§ Debate on the Amendment moved by the Marquess of Lansdowne to the Motion that the Bill be now read 2a—viz., to leave out all the words after ("That") for the purpose of inserting the following Resolution ("This House is not justified in giving 1234 its consent to this Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the country")—resumed according to order.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, I feel that I owe some apology to the House for venturing to address your Lordships for the first time on a subject so grave and an occasion so momentous. My diffidence is increased by the fact that I have felt compelled with great reluctance to take a position somewhat different from that which was so weightily indicated to your Lordships by the most rev. Primate the other day. I thought at the beginning of this debate, and I still think, that that position was one very proper and very dignified for the Bishops in this House to adopt, but since the debate began I have been compelled to think that, having been entrusted with a vote in this House on an occasion so important, I could not—at least speaking for myself—conscientiously refuse to give it, and that if I were to give it I should be compelled to give it against the Amendment of the noble Marquess.
My Lords, I cannot describe myself in the words of the most rev. Primate as one of those who are honourably associated with Party ties. I stand apart from both Parties. I do not claim that as any credit, but simply as involved by the position which I hold, and the independence of that position may perhaps give some warrant for my speaking on this occasion. I can honestly say that no man could have approached this matter with a more open mind, and it is merely the course of your Lordships' debate which has convinced me that I have no other course but to join with those of your Lordships' House who deplore the Amendment of the noble Marquess. We have heard many able arguments to prove that this is a bad Budget. It is impossible to deny the weight of those arguments, urged as they have been by men of such wide experience in public affairs, in the management of land, and in the conduct of business. But I have not heard arguments sufficiently persuasive to prove that the Budget is bad enough to justify the unprecedented course which the noble Marquess has commended to this House. We cannot escape from the fact that this is an unprecedented course. Never before has this House rejected a Finance Bill sent up by an overwhelming majority from the other House; never before has it refused Supply 1235 to the King's Government. Even in 1860 the Paper Duties Bill was only carried elsewhere by the small majority of nine. After all, it was only a single Bill involving not more than £3,000,000, and, therefore, it is not comparable with the course which the House is asked to take on this occasion.
I shall, no doubt, be reminded that the Amendment of the noble Marquess does not ask the House to reject the Budget, but only to refer it to the country. But, my Lords, Amendments, like human beings, must be judged not by their intentions but by their performances—not by what they say but by what they do—and to refuse the Supplies for the year is to reject the Budget. There are signs—not so much in what is being said in this House as in what is being said by those who support the noble Marquess in the country and in the Press—that the weight of this contention—that the course recommended is unparalleled—does not heavily press upon their minds. There are indications of an attitude which says, "If this had never been done before it is high time it should be done now." I have been forcibly reminded of the familiar anecdote of the American traveller who, when he was shown a sacred lamp which had been burning for a thousand years, blew it out and quietly said, "Well, I guess it's out now."
My Lords, precedent is the very basis of our Parliamentary system. It is the only bulwark which we possess against the encroachments of those sudden impulses, however strong and natural, which, if they were unchecked, would make the working of an unwritten Constitution impossible. But there is more here than precedent. There is surely a principle behind the precedent essential to the working of the Constitution. After the impressive speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord James of Hereford, yesterday it is needless to labour the greatness of the constitutional principle involved. Let me only use the words—for none other summarise the position better—of Lord Chatham—In legislation the three estates of the realm are alike concerned, but the concurrence of the Peers and the Crown to taxes is only necessary to clothe it with the form of the law. The gift and grant is of the Commons alone. This distinction between legislation and taxation is essentially necessary to liberty.There are some who think comparatively little interest is or will be taken in this constitutional question. Lord Newton in 1236 his entertaining speech said it was a subject of interest only to professors and dons and persons who write letters to the Spectator. I do not know much about the thoughts of these superior persons, but I do know something about the thoughts of the ordinary man, and I am much mistaken if it will not be proved that the constitutional question is one which not only interests but will profoundly stir the people of this country.
There are many who have already said they would prefer the passing of a bad Budget which they dislike to any tampering with what they feel to be a fundamental principle of the Constitution. If, then, my Lords, the constitutional question is paramount, it is not enough, I will venture to urge, that the Budget should be grossly bad. Many Budgets have been described as bad—I believe it was so in the case of the Budgets of 1853 and 1894. What would be the effect of establishing a precedent that if a Budget was sincerely, honestly, and with good reason disliked by this House it might therefore be rejected? It would mean either that this House was competent, apart from the prerogative of the Crown, to dissolve Parliament or that it would compel the Commons to make this grant not its own but one which would prove to be acceptable to this House. Such a contention would manifestly alter the whole balance of power upon which our Parliamentary system is based. Would it be too much to say that rejection is legitimate if only two things can be overwhelmingly demonstrated about this Bill—first, that it is unconstitutional in method, and second, that it is revolutionary in its proposals?
As for the first, that of course involves the question so-called of tacking. My Lords, that is a most serious question. Tacking is objected to because it also means an intrusion of legislation into the province of taxation. I do not think the principle could be better expressed than it was by your Lordships' House in 1702—That the annexing of any clause or clauses to a Bill of aid or supply the matter of which is foreign to and different from the said Bill of aid or supply is unparliamentary and tends to the destruction of the Constitution.I suppose we should add that equally illicit would be the re-introduction of any legislative measure in another form already rejected by this House. It is asserted, I 1237 imagine, that the provisions of land valuation in this Bill involve tacking. But I ask myself are they foreign to the Bill? I am reminded that Mr. Mill, in a passage to which possibly I may refer again, in justifying the taxation of increment value, said—The very first step to be taken would be a valuation of all the land in the country,I find it difficult to believe that procedure for the assessing of a tax is foreign to that tax itself. Again it has been argued with great ability that the duties on the liquor licences involve tacking, and that they bring in by a back door something which your Lordships have already dismissed. But is there any similarity between these duties and the Bill which was rejected? It is one thing to say, as the Bill did, that licences should be automatically reduced and that after the expiration of the time limit the State should resume the full control. It is not the same thing but a quite different thing to say that additional duties should be placed on the licences. My Lords, these duties may be wise or unwise—that is a question which I am not competent to discuss; but can it be beyond the province of a Finance Bill to add to existing licence duties? The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, in a very forcible speech declared that if there was not a similarity in character between the two proceedings there was similarity in motive. That may be so, but I submit that in this context that is irrelevant. The question is not the motive with which something is done, but whether what is done is or is not constitutionally valid.
Then, again, we have been assured that the Bill is revolutionary in its proposals. I presume that the criticism refers, not to the Income Tax or the Death Duties, but to the new Land Taxes. It is argued that there is gross unfairness in the incidence of the taxes, on the ground that land has been singled out for specially oppressive burdens. I think it was the noble Marquess, in the very impressive speech with which he moved his Amendment, who asked why the industry which deals with the products and the sale of the products of the land, already (as we all know) so seriously harassed, should be singled out for exceptional treatment. But, as I read this Bill, I find that the only direct way in which agricultural land is dealt with is by way of relief or exemption; and by Clause 69 it is exempted from some existing burdens, 1238 by Clause 7 it is exempted from the Increment Value Duty, by Clause 14 from the Reversion Duty, and by Clause 17 from the Undeveloped Land Duty. The new taxes, as I understand it, are not upon agricultural land, but on land which has acquired a special value from the fact that it is limited in amount, that it is needed by human beings to live upon, and that it acquires its value, not from the capital or labour of the owner, but from the labour and the expenditure of the community.
The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, urged that it was the vice of the Bill that capital was taxed out of all proportion to income. I imagine it is common ground that we should all wish to reach and make use of, to a larger extent than has hitherto been done, those large incomes to which no sort of responsibility is attached. But, as I read the Bill, the Super Tax in the Income Tax is a serious and earnest attempt to do this very thing. It may not be enough, it may not be the best plan, but at least the Bill, in burdening a special kind of land, also lays burdens upon a special kind of income. And noble Lords cannot say at one moment the Budget is bad because income is taxed too heavily, and at another moment say the Budget is bad because it is not taxed heavily enough. If we turn to the taxes themselves, it would be presumptuous upon my part to enter into them in any detail, but as a mere humble student of economics, I find it difficult to believe that a tax which, as long ago as 1848, received the special sanction of John Stuart Mill can be described as exceptionally revolutionary in its character.
We have had recently reports from experts which have shown that the taxation of these increment values has come within the sphere of practical politics. The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, was amply justified in pointing out that he is responsible only for the suggestion that the amount of the increment value which is due to public expenditure, and that only, should be taxed. And other noble Lords are entitled to say that the suggestion has hitherto been that the contribution should go to the rates, and not the taxes. But at least it has been widely acknowledged that the time has come when additional burdens should be laid upon this special source of wealth, and I feel that words have somehow got out of relation with facts if the application 1239 of that principle in the Bill is described as involving a revolution in finance. May I summarise the points which I have ventured to make? These proposals may be sound or unsound, they may be wise or unwise, but can they be described as unconstitutional in method, as revolutionary in character? And if they cannot be so described, do they merit the unparalleled treatment which the noble Marquess proposes to give them?
I am aware that at this point another contention emerges. We are told that the danger is not so much in the actual proposals as in the tendency which lies behind them—a tendency inferred from speeches delivered either by some of His Majesty's Ministers elsewhere or by some of their supporters. I hope I shall not be wanting in respect to a very eminent politician if I suggest that the tendency complained of is largely the tendency of the Celtic temperament to respond to its environment, to do a thing that meets the situation, to be conciliatory in the House of Commons and inflammatory at Limehouse. Partly the tendency may be that mysterious possession affecting the Celtic temperament which is called the hwyl, which makes the speaker say he knows not what, and excites the audience they know not why. But seriously one must say, I think, that a heavy responsibility has been incurred by those who have treated grave problems with a levity and a recklessness unworthy of their high position. We know what to think of those who run about in the midst of inflammable materials with crackers and squibs, and if a serious contest is provoked by the vote which will be taken this evening the whole responsibility cannot in justice be laid upon the shoulders of noble Lords who support the Amendment.
But even if this be true these considerations would surely be valid in any general indictment of His Majesty's Government or at a General Election, but in this matter admittedly requiring the most scrupulous and delicate care, ought this House to go beyond what is contained within the covers of the Bill, and import into it inferences which are drawn from other sources? I think the reply would be made that the dangerous tendencies are within the covers of the Bill, that what is proposed is a first step to Socialistic legislation. It is our old friend, the thin-end-of-the-wedge argument. He has been very 1240 familiar in all the debates on social legislation which have taken place during the last fifty years. He was busy in opposing the Factory Acts, in opposing the extension of compulsory education, in opposing the protection of women and girls, in opposing the control of the hours of labour or of the sale of liquor or the regulation of sweated industries. His past appearances have somewhat discredited him, and I am not greatly alarmed by his appearance now.
In this country it is a very far cry from the taxation of land values to that abstract and logical system of Socialism which was denounced by the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, with such impressive eloquence as—the end of property, the end of the family, the end of religion, the end of all things.May I say, without presumption, that I know as many as any member of this House of those who would be described perhaps as Socialists, and though I disagree fundamentally with many of their positions, I know many of them to be as devoted to the property they have, to their families and to their religion as any of your Lord-ships. But is it not possible to attach too much importance to phrases and resolutions? It is difficult for us here who have no difficulty about language to realise the glamour of language to another section of the community. They are men deficient in knowledge of history and of economics, deficient in training in public life, they find it difficult to embody their ideal in words or in concrete shape, and so the large promises and stimulating phrases of logical Socialism appeal to them, they applaud them, and they repeat them without very deeply understanding them. But when they touch some matter upon which our working men have special knowledge and experience, such, for example, if I mistake not, as the property of our large building societies and friendly societies, they can be trusted to take an independent line.
Two things have to be remembered. One is that the English character, in whatever class we find it, is not prone to follow logic. The Marxian Socialist is logical; the full-blown Protectionist is logical; we may thank Providence the English people is not logical. The other thing to be remembered is that human affairs in general rarely follow the lines of logical anticipation. New circumstances occur which change the situation; proposals 1241 which might be injurious to industry or social life in one generation are quite natural and harmless in another. There is another illustration which will appeal to some noble Lords opposite. The logic of the old Manchester School has proved to be a very bad prophet, and it is quite as bad in the direction of social legislation as many of your Lordships would think it has been in the matter of Free Trade. The fact is that, not so much by argument as by one of those general influences which we call the spirit of the times, we have been led to take a higher conception of the functions of the State, and we believe—we all believe, both sides of this House believe—that there is a great place for the collective action of the community in extending the opportunities, especially of its weakest and most ignorant citizens, of living a decent life. It was a wise man who wrote—Energy and self-dependence are liable to be impaired by the absence of help as much as by its excess. It is even more fatal to exertion to have no hope of succeeding by it than to be assured of succeeding without it.I do not believe that there can be any doubt of the need of collective resources to give many individuals in this country the standing ground for a chance.
Will this mean that when granted this they will demand more? I believe it will have the reverse effect. It is in an atmosphere of hopelessness and resentment against the social conditions existing that the extreme and bitter Socialism we all deplore is engendered and flourishes. Give a man a better chance, give him a feeling that the social system is not against him but with him, for him, and on his side, and then his own individual instincts of energy and enterprise will, I believe, be a more effectual check against the developments of Socialism than all the arguments that could be urged against it by more fortunate persons. As for the great bulk of skilled workmen, it is to their moral rather than to their political feelings that Socialism makes its appeal. There is among them a spirit of real comradeship in their desire to increase the opportunities and improve the conditions of their fellows. It is surely the truest wisdom to approach this social instinct on its moral side, so true and stimulating with sympathy, to train, to guide, to instruct it on the side where it is weak, in knowledge of history and economics. The truest wisdom is not to 1242 alienate, to embitter, to make it wilfully resentful and aggressive by using words about Socialism of mere indiscriminate dislike or panic. The moral, I think, is, we are entitled to consider proposals on their own merits and not to be too eager to import into the consideration of them fears of the consequences to which, were it not for good sense and circumstances, they might conceivably lead.
Returning to my main theme, I ask—Is this Bill, however open to objection, properly described as unconstitutional or revolutionary? Are we not in danger of attaching undue importance to words used elsewhere or tendencies suspected? If that is so, is the course proposed by the noble Marquess justified by facts? I have but a few closing words about the issues involved. It is foolish to use the language of threats in this House. Such language rightly arouses the spirit of men to whom threats are addressed. It is the voice not of threats, but of reason, which asks men seriously to weight the consequences of their action. The noble Earl on the Cross Benches (Lord Rosebery) described the spirit of the Balaklava charge—Theirs not to reason why,Theirs but to do and die,but it is ours to reason why; it is for that object this debate has been carried on for six days, and if we reason I cannot but think we shall tremble at the consequences that may result from our action.
The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, with his wonted courage asks us to consider whether, if the right to reject a Finance Bill is not asserted now, it can ever be claimed again. The right remains; it is inherent in the law and the Constitution. But there is another right that is jeopardised by the Amendment of the noble Marquess—a right more unquestioned, more important—the right of this House to control not taxation but legislation. There is a handwriting on the wall that the time is coming, if it has not come, when the whole position of a Second Chamber in the Constitution of this country will be submitted to the judgment of the people. No issue can be of greater importance to the country than the result of that submission. There never was a time when there was greater need for a strong Second Chamber. Would not the weight with which this House would approach that discussion be infinitely greater if proof had been given— 1243 a proof the more impressive because it was against the interests and inclination of this House—that in defending its privileges in legislation, it was scrupulously careful not to trench in the matter of taxation upon the privileges of the people?
There is a courage which is eager to accept attack, and there is another, a harder, a higher courage which holds the hand until the attack can be met on the surest and strongest ground. I cannot but feel though it is not much use being a gloomy prophet that the effect of the Amendment if carried will not only be gravely to endanger the claim of this House to control legislation, but also that it will be to disturb, it may be for a long time, that balance of the estates of the realm on which the orderly government of this country depends. It would mean, would it not? dislocation of trade and commerce, which certainly would not allay, but might increase, those tendencies to which noble Lords have so impressively referred. It would mean most of all the postponement for a long time of those social reforms noble Lords on both sides of the House ardently desire. These risks, my Lords, are hovering over this House. Is it wise by the summons of the noble Marquess's Amendment to challenge them now? I am aware I have taxed the indulgence of your Lordships. It is a somewhat thankless task to occupy a middle path. I have not ventured to praise this Budget; that is not my province; it would be futile; we have "come to bury Cæsar, not to praise him." To-night the decks will be cleared for action and the battle will begin. It may be that there are still some noble Lords opposite to whose unspoken but very real thoughts I venture to appeal. This is an issue in which there is no place for doubt; but if there be a doubt, the benefit of it should be given, not to the claims of Party, however strong, but to the permanent interests of this House and the spirit of the Constitution entrusted to its care.
§ LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I am sure that all sections of your Lordships' House will join with me in congratulations upon the contribution that the most rev. Prelate has for the first time made to our debates. Though we may not all agree with his conclusions, we shall recognise the eloquence and sincerity with which his views have been advanced. When he admonished those noble Lords who sit on 1244 this side of the House and told us that there had been some inability on our part at earlier stages of this debate to supply the reasons for our action, I congratulated myself that the most rev. Prelate had supplied me with a basis for my own remarks. I will, in the observations that I have to address to the House, endeavour to make quite clear to your Lordships the reason why we are putting forward, and why we are supporting with perfect confidence in our own integrity and in the clearness of the issues, the Amendment of the noble Marquess, and why it is that we appeal without alarm to those with whom the decision will rest.
Had I been able to address your Lord-ships as I contemplated on Thursday last I should have ventured to place before you certain remarks on the character and consequences of this Bill, but I realise that to do so at this stage of the debate would only be the flogging of the deadest of dead horses, and if I entered upon the task I should be merely saying again what has been better said by more competent speakers. There are only two points in the Budget itself to which I desire to refer before passing on to other topics, and in doing so I must ask the indulgence of the House if I do not find myself physically quite equal to the strain which I am about to undertake. The first point is the suggestion, which has found favour in some quarters of the House, that this Budget ought to be accepted as an instrument of social reform. I am not certain that this claim does not give away the Budget as a purely financial measure. But let that pass. The view I am stating was urged with great force by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack on the first night of the debate; it has found particular and perhaps natural favour wth the Episcopal Bench, although it did not figure very largely in the speech of the Archbishop to which we have just listened, and it was defended in a powerful speech the other night by the noble Earl opposite, Lord Russell.
All these noble Lords have pointed to the evils with which we are so well acquainted in our social system—evils arising from drunkenness, overcrowding, sweating, insanity, poverty, and crime, and they have said, "Let us accept this Budget, which, after all, gives us very large sums of money some of which maybe devoted to the 1245 alleviation of certain of those ills." I greatly deprecate the idea that regard for the social welfare of the people, or abhorrence of these social evils, is the monopoly of either side of your Lordships' House. I do not say that this has been so much as suggested, but the argument that this Bill is required and is necessary for the purpose of social amelioration certainly seems to throw upon those who cannot accept it the suspicion of some indifference to the conditions I have described. If that be so, I venture to say it would be a most unfair and most unjust imputation. For my part I regard the social problem, by which I mean the progressive deterioration of our people, as the most insistent political problem of to-day. It is a problem which as time advances will be found more and more to make and unmake Ministries.
Indeed, if I were allowed to cast my glance over the whole political situation in its broadest aspects, I would say that there are two questions which pre-eminently demand the attention of our people. The first is the question of national defence—namely, the question whether the nation is safe. The second is the question of social reform—namely, whether the people are sound. But to argue that, because we possess a keen sense of these evils we are therefore bound to support any Budget by which large sums of money are raised is not only a dangerous but a profoundly immoral doctrine. It has been even urged in this debate that, although some of these taxes may be harsh and oppressive in their operation, yet, nevertheless, their objects are so good that your Lordships should assent to them. That is the old argument of the casuist with which we are all familiar from the dawn of time, that "the end justifies the means," which has been the parent of more social crimes in history than even vice itself.
But, my Lords, I object to this argument not only because it is immoral. I object to it because it is also unsound. I do not believe that at any time in history poverty, or the consequences attendant upon poverty, have ever been mitigated by taxation or the products of taxation. If you pass this Budget we at any rate on this side of the House do not think you are going to have a happier or a more moral people. On the contrary, we think that there will be more unemployment, more distress, a lowering 1246 and not a raising of the social standard all round. It is for these reasons that we on this side of the House do not regard this Budget as an instrument of social regeneration. Rather do we think that the principles upon which it rests must lead to social demoralisation among the people. I only make these remarks in passing because in the course of these debates I have greatly resented the implication that on this side of the House there is any indifference to these social questions, and because it is in the very interests of the social welfare of the people that we intend to vote against this Budget, just as noble Lords opposite propose to vote for it.
The second point about this Budget to which I ask your Lordships' permission to refer is this: I doubt whether sufficient importance has been given during the debate to the social concomitants of the Budget and to its financial sequel. By the social concomitants I mean the vexation of constant and unavoidable appeals to the Law Courts, and the almost intolerable inquisition into the life and property and economy of every person in this country who has property in any form—an even more intolerable burden than the taxation itself. If you pass this Budget into law, you will be setting a veritable Old Man of the Sea upon the shoulders, not of your Lordships alone, but of all the respectable and reputable classes in the community. When I speak of the financial sequel of the Bill, I mean the certainty that the taxes which you are about to impose will not be fixed or stationary taxes, but will be taxes that will grow, and grow in a manner and with a rapidity which it would be quite impossible for your Lordships or anybody else to arrest. This has been openly admitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We all know he would never have set up this great system of land valuation—costing at the lowest estimate several millions—for the mere paltry return from the land taxes which it is proposed to collect in the first or the second year. The candid and invaluable Mr. Ure has told us that these taxes in a few years time are to produce many millions sterling. It is not the mere prospect of the increase of these taxes which is the serious thing; it is the fact that you are now for the first time adopting the revolutionary principle of levying these taxes on capital value and not upon the income received. Once you make that start there is no difference in 1247 principle whatever between ½ d. in the pound and 5s. or 10s. in the pound. It is only a step forward from partial and sporadic confiscation to complete and uniform confiscation.
The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, whom I see there, commended these taxes to us on the ground that they are merely an extension of existing imposts, and that in the future they will "slowly broaden down from precedent to precedent." I confess I was not captivated or even greatly consoled by the prospects offered to us in the poetic imagery of the right rev. Prelate. In my view the growth of these taxes will be rapid and not slow, and the progress will be, not from precedent to precedent, but from privation to plunder. The right rev. Prelate is a great scholar, and I should like to remind him of an analogy with which he is no doubt familiar. When the Emperor Augustus was reorganising the Roman Empire, like His Majesty's Government he had a very ambitious programme, and, like them, he was greatly in need of money. Wiser than His Majesty's Government, he introduced a Customs tariff the duties under which varied from two and a-half to twelve per cent., with higher taxes on luxuries, and preferential treatment for the colonies of the Roman Empire. Like His Majesty's Government also he had great ideas about a new army, although I may say, in passing, that he did not commence to constitute it by depleting the old. In order to get his new army he introduced a scheme of death duties, of which we learn from the famous historian of the Roman Empire that in the course of two or three generations the whole of the property of the subject must have gradually passed through the coffers of the State. And then when the Senate, which corresponded to your Lordships' House, rebelled against all these impositions the Emperor regretfully informed them that unless they withdrew their objections he should be obliged to impose a special land tax.
What was the sequel to these operations? At a later date another Emperor arose, whose name was Caracalla, much in the same way as in this country we might have another Prime Minister, who might even be the present President of the Board of Trade. We read this in the immortal pages of Gibbon concerning this Emperor: 1248Nor was the rapacious son of Severus contented with such a measure of taxation as had appeared sufficient to his moderate predecessors. Instead of one-twentieth part, he exacted one-tenth part of all legacies and inheritances, and during his reign he crushed alike every part of the Empire under the weight of his iron sceptre.That is the way in which "The People's Budget" of Rome—for so I am sure it was called—" slowly broadened down from precedent to precedent," and I have no doubt we should have very much the same experience in this country.
