A Breviate of Parliamentary Papers, 1917-1939

A Breviate of Parliamentary Papers, 1917-1939

A Breviate of Parliamentary Papers, 1917-1939

A Breviate of Parliamentary Papers, 1917-1939

Excerpt

'The Royal Commission,' says one writer, 'is a device whereby the regular persisting governmental organism taps the surrounding substance of impartial, informed opinion in the body politic.' Blue Books are 'very often the first authentic accounts published of the actual progress of society, or the formation of those new phases with which it is the duty of legislation especially to deal.' These documents are, therefore, as essential to modern studies as classical texts are to classical studies. Yet an increasing stream of articles, catalogues and books dealing with their citation, cataloguing and contents, shows not only a growing realization of the value of the material they contain, but some inadequacy of our means of access to it. The difficulty is due partly to the numbers of the papers; in the period covered by this volume the Parliamentary documents (other than Bills) must alone amount to over ten thousand, and there are large numbers of non-Parliamentary papers as well. Partly, also, it is due to the wide range of topics covered; the subjects dealt with vary from the protection of timber from pests, or the production statistics of some industry, to the incidence and effects of the whole tax system, the principles of monetary policy, or the constitutional rules which should form the basis of the relationships of the self-governing peoples of the Commonwealth. The aim of this Breviate is to give, for the inter-war years, a full guide to the reports of the Royal Commissions and other committees of inquiry in the field of constitutional, economic, financial and social policy, and of legal administration. For each of the 1200 reports covered, there is a statement of the terms of reference, argument, conclusions and the recommendations made.

It is hoped that this Breviate will increase both the appreciation and the use of the original documents. But there is one respect in which it may have a value of its own. No one who spends a little time reading it can fail to get a comprehensive and impressive view of the dynamics of a modern society. The decline of old and the rise of new industries, changes in the strength and balance of classes, new ideas on the value of the individual, on wrong-doing, and on family and sex relationships, are continually disintegrating the old pattern of society, outmoding its machinery here and there, rendering some of its laws and sanctions harsh or inoperative. To ensure its welfare, order and happiness, society must respond with a continuous process of integration. Here we have the record of the thoughts, gropings, self-criticisms, successes and failures of a free community trying to adapt itself to changes of its inner needs and outward circumstances. The problems dealt with may be connected with the proper utilization, or the wasting of some economic resource; they may be created by the application of a new technology or of new scientific discoveries, or may arise from the attempt to develop a new ethical standard or to extend an existing standard to a new field. But there is one thing common to all these reports: the committees or commissions responsible for them have been called upon to assess, to pass judgment, to recommend. The record is the more impressive because the documents were prepared by bodies and committees which included independent experts, persons drawn from all political parties, and from those non-party men of public affairs in whom our country has been so rich. It presents a vivid picture of the contribution of our Parliamentary institutions to the solution of the problems of a free society.

In this period (1917-39), except in a few special fields, such as tariff policy or the nationalization of industry, as problem after problem comes up for examination, individuals of the most varied political background unite in making recommendations which call for some further exercise of the powers of the state.

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