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of the Commons, but at the further end of the corridor. Its general arrangements are not unlike those of the other chamber, save that the Speaker's seat — the woolsack — is moved forward toward the centre to make place for a raised platform and the royal throne at the end of the room.
FORMS OF PROCEDURE.
At the opening of Parliament the Commons, headed by their Speaker, attend at the bar 1 of the Lords to listen to the Speech from the Throne, a paper prepared, of course, by the Ministry, and resembling somewhat, in its general scope, our President's Message. At the close of the Speech they retire to their chamber, and, first of all, go through the form of reading some unimportant bill, in order to assert once more their right to deliberate freely about whatever they will, even though matters urged upon them by the Crown have to wait. Some member previously designated for this duty then moves the “ Address - the formal reply to the royal Speech, couched in subservient language, and strictly echoing the tone and the suggestions of that paper. In the debate which follows, there is a general airing of views of all sorts, and not infrequently amendments are proposed sharply criticising the acts or the policy of Government. These matters disposed of, the regular business of the session begins. Of this there is inevitably an enormous amount, since many matters which in our country never come before Congress, but belong either to State, or to county, or to municipal government, are in England directly under the control of Parliament. But there is no such deluge of proposed legislation as that which greets us Americans at the opening of Congress. The House of Lords, as we have seen, does very little in initiating measures ; while individual members of the Commons may introduce bills but sparingly, not as of right, but only by consent of the House. Furthermore, only the Wednesday afternoon
1 A movable barrier or rail in the main aisle of each House, beyond which none but officers and members are allowed to pass.
2 A debate upon a similar Address in the House of Lords was the occasion of Chatham's speech printed in this volume, and of an amendment proposed by him.
session of each week is available for the consideration of business so introduced. The Ministry is held responsible for the introduction of all necessary legislation; while the duty of the House is primarily to scrutinize, discuss, amend, accept, or reject the measures the Ministry proposes. Government measures have, therefore, large right of way; three full sessions each week are devoted to them exclusively. Questions propounded to the Ministry form a noteworthy feature of the Parliamentary scheme, affording, as they do, to the House an admirable means of informing itself on matters it needs to know, and to the Ministers an opportunity of directly stating their case and explaining their action. But neither measures nor questions may be sprung upon the House
Full notice and precise statement of each must in all cases be previously given.
The regular course through which a Bill must pass to become a a law is as follows: The Bill, having been drafted, printed, and properly endorsed, comes to its “ first reading,” after due notice given and motion passed “for leave to bring in the Bill.” Its title then is read aloud by the Clerk, and a motion is made that the Bill be read a second time on a future day named. When the day arrives, the proposer moves its second reading, and enters into a full explanation and defence of its provisions. Debate follows; and if the House consents to the second reading, it is understood as accepting the general principle of the measure, though not committing itself to the details. If the House refuses, the Bill is of course defeated. This second reading is therefore the most critical stage of a Bill in its course in the Commons, and calls for the most strenuous efforts of its defenders. After its second reading, the House votes to consider it in detail in a Committee on some future day named. In this Committee changes and amendments are agreed upon, and the Committee rises and reports to the House the Bill, usually in its final shape. The House orders its third reading, again in the future; and when this is reached, the motion is put " that the Bill be passed.” Votes in the House are taken first viva voce; but if the result is doubted, a “ division” is taken in this way: Those voting Ay” pass out of the chamber into the lobby on the Speaker's right,
while those voting “No” pass into the lobby on the left, until the Speaker remains alone. The members are counted as they file back into the chamber, and the result is announced. A Bill that successfully passes this stage is sent up to the Lords. If the Lords accept it, it receives, as a matter of course, the royal assent, and becomes a law. If the Lords amend it, it must return to the Commons for their concurrence in the amendments. If the Lords “ throw it out,” or if the Commons refuse to accept the amendments of the Lords, the Bill, of course, is lost.
FINANCE AND TAXATION. The principle that a free people must be free to tax itself and to spend its money as it will, is a principle which our fathers brought with them from the old country. The difference between a tax “given and granted” to the Crown by the people themselves, and a tax imposed by the Crown upon the people, was in the last century, to Englishmen on both sides of the Atlantic, a very vital difference the difference between freedom and subjugation. Burke speaks of this point on p. 49, l. 13–21; and the whole subject is eloquently set forth by him in a speech upon American Taxation, not included in this volume. Out of this very matter grew our Revolutionary War. Since that war, however, there has been for us neither Crown nor subject, nor any participant in our government other than the people itself; and the old distinction is lost. Our governments of all degrees regularly levy, or impose, taxes; and the form of expression no longer awakes our wrath. But in England the old distinction and the old usage still hold. There the vast framework of government - outside of the Commons - has absolutely no vital or sustaining power within itself; it can levy no tax, can raise no revenue for its own support, has no income at all save what the people from year to year through their representatives, the Commons, actually “give and grant.” The Queen, in her Speech from the Throne, must each year ask anew that “her faithful Commons” vote her the supplies without which every wheel in the system must come to a standstill. The Commons hold the purse. One of the chief matters, therefore, in the annual business of the House, is the consideration of the “ Budget.” The minister in charge of the finances of the realm is termed the Chancellor of the Exchequer. His most arduous duty is the preparation of estimates of expenditure for the coming year, and plans for taxation whereby the necessary amount may be raised. When this Budget is ready, the House receives and considers it in a “ Committee of Supply.” This is a Committee of the whole House, formed for the purpose of securing the utmost freedom of question and discussion, which would otherwise be hampered by strict parliamentary rules. The Speaker leaves his seat, the Mace is carried away, some member is made Chairman, and discussion runs on with little heed to the formality of rules. In this Com ttee is settled the amount Commons will grant the Crown, and the ends to which it is to be applied. This done, the same body resolves itself into a Committee of Ways and Means, to determine in like manner how the money
1 There was once a veto power resident in the Sovereign, but it is now practically lost. The Queen must assent to whatever passes the two Houses. The last veto in English history was by Queen Anne.
shall be raised. When this Committee has closed its deliberations, it rises, the Speaker resumes his place, and the Chairman of the Committees reports to the House the conclusions reached, which are then embodied in a motion and passed by the House in its formal capacity. When a “ Money Bill ” has duly passed all its stages in the Commons, it is sent to the Lords, who have no power to alter or amend it, though they may reject it if they dare. Furthermore, such a bill does not go up to the Queen along with others through the hands of the Lords, but is returned to the Commons, and at the end of the session is presented to her by the Speaker in person, as the gift of the people alone. And on such an occasion the Queen never fails to thank the Commons for their generosity.
In the preparation of the foregoing sketch the author has consulted among others the following works, and would recommend them to the student for further study or reference: A Primer of the English Constitution and Government, by Sheldon Amos (Long
mans, Green & Co., N.Y.) — a compact topical statement, with good Index and Appendices.
The English Constitution, by Walter Bagehot (Chapman, Hall & Co., London)
- a brilliant and popular discussion of its excellences and defects. The State, by Woodrow Wilson (D. C. Heath & Co., Boston) - specially valu
able as a topical digest and manual of the structure and organization of
all the great constitutional governments of the modern world. The Law of the Constitution, a series of lectures by A. V. Dicey (Macmillan &
Co.)— giving with utmost logical clearness the lawyer's view of the English Constitution, and explaining some of its principal maxims.