HC Deb 11 June 1839 vol 48 cc140-2
Sir J Graham

hoped that the noble Lord opposite would not consider him pertinacious or troublesome, if he again ventured to request some information from him on the subject of the expiration of the patent held by the Queen's printer in Scotland. On a former occasion, the noble Lord told him what the Government did not intend to do. The noble Lord stated, that it was not intended to renew the patent, or to give the exclusive power of printing the Bible in. Scotland to any corporate body, which might derive a profit from that exclusive privilege, and avail themselves of it to enhance the price. The noble Lord said also, that at the same time measures would be taken which should insure the authenticity of all copies of the Bible hereafter to be printed in Scotland. If, in order to carry this object into effect, the noble Lord intended to proceed by a legislative measure, ample opportunity would be afforded for the discussion of its details; but he believed, that an opinion was entertained that precautionary measures might be taken, without the intervention of Parliament. If so, he hoped, as the people of Scotland regarded this question with much interest, that he might be excused for saying, that they would be glad if the noble Lord would give them an outline of those precautionary measures.

Lord John Russell

said, that the right hon. Baronet had correctly stated what had passed on the former occasion. It was not intended to give to any individual, or to any corporation, the right of printing the Bible, or to grant any monopoly which would enhance the price. The right hon. Baronet was perfectly justified in asking what precautions were proposed on the part of the Crown, to prevent the chance of error. It was proposed to incorporate a limited number of persons—say five, to whom would be granted the exclusive right of printing and publishing the Bible. One of these was to be the Moderator of the Assembly of the Church of Scotland, two others were to be divines of the Church of Scotland, and two others were to be laymen, but members of the Church of Scotland; and if any larger number than five should constitute the board, it would still be constituted on the same principle. It was proposed, that this board should have the exclusive right of printing and publishing the Bible, upon condition of allowing the free importation of the authorised version of the Bible, printed by authority in England. Another condition was, that the board should have power to grant an imprimatur for Bibles to be published by certain publishers, but that such liberty should not be granted, unless the board appointed correctors of the press, or unless some person was appointed by the board to supervise the Bibles so printed, and see that the version was correct. With these limitations, it was proposed generally, that no preference should be given to particular publishers, but the publishers must, in addition, enter into an agreement, by bond, to pay any costs that might ensue from a failure in the performance of any one of the conditions, or the costs occasioned by any in- correct version which might be circulated in consequence of the imprimatur granted to them. In case of any pirating any former edition of the Bible, it would be competent to the board to proceed by injunction, and to prevent such unauthorized and fraudulent publications. The mode by which this plan was to be carried out was jure coronœ—it was to be done by the power possessed by the Crown, under which, by the well-known judgment of Lord Lyndhurst, the Crown might grant a right to persons to print the Bible, and under which it was competent to proceed by injunction, to prevent any fraudulent or unauthorised publication. The right hon. Baronet had also asked whether it was proposed to proceed by statute during the present Session. He (Lord John Russell) had consulted his right hon. and learned Friend, the Lord Advocate, and he had also taken the opinion of his hon. Friend the Attorney-general, and they were of opinion that it was not necessary to proceed by statute, but that the Crown had the authority requisite to insist on all the conditions necessary for the purpose. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman would understand, that it was not the intention of her Majesty's Government to propose any bill, as they were of opinion the present authority of the Crown was sufficient for the purpose. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman required it, he (Lord J. Russell) would furnish him, in writing, with a copy of the exact conditions which were proposed, that he might consult those who were interested in the subject. The intention was not to enhance the price of the Scriptures to the people of Scotland, but, at the same time, to secure the perfect accuracy of the text.

Sir J. Graham

thanked the noble Lord for the candour and fairness with which he had made this statement. It would be irregular for him to express any opinion upon the merits of the plan, and he should therefore not do so. Nothing could be fairer than the noble Lord's proposition to give him, in writing, a detailed statement of the conditions under which the proposed privilege was to be conferred. He should be able to communicate this to the authorities in Scotland, and he would then let the noble Lord know, whether it was satisfactory to them.

Conversation dropped.