§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [2nd February], "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ Which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words, "upon this day six months."—[Sir S. Hoare.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ 4.0 p.m.
Sir HILTON YOUNG
There was but one thing about which all seemed to be agreed in our first day's Debate upon this so-called Representation of the People Bill, and that was, that the House might be better occupied—a general agreement which gives me an almost apologetic feeling in rising to detain the House further on the subject. But, unfortunately, this House is so powerful and its time is so important that it is never merely marking time; it is always either going forward or going back. Although on this occasion we on these benches can have no hope of the country making any progress through this Bill, at any rate, our time is not wasted if we are preventing harm from being done. The whole of the first day's Debate on the Bill appeared to me to be an effort to give respectability to a Bill which, naturally, lacked it. I do not know what success is supposed to have attended the efforts yesterday on that behalf. I can only judge by what I understood to be the case, that to-day the heavier batteries, the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) are to be brought into action, to try to clear the front which other Members failed to clear yesterday. There was a curious lack of harmony, if I may say so, in the speeches of the Home Secretary and the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). The Home Secretary sang in a minor key, and the right hon. Member for Darwen sang in a major key. The Home Secretary told us, in a manner almost mournful, of the limitations and handicaps from which the Labour party 1654 suffers at election time. Those limitations and those handicaps are well known to some of us who have fought eight or nine general elections in great industrial constituencies. The right hon. Member for Darwen sang in a more cheerful, a more triumphant strain. He taunted Members on this side of the House with being prepared to use a minority vote to enforce a policy against the wishes of the majority. Let those who live in glass houses be careful how they throw such bricks. The Liberal party at the present time in the House of Commons is occupied in enforcing upon two other parties both equally reluctant a policy which they seem equally to detest. We are accustomed, in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman to be delighted by his clearness, but when the memories of old fiscal controversies begin to buzz about him, like free-trading bees in his bonnet, to some extent he seems to lose his clearness of thought.
Take the Shipley election. Is it really the right hon. Gentleman's contention that any vote cast against the Conservative candidate was a vote against Safeguarding? We on these benches are quite confident that if we could only have the advantage of a plebiscite on a single issue at such an election as Shipley, the result would be in accordance with the principles and policy of this party. [HON. MEMBERS: "Try it!"] Certainly; if that be in doubt, let the country be given an opportunity to decide. The effort yesterday to give respectability to the Bill failed; we cannot divert our attention from those aspects of it which are not respectable. This is the first instance, I think, of the application, on this side of the Atlantic, of methods which have become so familiar on the opposite side of the Atlantic as the methods of the rackets and racketeers. The Liberals are engaged in forcing their will on the Government. The band is out, led by formidable gunmen. The Prime Minister has yielded to the attack of the gunmen. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has succeeded on this occasion, as we would expect him to succeed, in applying with tact and success the methods of Al Capone, if I may refer to him on this occasion in connection with a person to whom he bears no other resemblance.
1655 For what object has this innovation been made in our politics? What is gained by either of the parties to this singular bargain? There is no large profit. It is a trifling gain to hon. Members opposite of a few months in power—the continuation for a few months of a life which can be of very little satisfaction to themselves, as it is of very little benefit to the country; and the gain—at least, the possible gain—to hon. Members below the Gangway of a few seats at the next General Election—and that is more than doubtful. For the most conspicuous circumstance about the alternative vote is that it reduces politics very largely to a gamble. The discussions which have been taking place here as to whether it will benefit this party or that, are discussions which are of little profit. There is no certainty of that sort obtainable. The gain is very problematical.
What is conspicuous about this Bill is that everybody seems to dislike it. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, in a recent interview, said, "I like it," and again "I like it." It requires some temerity at the present moment to refer to an interview with the right hon. Member for Cararvon Boroughs. But I understand there is no trap in this instance. The interview seems authentic. When he repeats "I like it," and again "I like it," he really makes me believe he does not like it, that he is using the methods of Coué, trying to persuade himself by repeating, "Every day and in every way I like it better, and better and better."
What is the gain to any party from this Bill? What is the gain to hon. Members opposite? Can it be of any possible advantage to them? As a candid friend, let me remind them of the good advice, never make the first concession to the blackmailer. Stand up to him like a man at the outset, and take him into the police court. The police court in this case is represented by the General Election. It will be better for yourselves and your principles in the long run. What other gain can there be for hon. Members opposite There is none at all. The alternative vote brings the possibility that by arrangement between two parties even a very substantial and considerable party in the country, such as the Labour party, 1656 may be completely exterminated. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) gave a conspicuous instance in the recent Commonwealth elections in Australia. Let me point out to hon. Members opposite the danger to them. I know that at the present time they have eaten all their labels and are not engaged in practice in putting Socialism into force. But the time may come when once more they will stand up to their principles, once more they will try to fulfil in practice in Parliament what they say at elections, and once more try to carry out a Socialist policy. When they do, the anti-Socialist parties in the country will be ranged against them, and by an expedient under the alternative vote the party opposite may be completely exterminated. I do not desire it; that would misrepresent the people. It is certainly a matter for them to consider.
No, Sir, so small are the gains to be had from this by anybody, let us be relieved from the infliction of the Bill. I base that argument not merely upon the disreputability of the parentage of the Bill, but on the Bill's own inherent defects. This ill-bred offspring exhibits the defects of its breeding. The Bill is an inherent fraud. The whole scheme of alternative voting is a humbug. This is another of the confusions from which, I think, the right hon. Member for Darwen did not succeed in delivering himself in his speech. Both he and the Home Secretary, and also the Minister of Health, made the assumption that the scheme of the alternative vote will enable the majority of the people to secure that in a single-member constituency they shall get the candidate they prefer. It does nothing of the sort. What is the argument of the right hon. Member for Darwen? He said that when it comes to the second count, after the third candidate has been eliminated, every vote has an equal value. With that ability which we always expect from him, he took the strong ground of advancing an argument which was really sound, but had nothing to do with the case against him.
The case against the alternative vote is different. This is not a matter of party politics; it is a matter which has been subjected to the closest mathematical analysis. When you have three candidates, you exclude the one who receives 1657 the smallest number of first votes, and his second votes are distributed among the other two. Then the Member is returned who receives the biggest number of first and second votes. On this second count no doubt all votes counted have an equal value. Granted! That may be so if you kept C in, and analysed A's second votes in order to find out what A's second preferences were, C might have got more votes on second count than B. In knocking out C after the first count you may be knocking out the very man preferred by the majority.
Am I far wrong, then, when I say that the scheme is a fraud? It professes to secure the fulfilment of the wishes of the majority, bur it does nothing of the kind. You introduce an absolute difference of status between the votes for the man who gets the biggest number of first choices and those for the third fellow, who is knocked out. The supporters of A, who gets the biggest number of first choices, if they prefer C to B, have no opportunity of making that preference effective. The knock-out of C is arbitrary and inequitable. Take the case where a Liberal is at the bottom on first count, and a Conservative at the top. In most of those cases those who give the first choice to the Conservative candidate, would prefer the Liberal candidate for the second—I do not think that is an extravagant assumption—but under this system they will never have a chance of making it good. C is knocked out, and the consequence is that the Labour man is elected, although contrary to the will of the majority in that constituency.
It is an illogical scheme in many other respects. It appeals to all of us when we go into an election contest, that we should throw our hearts over the fence and ride straight, and try to win on the strength of our own cause. That is what makes our politics superior to those of any other country. This Bill will end all that. We must try to win by ingratiating ourselves with opponents. It will put a premium on the double tongue in politics. Hon. Members opposite will be put in the humiliating position, for instance, of having to cater for the Communist vote. Some hon. Members do not look upon that as distasteful; others no doubt do. And, remember, the introduction of this scheme will multiply the number of contests of this kind with 1658 many candidates. You will no longer have the straight fight, which you have now in so many elections.
The scheme is full of the gambling factor of uncertainty. It is like the story in the Arabian Nights, where the magician offered new lamps for old. Let us remember the conditions under which the offer was made. The old lamp did enable one to work wonders, but the new lamp was good for nothing except, perhaps, to burn the fingers. So it is with our present system of election. We have been challenged by hon. Members opposite whether we are prepared to stand up for our present system as the best possible. On the whole, yes. I am prepared to say, and I know that my view is shared by many who have given the most careful thought to all the possible alternative systems, that the majority vote as we have it at the present time is the best system that we can get. I do not say that it would be the best system in a world entirely inhabited by senior wranglers and archangels. You might under those circumstances get a better system. Then, perhaps, we should not need any forms of government at all, and we should be saved a good deal of trouble. But in the world in which we live, the present system is the best. Under the proposed alternative vote a great many people will not know what they are about. There will be people not understanding the cross and the figures, who when they put the figure "2" against a candidate's name, will think that they are giving him two votes instead of one.
The majority vote on the other hand can be supported, I believe, upon the deepest grounds of political science. What is it that we secure by the majority vote at present? We secure this, that a man is returned to represent a constituency in Parliament by the votes of the greatest number of persons in the constituency who believe that he is the best possible man they can get. That is the best of all possible authorities. Once you depart from the simple principle that so and so comes here as the representative of a constituency because more people in the constituency think him the best man, than think anybody else the best man, then you become involved in metaphysical subtleties and mathematical abstractions which lead nowhere and can give no better result. How can you make 1659 any calculation in the balance between the value of a first vote and a second vote? You can get no arithmetical evaluation. That fact is recognised in one Sub-section of the Bill which provides that in case of an equivalence of votes the untransferred votes are to have a greater weight than the transferred votes. It is recognised in the Bill that there is more value in the first choice than in the second choice. The authority derived from the first choice is greater than the authority of the second choice. When you consider how many people who think I am the second best equal one who thinks I am the very best, you can get into a region far beyond common sense.
The Prime Minister is fond of talking about the discussions of medieval schoolmen, such as how many angels are capable of dancing on the point of a needle. There was another subject discussed amongst the schoolmen to which the learned Erasmus referred with impatience: It was the question whether a chimera buzzing in a vacuum was capable of outweighing second intentions. This discussion is as useful. The second intentions may stand for the second vote, the chimera for this Bill, and the vacuum reminds me of the minds of its inventors.
When we pass to other provisions in the Bill we come to a graver and, I think, a more regrettable aspect. I refer in particular to the provisions for the abolition of the business vote and the university vote. The university vote has been and will be defended in this House more appropriately and more ably by the representatives of the universities; but it is impossible for anyone who has a strong affection for the traditions of the past and has hopes no less strong for the future not to say a word or two about it. In the first place, will not hon. Members opposite and the supporters of the Bill make up their minds upon what grounds they are opposing university representation? Will they not make up their minds whether they are opposing it because it is bad in itself, or because the universities happen to return for the most part Conservative Members? The Home Secretary let the cat out of the bag. He gave it as his strongest argument against university representation that it happened to return Conservative Members. That is not a very worthy 1660 argument. If the Government cannot succeed in returning members of their party from the great seats of learning, it is no very great tribute to their party.
Let us take this argument at its best. Let us dismiss these rather less worthy forms of the argument. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]. I am glad to have carried hon. Members opposite with me so far—and consider the argument against university representation, as such. I should not be ashamed to base an argument upon a sense of the glories of the past and of gratitude for the work done on behalf of the country by the universities, When this country was beginning to emerge out of the dark ages, it was at the universities that the seeds were planted which have grown into all that is beautiful and worthy in our civilisation, in knowledge and civilised achievement. Through dangers, through all misfortunes in the history of the nation, when the light of knowledge was in danger of extinction, it was the universities which cherished it. and kept the lamp burning from century to century. We deny indignantly that the great universities have not worked for progress in the life of the country. It was during the life of the first Stuart King that university representation was first instituted. That being so, James I must turn in his grave if he considers the achievements of the universities at one crisis in our politics. They it was who made a gallant stand against the last Stuart King, James II, who then lead the country in its resistance to oppression, and secured the ground from which democracy advanced for the achievement of the great revolution.
Such achievements have the great universities accomplished in the past, but it is on even wider grounds that I would support the maintenance of variety and richness in our representation. This nation and the world is troubled about the future of democracy. It is beginning to be clear that in arriving at our present stage of development, in which we have the greatest measure of democracy that can be based upon the principles laid down in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—universal suffrage, and equivalence of all votes, we have by no means achieved an end in itself. There are grave imperfections in such a democracy. There are grave inperfections in its capacity to manage the affairs of the 1661 nation under modern conditions. Now, when the minds of men are beginning to look forward, and I believe upward, to the possibilities of evolution in democracy, it is true that we do not see what the future is to be. It is true that the coming events cast no shadow before; we cannot frame in our minds an idea what the view of democracy is to be. We believe that there will still be democracy, that the will of the people is still to govern. But men begin to doubt whether democracy of the present type, based upon a soulless and mechanical counting of heads, is to be for ever accepted as the best. Its imperfection expresses itself day by day in the impotence of Parliament in regard to much of the work which it has to do. Must we not believe that a better type of democracy may come?
If we are to look forward to the evolution of a better democracy, no worse deed can be done than to eliminate from our political soil the seeds of variety we have in the representation of business men and the great seats of learning. I appeal to the Prime Minister who is wont to wave the banner of the ideal before his followers more preoccupied with material things. I should have thought that he would have been the last man to consent to the extinction in his time of the lamp of learning in our representative system. Will it be a very worthy record for his short government to say that there is no record of achievement whatever except the extinction in this land of the direct representation in Parliament of learning and research.
The Government might be better employed at the present time than in introducing this Bill. There is a very unpleasant characteristic which has developed itself in the proposals of the Government. It is the characteristic summed up in the phrase "Heads I win, tails you lose." The Government can find nothing to do for the real evils from which the country is suffering; they occupy their time in arranging for themselves shelters against the coming storm of democratic disapproval. They are using their power to entrench themselves. They are doing that in the Trade Disputes[...]Bill. We see a willingness on their part to entrench the forces in politics which maintain them in power, so that 1662 when a Labour Government is in power representatives of the trades unions shall govern through Parliament, and when Labour is out of power the representatives of the trades union shall govern by the threat of a general strike. We see that characteristic in every provision of that particular Bill. They are willing to prolong a power which they cannot maintain by the usual methods of persuasion and conviction, through the power of the purse, by making sure that they shall have funds for the fight even though they are obtained at the expense of Conservative, Liberal and non-party working men. That same characteristic reappears in this legislation. Its varied clauses have one common object: they hope they will be able to do some injury to their political opponents. It is not a very respectable form of occupation for a Government which is confronted with such difficulties as those which confront the country at the present time. Let me remind hon. Members opposite and the Prime Minister of the parable of the unjust steward; how he had wasted his master's substance; how he was to be called to account; and how he busied himself in making friends with the mammon of unrighteousness in order that he might be received into the everlasting habitations—
Sir H. YOUNG
He was commended in those days, and there are still some who would commend him. But there are no everlasting habitations for a Government which is prepared to govern without the will of the people. The Government must really pluck up their courage. It is no good the Prime Minister sitting there, like Fagan in the condemned cell, cursing the day on which his Government was born, and dreading the day when it will go to meet its maker—the people.Why linger trembling on the brink and fear to launch away?The day of reckoning must come, and in the long run it is always better boldly 1663 to face the people than try to shelter behind refuges concocted by political subtlety.
This is called "The Representation of the People Bill." Let it be given a shorter and more simple name. Let us call it The Wangle Bill—Wangle, by folly, out of funk. Common sense, a sense of fair play, and belief in the future of democracy, forbids the acceptance of this Bill. As believers in common sense, as believers in fair play—[Interruption]—and as strong believers that democracy has a brighter future before it than anything which will be secured by this Bill, we will oppose it with an opposition which nothing can reconcile.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)
We have listened to a very remarkable and very characteristic speech from the right hon. Member for Seven-oaks (Sir H. Young). Those who have changed camps are compelled by their words to provide apparent proof of the reason why they have changed. We have listened also to a speech in which great pretension was made of having surveyed by profound mathematics the field of electoral reform and, apparently, the result of this profound mathematical examination is that a minority vote results in a majority of the constituencies. I congratulate the right hon. Member on the profundity of his research. He told us of his great political philosophy and his mathematical examination, and that the conclusion to which he has come is that minorities, where they are Conservative, are in accordance with democracy and that, if any attempt is made to secure that the majority shall elect Members to this House, then the parties making such an attempt are guilty of all the evils of the unjust steward and corrupt politicians.
What does the right hon. Member claim? He claims that we have outraged the sensibility of hon. Members opposite. Why? Because they are calculating upon a situation similar to that of 1924. They first of all tell us that we are wasting the time of this House while social legislation is required. That is an insult to the people who require that social legislation. There are some of us who have been in the position of people who have required assistance during unemployment, who have looked out on an even 1664 darker social prospect than those who are looking at that dark prospect to-day. But in those days we never ceased to take an interest in the government of our country, in the elections, in the methods of elections and in the triumph of democracy, because we knew perfectly well that unless the majority of the people ruled in this country there would be no cure for social evils.
Policy depends upon the machinery. We may try to recondition our country; we may try to introduce legislation which will lead to a better distribution of wealth; we may try to deal with the problems relating to land, but what chance is there of doing this unless the electoral machinery of the country secures that the majority of the people voting shall elect Members to this House who are responsible for carrying them out? That is the only reason why this Bill has been introduced. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite know that perfectly well. They remember that in 1924 Labour polled 8,362,000 votes and the Tories 8,664,000 votes.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am much obliged. I requested that. the figures of 1924 should be supplied to me and I have been supplied with the figures for 1929 by mistake. Fortunately, for the mathematical geniuses of the party opposite, I have the figures for 1924. In that year the Conservatives polled 7,385,000 votes, Labour polled 5,487,000, and the Liberals 2,982,000 votes. Labour and Liberal together were a majority, a clear and emphatic majority, against the Conservative votes. The Conservatives had a minority of the electors of the country in 1924 behind them; a decisive minority, but that decisive minority put the right hon. Gentleman opposite in a majority of 200 over all parties in this House combined, and the profound conclusion to which the right hon. Member for Seven-oaks has come, as a mathematician, as a student of political philosophy and as a believer in mediæval philosophy as well, is that that majority of 200 in this House really and absolutely was the expression of the will of the people of this country. They are hoping that something like that 1665 may be repeated, so that while they do not represent a majority of the electors they can still rule the country.
So anxious are they that it should remain, so self-righteous are they in their approval of this state of things, that they are not only desirous that no change shall be made to make majority government effective, but they want the other Chamber of this nation to be permanently in their possession. How can the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks talk about democracy in those conditions? They want to rule by a minority vote as a majority party, and we are going to do our best to prevent it. [An HON. MEMBER: "You are doing that now."] I am going to deal with that in one minute if hon. Members will possess themselves in patience and allow me to develop my argument in my own way. The Tories are doing their best so to arrange the Constitution that when they are not in office they are still in power, and when they are in office they may enjoy a majority here backed only by a minority of the electors of the country. How is that state of things to be prevented? Some people are in favour of proportional representation, but, as was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary yesterday, proportional representation would be a complete revolution in our electoral system. Proportional representation is not a system of election for securing a majority; it is a system for securing a mathematical representation of minorities. That may be all right so far as elections are concerned and as far as the machinery of elections is concerned, but when we elect Members to this House we do not only elect a House of Commons we also elect the Government, and by making this House a collection of minorities, although we may pride ourselves that bodies of electors outside are actually and accurately represented, we have not provided for a Government to be created which will be unified and responsible for policy. That is a fundamental objection to proportional representation.
This Bill is aimed at securing majorities, not merely the representation of minorities. I have always held that the right of a minority does not consist in being represented here until it has such a strong hold in the country that in constituencies here and there it can win 1666 seats on a majority vote. The right of a minority is that it shall have all opportunities to convert people to its point of view, it must not be suppressed in its expression and propaganda, but when it becomes a question of representation in the national legislature it is right and proper that the minority should be in such a position that it can win seats on a majority vote. That is the process through which the Labour party has gone, and it is a perfectly sound process for all minorities. Therefore, what we have to provide for is not so much the representation of minorities as to secure that those who are here represent a majority in the constituencies.
Then we come to the point made by the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) yesterday. He said that in the ease of candidates A, B and C, that when C is eliminated and his second votes are added to the first votes of A and B, C's second votes determine the election. They cannot. They may not. They do not. The first votes decide who are to be in, and the result of the election is this: Take a case of A, B and C, and no one has a clear majority. That means that neither A, B, nor C has been elected. So far as the first preference is concerned, not one of the three candidates has been elected, but what the first preferences have decided, and quite properly decided, is that A and B shall remain in, while C, having failed in his first preferences, goes out. Then what happens is that, as neither A nor B has been elected on first preferences, the question is as to how the first preferences belonging to C, which were no use as first preferences, would have voted if the ballot paper contained only the names of A and B.
If it is said that C decides, suppose we had a second ballot, instead of an alternative vote with what is called second preferences. What would have happened? We have had experience of the second ballot. This is not a question of pettifogging partisanship; this is a question of trying to create an election method which will be democratic and which can be defended right through from top to bottom. If it is contended that the second preferences of the discarded C decide the election, and if hon. Members take objection to it because they are second preferences, they are only delud- 1667 ing themselves with words, because supposing you turn those second preferences into first preferences, by a method which has been adopted by many Continental countries and many foreign countries: supposing it is found in the first ballot that there is no candidate elected by getting a clear majority over all the others, then that election is declared to be null and void, except in so far as it selected the list for the second ballot. Then the second ballot is held. C is not in, because he was not selected by the first ballot, but A and B, going to the second ballot alone, are elected by first preferences, and C's second preferences become first preferences. C does decide in exactly the same way that the right hon. Gentleman himself would decide if he was an elector in a constituency, and there was only a majority of one, and he could say, "I settled that election." It decides it in this way. I said that C's second preferences do not decide the second preferences. [Interruption.] But I am not going to go over it again.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I think the right hon. Gentleman made a mistake in expressing himself. His actual sentence was that C's second preferences do not decide the second preferences. I am sure that that is not what he meant to say.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I do not quite follow the right hon. Gentleman. However, it will be in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and I will look it up. The whole point is this, that in talking about second preferences, and all through the speeches that have been delivered, there has been an impression that the second preference does not rank as a full vote. There is an impression that there is some jugglery about this, and all that I am trying to prove is that there is no jugglery about it at all, but that there are certain processes, certain steps and processes, to get the majority. If there are three candidates for one seat, the chances are that no majority can be got at the first go-off, and you first election is for the purpose of selecting your final candidates, not for the purpose of giving the final decision. But by uniting the method of the second ballot and the first ballot, by giving electors a preferential vote, a second preference, you do both processes at the same time. That is the 1668 tremendous iniquity that we are perpetuating by our proposal.
There has been another suggestion, and that is that this is log-rolling and bargaining. First of all, I do not think that accusation is quite new. I have had a good many experiences of Conservative candidates, and I should be very glad to meet one who does not practise it. I should be very glad to meet one in a constituency where there are certain religious communities making claims upon rates and taxes, and if I were going to resist their requests, I should like to meet a Conservative candidate who was so immaculate that he would not enter into an arrangement with them for political advantage.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
But supposing a situation like this happened: Supposing there was a rival candidate running in the constituency, and there was a meeting on a Sunday night, very carefully arranged, so that before 12 o'clock did strike they sat dumb at the table, and the moment 12 o'clock struck they said, "Now let us begin"; and as a result letters passed between the candidates squaring things up and one of the candidates retired as a result. Would that be log-rolling? Again, supposing there was some trouble about a formula regarding a food tax, and there were two candidates of whom one thought that one formula was the right one and another who thought that another formula was the right one, and they thought they would like to square each other up, and they devised a formula committing a party to food taxes before the party itself was willing to be committed to food taxes, and they devised a platform for that specific election alone, in order to meet the specific fix in which they both found themselves. I suppose that would be squaring-up, logrolling, which would shock Tories who, for the purposes of this Debate, assume a white robe like that in which my predecessor, by his own act so properly clothed himself when he talked about high political ideals of the Tory party, as explained by the right hon. Gentleman, but understood by nobody who has any experience of that party.
