HC Deb 08 May 1900 vol 82 cc1110-27


MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)

rose to call attention to the duration of speeches in the House of Commons, and to move—"That no speech (other than those delivered by Ministers or ox-Ministers, or by the mover of a Bill or Resolution) shall exceed twenty minutes in length." He said: I am not an old Parliamentary hand, but I would venture to suggest to hon. Members a drastic change in the procedure that has come down to this House from the days of William the Dutchman, when hon. Members first banded themselves into two parties. I am aware that any attempt to dam, in the Parliamentary sense, the flood of oratory which flows through this House is to attempt an almost impossible feat. It is like the attempt of Mrs. Partington, who endeavoured to keep out the Atlantic with a mop. But after all, we have our precedents and our hopes in this matter. Seven years ago Mr. Farmer Atkinson, the then Member for Boston, introduced a Bill with the best intentions, having short speeches for its object. The Bill was not a success, because in one of the clauses he had suggested that hon. Members who overstayed their time should be stopped by the senior clerk assistant at the table either ringing a bell or, I think, beating a drum. That suggestion was thought to be inconsistent with the respect due to Parliament, and the Bill came to a bad end. In 1896 I had the honour of introducing a Bill which was supported by the hon. Member for Walsall. It had for its object to limit the duration of speeches, and the motion for leave to introduce was carried by a majority of seventy, owing to the exertions of my hon. friend the Member for Battersea, whom I regret not to see in his place this evening. After that we decided to proceed by resolution, because we found that Bills were practically of no use. We obtained a quorum of gentlemen who were kind enough to hear us, and the resolution was carried by a majority of three to one. Then we thought we were in sight of the paradise we had hoped for, but we reckoned without our host, the representative of the Government on the Treasury Bench. The right hon. Gentleman, with that genial surprise we have sometimes seen on his face, said he had no idea how the resolution was going to be carried out, because it was not definite.* My hon. friends and myself have endeavoured to make this resolution so definite that the concentrated intelligence of the Treasury Bench rolled into one shall be under no misunderstanding. I wish to say a word for myself with respect to a letter written to the London press by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean a short time ago, in which he said that the mover of the resolution committed an atrocity himself by speaking an inordinate time. The right hon. Baronet was wrong. It was not I who made the long speech, it was the hon. Member who was good enough to second the resolution. Long speeches, of which a good many of us complain, are by no means of recent date. I find that in the days of Queen Elizabeth her Majesty ordered the faithful Commons to work more and talk less, on pain of being sent to the Clock Tower, or whatever was the receptacle for offending Members in those days.† Under the Stuarts in 1642 the debates were extremely prolonged, and * For discussion on the Duration of Speeches Bill, introduced by Major Rasch in 1896, see The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], vol. xxxvii., page 833. On the 11th May, 1897, Major Rasch moved "That the duration of Speeches in this House has increased, is increasing, and should be abated." This was carried on a Division by 85 votes to 24. (See vol. xlix., page 238; and for Mr. Balfour's observation as to carrying out the resolution, page 632.) † See The Parliamentary History, vol. i., page 765. On pages 859, 862, 891, and 909, there are caustic denunciations by Elizabeth of "superfluous speech," "verbosity and vain ostentations," "volubility," & c. the speeches were roseate, full of tropes and anecdotes and Latin quotations. One debate in 1642 killed two of your predecessors in the chair. During the debate an hon. Member, whose name has not been handed down to us, jumped up and said, "The House is empty, and so are our stomachs"—or he used a more conventional word than that—"I pray you, therefore, to adjourn the House for one hour." The Speaker, Mr. Chaloner Chute, was obdurate. He would not adjourn the debate. He became bad, and shortly afterwards died. The singular thing was that the Recorder of London, Sir Lislebone Long, who was appointed Speaker in place of Mr. Chute, became so indisposed after four days of this same debate that he was unable to sit further, and he also died within a few days. The next instance we have of long speeches in this House is in the Georgian era. That was when Mr. Sheridan spoke for five mortal hours on what was called the Begum case.