Parliament Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th December 1947.

Alert me about debates like this

Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

5.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Naylor Mr Thomas Naylor , Southwark South East

When I heard that knock at the door, Mr. Speaker, I was afraid that I had committed some great indiscretion. I was expecting that the other place had sent for me. I was, at the time, trying to show that the mere alteration of the time limit of the suspensory veto was not an alteration of the Constitution because it did not affect the structure of the Constitution.

Hon. Members opposite have been using arguments that were used in 1911, when the Parliament Act was passed. Those arguments were legitimate at that time because the Parliament Act was undoubtedly an interference with and an alteration in the Constitution. Not even the university representatives need be told now that the position is entirely different in this respect that the alteration in the Constitution was made in 1911 and implemented in the Act passed at that time.

The alteration that the Bill proposes can only by a stretch of the meaning of the English language be described as an alteration of the Constitution. Hon. Members opposite have been brooding over the Bill to such an extent as to justify me in misquoting a line from "Hamlet": "There is nothing either good or bad but brooding makes it so." They have been thinking and brooding over the Bill until now they think it is the acme of evil, so far as legislation and the Constitution are concerned.

This is the Third Reading of the Bill and I do not want to go outside its provisions, but some hon. Members have referred to the possibility of a real reform of the House of Lords. The opportunity may come some day, not far distant, when that reform will be brought forward by a Government of this party, even though it may not be in this Parliament. As this happens to be the last Parliament in which I shall sit, I conclude by asking my hon. Friends to keep this question of the reform and reconstitution of the House of Lords constantly to the fore. Even though it may not be possible to achieve that reform in the present Parliament—it may not even he desirable to attempt it—yet the time must come in the next Parliament when the Labour Government, re-elected by the votes of the people, will be able to lay down that the House of Lords must give way either to a reformed Second Chamber or be obliterated altogether—which would be, of course, rather severe treatment after their long service. In any case, we must ensure that the voice of the people, as expressed through this House of Commons, must prevail over any other institution in the State.

5.23 p.m.

Photo of Hon. John Maclay Hon. John Maclay , Montrose District of Burghs

May I reassure the House at once that I shall not attempt this evening any detailed study of the constitutional issue involved in the Bill we are now discussing. What I am anxious to do, as a humble searcher after wisdom and always hoping for truth, is to try to see what has happened while this Bill has been before the House, because I have felt very strongly, certainly not for the first time in this Parliament, that it is not so much what is in the Bill that matters as what is the real intention of the Government in putting the Bill before us. May I refer to one other Measure about which I had that feeling, the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, at that time put forward as a simple little Bill—the Home Secretary is wondering whether I am in Order, but I do think it is a legitimate point—

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I will leave that to the Chair.

Photo of Hon. John Maclay Hon. John Maclay , Montrose District of Burghs

I saw the Home Secretary's eyes wandering in the direction of the Chair, and I thought there might be something in it. As the eye of the Chair is now firmly upon me, I will leave that Measure and get back to this Bill. Why is the Bill brought before us? There is general agreement that it is not a great Measure of reform. If it were, a remarkable range of views on that subject would be expressed by my hon. Friends sitting below me to the Lord President of the Council, since they and he are a very long distance apart in what they think should happen. But there is general agreement that the Bill has nothing to do with that. It is described as an important constitutional issue. The Lord President said so on the Second Reading and the discussion all through was on why it is an important constitutional issue.

Then one goes back to the question: Is there any need for a great constitutional issue to arise at this time in this House? Was the doing away or the tampering with our constitutional system the real reason for it? I was glad to see in his place the hon. and learned Member for Llandaff and Barry (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas) because he was the person who said more clearly than anyone else, or gave us a clue, what this Bill was about. There is now no confusion on the facts—this Bill is about iron and steel.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Llandaff and Barry

Is not that the conclusion of the Opposition too?

Photo of Hon. John Maclay Hon. John Maclay , Montrose District of Burghs

I do not think that bears the slightest relation. I am a humble searcher after truth and wisdom, for the facts as they are.

Photo of Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas Mr Lynn Ungoed-Thomas , Llandaff and Barry

The hon. Gentleman burkes an answer.

Photo of Hon. John Maclay Hon. John Maclay , Montrose District of Burghs

I would not think of burking an answer if the hon. and learned Member would put the question in a form that I could understand. If that is the issue, we come to the conclusion, which is unassailable, that the sole purpose of this Bill must be that the Government have very good reasons to fear that if the country had an opportunity of expressing its views on iron and steel once more, the answer would not be the one for which the Government think they have a mandate. We really cannot go beyond that. All through this discussion there has been this strange assumption of controversy between the two Houses for which I do not think anything in the history of the last two years gives any justification. Therefore, are the Government assuming that something will happen in the future? If that assumption is true, it must be because on this Bill the House of Lords will fulfil its proper function of seeing that it protects the will of the people and not the will of the Government of the day.

5.28 p.m.

Photo of Mr Stanley Awbery Mr Stanley Awbery , Bristol Central

The last speaker dealt with a hypothetical question when he spoke of what he thinks is the reason for the introduction of this Bill by the Government. He did not deal with the Bill at all. Since this Bill has been before the House I have had an opportunity of speaking to some very fine democrats, and they expressed the opinion that the Government are not going far or fast enough in dealing with what they consider an anomaly in our democratic Constitution. They can understand the argument which has been put up by various Members today for a Second Chamber which is a revising Chamber, but they cannot understand for the life of them why that Second Chamber should have an absolute veto to prevent the will of the people being placed upon the Statute Book whether it be after two years, one year, six months, or one month. That power should not rest in the hands of an unelected and undemocratic body.

The 1911 Act has been recalled, and it is necessary to draw a comparison between 1911 and 1947 and to see how far we have advanced in that period. In 1910 the Liberal Government fought an election and won a magnificent victory on the abolition of the veto. In 1911 they introduced the Bill into this House for the restriction, not the abolition, of the veto. Today, in 1947, 36 years afterwards, we are not even abolishing the veto; we are restricting the restriction placed on the veto in 1911. If we go on at this speed, reducing the three years to two in 36 years, then it will take us until A.D. 2019 before we get back to where the Liberals were in 1910—the abolition of the veto.

Photo of Mr Stanley Awbery Mr Stanley Awbery , Bristol Central

The Government, instead of starting a new book in the political history of this country are not even turning over a new leaf. We shall be, even when this Bill is passed, impotent to place on the Statute Book the pledges we gave to the people at the General Election. I know that we have been told we have no mandate. Nor have we a mandate for the revision of the House of Lords, but the Opposition have agreed to meet with us and with the Government to discuss reorganisation of the House of Lords; and yet there has been no mandate for that. Then we were accused on the Second Reading of folly, of fraud, of tinkering with the Constitution, and of social aggression; and today we have been told that the Bill is not a big Bill but a petty Bill, a tinkering Bill that is not going to do anything at all.

In 1911 we were promised by the then Home Secretary, when he introduced the Measure for the restriction of the power of the House of Lords, that that would not be the final act as far as the veto was concerned. He said that we must end the veto once and for all, and he promised to introduce a Bill to effect that. However, we have waited 36 years for the Bill to come, and we have not yet had it. There is among the democrats of this country a feeling of frustration that nothing has been done. It may be argued that the power of the House of Lords is not very large, but the then Home Secretary, in Committee on the Bill of 1911, said: We have never disguised from ourselves … the fact that the powers which the House of Lords will possess when this Bill is passed into law are very great and substantial powers, and if they were vexatiously used, that is to say in that partisan spirit which has characterised the action of that House in recent times, they would undoubtedly impose severe disabilities and disadvantages against the present Government, and probably any democratic Government, from which the Governments which are returned by Conservative majorities would be wholly exempt"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, 1911; Vol. 24, c. 1702–3.]

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? He said just now that since 1911 he and his democrat friends—whoever they may be—have felt a sense of frustration. Can he tell us that he really has felt from 1911 to 1947 a really personal sense of frustration—all this time?

Photo of Mr Stanley Awbery Mr Stanley Awbery , Bristol Central

There has been little need for the bulwark of Toryism to use its powers regarding the veto during the period the hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

Then why the feeling of frustration?

Photo of Mr Stanley Awbery Mr Stanley Awbery , Bristol Central

The feeling of frustration arises because the Government, elected by the people to place their programme upon the Statute Book, may be prevented from doing so by the action of the House of Lords. People feel that this veto should be removed. Until it is removed there will be a feeling of frustration. It has been argued that the House of Lords has not used its powers. In 1906 a Liberal Government was returned, and for three years the veto of the House of Lords was used. In 1908 they turned down the Licensing Bill, which had taken the whole of the 1908 Session of this House.

That latent power, which has been dormant for so many years, may arise a t any moment. It may arise at a critical time in the life of this Government, when they are dealing with a particular problem. We are trying to prevent that from taking place. What this Bill does is to wipe out part of the blot that has dishonoured this free and democratic people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] When the Liberals came back in 1910 the Tories accused them—

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

The recitation of all these historical facts cannot possibly be relevant to the Third Reading of this Bill.

Photo of Mr Stanley Awbery Mr Stanley Awbery , Bristol Central

I regret that I have deviated from the Rules of Order in dealing with this, but I thought it rather important that we should know the historical developments from 1911 to 1947.

After this Bill has passed we shall still be in the position that we can legislate for only four years. The Tory Party can go to the electorate and say, "If you elect us, we can legislate unhampered, and place our legislation on the Statute Book for five years; but if you send the Labour Party back they will be able only for four years to legislate, because we can persuade the House of Lords not to pass the legislation of a Labour Government." They will say, "If we are defeated at the polls, then we can fall back on the peers to help us. We can always use the other House." That was described by the Home Secretary in 1911 as being of the Tory Party: … the modus operandi of the new form of political warfare."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 22nd February, 1911; Vol. 21, C. 2025.] Since then we have moved on very considerably. I feel, as I move among the working people, that we are not where we were in 1911. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite would like to put us where we were in 1911, but we are not going back to 1911: we are going on. The workers now are more articulate than they have ever been.

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

I must ask the hon. Gentleman to apply his remarks to this Bill, the main purpose of which is the substitution for the words, "in three successive sessions" and "two years" of the words "in two successive sessions" and "one year," repectively.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

Could we ask the hon. Member to get up to about 1925?

