Houses of Parliament Buildings.

Civil Services and Revenue Departments Estimates, 1922–23. – in the House of Commons on 11th April 1922.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £75,250, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1923, for Expenditure in respect of Houses of Parliament Buildings."—[Note: £40,000 has been voted on account.]

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , Fylde

I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to two subjects in connection with this Vote. The first is the accommodation, of the House in which we are now sitting, and the second is the means which are now used to provide for the "inner man" of the House of Commons. I have now been a Member of this House for some 17 years. It seems to me a most extraordinary anomaly that the Mother of Parliaments should have sitting accommodation for less than one half of the Members of that body. It is contrary to the dignity of this House that we should ever consent to scramble, in the undignified way in which hon. Members have to for seats in this House when an important Debate is about to take place. I have in the past seen paragraphs in the papers to the effect that a certain hon. Member arrived first in the morning and waited in a queue outside the House until the doors were opened, and then, by fleetness of foot, succeeded in getting in first and securing, subject to attendance at prayers, the best seat in the House for the great Debate to take place that day. I put it seriously to Members of Parliament, that that is not a right and proper state of affairs, especially when we consider that the duties of Members of Parliament are daily becoming more onerous and their attendances more exacting than they were even when I first knew the House. Although it may be impossible to do anything at once to remedy this great defect, I do think it is not inappropriate on a Vote for the Houses of Parliament that someone should draw the attention of the Committee to this very disagreeable state of things.

There is another point to which I, speaking candidly, object. We have prayers before the commencement of our proceedings. I hope and trust that those prayers will always form part of our proceedings. It is, however, a well-known fact that attendance at prayers would not be so constant or so numerous if it were not that it gave an hon. Member the right to a particular seat during the sitting of the House. If any hon. Member will take the trouble to see the number of occupants of the Front Benches who attend at prayers, he will realise that, as they are secure of their seats, it is not necessary for them to attend and they do not attend prayers. One would like to know that attendance at prayers was due to the desire of hon. Members to take part in the service and not to the wish to secure a seat during the forthcoming sitting. But let me get back to the main question. I put it to any hon. Member, and especially to those who have been members of county or borough councils, or of great city corporations, would they not consider it ludicrous if in their local bodies they had only sitting accommodation for less than one-half of their members? Would they not at once declare that the arrangement was a back number and that it ought to be brought up to date—the sooner the better? A Member who has to perform his Parliamentary duties should not have to worry about a matter of this kind. He should not have to worry, if he wishes to take part in the Debate, about getting a seat in the quarter of the House from which he is accustomed to address it. His inability to get such a seat, of course, makes it more difficult for him to catch the eye of whoever happens to be in the Chair. It surely ought not to be beyond the skill of the architect in charge of this building to at any rate make some increase in the accommodation for Members. I believe I am right in saying that, including the most out-of-the-way corners, there is sitting accommodation for not more than 320 Members, whereas there are now over 700 Members of this House. I am reminded by an hon. Member that when the Irish Free State is definitely established 60 or 70 of the Members will be taken away from this House. That may be true, but with a membership of 630 or 640 it cannot be seriously maintained that 320 seats is adequate accommodation.

4.0 p.m.

I always endeavour not to speak at too great length in this House, but I wish to say a few words upon another subject, and it is with reference to the machinery now existent in this House to provide for our creature comforts. I yield to no one in my admiration of the Chairman of our Kitchen Committee, the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Sir J. Agg-Gardner). He is one of the oldest and most popular Members of this House, and at the same time one of the most courteous. He is ably assisted by a Committee of Members, from whom also we get nothing but courtesy. But dealing with this question from a purely practical business point of view, I would ask if we are wise to have a Committee of Members of this House, who may or may not have experience in running catering businesses? Are we wise in maintaining that system? Would it not be far better to abolish that Committee and put out the contracts for our food and drink to a real business firm? Those of us who have had experience of night sittings—latterly they have been exceptional in this House, but they will come again—must know of the enormous and almost intolerable strain which they inflict on the Kitchen Committee. It is seldom known when they are going to take place, and when they do occur it is found that the supply of refreshments often runs short, and hon. Members, in their patriotic efforts to prevent the Government rushing a Bill through the House, frequently have no means whereby they can maintain their strength and continue the Debate well into the small hours of the morning, and even into the next day. On the other hand, it often happens that a night sitting has been anticipated and provided for by the Kitchen Committee, but the Debate suddenly ends, a compromise is arrived at, hon. Members go home at 10 or 11 o'clock, the whole of the arrangements become unnecessary, and food is wasted because it cannot be used up afterwards in this House. If one had a responsible firm in charge and a good agreement was drawn up, supposing an all-night sitting occurred unexpectedly, that firm would be able to draw upon its numerous establishments in London and supply our needs at a moment's notice. In the same way, if an all-night sitting was anticipated and did not materialise, the food would not be wasted, because it could be easily consumed next day in the shops belonging to the firm. Personally, I think we should have a better and more efficient service.

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN:

This is a very interesting topic, but I do not see how it comes in this Vote. I cannot see any money in this Vote dealing with the Kitchen Committee.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , Fylde

Under Item D, we have fuel, light, water and household articles, and there is also furniture under Item F. All those articles are supplied to the Kitchen Committee.

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN:

The hon. Member would be entitled to raise the point as to whether these articles should be supplied for the purposes of the Kitchen Committee, but I do not think that he is entitled on this Vote to discuss the general policy of catering by the Kitchen Committee. I do not wish to stop him; I only want the discussion to be in order. Perhaps there is another Vote, but I do not see anything in this Vote. I can hardly rule that the general policy of catering by the Kitchen Committee comes under electricity supply.

Photo of Mr John Gilmour Mr John Gilmour , Glasgow Pollok

There are services in this Vote which are rendered to the Kitchen Committee, but, personally, I think this is a question which ought to be discussed outside this Debate, and, if hon. Members who are interested in this subject would get into touch with the Kitchen Committee, something practicable might be done.

Photo of Mr Donald Maclean Mr Donald Maclean , Peebles and Southern

I would submit that it would be rather outside the scope of this Vote to go into the detail operations of the Kitchen Committee, as you have already indicated, but that some perfectly general questions would be in order. This is the first time that this Vote has been submitted, and it has been the practice of the Chair on the first occasion on which Votes have been submitted to allow as wide a discussion as can possibly be allowed. This is the only Vote I know of which gives hon. Members an opportunity of discus- sing a question which certainly is not only of general, but also of particular interest.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , Fylde

Personally, I have just finished, but we have in this Vote Item B, Maintenance and Repairs; Item D, Fuel, Light, Water, and Household Articles, and Item F, Furniture. Would it not be in order to raise the question whether we should go on supplying these things free gratis to a Committee of this House, or whether it would not be better to supply them to some firm with whom we have a contract?

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN:

I thought it right to draw the Committee's attention to the fact that it is a little difficult to say that the Kitchen Committee comes under this Vote, but, as money is provided for services up to a certain extent, I think I should be interpreting the wish of the Committee and not departing from the usual practice if I allowed a reasonable latitude. I do not want it, however, to develop into a general discussion as to the policy of the Kitchen Committee.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , Fylde

I will not detain the Committee any longer. Having raised these two points, which are subjects of considerable domestic importance from the House of Commons point of view, I will only ask hon. Members, before they give their opinion, to consider whether in the future some change should not be made whereby greater sitting accommodation could be provided, and, secondly, whether, without in any way reflecting upon the ability and courtesy of the Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, they should not be instructed or, at any rate, consulted with a view of putting the catering out to contract, though the Committee still might remain in existence and carry on its activities, but not by direct labour.

Photo of Mr Carlyon Bellairs Mr Carlyon Bellairs , Maidstone

I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £5.