* I fail to understand how he could talk to such an extent on a matter 7,000 miles from Westminster, but no doubt he was well paid for it. The result of the speech was that, according to contemporary accounts, the House was so discomposed that many of the Members wept, and the Leader of the House, Mr. Pitt, had to adjourn it in order to enable Members to regain their composure. When we come to later times we find that Sir Robert Peel addressed to the House an inordinate speech of three hours and three quarters on the Corn Laws.† He might as well have saved his breath and left the speech unsaid. Then in the Victorian era we find a lengthy speech by Lord Palmerston on Don Pacifico, which lasted for four hours and a half.‡ Then, coming down to our own times, we had the oration delivered by Mr. Biggar, the late Member for Cavan, who spoke on the Peace Pre- * 7th February, 1787. Sheridan spoke for fire hours and forty minutes. Pitt declared that the speech "surpassed all the eloquence of ancient and modern times," No complete report of it exists, but what affects to be "a faithful miniature of an unequalled original" is preserved in The Parliamentary History, vol. xxvi., page 274. † 9th February, 1842. See The Parliamentary Debates [Third Series], vol. lx., page 201. ‡Or, as Mr. Gladstone put it, "from the dusk of one day to the dawn of the next." See The Parliamentary Debates [Third Series], vol. cxii., page 380 (25th June, 1850). servation (Ireland) Act from five o'clock in the evening till nearly nine o'clock.* Latterly we have had speeches of considerable length. We had a speech from a right hon. Gentleman who spoke from three to four hours on a certain subject connected with the Local Government of Ireland. We had that terrible debate on the Financial Relations of Ireland, in which seven hon. Gentlemen occupied eight hours between them. We had a debate in which hon. and learned Gentlemen connected with the medical profession spoke for the whole evening on the subject of vaccination, and we had, only the other evening, a speech of a whole hour, made by an hon. and gallant Gentleman on the question of a bog in the Hebrides. That speech was characterised by the Lord Advocate as an outrage, and I certainly think it was something very like it. We had a speech of considerable length only the other night by an hon. Member, one of my colleagues in the representation of the Eastern Counties. He spoke for an hour and twenty-five minutes on the question of undersized fish, and he finished with a peroration which lasted for an hour and three minutes last night. That is not all. Four months ago the first Law Officer of the Crown spoke for six days without ceasing—that was in Paris on the Venezuelan Commission—a feat which I venture to compare with the labours of Hercules. There has been published a new book of the social life of Scotland. It is written by a gentleman called Murray, and it states that a minister spoke for a year and three months on a subject of controversy in a book called Exodus. I would recommend the perusal of that book to the hon. Member for Mid Lanark. A speech was delivered the other day by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, at Birmingham, at a meeting where the Duke of Devonshire was present. The right hon. Gentleman said one of the best speeches he ever heard of was in six words. It was not the speech of single-speech Hamilton, of which we have heard so much. It was the speech of a gentleman who said, "I say ditto to Mr. Burke." We cannot all emulate the Secretary for the Colonies, but we can try to live up to that. I should like to put up a statue in the hall outside to the * 22nd April, 1875. See The Parliamentary Debates [Third Series], vol. ccxxiii., page 1451. gentleman who delivered that short speech. My sources of illustration are not by any means exhausted. In 1795 a deputation was introduced to the French Convention, and they came in with the cry, "Short speeches and the constitution of '93." Their method was to decapitate the Member who was addressing the House at the time, and to present the head to the Speaker. After that the deputation retired. It had an effect on the oratory of the French Convention, and especially on the gentleman himself who paid the penalty for it. Over fifty years ago Mr. Milner Gibson proposed that the speeches of hon. Members in this House should not exceed one hour. He said that if he had had his own way he would have made the limit forty minutes. He was seconded by no less a person than Mr. Cobden, and he was supported by Mr. Bright. These were past masters in the art of speaking and knew what they were about. The result was that, although they did their best, they were beaten by a majority of 20.