HC Deb 04 May 1894 vol 24 cc335-61

Bill, as amended, considered.

* MR. WEBB (Waterford, W.)

said, that this Bill, to Section 6 of which he and others objected, had been approved and amended, after full and patient consideration, by a competent Committee upstairs. It had the support of the heads of the University as well as the Corporation of Cambridge, and the Committee could scarcely have done otherwise than pass it back to the House. It was in no spirit of opposition to them—with no desire to call in question their labours or judgment—that he now felt bound to Strive to amend their work. The Committee had to do with details. The House had to do with general principles and to guard individual rights against what might be the wishes of localities, unless they were shown very good reason for letting those wishes prevail. It would be beside the present question to retort that many of them admitted individual rights would be better guarded if the guarding power was not so centralised as at present. They had to deal with the constitution of affairs, and under that constitution they were driven to take up the precious time of this Assembly with the consideration of what at first sight was a trivial, but which was in truth an important, matter. The Bill had to do with Cambridge University jurisdiction over persons and entertainments, with corporate control over bridges, commons, markets and fairs, public-houses, health, and so forth. It would doubtless be beneficial in many respects—in no one more so than where it sought to repeal rights over persons conferred in Queen Elizabeth's reign—entirely out of keeping with our present conceptions of liberty. To one section only did they object—that by which 6 Geo. IV., c. 97, sec. 3, modifying 5 Geo. IV., c. 83, sec. 3 at present applying in Oxford was sought to be applied to Cambridge. They would desire the repeal regarding Oxford of this modification, and they strenuously opposed its extension to Cambridge under 5 Geo. IV., c. 83, sec. 3— Every common prostitute wandering in the public streets or public highways or in any place of public resort, behaving in a riotous or indecent manner might, upon conviction, be committed to the House of Correction, there to be kept to hard labour for any term not exceeding one calendar month. He (Mr. Webb), and those who were acting with him, had no objection whatever to this clause. It was reasonable that women as well as men behaving in a riotous or indecent manner should be arrested and punished. The modification consisted in omitting the words— Behaving in a riotous and indecent manner. The clause would stand— Every common prostitute and night walker found wandering in any public walk, street, or highway, within the precincts of the said University, and not giving a satisfactory account of herself, shall be deemed an idle and disorderly person, "&c," and may be apprehended and dealt with accordingly. They strenuously objected to putting it in the power of any underling of the University to charge any woman with being a prostitute and to hale her to prison. The following extract from a local paper would show that in the estimation of some the power had not always been fairly exercised in Oxford. Indeed it was most unlikely that such irresponsible power could be exercised without abuse. "An Oxford Citizen" wrote in The Oxford Chronicle of February 13, 1892— I wish to draw the attention of your readers seriously to the tyranny and cruelty practised by the University towards girls in our midst. If a girl has ever lapsed from the path of virtue, or if the bulldogs, no fair judges, believe so, she has no liberty, no peace. She dare not appear in the street or wait for a public conveyance without risk of being seized by the University spies, when, as a matter of course, she is sent to prison. Our girls are systematically watched by these bulldogs, and notes taken of all their acts, which in the not too impartial imagination of these men are believed to indicate that they are loose women. Nothing is said at first about these things, but they are recorded; and should a poor girl be seized and taken before the Vice-Chancellor, then out they come on oath, with the 'date of each, after months, or even years from their occurrence, when the poor girl no longer has any chance of showing that they are true or false. The affair is always so hurried that the girl has no chance of getting legal help, which, also, she is generally too poor to do, and so, without any cross-examination, the statements of these follows are received as gospel by the Vice Chancellor and other University Dons eager to send her to gaol. The Courts being held at irregular intervals, the presence of reporters is not always assured. If they can prove that ever in her life she has done a questionable act, she is at their mercy, and all liberty to move about in our streets is denied her. What would men say if the same judgment were meted out to them? If it was right that such powers should be conferred upon constables in Cambridge, they should not be withheld from constables all over the Kingdom. Why should Oxford and Cambridge be specially singled out from other University towns in England, in Scotland, and in Ireland? The young men in Universities were better watched and guarded than the young men outside their walls. If such legislation were necessary regarding University towns, it would be more necessary in large cities where young men were free from the vigilance of proctors and their "bulldogs." The principles embodied in this proposed section received by implication the strongest condemnations from this House, when the Contagious Diseases Acts wore repealed. He and his friends objected on principle to such legislation as affecting only one sex, and it was somewhat of a comment on the capacity of men under all circumstances to represent the interests of women that this Bill should have passed so far entirely unchallenged, and that it would most probably now pass unchallenged but for the vigilance of some ladies who had brought it under the notice of certain Members of the House. The proposal was on the face of it specious. The objection to it was that which lay against most legislation of an autocratic or a paternal character. The purpose was apparently effected, but at the cost of a harmful infringement of general principles. Such autocratic legislation might lead to certain apparent benefits, but at the expense of diminution of respect for law and individual rights. Prostitution was fed mainly by the want amongst men of proper respect for women. Laws such as this applied to women and not to men tended to foster such want of respect. Women suffered in many ways. They were left unprotected and at the mercy of designing men, who often escaped without punishment for the most heinous crimes, because it would not be possible under all circumstances to guard women without laying innocent men open to ruin from damning accusations. Men must on their side be content to look out for themselves, and by cultivating high principle and resisting temptation to shield themselves from evil lest the law in too closely attempting to shield them should leave innocent women open in like manner to unjust suspicions and damning accusations. Constables were by no means perfect instruments. They too often had a fatal propensity to stick to and justify charges once mad\e—a fatal esprit de corps in supporting each other. Temptation should not be placed in their way. Mistakes would be made in the future as they had been made in the past, and it was much to be doubted that in the past they knew all or the worstcases. What more efficient instrument for blackmailing women could they place within the reach of any man than a provision such as that they were considering? Many a poor girl would part with her last penny sooner than let it be known, even to those nearest to her, that an accusation, however falsely, had been made regarding her chastity. The poorer the most defenceless classes of women, those whose avocations might oblige them to be out alone perhaps at night, would be most likely to suffer. The freedom that women, young and old, in these countries enjoyed as compared to the freedom accorded them on the Continent was largely due to the absence here of legislation such as that they were considering. Objectionable as such a law would be in any University town it was especially to be condemned in Cambridge, because of the large number of young women studying at Girton and Newnham. This consideration especially came home to such of them as had relatives and friends at one or other of these Colleges. The complacency with which such legislation was regarded by many was illustrative of the degree to which the law esteemed property—more sacred than person. What would more tend to morality than the suppression of houses of ill-fame, most of which were well known to the police? Regarding them suspicion counted for nothing. Proof, most difficult of attainment, was demanded. Lest the rights of property should be infringed, such houses were permitted to continue centres of the worst social degradation of the worst forms of immorality, whilst under this Bill suspicion alone would be sufficient ground for depriving a woman of her liberty—sufficient ground for condemning her to hard labour and blasting her reputation for life. The proceedings at the Women's Liberal Association two days ago would show how thoughtful women regarded the Bill. A document he held in his hand, signed by the Countess of Carlisle, President of the Federation, on May 2, set forth— The Council of the Women's Liberal Federation, nearly 900 strong, and representing 76,000 women, have to-day passed a resolution condemnatory of the unjust and demoralising enactment proposed to be introduced by Clause 6 of the Cambridge Corporation Bill. They consider it unconstitutional, as putting the burden of proof upon the accused, and open to arbitrary and capricious interpretation for want of legal definitions of all the terms employed. The resolution carried was as follows:— That this Council is of opinion that the special jurisdiction as exercised over women at the University towns—Oxford and Cambridge—is both degrading and unjust, and calls for its immediate abolition, and, further, views with alarm the proposed Bill now before the House of Commons, which will give to the proctors and police in Cambridge authority to arrest any woman who is merely walking in the streets, and whom they choose to consider of immoral character, and will render any such woman liable to imprisonment with hard labour as an idle and disorderly person, unless she can give a satisfactory account of herself. This Council, therefore, earnestly hopes that such exceptional and unconstitutional legislation may be rejected by the House of Commons, and that all such cases may be left to the ordinary law. Such legislation would defeat its object, and might in the long run intensify the evils it was meant to restrain. He believed that the provisions of the ordinary law, if properly enforced, were sufficient to meet the necessities of the case, and that exceptional legislation was undesirable. Under the ordinary law a woman who was disorderly could be punished; but to pass an exceptional law by which a woman might be imprisoned for merely walking in the street is to create a new offence, and to give a dangerous power to the proctors and policemen which must be extremely liable to abuse. Men must learn to respect all women as they respected their own relatives. They must bend their souls to that chastity which was possible, and was to be demanded of them as it was universally acknowledged to be possible and was demanded of women. He begged to move the omission of Clause 6 of the Bill.

