§ 3.10 p.m.
§ LORD EGREMONT rose to move, That speeches in this House should be shorter. The noble Lord said: My Lords, although I speak from a Tory Bench, which is my natural habitat, this Motion is designed to be a non-Party Motion, and my speech, I hope, will be considered as a non-Party speech; and I can promise your Lordships that it will be brief.
§ Not long ago I was attending one of your Lordships' debates in this House and I was wondering when it would ever end. Then, suddenly, we had a most splendid naval demonstration. The noble Lord, Lord Fraser of North Cape, hoisted his flag, so to speak, sailed into action and launched a broadside. He said that if we went on at that rate we should be here until the middle watch or the morning watch, and asked whether that was not rather too long. I thought to myself, "Hurrah! Thank goodness; the Navy's here!" But what happened? The noble Lord's protest, through no fault of his own, was sunk without trace in the sea of subsequent oratory.
§ I will not bore your Lordships with an analysis of the length of speeches. For one thing, such figures can be misleading. For example, I could make a boring 111 twenty minute Second Reading speech and then for ever hold my peace. It could then be said, "Egremont would speak for twenty minutes". If, however, I intervened for just one minute on the Committee stage you could then say that Egremont spoke, on average, for only ten minutes. You can do anything with figures. Somebody once said "You can do anything with bayonets except sit on them." You can do anything with figures, including sitting on them. For example, a speech which I very much admired last Thursday was that of the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, on the Rent Bill, and the noble Lord is down in Hansard as having risen to his feet at 4.52 p.m. and having sat down at 4.18 p.m. I am going to sit on the figures myself, but, mind you, my Lords! so far as the length of speeches is concerned, life might be very much harder to-day than it is. In 1831, one fine day, Lord Brougham addressed your Lordships in this House for six hours. That was a record. In four successive Sessions, beginning, in 1887, a Liberal Peer, Lord Denman, tried again and again to redress the balance by introducing Bills to limit speeches by legislation. One by one the Bills were thrown out. So that was a flop.
§ What Lord Denman proposed was that no Privy Counsellor should speak for more than one hour, and no other Member for more than a quarter of an hour, at the end of which period the Clerk was to ring a bell. I think that was a very liberal allowance of time. But, of course, one cannot legislate for the length of speeches. What we should do is try to get a general measure of agreement and understanding among ourselves for the future. For example, would it be mad to suggest that very often in our debates we should get along very well if speeches from the Back Benches and Cross Benches lasted no longer than ten minutes, and speeches from the Front Benches no longer than twenty minutes? Of course there must be exceptions; but how about that as a basic rule?
§ There is at least one legislative body which has rules about the length of speeches, and that is the House of Representatives of the Australian Commonwealth Parliament, in Canberra. There they have a speech-timing device which includes a coloured warning light that 112 comes on to warn a member that his time is about to expire. I understand that they find this device very handy, but I am not asking to-day for any set rules or devices. All I am moving is the Motion on the Order Paper.
§ Let me just make four points, and then sit down. First, the span of human attention cannot usefully be stretched beyond six hours. Second, compression improves nearly every speech. Third, the freedom which we have to speak whenever we like should impose on us an obligation to be brief. Fourth, if your Lordships will agree to this Motion, we shall have added reason to remind each other of this obligation to be brief. And we should do so, if I may so suggest, and, if need be, vociferously. Any fool can make a long speech. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That speeches in this House should be shorter.—(Lord Egremont.)
§ 3.15 p.m.
My Lords, I support this Motion. I do not know what it means, because the word "shorter" is a comparative adjective. One is reminded of the mathematics don, who, on being asked "And how is your wife?" replied "Compared with what?" But if this Motion means that speeches in this House should be shorter than those which are too long—which of course, is a matter of opinion—then I am in total agreement.
I dare not say much more, but as we are all "in the dock" together this afternoon, I wonder whether I may be allowed to quote in full two of the best-known speeches in the English tongue, one of which, I fear, is twice as long as the other. The first is "Guilty" and the second is "Not guilty". My Lords, if these words are relevant to-day I plead for a verdict in my own case of "not guilty", and I would say that a good speech is better when it is too short, and that a bad speech should be shorter. I suggest that in oratory modesty is the soul of brevity, and brevity is a manifestation of compassion. It is therefore with compassion, if not with modesty, that I resume my seat.
