I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I noticed from the reviews in the Press yesterday and today that it is not anticipated that anything very new will be said in the course of this Debate, but it is essential that we should thoroughly review the circumstances in which the Bill comes before us and consider again the arguments in its favour, as we are required to do by the Act which it seeks to amend.
The present Bill had its Second Reading after a two-day Debate on 11th November, 1947, and the Third Reading on 10th December of that year. It then went to another place. The Second Reading Debate began on 27th January, 1948, and was continued on 2nd, 3rd and 4th February. It was then interrupted for a conference of the party leaders, which took place in February and April of that year. That conference was concerned with both the composition of the other place and the powers that should be assigned to it.
The view of my noble and right hon. Friends who took part in the discussions there was that the appropriate decision to be reached on the question of the time to be taken after a Bill had first been read a Second time in this House was that it should not become law unless one year had elapsed from the first Second Reading or nine months from the first Third Reading. In the course of the resumed Debate on the Bill that was offered to the present unreformed House of Lords as well as to any reformed House of Lords that might be constituted in the future.
The representatives of the party opposite were prepared to agree to one year from the first Third Reading. The Liberals were prepared to accept the Government proposal, and expressed their regret that a difference of three months should have resulted in the abandonment of the proposals. We were bound to reject the Conservative proposal because that would still involve us in the wrecking of the fourth Session of Parliament if controversial legislation were introduced during that time. I shall try to paraphrase fairly what was said by the representatives of the party opposite. I understand that they take the view that the Lords should be able not only to ensure due consideration of their Amendments, which we believe that our proposal would have afforded them, but they think it also right to impose a period for reflection and for the mobilisation of public opinion between the completion of Parliamentary discussion on the first passage of a Bill through this House and its enactment against the will of another place. I hope that in an effort to summarise briefly I have not unfairly paraphrased what was then stated.
The result of these deliberations was that no agreement was reached, and the Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill was resumed in another place on 8th June, 1948, when the Bill was rejected. I think there is this comment to make upon those proceedings as compared with the proceedings in 1911. Whereas in 1911 the members of another place were quite confident that they were competent, unreformed, to participate in the legislative business of the country, that claim has now been completely abandoned, and I understand that no one who speaks with any responsibility believes it is right that another place, as at present constituted, should enjoy the powers which it even now retains, and that the reform of another place must be regarded as something which may prevent controversy but which we may assume all parties now desire to see.
In the second Session, on the second occasion that this Bill was brought forward, it had a Second Reading in this House on 20th September, 1948, and the Third Reading on 21st September, and it was rejected by the Lords on 23rd September, so that any rate on that occasion its life was not long. Now it comes up for the third time, and it will be sent to the Lords on some date after 11th November—the second anniversary of its first Second Reading in this House. The requirement of the Parliament Act, 1911, will then have been fully met and the Bill will, if again rejected by another place, be presented to His Majesty as provided by the Act of 1911 and will become the law of the land whether another place desires to see it so or not.
Oh, no. Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not forgotten the Welsh Disestablishment Bill and the Home Rule Bills that were passed just before the first World War? This is by no means the first time that this procedure has been used.
The Parliament Act, 1911—the major Act for this purpose—requires a Bill, other than a money Bill, which has to be passed under its provisions first to be passed in three successive Sessions by this House and, secondly, to be passed on the third occasion in this House after an interval of two years between its first Second Reading here, and its Third Reading on the third occasion. The effect of this Bill is to reduce from three to two the number of successive Sessions in which the Bill, enjoying the procedure of the Parliament Act, must be passed by this House and declares that the interval between its first Second Reading and its final passage to qualify shall be one year instead of the two now required.
There is also a provision—and this is a matter that has caused some controversy to a during the consideration of the Bill—by which this new procedure can be applied to a Bill which, having been rejected by the Lords in this Session, is again passed by this House next Session. That is a proposal which may become operative or may not, because no final decision has yet been reached on a Bill which it was thought by hon. Gentlemen opposite might have to be passed into law under this procedure. What the final result of those discussions will be, no one can yet say, but at any rate the Government will be forearmed to deal with any trouble that may arise.
This, therefore, is a quite simple Bill and its proposals have been adequately summarised in what I have said. It ensures for the party on this side of the House a further approach to equality with the party on the other side of the House when either side is in charge of the legislative programme of the Government. The disabilities which the House of Lords have inflicted on this House have in the lifetime of everyone here been reserved solely for the Governments of the left. In the lifetime of any person now alive the House of Lords have never interfered with a Tory Bill or hampered a Tory Government.
I sometimes think that the present Leader of the Opposition must get some grim satisfaction out of thinking that the party opposite is now prepared to accept as the veritable Ark of the Covenant the Bill which he introduced in 1911 and which he defended when he was Home Secretary. Certainly he was in no doubt as to what was the purpose of his Bill, any more than we are in doubt as to what is the purpose of our Bill. He said:
We seek no privilege, we desire to obtain no handicap, we look for no facility which you do not already and have not lone enjoyed. All we seek, all we ask, all we demand, all we are willing to take is political equality for all parties in the State. We wish to be placed by the Constitution in exactly the same position as you are in. We wish that a Liberal House of Commons shall have the same powers as you always enjoyed. We think that the millions of electors whom we represent are entitled to be admitted to as full and responsible citizenship, are just as competent to return Governments with pleniary powers as the millions of electors whom we freely admit support hon. Gentlemen opposite …
That, I think, summarises fairly the claim which we make. We shall still not have attained complete equality for it will still be possible for another place to reject a Bill passed in the fifth Session of a five-year Parliament and to deprive, the Government of the day of the opportunity of securing that Bill within the same Parliament; but at any rate we shall have reduced still more the inequalities between the two parties.
To sum up, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition did, in speaking to the Opposition of the day in a way that I sometimes hear objected to in these days, but it is good to know that the second personal pronoun was used as recently as 1911 by one of our most accomplished orators:
You have always known that what you could carry through the Commons, you could carry through the Lords. That is all we want tonight."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th August, 1911; Vol. 29 c. 906 and 908.]
And that is all we are asking for tonight.
We believe that the conditions have changed since 1911. It was then believed that two years would suffice a Government to bring in its controversial legislation after a General Election and that the remainder of the period would be spent in the development of that legislation and in its administration. Now it is quite clear that no matter what party is in power in the circumstances of these days, with the much wider range of Governmental activity—even apart from such controversial matters as nationalisation—it will be essential that Governments shall be able to assure themselves that they have more than two years in which they can carry out the programme that they have laid before the electors.
It is a very formidable disarrangement of any Government's plan to have to put a Bill into three sessional programmes in order to secure its passage. I do not know how the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) feels, but I think also that it has added considerable embarrassment to principal participants in the Debate. They have made at least six speeches in the course of two years in order that the matter can be disposed of. No future Government can be expected to be able adequately to conduct the business of the country if its arrangements for three Sessions have to be governed by the present procedure. In fact, it will be some embarrassment to a Government to have to put a Bill through twice, but we are quite prepared for the present to accept that as a reasonable way of dealing with the situation.
We are told—this is one of the few things, I think, that survives from the 1911 controversy—that in some magical way another place is on occasion better fitted than this House to decide what the electorate really wants. That claim we reject out of hand. Despite the immense growth of the electorate since 1911, Members of Parliament are more in touch with their constituents than ever before in the history of Parliament. I say that of both sides of the House. I am sure that any hon. Gentleman opposite who has a knowledge of politics going back for 30 years will agree that Members of Parliament of all parties are more closely in touch with their constituents consistently throughout the year than at the time the Parliament Bill of 1911 was passed. Therefore, whatever claim there was in 1911 that another place knew better than we did what the electorate was thinking must be very considerably weakened by the greater intimacy between Members of Parliament and their constituencies which has grown up in the interval.
Certainly, whatever may have been the case in 1911, it cannot be denied that this Government has no reason to fear that its supporters have lost touch with the electorate which returned them. For the first time since the Act of 1832 the Government has not lost a single seat at a by-election. Through four fateful years we have been consistently sustained by the electors whenever their opinion has been sought. Even the Government of 1906–1910 was not so sup-ported, because as early as 1908 Mr. Arthur Balfour announced that as they had lost a by-election in Mid-Devon their power to carry through a revolution had passed. The particular revolution to which he was referring was a Scottish Small Landholders Bill.
The Government which passed the 1911 Bill was not supported by an independent majority in this House. In that Parliament the numbers of Liberals and Tories were equal and the Government were sustained in power by 84 Nationalists and 42 Labour Members, the Liberals and Conservatives having 272 each. This Government has a homogeneous majority in this House and it intends to use it, not merely for this Bill but for carrying any other Measures that may come within the scope of the Bill.
Let us be perfectly frank and candid"—
I am quoting the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who said:
We do not want the Parliament Bill for itself alone; we want it to carry our measures; we want it to carry measures which if they had been in a Conservative programme, would have been carried long ago. We have gone through this struggle to make sure that we shall have the power of carrying a measure within the lifetime of a single Parliament.
Nor do we shrink from applying to this Measure the words of the same right hon. Gentleman on the same occasion—
We regard this measure as territory conquered by the masses from the classes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1911; Vol. 25, c. 1772–3.]
We are carrying on the campaign in the class war that was initiated so successfully by the right hon. Gentleman in 1911.
We believe that the House of Commons, deriving its power by direct election, by the widest possible electorate, must have the last word in any dispute between the two Houses.
The House of Commons, freely chosen to represent the electors, is the power which shapes policy and makes and maintains administration. The House of Lords, on the other hand, represents nobody
and cannot make any similar claim. We intend to secure that there shall be no doubt that to this unrepresentative body, no matter how constituted, shall be allotted the
subordinate role which must in every democratic country necessarily be assigned to the Second Chamber. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1911; Vol 25, c. 262.]
As the House will realise from the form of the words, that again is a quotation of the Leader of the Opposition. Walter Bagehot wrote:
The House of Commons needs to be impressive, and impressive it is: but its use resides not in its appearance, but in its reality. Its office is not to win power by aweing mankind, but to use power in governing mankind.
We believe that it has another task beside that: it also must use its power to serve mankind.
Authoritarian extremists on both sides sneer at the capacity of democracy both to govern and to serve in an era which has seen the annihilation of space and in which the range of our problems, domestic. Commonwealth and foreign, is wider than ever before. We cannot proceed if we are to discharge those tasks at the pace of 1911. These proposals of ours are moderate and have been before the country for two full years. They have aroused no opposition in the country whatsoever. We have twice previously sought the approval of the Lords to these moderate measures. When in 1947 I moved the first Third Reading of the Bill I said:
I see no reason—after the way in which it has been treated by the Opposition in this House and the sparsity of their attendance this afternoon—why this Bill should not speedily become law. I can think of no better Christmas present for democracy than that we should be able to get the Royal Assent to this Measure before we part for the Christmas Recess."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1947; Vol. 445, c. 1019–20.]
In asking for a Second Reading today, I have no doubt that by Christmas this
Bill will have been presented for the Royal Assent. This is the third and last time of asking.
I am sure the House will have sympathised with the right hon. Gentleman in the task whose difficulty he himself described, and will have noted that the more difficult the task that lay in front of him the more antiquated were the quotations on which he relied. I have one slight emendation of his description of the Bill. He said that on the second time of asking its life was not long. The right hon. Gentleman, as a student of Hobbes, would, I am sure, prefer my description of the Bill as, "nasty, brutish and short."
I want to make it quite clear that we on this side of the House do not retract one iota from the position which we have taken up. We have three objections to this Bill. In the first place, we say it is unnecessary and undesired; secondly, that it weakens the formation, expression and influence of public opinion between elections; and, thirdly, introduced and continued in two periods of unequalled economic difficulty, its deliberate purpose is to dislocate and disturb production—[Interruption]—let hon. Members wait—by facilitating the nationalisation of iron and steel. Let them take that. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, who usually performs the task of introducing this Bill on Second Reading, has attempted to make clear that there is no connection between this Bill and the Iron and Steel Bill. I quote his words on the last occasion:
I deny that this Bill was brought in for the purpose of ensuring the passage of the Iron and Steel Bill."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th September, 1948; Vol. 456, c. 526.]
The attitude of the Lord President, the attitude of the Home Secretary, with regard to this Bill has always seemed to me best expressed in the words of one of the Lord President's famous songs:
I'll walk beside you through the land of dreams.
Because the iron and steel industry has every hope that we shall be able to defeat the Bill. They have still been preserved from the attack and from the possibility of being managed by the latest selection of "boys" for whom further jobs must be found. That is why they are doing so well. But, as the Lord President has taken this attitude, I shall, of course, accept it and first of all deal with it on the basis he has propounded, that there is no connection with the Bill for nationalising iron and steel. Then I shall endeavour to relate the Lord President's dream life to realities and finally I shall indicate how we on this side of the House see the effect of the Bill at this time. Let us get clear what the party opposite propounded in regard to this Bill. In "Let Us Face the Future" the words were:
we will not tolerate obstruction of the people's will by the House of Lords.
Hon. Member's memories are too short to realise how pale and weak, not to say "pink" that is, compared with the forthright pronouncements on the same subject in 1918 and 1935. It is a completely watered down edition, and the point is, as they will agree, that it is only a mandate in regard to obstruction and nothing else.
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for providing me with such an excellent point. The statement with regard to iron and steel was:
Private monopoly has maintained high prices and kept inefficient high-cost plants in existence. Only if public ownership replaces private monopoly can the industry become efficient.
Hon. Members above the Gangway have just been pointing out with all the strength of their lungs how efficient the industry has become. The right hon. Gentleman should sometimes pay attention to what his colleagues say. I know they do not compare for profundity and clarity with his own announcements, but occasionally they are very interesting. This is what the right hon. Gentleman's noble colleague said in the House of Lords on 24th May:
I am not going to base the case which I shall submit to your Lordships on the question of efficiency or otherwise of this industry.
As the whole mandate was based on efficiency, whatever else Viscount Hall had done, he had thrown away whatever mandate the party opposite had in regard to iron and steel. I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for enabling me to make that point.
Leaving the question of mandates, having, I hope, suitably recognised the assistance of the Lord President of the Council, let me look to the point which follows. That is, was there obstruction up to the introduction of this Bill? Here the Lord President of the Council could not recognise any higher earthly authority, because I am going to quote himself. He will remember what he said in November, 1946:
Members of the House of Lords co-operate to the full in respecting the wishes of the British democracy as expressed in the so-called Lower House. So we have seen the remarkable and characteristically British spectacle of a Chamber with a large Right Wing majority passing one nationalization Bill after another. The rarity of a conflict"—
said the right hon. Gentleman—
between the Lords and the Commons is nowadays so great that most people take the smooth working of the two Houses for granted.
So the right hon. Gentleman had no sinister ideas in November, 1946. Let us move forward to the period just before he introduced this Bill. Again moving with some trepidation from the right hon. Gentleman to his noble colleague, I quote what was said in the House of Lords on 9th September, 1947, by Lord Hall:
I freely and gladly acknowledge, not only on my own behalf but on behalf of His Majesty's Government"—
there is no question of any personal thing; he was speaking as the agent among others of the Lord President—
that noble Lords opposite have hitherto used their majority here in a moderate and statesmanlike way and in a manner which has given us on this side of the House no real or reasonable ground for complaint.
Let me move on another three months. I am sure that this example will appeal to the Lord President of the Council. This is a quotation from Lord Ammon. Let me hasten to add that he was then the Government's Chief Whip in the House of Lords but he was just commencing—and the Lord President will appreciate this—to show that quality of speaking his own mind and the truth which led to his ultimate discomfiture and dismissal. Lord Ammon said:
I don't believe any critic of the House of Lords can look around the world and find any Second Chamber he likes better than ours.
That is what the Chief Whip of the present Government in the House of Lords said.
The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that I could quote many other tributes just as clear as those. I think that on the last occasion I exampled the "noble nine" colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman in the House of Lords varying between earls, viscounts, barons—almost every degree of the Peerage—who in speaking for the right hon. Gentleman's party were fervent in their admiration for the Second Chamber. I do not want to leave it as being proved merely out of the minds of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite because their minds change so often that people might think them an unsuitable basis for my argument. Let me put it on the basis of what they have actually done.
I see in this House a number of familiar faces of Members who were engaged on the Transport Act. After that Measure left this House with some 31 Clauses and five Schedules totally undiscussed, it went to the House of Lords. The Government introduced 139 Amendments there, and the Opposition had 91 Amendments accepted. The Town and Country Planning Act is a measure in regard to which I have yet to discover anyone in the country who has praised the state in which it left this House. I have heard a good deal of language to the contrary which you, Mr. Speaker, would not allow me to quote even within the latitude of this Debate. Still the Lords, after all, did something to clear up that Augean stable. The Government Amendments numbered 289 and the Opposition Amendments accepted were 47. Even in the case of the Electricity Act, which was not on such a scale, the numbers were 107 and 81 respectively.
I think that the best point for the right hon. Gentleman to take down, if he will do me that honour, is a quotation from his colleague the Lord Chancellor, in June, 1948, when he summed up the position. He said that on the ten major Bills of the year 1946–47—I will spare you, Mr. Speaker, my going through the list; you are only too familiar with them from the Debates in this House:
the House of Lords have moved and carried 1,222 Amendments. Of those carried only 57—less than 5 per cent.—have been rejected in another place.
The Lord President will of course greet with a certain coldness the improvements which have been made to his pet nationalisation proposals, but now let me give an example which he and the Home Secretary ought to remember with deep gratitude. That is the action of the House of Lords in regard to the death penalty. I am afraid I have said this before, and I only repeat it because the words are those of a most respected member of the Labour movement, and I hope that no one will think that I am being facetious about that. I am referring to the late Mr. Lees-Smith. I had the greatest respect and affection for him, as hon. Gentlemen opposite had, and I should not like anyone to think that my words were meant in anything but the most sincere sense. He said:
A section of a party is not more than an insistent minority in a party, and is only a fraction of the people as a whole. Yet under a system of party government it may impose its view on the whole nation.
That was the position here.
A pressure group in this House imposed its wishes on the House contrary to the views of Ministers, especially the Home Secretary, who spoke against the views of the pressure group not only with all his own power but with the authority of his great office. Despite that the Resolution or the Amendment for the abolition of the death penalty was carried. The House of Lords threw it out, correctly interpreting, in the opinion of the great majority of people in this House and in the country, the view of the country.
The matter did not stop there. The right hon. Gentleman came back with what was known as the "comic compromise." I am sorry to dig up these unfortunate memories, but the right hon. Gentleman will remember to what I am referring. It was a Clause by which if one made more than one attempt to kill one's wife or had more than one friend to help one, one was liable to be hanged; if one killed one's wife with one stroke of the club and without assistance, one was not hanged. That is what I mean by the "comic compromise," which was thrown out by the House of Lords. The House of Lords alone prevented our criminal law from being the laughing stock of the world.
There is the example. The right hon. Gentleman has said, "How can anyone claim that in these days the House of Lords can ever interpret public opinion better than this House?" They have done so in the lifetime of this Parliament, and on one of the issues which ordinary people in the country regard as of great importance to their safety and their lives. Therefore, it is clear that both opinion and statistics have demonstrated that there has not been obstruction but co-operation and improvement in the time of this Parliament.
The only remaining argument for the Bill is that a Socialist Government receives unequal treatment as compared with a Conservative Government. But as the right hon. Gentleman knows, and I admit was so quick to say so that he could say it before I did, all parties are now agreed on a change in the composition of the House of Lords, and the answer to that point is a change in composition so that no one party is guaranteed a majority in the House of Lords.
I again remind the House of the points in paragraph 5 of the agreed statement, and I suggest that they would command general agreement today. In that paragraph it is stated:
The Home Secretary said there was a change of view. I am sure that was a momentary lapse of memory on his part, because if he looks over his brief before last he will see that the House of Lords in 1910 passed a resolution in exactly the terms of the third of these, as to hereditary not being of itself sufficient qualification. But that is the answer, and that is a fair answer. We are prepared to put forward suggestions for such a Second Chamber. We are prepared to accept the principle that there should be a change in composition. But of course, the Government cannot rely on that, because their attitude is that they would refuse sufficient delay even to a modernised House. They desire such a period of delay as takes away the powers of the revising Chamber, and therefore reduces its responsibility in dealing with the matters referred to it.
I wish to make clear that we on this side of the House hold ourselves free to reform the composition of the House of Lords and to give it such powers as we think right, not of course exceeding the flowers that are contained in the 1911 Act. Where I join issue with the right hon. Gentlemen opposite is that I say that a Second Chamber must have greater powers of delay than this Bill gives in order to do its revising duties. I have dealt with that point at some length before, and I am very anxious not to repeat matters lengthily again. But I make the distinction, and I suggest that legislation must allow it, that apart from points of principle and Amendments which would be wrecking Amendments and would wreck the Bill, there are secondary points of policy and there are points of clarification; and unless a revising Chamber can deal with secondary points of policy as well as mere clarification, that revising Chamber cannot do its work.
I put it to right hon. Gentlemen opposite, how much attention would they pay to suggestions of a revising Chamber on secondary points of policy if its power was only to delay the passage of a Bill by four months or five months, which this proposal really amounts to? I would ask the Lord President to consider the point, because I know he has a great interest in the working of the machinery of Government, though we disagree as to many points. But one of the great weaknesses of our Parliamentary Government at the moment is the failure still to have some machinery for discussion of subsidiary legislation. The right hon. Gentleman may have different views as to how much there can be, but that is one of the great problems to which we have to find a solution if we are to achieve concurrently quickness of legislation and yet examination of legislation.
I believe again that if we had a modernised second Chamber we could easily devise, by a discussion of draft orders, as opposed to final orders, a method which would allow not only for acceptance or rejection, but for amendment and suggestions for amendment of subsidiary instruments. I believe it is on that sort of point, if we really consider the working of the Parliament machine today, that the second Chamber would be immensely useful. But the main point I make is that nobody would listen to a secondary Chamber which had not substantial delaying powers. Up to the present the Amendments on secondary points of policy made by the House of Lords during this Parliament have been accepted and it has been admitted, as I have proved, that Bills have been improved by so doing.
I ask the House to look at the actualities of the present delaying powers. One cannot get away from the position. A difficult and complicated Bill is generally introduced into this House in November. That means that the Committee stage is concluded somewhere about the following Easter, or the middle of April or thereabouts. Then we have the Report stage and Third Reading. There is a great deal of work to be done between Committee stage and Report, because of the Amendments and the things which it has been promised will he looked at; and we are lucky if we get the Third Reading by Whitsuntide. That means that the House of Lords get the Bill somewhere in the middle, or at the end, of June. Then they consider it and make their suggestions, or if they reject it, they will probably reject it sometime in July.
