The MASTER OF THE ROLLS
, in the absence of his right hon. Colleague (Mr. Tufnell), who had given notice of a Motion for—A Select Committee to inquire into the expediency of distributing gratis, under certain regulations, a selection from the Reports and Returns printed by Order of the House of Commons, amongst the Literary and Scientific Institutions and Mechanics' Institutes throughout the United Kingdom,"—said, that it would be idle in the present state of the Session to press the Motion. He desired, therefore, simply to call the attention of the Government to the subject. He believed that the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer was not unfavourably disposed to some distribution of political information of this character among the various institutions of the country. The Parliamentary papers contained very valuable information. When first printed in 1651 they were sent to the sheriffs of counties for the information of the people, but that practice was stopped by Mr. Secretary Jenkyns in the reign of Charles II. More than seventy of the Mechanics' Institutions at present in existence numbered more than 300 members. To all of them the information contained in the Parliamentary Reports and Papers was not accessible. It would be advantageous if the Printing Committee were to receive powers to make such a selection of Parliamentary Papers as was desirable for the purposes of distribution. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would give the subject his attention during the recess.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
said, he cordially supported the request of the right hon. and learned Master of the Rolls, and con- 1317 curred in thinking that the distribution ought to he confided to the Printing Committee.
§ MR. HUME
said, he had been instrumental in carrying a Resolution for the sale of Parliamentary Papers at 1d. per sheet, though perhaps the public were not generally aware that they could procure them at so low a rate. Now, he was willing to give information cheaply, but not to throw it away; for things given away were too often regarded as of no value. He wished, then, to have a Committee appointed on this question, and that the House ought not to settle it too hastily. It was not generally known that persons might get any paper they wished at the rate he mentioned, and send it by post at a very trifling expense.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he thought the suggestion made by the right hon. and learned Master of the Rolls was one well deserving the attention of the House, but to carry it into effect required much more consideration than had yet been given to the subject. He did not think, with regard to the distribution of the Parliamentary Papers, that it was sufficiently well known how easily the publications of that House could be obtained, and it might be advisable at once to circulate that information, giving some idea what was the nature and cost of those publications. Every Member of that House would know that they formed a very important branch of national statistics. The variety and extent of the subjects embraced in the pages of those publications could not be exaggerated, and he was convinced if they were more known they would redound both to the honour of the House and to the advantage of the people.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn,