MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)
I beg to ask the President of the Local Government Board if he will make such representations to the Registrar General as will induce him to make arrangements for restoring the facilities formerly granted to ministers, and to other specially interested persons, for consulting and making extracts from the Nonconformist Registers of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, which in 1837 were, at the request of the then Registrar General, deposited at Somerset House on the plea of safety and readiness of access; and whether he will also represent to the Registrar General the expediency of complying with the request of Nonconformists that the lists of such Registers may be reprinted and published for sale?
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
I have been in further communication with the Registrar General on the subject of the question, and I am informed by him that no arrangements can be made for access to the Registers such as is suggested without additional accommodation and additional staff being provided for his department. The Registrar General states that his predecessor from time to time gave permission to some well-known writer of Nonconformist history 832 to make extracts from some selected Register in the presence of an official, and in the room occupied by that official. He also has given similar permission in a few cases. But it is now clear to him that in giving that permission both his predecessor and he acted beyond their powers, as no power is given by the Non-Parochial Registers Acts to exempt any person from payment of the statutory fees imposed by those Acts. No great harm has been done when only two or three persons in a year applied to search the Registers, although even then it was difficult to find accommodation for one person. Now the applications come in by the score, and the facilities demanded as a right are:—A commodious room to hold six persons, a clerk to assist, and messengers to fetch the books from the vaults. To give such facilities in the General Register Office is, of course, impossible. The matter is not one in which the Local Government Board have any jurisdiction. Exemption from payment of the statutory fees and the employment of an additional staff are questions for the Treasury rather than for the Local Government Board. My hon. Friend is under a misapprehension in supposing that the Registers were deposited at Somerset House at the request of the Registrar General. In accordance with a recommendation of a Royal Commission, which was appointed to inquire what measures could be beneficially adopted for collecting and arranging and depositing the Registers of Births, &c., other than the Parochial Registers, and for advising the proper measures to be adopted for giving full force as evidence in Courts of Justice to all such Registers as were found accurate, an Act was passed in 1840 imposing on the Registrar General the duty of receiving the Registers in question. The Registrar General adheres to his view that there is no sufficient reason for placing on sale the lists referred to in the question.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
Will the Government consider the advantage and propriety of taking steps to remove these Parochial Registers to the Record Office, where they could be more easily looked after?
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
That would require legislation, and I am not prepared to promise to introduce any fresh legislation on the subject.