HC Deb 03 May 1837 vol 38 cc463-5

Mr. C. Buller moved the second reading of the Public Records Bill, the object of which he explained to be to provide one safe and efficient building for the security of all records, and to appoint one Keeper General of the Records of the kingdom to take care of them.

Lord John Russell

certainly considered that the safe custody of the public records, and the arrangements for their publication, should be placed in different hands. He also thought that it was highly desirable that the public records should be kept in one place, under the custody or general superintendence of some high official person, such, for instance, as the Master of the Rolls. He had had communications with the Master of the Rolls on the subject of this Bill, and if it were the pleasure of the House to go on with the Bill, he would propose many alterations founded on those communications, and comprising the several points he had stated. If it were not the pleasure of the House to proceed with this Bill, he (Lord J. Russell) should be prepared to bring in a new Bill on the subject.

Sir F. Trench

concurred in the object of the Bill.

Sir R. Inglis

objected to appointing any officer to take care of the records. He thought that they ought to be left in the care of the chief judge. The point of chief importance, however, was to render the public records accessible, and next, to provide a more convenient place to which to transfer them. He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer should propose to appropriate a large sum yearly for their arrangement.

Sir R. Peel

thought, that it would be better to postpone any definite arrangement on this subject until the accommodation was provided which was essential for the satisfactory custody of the records. He certainly agreed with the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) that it would be better to commit the custody of the records to a high judicial officer, who by name and station appeared to be pointed out as the most competent authority. He of course must have the assistance of some subordinate officer, appointed by himself and for whose conduct he should be responsible. He wished to ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this subject. It was a general impression that part of the building of the new House of Parliament was to be devoted to the custody of the public records. He wished to ask whether it was the intention of his Majesty's Government to submit any proposition to the House for the purpose of putting in a train of execution the plan of Mr. Barry, and whether it was intended to propose as part of that plan that the large tower should be appropriated to the reception of the public records?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that the Government had abstained from taking any steps with respect to the report that had been laid upon the table of the House until every Member of the House should have had a full opportunity of considering the subject. With respect to the other question, he had had frequent communications with the Board of Commissioners of Woods and Forests, and the Record Commissioners as to whether the tower proposed to be erected by Mr. Barry's plan would be an appropriate and convenient depository for the public records. The opinions they had pronounced were favourable to the proposition. They thought that the tower would be sufficient to enable them to provide for the safe custody of the public records. If this should be the result, it would lead to the preservation of the most beautiful parts of the design, and would justify them by devoting them to a useful object.

Mr. W. Williams Wynn

was glad this motion had not been mixed up with former controversies. All agreed that it was fit and proper to make some provision for the safe custody of the records; but some provisions of the Bill were premature, and would come time enough when a building was provided. He should be glad if the proposed tower would supply sufficient and convenient accommodation. The most fit person to be keeper was the Master of the Rolls. So far back as the time of Edward 1st, the situation was filled by that officer. It would, perhaps, be the more convenient course to prepare and arrange the records in their present depositories before sending them to the general place of reception. As to fees, he agreed with his hon. Friend that they were no more a question of principle than the stamp duties. After what had fallen from the noble Lord, with respect to his intention of hereafter proposing some additional clauses to the Bill, he did not feel disposed to give any opposition to its being read a second time.

Mr. Wilks

concurred with the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke in thinking, that the subject under consideration would be best provided for if left entirely to the discretion of the Government.

Colonel Sibthorp

wished the sense of the House had been taken on the Bill. He should certainly have voted against it, in order to show his repugnance to commissions in any shape.

Mr. Galley Knight

thought, that the great object which the House ought to have in view, was to prevent in future that great expenditure which had hitherto been incurred by the unnecessary printing of the records.

Mr. Jervis

begged to remind the gallant Member for Lincoln, that the Record Commission did not originate with the present Government. If the hon. and gallant Member read the Bill attentively, he would find that its tendency was to remove the necessity for any commission.

Bill read a second time.