Photo of Mr Stanley Awbery Mr Stanley Awbery , Bristol Central

I will deal with 1947. It is necessary that the workers should remember where they were in 1911, compared with where they are now. The power of the trade union movement is growing very considerably; education has played an important part in the working-class movement; the Labour power is becoming greater than ever before—

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

I am afraid I shall be obliged to ask the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat unless his remarks are more directly relevant to the Third Reading of the Bill. The only question today is whether the Bill, in the form in which it appears before the House, is to be passed or not.

Photo of Mr Stanley Awbery Mr Stanley Awbery , Bristol Central

My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor), who was the last to speak from this side of the House, talked about the developments that are to follow this Bill; and in following his argument all I want to say is that this Bill is not the end of the question of the House of Lords. This side of the House looks upon this Bill as the beginning of the end. When we are—as we shall be—returned after the next General Election, I hope that the Government will decide to deal with the policy and principle of the House of Lords in a more realistic way than we are dealing with it in this Bill.

5.40 p.m.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

I shall not endeavour to dwell so long in the year 1911 as did the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery). He contrasted the situation of that time with that obtaining today, but the real difference is that in 1911 the Liberal Government were faced with an actual act of veto by the House of Lords, and Mr. Asquith's Government at that time had to deal with it. Therefore, the situations are not really parallel in any way. However, I will not detain the House further on that. I intend to be both blunt and brief, because I know other hon. Members intend to speak.

Today, we have had two or three speeches which were more significant than they may have seemed at the time to those who listened to them. Whenever there is a revolutionary process in any country, the strong men must have their "stooges." That is a rather commonplace word of modern usage, but the strong men must have their "stooges."

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

I probably know more about Lord Beaverbrook than anybody in this House, and in describing him, I would offer the entire dictionary, but not the word "stooge"; almost any other word might apply.

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

The hon. Member introduced the word.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

I am not defending it, but it is not a word which applies to that dynamic character. [Interruption.] I wanted to be both blunt and brief, but if there are too many interruptions I shall not be able to carry out my intention.

Today, we had a speech from the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells), in whom we have the type of man who has been found in every revolutionary movement in every country; the man with the Oxford Group smile, the gentle—

Photo of Mr William Wells Mr William Wells , Walsall

I suggest that the hon. Member should keep religion out of it.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

I do not wish to interfere with the religious views of the hon. Member. He has a smile which I have seen in many Oxford Groups; they are always there. We have also heard from the Home Secretary. Which of us would not trust his wife or daughter with the Home Secretary?

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

That is not in the Bill.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

Please! I still wish to be both blunt and brief. The Home Secretary exudes confidence—

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

On a point of Order. This Bill does not ask the House—

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

I assume that the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) is relating his remarks to the Bill, and he must be given a reasonable opportunity of doing so without undue interruption.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) has not heard any of the other speeches which have been made this afternoon. I have been here throughout the Debate.

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent the position. I have been sitting here practically the whole afternoon.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

I have heard every speech in the Debate today, and everything I have said so far has been related to one speech or another. If the hon. and learned Member also heard them, then his interruption is more foolish than I would have otherwise thought, because the Home Secretary and other hon. Members have spoken on these lines.

When the King's Speech was debated in this House—and this has very much to do with the Bill under discussion—the Prime Minister announced, with great fairness, that the iron and steel industry would be nationalised. Let there be no doubt but that he intended that, and made it quite clear. Then the next day, or two days after—I cannot remember which—the then Minister of Economic Affairs absolutely flouted everything the Prime Minister had said. He said, in effect—

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

What has this to do with this Bill?

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

This Bill has to do with iron and steel. Nobody doubts that.

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

This Bill has nothing to do with the merits of the iron and steel question at all. Whatever may have been the position on the Second Reading, it certainly is not in order to discuss that subject on Third Reading. I am sorry, but I am afraid that question cannot be gone into. The hon. Member must speak to the Bill.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I have always found you so just and reasonable that I would not lightly question your Ruling, but many times this afternoon iron and steel have been mentioned, and I cannot believe that I alone must not mention it.

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

I quite agree that iron and steel may have been mentioned, but that is all. We cannot go into the merits of the iron and steel question, which is what I understood the hon. Member was proceeding to do when he said the Bill had to do with iron and steel.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

No, my only point was this. Today, the Government are bringing forward a Measure to cut the powers of the House of Lords, which is we believe—and, indeed, as some hon. Members opposite have said—for the purpose of carrying through a Bill which will probably not secure the support of the House of Lords. We are faced with the strange situation that the Prime Minister announced that it should be done, whereas the Minister for Economic Affairs praised the industry beyond words as the finest example of private enterprise. He did not use those words, but that is what he implied. We on this side of the House believe that it is not the wish of the country that this Measure should be carried through. Only the other day the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) said that the members of the iron and steel industry, including the workers, are doing everything in their power by working hard to prevent the nationalisation of that industry. I have nothing further to say but this—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—Despite their jeers hon. Members will hear duller speeches than mine.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

It seems that the Government, under the merciless direction of the Lord President—who personally has nothing to do with this at all, but is having his way—are determined on this. The Government realise that neither the country nor the House of Lords, as the presiding Upper Chamber, desire this Bill. The whole Bill is really a test of strength; it is a determination on the part of the Government to use this excuse to carry through, not a reform of the House of Lords—with which so many of us would agree—but to cut off the powers of the House of Lords.

I know that to compare the present Government with the Hitler régime; is not popular, and not altogether fair in many ways. Nobody can see in the Home Secretary a Himmler; nobody can see in the Lord President a Goebbels. Nevertheless, I see in many hon. Members opposite the intermediate mentality which have made every revolution possible. Before Lenin must come Kerensky; before Hitler must come the Weimar Republic

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

Those questions really do not arise on the Third Reading of this or any other Bill. I am sorry, but that must be so.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

Even if you rule me out of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I must point out that today we are considering a Bill to limit the power of Parliament as we know it. [HON. MEMBERS: No."] It is, indeed. Yet, Sir, you say that on Third Reading, I, as a Member of Parliament, am not allowed to say that this Measure limits the power of the Upper Chamber until it is futile and useless. With great respect, I believe your Ruling to be wrong.

Photo of Mr James Milner Mr James Milner , Leeds South East

I never gave, and I should not think of giving, any such Ruling. What I took exception to was the hon. Member's reference to Kerensky, Lenin, Weimar and other quite extraneous matters.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

If you are to rule, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that we in these islands can only refer to our own mistakes, and not to the mistakes of other countries, then I say that what may happen here is what has happened in other countries. May I ask for your guidance? If we have been more fortunate than other countries, and have enjoyed many years of Conservative democratic rule, are we not allowed to look at other countries to see what has happened there? However, I will not press that point.

The Lord President of the Council and his colleagues have not dealt with what they should have dealt with, namely, the reconstruction of the House of Lords. Instead, the first thing that was done under the Lord President's leadership was the denigration of the Press, the limitation of the powers and freedom of the Press. Now comes the, limitation of the powers of the Upper House. I say to all those Members opposite, who accept this merely as a useful Measure to show their power, that they are playing the game of a stronger Left-Wing Government than we have at the present time. My concluding sentence is this: These are the Kerenskys ordaining the future which is to come upon us.

5.51 p.m.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

After the confusing and irrelevant arguments of the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter), it is very difficult to think that the Opposition can really be serious in asking the House to regard this as an important constitutional question which they should divide against. If that is the best argument which can be put forward against this Bill, it shows that this Measure has been introduced to the general satisfaction of the country. Nothing is more significant than the very curious change of attitude of the Opposition towards this Bill since it was introduced. When it was announced, we were told by the Leader of the Opposition, and by numerous Members from the Opposition, that this was a most serious Measure, and that it would divide the country and distract attention from the urgent tasks of production and the export drive. Whatever were its merits, we were told that this was not the time to introduce this Bill. It is quite clear that that attitude is no longer maintained by hon. Members opposite.

There is no evidence that this Bill is dividing the country, or that it is adversely affecting production and the export drive. On the contrary, it is all the more significant that since the Government introduced the Bill, the production figures have increased. We have had the best results in the mines for seven years, and we have had the best figures for production in many other industries. The truth is that the Opposition entirely misjudged the temper of the people when they thought that this Bill would provoke a constitutional Crisis, or that, it would detract the attention of the people from the urgent economic crisis. Hon. Members opposite departed from that attitude during the Committee stage.

The only serious point which has emerged since the Second Reading Debate—and it was repeated again today by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler)—is that there is something contrary to all precedent in a Bill which affects the constitution being made retrospective, or having retro-active operation. I wish to deal with that point. First of all, I do not accept the view that this House is precluded from doing anything because there is no precedent for it. That has never been part of our Constitution. If a Measure is meritorious in itself, it does not require a precedent. I was challenged by several Members, including the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), and the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) to produce an instance of an important constitutional change having retrospective effect. They said that it was all very well to make a constitutional change for the future, but if it was retrospective, then it was contrary to all precedent.

I have found a precedent for those who challenged me, and it will be seen that that is of far more significance than this Bill. In 1716, the law was that Parliaments should not last for more than three years. There had to be a new Parliament every three years, but the Septennial Act of 1716 provided that not only should all future Parliaments last for seven years, but that the existing Parliament, which had been elected for a three-year period, should also last for seven years. In other words, the Septennial Act altered the whole balance of power between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and contained very significant retrospective provisions.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

Hon. Members will have an opportunity to dispute the facts, but as there seem to be some doubts, I will quote what a very distinguished historian, Professor Dicey, had to say about it. He said: The peculiarity of the Act was not that it changed the legal duration of Parliament or repealed the Triennial Act; the mere passing of a Septennial Act in 1716 was not and would never have been thought to be anything more startling or open to graver censure than the passing of the Triennial Act in 1694. What was startling was that an existing Parliament of its own authority prolonged its own legal existence. By doing so, it effected a change in the constitutional balance as between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, by giving the House of Commons greater independence, greater security, greater tenure. It gave the House of Commons greater power vis-a-vis the House of Lords—

Photo of Sir Arthur Salter Sir Arthur Salter , Oxford University

The Act to which the hon. Member has just referred was obviously retrospective in quite a different sense, and was introduced at a time of imminent war. Further, is it not a fact—

Photo of Mr Robert Young Mr Robert Young , Newton

The' right hon. Gentleman cannot now make a speech.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

If there was national danger it would have been competent for Parliament to extend its life for one year as was done during the recent war. But that was not a parallel case. Here, the Constitution was being changed, and the life of the House of Commons was changed retrospectively from three years to seven years.