Amendment proposed, in page 7, to leave out Clause 6.—(Mr. Webb.)

Question proposed, "That Clause 6 stand part of the Bill."

MR. W. LONG (Liverpool, West Derby)

said, they had been told that when no opposition was offered the Committee upstairs did not go into the general principles of Bills of this kind. He could assure the House that this was an incorrect description of the method which the Committee pursued. The Government Departments reported upon the Bills, and in some cases recommended changes and in other cases called the attention of the Committee to any exceptional proposals, and asked that they should consider them and accept responsibility. When no objection or comment was made by the Departments the Committee all the same went through the Bills clause by clause, and if matters affecting general principles were contained therein they did not pass them without due consideration. In this instance the Home Office made no Report to the Committee, and they formed the opinion that there was no objection to the proposals of the Bill. Notwithstanding that fact, they were alive to the fact that changes were to be made in the law in this particular case. The attention of the Committee was called by counsel to the fact that the law of Cambridge was to be altered and brought into conformity with that existing in the Sister University town of Oxford. The Committee, therefore, were well aware of what was proposed to be done, and what he wished to tell the House before they proceeded to the further consideration of the matter was that the hon. Gentleman was not correct when he said that the Committee did not consider on their merits the Bills brought before them, even if the Departments did not criticise them. This was an un- opposed Bill, not criticised by the Government Department concerned, and brought before the Committee as one which had been agreed upon by the Corporation and the University authorities. It proposed to repeal an Act which gave special powers to the University of Cambridge, and to confer on the University town the same powers that Oxford possessed. He would not deal with the matter from the point of view of either the Corporation or the University, because both had competent Representatives in the House. He had only risen for the purpose of stating what were the facts in regard to the proceedings before the Committee of which he was Chairman, and to assure the House that whether their action was right or wrong it was taken with their eyes open and with a perfect knowledge of the proposals that Were being made. He hoped the House would bear this in mind in coming to any decision upon this question adverse to the opinion of the Committee upstairs—that they would destroy the arrangement which had boon come to between the University authorities and the Corporation, which, in the opinion of the Committee, substituted for the present provisions others which were more equitable and certainly were not calculated to lead to the abuses which were feared by the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment.


