Conciliation Bills

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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 1,000,500 wealthy, property-owning women.

While the Liberal government of H. H. Asquith supported this, a number of backbenchers, both Conservative and Liberal, did not support the bill for fear that it would damage their parties’ success in general elections. Some pro-suffrage groups rejected the Bills because they only gave the vote to propertied women; some Members of Parliament rejected them because they did not want any women to have the right to vote. Liberals also opposed the Bill because they believed that the women whom the bill would enfranchise were more likely to vote Conservative than Liberal.

Conciliation Bill 1910[edit]

This contained over 250 000 signatures. Prime Minister Asquith agreed to give the bill parliamentary time after pressure from the Cabinet. However the general election intervened and this did not take place.

Conciliation Bill 1911[edit]

The Second Conciliation Bill was debated in May 1911 and won a majority of 255 to 88 as a Private Members Bill. The bill was promised a week of government time. However, in November Asquith announced that he was in favour of a manhood suffrage bill and that suffragists could suggest and propose an amendment that would allow some women to vote. The bill was consequently dropped.

Conciliation Bill 1912[edit]

The Parliamentary Franchise (Women) Bill was again introduced on 19 February 1912 and set down for Second Reading on 22 March,[1] although the debate was later delayed to 28 March. However this time the Bill was defeated by 208 to 222.[2] The reason for the defeat was that the Irish Parliamentary Party believed that a debate over votes for women would be used to prevent Irish home rule. However the Women's Social and Political Union blamed Asquith, as the eight members of the Government who had voted against the Bill would have overturned the result had they voted the other way.[3]

The Franchise Bill, for universal manhood suffrage, was introduced in 1912 but was strongly criticised, and made no progress.


  1. ^ Hansard, HC 5ser vol 34 cols 305-6
  2. ^ Hansard, HC 5ser vol 36 col 728-31
  3. ^ "The Conciliation Bill Rejection", The Times, 1 April 1912, p. 6.

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