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Census Bill—Bill 211

Volume 203: debated on Friday 29 July 1870

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( Mr. Secretary Bruce, Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen.)

Third Reading

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—( Mr. Secretary Bruce.)

said, he would move the re-committal of the Bill, in order to insert a new clause (Statistics of occupation and organization of labour). Had there been a full debate upon the measure, he felt sure the House would never have given its sanction to a Bill involving an expenditure of £180,000 for results of the most incomplete and unsatisfactory character. Gentlemen of the highest authority had informed him that there was scarcely a detail of the information obtained under the last Bill to be absolutely relied upon, and this was a measure almost identical in character. All the most intelligent officers connected with the Registrar General's Department were in favour of a much more extended scheme of inquiry, and if £180,000 were to be spent for Returns which few people cared for, why not spend a few thousands extra and obtain something really valuable, for the Home Secretary's only objection was on the score of expense? He wished the right hon. Gentleman would authorize him to contract with the Statistical Society for the obtaining of the information which was desired as to the position of the various classes of the people, their employment, the wages which they received, and other matters throwing light upon the moral and physical condition of the country; and he would undertake to say that they would do it for one-tenth of what it would cost the Home Secretary. In the Census Bill of 1851 some words were introduced of this nature—

"And shall also take account of all such other particulars as by the terms of the instructions which may be issued under this Act they shall be directed to inquire into."
If the right hon. Gentleman would consent to introduce some words of this kind they might be found very useful next year, when the time actually came, if there were a demand for more extensive information. He moved that the Bill be re-committed, in order to insert a new clause.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "be" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "re-committed, in order to insert a new Clause,"—( Mr. Bass,)—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

said, the inquiries which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. T. Bass) was anxious to institute were of a kind totally different from those usually made under the Census. The practice had always been for the 30,000 enumerators to distribute Census papers on a particular Saturday and to call for them again on the Monday following. The papers contained very clear instructions, and it was only in the case of persons who could not read that it was necessary for the enumerators themselves to spend any time in filling up the Returns. But what his hon. Friend required would necessitate the employment of a totally different class of officers; it could not be effected in one day; and the inquiries themselves might be conducted just as naturally in the year 1872 or 1873 as at any other time. Then, again, his hon. Friend wished to have a Return of the rate of wages paid to the persons enumerated in the Census; he proposed to obtain—

"An account of the establishments, factories' works, shops, or other properties or promises occupied for, and in connection with, each branch of industry, commerce, or manufacture, and of every farm or holding in occupation for agricultural purposes, the number of persons employed in them, whether resident or non-resident therein, with their sex and ages, distinguishing the employers from the employed, the rates of wages paid in the week preceding such enumeration to every class of labourers or artizans so employed, the agents used in the several processes of production by animals, tools, machines, or vessels, and such other particulars as, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, may exhibit the occupation of the people, and the organization of labour in England."
He (Mr. Bruce) believed it would be quite impossible to procure such information from the employers of labour, and especially to obtain accurate Returns of the wages paid. His hon. Friend, who was brewer, cooper, Member of Parliament, landed proprietor, and Heaven knew what beside, complained that the last Census was inaccurate because he was only described as a brewer; but this was scarcely fair criticism. So far from admitting that the last Census was an useless one, he contended—and he had the highest authority in support of his contention—that, though in some respects it might have been better, it was, on the whole, productive of much good.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.

Supply

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Inventions—Question

said, he rose to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government on the subject of legislation in regard to Inventions. Inquiries had been conducted by a Committee of the House of Lords in 1851, and a Royal Commission in 1863. The results were very instructive and suggestive; but the investigation had not been so thorough as many persons expected. Obstacles had stood in the way of legislating for the reward of inventors up to the present time. At the beginning of last Session he had the honour of bringing the subject before the House, and the Attorney General then said that an investigation by a Committee would be expedient. A difficulty afterwards arose about getting a Committee, and about this time 12 months he asked the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, whose absence from the House was universally regretted, whether the Government had any intention of proposing a Committee this Session. The reply of the right hon. Gentleman was this—

"If my hon. Friend were to propose a Committee in this House, it would be a very reasonable proposition, to which the Members of the Government and this House would probably agree."
At the beginning of the present Session he renewed his application to the Board of Trade, but the absence of his right hon. Friend and the pressure of work in the public offices and the House had been such that his hopes and those of the public had been sorely disappointed. A Paper was ordered to be printed at the close of last Session in which hon. Members would find testimonies to the progress of public opinion on this question on the Continent of Europe. It would be seen that since they had discussed the question last year Holland had abolished patents altogether, and Count Bismarck, as Chancellor of the North German Confederation, had presented a State Paper in which he urged their abolition. He (Mr. Macfie) occupied a medium place between the two parties—the one contending that rewards for inventions should be continued in the shape of monopolies, and the other that patents should be abolished altogether and free trade introduced. He believed it was possible to take a middle course, beneficial to the nation and to inventors, by establishing a system of rewards, but in such a way that there should be no exclusive privilege. He wished to ask, Whether the Government were prepared next Session to propose the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the operation of the Law of Patents for inventions, or, if not disposed themselves to do so, whether they would assist any private Member who wished to move for such a Committee?

said, the Government did not find themselves prepared to shift materially the ground they took last Session. They admitted at once the difficulties and disadvantages connected with the present state of the law in regard to patents, but they had not been able, as a body, to arrive — nor did he think the public had arrived — at any such clear conviction as to the mode of dealing with that law as would justify them in introducing a measure for remedying its defects or substituting for it a better system. Though his hon. Friend (Mr. Macfie) entertained a decided opinion as to the practicability of substituting State reward for the present system of public reward, yet he (Mr. Gladstone) doubted whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been able to see his way to the working of such a system, which must involve a heavy demand upon the public purse. The experience of Government Departments was that there was the extremest difficulty in dealing with inventions or with claims to them; and if once inventions came to be made the subject of premiums to be drawn out of the public purse, he was afraid that universal confusion would result. The Government were under an obligation, as a general rule, not to move for a Committee on a particular branch of the law, unless they were prepared to take the lead in directing its investigations, and make proposals which, in the main and in principle, they thought adequate to the solution of the question. The Government did not feel themselves to be in a position to do that; but if his hon. Friend (Mr. Macfie), or any other hon. Gentleman, was desirous of conducting such an inquiry, they certainly would not throw any obstacle in his way, but would heartily wish him well in his endeavour.