That the Committee on Procedure and Privileges be instructed to submit to the Dáil amendments to Standing Orders to provide that no speech may exceed a time-limit of half an hour except by unanimous consent of the House.
I hope this motion will command the sympathy of the Government and of the House in general. It would have the effect of considerably expediting public business, and also, I think, of greatly improving the standard of oratory in this House. The fluency of the Irish race is such that we frequently run into the vice of repetition. I am afraid it must be admitted that long-windedness is a conspicuous characteristic of this House. There are two sorts of long-windeness One is deliberate, and consists in getting up and talking for the purpose of consuming time. That sometimes occurs in the House, and ought not, I think, be allowed. There is another sort of long-windedness which is merely a bad habit. It is not done deliberately for the purpose of consuming time, but is done because we fall into the habit of thinking that a thing has not been said effectively until it has been said about a dozen times. It is an insidious disease which I feel creeps over us all the longer we are in this House. Whether it was originally for the benefit of other Deputies or for the benefit of the Press reporters, so as to make sure that a particular point got through to the public, I do not know, but at any rate, it is observable in this House that hardly any Deputy feels a thing has been said adequately by him until he has said it several times over with a very slight change of words.
A suggestion has already been made that some sort of time limit should be introduced, but nothing has been done, owing I think to a most unjustified pessimism about the possibility of doing something effective. A time limit can be imposed, and can be adhered to. It has been done quite successfully elsewhere.
Among other places where it is done is the South African Parliament, where there is a time limit of forty minutes, without any such provision as is suggested here of exemption by unanimous consent of the House. I think it is time we took the thing up seriously. I think that we should all enjoy Parliamentary proceedings very much more if a time limit existed. Of course, one does not want it to be worked unreasonably. My idea is that in the normal way the limit would be removed on the annual Budget debate, and on the Second Reading debates of important Bills.