said, be wished to congratulate the Mover of the Amendment upon the temperate speech which he had made concerning this very thorny and unpleasant subject. He would, however, recall the attention of the House to the facts of the case with which they were dealing. Some hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that this was a Rill for conferring further powers upon the University authorities of Cambridge. That was not so. In fact, the Bill took away powers from the University authorities—powers which the town thought ought to be removed out of their hands. The history of the Bill was a very long one, and he would not go into the Charters of Queen Elizabeth or Henry VIII., or the numerous old Statutes referring to the University, but simply remind the House that this question had been before them on several previous occasions. In 1892 the Member for Cambridge introduced a Bill dealing with the topic which met the fate that private Members' Bills, even in those early days, used to meet and which he was afraid they would meet more frequently in the future. He wished to point out, in justice to the Mover of this Amendment and to the hon. Member for Crowe, that that Bill which was introduced in February, 1892, had in it a clause providing that Clause 28 of the Town Police Act, 1847, should for the purposes of its application in the town of Cambridge have effect as if it provided that every common prostitute loitering or being in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution or solicitation, &c, and that that Bill was backed by the hon. Member for Crowe.

MR. W. M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)

Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that that is the same provision as is in the Bill now?


said, he had said nothing of the sort. Before he touched on the genesis of the Bill, he wished, in reference to the Resolution which the hon. Member (Mr. Webb) had read as being passed by the Women's Federation, that he saw from The Standard newspaper that there were two ladies present, before whose name the word "Cambridge" was inserted, who were opposed to that resolution. This Bill was a compromise. Ever since the Bill of 1892 there had been a Joint Committee composed of the Council of the Senate of the University of Cambridge and a Committee of the Corporation of the borough, and they had sat frequently and at great length, and had threshed out all these matters. The committee was composed, so far as the town was concerned, of members of both political Parties, who considered that for the welfare of the town and its inhabitants this compromise was advisable. Over and over again the town had objected to the University authorities possessing these exceptional powers. He did not say that they had not been exercised with discretion; but the town objected to them, and he asked the House not to spoil the Bill by agreeing to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman.

DR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)

asked whether the powers exercised under Section 6 did not still remain with the University authorities?


said, no; they did not in his opinion and in the opinion of the Joint Committee. It was, of course, within the power of the House to throw this Bill out or to amend it in any way it liked, but he would ask whether it was not better in these days of local self-government and management of local affairs at home to assume that the Local Authorities were the best judges of local requirements and of the best way of dealing with this difficult and irritating and unpleasant question? It would, he thought, be impossible to take out any part of the compromise without rendering the Bill unacceptable to either the University authorities or to the Corporation. The Bill, if passed, would reduce to a minimum a grave cause of friction which had existed for a long time between the town and the University, and he asked the House, on behalf of the town, not to reject this Bill, or to so mutilate it that neither Party could accept it. The modus vivendi had been arranged, and all they asked was that the House should sanction it, so that the decency and morality of the town could be preserved. He hoped the Amendment would not be agreed to, and that the House would pass the Bill in the form in which it left the Committee upstairs.

* MR. JEBB (Cambridge University)

said, his hon. Friend the Member for toe Borough of Cambridge had set forth the case for this Bill from the point of view of the town. He wanted to say a few words from the point of view of the University. First, as to the new powers given under this Bill. The law now in force was exercised under the powers of the Elizabethan Charter. The University proctors had power to arrest persons suspected of evil who came or resorted to the town; but it was proposed to abolish that power by Clause 5 of the Bill. The powers proposed by the Bill to be conferred upon the police enabled them to arrest any persons of presumably bad character found wandering in the public thoroughfares who could not give a satisfactory account of themselves; but such powers were to be exercised under peril of an action for false imprisonment if a person should be wrongly arrested. These powers existed at Oxford, and worked satisfactorily. The Bill also proposed to confer a similar power upon the proctors, who in this respect were to be placed upon precisely the same footing as the police, and who would have no more powers than the police. Thus the large and ancient powers of the proctors, under the Elizabethan Charter, were abolished, and the local law was brought nearer to the general law of the country. The Vice Chancellor's Court and the Spinning House were to be abolished, and persons arrested would be tried before the ordinary Court, which was the Bench of Borough Magistrates. The result of the proposed change would be that the law of Cambridge, although brought nearer to the ordinary law of the country, would still go somewhat beyond it, inasmuch as a policeman or proctor could arrest a woman found in a public thoroughfare whom they suspected to be of immoral character, even if she was not guilty of riotous or indecent behaviour. There were precedents for variation of powers in the police laws in different localities. For instance, the Edinburgh Act of 1879 conferred power on the police to arrest a woman for loitering or importuning.