The right hon. Gentleman has always taken the view that public opinion can begin to crystallise as soon as a Bill has been introduced. I say, with such changes that have appeared in the Bills introduced in this Parliament between introduction and Third Reading, that it is impossible to ask that public opinion should begin to crystallise until the public have seen the form in which the Bill leaves this House, Therefore, if we take it from that time we get a period of six months. If we take it from the time that Bills leave the House of Lords to the time they are introduced again it is four months; or from the time they leave the House of Lords until they become law, it is five months. I suggest it is idle to say that in that time we can get public opinion formed, expressed and crystallised on difficult points such as this.
Of course, there is a far deeper and more significant difference of opinion between the Government and ourselves on this point. The Government take the view—I think the Lord President is most committed to it—that once a Parliament is elected for a period of five years, the majority party in Parliament, however close be the aggregate of votes, then becomes the sole repository of public opinion and is thereby commissioned to legislate in any manner they like up to the end of the Parliament. In fact, the election views of the right hon. Gentleman can be described in the somewhat trite couplet of Pope:
For forms of government let fools contest;
Whate'er is best administer'd is best.
That is a good epigram, but the negation of democracy by discussion.
On the other hand, we believe that public opinion is a dynamic and growing reality which is continually being formed and expressed and that between elections effect must be given to that living force. That is the difference between us. If the right hon. Gentleman asks me to give an example, I would refer him to the one which I gave, and which he enjoyed so much a short time ago and which is in the experience of this House, with regard to the death penalty. On that difference in our political outlook, between opinion that the periodic expression of public opinion gives untrammelled rights to a Government for a period of five years, and our opinion that we must in a civilised Parliamentary machine find some way by which the growing public opinion between elections is recognised—and if necessary given effect to—I agree that there is a gulf. I have not the slightest compunction in standing firm with my hon. and right hon. Friends on our conception that public opinion is no mere periodic weed; it is a steadily growing plant. That forms the composition of our opposition to this Bill.
I have exhausted the argument on the merits of the Bill on the highly hypothetical basis of the Lord President that it is not connected with the Iron and Steel Bill; but, as the right hon. Gentleman has queried this connection, I should like to ask the Lord President to consider the evidence on which we say that that view of his is more related to dreams than to reality. First it commences, as the right hon. Gentleman would expect, with a statement of the Minister of Health on 17th October, 1947. He said:
We shall nationalise the steel industry and we shall not accept any constitutional obstruction. We do not permit the House of Lords to set aside the will of the people.
That was followed, as the right hon. Gentleman no doubt expected, by a statement in the "Tribune" in practically the same words and actually on the same day. Then a week later there was the statement of which I have reminded him and of which we have discussed certain metaphysical aspects before. I refer to the statement in the "New Statesman" of 25th October, which said quite bluntly:
By his decision to curb the power of the Lords the Prime Minister has averted the danger of a split in his own ranks on the issue of Iron and Steel. The Lord President of the Council has won his point that nationalisation should be postponed until 1949, and the Minister of Health has agreed on the understanding that the House of Lords shall not be permitted to kill the Bill when introduced next session, by the use of the two-year veto.
It is rather curious, in view of the right hon. Gentleman's protestations of absence of connection, how the matter builds up from a statement by the Minister of Health, a statement in the "Tribune," a statement in the "New Statesman" and then, of course, the intervention of the
right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) four days later. He said:
Had the Steel Bill been introduced this Session, the need for the use of the Parliament Act as it was passed might have arisen, but no need would have arisen for tinkering with it …. I regard this as a very doubtful political expedient on which we are entering this Session."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 29th October, 1947; Vol, 443, c. 896.]
I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Llandaff and Barry (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas) is not here. He has been present at our other Debates. A few days later he said:
The reality of this Debate is … whether or not the Government is to be enabled to carry the Iron and Steel Bill through or not."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1947 Vol. 444, c. 141.]
And you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I might remind you of far off but, I hope, happy days, made a statement to the same effect shortly afterwards. It is true—and here, Sir, I except you entirely—that certain of the other persons I have mentioned have assumed the lambskin and been caught in the thicket of recantation in subsequent Debates. But even so, it is difficult, when one finds that conglomeration and rising tide of evidence, to believe that the right hon. Gentleman is accurate in his recollection or that his dreams have not invaded the territory of his actual life.
I never like to leave the right hon. Gentleman merely comforted by these helpful remarks of his colleagues because, after all, he is entitled to an argument on the merits. Let us consider the Bill now before us. In the proviso of its one Clause there is a method of altering the constitution retrospectively from the date when it receives the Royal Assent. I submit that it is clearly designed to carry the Iron and Steel Bill—to carry it by a method which is wrongful and bad. Hitherto Bills which made a change in the constitution have taken effect from the time when they were passed. A citizen should not have to take the risk of what is at present the legal basis of his personal actions being destroyed by future legislative proposals.
If anyone says that this argument is legalistic, I reply that I happen to be proud of the fact that the fundamental concepts of English law are in accordance with the fundamental English views of fair play. This form of legislation is cheating of a particularly degrading sort —namely, altering the rules of the game for one's own advantage when in the middle of play. Therefore, I say that on that basis this is a bad Bill designed to force through another bad Bill, and that the Government are prepared to twist the constitution to get their own way.
But the matter does not end there. A Bill such as this would be bad enough at any time. But legislation is not an abstract thing. It must be considered in the light of the circumstances in which it comes before us. This Bill came before us first when we were enjoying the crisis specially owned and under aegis of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—the crisis of 1947. As the House will remember—as the House should remember—before Marshall Aid came in the next year that was a very considerable crisis indeed. In fact, the Bill seemed to be introduced to distract attention from the last whistle of the millions of our American Loan going down the drain. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Gentleman wish to intervene?
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly fair, and I take a sortie in relief of his hard-pressed leaders with the good temper which the hon. Gentleman always commands from me, but let me put this point. It is one which I hope he will think worthy of consideration even if he disagrees with it. The Bill was introduced at a time when we were suffering under the first dollar crisis and making the most serious speeches about its effect. It is continued today at a time when all the Ministers on the Government Front Bench are impressing upon us that we have a trade deficit, that only American aid stands between us and millions of unemployed at once, that our currency is devalued and our prices are going up, and they tell us again and again that only stupendous efforts can prevent disaster.
It is at this time that the Bill is continued, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy, in his merry way and in a tone devoid of all party feeling—I am sure everyone must have felt that—said that, when the Lords had had it, they would have "had it." [Interruption.] I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite find that this is an amusing attitude, but I venture to put to them the suggestion that, if the Government make calls upon national unity and for greater efforts, and, at the same time, introduce Bills which have nothing to do with our present difficulties, except that they exaggerate them, then we are getting into a very curious position.
The Prime Minister has said that our attitude is that we want the Government to adopt a Tory policy. I suggest that that is quite the wrong way of regarding the present position. The only Measure in this Parliament which can be affected by this Bill is the Iron and Steel Bill. Lord Hall, for the Government, has expressly said—and I have already quoted his words—that the case for the nationalisation of iron and steel was not based on grounds of efficiency at all. There is, therefore, no question that the Government admit, through the mouth of their official spokesmen, that iron and steel is not being nationalised in order to increase efficiency or improve productivity in the country today.
Therefore, I say that even a Socialist Government, and even the Prime Minister, since his own colleague admits that the Iron and Steel Bill has nothing to do with the efficiency of the industry, might well postpone a controversial matter for some period of armistice which even his mind might be prepared to support until we have done something to escape from the crisis in which the efforts of his Government have landed us.
Further, I say that, as the Government will not do that, the inference is perfectly clear. We on this side of the House, and a few hon. Gentlemen on the other side as well, have recognised that the present Parliament Act operates whether a General Election takes place or not. If the Government press for a Measure, which they admit has nothing to do with the crisis, being passed before a General Election, it can only be because they are completely convinced that they will be routed and defeated when that election comes. Otherwise, there would be no reason for taking this action at all.
I submit further that in the ordinary way it is a bad thing to press for legislation which it is known will be defeated when an appeal to the country is made, but to do it at a time when the Members of the Government themselves are always going about urging the seriousness of the crisis and calling for co-operation, showing how near the verge of the abyss we are and the effect on employment in this country that might take place in certain circumstances unless that effort is made—in these circumstances, and in a period like the present, to persist in this Bill as the pilot Bill for another Bill to nationalise iron and steel is, in by view, the quintessence of irresponsibility.
It is for that reason that this is no mere rehearsal; this is not just going through the movements for another time. This is the expression of a view which we on these benches feel strongly, and, indeed, more strongly than ever before, because that irresponsibility which the Government has shown really requires only the old Cromwellian answer:
Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.
I suppose hon. Members on all sides of the House approach this Bill rather in the same way as the customers approached the pies of the cook in Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." The Bill, like the pies, has been
Twice hot and twice cold,
so I will pass immediately, if I may, to a review of the arguments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe). First, he reproached my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for going back to 1910, and he asked whether we could not have some more modern precedent. Of course, we could, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself passed over in silence, and for obvious reasons, some modern precedents. He mentioned what the House of Lords resolved in 1910, but omitted to say what reforms they had decided upon in 1932, and the reason was perfectly clear, because in 1932 Lord Salisbury's reforms were almost openly designed to erect a bulwark against Socialism; they were almost directly designed for that very purpose.
Perhaps whoever is to reply for the other side tonight will tell us whether, if this Bill is carried, as we all presume it will be, it is going to be part of the election programme of the party opposite to restore the powers of the House of Lords as they exist at present. I think we are entitled to a straight answer to that question.
The arguments put out by the right hon. and learned Gentleman were really very weak. He quoted the death penalty as an illustration that the House of Lords is available to defeat a free vote of this House. If that is the prototype of democracy put forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite, I do not think it is a particularly strong argument.
Secondly, the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the House of Lords is a very good revising Chamber. Of course, if our present procedure requires the presence of another Chamber for revision purposes, that is a criticism of Parliamentary procedure as a whole, and not a reason or justification for the House of Lords as it exists at this moment. Then, the right hon. and learned Gentleman advised my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council sometimes to pay attention to what is said by his colleagues.
Would the hon. Gentleman allow me? I would like to draw his attention to some words that were used by a prominent Member of his Party in a Debate on 20th September last year:
If in the process of that examination—
that is, of a reconstituted Chamber—
it was found desirable to return any powers which the House had lost, and that was an all-party recommendation, as I always agree with all-party recommendations myself, I should not dissent from it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th September, 1948; Vol. 456, c. 565.]
I am perfectly willing to give way to any hon. Member, even if he wants to search through the whole of the volumes of HANSARD to find the appropriate quotations, but I think, perhaps, it would be more suitable if hon. Members found the quotations before they took up the time of the House.
There are arguments in favour of a thorough reform of our whole Parliamentary procedure, and it might be a good thing to have a Debate on them when this question could be properly canvassed. What I wish to deal with are the arguments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in which he said to my right hon. Friend the Lord President that he should sometimes pay attention to what his colleagues say. If I may return the compliment, I would say that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should sometimes pay attention to what his colleagues have done. Of course, there is, after all, a precedent on this question of how long there should be delay—what is the right length for delay of a Second Chamber.
The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was a Member of the Coalition Government in 1920, and that Government set about considering and constructing a Constitution. It was the last occasion that this House constructed a Constitution, and, of course, one of the questions which came up in so doing was what should be the proper length of time for a delay of the Second Chamber. What was the decision? Not two years and three Sessions, but two Sessions and no limit of time. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman takes the trouble to look at Section 17 of the Government of Ireland Act—which was supported both by the Conservative and the Liberal Parties—he will find that that is the limit of time which the Senates in Southern or Northern Ireland are capable of holding up legislation. We are at least entitled to know why hon. Members opposite have changed their views since that time. If that was a proper limit then what is the point of having a longer one now?
I will now come to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's next point. He said that the object of this Bill was a deliberate attempt to discourage production. I think that if there were a very old Member of this House present—and I am sorry that the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) is not here, because he would remember it—he would recall the great speech made by Lord Birkenhead on Welsh Disestablishment. He may also remember that in that speech Lord Birkenhead used an exactly similar type of language to that used by the right hon. and learned Gentleman as to the effect on Welsh Disestablishment, and drew down from G. K. Chesterton a poem entitled, "Chuck it, Smith."
The right hon. and learned Member's next point which, if I may say so, he failed to put with the same clarity as his Leader the right hon. Member for Woodford, was the argument about checks and balances—that it is desirable to have another House which provides checks and balances: as the right hon. Member for Woodford said, a system of balanced rights and divided authority. I do not suppose the right hon. and learned Gentleman would dissent from that. If that is really what is required, there is a very simple method of reforming the other place which, I regret to say, was not thought of by the parties of learned men who considered the matter.
If it is really desired to have another place which is the mirrored image of this House—that is to say, when one sees the crowded Government Benches and one looks in the mirror at the other place, one sees equally crowded Opposition Benches—then it would be very simple of achievement. All it is necessary to do is to provide that in every election the unsuccessful candidate who comes next in the poll should be entitled to a seat in the other place. There is the most perfect system of checks and balances. Not only that, but it provides every single advantage which hon. Members opposite have claimed for the other place. It would undoubtedly contain a high proportion of experienced statesmen; there would be every shade of opinion.
Think how the discussions on agricultural questions would be strengthened if, instead of merely having a Second Chamber composed of landowners, we had the sturdy voice of Farmer Hancock, the opponent in the last General Election of the right hon. Member for Woodford. Why is this simple solution rejected? Surely, one reason is that hon. Members opposite—though, of course, they do not dare to admit it—look for only one sort of check—a check on a Socialist or a Radical Government. That is their sole reason for objecting to any logical form of reform.
Now let me come to the right hon. and learned Member's final argument, which, possibly, he considered the most powerful. He said that what we really need is a better form of the House of Lords which is willing to give expression to the living force. I do not suppose that that could be said of the present Second Chamber, but, if the Second Chamber is capable of reform, why was not that done long ago? Every Conservative Conference—or, possibly, there may be some exceptions, and the right hon. and learned Member will correct me if I am wrong—has recommended the reform of the House of Lords.
Two answers seem to me to fall from that. Either the Conservative Party are incapable of carrying out their own policy and incapable of doing what their conferences continually request them to do—in which case it would be most undesirable to have this most irresponsible number of Conservatives in another place—or else they genuinely desire to reform the other place, but cannot do so because they find it impossible of reform. If reform is impossible, then I think that in the House of Lords we are faced with a very considerable danger. Here is a sleeping volcano which has been quiescent for so long that one does not appreciate what would happen if it were to erupt, because, after all, the position has been very much the same for the last 80 years.
I shall trouble the House for a moment with a quotation from that great constitutional authority Walter Bagehot, who wrote of the situation in the years 186070. He said:
A severe though not unfriendly critic of our institutions said that the cure for admiring the House of Lords was to go and look at it—to look at it not on a great party field-day, or at a time of parade, but in the ordinary transaction of business. There are, perhaps ten peers in the House, possibly only six; three is the quorum for transacting business. A few more may dawdle in or not dawdle in; those are the principal speakers, the lawyers (a few years ago when Lyndhust, Brougham, and Campbell were in vigour, they were by far the predominant talkers) and a few statesmen whom every one knows. But the mass of the House is nothing … A very shrewd man of the world went so far as to say 'the House of Commons has more sense than
any one in it.' But there is no such 'sense' in the House of Lords, because there is no life. The Lower Chamber is a chamber of eager politicians; the Upper (to say the least) of not eager ones.
But what would happen if they were to become eager?—and there are very ominous signs of that at the moment. There is one very effective barometer of what takes place in another place, and that is the number of Peers who have not troubled to take the Oath. At present it stands at the surprisingly low figure of 198. Only one quarter of the Peers have decided not to take the Oath, which indicates a surprising and most unusual interest in the affairs of their Chamber which up to now has not been displayed.
Taking the statistics of the period between the two wars in contrast, the average attendance then was only some 35, and only on 13 occasions did a division exceed 200. I ask hon. Members to consider that even in my urban district council elections if we get a poll of only 25 per cent., which is what that is, we consider we have done very badly and that there is a lack of public interest. It is very hard to defend a body of hereditary legislators who take their duties far more slackly than do the inhabitants of a dormitory constituency in the suburbs.
To give one more example, the average number of Peers who made more than one speech in a year in the inter-war years was only 98. But what would happen if they became more active?—and that is the danger which faces us. We have a House where there are no Rules of Order, where there is no Closure, where there is no Government majority and where there are over 800 Members. Such a Chamber, if it is active, cannot exist for any effective purpose; if it is active it exists by its mere amorphous bulk as a most tremendous block in the whole legislative machine. If it is not active we are reduced to the ridiculous paradox that in a time when we are demanding from everybody greater production, we commend as the highest type of political activity and wisdom practically total absenteeism in, our highest Chamber. The late Mr. Ramsay Muir said of the other place, that it was the common fortress of wealth. I am very glad to see that my hon. Friends have breached that fortresss and I hope that whatever else we do, we shall see that those breaches are kept open.
I hope to deal with the remarks of the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) in the course of a minute or two, but first I should like to comfort the Home Secretary in regard to his doubts as to whether there is anything new to say about this Bill. I hope I shall not disappoint him. As this is the first time that I have spoken on this Bill, I have deliberately refrained from refreshing my memory by reading the Official Report of the previous Debates. I did not want to furnish my mind with arguments cither for or against. I wanted, so far as I possibly could, to bring a fresh and detached attitude to bear upon the problem. Therefore, if I appear to be guilty in any way of either repetition or plagiarism, I hope the House will forgive me.
I must, however, comment on one remark which the Home Secretary made. He said that this Bill had been before the country for two years and that during that time the country had obviously given it its deep consideration. What humbug that is. The Home Secretary knows as well as I do how politically stupid many of our people are. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, we should not have had the result of the 1945 Election otherwise. That is quite clear. Our hope and anticipation is that the Government themselves are educating the people so that in 1950 we shall have the reverse result of the 1945 Election, which will show what disillusionment can do to people.
Since the Home Secretary and his supporters appear to have some doubts about what I am saying, may I tell them a true story. It happened quite recently within the last couple of years in my constituency. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), as the House will no doubt remember, had been invited to come up to Ayr to receive the freedom of that ancient and royal burgh. He came and, as usual, everyone fell down and worshipped altogether there was a very happy atmosphere and a good time was had by all. Shortly afterwards my friends and I in the constituency thought that in the aura of my right hon. Friend's recent visit it might be a good thing to carry out a canvass to find out exactly the attitude of the people now as compared with 1945, when of course we had no one to carry out a canvass in the Conservative Party. They were all fighting or doing something else in the country's service.
The canvass was duly arranged. The lady who was conducting it went up the close, up the front stairs, to the door on the left and knocked at it. She was duly admitted, and she said, "I am canvassing for the Unionist Party"—as we called in Scotland—"Mr. Churchill's party, you know." The lady said, "I am all for Mr. Churchill. I will certainly join." She signed on the dotted line and gave the canvasser half-a-crown. The canvasser went across the passage to the other door, when the lady who had just signed up said, "There is no use going to that Mrs. Macpherson. She is all for that bastard Moore."
As my story is now completed, I do not propose to do it again and use the word to which exception has been taken.
That story shows that there is certainly a lack of political knowledge in the country which, as I have said, the result of the 1945 Election clearly showed. It seems to me particularly appropriate that this Bill should follow so closely on the so-called crisis Motion of last week. The Government have displayed exactly the same fiddling, fumbling attitude towards this matter which they always show when they deal with great national issues or controversial matters. They are afraid to grasp the nettle firmly. It is that fear more than anything else which has led to disillusionment among the Government's followers and resentment and criticism from their opponents. They failed last week to appreciate the mood and the feeling of the people, and they have failed again in this Bill which we are discussing today. They are frightened either to abolish the other place or to reform it. They know that if they were to try direct abolition they would find the great broad mass of the people against them, whereas if they sought to effect some reasonable reform of the Upper Chamber they would lose the target for their venom and spleen on the platform and on the soapbox.
The Government have realised that abolition, as an argument, is a cock that will not fight since, contrary to what was said by the hon. Member for Hornchurch, who read out something which happened 100 years ago, the people have come to trust the House of Lords for two definite and precise reasons. First, because its members are more objective and certainly more intelligent than ourselves. Secondly, because its members have obviously no axe to grind, no votes to catch and no vendettas to discharge—and that has led to their high standing today amongst the country as a whole.
To reform would be even more dangerous to the Government for, of course, as we have heard already in the Debate, reconstitution or reform would inevitably mean increased and adequate powers being granted to the reformed Chamber. That, of course, is the very last thing that this dictatorial Government, with a policy based on "We are the masters now," could afford to risk. That is the real reason for their venom and is largely the reason for this Bill.
I do not imagine for one minute that the Lord President of the Council cares two hoots for this Bill or a tinker's cuss for the Steel Bill. All he is concerned with, in my opinion—although I may be doing him an injustice, and I hope he will react accordingly when he winds up—is seeing that he and his party and his Government are returned to office so as to obtain the privileges and power and the patronage which modern governments can control. He thinks—and again, in my opinion, wrongly—that if the Prime Minister can go to the country and put his hand on his heart next year and say, "We have carried out all the pledges that we gave you in 1945," that that will have some sort of mesmeric effect on the electorate which they so deluded then and which is so disillusioned now.
Thinking the thing over dispassionately, one might ask why should the Government display any venom towards the worthy Lord Addison and seek to take away his known capacity to advise the Minister of Health on how to build more and cheaper houses? Of course, the not-so-worthy Lord Ammon might certainly now be the target for some of their spleen because, after all—and who should know better than he, with his 30 years' experience of the Socialist Party—he found the one correct description for his own Government. Indeed, few on this side of the House, with all our knowledge and experience, could excel his description of the Government's mental capacity. "Crazy" was very apt.
I wonder if there is yet any possibility of converting this Government to sanity. I doubt it, but if there is I should like to recall to them that a Committee sat to deal with this problem in 1929. It was a Committee with exactly the same purpose as that of the Committee which sat last year—to find out whether there was a way, which would appeal to all sections of the community, to reform the House of Lords and to make it a suitable instrument for its purpose. As a matter of fact, I think the late Lord Salisbury was in the chair. In those discussions many wise, useful and far-sighted suggestions were made. Of course, they were not made so much with the object of reform but with the object of bringing the House of Lords up to date so as to meet the modern trend, the modern thoughts, and the modern feelings of our people, without in any way destroying or altering its fundamental character as a revising Chamber.
