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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 14

How to Commence Reform

How to Commence Reform.

"The ability to thwart the popular will which now resides in a body of men merely born to the posts they fill is probably productive of less evil, on the whole, than would arise from the existence of what is commonly meant by a 'Reformed House of Lords.' The introduction into that House of a number of life peers would hardly make the Lords, as a body, more friendly to the Liberal party or less the tools of the Tory chiefs. It might make the Peers more likely to throw out important Bills, without making them more likely to spare humble ones. It would leave them, as they are, essentially a House of land-owning members of the Established Church, and it might lessen their sense of responsibility to the nation at large in questions in which the interests of their property and their Church were concerned. The exclusion, however, of the Bishops from the House of Lords, and the representation of the Liberal minority in the election of Scotch and Irish representative Peers, changes which may very possibly, one day, be carried, would leave the party Conservative majority in the Lords so small as to be merely nominal. The supporters of the party in power, as a general rule, attend the sittings in each House with greater regularity than do the members of the Opposition, and a majority of only ten or twenty for the Conservatives in the House of Peers, would, on ordinary occasions, during the tenure of office by the Liberals, mean no Conservative majority at all. After all, the most practically effective manner of dealing with the House of Lords is to strengthen the House of Commons. Strengthen the House of Commons by returning able, independent, and courageous men; make it even more truly representative than it is by the adoption of the reforms recommended by those who have your confidence, and then it will become impossible even for the least scrupulous defender of the powers and privileges of the Peers to assert that they, and not the Commons, really represent the people at large."—Sir C. Dilke, 1879.