HC Deb 09 May 1906 vol 156 cc1315-7
MR A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)

asked the Prime Minister, with regard to the arrangement for taking the division on the Second Reading of the Education Bill on Thursday, whether, having regard to the special circumstances of the case, the immense number of Members who desired to speak and the relatively small number who had so far taken part in the debate, and the fact that the Bill differed from others of the same kind in being criticised or commented upon from four different quarters, he could see his way to prolong the debate after Thursday.

SIR CARNE RASCH (Essex, Chelmsford)

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will not use his influence as Leader of the House to shorten the extraordinary prolixity of speeches on this Bill, in which case we should not want any more time?


I recognise fully the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman has asked the Question, and I recognise still more keenly the advice and the opinion given by the hon. Member whom, in the matter of short speeches, I regard as my leader. No doubt he has hit the blot in the whole of the debate. I am afraid, however, that we cannot extend the time. No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that when a certain cay has been fixed for a division and that fixture has been corroborated day after day, as this fixture has been, it is almost impossible to change it. I find that for the Bill of 1902, which was certainly a larger Bill, three † See Col. 741. and a half days were allowed—;exactly the same time as for this measure—;and that for the Education Bill of 1903 only one and a half days were allowed; so that I do not think anyone can say that the time is insufficient. Whether it has been properly expended is another question, but that is quite beyond my control or that of any individual. I have myself happened to look into the course of the first night's debate, and I find that nine Members addressed the House during seven hours. It is a serious matter to these who have been imperfectly educated to divide seven by nine, but as far as I can think out the matter, and giving to the question all the time at my disposal, it gives from forty-five to fifty minutes as the average length of a speech. I venture to say that it is really absurd; and that is the reason why so many hon. Members on both sides of the House are excluded from participating in the debate, because the hon. Members who have the good fortune to be called upon make such an inordinate use of their opportunities. I do not blame anyone for doing so; but it is undoubtedly the cause—;I regret it as much as the right hon. Gentleman—;why Members who might well enlighten the House on the subject, are excluded, while others who cannot do so much good service occupy so large a share of Parliamentary time. But I am afraid that we must stand by to-morrow night, because of the great inconvenience that would be caused to everyone concerned if at this time we made any alteration. But we can suspend the eleven o'clock rule if there is any desire for it. Indeed, I am not sure that it is not usual, for convenience and to prevent any interference with the last speech, to suspend that rule formally and innocently. But even if more than that was asked for by the right hon. Gentleman and his followers, I do not think we should have much objection; but I am afraid that we must stand by Thursday night.

LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that out of the whole of the time available for debate yesterday two of his colleagues occupied more than a fourth and that one of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues occupied thirty minutes in discussing the financial provisions of the Act of 1902?


If we come to bandying words about the length of speeches, I may remind the noble Lord that there was a speech delivered from behind the Front Opposition Bench which occupied an hour and a half last night.


What business do the Government propose to take next week.


The Finance Bill will be the business on Monday.