HC Deb 28 June 1920 vol 131 cc124-31

(1) No law made by the Parliament of Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland shall have effect so as to alter the constitution, or divert the property of, or repeal or diminish any existing exemption or immunity enjoyed by the University of Dublin, or Trinity College, Dublin, or the Queen's University of Belfast, unless and until the proposed alteration, diversion, repeal, or diminution is approved:—

(a) in the case of the University of Dublin, or Trinity College, Dublin, by a majority of those present and voting at a meeting of each of the following bodies convened for the purpose, namely, the governing body of the College, and the junior fellows and professors voting together, and the University Council, and the Senate; and

(b) in the case of the Queen's University of Belfast, by a majority of those present and voting at a meeting of each of the following bodies convened for the purpose, namely: the Senate, and the Academic Council, and the Convocation of the University:

Provided that this Section shall not apply to the taking of property (not being land in the occupation of or used in connection with the College or either of the Universities) for the purpose of roads, railways, lighting, water, or drainage works, or other works of public utility upon payment of compensation.

(2) There shall be paid annually, out of moneys provided by the Parliament of Northern Ireland, to the Queen's University of Belfast, a sum of eighteen thousand pounds for the general purposes of the University, and that sum if and so far as not so paid shall be deducted on the order of the Joint Exchequer Board from the Irish residuary share of reserved taxes and paid to the University.

(3) Until the Joint Exchequer Board certify that the amount standing to the credit of the account of Trinity College under Section thirty-nine of the Irish Land Act, 1903, as adequate to afford the indemnity for which provision is made by that Section, there shall be paid annually out of moneys provided by the Parliament of Southern Ireland the sum of five thousand pounds to that account; and that sum, if and so far as not so paid, shall be deducted on the order of the Joint Exchequer Board from the Irish residuary share of reserved taxes and paid to that account.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "Ireland" ["or Northern Ireland shall have."] to insert the words, "or after the date of Irish Union by the Parliament of Ireland."

I shall content myself by formally moving the Amendment. Its object is simply to give additional security to the two universities in Ireland, and it is more in the interests of the Southern University, and of Trinity College, than that of the Northern University. I should be extremely grateful if the Government accept the Amendment.


The proviso suggested is quite unnecessary. The Parliament of Ireland after the date of Irish Union will have no more powers to make laws than the Parliament of the North or the South of Ireland had before. I would ask hon. Gentlemen to look at Clause 3 of the Bill where it says: On the date of Irish union the Council of Ireland shall cease to exist and there shall be transferred to the Parliament and Government of Ireland all powers then exercisable by the Council of Ireland, and also the matters under which this Act cease to be reserved matters at the date of Irish union"— If hon. Members also look at Clause 4 they will see that if it were necessary to insert the Amendment of my hon. Friend in this Clause 62, it would also be necessary to insert it in Clause 4, for it says: (1) Subject to the provisions of this Act the Parliament of Southern Ireland and the Parliament of Northern Ireland shall respectively have power to make law for the peace, order and good government….


Before the withdrawal of the Amendment. I hope the Government will consider two things. Firstly, is there any objection to the Amendment; and secondly, is it really unnecessary, in order that it may be made quite clear that neither the Northern nor the Southern Parliament can make laws affecting the universities—which is extremely important—and that the united Parliament will be unable to obtain that power either? I do not think the thing is quite clear, and I hope the Government will consider, if not now, at any rate before the Report Stage, whether it would not safeguard the position of the universities if the words were inserted.


I think the hon. and learned Gentleman made it quite convincing that if you put this Amendment in here you will go back upon Clause 4.


The only question is, is it quite clear that this limitation of powers will also apply to the united Parliaments?

Amendment negatived.


I beg to move, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the word "eighteen" ["a sum of eighteen thousand pounds"], and insert instead thereof "twenty-eight."

This Amendment is simply to correct a technical statement or error. Subsection (2) says that there shall be paid annually to the Queen's University of Belfast £18,000 for the general purposes of the University. This amount was the amount stated in the 1914 Act. The Clause in which the words occur has been transferred to the present Bill. Since that time, however, the Government or the Treasury have been giving an additional grant of £10,000, of which £2,000 was for equipment. This grant was found to be absolutely essential for carrying on the University. We should have had to close under the altered conditions of the War, for the salaries were not sufficient to meet the requirements of the case, or some of the Departments would have been shut up if we had not got this money. We would be very much better without this Clause at all if un-amended, for it actually puts upon us a hardship. Ministers that I have consulted on this point tell me that there is no reason to be at all uneasy, for the Ulster Parliament will supply the additional £10,000. But there is no Clause in the Bill allowing that. We might have a hope that we should get it, but as the Bill now stands, and if passed, you might be met by the Ulster Parliament with the argument, "We took you over on the understanding that the amount was £18,000." I appeal to all principles of fairness and justice that the £28,000 should be inserted in the place of the £18,000. What, assuming it stands, is to happen to the University in the interval between the suspension of this grant and the granting of the increased amount by the Ulster Parliament? It would be such a hardship that I believe it would knock our machinery wrong altogether.


On a point of Order, Mr. Whitley, I do not find—I think my recollection is correct—in the Resolution which was reported to-day anything that covers such an increase of charge as contemplated by the Amendment about to be put. I should like, if you will kindly intimate to the Committee whether I am right, that this suggested Amendment is not within the scope of that Money Resolution. If so, how does it come within the compass of the Committee at present, and until we have the Fnancial Resolution which was postponed until the Report of the Committee was submitted to the House?


