Conciliation Bills

Conciliation Bills

Three Conciliation bills were put before the House of Commons, one each year in 1910, 1911 and in 1912 which would extend the right of women to vote in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to around 1,000,000 wealthy, property-owning women.

While the Liberal government of Herbert Asquith supported this, a number of backbenchers, both Conservatives and Liberals, did not support the bill fearing it would damage their parties’ success in General Elections.

Conciliation Bill 1910

The First Conciliation Bill was passed by a large majority but having been passed it was then sent to a Commons committee rather than becoming law. The Bill passed in 1910 but then was dropped after a General Election was held in November. As the Bills were put before parliament the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) suspended its campaign of violence but after the failure of the First Conciliation Bill suffragettes marched on the Commons in an event known as Black Friday. Over 100 WSPU campaigners were arrested which only caused the WSPU to step up its campaigning once more.

Conciliation Bill 1911

The Second Conciliation Bill failed when the Liberal Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, changed his position relating to women’s suffrage. He decided to drop the Bill and instead wanted to put forward a bill that would give more men the right to vote. However he did state that the bill could have an amendment added by Members of Parliament giving some women the vote.

Pro-suffrage groups rejected the Bills because they only gave the vote to some women; some Members of Parliament rejected them because they gave some women the right to vote (not wanting any women to receive this right). Liberals also opposed the Bill because they believed that the 1,000,000 who would be allowed to vote would be Conservative voters so it would not be in the Liberal Party's interests to pass the Bill. Around 100 Irish MPs voted against the Bills as trouble in Ireland increased; they wanted more time to be talking about a separate Irish Free State rather than female suffrage.

Conciliation Bill 1912

A Third Conciliation Bill was put before Parliament in 1912, losing by only 18 votes. In 1914 the government put forward the Male Suffrage Bill, however when it was ruled that this would actually allow women to vote, despite the Bill's title only referring to men, it was withdrawn.

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