in which the Australian Commonwealth was set up? The Government are proposing to set up a new Constitution for these kingdoms and to write it in two short Clauses. They ignore the essential points which must be considered whenever you are proposing to set up a written Constitution. They ignore the precedents which must be before them—British precedents which exist in the case of the Australian Commonwealth and also in the case of the South African Commonwealth. The fact is we are now really able to apply the touchstone to the proposals of the Government. We now know this Bill is not what Mr. Bryce calls an "instrument of Government." It is not a measure of constitutional reform at all. It is an instru- 1140 ment for jerrymandering the Constitution in order to enable certain party measures to be carried, measures which the Government may think perfectly legitimate, but measures which ought not to be carried with great risk to the stability and security of the Constitution.
§ Sir A. CRIPPS
I should like to say a few words in answer to what I may call the astounding statement with regard to constitutional law made by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, as an example and as a justification of what he is proposing in this Bill, said the Veto of the House of Lords has already been disused, and he backed that up by a reference to the Veto of the Crown, and to the action of the Duke of Wellington and Lord Derby. We ought to draw every distinction between what is called the Veto of the Crown and the Veto of the Second Chamber. The prerogatives of the Crown are exercised under the direction and at the discretion of the Prime Minister for the time being. That has become part of our constitutional system. I should like to ask whether right hon. Gentlemen opposite think that a Second Chamber would be satisfactory which only exercised discretion in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister for the time being. Yet that is the principle which the Prime Minister laid down. He said you ought to treat the Veto of the Second Chamber in the same way as you now treat the Veto of the Crown. Under those circumstances the Second Chamber would be a sham and a fiction of the very worst conceivable kind. It would simply have to obey the dictates of the Prime Minister for the lime being.
The right hon. Gentleman went on, with an extraordinary want of knowledge of constitutional history, to refer to what was done in the time of the Duke of Wellington. The Duke was a Member of the House of Lords which rejected the Reform Bill of 1832. That Bill was only passed in this House in the first instance by a majority of one, but after the matter had gone to the country and the country had given its decision in favour of the Bill, the Duke of Wellington advised the Second Chamber to give way. That is the advice of every constitutional lawyer and every constitutional statesman, and it has been so from that time down to the present. It was given by Lord Salisbury and by Lord Cairns. The constitutional doctrine is this, that the House of Lords, when the will of the people of this country 1141 has been adequately and constitutionally ascertained, do not any longer claim to stand in the way of that will. That was not only the doctrine of the Duke of Wellington, but it has been the doctrine of all the great Leaders of the House of Lords from that time down to the present moment. But that is entirely inconsistent with the disuse of the Veto. The very object of the Veto was to make sure, before some novel legislative proposal was accepted, that we should know what was the will of the people and what the people desired as regards any great revolutionary change of that kind. Thus though the Prime Minister based his case for his Bill partly on an analogy between the Veto of the Crown and the Veto of the Second Chamber, and partly in reference to an historical summary of what has been done since the days of the Duke of Wellington, I venture to say there is no analogy between the Veto of the Crown and the Veto of the Second Chamber, and that the right hon. Gentleman's summary of history was wholly inaccurate from a constitutional standpoint.
The next point the right hon. Gentleman made was this. He said that there was a presumption, particularly in early days, that the House of Commons expressed the will of the people. If the House of Commons really gave an expression of its opinion, one might agree with what the Prime Minister said. But that is not the fact at all. The question is whether the Cabinet for the time being has properly construed what the people have desired, or what was their mandate at the last General Election. That is a different matter altogether, and the reason why we want a Second Chamber is to see whether the views of the Cabinet or of the Ministry for the time being are correct or not. As for talking about the presumption of what the will of the House of Commons may be, we have no will; we have no power of independent expression. The real duty, the real purpose of the Second Chamber is to ascertain whether the Cabinet for the time being or the Ministry for the time being are acting in accord with the real desire of the people of this country, or whether they are putting forward some measure merely for party purposes, and on party lines. It is on that ground that it is essential, if we are to have a Single Chamber system that we should have some method of correcting what the Cabinet for the time being puts forward in the House, in order to discover 1142 whether it is what the people of the country desire, or what they would resent. I do not want to go into particular matters which have been mentioned, but I may take one illustration. I am not going into the question of Home Rule, but I will take as my illustration the Home Rule Bill of 1893. What was the case there? That Bill was passed by a House of Commons which had come back fresh from contact with the people. The question was—did the people of this country desire that Bill to be passed or not? When they had an opportunity of expressing their opinion they said that the views of the Ministry for the time being—Mr. Gladstone's view in fact—were not their views at all, that he had wrongly interpreted the mandate which they gave him, and now they had the chance they had shown him he was wrong and assured him that they did not desire Home Rule in that form at all.
The next part of the Prime Minister's argument was very curious. He said that so far as Law Books were concerned one did not find a distinction drawn between constitutional changes and other legislative changes. I have a threefold answer to that. In the first place the changes—twenty-three in number—which he indicated are not brought forward in the name of constitutional changes at all. They are all exceptions of particular classes of legislation from the purview of the proposed Bill. It is only for his purpose and for his convenience, in order to make a speech that no private Member would have been allowed to make, that he collected these various proposed exceptions under the name of constitutional changes. Secondly, let me say this: As a matter of fact, there is no one in this House who is not perfectly well aware what is meant by the term "constitutional changes." We have not got to go back into musty old Law Books, we have not to peer into Blackstone, in order to construe ordinary, plain, average English language. There is no one in this House or outside who does not appreciate what is meant by constitutional change as against mere ordinary legislative proposals. We know that by constitutional change we mean a change in the mechanism of the governing power in this country; we are not dealing with some legislative proposal which constitutional powers are making. There is a distinction, well known to every Member of this House, and to every student of the English language—there is a perfectly understood difference between changing the Constitution of the country 1143 and asking the Constitution in its present form to bring forward some change which the people of this country may desire.
As regards this particular Amendment, I do not think it is necessary to deal with it at any length, because the real point of the Prime Minister's statement was, not in reference to a particular Amendment, but it presented his views as to the whole purport and intent of Clause 2 of the Veto Bill. He laid down in the strongest possible language, the Single Chamber principle. He laid it down on the basis that the Veto which now exists ought to have been disused. Against the Single Chamber principle every Member on this side protests. It means giving absolute autocratic power to the Cabinet for the time being. I do not want to go into the general question more than to say that it means giving absolute autocratic power to the Cabinet, and that it means also altering our Constitution from top to bottom. It means further bringing about the destruction of the Veto for all practical purposes; indeed the Prime Minister has said that in his view the Veto ought to have been abolished some years ago. On all these grounds, when the division on the Amendment is taken, I shall most heartily support my hon. and learned Friend.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
This discussion on a particular Amendment has taken a somewhat wide scope, and I do not intend in any way to broaden that scope. But one or two of the points which I may take which do not appear to be relevant to the Amendment will be solely directed to the arguments which the Prime Minister brought forward to-day. I think there was a strange inconsistency in what the Prime Minister said, that it was impossible or a matter of enormous difficulty to distinguish between different kinds of legislative proposals and to say this is the kind of Bill which must fall into one category, and this other is a Bill which comes under a different category. It is very strange to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that, when he has passed through a clause separating Money Bills from other kinds of legislation, and laying upon the Speaker of this House—upon one single man, however eminent—the duty of distinguishing between the two classes of measures. Whatever may be said as to the difficulty of distinguishing between constitutional change and non-constitutional change, it cannot be more difficult than 1144 the question of deciding whether the monetary provisions of a Bill are the main substance and the essence of the Bill, or whether the other provisions can be so described. That is at least as difficult a question as any question of what is constitutional and what is subordinate, and yet that great distinction of enormous difficulty, the Prime Minister has affirmed, ought to be made by and imposed upon the judgment of the Speaker of this House. The Prime Minister said there was no precedent in this matter, but there is. There is the precedent of the Parliament of 1653—not a very happy precedent it is true—and the Prime Minister, therefore, is quite wrong in saying that a precedent does not exist, because in the instrument of Government which was imposed by Cromwell upon the Parliament of that time, a distinction was drawn between what were circumstantials and what were fundamentals. What Cromwell said in 1654, talking of the instrument of Government which was then the Constitution of the country, was:—I draw a distinction between the circumstantials and the fundamentals of the Constitution. The former you may alter, and I would not have been averse to any alteration of the good of which you could have convinced me. The latter I cannot permit you to alter. There are many circumstantial things which are not like the laws of the Medes and Persians. But the things which shall be necessary to deliver over to posterity, these shall be unalterable, else every succeeding Parliament will be disputing to change and alter the Government; and we shall be as often brought into confusion as we have Parliaments, and so make our remedy our disease.The words of Cromwell in 1654 show how it was impressed upon his mind that there must be a distinction between those things which could not be altered except after solemn consultation of the will of the people and the ordinary process of legislation. The system which he alluded to only broke down for the want of a tribunal because, in framing that Constitution, no tribunal of appeal was decided upon. But now in this Bill the Prime Minister has fixed and carried through the House for the moment a tribunal—we do not like the tribunal, but it is the tribunal of the Speaker of the House of Commons. Mr. Speaker is, according to the Prime Minister, able to deal with the greater difficulty raised by Clause 1, and there is no reason why he should not have jurisdiction in regard to the question to be decided under Clause 2. The Prime Minister spoke of constitutional solution. He spoke of powers going out of existence by desuetude. In this connection he spoke of the Veto of the Crown having gone. Has it gone? I doubt it. I feel with 1145 an hon. Gentleman who spoke before that it remains, and can be exercised. It is true that under the practice of the Constitution it has not been used for the last 200 years, but then the Constitution as it exists will pass away if this Bill becomes law. Meanwhile the power is there, and if it is there why can it not be applied and hold good. The old constitutional objection to it will have lapsed if the Constitution has passed away, and it is there and it can be used should the circumstances arise in which it should be used. The process is very simple. The King has only to send his commissioner to say three words in French and a Bill is dead, and where these powers do remain it is only a question of the circumstances of the moment whether they become effective or not, and whether it might not be the duty of the Sovereign to call them into play.
But apart from that the Sovereign has other means of imposing an indirect Veto upon Bills. It is not so very long ago as constitutional history goes that a Sovereign dismissed his whole Ministry, and it is rather a remarkable thing. The Reform Bill was carried in 1832, and in the autumn of the year 1834 the whole of the first Reform Ministry were dismissed by the Act of the King. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite allude somewhat cryptically at times to the precedent that King William IV. set by intimating that he was willing in certain circumstances to create a sufficient number of peers to pass the Reform Bill. But they do not refer to that other and extremely useful precedent, whereby the whole Ministry of the day, having betrayed their trust and having ceased to be in touch with the people, were dismissed by a stroke of the Royal pen, and to come later than that when the most important in popular estimation of the Ministers of the day was dismissed by the Sovereign in 1852. Therefore the Royal Veto does remain, and it only requires special circumstances to call it into play. The Prime Minister again spoke of the constitutional doctrine that what the people affirmed must become law. I will not go into that matter at length, because my hon. and learned Friend below me has spoken of what happened in 1893. But I must say this, if ever there was an election which was fought on a single topic, it was the election of 1892, which was fought on the question of Home Rule. The matter had been before the House and the country in different forms for six years, and violent agitation had taken place on the question.
1146 An election took place, a majority favourable to Home Rule was returned. The Home Rule Bill was brought in, was carried through this House, and if the doctrine which the Prime Minister enunciated to-night had any relevance, undoubtedly it would have been the duty of the House of Lords to have passed that Bill. But they did not pass it, and the result was that they more truly interpreted the will of the people than the Government of the day. Again, the Prime Minister said, all we shall do by our present proposals is to do away with the unequal treatment that our party is subject to under present arrangements. He said when we are in a majority we cannot pass our Bills, and when you are in a majority you can, and he said we want to make the House of Commons supreme in order that we may have an equal chance with you. But he has forgotten his own Preamble. He has forgotten the whole object of this Bill, which is to set up an independent Second Chamber. If ho sets up an independent Second Chamber would it not have the same power to reject our Bills as to reject theirs? That is the real question between us—whether a truly independent Second Chamber shall be set up, that shall stand as a buffer between the casual majority of the day and the real will of the people, and whether by our repeated declaration and by the resolutions which our leaders have put forward and carried through the other place have made it quite clear that we are willing to take our chance of our Bills being rejected if it is not clear that the will of the people really desires it. The Prime Minister, in making the statement he did this afternoon, entirely ignored the whole of the Preamble and the case on which the Bill rests.
I want to allude to another point which the Prime Minister made? He spoke as if we were proposing by this and other Amendments on the paper an entire reversal of our ancient constitutional practice, but he forgets the innovation he is making himself, and I want to put this point to the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General. What example can they produce of a Constitution of any great country in the world which is at once flexible and Single Chamber? There are certain Constitutions which are Single Chamber—not many, but there are one or two. Norway is one. But is that Constitution vested in a Single Chamber, and does it give omnipotence to that Chamber in the sense that our Parliament is 1147 omnipotent. Again, there are many Constitutions in which no doubt the resistance of a Second Chamber is limited; but in those cases there are fundamental constitutional rules which limit the powers both of the first and second Chambers altogether, and I ask the Attorney-General whether he can give any example of a Constitution of any great country in which at once the Single Chamber, or the First Chamber, has supreme power, and at the same time the Constitution is so flexible that it itself can be overturned by ordinary process of law? I ask him whether it is possible to give any example of that, and if not, it will be obvious that the Prime Minister is asking us in this Bill to embark on a plan for which he can draw no support either from the traditions of this country nor from the experience of any civilised country in the world. I have run over in my mind the Constitution of various countries. In Germany, I believe, constitutional change can come about without special process in the Empire, but then you have the Bundesrath, which is a far more efficient and peremptory Second Chamber than in any other country. I need not go to America because there, not only is the First Chamber not omnipotent, but the two Chambers together with the President, cannot effect a Constitutional change without special reference to the people. I think I could go over them all and show that there is absolutely no warrant unless you go to a few States which are of very small consequence or in an extremely unenviable situation, such as Turkey, in which anything like analogy can be shown to the Constitution as it would exist if the Prime Minister succeeds in getting through this Bill.
Coming from these general points to the special Amendment, with regard to the duration of Parliament, the Prime Minister brushes aside as an impossibility that any Parliament should seek to prolong its own existence. But this Parliament twice has done so successfully, first in 1641 and second in 1715. In 1641 it was done as a precaution against the Sovereign's power of dissolution and under the stress of the circumstances of the time that Bill passed through both Houses, that Parliament should not be dissolved without its own consent and that Parliament went on till 1649, when it was subject to a violent clearance of all those who were distasteful to the Army, which represented the voice of the people at the 1148 time, and the remnant which were left were finally expelled by Cromwell some four years later, which shows that the only cure for Parliamentary despotism is a military revolution, a fact which I commend to the attention of hon. Members opposite. But again, in 1715, Parliament was then authorised only to sit for three years, and resolved to sit for seven, an instance, as the great authority, Maitland, says, of the omnipotence of Parliament, because if it could go on for seven why not for seventy? You have the situation therefore, that Parliament, being omnipotent, is now to have all that omnipotence vested in the Second Chamber. The dangers of its omnipotence were always great, but when the omnipotence is vested in one Chamber controlled by a bare majority and dictated to by the Cabinet of the day, the situation may become grave in the extreme, and may call for very heroic remedies indeed. After all, human nature remains the same. When a party finds itself in circumstances of great difficulty it will resort to very unusual means to get rid of them. Under this Bill any Government that is in power will find itself under circumstances of peculiar difficulty in the last two years of the existence of that Parliament. They may find themselves losing their popularity and at the same time being goaded on by their supporters to pass some special measures, and they will find that the Veto, such as is left of it, of the House of Lords is in their way. If they can prolong their existence, it may be for six months or a year, they will get the two years within which their will may prevail against that of the Second Chamber, and therefore by this very Clause will add a new danger and a new difficulty, because you add a new temptation to the Government of the day to prolong its existence in order that under the provisions of this Clause their will may prevail. If at the end of their third year they can succeed in passing a Bill for prolonging the existence of Parliament six months or a year more, that will give one year more for the exercise of their powers wider this Clause. It may easily be a tremendous temptation to the Government of the day to use their power, or their supporters may force their will upon them, to do it, and as human nature, and English human nature, has twice in the course of constitutional history succumbed to the temptation it is very easy to conceive circumstances under which it will succumb for the third time. There- 1149 fore it shows that if the scheme of the Government is honest and they really mean that Parliament shall sit for five years and no more, they ought in honour and logic to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
My hon. Friend promised that he would not extend the Debate beyond the scope already agreed to. I have the highest opinion of his Parliamentary abilities, but I am perfectly certain it does not lie even in his power to make the Debate wider than it was made by the Prime Minister. I have now been a Member of the House for a long enough time to feel almost as if I were one of its old Members. I have rarely listened to a more interesting speech than that of the Prime Minister, and I could wish that he would give a speech of the same kind on every Amendment which is introduced. But I have never listened to a speech which seemed to me so amazing under the circumstances. It was extremely difficult to understand with what object the right hon. Gentleman began a Second Reading Debate at this stage of our proceedings, but towards the end I think I gathered some explanation of his speech. It had reference to the Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway. If the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. John Redmond) were present, perhaps he could explain why that speech was made at this particular time, although hitherto the right hon. Gentleman has not made speeches of that kind without our being able to see the motive. On this occasion I see no special reason why he should have been made to toe the line.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Even from that point of view I do not quite accept the right hon. Gentleman as the best possible judge. What I intend to do is to go over, as far as I can, the same ground covered by the Prime Minister. He spent two or three minutes I think in dealing with this particular Amendment moved by the hon. Member behind me. The object of that Amendment was simply to prevent this or some subsequent House of Commons, where the Government had a majority, from making its life permanent for all time. What was the answer of the Prime Minister? He said, in the first place, that that is possible now, if there is a Unionist Government in power with the present House of Lords. That is an argument he is very fond of using, but I am bound to say that I do not see the force of it. Two 1150 blacks do not make one white. We have always understood, at least I did, that one of the objects of this Parliament Bill, which the Prime Minister told us has been submitted to a referendum, was to correct the House of Lords, and was to prevent it from representing merely one party in the State. That seems to me to be one of the weakest arguments that he could possibly bring forward. The Prime Minister says: "You imagine some Liberal Government would wish to continue its existence." But such a thing is not impossible under modern conditions. As my hon. Friend has pointed out it has been done more than once in this country. It was done on the occasion referred to by the Prime Minister in 1715, and the right hon. Gentleman pointed out the reason which caused it to be done at that time. He said that the reason was sufficient to justify it. I am perfectly certain that if the Home Secretary, who is such a judge of what is worthy, were to decide at this moment whether or not the Government of which he is so distinguished a Member—I mean that sincerely—should continue, whether its life should be prolonged, I am perfectly certain that, without any intention of being influenced by his personal considerations, the right hon. Gentleman would instantly come to the conclusion that the interest of the State demanded that this Government should continue, and that we on this Bench should not take their places.
The Prime Minister said further that the Amendment was quite unnecessary because there were checks now upon the powers which were given to the House of Commons under this Bill. I would ask hon. Members opposite what is the value of a check upon the House of Commons which depends upon the House of Commons itself to exercise? There is no check of any kind in this Bill which the House of Commons, if it so chooses, may not throw aside. The Prime Minister in the course of his speech over and over again dwelt on the evolution which has taken place in our constitutional conditions. Ho took it for granted that the House of Commons, returned by the electors of this country, represented those electors and was entitled to carry out its programme because the electors had sent the Members here. I have no desire to go into the general question of Second Chambers; but I would point out this, which is a commonplace to anyone who has given the smallest consideration to this subject, that a great deal of the 1151 trouble which has happened in other countries—for example, in France at the time of the Revolution, and in our own country at the time of the Long Parliament—was due to the simple fact that the men who were fighting for liberty did not recognise that there was a danger on the other side of the tyranny of those in the House of Commons. I say, without going further into the matter, that the Prime Miniser has assumed that the only danger is the House of Lords, while, as a matter of fact, all experience and history show that there is an equal danger in putting too great power into the hands of the House which exists by the votes of the electors. Then the Prime Minister went on to a less general argument. He said that what we are proposing to do is most unconstitutional. He said that we are proposing to set up a different Constitution under which the courts of law would have power to decide certain matters with which they cannot at present deal. I do not think that any spectacle can be more amazing than to see the right hon. Gentleman produce one text book after another showing what the constitutional practice of the country is when he is defending a Bill which is going to do away with the Constitution of the country.