With your Lordships' permission I now desire to pass to the subject of this debate itself. I hope that it has at least dispelled one illusion, and that is the idea which has been so sedulously propagated in the Press that the Amendment which the noble Marquess has moved is not the result of his independent initiative, but is the consequence of pressure which has been exercised upon him by a number of your Lordships whom it is the fashion to describe by an invidious name. You are alleged to have come up from your residences in the country and to have forced the noble Marquess out of the action which his naturally cautious and constitutional temperament would have led him to take, and driven him into headlong and unconstitutional procedure. In some papers I have even seen Lord Milner and myself, probably because of our foreign experience, described as the leaders of this unruly foray. This makes a very good story. It rather reminds one of the Lord Advocate at his best. There is the same vivid imagination, cultivated by assiduous practice, and impervious to correction or control. The only drawback to the story is that there is not a word of truth in it. It is not to be imagined that the action of my noble friend Lord Lansdowne was taken without full and anxious consideration, or without consultation with all those with whom he is in the habit of acting, or without a deep consciousness of the enormous gravity of the issues. But at no stage has there been any difference of opinion between the noble Marquess and the great majority of those whom he leads with so much ability and with such unquestioned acceptance. Neither party has been called upon to bring any influence or any pressure upon the other, and, as this debate has shown and as the Division will show, there has rarely been an occasion in the history of your Lordships' House when there has been a greater unity 1249 of opinion on the part of those who will constitute the majority in the Lobby.
This unity has nor been altogether un-broken. We have had on this side of the House four or five speeches made by noble Lords of the highest eminence, to whose opinions we attach the greatest weight, who have all advocated an opposite course. Paradoxical as it may seem, if we want the most searching and crushing exposure of the faults and fallacies of the Budget it is to those speeches that we must turn. Nevertheless each of these noble Lords, with one exception, has ended with the remarkable, although I doubt not reluctant, conclusion that he could not himself vote for this Amendment. Now, my Lords, I should be ashamed to impugn in the smallest degree the absolute sincerity and intense conviction of these speakers. Their character, their career, and their reputation in this House and elsewhere would be a sufficient rebuke to any such unworthy slander. We have listened to them with the respect which their utterances always command, and yet, my Lords, ready as we are to follow these noble Lords on ordinary occasions I am confident that I am stating the attitude of the great majority of your Lordships' House when I say that their arguments on this occasion have left us absolutely unmoved, and that just as readily as we accept their premises with regard to the Budget, so do we repudiate the conclusions to which those premises have led, and that we think the action they have recommended to us is an action inconsistent with our own duty and with the honour of your Lordships' House.
The first of these speakers—I am afraid he is not in his place to-day—was Lord Cromer. I desire to speak very briefly of I his argument, to which, nevertheless, the greatest weight attaches. The reason of the noble Earl for not voting against the Bill was that he is apprehensive of an acute and prolonged constitutional controversy, which might divert the country from the supreme necessity of national defence. Your Lordships will know the importance that the noble Earl attaches to this subject. It figured in his speech on old age pensions last year. For my own part I agree with, indeed I go beyond, the noble Earl in my opinion about the extreme inadequacy of our existing system of national defence. But I cannot see what that has to do with the provisions of the 1250 present Budget. No part of the taxation under this Budget goes to national defence. That is a subject which, in our opinion, at any rate, has no very great interest for His Majesty's Ministers. If we pass this Bill we get no more Dreadnoughts, no better or superior Army than that which we have at present. On the contrary, there is every reason to anticipate that the money raised by this Budget will be dissipated on objects which, whether they be good or whether they be bad, will have no connection whatever with national defence. Indeed, I think it might be argued that the best and only way in which really to promote the cause of national defence would be to afford the country an opportunity as soon as possible of dispensing with His Majesty's present advisers.
But, my Lords, if we pass this Bill shall we escape the constitutional controversy which Lord Cromer fears? Are we not committed to it in any case? Is it not certain that, whether you vote "Yes" or "No" on this Budget, the issue of the House of Lords is going to be the prominent issue of the next General Election? We had a Cabinet Minister, not the least shrewd and capable of that body, Mr. Lewis Harcourt, telling us a few months ago that it was going to be the leading plank of the Liberal platform. Of course it may be said that over and over again His Majesty's Government have marched with trumpets blowing up to the walls and have gone back again. That may be true, but there was a very significant passage in the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack the other evening which I am surprised has not attracted more attention in this debate. It was the passage in which the noble and learned Lord, taking a piece of paper in his hand, in tones of extreme gravity, almost as though he had the black cap on his head, read out to your Lordships' House the record of our offences and the sentence of our impending doom. It was not for our prospective treatment of the Budget exclusively or alone that we are going to be punished, but for our alleged treatment of Liberal measures in general during the past four years.
It is quite true that during the past few days we have passed the Irish Land Bill and the Housing and Town Planning Bill into law. All the credit for these measures—and I am sure that I am not anxious to take it away—is, of course, given to Mr. 1251 Birrell and Mr. Burns. No part of the credit can be allowed to rest with this House. We know only too well that if we pass a Liberal measure it is attributed to our calculating cowardice, and if we reject it it is all due to our insolent and inherited bravado. But, whatever may be the case about these particular Bills, the point of the Lord Chancellor was that it was because we have thrown out the Education Bill and the Licensing Bill, and the various other ingenious political and social experiments that we have had during the past four years, that we are going to be punished. Therefore, if we act on Lord Cromer's advice it is quite clear that we shall not escape from this constitutional struggle. The rod is in pickle for us anyhow. There are even some astute tacticians on the other side who, I believe, are of opinion that His Majesty's Government, if this Budget were accepted, would nevertheless dissolve immediately, and for my own part I think there would be a good deal to be said for such tactics, because His Majesty's Government would be able to go to the country and say that we had accepted defeat in the first encounter, and that they entered the lists with a victory in the opening round. Therefore it seems to me that if we were to follow the advice of Lord Cromer we should neither escape the constitutional controversy which he fears nor should we promote the cause of national defence which he has at heart.
My Lords, there was a speech delivered a night of two ago—and I wish I had heard it—by my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, who although he spoke, as I am told, with great sincerity and fervour and said that he personally disliked the Bill, describing it as unfair between man and man and as based on class hatred and jealousy, nevertheless intimated his intention, when the Division arrived, to run away to the woods and not to be here to vote. There were two reasons which he urged for this course. The first, which he argued with great force—and he was followed by Lord James of Hereford last night—was the belief that your Lordships' House are for the first time instituting a great change in the practice and working of the Constitution of the country. That is a very serious statement and one to which I will, with your Lordships' permission, return in a few moments. The second reason was that the rejection of this Bill is bound up with the 1252 advocacy of Tariff Reform. I shall perhaps not be doing the noble Lord an injustice if I assume that that was the determining factor in his mind. It is quite true that a great many of your Lordships will vote against the Bill because you think that there is a better means of raising the money and I cannot see that you are to be blamed for that, because the conclusion of almost every speech that we hear from that side of the House is this—" If you object to our taxes, what is the alternative by which you propose to raise the money? "No doubt these views will be urged with great power and force at the General Election, but I should have thought that it ought to be possible to give a vote against this Bill without any reference to Tariff Reform, and that the most ardent Free Trader could have given such a vote, if convinced of the immorality of the Budget, without expressing any judgment on the alternative proposals that may be urged in its place.
Then I read this morning the speech of Lord James of Hereford. There is one passage in it which is so inconsistent with the course of the debate that I may, perhaps, be permitted to call attention to it. Speaking with his great authority as a constitutional lawyer he said that he concurred with the doctrine with regard to "tacking," but that that did not arise here, for the Opposition did not object to the Bill on the ground of "tacking." Surely this is a misrepresentation of the facts, for the noble Marquess, in his opening speech, elaborated in a most clear and distinct constitutional argument that it is in the main because there have been introduced into this Bill measures which have been withdrawn from the notice of your Lordships' House, which ought in the ordinary course to have come up as separate Bills, part of which have indeed come up as separate Bills, and been rejected by you in the last year or two, that objection is taken to this Bill. There was another passage in his speech to which I may be allowed to refer. He said—In the conflict which is going to take place none of your Lordships will be able to take a share; not one of your Lordships will be able to defend the course you have taken; not one of your Lordships will be able to say that you have been acting in your belief within the Constitution.My Lords, I respectfully dispute the whole of these propositions. Speaking for myself, at any rate, if I have the health, I propose to do every one of the things of which the 1253 noble Lord has declared your Lordships to be incapable. Anxious as the noble Lord appears to be to circumscribe the rights of this House, he cannot prevent your Lordships from appearing, at any rate until the issue of the writs, upon any platform in this country, and I hope that the large majority of your Lordships have no intention whatever to allow yourselves to be tried and sentenced unheard. I hope that you will take advantage of the occasions presented to you, and that on many a platform you will state at public meetings your belief that you have acted both within the spirit and the letter of the Constitution, and will explain the reasons for which you have voted against this Bill.
And now, my Lords, I should like to say a few words about the notable speech to which we listened from Lord Rosebery. I am very sorry that the noble Earl is not in his place, but I hope that I am not thereby disabled from alluding to a speech which was certainly one of the most prominent incidents in this debate. It would be idle to deny that no speech was looked forward to with more interest than that of the noble Earl, partly on account of his own personality and partly from the fact that he had already entered the lists at Glasgow, where he made a great speech in which he delivered the first blow, and as many of us thought a smashing blow, in this campaign, which we were anxious to see whether the noble Earl would drive home in your Lordships' House, I rather wonder if the noble Earl quite sufficiently realised the great responsibility that he assumed when he spoke at Glasgow. When he came out on the platform at the City Hall and made that speech he was not a recluse thinking a lord in his study, but he was an ex-Prime Minister speaking a lord to his countrymen. I think a very great and natural importance attached to that speech. The noble Earl himself attached importance to it because he issued it with a, preface and scattered it broadcast in hundreds of thousands of copies throughout the country.
No speech in my time has had anything like the instantaneous and overwhelming effect upon the people. If it did not originate the agitation against this Bill, at any rate it lent a great impetus to it. I have no doubt it must have had a profound impression on the judgment of your Lordships. It was the first speech that 1254 laid down in clear-cut and dramatic fashion the tremendous issues that were at stake. I need not read extracts from that speech. But when the noble Earl said that this Budget was putting the future of Great Britain in the melting pot, and that it was a revolution without any mandate from the people, the average man was surely justified in thinking that he ought to do what lay in his power to prevent such a catastrophe, or at least to secure that the revolution, if consummated, should be a revolution with a mandate and not without one. And when the noble Earl told his audience that in his belief it was not in the best interests of the nation that this financial measure should become law, again the average reader, particularly if he happened to be a legislator, might be pardoned for thinking that it was his duty to do what he could to prevent it. It is quite true that the noble Earl did not end with the advice that your Lordships should throw out this Bill. All he said, in respect of advice for the future, was that it would be well if a fortnight should elapse between the departure of the Bill from the other House and its arrival here. That interval took place, and I have no doubt that your Lordships devoted it to an examination of the measure. But I think the modesty of the noble Earl rather prevented him from seeing that there was another piece of literature, a more attractive and fascinating production, which would be more likely to be in your Lordships' hands during that fortnight than the crabbed and repulsive contents of the Finance Bill itself, and that was the speech which the noble Earl himself delivered at Glasgow. Those of us who have had any experience of study know well the delight with which we turn from an original text to the comments of a brilliant critic, and the noble Earl had no right to be surprised if the skill of the commentator on this occasion had even more weight than much of the contents of the original document itself. It was in some such frame of mind that we came here and awaited the advice of the noble Earl. We had again a denunciation of the Budget. This time it was a miasma or fog, which was overspreading the country and poisoning the sources of national prosperity. But this time the noble Earl concluded with the definite advice that for certain reasons which he gave it was our business to pass this measure into law.
I desire to speak with profound respect 1255 of the noble Earl's conclusion, and yet I venture to state that I am speaking the sentiments of the majority of those I am addressing when I say that we regarded the conclusion of the noble Earl as a lame and impotent conclusion, and that the impression produced upon us was as though some great and famous commander had left us in the breach after he himself had taken us up to the walls and had fired the powder in the train. I hope that I do no injustice to the motives of the noble Earl. They were motives of the highest patriotism and honour. The noble Earl said he had been for forty years a member of your Lordships' House. He has been its leader and he is still its foremost orator. He has on more than one occasion endeavoured to reform if, and therein I am his humble follower. No one could hear him without feeling that he is intensely concerned for the future of this House, that he thinks its continued existence vital to the welfare of the country, and that he fears your Lordships are going to incur grave peril if you persist in this course.
I will not venture to attempt a comparison between the dangers of the revolution in esse and the revolution in posse—the revolution involved in the plunge into Socialism of this Bill and the revolution that may be caused by any disturbance in the constitution of your House. But accepting the fact, as I think we all do here, that your Lordships, in taking this step, are incurring, if you like, considerable and grave risk, I should yet like to state the reasons why we have felt compelled to take the course we do. When we assembled in this House a week ago, what were the courses open to us? They were, as I think, only three in number. The first was to amend the Bill, not of course by tinkering it, in Committee fashion, but by the excision of such portions of it as in the public interest we thought desirable. The second was to accept the Bill in toto. The third was to reject or refer it to the people. The only noble Lord who, so far as I know, has advocated the first course is Lord Avebury, but I think he would be the first to recognise the practical impossibility of the course suggested, because, as a matter of fact, it would have raised at once the question of privilege. If you had sent down the Bill to the Commons amended or cut about they would have returned it to you with your excisions or Amendments 1256 ignored, and you would then have had either to swallow the Bill as a whole, with the additional humiliation of having attempted to alter it, or you would have had to reject it, which would have brought you to the present position of affairs. Therefore I rule aside that course as impracticable.
The second course was to follow the advice of Lord Rosebery—namely, to make very strong speeches against the Bill, but either to vote for it or to abstain from voting. The chief reasons, as I under-stand, advanced for this course are tactical in character and were summarised by the noble Earl. He thought it would be a good thing that the people of this country should be given six or eight months of experience of the Bill, of, as he expressed it, its intolerable inquisition, its intolerable bureaucracy, of the enormous loss of employment it would entail, and at the end of that time he believed that the country would give us a majority that would surprise ourselves. But I am not sure that we could have counted even upon six or eight months. It is just possible that noble Lords opposite might have been as much afraid of those six or eight months as the noble Earl is confident about them. It is at least conceivable that a General Election might have been sprung upon us before these lessons had sunk deep down into the hearts of the people. Then there is the question whether the effects of taxes like these could be correctly estimated in six or eight months. Remember, my Lords, that this is a Bill not merely for the imposition of taxes, but for the creation of machinery. Lord Rosebery described as an intolerable bureaucracy the system which is going to be set up. There are many noble Lords in this House who have had experience of administration greater than mine, but I think they will all concur with me in saying that nothing is more difficult than to disestablish a bureaucracy when once it has been enthroned. Posts are created, vested interests start into being, persons are appointed, salaries are paid, a whole network of organisation is instituted which it is almost impossible, after a few months have passed, to cleave asunder or to cut down.
But there was another alternative put before us by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. He defined the period for which His Majesty's Government might 1257 regard themselves as indispensable to the nation, not as six or eight months, but as two years. My Lords, I heard that prognostication from the noble and learned Lord with an absolute gasp of horror. But if it be true, I wonder whether Lord Rosebery would have contemplated that the people of this country should be left for two more years, not merely under the miasma of this Budget, but under the even more mephitic exhalations that might be supposed to emanate from its successor or its two successors, as well as all the other consequences which he depicted in such graphic terms.
And these consequences would not be confined to the sphere of taxation. They would extend over the whole range of government. It would have been two more years, as we think, of insufficient attention to the defences of the country, two more years of Socialistic experiments, two more years of tampering with the Church and other of our national institutions. Had we acted on this advice, my Lords, I think it would have been, if I may use a metaphor the origin of which I do not know, but which is at least expressive, playing it rather low down on the people of this country. It would have been like the action of King David, who, when he was rebuked by a higher Power for making a census of his people—presumably with a view to increased taxation—and when he was given the alternative of several punishments, evaded that which was to fall upon himself and chose that which was to fall upon his people. I do not think the people would have thanked you had you taken any such course. They would have said that you were merely trying to save your own skins and leaving them to suffer. And when the General Election had come, whether in six or eight months or in two years, instead of respecting you for your caution, they would much more likely have condemned you for your cowardice.
But I should like to get away from the question of tactics, because, with all deference to those who have used that argument, it is not upon considerations of expediency, but upon the broadest conception of our duty to ourselves and to the country that your Lordships ought to decide what action you should take. I am doubtful how far I am entitled to lay stress upon the conscientious objection 1258 that I believe many of your Lordships take to this measure. I say I am doubtful, because we are at once met with the retort that our objections are selfish, and indeed that we are not entitled in the case of a Finance Bill to have any conscientious objections at all. That is the absurd and amazing doctrine which is now placed before your Lordships' House. I would like your Lordships to consider the part which it leaves you to play in the Constitution, We are expected to bear our full share in the duties and administration of the country, and when any special effort or outlay is required it is to us that His Majesty's Ministers turn. We are to be taxed up to the hilt, we are to be abused on public platforms and told we are land-grabbers and thieves, and if we are unfortunate enough to be Dukes we fall under the special lash of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But when a Supply Bill or a Finance Bill comes before this House we are to look the other way. If we remember that we are a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature by whose "advice and consent" alone Supplies can be granted to the Crown, we are at once to forget it; if we feel any pangs of conscientious objection we are to suppress them; and so long as the Bill is a Finance Bill, a Bill for the Supply of the year, we have nothing to do in your Lordships' House but to sit here like a number of puppets and nod our heads to the First, Second, and Third Heading of the Bill and pass it into law. I hardly think that is a conception of your duty which will commend itself to your Lordships. Yet that is the naked truth of the position we are now invited to take up. Even if our own sense of self-respect did not forbid us consenting to such an ignoble part, I hardly think we have a right to do it in view of the larger interests which are placed in our hands.
What is the real character of the issue before this House and the country? The Government are fighting for the principle that the House of Commons may send up any measure, however dangerous, Socialistic, and subversive in our view it may be, and provided it can be cramped within the four quarters of the Finance Bill of the year we are to have no alternative but to pass it. That is a novel, a revolutionary, and an intolerable claim. It is one which your Lordships have never acknowledged, and which you have no right to acknowledge now. You have no 1259 right to acknowledge it in the interests of this House, because it is clear that this House would be reduced to legislative impotence if it were possible to take particular Bills out of the ordinary course of legislative procedure and tie them up under the cover and label of a Finance Bill, and in that way circumvent your Lordships and pass them through your Lordships' House. You have no right to give away without a struggle the rights and privileges which you have enjoyed and which have been vindicated by many of your greatest Statesmen and orators for 250 years.
But I think there is a higher sanction still. You have no right to do this in the interests of the people at large. Remember that your surrender now would mean that nothing would stand in future between the people and the power of the House of Commons, which, in other words, means the Government of the day, to pass into law whatever they might desire. You would really be committing the country to a single Chamber Constitution. That means a Constitution in which one Chamber can override the other without the necessity of an appeal to the people. And in that case it would only be a natural and almost logical consequences for some Minister or some Government to come forward at a future date and propose that this Constitution of ours, which we have always thought the glory of this country and the wonder of the world, should be assimilated to the single Chamber model of Bulgaria or Greece.
May I now endeavour to answer the implication made in the speech of the most rev. Prelate that your Lordships are taking a novel and unconstitutional course? As far as I can understand the charge of unconstitutional procedure, it takes two forms. The first contention is that we are acting unconstitutionally in compelling an appeal to the country. I confess I do not fully appreciate the nature of this charge. It appears to me to be inherent in the rights of any Second Chamber—and I find them described as such in all the constitutional handbooks—that in the last resort a Second Chamber can compel a reference to the polls. The time may arise and does sometimes arise when a disagreement between the two bodies can only be settled by such a solution. I am quite willing to say that the cases in which that right should be exercised must be closely circumscribed in practice. I can only imagine two cases in which 1260 it would be right for a Second Chamber to take such a course. One would be the case in which the Government of the day had introduced some measure in flagrant conflict with the expressed will of the nation. The other would be the case of legislation embodying principles or provisions which had never been submitted to or approved by the electorate of the country. In either of such cases it would appear to me to be part of the inherent duty of a Second Chamber to say that the measure should not become law until it had been referred to the judgment of the people. Such a power is safeguarded by the obvious check that if it is rashly or frivolously used it recoils on the head of those who use it. Therefore I am not greatly moved when I hear these charges of unconstitutional action in this respect, because it seems to me, that the country is protected in the first place by the evidence of history, by the records of your Lordships' House, which show that although you have enjoyed these powers for hundreds of years you have exercised them with very considerable moderation and self-restraint; secondly, by the force of public opinion to which your Lordships have never shown any unwillingness to bow; and, in the third place, by the instinct of self-preservation which is likely to prevent your Lordships from any foolish or partisan proceeding.
The second charge of unconstitutional procedure to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord James of Hereford, and the most rev. Archbishop alluded is a rather different one. It is that we are doing a novel and unconstitutional thing in rejecting the Finance Bill of the year. I do not propose to argue the question whether there is a distinction between the law and the Constitution or whether there is a distinction between Money Bills and Supply Bills. The constitutional authorities have argued both these questions in this debate. I am prepared, for the purpose of argument, to suppose that such a distinction can be drawn in both cases. But that does not settle the matter. What is the history and what are the facts of the case? The history of this controversy, into which I have not the slightest desire to plunge, may be roughly summarised, first as the period extending from the time of the Stuarts to 1860, and, secondly, as the period from 1861 to the present day. In the interval between the two, in 1860 and 1861, there stand out like landmarks on a flat horizon the incidents 1261 of those two years. The history of the matter up to 1860 it is unnecessary to recapitulate. As everybody knows, this controversy has gone on with varying fortunes on either side and many vicissitudes for centuries.
The right of the House of Lords to reject Money Bills and even to amend Money Bills has been constantly claimed, frequently exercised, and even admitted by the House of Commons. These rights were conclusively vindicated in the debates of 1860. There is still in your Lordships' House a Peer, and for all I know there may be more than one, who heard the famous speech which was delivered by Lord Lyndhurst, on May 21, 1860, on his eighty-eighth birthday, stating, recapitulating, and advocating with all the power of his undimmed intellect and with all the force of unexhausted youth the rights and privileges of your Lordships' House. That Peer was my own father, and he and his son will go together into the Lobby to-night in support of the propositions which Lord Lyndhurst laid down in a manner which could never be challenged on that occasion. In 1860 your Lordships did precisely what we are told is unconstitutional now. They threw out the Paper Duty Bill, in spite of the fact that it was contended by Mr. Gladstone and Lord Granville that it was an essential part of the Supply of the year. That was the whole case of the Government. But your Lordships, acting on the advice of Lord Lyndhurst, Lord Chelmsford, and Lord Derby, threw the Bill out.
What happened? The House of Commons did then what I believe they are going to do now. They passed a number of Resolutions affirming the prerogative of the House of Commons. Mr. Disraeli, satisfied with the admissions of Lord Palmerston and Mr. Gladstone as to the rights and privileges of your Lordships' House, actually, I believe, voted for the Resolutions. But in the next year Mr. Gladstone inaugurated a new financial era. In order to circumvent your Lordships House—the whole story is told in the book of the noble Viscount opposite—he embodied for the first time in a single Bill all the measures which it had previously been the fashion to send up one by one. That was a piece of strategy on the part of Mr. Gladstone; it was deliberately avowed as such. He left on record a statement in which he said the House of Lords for its misconduct was deservedly extinguished in 1262 effect as to all matters of finance. It is true that in the following year, when the conflict might have been resumed by your Lordships' House, the House of Lords did not do so, but took another course on the advice of Lord Derby, mainly because the Paper Duty Bill was a Bill not for the imposition but the relief of taxation, and because it was one with the principle of which the Conservative Party agreed. The measure was accordingly accepted as part of the Finance Bill of the year.