However, I want to pass from that, because I do not regard it as being of great moment except that I wanted to reply to the challenge which was thrown out on the Committee stage. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), earlier today, in language of hyperbole, suggested, as Members opposite so often do, that those on his side of the House are the custodians of our great Constitutional traditions and heritage. I do not accept that view at all. Just as the Act of 1716 has been regarded by history as being a very wise and Statesmanlike Act, I am confident that future generations will regard us, in passing this Amendment to the Parliament Act, 1911, as having preserved the spirit of the Constitution. Our great constitutional traditions enable us to make the changes in this way that are necessary to adapt our Constitution to the changing needs of the time. That is one of the great advantages and great merits of a flexible unwritten Constitution.

I am, therefore, convinced that this Bill, for reasons as to merit, which have been described over and over again, is sound in itself, and is a desirable constitutional change. It is reasonable and necessary that it should have retrospective operation, but that operation will only take effect if it is rejected by the House of Lords. Otherwise, there is no need for it ever to have retrospective operation. Because of that contingency it is essential that the Bill should contain that provision. I urge the House to give the Bill a Third Reading this evening.

6.4 p.m.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Combined English Universities

I shall try to deal briefly with some of the points which have been made but I want above all to say why some of us find this a shocking Measure, and believe that it is against the interests of the State and of every party in the State which cares for our democracy. I apologise for having missed the first few minutes of the Debate, and, consequently, what the Home Secretary said, and I gather that he finds me particularly suspect on two grounds—that I represent universities, and that I am also a lawyer. But it is not perhaps improper that one who is concerned with the universities and our law should try to express why some of us feel the Constitution to be extremely important.

I do not think there is anybody in any quarter of the House who really doubts that this is a Constitutional Measure. Our Constitution is what is called an unwritten Constitution although, as I shall try to show, that is not the important fact about it. There are, however, certain Statutes which are of great constitutional importance, and the Parliament Act, 1911, is one of them. Any Bill that amends that Act must be of constitutional importance. Quite irrespective of whether it is a good or bad Bill, it must be an important Bill. I know there are Members who think that con- stitutional questions do not matter very much. I would assure them that they are wrong. They think that the welfare of their constituents depends on a number of economic Measures, and so forth, which certainly do affect them, but I believe that more fundamental to our progress, prosperity, and historic greatness have been not the occasional Measures dealing with economic and other subjects, but certain Constitutional safeguards and such great principles as the rule of law. These things matter to them much more than any of the other Measures in which we indulge.

Let me mention one matter in which I differ slightly from my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), and from a statement that has been made in one or two of the speeches made by other Members. It is the tendency to attach great importance to the question whether the Constitution is written or unwritten. That is not the most important distinction, as every student of Dicey will know. Rather more important is the distinction between rigid and flexible. Above all, the thing that is important is that we have an omnicompetent Parliament. When we have a Constitution that is as flexible, omnicompetent, and important as our Constitution is, it puts the Government of the day under the highest duty to take the utmost care in making constitutional changes. The fact that we can do anything without any such limits as other Constitutions incorporate puts on us a particular duty to be wise.

What has been the constitutional problem that has faced so many countries for so long, and which has seldom had a satisfactory solution? It is how to reconcile strong Government with the preservation of liberty. There are many who have loved liberty, but have failed to achieve strong government; there have been others who have loved strong government, but have failed to preserve liberty. The peculiar genius of the English people has been this: That they have preserved liberty, notwithstanding an omnicompetent Parliament, because we do not seek to preserve that liberty by making Governments weak but, if possible, by making them wise. That is the sort of thing we wish to preserve, and our Constitution is a great safeguard for that purpose.

Let me deal with some of the things which have been said in answer to this, and in defence of the Measure. The hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells), who told us that he had had trouble in satisfying his university examiners—he did not reveal in which school, although parts of his speech gave me a suspicion—said that this Measure was not meant to last. That is very far from what has been said by every Front Bench speaker belonging to the Government which he supports. I ask him a question: If this Measure is not going to last, apart from an interim period, what does he say, and what do other hon. Members say, is to follow it? It may be possible honestly to support this Measure if one realises what one is doing and desires what one is doing, namely, rendering the House of Lords almost impotent. If this were admittedly the object, and hon. Members opposite had the courage to say so, better Measures could be proposed for effecting that object, but at least there would be a motive in supporting this Bill.

What I suggest is impossible, is to say that we do not believe in a Single Chamber Government, that we desire a Second Chamber, that we desire a Second Chamber which shall not be in a position, directly or indirectly, that all elected Second Chamber would enjoy, in which it would be able to rival this House, and then to support this Bill. If we say all that, the essential power we must give to the Second Chamber is the power of delay. That is the one power that is obviously essential. The power of delay which will survive when this Measure is on the Statute Book is, as has been pointed out in numerous speeches, no longer a real power at all. Suppose, however, that it were. As I have pointed out previously, under the retrospective provisions of this Measure, the one year mentioned in this Statute could be further reduced in this Parliament if it were desired to do so.

An extraordinary remark was made by the hon. Member for Walsall, who said that he had no great objection to retrospective legislation. What was the reason which he gave? He said that, after all, this House, from time to time, passed Indemnity Acts, indemnifying people from the consequences of transgression of the law; but what will occur to everyone, except possibly the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher), is that, in that particular form of legislation, the acts which it is sought to indemnify have at least taken place, and we know what they are. The idea that the House, quite irrespective of what might have happened, without any inquiry and with the possibility of perfectly outrageous things having been done, would ipso facto pass an Indemnity Act is, of course, preposterous. The hon. Member for East Islington, for some obscure reason, thinks that the Septennial Act was retrospective. He did not read that Act to help the House nor the appropriate words of the Bill before us. I do not think that I need trouble the House either. If hon. Members will look at the actual terms of the Measure down for Third Reading, they will find the most clear sign of all in the express language of the Bill that it contains a retrospective provision Shall be deemed to have had effect … As I pointed out on Committee stage, the retrospective provision includes the extraordinary phrase the Bill for this Act. Of course, where an Act, in the lifetime of a Parliament, constitutionally changes the period of that Parliament's duration, the question whether it is a good Act or a bad Act, is a different question altogether. There is nothing retrospective about it. It may be that many citizens will be annoyed with it, and indignant for reasons analogous to those that make them indignant with retrospective legislation; but that is not retrospective, and not only do I agree with what has been said by the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) and the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) on the last occasion—and I gave my modest support on that occasion—but I pray in aid what was expressly said by the Home Secretary, who, with all the skilled advice open to him, admitted that we were right, and that there was no precedent in a constitutional Measure for such a retrospective provision.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

The next time a Bill of this sort is brought in there will be a precedent.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Combined English Universities

I am very glad that after three Debates the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Gallacher) has at last grasped the point. The hon. Member is far more right than usual, and I hope that on an occasion when he is so far ahead of most of his friends, he will not be accused of being guilty of diversion.

Another phrase that has occurred from time to time clearly shows the mentality of the Government in this matter. They constantly speak of a Government or a Parliament being elected for a term of office. A Government or a Parliament is not elected for a term of office. There are certain provisions dealing with the maximum life of a Parliament, and there are other constitutions, such as that of the United States, where the Executive is appointed for a term of office; but that is alien to our ideas. What we have is a Government which is directly responsible to this House, and the purpose of a Second Chamber, well set out in the passage from Dicey which I read on Second Reading, is to ensure that sufficient delay, where necessary, is imposed in order to ensure that the Acts of the Government responsible to the House of Commons shall also be such as represent the deliberate wish of the country—the electorate. That is the object of the powers of delay of the House of Lords—to ensure the responsibility of the Government and of this House to the electors.

For the purpose of my argument, I do not wish here to say anything about the quality of the present Government. I ask hon. Members, in whatever quarter of the House they sit, to imagine a bad and tyrannical Government in power. If we reduce the powers of delay of the House of Lords to something nugatory, then we destroy the last safeguard of the electorate. There is no safeguard of the electorate at all, except that which has been mentioned in one or two speeches in our earlier Debate—the power of revolution. The merit of our Constitution is that that has not been the only remedy in the past.

I think, as I said before on Second Reading, it is not at all a surprising thing that this Bill, which destroys the last safeguard of the electorate, is produced by a Government which has shown the greatest possible contempt for this House. This Bill virtually abolishes the one great surviving legal power of the House of Lords. If the whole House of Lords were abolished entirely, it would still be less important than the outrages which this Government have already committed on the House of Commons.

The three points to bear in mind are these. A Second Chamber is desirable in the view of the overwhelming majority of this House in every quarter, if hon. Members sincerely mean what they say. The Second Chamber that is desirable is not a Second Chamber which shall be able to compete with, or to rival, this House. If it is to be both effective and not a rival to this House, the essential power that it must possess is a power of delay. No power of delay is useful and effective which is less than the power of delay granted iby the Parliament Act, 1911. For those reasons, and because our Constitution is something worth preserving and when it is amended, ought to be amended with loving care, I support the Amendment for the rejection of this Measure.

6.21 p.m.

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

I have listened with very great interest to the speech that has been made by the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) and he has taken a line not dissimilar to the other speeches that have come from the Opposition, which is, that whatever happens, above all we must preserve the constitutional integrity of the House of Lords. Whether the will of the people is to be carried out does not seem to matter as long as the constitutional integrity of the House of Lords is preserved. In order to support the argument that has been pursued, certain things have been said about this doctrine of retrospection. If I may say so, with respect, I agree with the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities, that the instance that was cited by the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) is not a good instance to give on the question of whether that particular Bill is open to attack because it is retrospective. What does that matter? The only point that does matter in regard to the retrospective character of the present Bill is that it is made retrospective so as to ensure that the will of the electorate will be enforced. That, so far as I am concerned, is in this Debate the chief constitutional point of all.

