§ House again in Committee (according to Order).
§ [The EARL of DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Consideration of Clause 1 resumed.
§ LORD HYLTON moved an Amendment to insert in subsection (2) words providing that the opinion as to the character of a Bill should be "expressed from the Chair after not less than one clear day's notice and before the Second Reading of the Bill."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, when I put down this Amendment it was to the Bill as presented to your Lordships, but the Amendment which was moved by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches and carried last night has to some extent altered the circumstances. But I think not altogether, because Lord Cromer's Amendment, after all, provides no machinery for the announcement to the Houses of Parliament or to the country of the fact whether the Joint Committee which your Lordships substituted for the Speaker have declared a Bill to be a Money Bill or an ordinary Bill. There is another consideration that occurs to me; I do not know whether I am strictly in order in speaking to it, but it is this. When the Bill goes back to another place I suppose even the most sanguine of us do not expect that at all events all of our Amendments will be accepted there, and if the words "Joint Committee" are struck out and the Bill returned to us in its original form with the Speaker restored, I think the words that I now propose will be essentially necessary.
I am entirely in your Lordships' hands as to whether I should proceed with this Amendment now or leave it to Lord Cromer to bring up on Report a clause providing the machinery which at present he has not provided for announcing to the House of Commons whether in the opinion of the Joint Committee the Bill is a Money Bill or an ordinary Bill. But if it is your Lordships' wish that I should proceed I will, in as few words as possible, bring forward the arguments in support of the Amendment. They have been already fully discussed in the House of Commons on two occasions—in the Committee stage and on Report—when Mr. Balfour and other speakers on the Opposition side of the House strongly urged the necessity of the House of Commons being informed at the earliest possible opportunity whether a Bill
brought before them was regarded as a Money Bill or an ordinary Bill. Strange to say, not only did members on the Opposition side of the House point out how vital it was to know at the earliest possible moment whether a Bill was a Money Bill or an ordinary Bill, but the Home Secretary, when the Amendment was brought forward, said that—
Honourable gentlemen opposite have discovered a considerable flaw and oversight in our proposed legislation on this point.
I think the main argument that was used on behalf of an Amendment such as this was that as we are now proceeding to frame a written Constitution and putting part of it into statutory form, it is very desirable that other parts should not be left in the air. As one member on the opposite side said—
When you are discussing this matter it is advisable that all cards should be put on the table.
§ I am not going this afternoon to weary your Lordships by pointing out the extraordinary difference that will take place in the Parliamentary procedure in the two respective cases of a purely Money Bill and an ordinary Bill, because that is patent to every one who has studied this question. But a very important point has been urged. Why, it is asked, should it be announced to the House of Commons as early as the Second Reading whether a Bill is a Money Bill or an ordinary Bill? The reason is this. It is probable that if a Bill is declared to be purely a Money Bill, closure, for instance, would be much less drastically applied to it. Greater opportunities would be allowed by the Chairman to Members speaking on a purely Money Bill, which under the new régime would become law within a month of its leaving the House of Commons, than in the case of an ordinary Bill, and the responsibilities of the House of Commons in regard to a purely Money Bill would obviously, therefore, be far heavier. I do not know whether any of your Lordships, after what Lord Marchamley said yesterday, will believe that there are any really independent Members left in the House of Commons. I imagine not. But if there are, it is obvious that on a purely Money Bill they would be more disposed to consult the dictates of their consciences when they knew how very shortly the Bill would become law on leaving their House, than in the case of an ordinary Bill, in regard to which we would be permitted to give the country the space of two years in
§ Lord Hylton.1124
§ which to consider whether such a Bill should become law or not.
§ I will not quote more than a word or two of what was said in another place on this subject, but there seemed to be a general consensus of opinion that before the Second Reading took place the announcement ought to be made from the Chair. The argument used for that was this, that, as we all know, the Second Reading is the occasion on which the principle of a Bill is decided. Your Lordships will see that in subsection (3) the Government have provided that there shall be endorsed on every Money Bill when it is sent up to the House of Lords a certificate that it is a Money Bill; but in the opinion of many members of our Party it is highly desirable that long before that moment arrives a preliminary announcement should be made—I venture to think before the Second Reading—that the Bill is a purely Money Bill. I quoted just now what the Home Secretary said regarding this considerable flaw and oversight which he admitted had been detected by members of the Opposition in respect of this matter, and your Lordships will probably think that any Government when they detected a considerable flaw or oversight in a measure of this importance would not only be willing but anxious to correct it at the first opportunity. But such, I regret to say, was not the case, for the Home Secretary later on in the debate said that, after all, this was a matter that concerned the House of Commons alone. That was not the view taken by Mr. Balfour. He at once rejoined that it appeared to concern not only the House of Commons but the House of Lords and the country as well. The only method by which the Home Secretary and the Government suggested that this considerable flaw and oversight might be remedied was by altering the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. I would only repeat what Mr. Balfour said in regard to this matter—that where you are making statutory enactments with regard to a written Constitution it is only fair that if some portions of the Constitution are to assume statutory form other portions should do so equally. For the reasons I have endeavoured to state I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
Page 2, line 2, after ("Commons") insert ("expressed from the Chair after not less than one clear day's notice and before the Second Reading of the Bill").—(Lord Hylton.)
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, the Amendment which the noble Lord opposite has moved is one which deals with the future procedure of the House of Commons. His proposition is that from the Chair the Opinion of, as it will be now, the Joint Committee should be declared before the Second Reading of the Bill. It scorns pretty obvious that the character of a Bill is not necessarily stereotyped at that stage. A Bill may be introduced which has not the character of a Money Bill, and it may become a Money Bill by the elimination of provisions of a legislative character in the course of the discussion. It would therefore seem that the convenient course is the course laid down in the Bill, that when the result of the Amendments made and the discussion which had taken place had been ascertained there should be a certificate—whether of the Speaker or of a Joint Committee does not matter for this purpose—as to the character of the Bill. Not until time Bill has gone through all its stages can that certificate be properly given. To endeavour to stereotype the Bill at an early stage is to do what may prove nugatory if changes are made. Therefore I would suggest to your Lordships that much the most convenient course is to take the scheme of this Bill, which is that the certificate should be given when the Bill has emerged from the last stage of its consideration and before it comes to this House, and not endeavour to have declared beforehand the character of that which may alter in the course of its stages though the House of Commons. It may hereafter prove desirable, for the facilitation of House of Commons procedure, that there should be Standing Orders on the subject, but all that your Lordships' House is concerned with is that you should have a certificate of the proper authority before the Bill comes up here. It seems to me for that reason that the scheme in the Bill is very much more convenient and more adapted to the practice of the House of Commons than the proposal contained in the noble Lord's Amendment.
§ LORD AVEBURY
I would like to ask my noble friend who has moved this Amendment whether he has considered it from this point of view, that a Bill might be declared to be a Money Bill and then Amendments might be introduced which brought in general legislation?
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, I think the answer of the noble Viscount opposite is very far from exhausting the facts of the case. This is a point which has to be discussed at one time or another in Committee, and the present appears to me to be the convenient moment for doing so. There is a word which is particularly dear to the Government, and which I think I am entitled now to apply to the construction of their own scheme. You will find over and over again that this scheme is "sloppy" in the extreme, even from the point of view of the Government in carrying out their conception of what the functions of the two Houses ought to be. The noble Viscount says that this Amendment interferes with the procedure of the House of Commons. It does nothing of the kind. The Government themselves have taken the Speaker out of the House of Commons and propose to give him statutory functions altogether independent of his position in the House of Commons—statutory functions which enlarge his responsibility. It is enlarged from responsibility to the House of Commons alone to responsibility to the House of Lords also and to the country at large. Therefore in the first place I altogether demur, and I hope we shall hear no more of that argument, that we are not to say anything about the proceedings of the Speaker or his methods of operation because we shall be interfering with the business of the House of Commons.
Now let me come to the argument of the noble Viscount opposite. He says, How inconvenient that the Speaker should give a decision at an early stage in the history of a measure when the subsequent proceedings may alter its character. It may become a Money Bill, he says, during the course of proceedings in the House of Commons. I quite admit that. If it does become a Money Bill, the fact that the Speaker had given an opinion on its earlier character would not prevent him giving an opinion on its altered character. But I put the other case to the Committee. Supposing a Bill is meant by the Government to be a financial Bill, but contains provisions which, in the opinion of the Speaker, remove it from that category altogether, and supposing the Speaker, having come to this conclusion, says nothing at all about it. The Bill goes through all its stages in the House of Commons, and at the very end the Speaker says, "Oh, this is not a Money Bill. This is a Bill belonging 1127 to Clause 2, not to Clause 1, because of such and such provisions." I can conceive the indignation of the Government and the indignation of the House of Commons. They would say, "Why, if you had told us this earlier, we could have changed our scheme; we could have brought in two Bills; we could have taken those parts which are not financial out of the Bill and put them into another Bill"—quite obviously a convenient course for a Government to take in such a case. It seems to me that the convenient course would be for the Speaker or the Joint Committee to say, at the earliest possible stage, what the character of a Bill was. If it was said to be a Money Bill everybody would know it was a Money Bill; but if it contained provisions which removed it into the category of general Bills, then those responsible for the Bill would have to decide what action they would take. And if changes took place in the Bill during its passage through the House of Commons, then its altered character could be adjudicated upon by the Speaker or the Joint Committee.
I do not think the Government can possibly leave the thing as it is. It will certainly give rise to confusion and to heartburning, and to something even more dangerous than that, for it might give rise to pressure on the Speaker. I put again the case of a Bill that has been passed through the House of Commons on the understanding that it is a Money Bill and then, just as it is going to pass from the House of Commons to this House, the House gets to know that the Speaker is going to pronounce it other than a Money Bill. I think there would be very strong feeling in the House of Commons that the Speaker ought to have taken the House into his confidence earlier, and the whole tendency of this clause as it stands at present in this respect is to make the already arduous and invidious duties of the Speaker more arduous and invidious still.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, the noble Viscount opposite, in opposing this Amendment, has unconsciously done himself an injustice. He knows as well as I do that a Bill cannot be transformed from other than a Money Bill into a Money Bill without a Resolution of the House of Commons being passed either in Committee of Supply or in Committee of Ways and Means, and that has
The Earl of Selborne.
1128 to be reported to the House. It would be perfectly possible to place the House of Commons in a far simpler position than it would be in under this clause by the acceptance of this Amendment, and none of the difficulties anticipated by the noble Viscount need be considered as any objection whatever to the proposal.
§ LORD HYLTON
My Lords, after what has been said on the Amendment by members of the Front Opposition Bench shall certainly press it to a Division.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I should like to say one word upon this Amendment before we leave it. My noble friend has certainly drawn the attention of the Committee to a most important point, and one which will have to be taken into consideration in our treatment of the Bill. I will not go over the ground which has been already gone over by my noble friends on this Bench, but I think they are certainly right in contending that the Bill as it stands fails altogether to lay down, with any approach to distinctness, the procedure which it is intended should be followed with regard to this matter. I find nothing in the Bill to tell us at what stage of the proceedings it is to be intimated that a Bill falls either within or without the class of Money Bills. I find nothing to indicate where and how the Speaker's decision is to be made known, nor anything to show how the Speaker is to be set in motion. All these are points which we must discuss and in regard to which it may be necessary to make Amendments in the Bill. But what I desire to invite the attention of my noble friend to is this. I am afraid that if we carry his Amendment in the shape in which we find it on the Paper the clause will hardly run. We struck out last night, in line 2, the words "Speaker of the House of Commons," and we inserted the words "Joint Committee." Now, if my noble friend's Amendment were inserted in the words which he has moved, the clause would run thusߞA Money Bill means a public Bill which, in the opinion of the Joint Committee, expressed from the Chair after not less than one clear day's notice and before the Second Reading of the Bill.I do not know how the Joint Committee is to express its opinion from the Chair. It may be a comparatively insignificant point, but I think, if I may venture to suggest it, that my noble friend had better raise the question when we come to Lord Cromer's 1129 Amendment, and that he would do well not to put the Committee to the trouble of a Division on his words.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
VISCOUNT GALWAY moved to amend subsection (2)—
(2) A Money Bill means a public Bill which in the opinion of the Speaker of the House of Commons contains only provisions dealing with all or any of the following subjects, namely, the imposition, repeal, remission, alteration, or regulation of taxation; the imposition for the payment of debt or other financial purposes of charges on the Consolidated Fund, or on money provided by Parliament, or the variation or repeal of any such charges; supply; the appropriation, receipt, custody, issue or audit of accounts of public money; the raising or guarantee of any loan or the repayment thereof; or subordinate matters incidental to those subjects or any of them. In this subsection the expressions "taxation," "public money," and "loan" respectively do not include any taxation, money, or loan raised by local authorities or bodies for local purposes
by leaving out the words "or subordinate matters incidental to those subjects or any of them," in order to insert—"and subordinate matters incidental to the provisions of a Money Bill as defined in this subsection."
The noble Viscount said: I ask your Lordships to consider my two Amendments in lines 10 and 11 together. The words in the clause have too wide a latitude, and go very much further than is intended. It seems to me that it might be possible, under these words, to bring in a separate measure altogether, and if that were done then might come the question of the interpretation of the word "subordinate," because subordinate might mean a very different thing to different sets of persons. It is rather bold for a layman like myself, in the presence of the heavy legal batteries on the Front Bench opposite, to express an opinion, but I believe it might be possible under this clause as it at present stands to bring in a Bill to alter the whole constitution of the Revenue Board. I am strengthened still more in bringing this Amendment forward because there was a discussion upon it in the House of Commons on May 9, but that discussion was curtailed by the eleven o'clock rule coming into force after the matter had been debated but a short time, and the debate was closured and
there was nothing further heard of it. The object of my Amendment is to put in plainer language what is meant, and if my two Amendments are carried the clause would read—
and subordinate matters incidental to the provisions of a Money Bill as defined in this subsection.
I believe those words would carry out the intention—namely, that the matter should be incidental to a Money Bill actually before the House and to a matter contained in that Bill. I have every reason to believe that His Majesty's Government have no desire to unduly enlarge Clause 1, but to confine it entirely to finance and to matters contained in a Finance Bill. I therefore hope they will accept my Amendment, which is not an unreasonable one and is designed to secure that anything that is done under Clause 1 strictly concerns a Money Bill and a Money Bill only.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 2, line 10, leave out ("or") and insert ("and")
§ Page 2, line 11, leave out ("those subjects or any of them") and insert ("the provisions of a Money Bill as defined in this subsection").—(Viscount Galway.)
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN)
My Lords, I do not think that the point which the noble Viscount has raised deserves very serious attention, if I may say so with all courtesy to him. The noble Viscount's point is that a Bill is not a Money Bill which only contains subordinate matter. It might be found convenient, after you had imposed a tax, to introduce a Bill regulating the manner of the collection of that tax. Suppose, for example, you had proposed a new Income Tax. The question might arise whether or not it was expedient to collect the tax at the source, and that might require a supplementary Bill. Surely no argument brought forward by the noble Viscount affects a case of that kind, and I do not believe that any noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite will get up and maintain that it does. It cannot be denied that it might be expedient to introduce a supplementary Bill of this kind, turning, not upon the principle of the tax, but upon some detail in relation to the principle and to the amount of the tax, which would be undoubtedly subordinate, and I think it would be most undesirable and entirely 1131 contrary to the whole spirit of the clause if such a Bill were ruled out, as the noble Viscount proposes. I am afraid, therefore, that we cannot accept the Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I venture to think that my noble friend's Amendment requires rather more attention than the noble Viscount has given to it. The words as they now stand appear to me to be dangerously wide, and to go even beyond the purpose which the noble Viscount evidently has in his mind. Let me endeavour, if I can, to explain how some of us regard these words. This clause enumerates a long and varied list of subjects which are to be deemed to be matters covered by Money Bills. Bills contained in that enumeration, we must remember, are Bills which this House is not allowed, if I may say so, even to look at. Under this clause not only are we to be precluded from touching a Bill comprised in the main enumeration of the clause, but we are to be precluded from touching a Bill which deals with any matters subordinate or incidental, not to one matter or two matters, but to any matter dealt with in the body of the clause. Surely that widens the definition too much. I know that noble Lords opposite attach great importance to the use of the word "only" in this subsection, but although the word "only" narrows the scope of the clause, its scope is tremendously widened by the introduction of the word "incidental" further on. I quite understand that it should be desired that a Money Bill, one of these Bills which we are not allowed to interfere with, should deal with any subjects and matters incidental or ancillary to the particular subject dealt with in the Bill. But the clause goes further. You have a measure dealing, let us say, with a particular subject, but to that Bill may be attached provisions dealing with any one of the other subjects covered by the clause. That seems to me to go altogether too far, and I think it goes considerably beyond the scope of what was suggested a moment ago by the noble Viscount opposite. I would suggest that some such words as those moved by my noble friend should be adopted; but personally I would prefer the words "or matters subordinate to the provisions of such Bill." That would make it clear that the incidental matters were matters incidental to the Bill in question, not matters incidental to any subject which has a
Viscount Morley of Blackburn.