But my point is that the House of Lords did not on that occasion surrender their rights. They remained intact, they could not be extinguished by the openly avowed and vindictive act of a Minister in the other House. They could not be extinguished by any act of the House of Commons. If now your Lordships choose to revive them, they can only be, destroyed by an overwhelming pronouncement on the part of the country. The idea that your Lordships are doing anything now for the first time which is entirely novel and unconstitutional is therefore an idea without foundation. You are doing now what you did in 1860. When Lord James says, "How comes it that this action is now taken for the first time?" the answer then is this—It was taken repeatedly up to the year 1860, but it was taken in a different form, because the Bills always came before you separately up to that date. The reason why you have never taken this step since 1860 is that no Chancellor of the Exchequer has been found in that interval to put before you a Bill like the present Bill, which so directly challenges the constitutional prerogative of your Lord-ships' House and compels you to take a course of action which you have never signified your intention to relinquish but which occasion has not arisen to take during the last fifty years. We deny, therefore, that we are now setting up any new or extravagant claim. We recognise the right of the House of Commons to control, under normal conditions, the finances of the country. But we say that we have the power and the duty, always enjoyed and frequently acted upon, to see that that right is not abused in order to carry through, under the guise of financial measures, policies or principles which have not been approved by the people. And we signify our willingness to bow to the final expression of the popular will when once it has been expressed in clear and constitutional form.
1263 My Lords, that seems to me to be the constitutional position. I only desire to say this in conclusion. If that is our case from the constitutional side, is it not worth drawing attention to the fact that a constitutional case is also being set up by the Government? What is the policy of these ardent defenders of the Constitution? The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack a few days ago told us, when he read from that historic sheet of paper, that no Liberal Government would consent ever again to bear the heavy burden of office unless it was secured against a repetition of the treatment they have met with during the last four years. Surely, my Lords, there was there the inception, the announcement, of a revolution incomparably greater than any revolution which can possibly arise from a reference of the Finance Bill of the year to the people as a whole.
The noble and learned Lord committed the Liberal Party to the destruction of the veto of this House and the subversion of the ancient balance and equipoise of our Constitution. Surely here, if anywhere, was a rupture of the unbroken custom and usage and convention of hundreds of years. I think I might use the language of the noble and learned Lord himself and say that this seems to me to be a direct invasion both of the privileges of your Lordships' House and of the prerogative of the Crown. I believe, therefore, that when we go to the country on this question of constitutional or unconstitutional usage the country will be quite sufficiently intelligent to see where the real revolution lies—whether in the action of your Lordships, who in the discharge of what you believe to be your duty are going to refer this measure to the people, or in the action of the Government, which, because it cannot get its own way, proposes to break up the ancient Constitution of this country in order to render the House of Commons supreme.
We have been told by almost every speaker in this debate in language of varying menace, that if we throw out this Bill we are only at the beginning of a conflict of which no one can foresee the end. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack was more precise. He told us it could only end in one way. I do not think, even if I were a Minister, I should like to be quite so confident. I think it is quite likely we are at the commencement; of a long and arduous struggle, and that the 1264 component parts of the Constitution may emerge from that struggle in an altered form. There are some of us on this side of the House who would not shrink from that consequence. Nay, there are some who would warmly welcome it. That we should have a Second Chamber in this country—a reformed House of Lords, for that is the popular phrase—possessing elements of strength denied to ourselves and supplementing the existing Constitution from sources to which we cannot turn, is an aspiration which is dear to the hearts of many who sit in this Chamber. I hope that it may be reserved for the Party to which I have the honour to belong, should the opportunity ever occur, to carry such aspirations into execution. I wish I could cherish the hope that we are likely in such an attempt to receive the support and encouragement of noble Lords opposite; but, however that may be, I trust and I confidently believe, that there will emerge from this controversy upon which we are about to embark, an unmistakable mandate from the country—not, perhaps, at the first election, for we are told that the issues are likely to be confused, but at some subsequent election, because this matter cannot be decided by one election, possibly not even by two—I hope there will emerge from the conflict an unmistakable mandate from the people of this country that a Second Chamber is an absolutely essential feature in our Constitution, and that that Second Chamber shall not be a mere phantom, rendered equally impotent and ridiculous by the paralysis of its powers and scarcely worthy to deliberate if it could only delay; but that it shall be a Second Chamber representing, as your Lordships have endeavoured faithfully to do for many centuries, the stability, the character, and the experience of the State, and one which, like your Lordships' House, and I hope in an even superior degree, will be independent and fearless and strong.
§ LORD COURTNEY OF PENWITH
My Lords, I have listened with pleasure to the valuable, speech with which we have been favoured this evening from the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York. In its large argument, logical in the best sense of the word and yet elevated, he practically said everything that need be said to cover the great scope of the arguments which should be addressed on the question now before your Lordships. But the noble Lord who has just sat down has 1265 supplied one topic which must be discussed. He has entered into this debate in a very vigorous fashion, and I must congratulate him upon having from first to last shown no sign of that physical weakness which he pleaded when he first began. He has been energetic and combative to the last degree, and instead of in any way attempting to moderate a very grave situation, he has left it aggravated. He has infused into it a spirit most unfriendly to peaceful counsels. He has used arguments which when carried to the country will, I fear, prove prejudicial to the very object he has at heart, and may end in the mutilation and weakening of that Second Chamber for which he was speaking and the curtailment of the powers he has been attempting to uphold.
The noble Lord began his argument by suggesting that it was outside our purpose to enter into the moral reasons which had been brought forward in support of the Budget as being devoted to excellent ends. If I were to enter upon the question of the purposes to which the money which this Finance Bill will supply is to be devoted, I might have to say something in part of which I should find myself alone, and in other parts I should find myself supported by but few. I do not hold with the noble Lord that the present Government have been weak in supplying money for the defences of the country; on the contrary, I think they are open to censure for having yielded to ignorant panic and having increased the naval and military expenditure to which we are exposed. The noble Lord said no additions are involved in the present Budget on account of our national defences. The noble Lord seems to have forgotten that something like £3,000,000 was added to the Naval Estimates embodied in this particular Finance Bill. I might enter upon the second part, and I should demur personally to some portions of the expenditure proposed to be devoted to what is called social service, but these are not the questions involved in the Finance Bill.
We have an expenditure of £160,000,000 which has to be met. The Commons send up their plan of meeting that expenditure embodied in the Supply Bill, and for the first time in our history you are going to reject it. That is the novelty, the unprecedented novelty, which this House is going to perpetrate. In the way of 1266 defending the Constitution and the rights of this House, you are going to do something which has never been done before. The noble Lord said this House in 1860 rejected the Paper Duties Bill, and spoke of it as if it was a Bill to impose duties on paper instead of being a Bill for their repeal. But the Supply Bill of the year has come up year after year for a period as to which the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. Has it ever been rejected before? Lord James of Hereford told us last night of the peculiar fashion in which it is presented to you, all indicative of the supreme, you may say exclusive, control of the House of Commons over the supplies of the year. We have heard year after year the quaint formula in which the Supply Bill is proclaimed and made an Act of Parliament, Le Roi remercie ses bons sujets; and in the Speech at the close of the session His Majesty thanks the gentlemen of the House of Commons for the liberal supplies they have given to meet the national wants. This will not happen this year. There are no supplies for which thanks can be given. The House of Commons cannot receive the thanks from the Throne. What is to happen? Surely, my Lords, that is a very serious question to consider. It is not a matter of mere form. There must be a Speech from the Throne. You will have in a few days the Prorogation, and that Prorogation will be followed as we all know by a Dissolution, It will be impossible in the Speech from the Throne to avoid a reference to what has happened. In what way will that be expressed? Will it be by way of regret? I suppose that it will not be by way of censure, but it will require the most delicate measurement of words, the most careful use of language to prevent that Message from the Throne being perverted, however discreet the Ministers of the Crown may be, and to prevent this mischief the words in the Message from the Throne may be converted into cries of war. This is what you are precipitating.
By the rejection of this Bill you are precipitating for the first time a Dissolution. The noble Lord who has just spoken says that the Second Chamber always had the right of compelling a reference to the country. The Second Chamber has always had the right of reserving its assent to particular Bills, which may be withheld and which may become the subject of a reference to the country when a General 1267 Election happens; but the right so reserved and exercised does not compel us here and now to insist upon an immediate reference to the country. You may, for example, reject an Education Bill or an Irish Land Bill, and Parliament may go on for two or three years. You may reject other measures, and you may go on until Parliament expires; but in rejecting the Finance Bill as you will do you compel at once an appeal to the country, and thus you are acting in a manner for which no precedent can be cited, in a manner which has never been attempted even by the boldest advocate of the rights of your Lordships in past times. In the Amendment you say that you are going to consult the judgment of the country on this Bill. It is part of the mischief of the situation which you are creating that you cannot consult the judgment of the country on this particular issue. You cannot ask the country "Yes" or "No" on the merits of the Finance Bill. The issue before the country will be something very much larger and broader than that comprehended in the Amendment. It must cover a larger field of appeal upon other grounds; and the question which the noble Lord deprecates being Taised—the relations between the two Houses of Parliament—is raised in a worse fashion, because you are appealing to the country, who may sustain you in matters of legislation, with the embarrassing addition that you claim this novel power of interference in matters of finance. There are-many voters who will not uphold you in claiming a right to interfere with the financial arrangements of the Government. Here for the first time you are taking a new departure. Those who reverence the Constitution, those who most respect it, those who desire to see the different forces which constitute the governing powers of this nation maintained in their efficacy and in some degree of relative strength, must deplore the action which has brought us to this position.
The whole question of the relations between the two Houses of Parliament will be submitted to the country, under the cry that the Lords are interfering with the taxation decreed by the representatives of the people, and that they are taking upon themselves the power of the purse, and that for the first time in history they are presuming to deal with taxation. That is surely a very unwise step to take even from the point of view of the noble Lord who last 1268 addressed the House. I should have thought he would have given some reason to justify it. But the greater part of the noble Lord's speech dealt with the speeches of other noble Lords sitting on the Cross Benches who join him in denunciation of the Budget, or at all events of some parts of it, but who deprecate the rejection of this Bill because they see that in the rejection you are involving other questions to which they pay the utmost regard, and to which the noble Lord himself pays the utmost regard, but as to which he says that he will take the consequences. In his argument addressed to those noble Lords, however, he did not really grapple with the fundamental issue—namely, the right of this House to interfere with the financial arrangements of the year. He passed that by. He assumed that because under the forms of the Constitution the concurrence of this House is necessary to the passing of such a Bill, though the Bill comes up as a free gift from the Commons, the consequence of that concurrence is that, having the power, you have the right, and having got the right you have the duty, and having the duty you must exercise and perform the duty, and reject this Bill. On what grounds? On financial grounds, on grounds of pure finance? These are good grounds to be argued in the House of Commons or on political platforms, but the grounds which have been advanced here for the rejection of the Bill never have been recognised as constituting a sufficient reason for such a rejection.
It is true—it is, of course, undeniable—that the concurrence of your Lordships is necessary to the passing of a Supply measure. You have the power, but to pass from the power to a declaration that you have the right, still more to pass from the assertion of a right to the assertion of a duty, you must take into consideration what is the antecedent history of your country, the antecedent powers of this House, and what are the consequences involved in your action. You must, as the most rev. Prelate said, take heed of the consequences and see whether in your action you are not really violating the principles to which you ought to be most devoted and which you ought most strongly to uphold. It is a most dangerous business this of mixing up finance and legislation, and the peril is that in grasping at this novel power over finance you may imperil the power you undoubtedly have over 1269 legislation. As I have said, this General Election cannot involve a referendum on the subject of the Budget. You do not go to the country asking for an "aye" or "no" on the Finance Bill. Unlike the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, in its proper place and in relation to legislation I do not entirely exclude from consideration the possible adoption of the machinery of the referendum at some future time. It may become necessary for the peaceful and due working of our Constitution, but the notion of applying the referendum or its machinery to the question whether a Finance Bill shall or shall not become law is, as some of us who have looked into the machinery would say, at once seen to be unworkable. It dislocates all your finance, which must be settled within the course of the twelve months, and if it is done by the action of this branch of the Legislature you throw everything out of gear.
It is wonderful to me the simplicity with which this notion of the referendum with reference to this Finance Bill has been brought forward in many quarters. An ingenious gentleman who exercises a considerable influence in the columns of the leading journal, thought not long ago that it could be solved by the simple process of sending circulars through the post. His Majesty's Government, or someone else, was to send circulars through the post, with prepaid replies annexed thereto, and the replies were somehow or other to come back; and in this way you were to find out the opinion of the country on the subject before them. It is worth while to follow for a minute the working of this suggestion. Imagine your postman in the streets of London, in the rural districts of England, and in the remote counties in Ireland taking round these sheaves of circulars on which the electors are somehow or other, without verification or identification, without possibility of any guarantee, to make their mark and return them. How many people you would get to reply I do not know; who would get those replies is still very obscure; but it is obvious that such machinery as that is totally inapplicable to the particular subject of the Amendment which is now before us.
In the General Election which is now coming, you will find it is a matter of boast—the noble Lord opposite admitted that it would be a matter of boast—that you will not be able to confine this issue 1270 to the merits or the demerits of this particular scheme of finance. What the country will be asked to vote upon will be, "What shall be the limitations on the power of this House, and in what degree shall this House co-operate in the future with the other House in passing the laws of the country?" That is a very serious question to have put in this haphazard way before the people, and I think your Lordships are not over-confident of what the answer will be. I even seem to detect a feeling that you are not going to win in this particular controversy; that you will not win ultimately I am firmly convinced. Even the noble Lord who last spoke seemed to have some doubts upon that point, but that you should win even in this present issue seems to me extremely unlikely. In the midst of the combative spirit and the passions of this controversy I would ask your Lordships to reflect a little on how this General Election will work, brought on as it is in the fashion I have described. You are not going to win. An industrious gentleman in The Times, who has shown a very patient and it appears to me a very judicious spirit on the whole, has gone through the Kingdom and has made his observations as to the probabilities of success in this or that constituency, and he has given the results of his investigations in two or three issues of that newspaper. Well, he is not very confident. He does not add up the results; though anybody who takes the trouble will find that he does not indicate a victory for the Opposition, but that perhaps the supporters of the Opposition in the other House after the General Election will approach to something like equality with the avowed supporters of the Government. There will, however, remain two independent bodies of members—the Nationalists and the Labour Party.
Is it a light matter that you should provoke a General Election—with its tumultuous, confused, passionate appeals—on the relations between the two Houses which will probably result in the election of another House of the fashion I have described? Do you think it is a satisfactory matter to contemplate? Are you pleased at the suggestion that the Nationalists and Labour Party should hold the balance in that assembly? Even as regards this House, what are your feelings with respect to those two sets of members? What are their feelings towards 1271 you? The Nationalists are not very fond of your Lordships; I suppose if there is one section of the House of Commons more opposed to your Lordships than another it would be the Irish Nationalists, because your Lordships have too often thwarted their desires. I do not say whether that was right or wrong, but the thing has happened. And the Labour Members, they will not feel any very great respect for your Lordships. Remember, however narrow may be the balance between the Ministerialists and the Opposition in the new House of Commons, the very first question raised there must be this question of the power of this House over the Budget and this question of the relations of the two Houses. Upon this question there will be no doubt about the energy with which these outlying groups of members will support the Government in their strongest demands, and probably even urge them to make them stronger than the Government desire. This is the future which you are very light-heartedly preparing to encounter. It ought to make us grave—not make us combative or desirous of victories over one another. It ought to make us take into grave and serious consideration what is the immediate future before us and how we can escape from these perils.
You are developing the revolutionary spirit—that is the danger of the time. In your departure from constitutional practice you are giving a lesson which may be improved upon. And there are plenty of persons about who are quite ready to take the lead your Lordships give, and as soon as you suspend habitual usage, they will show the same contempt for the practices which have gone before. Already there are very strange suggestions made as to how we shall get through the coming crisis. In more than one apparently responsible quarter the suggestion is made that the Government should levy the taxes without Parliamentary authority, go on as if they were endowed with full power and permission from the Legislature, and by their own administrative authority alone do that which it has hitherto been held they are disentitled from doing unless supported by Resolution of the House of Commons and before the year is over by a statute of Parliament. There are other suggestions, because the minds of men are occupied with what is going to be done in the next stage—suggestions showing something of the same hot temper, the same extraordinary departure 1272 from calm and moderate counsels which ought to be present in the consideration of such problems as these. It is a natural suggestion—that in order to enforce upon your Lordships those changes in your position some action shall be taken such as was consented to by King William when Lord Grey obtained from him power to create a sufficient number of Peers to carry the Reform Bill. I have heard it suggested that if similar advice were now tendered to His Majesty, and if His Majesty were graciously pleased to assent to the proposition, your Lordships should be invited to pass a Resolution to exclude the new Peers from taking their places among you. Such a step was never conceived by the Duke of Wellington, not even by Lord Eldon. One unconstitutional thing leads-to another, and this comes from a grave, discreet expositor of English law, who for the first time makes this suggestion.
Bear with me if I go one step further and suggest another consideration which you may, I think, with advantage take to-heart. In what you are going to do now you are departing from constitutional usage. You are violating usage. This will always be remembered of you. You say you have good and sufficient reasons—I do not inquire at this moment what they are—for breaking the constitutional usage. There is no legal power to prevent you from passing this resolution and carrying it out. You can break the constitutional practice be the result what it may. No one can prevent it. Let us see how far that kind of argument may lead, and, I believe, is leading some people. Pray consider, my Lords, how each one of us is in this Chamber. Some are here by creation, some by descent. In the former case Letters Patent under the Great Seal confer upon a man a Peerage. He does not sit in consequence of that; that is not enough. The Letters Patent are followed up by a Writ of Summons requiring him in the, special circumstances of the realm to come and give his counsel and advice in the great affairs which are in debate and aid in the government of the country. The Writ of Summons is apart from, separate from, independent of, though in practice consequent upon, the Letters Patent conferring upon him a Peerage. In the same way in the case of a Peer who comes in by succession. He does not of necessity come immediately into this House. If he does not apply for a Writ of Summons he may 1273 remain out all his life, as Peers have done, and never sit here. If he applies for a Writ of Summons, it is issued and he comes here; and your Lordships sit here by virtue of Writs of Summons. The Writs of Summons are issued at the General Election to particular Peers who are members of the House immediately before the dissolution of the Parliament, and afterwards to those Peers who have been created during the Parliament.
But, my Lords, what if these Writs of Summons were withheld? It is all constitutional usage, followed as a matter of course, but there is no power to compel it being followed. If under the advice of the Minister—I am not going to suggest that such advice should be given—the Writ were withheld, there is no Court that could enforce it. You cannot get a mandamus against the Crown. The excluded Peers would have no power of enforcing their entrance into this House. I do not know what they would do. They might in such a contingency hold a mass meeting in Trafalgar Square, or organise a promenade towards Westminster, but in the way of legal redress I am not aware of any power under which they could enter this Chamber.
In a word, just as the constitutional usage can be departed from without any power of preventing that departure in regard to the passing of Supply Bills, so constitutional usage with respect to issuing Writs of Summons to Peers could be departed from, and the Crown is entirely master of the situation. Charles I, tried it on, and this House resolved that it was improper, but the King had got into difficulties with the other Chamber and did not find it convenient to quarrel with both Lords and Commons, and so he gave way and the excluded Peer took his seat. But in the language used on the other side the non-exercise of the power does not prevent the power being used if a Minister were audacious enough, resolute enough, and animated by so few scruples as to be able to advise it. My Lords, I do not like the situation when such revolutionary schemes are considered and talked about. I want to see this order of ours—I mean the order of the nation and not of this House—change from old to new by slow evolution, without violence, fury, or passion, without anything like civil discord breaking out into strife between contending 1274 families of men. I want to see things work out equably; but under the impulse of the step the majority of your Lordships are about to take you will find the problems I have suggested will be developed under the necessity proclaimed by the Lord Chancellor of ensuring for the future for the Liberal Government some different position from that which it has occupied in the past; you will raise all these questions and raise them in the worst possible fashion for a Second Chamber.
No one of us would wish to expose the noble Marquess opposite to anything like a personal rebuff, especially after the magnificent exhibition of courage he gave us last week when he made his speech at the opening of this debate. But who cannot help feeling that it would be better for him, better for his Party, better for this House, better for this nation, that his Amendment should be defeated? It will not be. I regret it cannot be, but I am absolutely persuaded that it would be to the advantage of the country if it could happen. It would be a terrible disappointment to some friends of mine outside. I admit that, but what a relief it would be to many of us, to many of your Lordships, and to the sober-minded inhabitants of the nation at large that this issue, which no doubt is inevitable—the noble Lord who spoke just now said this issue was inevitable—should be tried under better circumstances and not, as now, mixed up with the question of finance, with the control over the purse, with that violation of all the traditions embodied in so many phrases, recognised in so many words habitually forming parts of our common ways of thinking about the working of our Constitution, in the fashion which it is in this particular Amendment.
The rejection of this Amendment will not be. I regret it. I regret most of all that those noble Lords who see the unwisdom of the path upon which we have entered, who deprecate the action of the noble Marquess in putting this Amendment before the House, and who want to save this House from the peril involved in it—I am most sorry that they have not been able to take the courage to come over and show that this is not a Party issue, and to show by the Division that sober-minded men, habitually opposed to His Majesty's Government, even condemning most bitterly the provisions of this Finance Bill, will still 1275 rally in defence of the Constitution against the innovation now threatened. Party connections, personal bias, the combinations of groups—these may lead to and do explain the action which I do deplore. I wish we could have been strengthened and the country could have been encouraged by something more than a mere resolution net to vote for the Amendment; by their coming over and voting for the passing of the Bill. It will require all the good temper, all the moderation, all the fairness of mind, all the self-control that is possible in every section of the political world to see us through the controversy which is now opened, and I would that, at the commencement, we had all shown ourselves a little more forward in proclaiming our views as to the necessity of maintaining the traditions of this House in respect of finance, and that noble Lords from the other side would have risen to the height of the occasion, not being content with simply saying, "We dislike the Bill, but we cannot vote for the Amendment," but going on to say, "Though we dislike the Bill, we will vote for the Bill because in voting for it, we show our attachment and devotion to the constitutional principles of the country."
My Lords, I hope your Lordships will not accuse me of any egotistical feeling if I venture to say that the financial traditions in which I have been brought up would naturally impress upon me the seriousness of the character of the vote to be given on this occasion. I admit that with some portions of the Budget it would be possible to agree, but surely it is not only what is contained in the Budget that we have to think of, but also the form in which it has been introduced. I presume that the general form in which a Budget is introduced, the character of a usual Budget, is to provide for the financial necessities of the year on an equable basis of taxation, with as little disturbance as possible to the trade and industry of the country. I do not wish now to stop to argue whether this Budget achieves that or not, but surely it goes very much further than this. Besides introducing novel elements in the actual imposition of the taxes themselves, it lays down and provides for extravagant machinery at great expense, far in excess of what is necessary for the output of the financial year and capable of an increase in the future which it is impossible to foresee.
1276 And, my Lords, with all due deference to the most rev. Prelate who spoke earlier in the evening, surely we cannot, in considering this novel departure, forget the attendant circumstances in which this Finance Bill has been introduced and the opinions which have been expressed in support of it, not only by His Majesty's Government and their supporters, but also by their candid critics both in this country and abroad. It is the anxiety as to what is going to be the future taxation to be imposed and collected under the machinery which is proposed by this Finance Bill that is disturbing the credit and upsetting the financial business of the country at the present moment. There is nothing which is so injurious to credit as uneasiness as to what is going to happen in the future, uncertainty as to how it may be affected, and the feeling—I think on this occasion the justifiable feeling—that a blow is going to fall upon it, but how hard a one it is impossible to realise. I believe it is easier for the credit of the country to recover from an actual blow that has fallen upon it than from the uncertainty which is at the present moment prevailing. And, as your Lordships know, the further danger in this system of what I may call Budgetting for the future is that it tends to encourage Chancellors of the Exchequer to extravagance by placing at their disposal a machinery for easily collecting taxes in the future, and to discourage thrift by frightening capital.
