§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question of which I have given him private notice. I wish to ask him whether he has noticed the following statement in The Times to-day:—The House of Commons did its duty yesterday by continuing the discussion of Home Rule, but the important speeches of the day were delivered in other places; and that it is now generally admitted that the Debate cannot conclude before the end of next week;whether, in view of the fact that with very few exceptions the important speeches against the Bill have been delivered elsewhere, that the Debate will have lasted seven days if it is continued over to-morrow, that four days were taken up on the First Reading, that there is an almost universal feeling among the supporters of the Bill that full time will have been given by the end of this week for the case and against it, and that there are other important measures besides Home Rule that it is desirable to pass during the present Session, he will use his best endeavours to bring to an end the Debate so far as his supporters are concerned on Friday evening?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
I am not behind my hon. Friend, or those who share his sentiments, in my desire that the Debate on the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill may be accelerated and concluded at the earliest possible date. I hope that Members of the House will in the length of their speeches be as considerate as they can, in view of the state of Public Business and the expediency of getting on with it. But I am bound to have regard to the actual conditions of the Debate, and down to the present time the Debate has been continued by the same, or nearly the same, number of persons on the two sides of the House; and by each of them, with one or two exceptions, the difference has not been very great in the length of their speeches. I cannot say, therefore, that the Government would be justified in exercising the power, and it is very doubtful what amount of restraining influence it is in the power of the Government to exercise. Taking that for granted, I am not in a position to say that the limit of the 212 Debate should be fixed for to-morrow night.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
May I ask whether it is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to suspend the Twelve o'Clock Rule throughout the Second Reading stage?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
No, Sir; I do not think that the Twelve o'Clock Rule ought to be suspended unless there is some reasonable expectation of closing the Debate. The suspension of the Twelve o'Clock Rule as a general practice would be quite intolerable in a physical sense.