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Egremont has made a most amusing speech and introduced a Motion which I am sure has the support 113 of everybody in the House. But the trouble is—and I have said this before—that although we pay lip service to the principle of short speeches, none of us ever thinks that it applies to himself. I am afraid that, as a general rule, we are bored with other people's speeches and captivated with our own. Our own speeches are always the exception, or else the occasion is the exception.
I recall that not long ago, when we were discussing the reform of the procedure of this House, a number of speeches were made commenting on the length of speeches. On that occasion a noble friend, whom I shall not name and who I hope will forgive me for quoting this, rose to his feet and said that although he agreed, and he usually made short speeches—which he does—on this particular occasion he was going to make a long one. My Lords, I am afraid that is the trouble.
It is of course legitimate, and, I think, proper, that the mover of a Motion and the Government spokesman, and to a lesser degree the Opposition spokesman, should be allowed a certain amount of time to deploy their case. This is particulary so for the noble Lord who winds up for the Government, who usually has a large number of questions to answer, and I think that the House would be disturbed if he did not answer those questions and did not take a certain amount of time in doing so. But it is noticeable that recently—and I am afraid that I cannot separate this phenomenon from the arrival of the Life Peers—speeches in this House have got very much longer. It is now quite usual for speeches to last up to, and sometimes over, half an hour. I really do think that is very much too long; and it has two results.
First, it makes the debates much less interesting than they otherwise would be. Quite a number of your Lordships come into the House in the afternoon after whatever other activities you may have been doing and hope to hear a cross-section of opinion on whatever subject we happen to be discussing. Until fairly recently this was possible. Now, even if one sits here for a couple of hours one can hear only a handful of speakers, and I would say this is perhaps the only occasion in this Parliament on which one could guarantee we are going to hear more than four or five speeches in any 114 hour. That tends to make debates less interesting, less lively and, I think, less useful.
The second result is that a good many Peers do not wait to hear the Government's winding-up speech and therefore do not hear the answers to the points they themselves may have made. And I am afraid that quite a large number of those who have spoken in the debate do not wait until it ends. It is a habit which has grown up fairly recently, and I must say that I think it quite deplorable that this should be so.
There are only two ways of ensuring that speeches are short. First, we can make rules on the lines my noble friend outlined, such as exist in Australia, rules which may or may not be accompanied by a series of warning bells or flashing lights or whatever it may be. I must say I agree with him and I am entirely opposed to this procedure. I do not think it would work. I do not think it would add to the dignity of the House. And I think there are occasions on which notable contributions can and should be made by noble Lords with special qualifications on a particular subject which, if we had rules of this kind, would not be possible.
The other way is by disciplining ourselves. If I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, who has, I think, almost the longest experience of anybody in this House, made a most interesting contribution the other day when he said, and said rightly, that all the power that was necessary was in the hands of the House. I see no reason why the House should not make its impatience plain to those whose speeches are over long: I have noticed in the years I have been here that, without openly saying so, the House can make its opinion very widely and obviously felt.
In the last resort, it is the speakers who have to discipline themselves. It is very often a sign of laziness to make a long speech. I do not know which alarms me more, the noble Lord who rises with a large bundle of typescript, or one who rises with no notes at all. The one takes a long time to end and the other does not seem to know how to. To make a short speech is hard work; to make a long one is easy. If this was more widely felt, and if it was regarded as a sign of laziness when noble Lords spoke at great 115 length, perhaps we might shame some of the worst offenders into speaking more briefly.
There is another aspect, which is perhaps rather more delicate. I sometimes wonder whether all the speeches in a debate are really necessary. They are often very repetitive; it has all been said before. Ought we not perhaps sometimes, even though we may have done a great deal of work on our speech, forgo our turn? Certainly if we did our debates would not suffer. I do not know whether my noble friend's Motion will have very much success, but I, for one, hope it will, and I am grateful to him for airing this subject.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, after Lord Carrington's observations I felt almost tempted to forgo my own right to speak because he has said a great many things I myself have said. If the remaining eighteen speakers were prepared to do the same, I would be willing to sit down myself. But it looks as if this House always enjoys an opportunity of a certain amount of introspection, and perhaps it is as well that we should hear a large number of speakers on this subject, because each one of them, I take it, will feel under an obligation to comply with the terms of the Motion and in future speak more briefly.
