6 MARCH 1880, Page 13



8114—During the last twenty years it has been my duty to listen to a good part of the debates in the House of Commons, and I am convinced that the main reason why the House is unable to get through its work is the length of the speeches. People who merely read the Parliamentary reports in the news- papers cannot possibly know how seriously the effusiveness of Members obstructs business ; for the newspapers of late, the Times included, have taken to cutting down the reports of all speeches, unless they are of first-rate importance.

Daring the last Session I most carefully watched every debate, and with two, or at most three exceptions, I heard no speech which would not actually have been improved, if it had been 'compressed into half-an-hour. One Member said the same thing five times over, in almost the same words. I venture, therefore, to suggest that the present difficulty would be most effectually overcome by a time-limit, which should be subject to certain exceptions. An hour might be given to the mover and seconder of a motion, or to the Member introducing a Bill; but on no other occasion should anybody be allowed to exceed half-an-hour. The subsidiary advantages of a Standing Order of this kind would be these :— 1. It would be aimed at no one set of Members, but include 'all alike. 2. It would be self-acting, and would not place unusual powers in the hands of the Speaker.

3. It would improve the House-of-Commons style of oratory, which is at present the most roundabout, artificial, and wearisome of any style, parochial, municipal, or legislative, to be found under the sun. Members, having only a brief oppor- tunity for display, would be anxious to use it in order to set forth what was specially their own, and not for the purpose of going over ground which had been travelled a dozen times before.

4. It would revive the public interest in the House. The country is getting weary of the House, and altogether sceptical of the value of what goes on there. Ordinary persons sicken and feel faint at the sight of the enormous mass of printed Par- liamentary matter which the newspapers present to them in the morning, and an indifference to the proceedings of the House and political questions generally is begotten, which is a bad sign, and may ultimately lead to mischief.—I am, Sir, &c.