1132 flavour of finance about it. I do not know whether I have succeeded in making my meaning clear, but I have endeavoured to do so.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD LOREBURN)
My Lords, I think the noble Marquess has made quite clear the view that he takes. As I understand, his view is this, that matters subordinate ought to be matters subordinate to the Bill itself and not to the subjects which are here enumerated. That brings out the criticism of my noble friend the President of the Council. There might be a Bill brought in dealing with one of the enumerated matters and there might then be a slip, for example, and it might appear that a better method of collection would be desirable—collection at the source in the case of Income Tax. If that second Bill was introduced in the following year it would be, within the intention of this clause, a subordinate matter incidental to one of the enumerated subjects, but it would not be a matter subordinate to any Bill before Parliament. That shows why we prefer the words as they stand. For my own part, I really do not think that the apprehensions which the noble Marquess and the noble Viscount expressed are likely to be realised in any way.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
I think the point taken by the noble and learned Lord is hardly one that need weigh with your Lordships. The noble and learned Lord has forgotten that the Income Tax is, and always has been, an annual Bill, and therefore every year it would be possible in a Bill imposing the Income Tax to make any necessary alteration in the collection such as he has suggested.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
The Lord Chancellor has told us something, but he has not told us a great deal that we want to know. To us, wrongly or rightly, these words seem dangerously vague and wide. Will the Lord Chancellor tell us what in his opinion the words really mean? What is the limitation attaching to them? I cannot say that I was reassured by what he said just now. It seems to me almost possible to drag in any subject incidental to a finance measure that might have been passed half-a-dozen years earlier. If you 1133 are going to ignore altogether the appropriateness of this subordinate matter to a measure before Parliament and say it is sufficient if it can be shown to be incidental to another financial matter which passed the previous year or the year before, it really seems to me to open the door so wide as not possibly to be within the intention of the Government.
My Lords, I am quite willing to accept the words suggested by the noble Marquess. I therefore withdraw the words in my Amendment and move to insert—or subordinate matters incidental to the provisions of such Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
We shall be glad to hear what His Majesty's Government have to say on the form of words now submitted. The particular suggestion of the Income Tax has been effectually demolished by the noble Viscount who sits behind me. Now we are waiting for another illustration from the assembled wisdom which we see opposite. The noble and learned Lord who spoke just now said it might be necessary to produce a Bill dealing with a purely financial matter the year after, and that it might be incidental to it and ought to come within the provisions of the clause. But under the clause it does not follow that there need be any preceding financial Bill. There might have been no preceding Bill at all, but the measure might be held to be subordinate to one of the subjects of a previous Bill if it had been introduced. I am quite sure that the Government have not reflected how far the words in the clause carry them. All that the Government have done as yet is to give us one instance, which does not apply. They have not yet really grappled with the difficulty which we have exposed.
TILE LORD CHAIRMAN
I would call attention to the change which has been brought about by the words which have just been handed to me. The noble Viscount now desires that the clause should read, "or subordinate matters incidental to the provisions of such Bill." The question before the Committee is whether the words in line 11, "those subjects or any of them," shall stand part of the clause.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am most anxious to gratify, or even 1134 entertain, the noble Marquess opposite (Lord Salisbury) if I can succeed in doing so, but I desire that there should be no fighting about words. I wanted to show, by the illustration which I gave, that you might require to alter a Money Bill in regard to the machinery in the following year, either in consequence of a slip or some other discovery. My illustration related to Income Tax, which, of course, as the noble Viscount said, is annually voted by the House of Commons, but I do not know that that circumstance in the least degree affected the argument. But let, me give another illustration—the Death Duties and aggregation. It might be desirable to make an alteration in the aggregation. The difference between us is this, that the noble Viscount, in his substituted Amendment, proposes that the subordinate matters shall only be included in this clause if they are incidental to a Bill before the House of Commons. I fully recognise the point, and it would prevent us from bringing in any ancillary or secondary measure in the following year with the benefit of this clause. What we want is to be able to deal in any particular year, either with the enumerated subjects themselves, or with something which is merely subordinate to them. Let me look at the words. The words in the clause are "subordinate matters incidental to those subjects or any of them"—that is, subordinate matters which are incidental to what the noble Marquess rightly described as a great variety of financial proposals. How can anybody give a better definition than that? Here are any number of subjects, and you want to be able also to deal with that which is subordinate to them. What in human ingenuity can furnish you with any definition? It is impossible to define innumerable contingencies which might occur in regard to so great a variety of subjects. I do not think you would be able to find any better method—although you might find other words of an equivalent character—than saying that it may be a Money Bill if it deals with subordinate matters incidental to the enumerated subjects. We really are in danger—I do not mean that the noble Marquess has brought the danger very close to us—but we are always in danger, in dealing with these things, of getting into a fruitless and sterile discussion on words. You must remember that somebody has to decide whether the measure legitimately comes within the definition. That person or committee, whoever is the authority, 1135 will have to deal with this thing in a sensible and broad way, and I do not think he would be troubled with so many considerations as seem to afflict the noble Marquess.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
The Amendment is to omit the words "those subjects or any of them," with the object of inserting the words "the provisions of such Bill."
§ On Question, Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
§ *THE EARL OF CROMER moved to insert the following words—"But if, in the opinion of the Joint Committee, the governing purpose of a Bill, or of any portion of a Bill, is such as to bring the Bill within the category of general legislation, the Bill, or such portion thereof as aforesaid, shall be subject to the provisions of section two of this Act."
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I explained my views so fully on this subject in dealing with the former Amendment which stood in my name that I have really very little to add this afternoon. But I should like to say that although, owing to the indulgence of the Committee, I was able to give those explanations, I feel that I owe an apology for mixing up two subjects which demand separate treatment—the two subjects of the composition of the Joint Committee and its functions. I wish to submit, as regards this particular Amendment, that whether the deciding authority be, as the Government suggests, the Speaker, or whether it be, as your Lordships suggest, a Joint Committee, in fact, whatever may be the tribunal, either these words or some words analogous to them are absolutely necessary. The reason I hold that opinion is that the deciding authority will have his or their powers limited by the strict text of the Bill. I conceive that the deciding authority will in no way be able to go outside that text. According to the strict text of the Bill, the point to decide is whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not. There is nothing whatever in the clause in the way of guidance as to how the question of a Money Bill should be decided or as to the latitude which should be given in deciding the matter. Surely, if the object is to prevent tacking the deciding authority ought to have a certain latitude in going into what the Prime Minister has called the "governing purposes" of a Bill.
§ The Lord Chancellor.1136
§ In the course of the debate yesterday in dealing with the question of tacking, the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War said he imagined that I, and I presume other members of your Lordships' House on this side, meant by tacking something quite different from what His Majesty's Government mean. I think that is extremely probable. In that case I should very much like to know what His Majesty's Government do mean, for although we have had a good deal of discussion on this subject I hope I may say without offence that their ideas on the subject appear to me to be slightly nebulous. We on this side of the House may fairly lay claim to knowing what we mean by tacking. We mean exactly the same thing as the Prime Minister—that is to say, the introduction into a financial Bill of extraneous provisions intended to be applied for political or social purposes. Surely the authority which has to decide whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not ought to have some power to deal with this question. I do not know what is the view of the noble Marquess or others behind me, but I fully accept the definition of the Prime Minister, only I wish to observe that there is no such definition in the Bill. And if the Government are really sincere in their desire to stop tacking, why is not some provision to carry out the Prime Minister's avowed intention introduced into the Bill itself? In the absence of any such provision it appears to me that there is no guarantee whatever that extraneous provisions dealing with social and political subjects, which the Prime Minister has himself condemned, may not be introduced into a Money Bill.
The danger is by no means imaginary. I would remind your Lordships that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who occasionally expresses the views of the Government with a frankness that must be almost embarrassing to some of his more reticent colleagues, the other day used language almost tantamount to boasting that the famous Budget of 1909 was really not a Money Bill at all, but something else. He said that the Budget contained—
a series of proposals which embodied much of the Liberal plan for dealing with social problems which concern statesmen throughout the world.
I venture to suggest that a Bill which deals with social problems which concern statesmen throughout the world is not a Money Bill strictly speaking, but a Bill which ought to come within the category of general
legislation. Surely in these circumstances the deciding body ought to have some specific authority to go into the question and say whether a Bill is a Money Bill properly so called, or whether it deals with social or political problems and other extraneous matters which the Prime Minister himself wishes to exclude. In the absence of any such provision we shall, whatever may be the Government's declaration, drift into what will really be single-Chamber government pure and simple, because the Government will be able to introduce into a Bill which is avowedly a Money Bill, without any sort of control by a Second Chamber, proposals for dealing with social and political subjects of a far-reaching character. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 11, after ("them") insert ("but if in the opinion of the Joint Committee, the governing purpose of a Bill, or of any portion of a Bill, is such as to bring the Bill within the category of general legislation, the Bill, or such portion thereof as aforesaid, shall be subject to the provisions of section two of this Act").—(The Earl of Cromer.)
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I again say what was said yesterday, that the Government are at one with those who think that tacking is an improper process with a Money Bill, but whenever one gets away from that statement of principle one finds that the whole controversy turns on what is meant by tacking. The noble Earl has a very different idea of tacking from the Prime Minister whom he quoted. The whole essence of the Prime Minister's definition lies in the word "extraneous." The Prime Minister never suggested that a Money Bill was to be devoid or divested of all social or political policy. It is perfectly obvious that with every Government the Budget of the year must embody some policy, and I trust that before the debate on this matter finishes we shall have the benefit of the advice of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, who has had very great experience of these matters. I should like to know whether he will tell us that his Budgets were always devoid of policy. I think I remember many of the Budgets of the noble Viscount in which there was policy, and, if I may say so, in which there was not only properly but necessarily policy. The Budget of the day is part of the political programme of the year, and to take out of it purposes which are political and to say that those purposes may not be the governing purposes in the Budget without bringing 1138 it under the definition of extraneous matters is, I venture to suggest, to make the task of the Chancellor of the Exchequer impossible. The noble Earl referred to the Budget of 1909. That was a very controversial subject, and Heaven forbid that I should venture to discuss it before your Lordships; but the noble Earl let the cat out of the bag as to his views by his reference to it. Whether that Budget was right or wrong, the noble Earl takes hold of it as a Budget which is an illustration of a Money Bill with a governing purpose which amounted to tacking. If that was not what he meant I do not know what he meant. He certainly seemed to me to imply that the Budget of 1909 ought to have gone under Clause 2 of this Bill.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
It was the Chancellor of the Exchequer's cat, not mine. I should say that there were certainly some provisions in that Budget which came under the head of general legislation.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
There were in the Budget of 1909 many features which belong to general policy. I should say that the governing purpose of that Budget was to embody policy, and the country certainly thought that it was not improper on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to bring forward that Budget with its far-reaching results on social policy. What is meant by "governing purpose"? If it means that the Finance Bill of the year is not to be the instrument for promoting general policy, then I say that the noble Earl's Amendment, which is directed to effecting that purpose, is one of the most hopeless Amendments that could be brought forward. It is against the whole public sense and the time in which we live. If all that the noble Earl means is that extraneous provisions directed to social and political subjects should be excluded, then I agree. The very fact that they are extraneous shows that they are tacking.
What was the origin of the protest of your Lordships' House against tacking? You said, accepting the terms of the Resolutions which are the Charter of the House of Commons in these matters, that the financial provisions of the year were for the House of Commons, that the financial provisions might be set up in Bills, but that it was wrong to tack on to those 1139 financial Bills extraneous matter which was not really of a financial character. Your Lordships never have contended that the financial provision of the year may not be based on policy and may not have policy as its governing purpose. For instance, in the case of licensing there are provisions in the Budget which are undoubtedly connected with policy. It therefore comes to this—that to accept this Amendment would be enormously to limit what has been hitherto understood as the power of the House of Commons in regard to financial measures, to put back the hands of the clock, to throw back the history of our Constitution, to revive the controversies of 1860 and the Resolutions which followed on them in the next year, and to make the task of a modern Chancellor of the Exchequer something very different from what we have been accustomed to see.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, a most alarming idea has entered into my mind after listening to the noble Viscount. We know that the policy of the Government is to grant Home Rule to Ireland. I should like to ask whether the inclusion of a sum of money in a Home Rule Bill for setting up an Irish Parliament would come under the question of tacking or extraneous matter.
THE EARL OF MAYO
That is a very satisfactory answer, because otherwise a Home Rule Bill might be treated as a Money Bill and passed immediately, whereas there is a chance, after the admission of the noble Viscount, of its being before the country for two years. I am glad that the noble Viscount considers that granting money under a Home Rule Bill would be tacking.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
My Lords, the noble Viscount opposite made such a direct appeal to me that, as on this matter my view in not quite in accordance with the view of those among whom I sit, I ask the Committee to pardon me while I make a few observations on the subject. I do think that there ought to
1140 be something beyond the ipse dixit of the noble Viscount opposite, valuable as that is, to safeguard this House against the abuse of tacking. There is a well-known Resolution under which your Lordships long ago protested against anything "foreign to or different from" a Budget being added to a Budget, and I should have thought it would have been possible in some way to have embodied that protest as an Amendment in this clause. But I confess I do see some very practical objections to the Amendment which has been proposed by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches, and I will endeavour to state them to your Lordships.
It must be remembered, in the first place, that the tribunal to which will be entrusted the carrying out of this clause will have to interpret it quite irrespective of the merits of the Bill which will come under its purview. It may be a Bill like the Budget of 1909, to which reference has been already made, which contained provisions, which, in the opinion of many, exceeded the proper provisions of a Budget. It may be, on the other hand, much more of an ordinary Budget, such as the Budgets to which the noble Viscount referred and which I had the honour of introducing in the House of Commons, and yet it might come within the purview of the noble Earl's Amendment. Let me take one of my Budgets. In the last year of the South African War I had to find a considerable amount of money by the imposition of new taxes. Among those taxes I imposed the Corn Duty. I imposed it, as I think is pretty obvious now, solely for the purpose of raising revenue, but the Opposition of that day were almost unanimous, in protesting that the tax was not imposed for the purpose of raising revenue, but as a first step in the direction of Protection. Think what would have been said to and felt by the members of the Committee who might have had to decide the "governing purpose" of that Budget. I think those who were opposed to it in political opinion might very possibly have felt strongly that its "governing purpose" was such as to bring it outside the category of Money Bills. Others, like myself, certainly would have held a very different view, and I do not know how the Committee would have decided. The noble Earl is thinking solely in this Amendment of the possibilities of taxation. He is thinking of taxing Bills which 1141 might contain something beyond mere proposals of taxation, something calculated, according to what has been said, to tax property owners of one kind or another almost out of existence, and to utilise a Budget, not for the ordinary purpose of raising revenue, but for the purpose of revenge or for some equally bad design against, some part of the community.
§ VISCOUNT ST. ALDWYN
But consider a different class of Money Bill—a Bill for raising a loan. I have been responsible in my time for not a few Loan Bills—Loan Bills for naval works, for military works, for the purchase of the Royal Niger Company's undertaking, and for the making of the Uganda Railway. What was the governing purpose of any one of those Bills? The governing purpose of a Naval Works Bill, for example, was not merely to raise money but to provide docks, harbours, or what not for strengthening our Navy. The governing purpose of a Military Works Bill was not merely to raise money, but to provide barracks and in other ways strengthen the Army. What was the governing purpose of the Bill for the purchase of the Royal Niger Company's undertaking? Why, to prevent international complications in the West of Africa, a matter of very high policy indeed. We had to raise the money for that purpose through a Loan Bill. What was the governing purpose of the Uganda Railway Loan Bill? That was a new departure in high Colonial policy of the greatest importance, and a departure which bids fair to prove the greatest success, perhaps, of almost anything of the kind this country has undertaken. Does the noble Earl on the Cross Benches intend that his provision shall apply to Bills of the kind I have stated, because if he does I do not think it is a justifiable proposition.
What has been the history of Bills of that sort? They have always been passed with more or less debate through the House of Commons, and when they have come up to your Lordships' House they have been treated as practically unopposed measures. Sometimes there has been debate and different opinions have been expressed, 1142 but never, so far as I know, has there been an attempt to amend or throw out one Bill of that sort in your Lordships' House. Some may say there is no harm in relegating Bills of this character to the position of ordinary legislation; but why should we interfere with the recognised position of such Bills, on which this House has never, I believe, had a Division, and ask for a power for this House in dealing with these matters which it has never yet exercised and which I do not believe it desires to exercise at all? I should be glad to support a proposal such as I have ventured to hint at for amending this clause so as to prevent tacking, of which I do see some danger, in the ordinary Budget of the year; but I do feel that what I have endeavoured to put before the Committee is so strong an argument against the noble Earl's Amendment that I for one would be quite unable to support it.
