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The Enemy's Camp. Chapter II. (To be continued) . . .
A PAGE OF VERSE
REFORM OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS.
Agitation for the purpose of ending it can accept or reject money Bills, or mending the House of Lords is no but it cannot, or, to be perhaps more Dew thing; it has been sporadic for strictly accurate, it does not, amend many generations, yet the House of them. Therefore, except in the matter Lords still exists as a branch of the of amending Bills affecting taxation, Legislature, sometimes violently con- the two Houses are in their powers demned for thwarting the will of the and functions co-equal and co-extenpeople as represented in the elected sive, and the terms applied to them Chamber, and sometimes enthusiastic- in common parlance are misleading. ally applauded for furthering the will The expression Upper House conveys of the people misrepresented in the no superiority over Lower House, nor elected Chamber. The outcry against does First Chamber imply any suthe House of Lords is always raised periority over Second Chamber. when the party in office is composed Judging by platform speeches, the of legislators in a desperate hurry, exuberant utterances of popular oraand the matter might be left with that tors, and the more measured comilluminating explanation, but for plaints of statesmen and politicians many reasons, it may be well to ex- capable of exercising some self-control, amine into the nature and validity of the charge against the House of Lords the alleged grievance, and also to resolves itself into the expression of point out that, owing to exceptional the two following opinions. First, that circumstances, it is desirable that steps it is outrageous that the will of the should be taken to strengthen the Up- people as expressed in the branch of per House by reasonable reform. the Legislature elected by the people
It may be premised that the present should be overruled by the branch of agitation is really directed against the the Legislature that is composed of hedouble Chamber system, and cannot reditary scions of “an effete arisbe appeased by mending or reforming tocracy." Second, that, owing to the the House of Lords; and, to still fur- predominance of one of the great politther clear the ground, it should be ical parties in the House of Lords, noted that the terms Upper and Lower legislation is easy when that party has House, or First Chamber and Second a majority in the House of Commons, Chamber, are merely expressions in and difficult when it has not. There common use, and have no political are three distinct counts in this indictor constitutional validity. The two ment-namely, first that the body overbranches of the one Legislature are ruling the will of the people is an inco-equal. Their powers and functions competent body; second, that the will are, with one exception, identical. of the people is overruled by any body; The House of Commons can do what and third, that the political complexion it pleases with all Bills coming of the existing body is overpoweringly from the House of Lords; it can ac- Conservative. Let us examine into cept, amend, or reject them. The these points. House of Lords can do what it pleases As to the personnel of the House with all Bills coming to it from the of Lords and the qualifications which House of Commons, with the excep- its members may claim to possess as tion of money Bills. It can accept, legislators, the case against them has amend, or reject all other Bills, and been thus stated by a Cabinet Minister with remarkable force. Speaking with edge as chairmen of railway comall the weight and authority attach- panies, and in other positions of an ing to his exalted position, and pre- analogous character, the great majorsumably with a full sense of his con- ity have developed business habits, sequent responsibility, the President and have derived valuable experience of the Board of Trade said at New- of men and matters in the managecastle-on-Tyne on the 23rd of January ment of large estates and complicated last:
But it may be said that an analysis What was the use of Liberal enter- of the whole body of the peerage does prise if the work of Liberalism was to
not give an accurate indication of the be frustrated by a House chosen by
capacity of the House as a legislative nobody, which was representative of
body. That is to some extent true. nobody, and which was accountable to nobody? He hoped that, now they had
Of the Peers some must be excluded, begun to ask that question, they would such as princes of the blood royal, ipsist upon an answer, ... The House minors, and those who through age or of Lords was the refuge and hope of infirmity cannot attend the sittings of all the forces that stood between the
the House; and there are others who, people and the harvest. Legalized
for one reason or another, are not ingreed and social selfishness in every
terested in politics, and do not take sbape and form had their bodyguard in the Peers.