The Motion assumes that speeches are too long, and it also assumes that their length ought to be reduced; and I think that both assumptions are correct. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, gave us some of the disadvantages of long speeches. I agree with him that they are signs of laziness. They are a waste of time. Members of this House, indeed members of any other assembly, find difficulty in concentrating on what is said in a long speech; and the proof of that is that it so often happens that when a Member speaks after a long speech his comments on that speech are challenged by the person who spoke at length, indicating either that he did not make himself clear or that owing to the length of the speech it was difficult for the person who followed to understand it properly. It happens so often in debates that somebody complains that what has been replied to is not what he said 116 and the correct statement will be found in Hansard the following day.
Then there is a good deal of repetition, even on the part of the individual who makes the speech, let alone the others who follow. When you come to read Hansard you find that the same thing has been said several times by the same speaker. And, of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, the House tends to be bored by long speeches. So, putting it very briefly, the long speech is not only ineffective—the short speech is far more effective—but it is a complete waste of time.
The noble Lord who introduced the Motion gave some idea as to what he had in mind, as to what was a reasonable time for a speech. I would not very much quarrel with him. But of course I have given some thought to this question. I had originally proposed to suggest a time for normal speeches, for introducers and so on. I know it is difficult. Even a quarter of an hour or ten minutes may be too long in certain circumstances; for instance, if you are dealing with an Amendment which has been fully discussed and somebody then stands up and makes a ten minute speech, it is far too long and unnecessary; whereas we often have subjects discussed in this House where the speaker is a person who is an expert on the subject and has given a great deal of thought to it, and ten minutes or a quarter of an hour would be much too short and the House would be very willing to give him ample time.
The noble Lord referred to Australia, where there has been an attempt to fix the time of speeches—that is, I take it, of normal speeches; Government speeches or people introducing a motion would speak longer. I have had considerable experience in the London County Council and there it is a rule that the normal speech is fifteen minutes. At the end of fifteen minutes the chairman draws the speaker's attention to the fact that he has been speaking for fifteen minutes and the Council can, if it wishes, extend the time by five minutes, and very often it does, if the speaker has something to say. That makes twenty minutes. If in its opinion the speech ought not to be prolonged, it does not hesitate to say so.
That system is a possibility in this House. However, it involves something 117 that I put forward in the debate on procedure—namely, having the proper channel who can take control of proceedings. I gather from my soundings that that is not a popular proposal at the present time. Therefore, it would be left to individual Members to enforce this, or to the Clerks at the Table to draw it to the attention of speakers; but it would still be left to individual Members to enforce it if the speaker insisted on going on. I can see difficulties about that.
Therefore, I feel that perhaps the best thing that we can do as a House is to take note of the various views that have been expressed. Certainly, I imagine that there will be a general desire that speeches should be curtailed; that normally a speech should last about ten to fifteen minutes and no longer; that in special cases, where a Member has a special contribution to make—and he ought not to be entirely the judge of that—there might be an exception; and of course there would be a longer time allowed for members of the Government and for Members who are opening a debate to take advantage of.
May I, in conclusion, say one thing to Members of the Government, either existing or prospective? Although it is right that they should take longer in explaining a Bill or in introducing a Motion—and everyone will accept that—it is not right that they should have an indefinite time or an unlimited time. I have known noble Lords introducing a Bill and taking over an hour to do so. I think that is unpardonable. It is an abuse of one's right. It is quite valueless, because nobody can concentrate for an hour on a technical matter, and it really does not serve its purpose. I hope, therefore, that if the consensus of opinion in the House is that speeches should be shorter it will be understood that that applies both to Government speakers and to the speakers on the Front Bench opposite. I hope that the House will accept this Motion.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ EARL ATTLEE
My Lords, I should like to say a few words in support of this Motion. There was a bad custom in another place that Members who have held high office felt bound to speak for at least three-quarters of an hour. I disagree. I believe in the old song, Shorter 118 in Wind, and in Memory Long. I think we ought all to endeavour to be short in wind.