I so fully sympathise with the hon. and gallant Member in the subject which he has brought before us, that I feel it necessary to apologise to him for not pursuing the topic which he has raised, but, by agreement with Mr. Speaker and the Government, I move the reduction of this Vote in order to settle the question whether time recorders should be placed on each side of the House above the Gangway. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"] Obviously, there are two opinions about the matter, but I have taken every reasonable precaution to make certain that the decorations of the House will not be in any way marred, and I think I have satisfied the Office of Works on that point. All that will be seen will be the two time recorders which will correspond with the existing clocks, and they will record speeches up to sixty minutes. I do not wish to repeat the remarks which I made on the previous occasion, but my object is to assist those Members who are condemned, like Tantalus, to watch and not to participate in the banquet, and also those hon. Members who are reduced to trusting to the dinner hour and to speaking without an audience. I never come into this House and see hon. Members waiting trusting to the dinner hour without thinking of Gray's lines: Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,And waste its sweetness on the desert air. I do hope to shorten speeches a little, two minutes here and three minutes there, by these clock recorders appealing to the consciences of hon. Members. This will result in about two or three Members at each Sitting of the House getting in and participating in the Debates. It will enable a number of Members to get the atmosphere of this House much better. Members soon acquire the atmosphere of the platform, but it is very difficult to acquire the atmosphere of this House. I think they can take courage from the fact that the distinguished colleague of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), to whom we all listen with the greatest attention and delight, when he first came into this House, was, I hear, a very poor speaker indeed. I want more Members to become able speakers in this House, and I venture to say that it is possible for hon. Members who speak at length to condense their remarks a good deal. I would call attention to what Jefferson said in Congress after the war of the American Independence. He said: I served with General Washington in the legislation of Virginia before the Revolution, and during it, with Dr. Franklin in Congress, I never heard either of them speak ten minutes at a time nor to any but the main point which was to decide the question. They laid their shoulders to the great points, knowing that the little ones would follow of themselves. I venture to say that is what we might aim at. We might, at any rate, reduce some of these long speeches which prevent other hon. Members getting into the Debates, and, if you have these time recorders on each side of the House, hon. Members who do not now know how long they are taking will, then know, and it will result in their shortening their speeches. Other hon. Members coming into the House will see recorded on the time recorder exactly how long the Member speaking has taken, and they will therefore be able to bring an intelligent public opinion to bear on Members and to induce them to shorten their speeches. While I would not go so far as to say that silence is the better part of Debate, I would go so far as to say that by making our speeches beautifully less we will make the most of them.

Mr. WALLACE:

I wish to support my hon. and gallant Friend in his Amendment for the reduction of this Vote. I feel that, properly understood, his purpose will be supported from every quarter of the Committee.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

No, only by two or three new Members who know nothing about it.

Mr. WALLACE:

But who would know a little more about it if they were permitted by the right hon. Baronet, who takes up so much of the time of the House, to take more frequent part in the Debates. I am always willing to learn from the right hon. Baronet, than whom there is no greater exponent of the procedure of this House. What is our object in the installation of these time recorders? We are assured by my hon. and gallant Friend that it will not interfere with the symmetry or aesthetic effect of this Chamber, and we may therefore rest satisfied on that point. I have not very much hope that the time recorders, if installed, will really achieve the object which we have in view, but, if they fail, then the way will be clearer for some more drastic measures to overcome the abuse of the privileges of this House in which so many hon. and right hon. Members indulge. I was very much surprised, after becoming a Member, to find how long various Members took to unburden their political souls. It may have been some lack of discernment on my part, some mental obliquity, or some lack of understanding, but I have always thought that the speeches, which occupy, as a rule, over half an hour, might, with the exception of Ministers introducing Kills, be compressed into twenty minutes. Such compression would not only help Debate in the House, but possibly assist the intellectual development of the speakers themselves. I have had this matter in mind for a considerable time, and to-day I intended to introduce a Bill dealing with the subject, but, having been ruled out of order, I content myself with a word or two on the general subject.

What happens in the average full-dress Debate in the House? Any intelligent observer can tell the order of Debate, and the approximate length of time that each speaker will take; and he can also predict with absolute certainty, if he is a private Member, that he himself will not be permitted to take part. We attribute no fault to the Chair, but we certainly have a legitimate ground of complaint against these long speeches, which in many case3 are superlative only in their mediocrity and inordinate length. I have known many private Members who had something to say which they considered relevant in an important Debate, and they have sat in their places and attempted to catch the eye of Mr. Speaker time and again throughout the whole course of a seven or eight hours' Debate, at last giving up the struggle, dispirited, discouraged and disillusioned. If any remedy can be found for that state of affairs, it should be welcomed by everyone. I would venture to prophesy that, if we had a free Division on the question of an alteration in the Standing Orders whereby the speeches of private Members would be limited, say, to half an hour, we should take 80 per cent, of the Members into the Lobby in favour of that proposal. I do not suppose that the time recorder is necessary for a considerable number of Ministers, and there are certain other distinguished Members for whom it is not necessary. If I might take the liberty of saying so, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), who leads the Independent Liberals in the House, is one of the greatest masters of brief and concise speech. He never uses an extra word, and there is never a redundant sentence. I can only wish that some of his followers in the House would follow the high example that he sets them, for we should then be saved from the weariness of many lucubrations which, I think, do not particularly assist us in Debate on some occasions. I earnestly urge the Committee to take this matter seriously, in the interests of the House itself, in the interests of Debate, and in the interests of the great body of hon. Members.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

The hon. Member who has just sat down desires, apparently, that two recorders should be put up in certain positions in the Chamber, in order that, during set Debates, private Members may have an opportunity of speaking, which he, says they have not at present. I think it is extremely doubtful whether the setting up of a recorder would shorten speeches. There are a certain number of hon. Members who feel that they must show their constituencies that they have made long and important speeches, and the fact that a recorder is used might tempt them to go on for a much longer period than if it were not there. There is a recorder in the Chamber at present. It now shows that it is 19 minutes past four, by the sham time which is at present in force, and it is perfectly open to me, when I sit down, to know for how long I have addressed the Committee without the additional expense of putting up a recorder here and another one there, which, apparently, will have to be worked by electricity, and will cost more money, which we do not want to spend at the present moment.

I should like, if I may, to point out to the hon. Member the fallacy of his argument. However many recorders might be put up, there will always be, on the occasion of set Debates, a certain number of Members who cannot get in, as long as the duration of set Debates is limited as it has been during the past few years. When I first came into the House of Commons, the Debate on an important Second Reading, or an important Third Reading, went on for three or four days. There was no question of its being closured at the end of one day. But, what with the Guillotine, and the Kangaroo, and the Closure, and now with the further limitation of the rights of private Members that is suggested, it is impossible to continue a Debate beyond a cer- tain limited time, and for that reason private Members do not get in on these particular set occasions. I venture to say, however, that in nine cases out of 10 the fact that they have not got in does not really make any difference at all, because both sides have made up their minds as to how they are going to vote, and the mere fact that someone has spoken, especially if he is a more or less new Member, does not alter matters at at all. What is really wanted, if I may venture humbly, as an old Member, to say so to new Members, is that new Members should come down and sit in this Chamber regularly all through the Debates. There will be plenty of opportunities then for them to get up and make their speeches. What they want to do, however, is to come down, not during the dinner hour, but after the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition has spoken, when there is a crowded House to hear them. Considering that there are not more than three hours, at the very outside, during which such conditions prevail, how many private Members are likely to get in? It is an impossibility. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who makes this proposal is himself not conspicuous for constant attendance in the Chamber. He is more or less conspicuous for his absence. I do not know whether he is in the precincts, but certainly he is not very often in this Chamber.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

Not in the Chamber itself?

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

Yes, round about, and that is the point. Hon. Members are round about, but they ought to be here listening to the arguments, instead of worrying about whether they themselves can speak, which, I am sorry to say, a good many of them think is the appropriate thing to do—to come in, speak, and go out.

Photo of Mr Carlyon Bellairs Mr Carlyon Bellairs , Maidstone

If my right hon. Friend will excuse me, what drives me out of the Chamber are long and tedious speeches.

Photo of Mr Frederick Banbury Mr Frederick Banbury , City of London

A clock will not alter that. The speeches will be just as tedious, and I very much doubt whether they will be shortened. What hon. Members ought to do is to stay here and listen to the arguments, and not come in, make their speeches, and then run away. The idea of putting up clocks or recorders is absolutely repugnant to the sentiments of the House, and is absolutely at variance with everything that has occurred in the House for many generations, while, if it has any effect at all, it will, I believe, have the effect, not of shortening but of lengthening speeches, and of encouraging Members to come in here merely to speak and not to listen to the Debate. What Members ought to do is to listen to the Debate, and form their own opinions from the Debate, and not to go outside and then come in and ask the Whips, "Which way are we?" and go like a flock of sheep into the Lobby. That is a practice which has grown tremendously during the last few years. Therefore, I earnestly trust that the Government will resist this proposal, which I believe has really no foundation except in the fertile brain of my hon. and gallant Friend, who admits that he is bored with the House.