* You would, under the circumstances, hardly call that a defeat. It is very much what we call a moral victory on either side of the House when we have the misfortune to lose an election. The London County Council has a time limit of fifteen minutes. In the London School Board the other day a Member moved that speeches should be cut down to ten minutes each. In the National Liberal Federation, to which I do not at present belong, the speeches of the members were cut down to ten minutes each. There is a place called the United Service Institution, in Whitehall, where a member, whether he be a veterinary surgeon or a Field-Marshal, has his speech cut down to ten minutes. If you happen to walk down Whitehall you come to a place called the Church House, to which I do not belong myself. At that Church House, although it is like flying in the face of Providence to move the closure on a dean or a bishop, yet it is done. The House of Commons and the Central Chamber of Agriculture are the only associations—if * Mr. Milner Gibson's Resolution was "That the speeches of Members be limited in duration to one hour, but that the introducers of original motions, and Ministers of the Crown speaking in reply, be exempted from this rule." The Resolution was defeated by 96 to 62. (See The Parliamentary Debates [Third Series], vol. cii., page 249.) I may call them by that name—where a time limit is not in force. At the Central Chamber of Agriculture, although the agriculturists and the bucolic gentlemen who attend are men of keen intellect and considerable penetration, they are not "stayers," and they do not speak very long. We all know that the procedure of this House is a little different from that. Of course, I know that there are grave objections to my proposal. One is that hon. Members in this House could not do better than was done by their predecessors one hundred years ago, and that what was good enough for them is good enough for us. Another objection is that it is no good having a time limit of twenty minutes or ten minutes, and that unless you have something very much shorter than that it is better to have nothing at all. With reference to the first objection I would say—and this is a quotation from the highest authority in this House—whereas fifty or a hundred years ago there were not so many Members who desired to speak, now there are fifty times as many Members who speak whenever they get an opportunity. Of course if ten Members make speeches, each of an hour's duration, we should be in the position referred to in the statement which, I confess, I have never understood, "where congregations ne'er break up and Sabbaths have no end." Hon. Members nowadays also have to do a great deal more than our predecessors did one hundred years ago. They have to introduce bills, move resolutions, and occasionally make speeches. Although very much opposed to occupying the time of the House, I myself had to introduce a Bill some time ago, to oblige my constituents, for the compulsory marking of Dutch shrimps. Of course it took up more or less of the time of the House. I know that in certain parts of the country—I am happy to say it does not exist in the eastern districts—there is a dossier in the columns of the local paper in which the doings of the Parliamentary representative are recorded, and, of course, an hon. Member is upon his self-defence to show something whether he likes it or not. The other objection to the resolution is that it is no good having a time limit of half an hour or twenty minutes. In this House you have to cut your coat according to your cloth and to take what you can get. As a rule you do not get very much. I would venture to appeal, if I may, to those great, wise, and eminent persons who occupy the two front benches of this House, and to assure them that our resolution has nothing to do with them. [An HON. MEMBER: Why not?] They will, of course, in the future be able to speak as often and just as long as they ever did before. If it did apply to Ministers or ex-Ministers not oven wild horses or bulls of Bashan would attract them into the same lobby with us. I would venture to suggest to the ordinary Members of the rank and file that no speech in this House ever alters a single vote. I would beg them to help us, and if they will slay what may be called the jabberwock they will go down to posterity as the promoters of the greatest reform that has ever taken place in the procedure of the House of Commons. I hope that hon. Members will remember— Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time. Hon. Members who vote for the resolution will leave footprints on the journals of the House.