One of the most appropriate suggestions which was made—and I cannot remember who exactly made it—was that the House of Lords should consist of about 400 members and should be, made up as follows—and I remember the figures: one hundred should be elected by the Members of the House of Lords themselves as that would, of course, retain to some slight extent the hereditary system in which many people still believe. After all, we have to satisfy every section of the community and we can do that only by compromise. Of course, that system would ensure that the Peers would be represented by their own Members—Members who had given useful and distinguished service in their House. It was suggested that the second hundred should be elected by Members of the House of Commons, so maintaining the purely-elective principle and thereby ensuring, of course, that democracy would have its pound of flesh, since the House of Commons consists of elected representatives of the people. The third hundred, it was suggested, should be elected by the great representative trade unions and the fourth hundred by the great professions. So, it was advanced in those days, we should have a Chamber which was a broad cross-section of the whole political, industrial and professional life of our country.
The Committee then, of course, came up against the exact snag and trouble which that conference of Party leaders came up against last year—what powers should be accorded to the new revised Chamber, since it was obvious from the character of the new Chamber that it would demand powers adequate to its new stature. The Committee failed to come to an agreement on the question of powers, just as they failed to reach an agreement at the conference last year, but some scheme of this sort must inevitably be adopted. Why, therefore, cannot the Government take their wit and their courage and their imagination in their hands and adopt it now, instead of proceeding with this fiddling, niggling and utterly unsuitable Measure?
There is one further remark I should like to make, and it concerns the present position of the Government. To my mind they must do something to assure the people whose support, at the moment, it would appear they have irrevocably lost, that they have as the basis of their activities, service not to one section of the community, but to all. They have given the impression that they serve only one section of the community and were elected by only one section. That is bad and it leads me to my final remarks. It seems to me that somehow or other—and it has been more obvious lately—our standards have slipped. We no longer, either as Government or as a people, seem to have as our ideal that of doing what is right and good and honourable.
We seem merely to be eager now to do only what is expedient. That is bad for our country and it is bad for the world which, oddly enough, still looks to us for a lead. I think we shall never recover that moral leadership of the world which we held so firmly, and which we thought established for so long in 1945, until we go back to the teachings of Christ which, of course, involves service. That means that we must start by walking backwards, and by recovering or trying to recover, that ideal of service. If we do recover it then I believe that, as a nation, we shall live and I believe also we shall lead again.
Before developing my own theory on the constitution of the House of Lords, I should like to make reference to the two previous Opposition speeches. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), who opened for the Opposition, spent 50 minutes in trying to prove that the powers of the House of Lords, as present constituted, should not be reduced and he succeeded in proving that it was necessary to revise the Chamber. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) sought to establish the stupidity and ignorance of the people—and that appeared to be his prime objective in the first part of his speech. He must have been talking, of course, of the people of his own division, of whom he knows most. He wound up by proving the great need for the revising of this Chamber and the necessity for service.
That is the reason why the Labour Party came into existence—to give service to the community. We have come here not to serve a section of the people, as the Tory Party has done for so many years. We have come here to serve the community. That is why the nation sent us here—to serve it. He came with an open mind here to deal with this problem, and he had in his hand a closed book from which he was quoting his speech.
I want to deal now with the question of the democratic constitution of the House of Lords. No democrat can reconcile in his own mind the existence of the House of Lords as it is at present constituted with any democratic principle. The sovereignty of a democratic country resides in the Parliament which is elected by the people, and not in an undemocratic body such as the House of Lords. It seems to me a negation of democracy, the negation of what Lincoln called "Government of the people, for the people, by the people."
We have been called upon to yield to the undemocratic institution which we now call the House of Lords. But the time has come to deal with it. The fast moving events of this 20th century of ours demand that it should be dealt with, and we tonight are dealing with this as an important matter. If we as a Labour Government do not deal with the question of the House of Lords the nation will ask us why we have not dealt with it. There is an impression, right or wrong, among the working people of this country that the House of Lords has been and is a pillar of the capitalist system and is reactionary in character, and should, therefore, be either revised or abolished. We are, as we were told in a speech by the Leader of the Opposition last week, in a transition period. We are moving on from capitalism to a Socialist State, and we have to deal with this obstruction of the House of Lords.
I have been wondering why the Tory Party have been so strenuous in their advocacy and championship of this reactionary and undemocratic institution, and I have come to two conclusions. I have come to the conclusion, first that they are supporting the present House as it is constituted because it is a source of the Tory Party's funds.
Let the hon. and gallant Gentleman wait till the end of my speech and then determine whether it is rubbish or not. This is one of the reasons why the Tory Party have not issued a balance sheet. The second reason is that the
House of Lords is, in our opinion, part of the Tory Party machine. I want to read something from the "Daily Mail" of a day in November, 1927. This is what the hon. and gallant Gentleman calls rubbish. This is what the "Daily Mail" said:
For some time past the Morning Post has been conducting a personal attack upon Mr. Lloyd George on the ground that as Prime Minister he has accepted subscriptions to the political funds of his party from men whose names afterwards appeared in the Honours Lists. Those who are conducting it know better than most that the practice at which they profess their Pharisaical indignation has been a regular one with every British Government for generations past. The campaigning funds of a party in power are maintained by the donations of wealthy subscribers who are commonly rewarded for their fidelity by advancement to knighthoods, baronetcies and peerages.
It may be rubbish, but that appeared in the "Daily Mail," and I presume that hon. Members on the opposite side of the House will accept the statement from the "Daily Mail."
Even if they do not, it is another source of the funds of the party. Mr. Rawlinson, who was a Tory Member of Parliament, made a statement on 17th July, 1922—and even if it is over 20 years old it does not alter the fact that the Tory Party has funds derived from peerages, and because of that fact we say the House of Lords should be destroyed, for it is undemocratic. It is one of the reasons why the Tory Party are helping to build up the House of Lords, which their leader agreed should be revised, and revised quickly. Mr. Rawlinson said:
I know that 20 years ago, when the Conservative Party were in power, people were requested to take honours provided that a certain sum was paid to the party funds. In one case that I know of a definite amount was paid before the honour was granted. In due course the honour was granted, and the man is alive at present. I have not a word to say against him, but unless that payment had been made he never would have received the title. I did not know until tonight that there was any doubt about it, that that system existed up to the present time.
So we have it from the mouth of the "Daily Mail" and from the mouth of Mr. Rawlinson, a Tory Member of Parliament. I want to make my last quotation, which is from the Liberal "Daily News" in February, 1927, which said:
For the last 100 years, at least, both the Liberal and Conservative Parties have drawn
a large part of their vast sums, which are required to run a political party, from the sale of honours. The two interests were always kept distinct. The Tory nominees contributed to Tory funds, the Liberal Coalitionists to what has since come to be called Mr. Lloyd George's fund. They paid in bank notes, or in some form which cannot be traced.
That was the "Daily News." We have triple witness, from a Tory newspaper, a Tory Member of Parliament, and the Liberal "Daily News."
I also said that the Tory Party are supporting this reactionary House of Lords because it is a part of, and is considered by the people of this country to be a part of the Tory machine. The Home Secretary has explained that when a Bill was brought before this House by the Tories they could always depend that their Bill would pass quietly and quickly through the House of Lords. When a Bill was passed by a Liberal Government they could not be so sure as the Tories that it would pass quickly through the House of Lords. In 1911, there was a Parliament Bill before this House. Labour then was a small minority. We were looked upon as flotsam and jetsam washed up by the tide. We were ignored because we were a small party. We have now become the tide, and it is the business of this party, which has become the Government of this country, to do what it can to reform the House of Lords.
There was a time when I felt that the House of Lords should be abolished. I still believe that the House of Lords as at present constituted should be abolished. I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby that there is a necessity for a revised Chamber. We were told by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs, how that Chamber is to be constituted, but I suggest that when the revision does come, the numbers, method of election, and constitution should be left for further discussion. I therefore come to the conclusion that the time has arrived for the revision, if not for the abolition of the House of Lords.
I said that the House of Lords was a part of the Tory machine, and that statement has been repudiated by hon. Members opposite. Let us examine the statement of Lord Rosebery. He was not a Socialist by any means, but he made this statement:
In my judgment the House of Lords is not a Second Chamber at all; it is a permanent party organisation controlled for party purposes and by party managers.
That was said by a man who understood what he was talking about when he said that this is not a revising Chamber altogether, but is a part of the Tory Party machine. That is one of the reasons why the Tory Party are so concerned to maintain the House of Lords. An hon. Member opposite said that it was necessary to revise the Second Chamber and to alter its constitution, but he would not agree that it was necessary to reduce its powers from two years to one. I cannot reconcile the two things.
The Earl of Middleton, a Tory, said:
The Peers have been the backbone not merely of the Conservative Party but of stable and progressive Government for a century past. They are now, with the Liberal Party prostrate, the main bulwark against Socialism.
We have there another reason why the Tory Party are opposed to any alteration or change in the constitution of the House of Lords—not only that it is part of the Tory Party machine, but it is a bulwark against Socialism, and, therefore, must be maintained with all its power. We cannot agree with that.
Lord Ampthill made a statement in regard to the House of Lords which, I think, it is necessary to quote. He said:
I go so far as to say that a leaven of the hereditary in our constitution is absolutely necessary to save democracy in England.
The Tory Party are going to rely on such an undemocratic body as the House of Lords to save democratic institutions in this country. That is not the opinion and the feeling of the people we move among. We move among the people from week-end to week-end and get their opinions, and that is not their opinion. Neither do I feel about the people I meet week after week as the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs did when he thought that they were so stupid that they could not understand the position in one year and it took them over two years to grasp what was meant. Listen to this. The Tory Party in its Constitutional Year Book, 1909, states:
The House of Lords is sometimes referred to as consisting wholly of great landowners. They necessarily form its majority, and it is well that they should be secured as an organ in the State.
There we have the reason why the Tory Party are maintaining the present constitution of the House of Lords. Hon. Members opposite are opposing a Bill which is reducing the obstructive powers of the House of Lords from two years to one. When they are opposing, they say in effect that the House of Lords should maintain all the powers of obstruction that it now possesses. We say that it is necessary, in our opinion, that the House of Lords should be revised. You now say you are prepared to sit down with us to discuss the reconstitution of the House of Lords.
I apologise, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I was referring to some of the arguments used this afternoon, and instead of addressing my arguments through you, I was unfortunately addressing them to hon. Members opposite. Hon. Members opposite agree that there is a necessity for some reformation of the House of Lords, but they are not prepared to curtail this power even by 12 months.
Let me ask through you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, why it is that the Tory Party which has been in power for so many years has not helped in the past with this important problem so far as the democratic constitution of this country is concerned. They have not dealt with it and now we come to the climax when a Labour Government introduces a Bill to curtail this power in order that it may pass through some of its important legislation. Members opposite say that they are not prepared to consider this. The inference is that the time has come when we should withdraw the Bill. They say, "Let the position stand as it is; let us get together around the table and arrange a constitution for a new House of Lords." I personally am prepared to do that. I say that the present House of Lords is not serving the people of this country in any way, and that the time has come when it should be revised or abolished in its present constitution and another take its place. I have great pleasure in supporting this Bill on Second Reading.
Hon. Members opposite are never tired of asserting that they at least represent some substantial element of public opinion. It is, therefore, perhaps not without significance that when the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery) caught your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, no other hon. Member on that side of the House rose at all. [Interruption.] If two hon. Members say that they did, I gladly make two exceptions. If one compares those hardly visible two with the Members who have risen on other occasions, that is a pretty fair indication of the lack of enthusiasm for this Bill which is to be found throughout the country.
If the speech of the hon. Member for Central Bristol is any indication, there is further evidence that those who do feel strongly about this Bill do so because they have not the faintest idea of what is in it. The speech of the hon. Gentleman would have been a relevant and logical argument in support of a Bill for the abolition of the House of Lords. His perfectly clear statement that, in his view, the House of Lords as at present constituted was inconsistent with a democratic constitution is a view which, while I do not accept it, I concede is a respectable and logical one.
But how the hon. Gentleman reconciles that argument with support of a Bill which leaves the constitution of the House of Lords exactly as it is but diminishes its delaying power by one year, and by one Session, I do not know. If a Chamber, constituted as the present one is, is intolerable and in conflict with democracy, it is surely just as intolerable and just as in conflict with democracy if its powers of delay are for one year or two years.
When the hon. Gentleman goes on to buttress his argument with reminiscences about the sale of peerages—and I noticed that he referred to a date at which no Conservative was Prime Minister of England—does he really think that any of our fellow citizens who is so degraded as to desire to buy a peer age will be deterred from so doing by the knowledge that as a Member of the Upper House he will be able to delay legislation for only one year? It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman did not appreciate, and does not yet appreciate, the point of the Bill which he expressly stated he supports.
His other line of argument, which was shared by the hon. Member for Horn-church (Mr. Bing)—whom I am glad to see resuming his seat—was that it was wrong for there to be a permanent majority of any one party in another place. Indeed, the hon. Member for Hornchurch went further and said that the only check upon legislation which hon. Members on this side of the House desired was a check upon Radical legislation. It appears that neither of those hon. Gentlemen can have read the document which was issued at the conclusion of the talks of party leaders which preceded the initiation of this Bill, because if they had they would have seen that the second of the agreed conclusions was:
The revised constitution of the House of Lords should be such as to secure as far as practicable that a permanent majority is not assured for any one political party.
That view was accepted, as I understand it, by right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench as well as right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench.
If that is so, and if there is force in the argument of the hon. Members for Central Bristol and Hornchurch, that is an emphatic condemnation of a Bill which leaves composition of the House of Lords precisely as it is. It certainly does not lie in their mouths, when they are supporting this Bill, to challenge our support of the Upper House on the ground that we desire a reserved area for our party, because we have criticised, as did my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) this afternoon, the way the Government are dealing with the whole question of the House of Lords by dealing only with its powers and doing nothing whatever about its composition.
Would the hon. Gentleman deal with the point which I think I made: that in 20 years when the party opposite were in power they did not inaugurate any of these reforms which the Preamble to the Parliament Bill suggests were urgent in 1911?
That may be a valid party argument in a general party controversy, but it is not an argument in favour of this Bill. Surely the hon. Gentleman will not support a Bill introduced by the present Government on the ground that, though it ought to include a beneficial provision, that beneficial provision was not included by another Government 20 years before. If the hon. Gentleman will cast his mind back—and I know that he is aware of the discussions of 20 years ago—he will recall that one of the major difficulties in securing reform at that time was the lack of agreement between the major parties in the State. We, as I understand it, have always taken the view that, wherever it is possible, the agreement of the major parties of the State should be secured before constitutional change is effected.
The hon. Member for Hornchurch, apart from that, I thought, produced rather fewer substantial arguments than he generally does. One of his arguments, which appeared to give him great pleasure was that this Bill must be right because the Government of Ireland Act in 1920 provided a similar period for Northern Ireland and for the country which is now the Irish Republic. That is surely a highly superficial argument. Let us assume, for the purposes of argument, that one year was the right period for those two small countries in 1920. Is there any conceivable reason to assume from that that it must therefore be the right period in this much larger country in this year of Grace, 1949?
Surely the hon. Gentleman knows enough of constitutional arrangements to know that they must inevitably vary in accordance with the circumstances, the time, the size and the national character of the countries concerned. What may have been a perfectly legitimate period—and I express no opinion about it—in 1920 for two small mainly agricultural countries is not by any means necessarily the right period now for this great country.
The hon. Member for Hornchurch then sought to buttress his arguments by, I thought, misquoting either my right hon. and learned Friend or the late Lord Birkenhead, or both, when he tried to suggest that G. K. Chesterton's rhyme,
directed most admirably at the late Lord Birkenhead, had some relevance to the arguments of my right hon. and learned Friend. My right hon. and learned Friend said that this Bill would interfere with production; Lord Birkenhead said that another Measure had shocked the conscience of Christendom. If the hon. Gentleman thinks there is any conceivable connection between interfering with production and shocking the conscience of Christendom, then he is a very agile theologian. As the hon. Gentleman quoted G. K. Chesterton, let me reply to him with four lines which seem to me perhaps even more appropriate now to the position of himself and his hon. Friends:
Five years ago and we might have feared them.
Now, when they lift the laurelled brow,
There shall naught go up from our hosts assembled
But a laugh like thunder. We know them now.
I am very surprised that hon. Members opposite have not shown more enthusiasm for this Bill, because, coming up as it now does for the third time, looking rather as a drowning man does on a similar occasion, it represents almost the only stable element in the policy of the party opposite. Everything else that was their policy when this Bill was introduced has gone: the £ has been devalued, and so has the then Chancellor of the Exchequer; attempted friendship with Russia has been abandoned; the housing drive has been abandoned; every other single element of the policy of the party opposite has been abandoned: only the Parliament Bill remains. And what a pathetic wreck!
My right hon. and learned Friend referred to the fact that this is the first Measure the Government have introduced since the grave inquest into the affairs of our nation which took place last week. Its blatant irrelevance to the national problems then discussed hardly needs emphasis. It obviously has nothing whatever to do with, and can do nothing whatsoever to help them. But it can do much to hinder. It can distract the attention of our people from the urgent jobs on hand.
That may well be so. That it will do so cannot be doubted, because it will lead them to believe that there cannot be a grave political and economic emergency if the Government find it suitable and proper to revive now the constitutional controversies of 1909. What will be the effect abroad? Will not the disastrous effect of the Prime Minister's statement last week be redoubled when people abroad learn that this country, having for one moment given the appearance that it was making an effort to right its economic ship, has now apparently abandoned that and returned to happy pre-war political controversies? It is the astonishing irrelevance of this Measure to the background of our national affairs that is, perhaps, its gravest condemnation.
There has been one change in the method of its presentation. We have heard nothing whatsoever from the other side about the famous mandate. Apparently the idea, so sedulously put about last year, that there was a mandate for this Measure is now thought to be a tactless argument or an invalid one. It is perhaps wise of Members opposite to abandon this doctrine of a mandate, the doctrine that what is in Let us Face the Future" must be enacted regardless of circumstances. That is what they put forward with so much emphasis last year. If that argument were to be applied in favour of this Bill, it would have to be applied in favour of other proposals put forward in "Let us Face the Future." For instance, it would have to embrace the words used on page 8.
Labour's pledge is firm and direct. It will proceed with the housing programme with the maximum practicable speed until every family in these islands has a good standard of accommodation.
It would require great intellectual subtleness to reconcile a literal carrying out of that mandate with the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week. Equally, some inquisitive person might inquire when the Bill to create a Ministry of Housing is coming forward.
In fact, there is not only no popular demand but no excuse for this Measure. There are only two occasions on which the Upper House has, in the course of the whole of this Parliament, come into any disagreement with this House on a matter of any importance, namely, the question of capital punishment, on which by happy coincidence both the Government and public opinion were found to be on the same side and on the side of the Upper House, and steel nationalisation. On the latter occasion, the only question which arose was whether or not the public should have an opportunity of pronouncing on such a Measure before it became law. It cannot be regarded as flouting public opinion merely to give an opportunity for that opinion to express itself. Then there is the extraordinary fact, that if there were any sincerity in the suggestion that the Upper House has obstructed the Government, that no step is taken in this Bill to deal with a very serious possible cause of obstruction.
By the Supplies and Services (Extended Purposes) Act, 1947, passed by this Government, the Upper House is given power to annul statutory instruments. In fact, not one statutory instrument has been so annulled, and if there were any fear of obstruction by the Upper House there would be some Clause in this Bill putting some limitation on the powers of the Upper House to annul such an instrument. No one knows better than the Solicitor-General that a large-scale annulment of statutory instruments could bring the machinery of Government to a standstill within a week. That the Government are prepared to leave this power in the hands of the House of Lords, shows that in their heart of hearts they have complete confidence in their statesmanship. Does that not make absolute nonsense of the protestations of the Home Secretary about obstruction by the Lords?
Again we have heard the old argument about the fourth Session, and how unless this Bill is passed Government legislation cannot be carried into a fourth Session. The Home Secretary did not make it clear that such legislation can be passed in a fourth Session, or in a fifth Session, subject to one condition, that the Government win the coming General Election. Ex hypothesi, the only Measures which can be prevented from coming into law by the operation of the 1911 Act are those which the public do not want, because they reject the Government which brings them forward. I hope we shall not hear any more about the importance of legislation in the fourth and fifth Sessions. Let us remember that the ban lies only on a doomed Government, and the more Members opposite emphasise the significance and importance of that ban the more they will convince Members on this side that they know they are such a doomed Government.
It is a regrettable feature that no attempt is made to secure some necessary improvements in the composition of the Upper House. I do not believe that the House of Lords should be wholly hereditary, nor do I believe it to be right wholly to remove the hereditary element. When my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) referred to the hereditary principle, a number of sneers came from the other side. But I would remind Members opposite who sneer, that when their constituents come to assess the speed or stamina of the quadruped on which they wish to place a weekly half-crown, they do not exclude the heredity of the animal in question from their calculations at least, I am so advised by those who are more skilled in this occupation than myself. It is of course a fact that on both sides of this house there are a good many Members who know that their forebears have in this House and elsewhere rendered in their time and generation some service to the State, and who are the better for knowing it.
Because, as the hon. Member will appreciate, there must be a limit to a good thing. It would be rather rash to turn the hereditary Chamber into a public meeting in view of the admirable size of these families in a number of cases. I should like to see this question of composition tackled. I should like to see the Scottish principle followed. I should like to see a certain number of Peers elected by the other Peers to represent their order. I should like to see an increase in the number of life Peers. The principle of the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary is a principle that might be extended. There are a number of valuable people who do not wish to take an ordinary peerage because their lack of means might make them feel that they did not want to saddle their sons with the encumbrance of an hereditary peerage.
It is absolutely wrong that the old ban on women sitting in the Upper House should still remain in the 20th Century. It rests on the medieval argument that because women do not bear arms they cannot be tenants in chief of the Crown. Today, with women, serving in all three Forces that slender argument has been knocked away. I should like to see the House of Lords automatically include people who have held cetain important offices, perhaps directly outside of politics, such as former governors of the Bank of England or chairmen of the T.U.C.—people who have held responsible positions in different parts of our national life.
The objection to this Bill is not so much that the problem of composition has been left over once again as it was 38 years ago, but that even if it were the right thing to do it is being done at the wrong time, at a time when all our people should be concentrating on one subject, the working out of their economic salvation. I believe it may well be that it is part of the Government's intentional policy of preserving the appearance of normality until the General Election comes, seeking to distract the minds of our people from the grave situation which faces them, making them feel that all is well until they have cast their votes. I believe that in that way it is wholly consistent and in line with the deliberate purposes of this Government. This is the gravest charge that can be made against this or any other Government.