Photo of Sir William Davison Sir William Davison , Kensington South

I desire to express my warm approval of the proposal that has been before the Committee. I think the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), and the cheers of the right hon. Gentleman above the Gangway, are a good deal to be discounted by reason of the fact that, as each of them has the honour of being a Member of the Privy Council, they can get in practically in any Debate, because, I think, it is the custom of the House of Commons that, where possible, a Member of the Privy Council should be called upon when he rises to speak. Certainly the right hon. Baronet gets a fair share in the proceedings, and, as I am generally in sympathy with his views, I am not disposed to cavil at that fact. I am in a little difficulty in this matter, because, although I am a warm supporter of anything that will reduce the tedium of these long and very often intolerable speeches, I am told by the Chair that, if this Amendment, for which I intend to vote, be carried, it will preclude the raising of any other points on this Vote; and there is one other point to which I desire to draw the attention of the Committee, and which I con- sider to be as vital as that which has been raised first in the Debate this afternoon. It is also a matter which will, I think, furnish a very good reason why a considerable number of Members do not come down and sit throughout the Debates. It is the question of the ventilation of this Chamber.

Hon. Members are, no doubt, aware that, not only in the central gangway is there a continuous flow of air, which is continually being pumped up, but that all along each of these five benches on which we sit there is also a continuous aerial conduit carrying a draught round our feet and ankles. I can only suppose that the persons who were originally responsible for this system had some interest in the spat industry, because I notice that a very large number of hon. Members wear, as I myself do, spats, as some protection to the ankles and lower limbs against this hurricane which is continually blowing round our feet and legs. I suppose that, if there are two things which it is least desirable that a legislator or, indeed, any public man, should possess, they are cold feet and a hot head; and yet these two things are exactly what the system of ventilation which obtains in this Chamber causes. Yesterday afternoon, as I intended to raise this question, I went into the Library and asked the Librarian if he could show me the last report on the ventilation of this Chamber, and he kindly produced a large foolscap tome of 267 closely-printed pages, which I skimmed through. I do not recommend hon. Members to read it unless they are feeling very strong, or immediately after luncheon or dinner, for there are not only some startling passages in it, but some still more startling diagrams. There are diagrams of streptococci, and pneumococci, and cocci of all kinds, in every stage of development, all of which have been bred out of this Chamber. A few pages further on I was a little reassured, for I came to an account of bowls of broth, and I thought there was possibly some place in the precincts where Members who felt jaded or chilled by reason of the draughts from which we suffer could retire for a brief moment and get a bowl of broth. I was, however, disappointed, for I found that the bowls of broth referred to were associated with plates of gelatine, and were used for the culture and propagation of these dreadful creatures of which pictures had just before been given.

There is just one other point in the Report that is of interest, though I failed, in the brief time at my disposal, to see its relevancy to ventilation. It is stated towards the middle of the Report that immediately under the feet of the Government, but not elsewhere in the Chamber, are fixed sheets of copper gauze. It is by no means clear what ventilating effect these sheets of copper gauze have. I can only suppose that they may be for the purpose of testing the acidity of speeches made by Members of the Government, and that the Prime Minister may have an opportunity of consulting the engineer from, time to time when one or other of his colleagues has made a more than usually vitriolic speech to the House, as I presume that the copper gauze would then become of a greener colour than formerly. Be that as it may, at the end of this volume the conclusion appears to have been reached that, notwithstanding the ease with which these cocci of various kinds can be bred, and were bred, in this Chamber, they were not substantially worse than were to be found elsewhere, and that, notwithstanding the fact that the dust and dirt brought by Members' feet into the Chamber are blown by the means which I have indicated into the nostrils and thence into the lungs of Members, the air in the House of Commons was not substantially worse than in other places. Indeed, it is stated that a very considerable number of these cocci were, owing to the fact that they were driven through sheets of antiseptic cotton wool which stifled them, in a dead or semi-dying condition. That seems to me to give the key to the whole matter. The fact is that the air in the House of Commons is dead. It is full of dead microbes. It is without ozone, without life. That is why it is so enervating. It is just like soda water which has been poured from glass to glass, and then passed through a piece of muslin and then offered as a beverage. We know how flat it becomes. A very remarkable pronouncement on this subject was reported in the "Times" of the 18th August, 1919. It occurred in a review of Dr. Leonard Hill's report to the Medical Research Committee on the science of ventilation. The medical correspondent of the "Times" introduces the review of Dr. Hill's Report with this paragraph: We are moving as thinkers away from the view of ventilation which regards it wholly as a matter of 'air in the lungs'; we are coming to the view that it is really a matter of air on the skin, of stimulation, of drying, of cooling. Then follows Dr. Hill's report in which ho says that he has had an opportunity of testing the air in the House of Commons— In the chamber of the House of Commons the ventilating current is driven up through the floor in such a way as to cool the Members' feet while their heads are exposed to more stagnant air. Cold feet and stuffy heads result—just the wrong conditions for legislators. Certain Members are susceptible and complain greatly of the ventilation. Others do not. Noses vary. The thermometer, it is true, shows a uniform temperature of 63 degrees Fahrenheit, but the Kata thermometer shows that Members' feet are cooled at a rate which is 40 per cent, or more greater than the cooling of their heads. That bears out my remark that this is an entirely wrong system of ventilation. What is wanted is fresh air. We have here on each side of the House these hermetically-sealed windows. It costs thousands of pounds a year to work the electric pumps which are sucking in and driving up this wretched wet blanket of an atmosphere in which we sit, and many sleep, whereas the whole thing could be done by opening the hermetically-sealed windows on each side. An hon. Member says, "What about the smuts coming in?" Do we never open windows in our own houses? It is better to have a few smuts on one's nose than to have streptococci in our lungs. If what I say is true of the House of Commons, where Members sit, it is 10 times or 100 times more so of the public galleries. The Members' Gallery and the Ladies' Gallery, where we are honoured from time to time by the presence of our constituents who come to hear these Debates. The air in these galleries is not simply bad, it is poisonous, in the Ladies' Gallery especially. In fact, I heard the Ladies' Gallery described the other day as an elevated black hole of Calcutta. There, again, is a painted window, which is hermetically sealed. The custodian is forbidden to open it, and no air can get in. The other day I took up a lady, and left her there for a few minutes while I discharged some public duties in the House. When I returned a few minutes later, she said, "Thank goodness you have come back. I should have fainted if I had stayed in this place much longer." As long as we invite ladies to come to hear our Debates, we ought, at any rate, to find for them some place where they will not be poisoned while they are listening to us. Apart from that, there would be a large saving effected by opening the windows and shutting off the engines. If the hon. Gentleman is 'Still unconvinced, I would ask him to get a report from the Geddes Committee, and ask them to draw up their report sitting in the Ladies' Gallery.

Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS:

We have had three questions raised to-day on this Vote. We have had the size of the Chamber, the badness of the air and the question of time recorders. The first two are both ruled out by the cost which they would undoubtedly involve. I have been here for the last 15 years, and I have never seen any real inconvenience arising from the fact that the Chamber does not accommodate all the Members who are entitled to sit here. There is plenty of room for 450 Members in the galleries and on the Floor of the House, and, in view of the reduced numbers of which the House consists since the setting up of the Irish Free State, it is almost inconceivable that you would ever get at any one time more than three-quarters of the Members present. Some generations of Members have sat in this Chamber, and it would be a thousand pities if we did away with all the associations which now cling to it. In reference to the proposal to change the system of ventilation I think that the ventilation here at present is excellent. I think that the majority of Members who sit in this House find it excellent. Of course, if Members sit in the Smoke-room, where sometimes there are a big crowd and a thick atmosphere, they may get a headache, but here we have air continually changing, and I find the atmosphere here about the most bracing in London. My hon. Friend, perhaps, does not sit in the House as much as I do. I only mention these two points because I feel that in these days it would give a bad impression to the public if we seemed to be pressing for expenditure on trifles of this kind. Now I come to the Amendment that the Vote should be reduced, to compel the Government to introduce time recorders. I believe that the House is not going to make itself absurd by accepting the proposal. The speech of the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Wallace) was quite honest in his attitude. He says, "I am supporting this Amendment not because I believe that we shall ever get a remedy for long speeches but because I introduced a private Bill——"

Mr. WALLACE:

No.

Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS:

The hon. Member introduced a private Bill which was out of order and therefore——

Mr. WALLACE:

What I said was that I would cordially support this proposal, not that I hoped very much from it, but that it might secure a better method and give us a better chance than we have had in the past. With regard to the Bill which I desired to introduce, I could not go fully into what was in my mind in reference to that.

Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS:

I do not wish to criticise the hon. Member's attitude, which no doubt is reasonable from his point of view. I am only afraid that other hon. Members may support this Motion perhaps, not having heard all the Debate, in a confusion of mind as to what it would bring about, because I submit it will not achieve the object which has been referred to in the speeches. The speeches in this House may or may not be too long, but I am afraid that we shall have to look for a more effectual means than that which has been suggested. I do not want to see anything of the kind introduced. The Government already have ample powers of curtailment of debates. We live in such exceptional times that a large number of hon. Members, perhaps, do not realise what powers are possessed by the Government for the prevention of discussion. The old Guillotine and the new Kangaroo mean that private Members are prevented, if the Government so wish, from bringing forward arguments which should be brought forward in the public interest, and this would give them a vastly more dangerous weapon. Once you admit that speeches are to be limited they may in the first place be limited to a half-hour, but from that it is a small step to go further and limit them to 20 minutes, 10 minutes, or even five minutes, if you have a despotic Government prepared to take that course. I do not think that the time record would really prevent people making speeches, because hon. Members can always find out at the door how long anyone has been speaking.

The only argument is that a lot of Members are prevented from speaking because they cannot be bothered sitting in the House and waiting until they are called. I do not think that that is altogether an evil, because important and sound arguments will not really be kept back by the difficulty which we have to face in getting an opportunity of speaking in this House. If a man is going to make remarks which are not worth making he very often leaves the House, but in order to be called he has to sit in the House for an hour or two before he gets his chance. If hon. Members who wish to make speeches can bear the ordeal of weary benches, with people yawning, no clock dial will prevent them. In addition to that, it would make us seem rather ridiculous in the eyes of the public if we admit that we are incapable of the simple sum in mental arithmetic of calculating how long we should talk. Time-recorders may be necessary if and when the House decides to limit speeches. I hope that will never be. That is how they were first spoken of, and that is what has brought the subject forward, but it would be putting the cart before the horse, and would be absolute waste of money to put up these time-recorders unless your really made them effective.

Photo of Mr John Lorden Mr John Lorden , St Pancras North

I am in great sympathy with this Amendment. I am a new Member, and perhaps I have not the feelings of hon. Members who have been here from time immemorial. I cannot, therefore, have sympathy with them. I have been in the habit of sitting in various assemblies where there has been a time limit on speeches.

I do not think any Member should come here if he is not to be heard on some occasions. I feel strongly that not only do we want time-recorders, but limitation of the long speeches. I would limit the Government in the length of speeches. They are the worst sinners of all. They make speeches of an hour, an hour-and-a-half and two hours which they could compress, to the advantage of the country and of themselves, into a much shorter space of time. The matter of catering has also been mentioned. I have come to the conclusion that if you went into Lockhart's you would be better catered for. It is very bad indeed, and anything that could be done to alter it would be an advantage. Regarding the accommodation of the House, it is wrong that hon. Members cannot find seats. This House has a great many traditions, and many people, no doubt, would regret to see any alterations, but really, the space should be made sufficient for the number of hon. Members who come here, and each should have his own seat. The question of ventilation has also been brought up. It would be of immense advantage if we could have a current of air through the House when it is not sitting. Whenever I come into this House I always get cold feet and a warm head, and this is due to nothing but the ventilation. If you sit in the Galleries under the Clock, you will find you cannot remain there for half-an-hour without getting a very severe headache. That shows that the ventilation is Very deficient and very bad.

I should like to ask a question or two with regard to the repairing of the roof of Westminster Hall. £23,500 is required to complete it. We have a right to know what the total cost of that has been, whether it is likely to be completed this year, and the cause of that pungent odour which many of us have suffered when we come in down below. [An HON. MEMBER: "I like it!"] It always gives me a bad throat. Regarding the £11,000 dedicated to the stonework, it seems to me a totally inadequate sum to put the stonework in any condition whatsoever. The stonework is in an extremely bad state. The stone does not seem to be the right sort. It is a serious state of affairs when you get this glorious work crumbling off. We should have a report on the condition of this magnificent building, outside and in, and what it would cost to build today. When we turn round and compare this building with the structure over the road—but you cannot compare them. There is no comparison. This magnificent building is a memorial of a very wonderful character. I do not want to see the building outside falling into decay. I feel that we are entitled to know what is being done, and what is going to be done. We see cradles up and are never told what is going to be done. I see that the £5,000 last year is £11,000 this year, but I fear, before you get the building into any kind of condition outside, you will have to spend a very large amount of money. Can the hon. Gentleman give us an idea of this, and some idea about Westminster Hall? On the Houses of Parliament I have no further comments to make, but I hope something will be clone in the way of time recorders and limitation of speeches.

Sir J. D. REES:

The Palace of Westminster is a precious national possession, and it is desirable that we should keep it in good condition. It is visited every day by parties, and I understand that in schools the impression that is made upon the visitors is given as a subject for an essay. Quite recently a pupil said that he saw the Speaker come in, attended by his Chaplain, who, having glanced round on the Members present, offered up a prayer for the safety of the nation. I think that hon. Members who have condemned so severely the ventilation of this House are Members who have not suffered very much in their physique by their experience. They should have put forward some frailer specimens of Parliamentary life before they undertook to condemn so bitterly the ventilation. I agree with them. I think the air lacks bite. It is filtered and warmed till it is useless, but that is not the opinion, I think, of the greater number of Members of the House, many of whom, unlike myself, are approaching the threshold of middle age, and are not, therefore, able to support that stronger, fresher air which I should welcome. It does not become us here to say what suits our individual constitutions. It is a fact that the ventilation of the House, however little individual Members may like it, seems to suit the majority, and I propose to leave it at that.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) has added one more to many efforts for abbreviating speeches, but they are all useless. I have drawn top place in the Ballot, and proposed 20 minutes' limits myself, and in the spacious days, if you drew a place in the Ballot, you could compose an essay and read it between the hours of eight and nine, while other hon. Members dined. In those days there was no harm in it, but there is no time for that in these days. The feeling of the House, I think, is quite a sufficient check on speeches of too great a length. When hon. Members find that the House is not listening to them, most of them have the elementary sense to sit down and not go on any longer. I do not think, therefore, that we should be led astray by my hon. and gallant Friend. There is another consideration—an exceedingly important one—if you introduce a time-limit, everybody will speak up to it. Inasmuch as loquacity is far less lasting in its injurious effects than legislation, it is by no means certain that the restriction of discussion in this House is desirable in the public interests.

I cannot agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Blackburn about the seating. I think it would be a misfortune if we sat in a larger Chamber than this. Already it is exceedingly difficult to follow what is going on in the House. Probably to-day it may have been mentioned that there was a Ballot for Notices of Motion. It was not on the Paper, and I am sure it was not heard. It is easy for those things to happen. Unless you have a different House, circular in shape, and with the benches arranged differently, it would be hopeless to provide for more Members than are now provided for. It is most difficult in a Chamber of this size for hon. Members to follow what is going on and participate in the business before them.

There is another point in this Vote. There is the Item, "Horticultural works, including the pay and emoluments of a park-keeper." A park-keeper, therefore, is a horticultural work. What is one park-keeper, and why is he attached to the House of Commons? If he were a park-keeper attached to St. James' Park I should endeavour to persuade the Committee that he should leave that park open, so that we may go across it when we go to our homes. But I believe that would be strictly out of Order. What is the use of one park-keeper? How and why is he a horticultural work, and what is the explanation of his solitary presence in this Vote? Lastly on another subject raised. The Chairmen of the Kitchen Committee have been ornaments of this House, and I hope we will continue to enjoy their company.

5.0 P.M.

Photo of Mr John Taylor Mr John Taylor , Dumbarton District of Burghs

If the Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) had not introduced the question of heating and ventilation, I had intended to do it. Ever since I came to the House I have been very much interested in the heating and ventilation of the Chamber. Twenty years ago we wanted the best system of heating and ventilation for the town hall in my town. We visited almost every system and finally fixed on the present one, and in the year 1904 the late Mr. Alexander Wylie, who was then Member for Dumbartonshire, in a Debate something like we have had this afternoon, told the House of Commons that if they wanted to see a perfect system they should go to Clydebank Town Hall. When I came to the House I wanted to see what the system of heating and ventilation was, and I have been where I do not suppose one out of a hundred Members have been: I have been downstairs. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Well, perhaps not, but I believe in being practical, and I wanted to see for myself how the Chamber was heated and ventilated.

The air is drawn in by fans from the terrace, and it passes through a water scheme and it is then heated to the requisite degree of heat. It is true that the air passes through cotton wool, but that is only when there is a fog. Afterwards it comes straight up from the chamber below. When all this purification has gone on, and the air is supposed to be clear of all smuts and infection, it comes up through the matting over which thousands of people have travelled in the forenoon. Reference has been made to the school children who come into the Chamber, examine it, and write essays on their experiences, but all these children leave something behind them from their boots. That lies on the matting and when the fans are put into operation all that dirt is driven up into the lungs of the Members. It is a waste of money to have all the elaborate washing of the air and all the elaborate heating of the air, passing through cotton wool and the like, and then to have it spoiled when it comes into the Chamber.