* SIR A. ACLANDHOOD (Somersetshire, Wellington)

I have pleasure in seconding the resolution. What my hon. and gallant friend desires to do is to bring the rhetorical artillery of the House up to date. He wishes to substitute a mobile quick-firing weapon for the somewhat ponderous and large-bore weapon now in use. I confess that as a Conservative, I view with some regret the removal of that ancient weapon to the limbo of the past. Of course I know that there must come a time when the change is inevitable, but I have pleasant recollections of the occasions on which we have held the Conservative breaches against progressive attacks until the clock struck the hour of midnight. I do feel regret at the loss of the weapon by which we could talk a Bill out. Circumstances change, and the composition of this House has undergone a change. We all want to speak now, and consequently the speeches ought to be shortened. This is a business assembly, and we are sent here to do the business of the country. Every session there are a certain number of measures put down which are carried if time permits, but I am perfectly aware that time never does permit, and when the annual massacre takes place the innocents are slaughtered. I think the whole of the Government programme in the Queen's Speech at the commencement of the session could be carried through. With regard to any given question there are only a limited number of ideas. The result is that three or four hon. Members use up those ideas, and those who follow must either use the old arguments over again, in which case they run the risk of being called to order, or they must dress up their arguments in such strange disguise that they themselves do not always recognise them. I shall never forget my experience of the debate on the Finance Act of 1894. Before the debate commenced I prepared what I thought was a rather interesting speech. For four days and nights I attempted to catch the late Speaker's eye. Every evening I returned home with my speech absolutely stripped naked, and every morning I redressed it. The result was that on the last night of the debate, when I did happen to get the chance of speaking at ten o'clock in the evening, I found to my horror I had appropriated one of the best points of my own leader who followed me in the debate. The number of ideas being so limited, it would be but fair if they were more equally divided amongst the Members of the House. I admit we should lose a certain number of old friends. We should lose that very courteous custom of always referring at the commencement of our speech to the speaker who immediately preceded us in the debate. Every one adopts that phrase, so as to give the idea of being impromptu to a speech which has been carefully prepared. Then another old friend, "I venture to assert, without the slightest fear of contradiction," would have to be given up, and I think the peroration would also have to go. We should miss these things at first, but we should be able on the whole to get on without them. On the county council to which I belong we have a ten-minute limit. We are a loquacious and very argumentative body, but, owing to the limit, we are always able to get through our business with expedition. I hope the House will adopt this motion. If they do I believe the debates will be shorter and brighter, and a great deal more business will be done.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That no Speech (other than those delivered by Ministers or ex-Ministers, or by the mover of a Bill or Resolution) shall exceed twenty minutes in length."—(Major Rasch.)


I think there are two points on which everybody will be agreed—one is that, whatever may be thought of the plan recommended by my two hon. friends, the object they have in view, namely, the shortening of speeches, is in itself an excellent object; and the other is that the resolution could not have been presented to the House in two speeches which more admirably exemplify the conciseness, finish, and point which the mover and the seconder hope will be the result of the resolution. My hon. and gallant friend who moved the resolution gave us a short and cursory view of its history, and in the course of that view he brought against me a reproach which I may, perhaps, deserve, but which I do not think is a very severe one. He told me—I had forgotten the circumstance myself—that we had a debate on this subject a few years ago, that the House passed the resolution of which he was himself, I think, the proposer, and then in the innocence of his heart, either in that or in some subsequent session, he put a question to me asking whether the House had not agreed by resolution to the compulsory abbreviation of speeches, and if that was the case why the Government did not proceed to take action to carry out the resolution. My hon. friend is not nearly so innocent as he pretends to be. He is not so fresh in the ways of the House as he would have us suppose. He knows as well as I do that there are not two assemblies which differ so much as the House of Commons on a Tuesday afternoon and the House of Commons when a Bill is before it which is brought in by the Government, and which it must either accept, amend, or reject; and though I fear I have forgotten the fact that the House had already committed itself to the resolution, I think I may promise that, if ever a Government endeavours to embody in a statute the proposal my hon. friend has made, there will be a very large number of speeches made against it, and that they will not be confined to that magic limit of twenty minutes which he would impose. I entirely agree with both my hon. friends that not only would the House probably be a better business assembly, but that actual speakers in many cases would benefit by some limitation enforced either by rule or by public opinion. I am not alluding, of course, to those