MR. HOPWOOD (Lancashire, S. E., Middleton)

Does it not go on to say "for the purposes of prostitution"?.


said, that in the case of the proposed Cambridge law, an immoral purpose would indeed be presumed by the officer making an arrest, but the presumption would be made at his own peril. He would now go on to say a few words about the reasons which, in their opinion, existed for conferring special powers, which, if this Bill passed, would be peculiar to Cambridge along with Oxford. The first was the position of the students in the University towns of Oxford and Cambridge. These students were young and inexperienced men, freshly released from the discipline and restriction of school life, who, in the Universities, enjoyed a certain measure of independence, and who, from their position as young men enjoying that measure of liberty, tended to attract to Oxford and Cambridge numbers of women of bad character. Some of the students formed an easy prey for such persons, if due precautions were not taken. The number of students in Cambridge was usually about 3,000, and the total population of the town at the last Census was under 37,000. It would be seen, therefore, how large a fraction the students formed of the population, and it was easy to understand that women of bad character would be attracted to the town, not only from the surrounding country, but from London. The responsibility of the University authorities was not merely as to the teaching of the students, but as to their conduct and morals. They were bound to prevent as far as possible undue temptation from being thrown in the way of the undergraduates; it was a duty they owed not only to the students, but to the parents of the students, and, above all, to the nation at large. What more serious evil could there be than that the undergraduates in a University town should be exposed to the temptations which some Loudon streets presented daily and nightly? Why was the ordinary law insufficient? Under the ordinary law a woman could not be apprehended unless she were guilty of disorderly or indecent conduct, or unless solicitation could be proved against her. But women of bad character might be perfectly quiet in their external behaviour and might abstain from open solicitation, yet their presence in the public places might constitute a temptation just as much as though they were guilty of solicitation or disorderly conduct. If Cambridge were left under the ordinary powers of the police nothing could be more certain than that there would be a great influx of women of loose character from London. Could the House contemplate with satisfaction the prospect of the principal streets in Cambridge resembling certain streets in London? Nothing could be more disastrous to education in the University. Under the Elizabethan Charter the powers of the proctors were greater than they were under this Bill. To say that the mere walking in the streets would be constituted an offence was to presume that the law would be administered without discretion, intelligence, or ordinary caution; and it must be remembered that the proctors and constables would exercise their exceptional powers at their own peril. During the last two years, while these negotiations had been going on, there had been a marked deterioration in the state of the streets of Cambridge. This had been noticed, not only by members of the University, but by the Borough Council itself; and the towns- people were just as anxious as the University that this Bill should pass into law. The Mayor of Cambridge called a public meeting under the Borough Funds Act, at which the clauses of the Bill were gone through, and Clause 6 was adopted practically unanimously. Clause 6 was a vital part of the Bill, and if it were rejected the Bill would be withdrawn. The measure, which settled so many controversies between the town and the University, would be wrecked, and the state of things which existed two years ago would be brought back again. It was not to be supposed that the University would acquiesce in the withdrawal of all control in such an important matter as this. He appealed to the wisdom and common sense of the House not to allow the action of well-meaning and sincere, but ill-advised and ill-regulated, zeal to defeat a measure which protected the interests of morality, and consequently the interests of the country at large.

MR. W. M'LAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)

said, before he replied briefly to the speeches of the hon. Members who had spoken, he should like to say a word in reference to the proceedings of the Committee which considered the Bill. He had to complain that they had been marked by a diversion from the course they pursued in former years when it was their custom when they passed a Bill whose provisions were in excess of the ordinary law, to send in a Report explaining their reasons for allowing it to go through. He believed that the Standing Order under which this Committee was constituted specifically required that they should send in such a Report, and he complained that they had violated that Regulation. That Committee did not receive the usual instruction when they were applied this Session, because it was found that the Standing Orders met the requirements of the case. He could find no Report of that Committee, and they had merely reported the Bill to the House as amended. They had had no reason given to them why they should accept this legislation. The proceedings altogether of the Committee on this Bill were exceedingly brief. He had read the shorthand report of what took place, and while it was true that the counsel in charge of the Bill mentioned this matter, and that the Committee examined the Mayor and the Vice Chancellor, all that was said was that there was practically no opposition to the Bill. The speeches of the hon. Member for Cambridge and the hon. Member for Cambridge University showed a discrepancy in this respect. It was quite evident from the speech of the hon. Member for the University that it was the University and not the town that was standing out for this provision. The town of Cambridge was willing to accept the clause in the Bill of 1891. He certainly backed that Bill, and he was willing to stand by the clause of 1891 now, and always was willing to stand by it, and perhaps the best thing would be that the Bill should be recommitted for the substitution of that clause. He supposed the hon. Member for Cambridge University would support a Motion of that sort. But in addition to that, to show the feeling of the Corporation on the matter, he might say that he had seen more than one letter from the Mayor of Cambridge, stating that the Liberal Members of the Council objected to this particular clause, and that it was forced upon them by the University. It was, in fact, a price which had been wrung out of the town by the University.


