§ MR. WARDLE (Derbyshire, S.)
asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether he is aware that the issue of incorrect versions by the Queen's Printers and other privileged presses enjoying a monopoly of the right of printing the Book of Common Prayer was complained of in 1868 by the Committee of the Convocation of Canterbury, has led to the appointment of a Committee by the 451 Convocation of York during the present year, and was alluded to in 1870 by the Royal Commission on Ritual in their Fourth Report; whether the terms of the Royal Letters Patent, granted to the privileged printers, provide for such irregularities being punished; and, if not, in what way can they be legally corrected; and, whether, in face of the fact that not one single correctly printed copy of the Statutory Prayer Book is now procurable (while the much bulkier "authorized" version of the Bible is printed with admirable fidelity), the Gcvernment are prepared to throw open the printing of the Prayer Book to public competition, or else to authorize Her Majesty's Attorney General to take proceedings to remedy the abuse alleged to exist?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
I believe that it is a fact that in the versions of the Book of Common Prayer printed by the Queen's Printers and the other authorized presses certain minor variations from the Prayer Book annexed to the Act 13 & 14 Charles II., c. 4, exist. This fact was referred to, as the hon. Member states, in the Report of the Committee of the Convocation of Canterbury in 1868; but the variations in question were apparently not of sufficient importance to justify any action. On the contrary, I find in the Report the following words:—Most of the variations.…are, in fact, improvements in regard to accuracy and to sense; nor could greater care and fidelity be reasonably expected than have grown up in the present century. In all ordinary particulars the Prayer Book as now printed is what the compilers would have wished to make it if their task had fallen to them in the present day.It is a curious fact that the Prayer Book annexed to the Act, and the various sealed books which are deposited in accordance with the Act in Cathedrals, at the Courts at Westminster, and the Tower, differ in several matters of detail. I believe that the Letters Patent do not contain any special provisions with regard to such irregularities. In my opinion, although the matter is not strictly for me, it is not desirable that the printing of the Prayer Book should be thrown open for public competition; but I am able to inform the hon. Member that the Queen's Printers and the authorized presses last month determined to print an exact copy of the 452 Prayer Book annexed to the Act, the publication of which will be duly announced.