I understood when I went over the system with the late Member for Wolverhampton that there were some experiments being carried on at Kew to see if this system could not be made better. I do not know what the result of the experiments is, but I hope it will be something that will alter the system altogether. It is wrong to bring the air up from the bottom. In the town hall I referred to, the air comes in not from the bottom but from the top. Some hon. Members would be all the better for that change because in that way they might get their heads cooled. That would take away all danger of infection caused by the dust that has lain on the Floor of the House. Upstairs there is plenty of room for an overhead system. You could bring the air in and wash it in the same way as you do at present. I hope that those who are investigating this matter will pay some attention to that suggestion.

Not only is the air infected by all the dust, but anyone who has been in the Chamber for a very short time will recognize that the air is far too dry. I wonder at so many doctors and chemists being in the House and not finding that out. There is a remedy if it is applied. We also found that the system we had at Clydebank showed the same defect and we experimented with steam with satisfactory results. I do not think the system of heating and ventilation in the House of Commons is a credit to the intelligence of the Office of Works or of the men who have been investigating the question. What is the use of passing legislation about the density of air in factories and compelling factory owners to introduce mechanical means of ventilation if we have an atmosphere such as this in the House of Commons?

Photo of Sir Park Goff Sir Park Goff , Cleveland

I desire to ask my hon. Friend two questions on Item A, "New Works, Alterations and Additions." Does that include any sum for the improvement of or addition to the lifts? The two lifts we have at the present time are, in my judgment, totally inadequate. Members and officials are kept waiting, and much valuable time is wasted. There is not a sufficient number of lifts in the House, and the two that exist are thoroughly unreliable. They are antiquated and continually breaking down, and the same remark applies to the service lifts from the kitchen to the dining-room, where those who are responsible often find they are at variance with Members over the question of cold food. As far as alterations are concerned, I merely want to ask whether that sum includes what has been suggested and, I believe, approved, namely, the turning of the Tudor Room on the Terrace into a smoking-room, as the present smoking-room is considered inadequate, is often most uncomfortably overcrowded, and is much more suitable for a dining room, being on the same floor as the others, and adjoining the kitchen and services.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

I do not pretend to understand the system of heating and ventilation, but I know it is by no means ideal, and this is the best place for getting a cold I have ever known. Hon. Members speak of cold feet. I can confirm that, and I venture to think that most Members can do the same. There have been several interesting points raised to-day, some of them about the alteration of the Chamber. I should oppose any alteration at the present moment. This Chamber has served its purpose for many years, and this is no time to spend money on its alteration. On the point of lengthy speeches, I am in sympathy with that. I moved a Resolution to that effect myself once, but the remedy proposed to-day is worse than useless. I see no advantage whatever in placing a clock on each side of the House. The House of Commons would then become like a billiard hall, except that hon. Members would not recognise the rules of billiards, because when the bell goes in the billiard hall the players sit down. What clock would affect the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London? The only clock that would affect him would be a clock with a striking hammer strong enough and so manipulated as to hit him on the head and render him unconscious. Speeches could be shortened by a simpler method than that. We could agree on a certain time for speeches, and I think it would be an excellent thing, because a larger number of Members would then be permitted to take part in Debate, and the Debates would be more interesting because they would be more concentrated. If we could agree on a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes per speech, as the case may be, leaving out Ministers introducing Bills and so on, I think it would meet the case. At the end of that time, the Speaker would rise and Members would know their time was up. That is done at workmen's conferences, and I think it could be done here. The Closure has been referred to. I must confess I have voted against the Closure myself.

Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS:

I was talking about the Guillotine Closure, which becomes automatic.

Photo of Sir Charles Edwards Sir Charles Edwards , Bedwellty

Whatever Closure is put on is put on after very few speeches. There could be more speeches in that same time if they were curtailed. I have sat here till a quarter to seven on some occasions, and during that time only two speakers have taken part in the Debate. There is no manner of sense in that, whether it is the introduction of a Budget or not. It simply bores people to death There is a great room for improvement, but I do not believe this clock business is a solution. There is a clock here already. Why go to the expense of another? It has been said that the galleries are uncomfortable. I do not think the galleries are so very uncomfortable. I have sat here on a few occasions for all-night sittings and there were people in the Galleries all that time, and I wondered what on earth they saw in this place to sit there through the whole thing. Still, they sat there, and that does not suggest any great discomfort. This is no time to go in for alterations. We can go on for a considerable time yet, and I should be against any expenditure of the sort whatever.

Photo of Mr John Gilmour Mr John Gilmour , Glasgow Pollok

Perhaps I may be permitted to ask the Committee to come to a decision on these various matters. We believe it is one of the truest economies which this House can make that alterations to structural works, when sanctioned, should be undertaken at the earliest possible moment. The Department has as far as possible cut down expenditure; in fact, it has exceeded considerably the first demands for economy made upon it, and it has complied of its own volition with all the requests of the Geddes Committee. Such economies must necessarily be reflected in matters dealing with the House of Commons. The work of repairing Westminster Hall will be completed this year. The total cost is estimated at £120,000. I have been asked questions about decayed stonework. That is a matter which is causing the gravest concern to the Department. The decay is obvious to any hon. Member who takes an interest in the building. We have asked for only a small sum this year, so that we can remove those portions of decayed stonework which would be a danger either to Members of the House or to the public in the vicinity of the building. In our judgment it is impossible in the circumstances to ask for anything like a sufficient sum to replace all decayed stonework at the present time. This is a matter which goes back to the early building of the Houses of Parliament and to the unfortunate choice of stone. It is due also to the fact that connections have been made in many cases by iron dowells. That by expansion and contraction leads to the splitting of the stonework. We can deal with the matter now only in a temporary way.

Photo of Mr John Lorden Mr John Lorden , St Pancras North

Is there a comprehensive report upon the subject?

Photo of Mr John Gilmour Mr John Gilmour , Glasgow Pollok

Yes, the matter has been gone into very carefully and, if the hon. Member desires to go into it more closely, I shall be happy to afford him every facility in my power. With regard to the ventilation of the House, the Office of Works, in conjunction with the the National Physical Laboratory at Kensington, is carrying out certain experiments with a model of the Chamber. I cannot say at the moment what the result of those experiments may be. So far as I am informed, any suggestions which have been made from time to time for the improvement of ventilation, are suggestions which must necessarily involve considerable expense. We feel that we cannot proceed with any precipitancy. The same argument applies to the alteration of the size and shape of this Chamber. In all the circumstances I do not think we are so badly off. A question was asked about a park-keeper. He is responsible for looking after the gardens of the Victoria Tower and for the general control of the public who have access to those gardens. A question was asked about the lifts. We have in the Estimates an amount for the insertion of a new goods lift for bringing up goods from the basement to the House. The question of the suitability of the present lift for Members has been raised before. That question also we are leaving over because of the great cost involved.

The question of alterations in the dining room and smoking room has been discussed, but it was found on investigation that the transfer of the smoking room from upstairs to what is known as the Tudor room, even if approved, would entail expenditure which we were not prepared to advise. It is a matter which possibly at some future time will call for the careful consideration of the House, because everyone is agreed that if we can do anything which will improve the facilities in the dining room it will be an advantage to Members. Reference has been made to time recorders in the House. My hon. and gallant Friend who moved the reduction has done so, I know, with no feeling of animus against the Department, but merely in order to raise this question. We are satisfied that, if the House should decide in favour of such an installation, it is possible to carry it out. So far as we are able to ascertain, the cost would be about £100. If the House decided that the work should be done, the necessary money can be found from the present Estimates. In the circumstances in which I am placed officially I hesitate to say anything either for or against such a proposal, but I ask Members to consider seriously whether it would be wise to carry out the scheme at this moment. Hon. Members have an opportunity of ventilating the question and possibly allowing it to come up at some future time, and, speaking as a private Member for the moment, I would throw out the hint that that course would be more advisable. In justice to those who have broached the subject, I must add that there is no technical objection which cannot be surmounted and, as I have said, the money can be found from the Estimates.

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

I do not understand whether the representative of the Office of Works is inviting the Committee to decide here and now on the subject of a time recorder. I am strongly opposed to disfiguring the House with entirely useless mechanical appliances, which can have no possible effect unless we proceed to other much more dangerous interferences with the freedom of debate. I would like to know how I am to vote if I desire to kill the proposal.

