Henry Norris in Parliament October 1921-October 1922
[ROGER THIS FOLLOWS FROM SLPARL2]
Last updated: July 2008
The winter of 1921-22
was a bitter one for Henry Norris, ending with his being de-selected by his
constituency party.† The state and future
from its summer break on
The decision of the British
Government to talk to the Irish nationalists was the subject of a censure
motion debated on
The autumn 1921
session of Parliament was a short one: on
While Parliament was
not sitting, the Government signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which acknowledged
the inevitability of a divided
resumed, with a debate on the Kingís speech on
Neither Norris, Elliott or Hill-Wood had spoken in this session of Parliament; they continued not to do so until March 1922 although they did vote fairly often in the various debates, most of which were concerned with different aspects of the Governmentís budget.† The (Eric) Geddes Axe was cutting a swathe through Government spending during these months.
acquaintance from the Footballersí Battalion recruitment campaign, Mr
Joynson-Hicks MP, began a debate on
Immediately after Joynson-Hicksí motion got an airing, on 7-8 April 1922, Norris had an exchange of letters with the Conservative Party in his constituency, following a meeting they had had recently.† At the meeting heíd agreed to their demands that he put more money into local party funds, and had changed his mind about resigning as the Conservative candidate; but the exchange of letters ended with the Party telling him they no longer wanted him as their MP.† I deal with this more fully in my file on Henry Norris and Politics.† By mid-April 1922, therefore, Henry Norris was left to consider what he would do about his political career now - find another constituency?† Fight Fulham East as an independent, as heíd threatened during the winter?
Norris had been de-selected in what seems, at least on the surface, to have been an argument about his contribution to the local partyís finances.† He wasnít alone in getting into this kind of trouble, though: one of the reasons I picked George Elliott as someone whose life as an MP I would keep an eye on was that the same thing happened to him, only very quickly in his case.† Scarcely had he been elected, in 1919, when his constituency party demanded an increase in the amount he was paying towards the upkeep of its offices and constituency staff.† Elliott refused to pay any more, and the party replied straight away, telling him that in that case he was de-selected.† The two sides did not communicate again during the whole period 1919-22; and when a general election was imminent, the local party asked Conservative central office to send them a suitable candidate.† Note that neither Norris nor Elliott even offered to resign and provoke a bye-election; they preferred to do their stint as MP.
Meanwhile the debates and questions went on and still Norris, Elliott and Hill-Wood didnít speak in the House of Commons.† The Easter recess was from 12 to 26 April 1922 but the next time any of my three MPís voted was not until Monday 8 May 1922 when Hill-Wood cast a vote on one amendment to the Budget.† On Tuesday 9 May 1922, Norris and Elliott (both of whom represented constituencies with a lot of small businesses in) didnít vote in a debate on a bill to amend the current Shops Act by allowing staff to work longer hours.† Though Norris was in the House of Commons at 10 oíclock that night to vote during a debate on the Juries Bill.† He may have been in the house for a debate on Ireland which developed into a discussion of whether law and order had completely broken down there.† During this, some MPís complained that to vote yes would be a vote for all-out war in Ireland; nevertheless, Norris did vote yes, another instance in recent weeks of his not voting with the Government.† Hill-Wood voted no, Elliott didnít vote at all.† The yeses won 258:64; I donít know where that left the Government on the issue.
Much of May was taken up by endless debates on Ďsupplyí - that is, what money the Government could have in its Budget for items as varied as teacherís pensions and the mining industry.† Though in his early period as an MP Norris had often voted against attempts to increase Government spending; now he wasnít voting at all; though neither were Elliott and Hill-Wood.† Norrisí statement that he was attending every session of the House of Commons was made before he fell out with his constituency party; I doubt whether he attended the House so regularly by this time.
On Friday 19 May 1922 there was a rare instance of Elliott voting: he voted twice, in fact, in a debate on the Trade Union Act 1913 Amendment Bill, about what political uses trade unions could put their funds to.† Neither Norris nor Hill-Wood voted that day; I expect they werenít in Parliament.
Norris was in the House of Commons on Monday 29 May 1922 for yet another debate on money, the Governmentís Finance Bill.† After casting a vote when it was needed just after 11pm he seems then to have gone home because though business went on until after midnight, he didnít vote again.† He doesnít seem to have been in the House of Commons on Wednesday 31 May 1922 to hear Churchillís statement on Ireland and the PMís on Germanyís debts to the allies.† But then, a head-count just before 6pm revealed less than the quorum of 40 MPís present, so Parliament packed up for the Whitsun break.† During that break, Norris wrote to the Conservative Party in Fulham East announcing that he would retire from politics at the next general election; the Party began the search for a replacement candidate, going through three possibles before the general election was actually called.
