I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill, which fulfils, I think, what has been now for many years the aim of most parties in the House, including the Conservative party, is the logical conclusion of a series of Reform Bills, beginning with that of 1832. Although it is quite true that the Conservative party, prior to 1832, opposed the extension of Parliamentary reform, since 1832 it has joined with the other parties in the various extensions of the franchise which have been put before Parliament. Up to the year 1832, the system of Parliamentary representation had remained practically unchanged for four centuries, but, the Act of that year, and the Acts of 1867, 1884 and 1918 effected various reforms, with which I shall deal in a few minutes; and now I have the privilege to move what I hope will probably be the final reform, which will have the effect of giving to the people of our country greater and freer Parliamentary representation than in any other democratic country in the world.
The old idea of Parliament was that it should represent—I am speaking now of the period before 1832 and about that time—that Members of Parliament represented organised communities of men who had more or less similar interests in particular constituencies. From that time onwards it began to be realised that a Member of Parliament was not merely the representative of a few gentlemen in a constituency, but that he had gradually become more and more representative of the great and very often unorganised masses of the people of the constituency. In 1867, when the great extension of the Parliamentary franchise took place, Lord Beaconsfield—or Mr. Disraeli, as he then was—used some words in this House which I want to quote to-day, and which I want to adopt as the reason for this Bill. He said:
In the present age, and under the existing circumstances of the country, the best
way to maintain and strengthen the character and functions of the House of Commons was to establish them on a broad, popular basis.
That, I know, was agreed to and was the policy of the Liberal party at that time, and it was the policy of the Conservative party; and from then onwards both parties have, I will not say vied one with the other, but have taken their share in establishing Parliament on a broad and popular basis. [Interruption.] The hon. Member is good enough to make remarks of that kind. I am seeking to prove that from a mere historical position the Bill I am putting before the House is the logical outcome and the logical necessity of the various acts of politicians on both sides which have gradually led Parliament up to the position in which it is placed to-day. The next great reform was in 1884, and there I am going to quote the words of the best-known Liberal of his day, Joseph Chamberlain, because those words emphasized so clearly in 1884 what I want to put before the House to-day as the real basis on which we are establishing our proposals;
The wider you lay the foundations of your liberties and institutions the more stable those liberties and institutions will be. I have no fear of the people. I desire to call in the largest possible number of them in order to share in the work and responsibility of Government. Every successive alteration of the franchise has been justified by its results. Great social questions, which are every day becoming more important, can only be satisfactorily settled when the whole people take a part in the work of legislation.
In those days that was considered a very advanced sentiment. Is there any Member of the House, 40 years after Joseph Chamberlain spoke, who will suggest that he fears the people? Is there any Member who fears the consequences of the democratic vote as we established it in 1918? Is there any Member here to-day who will deny that social questions are becoming every day more important and that they can only be satisfactorily settled when the whole of the people take part in the work of legislation? A very large section of the people to-day is unable to take a share in the work of legislation. In 1918 there were still further enlargements of the franchise made, during the Coalition Government, with the consent of the House as a whole. In that Act there was embodied what we
all know to-day as women's franchise. It was a franchise based upon a compromise, based upon either fear of the women's vote or on the idea that women were unfitted to take their share in political work and should not therefore be entitled to political representation. It was quite obvious that that compromise could not last for ever and one of the great leaders of the Conservative party found four years afterwards that that was the case. Mr. Bonar Law, whose name is held in high esteem by Members on both sides, including those hon. Friends of mine who have put down an Amendment, said in 1922:
I have been a consistent supporter of women's suffrage, and even at the time of the Franchise Bill of 1918 was passed, I felt that the discrimination in age between men and women would not be permanent. I think so still.
I am here to ask the House of Commons to implement the views of Mr. Bonar Law and to say the time has come to decide that the restriction of the women's vote should not remain permanently in the legislation of the country. I want the House to realise how rapidly we have moved forward since 1832. There was no real representation of the people before 1832 and the great Reform Act of that year, which people look back upon as the palladium of liberty, only added 100,000 voters to the Parliamentary Roll, and after it was passed, 4.6 per cent. of the people only had votes. The Act of 1867, which gave household franchise to the boroughs, only added 1,000,000 voters, and after that Act there were only 9 per cent. of the people who had votes. The Act of 1884, passed by the great Liberal Government of Mr. Gladstone, with the full goodwill of the Conservative party, added 2,500,000 voters, and after that time still there were only 16 per cent. of the population who had votes. The Act of 1918 made an enormous addition of no less than 13,000,000 to the Register and to-day the proportion of people who have votes is 48 per cent. I want to show that this Bill is the legitimate and necessary consequence of the whole of the long trend of Parliamentary and national feeling which has gradually operated to widen the basis of representation, to bring more and more people into consultation with Parliament and to allow more and more people to exer-
cise their discretion in the choice of their representatives in the House of Commons.
May I now briefly explain what the Bill does? The House knows my own objection, very often mentioned before, to legislation by reference. I thought it would be a crying shame in a Bill of this kind once more to adopt that old foolish system, so I am proposing to repeal the Sections of the Act of 1918 and to re-enact them, assimilating in them the franchises of men and women. Under the existing law, by Section 1 of the Act of 1918 the qualification of a man, excluding for the moment university representation, is that he should have a three months' residential qualification or three months' occupation of business premises of not less than £10 value. A man cannot be registered for more than one qualification in the same constituency. He may be registered for as many qualifications as he has in different constituencies. At a by-election a man can vote in respect of any qualification for which he is registered. At a General Election he can vote for his residential qualification and also for one business qualification, if in another constituency, but not for more than one. He can exercise two votes only. If he exercises a university vote he cannot exercise a second vote in respect of his business qualification. Thus there are three classes of men voting. A man who has only one qualification, whether residential or business, is of course registered only once and can vote only once. The man who has two or more qualifications in the same constituency can be registered for whichever qualification he selects but can only vote once. The man who has two or more qualifications in different constituencies can be registered in respect of each of these and can vote twice—once in respect of his residential qualification and once in respect of his business qualification, and once only, however many business qualifications he may have.
Under the existing law, namely, the Act of 1918, the woman's qualification contains a restrictive condition which is not applied to men, that she has to have attained the age of 30 years. That is the first stipulation under the existing Act of Parliament relating to votes for women. If she is 30 she is entitled to be registered as a Parliamentary elector if she or her husband is qualified for the local government franchise by the occupation as owner or tenant of a dwelling-house, or of land or other premises of not less than £5 annual value. Thus a woman obtains the Parliamentary franchise if her husband is qualified for the local government franchise. The House can see how complicated these franchises are. Under the Bill which I am submitting to the House to-day the qualifications for the Parliamentary franchise for counties and boroughs will be the same for both men and women, that is, three months' residence in premises and three months' occupation of business premises of not less than £10 annual value. You will see, therefore, that a wife will be entitled, with the 30 years' limitation swept away by a Clause of the new Bill, to be registered in respect of her husband's occupation of his business premises and in respect of her own residence wherever she may reside. At the moment, her husband has not a corresponding right to be registered in respect of his wife's business premises. If the wife carries on business, at present the husband has no second vote. Some criticism may be directed against the proposals which I am inserting in the Bill that the husband shall be entitled to a second vote in respect of his wife's business qualification. We are proposing to give the wife a second vote for her husband's business qualification, and in order that there shall be no possible hardship or inequality on the other side—I will tell the House very soon the very few men this will involve—we propose to give the husband qualification for his wife's business premises.
Oh, yes. The residential qualification depends on the residence entirely. Wherever the husband and wife are residing in the same house, they will both be qualified for the same residence. Perhaps I ought to say one word with regard to the university franchise. Hon. Members will see in Clause 1 of the Bill that I have given the university franchise to men and women on exactly the same terms. The House will understand that no man or no woman can exercise the university franchise if he or she elects to vote in respect of a business qualification. Any-one who has the three qualifications—residence, business and university—can only exercise two votes. That is the law today, and that will be continued under this Bill. The number of voters who have the university franchise is much smaller than people perhaps imagine. There are 51,000 men and 9,000 women at the present time. The addition of women between 21 and 30 to the university franchise is very difficult to ascertain, but I am quite satisfied that if you say 10,000 votes you will have the full number of all those who are likely to be added as a result of this proposal.
I have spoken for the most part so far of the right to be registered. Under Clause 4 we make provision, as I have just pointed out, for preventing a man or woman from voting more than twice in any one election. May I give a few figures in regard to what this plural vote may possibly involve. The House knows that when this Bill is passed there will be about 26,000,000 voters throughout the country. At the present moment, there are between 230,000 and 240,000 men who have the business qualification in addition to their residential qualification—a very small number indeed. The provisions of the Bill will, it is estimated, add a further 200,000 second votes. I may summarise it this way. The number of men at present entitled to two votes, one for residence and one for business, is 240,000. The number of women over 30 who are at present entitled to vote for residence and who will get a second vote in respect of their husband's business—and these are in no sense young women—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"]—I was trying not to introduce into the Debate the opprobrious terms which have been freely used outside. These particular women about whom I am speaking at the moment cannot possibly be included among those women, the opposition to whose votes has created a great deal of dissatisfaction outside this House. The total number of these women will be about 130,000. The number of wives between 21 and 30 who will, under the Bill, get a second vote for their husband's business premises is between 20,000 and 30,000. The number of men who will get a second vote in respect of their wives' business premises is only 16,000. That is the number to which I referred just now, and I want hon. Members to realise that it is a very minute fraction indeed of the population who will have votes. The number of women who will he over 21 and who will be entitled to have the business vote in respect of their own business premises is, as far as we can gather, 31,000. The total electorate will be between 26,000,000 and 26,500,000, and the total of those who will be entitled to exercise more than one vote in respect of the business premises qualification will not exceed 420,000, or something like 1½ per cent. of the total electorate—a very small number indeed.
I do not think that I need weary the House with details, and perhaps I may be excused from dealing with the Local Government franchise. It is simply a re-enactment of the original existing franchise and includes votes for women on the same conditions as votes for men. That is dealt with in Clause 2 of the Bill. Clause 3 merely deals with consequential Amendments. Clause 4 of the Bill merely entitles, as I mentioned just now, all registered persons to vote and enacts that no more than two votes shall be given at a General Election. Clause 5 of the Bill is an operative Clause relating to the mode in which the register is to be prepared and the time in which it will come into operation. The House knows that it has not been possible to pass this Bill in time for the new voters to be added to this year's register, as this year's register comes into force on the 15th October, 1928. In order to enable the new voters to vote at the General Election, which must take place in the course of next year, and to fulfil the pledge of my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, that this addition to the electorate shall take place before the election takes place, Clause 5 hastens the preparation of the 1929 register, which normally would not come into force until October, 1929.
The register, therefore, will be made up for a qualifying period of three months ending on the 1st December, 1928, and will come into force on the 1st May, 1929.Of course, hon. Members will understand that after the qualifying period, the Registrars and other officials will have to take rather a considerable time in order to get the register made perfect, and in Clause 5, Sub-section (2), I make provision by Order in Council to fix the date for the publication of the provisional lists and the date for making claims and objections, and, although not included here, I will give to the House an undertaking that before any Order in Council is made, I will consult the necessary officials, and also through the ordinary channels, the representatives of the three parties in this House, so that, if possible, arrangements can be made to meet the convenience of all those who have to take part in the preparation of the lists. That will give us, as a matter of fact, 14 days longer for the preparation of the new register than we have at present for a normal register. Clause 6 deals with the application of the Act to Scotland, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be able to answer any questions with regard to that Clause.
Those are, quite simply, the alterations which it is proposed to make by the provisions of this Bill. I had hoped that it would have been possible to pass this Bill with the unanimous assent of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am not complaining in any degree. It is quite right and proper that hon. Members who take objection to the extension of the franchise in this direction, should state their views in, of all places in the world, the House of Commons. Although I have not had the privilege of hearing their speeches—I shall be able to listen to them directly—I have gained some inkling of their reasons for seeking to ask the House to refuse a Second Reading to this Bill by the nature of the Amendments put before the House to-day. The main opposition seems to me to be based on the ground that the control of political power will be transferred from men to women. I agree that that was the reason which moved the House in 1918, by a purely artificial restriction, to limit the number of women voters—in order that the objection which my hon. Friends had at that time to the political power passing from men to women should be artificially prevented. It was not then felt, I am sure, that women under 30 were any less fitted to exercise the franchise than men under 30. It was avowedly meant to be an experimental period, and I admit that in the circumstances of 1918, it was possibly wise that there should be that experimental period, and that the large influx of women voters should be dealt with in the way it was dealt with.
But the time has come, I think, to say that the experiment, which began in 1918, of which we have had experience in four General Elections, has been amply justified. It is quite true that we have to-day more men electors than women electors. We have, in round figures, 12,250,000 men and 9,250,000 women, leaving men with a majority of something over 3,000,000. When this Bill is passed, the majority will be 2,000,000 the other way, that is, 2,000,000 more women than men with the vote. But if we accept the principle of establishing representation in this country on the broadest possible basis; if we agree with the quotation I made from Disraeli, and with the quotation I made from Joseph Chamberlain, then we cannot possibly leave more than 5,000,000 over the age of 21 unrepresented by their votes in this House of Commons. I shall listen with great interest to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall), who has got down an Amendment, and to the speeches of others of my hon. Friends, but I cannot imagine that, at this time of day, they are going to say that women are unfit intellectually for the vote, that their judgment is not as sound as that of men, that with the progress of women in all stages of society, in all businesses and in all professions, which has been so startling in its rapidity, they are to be exempted from one right, and one right only, in this country, that of exercising their vote for a Member of Parliament; that they are to be allowed to sit here as a Member of the House at 21, but are not to be able to vote at that age for one of us.
It is a very curious coincidence that at this very moment, while we are discussing the extension of the franchise, there
should be, standing on behalf of the Conservative party at a by-election, a lady—a member of the Scottish Bar—who is so young that she is not at the moment entitled to vote for a Member of the House of Commons, and who the party to which I belong, the party to which those hon. Members who are opposing this Bill belong, are proud to have as a candidate for Parliament. This House has gone too far by Act of Parliament not to go further. We removed, in 1919, the disqualification of sex by an Act which says:
A person shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage from the exercise of any public function or from being appointed to or holding any civil or judicial office or post, or from entering or assuming or carrying on any civil profession or vocation, or for admission to any incorporated society … a person shall not be exempted from the liability to serve as a juror.
A woman under 30 may enter the Civil Service, she may be a doctor, she may be a barrister: she is compelled to serve, if called on, as a juror. We have decided that, after 21, she is fit to hold the power of life and death in a criminal case in our Courts of Law. Are we to say to-day, nine years after that Act was passed, that she is not entitled, and she has not justified her claim, to vote for a Member of this House? We have recognised her ability in all the learned professions and in art and science. The only thing she cannot do at the moment, for which she is qualified otherwise, is to give a vote for a Member of this House.
Another objection raised to this Measure is that some millions of politically ignorant persons will be added to the register. The same reason might have been adduced in 1918, when we put on 13,000,000. Who suffered from putting them on the register? The Conservative party has not suffered.
The hon. Member is a little mistaken; I am not referring to that one. I am referring to the last three elections. I am not dissatisfied with the result of adding 13,000,000—uneducated, if you like, or unintellectual electors to the register. English women, Scotswomen and Welsh women who desire to take their part in the government of their country, who have taken their part—they have given us and will give us no reason for regret.
My hon. and gallant Friend would be safer if he had waited until I had finished. I am going to deal with that argument, which has been adduced very largely outside this House, and I am going to challenge anyone to repeat it this afternoon. I think the House ought to be fully cognisant of the position of these 5,250,000 women who are to be enfranchised by this Bill. Of that number, women over 30 comprise 1,800,000, or 33½per cent. of the total. I do not suppose my hon. Friends will object to that portion being included. Married women between 21 and 30, who have taken upon themselves—at an early age, if you like—the responsibilities of a household, the bringing up of a family, represent 1,700,000, or nearly 32 per cent. Occupied unmarried women between 21 and 30, earning their own living, represent 1,477,000, or 27½ per cent. Unoccupied unmarried women—now we come to those about whom, perhaps, some hon. Members may have more to say—between 25 and 30 comprise 175,000, or 3 per cent. of the total. Unoccupied unmarried women between 21 and 25—and there have been many proposals put before the Government to give the vote at 25 instead of 21—the total number of all women unoccupied and unmarried between 21 and 25 out of the whole 5,250,000 that we are enfranchising, is 216,000–216,000 who, by no possibility, could be dubbed with the opprobrious expression that has been used. Who is to-day going to object to women over 30, who, under the present franchise, have not the vote, being given it? Who is going to object to married women, who have their responsibilities? Who is going to object to unmarried women who are working and earning their own living side by side with the men in the factories and shops being added to the register? Can anyone at this moment say that these women who are capable of earning their living are not justified in asking for the same right to the vote as the men who work by their side in the shop or the factory? I cannot think that any of my Friends on this side will really take that line.
There is one other question on which I want to say one or two words, because my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hitchin (Major Kindersley) rather put it to me. I am not asking for votes for women because of any expediency. I was merely answering my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) to say that he need not have been frightened by the result of the extension of the franchise in 1918. We are told, and we have been told in one of the leading newspapers of the day, that it is foolish for the Conservative party to add a large number of these women to the register, because they will vote for our political opponents. I want to know whether anybody is going to express that view in the House of Commons. I want to know whether any hon. Member will get up in this House in the year 1928 and say that we dare not give votes to these women because we are not sure that they will not vote for our political opponents. What has that to do with it?
I have tried to put my points before the House. I have tried to show that, historically, it is impossible to stop at what we have done. I have tried to show that these women have justified their claim by the work they have done and the position they occupy throughout the country, and I am not going to be deterred from what I believe to be an act of justice by any idea as to which way they will vote. That was not the position that Disraeli took up in 1867, and that was not the position which the party took up in 1884 and in 1918. That is not a position which I am prepared to discuss either inside or outside this House. It does not in the least matter which way they vote. We are doing what we believe to be right, and I ask the House to pass this Bill by an overwhelming majority.
As one of the few surviving Members of the House of Commons who took an active part in the Parliamentary demand for the enfranchisement of women in the days before the War, it gives me great satisfaction to give general support to the Second Reading of this Bill. I do so not merely on my own behalf but on behalf of every member of my party. That party from its inception has been united, unanimous and wholehearted in its support of the political equality of the sexes. I was interested in the historical survey of the question of political enfranchisement made by the Home Secretary. No change in the attitude of political parties towards the extension of the franchise has been more remarkable or more rapid than the change of attitude, if not of opinion, of the two older parties during the last 15 years. The last great Debate that took place in this House upon the enfranchisement of women was in the year before the War, There were acute divisions in the two older parties. The Conservative party, with a few notable exceptions, were wholly opposed to the reform,, and about one-third of the Liberal Members of the House always voted against it. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was a consistent supporter of it. Mr. Asquith and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer were violently opposed to it. Mr. Bonar Law, to whom the Home Secretary has paid such a gracious and well-deserved tribute, was a strong supporter of women's suffrage, and so was Mr. Balfour.
I cannot remember, and certainly I cannot find any record, that the present Prime Minister, either by voice or by vote supported women's suffrage in those days. The Home Secretary was a Member of this House for years before the outbreak of war, but I cannot remember the right hon. Gentleman giving much assistance to us in our agitation for the conferring of the vote upon women. The right hon. Gentleman claims that his party have always been willing to make a, concession of political reform when they considered that the time was ripe. On a great many occasions it has taken a very long time to convince them that the time was ripe, and judging by the way in which the right hon. Gentleman's speech has been received by hon. Members behind him this afternoon, the work of conscientious conversion to women's suffrage has not yet by any means been completed. The only general cheer that he got was when he referred to the lady candidate at Linlithgow, and the only cheer he got in the other parts of his speech came from the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor).
The right hon. Gentleman said that this Bill is the consummation of a long agitation for political enfranchisement. It is 140 years since the first great radical reform movement, led by Major Cartwright, was launched in this country. It took 100 years to get the enfranchisement of householders in the counties. May I remind hon. Members below the Gangway, the members of the Liberal party, of one important fact. The Home Secretary quoted Disraeli. What did Mr. Gladstone say in 1867? It is interesting, and I am quite sure that it will be interesting to hon. Members below the Gangway, who imagine that their party have always been the advocates of a democratic franchise. Mr. Gladstone spoke, I think, in the same Debate from which the Home Secretary has quoted remarks by Mr. Disraeli. Opposing the £6 rateable qualification, Mr. Gladstone said:
The £6 qualification would place the working classes in a majority in the constituencies. That has never been the intention of any Bill proposed in this House. I do not think it is a proposal to which Parliament will ever agree. I do not think we are called upon by any consideration of the circumstances to hand over the majority of the constituencies into the hands of the working classes.
We have, indeed, moved far from those days, when we have the Home Secretary in a Conservative Government proposing a welcome Measure for the completion of the democratic franchise.
I will not enter into the question raised by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Major Kindersley) as to whether it is expediency or honest conviction which is responsible for the introduction of this Bill. I am willing to give to the right hon. Gentleman the fullest credit. I am quite sure that nobody could have listened to his speech without being convinced of his sincerity. I have never, nor has my party ever, advocated the extension of the franchise for women because we believed that it would be to our political advantage. If I may be permitted a personal allusion, I might say that when I took such an active part in the days before the War in con- nection with the movement for women's franchise, I sat for a traditional Tory constituency, and I believed that the enfranchisement of women would rob me of my seat. It did, but I did not complain of that. We supported it, and we support the full enfranchisement of the adult population because we believe that it is the right of every grown-up man or woman to be able to take part in the laws by which they are governed.
This Bill completes the extension of the franchise. The Bill of 1918, now an Act, altered the basis of the franchise from what we might describe as the property or occupational qualification to adult qualification in the case of men, but it did not do so in the case of women. Women still vote—if I may use the expression without offence—as the appendages of their husbands. They vote upon the qualification of the husband. This Bill puts women as far as the residential qualification is concerned exactly on the same terms as men. Therefore, it removes any indignity which women may have suffered since 1918 under the existing Act. But this Bill does more. It maintains some of the objectionable, in our opinion, at any rate, features of the existing law. There is the dual qualification, there is the adult qualification, determined by residence for a period of three months, and then there is the property qualification or occupation qualification. You cannot reconcile those things. If you are going to have manhood and womanhood as the basis of your franchise, you have no logical justification for maintaining in your electoral system, a qualification of a different character.
This Bill, I suppose on the ground of equality, is going to give a second vote to women and to enable women to exercise that second vote. If the Government are wanting equality, why do they still continue to deprive the man who has a residential qualification and a business qualification in the same constituency from exercising two votes? I am mentioning that in order to show the illogicality, the inconsistency, of maintaining the property or occupational qualification in this Bill. It will give four votes in many houses. It will give two votes only in others; and if equality is what the Government are aiming at then there cannot be equality sc long as a vast mass of the electors are able to exercise two votes.