It is perfectly obvious that so long as we do depend upon a Constitution which gives Parliament unlimited power, there is no need for any written Constitution, but this very Bill does attempt to lay down a written Constitution, so far as an Act of Parliament can lay it down, and to suggest that while it is right for a Government which have a majority to lay down a written Constitution to suit themselves, it is wrong to put limits on that Constitution, seems to me to be one of the grossest absurdities. But, as a matter of fact, the whole argument which the right hon. Gentleman used from that point of view does not exist and has no foundation. The Amendment of my hon. Friend is not in the form of any constitutional change. It is a definite subject, The point is that Parliament should not continue its own existence, and if you take any one of the twenty-three Amendments you will find that they all deal with equally definite points, and the Courts of Law would have no more power in these matters than they have to deal with a Money Bill. All that is necessary is to put some section in the Parliament Bill which would exclude a Court of Law from judging and which would make the matter subject to the decision of the Speaker. 1152 There is only one other aspect of the question to which I should like to refer. The Prime Minister said that this Parliament Bill is a machine, and that it is not a machine for show but one to be used. Well, of course it is, but what use it is put to apparently is to depend solely upon the discretion of the Cabinet of the day. I read with great interest the Debates which took place in another place recently, and in which Lord Rosebery and Lord Morley were throwing chunks of quotations at each other. In that kind of contest Lord Rosebery got the better of it, for the books from which the quotations were taken were books written by Lord Morley. One of these quotations seemed to be very germane to the Prime Minister's description of this Bill as a machine. Speaking of the authors of the French Revolution—which is about the stage now reached by the Gentlemen who sit on the bench opposite—he points out that Burke says that power is given to subvert and destroy but not to construct. They have the Parliament Bill, which has its subversive and its constructive side. That side they leave entirely alone. There is no one to construct except such machinery as is fitted for further subversion and further destruction. That is what the Prime Minister truly described as the machinery which he is now setting up. He referred by way of illustration to Home Rule. He says, "Can anyone doubt that I made it perfectly plain to the electors of this country that if they gave us support on the Parliament Bill we were going to use the machine to carry Home Rule." That is a bold statement to be made by the Prime Minister. He, like the rest of us, issued an election address. Election addresses are issued for the one purpose of putting before electors not only questions of importance, but questions which are going to come up in the Parliament to which they seek election. The Prime Minister never mentioned Home Rule. Of course, Prime Ministers are very busy. They have a great many things to occupy their minds, and possibly he forgot all about it. But what about the Irish Secretary (Mr. Birrell), whom I am glad to see here? One would have expected him to remember it. But it escaped his memory, and there is not a word about it in his election address. But the right hon. Gentleman, in one of his speeches in Bristol, I think the day before the poll—and I am told that there are a great many Nonconformists there—
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Who quite approve of limiting the power of the House of Lords, but are not specially fond of Home Rule. In that speech the right hon. Gentleman said "Home Rule was one of the questions which ought to be left, and should be left to the judgment of the people." Then, he added, which is most significant—perhaps he attached a different meaning from that which I attach to the words: "If some of these persons present thought that Liberals would smuggle a Home Rule Bill through the House of Commons three years following, all he could say was that their ignorance was beyond conception." I agree their ignorance of the lengths to which this Government will go. The Prime Minister said that some of us had spoken of the possibility of passing Home Rule in this Parliament when it had not been, in the words of the Chief Secretary, submitted to the people as equivalent to a fraud. I am one of those who have said more than once on the platform, and I am glad to have the opportunity of repeating in the House of Commons, that I consider it would be one of the greatest frauds that have ever been perpetrated on the country. I do not suggest for a moment that the gentlemen who sit on that bench have more than their own share of original sin. Recently I have gone through an experience which I hope never to have again, and that is two elections within three or four months. I am bound to say that the effect of that experience on me has been for the moment to make it difficult to adopt the attitude of considering that everything we say is angelic and that everything that comes from them is from the point of view of fallen angels. That is difficult after you have done it twice running. I do not take that view. I do not say that they are much worse than other people; but I do say this that they have been subjected to an unusual temptation, and they have not had the power to resist it. They are precisely in the position which was foreshadowed by Mr. Gladstone in 1885, when he said that much as he admired the Liberal party, he could not trust them if they depended on these gentlemen for votes. They do depend on these gentlemen for votes, and I doubt if there is one of them who trusts himself.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The hon. Gentleman has delivered to us a speech with all his 1154 usual precision and lucidity, and with less than his usual controversial asperity—considerably less. Most cordially I beg to acknowledge that. But I think the last few sentences of the hon. Gentleman reveal a danger which he should be on his guard against. He told us that he was arriving at a more philosophical frame of mind, that chastened by the experience of two successive General Elections, he was not able to adopt the position that everything on one side of the House was quite white and everything on the other side was jet black. That is a very satisfactory state of mind for him to arrive at. But I hope that arriving at it he will not fall into the danger of assuming a too condescending attitude, because it is a form of philosophy which is so very superior in discussion that however proper to my mind it may be it seems to be irritating in its effect when addressed to persons whom the philosopher regards, after all deductions have been made, as hopelessly misguided and wrong. The only other flaw in the tone and manner of the hon. Gentleman's speech was his reference to the suggestion that the Prime Minister's speech to-day had been dictated by some ultimatum presented to him by the hon. Member for Waterford. I am quite sure that the hon. Gentleman, if he will only apply a portion of that philosophic mood which he developed under the stress of two elections to that proposition, will feel that however good it may be with which to begin a debating speech in the House of Commons he is perfectly well aware that there is not the faintest shadow of truth in the suggestion. But then the hon. Gentleman followed the line of the Leader of the Opposition in making a very harsh criticism of the Government, be-cause they declined among other things to exempt from the scope of the Parliament Bill Home Rule, and he said, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that this was a fraud on the country, that they had not been probably advertised of the fact, and he suggested that they had no idea that the Parliament Bill would be used for such a purpose and so forth. And then he referred to the fact that people did not mention it in their election addresses. It is quite true that a good many people only mentioned one subject in their addresses at the election. They only mentioned the subject of the Parliament Bill because that was the specific issue.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
If none of us, or only a few of us, had mentioned Tariff Reform in our election addresses, would we have been justified in bringing in a Tariff Reform Budget?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I do not think there is any formal constitutional point attached to anything that is mentioned in an address when an election is fought as this last one was upon the actual emergency of the Parliament Bill. It is true that many candidates confined themselves solely to that Bill, and did not mention, in their address, a number of other subjects of which they were in favour. So far as I am concerned I never mentioned Home Rule in my address—I only mentioned the Parliament Bill. I have no desire to push my words in an election address into undue prominence, but since the challenge has been thrown across the floor of the House I have taken the trouble to verify my references to Home Rule, and I say there is no reference to Home Rule in my address. But I made sixteen speeches in England and Scotland, in all of which I referred at length, or at any rate in a number of sentences, occupying eight, ten, and twelve lines of the report, to the subject of Home Rule. But it does not rest on the utterances of a particular Minister. We went through all this matter at this time last year. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said: "You are seeking to use this instrument for a purpose the country never dreamt you would use it for." But last year they specifically asked us by Amendment across the floor of the House of Commons to exclude Home Rule from the scope of the instrument.
If this discussion is continued now it cannot be repeated on subsequent Amendments. I think it would be better that it should not be raised on the present occasion, as I have already pointed out to two hon. Members on the other side.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I should be very sorry to go against your ruling, Sir, and will not say another word on the subject I have made my point, and I need not discuss it further. I have got all the material here which will enable me to drive it home, but it may be taken for granted. I will refer specifically to the subject of the Amendment which is before the Committee. I have only one word to say on that, following the hon. Member for Hackney, who quoted me. The party opposite 1156 are not very fortunate in their quotations, and I would really urge upon the hon. Gentleman the importance of attempting to do justice to the quotations he makes. The hon. Gentleman quoted a passage from a speech of mine, and I said to him "That leads up to a 'but,'" and I have now been able to verify my statement, and I may be excused for one moment if I read the whole quotation. The hon. Gentleman quoted:—But I quite recognise what the Noble Lord has said as to the danger of the Government, in the declining years of its power, seeking to make itself immortal by prolonging indefinitely the life of its Parliament. But we have all been—I went on to say:—But we have all been through that danger; we have all passed through that danger during the years of Conservative predominance, when the party opposite had a majority in the House.Then I went on further to say that the Noble Lord did not attach sufficient importance in his speech to the provision which limits the duration of Parliament to five years. Then the Noble Lord spoke of Parliament in the sixth year prolonging its existence beyond the quinquennial period. I went on to say:—And when the Noble Lord speaks of Parliament in its sixth year prolonging its existence it is quite clear that he was not bearing in mind the provision of quinquennial Parliaments which, after all in the first instance, will be established by the Resolution which we are now asking the House to assent to. Even if he had been bearing that in mind, the period required to pass legislation through the House would, in addition, be so long that legislation could not be passed within the time. It would only be in the third year at the very latest that some step of this kind would be taken, whereas all these years in which the Unionist party had a majority we had been exposed to their taking this step, which they would be much more likely to take towards the end of their tenure of office than in the earlier period."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th April, 1910, cols. 1255–56, vol.16.]
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CASSEL
The point is that this Amendment seeks to prevent the five years' period to which the right hon. Gentleman attaches such importance from being extended.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My point was that the hon. Gentleman should not select one single sentence of the speech and take it from its context in order to support his contention, when it was quite apparent from the whole context of the passage that it did not support his argument, and was of an entirely opposite character. I am sure he did not use the quotation he made in that way intentionally; it was one of the quotations which had been worked for him, and this is one of the evils of verifying quotations by proxy. I 1157 am sure, however, that the hon. Member will say now that a most improper use was made of one sentence detached from the context, so as to represent an entirely different set of arguments from that which the context supported. I put the quotation from my speech in the same category of sloppy quotations with which we have been familiar in the important affairs of Canada at an earlier period. I want to ask a question of the Leader of the Opposition, and to put a point for his consideration, on the subject of the course of our Debates. It is quite true the Prime Minister widened the discussion of this Amendment very largely beyond the limits which were permitted in regard to an earlier Amendment, but as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition knows it has often been found convenient, where there is a variety of Amendments referring to one particular point, that the House should have an opportunity on one Amendment of discussing the whole of the subjects raised by the Amendments, where the Chair permits it, and it is the general wish of the House that it should be done. It is obvious if the Leader of the House widens the discussion other Members who speak afterwards naturally wish to have the same privilege and advantage. I want to ask the Committee, as far as it can be ascertained by the process of discussion, whether they think it will be of advantage to them and to the party opposite in particular that the general discussion on which we are now engaged should be prolonged for a much longer period this evening, or whether they prefer we should get on almost at once to the various specific Amendments on which they propose to take the sense of the House? The Government have not got a strong opinion one way or the other, but we have a strong opinion that there must be some reasonable limit to the number of ways and the number of forms in which the question of exemption can be presented, and we hope at an early period on Monday to reach a point when the question of exemption in all forms will be definitely decided. If that be so, and if it is generally recognised as being a reasonable proposition, as I have no doubt it is, it would be a good thing for the Committee to consider at this juncture whether they would prefer to take the Debate in a perfectly general method, or whether they would like to choose and keep on to specific Amendments, which raise definite questions of principle in succession.
The right hon. Gentleman has made an appeal to me to which I will do my best to respond. It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that I commented upon the very wide extent over which the Prime Minister had taken the discussion, an extent which was in rather sharp contrast with the rulings from the Chair on earlier Amendments which had been closured at the instance of the Prime Minister. I entirely agree with the general dictum laid down by the Home Secretary, that it is convenient for the House that the Leader of the House should have, for the interests of the House, latitude given to him, and I think the Chairman perhaps is right in extending a latitude to him which is not extended to less distinguished Members. There are occasions on which it is undoubtedly right that the Leader of the House should be able to deal in a rather broader spirit with a question than would be allowed under the strictest rules of debate. I confess I thought that the Prime Minister not merely used that legitimate weapon given to the Leader of the House, but I thought he wandered not merely away from the twenty-three subjects of exemption which he found on the Paper, but that he went into a great Second Heading Debate on general principles as to Single-Chamber Government. Whether I am right or wrong in that commentary, I do not in the least complain of the Prime Minister having brought into the purview of his speech other Amendments than those with which we are immediately dealing. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to ask whether in my view it was a convenient course for the Committee to proceed to treat all those exemptions in one Debate and regard the one Debate as settling the fate of every exemption. Frankly, I do not think that that would be possible. It is perfectly true that the Prime Minister flatters himself, or at all events thinks, he has got an argumentative battery which may be equally directed against every one of those Amendments and that that battery is so placed that from whatever point the enemy approach they will equally be mown down by his artillery. That may be the Government view. But I do not think that the Committee will be acting in accordance with precedent or would be acting with propriety if it were to lay down now on the first of these Amendments the doctrine that any Gentleman who desired to propose one of the other exemptions was to be excluded because the Government beforehand announced that, sheltered 1159 behind their batteries, they were not going to tolerate any advance from any quarter.
I do not think that the Government are necessarily as deaf to reason as they pretend to be. I see no grounds for thinking that on some of those subjects ray hon. Friends may not be able to show to the Committee that there are really special and substantial grounds, seriously worthy of the consideration of the Committee and of the country, why particular subjects should be excluded from any general condemnation which the Government chose to pass on these lists of exemptions. The Government say they can accept none. But I think the House ought to hear the reasons why the more important of these subjects should not be excluded. I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite carry their desire to support the Government to a point at which they are resolved not to hear any special argument which may be addressed with regard to special questions. Let us grant that a particular item and argument is decided upon, or at all events has been listened to and dealt with in the Debate, yet special reasons still remain to be dealt with. I think it would really be a very bad augury for the future discussion of this Bill if we were to accept the view that because the Government think they have got an argument equally applicable, like a universal patent medicine, to everything which they consider a disease, if for that reason we were not to deal with particular subjects which vary in all these different cases. Under those circumstances I do not think, as far as we are concerned, that we can accept this discussion as deciding the general question. How long the discussion is to last does not depend on me. Speaking for myself, and for most of my Friends, we are clearly of opinion that we ought to be allowed to have the opportunity of dealing specifically with all the main points, and all the main exemptions which have been put on the Paper, and of having them separately and severally decided on by the sense of the Committee.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I listened with great pleasure both to the Prime Minister and to the Home Secretary, and perhaps I may be allowed to say, as the Home Secretary complimented the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Bonar Law), that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary spoke with very unusual absence of provocative element in his speech. As I 1160 understand, this Amendment raises the important question whether the House of Commons is by its own authority to have the power to extend its own duration. It also raises the question that there is a distinction between fundamental and non-fundamental laws. It seems to me that the first argument that is used, or rather the argument that is most relied on, is first of all that you must have a system fair to both sides, and that if you leave to the House of Lords absolute Veto on fundamental changes of law you are applying something which restricts the Liberal party owing to the alleged bias of the House of Lords, and that it does not restrict the Conservative party. That argument is not in any respect sound, but it is singularly unsound in respect of fundamental changes of law. It is quite true that the Conservative party, much more rarely than their opponents, produce controversial legislation. I do not think anyone can point to a single instance in which the Conservative party have ever proposed a change in the law which could properly be called a fundamental change. The Education Act, the Licensing Act of 1904, the Agricultural Rates Act—they were controversial measures, but no one would call them Bills that touched the fundamentals of the Constitution. There is a very great change, in which, though I am not concerned, my hon. Friends are, which is not fundamental—namely, Tariff Reform; but in respect of that my right hon. Friend has publicly declared that they are prepared to accept the special safeguard of a reference to the people. In reference to this particular controversy the argument of being fair to both sides does not apply. I do not think it is in any case a good argument. It pre-supposes always that Conservatism is the same thing as Radicalism, which is much the same as saying that standing still is the same thing as running forward: that is to say, it supposes that pedestrian traffic is as dangerous as motor traffic. I always thought it an unsound argument, and it conspicuously does not apply in this case.
The Prime Minister said once again tonight what he has said before, and it is really the cardinal point of his argument, that the House of Commons must be taken as representing the wishes of the people—the "opinions of the people" I think was his phrase; I do not profess to be quoting him exactly from memory—on all the questions which are before the public mind and which are dealt with by that particular House of Commons. I venture to say 1161 that that was never true. No House of Commons represents the will of the people on all the questions that come before it. How could it? Do hon. Members think, for example, that if they had submitted the Licensing Bill or the Education Bill of 1906 to a vote of the people either of those measures would have passed? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I am very confident that neither one nor the other would have passed. They themselves were vehemently of opinion that the Education Act of 1902, carried by the Conservative party, would not have passed, and that it was adopted only by a House which had been elected on other issues. I do not believe you could find a single House of Commons which, if you went through the controversial legislation that it passed, could claim on every single Bill that the people really required that measure. The true doctrine of representation is that the Members of this House are elected to exercise their own judgment, not to carry out mandates from the people at all. The old-fashioned doctrine is that we sit here as a free assembly to exercise our judgment, and, acting on our own judgment, we are, in the broad sense, representative—in the sense that we are trusted to use our best political ability, but not in the narrow sense at all. That old doctrine is as dead, I will not say as Quern Anne, but as Mr. Burke; it began to die in his day; it was moribund for some time, and now it is quite dead. No one thinks that the modern House of Commons acts in that fashion. We then fall back on the idea that the will of the people should prevail. But you cannot possibly have the will of the people prevailing merely by trusting the House of Commons to do exactly as it likes. It may be done by the referendum. It may be done by the Second Chamber, and if you do not like your present Second Chamber, make a better one. But merely to say that the House of Commons, elected as it is by the people choosing between two sets of partisans, also on a system grotesquely disproportionate—as in the case of the present Parliament, because there is a majority only of thirty-five in the coalition that is carrying this Bill—should do it will not do. Therefore, you have, on these two grounds alone, to mention no other, an absolute inconsistency between the conception that the House of Commons represents in a mirror-like sense the country. We say as to the principle of this Amendment that for matters of a fundamental character you must have some check, some power to go behind the House 1162 of Commons in order to ensure that the will of the people is to be carried out.
The old traditional system was that the existing Constitution, with all its faults—and all its advantages—did that. You do not like it! If you want to make a complete change on rational lines you will reform the Second Chamber and make a better Second Chamber, or establish some form of reference to the people, but least of all will you give to the House of Commons absolute control over issues, however important and fundamental. The right hon. Gentleman said that the powers of the House of Lords had been disused, and therefore there was no dangerous innovation in his restricting them. But he overlooked the fundamental distinction between disuse and statutory restriction. What is disuse? When a power is disused it shows that people do not want to use it. When Parliament or the Crown gives up one of its powers, allows one of them to fall into disuse, they do so because there is no occasion to employ it. If it is taken away by a party vote, that only represents a minor part; it does not represent the whole. I would like to impress upon the Commitee the real importance of the issue. We are here face to face with a departure from universal experience. There is no country in the world that has a Constitution like the Constitution the Prime Minister proposes to set up, as he has described in his speech. There is no great country in the world that allows a Single Chamber to decide not only on matters of ordinary law but on fundamental matters. I do not believe there is a country in the world that allows a Single Chamber to prolong its own existence. Therefore the Government are unjustified by any precedent. You are asking us to believe that the people of this country at the late election contemplated what you are doing. What is your argument? That we in some instances urged the dangers upon the country! You might as well say that everyone who loses his watch in a railway station where there is a warning against pickpockets deserves to lose it. Of course, you are warned against the danger, but that does not mean that the criminal or the thief is not to blame. It does not mean that those who suffer acquiesce. It was the business of the Opposition to say what they did to warn the country, and it turns out to be true. But both political parties say contradictory things at the General Election. When the people decide it is not that the Government have said the truth, but that the 1163 Opposition case is false. But it turns out that the case we put before the country was true: that the very things we warned the country that the Government were intent on doing they are intent on doing; and the Government are not ashamed. All that we said was true. The country voted against us, and the Government take that as a justification of what they are now doing.
We are engaged on the path of revolution. You are departing from the very essence of the principles of democracy, and the test is that there is nothing which hon. Members opposite shrink from so intently as any proposal to refer any of these questions to the judgment of the people. That is the true test of the matter; we stand by the people, you shrink from their judgment.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I venture to appeal to the Committee to come to a decision upon this Amendment, and afterwards we can come to the specific questions mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I think it is most important we should now come to a decision on the main point of the general debate and proceed to the others as soon as possible.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, as he makes an appeal to us, to say what is his view as to the future course of the debate. Are we to have a very long sitting to-night and go on indefinitely on Monday? What is the right hon. Gentleman's view as to the future?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
We have no view as to the future. Our view is we shall come to a conclusion if possible at eight o'clock on Monday on this particular question.