Photo of Mr John Gilmour Mr John Gilmour , Glasgow Pollok

The opinion of my Department is that the matter is one for the decision of Members of the House. We can carry out the alterations, but a decision regarding it is left to the House.

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

If the reduction of the Vote is carried, does it mean that the Office of Works will immediately put up these recorders, or would that be a matter for a specific Motion after due notice?

Photo of Mr Jeremiah MacVeagh Mr Jeremiah MacVeagh , Down South

Will the representative of the Government put on the Whips to tell for the Government or against the Government?

Photo of Mr Godfrey Locker-Lampson Mr Godfrey Locker-Lampson , Wood Green

This Vote, I understand, is not specifically concerned with the time recorder. If the Amendment be carried against the Government, it simply reduces the Minister's salary to £5.

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN:

If the House should agree to the Amendment which proposes to reduce the Vote by £5, that will be taken as a decision of the House, and the Office of Works will proceed to put up the recorder. That is not a ruling by me, but information which I offer to the House.

Photo of Mr Jeremiah MacVeagh Mr Jeremiah MacVeagh , Down South

Can the representative of the Government answer my question?

Photo of Mr John Gilmour Mr John Gilmour , Glasgow Pollok

No Whips will be put on. The matter is left entirely to the Committee. I understand that the reduction is on this specific question.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley Lieut-Colonel Wilfrid Ashley , Fylde

Surely it is unprecedented for the Government to propose a Vote and then, when a reduction is moved, not to put on the Government Whips. Is that not out of Order?

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN:

The hon. and gallant Gentleman must see that that is not a point of Order. It may be an unusual precedent.

Photo of Sir Henry Craik Sir Henry Craik , Combined Scottish Universities

We are put into a very serious position. We come down here to support the Government, who propose a certain Vote. The Government say, "We will not put on our Whips in favour of the Vote. We will leave this to a chance vote, and if the chance vote goes against us we shall take it as a decision in favour of the proposal for recorders." To many of us who have the honour and traditions of the House most closely at heart, the proposal to instal recorders is a childish and silly proposal. I know quite well that all of us can say reciprocally that speeches are often too long and boring. I submit to that condemnation by my fellow Members. Younger Members lecture us older Members. I am ready to sit at the feet of the hon. Members for North St. Pancras (Mr. Lorden) and Dunfermline (Mr. T. Wallace) and to take any lessons they chose to give. I have followed with care and interest, not in my own time only, the history of this House and its traditions, and anything more utterly futile and childish than this proposal I never heard put forward. I think it would be an evil thing to curtail the length of speeches in such a way as to supersede the good taste and judgment of hon. Members. Long speeches are mostly made by ambitious Members. If this proposal were adopted, some hon. Members would be continually calling attention to the advance of the time mark. If hon. Members are so lost to a sense of feeling as to exceed their time limit, why should they not do so? They have ample means of judging the length of time. As a matter of conscience I certainly mark the time when I rise to speak. I appeal to the Chair to say whether, when I have promised not to exceed a certain time, I have ever broken that promise. Would not a recorder distract the attention of the House and be a constant source of irritation? While many Members in defiance of the feelings of their colleagues continue to speak will this not have the effect of stirring them up to continue longer until they see the time limit recorded?

Photo of Major Collingwood Hamilton Major Collingwood Hamilton , Altrincham

On a point of Order. May I draw your attention to the fact, Mr. Chairman, that you called upon my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities then stood up on a point of Order, and he has now been addressing the Committee for some time.

Photo of Sir Henry Craik Sir Henry Craik , Combined Scottish Universities

I did not rise on a point of Order; I rose to address the House. I put it to the Government—and I ask the attention of the hon. Member for the Pollok Division of Glasgow—whether they are not putting hon. Members in a position of serious difficulty; in the Vote which they are asking the Committee to take. Why will they not put the position plainly before the Committee? Let us not allow ourselves to be trapped into taking any action on this matter which will alter the whole procedure as well as the appearance of the Chamber. I appeal to the hon. Gentleman if it is right that he should come down here and ask us to vote for him, and when we are ready to do so to inform us that the Government are not going to put on the Whips, but are going to leave this matter to a chance vote, and that if the chance vote goes against us we are to accept that as the decision of the House?

Photo of Mr T.P. O'Connor Mr T.P. O'Connor , Liverpool Scotland

Speaking as one who has had more experience of the House than any hon. Member present, I feel it necessary to point out to the younger generation the depths of ignorance which lie behind their presumptuous spirit of reform. I have heard the history of many revolutions brought about in all kinds of strange ways. It is said that Mirabeau broke down the old régime in France by one speech. I understand that a French Republic was established by one vote. But we shall have reached a remarkable stage of revolutionary fervour and political ineptitude if we are going to change the whole spirit of the rules of this House on the question of a clock. My hon. and gallant Friend who is in charge of these Estimates must take his own responsibility, but I for one will protest to the last moment if we are, in this way, to make a revolution and a most mischievous revolution. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) made this proposal and he is not going to be officially opposed by the Whips, and I assume he may have a chance of getting his proposal passed—though I have a higher regard for the good sense of the House. Supposing it does pass and that a new clock is put up over there. What will happen? [HON. MEMBERS: "Over here!"] I observe that all the younger Members of the House want the clock put up as near to the Ladies' Gallery as possible. Supposing a clock is put up here or there or anywhere. A Member who rises to speak will be watching the clock, and though otherwise he might be content with five minutes, he will then take his full allowance of 10 minutes or whatever it be.

That is not the only thing. One of the reasons why I find a growing modesty in addressing the House is because it often seems to me to consist, not of Members who are listening to the man who is speaking, but of Members who are wondering when that bore will sit down, and give them their opportunity. If other hon. Members were as modest and as impressionable as I am, that would bring about a much better curtailment of speeches than the clock. We shall always, however, have some vigilant Member watching the proceedings. Every House of Commons has a certain number of Members who, without disrespect to them, may be said to do the charwoman part of the proceedings. We would certainly have some Member who would make it his great function in life to watch that clock, just as in the old days there was a Member who was called "Count So and So," not because he possessed any such title of nobility, but because he was noted for being always in his place to propose a count. Similarly, we should have some hon. Member keeping his eye on this proposed clock, and the moment an hon. Member addressing the House went 30 seconds beyond the allotted time, he would immediately rise and call Mr. Speaker's attention to the fact. In such interruptions we should dissipate a great many more minutes than would be saved otherwise.

The history behind these matters goes to show that all these things can be trusted to time, to new considerations, and to new points of view. I had a conversation on this subject, not very long ago with the Lord President of the Council, who has been even longer in the House than I have. He recalled what I perfectly well remember myself, that a big Debate in former times really did not begin to be serious until about 10 or 11 o'clock at night. It was generally started by a two-hour speech, say by Disraeli, as the Leader of the Opposition, who was answered, say, by Gladstone, as Prime Minister, with another two-hours' speech. As the Lord President put it, very properly, neither Disraeli or Gladstone would have been considered to have done their duty by the House, or to have satisfied their Parliamentary consciences by delivering a speech a second shorter than two hours. That is all gone. When I first came into the House, I was very glad if I got to bed at four o'clock in the morning, but I took the precaution of never being called the next day until 12, and that is the reason why I am alive and kicking now, whereas all my friends who ordered their valets to bring in their cups of tea at eight o'clock in the morning are now in their graves. Those long hours have disappeared.

Then when a man rose at half-past one in the morning, especially if obstruction was being carried out, and began his speech by saying, "At this late hour I appeal to the Government to agree to the Motion that the Chairman do report Progress," he was shouted at in derision. At half-past one in the morning we were really only starting. In the same way, speeches have gradually become shorter and shorter, even Ministerial speeches, and we can always trust to changing modern conditions, to the impatience and hurry of life generally, to the good sense of the House, and to the only restriction that should be put upon a Member, namely, the restriction of his own decency and decorum and the judgment of the House.

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

I protest against the procedure adopted by the Government. They never informed the Committee at the beginning of this Debate that they were going to ask us to decide finally on the adoption of this mechanical contrivance.

Photo of Mr Carlyon Bellairs Mr Carlyon Bellairs , Maidstone

My opening remark, when I moved a reduction of £5 on a previous occasion, was that this arrangement had been made, and it is by the suggestion of Mr. Speaker that this method of procedure is being carried out.

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

The hon. and gallant Member did not tell the Committee in the Debate this afternoon.

