MR. A. STAFFORD O'BRIEN
wished to know whether the Government intended to put a stop to the further circulation of a work, treating of commercial tariffs relating to America, to which the hon. Member for Bolton had referred on Tuesday evening last? He had looked over the latter portion of that book, and had found its inaccuracies so numerous, and, he must say, so disgraceful to the public officer who prepared it, that he hoped the Government would not permit it to be further circulated until these errors had been corrected. The compiler, drawing up a scheme of taxation, such as suited his own views and principles, made a mistake of 1,339,000l. in his calculations with reference to the duty on malt and the excise, setting down the duty for five months at 8,993,752l., when any person acquainted with the commonest rules of arithmetic — any child from a parish school, could have shown the amount from his own figures to be upwards of 10,000,000l. It was most desirable for our own character, especially with reference to America, that some check should be put to such disgraceful inaccuracies.
§ SIR G. CLERK
complained, that the hon. Member should have put his question without having given him the slightest intimation of his intention to make so serious 755 a charge. The House must be aware that it would be perfectly impossible for him or any other individual, without notice, to give an answer relative to the accuracy of every statement in a volume containing 1400 pages. If the hon. Member would have the courtesy to inform him what were the particular inaccuracies of which he had to complain, he would take care to make inquiry into the subject, and inform him whether the mistakes had arisen from accidental errors of the press, or from miscalculations on the part of the officer who had prepared the returns. The only object of compiling these statements was to obtain correct information; and he could assure the hon. Member, and all other hon. Members, that the Board of Trade would feel most grateful for information as to any errors which might require correction. In returns embracing such voluminous details it was almost impossible to guard, even with the exercise of the utmost caution, against error.
wished to know under what system these volumes were produced. It was of the utmost importance to all, whatever their views, that these returns should be accurate, which, under the present system prevailing at the Board of Trade, was impossible. Under any system it would be difficult to obtain correct statistical information; but it became an impossibility when facts were warped to suit particular views. He wished to have laid on the Table the original Minute under which the statistical department of the Board of Trade was constituted. It would be well if the noble Lord, who presided over that department with so much ability, would give directions to the officers connected with the statistical department to confine themselves to data and the arrangement of facts, instead of dwelling in declamatory language on the tyranny of other Governments, and casting blame on the conduct of all the Sovereigns of Europe.
§ MR. M. GIBSON
rose to bear testimony to the general accuracy of the works compiled by Mr. Macgregor, of which he was a student. He had tested their truthfulness, and would undertake to say that no one was more desirous than that gentleman of giving sound information on commercial matters. It frequently happened that unintentional inaccuracies found their way into these public documents; in fact, an instance just occurred to him, relating to the quantity of corn which was to be expected from the province of Tamboff. 756 He certainly thought the hon. Member for Northamptonshire indulged in far too strong a word when he applied the term "disgraceful" to the officer by whom these returns were furnished. Some unintentional inaccuracies might be found in them perhaps; but they were, nevertheless, exceedingly instructive, and might be read with great advantage by the hon. Member and his friends.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
had just been informed by the officer himself that the errors complained of were typographical; it was rather hard, therefore, that those intrusted with the preparation of the returns in question should not only be charged with having made miscalculations, but should also have improper motives imputed to them.
MR. A. S. O'BRIEN
said he had been misinterpreted. He had no intention of imputing motives; and if any unintentional expression had fallen from him which would bear such an interpretation, he most heartily begged to retract it. He still maintained, however, that when they paid public servants for the execution of public works, they had a right to expect accuracy.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, whether the information were true or not, the hon. Member was not justified in attacking a public servant without giving him notice.
apprehended the hon. Member merely meant to say that it was disgraceful that public Papers should be allowed to go forth in such a state.
§ Subject at an end.