I should like to make one or two suggestions. The first is that members of the Government should not read speeches that have been produced by civil servants or, as they say on the other side, the Central Office. The conscientious person can put in every possible thing. A Member of Parliament, Lords or Commons, ought to be able to select the important things and reject the rest; and anyway, he should leave a few things for other people to say. I am certain of that. Secondly, there is this awful habit of repetition. It is no good, unless you are a most important person, always saying the same thing as somebody else; you have to add a bit more weight. Then it is a good idea to show a certain amount of consideration for your hearers. If I have to make an after-dinner speech, I always think of the poor fellow who is looking at his watch all the time and saying, "I hope to God he will stop, so that I can catch the 9.15 to Surbiton." I always hope that a five-minute speech, will produce the comment. "Anyway, thank God he was short".
Sometimes there are occasions when even a bore is useful. It does not often happen in this Chamber, but I can remember one occasion in another place, when I was head of the House, when there was going to be a terrible row at any moment, and the Speaker, with great tact, called on the biggest bore in the House. At once the atmosphere cleared. I always thought of him as the best "during-dinner" speaker that we had. Members could go out and would miss absolutely nothing. His sobriquet, I regret to say, was "the chambermaid", because he emptied the Chamber. Everybody tried to avoid that particular nickname. The best thing of all is that, when you sit down, you should feel "There was a lot more that I could have said. How lucky for my hearers that I did not try!"
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ LORD RAGLAN
My Lords, I am sorry that I have only just arrived. I have suffered a series of misfortunes with my motor car; I am covered in oil and quite flustered, so I hope your Lordships will excuse me. I do not know 119 whether your Lordships consider this to be a controversial subject, and therefore not suitable for a maiden speech. If so, I apologise, but I put my name down to speak when a debate in which I was particularly interested got held up, so that some time before the end nearly everyone had gone, including me, and I thought I should say something.
I have been a member of the audience here, on and off, for the last five weeks, and a regular reader of Hansard. I must say that I have been surprised at the length of some of the speeches, yet at the same time I have felt a genuine admiration that so many of your Lordships could speak for so long. It has seemed to me that some of those speeches have, by their very length, defeated the speakers' own purpose, which is getting themselves listened to. I hope that it is not being rude to say that I have found my attention wandering after a quarter of an hour or so. My Lords, I seem to have mislaid my notes. I am sorry. I will sit down.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ LORD CASEY
My Lords, this I think is likely to be a model debate, with a large number of speakers each speaking briefly, pungently and, in many cases, from a heartfelt point of view. Lord Egremont has tolled a bell, and "For whom the bell tolls?": it tolls for thee and me. In other words, this Motion is addressed to all of us and not to any individual in particular, and not perhaps very much in particular. There must, of course, be exceptions, as noble Lords have said. The Leaders of the two sides of the House and, to an extent, those moving Motions must be given reasonable time to develop their ideas, But, in general, the tempo in the world and in this country is constantly speeding up, and if Your Lordships' House is to maintain itself as a serious part of the machinery of Government, we must speed up and sharpen up our deliberations. Events are constantly moving more quickly and the way public debates are conducted must keep pace with them. Subjects must of course be developed understandably in speech, but without stupefying the listeners and without destroying the vitality of the debate. We must resist the temptation to take advantage of a captive audience, or this audience may cease to be captive.
120 This Motion is a salutary one. For myself, it has set me the task of looking over the speeches I have made in your Lordships' House since I have been a Member of it. I find that I have made fourteen speeches, of an average time of just over twenty minutes. However, in exposing this bleeding heart—and, in my own defence, a number of these speeches were introducing Motions that needed some explanation and background—I claim (and I am not, of course, alone in this) to have sought to be jealous of your Lordships' time by thought and condensation. However, every speaker tends to be a biased witness in his own defence. We know that your Lordships' House is unique in the world in that, in the absence of rules of debate, it depends solely on the good sense of its Members to conduct themselves in a way that reflects consideration for each other. In general, this is observed, but occasionally it is not—and one bad apple occasionally tends to spoil the barrel.
If I might add to the several relevant quotations which have been made, I would quote from a speech made by the late Lord Brabazon of Tara, almost exactly ten years ago, in which he said:… the reason why I do not turn up as much as I should is that the speeches in your Lordships' House have become interminably long"—and that was ten years ago.I take the view, and always have, that if you cannot say what you are going to say in twenty minutes you ought to go away and write a book about it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 193, col. 207, June 21, 1955.]Then again there was Ingres, the painter, who a hundred or more years ago said something to the effect that if you cannot draw a figure as it falls from a ledge and before it reaches the ground, you will never be a draughtsman. The late Lord Keynes is quoted as having said that the hardest thing to get rid of is a small nuisance. I believe that the subject matter of this debate could be described as an endeavour to correct "a small nuisance"; but it is, I think many of us would agree, an exasperating one. Some of these quotations which I have made, and others which no doubt will be made in this debate to-day, reflect counsels of perfection which are not always attainable; but the general purport of them is clear, and that is to express ourselves with the greatest relevance and economy 121 of words of which we are individually capable.