speeches humorously alluded to by the seconder of the motion, which are delivered to the House not for the purpose of promoting business, but for the purpose of obstruction; still less to those speeches which are not delivered with the object of defeating the progress of a Bill, to which they nominally refer, but which have an unacknowledged but obvious reference to some measure a little lower down on the Order Paper. We know that class of speech, Sir. [Laughter and ironical cheers.] I do not understand the tone of that cheer. I should almost conjecture that the hon. Member had never made a speech of that kind himself. No doubt speeches of that kind may be very usefully checked either by public opinion or by some rule such as my hon. friend desires should be enforced. But it is not those speeches only which I think would be improved by some limiting arrangement. Everybody must be familiar with the kind of speech in which the speaker has something interesting and novel to say to the House, some personal experience of his own bearing on the question, to which the House would be delighted to listen. It is, however, apparently impossible for him to give that particular illustration to the House without surrounding it, drowning it, overwhelming it by a repetition of arguments of which the House is altogether sick; and if he looks at the report in the newswaper the next day he will find that the reporters—at any rate this is my experience on the subject— familiar with the arguments in which the House took no interest, have reported them, as they are easy to report, but the new point in which the House really was interested is omitted altogether and is lost. I therefore often wonder why we are so short-sighted in our own interest as not to endeavour to give to the House that which it would be glad to have, instead of forcing down the throats of the wearied and reluctant hearers arguments which they know already by heart. It will be seen, therefore, that in spirit I am very much with my two hon. and gallant friends; but if they ask me whether I will go into the lobby to support them, I must say that for my own part I do not intend to take that course. It may seem very ungrateful, because I notice that I belong to that small and unpopular body which is specially excepted from my hon. and gallant friend's resolution. I understand the two Front Benches are by a special grace to be allowed to bore the House to any extent they please or the House can endure. I am grateful to my hon. friend for making this exception in our favour, but I am not sure that the motive that animated him is precisely complimentary to ourselves. I thought when I saw the resolution on the Paper that my hon. and gallant friend took a view of us that we certainly do not take of ourselves, that he thought that our speeches were of a peculiarly enlivening and instructive character, and therefore that their length might very well be extended to a duration not permitted to ordinary mortals. That is a very complimentary view to take, and I thought my hon. and gallant friend took that view of us; but his speech has thrown quite a different light on his motive. I understand now he thinks it best to proceed by degrees, and to buy the two Front Benches, by excepting them, to agree to the resolution, knowing very well that, when the unofficial Members of the House have consented to limit themselves, no very long time would elapse before they administer summary justice to those who occupy the two Front Benches. My real reasons for not voting with my hon. and gallant friend are twofold. In the first place, if I voted for him, he would with more reason than on the previous occasion appeal to me as to how I propose to carry out the resolution. But I have another reason. We all admit that a great many speeches delivered in this House are too long. Still, on the whole, the tendency, I believe, in recent times has been to diminish their length. When I came into the House I remember the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition thought they were not earning their salaries, or their prospective salaries, if they did not conclude long debates by speeches lasting for an hour and a half or longer. It may be, and very likely is that we are less eloquent than our predecessors, but I think Demosthenes himself, if he came down and spoke some night from half-past eleven to half-past one o'clock, would find a very wearied and possibly a not very respectful audience when he came to the end of his peroration. Even the Front Benches are not above learning by the natural progress of events and by the change of fashion and ideas, and the lessons we have learnt have not, I think, been thrown away on other Members of the House. It is true, as I have said, that we sometimes wish to have speeches cut down by a quarter or a half, or sometimes even by two-thirds, but, excluding speeches delivered, not to further debate, but to occupy time, I do not think that genuine speeches made for the elucidation of a subject are nearly as long as they used to be when I first came into the House; and undoubtedly if we were to attempt by some hard-and-fast rule of this kind, by some fixed limit, to put this House—I will not say reduce this House—but put this House on a level with the County Council or the other body to which my hon. friend referred, I think we should unconsciously introduce a wholly new spirit into our procedure. And until the liberty which from time immemorial the Members of this House have enjoyed in fixing the length of their speeches has become impossible longer to endure and wholly inconsistent with the proper progress of public business—until some dire necessity of that kind is driven in upon us by experience, I should be very sorry to see any breach of the traditions under which this House of Commons has so long flourished and which have so long been its glory.