Democracy cannot work, cannot function, cannot live if those who have the supreme responsibility for keeping our people informed deny them the truth and seek to lead them astray with irrelevancies and flippancies. That is the gravest thing that can be said against any democratic Government, and I believe that the epitaph of this Government will be that which was written by Shelley 140 years ago:
Rulers who neither see nor feel nor know, But leech-like to their fainting country cling.
"The Tory Party are always trying to rule the people on some minority plan. It has always been their method. Before 1832 it was the rotten boroughs, the unreformed boroughs, where four or five men had the votes which were in the pockets of the wealthy landlord or nabob.… Gradually, the franchise was extended. Then the Tories fell back on another minority rule. It was the veto of the House of Lords." Those are not my words, but I hope that in this game of quotations I have not done too badly. That comes from the "Manchester Guardian" of 3rd December, 1923, but it was not that newspaper's view. It was the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), and I am glad to be able to supplement what the Home Secretary said by saying that as late as 1923 the Leader of the Opposition was inveighing against the permanent veto of the Conservative Party in the constitution.
The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) seemed to think there was some lack of enthusiasm on these benches today for this Bill. I myself feel that further discussion of the Measure is a waste of time; the last word on its content has already been said. I took no part in the earlier discussions on the Bill, but I read HANSARD from day to day, and nothing I have heard today has added anything to what has already been said. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames wrapped a great deal of argument around the question of the revision of the Second Chamber and the discussions on that subject. He and others know that there were discussions, but I would remind the Opposition that no agreement was reached about the character of any such revision. The hon. Member's conclusion is that he will vote for the maintenance of the Conservative Party's permanent veto in the present House of Lords.
I have heard no Member from the benches opposite deny that the House of Lords as at present composed contains the power of the Conservative Party to veto what has been done by this Chamber. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) supported the present position for this reason: he said he believed that there were so many stupid people in the country that it was necessary to have a Second Chamber. I was glad to hear that view from the Opposition benches that a considerable proportion of the electorate is so stupid that the Opposition favour the hereditary principle in government. On this side of the House we support the principle of democracy. We are taking a small step forward in that direction; we are hastening slowly. Our leaders are immoderately moderate; we are reducing by only a year the veto which the Tory Party possesses in the House of Lords.
The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames worked up some synthetic enthusiasm for the argument that in bringing forward this Bill once more the aim of the Government was to divert people's attention from the alleged failure of the Government to carry out policies which they were pursuing two years ago, when the Parliament Bill was first introduced. The hon. Member mentioned the housing drive, at which a roar of raucous laughter came from the Opposition benches.
I am very glad, having had no opportunity to catch your eye, Sir, in the Economic Debate, to speak today as a representative of a constituency in which, during the past four years of Labour Government, the corporation has put up more houses than the combined efforts of the local authority and private enterprise in the 10 years after the First World war. When the housing drive is mentioned in Stafford it does not give rise to a roar of laughter, because nearly 1,000 houses have gone up in four years. Perhaps the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames regards that as futile. Further, there are 1,000 jobs going at the employment exchange as the result of the fulfilment of the Government of a policy of full employment which they began four years ago.
I am sure the hon. Member does not even want to appear to misrepresent me, and it would be grossly so to do to suggest that I thought that a housing drive would be futile. What I said—and it will be clear in HANSARD—Was that it would be a matter of some embarrassment for the Government, in view of their housing policy, to find themselves bound by their very clear pledge on the subject in "Let Us Face the Future."
The hon. Member suggested that the Bill was the only one of the policies being pursued by the Government two years ago which it had not abandoned. I am saying that the housing drive has not been abandoned, and I mentioned an example in my constituency of what has been achieved.
This Bill is before us today because it is the intention of the Government to ensure that the policies outlined in "Let Us Face the Future" shall be put on the Statute Book. That is why I believe that further discussion about it is unnecessary. We are not discussing the merits or demerits of changing the composition of the House of Lords. All we are saying is that the House of Lords has had during the lifetime of this Parliament a two-year veto in the hands of the Conservative Party. No one can deny that. To ensure that the Labour Party's programme is carried out all we are doing by this Bill is to reduce the veto by a modest 12 months.
Would the hon. Gentleman say which item in "Let Us Face the Future" states that the passage of the Bill will facilitate that item being put on to the Statute Book?
Anything in "Let Us Face the Future" which has not already reached the Statute Book could have been vetoed by the Tory Lords during the past 12 months. It is to ensure that the programme outlined in "Let Us Face the Future" is carried out that we are going into the Division Lobby this evening to pass this modest little Measure.
The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Swingler) was good enough to inform the House that the Government were maintaining their pledges and had not abandoned the housing drive, but he did not remind the House that the last thing they did last week was to admit that they were reducing the number of houses to be built in future to 175,000 per annum, or half the number built during the wicked days of Tory misrule in 1937, 1938 and 1939. [Interruption.] I knew that Members opposite would not like that, but it is just as well for them to have had it. Nevertheless, I must not be tempted into making a speech on an economic subject during a Parliament Bill Debate.
One of the most interesting things in this Debate so far has been the fact that, apart from the Home Secretary, no hon. Member on the Government side of the House has tried to put an argumentative case for this Bill. All we have had are violent attacks about what theoretically the Tories might do or what the Tories would do. The case for the Bill has been made by only one speaker, and I will venture in a moment or two to deal with those points.
I understand that the Lord President of the Council is going to wind up this Debate. I saw a glint in the eye of the right hon. Gentleman earlier in the afternoon, and I think one could make a safe forecast that the speech with which he will wind up will be one of the old-fashioned, slapstick speeches which he is an adept at producing. I have no objection to that, but I doubt whether the Bill will be referred to. It may be that we shall be told how we escaped from the scarcity economics of the capitalist world in the course of the last four years, which would be interesting to hear. I know that the Lord President will give great happiness to the benches behind him.
Yes, I am as good as Mr. Piddington. If hon. Members opposite are pleased, I am the last to deny them this last little pleasure before something very unpleasant happens to them in the next few months.
One of the arguments adduced on this Bill is that the right of suspensory veto—and I underline the word "suspensory"—means that the House of Lords can and will sabotage the actions of any progressive Government. Not one example has been produced in the course of this Debate of the Second Chamber hamstringing the Socialist Government of 1923–24, the Socialist Government of 1929–31, or, indeed, the Government which is now entering upon its last period of office. Old quotations by Lord Rosebery and others made actually before the passing of the present Parliament Act in 1911 have been unearthed, as well as old comments by Bagehot in 1860 about the House of Lords. The party opposite have to delve a long way back into the past to find any argument in support of this Bill.
In 1924 the Second Chamber was thanked by leading members of the Socialist Party for the way in which they treated a minority Government in for the first time. In 1929–31, out of 78 Measures that went up from the House of Commons to the House of Lords, 72 or 73 were passed without any Amendment at all. In this Parliament the Lord President himself has been very active, until comparatively recently, in congratulating the Second Chamber on its wisdom and on the way in which it has been performing its duties.
The only serious conflict has been referred to by my right hon. and learned Friend. In view of what happened on that occasion over capital punishment, the attitude of the Home Secretary, when moving the Second Reading of this Bill, suggested an extraordinary lack of gratitude. When in the House of Commons the Home Secretary to all intents and purposes had his policy defeated on a straight vote, he looked more like someone who had been condemned to hang than anyone else in the House. Then the House of Lords interpreted his will and the will of the people, and came to his assistance. Ah, but it is great cruelty. We must not expect, I suppose, too much gratitude in our political life.
Then we come to the argument that, even if there has been nothing by way of sabotage by the House of Lords, nothing that was ever introduced by a Conservative Government would ever be amended or changed in the House of Lords, but something might be done to a progressive Government. Two wrongs do not make a right. We should have a Second Chamber, which not only has the power of revision, but is in a position to deal with any Government, Conservative, Socialist or Liberal, that exceeds its mandate. That is why we welcome the opportunity of altering the composition of the House of Lords, maintaining the view that a revised House should have those powers of suspensory veto, which alone can make a Second Chamber of great value to the State.
The Lord President, who I see has come back, put forward a most remarkable suggestion on the last occasion when we were discussing this Bill. He said that the argument had been advanced that a Parliament gets stale during the last two years of its five years' term, and he said to the Opposition, "Instead of supporting the suspensory veto, you ought to re-enact the triennial Act." That, of all the suggestions made, is the most fatuous one—and many have been made in the discussions we have had on the Parliament Bill in this Parliament—because a triennial Act would mean that no Parliament would have more than one normal year. The first year of any Parliament—and I do not care what party is in power—sees many new people as Members, and they are convinced that the electors are always going to follow them blindly. In the second year they become normal, and in the third year they would only be thinking of what Members of Parliament are thinking now—what is going to happen then at the next election. It would be far better to have a reasonable safeguard to ensure that the will of the people is not entirely forgotten by the Executive when they have five years' of office before them.
The Lord President of the Council—and I have to come back to him because so little has been said about this Bill from the other side of the House in the course of this discussion—made one very interesting point in September of last year, which relates to the steel issue. He said that if any urgent new issue came before Parliament, that was the concern of the House of Commons and must not be at the mercy of another place. In fact, that statement could be related to steel. I admit that the Government had some sort of a mandate in 1945 for the public ownership of steel, although, as has been pointed out in this Debate, they have scrapped that mandate by the methods adopted by their own supporters. We shall not mind about that.
What is the position today? Two things have happened since 1945 in relation to the nationalisation of steel. One is that we have had the example of our nationalised industries, and we have the very vivid contrast of what steel is doing under private ownership at the present time. Secondly, we have the enormous economic crisis in which steel still figures as practically—apart from rubber I suppose—our greatest exporter and gainer of dollars. Surely, on that alone, it is a very important issue to consider whether that industry, exporting as it has never exported before at a time when exports are needed beyond all else, should be nationalised, in view of what has happened in the other instances.
The Lord President of the Council says that new and urgent issues should be determined by the House of Commons, but such issues are not so determined. I do not regard the steel issue as being decided by the unfettered will of the House of Commons. The fact of the matter is that the Steel Bill was produced first and foremost by the Cabinet with great hesitation because they feared that there might be resignations if it were not produced. The Lord President spoke of the unfettered will of Parliament. He knows quite well that in the last year of a Parliament the rank and file of the majority are less independent and more—I was going to say "servile" but I do not want to use an offensive phrase—obedient than at any other period. I am not saying that as a personal attack upon this Government. It is true of every Government. In its last year of office, its supporters have to band themselves together for the General Election. Independence goes. The orders of the Executive are blindly followed. It is the orders of the Executive which are being blindly followed today about steel.
Far from its being an issue over which the Commons have any check, steel is just that sort of new issue which can only be tackled by some other body which has power to ensure that the will of the people is ascertained before things happen. There is no need for me to repeat what has already been said about steel. The Steel Bill was never rejected by another place. If the Government had accepted the Amendment that the vesting date should be decided after the General Election, the Government could have got the nationalisation of steel within a month or two after their return. The Government are not confident of being returned. That is why they are hesitating and worried, and why they are annoyed at the very idea that their proposals should be submitted to the people at this late stage.
The Lord President's idea of the duty of a Government is that when it gets in it should have five years of Parliamentary dictatorship with no check of any sort or kind from outside. I have not been dealing in quotations, but I would like to give just two. They are short. The first is one which the Labour Party might well listen to, because it is from a man of great constitutional experience. He says:
A disturbed government may easily mean legislation without limit against the fundamental liberties of Englishmen. The Government has in its hands the immense new weapon of broadcasting. There is no limit to the penalties upon opinion that a Government in power in a panic may not be capable of imposing.
Those are wise words. They were written by Professor Laski, who ought to know that side of the House. I will give another quotation, not written in cold print by a man striving to consider the constitutional situation, but written in hot print in the "Daily Herald" at the time when the Parliament Bill was first introduced. The quotation is:
Clearly if the Government of the day were to lose the General Election it might then be years before it had an opportunity to reintroduce its proposals.
Yes; take the opportunity when you think you may be defeated of pushing through unpopular measures, and of trying so to scramble the eggs that, whatever the will of the people may be, those eggs cannot be unscrambled. That is the conception of democracy to which we have been listening from the other side of the House. That is a conception of false democracy which we on this side of the House will fight to the very bitter end.
A Second Chamber with the power of suspensory veto relies for authority and prestige upon using that veto wisely and well in the interest of the nation. During the three times that we have had a Socialist Government, the Second Chamber has never sabotaged any matter when the will of the people was behind it. The Second Chamber knows that if it uses its veto unwisely, its prestige goes. Therefore, that veto will only be used, and has only been used during the last 38 years, after the most careful consideration and upon very few occasions. I have no doubt that the servile majority will pass the Bill once again and that for almost the last time they will have the opportunity of flouting what will soon be shown to be the declared will of the people. I am glad that I have not the misery of sitting on the benches of the other side of the House supporting legislation of this sort for mere deliberate party gain, at a time when the Government are falling into disaster and are awaiting the justice they deserve.
I have listened with interest to the Debate, but I feel that the Opposition are not trying to face the issue. They have said that we are not enthusiastic about this Measure because we did not rise in enormous numbers to continue the Debate, but there is no doubt where the numbers will be when the Debate has ended. I do not notice a great amount of enthusiasm on the Opposition side of the House. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) roamed all over the world. He went into foreign affairs and other subjects. He dealt with the question of mandates. He said that we had argued that we had a mandate for this Measure but somehow our enthusiasm for that argument had disappeared. I fail to see any truth or soundness in his point of view.
The important point is that we definitely have a mandate to deal with steel, and there has been an attempt to retard our efforts. It is because we had a mandate and because we still contend that we have a mandate that we are pressing this Bill forward on that ground. However, it is not upon that ground only. There is an argument and a faith founded on the principle propounded in the Bill. We talk about democracy. Like every other thing, democracy has an evolutionary process. It takes time to bring it into its fullness. We are attempting gradually to bring it to actuality in practice so far as the Constitution is concerned. We have had to bring in legislation dealing with the franchise. We did not bring it in at one blow, but are gradually working towards it, and we can claim that so far as that element of democracy is concerned, we have almost reached the absolute.
We are on the same lines over the House of Lords. We believe conscientiously that it is not an instrument of democracy as constituted in the past, and because it has not been an instrument of democracy—it has had no element of democracy in it—although we had no mandate from the people, we believed that it was opportune to revise the general principle, apart altogether from the Steel Bill. There is no doubt what the opinion of the people would be if we went to them on the question of limiting the powers of the House of Lords. The Opposition know well what the result would be if we fought a General Election on that principle alone.
In regard to programmes for the next General Election, the Opposition are very particular about what they do and say concerning the House of Lords.
The question of reform of the Second Chamber is entirely another matter. We can have reform while adjusting the powers. We are dealing with the one element of the Constitution as it relates to the House of Lords about which the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames spoke. We have an open mind about its composition. The subject of changing its composition in relation to the suggested curtailment of its powers can still go ahead if the two parties can come to terms about the powers which should be possessed by the House of Lords in future. It was also said that to reduce the period to one year instead of two was not democratic. I have already dealt with that point. We must bring democracy to its absolute form by degrees.
Indicating how weak the position of the Opposition is in this matter, another hon. Member opposite concluded with the phrase that if we wanted to go ahead with this kind of thing and other things, we must go back to the teachings of Christ. When we begin to talk like that on the ordinary economic and political matters of the day, I believe we are simply expressing our own weakness and are devoid of argument. What we want is argument which the ordinary man can see is capable of implementation, not fine moral phrases which get us nowhere. If we were all angels there would be no difference of opinion. There would not be a Government Bench and an Opposition Bench; we should all be a Coalition working as one. Fortunately or unfortunately—I leave others to judge—that Utopia has not been reached.
What has been the outstanding feature of the Opposition in economic argument during this Parliament? Have the Opposition put forward the teachings of Christ? It has been the just the opposite all the time—incentive and individualism have been the basis of their arguments. The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) said that the Bill was short, brutish and nasty. That reminded me of a philosopher in the 18th century who used those words. He wanted to convince the people of this country that they should have a despotic King. The philosophy of the Opposition is still tainted with that doctrine. The doctrine which was applied to kings they apply to the House of Lords. They still wish to continue the despotic power of a section of the country over the people, but we are gradually getting away from that.
Another point made was that public opinion should be assessed and enforced. That is right in political theory. That is supposed to be the democratic principle, but it all depends on the question of what public opinion is. Apparently the right hon. and learned Gentleman believes that public opinion is against what we are doing in this Bill. We all get different viewpoints about public opinion, but throughout the four years during which the Labour Party has been in Office, has there been any indication that the people are against what the Government are doing about the House of Lords?
Even if we say there has been no indication either way, who ought to be the best judge as to what public opinion is? Surely the strongest argument is that the party elected by the people with a very large majority ought to be the best judge, if there is any consistency in political arguments and if we presume that the people have intelligence when they are voting, though the Opposition may assume that they have not, yet we assume that they have. We believe that we are in an age when the people of this country have a much greater understanding of the political consequences of their action when voting at elections than they have ever had before. Is that a logical argument?
Surely if the development of the mentality of the people by the educational process, the Press and books does not enlighten the people, then what will? Is not our aim and purpose to educate the people? Do we not praise ourselves for achieving a position where people are being better educated and in a better position to judge what is the best thing for themselves and the country? Therefore we say that if we have to assess public opinion, the Labour Party, recently elected by the people of this country to carry out their programme, ought to be in a better position to be the best judges of what the people want in regard to democracy. In reality, there has been little agitation or comment and that is an indication that the representatives of the people have been left to do what they think wise.
Then there is the question of democracy and reality. What did public opinion do in 1945? Did the Labour Party in any way attempt to blindfold the people? If ever there was a clear programme set before a people, it was the programme of the Labour Party in 1945, a clearly expressed programme with definite plans, one of which was the nationalisation of the steel industry—
Many other things said tonight have not had much to do with the Bill. As I have already said, hon. Members opposite have gone all over the world, but as soon as someone on this side of the House goes a little way from the Bill, there is objection. I am talking about democracy, I am trying to establish a logical position, I am saying that people are either reasonable judges when they have a plain case put before them or they are fools who do not understand what they are doing. Some hon. Members opposite have rather suggested that they are befuddled and irresponsible and not able to judge.
We say that the time has arrived when the people can judge, given a plain issue. They had a plain issue before them, they made a judgment, they put us into power, they knew what we intended to do, and we have done it. Despite that mandate, the Lords used an ancient power which they had not got from the people, against the mandate of the people. We say that when the Division figures are heard tonight hon. Members will see the enthusiasm of the Labour Party for this Bill.
I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) is mistaken with regard to public opinion. I do not believe that public opinion is in the least anxious about this Bill. Public opinion is really indifferent to it. As for saying that the Government have a mandate for it, I fail to find it in any of the Government declarations before the last election.
I am glad tonight to see the Lord President of the Council here because when he introduced the Second Reading of this Bill two years ago, he brought up against the House of Lords the crime of having rejected the Home Rule Bill. He said what an unfortunate thing it was that when Gladstone introduced the Home Rule Bill in the 80's it was not then accepted, and he used an extraordinary expression when he said:
That was another example of the Conservatives not knowing what was coming to them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 10th November. 1947; Vol. 444, c. 42.]
Surely the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten that the Home Rule Bill of 1886 was rejected by the Liberal Party itself in the House of Commons where it had an overwhelming majority in this Chamber. When Mr. Gladstone brought in his Home Rule Bill in July of that year it was rejected by a majority of 30 in in the House of Commons. The great heads of the Liberal Party—the Marquis of Hartington, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain and, above all, Mr. John Bright—deliberately revolted against the policy of Mr. Gladstone. I never pass through the Lower Waiting Hall without bowing in reverence to that great man, John Bright—a Radical of the Radicals if ever there was one—a man who felt convinced that Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill was a mistaken policy, voted against it, and carried a large section of the Liberal Party into the Lobby behind him so that the Bill was rejected, not, as the Lord President of the Council seems to think, at that time by the House of Lords but by the House of Commons.
When he was bringing up the question of the House of Lords the Lord President was surely referring to the policy carried out by Mr. Gladstone when he introduced his second Home Rule Bill in 1893, which Bill passed through this House of Commons by a majority of only 34. How could one expect the House of Lords to accept such a violent constitutional change when passed by
such a small majority of the House of Commons? The Liberal leader himself, Lord Rosebery said:
You must convert the predominant partner.
The predominant partner was obviously not converted because in 1893 the Home Rule Bill was carried through the House of Commons by the 80 Irish Nationalists. Therefore there was an overwhelming majority of the representatives of Great Britain—of the predominant partner—against that Home Rule Bill. Was the House of Lords not justified in throwing it out by a large majority of nearly 400 votes?
When one goes into that beautiful room which was used during the war as the meeting place for the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, one sees two remarkable pictures representing the House of Lords discussing that very Bill. On the one side is the Conservative Opposition with Lord Salisbury depicted as addressing the House and, on the other side, the Liberal Members of the Government, with Lord Rosebery appearing prominently in that picture. Those two pictures are wonderful historic representations, and whenever any of my friends come to the House of Commons I take them to see them to remind them of the gallant action of the House of Lords in having the courage at that time to reject Mr. Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill.
Now what did the British people do when the matter came before the electorate at the General Election of 1895? The electorate by an overwhelming majority of 152—
Well, Mr. Speaker, I was replying to the speech of the Lord President of the Council who introduced this Bill on Second Reading two years ago. I thought I was entitled to refer to his argument when he most emphatically blamed the House of Lords for having rejected the first Home Rule Bill in 1886, which was not the case; it was the second Home Rule Bill of 1893.
We have had further accusations brought against the House of Lords for having rejected Mr. Lloyd George's Budget of 1909. My contention is that that action was approved of by the British people, because the Irishmen—all the Nationalists—had voted against it, having been bitterly opposed to the increase in the tax on whisky. They went to their own country and spoke on every platform denouncing the Budget. When the House of Commons assembled in January, 1910, there was a majority 3f 39 in opposition to the Budget. Why was the Budget carried? Mr. John Redmond said that the Liberal Party would now have to toe the line. He was perfectly frank, and said to Mr. Lloyd George, "If we accept your Budget, you must force a Home Rule Bill through the present Parliament." It was hopeless, however, to send a third Home Rule Bill up to the House of Lords. It was necessary first to pass a Parliament Act.
The Liberal Party had been in office already for four years. Between 1906 and 1910 they had a majority over all the other parties combined. During those four years did they ever think of bringing in Home Rule? Nothing of the kind. In 1910, however, when they had lost 100 seats, they were dependent on the Irish vote; and Mr. John Redmond drove his very hard bargain when he said that if he and his supporters accepted the Budget the Government must introduce a Measure restricting the powers of the House of Lords. That was the whole origin of the Parliament Bill.