My Lords, I feel very much in sympathy with what the noble Viscount has just said, and I wish to indicate one or two reasons why this Amendment is not acceptable, and why, nevertheless, there is matter for consideration in connection with the clause at a later stage when we come to Report. It seems to me that the whole confusion in the noble Earl's mind is between motive and effect. We are not concerned with the motives of legislators. The motives of legislators in their financial policy are political and general and not purely financial, and all through all Budgets there is more or less an underlying political motive. The readjustment of taxation is intended not merely to raise taxation, but to shift the burden, as the statesmen of the day may think more equitable, on the shoulders of various classes. The effect of this Amendment would be to put an impossible burden upon the fairness and impartiality of the tribunal you propose to set up. Such a tribunal as the noble Viscount suggested would give a fair decision on the question of fact. But you are now substituting something else for fact and going into the region of opinion. It is obvious that this new tribunal which you are setting up will be thrown on their own predilections and preferences, and the result will be accidental according to the temporary predominance of one Party or another in that Committee, and to suppose that the House of Commons will submit to that is quite absurd.
1143 By this Amendment you are proposing very greatly to alter the balance of the Constitution in a reactionary sense. It is admitted now that the House of Lords cannot amend a Finance Bill. It is admitted in practice that the House of Lords cannot throw out the finance of the year. What did the late Lord Salisbury say when he was dealing with Sir William Harcourt's Death Duties Budget, which created great irritation in this House? Though he disliked it as much as any one and used every argument he could to disparage and throw contempt on the composition of the House of Commons majority, yet, after he had done all that, he advised your Lordships not to meddle with it, because he said—If you attack the finance of the year without being able to remove the Government which is responsible, you dislocate and make a deadlock in all government.That was the opinion of a statesman, and every one knows that by the theory and practice of the Constitution the legal rights of your Lordships' House in the matter of finance are obsolescent or dead. When the question of Life Peerages was before this House, Lord Derby said he would not look at any precedent older than 1688. I think that in this question new precedents are the best, and certainly in regard to the relations between the Lords and the Commons on the question of finance the precedents of the last 200 years are worth more than any precedents of an earlier period. But you are now proposing to go back far beyond 200 years. I say very strongly that it is a vicious principle to try to go behind the direct operation of a Bill in order to ascertain the motives of its framers; and it is also an objectionable thing to try to set up in the region of motive and intention what I must call a scratch tribunal of no authority which is to override the historic position of the House of Commons.
May I now say a word as to this clause, itself, because while I feel that the noble Earl's Amendment is quite intolerable, I think before we have done with this Bill we shall want a little information and elucidation as to what the exact operation of the clause would be if it became law. The noble Marquess opposite said that noble Lords on this side laid great stress on the word "only." I, too, lay great stress on the word "only," but I do not see myself how the whole of this clause might be construed.
1144 It is vital that the annual finance of the year should be protected from any invasion such as we experienced a couple of years ago. Then, again, the Loan Bills to which the noble Viscount referred are essential to the carrying on of the work of the country. I feel myself, assuming, of course, that this Parliament Bill becomes law, that the powers of this House will be cut down for all purposes, except merely to provisionally arrest the progress of a Bill, which arrest will come to an end if the House of Commons is of the same mind after two or three years. If that absolute blow is to be struck at the permanent power of rejection of this House, it may be well to allow the House a little indulgence and latitude with regard to some measures as to your Lordships' power of immediate criticism. I will take one Act as illustrating my meaning. I think most people will feel that the old age pensions scheme, though based on finance, was a Bill of great legislation not necessary to the annual administration of the country—a step of comprehensive social adjustment. We were told that it was not competent for this House to deal with it as it was a Money Bill, and I repeat that I think there ought to be some latitude allowed to your Lordships with regard to such measures, especially as you will have to give way to the permanent opinion of the other House in a couple of years.
I say the same with regard to the National Insurance Bill. That will be a mixed Bill, partly resting on rates and partly on taxes. There is a concession to the Second Chamber in this Bill. A question involving the rates, which hitherto has been considered a matter of privilege in the House of Commons, is to be thrown open to your Lordships' House, but I cannot help feeling that it would be reasonable in measures of this sort—and I draw a great distinction between measures necessary for carrying on the government of the country and domestic measures which are not urgent for one year, or perhaps for the second year—that some indulgence ought to be shown to this House with regard to their power of debating and amending such measures. At present the whole power of the House of Commons to insist upon its control of finance rests upon long admitted privilege which is recognised as a Constitutional fact. But it is also recognised that the House of Commons, when it pleases, may waive 1145 that privilege, and there have been plenty of cases where the House of Commons has waived its privilege, and there have been cases where it has not only waived its privilege in individual cases but in regard to a whole class of Bills. I do not need to trouble the House with illustrations. But if this Bill passes in its present form the House of Commons will be in a slightly different position. Its rights will no longer rest on privilege which it can waive, but upon Statute which it cannot waive. The moment a thing is in fact held to be a matter of finance—it may be some very small matter—it will be impossible for the House of Commons to waive its privilege, and although every statesman would wish an opportunity for free discussion in both Houses, such a Bill would come up here and this House would be absolutely muzzled.
Take a question which is a general political question of the greatest interest to every one, but which cannot be said to be for the necessary administration of the country—I refer to the question of education, which has created such strong interest and raised the passions of all sorts of people in the country. Any Bill dealing with education necessarily must have a great deal of finance in it. All the education Bills have had finance in them. Yet I cannot help thinking that it would be a pity if this House, or whatever House takes its place, was not at liberty to discuss an Education Bill fully and freely, and, if it should not agree with it, to make it stand over for a year or two. There is an immense difference between a House with a suspensory Veto and a House with a power of absolute rejection. I agree it is a very difficult thing to put words into a clause which may not go further than your intention, and which may not shut out things which you do not wish shut out and abstain from letting in things which you wish let in. I believe this clause follows strictly the practice and privileges of the House of Commons, except that it excepts rates, which hitherto have not been excepted. I do not think any one will deny that this is an honest reproduction of the practice of Parliament.
But, if you read this clause, you will find that it deals with the imposition, repeal, remission, alteration, or regulation of taxation. That is clearly finance. Then there is the imposition, for the 1146 payment of debt or other financial purposes, of charges on the Consolidated Fund. I do not quite know how far the words "or other financial purposes" are meant to go. If you take such a Bill as the Voluntary Aid Schools Bill of 1897, that would be considered an appropriation of money to some other financial purposes. In fact, we know that on that occasion the noble and learned Lord the late Lord Chancellor at once cut in, before discussion began in Committee, and warned the House that it was a matter of privilege of the House of Commons which they must not touch, and the noble Earl, Lord Camperdown, said on that occasion—Is this a precedent? If it is, I greatly fear the day will shortly come when we shall deeply regret it.Then again the noble Lord who was formerly Lord Chancellor of Ireland as well as Lord Halsbury, on the occasion of one of those Bills that were always coming up—an Irish Land Bill—warned the mover of an Amendment that he could not press his Amendment because it was an infringement of the privileges of the House of Commons. I do not quote what I call House of Commons people, but cases where eminent leaders of the Conservative Party have very peremptorily asserted the rights of the House of Commons when they thought it convenient. Therefore we are face to face at present with precedents. I think that both the late Lord Kimberley and the late Lord Spencer were anxious to move Amendments on the Voluntary Schools Aid Bill, and the late Lord Herschell only gave a hesitating assent to Lord Halsbury's ruling on the question of privilege. I speak in no contentious spirit, because I support this Bill thoroughly and am anxious to see it become law substantially in its present form; but I think the Government, if they are sure of accomplishing their main purpose, would not wish to deprive this House of such reasonable opportunities of discussion as under the changed circumstances every one must desire they should possess. Therefore while heartily agreeing with the noble Viscount and strenuously opposing the Amendment of the noble Earl, I hope that what I have thrown out may not be entirely neglected at a later stage of the Bill with reference to matters of general and not financial legislation. I cannot help thinking that measures such as I have indicated—the Education Bill and the Old Age Pensions Bill—were the sort of Bills 1147 which the Prime Minister had in his mind when he contemplated that there should be free discussion of measures outside the scope of finance and mainly of a general social character.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, there is one remarkable point of agreement in the speeches which have been made on this Amendment. We understand that His Majesty's Government and the noble Lord who has just sat down agree with us that your Lordships have a right to discuss any purely political subject and all questions of policy, although it is contended on the other side of the House that finance is to be taken entirely out of our purview for the future. How far does the Bill as it stands give us the control or even the opportunity of proper discussion, of policy as compared with finance? The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War used rather strong language with regard to the effect of this Amendment. He said it would enormously limit the power hitherto exercised by the House of Commons, that it would put back the hands of the clock. What does that really amount to? As far as I know it only amounts to this, that under the clause there are a certain number of measures, some of which were enumerated by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, which, being matters of policy and involving finance, could previously have been rejected by this House, and could under the Amendment of Lord Cromer be discussed, amended and rejected by this House. There is nothing else which by the wording we are now discussing is taken from the House of Commons. Let us be quite clear on this point. Whereas the great majority of finance measures are by this Amendment entirely taken out of our hands, there are a certain number of measures, of which the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, gave us a category, which could under this Amendment be amended as well as rejected by this House. Is not that rather a small change on which to found so great a statement as that of the Secretary for War that we are putting back the hands of the clock and seriously limiting the power of the House of Commons?
I should like to put the other side of the argument. Of course it may be possible—and I will ask the Government a question on that in a moment—to find a way by which these measures should stand as they
1148 do now, and I contend that they ought to stand as they do now. My noble friend said the Uganda Railway Bill, the Niger Company Bill, the great Bills for military works, were Bills of high policy. So they are, and they ought to be discussed by your Lordships' House. It may be that it is right that we should not be able to vary the charge imposed by the House of Commons, but to say that measures of that description are outside the purview of this House would be enormously to limit the usefulness of this House, and I speak from an experience of the carrying of those very measures, two out of four, which the noble Lord mentioned. The criticism which they received in this House very materially affected the carrying out of those measures, and that criticism would become altogether ineffective if the carrying of these measures in this House were a foregone conclusion. It is quite true, as the noble Viscount said, that no such measure had ever been rejected by this House; but has such a measure ever been rejected by the House of Commons? No. Any measure dealing with such a subject can usually depend on the support of both Houses. But I think it would be unwise if we were entirely to debar this House on matters of high policy from that opportunity of discussion which it has hitherto enjoyed.
But is there not a much greater danger under the clause as it stands of tacking? My noble friend Lord Mayo alluded to the possible carrying of a measure effecting Home Rule for Ireland under this clause. We had a reassuring obiter dictum from the Secretary of State for War on that point, but he, unluckily, is not the man who will decide the point. Supposing a measure is brought forward which hands over the power of raising certain taxation to a body in Ireland, will not that be a financial measure? Will the Speaker of the House of Commons tell us that is not a financial measure? Supposing a fund were to be appropriated for certain Irish purposes, will not that be an Appropriation Bill? Unquestionably it will. Is it beyond the ingenuity of a draftsman to give an authority for ladling out those funds which might, even under the words adopted a few moments ago, come under "subordinate matters incidental to the provisions of such Bill"? There is very great danger, I submit, of tacking under the Bill. I do not say that any Government 1149 would so obviously misinterpret the intentions of Parliament and go so far beyond their own professions as to endeavour to carry Home Rule under this measure, but I submit to your Lordships that there is great danger that they would endeavour to deal with the revenues of the Church in a manner which might be fatal to the Church. Members of this Government have threatened that they would so use their power of taxation as to produce a complete social change in licensing and in the habits of the people by taxing the present licence-holders out of existence. That is one proposal and there are others that occur to us, and I do not think we should pass this clause without some safeguard.
I venture to lay down, and I believe I am absolutely within the scope and the four corners of the Amendment in saying so, that there is nothing taken from the House of Commons by this Amendment except in the final words which bring any financial measure which is of general policy within the power of this House to amend as well as to reject. I do not know whether my noble friend would be willing to make a concession on that point. The questions I would ask the Government are, first, Are they willing to allow this House with regard to measures of high policy the same power of rejection which it has had heretofore, although finance is involved; and, secondly, Are they prepared themselves to admit some such words as my noble friend Lord Cromer proposes to prevent tacking in a manner which might seriously affect various institutions in the country?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I think the speech which your Lordships have just heard will show to the House the very grave realities we have to deal with in this debate. When the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, brought forward his Amendment he treated, quite properly if I may say so, his three Amendments as hanging together as part of a scheme. Your Lordships have already adopted one. When I was criticising the first, I ventured to criticise the group as a consistent whole, which is the only way of effectually debating any Amendments to a Bill. I ventured to point out that, taken together, these Amendments constituted a greater invasion of the rights and privileges of the House of Commons in regard to Money Bills than anything that had hitherto been 1150 proposed. The noble Viscount who has just sat down told us that the power of the House of Commons had increased, was increasing, and ought to be diminished.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
May I interrupt the noble and learned Lord? I said that the pretensions of the House of Commons as regards privilege had increased, were increasing, and ought to be diminished.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is upon privilege that the financial rights of the House of Commons depend, and that most unfortunate expression of the noble Viscount only reflects the attitude which he and his friends are trying—I hope they will not succeed—to induce this House to take. I have been warned off the Budget of 1909, and I will not venture to refer to it. But consider the position we are in. I thought we were dealing with a Bill which was the result of a General Election, of an attempt to strengthen the position of the House of Commons both in regard to finance and other matters; but here we are dealing with the proposition that the power of the House of Commons with regard to privilege—which is finance—has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.
I beg your Lordships to consider the gravity of the situation raised by that attitude. Now let me point to this Amendment for a moment. I will try and show its effect by what is, after all, the simplest method—illustration. Let me take the case of a Finance Bill which proposes, among other things, to impose another 3s. 9d. upon spirits. If ever there was a finance provision according to all the interpretation that has ever been put upon Money Bills since Parliament existed, that would be a Money Bill. Surely no one will dispute that. At present no one could say that in clauses of that kind there was anything at all approaching tacking. There has been a complete misconception about tacking. Tacking has been defined by this House itself in the year 1702 or 1703 as something which is "foreign to and different from the matter of such Bill." In the case to which I am referring nobody could suggest that there was tacking. Your Lordships could now by strict law throw out a Finance Bill which contained that provision. You would thereby bring about what the late Lord Salisbury well described 1151 some years ago; you would produce a deadlock and almost frustrate the existence of the Government. The Government could not go on if that kind of thing were done. It was done once, and I think disastrously. Everyone knows that such a Bill as the Finance Bill has really until eighteen months ago never been thrown out by the House of Lords. Now supposing that this Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, were introduced, this could happen in regard to such a Bill. The House of Lords would be entitled by a Resolution to ask the House of Commons to summon the Joint Committee, and then although this was a Money Bill in every sense in which Money Bills have ever been understood in the past, they would ask the Joint Committee whether the governing purpose of the Bill, or at all events of a portion of it, was not such as to bring the Bill within the category of general legislation, and whether it was not desirable to consider whether it was fair to the licensed trade and to consult the licensed trade and the brewers upon it. If the Committee said "Yes," you could throw the Bill out, or you could amend it and deal with it freely in a way which nobody has suggested this House could ever do before.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
According to the words of the Amendment it would only be "such portion thereof." It would not bring the whole Bill under amendment, only that portion of it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It would bring the Bill into Clause 2, and the House of Lords could suspend the Bill for two years. I beg your Lordships to read the words before you commit yourselves to a proposal of this kind. That being the case, the test of tacking is altered altogether. The noble Viscount, in a speech which I think has not been answered and which it would be very difficult indeed to answer, said that he had introduced Loan Bills in the House of Commons under the acknowledged and undisputed privilege of the House. They were Money Bills, and nobody has ever sought to suggest in the long and protracted history of this controversy that the House of Lords could treat those as other than Money Bills. The truth of the matter is that the Amendment is not only enlarging the doctrine of tacking, but substituting something entirely different. The doctrine of tacking meant that you must not take advantage of a Money Bill in order to get
The Lord Chancellor.
1152 something which is quite outside it. That is what tacking was. But this proposal is to give the House of Lords jurisdiction over a Money Bill when the matter complained of is perfectly germane and, indeed, necessary to the Bill, if this Committee of fourteen gentlemen with the Speaker at their head say that the governing purpose of the Bill is something which brings it within the category of general legislation. That is what I meant yesterday when I suggested to the noble Earl that there has never been an attempt hitherto to make such an invasion on the rights of the House of Commons. Although I am sure that neither he nor the noble Marquess meant it, that is the effect of the proposal, and it has been so demonstrated by the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, one of the greatest living authorities upon such a subject. The House of Commons are very sensitive with regard to Money Bills, because they know perfectly well that a great part of the policy of this country is governed by finance. No one knows better than the noble Earl himself that finance is at the root of government. Finance is the privilege of the House of Commons, and because of that the House of Commons is the supreme power in Parliament. When your Lordships lay hands upon what I may call the Ark of the Covenant the House of Commons is sensitive to the last degree.