After all, why does Parliament exist? Parliament exists as a vehicle to carry out the will of the electorate and as soon as the House discerns that that will cannot be carried out because of some defect then it becomes the duty of the House to put that right. That is precisely what this Bill is going to do. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) who put a very interesting and, if I may say so, highly fallacious point. Personally I always listen with the deepest respect to any speech which the right hon. Gentleman makes. It is always interesting, it is always scholarly and more often than not it is logical. He succeeded in the first two this afternoon, but in my humble opinion he certainly failed completely on the logical side.

The question he posed was this. He said that the Government introduced this Bill on the assumption that the House of Lords were going to be guilty of doing something before they do it. That sounds a very attractive and specious argument, but, of course, it is one thing for a person to get hold of a policeman in the street and suggest that he should arrest someone because he is quite convinced that person is going to do something which he should not. The officer might reasonably say to him, "I must not do that because the man is not guilty of anything wrong or illegal." That is not the case here. The case with which this Bill is seeking to deal is the case where one House of Parliament has got power which will enable it not only to thwart what the other House does, but to thwart the very programme and mandate upon which the other House was elected by the electorate. That is the issue. The power of one House to thwart the will of the electors.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

And do not forget that it has a criminal record.

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

Let me finish what I am saying. That is the issue that we have here. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden then referred to the question of the veto of the House of Lords, and rightly said that the House of Lords has, in fact, no veto. All that he had observed was a suspensory power. I agree with him so far as it goes but look what he is really deluding us into thinking to be the case. It is true that as matters stand, the House of Lords merely has a suspensory power, but unless we get the power envisaged in this Parliament Bill passed and another year goes by and we introduce a Bill that the House of Lords does not like, then it will have the very practical power of veto—it will throw the Bill out.

Photo of Sir Kenneth Pickthorn Sir Kenneth Pickthorn , Cambridge University

Will hon. Gentlemen opposite never come back?

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

It is not a case of we will never come back. That will not do.

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

It is because we will have to go to the electorate and Parliament will have to come to an end, because of a veto exercised by the House of Lords, which the right hon. Gentleman says the House of Lords does not possess. The senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) has got his dogmatic views about everything, but merely calling out, "Do you mean that you will not come back again" is not going to decide this issue. I am not going to deal with that at all, because we are coming back not only the next time, but many times after it.

What I am dealing with is the specious argument that the right hon. Gentleman put forward when he said that the House of Lords has no power of veto at all, but merely has suspensory power. What I am saying is that in the next breath he is asking this House to leave the House of Lords that power to place itself at its own will and not the electors' will, in a position to veto our Bills. Hon. Members opposite cannot get away from that issue, and it does not require any dialectical skill or very much argument, because it is as plain as a pikestaff.

Let us face this issue properly. What is it exactly that the Opposition want? They want us to say, "Look here, the House of Lords have been very good fellows, they have not interfered with any Labour legislation for two years, and, therefore, why do anything to them?" Supposing, however, in the third or fourth year they start interfering with our legislation, what about it then? The right hon. Gentleman said, "That will be a great pity." We think it would be a great pity, and we are making provision to see that there will be no need for it to happen, and that we will have the legislation which will enable us to give effect to the will of the electorate. We are not asking the House or Parliament to give effect to some novel idea which we on this side of the House have, but we are asking Parliament to enable us to give effect to the mandate we got at the hands of the electorate.

Photo of Mr Moss Turner-Samuels Mr Moss Turner-Samuels , Gloucester

No, I will not give way. We are not only intending to do what we are entitled to do but are under an obligation to the electorate to do. That is what we are making good.

The right hon. Gentleman said that in doing this sort of thing we were not giving the country time to consider these Bills. He does not really mean that; he says that because he has no better argument to put in its place. Let us look at the point. We have now the period of a year. It does not matter how the period is cut up; it is a definite pause between one stage in this House and the other in the other House when the matter can be considered. The machinery of Parliament gives facilities for the fullest consideration to be applied to any legislation. A Bill goes through four stages in this House and four stages in another place. I should have thought that although a shorter period has been condemned—and I am certainly not in favour of it—even if the delay had been only six months that would have been ample, although I agree with those who say that we should have 12 months' delay in order to leave no doubt that ample time has been given.

An attempt has been made to say that this is a highly constitutional point. Any lawyer who knows anything about the Constitution knows that it is nothing of the sort. The constitutional issue was settled when the Parliament Act, 1911, was introduced. That was what changed the Constitution; this is merely a modification of what was done then. Now we have this two-year period, and what we are saying is that we find that if we are to carry out our programme as a Labour Government—the first Labour Government we have had with a majority and with power in this country—we must reduce the two years to one year. It is really a question of time. I do not know who will reply to the Debate but if it is to be a lawyer I would like him to show how this now becomes a grave constitutional issue such as we have been told. This Bill subscribes to and respects the old principle which was accepted as modified in 1911. It leaves that principle there and all it does is to reduce the period from two years to one year. That is no constitutional issue except in the sense that it is carried out in order to give effect to the mandate of the electorate; and that is a very constitutional point and the most constitutional point of all. Therefore, I do not think that anything more need be said about it.

To summarise it, the issue is: Is the mandate of the electorate to be carried out? If we get this Bill, it can be carried out; if we do not get the Bill, it will not be carried out. We are going to see that the mandate of the electorate is carried out, and that is why I ask the House to give this Bill its Third Reading.

6.34 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Michael Astor Hon. Michael Astor , Surrey Eastern

I do not want to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels). His speech was so outrageously confused that I would be all night sifting out and straightening his points. There are two matters I want to stress. This is a short Bill and it should be quite easy to appraise, but there is one important matter which I do not understand. The Lord President has added to the confusion in my mind by stating on more than one occasion that the suspensory period of 12 months will be subject to the Second Chamber not provoking him. I take it that he does not speak from a purely personal point of view, but for the present Government. This seems an extraordinary attempt—the first attempt the Labour Government make at altering the Constitution—to upset a condition of affairs which worked perfectly well. The Government seek, in their opinion I suppose, to rationalise the powers which the peers have, and then tell them in effect that this having been done, they may not use their powers.

My second point is this. This Bill abolishes the most important function the Second Chamber has had till now of being able, in the final analysis, to refer highly controversial Bills to the electorate by means of forcing a General Election. This Bill diminishes the powers which the Second Chamber have of amending legislation. I have heard hon. Members from the other side of the House speak in favour of the Second Chamber having powers to amend, and I do not think I have heard a single speech in this House which criticises their function in that respect; yet this Bill considerably reduces their powers to amend. It does it in this way. Members of the Government tend naturally to be far more favourable towards Amendments coming down from another place if they realise that, if Amendments which are more or less reasonable are turned down, the peers will send the Bill back, and will in fact throw it out. That is bound to be the tendency. Now that threat is removed, and consequently the effective power of having Amendments carried as a result of the work done in the Second Chamber is also reduced. It seems to me ironical that the present Government should be responsible for that state of affairs in view of the number of important Amendments which the Second Chamber have made to legislation which the Government have introduced.

The hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay), in seeking the causes for the introduction of this Bill, which are not easy to find, said that the matter had something to do with the steel Bill. I think it also has something to do with the Minister of Health and his political ambitions, and I also think that it is a fair indication that at the moment the Labour Party have no effective leadership. That is my reading of the matter. At all events, I can see that no sense of logic will prevent hon. Members on the other side of the House from going into the Division Lobby in favour of this Bill.

6.39 p.m.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

I have listened to this Debate with a growing conviction that there should be some measure of capital punishment for constitutional lawyers. We have heard a great deal from the experts on the Constitution, including a long speech from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) who even brought forward the argument that constitutional issues were more important than economic issues. There has been too much of a tendency in this Debate to go back to precedents—to 1649 and so on—instead of looking forward to 1948, 1949 and 1950, towards the real economic issues which, after all, are the important matters which affect this House.

I must confess that I listened to the Home Secretary, both in the Committee stage and in this Debate, with a growing admiration. For some time I mistook him for a good, genuine, honest, enlightened British Conservative, but my opinion of him has gone up steadily every time he has spoken. He made speeches, both on the Second Reading and in this Debate, in which be referred to precedent in a manner which I am sure would have warmed the cockles of Oliver Cromwell's heart. He asked whether the House is bound always to look for a precedent before it does the thing it knows to be right. That surely is the essential point in this Debate, and not the constitutional hair-splitting of the lawyers who have spent so much time delving into history, that they have absolutely forgotten the present and do not look to the future but are always looking back into the past.

I wish I could say that my admiration for the Lord President of the Council had increased during this Debate. The Home Secretary said that there were certain points made by some of his hon. Friends which had been dealt with appropriately by the Lord President in his reply to the Debate on the Amendments moved by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) and myself. I do not think the Lord President of the Council replied to those points at all. He rather sidetracked them. The real criticism of this Bill is not criticism from the constitutional past; it is criticism from the Left, who say that this Bill has not gone far enough, the Government should have used this opportunity to say, "This controversy is now closed," and have finished with the House of Lords for ever.

The Lord President of the Council denounced these opinions of mine, which were very orthodox opinions in the controversy of 1911, as Bolshevism, and as he warmed up during the Debate he dismissed them as Bolshevism gone mad. I would remind the Lord President that that was not an original expression of opinion, it was a phrase coined by the late Philip Snowden in a broadcast in which he attacked the hon. Members who are now so enthusiastic about retaining the power of the House of Lords. I need not remind the Government of the fate of Lord Snowden, but I fear that if the Lord President of the Council argues in this way, if he gets constitutionalism on the brain, he will end up in the House of Lords as the Duke of Hackney or something like that.

I suggest that the real criticism of this Bill is that it is not a wholehearted Bill at all, that the Government should have used their power to abolish the House of Lords altogether. The Home Secretary said it was a Christmas box for democracy. In Scotland we do not regard Christmas as such an important institution; we pay rather more attention to the New Year. I wish that in his reply the Home Secretary would say, "We will give Scotland a New Year's gift as well as a Christmas box," tell us that he has been convinced by my arguments, and announce that he will abolish the House of Lords altogether.

