§ Mr. WIGGINS
I beg to move,That this House considers the present method of Parliamentary election unsatisfactory, and is of the opinion that such changes in the electoral machinery of the country should be made as will enable the political opinions of the voters to be reflected in the composition of the House of Commons.It is a curious coincidence that the two Members who managed to win first and second places in the ballot have put down for consideration questions of voting and the franchise and that to-morrow we are considering the question of the franchise once more. The necessity for a thorough examination into the method of parliamentary elections becomes, in my opinion, more pressing every day. A remark was made by a right hon. Gentleman recently that, while he was not prepared 1249 to enter into a controversy as to whether there will be more than three parties in the future, his own view was that there will only be two, the Conservative party and the Socialists. I think he said the Liberal party will disappear. Notwithstanding this forecast, which was made just before the result of the last two by-elections, I am definitely of opinion that at any rate for many years we are to have at least three and perhaps four parties contending for office and power. Speaking for the Liberal party, I aver most solemnly that we are neither dead nor dying. Rather we are growing in virility, in numbers, arid in importance every day and day by day. We are even overflowing our allotted space in this House. I am prepared to take the average of any party in the House. The country itself recognises that we are an indispensable part of the political progress of the country, as is shown by what happened at the last by-election, and I leave it to the other parties, two, three, or four as the case may be, as to which of them is going to disappear into oblivion. We certainly are not.
Assuming this view is correct, and taking into consideration the fact that the Government have placed on the stocks a Bill to extend the franchise to all females over 21 years of age, I feel that I am quite safe in asserting the urgent necessity of electoral reform. The fact that there will be added to the list 5,500,000 voters must, in my opinion, make still more difficult than under present conditions the scheme of majority representation. The result of the last General Election proved the desirability of some reform in electoral methods. At that election, the number of voters on the register was 21,750,000, while 16,500,000 votes were polled, equal to 76 per cent. of the electors who had a chance of voting. Taking into consideration the fact that 32 seats were uncontested and that those represented considerably over 1,000,000 votes, we arrive at the conclusion that in the 583 constituencies that were contested, 85 per cent, of the voters actually polled their vote. Mention has been made of some local elections in which only 11 per cent. went to the poll. We have to remember that this truly remarkable average was probably brought about very largely by 1250 what is known as the Red Letter and the advocacy of the "Daily Mail," which paper attempted, with some measure of success, to scare electors into voting against Socialism. Let us examine the figures. The Conservatives polled 7,835,285 votes and secured 399 seats, an average of 19,644 per Member.
Labour polled 5,432,589 votes and secured 143 seats, an average of 37,915 per Member. Liberals polled 2,925,142 votes—not much evidence of them dying, Mr. Speaker—and only secured 36 seats, an average of 80,954 votes per Member. Other Independent parties polled 197,673 votes and secured five seats, an average of 39,534 votes per Member. The average of the whole election in the contested seats gave each Member represented 28,104 votes. On this basis, the representation would not have been as it is. It would have been Liberals 110 Members, Conservatives 295 Members, Labour 202 Members, and others eight Members, an entirely different proposition to the present position with the Conservatives holding 413 seats. The value of the Liberal representation in voting strength is four times that which is represented on the other side of the House, and on the Labour side the representation is twice as valuable as that on the other side of the House. Under these conditions, figures lose their significance and become mere noughts and crosses. Let us take the last seven by-elections. The Conservatives polled 93,403 votes and secured three seats, an average of 31,134 votes per Member. The Liberals polled 69,661 votes and also secured three seats, an average of 23,220 votes per Member. Labour polled 64,182 votes, but secured only one seat—very unfair to Labour. [Interruption.] I am absolutely certain, taking it on the last election, it will not show that Labour has the proper advantage of votes as compared with the party on the other side of the House, and that is my point in mentioning these figures.
Having shown, I think, to everybody the utter absurdity of our present system, I cannot understand anybody or any party opposing the Motion which I have put upon the Paper for a reform of the system of election. Every party in this House, and I should imagine every Member of this House, pays, at least, lip service to democracy, and I should have 1251 thought that everybody in their heart would have agreed with the principles underlying my Motion. But I note that on the Order Paper there is an Amendment down to my Motion which proves, at any rate, that my contention is wrong. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not the first time."] The man who does not make mistakes does not make anything. The Amendment openly suggests that any alteration of the present inequitable system would lead to political corruption, whatever that may mean—I suppose we shall hear later—to the instability of the State, to the powerlessness of Government, and would add to the burdens of individual Members of Parliament. That is really a reckless and extravagant use of adjectives without any meaning whatever. Those Members of this House who place their party interests before the clear logic of democratic representation, I can quite understand, would not be enthusiastic in their support of an amended principle which might have the effect of preventing them in the future from gaining an undue advantage, but to suggest to this House that the idea of giving to votes something like an equal value would cause political corruption is quite fantastic. I know that it is hard at times to do something which we acknowledge in our hearts to be right and proper, but which at the same time will deprive us of a privilege or an advantage that we hold and at the same time perhaps give an advantage to our opponents. It is indeed hard. I can only conjecture at the moment that the supporters of the Amendment have in their minds when they speak of political corruption the prospect of alliances that made possible under the system of a second ballot.
With regard to undermining the stability of the State as mentioned in the Amendment, I did not know that in moving my Motion I was a potential wrecker of the State. I certainly had no intention of this, and neither I nor my friends have any such intention now. Quite the reverse. We want to give strength and stability to the State. We want to give a fair, equitable and comparable value to the votes of the people. We want to make democracy a reality, and thereby make the country safe through the democratic ideals and measures. What terrible people the 1252 Members on the other side of the House must think we are, whereas, as a matter of fact, the wickedness consist in their belief that their majority in this House, in some miraculous, mysterious manner has its counterpart in the minds of the voters outside this House. What a delusion—and they know it—and what an awakening there soon will be. My Motion does not suggest by what method the elections of the future shall be governed. There are, of course, as everybody in this House knows, several schools of thought who have propounded what they believe to be the correct method. There are a good many who believe in the method of proportional representation. I am bound to confess that I was for some time a strong supporter of the idea of proportional representation. In theory, I consider it quite admirable, but when it comes to be put into actual operation, difficulties seem at once to arise. I may be magnifying the trouble. I hope I am not, and that I am giving it a fair measure of value. In Germany, the last two or three elections have been worked under a system of proportional representation, and all the Governments have been combinations of the middle parties and have gathered up the common forces.
All things taken into consideration, I think everybody will agree that Germany has made remarkable progress during the last few years. The adoption of proportional representation, therefore, has not, as suggested by hon. Members on the other side of the House, contributed to the instability of the State in that particular direction, at any rate. Quite the reverse. When we consider that at the next election between 25,000,000 and 26,000,000 electors will be entitled to vote in this country, and that single constituencies will have as many as 60,000 to 70,000 names on the voters' list, and that under proportional representation it is considered advisable to have at least four-member constituencies and preferably five, we can picture to ourselves the magnitude of the whole affair. In London and in other large towns returning at least four Members, the scheme might be workable, but imagine the difficulties which would appear in widespread county areas. I can visualise that it would be quite possible to incorporate towns which now return two or three Members by adding 1253 to them county areas contiguous to them and their being fairly workable. But to weld together constituencies, say no more than four constituencies like St. Ives, would, I fear, make it almost impossible for candidates to make themselves known to the people whom they wish to represent, and I am very much afraid they would find it very difficult to impress their personalities on the electors anywhere. I think the result of the adoption of that method would be to cause the voting in these particular areas to take place on a party ticket which would quickly become purely mechanical. I hope the day will be far distant in this country when we may have to vote on mere tickets or lists, although, perhaps, even that calamity might be preferable to a repetition of the last General Election from the point of view of majority representation.
There is another method, which I did not wish to describe particularly, known as percentage proportional representation. It is a very ingenious and a very clever idea. It involves no change in the constituency at all or in the system of voting. It depends on first choice, and first choice only. The personality of the candiate is not lost, but may even be made more effective, because he has to take care that he obtains a certain definite proportion of the total electorate in his constituency. It is claimed that it gives an exact replica of the expressed wishes of the country with the smallest margin of error. I am quite convinced of the fact that any scheme, either in existence or yet to be evolved, will be bound to contain somewhere within its provisions the possibility of some margin of error, but that does not mean to say that we must continue the present system because a perfect one has not yet been invented or ever will be. The difficulty of percentage proportional representation is that the whole of the country has to be one unit and that the votes recorded fall into parties. The votes would be counted in the constituencies in the first instance and later counted in London, and the final results might take days or weeks before candidates would get to know of them. I candidly confess that I am not enamoured of this scheme. If it be true, as stated by Viscount Younger, that a man might be at the head of the poll for a particular constituency and yet not have a seat in this House, it seems 1254 to me that the scheme falls to the ground. I frankly admit, also, that a great deal of the joy and pleasure of a contested election would disappear if after our work on the day of election we had to wait for days, and probably weeks, before we knew our fate. It is bad enough to have to wait one night or two nights.
Then we come to the second ballot, of which a good many people are in favour to-day. It was at one time quite common on the Continent, but I believe that every country has dropped it now, except France. When we remember that at the present time 140 Members of this House are minority representatives, and when we consider the probability of three-cornered contests in 400 to 500 constituencies at the next election and a consequent large increase in the number of minority representatives, we realise the size the problem would reach under a second ballot scheme. Presuming that the number rises to 200, it would mean, under a second ballot scheme, second elections in 200 places, with the consequent huge expense and dislocation of trade, and the bare possibility of that political corruption arising in the first ballot and in the second ballot which the supporters of the Amendment so much fear. I am speaking for myself alone—I wipe the question of the second ballot clean off the slate as impracticable, expensive and cumbrous in the extreme.
I come next to the alternative vote, which could quite easily be adopted in all single-member constituencies where more than two nominations are made for election. In the two-member areas it might be somewhat more complicated, but not a great deal. From the alternative vote system one gets similar powers as from the second ballot, but without its outstanding disadvantages. Under the second ballot, a certain time has to elapse and then an election has to take place between the two top candidates in the first election. In the alternative vote system where there are more than two candidates nominated for one seat the voter would have the right to exercise his or her right to vote for the person whom they first preferred. In that case, they would put the figure I instead of a cross against the name of the chosen candidate. They could make a second choice by putting the figure 2 opposite the name of the candidate whom they 1255 selected as their second choice. After the election has taken place and there are three or four candidates for one seat, the third candidate or the third and fourth candidates, as the case might be, would drop out, and their second preferences would be distributed between the two remaining candidates. That would decide who was to be elected, and it, would certainly show the feelings of the electors for majority representation as against minority representation.
The advantage of the alternative vote system over the second ballot lies largely in the fact that at one and the same time the second choice must be made, if it is to be made at all. No one is forced to give a second preference. No one is obliged to vote for more than their first choice, but if they do choose to make more than one choice, it must be done at one and the same time. The difficulty of the second ballot is that the people who vote in the first election may not vote in the second election, while the people who vote in the second election may not have voted in the first. Therefore, the result would be from the same electoral area, but it would be quite an altered electorate. Under the alternative vote system I cannot see that any hidden negotiations could take place between political parties. If any negotiations did take place they would have to be quite open and above ground, because no one could foretell how the result would work out and, consequently, no charge of political corruption could be made, honestly, against such a scheme. We shall hear what the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment have to say from their point of view.
My Resolution does not in any way press for the adoption of either one or other of the suggested re-arrangements of our electoral system; but, without hesitation, I admit my partiality for the alternative vote system as the one most likely to succeed. What I am, in effect, asking for in the Motion is a full consideration of the whole position, and I suggest that a conference presided over by you, Mr. Speaker, is the best means available for the purpose. I would remind the House that this proposal creates no precedent. The Royal Commission of 1910 considered the matter and made recommendations. They suggested 1256 partly proportional representation and partly the alternative vote. The Speaker's Conference of 1917 suggested the alternative vote. That proposal was carried by a majority in the Speaker's Committee, and it was moved, debated and carried in this House and put into a Bill; but when the Bill returned from the House of Lords their Lordships had deleted the alternative vote proposal. That proposal was reinserted and sent again to the House of Lords, but a second time the House of Lords deleted it, and rather than lose the remainder of the Bill, the House of Commons at that date insisted no further. About the time of the last General Election the Prime Minister made a communication to the Press in regard to the question of the franchise. He stated that:The Unionist party is in favour of equal political rights for men and women, and desire that the question of the extension of the franchise should if possible be settled by agreement. With this in view, they would, if returned to power, propose that the matter should be referred to a conference of all political parties on the lines of the Ullswater (Mr. Speaker Lowther's) Committee.That was said in 1924. To-morrow, we are to debate a Bill for the extension of the franchise to women over 21 years of age, without any consideration having been given in that Bill, so far as I know, as to any alteration of the present method of election. If it was right for the Prime Minister in 1924 to make such a promise to the country in regard to the extension of the franchise, why has that not been done? Surely, that was a matter which could have been debated between the parties, and I suggest that the proposal in my Resolution could be considered in exactly the same way.
