HC Deb 23 February 1871 vol 204 cc777-80

Order for Third Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


said, that in consequence of the question of clerical Fellowships not having been raised on the bringing up of the Report, the only means of re-opening the question now would be to re-commit the Bill for new clauses to be inserted; but, after consideration, he, and those who thought with him, came to the conclusion that it would not be wise on their part to resort to a course so unusual, because Her Majesty's Government having stated that their decision upon this point was irrevocable, a majority against them would be tantamount to throwing out the Bill for this Session. But, in listening to the Government on this point for the present, he by no means admitted the distinction drawn by the Solicitor Gene- ral between the abuses the Bill corrected and the abuses connected with clerical Fellowships; and he had no doubt that when these and other matters connected with the Universities came to be dealt with in the future, with the object of bringing the Universities as far as possible within the reach of the greatest possible number of the population, the majority of the House would have occasion once more to condemn the piecemeal legislation of its predecessors.


said, he would not stop to inquire whether the hon. Member (Mr. Fawcett) was right in his calculation, that if he had reproduced his proposition it would have been supported by a majority; but he was bound to say that all the rumours he had heard led to a very different conclusion. But whether the hon. Member would have been supported by a majority or a minority, on either supposition he had exercised, a wise discretion. He wished to remove two misapprehensions under which the hon. Gentleman laboured. He appeared to think he (Mr. Gladstone) had laid down a doctrine that the House of Commons was bound, when the House of Lords in one Session referred a Bill to a Select Committee, to send up to their Lordships the same Bill again in another Session. Now, in discussing that measure, he had invariably said that every independent Member of the House was perfectly free to take whatever course he thought politic and right, and that the restriction which he held to apply to their action applied to the Executive Government alone. Then the hon. Gentleman said that by the rejection of his Amendment they retained clerical Fellowships. That, he thought, was not an accurate description of the matter. When he placed that subject on the comparatively narrow ground of the position they stood in with reference to the House of Lords and to the parties promoting the Bill, he forewent a very great advantage. Without meaning to be disrespectful, he said that, as far as the University of Oxford was concerned, if the first Amendment had been adopted, it would have been entirely nugatory. He did not believe that upon the statutes of the University it would have had the smallest effect, good, bad, or indifferent. As to the second Amendment, he did not hesitate to congratulate the House upon its escape from it. It would have confirmed and aggravated the greatest abuse in the two Universities—namely, the existence of sinecure Fellowships, permanently held—a great stain, unquestionably, upon those institutions. Now, the obligation of taking Orders, whatever else might be said of it, as a practical measure, had the effect of making many Fellowships terminate at an early period, thereby preventing the multiplication and extension of those sinecure Fellowships held without limit of time. The hon. Gentleman might urge that it was not a satisfactory mode of restraining that evil to impose the obligation of taking Orders, nor did he himself say it was; but he said the second Amendment would have aggravated one of the greatest abuses in the Universities, and earnest academical reformers, chiefly resident members of the Universities, abstained from recommending that proposition because they knew it would not improve, but worsen, their system in regard to the tenure of Fellowships. As to religious instruction and worship, the effect of that Amendment, though probably not its intention, would have been to remove all certain provision whatever for the maintenance even of divine worship in the college chapels of the two Universities. Both he and his learned Friend the Solicitor General thought the question of Fellowships ought not to be allowed to sleep. The tenure of Fellowships was not a thing to be dealt with by a stroke of the pen. It was an old system, fortified by a number of conditions, which must be studied as a whole. Let them detach, if they could, the question of religious tests from that of general legislation upon Fellowships. But, first of all, they would watch the fate of that measure in "another place." If it met with the success they hoped for, they would then apply themselves to considering what practical measures they could best take—whether by the authority of the Executive, or by invoking the aid of Parliament—for placing the Legislature and the Government in a position to deal effectively with the subject of Fellowships, and make the great and noble endowments of the colleges in their Universities as efficient as possible for the purposes for which they were intended. That promise that the subject should not be overlooked he freely gave to all who took an interest in it.


desired that the part he took on the measure might not be misunderstood. He much regretted that his right hon. Friend (Mr. S. Walpole), who had intended to be there that evening, was prevented from being present by another loss sustained by his family, in addition to the one that previously occurred. For himself, he did not assent to the doctrines of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, who proposed that the same Bill as was sent up last year should now be submitted to the House of Lords; and if he did not now oppose that proceeding, he must hold himself quite free to take any course he might think fit as to any Bill on that subject which might be introduced in a future Session. He should be very glad, indeed, if the question could be settled in such a way as to provide proper securities for religious teaching and discipline in the Universities, which the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted in principle to be desirable. As the Bill now stood, however, it did not provide those securities; and if it came before the House again in the same shape as it now stood, or near it, he should be prepared to resist it.


explained that if he had carried his Amendment on Monday, he would have followed it up by a clause providing that no one, because he was in Holy Orders, should hold a Fellowship longer than if he were a layman.

Bill read the third time, and passed.