6.44 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

I cannot promise the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) that any remarks of mine will bring him nearer a happier Hogmanay, but I should like, before I sum up the views of myself and my hon. Friends on this matter, to cull a few flowers from the Debate, especially as exemplified by the other side. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary began with a robust sneer at lawyers in general—

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I am sorry that I was misunderstood. I was alluding to the fact that no one other than a lawyer or a Member for the Universities took part. I was deploring the lack of interest on the part of non-lawyers and non-University Members on the other side.

Photo of Mr David Maxwell Fyfe Mr David Maxwell Fyfe , Liverpool, West Derby

The right hon. Gentleman need not think for a moment that, even if I took it to be an animadversion against lawyers in general, it worried me at all, but I do not suppose for a moment that he meant that. I was just about to point out that, after his expression of regret that on the Committee stage the proportion of lawyers had been so high, the right hon. Gentleman has been followed this afternoon by six of his own supporters, three of whom were lawyers doing their best, as is always said of me, in speaking to a bad brief.

Passing lightly over that support given to the right hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells) placed the sheet anchor of his defence in retrospective legislation, and pointed out that this House sometimes indulges in retrospective legislation in order to pass an Indemnity Bill. In my view, an Indemnity Bill is the worst kind of Bill that any legislative assembly can pass. It covers, to say the least of it, inefficiency and slovenly administration and wrongdoing, and if that is to be the support for retrospective legislation, it will not take us very far. The hon. Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor), I was glad to note, said that he would do his best, and encourage everyone else to do so, to keep the reform of the House of Lords before the people. The last thing I would do would be to cross the confines between a Third Reading and a Second Reading Debate and, therefore, I leave that point, with my good wishes, to the hon. Member for South-East Southwark, with this addition, that he will tack on to what he will constantly urge on the electorate, the question of the composition of a Second Chamber and bring up that matter.

The hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery) said he would not give an absolute veto even for a month. I do not want to be technical about it, so I will take the substance of what he meant, which was obviously a delaying power of a month to an unelected body. Again, I do not want to go into what would be out of Order at this stage, but I point out to the hon. Gentleman in all sincerity, that if you can get agreement, if you use the method of trying to get agreement between different parts of the House, that is one of the acknowledged and right ways of making, not only constitutional changes, but advances in our constitutional practice by general agreement, for which no mandate is necessary.

Another of the legal profession—I almost dare not mention him—the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) defended the retroactive proposals on the ground of the Septennial Act. If the hon. Gentleman in the course of his future writings, speeches, or in any other way, will demonstrate to myself or any other lawyer—including, of course, the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) who has already destroyed this point, and therefore assisted me in that way—how the Septennial Act is retroactive, he will have written a new page in constitutional law which will make his name lustrous in that starry sphere. In view of that the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester should really get off lightly in this short résumé of mine, but I beg hall once again to face that great dilemma. The 1911 Act, which this Measure seeks to amend, made special provision for the power to continue after a General Election. How the hon. and learned Gentleman can complain that the Government may have to face a General Election, and at the same time say that he is not afraid of the result of that General Election, is an inescapable dilemma from whose horns he has certainly not convinced me, nor, I think, anyone else, that he has managed to provide an escape

I have endeavoured to deal with the main points made by each speaker from the opposite side of the House, and I do not want to detain the House for long in dealing with the principal matters which have emerged. The first point which comes up is whether the proper delaying period should be two years or one year. I do not think there is any disagreement—I have not heard any hon. Gentleman on either side suggest to the contrary—that the criterion for deciding what is the proper period of delay is whether it is sufficient to allow public opinion to crystallise on the Measure. I should add that it ought to ensure that the House of Lords will have ample opportunity to appreciate what is public opinion. I put it, again in language which was agreed by all three parties before the Bryce Inquiry, that the test is: The interposition of so much delay (and no more) in the passing of a Bill into law as may be needed to enable the opinion of the nation to be adequately expressed upon it That is the test to which I address myself now. It is quite clear from our Debates that the one year which is suggested in the Bill means, in fact, six months. I was very interested to see that that point was conceded, as the Lord President of the Council will remember, by the two hon. Members who moved and seconded an Amendment to reduce the time to six months. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that their argument was that in any case it takes six months to get a Bill through this House, and that therefore if we reduced the time to six months, we would, in effect, be eradicating the delaying period altogether. It is common ground, that in the case of a heavy Bill, which covers a considerable field, it takes six months to get it through this House.

I want hon. Members to consider the point, because the Home Secretary raised it in the extremely brief exposition with which he favoured us this afternoon, of what is the time at which one ought to consider opinion being focused? Is it on Second Reading, or is it when a Bill comes through the Report stage, and is in its final form, and ready to go to another place? I ask the right hon. Gentleman, or anyone else who has considered this point, to take, for example, the Transport Bill, which came to us roughly a year ago. Great parts of that Bill were unworkable gibberish when it came to this House. The whole of the provisions in regard to stockholders, and in regard to technical points, were completely unworkable, as was recognised immediately the Bill went upstairs, and they had to be radically altered. In addition, that Bill, which I take as an example, contained a great deal of padding, which was in the Bill for the purpose of jettisoning if that were necessary. There was the question of the restriction on "C" licences, which was jettisoned before the point was even debated in Committee.

It is not right to ask people to judge on the way the Bill comes in when it is printed for this House. In the Committee stage great alterations are made, and great improvements are made by the Government. Such alterations are made as the Opposition can persuade the Government to make, and it is only when the Bill comes to Report stage when, as everyone agrees, effect is given to promises made in Committee, that we get the Bill in its final form. We say that is the critical time. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the Press contains articles on the principles of the Bill, but it does not, and cannot, deal with the ultimate proposals in the Bill until after every concession has been made and it has come to its final form. That happens, in the case of a complicated Bill, somewhere about May, six months after it is introduced. It goes to the House of Lords and is discussed, even if it is rejected out of hand. From the point of view of argument, say, it is rejected in June. By having a new Session in September, the Government can quite easily arrange that all the stages of its second journey will take place by the anniversary of its introduction in November.

That means that we have a period of delay of something like five months in which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), pointed out, a couple of months are part of the year when, in the ordinary way, people do not address their minds to abstruse political problems. We say—and I ask right hon. and hon. Members opposite to face the point, and to answer it—that such a delay as that is virtually Single Chamber government. Call it what we like, it is in effect so little delay that neither can public opinion crystallise, nor can the Second Chamber realise, not only what is in the Bill, but what is the true state of public opinion upon it.

Again, I wish to put a point which is necessary and implied in the Bill, and is not an inch beyond it. We have to ask ourselves, would a House of Lords without the power to delay for two years, but with a power which comes down, as I have shown, to a power of actual and practical delay of something under six months, be a good revising Chamber? Do not let us be hypocritical on this point, but face up to the realities of the situation. We all agree that the House of Lords has done admirable work as a revising Chamber for the last two years. I shall not again inflict on the House the summary of the Amendments of which I spoke on Second Reading, because no one has disputed that, or suggested anything to the contrary.

What is revising work? This can be looked at from three different points of view. Again, I hope I have the House with me in this. First, there is the general question of principle. Secondly, there is what I call, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman appreciates my argument, the secondary policy point. "C" licence restrictions would be a point like that—not a point of principle, but an important point of secondary policy. Then, thirdly, there are points of detail. Apart from points of detail—and I concede that a lot of useful work is done by improving details—there are matters of secondary policy in which the House of Lords has made alterations, and later those alterations have been accepted with approval by the Government's representative during the last two years. Would the House of Lords have the slightest chance of getting these alterations and points of that kind accepted if it had not the power of two years delay behind it? Everyone knows the phrase which, from being rather an epigram, has become a commonplace, that "All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Everyone knows that if, at bottom, a Second Chamber has not got, behind what it does, some ability to hold up the Government, and in that way impress its point of view, it would not be likely to provide, and we should not get, the admirable results of revision which everyone admits we have had during the past two years.

I do not want to go into the retroactive point, not because I fear any aspect of the argument, but because we occupied some three hours in discussing that point only a week ago, and, therefore, it seems rather inexcusable to go over the same ground again. I have put my point, and for the benefit of those hon. Gentlemen who were not present at the Committee stage, I only wish to state it. My main objection is—and I am not for the moment dealing with the point which I raised on Second Reading as to the political position of steel nationalisation—I am dealing with this Bill—that this provision means that certainly the steel Bill, and it may be other Bills, is intended to be carried in the pocket of this Bill, a new form of kangaroo procedure. The two Bills become so intimately connected that it is impossible for anyone to judge and to form their opinion on the merits of this Bill without knowing what are to be the merits of the Bill or Bills which are carried along with it. I developed that point only a week ago during the Committee stage, and I do not want to put it again, but that, apart from the impropriety of making constitutional changes by retroactive means, and apart from my general objection to retroactive Measures, would, in my view, make that provision in the Bill objectionable, and the Bill worthy of rejection.

I wish to deal with a point which has been raised by several hon. Members opposite, namely, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said that this was an important Bill, and that other people have put it the other way and used language to different effect. I suggest that what has happened is that when this Bill started it seemed to be a good thing to fly the particular kite of a "Peers against the People" controversy, but it is an old aphorism that a man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. It soon appeared that any attempt to make party capital out of the position and actions of the House of Lords today was non-existent, and was bound to fail. Since then we have had the Bill commended, not as a means of attacking the House of Lords, but as something which is of small effect, and the tempo has decreased correspondingly. That does not mean that my right hon. Friend or any of us were wrong in saying that it is an important matter. It is an important matter to change from two-Chamber to what is practically a unicameral form of Government, to prevent adequate revision and adequate delay, and the adequate formation of opinion on the great questions of the day. These are important matters, and they remain important. What has been a complete fiasco and failure has been the attempt to arouse any class feeling, or to distract attention from the greater problems of the day, by an attack on the House of Lords, however it be constituted.

