§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE (Cambridge University)
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Under what circumstances the Return No. 11 (Universities Oxford and Cambridge) moved for by the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Thorold Rogers) has been assented to by the Home Office as an unopposed Return? The Return itself is of a very comprehensive and inquisitorial character; it has only appeared on the Paper to-day; and no intimation that the hon. Member intended to move for it was previously given to the Representatives of either Oxford or Cambridge University.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. CHILDERS) (Edinburgh, S.)
I am not quite sure that the term "inquisitorial," which has been used by the right hon. Gentleman, is strictly regular; but however that may be, I am very happy to tell the right hon. Gentleman all I can with reference to the Return. The application for this Return was made by my hon. Friend below the Gangway some weeks ago, and when he made it I placed myself in communication with the Vice Chancellors of the two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The communications lasted for some time, and ultimately the character of the Return was considerably modified. After I had obtained the concurrence of the two Vice Chancellors, I was not aware that it was my duty to do more than consent to the Return as an unopposed Return. If I had known that it was the custom to consult the Members for the two Universities as 108 well as the officers of the Universities, I would have been happy to do so; but I have no recollection of any previous occasion in which that was thought necessary. In my opinion, the Return itself will be an extremely useful one.
§ MR. THOROLD ROGERS (Southwark, Bermondsey)
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has stated, I asked for the Return some time ago, and I stated certain facts in connection with it. I was unaware that it was necessary to consult the Representatives of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, or I certainly should have done so, if only as a matter of common courtesy. I know that the form of the Return was submitted to the Vice Chancellors of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and that they made some emendations in it; and, under those circumstances, I moved for the Return as an unopposed Return at five minutes past 4 to-day. All I can say is, that I asked you, Sir, when I should make the Motion, and you were good enough to say that it ought to be made after the Private Business. As a dutiful Member of the House I obeyed your ruling.
§ MR. RAIKES (Cambridge University)
As to the form of this Return I will say nothing; but I will ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, Whether his attention has been called to the serious interference with the privileges of the House that may arise from the course pursued in the present case, if an hon. Member is allowed to put down a Notice one day of his intention to move for a Return, and is then, on the next Parliamentary day, to move for it as an unopposed Return, with the consent of the Department concerned? I must say that in such a case the jurisdiction of the House is altogether ousted, and the judgment of the House is precluded from being taken. I, therefore, ask my right hon. Friend whether he will not lay it down, on behalf of the Government, as a general principle, that in granting unopposed Returns, the Home Office will stipulate that a certain time must elapse, so that hon. Members who may object to them may have an opportunity of expressing their opinion?
I think the suggestion of my right hon. Friend is not an unfair one, in the case of a complicated Return like the present one; 109 but I do not think it would be necessary, as a rule, to insist on its adoption in all cases. Of course, there are many simple Returns which it may be convenient to move for at once. I may add that, although I consented to this Return, I did not know that it was to be moved for to-day.