There are one or two other points to which I should like to make some reference. The Bill continues the university franchise. I suppose it would have been difficult, perhaps impossible, to deal with the present university representation under this Bill, but university representation in this House is an anachronism, it is archaic, and like the plural vote should find no place in a democratic constitution. It originated, I suppose, in the days when very few people had a liberal and wide education, but who is going to say to-day that the conferment of a university degree proves that the recipient of it is better able to form an intelligent opinion upon political questions than the man or woman who has no such university qualification? If we cannot under this Bill deal with the question of university representation I suppose we shall have to tolerate, until the time comes when we are able to deal with it, the university franchise.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the register; and I have some doubts about this. As I understand it, the new register will come into force 12 months from May next. That is to say, it will come into operation from the 1st of May next year, and that register is to continue in existence until the 15th of October in the following year; that is a period of 18 months. What does that mean? It means that if a General Election were to take place in the early autumn of 1930—and the same thing would happen at any by-election which takes place about that time—that there must be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who will be affected by this, and although they may have been in the same residence for nearly two years they will be unable to exercise the vote. It may be difficult—I am no expert in matters of registration—but this is certainly a matter into which the very closest inquiry should be made when we get to the Committee stage of the Bill.
Referring again to the Committee stage, the Prime Minister's pledge, the right hon. Gentleman's pledge, has not been, I think it will be agreed, completely fulfilled in the way in which this Bill has been introduced. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary made a speech three years ago on the Bill intro-
duced by one of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, and he laid great emphasis upon the exact terms of the Prime Minister's pledge. Part of the Prime Minister's pledge was:
That the matter would be referred to a conference of all political parties on the lines of the Ullswater Committee.
That has not been done. The purpose of referring this question to a Committee was, as the Prime Minister said elsewhere, to get an agreed Measure, a Measure which would pass through this House practically with unanimity supported by all parties. Although the Government have not in the letter fulfilled the Prime Minister's pledge in regard to party agreement, I hope that they will be prepared to fulfil it in the spirit during the Committee stage of the Bill. By that I mean, that when Amendments are put forward, not in any factious or destructive spirit but with a desire to make the Measure still more democratic, I hope the Government will give them their sympathetic consideration. We shall bring forward Amendments in the Committee stage dealing with the points to which I have referred, that is, plural voting, the university franchise and the register, and I repeat, I hope they will receive the sympathetic consideration and support of the Government.
I wholly agree with the Home Secretary with regard to the falsification of all the objections raised to the enfranchisement of women in the days before it took place. It certainly seems now to be amusing, if not grotesque. It would destroy the home, it would break up family life, it would destroy chivalry towards women, the women would all vote together and the men's vote would be completely submerged! Nothing of that sort has happened. I agree wholly with what the Home Secretary said, that the experiment we have had since 1918 has justified the great step that was taken on that Bill, and I am convinced that the completion of the enfranchisement of women will be equally justified by practical experience. This Bill consummates 60 years of valiant work on the part of women suffrage organisations. It has involved a great effort and much suffering on the part of many devoted women, who have felt the indignity of their political disability and the lack of opportunities for rendering public ser- vice. We support this Bill because we believe it will widen women's interests and inspire them with a greater sense of civic responsibility. We support it not merely in the interests of the women themselves but because we believe it will bring a truer comradeship and closer cooperation between men and women in the common task of grappling with the grave national questions which it is the duty of enfranchised democracy to solve.
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words
this House declines to accord a Second Reading to a Bill which, while adding five million persons to the existing electorate and giving to women a permanent majority in the constituencies, does not deal with other vital questions connected with the franchise nor follow the constitutional practice of accompanying an extension of the franchise by a measure of redistribution.
In doing so I crave the kind indulgence of the House, mainly on one ground. You, Mr. Speaker, referred the other day to the more modest Members who speak little in the House, and I ask for the indulgence of the House as one of those more modest Members who seldom raises his voice in this Chamber. I do not suppose there is any hon. Member in any quarter of the House who envies me the role for which I am cast this afternoon in what must be one of the closing acts in this great drama. It is true that I may have sympathy from more than one quarter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) suggested that there might be more sympathy on these benches than will prove vocal in the Lobby. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cheltenham (Sir J. Agg Gardner), in some very delightful reminiscences which he published lately, referred to something he had heard to the effect that no speech had ever changed a vote, though many had changed opinion. I am in this difficult position, that whereas I should like to change votes, if the right hon. Gentleman is right, I must be careful lest I change opinion.
I shall get some sympathy, I hope, on the Liberal benches. I am, apparently, opposed, not perhaps quite so much as appears, to my own party and my party leaders. The Liberal party must know what it is day after day to go into the Lobby against their leader. I shall get a little sympathy, I hope, from the Labour party, united as it is so firmly on this one question, at least from those hon. Members who from the dark recesses of the back benches opposite indiscriminately discharge their arrows now against the serried ranks opposite them and at others into the shivering backs of their own Front Bench. They, at least, know what a nervous strain is imposed on a very small tail when it tries to wag a very large dog. I am going to hope even for a little sympathy from the Home Secretary himself. He must remember his own salad days in the Coalition. Let me recall to his memory that the more opposed he was in those days to his own party the more certain they were of support' from his opponents.
I am charged with being a die-hard in taking the stand I do. It is only the other day that I was crucified every morning in the columns of one of the chief die-hard newspapers for the part was taking in another drama. Not only am I not a die-hard; I am almost a feminist. I am not sure that I am not more a feminist than the right hon. Gentleman himself. To a small extent I am a pioneer on a kindred matter, for I remember that across the Floor of this House, not very long ago, I extracted from the right hon. Gentleman himself the rather reluctant pledge that' he would not altogether exterminate the women police. The fact is, I am not opposing this Measure because I am in any way opposed to the women's vote. When the Representation of the People Act was before the House, two or three years ago, I remember saying a few words then on behalf of the male—I mean "m-a-l-e," the eternal animal, not the daily journal! It has been said by one of our greater poets that the female of the species is more deadly than the male. I do not share that view. In my own constituency I find that she is more lively; it is one of the dangers of this Measure, as I shall show, that women are taking such a very live interest to-day in our political problems. The sex was described by a lady writer only last night, in one of the evening papers, as "more precocious, more articulate." Certainly, as I think, she matures at an earlier age than man, though there are
views to the contrary. It was a woman writer who said:
A woman's always younger than a man, at equal years.
I do not think that that is the opinion of most people, and, for myself, I am, sure she comes to maturity earlier. Lest she should grow too elated, may I add, as, I believe, is the biological fact, that the higher the organism, the longer the period of infancy.
I said, on the last occasion when this subject was discussed, that,
in judgment, in ability, in intelligence, in all those qualities which a voter should possess, women are just as capable of exercising the franchise as are men"—
A too guarded statement, perhaps. In some questions, I believe their contribution is greater than that of men—social questions and educational questions. In others, not, I think, through any natural disqualification, but rather through lack of opportunity—in Imperial questions and in questions of trade and finance—their contribution is less than that of men, though even in those questions there are women who, in the economic sphere take a very high position side by side with men. May I say that I should be the last person in the world to say a disparaging word of women's work. During the War the great Department which I controlled contained, I believe, more women than any other Department—certainly more educated women—and I was deeply impressed by the devotion of all those women to their duty and, further, by the valuable contribution which they gave us through their active participation in that work. It is not on these grounds that I stand here to oppose this Bill. It might be that in days gone by women were thought less ab1e. There is I believe, on Maria Theresa's tombstone the epitaph:
In sex a woman; in ability a man.
That must have been meant as a compliment. It may come to be inverted.I have seen it suggested that the term "old woman" will gradually change its character, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it may even be his honoured fate—for all I know it may be his present ambition—that when, not for many years to come as we all hope, his monument is prepared, there may be
found on it the words, used not as a
reproach, but in eulogy: "He died, as he had lived, a perfect old woman."
The right hon. Gentleman puts forward this Bill as a logical conclusion. The worst of all logical conclusions is this, that when you reach them they are so hopelessly illogical. This is no exception. The Bill is put forward as an act of justice to those young women whose popular name the right hon. Gentleman will not mention or, if he does, will only whisper. It is put forward in the name of justice to them, but as I sincerely think, it will, if it is passed as it stands now, inflict a far graver injustice on men, taken as a whole. It is no use closing one controversy if you are going to open another far more formidable. The figures lately given in the House, and given to-day at the Table, show that there will be over 26,000,000 voters, of whom 12,250,000 will be men and 14,500,000 women, a majority in favour of women of 2,250,000. In each constituency, on the average, there will be 3,650 more women voters than men. In my own constituency, it is estimated that there will be 25,900 women and 22,100 men, a majority of 3,800 in favour of the women. As the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) said:
Women voters will become the determining factor in the polities of the count
Unless you redress that balance by some means, you are going to get a position where women will have absolute supremacy at the polls—"Vox populi. Vox dei"—no longer the voice of the gods, but of the goddesses——
—pitched in a higher key, we will hope. The Prime Minister said the other day that at the next election neither man's will nor woman's will is going to prevail. It used to be said:
Man has his will but woman has her way.
Now, woman will have both the will and the way. I ask this question in all seriousness: whether women ought to be the determining factor in our political life? Is that the logical conclusion of 140 years of this progress to which the right hon. Gentleman referred? Those who framed the last Act thought not.
They gave women the vote at 30. They deliberately ignored individual equality; they secured approximately sex equality; they gave approximately equal power to men and women; they gave equal consideration for men's and women's points of view. They may have inflicted some injustice on individuals, and that is the injustice that this Bill is intended to remove, but they inflicted no injustice on the sexes, as this Bill, if uncorrected, most certainly will do. It was an honest device to secure equal rights for men and women, equal responsibility for both sexes. If that device is too clumsy a device, change it. For my part, if either sex is to be supreme at the polls, I would prefer to see, quite frankly, men put in the supremacy. Outside this House I do not believe there are very many people who want to see men put in a permanent minority in every constituency in the country. In my own constituency, I put the case which I am now stating before the late election, and I stand here with a majority of nearly 14,000 for the point of view which I am putting to the House, and since I have tabled this Amendment, I have received, from one of the largest women's organisations in my constituency, a letter saying how much the women are at one with me in taking the point of view that men should be at least equal with women and not be put in a position of inferiority. [An HON. MEMBER: "Masters in their own house!"] Not subordinate to the mistresses in their own house.
The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), when I mentioned this Measure years ago, said that this majority of women was an unfortunate provision of nature. It was a woman who asked the question, "What is woman?" and gave this answer: "Only one of nature's agreeable blunders." But it is not true that this excess number is an unfortunate provision of nature. Nature is far wiser than the Noble Lady suggests she is. Nature brings into this world every year, and has done for 40 or 50 years in this country, more men children than women children. The trouble is that the higher the organism, the more difficult it is to rear it. You cannot change nature, says the Noble Lady.
Her words were—and she will find them recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT for 20th February, 1925:
You cannot change nature, but you have to change your laws."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1926; col. 1545, Vol. 180.]
Let me tell her that it is perhaps an unfortunate provision of nature, but we all enter this world naked. With a very little ingenuity, however, we have overcome that difficulty, more or less, and the higher the organism, the more it has overcome the difficulty. I suggest that a little ingenuity could remove this unfortunate inequality of numbers. One way, which I do not advocate, would be, of course, to murder the women innocents. Another way would be to rear more men into manhood. But I am speaking of electoral methods. You could do it by electoral colleges if you chose. You could do it by redistribution, and by having twin constituencies in which men and women voted for different sets of candidates. I do not mean all women candidates, and all men; I would still give the women the choice of men candidates, and I would still hope to profit by it. But I am not recommending those methods; I merely mention them. There is another, which I think I heard an hon. Member describe as a method of mathematical parity: by a very simple sum in arithmetic the returning officer could redress this slight balance of numbers in favour of women by a sum which any boy from 12 to 14 years of age could do in less than two minutes.
But it is not for me to make suggestions. I merely say that methods could be found. If there is a will to political justice there is a way. I would like to say that it would have been of great value—here I am agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman opposite—it would have been desirable if we could have had a conference on electoral reform. This very wide question could far better have been put to a conference, since if they were going to abolish one device they might well have felt it their duty to provide a better. I had supposed that, in effect, that was what the promise at the last Election was. But before I turn to the Prime Minister's pledge and my interpretation of it, I would like for a few moments to examine the circumstances in
which that conference originated. They are contained, of course, in the letter from the then Prime Minister to Mr. Speaker's predecessor in the Chair. The first thing I would note is the object of the Conference. It was stated by Mr. Walter Long, as he then was in this House, who spoke, I believe, for his party. It was stated that:
The object of the Conference was to find a solution which may be"—
not, as the Home Secretary stated, an experiment—
a lasting settlement of a very old and difficult problem.
The object of the conference, then, was to secure a lasting settlement. What was the women's claim that it was hoped to satisfy by that conference? I have here the words used by the late Lord Oxford and Asquith. He said:
With regard to the Parliament which is going to undertake the work of reconstruction after the War, it is eminently desirable that you should provide an electoral basis which will make that Parliament reflective and representative of the general opinion of the country, and give to its decisions a moral authority which you cannot (otherwise) obtain.
He then went on to suggest working out
by general agreement some scheme under which, both as regards the electorate and the distribution of electoral power, a Parliament can be created commanding the confidence of the country.
That is what I am here asking for. One point "which made a special appeal" to him was that
In the process of industrial reconstruction after the War women have a special claim to be heard on the many questions which will arise directly affecting their interests and possibly meaning for them a large displacement of labour.
Those were the grounds on which the conference was set up; those were the grounds on which it was proposed to give the vote to women. A conference was set up. The fighting men were abroad at the time. The Members of both Houses were selected by Mr. Speaker, and Mr. Speaker presided; and the conference decided that some measure of women's suffrage should be conferred. Then they went on to say:
If Parliament accepted the principle, the most practical way of conferring the vote would be to enfranchise every woman on the local government register, provided she had attained a specified age.
There was disagreement about age; 30 and 35 years were most discussed, and finally 30 was selected, and the Act was passed. It did not give to every Jill of the country a vote on the same terms as to every Jack. It was never intended to do so. But it did provide, in Lord Asquith's words, "an electoral basis reflective of general opinion." It placed women, unfortunately, as I think, in a minority. It allowed them to be heard on these important questions, but it did not give them an equal voice. It gave moral authority to the nation's decisions, but not the same moral authority as would have been given had equal power been given.
Such was the position on the eve of the late General Election. Soon after the election, the right hon. Gentleman who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill came into the picture. To-day he comes, not as a law maker, I understand, but as a successor to a law maker—Moses. He comes as Joshua, the son of Nun. The Prime Minister, if I may venture to say so, made a very unhappy selection when he selected that character for the right hon. Gentleman, for the very first order that Joshua gave to the settled tribes, when he ordered them to cross the Jordan, was to leave their women behind them And having got across the water, the first woman they met was one —her name was Rahab—who, for the sake of the love she bore to her own people, betrayed her country. What was the promised land that we were led to expect? The Prime Minister's address never mentioned women suffrage. The first appearance of a pledge at all was in a paper that used to be known as a Die-hard paper. It said:
The Unionist party is in favour of equal political rights for men and women, and desires that the question of an extension of the franchise should, if possible, be settled by agreement. With this view they would, if returned to power, propose that the matter be referred to a conference of all political parties on the lines of the Ullswater Committee.
That is a declaration of the policy of the Unionist party, "equal political rights for men and women." With that policy I find myself wholly in agreement. It then went on to make a pledge, and the pledge was that there should be a conference. That was the only pledge that was made before the election. I
am sure that the Prime Minister has every intention of honouring his pledge. As the Home Secretary said in 1925,
One of the attributes of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is that he does stand by his pledges, and I say to-day that he stands absolutely, textually, and in spirit by that pledge.
The Home Secretary went on to say:
A conference will be held, and they will be asked to consider how hest the Prime Minister's pledge"—
he should have said how best the Unionist party's policy—
can be carried out.
I feel quite sure that the Prime Minister has every intention of keeping this pledge, and the Home Secretary too. But the fact is that the pledge was different from what I believe the right hon. Gentleman thinks it was. The pledge undoubtedly was for a conference. To me the matter is of some importance. Officially, the statement of the Unionist party's policy that preceded the pledge might be taken to mean that we were in favour of giving the vote to women at 21, or 25 or any other age. But if that were the intention, the Home Secretary's speech in 1925 would not have taken the form and shape that it did. There was no doubt that at that time a decision had not been arrived at. I interpreted the policy of the party as being in favour of equal political rights for men and women, and I gave my own pledges in my own constituency to that effect. I explained, too, at that time, how easy it was to give effect to this pledge without any injustice to men; and the view that I explained to my constituents has found very great favour. It is the view that I have tried to put in the earlier part of my speech to-day. But if I was wrong in my view, I was protected by the pledge of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, when he said that he would set up a Committee similar to the previous Committee to go into the question of the franchise. For, surely, if such a Committee had been set up, the great constitutional question which I am submitting to the House would have been one of the very first that would have been submitted to that conference.
Fortunately, as I think, the pledges which the Prime Minister has since given are in no way irreconcilable with the pledge that he gave before the late election. It is, as I have suggested, perfectly
simple to set up a Committee to discover how, in exercising their political rights, equal power may be given to the two sexes. It can be done easily. The whole point as I see it is this—is it worth while doing it? I ask—for I think the answer depends upon this—is there a woman's point of view? If there has been no difference in our national policy since women had the vote, obviously it is a matter of perfect indifference to every one in this House or outside it whether you give women the vote at this age, that age or any other age, and whether they are in a majority or not. If, as I submit, there has been a change in the character of our legislation since women had the vote, then it seems to be of paramount importance that you should preserve to men a parity in the decisions of the country. That there is a women's point of view is confirmed by a very short quotation which I shall give from a speech made in my own constituency 20 years ago when women were fighting for the vote.
In 1908, in Redhill, Miss Agnes Slack said:
To my mind, almost the chief reason for granting the suffrage to women is that on any question the woman's point of view is different from the man's. This makes it essential that a woman should be on equal terms with a man.
Surely if that be true, the converse is true. Surely it is essential that men should be on equal terms with women. This Bill destroys that balance. It gives to the women's point of view an overemphasis and the support for the women's point of view is exaggerated and out of focus. The Seconder of the Motion for the Second Reading of the Franchise Bill in 1911 put forward his demand on this ground—that women did not ask for a preferential position. They asked only for a fair field and no favour. I ask the same for the men.
When I said this on a previous occasion, I was told that women did not vote as a sex and the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth maintains that women do not vote as a sex. Who ever said that they did? Men have never voted as a sex. The Noble Lady herself has shown that, since women have had the vote, legislation has been passed of a character that women have supported, but none of that legislation, so far as I know, has as yet redressed any of the man-made laws so far as they were distinctly in favour of women. Man has never legislated as a sex. Indeed, we might almost say that man has legislated for the sex. I think the men have always been anxious to further women's interests. It is a natural instinct with man to give way to the entreaty of women. If we look at the laws which men have made, we find, I am told, for example, that while a man must contribute to the support of his parents a woman need not contribute to the support of her parents, however necessitous they may be. Then there is the question of the rights of married women. The law of maintenance differs as between men and women. There is a difference in regard to costs in slander proceedings and there are numerous cases, in many other directions, in which manmade law has favoured women.. It is perfect nonsense to say that man has ever voted as a sex. Yet are women content to remain in a permanent minority? This Bill is proof that woman goes forward demanding that she should be put in a position not of equality, but of superiority over men. I ask, has man less spirit, less vision?
If I may say so, the Noble Lady shows a charming inconsistency in this respect. In this House she tells me that women do not vote as a sex, but when she goes outside the walls of this House she, tells the women that she is
able to contradict those who say that woman's vote has made no difference.
Then she goes on to show how out of 25 Measures dealing with women and children passed in the last 20 years 20 have been passed since women had the vote. Now it is proposed to create in every constituency a majority for the women's point of view. The trouble is that whatever the Noble Lady may think, those who seek their suffrage think that women do vote as a sex and this Bill proves that, because in every constituency the few women who have asked for this Bill are commanding a much larger support than their numbers justify. The Noble Lady herself thinks so, too. The other day in my presence here in the House of Commons she was dealing with the Central Committee on Women's Unemployment, which is the only com-
mitee concerned with unemployed women. She wanted a grant from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and how did she urge her case on the Minister concerned? She asked:
Would the Minister remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there are going to be a good many more women voters at the next election?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1928; col. 856, Vol. 213.]
These are the first fruits of this Bill. On the last occasion when I spoke on this subject I mentioned the very serious industrial side which there is to this question. I am not going to repeat those arguments. They can be read in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The argument of the Noble Lady is based, I think, on a totally wrong view of our electoral system. Women do not vote as a sex, and men do not vote as a sex, but what happens, as every Member of this House knows, is that where a Member has a small majority and election-time is coming on that Member is more susceptible to outside political pressure than would otherwise be the case. The Home Secretary said not long ago that he never had to give a pledge on this question of women's franchise, largely, as he believed, because he was unopposed or had such a large majority. But in a case where a man or a woman has a small majority, then we know that a few people urging a question of this kind may have great influence. I have never myself had a small majority. I am in the same proud position as the right hon. Gentleman, of never having found it necessary to give pledges, but I know that people do ask for pledges and, if a member has only a majority of a few hundred it is difficult to resist the pressure of 500 or 600 people who are supposed to desire a certain Measure. The result is that pressure of this kind is applied in each constituency where there is a small majority, by a very small number of persons, and if you are going to create in each constituency a majority of between 3,000 and 4,000 of women voters—
My right hon. Friend is perfectly right. I was taking an average, and on the average in each constituency there will be a majority such as I have described. Indeed, I believe my hon. Friend the Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) already sits for a constituency where there is a majority of women voters, and they show excellent good sense in returning him. I am not opposing the Bill on that ground, but. where you have on the average in each constituency a majority for women of between 3,000 and 4,000 votes, it seems to be only common sense that you will be giving not sex equality but sex preference to the women, and that the men's vote will be swamped. I am grateful to the House for hearing me. I am afraid I have trespassed longer upon the patience of hon. Members than I had intended, but the points which I am bringing forward and the grounds on which I oppose this Measure, are of real importance. I think they should be considered in such a conference as has been promised. I think the seriousness of the issue, as I am putting it to the House, has been somewhat obscured by the levity with which it has been treated in some section of the Press.
For myself, I welcome a measure of justice to women. I welcome equality for women, but I feel strongly that such a concession is in no way incompatible with sex equality, and with justice to man as a sex. I urge upon the House that it is of paramount importance that such an act of justice should not be overridden by what I regard as of much smaller consequence, the concession which is being given to the younger women to-day. Men have no right to shirk the duties and responsibilites which they have borne all these years. For a thousand years men have governed this country with the inspiration of, and side by side with, the women of the country. I am anxious to see women given equality. I do not think men need feel ashamed of the manner in which they have borne their burden or carried out their task. This country and the Empire stand for what men have done. I do not think we have any right to abdicate the sceptre of political power, and, as for women, I think it would become woman better to assume the robe of Portia and deal out evenhanded justice between the sexes, rather than to wear the garment of Shylock and clutch at the jewelled orb of power. I ask woman—and these are my closing words—to rest content to share with man, unchallenged and unchallengeable, the throne of an equal and balanced sovereignty.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I begin by saying that this is not a party question at all. It is not really a political question, but a great Constitutional question, and I wish to deal with it as a Constitutional question. We have had no such change as that which is proposed in this Bill since 1864, and if we go back to the introduction of women to the franchise, we find that in 1918, during the greatest crisis in the history of this country, the War having then run for nearly five years, a Measure was carried through, when there was in the country barely 20 per cent. of its manhood. All the men were at the Front fighting for their lives and for their country, and that Measure was carried through in circumstances which were absolutely peculiar. In the first place, we had a Coalition Government. There was no Opposition, there was no criticism, there was an agreed body in this House. I think I am not wrong in saying that the flower of the House of Commons, all the young men, were not here at all, but were at the Front. It was perfectly impossible under those circumstances to refer the matter to the people of this country, as has been done in 1864, or even to get in the House of Commons any discussion of a valuable nature. I want to show why that Act was passed in that way. In May, 1917, the then Home Secretary informed the House that, of the 6,000,000 voters who would go on the list, 5,000,000 were married women. That is very significant, because it simply means that we may very well assume that these 5,000,000 married women have no politics on the same lines as men, so that they only doubled the votes of 5,000,000 men. Then he went on to give the reason why the House should get this vote:
Perhaps I may be allowed to put this one question to Members who have hold, and still hold, strong views on this matter, namely, whether it is possible for us, having
called upon women for so large a contribution to the work of carrying on this War, and having received so splendid a response to that call, to refuse to women a voice in moulding the future of the country which their help and devoted self-sacrifice have done so much to save? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 22nd May, 1917; col. 2135, Vol. 93.]