I wish to deal with the fundamental attitude of mind underlying the Home Secretary's somewhat dreadful and contemptuous rejection of precedent or the importance of our Constitution. We answer that, and we are quite prepared, and always will be prepared, to stand by our faith. We believe that people who advocate a change should prove the need for that change. That is a tenet of which none of us on this side of the House is ashamed, and by which we are prepared to stand. Whatever else has transpired in these Debates, nobody has pretended that a case has been made, on the past actions of the House of Lords, for this change which is proposed in the Bill. The most that can be said is, "We have a fear, baseless in the present, which may arise in the future."

I put this to the Home Secretary, when he is tempted again to dismiss precedents for the working of our Constitution in so cavalier, or rather, I should say, so Roundhead a manner: a long time ago—I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for putting forward anything which is 200 years old—Lord Chatham said what I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider to be the very wise words—"I invoke the genius of the Constitution." Lord Chatham did not formalise his remark; he was not dealing in formalities, he was thinking and invoking, on that great occasion, the genius of our Constitution and the way in which our Constitution was working, and could work. If one may compare a small person with a great one—I speak for myself—that is how I view it today. The genius of our Constitution works out by the attempt to get inter-party agreement, to work towards improvement by the interplay of minds, which may disagree on many matters, but which are ready to try to work together, in order to get improvements in this great machinery of government which we have constructed.

That is why I join in the regret expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden that the Government have not seen fit to follow that course, and, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, have not in the past considered such things as the appointment of life peers, which could fruitfully have been looked at in a situation like the present to answer the very difficulties which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have brought out. That course has been ignored. There has been substituted for it a method of approach which really means that, for all practical effect, single-Chamber Government is constituted, and the power of revision and delay is taken away. That, we think, is as inefficient as it is wrong, and that we shall oppose by voting against this Bill tonight.

7.11 p.m.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

Although we often disagree with the view expressed by the right hon. and Yearned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), we always listen to him with pleasure, because he exudes an atmosphere of reasonableness and of argument, which is always worthy of consideration, even though it may not be acceptable to us. On this historic occasion—I hope it is that, and I will have something to say about that later—of parting with this Bill on the occasion of its Third Reading, we have listened to him with a good deal of pleasure. He has said that those who advocate change should prove the case for the change. It is not an unfair argument. I do not dispute it. It is the same as I have used—that the nationalisers should prove the case for nationalisation and the anti-nationalisers should prove that their way is better than the nationalisers'. It is a perfectly fair point for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make.

With respect, however, we have really met the point. The onus was not upon us to prove that during the present Parliament their Lordships had been positively mischievous to such an extent that it was essential to do something about it. That is not the basis upon which the case for this Bill rests. The case rests upon the belief of His Majesty's Government that we have the right, by suitable legislation, to make such provisions as will enable us to carry out in this Parliament the policy upon which we were elected by the people in 1945. That is all that there is to it. I do not want to argue whether or not their Lordships have behaved reasonably well up to now. I could pick holes here and there and make some criticisms, as I have done during earlier stages of this Bill. But I certainly would not argue that they have gone wildly beyond the limits of what is reasonable—not at all. Things might have been much worse. Indeed, I say quite freely now, and I have said it before, that I have a considerable respect for their Lordships' Chamber as a revising element of the whole Parliamentary institution.

I say that looking apprehensively at my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) who, having already elevated me to a dukedom will, if I am not careful, elevate me to the status of a Prince of the Blood Royal. It is the case that the House of Lords is a very good revising Chamber and that from time to time they have good and informed Debates on matters of public interest. My first Parliamentary experience as a Minister of the Crown was in connection with the Road Traffic Act of 1930. That taught me so much about Standing Committee procedure upstairs that it has had its result in the Standing Orders of this House during this Parliament. Having worked for four months with that Committee upstairs, I know what silly, foolish obstruction went on. On that occasion the purpose was not even obstruction of the Bill before that Committee, but obstruction of the next one. Having had that experience, I then watched my noble Friend, Earl Russell, who was my Parliamentary Secretary, in the other place. Amendments were put down and Earl Russell would get up and say, more or less, "This will not do," and prove it in about six sentences. In practically every case the Amendments were, by leave, withdrawn; whereas in the Commons Committee upstairs talk would go on for an hour, or even three or four.

I am not grumbling at the House of Commons. It is in the nature of this House that it does these little things; but I am bound to say, that this being my first visit to the House of Lords on a Bill which I knew, and which was, indeed, my child, I was tempted to make the most flattering observations about the expedition and the business-like character of their Lordships, compared with the procedure of the House of Commons on that Standing Committee. I ask the hon. Member for South Ayrshire to forgive me. I am one of those people who cannot but tell the objective truth in me even though it leads to his implied rebuke.

The point now before the House is not whether the other place have done enough to warrant some legislation being introduced. We said at the election that we would not tolerate obstruction by the House of Lords. It really is a foolish idea, an innocent idea, that we have to wait to be obstructed. If we wait long enough to be obstructed, we shall wait so long that the essentials of the rest of the legislative work of this Parliament may be completely ruined. The argument is that we must wait until that has happened and then start dealing with their Lordships' House. That is not the way to conduct battle, whether political or otherwise. The way to conduct battle is to see trouble coming and to avoid it, to prevent it. That is the policy of His Majesty's Government in this, as in all other respects.

How often the Opposition have said to us, "Why didn't you see this trouble coming?" even when they never dreamt it was coming themselves. How often have they said, "You ought to have seen this fatality coming along"—whether it was dollars or the bad weather of last winter. I do not in any case admit their charges. Why is it then on this occasion when, in our profound political knowledge and wisdom, we do see trouble coming that they now say, "That is a very naughty thing?" The Opposition say, "Why look for trouble that has not occurred? Why not ignore these possibilities and go along in blissful and peaceful ignorance?" No, Sir, this is a pod Government. This is a Government that looks ahead and sees the shape of things to come—even looks ahead and sees the shape of things that may be to come.

That is what this Bill is about. It is perfectly legitimate and proper. It is all within the electoral Mandate, absolutely respectable, constitutional, and above board. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, like others, has said that this Bill is a virtual reduction from two-Chamber to single-Chamber Government. That is a wild assertion, which I was surprised to hear from such a moderate Member of the Opposition. If it had come from the Leader of the Opposition, I would not have been a bit surprised, because there is nothing moderate about him. But I was really surprised that it should cc me from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. There are the two Sessions that the legislation must occupy. There is a minimum of 12 months, and the other safeguards. To call that reduction horn double to single-Chamber Government is really wrong. The Second Chamber will still be there, and I believe that it will still have useful work to do.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the House of Lords should have ample opportunity and time to judge public opinion. That is why he objected to the limit of 12 months. He gave the illustration of the Transport Bill and said that it needed examination. I agree. That is a fair point. It was a Bill of substance, but, as a matter of fact, there were a lot of people ready to reject that Bill before ever it was seen—including the Conservative Party. Indeed, there were posters up all over the country before the Bill was introduced. There were posters hanging out of the tails of motor lorries which were driven upon the streets up and down the whole country. What did they say? "Kill this Bill," or "Stop the Transport Bill," and there was no Transport Bill at that stage. I am not complaining about the Conservative Party looking ahead; I wish they would do it a bit more, but they must not complain if we, too, look ahead. As a matter of fact, the Debate on the Transport Bill started quite a long time ago in "Let us Face the Future." It was continued in the King's Speech, and it was mentioned again when I made the announcement to the House about the industries which we were going to socialise and in that awful "dust-up" which I had with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton). Consequently, although it may be said that this Bill limits the time of the veto period to one year, nevertheless, the Debate on that legislation often goes on much longer than that.

It has been argued by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and others that the House of Lords must have a proper and adequate opportunity in which it can judge what public opinion wishes. I will answer that perfectly frankly by saying that this Government and this party do not admit the right of their Lordships to judge what the public wishes from the angle of determining whether legislation may proceed or not. They have their rights as a revising Chamber, but I do not believe that their House is any more fit than this House—indeed, I think it is less fit than this House—to judge what the public wishes, and this Conservative argument about this great quality of their Lordships, which enables them to discern the true inwardness and meaning of public opinion, is really a cheeky claim that ought not to be made. This was the claim made during the progress of the Parliament Act, 1911, when Mr. Asquith had this argument put to him—that there was no barrier between the revolutionary Liberal Government and ruin. The argument that the Lords were, indeed, the true interpreters of public opinion was put to him, and Mr. Asquith gave the answer in language, perhaps a little longer but far better than anything I could have done, when he said—and this is worth listening to, because it is good, old-style Parliamentary oratory: This new-fangled Caesarism which converts the House of Lords into a kind of plebiscitary organ is one of the quaintest inventions of our time. Let us see what it is. I will try to put the theory as plausibly as I can against myself. The theory is that the people require to be protected against their own elected representatives especially—may I not say exclusively—when the majority of those representatives happen to belong to the Liberal Party. By whom is the protection to be afforded? In what quarter is it to be found? Here, the theory goes on. Providence has, as in so many ways, been exceptionally kind. It has supplied us with exactly the kind of thing we want for the purpose by an unforeseen and unforeseeable evolution, in our ancient House of Lords … It is true at first sight that, even to an uninstructed observer an assembly which is composed in a proportion, I suppose, of somewhere between twenty and ten to one of Members of a single political party, might not seem to be pre-eminently qualified to exercise a judicial or quasi-judicial function. But here again, Providence steps in, and it would seem that, either at birth or as the case may be upon creation, in the case of a peer who receives for the first time a Patent of Peerage there descends upon the favoured individual what I may call a kind of instinct of divination which enables him at all times thereafter to discern to a nicety—provided always a Liberal Government is in power—the occasions and the matters in regard to which the people's representatives are betraying the people's trust.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1909, Vol. 13, c. 556–7.] I admit that Mr. Asquith has got me completely beaten in the brilliant and able expression and exposure of the whole arguments of the Conservative Party on this question of the Second Chamber; and, for quoting that passage, I deserve the vote of every true Member of the Liberal Party. It may be that the Liberal Chief Whip should consider whether he ought to move one Bench backwards, which I often think he ought to do, and it should be a warning to the hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) about what happened the other night when he met the Tory Party in his constituency.