1669 What is the use of making those pretences, in any event, here? We have all gone through elections, and we have all had to consider possibilities, and hon. Members will do it again. [An HON. MEMBER: "The sooner the better!"] So little loathing has this hateful operation to the hon. Member opposite, that he is very anxious to begin to do it now. He is an old hand. He is a wily old hand, and when he hears speeches like those magnificent spiritual orations to Which we have just listened, he smiles up his sleeve, even if he applauds with his lips. Log-rolling! Why this Bill will have no effect upon it at all. Besides, in my own constituency at the last election, I am not sure whether they came as an overflow from the neighbouring constituency or not, but there were bills issued officially by the Tories appealing to Liberals to vote for them, saying that the Liberal party was a third party, that the Liberal party was going to be eliminated; and the crime that is rankling in their hearts now is that if C goes to the election, and they think C is going to be third, they can make just a few preparations to get some of C's second votes.
They do not wait for an election either. They assume before the election takes place that C is out., and they appeal to C's electors to vote for them. Have they got any bargain with anybody below the Gangway? Is there any arrangement by which in certain constituencies there are to be no Tory candidates? [Interruption.] I will be like the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me, and I will turn to some history. Has it never been done, not under an alternative vote, but under this beautiful existing system which meets the requirements of mathematics and philosophy and gives such a wonderful mathematical, philosophical, and spiritual result?
But why do they not adopt this? It is in the interests of their own electors. When they are going to make this arrangement, would it not be far better if they gave their electors a chance of having the first vote—these people in some constituencies, these poor Conservative patient oxen voters who do what they are told, without even having the pleasure of going to a ballot box and 1670 testifying to their faith by a cross? They are silenced. They are not going to be allowed to go there. Vote for this Bill. Give your followers a chance. If you do not take that advice, at any rate be honest and do not raise the sort of objection which you have raised hitherto on the Clause providing for the alternative vote.
The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday that if the ordinary elector saw No. 2 creeping up to No. 1 he would get sick of politics. What an extraordinary argument. If that is the sort of elector who supports the right hon. Gentleman, I think it would be for the good of the country if he did become sick of politics and gave it up. In any event, if there were a large epidemic of sickness in politics as a result of this, it would do a good service to the country, for at any rate we should then have voting people who took an intelligent interest in and understood the issues and who were not misled by superficial appearances.
With regard to the university vote. Judging from the history narrated by the previous speaker, one would think there never had been a conflict against religious conscience in the form of a bar to entrance to universities. If you want materialism at its very worst masquerading under the most sacred guise, you find it in the university for generations. At the present moment, university representation is simply plural voting. The right hon. Gentleman does not place so much value on universities as we do. He thinks that, unless universities have representatives here, they are not taking their proper place in the cultured life of the community. If we are going to adopt the Soviet system do not do it in this way: for it is the Soviet system. Hon. Members may shake their heads, but it is the Soviet system to abstract a profession or an institution and to say: "You are going to have a constituency of your own."
Our view is that, if there be any special institution requiring representation here, it is certainly not the universities, because the universites pervade the whole atmosphere of this House, right and left of me, behind and in front of me. The universities cannot help being represented here. There are here Members who have had the good or the ill fortune, I do not know which, to be educated at 1671 Eton or at Harrow and to have gone up to some of the colleges at Oxford. They are not here as university men; I do not believe they want to appear as university men. The great value of university education and the great honour we pay it are due to the fact that the enlightenment from universities has shone through every class of society and every profession, and we have it here pervading our institutions. We do not want to give the vote to those who become graduates and have to pay, I think, £1 for it. We do not want to pay honour to a university by saying to it, "We are going to give you special representation in the House of Commons." I say to the universities, "You are represented in every party in this House; you are represented in every section of this House; you are represented on every bench of this House." If not directly, at any rate there are men here who owe their culture to the spreading of enlightenment by universities. That is the best representation that they can have.
I therefore support this Bill. I support it on its mechanical side. I support the alternative vote. I believe in majority government. I believe, if you had two or three Parliaments like that of 1924, the people of the country would not only get sick of politics but would despair. If you get a Parliamentary majority without getting the backing of the country behind it, you need not only talk about Communism, but you will have contributed something towards the progress of Communism. It is only in so far as this House really represents popular opinon that it is going to retain its authority over the minds of the people. It is in order that it may retain this authority that I gladly give my support to the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. OLIVER STANLEY
There is no doubt that the recent Recess has had a revitalising effect on right hon. Gentlemen opposite, for during the last few days we have had laid before us a considerable portion of that national planning which we are told by their supporters is so essential in this time of national crisis. The first instalment was the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions (Amendment) Bill, now laid out upstairs awaiting interment, with every expression of respect, at the hands of Members 1672 below the Gangway. We are to-day discussing the second instalment of the plan. Unfortunately, neither the Home Secretary nor the Prime Minister has been able to bring home clearly to the House that the primary object of this legislation is, as surely must be the primary object of any legislation before the House to-day, to do something for the grave crisis in which the country finds itself. It has strengthened the belief in many parts of the country that this Bill is concerned less with the material fortunes of this country than with the political fortunes of Members opposite and of Members below the Gangway. Whatever its object may be, there can be no doubt that its effect is pleasing to hon. Members. We do not grudge them that pleasure. They have had a difficult time. We admire the skill with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr Lloyd George) has played a bad hand So far the connection between hon. Members below the Gangway and hon. Members opposite has been both a precarious and an irregular one. We have had periods of advance and periods of retreat, we have had times of great warmth and times of great coldness, times of cajoling and times of threatening. But at last the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, is to have his reward, and the Prime Minister, though with a certain reluctance, is to-day going to make an honest woman of him.
It was, I believe, the old custom with regard to a Bill which altered materially the electoral system of this country that it should only be introduced after being based upon a Resolution which had already received the assent of the House. It would have provided a good deal of interesting Debate if that custom had been followed now and we had been called upon to-day to discuss, first, the Resolution "that this House is in favour of a change in the present electoral system." If that had been passed, then we should have been called upon to discuss the two alternative methods by which that change could have been effected. There is a considerable doubt whether, if a Resolution with regard to a change had been proposed in the House of Commons, it would have received a majority. There is no doubt that a 1673 majority of hon. Members upon this side believe in the maintenance of the present system. I believe there are many hon. Members opposite who also believe in its maintenance. There are, I know, at least, some who are still such sincere Socialists that they are willing to sacrifice beliefs for the possibility of power.
But if we assume that a Resolution of that kind would have received acceptance by the House there can be no doubt whatever that the House, by an immense majority, would have gone on to decide that the proper way to make an electoral change was by a system of proportional representation. So far as Members on these benches are concerned, it was the unanimous decision of their representatives at the Ullswater Conference that if a change was agreed upon it should be by way of proportional representation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) does not disguise the fact that so far as his party was concerned they preferred a system of proportional representation, and, of course, there are undoubtedly many among the supporters of the Government who are in favour of that system. I do not pretend to follow the explanations which the right hon. Gentleman gave of the reasons which had created a change in his mind. I thought at one moment he was concerned lest a majority in the House of Commons might not be represented by a majority in the country, only to find later on that all he wanted was a system which created a majority in the House of Commons whether it represented a majority in the country or not. Let me turn to the clearer statement made by the Home Secretary when moving the Second Reading of the Bill yesterday. He said with regard to proportional representation:The view of the Government is that it is inapplicable, that it is unsuitable within the English Parliamentary system of Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1931; col. 1471, Vol. 247.]I should like to ask him when and why that became the view of the Government? We know that it is not the view of the Home Secretary. He is a keen supporter of proportional representation. Is he not a supporter of that system?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Clynes)
Many years ago—I do not know how long it is since—I was asked to add my name to the list of vice-presidents of the Proportional Representation Society. I then knew much less than now I know of election systems, and I have given no recent authority whatever for the use of my name in this connection.
§ Mr. STANLEY
We are to understand, then, that the letter-heading to the document which I received only to-day from the Proportional Representation Society, and which still contains the name of the right hon. Gentleman, has no authority from him and that it is merely due to carelessness on his part in not having removed it earlier, that his name appears there? Does the same argument apply, I wonder, to the President of the Board of Trade, whose name also appears here; to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose name appears; to the Secretary of State for the Dominions, whose name appears; and to Lord Parmoor, who is chairman of this Society? It certainly meads either great confusion or an extremity of carelessness.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I beg the hon. and gallant Member's pardon. The chairman of the executive committee is the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Cecil Wilson), a Labour Member. In fact, it would appear that hon. Gentlemen opposite have managed to appropriate to themselves almost all the positions of honour and responsibility in this organisation.
§ Mr. STANLEY
No, it is not. The Prime Minister, I understand, has not been as careless as the Home Secretary. He took care to get his name removed from the document.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
May I correct that statement at once? The Prime Minister has always opposed proportional representation and never changed his opinion about it at all.
§ Mr. STANLEY
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to stand out against such powerful opinion among his own colleagues. There is, however, no doubt that if a change had to be made, proportional representation would receive unanimous support on these benches, and, to judge from this paper, it would receive a very large amount of support from hon. Members opposite. We are entitled to ask hon. Members opposite, if they are going to change the system, why is the House not even given an opportunity of discussing one system for which a great majority of its Members have up to now expressed their preference? As it is, we are confined to the Bill which not only assumes that a change is necessary, but, in the way in which it is drawn, actually prevents any method by which the House can be asked to give an opinion upon the alternative method of proportional representation.
That being so, let me discuss the Bill as it is—that is the "marriage lines" of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. It falls into two parts. The first Clause is the effective implementation of the bargain or "gentlemen's agreement" which has been arrived at. The other Clauses, varying in character, have one thing in common, and that is the result which they are likely to have on Conservative representation. I should put it down to a feeling among right hon. Gentlemen opposite that if there is a trough there, they might as well get their feet in it. Let me discuss Clause 1, which deals with the system of the alternative vote. That Clause is urged upon us because of what we are told are anomalies in the present system, and, it is urged presumably, because by this new method you are going to correct some if not all of these anomalies. We are told that the present system works unfairly in constituencies where a man may be elected who is not only not the first, but the last choice of the constituents; in districts where you may find important minorities entirely without representation, and, finally, in the country where by some freak of electoral chance a party may be returned to power with a majority against the expressed views of the people. Let us see in each of these three 1676 cases how these anomalies are going to be corrected by the alternative vote.
I first take the case of the single constituency and I select the example of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen is so fond, namely, the Shipley by-election. As far as I remember, the figures were 16,000 votes for the Conservative, 15,000 for the Socialist and 12,000 for the Liberal. The fact that the Conservative was returned, and that his return was greeted as a victory for Safeguarding, has roused the irritation of the right hon. Gentleman, who points out that, in fact, there was a large majority against that proposal. What would have happened under the alternative vote? It is to be presumed that in the present state of politics, a majority of the second preferences of the Liberal party would have been given to the Socialist candidate, with the result that the Socialist would have been elected instead of the Conservative. If that result were acclaimed, as no doubt it would be, by hon. Members opposite as a resounding victory for the cause of Socialism, would the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen have agreed with them, seeing that the majority in that constituency was rather more decisive against Socialism than it was against Safeguarding? If it is an anomaly that the man who represented Safeguarding was elected, would it not have been just as great an anomaly if the man who represented Socialism had been elected?
Let me analyse these figures further. I do not think that for the purposes of argument it would be an unfair assumption to say that the second preferences of the Conservative taken as a whole would be given to the Liberal, while the second preferences of the Liberal would be given to the Socialist. We are told that it is quite unfair that the Conservative should have been elected, because he did not represent a majority of the votes in the constituency. We are told that under the system of the alternative vote we shall ensure the return of the man who commends himself to the majority of the people in the constituency. At Shipley, presumably, the 12,000 people who voted for the Liberal would rather see the Liberal returned than the Socialist, and the 16,000 Conservatives, who would under the alternative vote have given their second pre- 1677 ferences to the Liberal, would state distinctly by that act that they would rather see the Liberal returned than the Socialist. Thus you would have had 28,000 people out of 43,000 saying distinctly: "We would rather have the Liberal than the Socialist." Yet, under the alternative vote system, the Socialist would be returned to power. You would ignore the first choices of the largest party in the constituency and you would ignore the second choices of the largest party in the constituency, and you would choose your Member by a purely fortuitous formula which might, in fact, represent majority opinion in the constituency or might not. And we are asked to change our present electoral system for such a system as that, on the ground that it is going to correct existing anomalies.
I turn to the next ground of complaint against the present system. It is that you may get whale districts where, through the freakish working of our system, large majorities may be completely unrepresented. The stock cases which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen used at the Ullswater Conference were Glamorgan, represented entirely by Socialists but with a large minority vote of Conservatives and Liberals unrepresented; Surrey, where the Conservatives have the advantage and—as the right hon. Gentleman always used to add, with that impartial candour which impels him to put such facts against his own case as are already known to his opponents—Cornwall, where Liberals are returned. How does the alternative vote affect the anomalies which arise in these districts? I understand from calculations which have been made, on the basis of the last election, that with the alternative vote, no difference at all would have been made in Glamorgan. In Surrey, it is calculated that the Conservatives would have lost one seat to the two Opposition parties. As far as Cornwall is concerned, the position is more difficult because the numbers there are closer together and I must leave that to the right hon. Gentleman. He, no doubt, has had elaborate calculations prepared to show what the effect of the alternative vote would be on the fortunes of his party. Perhaps he can tell us if those calculations show that, by reason of the alternative vote, the anomaly which to-day exists in Cornwall 1678 would be rectified at the expense of one or more of his right hon. and hon. Friends who now sit for Cornish Divisions.
The case which has been quoted in this House of the election in 1926 of the Federal Senate in Australia is an even graver case. Australia apparently is a country where, to quote the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), "dog don't eat dog," and as the result of a pact between the two anti-Socialist parties, the Socialists, although they polled 45 per cent. of a total poll of 2,600,000, were left completely without representation. It is not impossible that that might create a precedent for the future. Hon. Members opposite treat it very lightly to-day. To-day they are basking in the sunshine of the smile of the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway and they are apt to forget that there may be a cloud. The right hon. Gentleman may find more to attract him in other quarters, and, if that happened, and if the alternative vote produced such a result as that to which I have referred, what would be the expressions used by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite? Would they then treat the alternative vote, in the eloquent words of that master of self-complacent platitude, the Minister of Health, as a step further "along the road to the realisation of political democracy," ar would a Socialist party, which had 45 per cent. of the votes, but had no representation in this House, say that it was a fraud, a sham and a delusion and that the. Parliamentary system under those principles was impossible?
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Is that not the exact position in which we are, in many places all over the country?
§ Mr. STANLEY
I understood that the alternative vote was to correct that. I turn to an even more serious criticism that has been made, namely, that under the present system you may by chance get in this House of Commons a Government with a large majority which is not represented by a similar majority in the country. The case largely quoted is that of the Conservative Government in 1924 when we had a majority of 200—although it has been calculated by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne), that under the alternative vote system we should still have had a majority of 40 or 50.
1679 Let me put before the House what is perhaps an even better case. I am quoting from the "Nation" of 27th December, 1930. The "Nation" is, I understand, a Liberal paper. I do not know which section of the party it supports, whether it supports King Log or King Stork, but it takes a monarchical view, and the right hon. Gentleman will not accuse it of being unfair or biased. It made a calculation, not of the results of the election of 1924, but of the election of 1929, under the system of the alternative vote, and they used what they called "a realistic formula"; that is to say, they attempted the impossible thing of divining what the Liberal party would have done at any given time. The result that they got under the alternative vote for the last election was: Labour 326, Conservatives 180, Liberals 100. It is quite true that that result would have brought some numerical benefit to hon. Members below the Gangway. Instead of being 60, they would have been 100, and there would have been 40 more Liberal Members to add their voices, but presumably not their votes, to the transactions of this House.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the figures of the votes given at the last election: 8,000,000 to the Socialists; rather more than 8,000,000 for the Conservatives; and 5,000,000 for the Liberals. Which House of Commons best represents that position in the country? A House of Commons as it is to-day, with the two large parties almost equal, and the balance held by hon. Members below the Gangway, or a House of Commons as it would have been elected under the alternative vote, with the Socialists having an all-over majority in the House of Commons although only 8,000,000 votes out of the 22,000,000 odd in the election Would that have represented the views of the country? Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that the mere addition of 40 to his numbers would have compensated him for the balance which he is able to hold between the more or less equal parties? Those people who quote against us the 1921 election under the present system, should remember what would have been the case in 1929 if we had had the system of the alternative vote.
1680 This Bill with its alternative vote does not correct anomalies, but merely shifts them. It is true that anomalies which to-day may redound to the advantage of this party, may in future redound to the advantage of hon. Members below the Gangway, but do not let us pretend that under the alternative vote these anomalies are going to be done away with, or that the freak results that can be attained to-day cannot equally be attained under a new system. While it will not remove any of the grievances which are the grievances, not of the elector, but of the politician, it will add a genuine grievance to the elector. Politics in the constituencies are a great deal more virile than in the House of Commons. When you get down to the constituency, the ordinary elector is a party man; he is a Liberal or a Socialist or a Conservative before he is a Free Trader, or a bi-metallist or an anti-vaccinator, or whatever the artificial divisions that the right hon. Gentleman draws. The elector is concerned about getting his own man in, and the man who has been trying to secure the return, say, of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), is not really satisfied if you tell him that as a second best he can have the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen. He does understand that if his man does not head the poll he does not get in, and he is prepared to accept that as more or less rough justice; but what he will not understand is the situation which we shall get under the new scheme, when the man whom he has been supporting heads the poll, and by something which he will regard as a juggling of figures, he is deposed and somebody else is elected.
We shall have ample opportunities of dealing with the rest of the Bill in the Committee stage. I should only like to select for honourable mention the Clause which deals with the use of motor cars, because for facile conception and ineptitude of execution it is so far ahead of the others that it cannot be left out. With regard to whether it will work or not, I have one or two instances drawn from my own particular case, but, as I saw that equally difficult questions asked yesterday have never been answered, it is hardly worth while repeating them. I will just put this one point to the House. We will discuss later whether hon. Members opposite have a grievance, 1681 and whether this Clause will remedy it, but do not let us forget what the result is going to be if they are completely successful and by this Clause they keep away from the poll a certain number of Conservatives who are too lazy or too busy or live too far away to get to the poll without the use of a motor car. Even if they do not vote, they are still Conservatives. The right hon. Gentleman opposite may deprive them of their chance to vote, but they are not going to change their opinions, and it will simply mean one further section of the population unrepresented in this House. It will simply mean that just by so much more this House of Commons is unrepresentative, that just so many more people have no interest in supporting it or any reason to uphold it. It will be just one more weakening of the defence which the House of Commons will require against the attacks which are converging upon it from every quarter. [interruption.] I hope that I am not interrupting the hon. Member's monologue, but I will try and be as brief as possible.
I have a suggestion to make to hon. Members opposite, and to those below the Gangway, and I must preface my remarks by saying that I have no authority for making it from my party, and that it is quite probable that they will entirely dissociate themselves from it. I feel that we must get down to fundamentals and to what hon. Members opposite and below the Gangway really want out of this Bill. We know what hon. Members below the Gangway want; they want security. For 18 months they have been delivering the goods, and now the time has come to get paid, and they want to see that they are paid in full. We do not blame them. They have had a hard time; they have sacrificed their pride, policy, and principles, and now that the time has come for them to receive their reward we do not want to see them cheated. We feel that nowadays, when silver is such a fluctuating commodity, they would prefer to be paid in gold, and one supposes that this Bill is a gold bond. Hon. Members opposite want speed. They feel that with 2,500,000 unemployed, with the situation of the country as grave as it is, Bills like this dealing with a great national emergency must be pushed through without the loss of any valuable moments. And yet they have lumbered up this Bill 1682 with five or six different Clauses, all very contentious, which will require a lot of discussion.
If you come down to it, however, the whole Bill could have been described in one sentence—a Bill for reducing Conservative representation in the House of Commons. That is what hon. Members below the Gangway and hon. Members opposite want. I can suggest a much better way of getting it. All those who have been interested in the Indian question, will no doubt have read of the curious system which they have for the representation of minorities. I remember the Prime Minister describing it last week to the House, and poking a little gentle fun at it—all, of course, in the best taste. He told the House bow these dear delightful people, as he called the Mohammedans and the Sikhs of the Punjab, had a system called the system of separate electorate with reserved seats. I will not detain the House by explaining how the system works, but the result is that at any time before or after an election, or during the term of a Parliament, you know what that Parliament is going to consist of. You can say exactly how many Hindus, how many Sikhs, how many Mohammedans will he in it. Would it not be much better to have a system of that kind, when we could know, without any of the doubts and dangers which might arise under this Bill, just how many Socialists there will be, how many Liberals, and how many Conservatives? We could still have elections—the image of war with only about 5 per cent. of its dangers.
My advice to the right hon. Gentleman is to withdraw this Bill, which nobody wants, and settle down as quickly as possible to hammer out with the right hon. Gentleman the proportion which his party and that party require to make their position in the House of Commons safe. If there were any difficulty about arriving at an arrangement, he could always take a few of the depressed classes on these benches. I assure hon. Members opposite that it is a far, far better way. In the present state of public opinion, it is the only way in which this political combination, this unfortunate union of incompetence and indecision which has already brought this country to the brink of ruin, can get the chance unhampered and unhandicapped of fulfilling its charge.
§ Mr. PHILIP OLIVER
I find myself in practical agreement with a great part of the speech of the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Stanley), with the exception of the fantastic proposal with which it ended. With much that he said, the greater number of people who sit upon these benches would agree. He opened by saying that the effect of this Measure seemed to be very pleasing to the Liberal party. I do not feel particularly gloomy, but our joy at this Measure is a very modified joy indeed. The hon. Member suggested that we had not been paid in full. [Interruption.] Oh, he said we wanted to be paid in full; but we have not been paid in full, because the coin seems, at any rate to me and to some others of us, to be rather counterfeit. This Government, thank Heaven, is not our Government, and the spirit of this Opposition is not our spirit, but we have to muddle on. At any rate, let us be certain of this, that something has got to be done in this matter of electoral reform. The events of 1924 must not happen again. I would ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway to realise that, without any exaggeration of language, 1924 was an outrage upon democracy, for we had a majority of electors voting against a party in the country and yet that party was not only put into office and into power, but into overwhelming power, with the opportunity of governing, or misgoverning, the country for four or five years. So 1924 must not happen again, any more than 1926 must happen again. With the events of 1926 we were concerned last week; this week we are concerned with those of 1924. If we are to have a real democracy, neither must happen again. What we are concerned with in considering this Bill is whether or not it proceeds on the right lines if it be granted that something has got to be done. There are before us the two proposals of the alternative vote and proportional representation.