§ Mr. HUNT
I do not think I quite understood what the Prime Minister intended to convey. If we are not to have another clear and wide general debate like this on this Clause, as I have not spoken at all upon this Bill, I think I am justified in going on now. I think from what the Prime Minister and various Gentlemen opposite have said, the Government will not accept any compromise, and therefore I think we are justified in fighting all we can. According to the Government, the Lords are never again to have a chance of giving the people an opportunity of deciding for themselves whether they will have a certain Bill or whether they will not, however oppressive or revolutionary 1164 that Bill may be. Yet I would remind the House the Lords have never yet prevented any Bill becoming law which the people really decided they wanted. I could give pretty good evidence as to that. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden) told us in December, 1906, that:—The Upper Chamber had always shown far more wisdom than to oppose their will to the will of the people when the will of the people was emphatically and clearly expressed,He also told us that—If he had to choose between the House of Lords and the American Senate he should certainly plump for the House of Lords.I think that was very good advice. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, who has just been sent to the other Chamber, said very much the same thing. He said:—Whenever the nation has been in earnest in regard to a measure the House of Lords have, in the end, offered no obstacle to it.In spite of that the Liberals want to do away with any check on Liberal legislation whatever. It comes about that the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) told his American supporters at Buffalo in April, 1910, that:—Our first business was to clear away the block, the block of the House of Lords, That accomplished Home Rule was as good as accomplished as well.Then the hon. Member for Mid-Glamorgan (Mr. J. H. Edwards) told us that:—The Welsh Members also intended to fret rid of the Lords' Veto so that they might disestablish and disendow the Church in Wales.The hon. Member went on to boast that everyone of the Welsh Members was pledged to Disestablishment, but he forgot that the Welsh Dissenters are more priest-ridden—I ought to say Nonconformist-minister ridden—than any other civilised people in the world. The pressure put upon the people in Wales was so severe that Calvinistic ministers told them that if they vote for the Tories they will go "Doon, doon, doon!" [HON. MEMBERS: "Encore."] Yes, they will go "Doon, doon, doon" with the Roman Catholics and the black cannibals. Against this combination the Unionist party in the Lords surely must fight to the last. [An HON. MEMBER: "Before they go 'Doon, doon, doon.'"] If the Lords give way they will be no further use to anybody. I do not believe the Government will ever have the pluck to create 500 lordly mushrooms. For months the Liberal papers have been trying to bluff the House of Lords. I cannot believe the present Government would be allowed by their supporters, even if they wished, to put up a really effective 1165 and useful Second Chamber. The Prime Minister told us it would take a very long time, however much we might agree as to the change, to set up a Second Chamber instead of the House of Lords. It seems to me, therefore, from the Prime Minister's own statement, that if this Bill becomes law the formation of a reformed Second Chamber will and must be indefinitely put off.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is giving an even wider extension to the Debate, and he is not in order now.
§ first started by the Prime Minister. However, the Prime Minister has the advantage of making two Second Reading speeches on the great subject, and he also has the opportunity of going to bed when he likes. I and other poor Back Bench Members cannot do any of these things. I hope I may have another opportunity of saying the things which I really have got to say on this question, and that I shall not be closured out by the Government the next time I try to have a go on this Bill.
§ Question put, "That the word 'any' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 235; Noes, 150.1167
|Division No. 161.]||AYES.||[10.40 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Duffy, William J.||Lundon, Thomas|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Lynch, Arthur Alfred|
|Addison, Dr. C.||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Elverston, Harold||Maclean, Donald|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Alden, Percy||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||M'Curdy, Charles Albert|
|Allen, A. A. (Dumbartonshire)||Essex, Richard Walter||M'Laren, H. D. (Leicester)|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Fenwick, Charles||M'Micking, Major Gilbert|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Ferens, Thomas Robinson||Manfield, Harry|
|Atherley-Jones, Llewellyn A.||Ffrench, Peter||Markham, Arthur Basil|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Marks, George Croydon|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Fitzgibbon, John||Marshall, Arthur Harold|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Martin, Joseph|
|Barnes, George N.||Gill, A. H.||Mason, David M. (Coventry)|
|Barran, Sir J. N. (Hawick)||Glanville, Harold James||Masterman, C. F. G.|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.)||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Meagher, Michael|
|Barton, William||Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)|
|Beauchamp, Edward||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Menzies, Sir Walter|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Hackett, John||Millar, James Duncan|
|Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Hancock, J. G.||Molloy, Michael|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Mooney, John J.|
|Black, Arthur W.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||Morgan, George Hay|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Morrell, Philip|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Haworth, Arthur A.||Nolan, Joseph|
|Brace, William||Hayden, John Patrick||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Hayward, Evan||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Helme, Norval Watson||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Henry, Sir Charles S.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Higham, John Sharp||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Byles, William Pollard||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.||O'Dowd, John|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Holt, Richard Durning||Ogden, Fred|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||O'Grady, James|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||O'Malley, William|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Johnson, W.||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Clough, William||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Clynes, John R.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||O'Shee, James John|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Jowett, Frederick William||Parker, James Halifax|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Joyce, Michael||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Keating, Matthew||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Kellaway, Frederick George||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Crooks, William||Kelly, Edward||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Crumley, Patrick||Kilbride, Denis||Pirie, Duncan Vernon|
|Cullinan, John||Lamb, Ernest Henry||Pointer, Joseph|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molton)||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lansbury, George||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Dawes, J. A.||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Delany, William||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Primrose, Hon. Neil James|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||Lewis, John Herbert||Radford, George Heynes|
|Dillon, John||Logan, John William||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Doris, William||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.|
|Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)||Seely, Colonel, Rt. Hon. J. E. B.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Sheehy, David||Wardle, George J.|
|Reddy, Michael||Shortt, Edward||White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.|
|Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Snowden, Philip||Whyte, A. F.|
|Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Spicer, Sir Albert||Wiles, Thomas|
|Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)||Summers, James Wooley||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Sutton, John E.||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Roe, Sir Thomas||Tennant, Harold John||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Rose, Sir Charles Day||Thomas, J. H. (Derby)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Rowlands, James||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Rowntree, Arnold||Toulmin, George||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Scanlan, Thomas||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.||Walters, John Tudor|
|Scott, A. MacCallum (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Finlay, Sir Robert||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Aitken, William Max||Fisher, William Hayes||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Newman, John R. P.|
|Anstruther Gray, Major William||Fleming, Valentine||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Nield, Herbert|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Foster, Philip Staveley||Norton-Griffiths, J.|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Gardner, Ernest||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Gibbs, George Abraham||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gilmour, Captain John||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Goldsmith, Frank||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)|
|Baring, Captain Hon. Guy Victor||Grant, J. A.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Gretton, John||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Barnston, H.||Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. (Glouc, E)||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Rice, Hon. Walter Fitz-Uryan|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts., Wilton)||Haddock, George Bahr||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington)||Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Bird, Alfred||Hardy, Laurence||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Harris, Henry Percy||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Sandys, G. J. (Somerset, Wells)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hill, Sir Clement L.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hillier, Dr. Alfred Peter||Stanier, Beville|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Butcher, John George||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Campion, W. R.||Houston, Robert Paterson||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Carlile, Edward Hildred||Hume-Williams, Wm. Ellis||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Cassel, Felix||Hunt, Rowland||Swift, Rigby|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. (Bath)||Sykes, Alan John|
|Cator, John||Joynson-Hicks, William||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Cave, George||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Kerry, Earl of||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford Univ.)||Kirkwood, John H. M.||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Larmor, Sir J.||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Law, Andrew Bonar (Bootle, Lancs.)||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Lewisham, Viscount||Waring, Walter|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Cripps, Sir Charles Alfred||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo. Han. S.)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||MacCaw, Win. J. MacGeagh||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Macmaster, Donald||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Dixon, Charles Harvey||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Younger, George|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
|Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Viscount|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Valentia and Mr. H. W. Forster.|
|Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Mount, William Arthur|
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
I beg to move in Sub-section (1) after the word "any" ["If any Bill other than a Money Bill"] to insert the word "public."
On the First Clause I moved an Amendment to exempt Private Bills from the 1168 operation of that Clause and that Amendment was accepted. It applied, of course, to the limited class of Money Bills, but I do not understand that the Government will have any difficulty in accepting the Amendment on this Clause. It will 1169 be rather a serious thing if, directly or indirectly, this Bill were to break down the system of Private Bill legislation that has acted so admirably and of which I believe we are all proud. It is quite true that the case of this Clause is not quite the same as it was on the First Clause, because on the First Clause a Private Bill once passed through this House would immediately pass into law, and consequently the procedure of a Committee in the House of Lords would be rendered futile. It is true that providing for the two years' delay does make a difference in this case. The case is not perhaps quite so strong, but I submit all the same it is a very strong case because undoubtedly it would upset the theory of private Bill legislation. It would relegate the Committees in another place to an inferior position to those of this House. No case has ever been made against the private Bill Committees of the House of Lords. I believe it has been generally accepted that these Committees do their duty quite as well as the Committees of this House, but passing this Clause would relegate them to a second place, and must have some reacting effect on the Committees of this House, because the procedure of private Bill Committees is of a judicial kind, and it is of the essence of a judicial system that it should be subject to appeal. I ask the Committee to maintain the private Bill system of legislation which has always worked admirably, and I am certain it was not the intention of the Government in proposing this legislation to interfere with this system.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Rufus Isaacs)
As the hon. Member has pointed out there is a very broad distinction between the Amendment on Clause 2 and the Amendment which was accepted by the Government on Clause 1. In Clause 1 we were dealing, of course, with Bills intended to deal with public money and with a procedure which was at any rate, according to our view, in accordance with constitutional procedure. On the First Clause, when the Government accepted the insertion of the word "public," the object and the effect was simply to declare what we understood and persistently asserted to be the constitutional position with regard to Money Bills, and therefore it was naturally expected that the Government would have accepted the insertion of the word "public." Under the First Clause the procedure which is enacted under it is more drastic than under the 1170 Second Clause. But when we come to consider the insertion of this word for the purpose of the Second Clause the Government finds itself quite unable to accept it There is all the difference in principle between the use of the word as applied to Bills under Clause 1 or Clause 2, and in dealing with Clause 2 it is difficult to see why the House of Commons should not have the right to deal just as well with private Bills as with public Bills. Under the procedure which we are setting up you may have very important matters dealt with under a private Bill. Take, for example, a very good instance, the Bill whch dealt with tramways over Westminster Bridge. That was a very good instance of a private Bill which ought, if dealt with by the House of Commons and passed in three successive Sessions, to pass into law just the same as a public Bill. It is difficult to understand on what principle you are to draw a distinction because if you make the principle apply to larger measures why should it not apply to the smaller measures as well? It is quite right to say, and hon. Members have no doubt borne in mind, that in most instances the House of Lords would not be refusing to pass a private Bill sent up three times by the House of Commons. If so, there is no harm done, but if the House of Lords asserts its rights as against the House of Commons, then we see no distinction to be drawn between the two classes of Bills, the more especially when it is borne in mind that in the second Clause there is a safeguard in the provision as to three successive Sessions and the period of not less than two years from the introduction of a Bill. We see no reason to accept the Amendment. We say that this ought to apply to Bills of whatever character, large or small, if they go up to the House of Lords under the procedure provided by Clause 2.
§ 11.0 P.M.
After the speech of the Prime Minister before dinner we have realised that the Government have now determined upon Single-Chamber Government being nailed to their mast, but I think they are now making an extension of that system which surely from the point of view of the Prime Minister himself is unnecessary. If he applies his own doctrine to the House of Commons when it comes direct from the purifying influences of platform controversy, and requires no possible correction or safeguard from any Second Chamber, let us for the sake of argument assume that this new constitutional theory is to be accepted by the 1171 House, are we to extend it to what is called Private Bill legisation? Our Private Bill legislation has been commonly held to be the result of judicial decision. The Committees by whom the House is practically guided sit as judges, and before them appear counsel learned in the law, or at all events learned in the law of gasworks and railways. It is commonly admitted that, whatever else is to be said of the procedure of the two Houses our Private Bill procedure has been marked by an element which in foreign countries has not always been present when great financial transactions are concerned—the element of absolute purity. The decision of the two Houses, and certainly not less in the other Chamber than here, has been characterised, if not by absolute wisdom, at all events by absolute disinterestedness, and no touch of that corruption which is a growing difficulty of some very free communities has ever found its way into the Private Bill legislation of this country. Grant that there is this element of judicial impartiality in Private Bill legislation, does not that make a differentiation which the Government would do well to consider in the treatment of Private Bills and Public Bills under Clause 2 of this measure? The idea apparently of the hon. and learned Gentleman is that when this House has decided three times a Private Bill should pass into law and override the opinion of the House of Lords. Assume, for the sake of argument that whatever the House of Commons says three times is true in all matters of public concern, still when we are dealing with the House of Lords, that assembly, the strings of which are manipulated by the wirepullers of this House, chiefly by myself, at all events nobody on this side of the House manages a Private Bill. At all events it will be admitted that in dealing with Private Bill legislation, the House of Lords has never been animated by anything in the nature of party passion. No one will deny that with their judicial, or semi-judicial functions they have done their work admirably, and everyone has perfect confidence in the honesty and impartiality of their decisions. When we came to Private Bill legislation there is no question of this Second Chamber always working in favour of one political party. All that is out of the question when you come to Private Bills. The Government are overloading their Bill, they have piled on to 1172 it to-night Home Rule and other trifling matters of that sort. If they now add private legislation, if they insist that we are to have Single-Chamber Government, not only with regard to the Constitution of the country, but with regard to the rights of every corporation, and every private individual who may be touched by Private Bill legislation, if every corporate interest in the country is to be in their hands the Government will certainly lose whatever little credit remains to them with regard to the careful framing of the Constitution. I venture most earnestly to appeal to them to give way on a point, on which they have already given way, with regard to the first Clause, on which no great party issue is or can be involved, and in view of that happy time in future when the Prime Minister will seek to have his own way and will have created a Second Chamber which is a perfect mirror of public opinion, I do think he ought not to put in the Bill that this perfect Second Chamber are not capable of performing with a judicial spirit functions which even these wretched Peers have by the universal consent of all sections throughout the country performed in a manner that has elicited the admiration of every impartial critic.
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
The Government have no general indictment to make against the House of Lords as to the manner in which they conduct the Private Bill legislation that comes before them. Nothing of the kind is imputed in our proposals. But there may be cases in which it might be just as necessary for the provisions of Clause 2 to be applied to disputes between the two Houses over a Private Bill as in disputes over a Public Bill; and, indeed, within the memory of all of us, there was one particular instance mentioned by the Attorney-General in which the House of Lords, in reference to a Private Bill, did commit a very obvious blunder that caused great inconvenience to large numbers of the citizens of London, year after year, by rejecting a most reasonable proposal to enable the tramcars to cross the river. [HON. MEMBERS: "No; only once."] I was under the impression that it was more than once. The fact remains that the blunder, as it certainly was, was not persisted with unduly. Unquestionably cases might arise in which a similar incident might occur to the great detriment of the public interest. If the error was repaired then there would be no question of this 1173 Clause operating in such a case. It is only where the error is persisted in year after year that this Clause would apply. There might be cases of Bills partaking of the nature and form of Private Bill legislation which raise even larger questions of public policy than that which was involved in the particular instance I have mentioned. Clause 1 stands on a completely different footing. In Clause 1 we are endeavouring to give the force of law to what is the existing custom and practice. There is no doubt that under the existing custom and practice the House of Lords does deal with Private Bill legislation, even if it includes money clauses. We have no desire to go beyond the existing practice in regard to Private Bill legislation, but we establish the rights of the House of Commons in a manner in which they have not hitherto been established, and we see no reason why Private Bill legislation should be excluded from the principle sought to be provided for in this Clause.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The Postmaster-General referred to the Westminster Tramways Bill, the Second Reading of which in 1905 was carried by the casting vote of the Speaker, there having been a tie on the Division. The Speaker, in giving his casting vote for the Second Heading explained that he did so in order that the Bill might be reviewed again by the House of Commons. The Bill went to the House of Lords and was rejected, but seeing that the House of Commons was so equally divided that the Speaker had to give his easting vote, that was no great enormity on the part of the House of Lords. What was the previous history of that Bill? During the four or five years it was before the House, it was, I think, carried on the Second Reading once, though I am not quite certain; but, at any rate, it was rejected only twice by the House of Lords and more than twice by the House of Commons. I think the example brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman is an extremely bad one.
I never for a moment thought that any Government, even a Government headed by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, could possibly come down and state that they intended this Clause to apply to Private Bills, as well as Public Bills. The Second Reading of Private Bills is taken at ten minutes to three o'clock in the afternoon, when the House is very empty, and I venture to say that, unless there is some very special subject on which certain Members are agreed, not 1174 ten out of the 670 Members know what is in those Bills. Those Bills then go to a Committee of four Members out of 670, and, subsequently, come down to the House. Consideration takes place, again at ten minutes to three, and again, unless there are some Members who have got some grievances they wish to air, in nine cases out of ten there is not a single Member who knows what the Committee has done or what the Bill is about. If there is objection to the consideration the Chairman of Ways and Means in most cases gets up and says that the Committee have heard the evidence and fully considered the case, and that therefore as the House knows nothing about the Bill and has not heard the evidence, it is not advisable to upset the decision at which the four Members have arrived.
Under those circumstances we come to this, that it is not the House of Commons that is to be paramount, but four Members on matters which are vital to so many in this country. I have often wondered why it is considered by all parties in this House that Private Bills take up time and ought not to waste the time of the House at large. Those Bills deal with the enormous question of the investment of funds in this country, and this applies more particularly to hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, because unless capitalists are prepared to come forward for the projects authorised by those Bills employment will not be given to the people. Therefore, I think those Bills are of vital importance. It cannot be denied that to place such Bills under the supreme control of four Members and allow no appeal or revision cannot possibly conduce to the prosperity of financial enterprise in this country. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has said that these Bills partake of a judicial character and that the four Members sit as judges with counsel appearing before them. There is not a single court of first instance in this country from which there is not an appeal, though those courts consist of judges who have made administration of the law the study of their lifetime. Now we are going to take four Members, who may be recently elected and who have no experience of these committees, and they are to give a judicial decision from which there shall be no appeal.
Surely the Government are not going to maintain such an unreasonable proposition. There is no question of party feeling or party politics in a matter of 1175 this sort, and it must be remembered that the House of Lords contains a large number of people eminently fitted to decide upon these matters. There are Members who have had great experience as Members of this House, and when in the House of Lords they are capable of combining their experience in this House with their experience in the House of Lords, and of adjudicating fairly upon this question. It cannot be said that the fact that there is a Conservative majority in this House will alter the decision of the committee of four who sit in the House of Lords. That was an argument brought forward against the last Amendment. There cannot be any doubt that if the Committees of this House give their decision fairly and impartially, those of the House of Lords do the same. If there is any difference in qualification, I should say that the Members of the House of Lords are more qualified than Members of this House to sit as judges. If the Prime Minister is prepared to say, "We intend that this House shall be paramount in everything; the House of Lords is to be only a sham and a delusion, a gilded Chamber to which we may send those of our supporters who are desirous of being called 'My Lord,' and contribute sufficiently to the funds of the party; we intend to keep it for that purpose and for that purpose only," I have nothing more to say. But unless the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to say that, I maintain that this Amendment is necessary, and no argument has been advanced to show that its adoption would in any way injure the Bill or interfere with the desire of the Government to be masters in their own house.
I wish to ask a question which is most important. A public Bill is always introduced in this House; the House passes it three times, and then it becomes law automatically. But Private Rills are not necessarily introduced in this House; I am not sure that this House can decide even whether a Bill should come first here or in the other House. That makes the whole principle absurd. The whole of this rule evidently depends upon Bills being first introduced here and then rejected elsewhere. If Bills are not introduced first here, what becomes of your rule? It loses all significance. I should like to ask what is the rule now existing with regard to the House in which Bills are first introduced?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
Any Bill, not only a Private Bill, can be introduced in the other House, except a Money Bill. Clause 2 does not apply to Money Bills. Precisely the same procedure will apply to Private Bills as to Public Bills.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
I want to urge a new point of very great importance. I do not think the Committee properly realises what the rejection of this Amendment means, or what consequences it entails on the procedure of this House. I refer to the method of introducing Private Bills. The Prime Minister said that new machinery was to be set up. He is perfectly aware that notices for the introduction of a Private Bill have to be given in November. When that notice has been given, petitions are presented by those who have interests opposed to the Bill. This Clause allows three Sessions within two years. It cannot be possible within two years three times to give notices and provide for the presentation of petitions against these Bills. This is a point of the greatest importance. When various interests are attached they have the opportunity of presenting a petition and of being heard by Counsel before a Committee. Take the case given by the hon. and learned Gentleman. A Bill is brought forward by the London County Council as a Private Bill. Notice is given in November, and many hon. Gentlemen here who have sat on the Council know that as many as twenty or thirty petitions are presented by different interests who require a locus standi in order to be heard by the Committees appointed by both Houses. The Prime Minister will see that this is actually curtailing the powers at present existent in regard to Private Bill legislation within much closer limits than with regard to Public Bill legislation. There cannot possibly be more than two Sessions instead of three, and it will be very difficult even then to give notice so as to enable justice to be done to those interests who are opposed to and are concerned with, the Bill.