Some of your Lordships may have read the report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons which sat in the year 1860 after the famous dispute about the Paper Duties. That Committee consisted of the most eminent men of the day on both sides of the House of Commons—Gladstone, Russell, Palmerston, Disraeli, Bright, and other famous names. They tell the whole history of this subject in a way which is indeed instructive, and they show the sensitiveness—almost unparalleled in any other department of the State—of the House of Commons with regard to finance. And for this very reason, that finance is the root of policy. There are many Bills which your Lordships may throw out which have nothing to do with money. But when you say that the test should be whether a matter ought to be a matter for general legislation, you really are taking a step of which I think—complicated, difficult, and troublesome as this question is—your Lordships do not quite realise the extent and depth. 1153 What does it mean? It means an absolute defiance. I am sure the noble Marquess does not so intend it, but if he will try and look at it from the point of view that I have endeavoured to present—and if he thinks I have exaggerated let him recall what Lord St. Aldwyn said—he will realise the serious position raised for the House by this group of Amendments, the first of which, unfortunately—I hope not irreparably—your Lordships have adopted. How after the history of the Parliament Bill a claim of this kind can be advanced. I beg respectfully to say really passes my understanding.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord who has just addressed us truly said that the matter which we are discussing this evening is one of grave reality. We recognise its grave reality on this side of the House, and in the very few words which I wish to address to your Lordships I desire to make clear what the particular danger is against which we desire that this House should be safeguarded. The Lord Chancellor devoted a considerable part of his observations to an account of tacking as he understood it and as defined by the famous Resolution of the year 1702. As your Lordships are well aware, that kind of tacking occurs when to a financial measure is attached some other matter which is extraneous and foreign to the substance of the measure, and which is obviously grafted on to the financial Bill in order to make it easier for the Government of the day to carry it through Parliament. We fully recognise that that kind of tacking has to be provided against. But in our view that is very far indeed from covering the whole ground. There is another kind of tacking which to our minds is much more insidious and dangerous. It occurs when you are confronted with a Bill which is beyond all dispute a Bill dealing with finance, but of which the ulterior objects and consequences are not by any means of a financial character but of a character which I think the noble and learned Lord described as political. It is against both of those kinds of tacking that we desire to introduce safeguards.
I am well aware how difficult it is to find a satisfactory definition of the second kind of tacking to which I have referred, but in our view some definition is certainly needed. We are ready to discuss with an open mind the terms of that definition, but we feel that the danger is a real one and that we 1154 must interpose some safeguards against it. Surely it is the case that there must always be, between the region of pure finance and that which is not pure finance, a kind of indefinite zone—a zone, if one may pursue the analogy of a frontier question further, which might be claimed by one neighbour or by another. What His Majesty's Government desire is to say that, although there may be an adjacent region which might fairly and reasonably be claimed either by the one side or by the other, it is the House of Commons and the House of Commons alone which is to decide whom that intermediate zone is to belong to. That, in our view, is not fair play as between the two Houses. We suggest that there should be in this Bill, in the first place, a broad and general indication of the kind of limits which you desire to assign to the region of pure finance; in the next place, we desire to have a tribunal which shall interpret that definition when you have provided us with it. I thought the noble and learned Lord fell into a mistake when he told us that the Committee which we desire to set up would be called upon to say—I think the instance he put was the case of a Licensing Bill—whether the Licensing Bill was fair to the holders of licensed premises or not.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I did not mean to say that, and I was wrong if I said that. What I meant to say was that the Committee would be called upon to say whether the governing purpose of a Bill was general legislation or not.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The noble Lord will forgive me, but that is not what he did say. It will not be the duty of the Committee to deal with the question of fairness or unfairness. They will simply have to decide whether a measure does or does not fall within the region of pure finance. My Lords, to us the importance of this matter is immense, because, pray do not let us forget, this Bill completely alters the Constitutional position of your Lordships' House with regard to finance. At this moment we have the legal right, not only of discussing financial Bills, but of rejecting them. I know the noble and learned Lord says that it is unconstitutional for us to reject them, but we have the right; and do not let us forget Mr. Gladstone's famous dictum that the House of Lords might even do well to retain its right even of amending financial 1155 Bills. I do not press that now, but in the case of one of these mixed Bills which I am endeavouring to describe we have at present undoubtedly the right, not only of discussing the Bill, but of adhering to our objections to it, and, if necessary, rejecting it and bringing about a deadlock. This Bill puts an end to that entirely. It rules us out ab initio from any right to discuss, for more than a few hours, or days at the outside, any Bill covered by the immensely wide definition contained in this first clause, and it substitutes for the elastic procedure to which we are used an absolutely rigid rule stripping us absolutely of all our powers of dealing with this great branch of legislation. Therefore I say the words of this definition are to us of absolutely vital moment.
We on this Bench do not desire to insist overmuch upon our words and are ready to consider other words if noble Lords opposite wish to suggest them. But I ask the House to notice this, that Ministers themselves have again and again admitted the necessity of taking some precautions against that second form of tacking which I described to your Lordships a moment ago. An interesting speech was delivered a few minutes ago by the noble Lord, Lord Sheffield. He made it perfectly clear that in his view this Bill went a great deal too far in depriving your Lordships of an opportunity of discussing measures financial in form but more than financial in substance. Great importance was attached, and rightly attached, by the noble and learned Lord to what was said by my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn. I understand that Lord St. Aldwyn does not like the words proposed by my noble friend on the Cross Benches. I repeat that we are not obstinate as to the selection of the words, and it may be possible that we can discover better words. But I do wish, in justice to my noble friend who moved the Amendment, to say something in defence of the particular formula which he has suggested—I mean the formula in which the expression "governing purpose" occurs. The Prime Minister delivered, in the House of Commons on April 11, a remarkable speech dealing with the whole of this question of the necessity of treating matters of finance differently from matters involving ordinary legislation. Throughout that speech the expression "governing purpose" occurs
The Marquess of Lansdowne.
1156 again and again. I see the noble Viscount looking at his Hansard. The page is 258, Volume 24. The Prime Minister cites the Poor Law Bill of 1834, the Education Bills of 1902 and 1906, and he says with regard to those measures—The substantial governing purpose [of these Bills] was not financial, but some larger or social policy, though, for the purpose of carrying that policy out, they contained incidentally financial provisions.There the expression "governing purpose" is used, it seems to us, most appropriately, and I am not surprised that my noble friend should have annexed it. But I will read another passage lower down in the same speech which I think is even more remarkable. This is what Mr. Asquith said—The criterion here is not whether an Amendment made by the House of Lords to a Bill is a technical infringement of the privileges of this House. Amendments of that kind would not fall within our definition. We are dealing here with Bills which are financial Bills, as I have already said, in the strict literal and full sense of that term, and—I would draw particular attention to this—the test whether a Bill is a financial Bill or not is whether that is its main governing purpose.There is, therefore, ample authority for the phraseology of my noble friend. What follows is very important. That is the Prime Minister's way of dealing with financial Bills of which the governing purpose might be other than financial. But then he goes on—It is intended further by this clause to prevent the House of Commons taking advantage of this procedure for the purpose of what is called tacking or annexing to a Bill which is financial in its character provisions which are extraneous and not incidental to its financial purpose.There you have, it seems to me, in the clearest language possible a perfectly explicit description of the two different kinds of tacking which it is necessary to guard against, and if I did not wish to avoid wearying the House with quotations I could quote an expression of the Home Secretary's on the Report stage when he repeated Mr. Asquith's language in equally precise terms. I have said enough, I hope, to show that my noble friend on the Cross Benches is at any rate to be excused if he has taken for the purpose of his Amendment the actual language of the Prime Minister. As I have already said, if it comes to a question of words we are 1157 ready to discuss the words with noble Lords opposite, but some effective precaution is necessary in order to guard both against tacking in the technical sense of the word and also against the larger and more dangerous tacking which I have endeavoured to describe. Of that we are quite satisfied, and we shall press for the addition of some such words to the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I should like, with the permission of your Lordships, to enforce upon the Government the point made by my noble friend behind me, and which apparently they were not going to try and answer. They agree that tacking is a reprehensible practice which should be prevented, but they define tacking only in a sense which excludes what we call "moral tacking." The Lord Chancellor made a very impressive speech, but I wish your Lordships to observe that he very carefully refrained from touching the point of our contention. He took every opportunity of expressing agreement with my noble friend behind me, but he very carefully ignored the criticism of my noble friend in which he said that some change in the words of this clause was necessary. Let us take a concrete case, and ask the Government exactly what they do intend. Suppose in a purely financial Bill there was a provision for taxing every railway dividend in this country at 20s. in the pound. That is a purely financial provision, and the equilibrium of the Budget of the year might depend on this railway taxation. But everybody would know that the real object of the tax was not to raise money but to nationalise the railways. Is that a measure which should be in the power of the House of Commons alone to deal with, and in regard to which the Second Chamber ought to be precluded from having any power of intervention? The same principle might be used to deal with land. It would be very easy to nationalise the land by the simple process of taxation. Is that legitimate and pure finance? Or, again, the Church of England might be practically denuded by means of taxation in a Finance Bill. Would that be pure finance? Do the Government intend that such provisions as those should be within the purview of the House of Commons alone? From what he said just now, I understand Lord Sheffield does not think that those are provisions which should be 1158 taken away from the purview of this House. But the Government have very carefully avoided coming to the point. They have not answered this question. Do they intend that no kind of restraint is to be put on the power of the House of Commons to deal with all the property of this country by means of taxation, and bring about any social or political change by means of taxation alone? If that is not the intention of the Government—and I do not think it is, judging from what their spokesmen said in the House of Commons—then can they show us that this Bill makes provision against such a thing? But if they do intend it, then surely it is just as well that owners of every kind of property in this country should understand that that is the policy of the Government.
When we came forward and offered, so far as we were concerned, to abandon our power of rejection of an ordinary Finance Bill, we did it only because we wished and hoped that a line would be drawn between an ordinary Finance Bill and a Bill bringing about vast political and social revolutions. If the Government tell us that it is impossible to make such a distinction, if they decline to bring forward words to make a distinction between pure finance and these great changes which might be brought about under the guise of finance, then certainly as far as I am concerned I take my stand on the old position, and am not prepared to meet the Government by giving up the power that this House now possesses. I would take my stand on the provisions which the Government themselves introduced into the Constitution of the Transvaal only four years ago—provisions by which the Second Chamber, although not allowed to amend, was given power to reject financial proposals. Our offer was made in the bona fide hope that a line could be drawn between these two classes of financial measures, and it is up to the Government either to show us that the dangers I have endeavoured to portray and to which my noble friend has so clearly drawn your Lordships' attention do not really exist, or, if they cannot show that, to help us to bring forward words which will avoid the criticism they have made on the words of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches and which will carry out what they profess to be their intention. Speaking only for myself, I want to make it perfectly plain to the Government that, 1159 if they cannot do that, I revert to the position we held before these debates began, that no Second Chamber ought to have less powers in matters of finance than those which the present Government gave to the Transvaal four years ago.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, two speeches which have been delivered within the last hour have been of peculiar interest—the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, and the speech of the noble Earl who has just sat down—because in both cases when you follow out what is in the minds of the speakers you find an attempt to set up something very different from the relation between the two Houses of Parliament which exists at the present time in regard to finance.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
The noble Earl is asking for a definition to be inserted and a clause to be added which, as was shown by Lord St. Aldwyn, would certainly carry control of policy and taxation far further than it exists at the present time. The noble Earl quoted the case of the Transvaal Constitution, but that is a case of a written Constitution where the sovereignty between the two Chambers is adjusted and where there is very little analogy to the case which we have to deal with here. We are now dealing with the position of the House of Commons under an unwritten Constitution—a position in which the House of Commons has asserted hitherto, and asserted successfully, its right to control the financial policy of the year. That unbroken right had not been challenged until there came the disastrous year 1909, when this House expressed its opinion upon the question which the noble Earl has put forward. The Government by this Bill have stereotyped what they believe to be the true position, the position as affirmed by the country in the election which followed the 1909 Budget, and in the election which followed that. The position of the Government is that they desire to stereotype the true view, and not the false view, in regard to finance, and they consider that the view which the noble Earl has put forward is a view which has been falsified not only by the judgment of the constituencies but by the practice of your
The Earl of Selborne.
1160 Lordships' House. What the noble Earl really desires is to set up new privileges for the House of Lords which it has not hitherto possessed, and what we desire is to restrict that intention.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
If the noble Viscount is referring to myself, I beg to give a most emphatic denial to that statement.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
No, I was referring to the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. But I have a word for the noble Earl himself also. His proposal, as Lord St. Aldwyn and other speakers have shown, goes further than any power which this House has hitherto had. His words would give this House power over the general policy embodied in the Budget, and take it away from the House of Commons. Certainly there is now no power in your Lordships' House to amend a Budget Bill. Certainly it is very doubtful whether a Budget Bill will ever again be rejected. We do not know. It may be. I hope not. But the wording which the noble Earl has proposed goes far beyond the position as it has been up to the present time, because in express terms it leaves it to this statutory Joint Committee to, if it pleases, subject the policy of the Budget of the year to the control of this House in a way that that control has never been exercised before. If the governing purpose is, in the view of that Committee, something which goes beyond mere finance, then the Bill is taken away from Clause 1—in other words, the Budget of the year is to be treated under this Amendment as it never has been treated hitherto. And notwithstanding the studiously moderate and careful speech of the Leader of the Opposition, who puts his case far more carefully, I could not help noticing even in his case a desire to go beyond the doctrine against tacking as it has obtained up to the present time, and to introduce something—he did not tell us how it was to be defined—which would interfere with the sovereignty of the House of Commons and destroy the position which that House has hitherto occupied.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I rise to say one word on behalf of the Bench on which I sit to remove a misapprehension which I think the noble Viscount has tried to fasten upon the House. It is emphatically not the case that by 1161 this Amendment any one on this Bench has tried to claim for this House any financial prerogatives greater than those which it has enjoyed in the past. The noble Earl, Lord Cromer, who is responsible for this Amendment, has already made that disclaimer on his own behalf, but I should not like the disclaimer to be limited to the Cross Benches. I should like it to be made also on behalf of those who sit on these Benches. Instead of seeking to obtain any greater power than we at present: enjoy, instead of seeking to derogate from the financial supremacy of the House of Commons, we are really only asking the Government to assist us in the solution of a difficulty the full measure of which they have themselves acknowledged. The noble Viscount, I think, used the words "moral tacking," or, at any rate, tacking of the nature which we call moral tacking. He said that was a matter which the Government themselves were anxious to safeguard.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I do not accept the phrase "extraneous matters," because I think that relates to the first class of tacking to which the noble Viscount alluded. I refer to the second and more dangerous class—the class of tacking which was clearly contemplated by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons when he used the phrase "governing purpose."
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Yes, he did use the words "extraneous platters," but he clearly distinguished between the two classes. When he used that phrase he was referring to tacking No. 1, and when he used the words "governing purpose" he was referring to tacking No. 2. Will not the Government help us in this matter? The responsibility is theirs. The Bill is theirs. The difficulty is one they have admitted. I do not mind their saying that our draftsmanship on this side of the House is extremely clumsy, but I ask them, will they not come to our help? I make the suggestion in all seriousness. When this matter was discussed in the House of Commons, not precisely on this 1162 Amendment but on an Amendment analogous to it, no one admitted more readily the gravity of the case and the necessity of meeting it than the Prime Minister. My recollection of his speeches is that he said, "This matter ought to be provided against; you have suggested certain words to us; we think your words are bad; we think they go beyond what you yourselves desire to claim; we only adhere to our own words which appear in the Bill because so far nothing better has been produced in their place."