§ Mr. OLIVER
I am afraid I called that rather fantastic. I hope the hon. Member will form a society to advocate it, and perhaps the occupants of the Treasury Bench will become vice-presidents, and I have no doubt a good deal of propaganda could be undertaken. For the time being, however, I must rule 1684 it out of account. Let us turn to practical alternatives, to the alternative vote and proportional representation. [An HON. MEMBER "Speak up!"] I think it is only right that someone should say from these benches how very deeply we regret that the Government have not seen their way to adopt the solution of proportional representation. I understand from the Prime Minister that he is not doing it because it is revolutionary. A hundred years ago the party of which I am a member, which happened then to be a larger party than it is now, introduced a real revolution in electoral reform; it introduced the great Reform Bill which was passed in the succeeding year. I hoped that the effort of the Liberal party 100 years ago would have been crowned this year by our successors producing what would really be a revolution, and a beneficial revolution, in democratic representation.
Where there is one dominant issue in a General Election certainly the alternative vote is very much to be preferred to the present system. I imagine that at the next General Election we are to have one dominant issue. It is not we who are pressing this issue on the country, nor hon. Members opposite, but hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who sit above the Gangway. It is the dominant issue of Free Trade or Protection. If, as I understand, that is to be the dominant issue, quite obviously the alternative vote will give the country a far better chance than it has at present of really expressing its opinion, because in most constituencies we shall no doubt have two Free Traders fighting one Protectionist. It may be that in other constituencies we shall have two Protectionists and two Free Traders, because there are all sorts of weird battalions of crusaders and pilgrims of Protectionism arising, and unless we have a form of alternative vote under which, through their second preferences, the electors will be able to show their opinion upon the dominant issue, it may be that the next House of Commons will as much misrepresent the country as did the Parliament of 1924. I believe it would be fatal not only to our economic future, but to democracy, if on a great issue of that kind there were a large Free Trade majority in the country and a large Protectionist majority in this House. It is 1685 because this Bill will save us from such misrepresentation that we welcome it; but that is really as far as one can go. I am speaking now only of Clause 1. Where there is a General Election without a dominant issue, quite obviously the alternative vote is not a system which will give anything like a satisfactory House of Commons representing the views of the community as a whole. Already figures have been quoted with regard to the election for the Senate in the Australian Commonwealth in 1925, showing that 45 per cent. of the electorate voted for the Labour party but that, through a combination of the Nationalist and the Country parties, not a single Labour member was returned. When such results happen, not only in theory, but in actual fact, the system of the alternative vote really stands condemned, and one is very sorry that a progressive Government has seen fit to introduce it rather than Proportional Representation.
Let us come from Australia to our own country, and let me start where the hon. Member for Westmorland invited us to start, from Cornwall. Cornwall is a very remarkable county, which has the most admirable representation of any county. We in this narrow exiguous party have been thrust down to the edges of the world—to Cornwall, Wales, and the North of Scotland I do not know whether we are going to be pushed into the sea or whether, like the Danes and Scandinavians, we are starting a reconquest of this country. I would address myself particularly to the position of Labour candidates, in the hope that I shall be able to win over the hearts of hon. Members opposite. In Cornwall all the Labour candidates were third on the poll, and therefore, under the alternative vote, there would have been no chance at the last General Election of Labour winning a single one of those seats. More than 30,000 people in Cornwall voted Labour, but their candidates were all at the bottom of the poll, and so there was no chance that they would get the second preference of anyone; and, under the alternative vote, Cornwall would still have remained without a single labour representative. Let us travel along the South Coast. In the county of Devon, again, all the Labour candidates were at the bottom of the poll. More than 26,000 1686 people in Devon voted Labour, but none of them would have had any chance of getting any representative of his creed to represent him in Parliament, because all Labour candidates were at the bottom of the poll. Let us go to the next county, Dorset, where we see the same thing happening. All the Labour candidates at the bottom of the poll, although nearly 25,000 people in that county voted Labour.
In the next county, Hampshire, all the Labour men were at the bottom of the poll with one exception, and he was second. If 72 per cent. of the Liberals had given him their second preferences—and to suggest that he would have got 72 per cent. is snaking rather an exhaustive drain on an uncertain quantity—he would have been at the top of the poll. However, it is very unlikely that he would have got that. 72 per cent., and so in Hampshire, again, there would have been nearly 40,000 people voting Labour who, under the alternative vote system, would have been absolutely unrepresented in. this House. In Sussex the Labour candidates were all at the bottom of the poll with one exception, and that was in a division in which the Conservative had an over-majority, so the alternative vote would not have been exercised. In Sussex the 34,000 people who voted Labour would have had no chance under the alternative vote of getting any one of their candidates elected. In Surrey the position would have been the same, except that in one case if they had captured 90 per cent. of our Liberal votes as second preferences—an utterly impossible thing to do—Labour might have got one representative. Apart from that there would have been no Labour representative in Surrey, although nearly 45,000 people there voted Labour.
We see, therefore, along the South Coast, more than 206,000 people voting Labour without, under the alternative vote, a chance of getting any Labour representative in the House of Commons. This is a matter which ought to be taken into consideration, because this House does not exist simply to be the mirror of the country as a whole, but ought also to be the mirror of each individual part of the country, as it is through local patriotism that we really build up patriotism itself. Thomas Hardy was our great national dramatist, because he was a lover of Dorset, and Kipling was our 1687 great national poet, because ho was a lover of Sussex; and just as Hardy was a man of Dorset and Kipling was a man of Sussex, so, also, the politicians of Dorset and of Sussex, if they are in sufficient numbers, deserve to be represented by people of their own type here. It it not enough for all the Liberals in the middle part of this great country to realise that there are excellent people like the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) coming here from Cornwall to represent them. A Labour man in Cornwall deserves to be represented here, a Conservative in Durham deserves to be represented here, and a Liberal from Sussex deserves to be represented here, and I am very sorry that the Government have not seen their way to bring in a Measure of Proportional Representation instead of the alternative vote. I know the Prime Minister has always been against Proportional Representation. I have a remarkable quotation from a speech which he delivered on the Second Reading of the Representation of the People Bill in 1917. He was then arguing against Proportional Representation, and was envisaging the blocks which would come into existence. He said:The result is going to be this …. that you are to have a large block of Members on one side of the House, say 200 or 300 Members on one side, and a large block of Members on the other side, another 200 or 300 Members, and a small group of special, superior, selected men, sitting below the Gangway, and these superior men elected on their personal merits, are going to save this Sodom and Gomorrah from complete destruction."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1917; col. 2224, Vol. 93.]I think that was a very prophetic utterance. But it did not need Proportional Representation to bring about that state of affairs. That is exactly the position now. I am not saying that the hon. Members sitting around me are special and superior and selected; if they are, it is only because they are a very average sample of Liberalism in the country; but the position has come not through Proportional Representation, but under the present existing system. The Prime Minister said Proportional Representation would lead to our having a collection of minorities. Our present system has given us a collection of minorities. Hon. Members opposite are a minority, we are a minority, and hon. Members above the 1688 Gangway on this side are a minority. We are a collection of minorities, and because of that Parliament may be somewhat uncertain; but many of us believe that with Proportional Representation giving the House a direct measure of the country's opinion, and with some measure of fixity of Parliaments, we should have a far better and more democratic Constitution than at present. For the immediate future, and in view of the fight on Protection and Free Trade, we accept this Measure; but when this Measure is passed I hope that either the present Government or same succeeding Government will attack this problem with a broader vision and will bring in a real Measure of electoral reform.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am very sorry the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. O. Stanley) is unable to remain in his place, because I wanted to ask him one or two questions about his suggestion for a stabilised national assembly. I am not too conversant with the Mohammedan-Hindu arrangement to which he referred, but it seemed to me that he did not need to go so far as that to find a governing body, or legislating body, stabilised on the basis of a majority of one party. He has only to go into the middle of the Floor, turn his face, and walk 100 yards forward, and then he will find a Chamber where one political party has arranged that it shall be in a permanent majority. Consequently, when the hon. Member is coming forward with novel suggestions, we expect from him something more than a mere replica of what we have got at the other end of this building. I cannot say that I have any enthusiasm about the introduction of this Measure, and if I had any influence with the Government I should have used it against its introduction. When one considers the devices which are necessary for becoming a Governmental party, I often wonder whether that is a real place where power lies. The operations of the Government seem to have a colouration more in conformity with the views of hon. Members opposite and hon. Members below the Gangway than with many of the views which I hold.
When one is beginning to meditate on the problems of democracy and the beet methods of securing an effective demo- 1689 cratic expression of those problems, doubts arise in one's mind whether it is advantageous to a movement to be represented here at all, and, if it is represented, whether it should be sitting behind those who are manipulating the mechanism of Government at any given moment. I think that the vital problem confronting the Government just now is not so much proportional representation, but the social condition of the people. The poverty problem is something from which this House should not get far away, and that should be our first problem. Our second problem is that of economic reconstruction, but that is a secondary question to the condition of the people, and any influence I have will always be in the direction of keeping the condition of the people in front of any question of economic reconstruction.
The question of vital urgency is that of the poverty of the people, and we have no right to be spending our money and our time on the consideration of economic reconstruction, or the arrangement of our political machinery, until we have made it perfectly certain that there is nobody outside crying for bread. We must take that view. Many of our people are, at the present moment, in a very serious position, and yet we are discussing many things which are really very small compared with the condition of the people who are right up against poverty. The social condition of the people must be considered before economic reconstruction, and before we consider any readjustment of the machinery of Government we ought to consider a readjustment of the channels through which we work when we are here in the House of Commons.
It is obvious to all those who have sat in this and the last Parliament that our Parliamentary machinery runs along very clumsily, and places upon every one of us a terrible restraint. It puts us into anomalous positions, and very often we have to choose between fundamental questions of honour and questions of general loyalty to party. The position we are placed in often makes us choose between things which we think are right and those which are expedient. The question of how we are going to operate when we get here is one that ought to be decided as a question of more importance than how we are to adjust the machinery that sent us here. I have listened to all 1690 the arguments upon proportional representation and the alternative vote, and it depends on what the mechanism is going to be as to which of the two devices is better for the election of a party. Are we going to stick to a two-party system? This House seems to be run on two parties. Are we going to have a two-party system with, perhaps, a third party developing on the flank of one of the two? I do not think there is a place for a third decaying party unless as a matter of historical interest.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am not suggesting that the Members of the Liberal party are dead politicians, or have ceased to be vital, but I am suggesting that the theories and ideas that Liberalism has to give have no application here. [Interruption.] It depends more on the vitality of your personality than upon the vitality of your theories. In the main, this House is asking for a Cabinet system with Cabinet responsibility, with the rank and file of the party merely as followers, and if that system is to continue then the alternative vote is right, because it will stifle minorities. This device makes for a two-party system. There may be an alternative, so-called progressive party which may be able to exist through one or two elections, but there will be more common ground developed between the two so-called progressive parties, and there will be more and more a coming together of policies. There will be one party which is reactionary, and glories in being reactionary, that exists to maintain the traditions of the country of a very general character, and another party which stands for a more benevolent view towards humanity than is represented by the other party.
The alternative vote seems to me to make for a two-party system, and does not give opportunities for vitalising streams coming into the party of progress or reaction. Therefore, I say, if we are to have the old two-party system, then the alternative vote suits it quite well, and we shall have the same old story of the Opposition denouncing the Government for their blackguardism, and doing the same things that the Opposition did when they were sitting on the Government Benches. Under a system of Government where 1691 Cabinet responsibility is going to be of a nature where the life of a Government does not depend on the adverse vote of the House, there is a possibility of Proportional Representation being a suitable device. Until you have made up your minds what changes you are going to make in your Parliamentary methods and in your Government machinery, you should leave the question of how you are going to elect your representatives very much as it is now. I support very heartily all devices which tend to make the vote of each elect-or as valuable as the vote of any other elector, and I believe "one man one vote" is still a principle held by the Labour party. Anything that tends to make the vote of one man as important as the vote of any other man is something to be welcomed by those who believe in equality.
I particularly welcome the proposal to abolish university representation. cannot see any defence or justification for it at all. I would be sorry to lose from this House some figures that have come here through the medium of the universities, but there is no one who has come into this House, in my period, from any one of the universities, who, if he had chosen the appropriate constituency outside, and was prepared to put into the matter the necessary energy and suffer the necessary inconvenience for the election period. could not have been returned to this House for an appropriate seat. Those who have been through the universities themselves feel that there is something wrong when some one man can stand up in this House and say that he is speaking for the university that he represents here, because, candidly, with all the modesty which I undoubtedly possess, I think I am as capable of speaking about the interests of Glasgow University—and I have come from an East End constituency, elected by slum dwellers—as any of the other gentlemen who have been sent here to represent the Scottish universities. In any case, I cannot see why I myself, as a university graduate who has paid, not the miserable 10s. to which the Prime Minister referred, but, I think 21s., should have secured a right for life to a double representation in this House of Commons.
1692 I do not know the products of the English universities very well, except in so far as I have met them here, but I do know the normal man or woman who comes out of a Scottish university. He becomes the local schoolmaster, or the local lawyer, or the local doctor, or the local cleric. In any one of these positions he has very great political influence. His academic qualifications give his word a political weight which is not equalled by that of the average man in the community in which he lives. I question whether the word that he delivers justifies proportionately the weight that is usually given to it, but it is undoubtedly true that the university man, once he has left the university, ceases to have as his main interest the life of that university. He is a member of the general community. As a member of the general community, he has his ordinary rights as a citizen; he has his ordinary vote as a citizen; and, if his education has put him on to a higher plane of intellect than his less fortunate brethren, he should be quite satisfied with the additional political influence that that superior intellectual attainment gives him, without wanting in addition to have an extra vote and an extra representative in the House of Commons.
I say frankly that I cannot accept for one minute the argument for the retention of university Members on the ground of antiquarian value. I cannot accept it at all. I am prepared to stand for all the harmless symbolism which surrounds this House, and which tends to preserve in symbolic form the history of this nation: but, where it becomes something more than symbolism, where it is a claim, not merely to represent the past, but to dominate the future, then I begin to object, and to object very strongly. I cannot understand how the Government, which refuses representation to a strongly historic and antiquarian interest in the case, of the universities, should be prepared to recognise its force in connection with the City of London. That they should provide a specially favoured position for the City of London is quite indefensible.
I am quite prepared to accept the historic recognition that is given to the. City of London here. On the reopening of Parliament, we allow special representatives from the City of London to come and sit on our Front Bench, and 1693 wear appropriate robes, and I understand that they have some special privileges in regard to presenting petitions at the Bar of this House. I am not prepared to withdraw those privileges. But to say that, because of the historic connection between the City of London and this House, the men whose business premises happen at this juncture to be in the City of London are to be given a political power which is to be denied to the business men of Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow or Edinburgh, is something that no one standing in the name of democracy could possibly tolerate, and I hope that this blemish on the Bill will be removed during the Committee stage. One other point with which I desire to deal is the question of the limitation of expenses. This is a matter on which I feel very strongly. I have always regarded it as a right view of democracy that, in a general election, absolutely nothing should be done by a responsible political candidate that savours either of petty bribery or of mass bribery—[Interruption]—any kind of bribery. I do not quite understand—
§ Mr. E. BROWN
May I put this point? Does the hon. Member think that to offer 50s. a week to an unemployed man with a family of six, or 40 per cent. off a person's rent, is mass bribery?
§ Mr. MAXTON
it is quite true, as the hon. Member suggests, that it is not my money, but in my view it is the money of the people who have not got it, and if I may use my electioneering platform to suggest that the wealth which has been taken from the poor by the rich should be returned to the poor, I do not regard that as bribery of the electors—[Interruption.]—but merely as propounding my political theory; and, if I have promised that a man and his wife with six children should have £2 10s. a week, I can assure the House that that is only a very moderate sum, to which I think they are entitled. That, again, is in another category altogether. If I say that I want certain social changes in this country—if I make that statement bluntly and openly—it is open to those 1694 who are opposing me in the election to state their objections to it and the fallacies of it as strongly and as plainly as I have made my statement.
Where I think we are treating the electorate cheaply is in arranging for great brass band demonstrations, in broadcasting big photographs of ourselves, in displaying cheap witticisms on the hoardings suggesting to the electorate that they can be led to vote for a particular political party by devices and suggestions and arguments that would not count with ourselves for half a minute. I think that electioneering should be limited to a plain statement to the electors in writing of the candidate's views, that every constituent should have a reasonable opportunity of seeing and hearing the man who is standing for him, and that the expenses should be limited to an amount that will permit of that plain statement, in writing and in speech, of the case of the candidate and the party for which he stands. I have found in my own experience that, where a candidate has taken a definite stand and has said that he was going to limit his election expenses to the plain duty of laying his case before the electors, and nothing more, his political opponents, whether Liberal or Tory, have been very glad to respond in at least some degree, and to impose corresponding limitations upon themselves.
I hope that the Clause in the Bill which proposes to limit expenses will be considerably strengthened, that what I know to be an intolerable burden on a great many individual Members of this House, and an intolerable burden on a great many organisations that are responsible for sending men to this House, will be brought down to reasonable limits, and that the approach of the candidate to his electors will be the approach of one intelligent man to a group of people whom he believes to be equally intelligent with himself, and equally capable of forming intelligent judgments on the problems confronting the nation. I propose to support the Second Reading of this Bill very heartily, and I propose during the Committee stage to use whatever influence I may possess to amend it drastically along the lines of the criticisms that I have offered. Again I express regret that we should be taking up what, I am sure, 1695 will be a large amount of the time of the House of Commons with this particular Bill, when the crying issue confronting the country is that of the social condition of the people.
§ Sir JOHN WITHERS
In this Debate I am one of the accused in the dock. The advice that is given to people in the dock is almost invariably that they had better say nothing about their case, but there is one exception that is always granted, and that is in a case where the accused is obviously innocent. In that case, he is generally advised to say what he thinks best in the circumstances. That is the spirit in which I propose to take the liberty of addressing the House on this occasion, and I propose to bring forward as temperately and as moderately as I can one or two points which I think the House ought to consider and bear in mind before coming to a decision on the Second Reading of this Bill.
Before the War, exclusive of Dublin, the university voters numbered 43,000. They now number 120,000. That is to say, in those few years, they have been multiplied by three. Owing to the new system which is at work, and to the fact of all graduates being entitled to votes, there will be a great increase in the future, and in all probability in the next 10 years, if things were allowed to remain as they are, the number of university voters would be about 240,000. Simultaneously with this, a very great change has taken place in the electorate itself. Formerly, the people who went to the universities belonged to the richer classes who could afford to send their sons there, and, naturally, the feelings and political ideas of that class were reflected in the representatives whom they sent to this House. Now, roughly speaking, taking all the universities together, 50 per cent. of the Members of the universities come originally from elementary schools.
There has already been a change. We have now 12 university Members. Of these, eight are Conservatives, two are Independent, and two are Liberal. I venture to state that, if the present state of things is allowed to go on, in a very short time the difference in the people who are now coming to the universities will be reflected in the numbers of members of the different parties that will be sent to this House. I say that 1696 definitely, not putting forward the theory, which I do not think anyone will put forward, that going to a university of itself and being taught there naturally conduces to Conservative views. Another point that ought to be dealt with is the foreign voter. Roughly speaking, you may take it that about 10 per cent, of the voters at present are abroad. That is, I should think there would be about 12,000 voters resident abroad. It has been suggested that these people are not worthy of consideration because they are Riviera loafers and people who go about on pleasure but, if you look to the various lists and registers, you will see that they are not that class at all. They are tea-planters, consuls, men of business and civil servants in various parts of the world, all hard working and industrious people, and I should have thought it would be a very useful thing to have their votes in any matter concerning the country, especially where foreign questions were concerned.
Another matter I should like to bring to the notice of the House is the violent change which is to take place in such a very short time after a different policy was decided upon. In 1907, whennone was for a party;Then all were for the Statethere was a conference under the presidency of the Speaker of that day, and the reform of the franchise which was ultimately carried into effect was, in the report of the Conference, definitely conditional on the fact that the representation of universities should be retained. Not only was the representation of the universities to be retained, but it was to be very greatly extended. The result was the Act of 1918, when a large extension of the principle took place. Before that, there were five constituencies—Oxford, Cambridge, London, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Three new university constituencies were added—the combined English, Wales and Belfast—and now there are 12.
If all parties were agreed in 1917, and afterwards in 1918, to extend the university vote, what has happened to alter that policy? Is it a question of principle? That might quite well be argued except for one thing in the Bill, the treatment of London. Why should the universities be differentiated from London? Why should the mere fact that 1697 a man has an office in the City of London give him special treatment over a man who has taken a degree at one of the universities and who hitherto has had a second vote? I admit that there is a great deal to be said for "One man one vote." I understand that. But why on earth is the principle not to be applied to the City of London when it is applied to the universities? It cannot, therefore, be a matter of principle. Why is it? It has been admitted in these Debates that it is a matter of agreement between two parties for the purpose of getting rid of Conservative Members of the House. [Interruption.] If it was a matter of two votes, it would be quite open to the Government to say that everyone shall vote only once. They are taking away that chance from us, and that is where they are differentiating us from London.
§ Sir ERNEST BENNETT
Does the hon. Gentleman say there are 12,000 members of the University of Oxford with voting rights abroad?
§ Sir J. WITHERS
No. 10 per cent. of the voters of Oxford are abroad. That would be 1,600, and there are 120,000 university voters in all the universities. Taking that as an average, I reckon that there would be about 12,000 residents abroad. The universities would be perfectly satisfied if it was decided that, after a careful consideration by all parties of the merits of the case, the university vote should be done away with. Of course, they would not like it, but they would submit with a good grace and would appreciate that it was done in the public interest. When it is done as the result of a cynical bargain for party advantage, they submit a reasonable protest.
I should like to end on a rather more personal note. The Home Secretary has made it clear that one of the strong arguments that he puts forward in favour of the abolition of the university franchise is the suggestion that the universities have sent to Parliament unsuitable representatives not worthy of the great institutions and interests which they are supposed to represent. I know this is not true of my predecessors or of my present colleagues. If it applies to me, if I have failed in my duty to my constituents or if I have offended in aught 1698 against the spirit or practice of the House or in my efforts for the common good, I pray this House, which is the most generous assembly in the world, to place the blame on me and not count it to the detriment of the great university which I represent, whose interests Must be above all personal considerations.
§ Mr. RAYNES
The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Sir J. Withers) has shown once again the weakness of the arguments that have been used with regard to the university vote. He has used the argument, in which he was joined yesterday by the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford City (Captain Bourne), that university Members living abroad should be retained as voters regardless altogether of the fact that there are many thousands of British citizens living overseas who will not have that privilege. He was claiming for the university graduate living abroad a privilege which is not obtained by other British citizens, business men and manual workers to the tune of many thousands. He joined the hon. Member for the Welsh University (Mr. Evans) in making a comparison between the university voter and the City of London voter. In my opinion, the analogy does not hold good. The university vote is a plural vote. It is a vote in addition to a vote as a citizen or a resident. The City of London vote is not a plural vote. The City of London voter will be able to vote for the City of London in lieu of his residential qualification. I cannot understand why a Socialist Government desires to retain the City of London vote, a double-member constituency. But the point raised by the hon. Member is not a correct analogy as between the City of London voter and the university voter.
I heartily support the Second Reading of the Measure, because, in my view, it establishes one great principle, that of a citizen franchise, based on one qualification only, that of citizenship. It has been argued that there is no demand for this reform and that there is no interest in it on the part of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) yesterday said the average electoris much more interested in the Derby, in the Cup Ties, in the weather, than he is in our proceedings here."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1931; col, 1488, Vol. 247.]1699 The right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, was speaking from his own experience. That may apply to many supporters of the Tory party in the country, but it does not apply to the supporters of a very large number of Members on this side of the House. We find that our electors take a far greater interest in the affairs of this House than in such things as horse racing and football. The right hon. Gentleman qualified his statement by quoting one case which had come under his notice where an elector visited by a Tory canvasser proved that he was definitely interested in the affairs of this House because, when asked which candidate he would vote for, he said there was only one man who he would vote for, and that was Guy Fawkes. There can be no doubt that he was vastly more interested in making an impression on this place than in anything pertaining to horse racing or football.
