Puslapio vaizdai

fied; and now, I think, it is not untrue to say that a very considerable part of the debates on grievances is taken up by individual members, who bring the grievances in which they or their constituents are interested before the Government, very much in the way that a person in some Oriental country may bring his grievance before the Pasha and seek for redress. The change to be noticed here is that the Government are now supreme, and the individual member brings his grievance before them. olden days the House of Commons was the superior and called the Government to account.


Fourthly and finally, there are the real debates for deliberation, such as the proceedings on a Bill. In the olden days, and even within my recollection, deliberation was more elaborate than now. Formerly there were long debates on the main principles of a Bill, while the details passed with comparative ease. Then there came a time when the Committee stage was greatly prolonged, and discussion, half obstructive, half useful, was poured on to the details. But now this is diminishing, and is even less than when I left the House of Commons. The mode of procedure now in a Committee of the whole House on the Bill is to debate before empty benches, and, if the Bill is a controversial one, under the guillotine. The consequence is that the whole system of deliberation is altered, and it is scarcely ever possible to impose a change upon the Government in the legislation they have proposed. And Government legislation is now the only controversial legislation. In earlier times no inconsiderable part of the time of the House was devoted to private members' legislation on which the deliberative power of the House was quite unrestricted. Speeches were made which were directed to persuasion, and which did persuade.

Speeches made on private members' business influenced the House in important decisions. Now, all controversial legislation originates with the Government, and with the Government alone; and it is the rarest thing in the world for the Government to be forced seriously to modify their legislative proposals. Accordingly, the deliberative function of the House has sunk to insignificance, except on Bills relating to private interests, technically called Private Bills. Deliberation has sunk into a subordinate position altogether. There is, in short, no room for persuasion. That is the source of all the House of Commons' diseases. In olden days, even within the last thirty years, there were occasions on which great speeches were made which produced an immediate and powerful effect. And apart from immediate effects there is the case of ultimate persuasion. Though for the moment no change in votes may be made, the majority feel uncomforta they are conscious of defeat in the debate, and though, on that particular night, no change is observable, they are uneasy, remonstrating with the Government in private and ultimately changing the decision of the House. That still happens occasionally, I believe, but much more rarely than it used to.

The function of persuasion in the life of the House of Commons is steadily diminishing, and it is dimin ishing because there is no one to per suade. This is the source of all the evils I have alluded to. People do not obstruct because they like obstructing, but because they have nothing else to do, because it is useless to try to per suade. The uselessness of persuasion leads to obstruction, and obstruction to "the guillotine." So, too, with the empty House. No one cares to sit on the benches of the House of Commons if the debate can have no real result,

if it is known beforehand that people may speak till they are hoarse and influence nobody. The only occasions on which the members care to attend are the occasions when there are other interests-when there is a great statement or a speech in itself interesting. They won't attend to the ordinary deliberative business of the House, even when it is highly important, because they know that persuasion is useless. If there were any members of Parliament who were open to persuasion, the evils of which we have been speak ing would be cured directly. Indeed, it is remarkable that on the rare occasions when there is any doubt as to the result the debate is raised to a higher level. Members attend; the debate is spirited and interesting. The bore the member to whom no one wishes to listen-is suppressed, not by his opponents, but by his own friends, who will not allow him to spoil their opportunity of persuading some one know to be in doubt. This better tone was illustrated in the Home Rule debates, when the House was nearly balanced. It was also apparent in the Fiscal debates in the last Parliament. On the Ministerial side there was a batch of Unionists known to be in doubt. Accordingly the Liberal party were most anxious to put forward their case as strongly as possible, and exercised the most severe censorship over those who were allowed to take part in it. I was much struck on one occasion by the discourtesy with which