May I point out that the proposal is for a sum of £18,000 and the Amendment suggests £28,000 for the general purposes of the university out of the money provided by the Parliament for Northern Ireland.


That is the point. Of course I scrutinised this very carefully, as I do all financial provisions, and I am satisfied that this proposal does not require a Money Resolution, and the Amendment is quite in order.


I am sure that my hon. Friend, who moved the Amendment, will realise that there is on the part of the Government no lack of sympathy with the admirable work which is being done at Queen's University, Belfast, and we are very anxious to see that university develop and thrive. Further, I am in entire agreement with the hon. Member when he tells the Commitee that the annual sum of £18,000 is necessary to meet the needs of the present university. This Clause provides for the continuance of the statu- tory sum which has been assured in the past to the Queen's University of Belfast, and the reason why the Government did not put in another figure was that it felt that the interests of Queen's University, Belfast, would be safe in the hands of the Northern Parliament, and it was felt undesirable to fetter the discretion of that Parliament. It was also felt that probably the university would have a greater power to appeal to the patriotic citizens of the six counties if they were able to go to Parliament, and put their case in its entirety before them.

It is perfectly true that the University Grants Committee came to the conclusion that the university required an additional annual grant of £8,000 a year, and over and above that, university grants have been made out of the sum placed at their disposal by the Treasury, and there has been a non-recurrent grant of £2,000 to repair the wastage of the War. The question which the Committee have to consider is whether, in view of the finding of the University Grants Committee, it is or is not desirable to increase the sum mentioned in this Clause. My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment spoke of the Committee as having recommended an annual additional sum of £10,000. That is a slight error. The Committee recommended an annual grant of £8,000 and a non-recurrent grant of £2,000. I confess that the Government is anxious to do what is best for the University of Belfast; but I for one am in some doubt as to what really is the best course to pursue, and as to whether my hon. Friend, in proposing the sum he has proposed, is doing what he believes is the most advisable course in the interests of the university itself. The University Grants Committee made this recommendation after a preliminary survey of the needs of the universities of Great Britain and Ireland, and since that recommendation was made, the same Committee has made further careful inquiries, and I think it is quite possible they will make a further recommendation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on some other occasion later on. Asuming that this definite figure is put into the Bill, what will be the attitude of the Belfast Parliament? Will they consider that their obligations are already discharged?

I confess that in this matter I will be guided by the advice of the Ulster Members, but let me say that if the hon. Member should persist in his Amendment, the Government is ready to alter the figure from £18,000 to the figure of £26,000, leaving out of account the non-recurrent grant, and adding the annual grant recommended by the University Grants Committee. Whether it would be wise to accept this proposal is a matter on which local knowledge should decide. Our view was that probably the best course was to leave the care of the University to the Northern Parliament, and the generosity of the citizens. We were anxious not to fetter the discretion of the Northern Parliament, but if the hon. Member who moved this Amendment and his friends from the North, think it desirable to substitute £26,000 for the £18,000 in the Clause, the Government are willing to move that Amendment.


I have no hesitation in saying, that I believe the bulk of those connected with University would be ready to adopt the course taken by the hon. Member who has moved this Amendment. A great deal may be said for leaving the care of the University to the Northern Parliament, and there may be a point about throwing the University on the generosity of the Northern Parliament. However, I see no reason for putting in this Clause an insufficient sum, and it has been found impossible to carry on the University efficiently with the present grant. The citizens of the North have already shown their generosity towards this University, but that is no reason why the State, when bringing in a new Constitution, and altering all the financial arrangements, should do anything to jeopardise the financial position of that University Therefore, I think I am justified in saying that those connected with the University will support the action which has been taken in this matter.


It is absolutely essential that we should get this money, and if we cannot get more than this £8,000 now, I still make an appeal to the Government to increase that sum. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot see his way to give the whole £10,000, I shall have to be content with £8,000. The University is in urgent want of funds, and we are appealing for £100,000 because we believe there is not much hope of getting any further sum from the Government when there is such difficulty about getting this paltry £2,000.


I think the Minister for Education has met us fairly upon this matter, but with reference to what he has said, though I think this sum goes a very short way towards what is really required, from what I know of Belfast I think the most useful work undertaken in the North of Ireland is that of trying to procure funds for this University. There is an enormous field for university work, an immense number of students, and plenty of material. It is not a question of £8,000 or £10,000, but, as my hon. Friend has already pointed out, it is a question of £100,000. When Parliament meets, in the first place, it will have an immense number of questions to deal with. It may be a very long time before they can take up the university question at all. As far as I can see, the Government are determined that their first act will be the very complicated and controversial question of primary education. I do not see any prospect of the Government fulfilling their promises about primary education which they have made so often in this House. In the second place, the new Parliament will be faced by a number of unforeseen items of expenditure which a young Parliament will have to incur, and to risk the stoppage of this grant of £8,000 would be one which no party who had the interests of Belfast at heart could properly undertake. I hope, as the Minister of Education said he would leave it to us in the Bill, he will on those grounds allow us to accept his offer, and it should be made clear in the Bill.


Perhaps the hon. Member for Belfast University would like to withdraw his Amendment and move it in the new form suggested by the Minister for Education.


I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: In Sub-section (2) leave out the word "eighteen," and insert instead thereof the words "twenty-six".—[Sir W. Whitla.]

Captain W. BENN

I understand that this money will come out of the residuary share of taxes. Is that so? I suppose this is not imposing any additional charge.


I have already dealt with that matter on a point of Order when the hon. and gallant Member was absent.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.