The last Clause of my Motion asks this House to express the opinion that such changes in the electoral machinery of the country should be made as will enable the political opinions of the voters to be reflected in the composition of the House of Commons. What could be more democratic? What could be fairer to each and every political party? The party of which I have the honour to be a member asks for fair play and no favour; but it is not only my party which presses this point and asks for a change in the present system. Mr. J. L. Garvin, addressing the Oxford Luncheon Club, on the 1257 21st October last, spoke very strongly on this matter. He said:The Conservatives are convinced that between Liberalism and Labour knocking each other out they will repeat their triumph, but the thing is a pure gamble. Socialism might turn the tables on the Conservatives, obtaining just in the same way, by a minority vote in the constituencies, an absolute majority vote in the House of Commons. … The most solid of all Constitutional safeguards is a change in the electoral basis so as to exclude the possibility of revolutionary legislation being enacted by any Government representing only a minority of the people.The last General Election and many by-elections since have not in any way truly reflected the views of the people who voted in those elections. The results instead of being a reflection of the views of the people, have been a grotesque distortion, and that is what we wish to avoid in future. In view of the expressed desire of the Prime Minister when speaking to the junior Unionists the other day to make this country safe for democracy, and his wish to attract young men and young women to his party as an expression of democratic government, and in view of the sympathetic reply to the Debate in the House of Lords a few days ago, by a Member of the Government, and in view of the promise made by the Prime Minister that the franchise should be considered by a Speaker's Conference, may I suggest to the representatives of the Government that my Resolution might be left, at any rate, to a free vote of the House.
I would remind hon. Members that by supporting the Motion they are not committed to any particular scheme of electoral reform. Support of my Resolution only means that the House is in favour of ample consideration being given to the question of electoral reform by a non-political conference, and as far as my party are concerned no other construction would be placed upon such a vote on this Motion. But we must regard an adverse vote as a sign that the majority of this House do not desire that the electors of this country shall have equal opportunity, as near as may be, irrespective of their party labels. Surely, the Government supporters, especially in view of what their distinguished leader has said in regard to democracy, do not want the electors to feel that already holding, as they do, a position in this House out of all proportion to the votes 1258 they received at the last general election, by hook or by crook they intend to perpetuate that unfair representation and the system which gave it. If they do, may I suggest that at the next election they should head their manifestoes to the electors with a mailed fist holding a battle-axe, and that their motto or slogan should be "What I have, I hold." If they take that attitude, I would ask: Is that the way to make democracy safe for this country or the country safe for democracy? Will a decision against my Motion do anything to gladden the hearts of the millions of women voters who are to be added to the register by the Bill to be debated to-morrow? If the voters come to believe that that is the definite purpose of the Conservative party, what effect will it have?
If such be the case, and I do not wish to believe it, they will rue the day. If such a belief becomes prevalent will it not—I strongly believe it will—force the electors to the conclusion that for all who do not think and vote as Conservatives the dice is so loaded against them that their regard and respect for democracy and democratic government will fade away and die? If the people lose faith in these institutions and ideas, what can they put in place of them but extreme measures and direct actions which would lead to disaster? In the same spirit in which the Prime Minister addressed the Junior Unionists the other clay, for the purpose of making the country safe for democracy, I ask for an overwhelming vote of the House in favour of my Motion.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. GEORGE THORNE
I beg to second the Motion.
I do so for the reason that during the last 50 years it has been my lot to take a somewhat active part in every one of the General Elections during that period. I have, therefore, been somewhat intimately brought into contact with our electoral conditions. Perhaps I may answer an objection which is sometimes raised against those of us who conceive that some change is necessary, that we are doing it because we find it very difficult to get into the House of Commons under existing conditions. That argument, at any rate, has no application to myself, for I have been particularly fortunate in that respect. On personal grounds, I make no complaint of the present system. I respectfully submit that 1259 this question is altogether too big to be looked at from the standpoint of personal considerations or party considerations. The welfare of the nation is at stake, and it is purely from that standpoint that I desire to give the Motion my support. I do so precisely on the terms of the Motion:That this House considers the present method of Parliamentary election unsatisfactory.I should have thought that such a statement, after and in view of the speech to which we have just listened, would have been accepted without the slightest opposition. I felt sure that this might turn out to be a very tame Debate, because there could be no opposition to such a self-evident proposition, and I was very much like the controversialist of old who expressed an earnest desire that his adversary would write a book. I felt an earnest desire that our adversaries would table an Amendment, and they have very kindly done so, and it is to recognise "the proved wisdom of the present system of voting at elections." I never anticipated that Three Musketeers like the three hon. Members opposite would have committed themselves to such a statement as that, and, therefore, I acknowledge with gratitude the interest they have brought into the Debate. They have placed that statement on the Paper not only in face of the arguments and facts of my hon. Friend, but in face of the general feeling in the country on this subject, so well expressed by the gentleman who is the Sunday mentor of the Tory party. I quote a little further from that speech referred to by my hon. Friend, because it expresses the position perhaps more effectively than I can:The old party system has been broken up; and we have one of the worst electoral systems in the world. We have a system devoid of a reasoned basis. It stakes, upon a gamble at the polls the control of Imperial, foreign, as well as domestic affairs. One of the three parties may gain, as at present, an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons. What the Conservative party have done the Socialists may do. The Red Letter was one kind of fluke, but another kind of fluke may put a minority of the nation in overwhelming and absolute control of the House of Commons.1260 When it is possible for a thoughtful man to make such a statement in regard to our existing system surely the matter requires consideration. I do not mention any of the other particular methods, I am content at the moment to show the unsatisfactory condition of the present system and to say that it is a vital and urgent matter demanding consideration by a new committee. I cannot conceive a more opportune time for doing this than the present, when we are just going to add very largely to those on the franchise. The Prime Minister has made two speeches lately, each of which have a material effect upon the issues now before us. I join with the followers of the Prime Minister in their delight at hearing the voice of Jacob. The trouble with us is that we so constantly feel the hands of Esau. I hope that Jacob's voice on this occasion is going to influence his party and that they will support so reasonable a proposition as we have presented to the House.
In his first speech to the women who were going to be enfranchised, the Prime Minister told them that they would be under a sense of obligation and duty in having the franchise, because the franchise in itself was not enough. I agree, but I submit that if the franchise is to be granted it should be a franchise that is worth having. The effectiveness of the vote is the important thing. It is far more important than the vote itself. Let me give an incident which occurred to me when I first stood as a candidate for this House as far back as 1895. A canvasser reported to me that he had asked a voter to give his vote on my behalf, but he indignantly refused, and the reason he gave was this, that he had waited long enough already for the vote and having got it he did not mean to give it to anybody, he meant to keep it himself. He was not so foolish as some people may think. He was just as wise as so many people necessarily are under existing conditions.
As an absolute matter of fact, if an inquiry was made into the working of this system it would turn out that tens of thousands of voters waste their votes at every election, and there are tens of thousands of voters who have voted at every General Election for some years who have never yet taken any part in the direct election of a representative 1261 to this House. I have stood all my life as a supporter of democracy, and have urged the importance of a greater public spirit, but that can only be created when a voter realises that his vote has same practical worth. If his vote has no effect, it means there will be a loss of public spirit and, therefore, it is absolutely vital that we should change our system so that a voter may realise his responsibilities in the matter. Let me make a further quotation from the speech which the Prime Minister made to Young Conservatives, I believe he called them affectionately "The Imps." He used these words:You will never get, that perfect democracy, at which we aim, until all the people play their part.I agree, but I feel that if you cannot get all you want, at any rate get as much as you can. If we cannot get all the people, surely we should try to get a majority of the people, and not be content with a government which is created by a sheer minority of the people. When I am sitting here with hon. Friends above the Gangway in our combined opposition I am always conscious of the fact that in the actual votes cast at the last election it is we who represent the people and not hon. Members opposite. We, together, polled more votes than they did, yet by the absurdity of our present system they with a minority of votes have an enormous majority in this House, and we with the majority of votes are in a hopeless minority. Yet we are told that we have to maintain our present system in order to continue the stability of our institutions.
This is an inverted pyramid. It is a danger to the State. I believe in stable government, in a stable Constitution. Unless we can have stability I look with anxiety to what lies in front. The only way to maintain democracy is to maintain representative institutions which really represent. Institutions which do not represent become a mockery. When I see, on the one hand, possible Fascism, and the other the dangers of Communism, I realise that it is vital to alter our system and to make it really representative of the wishes of the people. Therefore, I conclude—I do not want to weary the House—with one short further quotation from the Prime Minister's speech: 1262If at home in Great Britain, in working our democracy we fail, what then? Our failure, and this is more true of us than of any people in the world, will not affect ourselves only, our failure would shake the fabric of the universe.I believe that is true. I have always regarded this as the pioneer nation of the world. We are the Mother of Parliaments, and I believe the Mother of Parliaments will still provide sufficient mother wit to face this new situation, a situation which everybody recognises is difficult. But the greater the difficulty the more the responsibility and the larger the opportunity. I believe this country and this Parliament is prepared to face their responsibilities so that we shall still lead the world as the greatest Parliament in the world, representing our people fairly and proportionately. It is in that spirit and to that end that I second the Motion.
§ Mr. GERALD HURST
I beg to move, in line I, to leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words,recognising the proved wisdom of the present system of voting at elections, declines to countenance the adoption of new devices which must inevitably add to the dangers of political corruption, to the instability of the State, to the powerlessness of all Governments in office, and to the burdens of the individual Member of Parliament.When I saw that the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Wiggins) had chosen the question of electoral reform as the subject for Debate this evening I hoped he would have placed on the Paper some proposals of a concrete character which we could discuss from the point of view of practical politics, and I was rather disappointed when I saw that the Motion which was drafted was exceedingly vague in its terms. Not only so, but the speech of the hon. Member was equally vague. He criticised many of the specifics put forward for the purpose of rectifying grievances, but his speech concluded with a plea not for any special form of reform but simply that the question might stand over in order that there may be a conference on the matter. We know that the Liberal party has a passion for inquiries. In actual fact, we know all the data with regard to the advantages and disadvantages of our present system. We have had it now for over 600 years, and 1263 we know very well the merits and demerits of what may be called the relative majority system.
For 70 years past many of the projects to which hon. Members have alluded, like proportional representation and the alternative vote, have been advocated by theorists and political philosophers. We know what they are, and in fact we have seen concrete examples of their application in Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland, in the Universities and in a great many of our Dominions. We do really know all the facts of the case, and it is because we know the facts that we have tabled the Amendment which stands in our name. The hon. Member who moved the Motion treats the question of the advantages and disadvantages of the relative majority system as a matter on which you can, if you like, frame an entirely new constitution regardless of the lessons of history. He says that the present system is undemocratic, unfair and unsafe. The actual experience of past years has been quite the contrary. When there has been a strong feeling in the country that feeling has found expression in Parliamentary elections.
No one who wins an election ever complains that it is unfair. It is only when you lose that you begin to complain about the rules. It is only when you lose an election that you complain about the waste of votes. All those who vote for unsuccessful candidates always waste their votes in one sense, but it will be just the same if you have proportional representation or the alternative vote. Men who vote for the loser always throw their votes away, and I cannot see how the proposed scheme will make that any better. In reality the main defence of our present system is that it is founded on a bedrock of long experience. The system has been in use for six centuries, and, taking the long view, no one can say that the system has ever stood in the way of the expression of the will of the people, so far as that will can be expressed at general elections. Where there has been a strong current of feeling that current of feeling has won the day. The system is one which has been adopted not only in our Parliamentary life, but in the whole organised life of the country. There is no club, no limited company, no type of association, which does not adopt 1264 the same method of voting, and to say that it leads to a distortion of public opinion is to make an ill-founded assertion. The candidate for any of the positions in most of the corporate bodies of the country secures the seat if he gets the largest support. It does not seem so democratic if you insist on a man who has a strong preference voting for, in addition to the man whom he wishes to see elected, one among his opponents whom he dislikes the least. It is to that it would very often lead.