But, while I very heartily support the Measure because of that one great principle, there are proposals here which cause me very seriously to consider whether they will actually be to the benefit of the country or not. Clause 1 seeks to alter our method of voting, and brings in the alternative vote. I have listened to all the arguments that have been adduced for and against, and I am not yet converted to the principle. The Home Secretary yesterday said our present system was a good one, but he thought the new one would be better.On the whole"—he says,it may be claimed that our system has been good, but good must give way to better, and this Bill, we believe, proposes still a better system along the line of advance in democratic franchise."—[OFFICIAL RFPORT, 2nd February, 1931; col. 1470, Vol. 247.]The alternative vote aims at giving the electors the opportunity of expressing a second choice, should their first choice fail to give any candidate an absolute majority such as he ought to possess. It is precisely because I do not think it is going to give the whole of the electors a second choice that I cannot bring myself fully to support this particular Clause at the present time. I am afraid that the time of candidates in the forthcoming election is going to be spent very largely in advising the electors upon methods of 1700 voting rather than upon their political programmes. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) spoke on this point and said:In the main, the alternative vote does enable electors to do that which they want to do, and that should he the aim of any electoral system"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1931; col. 1500, Vol. 247.]My fear is that this system will give undue weight to the second preferences of one candidate only, and that the bottom candidate in the poll. We have had various illustrations given in the letters of "A," "B" and "C," and I hope that I shall be allowed to give another illustration. Imagine an electorate of 40,000, all voting. "A" gets 19,000 votes, "B" gets 15,000 votes, and "C" gets 6,000 votes and. of course, is thrown out as being at the bottom of the poll. "C's" first preference votes have been considered already along with the other first preference votes, and now his second preference votes come into the calculation, but not the second preference votes of the other candidates. Thus a very small number of second preferences cast in the election, those given to the bottom candidate, become the deciding factor. In my opinion, that is giving an undue weight and importance to the second preference votes cast for the bottom candidate in the election.
I will turn from that matter and deal with Clause 2. As I represent a double-member constituency, it will be realised that. I am particularly interested in this Clause. We have a scheme for dividing 11 boroughs into single-member constituencies, and I am assuming for the moment that for this scheme there will be unanimous agreement. I have heard nothing said against the scheme and I certainly have nothing at all to say against, it, hut in dividing these boroughs into two single-member divisions we shall definitely be creating some very small electorates. I have been wondering if it is altogether beyond possibility in this Bill so to alter these divisions, encroaching to some small extent upon a neighbouring division, in order to create a more equal electorate in those areas. For instance, there are double-member boroughs whose Parliamentary area does not cover the whole of the municipal area. May I quote the one for which I share representation? We have an electorate of something like 85,000, and, if 1701 you take off the plural voters, the number may be reduced to somewhere round about 82,000 electors. Divide the borough, and we get two divisions of 41,000 each, but a neighbouring constituency which takes in a large share of the municipal borough has already an electorate of 70,000. I think that when we are dividing double-member constituencies, we are proving the necessity, if not now, at least at a very early date, of a re-distribution of seats which will alter such anomalies.
There are Clauses in the Bill which, I am convinced, are going to cause a very great deal of difficulty and trouble and the spending of a vast amount of time in Committee. Clause 6 dealing with the restriction of the use of vehicles is, in my opinion, in its present form nothing less than ridiculous. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I knew that I should have the support of hon. Members opposite when I said that. But I am anxious to prohibit the use of vehicles at elections. I do not get much support from the other side of the House when I make such a statement. It is because this Clause will not prohibit the use of vehicles at elections that I criticise it in the way that I do. The Clause as it stands would not prohibit, but certainly would enable any elector owning a car to carry any person to any public house within 50 or 100 yards of the polling station and still be clear of the law. That is not the kind of thing which I want. The kind of Clause which we require to bring about the desire effects would be a Clause entirely prohibiting the use of vehicles for carrying electors to or towards the poll on election day, except for such electors who were invalid or infirm and for whom a special permit would he obtained from the returning officer.
I give my hearty support to the Second Reading of this Measure because of the great principle involved in the bringing in of the citizen franchise. The 1928 Measure gave us complete adult franchise. This Measure will give us complete citizen franchise, and will abolish all plural voting, which in itself is a great argument in favour of the Bill, which I certainly hope is going to get a Second Reading.
§ Mr. LOCKWOOD
I did not propose to intervene in this Debate save for one circumstance, and that is, that the right 1702 hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), in the speech which he delivered to this House yesterday, gave, as an instance in support of one of his arguments, the recent by-election at Shipley. That by-election has been referred to in this House on several occasions, and more than once by the right hon. Member for Darwen. There, may be some excuse for this in the fact that the right hon. Member for Darwen came to the Division to use his influence in the by-election, and, of course, it had no avail. In his address to the House, the right hon. Member for Darwen wished to infer that the result of the Shipley by-election was to show that the election of the Conservative candidate was not a complete vote of the electorate, in favour of Safeguarding. He says that because I advocated Safeguarding firstly, secondly and thirdly, and because the Liberal candidate was equally emphatic in his advocacy of Free Trade, that therefore, of necessity, the whole of the Socialist votes must be accounted on the side of the Liberal candidate.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LOCKWOOD
They must be accounted on the side of the general policy of Free Trade. The punctiliousness of the right hon. Member for Darwen is well known, and sometimes he is very difficult to tolerate for very long, and I wish he would permit me, as a new Member, to follow my arguments, although I may not have the facility of the right hon. Member. That is not so. I will refer only to one quotation From a speech by the Labour candidate, who said:Mr. Lockwood knows that Protection has no more chance of improving trade in this country than has the Liberal candidate's bleating cry that he stands for Free Trade.That is simply an illustration of the attitude of the Socialist candidate throughout that election. He never deliberately advocated Free Trade. He wobbled the whole time, and said that the question of Free Trade and Protection was a matter between the Liberal candidate and myself, the Conservative candidate. When one examines the facts closely, they go to show that illustrations given to the House by hon. Members or right hon. Members who are not 1703 present during the course of a by-election may deceive the House—I do not say willingly—and do not give the House the correct and true course of events at such by-election. So much with regard to the Shipley by-election. As a matter of fact, in that by-election it is not true to say that because votes may have been given to the Socialist candidate they were necessarily given against the Protectionist principle, and perhaps that illustration is one reason for the weakness of this Bill. This Bill is like many other Bills; it is entirely without principle and without backbone. I say this, with all due respect to the House, that a Bill which is introduced in these circumstances—and I have never heard it denied during my presence in the House nor have I read of it denied during the Debate which has taken place—is not a Bill designed for the express purpose of curing some defect. It is a Bill which has been brought into the House as a result of bargaining entirely apart from the functions which a Member of Parliament is returned to accomplish. We are not returned to this House to accomplish some mutual system of bargaining and produce a Bill like this in order to penalise one party may be to the advantage of another party. We are here as delegates to represent the views of the general body of our constituents whatever party may be returned. I should like to impress that fact upon the right hon. Member for Darwen. That was one of the principles which I advocated during the course of my by-election, and it is the principle which I am prepared to carry out here. It is a very general principle which hon. and right hon. Members opposite, and certainly Members below the Gangway, cannot criticise, and one at which they cannot cavil. What is there in this Bill which can be regarded as devised for the benefit of the general body of the electors? There is not a single Clause. Take the Clause referring to motor cars. Why should not a person use a motor car if he wants to go to record his vote, just as he uses a tramcar to go to his work or uses a conveyance for any other purpose? This is an infringement of the liberty of the subject in one of his most important duties. The fact that there may be a greater abundance of motor cars in one particular party is no 1704 logical argument for saying that everybody shall be deprived of the opportunity of being carried to the polling booth. In my constituency, there is an isolated part where the voters would have to walk three miles or more across a bleak, lonely and unlighted moorland in order to reach the polling booth. Why should they not be conveyed to the polls? I do not mind who conveys them. As has been stated frequently in the course of this Debate, a voter is either Liberal, Socialist or Conservative, and it does not matter who conveys him to the poll. Why therefore should we have this provision inserted? I speak for an important industrial constituency, and they have not gone to the trouble of recording their votes in the change over in representation they made in order that I might come here to resist Measures of this kind but they did so in order that I might put at the disposal of Parliament such knowledge as we have of the situation of trade and how to improve it.
Take, again, the question of the alternative vote. Is there any excuse for the Liberal party foisting this Bill upon the House at this moment? The whole conception has been misconstrued by hon. Members below the Gangway. The voter votes for a particular person, whom he has seen or whose electoral address he has read, and the voter has a right to say that he will vote for one man and to leave it at that. Why should they have foisted upon them the duty of voting for a second candidate about whom they may have no feeling or no faith at all? You are foisting upon them the exercise of a duty which they do not wish to have. It is quite true that they need not do it, but, when it comes to the actual operation of such a provision, you will find that confusion will be caused by the agents telling them they must give a second vote or such and such a thing will happen. Statements like that will cause confusion in their minds. We have no right to interfere with the free choice of the electors and with their power to vote for one man merely in order to secure the position of the parties here. If one of us has to choose a person for a particular position, although we may have several applications, we do not do it as suggested by the hon. Members below the Gangway and have an alternative choice, but we make a decisive decision. The elector, 1705 too, has a right to make a decisive choice, whether there are two candidates or three.
This Measure is on a line with the whole of the Measures introduced by the present Government. In the short time I have been in this House there has not been a Measure introduced with the slightest backbone in it or that will accomplish anything useful or that has been devised to meet the present circumstances. I have always understood that the true principle in all our actions, and one which ought to be applied to these Measures, is to approach any problem that may confront us with honesty and sincerity in order to cure the defect which exists. I am sorry that hon. Members opposite, who at all times have a position of power and importance in the Legislature, should demean and degrade their party in this important respect by even tolerating any bargaining. I would be glad to hear if hon. Members below the Gangway could deny this bargain. It is impossible for us to do our best for the country in any direction, whether it is franchise, trade, or industry, unless we deal with facts as they are instead of trying to meet the situation by impossible bargains of this kind.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I have risen to speak for, and I intend to vote for this Bill. As far as I understand the Measure now before the House, it proposes to secure that, in order to be returned to this House, a candidate must have a. majority of the voters in that constituency. That is a democratic principle, which not only can be defended but which is established in the minds of all intelligent persons. That is why this Measure recommends itself to me. It deals with other aspects of our electoral system, and I shall briefly touch upon these matters in a moment or two. I am not at all satisfied that the Government have acted wisely in dealing with this question on the lines on which they have submitted it to the House. I would have preferred to see a larger and more comprehensive Measure of electoral reform. I would be even more pleased if, in addition to that larger and more comprehensive scheme of electoral reform, the Government had fashioned out some fresh machinery in relation to our procedure and Parliamentary conduct in this House.
1706 Having now listened for 18 months to the Debates in this Parliament, I confess I see very little difference between our methods and Parliamentary procedure to-day and when I entered the House nearly 30 years ago. The party system was then established and was justified, because the business of Parliament at that time was to deal with great constitutional changes which aroused deep and bitter passions among various sections of the people. Gradually these changes have taken place. Questions that roused deep and passionate interest have disappeared from our Parliamentary controversies. The great questions of electoral freedom, of self-government, of Church disestablishment, and the other problems, which moved the hearts and minds of people in those days, have all been more or less solved. We have reached a stage now in our Parliamentary system when the largest wisdom that can be contributed to our Parliamentary discussions should be given to the question of how definitely to deal with the vital problems that come to the very hearts of the people. I do not think that our Parliamentary machine is capable of discharging that function on present lines. I would have liked the Government, if it touched this question at all at this stage, not only to have dealt with the question of electoral reform in a broader sense than that which they propose to handle now, but that they should also have had a well thought-out solution of the problem of the cumbersome and ineffective Parliamentary methods which we have to-day in settling questions which materially touch the hearts and homes of the people.
I pass from that and come to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Westmorland (Mr. O. Stanley). In reading the speeches here and in other places, I notice that the note sounded in this controversy from the other side of the House is this. Why should Parliamentary time be dissipated and why should the energies and abilities of the Members of this House be thrown away on a matter which is only of infinitesimal importance in face of the grave economic and industrial position which confronts the nation? I have been listening in this House now for 18 months to those contributions to the reservoir of Parliamentary wisdom. I have been carefully watching what is 1707 being done to meet these difficulties, and I confess that the acerbities and burning differences and passions which exist in this House have, in my judgment, done more to prevent a solution of these economic and industrial problems than a discussion on matters of this character. Plenty of opportunities were afforded and there was no reason why Members of every party should not have come forward and made their contribution to the solution of the problems of unemployment and of reconstruction, on which the minds of the people were so vitally set. There was nothing to prevent that at all, and it is absurd to say that we are occupying the time of Parliament now with this question of electoral reform when the time of Parliament ought to be occupied with the discussion and adjustment of those other problems, which Parliament has had ample opportunity of discussing from time to time.
I want to state, frankly, that my purpose, in intervening in this Debate to-day, is to express my profound regret that, when the Government came to deal with this question at all, they did not introduce proposals for Proportional Representation. I have heard it said that Proportional Representation would create a group system in this House and that a group system was au unsatisfactory system. But, during the 30 years that I have been here, the group system has been in operation. So far back as 25 or 30 years ago we had in this House Liberals, Liberal Unionists, Conservatives, Nationalists, Ulster Unionists, and a very small but vital Labour party. There were not two parties, three parties, or four parties, but five or six parties during all that time. Therefore, there is no point whatever in the argument that the introduction of Proportional Representation would create a condition of things of an unprecedented character, or would introduce the system of group representation, seeing that group representation was in existence before. The Prime Minister was the only Member of the Government and the only prominent Member of this House who declared himself in unmistakable terms against Proportional Representation. The Proportional Representation Society in this country and in Ireland has among its vice-presidents many dis- 1708 tinguished leaders of public opinion and action in and out of Parliament. I believe the Home Secretary who introduced this Bill is a vice-president of the society, and I understand that many Ministers of the Crown are also vice-presidents. The late Lord Birkenhead was a vice-president, and I believe that many distinguished members of the Liberal party are vice-presidents of the society.
When Proportional Representation was first mentioned in this House, I was opposed to it. I thought that it was a complex machine, that it would be a difficult system for the ordinary voter to understand and that it would by no means be a satisfactory instrument in the hands of the electors to carry out the purposes which they desired to serve. Proportional Representation was introduced into the Act of 1920 which set up two Parliaments in Ireland. As we have such an evil reputation for persecuting each other in that country, the Government thought that they would try Proportional Representation upon us. That Government was the Coalition Government, made up of Liberals and Tories. The Secretary of State for War who had charge of the Act, stated that they were introducing Proportional Representation for the Northern and Southern Parliaments of Ireland in order to safeguard the interests of minorities.
I have come to the conclusion that Proportional Representation serves another valuable purpose as well as securing representation for minorities. I did not believe in the system. I thought that it would be not only difficult and complex but unsatisfactory as a method of securing a proper adjustment of the opinions of the people on public issues; but I became an absolute convert to Proportional Representation. I saw how splendidly it had worked. In Northern Ireland, with which I was mostly concerned, the result of the election was a complete reflex of the opinion of the people of all shades. It did not create that group system which is so abhorent to certain hon. Members in this House. We had the political parties fairly balanced upon the lines that people who had certain definite opinions on one side or the other voted for those who were the standard bearers of those opinions. Moreover, there was an opportunity for 1709 men of public standing who by reason of their experience and patriotism and other qualities would make excellent representatives in Parliament.
I am now arguing in favour of Protional Representation at a time when politics have become the philosophy of the breakfast table; when we have reached a stage at which people do not care very much about large fundamental abstractions but are deeply, and profoundly interested in the welfare of the family, and in domestic comfort. Therefore, those who wisely viewed the needs of the situation thought that Proportional Representation would give to the community not only representatives of definite principles involved in certain controversies but would also give an opportunity to men of good will and capacity to offer some contribution to the reservoir of human wisdom in our Parliamentary affairs. The result was that the system worked out in the most admirable fashion. Unfortunately, it was abolished in Northern Ireland but it is still retained in Southern Ireland. I was astonished in reading in the newspaper this morning that the right hon. and gallant Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) who was Speaker of the Ulster Parliament and also the episcopal head of the Unionist hierarchy declared in this House last night that Proportional Representation had worked most excellently and gave profound and general satisfaction. Yet the party to which he belongs, with his acquiesence if not his full consent, abolished Proportional Representation in the Northern Parliament.
Why did they abolish it? Because Proportional Representation was divorcing passion from politics and introducing into our public life men who knew nothing about the old prejudices and bitternesses of the past and were only anxious to lend a hand in building up the future of an effective small State. They abolished Proportional Representation because they said that they did not want the trouble of it. Nobody had complained about the trouble but themselves. The system worked well. I was anxious to appear before the Parliamentary Committee and to state how admirable Proportional Representation had been. I intended to challenge the right hon. Member for Antrim if he had put forward the proposition that Proportional Representa- 1710 tion was a failure, and I would have brought every element in Northern Ireland to prove that it is the best, most effective, most satisfactory and most just scheme of electoral machinery that had ever been conceived in any circumstances. To my utter astonishment to-day I find that instead of a violent propagandist from Northern Ireland coming over to the Imperial Parliament and pointing out the weakness and wrongs of Proportional Representation, the right hon. Member actually told the House that the system which was denounced in Northern Ireland has been an excellent and satisfactory system there. So much for the philosophy of Ulster Unionists.
Again, I was astonished to-day at the speech of the hon. Member for Westmorland, who is so anxious that we should devote ourselves to the serious pursuits of Parliamentary life. He is a gentleman whose contributions are usually genial, witty and entertaining. He declared that if the Tory party came into power to-morrow they would introduce Proportional Representation. That statement was not repudiated by the present Leader of the Tory party in Ulster. I wonder if there is any question on earth in which the Tory party will all speak with the same voice. We are not dealing now with Protection or India but with electoral machinery. Surely, if the Unionist party cannot be united upon anything else, they can be united upon the question whether in the future they will or will not introduce Proportional Representation. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Westmorland occupies any position in the Tory party except as a successful propagandist. I believe that his humour is very excellent in defending losing causes. If his uncontradicted statement is really the policy of the Tory party, it is a curious and cynical commentary upon the action of those who belong to that party in Northern Ireland, there are 13 of them in this House, who abolished Proportional Representation in Northern Ireland. Now, we are told that if their party come back to power in this country—and that is the only attraction that their return to power will be to me—they will introduce the system of Proportional Representation. [HON. MEMBERS: a "He never said anything of the kind!"] Yes, he did. [Interruption.] I am speaking of one of the sub-leaders of the Tory 1711 party. He was the only one on those benches who spoke with authority, and there was no dissent so far as I could see from the statement which the hon. Member made.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
No, but perhaps the hon. Member will go out and bring him in. I cannot recite in sufficiently stirring terms the magnificent and sparkling eloquence with which that Tory declaration was made. Therefore, if not one of the hon. Member's colleagues who heard his speech—probably they were not listening to it with the same attention that I was—contradicts it, I take it that, pending the production of the hon. Member, I stand where I am. That is all that I will say on the question of proportional representation, with the exception that I believe the Labour Government have lost an opportunity of rendering a great national service and are leaving it to some potential Tory Administration to do this act of justice. I am voting for the Bill, even without proportional representation, because it is a compromise, and I always give my Irish vote for an English compromise. It is a compromise which proposes to clear away many electoral anomalies. I will mention one anomaly. In Northern Ireland there are two sections of the community, 63 per cent. being Unionists and 33 per cent. Nationalists. We have two seats for 35 per cent. of the population, and the Unionist party have 13. I regard that as an anomaly. The hon. and gallant Member for Belfast University (Colonel Sinclair) has said that if university representation is taken away we should be doing something in Northern Ireland which we were constitutionally not entitled to do, and that it would be necessary to have a redistribution scheme there. I think it will be worth while.
I see that the hon. Member for Westmorland is now in his place. I do not know whether I need put the House to the painful necessity of having to hear again what I said of the hon. Member in his absence. I am fully in accord with him, and I want to offer him a few words of encouragement. I said that the hon 1712 Member said that if the Tory party were returned to power they would introduce a scheme of proportional representation as the most effective method of electoral perfection. I do not want to misrepresent him, and I ask him if I have misrepresented him in saying that he said that if the Tories came back to power they would introduce proportional representation?
§ Mr. O. STANLEY
I do not know whether the hon. Member was here when I made my speech; if he was, then I must say that he has heard entirely wrong. With regard to hon. Members on these benches I said that their representatives at the Ullswater Conference unanimously agreed that, if it was assumed that a change in the representative system was to be made, they were in favour of proportional representation; and I must confess that towards the end of my speech I went so far as to pledge myself but not my party to a scheme. Unfortunately, and I apologise to the hon. Member, I did not preface my remarks by saying that they were intended as a joke.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
We are getting one. Is there anyone on that bench who can speak for anybody else? Have hon. Members in the whole history of Parliamentary controversy ever heard an explanation such as that which has been now offered by the hon. Member. I know that he is not entitled to speak for his party on this question any more than the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr[...] Churchill) is entitled to speak for the party on India, or any of those who are Free Traders or semi-free traders are entitled to speak on behalf of Lord Beaverbrook. I understand, and I have ceased to be unreasonable. But I want to know whether in the Ullswater Conference the Ullswater Tories decided that if there wag to be a change it should take the form of Proportional Representation? In whose eyes were you throwing dust?
§ Mr. STANLEY
I have not yet heard the hon. Member withdraw the suggestion that I gave a pledge that if returned to power the Conservative party would support Proportional Representation.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
I wonder what you will do when you come back to power. I shall watch with profound interest what the Tory party will do if I happen to be here, even if I am elected under Proportional Representation or under any form of electoral procedure. It is a very curious situation. When the hon. Member rises in this House to put forward the Tory position in relation to the matter we are discussing, and he tells us that he is in favour of it and all his party is in favour—
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Yes, but there never is change with the Tory party. It was a safe policy. Do you say "We will, have food taxes" because there never will be food taxes? The hon. Member is a brilliant member of his party and it would be well if his leaders manifested the same rhetorical subtlety in difficult situations. Notwithstanding the rather machiavellian fashion in which he has tried to get out of the Ullswater Conference I am hopeful that when they are returned to power he will see, because I think he is a conscientious member of the Tory party, that the profound convictions he holds on the question of electoral reform will materialise in an Act of Parliament. We in the Ulster Parliament were all in favour of Proportional Representation and we felt profoundly indignant, not only because this measure of safeguarding minorities was taken away but also by the manipulation of the constituencies, the gerrymandering, so to construct the constituencies that it took about 40,000 voters to return me to the Northern Parliament while in the case of the Chief Whip of the Unionist party of Northern Ireland it required only 29,000 voters. Of course, I recognise our relative merits; and I bore that Parliamentary infliction with becoming modesty. That was one of the results of the abolition of Proportional Representation. We were actually robbed of what this Parliament gave us as the safeguard for minorities. The same safeguard was given to Southern Ireland, but Southern Ireland kept Proportional Representation, retains it still and shows no desire whatever to abolish it, although it has its drawbacks like all other systems.
