HC Deb 10 May 1894 vol 24 cc750-2

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [8th May], "That the Bill be now read the third time."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.

SIR J. MOWBRAY (Oxford University)

said, that he wished to read to the House a letter which he had received from Mr. Oman, Fellow of All Souls College, and Proctor of the University of Oxford, with reference to a statement made by the hon. and learned Member for the Maldon Division in the course of Tuesday's Debate. Mr. Oman forwarded a report of the speech of the hon. Member in which he related to the House an incident which he said had occurred while he was at Oxford. It was the case of a young lady who, on leaving the Union with her cousin and two other undergraduates, was arrested by the Proctor's bulldogs and taken to the prison. On this part of the hon. and learned Member's speech Mr. Oman wrote— No such case ever occurred in Oxford. It is well known that no arrest of the kind has ever been made—no single mistake of this description is on record for 30 years. Mr. Dodd ought to be made to substantiate his statement by giving names and dates. No women are locked up under the Clarendon building except known prostitutes who have been previously cautioned by the Proctor. The extent of Mr. Dodd's memory of Oxford may be judged by the fact that he speaks of the Proctors walking, as if several were accustomed to parade at once. He also speaks of the bulldogs' as seizing and imprisoning a girl on their own responsibility—a manifest impossibility. We have constables here still serving who were acting all through Mr. Dodd's time. I have questioned them as to any event having occurred which could possibly have been twisted into the shape of Mr. Dodd's tale, and there is no trace of any such thing having occurred. We have a complete record of all women ever arrested and brought to the cells. C. W. C. OMAN. The hon. and learned Gentleman's statement was very definite and explicit, and presumably it rested on some facts. He would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he could reconcile his statement with the letter he had just read.

* MR. DODD (Essex, Maldon)

said, that he was very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the considerate way in which he had given him notice of the letter just read. He was glad that the Proctor should have written that letter, because it showed that the University authorities felt that, if such a mistake could occur, the present system was doomed. The facts were exactly as he had stated them to the House. He knew the people well. As to his knowledge of Oxford, he was born six miles out of the city; until a few years ago his father had a house at Oxford: and he himself had always spent a great deal of time there. He had in confidence given the name of the lady concerned to the right hon. Member for Oxford University; the right hon. Gentleman was a man of honour, and the right hon. Gentleman's comment was, "Oh, ray gracious!" [Laughter.] That was as strong an expression as could be expected from the Member for the University of Oxford. But he did not say these things for the sake of raising a laugh. Ever since he had known the story which he had related to the House he had been determined to denounce this system. Of course, it was not to be supposed that such a case would be entered on the books; official blunders are not always found recorded in official books; but the gaoler and his wife were still living—they would know the facts. If he said more, he should betray the name of the lady. He would only add that, though her parents lived at that time in Oxford, after this experience she would never go near the house, if she could help it. At the time she, like the good, honest girl she was, wished her father to make the Proctors and "bulldogs" apologise in open Court; but her father, being connected with the University, did not care for the publicity, and was satisfied with the letters of apology, which were still locked up in his desk. He should be going to Oxford soon, and he should call on Mr. Oman, whose name he knew well. Mr. Oman would see that he had been unwise to dispute his statement. It was perfectly plain that even the Proctors would not like the present system to continue if this story were true; and it was true. Therefore, he asked the House to say that the system should be stopped.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 145; Noes 112.—(Division List, No. 43.)

Bill read the third time, and passed.