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Stafford

There is absolutely nothing on the Paper to tell us that this was to be done, and before the Committee decides a thing of this kind on the suggestion of a private Member, it should be put down as a private Member's Motion and taken in private Member's time or, if the Government wish it to be discussed, then they ought to find a specific opportunity. What the Government are doing is that in Committee of Supply they are saying "We invite you to beat us." If a Government are beaten in Committee of Supply they usually resign, but in this case they are not going to resign. They say, "If you beat us, then we are going to put up time recorders." For what are these time recorders to be put up? It is in order that later on procedure may be introduced to curtail speeches, so that Ministers may be allowed an hour and private Members 20 minutes, and that the hon. and gallant Member for Maidstone, who sits behind the bureaucracy may further entrench the bureaucracy against private Members. It is a deliberate trick on the part of the Government to deprive private Members of opportunities of making speeches and to deprive the Opposition of a chance of putting their case fully. The party to which I belong may some day be in Opposition—though I hope never—and I shall certainly protest and vote against this proposal to introduce mechanical contrivances and to create a revolution in the proceedings of the House by the introduction of a particular gag on the speeches of individual Members.

Photo of Mr James Hogge Mr James Hogge , Edinburgh East

The Committee might easily come to a decision without involving itself in any of the difficulties suggested either by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor) or by the hon. Member who has just spoken. In the first place no private Member could secure this scheme in any possible way except the way which has been adopted in this case. It is not possible for a private Member to impose a charge, and therefore a private Member could not get an opportunity in any other way than this. I am not going to discuss the merits of the proposal. I have only one thing to say as to the curtailment of speeches, and it is that if Mr. Speaker were only able to see those Members who sit through the Debates and allow them to talk, we should be very much better off. That is about the most useful criticism that I can make upon the subject. I suggest that nothing will be lost by taking the Division now. Supposing the Government are beaten, and the proposal to introduce the clocks succeeds—which I think is not likely—the Office of Works cannot proceed to put up the clocks. The Report stage of this Vote must be taken, and approved of before the clocks can be put up. Therefore if any hon. Member is suffering under a sense of injustice there is ample opportunity to revive the question, and if it is considered that the Committee has acted wrongly on this occasion, hon. Members can seek to put it right on the Report stage. As to the Government taking off the Whips, the only objection I have to that is that it not done more frequently. It would be a benefit to the House always, and particularly in Committee, not only in Committee of Supply but in Committee on all large Bills, if Whips were only put on when principles were involved, and taken off when the details were being considered. I hope the Committee will agree to take the Division now, and I think there will be an opportunity of putting the matter right if it is considered that we do wrong on the present occasion.

Photo of Mr Jeremiah MacVeagh Mr Jeremiah MacVeagh , Down South

Might I suggest that before we go to a Division we should be given the benefit of the views of the Leader of the House upon this question? It is a very serious question in itself, and it is also a very serious departure from the practice and procedure of this House. We are practically invited now to vote against the Government's own Estimates, and one subject out of about a dozen that has been discussed to-day is to be taken to determine this Vote. Such a thing has never been done in the whole history of this House, and it is a very dangerous departure from practice. The Debate to-day has ranged over a very wide variety of subjects, and we are informed that one particular subject that has been discussed to-day is to be decided by this Vote, and that if we decide to reduce the salary of the Minister by £5, these abominations of clocks are to be put up to stop private Members making speeches when they have exceeded five or ten minutes, or whatever the limit may be. That revolution strikes at the very heart of the practice of this House, and it certainly should not be done without full consideration. I quite agree with the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) that a Motion could not be made by a private Member to create a charge, but that does not prevent the Government from putting down a Motion creating a charge. The Government should do it if they are satisfied that this ought to be done, and if the Government think it ought not to be done the Government ought to put their Whips on against this ridiculous proposition. I think we should like to be guided by the Leader of the House.

Photo of Lord Robert Cecil Lord Robert Cecil , Hitchin

I do not want to stand between the House and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, as I feel that this is exactly the kind of case in which the Committee would desire the opinion of the Leader of the House before coming to a decision, but may I say that I cannot help thinking the procedure adopted is an unfortunate one. I do not know at all what would be the state of mind of other hon. Members of the Committee, but I had no conception myself that this was coming on. I listened to a great part of the Debate, but went out to refresh the inner man for a few minutes, and then I came back and suddenly found that this Division which we are to take was to determine a question which can only be the prelude to a great constitutional change in the proceedings of this House. I think no one will appreciate more than my right hon. Friend the extremely inconvenient character of that kind of procedure. This question of the length of speeches, he knows, has been discussed over and over again, and I believe that all the greatest Parliamentary authorities, though they have always considered it at first with good will, have always come to the conclusion that practically it would be a disastrous change. I believe, as far as my experience goes, that that is the universal view. All of us who have been any time in this House have given attention to the question of how we could make the procedure of the House more businesslike, how we could avoid waste of time, and how, above all, we could avoid the unreality which occasionally afflicts the Debates in this House. I believe that everyone has always ultimately come to the conclusion that to try to limit artificially and by a cast-iron rule the speeches in this House would really be to take from it one of its great advantages. I think that myself, but surely, before we make such a change as is now proposed, we ought at any rate to know clearly what we are doing and have full knowledge of what we are likely to decide, and we should not suddenly, half-way through the Debate, be faced with the intimation that the Division we are now going to take is going to be more or less decisive of this question. That is not the way in which this subject ought to be decided. It is a question that ought to be determined with the utmost deliberation, for it is a departure from the whole traditions of this House that have existed for 700 years. For these reasons, I hope my right hon. Friend will give us the benefit of his advice as Leader of the House, not as Lord Privy Seal or as a Member of the Government, but will advise the Committee what, in his opinion, he thinks is most consistent with its dignity and reputation.

Photo of Mr Carlyon Bellairs Mr Carlyon Bellairs , Maidstone

I do not wish to press this Amendment, in view of some hon. Members thinking they have not received proper notice, but I may point out that I raised this very difficulty. I regarded it as not in my interests that I should move a reduction and not in the interests of the Committee which had considered this matter and taken a lot of trouble over it, and I said the House would never understand it. [An HON. MEMBER: "What Committee?"] An unofficial Committee upstairs that went into the matter. The procedure is one which was adopted on the very occasion when there was much trouble over removing the Secretaries' Gallery from under the Clock to behind the Speaker's Chair. The House felt aggrieved because it was not consulted, and a reduction was moved on this particular Vote in order to raise the question. What I would suggest to the Government now is this: We have waited a whole Session to raise this question, and we have taken a great deal of trouble about it. Could they give us a definite portion of time when the question could be debated in the House and go to a Division on this definite issue, say, one evening during the Session at 8.15? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Then in that case I fear I cannot "withdraw my Amendment, because I shall not get another opportunity. I would remark that hon. Members who have complained are all Members who make long speeches, and I do not want them to go away with a sense of injustice. Let us have this definite question discussed on a definite date, so that they will know exactly what is happening, and let the opinion of the House be obtained in the Division Lobby to decide this question, of course, without the Government Whips being put on.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN (Leader of the House):

I am somewhat embarrassed. I was not present during the major portion of the discussion, and I can only gather the feelings of the Committee from such short speeches as I have heard, and from what has been reported to me since I entered the Committee. The position of the Government is that this suggestion of putting clocks in the side galleries was made by certain hon. Members, and the Government was pressed to say whether the thing was practicable or not, and to adopt the proposal when it was found practicable. My hon. and gallant Friend who represents the Office of Works and the First Commissioner of Works, who are directly responsible, said they were not prepared to father an innovation of this kind in the House, but that they were the servants of the House, only anxious to carry out the wishes of the House, and that they would facilitate the free expression of the will of the House by the procedure which has been adopted to-day, namely, of accepting the Amendment for a nominal reduction of the Vote as a test action, so to speak, without putting on the Government Whips or treating it as if the responsibility of the Government were directly involved in the Estimate which they were presenting. That particular procedure was suggested, I think, not without consultation with the authorities of the House, as being the one which, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Maidstone (Commander Bellairs) has just reminded us, was applied to a similar change in our domestic arrangements, when the officials who are brought down to give their assistance to Ministers were moved from the other end of the House to the bench behind the chair, and I do not know how we could find a more convenient method of testing the opinion of the House. I cannot go back on the promise we made to my hon. and gallant Friend—I think it was publicly made—that he should have an opportunity of testing the opinion of the House on the subject. If, in fact, it be the case that the Committee has been taken by surprise, and the result were a small and unrepresentative division, I do not think the Committee or my hon. and gallant Friend would expect us to take that as a final decision, or to introduce the innovation on anything but a clear indication of the will of the House.