Photo of Mr Harry Morris Mr Harry Morris , Sheffield Central

There is no secret whatever about that. I am a Liberal, and I am as independent a Liberal as anyone here.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

I only want to warn the hon. and learned. Gentleman that, if he holds his seat much longer by permission of the Conservative Party, he will be in for a rough time

The rejection of this Bill was moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), and he charged the Government with suddenly thinking of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman is wrong about that, it I may say so with respect, and I expect that he knows he is wrong about it, because it was a pleasantry, and a very pleasant pleasantry, but he should not say these things. We did not suddenly think of these things. We have thought about the House of Lords for many years. We thought about the House of Lords when we prepared "Let us Face the Future," and, as I told the House in moving the Second Reading, we thought about it before the beginning of the previous Parliamentary Session, and seriously considered bringing in the Bill then. But we had so much other work on our hands in that first Parliamentary Session that we thought we could not do it then, and we left it over until now. That is really the truth, the real truth. [Interruption.] Really it is. Why hon. Gentlemen opposite should have to invent some high-flown theory that Ministers were innocently walking through St. James's Park or the back streets of Whitehall a few weeks ago and suddenly had a divine inspiration in thinking of this Bill and said, "That will be fun, let us bring it in," I cannot imagine. Nothing of the kind happened. It was thought about a great deal before that as part of the plans for this Government, when the legislative programme was most carefully considered.

Therefore, the theory that this Bill is related to a particular legislative Measure, which I understand is under consideration for the future in connection with a particular industry, is wrong. This Bill may be related to a whole series of Measures before this Parliament is done. There is not only one Bill which is liable to upset the Tory Party or to upset their Lordships' House. The Opposition do not know what is coming to them. There may be a number of Bills of which they may be highly critical and on which their Lordships may take a serious view. Therefore, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that this is not a matter of suddenly thinking of something.

The right hon. Gentleman then said that this Bill is a petty, tinkering reform. All right, what is all the noise about, then? The right hon. Gentleman also complained that this Bill was retrospective, or, to use a more gentle term, for which I am grateful, retroactive. This argument of retrospective or retroactive legislation, is fundamentally all wrong. Really, there is nothing retroactive or retrospective about this Bill. Assuming that this Bill reaches the Statute Book sooner or later, all that it does, from this point onwards, is to provide protection for legislation passed thereafter, and from now on each Bill will attract this protection as it comes on to the Statute Book. But that is not to say that this Bill could protect Bills which were introduced before it was introduced; it does not go back to earlier legislation. Therefore, in the true sense of the term, this Bill protects concurrent legislation. To use the word "retrospective," or even "retroactive," is, I suggest, somewhat of an exaggeration.

The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden also said, after saying that the Bill was a tinkering, petty reform, that it represented the 20th century dictator spirit. I wish he would make up his mind whether this Bill is on the Left or the Right. When he does so, will he kindly let me know, because I shall be much obliged. I have dealt with the point about it being a year or not a year in relation to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir Maxwell Fyfe). He advised me to read Anson, as well as Erskine May. I will try, but I am sorry to say that I have not yet finished Erskine May, although I hope to make further progress with it at Christmas. The opposition to it of the Conservative Party was to be most strenuous, and I will also have a word to say about that later on.

I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Mr. W. Wells), my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels)—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, certainly—and to others, for the support they have given. I am also much obliged to the critics opposite who have been critical about the Bill. The hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) said that this was a Bill for iron and steel, and the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby said that it is a Bill to put iron and steel into the pocket of this Bill. That is far too narrow a definition for the purposes of this Bill; that would make it a much too modest and moderate Bill. Its purposes are wider, and more comprehensive.

Photo of Hon. John Maclay Hon. John Maclay , Montrose District of Burghs

I had substantial support for my interpretation from hon. Members opposite.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

That may be, but, surprising as it seems, I still adhere to my view that the purposes of this Bill are wider. It is no use the Liberal National Member for Montrose Burghs trying to attract my people to his way of thinking about the narrow purposes of this Bill. It is all-embracing, and does not specialise on any particular subject.

I am also obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery), although he said that the Bill did not go far or fast enough. I would warn the Opposition, who would go much farther and faster, that they may think themselves lucky that this Go vernment are so moderate. The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter), looking at us, said, "These are the Kerenskys." That is not a very polite observation, because Kerensky went down, and we do not intend to go down. I assure him that we are much more dangerous than Mr. Kerensky was, and no one knows it better than he does. My hon. Friend the Member for East Islington dealt faithfully with the points raised by hon. Members opposite. The hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (MT. H. Strauss)—I am sorry I missed his speech—declared that the House of Lords was the only bulwark against revolution. That is not really so. If revolution really comes, there is not much of a bulwark against it anywhere.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Combined English Universities

The right hon. Gentleman evidently heard a misreported version of my speech. I did not say that; I said that, unless the Second Chamber had sufficient powers of delay, there would be no remedy against a tyrannical Government except revolution.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

Oh, I see. The report is certainly wrong. It was a conditional incentive to revolution in which the hon. and learned Gentleman was engaging. Is it not extraordinary, Mr. Speaker, what a curious effect these Universities or University cities have upon the minds of hon. Members. I always thought that the Universities made people respectable; I am beginning to doubt it. Only the other night, the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) incited people to disobey the law. Now we have the hon. and learned Gentleman flirting with the idea of contingent justifiable revolution.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Combined English Universities

I cannot think that the right hon. Gentleman, who is obviously enjoying himself, wishes to misrepresent me. I was careful to quote what was also said in speeches by his own back benchers, who said in the Second Reading Debate, when certain points were put to them, that there would always be the remedy of revolution. I said it would be lamentable if the only remedy of the people against a tyrannical Government were revolution. That is the point, and the point with which, if he has any answer, the right hon. Gentleman should endeavour to deal.

Photo of Mr Herbert Morrison Mr Herbert Morrison , Lewisham East

With great respect, the hon. and learned Gentleman has confirmed what I said, that is, a contingent justification of revolution. If he pleads in aid that similar things have been said on this side of the House, I do not know that that improves his situation as a respectable Conservative Member of Parliament for the Combined English Universities. I am not saying that he is entirely wrong; I am only indicating the consequence of what he says, which he really must bear in mind.

The case for this Bill has been amply made, time and time again. Looking back on its history, it was received in various quarters, when introduced, as a gratuitous Bill, calculated to cause no end of trouble, crisis, and constitutional difficulty in the country. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition came down to the House and said all sorts of wild things about it. In the Debate on the Address, the right hon. Gentleman said: Total powers are to be given to any Government obtaining power at a General Election, no matter how abnormal the conditions of that election, to carry whatever legislation they choose during their five years' spell, irrespective of whether the people wish for that legislation, and irrespective of whether the Government still have their confidence or not."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 28th October, 1947; Vol. 443, C. 717.] On the second day of the Second Reading Debate, the right hon. Gentleman came down to the House and made one of those wild and demonstrative speeches which we all thoroughly enjoy. It did not have a great deal to do with the Bill, but in it the right hon. Gentleman certainly declared that this was a most dangerous, revolutionary and wild Measure to put before Parliament, and that the Opposition would fight it tooth and nail and would bring all their powers to bear to secure its rejection by Parliament. That was the only high light of our Debates on this Bill. If I may say so, the right hon. Gentleman got very excited, exaggerated the importance of the Bill, and declared that it was revolutionary and the beginning of tyranny. Indeed, in the Debate on the Address, he said that this was an act of social aggression on the part of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. But what did the right hon. Gentleman do when he had delivered that great oration? He left the rest of the Bill to his right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, and took no more notice of it. That is all he cared about this Bill, which was supposed to be undermining the whole British democracy and Constitution. I am sorry he is not here today; I would much sooner say these things when he is here, although it is becoming much more difficult to say anything when the right hon. Gentleman is present because his appearances in this House are all too infrequent as the weeks go on.

He has gone for a holiday, and I do not blame him. I wish I had myself. I only say that if it be the case on Second Reading that he comes here and paints this Bill as a great, dramatic, revolutionary Measure, undermining the whole British Constitution, what is the House to make of the Committee stage, which was like a Sunday school treat? The attendance then was thin, as, indeed, it has been for the greater part of today. It was the same thing in the case of those newspapers which were saying that this was a terribly serious thing. If it was held on Second Reading, that this was a dangerous, revolutionary Measure, as was asserted by the Leader of the Opposition, and undermining the whole constitution of the State, it is rather ridiculous thereafter, in Committee, to treat it as though it were a fifth-class Bill.

The truth is that the public has a fair judgment of this Bill. They have the measure of its merits as a reasonable amendment of the law in regard to the relationship between the two Houses. This British people is a sensible people who take a practical view of these things, and the Opposition have again missed the boat. They have totally miscalculated the situation. They have underestimated the intelligence of the average citizen of this country. They have flabbergasted, filibustered and talked big at the Second Reading on one day. They then found that the public have acquiesced in this Bill and that it is they who have misfired and made a great mistake in their attitude to this moderate, sensible, progressive Measure. It has been debated adequately by this House, and the Opposition criticisms have been completely answered both from this Front Bench and by my hon. Friends behind me. I trust that now, not only will this House give the Bill its Third

Reading by a large and emphatic majority, but that it may pass, after due consideration through all its stages in another place.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided: Ayes, 340; Noes, 186.