I am in the happy position of agreeing, not only with the general principles expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, but with almost every individual sentiment to which he gave utterance. There is nothing more remarkable, I think, within our own experience, than the tendency of the House to adopt more businesslike habits. I do not hesitate to declare myself a partisan, not only of short speeches, but of short debates, and I believe if the one and the other were reduced to a shorter limit than is at present observed, it would be a great advantage to us. While saying this, of course I reserve to myself the right of protesting at any moment, when I think that on some particular subject the leader of the House proposes to allow too short an opportunity for discussion. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the much shorter speeches that are made, especially from the two Front Benches, which are always regarded as the greatest sinners in this respect. Consider also the question of our debates. I remember the time when it was not considered decent for any considerable Government measure to occupy less than five nights discussion. Five nights debate was the regular allowance. It was not required so much by the ability of the Members for speaking, but it was considered due to the dignity of the subject that there should be this length of time devoted to it. And it was the same with individual speeches. I do not believe it was due either to the vanity or the natural prolixity or carelessness of the Members that these long speeches were made. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the Leader of the House dealt with a subject in a speech of a couple of hours duration because it was considered the proper thing to do, and not because, poor man, he had any desire to do it. I observe that the hon. Member for East Somerset has taken this motion seriously, and proposes to substitute fifteen for twenty minutes. I think he somewhat misunderstands the intention of my two hon. friends who have brought this matter forward. I do not think they bind themselves to any particular nostrum, but they wish to progress in the direction of short speeches. It is remarkable, and it is an illustration of what I have been saying, that the remedy that has been proposed has gradually become more and more rigid. In 1849, I think I am right in saying, the proposal was that no speech should exceed an hour, and that was considered something terrible in the way of restriction. Mr. Milner Gibson, who made the motion, said if he had his own way he would have said forty minutes, but in deference to the feelings of some of his friends he said sixty minutes. The hon. Member for Southeast Essex began by proposing thirty minutes, but to-night he has reduced his limit to twenty. All this shows, I think, the recognition by my hon. friend and by the House generally of the necessity for shorter and shorter speeches. I have only one contribution to make to the discussion which, I think, has not been made yet. I am not a chemist, but I believe there are two kinds of analysis—there is a quantitative and qualitative—and if speeches are to be restricted in length let us be sure that we shall not lose in the quality of the matter to which we have to listen. I will frankly give to the House my own experience. It has not been a large one, but it was so striking as to startle myself. I have on one or two occasions been compelled to speak under the rule which we know as the ten minutes rule—a rule which prescribes that on the introduction of a Bill only a very short speech should be made. I believe there is nothing about ten minutes in the rule, but it means that only a short speech shall be made. Whenever I had to speak under that restriction—will the House believe it?—I found myself speaking with an effectiveness, a point, an energy and a brilliance which astonished no one a tenth part of the degree to which it astonished myself. When I had concluded the little exercise I wondered to myself what the reason was—whether it was my extreme knowledge of or my great interest in the subject—that I had, in my own judgment—which is generally, I think, in the case of all of us a pretty severe judgment — acquitted myself so admirably. I have found it was traceable to no other reason than that I was obliged to attempt to keep my wits sharply employed in what I was saying, not to waste words, but to come to the point; and I said what I had to say in the most terse and effective manner. I offer this little experience of mine as a consideration to hon. Members who may think that by a rule like this they would be deprived of a great privilege. I can assure them that not only would the business of the House be accelerated, but also that the quality of the speeches would be improved by the application of a rule such as this. I hesitate whether, having joined myself with the right hon. Gentleman in his sentiments, I should also take the course he is going to take. He is not going to support my hon. friend opposite. I think I must show some little divergence from the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore, regarding a vote on this subject as a mere declaration of a pious opinion in favour of short speeches, I propose to go into the lobby in support of the motion.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