Lord Revelstoke the other evening described how capital was being frightened and was leaving the country, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, who, I think, is not in his place at the present moment, in criticising that speech said that the noble Lord had given us a glimpse of the Temple of Mammon and had asked whether it was right that it should be disturbed. The noble Earl went on in his criticism to say that to him and some of his friends there was a vision, not only of slightly disturbed finance or of the unfortunate persons who might be losing a quarter per cent., but of starved humanity on the Embankment. The noble Earl also, I think, said that this showed to him clearly why it was that the City was in the rear of social progress. This is not the place nor the opportunity to debate the question whether the City is or has been in the rear of social progress, but that it is not entirely the dehumanised 1277 money-making machine it was described to be by another noble Lord is proved by the grants it has always been ready to contribute to any funds that have been raised for the amelioration of distress. But I think it is right here to say that the City, in its anxiety as to capital leaving the country, is not only thinking of itself, but of those who depend upon the maintenance and the security of capital in this country for their livelihood. The City is not only composed of a number of financiers who are thinking of their own profit. It is the financial nerve-centre of this country, to which flow the savings and earnings of all classes of the community which it again distributes throughout the country, making them capital accessible everywhere. And surely, if not from the highest motives, at least from their business instincts, those who are responsible for the use and custody of this money might be credited with a recognition of the fact that it is upon the mutual dependence of their own interests upon those of their customers and of their clients that the stability of credit rests. It is upon the character of their policy that really depends the credit of this country.
Many of us can give proofs that capital, not surplus capital, as has been frequently said, but actual capital is leaving this country, and that the interest of that capital is also being used abroad. But I think there is one fact with regard to capital which is more important even than this, and that is that the Government are, by this Finance Bill, taking capital and using it as income. One of the chief objections to the Finance Bill is that it kills enterprise. It kills enterprise by frightening capital; and in doing this it puts a tax on the raw material of industry. Take the Death Duties. The Death Duties are the culminating tax upon one form of property upon which other taxes, such as Income Tax, Super Tax, and Land Tax, will have to be paid, and, in order to pay these, capital will have to be entrenched upon in many cases. I do not ask for pity for those who will have to pay that capital, but it is others, and those not the rich, that we have to think of. If you are anxious to see great enterprises or great industries started in this country you need those who possess capital, and who are prepared not only to put their capital into them, 1278 but to risk it, and, if necessary, to lose it. Take the great enterprises of electric lighting and electric traction. At the first moment they were only mere ventures, and at the start they had need of a large amount of capital to be put into them. Now they are great successes, and they are at the present moment employing a vast amount of labour; they are giving out large sums of money in wages, and by their success they have contributed largely to the comfort and happiness of all classes in this country. Now the State desires to equalise the distribution of wealth; but if the State goes too far in the direction of regulating wealth, take care that the amount to be distributed is not so diminished as to cause universal loss.
I was going through the papers the other day of one whose memory I think is not forgotten by members of your Lordships' House, and I came across a passage in a speech which was delivered by my father in 1885, in Edinburgh, which I do not think is inappropriate to this discussion, and which as it is short I will, with your permission, quote. He was expressing the hope that in the campaign of that time no effort would be made to stir up the feeling of class against class, and he pointed out that the interests of all were dependent one on the other. He said—There are some who seem to look upon the wealth of this country as if it were simply money contained in a cash-box, and that you can give the key either to one party or the other party, to one class or the other class, to help themselves from that cash-box. The wealth of this country is not a fixed quantity. It is one that increases or diminishes according as there is wise and stable and just legislation. It would indeed be a disaster to the country if we should simply adopt the principle, ' There is a certain fixed amount of wealth; all that is wanted is to distribute it differently, forgetting that we must endeavour so to legislate that the prosperity, wealth, and well-being of all classes may be promoted and increased…. Do not let us run away with the idea that taxes upon property are for the benefit of the poorer classes, or of the producing classes.These are the words, not of a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, but of a Liberal candidate in the campaign of 1885. Like several other speakers who have addressed your Lordships' House in this debate, I am one of those who do not hold the same economic faith as noble Lords who sit around me. I am a Free Trader, but that does not in the slightest degree incline me the more to support this Budget, or prevent me acting with noble Lords 1279 who sit around me on this occasion. I do not believe that this Budget is the only alternative to Tariff Reform. I believe that this Budget contains the seeds of a policy which is dangerous to the trade and credit of this country, and will disturb the balance of capital, and, believing this, I hold that we who are opposed to this Budget ought to show a united front in submitting it to the judgment of the people. I intend this evening to vote for the Amendment of the noble Marquess, and in doing so I do not for a moment consider that I am acting inconsistently with those principles of Free Trade which I hold or which I have inherited.
LORD MONTAGU, OF BEAULIEU
My Lords, we have heard with great interest the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down, and especially his concluding words in which he declared himself to be a Free Trader. As one who is going to support the Amendment before the House, I purpose to support the noble Marquess in his Amendment for other reasons which I shall lay before your Lordships. To begin with, although I like others who have been in the House of Commons realise to the full the gravity of the situation and the indispensable nature of the control of the House of Commons over the ordinary realms of finance, still on this occasion the issue is so grave that in my humble judgment this House is justified in interfering.
I propose for a moment to address myself to one or two aspects of the Budget which are more of a special than a general nature. First of all, I would remark in one single sentence that so far as the interests of the particular industry which I have the honour, to a certain extent, to speak for in this House—the motor car industry—are concerned, although we naturally dislike the taxes put upon us by the Bill we acknowledge that the Government have met us fairly about the Road Improvement Bill, and we consider as far as that is concerned that we have got something, so to speak, for our money. I do not wish, therefore, on that point to attack noble Lords opposite, or to say anything that is unfair. I prefer to pass on to another subject. I would like to show how grave is the effect of the Death Duties, which, in combination with other taxes, affect a class which is numerically small. If you 1280 take the history of the Death Duties, beginning in 1894 under Sir William Har-court, one cannot help being struck by the fact that every successive Chancellor of the Exchequer, no matter to which side of politics he happened to belong, has made the excuse that he is only raising these duties by half or one per cent., and it seems to be totally left out of consideration—and here to some extent I blame, with all deference, my own side of the House as well as the other—that these Death Duties have been raised to a point which in my opinion is extremely dangerous. The noble Lord who last spoke said this tendency has the effect of driving capital out of the country. It will have another effect. It will increase the tendency to evasion, for citizens are not encouraged to accept a system of taxation which they feel inherently unjust.
I will give instances of the extraordinary increase in these duties in the case of three estates, one admitted to be a great estate, one the estate of a well-to-do man, and one the case of a man who made a considerable sum in trade, but whose estate when he left it to his successors could not be described as wealthy. In the case of an estate of £800,000, the duty under Sir William Harcourt's Budget in 1894 would have been at the rate of eight and a-half per cent. I am taking the case of estates settled from father to son, where the Death Duties would be less heavy than in any other form. This estate, when Mr. Asquith was Chancellor of the Exchequer, would have paid eleven and a-half per cent., but the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Bill before the House would charge this estate with sixteen per cent. The payments in those three cases are £68,000 under Sir William Harcourt's Budget, £88,000 under Mr. Asquith's, and no less than £128,000, or nearly double, under Mr. Lloyd-George's Budget. I think that that justifies my assertion that these Death Duties have been increased to a dangerous degree.
May I also point out that the hardship is a very grave one to the present generation, whatever may happen in the future? Take the case of a man who insured himself under Sir William Harcourt's Budget, or thirteen years later when Mr. Asquith brought forward his proposals, or fifteen years later when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward his 1281 Budget. Insuring against such duties is? almost impossible for the present generation. You may take it that the rates for a man of sixty years may vary according to health and other circumstances from seven to eight per cent.; it is quite impossible for an old man to pay the other calls for which he is responsible and to insure himself against the Death Duties, with the result that these duties in such cases must come entirely out of capital. I will take another case of a settled estate, passing from father to son in which £50,000 is involved. In that case six per cent. was charged by Sir William Harcourt and by Mr. Asquith, and ten per cent. by Mr. Lloyd-George; the payments in this case are raised from £3,000 under Sir William Harcourt and Mr. Asquith to no less than £5,000 under Mr. Lloyd-George. The sum of £50,000 invested produces only about £2,000 a year. You cannot call it a large fortune. It produces the income of a well-to-do man, but not the income of a millionaire.
A further case I have to quote to you is taken from facts of which I am personally cognisant. A man in the North of England had made a small fortune in a business of which he and his sons had the management. Under Sir William Harcourt's Budget that estate would have paid five, and a-half per cent., which is equal to £1,375. Under Mr. Asquith in 1907 it would have had to pay the same amount; but under Mr. Lloyd-George's Budget this year the amount is £2,250, or nearly double what would have had to be paid two years ago. I will relate to you the result of that heavy burden. We all take a pride in this country in the continuity of businesses in which the name of a family carries enormous weight. In this case the finding of £2,250 out of £50,000 capital, which is not fluid capital but consists of the interest in the business, as a matter of fact placed that particular family in such a position that they had practically to divide up their business. On the top of that disaster the estate was further subdivided by the deaths of two more members of the family, and the total duties amounted to over thirty per cent. on the total value of the business as it was originally estimated. I say that is a monstrous heightening and increase of the Death Duties, and is not in the best interests of this country. I know that the answer will be that the Death Duties are in their nature a kind of deferred Income 1282 Tax. Let us grant that. Noble Lords opposite have said, no doubt with accuracy, that taking the Income Tax alone, the amount charged upon huge fortunes is not very great; but if you add to 1s. 8d. or even 1s. 2d. in the £—the amount a man has to pay to insure against Death Duties—the tax will amount to from 2s. 6d. to 4s. 6d. in the £1, and I have a case where it meant as much as 6s. in the £. In no other country in the world—I defy the Government to quote one—is the Income Tax including insurance against Death Duties anything like that sum. If you study the figures you are driven to the conclusion that capital, whether representing landed property or fluid capital or the interest in a business, is to be more heavily taxed in this country than in any other country in the civilised world. That is a very strong thing to say, but it is the fact.
Another point I should like to bring before your Lordships is that of the Undeveloped Land Duty. Though it may sound somewhat foreign to the Death Duties, you will find it affects that question also. It sounds very little to say you are going to charge a half penny in the £ on this, that, or the other. I am aware the Government only propose at present to tax undeveloped land, and I quite admit there may be cases arguable in which it may encourage men to use up land; but by putting on this Undeveloped Land Duty you have again added to the amount which a man must pay. The result will be, if you add the Income Tax, the Super Tax, the provision for Death Duties, and the Undeveloped Land Tax, that it will amount to 7s. or 8s. in the £. If you take Consols at ninety, which is a fair average, and apply the ½d. in the £ tax, in that case the tax amounts to ninety half pennies or 3s. 9d., which is exactly 1s. 6d. in the £ on the income produced of £2 10s. a year. Thus ½d. in the £ on the capital value means 1s. 6d. in the £ on the income. It is another Income Tax higher than the existing one, and diminishing a man's power of providing against charges at his death. That, I think, justifies my argument that the increase in the Death Duties is a very serious thing. There is only one justification for this increase so far as I can see. There would be justification if the proceeds of the tax were to be devoted to the redemption of the National Debt. But that is not what is proposed. What are you doing to-day? You are using capital for the ordinary purposes of income, a 1283 process which I beg leave to say is totally unsound. If you take those heavy duties, which must be in nine cases out of ten raised by mortgages or by the selling of stock, and use them for redeeming the National Debt or the reduction of capital, it will be for the benefit of the nation.
It is said that this country is so rich that it is impossible to bleed it to death. Noble Lords opposite tell us that there is every sign of luxury around us, and I have been waiting to hear in the course of the debate that motor cars are the greatest signs of luxury of the age, but we have so far escaped that. No one will deny that we can see on all sides of this great City signs of increasing luxury. I deplore the signs of that luxury. I think it is very often money not well used, and very often it is used ostentatiously; but, however that may be, there are not signs of increasing riches among our own people, broadly speaking. There is a great deal of money spent here by foreigners, whom we welcome to our shores. Money is also spent by rich Americans, who make London their home for a portion of the year. Many millions are made in trade and financial operations, and in nine cases out of ten the origin of the money is not in this country at all. Straws show which way the wind blows. Perhaps it will interest your Lordships if I give you three or four instances out of the Inland Revenue returns showing you how, as far as the country and the land are concerned, the wealth of the people is diminishing. We all know that when a man founds a family, or has aspirations to establish himself as a power in the land, the first thing he does is to take out a licence for armorial bearings. I daresay many noble Lords know that persons have taken armorial bearings which they were not entitled to take, but at any rate they have to pay something to the Exchequer. The number of armorial bearings taken out ten years ago was 56,792. In the year from 1907–08 the number was 55,449. Take game licences. We were told by the late Prime Minister, of whom, of course, I speak with great respect, that England was to be a treasure house for the poor and not merely a pleasure house for the rich. There may have been some reason for saying that, but as far as I can make out the number of game licences issued has seriously diminished. The number in 1908–09 was 73,885 as against 68,331 this year. That does not look as if England was entirely 1284 abandoned to shooting. Take the case of the railways. Every one knows there has been a great decrease in the number of first and even of second-class passengers. The reduction in the amount of railway passenger duty paid is very serious. In 1902–3 £368,548 was paid, but last year it amounted to only £345,825. I have other figures, but I will not weary the House with them. But the effect of this Budget will be, I believe, to intensify and increase the poverty of some of the most worthy members of the community. It will certainly hit very hard all the owners of land. It will hit the small family and business man, and the ultimate effect of these five or six new taxes, whether they are on land or small businesses, will be to discourage the investment of capital in this country and also to hamper and harass existing concerns.
The noble Lord who last spoke from the opposite Benches I remember used to give us words of wisdom in the House of Commons to which possibly we were sometimes deaf. He spoke of our going into this fight in light-hearted fashion. I do not think any one of us is going into it in light-hearted fashion. We realise the gravity and possible consequences of the Amendment. We are not light-hearted; but we are stout-hearted on this subject. There is a refrain which has gone up lately at meetings which has a great effect, I believe, upon audiences, Some gigantic person gets up at the back of the hall and asks, "Are we down-hearted?" and the reply is generally a yell of "No." Neither, my Lords, are we down-hearted. I have been fourteen years in the House of Commons and several years in this House, and I realise to the full extent the gravity of the step we propose to take to-night. But I shall certainly support the Amendment of the noble Marquess.
§ LORD GRIMTHORPE
My Lords, this debate ranges over three points of the most supreme importance. The first is whether the expenditure set forth in the Budget is justified; the second is whether the means proposed by the Government for meeting that expenditure are justified; and the third, which is the most important of all, is whether your Lordships' House is justified in rejecting the Budget, which provides the revenue by which the King's Government is carried on. Far too little in my opinion, has been said about expenditure. 1285 The expenditure is going up at a most alarming rate. The reign of extravagance began under the last Government. I confess I had hoped for better things under the present Government, but for the moment the word "retrenchment" seems to have dropped out of the Liberal vocabulary; and simultaneously with an increase of expenditure there is a reduction in the Sinking Fund. Charles Lamb was once reproached for coming late to business, and he replied, "Oh!but you must remember I go away early." In the same way if the Government are reproached for spending too much they reply, "Oh!but you must remember that we are saving too little." That does not seem to me very sound finance or such as would have been approved of by Mr. Peel or Mr. Gladstone. At the same time we must not forget that the total indebtedness of the country has been reduced by £40,000,000 under the present Government, whereas it was increased by £120,000,000 under the late Government. I am surprised that in all the speeches made during this debate from the opposite Benches no one has ever thought of attacking the expenditure, no voice has been raised in protest against the great and growing expenditure of this country. There are no economists apparently sitting upon the Benches opposite, and apparently not many upon these Benches either. But for all that it is expenditure which is the root of the evil, and unless it is attacked and controlled this country will be exposed to many and grave dangers. It is not necessary to defend the expenditure as it has not been attacked, so I will pass on to the next question.
The expenditure has somehow or other to be provided for. New sources of revenue have to be tapped, and the question between us is this, whether under a system of Free Trade the burden is to fall largely upon capital, or whether under a system of Protection the burden is to fall mainly upon labour. That is the question which will have to be debated in this country. It is said that under the former system you are driving capital abroad and impoverishing the country and that under the latter system you would do away with unemployment and find work for all. As regards driving capital out of the country I think a good deal of the talk on that subject is mere moonshine. Capital is and always has been leaving 1286 this country, and I trust it will always continue to leave this country, for much of the great wealth and the enormous foreign commerce of this country is due to the very fact that the higher interest capital earns when invested abroad returns to this country in ever-fertilising streams and serves to provide new sources of wealth, to create new wealth and open out fresh sources of prosperity. I should have thought that this was a truism everybody would have recognised, certainly the great financiers who have addressed your Lordships' House. But really it seems to have come upon many people quite as a revelation. In The Times last Friday there was an article by the financial correspondent, who said—The preference of investors for foreign securities becomes evidently due, in part at least, to a simple economic law, which impels the thrifty to put their money out to the best possible advantage.It is a truism that capital will go where it can be most profitably employed, and that is why capital has been going out of the country. I commend to your notice another quotation from the same article. The writer said—One of the causes of the comparative unpopularity of home investments arises from the necessity with which one of the great parties is faced of proving that we are on the road to irretrievable ruin.It seems that according to this very pregnant statement many of those noble Lords who have been denouncing the Government for the outflow of capital from this country are themselves in a large measure responsible for the very evil which they deplore. In order to make out their case they have to prove what nobody except Lord Faber has attempted to prove, that British industries are starving for lack of capital; and even he, with all his experience, could only lay his finger upon two—the railways and the building trade. It is a matter of notoriety that the railways are largely over capitalised, and it seems a strange remedy to say that you will cure the ills from which they are suffering by stuffing them with more capital when they are already suffering from a plethora of capital at this present moment. With regard to the building trade, we know that is always depressed when trade is depressed, and that it is one of the last to recover. We must not take a periodical symptom for a fixed permanent disease.
1287 Another point, on which I am sure my noble friend Lord Airedale can bear me out, is this, that in quoting these figures noble Lords on the other side entirely forget the vast sums that are put into British industries in providing new mills and machinery and in bringing plant up to date, and strengthening, improving and consolidating the brains and sinews of British trade and commerce. These vast sums are paid, and yet there is no record of them in statistics. I think anybody acquainted with the North of England knows perfectly well that no occasion for profitable enterprise is thrown away for lack of capital. How is it that capital does not pour into this country from foreign countries as our capital pours into theirs when there is a lack of it, and how is it when foreign Protectionist countries want capital and money it is to Free Trade England they come to find it? If you describe this Budget as revolutionary and Socialistic and as frightening away capital I want to ask you where the capital is going for greater security? Where can it find greater security than in England at the present moment? The prices of our Funds prove it up to the hilt. Our Funds stand higher in proportion to their rate of interest than the Funds of any other country of Europe. That is on account of the greater security they offer; people are prepared to take a smaller rate of interest on that account. That is the strongest proof you can have that there is no lack of security in England, and if capital is going away for greater security where is it going? That is an interesting question to have answered. Is it going to America, with its Trusts and panics and financial scandals in State legislation? Even the Standard Oil Company is not secure there. Is it going to the revolutionary Republics of South America, or to Russia with its pogroms and its bombs, or to France and Germany, where there are crises just as acute as here, financial crises of the most serious description?
And with regard to the rise of Socialism which you so greatly fear here in England even a Tariff Reform paper wrote the other day pointing out that—The by-elections for the Reichstag, the general elections for the State Parliaments, and the municipal elections in the towns and cities are yielding a staggering group of Red victories.That is what you find in Germany. Capital will not go away to the extent you fear 1288 unless it can find much larger profit and perfectly good security. I would ask noble Lords opposite, and members of the Tory Party, to remember that it is quite possible to flaunt the flag of Socialism too freely before the electors of this country. Beware if by telling them that this Budget is blank, unmitigated Socialism you lead them to say "Well, if this is Socialism it is not so very terrible after all, and we don't know that it would be a bad thing if we had a little more of it." That is what you are leading them to. I believe the greatest propagandists in favour of Socialism at the present moment are Tariff Reformers. It is they, and those who describe the Budget as pure Socialism, who are making more Socialist converts than the Socialists themselves.
If you say of this Budget, as Lord Curzon said, that it does not provide a cure for unemployment I would say it is not the business of the Budget to provide a cure for unemployment in the first place; and, in the second place, if you pile Ossa upon Pelion in the way of Protective Duties you will not get rid of unemployment which is inseparable from modern industrial civilisation. Look at all the Protectionist countries in the world, even America, with its vast resources and unlimited opportunities, where development is always going on and where there is necessarily a much greater demand for labour you would think at least than in this small old established country, where it is a perpetual miracle, due only to the beneficent operation of Free Trade, how such an enormous population crammed within such narrow confines can find so much to do and can live in such comparative case and comfort. But the question of unemployment is not really germane to the Budget. It is only put forward as a sort of stalking horse. Deeper reasons lie behind, deeper reasons which noble Lords do not attempt to conceal.
In discussing this Budget I have been struck by the fact that during the whole of this debate not one single word has been said by noble Lords opposite against the indirect taxes which have been proposed by the Government. No, they fall on the labouring classes, and no protest is offered against them. No protest is offered against the taxes on food, tea, and tobacco. No, those who have to pay these taxes are left to look after themselves, and indeed many noble Lords who have spoken if they had their way would pile taxes on the poor 1289 until nothing the working men eat would go into their mouths untaxed. But all their objurgations are reserved for the other taxes, the taxes which fall upon capital. I quite agree you may tax capital too high, but I do not know that it has yet been proved that capital is taxed too high under this Budget. Noble Lords should remember that Mr. Balfour admitted quite recently that if he came, into office he would be forced to continue the higher Income Tax, the Super Tax, and the higher Death Duties. Therefore by throwing out the Budget you do not get rid of those. You do not get rid of the indirect taxes, but you are, taking this extreme and perilous step to get rid of the Land and the Licensing Clauses which you detest; and by incurring these risks to get rid of the Land and the Licensing Clauses you are saying on the one hand that the community is not to take a moderate tithe of the value which it has created, and you are saying on the other hand that the sale of intoxicating liquors is not to be restrained by taxation. It seems a strange thing to make a political revolution for two such objects as those. I venture to say it will be indefensible. When you come before the country and join issue with the House of Commons on such a ground you are fighting with the sun in your eyes, and, moreover, I believe you are holding an empty pistol in your hand.
I have followed this Debate with the greatest attention, and I confess I have not yet heard in any one of the speeches, eloquent and able speeches, which have been delivered a good and sufficient reason for violating the well-established practice and custom as it has existed for centuries and for making a political revolution. Lord Curzon, in his interesting speech to-night, practically admitted you were making a political revolution, for whether you succeed in maintaining your position or whether you are forced to abandon it things cannot remain as they have been. You have made that impossible. In consequence of your action the country is face to face with the question whether you are to govern the House of Commons or whether the House of Commons is to govern you. That is the question which, whether you like it or not, will be debated upon ten thousand platforms in the country, and I am very much afraid only one answer will be given, and that will be one unfavourable to your Lordships' House. This I deeply deplore because I am a strong and convinced Second 1290 Chamber man myself, and I believe in future we shall be exposed to dangers that will arise, not by reason of the strength of the Second Chamber but by reason of its weakness. Therefore I regret deeply to see it running the risk of being further weakened.
