HC Deb 04 March 1915 vol 70 cc1111-3

(1) This Act may be cited as the Universities and Colleges (Emergency Powers) Act, 1915.

(2) For the purposes of this Act the expression "the end of the emergency period" means the end of the calendar year in which the present war terminates, or if the war terminates after the thirtieth day of June in any year, then the end of the next succeeding calendar year.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), after the word "the" ["end of the calendar year"], to insert the word "next."

I do not propose to move the Amendment which stands on the Paper, but instead this one which I have handed in in manuscript. I do not propose to move the fifteen months, because the Attorney-General has convinced me in private that, in certain cases, this would act against the interests of the university; but, on the other hand, I think the provision in the Bill is not satisfactory. It exposes the financial arrangements of the university authorities to great uncertainty, and it may give them very little time to turn round and set their financial affairs in order. For example, the effect of its operation would be that, if peace were declared on 30th June in this year, or in next year, they would be given a six months' period in which to exercise their powers under this Act. If peace were declared on the 1st July, they would be given an eighteen months' period. I submit that this would place them in a position of very great disadvantage. They must have more time in any case than six months. For one thing, it is more than probable that the first few months after the War is over will be a period of even greater financial stringency than the present, and they will want to try and defer their necessary borrowing powers to a more convenient time. In the second place, things will not settle down at once.

One very important reason for this Bill was that income dues have been so much diminished. That will not come back to the normal for a long time after the conclusion of peace, but that is another reason why there should be a more extended period. Again, with regard to fellows of colleges and scholars who are absent at the War, it does not at all follow that they will be able to resume their academic life immediately after peace is concluded. There may be some serving in Egypt and India who must necessarily remain on active military service for a considerable time after the War is over. The object of the Amendment is to allow them twelve months in any case, and in possible cases anything up to two years. After all, there is no compulsion about this. The whole powers are discretionary, and I only ask that they shall not be limited by the present provision to a possible six months to turn round in, and that they shall, at any rate, have twelve months. I understand for certain technical reasons, which I need not go into now, that any fixed period would not work necessarily in their interest; but if this Amendment and the following be accepted, the Clause will run as follows:—

"For the purposes of this Act the expression 'the end of the emergency period' means the end of the next calendar year after that in which the present War terminates."

The result of that will be that, if the War terminates in June, they will have eighteen months; if it terminates in November, they will have fifteen months, but in no case can they have less than a year. I submit that it is better they should have the longer period, and I. therefore, commend this Amendment to the Solicitor-General.

The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Stanley Buckmaster)

This is an emergency Bill, and it is, of course, essential both to define the emergency period and to secure that it is of such duration that the real purposes of the Bill may be effectually carried out. I think that what the hon. Member has said has much good sense behind it. Unless you allow the universities a sufficient period of time to enable them to get the full advantage of this Bill it may be very materially destroyed. On behalf of the Government I am prepared to accept both the hon. Member's Amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In Sub-section (2), after the word "year" ["the end of the calendar year"], insert the words "after that."

Leave out the words "or if the War terminates after the thirtieth day of June in any year, then the end of the next succeeding calendar year."

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Monday next.