It is quite obvious from that, that the: House gave this vote, not in the interests of the people of the country, not in the interests of the nation, or in the interests of democracy, but as a gift, as something which might be regarded as a reward for what women did in the War. I do not look upon the vote as a gift. I do not look upon it as a right. It is not a right for any individual. It is a right which democracy has, but it is not a right of the individual. The individual who is not capable or fit ought not to have a vote. I have been deprived of a vote all my life because I am a. soldier. I have never complained; I have never run round saying "I am injured because I have no vote." What would my vote do for me? Absolutely nothing. It is not a right; it is a duty. I have never in my life voted for a Member of Parliament. We are now asked to extend the vote on perfectly proper lines. I have said on many occasions that I entirely agree that, once having given the vote to women, you cannot refuse to give it to them on an equality with men. That must follow, and I am perfectly prepared, if women want to vote, and if the country desire this great change, to give them the vote on a strict equality with men. This Bill is supposed to give equal franchise.
The hon. and gallant Member for Reigate (Sir G. Cockerill), who moved the Amendment, has argued that it does not give it on equal terms with men. I do not know whether the Home Secretary has considered the effect that this will have. It means that we shall have-a majority of 2,200,000 women over men. But it means something more; it means that in a place like South Kensington, where there are two women to every man, that, if women require the vote because they have a different political view from men, men will have only half a vote. It means that the men there will be disfranchised. In Oxford, there will be 140 women voters to every 100 men. Again, if I am right in saying that women hold that they ought to have the vote because they take a different view from men, a man there will have only two-thirds of a vote.
There is something more at which we have to look. The wealth of this country, from which the revenues of the country are derived, is produced by men on the scale of 10 to 1. I have looked up the wills for last year, and I find that men left £58,000,000, whereas women left merely £6,000,000. That means that, if we are to have a majority rule by women in this country, we are handing over to them the taxable wealth of the country, to which they have contributed only one-tenth. [Laughter.] That is a very important point. It is all very well to treat it as a jest, but if we pass a law to permit women to take over the finances of this country, whence are we going?
We are governing a great Empire—and we forget it very often—and that Empire comprises not only our great self-governing Dominions, but the largest Mohammedan population in the world. We are the greatest Mohammedan power in the world. Among the Mohammedans. women not only have no voice, but are not seen. What will be the effect on the great Mohammedan population of the world of granting, the franchise in this country—the governing country—to a majority of 2,200,000 women over men? (Laughter.] Apparently hon. Members have not lived, as I have, among Mohammedans, or they would know that it will create a serious impression. In India, we have a terrible problem at this moment. We are trying to give India Home Rule, but we are asking the people not to be in a hurry. We have sent out a Commission for that very purpose. If this Bill becomes law, what a weapon we will put into the hands of the agitators if we tell the Hindus of India that they are to be ruled by a majority of women! That is a very serious thing.
Have we a right to pass a Bill of so much importance in a. single Debate in this Chamber? Have we a right to put a majority of 2,200,000 women on the voting registers, without referring to the country at all? Is the right hon. Gentleman sure that the people of the country want it? Is he sure that the women want it? I find that my women do not want it at all: they fear it. There are at least 75 per cent. of the people of this country who do not want this thing rushed through now. I feel certain that I am right. It is not an equal franchise; it is an unequal franchise. It will give the women the power over the finances of the country. It will give them greater voting power than men, and will cause enormous expenditure to be imposed on people standing for Parliament. You are going to enlarge your constituencies to an extent that you hardly realise, without any redistribution. For those reasons, I feel that this Bill ought not to get a Second Reading. It ought to be left to a free vote of the House. It ought to he referred to the country and, if the country shows that there is any demand at all among the majority for this vote, we should give it. But I do not believe the women want it. I do not believe that there is any demand whatever. I am certain that the women of the country realise, as many of the older women do, that a franchise on equal terms with men carries with it equal duties. Hitherto, men have done all the heavy work in this country.
You find no women in the stokehold of a ship or in the Navy; you find no women down the coal mines to-day, and I thank God for it; you find no women in blast furnaces. Women cannot physically perform these duties. Therefore, it is a very dangerous thing for women to demand the vote on equal terms with men, without realising what that may involve. Whatever happens, it must involve going into the rough and tumble of life. It must mean taking on grave responsibilities, which would perhaps be too great a burden for women.
Imagine her introducing her Budget, and in middle of her speech a message coming in, "Your child is dangerously ill, come at once." I should like to know how much of that Budget the House would get, and what the figures would be like. It is obvious that, with a thousand cases like that, the whole system must break down, and the women know it. I trust that we shall be able to have some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that the anomaly of 2,200,000 more women than men will be removed from this Bill.
Countess of IVEAGH:
I feel that the fact that has been lost sight of more than any other in this controversy, which has now been raging for a considerable time, is that it is only the final and concluding stage in the evolution of the franchise in the last 100 years, and it is the only logical conclusion which could be reached. It is obvious, of course, that it would be a logical attitude of mind to say that the Parliamentary franchise were better in the hands of one sex only; but it cannot be a logical mind which argues that the present franchise, which was devised as an experiment, could remain permanent. This fact seems to have been lost sight of almost entirely. As regards the last extension of the franchise, in 1918, it is admitted that it was granted, to a large extent, at any rate, in consequence of the part women had taken in the great national effort during the War, but, as a matter of fact, that Act was so adjusted as to exclude those women who had done most in industry to make up the great shortage of labour.
But perhaps the argument which has carried most weight has been that of the irresponsibility and instability of very young women. We have been told that they are irresponsible, that they are addicted only to pleasure, that they take a very little interest in public affairs, and that their enfranchisement would even endanger the stability of the nation. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill gave us figures of the women who will be enfranchised under this Bill, and I think it is worth while to repeat them, in order to remind the House that in an electorate of something like 26,000,000 there will be only 3,000,000 women under the age of 30, and that, according to the latest returns, one-half of those 3,000,000 women under 30 will be married women.
The hon. and gallant Member for Enfield (Colonel Applin) said that women —I do not think I am misquoting him—do not take part in the hard work of the nation. I would like him to make that statement before a large audience of married women, and observe the effect. Some of the opposition to this Bill this afternoon has been based on the fact that a larger proportion of female infants survive than of males, and, consequently, that there is a preponderance of women in the country. The hon. and gallant Member for Reigate (Sir G. Cockerill) said this was so because the higher organisms are more difficult to rear; but it appears to me that we might also claim it to be the result of a very important fact in nature, which has had more influence on the evolution of the race than any other, and that is the survival of the fittest. I was not able to follow the argument of the hon. and gallant Member when he said that women would vote as women on great public questions, and would therefore outvote the men, owing to their preponderance in numbers, because at the same time he told us that on this very subject, which most nearly concerns women, they are very greatly divided. He also reminded us that at election times we have to meet those who we hope will be our constituents and who bring forward matters in which they are interested, seeking to enlist our support, and he imagines, I think, that he will find it much more difficult to resist those demands with which he does not agree if they are put forward by women than he does now in the case of demands put forward by men. If it were really likely that there would be anything approaching to a division of the sexes as sexes on any public question, we should surely have seen some indication of it since the last extension of the franchise, which brought in women for the first time. I can only speak for the party which I represent, but I think the statement cannot be challenged that though women are politically better organised than men, are politically much more active than men, it is extremely difficult to get a woman candidate adopted in a constituency. I believe that to be the case with other parties as well as our own.
It has been my experience as one connected with the political organisation of women ever since the franchise was granted to them that women have a very great sense of duty and sense of responsibility in the exercise of the franchise, and this applies not less to those who neither asked for the vote nor desired it than to those who worked hard for it. Therefore, I would appeal very earnestly to the House and in particular to those who sit on this side of the House, not to let it be thought that this Measure was granted in any grudging or cavilling spirit by a House of Commons which is overwhelmingly composed of the other sex. This Measure is the outcome of logic and of justice. We have had the experience of several general elections and I do not think a case can be made out for saying that the granting of the franchise either to young persons of the other sex, to whom we have already given it, or to women, has done anything to endanger the stability of the nation; and I feel confident that if the House passes this Measure, and grants the franchise generously, we shall earn from these new electors not only their gratitude but their confidence.
Like the Noble Lady the Member for Southend-on-Sea (Countess Iveagh) I rise to support the Second Reading of this Bill, and in doing so I think I can claim to say that the hon. and right hon. Members who sit beside me are also in favour of it. As a party we regard it as the culmination of the efforts initiated by us to give democratic votes in this country. While I agree that this is only a Measure of justice which has been long delayed, I cannot help feeling that it would have been wiser if the Prime Minister had carried out his promise to have a conference of all political parties before he introduced the Measure. The Bill does do one thing which possibly would have been eliminated from it had there been such a conference in the first place, and that is it perpetuates the anachronism of the plural vote. It will be remembered that prior to the introduction of the 1918 Bill a Speaker's Conference was held. At that Conference there were two views. One view was that the, property qualification should still be regarded as an essential feature to the granting of the vote. Others held the view that the only qualification was one of residence and reasonable age. That school felt that in the choice of a candi- date for Parliament no extra weight should be given to any person simply because he happened to have more wealth or more property than another. After a great deal of discussion a compromise was arrived at, according to which a man could have a vote not merely on account of residence but on account of business premises he might have in another constituency, though not in the same constituency. Though he might have business premises in more than one constituency other than that in which he resided, he could vote in only one of those. On the question of university representation again, I do not see what justification there is far the existence of university voters as a special class.
What does the Bill propose to do? According to the figures given by the Home Secretary, the number of people qualifying for the vote on account of having business premises is somewhere betwen 200,000 and 250,000. The number I had in my own possession was 205,000. I am all in favour, and so, I think, is every member of the party which I have the honour to represent of women having the vote on equal terms with men, but what does this Bill propose to do? It does not merely give women an equality, it gives them a preponderance, not because they are more numerous, not because there are 2,000,000 more women who will be entitled to the vote at the age of 21, but because by giving a wife a vote in respect of her husband's business premises you thereby give something like 200,000 women two votes instead of one. Under that Sub-section in the Bill, only about 16,000 men will benefit. I think that is the number mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman.
The qualification of the husband is the fact that he has business premises on which he pays £1 or more a year, but the woman is given an extra vote simply because she is married, and the 16,000 husbands who are lucky enough to have wives who also earn a living and have business premises are going to receive an extra vote in the same way. I think this is an entirely new principle in the legislation of this country. I per- sonally know of no other Act which confers a right and a privilege upon a person simply because that person happens to be married. On that point I think it would have been well had the Prime Minister carried out his promise to have a conference similar to that which preceded the 1918 Bill. Another, and a very serious, objection, especially to those of us who represent rural constituencies, lies in the fact that the cost of elections will be considerably increased. In my own constituency the electorate at the moment numbers 40,000, and the addition will be in the neighbourhood of 10,000 to 15,000—on the basis of the average of the country. That is a very big increase for any candidate to have to face. Because the Prime Minister made a promise that there would he consultation between the political parties before this Bill was introduced, I appeal to him and to the Home Secretary to deal leniently with Amendments which will be proposed seeking to remedy defects which are in the Bill as it stands.
I feel sure that no one with any sense of justice will have any fear of the increased number of women votes. What have we men to be proud of? We say that in the past we have governed this country, and one would imagine from the remarks made by the two hon. and gallant Gentlemen who proposed and seconded the Amendment, that this country had been governed extremely well and wisely in the past. It seems to me that on many occasions it would have been more for the benefit of the country generally if women had had a voice in choosing their representatives in this House. In that event we might have been spared a few of the wars which this country has experienced, and greater justice might have been done between man and man. Personally, I have not the least fear that the preponderance of women's votes will in any way affect the justice of the Measures that will be put on the Statute Book in this House. For these reasons, I have very great pleasure in supporting the Second Reading of this Bill.
It is very difficult for an hon. Member who supports the Government to intervene on a question of this kind and oppose the Government's proposal. I never mind opposing my opponents—I will not say my enemies; and I hope I have not got any—but when I have to oppose my friends, it makes one think seriously before doing so. I do not intend to make a long speech because the very brilliant speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Reigate (Sir G. Cockerill) has, in my opinion, put the case before the House in such a way that anybody who had not made up his mind before he came here this afternoon would certainly hesitate to vote for this Bill. The Home Secretary, in introducing this Measure made very little show and used very few arguments in favour of it. I am aware that the right hon. Gentleman quoted Mr. Joseph Chamberlain's speech in 1884 in which he said that it was necessary for social legislation that the women should have a greater voice in the affairs of the country. I should like to point out that at that time we had not the Parliament Act, which was introduced and passed in this House in circumstances which, I believe, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain would have strenuously opposed. That has altered entirely the conditions in the Government of the country.
We have been told that this Measure was promised by the Prime Minister, and that it was also promised by the Conservative party and the Liberal party, but we were also promised an alteration in the Parliament Act. I do not think it is a wise or patriotic thing to allow that Act to remain as it is, while we are under a one-Chamber system, and in these circumstances we ought not to try the experiment of altering the franchise by bringing in as voters a large number of young people. I do not dispute that many of these young people are entitled to a vote. I am not going to discuss the question of the ability of young women to form a judgment on domestic affairs, but I would point out to the Government that my principal reason for opposing this Measure is that at the last General Election I looked carefully through the speeches made and the programmes put forward by the various parties, and I found that the Conservative party said absolutely nothing about altering the franchise. As a matter of fact, there was not a word in any of the addresses of the leaders of the party on this subject. I know that the Home Secretary has told us that
in one of his speeches he promised the enfranchisement of young women. There was a statement on behalf of the Liberal party to the following effect:
As the existing machinery for expressing the will of the people is delusive, effective steps should be taken to secure a real correspondence between Parliamentary representation and electoral strength.
That does not commit the Liberal party to altering the franchise. Last night the Liberals had a Resolution on the Order Paper embodying the terms of their programme at the next General Election, and it was defeated by an overwhelming majority. I think it is ironical that when the announcement of the result of the Division was made, an hon. Member on the Liberal side got up to propose the Second Reading of the Slaughter of Animals Bill. When I look at the Socialist manifesto which was issued at the last General Election I find that it contained in the programme announced:
Votes for women at 21 on the same terms as men.
That was the pledge of the Socialist party. I am not a Socialist; I am deadly opposed to Socialism, but at the last election I was asked if I was in favour of an increase in the franchise. I told my constituents that I was deadly opposed to it, and yet they returned me with a majority of nearly 12,000 votes. I do not think anybody can claim that this question was not before the electors at the last election. It was before them, and although it was not in the Conservative programme, it was part of the programme of the Socialist party. In order to confirm this opinion which was expressed at the General Election, the annual general meeting of the women's Conservative association was held in my constituency last month, and on that occasion a very eminent lady came down to speak, and she was distinctly in favour of votes for women. She put the case before the women members of the association, and she told them that it would be necessary for them to work diligently because, as a large number of young women were going to be placed on the register of voters, it would be necessary that we should do the same as other parties were doing, and try to educate these young women and capture their votes. I agree it is our duty to do that,
and I think we shall do it very effectually. I told the members of that women's association that, personally, I was opposed to the Franchise Bill, and I gave them my reasons, which I shall very briefly endeavour to explain to the House. When the vote was put a resolution was passed at that women's meeting by a large majority asking me to oppose the Franchise Bill in the House of Commons.
Therefore, much as I dislike doing anything to embarrass the Government—I know perfectly well that I have not a ghost of a chance of preventing the passage of this Bill, because hon. Members opposite will vote to a man for this Measure—I feel that am only doing my duty to my constituency, to whom I owe the privilege of being in this House, if I make a very strong protest against this Bill. I will give some of my reasons for opposing the Measure. I am not in any way opposed to the enfranchisement of women, but, as Mr. Chamberlain said in 1884 before the passing of the Parliament Act, and as the Home Secretary said to-day, nobody would say in this House that women are unfit for the vote. I know one young lady who is a candidate for Parliament at the present moment. I am delighted to see a young Conservative, a very able woman, who has the privilege of being a member of the Bar, working so strenuously, and who, in any circumstances, if you could discriminate, would be entitled to a vote. Those who have taken their degrees at universities are entitled to a vote. It must be a source of great strength to any country to have highly educated people who know everything that is going on and who keep in touch with the movement of the world. That must always be a source of strength to any Government and to any assembly. I believe that the lady to whom I have referred is to be elected a Member of this House, and I am sure hon. Members opposite will be delighted.
We are all agreed that women are not unfit to vote. I am in sympathy with them, and I agree that they are perfectly capable of forming an opinion as to their own requirements. I think many of them are ready to admit that their interests have been thoroughly safeguarded under the present regime. Everything that has been necessary to safeguard their interests has been considered and enacted under the present law as to the representation of the people, and I do not know from what quarter this demand or request for the extension of the franchise has come. I, myself, have not come in contact with it. I would like, however, to point out to the House that we are not dealing with parochial questions. We have to deal with great questions of Empire, and with international questions. If we were dealing with the question of a new handle for the parish pump, I quite agree that we should get very good advice and assistance from a larger electorate. But does the House realise that the world is 25,000 miles round, and that we have great interests, both Colonial and foreign, in every part of the territories within that circumference? We are going by this Measure to give to people who know absolutely nothing beyond the village pump—for, after all, how many of these new electors realise the immensity of the British Empire or of British interests outside our Empire?—we are going to give to them the enormous power of regulating the foreign and Colonial policy of this country.
I cannot agree that this is a purely non-political Bill. We know that, when the Socialist party put this Measure in the forefront of their programme at the last General Election, they did so because they thought that it would be of benefit to them. I am not going to discuss that point of view, but we know that those interests which affect the welfare of many of the people whom it is proposed to add to the electorate are not interests which are supported by the party opposite. We know the attitude that they took up when our interests were attacked in China and in other places, but the very livelihood and existence of the people whom it is proposed now to enfranchise depend upon our industries and commerce, and the prosperity of our industries and commerce is everything to those people. We know the arguments against foreign aggression that can be put before people who are not properly informed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) has mentioned something about war. We know that there are members of the community who advocate peace at any price, but the policy of peace at any price is a dangerous policy, and may more often lead to war than to peace.
I can only ask the House, if they take any interest in the matter, as I presume they do, to consider that something more than the parish pump is involved in this Bill. We have the interests of a vast Empire, and, while I know that the majority of the Members on this side of the House are reluctant, as I am myself, to vote against the Government, I feel that the pledges of the Government in reference to the amendment of the Parliament Act should be carried out before this Bill comes into operation. I would also say very strongly that there is no real demand for it in the country, and for these reasons, if I can get any Members to act as Tellers, I shall certainly go into the Lobby against this Bill. I once had the, perhaps, very small satisfaction in this House, before the War, of going into the Lobby with one other Member only, Sir Thomas Pearce, and we had as Tellers Sir Charles Henry and the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil). I shall have no hesitation in going into the Lobby to-night if I can get anyone to tell for me.
While I am grateful to the last speaker for reminding the House that votes for women at 21 was a Socialist pledge at the last Election, I do not propose to deal with his arguments at any great length, because they seem to centre upon the parish pump, which, in these days of progress, is as obsolete as most of the gentlemen are who hold those views. It seems incredible that, in the year 1928, there can be found a gentleman who will produce such interesting relics as the arguments which the hon. Gentleman has put before us. But, as this House must be representative of all classes of the nation, we are glad that there are still some ancient Members to trot out these good old arguments.
The hon. and gallant Member for Enfield (Colonel Applin) seemed to be very worried about giving Englishwomen the vote, because the Mohammedan subjects of the Crown would not like it; but, really, are British women to be kept down to the level of any backward races that happen to be under the British Crown? Mohammedans may not be backward culturally, but they are certainly backward, or were backward—they have come along astonishingly in the last year or two—in their treatment of women, and we hope that the example set in this country will bring them along still more. The hon. and gallant Member also spoke of India, but I would remind him that India was governed with apparently great success by a woman ruler, namely, the late Queen Victoria, and, as a matter of fact, in every Province of India to-day, women already have the vote.
Then the hon. and gallant Member said that the younger women should not be given the vote because the men do the really hard work of this country. He instanced the men in the stokehold, and the men at the coal-face. That, I agree, is terribly hard work, but I would ask him to think of the women in Lancashire, who do 8½ hours' work every day in the factory, who do the whole of their housework, and rear their children as well. If we are going to judge by the hardness of the work that is done, a good many of the people who now sit in this House would not be here, because they would not have a vote at all. I suggest that these arguments are really almost as prehistoric as those of the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. S. Samuel). There is one argument, however, put forward by an hon. Member who, I am sorry to say, is not in his place at the moment, that I should like to answer, because it is so often used. The hon. Gentleman said that, if a woman were Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if, in the middle of her Budget speech, a message was brought to her that her child was ill, how could she go on with her Budget speech? But suppose that, say, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer received during his Budget speech a message that his child was ill, what would he feel like? Would he not have exactly the same feelings as the mother, and would he not do the duty that he had to do by his country and go on with his speech, as many other people have had to do?
I would remind the hon. Gentleman who put that argument that what so many men seem to forget is that women do not spend the whole of their time all their lives in bearing children. We have been continually reminded during this Debate that there are 2,000,000 more women than men in this country. Are those 2,000,000 women, who have to earn their own living all their lives, not to be allowed opportunities of public service because they do not as a matter of fact perform one particular kind of public service, that is to say, that of a mother rearing children for the State? Even married women are not bearing children all the time, and, in these days of small families, many married women—we have three such present in this House at the moment—are able to render valuable public service to the State, and to render it more valuably because of the experience they have had as mothers and wives. Therefore, I suggest that the argument that, because all women are not concerned in performing one kind of service all the time, therefore, they are to be denied opportunities of doing public service, is really the most illogical argument that one could ever imagine.
I want to congratulate the Home Secretary on his very dexterous avoidance of a term of abuse that has been levelled against young women, not in this Debate—it is curious that it has been consistently kept out of this Debate—but in the debate that has preceded it in the Press. The right hon. Gentleman did not even use the word "girl," but spoke of the woman of 21. There is a curious reluctance, especially in the Press, to admit the maturity of women. In fact, a friend was telling me to-day that, happening to be concerned with the production of Euripides' "Trojan Women," he received a letter addressed to "The Manager of the Trojan girls." There seems to be a determination that in some way it is ungallant to describe a woman as a woman and not as a girl. This curious idea that is running through the whole of this discussion on the question, "Shall Britain be ruled by a majority of mere women?" rather reminds me of the small boy who came home and told his father that he was now second in his class. Previously he had been top, and the top scholar in the class was now a girl. His father said to him, "But look here, John, you are not going to be beaten by a mere girl?" John replied, "Well, father, you know, girls are not so mere as they used to be."