The present system has satisfied the great bulk of the people of this country. It is a very quick way, a straightforward way and an easily intelligible way, and certainly it does not excite discontent amongst the great mass. Every alternative proposition is slow and complex and is certainly unsatisfactory, inasmuch as the alternative vote attaches very great weight to the second votes of persons who are minded to give a second vote, whereas people who feel wholeheartedly are probably anxious not to vote for a second candidate in any circumstances. Let me state what I conceive to be the two main objections against any of the systems which the hon. Member has suggested, particularly proportional representation and the alternative vote. The first objection is instability. The Mover of the Motion has not, I think, understood the point of the allusion in the Amendment to instability. I say that it causes instability in government because, if Members of Parliament are to mirror exactly the votes cast by every party in the State, you would never get a Government really in power. I maintain that even if a Government does not represent a majority of the voters in the country, it is far better to have it elected on those lines than to have a weak and powerless Government elected on the lines suggested by the hon. Member.
Under proportional representation, the majority of practically every Government in the last 50 years would have been almost if not entirely wiped away. In 1900 the Government had a majority of 134, but under proportional representation it would have had a majority of 16. So from 1900 onwards, the Government in power, according to the hon. Member's scheme, would have had either a minority of the votes in the House or else have had such a highly precarious majority 1265 that it would never have felt strong in the House, even if the whole of its supporters were present on the occasion of every Debate and every Division. That would be a vice in our constitution. Most men would rather have even the party which they have most bitterly opposed put in office with a decent working majority, so that the government of the country could be carried on efficiently, rather than have a Government on the edge of the precipice with a very precarious hold of office and quite unable to pass any legislation of any kind.
The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion said there was a danger of revolutionary legislation unless we adopted one of the two alternatives. If we did adopt any of these alternative methods, there would not only be no danger of revolutionary legislation but no danger of any legislation at all, because no Measure of first class importance could be passed by any Government if this artificial system were adopted, for no party would have what one might call a reasonable working majority. We have had an illustration in Southern Ireland where the system of proportional representation is so worked that apparently no Government in power is likely to have a majority of more than two or three in the Irish Parliament. The result would be in this country that no really controversial Measure would ever pass into law. The system would involve an incessant temporising by the Government of the day in home affairs, and incessant difficulties in taking a strong line in foreign affairs. I contend that a weak Government, which is the necessary corollary to the various shifts for electoral reform which are advocated by the two hon. Members would not conduce to the welfare of the people. After all, the test to be applied in political affairs is not whether it is perfect from the abstract point of view. The test is, does it work? The present system does work. A system which will never give any Government a majority of more than 10 or 20 is self-condemned.
A second objection with regard to both these schemes is that they must lead to compacts between various parties inside and outside the House. It would be a case of "You give me your second vote and our supporters will give you our second vote." It is human nature that 1266 there should be compacts of this sort. That is all very well for a party that has no principles, but I cannot conceive the Conservative party making compacts of that kind. We go to the country always on a plain issue, and we do not make compacts and compromises of that sort. Speaking for myself, I always tell the electors in the Moss Side Division of Manchester, "If you put Moss Side before Moscow, you will vote for me, but if you put Moscow before Moss Side you will vote for the other fellow." I do not think you will find many compacts made on our side. If you take the view that these political compacts are things to be avoided if possible, you would certainly prefer the present simple and direct way, by which no party in the State goes in for compromise.
Let me deal with proportional representation specifically. The first objection to it is the vast size of the constituencies. Most, of them would be too large for the ordinary human being to keep in anything like personal relation and touch with his constituents. At present that is hard enough in an electorate of 50,000, but it would be impossible with a constituency of 500,000, which is what is contemplated by proportional representation. It is particularly hard upon the young man who is less known than the older candidate, and upon the poor man who cannot make himself popular and well known by giving subscriptions over a large area, and upon the man who has to work for his own living and cannot be so much among the constituents. Then, again, where you have four or five candidates running for one party in this huge constituency, it very largely increases the power of the caucus and lessens the chance of the independent candidate getting through. Furthermore, the cost would be very great. Even if the cost were limited by Statute, the difficulty of communicating with this vast population and of getting about among this vast population, would be far greater than it is in the relatively small constituency in which the candidate or the Member moves at the present time.
It seems to me that the main objective of this Resolution is not to idealise and purify politics. It is to save the Liberal party. Whether the Liberal party is worth saving I am not prepared to argue 1267 to-day but, if it is to be saved, I suggest that the proper way is by the party relying upon its principles and its policy, and not by introducing a number of makeshifts and devices simply intended to enable the party to preserve its existence in the House of Commons. The aim of our political life is to represent the views of the majority of the constituents and the largest number of the constituents at the present time get the representation which they want. It is open to everyone to convert his fellow citizens. In my submission the true line of advance is to maintain our existing system, which has worked so well, rather than adopt the various devices which have been suggested. The story is told of Lord Morley, how, after 50 years experience of the Liberal party, he was present at a very interesting discussion on the question whether politics was an art or a science. Having heard views on both sides, he said that in his opinion politics was neither an art nor a science but a dodge.
§ Major PRICE
I beg to second the Amendment.
The Mover and Seconder of the Motion claim to have put it down for the purpose of calling attention to the need for electoral reform, but it was quite impossible to gather their opinions as to what the reform should be. We have heard their opinion that there should be an inquiry, but it is difficult to know what there is to investigate which is not already well-known to the House and the country. The point which seems to have been in the minds of the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution, was expressed in the last part of the speech of the Seconder when he said that owing to the absurdity of the present system he and his Friends, who really represented a majority, were in a minority in the House. But, if we take the figures given by the Mover of the Resolution, we see that undoubtedly, according to the proportion of votes cast at the last Election, the party which got the most votes is in the majority, and the party which got the least number of votes is in the minority. It is suggested, however, that we should put the Liberal votes and the Labour votes together; that they are jointly the official Opposition 1268 and that, properly speaking, on the number of votes cast, they should be on this side of the House as the Government. If the hon. Member opposite did not mean that he meant nothing at all. That was what he said. He said in effect, "We who are in Opposition are really representative of a majority and should be on the other side of the House."
If the two parties opposite are one, then there is no need for this new method of election. In that case you have simply two parties in the State—the Conservatives and the rest of them. You cannot have more than two parties if you regard the Liberals and the Labour party as one. That is the whole point. The suggestion is that the alternative vote is one of the ways which the committee to be set up might find the truly democratic way out of the difficulty. But the alternative vote merely means that if a Liberal candidate were first on the list, a Labour candidate second and a Conservative third, and the Liberal had not a majority of all the votes cast, it would be quite possible, by the working of the alternative vote, for the Conservative to get in. Would hon. Members regard that result as representative of that constituency If so, they must believe that second choice is better than first choice, and that the majority of people who vote nowadays for one particular person and one particular party, would be more properly represented by somebody who was their second choice. But hon. Members are aware from their own experience of elections that in a three-party contest, the only things that count in the opinion of electors are the particular candidate and the particular party they choose and they do not care two figs for the man or the party who might be their second choice under this proposal.
§ Major PRICE
The fact remains that the ordinary man or woman in an election chooses one candidate and one policy and votes accordingly and the other candidates and policies are outside 1269 the ken of that elector altogether. That is the practical experience of those who have taken part in elections all over Great Britain. When the Liberal party were in power before the War why did they not bring in legislation such as they now suggest? Because the party was in power and the votes were cast in their favour, and they were not likely to suggest that that great democratic opinion, which put them into power, was wrong. Nor are we likely to suggest it, because we feel that we properly represent the majority of the people of this country under the existing system. Hon. Members opposite are always talking about the Zinovieff letter. In my part of the world they did not care two pins about it. They had never heard about it and they do not want to hear about it. The truth of the matter is that the Zinovieff letter is a good old red herring, when something arises which hon. Members opposite do not like. It is not we who drag it up; it is always dragged up by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
I do not think that on a Motion dealing with electoral reform we can revive the controversies of last week.
§ Major PRICE
I am sorry, Sir, and I shall endeavour not to bring in the Zinovieff letter. The suggestion has been made that the proposal of the Resolution is necessary at this time because of the addition to the electorate which is coming into effect shortly. But why should that be a reason for bringing in a more complicated system of elections than we have now? One knows how many difficulties there are at present even under the simple method of to-day, but Proportional Representation is bound to increase the expense, the difficulties and also the possibilities that the man who is not wanted will be returned. As I have said the alternative vote is purely a question of a second choice. In addition to that, one of the great dangers to the country is the introduction of the log rolling principle which has been very evident recently. We know that suggestions can be made—"You will all back a horse for a place, instead of a horse for a win." Again, the second ballot was discarded by the proposer, as was Proportional Representation, and he fell back on the alternative vote, but the 1270 Seconder of the Motion spoke in generalities. His one idea was to set up the Committee and to let the Committee worry it out and then come back to us with the result. The safeguard of the Liberal party is everlasting Committees. One Committee produces a Green Book, another Committee produces a Yellow Book, and I presume that this Committee will produce a Black Book. You cannot see their policy for books.
The suggestion is that because Mr. Garvin made a certain proposal, in very indefinite terms, suggesting that something should be done, we must immediately fall in with it because he is our spokesman, but nobody who has been taking a course of the Sunday "Observer" for the last 12 months would suggest that Mr. Garvin was voicing the opinions of the Conservative party. Mr. Garvin is perfectly independent in voicing his own feelings. If the Liberals like to adopt them, I hope they will continue to do so when they are not quite in accordance with their own views, but why the House of Commons should adopt something because it is suggested in a newspaper is very difficult to understand. If there are reasonable, sound arguments put forward from the Opposition, I am sure we should be glad to withdraw the Amendment, but we have heard no reason whatever why a change should be made.
The present system has the one great virtue that it works, that, speaking generally, it represents the feeling of the country. You get your alternative Governments in power. Sometimes the feeling of the country goes Liberal, sometimes it goes Conservative, sometimes it will go Labour, but whatever the feeling is, we know very well that there is a fairly simple proposition for an elector to understand, and that is that he has a chance, when it comes to an election, to vote either Labour, Conservative, or Liberal, or for a man representing either of those parties. For what do the people vote? They vote for a policy and they vote for a man, and when they vote in that way you cannot go into this question of a second choice at all. The Seconder of the Motion himself admitted that we were the greatest Parliament and the greatest democratic country in the world, and we have achieved this 1271 position under the present system. Why then go in for a change for the sake of change? If the Liberal party like to produce a Black Book, as I have suggested, we are willing to consider it, if we have the argument put before us in a cogent form.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The House would listen with interest not unmingled with amusement to the attempts made by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment to justify, in the words of the Amendment,the proved wisdom of the present system of voting at elections.We might have heard a little more about "the proved wisdom." We heard a great deal about Zinovieff and other matters, but we heard nothing about "the proved wisdom of the present system," and what neither the Mover nor the Seconder of the Amendment did was to justify a system of voting at elections which at the last General Election gave to a party holding 7,838,000 votes, 415 Members in this House, while the party on these benches, holding 5,423,000 vote, got only 152 Members in this House, and the Liberal party, holding 2,925,000 votes, got only 42 Members. In other words, if, for the sake of argument, we were to add the votes polled by the two sections of the Opposition——
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
They are both in Opposition to the Government, and if we were to add them together we should get this, that the Opposition in this House represent 8,348,000 votes, while the Government represent only 7,838,000 votes. In other words, the two Oppositions represent between them over half a million electors more than do the Government, but while the two Oppositions have between them 510,000 more electors than have the Government, we find that whereas the Government have 415 Members in this House, the two Oppositions added together have only 194 Members. "The proved wisdom" of that system of representation does not seem to me to be apparent. Both the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment made the statement that, after all, the present system works, that it functions, and that in a rough and ready way it expresses the desire of the democracy in this country. 1272 I find a Noble Viscount, Viscount Burnham, speaking for his party in the House of Lords on 29th March last year on the subject of the second ballot, saying this:Parliamentary Government is no longer the golden fetish that it used to be in Victorian days. It has been cast aside by three of the great States of Europe, and I do not know that it is proving itself a great success in China.Then we have had other representative Members of the present Government declaring more or less openly for a Fascist Government, for a Government, not of representative democracy, but of a minority, a Government of vested interests, and it seems to me that the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment in more or less polite terms simply defended a system of Government by minority, as they have not in any way justified "the proved wisdom of the present system of voting at elections."