part in the business of the House. A
fairer estimate of the character of the It is quite unnecessary to question House of Lords as a legislative Chamthe accuracy or good taste of Mr. Lloyd ber can perhaps be obtained by an inGeorge's opinion that “legalized greed vestigation of the working members and social selfishness" are the actu- of the House-of those attending and ating principles of the House of Lords; voting on occasions deemed to be of but, though admitting, of course, that great national importance. The record the Peers are “chosen by nobody" in division took place on the second readthe sense that they are not elected ing of the Home Rule Bill of 1893, by the people, I directly traverse the but an examination into the qualificastatement that they are "representa- tions of the Peers voting on a division tive of nobody” and are "accountable that took place fourteen years ago to nobody.” Of what elements is the would not afford a sound criterion as House of Lords composed? There are to the merits or demerits of the House about six hundred Peers eligible to as it exists to-day. It would be better, take their seats. This body contains 172 therefore, to inquire into the composimembers who have held office under the tion of the House during the late disState exclusive of Household appoint- cussion on the Education Bill. The ments, 166 who have sat in the House largest division took place on the 29th of Commons, 140 who are, or have been, of October, when 312 Peers voted. mayors or county councillors, about Three days were devoted to the second forty who are members of the legal reading debate at the end of July, and profession, and about the same number the House was occupied with the comof men eminent in art, science, letters, mittee and subsequent stages of the invention, manufacture, and trade; 207 Bill from the 25th of October till the have served, or are serving, in the 19th of December. Altogether twentyArmy or Navy. Furthermore, it must six working days were devoted to the be added that, in addition to those Bill. During the whole of that time who have acquired merit and knowl- the attendance was very large. 11cidentally it may be mentioned that acquired that deep knowledge of huthe full attendance and great interest man nature, that wide experience of shown afford cogent argument in favor human affairs, and that intimate acof autumn sessions. Perfectly ac- quaintance with administrative detail curate figures cannot be arrived at, which are so desirable in any legislabut I think in estimating the number tive body. The House has no directly of Peers who attended the sittings of representative character gained at the the House during the autumn session polls, but it cannot be denied that it at about 380 I shall about hit the is, in fact, though not in theory, very mark; and I take that number as fully representative of the great activfairly indicative of the full working ities which in their various phases constrength of the House for all prac. stitute our national life. The thesis tical purposes. Let us look into the that the House of Lords is representacomposition of that body in its salient tive of nobody cannot be maintained; features. It contained the Lord Chan- nor is its position accurately described cellor and an ex-Lord Chancellor, an in the statement that it is accountable ex-Lord Chancellor of Ireland, four to nobody. The House of Lords makes Lords of Appeal, and twenty-seven no claim to enforce its views upon the other Peers associated with the legal people. It fully realizes the limitations profession, including a number who of its powers; it freely acknowledges have held high judicial office; seven that the will of the people must preex-Viceroys of India and Ireland; six- vail, and that its function is to see teen ex-Governors of the gerat colo- that the real will of the people does nies, or provinces of India; fifteen other prevail. Far from being accountable Peers who have held high positions in to nobody, it is accountable to everythe diplomatic and civil services, sixty- body, and it is acutely sensible of the two ministers and ex-ministers, thirty- fact. seven Peers who are, or have been, The second count in the indictment intimately connected with manufacture is that the will of the people as exor trade, science or invention, 123 who pressed in the elected Chamber is overhave sat in the House of Commons, ruled. That opens up two questionsabout eighty who occupy, or have oc- the desirability of a Second Chamber, cupied, the position of mayors or mem- and the extent to which public opinion bers of county councils, and twenty- is reflected in the Commons' House of one archbishops and bishops concern- Parliament and in the legislative proing whom it must be remembered that, posals of the Cabinet. whatever may be thought of the prin- On the first point, argument is perciple of spiritual Peers, they do not haps superfluous. Unquestionably the represent the hereditary principle, and whole consensus of educated opinion have all served a long apprenticeship in the United Kingdom is in favor of in humble positions, from that of a a Second Chamber; the principle has curate upwards, which have brought been approved and adopted in our them in close contact with all classes great self-governing colonies, in the of the people.
United States, and, in fact, throughWith this brief review before us, out the world wherever democratic it must, I think, be admitted that the systems obtain; the belief in the necesHouse of Lords includes a very large sity of a revising Chamber in order number of members who, through to ensure that the permanent opinion long and distinguished service ren- of the people may receive adequate dered in various walks of life, have expression is practically universal.