When women have been given the opportunity, as they have been since the War, they have shown evidence that they can stand on equal terms with men, and can equal them in all the pursuits which they take up. A point that is rather lost sight of in this discussion is that this proposal would not merely enfranchise a further number of women of a certain age, but that it would give the vote to a very important new class, and that is the whole class of independent women workers. It is frequently forgotten that a woman of the age of 30 or over does not get the vote under the present law unless she has either a husband or furniture. Such a woman, whatever her age, however important her work, unless she has a husband or, as one gentleman rather ungallantly said, other furniture, she does not get a vote. As a matter of fact, when I was first elected to this House, I happened to live in furnished rooms, and having neither a husband nor furniture, although I was eligible to sit in this House, I was not eligible for a vote.
The importance of this is that we have a very large and increasing amount of legislation which covers the wages and the working conditions of women workers. Two million women are under the Trade Board Regulations, which we hope will be extended in the near future, and it is of the utmost importance that these independent wage-earning women should be represented in this House when so much of our legislation directly concerns them. There are not only the Trade Board Regulations, there is all the factory legislation and all the protective legislation of one kind and another that deals with women workers, and surely when all women to-day who are living in lodgings and have not a house or furniture of their own are disfranchised it is an utterly illogical position and this Measure has certainly not come too soon. I speak with the feeling that, as one hon. Member has said, this is the closing of a great drama. I felt when I came into this House, and I think the other women Members must have felt too, that we had entered it as the result of the labours of some of the best women that this country or the world has known. Women have worked very hard. They have starved in prison, they have given their lives, or have given all their time, in order that women might sit in this House and take part in the legislation of the country. I need only mention honoured names like Josephine Butler, Lydia Becker, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, and Mrs. Fawcett to realise that that band of women, though they may never sit here, have made possible what we are doing to-day. I am glad this is not to be a party Measure.
I hope all Members will realise that we are doing at last a great act of justice to the women of the country. I do not think any one party is going to claim the allegiance of women, and I do not think it desirable that it should, but just as we have opened the door to the older women, to-night we are opening it to those who are just entering on the threshold of life and in whose hands is the new life of the future country that we are going to build. I feel it is a very solemn occasion, and I am glad that I have been allowed to take some part in it.
The Home Secretary, in introducing the Bill, told the House what grounds he thought the majority of those who were likely to oppose it would take and what arguments they would use, and he said he thought the principal objection to the Bill at present was that many Members believed the women it was intended to enfranchise would be incapable of exercising the vote. I have listened to the Debate for some time, and I have not heard a single speaker make such a point against the Bill. On the contrary, as far as I am concerned, and I think a great number of other Members, it is not on those grounds at all that we base any kind of opposition. I am aware that the great argument against passing the Bill at all is that, as it is bound in every circumstance to pass, it seems rather unnecessary either to utter argument or warning against what is already a fait accompli, and there is nothing anyone can say that can possibly prevent the Bill from being passed. But there are a great many Members who think its introduction is entirely and absolutely unnecessary, and they further thought, perhaps, in the famous words of Fouché, "It is more than a crime; it is a political blunder" There are a great many Members who will not be speaking to-night, because they believe, if they take up an attitude that is not agreeable to the women who will shortly get the vote, they will suffer in consequence. I think that is an attitude, first, that is wrong, and, secondly, that is cowardly, and it will be productive of very little good. I do not see what gratitude could possibly be offered to any Member of the House because some citizens have merely had offered to them one 25-millionth part of the electoral sovereignty of the country. I can understand some Members being rather nervous about voting against the Bill if it was conferring any great privilege, or if it was conferring any money upon the electorate, but I do not believe, if we are to have these continual dilutions of the electorate to which we have been treating ourselves in the last few years, the sacred vote is going to be of very much power, and I very much doubt if you will get any gratitude whatever from any section of the electorate for the passing of this Bill.
I think, also, in these days, when the electorate is becoming not individual voters, as they were originally, but more or less mobs of voters, you are not doing any service to democracy. When a Member of Parliament appeals to individual constituents he knows the few people in the room are not going to be those who will decide the issue, because it is only by the vast mobs of people who have the vote that democracy in future can be effected. I put it to the Home Secretary that this is a definite revolutionary reform of the constitution. Most Members of the House who were entitled to speak at the last election thought that if any reform took place in the constitution of this country it would be in the direction of passing some Measure through this House establishing a Second Chamber which would make a good and effective check upon any wild extravagance of this Chamber. It is true universal suffrage is the law in America, but the constitution of America is very different from the constitution of this country. You have three safeguards in America against any wild legislation. You have the President and the Senate and the Congress. All these three bodies act as mutual checks one upon another. In this great country we have only one Chamber that has power at present, and if at any General Election the electorate gives a decision on any particular policy which it may regret immediately afterwards, there is no possible kind of safeguard or check upon the action that may be taken. Instead of carrying out a reform on those lines, for which I think there is a very much greater pledge than for the one at present before the House, the Government are passing a Measure which will increase the vote, giving it, when all is said and done, to the least responsible members of the electorate, and they are increasing by this means the tremendous gamble which a General Election must increasingly become. Even today, with 20,000,000 voters, it is very difficult for a party to foresee what may happen, but every time you increase the electorate it must become increasingly difficult when it is almost impossible for an individual Member to meet probably more than one-fifth of his constituents.
There are other arguments. I myself have never been in favour of proportional representation, but if we pass this Bill, and if we continue to increase the electorate, the principle of proportional representation can be very seriously considered, because I always thought the great argument against proportional representation was that it destroyed the personality of the individual Member of Parliament with his constituents. I do not want to go over the ground with regard to the pledge supposed to have been given at the last Election. Almost enough has been said on that point. I think it has been already proved that the Bill, as it stands, is founded on the most flimsy pretext. The Home Secretary says he firmly believes in it. I very much doubt if that belief is shared by all the other members of the Cabinet. I am certain it is not shared by every Member of his own party. More than one Minister has already told the country he thinks the Bill is a great experiment which ought to be delayed. I think it is the very last policy that any Member of his party would have imagined they would bring forward. In my opinion, if a Socialist had brought this Bill forward in 1923 it would have been wholeheartedly opposed by the Conservative Opposition. I do not believe, first of all, the Government have any right to introduce the Bill, and, secondly, I do not believe this House, with the present majority of which it is composed, has any right to pass it. It has already been stated clearly and definitely, even by the Home Secretary himself, that this Bill is granting a majority to the women of the country. I ask him in all sincerity if that is what he calls equality between the sexes? Surely, if you are going to grant equality between the sexes, you must have an equal number of men and women voters. Furthermore, I see nothing that has taken place since 1918 that alters the reason that prevented the Ullswater Committee giving the vote to women over 21. The principal reason was that the men who were coming back from the Front would have their votes swamped by the great number of new voters who would be put on the register. Might I ask what has changed that reason? I might ask what has happened in the meantime to make the slightest difference to that question? It may be argued that the wives of the men have an equal right to the Vote. The majority of them have it at present, and I have not yet heard, even from the hon. Ladies who have spoken, and who are naturally in favour of the Bill, with one exception—[Interruption]—I congratulate the hon. Lady. I hope that the hon. Lady will see her way to vote against the Bill, because I think that in a matter like this, if you take a definite view upon a Bill, it is very much better to carry your conviction to the Division Lobby. Since this question has been raised in the country and in this House, hon. Members have been too inclined to take it in a spirit of fatalism. Again and again, you hear the argument that it is so obviously logical that women over 21 should have the vote the same as the men over 21. If we are to rule the country and make the constitution on the grounds of logic and abstract theory, we shall have to scrap most of the British Constitution and most of the time-honoured traditions of the House in which we sit. Only on one occasion in our history have we acted on grounds of logic, and on that occasion we lost the United States of America. We have never built up our Empire purely on grounds of logic, and I think if we are merely to be guided by that point and by no other, it is sufficient in itself to make us suspicious of the reason this Bill should be necessary at the present time.
The Home Secretary has told us that no thought of what the result of this Bill might be upon the electorate has ever entered his head. The Leader of the Opposition, too, has told us that they are in favour of the Bill, and that no thought has ever entered their heads as to the result upon the electorate. I think that when we are discussing those points we might just put aside the veil of hypocrisy sometimes, and speak what is really in our minds. The Home Secretary knows very well that he and other Members of the Cabinet have often considered the question as to what the position is going to be. The Socialist party know perfectly well that they are in favour of this Bill, not because they really believe in it, but because they think that the majority of the new voters—and very likely rightly think—will vote for them. Personally, I am not of opinion that they will show any gratitude for the honours which are being showered upon them.
The Home Secretary mentioned the famous Reform Bill of 1867, which Disraeli introduced into this House. It was passed by this House. It was passed by a Conservative Government. The Prime Minister at that time, Lord Derby, said quite openly that the Conservative Government were passing the Measure in order to dish the Whigs. Is my right hon. Friend proposing the passing of this Measure in order to dish the present Oppositions? If so, I think it would be just as well if he studied the results of Disraeli's action.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend is asking me a question or merely making a rhetorical observation. If he is asking a question, it is one which I have answered in my speech. I am asking the House to pass this Measure because I believe it to be right and just.
I entirely and absolutely accept the observation of my right hon. Friend, because if any member of the Government has been entirely and absolutely consistent on this question it has been the Home Secretary. I cannot say that for many of his colleagues who have both spoken and voted on many occasions against women's suffrage, and who have continually raised their voices in protest. But the Home Secretary from the very start has been completely consistent, and I certainly make my apology to him if he thinks for one moment that I was making an attack upon him. I would like to point out this in relation to Disraeli and the General Election that followed the introduction of his Reform Bill. Having passed the Reform Bill in 1867, there was in the following year a General Election and the result of that General Election was that the Whigs—the Opposition—obtained a record majority of 112. We are also facing an election a year after the introduction of this Bill, and if there are any precedents which can be brought up, I think it is as well that Members on this side of the House should observe them. I also think that when considering historical precedents it can be pointed out, at the present moment, when, in my opinion, we are indulging in weakening our representative institutions, because I believe that every time you dilute the electorate you are weakening democratic institutions—that in classical history, when Roman citizenship was spread far and wide it ended in the autocracy of the Cæsars. And here in this country perhaps, every foreign political body is looking to see the result of our efforts at democratic government. Several democracies outside this country have fallen by the way in the last few years. I do not think that I am exaggerating when I say that even in this country democratic institutions arc not held in quite the same prestige as they were 30 or 40 years ago. We should most seriously consider any alteration of any kind which may weaken our Constitution in any way, because if anything happens to the democratic government of this country it will have a most grave effect throughout the world.
This Bill, founded as it is upon a pledge that never existed, promised, as it has been, to be put before a conference, which has not been done, supported as it is by an insignificant but very vocal minority, is to the Socialists, I firmly believe, a stunt, to the Liberals, I think, a very doubtful point but probably a conundrum, and I certainly say that to the Conservatives it is a snare. If this further dilution of the electorate takes place, it will weaken the prestige of Parliament and lower the authority of the Government. For these reasons, I shall most certainly vote—and I hope I shall be given the opportunity—against it on its Second Reading.
Whatever may be our opinion on each side of the House about the Bill, I think that we shall all be agreed as to the ability that has been shown by those who thought it their duty to oppose it and especially the ability shown by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Harsmworth. In one portion of his speech he tried to convince the House that no Measure ought to be passed that was logically defensible. As one who has known intimately something of the political workings of the party, I want to deal with the suggestions that were put forward by my hon. Friend and also by my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. S. Samuel)—suggestions that rather led the House to assume that this policy has been rushed upon a reluctant party by an over-impetuous Government. That, I believe, to be exactly the opposite of the case. I believe—and there are good grounds for what I am saying—that the very fact that so many Members of the Conservative party came back pledged to support a reform of this sort, had, I will not say a compelling influence, but certainly, I think, a very large influence upon a Government that were notoriously not united upon this question. I do not want to say that they were forced into it by the wishes of the rank and file of the party, but I think that it was the pressure of the rank and file of the party that has influenced the Government a great deal more than the pressure of the Government has influenced the rank and file of the party, and that is not only true with regard to the party inside this House.
Last year I was Chairman of the National Union of Conservative Associations. In that capacity, it was my duty to attend conferences in various parts of the country, ending up with the conference of the whole of the party held in South Wales. At one after another of those conferences resolutions were carried by considerable majorities in favour of the policy that is put forward in this Bill. It was a noticeable thing that as the year went on the majorities with which that policy was endorsed were increased in succeeding conferences, until at the conference of the whole of the party held at Cardiff, at the end of the year—one of the largest party conferences that has ever been held—the vote in favour of this Measure was carried by an overwhelming majority. The fact is, that the party has nothing to fear from the policy which is put forward in this Bill. Hon. Members, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in particular, have said that the Bill was brought forward quite independent of all party plans. I always treat remarks of that sort, from wherever they come, with a certain degree of suspicion. No Member of Parliament considers any policy which affects the electorate without, at all events, taking into consideration how it is going to affect the prospects of the party to which he belongs. That is an inevitable effect of our party system. Personally, I do not think there is any reason why the Conservative party should look upon this reform with the very slightest degree of apprehension. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet referred to what happened after previous reforms. If you take history, it is the fact that every Reform Bill that has been brought in has been regarded with considerable apprehension by the great mass of the Conservative party, but it is the fact that in a few years after each successive change in the franchise has been made, the Conservative party have come in with a large majority. That always happens.
As a matter of fact, as far as it has gone, it has shown that it is a factor in the Conservative policy. How can the present state of the franchise go on very much longer? No one conceives that the state of things such as the last franchise introduced can last indefinitely. I do not want to attach this importance too logically after what my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet has just said, but it is quite impossible to defend the present age limit logically. "Why not have 25 years for both?" it has been asked, and many Members of our party have favoured that. The reason against it is not that there is anything magical about the age of 21, but that it has been the age at which the vote has been conferred for centuries past and it is not an ancient custom, as you may put it, that the Conservative party would very well like to abolish. Still more indefensible is having the residence qualification for men and the occupation qualification for women, the result of which is that something like 2,000,000 women of over 30 are kept off the register. As to all this talk about the flapper vote, I want to know whether the flapper vote is to keep off the register these 2,000,000 women who are merely excluded at the present moment by a technicality. It seems to me you cannot go on indefinitely defending a policy of that sort.
I want to refer to a point in the Bill of which I hope the Home Secretary will take notice. It is the point already raised about election expenses. With that I, in common with most Members of the House, have a good deal of sympathy. No one wants to spend more money than necessary upon an election. I am quite aware that it would probably be out of order to introduce an Amendment upon that subject without an instruction to the Committee, but I hope the Home Secretary will allow such an instruction to go through, It is a point upon which, I think, all parties in the House are agreed, that we ought to give careful consideration to the matter of election expenses when the Bill goes into Committee—I presume a Committee of the Whole House.
I am glad to have that assurance from the Home Secretary. No one wants to spend more on an election than necessary, yet everyone feels that if there is any likelihood of getting the money, he is more or less in honour bound to spend very near the amount, though we want to keep the legal limit as low as we can consistent with efficiency. At present it is 7d. for counties and 5d. for boroughs. With regard to boroughs, I have not the same experience, and I do not know how far the extra money may be necessary for the increased electorate, but, with regard to counties, I am quite sure that the extra expense caused by the increase in the number of voters will not be so great as to necessitate the extra money which the 7d. for voters will bring in. Speaking for the counties alone, I hope the Home Secretary will consider the question of reducing the rate from 7d. to 6d. That brings it, taking the increased electorate into account, to the former limit, or very near the same limit. With regard to boroughs, I do not think the case is so strong. Boroughs are cheaper than counties to contest, but a reduction of 1d. may be worth the consideration of the House. That is one matter which I hope the Home Secretary will take into consideration. Another matter is the amendment of Clause 1 on the subject of contiguous seats. There, again, it is rather an anomaly in law as between the state of affairs in boroughs and those in counties. I shall put down an Amendment on that subject, and I hope it will receive such consideration as it can, and that the Home Secretary will keep an open mind about it. With regard to the Bill as a whole, I think it was bound to come. It could not have been put off much longer. The reform will not do the slightest harm to the party to which I belong, and I have much pleasure in supporting it.
It is with very profound pleasure that I support the Second Reading of this Bill, peculiarly so because I have never been able to be enthusiastic about reforms of the franchise hitherto proposed. Since I have been able to vote at all, I have never felt the same enthusiasm because the vote was the consequence of possessing property rather than the consequence of being a human being. This Bill does lay down for the first time that a vote is conferred not merely because women are women and men are men, but at last we are established on that equitable footing because we are human beings and part of society as a whole. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Harmsworth) seemed to show a singular lack of appreciation of that fact. I am quite sure that when we have achieved a simplified franchise we shall still have a very large number of women, as of men, who will be quite indifferent to political questions, and who will not come within the ambit of political education; but, once and for all, we shall destroy the artificial barrier in the way of any women who want to get education in politics and who want to come forward and take their full share in the political life of their day.
That is a tremendous social advance. In the educative influences that are going to be brought to bear on the electors, mere numbers are of no consequence in removing these obstacles in the way of developing those individuals in the community who have a political consciousness and are capable of developing it. Then there is, also, the satisfactory feeling that every step made to simplify our franchise does help to bring into our political life more easily a great concern for the things that count enormously. To me, the enfranchisement of women is not so much a question of rights as of opportunity—not a privilege but an obligation to add their share to the common stock in the building of ever nobler forms of social life. The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. S. Samuel) referred to the importance of having upon our electoral roll educated persons. I quite agree. But what is his definition of "educated," It he means by that persons who have had the opportunity to attend certain categories of schools, I absolutely and entirely disagree with him. I think in connection with the political work of our country we can take the experience of the workman's wife and daughter, educated in the university of experience, who have had to face the hardships, ugliness and suffering which surrounds so much of our social conditions to-day. They have the experience that very few people who have passed through universities have. We want, to bring into our political life and into the general pool of experience that kind of education.
The hon. Member for Putney also referred to the danger of admitting women to the franchise in such large numbers on account of international affairs. Does not the hon. Member realise that there are women in the remotest corners of the Empire who are concerned in the matter? In my experience of international affairs, there is no sex barrier in the way of an intelligent understanding of international questions, even questions of peace and war. There is an intelligent understanding on the part of women which will make them as qualified as men to vote on these vital questions. The hon. and gallant Member for Reigate (Sir G. Cockerill) was extremely interesting and I am glad we shall have in the pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT a record of his speech. The young generation do not understand what some of the older women know in regard to anti-suffrage propaganda, and I may remind the hon. Member of the story of the old farmer who came to the Zoo for the first time, and saw a hippopotamus. He looked at it for a long time and turned away and said, "It is not true.'' The arguments used against the franchise 35 years ago are still put forward, and the incredible still exists, and they will read the incredible to-morrow in the pages of the OFFICIAL REPORT.
One must remember the changes that are taking place in the subjects in which the Parliaments of the world are interested and remember the changes which have taken place in industry itself—changes of environment of the lives of so many of the people, who, it is realised, are making a more and more direct contribution in the political life of these great social questions which will have to become more and more the predominant occupation of the Houses of Parliament. The father and the mother, the son and the daughter are all required in order that we shall build up our social and political life with the same kind of diversity, with difference of opinion and with different allegiances on different questions as is shown in the ideal family group. Despite different angles of view which may be seen in a family, it is united by the bonds of comradeship and love. You have a mother and a father of a family both carrying the same point of view yet slightly different, agreeing upon action, but sometimes from different motives. That kind of thing will build up the social fabric of the State. It is an entire mistake, and I always said it was a mistake on the part of some of the ultra-feminist suffragists, to argue the specific woman point of view in connection with political questions. I do not think that is the way in which we develop. It is not as if all women will take one point of view and all men will take another point of view. It is absolutely impossible to conceive of any subject in which that kind of division would occur. What will happen will be that the Conservative women and the Conservative men will or may take a different angle on a question which would be regarded by us as a purely Conservative party question. The same thing will apply with regard to Labour women and Labour men and Liberal women and Liberal men. It all adds to the strength of the State.
It is necessary that all artificial franchises should be swept away. My one criticism of the Bill is that it does, particularly in Clause 1 (b and c) and in subsequent Clauses, perpetuate fancy franchises, for the elimination of which I hope we shall all work. I do not believe that it is a commonsense thing to give two votes, for instance, in respect of a business. There is one vote for a business now, but this Bill will give two votes. The man will vote because he is the owner of the business and the wife will get a vote because she is the wife of the owner of the business. Therefore, two votes are given for one business. That is absurd and illogical. I hope that in Committee consideration will be given to the advisability of doing away with all forms of plural voting whatsoever, and come down to the simple single franchise. It may not be possible to do that in this Bill, but we shall not come to the end of the story until we have the simple single franchise conferred on men and women, not on the ground of sex, not on the ground of property, but on the ground of their common humanity.
I propose to vote against this Bill, and as I am a strong supporter of the Prime Minister and the Government, I do not care to do so without stating my reasons. I submit that neither the Government nor the party have any right to bring in and try to pass into law this Bill, for the simple reason that if we pass the Bill into law it involves a very large constitutional change in our electoral system, for which no mandate of any sort or description was given at the last General Election, That this Bill will result in a great constitutional change and that there was no mandate given for it at the last election are my two main grounds of objection. I do not think that any hon. Member can controvert my statement that a Bill which will add 2,500,000 people or 3,500,000 people to the existing register is a great constitutional change. That is a self-evident proposition which I need not stress. With regard to my second proposition that there was no mandate for this Bill at the last election, I have been listening to hear of those wonderful pledges which were supposed to have been given at the time of the election.
I am told that a number of my hon. Friends on this side of the House gave pledges to their constituents at the last election that they were going to complete the franchise for women. I am surprised to hear that. I never heard of any such pledge. I never gave any such pledge, and I was never asked to give one. I went through the election without hearing the question of votes for women mentioned by one single person. I was much surprised when at the end of the very successful campaign which I fought against my political opponent I was told that I had won because of a promise to give more votes to women. That is absurd. Not only in my own case, but in the case of the majority of the members of the Conservative party, not a single thought was given at the last General Election to this subject. I challenge hon. Members of my party who are going to vote for this Bill to-night to tell us quite plainly how many of them included in their election addresses one word about this question. I challenge them to say how many of them mentioned it in a single speech during the election. That may have been done by hon. Members opposite, but that does not affect my point. I am addressing myself to members of the Conservative party who, I regret to say, are going to vote for this Bill.
For the reasons which I have given, the Government and the party are debarred by all the rules of political usage from bringing forward this Bill. Surely, it has at all times been one of the commonplaces and one of the most elementary rules of politics in regard to parliamentary government that a change of any sort in the Constitution or a proposal of any magnitude must be put before the electors at the time of the election. [An HON. MEMBER: "Like the trade union measure?"] That was a matter which arose out of something which occurred after the election and during the lifetime of Parliament it is a totally different point. Generally speaking, I submit that what I have said is the rule, and I submit further that in the case of a proposed change of the Constitution that rule has been most meticulously observed by all parties. I am sorry to say that it is a bad omen for those of us who would like to see a strong Lobby against this Bill, that no objection on that point has been taken by hon. Members on the other side of the House. If I had been a Member of the Labour party or of the Liberal party and I had been opposed to this Bill I should have been one of the first to seize on the fact that there is no shadow of mandate for this Bill and that above all other Bills, being of a Constitutional nature, it is one of which the fullest notice ought to have been given to the country at the last election.