1714 In my judgment proportional representation does one great thing: it gives an opportunity to the best men, divorced from party passion, to get into Parliament. What do I see every day in England? You are inviting leading financiers, great business men, men trained in commerce and with large and wide experience of industrial and economic affairs, to assist you in solving your economic and industrial troubles, and there is hardly one of these men who can get a seat in Parliament. They are not party politicians; but you recognise what a large contribution they could make to the solution of the most intense and vital of our immediate problems. If you had proportional representation these men could stand upon their records and their names, upon their repute and their public services. They may be disinclined to be smothered with the ugly mud of modern politics. Everyone who has taken part in. party politics knows that ingratitude is the common experience of human life and there is no arena in which ingratitude is more widely shown than in the political arena. The politician seems to be the mark for the opprobrium and abuse of all mean minds. Under proportional representation these men could put themselves forward and the electors would be able to give them a sufficient number of votes to return them to Parliament. This is all the more important in these days when politics are more or less divorced from the old passions and bitternesses of the past and have become the grim and present realities of the moment.
I come to the question of university representation. When proportional representation was abolished in Ulster I opposed the university representation. My view of university representation is this. If a man is sufficiently gifted by natural talents or by intellectual power, or even by university training, let him come into the arena like the rest of us and put himself forward as a politician; let him fight the battles like the rest of us. It would be a sorry thing if there was not a place for him in the party organisation. I do not think university graduates are more competent to form an opinion as to how industrial problems should be solved than I am, or any man in the street and, finally, I am opposed to all privileged representation. Here let me say that from my reading of history the privileged classes have very often lost 1715 their privileges not because they were privileges but because they failed to utilise them to the public interest, they never grasped the opportunity of doing public good. My experience of university representatives is this, that they were always on the side of reaction. I have seen them in this House. I have no doubt that many of them were brilliant and distinguished men in university life, in culture and in learning; but I confess that they never impressed me very much as Parliamentarians. I think we ought to save them from themselves. They would be far better labouring in a vineyard which is much more to their liking and advantage. I oppose this representation because they have been reactionary though brilliant reactionaries in England, and reactionaries without brilliance in Ulster.
I am supporting this Bill for that reason. I do not regard it as completely satisfying. I would rather it had taken the lines I have indicated, but it is one step further along the line of electoral justice. I know nothing about the arrangement between the Government and the Liberal party but it is absurd to say that this Measure will wipe out the Conservative party. As a matter of fact, judging the matter broadly there will be votes given for all three candidates, Liberal, Conservative and Labour, and whichever party is in the minority, some will vote for one party and some for the other. I do not think that it is of any political advantage to the Government or the Liberal party at all. It is an attempt to clear away one of those anomalies, and to redress what is an undoubted grievance. For that reason, I shall be very happy, when the Division is called, to vote for the Measure now before the House.
§ Miss RATHBONE
The eloquent speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Devlin) will at any rate make a good introduction for what I want to say. He regretted that the Bill did not introduce the principle of Proportional Representation, as he saw in Proportional Representation a means of getting men into politics who would not submit themselves to the ordinary turmoil of elections; then almost in the next 1716 breath he gave his strong approval of the stopping of university representation because, he said, why could not those who represented the universities submit themselves to the turmoil of politics like the rest of them? Could there be any more beautifully characteristic national inconsistency? Towards the end of his speech he let the cat out of the bag. He said that the Ulster University had sometimes returned brilliant men and sometimes men who were not brilliant, but they had always been Orangemen. That, I think, is the keynote which sums up in one word most of the criticisms of university representation and many of the comments on the Bill to which we have listened.
I take a different position from most of those who have addressed the House. I cannot altogether curse the Bill, and I cannot altogether bless the Bill. I am accustomed to find myself in that position, and I believe that university representatives, if they are independent, as I think they ought always to be, are likely to find themselves in that position, because no halo for them is around the head of every item in a programme merely because it has been put into a party programme. I welcome that part of the Bill which tends to reduce the unjust privileges of wealth. So far, it is good. I welcome the Bill in so far as it succeeds in ensuring that a majority in a particular constituency shall have its, true wishes reflected in the Member returned to Parliament for that particular constituency. But I censure the Bill on grounds on which it has been censured by more than one hon. Member opposite, because the Government and the party acting in co-operation with them have foregone the opportunity of considering the whole of our representative system and of considering what remedies are necessary for its defects, and have dealt only with those defects which happen to tell against their own particular party politics.
Representation of the People Bill How the very title evokes memories of those century-long conflicts between the selfishness of strongly entrenched class interests and the wider views of those, even belonging to the same class, as they usually did in the 19th century, who wished to make Parliament a true mirror of the mind of the whole people 1717 Political theory is out of fashion, and the best and most constructive minds of today devote themselves rather to natural science or to economic and sociological problems.
But as I have been sitting here in the past few hours, I have wondered what, if the Distinguished Strangers' Gallery were filled with the shades of those great thinkers of the 19th century who were the real pioneers of democracy, they would think about this Bill and the Parliament that brought it forth. They would find a, Parliament that is indeed "broad-based upon the people's will," in the sense that practically every adult man and woman in the country has had an opportunity of sharing in its election. But though universal suffrage was one of the constituent factors of a, real democracy as conceived by those pioneers, was it the only one? By no means. Nearly all the great democrats of the 19th century foresaw as clearly as any Tory on these benches that a Parliament elected by universal suffrage, unaccompanied by safeguards for the fair representation of minorities, might be merely the exchange of one kind of tyranny for another.
Nobody, I think, will deny to John Stuart Mill the title of a true democrat—a pupil of Bentham, a believer in universal suffrage, an impassioned advocate of the emancipation of women, and a champion of the rights of working men, not only to votes, but to every kind of educational opportunity. What view did he take of the necessary safeguards of democracy? Let me read one very short extract:One of the very greatest dangers of democracy"—He wrote, in his book on representative government—and of all other forms of Government, lies in the sinister interest of the holders of power; it is the danger of class legislation, of government intended for (whether really effecting it or not) the immediate benefit of the dominant class, to the lasting detriment of the whole.And again:It is an essential part of democracy that minorities should be adequately represented.It was with deep regret that I listened to the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon, because there we heard set 1718 forth just the opposite doctrine. He specifically swept aside the great doctrine that minorities require representation and wanted them unrepresented unless they were sufficiently numerous to command a majority in some particular constituency. Then they would cease to be minorities, so it is not a concession at all.
I should like to address myself to the hon. Members on the benches below me. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and many of his followers at least do not agree with the Prime Minister. They believe in Proportional Representation and they have accepted the alternative vote as a very doubtful second-best. They think it an improvement on the present system, but in what respect? Because it secures proper representation of minorities? On the contrary, the object of it is to make sure that if in a particular constituency, let us say, a majority of the electors want a candidate who stands for Free Trade rather than one who stands for Protection, they shall not find themselves represented by a Protectionist. That is a legitimate object, but how is it that the right hon. Gentleman went on to defend a provision in the Bill which not only does not implement the main object of Proportional Representation, to secure an adequate representation of minorities, but actually takes away the one safeguard which we have at present for minority representation, not, it is true, of party political interests, but of sections of the community who otherwise may not get full representation in Parliament—the university franchise?
I regard university representation as an instalment of Proportional Representation in two senses. First—and this is comparatively unimportant—because the method of election is by the single transferable vote, a form of Proportional Representation; and, secondly—and this is important—because it does at least secure the representation in Parliament of those members of the learned professions and of the higher grades of industries and commerce who are too scattered over the ordinary constituencies for their votes to have a controlling influence on elections. Why, the right hon. Member for Darwen actually taunted the university graduates with their small numbers, a mere average of 200 per constituency. 1719 But are party political minorities the only kind of minorities for whom he can find it in his heart to give representation?
§ Miss RATHBONE
The right hon. Gentleman implied that after all Members, even if they did receive letters, could safely afford to neglect those letters, because they represented what was merely a handful of votes.
§ Miss RATHBONE
That was the interpretation that I put upon the right hon. Gentleman's words. But does he deny that graduates have a special kind of contribution to make to the collective wisdom of Parliament, that a large number of them not only have special interest in scientific research but are engaged perhaps in those great industries that are menaced and that value the need of scientific research, that great numbers of them are engaged in education, which is becoming more and more under the control of Parliament, and that they even have professional interests of their own which deserve sympathetic consideration? Why are they not to get it? Because they have forfeited their claim to that consideration by, in the past, voting usually for Conservative candidates. The right hon. Gentleman gave a quotation from Lecky the historian, to show thatthe political influence of the universities has been almost uniformly hostile to political progress.How is that quotation relevant to the universities of to-day? Would the right hon. Gentleman think it fair to accuse the universities of to-day of religious bigotry, because the universities of 100 years ago excluded Roman Catholics, Jews, and Unitarians from their privileges? Might I appeal from Lecky the historian to Lecky the political philosopher, who wroteSurely it is impossible to exaggerate the fatuity of these attacks upon university representation; and the men who make them have rarely the excuse of honest ignorance. With many the true motive is simply a desire to extinguish constituencies which return members opposed to their politics, and at the same time, by depreciating the great centres of intelligence, to 1720 flatter the more ignorant voters. It is a truth which should never be forgotten, that in the field of politics the spirit of servility and sycophancy"—Nobody could accuse the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) of servility and sycophancy—no longer shows itself in the adulation of kings and nobles. Faithful to its old instinct of grovelling at the feet of power, it now carries its homage to another shrine.I shall be told that Lecky was no believer in democracy and, further, that the universities continue in their bad old ways of returning Conservatives to Parliament. May I deal very shortly with both points? If Lecky was no democrat, one would scarcely deny that title to John Stuart Mill. I have already mentioned that John Stuart Mill believed in proportional representation, like the right hon. Member for Darwen and his followers, and may I make the point incidentally, as a proof of his far sighted wisdom, that Mill foresaw a danger on which Continental systems of proportional representation have wrecked themselves, namely, that too large constituencies, by destroying all real contact between electors and candidates, would lead to the tyranny of a party list. Therefore, he recommended three-member constituencies, no more and no less.
Did Mill think that Proportional Representation by itself was an adequate safeguard for the representation of minorities? Not at all. He actually advocated plural voting based, not on property, but on educational attainments. He actually wanted a graduated scale culminating in graduates with five or six votes. That proposal might find few supporters to-day, but that it could be entertained by so great and genuine a democrat should make those think who argue that because the university franchise confers two votes on some graduates that is sufficient reason for sweeping away the whole system. I do not regard plural voting as the most useful element in university representation. The value of votes to-day depends mainly on how they are grouped. We have learnt to recognise that only where voters are sufficiently massed can they really make themselves effective so that they can control elections. The value of the university franchise I believe to be that it singles out university voters from the mass of 1721 men and women belonging to other occupations and interests, and provides them with a special channel for reflecting their opinions in Parliament. Do we really think so very lightly of education that it seems quite indefensible that the better-trained minds of the community should be provided with a special channel reflecting their views?
Do we really think that mental training does not count I am not suggesting that the university is the only place of mental training. We have in this House men, among the ablest in all three parties, who have not been to universities. They are self educated, and that perhaps is the best form of education. But they have shown, every one of them, what they themselves think of university training, by taking care to see that their own sons and daughters should have the advantage of that training. Broadly speaking, is it not true that mental training does tend to broaden the mind, and that those who have received it are more likely to make valuable contributions to the work of legislating and administering on all these vastly complicated legal and sociological problems with which the Parliament of to-day has to deal? Are we so sure that the Parliaments of the future will provide means of making full use of these trained minds without some such provision as university representation I have not forgotten what the Prime Minister said about the debt which all the parties in this House owe to the universities. Are we quite so sure that this is always going to be so? Is not some of the enthusiasm with which the abolition of university representation has been received by some hon. Members opposite a. sign of the kind of jealousy some of them feel towards those who have enjoyed these educational privileges?
Do not we find, it always is the case in every fresh advance of the franchise—it was so when women were newly enfranchised—that all those who fear its extension beforehand have anticipated that Parliament is going to be invaded by a great horde of persons of the same class as the new voters It was expected that great hordes of working men in fustian would invade Parliament when the working man was given the vote, and there were similar expectations when the agricultural labourers got their vote, and 1722 when women got their vote. I believe there were special arrangements made in this House to accommodate the numbers of women who were expected. What actually happened? One finds that a newly enfranchised class of voters clings to precedent and elects people of the sort that have preceded. But like a new skater, as they get more confidence and experience, they shake off the arm of the expert, they want to move alone and are perfectly confident of their ability to contribute all the wisdom that may be needed.
We heard a very interesting speech last night from the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. A. Henderson, junr.), himself a graduate of Cambridge, who told us he had no desire to see university representation in Parliament, because he did not believe in vocational and functional representation. Does he deny that we have actually in the Parliament of to-day vocational and specialised representation, but only in a number of industries which happen incidentally to be localised in large masses? They are able to return their special representatives to Parliament, to nominate them and even to aid them financially. If there is to be such representation, is it not better that it should be direct and acknowledged than that it should be accidental and incidental?
In the days of laissez faire, when Parliament dealt with a restricted number of questions, it may have been possible to avoid a Parliament based to a considerable extent on functions, and including representation not only of political parties but of big industrial interests. Is it possible in the Parliament of to-day? There is no sign at all that those who exercise so ably and vigorously their rights of representation of trade unions are going to give up their rights to represent these special interests. Why should not the brain workers and the upper and supervisory trade workers have some special channel of representation and security? It is quite possible that university representation may not be the ideal means of doing that. Possibly when we have proportional representation—the effect of which is a matter of very great speculation—we may find it would so effectively secure the representation of minority points of view 1723 that we should not need university representation. Then let us wait until we have got it.
As for the argument that because universities have usually returned a Conservative they will always continue to do so, was there ever such an instance of the time-lag in political thought? Platitudes are always irritating, but none is so irritating as a platitude which is not even true. That university representation is an anachronism is a platitude I have heard often lately. It may be good or bad, but an anachronism it is not. Might it not be better compared to a seven months child, born prematurely into a world for which it was not yet fitted and of which it had no need? In the days when Parliament was mostly composed of the representatives of one class, one religion, and one sex, and when universities represented the same class, the same sex, and the same religion, what was the need for any special channel for securing representation of the universities in Parliament? To-day, how changed is the whole position and how completely that class privilege in university education has passed away.
Other speakers have referred to the great change that has come over the modern university now that the broad highway to those universities has been securely laid and is being trod every year by an increasing multitude of the sons and daughters of the working-classes. I would like to reply to something said last night by the Minister of Health, who said that Professor Gilbert Murray would never be a representative of Oxford. I would suggest that, if that is so, it is because his party is sweeping away the representation of the University of Oxford. If one considers the figures at his last contest, Professor Murray got 1,100 more votes than the Tory candidate below him on the list, and it was only because of second preferences that he was placed in a minority of 583 on the final count. Does the Minister of Health really consider that a minority of 500 votes makes it inconceivable that Oxford would ever return that great and distinguished internationalist to the House of Commons?
Though I am a daughter of Oxford, I am intensely proud of the fact that I 1724 represent in this House one ancient and seven of the modern universities. I want to tell the House the result of my observations of the graduates in these newer universities. I believe that what the younger men and women at the universities desire in their representatives is that they shall reflect something of what they believe to be characteristic of the spirit of the universities themselves. What they do not want is that their university vote shall continue to be used as a mere duplication of their party record. They recognise the need for vitalising and freeing university representation from the ascendency of party wire-pullers, and the representatives they desire in the future are representatives who shall more represent that independent point of view. I realise that I lay myself open to the jibe that if this is what the universities want they have chosen badly. Let it be so. We are no doubt marred vessels, cracked conduit pipes to bring the fresh waters of the university into Parliament. But do not make the mistake of judging the future by the past. What are the characteristics of the universities? An impartial outlook on facts, a desire to see truth from whatever quarter it comes, and above all a desire for the good of the whole rather than the good of the individual or of the sectional interests:Drive my dead thoughts over the UniverseLike withered leaves to quicken a new birth.That is or should be the spirit of the universities. Can anyone say that it is the spirit of the party politicians? How many party politicians would not see the foliage and fruitage of their minds crackle and go up in smoke rather than help to quicken the growth of a harvest which was to be garnered by any political party other than their own?
I cannot vote for this Bill because it affronts my constituents and abolishes my constituency. Nor can I vote against it because I believe that there is much in it that is good. Therefore, I shall abstain from voting on the Second Reading, but I appeal to the House to give this Measure a careful reconsideration during the Committee stage and to consider whether even from the narrow view of party advantage, 1725 those parties who think that they have something to gain by the abolition of university representation may not find that they have a great deal more to lose by alienating those people numerically weak perhaps but strong in influence in their several constituencies, the men and women who value their university votes and who regard this Measure as a vote of censure on the way in which those votes have been exercised in the past. The supporters of the Bill may find that by this provision they have swept away an institution which, though it may have worked faultily in the past, though it may perhaps have worked through faulty instruments, yet may do much, in these new Parliaments elected by enormous constituencies to bring to bear the influence of people who stand aloof from party politics and who are able to apply themselves to the problems of the time with that love of truth and that intellectual detachment which characterise the universities.
§ Mr. MANDER
I feel that I am able to intervene in this Debate from a detached point of view because I have the honour of representing a historic constituency which for close on 100 years, without a break has returned Liberals to the House of Commons and I am certain that, whatever electoral system may be introduced, nothing will prevent that constituency continuing to perform the same function in the future. Listening to this Debate it would seem that this is likely to become an agreed Measure before we come to the end of its consideration, because hon. Members above the Gangway, one after another, have declares that the effect of the Bill will be to return Conservatives in greater numbers in the future. If that be so, I do not see why there need any longer be any dispute about it and we might as well take the Bill without a Division. Of course the point is that this Bill makes possible in the future, combinations between the different parties in this House. There can be combinations between any two of the three parties, but while that is so it is, clearly, not likely that there is going to be any combination between a Free Trade party and a Protectionist party.
1726 It has been said: "You take the second preferences of the man who is third on the poll, but what about the second preferences of those who are first and second?" Surely the answer is that the first and second are using their first preferences effectively all the time. It is not suggested that they ought to use not only their first preferences, but their second preferences also. The second preferences of the candidate who comes third are taken, because he cannot effectively use his first preferences. It has also been said that the Bill may have the effect of causing hon. Members to go in for all sorts of bargains and understandings. Is it suggested that Members are never affected in their votes and actions by the complexion of the constituency which has sent them here, or by the sort of opposition which they are likely to meet when next they go to the polls I It is obvious that those considerations influence Members now and will do so in the future, but in a much more open and straightforward way, there will be no reason why there should not be understandings and arrangements between any two of the three parties, and if those parties are able to obtain a majority there will be no reason why they should not together form a Government. I am not saying which parties may do so. It may happen in any direction, but there will be no reason why something of the sort should not arise in the future.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) said we did not want the alternative vote system because people are either Liberal, Labour or Conservative and vote for their own parties and nothing else. I submit that that is an untrue view of the electors. There are strict party men who would always vote Tory, Labour or Liberal, but there are many others who are not bound tightly to any party, and if they cannot elect the man whom they fancy, they are very much interested in keeping out the person whom they most dislike. They would be glad of an opportunity of using the second preference to return somebody who, while he might not represent their views on all points, would do so on, perhaps, eight out of 10 points. This proposal will give the electors an opportunity of which in many cases they will be very glad to avail themselves, and 1727 if they do not want to avail themselves of it, there is no reason why they should do so.
The Measure is not perfect. We should like to see a Proportional Representation Bill, but, in the circumstances, this Bill will make it possible for this House to be a fairer representation of the views of the country than it is. I am glad that this Bill is being taken in the week after the Debate on the Trade Disputes Bill, because this Bill represents a more excellent way of dealing with the problems of this country than the method proposed in the Trade Disputes Bill. If we were in the pre-1832 position, when the people of the country had no power or opportunity of deciding how the country should be governed, then the people might be forced to go in for extra-constitutional action, for direct action, for general strikes, or something of the sort. But the way to prevent industrial action in political matters is to see that the ballot can be used fairly, and with the utmost freedom, for everybody, so that men and women may know that they have only to vote if they want something done or some grievance removed, that they need not apply pressure in other ways and that this House is here to remedy their grievances. I submit that it is in the national interest that we should make our representative system as true as possible, in order not to encourage people to make use of industrial methods such as were frequently referred to in the Debates of last week. There is no need for general strikes if the people have the fullest power to do what they want through the machinery of this House.
I can quite understand that hon. Members above the Gangway are opposed to this Bill, because it is only in accordance with their universal practice and their tradition that they should oppose every progressive measure, and that they should be ready, as they always are, so gallantly and gracefully to die in the last ditch for the protection of any privilege or advantage that they may have. The right principle is one man one vote, but, if proposals are going to be brought forward for giving more than one vote 1728 to certain people, the door is open to a very interesting discussion. I do not think that the people who have plural votes would be those who would be able to press their claims to any extra advantage in that way. It is obvious that those who possess wealth and education already are in a far more influential position than those who do not. They do not require an extra vote to support and help them to get their way. Their better training, their wealth, and their property bring with them power and influence which other people do not possess.
While I agree that higher education brings people splendid advantages in the way of understanding, I have yet to learn that it makes them more unselfish, or that those who are richer than others, or better educated, are any more unselfish or any more willing to sacrifice themselves for others than the poorest of the poor. It is notorious that there are no people in this country who are kinder to each other and more willing to give up things for each other than the poorest in the land. I say, therefore, that if any people have a claim to a plural vote—and I am not in favour of it—it is those who are at the bottom. If any law is passed by this House which inflicts hardship on the community as a whole, it may make a man in the comfortable classes a little uncomfortable, and it may mean that he has to give up some luxury or habit to which he is attached, but that same law, when it affects the person who is right down on the verge of things, may make all the difference in the world and push him over the borderline into a state of destitution. It is important to the very poor that they should have as full a use of the vote as those who are, in any case, well able to look after themselves. I am not making a claim that any class of the community should have more than one vote.
We have heard a good deal about the university vote, and we have had the most extraordinary argument put forward time and again that there are 10,000 people who live abroad, and that it would be a nice thing, so imperial and so splendid, that they, from the ends of the earth, should not only be able to vote in South Africa, Canada and Australia, and have their share in the 1729 shaping of the Governments there, but should be able and good enough to tell us how to do it here. That is an intolerable argument, and the sort of argument that lost us the American Colonies. That is an exaggerated case, but it is the same argument which, carried to its logical conclusion, was applied in that case, which was a case of people in one part of the world trying to decide what should be done for people living in another part of the world. I admit that its effect would be small here, because the numbers are small, but the logic of it seems to be utterly unsupportable.
The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. Buchan), in a most interesting speech, tried to paint us a picture of the pale, emaciated university Members, worn out by their intellectual labours, hardly able to come into the House, and liable to be bowled over at the simplest question that might be put to them on the hustings, and it was suggested that it was only through the mechanism of the university vote that they were able to come into this House. I am unable to recognise that picture at all. It is perfectly clear during the last few days, and now as I look round me, that the university Members in this House are as vigorous and as able to look after themselves as any others, and there is no reason, if they were prevented from coming here through the universities, why they should not face meetings just as the rest of us have to do.
The hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) gave a most touching picture of the detachment, the reasonableness and the independence of universities in returning Members here. I will give an example of that independence from my own university of Cambridge. There was a distinguished man, Mr. J. R. M. Butler, who came of a distinguished family in the State and the University who was returned in 192.3 as one of the two Members for Cambridge. One was a Conservative, and he was an Independent. After they discovered that this independent Member had the audacity to vote against the Conservative party and vote with the Opposition, these detached independent electors of Cambridge University took very good care that he did not come here again. And they put in, instead, another 1730 very distinguished gentleman of the same name, who could be relied upon to obey the party whip and to vote true blue or whatever the Cambridge colour is. That is an example that shows that the independence of the universities is a farce, and that their chief function has been to return Tories in the past—people of great distinction—who might just as well have come here through some other channel.
