HC Deb 03 June 1946 vol 423 cc1765-6

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. HUBERT BEAUMONT in the Chair]

Clause 1.—Power of Trustees to arrange for exhibition of Magna Carta in Library of Congress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

12.3 a.m.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

I want to remind the Committee of the discussion in another place on the question of spelling as between Magna " Carta " and Magna " Charta."I suggest that there is no reason why, since all kinds of deeds and documents have been signed from time to time in relation to this great Charter, the spelling should have to be changed now by Act of Parliament. We find in the Court Rolls of 1273, which is a fairly remote and substantial authority, that the spelling is " Magna Charta." Why the aspirate should be such an offence to another place I do not know; but their Lordships decided that the offending letter should he eliminated from the spelling. Again, I find that in 1630 Ben Jonson, who had the credit of spelling the English language best in his own time, used the aspirate. I find, still further, the aspirate used in 1643 and 1686. In the Oxford Dictionary, which gives authorities dating back to 1536, the first spelling includes the aspirate. For those reasons I contend it is improper that the spelling of the title of a document that contains so much of the history and the story of this Island should be changed. All the series of volumes which deal with the spelling of the word down the centuries, at all events from the middle of the 16th century, include the aspirate. I will not keep the Committee more than a few minutes but I think care should be exercised in dealing with a question of the orthography of an historic name which has made its mark not merely in the story of these islands but in the story of freedom throughout the whole world. I do not see why this inoffensive aspirate should be eliminated. We had an eloquent dissertation from no less a person that the Lord Chancellor supported by various other eminent Members of their Lordships' House, all of whom spent considerable time in dealing this vicious blow to a harmless letter which is part of the English language, I submit that before this Clause is ordered to stand part of the Bill there should be some protest on record against the indiscriminate way in which the aspirate in this case has been dealt with in another place.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without Amendment; read a Third time, and passed, without Amendment.