§ Major PRICE
Does the hon. Member suggest that the policy of the Labour party and the policy of the Liberal party at the last election were the same?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I simply say that, neither at the last election nor now, were the policy of the Liberal party and the policy of the Labour party the same. But they are both in opposition to the Government. It may be that, on many issues, hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway support the Government or abstain from voting, but the point is, that officially they are not Members of the Government. They do not support the Government. We sit in opposition, and the point I am making is that the dominant majority in this House, the Government of the country which enforces its will on ail sections of the community, does not, in point of fact, represent the majority of the electors of this country; and we ought to have, before this Debate closes, some indication from the hon. Gentlemen opposite as to how far they can justify the terms of their Amendment.
For myself, and I believe for a very large majority of Members on this side of the Gangway, I am in favour of some kind of alternative voting system. I am not in favour of proportional representation as I understand it, and I agree 1273 with the hon. Gentleman, who moved the Amendment, very largely in his comments on this subject. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion also put forward criticisms of what is commonly called the proportional representation system. I come from a country where we have experience of proportional representation in operation. We have it in education authority elections in Scotland, and the result has been the very reverse of satisfactory. We have our education authority elections now covering such large areas that only great electoral machines can function at all, and these great electoral machines, in the education authority elections, have turned out to be the dominant theological interests in Scotland, and what we witness is not a contest upon educational policy at all. I am not exaggerating when I say that there are candidates who stand, and who succeed in being elected, to these education authorities, who never mention education at all. Education is not their policy; they never mention the word. The sole purpose for which they stand, and the sole programme on which they are elected is theological controversy. We have Roman Catholic and Protestant struggles taking the place of what ought to be contests upon educational matters. These large areas have produced another curious effect. The smaller interests, upon whom proportional representation was supposed to confer exceptional advantages, are thrust out altogether.
I have never heard the supporters of proportional representation adequately explain how they could deal under their system with by-elections. If you had a by-election you would require, I take it, to poll a whole area in which that by-election had occurred. It might be two or three counties, and you would require to poll the whole of those counties in order to secure a result. Then the increased size of the area would have another curious effect. It would increase the potential numbers of the by-elections in one Parliament, It would increase the expenses of elections which candidates would require to meet. In the Parliament of 1900, which lasted for five years, there were no fewer than 100 by-elections; and if one could visualise 100 by-elections taking place in the lifetime 1274 of one Parliament under a system of proportional representation, one would see something of the difficulties which may arise. We have been told by prominent advocates of the proportional representation system that we might do away with by-elections altogether. If we did that, we should do away with a very valuable test of popular feeling between General Elections, and for that reason alone I should say that we ought to maintain our system of by-elections.
We come to the question of the size of constituencies. When the Commission of 1910 decided to recommend that, as a general rule, the size of the constituency should be such as to send on an average seven Members to Parliament we began to see what the size of a constituency must be. Take the area with which I am best, acquainted, the area in Central Scotland, and the area with which the right hon. Gentleman who is to speak for the Government is familiar: There are two Members in Dumbartonshire; we add to that area three Members for Stirlingshire, and we still have only five; then we must add Perthshire to make seven. That is an area which stretches from one side of Scotland to another, and I had the curiosity to turn it up on the map to see what that would mean, and I find that it would mean going almost, as the crow files, 80 miles, including about a thousand villages and towns. It would obviously be impossible for any candidate to cover such a constituency as that. It might be argued that we might maintain our present system in the rural areas, and confine proportional representation to the cities and towns, but we should still be up against the same difficulty in some of the larger towns as in the county areas; and when the practical difficulties of the system of proportional representation are considered, we must, however in theory we may be enamoured of the mathematical accuracy with which it is endowed, give up the proposal altogether. There are on the continent, I am told, rather humorous results arising out of some of these systems of proportional representation. In the town and city of Danzig, for example, I am informed that there were about 20 parties contesting an election there, some of them the most curious of parties. Actually at the last election, there was a Greengrocers' party 1275 and a Tenants' Rent Restitution party, putting forward candidates and going to the poll. In the chaos which resulted, there was a very small proportion of the electors who troubled to record their votes, for either the Greengrocers' party or the Tenants' party or any other party.
If, however, we can find objections to a system of proportional representation, and if we can find, as I think, very considerable objections to the present unfair and unjust system of representation, what remains? My own personal conviction is that the only effective and reasonable, cheap and speedy alternative is the alternative vote itself. It may not be perfect. It may be, as an hon. Member pointed out, that in a large number of cases it may amount to representation by the electors' second choice and not by the first choice at all. Nevertheless, as things are, in the flux and flow of politics and public opinion, it is surely right and proper that a Government should not be elected under an obsolete electoral system and on a definite minority basis. This House ought to make every inquiry and take every possible step to find out the most suitable and easy method of securing direct and effective representation of our people in this House, because unless we can secure that democracy shall be fairly represented there is no half way to a minority Government of violence, whether it be a Fascist Government or a Communist Government.
§ Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS
This question is one on which, unfortunately, I find myself out of harmony with most of my friends on this side of the House, and although I have not agreed as yet with any of the speeches which have been made, except with that of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. G. Thorne), with which I was practically in entire agreement, yet I shall have to find myself voting for the Motion and against the Amendment. But I do find myself in considerable disagreement with the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston). He alluded to the unsatisfactory nature of the elections for the education authority in Glasgow. I happen to have with me the figures, which have been analysed, for that particular election, and in giving names to the parties I am taking them as they come from the newspaper cutting, 1276 and I hope I am not libelling anybody. It says that the Moderates, whoever they may be, secured 145,000 votes and got 30 seats, whereas their proper proportion would have been 29.2; the Catholics got 52,551 votes and got 11 seats, whereas their proper proportion would have been 10.5—they did a little bit better proportionately; whereas the Labour party, in Glasgow of all places, out of the 224,000 votes which were cast polled only 23,751 votes, and got four seats, whereas they ought to have got 4.5. Proportional representation does not pretend to be accurate to decimal points, but outside decimal points that seems to be fairly accurate, and it seems to me that the hon. Member's views on proportional representation must have been influenced by the fact that the result did not come out more favourably to his party.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Perhaps I did not explain what I mean. I was not asking, and I do not ask, that each party should get its exact number of representatives according to the number of votes cast. What I said was that under this system of proportional representation the education authority had ceased to be elected on educational issues and that it had become a theological wrangle, and if the hon. Member will add together the figures of the Moderates, who are the Protestants, and the Roman Catholics he will find that practically nobody did vote for anything except theology.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Sir S. ROBERTS
If the hon. Member will study the old School Board elections he will find that they were fought out on religious issues; unfortunately, education questions usually are fought out on religious issues, and party politics do not enter into them very much, so whether we have the old "first past the post system," or a long list of candidates fighting an election on education into which religion enters, we are bound to find that the religious question does count. I do not think that case condemns the system of proportional representation.
The hon. Member for Dundee became rather eloquent about the size of the constituencies which it would be necessary to have. He said that seven-Member constituencies would be needed. May I assure him, as one who has studied this question for a long time, that seven is a rather excessive number, and that the 1277 best number is about five, but that the system can be worked with three. Some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House who represent university seats, where there are two Members, complain rather bitterly about the system. They say it is very hard to have to get the overwhelming majority which is necessary in order to win two seats. It is even money each way, although one side is very much stronger than the other. I can see their difficulty, and the only answer I can make is that with two-Member seats proportional representation does not show up at its best; you must have three Members or more. The difficulty with regard to by-elections is rather too long to enter upon this evening. Of course, there is the point that by-elections are possibly not very edifying. They follow the usual trend. They go against the Government of the day, though the seats are won back at the General Election, and they give every grouser and grumbler a chance of giving a dig to the Government. Even if it is felt that in a democracy they are a desirable check upon the Government, means could be found whereby, even in a four- or five-Member constituency, each of the Members after election could take a part of that constituency as his particular freehold, and that would be the part of the constituency which would be polled should he depart this life, or retire from Parliament for any other reason. There are various other methods whereby such difficulties could be got rid of, but I do not want to take up too much time with them now.
I want to deal with this matter from the point of view of the speeches we have heard this evening. There is the reference in the Amendment to "new devices." One would think that this proposal was something entirely new, something as new as daylight saving was 20 years ago, something that had never been tried and never been experimented with. They forget entirely, or they ignore the fact, that nearly the whole of the Nordic world lives under a system of proportional representation. To-day we, as Nordics, hold ourselves up as the salt of the earth. At the present time Germany, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland all have proportional representation. We hear very little about it there, because it is 1278 working satisfactorily, and I think that ought to give some of my hon. Friends reason to think a little about this question and to study it further. Some of my hon. Friends for Northern Ireland say that it has not worked very well with them. I do not want to go into the position in Northern Ireland, because they will get a large enough majority whatever system they have; but we are also told that it has been a failure in Southern Ireland. I have it on the very best authority that if at the first of the elections which took place there last year there had not been the system of proportional representation—if we had had the "First past the post system"—in all probability De Valera would have had a clear majority in the Irish Dail. I am not saying whether that would have been desirable or undesirable. I am only pointing out the fact that that is, in all probability, what would have happened.
On the Continent, in the recent elections which took place in Norway the Labour party obtained the largest poll, and they formed a Government. In all probability, under a. first-class system of representation they would have had a clear majority of representatives which would have enabled them to carry their policy into law. When they brought in proportional representation they were defeated, and another party came into power. That will happen again and again. The extremists under proportional representation will not be able to get a clear majority, and they will not be able to carry out their extreme policy until they can get a clear majority. With regard to proportional representation, if I am to be skinned alive and have my birthright taken away from my children, I would like it to be done by a clear majority. I cannot see why my hon. Friends do not see the danger of what has been proposed. Although the party opposite represents a minority in the country, under the system suggested they could skin us all alive and ruin us. This system of the first past the post may have suited us in the past, but it will not suit us in the future.
With regard to the question generally, it seems to me that the present system is an outrage, and it is entirely contrary to all ideas of justice. It may have worked well in the past, but who can say with any certainty that it will work 1279 well in the future? When there are systems which are fair and known and have been tried in other parts of the world and have not failed, I think we should be very foolish if we ignored them.
§ Captain BOURNE
With the exception of my hon. Friend who has just sat down, none of the previous speakers has had very much to say about proportional representation. I do not think it matters very much whether a constituency returns three, five or seven Members. With the present size of the House and with the somewhat limited number of Members, what is proposed would mean constituencies of at least 160,000 running up to 350,000 or even 500,000 and constituencies of that size must destroy the personal touch between the Members and those they represent. A Member may be very well known in his own individual district, but few of us would be known over the much wider districts suggested by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston). I do not wish to see anything introduced into the electoral system which will advance the power of the machine, because I believe the power of the machine should be diminished rather than increased. That is one of the dangers of proportional representation.
I think it is perfectly certain that you will tend to produce a series of groups in the House of Commons. I do not believe that there is very much to be said for any system which produces a number of groups, some of them strong and some weak, and not one of which may be capable of carrying on the Government unless it is supported by the other groups. Such a state of things would mean an unlimited amount of logrolling among Members. A Bill which is likely to be strongly supported by a particular group because it suits their particular policy is likely to contain all the evils of that kind of legislation which is not desired by a majority of the country, and which would probably be forced down the throats of the country as the price of its support of the Government. This result is inseparable from any system which does not produce a clear majority.
1280 The last difficulty, and by no means the least, is that proportional representation is very complicated at an election. Undoubtedly, there are a great many spoiled voting papers, and on some of them you find written the opinions of the electors. I remember the case of one old lady who said "What is this Captain Bourne doing? I do not want him here, so I put a cross against his name." The result was that she voted for me under the impression that she was showing her disapproval of my candidature. In an election of this sort, you have a whole string of names, and crosses are put against them. You go through a system that so puzzles a number of the electors that many of them vote as they do not mean to vote, and in many cases they deprive themselves of any vote at all by not carrying out the instructions. The system is very complicated. It has been tried in the case of the University constituencies in this country, and even there they have made a hopeless hash of it; and, frequently, they have had to have two or three recounts and amended returns before the results have been declared.