It would be a mistake to suppose that I am opposed to women having the suffrage. I am not. I voted for it on the last occasion when the suffrage was given in the House of Commons in 1918, and I bear my share of any blame that has to be borne for giving the franchise at that time. I think we did right up to a point, but the hysteria which more or less affected all of us after the War, carried us further than was judicious. I think that if we had then lowered the franchise in the case of men to 25, and had given the vote to women on similar terms or even on terms of giving the vote at 30 years and upwards, that would have been perfect. If to-night we were considering a Bill which would fix the age for the franchise for men and women at 25, I would give it my heartiest support. A very great opportunity has been missed by the Conservative party, with the large majority at its disposal, in not putting the franchise of the country on what I maintain would be an ideal basis.
I admit that there is no mandate for that, but if such a proposal were made, I should be inclined to vote for it in spite of the want of a mandate. We made a mistake in 1918 when we passed the last franchise extension, but because we made a mistake then in lowering the franchise below the age of 25 and to the age of 21, there is no reason why, for the sake of consistency, we should perpetuate the blunder by giving the franchise to women at the age of 21. There is no party question involved in this matter so far as I am concerned. I do not believe there is any man or woman in the country who can tell us what will be the effect of this Bill so far as the destination of the votes of the women who are to be added to the register, are concerned. I am convinced that the Home Secretary has no idea of benefiting the Conservative party by the Bill. It is impossible to say who will benefit. I do not know whether it will benefit my party or not, but I do know that there are a great many people in the country who will agree with me when I say that 21 is too low an age at which to give people the vote. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I will do my best to tell hon. Members why. I can only judge by the people I meet and from my experience in life. Take the universities. What proportion of the youths of 21, 22 or 23 at the universities in this country take the slightest interest in politics? [An HON. MEMBER: "They can take their degree!"] They can take their degree, but what has that to do with politics? I do not say that those young men of 21, 22 and 23 are not full of learning, but as a rule it is not in the direction of politics. They are thinking about other things. Until a man or a woman is 25, or thereabouts, he or she is, as a rule, thinking of other things than politics. I know there are exceptions. We have had hon. Members of this House who were only 21 years of age. In the union at Oxford I admit that you have people making excellent speeches, and I have often envied them their ability. Those people, no doubt, are ready for the vote but they are only a small proportion of the total number of people at the universities. It is the same in all circumstances of life, whether amongst the working people or the people of the universities, or in any other station. I maintain that 21 is too young an age at which to give the vote.
They may have had it, but I do not think they ought to have had it. I think it is too young an age to give them the vote, and for that reason I am sorry that the Bill has been introduced to give women of the same age the vote. If the Bill had proposed only to give votes at the age of 25, I should have been willing to have voted for it, but I do honestly believe that it is a great mistake to give the vote either to a man or a woman at 21.
I do not intend to apologise for addressing the House this evening, as I occupy a singular position as the youngest Member of the House of Commons. My only regret, so far as this Bill is concerned, is that the Government were not able to introduce it before Christmas, as then I should have been actually addressing the House ex cathedra, that is to say, from the point of view of one who had not yet passed his 25th birthday, and therefore according to some hon. Members a species of male flapper. As I can still give about three years start to any other hon. Member of the House in point of view of juniority perhaps the House will allow me to start on a rather personal note. At the last General Election I was asked most emphatically what my views were on the subject of extending the franchise to young women, and I want to be perfectly honest with the House. I said that I disapproved of that extension; that I could see no reason for increasing the wasteful expenditure caused by elections, or why we should give women a majority on the electorate of the country. But I said then that I held no strong views on the matter and should retain for myself full liberty of speaking and voting should the matter come up before Parliament in the way that I thought best at the time.
Cynics may say that it is the influence of feminism, but since that time I have changed my mind and I now stand as a supporter of this Measure. The point I want to make is that the matter was seriously discussed in my constituency and in neighbouring constituencies as well, and, therefore, it is no good saying that the Government have sprung it upon an unwilling party. It was very fully discussed though perhaps not to the same extent in Northern Ireland. What do you mean when you say that there is no mandate for bringing forward and passing a Measure such as this? You do not really mean that the matter has not received the consideration of the people of this country. The newspapers see to it that the people of the country are well informed on the subject.
Does the right hon. and gallant Member mean that before the Government can pass any Measure such as this it must go to the country with this subject as one of its principal planks in its election programme? Suppose, for the sake of argument, the Bill is withdrawn and the Government go to the country and is victorious at the next election; it means that the Bill would be passed. But supposing that the Government is defeated, does it mean that neither of the Opposition parties, who would form the Government, would not be entitled to pass such a Bill as this, although it was one of the principal planks in their platform, too?
Then, as every party has this subject in its programme at the moment, I think we are perfectly right in expecting to receive their support and, therefore, the Government are fully entitled to bring forward this Measure. In every part of the House there is agreement that the present position is anomalous. If we were simply bringing forward a Measure to give all women above 30 the same rights as men it would meet with no opposition at all. I imagine that, so far as women who are over 25 years of age are concerned, hon. Members have no objection to their having the full rights enjoyed by the other sex. We are all ready to do lip-service to the cause of equal franchise. Where we differ is that those who support the Measure say that equality means equal conditions of voting, and those who oppose it say that equality means an equal number of voters. Why should you not have a majority of women voters? The right hon. and gallant Member, together with most of those who share his views, was quite candid when he said that he would like to see the male and female having the vote at 25 years of age. If that indeed is their view, then you will get just the same majority of females on the register at 25 years of age as you would at 21.
At any rate, it has been put forward very extensively this evening, and, in fact, if you take 25 years of age as the limit at the present moment the female majority would be actually larger in proportion than if you took the age of 21. Hon. Members may say that I once objected to a female majority myself, but I would remind them that I was only 21 when I did so and therefore, if this is a sound argument, had more sense and a better right to vote. If indeed the idea is to get equality between the sexes, then as each fresh register appears you will have to bring forward a new Franchise Bill; you will have to fix a fresh limit in order to secure equality of numbers as between the sexes. Suppose in this country we had actually a superfluity of men. Would you then fix the women's vote at the age of 25 and raise the men's age for voting in order to make up the difference between the two? I cannot believe that there is any real cause in equity for differentiating between the sexes. You might as well try to get equality between blondes and brunettes; that is, equality in numbers.
Why should it be suspected that men and women are going into separate camps? The only reasonable argument that can be brought forward against having more women on the register than men is that you believe that a young woman is not competent to cart a vote, or at any rate is not so competent as her young brother. If there are hon. Members in this House who believe that then they are accusing themselves of a very grave neglect of their constituencies. From my comparatively brief experience of elections, I have always received the greatest assistance from women, and particularly young women. I have always found them ready to take up the work not only of organisation but also to discuss and propagate political theories. All this airy talk about flapper votes, and that young women are simply out to amuse themselves—
In my opinion there are not nearly enough women in the country to-day who have a chance of devoting their lives to amusement or a chance of avoiding the serious side, if, indeed, there are many such women they have no right to take that chance. If your argument is that young women are frivolous and do not bother about politics—
There are certain people who believe that young women are not sufficiently competent to cast a vote for the reason that they do not take a sufficient interest in politics. If there are people who believe that then they are the very people who should support this Bill. If young women are empty-minded, give them something to think about; if they lack responsibility make them responsible. The fact of the matter is that the argument against having a majority of women voters on the electorate covers two main lines of prejudice; one is against the question of female suffrage as a whole, and the other against the destinies of the country in any way into the hands of the young. So far as female suffrage is concerned that matter was dealt with once and for all 10 years ago, and it does not arise now. But as far as leaving the destinies of the country in the hands of the youth is concerned, it amounts to this, that there is a fear that the young are likely to be less experienced and perhaps vote for one of the parties opposed to the present Government. If youth lacks experience it has two virtues to make up for it, courage and enthusiaian, and today these two virtues are every bit as essential to a political party as any other. If the Conservative party ever fails to attract youth to its side and gain advantage of its enthusiasm it might just as well give up hope. This question of youth in politics is one about which we have heard many witticisms both outside this House and here this afternoon, and it lends itself very well to magnificent platform speeches. What will be the actual result, so far as the present parties are concerned, of adding these young people to the electorate? Family by family, trade by trade, industry by industry, and class by class, if you like, you will add in proportion the exact numbers of those already on the register, and your result, so far as voting strength of the parties is concerned, will he precisely nil.
But there is a much wider point of view which I think is worth a moment's consideration. Is it a good thing, on the whole, to add 5,000,000 voters to an already swollen electorate? The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Harmsworth) made considerable play, and I agree with him, of the fact that a Member in the old days used to be in close touch with his constituents, but owing to the huge dimensions of modern constituencies a Member cannot possibly get into personal touch with much more than about one-fifth of those who will vote for him. Besides, as you increase the number of electors, you must diminish the actual responsibilities of each individual elector. Your results will be that with your greater electorate you will find it more difficult to get a majority in favour of any definite line of action, whereas you will always find a handsome majority which finds any particular course objectionable.
Whether you believe in nationalisation, rationalisation, protection, or some scientific remedy carefully preserved in a Green Book or a Yellow Book, you will find that with your big constituencies it will be difficult to persuade a majority of people in favour of giving up something in order to achieve something else, and the result must be that this House will become less and less a legislative Assembly and more and more a vetoing Assembly, and the Government themselves must become, by the same process, moulded by that section of opinion which follows the line of least resistance. It is, of course, quite possible to argue that this in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but in so far as it is a bad thing, it is an evil which exists now. You cannot say that this is a step in a bad direction, because it is not a step in any direction; it is the last possible addition which can be made to the electors of this country.
I really cannot treat that as a serious suggestion. If I may put it in another way, for a century we in this country have been building a great cathedral of democracy. There are those who now think, perhaps, that its height is out of proportion to the size of its foundations, but that is no reason for refusing to put on the roof. You may object to the female vote, you may object to the number of voters, or you may object to the expense of elections, but these questions do not arise under this Bill. If the objections are well founded, they can and should be dealt with in some other Measure. I support this Bill because I believe it to be an act of justice, because I believe it to be fair as between different parties in the State, and principally because I believe that by it we shall give responsibility to a great number of people who need it and who will use it for their country's welfare.
I have never given a vote in this House that has given me greater pleasure than I shall derive from the vote which I propose to give to-night in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill. From my point of view, this Bill is something very much more than a mere measure of electoral reform. It is not only that in this Bill for the first time woman is recognised as a political animal just in the same way as a man. It is, to my mind, very much more than that. It marks the end of an epoch, the epoch when men regarded women mainly as mothers or sweethearts or wives or daughters, and only in a subordinate capacity as fellow citizens. That is the epoch which is passing away. The epoch which we are entering to-night is the epoch in which women are primarily human beings with precisely the same status as men, and the fact that they are mothers or sweethearts or wives or daughters is in precisely the same position as the fact, that men may be fathers or lovers or husbands or sons.
I have listened with interest and with interest and with a very great deal of amusement to the speeches which have emanated from hon. Members of this House who are opposing this Bill. They have amused me, because they seem to be the echo of a far-distant bell that I have heard ringing over and over again. The hon. and gallant Member who moved the Amendment to delay the passage of this Bill belongs to that epoch which, as I say, is passing away, and he made this fundamental mistake. He seemed to imagine that we were proposing to enfranchise a sex. We are doing nothing of the kind. In this Bill we are enfranchising all human beings in the country above the age of 21 on an equal basis. He might just as well have taken the argument with regard to bachelors and married men. He might have said, "What an injustice you are doing to the bachelors. You are actually giving more votes to married men than you are giving to bachelors. If you really want equality between the married men and the bachelors, you must put all married men in one category and give them a certain number of votes, and all bachelors in another category and give them an equal number of votes." It springs from an utterly false conception of the problem.
We are enfranchising women in this Bill because each individual woman, as a human being, is entitled to precisely the same right and precisely the same authority as is each individual man. The hon. and gallant Member for Enfield (Colonel Applin) poured forth arguments which I have heard over and over again, but there is this difference to-day as compared with when they were first used. In those days, the question of enfranchising women was hypothetical, and it was just conceivable that the tragedies which its forerunners suffered might again take place. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Harmsworth) asked what was the change that had taken place since 1918 entitling us to take a different view to-day from that which we took then. The change is the change of experience. Though hon. and right hon. Members of this House, like the Home Secretary, myself, and all my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side, have seen from the beginning that the enfranchisement of women could do nothing but good, large numbers of more timid Mem bers have feared, but with the experience of these 10 years behind them they know that their fears were groundless.
Let me give an illustration of the failure on the part of the hon. and gallant Member for Enfield to appreciate what has happened in the course of time. That was his remark about India and women's suffrage. My hon. Friend the Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) reminded him that to-day women have the vote in India, but even she did not tell him that they have the vote by the express decision of the men of India, because this country in the first place gave the vote solely to men for the different Provinces and the Central Assembly of India, and it was by the vote of the Indian men themselves that the women to-day have an equal franchise with the men. Therefore, when he wonders what India will think if we give the vote to our women, he is saying something which may have appeared to be an argument in the days when it was first used, but he and his friends have gone on repeating it until the time has arrived when it has become too ridiculous to be delivered in this House even by him.
I will now say a word or two in regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Thanet. I cannot help thinking that the best thing to say to him is to remind him of the rebuke, and the terms of the rebuke, which the Prime Minister administered to an hon. colleague of his on the Front Bench who had made an indiscretion which everyone in the House recognised as an indiscretion. I think, when the hon. Member for Thanet has arrived at years when he understands the thing better, he will realise that the people of this country are not a mob to be hoodwinked in the way he imagines and in which it has been his custom to try and hoodwink them, in ways which we all understand. I come next to the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. S. Samuel). He said he was going to oppose this Bill, but that he did not flatter himself that the opposition of himself and his friends would make a ghost of difference to the passage of this Bill into law. With that sentiment I am in full and hearty agreement, because I know that all this talk from one or two hon. Members on the other side is but the twittering of sparrows, that can no more delay the progress of events than Mrs. Partington with her mop could sweep back the ocean.
This Bill is a great deal more than a mere Measure of electoral reform. It recognises that women, like men, are human beings, that they share with men as equals their toil, their play, and their responsibility for the guardianship of the future of the race. We in this House are putting the final stage in this Measure to the work which has been pushed forward for very many years. There were men and women who in days gone by looked forward to and longed for this day, without seeing it. My hon. Friend the Member for East Middlesbrough mentioned some names. I would like to mention the names of Mary Wollstonecraft, of John Stuart Mill, an honoured Member of this House, and of Lady Constance Lytton, who, with a heroism which has rarely been equalled, placed herself in the humblest position in order that she might suffer and share the lot of many of her humble sisters.
But it is not only for the sake of women themselves that I am glad to see this Bill introduced and feel confident that it will be carried. I feel that we need absolutely the assistance of women in order to carry on our civilisation. It is a curious thing that when either sex is in its own circle it thinks and speaks of the members of the other sex as though they were half-grown-up children. Most men know that that. is the way in which they regard women, but not a great number of men realise that that is precisely the way in which women also regard men: and both are right. There are certain of the duties and tasks of life which men know far better than women. The hon. Member for Putney said that if there was a question of how to make a parish pump, that was a subject which women would be equally competent to decide with men. I disagree. I think the great bulk of men know a great deal more about a pump than women do.
But there are also many subjects on which women know a great deal more than men. Their knowledge 8.0 p.m. arises from the experience of their life in the care of children and in the study of the psychology of the growing individual. What we need in this civilisation is to pool our resources. God knows, we have need of all the resources which are available for us. In this complicated civilisation of ours there are problems which are almost, if not entirely, too severe for us to solve. We need to pool the complementary knowledge, experience and wisdom of both sexes, and we need also for the highest places in the State, which require all the wisdom and knowledge that is available, to have a choice of all the adult members of the human race. If we confine ourselves to a single sex, we limit our choice. That is why it is necessary for us to bring into our civilisation, to bring into politics in every capacity, not only every adult member of the male sex, but every adult human being, in order that they may contribute of their knowledge and experience and wisdom to the future progress of civilisation.
I am most reluctant to speak out against men whom I respect; but duty is duty; that is to say, that the members of this Government have to be warned that they have done much to break up the Conservative party by introducing this Bill. What was more melancholy than to see the Home Secretary sitting down amid the cheérs of the Opposition, whilst speech after speech from his own party followed, protesting with vehemence and even with rage against what he said? That is the way in which parties are broken up. I would remind the Ministers who are present of what happened to Sir Robert Peel. He made a personal pledge that he would abandon the principles of his own party, and take up the principles of the other party. He split his party, and for something like 25 years it was never again in office for more than a short time. It is hateful to have to say these things, but they have to be said in order that the members of the Government may understand what they are doing. If they get pledges made by the Prime Minister and a few other Ministers and then inflict them in legislation on their party without consulting the party, what obedience can they expect? Our party was never consulted. We have never had an opportunity of deciding upon this question. We are simply assured that it now forms part of the party programme. But on inquiry we learn that a letter written by our leader to a private person in October, 1924, made it constitute part of the Conservative programme.
This reminds me of what happened to Alice in Wonderland in the famous book of Lewis Carroll. You will remember that the King of Hearts—that might serve very well for our present Prime Minister, for he is the King of Hearts —suddenly expelled Alice from the Court by what he called one of the old rules of the book. When investigated, it did not appear to be one of the old rules in the book, but an obiter dictum of his own—I think to the effect that people more than 10 feet high must leave the Court—which Alice refused to recognise as binding. This obiter scriptum of our leaders, which I refuse to regard as binding, appeared both in the official handbook sent round to me and also in the publications of the Equal Citizenship Society, as dated 18th October, 1924. I plead that such printed matter put in the "Morning Post" does not constitute a pledge from the Conservative party. We say that we have not given pledges. Leaders ought to have some decent concern for the political feelings of their followers. I do not say that we should be like the French, whose statesmen say:
"Je suis votre chef, it faut que je vous suive."
We do not ask a leader to follow the politics of the party too closely. But on the other hand, if our views have been suddenly changed for us, surely we need a little education. Education is not what we have had. We have had this Bill thrust upon us. What a Bill! A Bill that has been appearing in the programmes of both the other parties! This is what Punch so wittily called—40 or 50 years ago—"stealing the Whigs' clothes." Hon. Members may remember that old picture, in which a venerated Conservative leader of that time appeared in the incongruous garments of the opposite party. I regard this Bill as a distinct repetition of the trick of "stealing Whigs' clothes." The Whigs are extinct, as we all know—their successors' clothes are even more incongruous still on Conservative backs.
I have had letters from various parts of the country, but not one of them was in favour of the Bill; they are all against it. I have not had one letter from one single constituent urging me to vote for it. On the other hand I have had numerous letters begging me not to vote for the Bill. As an example of the way in which a knowledge of this proposal has been spread in the country, I would mention that the letters I have received are only one-eighth of the number that I received on the Totalisator Bill, and are not one-fiftieth of the numbers that I received on the Prayer Book. The country was really interested in the Prayer Book; it was moderately interested in the totalisator. But of this Bill there was till last week not the slightest notice being taken in the country. I have had letters from ladies who are leaders in their districts, asking "Why is this suddenly come upon us?" The biggest innovation for many years has only one day allotted for Second Reading. It really is almost incredible, considering its constitutional importance. The notice that we received of its appearance being imminent was short, the details of it vague. And when the Bill appears it is not the Bill that we understood we were to have, but something else. We heard that there were to be certain Clauses which removed undesirable voters from the register at one end, if it admitted the younger women at the other. All that part of the Bill has disappeared. It seems to show that if there are hot heads in our Cabinet, there are also cold feet.
The general argument that has been used for the Bill is that it is logical. Logic is not the thing by which the governance of England has ever taken place. Logic may rule the minds of our Latin neighbours, but it is our pride that England and its institutions are illogical to a degree, and we are proud of the fact. If you went on mere logic who could defend the survival of the Corporation of London, the City Companies, the Inns of Court, or the dozens of other institutions which go on in a most flourishing way. We have persisted for centuries without making mere logic our guide in constitutional matters. If we acted on logic, we should be driven to curious ways. Logically, we are told, the young women of 21 ought to have the vote because they are quite as competent as many young men of 21. But continuing this argument we should surely say that many sixth-form boys in secondary schools are quite as competent to discuss high political questions as a great number of the voters we have now. If so, why should we not give the franchise to young people of 19 or 18 or 17. Why not have a boys' vote or a girls' vote? That would be all logical. But fortunately in England we are not ruled by logic. It may be said that these are only the wild protests of one who feels that his section of the Conservative party has not been consulted. But surely some explanation, some instruction, was due to us from our chiefs.
We complain of what is left out of the Bill. We complain of what has been put into the Bill. But every thinking man must possess his own soul. Let him not vote in obedience to the three-lashed whip that he received this morning. Conscience must guide. It is seven years since I voted in a very small minority of Conservatives against a Government Bill in this House. The fact that I so voted is one of the proudest memories in my life. The vote was against Mr. Montagu's Government of India Bill. Scores of Conservative Members then present answered the whip and voted against their principles, and on their heads and on the heads of the Coalition then ruling are all the blood and turmoil and trouble that have come in India as a result of that Bill. Let every man take warning from that to-night. Let him never vote for what his conscience does not tell him he can fairly support. This protest, no doubt, is useless. It had to be made, though I am grievously sorry to have to make it. I know that it offends some good friends, but "out of the fullness of the heart the tongue speaketh."
My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) told us in the earlier part of his speech that he felt melancholy—I think that was the word—as he looked at the Home Secretary when speaking in support of the Bill. As a constituent of my hon. Friend I felt a little melancholy as I heard him develop his thesis against the Bill. But I consoled myself with the reflection that the University to which I belong and which I love has always been renowned as the home of lost causes. We are in no way ashamed of that. Although I disagree with my hon. Friend in what he has told us, yet I am glad to feel that Oxford University has taken her historic part on this occasion. Whatever our individual views may be as to the merits or demerits of the Bill, no one will suggest that any defence can be put up for the present arbitrary regulations which lay down the years at which, in the judgment of Parliament, the women of this country are entitled to exercise the franchise. I listened to all the speeches against the Bill this afternoon, and I have not heard one speaker attempt to defend the present arbitrary regulations. Those regulations are in fact indefensible. There is no case to be made for them in logic and if logic is to be despised, there is no case to be made for them in reason, so that the defence falls back upon convenience, tempered, perhaps, by a little apprehension as to what the effects of this new Bill may be.
I may refer to some of those apprehensions. I was amazed as I listened to it, at the temerity of the speech of the hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. Harmsworth), and, as he was speaking, it came into my mind that, in his case as in my own, had he been of the other sex he would only very recently have been emancipated, politically, out of the zone of flapperdom. It struck me as a remarkable instance of self-complacency that my hon. Friend could tell the House that the new electorate which will now be enfranchised is the least responsible section of the community, considering that he himself adorned that section so very recently. I do not believe there is anyone in this House who has studied in the constituencies the measure of interest taken in political events, who will maintain that women are backward as compared with men in that respect. In assessing the importance of this Bill, we ought not to allow ourselves to forget that the all-important consideration in the working of a modern democracy, if that be our object, is to watch that as great a portion as possible of those who are in that state take an interest in the government of that state. The democratic state is well-governed just in proportion as its citizens take an interest in that Government, and the less interest they take in it the worse it is governed.
