HL Deb 02 August 1839 vol 49 cc1140-3
Viscount Duncannon,

on moving the second reading of this Bill, said that its object was to make provision for the safe custody of the registers kept by Dissenters, and also to make them available for particular purposes. Some difficulties were experienced by the Commissioners in getting copies of registers from certain bodies of Dissenters. The great body of Dissenters had agreed to give them, but in some cases the application was met with a refusal. This was the case with the Jews, also with the Roman Catholics, who had positively declined, and also the Quakers. The latter, however, had always kept most accurate registers of the members belonging to their body, and he believed that they possessed 1,400 volumes of this register. About 7,000 registers had already been delivered in compliance with the requisitions of the commissioners. The object of this bill was, that these registers, after having been examined and properly attested by the commissioners, and deposited with the Registrar-general, should be admissible as evidence in courts of justice.

The Bishop of London

approved of the bill as far as it went to transfer all these registers into a place of safe custody; but objected to it in so far as it went to place documents which had been hitherto declared inadmissible in courts of justice, on precisely the same footing in point of admissibility as evidence, as the ancient and recognized registers of the country. An additional ground of objection, in his opinion, to the bill was, that it would give the same legal weight to copies of registries kept by dissenting bodies, but certified by the Registrar-general, as was now given to the originals of our own parish registrars, every entry in which was personally certified by the clergyman. But he had a personal objection to make as regarded the conduct of the commissioners towards him self, in regard to the registry kept under his inspection as Bishop of London. The commissioners were composed half of members of the Church of England and half of Dissenters. There was one dissenting clergyman among them, but not one clergyman of the Church of England. They had applied to all bodies in the kingdom known to have baptismal registers, to transfer them to their hands pursuant to the terms of their commissioners. From some of these they received flat refusals, while others complied with considerable hesitation. From the Jews and Roman Catholics they did not propose to take them away; but from the Bishop of London they did not hesitate to take away his register without his consent. He by no means meant to say that he would have refused, had his consent been asked; but they might at least have paid him that compliment, after the registry bad been in the keeping of the Bishop of London for a century and a half. He ought at least to have been treated with the same courtesy that had been extended to the Jews and Roman Catholics, and to dissenting bodies. With respect to the bill generally, he entertained the objections he had stated. This was a question that had hitherto only been considered by those civilians who formed the commission, and he thought it was one which the representatives of the clergy in that House ought to have an opportunity of fully considering. For so important a subject the bill was introduced at a very late period of the Session.

Lord Lyndhurst

had not had the opportunity of reading the Bill, which, however, he had understood, was for the purpose of providing a place of safe custody for these registers. If he went further, and made those registers admissible as evidence which had been pronounced by the judges inadmissible, it was very necessary that they should pause before giving their assent to such a measure when introduced at so late a period of the session, and one which noble Lords had not had time to consider.

Viscount Melbourne

observed, that no objection seemed to be raised to this bill, in so far as it went to provide a place of safe custody for the registers. The other provisions of the measure seemed to have been misunderstood. It merely enacted that the certified copy of the registry should be admitted as such; but it did not go the length of declaring that it should be admitted as valid evidence.

The Bishop of London

observed that the commission itself, as recited in the preamble, directed the commissioners to consider and advise the proper measures to be adopted for giving full force and effect as evidence in all courts of justice to all such registers as were found accurate and faithful. Surely this was a power that ought to be lodged in the judges only.

Lord Lyndhurst,

looking at the great importance of the bill, the objections raised to its main provisions, and to the fact that it had not been brought up from the other House until the 18th of July, thought it would be much better that a similar measure should next Session be introduced in their Lordships' House, when it could receive due consideration. The noble and learned Lord concluded by moving that the bill be read a second time that day three months.

The House divided on the original question:—Contents 38; Not contents 69; Majority 31.

List of the CONTENTS.
DUKE. Peterborough
Lansdowne Foley
Normanby Wrottesley
Conyngham Stanley of Alderley
Headfort Methuen
EARLS. Stuart de Decies
Effingham Dinorben
Gosford Colborne
Fingall Sudely
Craven Barham
Charlemont Mostyn
Leitrim Montfort
Ilchester Saye and Sele
Minto Poltimore
Melbourne Cottenham
Duncannon Lurgan
Lismore Byron
Falkland De Freyne
BISHOPS. Hatherton
Paired off.
Shrewsbury Caernarvon
Kentore Doneraile
Strafford Exmouth
Sherborne Bradford
Kinnaird Leven
Sefton Clare
Lovat Wallace
Camperdown Dalhousie
Sutherland Orkney
Bruce Maryborough
Carew Courtown
Yarborough Beresford
Rosebery Sydney
Petre Digby
Erroll Kenyon
Scarborough Rutland
Cloncurry Downes
Lynedoch Mountcashel
Portman Montrose
Roxburghe Selkirk
Crewe Combermere
Belhaven Eglintoun
Cork Bandon
Dormer Hood
Zetland Glenlyon
Wenlock Braybrooke
Vernon Longford
Tavistock Downshire
Berners Lonsdale
Ducie Beaufort
Bateman Rodney
Lovelace Bute
Lichfield Jersey
Albemarle Exeter
Bishop of Ely Dartmouth
Uxbridge Verulam
Somerset Buccleuch
Lilford Buckingham
Torrington Sinclair
Morley Sheffield
Brougham Wilton
Carrington Hertford
Clarendon Forester
Gardner Strangford
Seaford St. Vincent
Langdale Prudhoe
Seagrave Grantley
List of the NOT-CONTENTS.
DUKE. Gosford
Argyle Leitrim
Conyngham Minto
Headfort Chichester
EARLS. Melbourne
Ilchester Falkland
Fingall Duncannon
Effingham Lismore
Saye and Sele BISHOP.
Charlemont Chichester
LORDS. Colbourne
Lurgan Byron
De Freyne Montfort
Poltimore Mostyn
Stuart de Decies Foley
Methuen Wrottesley
Sudely Holland
Dinorben Hatherton
Stanley of Alderley Cottenham

Bill put off for three months.