I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Dundee about by-elections. I think the only satisfactory system is that which they have in Holland where the whole country is treated as one constituency and the man who last represented the constituency goes up one. This system maintains a personal tie between the constituency and its representative. We have had a great deal of discussion about the supposition that the present Government was a minority Government. Both the hon. Member who moved this Motion and the hon. Member for Dundee dealt with that aspect of this question. I have looked carefully through the election returns and analysed the figures for the three-corner elections. It may he true that, if you take the total votes cast and ignore unopposed returns, the Government have not a majority of the votes, and I will give the figures in a moment. In the present House of Commons, 131 Members were re-elected upon a minority vote.
I have not counted the number of three-cornered fights which showed clear majorities, but these 131 included 79 Conservatives, 12 Liberals, 36 Labour Members 1281 and four Independents. There are at the present moment in the House 408 Conservatives, 44 Liberals, 155 Labour Members and six Independents. Taking the whole of the 79 Conservatives who were returned on a minority vote, and making a handsome present of this number to the two wings of the Opposition to divide among themselves as they like, the Government would still have a majority in this House of 45 Members who were returned by a majority vote in their constituencies. Hon. Members may not like this, but, if they will take the trouble to analyse the figures, they will find that what I have said is true.
The reason for the variation in the figures is that the constituencies in this country are by no means equally represented in this House. There may be, and I think there are, good reasons for that. For one thing, an urban constituency, in point of square miles, has a bigger population which is easier to deal with than in the case of a scattered county constituency, where the mere physical difficulties of getting about are enormous. That may account for the inequality of the votes cast as between the different parties, but there can be no doubt, leaving out those constituencies where the Conservatives did not gain a clear majority, that the Conservative party represents a clear majority of the constituencies, and, after all, if yon take the alternative vote; which has been suggested to-day, and which seems to be the favourite panacea of those who are supporting this Motion, the Conservative party would still be in power and would have a majority in the House to-day.
Taking the three-cornered contests, I have taken the trouble to look through those cases where Labour candidates were at the bottom. There were some 35 constituencies in which that was the case. I do not believe that the most sanguine Liberal would claim that all those Labour votes would necessarily, on a second or alternative vote, have been given to his party; I think that most probably they would have been divided, and that it is quite possible that something like half that number of Conservatives would have been returned to this House, while that is probably equally true of the Liberal party. Although I would not for a moment suggest that, if the alternative vote had been in force, 1282 we should necessarily have had the whole of those 79 seats, I do not think it can be claimed by hon. Members opposite that the Labour party would have gained those 35 seats. I think that the Liberal party would have gained at least 12, which I would remind them is a higher proportion of seats with a minority total than any party has in the House. I am not quite sure, therefore, that it would be to their advantage to upset the present system, however much they may think so.
It has always seemed to me that a discussion as to what might have happened at an election had the conditions been different is one of the most profitless discussions that can be indulged in. We all, when we have been beaten, are disposed to speculate on what would have happened, for instance, if the third candidate had not been there, or if the people who did not vote—and there is always a large number who do not vote at all—had come to the poll. Really, the present system does produce a result. It does, as a rule, give a government with a majority which enables it to carry out its policy, and, even judging by recent by-elections, the workings of the system are not unpopular. There is an old saying: I am certain that hope is the only thing that is left to the Liberal party. Whether they feel that that hope is represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and his cornucopia, I do not know, but, whatever hope they may have, I am sure that it is with the feeling that no change can be for the worse, and some change might be for the better, that they have put down this Motion.
§ Viscount SANDON
There is an air of what might almost be called comic unreality in a Debate of this kind. In the first place, we see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman), who was previously accompanied by the hon. and gallant Member for Montrose (Sir R. Hutchison), sitting with enthusiasm on the Conservative benches, and a certain amount of that atmosphere seems to have pervaded the whole Debate. Furthermore, a marked interest has been shown by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway in our future welfare. There have been nods of 1283 approval of what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Sir S. Roberts), with regard to our welfare in the future, while hon. Members opposite were all beaming at the excellence of that point. It is very satisfactory, when we find ourselves with a small majority of something approaching 200, to feel that we are comforted in our weak moments by feelings of marked friendship of that character.
The reason for this unreality is that we all know perfectly well—and it is a state of affairs which is very common on days when we have these private discussions—that the discussion is purely academic, and that there is no chance whatsoever of anything being done. There are certain aspects of this question which to my mind merit consideration from an angle different from the normal one, namely, that of abstruse questions as to whether proportional representation or other forms of voting are desirable, and are mathematically more fair to the people of this country. There are, for instance, certain objections to general elections in principle. In the first place, they tend to create a sudden line of demarcation between the carrying out of varying policies. You might get a considerable danger of it on foreign policy, and you always get it in every other form of policy; and I believe that one of the things that we want most in this country is some means of ensuring continuity. I put forward the suggestion that I am about to make in the full and confident spirit of unreality which has been sustained throughout the rest of the Debate, because I know that there is equally no possibility of its being adopted!
I believe, however, that it would be equally democratic, far sounder, and just as much in the interests of everyone, if we abolished General Elections altogether, and had a system whereby one of the 615 Members of the House retired every third day, say every Monday and Thursday, and perpetually, throughout eternity, we had a by-election on each of those days. The people would preserve their rights as before, policies would change as before as between one party and another coming into office, but the change would be gradual, and the time when the strength of parties was very even could be wholesomely spent in 1284 passing non-contentious legislation, often important but of a kind usually crowded out by the ordinary routine of this House. There would, of course, be certain difficulties in the first place. It would be necessary, of course, to start with a General Election, because it would be obviously unfair to the Opposition parties that the party in power should legislate on a matter of this kind. Then there would have to be some provision for the people who would normally retire during the first month, and for a period up to, say, a year after the Election took place. I am perfectly convinced that, from a theoretical point of view and from a democratic point of view, this scheme would be sound, and would not give any favour or assistance to any one party over another.
Of course, it would be important that Elections should not be carried out in any one area at the same time, lest some local influences should bear on the issue. It would be necessary to have an Election on one day, say, in London, on the next occasion in an agricultural constituency in the North, and so on. Is would have to be worked out on a permanent basis by a number of commissioners. But I say with the greatest emphasis that I believe that this system, although it may sound revolutionary, would tend towards better legislation and also better representation of the public feeling on the conduct of the Government of the day.
If we are to go in for highbrow schemes of mathematical equity, I believe that there are far better schemes than the ones suggested to-night. Personally, I do not hold with their schemes or the better one I can propose. I believe my hon. and gallant Friend (Major Price) was right when he said the real crux of the question of the present system is that it works. But I do want to put this before hon. Members as being a preferable crank to the various forms of cranks which have been put forward as improvements on the existing systems from the point of view of equity. If you were to have the whole of the United Kingdom as one constituency, and you had the voters of this country voting for a party label on their card and not for a man, and if you added the total number of votes for the whole country and divided the number 1285 between the various parties proportionately pro rata, and the distribution between these parties was, say, 400 seats won by the Conservatives and 200 by the Socialists and the odd 15 by the Liberals——
§ Viscount SANDON
Well, it is an example, take it any way you like. You would then have the exact voting and a record would have been kept of it in each existing Division and you would then apply the number allowed to the party to the constituencies according to the ones who had the largest majorities for that party, or smallest minorities as in some cases a seat might be allotted to a district where there was no majority. Personally, I do not believe in that sort of thing. But, if you are going in for equity, there is more equity in schemes of that sort than those which have been suggested to-night. I say further, in a case of that kind you would have to have a party caucus in advance selecting the individuals to represent that side in the event of that side being allotted the seat. I believe that is sound and democratic in every way, because I think the only people who are entitled to a voice in regard to the man are those who are sufficiently keen and interested in the welfare of their country, which they translate into terms of welfare of their party, to subscribe to the party organisation, and, therefore, have a voice in the selection of candidates. The ordinary citizen who is not sufficiently interested to take any part in the matter does not deserve to have any more than the recording of his vote on the general principles of public policy, and not on the individual candidates.
As I have already said, personally I do not hold with that. I should, if there were an opportunity, support a plan for the abolition of the General Election, but there are certain other aspects of electoral reform which, to my mind, are really likely to come within the sphere of action and legislation in the course of the next generation, and which, if carried out wisely and sensibly, will redound to the interests of the community. In the first place, I think there should be automatic redistribution after every 1286 census is taken, without any legislation. In the second place, I am a convinced believer in compulsory voting. I think voting is one of the primary instincts of citizenship, and it is carried out in other countries such as in New Zealand, where they have a fine to enforce it. I am entirely in favour of it in this country. Then, I think, there should be far more polling booths in the country—in fact in each village—for it is perfectly disgraceful in some districts. I know of cases in my own constituency and there are places where they have to go 15 miles. It is undemocratic, and certainly absolutely impossible if there were compulsory voting to have this.
I think that the only exemption in the case of compulsory voting, if there were exemption at all, should be in certain sick cases, but in regard to people who are normally incapacitated from going to the poll, I think the State on a medical certificate should make provision for carriage. I have never believed in a system of carrying people to the poll. As long as you have the present electoral system you have got to accept it all from top to bottom, but if you had complete revision of the electoral law, one of the things which would have to be considered would be the abolition of having vehicles to take people to the poll and provision for carriage by the Stale For those who had medical certificates.
Then I should like to see the abolition of all posters and leaflets. Everyone in this House knows—and we have all been through the mill—the appalling amount of money spent in General Elections or at by-elections, money absolutely thrown down the sink. It is absolutely unproductive. I believe there should be the most drastic method adopted in regard to such expenditure. The only legitimate form of election expenditure should be for the hire of rooms and the circulation of election addresses, and perhaps one address afterwards, and they should be paid by the State. I quite agree to the objections to canvassing, but I am aware that nothing this House can do can possibly put a stop to canvassing, and therefore we have got to put up with it. As regards other matters, such as redistribution, compulsory voting and carriage to the poll, those matters will come up for legislation in the course of the next 25 or 30 years.
1287 On the broad question raised to-night, I quite agree that it is as easy as winking to find many systems of government which are superior on paper and far fairer theoretically than we have at present, but if you look at them from the angle of the historian over a long period of years, you are bound to come to the conclusion that, however much unfairness in this direction or that there may be—and as far as unfairness is concerned the world is full of it in every direction, and we thrive on it—on the whole it is a system which has worked successfully and has given everyone his chance. It has given every party its chance, and the Socialist party for a comparatively short time has had its fling and thinks it is going to have it again—[An HON. MEMBER: "At the next Election!"]—I said it thinks; I did not say anyone else did. I would ask hon. Members, even hon. Members below the Gangway, not to look at it from the point of view of 1926 or 1927, but over the period from 1800 to 1900 or to 1927, for it is the long view we must take, and this system has worked with tremendous success. The alterations which I have in mind are not alterations of a crucial character. I believe that they have a certain importance, and are alterations which may lead to good, but I do not think this House will ever he prepared to adopt plans in the direction of any logical mathematical equity, which has been tried in other countries and has never been enthusiastically spoken of after it has been tried. I believe the verdict that will be recorded to-night will be recorded every time this matter is brought before the House.
§ Sir WILLIAM WAYLAND
I found it a little difficult to follow the Noble Lord's views on proportional representation. He gave us his own ideas as to how he would like an election to be run, and he finished up by saying that the present system was the most perfect. I am a believer in proportional representation. I believe the single transferable vote is the most perfect method of voting that we have to-day on paper. Unfortunately, I admit, there are several difficulties, and the greatest of them is the fact that it usually leads to a multiplicity of parties, with the result that in those countries where it has been tried, including 1288 Belgium, the people, generally speaking, are dissatisfied and would like to return to the old system of majority voting. What I should like to see is proportional representation, not brought into active life in regard to Parliamentary elections, but first tried in municipal elections throughout the country, and from those municipal elections, perhaps county council elections, we should gain a considerable amount of experience which would enable us to determine whether it would be worthy of trial in Parliamentary elections.
I am entirely opposed to the Noble Lord in his view that we should have compulsory voting. I am very sorry indeed to think a good Conservative should hold such a view. It is the party on my right that usually believes in compulsion, while the Conservative party believes in personal liberty. For example, presuming we compelled a man to vote if he did not wish to vote for the two or three particular candidates on the ballot paper, he would simply spoil his paper. In Belgium, there is a fine of 50 francs if you do not record your vote. To-day, that does not amount to much, and so there are a good many spoilt votes. At the same time, you cannot and should not compel a man to vote if in his opinion neither the Conservative nor the Labour nor the Liberal candidate agrees with the opinions that he himself holds. I therefore hope that this House one day, perhaps in the near future, will pass a Bill making proportional representation with the single transferable vote compulsory in local elections, and I believe, if that is successful, we may be inclined to try it on a larger scale in Parliamentary elections.
