HL Deb 01 April 1892 vol 3 cc457-60

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


My Lords, I see no notice on the Orders of the Day for the postponement of this Order, and, as it has been for three years before your Lordships in one shape or another, I trust you will have patience with me whilst I explain the reason for which I have endeavoured to bring it forward. My Lords, since the last postponement of it a noble Lord on this side of the House made an extremely long speech, and during the whole of that speech it was impossible to say on which side his vote would be given. Well, my Lords, no noble Lord would have interrupted the speaker in the course of that Debate. Now this Motion of mine is really the most inoffensive measure that could possibly be submitted to any Assembly. My Lords, you have an hour glass for the time of taking a Division,—two minutes; you might have an hour glass as the preachers formerly had their hour glass and turned it over, and sometimes spoke for two hours. My Lords, I have bestowed great pains upon this Bill, and if it is read a second time it will neither commit you nor myself to any further steps in the matter. It is not intended as an insult to the House, but it really is for the protection of those who do not wish to hear long unnecessary speeches. My nearest neighbour in Scotland has introduced a measure for reducing speeches at the County Council to ten minutes; and the noble Lord, the late High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland, wished it to be 15 minutes. But, my Lords, there was nothing to take away the invidious position of the chairman, because he alone would have to pronounce whether the time were up or not. What I have seen at the Diocesan Councils has operated extremely well; it has given offence to no man; and at Westminster Town Hall I was present at a meeting at which Dr. Cameron was chairman, when a foreigner wished to exceed his time for his paper, and was very indignant at being stopped. I ventured to interpose, and, I believe, gave offence to no one. My Lords, in a large meeting of delegates from the different Poor Law Unions the important question was discussed whether out-door relief should be altogether refused or granted with discrimination. Twenty-eight speakers spoke at that meeting, 18 for discrimination and ten against everything but the offer of the house to those who probably would not accept it. This occupied only one day; but, if unlimited time had been given to the speakers, of course a great deal more time would have been occupied. My Lords, I ventured to include the other House, but I was told that it was quite beyond the power of this House. At the same time it is perfectly well understood that, if any measure is introduced in this House, it can be adopted, if palatable, in the other House. That was the case with the Newfoundland Fisheries Bill, and it is a pity it did not begin in the other House. My Lords, I have had a very long experience in this House. I have spoken less, certainly not more often, than any other Member of the House, and I defy anyone to deny that proposition: and, if it be said that I have brought forward this Bill with any selfish motive my position shows that I have no such motive. My Lords, I earnestly beg you not to postpone the Second Reading. I shall be for ever grateful to you if you read the Bill a second time; but, if you do not let it pass, I shall think it is from a personal antipathy to myself, and a determination that nothing which I propose shall ever be accepted. My Lords, with the utmost respect, I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2ª."—(The Lord Denman.)


I trust the noble Lord will not draw, from any conduct which I may pursue, any such gloomy inferences as those he has suggested. He appears to me, I confess, to be very similar to those saints of old of whom we read, who were accustomed to inflict upon themselves the most frightful sorts of discipline on account of sins from which they were notoriously free. I do not think that this House is guilty of many long speeches. The noble Lord appears to have heard some noble Peer make some long speech,—I wondered who it was, and I do not know now who it was. I think he might almost as well bring in a Bill to prevent too much business being transacted in this House, or the attendance on these Benches being too large. As the noble Lord says, the Bill will do no harm. I believe that is true. But, on the other hand, I am afraid it may give unintentional offence. I think that, when Members of the House of Commons read what we have been doing in our votes, they will say to themselves: "It is perfectly impossible that the House of Lords can have been serious in intending to apply to themselves this prohibition against long speeches,—it must have been a covert and circuitous way of reflecting upon the characteristics which some of us believe belong to the House of Commons;" and I am afraid that that Assembly might take it ill if we attempted, in this indirect fashion, to correct a deficiency which public opinion sometimes charges upon their proceedings. Desiring therefore to maintain perfect peace between the two Houses, I feel I have no other course but to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months.")—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)

On Question whether ("now") shall stand part of the Motion, resolved in the negative.

Bill to be read 2ª this day six months.


I beg leave to say that I should have wished the House to be divided upon this point. I really do not think I have deprived myself of the right to name a Teller. I have never called upon any noble Lord to support me, or done anything but what is open and straightforward; and to be deprived of the power of seeing which noble Lords wish to speak at great length, and which do not, is really a very great deprivation.