I shall not have the smallest hesitation in going into the opposite lobby to my right hon. friend who has just spoken. I differ from the motion proposed by the hon. and gallant Member not merely for the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but because I think the motion will destroy what I regard as one of the chief excellencies of this House—namely, the spontaneity and elasticity of its spirit and practice. I have an advantage which, perhaps, the hon. and gallant Gentleman and other Members of this House have not, in that I have watched the proceedings of other legislative assemblies in different parts of the world. I have attended several debates in the House of Representatives at Washington, and I have had some opportunities—not many, I acknowledge—of attending debates in the French Chamber of Deputies. I certainly attended those debates with an impartial mind as a visitor and an observer of the assemblies I have named, and I give this as my experience. The speaking may be more picturesque and more oratorical in those two legislatures; but of the three legislative bodies with which I have any acquaintance—and I do not know more—the only one which I will describe as being a debating assembly is the British House of Commons. I have seen this time rule tried in the House of Representatives at Washington. The hon. and gallant Member forgets that this rule is a two-edged weapon. It says that no speech, with certain exceptions, should be of longer duration than twenty minutes. The hon. and gallant Member altogether loses sight of the fact that one of the probable results of such a rule is that a great many speeches which might very well end at ten minutes would really be extended to twenty minutes. That is one of the effects of a cast iron rule of this kind, I will tell the House of a scene which I have myself witnessed in the House of Representatives, and also in the Senate at Washington. There they have this rule of allowing a certain length of time to the Members of the House—a rule which is laid down with the cast iron rigidity which is indeed common to many things in America, and which I regard as one of the defects of their constitution as compared with the constitution of this country. What I saw happen was this: A Member, say, had an hour under certain conditions; he calmly stopped at the end of forty minutes and then bestowed the remaining twenty minutes upon some other Member of the Legislature, with the result that the debate was made extremely artificial and lacked the spontaneity which is the chief characteristic of the debates of this House. I will give another instance. A small proposal was brought into the House of Representatives one day when I was present. The Bill was simply for the purpose of doing away with the rule as to the qualification of a man to be appointed as a police constable. In Washington there was an old rule which practically limited these appointments to old soldiers, a rule which one can easily understand after the heroic sacrifices made by the soldiers in the Civil War. But this proposal was brought in about thirty-five years after the Civil War ended, and anybody can plainly see that even an old soldier thirty years after the war might make a very inefficient police constable. The House will scarcely credit it, but upon that motion-which was a very small one—I heard the whole question of the Civil War discussed: whether the Republican party or the Democratic party had been right, and whether the Democrats or the Republicans really were the true patriots of the time. In other words, in the House of Representatives in America, with all respect to the brilliant oratory and the many great speakers there, the effect is to make speeches oratorical rather than debating, while the tendency in this House is to make the speeches debating rather than oratorical. I am jealous of any rule whatsoever which will threaten—and I believe the one before the House would—that very fundamental and supreme virtue of this assembly. The real truth is that my hon. friend mistakes a symptom for the disease. The disease of this House is not long speeches. I entirely agree with the testimony of the right hon. Gentleman as to the gradual curtailment of speeches in this House. I remember when two

hours was regarded as a suitable period for an exordium, and the most serious business to follow. One of the best speeches I ever heard in my life was delivered between midnight and four o'clock in the morning by my hon. friend Mr. Sexton in the course of a discussion on a Crimes Bill, the progress of which he was trying to prevent in this House. Speeches have already been curtailed, and, as a matter of fact, if the House will seriously compare debates on different days of the week they will find that on one day of the week there is no necessity whatever for the motion of my hon. friend—I refer to the Wednesday sittings. Apart from the subjects brought in on Wednesdays, I maintain that this House is seen at its best from half-past two to half-past five o'clock. The real reason for the long speeches in this House is that a large number of them are delivered when most of the Members of the House are away, and when there is scarcely anyone to speak to except the representatives of the newspapers. I do not think, therefore, that it is in any cast-iron rule that this House will find a remedy.

* SIR H. MEYSEY-THOMPSON (Staffordshire, Handsworth)

I intend to vote for the resolution because I am a bimetallist. One of the most successful speeches I ever heard was made by an ex-Member of this House at a Bimetallic banquet. He had a toast to propose, and all he said was, "If speech be silvern, and silence be golden, then a short speech must be bimetallic"; he then proposed his toast and sat down; and, Sir, having said all that it is necessary for me to say, I will follow his example.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 91; Noes, 137. (Division List No. 118.)

Archdale, Edward Mervyn Cayzer, Sir Charles William Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)
Arnold, Alfred Coddington, Sir William Greville, Hon. Ronald
Ashton, Thomas Gair Coghill, Douglas Harry Gurdon, Sir Wm. Brampton
Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire) Colville, John Hayne, Rt. Hon. C. Seale-
Baker, Sir John Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth) Hobhouse, Henry
Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Horniman, Frederick John
Beckett, Ernest William Crombie, John William Howarth, Sir Henry Hoyle
Billson, Alfred Denny, Colonel Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil
Birrell, Augustine Dickinson, Robert Edmond Johnson-Ferguson, Jabez Edw.
Blakiston-Houston, John Doughty, George Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.)
Bramsdon, Thomas Arthur Dunn, Sir William Kearley, Hudson E.