In departing from the tradition of centuries in setting up a claim which, if it ever existed, has become obsolete through disuse, in rejecting the Budget sent up to you by an enormous majority of the accredited representatives of the people, in seeking to deprive the House of Commons of the exclusive control of the purse, you are entering a contest in which you must suffer much moral and intellectual damage. In forcing the election on this issue you are obliged to maintain that the House of Commons no longer represents the people. It was George II, I believe, who said to the elder Pitt—Sir, you have taught me to look to the House of Commons for the sense of the people.And if you do not find it there, where else are you to find it? If the House of Commons do not represent the people who, may I ask, do you represent? It is an utterly novel and absurd doctrine to maintain, as so many maintain now-a-days, that the true sense of the people is embodied in the minority and not in the majority of the House of Commons. If that doctrine were acted upon you would reduce Parliamentary Government to a farce. Last evening a noble Lord said Great Britain was not made for the Constitution but the Constitution for Great Britain. I quite agree with him, but at the same time it was not a sentiment I expected ever to hear delivered from the Tory Benches. We sit here by virtue of that Constitution, we enjoy our hereditary legislative rights by virtue of that Constitution, and if you tear the Constitution to pieces, upon what do you base your claim to make laws and exercise authority? Therefore it is a dangerous thing for us to tear great rents in the Constitution, inasmuch as it is on the Constitution our rights repose.
Reference has been made by Lord Curzon to the very significant remark that proceeded from the Lord Chancellor on the first night of the debate, that in which he said no Liberal Government would ever take office again in England unless it was secure from a repetition of the treatment it had received during the last four years. I think that is a statement we must, whether we like it or 1291 not, lay well to heart. For what does it amount to? It amounts to this, that when the people declare at the polls, whether at the forthcoming election or some subsequent election, that they want a Liberal Government in office, it means that they cannot have that Liberal Government in office, that their expressed wish and declaration cannot be carried out, unless your Lordships' House consents to part with some of its powers and privileges. If you decline to part with some of its powers and privileges then you say to the people, "You want to have a Liberal Government in office but we will not allow you to have it." Do you think the people of England are going to stand that? Therefore you are really exposing yourselves to the possible loss—I say it without any intention to use the language of menace—of some of your powers, to the possible curtailment of some of your privileges, and to the possible lowering of your political status and prestige. It is said "This cannot be; "some noble Lords have said" It is impossible, no one can touch us." Beware how you commit yourselves to that statement, for if you say no one can touch you, if you say no power exists in this State which can check your control, your powers, your privileges, which can modify or regulate your character and position, that you are in the State and not of it, that you are the one element in the body politic which remains immovable, unalterable, impervious to pressure above and from below, secure from attack, enjoying an immunity which is extended neither to the Crown nor to the popular House of the Legislature, it is a position you cannot take up and maintain, either in fact or argument. Therefore it is well that we should see what the consequences may be. You have said, and nobody doubts it, that when you laugh consequences to scorn you are not thinking of yourselves. No, in a matter of this I supreme importance I do not think we ought I to think of ourselves, but it is our bounden duty to think of this great, ancient, and historic House to which we belong. Nobody can deny that the House of Lords boasts a long, honourable, and splendid record; that it has played its part well in the history of England and rendered immense services to the country; and therefore it is with profound regret and grief and misgiving that every true friend of the House of Lords must watch your Lordships taking a step which will lower your dignity, impair your usefulness, and diminish your power for good in the State and Constitution of the realm.
§ LORD BELPER
My Lords, I should not at this period of the debates have presumed to address your Lordships on this important matter if it were not for the fact that I am one of those who sit on this side of the House who are not in entire accord with the fiscal policy of those with whom we usually act. There have been pointed references made to the Free Traders in this House. I venture there fore, although my remarks will be very short, to say a few words with regard to my position and my views on the Bill which we are here to discuss. Let me say, in the first place, that I can at all events give some consolation to the noble Lord who has just addressed the House, and who began his remarks by deploring the extreme extravagance of the Government. I cordially concur in the remarks he made with regard to the extreme extravagance, not only of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but of the Government themselves.
But what I wish to call attention to more especially is this. I am bound to say I am alarmed at what I may call the deliberate recklessness in which the Government enter into obligations without considering in any way how they are going to pay for them. I know what the answer from the Government will be—that members on this side of the House have approved their policy of old age pensions and have pressed upon them repeatedly expenditure for naval affairs. In my opinion that is no answer to the question whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not able to so frame his Budget that he shall not put abnormal expediture upon a particular year. It seems to me that in this matter there has been recklessness because the cost of these pensions, however desirable they are and however much we may join in wishing to promote them, certainly was not considered fully before the Act was passed. It is for that reason we have to meet an expenditure this year abnormal and far beyond that of any year I can remember since I have had anything to do with public life. Consider what an example this is for local authorities. The enormous debt which is being piled up by the Government is not the only disagreeable feature of fiscal affairs at the present time. In the country local authorities are spending large sums of money on improvements, and their debts are increasing year by year to an enormous extent. Let me say that 1293 so far as the county councils are concerned I do not think they are yet corrupted by the evil example of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I think there is a very real danger before us, and that it is much too common for public bodies of all sorts, whenever they have a particular policy they wish to carry out, some good work to complete which they think will be popular, not to consider how the cost can be brought within the ordinary expenditure of the year. So long as they chink it will be popular they get somewhat reckless with regard to finding the money for the purpose. Let me say that while I dislike that feature about the Budget, I also dislike intensely what I believe to be the injustice and unfairness of the Budget. I do not wish to be misunderstood. I do not for a moment say it is not a fair thing to put the taxes on those who are best able to bear them, but I have an impression that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, in the form of his Budget, tried to penalise those interests which he has found are hostile to the Government.
I said at the beginning of my speech that I wished to say something about the question of Free Trade. I am a Free Trader myself and have been all my life, and it is a sincere cause of pain and regret to me not to be able to follow my Party in the belief that the new policy which they have adopted—Fiscal Reform and Protection—will bring all the advantages to this country that they suppose. More than that, I believe that when that policy is carried out and there is a general system of Protection over the country, you will not be able to commend this policy to the working classes and especially to those people who, having a fixed income, have nothing to gain but everything to lose by a rise in prices. Much as I distrust the policy of Protection being adopted in this country I look upon the proposals of the Budget as a much more serious calamity to the country for the future than anything that can happen if Fiscal Reform is adopted; and as far as I am concerned I should not hesitate for a moment to accept the advice given me by my noble friend Lord Cromer and other Free Traders, that if we had votes at the coming election we should give them and our support to the Unionist-Party and do all we could to prevent many of the provisions of the Budget becoming law.
1294 I should like to turn to another point. I am not going to presume to follow many of the speakers in the examination of the constitutional doctrines which they have made, but I should like to put before the House how the present position strikes me from a common sense point of view. I take it that we admit the Commons have the power of the purse, and as far as I have followed the speeches in this debate during the last week it is also admitted on both sides of the House that as the Budget must be passed by both Houses of Parliament there is an absolute legal right in this House to reject it if they think it is desirable or necessary to do so. I admit fully that that right is governed by the fact that it is a most unusual course to pursue, that it is very nearly without precedent, and that at all events it cannot be justified unless the circumstances are so unusual and so exceptional that it is necessary to make some use of this power in order to meet a real difficulty. Well, my Lords. I venture to submit that the question of "tacking," which I do not think has been so fully debated in this House as some of the others, is a most serious one for your Lordships to consider, particularly under the present circumstances. We know from the statements that have been made outside this House, and even within this House, that Ministers are desirous of limiting the power of the House of Lords by having some effectual means of stopping the veto upon all Bills that come before us. It seems to me somewhat ominous that we have in this Budget a provision dealing with a totally new policy, a policy which must be of the greatest importance to every member of the House and the country in general—I mean the policy with regard to land. These provisions have been inserted in the Budget Bill so that any discretion or power of this House in saying either "Yes" or "No" to the Second Reading, or discussing their details, is absolutely taken away.
What are the particular measures dealt with in this Bill? There are twenty-six clauses dealing entirely with the question affecting the novel taxation of land and the most elaborate machinery by which it is to be worked. Not only are there twenty-six clauses, but there are twenty-eight pages taken up by these clauses. Nearly a third of the Bill consists of these provisions, and, as has been pointed out 1295 already by many speakers, they are of such an elaborate nature that it is almost impossible for any man of common sense to understand them, even if he has deeply studied the Bill. I would venture to ask what was the necessity of putting in this new policy with regard to land, because it is a new policy, with all the machinery that is necessary for carrying it out? It is not certain that it is going to bring anything to the revenue of the country for this year. Although there will be some small sums collected under these proposals the cost of the machinery which you are going to put in force even this year will be far greater than the funds you are going to raise for the purpose. Unless the Government had some deep design, why was it not possible to bring forward the proposals in an ordinary Bill which would have been submitted to the House, giving members the opportunity of considering the principle and the details? Then in some future years they could have brought forward the taxes which they considered necessary if the Bill passed into law.
Notwithstanding some of the constitutional arguments by which it has been sought to prove that this is not a case of "tacking" I have not been converted to that view. I must say I consider this is a question of "tacking," and it is the most important part of the Bill which the House has to consider. Lord Curzon, who made such an eloquent speech a few hours ago, pointed out that this "tacking" was contested by this side of the House as much as, if not more than, other points of the Bill. I do not think, however, it has received quite the attention that I expected from those who have criticised the Bill from this side of the House. I think it is a very serious matter, and that we are justified in taking whatever steps we consider necessary to protect the privileges of this House against this usurpation which is proposed by preventing us from discussing the policy of a Bill of this sort. I regret, holding the views I do about this matter, that the Amendment of the noble Marquess does not contain any pointed allusion to "tacking" itself. There is no other Amendment before the House dealing with this matter. I do not for a moment set up my own judgment in any way or criticise in the slightest degree the judgment of those who have selected the 1296 particular words of the Amendment moved by the noble Marquess at the beginning of this debate, but I am, afraid the words, which he chose no doubt after considering all the difficulties of the situation, may be I open to be misrepresented in the country. It is already clear that some such misrepresentation is going on.
It has been said by many authorities outside this House that the House of Lords are trying to make their House supreme, and the noble Viscount opposite, Lord Morley, I think went so far in his speech yesterday as to say that the effect of this Amendment, if it were carried, would be to make the House of Commons a "dummy." I cannot believe that any man in his heart believes that that can be either the intention or the effect of this Amendment if it is carried. I have no authority to speak for the views of the Front Benches on this side of the House or for the mover of the Amendment, but let me say for myself that in giving my vote for this Amendment, as I shall do, I vote for it because although I do not wish to interfere with the privileges of the other House in any way I do wish to assert that we also have our privileges. And it is for the purpose of protecting the privileges of this House, and in order to contest in every way the passing of the Budget into law, I for my part shall give my vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
My Lords, we have heard a great deal in the course of this debate of an argument which is being pressed upon us with much reiteration, and that is that if we accept the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Marquess we at once place this House in a position which will render all future Liberal legislation impossible. We have been told this over and over again, first by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, who stated that no Liberal Government in future would be able to take upon itself the responsibility of assuming office. Then we were told in very sonorous phrases by the noble Marquess, Lord Northampton, that it was practically impossible for any Liberal legislation to be passed so long as the House of Lords acted as it does at the present moment. Unfortunately when we are told, as we are told repeatedly, that what is termed progress is practically impossible, sight seems to be altogether 1297 lost of the legislation winch has been passed already. The noble Marquess, who emphasised this particular point so much the other night, seems to have entirely forgotten, for instance, the Trade Disputes Bill, which was passed in this House although we certainly disliked it, probably not quite so much as the Prime Minister and the then Attorney-General in another place. He has forgotten the Children Bill, the Town Planning Bill, and the Irish Land Bill, to which attention was drawn to-night; and it also seems to have escaped his notice that Ministers and supporters of the Government have on many occasions throughout the country since the General Election taken great credit for the amount of legislation that has been passed by the present Government. In 1907 the Prime Minister said—The two years not yet wholly expired since the present House of Commons and the present Government that came into power have been years conspicuously and exceptionally fruitful both in the sphere of legislation and administration and largely beneficent reform.
§ Is it not rather absurd for noble Lords to get up one after another and tell us that in the present constitution of your Lordships' House all Liberal legislation is impossible? I would suggest that those particular noble Lords and the noble Marquess, Lord Northampton, when they go upon the platforms of the country during the coming contest should slightly vary the tune, and instead of making use of this argument should ask the electors not to commit the deplorable error of dismissing a Government which has been capable of passing so much useful legislation.
Then we had a speech the other evening from Lord St. David's, who occupies an important position in the City of London. He spent a great deal of time in arguing a point which none of us dispute for one minute—namely that when foreign issues are made in this country, and more especially issues made by Governments in search of war material, and issues by foreign railways controlled in London, a great deal of the product of those industries benefits this country by way of trade and orders for material and plant. That is not what we complain of. That is not the point at all. When we speak of capital and investments leaving the country it is not so much the money which is subscribed for these foreign issues as the fact that people all over the place are investing their 1298 savings in buying foreign securities and foreign bonds instead of supporting long established British securities. I cannot see what possible good, what appreciable good, it can be to British trade that a man instead of purchasing Home Rails or some other well known British security should go into the market and buy American railroad bonds or bonds of some other security representing money long since spent. And when investors steadily refuse British securities the only possible result is their values must fall, to the very serious detriment of other issues which are required by those particular interests or other industrial concerns.
But it is not so much the actual Budget itself of which we complain as frightening money out of the country, but the whole attitude of His Majesty's Government in supporting this Budget. As a humble director of one of the big London banks I can refer your Lordships to broker after broker in the City of London, and bank manager after bank manager, with whom I have conversed, and they will one and all tell you that clients and customers are constantly coming to them and asking their advice about a change of investments and always ending up with the same formula, "What do you recommend as safe, only nothing British?" I say it is a most unfortunate state of feeling to be prevalent in the country at the present moment. I can tell you of an instance of a friend of mine, a man who made a large fortune in the Colonies—and people who are successful in Colonial speculation are not, as a rule, children in business—who had the other day brought to his notice an English industrial enterprise in which he was invited to take a share. His reply was, "The business pleases me," and then he made use of this remarkable sentence—
Ever since Lloyd-George laid it down that nobody is entitled to what he has got except the man who has not got it, I have sold every English investment except my land, and don't intend to buy any more.
I am perfectly ready to admit that I think the interpretation which my friend placed upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer's words was somewhat exaggerated, so much so that I have been perfectly ready to risk what little I can afford myself in the enterprise which he would not touch. But what I do say is that it is most deplorable that even the most nervous of old ladies, let alone business men, should have these feelings
inculcated in their minds by the speeches of any British Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Now we are waiting to see what is going to happen in the event of the vote of this House going in favour of the Amendment of the noble Marquess to-night. Great interest is being taken outside as to what the action of His Majesty's Government is going to be. We were told the other day by the President of the Board of Trade that the Government were going to "play the game." He said the present revival of trade may be checked by what he called the chaos that might result, and that seems a temptation to exploit the unemployment which may possibly result from commercial confusion. Whether His Majesty's Government are going to "play the game" or not we do not know, but judging by what fell from the Secretary of State for Scotland the other day and what we have seen in the public Press during the last few days it looks very much as if the wild men of the National Liberal Club were rather getting command of the situation. I have no doubt there are a great many temptations in that way at that temple of austerity where not very long ago, if they are not doing it now, they were spending £700 or £800 a year in salary to their cook. There it stands on the Embankment, the Embankment which is the marshalling place of political processions, and I can well understand that, judged from the results of last Thursday's demonstration and the questionable characters who appeared in the Police Courts on the following day, the gentlemen in the National Liberal Club would want something more solid and something more respectable from political demonstrations in future. It would suit their books admirably if there were some confusion of trade and some increase in unemployment in order that we might have some more processions on the Embankment which might be safely hounded against the House of Lords. All I can say is that if through mere political spite the extremists who support His Majesty's Government do get the upper hand in this matter and do manage to prevent the Government doing anything, which they certainly can do, to prevent temporary inconvenience arising, if they do deliberately set to work to cause confusion of trade at this particular time at the beginning of winter which very likely would interfere with employment, I think it will be a piece of heartless indifference and will not be relished by the country at large.
Before I sit down I want to make an appeal to the noble Earl who leads the House. In his opening speech the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, said that he hoped the noble Earl opposite would in his speech to-night give us some real indications, straightforward indications, as to what are the intentions of the Government with regard to the question of land nationalisation, which, however you may wrap it up and however you may disguise it, is undoubtedly at the back of the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The question was raised in this House a few months ago by Lord Balfour of Burleigh, when he called attention to the speeches of the Lord Advocate and the fact of his having said that—
This modest-looking tax involved a principle of far-reaching application, a principle which they believed to be sound and safe but which the bulk of their political opponents equally strongly denied. The principle was that the land as distinct from the buildings erected upon it and the improvements made upon it in truth belonged to the nation.
We know what that means. The noble Earl gave at the time one of those enigmatical answers of which he is such a master. The noble Earl has reduced the art of disguising his opinions when he does not want to answer an inconvenient question in a way that excites the admiration of all on one side of the House and must consume noble Lords opposite with bitter envy. There is no one in this House who is better able to get up, and in suave and urbane tones make a speech of half an hour and then sit down without having said anything at all than is the noble Earl. But we want to have something a little more definite than that. It is all very well to say that, in a Cabinet like the present one, which is composed largely of fire-brands, the more moderate members cannot be held responsible for the occasional sparks which fly from those fire-brands. But the speeches of the Lord Advocate are not occasional sparks. They were matters of daily occurrence. It was evidently a calculated part of the campaign in support of the Government, and day after day the Lord Advocate went about the country preaching this particular doctrine of land nationalisation. I do ask your Lordships to say that the time has gone by for these enigmatical phrases of the noble Earl, and that the matter has become too serious, and that we have a right to know exactly where we are and what the views of the Government really are upon this matter.
1301 There are only two alternatives. Either this united Government that we hear so much about is so hopelessly divided amongst itself that the moderate members of it are absolutely incapable of controlling the extremists, or, if that is not the case, I submit they will have to plead guilty to the somewhat discreditable political tactics of deliberately using these means for obtaining votes on a subject which can be disowned if it is found convenient. I make this appeal to the noble Earl because I feel it is one of the most important matters connected with this Budget. It is one of the great innovations of principle to which we on this side take objection, and we hope the noble Earl will deal with it in an open and straightforward way when he winds up the debate.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
My Lords, when this Budget was first introduced I confess I hoped the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition might be able to advise those who follow his lead to sanction its passage into law. I knew he would be bound to tell us that in his opinion it was a very bad measure, that it was based on unsound financial principles, that it proposed to use capital as income, and that it selected certain interests whose owners were supposed to be chiefly opposed to the policy of the Government for vexatious and unfair taxation. I hoped he might; have told us that neither he nor any leaders of the Unionist Party would take one jot or tittle of responsibility for those obnoxious provisions, and moreover that they bound themselves, should they be returned to power at the next Election, to take the quickest possible steps to cancel them, but that in the meantime, in view of the fact that within two years the Government must go to the country to give an account of their stewardship, he would not advise your Lordships to refuse the supplies necessary for carrying on the government of the country. This, I am sure, is what the noble Marquess would have liked to have done; but as the Budget was studied more, as its imperfections were day by day discovered, it became apparent that this course was impossible.
Here may I digress one moment to say how fortunate I think it is that the Opposition members of your Lordships' House should have at the present time as leader the noble Marquess, whom not even his political opponents can describe as a 1302 bigoted and crusted Tory. The noble Marquess is the head of a great Liberal house, his ancestors have done yeoman service in the past for the Liberal cause, he has been nurtured and brought up in Liberal traditions, and has been a member in a Liberal Administration under no less a Liberal than Mr. Gladstone. We know in this matter his opinion is based on that breadth of vision which comes from lifelong association with the leaders of both great Parties in the State.
I think we all agree that we should not have thought of taking the step which we are now taking merely because we object to one or two particular taxes in this Finance Bill. Our action must be based on higher motives. The Lord Chancellor told us that in his opinion your Lordships had a legal right but not a constitutional right to reject the Bill. I think the reason we are taking this step is that in our opinion the action of the House of Commons in this matter, although it may be perfectly legal, has not been constitutional. It is because we think they are attempting to infringe the privileges of your Lordships' House. I am quite aware that the "tacking" of these clauses of the Bill has been manipulated in a very skilful manner so as to afford those who wish to defend them the plausible excuse that they are necessary in order to carry out the financial provisions but fortunately some exuberant members of the Liberal Party let the cat out of the bag when they were annoyed at your rejecting various measures they had put forward, and they openly said they intended to re-introduce the measures between the leaves of a Finance Bill in order that your Lordships should not be able to reject them. This, I think, is in itself quite sufficient reason why the Budget should be rejected.
There is another. If you look at the preamble you will see this Bill is entitled an Act to make provision for the financial arrangements of the year. I do not think any of the noble Lords opposite will tell me that the Land Clauses make any provision for the financial arrangements of this year. I believe it is calculated that they will bring in £200,000 this year, and the cost of the valuation will be precisely the same. But we must not forget that under the Land Clauses a change in Schedule A was made which will reduce the amount, and besides this there will be a grant to local authorities of £300,000. 1303 Therefore, instead of providing for the financial arrangements of the year it results in a loss of £600,000.
The third reason is, it seems to me, that if the Kill is passed it will be impossible to return to sounder methods of finance. It has been pointed out by more than one noble Lord that if we assume the new interests created under it it will be impossible ever afterwards to get rid of them. I cannot help thinking that the position of your Lordships' House with regard to the Finance Bill is the same as that of a specialist who is called in to consult with the family practitioner. We all know what he says in the majority of cases. After a consultation, of the details of which we know nothing, the great man comes in, and as he pockets his fee says, "I think the patient is going on as well as possible. I cannot leave him in better hands than those of our friend Dr. So-and-So." That is the course your Lordships generally adopt. But it sometimes happens that the specialist gives another verdict. He says, "I find it impossible to approve of the régime of Dr. So-and-So; you must choose between him and me." Instead of giving the patient a little more quinine and rhubarb he has gone in for the new school of medicine, and proposes to dose him with prussic acid, it is true in small doses, but with the avowed intention of increasing them afterwards. Here is a case in which your Lordships say, "We totally disagree. We must refer the matter to the friends of the patient"—in this case the electors of the country.
I should like to say a few words about a most interesting speech we listened to the other night from the noble Earl the Lord Steward, who devoted himself to showing how very reasonable the taxes proposed in the Bill were. He had actually prepared a paper showing how they would fall on estates of different sizes. I should like to deal with the estate of £1,000,000, not to ask you to pity the sorrows of the poor millionaire. You will remember it was suggested that at three per cent. it would bring in £30,000 a year gross. The Income Tax, Super Tax and Death Duties, the noble Earl said, would come to £9,096, about thirty per cent. of the whole income; but he omitted to say there were other taxes to which the property would be liable. I do not know exactly how the new Land Duties would fall on it. It may be liable for the 1304 Undeveloped Land Duty, and there may be a five per cent. Mineral Royalty Duty. The owner would naturally have to pay Inhabited House Duty and so forth. Then there are the large rates on a property of £30,000 a year, and I submit that the result would be that there would not be enough money to keep up the property properly, and consequently there would be an increase of unemployment by the dismissal of many of those who had hitherto been working on the property. I know quite well that this does not weigh equally heavily in the case of property other than land. I met a rich supporter of His Majesty's Government the other day who said—I really do not think this Budget is so bad. The only difficulty is about the Super Tax, but I think I have arranged that. I am going to send the greater part of my money abroad. I receive a certain amount as a director of public companies, and what I want besides I shall manage to arrange by spending the capital which I still have in this country.I do not say that I hope that gentleman will be able to defeat the tax-gatherer because I think we ought to be prepared to pay our share of what is necessary for the country, but I do say that taxation which results in people who have hitherto paid what the State claims from them now trying to evade it in this way cannot really be good or sound.