Division No. 45.]AYES.[7.42 p.m.
Adams, Richard (Balham)Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Deer, G.Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)de Freilas, GeoffreyIrvine, A. J. (Liverpool)
Alpass, J. H.Delargy, H. J.Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)
Anderson, A. (Motherwell)Dodds, N. N.Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Anderson, F (Whitehaven)Donovan, T.Janner, B.
Attewell, H. C.Driberg, T. E. N.Jay, D. P. T.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)Jeger, G. (Winchester)
Austin, H. LewisDumpleton, C. W.Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)
Awbery, S, S.Durbin, E. F. M.John, W.
Ayles, W. H.Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)
Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.Edelman, M.Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)
Bacon, Miss A.Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)
Baird, J.Edwards, John (Blackburn)Jones, J. H. (Bolton)
Balfour, A.Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)Jones, P. Aslerley (Hitchin)
Barstow, P GEdwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)Keenan, W.
Barton, C.Evans, A. (Islington, W.)Kendall, W. D.
Battley, J R.Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Kenyon, C.
Bechervaise, A. E.Evans, John (Ogmore)Key, C. W.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)King, E. M.
Benson, GEwart, R.Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.
Berry, H.Fairhurst, F.Kinley, J.
Beswick, F.Farthing, W JLang, G.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)Fernyhough, E.Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.
Bing, G. H. C.Field, Capt. W. J.Lee, F. (Hulme)
Binns, J.Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)
Blackburn, A. R.Follick, M.Leonard, W.
Blenkinsop, AFoot, M. M.Leslie, J. R.
Blyton, W. R.Forman, J. C.Lever, N. H.
Boardman, H.Fraser, T. (Hamilton)Levy, B. W.
Bottomley, A. G.Freeman, John (Watford)Lewis, J. (Bolton)
Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.Freeman, Peter (Newport)Lewis, T. (Southampton)
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)Gallacher, W.Lindgren, G. S.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)Lipton, Lt.-Col M.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham)Gibbins, JLongden, F.
Bramall, E. A.Gibson, C. WLyne, A. W.
Brook, D. (Halifax)Gilzean, A.McAdam, W.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Glanville, J. E. (Consett)McAllisler, G.
Brown, George (Belper)Goodrich, H. E.McEntee, V. La T
Bruce, Maj, D. W. T.Gordon-Walker, P. C.McGhee, H. G.
Buchanan, G.Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)McGovern, J.
Burden, T. W.Grenfell, D. R.Mack, J. D.
Butler, H. W. (Hacknay, S.)Grey, C. F.Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)
Callaghan, JamesGrierson, E.McKinlay, A. S.
Carmichael, JamesGriffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Maclean, N. (Govan)
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)McLeavy, F.
Chamberlain, R. A.Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Champion, A. J.Gunter, R. J.McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.
Chater, D.Haire, John E. (Wycombe)Macpherson, T. (Romford)
Chetwynd, G. R.Hale, LeslieMainwaring, W. H.
Cluse, W. S.Hall, Rt. Hon. GlenvilMallalieu, J. P. W.
Cobb, F. A.Hannan, W. (Maryhill)Mann, Mrs. J.
Cocks, F. S.Hardy, E. A.Manning, Mrs L. (Epping)
Coldrick, W.Harrison, J.Marquand, H. A.
Collick, PHastings, Dr. SomervilleMarshall, F. (Brightside)
Collindridge, F.Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)Mathers, Rt. Hon. G.
Collins, V. JHenderson, Joseph (Ardwick)Mayhew, C. P.
Colman, Miss G. M.Herbison, Miss MMedland, H. M.
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)Hicks, G.Mellish, R. J.
Corlett, Dr. J.Hobson, C. R.Middleton, Mrs L
Corvedale, ViscountHolman, P.Mikardo, Ian
Cove, W. G.Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.
Crawley, A.Hoy, J.Mitchison, G. R.
Crossman, R. H. S.Hubbard, T.Monslow, W.
Daggar, G.Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Moody, A. S.
Daines, P.Hughes, Emry (S. Ayr)Morley, R.
Davies, Edward (Burslem)Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Davies, Harold (Leek)Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)
Morris, P (Swansea, W.)Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)Tiffany, S.
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H (Lewisham, E.)Rogers, G. H. R.Timmons, J.
Mort, D LRoss, William (Kilmarnock)Titterington, M. F.
Moyle, A.Royle, CTolley, L.
Murray, J DSargood, RTomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Nally, WScollan, TTurner-Samuels, M.
Naylor, T E.Scott-Elliot, W.Ungoed-Thomas L
Nichol, Mrs M. E. (Bradford, N.)Segal, Dr. S.Osborne, Henry
Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)Shackleton, E. A. A.Vernon, Maj. W. F.
Noel-Baker, Capt. F E (Brentford)Sharp, GranvilleViant, S P
Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)Shaw[...]ss, C. N. (Widnes)Walker, G. H.
O'Brien, T.Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Oldfield, W HSilkin, Rt. Hon. L.Wallace, H. W. (Waithamstow, E.)
Oliver, G HSilverman, J. (Erdington)Warbey, W. N.
Orbach, MSilverman, S S (Nelson)Watkins, T. E.
Paget, R. T.Simmons, C. J.Watson, W. M.
Paling, Will T (Dewsbury)Skeffington, A. M.Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)
Palmer, A M FSkeffington-Lodge, T. C.Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Pargiter, G. A.Skinnard, F WWells, W. T. (Walsall)
Parker, J.Smith, Ellis (Stoke)Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.
Parkin, B. T.Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)Wheatley, J. T. (Edinburgh, E.)
Paton, Mrs F. (Rushcliffe)Smith, S. H (Hull, S. W.)White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)
Pearson, A.Snow, J. W.Wigg, George
Peart, T. F.Solley, L. JWilkes, L
Perrins, W.Sorensen, R. W.Wilkins, W A
Piratin, P.Soskice, Maj. Sir FWilley, F T (Sunderland)
Platts-Mills, J. F. F.Sparks, J AWilley, O. G. (Cleveland)
Pools, Cecil (Lichfield)Stamford, W.Williams, D J (Neath)
Popplewell, E.Steele, T.Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Porter, E. (Warrington)Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Porter, G. (Leeds)Strauss, Rt. Hon. G (Lambeth, N.)Williams, W R (Heston)
Price, M. PhilipsStross, Dr. BWillis, E.
Proctor, W. T.Stubbs, A EWills, Mrs. E. A.
Pryde, D. J.Swingler, SWilmot, Rt. Hon. J
Pursey, Cmdr. H.Sylvester, G. O.Wilson, Rt. Hon. J H
Randall, H. E.Symonds, A. L.Wise Major F J
Ranger, J.Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)Woodburn, A
Rankin, J.Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)Woods, G. S.
Rees-Williams, D. R.Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)Wyatt, W
Reeves, J.Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)Yatas, V F
Reid, T. (Swindon)Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)Younger Hon. Kenneth
Richards, R.Thomas, John R. (Dover)Zilliacus, K
Ridealgh, Mrs. M.Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)Thurtle, ErnestMr. William Whiteley and
Mr. Robert Taylor
NOES.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Davidson, ViscountessHolmes, Sir J Stanley (Harwich)
Aitken, Hon MaxDavies, Clement (Montgomery)Howard, Hon. A.
Amory, D. HeathcoatDe la Bère, R.Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.
Anderson, Rt. Hn Sir J. (Scot. Univ.)Digby, S. W.Hurd, A
Assheton, Rt Hon RDodds-Parker, A. D.Hutchison, Lt.-Com. C. (E'b'rgh W.)
Astor, Hon. MDonner, P. W.Hutchison, Col. J R (Glasgow, C.)
Baldwin, A EDower, Lt.-Col A. V. G. (Penrith)Jarvis, Sir J
Barlow, Sir J.Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)Jeffreys, General Sir G.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.Drayson, G. B.Jennings, R
Beechman, N. A.Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.
Bennett, Sir P.Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (City of London)Kerr, Sir J. Graham
Birch, NigelDuthie, W. S.Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)Eccles, D. M.Lambert, Hon G
Bossom, A. C.Eden, Rt. Hon. A.Lancaster, Col C G
Bowen, RElliot, Rt. Hon. WalterLangford-Holt, J
Bower, NErroll, F JLaw, Rt Hon. R. K.
Boyd Carpenter, J. A.Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr E. L.Legge-Bourke, Maj E. A. H.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.Fletcher, W. (Bury)Lindsay, M. (Solihull)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.Foster, J. G. (Northwich)Linslead, H N
Bullock, Capt. M.Fox, Sir G.Lloyd, Maj Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Butcher, H. W.Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)Lloyd, Selywn (Wirral)
Butler, Rt Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.Low, A. R. W.
Byers, FrankGage, C.Lucas, Major Sir J
Carson, E.Gammans, L. D.Lucas-Tooth, Sir H
Challen, C.Glyn, Sir R.Lyttelton, Rt. Hon O.
Channon, H.Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.
Clarke, Col R. S.Gridley, Sir A.McCallum, Maj D
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. GGrimston, R. V.McCorquodale, Rt. Hon M S
Cole, T. L.Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)Macdonald, Sir P (I of Wight)
Conant, Maj R. J. EHare, Hon J. H. (Woodbridge)Mackeson, Brig. H. R.
Cooper-Key, E. M.Haughton, S. G.McKie, J. H. (Galloway)
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)Head, Brig A. H.Maclay, Hon. J S
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.Macmillan, Rt Hon. Harold (B'mley)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Henderson, John (Cathcart)Macpherson, N (Dumfries)
Crowder, Capt. John E.Herbert, Sir A. P.Maitland, Comdr J. W.
Cuthbert, W. N.Hollis, M. C.Manningham-Buller, R. E.
Marples, A. E.Price-White, Lt.-Col. DSutcliffe, H.
Marsden, Capt. A.Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Marshall, D. (Bodmin)Raikes, H. VTealing, William
Maude, J. C.Rayner, Brig. RThomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Medlicott, F.Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Mellor, Sir J.Renton, D.Thorp, Lt.-Col R. A. F.
Molson, A. H. E.Roberts, H. (Handsworth)Touche, G. C.
Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)Turton, R. H.
Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)Vane, W. M. F.
Morris-Jones, Sir H.Robinson, Wing-Comdr. RolandWakefield, Sir W. W.
Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)Ropner, Col. L.Walker-Smith, D.
Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cir'nc'ster)Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)Ward, Hon. G. R.
Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Nicholson, G.Sanderson, Sir FWebbe, Sir H. (Abbey)
Nield, B. (Chester)Scott, Lord W.Wheatley, Col. M. J. (Dorset, E.)
Noble, Comdr. A. H. PShephard, S. (Newark)White, Sir D. (Fareham)
Nutting, AnthonyShepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Odey, G. W.Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir WWilliams, C. (Torquay)
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.Smithers, Sir W.Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Orr-Ewing, I. L.Snadden, W. M.Willink, Rt. Hon. [...]. U.
Osborne, C.Spearman, A. C. M.Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Peake, Rt. Hon. O.Spence, H. R.Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Peto, Brig. C. H. M.Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.York, C.
Pickthorn, K.Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Pitman, I. J.Stoddart-Soott, Col. M.
Ponsonby, Col. C. E.Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)Studholme, H. G.Mr. Buchan-Hephurn and
Mr. Drewe.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.