§ Mr. HASLAM
The hon. Member who has just sat down said he was strongly against compulsory voting and he saw difficulties in the way of compelling a man to vote. It might have been more topical had he considered the various means in which a woman might be compelled to vote, and whether indeed it would be possible at all. On some matters I am in agreement with the Noble Lord. I listened to his speech with the very greatest interest and I found myself in a certain amount of sympathy with him when he advocated the abolition of general elections. I am sure if to that were added the suggestion of some previous 1289 speakers that by-elections should be abolished, we should find ourselves a very happy family indeed, and we should in course of time get to know each other very well. I also listened with very great interest to the condemnatory exposition of proportional representation of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston). His remarks merit very careful attention on the part of those who advocate proportional representation. If we compare them with the other experiences we have near at hand in local elections in the North of Ireland and in other places, the practical evidence seems to be strongly against that system.
The hon. Member also mentioned the, case of Italy, and he deplored the rise of Fascism there. I believe there is a very great deal of evidence that tends to show that the revolution in Italy was brought about by this very system of proportional representation which has found so many advocates among us tonight. I believe prior to the revolution the Italian. Parliament was so divided among various groups and the representation of parties was so exact, having been reduced to such beautiful mathematical equality, that successive Governments were very weak and got controlled by groups, arid were quite unable to cope with the rise of Communist feeling which was growing up very rapidly indeed. Therefore, it is not unfair to say that the revolution in Italy, and consequently the swing over which we see to-day to Fascism, was due to that very system of proportional representation. So-called exactitude of representation tends to make weak Governments and so brings the Parliamentary system into contempt.
Many calculations have been made tonight in adding up the numbers of votes at the General Election cast for the different parties. After the analysis of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne), in which he showed how the Conservative party represents the constituencies, the method of adding the votes together and trying to draw deductions therefrom, is shown to be very weak. Another reason why that method cannot be held to be a sound basis of argument is that it does not take account of the fact that in this country an election is a contest between two or three candidates, and every elector is aware of that and votes accordingly 1290 If, for example, a contest is rather one-sided, he may not trouble to turn out to vote at all. To put together the whole of the figures cast for one party and the whole of the figures cast for another party does not truly show the balance of opinion in the country. Again, we have three parties in the House and three parties in the country, each representing a distinct and different point of view and a distinct and different doctrine. Surely under these circumstances the party that is strongest has the right to govern. Surely in a particular constituency, if there are three candidates representing three different doctrines, the only fair thing is for the one that gets the most votes to represent that constituency. Is it not a weakening of principle to get an elector to say, for example, "I am a Socialist, but whom do I prefer after the Socialist? Do I prefer the Liberal or the Conservative?" Surely it is the best for him to say, "I am a Socialist. I will vote for a Socialist, and I will vote for no other but a Socialist." In that way we encourage political principle and we get a far better representation of political principles. That, surely, must be the main thing in any sound constitution system. Therefore, I for one will hold on to the present system.
§ Mr. ROBERT HUDSON
I think all of us on these benches must realise that the Members of the Liberal party were really quite justified in bringing forward this Motion, and we also sympathise with them in doing so, because, alter all, whatever we may think about our majority, we must in fairness agree that they had the worst of the luck. It is quite possible that on another occasion they may have the best of the luck, but the mere fact that fortune did not smile on them this time is really not an argument in favour of altering our existing system. The hon. Member for Hereford (Sir S. Roberts) said that the majority of the Nordic world lived under a system of proportional representation. I am not an authority on the Nordic world, but I have had, before I came into this House, considerable experience, as a member of the diplomatic service, of the results of foreign Governments abroad and foreign Parliaments. It was often my good fortune, and more often my ill-fortune, to have to spend many hours a day listening to debates in those foreign Parliaments. 1291 We may not agree about majority rule, but I am Perfectly certain that the majority of the English-speaking races of the world believe in two-party government. We and America and all our Dominions without any exception stand for the two-party system of government.
I venture to suggest to the hon. Member for Hereford that really the examples he took to support his case were singularly weak. For example, he quoted Germany and Norway. Surely, the one thing that is apparent in Germany since the war is the lack of a really strong Government that has lasted for any length of time. France has now come back to single-member constituencies. Anyone who has any knowledge of any of these Governments in foreign countries where the system of large constituencies prevails must realise that the only effect of it is the return of large numbers of small groups following individual leaders. That system, I submit, is one that is totally alien to the whole of our characteristics. I said at the beginning that I sympathised with the Liberal party in bringing forward this Motion, but I should very deeply regret to see any change made. I can say with sincerity that I was one of those who was returned by a majority vote, because I happened to have a straight fight with a member of the Labour party, and I am therefore in no wise dependent on minority votes.
§ 10.0 p.m.
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Lieut.-Colonel Sir Vivian Henderson)
It is almost exactly seven years ago since the hon. Member for Moss Side (Mr. G. Hurst) and myself were associated together in an Amendment for the rejection of the Proportional Representation Bill which was introduced into this House as a private Bill by Sir Thomas Bramsdon, the then Member for Portsmouth. At that time, there is no doubt that the question of proportional representation was one which exercised Members' minds more actively than it does at the present time, because, not only were the views of Members much less settled than they now are, but the party opposite to me had not then come to any definite decision upon the question. As the result of the rejection of a similar Bill in 1924, the majority against which was almost 1292 entirely composed of Conservative and Labour Members, the question of proportional representation has very largely become academic.
I would like to deal to-night with some of the statement that have been made by different Members in the Debate. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Wiggins), who opened the Debate, seemed to suggest that the statement made by the Prime Minister at the time of the election in 1924, was that we were bound, if we were returned to office, to have the policy of electoral reform made the subject of discussion. That is by no means the case. The pledge given by the Prime Minister at the time of the election was on a question dealing with franchise reform, and, as the Government have found that it is possible to introduce a Franchise Bill without the necessity of a conference such as was envisaged at that time, I see no reason for such a discussion. I should think that most Members would be only too thankful that it is possible to settle the question in as easy a way as it now seems. After making that statement, the hon. Member went on to ridicule the terms of the Amendment which has been put down by my three hon. Friends, and he took each of the points in turn—political corruption, instability of the State, the powerlessness of all Governments in office, and the burdening of individual Members of Parliament. He seemed to think that not a single one of those points could be justified by subsequent speakers.
Several of those points have been touched upon by subsequent speakers in the Debate, but I would like to refer to all of them very briefly. Take, first of all, the question of instability. Several hon. Members have mentioned the fact that there are a number of countries in Europe which now work under a system of proportional representation. I have a list of some of them here, and it is quite true that a very large number of them are what are described as Nordic countries. Although they number about a dozen, in not a single one of these countries is there a party which has a working majority over all the other parties in their Parliaments. In every case, the government has to be carried on by means of a collection of groups, and nobody is going to tell me that that assists stability. I always believe, and 1293 always have believed, that one of the reasons for the pre-eminence of this country in European politics, and one of the reasons why other nations revere this Mother of Parliaments, is the fact that we, under our existing system of government, have Governments which can govern. I am perfectly convinced if we ever did resort to a system of proportional representation, our status in Europe would steadily decline.
One hon. Member who has sat in this House for a great many years said that he believed in stability. Quite apart from the points which I have just mentioned, I would, remind the House that the revolution in Italy was to some extent due to proportional representation. I will mention another country where a similar happening took place, and that was in Bulgaria. The fact that Bulgaria was unable to obtain a suitable system of government after the War definitely led to the coup d'état in Bulgaria and the subsequent murder of M. Stambouloff, and there can he no doubt that that could very largely be attributed to proportional representation.
I now come to one further criticism which was made against the terms of the Amendment, namely, political corruption, which means the possibility of minorities making bargains. May I remind the House that the whole political history of this country during the latter part of the last century was coloured by the Irish question. There is not the slightest doubt, looking back upon it as we can look upon it now, without prejudice, that had that question been dealt with on its merits and not originally as a political bargain between the Irish Nationalists and Mr. Gladstone, the whole history of this country might have been very different. So far as the burdens upon Members are concerned, I think it is very obvious that not only from the financial point of view but from the point of view of everyday work, the burdens would be enormous under proportional representation. The hon. Member for Hereford (Sir S. Roberts) suggested that it would be possible even if you had five or seven-member constituencies to sub-divide them, so that each member would be responsible for a certain portion. I have sat for a Glasgow Division and I 1294 now sit for a constituency which is on the edge of Liverpool—two big cities which return a large number of Members, and nobody is going to convince me that if we had an election under proportional representation, we could afterwards artificially divide those cities, towns or big constituencies, returning five or seven members or more into single-member constituencies, for the purpose of the work of individual members. The people in another part of the town would have voted for a particular member, and if he did not take the trouble to take notice of them it would not be likely that he would get any support from them at the next election. In practice, such a proposal is totally impossible. One of the greatest drawbacks of that system would be that the bulk of the work would fall on the young Member who had just got into Parliament, and would not fall on the older Member who had, perhaps, held office, or who relied on his name and his popularity. That would not be an encouragement to the obtaining of suitable candidates for political life.
If we had had proportional representation in. Glasgow in 1900, when Glasgow returned seven Members, Mr. Bonar Law would not have been returned to Parliament, because under proportional representation the Conservatives would have returned only five Members instead of seven, and the Liberal party would have returned two. Of the seven candidates that our party put up at that election, five of them were far better known than Mr. Bonar Law was at that time. Moreover, if we had had proportional representation in operation in 1918 and we had had three five-Member constituencies in Glasgow, Mr. John Maclean, who was at that time one of Labour's extremists in Scotland, and Bolshevik consul for Glasgow, would have been returned to Parliament for the South side of the constituency, in place of Mr. George Barnes. I do not know whether hon. Members think that that would have been an advantage. In either case, I think it would have been a, very great disadvantage, because in one case it would have resulted in one of the greatest leaders this House has had in modern times never coming to this House, and in the second case it would have resulted in the rejection of a man who had served in the War Cabinet and the 1295 election of a man who utterly despised all forms of constitutional government.
We had a system of limited vote in operation from 1867 to 1885, which was a form of proportional representation, and it was abandoned because it was found that under that system the caucus became so powerful that individuality counted for nothing. Therefore, hon. Members who say that we should have a trial of this system da not realise that we have had a trial of it, and we have found it wanting in practice. One hon. Member suggested that we should try it in local elections. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) pointed out, and I agree with what he said, that we have it in operation in Scotland for the election of the education authorities, and I, speaking as a Conservative, just as the hon. Member spoke from the other point of view, entirely agree with him that the system is not at all satisfactory, and I do not think that it is of any benefit to education in Scotland.
A further point which the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Wiggins) criticised in the Amendment is the suggestion that Proportional Representation would lead to the powerlessness of Governments. He asks how we could tell that Governments are likely to be powerless under that system. I have endeavoured to show that in every country in Europe where the system is in operation, the Government is carried on by means of a group of parties, and I do not think that that system is one which is in any way conducive to making Governments more powerful. It is a remarkable fact that in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the 8th April, 1921, which is the report of the Second Reading of the Proportional Representation Bill, at the end of the Debate there is a short note with regard to the failure of the coal negotiations, with a statement made by the then Prime Minister, and an account of the emergency defence measures which were taken, and the Royal Proclamation calling up the reserves. That note is remarkable because it shows how necessary it is to have a Government in office, with a working majority behind it, which can govern. If the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) at that time had had behind him perhaps a 1296 majority of 20 or 30 Members or been dependent for his office on several groups representing different interests, do hon. Members think that he could have dealt with the situation which arose at that time in the way he did? Does any hon. Member think, irrespective of its merits, that the Government could have dealt with the situation in 1926 in the way they did had they had no stable majority behind them, but only groups of different parties, in no way bound together by a common tie. One of the reasons why European Governments have had so much trouble since the War is because of this very system of proportional representation. It nearly brought the Government of Belgium to a complete standstill. Therefore I think my hon. Friends are perfectly justified in saying in the terms of their Amendment that this alternative system is likely to lead to the powerlessness of Governments in office.
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. G. Thorne) said that under the existing system, votes were wasted. I do not want to weary the House by going into details of the working of the system of proportional representation. Anybody who knows anything about it knows that you can read extracts from the regulations which make it totally incomprehensible, and even under proportional representation votes are wasted. You do not take all the preferences which electors give and utilise them. You only take a proportion of the surplus votes taken from candidates who are at the bottom of the poll, and surplus votes taken from the bottom are of more value than surplus votes taken from candidates at the top. That is as much open to objection as the existing system. I also agree with the hon. Member for Dundee that no system of proportional representation has yet been designed which can in any way deal with the question of by-elections. It would only lead to a number of different sectional interests being elected to this House, who are not likely to serve the interests of the nation half so well as Members who come here under the existing system.