The House of Commons was back on Monday 12 June 1922 with a debate on India which Norris, Elliott and Hill-Wood all didnít vote in.† Norris could be forgiven for not bothering to turn up any more at the House of Commons, now he was going to give up politics; but he continued to attend regularly.
Monday 19 June 1922 was the first of a series of very long days on the Finance Bill which turned into a battle between free trade and protectionism in which some supposed supporters of free trade spoke against a proposal to reduce the import duty on tea on the grounds that no imports should ever pay any duty - causing Mr A Hopkinson MP to declare that it was ďa tragic thing in this present House of Commons to be a Free TraderĒ.† When it came to the vote on tea, Mr Hopkinson voted with the Goverment - to reduce teaís import duty - because (he said) reducing import duties was a little closer to the principles of free trade than raising them.† Henry Norris voted with Mr Hopkinson, to reduce the import duty on tea, and so did Samuel Hill-Wood; they were in the majority 262:84.† As this day wore on there were a series of votes on whether or not to reduce import duty on various different items.† Elliott seems to have been in the House of Commons by early evening.† And all three MPís voted yes (to reduce import duty) twice before Hill-Wood seems to have left the House; Elliott and Norris continued to vote yes (to reduce import duty) twice more.† Then there was a slight change in what they was being asked: Elliott and Norris both voted yes to a proposal to charge import duties on items that up until this bill had not had to pay them; again Hill-Wood didnít vote at all.† The yes vote won, 227:93.† An interesting set of votes from Norris, then, indicating that he was not inflexibly in favour of free trade under any circumstances.† In voting for lower duty on tea and (later) on coffee, he might have been following Hopkinsonís line of reasoning; but in allowing the Government to charge duty on items so far exempt from it, he seemed to be saying yes to these new sources of revenue, and sinking his principles.† If that was what he was doing, he followed the same argument in a series of votes on proposals to exempt various items from paying duty: at each vote, he voted no - that is, he voted that the items in question (car parts, musical instruments) should continue to pay the duty they were already paying.† Elliott had stopped voting by now - it was nearly so I suppose heíd gone home; and Hill-Wood still wasnít voting.
The series of votes on
import duties continued on
After his two late
nights on the Finance Bill, Henry Norris may not have been in the House of
Then it was back to the interminable Finance Bill, with Norris continuing to be in the House of Commons on Tuesday 27 June 1922 for another series of votes on a wide range of issues; with Elliott again not voting at all and Hill-Wood taking part in the votes before 9pm but none of the votes after that time.† And on into Wednesday 28 June 1922 with Elliott actually casting a vote once or twice, and Hill-Wood staying until after Norris had left, apparently to cast a vote at just past midnight on something to do with licensing.† The last vote in that long session was taken at (on Thursday 29 June); none of my three MPís had lasted until then.
Norris was in the
House of Commons by the evening of
House of Commons
business went on into July but the next vote I found that Henry Norris took
part in was not until
It may just be me, but
I think Norris wasnít a keen voter when it came to foreign and colonial issues:
they werenít something he was very interested in.† So on
I canít tell whether
Henry Norris was in the House of Commons when Lloyd Georgeís cash-for-honours
problem first moved from rumour into Parliamentary business: Monday 17 July
1922; because the Government managed to wriggle out of having to take a vote on
a call for the setting up of a Parliamentary Committee to investigate how
people were selected for the honours list.†
However he seems to have been in the House for at least part of the
By this time Government business was winding down towards the summer recess, with each day containing debates on a number of bills with nothing in common with each other.† Norris was in Parliament for these votes more than either Hill-Wood or Elliott were and continued to be willing to stay until very late to vote: continuing the pattern I have noticed.†
Business on Tuesday 25 July 1922 began with a statement which might have made Norris prick up his ears if he was there to hear it: the leader of the House of Commons announced that he would order Horatio Bottomley MP to be present in the House of Commons on Tuesday 1 August; and (in response to an enquiry) confirmed that people who were declared bankrupt could not be MPís.† Itís possible that Norris had at least met Bottomley, either on the London boroughs social circuit or in London recruiting drives during 1914 and 1915; although he had never got to know him well enough to invite him to his receptions and dinners as mayor of Fulham (or he may have got to know him well enough to dislike him, of course!)† Of course, Bottomley didnít turn up on 1 August and first business that day, which Norris may have heard, was the reading of a letter from him explaining what everybody knew - that at the end of May heíd been given seven yearsí penal servitude for fraud, the third time heíd been prosecuted for his financial dealings but the first in which heíd been found guilty.† Bankruptcy proceedings were pending against him.
One day with a
particularly large number of votes required of MPís was
It occurs to me that Henry Norris and Samuel Hill-Wood might have become acquainted during the long sessions waiting to vote on apparently endless items of Government spending.† In the autumn of 1922, Hill-Wood became a director of Arsenal FC, I presume at Norrisí invitation seeing he was the only person at Arsenal who could have known him.