Private Bill legislation has been evolved through a long series of years with a view to safeguarding all the interests that may be involved. We propose now to do away with it by not giving the same protection to those concerned in Private Bill legislation as to those who are affected by Public Bills. There is no question in regard to the decisions of the House of Lords having commended great confidence. They have not been in the least dictated by party 1177 politics. My main point is that a general formula will not cover this case. If I may be forgiven for saying so, great master of words as the Prime Minister is, he is apt to be governed by formulas in regard to these Clauses. The right hon. Gentleman lays down a general rule and says there can be no exception to it. I do not know whether he appreciates the point. I do think it is an important one. I ask him to consider it in view of the advice that will be given to him by his law officers.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I think it is a matter for consideration. If the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his Amendment, I shall be glad to consider it on Report.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
After the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the matter will be favourably considered on Report I withdraw.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I beg to move the Amendment in my name—amended as suggested, and consequent on the Clause preceding it—after the word "Bill" ["If any Bill other than"] to insert the words "not being a Bill which alters or repeals any enactment affecting the Protestant succession to the Throne, and."
The grammar of the Amendment may not be beyond reproach, but I hope I may be able to secure the assent of the right hon. Gentleman to the sentiment. It is the first of the twenty-three exemptions which the right hon. Gentleman earlier in the evening attempted to annihilate at one fell swoop. It is becoming, I notice, an increasingly common cause of procedure for the Treasury Bench to make an apparently very generous speech and say the point is an important one, and therefore it is not desirable to have a general discussion from that point of view, and so confine to the narrowest possible limit the discussion on the subsequent Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman has adopted that course, and he has then grouped all subsequent Amendments under one category, the category of exemptions to the general rule. I quite agree this Amendment falls in that category, but I also think, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree that there may, and I think there are special reasons why an Amendment of this character deserves some consideration from the Committee, apart from the general principle. What- 1178 ever may be said against this Amendment, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not take the course of saying that this Amendment is designed to meet a contingency not likely to arise. I hope whatever course he may take that is not the one he will adopt, and for this reason.
We are legislating in this Bill, unique among Bills introduced into this House, not only for a present stage of Parliamentary development, but for all future Parliamentary time, and it may well be that a time may come when a Government sitting upon the Treasury Bench in circumstances not dissimilar to the present Government, may be dependent upon, or perhaps I may say subservient to the Nationalist party below the Gangway, whose loyalty to the Protestant succession is, to say the least of it, as doubtful as the loyalty of some of their associates is to the Throne itself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh."] What about the Dublin Corporation? Hon. Members treat that statement with some dissent. May I ask them whether they dissent from the views of the Dublin Corporation? [HON MEMBERS: "Question." "Address the Chair."] I apologise to the Committee for having been led by these interruptions into making allegations. All I said was that it may well be that circumstances may change, and we have to recognise that we are legislating not only for present contingencies, but for all future situations. That is the worst of writing the Constitution; when you begin you have to go on, and you have to provide for all contingencies that may arise. I will not pursue an aggressive line of controversy, but I put it to the Committee that unless we make some provision as this I am suggesting this House will be for the first time in all our Constitutional history arrogating to itself a right and privilege and Constitutional position, which it has never taken in the, past, and which I do not believe it is entitled to claim in the future.
I am not going to follow the Prime Minister into his very interesting Constitutional oration, but it is within the knowledge of everybody, of course, that the Act of Settlement which established the Protestant succession to the Throne was the work, not of any one House or Estate of the Realm, but of Parliament itself. It has always been the Constitutional practice existing during the period from the time of Henry VIII. down to the expulsion of James II., when the doctrine of hereditary right was insisted upon, that 1179 Parliament itself should concern itself with the succession to the Throne. When Parliament concerns itself with that matter it concerns itself with it as being the function not of one Estate of the Realm, but of all the Estates of the Realm. The truth of that is to be found in the words of the Proclamation, in which His Most Gracious Majesty is put before the Commons. The words of the Proclamation do not refer to the House of Commons. As everybody knows, there is a meeting of the Privy Council and other distinguished gentlemen, and the Proclamation which issues is one to say that His Majesty is recognised in succession by whom? Not by the House of Commons, but by the Lords Spiritual, Temporal, and others. Under the proposal of your Bill, lightly or wrongly, it would be possible in a future State—I mean a future Parliamentary Stale—under this Bill for this House to take away from one of the Estates of the Realm that part in the control of the succession to the Throne which in the past it has exercised. I do not believe for a moment that that is the intention of the Government, but it is a contingency against which you have to provide.
There is another point which I wish to raise. Up to the present moment, and I suppose until the Preamble is brought into operation, the Members of the House of Lords sit there by virtue of a summons from His Majesty himself. If we are going to take away from the other House all power to determine the succession to the Throne, surely it is an absurd thing that you should have people sitting there to legislate by virtue of a summons from the occupant of the Throne, over the succession to which they may have no control whatever. I do not think that is logical, and I am sure it is not constitutional. Although I agree that the contingency against which the Amendment provides may be an exceedingly remote one still when you begin to write your Constitution you must write it all. I hope that whatever answer the right hon. Gentleman gives he will not say that this Amendment is entirely unnecessary because he thinks the contingency is one which is not immediately present or likely to be present
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I hope the hon. and learned Member will not think me disrespectful if I do not enter into the historical retrospect which he has presented to the Committee. This question 1180 was fully covered by the general reply which was given with so much completeness and force by the Prime Minister earlier in the afternoon. This is the second of twenty-three proposals on the Paper for exemptions from the provisions of Clause 2, each one of which is open to the fundamental objections which the Prime Minister voiced in the earlier part of the Debate. If there is one matter in regard to which it is less necessary than another to exempt from the provisions of Clause 2 it is this very question of the Protestant succession to the Throne. The hon. and learned Member cannot suggest that the House of Commons, controlled as it is by the constituencies, with ample opportunities for the consideration of the matter, is not to be trusted to deal as the country desires with a matter on which the electorate is particularly sensitive. No conflict is likely between the two Houses on this question, and there is no reason why a special provision should be made on this particular point. To do so would be to commence a category of organic laws separate and distinct from all other laws objection to which has already been expressed. It would involve the creation of a judicial tribunal to decide whether any particular matter did or did not fall within either category, and for these reasons the Government cannot accept the Amendment.
The right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to shelter himself behind the general proposition laid down by the Prime Minister which was intended to cover the twenty-three exceptions from the operation of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman says this is the second of those exceptions. He is quite mistaken; it is the third. The second of those exemptions was the one just moved by my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. James Hope), and on that the Government have already given way.
I am sure, if the Committee had understood by the formula of the Prime Minister—perfectly well understood formula—that he did not mean to consider it favourably, the Amendment of my hon. Friend would not have been withdrawn; in fact, when my hon. Friend got up to withdraw I remember the phrase he used was "favourable consideration," and 1181 no dissent was expressed from that Bench. What I rose to point out was that the broad contention of the Prime Minister has been abandoned.
Let me remind the Committee what it was. The Prime Minister got up before dinner and said if this rule of the supremacy of the House of Commons was to be universal they could admit of no exemptions. He gave reasons for that opinion and said: "These are the reasons we shall have to urge on each Amendment." The very first Amendment which comes up is one on which that reason is abandoned by the Government.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The right hon. Gentleman devoted a most interesting speech to proving that Private Bill legislation was completely different from Public Bill legislation, and ought to be exempted from the Clause.
Certainly, there are special reasons applying to that Amendment why you may think, quite apart from the Prime Minister's general declaration of policy, it ought to be excepted.
May there not be special grounds with regard to each Amendment? That is the whole point. You cannot dispose of these twenty-two exemptions in the manner suggested by the Prime Minister or the right hon. Gentleman, and they have shown themselves they cannot do it by the course they have been compelled to take on the very next Amendment that came up. They were quite right, and I hope they will show equal impartiality with regard to all the other Amendments. Leaving now the general argument of the Prime Minister and the defence which the right hon. Gentleman borrowed from his Leader, may I ask whether the Committee really thinks such a question as the Protestant succession ought to be decided by one House of Parliament apart from the other. It is a thing which obviously ought to be done by Parliament as a whole. I agree the contingency is extremely remote, and if it occurred the chances of any difference between the two Houses is extremely remote; but I say if it were to occur Parliament, as our forefathers understood it and 1182 as we understand it, ought to decide anything so momentous as the Protestant succession of the Throne. I am confident the country are with us, and I do not see why the Government cannot give way and accept the Amendment. They have just wasted by their obstinacy half-an-hour of our time on an Amendment on which they ought to have given way at once.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I put it to the Government that there are special circumstances in regard to this Amendment. The Protestant succession would be established by Act of Parliament; any vacancy in the Throne would be declared by Parliament. If Parliament were to deal with the succession the whole machinery of the Clause would be inappropriate. The country would be much too excited to allow of two years' delay. By assenting to this Amendment the Government would sacrifice none of the real purposes of the Bill, but they would be sure of public sentiment, which is deeply concerned in this matter.
The Postmaster-General, in words which were unmistakable, said that in the future this House would be controlled, as in the past, by the constituencies and electorate and would be subject to any passing feeling. But this Bill takes away all possibility of the control of the constituencies after the Parliament has been elected. It takes away all the sentiment to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, because four years might elapse in the life of a Parliament before this very critical question could arise. The answer of the Postmaster-General was one of the emptiest I have ever heard. There is no question that if this Bill becomes law the very point which the right hon. Gentleman has made cannot arise. We have been complaining that if this Bill goes through another is to be immediately rushed on the top of it although the constituencies have not been consulted and although the "sensible pulse" of the people has not been felt. Therefore there is the danger that a Parliament, elected in February or March under the Parliament Bill, may eventually have to decide a question of succession to the Throne, and under this Bill a Parliament elected for something entirely different may take upon itself to perpetrate a step which is repugnant to the whole feeling of the country, and the country will have no opportunity whatever of voicing its feelings.
1183 Hon. Members have been decrying the House of Lords. Their object is to sweep it on one side. But the Lords live in the constituencies all the year round and take far more personal interest in the people than hon. Members—whatever their desires can possibly do, if they are kept in close attendance here. Noble Lords live in their constituencies, if I may call them so, in close touch with the people and know the humblest people in their parishes far better than hon. Members of this House do. They are better able to judge of the feeling of any locality at any given moment when a real, solid crisis arises than Members of this House. Does any hon. Member of this House deny that many times when there is a vacancy a candidate is sent down at the last moment who does not know the constituency and whom the constituency does not know. I think that has a great bearing upon my hon. Friend's Amendment, because when there is a great crisis and the pulse of the people has to be discovered I would guarantee that a Member of the House of Lords living on his estate and doing his best for local people and local interests would be a much better judge as to this matter of grave importance than someone who had been sent down by the Patronage Secretary to
§ fight a seat in a distant part of the country and who is unknown to the people. The Prime Minister in his generalisations failed to recognise, because this question was not immediately important, that if it was found necessary by the Radical party to recommend a patent Constitution they must be prepared to face these grave situations which are bound to arise. I support my hon. Friend in his Amendment, and I think that to leave to a chance majority in this House the question of a grave Constitutional change and the power to pass through a Bill dealing with say, the succession to the Throne without allowing deliberation to the other House, would be an absolutely suicidal proceeding on the part of those who value the Constitution. I think in a case of that sort we should have the advantage of the assistance of all the Estates of the Realm, and not leave it to a House which might possibly be elected as this House has been under false pretences.
§ The PRIME MINISTER rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 198; Noes, 125.1185
|Division No. 162.]||AYES.||[11.5[...] p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin)||Clough, William||Hackett, John|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. W. (Rhondda)||Clynes, John R.||Hancock, John George|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire. N. E.)|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Crawshay-Williams, Fliot||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)|
|Alden, Percy||Crooks, William||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Allen, A. Acland (Dumbartonshire)||Crumley, Patrick||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Cullinan, John||Hayward, Evan|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Helme, Norval Watson|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Henry, Sir Charles S.|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Dawes, James Arthur||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Barnes, George N.||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick B.)||Dewar, Sir John Alexander||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.)||Dillon, John||Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)|
|Barton, William||Doris, William||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel|
|Beauchamp, Edward||Duffy, William J.||Johnson, William|
|Benn, W. (T. H'mts., St. George)||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Edwards, J. H. (Glamorgan, Mid)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Elverston, Harold||Jowett, Frederick William|
|Brace, William||Esmonde, Dr. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Joyce, Michael|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Esmonde, Sir T. (Wexford, N.)||Keating, Matthew|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Essex, Richard Walter||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Fenwick, Charles||Kelly, Edward|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Ferens, Thomas Robinson||Kilbride, Denis|
|Byles, William Pollard||Ffrench, Peter||Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molton)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Fitzgibbon, John||Lansbury, George|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe|
|Chancellor, Henry G.||Gill, Alfred Henry||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. (Pembroke)||Logan, John William|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)|
|Lundon, Thomas||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||O'Shee, James John||Sheehy, David|
|Lynch, Arthur Alfred||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Shortt, Edward|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Maclean, Donald||Parker, James (Halifax)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Pearce, Robert (Staffordshire, Leek)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)|
|M'Curdy, Charles Albert||Pease, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Rotherham)||Summers, James Woolley|
|M'Laren, H. D. (Leices., Bosworth)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Manfield, Harry||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Tennant, Harold John|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Pointer, Joseph||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Marks, George Croydon||Pollard, Sir George H.||Toulmin, George|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Meagher, Michael||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)||Walsh, S. (Lancashire, Ince)|
|Millar, James Duncan||Radford, George Heynes||Walters, John Tudor|
|Molloy, Michael||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Raphael, Sir Herbert Henry||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Mooney, John J.||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (S. Shields)||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Morrell, Philip||Reddy, Michael||Wiles, Thomas|
|Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Nolan, Joseph||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Williams, Llewellyn (Carmarthen)|
|Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Rowlands, James||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|O'Doherty, Philip||Rowntree, Arnold||Wood, T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|O'Dowd, John||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Ogden, Fred||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|O'Malley, William||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Fleming, Valentine||Neville, Reginald J. Neville|
|Aitken, William Max||Fletcher, John S.||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Foster, Philip Staveley||Newman, John R. P.|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Gibbs, George Abraham||Nield, Herbert|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Gilmour, Captain John||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Goldsmith, Frank||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Grant, James Augustus||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Greene, Walter Raymond||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gretton, John||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Baring, Capt. Hon. Guy Victor||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Barlow, Montagu (Salford, South)||Haddock, George Bahr||Rice, Hon. Walter Fitz-Uryan|
|Barnston, Harry||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)||Rutherford, J. (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Harris, Henry Percy||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Bird, Alfred||Hill, Sir Clement L. (Shrewsbury)||Sandys, George John|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Hillier, Dr. Alfred Peter||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Stanier, Beville|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Stanley, Major Hon. George (Preston)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Houston, Robert Paterson||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Burn, Col. Charles Rosdew||Hume-Williams, Wm. Ellis||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Butcher, J. G.||Hunt, Rowland||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, N.)|
|Carlile, Edward Hildred||Joynson-Hicks, William||Swift, Rigby|
|Cassel, Felix||Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Cator, John||Kerry, Earl of||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Kirkwood, John H. M.||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Cave, George||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Law, Andrew Bonar (Bootle)||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Lawson, Hon. H. (Tower Hamlets)||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Lewisham, Viscount||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||White, Major G. D. (Lanc, Southport)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Lyttelton, Rt. Hn. A. (S. Geo., Han. S.)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Dixon, Charles Harvey (Boston)||Macmaster, Donald||Younger, George|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Viscount|
|Faber, Captain W. V. (Hants, W.)||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Valentia and Mr. Forster.|
|Finlay, Sir Robert||Mount, William Arthur|
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there inserted."1186
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 123; Noes, 199.1189
|Division No. 163.]||AYES.||[12.0 m.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Fletcher, John S.||Neville, Reginald J. Neville|
|Aitken, William Max||Foster, Philip Staveley||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Gibbs, George Abraham||Newman, John R. P.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Gilmour, Captain John||Nield, Herbert|
|Baker, Sir Randolph L. (Dorset, N.)||Goldsmith, Frank||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Grant, James Augustus||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Greene, Walter Raymond||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gretton, John||Pease, Herbert Dyke (Darlington)|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)|
|Baring, Capt. Hon. Guy Victor||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastb'rne)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Barlow, Montagu (Salford, S.)||Haddock, George Bahr||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Barnston, Harry||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Rice, Hon. Walter Fitz-Uryan|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Hamilton, Marquess of (L'nderry)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Rutherford, J. (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Harris, Henry Percy||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Bigland, Alfred||Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Bird, Alfred||Hill, Sir Clement L. Shrewsbury)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Hillier, Dr. Alfred Peter||Sandys, George John|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid.)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzoy||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Stanier, Beville|
|Bull, Sir William James||Houston, Robert Paterson||Stanley, Maj. Hon. George (Preston)|
|Burn, Col. Charles Rosdew||Hume-Williams, Wm. Ellis||Staveley Hill, Henry|
|Butcher, J. G.||Hunt, Rowland||Steel-Maitland. A. D.|
|Carlile, Edward Hildred||Joynson-Hicks, William||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington N.)|
|Cassel, Felix||Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Swift Rigby|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Cator, John||Kerry, Earl of||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Kirkwood, John H. M.||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N)|
|Cave, Geoerge||Knight, Capt, Eric Ayshford||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford Univ.)||Law, Andrew Bonar (Bootle)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Lawson, Hon. H. (Tower Hamlets)||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Lewisham Viscount||Ward, A. S. (Herts Watford)|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Warde, Col. C E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||White, Maj. G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo. Han. S.)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Dixon, Charles Harvey (Boston)||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Macmaster, Donald||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Younger, George|
|Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Finlay, Sir Robert||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Viscount|
|Fleming, Valentine||Mount, William Arthur||Valentia and Mr. Forster.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. W. (Rhondda)||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Crooks, William||Hayward, Evan|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Crumley, Patrick||Helme, Norval Watson|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Cullinan, John||Henry, Sir Charles S.|
|Alden Percy||Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Higham, John Sharp|
|Allen, A. Acland (Dumbartonsh.)||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Holt, Richard Durning|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Dawes, James Arthur||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Delany, William||Hunter, Wm. (Lanark, Govan)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Dewar, Sir John Alexander||Johnson, William|
|Barnes, George N.||Dillon, John||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick B.)||Doris, William||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst (Leeds, N.)||Duffy, William J.||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.)|
|Barton, William||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)|
|Beauchamp, Edward||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Jowett, Frederick William|
|Benn, W. (T. Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Edwards, J. H. (Glamorgan, Mid)||Joyce, Michael|
|Black, Arthur W.||Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Keating, Matthew|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Elverston, Harold||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Esmonde, Dr. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Kelly, Edward|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Esmonde, Sir T. (Wexford, N)||Kilbride, Denis|
|Brace, Wiliam||Essex, Richard Walter||Lambert, Geo. (Devon, S. Molton)|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Fenwick, Charles||Lambert, Richd. (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Ferens, Thomas Robinson||Lansbury, George|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Ffrench, Peter||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Levy, Sir Maurice|
|Byles, William Pollard||Fitzgibbon, John||Lewis, John Herbert|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Flavin Michael Joseph||Logan, John William|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Gill, Alfred Henry||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)|
|Cawley H. T. (Lancs. Heywood)||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Lundon, Thomas|
|Chancellor, Henry G.||Guest, Maj. Hon. C. H. (Pembroke)||Lyell Charles Henry|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Lynch, Arthur Alfred|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Hackett, John||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hancock, John George||Maclean, Donald|
|Clough, William||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.|
|Clynes, John R.||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.)||M'Curdy, Charles Albert|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||M'Laren, H. D. (Leices., Bosworth)|
|Manfield, Harry||Pease, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Rotherham)||Smith, Albert (Lancs. Clitheroe)|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)|
|Marks, George Croydon||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Summers, James Woolley|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Pointer, Joseph||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Pollard, Sir George H.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Meagher, Michael||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Toulmin, George|
|Millar, J. Duncan||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Molloy, Michael||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Radford, George Heynes||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Mooney, John J||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Walsh, S. (Lancashire, Ince)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Raphael, Sir Herbert Henry||Walters, John Tudor|
|Morrell, Philip||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (S. Shields)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Murray, Capt. Hon. Arthur C.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Nolan, Joseph||Reddy, Michael||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Richardson, Thos. (Whitehaven)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Wiles, Thomas|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare)||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Williams, Llewellyn (Carmarthen)|
|O'Doherty, Philip||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull W.)|
|O'Dowd, John||Rowlands, James||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Ogden, Fred||Rowntree, Arnold||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh., N.)|
|O'Malley, William||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Wood T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|O'Shee, James John||Scanlan, Thomas|
|O'Sullivan, Timothy||Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel|
|Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Sheehy, David||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Shortt, Edward.||Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Pearce, Robert (Staff'rdsh., Leek)||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
I hope the Government will now consent to adjourn the Debate. We are past the hour of midnight, and I do not think much useful purpose will be served by continuing the discussion. I beg to move to report Progress, and perhaps the Government will express then-view.
§ Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The Government's view on the subject is that we want to get on. We are anxious to get on and make good progress. Our only desire is that the debate should be as effective as possible, and that the points selected by the House for discussion should be the most debatable and arguable points which can arise in the course of this Bill. But we want to get on. We have at this stage several Amendments, one of which is the Home Rule Amendment, to which I think hon. Gentlemen opposite attach the most importance. That is the Amendment on which they would most rightly make their main challenge on the question of exemption, and if that be so we should be very anxious to give them every opportunity in the best possible Parliamentary time that we can.
I must enter my caveat that the early hours of the afternoon are reckoned within the sphere of the best Parliamentary time. We must allow ourselves a longer period; than that. But the view of the Government, as I ventured to observe earlier this 1190 evening, and as the Prime Minister already stated, is that we ought to reach by the dinner time on Monday the termination of all this discussion in all its various forms on the subject of what should be exempted from the scope of the new anti-veto provision. That is our view. I am quite willing to admit that it will require the exertions of the House to come to that point. Certain I am it is necessary for the proper progress of the Bill. Having carefully examined the Notice Paper and the general position of the discussion, I am confident we ought and that it is proper and necessary that we should reach that point if we are in any way to fulfil the general outline and object with regard to time which the Government have repeatedly laid before the House since the beginning of the Session. Therefore, if we are not to settle the Home Rule Amendment and one or two important Amendments to-night, and if we are to begin the Home Rule Amendment on Monday, it ought to be upon a general understanding, I do not say a hard and fast Parliamentary bargain, but a general understanding that we should get rid of this whole subject of exemptions before the dinner on Monday next.
I have been looking into the subject very attentively, and I daresay if the right hon. Gentleman takes that view there are several things might be done. Either we might go to bed, and begin the discussion of the Home Rule Amendment on Monday, and have a full and regular 1191 Debate on Monday, with the fullest publicity which attaches to the afternoon proceedings, and settle the whole question of exemptions before the dinner hour on Monday, or we could in the second place, perhaps with leave of the Chair and with the approval of the Committee, transpose some of the Amendments so as to deal with some of the minor Amendments now, the least important, to clear the way for the discussion of the Home Rule Amendment, so that we finished at the dinner hour. Or, again, if there is no sort of possibility of our reaching, I do not say a bargain at all, but reaching a general measure of assent or acquiescence on those lines, then we must take the third course, which is to lay our heads together and butt into the work that lies before us; but I do not think there is any great advantage' to be gained by that. I venture to submit to the House that it might consider whether we should not consider some of the other propositions now for a reasonable period until the House has been satisfied that they have been satisfactorily dealt with, and then we should begin on Monday and settle this question of exemption by the dinner time on Monday.
I do not think the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman is very satisfactory. He suggests if nothing else can be done that we should butt into the Bill. That seems to be the only use most hon. Gentlemen opposite can make of their heads. Let the right hon. Gentleman consider the remaining Amendments on the Paper. I will take only two of the remaining twenty—those dealing with the disestablishment of the Church and the alteration of this Bill itself. Let the Committee remember the Government are now by way of making a final arrangement, or at all events an arrangement final in our time, between the two Houses. But there is no security whatever that that arrangement shall be final. If you leave it to this House as a Single Chamber, you alter the whole basis of the topic we are discussing. We may be wrong in thinking that this topic ought to be put outside the scope of the arrangement. I should have thought there were many arguments from the Government's own point of view for saying that whatever arrangement is come to should have a certain permanence, and not be capable of alteration at the fleeting will of a fleeting majority. Everybody must admit that the Home Rule question and many others are very im- 1192 portant. How are we to get these through decently and in order to-night and on Monday before dinner? The magnitude of these questions is undoubted. The Prime Minister could not be here on Tuesday and cannot be here to-night. He is the Minister in charge of the Bill. I really think that to ask us to discuss these questions at an unearthly hour of the morning and in the absence of the Leader of the House, who is not merely the Leader of the House, but actually the Minister in charge of the Bill, is asking the Committee to do something which has never been asked before. I think the right hon. Gentleman, on reflection, will see that he must relax the rigour of the suggestion he has made. If he insists on carrying it out, I am afraid there is nothing left for us to do but to proceed to the best of our ability.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I should be sorry if we embarked on the process which I described in a phrase upon which the right hon. Gentleman has so wittily rallied me, without every reasonable effort having been made to avert it. I still think it is necessary for the reasonable progress of the measure that we should reach the conclusion of the many aspects of exemption from the Bill, in which, after all, the same question is discussed in many forms. I recognise that there are two outstanding questions. There is the great question of Home Rule, which has been taken as typical of the most important exemptions hon. Members opposite wish to make. Then there is the question of the instrument itself, which we agree is another matter of importance. We have very little to give away in the matter of time, and I only throw out the suggestion, without binding the Government at all. After what the right hon. Gentleman has said and the appeal he has made, I would suggest that we should finish off the small Amendments to-night, that we should deal with Home Rule by dinner time on Monday, that after that we might settle the question of the instrument itself, and that we should, before the end of our proceedings on Monday, get the word "is"—that is only nine words in two days—which would effectually dispose of the question of exemptions. It is with a great desire, not for peace, but for a regulated combat rather than a long, dragging quarrel, that I put forward this suggestion. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will consider it, but the suggestion is made with a sincere 1193 desire to meet the request he has made. We ought to get rid of these exemptions at a reasonable hour. Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) will fall in with the suggestion?
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I understand that the alternative is between sitting late now and sitting late on Monday. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Well, then, I do not quite understand the position, for the Government can carry the sitting on late on Monday if they are not satisfied with the progress made. But I do not think it will be possible to debate the three Amendments mentioned by my right hon. Friend on Monday, in view of the fact that we are going to debate Home Rule. In that case the only question between the two sides of the House is whether we should take the Amendments to-night or on Monday. There is no advantage in any case in sitting late to-night and again on Monday.
The Amendment now before us, Mr. Emmott, is that you should report Progress. The Amendments that follow on the Order Paper are those standing in the names of the hon. Members for Tamworth (Mr. Newdegate) and for the Ashford Division (Mr. Laurence Hardy). The first one desires to add after the word "Bill" ["If any Bill other than a Money Bill"] the words "which has been referred to a Committee of the whole House"; and the second proposes after the word "Bill" to insert the words "to the discussion of which any resolution for limiting the time of Debate in the House of Commons or in Standing Committee has not been applied." These two Amendments are more or less analogous. They deal with procedure and stand in a somewhat different relation to that on Home Rule or Disestablishment or the other great matters to which I have referred. I would suggest that on Monday we should deal with Home Rule and continue late to finish the remaining business.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I assume that by the time we have arrived at the word "is" on Monday night we shall be able to review the position. If the word "is" be secured, we should then be in the hands of the Opposition in regard to the lateness and the time that we should sit, for it will effectually dispose of the question of the exemptions.
There is only one other Amendment which I think it would be convenient to dispose 1194 of to-night, and that is the one standing in the name of the hon. Member for Aberdeen University (Sir Henry Craik) which seeks to insert the words "introduced by a Minister on behalf of His Majesty's Government," and then we could leave the other three to be disposed of on Monday.
I think what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman might form the basis of an arrangement. Of course, it will be understood that during the course of Monday's sitting we do get to the word "is," but there should be no methods of curtailing debate—I mean no "Kangaroo," no specially drastic methods of closure. If the Government choose to ask for ordinary closure, that is another matter, but there should be no moving down the Amendment paper to certain words under what is known as "Kangaroo" closure.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
We shall certainly try to get "is," and after that we shall be in the hands of the Opposition as to how the time is employed. I venture to suggest we should not be forced to have a very late sitting.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move in Sub-section 1, after the word "Bill" [If any Bill other than a Money Bill is passed], to insert the words "which has been referred to a Committee of the whole House."
If, as the Prime Minister said in the early part of the afternoon, we are in future to be ruled by a single chamber, it is very essential that Members in this House should have an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon the Committee stage of any measure brought before the House. In the old days the system of Grand Committees did not exist. Up to 1883 all Bills introduced into this House were discussed in Committee in the whole House. After that time two Standing Committees were set up, one for law and justice and the other for trade, and those two Committees were supposed to be non-controversial. Legal Members were appointed to the Committee of law and justice, and commercial and business men were put on the Committee on trade, because they possessed technical knowledge upon these subjects. In 1907, shortly after the Liberal Government came into Office, they thrust an enormous amount of work upon the House which it was not possible to discuss upon the floor of the 1195 House; and Standing Committees A, B and C and a Scotch Committee were substituted for the two Standing Committees, and a Standing Order was passed by which all Bills after Second Reading should, ipso facto, go to a Standing Committee, unless the House by a motion decided otherwise. There were certain exceptions which I need not quote. The late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, when he introduced the new rules, said on the 26th of March, 1907:—It is the intention of the Government that all important controversial Bills shall be discussed in the House and not in Grand Committee.I could go on adding to these quotations, but I will not do so at this late hour. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If hon. Members go on jeering me I will go on with the quotations.
If hon. Members do not know how to behave themselves and be courteous I cannot help it. In order to save the time of the Committee I said I should not go on making further quotations, and then hon. Members below the Gangway jeered at what I said. If we are to have practically only a Single Chamber we ought in this House to be able to sit in Committee upon any measure brought before the House of Commons. According to the new rules applied to Standing Committees there are only seventy Members who sit for particular Bills with fifteen added. In regard to all our proceedings in this House I think it is necessary that a full report should appear of what goes on. It is well known that what goes on upstairs is not fully reported in the newspapers.
I have a list of some of the Bills which have been brought before Standing Committees which were considered of first-class importance, and which I think, if we are going to have only a Single Chamber ought to be discussed in Committee of this House. In the year 1907 there was the Bill dealing with Criminal Appeal. That was brought before Standing Committee B. In the same year the Factories and Workshops Bill was also brought before that Committee. A Bill dealing with Vaccination was brought before Standing Committee C, and so was a Bill dealing with Small Holdings and Allotments, all of them dealing with 1196 matters of considerable importance. In the year 1908 the Irish Universities and the House and Town Planning Bills were brought before those Committees and were not thoroughly discussed across the floor of this House. The same remark applies also to the Coal Mines (Eight Hours) Bill. In the year 1909 Bills dealing with the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday, the Closing of Licensed Premises on Election Days were brought before Standing Committee A. and the Labour Exchanges Bill was brought before Standing Committee C. In 1910 Bills of very considerable importance like the Weekly Rest-Day Bill for the Police, and the Bill dealing with Accounts and Returns of Railway Companies were brought in the first instance before Standing Committee A, and in the second instance before Standing Committee B.
So long as there was a House of Lords to check what went on in this House, it did not matter so much about Bills being referred to Standing Committees, but if we are to have only a Single Chamber we should have an opportunity of discusing these matters, which are of very great importance to the people of this country, across the floor of this House. The other day, when the new Coal Mines Bill was introduced, the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Fenwick) said it wanted very careful consideration by the Members of this House, and he used these words:—The present Bill, I understand, is to be sent to a Grand Committee. In 1887 we had no Grand Committees. The Bill was considered in Committee of the whole House, and all Members interested had an opportunity of taking part in the discussion of any substantial Amendment that was brought forward, Under present circumstances, the utmost limit of the Committee upstairs is eighty, so that about only one-eighth of the House will be engaged in considering the provisions of this Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th March, 1910, col. 2662.]Those are the words of a Member respected on all sides of the House, and I say with all sincerity, if we are to have Single-Chamber Government, we ought to be able to discuss these Bills on the floor of the House of Commons. Our constituents believe, when Bills are brought before the House of Commons, we have a share in the discussion of them, but we know it is nothing of the sort. We know most important Bills go upstairs and comparatively few Members have an opportunity of saying anything at all on Bills which very often affect their constituents very vitally. I would urge the Government, as they are making this change in the Constitution of the country by which Bills will not have to run the gauntlet of 1197 the Second House as well as the first, that they should in future, instead of sending important Bills up to Grand Committee, give Members of this House an opportunity of discussing them in Committee, and so thoroughly dissecting them.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to change one word. The usual phrase is "Committed to a Committee."
§ The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY of LANCASTER (Mr. Joseph Pease)
I cordially agree with the hon. Member that, if we are to have a one-chamber system of government, we ought at least in this House to have an opportunity of debating every Bill upon the floor of this House, but, of course, I dissent, as no doubt the hon. Member will realise, from his proposition that we are in future going to have a one-chamber system of government. Under our present system, an opportunity is always given for every Bill sent to a Grand Committee to be considered by every Member on the floor of this House before the Third Reading. We not only get an opportunity on the Second Reading of discussing every measure, but also on Report, and of course we always get an opportunity on the Third Reading. Under the proposal of the Government the procedure will have to be conducted over three separate Sessions, so this House will have a full opportunity of discussing these measures before there is any possibility of them being carried over the heads of the House of Lords.
With regard to the character of the Bills sent upstairs it was the intention of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman that Bills of first-class importance and controversial character should be retained in this House for their Committee stage. I admit that some difficulties have occurred between the two sides as to which Bills are of first-class importance and which are of a controversial character, but taking the position broadly, only that class of Bill is retained for discussion in Committee on the floor of the House, and it is only uncontroversial Bills such as have been referred to that are sent to Committee upstairs. Reference has been made to the Mines Bill. That was not a Bill which divided opinions between the two sides of the House; neither was the Housing and Town Planning Bill. They were not the kind of Bills as to which difficulties have arisen between the two sides of the House, and I do not anticipate that any such difficulties are likely to 1198 arise in the future. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Sunday Closing Bills?"] There have always been hon. Members on both sides of the House both supporting and opposing Sunday Closing Bills, but that is not a question which divides the two parties in the way I have mentioned. These measures, I repeat, will always be considered on the floor of the House on the Report stage. I am sorry the Government cannot meet the hon. Member by accepting his Amendment.
§ Sir R. FINLAY
If I understand the right hon. Gentleman rightly he said that Bills which were sent to Grand Committee were not Bills on which any differences of opinion were likely to arise between the two Houses.
§ Mr. JOSEPH PEASE
I was referring to the Bills which had been specially mentioned. No difficulties have occurred as to them between the two Houses of Parliament.
§ Sir R. FINLAY
But when the right hon. Gentleman referred to the Bills mentioned by the Mover of the Amendment, he was referring to them as types of the class of Bills sent to Grand Committees, or otherwise his argument is absolutely worth nothing. The whole argument put forward for the purpose of inducing the Committee to reject the Amendment was that Bills sent to Grand Committees are not Bills on which differences are likely to arise between the two Houses. I think there is a good deal to be said for that view, and, if so, why cannot the Government accept the Amendment? If it is a Bill on which no such difference of opinion is likely to arise why resist the Amendment? The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that some friction has arisen as to what class of Bills should be sent to Standing Committees, and if this Amendment is rejected it will open the way to a very great abuse by way of sending really controversial measures to those Committees; and then, taking advantage of the provisions of this Bill, to pass them over the heads of the other House under the Closure. The right hon. Gentleman denies that this Bill sets up a Single-Chamber system of Government. Was the right hon. Gentleman present when the Prime Minister made his speech earlier this evening? He was, then I think if he will look at that speech he will see that beyond any question the Prime Minister declared himself for Single-Chamber Government.
1199 If you are to set up a system under which the opinion of this House is to overrule the opinion of the other House altogether, surely in the ordinary proper conduct of affairs of Parliament it will be confined to cases where the mind of this House has been fully and fairly brought to bear upon the measure under consideration, and I put it most respectfully to the Committee that the answer given by the Chancellor of the Duchy is entirely inadequate. When the whole Committee stage goes upstairs the Chancellor of the Duchy says we have got the Report stage, but will the right hon. Gentleman concede that the Closure is not to be applied to that stage. The right hon. Gentleman says he is not going to anticipate that question as it forms the subject of another Amendment, but I beg his pardon. The Amendment which relates to the Closure deals with another matter and the question is: Will the right hon. Gentleman consent that the Closure shall not be applied to the Report stage of Bills sent to a Standing Committee? On the whole I submit to the Committee the answer is absolutely inadequate and misconceives the scope of the Amendment.
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY
I only rise in consequence of the remarks of the Chancellor of the Duchy, because after his statement I think it is well that we should look back to recent events in our Parliamentary history. He said that if Bills went upstairs we might be sure that there would always be ample opportunity for discussion on the Report stage and on Third Reading. In 1908, the Housing Bill, which was a very large measure, went to a Committee upstairs. The Government passed guillotine resolutions before it came before us for Report, which included the Third Reading stage. The guillotine resolution gave two days to Report for a Bill with seventy-three Clauses. On the first day one Clause was debated, and the guillotine fell. Clauses 3 to 29 were put without Debate. Clause 30 was deleted and removed from the Bill, and Clause 31 was put without Debate. So that on the first day we had three discussions; there were only three Clauses debated and one of them was deleted. The next day the guillotine again fell, and Clauses 57 to 73 and the new Clauses were put without Debate. The Bill was closured the next day on the Third Reading.
We therefore did not get the opportunity which the right hon. Gentleman said we 1200 were sure to have. He also said that we might be pretty sure that nothing but un-controversial measures were sent up to Grand Committees, but there was the Scottish Land Bill, which was not uncontentious in every respect. We may therefore take it that the Government are not particularly careful in their choice between controversial and uncontroversial measures. On these two points, which apparently were the only two points put forward by the right hon. Gentleman, I do not think recent records on the part of the Government show that we have any reason to trust very much to the advantages they would secure.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
In many respects this is a half-baked Measure, but in respect to this Clause it is a mere framework. Under our Standing Orders, Bills after Second Reading, unless otherwise ordered, go to Grand Committee. Every Bill under this Clause has to be verbatim and literatim the same for three Sessions one after another. Is it proposed that in these cases, as the Bill comes up Session after Session, it is to go to the same Grand Committee, or is it to be considered in Committee one year in the House, one year in Grand Committee or in what other way? But Bills may conceivably be sent to Select Committees and not Grand Committees at all. I suggest that it will be absolutely necessary to frame Standing Orders to deal with Measures under this Clause. Procedure is limited by Standing Orders, and yet there is nothing in the Bill which shows how we are going to alter our procedure by Standing Order in order to make it possible to work it.
It is farcical to imagine that for three years in succession Bills are to go to the same Grand Committee to be considered there and never once considered in those three years on the floor of the House in Committee. If this Clause is operative at least one of the Sessions the Bill ought to be considered in Committee of the whole House, and it only shows the little thought that has been devoted to the machinery of the Bill. I cannot conceive anything more raw than these Clauses are at present, and I ask the Chancellor of the Duchy whether the Government have considered the revision of the rules of procedure which will Be necessary, and if so, whether Bills are to go three Sessions automatically to Grand Committees, or if they are referred in the first instance to Select Committees they are to go to Grand 1201 Committees in the second year or to be considered in one of the three years on the floor of the House. That would aid us very much in the consideration of the Amendment, and it is necessary that the House should be informed as to what we are to expect when we have to work the Bill in practice.
§ Mr. JOSEPH PEASE
The hon. Member no doubt knows the procedure. All Bills naturally go upstairs unless a definite Motion is made by any Member asking the House to retain the Measure in the Chamber itself for the Committee stage. It is open to anyone to move that Motion, and it rests, and will rest under the Bill, with the House each Session as to whether the Bill should go upstairs or remain in the House.
That last observation of the Chancellor of the Duchy was made to people who are not quite so innocent as he seems to imagine. I suppose he relies on the late hour. He tells us that anyone can make a Motion that the Bill shall be considered on the floor of the House instead of upstairs. It is really grotesque. He knows perfectly well it is all settled by the Government, and we might make any number of Motions from any number of Back Benches or even from the Gallery, and the result would be exactly the same. The Government would carry the thing in exactly the way they wish. The way they treat this Amendment is a very good example of the spirit they apply to the whole question of this Bill. As regards Bills which the House of Lords might throw out, we are told it is very necessary for that reason to draw the teeth of the House of Lords and prevent them from throwing them out and to have this elaborate procedure. Then you get this other class of Bills, and we are told it is not the class of Bills which the House of Lords is likely to throw out, but apparently the same deduction and inference is to be drawn from exactly opposite conclusions.