Before I sit down I should like to say one word about the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery. I think we are all agreed that your Lordships looked forward with the greatest interest to that speech. But I think I must say that I, for one, was disappointed with it. I do not mean to say that I was disappointed with it as an oratorical achievement. To listen to the noble Earl is always an intellectual treat, and his speech on the present occasion was no exception to the rule. But what did the noble Earl say? He denounced the Budget in language which I think he alone is capable of employing. But his conclusion was that although it was so bad he would wait for something worse before he voted for a Resolution like that of the noble Marquess, and he ended up by saying that he wished to make a practical suggestion. I do not know if I was wrong, but it seemed to me there was a hush of expectation over your Lordships' House when he uttered those words. We all waited to hear what would follow. Now, it was thought, there will be a settlement of this question; now we shall know how this constitutional crisis can be 1305 avoided. The practical suggestion was made, and what was it? It was that the Unionist Peers were to assemble, and by resolution decide, without the consent of the Commons and without the consent of the Crown, that the Report of the Committee on the Reform of the House of Lords, over which the noble Earl presided, should, for the purposes of this Bill alone, have the force of law. My Lords, I think that proposal not only not a practical one, but one which is neither legal nor constitutional. Mark, my Lords! The Bill was still to be thrown out by this majority and the rest of your Lordships were to stand huddled on the steps of the Throne declaring to the country that you thought yourselves incompetent to take part in so grave a crisis. The responsibility which falls on us as one of the Estates of the Realm cannot thus be delegated. We each must bear that responsibility for ourselves, whether our name is a household word like that of the noble Earl or whether we are what Radical newspapers describe as "backwoodsmen." It seems to me that the question we have to decide is not whether this is the most favourable battleground on which we can fight, not whether we are doing what is best for the House of Lords, but whether in our opinion this Budget is injurious to the country. Believing as I do that it is revolutionary and that its effects will be disastrous, I for one shall have no hesitation in voting for the Amendment of the noble Marquess. I am sure that our friends will approve of our action, and that even those who are opposed to us will acknowledge, even if we are mistaken, that we have been actuated in what we are doing by unselfish and patriotic motives.
My Lords, I should not have intruded at all upon your Lordships' time but for the fact that I desire to speak upon a subject raised last night by Lord James of Hereford and supplemented by the speech of the Archbishop of York. The noble and learned Lord last night claimed that there was no "tacking" in this Bill. I may confess at once that had I not been convinced that this Bill does include "tacking" I should vote for the Budget, but after a careful and prolonged consideration of the provisions of this Bill I emerged I absolutely convinced that it does contain the most pernicious principle of "tacking," which it is the bounden duty of your Lordships' House to resist at its initial stages. The noble and learned Lord turned to the 1306 noble Marquess on the Front Bench and appealed to him, as it seemed to me, that as his Amendment contained no reference to "tacking" therefore there was no complaint that there was "tacking" in this Bill, and that, consequently, no objection could be raised upon that point. It seems to me that the noble and learned Lord and the right rev. Prelate are landed in this fallacy. If they insist upon that, then in regard to a subject upon which your Lordships are better qualified to speak than the other House, or upon which, at any rate, your Lordships have a very wide experience—that of the valuation of land—it will be permissible to "tack" that on to a so-called Finance Bill and it will be improper for your Lordships, contrary to usage, to put in a single Amendment upon those valuation clauses, which are, in effect, a Valuation Bill. I repudiate the suggestion, and I insist that it is the bounden duty of this House to resist at its initial stages the suggestion that such a thing as that can be done.
I object to the Bill on financial grounds. I think it contains in it elements of the most unsound finance. I think it is unjust in that it selects certain classes of property for special taxation to the advantage of other classes of property. I think it is dangerous because, it goes too far in the taxation of capital, and I think it is stupid because the money could have been raised without creating all the animus that has been created and causing the trouble that has been given to another place, and without creating all the disturbance that has been brought about in the country. But I should not have opposed it on those grounds. I should have voted for the Budget but for the fact that it does contain this principle of tacking. I have not been influenced in the vote that I shall give by my conviction that this quarrel has been forced upon your Lordships deliberately, coolly, and calmly by His Majesty's Ministers. We have heard several speeches from noble Lords on the other side of the House accusing your Lordships of having forced this crisis upon the country. What a parody of innocence that is. It has been one of the chief planks in the Government's platform during the last four years that they would attack the land, the trade, and the House of Lords. From the first speech of the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in the Albert Hall four years ago it was evident to anybody who studied politics that that was the strategy of the opposite Party. In the 1307 course of that speech Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman used the memorable expression that what had been the pleasure ground of the rich should be the treasure ground of the poor." Pleasure ground of the rich! "Why, one of the original intentions of the Bill was to tax every pleasure ground in the country whether it belonged to the poor or the rich. And the "treasure ground of the poor" indeed! Well, we have had an exposé in the last few days of what the intentions of the Government are if they carry out their idea of the nationalisation of land. We have had it in the true story of the estate belonging to the Duke of Bedford, and of what was the intention of the noble Earl the President of the Board of Agriculture who, I regret to hear, is too unwell to be in his place. As soon as the Government had obtained this property which was going to introduce the system of the nationalisation of land, what were they going to do? To put up the rent. But not daring to face his colleagues in the Cabinet, the noble Earl proposed that the Duke of Bedford should put up the rents before conveying the property to Government. That will be a pretty story to tell in the country of what the intentions of the Government are as regards the future possession of land by Government!The first principle of all will be to put up the rent.
Another expression that has been constantly in their months is that they were going to "fill up the cup." They have been "filling up the cup" gradually, deliberately, these last four years, and now, with great care and adroitness, they have "filled up the cup" to overflowing. I suggest to your Lordships that their tactics have been extremely adroit. They have chosen the ground, they have chosen the place, they have chosen the question upon which the issue of the battle is to be decided, and they have manœuvred so well that they are in the position of attacking while we are in the position of having to defend. I compliment them upon their tactics; they have been extremely adroit. But there is something behind tactics. There is strategy, and I question very much whether their strategy will prove to be as wise as they hope. I touch upon no more questions involved in the Budget and I conclude with this remark. I have been nearly forty years in your Lordships' House. I have given many votes upon important measures and upon important questions. I have 1308 never given a vote yet with such a consciousness of the responsibility that rests upon me as I do upon this. The privilege of attending such a debate as this—a debate which for its honesty of purpose, its solemnity of tone, and its conscientiousness of principle must, whatever the opinions are in the country, add lustre to the annals of your Lordships' House—the privilege of attending this debate is an honourable heritage. To have the responsibility of giving a vote on this question is a heavy burden. But I have never given a vote in this House with such conviction that I am right in doing so as I do now. I give it in the solemn conviction that I am doing it for the honour and traditions of my order, for the honour and the traditions of this House; but, far more, I am convinced that I am giving it for the safety of the people, whose liberties your Lordships' House as part of the Constitution of the country have the right and the duty to defend.
§ LORD STANMORE
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Grimthorpe, has dwelt largely, as other members of the House have done, although I think not quite so emphatically, upon what he called the "unbroken practice of centuries." Almost the only reason which induces me to trouble you to listen for a few moments to so unimportant a person as myself is that I wish to give to you an instance which I think has not been given yet in your Lordships' House to prove the contrary of that proposition. What my noble relative Lord Balfour of Burleigh said the other night is perfectly true—that is to say, there is an unformed constitutional practice which is generally understood although it may not be in exact accordance with law and precedent. That is perfectly true; the popular feeling as to what are the rights, functions, and duties of this House and also of the other House of Parliament have varied and will vary from time to time without any formal change in their legal position. There are two periods which, as regards financial matters, are widely different—the period before 1860 and the period after that year. Before 1860, whatever may have been the case since, though it is not strictly legal or even strictly constitutional, the understanding was this, that Money Bills, being Money Bills alone and dealing only with finance, were, as a matter of course, accepted by your Lordships' House. But when a Money Bill 1309 comprehended great public interests, great social questions, the rights of important authorities, it was debated and divided on just as any other Bill.
The instance I wish to mention to your Lordships is that of the Maynooth Act of 1845. That Bill was a Money Bill from beginning to end. Its sole object was to increase the grant made by the Government to the College of Maynooth and to augment the salaries of the professors and teachers belonging to it. That is clearly a Money Bill, but it was felt, and generally felt, that it was a measure which deeply concerned the Catholics and Protestants of Ireland, which deeply concerned the whole welfare of that country. The whole Irish question centred around it at the time, and consequently it was debated and divided upon in your Lordships' House exactly as any other Bill would have been. I was present at that debate. This House debated it for three successive nights, and although the Bill was carried there was a very large minority against it. That was in 1845, In the following year, 1846, this House had before it the great Corn Law Repeal Bill. That was a Finance Bill. It was a Bill for the removal of certain duties which had been levied up to that date, but it never occurred to Sir Robert Peel or to any member of the Opposition of that day in the House of Commons that that great measure could be effected simply by the repeal of the Duty being put into the clauses of a Finance Bill. It was debated in both Houses of Parliament as the great measure and the great reform that it was. Since 1861 the case has been different. The inclusion of all finance measures in one Bill has made it, as Mr. Gladstone said, more difficult, not impossible, to reject them, and rejection would never have been resorted to had not your Lordships perceived how powerful a weapon in the hands of an unscrupulous Government would be the admission that whatever they chose to cover with the sanctity of a Money Bill must pass without demur.
Like those noble Lords who are among the ablest and best speakers and most respected members of the Opposition, and who abstain from voting, I am a convinced Free Trader. I share their suspicion of Tariff Reform and their abhorrence of a protective duty, but I cannot follow them in the action which they recommend. I should be inclined to say, especially to the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, who so earnestly, I 1310 might almost say pathetically, entreated Free Traders and Tariff Reformers to unite together for the defence of this House, the maintenance of which he has said, and said truly, is of greater importance than the mere details of the Budget—I would ask him whether he does not perceive that his action will have far more effect in the country than his preaching. His abstinence from a vote in this House to-night will be the signal for the absence of thousands of Conservative Free Trade voters from the polls in the country, and thereby may bring about the very disaster and catastrophe he so earnestly desires to avoid.
I think a great deal of breath has been wasted in this debate in asserting over and over again the privileges of the Commons. No one questions them. No one doubts that the Commons alone can grant Supplies. It is admitted as freely on the Opposition Benches as on the Ministerial side of the House. We are not taking this action because we wish to take away anything from the privileges of the Commons. The real cause of this debate and Division is the fact that from the time, four years ago, when His Majesty's Government took office we have had notice that it was the intention of the Government to make a serious attempt to diminish the privileges of this House. They told us, some in honeyed tones, others of them in very violent tones, that we were to be reduced practically to the position of a Court of Registry of the decrees of the House of Commons. My Lords, I have lived a good deal in tropical countries, and I have seen there a small bee which provides for its family in an ingenious manner. It deposits its egg in a cell and along with the egg it deposits a spider for the grub to eat when it comes out of the egg. By a marvellous process it injects into the spider a fluid which at once has the property of absolutely paralysing every faculty of the spider but at the same time keeping it alive. The fate of that spider is the fate which His Majesty's Government intend for us; we are to be kept alive to maintain our present disabilities as to voting and representation, but absolutely impotent for any useful purpose. It is a fate which I trust we shall not come to. I would rather see this House destroyed than degraded.
§ EARL CAWDOR
My Lords, at this time in the debate I do not propose to inflict on your Lordships any effort on my part to pass 1311 through all the many subjects that have been discussed, and discussed, may I say, with marked ability and in a very high tone; but I hope, your Lordships will allow me to pass in review as shortly as I can some few of the main issues which to my mind should demand the thoughtful attention of the country with respect to the controversy in which we are engaged.
First of all, with regard to your Lordships' right to reject a Bill of this kind, I would venture to remind your Lordships of the point with which my noble friend Lord Curzon dealt with so much skill in that great speech he has delivered to-night—the point that in past years each tax in this Finance Bill came up contained in its own Bill, and your Lordships had then the undoubted and unquestioned right of rejecting each Bill and therefore each tax. Since that there has been an attempt to evade the rights of your Lordships' House, and with that intention all taxes are placed in one Bill. But surely it is idle to contend that any change of procedure in another place such as that can affect by one iota your Lordships' rights, responsibilities, and duties. I will claim as far as that is concerned that your Lordships' rights and responsibilities remain exactly as they were, that you have to-day, as you had then, an absolute right over each tax as you had then over each Bill and each tax. We are told, again, that this right has not been exercised for many years. Does it not occur to many of us that the mere statement that a right has not been exercised of itself recognises and admits the possibility of the right being exercised?
I pass on to the views of many distinguished leaders of the Liberal Party on this question of your Lordships' rights. First of all there is the well-known statement of Mr. Gladstone. I was rather struck by a passage in the speech last night of the noble Viscount on the Front Bench opposite—to whose speech we all listened with the utmost pleasure and admiration. Indeed, it is impossible for the noble Viscount to make a speech in any assembly that is not listened to with admiration by his fellow-countrymen. What attracts one, however, to the noble Viscount is the desperate honesty of his speech and of his convictions. The noble Viscount ventured to give an explanation as to Mr. Gladstone's statement which seemed to me to be curious. It was that those who knew Mr. Gladstone best perhaps best appreciated that after he had heard all the arguments on a subject, no one ever knew on 1312 which side of the fence he was likely to come down.
§ EAEL CAWDOR
Yes, I quite appreciate that. No one ever knew beforehand on which side of the fence he was likely to come down. It is not for me to say whether that criticism is accurate or not, but I cannot help wondering what would have been said if such a criticism had been made from this side of the House. I think that if we had made a statement of that kind we should have received not very easy treatment from the noble Viscount if he had followed us in debate. Then we had quoted to us the statement of Lord Spencer, another Liberal leader highly esteemed on both sides of the House. Next we had Lord Ripon. I remind the Lord Chancellor, however, that the statement of Lord Ripon in 1896 was that as far as the rejection of the Bill was concerned your Lordships in your rejection were absolutely within, not your legal, but your constitutional rights.
I have one more witness I should like to call. I find that in 1894 the present Prime Minister made a speech to his constituents in Scotland. He spoke then with all the responsibility of one who held high office. Speaking on the subject of the House of Lords, he said—The functions which are claimed for the House of Lords are merely these:—First of all, that it should act as a revising authority over the details of legislation; and, in the next place, where there is a reasonable doubt whether upon-any question the House of Commons is representing the majority of the electorate the House of Lords should have the power of interposing such delay as will enable that doubt to be authoritatively closed.I beg your Lordships to notice that there is no qualification as to the question, no qualification as to the Bill. Mr. Asquith went on to say of the House of Lords that its business—is to correct slovenly and to check precipitate legislation; but it must be keen to watch and careful to follow the steady set, as distinguished from the transient drift, of national sentiment, and it must be always ready to defer to the clear manifestation of the popular will; and that is the ideal House of Lords.That was a speech delivered by the Prime-Minister after he had succeeded to office, and not as an independent man. I do not know what the noble Earl who leads the; 1313 House will tell us, but I think this view fairly represents the attitude which your Lordships are proposing to adopt to-night.
I am inclined to take my stand on this subject very much from the point of view at which, as I think, the "man in the street" will look at it. The "man in the street" is not going to discuss the varieties of the law and the Constitution; but he will find that this Bill which comes up to your Lordships' House every year is a Bill that without your approval and assent cannot become law. Yet we are told that this is a Bill with which we have nothing to do. Will any man of commonsense—and the "man in the street" is supposed to be a man of commonsense—accept the view that a Bill which comes before your Lordships, that cannot without your Lordships' assent and advice become law, is a Bill on which you can only express one view—that assent only is possible and dissent; is barred? It is an incredible and impossible position to take up—impossible, at all events, to the commonsense men in the country. If it be the fact, then for generations past we have been enacting year by year nothing more nor less than a solemn farce.
My Lords, what will be the effect of giving way? You are invited to deal this year with a Licensing Bill. You are asked to deal with land values. Both those Bills have been brought before Parliament by the Government themselves, and brought before Parliament as the right way of dealing with these questions—that is, as ordinary Bills. There was no question as to which was the right way to deal with them; there was no suggestion that they were not proper subjects for your Lordships to deal with. Then when your Lordships do deal with them, and they fail to pass, the Government say, We will tack them on to the Budget, and your Lordships will not be able to touch them. Do noble Lords opposite really suggest that it is possible for any Second Chamber to sit down under conditions such as these? Do they suggest that, if they did, such a Chamber would be worthy of the confidence and the respect of the people of this country?
My Lords, we are told this is a bad case to tight. Can we conceive a better—a case in which your Lordships have had put before them deliberately by the Government as the right way of solving certain legislative questions, certain Bills, and when they fail 1314 in that direction the Government place the same proposals in the Budget, and your Lordships are defied to touch them. We hear a good deal about picking the quarrel, and trying to force the issue. Is it not pretty clear where the pressure has come from and who has tried to seek the quarrel? If, my Lords, you are persuaded to-night, as I hope you will not be, to pass this Bill, you will have done one tiling, and done it by your own hand—you will have destroyed for ever all power in the Second Chamber of this country.
We have received a great deal of advice from our friends—friends for whom we have the deepest regard, men of the highest standing and the greatest eloquence. I speak of everything they have advised us with the greatest respect. I recognise they are all men of the highest integrity, whose sole wish is to deal with this emergency in the manner they think best in the interests of the country. What is their advice? They tell us the Bill is bad. They tell us it is a revolution. They tell us it is dangerous to the best interests of the people of this country. And yet they tell us—Let it pass. We are told, again, that the stakes we are playing for are too high. We are to stand aside. I cannot reconcile such a course of action with the responsibility your Lordships owe to the people of this country. I am unable to believe that, whether the course be dangerous or not, where responsibility rests upon us we can ever afford to stand aside.
We are told that the people are to stew in the juice of the Budget for some months. My noble friend Lord Curzon pointed out that it might be for several years. But, in any case, surely it is perfectly clear that the object of a Second Chamber is not to let the people stew in the juice of undesirable legislation. It is to guard the people from unwise, dangerous, and extravagant legislation being passed. It is before the legislation is passed that a Second Chamber can be of any use. If it is to begin to think about what is to be done after the legislation is passed, I think the country will very soon come to the conclusion that they can do without the Second Chamber as well as with it. We are told the stakes are too high. We are told that we do not know what the consequences are. Is it not patent that that argument can only have one meaning, and that is that, if we are to hesitate to-day, we are hesitating simply 1315 and solely from fear, fear of the consequences to ourselves, aye, and possibly fear of the consequences to the country. But, my Lords, I cannot believe that we need trouble, much as to the consequences. So long as we are perfectly satisfied in our own mind, bearing in mind our responsibilities to the country, that we are doing right, we can afford to let the consequences take case of themselves.
Then we are told that we are going to cause chaos in finance. I do not know how long that chaos is supposed to last, but from all the accounts that reach us it does not seem that it need last very long before a General Election has, at all events, settled who is to be responsible in the future for the finance of the country. But my noble friend Lord Lansdowne the other day stated that, if legislation were needed to avoid chaos or inconvenience in finance, he pledged himself on behalf of those who sit on this side of the House that we would render every assistance, that we could to prevent anything of the kind taking place. The Secretary for Scotland did not give a very cordial welcome to that suggestion. I do not suppose the noble Earl who leads the House will be any more cordial to it to-night, but I am here to repeat the offer of my noble friend and to note just this. If His Majesty's Government themselves can avoid any inconvenience and anything approaching chaos, well and good. I have nothing more to say. But if they cannot, without legislation, avoid chaos and they decline to avail themselves of a perfectly easy solution of their difficulties, then the chaos, if it comes, rests on the shoulders of His Majesty's Government.
Now, my Lords, a few words as to the Budget itself. We have been told on the highest authority that it will have far-reaching political and social results. No one, I think, doubts it. The Socialists acclaim it. They take it as the first step in their own programme. When Ministers of the Crown and noble Lords on the other side speak of the Budget it entirely depends on the audience they are addressing as to whether they describe it as harmless or Socialistic. But there is no doubt whatever in any case of the wide scope of the Budget, politically and socially. It has drawn away capital from this country to an alarming extent. That has been attempted to be denied, but I think that any one who listened to the speeches of my 1316 noble friends Lord Revelstoke, Lord Avebury, Lord Faber, and last, but not least, Lord Rothschild, will find it difficult to answer the statements made by those noble Lords. It has stunned and dislocated the building trade, it has already increased the want of employment, and it must increase it more. The distress of working-men must follow in the steps of this Budget, and "The Poor Man's Budget" means the creation of many many more of the very poor.
And, meanwhile, His Majesty's Government propose to spend large sums of money, not in obtaining large sums for this year's supplies, but in speculating as to what they may be able to get in future years. And can we say honestly and fairly that they have made proper provision for the defence of the country? I wish with all my heart I could say I believed it was so. But I believe that, when it comes to our time to discuss again the position of the Navy and the Army, we shall find that the only economies which were made by His Majesty's Government have been those which may tend to the danger of the country itself. Our claim is that this far-reaching political and social Budget is one as to which the people have a right to have their say. The people must be masters in this matter in their own house, and they must be masters, too, of an autocratic Government.
I want to say a word or two with regard to the origin and parentage of this Budget. We have heard a good deal of the great labours that have been bestowed upon it by His Majesty's Ministers and by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I do not for a moment question that, but it is somewhat significant that a pamphlet should have been issued early in this year entitled "A Few Hints to Lloyd-George. Where is the Money to Come From? The Question Answered." My Lords, this pamphlet sets I out very clearly what, in the view of the writer, was a method by which the taxation of the year should be raised. It says that—at a special conference on taxation recently held by the Labour Party at Portsmouth, a resolution was unanimously passed which set forth the ideas of the Party on the general question of taxation, and also formulated the financial demands for which the Party must press in the present session of Parliament.This part of the pamphlet is headed "Socialism and the Coming Budget." It 1317 passes on to say that the Prime Minister said in October last—that is October, 1908—There is a large reservoir of possible taxation and resources which have never been drawn upon adequately and justly.Then it says—The Government must now draw upon this reservoir, and we will proceed to suggest how and to what extent they can do this.It then suggests four ways of raising new taxes. Your Lordships will note that each of them has been introduced in the Budget of this year. They suggest a Super Tax, they suggest the taxation of monopolies by the increase of Licence Duties, they suggest increased Death Duties, and they suggest land values taxation. They go further. In regard to the Super Tax they say—For a beginning it might be advisable to start on incomes of £5,000.Curiously enough, that is the very sum fixed by the Budget. They say—It is not an excessive Super Tax upon such incomes, and the relief to incomes between £2,000 and £5,000 cannot be defended except as a temporary respite until the new system has been got into working order, when it will be easy gradually to descend with the Super Tax.In regard to the taxation of land values the writer says—I do not for a moment wish to convey the idea that taxation of land values will solve the land problem. It will not do that; but it will be the means by which the community can get back a little of its own in the meanwhile.The writer then expresses a hope that, as there is no sign of an English Valuation Bill in the King's Speech, it might appear in the Budget; and he adds—But we will wait to see before coming to a conclusion.Then he adds—An apology is necessary for the moderation of the several suggestions put forward in this article, but by way of excuse we may explain that we have borne in mind that a liberal Government is in power and that Mr. Lloyd-George is Chancellor of the Exchequer.And now the final sentence of this Socialist is—Our proposals have not gone beyond what we have reason to demand in the coming Budget.The "demand," my Lords, is in the Budget of to-day. This pamphlet to which I have referred is published by the Independent Labour Party in Bride Lane, Fleet Street. Its writer is Mr. Philip Snowden, M. P., and on the back of the pamphlet is printed 1318 what professes to be a quotation from a letter or speech of Mr. Lloyd-George of May 25, 1908. I know nothing as to the authenticity of the quotation; but on the I back of the pamphlet Mr. Lloyd-George is stated to have said that—Mr. Snowden made many suggestions which will be valuable, no doubt, to future Chancellors of the Exchequer.It does not seem to have been necessary to wait for future Chancellors of the Exchequer, for here, line by line and clause by clause, your Lordships will find the Budget of to-day dictated and dominated, not by the Government, but to the Government by Mr. Snowden and the Socialist Party. I hope we shall not hear very much more doubt cast upon the parentage of this Budget. I hope it is clear who the real parents were.
