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Orders of the Day — Third Schedule. — (Scheme for establishment of district probate registries.)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 4th May 1925.

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Photo of Mr William Greene Mr William Greene , Worcester

I beg to move, in page 24, after line 23, to insert in the second column the word "Worcester."

My chief point in moving this Amendment is not the convenience of the public, because were that so it is a point which would apply practically to every Probate Registry Office that is about to be done away with, and I would be quite prepared for the argument that if a registry were moved from A to B, the inconvenience caused to the people surrounding A would be more than made up by the advantages to the people living in the district of B; but the question here is not the transfer of a probate registry but the abolition of one. There are two reasons why I ask for special consideration for the city of Worcester, one financial and the other sentimental. With regard to the financial consideration, Worcester is in a special position. Worcester can more than pay her own way with a probate registry office. Last year the office fees amounted to £1,274, and the salaries and bonuses to only £1,117, showing a surplus of something over £150. In future, further savings can be made; the Inland Revenue authorities have taken over two-thirds of the office building, which means a saving of an odd £100, and other economies can be made to the extent of £250. That brings the total saving up to £350, and if one adds to that the surplus of fees over salaries it means that the Worcester Probate Registry would have a margin of profits over expenses of something like £500. I submit, therefore, no practical economy would be effected in closing this registry.

With regard to the question of sentiment, I would like to point out to the House that we have in the Probate Registry records dating back to the fourteenth century. Not only have we legal documents of earlier and later dates, hut we have most interesting and valuable records in connection with the cathedral, which was built in Saxon and Norman times, and which contains the tomb of one Norman king, several Saxon saints, and many Crusaders. We have guildhall records there referring to the Civil Wars, in which Worcester was particularly concerned—in the siege of Worcester and the battle of Worcester. These records are kept in a specially-built strong room. The British Records Society has thought so much of them that it has spent hundreds of pounds in arranging the collection, indexing it, and printing and publishing the indexes, which have been broadcast all over the British Empire and the United States. These records form a rich field of investigation for historians and men of letters, and I submit that it would be almost an act of vandalism to divorce the one from the other. Therefore, I would appeal to the Attorney-General not to take action which would damage the prestige of the city, and put the local population to extra trouble and expense, for the sake of a saving which in all probability will prove to be imaginary. If the Attorney-General cannot meet our wishes in this way, I would ask him to give a similar undertaking with regard to the future safeguarding of the records in the city of Worcester.