The House of Commonsí
last day before the summer recess was
Reader, if you look in my file on Henry Norris and Politics you will see that some of his constituents accused him of being a poor MP.† If they meant that he neglected their interests, I canít comment very easily on that because I have no way of finding out how much work he did for them behind the Parliamentary scenes.† If they meant that he didnít do his duty sitting in the House of Commons on their behalf, I think they were unjust.† They also didnít know when they were well-off: during the period that I was watching George Elliottís voting as well as Norrisí, he seemed to be in the House of Commons far less often than Norris, and never made a speech or asked a question.† Elliott may, of course, have been a slick and dedicated mover behind the scenes, on the other hand he may just have been neglectful of his constituents after his local Party cast him off.† And Samuel Hill-Wood didnít speak in the House of Commons, either in a debate or to ask a question, from February 1919 to August 1922: not once, on any subject.† Yet he was the only one of the three men who was back in Parliament in November 1922.
I may be quite wrong,
but thereís a feeling about Henry Norrisí Parliamentary career that it didnít
live up to expectations.† He had wanted
to be an MP for many years.† He had done
all the preparatory work that was required of him: getting elected in local
government (Battersea and Fulham); standing as a candidate in an unwinnable
seat (in an LCC election); taking a constituency that was offered him (in
Why was this?† Iím not good at this kind of political analysis but here are some reasons I can think of:
Henry Norris believed in free trade.†† His support of free trade hurt his Parliamentary career in two ways.† I donít think historians should use anachronisms but in some ways Norris was a Thatcherite Tory before Thatcher.
Firstly: after a short-lived Ďbouncing backí kind-of boom in the wake of the Armistice, the early twenties were a time of economic downturn with cuts in production and high unemployment.† Norrisí constituency had a high proportion of small businesses, which felt they needed protection in hostile economic times; these small businessmen were the mainstay of Fulhamís Conservative parties.† Fulham East also had a large number of working people whose jobs were at risk from cheaper imports.† Iíve demonstrated in my discussion of Norrisí votes in the House of Commons that his belief in free trade was not inflexible, but it was continually being tested as the economy worsened, and it alienated him from an influential group of the people who had voted for him.
Secondly: of course, Norris was entitled to stand by his beliefs, but this particular belief was not part of Conservative Party orthodoxy then.† I discuss this more in my file on Henry Norris and Politics.† Even in a time of economic boom itís not very likely that Norrisí superiors in the Conservative Coalition group would have considered him as the kind of MP theyíd want to help up the greasy pole.
Any MP elected as a
Unionist (meaning, a supporter of a united
He never spoke of it
in those terms but in my analysis of his Parliamentary career I do wonder if
Norris was a Bonar Law supporter, one of the MPís (and there were plenty of
them) who found Chamberlain difficult to approach and difficult to get on
with.† If he favoured Bonar Lawís
leadership it must have made the pill of deciding not to stand again as an MP
even more difficult to swallow when he learned that, after Chamberlain had
Norris was a Conservative Unionist in a Government with a huge majority.† The Government didnít really need the votes of many of its MPís to help it get legislation through; it could also comfortably win any Ďno confidenceí style votes forced on it by the opposition (which as Iíve indicated was inside the coalition as well as out).† There were so many Conservative MPís, it was hard for any of them - especially the newly-elected ones - to make an impact personally or to force changes in Government policy.† They could still do a good job for their constituents behind the scenes, of course, but they must have wondered sometimes what was the point of being in the House of Commons, able to influence events hardly at all.
Finally, I think that
for Norris and Elliott their backgrounds were against them.† They were newly-wealthy self-made men with
working-class roots - excellent examples, in fact, of all those 19th-century
Conservative ideas about the virtues of hard work and self-reliance.† There were exceptions to the rule, of course,
but I think men from that background would have to be enormously wealthy and
exceedingly able and with completely orthodox political views to make headway
up that greasy pole in a House of Commons that was still dominated (in both
major parties) by inherited wealth and status.†
David Lloyd George was one who bucked the general trend (heíd been a
solicitor in a rural part of
I think Norris came to realise some if not all of these things; probably by the time his problems with his constituency party became known to the Fulham public.† In going from a flat above a warehouse in Blackfriars to a seat in Parliament, he had already risen a long way.† If he had any expectations on his first day in the House of Commons that he could rise higher still, he was soon disabused.† He kept plugging away, attending debates and voting fairly regularly, but when his differences with his constituents became acute, he didnít fight as hard as I would have expected him to, to keep his place as their MP.† Instead he retired from political life altogether, admitting that politics had taken him as far as they were able to.† Itís not only women who hit the glass ceiling.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE SOURCES OF ALL THIS INFORMATION, SEND ME AN EMAIL AND IíLL SEND YOU THE SOURCES FILE.
Copyright Sally Davis July 2008