Авторы: 159 А Б В Г Д Е З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

Книги:  184 А Б В Г Д Е З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

REPRESENTATION OF "INTERESTS"

There is a third reason for dissatisfaction with the composition of the House of Commons, which has become

more prominent in recent years. It is that, increasingly, organised interests are making use of the deficiencies

of our electoral system to secure representation for themselves. If I may take as instances two men whom, in

themselves, everybody would recognise as desirable members of the House, Mr. J.H. Thomas plainly is, and

is bound to think of himself as, a representative of the railwaymen rather than of the great community of

Derby, while Sir Allan Smith as plainly represents engineering employers rather than Croydon. There used to

be a powerful trade which chose as its motto "Our trade is our politics." Most of us have regarded that as an

unsocial doctrine, yet the growing representation of interests suggests that it is being widely adopted.

Indeed, there are some who contend that we ought frankly to accept this development and universalise it,

basing our political organisation upon what they describe (in a blessed, Mesopotamic phrase) as "functional

representation." The doctrine seems to have, for some minds, a strange plausibility. But is it not plain that it

could not be justly carried out? Who could define or enumerate the "functions" that are to be represented? If

you limit them to economic functions (as, in practice, the advocates of this doctrine do), will you provide

separate representation, for example, for the average−adjusters−−a mere handful of men, who nevertheless

perform a highly important function? But you cannot thus limit functions to the economic sphere without

distorting your representation of the national mind and will. If you represent miners merely as miners, you misrepresent them, for they are also Baptists or Anglicans, dog−fanciers, or lovers of Shelley, prize−fighters,

or choral singers. The notion that you can represent the mind of the nation on a basis of functions is the merest

moonshine. The most you can hope for is to get a body of 700 men and women who will form a sort of

microcosm of the more intelligent mind of the nation, and trust to it to control your Government. Such a body

will consist of men who follow various trades. But the conditions under which they are chosen ought to be

such as to impress upon them the duty of thinking of the national interest as a whole in the first instance, and

of their trade interests only as they are consistent with that. The fundamental danger of functional

representation is that it reverses this principle, and impresses upon the representative the view that his trade is

his politics.

But it is useless to deplore or condemn a tendency unless you see how it can be checked. Why has this

representation of economic interests become so strong? Because Parliament is the arena in which important

industrial problems are discussed and settled. It is not a very good body for that purpose. If we had a National

Industrial Council charged, not with the final decision, but with the most serious and systematic discussion of

such problems, they would be more wisely dealt with. And, what is quite as important, such a body would

offer precisely the kind of sphere within which the representation of interests as such would be altogether

wholesome and useful; and, once it became the main arena of discussion, it would satisfy the demand for

interest−representation, which is undermining the character of Parliament. In other words, the true alternative

to functional representation in Parliament is functional devolution under the supreme authority of Parliament.

But still more important than the dissatisfaction aroused by the composition of the House is the dissatisfaction

which is due to the belief that its functions are very inefficiently performed. It is widely believed that, instead

of controlling Government, Parliament is in fact controlled by it. The truth is that the functions imposed upon

Parliament by increased legislative activity and the growth of the sphere of Government are so vast and

multifarious that no part of them can be adequately performed in the course of sessions of reasonable length;

and if the sessions are not of reasonable length−−already they are too long−−we shall be deprived of the

services of many types of men without whom the House would cease to be genuinely representative of the

mind of the nation.

Consider how the three main functions of Parliament are performed−−legislation, finance, and the control of

administration. The discussion of legislation by the whole House has been made to seem futile by the crack of

the party whip, by obstruction, and by the weapons designed to deal with obstruction−−the closure, the

guillotine, the kangaroo. A real amendment has been brought about in this sphere by the establishment of a

system of committees to which legislative proposals of various kinds are referred, and this is one of the most

hopeful features of recent development. But there is still one important sphere of legislation in which drastic

reform is necessary: the costly and cumbrous methods of dealing with private bills promoted by municipalities

or by railways and other public companies. It is surely necessary that the bulk of this work should be devolved

upon subordinate bodies.

When we pass to finance, the inefficiency of parliamentary control becomes painfully clear. It is true that a

good deal of parliamentary time is devoted to the discussion of the estimates. But how much of this time is

given to motions to reduce the salary of the Foreign Secretary by L100 in order to call attention to what is

happening in China? Parliament never, in fact, attempts any searching analysis of the expenditure in this

department or that. It cannot do so, because the national accounts are presented in a form which makes such

discussion very difficult. The establishment of an Estimates Committee is an advance. But even an Estimates

Committee cannot do such work without the aid of a whole series of special bodies intimately acquainted with

the working of various departments. In short, the House of Commons has largely lost control over national

expenditure. As for the control of administration, we have already seen how inadequate that is, and why it is

inadequate.

These deficiencies must be corrected if Parliament is to regain its prestige, and if our system of government is

to attain real efficiency. For this purpose two things are necessary: in the first place, substantial changes in the

procedure of Parliament; in the second place, the delegation to subordinate bodies of such powers as can be

appropriately exercised by them without impairing the supreme authority of Parliament as the mouthpiece of

the nation. I cannot here attempt to discuss these highly important matters in any detail. In regard to

procedure, I can only suggest that the most valuable reform would be the institution of a series of committees

each concerned with a different department of Government. The function of these committees would be to

investigate and criticise the organisation and normal working of the departments, not to deal with questions of

broad policy; for these ought to be dealt with in relation to national policy as a whole, and they must,

therefore, be the concern of the minister and of the Cabinet, subject to the overriding authority of Parliament

as a whole. In order to secure that this distinction is maintained, and in order to avoid the defects of the French

committee system under which independent rapporteurs disregard and override the authority of the ministers,

and thus gravely undermine their responsibility, it would be necessary not only that each committee should

include a majority of supporters of Government, but that the chair should be occupied by the minister or his

deputy.