If the Parliament Bill was finally forced through the House of Lords it was by a very unfortunate abuse of the Royal Prerogative. Mr. Asquith took advantage of the inexperience of a new Sovereign and extorted from him—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—extorted from him—
Really, the hon. Member must not make references of that kind—"inexperience of a new Sovereign"—casting aspersions on His Majesty, even His late Majesty. I will not have that.
I am sorry. I did not intend to cast any aspersions on the late King, but rather on the Prime Minister who extorted from the King in advance this pledge to create Peers in anticipation of the circumstances.
That was the origin of the first Parliament Act, which today we are proposing to amend. It was forced through by what I consider to be an absolutely unconstitutional threat. What precedent was there? Queen Anne, it is true, had forced the passing of the Treaty of Utrecht through the House of Commons and created the very small number of only 12 Peers. That was the sole precedent. Everybody knows that this threat was used to drive the Reform Bill of 1832 through the House of Lords, but even so it could not be said to be part of our Constitution. I remember these things as if they had happened yesterday, and cannot help feeling that the way in which the first Parliament Act was forced through the Lords was an episode of which historians have no reason to be proud.
Today we are being asked not merely to ratify that Act—which, I say, was an extremely unfortunate Measure—but we are even asked to deprive the House of Lords of a large part of the very slender powers still left to them. Surely, the object of a Second Chamber is to ensure that there is sufficient delay for public opinion to assert itself. In our Constitution it is of supreme importance that there should be some check of that kind. Not having a written Constitution, we have no other safeguard. In the United States of America, whenever citizens think that an Act which has been passed through Congress is unconstitutional—for instance, interfering with the right of contract, which is guaranteed by the American constitution—they appeal to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court vindicates the Constitution. But we, having no written Constitution, make no difference in procedure whether we pass a small, insignificant Bill or a Measure, like the present one, of immense constitutional importance. It is all the more necessary, therefore, that this safeguard, small as it is, should be preserved and not whittled down.
I am sorry to say that the hon. Gentleman is ignorant of history. I can remember how in the Education Measure of Mr. Balfour the House of Lords insisted on Amendments and almost brought about a Government crisis. The suggestion of the hon. Member is an illusion and false history. The House of Lords have dealt impartially both with Liberal and Conservative Measures throughout its history. It acts for the good of the country. Once it feels assured that the country has come to a definite decision, the House of Lords gives way and bows to public opinion, as it did, for instance, on the Disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1868. Mr. Gladstone had gone to the country on that Measure, and the House of Lords, though bitterly opposed to it, bowed to what was obviously the opinion of the country at that time and accepted it contrary to their innermost convictions.
I know that the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church was carried through under the Parliament Act. The way in which it was done was just as regrettable as the forcing through of the Home Rule Bill under the Parliament Act.
This House can only approve of the very remarkable Amendment moved two years ago by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, when he asked the House of Lords to reject the Bill on three grounds, all of which are perfectly valid today: because it was a Bill for which the nation had expressed no desire; because it was a Bill which would go far to expose the country to the danger of single Chamber Government; and lastly—and this, today, is true in every sense of the word—because the Bill could only serve to distract the attention of the country from the economic crisis and from the united effort towards recovery which was so vital at that time. Those were the terms of the Amendment which was moved in the House of Lords two years ago, and every word of it is applicable today.
I regret that I cannot follow the hon. Member for Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory) in his researches into history, by which we have all been greatly entertained and instructed. A little earlier the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) referred somewhat disparagingly to the fact that rather fewer Members rose to address the House from this side than from the benches opposite. That is partly because we on this side are less willing to repeat ourselves than are hon. Members opposite. This Debate has taken place not only twice previously but more often than that, because on both occasions when the Bill was introduced earlier we had more than one reading of the Bill. Therefore, I have no expectation that anything I shall say will be original, but there appear to be certain points which are lost sight of and to which I wish to refer.
Some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House take the view that no Second Chamber is either necessary or desirable and, of course, they are entitled to their view. I do not take that view. I believe a Second Chamber of some kind is, while perhaps not necessary, certainly a most convenient and useful constitutional device. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames sought to make fun of one of my hon. Friends by arguing that because my hon. Friend was against Second Chamber government altogether, he should refuse to support a Bill which did not abolish Second Chamber government. He pointed out that my hon. Friend had called Second Chamber government intolerable, but, of course, the reduction of the period of delay from two years to one does—contrary to what the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames argued—make it just half as intolerable as it is at the present day. It cuts away half the sanction and half the delay and certainly makes a contribution in the direction that my hon. Friend wanted.
I do not take the view that a second Chamber is necessarily a bad thing, indeed I think it has many very useful functions, but at the present time and, certainly for a long time past, in this country the usefulness of a second Chamber has been hidden by the prejudices which the second Chamber, in its present form, arouses. On the Conservative side these prejudices are strongly in its favour, not because of its intrinsic merits as a second Chamber—and it has many—but because it is essentially a Conservative second Chamber which can be relied upon to exercise a restraining influence upon radical legislation, even though from time to time as the hon. Member for Oueen's University pointed out, it sometimes does interfere, also, with the more progressive legislation of Conservative Governments.
On this side of the House the prejudice goes in the opposite direction, on the ground that a second Chamber, such as the other place is, which contains such a small handful of Labour Peers is not a fit instrument and we tend sometimes to argue against the whole principle of second Chambers merely because the application of that principle at present is one we dislike. The Liberal Party, however, cannot forget the famous victory they won in 1911 and, as with so many other matters upon which the Liberal Party fail at present to express any useful opinions, they are trying to live in history and have failed to bring themselves up-to-date.
If we can leave aside these prejudices one way or another, for and against the other place as at present constituted, I would suggest that we have to consider its usefulness in two capacities. First, as a council of the nation as a whole. In this House for many years past it has been the custom for the leaders of industry, as of other activities in the State, to sit. But in recent years that has become less common, particularly with the establishment of nationalised industries. We have actually debarred membership of this House to the members of the boards of various nationalised industries. Therefore, their counsel, their advice, has been denied to Parliament as a body and, further, the claims of constituencies have certainly discouraged the leaders of industry and the professions from seeking election to this House with any great enthusiasm.
I believe it is a bad thing on the whole that Parliament should be denied access to their counsel. I believe another place, a second Chamber, affords an admirable opportunity for such persons to make their contribution to Debates on Bills or on general policy, which may arise from time to time. But, in the nature of things, they are bound to be unrepresentative. They are bound to be unrepresentative in the sense that they are not there because anyone has elected them, but simply because by virtue of their appointment and their offices their words are worthy to be heard.
I should like to see the House of Lords become organised very much more on the lines outlined in the book by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), whom I am glad to see in his place—naturally, I could not agree with every proposal he has made—as something in the nature of a House in which proposals can be debated without the necessary constituency problems and political complexion which inevitably and rightly arise in this House.
As to the second function, apart from being a council of the nation there is the question of how far there should be a delay imposed; in other words, how far should this second Chamber have the power to hold up the legislation of the lower House? I concede that there are times when the people may be led astray suddenly by electoral devices such as the Zinoviev Letter, the Post Office Savings Bank scare and attempts such as the Gestapo scare, which took place in 1945, to give their votes to certain hon. Members opposite. Nevertheless, these deviations do not normally last for very long. It is useful to have a second Chamber which can impose some delay, enough to induce this House to think again. The question is how many times should this House be called upon by the other place to think again? I concede that one can go on arguing this small point and nobody will be convinced one way or the other. Hon. Members opposite suggest that to think again twice is necessary. Hon. Members on this side consider that to think again once is quite enough.
My hon. Friend the Member for Central Hackney (Mr. H. Hynd), in interrupting the hon. Member for Queen's University made a point which has been made many times, in what ways is this delay normally imposed? It is imposed most frequently against radical Measures, but it is also true—and I concede it—that it is imposed against some of the more progressive Measures of Conservative Governments. Rather before my political life began there was an occasion during the former Labour Government when a Coal Mines Bill was severely handled in the Lords. Indeed, the original proposals were such that, if they had been carried into effect and implemented, the nationalisation of the coal mines might not have been necessary, at any rate in the eyes of large numbers of people in this country, whatever may have been the view of hon. Members on this side of the House. Following upon that, about 1936—I speak from memory—the Conservative Government introduced certain proposals which again met with opposition from the other place. Therefore, certain Radical and moderate Measures meet with opposition, but for the most part Conservative Measures obviously do not meet with opposition because Conservative Measures do not exist.
The only thing which hon. Members opposite do for the most part is to make moderate changes and to leave things as they are. I would say that they are not in the main a reactionary party. They want to stay where they are, wherever that may happen to be. The Parliament Act, 1911, which they strongly opposed, they are defending with great fervour, apparently as a reasonable settlement of a difficult problem. I have no doubt that in the years to come, say, 40 years hence, when perhaps some persons more radical than those who now sit on these benches propose to amend this particular Bill the descendants of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the hon. Member for Queen's University, if he has as long a life before him as behind him, will be there to make exactly the same speech—which will obviously be rather longer with the passage of time—as he has made tonight.
The next point to which I come is what justification can be advanced for the other place in its present state. First, it is suggested that its restraint during the last four years is a very strong argument in its favour. I certainly concede that argument to some extent. It is perfectly true that under the wise leadership of the Marquess of Salisbury, the Conservative majority in the House of Lords has held itself in. Some of the wilder elements among the Conservative majority have, by persuasion or pressure of one kind or another, not been allowed to do what they would have liked to do. I have no doubt that the noble Marquess is actuated solely by motives of public interest. We have heard this evening a justification of the hereditary system on the grounds that it works with racehorses and therefore why should it not work with legislators? Certainly we would all agree that in the case of certain families in this country, notably the Cecil family and the Lytton family, that principle applies, but I very much doubt whether it can be said to apply to more than a very small fraction. The exceptions are so notable that they prove the rule.
Nevertheless there are other Members of the other place who, let us not deceive ourselves, are not actuated by motives of public interest but who are carrying out what is called a strategic retreat or a strategic withdrawal to a line which is better held, very much on the same lines as during the war Marshal Stalin decided to abolish the Comintern. At the moment the House of Lords are holding the veto in abeyance in order that they shall not stick their necks out so far as to be abolished or have their powers so cut down as to be almost useless.
The second justification for the House of Lords in its present form is the fact that seven-eighths of its Members habitually stay away from its Debates, and even on the most important occasion it is unusual to find more than 250 or 300 Peers present. That being so it means that there is a strategic reserve of noble lords who can be summoned, as they have been summoned from time to time, to lend their weight to opposing some particular Measure.
A further justification for the House of Lords in its present form seems to be that although we have heard it claimed that the hereditary right is one of its most essential features, in fact by far the greater part of the work in the House of Lords is done by Peers of comparatively recent creation, and a very large amount is done, not only on the Government side of the House of Lords, but also on the Opposition side by Peers of the first generation. I think we can find there a lesson for the future. Certainly, as I have already admitted, there are notable exceptions to that rule, but in general we find a large part of the day to day work of the other place carried out by Peers of the first generation or Peers whose peerages have been created since 1900. Indeed, if we analyse the overall membership of the other place we find that approximately half is composed of noble Lords whose peerages have been created since 1900. I do not suggest that that is mathematically exact but roughly speaking the proportion is not far from a half.
Having dealt with the arguments in favour of this body I wish for a moment to deal with the argument that we should first reform the composition of that Chamber and then deal with its powers. That is really the fundamental point which divides this House. Hon. Members opposite wish first to reform the composition and then to deal with powers, On this side of the House we are quite determined to deal first with powers and then with composition because hon. Members opposite are, I imagine, quite aware of the fact, as we are, that second Chambers tend to be conservative. I make no secret of the fact that I shall vote for this Bill tonight simply because I realise that if we first reform the composition of the other place then we add weight to those who argue that it should be given increased powers. That may not be a particularly strong argument, but I suggest that it is at all events an honest one. I do not want to see the powers of any second Chamber very great.
The next point is whether, if we have a second Chamber at all, it is to have any political complexion. I do not think that it is possible to avoid it having a political complexion. In the United States of America the corresponding body to the House of Lords in this country is the Supreme Court, and technically the Supreme Court—
The Senate and the House of Representatives are simply a non-sovereign Legislature, and the ultimate veto lies with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in the United States is technically a judicial body. In fact it is a political body and always has been a political body, as Roosevelt discovered. Indeed "packing" the Supreme Court has always been a favourite sport of the early years of any American president, and when the hon. Member for Queen's University says that the Supreme Court of the United States decides these questions in line with the Constitution and interprets the Constitution, I would add that obviously it interprets the Constitution in accordance with its own social outlook, because its decisions are almost always made on certain lines which can be forecast ahead. It can always be foreseen, and this was particularly so in the days of Roosevelt, how the Supreme Court would divide, just as it can be foreseen how the House of Lords will divide.
The hon. Member is no doubt well aware—it is not for me to controvert his opinion—that in the United States intense importance is attached to the Supreme Court which is supposed to be the one body which is impartial. I do not know if he is aware of the serious statement he is making as a Member of this House against the Supreme Court of the United States. It will not be popular in the United States.
It may be so. I can reassure the noble Lord that my observations will not make very much difference to Anglo-American relations. I was merely using it as an illustration well understood by students of the American Constitution both in the United States and in this country. It is certainly well understood in the Democratic Party of the United States, whatever other views may be held in other parties. If we are to have this Second Chamber in this country I think we have to be careful first, as the agreed Statement said, that it does not have any political function—
On a point of Order. Is an hon. Member in Order who in criticising the Supreme Court of another country declares in effect that the Supreme Court—which is supposed to be completely impartial and is so very largely recognised as such in the United States—is in fact influenced in its judgment by the political opinions and backgrounds of its various members? First, I believe it to be false and secondly, I believe such a criticism levelled against the highest legal authority in the United States is something which should not be done.
May I give a Ruling now and save time? I think that the hon. Gentleman is entitled to make his case in his own way. I have no knowledge at all of American politics but the position of the Supreme Court can surely be given as an illustration of what I understand has been put forward from the Opposition benches that the House of Lords should be reformed. I think it legitimate.
Further to that point of Order. Nobody has suggested that the reformed Second Chamber that we have supported should share any of the characteristics of the Supreme Court. I wish to make that clear, because speaking as a lawyer, I have the greatest respect for the Supreme Court and I am astonished that anyone who knows of its judgments, from Chief Justice Marshall onwards, should say it was a packed political body.
May I suggest for your consideration, Sir, that surely it is in Order in a Debate of this kind dealing with the Constitution of this country to make reference by way of analogy to how the constitutions of other countries work, and in that way to analyse how the Supreme Court, or Senate, or any other judicial legislature works in any other country in order to illustrate the work in this country?
I do not think this is a point of Order. It is such a flimsy analogy to draw a comparison between the Supreme Court, under its written Constitution, and the House of Lords in this country, that I think the argument falls on its own merits.
I would like if I may to add to my point of Order that the men appointed judges of the Supreme Court are supposed and required to interpret the Constitution as men of honour and acting only for the nation. The charge made by the hon. Gentleman is that they do not do this, but act on a political basis in return for the favour of having been appointed. I say that on that I think he has gone beyond his rights as a Member of this House.
If I may resume my speech, I naturally would not press this matter too far as, I agree, it might give offence. I wish to make one or two comments in reply to the observation of the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay). He said one could not possibly compare the Supreme Court in the United States under a written Constitution with the other place in this country under an unwritten Constitution. But I would remind him that the part of the Constitution in this country which deals with the other place is written into the statutory form. It was not always so, but it is now written into the statutory form and therefore there is a certain comparison.
All I was seeking to do was to illustrate this simple fact, that bodies which have political power conferred upon them, whether we call them Second Chambers, whether we call them Supreme Courts, or whatever we call them, tend to be actuated—consciously or unconsciously and always honestly—by political arguments and by political considerations. Therefore, whatever Second Chamber we may evolve for this country it will undoubtedly be actuated by political reasons. That being so, if we have a Second Chamber composed politically the same as this Chamber then in the words of the old adage it will be superfluous. If it is different from this Chamber then, quite clearly, it will be vicious. Therefore, the obvious solution is that if the Second Chamber in our future Constitution is to have influence, its political power should be reduced as low as possible. I believe that the reduction of the political power of the House of Lords, whether reformed or as it exists today, should be reduced to one year, as two years is an excessive period.
The hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones) based his long and reasoned and interesting argument, as I understood it, mainly on the fact that the House of Lords, being largely hereditary, is bound to be unrepresentative. None of us would disagree with that, but in considering this matter I would suggest that we make sure that this House is as representative, always and throughout the five years of Parliament, as he, and apparently the leaders of his party, wish to claim. There are certain factors which may make us come to the conclusion that this House is not so fully representative as is claimed by the Government on this and other occasions.
It so happens that the mathematical results of the voting in most of our General Elections lead to our having a Government with a very considerable majority of seats in this House but supported by only a relatively small proportion of the people at the time of the General Election. During the course of a four or five year Parliament the opinions of people do not remain the same as they were when the General Election was held; they tend to go against the Government. A Government elected as this Government were in 1945 with barely 50 per cent. of the people supporting them—and that is the most generous construction of the figures—are certain to find by the end of four years, and even more so by the end of five years, that they will have an even smaller number of people with them.
I am prepared to concede that, in spite of that, and owing to the vagaries and complexities of the voting where there are more than two parties involved, the following Government elected may still have a majority of seats in the House—a smaller majority perhaps—but they will most certainly have only a minority of the people with them. One of the essentials of democracy is that the Government should always try to study the will of the people. The Government should be most careful to scrutinise public opinion from time to time and not to make rash assumptions about what the people are willing to let them do.
As I understand the position, this Government scrutinise public opinion by reference only to by-elections; and each by-election has so far acted as a heady intoxicating draught. I suggest that it is a draught which has impaired their judgment more than once. But I must not follow the hon. Member for Hitchin too deeply into his arguments, because I have never spoken previously in any of the Debates on any of the Parliament Bills in previous Sessions; and, therefore, such views as I have to put before the House are put in the happy knowledge that I, at any rate, have never attempted to express them here previously.
Assuming that the Government have no ulterior motive—an assumption which I find it very difficult to make—and that they put forward this Bill merely for constitutional reasons and only for the alteration of the powers of the House of Lords, I still find it difficult to understand why the Government are pressing this Bill. What are the Government worrying about? They proudly boast that in the last four years they have pushed through Parliament a mass of legislation which is without parallel in our Parliamentary history. A quiet revolution has taken place. One Measure after another, some agreed and some controversial, have been pushed on to our Statute Book. To put it plainly, if the Government had tried to pass more legislation they could not possibly have done so.
I suggest that has been done, not only in spite of the fact that the House of Lords is a non-representative and hereditary body, but also because they have been "falling over backwards" to try to observe what they consider to be the requirements of democracy. They have shown undue respect—if I may put it in that way—to the wishes of the elected majority in this House. But if there had been a House of Lords on a carefully arranged representative basis, following the pattern of one or other of the second chambers throughout the world—unlike the hon. Member for Hitchin I do not wish to get into international entanglements by giving specific examples—it would, perhaps, have contained a number of their own supporters who, having got out of the hurly-burly of political life, were starting to revolt.
It is most significant that during this Parliament one of the principal revolts against the Government has been from their own Chief Whip in the House of Lords. Surely, that is a lesson which should not be overlooked. The Lord President of the Council has already acknowledged the work which the House of Lords has done in enabling a great deal of the really complicated Measures to be passed in a reasonable time. It has been stated frequently in this House that the Government owe the House of Lords a great debt for saving them from running counter to public opinion over capital punishment. Bearing in mind those factors, I suggest that no reasonable person could imagine that this Bill is inspired solely by a zeal for constitutional reform.
If the hon. and learned Gentleman had been listening to my argument he would have known the reasons which I put forward. Those are the reasons which I give to him in answer to his quite unnecessary interruption.
The practical effect of this Measure, and the only obvious purpose of it, seems to me to prevent the people from deciding a most important issue at the next General Election. The party opposite have had the effrontery to put forward as an interim statement of policy a pamphlet which in its title makes the claim, "Labour believes in Britain." If Labour really did believe in Britain, the Socialist Party would be prepared to leave to our democracy the decision whether or not iron and steel should be nationalised. But we know that that is not so. We know that the Government wish to steal a march on the British electorate, to present them with a fait accompli so far as the nationalisation of iron and steel is concerned; and we know, therefore, that Labour does not believe in Britain.
In view of the failure of nationalisation, so far as it has been put into operation in this Parliament, and knowing the success which the iron and steel industry has achieved without nationalisation, I most seriously suggest that there is a strong case for letting the people have a say. There is a strong case for second thoughts in this matter. I say this not merely because it is the obvious sort of thing for a Member of the Opposition to say at this stage: I say it also because this country is in for a difficult time and because it is most serious to deprive the people of freedom of choice in this matter.
Nationalisation has failed here in the past four years, just as in the rest of the world it has met with varying degrees of failure during the past 40 years. I shall not go into the reasons for that, because no doubt I should incur displeasure from the Chair; but it is most significant that we should have got to the stage at which the Board of the largest nationalised industry of all—the British Transport Commission—in its first annual report should be complaining of the results of the working of the nationalised coal industry. The report complains about the high cost of coal and its poor quality. The same report publishes figures which show that iron and steel has shown a smaller increase in cost than that shown in the price of any other of the principal commodities which the railways need.
Bearing in mind these facts, I suggest that the Government should give this matter second thoughts, and that we could only assume, from their refusal to do so, that they have no real faith in British democracy. To my mind, the one thing above all about this Parliament Bill and the determination to drive it through is that it is yet another step towards the all-Socialist State, in which we shall have only one employer and that is the State, only one producer and that is the State, only one retailer and that is the State, only one landlord and—
—and life will not be worth living for anybody, not even for Socialist Party bosses, because even they will be the most feared, and, I am sorry to say, also the most hated people in the land.
May I in conclusion endeavour to draw the distinction between the present artificial controversy with the House of Lords and the very real controversy which took place from 1909 to 1912? In those days, the Lords strongly opposed the legislation of the House of Commons; and I, as a Liberal, greatly regret the part that was then played by the House of Lords. The times have changed, however, and the conflict is now mainly a conflict, not between Liberals and Conservatives, as it was then, not a real conflict between Lords and Commons, but a conflict between this Government, with its lust for power, on the one hand, and the Conservatives and Liberals, and, I suggest, the mass of people who have no strong Socialist feelings in this country, on the other hand.
That this is an issue in which there are no real constitutional dangers from the Government's point of view is shown conclusively by the behaviour of the House of Lords in the last five years; and, if the Government are willing to disregard the facts, as they have done and are doing, I say that it is a very serious thing indeed for our democracy; and I certainly trust that an appeal which is made even now by a humble back bencher may not fall on deaf ears.
