HC Deb 10 July 1946 vol 425 cc464-5

(1) Documents belonging to the Board shall be deemed, for the purposes of the Public Record Office Acts, 1838 to 1898, to be public records under the charge and superintendence of the Master of the Rolls.

(2) The power conferred on the Master of the Rolls by Section one of the Public Record Office Act, 1877, to make rules respecting the disposal of documents which are deposited in or can be removed to the Public Record Office, shall, in relation to documents belonging to the Board, be exercisable subject to the approval of the chairman of the Board in addition to that of the Treasury.

Mr. Shinwell

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is a very necessary Amendment and provides that documents belonging to the Board shall be public records.

Colonel Clarke

I understand from this Amendment that, from the vesting date, all documents in colliery offices will become the property of the Public Record Office. Such documents will consist of account books, ledgers and masses of similar books. They will also include many plans, old pictures and documents of that sort. Some will be quite valueless, but others may have a value. Most of us who have been in colliery offices, especially the old ones on the North-East coast, which have existed for a century or more, realise that there are a good many things of very considerable interest and historic value in them. Some may be taken away by the directors, if their wives allow them to do so, but others will remain when the offices are taken over, and there is a risk that they will be put on the bonfire. It should be somebody's duty to go through such documents, and to sort the grain from the chaff. Anybody who has had any experience of trying to write industrial history, knows how we suffer from the fact that there are so few records. As time goes on, that lack of material will be felt more and more. During the next few months an opportunity may be missed of saving some of these documents, an opportunity which will never occur again.

Not long ago I was brought a manuscript hook which gave a list of all the colliery brigs on the coast at that time, together with their tonnages and where they were registered. I believe there are many other such documents to be found in colliery offices. I do not want to worry the Minister with this matter, but I would suggest that, perhaps, the Parliamentary Secretary who, I believe, has a record of scholarships on affinities which are famed for their respect of old things, history and the material of history, might give it his consideration.

Mr. Shinwell

I am very glad that the hon. and gallant Member for East Grinstead (Colonel Clarke) has raised the point. It may he that among the official records associated with the industry there are some very valuable documents which ought to be preserved. I have no doubt that the Board will take note of the observations he has made, and if we can assist in that direction we will certainly do so.