Consequently, the test which should be applied to this Bill, and which its opponents have not applied to it in any single instance, is: Will this new section of the community, which is now to be enfranchised, not provide us with any section or at least as large a section as any other portion of the community of those interested in the government of the country? No one can pretend that the new voters whom it is now proposed to enfranchise are not going to give us a proportion of those who are interested in government. The trouble is that we are sometimes misled by the word "democracy." We have not got democratic government in this country to-day; we never had it, and I venture to suggest to hon. Members opposite that we shall never have it. What we have done, in all the progress of reform and evolution of politics, is to broaden the basis of our oligarchy. Always, only a percentage of those who possess the vote will exercise it or take an interest in its use. To-day, it is true to say that a proportion of those whom we enfranchise under this Bill will not make use of the vote. It is equally true that numbers of those who now have the vote, do not use it at all. That is not an argument against the Bill, unless we are prepared to say that the new electors whom it is proposed to create are, for some special reason, in a special category which makes them unfit to enjoy the franchise.
There is no need to make comparisons but it must surely be obvious on those lines of argument, that the married woman of 24 or 25 has a far greater right to a voice in the government of this country than a single man of 21. There being, in truth, no actual argument in logic or reason against the Bill, we are faced with terminological inexactitudes like the word "flapper"—a very clever piece of journalese but rather of the penny variety. There being no argument, prejudice has to be aroused. I am told that there is no demand, no great public agitation in support of this Bill. I am not going to express an opinion upon that point but, of this I am certain, that if the House were to reject this Bill there would be serious and grievous disappointment all over the country. If my hon. Friends believe that in their constituencies there is no desire for this Measure I would ask them to take this comfort to their hearts. Very rarely in the history of this country has there been an agitation for the extension of the franchise. Perhaps the only exception was the suffragette agitation before the War which, I think, it would be true to say did not represent the feeling of the great majority of the women of this country.
Further back there was the agitation for the great Reform Bill, but with those two exceptions political agitation in this country frequent as it has been has not been for more popular government but for better government, and as we go back we shall find that the British instinct has not been for more popular government but to compel the existing executive to some action or to the redress of some grievance. The two Beform Bills, the one introduced by Lord Beaconsfield and the other by Mr. Gladstone, were neither the result of violent political or popular agitation. For my part, the existence or non-existence of this demand or agitation is immaterial. The only test which this House has to apply is whether or not the Bill will assist in the more successful working of democratic government in this country. That is the sole test and, the question of the state of parties, which seems to trouble my hon. Friend who opposed the Bill, does not arise in the circumstances. I should be sorry for the future of my party if his words represented it in any way; but I am glad to think that they are rather journalism than politics. I believe that if this party in the future is to have a place in the government of this country, it cannot afford to neglect and it ought not to neglect the rising generation to whatever sex they belong. If we are prepared to put our heads in the sand because of imaginary fears as to particular effects which may be caused in the future we might as well put up the shutters straight away.
May I say a few words as to what results are to be expected from this Measure. I do not believe that the changes which some of my hon. Friends anticipate will materialise in the revolutionary form which seems to fill them with fear. I do not believe that this change will make a material difference in the complexion of parties in this House. It is nonsense to pretend that women in these days are going to vote as women for a women's party. Surely, it must be evident from the experience of recent years that no such thing happens; nor do I believe that the changes will be revolutionary. The House may have noticed that, curiously enough, those who have been revolu- tionaries in history have never been anxious for the enfranchisement of women. Both the thinkers and actors on the stage of the French Revolution were all, with a single exception, hostile to any activity by women in politics. Revolutionaries do not favour activity by women, and I think it is Leeky who says that the cause of that is the fact that women are by instinct conservative. I spell it, of course, with a small "c," but certainly they are not revolutionary, or at least their enfranchisement has not received the support of those who were. Napoleon very much disliked women interfering in politics, and there is a story that on one occasion he said to the widow of Condorcet, who was perhaps the only revolutionary who believed in women taking part in politics, "Madam, I do not think that women should meddle with politics," to which she replied, "You are quite right, general, but in a country where it is the custom to cut off the heads of women, it is natural that they should want to know the reason why."
To-day, I suppose, the nearest approach to Napoleon on the Treasury Bench is my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the women of England might say to him, "You may not have the power to cut off our heads, but you have the power to increase the cost of our household budgets, and, if you do that, we have the right to know the reason why." Mutatis mutandis, it is certainly true that in these days, when women have not only greater responsibilities, but greater burdens, the argument, which was used by Condorcet's widow, applies with greater force at the present time. I would like to put one more point, and perhaps I may tell a story, which may interest my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University. The Greeks and Romans very much disliked women taking any part in politics, especially the very early Romans, and there is a story told of the Emperor Heliogabalus, who was responsible for many enormities and atrocities in his life, that the thing which most horrified the Romans of his day was his action in enrolling his mother among the Senators, with the consequence that, when in due course he himself was murdered, his mother also had to be murdered as having been the first woman senator of Rome. The opponents of this Measure may take comfort in that ex- ample of many years ago. It has not been mentioned in this Debate that in this Bill we are only following a precedent which has been set by almost all our Dominions, in every one of which, with the exception of South Africa, universal suffrage is the order of the day. In New Zealand, universal franchise has been in force since 1893, and I would remind hon. Members, who were so ungallant as to dread an increase of lady Members in our midst, that there, although universal suffrage has been in force longer than anywhere else in the world, no woman has yet been elected a Member of Parliament for that Dominion. It would seem, therefore, that there need be no fear of anything in the nature of a woman's party.
As I listened to the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford university, and the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, I thought their speeches might have been more appropriate for the various Reform Bills in the last century. Not one argument did they produce which was not raised over and over again in those days to raise bogeys which have been proved by experience to be unjustified. Hon. Members have referred to this Bill as though it were a measure of finality. I do not believe that, in the evolution of government, there is any finality. It may be that we have reached the final stage in the granting of the suffrage, but it does not by any means follow that we have reached the final stage in the evolution of democratic government in this country. It is not inconceivable that, in the coming years, devolution will be necessary, and that we here will be an Imperial Parliament dealing exclusively with Imperial and foreign affairs, and that different parts of England will have their own local Parliaments dealing with local affairs. Once the Act of 1918 was passed, this Bill became the logical and, indeed, the inevitable conclusion, and I am glad that the Government have had the vision to see that obligation, and the heart to meet it. I feel confident that neither now, nor in future years, will the women of this country ever neglect that obligation, still less break that trust, which the Government and this House will place within their reach to-night.
As one who has been in favour of equal franchise for men and women for over 30 years, I cannot give a silent vote on this occasion. I am sorry to disagree with my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Antrim (Captain Craig), but on this question I have no hesitation in saying that the overwhelming body of opinion in Ulster is in favour of this Bill. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) spoke about the terrible things that were going to happen. If it is going to be such a terrible disaster to the country, how is it that there is no talk of or opposition to it in the country? If British men and women thought that it was going to destroy the Constitution, one of the first things they would have done would have been to protest. I have never received a single protest; on the other hand, I have never missed an opportunity, during the 10 years I have been in this House, when addressing my constituency and other constituencies, to urge this reform, and never once have I met anyone who was opposed to it. I think the overwhelming body of opinion is in favour of this Bill.
My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Antrim talks about there being no mandate. Had we a mandate for the reform in 1918? We added more electors to the roll in that year than we are doing now. The bulk of the speeches against this Bill have never really tackled the question why there should be a franchise for a man of 21 and no franchise, or no hope whatever, for a woman of 21. Does anyone contend that women are less intelligent or less patriotic than men? I remember that, before the War, some of my friends used to argue that women should not have the vote because they could not go into the fighting line. We do not hear that argument now, because, during the War, women proved that they were themselves as useful in winning battles as men in the front line trenches, and that they made just as great sacrifices at home, as the men who fought at the front. Some of them were very near the front, and the part that they played in the War has destroyed, I hope for ever, that fallacy.
One hon. Member declared that women know nothing about politics, and that their only interest is in the parish pump. I have had as much experience with women in polities a6 many men, and I have no hesitation in saying that women as a whole take just as keen an interest in politics as men, and I would add that a great many will work much harder for their political friends than men will ever do. Then we are told that they do not know as much about the Empire and international affairs as men. Are we to apply an educational test to people before they get the vote? I am afraid that, if you applied an educational test, the list of voters would be remarkably small on all sides of politics.
Every time a change of this sort has been made in the history of this country we have been told that it will bring disaster. Looking back, we see how idle those fears were, and I have no doubt that the next generation, looking back on our proceedings to-day, will see how idle these fears are on this occasion. I see no danger which will accrue to the State from putting these additional women voters on the register, and I heartily endorse the proposal. I disagree profoundly with my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet (Mr. Harmsworth). His speech was a graceful and a well-argued speech. The only thing wrong with it was that he was arguing from false premises. He says this Bill is unnecessary, but could anything be more necessary than to remove the grievance under which every young woman between the ages of 21 and 30 is suffering? He says this Measure is a blunder. Where is the blunder in removing a gross anomaly? Then he says that if they were getting something out of this Bill there might be something to be said for it. I contend that these young people will get something much more valuable than money. They will get responsibility, a deepened interest in the affairs of the State, and that training which leads to better citizenship.
It was said that hon. Members need not look for any gratitude. What man in politics ever looks for gratitude? Speaking with a good deal of experience, I can say that if you are looking for gratitude in political life you will be sadly disappointed. It is much more important to do your duty than to look for gratitude, and I think it is our duty to see that this anomaly is removed, and I am glad that the Prime Minister, in face of all the opposition he has had to meet, has had the courage to do what, in my judgment, is the right thing. The hon. Member for Thanet also spoke about the mob of voters. What does he propose? Would he set up some Royal Commission or some English Mussolini to regulate the number of voters?
Are we to put these young people through a rigorous test to ascertain whether on every occasion they are going to vote blue or red? One has only to look at the thing to see that it is absolutely impossible to reduce the number of voters, and therefore his argument does not carry us very far. Then he spoke of this being a revolution in the Constitution. I say this is no revolution, this is evolution, the natural evolution, the evolution which has brought the British Constitution to be one of the most honoured in the whole world. Then there was a reference to equality, and to an equal number of men and women. We might as well say that white-haired men were to be deprived of the vote or to get the vote, or that only blue-eyed ladies were to get it. That is reducing the whole thing to an absurdity. The hon. Member for Thanet also said that we were trying to pass this Bill in a spirit of fatalism. No, Sir, we are trying to pass this Bill in a spirit of fair play, and in a spirit that is to the advantage of the whole nation.
This Bill, when it becomes law, as it will become law, will not weaken the Constitution but strengthen it. Another argument of my hon. Friend was that we had seen the fall of a great many democracies in recent years. That is quite true, but did a single one of those democracies fall because women had the vote? On the contrary, I think most of them would have been a great deal stronger if women had had the vote. Why does each one of us receive the vote? In my humble judgment it is simply because we are subjects of the King, and as subjects of the King women also are entitled to the vote, and I hope the House to-night, by its vote on this Measure, will show how earnest it is in its determination to remove the present anomaly. I have never stopped to ask myself whether this reform is going to benefit my party or the two parties opposite. I asked myself one question, "Is it the right thing to vote for this proposal and to speak for it?" and I am going to vote for it just as I have spoken in favour of it.
Sir F. HALL:
The speeches we have heard to-night are rather interesting it one carries one's mind back to 1910 and subsequent years. I well remember the discussions which took place many years ago, and I well remember the attitude adopted not only by Members of the party to which I have the pleasure to belong, but the attitude of members of the Liberal party. My attitude has not changed at all, and I do not intend that it shall change, because, rightly or wrongly, I have always believed that, as was the case prior to 1918, the country should be represented in this House by the male sex. Some hon. Members may think that is rather a surprising view to take, but that had been the practice and the recognised custom during hundreds of years of Parliamentary government, and the legislation of this country had been conducted in a very satisfactory manner. [Interruption.] I repeat that the legislation of this country has been carried through in an extremely satisfactory manner. But after the War, recognising that women had done a vast amount of work, they were given the vote. I am always prepared to pay my tribute to the work they did, but I was averse from rewarding them for all they did during the strenuous years from 1914 to 1918 by giving them the vote. A vast number of women in this country take the greatest possible exception to the policy that was adopted.
At that time your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, presided over a Conference which carefully considered various proposals put forward, and then submitted a Report recommending that 12,000,000 should be added to the electorate. It is an open secret that although, as a compromise, the age of 30 was agreed to in the case of women, it was a generally accepted view that the age of 35 was the youngest at which women ought to receive the vote. It has been said to-night that with this Bill there is going to be finality. I am very sorry to hear that, because if this is to be finality it simply means that the hundreds of millions of money invested in the great industries of this country is to have no recognition in the matter of the franchise, but, on the other hand, that we are to have more than 5,000,000 women added to the number of voters, although the great majority of them have never asked for the vote and do not want it.
Personally, I am bitterly opposed to this Measure. I love to support my party whenever I possibly can, and I wish that even now it were possible for me to do so. Unfortunately, I happen to be in the position that I think this Measure is a retrograde step and that it is likely to be detrimental to the interests of this country. It is my duty to take a course which I think is most advantageous to the interests of the people. Without fear and hesitation, I say that I am opposed to the majority of women having a vote. I am ready to pay my tribute to the work which the women have done. I do not say that the brains of a man are any I better than the brains of a woman. I am not here for that purpose. I recognise that in the times in which we live women take their place in many employments. I think in some instances they have taken up permanent positions to the detriment of the men who served their country during very strenuous times.
Hon. Members in all parts of the House must have received letters from ex-service men stating that unfortunately the positions they held before the War were now filled by women. During the War, when so many women took up the work which up to that time had been done by men in various capacities and in the different Departments of State, I do not believe it was their intention to permanently displace men. The fact, however, remains that they have permanently displaced a large number of ex-service men in this country. I do not think it is advantageous or desirable that we should place the Government of this great country in the hands of women. Previous to the year 1918, women did not vote at all, and, notwithstanding the statements which have been made to-night to the effect that what was done in 1918 was only a temporary arrangement, I say that it was nothing of the sort. It was made perfectly plain in those days that that was a compromise under which the women were to be given the vote at the age of 30. Had there been the slightest suggestion that pressure would be brought to bear to give women a vote at 21 years of age, in my opinion the Measure of 1918 would never have passed through the House of Commons.
I stand second to none in recognising the vast amount of useful work that has been done by women. No one has greater respect for women that I have, but I have yet to learn that, considering the hundreds of years that the country has been governed by men through the House of Commons, and that a vote was not given to any women previous to 1918, there has been any bad effect to this country because it has been governed by men. [Laughter]. It is all very well for hon. Members above the Gangway to laugh, but I believe that the passing of this Measure will undoubtedly be of great advantage to hon. Members opposite. I quite believe that, and we might as well be honest one with another. I believe this Measure will be advantageous to the Labour party because they put as the first plank in their platform at the last General Election, "Vote for the Socialist party and Votes for Women at 21." If hon. Members above the Gangway had not thought that that was going to be advantageous to their party, they would not put it in their programme.
I thoroughly believe that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, in bringing forward this Measure have no idea of securing any party advantage or disadvantage, but in their own opinion I believe they think it will be an advantage to the country to give women a vote at 21 years of age. We never brought forward this policy in 1924, and it was never suggested that we should do so. I would like to point out that there has never before been an increase in the franchise without a redistribution of seats. Surely, when you put 5,250,000 additional voters on to the register, it is necessary that you should consider at the same time, as has always been the case heretofore, the question of the redistribution of seats. Personally, I am extremely sorry that this Bill has been brought forward, and I regret that I shall be obliged to vote against my party. I have always tried to see eye to eye with my party, but because I happen to be still an old Tory and a great believer in the principles of Conservatism, I cannot support this Measure.
The principle contained in this Bill has never been accepted as a principle of the Conservative party. We were returned by a large majority at the last election because the electorate believed in the principles of the Conservative party, and it is because I do not believe that the principle of this Measure is one of the tenets of Conservatism that do not intend to give a silent vote on this Bill. I desire to express my dissatisfaction that this Measure has been brought forward, and although I know it will pass, I could not allow it to do so without expressing my views. There is one thing to which I hope the Home Secretary will give careful consideration. Last night we were considering a Motion brought forward by the hon. Member for Kennington (Mr. G. Harvey) dealing with the disqualification of those who had resorted to Poor Law relief. If there is going to be any finality with regard to the franchise, I think we ought to get the whole thing out of the way, and I suggest that the Government should consider the proposals which were brought forward in regard to Poor Law disqualification. We do not want an alteration of the franchise every few months, and it is a question which should be settled once for all. We should also remember that a vast amount of money is invested in British industries, and this may be a very serious matter if it is the opinion of the Government that young people should receive a vote at the age of 21. I ask that these vast industries should receive the careful consideration of the Government.
Sir F. HALL:
There has been a great amount of latitude allowed to hon. Members in this Debate, and I am sorry if I have over-stepped the Rules of Order. I finish as I started, by expressing my regret that this Measure has been brought forward, and, notwithstanding the fact that it will go through, I sincerely trust that we shall go to a Division, so that, even though there may only be half-a-dozen of us, we may prove that a certain number of us are still desirous of maintaining the traditions of the Conservative party.
Mr. W. M. ADAMSON:
This is one of the occasions when, from both sides of the House, there have been expressions of very full and frank support of the Measure under discussion. In all quarters of the House there is evidently a deep desire that a Measure, perhaps in a moderate form in some respects, but very largely on the principle of this Bill, shall become an Act of Parliament. The hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hall) has, however, indicated a point of view which, although it is evidently that of a minority in this House, is one which will probably receive the consideration of the Government, though it is very difficult to conceive how it can be that, with all the equality in brain capacity, with all the equality in many directions of life, industrial and otherwise, to which he has referred, he cannot fully realise that women as human beings are entitled to equal rights with us as men.
The chief arguments of the minority opposition to this Bill are largely in the direction that there has been no claim for a change in the franchise, and that no mandate has ever been given to the Government to bring in such a Measure. But it is 10 years since the last Franchise Bill was passed through this House, and in that period there has been a tremendous development in public opinion, in the advancement of scientific research, and in our industrial and social life. Wonderful attainments in these directions have revolutionised our social conditions. When we consider the development of wireless, and so on, and the possibilities of further inventions that may bring us even nearer to other countries, we cannot but feel that there has been a tremendous revolution in our lives during that period of 10 years, and it has demonstrated fully, to me at any rate, the case for the establishment of an equality of franchise as between the men and women of this country.
In 1924, I was in some degree responsibel for introducing a Measure to give equal franchise at 21, and the very able assistance that we received, even from Members on the Conservative Front Bench, during the Committee stage of that Measure, and the fair percentage of Conservative Members who voted for it at that time, indicated to me that the Conservative party would, in the ordinary course of events, bring in a Government Measure on similar lines during their period of office. I should, therefore, have been disappointed if this period of 10 years had been allowed to pass without such a Bill being introduced.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) has said that a Measure of this character would not merely bring about a change in the franchise, but would, owing to natural developments, bring about other large changes in our social and industrial life. In many walks of life to-day, particularly in the professions, women are taking an equal share of responsibility with men, and, although there may be a general attitude in favour of diverting them from those avenues that are opening to them in the professions and in other occupations, the younger women of to-day are realising that they have responsibilities apart from merely exercising the franchise and deciding by the vote how the Government should carry on its political duties. They have responsibilities in social, domestic and all other walks of life, in regard to our industries and the things that affect the general welfare of the community, and it is because we want to see an extension and development in these directions through the special aptitudes of women that we are seeking to advance the time when they will stand with us for that betterment of conditions which we desire.
It was, I think, the hon, and gallant Member for Enfield (Colonel Applin) who first brought in the suggestion as to what would happen should a woman Member of this House ever become Chancellor of the Exchequer, As a. matter of fact, in two successive Governments, we have had women Members in responsible posts in the Ministry, but the analogy of the Chancellorship is a very apt one, because the great mass of working women in this country, and especially those who are married to working men, are typical Chancellors of the Exchequer in the home. They have to understand their budgets and their balance-sheets, the income that is coming in and the expenditure that is going out. They understand what is meant by spending power, and the need for spending according to the capacity available and for an understanding of domestic arrangements. If, therefore, it were ever possible that a woman should have the high responsibility of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, I believe that her mind would turn in those directions whereby expenditure could be reduced on non-essential things and established upon those things which were essential for the well-being and the better management of the race. We believe women will bring a better spirit into politics and make it possible for us to travel along the road of progress. I trust the Measure will pass into law and that we can have the franchise on an equal basis for men and women alike for the first time in the history of the country.
I want to congratulate the Prime Minister on keeping his pledges. I never for a moment doubted his word, and I rejoice to think he has proved once more that he is a man of his word. I want also to congratulate the Home Secretary on the able way he brought forward the Bill. He need not worry about his tombstone as long as his soul goes marching on. I am glad, too, that the Prime Minister has not listened to the shrieking of our stunt, weather-cock Press. Once more it shows what little effect the stunt Press has on thinking people. Unless the Press has some sort of moral outlook it will never fundamentally affect the people of the country. I rejoice that women are taking more and more interest in politics, because they will be able to judge and see what is news and what are advertisements. It is one of the most pitiful things in public life that so much of our Press is given up to insurance; and, when they stop stating how much they have paid in insurance, you have to look at the picture of a noble lord who owns the Press and read what he thinks, when probably the only thing he has seen of the article is his photograph. I rejoice that this House of Commons has proved once more that it has no real effect.
I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) tried to make this a party question. It cannot be a party question. There have been men and women of all praties who have fought, and women have even died for it. The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Miss Wilkinson) referred to the wonderful sacrifices women had made to get their political freedom. The right hon. Gentleman said his party had it in their programme. It is not really what is in the programme of a party that counts, but what is in the hearts of the party, and we women all know that there are Members in all parties whose hearts are not with us. We regret it and hope that sooner or later we shall win them over. I want to join with the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough in paying a tribute to those women who fought and died. I was thinking of Lady Constance Lytton, very frail and delicate, who fought so long and so hard. She did not die in the battle. She died a lingering death after the battle. When our minds go back to those heroines we cannot really treat this as other than a solemn occasion.
I regret very much that a few Members on this side have put down this Amendment. We realise that it is the swan song of the die-hards. They may be singing like swans, but they are thinking like geese. It is as though they set back the hands of their watches, thinking by doing so that they were changing Greenwich time. The Amendment is based on fear. They are frightened of light; they are frightened of reason; and they are frightened of progress. Progress comes in spite of faint-hearted men. We know all reforms have been hampered by people who were afraid, but this woman question has had wonderfully stout-hearted women who first saw the vision and fought for it. They have been women of high moral and spiritual outlook. The coming of women into public life is not really, as our friends fear, revolution. It is simply evolution.