In a question of arbitration you cannot speak of anything having been forced on you. The clause was agreed to in consideration of something else.


said, he had already-stated that it was a price that the town had to pay, and he thought it was a very high price indeed; and it exhibited the terrorism which the University had exercised when the Mayor of Cambridge said that if this Bill was not accepted now they would be unable to do anything more for a generation. The whole public opinion of the country, as well as of the town of Cambridge, was opposed to the special powers which existed under the Charter of Elizabeth; and to tell the House that this Bill would be withdrawn if the House exercised its prerogative, or to say that nothing could be done again for a generation, was to attempt to impose upon their credulity. While ho was as anxious as the hon. Member for the University of Cambridge to do everything that was reasonable to protect the morals of the students, he believed that the necessity of the case would be met by the acceptance of the clause which was in the Cambridge Corporation Bill of three years ago, and which the Corporation themselves believed was amply adequate. This Bill deviated from the ordinary law in respect of Clause 6. He maintained that the ordinary law would meet all the necessities of the case if rigorously enforced. Women were already liable to be arrested for solicitation and for disorderly conduct under the Common Law, but he submitted that, however bad a character she might be, a woman who was walking peaceably and in a quiet manner along the street was as much entitled to be there as any other woman, or any man. That was a Constitutional principle from which the House was now asked to depart for the supposed benefit of Cambridge undergraduates, who presumably were not sufficiently strong-minded to look after themselves. Assuredly it was a very dangerous course to take to re-enact in the present state of public opinion an old and practically obsolete law of George IV. They were told that a provision of that clause was in operation at Oxford, but he hoped if ever the Corporation of that place came to Parliament with a Private Bill on any subject they would be able to strike at that clause. He had in his hand a letter from a doctor of 30 years' standing in Oxford whose name he was willing to give privately to the hon. Member for Cambridge, in which he said, as the result of his practical observation, that the operation of the clause at Oxford was most injurious. He was frequently consulted by young women employés in shops and other business establishments, and when he told them that what they needed was more exercise—[A laugh.] He could not understand that laugh; it said exceedingly little for the tone of mind and temper of hon. Members opposite that they should sneer and jeer at honest young women who were working in shops, and for whose health exercise was needed. To return to the letter, the writer informed him that when he advised these young persons to take more exercise, they replied that they dared not go into the streets of an evening because the Universities authorities were constantly on the look-out to run them in. This system afforded opportunities for blackmail, because any honest young woman, rather than have her character blasted for life by being run in, would pay any demand made upon her for money. He submitted that women should be as free as other citizens. A Memorial had been signed by ladies whose sons were undergraduates at Oxford stating that they did not desire at the expense of the women of Cambridge to have this exceptional legislation, even for the benefit of their sons; while the resolution of the Women's Liberal Federation, supported as it was by some 900 ladies interested in public and political affairs, ought to carry great weight with the House, He therefore urged the House to abolish this special legislation, which was not needed for young men anywhere else. His own University at Edinburgh did not want it, although there were more students there than in Cambridge; the University of Glasgow did not want it, and the University College of London did not want it. He refused to believe that the young men of Cambridge were less moral than those of any other town; they were able to take care of themselves, and, if strenuously enforced, as it would be, the ordinary law was amply sufficient to meet the case.


As time is precious, and as I think the case has been extremely well stated from both sides upon this matter, I hope the House will now come to a decision. I do not rise to speak on behalf of the Government, or to exert any influence upon others, but what I owe to the University of Cambridge and to Cambridge generally forbids my being silent on this occasion. I speak my own sentiments and those of the Home Secretary. This question, as between the town and University of Cambridge has, to my certain knowledge, been a subject of very painful and injurious dispute for a great many years. The jurisdiction of the University of Cambridge was founded upon a very ancient Charter, and it was a jurisdiction which was much resented by the town of Cambridge. That was natural enough, but now I understand that the University and town of Cambridge have come to a unanimous accord as to how this question shall be settled. They desire a settlement upon a footing which both consider advantageous to the community. The hon. Gentleman has raised some question as to whether the town really does desire this clause, but I can myself take no opinion on that subject, except the official statement on the part of the Corporation which represents the town. It is said that this is exceptional legislation. So, in a certain sense, it is, unquestionably, but the University towns are in an exceptional position. I know something of University towns—I know a good deal of Cambridge, and I used to be at Oxford—and I am, therefore, entitled to express my own opinion on the subject. I say that in my belief, as in the belief of the towns themselves, they require exceptional provisions and exceptional protection. If you are to attach any weight whatever to local opinion and local government, you ought to listen to the voice both of the Universities and of the towns of Cambridge and Oxford. That voice should carry with it much more weight than the voice of individual Members, who probably had never belonged to either Oxford or Cambridge. A Select Committee of the House has approved the special clause inserted in the Bill, and I am satisfied that if the Corporation and those who represent the interests of Oxford have, as the hon. Member suggests, been dissatisfied with the law which has prevailed there for many years, they would not have left it to a single doctor to write about it, but would have taken very active measures to get rid of a state of things of which they did not approve. These are the reasons which influence me—I speak for myself alone—in supporting the provisions of the Bill. I think they are very reasonable provisions. The settlement of this long-disputed question between the University of Cambridge and the town is very desirable, and the House will, I think, do well to approve the Bill.

* MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)

said, he very much regretted that he had not had an opportunity of speaking before the Leader of the House, because he had desired to make to the right hon. Gentleman an appeal which he now feared it was too late to make. But he would oven now appeal to the Member for Cambridge and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University. The hon. Member for Cambridge had spoken of this as a compromise between the town and the University, but he had not pretended that that was an all-sufficient reason for agreeing to this particular clause, although the unusual course had been taken of threatening to withdraw the Bill unless the clause was retained in it. But all that sank into insignificance after the speech of the Leader of the House. He regretted that speech. There was an extension of the Criminal Law, and the doctrine of his right hon. Friend was Home Rule on a petty scale run mad. His doctrine was that the inhabitants of a borough were the best judges of what Criminal Law they desired for themselves, and that it was for the House to accept their judgment. What they wanted was a Contagious Diseases Act for the University and town of Cambridge, and if that was to be the policy of the Government he ventured to tell them that they had undertaken a very serious resonsibility with regard to their supporters, both in the House and in the country. He objected, and always had objected, to this insidious method of legislation by Private Bills, which could be promoted by persons in authority in any small locality, and which often resulted in changes of the Criminal Law of the country. What had been proposed by the authorities of the town and accepted by the authorities of the University was now the unanimous agreement of the town and University. It was desired that the position of Cambridge should be assimilated to the state of affairs which had existed in Oxford to the satisfaction of the University and the town for a great number of years. They did not ask for a new experiment to be made in legislation. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had said they were going to extend the Criminal Law. They were going to do nothing of the kind. They were going to mitigate the law as it at present existed in the University of Cambridge. The provision to which exception was taken said— Every common prostitute and night walker found wandering in any public street or highway not giving a satisfactory account of herself shall be deemed to be an idle and disorderly person. The law would apply not to every woman who walked about the street, but only to such persons as, when apprehended, could be proved to be common prostitutes and night walkers.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

Is that before they are apprehended or after?


said, that if any proctor or constable took upon himself to apprehend a person who did not satisfy the definition of the Act of Parliament, he was liable to an action for false imprisonment. ["Oh, oh!"] He quite understood from the interruption of the hon. Member for Northampton and the jeers of other hon. Members that there was a section of the House who believed in the objection to which expression had been given by the hon. Member for Crewe, on the authority of an anonymous medical gentleman, that the civil population of Cambridge resented this kind of interference with their liberty. But they did not. He was very familiar with this kind of objection, because it was one he had constantly heard, years ago, in discussions that took place in the House respecting the Contagious Diseases Acts. No Contagions Diseases Act had ever been in force in Oxford or in Cambridge. But the Contagious Diseases Acts were in force in Chatham, a town he represented for 17 years, and he had frequently been told by the inhabitants of that town that the operation of those Acts had such an effect in clearing the streets of improper characters that their daughters could walk out at night without the danger they incurred before. It was curious how hon. Gentlemen opposite sometimes appealed to local wishes and sometimes scouted them. If they acted on local wishes they would pass this Bill. If they took upon themselves to override local self-government and to regulate Cambridge according to the views of the hon. Member for Crewe, then they would accept the Amendment.


—[Cries of "Divide!"]—said, it was rather remarkable that, whilst hon. Members opposite were not very loth to waste the time of the House on other occasions, whenever there was a proposal to restrict or an attack on the liberty of individuals, they shouted "Divide, divide!" The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had hardly mended the case of his friends. He had given as a reason why they ought to pass the Bill that it would produce the same effect in Cambridge as the Contagious Diseases Acts produced in the towns which were under those Statutes. He (Mr. Labouchere) wanted the House to understand the meaning of the clause. It was difficult to find out what it meant, as the copies of the Bill in the Bill Officio were exhausted, but it was admitted that it was a compromise. It was a compromise between the University of Cambridge and the town, so that it could not then be said that the town was wholly in favour of it. The word "compromise" showed that the town was not in favour of it. The exercise of the powers conferred on the University Authorities had produced great abuse, and the Town Authorities had protested against it again and again. The town naturally wished to be under the same law as any other town in the United Kingdom. They were told that that could not be permitted, and that if the University gave up its ancient powers those powers would be adopted and carried out by the police. Therefore, he maintained that it could not be asserted to be the wish of the town that this Bill should pass in its present form. For his part he would vote with pleasure for any Bill which entirely abolished all the power which was to be possessed either by the University Authorities or the Police Authorities. The rights of men and women were not dependent upon the police nor upon the morality of individuals. A woman had got a perfect right to walk about the streets of Cambridge provided that she did not offend against the Common Law of the country, yet this Bill provided that a woman might be arrested by any policeman who took it into his head to suppose that she was a bad character. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that the policeman might be prosecuted afterwards if he arrested a respectable woman, but was that any guarantee that respectable women would not be arrested? Everyone knew perfectly well that when the Contagious Diseases Acts were in operation women of respectable character were frequently arrested by the police. No one had a greater respect for the police than he had, but he wished to know whether any gentleman meant to say that a policeman was invested with such vast intelligence that, on seeing a woman walking along the streets, he could tell whether she was respectable or the reverse? He contended that any woman had a right to walk in the streets of Cambridge provided she did not solicit or loiter or molest. The hon. Member for the University (Mr. Jebb) had said the House ought to pass this Bill, because there were in Cambridge young men who were inexperienced, and who would fall an easy prey to women. Well, he (Mr. Labouchere) would ask whether there were not such young men in London? He was not a young man himself, and he did not pretend to be an easy prey; but were there not many young men in London who were as liable to these temptations as the young men in Cambridge? Were there not also other Universities besides those of Oxford and Cambridge? Hon. Members knew very well that there were; and if it was thought that the effect of a superior education made a man a more easy prey than were the young men employed in shops, a similar Bill ought to be passed with regard to other University towns, including London, where there was a University. He objected to these local attacks upon private rights and he specially objected to action of this kind being taken by attempting to sneak a clause through a Private Bill, and then telling the House that there was not time to discuss it fairly and legitimately.

