HC Deb 13 April 1837 vol 37 cc1197-201
Mr. Thomas Duncombe

rose to renew his motion for copies of all the Parliamentary surveys of Church lands made in 1646, and deposited by Parliament in the library of manuscripts in Lambeth Palace. He was sorry that accident had prevented him from being in his place when his hon. Friend the Member for Middlesex brought this motion forward as his substitute. He was afraid that he had, by his absence on that occasion, placed his hon. Friend in a most ungracious position. The papers of which he was now moving for copies, were the property of Parliament. They contained the surveys of Church lands, which Parliament had ordered to be made in 1646, and were placed by Parliament, which did not know what to do with them at the Restoration, in the care of the Archbishop of Canterbury for safe custody, They were therefore beyond all dispute public property; but still, if you wanted an extract respecting any particular parish you must pay a fee of half a guinea for it to the Archbishop's secretary, or if you wanted, as he had wanted, extracts respecting twelve parishes, you must pay six guineas for them. He understood that on a former occasion the Attorney-General had objected to the production of these copies, on the ground of the expense of making them. He had said that there were forty folio volumes of them, and that it would require a cart and horses to produce them; but the fact was, that there were only twenty quarto volumes, written only on one side of the page, and written too, in a very large hand. The expense of copying them would amount to 40l.; and the copies themselves, if printed, would easily go into the compass of an ordinary Parliamentary volume. He believed that those documents would show that a great deal of property, which was then in the Church, had since been alienated, and would render it necessary for Parliament to call for some explanation of the mode in which the alienation had been made. He was sorry that his hon. Friend, the Member for the University of Oxford, (Sir R. Inglis) was not present, as he should have appealed to his hon. Friend to confirm his assertion that the documents of which he wanted copies were the property of Parliament. He concluded by formally making the motion which he had mentioned at the commencement of his speech.

Lord John Russell

was unwilling to oppose this motion, although he could not see its utility. He understood that these documents were considered as public documents in the library at Lambeth, and that any person who wished to see them might do so for a small fee, He doubted, however, whether it was worth while to go to the expense of either copying or printing them.

Mr. Hume

would be sorry to put the country to any unnecessary expense, but he still thought that these documents ought to be printed. He assured the noble Lord that he had found great difficulty in obtaining what he wanted in these manuscripts. It was of great importance that the contents of these documents should be open to the public.

Mr. Baines

had gone to the library at Lambeth Palace, and having stated that he wanted to examine these manuscripts for historical purposes, had received from the Archbishop of Canterbury and from his librarian every facility he could desire, and that, too, without the payment of any fee.

Sir Robert Peel

was not going to throw any obstacle in the way of the motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury. He thought, however, that the first document which the House ought to call for should be an authentic statement of the circumstances under which these documents were placed as public property in the library at Lambeth. When that formal authority was produced, either in the shape of an extract from their journals, or in any other authentic document, there could be no objection to order the production of the surveys in question. He made this suggestion to the House to prevent it being imagined that they had exercised their authority to extract documents which were not their property from a private library.

Lord John Russell

concurred with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, that some Parliamentary ground should be laid for demanding these documents as public property from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Debate adjourned.