The hon. Member who moved the rejection was most unfortunate in his Biblical references. I could have done it much better for him. If he had known as much of the women of the Bible as I do he would have gone first to the daughters of Zelophehad. [AnHON. MEMBER: "Who?"] I am not at all surprised that the Bible is a closed Book to the hon. Member. Their father died without leaving any sons, and they went to Moses and asked that the inheritance should come to them. The good Book says Moses consulted the Lord, and the Lord was on the side of the ladies, and they got the inheritance. Of course, it had something attached to it. It was that they should not marry outside their tribe. The Bible is full of wonderful stories. The one I like best is about Queen Vashti. She was our first suffragette. The hon. Member knows that. That is connected with wine. We are not speaking of that kind of woman to-night. Queen Vashti stood up, and when she was told to go and show her beauty to the court she refused. The King was very angry and the men were afraid. They said: "Unless you put this woman away you will have a rebellion," and she was put away because she was too independent. You can trace the history of women from Babylonian days, and it is one of the most interesting things. When women wanted to escape the horrors of the slavery of marriage of those days they had to become vestal virgins and worship the goddess. They wanted to keep those women pure, and even in those days they were not allowed to go into the wine shops. It is interesting to know that some women under the Egyptian laws had more property freedom than the women of England had until 50 years ago.
If you trace the coming of women into public life, you will see that it was only under Christianity that women received their charter of freedom. After all, let us compare the women of the West under Christianity with the women of the East. I think an hon. Member has spoken about the Empire and the women of the East, and I would like to remind the House that civilisation is judged by the status of women in a country. Christ's message was a message of freedom to all mankind. It was that man was a moral and a spiritual being. The more man struggles for the spiritual and leaves the material the more freedom he gets. It has been proved that under Christianity women have gradually obtained freedom, whereas in the Eastern countries the position of women, until the West went there, had not budged for thousands of years. Nothing more pitiable has ever been known than the position of some of the women in the East.
If I thought for one minute that the coming of women into public life was going to lower the moral standard and outlook of the country, I should object to this Bill. It is because I believe that they are going to bring a moral and spiritual view into public life, just as some men do, that I support this proposal. I am not saying that women alone bring a moral and spiritual view into public life, but I believe that women have moral and spiritual things at heart because of their children. They have to make preparation for their children. We in England know the things from which our children suffer. The influences that we fear most for our children are the immoral influences. We know, no matter what the material greatness of a country is, that most of the misery, suffering and sickness comes from the double moral standard. You may say that that is a far-off vision, but it is a vision that we have all got ahead of us and a vision that a great many men as well as women possess. This trust in women is not only a step forward for women; it is a step forward for the men, too. After all, we are progressing. We know that people are governed by our ideas, and we do not judge persons by their sex but by their consciousness. If a good idea conies into the world we do not ask where it comes from, but test it to see whether it ia good or whether it is bad.
It is in trying to divide mankind into sexes and keeping them in these divisions that so many of our troubles have come. An hon. Gentleman has asked whether there is not a woman's point of view. The truth is, that man is such a mixture of woman and man. Sometimes a woman may be moved by the male in her just as a man may be moved by the female in him. I think that people are beginning to see that, and the more they see it the more we shall progress. Men cannot go forward alone, and we know perfectly well that the men who are foremost in vision and outlook are the men who are influenced by good women. An hon. Member says, "Not in the ballot box." I would like to tell him that I had the privilege of being the first woman in the House of Commons, and sometimes I used to doubt whether it was a privilege. When I stood up and asked questions affecting women and children, social and moral questions, I used to be shouted at for five or 10 minutes at a time. That was when they thought that I was rather a freak, a voice crying in the wilderness. But as the women became more and more interested in these questions, the more and more I stood here knowing full well that there was an army outside behind me. I can testify to the change that has taken place in this House of Commons since women had a vote in the country. We all know that before women had votes, taking the 12 years before they had the vote, there were only five Measures passed dealing with women and with things affecting women and children. From 1918 onwards we have had 20 Measures passed affecting women and children. I am not blaming the men at all, but simply showing that already we see the effect that women's influence in the country is having on legislation.
I do not think, as an hon. Member has said, that we should be frightened of the women of 21. Have the men of 21 let the country down? Have they done anything foolish and retrograde? Really, that is a poor argument, and it is not based upon reason. It is based upon prejudice and fear. I rejoice to think that the Prime Minister has shown vision, foresight and courage in going forward. I am very sorry that hon. Members should have exposed their fears to the House of Commons. One of the most remarkable features concerning the party to which I have the honour to belong is that we should be able to go forward in spite of such albatrosses about our necks. I hope, and indeed I am perfectly certain, in spite of these Jeremiahs and their fears, that the young women of the country will never let them down. If hon. Members would only realise the longing there is in the hearts of thousands of women to make this country, for which so many of their fathers and brothers died, a better place, they would realise that the Prime Minister and the whole House of Commons are doing, not what is worst for the country but what is best in the interests of the country.
The Noble Lady always adds to the gaiety of the House, and on this occasion she has not been wanting. I am not quite certain whether I am a goose or an albatross, but I seem to remember that a terrible fate overtook somebody through shooting an albatross. I rise with great reluctance to support the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Reigate (Sir C. Cockerill) and I do so for several reasons, first of all, because I dislike finding myself in opposition to my leader and my party on a subject of first-class importance, but I am somewhat comforted in remembering that not many weeks ago the Prime Minister, standing at that Box, was speaking about party loyalties, and he said that there were occasions when there were greater loyalties even than party. There is the loyalty to truth and loyalty to what one conceives to be for the good of one's country. I speak on this matter from intense conviction, and after considerable thought, and while I regret to find myself in opposition to my party and my own revered leader, at the same time if I did not say what I thought and voted accordingly, I should be untrue to my innermost convictions. Secondly, I regret it because my attitude may be thought to be somewhat ungracious and, perhaps, unchivalrous to the other sex. That is contrary to my instincts, and I am happy to say to my upbringing. Thirdly, I regret it because it may seem to be lending support to a very foolish campaign which was carried on in some newspapers, a campaign which I think was not so much based on conviction as upon a desire to injure the party to which I have the honour to belong. From that campaign I entirely disassociate myself.
Before giving my reasons for supporting the Amendment, I want to say a word, with great respect, about the Prime Minister's pledge. Before looking into this question, I regarded the Prime Minister, if I might say so, as a somewhat unsuspicious and upright Antonio who had been enmeshed by Shylocks. I thought of him preparing to pay his pound of flesh while his party looked on somewhat disturbed, and with a somewhat shocked acquiescence, and no Portia appeared on the horizon. 'The Prime Minister commanded my sympathy, though his proposals did not command my intelligent acquiescence. When I came to look more closely into the bond which the Prime Minister was supposed to have signed, I found not only was no Portia needed, but I even now have my doubts that her appearance would be welcomed by the Prime Minister, for as far as I can see, the method he has chosen for the introduction of this revolutionary change in our Constitution is entirely
inconsistent with the pledges which are supposed to have been given. Although the pledges have already been quoted, it is some time ago, and I want to remind the House what they were. There was a Debate on a Measure brought in by an hon. Member opposite in 1925 on this same subject, and the Home Secretary made a speech of some length in which he moved an Amendment for the rejection of the Bill, and he quoted what were supposed to be the Prime Minister's pledges. Just to refresh the memory of the House I will read them again:
The Unionist party are in favour of equal political rights for men and women, and desire that the question of the extension of the franchise should, if possible, be settled by agreement. With this in view they would, if returned to power, propose that the matter be referred to a conference of all political parties on the lines of the Ullswater Committee.
Then the Home Secretary went on to emphasise this, and he used these words:
I have the authority of my right hon. Friend, who is by my side, to say, as all the House knows would be the case, that he stands by that pledge. One of the attributes of my right hon. Friend is that he does stand by his pledges, and I say to-day he stands absolutely, textually and in spirit by that pledge. 'What does that pledge mean?
Then, further on, the Home Secretary said:
There is no dispute whatever as to the Prime Minister's pledge or its meaning and intention, and we do mean to carry out that pledge. We do mean to give equal political rights to men and women, but we desire to do it by agreement. To achieve this end we think there should be a conference between all parties. Of course, a Measure of this kind must be followed by redistribution proposals. That is a matter of difficulty and it should also be the subject of a conference.
An hon. Member interjected, "Votes at 21," and the Home Secretary replied:
Equal rights for men and women.
The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) asked:
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean equal votes at 21?
The Home Secretary replied:
It means exactly what it says … It would be wrong of me to prejudge the views which hon. Members opposite might put before the conference. It means that a conference will be held—that is my proposal—at which all parties will be asked to be present, and they will then be asked to
consider how the Prime Minister's pledge can best be carried out. The Prime Minister's pledge is for equal rights, and at the next election I will say quite definitely that means that no difference will take place in the ages at which men and women will go to the poll at the next election."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1925; cols. 1500–1503. Vol. 180.]
With all respect, if there was to be a conference held, the Home Secretary has no right whatever to prejudge what that conference would decide. The Prime Minister's pledge is that which stands and not any gloss which the Home Secretary may think fit to put upon it. I would ask, has the conference been held? Has the conference ever been summoned? Has any attempt been made to summon one? I, personally, was never bound by any pledge on this subject, or on any other subject when I was elected at the last election, nor will I ever be bound by pledges, but if as a Member of the Conservative party I am supposed to be bound by any pledge, I am bound by that pledge which the Prime Minister gave and which, with all respect, I say has never been carried out.
So much for the question of pledges. I now come to my reason for objecting to this Measure. I want to make it perfectly plain, as most speakers who are supporting this Amendment have made it plain, that we are not opposed to votes for women. That question has long been settled. Personally, I am not opposed to votes for women. Secondly, I want to make it clear, and I would remind the Home Secretary, who appeared to think our objection was to giving votes to women at 21, and that we thought a women of 21 was not as intelligent as a man, that that is not my view either. I do not say for one instant that a woman of 21 is not as fit to exercise the franchise as a. man of the same age, but I do say that you cannot gives votes to men and women on the same terms with regard to age without making a, vast, fundamental and permanent constitutional change about which the electorate has never been properly consulted. What is this change? Hitherto in this country and for centuries, whether rightly or wrongly I do not argue, men have had political supremacy and the responsibility which that political supremacy carries with it. It is not a question of whether that is right or wrong. I am merely stating the fact.
If this Bill passes into law, there will be 2,250,000 more women voters than men. In other words, women as a sex obtain not equality but permanent political supremacy. Hon. Members may say that that is right or they may say that it is wrong, but it is a fundamental political change in the government of this country and one that ought not to be made until the electorate have been consulted. It means, to put it in another way, that a fraction of a woman's vote qua woman, is equal to a man's vote. That is not equality, and it is not carrying out the. Prime Minister's pledge. It means, also, that the sex which, perforce, through no fault of its own, has the least political experience, as everybody must admit, is to be made the most politically responsible. Did the country realise that that was what the Unionist party intended to do if they were returned to power? Did they vote for that with their eyes open? I know they did not, and every hon. Members knows that they did not.
Let me remind the House that at the moment we are doing this thing we have no effective Second Chamber. The Second Chamber is emasculated. In other words, the political supremacy which you are giving to women is absolute, because there is no effective Second Chamber. I would ask the Prime Minister and the Government, are not their pledges in regard to the reform of the Second Chamber just as categorical, in fact more categorical, than the pledges that were supposed to have been given in regard to this matter, and which I maintain are not being carried out by this Bill. Even the Home Secretary used to have some qualms about this question of putting one sex in a position of permanent political supremacy. In the Debate which I have already quoted, which took place in 1925, when he was opposing the Suffrage Bill introduced by the party opposite, he used these words:
The country has to face this position. To-day there are something like 3,000,000 fewer women voters than there are men voters; in other words, the country is ruled to-day by a majority of men. I am not saying that it is not right that you should be ruled by a majority of women, but let us pass this Bill with our eyes open and realise what the position would be.
Is the country passing this Bill with its eyes open?
The right hon. Gentleman proceeded:
What would this Bill involve? To-day there are 11,800,000 men voters, and 8,800,000 women voters, a majority of nearly 3,000,000. If this Bill passed there would be added to the women voters 5,126,000 voters, making a majority of just over 2,000,000 women voters throughout the country.
Then there was an interruption by the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), and the right hon. Gentleman continued:
The 2,000,000 I referred to a moment ago, if they were enfranchised without the age being, reduced to 21, would very nearly equalise the number of men and women voters; but if the age were reduced to 21, then owing, I suppose, to the larger number of women in this country, there would be a majority of women voters. The Noble Lady the Member for Sutton suggested that that would be all right. I think it would be all right for our party. I have no fear." —[OFFCIAL REPORT, 20th February, 1925; col. 1498, Vol. 180.]
It was perfectly clear from the speech of the Home Secretary that that was one of the things which he thought ought to he referred to a Conference. It was one of those matters, such as the question of redistribution which he mentioned in the passage which I have already quoted, which he thought would arise, and which ought to be referred to that Conference which has never been held. It may be said that men and women will never vote separately as a sex; that you will never get all men voting one way and all women voting another way. That is generally true. I think that in no case would it be true that you would have an absolute division of the sexes, but I do say that there are questions, and very fundamental questions, such as questions dealing with the marriage laws, the relations between the sexes, and other questions, where there is a distinct man's view and a distinct woman's view.
I do not say that the sexes would be completely divided, but the argument has been used in favour of the woman's vote, and very properly so, that there was a woman's view on questions and that that view ought to be represented. I agree, but let hon. Members remember that that is an admission that there is a woman's view, and by this Bill you are saying that the woman's view shall prevail; not that the man's view and the woman's view shall have an equal chance, but that the woman's view shall prevail. I do not say that the woman's view may not be better than the man's view, but the fact remains that you are giving one sex political predominance by this Bill.
Someone on the other side talked about our opposition being like the twittering of sparrows. I think that all our speeches to-night are something like the twittering of sparrows in the face of certain fundamental facts from which we cannot get away. If women are to have the ultimate responsibility for legislation, as they will have under this Bill, with that responsibility must go the power in the last resort of applying the ultimate sanction which rests behind all law, and that sanction is force. I challenge any hon. Member to deny that. I do not want to say for a moment that it is possible, but we are legislating for all time, and we have to look ahead, and we must remember that what we do to-night cannot be redressed; supposing on some great question you did get not a perfect division of the sexes, but you did get a conflict, and supposing by the votes of women legislation was passed in this country which men deeply resent, how is that legislation going to be enforced?
That would bring about the very thing which we who support this Amendment are accused of preaching. We are accused of preaching sex war. It is that sort of thing which would bring about sex war—inevitably it would bring about sex war. Hon. Members may say that that would be a very remote possibility; it may be remote, but it is not impossible. I have quoted a case where it might happen, and it is because I want to avoid any possibility- of that sex war happening, and because I believe that there are certain fundamental truths at the back of this question that I, from conviction, am opposing the passing of this Bill. For the same reason, whether it be in family life, or whether it be in national life, the ultimate responsibility in matters of this kind must rest with man, and in my belief it so rests by the decrees of nature. For the man to surrender or to evade that responsibility, is to be false to his manhood, and I for one will not do it.
We have heard from the hon. and gallant Member who seconded the Amendment the objections to this legislation from the point of view of the Empire. Hon. Members opposite scouted that idea and said that it was absurd; but I do not think it is absurd. We must remember that in this House we are not merely legislating for this country; we are the centre of a great Empire, and a great Eastern Empire. I do not suggest that the views which are held with regard to women by some of the races for which we are responsible are the views which I hold, or want to hold, but they are views which are held and we cannot divest ourselves of our responsibilities when we are passing legislation of this kind and must remember that what we are doing here has an effect not merely in this country but in the great Empire for which we are responsible. I do not scout the danger that those who look at these matters differently may not say that they are not prepared to be ruled by a nation in which political supremacy has been handed over to the female sex.
I do not know why the Noble Lady the Member for Sutton always objects to the word "female." If she will read the first Chapter of Genesis she will find the words
male and female created he them.
Man, not woman, was made in the image and likeness of God. You may ask me if I have any solution for this problem, if the Prime Minister is to keep this pledge which he thinks he has made to the country. There is a perfect simple and constitutional solution. It is this. Let the Government to-day give votes to women down to that age when the votes of men and women would be approximately equal. To that I raise no possible objection. Then at the next election let the Prime Minister go to the country and say "If I am returned to power I will enfranchise the rest of the women. In other words, I intend to put women in permanent political supremacy in this country." If the country wishes it I, of course should submit, though I should not agree. This is a constitutional country and we must abide by the voice of the electors.
I say that this Bill does not carry out the Prime Minister's pledge. It creates inequality, not equality; and it is to be carried out in a way entirely inconsistent with the pledge he gave to hold a conference on the matter. There are one or two other considerations to which I should like to refer, but I do not want to keep the House too long. This Bill evades all the problems it raises. There is the question of the House of Lords, although it does not necessarily come into this Bill. You are enormously increasing the electorate and you have done nothing to strengthen the powers of the second chamber. There is the question of the pauper vote. That is evaded by the Bill. There is the question of redistribution, and the Home Secretary, in the speech to which I have already alluded, said that redistribution must follow any extension of the franchise. Redistribution is not dealt with; and you will have these enormous and unwieldy constituencies which it is quite impossible for one man properly to represent. Then you have the question of election expenses; that is not dealt with. Every problem which it raises is evaded; and I believe deliberately. I heard the Prime Minister in the Albert Hall not many weeks ago make a wonderful and most inspiring speech, the text of which was a great appeal to his audience to make democracy safe for the world.
I appeal to the Prime Minister with the deepest respect: does he think that he is helping to further that object by passing this Measure? Does he think that with an emasculated House of Lords this Bill is going to make democracy safe for the world? Does he think that this Bill, neglecting altogether the question of the pauper votes, that those who are to obtain relief from the rates are to vote for those who distribute that relief, is going to make democracy safe for the world? "Panem et circenses" was the thing that brought down Rome. Does he think that these vast, unwieldy constituencies are going to make democracy safe for the world? I know the Prime Minister is a very great philosopher. He has often spoken on the question of democracy. He realises its great danger, and I appeal to him to believe that it is because I also am a believer in democracy and recognise its great dangers that I as sincerely oppose this Bill as he sincerely supports it. I conclude as I began. I hate doing this; it is contrary to my instincts; but my convictions compel me. I am persuaded not only that this Bill is very bad politics, about which I do not care very much, but that it is very bad statesmanship.
We have listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich (Sir F. Hail) with a good deal of sympathy. He was torn asunder between two loyalties: one to the system of government which has been in force in these Islands for a period of 600 years, and the other his loyalty to the Government, whom he is reluctantly compelled to abandon on this Bill. The hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down is also opposed to the Bill; but not on the same grounds. The hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich opposed it because he thinks that any vote given to women is a bad thing in itself, and that if the vote is to be extended it should be in the direction of the moneyed interests He was frank enough about it. The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken says that he is not opposed to the vote, but he is opposed to the predominance of the women's vote, and he asks for a conference. I fail to understand the logic of his position. I understand the position of the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich much more clearly, but once you have granted the vote to women, as you did in 1918, there can be no logical objection to the present extension. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said, that this Bill completes the necessary cycle of the extension of the franchise upon the democratic basis.
The argument put forward by the hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. Harmsworth) was that this Bill created an inequality. Had there been an equal number of men and women, I gathered, he would have had no objection to the Bill. An equality based upon an equality of numbers baffles me. You might just as well have an equality based upon the weight of the voters or an equality resting on the colour of their hair. But while the right hon. Gentleman defended this Bill because it was an extension of the franchise on a democratic basis, and while I support the Bill also on that ground, on the other hand, this Bill has very serious defects from a democratic standpoint. Some of them have already been pointed out by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), in a very powerful speech. Plural voting still remains—enough plural voting, I should have thought, to satisfy the hon. and gallant Member for Dulwich. The office vote for men and women is a recognition of the monied interests. The City of London is an absentee electorate, but it is very well entrenched so far as this Bill is concerned, and the principle is still maintained. It is another very serious defect unless it is met in another form.
By this Bill an electorate confined within 5,250,000 will be added to the register by May of next year, and that means, roughly, a quarter of the present electorate. The election expenses in every constituency will be, unless there is an amendment in the law to meet the situation, increased by one-fourth of the present amount. I take a division where the expenses legally permissible at present may be £1,200, and, unless there is a new provision in the law, that limit will be extended to £1,500. That becomes a serious thing for a democratic Government. I mention that because the right hon. Gentleman based his defence of the Bill on democratic grounds, but it seems to me that, unless there is an amendment of the law in another direction, you are increasing the power of the party caucus in the constituencies. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Lloyd George Fund!"] The party fund will become all powerful—not only the Lloyd George fund, but the funds of all parties—unless the constituencies are to select either a rich man or, what is the ideal thing to do, pay for their own politics. I am glad to say that I am in the proud position of representing a division which does that, but on any other basis you are bound.
I have seen letters in the "Times" recently, written by Members of the party opposite, calling attention to a very serious grievance and difficulty in democratic representation. If you are going to extend the franchise by increasing the election expenses by £300 on a bill of £1,200—at least that—you are reduced to the position where the electorate must choose either a rich man or the nominee of the party caucus, who must come here and tramp these Division Lobbies at the behest of the Whips in support of policies whether he believes in them or otherwise. That is the end of the House of Commons itself. The moment this House is made up of Members who are not free to judge themselves of the issues before this House, who are not here as free men, the moment they come here as hirelings from whatever party, whether as hirelings of the brewers on the one side, of the trade unions on the other, or of the Lloyd George Fund on the other—
—that moment the House of Commons ceases to be an independent representation of the electorate. As long as this Bill remains as it stands, without any further provisions, it is a menace to the democratic principle, and I hope some provision will be made, before the Bill reaches the Statute Book, to limit or control the election expenses in such a way that this caucus business, which in the United States of America was responsible for the Civil War and far a great deal of corruption in the public life of America, will be rendered powerless in this country.
I rise with very great satisfaction to give the final support of the Labour party to the Second Reading of this Bill. I have sat through most of the Debate, and I think I am entitled to say that very seldom, during the nearly 25 years that I have been in this House, have I seen a Debate of such importance carried on under such extraordinary conditions. The whole of the opposition to the Bill has come from supporters of the Government that is responsible for the Bill, and from both sections of the Opposition in this House has been given and will be given in the Lobby unanimous support for the Measure. I want to offer a word of congratulation to the Conservative women in the country and in the House, because they have, at any rate, converted the whole of the leaders of the Conservative party to equality of franchise as the women understand it. I listened to a speech a little time ago by the hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Major Kindersley), a very interesting speech, and he had a very serious complaint to make against his own leaders. I think the burden of his complaint was that at the last General Election the pledge that was given by the Prime Minister was not a pledge of equality the sense represented by the Bill.
I want to say, and I think without fear of contradiction, that the pledge that the Prime Minister gave, as it was understood by those who for 20 or 30 years have advocated equal citizenship in this country, as I think it was understood by the women in the Conservative party who are in favour of granting the suffrage at 21 years, has been interpreted in this Bill. I claim that the Bill which the Home Secretary introduced to-day is a logical, a fair, and an honest interpretation of and giving effect to that pledge of the Prime Minister. We have had an Amendment moved, and it may be safely said that most of the discussion has ranged round the Amendment. I listened, and I am sure the whole House listened, with immense interest and pleasure to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Reigate (Sir G. Cockerin) who moved the Amendment. The main line of his argument I want to notice, because his speech had relation to only one part of the Amendment. It had relation to the words "giving to women a permanent majority in the constituencies." I do not think that that is a misinterpretation of his position. I did not hear him say very much, if anything, as to the final part of the Amendment, which refers to re-distribution. I think he will agree that that part of the Amendment was left pretty well untouched.