It is no use complaining of an abuse if one has nothing to suggest for its cure. In the absence of some mandatory cure, might not the Whips be encouraged to place very low on any list of speakers any individual who has in the past become known for the length of his contributions? Also, might I suggest that a Motion of this sort should be introduced at decent intervals in the future to remind us all of the need for brevity and for the avoidance of cacoethes loquendi? Even perhaps the interjection of the name "Egremont" might be used to remind a speaker that he, or even perhaps she, is tending to overstep the mark, if the noble Lord, Lord Egremont, would excuse his name being used as a symbol.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, I have never said to anybody that I was proposing to take part in this afternoon's debate, and I do not propose to do so, but I am indebted to some kind person for including my name on the list of speakers and thereby giving me the opportunity of claiming the record for brevity.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, that is the shortest speech I have ever heard in your Lordships' House. I should first of all like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Egremont, for putting forward this Motion, and then to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, on his maiden speech and to say how sorry I was that he did not go on. We could have waited a moment or two until he had collected his notes, and then we should have been very glad to listen to the end of it.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
I stand condemned as one who in the last debate on procedure actually put forward a figure, or rather two figures, for the length of speeches. I was not quite so savage as Lord Egremont himself; I said up to fifteen minutes for Back Benchers and up to thirty-five minutes for Front Benchers. This was, of course, a fairly light-hearted suggestion, and it is obvious that speeches which have a really serious content would have to be longer on certain occasions.
122 I have often heard noble Lords complain about the length of speeches, but they have not put their complaints into practice. Complaints of that sort would appear to be entirely theoretical. However, I repeat what I said in the last debate: that the greatest privilege in this House is that any noble Lord can opt to speak, and so I support all those who want shorter speeches. I think there would be a far greater exchange, there would be more cut-and-thrust, and I have never heard it said that long-windedness is the soul of wit. We should get more dialogue and less monologue.
However, if speeches are long, listening to them is not compulsory. Noble Lords are not chained to their seats, and any exit is not taken as an insult. No one can tell when one sees a noble Lord sauntering out of the Chamber whether he is impatient, indignant, disgusted, or whatever it may be. These feelings, we hope, are not visible on his countenance. Nor, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said so wittily, do we have to keep our seat belts fastened at the take-off of a speech.
I personally am all for brevity. It ensures that our speeches have form as well as content. I think it will improve our image to the public, for long speeches really are very soporific. Perhaps, as I said, Lord Egremont's suggestion of ten minutes and twenty minutes is a little too short. However, in the very unlikely event that his suggestion will be taken up and acted upon, and as he is Lord Egremont and I am Lady Gaitskell of Egremont, I hope that this debate will not go down in the annals of the House of Lords as "The Egremont Axe".
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ LORD DENHAM
My Lords, I should like to give unqualified support to my noble friend's Motion. I do not propose to keep your Lordships long. How often have your Lordships heard noble Lords say this and then go on to make a speech of twenty minutes or more? A speech which takes twenty minutes is not short. To start by saying so is not only shown later to be manifestly untrue, but it also unnecessarily lengthens, if only by a sentence, an already long speech.
There are three cardinal sins which are all too often committed in your Lordships' House nowadays. The first is for a noble Lord to arrive in your Lordships' 123 Chamber after the beginning of the debate in which he intends to speak. It is not unusual to see a noble Lord in the Library preparing his speech while the debate is in progress in the Chamber. But if he does not listen to the speeches before his own, he has no means of knowing how many of the points he intends to make have already been made, and how often. He is therefore unable to prune his speech as the debate proceeds. The second is for a noble Lord to leave the Chamber during the speech following his own. This I have always been taught is a breach of good manners, because it denies to the following speaker the opportunity to reply to his points in his presence.