What has been all through the defence of the Government for establishing this procedure? We have said you are establishing Single-Chamber Government. After all, in two years the Bill must pass, whatever the Second Chamber does. The reply of the Government has been. "Oh, no, delay may kill any measure!" How, we ask, is delay to kill a measure? How is public opinion to be brought to bear on the subject? They say there will be by-elections, or move- 1202 ments in the country, or any of those signs by which sensitive politicians with their ears to the ground are wont to gauge the strength and force of public opinion. That may be so with regard to large controversial measures, those measures which are discussed fully in the House and on which everyone informs himself. But is there a single Member of the House who will say that that reasoning would apply to measures which are sent upstairs to Committees? It would be absolutely preposterous to say so, for it is not the fact. You may have four of those Committees sitting at the same time. You have now three very important Bills before Committees, and, although they are not controversial in the sense of dividing the two sides of the House, they still are measures bristling with matters of detail. I refer to the Shops Bill, the Mines Bill, and the Copyright Bill. You will have these Committees going at the same time, and I would ask whether any Member would get up and tell me that he follows, or that his Constituents follow, what is going on in the Committees? It is impossible. The most that a politician in the country can do is to follow what goes on in this House.
I do not know how many people read the debates which take place in this House, but I am afraid they are few. At any rate, none of them will follow what goes on in Grand Committees for the reason that they do not get reports of the proceedings unless there should happen to be a scene or a row. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or a Member takes dinner in the room," and "Or a Member smokes his pipe."] I do not wish to deal with these interruptions. There is no OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings of Grand Committees. I remember trying to refer to what had happened at a meeting of one of these Committees on the Development Bill; but, as there was no OFFICIAL REPORT it was impossible to know what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said in connection with the Bill. Unless this Amendment is accepted, one of two things will have to happen. You will have to drastically alter the procedure of the House, in what you may call a reactionary way if you like, so as to secure that a far larger proportion of these Bills shall be discussed in the House than are discussed here now. If that is not done, there is no possible way in which you can get public opinion to bear upon them.
§ Mr. FLAVIN
The hon. Member is afraid that his speeches will not be reported. There may be some chance of that being done if Bills were discussed in the House.
It is not a question whether my speeches are reported or not. I say that the speeches even of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are not reported in Committees upstairs. I shall get on very much quicker if hon. Members do not make irrelevant remarks about the reports of speeches. If public opinion is to guide and stimulate opinion in this House, I ask how that can be done if the people of the country are left absolutely uninstructed as to what is taking place.
The whole force and machinery of this Bill depends upon public discussion, and under the present procedure of this House four-fifths of your Bills will get no discussion at all if you get these Bills upstairs. Further, these Grand Committees upstairs are very often badly attended. I have often seen not one-half of the total number of Members present. Members have to do their work before they come here. For these reasons I have greater sympathy with the Amendment of my hon. Friend, and if he divides I shall certainly go into the Division Lobby in support of it.
§ Mr. JAMES MASON
I understood that the Amendment now before the Committee had been refused on the ground that only first-class or non-contentious measures go to these Grand Committees. The Chancellor of the Duchy went on to say that non-contentious measures were often those on which there was no division of opinion on party lines. I think he quoted the instance of the Coal Mines Bill. Surely that was a contentious measure although there were Members on one side of the House or the other who were in favour of it. You will admit such a measure as a Female Suffrage Bill to be a measure upon which opinion would not be divided upon party lines, yet it would be a very contentious measure. The Chancellor of the Duchy went on to describe non-contentious measures as those upon which there would not be a strong division of opinion between the two Houses. Many of the measures proposed just now would be amended in the other House. The reason given so far for refusing the Amendment is not at all satis- 1204 factory, and unless some better reason is given against it I hope the Committee will support it.
§ Mr. LONG
Before this Amendment is divided upon I desire to say a word or two because it raises questions in which many of us have taken a very keen interest and upon which there are many of us who have expressed our opinion in the Debates in this House from time to time. In the first place, I do not hesitate to say that if it were not for the fact that the hour is what it is, and, secondly, for the fact that the Government compel the Committee to make a choice as between the different Amendments and that consequently priority is given to those which are of graver importance and more attractive—if it were not for these facts the Debate upon this Amendment would not be confined to one side of the House, even with the pressure under which hon. Members opposite are now existing. [Interruption.] The hon. Member who laughs will forgive me for saying, without any disrespect to him, that he has neither the experience of this House or of the Grand Committees which justifies him. We are dealing in this Amendment with one of the most important questions the Committee can be called upon to decide. The hon. Member who interrupts from the other side will get his opportunity to reply when the time comes. I repeat that we are dealing with a question of the greatest possible importance.
The Chancellor of the Duchy will forgive mo for saying that I think he entirely misunderstood the whole case made by my hon. Friend. He put the case of the class of Bills which go to Grand Committees and argued that they were of a non-controversial character. He reminded us that it is true that there has been a slight deviation, one which I do not in any way regret, from the lines originally laid down by Sir Henry Campbell-Banner-man, but the fact remains that these Bills are not as a rule what are called highly controversial Bills. The Chancellor of the Duchy seems to have fallen into the same lamentable blunder which was committed by the Home Secretary earlier in the evening. He dealt with the matter as if it was a question of the differences between parties. We are not thinking only of Bills which divide parties in this House. We are thinking of the nation and the public interest. We ask that where a procedure is to be adopted with regard to the discussion of questions before us, a procedure 1205 which is not the usual one, that your new plan for altering the Constitution should not be followed. Surely the Chancellor of the Duchy knows that what was said by my hon. Friends who have spoken, and notably the hon. Gentleman who preceded me, as to the Debates in Grand Committees is strictly accurate. I do not believe that anybody in this House has had more experience of these Grand Committees than I have had. I served on them from their first establishment, I carried through Grand Committees several Bills as Minister; and I have served ever since in opposition.
It is ridiculous to suggest that there can be any pressure from the public to influence the work done in these Committees. It is ridiculous to bring forward the point argued by the Government on other Amendments throughout the whole of these debates that public opinion would prevent the Government of the day from exercising the new power given to them and unduly use it unfairly against their opponents. It is absurd to make that suggestion with regard to Bills going to Grand Committees. What does the Chancellor of the Duchy say on that point? His answer is that you have the opportunities on Report and Third Reading. But the greatest danger of the Bill we are now discussing is that you give the Government of the day power to pass their Bills without the knowledge of the country and behind their backs, and do so with pretty nearly as much legislation as you like.
In different circumstances hon. Gentlemen opposite, especially private Members, would have been the first to raise their voices upon this Amendment, because this Bill will enable the Government of the day further advantages in sending Bills to Grand Committees, and not to have them fully considered on the floor of the House. That is admitted by the Chancellor of the Duchy. They will thus be able to limit discussion on these Bills. What is the practice now? A Bill is sent to a Grand Committee, and the argument is at once used that it is not of a controversial character. Every Member of this House who has been a Member of a Grand Committee knows what goes on. We cannot raise in this House the exercise of the power of the Closure by the Chairman of these Standing Committees. Everybody knows that there is no record of what takes place in the exercise of the power of the Closure there. I myself raised this question of an official record of their proceedings. Parliament 1206 declined to accede to that, and at this moment there is no official record of anything that takes place before these Committees. The Bill comes back from the Grand Committee to this House and nobody knows what has taken place except what one is able to learn from the condition of the Bill as it comes back to us. The Government are fortified by the argument that it is not controversial. What do they do now? It is the common practice under the present system for the Government to move that the Report stage be limited to two or three days and the Third Reading to half-a-day. This opportunity will be given, the Chancellor of the Duchy tells us, for Parliamentary discussion, but nobody in the country-knows what is going on and what is the Bill which is to be passed into law over the heads of the House.
Had it not been for the reasons to which I have already referred, this Amendment is one which would justly have occupied a very considerable part of the time of the House. It is an Amendment of the first importance, and I believe that if hon. Members opposite could be relieved from the disabilities under which they at present suffer and were free to discuss questions in which they take an interest they would find this to be one of the most important amongst them. But they, for reasons of their own, no doubt entirely to their own satisfaction, are prevented from giving expression to their views in a speech, whatever they may seek to do occasionally by interruption. At all events this much I will say, that every word that has been said on behalf of this Amendment by its proposer and by my hon. Friend has been abundantly justified, and I believe that if the Government are determined not to admit any exemption of this kind they will find that they have forged a power which will be very dangerous in the hands of Governments less—what shall I say—less controlled by the best desires and instincts than the present Government tell us they are, and they will find that they have done a great deal to destroy the influence and power of Parliament. I regret profoundly we have not debated this Amendment under better conditions. I profoundly regret that the Government have thought fit to meet it by a blank negative, that they have not even suggested in this case some Amendment of my hon. Friend's proposal, and that they have not made some suggestion that they would be ready to deal with questions of this kind. I profoundly regret it, 1207 and I believe my regret will be shared by those who have followed as closely as some of us have done the proceedings of Parliament, whether on the floor of this House or in Committee upstairs.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I rise to say one word in reply to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I really do not think there is cause for the alarm he has suggested. Nobody knows more about the working of Grand Committees than the right hon. Gentleman, and nobody knows better than he that what he calls the "sinister influence of the Government" is less operative in a Grand Committee than elsewhere. We have no Whips there; the Government is not turned out by a vote in Grand Committee, and therefore the voting is free. The only Bills which are sent to it are those which do not involve party fortunes and the fate of the Government of the day, but Bills which command more or less general agreement. That is the reason why this is not abused. Although there is great weight to be attached to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, I felt it right to say that this is one point which has been overlooked by him.
§ Mr. STEPHEN WALSH
The right hon. Gentleman opposite made a special appeal to Members sitting below the Gangway on this side—
§ Mr. WALSH
I am sorry if I misinterpreted the right hon. Gentleman. I was not saying it in any derogatory sense, and I am sorry if I misinterpreted him. I have had a good deal of experience of Grand Committee work, probably upon some of the Bills which might be said in the real sense of the word to be non-controversial, so far as the highest party issues are concerned, and yet which laid 1208 themselves open to the widest possible area of attack. Take the Workmen's Compensation of 1906. No one can say that the industrial issues raised in that measure were not capable of exciting tremendous opposition. It is perfectly true to say that the principle of that Bill was a matter that had been already decided nine years earlier by both sides. Nine years later the Government came forward and said we propose to extend this measure. Now there could not be the slightest doubt about it, there were innumerable points of tremendous interest involved and that there should be very great consideration given by everyone to them. Does anyone mean to say that all the chief interests involved knew nothing of what was going on upstairs? The whole thing is preposterous. Every interest—every shipowner, every colliery owner, every textile manufacturer, every manufacturer knew what was going on day by day. We ourselves, the miners, had reports every day of what was going on, and I think the colliery owners had the same full reports. Take the case of the Merchants' Shipping Act of the same year. The same thing applies. Unless you do send work of this character upstairs you are going to have such a congestion here as to make public business impossible. Perhaps that is what is desired by the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. I hope not; but really that would be the effect of his argument.
§ Mr. WALSH
If you are going to keep great controversial Bills of that character, controversial so far as the infinity of interests are concerned, on the floor of this House, you are going to make business of that character impossible. It is only by devolution that you can make any progress at all. Take the Merchant Shipping Bill. Was that a measure of great controversy? It is known, it was open to great attack, and yet it had been agreed upon in 1834. Take the Coal Mines Bill. That Bill excited tremendous opposition. I remember statements being made about coal going up to five shillings per ton, and that coal mining was going to be made impossible. I remember an hon. Member opposite who said the coal mining industry would no longer be continued, and that the poor would no longer be able to buy coal at all. It excited a tremendous amount of opposition, but so far as practical politics were concerned it was non-controversial. It 1209 passed this House without a division on the Second Reading. Therefore we say that these matters are matters that can only be discussed upstairs. But—and this is my last word—if it is the desire of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends above him to make all public business impossible then they can do nothing better than carry the Amendment.
§ Colonel CHALONER
I can quite understand hon. Members shouting "Divide," "Divide," on a question of this kind, which is of real importance and magnitude. Hon. Members would like this Bill to go through without any discussion at all, as they are going to avoid sending it to a Second Chamber if they have their way. We shall have absolutely no public control over any Bill which goes up to Grand Committee unless this Amendment is accepted. The hon. Member below the Gangway—I am sure the House was entertained by the novelty of an hon. Member opposite addressing the House on this Bill—referred to some particular Bill which he said was reported to himself and his friends and to others who were connected with him. Quite possibly so. But it was not made known to the general public. He might have taken special precautions on that particular occasion to see that he and his friends received reports of what went on. But the fact remains that no general report to the public goes out as to what transpires in these Grand Committees, and the result will be that Bills
§ will be smuggled through this House without any reference whatever to the wishes of the people and without any opportunity being given to the people to make known what their wishes are.
§ I venture to say to hon. Members below the Gangway, who are always talking about the rights of the people, that now is the opportunity of standing up for those rights. They are frequently moving Amendments and then withdrawing them, in favour of this and of that, but the moment it comes to standing up and voting for the rights of the people they want to sneak away.
§ I maintain that we are perfectly justified in supporting this Amendment, and upon these grounds: We believe that it is the only way of exempting those Bills which go up to Grand Committee from the provisions of this Bill, and by so doing to allow the House of Lords to deal with them in that Chamber fully, and to make known to the public what the proposals of Parliament are. In that way we shall focus public attention upon them, the public will have the right of knowing what is going on and of protesting if they think fit, which will not be the case unless this Amendment is accepted. I shall support the Amendment, and I hope it will go to a Division.
§ Question put, "That the words 'which has been committed to a Committee of the whole House' be their inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 84; Noes, 159.1211
|Division No. 164.]||AYES.||[1.25 a.m.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Gibbs, G. A.||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Bagot, Lieut.-Colonel J||Gilmour, Captain John||Newman, John R. P.|
|Baird, J. L.||Goldsmith, Frank||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Grant, J. A.||Peel, Hon. William R. W. (Taunton)|
|Baring, Captain Hon. G. V.||Greene, W. R.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Barnston, Harry||Gretton, John||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Benn, I. H. (Greenwich)||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford)||Rice, Hon. W. F.|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Henderson, Major H. (Abingdon)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hill, Sir Clement L. (Shrewsbury)||Stanier, Beville|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hunt, Rowland||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Joynson-Hicks, William||Swift, Rigby|
|Butcher, J. G.||Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Carlile, Edward Hildred||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Thomson, W. Mitchell (Down, N.)|
|Cassel, Felix||Kerry, Earl of||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Kirkwood, J. H. M.||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Cator, John||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Lewisham, Viscount||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Waring, Walter|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale)||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo. Han. S.)||Winterton, Earl|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Younger, George|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Finlay, Sir Robert||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. H. W. Forster and Mr. Pike Pease.|
|Fleming, Valentine||Mount, William Arthur|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Hackett, John||O'Shee, James John|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda)||Hancock, John George||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Harvey T. E. (Leeds, West)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Alden, Percy||Haworth, Arthur A.||Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek)|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton)||Hayden, John Patrick||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Hayward, Evan||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Henry, Sir Charles S.||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Higham, John Sharp||Pointer, Joseph|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Barran, Sir John N. (Hawick B.)||Hunter, W. (Govan)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Barton, William||Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Benn, W. W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Johnson, William||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.|
|Boyle, D. (Mayo, N.)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Reddy, Michael|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts., Stepney)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Jowett, Frederick William||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Carr-Gomm, H W.||Joyce, Michael||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Keating, Matthew||Rowlands, James|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Kellaway, Frederick George||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Kilbride, Denis||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molton)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Clough, William||Levy, Sir Maurice||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Lewis, John Herbert||Seely, Col. Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Sheehy, David|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Lundon, Thomas||Shortt, Edward|
|Crumley, Patrick||Lyell, Charles Henry||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Cullman, J.||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Summers, James Woolley|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||M'Laren, H. D. (Leics., Bosworth)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Manfield, Harry||Tennant, Harold John|
|Delany, William||Markham, Arthur Basil||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Denman Hon. Richard Douglas||Marks, George Croydon||Toulmin, George|
|Dillon, John||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Trevelyan, Charles Philips.|
|Doris, William||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Duffy, William J.||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Morgan, George Hay||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Elverston, H.||Morrell, Philip||White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Murray, Captain Hon. A. C.||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Nolan, Joseph||Wiles, Thomas|
|Essex, Richard Walter||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Fenwick, Charles||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Ferens, Thomas Robinson||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Ffrench, Peter||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||O'Doherty, Philip||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire. N.)|
|Fitzgibbon, John||O'Dowd, John||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Flavin Michael Joseph||Ogden, Fred||Wood, T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Gill, A. H.||O'Malley, William|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
§ Mr. LAURENCE HARDY moved in Sub-section (1) after the word "Bill" ["If any Bill"] to insert the words, "to the discussion of which any resolution for limiting the time of Debate in the House of Commons or in Standing Committee has not been applied."
§ I rise to move the Amendment standing in my name so as to exclude from this legislation any Bills which have come under that limitation which is generally called the guillotine. We had a discussion upon this question on Clause 1, and I do not intend to go again into the history of the guillotine at this late hour. I do wish to approach this question rather at the point at which we left it the other day in the Debate to which I refer. There was no argument used at that time for the Gov- 1212 ernment, by the Home Secretary I believe, which dealt with the question of the guillotine. Of course we were dealing with Money Bills, and the Government approached that question from the point of view that there was no possibility now of amending a Money Bill, in their opinion, in the House of Lords, and that we ought to keep control of such Bills after they passed through this House.
§ In Clause 2 we are dealing with Bills from a different point of view. We know that in the past there have been a great number of most important Bills which have passed through this House, and some of those provisions were passed absolutely without discussion in this House. Up to the present these Bills have had the advantage of being fully discussed 1213 in the House of Lords, where Amendments could be moved, and these Amendments could be adhered to if it were necessary for the advantage of the Bill. Under the new procedure in Clause 2, and especially in Sub-section (2) of Clause 2, the House of Lords has practically no real power of Amendment, because the only Amendments that can be accepted are Amendments which have been adopted by both Houses. If the House of Commons stands out against any Amendment made by the Lords they have really no power. We can then pass only what are called agreed Amendments. Thus we get to this position: that there may be in future most important controversial measures dealing with the largest questions, and we have had incidents to-day showing that the Government are not willing to exclude even the most important questions of all; and these Bills may be passed without discussion at all under the influence of the guillotine. These Bills will go forward to the Lords, and they will have no real power to efficiently amend them.
§ Therefore, Acts of Parliament may be passed in the future without discussion, without any possibility of Amendment, and we get back to the supremacy of the Cabinet through their draftsmen. Protests have been made in this House before against that danger, and that protest I desire to renew to-night. We ought to consider all that has been said on these guillotine resolutions in the past. I am sorry the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Byles) is not in the House, because I do not know any Member who has expressed so well the objections to these guillotine resolutions as he has. He said not many years ago that he "considered it was only increasing the power of the Executive. It was a very dangerous power. The Executive was one thing; the House of Commons was another." That is a point I should like expressly to emphasise—that in this case we are really giving power to the Executive and taking it away from the House of Commons. It is on this ground that I think we should be very chary, when introducing a reform of so revolutionary a nature, about allowing important Bills to pass without any opportunity whatsoever in either House of amending those Bills or securing that real Amendments shall be made in a Bill which is produced by the Government. We were told only a few nights ago by the leaders on both Front Benches of the great advantages of 1214 discussion and the modification which came from debate.