Let us look at the position. I want to claim that the hon. and gallant Gentleman and others who have associated themselves with him have brought in a new definition of equality as it has always been understood in connection with the agitation for equal rights for men and women. I think I have followed this agitation as closely as most Members. In my first election address, written in May, 1903, 25 years ago, I included a paragraph which stated that I was "in favour of adult suffrage, to include women." Therefore, I have derived an immense amount of satisfaction from the attempt of the Home Secretary to give logical expression, or that measure of logical expression that the 1918 Act permits, to what I declared for in 1903. If I have a criticism to offer to the Bill it is this: First of all I criticise the Government for not introducing the Bill at an earlier stage in this Parliament. Those Members who were present in the Debates on similar Bills in 1924 and 1925, will remember that in the 1925 Session the Home Secretary—I challenged the position at the time—moved an Amendment to our Bill declaring in favour of a conference. I remember that in the Debate I pleaded with the right hon. Gentleman and with the Government not to press that Amendment to a Division. I suggested that what we ought to do was to give the Bill a Second Reading, and to send it upstairs on the clear understanding that all parties would mutually agree that the Bill had not to operate, or at any rate that the extended franchise to the women had not to operate, until the next General Election.
What was my object? I saw that the already serious disparities in the constituencies—there are very serious disparities, everyone must admit—would not be overcome. I will remind the House of some that were existing. I am now taking the register that I referred to in the previous Debate, and these are the figures: Ashton-under-Lyne, 25,000; Burnley, 51,000; Coventry, 63,000; Hyde, 23,000; Gateshead, 56,000; Ilford, 52,000. Coming to the county divisions there was the first constituency that I had the honour to represent, namely, Barnard Castle, 21,000; then Nuneaton, 51,000; Penrith and Cockermouth, 22,000; Wigan, 48,000; Eddisbury, 23,000; South-East Essex, 48,000; Aldershot, 26,000 and Rom-ford, 26,000. I was induced, because of those disparities, to say that if we got an extension of the vote to women the disparities were bound to be intensified. I suggested that we should pass the Bill and hold it up, and should proceed with a Commission, which by this stage would have placed the constituencies, as a result of the report of the Commission, in a line that might have been satisfactory to some of those who have made themselves responsible for the Amendment, especially to the hon. and gallant Member who moved it, for he referred to the importance of securing a measure of redistribution.
That, I think, is a very important reason why we on these benches have a right to call attention to the fact that the introduction of the Bill has been at any rate so belated—this is a very strong point—that it would be absolutely impossible to comply with the request of hon. Members who are opposing the Second Reading, and to set up the Commission now and prepare a register after the report of that Commission, and for that register to come into operation on 1st May, 1929, or to come in during any part of next year that would permit a proper register to be prepared, and that register to operate for a General Election.
I take another objection, and that is that I believe many of the anomalies of the 1918 arrangement were due, not to a desire on the part of the Commission to make these anomalies, but were absolutely inevitable owing to the shortness of time at their disposal to go into all the points connected with the then constituencies and the responsibility they had thrust upon them for providing new constituencies. Therefore, I am extremely sorry that we are landed in the present position. We do not say—very far from it—that there is no case for redistribution. Our position is entirely the opposite; we believe there is a very strong case. What we say to-night is this: Despite the existing inequalities in the constituencies, we have never heard very much from the other side during the last three or four years; we had not even the assistance that we are given to-day in 1924 and 1925 —certainly not in 1925—from the other side. But though we have lost something in that respect, we have gained in another, and that is a point that again comes out of the 1925 Debate.
I remember that in 1924 I had to meet the arguments of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite on the Standing Committee which considered the Bill then introduced. There we were faced with this difficulty: Some of the most prominent Members of the Committee, who were against us, wanted to take the step of lowering the age of women voters to 25, and raising the age of men voters to 25. I rejoice to think that, if we have missed something by waiting during the last three or four years, we have also gained something, inasmuch as this Debate has conclusively proved that there is no desire on the part of the genuine supporters of women's suffrage on the other side of the House now to create another anomaly. It would be, in my judgment, an anomaly if you lowered the age of women voters from 341 to 25, and increased the age of men voters from 21 to 25. I know the point that is made in these Debates, "Oh, yes, but we do not intend to interfere with those young men under 25 who are already on the register." Well, my friends— [Laughter.] The Debate has been so friendly that we have nearly lost sight of the divisions of party during the day, and I might be excused for so addressing hon. Members. I think, however, this Debate clearly shows that the day has gone when there is going to be the slightest attempt to go on any basis other than that which has existed in this country so long, namely, the basis of the franchise at 21 years of age.
There is another point which has not been referred to during the Debate. I hope the Government are going to keep an open mind with regard to the increased cost which is going to be entailed as a result of the increased electorate. This is an appeal which can come not merely from these benches. but from all sections of the House. I took the trouble to get out one or two particulars, which show that we are going to be faced with a very serious position. We know that to-day there is a maximum of something like £1,200. I believe in a constituency like mine the maximum will go up to something like £1,200 or £1,400, despite the fact that it is a borough. In a borough there is a £50 fee for the agent, and in a county division a £75 fee for the agent, according to law, and £100 personal expenses for each of the candidates. It' will be seen that if you add all these things together and leave the scale as it is to-day, namely, 7d. in counties and 5d. in boroughs, you are going to put many of the poorer Members of this House and poor candidates in the country into a very serious position
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to meet us. We do not want to take the matter to the other extreme and make it impossible to carry out a campaign properly. We, on these benches, thought that if the position could be revised by a reduction in scale of ld., both for counties and boroughs, it would be a considerable improvement. I have before me the different figures. In a county division of 40,000 electors at the present maximum of 7d., the total is £1,160. In the same division with 8,000 women voters added, it would be, at 6d., increased to 21,200. That is a small increase but it is an increase. In a borough with 35,000 electors at the present maximum of 5d., it is £729. In the same borough, if 7,000 women were added, it would be at the reduced rate £741. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take this point into serious consideration. A great deal has been said with regard to the question of a conference. We on these benches would have liked to have seen a conference set up, and we understood from the Home Secretary in 1925 that he proposed to set up a conference in 1926. The conference was wanted not merely on this side.
I would remind the House that there are several very important subjects which ought to be inquired into in connection with election matters. For instance, there is the question of the Corrupt Practices Act. I could give substantial evidence in favour of a complete examination of that Act. Then, as I pointed out in previous Debates, there is the question of motor cars. We on these benches must speak feelingly on this matter. It is a great handicap if you go out on the morning of polling day, and a Press representative comes along and says, "I have just been to the rooms of your opponents, and they tell me they have got 250 motor cars. How many have you got?" it is a very serious matter. I believe that there will come a day, and I hope it will not be long, when all motor cars that are to be used in elections will be registered with the returning officer. I will never forget being in an election some years ago, when a gentleman in the constituency, evidently not a very keen partisan, sent a communication to the agents stating that he was going to place so many cars at their disposal, but that they must have no colours upon them, and must run voters for any party. We do not very often come across that in these days, but perhaps I am looking for the ideal. I am only trying to show that, in addition to the question of plural voting, which has been several times referred to, and was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden), there are these other questions, all very important to the carrying through of elections in these days.
The difficulty with regard to chapels is not the same as that with regard to motor cars. In order to get some chapels, you would have to come to Parliament and alter the Trust Deeds. I would open all chapels for the proper conduct of election business, because I do not make the division that some people do between the secular and the sacred. I am supporting this Bill wholeheartedly in the interests of the nation. In nearly all civilised countries since the War, there has been a great contest between what is called democracy and what is called dictatorship. That has never been mentioned to-day. We are apt to lose sight of it, but we cannot afford to lose sight of it. There never has been a time, in my judgment, in the history of this country, when it was so important that the Government, whatever be its name, should be broadbased on the will of the people, in order that it may have the universal confidence of the people. There never was a time when that was more needed than to-day.
Never was it more needed than it is to-day. We ought to act with great caution. We should not let 5,000,000 people even feel that we do not trust them. If we are to be governed by democracy—and nobody has challenged that position to-day—we ought to trust the democracy. We cannot afford to give an impression to the country that now that this Government has made itself responsible for placing the affairs of this nation in the hands of the people at 21 years of age, giving to the people who have to obey the law the responsibility at manhood and womanhood of voting for those who have to make the law, we are not prepared to trust them, and I hope that that point, which I have put very hurriedly, will be seized hold of by some of the opponents of the Bill before going into the Division Lobby to-night.
I wish to say a word at the beginning of my speech with reference to the pledge which has been alluded to several times to-day and the calling of a conference. It is quite true that it was our intention to call a conference, and the Government approached Mr. Speaker asking if he would preside at such a conference, and I have his permission to say that he decided—and I have no quarrel with his decision—that as party controversy had been renewed since 1918 he felt that, in order to preserve the impartial position of the Chair, he would prefer not to preside at such a conference. I may say, further, that we decided after much consideration, and for reasons which I think it is hardly necessary to give at this moment, that we would fulfil our pledge as to the franchise literally and do nothing else. Had we taken up the question of redistribution and other such matters as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. A. Henderson) specified, then, indeed, a conference would have had manifest advantages, and I should have desired to hold it. But on the mere question of giving women the vote on the same terms as men there was no difference amongst the parties. On that point, and that point alone, there was nothing to confer about, and hence it was that, having received that reply from Mr. Speaker, the scheme of the conference fell through. From 1922 onwards the leaders of the party which I have the honour to lead at thiś moment had given in no equivocal terms that famous pledge about the equality of the vote. It is quite true that no franchise Bill was specifically promised at the last election. On the other hand, no objection was ever raised to that pledge as given either by Mr. Bonar Law or by myself, and I would remind any hon. Member who may succeed to me in my position as Leader of the party, that if you go on stating that you are in favour of a certain Measure some day you will be called upon to redeem your promise. The time had come, in our judgment, when that promise should be redeemed, and this Bill is the result.
I would say to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wells (Sir R. Sanders), who put a question to the Home Secretary about the instruction standing on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne)—
That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Bill that they have power to insert provisions dealing with the maximum scale of election expenses"—
that the Government would be pleased if that Instruction could be considered by the Committee, and I am perfectly prepared to consider impartially this matter in consultation with the whole House, because we think this is a point on which all Members should be heard, especially on the question of expenses. To-night, we are asking this Parliament to fall in line with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America, to mention only the English-speaking countries, in enfranchising men and women on the same basis. This marks the conclusion of a protracted controversy which has now gone on for two generations. During recent years much of the opposition has melted. It has disappeared, it has gone over, but there is still a small remnant, who remind us of the—
'"Old unhappy far-off things,
And battles long ago.
I respect the loyalty which has made them adhere to those convictions, and I have no feeling of any kind and make no animadversion against their speeches to-day, and so far as I can I give absolution to them for supporting the convictions to which they have so manfully, in every sense of the word, stood. They will have a consolation that has often been mine, the consolation common to all minorities, that they can reflect that the popularity of a Measure is not necessarily a proof of its wisdom. I do not propose to say anything about the history of the franchise, a subject which was dealt with fully and completely by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
I would like to make one observation, and it is this. We have often been reminded by social philosophers that enormous as are the changes and frequent as are the inventions in the physical world, in the world of government there is seldom anything new, and the germ of every political conception may be found in Aristotle. There are two things which perhaps have been born in this country and by them perhaps some day we shall be judged. The one is representative government and the other is the conception now growing fast, a conception of unity combined with freedom which binds together the nations of the British Empire. These are two modern creations born of our people. If they should prove themselves as the years roll by, we shall indeed have no mean claim to fame when the history of our time comes to be written.
As is often the case in these Debates, one or two quotations from statesmen of a past generation were made earlier in the evening. There is but one more of which I would like to remind the House. Two or three generations ago, the franchise was a privilege. To-day it may be said that the franchise has become a right, and it is 80 years ago this year that Disraeli said that, the moment you admitted that the franchise was a right, there was no ground in logic for denying it to women. In logic there is no such ground. There have been efforts to evade the results of this Bill, but one of the most curious features of the Debate has been that so far as I know, no mention was made, until it was alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman who preceded me, of a scheme of which we saw and heard much a few months ago, namely, the equalisation of the franchise at 25. That has gone; it must be at 21 or nothing.
Why is it that at the end of this struggle we find this Bill being accepted with enthusiasm in some quarters, with tolerance in others, possibly with indifference here and there, but with very little real and substantial opposition? The reason is, I think, that the minds and the hearts of our people are fitted for the complete enfranchisement of women by the experience of the War. This is more than a matter of logic. The logic is all on one side, but there is a deep-rooted feeling and instinct which animates many men on both sides. The feeling which animates those who vote against this Measure is that instinctive feeling against giving women the vote which has existed for so long, which has become much less, but which still exists, and probably will continue to exist in a lessening degree. Before the War, the work and the education of women had been expanding in many directions, but, when the War came, there was an overwhelming demonstration before our eyes of the part played by woman in every phase and sphere and function of our national life, and, to those of us who saw the part that she played in the War, there seems to be something almost ridiculous in refusing her claim to equal citizenship.
With the War, the heart went out of that opposition. We have allowed women since the War to sit in this House; they have been at the head of our political organisations; we welcome their assistance in a hundred ways; the Civil Service and the professions are open to them, and it became absurd, in the presence of these facts, to maintain the position that many of us had maintained before the War. I am not myself alarmed at the numerical preponderance of women. I think it is a complete fallacy to imagine that they will vote by class or by sex. They will be divided exactly as we are. There has been a unity amongst them which has been evoked by the struggle in which they have been engaged to obtain these elementary rights, and, with the obtaining of these rights, that particular unity which bound them together in the pursuit of a common end will be gone, and they will judge of political affairs according to their temperament and according to their experience, in exactly the same way that we do.
There has been, no doubt—this, I think, has perhaps been missed by my hon. Friends who are opposing the Measure—a feeling amongst women for a long time past that as the franchise was being more and more extended and practically all men added, woman, by the fact of being outside the franchise, was placed in a position of less responsibility, even of inferiority. You may not sympathise with it, but that feeling was there, and it was that feeling, in my judgment, that strengthened them in their fight and was their justification for that fight, so long and so bitter at times. But that fight is over now, and with
the conclusion of it, and with the complete enfranchisement of women, I think there will come what we all desire to see, and that is a rational companionship in working together between men and women for the betterment of their country. Through the ages past we men have not always taken a rational view of women. We have either put her up on a pedestal or plunged her down in the pit. As a matter of fact, she occupies a middle position. I was very pleased to read in a book recently written by a woman on the work of women that she declared as the result of her investigations, which dealt largely with the mediæval period of history, that
the position of women was very much what
commonsense would indicate. Her position was one neither of inferiority nor of superiority, but of a certain rough-and-ready equality.
That is good enough for me.
Once this Bill is law the last fraction of truth about inequality will have gone, and gone for ever, and the subjection of women, if there be such a thing, will not. depend then on any creation of the law, nor can it be remedied by any action of the law. The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings. It will never again be possible to blame the Sovereign State for any position of inequality. Women will have, with us, the fullest rights. The ground and justification for the old agitation, as I said, is gone and gone for ever. But they will find that, hard as was the struggle to gain this freedom, the right use of this freedom to attain their ideals will be harder still. The attainment of an ideal is very often the beginning of disillusion, and they must look at fresh horizons as they come out and make for fresh ideals.
I ventured to remind an audience of women the other day that while I wholeheartedly welcomed their success in obtaining the vote, it must depend on themselves and on themselves alone what use they made of it. We have seen many Measures in this House—those of us who have been long in Parliament—from which much was hoped, and we have often found that they do not realise in practice what we hoped they would. It may be that with the fresh enthusiasm of women
they may help us to better legislation; they may help us to achieve more. Parliamentary work is not for all women. The spectacular does not fall to the lot of all women any more than it falls to the lot of all men. I was reminded of the other side of women's life in reading a singularly interesting paper which was sent to me from Manchester by Professor Conway the other day, in which he was describing the work of Vulcan in making that glorious shield of Æneas which is described in the Æneid, and he pointed out a most beautiful and simple simile which was used by the poet when he speaks of the early hour in the morning at which the god got up to resume his work, and compared it to the work of a woman who wakens early and kindles the fire on the home hearth and on whom lies the burden to live by her distaff and her thread. And in this phrase he describes an eternal and a profound truth which even this evening, when we propose to enfranchise 5,000,000 women, should be borne in mind by us when sitting here in the Mother of Parliaments.
Why this sudden transition from the dignity and glamour of the epic story to the picture of the cottage of an Italian peasant whose wife has a hard task to feed and clothe her children and to keep her home unspotted? Why, but to suggest unmistakably that the greatest powers of the Universe are no greater than the impulse of human affection, and that the power of this may be seen in the humblest dwelling and in menial work; that all the detail of the shield of æneas, all its promise of the greatness of Rome, all the acquisitions by which good government was to be brought to an afflicted world, was to be measured, how? In terms of a mother's care for her husband and her children.
The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) was right. I used to vote against women's suffrage. I was taught by the War, which taught me many things. I learnt, I hope and believe, during that time when the young manhood of the nation was passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, to see such things as wealth, prosperity and worldly success in their proper proportion, and I realised as I never did before that to build up that broken work half the human race was not enough. It must be the men and women together. To-night marks the final stage in the union of men and women working together for the re-
generation of their country and for the regeneration of the world. It may well be that by their common work together, each doing that for which they are the better fitted, they may provide such an environment that each immortal soul as it is born on this earth may have a fairer chance, and a fairer home than has ever been vouchsafed to the generations that have passed.
I have sat through the whole of this Debate, and I have not the slightest intention of endeavouring to delay the proceedings. I rise to make only one point and that of a general nature. It is this. The extension of the franchise, when it was put on the Statute Book was accepted, but a difficult situation arises as to how we are to face the situation now.
We regard this, rightly or wrongly, not as a matter of party politics, but as a matter of the destiny of a great nation, and I want to put this before the Prime Minister as my view. I say that no one—no Prime Minister, no leader, and no House of Commons—has the right to take a decision and to put it before this House until they have unmistakable proof that the women of the country themselves desire it. In my judgment, from a very wide examination of this subject, the women of the country as a whole do not demand it, and you have no right to impose the obligation—not the privilege—of a vote on those women who do not desire it.
|Division No. 62.]||AYES.||[10.54 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bromley, J||Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife,West)||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Cunllffe, Sir Herbert|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)||Dalton, Hugh|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent"l)||Buchanan, G.||Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Buckingham, Sir H.||Davies, MaJ. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel sir Alan||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)|
|Apsley, Lord||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Davies, Dr. Vernon|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Butt, Sir Alfred||Day, Harry|
|Astor, Maj. Hon. John J.(Kent, Dover)||Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Dennison, R.|
|Astor, viscountess||Caine, Gordon Hall||Duncan, C.|
|Atkinson, C.||Campbell, E. T.||Dunnlco, H.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bilston)||Cape, Thomas||Eden, captain Anthony|
|Baker, Walter||Carver, Major W. H.||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cassels, J. D.||Ellis, R. G.|
|Balnlel, Lord||Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s-M.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cayzer, Maj. sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth.S)||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith|
|Barnes, A.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)|
|Barr, J.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)|
|Batey, Joseph||Charieton, H. C.||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Charteris, Brigadier-General J||Fairfax, Captain J. G.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Christle, J. A.||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.|
|Benn, sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Fenby, T. D.|
|Bennett, A. J.||Clayton, G. C.||Fleiden, E. B.|
|Berry, Sir George||Cluse, W. S.||Finburgh, S.|
|Bethel, A.||Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Ford, Sir P. J.|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Forrest, W.|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Cohen, Major J. Brunei||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Colman, N. C. D.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Connolly, M.||Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Couper, J. B.||Gardner, J. P.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Gates, Percy|
|Briant, Frank||Cove, W. G.||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||George, Rt. Hon. David Lioyd|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Gillett, George M.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Glimour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Crawfurd, H. E.||Glyn, Major R. G. C.|
|Broad, F. A.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Goff, sir Park|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Gosling, Harry|
|Bromfield, William||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Grace, John||MacIntyre, Ian||Scurr, John|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||McLean, Major A.||Sexton, James|
|Grant, Sir J. A.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl.(Renfrew, W)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Macquisten, F. A.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Malone, C. L Estrange (N'thampton)||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Groves, T.||Malone, Major P. B.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.(Bristol,N.)||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Skelton, A. N.|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||March, S.||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Margesson, Captain D.||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Hacking, Douglas H.||Maller, R. J.||Smillie, Robert|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Merriman, F. B.||Smith, H. B. Lees (Keighley)|
|Hamilton, Sir George||Meyer, Sir Frank||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Hardie, George D.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Harland, A.||Montague, Frederick||Snell, Harry|
|Harney, E. A.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Harris, Percy A.||Moore, Sir Newton J.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Colonel J. C. T.||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Haslam, Henry C.||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. f.|
|Hayday, Arthur||Morris, R. H.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Hayos, John Henry||Morrison, H. (Wifts, Salisbury)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arther Clive||Stephen, Campbell|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Naylor, T. E.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Nelson, Sir Frank||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Neville, Sir Reginald J.||Strauss, E. A.|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf"ld.)||Styles, Captain H. W.|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Oakley, T.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Oliver, George Harold||Sullivan, J.|
|Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Owen, Major G.||Sykes, Major-Gen. sir Frederick H.|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Palin, John Henry||Tasker, R. Inigo.|
|Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Paling, W.||Thomas, Sir Robert John (Anglesey)|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||pennefather, Sir John||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Penny, Frederick George||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U.M.(Hackney, N.)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Perkins, Colonel E. K||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Hudson, R. S. (Cumberl"nd, Whiteh'n)||Perring, Sir William George||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Tomlinson, R. P.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Philipson, Mabel||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)||pitcher, G.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Pilditch, Sir Philip||Viant, S. P.|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Ponsonby, Arthur||Waddington, R.|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Potts, John S.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Raine, sir Walter||Ward, Lt.-Col.A.L. (Kingston on-Hull)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Ramsden, E.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Kennedy, T.||Remer, J. R.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Remnant, Sir James||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Kinloch-Cooke, sir Clement||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Rice, Sir Frederick||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Lamb, J. Q.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch"ts'y)||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Lansbury, George||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wells, S. R.|
|Lawrence, Susan||Riley, Ben||Westwood, J.|
|Lawson, John James||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Lindley, F. W.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W.R., Elland)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Ropner, Major L.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Little, Dr. E. Graham||Rose, Frank H.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Ruggles-Brice, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Loder, J. de V.||Runciman, Hilda (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Wilson, Sir Murrough (Yorks, Richm'd)|
|Long, Major Eric||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Looker, Herbert William||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Lougher, Lewis||Rye, F. G.||Windsor, Walter|
|Lowth, T.||Saklatvala, Shapurji||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Salmon, Major I.||Withers, John James|
|Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Womersley, W. J.|
|Lumley, L. R.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Lynn, Sir R. J.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Wright, W.|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Sandon, Lord||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D|
|MacDonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Savery, S. S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Macdonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Scrymgeour, E.||Major Sir George Hennessy and|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Brigadier-General Sir George|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Nall, Colonel Sir Joseph||Cockerill and Colonel Applin.|
|Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Hall, Lieut. Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Samuel, Samuel (W"dsworth, Putney)|
Bill read a Second time.