We are told now that the Budget is not the real issue upon which the fight is to come. We are told that there is a much graver issue that is to occupy the attention of the country. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, on the first day of the debate, used these words—No one will be so simple as to believe that the only question which the country will consider will be the question whether this Bill ought to pass into law. Other and graver questions will be raised. We have been in office four years. In 1906 our whole time in the House of Commons was taken up in passing the Education Bill. It came up to this House and was rejected, and the whole labour of that session was thrown away. The following year was not a year of very great legislative enterprise. In 1908 the whole time of the House of Commons was spent in passing the the Licensing Bill.Now again, in 1909, he proceeds to describe the passing of the Budget. Then he goes on to say—In my opinion it is impossible that any Liberal Goverment can ever again bear the heavy burden of office unless it is secured against a repetition of treatment such as our measures have had to undergo for the lust four years.Then he goes on to say—We were not allowed to pass a Small Holdings Bill for Scotland to prevent my country from being depopulated in the rural districts.The noble and learned Lord will not for a moment think that I suggest that he did not wish to convey to your Lordships or to the country the exact state of affairs in these years, but I am bound to say that I do not accept his statement as an accurate statement of what took place. I challenge the noble and learned Lord on his record of every year.
1319 I will ask your Lordships to allow me to pass as shortly as I possibly can through the real story, the complete story of each year. I will call your attention first to the noble and learned Lord's statement that the whole time of the House of Commons was taken up in 1906 by the Education Bill and in 1908 by the Licensing Bill. In 1906 apart from the Education Bill your Lordships passed the Agricultural Holdings Bill, the Trades Disputes Bill, and the Workmen's Compensation Bill; therefore, I challenge, and challenge absolutely, the statement that the whole of the time of the House of Commons was taken up with the Education Bill. My Lords, we are to be condemned for the Bills which we rejected or amended in such a way that the House of Commons could not accept them. The Education Bill is the first; let me sec how far their grievance goes. We amended it so as to save the interests of the teachers whom we thought ought to be allowed to teach the religion in which they believed. We also wished to amend it so that the parent might have some voice in the religious education of his child. On that the Government dropped the Bill. My Lords, what happened next? This was an excellent Bill, a Bill which we are to be condemned for wrecking. What did the Government do? Did they reproduce the Bill? They produced a Bill which was absolutely opposed to that Bill in every principle, and therefore if we had passed the Bill in the first session which His Majesty's Government said then was the right thing to do it would have debarred them from doing that which they said in the next session was the right thing. I do not think the country is going to condemn the House of Lords to any great extent on that ground.
Then, my Lords, we go on to the session of 1907. I am sorry the noble Earl, Lord Carrington, is not in his place, for I think he would rather join with me in condemning the statement of the Lord Chancellor. [LORD CARRINGTON, who had been standing near the steps of the Throne, took his seat on the Front Bench.] I am glad to see the noble Earl in his place. I was criticising the statement of the Lord Chancellor as to the extent of the legislation in 1907. The noble and learned Lord said that 1907 was not a year of any great enterprise in legislation. My Lords, that was the year when we passed the Small Holdings and Allotments Bill which I thought was the charter of the British farmer. It is passed aside by the Lord Chancellor as though it did not exist. 1320 I hope the noble Earl at the head of the Agricultural Department will bear the blow as best he can. But in that year, when there was nothing of importance, I find that in addition there was the Evicted Tenants (Ireland) Bill. I must leave the noble Earl at the head of the Agricultural Department to settle with the Lord Chancellor whether there was anything of importance done in that year or not. In those years we are challenged because we did not pass in this House the Small Holdings (Scotland) Bill, a Bill which we are told was to prevent the depopulation of the country districts. My Lords, I thought we had thrashed that out in the debate on the Bill. What are the facts? I remember perfectly well the Lord Chancellor describing to us most pitifully and touchingly the over-crowding of the great cities in Scotland. Nothing could be worse. But the remedy was the Small Holdings (Scotland) Bill. What did we find when we came to examine the Bill? Its provisions were limited and its extent was limited by its finance, and when we came to examine the finance of the Bill we found that the amount of finance which you were going to put into the Bill would have provided about one small holding for every county in Scotland. That was the great cure for the overcrowding of the cities and the depopulation of the rural districts! Is the country going to condemn the Second Chamber for that offence?
There was another Bill, though I do not think the noble and learned Lord mentioned it, the Land Values (Scotland) Bill. It may have escaped his notice that that Bill was destroyed in the same session. I will take the blame of that on my shoulders. What was the reason of that? It was a Bill to deal with land values eventually after valuation, to help the rates. Do the Government adhere to that policy still? Is not it the fact that now your land valuation scheme is not going to help the rates, but its yield is going to be dragged into the Consolidated Fund? Therefore, with regard to the Bill that we have discarded, we find that the Government themselves have never made up their minds as to what was right and what was wrong.
Now I come to the great charge, the serious charge, of our offence against the Licensing Bill. We all know that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack felt very severely the rejection of that Bill, he had it so much at heart. But I venture to think 1321 that there are very few people who know the feeling of the country who have any doubt that your Lordships in rejecting that Bill did that which the country wished. In our view it was a grave infringement of the rights of licence holders. But I do not want to go too far into that. What I wish to point out is that this is the great fundamental sin upon which the House of Lords is to be condemned. If His Majesty's Government had adhered to their policy with regard to licensed houses, if the Licensing Bill of 1908 had been passed, would your Budget of this year, with its licensing clauses, have been possible? Have you not changed you flank absolutely and entirely? You were going in 1908 to destroy licences without compensation; now you frame your scheme on the taxation of those very houses which you sought to destroy. Before you try to take us to task for interfering with legislation, I think you are bound to show, at least, that in the Bills which you are now attacking us for destroying you yourselves in two sessions ever maintained the same policy on the same line of legislation.
In 1908 we were told, again, that the Licensing Bill had taken the whole time of the House of Commons and that your Lordships then threw out that important Bill. What was the work of 1908? Apart from the Licensing Bill your Lordships passed the Coal Mines (Eight Hours) Bill, the Criminal Appeal Bill—not an unimportant measure—the Port of London Bill, and, last, but not least, the Old Age Pensions Bill. I do claim this, that when an indictment is made against your Lordships' House it ought not to be said that the measures referred to are those which have taken the whole time of the House of Commons. Statements of that kind are bound to mislead the people of the country if no comment is made upon them.
Now we come to the session of 1909, and your Lordships will remember we were told in His Majesty's gracious Speech what was going to occupy the greater part of the session. While there has been a great deal of fulmination against your Lordships' House for its evil deeds in the field of legislation it is a little curious to note that, during all the time while these denunciations have been going on through the past weeks, we in this House have been busy trying to pass—yes, and to make workable—two of the chief Bills of the session, the Housing and I Town Planning Bill and the Irish Land 1322 Bill. I do not mean to say that those Bills are perfect, but I do say that your Lordships have had a great hand in making those Bills far more workable than they would have been, and in making them more just and more fair than they were when they reached your Lordships' House. It is perfectly clear, then, that the attack, unjustified as I think I have shown it is, made upon your Lordships' House for throwing out Bills has failed, because none of those Bills are Bills on which His Majesty's Government had really made up their minds or upon which they were prepared to adhere to their policy with respect to them.
The case fails there. But the case began long ago. It has nothing to do with the Budget; this declaration of war started some years back. Your Lordships need not be reminded of the Resolution passed by Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman's Government in 1907. Your Lordships will also remember the methods by which that Resolution was to be carried out. Fortunately it is to be found in the records of Parliament—That in order to give effect to the will of the people, as expressed by their elected representatives, it is necessary that the power of the other House to alter or reject Bills passed by this House—all Bills, remark—should be restricted by law, so as to secure that, within the limits of a single Parliament, the decision of the Commons should prevail.In the speech which the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, made last night he took my noble friend Lord Milner to task because he had said that under this proposal it would be possible to suspend the Septennial Act. So it would—absolutely possible; any Bill might be passed. There would be no appeal, no Second Chamber; it is all done within one Parliament, so that the constituencies can never have their say, and there is no limit to the powers you propose to take. It amounts to a suspension of the Septennial Act and the establishment of the Rump Parliament again. Whether that would be suitable to the circumstances of the present time I will not discuss, but I do not know how you would get rid of it without a revolution. You can get rid of the decision of a Second Chamber by an election, but you cannot get rid of an autocratic all-powerful single Chamber by any means short of a revolution.
I could not quite understand what was said by the noble Viscount to the effect that 1323 a Parliament elected in 1906 would come to an end under the Septennial Act in 1912, and by invariable custom in 1911, and therefore to say to the House of Commons, "We do not like your Budget," thus sending back the House of Commons to the country at the end of four years, would be contrary to the Septennial Act. Surely the Septennial Act was not intended to set up a Parliament for seven years, but to protect the country against a Parliament sitting for longer than that. Surely the Septennial Act was not intended to prevent a Parliament coming to an end in a few months, within two years, or five years after election; the Septennial Act was surely intended to protect the people against the maintenance of a Parliament for more than seven years. The noble Viscount explained to your Lordships the strong view he entertained as to the power of a Parliament after election. He argued that a Ministry might be elected on a mandate, but the Parliament, when elected, could not be fettered in any measures it might think fit to take. That, coupled with Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's Resolution, shows pretty clearly what is in the mind of the Government. It means that a single Chamber, without check, returned on a distinct mandate, ought to be at liberty, unchecked, to carry out any legislation the majority might support. I do not think that such a proposal will commend itself to a freedom-loving people.
In all these matters, these legislative matters, of the last few sessions to which I have referred we have been fighting Bill after Bill practically upon one principle, the principle that we wish to keep separate judicial and administrative functions. We fought this over and over again, not on one, but on half a dozen Bills, notably in the Irish Land Bill and the Housing and Town-Planning Bill, and our efforts have not attained all we wished for. Unless we can get some sort of system on this principle established, what is to happen to the rights of local authorities and individuals? His Majesty's Government seem persistently bent on overriding local authorities and private individuals in regard to the compulsory taking of property, refusing access of the parties to Courts of law, refusing the decision of an impartial tribunal, and insisting upon the dominating will of an absolute bureaucracy. That is the question upon which we have fought. We have endeavoured to check the application of this 1324 policy in these Bills, we have endeavoured to introduce the principle we think essential to the rights of a free people.
We are asked, Are we afraid of Socialism under this Bill. My Lords, we are not afraid of Socialism when it is put as a clean issue before the people of this country, but we do distrust the action of a Government who, denying Socialistic principles in words, are putting Socialism into their Budget. We are often told we shall not get a clean issue in the next election. No, my Lords, His Majesty's Government will take good care of that. We may not get a clean issue in this election or the next, but before you carry out your proposed abolition of a Second Chamber we must come to a clean issue, and for that clean issue, my Lords, we are content to wait. I have delayed your Lordships too long. I thank you heartily for your kind indulgence; but before I sit down I wish to ask your Lordships to clearly and boldly face your responsibility, a responsibility not for your own interests, but laid upon you by the Constitution of the country for the protection of the people of this country. I beg you to be true to your duty under this responsibility, and, believing that you will be true, I ask you to pass my noble friend's Amendment.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OP STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF CREWE)
My Lords, the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition in moving his Amendment drew attention kindly, but I think with some ironic intent, to the fact that in moving the Second Reading of the Finance. Bill I made no speech. In any other place and at any other time, I might have felt disposed to appeal to precedent in this matter. Noble Lords will find that for many years past it has not been usual for the Minister who introduces the finance measure of the year to make anything in the nature of a financial statement, but merely as a rule to reply upon the debate. But I feel that while we are considering this Amendment—which is the absolute negation of precedent and which flouts all usage—it seems almost indelicate towards noble Lords opposite to appeal to what has been done in the past. I will, therefore, simply observe that it seemed to me to be more for the general convenience, as I did not desire to inflict two speeches upon your Lordships, that I should say what I had to say at the close of the debate rather than at the beginning.
1325 My Lords, there is at least one point in connection with this Budget on which I think we are all agreed—that it is necessary for the service of the year to raise by extra taxation a sum of, at any rate, some thirteen millions of money. I say we are all agreed because both Parties accept the principles upon which this large extra sum has to be raised. The first of those principles is that it is now necessary to devote a larger sum than in rectnt years to the defences of the country. I am sorry that both the noble Lords. Lord Curzon and the noble Earl who has just sat down, thought it necessary to express in very plain terms their doubts as to whether His Majesty's present advisers are in favour of maintaining the defences of the country at their proper strength. I do not know what we have done to deserve that taunt. I think that the public records of both my right hon. friends who preside over the two great Departments concerned, and also the fact that we called together a Colonial Conference from all parts of the Empire to consider the question of defence, are sufficient answer to the noble Lords. But we shall be prepared when the proper occasion arises to take up the challenge of noble Lords opposite and to defend our defence policy.
Then as regards old age pensions—the other subject for which this large sum of money is required—your Lordships have accepted, grudgingly I am afraid, but still you have accepted the principle of old age pensions. I might just point out that, even if you say you would have preferred a contributory scheme to the form of old age pensions which we embodied in our measure, unless you were prepared to postpone the benefit of pensions for some forty or fifty years, you must at any rate raise in the present year a sum not much less than that we are now asking the country to provide. The sum total of this long debate is that you consider that our methods of raising this sum of money are revolutionary, and you consider that that fact justifies a revolution on your part, and in order to meet that revolution you are forming yourselves, not into a Committee of Supply, but into a Committee of Public Safety to refuse supplies.
What are the main objections—I will deal with them first—which are taken to the substance of this Finance Bill? So far as I am able to gather from the various 1326 speeches that have been made, you object to it, first, because it imposes taxes upon capital. You object to it, next, because it imposes taxes upon land in a manner which you consider leads up to land nationalisation, and, thirdly, you object to the increase of the Licence Duties. Now, my Lords, when noble Lords say that they object to taxes on capital, I should like to feel sure what they mean. Taxes on capital in contradistinction to what? Do you mean that you object to taxes on capital in contradistinction to taxes on income, or do you object to taxes on capital in contradistinction to taxes upon earnings? Because those are two very different things. In the first case it is rather a question of machinery. You propose to raise the money from the same persons, but instead of raising it in a large sum as by Death Duties, at a fixed or uncertain period, you propose to raise it annually, say, in the form of a graduated Super Tax. My Lords, that is a perfectly arguable proposition, and it is open to anybody to take the view that the one form of raising the money is better than the other. But if your objection to the taxation of capital is that it is not the taxation of earnings, then do not go about the country saying that you are of opinion that the rich ought to be taxed and that the poor ought not to be taxed more than they are. I know the argument. You broaden the basis of taxation, and you raise more money from the less well-to-do and from the poor than we propose to raise, but it is all for their good in the long run. You are going to take more of their money in the form of taxation but you are going to benefit them in the form of employment. Well, My Lords, that may be. I will not argue that point at this moment. But do not say that you are not proposing by any alternative you may have to this Budget to tax the poor more and the rich less, because that cannot be the case.
Is your real objection to this form of taxation an objection to graduation? Graduation is a very old story. I believe there was a graduated Income Tax in the fifteenth century. To come to much more recent time, everybody knows that in Mr. Pitt's great Budget of 1799 the system of abatement, and consequently of graduation, was instituted very much on the lines on which Income Tax is graduated now. But the charge which has been brought against us with an ability which I admire 1327 and with a force which to some extent I am willing to admit, is that there has been a serious fall in securities and that capital is leaving the country. That was enforced in a speech by Lord Revelstoke, which has received many compliments but not more compliments than it deserved, and it was also enforced by other speakers well qualified to give an opinion on the subject.
Now, my Lords, I make two admissions. I admit that capital is a very timid thing. Its mobility is denied, but if it is not as agile as an antelope it is, I am willing to admit, almost as timid. That is one admission. The other admission I am prepared to make is this, though I am afraid it also involves something in the nature of a charge, that it may be the case that some people have been, by what they have heard, induced to sell British securities and invest in foreign securities. But if that be so, that is because noble Lords and other people of equal authority have frightened this timid creature capital and have, without of course in the faintest degree meaning to do it, helped to bring about the result which they themselves deplore.
The figures of foreign investments are almost astronomical in their magnitude. I see it is said that during the seven years from 1884–1890 we invested the sum of £400,000,000 abroad. From 1890 to 1904, not particularly prosperous years, we only invested £100,000,000 abroad. From 1905 to the present date, 1909, we have invested some £400,000,000 abroad, and I supose that if matters proceed as they are doing it is not unlikely that in the seven years we shall have invested some £700,000,000. Nobody admitted in general terms more frankly than Lord Rothschild, who spoke yesterday, that foreign investments of this kind are of immense advantage to this country. It is evident, of course, that it must be so. Not only do people get good interest for their money, but a great deal of the money is actually laid out in this country in suppyling material for railways and kindred objects. That is a ground of common agreement. But is it the fact that in consequence of these gigantic investments abroad capital cannot be found at home for sound commercial and industrial objects? That is a point on which it seems to me the experience of any one man, no matter how distinguished a financier, cannot be sufficient to give an answer. A very large 1328 amount of data must surely be collected and carefully revised before anybody could presume to say that this either is or is not the case, and I do not know that such data are forthcoming.
But at any rate there are some data which tend to show that although there has been a depreciation in securities, yet in the case of a large number of the most important industrial concerns in this country they have no difficulty in securing or in getting the money which they require for their enterprise. I have here a list of the debenture issues of twelve of the most important industrial concerns in this country. I will not trouble you with their names, but I imagine that their total united capital must be much more than £50,000,000. There is nothing whatever in the figures of those debentures during the last two or three years to support the allegation that the general policy of His Majesty's Government has been such as to cause a fall. Some have fallen slightly, others have risen slightly, but the general position remains much the same, and when we come to consider what has happened between the middle of April, when the Budget was introduced, and the middle of November we find that the debentures of these great industrial concerns have on the whole slightly risen, and their shares have risen very perceptibly indeed—all this in spite of the fact that when the Budget was introduced the Bank rate was two and a-half, whereas to-day it is five. That certainly does not seem as though the Budget has had the effect with which it is charged.
I should like to offer one or two general observations on this subject. I think it is evident that the whole trend of investment must as time goes on tend rather in the direction of the choice of foreign securities so long as the facts remain as they are—namely, that in every class of security, whether it be Government securities or railway debentures, or any other class, the rate of interest in this country for each is somewhat lower than can be obtained in other parts of the world. My Lords, investment has grown up from the day when people hid their savings in an old stocking. It passes then to the stage in which a man puts his money in a few houses which he can see before him. Perhaps then, getting a little bolder and a little more educated, he will put stock in a railway which runs through the county in which he lives. At last he finds, as his 1329 experience grows wider, that money can be invested safely abroad, and what to begin with was put in an old stocking ends perhaps in British Columbia or in Buenos Ayres. As the general scale of living in every class tends to become higher, and, if you like the word, more luxurious, the rate of interest which a man gets becomes more and more important, and as quite good security with higher rates of interest can obtained abroad, there is naturally a temptation to the investor to place his money there.
I pass for a moment to the land proposals of His Majesty's Government on which so many strictures have been made. I do not propose to trouble the House by going through the different duties suggested and defending them in detail, but this I will confidently say, that I believe the general sense of fairness of the community will support the proposition that the special kind of land which in this Finance Bill we propose to tax is a reasonable subject of taxation, and that our proposals to tax it are moderate in themselves. I have never been able to understand why, if it is a reasonable thing to tax undeveloped land for local purposes, it is a monstrous and Socialistic thing to tax it for State or Imperial purposes. I can understand the arguments that maybe used as to the destination of the money, that it is fair that a large portion of it should go locally, but when it comes to the question of Social-ism or no Socialism, I do not see that it matters to a man who lives in the West-end of London and is thus taxed whether his tax goes to the five or six million people in London or the forty millions in the British Isles.
The noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, in his speech put to me a question with regard to the nationalisation of land, and the request that I should express an opinion on that subject was further made by Lord Denbigh this evening. I perhaps am less alarmed than some of your Lordships on the subject, I do not say of the nationalisation of the land, but the national ownership of land, because in a part of the world for whose affairs at this moment I am responsible that system exists in absolute perfection. There is no part of the Empire about which higher hopes may properly be entertained than the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria. Northern Nigeria possesses a very ancient Mahommedan civilisation. It is so civilised that one of the features of its taxation from 1330 immemorial times. Las been a graduated land tax, and another has been a Death Duty. In Northern Nigeria there is no private ownership of land, and I sincerely hope there never will be. I trust that whoever presides over the Colonial Office will not be captivated by the idea that any country where the land is the property of the nation and where its complete ownership is not admitted but only its use, must necessarily be a backward or unhappy country.
I should like to ask the noble Marquess and the noble Lord who have both with such distinction filled the office of Viceroy of India whether the various systems of Indian land settlement, apart, of course, from permanent settlement, do not represent a sort of half-way house between national ownership of the land and private ownership, as we understand it in this country. But your Lordships will say, "After all, these are remote and we want to know about England. What is the view of His Majesty's Government with regard to the nationalisation of the land?" I have to assert again that the subject is one that has never been discussed by His Majesty's Government. I have no reason to suppose that if His Majesty's Government had been permitted to last through the usual course of office it would have ever been discussed by them. The noble Marquess whose questions I am always delighted to answer, asked for my personal opinion, and I will tell him this. In my view the idea of the nationalisation of all the land in this country is as remote and as fantastic as anything which can be found in the novels of Mr. Wells When I say this I am far indeed from saying that there may not, and ought not to be, if you like, a large extension both of national and municipal ownership of land; but I do say this, that the interests connected with the holding of land are far too solid and far too numerous and the transactions in which land has been treated, I will not say identically, but similarly to other forms of property, go so far back and are so countless that, I will not say the probability, but the possibility of anything like a general national ownership of the whole of the land of the country seems to me to be nothing but a dream.
Then, my Lords, something was said about the injustice of the taxation of mining royalties. The noble Lord, Lord Curzon, was not, I think, accurate when he said that this Budget for the first time taxes capital. As 1331 a matter of fact, capital-was first taxed in a direct form by the imposition of the Death Duties in 1894. But I may remind the noble Lord that the so-called Income Tax on mining royalties which has existed in various forms ever since there has been an income tax, is not a tax on income but is, and always has been, a tax on capital. As regards mining royalties. I would only say that anybody who takes the trouble to study the existence of the mineral rights of landowners in other countries in Europe, such countries as Germany and Austria-Hungary, not specially democratic in their form of Government, and who compares the conditions which obtain there with the conditions as to the ownership of minerals which obtain in England, will agree that the owner of mineral rights in this country is a very fortunate person; and I do not think-that the extra taxation that is imposed on this particular form of wealth can be considered as unduly onerous.
I pass next to the objections in substance which noble Lords have taken. The charge of "tacking" has been brought against us with reference to this Finance Bill. I have wondered as I have heard this charge repeated in speech after speech whether noble Lords have attempted to realise what "tacking" really means. I will not repeat the well-known Resolution read out at the Table by the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York. That resolution tells you what "tacking" is, and it is also important to realise what "tacking" is not. The noble Earl who has just sat down, with great elaboration, charged us with having introduced into this Budget subjects to be dealt with by way of a tax which we had formerly tried to deal with by way of Bills. That may or may not be a right thing to do, but it has nothing whatever to do at any rate with "tacking."
The noble Lord in developing another argument pointed out that whereas we tried to deal with licensing by Bill last year we are now dealing with it by a tax in the Finance Bill, and he pointed out, for the sake of the particular argument he was using, how different the two proceedings were. They are different. The noble Earl asked my opinion, I liked last year's attempt better than I like this, and I liked the Licensing Bill of last year better than I like the system of high licences. To say that because you have in one session attempted to legislate in a particular way you are debarred for the 1332 rest of the Parliament from touching that subject in any way is surely a prevention which has never been advanced before. Again, our moral position may be extremely bad, but that has nothing whatever to do with tacking. We are told that we are dealing with these subjects in a spirit of vindictive-ness. Kindlier critics have said that our zeal for temperance has led us to place too heavy a burden on those who deal in alcoholic liquors. But even if our minds are churning with the most hideous sentiments towards all respectable persons—such as millionaires, brewers, and others—that has nothing whatever to do with "tacking."
The noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, objected to our liquor proposals on other grounds. He objected to them because we had said that we hoped the Budget would have a good effect in bringing about a certain reduction in the number of public houses, and he told the House that such a hope was altogether foreign to a Finance Bill, which ought to be concerned with revenue only. I quote no less an authority to the contrary than Mr Pitt. When Mr. Pitt introduced his Budget in 1796 in another place—and he introduced it on December 7, I observe, so that the plight of Parliament that year was even worse than it is now—he said, in imposing a further duty upon spirits—So long as the consumption continues to a considerable extent an addition to the duty must be considered highly eligible in every view of policy and morals.Policy and morals—those are the two things to which the noble Viscount opposite objects. Precisely the same argument would be used if you were introducing some high duty in a tariff reform measure, which would have the additional advantage, as contended by noble Lords opposite, of giving employment. If it gave employment, it must diminish revenue.
The noble Marquess who leads the Opposition said he was certain we should ask him what his alternative proposals were. I should never have thought of asking the noble Marquess what his alternative proposals were, because I really did not know whether he had made up his mind as to any. There is no member of the Party opposite, I think, who during the six years since Tariff Reform has been before us, has given so little indication as the noble Marquess has done of the precise nature of the taxation which he desires to introduce under the 1333 name of Tariff Reform. But, of course, we have other authorities. There is the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, who is prepared to get it all out of the foreigner. He is like Cæsar Augustus; he is prepared to issue a decree that all the world should be taxed. We know that Lord Midleton's view is an entirely different one. He wants to reimpose the taxes on sugar and tea, and the export duty on coal. That is in addition to the new food taxes. In this, I think, the noble Viscount has all the materials for a popular Budget!
Then the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, takes an entirely different view; he desires to tax the luxuries of the rich, but he did not explain how it is to be done. However you are going to tax the luxuries of the rich, you cannot do it by any variety of what is known as Tariff Reform, if Tariff Reform means import duties. The luxuries of the rich, with very few exceptions—champagne might be mentioned, but it takes a great deal of champagne to float a Dreadnought—are products made in this country. I will explain what I mean. What are the special luxuries of the rich? Racehorses, hunters, yachts, the taking of expensive shootings, motor-cars—very largely now, I am glad to think, made in this country—the taking of deer forests, and the renting of expensive houses generally. What system of sumptuary laws the noble Marquess may have in his mind in order to tax these luxuries I do not know, and I shall await with interest his reply.
I pass away from the subject matter of the Finance Bill to the more important, the graver question involved—the relations which now arise between the two Houses. My Lords, earlier in the Session we had an interesting debate on the subject of colour-blindness. It was pointed out to us how disastrous it would be at sea if a man were not able to distinguish between the red lights and the green lights on ships. What are we to say of that kind of colour-blindness, constitutional in every sense of the word, which cannot, discern the difference between these red benches in your Lordships' House and the green benches in that House at the end of the Lobby yonder. It is that form of colour-blindness which I very much fear is steering your ship straight into a collision with another ship which you will find heavier and stronger than your own.
My Lords, much has been said of the 1334 right of this House to throw out a Finance Bill. I confess I prefer to speak of power, because the rights of an Assembly such as this are its powers, and its powers are its rights. I prefer to use the word "power," because the word "right" seems to connote some idea of a moral sanction, which is just the question which we are disputing. Nobody disputes the power of your Lordships' House to reject this Bill or any other Money Bill. The opinions of my two distinguished predecessors, Lord Ripon and Lord Spencer, have been quoted. It was, of course, of the power of your Lordships' House that they were speaking, and, if I remember aright, Lord Spencer expressly guarded himself in that respect. Your Lord ships have the power to do a great many other things. The noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, expressed his regret that it was not possible to put this Bill in Committee, when he would thoroughly enjoy its dissection. I have no doubt the noble Earl would. But so far as power goes, there is nothing whatever that I know of to prevent your Lordships not merely considering this Bill in Committee, but in sending it to a Select Committee with the noble Earl as Chairman.
§ THE EARL OF CREWE
So long as I am not called upon to sit on that Committee I have very little objection. But it hardly is a question of the power of this House. Let me quote to your Lordships words I should like to adopt that were used by one who was certainly not an indifferent member of this House, who was in it all his life, and who certainly was not unmindful of its privileges—the late Duke of Argyll. On the occasion when the Paper Duty Repeal came up a second time as a clause in the Budget of 1861, the Duke of Argyll said this—Many Bills of Supply have been rejected by the House of Lords, but the course pursued by the noble Earl [Lord Derby, the grandfather of the noble Lord opposite] is not so much a technical violation of the privileges of the House of Commons as a substantial violation of the established usages between the two Houses of Parliament.The point could not have been better put then, and it could not be better put now. As the most rev. Prelate reminded us this afternoon, that was a single Bill, not a Bill dealing with the Supply of the year, sent up in 1860 by a majority of only nine, 1335 and sent up in the second year as a clause in the Customs and Revenue Bill by a majority of only fifteen—not, therefore coming with anything approaching the sanction of this great measure now before your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, Lord Curzon, used the argument that, after all, the rejection of this Bill was only parallel to the rejection of the Paper Duty Repeal Bill, because at that time Bills were sent up separately and now they are sent up together. Surely that is not so. A parallel to the rejection of the present Bill would be the rejection at that time of every Bill which dealt with the Supplies of the year or with the incidence of taxation. I cannot help referring once more to that debate, in the course of which Lord Derby alluded in dignified tones to the privileges of the House of Commons, of which he had been, perhaps, the most brilliant ornament. There are many noble Lords sitting opposite who have been in their time, although, perhaps, not quite so brilliant as the fourteenth Lord Derby, still most distinguished figures in the other House. Yet only one of those noble Lords in the whole course of this long debate has allowed it to be supposed that he recognises or values in the slightest degree the privileges of that House. That noble Lord is Lord Ashbourne. Only one noble Lord, and he is an Irishman.
My noble friend Lord Morley dealt fully and, I venture to think, conclusively with the plea that you put forward that in the action which you are taking you are making a democratic appeal. I do not propose to labour that point, but I desire to say one word on the state of things which may exist in the future if your Lordships are right in your claim to reject a Finance Bill, which you say is of so important a character that it must be submitted to the country. I do not want to overstate the case, and I do not suppose for a moment that your Lordships will proceed immediately to reject every Liberal Budget that comes up in future years. That would be a possible course on the part of this House, just as is now the rejection of every measure that comes up from another place when a Liberal Government is in power. It is possible in theory; I quite admit it has not been the practice; but it would be possible to reject the Budget every year, and therefore to force a Dissolution. I do not say that that would happen. What I do say would happen is this, that after a Liberal Government had been in power for say two years, 1336 I in framing its financial proposals it would have to consider whether they would receive the concurrence of your Lordships' House. That is an entirely novel claim, and I say that if it is admitted, it involves something like a burlesque of representative government.
The theory of government which some I noble Lords seem to favour is that a Government, on coming into power, is to be haunted by fears that some of those who have voted for it at a General Election may have changed their minds, and it is to be so paralysed by fear as to be scarcely able to bring in any legislation whatever. That theory has not been maintained in the past by noble Lords opposite when they have been in office. The Government of noble Lords opposite which flickered out to its inglorious extinction in December, 1905, was troubled by no such fear. It completely altered the basis of our licensing system, it reversed the policy of previous Governments and, so far as is known, of the country in respect of elementary education, and we never had any inkling that it was haunted by the fears which noble Lords desire us to feel. My Lords, I should respect this theory of yours of an appeal to the people much more than I am afraid I do now if I believed that it was really advanced in order to vindicate what you believe to be an ancient right instead of being advanced, as I cannot help thinking it is, to promote a new-fangled policy.
I desire to ask one question which may not have occurred to your Lordships. What do you think your fellow-subjects in His Majesty's Dominions all over the Empire will think of what you are doing to-night? I venture to say that the action your Lordships' House is taking will be absolutely unintelligible to men of all parties in the self-governing Dominions of the Crown. It is so alien to the spirit of their Constitutions, so foreign to their universal practice that they will be altogether unable to understand it. A Canadian, perhaps, will ask himself how the financial conditions of the Dominion would fare if it was to the descendants of the ancient French seigneurs that they were entrusted. The Australian will wonder what would happen if the finances of the Commonwealth were handed over to the heirs of the squatters in the older States. Citizens of the new South African Union may, and I dare say will, ask themselves what would 1337 happen if the finances of the Union are to be committed to the care of, say, the Dutch settlers in some of the more remote districts of the different Colonies, whose outlook upon life is not altogether dissimilar from that of some of your Lordships who have come here to vote to-night. All I can say is this, that if you are right, and if the country condones and approves what you are doing to-night, our fellow-subjects abroad will not look to the mother of Parliaments, but they will ask if the citizens of the old country are altogether fitted to exercise responsible Government.
My Lords, we are now going to vote. In 1860 when the Paper Duty Bill was before this House Mr. Bright said, speaking of the then action of your Lordships' House—They voted out this Bill by a large majority with a chuckle, thinking that by doing so they were making a violent attack on the Ministry, and particularly upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer.My Lords, that is what you are going to do. Who are going to vote? The noble Lords who are here. Who are not going to vote? I cannot help alluding, although it has been mentioned before, to the absence from the noble Marquess's battalions of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn—one of the most experienced authorities on political finance in the country, and a Conservative of Conservatives. He is not here. But when the Division list is scanned to-morrow, as scanned it will be, by those who desire to weigh as well as to count, many names will be missed from it. There will be the names of many of those who have grown old in the service of the State at home and abroad, particularly of those who have served in distant parts of the Empire; the names of many of those who do the greater part of the real work of this House—thankless work, and not, I think, often sufficiently rewarded by public appreciation—in the committee rooms upstairs; there will be many names of those who possess, if I may venture to say so, the coolest heads and the most amply furnished minds in the House; many of those who, when it is a question of deciding the merits of some great dispute between capital and labour, are called upon to arbitrate in such cases by the common consent of all classes of our fellow-countrymen. My Lords, many of those will not be here. Like the images of the Roman patriots at another kind of funeral some 2,000 years ago, when the historian said—Effulgebant eo ipso quod 1338 effigies corum non videbantur—they are even more conspicuous by their absence than they would be if they recorded their vote. I know you will not agree with me, but I do say that in tearing up the ancient charters, in removing the venerable landmarks, you are making a most tragic blunder. You are not afraid of the consequences; no one could suppose you would be afraid; if you are afraid of anything in this matter you are possibly just the least bit afraid of being thought afraid. That is the only scintilla of fear which I think could be recognised on the Benches opposite.
It has been said in debate that there has been a sinister kind of conspiracy, a plot, to lure your Lordships into an impossible position. Perhaps I may be permitted to say that I am in as good a position as anybody to judge whether that is so, and I think I can show you it is not so. I do not think I am breaking any Cabinet confidence when I say that the great majority of my colleagues including—unless I am mistaken—the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, have been infinitely more sanguine than I have been all through that your Lordships would pass the Finance Bill, and it was only at a very recent date that they recognised the probability of the action your Lord-ships are taking. That I think is conclusive proof that there has been no conspiracy to put your Lordships into a position when you could not pass it.
Much has been said of the privileges of this House; the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, a few days ago lectured me—if he will forgive me for saying so—somewhat professorially with regard to the privileges of the House and my duty in supporting them. I can only say that my personal debt to the House, particularly in the last few years, is far too deep to allow me to speak of any action the House may take with a tinge of rancour. But all the individual kindness and consideration that I myself and my friends behind me have received from noble Lords opposite cannot blind me to the fact that the position of Liberal Ministers in this House has become an almost impossible one.
I am not fond of autobiography. I agree with my noble friend Lord Rosebery that it is not as a rule an ornament of debate, but speaking upon the question of privilege, I may detain your Lordships for a moment 1339 with my own experience. I came here for the first time in the short Government of 1886 when I was a member of Her late Majesty's Household and had charge of a Department. After that we retired into exile for several years; and in fifteen years of Opposition I can say with all honesty that I cannot recall a single case when I or my noble friends—infinitely more competent and distinguished—and I may mention Lord Rosebery, Lord Kimberley, and Lord Ripon, did the slightest good to himself or any human being by his attendance in the House. I cannot recall a case when anything we said here had the slightest effect. I cannot recall a case when any Amendment of substance to any of the Bills of the then Governments were modified at our instance. The noble Marquess therefore, will not be surprised when I say, although I hope I do not underrate the value of the privileges of this House, that I cannot look upon them with exactly the same eyes as he does.
There is a further point. During those years, and I should like to appeal to the recollection of those of my noble friends who have been in the House as long as I have, there has been a great deal of very real encroachment by those who are now in Opposition, in the attitude they have taken up as to the powers of this House. I remember the late Lord Salisbury once uttering one of those truisms, which are sometimes the most valuable contribution which any one can make to a debate, when he pointed out that the political power as between the two Houses of Parliament was a constant quantity, and that, for instance, supposing the House of Commons possessed the fraction of four-fifths and your Lordships' House the remaining one-fifth, or any other respective fractions you choose, it was impossible to add anything to the one without taking away from the other. There has been, I think, a distinct encroachment on the part of noble Lords opposite, in particular with regard to the way they now treat Government Bills.
We all regarded the late Lord Salisbury with unstinted admiration. He was a man, as it seemed to us, who shared the view of the philosopher that people were "mostly fools," and he certainly never gave his political opponents any reason to remain under the illusion that he counted 1340 them as belonging to the wiser minority. But I think he also held the view that men must find out the consequences of their own mistakes, and, if the people of this country chose to send certain representatives to Parliament of whose views he disapproved, that in the main the operations of such a House of Commons ought to be respected; although, of course, as we know there were cases when he was the first to propose the rejection of particular measures. But he did not do what noble Lords do now, which is to take complete charge of the Government measures sent up to this House. Nothing could be more agreeably done than the way in which noble Lords do it. They take our Bills, and then the first thing they speak of is the "concessions" they are so kind as to make. The way that has been done has in my judgment constituted a most serious encroachment, although it would take a long time to describe by instances what I mean, and I should have to occupy an even longer period than Lord Cawdor did when he was narrating, from his own point of view, the history of the Bills in the present Parliament. The fact remains that in my view, and I think in the view of those who sit on this side of the House, this encroachment has actually taken place. I think that the action which is being recommended by the noble Marquess to-night has been defended on much bolder grounds of independence than I have ever heard advanced in this House before. For instance, I never heard before the plain statement made by Lord Curzon that it was a reasonable thing for this House to have the power of dissolving Parliament.
All these things have brought us to the position in which we now stand. My Lords, what is that position? For many years past the two Houses of Parliament have jogged along together as acquaintances jog along who are not, perhaps, consumed by a burning affection for each other, but at the same time are prepared to do business together. There have been losses of temper from time to time on both sides, and there have been other times when allowances have been made. But, my Lords, after to-night the two Houses, regarding them still as people, will barely be on speaking terms. In a very significant passage at the end of his speech Lord Curzon alluded to possible reforms of this House. It is a somewhat singular comment, I think, upon this question of reform that the 1341 Report of the Committee which sat for many days and which contained a large majority of the most distinguished members of your Lordships' House has been allowed to lie on the Table absolutely unnoticed from that day to this. It may or may not be—I express no opinion of the outcome of the future—that important changes may take place in the constitution of your Lordships' House. I do not presume to prophesy as to that. But it is late—late in one sense although in another it is early—to speak of that matter with regard to this particular Division to-night. My Lords, it is an unreformed House of Lords which is throwing out this Budget, and the mere fact that the noble Lord and some others favour some change in the composition of this House cannot be taken as in any way altering that fact.
If you think that any of us on this side of the House welcome this crisis you are entirely mistaken. But we are compelled to face it, not only because our political existence as a Party is involved, but because in our view the interests of the country and of the Empire depend upon the maintenance of a reasonable constitutional balance between the governing powers of the State. It may be, may Lords, that when the new Parliament meets we shall be sitting where you sit now. It may be that we shall still be seated
§ on these Benches here. But, my Lords, whether we sit there or whether we sit here we must, after the action which your Lord-ships have thought fit to take to-night, set ourselves to obtain guarantees—not the old guarantees sanctioned by the course of time and enforced by accommodation between the two Houses, but if necessary, if there be no other way, guarantees fenced about and guarded by the force of Statute—guarantees which will prevent that indiscriminate destruction of our legislation of which your work to-night is the climax and the crown.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The original Question was "That the Bill be now read a second time," to which an Amendment has been moved to leave out all the words after "That" for the purpose of inserting the following Motion, "This House is not justified in giving its consent to this Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the country." The Question I have to put is whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Motion.
§ On Question?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 75; Not-Contents, 350.1345
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Aberdare, L.||Loch, E.|
|York, L. Abp.||Acton, L.||Lochee, L.|
|Wolverhampton, V. (L. President.)||Airedale, L.||Lucas, L.|
|Allendale, L.||Lyveden, L.|
|Crewe, E. (L. Privy Seal.)||Armitstead, L.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Ashton, L.||Marchamley, L.|
|Breadalbane, M.||Blyth, L.||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Northampton, M.||Boston, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Burghclere, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Beauchamp, E. (L. Steward.)||Castletown, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Pentland, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Coleridge, L.||Pirrie, L.|
|Craven, E.||Courtney of Penwith, L.||Reay, L.|
|Granville, E.||De Saumarez, E.||Rendel, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Denman, L. [Teller.]||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Liverpool, E.||Dunning, L. (L. Rollo.)||St. Davids, L.|
|Russell, E.||Emly, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Eversley, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Althorp, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Farrer, L.||Shaw, L.|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Fitzmaurice, L.||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Morley of Blackburn, V.||Glantawe, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Peel, V.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Selby, V.||Grimthorpe, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Hamilton of Dalzell, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Birmingham, L. Bp.||Haversham, L.||Torphichen, L.|
|Chester, L. Bp.||Hemphill, L.||Weardale, L.|
|St. Asaph, L. Bp.||Herschell, L.||Welby, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Fortescue, E.||Goschen, V.|
|Argyll, D.||Gainsborough, E.||Halifax, V.|
|Beaufort, D.||Graham, E. (D. Montrose)||Hampden, V.|
|Bedford, D.||Guilford, E.||Hardinge, V.|
|Devonshire, D.||Haddington, E.||Hill, V.|
|Grafton, D.||Halsbury, E.||Hood, V.|
|Leeds, D.||Hardwicke, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)|
|Marlborough, D.||Harewood, E.|
|Newcastle, D.||Harrington, E.||Iveagh, V.|
|Northumberland, D.||Harrowby, E.||Knutsford, V.|
|Portland, D.||Hillsborough, E. (M. Downshire.)||Llandaff, V.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Milner, V.|
|Rutland, D.||Huntingdon, E.||Ridley, V.|
|Somerset, D.||Ilchester, E.||St. Vincent, V.|
|Sutherland, D.||Kilmorey, E.||Templetown, V.|
|Wellington, D.||Lauderdale, E.||Tredegar, V.|
|Westminster, D.||Leicester, E.|
|Lichfield, E.||Lincoln, L. Bp.|
|Abergavenny, M.||Lindsey, E.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Londesborough, E.||Abinger, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Lonsdale, E.||Addington, L.|
|Anglesey, M.||Lovelace, E.||Aldenham, L.|
|Bath, M.||Lucan, E.||Alington, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Malmesbury, E.||Allerton, L.|
|Bute, M.||Mansfield, E.||Alverstone, L.|
|Camden, M.||Manvers, E.||Ampthill, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Mar and Kellie, E.||Annaly, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Mayo, E.||Ardilaun, L.|
|Hertford, M.||Morley, E.||Armstrong, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Morton, E.||Ashbourne, L.|
|Linlithgow, M.||Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Ashburton, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Munster, E.||Ashcombe, L.|
|Winchester, M.||Northbrook, E.||Atkinson, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Northesk, E.||Avebury, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Bagot, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Pembroke and Montgomery, E.||Balinhard, L. (M. Southesk.)|
|Albemarle, E.||Plymouth, E.||Barnard, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Poulett, E.||Barrymore, L.|
|Aylesford, E.||Powis, E.||Basing, L.|
|Bandon, E.||Roberts, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Romney, E.||Belper, L.|
|Brooke and Warwick, E.||Rossslyn, E.||Berwick, L.|
|Brownlow, E.||Rothes, E.||Biddulph, L.|
|Cadogan, E.||Saint Germans, E.||Blythswood, L.|
|Cairns, E.||Sandwich, E.||Borthwick, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Scarbrough, E.||Botreaux, L. (E. Loudoun.)|
|Carlisle, E.||Shaftesbury, E.||Bowes, L. (E. Strathmore and Kinghorn.)|
|Carnarvon, E.||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Carnwath, E.||Sondes, E.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)|
|Cathcart, E.||Stanhope, E.|
|Cawdor, E.||Stradbroke, E.||Brancepeth, L. (F. Boyne.)|
|Chichester, E.||Strafford, E.||Braybrooke, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)||Brave, L.|
|Cottenham, E.||Suffolk and Berkshire, E.||Brodrick, L. (F. Midleton.)|
|Coventry, E.||Tankerville, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.|
|Cowley, E.||Temple, E.||Burnham, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Camoys, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Verulam, E.||Carew, L.|
|Darnley, E.||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Castlemaine, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Westmeath, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)|
|Denbigh, E.||Westmorland, E.||Cheylesmore, L.|
|Derby, E.||Wharncliffe, E.||Churston, L.|
|Devon, E.||Wicklow, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Wilton, E.|
|Winton, E. (E. Eglintoun.)||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)|
|Dundonald, E.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Bridport, V.||Clonbrock, L.|
|Ellesmere, E.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Cloncurry, L.|
|Essex, E.||Colville of Culross, V.||Colchester, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Cross, V.||Collins, L.|
|Feversham, E.||De Vesci, V.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Falkland, V.||Crawshaw, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, L.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)||Ponsonby, L(E. Bessborough.)|
|Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)|
|De Freyne, L.||Powerscourt, L. (V. Powerscourt.)|
|De L'Isle and Dudley, L.||Kensington, L.|
|De Mauley, L.||Kenyon, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|De Ramsey, L.||Kesteven, L.||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Deramore, L.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)||Rathmore, L.|
|Desborough, L.||Kinross, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Digby, L.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Redesdale, L.|
|Douglas, L. (E. Home.)||Knaresborough, L.||Revelstoko, L.|
|Dunalley, L.||Lamington, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Dunboyne, L.||Langford, L.||Rosmead, L.|
|Dunleath, L.||Lawrence, L.||Rossmore, L.|
|Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Leconfield, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Ebury, L.||Leigh, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Egerton, L.||Leith of Fyvie, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Ellerborough, L.||Lilford, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Elphinstone, L.||Llaugattock, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Erskine, L.||Lovat, L.||Savile, L.|
|Estcourt, L.||Ludlow, L.||Scarsdale, L.|
|Faber, L.||Lurgan, L.||Seaton, L.|
|Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Macnaghten, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Farnham, L.||Manners, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)||Masham, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)||Massy, L||Somerton, L. (R. Normanton.)|
|Forester, L.||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)||Southampton, L.|
|Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)||Meredyth, L. (L. Athlumney.)||Stalbridge, L.|
|Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Michelham, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Gerard, L.||Middleton, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Glanusk, L.||Monck, L. (V. Monck.)|
|Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston)||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Montagu of Beaulieu, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Grenfell, L.||Mostyn, L.||Swansea, L.|
|Grey de Ruthyn, L.||Mount Stephen, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Grinstead, L. (E. Enniskillen.)||Mowbray, L.||Tennyson, L.|
|Gwydir, L.||Muncaster, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Harlech, L||Newlands, L.||Trevor, L.|
|Harris, L.||Newton, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)||North, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Hastings, L.||Northbourne, L.||Ventry, L.|
|Hatherton, L.||Northcote, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Hawke, L.||O'Neill, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Hindlip, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.||Wealock, L.|
|Holm Patrick, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)||Westbury, L.|
|Hothfield, L.||Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Howard of Glossop, L.||Penrhyn, L.||Willonghby de Broke, L.|
|Hylton, L.||Playfair, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)||Poltimore, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative accordingly.
The LORD CHANCELLOR
I now put the Motion, "That this House is not justified in giving its consent to this Bill
§ until it has been submitted to the judgment of the country."
§ On Question, Resolution agreed to.
§ House adjourned at Twelve o'clock, till To-morrow, Twelve o'clock.