§ There can be no modification from debate when Bills are passed under the guillotine. There is, of course, the further great disadvantage, to which I alluded on a previous occasion when we were discussing Clause 1, that the moment you get under the influence of the guillotine there is no object in the Government making concessions. They know that at a certain time they will get their clauses, that it does not matter in the least to what point the debate is argued. It runs on to a certain hour before the clauses are passed, and there is no real discussion, no real criticism, and no interest in the debate. That is not a condition of things which was tolerated in the old days, and it certainly is not a condition of things which can be tolerated under the new conditions when you have practically eliminated a second chamber. It is on this ground that I say, when we are setting up a new constitution, we should limit the exercise of that right to those Bills which are discussed in this House. I hope the Government may consider this matter favourably, even at this late hour of the evening, and give us some hope that they will either adopt the words I suggest or do something in order to ensure that we shall have the very fullest discussion and all Bills which fall under the new rule they have suggested. I regret we have not the Prime Minister with us. We saw the great advantage of his presence earlier in the evening. We had an Amendment moved by my hon. Friend below me, the hon. Member for Sheffield. It was opposed by the Attorney-General, who declared it was quite impossible for the Government to accept it, and yet after a few speeches we know the Prime Minister rose and said it was weightily discussed, and that he was willing to consider the Amendment on Report. That is the advantage of having the Prime Minister with us. Therefore, I regret we have been forced to bring forward these important Amendments so very late in the evening when the Prime Minister cannot be present. It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh, but many of them on other occasions have expressed their dislike for the guillotine, and have said that it was not an instrument that should be incorporated in the machinery of this House. The Prime Minister himself admitted it would be better to devise some new method in place of it. Now, as it does not form part of our Standing 1215 Orders, let us at least exclude it from any Bills that would fall under the operation of the Clause we are discussing.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
As the hon. Member reminded the Committee, this point was discussed on Clause 1 in its application to that Clause, and the Committee, after very full discussion, decided that it was undesirable to insert any provision of this character in Clause 1. If there was a case for the Amendment at all it would surely be in connection with Clause 1 which deals with Bills passed once rather than on Clause 2 which deals with Bills that have to pass three times before they can reach the Statute Book. Surely we can say that Bills which have passed through the House of Commons three times will have been adequately discussed. We can conceive that a measure may be a measure highly controversial. In fact, all measures that will have to be passed under this Clause will have to be controversial. It is quite absurd, therefore, to suggest that a lengthy controversial measure containing fifty or sixty Clauses would pass through this House without being fully discussed even on a third occasion. Even under Clause 1 a Bill which might be passed on the first occasion might be so deliberately obstructed by the Opposition that it might be necessary to limit discussion. The hon. Member says this is placing fresh powers in the hands of the Executive. As each Amendment comes up to be discussed hon. Members opposite speak as if the House of Commons desired to do that.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The House has the power in its own hands. The Ministry of the day is not able of itself to carry out these disastrous and unconstitutional measures of which we are so frequently accused. If measures restricting Debate were opposed by the majority of the House they would not be proceeded with, and if they were they would not be assented to. The House of Commons has in its own hands its own reputation, its own authority and complete control of its own procedure which can be affected by nothing in the relations of the two Houses.
§ Sir R. FINLAY
The language just used by the right hon. Gentleman as to the control by the House of Commons of its own procedure strikes me as slightly conven- 1216 tional. What has been our experience? It is this: that the power of the Government, the power of the Cabinet, has been growing every day, and that the subjection of this House to the Executive has reached a point which approaches to being a public scandal. The right hon. Gentleman said that an Amendment similar to this on the first Clause received full discussion, and, after full discussion, was rejected. There never was a more unhappy phrase. With the exception of one speech or so from the Front Benches on each Amendment, on that side there has been almost absolute silence. Of discussion there has been none. Hon. Members opposite have their orders, and their discipline is perfect. The right hon. Gentleman talks as though no great measure can be passed without the use of the closure. Does he remember the Finance Bill of 1894?—an enormous Measure which was carried through this House without the closure once being used, when the late Sir William Harcourt was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now I would ask the Committee, in conclusion, just to picture to itself what the state of things in this House will be in the second and third Sessions. The Bill that has to be carried through must be the same in the second and third sessions as it was in the first; if it is altered it ceases to be the same Bill, and you cannot avail yourself of the procedure of this Act to carry it over the heads of the House of Lords. The procedure in the second and third sessions will be an absolute farce; the guillotine will be erected; the Measure will be forced through; and this Bill, which is intended to exalt this House above the House of Lords and make it supreme, will end in degrading this House and its procedure to a point which it has never before suffered.
§ Mr. GRETTON
I think the Committee have every reason to protest against the way they have been treated to-night. At this hour of the night the least the Government can do is to pay some reasonable attention, and to try to make an adequate reply to the arguments advanced in support of the Amendments. But that is the last thing which the Government seem prepared to do. The Leader of the House has gone. We do not complain of that, for a Prime Minister to-day has many duties to perform. He has left his deputy, and now we have not even the deputy in charge of the House. The Committee is put off by being led by the deputy's deputy, and we have heard a most inadequate conventional speech, 1217 delivered in a most flippant manner, without any serious attempt to meet the arguments. Hon. Members opposite may want to go home to bed. This matter has reached such a point that the time has come when the House ought to be adjourned. We ought to have a responsible Minister in charge to meet the case put forward by the Opposition. I beg to move "That this House do now adjourn."
§ Earl WINTERTON
May I call attention to the fact that no motion to report Progress has been made since early in the evening? May I also ask whether it is not customary that such a motion be accepted at such an hour of the night?
§ Earl WINTERTON
On a point of Order, Mr. Chairman, may I ask if it would be competent to move to report Progress at a later hour, or whether we are to be debarred from moving it at all?
§ Mr. NEVILLE
It seems to me that it is doubly important that this Amendment should be considered favourably when we are at the present juncture removing the safeguards which hitherto this country has enjoyed. I do not know that there is any State which had any pretensions to a Constitution which deprived itself in such a light-hearted way of its right to second thoughts as we are doing in this civilised country in the twentieth century. Even the Persians, as some of my hon. Friends opposite may remember, had a habit of appealing from Persians drunk to Persians sober. I do not see why we should deprive ourselves in this House of a similar liberty if it is necessary. But if that be not the policy of the country at the present time surely we ought to see that the liberty of this House of Commons should be adequately safeguarded when you are going to remove the safeguards on which the country has customarily relied for several hundreds of year. It therefore becomes more important that the Amendment should be treated seriously by the Government.
1218 The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General, as I understood him, took only one point in regard to this Amendment. He suggested that we had made a mistake, and that if the Amendment could be accepted at all it would have been accepted on the first Clause, and because it was not accepted on the first Clause he said we are too late to propose it now. I suggest to him that there is a considerable difference between the first Clause and the second Clause. I am assuming for the purpose of my argument, that the Government are sincere in the declarations that they have made in the House that they do not intend any tacking to take place under the first Clause. If they are sincere in that then there is a very material difference between that Clause and this Clause, because under the first Clause if there is to be no tacking then these great Constitutional questions can only come up under the second Clause, therefore the necessity for the Closure would not be so important under the first Clause as under the second Clause, under which these Constitutional questions' may arise. I submit if that is the chief argument which the Government have at their disposal it is a very poor one to produce at this time of night. The real argument we have on this side is this: we find we are dealing with a state of things which I do not think anybody in this House understands. [Interruption.] Is that an animal or what is it? A kangaroo, I suppose; one of those marsupial creatures. No wallaby need apply here.
May I point out the difficulty we are in. We do not know now—I speak for myself and the rest of my friends—whether it is the intention of the Government to have a Second Chamber or not. We are in the position of the gentleman who goes to the racecourse and sees the gentleman with the pea and the thimble and does not know under which thimble the pea is. That is the real difficulty that Members on this side of the House feel. We do not know whether we are going to have an effective Second Chamber or not. If we were going to have an effective Second Chamber it would modify our opinion upon this particular Amendment very largely. We have listened to the Chancellor to the Duchy to-night and comparing what he has said with what fell from the Prime Minister earlier in the evening, we feel that we are quite at sea in this matter, and it becomes more and more important that we should have a full opportunity of discussion upon these controversial Bills.
1219 I regret to say I remember, at a time when I was very much younger than I am now—there is surely no hon. Member who does not regret his youth unless it was a sinful youth—I can remember a great and striking demonstration of the effect of the closure to the people of the country. It was on the question of the Home Rule Bill, and a great sheet was printed showing all those Clauses that had never been discussed in this House. They were blacked out on that broad sheet just as hon. Members may have seen news in foreign papers blacked out as it is done by the censor in Russia. That broad sheet on the Home Rule Bill with the portions blacked out would give some notion how difficult it is to let the people know the nature of our discussions and form a just opinion upon them, especially since we have had this Australian animal introduced into this House, the jumping kangaroo. I really think this Amendment ought to be considered by the Government, and that they ought to make some response to the appeals that have been addressed to them. I am sure that after all they have a feeling for the dignity of the House, in which free discussion has been the greatest
§ advantage that our Constitution has enabled us to enjoy. They ought to give us an opportunity of the fullest discussion of any question which might affect the great masses of the people at large.
§ This is not a matter which affects party only. I do not think that in this Bill there is any Clause that ought to be treated as a party Clause. We ought to treat this Bill as a measure dealing with the birthright of the people of this country and of the nation as a whole. Under this Bill it will be possible to put a great controversial measure through the House of Commons and send it up to the Second Chamber, and that Chamber will have an opportunity of referring it to the people. We know what the results were when measures were referred to the people by them. By this Bill you are not only going to reduce the powers of the Lords, but you are going to destroy the power of the electors of this country to see that their work is done in the way they desire it to be done.
§ Question put. "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 78; Noes, 152.1221
|Division No. 165.]||AYES.||[2.0 a.m.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt. Hon. Sir Alex. F.||Forster, Henry William||Mount, William Arthur|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Gibbs, George Abraham||Newdegate, F. A|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Gilmour, Captain John||Newman, John R. P.|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Goldsmith, Frank||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Baring, Captain Hon. Guy Victor||Grant, J. A.||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Barnston, H.||Greene, Walter Raymond||Peel, Hon. W. R. W. (Taunton)|
|Benn, Ion Hamilton (Greenwich)||Gretton, John||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Hardy, Laurence||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Henderson, Major H. (Berkshire)||Rice, Hon. Walter Fitz-Uryan|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Hill, Sir Clement L.||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Stanier, Beville|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Stanley, Hon G. F. (Preston)|
|Butcher, John George||Hunt, Rowland||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Carlile, Edward Hildred||Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Cassel, Felix||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Swift, Rigby|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Kerry, Earl of||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Cator, John||Kirkwood, John H. M.||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Knight, Captain Eric Ayshford||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Lewisham, Viscount||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale)||Winterton, Earl|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo. Han. S.)||Younger, George|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh|
|Finlay, Sir Robert||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir|
|Fleming, Valentine||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||William Bull and Mr. Neville.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.)||Chapple, Dr. William Allen|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Booth, Frederick Handel||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Bowerman, C W.||Clancy, John Joseph|
|Alden, Percy||Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Clough, William|
|Allen, A. A. (Dumbartonshire)||Brocklehurst, William B.||Condon, Thomas Joseph|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Crumley, Patrick|
|Barton, William||Chancellor, Henry George||Cullinan, John|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Kellaway, Frederick George||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Kilbride, Denis||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lambert, George (Devon, Molton)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Dawes, J. A.||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Reddy, Michael|
|Delany, William||Levy, Sir Maurice||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Doris, William||Lundon, Thomas||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Duffy, William J.||Lyell, Charles Henry||Rowlands, James|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Elverston, Harold||M'Laren, H. D. (Leices.)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Manfield, Harry||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Markham, Arthur Basil||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Essex, Richard Walter||Marks, George Croydon||Seely, Colonel, Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Fenwick, Charles||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Sheehy, David|
|Ferens, Thomas Robinson||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Shortt, Edward|
|Ffrench, Peter||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Money, L. G. Chiozza||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Morgan, George Hay||Stanley, Albert (Staffs., N. W.)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Morrell, Philip||Summers, James Woolley|
|Gill, A. H.||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Nolan, Joseph||Tennant, Harold John|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Hackett, John||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Toulmin, George|
|Hancock, J. G.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, W.)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.)||O'Doherty, Philip||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||O'Dowd, John||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Ogden, Fred||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Hayward, Evan||O'Malley, William||White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Henry, Sir Charles S.||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Whyte, A. F.|
|Higham, John Sharp||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||O'Shee, James John||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Hunter, William (Lanark, Govan)||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Johnson, W.||Parker, James Halifax||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Jowett, Frederick William||Pointer, Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Joyce, Michael||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Keating, Matthew||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
§ Lord ALEXANDER THYNNE moved in Sub-section (1), after the word "Bill"' ["If any Bill"] to insert the words "introduced by a Minister on behalf of His Majesty's Government."
§ I desire to move the Amendment which is down in the name of my hon. Friend (Sir H. Craik). In doing so I have no qualms at all, even at this late hour, about troubling the House, because I recognise that on the Benches opposite there is no obligation on any hon. Member to be here. After the very happy manner in which the Prime Minister in the earlier hours of the evening chose to withdraw from the barricades I do not think the supporters—
On a point of Order. Is the Noble Lord not entitled to comment on the fact that the Minister in charge of the Bill is absent from the House?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Noble Lord's remarks did not seem to me to be relevant to the Amendment which he had risen to move.
§ Lord ALEXANDER THYNNE
I bow to your ruling, and in explanation I would only say I was excusing myself for troubling the Committee with any remarks at this very late and somewhat inconvenient hour. The Amendment which stands in my hon. Friend's name, and which I have the privilege to move is somewhat wider in scope than the Amendment moved at a previous stage of the proceedings by the hon. Member for Sheffield, because the class of Bill affected by this Amendment includes not only Private Bills, which the Prime Minister has undertaken will form the subject of consideration on report, but it includes also Public Bills moved by Private Members in this House. Private Members' Bills stand in a class alone. In the first place they are often passed through their various stages in this House at times that are inconvenient to the majority of the Members of the House, and at times of the day when the House is comparatively thin.
In the second place Private Members' Bills deal with subjects to which the large majority of the House are often indifferent and on which many Members generally do not hold any decided opinions at all, with 1223 the result that the Bills become often a subject of private negotiation in the preliminary stages between the promoter and those Members of the House who are not inclined to support a matter in the first instance. And the further result of that is that a great many of those Private Members' Bills pass through the House, are sent to a Committee upstairs and then are brought down to this House again, and are passed through the remaining stages, are slipped through the remaining stages, without very many Members of the House being cognisant of their progress or even of their contents. Now, I think under the circumstances that is one very salient reason why this particular class of Bill should not be submitted to the operations of Clause 2. I would also remind the Committee of what took place during the 1906 Parliament. Then a number of Public Bills were introduced by private Members during the time of private Members, and those Bills were passed through their stages in this House and were subsequently taken up by the Government and converted into Government Bills.
Of course, that is a highly convenient course for the Government of the day to take because it enables the Government to filch Private Members' time in reality without doing so in appearance, and during the time that those particular Bills were still being regarded as Private Bills Private Members were quite content that they were receiving fair treatment and a proper share of the time of the House. The proper course for the Government at that time to have adopted and for the Government to adopt in future is to introduce Bills of that character upon the responsibility of one of the Ministers of the Crown. I think that at least one of the results of this Amendment would be to prevent the Government taking Private Members' time in this manner. Vow I come to my third reason for supporting this Amendment and that is, if I may say so, the principal reason. It is that this Amendment helps to carry out the original intention of His Majesty's Government when they introduced this Bill. I do not wish to refer at any length to assurances which the Home Secretary gave us when Clause I was under discussion. I may have been mistaken, but I personally understood, and I think that the great majority, certainly on this side of the House, understood in good faith 1224 that the Home Secretary, when he referred to this Bill as applying only to Public Bills, and, as we understand it, to Government Bills, was not confining his remarks to Clause 1 but was referring to the whole scope of the whole Bill.
I think the Committee will agree with me in saying that this Bill was originally and avowedly introduced by the Government in order to redress what they considered was a great injustice, which they as a Government were labouring under in regard to the House of Lords. We heard a great deal during the campaign in the constituencies about the House of Lords being a party caucus; about their not meting out even-handed justice to Liberal Governments and Conservative Governments alike. I think I may say that was the main line on which the attack was conducted by the whole of the Radical party at the recent election. If that is the case, surely that is no reason for extending the operation of this Bill to Bills introduced by private Members or to ordinary Private Bills. If this Bill was originally introduced in order to get fair play for Liberal measures introduced by a Liberal Government, if it was to remedy that state of injustice which so many Members complained of at the last General Election, then surely it should be confined to measures introduced by the Government and by the responsible Ministers of the Crown, and to those measures alone. These are the reasons which I submit to the Committee in support of this Amendment, and I think it will be obvious that there is nothing in the Amendment which runs counter to the original intentions of the Government when they formed and introduced this particular Bill. I go a step further, and I would say that this Amendment brings the Bill within the four corners of the assurance which was given to us a few days ago by the Home Secretary upon a similar question.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The Noble Lord has departed somewhat from the general attitude which he and his friends with whom he usually acts in politics have adopted on the subject of private Members' rights. Where is his championship of the rights of private Members to which we have been accustomed from hon. Members opposite? Where is his support of independent legislation? Here is the Noble Lord, who in the earlier part of the Session posed as the champion of the rights of private Members, now wishing to see the veto of the House of Lords applied to Private Members' 1225 Bills. He would deny to private Members even those rights which we are told they have left to them under the present conditions. After they have been successful in the ballot, after they have gained the advantage of securing facilities for carrying their Bills further, after they have been successful in doing this in three successive Sessions over a period of two years, the Noble Lord is not satisfied, but wishes the House of Lords to come down like a hammer on their heads.
Earlier in this Debate we were told how great is the danger of Cabinet rule, and how great has been the tendency to growth of Cabinet rule compared with the days when private Members were responsible for a great portion of our legislation. Yet here is the Noble Lord asking, at a time when we are to believe that affairs are in the exclusive control of the Cabinet, that we should put upon private Members a greater burden than any hitherto they have had to bear. By excluding private Members' Bills from this Bill it is inviting the Lords to exercise their Veto upon them whenever opportunity offers. So far from the effect of allowing private Members' Bills to be included in the Veto Bill procedure being to cast a greater temptation on the Government, as he argued it would, to take the time of private Members, that effect will be exactly the contrary. The ordinary desire of the Government would be to give private Members' Bills every possible facility. If anything could interfere with that desire, it would be the consideration that private Members' Bills were in danger from the House of Lords, and it would be a temptation to the Government to put these Bills out of their misery at the earliest moment possible.
There is one point to which I would like to draw the Noble Lord's attention before he goes home to-night. We have heard a great many things about the Amendment, but we may be still unconscious of the most important. Is he aware that it touches the fringe of women's votes. Is he aware that he is seeking to bring the House into violent collision with that movement, and that in the form of a Parliamentary amendment he is running the risk of exposing the cause of female suffrage to the absolute and unalterable Veto of the Lords? I do not know whether he has adequately considered that effect of his attitude. If he has I wish to pay a respectful tribute to his courage. I do not know to what form of 1226 constitutional argument he may not be himself exposed between this and tomorrow night.
§ Sir R. FINLAY
The arguments of the Home Secretary in opposing this Amendment seems to me to be hopelessly irrelevant. In presenting them he must have had some regard to the advanced hour and the presumed state of intelligence of the House. He said it would be an outrage upon private Members not to apply this Bill to them, and he asked how the Noble Lord could propose to put such a slight upon them. Was such an observation ever addressed to any assembly before. We are dealing with an extraordinary procedure to be invoked for the purpose of carrying a measure through without the consent of the whole Legislature. Is it asking too much when we say that any measure subjected to such extraordinary procedure ought to be one for which the Government have been willing to make themselves responsible from the beginning? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has referred to a difficult and burning question. The only thing that I gather clearly from that reference is that the Government do not mean to touch that subject. What I do say, however, is that before any great change in our institutions is to be made, and is to be carried under such procedure as that provided by the Bill, the Government ought to face the situation and make up its mind that this subject has a right to be dealt with.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
I was a little bit suspicious at an early stage of the proceedings this evening of why it was that the Home Secretary particularly wanted to have this Amendment discussed tonight. I now see what his reason was. He had a speech ready which he would not have dared to address to the House at four, or six, or eight, or even ten o'clock at night. The Home Secretary has somewhat strained that spirit of facetious levity which so becomes him. My Noble Friend's Amendment is a perfectly relevant serious one. The argument he addressed to the House showed that whatever case the Government might have to put Government Bills under this procedure there could be no possible case for the private Member having the same right. The Government profess to interpret the will of the people as declared at the last election. It is rather a large contention and rather a large assumption that any private Member who happens to succeed 1227 in the ballot is to be assumed to be gifted in the same right of divination of the mind of the electorate.
We in this House know the procedure with regard to private Members' Bills. They ballot and perhaps succeed, and bring in something on which they have been specially bullied either by their constituencies or friends. They bring it in under compulsion. Many a private Member, who has been successful in the ballot, has bitterly rued the day when he found himself charged with a large and complicated Bill, and would be extremely glad if he could be convinced that the will of the people was entirely against him and would make him drop it; but now, apparently, this apparatus of forcing a Bill through, if the will of the people is in favour of it, is at the disposal of any private Member who may happen to be successful in the ballot. He is to have the whole of this new portentous constitutional machinery at his disposal. That is an absurd proposition. It is one that no Member of the Government, not even the Postmaster-General, who always maintains the gravest countenance when he knows his arguments are most hollow, could uphold. But there is really a serious danger in this.