This is the third time that this Bill has come before this Chamber for Second Reading. Like other hon. Members who have taken part today, I have previously spoken on this subject. The Home Secretary and other hon. Members who spoke from the other side made play of the fact that all the arguments that could be brought to bear on this subject have been produced already. I make no excuse, however, for bringing forward arguments which, taken in their context, are most important arguments against the Second Reading of this Bill.
This Debate is not the same as the Debates we have had on previous occasions. It is certainly true that, every time we have a financial crisis, up pops the Parliament Bill, but no hon. Member opposite can surely suggest that the circumstances which we face today, nationally and internationally, are the same as those which faced us on the last occasion. I was very interested when the Home Secretary opened this Debate today to hear one argument which the right hon. Gentleman used. He seemed to justify the introduction of this Bill on the ground that there was no opposition to it in the country. I was always under the impression that the onus of proof, as it were, was upon the Government, that it was the Government's duty to prove its case to the satisfaction, not only of the House of Commons, the Opposition and their own supporters, but to the whole country—
No, I will not. When I tried to interrupt the Lord President, he would not show me that courtesy, and so I cannot give way now. The hon. and learned Member must resume his seat.
The Government produced certain arguments in support of the Bill, although I think that perhaps "arguments" is not the right word and that "excuses" would be more accurate. I have the impression that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have lost their crusading spirit, and have come here today to give excuses why this Bill should be passed. We have had the story about the will of the people because of a few words which were included in a pamphlet issued four years ago. I will concede this, however. It may be the will of the people that the House of Lords should be modified in its present composition, and the need for that modification has been accepted by hon. Members on this side of the House.
The other excuse has been the mandate. We have had this mandate referred to in this Chamber for four years now, but there were other matters which were mentioned in that mandate. At Question Time today there was a Question about the cheaper gas which nationalisation was to produce that was also mentioned in the mandate. We do not hear very much about that now; it is passed over. Then there is the Utopia which hon. Gentlemen promised us. We have not had that either, and neither have we had the fulfilment of that very definite promise about a Ministry of Housing. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite can thus pass over one side of that mandate, is it not surprising that the other side of it—this Bill—should be kept rigidly and spitefully in its place?
I cannot help remarking on some words which were used by the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery) who said that the House of Lords was preserved by and retained the support of this party to which I belong because it was the source of Tory funds. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) described that remark as rubbish. I do not know if any words which I could add to that comment will convince the hon. Gentleman—I very much doubt it—but that remark undoubtedly was rubbish.
The hon. Member for Central Bristol developed an argument which was more serious when he said that because the House of Lords was the source of Tory funds, it must be destroyed. This Bill does not seek to destroy the House of Lords. One could understand it if the demand to destroy the House of Lords came from the party opposite. Certainly, they change their ideas about many things—about service to the country in time of war, about conscription, on which they have changed their minds many times, on Empire and about the death penalty. We know all this, and we could understand them if they were only consistent.
There is one argument which has been put forward by the party opposite, and it is the argument that a Labour Government should not be compelled to work for three years and then spend the last two years of their time with the threat hanging over them of the possible rejection of their legislative measures by another place. They have not removed this threat. They have reduced it from two years to one year, but they have made no effort to abolish it.
That is a typical example of the rather stupid interruptions which the hon. Member makes from time to time.
The Parliament Act is possessed of what is known as a carry-over. It goes from one Parliament to another, and no interruption in its operation is occasioned by an intervening General Election. Presumably, by the introduction of this Bill—in their deeds if not in their words—the party opposite are satisfied with the composition of the House of Lords, because they have made no effort to amend it. We on this side of the House believe that the composition of the House of Lords should be altered by the agreement of all major parties.
The hon. Member will remember that on the last occasion when that agreement was sought, his party would not agree to it. The matter was therefore dropped.
We have here a Bill which hon. Members opposite at one time try to tell us has no connection with the Steel Bill, while, on other occasions they say, as did the Home Secretary this afternoon, that it is tied up with the Steel Bill. It would seem that it is the sack in which they will take the Steel Bill to the river in order to drown it. I wonder, too, whether it is not also spite—this Government are very prone to be spiteful on occasion—caused by the fact that the House of Lords met on one occasion during the long Recess. That sort of action on the part of the House of Lords would undoubtedly produce the results we have heard today. Their Lordships' attitude to the death penalty has been mentioned. I was one of the hon. Members on this side of the House who voted against hanging, and against the advice of His Majesty's Government. But I do not hesitate to say here today—although I was not of that opinion then—that the House of Lords expressed more closely the will of the people than did my vote on that occasion. This fact was brought home to me by the correspondence which I received on that subject.
With regard to the obstruction that has been alleged against the House of Lords, no shred of evidence has been produced by the party opposite that the House of Lords have ever obstructed. As I said earlier, there is the carry-over. If the Government are satisfied, as they so proclaim, that they are going to win the next election, there is no reason whatever why they should not accept the Amendment—for it was only an amendment—proposed to the Iron and Steel Bill by another place. The Lords moved that Amendment, and then, presumably, accepted the Bill subject to the condition that it should have the approval of the British people. We on this side do not believe—as, indeed, by their actions the Government do not believe—that the Government would get that permission, or will get the vote of confidence which they seek.
This Bill is another example of the machinations that have to go on in the party opposite before they can produce any type of legislation. It is again a case of having to face both ways. They have to look to the Left to see what is going on among the sabre-rattling section of their party, and to the Right to see what the other faction is doing. Governments have come and gone, and after they have gone they are usually known by some nickname. I can only think that when this Government go—as I am sure they will—they will not be known as the "Wait and see" Cabinet; they will probably be known as the "Kipper Cabinet" because they had two faces and went up in smoke.
I was rather interested in the reference by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Langford-Holt) to the verdict that will be passed upon this Government in connection with this matter. Presumably, he had in mind the whole record of achievement of this Government since they came into power in 1945. If we are dealing with a kind of exchange of possible or probable epithets relating to Governments, I do not think we can better the reference of the Tory Party's greatest leader in the nineteenth century—a reference which he made before he became a great Tory leader, and it is in really classic English—
I am glad that the hon. Member remembers the former epithet relating to his own party, but I do not think any harm will be done to public opinion and to public understanding by repeating this classic epithet. Just over 100 years ago, Disraeli, who was the founder of the modern Tory Party, said that a Conservative Government is an organised hypocrisy. In fact, I am confident that anyone who has listened to the speeches made in this Debate today by hon. Members opposite can only conclude that organised hypocrisy is still their chief capital asset.
What is this Bill intended to achieve? In this country, we have a Constitution which has gradually changed from time to time, as circumstances have made themselves felt and as the needs of the times have rendered them necessary. But the most reluctant body of people to realise the necessity of change, and to agree to that change when proposed, has always been the Tory Party in this country. It is, in a literal sense, the conservative party. It hangs on until it is almost dead to things that are dead in our political and constitutional system. This Bill is one further step forward in the necessary amendment of our constitutional machinery in order to meet the needs of our time. It seeks to achieve a reduction of the maximum period allowed to the Second Chamber to hold up Bills referred to it from this First Chamber.
It is obvious to any student of the other Chamber that it has always been predominantly Tory in personnel. There have been suggestions from hon. Members opposite in this Debate from which it would appear that at last even they are agreeable to certain changes in the powers of another place. If they sincerely held that view, they had every possible opportunity to introduce and put into effect those changes during all the years they held power between the two wars. But it stands out prominently in the national and political affairs of this country that when there is a Tory Government in power in this country the relationship between the House of Commons and the other Chamber are on a really happy family basis.
They work harmoniously together because a Tory Government is not likely to introduce legislation which would be disputed by a predominantly Tory Second Chamber. Therefore, as long as those circumstances exist, so far as a Tory Government is concerned everything in the garden is lovely. It is only when there has been a Liberal Government in former years, before the growth of the Labour Party and the coming to power of the Labour Government, that there has been a showdown with the House of Lords.
The present Leader of the Opposition played an outstanding part in defining the
attitude of the Liberal Government of those earlier years towards the House of Lords and towards the attempt which was being made by the Second Chamber to prevent the Liberal Government of those days placing on the Statute Book the necessary social legislation on which it had been returned to power. The present Leader of the Opposition summed up the position in those days from the point of view of the party of which he was then a prominent member, in the following words, when he spoke at Manchester on 8th May, 1908. He called the Tory Party
… a party of great vested interests banded together in a formidable confederation; corruption at home, aggression to cover it abroad, the trickery of tariff jugglery; the tyranny of a wealth-fed party machine"—
That is quite appropriate today—
sentiment by the bucketful; patriotism and imperialism by the imperial pint; an open hand at the public exchequer, an open door at the public house; dear food for the million, cheap labour for the millionaire. That is the policy which the Tory Party offer you.
That is the party which the right hon. Gentleman who uttered those words just over 40 years ago is now leading.
The position of this Bill is quite clear, and the attitude of the Second Chamber has been made perfectly plain. The time has long since come for a drastic revision of the whole personnel and powers of the Second Chamber. An attempt was made in that direction by the present Government. At an all-party conference in an attempt to arrive at a settlement on this question, suggestions were put forward for the revision not only of the delaying power of the Second Chamber but of the whole set-up of that place. The main proposals appear to have been agreed between the spokesmen of the different parties, on these lines: The role of the Second Chamber would be to debate public affairs and revise legislation.
A revised constitution of the Lords should be drawn up to ensure that no political party could enjoy a permanent majority. The hereditary principle should be abolished. Members of the Second Chamber should be called Lords of Parliament and should be appointed on the grounds of personal distinction or public service. They might be drawn from hereditary Peers or from commoners who would be created life Peers. Women should be appointed Lords of Parliament. Lords of Parliament should be paid in order to ensure that people without private incomes could enter the House. Provision should be made for the disqualification of members of the Second Chamber who neglect or become unfit to perform their duties.
What was the Liberal Party's view of those proposals? Lord Samuel on 8th June, 1948, described these reforms in these words:
I think they would still be acceptable to four-fifths of the nation … we have carried forward as an institution into the new age this House of Lords … with the one exception that heredity was not to be regarded in itself as sufficient title for a share in the powers of legislation.
I think that is quite a fair summing up of the proposals which were tentatively agreed to between the spokesman of the various parties. What the negotiations broke down upon was the question of the period of the delaying powers of the Second Chamber. Therefore, all those desirable improvements have been sacrificed because the Second Chamber or the representatives of the Tory Party could not come to terms on the period of the delaying power.
In effect, their proposals would have meant that every Bill with which another place disagreed and decided to hold up could be held up for two years in the life of a particular Government. The spokesman for the Socialist Party said quite definitely that 12 months was long enough—that is from the Third Reading of a Bill in this House until it reached the other place, covering a period of nine to 12 months at the most. If that is not sufficient time for the other place to make up their minds whether they wish to accept or reject a Bill, then I really do not understand what they want and what they mean when they say they want a fair deal.
In my opinion their whole attitude was determined by the policy of the Tory Party in this House, by the leaders of the Opposition. It was decided to sacrifice all those fundamental reforms in the representation and the powers of a Second Chamber for the simple reason that the Opposition Front Bench in this House wished as far as possible to hold up any legislation with which they disagreed and which was introduced by the present Government. I think it is clear to any impartial observer that this is a game of sheer party politics supported by the Opposition Front Bench.
There is no attempt to assess the position from a national point of view. There has been no attempt to view the whole position of the status, powers and delaying prerogatives of the other place. It has fallen down on a question of pure party strategy played by the leaders of the Opposition at this stage in the lifetime of this Parliament. It is all summed up in four words—Iron and Steel Bill. The Opposition Front Bench and their supporters have determined to do their utmost to prevent the Iron and Steel Bill reaching the Statute Book, even to the extent of using the delaying powers of another place as far as it lies within their power to use them. The answer of the present Government to these delaying and obstructive tactics is this Bill—a Bill to reduce the delaying powers of another place to a maximum of 12 months.
I am confident that when the electors of this country have the opportunity to determine whether or not this Government is taking the right step on this issue, they will come down determinedly on the side of democratic rule not only in the House of Commons but in another place. When the time and opportunity comes everything will be done by the next Parliament—when the Labour Party is returned to power after the next Election—not only to deal with the delaying powers of another place but to reform drastically the whole composition and powers of the Second Chamber. I am confident that when we go to the country on this issue we shall have the overwhelming support of the electors.
I think that such portions of the speech of the hon. Member for the Wrekin (Mr. I. O. Thomas) as had any bearing on the Bill before the House have already been so frequently canvassed and repeated that we need not delay upon them very long. As has been said again and again by my hon. Friends, the motive of the Iron and Steel Bill only has any conceivable meaning on the assumption, which I presume the hon. Member makes, that the Socialist Party will lose the next election. Otherwise there would be no conceivable meaning in the tactics which he ascribes to the Tory Front Bench.
Turning to this question of the composition of the House of Lords. There is at present a Conservative predominance in the other place but, as the hon. Member for The Wrekin himself showed, it is a fact that the Conservative Party have joined with other parties in admitting that to be an evil which they would be glad to see remedied. The hon. Member maintained that desirable improvements in the composition of the House were presented by the Conservative Party because it was not possible to reach an agreement on the question of powers, but there is no logic whatsoever in that argument; there is no reason whatsoever, when there is disagreement on powers and an agreement on composition, why a Bill should not have been introduced in order to reform the composition of the House.
The hon. Member will surely admit that the primary power, the power of most importance, in a second Chamber is the period of its delaying power to legislation referred to it.
That may be the most important point, but I am not discussing that. All I am saying is that there is no reason, when the parties were agreed on one point and disagreed on the other, why there should not have been a non-controversial Bill which would have reformed the composition of the House and a controversial Bill to fight out the question of powers. Which would be more important is another point altogether.
What I said was that there is no reason why there should not have been two Measures. I do not want to delay the House unnecessarily; what I said was perfectly clear. There is no reason why the Government should not have introduced an agreed Measure about composition and had a disagreed Measure—on which, so long as the present Parliament sits, presumably the Conservatives would have been outvoted—to deal with the powers of the House of Lords. The fact that it was not possible to reach an agreement about powers did not make it in the least impossible to have an agreed Measure about the composition.
I turn to the general historical question about what have been the relationships between the will of the people and the House of Lords when the House of Lords has seen fit to interfere and to take a stand against the House of Commons. In an interesting speech the Home Secretary speculated upon the reasons why anybody might allege that there was some way in which the House of Lords could interpret the will of the people better than could the House of Commons. Whatever may be the reasons, the facts of history remain. I do not suggest that the House of Lords has been generally wiser than the House of Commons—I would not maintain that for a moment—but the facts are that on the particular occasions where there has been conflict between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, almost without exception, there is very great reason to believe, the will of the people has been on the side of the House of Lords rather than that of the House of Commons.
The first instance was one which my hon. Friend the Member for Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory) took in great detail. I shall not repeat what he said, but at the time of the Second Home Rule Bill—and I am a Home Ruler and greatly regret that the Bill was rejected—the House of Lords reversed the verdict of the House of Commons and the electorate upheld the verdict of the House of Lords.
As the Home Secretary himself showed, there was the question of the legislation before the 1914 war, when there was a Liberal Government; and whether it was good legislation or bad legislation is neither here nor there and I shall not argue it. The Conservative Party was, in fact, as strong as and after a time stronger than the Liberal Party in those years immediately before the war, and those Bills were carried by the votes of the Irish Nationalists who frankly admitted that they were opposed to the legislation itself but that, as part of the bargain on Irish Home Rule, they were willing to support it.
Now to come to the instances in the history of this Parliament. The only instance where the House of Lords has seen fit to reverse the verdict of the House of Commons is the instance of the death penalty. As some hon. Members may remember, I was one of those who supported the abolition of the death penalty. We are not concerned with whether that measure should have been abolished or should not have been abolished, but undoubtedly the fact was that on that occasion, as I have better reason to know than anybody else, public opinion did support the upholding of the death penalty and was opposed to the abolition of it. It may be right or wrong; that is not to be argued at the moment; and, as I say, I am not arguing for a moment that the House of Lords is generally, inevitably, a wiser body than the House of Commons; that argument is obviously a quite different one. The House of Lords resists the House of Commons only in exceptional circumstances, and over a very large number of years has never done so except where it has been quite certain that public opinion has been on its side. Therefore, on those particular instances the House of Lords quite certainly, has been the interpreter of public opinion more than the House of Commons.
Now the House of Lords, as the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones) showed, in an interesting speech which benefited greatly as he admitted, by his study of my book—and, therefore, I am indebted to him—the House of Lords has, as it were, a double life. For the vast majority of its time its deliberations are carried on by a number of distinguished men on matters of primary importance with little question of a Division or voting and it is, in little more than a nominal sense, a hereditary body at all.
But, of course, there are particular occasions when it summons up its Members in order to challenge a verdict of the House of Commons. Though it be true that the particular occasions on which this has been done it has always had public opinion behind it, I perfectly admit that if I were on the Socialist benches I should urge the argument, as one or two hon. Members have perfectly fairly urged the argument, that there might be occasions when a Conservative Government misinterpreted public opinion and the House of Lords would not, as at present composed, challenge a predominantly Conservative House of Commons. If I were in the position of a Liberal or a Socialist I would urge that argument, which is a perfectly fair argument about the composition, as some hon. Members have done.
But this Bill does nothing whatever to remedy that. It is not a Bill for the reform of the House of Lords—a Bill to abolish party inequality in the House of Lords. That would be something we are supporting. Not only the present distinguished Lord Salisbury and his father, but his grandfather, the great Prime Minister, himself described it as an evil that the House of Lords was of this unbalanced nature. But this Bill does nothing whatsoever to remedy that.
Now about the House of Commons and the will of the people. The hon. Member for Hitchin argued that the House of Lords must inevitably be a political body; and, of course, to a large extent he is right in that. It is inevitable also that a large number of Members of the House of Lords, if not all of them, will obviously have party preferences, because those are things human beings do have; but there is a great distinction, which, on the whole, has been observed, and surely should be observed, between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and that is that although Members of the House of Lords have party preferences there is no reason why there should be strict party discipline in the House of Lords as in the House of Commons. Surely the right division of functions is that this House of Commons ought to be a House table d'hôte and the House of Lords should be a House à la carte—a House in which people much more freely choose their political opinions; and that, in point of fact, is what has already happened.
Surely the point is this about the representation of the will of the people. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) said, a very new and evil thing has grown up by which it is assumed that whatever is voted by the majority—the temporary majority—in this House is ipso facto in a high and mystical sense the will of the people—even if it happens to be something quite different from what the people want. Surely, the truth of the matter is that all our representative devices are necessarily imperfect. It may well be—I am not arguing this—that the two-party system is better than a no-party system or a multi-party system, and that our system of elections is better than the alternative vote or proportional representation; but these are all devices, and they are not perfect machinery, and cannot be. But they are more or less good devices and they have worked, and 99 times out of 100 this House does represent the people of England. But sometimes it does not.
Sometimes, with all the best will in the world, we make a mistake. Whatever party may be in power, and whatever may be the constitution of the House of Commons, that is apt to happen; and that is the reason why it is so important to have a Second Chamber with reasonable powers. This is not an attack upon this House of Commons at all, but it is an essential condition of the true freedom of the House of Commons. We are continually telling our constituents and the people of this country, very rightly, that we are here not as delegates. We quote Burke to them, and rightly, that we owe them our judgment. It is our duty to come here and vote, not on the instructions of somebody outside, not even of our constituents, or anybody else, but as our conscience and judgment bid us vote. We are continually telling our people that, and we are right to do so.
This country would be in a very poor way indeed if we could not get hon. Members here to vote in that way, and we must vote according to conscience and judgment. Nevertheless, we are fallible beings and sometimes make a mistake, and, therefore, it is vitally important that there should be a revising Chamber with reasonable powers which can save us from ourselves. If there were not a revising Chamber, one of two things would be bound to happen: either we should make mistakes and there would be no remedy for these mistakes, and the country would collapse in chaos, or we should have to abandon freedom of judgment.
Would the hon. Gentleman allow me? Accepting his argument that it is possible for this Chamber to make mistakes, does he rule out the possibility of the second Chamber's making mistakes?
I know other hon. Members want to speak, and what advantage to the House it would be if I were to repeat my speech three times over I do not know. I have explained at some length that the last thing I am arguing is that the House of Lords is always right and the House of Commons is always wrong, or that the House of Lords is a wiser body in general than the House of Commons. What I have said—and I wish the hon. Gentleman had followed my argument—is that on all the great instances, although the House of Commons is very frequently right, and is right 99 times out of 100, it sometimes makes mistakes; and the reason why the House of Lords is generally right when in conflict with the House of Commons is that it only enters into conflict with the House of. Commons when the House of Commons clearly makes a mistake.
If I used the word "always" I accept the right hon. Gentleman's correction, but I did start from the second Home Rule Bill. Mr. Speaker had to caution my hon. Friend the Member for Queen's University for going a bit too far back in history, and I started with the second Home Rule Bill, which is far enough back. If we go far enough back in history into the 18th century, then I would say that the Home Secretary, when he last introduced the Bill, said, if I recollect aright, that at the time of the Treaty of Utrecht there was a Tory majority in the House of Lords. Actually the Tories did not have a majority in the early part of the 18th century. It was the Whigs. I am not a Whig, and I am not responsible for what the Whigs did.
The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) made a very interesting speech. He went a good part of the way to support the case made now for the third time by this Government in presenting this Bill. He said that all representative devices are imperfect. The case for this Bill is that it is an attempt to improve the representative devices by which the country is governed. The hon. Member's argument was not that this Bill was bad in itself, but that it does not go far enough and that it does not make further and better changes in our Constitution.
If the hon. Member says that it does not make any changes, I do not think he can have seriously applied his mind to the purpose of the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Parliament Act, 1911. Nobody has ever suggested that the Parliament Act, 1911, was a final Measure, or was intended to be final, or intended to be the last word on the relationship between the two Houses. In fact, the contrary is the case. By its very Preamble, it recognises that it was to be a temporary Measure.
This Bill is an attempt to remedy the state of affairs in which the law was left in 1911. I must admit that on the third occasion on which a Bill of this kind has been dealt with in this House, it is a little difficult to say anything entirely new, but, nevertheless, there are one or two things on this subject which have not yet been said and which I should like to say if the House will bear with me, and one or two things which have been said on previous occasions which are worth while repeating.
On this question of repetition, it is no good hon. Members opposite suggesting that Members on these Benches have repeated former arguments, because that is one of the defects of the Parliament Act itself. If we use the machinery of the Parliament Act, then we are driven to pass through a Bill in this House three times—
—three times in two years; that is one of the defects. If this Bill is passed, it will no longer be necessary to repeat arguments for the benefit of hon. Members opposite three times in two years. I mentioned that as an incidental achievement which will result from this Bill.