LORD R. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)

I have arrived at an opinion upon this question, having been one of the alumni at Oxford, and being a Doctor of Civil Law of Cambridge. I detected in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stausfeld) the fanaticism that marks all his speeches on questions of this character. It is evident that it is impossible for him to take a reasonable view of what are the wishes of a locality or of a great University. It seems to be utterly impossible for him to recognise that the arrangement now proposed in the Bill has been tried for some years with great success in another University, which equals Cambridge in greatness. He can think of nothing but the Contagious Diseases Act, which has nothing to do with either the law of Oxford or that at Cambridge. This is a mere precautionary arrangement made with the object of securing some order and decency in the streets of an ancient University town. In these matters the University of Cambridge is co-operating with the Corporation of Cambridge just as the University of Oxford co-operate with the Corporation of Oxford. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has done what he always does; he has turned all ordinary conceptions of morality into ridicule. [Cries of "Oh!"] Yes, he laughed at them. He never loses an opportunity of ridiculing ordinarily received opinions. Does he suppose that he is above everybody? Is his code of philosophy to be adopted by civilised society in England, and are great Educational Institutions to take their laws from him? He said he would speak for his University and for the town of Cambridge. He shall not speak for the town of Cambridge. He may speak for his own town of Northampton, where I daresay his morality goes down. The Leader of the House (Sir W. Harcourt) has appealed to his followers to pass this Bill. [Cries of "No!"] Well, he supported the Bill, and if the Leader of a Party takes a particular course on a public question the Members of the Party usually follow him. The right hon. Gentleman speaks with great authority on a matter relating to Cambridge University, as he was intimately connected with the University for years, and held a very eminent Professorial Chair in the University. I know very well what is the motive that actuates gentlemen below the Gangway. It is the same motive as causes them to object to all Church establishments and to all Universities. They want to deprive the Universities of their representation in Parliament, to put an end to order and decency in the streets of University towns, and to turn the condition of affairs in those streets at night into a saturnalia. The Radical Party is ready to do anything to degrade the Universities. There is no injury they would not do to Universities like Oxford and Cambridge, which are old, which are famous, which have a long history, and which have done so much good not only amongst the wealthy classes, but, by the extension of University education, amongst the middle classes all over England. The hon. Member for Northampton said that no woman walking the streets at night ought to be molested by the police as long as she did not loiter, solicit, or molest.


Will the noble Lord excuse me? I do not think I said that. What I think I said was that a woman who does not loiter or solicit may be arrested.


I beg pardon. I took down the hon. Gentleman's words, and what he said was that if a woman did not loiter or solicit or molest she ought not to be interfered with by the police. Well, Sir, that rule is carefully observed both in Oxford and Cambridge. You really strike a serious blow and utter a great insult to the University by saying that you will not trust them with the most moderate and most reasonable provision for preserving order in their town. All I can say is that if you do this you lay yourselves open to one more attack, and you are placing a strong case in our hands to lay before the country. I protest against the forces of the Radical Party, reinforced by the Irish Party, doing their best to destroy a University so ancient and so improving as that of Cambridge. I will not detain the House longer, but I must cuter my protest against this insidious attempt to injure the great University of Cambridge.

MR. H. J. WILSON (York, W. R., Holmfirth)

said, he hoped the House would allow him for a moment or two to explain why, as a Member of the Committee, ho could not support this Clause 6, and intended to vote for the Amendment. He was absent from the House and the country for a considerable time, and this Bill came before the Committee when it was impossible for him to be present; had he been present he should have felt it his duty to oppose this clause. While recognising the fair way in which the hon. Gentleman who presided over this Committee referred to the functions and efforts of the Committee, he felt bound to say he thought they were not called upon to accept an agreement, merely because it was an agreement between the parties, if in their view it was contrary to what it ought to be. At the same time, he felt obliged to condemn his colleagues on that Committee if they did not insist upon evidence, and, as a matter of fact, no evidence was given on this point. Why the ordinary law of the laud would not suffice for Cambridge nothing was said—no evidence was given on that question. They were told of an ancient Charter from the time of Elizabeth and so on, but he did not understand why the House, at this time of the day, should be asked to compromise and strike a kind of average between the views held in the time of Elizabeth and the views held in 1894. It might be desirable to boar an old Statute for but a short time longer, but it was undesirable that the House should give sanction by conferring great powers upon a University to deal with the women of Cambridge, and the laws of the land ought to be enough to protect the collegians without a Bill of this kind. They knew that a Bill of this kind gave an enormous opportunity for blackmailing.

Major RASCH rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Debate resumed.


said, they were not justified in giving these enormous powers to the police on the ground that they would not be exercised when given. He should certainly vote for the Amendment.