The hon. Member for Oldham, who worked with me on the Estimates Committee, and for whom I have a great regard, was much too canny to definitely tie himself up to something from which he could not afterwards get 1297 out. He did not definitely state which particular form of alternative scheme he would like to adopt. He expressed criticism of the present system and then proceeded to express criticism of proportional representation. He criticised the second ballot, and then proceeded to express rather less criticism of the alternative vote. Personally, I see just as great danger in the alternative vote and the second ballot as I do in proportional representation, because all these schemes do not take into account the human element. The second ballot is dependent on people taking the trouble and voting the second time within a week. In France they may do that, hut you are not going to do it in this country, and it will simply result in Members being returned to this House by minorities. Apart from that there is the fact that the expenses of elections will be much greater.
So far as the alternative vote is concerned you cannot compel, and you never will compel, a voter to vote for more than one person if they do not wish to, and there are a large number of people who hold such strong political convictions that they will not vote for more than one candidate. While it may be easy for the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Viscount Sandon) to suggest that voting should be, made compulsory in this country, he is a much cleverer man than I take him to be if he thinks he can devise any system by which he can compel voters to vote for more than one person if they do not want to do so. I do not think any one of the alternative suggestions, there are only three, is in any way open to less objection than the existing system. The hon. Member for Hereford seemed to think that proportional representation was a sort of safeguard against revolution. I have not been in politics a great many years, but I have been long enough to realise that no legislation which any party in the world chooses to pass through this House will ever prevent a revolution if the country is going to have it. If the people of this country decide in a fit of lunacy that they will have a revolution no kind of Act upon the Statute Book will stop it. If hon. Members think that the system of proportional representation is likely to stop revolution I would draw their attention to the experience of Bulgaria. The hon. Member for Oldham 1298 in concluding his speech said that by voting for the Motion we were not committed to anything, but may I point out to him that by voting for this Motion we are committed to a condemnation of the existing system?
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
I do not see why we should condemn it. The question whether any electoral system is satisfactory or not is not merely a question of arithmetic. You have to take into account the human element. All parties who fail at elections are inclined to look at alternative systems. I have heard proportional representation described as the refuge of the politically destitute. I will not be so rude as that, but there is a germ of truth in the suggestion. If you take the human element into consideration I think the present system is a far better system than any other which has yet been devised. The real test of any system of political representation is whether it provides a better form of government. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton said that he wanted to make votes more effective. All votes are ineffective if they do not result in an effective system of government, and the great advantage of the present system is that it provides a government which will govern. The great test, after all, is to have some system by which we can have effective action, and I am convinced that under the present system, open to criticism as it is, we have the best system which we can devise for the government of this country. It is one by which governments are able to govern and the prestige of this country is maintained. For that reason I hope the House will reject the Motion and support the Amendment.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
The hon. and gallant Member who has just addressed the House, presumably on behalf of the Government, has told us that he has not been in politics for many years. He has made a very remarkable speech. Let me deal with his concluding remarks, because they have been made by several other speakers, including the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne), who, after producing the most extraordinary piece of gerrymandering of figures that I have ever listened to, and after having dealt with what he thought would he inevitable corruption in politics 1299 under the system we propose, concluded his speech, somewhat rhetorically I admit, by saying that we were actuated purely by motives of self-defence, that we desire to prevent our effacement. It is obviously true that under any such system such as we are discussing to-night the Liberal party stands to gain more than anybody else, and any capital which hon. Members may care to make out of that statement they are entitled to. Now I turn to the remarks made by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department in the somewhat extraordinary excursus he gave on the question of revolution. He said that if people were going to have a revolution it would not matter what electoral system was in force, they would have it. Does he really believe that considerable bodies of people set out with the intention of having a revolution, and then look round for an excuse for it? He told us that the rise of the Fascisti régime in Italy followed certain troubles which were largely or partly due to proportional representation. He said that the same was true of Bulgaria. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman mean that? Does he mean that proportional representation was the cause and revolution was the effect?
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman say that revolution is in part caused by proportional representation? Let me remind him of another country in which there has been a revolution, and one in which hon. Members opposite take considerable interest. I mean Russia. There you had what the hon. and gallant Gentleman calls a strong Government. There was no such nonsense as proportional representation or the alternative vote there. I happened to have been there when they had the pretence of Parliamentary government. That was a Government which could govern, and that was what the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
The hon. and gallant Gentleman wants a Government which is always sure of a majority, whose 1300 decisions can be carried out. In the Puma he had it. I think we are much more justified on this side in saying that that electoral system led directly to revolution than the hon. and gallant Member is entitled to say that proportional representation was even partly the cause of it in Italy or Bulgaria. I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member in his researches into the origins of the Irish question, but when the hon. and gallant Member suggests that the Irish question in the early days became an acute political question because of a bargain between the late Mr. Gladstone and the Irish party, I must remind him of what the present Foreign Secretary said, I think, in 1922, at the annual Conference of Conservative Associations. The right hon. Gentleman then said that it might have been better if the Conservative party had followed Mr. Gladstone's advice in 1885. So far from it becoming an acute political question because of a bargain, corrupt or otherwise, between Mr. Gladstone and the Irish party, we on these benches are far more entitled to say that it became an acute party question because of the desire to use religious bigotry as a political weapon in General Elections in England. But that, of course, is not dealing with the point of the Motion before the House. The Motion does not deal with the merits of this, that or the other system by which a difference can be made. It does deal with the complaint against the present system. Until the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford got up, we had not heard really a defence of the present system. No one had ventured to say that the present electoral system returned a House of Commons that represented numerically the wishes of the people of the country.
I would remind the House, and particularly I would remind hon. Members of the Labour party, that at the last General Election, if a line were drawn between the mouth of the Thames and the mouth of the Severn, south of that line one million Liberal votes were cast and there was only one Liberal Member returned, the hon. Member for Devon-port (Mr. Hore-Belisha); and there were nearly one million Labour votes cast and not a single Labour Member was returned. Illustrations of that kind can 1301 be multiplied. But the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Oxford, says it is no good taking the masses of votes given. He says he has a better plan than that. He proposes to select only those constituencies in which there were three-cornered fights—which means that he selects little more than one-fifth of the present House of Commons, and he says that if we consider those figures, and those figures only, and if we give all the 79 elected members to the Opposition, the Conservative party would still have a majority.
§ Captain BOURNE
I did not say that we should select the constituencies where there were three-cornered fights, but that we should select the constituencies where there were three-cornered fights and where the sitting Member did not obtain a majority of the votes. The two things are not quite the same.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
In other words, the hon. and gallant Member would reduce the number still further. He would take a still smaller proportion of the total votes than I thought. I thank him for the correction. But assuming that there is some basis for the statement and that if he takes less than one-fifth of the total, and argues from the one-fifth, he proves his conclusion as to the whole—supposing that were true—let me ask him this question. Taking his three-cornered fights, does he believe that under the present electoral system the votes given in all three-cornered contests are always given by the voters to the candidates whom they would. soonest see in the House of Commons? One of the worst results of our present system is that this is not so. Let me remind hon. Members opposite of two recent by-elections, Middlesbrough and St. Ives. Although I confess I have never myself, after four years, been able to discover their warrant for it, the party opposite always describe themselves as the anti-Socialist party. They spend most of their Parliamentary time helping the Socialist party, but at any rate they are supposed to be the anti-Socialist party, and at the last Election they obtained at any rate a large amount of their majority by creating a fear complex among the voters and by using the party above the Gangway as a bogy. The party above the Gangway, on the other hand, are always very voluble in 1302 their denunciations of the Government of the day. Remembering those facts, let us consider what happened at Middlesbrough and St. Ives.
You had in both cases the possibility, shall I say, of the return of the Liberal candidate. I just put it as a possibility. In Middlesbrough, however, it was the Socialist party which hoped to win the seat, and, on the whole, between the two, had the better chance of winning the seat. At St. Ives it was hon. Members opposite who thought their party was going to win the seat and had a better chance than the Socialist party. Therefore, at Middlesbrough it would have helped hon. Members above the Gangway, had a certain number of the electors voted Conservative instead of Liberal, while at St. Ives it would have helped hon. Members opposite if more of the electorate voted Socialist than had been considered possible at one time. So there is this result of this extraordinary system of ours. You have these sworn enemies, and at Middlesbrough you had the Socialists praying nightly that more people would vote Conservative and at St. Ives you had Conservatives going down on their knees and hoping that more people would vote Socialist.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The hon. Member has said that at the last General Election there was a campaign of fear instituted by hon. Members opposite, that the Socialist party were an electoral bogy. Is it not the case that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) made the fullest possible us of that bogy in his speeches?
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
The hon. Member will allow me to say that I am not responsible for the speeches of my right hon. Friend. [Laughter.] I am only responsible for what I say at an election. Hon. Members opposite are perfectly entitled to their full meed of enjoyment, but, having had their laugh, let them remember, and let the hon. Gentleman who asked the question remember, that even if it were true that all speeches made by Liberal candidates made use of that bogy, and even if they never said anything else during the whole election, the facts that I have stated would still be true. It would not affect my argument in the slightest that that is what was done, and, as I say, at those two recent 1303 by-elections, we had those curious facts. The hon. and gallant Member who replied on behalf of the Government——
§ Major PRICE
Does the hon. Member mean that St. Ives and Middlesbrough are wrongly represented now?
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
It is a perfectly fair question, and I will admit that it is possible that they may be. As long as you have minority Members returned, that possibility is always there, and nobody on these benches will deny it. I am very glad that in the course of the Debate we have brought the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Price) to see the danger of this.
§ Major PRICE
I fail to see the danger in either of the hon. Members who were returned in those two cases.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
The hon. and gallant Member is right. Nobody would see any danger whatever in those particular examples, but, in general, he will see that dangers might arise. All that we are asking is that there should be an inquiry into the various methods, for seeing that over the country as a whole, and not over one particular section, the representation in this House should correspond to the electoral strength of the different parties. Some hon. Members opposite who have spoken, and particularly the hon. and gallant Member who spoke for the Government, expressed themselves on the whole as satisfied with the present system, and the Amendment talks aboutthe proved wisdom of the present system of voting at elections.I need not remind the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford—who not only represents Oxford in this House, but has had the advantage of the educational facilities that are offered there and, indeed, has given us an example this evening of the results of his study—of the meaning of what is called a question-begging epithet, and that when you set out to prove something you do not get very much further by starting and talking about "the proved wisdom." That is what hon. Members have to prove. They go on to say in their Amendment,declines to countenance the adoption of any new devices which must inevitably add to the dangers of political corruption.1304 When the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford was speaking, he said, "Supposing you had some system where you are demanding for your Government various groups. Look at, foreign countries, lock at France." Incidentally, of course, France has never had proportional representation, certainly not in the sense in which it has been advocated in this country. Let me remind hon. Members opposite that M. Poincaré is a very ardent advocate of the system of proportional representation in France. The hon. and gallant Member said, "Look at these foreign countries. When a Bill goes through, although it may not be wanted by the mass of the people, what happens is that one group says to another, 'You come along and vote for my Bill, and I will vote for something that you want.' How does the hon. and gallant Member think his own party is made up? It is nothing but a series of groups. [HON. MEMBERS: "We are all united."] Yes, united in appearance, but the unity in the Lobby, as shown by hon. Members opposite, does not in the least correspond to real unity in the party.
I suggest that in the present House of Commons, on a dozen occasions, hon. Members opposite have voted against their wishes. I will give some examples. Take, for instance, the Bill introduced early in this Parliament by the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), the Bill which was the precursor of the Trade Disputes Act. Hon. Members opposite refrained from supporting that Bill. That really is not what they wanted to do. Take the Electricity Bill. Will any hon. Member on that side get up and say that everybody who voted for that Bill wanted it? I am not saying that the majority did not. What I am saying is that large groups have voted against their convictions. I do not want to put this point in any offensive way at all. I withdraw the word "convictions" and I will say "opinions," and I will admit at once that under the present system of government, not only must hon. Members who are supporting a Government vote against their opinions, but they are justified in doing so, because hon. Members will vote for one thing which they do not really want, in order to maintain in power a Government which, on the whole, they do want, and in doing so they are not 1305 doing anything discreditable at all. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are justifying the present system."] I am not justifying the present system. Take, again, the Debate last night. Those hon. Members who were present will not deny that the whole of the Members on the benches opposite, almost to a man, were opposed to the policy which was being laid down by the Government spokesmen.