I want to go back to make this point in all seriousness: when the powers of the House of Lords were considered in 1910 and 1911 a distinction was drawn—a vital distinction—between two kinds of Bills —money Bills and all other Bills. We are sometimes inclined to forget that one of the things that the Parliament Act, 1911, did was to take away all power of the House of Lords with regard to money Bills, which were then considered to be the most important part of the legislative output of Parliament. For that reason, the House of Lords was denied any powers of considering or amending them.
My own criticism of the present Bill is that it does not go far enough. If one were now considering de novo the classification of Measures, and considering what kind of Measures the House of Lords ought to be able to amend and revise and what kind of Measures, like money Bills, they should not even be allowed to amend, I think that Measures of the same kind of importance as the Finance Bill, for example, all Measures of nationalisation that affect the general economy of the country, would be withdrawn from any consideration by the House of Lords for precisely the same reason that Finance Bills were in 1911 withdrawn from consideration of the House of Lords, because they are Bills of an order with which it is the special function and duty of an elected House to deal.
Therefore, although for historical reasons in 1911 the division was drawn at money Bills, I think the logical line of cleavage if drawn today would include in the same category as money Bills all Measures dealing with nationalisation.
I would be content to include in the same category as money Bills, Bills which make sweeping changes in the economic and industrial life of the country, and I would leave all other Measures for consideration by the House of Lords, giving them a certain delaying power.
Of course, although hon. Members opposite do not like to recognise it, the truth of the matter is that since 1911 the House of Lords has not really had any effective power at all; it has not been intended that it should have any effective power. It has really been a piece of Parliamentary procedural machinery, and I think that in that sense it has, if I may say so, functioned extremely well. I agree with all the tributes paid by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House to the efficiency with which the House of Lords has acted as a revising Chamber. That is its function; and I entirely agree that it is a great convenience to this House that we should be able to get another place to consider Clauses and Schedules in Bills which, for one reason or another, this House has either not the time or the inclination to consider in detail.
That being its function, what we are considering in this Bill today is how long should be the delaying or suspensory powers of the House of Lords. I do not believe that any framers of a constitution would deliberately devise a constitution which gave one party in the State a permanent veto over the legislative output of the other party. Now, in practice that has been the case, and that is why reform of the House of Lords never became a burning or a relevant question during the long period of years when the Conservative Party had a majority. During that period the House of Lords was ineffective; it had no part to play. This matter only became a vital question when the Labour Party acquired power in 1945.
Having listened to the observations made by hon. Members opposite today, I am not quite clear now whether they argue that the Government had a mandate or had not a mandate to deal with this matter. I have always argued, first, that one does not have to have a mandate to introduce any particular Bill into this House; that would be much too strict a constitutional position. But if it is necessary to see whether there is in fact a mandate, it is abundantly clear, not only from "Let Us Face the Future" but also from speeches which I and many of my hon. Friends made in their constituencies, that one of the matters which we told the electors that a Labour Government would deal with if returned to power would be the reform of the powers of the House of Lords.
The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) has again repeated an argument he put before the House on the previous occasion, that this Bill is not opportune at this time. It was said two years ago that the introduction of the Bill would create such disturbance, and such divisions in the country that it would have very serious effects on production. Of course, the reverse turned out to be the case. Ever since the Bill was introduced, as statistics show, the productive output of the nation has increased and has continued to increase. The Bill has neither divided the country nor distracted attention, and I do not think that argument can he seriously put forward.
One new and interesting observation was made by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). He complained that one of the blemishes of the Bill was that it did not take away the power of the House of Lords to pass a resolution, by way of a prayer, inviting the Crown to annul a statutory instrument.
Let us examine precisely what that means. The hon. Member says the Government know perfectly well there is no risk of obstruction on the part of the House of Lords. I hope there is not, and I am very glad to have that assurance, because there is no reason why there should be any obstruction. I still do not know whether the hon. Member thinks that another place has the right to obstruct and has the right to pass a resolution annulling a statutory instrument. His remarks seemed to suggest that if they dared to do such a thing it would be obstruction, and I entirely agree with him. I believe that if the theoretical power of the House of Lords were used the Government would take steps to stop them. I think that the powers they have for passing such a resolution are merely academic powers. They have never in fact been used, and I doubt whether they would be. If ever there were a serious division of opinion between the House of Lords and this House whether a statutory instrument should or should not be annulled, I should hope that the wishes of this House would prevail.
The hon. Member is very familiar with this procedure. If there is any force in his argument, can he explain why it is that the Government by their own Act—the Supplies and Services (Extended Purposes) Act, 1947—conferred upon the House of Lords a power which, if they used it, would be obstruction according to the hon. Member.
The hon. Member seemed to think it would be obstruction. If his observation has any relevance, it is of very doubtful constitutional wisdom to give the House of Lords that power, if they intended to use it seriously, and I doubt whether they are so entitled.
I wish now to deal with an observation made by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby. He complained, as he did on a previous occasion, of the retrospective effect of this Bill. He said, quite untruly and unjustly, that the restrictive effect was "cheating of a particularly degrading sort." I made a note of what he said at the time, because I objected to it. It is, of course, nothing of the kind. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is driven to language of that kind he really does himself much less than justice, because in another part of his speech he said that Parliament has always been competent to deal equally with the law of the constitutional as with any trivial matter. That is one of the advantages of the Constitution under which we live. When a House of Commons is returned with a majority of any particular political complexion it is returned knowing that the Parliament then elected is completely sovereign, and able to deal both with constitutional and trivial matters. It has been done before by Conservative Governments which, when it suited them, have, equally and rightly, used the machinery of Parliament for passing Bills with retrospective action. So, I do not think any objection can be made to the Bill on that ground.
May I conclude with this remark? I have always taken the view that the Bill is quite a good Measure in itself, irrespective of whether it has any association with the Iron and Steel Bill. I want to place on record my opinion that, regardless altogether of the Iron and Steel Bill, this Bill, bringing the suspensory power of the House of Lords up to date, so to speak, by reducing the period of two years to its modern equivalent of one year—having regard to the changing tempo of modern life—is an essential reform of our Constitution which this Government were pledged to carry through.
I wish I could devote more time to replying to the speech of the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher). It has been breathtaking to listen to the various attacks which have been made by Members opposite on the House of Lords. The hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery) said that it should be destroyed, and suggestions were made which would lead one to think that some of the Peers in the other place were decrepit old people who were grinding down the poor or pouring bags of gold into the pockets of the Tory Party. When the hon. Member for East Islington was asked what he would have left to the House of Lords, he replied that he would leave to them the question of the life or death of His Majesty's subjects. If I may use modern language, that beats cock-fighting.
The hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay), whose knowledge of the angels and the philsopher Hobbes seems so profound, asked who ought to be the best judge of the will of the people. That is a question that is very pertinent to this Bill. It is obvious that when a new Parliament comes into being there is no question of having some sort of independent judge outside this House. It must be the Government. They have a clear order from the electorate as to what they ought to do. But the moment may come—and one says it with a sense of genuine trepidation and fear—when there should be a pause lest something appalling is done by this Bill. There is not a child in the country who would believe for a second that there was no connection between this Bill and the Iron and Steel Bill. I believe that anyone who asserts that will be marked down as being either wrong or subject to a delusion or having been misled.
The point as to who should judge was dealt with by Lecky who, after all, was a great historian and who had the Order of Merit. It is sometimes not a bad thing to go to an historian if he is a first-rate one. Lecky wrote in 1896:
It is extremely important that something of a judicial element should be infused into politics. In policies that are closely connected with Party conflicts, the question of Party interest will always dominate in the House of Commons over the question of intrinsic merits. A bad Measure will often be carried, though it may be known to be bad, when the only alternative is the displacement of a ministry supported by a majority. In these circumstances, the existence of a revising chamber so constituted that it can reject a measure without overthrowing a ministry, and which is not dependent on the many chances of a popular election is one of the best guarantees of sound legislation.
How can anyone who has had experience here in the last four years, on either side of the House, not see the sense of that? Do hon. Members opposite realise how, if the day came when they were deserted by the electorate and we were in power, they would long for the provisions of the present Parliament Act unamended. [Laughter.] Of course hon. Members would. They may live to see the day when perhaps something is to be put through in a year which they would prefer should take two years. How foolish this is from their own point of view, and what dangers there are in whittling away the powers of the Second Chamber must surely be obvious to a child. It was the result of the whittling away of the powers of the law that in Cromwell's day led to the abolition of the Commons. It was the abolition of the Upper House in France in 1791 that led not only to the guillotine but to Napoleon. It was the abolition of the Upper House of 1848 in
France that led to anarchy and miserable despotism under Napoleon III. Indeed, in the United States it was found necessary in 1787 to have a strong Upper Chamber.
The real truth of the matter is that everyone in this House knows in his or her heart that the proper thing for the Labour Party was to have reformed the composition of the House of Lords and to have called it something else if they so wished. The history of the matter is fascinating. It would be quite wrong for hon. Members to think that their party have had a clear view as to what ought to happen to the House of Lords. At the 1918 Labour Party Conference the eleventh Resolution was in favour of:
The complete abandonment of any attempt to control the people's representatives by a House of Lords.
That means total abolition.
At the 1933 Hastings Conference the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was asking for an assurance that the next Labour Government would proceed immediately to abolish the House of Lords. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Those cheers should surely be on the record. It is obvious what the real truth is. The Home Secretary let the cat out of the bag today, and I shall refer in a few moments to what he said. But let us first look at the history of the matter. At the 1934 Southport Conference, in a discussion "For Socialism and Peace"—I have referred to Professor Cole's history to be able to deal with this matter accurately—the following resolution was passed:
The Labour Party, given a majority, would interpret the mandate as conferring upon it the right, particularly if the House of Lords seeks to wreck its essential measures, forthwith to proceed to the abolition of that Chamber,
and added that in any event the party was committed to abolishing the House of Lords. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] But the party opposite has not done it.
In 1936 at the Edinburgh Conference, the National Executive, dealing with honours said:
the creation of peers in large numbers may prove to be the only possible way to abolish the House of Lords.
The report was referred back and nothing
was done about it. Where are we, and where is the Labour Party in this matter? Did they intend, when hon. Members were younger, and possibly not Members of this House, to abolish the House of Lords or not? They said they would but they have not done so. Why? The reason is of course that they felt it would upset a certain number of the electorate. It is much better to keep the pot boiling.
Listen to what the Home Secretary said earlier today. He pointed out that under this Bill the Labour Party would still not have attained complete equality in the Upper House but that they would reduce still more their inequalities between the two parties. Presumably he is not satisfied with the present Bill, though why on earth he was not brave enough to introduce the right Bill from his point of view nobody knows. He went on to say in the same speech, when the thing becomes eventually clear: "It is some embarrassment to put a Bill through twice, but we are quite prepared for the present"—and I underline the words, "for the present"—"to accept that situation."
In circumstances such as these is it not idle to say that the country is being humbugged about this matter? The carrying through of this Measure if it is followed by disaster, either financial or otherwise, would merit punishment. In a despotism the responsibility is in one person, but in a Government it is in many. Everyone knows we are in fact in peril. If we do go down to further miseries it will be said that it was pig-headed obstinacy and imbecile devotion to theory and hideous self-conceit that brought us to ruin.
I shall conclude by saying that not so long ago France was brought to utter misery and bloodshed by a simple, friendly, kindly lawyer who refused to take a judge's job because he did not approve of the death penalty. That was Maximilien Robespierre—"the sea green incorruptible." Now we are condemned, so long as the party opposite is in power, to a series of persons who can be described as nothing more than a hateful sequence of pea-green indigestibles.
We are now coming to the end of a very long Debate which has occupied the time of both Houses of Parliament during the last two years. This is a Bill of considerable importance, and no attempts by His Majesty's Government to minimise its importance or its scope will deceive the House or later generations. It is, incidentally, the first time since 1914 that the procedure of the Parliament Act has been invoked. The Home Secretary himself said it was by no means the first time that this procedure had been invoked. It is actually the second time and his description I thought was a shade extravagant.
Apart from the fact that this is important because it involves the second invocation of the Parliament Act, it is also of the greatest possible constitutional importance. We look beyond the present controversy to the future history of our country and we are glad that we can snatch some advantage from all the controversy of the last two years. For there are some advantages from this subject having been raised, though the wrong and temporary solution is now being arrived at. Tonight we have had a series of remarkable speeches, not the least remarkable of which was that just made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude). We have also had an historical and objective speech from the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) and we have as well, from the hon. Member for Queen's University (Professor Savory), a survey which I hope will fill some of the more glaring gaps in the historical equipment of the Lord President.
Over a wider field and in a more important way we have gained some advantage as a nation from this controversy; the report of the all-Party Committee that met in 1947, and the agreed statement that party leaders made at the conclusion may one day provide the basis of an agreed solution of this problem of our Constitution. When we saw some of the representatives of the Socialist Party who were present at that conference we on this side of the House rejoiced that they had accepted the idea of a Second Chamber with definite but limited powers.
I must confess that in common with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter I heard with some alarm the phrases used by the Home Secretary today which seemed to suggest that this was only an instalment of the curtailment of the Lords' powers and that further Measures were intended. The cheers that have greeted all references to the total abolition of the Upper House and some of the speeches that have also been made all go very ill for those who want to have an agreed all-party solution. They make it also all the more incredible that the Socialist Party should have expected an all-party agreement to emerge from this Conference when such a large proportion of their Members are really anxious wholly to abolish the Upper House itself.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, when he replies to the Debate, will deal with those two extracts from the speech of the Home Secretary. I hope that he will make it plain that the Home Secretary accepts the tentative arrangements arrived at at this party conference, in so far as they involve the retention of a Second Chamber, so that we can at least rely on him to be loyal to the conception of our Constitution which it is one of his duties to maintain.
The only other suggestion of a novel kind which has emerged from the Debate was that of the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) that all nationalisation Bills should be withdrawn from the scrutiny of the Upper House. In the course of the last four years I think there have been some 1,100 or 1,200 Amendments dealt with there. The vast majority of them have been moved by the Government on the various nationalisation Bills. If the hon. Member really believes that the proper discharge of Government Business would be aided by the abolition of that revising Chamber, then he had better tell that, if not to the marines, then to the Lord Chancellor.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to misquote me. What I said was that if the Parliament Bill were being considered afresh in the circumstances in which it was considered by the Liberal Party of 1911, I do not think they would draw the distinction between money Bills over which the House of Lords has no control at all and all other Bills. I think that they would have drawn the distinction wider so as to exclude Bills like nationalisation Bills from consideration by the House of Lords.
Then the hon. Gentleman's remarks were even less related to our present difficulties and to this Bill than I thought they were. He also said that ever since 1911 the Upper House has had no real power. I ask him to tell that to his fellow back-benchers whose whole argument today has been that they had had far too much power.
We were glad when we found that a number of responsible Socialist leaders had accepted as a permanent part of our machinery and Constitution the conception of an Upper House, but we knew the strength of the feeling in the party opposite. We knew also that a large number of other important people in the Socialist Party believe in single Chamber Government, not the least of these being the Minister of Health. That being so, we shall watch with the greatest interest and considerable anxiety the way in which the party mind moves in the course of the next few months.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has already abandoned any interest in this Parliament, if we can take the family newspaper as any indication, for we have been told in the last few weeks that this Parliament has now got very little left to do except to wrangle, and various other things which suggest that the day of this Parliament is over. None the less, a number of responsible Socialist leaders have publicly committed themselves to considering the retention permanently of the other place. This represents something of value in the last two years. We are also glad that, when this Bill was first proposed two years ago, we were told that any Bills altering the duration of Parliament would need at present the consent of both Houses. This, coming after the statement made some years ago by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer on the possibility of Parliament's life being prolonged without an election if the full degree of socialisation had not been accomplished in five years, was of real comfort to us.
The only other comment of any particular value or representing a new slant that fell from the Home Secretary was his comparison between the work of Parliament in previous years and its work today. Two years he said used to suffice for controversial legislation after an election being carried through and brought to a close, the remaining years being devoted to developing and consolidating, and presumably improving, that legislation. Referring again to the "Tribune," I am told that we have accomplished in this House in the last five years so much legislation as would have occupied previous Parliaments for 25 years. If this is so, it will explain the 1,200 Amendments which have been moved in another place to Government Bills, and will also explain the real necessity for retaining a Second Chamber.
The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President said some days ago that it would be extraordinarily difficult to find anything new to say on the Parliament Bill, and, of course, that is true, because—and it is perhaps sometimes an unfortunate fact for them—the truths remain the same, however long bad Governments go on. Though the truths remain the same, there has been a spectacular change in the national setting in which these successive Bills have been introduced and also the most tragic deterioration in our national estate.
We first heard of this Bill at the end of October, 1947, and the Second Reading was moved in November of that year. That was to have been, as the Lord President told us, the first year when we should all be working on something like a peace footing—1947. It was actually, of course, as millions of working men remember, the year of the direction of labour. The announcement was made of the intention to have this amendment of the Parliament Act at the very time when large numbers of the public had been lulled into a false sense of security by the statement of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer that he had been able to meet all the demands on the public purse with a song in his heart. That was actually the time when this Bill was first introduced. It was two months after convertibility had been suspended, when the American loan had almost run out, and during the very weeks when the gap between imports and exports was £600 million.
When this Bill was first introduced into this House, the issue then popularly known as "Daltons," which had been issued at 99⅝ were already being quoted at 89¼. This was the time when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer had asked us for joint consultations, for sustained effort and single-minded devotion to the national interests. With all these alarming economic forces threatening, and with this appeal for a united front made by the present Chancellor, this unprovoked attack was made upon another place. Certainly, the Government had a pretty poor Press at the time, and are having no better Press now in regard to this Bill.
I will limit my comments, first, to their friendly newspapers. "Political irrelevance," this Bill was called by the "Manchester Guardian" when first introduced; "Brawling at Phantoms," the "News Chronicle" called it. "The Times," which was even up to that date trying to be fair to the Government—an illustration of how very difficult this Government make it for even their friends to be fair to them—said that this particular Gracious Speech had shown no glimpse of the prodigious dangers and the historical opportunities of the British people. If only at that time we had measured up to the magnitude of the problems that lay ahead of us instead of wasting time on a Bill of this kind! One paper that supports the Government—the "Daily Mirror"—called this a move to cover up something, and what that something was the Minister of Health made quite plain a few days before when he talked about the nationalisation of steel.
So much for the first time that this Bill was introduced. It was then introduced almost exactly a year later, in September, 1948 This year—1948—was the year when the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had told us that we should overcome the worst shortages that were facing us, and when he had asked us to keep going together—a rather ironical piece of advice in the light of this Bill—so that the shortages and frustrations which still afflicted us would disappear like the snows of winter and give place to the full promise of springtime.
When this Bill was introduced for the second time in September last year, the economic crisis had grown in intensity. "Daltons" had dropped another 10 points and the great issues of Malaya, Palestine, Berlin and National Defence were worrying and perplexing our people. Yet Parliament was recalled solely for the purpose of considering this partisan and unnecessary Bill.
Now we come to the third occasion, the occasion which calls us together today when the third Second Reading of this Bill is being considered. "Daltons" have dropped another 10 points again-89¼ when the Bill was first introduced, 77 the second time, 66 this morning, and the savings of large numbers of people and the future stability of our State find reflection in that ghastly decline. [Laughter.] If hon. Members opposite think it funny, the country as a whole will not. The only difference between the situation of the last two years is that at last some Members of the Government are beginning to recognise the realities, and instead of this Bill being ushered in as it was with the Chancellor of the Duchy's words a year and two years ago, it is ushered in today to the words of the right hon. Gentleman. Some two weeks ago the Lord President said that our trouble was that we kept on behaving as though we had more wealth to distribute than was actually the case.
So much for the main setting of this Bill, but I could not pass on from the Bill itself—and my remarks will be related to the Bill of 1949, and not to the events of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries like those of other hon. Members—without reminding the House that during the two years or more that we have been playing with this Bill and dividing the nation on a great constitutional issue, our dollar and gold reserves have been dropping catastrophically, and are today at about the lowest point in our history.
That is our first charge, that at a time—first in 1947, again in 1948 and lastly today—when all our energies should have been concentrated on our economic recovery we should be spending time on a Bill which will not in any way advance our economic prospects, a Bill that is designed solely to facilitate the passage of another Bill which will add considerably to our economic difficulties. Our second charge is that the purpose of this Bill, which would never have been before the House had the Iron and Steel Bill not been intended, is solely to secure the passage of the Iron and Steel Bill. Involving as it does a fundamental change in our constitution, involving also a retrospective step, it is all the more shocking that a Bill that does not pretend to be for the improvement and the amendment of our constitution should be brought in to secure the passage of a controversial piece of legislation and temporarily to heal the breach between Ministers of the Crown.
But these are not our only criticisms. We believe—and this is our main contention against this Bill—that, as was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), the Government are treating a large issue in a small way and that this is the negation of statesmanship. What is wrong today with the House of Lords is composition and not powers, and the Government are making no effort whatever to deal with the problem of composition. We have agreed at an all party conference that the possession of a hereditary peerage should not by itself constitute a qualification for ad mission to the Upper House. I must confess that I agree, as I think the majority of my hon. Friends agree, with the noble Lord in another place who said that in choosing someone to discharge parliamentary duties the fact that he and his father before him had lived in an atmosphere where duties were recognised to involve serious responsibilities is some recommendation. However, we have made it plain that we do not accept the view that the possession of a hereditary peerage by itself entitles anybody to sit in a reformed Chamber.
We have agreed also that this Upper House should be a complementary and not a rival House, and that as far as possible it should be chosen in such a way that no political party in the State will be assured of a permanent majority. This represents a very considerable advance towards all-party agreement, because hitherto every attempt by individuals in the other place or here to raise the question of reform of the composition of the other place has brought forth votes of censure and opposition from the Socialist Party. When at last we have people sitting round a table arguing it out together it may augur that one day we shall together come to some agreement.
Many hon. Members opposite who have been taking part in this Debate still do not understand our opposition to the reduction of the delaying power in the other place. They seem to think that all we are concerned with is to see that the House of Lords has an unnecessary long time in which to consider the merits of any proposal. Of course, our contention has always been—and this goes to the root of our constitution and our national sovereignty—that the purpose of the House of Lords is, when there is strong doubt as to the views of the public, to enable public opinion to form and crystallize. This cannot happen until the House of Lords has actually rejected a Measure put up in another House and so brought the dispute to public scrutiny.