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I am quite clear that, if deliberation, in the true sense of the word, does not take place in the House of Commons, it will take place nowhere. Deliberation in the country is not a reality in the sense that it is a reality in an assembly. In the country it is chiefly conducted by the Press, who are largely the exponents of wealthy interests. We are but at the beginning of a development in that direction, which is sure to go further. The Press will speak the mind of a certain number of wealthy people who can start or buy newspapers with a political object in view. Discussion by the Press cannot be so disinterested, nor at such close quarters, and is never so candid as discussion in an assembly, where people are face to face and bring one another to book. And, however the discussion be conducted, the electors themselves have no opportunity of deciding any particular issue. They are obliged to decided between two very broad syntheses of issues. One party puts forward a case extending over a great number of political issues, and another party advocates the opposite case. At the present moment we are told that the next General Election will be fought on two dominant issues -Free Trade and the House of Lords. What possibility of deliberation has an elector in such a situation? How is he to determine on either of these issues? He will also have to consider the question of Education, the question of Licensing, and the personal merits of the candidates before him. Therefore, there can be no real decision on any one particular issue submitted to him. Then again, the machinery of electioneering being SO elaborate, the choice of a candidate is placed to a large extent in the hands of political organizations. A large proportion of the electorate are apathetic; consequently any candidate must have some sort of organization behind him. It

follows that the electorate cannot have submitted to them any point of view upon an issue which has not behind it a certain amount of organized support. On all these grounds-the influence of the Press, the complexity of the issues, and the organization necessary to modern electioneering-there can be no true deliberation by the electorate.

The old idea of Parliament was that the electorate should decide not upon measures but upon men. They selected certain men who, they thought, were to be trusted to express the mind of the Commons of England, and these gentlemen, so selected, freely decided on the issues submitted to the House of Commons. In Burke's famous speech to the electors of Bristol he pointed out that a member was a member of Parliament, not a member of Bristol; that he was part of the body of Parliament, not in any sense the agent of the electorate. He was sent as a representative man to take part as a member of a body in representing the mind of the Commons. That idea in its full perfection has long been only partly insisted upon, but it is only in our own time that it has been formally cast aside. During the last fifty or sixty years it has been slowly losing in force. The electorate are supposed more and more to decide upon parties and abstract propositions, and less and less on the merits of the individual they send to Parliament. The idea that the electorate can really be a deliberative body has grown stronger and stronger, so that the House of Commons has changed its character and almost abandoned its deliberative function. And this abandoned function of the House of Commons no one else can perform. The Cabinet is a deliberative body of great importance, but, sitting in secret and being small in numbers, it cannot exercise the same sort of deliberative function. The

House of Lords, though it is in a degree a substitute for the old deliberative powers of the House of Commons, though it discusses many questions more deliberately than the House of Commons does, nevertheless cannot take its place. The House of Lords is

for Legislative purposes seriously

handicapped by having so great a preponderance of one party; and it is also hindered from entering upon any strictly financial issue.

What do I put forward as the remedy of these evils? A remedy, which I believe would be of a certain value, is to establish some proportional representation. I do not urge that as desiring to see groups in the House of Commons. I do not think the formally organized group will prevail in politics during our lifetime, but what I desire to see is that there should be in each party a persuadable element. There should be no more enormous majorities, and a certain number of members should be attached loosely to their party, so that there should be an important persuadable element in each. It is not the group that I advocate but the luke-warm partisan, the person who sits loosely to his party and is open to persuasion. That reform would certainly destroy obstruction and regulate the length of speeches as they ought to be regulated. The people who could speak to profit would speak long, and those who could not would speak short. The moment there was a persuadable element, the House of Commons would begin to take itself seriously. In the case of the human body, when one organ is out of health everything goes wrong. If you can restore the strength of that organ everything is cured. Make the House of Commons debates really deliberative, and all these evils will cure themselves. When I speak of persuadable people, it must not be forgotten that everybody would not be persuadable

on all issues. A is persuadable on one question, B on another, and so on. This is not a new idea. In Lord Palmerston's day there were some thirty Conservative members who commonly supported his last Government, and it was only by their support that he held office for six years. The objection to this suggestion is that it would reduce the constitution to chaos, that no one could reckon from day to day on what the House of Commons would do. I do not think that is really an objection which in practice would be operative. It is quite true that you would have to alter to some extent the conventions now regulating the relations of the Cabinet and the House of Commons. It is regarded now as a serious parliamentary disaster if the Govenment are put in the minority on any question. You would have to abandon that idea, because in any House of Commons in which the Government had not a large majority there would be frequent occasions on which on minor issues they would fail to carry their point. But there is no sort of reason why we should not go back to the older parliamentary system, when no one thought it dangerous on a minor question for the Government to be placed in a minority. It is remarkable that the power of the House of Commons, has diminished just because it must never disagree with the Government; its slightest dissent is fatal to the Government, so it is constrained always to agree.

