HC Deb 16 February 1880 vol 250 cc773-6

Billconsideredin Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 (Definitions).

MR. MACARTNEYmoved, in page 1, after line 16, to insert the words— The Court means in England and Ireland Her Majesty's High Court of Justice, and in Scotland the Court of Session.

Amendmentagreed to.

Clause, as amended,agreed to.

Clause 2 (Appointment of Commissioners).


believed that there had been considerable difficulty in finding anybody to take charge of these ancient monuments, and that first one and then another of the Government Offices had been applied to without effect. At last, the Trustees of the British Museum had been pitched upon. He did not suppose that anyone except the Financial Secretary knew who these Trustees were. He would, therefore, mention a few of them. The Board consisted of about 50 members, among whom was the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the President of the College of Physicians, and others of similar position. It was impossible to conceive men less likely to discharge such duties in a satisfactory manner than these preoccupied officials. The duties would, in fact, be carried out by the secretary and one or two zealous men, and the result would be that the Act would be carried too far and rendered unpopular. The Societies in whose hands he proposed to place the administration of the Bill were well-known Corporations, composed of men not only antiquaries, but men of large landed property belonging to the most conservative elements of society. They would probably themselves find money to do a great deal of the work without applying to the Treasury at all. The proposal would likewise vest in the Society of each country the guardianship of their own monuments. He therefore begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 24, to leave out the words "Trustees of the British Museum," and insert the words "Council of the Society of Antiquaries of London for England, the Council of the Royal Irish Academy for Ireland, and the Council of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland for Scotland."—(Mr. Stanley Leighton.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."


said, he did not wish to dispute the fact mentioned by the hon. Member who had just moved the Amendment, that the members of these Societies were very distinguished gentlemen. But, at the same time, the list which he had just given to the House of some of the members of the Board of Trustees for the British Museum showed also, from that particular point of view, that they, too, were certainly qualified to discharge the duty which would be imposed upon them equally well as those whom he desired to substitute in their place. On the part of the Government he could not assent to the plan proposed by the hon. Member. The Bill as it was drawn was a compromise between the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) and the Government, in which the hon. Baronet accepted these gentlemen as custodians under this Bill; and, therefore, on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he felt bound to oppose any alteration of the agreement made last year, and up to this moment adopted in the various stages of the measure. He believed that the Trustees of the British Museum were perfectly well able to execute the duties imposed upon them; and they, moreover, com- manded confidence in the country for the special purposes in connection therewith. He did not think it would be an improvement to take away from the Trustees of the British Museum a duty which up to this moment they were supposed to be going to discharge.


said, that, individually, he at one time would have preferred the proposals of his hon. Friend opposite; but, as the hon. Baronet had pointed out, there were strong arguments in favour of the Trustees of the British Museum. He did not doubt that the Trustees would carry out the Bill very efficiently. The hon. Member had spoken of Scotland; but Scotland was strongly represented among the Trustees. The Government had agreed to support the Bill, provided the working of it were intrusted to the Trustees of the British Museum. Under those circumstances, he should feel bound to vote with the Government, although he felt that the other Societies would have been very proper custodians of the monuments in question. He hoped that the Committee would support the clause as it stood.


regretted very much that the Government had made up their minds to intrust the carrying out of the Act to the Trustees of the British Museum; but he hoped that before the Report they might be able to see their way to support the very reasonable proposal of the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton).


said, it was almost absurd that the monuments of Scotland and of Ireland should be placed in the custody of the Trustees of the British Museum, when such bodies as the Antiquarian Societies existed in each country. He appealed to the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Stanley Leighton) to sustain his view, and he hoped that the Government would take it into their consideration.

Question put.

The Committeedivided:—Ayes 19; Noes 18: Majority 1.—(Div. List, No. 9.)


said, he felt compelled to move to report Progress. The Bill was the result of an agreement come to between the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone and the Government last year. As the Committee had now reversed the decision arrived at, he would ask leave to report Progress then, in order that the further proceedings with regard to the Bill might be considered.


was surprised at the result of the division, but hoped that the Government would not press the Motion. The Bill had been under consideration for many years, and he did not like to lose any chance of its becoming law. He presumed they could reverse the late vote on Report.


said, that he should like to know when the agreement between the Government and the hon. Member for Maidstone was made? When he left town last summer he understood that, as regarded Scotland, the Government were willing to make the Society of Antiquaries in Edinburgh the custodians of the ancient monuments of that country. He hoped the Government would not seek to reverse the decision which the Committee had arrived at.


wished to point out to the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury that if it were wished to bring the whole force of the Government to bear upon this small question it could be done upon the third reading of the Bill.


would ask leave of the Committee to withdraw the Motion, on the understanding that he should be at liberty to take the opinion of the House upon the Report. His Colleague the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was best acquainted with the Bill, and he wished to speak to him before arriving at any decision with regard to it. He therefore thought that he should be best suiting the convenience of the Committee in withdrawing his Motion, and, if necessary, raising the question at another stage of the Bill.

Motion, by leave,withdrawn.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present: Committee counted, and 40 Members not being present,

Mr. Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair:—House counted, and 40 Members not being present,

House adjourned at a quarter before Three o'clock.