I should have thought, on the question of the plural vote, that hon. Members might be content with the position they have got through the House of Lords. The Constitution is heavily weighted in their favour by their having at the end of the corridor a Chamber which, when a Conservative Government is in power sinks into a state of somnolence and inactivity, but, directly there is a Liberal or Labour Government in power, wakes up into the most violent activity and obstruction, as far as it dare, against any progressive Measures that are brought forward. If we are going to discuss the question of the plural vote there would be a good deal to be said, in view of the enormous advantage that the Conservative party have in the House of Lords, for giving two or three votes to every Liberal and Labour elector as some counter balance.
It has been suggested that what we want in this country is not so much what the elect-ors think, but a strong Government supported by a substantial majority. That argument has been used by a good many people, but surely it is a Fascist doctrine which says, "It does not matter what the electors think; we have to pretend that this system is working, but we really want a Government that will govern and tell the people what is good for them." That is not the system which we want in this country. Surely we desire that the will of the people by a majority shall shape the Government, and nothing could be more disastrous than to have a Protectionist Government in power, as hon. Members would like to see, depending on a minority of votes. If they attempted as a minority Government to force such a thing as food taxes on the unwilling people of this country, they might very easily force the people to take action which might not be of a wholly constitutional nature. That is why I think that 1731 it would be an extremely dangerous thing to allow a system to continue which might develop a situation of that kind.
A good many examples have been given of the unfairness of the present system, and I wish to give a few figures to place on record how it affects the Midlands, from which I come. There are 75 Members in the Midland counties. At the last election 1,052,305 votes were cast for the Labour candidates, and they got 37 Members; 981,713—not many less—were cast for the Conservative candidates, and they got 24 Members; and 590,285 votes were cast for the Liberal candidates, and for that we got four Members.
§ Mr. MANDER
I am very glad to have that tribute from the hon. Member on the Front Bench—that he thinks those four Members from the Midlands are too many for him. I quite understand that he would much prefer that their places had been taken by Conservatives. The average vote behind each Labour Member is 28,000; behind each Conservative Member 40,000; and behind such as me, 146,000; so I feel I can speak with a great deal more authority than a good many Members of this House.
§ Mr. MANDER
I said at the beginning that, while I am a minority Member, the constituency which I represent could not by any system that might be adopted be manipulated or made to return anybody but a member of the Liberal party. That is perfectly well recognised by everybody, including the right hon. Gentleman's colleague the late Secretary of State for the Dominions. It has been suggested that this Bill is the result of a corrupt bargain, or something of that kind, and that we ought to have nothing to do with it. Let me read two sentences from the meeting of the National Liberal Federation at Weston in June, 1926. I could read a great many of these resolutions, which all deal with the same point. What I want to show is that this Bill represents what has been our policy for a great many years. The report of the Weston meeting says that the council:reaffirms its view that the four reforms most needed are the completion of adult 1732 suffrage, the abolition of the plural vote, the abolition of university representation and the adoption of the method of Proportional Representation, or, in circumstances where this is not practicable"—and these are such circumstances, though they may not have been envisaged quite in this form—the alternative vote, in order that no party may assume powers of Government unless it is supported by a majority of the electors.The resolution goes on to Say that the council urged that house-to-house canvassing should be made illegal—but that is not in the Bill—
§ Mr. MANDER
—and also protested against the use of motor cars to take electors to the poll. When the Government bring in a Measure which, in the main, is wholeheartedly in line with the policy of the Liberal party, why should we revile them, abuse them and throw them out? If that is the suggestion, it is a very odd one. When the Government follow Liberal policy what can we do, as honest men, but support their Measures? The country will perfectly well understand that we are taking the only possible course in supporting this Bill, and that we should be extremely foolish in doing anything else—in falling into one of the many and cleverly-arranged traps which hon. Members above the Gangway so carefully lay for us, in order that we may enter into the lion's den and, as they think, though it may not be true, be there consumed and utterly destroyed. I desire to support this Bill, firstly, because it is, in the main, in accordance with the policy of the party to which I belong, because it will make changes in the law for the benefit of the State in general, and because it will give to the electors a far better chance, though by no means the perfect chance, of sending to this House those whom they desire to come here to speak and to vote for them.
§ Dr. MARION PHILLIPS
I have four very special reasons for being interested in this Bill, and one is a reason which, apparently, no other Member of the House shares. It is that I am one of the unfortunate residential voters in the City of London. During this Debate the poor residential voter in the City of London has been treated as a nonentity, as one of 1733 a minority not worth considering, as someone who is either a caretaker or a charwoman and is therefore in some way beneath the dignity of citizen rights. While expressing my general agreement with and approval of this Bill I want to express the hope that what the Home Secretary said about that Clause when introducing the Bill does mean that he is still open to conviction upon it. During all the years I have been on the electoral roll of the City of London my vote has, up to the present, been entirely useless to me, because all that time the vote of the mere residents in the City has been completely swamped by the business voters, who make up the main part of the roll. I cannot see that the dignity of the City of London would be lessened by the fact that its electoral roll was made up of residential voters and not of business voters who live outside, and therefore I appeal to the Front Bench further to consider this matter, and give the residential voters in the City a show. I hope to get that full enfranchisement which can come only by giving that equality of vote which, in other respects, the Bill does accomplish.
I shall lose a vote when this Bill becomes law, because I am a university voter. Ever since I paid what I think was three guineas in order to be able to exercise my vote—it may have been one guinea—I have never been able to see that there was anything in a university electorate which gave it a right to special consideration. If I may say so with all respect, I think a great deal of sentimental bosh is talked about university electorates and the quality of the votes which those electors give. After all, of what are those electorates made up? They do not consist of people who are now at the university, except for a very small number of dons; they are people scattered all over the country, and, indeed, all over the world, who have at some time since they left the university received notifications about elections. They have not any corporate interest in political questions, not the corporate interest which people living in the same constituency have. Some of them are engineers, doctors, country parsons, teachers, and persons of leisure. They are people whose education in different schools and universities has led them to 1734 take very varied and different interests in life. They are people whose early education has sometimes been in the elementary schools, but more frequently in public schools, and by the time they reach the dignity of the university franchise they have left the university, and have begun their ordinary life among other persons.
Do not forget that while the average graduate has been three, four, or even six years at the university, those graduates may be electors for 40 years. The age at which they begin to be electors is higher than that of the ordinary population, and they include people who have lived very quiet and undisturbed lives in professional positions in all sorts of back waters throughout the country, and very much in the sheltered trades. I have never found that among ordinary members of the community who happen to be university graduates any interest taken in the exercise of the university vote. I have not noticed among professional people any interest in politics that could be distinguished from the interest taken by the ordinary citizen. If we are going to say that there shall be weighting of votes, that special values shall be given to different types of voters, I should prefer that Parliament, which is constantly preoccupied with the question of unemployment, should give a second vote to those on the unemployed register. You would have a much more effective second vote exercising a much more effective pressure upon Parliament if you gave that second vote to the unemployed man or woman rather than to that very ordinary member of the community, the university graduate.
I feel sure that it cannot be honestly held by any graduates that graduation at a university gives them a political wisdom above that of their fellows. I think it will be found that political wisdom is a matter of study and experience in life, which too many of those who live the quiet life of security in scholarly and similar positions never acquire. The life of dreamy contemplation is not the life that makes a man or woman capable of judging the world politically. If you apply to the Members' who represent universities in this House the same critical examination—I do not wish to appear discourteous to them—I think you will find that they are very much like the Members who represent ordinary con- 1735 stituencies. The most distinguished representatives of universities in this House have often been representatives who were elected for ordinary constituencies before they became representatives of universities.
I will now pass from that question to a criticism that has been made, that you get in university representation more independence of judgment. May I suggest that if you can only get independence of judgment in Members of this House if they have constituencies that cannot get at them and if they represent a mere handful of voters so scattered that they can never take cohesive action, it is a very poor compliment to the Members of this House. If you are going to carry out what Labour has for so long asked, namely, equality for every voter, then you must not only abolish university constituencies, but you must also abolish the business vote. So little has been said in favour of the business vote that I think it is hardly necessary to deal with it now.
My fourth reason for interest in this question is that I was one of the victims who sat on the Electoral Conference. We sat for many hours and weeks, and our difficulty was that the three parties had three different points of view. The Liberal representatives had, as their primary object, a change in the method of voting. The Labour representatives had, as their primary object, equality in the value of votes by sweeping away the privileges that wealth gives in our electoral system. The object of the Conservative representatives at that Conference was no change at all in the method of election. I was amused when the hon. Member for Blackley (Mr. P. Oliver) conveyed to hon. Members on this side the idea that if we had proportional representation we should be able to get more seats for Labour Members in large county Divisions. The Liberals put before the Conference the proposal for proportional representation in all the industrial areas, but they were in favour of the alternative vote in large county Divisions.
The hon. Member for Blackley gave some delightful pictures of some of the seats which Labour would win in some of the county Divisions. We were unable to find out how many Divisions the 1736 alternative vote would affect. The alternative vote was to be given to constituencies which were unsuitable for proportional representation and the size of the area to be covered was to be the deciding factor in proportional representation. That affected a certain number of the county Divisions, but some of them were certainly among those about which the hon. Member for Blackley held out such inducements to the Labour party.
When we came to deal with the questions before us we found this further difficulty, that, as far as Labour was concerned, we were willing to consider the alternative vote if it was coupled with the abolition of the privileges of wealth, and the Liberal representatives at that Conference were willing to consider that position also; but the Conservative members were not, and I think I am only right in putting this view, that to many of the members of the Conservative party it seems fair that the privilege of wealth in an election should balance the interest and enthusiasm that you find in Labour and, perhaps, other electorates. We are anxious to spend less money on elections, and we welcome the reduction of expenditure which this Bill sets forth. I have heard the argument from Conservative sources that while, in the Labour movement, owing to the enthusiasm of our supporters, we were able to find plenty of voluntary workers, we should permit other, parties to have money to spend in order that they might pay for these jobs to be done, and that, in order to be perfectly fair, they must be able to spend more money than we.
Would not that be because the Tory party spent their own money, whereas the Socialists offered the money of the people?
§ Dr. PHILLIPS
I am not quite clear what the hon. and gallant Member means. I do not want the Labour party to offer the money of the people—
My point is that, when a Tory fights a seat, he pays any expenses with his own money, but when a Socialist fights a seat he or she gains that seat by offering the money of the people—I will not say as a bribe, because that is not a nice word, but offers the public assistance which is gained by the expenditure of the money.
§ Dr. PHILLIPS
A. Labour candidate fights an election on the programme of the party, and the principles for which that programme stands. If the hon. and gallant Member means that that programme is so much more attractive to the people than the programmes of other political parties that it takes the form of a bribe, then I will accept his view, but that was not precisely the point that I was putting. The point was that you could not expect a Tory election to be fought for as little money as a Labour election, because the Tories had to pay for work which was done freely by supporters of Labour.
In this present Bill we have something different from the main purpose of previous Bills, because the main object of this Bill is to equalise voting power, while the main object of previous electoral Bills has been to extend the franchise to some persons who had previously been excluded. What we are now trying to do is to give an equal weight to every vote cast in an election. It was with some surprise that I heard people who, I am sure, are experienced in election work, talk about the necessity of taking people to the polling booth in cars, apparently regarding it as in no way discreditable to any candidate that he had a great many cars at his disposal. I have seen in elections cars running about placarded with the candidate's name, and bearing a number, say "430," at the back. Those numbers were placed on the cars to show how great and powerful that candidate was, and how many cars he was able to bring into the constituency; and it is a well known fact that, in a big county Division, the person who can command the greatest number of cars has necessarily an electoral advantage.
If the only object of having cars in art election is to bring the voters to the poll, then no one on the other side of the House will object to helping to make this Clause of the Bill thoroughly satisfactory, so that every car that can be brought into the constituency shall be used, without placard or colours, for every candidate, in order to bring voters to the poll. There is no need to advertise your candidate if all that you want is to bring in electors, whether they are going to vote for you or not, in order to save them the long distances which sometimes they have to travel, and the reception that the sug- 1738 gestion that cars should be pooled has received from the other side of the House may be taken as a measure of the genuineness of the Conservative party in wanting to get equality for those who are less fortunately placed than themselves.
A good deal of this Debate has necessarily dealt with Proportional Representation and the alternative vote. Frankly, I am one of those people who would rather that there were no change than that there were a change. We fought our way up against an electoral system which insisted on the elected candidate being first past the post. We fought our way up, and I would be content to go on fighting until we had a majority here that was a clear majority backed by a majority of the electors. But I realise the extreme danger to the poorest in this community of a system which makes it possible for a Conservative Government to be returned by a minority of the electors, and it, is because I realise that danger, and the peril to the country of being plunged into the misgovernment that we knew from 1924 to 1929, that I am content to try this method of the alternative vote in order that that danger may be averted.
More than that, the alternative vote, to my mind, does help to secure majority government, whereas proportional representation means, not only the encouragement of minority parties, but a succession of compromise Governments built up on agreements between a number of small groups. It is no use taking the experience of a few years in a small country like Ireland as the example of what proportional representation does or does not do. We have the whole of Europe by which to judge, and no one who has followed closely the history of Germany, with one of the most complete forms of proportional representation that have yet been invented, one of the most accurate and complicated of arithmetical systems, can doubt that it greatly increases the risk of government by a series of weak Cabinets based on all kinds of intrigues and compromises between a number of warring groups.
There is, however, one thing about proportional representation of which we may be quite certain, and that is that, if we once had it in this country, we should find it very difficult to get rid of it. 1739 Several of the countries abroad are not satisfied with the system that they have, but there is always a sufficient number of small parties who fear that they would go out of existence if there were any change to prevent anything effective being done. Proportional representation in this country would perpetuate, as the ordinary political method, the condition, which has from time to time prevailed for a little while, of a large number of separate parties in this House. It would perpetuate what I think everyone who reads British history will agree was a bad thing, and I am quite unimpressed by the fact that John Stuart Mill, some 60 or 70 years ago, advocated a system of proportional representation. We have to judge, not by yesterday, but by the present and by the years since the War, when a large number of countries, in a moment of enthusiasm, established proportional representation, and have learned, I hope, by now to regret it.
If, however, you take the experience in regard to the alternative vote, this is quite certain, that in Australia the alternative vote has helped to increase majorities. It does act on the majority side, and I would say to the Opposition that, if they are expecting great victories in the near future, they had better support this Bill. The party that is on the up grade tends to gain by the alternative vote, but this also is certain, that the party that comes into power after an election under the alternative vote has got a majority behind it. I would rather, perhaps, that we had the present system of having occasional compromises within this House than that we should have to compromise outside. But it is clear that under the alternative vote, whatever the Government of the country is, that Government is there because the majority of the electors have sent it there.
It has been complained that in this Debate we are talking about something that is of no importance, while there are many more important matters outside, but it must be remembered that, if you are going to alter the electoral system in order to prevent a minority Government after the next election, you have to begin to do it rather soon, not because an election is imminent, but because, owing to Conservative strength in another place as well as here, it may 1740 take a long time before such a Bill can be placed upon the Statute Book, and it is surely of great importance to all social legislation that this Government carries through that we should do our utmost to enable the people by a majority to say whether the Parliament that follows it shall continue and develop it or whether it shall wipe it away. We, therefore, consider that it is not unnatural that we should spend a few days—hon. Members opposite will remember that they have not been altogether helpful in saving time—in considering legislation which will affect the future of the country as closely as this.
I would say more. A good electoral machinery is enormously important for a civilised democracy. I have recently been to Poland, where the machinery of elections is extremely defective, and I have not the least doubt that at the last election many excesses took place, and many unfairnesses were committed, because of the electoral machinery under which that country lives. Every additional perfecting of the electoral machinery helps a democratic State to function satisfactorily and peacefully and, even if this Bill is not a great and world-shaking Measure, it is one which will secure equality of voting power, will restrain the privilege of wealth in electoral matters, and will ensure that the next Parliament will have a majority behind its Government.
§ Sir ERNEST GRAHAM-LITTLE
It seems to me that very erroneous impressions still prevail about universities on the opposite side of the House. I propose only to speak of Clause 4 of the Bill. I think the idea that many hon. Members opposite have obtained of the universities is derived from the contemplation of the older universities as they were before the War. Perhaps I might be allowed to give quite another picture of a university which was founded for the express purpose of providing democratic education. It is now true that all the universities are amongst the most democratic of our institutions, but London University was democratic a very great many years before any other university was in that position. May I give a picture of what it was founded to do? I think it will correct any impression that universities are undemocratic and that it is a furtherance of democratisation to 1741 reduce the university franchise. That the university for many years carried out a system of enabling poor students to study, and to take degrees as the result of their studies.
The head of a department of one of our colleges told me a few days ago that one of his best students in the evening classes is an omnibus conductor, who runs his omnibus in the day time and studies at night. It is a poor man's university, and it is a remarkable thing that an effort to stop that democratic part of the university was actually made by the party opposite in 1924. It happens that that attempt was the reason of my coming to Parliament, because I stood at a by-election to oppose that system as far as I could, and I was elected subsequently in opposition to the united efforts of the three parties to keep me out. That election, not because of my being chosen, but because of the circumstances that surrounded it, resulted in that part of our activities being kept intact, and they are now more active than ever.
§ Sir E. GRAHAM-LITTLE
I have no doubt that that was the origin of the attempt. I only refer to it to show that it came from that, side. I would not argue the point further than to show that on my own record—I have been 25 years struggling to keep that system of education—I might perhaps call myself, in educational matters at any rate, a most convinced Socialist. I consider it not only an insult to our intelligence but to democracy as well to represent the destruction of this franchise as a democratic act. I do not in any way claim that Members representing universities are any more intelligent than any other group of members. It would be a ridiculous claim. But they are incontestably more independent. There is no capital levy to pay the expenses of university Members. There is no Lloyd George fund.
§ Mr. ALPASS
Is it not a fact that candidates are put forward by the party caucus for universities exactly the same as in other constituencies?
§ Sir E. GRAHAM-LITTLE
There are no funds such as I have mentioned, and 1742 university Members have in the past been relatively poor men. A rich man need not contest a university seat. A university seat is one that is open to all poor men. One sitting Member told me that his election cost him 3d., which was his tram fare to the place of nomination. I think this House is heartily sick of caucus rule. And the university electorate has particularly objected to caucus rule. We have had a recent illustration of the effect of a caucus rule. We have seen some 50 members of an historic party abstain from voting at the bidding of a political boss. Such a position could not arise among the representatives of a university. In fact, nothing is more damaging to the candidature of anyone than to have an attempt made by a party organisation to tell the electors for whom they should vote. The independence of the vote in university contests has become more and more the rule and not the exception. The university is nonparty, and the university undergraduate regards his university vote as a means of choosing a candidate for quite other reasons than those for which the party candidate is put forward. To have political contests for universities will, I hope, quite soon be an anachronism to be swept away. The real motive for the removal of the 12 Members has been frankly shown in the speech of the introducer of this Bill, when he said that those 12 Members were mainly Tory Members. That was the principal reason for their removal.
I sympathise very largely with that view, but I would suggest to Members on the benches opposite that they are very short-sighted in putting forward this Measure now because there is undoubtedly a very remarkable change taking place in the undergraduate body at all universities. The position has changed in the last 15 years, and at the present time it is true to say that a large majority of undergraduates at all universities, taking them as a, whole, come from working-class homes. If, as I suppose Members on the benches opposite may argue—I do not agree with the argument—that Socialism is the natural creed of the working man, the universities are bound in the near future to come under that change when the undergraduates become electors, and we may quite conceivably have a state of affairs in which the university constituencies 1743 will be predominantly, or perhaps even exclusively, Socialist. In passing, one may say that it is a somewhat unfortunate precedent to attempt to remove even so small a number as 12 Members because those 12 are said to oppose the Government who are trying to carry out this removal.
The argument for the abolition of the university vote is an argument of political expediency in the main. The arguments for retention are much more respectable; they have been dealt with at great length, and I do not propose to repeat them. They are further set out with very great force in the memorial which was published in the press of the country yesterday. I would, however, draw attention to one very great argument for the retention of the university vote, and that is what happened at the Speaker's Conference. The question was examined for months by a very impartial body composed of representatives of all parties. The particular recommendation regarding universities was reproduced faithfully in the Act of 1918, which represented an agreement between the parties of that day. I should like to read a quotation from the speech made by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) on the Second Reading Debate in 1917. He said:The retention of university representation is to my mind most regrettable …. But this is a compromise Bill, and however much some of us may dislike some of these provisions …. we accept them frankly and without dispute or controversy, because we know that others who hold opposite views have also given up points to which they attach importance, and that it is only by a general surrender here and there of things which each of us regards as not necessarily essential that it is possible to secure that general agreement by which alone a Measure of this character can be carried."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1917; cols. 2342–3. Vol. 93.]That was, I submit, a definite and a solemn agreement, and that it should become a scrap of paper in the hands of the Liberal party only 12 years after the agreement was made, seems to me to require some explanation.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
As part of that agreement, there should have been proportional representation. It was also included as a unanimous recommendation of the Lowther Conference, and has never been carried into effect.
§ Sir E. GRAHAM-LITTLE
That speech was made on the Second Reading, and I regard it as summing up the whole position as it then was, and it was particularly in relation to university representation that the speech was made. I believe that the same motive which prevailed with the Government to keep the City representation—and that motive, I think, was that they were really convinced that public opinion would not support the extinction of the City constituency, and that is why they included it—should prevail with them in respect of the universities. The Government, I think will find that there is a similar public opinion behind the question of retaining the university representation, and I hope that that opinion will make itself felt during the Committee stage.
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
While it is quite true that there are certain Clauses in the Bill which should heartily be recommended, I feel, as far as the proposal of the alternative vote is concerned, that it is a very great mistake, and likely to bring about consequences which cannot be foreseen, and which will probably be of a very serious and disastrous character. This proposal has been put forward with the idea that it is going to remove such anomalies as those which resulted from the election of 1924. If we could succeed in removing all really serious anomalies there would not be much difference of opinion upon the matter, but I cannot see, looking at the 1924 results, even if the alternative vote had been in operation, that the result would have been very materially different from what it actually was. If as a result of that election there still had been a very much larger representation here than was justified by the number of votes cast for that, representation, certainly the Bill fails to remedy that which it sets out to remedy.
We are asked to make a very great change in the system without having before us a good deal of the, information to which, I think, we are entitled before we do so. There was no White Paper issued or information given as to why the parties in the Conference advocated their various views. Nor was there any information as to the operation of the alternative vote elsewhere, nor as to proportional representation. Until the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. 1745 Devlin) rose to-day, we had not so much as heard a whisper that proportional representation had been in operation both in Northern and Southern Ireland for a number of years with very satisfactory results. [HON. MEMBERS: "It has been dropped in Ulster!"] There were two omissions in the Home Secretary's speech in introducing the Measure. There was no reference to minorities or to something which we ought to secure in any Measure of representation, namely, real justice for all sections.
