HC Deb 30 July 1912 vol 41 cc2004-7

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. J. A. Pease)

The object of this Bill is stated in the provisions of the Bill which have been circulated. It is generally recognised that a School for the Teaching of Oriental Languages should be established in this country. We trade with a large number of Oriental countries to the extent of £210,000,000 a year. It is now proposed to acquire the institution in Finsbury Square. The proprietors of that institution have arranged with the Treasury for the transfer of that institution. It was established by charter in the year 1807 for objects of a somewhat kindred character to the teaching of Oriental languages. The transfer of the property will involve a contribution from the Treasury of £12,000. It will also involve an expenditure on altering the premises estimated at about £25,000, and in addition an annual charge for maintaining this school of Oriental languages of about £4,000. Those items will appear on the Votes in due course, and Members will have an opportunity of watching the progress of this institution. It is proposed to teach about thirty different languages in this institution. The institution will meet a want which is very much felt in this country.


I would like to ask one or two questions as I am interested in this London Institution of which I was a member for a good many years, and in which I had an original share which I do not now possess. Still I take a great interest in it and I have a great desire for the maintenance of an institution which has done a great deal of good work in the City of London. The present proprietors have agreed to its passing away, and I suppose that its work is done. No doubt the new scheme will be very useful.

The first point is that I see the property of the institution is to be handed over to the Commissioners. Those of us who know the building recognise that it is a very fine one, though I believe it is in need of repair. I desire to know whether the Government intend to maintain the present building for the purpose of Oriental studies, or whether, which would be an unfortunate course, they propose to alter or remove it and utilise the site? I hope this very fine building in Finsbury Circus will be utilised, although it might need some strengthening. It would be very unfortunate if the building were lost to the City of London. The other question I have to ask is this: The institution is possessed of some very valuable books and a considerable number of manuscripts, some I believe of real value; and I observe in Sub-section (2) that certain of them are to be handed over to the Commissioners, and some are to be retained by the Committee of Management and handed over by them to such public institution as may be selected by the Committee. That means that they can deal with their property as they think best, and as they know the value of these things I have no doubt they will deal with them very wisely. In respect of the books and manuscripts handed over to the Commissioners I want to know what is their intention, and whether they propose to hand them over to the School of Oriental Studies. The Sub-section of the Bill reads:— Funds belonging to the Institution, whether invested or not, and such of the books or manuscripts belonging to the Institution, as may be agreed between the Commissioners and the Committee, shall not vest in the Commissioners, but shall be retained. That obviously means that certain of them shall vest in the Commissioners. What is the purpose of the Commissioners? Is it to try to agree that a certain number of the books and manuscripts shall be held by them, and to whom do they intend to hand over those books and manuscripts? If there is any purpose—and I suppose there is—I shall be very glad to hear what it is. If not, then the Clause could be amended hereafter, and all the books dealt with by the Committee of the Institution who know their value and would no doubt dispose of them well. It is in no unfriendly spirit to the Bill that I ask these questions, but rather that so valuable and worthy an institution in the City of London, when it has to meet its fate, may be treated with some reverence and respect, having regard to the long period that it has served the City, and the number of men educated within its walls, some of whom are now living and wish to pay a tribute of respect to this great Institution.

Mr. WEDGWOOD BENN (Lord of the Treasury)

It is not intended to destroy the very handsome building, but to spend money upon it in order to adapt it to the purposes of the school. As to the books, I understand an agreement has already been come to between the Commissioners and the Committee of Management of the Institution as to the disposition of these books, which are of great historical interest. First of all there is a Shakespeare and other books. Some of these the Committee of Management, I believe, intend to hand over to the British Museum. Books of a topographical character relating to London it is intended to hand over to the Guildhall Library; the rest of the library will remain in the museum of the Institution, in the care of the new school management.


I am desirous that this Bill should pass, but I should like to call the attention of the House to Subsection (4) of the first Clause, which states that the Commissioners may transfer any property now vested in them on such conditions as they think fit, to the governing body of the School of Oriental Languages upon the establishment of such a school. I do not know if the President of the Board of Education can give us any information as regards the constitution of the governing body of the School of Oriental Languages. Up to the present time the School of Oriental Languages has been carried on in University College, and King's College, London. I take it that the School of Oriental Languages when established will be transferred to the University of London to which those two Colleges belong. I should be glad to know if that is likely to be the case.


I am afraid the question is a little premature. I cannot give the hon. Member the information at the present time, because the Governing Body will not be set up until the Bill becomes law.

Ordered. That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of Five Members, Three to be nominated by the House and Two by the Committee of Selection:

That all Petitions against the Bill presented Five clear days before the meeting of the Committee be referred to the Committee; that the Petitioners praying to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, or Agents be heard against the Bill, and Counsel or Agents heard in support of the Bill:

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records:

That Three be the quorum.—[Mr. Pease.]