Photo of Mr James Hogge Mr James Hogge , Edinburgh East

Not until after the Report stage of the Vote.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

Not until it had been confirmed by the House on Report, certainly. That is a very fair condition, but I am afraid it could not be restored on Report. If £5 be deducted now, it would be out of order to restore that £5 on Report, and I am unwilling to see the Estimates of my hon. Friend disappearing bit by bit. So much for the immediate prospect. I really do not think I could undertake to give any time specially to consider whether clocks should be placed in the side galleries or not, but I have been asked by my hon. Friend the Member for South Down (Mr. MacVeagh) and by my Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) for my personal opinion, or my opinion as Leader of the House. I have never been able to convince myself that the House would gain anything by fixing an arbitrary limit of time to speeches. Suppose you are thinking of something in the nature of obstructive tactics, a very small calculation will show that the shortest limit that you can give is yet enough to enable a party in the House to destroy a Parliamentary Session, if unchecked by any other device. They have only to organise a succession of 10 - minute speeches to occupy all the time, and more than all the time that is now occupied by speeches with no such limit. What we desire to discourage is not length of speeches, but thinness of speeches, subject without matter.

Photo of Mr Jeremiah MacVeagh Mr Jeremiah MacVeagh , Down South

And frequently bad speeches.

Mr. CHAMBERLAIN:

But is it our experience that short speeches have a higher percentage of merit than longer speeches? I should doubt it very much. To the making of the longer speeches there has usually gone a considerably larger measure of thought. They are a serious undertaking for most of us, and we do not habitually embark upon them unless we have something to say which, at any rate, we think is worth saying; and certainly many of the most interesting speeches that I have heard—I should think the majority of the speeches to which the House listens with most interest—are speeches which would fall under the knife of any such Rule as that, and which the House would be the poorer for having

6.0 P.M.

so curtailed. So far as I am concerned, I cannot, conceive that we are going to decide this issue on a question of whether we have a recorder confronting us or not. It is my fate, nowadays, not infrequently to be obliged to wind up a Debate with a harassing undercurrent of thought, disturbing to the arguments I am trying to put before the House, as I glance at the clock, and see the minute hand approaching eleven. I cannot believe it will improve the argumentation of Members to see something like that irritating machine in a taxi-cab ticking off the minutes. Nor can I believe that if there be a wilful prolongation of the Debate, the Member engaged in the performance will derive anything but encouragement from the progress of the clock. Nor, again, can I believe that the House is really going to decide so grave an issue as a new Standing Order, putting a limit to the length of speeches, on a question of whether there is to be a meter on one side or other of the House. I hope my hon. Friend will not think I am dealing unkindly with him, but I am frankly sorry, especially since I have had such indications of the opinion of the House, that he should have come under the obligation not to put the Whips on. But the House is a very reasonable assembly. Its wisdom, when it chooses to exercise it, is not less than the wisdom of the Government, and if I commend this question to the free decision of the House, it is in the confident belief that the House will be governed by experience and common sense, and vote it down once and for all.

Question put, "That a sum not exceeding £75,245 be granted for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 21; Noes, 199.

Division No. 90.]AYES.[6.5 p.m.
Bagley, Captain E. AshtonHurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Jameson, John GordonShaw, Thomas (Preston)
Conway, Sir W. MartinLorden, John WilliamSueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)Lyle-Samuel, AlexanderYeo, Sir Alfred William
Hamilton, Major C. G. C.Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Harris, Sir Henry PercyNicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)
Hennessy, Major J. R. G.Rae, H. NormanTELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Hogge, James MylesRees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)Commander Bellairs and Mr. Wallace.
NOES.
Adair, Rear-Admiral Thomas B. S.Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W.Banton, George
Adamson, Rt. Hon. WilliamBaldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyBarnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)
Amery, Leopold C. M. S.Balfour, George (Hampstead)Barnett, Major Richard W.
Archer-Shee, Lieut-Colonel MartinBanbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.Barnston, Major Harry
Barrand, A. R.Hartshorn, VernonPurchase, H. G.
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)Hayday, ArthurRaw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.
Bennett, Sir Thomas JewellHenderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Bethell, Sir John HenryHenderson, Lt.-Col. V. L. (Tradeston)Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)
Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel FrankRichardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)
Blair, Sir ReginaldHirst, G. H.Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)
Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring).
Bramsdon, Sir ThomasHohler, Gerald FitzroyRoberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)
Brassey, H. L. C.Holbrook, Sir Arthur RichardRoberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)
Breese, Major Charles E.Hood, Sir JosephRoberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford).
Broad, Thomas TuckerHopkins, John W. W.Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)
Bruton, Sir JamesHudson, R. M.Roundell, Colonel R. F.
Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)Royce, William Stapleton
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William JamesIrving, DanSamuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Butcher, Sir John GeorgeJames, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. CuthbertSamuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Cape, ThomasJones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur
Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. GeorgeSeddon, J. A.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.)Kennedy, ThomasSharman-Crawford, Robert G.
Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)Kenyon, BarnetShaw, William T. (Forfar)
Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.Kidd, JamesShort, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Colfox, Major Win. PhillipsKing, Captain Henry DouglasShortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)
Cope, Major WilliamKinloch-Cooke, Sir ClementSmith, W. R. (Wellingborough)
Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander
Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)Lindsay, William ArthurStanley. Major Hon. G. (Preston)
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir HenryLloyd, George ButlerStephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.
Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)Strauss, Edward Anthony
Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)Lort-Williams, J.Sturrock, J. Leng
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)Loseby, Captain C. E.Sugden, W. H.
Dean, Commander P. T.Lunn, WilliamSutton, John Edward
Doyle, N. GrattanMacdonald, Rt. Hon. John MurraySwan, J. E.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.Taylor, J.
Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)McMicking, Major GilbertThomas-Stanford, Charles
Erskine, James Malcolm MonteithMacnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)
Evans, ErnestMacpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.MacVeagh, JeremiahThorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Falle, Major Sir Bertram GodfrayMaitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-Tickler, Thomas George
Fell, Sir ArthurMalone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)Townley, Maximilian G.
Fitzroy, Captain Hon. Edward A.Mitchell, Sir William LaneTryon, Major George Clement
Flannery, Sir James FortescueMoore, Major-General Sir Newton JWalters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor
Foot, IsaacMoreing, Captain Algernon H.Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.
Forrest, WalterMosley, OswaldWard, William Dudley (Southampton)
Fraser, Major Sir KeithMurray. Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)White, Charles F (Derby, Western)
Galbraith, SamuelMyers, ThomasWhite, Col. G. D. (Southport)
Ganzoni, Sir JohnNaylor, Thomas EllisWilliams, C. (Tavistock)
Gibbs, Colonel George AbrahamNeal, ArthurWilliamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald
Gillis, WilliamNewbould, Alfred ErnestWilloughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud
Goff, Sir R. ParkNicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading).
Gould, James C.Nield, Sir HerbertWindsor, Viscount
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)O'Connor, Thomas P.Wintringham, Margaret
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)Oman, Sir Charles William C.Wise, Frederick
Green, Albert (Derby)Ormsby-Gore, Hon. WilliamWolmer, Viscount
Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)Parker, JamesWood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)
Greenwood, William (Stockport)Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)
Greer, Sir HarryParry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas HenryWood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)
Gretton, Colonel JohnPease, Rt. Hon. Herbert PikeYoung, E. H. (Norwich)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)Young, W. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)
Grundy, T. W.Pennefather, De Fonblanque
Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Hacking, Captain Douglas H.Perkins, Walter FrankLieut.-Colonel W. Guinness and
Hailwood, AugustinePratt, John WilliamMajor Mackenzie Wood.
Hancock, John GeorgePrescott, Major Sir W. H.

Question put, and agreed to.

Original Question again proposed.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY:

Now that the question of a time recorder has been satisfactorily settled, I should like to make a suggestion which, I think, would meet with the approval of the Committee. It is that there should be a name recorder placed in the tea-room, and another in the newspaper-room, so that hon. Members there may know who is taking part in the Debate. There are, as the hon. Gentleman knows, recorders in different parts of the House, some of them in convenient places and others in incon- venient places, but I venture to suggest that the Committee as a whole would agree that two of the most convenient places in which these recorders could be placed are the tea-room and the newspaper-room. I do not know what the cost of these instruments is. Probably it would not be possible to effect the change this year, but I do suggest to the hon. Gentleman—and I think I should have the assent of the Committee in so doing—that he should consider this with a view, if possible, to introducing a convenient change of this nature next year.