The alternative vote has been in operation only in two other places, Australia and Canada. As far as Australia is concerned it has been used in electing the Legislative Assemblies of the States, with the exception of Tasmania, which has had proportional representation in operation for a great many years, but there is no other case. In the last Commonwealth elections only 12 constituencies were contested by three candidates, and although they have compulsory preferences, six of those 12 constituencies were won by clear majorities on the first vote. When it came to second preferences in two cases Labour was displaced by Nationalists, and in two cases the Nationalists were displaced by a Labour and an Independent candidate. In only four constituencies was the representation altered. Therefore, there was not very much in the way of a change. If we look at the position in Alberta, excluding the towns of Calgary and Edmonton, where they have proportional representation in operation, we find that in the country districts the United Farmers' Association polled 68,000 votes and secured 42 seats, the Liberals polled 36,000 votes and secured five seats, the Conservatives 26,000 votes without securing any seats at all, while Labour polled 5,000 votes and secured three seats.
There is nothing whatever to be said in favour of the alternative vote on such figures as those. They seem rather to accentuate the ills which it is sought to remedy. With regard to proportional representation, if one may judge from what was said by one of my hon. Friends last night, the whole idea of proportional representation is very largely misunderstood, and certainly his idea of the system is not that which is generally understood. The hon. Member for 1746 Sunderland (Dr. Phillips) referred just now to Germany, and said proportional representation had been a failure there. It must be remembered that there is not a good but a bad system there—a system of very large areas. The argument has been put forward that there are many more parties under proportional representation than otherwise. That, certainly, is not true as far as Germany is concerned.
Let us look at the other Anglo-Saxon countries in Europe. In Belgium, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate have been elected by proportional representation since 1899; in Sweden, both Houses of the Riksdag have been so elected since 1907; in Denmark, both Houses since 1915; in Holland, the Lower House in 1917 and the Upper House in 1923; and in Norway, the Storthing since 1919. That is as far as Europe is concerned. Let us look at our own Empire, where proportional representation is in operation. In the Union of South Africa the Senate and the Executive Committee of Provincial Councils have been elected by proportional representation since 1909. In Tasmania, the House of Assembly has been so elected since 1907. In India, certain constituencies for the National Legislature and for Provincial Legislatures and the Committee of Public Accounts of the National and of each Provincial Legislature since 1919; in Alberta and Manitoba, since 1920; and in South-West Africa the Executive Committee of four members of the New Legislative Assembly have been elected by proportional representation by members of the Legislative Assembly since 1926.
We have had no mention of this previously, and surely there should be some good grounds for these people holding their ideas of proportional representation. It is not sufficient to say that it has been in operation only for a few years, and you cannot judge by that. When you have got a considerable part of the Empire with proportional representation in operation for a considerable number of years, surely there is something to be said for it. It is an extraordinary thing that Ireland was never referred to at all until the hon. Member spoke earlier in the Debate. We endeavour, as far as minorities are concerned, to deal with the question in more 1747 directions than one. At the opening of the Indian Conference by His Majesty, these words were used:I have in mind the just claims of majorities and minorities, of men and women …. Of the races, castes and creeds of which the body politic is composed … I cannot doubt that the true foundation of self-government is in the fusion of such divergent claims into mutual obligations, and in their recognition and fulfilment.In the declaration which the Government made in the final plenary session of the Conference, these views were very strongly expressed and these words were used:such guarantees as are urgently required by minorities to protect their political liberties and rights,and then, again—provisions guaranteeing to the various minorities …. political representation.The Foreign Secretary at Geneva was endeavouring to deal with the problem of German minorities in Poland. No one would suggest that the alternative vote would make any difference to the German minorities in Poland. If Proportional Representation, or the representation of minorities, has proved itself effective in the Dominions of the Empire and in Ireland, and if minorities are to be similarly protected in India, one might well ask why it is that we, in the Mother of Parliaments, the most advanced assembly in the world, are not also to concede that minorities, wherever those minorities are, shall be protected.
Why is it, when we have before us all the evidence of the success that has been achieved by Proportional Representation elsewhere, that nothing but the question of the alternative vote should be placed before us which, so far as we have any means of judging its effects, is a very considerable failure. Under the alternative vote you can never have more than 75 per cent. of the votes effective, and you may have not more than 51 per cent. effective. I am well aware that if there are three candidates and the one who secures the highest number of votes gets 51 per cent. of the number of votes recorded, that would be sufficient, but it is surely very undesirable when we are setting up a new system of the representation of the people that we should not endeavour to secure that a very much 1748 higher per cent. than 51 per cent. or at the most 74 per cent, of effective votes should be possible in the return of a candidate. What do we find under Proportional Representation so far as the county of Dublin is concerned? Ninety per cent. of the votes became effective in electing eight members.
The right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare), in speaking yesterday told us of some of the things that he thought the people wanted. There are certain things that the thinking people, the people upon whom we ought more than ever to rely for securing proper representation in the House of Commons, want, and two of those things are justice and fair play. A House which has no representation of a very substantial body of opinion as expressed at an election can never command that amount of public confidence which this House ought to command. Under the alternative vote system very considerable bodies would not be directly represented in this House, as they would be under Proportional Representation. When you get as the result of an election under any other system a result which means that those bodies of opinion have to be represented by someone else, there is always a danger of some amount of contempt for Parliamentary institutions.
Writing in the "New Leader" on the 12th January, 1924, on the question of Proportional Representation, the Prime Minister said:If we adopt proportional representation we may not have one majority Government in a century (not necessarily an evil, if we frankly recognise what we are doing). Everything points to a continued stalemate, and I am therefore much more interested in what that means in terms of Parliamentary organisation than in whether another party leader votes in revenge, or for tactics, or in the nation's interest. The first effect will be to loosen party bonds. Members, whilst holding generally to party principles and conceptions of policy, will, more frequently than they now do, use their own judgment as to how to vote. Parties themselves may have to change, and, whilst increasing their propaganda and educational work in the country, will rule in the House of Commons more by their administrative success than by party force, whilst the legislation that will be carried will have to be more in accordance than it now too often is with public desires outside and the course of Debates inside. This will tend to curb the partisanship of parties and make them, like Cabinets, more public servants than dictators. This can be put in another way. 1749 It will weaken organisation but strengthen reason; it will make Ministers more the instruments of the general will than the captains of party horse. On balance that will be good, but the working of the system will call for more intelligence from the democracy.So far as the intelligence of the democracy is concerned, I think we shall all agree that the greater the intelligence of democracy the better both for democracy and for this House. I think there was a great deal of real sound reason in what the Prime Minister said, and it is worth our while to give some consideration to it. May I quote one other authority, Jean Jaures, one of the wisest members of the French Socialist party, who said:The law of contests in single-member constituencies is the law of murder—'Thou shalt kill thine adversary.' The law of contests in large constituencies with proportional representation is the law of justice' You and your adversaries shall each have your fair share.' In this way the struggles which to-day so deplorably distort the conflicts of ideas would be greatly modified, if not abolished altogether.We all desire that there shall be real and true human progress. Human progress demands that all those conflicts which distort our ideas, and which allow anything in the way of passion to enter our political life, rather than reason, ought to be done away with, and that can only he done by the adoption of Proportional Representation.
§ Mr. AMERY
The speech of the hon. Member, sincere and obviously informed by knowledge, has added one more voice to the chorus of those who, from every quarter of the House, have riddled the provisions of this Bill, or have damned the Bill as a whole by tepid praise or by their silence. What has, however, impressed me in this Debate even more than the criticisms of the back benchers has been the very praiseworthy effort made by the Front I3ench opposite and below the Gangway to lend some air of respectability to this very disreputable Measure. We have been told that this is a great instalment of electoral justice. The hon. Member's speech has torn that pretence into tatters. We have been told that it is a mighty advance in the triumphal march of the people towards pure democracy. I say "praiseworthy" because after all hypocrisy is the tribute which vice pays to virtue, and it is at 1750 any rate something that so cynical a Measure should have been introduced in this House under cover of a cloud of benevolent and irrelevant generalities. Perhaps even more praiseworthy is the silence of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and it may be it is an even greater tribute to the decency of our public affairs.
This is essentially a partisan Measure. It is a pure ragbag of electoral dodges put together as the outcome of a political wangle. The House has already been reminded how far we have wandered from that Council of State to which the Prime Minister summoned us some months ago. This Measure is not inspired by the tradition of a purified and ennobled Westminster. It is much more redolent of the arrangements between the racketeer gangs of Chicago. I have been thoroughly enjoying a biography of Scarface Al Capone, and in that work, in the interesting treaties between Bugs Moran and other gangster chiefs, I found descriptions which admirably picture the present situation. In that same work I also found some consolation that these gangster treaties, by which third parties were to be "bumped off" or "taken for a ride," hardly ever lasted long.
What about the present arrangement? Its chief feature is that in return for a very ill-defined renewal of the lease of the premises opposite the somewhat uncomfortable tenure of those premises, by the present Government, they are putting into the hands of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs a most formidable and effective weapon. Whatever else may be said about the alternative vote, one thing is certain, from experience in other countries, that in the hands of the leader of a minority who knows how to wield his weapon it is an asset of great bargaining value, not to say nuisance value, an asset of great killing power. We have been informed how the electoral pact between the Country Party and the Nationalists in the Australian Senate elections wiped out the whole representation of the Labour party in the Australian Senate, although they secured over 45 per cent. of the votes of the electors. Similarly, in a recent Alberta election, where the Conservatives, I understand, gave their second preferences to the United Farmers 1751 party, the latter party with 68,000 votes secured 42 seats, while the unhappy Liberal party and other parties were left to share eight seats between them, although they also polled 68,000 votes.
With a weapon of such power it is interesting to ask what use the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is going to make of it. He says he likes it, he likes it, and I can see him fingering the trigger with pleasurable anticipation. Whom is he going to shoot? I gather that the understanding is that he is going to help hon. Members opposite against ourselves and our friends; and that no doubt is his present intention. No doubt hon. Members opposite, knowing the affection he has always borne for them and the admiration he so steadily expresses for them, can feel certain in trusting him with this weapon—as far as they can see him; they can feel certain that he will not let them down—until it pays him to do so. In considering when that moment may come there is a point which is worth keeping in mind in connection with electoral reform. The alternative vote may be a very adequate political weapon in the hands of the hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, but from the Liberal point of view it is very inadequate payment for 18 months of patient oxen work, even if a good deal of that work has been done in champing their food in the stalls.
The claim of the Liberal party is proportional representation, and they have made it abundantly clear that this is the only payment which they think worth while. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), while paying a perfunctory and rather muddled tribute to the mathematical excellencies of the alternative vote, dedicated the whole of his speech to an advocacy of the cause of proportional representation. That cause has been brilliantly championed by the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Cecil Wilson), and is even more brilliantly represented by the galaxy of Cabinet Ministers opposite, who are vice-presidents, like myself, of the Proportional Representation Society, but who apparently are so careless that they have forgotten the fart. But the rank and file of their party, like the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health, look upon proportional representation as a desperate and dangerous 1752 innovation. It is too full of unpleasant mathematical complexities. Like the university vote there is something unpleasantly savouring of intellectual superiority about it. They prefer the simpler one man one vote, even without the adjectival clarification to which the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) referred.
But what about ourselves? On the whole I may say that the party on these benches is well content to leave things as they are, but many of us have been, and are still, advocates of proportional representation, and we have been reminded that on the Ullswater Conference the whole of our representatives took the line that if a change had to come then the only change that was worth while was proportional representation. If it should come to a choice for us at the next election between being "taken fur a ride" under the alternative vote by a combination between the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and hon. Members opposite, or, at the cost of a promise of [...]proportional representation, seeing hon. and right hon. Members opposite are "bumped off", then I for my part might he disposed to give very serious consideration to that offer.
Of course, that may not be the game that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs is playing. It may possibly be the game which the hon. Member for Bridgeton fears—the forming of a Liberal-Labour coalition on the right hon. Gentleman's terms. That is a matter between the two parties concerned, and all that I can say is that if that should come about, then I leave the criticism of the scheme either to those Liberals who really believe that there is room for such a thing as an independent Liberal party or to those Socialists who want something richer than skimmed-milk Socialism. But, after all, these question of tactics lie in the future, and I turn from them to a consideration of the actual demerits of the present Bill.
What are the objects which any electoral system should keep in view? They are, I think, three. The first is that it should establish and maintain in office a Government with a working majority; the second is that it should secure, as far as possible, fair representation in Parliament for all organised political opinion; and the third, and no less important, 1753 object is that it should secure a place and a voice in Parliament for all important elements and functions in the national life. The first purpose, that of establishing and, maintaining an effective Government, is certainly not the least important object of an electoral system, and it is the one which is most characteristic of our own system in this country.
We have been reminded that on the Continent the theory is that the elector creates a Parliament and that within that Parliament, living for a fixed period of years, Governments are formed, and that it is Parliament and not the Government which goes to the country. With us the very opposite is the case. It is an essential feature in our life that if a Government cannot maintain the confidence of Parliament, it goes to the country. The Government and not Parliament dissolves, and that feature of our constitution throws upon the voter a direct and primary responsibility for the establishment of the Government; and I venture to say that it is not desirable that the voter should shirk that responsibility or be encouraged to shirk it.
The right hon. Member for Darwen yesterday drew a piteous picture of the sorry dilemma of the unhappy voter who has to choose between a Socialist and a Protectionist candidate, both of whom he detests. Yes, but if Parliament has eventually to choose between a Socialist and a Protectionist Government, then I say it is a good thing for the voter to be compelled to make that choice, and not encouraged to evade or postpone it and throw the difficulty on the Floor of this House. As a matter of fact, it is from that point of view that a very large proportion of our people take their electoral duties. There is a large floating element in our electorate who are not in. different to politics but who are not closely associated with any one party, and who, at an election, are thinking entirely in terms of whether they like the late Government and wish to continue it or whether they wish to put another Government in its place. It is the vote of that element which decides in the main our elections, which gives that swing to the pendulum which undoubtedly causes larger majorities than a mere total transfer of votes would indicate, and it is that feature which to a very consider- 1754 able extent renders meaningless those summations of the total number of votes cast by faithful nuclei of party adherents of some party that is not capable of forming a Government and is not prepared to declare which Government it is going to support.
I admit fully that our present system is not perfect from the point of view of the second object, the object of securing an absolutely fair representation of all interests. Undoubtedly that kind of representation could only be secured by Proportional Representation. As far as Continental electoral and political systems are concerned, there can be no doubt that Proportional Representation is the best. I do not say that it is necessarily unsuited to our conditions. I think experience in Anglo-Saxon countries, in Australia and Northern Ireland, as we were reminded just now by an hon. Member from Northern Ireland, does not indicate that Proportional Representation encourages, as the alternative vote undoubtedly may, the formation of a number of groups. The real difficulty is the doubt whether it will secure sufficient majorities to carry on the ordinary work of Parliament. Against that, of course, may be set the possible advantage that it would eliminate violent fluctuations and would enable the work of Government and Parliament to be carried on more steadily and more consistently, subject to such alterations in our procedure and our Parliamentary conventions as would make it possible for a Government to carry on with much smaller majorities than those to which we have been accustomed.
Certainly I will say, speaking purely personally, that I have been in favour of Proportional Representation for something like thirty years, and it is certainly not through carelessness on my part that my name still stands as a vice-president, with less careful Members opposite, on the list of the Proportional Representation Society. But if I have had, as I certainly have, in later years some misgivings as to the effects of Proportional Representation, they do not concern the securing of a fair representation of all parties, but only the question of how far it can be made effectively to work in with our system of Government, which is de- 1755 pendent on a steady and permanent majority, subject to dissolution if that majority cannot be sustained. I think they are probably difficulties that can be surmounted, and I entirely agree with the representatives of our party in the Ullswater Conference that if any change had to be made, Proportional Representation would certainly deserve more serious consideration than it has ever had in the past.
Let me turn from that question to the alternative vote, which, as has been amply shown in the two days of our Debates, is neither calculated to secure a fairer return for either minorities or majorities or to make sure of sustaining an effective majority. The Home Secretary yesterday said that the alternative vote does not claim to do so absolutely accurately. It is of all systems the most inaccurate in its representation of the parties. The Prime Minister said the aim of proportional representation was to represent the majority of our own constituents, and he went on to support that case with a cloud of confused arguments which made me understand why it was that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs spoke of him and his colleagues as the children of the mist. It is, I think, necessary to explode this idea that the alternative vote secures the representation of the real majority in a constituency. On the contrary, it is a system whose result depends entirely on the hazard as to who is least successful of the three candidates, and as to the disposition of his preferences.
Reference has been made to the case of the Shipley by-election, and with the permission of the House I should like to go into that case again in order to show how astonishingly varied would be the results of the alternative vote according to whose second preferences were taken in order to determine the result. In that election there were cast, approximately, 16,000 Conservative votes, 15,000 Labour votes and 12,000 Liberal votes. It is not unfair to assume that the majority of the Liberal second preferences would be cast for a party that, at any rate, officially is still a Free Trade party. On the other hand, in the particular economic conditions of that constituency it would be perfectly fair to assume that not very far from half of the second preferences of the Socialist voters might be cast for the 1756 Conservative by those who thought that if they could not have Socialism, they would like to have Protection. Lastly, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the majority of the second preferences of the Conservative voters would have been cast in favour of the Liberal. Look at the result to which that would lead us. If you count the Liberal second preferences, the Socialist is elected. If you count the Conservative second preferences, the Liberal is elected; and if you count the Socialist second preferences, the Conservative is elected. That is a system which is supposed to give a fair representation of the true majority of the electorate! If you want to get a fair result out of the alternative vote, the only possible way would be to add everybody's second preferences to everybody's first preferences and see which has the largest total vote.
We have heard a great deal about the abolition of the plural vote, but the whole essence of the alternative vote is that a plural vote should be given to those who have been least successful in a particular election. The motto is, "Vote wrong, and vote again." The Prime Minister justified it by suggesting it would get rid of the injustice of the election of 1924. What happened in 1924? If you look at the figures, it is undoubted that an enormous number of Liberal voters exercised their second preference first and voted for the Conservatives, as they would under the alternative vote if the same situation arose again as arose in 1924. If the alternative vote is a gamble as far as the constituency is concerned, it is also very apt to become a game with the party leaders, because it would give each of them tremendous power, by swinging his second preference vote from one party to another, to exact almost any terms. Again, in the constituencies, under our present system, there is always a marginal vote to which the individual member can appeal by his personality and eloquence, and the whole way he states his case. These individual considerations under the alternative vote will sink into comparative insignificance with the question as to what arrangements have been made about second preferences. These arrangements will be made not so much in the constituency as at party headquarters.
The Prime Minister somewhat cynically brushed these considerations of logrolling aside. There may be log-rolling 1757 at times in our arrangements to-day, but surely that is no argument for increasing its opportunities and enlarging its scope. What would be the effect of the alternative vote on the conduct of Government in this House? The avowed object of this Measure, so far as the Liberal party are concerned, is to enable them to increase their number, and be able by so doing to prevent either of the two major parties in this House having a Government with a clear majority. In other words, the element of uncertainty which the alternative vote introduces into every constituency is to be duplicated on the Floor of this House. The alternative vote in the election is to be paralleled by the alternative vote in Parliament, and it is the smallest party which is to govern. I do not call that democracy, and I doubt very much whether it is compatible with efficient and energetic government.
There is only one condition on which, believe, the alternative vote is tolerable, and it is if the Liberal party definitely declare here and now that it is at the next election and during the next Parliament going to support hon. Members opposite. We were reminded by the Home Secretary that the Royal Commission of 1910 pronounced, with some hesitation about Proportional Representation, in favour of the alternative vote. But it did so on the express assumption that we lived under a two-party system, and that third candidates were an occasional exception. That is very different from present circumstances. To give the alternative vote to a party which, like that below the Gangway, refuses to show its hand at an election, and is prepared to play fast and loose in Parliament, is fair neither to the country nor to the House.
Let me now come to the third object of an electoral system, namely, the provision of a place and voice in Parliament for every important element and function in the national life. The Home Secretary in his speech said that the Reform Act of 1832 began the process towards absolutely equal rights. That was never the object of electoral reform at any stage in the long century of our development since then. From beginning to end the object has been the very different one of enabling some new element in the national life to play its part in this House, and to be heard from the 1758 Floor of the House. As far back as Burke we were told that the virtue, spirit and essence of the House of Commons lay in its being the express image of the nation, and Disraeli said, in advocating the extension of the franchise in 1859:We want in this House every element that can obtain the respect and engage the interest of the country. This House should be a mirror of the mind as well as of the material interest of England.His last phrase I may commend to those who are in favour of abolishing University representation. When the individual constituency was introduced in 1885, it was with the express object of enabling each element, each characteristic difference in the life of England, to be expressed in Parliament, and that should still be the object of any truly democratic Parliament to-day. A Parliament in which the interests, the outlook and the point of view of manual labour were not represented would not only fail to secure justice to the working-class, but would fail truly to achieve the ends, which any Parliament, if it is a real mirror of the national life, should achieve. But so would a Parliament in which any other important element of the national life was unrepresented, and to-day, with the immense development of industry, and growth of the population, with the gradual equalisation by methods of transport of the whole life of our country, there is a real danger that elements essential to the welfare and progress of the nation may be submerged by their relative numerical insignificance and by their dispersion in the flat geographical residential areas into which our electorate is divided.
Some alternative method ought to be found to secure their representation. It was for that very object that, when we had the general settlement of 1918, it was agreed that business which has its geographical centres where it predominates, not in residential but in working areas, should enjoy a special vote for its working premises. It may be said that these premises are only working premises and not sleeping premises, but, surely, work is just as essential to the welfare of the nation as sleep, and the centres where work is usually done have their importance just as much as the centres where people carry on their ordinary domestic life.
§ Mr. CLYNES
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that a workman employed in a workshop should have a vote for that workshop as well as for his residence?
§ Mr. AMERY
I am prepared to answer that question. Theoretically it would be a perfectly fair system of election if everyone voted in accordance with the places at which they worked. But, as a matter of fact, for convenience, the great mass of people are better represented according to the places where they live. Undoubtedly, however, there are certain important elements—and business is one of them—which are not easily represented on the residential basis, because, numerous as they are on the whole, and important as they are, they live so distributed that their fair representation can only be assured if you make an exception to your general rule of residential qualification, and give them a chance to vote for their business properties. Hon. Members behind the Government may object, but the Government have conceded that principle in respect of the City of London. Is there a single reason which applies to London which does not apply equally to Birmingham, Glasgow, or to any other big city in this country in which there is a business centre, with a life and activity and entity of its own and just as worthy of finding representation in this House as the City of London? What has happened since 1918 to diminish the force of the arguments for special votes which commended themselves to the representatives of all parties at that date?
What has happened since then to diminish the force of the arguments which, so impressed themselves on all parties then as to persuade them, not merely to maintain, but substantially to increase, the university vote. One might suppose that the parties which call themselves the parties of progress, which hold that they and they alone move with the times, might have hastened to enlarge the political representation of those younger centres of which learning developed have so remarkably even since 1918, whose importance in the life of the nation, whose help in saving us from our 1760 present difficulties, and whose value in the future, is recognised by every sensible person, at any rate outside this House. These newer universities are, at any rate, not undemocratic. Their undergraduates come in the main from public elementary schools, from every class of home, and permeate every rank of society. To have encouraged them by larger representation to swamp the older and possibly more reactionary universities of Oxford and Cambridge might have been an intelligible democratic policy, but to deny entry into Parliament to organised learning as such is neither democratic nor liberal. I am surprised that hon. Members opposite have so little faith in the principles of their party as to believe that those principles can never commend themselves to any body of educated men and women, even the most democratically recruited.