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I believe I am correct, and I think I could provide the noble and learned Earl with the reference. But I only rose to make a disclaimer, and have not the materials before me at the moment. But, my Lords, has not the substance of all the speeches that we have heard been that there is something against which we all want to provide? The noble Lord, Lord Sheffield, clearly made that admission, and the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn—whose criticisms upon this Amendment have received much more attention and applause from the other side than his criticisms of the proposals of His Majesty's Government—certainly admitted that something was necessary, but said he did not quite like the present form of words. It seems that we are really in a position in which the agreement between the two sides of the House is rather greater than the difference; and if at the present moment words cannot be suggested which will satisfy my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn and those who agree with him, may we not hope that at a later stage of the Bill such words may be found? And may we not ask noble Lords opposite to exert their inventive ability in assisting us to find those words? If His Majesty's Government are themselves willing to help us I am sure there is no one on this side of the House who would not be extremely grateful to them.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, the most remarkable feature in this debate has been that, although my Amendment has met with a good deal of criticism from the other side, not a single noble Lord opposite has stood up to defend the 1163 proposals of the Government. After all, that is the main thing. It appears to me that noble Lords opposite are putting upon us a duty and responsibility which they have no right to put upon us. They bring forward a Bill which even their own supporters admit is open to very great objections. It is for them to find a way out of the difficulty, and not for us. I dare say the Amendment is open to considerable objection. I was very much struck by what the noble Viscount (Lord St. Aldwyn), who speaks with so much authority on financial matters, said. I wish, however, to repeat the denial I gave when the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War was speaking, that certainly it was not in the least the intention of this Amendment to extend the powers of the House of Lords in any degree. I said most plainly yesterday that I accepted entirely as my point of departure the Resolution which was moved by the noble Marquess last November. I have not got it here to
§ The Earl of Cromer.1164
§ quote, but it really abandons the financial power of the House of Lords. All I wanted to guard against was the evil which may arise from tacking, and although noble Lords have spoken very strongly about the difficulty which may arise under my Amendment, they have not said a single word about the evils which may arise under their own proposals. In the circumstances I quite understand that the Amendment I propose cannot pass into law in its present form, but nevertheless, in order to assert the principle, and reserving the right of bringing forward some amended form of words when we get to Report stage. I shall ask your Lordships to give an opinion upon the Amendment as it now stands.
§ On Question, that the words proposed be here inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 192; Not-contents, 48.1165
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Harrowby, E.||Knutsford, V.|
|Bedford, D.||Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.)||Llandaff, V.|
|Devonshire, D.||Lauderdale, E.||Portman, V.|
|Manchester, D.||Levan and Melville, E.|
|Northumberland, D.||Lindsey, E.|
|Portland, D.||Londesborough, E.||Peterborough, L. Bp.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Lovelace, E.||St. David's L. Bp.|
|Somerset, D.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Sutherland, D.||Mar, E.||Abinger, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Mar and Kellie, E.||Alington, L.|
|Mayo, E.||Alverstone, L.|
|Abergavenny, M.||Morley, E.||Ampthill, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Morton, E.||Ardilaun, L.|
|Bath, M.||Pembroke and Montgomery, E.||Armstrong, L.|
|Bute, M.||Plymouth, E.||Ashbourne, L.|
|Camden, M.||Powis, E.||Ashtown, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Radnor, E.||Atkinson, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Roberts, E.||Avebury, L.|
|Normandy, M.||Rothes, E.||Bagot, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Saint Germans, E.||Barrymore, L.|
|Winchester, M.||Scarbrough, E.||Basing, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Strange, E. (D. Atholl)||Belper, L.|
|Bandon, E.||Temple, E.||Blythswood, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Bowes, L. (E. Strathmore and Kinghorn.)|
|Camperdown, E.||Verulam, E.|
|Clarendon, E.||Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)|
|Cromer, E.||Westmeath, E.||Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)|
|Dartmouth, E.||Wicklow, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)|
|Darnley, E.||Wilton, E.||Castlemanine, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Churston, L.|
|Derby, E.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.|
|Devon, E.||Cobham, V.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Cross, V.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim)|
|Falkland, V.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Goschen, V.||Clinton, L.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Halifax, V.||Clonbrock, L.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Hardinge, V.||Colchester, L.|
|Guilford, E.||Hood, V.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.||Curzon of Kedleston, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.|
|De Freyne, L.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly)|
|De Manley, L.||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Deramore, L.||Kensington, L.||Rathmore, L.|
|Dinevor, L.||Killanin, L.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Dunalley, L.||Kilmaine, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Dunleath, L.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll)||Revelstoke, L.|
|Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Kinnaird, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Ebury, L.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Sackville, L.|
|Egerton, L.||Knaresborough, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Ellenborough. L.||Langford, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Elphinstone, L.||Lawrence, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Faber, L.||Lurgan, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Farnham, L.||Manners, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Farquhar, L.||Massey, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Forester, L.||Middleton, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Monck, L. (V. Monck.||Stanmore, L.|
|Greville, L.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway)||Stanmore, L.|
|Grey de Ruthyn, L.||Monson, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Gwydyr, L.||Mowbray, L.|
|Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)||Newton, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Harris, L.||North, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Heneage, L.||Northbourne, L.||Tyrone, L. (M. Waterford.)|
|Hindlip, L.||Northcote, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Hylton, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Inchiquin, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)||Ormathwaite, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Loreburn, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Allendale, L.||Lyveden, L.|
|Morley of Blackburn, V.(L. President.)||Armitstead, L.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Marchamley, L.|
|Boston, L.||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Brassey, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Chesterfield, E. (L. Steward.)||Colebrooke, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Spencer, E. (L. Chamberlain.)||Courtney of Penwith, L.||Reay, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Eversley, L.||Robson, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Farrer, L.||St. Davids, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Glantawe, L.||Shaw, L.|
|Craven, E.||Glenconner, L.||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Liverpool, E. [Teller.]||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)||Southwark, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Grimthorpe, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Nelson, E.||Haversham, L.|
|Hemphill, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Herschell, L. [Teller.]||Weardale, L.|
|Haldane, V.||Ilkeston, L.||Welby, L.|
|St. Aldwyn, V.||Lucas, L.||Willingdon, L.|
On Question, Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative.
VISCOUNT GALWAY had an Amendment on the Paper to insert the following new subsection—
(3) The question whether a Bill is a Money Bill within the meaning of this section shall, on a resolution in that behalf being passed by either House of Parliament, be referred forthwith for final decision to the Court of Appeal, and that Court shall, in private deliberation and without submission to it of argument or evidence, determine whether the Bill is a Money Bill within the meaning of this section, and the decision of the Court shall be final and conclusive, and shall be communicated to both Houses of Parliament: Provided that a Judge of that Court who is a member of the House of Lords shall not take part in any proceedings relating to the consideration or decision of any such question.
§ The noble Viscount said: After what has been said it seems to me that it would only cause confusion if I were to move my Amendment now. I therefore ask leave to withdraw it, reserving the right to move it on the Report stage if no satisfactory suggestion is made meanwhile.
§ LORD HYLTON
had on the Paper an Amendment to insert, as a new subsection, the words—(4) No amendment shall be allowed to a Money Bill which, in the opinion of the Speaker of the House of Commons, is such as to prevent the Bill retaining the character of a Money Bill.The noble Lord said: As regards this Amendment I hardly know whether I 1167 shall get much support on this side of the House for it, because it owes its inception, not to my drafting, but to that of His Majesty's Government. At all events, whatever view His Majesty's Ministers may take of this Amendment, they will not be able to find fault with the drafting of it, because it is a provision that appeared in the original draft of the Bill. I suppose there is no doubt that when the Bill was first brought in by His Majesty's Government they recognised that it would be only fair, in view of the enormous additional privileges that would be conferred on the House of Commons exclusively with regard to Money Bills under the new régime, that a subsection should be added to the clause in the terms that appear on the Paper in my name—namely, that no Amendment should be allowed to a Money Bill which, in the opinion of the Speaker of the House of Commons, was such as to prevent the Bill retaining the character of a Money Bill. But when these words came under discussion in the House of Commons, His Majesty's Government announced their intention of withdrawing the subsection altogether. The only reason that was given to the House of Commons for this course was that in the opinion of His Majesty's Ministers it would be more convenient that the matter should be left to be dealt with either by Standing Order or by the Speaker when he thought fit.
I do not know whether any of your Lordships have taken the trouble to read the debates in the House of Commons on this measure, but they are very instructive, I venture to think, for several reasons. One reason is that nearly every argument addressed to the Government for Amendments from the Opposition side of the House was treated with a scant measure of consideration. The answers that were given as a rule, on this point especially, were divided into one or two classes. One answer given by His Majesty's Government was that it was a matter entirely for the consideration of the House of Commons, and that Standing Orders would effectively deal with any difficulty that would arise, or if anybody felt any doubt on the subject they might apply to the Speaker. When a question was put as to how and when the Speaker was to give his opinion on these matters, the answer was given on one occasion, "The Speaker can choose his own time." The Attorney-General stated that an expression of opinion could
1168 be obtained from the Speaker in an informal way, and when invited to describe to the House how an opinion could be thus obtained he replied that he supposed by Members asking Questions on the subject. A member of the Government also said that it was a pity to put the matter into any statutory form, because the Speaker might very well have one opinion at one time and another opinion at another stage. In general the answers that were given by His Majesty's Government in this matter may be practically summed up in the three words, "Wait and see."
I think your Lordships will consider, as I ventured to point out when I moved the previous Amendment on which this hangs, that it is very undesirable if you are going to have a written Constitution that part of it only should be expressed in statutory terms, and that the remainder should be left in this very loose and unsatisfactory condition. It is for these reasons that I beg to move, after subsection (3), the insertion of the new subsection standing in, my name. After what the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition said with regard to the first Amendment I moved this afternoon, and in view of the Amendment by the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, substituting the words "Joint Committee" for "the Speaker," it will be within the recollection of your Lordships that I did not press my first Amendment to a Division, in order that I might have the opportunity of altering the form of words so as to make it more consonant with the Amendment of the noble Earl. I propose to do the same with this Amendment, not putting your Lordships to the trouble of a Division upon it; but at the same time I would respectfully ask His Majesty's Ministers whether they do not think that as to this Amendment, originally drafted by themselves and inserted in their Bill when it was introduced into the House of Commons, we ought to receive some advice on the subject now.
§ Amendment moved—
Page, 2, line 18, after subsection (3) insert the following new subsection—
(4) No amendment shall be allowed to a Money Bill which, in the opinion of the Speaker of the House of Commons, is such as to prevent the Bill retaining the character of a Money Bill—(Lord Hylton.)
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, this Amendment was an important one and 1169 consequential to the Amendment originally moved by the noble Lord—the Amendment, namely, which was discussed at the beginning of to-day's proceedings, and under which there was to be an expression of opinion from the Chair before the Second Reading of the Bill and a notice. That having been provided for, it became important—one can follow the importance easily—to put in some such subsection as the noble Lord now proposes preventing any change being made in the character of a Bill. But the noble Lord did not persist in his first Amendment, I think in response to an appeal from the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, and the result is that the Amendment he has now moved assumes a different character. It becomes a pure matter of the procedure of the House of Commons.
§ LORD HYLTON
May I interrupt the noble Viscount? I propose on Report to bring up an Amendment exactly similar in character to the one I withdrew, merely altering the words to bring it in consonance with the Amendment of Lord Cromer.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
Second thoughts are sometimes best, but it is very awkward to employ them on this occasion when you have not got the same set of thoughts running through the Bill. It is very awkward to put in words which are purely consequential to an Amendment which may never be there. Therefore I respectfully suggest to the noble Lord that to put in both of his Amendments on Report would be more convenient than to put in one now and one afterwards.
§ LORD HYLTON
I intimated that I was not going to press this Amendment to a Division now. I only ask for an expression of opinion.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
I will state the difficulty. This subsection was brought up and scrutinised in debate in the House of Commons. Both sides agreed that it was an unfortunate subsection, and it was withdrawn because it was found that it would very much fetter the freedom of action, not only of the Speaker, but of the Chairman of Committees in dealing with Amendments. They would have been bound to scrutinised in each case to see whether the Amendment was legally in order, and it was pointed out that it was quite impossible to justify dealing upon a 1170 statutory basis with what was proper to be regulated by the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. That was the view taken by the Home Secretary who moved the omission of the subsection. Mr. Bonar Law entirely concurred, so that both sides of the House were agreed. I therefore trust that the noble Lord will not press the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD AVEBURY
My Lords, before this Clause is passed I hope your Lordships will allow ate to say a few words by way of respectful protest against it. Before we began this discussion I was alarmed at the clause, and now I am much more alarmed at what the Government have had to say about it. Although we have been attempting to define what is a Money Bill the real question now is what is not a Money Bill. Almost any question in the world might be brought under the definition of a Money Bill. In saying that we view this clause with apprehension, I am not speaking in any Party sense, nor in the interests, or merely as wishing to maintain the dignity, of this House, but in the interests of the nation itself. There is scarcely any country under single-Chamber government which is prudently or economically governed, or whose finances are in a satisfactory condition. In absolute or semi-absolute Governments the Monarchs feel a sort of personal interest. In our case, however, the proposal is most dangerous. We are not only to be reduced to single-Chamber rule, but to that of a Chamber under closure. Under this clause any loan, however large can be guaranteed, however unwise such a course may be, and the House of Commons can be prevented from even having any discussion on the subject. Our Second Chamber will have less power over finance than, I believe, any other in the world. Unfortunately our national credit is gradually sinking, and if we should require to borrow we shall do so under very unfavourable circumstances. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has alleged, in reply to Sir F. Banbury, the member for the City, that Consols fell under the late Government in a time of war that was, however, inevitable, but with the return of peace we might reasonably have 1171 hoped that they would have risen. For the further fall which has since taken place during peace the financial policy of the Government must bear the responsibility. I cannot believe that the provisions of this clause can be permanent and only hope that it may be reversed before much more injury has been inflicted on the credit of the country. In making this respectful protest I believe I am expressing the opinion of the overwhelming majority of those who are responsible: for the commerce and manufactures of the country.
§ LORD ALVERSTONE
My Lords, I have listened to every word of the debate on this first clause, but I did not think it right to take part in the discussion. But the present position raises a Constitutional point to which I should like, if I may, to call the attention of the noble Viscount and my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. I was very much struck by the great moderation of some of the speeches made from the Government Bench last night, notably the speech of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, which seemed to me to be couched in language which was an example to us all. It seems, however, to me to be a little overlooked that prior to this Bill this House had certain rights. I agree that there was a discussion about it, and I am going to follow the example of my noble and learned friend in not going back into the history of what were the rights of the House of Lords. But it cannot be denied that if this clause—Clause 1—stands when this Bill is passed those rights are taken away and the House of Lords will not have the right either of amending or rejecting a Finance Bill. It will pass without the control of the House of Lords. Nobody will deny, therefore, that this Bill constitutionally puts an end to the discussion that previously existed, and does establish a paper Constitution with regard to what are to be the rights of the House of Lords. The Government, quite rightly from that point of view—I can assure noble Lords I am not making this speech from a Party point of view at all; nothing of the kind is entering into my mind—propose by legislative enactment to prevent the House of Lords having any right to either amend or reject a pure Finance Bill. In those circumstances it does seem to me that the right view is that when such a Bill is introduced it is the duty of those who propose the Bill to deal with admitted difficulties and
1172 admitted doubts that arise out of the proposal.
The question is not whether the Speaker or a Joint Committee is the better authority for deciding what is a Finance Bill. The question is one of defining the means by which it should be decided what is a Finance Bill. The debate to-night has shown that His Majesty's Government in the House of Commons and speakers for His Majesty's Government in your Lordships' House have admitted the existence of this difficulty of defining a Finance Bill and properly safeguarding the rights of your Lordships' House in the case of Bills that are not purely Finance Bills. I respectfully submit that in those circumstances there is a moral obligation upon the promoters of the Bill to deal with such a matter. It does not touch, as I said, the question of who is to decide it; it is a question of what is to be submitted to the tribunal that has to decide. If I may be allowed to say so, I quite share the criticisms which have been addressed to the Amendment of Lord Cromer; but it seems to me that as a principle the matter is one which the Government might fairly take into consideration, seeing that the Prime Minister and noble Lords on the other side of this House have admitted that it is a difficult matter to say what is a Finance Bill and what is not. If the principle of Lord Cromer's Amendment touches the difficulty which is admitted to exist I think a serious duty is thrown upon His Majesty's Government to see that the matter is properly dealt with. Supposing the Government had denied that there was any difficulty in saying what is a Finance Bill, supposing they had said that they considered that the words of Clause 1 were quite sufficient to cover the question, the case would have been different and there would be no obligation upon them; but that is not their position. It seems to me that when a Government are destroying the powers of this House—and rightly from their point of view—either to amend or reject a Finance Bill, there is some obligation upon them to indicate a proper course by which the question of what is a Finance Bill can be decided. I assure your Lordships that I have not risen to make these observations in the least from the point of view of creating difficulties, but I submit that His Majesty's Government will not be justified, after the speeches we heard from the Lord Chancellor, the 1173 Secretary of State for War, and Viscount Morley last night, in saying, "We leave it entirely to you." This House is entitled, it seems to me, where a paper Constitution is being made, to ask the Government to deal constitutionally with the difficulties which exist.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I need hardly say that I have listened with the greatest respect to the temperate appeal made by my noble and learned friend. Let us see how the thing stands. In former times, indeed up to the epoch which is not to be mentioned, the relations between the two Houses on the subject of finance depended upon usage and custom. It may be variously interpreted in some particulars, but it was settled by custom, usage, and convention which admitted of a considerable degree of adaptability and elasticity. Of the interpreter in law I say nothing, but in fact the practical interpreter was the Speaker of the House of Commons. That was a sort of code of unwritten law, a sort of common law of Parliament, which was capable of being adjusted and adapted to each particular case as it arose. The consequence was that when you wanted to know what was a Money Bill and what was not you had in the Speaker, interpreting the traditions of the House of Commons and having regard to the difficulties constantly arising, some one who told you what was right, and it was accepted practically by the House and by everybody else. That is all gone, never mind why, and it has become impossible for the future. That is the theory upon which the Bill rests, and if you accept this Clause at all it must be surely upon the terms that the old unwritten law, infinitely better than any written law if only it was worked according to custom and usage, must go. It is very sad, and I am very sorry for it, but it must go.