The third sin, as has already been mentioned by my noble Leader, is for a noble Lord who has spoken to go home before the end of the debate and thereby miss the winding-up speeches. There is something a little conceited in the implied suggestion that what you have to say is important enough to keep the Minister from his dinner, but not quite important enough to keep you from yours. All these sins become very much more annoying when the speech concerned is long, especially the last one. If, by a long speech, you cause the debate to be late, and the attendance at the end to be therefore small, the least you can do is to ensure that you yourself are there.
May I also put in a special plea that maiden speeches should be short? It has always been the custom in this House that noble Lords should not leave the Chamber during a maiden speech; but if the maiden speech is long it is often inconvenient, and sometimes impossible, to avoid doing it. At this point I wish to add my congratulations to those which have already been given to the noble Lord, Lord Raglan.
It is to be hoped that my noble friend's Motion and this debate will have a salutary effect on the length of speeches. But I fear it will not last long. As noble Lords have said, it is difficult to lay down any hard-and-fast rule as to how long a speech should ideally be, as there are certain of your Lordships who can speak for twenty minutes or more and sit down leaving the House wishing that they had spoken longer. There are others of us for whom half that time is ample. 124 The trouble is that it is for the noble Lord who speaks to judge how long he can interest the House, and not for his listeners.
May I suggest a remedy which would take these factors into account? It would entail only a simple addition to Standing Orders. Any noble Lord should be able to speak for, say, fifteen minutes as of right, but if, after that time, there are seen to be fewer than, say, twenty noble Lords left in your Lordships' Chamber, that particular speaker should be counted out. This would transfer to the House in general the onus of determining the length of a particular speech. If it should prove impracticable to impose this by Standing Order—and I do not see why it should—perhaps this yardstick could be exercised as a voluntary discipline by noble Lords.
Finally, may I ask the noble Earl who leads the House whether he will persuade his right honourable friend the Minister of Public Building and Works to find room among all this decoration for there to be displayed prominently, and in letters of gold, a text from the Book of Ecclesiasticus, Chapter XXXII, the 8th verse:Let thy speech be short, comprehending much, in few words.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ LORD WISE
My Lords, the Motion which the noble Lord, Lord Egremont, has moved seems to us on this side of the House to be opportune at the present time. We all have views on necessary reform, and these will be duplicated during this afternoon's discussion, but I hope that whoever is responsible for their consideration will sort them out, and that procedure in regard to speeches in your Lordships' House will benefit by its revision. The speeches will naturally be short this afternoon—mine will—and to the point, and I hope that I shall not say anything to offend anyone.
Perhaps I should not be critical, as nowadays I am unable to sit throughout all the speeches; but I have had a fair share of doing so in the past. That brings hack memories of the three-day week in which we dealt effectively with all legislation committed to us for consideration and amendment. Life in the Lords then was not so exacting. We were smaller in numbers, less speeches were delivered, and I believe they bore far more relation 125 to their subjects than many we have to listen to nowadays. What we experienced then can be enjoyed now if we have the will to mend our ways.
Newcomers naturally wish to make their mark through their own contributions. They are not the culprits who speak too often and too long. That sin can be laid at the doors of Ministers and ex-Ministers. Persistent monopoly of time in our discussions is a crime against the House and serves us ill, in trying to carry out our duties and expedite the passing of legislation. Particularly does this practice of long speeches affect the good will of the House when the list of speakers approaches the twenty mark or even more. Consideration for others is a virtue. It is a dull experience to hear too much of any one speaker. Faults of repetition lie in every quarter of the House.
Government speeches and answers to questions are tending to become too long. Full explanation is all right in its way but it can be overdone. The greater the length of replies to questions the more the number of supplementaries, applicable or not. It might be a good plan to limit the number of supplementary questions and mainly restrict them, if possible, to the original questioner. Another point of interest arises. As the list of speakers is prepared and circulated, it would seem to be fair if any noble Lord listening to the discussion wishes to speak although he has not added his name to the list, that he should limit the length of his speech perhaps to only a request for information on a point which has arisen. This brevity is important as other noble Lords may be waiting to speak on any business which may follow, and delay for them may be very inconvenient. This happened to me a few days ago, and I reached home that night at about half-past eleven. My thoughts at that time should not be recorded.
I could surprise your Lordships with figures upon the length of some speeches in many of our discussions since March. They vary from about half an hour to over 50 minutes. Often the average of four or five speakers is well over half an hour. I hope that the "usual channels" will devise some procedural rules for our guidance.