We know the tendency on the part of the Government to allow private Members' Bills to be treated as what the French call a ballon d'essai. They wish to see which way the wind is blowing, and in what way the majority of their supporters would regard the particular Measure. If these regard it in an unfavourable light they drop it. If they find there is a mass of opinion behind them, without having any responsibility themselves, after the Bill has gone through a Grand Committee, when it comes down to the House again they suddenly make up their minds and say: "Here is a thing we have to take up and must force through." That is not in accordance with ancient practice or with constitutional precedent. It is an abuse which has grown up in modern times, and is bad enough in itself without being aided by the whole of the procedure the present Government now possesses. I hope my hon. Friends will insist on this matter being proved to the bottom and discussed at far greater length than I can discuss it, because this very grave invasion is one which all who value the responsibilities of executive Government should unite to resist.
I very much regret that the Home Secretary has treated this subject with such levity. If we had only had the Prime Minister here to add a touch of dignity and solemnity to our discussion I think he would have treated this Amendment with far more force and lucidity. The right hon. Gentleman, with that perversity of logic which seems to inflict Members of the Government at late and early hours, seems to have been making an attack on private Members, and places private Members in a worse position than Members of the Government in introducing Bills. That does not affect me because I have got rather a poor opinion of private Members' Bills. I do believe in private Members' resolutions, because I think they are far more harmless.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I rise to a point of Order. I desire to call your attention to the fact that there are continuous disorderly interruptions from hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway and by the Homo Secretary, who is in charge of the House, and I am compelled to call for the Speaker from the fact that they have not once been called to order from the Chair.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am sure I made no disorderly interruptions. If the Noble Lord thinks I have he should have raised a question of Order, instead of making interruptions.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I most decidedly accuse the right hon. Gentleman of making most disorderly interruptions.
I really do not understand why the Home Secretary should rise to interrupt me in this way when he has got no point of Order. I have listened to him with perfect courtesy.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I rise very respectfully to ask you, Sir, to permit me to do what the House of Commons in every Debate has permitted a Member or a Minister 1229 to do, and that is to repudiate altogether the charge that I have been guilty of discourtesy or of a disorderly attack on the Noble Lord.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am sorry; the right hon. Gentleman can make a personal explanation after. A personal explanation is not a point of Order.
I hope I may now be allowed to continue my speech. I pointed out that the right hon. Gentleman was not raising a point of Order, but was merely rising to interrupt with a purely frivolous objection.
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. Member desires to continue his speech, will he please make it relevant to the Amendment.
I was trying to deal—[Interruption.] If there is so much disturbance behind here it is absolutely impossible to proceed. I appeal for protection.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I trust hon. Members below the Gangway and elsewhere will be as quiet as possible. These interruptions, from wherever they come, are most disorderly and most regrettable. They only prolong our proceedings and do no manner of good; they lower the dignity and prestige of the House, and I in the strongest manner protest against them. I ask hon. Members to be quiet and let us conclude this Debate.
I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Chairman. The right hon. Gentleman has tried to make an attack on my Noble Friend in suggesting that he was really departing from the principle which has animated hon. Members on this side of the House in trying to protect the rights and privileges of private Members. I think he was guilty of a curious perversity of logic in using that argument. What we claim, after all, is not a worse position but a better position for their Bills than for ordinary Government Bills. He says, "What are you going to do with these private Bills? You are going to invite the House of Lords to reject private Bills. Why could not they have the same advantage as those Bills introduced by the Government?" There is no invitation to the House of Lords to do anything of the sort. Does he suggest that after all these years that the House of Lords has been dealing with private Members' Bills that they have exercised their rights vexatiously or from any but a public sense? 1230 Does he suggest that because their rights as regards Public Bills introduced by Ministers are taken away, that therefore they are going to act vexatiously against the Bills of private Members? There is no ground for any such suggestion. No; these private Members' Bills are perfectly ready to stand the racket of the criticism of the House of Lords. It is surely creditable rather than otherwise that my Noble Friend should say, "No, they are not to be protected by this system which is invented for Government Bills; they are going on their own merits to the Second Chamber, and if they are good at last they are going to become the law of the land." Surely that is putting private Members' Bills into a better position that other Bills. Those which are deemed to be Acts of Parliament are not in fact Acts of Parliament at all, because they skip over the House of Lords.
By exempting private Members' Bills from this arrangement, you are really giving them more validity than you are giving to other Bills. Who is there in the future who will be able to attach the same sanctity, the same validity, the same force to measures passed by a single Chamber as to those passed by two Chambers? Everybody knows that the House of Lords only exercise these powers of rejection in very rare cases, and obviously they will exercise such powers in even rarer cases if they know that the rejection of a Bill will not prevent its becoming law. If they do exercise that power of rejection, it will be perfectly clear that they have some strong ground for doing so. If a Bill becomes law in spite of that, surely we shall not be able to attach the same force, the same validity, the same sanctity to that measure as we should to a Bill which has passed through two Chambers. It is because of that that my Noble Friend asks that these Bills should pass through both Chambers.
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary should not forget that there is not so much power of rejection as power of Amendment in the Second Chamber. I do not think I am saying too much of private Members' Bills when I say that they are not verbally inspired like the measures of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that there may be something in them which might be improved. The House of Lords and Committees of the Lords have shown great sagacity in affairs in the Amendments they have introduced into Bills. I believe that in certain cases 1231 these private Members' measures have been improved by the treatment they have received in the Second Chamber. I am doing them a great service when I suggest that they should have the full force and strength which comes from the approval of both Houses instead of being treated like measures of right hon. Gentlemen opposite which can never stand the racket of examination in the Second Chamber.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I only rise for one moment to say a word in personal explanation, which the hon. Member who has just spoken denied me in the course of his speech.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I will not argue that point. What I wish to say is that I never used a word, nor am I conscious myself of having made any interruption that was discourteous or disorderly in regard to the speech of the Noble Lord (Earl Winterton). If I have done so I wish to express my regret for it. I do not believe there is the slightest truth or foundation for the suggestion. He may have thrown that taunt across the floor to cover himself in regard to something he said in regard to you, Mr. Emmott. I am bound to say that because I have always endeavoured to treat the Noble Lord with the utmost courtesy, and I have always listened with great attention to his interventions in debate.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Following the usual practice, I wish also to make a personal explanation. My protest was directed partly against the right hon. Gentleman's friends behind him, and most distinctly against himself. My accusation was that the right hon. Gentleman indulged in discourteous and, as I think, disorderly interruptions. When I rose to address the Committee some of the right hon. Gentleman's friends "barracked" me. They called out the name of an hon. Member—myself—by name instead of by the constituency he represents. Those cries were led by the right hon. Gentleman himself, the present Leader of the House of Commons, as I understand. If I was mistaken in supposing that the right hon. Gentleman did call out my name, I unreservedly withdraw.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
That is perfectly true. Three hon. Members rose from those Benches, and several hon. Members professed a preference to hear the Noble Lord. I frankly admit that I called out 1232 the Noble Lord's name. That is not a disorderly interruption. Whatever he says, it is not discourtesy.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I do not wish to pursue the subject further. I can only say, honestly, that I do not think there is anyone on either side of the House, who can take an unbiassed view of the circumstances, who will deny that the right hon. Gentleman bawled out my name in a way intended to be discourteous. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."]
§ Earl WINTERTON
If the right hon. Gentleman makes the statement that he did not intend any discourtesy, I accept what he says. I certainly think that those who sat on both sides of the House will agree that there was every excuse for taking the right hon. Gentleman's words as I did.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I rise to ask one question in order to elicit some reply from the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I refer to private Members' Bills, which are taken up by the Government. What has not been explained by anyone on that side is this: Supposing a private Members' Bill is passed, if it was introduced and passed in one Session in this House and rejected by the Lords, will the private Member have to ballot again in the next year for that Bill or will the Government be able to take up that Bill as if it was their own and include if in the category of measures which can be passed against the wishes of the House of Lords and without Amendment by the Lords within two years by this House? That is a substantial point, and I think I have a right to claim an answer from the right hon. Gentleman or hon. Gentlemen opposite. They will have to alter the Standing Orders if that is what they mean, and now is the time to tell us what they intend to do.
§ Mr. CLAUDE LOWTHER
I must say I do not think the right hon. Gentleman (the Home Secretary) wished to be discourteous. I do not think his speech was a very valuable rhetorical contribution to the debate. It was a rather powerful soporific, and it would not have wakened any of us except for the yells of hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. CLAUDE LOWTHER
Since compliments have been flying about, I thought it would not be out of order to pay a further compliment to the hon. Member for Belfast, who, on this occasion, merged his delightful personality in that of a laughing hyena.
§ Mr. CLAUDE LOWTHER
I must say I enter my strongest protest against a Debate of this sort. It makes the party system supremely ridiculous. After all, hon. Members on both sides of the House have only one object in view. That is the well-being of the people. What has happened? Where is the welfare of the people? All that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite do is to score a cheap point against us, and I must say at the same time that I for one bitterly resent this obstruction.
§ Mr. CLAUDE LOWTHER
I bow entirely to your ruling. Of course, if I am not in order I shall resume my seat.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir John Simon)
I think I followed the hon. Gentleman's question. I understood he put this point. Supposing in the first of the three years the Bill is one introduced by a private Member. Would it be possible, consistently with Clause 2, for a similar Bill in the second or third year to be introduced by the Government? I do not think there is any doubt that Clause 2 is wide enough to cover such a case.
§ Mr. LONG
We are indebted to the hon. and learned Solicitor-General for his answer, though it is somewhat belated. I am not complaining, as the question of my hon. Friend was a difficult one, and the Government were not prepared to answer it at once; but it shows us how peculiar is the position in which we find ourselves. Will the Postmaster-General dispute now the truth of what I say, that the Government, doubtful as to the policy of a particular measure, and afraid to pin their own fate to that measure, will wait until it has been tried in this House at the instance of a private Member, and then when it has secured the advantage of being a private Bill and passing through 1234 because it has not been sufficiently watched, will take it up in a second Session and pass it through its stages under the new procedure. The Government are to get the double power of forcing their own legislation through and adopting legislation which has been proposed by private Members.
Notwithstanding the altitude of the Government, I venture to say this is a very serious question. I do not propose to ask the Committee at this hour of the morning to prolong the discussion because it is useless. We are not likely to get adequate Debate on the question. The only answer which the Government can give us in the circumstances we have had. I desire merely to say this, it is a proof of the scandalous manner in which we are discussing questions of the gravest public importance. The Government are not only getting fresh powers under this Parliament Bill—powers which have been possessed by no Government, and which, so far as I know, form part of no other constitution—they are getting some part of these powers in a manner which I think is not quite straightforward. Here was a power which I do not believe hon. Gentlemen opposite realise they are giving to the Government. I do not believe they realise what is the effect of Private Bill legislation, and by Private Bill legislation I do not mean such Bills as Gas and Water Bills, but those Bills which are introduced by private Members and which therefore occupy a totally different position. Under this Clause the Government are taking power in regard to such Bills. Up to this Amendment we believe the Government were asking for powers in connection with Bills for which the Government themselves were responsible. It was to clear up that point this Amendment was moved. It is in my judgment nothing short of a public scandal that we should be discussing at three o'clock in the morning in a tired and disgusted House of Commons questions so grave as the one we have under discussion.
§ Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN
I am rather surprised at the right hon. Gentleman. His speech has been delivered on the assumption that all Private Members' Bills are introduced from this side of the House. I want to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this fact that there are Private Members' Bills introduced from his side of the House.
§ Mr. LONG
The hon. Gentleman entirely misunderstood me. Neither on this 1235 occasion nor on the two previous occasions I have addressed the House have I referred in any way whatever to the party character of legislation. I spoke solely from the point of view of Private Members' Rills no matter in what quarter of the House these Members might sit.
§ Mr. C. DUNCAN
I am not in any sense of the word trying to make party capital out of the Debate, what I am trying to do is to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that there has been some really important Private Members' Bills introduced from that side of the House, and I must confess they have had a very friendly consideration from this side of the House. There is, for instance, the Police Weekly Rest Day Bill—one of the most important passed. That was an exceedingly good Rill introduced by a Private Member, and I think if there was any difficulty in getting a Bill like that through the House of Lords the Government would be right to take it in hand. I think it is only fair and reasonable to look at this
§ thing from the point of view of both sides of the House. After all, all private Members may not expect to get a Bill on the Statute Book; but my experience is that when a private Member has a Bill which has some really good principle in it and on which most of the Members of the House are in agreement, that Bill does gel fair consideration, and such legislation has successfully found its way to the Statute Book.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think that Motion can be accepted. We are sitting under peculiar circumstances to-night. An agreement was made to finish these three Amendments. That was a little more than two hours ago, and, therefore, I cannot take such a Motion.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 65; Noes, 147.1237
|Division No. 166.]||AYES.||[3.2 a.m.|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Finlay, Sir Robert||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Fleming, Valentine||Newman, John R. P.|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Forster, Henry William||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Barnston, Harry||Gibbs, G. A.||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Benn, Ion H. (Greenwich)||Gilmour, Captain John||Peel, Hon. William R. W. (Taunton)|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Goldsmith, Frank||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Bigland, Alfred||Grant, J. A.||Rice, Hon. W. F.|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Henderson, Major H. (Abingdon)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Hill, Sir Clement L. (Shrewsbury)||Stanier, Beville|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Burn, Colonel C. E.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Carlile, Edward Hildred||Hunt, Rowland||Steel-Maitland, A. D.|
|Cassel, Felix||Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Swift, Rigby|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Cator, John||Kirkwood, John H. M.||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Knight, Capt. Eric Ayshford||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Lewisham, Viscount||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Clive, Percy Archer||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Winterton, Earl|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Younger, George|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Lowther, Claude (Cumberland, Eskdale)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord|
|Dalrymple, Viscount||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Alexander Thynne and Mr. Mills.|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Mount, William Arthur|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Clancy, John Joseph||Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Clough, William||Essex, Richard Walter|
|Alden, Percy||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Fenwick, Charles|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton)||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Ferens, Thomas Robinson|
|Allen, Charles Peter (Stroud)||Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Ffrench, Peter|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Crumley, Patrick||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Cullinan, J.||Fitzgibbon, John|
|Barton, William||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Flavin, Michael Joseph|
|Benn, W. W. (Tower Hamlets, S. Geo.)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Gill, A. H.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Dawes, James Arthur||Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Delany, William||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Hackett, John|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Doris, William||Hancock, John George|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Duffy, William J.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Elverston, Harold||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Hayward, Evan||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C.||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Henry, Sir Charles S.||Nolan, Joseph||Samuel, S. M (Whitechapel)|
|Higham, John Sharp||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Seely, Col., Rt. Hon. J. E. B.|
|Hunter, W. (Govan)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Sheehy, David|
|Isaacs, Sir Rufus Daniel||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook)|
|Johnson, William||O'Doherty, Philip||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Dowd, John||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||O'Malley, William||Summers, James Woolley|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Jowett, Frederick William||O'Shee, James John||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Toulmin, George|
|Keating, Matthew||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Kellaway, Frederick George||Parker, James (Halifax)||Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander|
|Kilbride, Denis||Pearce, Robert (Staffs., Leek)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Lambert, George (Devon, S. Molton)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Levy, Sir Maurice||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||White, Sir Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Pointer, Joseph||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Lundon, Thomas||Pollard, Sir George H.||Wiles, Thomas|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|M'Laren, H. D. (Leics.)||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Manfield, Harry||Reddy, Michael||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestershire, N.)|
|Marks, George Croydon||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Wood, T. M'Kinnon (Glasgow)|
|Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Rowlands, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Morgan, George Hay||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.
§ Sir WILLIAM BULL
I beg to Move in Sub-section (1) after the word "Bill" ["If any Bill other than a Money Bill"] to insert the words "or a Bill to establish a separate Parliament and Executive for Ireland."
§ Sir R. FINLAY
I think that under the general agreement we have arrived at the stage of our proceedings when we can adjourn further discussion. I therefore beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."
§ Earl WINTERTON
I think some further deliberation is required before the Motion is put. I do not in any way disagree in what has been said by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir R. Finlay) as to the arrangement entered into, although as has already been pointed out by the right hon. Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Long), it was not an arrangement in the ordinary Parliamentary sense. It was an informal agreement that our discussion should come to an end after the last Amendment had been disposed of. It is not in any wish to interfere with that agreement that I rise for the purpose of saying a few words upon the Motion. I do so in order if possible to bring back the discussion to the subject of the policy of the Government with regard to these late sittings. They decided to keep us sitting here until after three o'clock in order to discuss three Amendments which it was suggested across the floor of the 1238 House were not Amendments of great substance, but the subsequent discussion has shown that they were of considerable substance and are Amendments which would, under ordinary conditions and with an ordinary Government in power, have been discussed in the light of day and at a time when the House was in a position to give them the kind of discussion they required. Instead of that, we have had these questions taken after midnight and in a discussion lasting until ten minutes past three o'clock.
I respectfully ask the Committee by what possible logical argument can we support a state of things, in this legislature or in any legislature in the world, in which we have two important proposals and decide upon them at ten minutes past three, and then decide to report Progress. Motions have been made from this side of the House with that view more than once, and these Motions have not been accepted by the Chairman. Without making any reflection on the Chair, because it is not my object to make any reflection, and I say, frankly, if I had that object, I would put forward a Motion, I do suggest that as an additional reason for the Committee to consider, in discussing whether or not we should report Progress, the fact that this Motion, when proposed before has not been accepted—
May I call your attention to the fact that the hon. Member for Kerry called out, "It is the nature of the beast"?
§ Earl WINTERTON
I ask if it is considered to be any reflection upon the Chair to call attention to the fact that a proposal to report Progress was put forward at five minutes to three and refused and is accepted at ten minutes past three. I hope you will consider the question. Surely there are important reasons why we should not come to an immediate decision upon this point. A short time ago the Government kept us up on another Bill almost as important as this, relating to the financial provision for the year, and we were on that occasion kept here until nine or ten o'clock in the morning, and the right hon. Gentleman speaking on that occasion said:—The atmosphere of the House is now much more genial. I think we are all getting into the swing of an all-night sitting, and I do not doubt that in a comparatively short space of time we shall have made substantial progress, without any repetition of the exciting moments through which we have all passed, and in regard to which we are no doubt sensible of regret."—[OFFCIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1911. col. 1672.]There does seem to me to be behind the question of all-night sittings an extremely important principle. Are we night after night to be kept up until past three o'clock or four or five o'clock, and kept up by a Government which laid down as one of its first principles when it came into office, that eleven o'clock was late enough for the House of Commons to conclude its business. I say it has become a really serious scandal that we should be kept here by the caprice of the Government to any hour of the morning they please, and that then the Government by arrangement with the front Opposition Bench may move to report Progress and by means of their majority get their Motion carried.
1240 Either the questions we have been discussing were too important to be discussed at this hour or they were not. If they are not, let us continue to sit every day until eight, nine or ten o'clock in the morning, and let the country know and judge of the way in which this Bill has been passed. Let the country see that it has been passed by a mechanical majority in the small hours of the morning. If on the other hand the Bill is, as we maintain, of such enormous importance, of such tremendous scope, and with such unprecedented conditions that it requires to be discussed at a normal hour, then do not let us have any of these discussions after midnight. I venture to suggest that you should report Progress for the reasons I have given. If the House is to be asked to sit at all after midnight it might just as well sit till seven or eight o'clock as till three or four.
I do not intend to keep the Committee for more than a moment, but I think the Noble Lord has missed the point. If the Government would only put someone in charge of these all-night sittings who really could conduct the business. [Interruption.] I am only expressing my own opinion. We have had many all-night sittings—in 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, and we have seen many little ruffles on the surface of political progress, but everybody will recognise that during the days that have passed when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department has been placed by the Government in charge as Leader of this House progress has been impossible, and simply and solely through his inability to lead this House. It is patent to everyone.
The Prime Minister—who has probably-paired with the hon. Member for South Hackney and gone home—gave a pledge at question time that he would remain up here to-night in order to meet the House. What is the effect of his breaking his pledge? The effect is that heat has been aroused in the House. Undoubtedly it has. Look at the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department now. Can anyone deny that the heat that has been engendered was engendered entirely by the personality of the right hon. Gentleman? Therefore, if we are going to have these all-night sittings, and if the legislation of this country and the Empire is to be carried on at hours of the night when hon. Members are naturally inclined to follow the dictates of nature and go to bed—if it is the determination 1241 of the Government to carry on legislation at this hour, why should they not put someone in charge of the House who—I do not wish to be invidious, but why not place, say, the representative of the Board of Agriculture (Sir Edward Strachey) in charge of the House! Legislating under these conditions is turning the proceedings of His Majesty's Government into farce. It has been a farce from the very start, and it is remaining a farce now up to twenty minutes past three.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.
§ The Orders of the day having been read, and future dales appointed,
§ Notice taken that forty Members were not present; House counted, and, forty Members not being present,
§ The House was adjourned at Twenty-four minutes after Three of the clock a.m. (Friday. 21st April).