Burns, John Fenwick, Charles Kinloch, Sir John George Smyth
Caldwell, James Fison, Frederick William Kitson, Sir James
Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H. Fitz Wygram, General Sir F. Lambert, George
Cawley, Frederick Goldsworthy, Major-General Leng, Sir John
Lewis, John Herbert Pease, Herbert Pike(Darlingt'n) Ure, Alexander
Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller Philipps, John Wynford Wallace, Robert
Lucas-Shadwell, William Pickard, Benjamin Warr, Augustus Frederick
Lyell, Sir Leonard Pilkington, Sir G. A. (Lancs, S. W.) Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L.)
Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred Quilter, Sir Cuthbert Williams, John Carvell (Notts.)
Maclure, Sir John William Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlepool) Wilson, Henry J.(York, W. R.)
M'Killop, James Rickett, J. Compton Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.) Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M. Robinson, Brooke Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Huddersf.)
Middlemore, Jn. Throgmorton Round, James Woods, Samuel
Milner, Sir Frederick George Sandys, Lieut.-Col. Thos Myles Young, Commander(Berks, E.)
More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire) Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford) Yoxall, James Henry
Muntz, Philip A. Sidebottom, William (Derbysh.)
Murray, Charles J. (Coventry) Soames, Arthur Wellesley TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Major Rasch and Sir Alexander Acland-Hood.
Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath) Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Nicol, Donald Ninian Sutherland, Sir Thomas
Parkes, Ebenezer Thorburn, Sir Walter
Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.) Drucker, A. Monk, Charles James
Allan, William (Gateshead) Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart Morrell, George Herbert
Allhusen, Augustus Henry E. Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)
Anstruther, H. T. Ellis, John Edward Morton, Ed. J. C. (Devonport)
Asher, Alexander Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward Murray, Rt Hn A Graham (Bute)
Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Hen. Field, Admiral (Eastbourne) O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal)
Austin, M. (Limerick, W.) Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Paulton, James Mellor
Baillie, James E. B. (Inverness) Fisher, William Hayes Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)
Baird, John George Alexander Foster, Harry S. (Suffolk) Pilkington, R. (Lancs, Newton)
Baldwin, Alfred Garfit, William Purvis, Robert
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r) Gedge, Sydney Reckitt, Harold James
Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds) Giles, Charles Tyrrell Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. Thomson
Banbury, Frederick George Gladstone, Rt. Hn Herbert John Royds, Clement Molyneux
Barry, Rt Hn AH Smith- (Hunts) Goddard, Daniel Ford Runciman, Walter
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Godson, Sir Augustus Fred. Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol) Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon Samuel, J. (Stockton on Tees)
Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe Goschen, George J. (Sussex) Saunderson, Rt. Hon. Col. E. J.
Bethell, Commander Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick) Schwann, Charles E.
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G. Seton-Karr, Henry
Blundell, Colonel Henry Hanbury, Rt. Hon. R. Wm. Sidebottom, T. H. (Stalybr.)
Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn) Heath, James Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)
Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Helder, Augustus Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)
Burt, Thomas Henderson, Alexander Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.)
Butcher, John George Herman-Hodge, Robert Trotter Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.
Buxton, Sydney Charles Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich) Stanley, Edward J. (Somerset)
Cameron, Robert (Durham) Hogan, James Francis Steadman William Charles
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.) Houston, R. P. Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East) Johnston, William (Belfast) Stone, Sir Benjamin
Chamberlain, J. A. (Worcester) Knowles, Lees Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool) Thornton, Percy M.
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.) Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Colston, Chas. E. H. Athole Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Liverpool) Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.
Courtney, Rt. Hon. Leonard H. Loyd, Archie Kirkman Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Curzon, Viscount Macaleese, Daniel Weir, James Galloway
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Macartney, W. G. Ellison Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd
Daly, James Macdona, John Cumming Willox, Sir John Archibald
Dalziel, James Henry Maclver, David (Liverpool) Wilson, F. W. (Norfolk)
Dewar, Arthur Maclean, James Mackenzie Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)
Dillon, John M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R.(Bath)
Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph M'Dermott, Patrick Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dix'n M'Ghee, Richard Wylie, Alexander
Donelan, Captain A. M'Hugh, Patrick A. (Leitrim) Wyndham, George
Doogan, P. C. M'lver, Sir Lewis (Edinb'gh, W)
Dorington, Sir John Edward M'Laren, Charles Benjamin TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. T. P. O'Connor and Mr. Lloyd-George.
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Maddison, Fred.
Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Molloy, Bernard Charles