It now becomes necessary, as my noble and learned friend truly says, to find some new method of discriminating. You must have somebody to decide, and you must have some rule if you can get one. As to the person to decide, we have already had an unfortunate encounter with noble Lords on the other side of the House in which we have been defeated; but as to the rule by which he is to decide, how are you to put down in writing the difference between a Money Bill and a Bill which is not a Money Bill? My noble and learned friend says, with perfect truth, that the Government in 1174 proposing a Bill changing the Constitution are bound to do their best to make clear what they mean. We have tried in this Bill to make it as clear as it can be made. You may not agree with us. The noble Earl has proposed an alternative and has succeeded for a time in getting it into the Bill. He is not himself, as he has told us, completely satisfied. It is no fault of his. Has anybody a suggestion to make for making it clearer and defining it? Our duty is to do our best to make the Bill good, as we have done, but we declare we cannot do better and that it is impossible to get a definition. Is it, therefore, reasonable to reproach us for not doing what we are unable to do?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Quite so; but we have been reproached by other noble Lords, who have accused us of evading the question. We have tried, and I ask—Can you do better? Hitherto nobody has succeeded in finding a satisfactory definition. There is none whatever on the Paper. Is it not for the reason that you cannot attain to generalisations which are accurate on a subject of this kind? You have to say what is the difference between a Money Bill and a Bill which is not a Money Bill, and you cannot get nearer to it than by trying to preserve as much as you can the old traditions by which, in a rough way, it was settled, and by leaving the old interpreter of those traditions to come to the best conclusion he can. I have said this in answer to the noble and learned Lord, but I know the House has determined otherwise and has put in its own definition—a definition, not of the class of Bill but of the governing purpose which is at the bottom of the Bill, which I am afraid will not do.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, this subject is so important that I hope I shall be pardoned if I refer to one point with regard to which we on this side of the House do not desire to be left under the imputation thrown upon us in the course of this discussion. In the past, if the Speaker gave a decision with which your Lordships did not agree, we had it in our power to reject the Bill. But that remedy is to be taken away. The noble and learned Lord forgets the remarks of his colleagues in the House of Commons advocating the extension 1175 of the power of the House of Commons in the matter of Money Bills. I think we have reason to complain of the attitude of the Government on both the main Amendments put into the Bill. The noble Viscount who leads the House said that he would never accept the Joint Committee proposed by Lord Cromer. The noble Lord who followed him spoke in a reasonable spirit and showed an open mind as to the substitution of some tribunal for the Speaker. The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for War followed again with remarks which led back to the Speaker as if that were the only tribunal. We could not fail to see that there is, if not a difference of opinion, at least a very strong feeling of uneasiness, on that Bench as to the reply to that Amendment, and I venture to say the same with regard to the Amendment which has been so admirably dealt with by the Lord Chief Justice. You have made the difficulty by insisting upon a written law. You have forced upon us the definition in terms as to what should fall under this clause. The Prime Minister admitted, in the amplest and most generous manner, the necessity of having some governing principle. We have put down the best words we could, and what assistance have we had from the other side of the House? We have had criticisms but no assistance. I wish to make this point quite clear. If, as is alleged by the Secretary of State for War, the words of Lord Cromer's Amendment do add greatly to the power of this House—if it be true that we could in the future amend some Bills which we cannot amend now, then we would gladly accept words limiting our powers to the powers which we now possess. If Clause I leaves the House incomplete it is not due to any want of effort on our part, but to the lack of assistance from that channel which of all others ought to have been the chief conduit pipe.
§ [The sitting was suspended at a quarter to eight o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]
§ Clause 2:
§ Restriction of the powers of the House of Lords as to Bills other their Money Bills.
§ 2.—(1) If any Public Bill other than a Money Bill is passed by the House of Commons in three successive sessions (whether of the same Parliament or not), and, having been sent up to the House of Lords at least one month before the end of the session, is rejected by the House of Lords in each
§ Viscount Midleton.1176
§ of those sessions, that Bill shall, on its rejection for the third time by the House of Lords, unless the House of Commons direct to the contrary, be presented to His Majesty and become an Act of Parliament on the Royal Assent being signified thereto, notwithstanding that the House of Lords have not consented to the Bill; Provided that this provision shall not take effect unless two years Live elapsed between the date of the second reading in the first of those sessions of the Bill in the House of Commons and the date on which it passes the House of Commons in the third of those sessions.
§ (2) When a Bill is presented to His Majesty for assent in pursuance of the provisions of this section, there shall be endorsed on the Bill the certificate of the Speaker of the House of Commons signed by him that the provisions of this section have been duly complied with.
§ (3) A Bill shall be deemed to be rejected by the House of Lords if it is not passed by the House of Lords either without amendment or with such amendments only as may be agreed to by both Houses.
§ (4) A Bill shall be deemed to be the same Bill as a former Bill sent up to the House of Lords in the preceding session if, when it is sent up to the House of Lords, it is identical with the former Bill or contains only such alterations as are certified by the Speaker of the House of Commons to be necessary owing to the time which has elapsed since the date of the former Bill, or to represent any amendments which have been made by the House of Lords in the former Bill in the preceding session and any amendments which are certified by the Speaker to have been made by the House of Lords in the third session and agreed to by the House of Commons shall be inserted in the Bill as presented for Royal Assent in pursuance of this section:
§ Provided that the House of Commons may, if they think fit, on the passage of such a Bill through the House in the second or third session, suggest any further amendments without inserting the amendments in the Bill, and any such suggested amendments shall be considered by the House of Lords, and if agreed to by that House, shall be treated as amendments made by the House of Lords and agreed to by the House of Commons; but the exercise of this power by the House of Commons shall not affect the operation of this section in the event of the Bill being rejected by the House of Lords.
THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
proposed to amend the clause by leaving out the words "other than" in the first line and inserting "introduced by a Minister of the Crown, and not being."
The noble Earl said: My Lords, I hope that the Amendment standing in my name will be accepted by His Majesty's Government, and I venture to think that if they consider the underlying principle proposed they will see that the Amendment takes away none of the privileges which are sought by this Bill for the House of Commons. The Amendment I consider to be a reasonable one. In fact, I go further and say that I think that when this Bill was 1177 framed the purpose now sought to be secured was omitted from the provisions of this clause more by the accident of drafting than by the intention of His Majesty's Government. The purpose of my Amendment is to exclude entirely from the operation of this clause Bills introduced into the House of Commons by private Members.
Under this clause any Bill might be introduced into the House of Commons by a private Member and passed by a series of accidents by combined groups giving a total majority in the House of Commons, and your Lordships' House, or any other Second Chamber which may exist in its place, would be unable to deal with a matter which had probably never been explained in the country or even fully debated in the House of Commons. In putting forward this proposal I think that some weight must be given to the consideration that private Bills do not receive in the House of Commons or in the country the attention given to Bills promoted by a Minister of the Crown. For instance, there are many private Members' Bills which your Lordships hear about because you are on the spot, and with which those who take a particular interest in the matter are conversant, but by far the greater proportion of those who have votes in this country and very many of those who take an ordinary interest in the debates in Parliament know nothing of the principles contained in private Members' Bills which from time to time are brought up.
I know perfectly well what will be said in opposition to this Amendment. It will be said that private Members' Bills are subject to the very closest criticism in the House of Commons or in your Lordships' House, that they have to go to Committees and through various stages which prevent the possibility of a hurried passage through Parliament. But I do not think any question of precedents, either in this or the other House, can in these days be followed as to what may happen in the future. Another argument in favour of this Amendment is that in the course of the debate last evening I noticed in the speeches of some noble Lords opposite a want of confidence in the ordinary Members of the House of Commons, and there seemed to be some doubt whether it would be possible to find even seven true and just men who would be able to give an impartial decision on any matter referred to them.
1178 Under this clause as it is at present, there might be introduced into the House of Commons Bills of a mischievous and dangerous character, the purport of which might not be fully understood. We know that these Bills generally take the form of private trading, and I can imagine the case of a Bill dealing with municipal questions having for its object a further advance in municipal trading. That Bill, by some arrangement between the various groups which compose the majority in that House—I am not referring to the present House of Commons, but any House of Commons in the future—might easily pass through the various stages. As I say, I feel sure that it must have been entirely foreign to the intention of the Government and not germane to the provisions of this Bill that a measure proposed and introduced by private Members should have the advantages of the provisions in the Bill now before this House. Private Members' Bills are not discussed in the country; the electors know nothing about them. Some of the most pernicious measures are those which have become law without having been adequately explained either in the country or in the House of Commons.
I will give another instance of what might happen. You might have a Bill introduced by a private Member into the House of Commons. That Bill might be discussed—I will even go so far as to admit that it might be fully discussed on Second Reading—it might be passed through all its stages, and then it might be taken up and adopted by some member of the Government on the Front Bench, and in the second and third sessions provided for in this clause that Bill might be fathered by some Minister of the Crown and ultimately become law. Is it a reasonable state of things that any Bill which is not introduced by a Minister of the Crown, which has not been fully explained to the country, should come under the advantages which this clause confers on Bills brought in by the Government?
Then there is a further point. Bills introduced into the House of Commons under this clause by private Members would not have even that shadowy and somewhat indefinite authority commonly known as the mandate. I am not going into hostile criticism or discussion on any of the measures of the Government, but I say this generally, that a Bill of the most 1179 iniquitous character which had not been even hinted at in the political programmes might become law under the operation of this Act. I have in mind a Bill which was introduced into the House of Commons by a private Member, and which was subsequently taken up by a Minister of the Crown and is now the law of the country. The private Member who introduced that Bill disappeared from the House of Commons for a short while. He is again a Member, but he was not a Member at the time the Bill was passed. But his Bill was taken up by a Minister of the Crown and is now a part of the law of the country—it is known as the Agricultural Holdings Act. Bills are generally founded upon policies or Resolutions, and I confess that I do not see why any Bills which are neither founded on the policies of a Party nor on the Resolutions of a Government in office should receive those advantages which the provisions in this clause would give. After the explanations I have offered I think your Lordships will see that there is a very strong argument in favour of the acceptance of my Amendment.
Page 2, line 19, leave out ("other than"), and insert ("introduced by a Minister of the Crown and not being")—(The Earl of Malmesbury.)
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
Before the dinner adjournment we passed the first clause of the Bill. It was disputed that that could be called in any sense an agreed clause. We now approach Clause 2, which I am afraid can in no sense be called an agreed clause. The contention of the noble Earl who has just moved this Amendment is that there is no reason why a private Member's Bill which has been passed three times should not be exempt from Clause 2. The noble Earl referred to the position of the private Member. If I am rightly informed, the noble Earl has not himself sat in the House of Commons. I was there for twenty-five years. For, I think, eighteen of those years I was a private Member, and therefore I am not in the least likely to take an unfavourable view of the virtues and statesmanlike capacities of the private Member. But I do not think that the noble Earl has looked at the practical aspect of his own Amendment. There is really no reason for it. It is not to be supposed that a private Member's Bill which had merit and quality in it would not attract the attention of
The Earl of Malmesbury.
1180 the Government. If a private Member could get in his Bill what I would call momentum and volume enough to get it passed three times in three successive sessions, it would be a kind of Bill which I am pretty confident a Minister of the Crown would be sure to take up. And it is rather hard that a Minister of the Crown should be precluded from taking up such a Bill because it had been introduced in the first place by a private Member. I really think there is no kind of reason or justification for this Amendment from a practical point of view. It might be convenient for the Government to take up in a second or third session a Bill that had been brought in by a private Member. That, I think, is a decisive answer which ought to weigh with your Lordships.
§ THE EARL OF DUNMORE
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Malmesbury prefaced his remarks by saving that he thought this was a reasonable Amendment. I think it is more than that. It is absolutely necessary in the interests of the ratepayers of this country. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House, if I may say so respectfully, misses the point of the noble Earl's argument in saying that a Bill of a private Member which had sufficient volume in it to attract the attention of the Government would undoubtedly be taken up by the Government. That is not the point. The point is whether such a Bill would receive an adequate amount of discussion in the House of Commons to attract the attention of the outside public. A Bill introduced by a private Member does not receive that amount of discussion. It goes to the Standing Committee, and there is no doubt that practically no discussion at all takes place in Committee of the Whole House. Under this Bill there would be no reason why a Bill introduced by a private Member and taken up by the Government should receive any discussion in the House of Commons, or why it should have been even mentioned to the electors of the country. That is the point which my noble friend Lord Malmesbury wanted to make. The Government, as the noble Viscount opposite has just said, would take up the Bill, as they did in the case of the Land Tenure Bill which was referred to by the noble Earl, or, to cite another instance, I might mention the Town Tenants Bill of 1906. They would take up the Bill, and they could pass it into law under the despotic powers 1181 which they are attempting to take to themselves without any discussion in the House of Commons. It might be a pet project of perhaps only a few members of the House of Commons, and they would have neither the authority nor the opportunity of placing it before any large section of the electorate.
But the point I really want to make is in regard to the ratepayers of this country. As your Lordships are aware, a Bill which throws extra taxation on the Imperial taxpayer can only be introduced into the House of Commons by a responsible Minister. There are certain safeguards as regards the Imperial taxpayer, but they do not extend to the ratepayers. The pocket of the ratepayer can be picked by anybody. It is open to any private Member to introduce a Bill the result of which would be to throw a very heavy burden on the ratepayers. It is neither reasonable nor just that such a Bill should be passed without even receiving that very small amount of discussion which, under the present Government, is accorded to a Government Bill; and I sincerely trust that His Majesty's Government will receive this Amendment in a more reasonable spirit than they have displayed to other Amendments emanating from this side of the House.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
There seems to be a flaw in the argument of the noble Viscount who leads the House. The only reason given by the noble Viscount against this Amendment was that it would be hard that a Minister of the Crown should not be able to take up a private Member's Bill if the Government thought it desirable to do so. But I do not think that is the effect of this Amendment. I cannot see that a Minister of the Crown would be prevented from taking up such a Bill in the succeeding session. Surely it is part of the immemorial custom of Parliament that if a Bill is not passed at the end of one session it is dead, and has to be brought to life again in a succeeding session. Therefore supposing a Bill is introduced by a private Member and the Government thought it well to adopt that Bill, if it was not passed in the first session they could take it up in the succeeding sessions without let or hindrance. I have answered the only reason which the noble Viscount has given against this Amendment, and I think we may fairly ask that some more 1182 important objection should be put forward if we are to desist from pressing it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not think the noble Lord who has just spoken has put an accurate interpretation upon the effect of the Amendment. If the Amendment were inserted in the Bill the clause would read—If any Public Bill, introduced by a Minister of the Crown and not being a Money Bill, is passed by the House of Commons in three successive sessions," etc.I do not think that this Amendment would have, as a matter of fact, any considerable, or indeed any appreciable, operation, because the likelihood of a private Member bringing forward a Bill and succeeding in passing it through the House of Commons in three successive sessions would be a very rare occurrence. This Amendment would establish a difference between the position of the private Member on the one hand and the position of a Minister of the Crown on the other. I was in the House of Commons a long time, and I was only in office for a year and a-half out of the twenty-six years, and my sympathies are therefore very strong on behalf of the private Member. I do not think you ought to put upon him any further disabilities than he is subjected to at the present time. It would be rather invidious to put statutory disabilities upon the private Member, and give statutory preference in favour of a Minister. I do not think it is really worth while inserting an Amendment with the object of effecting a purpose of that kind, which would be resented and would have very small operation.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I quite agree with the noble and learned Lord that the class of case referred to is a limited one. I do not think that the Bill would be largely improved if this Amendment were carried, but I would suggest to the noble and learned Lord that there is a real argument in favour of my noble friend's Amendment. I would suggest that noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite before coming to the House should read more carefully the speeches of the Prime Minister. I have several of the Prime Minister's speeches very clearly in my mind. I remember one in which he was arguing against the possibility of the House of Commons abusing the power which would be entrusted to it if this Bill became 1183 law. The Prime Minister, as I understand, based his whole argument for the powers to be given to the House of Commons on the fact that the House would come fresh from the electorate with a mandate which it would not abuse. All the measures which would pass through the House of Commons three times in two years would, he said, be measures for which a mandate had been delivered to the House by the electors. Now, the mandate theory is not consistent with the liberty of the private Member to pass his Bill through the House of Commons in three years. Though I admit that the class of Bills referred to is not large, yet I think my noble friend is amply justified in moving his Amendment, because as the clause stands the effect would be that the Government would have the opportunity—on rare occasions, I admit, but still on occasions—for an enlargement of the doctrine as laid down by the Prime Minister himself. Personally I should not advise my noble friend to press the Amendment to a Division against the opinion of the Government, but I think he has done real service in drawing attention to the fact that under the clause as it stands a Bill which had never been mentioned in a single address to the electors and for which there was no kind of mandate could be adopted by the Government and carried into law.
THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
I do not wish to press the Amendment to a Division if your Lordships think it is not desirable to do so, but I would like to refer to one statement which fell from the noble and learned Lord with regard to the difference between a Minister of the Crown and a private Member. Speaking as a private member of this House I have, of course, every sympathy with private members of the House of Commons, but the difference between a Bill introduced by a Minister of the Crown and a private Member's Bill is this that the former is supposed to have been explained at the polls whilst the latter may never have been heard of before.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER moved to leave out "other than a Money Bill" in order to insert "not being either a Money Bill or a Bill extending or modifying the provisions of this Act."
§ The Earl of Selborne.1184
§ The noble Earl said: The Amendment which I rise to propose is one which I hope the Government may see fit to accept. I may be of an exceedingly sanguine turn of mind, but it appears to me that practically my Amendment only puts more strongly the point which many members of the Government have frequently placed before the country—namely, that they are in favour of a Second Chamber for the purpose of revision and delay. The Amendment would have the effect of keeping out any amending Bill to lessen the suspensors period of two years. I am one of those who believe, if this period of two years delay is really a genuine piece of policy and is put forward in good faith by His Majesty's Government, that in many instances such delay may be of inestimable advantage, and may turn out for the future good government and peaceful welfare of the country. If, on the other hand, this period of delay is merely a piece of window dressing in order to secure the votes of a certain number of timid Radicals and is on the very first breath of opposition to be swept away, then I say that it is perfectly impossible for anybody to show that the Bill is anything other than an attempt to set up single-Chamber government in this country.
The Prime Minister has spoken very strongly on this subject. On the First Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons he said that he saw dangers in the provisions of this Bill unless safeguards were inserted, and he added—
Any House might outstay its mandate and pass imperfect measures. These are dangers to guard against, and we have guarded against them.
The safeguard against a Government passing bad and imperfect measures and outstaying its mandate is this two years' delay on ordinary Bills and quinquennial Parliaments. I hold that if these safeguards are not properly maintained we shall certainly live in the course of a very few years under single-Chamber government. We have advanced very far towards a written Constitution by Clause 1. The Government appear to have written a Constitution as regards Money Bills, and it seems to me that unless we have some pledge from the great Liberal Party that they intend to stand by the period of two years' delay, this Bill will be fraught with the gravest dangers. Some people think that this delay is not of very great importance, but, having taken a small part
in recent elections, I am certain that there are a large number of moderate men in the country holding Radical and Liberal principles who would be sorry to see the government of the country in the hands of a Single Chamber, subject to logrolling and to the exercise of the old familiar phrase, "You scratch my back and I will scratch yours," which unfortunately takes place among different groups in another place.
A large number of moderate minded men who voted Liberal at the last two elections were under the firm belief that the Government would hold to this period of two years' delay and see that it was not altered. I have quoted the Prime Minister to show that he himself acknowledges that unless safeguards are put into the Bill you might have hasty and bad legislation. I will come nearer home. I will quote the noble and learned Viscount the Secretary of State for War. Addressing Liberal enthusiasts at the Eighty Club, last year I think—I hope I am not misinterpreting him—he declared himself in favour of an elected Second Chamber, but he added—
I myself am for a Second Chamber. I believe in a Second Chamber to be a drag on Conservative just us on Liberal legislation.
The noble Viscount is a whole-hogger. He requires a Second Chamber which is to be a real Second Chamber, which will delay ill-considered and hasty legislation and give the House of Commons and the people time to consider a measure. Therefore I sincerely hope that he will support this Amendment. The noble Viscount does not approve of the present composition of your Lordships House. It is clear from the speech I have quoted that he would like to see an elected Second Chamber, but the Preamble of this Bill—the promise of a reformed House of Lords or an elected Second Chamber—appears to be a very long way off indeed so long as the present Government remain in office.
§ I believe—and I think the feeling is shared by a large number of people—that on the very first occasion when your Lordships' House attempts to stand in the way of the House of Commons there will instantly be a demand, among the advanced section of the Government's supporters there, to sweep away the little bit of flimsy power which this Chamber will possess. I do not profess to have the experience or knowledge of Parliamentary customs 1186 which noble Lords sitting on the Government Bench possess, but I do not see that it would involve any very great difficulty on the part of the Government of the day to alter the period of two years into one. In the course of perhaps one week such a Bill could be passed through the House of Commons at the beginning of a Parliament, and, although your Lordships might throw it out, in the space of two years that Bill would become law, and then for the remaining three years the Government of the day would have an absolutely free hand, and as far as your Lordships are concerned you might just as well join the Upper Tooting Debating Society as come down here and speak in this House. This two years' delay is the one power of stopping and delaying legislation which is to be left to this House. On the declaration of His Majesty's Ministers themselves it is a power which certainly is a safeguard against ill-considered and hasty legislation, and it is one which the Government ought to embody in a permanent form so that it cannot be swept away.
§ Under the present rules of procedure in the House of Commons we are certain, unless there is a Second Chamber which has some constitutional power of imposing this delay, to have imperfect legislation which will bring very great evils in its train. Owing to the severe way in which closure by compartments is used in the House of Commons the Government of the day need never give any heed to a minority, no matter how strong it may be. They may divide night after night 300 on one side, and 290 on the other. That minority may represent the majority of the electors, yet the Cabinet of the day is all-powerful. They could force a Bill through, and without this two years' delay we would certainly have legislation which would be bitterly regretted. One of the great arguments used by Liberal speakers in debating this Bill throughout the country was that we are a peaceful and law-abiding people. That, I believe, is chiefly owing to the form of Government and the Constitution under which we live. But if any great question exciting political feeling in the country arises and pressure is put on the Government to abolish the two years delay, this country might not then be able to live under the present peaceful and orderly system. It might lead to revolution and trouble in this land. Recognising that the principles which we—the Opposition—put 1187 before the constituencies at the last election have not found favour in the country—I am perfectly willing to admit that we were beaten and to take the defeat—I ask the Government to put the policy which they laid before the country at the last election into an Act of Parliament that shall be permanent and not capable of being altered by the first breath of popular opinion running the other way. There is, to my mind, absolutely no difficulty in making this two years' suspensory period permanent. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
Page 2, line 19, leave out ("other than a Money Bill") and insert ("not being either a Money Bill or a Bill extending or modifying the provisions of this Act").—(The Earl of Ancaster.)
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I am sure we have all listened to the speech of the noble Earl with the interest which the frank and strong utterance of a convinced opponent of the Bill commands. This is a very important Amendment. It is the first of a large category of Amendments which deal with exemptions. It is not in itself inconsistent with the proposal of the Government in the Bill if the Parliament Bill is regarded as a compact between the two Houses. From that point of view the noble Earl is no doubt justified in asking your Lordships to insert an Amendment which would make this a stable and lasting instrument of Government. That I do not for a moment deny. Whether that is or is not the right point of view as to its being a compact between the two Houses is a question which would need very much more elaboration than we need give to it under the present Amendment. Having made that admission to the noble Earl and recognising to the full the candour and sincerity of all that he has said since we embarked upon this controversy—and never was he more candid or sincere than he has been to-night—yet I will say at once that I see enormous difficulty in the way of accepting the Amendment. The difficulty is that it is a very one-sided Amendment. When the Party of noble Lords opposite come into power they can vary this compact without any delay or difficulty. With an adequate and sufficient majority in the other House—on the assumption that this House, however modified later, represents Conservative prepossessions—you may bring in a proposal altering this great instrument as
The Earl of Ancaster.
1188 much as you please. Instead of saying a Bill should pass after being sent up three sessions in two years, you could make it five sessions and four years. You may alter the instrument to any extent; you could even repeal the whole of it. And those wildcat persons whom the noble Earl apprehended would begin operations might bring in an amending Bill to the effect that "three sessions and two years" should be altered to "two sessions and one year." But that Bill could not be forced through this House. [A noble LORD: Why not?] That Bill could not be forced through if the noble Earl's Amendment were accepted.
Let me point to another thing. When the time comes for considering the reconstitution of your Lordships' House, it might be that some points would arise in which the terms of the Parliament Act might be touched, and it would be very inexpedient if the Government in the other House were unable to deal as fully and freely as they might wish with a measure for altering the constitution of this House because of some particular detail which it might be thought necessary to modify in the Parliament Bill. My noble friend Lord Avebury, in his Amendment which will come on shortly, would preclude from the operation of the second clause of this Bill any proposal affecting the duration of Parliament. The principle is the same as that of the noble Earl. When the time comes for my noble friend to move his Amendment we shall object to it on the ground which applies equally to the one now before us—namely, that it is inexpedient and against the principle and policy of the Government to enlarge the chapter of exemptions. If you persist in that, if you go far in that course, we believe you will render nugatory the whole purpose of the Bill, which your Lordships by assenting to the Second Reading without a Division have more or less accepted. That is the issue which will be much more conveniently and largely raised in connection with the noble Marquess's Amendment which will come on shortly. The noble Marquess has introduced a series of exemptions of the utmost magnitude and moment. The general principle of the exemptions we can consider in relation to those Amendments; but this particular Amendment, though not absolutely inconsistent with the proposals of the Bill or even with the policy embodied or represented, is one to which— 1189 marking our difficulty in accepting the beginning of a body of exemptions—we cannot agree.
§ LORD NEWTON
The noble Viscount the Leader of the House has described the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Ancaster as not inconsistent with the Bill or the spirit of the Bill, but it has met with the fate which has attended previous Amendments. Personally I dislike this Bill as much as anybody, and I cannot help saying that if it becomes law it will inevitably be followed before long by something even more obnoxious, more especially after what was said by representatives of the Government with regard to the Amendment moved a short time ago by my noble friend Lord Malmesbury. I have risen for the purpose of making a suggestion, or rather to address this inquiry to a responsible member of the Government. If a Bill still further limiting the powers of this House is introduced, will they give any sort of undertaking that a Bill of that kind will not be allowed to pass before a General Election has taken place? There is an Amendment further down on the Paper in the name of Lord Willoughby de Broke which covers this point to a certain extent. I really have not the least idea what the opinions of noble Lords may be on the subject, but, speaking for myself, I cannot help feeling that some assurance of this nature would mitigate to a considerable extent the obnoxious character of this Bill. If the inquiry which I have addressed to the Government could be answered in a favourable sense, it would go some way towards removing the alarm with which we view the present measure, and although we cannot in any sense of the word regard it as acceptable, this assurance would at all events modify my opposition to a certain extent.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
My Lords, the noble Viscount opposite rather forgot the fact that it is not majorities in this House, but, if this Bill is passed, it is majorities in another place that will be able to alter this Bill, to modify or further reduce the powers of your Lordships' House. If this Bill is passed this session, let me put this question to the noble Viscount, Lord Morley. Will he give a pledge that during the present Parliament, at least, no measure will be proposed further reducing the powers of your Lordships' House? I do not think we have fully realised the effect of this Bill if passed. 1190 It is quite true that it curtails very considerably the powers of this House, but at the same time we retain considerable powers of criticism and obstruction. In former times there has been a system or custom regarding these matters which an unwritten Constitution has necessitated between the two Houses, but after this Bill is passed I do not think there can be any reasonable complaint if your Lordships use the powers left to you to the fullest extent. There may therefore be a great deal more criticism and opposition during those two years' delay than previously. That will create—it must treate—considerable irritation on the part of what we may call the impatient members of the House of Commons, and I am certain that when your Lordships attempt to exercise to any extent those limited powers, an outcry will be raised for a further reduction of your Lordships' powers. It must be remembered that these two years for criticism are considered by many of our opponents as two years for obstruction. In the meantime we shall be entirely under the dictation of the Government, and the only way in which we can influence the Government, and in which we can justify our position in the country, is by claiming an appeal to the people. In the circumstances, whether you choose to call this a compact or not—it is not a compact—I hope in the interests of justice that this Bill will not be used to further reduce the already crippled powers of this House. The Amendment of the noble Earl is extremely reasonable, and unless a more satisfactory reply is forthcoming from His Majesty's Government I hope it will be pressed to a Division.
§ THE EARL OF ANCASTER
I think it will save time if I say at once that I do not intend to press this Amendment to a Division. Whenever we have said that the Government wished to set up single-Chamber government in this country it has been alleged that we were not telling the truth. But the action of the Government and the admission of the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, have shown that it is possible for a Bill to be brought in reducing the two years' delay to one, and the period of three sessions to two, so that what we said at the last election about single-Chamber government is perfectly true. I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Before the noble Earl withdraws his 1191 Amendment I desire to say one word on the subject, which is one of great importance. The House will, in the first place, not have failed to note that His Majesty' Government have declined to give even the very moderate assurance asked for by the noble Lords who spoke from the Back Benches just now. One noble Lord asked for some kind of assurance that no alteration would be made in this part of the Bill until after a General Election had been held—I mean, no alteration in the clause which we are now discussing. And the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, asked for a somewhat similar assurance that there should be no further reduction of the very modest powers which this Bill leaves to the House of Lords. That challenge made by my noble friends behind me has received no response whatever, and I hope that some words at any rate may be vouchsafed from the Front Bench opposite upon it. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House suggested, only to dismiss the idea, that this Bill might conceivably form the subject of what I think he called a compact between the two Houses.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
I beg pardon. Let me be correct on that. I said that from the point of view that this Bill was a compact between the two Houses, the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl would be intelligible and defensible. I did not, however, say that that was my point of view.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Exactly; but the noble Viscount threw out the idea that there might be some people who would be disposed to regard this Bill as the subject of a compact between the two Houses.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
As being a compact. The noble Viscount can put it in his own language. I venture to say that there is no one on this side of the House into whose head it has entered that there should be a compact between the two Houses upon anything like the lines of this measure. That a measure so grossly unfair between the two Houses of Parliament should be regarded as what the noble Viscount described as a "stable and lasting instrument of government" seems to me absolutely inconceivable. We regard
The Marquess of Lansdowne.
1192 it as anything but a measure affording the materials for a lasting and stable settlement between the two Parties. We regard this Bill, and we shall so regard it throughout these discussions, as a Bill of temporary application only—a Bill intended to bridge over a transitional state of things which must perforce exist during the interval between the passing of this measure, if it becomes law, and the time when His Majesty's Government carry out their pledge to give the country a reconstituted Second Chamber. Is it unreasonable of the noble Earl who moved this Amendment, or any one else, to ask that during that period of transition some subjects should be excluded from the drastic operation of this clause? My noble friend who moved this Amendment has selected one subject, and I think there is a great deal to be said for his suggestion that that subject should be specially dealt with. It is intolerable that during that period of transition, which, according to the views of noble Lords opposite, must be a not very prolonged one, the terms of this clause should be revised in such a way as to deprive the House of Lords even of those opportunities of discussion which are left to it under the Bill. But I am glad to think that my noble friend will not carry his Amendment to a Division, and for this reason. The noble Viscount, Lord Morley, pointed out that this question of exemptions—to my mind much the most serious question which we have to discuss—will be dealt with under an Amendment which I shall move further on in the Bill. That being so, I rather deprecate dealing with it in a piecemeal fashion, and I much prefer to reserve what I have to say on the question of exemptions until we come to the Amendment which stands in my name. Meanwhile I am bound to say that I think the proposal of the noble Earl, Lord Ancaster, is one of substance, and that the speech which he made is eminently deserving of the attention of the House.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
Before the House permits the noble Earl to withdraw his Amendment, I would like to draw attention to what seems to me, although I may be wrong, a most important admission on the part of the noble Viscount, Lord Morley. He said that this Amendment would be unfair, because while the Radical Party would not be able to alter the Parliament Bill if they so desired, "you," he said, meaning the Unionist Party, "when you 1193 come into power will be able to alter or repeal it." That means that the noble Viscount contemplates that when the Unionist Party returns to power it will still have an overwhelming majority in this House. In other words, it means that he does not contemplate any reform of the constitution of this House. If that is so, what becomes of the Preamble of the Bill and the pledges of the Government embodied in that Preamble? It seems to me he has admitted in effect that the Government have no intention whatever of carrying out the pledge contained in the Preamble.
§ LORD NEWTON
I made just now what I think was an extremely moderate, if not servile, appeal to the Government opposite. I think I am entitled to an answer.