The Measure that has been introduced, judging by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it, shows that their conception of democracy is a purely arithmetical one—one man, one vote. Things are not as simple as all that. The problem contains many possibilities and many dangers to democracy, and if you imagine an absolutely evenly-distributed population with a substantial majority of working-class voters, organised in organisations definitely affiliated to one party, you might easily, under the system of the majority vote or the alternative vote, get a situation in which no other element in the nation was represented at all. That might be an autocracy of organised labour; it would certainly not be democracy. On the contrary, looking to the future, it is certain that mere arithmetical or geographical democracy will have to be remedied or modified, whether by proportional representation or, as is at least as likely, by special functional electorates enabling special elements of the community to be represented. That is a great and grave problem, well worthy of consideration by this House. When it is considered, it ought to be taken together with the whole question of the conduct of our affairs within this House. We cannot separate the two problems, because a new system of election may very well require for its efficient functioning a revision of the whole procedure and functions of this House. These things will no 1761 doubt have to be taken into account in time, but this Measure, neither in point of time nor in point of its contents, fulfils those needs.
The Measure which we condemn on this side of the House is based on no intelligible general principle. It is based on nothing more than pure short-sighted partisanship and on a makeshift political bargain with regard to which neither side knows what the outcome is going to be. When it comes to the time which has been chosen for the introduction of this Measure, I wonder whether a time of grave economic crisis, which can only be surmounted by the best brains and the best business capacity of this country is really suitable for the ill-timed jest of disfranchising both business and learning. More than that, is this a time at which it is wise to upset a system which in its general foundations was laid by the consent of all parties just 12 years ago? During those discussions in 1917 the Prime Minister, in order to facilitate a settlement, in recommending a, settlement in which, undoubtedly, there were details of which he did not approve, urged that it was desirable to have a settlement because in the future "We want no more barren controversies about political machinery." And then, in an eloquent passage in which he drew a picture, alas only too true to-day, of the difficulties and dangers of the economic situation which would arise after the war, he said:If you imagine you are going to deal with pettifogging, niggling partisan questions while the country outside is facing these tremendously important problems you are going to have the country rising up to tell you to be gone and mind your own business and do something that justifies your existence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1917; cols. 2221–2222, Vol. 93.]I commend the Prime Minister's words to the serious consideration of the right hon. Gentleman who is going to follow me.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. T. Shaw)
If there is one thing which has not been lacking in this Debate it has been the amount of fatherly advice given to us by the opener of the Debate and the extraordinarily strong language of the finisher of the Debate from the Opposition side. The opener began by pointing out how moral the 1762 attitude of the Conservative party was, and how immoral, time-seeking, bargain-making and log-rolling the attitude of the Labour party was. I have fought a number of elections, and these lectures from the Conservative party leave me cold. I have seen them at work, and I advise them, if they want to play the heavy father, to play it on people who do not know them; but do not let them declaim to people who have suffered at their hands treatment that no honest man would mete out to his opponents. We have heard from the last speaker almost the same advice, but couched in more explosive language, that we heard from the first speaker. They say, "What you are proposing is going to do you yourselves an injury." Well, we are prepared to risk that; but what the right hon. Gentleman fears is not that it is we who will suffer the injury. If that were the case, he would not talk about "rag bags"—a fairly good description of his own speech—but would help us to get the Bill passed in the quickest possible time and try to seal it down so that it would be impossible to revise it in any way at all.
After all, when we leave this posturing as superior persons, and this lecturing as heavy fathers, what is the Bill? In 1924 the Conservative vote was just short of 7,400,000, and the Labour and the Liberal vote combined was well over 8,000,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why combined?"] If hon. Members opposite will allow me, I will make my speech in my own way. I never interrupted by a single word the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery), although his language was certainly violent enough. If the hon. Gentlemen who lecture us so much about the propriety of behaviour will exercise as much propriety of behaviour as we do it may facilitate the Debate. Can anybody justify a system in which a minority of the voters have the right to put a Government in power with a majority of two to one over everybody else combined? Is there any reasonable man or woman anywhere who will attempt to justify a system of that kind, and yet we have that system of voting now?
§ Mr. SHAW
If the Noble Lord will permit me to say so, we shall get out 1763 according to our own views and not according to his. If those who desire that the majority of the people of this country shall appoint their representatives will supply a better method, that method can be considered, but the idea that we art going to stand still where we are and allow this thing to go on is an idea that is not founded on fact. What will the alternative vote do? It will, at any rate, give an opportunity of getting a truer reflex of public opinion than the present method. About that there can be no doubt. We have had a series of remarkable figures intended to show that it will be harmful to give a man the right to say: "If this candidate is not the best, if this candidate cannot be elected, I prefer the next in order." If that be a system that will lead to a truer reflex of the general desires of the population of this country, then that system is an improvement. Rightly or wrongly, there is a tremendous amount of prejudice in this country against proportional representation not on the ground of accuracy at all but because the tradition of this country has been that a candidate should be brought into personal touch with the electors who elect him. That argument has been used against proportional representation. In our opinion, the alternative vote will secure a closer approximation to the desires of the people of this country than the present system does. To talk about bargaining leaves me cold. I seem to remember at the last General Election frantic appeals being made in my constituency to the Liberals to vote for the Tories. That, I suppose, is a highly moral proceeding, but if Liberals support a Labour man that is highly immoral.
§ Mr. SHAW
Hon. Members and right hon. Gentlemen opposite invent a bogy and then throw sticks at it. If I said to a, man, "You have done an immoral action; prove that you have not done it," I should be told, I suppose, that that was an un-English way of doing business; but speakers on the other side have assumed some bargain to exist somewhere, have stated it as a fact, and, on the basis of their own assumption, have built up what they suppose to be a ease. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do you deny it?"] 1764 If I told the right hon. Gentleman opposite that he was a garrulous fool, and then asked him if he denied it, would hon. and right hon. Members opposite think that that was fair play? Why should I deny it? I did not make the allegation; it was made from over there.
Whatever the result of a movement of this kind may be, the question is, is it or is it not a fairer method than the method we are now pursuing? I have no objection and no hesitation in speaking for this Bill, because I believe in the principle of accurate representation in this House of the desires of the people. I believe in the right of every individual who is 21 years of age to one vote and no more; I absolutely disbelieve in any privilege whatever for anybody or any person and I see the opposite side with tremendous advantages in the shape of a Second Chamber. I see the dice loaded against this side by a House across the way calmly swallowing everything that goes there from the Conservative party, and examining, with meticulous care and with a desire to destroy, things that go from this side. If hon. Members think that in such circumstances there is going to be no attempt to redress evident grievances, they dream vain dreams. We certainly shall go on with this Bill, and we hope to be able, not only to carry it, but to see that it gets through the other place.
If this Bill becomes, as it will become, an Act, then it is quite evident that Clause 2 of the Bill will be absolutely essential. I am not going to spend much time on arguments connected with Clause 2. I am one of the representatives of a double-member constituency. We had at the last election five candidates for a two-member seat, and there were 15 different ways of voting at that election. If the alternative vote were carried into a double-member constituency, the situation would become ridiculous in the extreme, and it is quite evident that it is almost impossible to make the system of the alternative vote work if the double-member constituencies are retained. For that reason, with one exception, the double-member constituencies will be abolished by the Bill.
Let me turn to the question of the representation of the City of London. I noted with great interest the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke 1765 before me, as to the lack of justification for this treatment of the City of London. Well, probably, if the right hon. Gentleman cares to move an Amendment in Committee to abolish the privilege of the City of London, it might find receptive ears. This is unquestionably a concession to history, sentiment and tradition, but, if right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not want sentiment, tradition and history, they have their remedy, and possibly they will find support for it. I do not know whether we have not gone too far in trying to cater for this sympathy and this sentiment and this tradition, but the City of London is a rather remarkable institution, and, so far as the Bill is concerned, the provision is there, but a strange misapprehension appears to have arisen during the Debate. It is that in some way voters in the City of London are going to be allowed a double vote while other people with double votes under the present system are going to have one taken away. That is quite wrong. If a voter votes from his business premises in the City of London, he has no other vote. Under this Bill there are no two votes for any one person. That has been plain and distinct throughout the Bill. It is a principle of the Bill and it is a principle that we hold to very keenly.
May I deal with the question of the university constituencies. I had not the opportunity of going to a, university. I bitterly regret it. [Interruption, and HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!] Do not worry about observations like that. The man or woman who has been to a university enjoys a tremendous advantage. The very fact of the university training gives an influence in the community that is undoubted. On the top of that opportunity and of that influence, have we to give a separate vote? I think the university graduate who wants not only the advantage of the university training and of the influence that it gives him, but on the top of that a separate vote, is rather exacting too much from the community, and I and the party I represent are not prepared to grant an advantage of that kind. There is no more reason for granting a double vote to one who has graduated at a university than to a woman who has worked all her life. There is no more reason for giving him a double vote than for giving it to a 1766 man who has produced useful goods all his life. In fact, there is less reason for the former than for the latter, and the university graduate ought to be perfectly satisfied with the opportunity and the influence that university training has given and be satisfied to be like any ordinary individual so far as his number of votes is concerned.
With regard to the question of the restriction of the use of vehicles, this party stands quite frankly for the abolition of all privilege to any individual. It is idle to pretend, and those who have been engaged in elections for many years know, that wealth does not give a tremendous advantage, and that the party that can control the largest number of motor cars gets an advantage that the poorer party cannot command. There is no question about it. We believe in the abolition of privilege. We are trying our level best to give the opportunity to the infirm and to the sick to get to the poll, but to prevent any party, through larger wealth, being able to flood a constituency with motor cars while the poorer candidate has to do without. Is there anything wrong about that? If there be, we do not see it. At any rate, it is our intention to do what we can in order that this system of flooding the constituencies with motor cam should be abolished.
With regard to the cutting down of election expenses, I am sure there are many Members of the Conservative party who will be in favour of this method. There is no question that a tremendous advantage is given to the party or to the candidates that can control unlimited finances in order to carry on their election. I wish we had been able to go much further, and put down in plain black and white what would be permitted in elections and what would not be permitted, in order that every party in every constituency should be on the same lines, that no outside organisation of any kind, whatever it be, should be able to enter into it, that every candidate should be treated in exactly the same way, and elections run at the very minimum of expense. There must be thousands of highly-trained people in this country who would stand for Parliament, and would be capable in every way of becoming useful Members, the sole reason for whose declining to take a candidature is 1767 the question of money and the inability to contest an election. This method, at any rate, will tend to make it easier for a comparatively poor man or poor woman to stand, with a chance of success at an election, and if we can get, at the same time, the limitation of costs and the prevention of flooding by motor cars, we shall help the members of the poorer part of the population, who really desire to take an active part in political life, to come forward as candidates.
I will turn to one or two of the arguments which have been used as to what this Bill, if it becomes an Act, is likely to do in the shape of providing different types of Government. After all, what does it matter what it does if it is a fair thing? Does anyone believe that by any jugglery, any system that does not give a true representation of the people, can last? I do not. While I do not think its immediate results will be to help the Labour party, I do believe that its immediate results will be to help the country. I am one of those who believe, as far as my own party programme is concerned, that there is one way, and one way only, for us to realise our ideal, and that is for us to convince a majority of the people that our ideals are right, because without a convinced majority, we are simply filling ourselves with the East wind, if we think we can realise the ideals for which we stand. We have been told over and over again what will be the dangers in the way. Threatened men and threatened parties live long.
I thank the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite for all their kindly advice, and I thoroughly recognise their great kindness in trying to get us to avoid these difficulties for ourselves. We know perfectly well how their hearts ache when they see us making this great political mistake that is likely to wreck our future. We know that they never think about themselves, and that the last thing they would dream of is to consider this Bill from their own party point of view. We know they are so high-souled and of such high endeavour that all they want to do is to save the poor Liberal party and the poor Labour party from absolute extinction. We appreciate it, and we are very grateful for it. I have already expressed our thanks for the very kindly advice which was given to us at the beginning, and I have already said 1768 that, in spite of it, we are just going on in our own way. If this Bill does what we expect from it, it will give us what, up to the present, we have not had—a far truer representation of the people, cleaner and cheaper elections, and the possibility of the poorer section of the community taking part.
Further, it will remove an obvious injustice for any party that at present is polling a very heavy number of votes without corresponding representation in this House. We have no apologies to make. We have heard all about this talk of log-rolling and the rest of it before. We know it and appreciate it at its true value. [Interruption.] This interruption is of the ordinary kind, and the sort of interruption which has "nothing to do with the case," like "the flowers that bloom in the spring." This is one little attempt to cut away a number of privileges. It is a very small attempt but it is the beginning of a series of attempts from a party which believes honestly and sincerely in the inalienable right of every man and woman to have a voice in the affairs of the country, and no more, which believes in the abolition of privilege, from whatever source, and which hopes some day to see in the House equality for all parties, so that their legislation may be equal, and in this way to unload the loaded dice which have so often been against us and the party below the Gangway.
§ Major HARVEY
I did not intend to intervene in the Debate, but, as we have a few moments to spare, I should like to make one or two observations with regard to some of the utterances of the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps it is rather significant that the Secretary of State for War in the Socialist Government should have been selected to wind up this Debate. After all, as we see it on these benches, it is definitely and distinctly a war against the Conservative party, and them only. It is not a war of one party against another, but a war in which the Government have as allies hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. I should like to put forward a few considerations with regard to this Bill. We have seen letters in the Press suggesting the alternative vote and proportional representation. I have made a careful study of this question and I am inclined to suggest one method which I have not heard advocated either outside or in the Debate. I 1769 would recommend it to those who have been putting forward the method of the alternative vote and proportional representation. I suggest that the second preferences which are given should not be used as a single vote, but should he split in half and should be given as half a vote. I commend that method to those hon. Members who will emasculate the Bill upstairs.
I should also like to make a suggestion with regard to university votes. I realise that the universities of this country have sent to this House most worthy and desirable representatives, who have represented a point of view which probably has not been put by other Members of this House. Would it not be possible—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—Hon. Members say, "no," but I think it might be possible. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It would be quite possible, it would be definitely possible, that those people who have achieved distinction in the universities entitling them to a vote at the universities should be given the option of voting either for their university or in the constituencies where they reside. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Members say "no." I do not see why they should not be given that option. The people who have achieved disinction which entitles them to vote in their universities ought to have a chance of voting either for their uni-
§ versity or in their home constituencies. If they had that choice, nothing would be lost to hon. Members opposite. Take the example of a man or woman who has Socialist views and who achieves the distinction of taking the degree of B.A. or M.A. and is entitled to vote at one or other of the universities. They might perfectly well choose to vote for their universities and exercise their influence and devote their work in their local constituencies where they live. If they happened to be abroad they would not be able to exercise their influence in their constituency, but they could exercise their vote without prejudice in respect of their university or their constituency.
§ It being Eleven of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded to interrupt the business.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 295; Noes, 230.1773
|Division No. 102.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (File, Watt)||Brooke, W.||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)|
|Adamson. W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Brothers, M.||Egan, W. H.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Elmley, Viscount|
|A[...]tchison, Rt. Hon. Cra[...]gle M.||Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)||England, Colonel A.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (Hillsbro')||Brown, W. J. (Welv[...]r[...]ampton, West)||Foot, Isaac|
|Alpass, J. H.||Buchanan, G.||Freeman, Peter|
|Ammon, Charles George||Burgess, F. G.||Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)|
|Angell, Sir Norman||Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)|
|Arnott, John||Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Car'vn)|
|Aske, Sir Robert||Calne, Derwent Hall-||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Cameron, A. G.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)|
|Ayles, Walter||Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)|
|Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Charleton, H. C.||Gill, T. H.|
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)||Chafer, Daniel||Gillett, George M.|
|Barnes, Alfred John||Clarke, J. S.||Glassey, A. E.|
|Batey, Joseph||Cluse, W. S.||Gossling, A. G.|
|Beckett, John (Camberwell, Peckham)||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Gould, F.|
|Be[...]lamy, Albert||Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood||Compton, Joseph||Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Ed[...]n., Cent)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Cove, William G.||Granville, E.|
|Bennett, William (Battersea, South)||Cripps, Sir Stafford||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)|
|Benson, G.||Daggar, George||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)|
|Bevan, Aneurln (Ebbw Vale)||Dallas, George||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)|
|Birkett, W. Norman||Dalton, Hugh||Groves, Thomas E.|
|Bllnde[...]l, James||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Grundy, Thomas W.|
|Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret||Day, Harry||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)|
|Bowen, J. W.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvl[...])|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Devlin, Joseph||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Broad, Francis Alfred||Dukes, C.||Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Duncan, Charles||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Zetland)|
|Bromfield, William||Ede, James Chuter||Hard[...]e, George D.|
|Bromley, J.||Edmunds, J. E.||Harris, Percy A.|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Sexton, Sir James|
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mansfield, W.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Haycock, A. W.||March, S.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Marcus, M.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Hayes, John Henry||Markham, S. F.||Sherwood, G. H.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Marley, J.||Shield, George William|
|Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)||Marshall, Fred||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)||Mathers, George||Sh[...]aker, J. F.|
|Herriotts, J.||Matters. L. W.||Shinwell, E.|
|Hirst, G. H. (York W.R. Wentworth)||Maxton, James||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Melville, Sir James||Simmons, C. J.|
|Hoffman, P. C.||Messer, Fred||Simon, E. D.(Manch'ter, Withington)|
|Hollins, A.||Middleton, G.||Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Hopkin, Daniel||Millar, J. D.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Mills, J. E,||Smith, Alfred (Sunderland)|
|Horrabin, J. F.||Milner. Major J.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)||Montague, Frederick||Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Smith, H. B. Lees- (Keighley)|
|Isaacs, George||Morley, Ralph||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Jenkins, Sir William||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Smith, Tom (Pontefract)|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Smith, W. R. (Norwich)|
|Johnston, Thomas||Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)||Snell, Harry|
|Jones, F. Llewellyn- (Flint)||Mort, D. L.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Mosley, Lady C. (Stoke-on-Trent)||Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)|
|Jones, J J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Mosley, Sir Oswald (Smethwick)||Stamford, Thomas W.|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Muff, G.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontyoridd)||Mugger[...]dge, H. T.||Stewart, J. (St. R[...]llox)|
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Murnin, Hugh||Strachey, E. J. St. Loe|
|Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)||Naylor, T. E.||Strauss, G. R.|
|Kedward, R. M. (Kent, Ashford)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Sullivan, J.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Noel Baker, P. J.||Sutton, J. E.|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Noel-Buxton, Baroness (Norfolk, N.)||Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Oldfield, J. R.||Taylor, W. B. (Norfolk, S.W.)|
|Klnley, J.||Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Knight, Holford||Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Lang, Gordon||Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Pa[...]n, John Henry||Tillett, Ben|
|Lathan, G.||Palmer, E. T.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Law, Albert (Bolton)||Perry, S. F.||Toole, Joseph|
|Law, A. (Rossendale)||Peters, Dr, Sidney John||Townend, A. E.|
|Lawrence, Susan||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles|
|Lawr[...]e, Hugh Hartley (Staly[...]idge)||Phillips, Dr. Mar[...]on||Vaughan, David|
|Lawson, John James||Picton-Turbervill, Edith||V[...]ant, S. P.|
|Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)||Pole, Major D. G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Leach, W.||Potts, John S.||Walker, J.|
|Lee, Frank (Derby, N.E.)||Pybus, Percy John||Wallace, H. W.|
|Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)||Qu[...]bell, D. J. K.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Lees, J.||Ramsay, T. B. Wilson||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline).|
|Lindley, Fred W.||Raynes, W. R.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Lloyd, C. Ellis||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Logan, David Gilbert||Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)||Welsh, James (Paisley)|
|Longbottom, A. W.||Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)||West, F. R.|
|Longden, F.||Ritson, J.||Westwood, Joseph|
|Lunn, William||Romerll, H. G.||White, H. G.|
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Rosbotham, D. S. T.||Whiteley, Wilfr[...]d (Birm., Ladywood)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Rothschild, J. de||Whiteley, William (Blaydon)|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bastetlaw)||Rowson, Guy||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|McElwee, A.||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|McEntee, V. L.||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|McGovern, J. (Glasgow, Shettleston)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Wilson, J. (Oldham)|
|McKinlay, A.||Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|MacLaren, Andrew||Sanders, W. S.||Winterton, G. E.(Leicester, Loughb'gh)|
|Maclean, Sir Donald (Cornwall, N.)||Sandham, E.||Wise, E. F.|
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Sawyer, G. F.||Wood, Major McKenzie (Banff)|
|MacNeill-Weir, L.||Scott, James||Young, R. S. (Islington, North)|
|McShane, John James||Scrymgeour, E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Scurr, John||Mr. Parkinson and Mr. Paling.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bracken, B.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)||Braithwaite, Major A. N.|
|Albery, Irving James||Balniel, Lord||Brass, Captain Sir William|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Briscoe, Richard George|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l., W.)||Beaumont M. W.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hex[...]am)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)|
|Allen, W. E. D. (Belfast, W.)||Betterton, Sir Henry B.||Buchan, John|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Bevan, S. J. (Holborn)||Bullock, Captain Malcolm|
|Ashley, Lt.-Cot. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Burton, Colonel H. W.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Bird, Ernest Roy||Butler, R. A.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Boothby, R. J. G.||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Campbell, E. T.|
|Atkinson, C.||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vans[...]ttart||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Ballile-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.||Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.||Castle Stewart, Earl of|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley)||Boyce, Leslie||Cautley, Sir Henry S.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R.(Prtsmth,S.)||Hamilton, sir George (Ilford)||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hanbury, C.||Remer, John R.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.Sir J.A.(Birm.,W.)||Hartington, Marquess of||Reynolds, Col. Sir James|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Richardson, Sir p. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hasiam, Henry C.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Christie, J. A.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)||Ross, Major Ronald D.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S, J. G.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.||Salmon, Major I.|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|C[...]lman, N. C. D.||Hurd, Percy A.||Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart|
|Colville, Major D. J.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Iveagh, Countess of||Savery, S. S.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Shepperson, Sir Ernest Whittome|
|Cowan, D. M.||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U., Belfast)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Knox, Sir Alfred||Skelton, A. N.|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.||Lamb, Sir J. [...].||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Croft, Srigad[...]er-General Sir H.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.||Law, Sir Alfred (Derby, High Peak)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Cun[...]ffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Little, Sir Ernest Graham||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.|
|Dairymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey||Liewellin, Major J. J.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey||Stanley, Maj. Hon. O (W'morland)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Locker-Lampson, Com. O.(Handsw'th)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovll)||Lockwood, Captain J. H.||Stewart. W. J. (Belfast, South)|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Long, Major Hon. Eric||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lymington, Viscount||Sueter, Rear-Admiral M. F|
|Dixey, A. C.||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A.|
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Duckworth, G. A. V.||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Thomson, Sir F.|
|Dugdale, Capt. T. L.||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Tinne, J. A.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Margesson, Captain H. D.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Marjoribanks, Edward||Todd, Capt. A. J.|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.M.)||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.||Train, J.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Meller, R. J.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Fal[...]e, Sir Bertram G.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Ferguson, Sir John||Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.||Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Fermoy, Lord||Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert|
|F[...]elden, E. B.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Wardlaw-Ml[...]ne, J. S.|
|Fison, F. G. Claverlng||Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Muirhead, A. J.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Forest[...]er-Walker, Sir L.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wells, Sydney R.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Nirholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G.(Ptrsf'ld)||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Gau[...]t, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)||O'Connor, T. J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.||O'Neill, Sir H.||Withers, Sir John James|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Peake, Captain Osbert||Womersley, W. J.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Penny, Sir George||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Greens, W. P. Crawford||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Power, Sir John Cecil||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Sir B. Byres Monsell and Sir|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Purbrick, R.||C. Hennessy.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Ramsbotham, H.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. T. Kennedy.]