HC Deb 14 April 1825 vol 12 cc1347-9
Mr. Spring Rice

rose, to move for the appointment of a select committee, on the State of the Papers printed by order of the House of Commons, from the year 1800 to the accession of his present majesty. He observed, that, since the year 1800, the parliamentary papers had not been collated or arranged. A committee had, in 1802, been appointed to inquire into the state of the papers presented to the House; and in consequence of the report of that committee the documents were selected and classed. The papers thus arranged, were now known by the title of "the Seventeen Volumes of Reports." A number of most valuable documents were at that time preserved and put in order, which were now accessible to the House and the public. From that period, to the accession of his present majesty, many important documents had been presented to parliament: but they had not yet been arranged so as to render them essentially useful to members of parliament. His object was, to select those containing the most practical information, and to have them printed as a continuation of the reports of 1802. If this subject was thought worthy of attention by the House, he would further suggest the propriety of inquiring how far the library up stairs might be extended and improved. He was aware how much the House was indebted to the late Speaker, for the foundation of that library, and to his successor, for his attention to it; but he still thought that it might be enlarged, much to the advantage of the public business and the accommodation of members. He would not detain the House further than to move, "That a select committee be appointed to inquire into the state and condition of the Index, Journals, and printed Reports and other Papers presented to this House, and that they do report the same, with their observations and opinions thereupon to the House."

Mr. Bankes

recommended the hon. member to leave out the words "Index and Journals," and confine his motion to the selection of Reports.

Sir John Newport

approved of the motion, as amended by the suggestion of the last speaker. Great care should be taken in the selection of papers; as among the valuable documents brought before the House, there was a mass of papers of minor importance, which it would be only burthensome and wasteful to collect.

Mr. Spring Rice

agreed to the suggestion of the hon. member, and would confine his motion to the Reports.

Mr. Croker

approved most fully of the motion, as he was convinced that a selection of Reports to the House would form the foundation of the most curious parliamentary history of the country. Those who reflected on the various events of the reign of George 3rd, must see how impossible it would be to arrive at any thing like accuracy in detailing them, without the assistance of the papers of the House. There was, he conceived, much propriety in the motion, and he thought the hon. gentleman deserved the thanks of the House for calling their attention to the subject. There were, in the Tower and other public places, many documents which well deserved attention. An ingenious individual had lately made researches connected with those papers, and had discovered a great deal of extraordinary matter. He thought no vote of money, in a literary point of view, could be better expended, than one which would enable the individual to whom he had alluded to give to this country a volume of those ancient records. Amongst other things he had discovered that, in ancient days, the members of the House of Commons voted by proxy. It was a practice which he did not wish to recommend; but, looking to the extreme thinness of the House at that moment, it would not perhaps be a bad plan [a laugh].

The motion was then agreed to: and it was ordered, "that it be an instruction to the Committee to consider and arrange such Reports as it may be proper to print in volumes, in addition to those which have been already so printed, and prepare an estimate of the expense of printing the same; also, to consider of providing some proper place for the safe custody of the printed books and papers, affording convenient access to the same, for the use of members of this House."

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