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
May I for a moment endorse the most reasonable request of my two noble friends? The Amendment has been withdrawn, or at any rate the noble Earl who moved it has said that he proposes to ask leave to withdraw it, and therefore I will not discuss it. But my noble friend having made his speech, two noble Lords lose on this side of the House—Lord Newton and Lord Portsmouth—and addressed to His Majesty's Government a question most moderate and most reasonable in itself, and surely they are entitled to a reply. This Amendment is not to be pressed, and therefore we are left in complete doubt as to what are the intentions of the Government in the period of interregnum if the Bill is passed. It is pointed out that there exists a body of opinion in the House of Commons already dissatisfied with the proposals in this Bill; that if that be their attitude, it is likely to be aggravated by what may conceivably be the attitude of this House under the powers given to it. It is pointed out by the noble Earl, Lord Portsmouth, that this House is given powers of delay, which, if used in the spirit in which I am bound to say they are likely to be used, probably provoked by the manner in which we are being treated by the House of Commons, may lead to demands for increasing the stringency of this measure. Is it not reasonable, therefore, for us to ask what are the views and the attitude of the Government in this matter?
LORD CURZON OF KEDLESTON
The I question put by my two noble friends was this: Will the Government give an engagement that during the period of this Parliament no proposals will be introduced by them, or be supported by them, to strengthen the provisions of the Bill we are now discussing in this particular? Surely that is a reasonable question. As I understand, His Majesty's Government claim a mandate for the present Bill. Over and over again the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the House of Commons have argued that this Bill has been before the constituencies and that everything in it has been ratified by popular assent. If there is anything in the argument, clearly the country has assented to the provisions of this Bill only as it stands. But if that be so there can be no mandate for any stiffening of this Bill in this respect. On their own showing, therefore, noble Lords opposite ought to be willing to give us the assurance for which we ask. I therefore respectfully repeat the question put by my two noble friends—Will the members of His Majesty's Government give us an assurance that during the duration of the present Parliament they will not themselves introduce or give support to any measure introduced in the House of Commons to strengthen the provisions of the present Bill in these particulars?
§ LORD ST. DAVIDS
I do not think Lord Curzon has quite correctly repeated the question put by Lord Newton. What Lord Newton asked was, Would the Government pledge themselves, if they brought in legislation to further modify the powers of this House, not to pass it into law until there had been a General Election and the opinion of the country had been obtained upon it? The question of Lord Newton had reference not merely to what the Government would do in this Parliament; he asked whether they would give a pledge to take the opinion of the country upon any legislation which they introduced. That might, under certain circumstances, be a very fair appeal. But things of that sort ought to be mutual, and if we are asked that sort of question I think we are entitled to ask noble Lords opposite to pledge themselves, if they come back to power, not to bring in any measure to repeal the Parliament Bill without first having taken the opinion of the country.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My noble friend who has just sat down has put a question which I think is not otherwise than very pertinent; but I do not rise to discuss the counter-pledge which he asked for, but to reply to the question which has been addressed from more than one quarter by noble Lords opposite. I think that question is founded upon a misapprehension of the attitude of the Government. This Bill has been brought in after much consideration. It stereotypes and puts into legal form what we conceive to be the proper Constitutional arrangements between the two Houses of Parliament. We may be right or wrong in that, but it is our view. This is not a Bill in regard to which we are likely to embark on any campaign to alter. It has been brought in deliberately, and in the belief that it will prove a remedy for the state of things with which we have to deal. But while it is one thing to say that, it is quite another thing to give a pledge. We must be perfectly free, just as noble Lords opposite remain perfectly free. I can do no more than define, as I have endeavoured to do, what our attitude towards this question is, and the course which, as at present advised, will be the course which we shall pursue. What noble Lords opposite might do to alter the state of things and create a new situation I cannot say, and I do not anticipate anything of the sort as likely to happen. I do not contemplate it, nor can I give any pledge on the part of the Government to hamper our action under any new circumstances which might arise.
There is a further difficulty about giving pledges of any sort or kind. Pledges are extremely apt to be misunderstood. This set of rules is intended to apply to this House and to the House of Commons as they are to-day. The Preamble of this Bill has been the subject of an undertaking by the Prime Minister, which is that in the course of this Parliament he proposes to deal with the question of the reconstitution of the Second Chamber. It is obvious that if that happens, questions of great delicacy may arise. It is possible that other measures may be substituted for the measures of to-day. That may be greater or less. This is not the time to enter upon a discussion of them; but the mere fact that that pledge has been given is to my mind a cogent reason for the Government not embarrassing themselves by giving pledges in the abstract which 1196 would certainly be used against them on other occasions hereafter. For these reasons it is impossible to give any such undertaking as has been asked for.
But I wish again to say that I do not share the gloomy apprehensions of noble Lords opposite. I do not know of any Party in the House of Commons—at any rate, any Party worth talking of in these debates—or elsewhere than in the imagination of the noble Earl, which desires to tear up and alter this Constitution. Somebody may have said something about it which I have not had the good fortune either to read or to hear; but I decline to contemplate it as a serious contingency. As to the general question, the noble Viscount Lord Morley, has very clearly expressed the reasons why we are glad that the Amendment is not to be pressed. It is not desirable to try to lay down exceptions to a broad principle. We think that the procedure which this Bill embodies represents in the main what is the true relation between the two Houses of Parliament. It is the general principle, and it is not desirable, therefore, to try and make exceptions to it which would only lead to a breach through which a good deal might flow. The noble Earl, Lord Ancaster, put his case in a most reasonable and sensible fashion, and I hope this debate has brought out enough to dispel from the minds of noble Lords opposite any illusion which there may be that we contemplate anything wild or revolutionary in the way of changes in the machinery of this Bill.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
The noble Viscount was asked to give an assurance on behalf of the Government, and in reply he said that they did not propose to embark upon any such revolutionary course as had been suggested. That was not the question which was put to him. The question was, Would the Government undertake not to embark on the revolutionary course suggested.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
The noble Viscount refused the undertaking. Therefore that means that there is no assurance that the Government will not embark on any course more revolutionary than is proposed. The noble Viscount said he was not aware of any Party in the 1197 other House worthy of the name who contemplated any steps more revolutionary than those now proposed. I am afraid the noble Viscount does not read the papers very much. He says that he does not propose to embark on any wild revolutionary course, but he also told us that he would not give any undertaking that he would not embark on such a course. I have heard of people who have said, with regard to a particular proposal, that they would like to see the man who would make them toe the line, but I have seen these very same men toeing the line within a week or less after they had said that. That is why we have no confidence in noble Lords opposite, and particularly in those who call themselves the most moderate men. I do not know how they agree when they are in the Cabinet or elsewhere, but all we know about them is that when they vote they vote for the most revolutionary proposals that are made. When the noble Viscount says he declines to give us any undertaking, we know what it means. It means, as I have said, that the House can have no assurance whatsoever that whatever revolutionary proposal may be made the noble Viscount may not be found supporting it.
§ LORD SOUTHWARK
I desire to say, as an old member of the House of Commons, that when the noble Lord opposite asks His Majesty's Government to undertake not to embark on a certain course, it will depend upon the action of this House with regard to measures that come from the House of Commons. If Amendments are made by your Lordships in a spirit of commonsense and fairness, instead of taking the title of a Bill and turning the contents of that Bill upside down; if you will give the House of Commons the benefit of the great ability which members of this House possess from all points of view—then I believe such Amendments would be most cordially received and considered by the House of Commons. I hope there will be no necessity for the Government to embark on any such course as has been suggested. After this Bill has passed, the House of Lords will be expected to treat measures from the House of Commons in a different spirit from that in which they treated such measures during the long period I was in the House of Commons.
§ THE EARL OF PORTSMOUTH
I think the last speaker, as the candid friend of the 1198 Government, has practically told us the position in which we are to be placed under the Bill. Our powers are to be curtailed, but if we exercise those limited powers in any independent spirit at all they are to be further curtailed. That is what it really conies to, and that is why we are to have no undertaking. I would call attention to what fell from the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane. If I heard him correctly, he referred to a pledge on the part of the Prime Minister that during the course of this Parliament he would deal with the whole Constitutional question. [VISCOUNT HALDANE nodded assent.] Then is it not eminently reasonable that we should know that in passing this measure the Government at least will not reduce still further, during this temporary period, the powers of the House of Lords? I am sorry that the noble Earl has withdrawn his Amendment. I do not understand his reason for doing so.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
My Lords, we have learned a great deal to-night. Up to now, when we have made statements of a certain kind as to the effect of this Bill, they have been invariably denied in general terms on the other side of this House and in the country, as I can vouch from personal experience. I have frequently been very courteously but firmly contradicted by Liberals, who have denied that the effect of this Bill would be what I have said. What have we learned to-night? I hope the country will mark and note this. We have learned that the effect of Clause 1 as drafted is that the whole of the property of any class in this country is at the mercy of a temporary majority in the House of Commons, however small, to do with as it likes in one single session. And as regards the effect of Clause 2, we have had it now admitted by the Front Bench opposite that a majority in the House of Commons, not in the course of one session, but in the course of two years, can abolish the House of Lords altogether.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE moved an Amendment with the object of removing from the scope of the clause "a Bill which affects the qualification for the exercise of the Parliamentary franchise or the distribution of Parliamentary seats."1199
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I bring forward my Amendment in that spirit of commonsense and fairness which Lord Southwark has just invited us to show in our proposals. I have no expectation whatever that noble Lords opposite will accept this Amendment, but I do most earnestly beg their attention to it, because we do want an unclosured discussion as to what is the view of His Majesty's Government with regard to what ought to be the powers of a temporary majority in the House of Commons to alter the franchise. Although I bring forward this Amendment, I must not be understood to make myself responsible for the theory that if certain things are exempted—redistribution of seats, the franchise, or Home Rule for Ireland, or what you will—I shall then be satisfied with the Bill. As Lord Selborne pointed out in his instructive speech, if you begin to reduce the matter to writing, if you put into a category the kind of Bills that the house of Lords may or may not deal with or which are meet or not meet to be referred to the people, you are met with two difficulties, and it seems to me that the united wisdom of both Front Benches has not been able to exceed the united wisdom of our ancestors in these respects. First of all you have to get a body of some kind—either the Speaker, or some body, it does not matter for the purpose of my argument—that shall say whether particular Bills belong to a particular category, and then having done that you have to find, what we have been trying to discover this afternoon but not with very great success, a set of rules which may guide that body in its deliberations.
§ My desire in bringing forward this Amendment is to focus public attention on the kind of thing that might and probably will happen if noble Lords opposite and their friends get their own way with regard to dealing with the constituencies. I propose, in Clause 2, after the word "Bill" in line 19, to insert the words, "or a Bill which affects the qualification for the exercise of the Parliamentary franchise or the distribution of Parliamentary seats." As the clause stands, if the House of Commons chose to bring forward and carry a measure in three successive sessions they could alter the whole of the constituencies in Great Britain and Ireland; and the general argument against handing over this power
§ Lord Willoughby de Broke.1200
§ to a Single Chamber will at once be obvious. The House of Commons would be able to give the suffrage to any new class of electors they thought proper. They might give adult suffrage; or they might give women the vote—a proposal which I dare say some of us would not regard as being fraught with very great danger. They might also, entirely on their own responsibility, deal with the whole question of the redistribution of seats without the people most concerned—the electors—having a say in the matter.
We do not speak without precedent as to the powers with which a Parliament untramelled by any Second Chamber has sought in the past to invest itself. There is the instance of the Long Parliament. I speak about the Long Parliament with profound reservation in the presence of the noble Viscount, Lord Morley. During the last few days I have taken the opportunity of taking down "The Life of Cromwell" from the shelves of my small library, and I must say I was disappointed—I say this with great respect—with the somewhat perfunctory way in which the proceedings of the Long Parliament were dealt with as compared with the excessive interest in the way Cromwell found it necessary to deal with the people in Ireland and Scotland. But there are other authorities with regard to the proceedings of the Long Parliament. The noble Viscount will remember that the Long Parliament established itself in 1649 by in that year abolishing the House of Lords and, on the next day, abolishing the Monarchy. It is legitimate to quote an authority who said—
There are some reasons for believing that it was intended that this system of recruiting was to be applied to each successive Parliament so that there would never be a General Election again.
I have no doubt that that is a consummation, which every Party in the State would view with a great deal of satisfaction supposing they happened to be the Party in power at the time. But we well recollect what was the end of that. Cromwell himself had to call in the soldiers and order the Mace to be removed, and the Long Parliament was brought to an end.
§ If the people of this country are seriously going to be asked to endow a temporary majority in the House of Commons with unlimited powers over the constituencies, you are opening the door to an orgie of gerrymandering of which it is impossible 1201 to see the finish. I know that the answer will be that no honest, moderate, unoffending Radical Government would dream of such a thing, but I say at once that I have no confidence in noble Lords opposite and their friends in regard to this or any other matter; nor am I at all sure that I should have confidence in my own side. For it is a temptation to the Party in power for the time being, who will naturally consider that their omnipotence is the primary essential for the welfare of the British Empire. It should not be in the power of any Party to make themselves omnipotent or to continue their existence when it is beyond the power of a Second Chamber to step in and say that this law or that law, that this redistribution scheme or that, should not be passed without an appeal to the people.
We will now come to the year 1884, when the last attempt was made to alter the franchise and redistribute the constituencies. The Conservative Party of the day, under Lord Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote, had a considerable hand in that, and on a certain day in December of that year this appeared in the Daily News—
The Franchise Bill is law and the Re-distribution Bill is as good as law, and this measure is as much a measure of Lord Salisbury and Sir Stafford Northcote as it is of the Radical Party.
Therefore we have precedent for not embarking on a great Liberal change, such as we know is contemplated by noble Lords opposite and their friends, without its being capable of being fully threshed out, not only in the House of Commons but in the country. But we have something which is more conclusive than that. We have the remarkable professions of the Prime Minister himself. This is rather striking. Mr. Asquith, in the House of Commons on April 10, when talking about this everlasting thing, the "will of the people"—though I am never quite sure what is meant by that expression—said:
I quite agree and acknowledge … that there are conceivable and, indeed, actual cases in which the position of the House of Commons does not necessarily and perhaps does not even presumptively express that opinion. You may have a case, a conceivable case, of what is called a scratch majority combined together under the coercion of Party exigencies for particular and transient purposes.
That is exactly the kind of majority to which we are asked to hand over such a matter as the constituencies of this country
—an action in regard to which I shall not in any way make myself responsible. I bring forward this Amendment in order that the people of the country may have an opportunity of hearing the opinion of noble Lords opposite on this matter—whether they really think that the power ought to be placed in the hands of a temporary and transient majority in the House of Commons to deal with the constituencies as they will, to effect a redistribution of seats, to take away the vote from one class whom they think may be hostile to them, and generally to gerrymander the constituencies in whatever way they may think convenient to themselves.
Page 2, line 19, after the second ("Bill") insert ("or a Bill which affects the qualification for the exercise of the Parliamentary franchise or the distribution of Parliamentary seats").—(Lord Willoughby de Broke.)
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
Obviously we cannot accept an Amendment which implies that the House of Commons is not to be trusted to alter its own constitution in dealing with the franchise or in distributing Parliamentary seats. Under this Bill—there is no secret about it—one of the earliest measures which I hope the House of Commons will attempt once more is the Plural Voting Bill; but the noble Lord exempts plural voting from the provisions of this Bill. The Amendment is open to all the objections that we have to the exemptions on the Paper, and it is certainly open to the objection that you are showing that you do not think the House of Commons should be trusted with measures affecting most intimately its own powers and resources. The noble Lord said he had a small library, and I do not think—and this without affectation and modesty—that it is altogether well selected. And I am still less certain that from the few volumes that the noble Lord says he possesses he has taken out all the passages that he could find when he honoured two by quoting them—he has 1203 left all the passages which point in the other direction.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY OF BLACKBURN
But, seriously, I am sure the House will feel that, in a Bill brought in to adjust the relations between the two Houses and place them on a better footing than at present prevails—a footing that has ended, I think, in a most disastrous and dangerous state of things—to introduce an Amendment indicating in the plainest way that the House of Commons does not know how to manage its own business or regulate its own constitutional formation, is not the way to help on the policy which the Bill is intended to promote.
The noble Lord on my left is not the only member of this House who read the "Life of Cromwell during the Whitsuntide holidays. I derived the greatest pleasure in doing so. It interested me very much indeed, and I am going to make an appeal to the noble Viscount, Lord Morley. If he will not accept any Amendment, will he bring out a still cheaper edition of that valuable work so that it may be distributed by Con- 1204 servative agents throughout the country and thereby bring home to the electors some knowledge as to where they are hurrying. The Long Parliament, Lord Morley says, did a great deal of good during the first five months of its existence. The present Parliament has lasted more than five months, but I cannot put my finger on any good it has yet done; so that the Long Parliament was superior to the one that is now sitting.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
I ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw the Amendment, and in doing so I would like to point out that when I spoke of the House of Commons I used a term which Lord Morley has rather turned to his own advantage. I would remind the noble Viscount and his friends that they are not the House of Commons, and that the Radical Party are neither the House of Commons nor the people of this country.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House resumed, and to be again in Committee on Monday next.
§ House adjourned at Eleven o'clock to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.