Supposing that last night, instead of discussing the Consolidated Fund Bill, we had been discussing some question on which we could have gone to a Division. Would all those hon. Members have voted against the Government? No. Under the present system, you do not get a really strong Government, taking a long view of these matters, unless the Government rule as the majority of the people wish it. The hon. and gallant Member tells me that I am justifying the present system by what I am saying. Does he think the present system is justified on the ground of stability? Does any hon. Member think so? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] Then I will put this question. At the present moment there is no stability at all in the Government of this country. If you ask hon. Members opposite what is going to be the result of the next General Election, they know perfectly well it is a gamble. Will anybody deny that if, before the last General Election, they had not made the find which proved so profitable to them the result would have been very different? There is no question about that. If hon. Members really think that government as we have it to-day is stable, let me suggest two points to them. I take it we all admit that it is a good thing that Government should be stable. It is a good thing that if change must come it should be steady and even, not too violent or too rapid. I assume that is what they mean by stable government. The mere fact of having a large majority may mean a tyrannous government. It did in Russia. It may mean a government that always gets its way, but it does not necessarily mean a government that governs according to the wishes of the people. It does not even mean a government that governs according to the wishes of its followers. So far from there being stable government we get the very 1306 reverse, simply because under the present system the result of a General Election must be a gamble.
I am going to give two instances. If there are two spheres in which, above all others, we should agree about the need of stable government, I would say they are foreign affairs and matters concerned with trade. Take the question of foreign affairs, particularly in relation to Russia. Has the attitude of this country over the last six years been stable with regard to Russia? Nobody can suggest for a moment that it has been stable. The right hon. Gentleman behind me, the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) knows what I mean. The instability has led to difficulties both in this country and in Russia. It led to difficulties at Genoa and at Geneva, and it has led to difficulties all over Russia. I am not arguing those matters on their merits. I am merely saying that whether right hon. and hon. Members of the Labour party were right in their treatment of the Russian question, or whether hon. Members opposite were right, the one thing that was wrong was that we should swing backwards and forwards.from one extreme to the other.
Take the question of trade. During the Coalition Government, of which I was not a lover, there were imposed what were called the McKenna Duties. When the Labour Government came in the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) removed those duties. When the present Government came in those duties were put back. Other duties have been put on by the present Government. With a change of colour in the Government, they will be taken off again. [HON. MEMBERS: "No fear!"] That is just where hon. Members are wrong. Under the present system we are bound to get sudden changes of policy in Government, and I suggest that for the business community, for manufacturers, for merchants, for traders, and certainly for consumers, it is a bad thing to have sudden reversals every three or four years. Yes, but the reversals are just as bad one way as the other. Either side may be right, but we should change from one system to the other. Even under the present system we have not got stable government. I admit at once that, if as a result of such an inquiry as we desire, there should be a recommendation 1307 for a change of Government, other things would follow. The hon. and gallant Member for Bootle (Sir V. Henderson) referred to a criticism made by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Wiggins), relating to the Prime Minister's pledge on this question that there should a conference on the franchise, and the hon. and gallant Member for Bootle says:We did not have a conference because we found it possible to proceed without one.You can always evade a pledge by breaking it.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
The hon. Member really has no right to say that. If the question of the franchise had not been settled satisfactorily——
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
If the question had not been settled satisfactorily without a conference I think there would have been more antagonism to the proposals contained in the Franchise Bill which we have introduced than has yet been shown.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
Who settled it? As, a matter of fact it is not settled yet, and I will venture to add the Franchise Bill to the list of occasions which I gave just now in which hon. Members opposite are going to be coerced, not necessarily by the Government but by the system under which they vote for a thing which they do not want. I again repeat that there was a very definite pledge given by the Prime Minister that there would be a conference on the franchise. More than once during the first two years of this Parliament questions were put from this side of the House asking whether these matters of electoral reform would be included in the questions to be dealt with by the conference, and we received evasive answers. Now the hon. and gallant Member for Bootle says that it has been found possible to do without a conference, and we find that it will be impossible to raise many of the things which we wanted to raise because the Prime Minister's pledge has been evaded by breaking it. I repeat that the system under which we live and under which we are governed does not give us a House of Commons that corresponds to the wishes of the people. Very often at elections there are people voting not for 1308 somebody in particular, but in order to keep somebody out. That cannot be helped unless you have a system where there is an alternative vote, proportional representation, or any other system which would give us a House of Commons which corresponds to the voting strength of the various parties in the country. If you tell me that what I suggest will lead to unstable government, I say that the very reverse is true.
At present you have unstable government; you have the chances and gambles of an election. If you had the kind of House of Commons which I foresee, and which I am perfectly certain will come, the days would be gone when a Government would be able to override its supporters by the threat of a general election. You have Governments in power which do not necessarily represent the majority of parties in the country. We have heard a good deal to-night about the Nordic races. If hon. Members opposite will take the trouble to examine the recent history of Parliament in Norway and Sweden, they will see in Sweden a very admirable example of what we mean by the kind of system which produces stable government. There you had all the conditions which in this country produce three elections in two years, and, by the operation of a system of this kind——
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
If the hon. and gallant Member asks a question, he must have the courtesy to listen to the answer. I mean a system which enables a House of Commons to be elected corresponding in its complexion to the votes cast for the various parties in the country. Is the hon. and gallant Member satisfied?
§ Lieut.-Colonel GADIE
I have been listening very attentively to the hon. Member for the last 20 minutes in order to gather whether he is in favour of proportional representation. If he is, and I think he is, how can he agree with the Mover of this Motion, who says he is not?
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
If the hon. and gallant Member, instead of listening so 1309 attentively to me for 20 minutes, had read attentively for 20 seconds the Motion on the Paper, he would have seen the answer to his question. I may use this system or that system to illustrate my point. What I am saying is that in Sweden there is a system of that kind, and, under the operation of that system——
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
Of the kind which I have just described to the hon. and gallant Member. Under a system of that kind, you have had, in difficult electoral circumstances, stable government. By stable government we mean——
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
During the last 17 years, when Sweden has been working under proportional representation, not a single one of the eight elections which have taken place has resulted in a single party obtaining a working majority.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
I am more than grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for his interruption. That is exactly the difficulty in which he is. He thinks that stable government means what he calls a working majority. I would, however, put this point to him. After all, he says he has ben associated with my hon. Friend for many years, and so he must have learned a lot of sense. I put this to him as a plain, commonsense man, using the word "stable" in the way in which he and I would both understand it. Stable government means government which enables the policy of your country to be continuous, without violent fluctuations. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman think that that would be obtained by, let us say, a series of eight general elections, which was the number he quoted, four of which were won by the party opposite with a working majority, and four by the Labour party with a working majority? Would that produce stable government?
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
That is one in two years, but we have three in two years, so it does not work out very well for the hon. and gallant Gentleman. [Interruption.] Another hon. Member provides 1310 me with a further point. I agree that we have not had eight elections in 17 years, but the hon. Member must now realise that we are face to face with a position in which we have three parties in the State. [Interruption.] I imagine hon. Members will concede that if there ever was a chance of a party disappearing, it was our party, but we have not disappeared and, as far as probabilities go, you have now got to face government under a three-party system. I am bound to say that as I follow the fortunes of by-elections and the admirable, philosophic speeches of the Prime Minister, one thing has struck me with amazement, and that is that the Prime Minister has never yet seen fit to take the people of the country into his confidence and tell them what are the prospects of government under a three-party system. There has been no instruction of the electors as to what may conceivably happen. The difference between the period before the War, when in fact there were three Elections in two years, and now, is the difference between two-party and three-party government.
I say, finally, that the system which we are contemplating is one in which you will not have a Prime Minister allowed practically to dictate when there shall be a general election and in which the King's Government may be carried on by a combination of parties—and not necessarily by a corrupt combination, because under those circumstances hon. Members will have far more independence. One hon. Member said that perhaps there would be no legislation at all. If nobody wants it, why should there be? If two parties combine together to form a Government, then you will have legislation which is the greatest common measure of opinion of those two parties, and that will be the greatest common measure of the opinion of the people of the country. As far as the Debate has gone, I think we are entitled to say two things: First of all, that for the second day running we have provided the House of Commons with a live Debate. If hon. Members really want to know what I mean, it is the difference between the House of Commons as we conceive it might be, and the House of Commons which it has been under this strong Government, listless ineffective and inefficient——
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
There was an occasion only two days ago when the Conservative party was represented by two Ministers. [HON. MEMBERS: "And no Liberals."] There was an occasion yesterday when the benches above the Gangway were represented by only a few Members. Nobody will contradict this, that the great majority enjoyed by the present Government has meant a bad House of Commons—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—and an ineffective House of Commons. [An HON. MEMBER: "And a bad Opposition."] No, not a bad Opposition, but not enough opposition. In contrast with that, I would ask hon. Members opposite to remember the Debate which we had last Session in this House on the Prayer
§ Book. I am not thinking of the merits of the question at all, but there was a Debate when the present conditions of Government were absent. There were no Government whips and no strong Government functioning. There was no stability. You had a Debate where every Member who spoke, spoke as he felt, and every Member who voted, voted as he believed. Under the system which we are recommending, that kind of House of Commons would always be elected, and it is because we believe that it is by that means only in the long run that you will get good, stable and representative Government, that we press this Motion upon the House.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 41; Noes, 205.1313
|Division No. 61.]||AYES.||[10.57 p.m.|
|Baker, Walter||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Calthness)|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||sitch, Charles H.|
|Brlant, Frank||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Strauss, E. A.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Kelly, W. T.||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Livingstone, A. M.||Tomilnson, R. P.|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Viant, S. P.|
|England, Colonel A.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Morris. R. H.||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Forrest, W.||Owen, Major G.||Williams, C. P. Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G, M.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Hereford)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Robinson. Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Runciman, Hilda (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Sir Robert Hutchison and Mr.|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Fenby.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut-Colonel||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Ellis, R. G.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset,Weston-s.-M.)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks. Newb'y)||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Fairfax, Captain J. G.|
|Albery, Irving James||Burman, J. B.||Finburgh, S.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Forestier-Walker, Sir L.|
|Alexander. Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Campbell, E. T.||Fremantle, Lieut-Colonel Francis E.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Carver, Major W. H.||Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Cassels. J. D.||Ganzonl, Sir John|
|Apsley, Lord||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Gates, Percy|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Charleton, H. C.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton|
|Atkinson, C.||Charteris, Brigadier-General J.||Gillett, George M.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Cobb, Sir Cyrll||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Compton, Joseph||Goff, Sir Park|
|Batey, Joseph||Cope, Major William||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Couper, J. B.||Grace, John|
|Bennett, A. J.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)|
|Berry, Sir George||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Greene, W. P. Crawford|
|Bethel, A.||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Groves, T.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Day, Harry||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Dixey, A. C.||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Duncan, C.||Hamilton, Sir George|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Dunnico, H.||Hardle, George D.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Harland, A.|
|Bromley, J.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Hayday, Arthur||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Sexton, James|
|Hayes, John Henry||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Margesson, Captain D.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Skelton, A. N.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Snell, Harry|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Montague, Frederick||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Naylor, T. E.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Sutton, J. E.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Oakley, T.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Paling, W.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||Parkinson, John Allen (wlgan)||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Penny, Frederick George||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Waddington, R.|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Potts, John S.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Power, Sir John Cecil||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Pownall, Sir Astheton||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Kennedy, T.||Raine, Sir Walter||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Kindersley, Major Guy M.||Ramsden, E.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rentoul, G. S.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Lawrence, Susan||Rice, Sir Frederick||Wells, S. R.|
|Lawson, John James||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Westwood, J.|
|Lee, F.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||White, Lieut-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham,||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Lowth, T.||Ropner, Major L.||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Lumley, L. R.||Rose, Frank H.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Lunn, William||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfeild)|
|Lynn, Sir R. J.||Rye, F. G.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Salmon, Major I.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Wood, E. (Chester, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)|
|McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|McLean, Major A.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Maclean, Nall (Glasgow, Govan)||Savery, S. S.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Gerald Hurst and Major Price.|
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Mr. E. BROWN rose——
§ It being after Eleven o'Clock the Debate stood adjourned
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.