I take an illustration from the Transport Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Salisbury, leader of my party in another place, drew up a time-table as follows: If this Parliament Bill, which we are considering tonight, had been law at the time when the Lords gavc the Third Reading to the Transport Bill in July, 1947—and hon. Members will remember what little attention it received in the House of Commons and how many Clauses were never even considered—and if the Lords had thrown it out at the end of the summer instead of passing it, the Government could have brought it in again in December and it would immediately have become law. The only time which public opinion would have had in which to crystallize on the issue would have been between the rejection of the Bill by another place in July and its passage into law in December.
As has been said continually from this side of the House, we are anxious for the interposition of so much delay, and no more, as may be needed to enable the opinion of the country adequately to be expressed. It is an entirely new doctrine, and many members of the Socialist Party may live one day to regret it, to say that once a Government is elected the Members of the House of Commons of the majority party are masters of the nation until the next election. This is a complete break with our whole Parliamentary institution. The principle on which the freedom we believe in has been based over the passage of years is that the people are sovereign all the time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If hon. Members who cheer that really believe it, then they show precious little desire to meet the people at a General Election. Our belief is that the people are sovereign all the time and that they have the right to make known their considered judgment not once every five years but throughout the whole period.
It has been argued—and no doubt there will be a cheer for this—that the House of Lords cannot be trusted properly to interpret the feelings of the people, but my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes, who was perfectly fair in the matter and who showed that occasionally in our history the Lords have taken a view hostile to his own view, showed how, when there has been conflict between the Houses, public opinion has invariably been on the side of the House of Lords. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) also showed that, in so- far as the complete veto of the Upper House on delegated legislation still remains, it is obvious that the Government, in their hearts, do trust the other place.
The only other argument we have heard advanced is that it is wrong for Government legislation to be jeopardised in the last two Sessions of the Government's tenure of office. The Home Secretary, I think, used the phrase of the Lords "wrecking" the Government's programme. If it is wrong to hold up the will of the majority in the House of Commons in the last two Sessions, then it is equally wrong to hold it up in the first three Sessions. The only difference is that in the last two Sessions the legislation may be carried over until after a General Election, and if hon. Members opposite who cheer so vociferously really believe in the judgment of the people, that ought not to cause them any concern.
The particular Bill which is the cause of this Bill is well known to be the Iron and Steel Bill. I agree with those hon. Members who said that, historically, people would be amazed that anybody tried to argue the contrary. That Bill was in the Labour Party programme four years ago. The voters expressed themselves on many things—that included, I quite agree—but when it happened they had no knowledge of certain events which have occurred since. For instance, there has been the loss of harmony in nationalised industries between workers and management, which no one will deny. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tell that to the miners."] Well, tell it to the railwaymen. There have been the losses on coal of some £15 million, the rise to the consumer of some £100 million, the losses on transport of £4 million to £5 million—all these are new factors for the people in making up their minds on the nationalisation of iron and steel.
When they do that they are entitled to remember—and we shall remind them—certain other factors which are germane to their proper conclusions. When this Bill was first introduced in the House of Commons in 1947 the iron and steel trade was producing 12,750,000 tons of steel. Then the target went up. When the Bill was reintroduced last year the trade was producing 14,500,000 tons. [Interruption.] If hon. Members really believe that this Bill has had anything to do with that they will believe anything. Now today throughout the iron works and steel mills of this country, where probably the men have not heard about this Parliament Bill—and all the more shame to the Government for that, in not reminding them of these constitutional realities—thoughout the steel works the target is now actually being surpassed.
This does represent an entirely new situation, and we are entitled to say that the House of Lords, in the attitude it has taken up to now, is actuated by right considerations, because the people have now got an entirely new situation to deal with, in regard to the prosperity of the iron and steel industry and the comparative decline of the nationalised trades.
In conclusion, it has been said throughout by many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House that there has been a consistent lack of co-operation between the Upper House and the Socialist Governments in the three occasions when we have had a Socialist Administration. History tonight has been notoriously bad, but I did not think hon. Gentlemen would forget so quickly the various things which have happened in those three Administrations. Lord Haldane, at the end of the first Labour Government, told the Upper House, "You have met us handsomely on every occasion." At the end of the second Socialist Government 79 Bills had been sent up from this House to another place, of which 73 were passed unamended; and in the case of the other six it was generally agreed that they had been improved. Today we have had tributes from all sides as to the improvement in legislation through the existence of that revising Chamber.
No case whatever has been made out in this prolonged discussion for this Bill, which does nothing to solve the question of the relationship between the two Houses, and alters in a retrospective manner the constitution of our country in order to facilitate a Bill on which the public have expressed no approval, and in order to resolve a dispute between Ministers of the Crown. In the light of all these circumstances, and in particular because of its constitutional consequences. I ask the House to reject this Bill.
If any evidence were needed that there is no great point in holding up the legislation of this House in the case of a conflict with another place in order that it may have three hearings in this House, go through its processes three times over a minimum period of two years—if there is any need to demonstrate that that is not necessary, I submit to the House that our experience of this Bill shows that this matter could just as easily, just as competently, have been settled in two Sessions over 12 months as it is being settled in three Sessions over two years.
The truth is that all of us, as I indicated last week—and I am no exception—are finding it extremely difficult to find something fresh to say about this Bill. I think that that affects both sides of the House. If the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) found some new angles on the Bill, it is because he suddenly found that it was relevant to the discussion, by going backwards through Old Moore's Almanack, to pick out events of the day at the time when this Bill was under consideration by the House of Commons.
What it all had to do with the Bill, I do not know. It would seem that, first of all, it was to prove—I say "it would seem" because I was doubtful what he meant at all, and I am not sure that he himself knows—that what he was seeking to prove in the early stages was that this Bill was responsible for the economic difficulties which the nation has experienced. In the last three minutes he almost convinced me that this Bill was the direct cause of the iron and steel output going up. The truth is that he brought in all this material, the relevance of which it is perhaps my dullness—[Interruption]—it is conceivable: modesty has always sat upon my brow—the relevance of which I cannot see. It was only by this strategem that the hon. Gentleman did bring some new material into the discussion of the Bill.
As a matter of fact, the Opposition Front Bench is getting so bored with the Bill that they are finding it increasingly difficult to find anybody of Cabinet rank to take part in the discussions. On the first occasion, the Second Reading of the Bill had two days, and the spokesmen for the Opposition were the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), the Leader of the Opposition—he was here then; he comes along on these special occasions now and again. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is the Prime Minister?"] If the Opposition can guarantee that the Leader of the Opposition will be in the Lobby, equally I can guarantee that the Prime Minister will be in the Lobby. Will they guarantee it? As a matter of fact, the House knows that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is a good attendant at the House, whereas it is notorious that the Leader of the Opposition is not. [Interruption.] Let not the Opposition get up to its late-night rowdyism, because we can stand it if they do. The third spokesman on the Second Reading was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. That is how they started; not a bad team taken by and large.
On the Third Reading, there was the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), and again the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby. In 1948, the spokesmen of the Opposition on Second Reading were the right hon. and learned Gentleman and, I think, the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch). They were the official spokesmen of the Opposition. On the Third Reading there was the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) and the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). Today we have the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford. That is all the importance that the Opposition attach to this Bill as a whole—a declining importance as the Bill goes through—whereas that has not been so on this side of the House. Although my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has now arrived, we are still waiting for the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps the Opposition can produce him from out of a hat somewhere: maybe out of one of the right hon. Gentleman's own hats.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, made many quotations from former speeches of the present Leader of the Opposition, which all went to the support of the principles of the Bill now before the House. We have had no comment about those observations. We do not know from the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby whether he agrees with them or disagrees with them: he just ignores them and passes on. He prefers to say that he has three counts against this Bill.
First, he says that it is unnecessary and undesired. Well, I do not agree with him. I think that if the will of the House of Commons—the elected House—is to have a reasonable chance of being predominant in Parliament over the bulk of the Parliamentary period, this is a necessary Bill. I do not agree either that it is undesired. I think that it has a general measure of public acquiescence and support. Indeed, the Opposition, far from claiming that there is great opposition to this Bill, have claimed that there is public indifference to it. Well, if that be true they cannot at any rate say that there is opposition to this Bill, because on their own admission that is not true.
Secondly, it is said that this Bill is weakening the influence of public opinion. That is to beg the whole question; it is to assert that the authoritative exponent and guardian of public opinion is another place. That other place has a perfect right to its opinion as to what public opinion is. Anybody has that right. But I venture to say that this House, which in due course must meet the electorate and answer for its acts—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—it will do so; and I have every confidence in the result—and which consists of Members representing and in touch with constituencies, is surely as likely, and I should have thought much more likely, to be an authority upon the movements of public opinion than an unrepresentative Chamber whose Members are not elected and have no steady contact with constituency opinion.
I will come to the death sentence—as the Tory Party did in 1945.
Thirdly, it was argued by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that in times of economic difficulty the deliberate purpose of this Bill is to impede production. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford said that it was a pity to bring this Bill in at this time when there could have been co-operation in the interests of the economic recovery of the country. Nobody is more in favour of the co-operation of all people, of all classes, and of all opinions, for the economic recovery of the country than myself; but if ever I have seen a political party, and certain elements which support that political party which are seeking to upset the economic well-being of this country, with malice aforethought, and deliberately in the interests of a single political party, it is the Tory Party in its manoeuverings. But what a course!
The noble Lord says, "Why not go to the country?" but if I were to say where the noble Lord can go I should be out of Order. The truth is that on this Measure, as on other Measures right through its history—it was true in the days of the Liberal Government in 1906–10—the Tory Party says, as it told the Prime Minister last week, that if the Government will only do exactly what they tell it, and behave as a Conservative Government, they will be good boys and help it. How long has the Opposition had the right to dictate to a majority? It is typical of the Tory frame of mind since the days of 1906, and, I think, before.
The truth is they want their own way in the government of the country, whether they have been elected by the people or not, and they are going to get it if they can—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]. I do not know whether the Opposition know what they are cheering at. They are cheering the doctrine that the Tory Party, although in a minority in this House, has a right to dictate the political policy of the Government. As I have said, they have two ways in which they seek to do it, either through another place, or through their party organisation outside going in for a policy of economic sabotage.
This Bill, therefore, is based on the very simple principle, that the people having elected a Labour majority in this House have a right to expect that its decisions will be carried into effect without obstruction of an improper character by another place. We are not going to revert to conditions by which we are to be dictated to by an assembly elsewhere.
The case of capital punishment has been quoted by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. That does not prove the case of the Opposition in the slightest degree. Let us assume that the claim is accurate, that the abolition of capital punishment was not in accordance with the will of the country. Let us assume that, because the Whips were off on this side—I think they were off nominally on both sides. What happened? The House of Lords rejected that proposition. It went back again under a compromise proposal, with whatever adjectives hon. Members may wish to apply to it. That was not acceptable; it came back again and, finally, the question of the abolition of capital punishment was removed from the Bill altogether. All this was done within three or four weeks, during which it is said that public opinion took shape in the way hon. Members opposite have suggested—I will not argue about it, although I have my own opinions about it.
However, public opinion was presumably effective in expressing itself promptly. This House, in the end, with a little bit of difficulty it is true, adapted itself to the circumstances which were enforced on it by the decision of another place. The Government did not seek to pass that provision under the Parliament Act. Governments are not going to rush into the Parliament Act every time there is a disagreement between the two Houses. It depends on the nature and importance of the issue. The Opposition could not have produced a better example to prove the Government's case for this Bill than capital punishment, to which so much importance has been applied.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government did not attempt to pass that provision under the Parliament Act. Will he not bear in mind that the Home Secretary, in dealing with the Lords Amendments, pointed out that they could not have passed it under that Act because it was a change made after the Second Reading?
That is an additional reason. Some Members opposite have criticised some of us, including the First Lord of the Admiralty and myself, for praising their Lordships when we thought they were doing a good job. It is too bad that when we think their Lordships deserve a compliment, and we do compliment them, it is used against us. If we never said a nice word about the other place that would manifest prejudice. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford said that altogether their Lordships had brought forward 1,200 Amendments to Bills which had been accepted by this House. That may well be so. I have often said that I have considerable sympathy for their Lordships' House as a revising Chamber, and that in revising I think they do a job which is of great assistance to our legislative processes. No doubt some of my hon. Friends behind me would not speak in equally friendly terms.
In the light of my legislative experience, I believe that provided their Lordships function as a revising Chamber they are a valuable part of our legislative process. Revision is one thing—it is a perfectly legitimate thing—but to attempt to control policy and determine what issues should come before the public at the next General Election, when they have already been resolved at the last Election, is a claim which this party and Government cannot acquiesce in and a point of view we are not disposed to tolerate.
If the Opposition lay down, as they apparently are doing, that another place has the right to determine in part what are to be the outstanding issues of a subsequent election, that is an extraordinary constitutional doctrine. It is argued that greater delay is needed for revising powers. With great respect, I do not agree. Under this Bill, which will be an Act of Parliament before Christmas, it is the case that legislation must be passed under the new Act in two Sessions and that a period of not less than 12 months from the first Second Reading to the second Third Reading must have elapsed.
I submit that that gives their Lordships' House adequate time for revision; but in the conference of the political party leaders to which reference has been made we were willing to give either that or a nine months' period from the first Third Reading to the second Third Reading, whichever was the longer. Rather, I should say, we were prepared to recommend it. It is not fair for me to commit the Labour Party to those conclusions because we had not yet met our friends. [Interruption.] We should have been prepared to meet them, do not let there be any illusions about that. We should have argued it out and come to an agreement.
The rights of the political parties were protected in all the consultations of the conference. That proposal, which was even more generous, was rejected. The truth is that what the Tory Party wanted to do in these consultations, over which the Prime Minister ably and courteously presided, as all those who were there will agree, was to make a hole in the fourth Session as well as in the fifth Session of Parliament. That was something to which we were determined not to agree.
I was personally sorry that we did not reach an agreement so far as the party leaders were concerned, subject to ratification, because I think it is better if these constitutional changes can be made by agreement; better, more lasting and more final. However, if this Bill goes through, as it will, I do not think that the Tory Party will dare to upset it if unfortunately they should ever return to power again. I think it will be permanent, but it would have been better if we had been able to arrive at an agreement. The issue on which these discussions broke down was that the Conservative Opposition in both Houses was determined to have power to wreck the fourth Session of Parliament as well as the fifth.
Yes—to have that power, which would have meant that a Parliament of the Left, whether Liberal or Labour, could, when returned, only be sure of being effective in the first three Sessions of a Parliament. That is a situation to which we are not prepared to submit. Therefore we determined to introduce this Bill to take care of the fourth Session of this and future Parliaments.
It is perfectly true that we have the Iron and Steel Bill in this Session. As it happens, this Bill will take care of that Measure should it be necessary. But at the time this Bill was brought in there might, for all we knew, be other Bills in need of care. We brought in this Bill on general constitutional grounds—[Laughter]—Yes we did, and not for the sole and specific purpose of protecting any particular item of legislation in the Government's programme. It is for those general reasons that the Bill is being pressed on with and will go forward to the Statute Book this year. We went to the country in 1945 on a five years' programme.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in the declaration of policy to the electors before the 1945 Election referred to his four-year plan which he had sketched out in a broadcast to the nation two years before. The point was put to him on the Second Reading Debate in the Commons in 1947, whether, if he had been of Liberal or Labour views, he would have been prepared to see their Lordships frustrate the implementation of his four-year plan in the third or fourth year. He never answered this challenge.
This situation has been denounced by so moderate a Liberal leader as Lord Rosebery, in addition to the present Leader of the Opposition and Mr. Asquith and Mr. Lloyd George and others. Lord Rosebery said it was wrong that the Second Chamber should be ineffective when the Tories were in office and particularly active when the Liberal Governments of that time were in power. As they said then so we answer now.
But there is a more up-to-date illustration of the claim of the Conservative Party to fight on a programme not of four years, but of five years. Presumably, if they fight on a five-year programme
they would be very annoyed if the House of Lords began to wreck it in the fourth or the fifth year. In "The Right Road for Britain," if I may quote from that document—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is dead."]—I never know whether Tory declarations are alive or dead, but let us, "have a go" as they say. On page 65 of "The Right Road for Britain" it is said:
We have sought in the foregoing pages to set forth the constructive theme of the Conservatives during the next five years.
They make that claim. If they were elected they would again make that affirmation with utter confidence, because they know that another place will not interfere with a Tory Government. If they make that claim of being able to go to the electorate and confidently assure them, "This is our programme for five years, and if returned we shall carry it out," is it not reasonable that the Labour Government and party should be able to go to the electorate and say, "This is our programme for five years. Give us a majority and we will carry it out, at any rate for four of the five years."
The party opposite is the party of selfishness, of efforts to retain economic and political privileges for their class. They seek to get permanent political ascendency, whether in majority or minority both for their party and their class. Even if those methods are exhausted they have always the power tonight to try to shout their political opponents down. I think that a case has been made out for this Bill. I ask the House to pass it in the light of the best developing democratic constitutional traditions of our country. I ask the House to give it a majority that will pass it with strength and with the authority of the House of Commons behind it, so that by the end of the year this Bill will be on the Statute Book, whether their Lordships like it or whether they do not.
|Division No. 264.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.|
|Albu, A H.||Alpass, J. H.||Austin, H. Lewis|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Awbery, S. S.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Attewell, H. C.||Ayles, W. H.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Freeman, J. (Watford)||Mack, J. D.|
|Baird, J.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Balfour, A.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||McLeavy, F.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Gibbins, J.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Barton, C.||Gibson, C. W.||Macpherson, T. (Romford)|
|Battley, J. R.||Gilzean, A.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon F. J.||Goodrich, H. E.||Mann, Mrs. J.|
|Berry, H.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Wandsworth, C.)||Greenwood., Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.|
|Binns, J.||Grenfell, D. R.||Marshall, F. (Brightside)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Grey, C. F.||Mathers, Rt. Hon. George|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Grierson, E.||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Boardman, H.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Messer, F.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Mikardo, Ian|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Guy, W. H.||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.|
|Bramall, E. A.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Hale, Leslie||Monslow, W.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil||Moody, A. S.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Morley, R.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Hardman, D. R.||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Hardy, E. A.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)|
|Burden, T. W.||Harrison, J.||Mort, D. L.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville.||Moyle, A.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Kingswinford)||Murray, J. D.|
|Byers, Frank||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Nally, W.|
|Callaghan, James||Herbison, Miss M.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Carmichael, James||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Neal, H. (Claycross)|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Hobson, C. R.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Holman, P.||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)|
|Chater, D.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Horabin, T. L.||Noel-Buxton, Lady|
|Cobb, F. A.||Houghton, Douglas||O'Brien, T.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hoy, J.||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hubbard, T.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Collindridge, F.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Orbach, M.|
|Collins, V. J.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Paget, R. T.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen N.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Cook, T. F.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Pannell, T. C.|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.)||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Parker, J.|
|Cove, W. G.||Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Crawley, A.||Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Paton, J. (Norwich)|
|Cullen, Mrs.||Janner, B.||Pearson, A.|
|Daines, P.||Jay, D. P. T.||Peart, T. F.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.)||Popplewell, E.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Jenkins, R. H.||Porter, E. (Warrington)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)||Porter, G. (Leeds)|
|Davies, Haydn (St Pancras, S. W.)||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Price, M. Philips|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Deer, G.||Keenan, W.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Kenyon, C.||Pursey, Comdr. H.|
|Diamond, J.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Ranger, J.|
|Debbie, W.||King, E. M.||Rankin, J.|
|Dodos, N. N.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.||Reeves, J.|
|Donovan, T.||Kinley, J.||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Lang, G.||Richards, R.|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Lavers, S.||Robens, A.|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Dye, S.||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Edelman, M.||Leslie, J. R.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Lever, N. H.||Rogers, G. H. R.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Levy, B. W.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Royle, C.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)||Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Sargood, R.|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Scollan, T.|
|Evans, John (Ogmore)||Lindgren, G. S.||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Segal, Dr. S.|
|Ewart, R.||Logan, D. G.||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Fairhurst, F.||Longden, F.||Sharp, Granville|
|Farthing, W. J.||Lyne, A. W.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Fernyhough, E.||McAdam, W.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||McAllister, G.||Shurmer, P.|
|Follick, M.||McEntee, V. La. T.||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Forman, J. C.||McGhee, H. G.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Simmons, C. J.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.|
|Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Skinnard, F. W.||Thomas, John R. (Dover)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Smith, C. (Colchester)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Thurtle, Ernest||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)||Tiffany, S.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Snow, J. W.||Timmons, J.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Solley, L. J.||Tolley, L.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Ungoed-Thomas, L.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Sparks, J. A.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.||Willis, E.|
|Steele, T.||Wadsworth, G.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Stokes, R. R.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.|
|Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Warbey, W. N.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Lambeth)||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Stubbs, A. E.||Weitzman, D.||Woods, G. S.|
|Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)||Yates, V. F.|
|Swingler, S.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Sylvester, G. O.||West, D. G.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Symonds, A. L.||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||Wigg, George||Mr. William Whiteley and|
|Mr. J. R. Taylor.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Glyn, Sir R.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Grimston, R. V.||Maude, J. C.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Medlicott, Brigadier F.|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Harden, J. R. E.||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Harris, H. Wilson (Cambridge Univ.)||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Boothby, R.||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Haughton, S. G.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Bower, N.||Head, Brig. A. H.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Nicholson, G.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cmdr. J. G.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Nutting, Anthony|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Hollis, M. C.||Odey, G. W.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hope, Lord J.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Howard, Hon. A.||Osborne, C.|
|Carson, E.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Challen, C.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Channon, H.||Hurd, A.||Pickthorn, K.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Jarvis, Sir J.||Pools, O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Prescott, Stanley|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Jennings, R.||Price-White, D.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Joyson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Keeling, E. H.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Crowder, Capt. John E.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Renton, D.|
|De la Bère, R.||Langford-Holt, J.||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Roberts, P. G. (Ecclesall)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)|
|Donner, P. W.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Linstead, H. N.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lipson, D. L.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (City of Lond.)||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Savory, Prof. D. L.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Low, A. R. W.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||McCallum, Maj. D.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||McFarlane, C. S.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Fox, Sir G.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Strauss, Henry (English Universities)|
|Gage, C.||MacLeod, J.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Gammans, L. D.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Marples, A. E.||Teeling, William|
|Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)||Walker-Smith, D.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Ward, Hon. G. R.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie||York, C.|
|Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.||Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Touche, G. C.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E.)|
|Turton, R. H.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Tweedsmuir, Lady||White, J. B. (Canterbury)||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Vane, W. M. F.||Williams, C. (Torquay)||Mr. Drewe.|
|Wakefield, Sir W. W.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.