Finally, let me ask the question, Is it worth while maintaining the deliberative function? Let it be granted that unless it is maintained in the House of Commons it will be maintained nowhere. Is it worth having? I do not plead for the House of Commons because it is an ancient institution, or because it is the mother of parliaments. By all means let any in

stitution, however venerable, be cast aside if its usefulness is at an end. But I do plead for government by discussion. I am quite sure that what makes England a great country is that English people believe in liberty; and liberty cannot be upheld without government by discussion, and by free discussion. If I were asked to state in a sentence why the English people have attained to their world-wide greatness, I should say it is because they believe in liberty and do not believe in equality. That is why they can govern subject races and harmonies a complex colonial system with all the developments of modern times. But if we lose government by discussion we lose the apparatus of liberty, and we imperil liberty itself. To save it we must influence opinion. Opinion must be taught to set itself against the recent developments in the character of the House of Commons and in the methods of its business. Formal alterations, however valuable, will never do anything without opinion. It is because I am persuaded that opinion must re-establish in the minds of English people that the deliberations of the House of Commons are almost a sacred matter, because they secure to us the heritage of liberty that I bring this topic forward for discussion today. Such discussions are valuable as forming opinion-the seed from which the harvest will be reaped in some great political movement not now visible. It is by casual discussion, by one man speaking to his neighbor, and to a few gathered together in a room, that opinion is gradually built up. I submit to this Society that it really is their duty, as patriotic citizens of this country, to rally to the idea that the deliberative function of the House of Commons is worth saving and redeeming; so that we may secure such alterations in the law as may be necessary and, above all, may sustain by

the support, which public applause and approval alone can give, those who seek to uphold independence in Parlia

The Dublin Review.

ment as a valuable ideal, as a precious element in public life.

Hugh Cecil.



(Mrs. Francis Blundell.)

"Why was it not I?" This was the burden of Kitty's thoughts. If she had only jumped as Sheba had first suggested, and before Stephen had come to their aid! She had shrunk back, cowardly as usual, as she told herself, preferring rather to wait passively for death, than to seek it of her own accord.

If she had only jumped she would have died, as Sheba had died, and, after all, death can come but once. Or if Stephen, in obedience to Sheba, had rescued Kitty first, both would have been saved, but he had said, "You first," to Sheba. In the midst of her grief and remorse, the recollection stabbed her. Sheba first, let Kitty take her chance. It was right, a thousand times right, and not for all the world would she have grudged the dead girl her moment's triumph. Stephen had chosen her then of his free will, if he had not chosen her before. Kitty was glad for her sake, but she wished with all her weary soul that she too were lying with hands folded, and heart still for ever.

Mrs. Hardy told her that same night that she had kept from Stephen the story of Sheba's search for him and of the message left with her.

"There, it could but vex and grieve en now," she explained. ""Twas a mistake, and it never can be cleared up; 'tis best the poor fellow should know nothing of it. I thought I'd ax

you to keep the secret too. She's at rest, poor dear, an' lookin' that beautiful, it fair makes me cry to see her. You'll come across to-morrow, won't ye?"

"I'll keep Sheba's secret, Mrs. Hardy," said Kitty. "But I don't know if I dare go and look at her. If it hadn't been for me she'd be alive now. It was to save me she jumped out of Mr. Hardy's arms."

"Well, well, and the Lard 'ull reward her for it," groaned Rebecca. ""Twas none of your fault, my dear, and don't you think it. Sheba was took for her good, ye may be sure o' that. Ye have but to look at her to see how happy she be."

They had carried the poor girl's body to the farm upon the hill, and on the following day the inquest took place.

Kitty, to her horror, was obliged to appear as witness. She gave her evidence falteringly, being oppressed by the inward consciousness of the purport of her last conversation with Sheba, though naturally her statements were confined to the circumstances which could possibly throw light on the origin of the fire. Her wish to keep secret Sheba's intention of leaving the cottage, resulting as it did, from her resolution to break with her lover, made her dread that she should be questioned as to Baverstock's possible motive in locking the bedroom door, an action which she inferred was connected with his desire to prevent the

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