MR. DIAMOND (Monaghan, N.)

said, that as a Member of the Committee he wished to say a word, and that was that they inquired very carefully as to what the local opinion on the subject was. It had been said by the hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. W. M'Laren) that there was a strong local feeling against it, and that he had some letter from the Mayor of Cambridge saying that the Local Council had a strong feeling against this clause. All he could say was that when the Mayor was in the chair giving evidence before the Committee he (Mr. Diamond) put the question to him whether there was a minority in the Council even opposed to it, and was there any local opposition, and the Mayor answered that there was no local opposition, and that he had neither heard of nor seen any of it.


said, he had the Mayor's letter in his pocket, in which he stated that the Liberal Members of the Town Council and the locality disliked the clause exceedingly.


said, he appealed from Philip drunk to Philip sober, he appealed from the statement of the Mayor contained in his letter to his evidence given on oath, he thought, before the Committee upstairs. He thought that the close inquiry that he had shown was made by the Committee absolved those Members who, unlike the hon. Member who spoke last, were present, and who he might claim felt as strongly on the subject as the hon. Member—absolved them from any charge of carelessness. It was only because the remarks of the hon. Member seemed to convey a reflection on the Members of the Committee that he had asked leave to say a few words on this question.


I wish to apologise for an error. I find the letter to which I referred was written by an ex-Mayor.


said, he should vote for the Bill on the grounds of Homo Rule. He did not profess to know as accurately as the people of Cambridge knew their own local needs and requirements; and when he remembered that the Bill abolished the Spinning House, that it did away with the Vice Chancellor's Court, that it was recognised on all sides to be a great improvement on the present state of affairs, he did not see how he could well vote against it. He regretted the discussion seemed to have partaken of, or to have even made to wear, the complexion of a Party discussion. [Cries of "No, no!"] There had been remarks made that would convey that idea. He thought there would be those found on both sides of the House who would agree that the local view ought to be considered in a matter of this kind. While he had the greatest respect for the 900 ladies and the method by which they expressed those opinions, he also had a great respect for the local women of Cambridge, and surely their vote, given in opposition to the votes of the 900 ladies, ought not to be lightly passed over. As a Member of the Committee it was his intention to support what was done upstairs.

MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough),

who spoke amidst continued cries of "Divide!" said, he should not have thought it necessary to detain the House but for the speech they had just listened to. He was astonished to hear such a speech from an Irish Member, the Irish Party having always objected to exceptional laws against themselves; and now the Irish Representatives were going to treat the people of Cambridge in the way they themselves objected to be treated. For his part, he desired to see the people of Cambridge treated in the same way as the people of every other county in the United Kingdom. The people of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St. Andrews, and Aberdeen had no such exceptional laws, and the men there were as highly moral—more so, he thought—as the people of Oxford and Cambridge. He objected to the insinuation that these young men sent to Oxford and Cambridge wanted protection on account of their tendency to immorality above all other men of the United Kingdom; he objected to that, and trusted the House would not be carried away, but would vote for the liberty of the subject.

Mr. MACLURE (Lancashire, S. E., Stretford)

I beg to move, Sir, "That the Question be now put."


The Question is, "That Clause 6 stand part of the Bill."

The House divided:—Ayes 242; Noes 157.—(Division List, No. 39.)

* MR. H. L. W. LAWSON (Gloucester, Cirencester)

said, the point he wished to raise by way of Amendment to Clause 19 was very simple, but he did not think it was unimportant. The proposal in this clause gave power to erect baths and wash houses on common land. It was a matter of public policy not to allow any Public Authority to take common land for this purpose, and he reminded the House that the Board of Agriculture made a protest against it, which the Committee had been unable to comply with. It was undesirable that any part of these commons in the borough should be enclosed, and he therefore suggested that this provision should be struck out unless it was proved that it was absolutely necessary. [An hon. MEMBER: It is necessary.] Yes, but there did not seem to have been any extensive evidence taken on this point; and yet the Committee was satisfied the place was suitable for that purpose. He submitted the Corporation of Cambridge should act under the Public Health Act and obtain the land in the ordinary way and not take common land, which ought to be used for purposes of recreation and open spaces. He did not wish to weary the House, but put the point that this was a matter of principle that common land should not be used for purposes such as this.

Amendment proposed, in page 11, line 6, to leave out Sub-section (d) (Erect baths, wash-houses, and lavatories.)—(Mr. H. L. W. Lawson.)

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


We have already wasted a good deal of time, and though an important Bill in itself there is still more important business which the House has agreed should be concluded to-day; and under those circumstances, unless we have some assurance that this matter will be disposed of in five minutes, I will move the adjournment. I beg to move that the Debate be adjourned.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(The Chancellor of the Exchequer.)

[House cleared for a Division, but on the Question being again put the adjournment of the Debate was not persisted in.]


said, the Committee had inquired very closely into the proposal with reference to the commons. They found that the land proposed to be taken was not practically available for other purposes now, but was suitable for the erection of bathing places for the poorer people of the town of Cambridge. Further than that, it was only proposed to deal with two small spots and no injury would be done to the commons. The proposal had the support and sympathy of everyone in Cambridge.

* SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

said, he understood that the proposal was to erect bathing sheds, but the words seemed to be much too wide to cover that purpose.


explained that it was thought that it might be necessary subsequently to erect certain covered buildings for washing purposes.

Amendment negatived.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Bill to be read the third time.

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