HC Deb 20 July 1923 vol 166 cc2694-9

The following persons shall be the University of Cambridge Commissioners:


I beg to move to leave out the Clause.

I do so in order to call attention to the unsatisfactory way in which members of this Commission have been selected. I agree that every shade of opinion should be represented upon the Commission, but I have had many complaints on this point from those residing in my constituency that, in the constitution of this Commission, a very important section of University opinion is absolutely unrepresented. There are some 2,000 members of the body for which I am speaking, largely consisting of members of the medical profession and scientific men, who take very strong views upon a matter which is certainly being made very prominent in this Bill, namely, the question of the admission of women to full membership of Universities. I am speaking for a very large body of opinion which is chiefly Conservative, and they have no representative at all of their views upon this Commission.

I am not saying a word against the qualifications of the distinguished men who have been selected to form this Commission. The first list of names were all contained in the Bill which was introduced by the Coalition Government, and they are undoubtedly men of great distinction. I have the privilege of knowing all of them, and I know that they are all distinguished men, although none of them represent the views for which I am claiming representation. It was a great blow to this body of opinion for which I am speaking when they learned that the name of Dr. Dalton was to be added to this Commission by a Conservative Government, because he is a gentleman who has been standing for Cambridge University as a Socialist Member. Apparently, when he was first chosen, it was not generally known at Cambridge that he was a Socialist. I agree that it is perfectly right that every shade of opinion should be represented, but what I complain of is that this particular section for which I am speaking is not represented at all, and yet with a Conservative Government in office this body of opinion for which I speak is not only left without a representative, but the Government appoint a gentleman of extreme views upon the other side of politics, and this has brought this question in a marked degree before the members of the University. The addition I speak of was made by the present Government. I think the principle which has always been observed in the appointment of Parliamentary Committees should also be applied in selecting members of a Commission of this kind.

Supposing hon. Members opposite found on a Commission of this sort that there was no Labour Member or Socialist Member, and instead of representation being given to their own particular school of thought the Government appointed a man who held diametrically opposite views. I think hon. Members opposite would be the first to complain against the Government for doing that, and they would claim that if their own Government was in power they were entitled to have somebody selected representing their own views. I am merely calling the attention of the House to the fact that in matters of this kind it is only fair that important bodies of thought should have full representation on this Commission. I am merely putting before the House views which have been represented to me by a large number of my constituents, and they come from men holding a considerable position in the world of thought, and they protest against what they call the desertion of their views by a Conservative Government. I am afraid also that there is a suggestion that I have not been looking properly after their interests, and therefore I submit that I am right in calling attention to this fact, and in describing what has been done as being unfair representation.


I do not complain of my right hon. and learned Friend moving this Amendment, although it is obviously not possible for me to accept it. I do not think he expects me to accept it, because I gather from his speech that his motive in moving this Amendment is threefold. In the first place, he desires to have an opportunity of criticising a particular appointment; secondly, he wishes to vindicate his position before a certain section of his constituents; and, thirdly, he questions the method of appointing these Commissioners. I can assure the right hon. and learned Member and his constituents that their interests are in no danger of being inarticulate as long as he is in this House. With regard to the particular name to which attention has been drawn, I do not think that anybody will find fault or dispute the general principle put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend, that representation on a matter of this kind should have regard to all shades of opinion, although I do not think the representation in this case has been seriously affected to the extreme degree which the right hon. and learned Member has pushed it.

I confess that when I inherited the original names of the Commissioners from my right hon. Friend who preceded me in Office, and who, I have no doubt, took great pains to secure names which were impartial and fully qualified, it never occurred to me to inquire what the politics of any of them were, and I think it is a new suggestion that, in appointing academic bodies of this kind, it is necessary to have such a careful regard for the niceties of political representation and balance. When I decided to appoint representatives on these Commissions, it never occurred to me to investigate the past history of Dr. Dalton, and I must plead ignorance of the past history of this gentleman to which my right hon. and learned Friend has referred. After all, I doubt whether it is possible in any case to establish a Committee of ten or twelve persons that would adequately represent every shade of political opinion. This appointment has been criticised because the gentleman in question is supposed to have, and no doubt has, Labour sympathies but I have no doubt that a great many Labour Members would be ready to say that he in no way represents their political shade of thought.

I deprecate in appointments of this kind, the main function of which is in no way political, that we should be invited to have that extreme regard for political considerations which my right hon. and learned Friend has suggested. As to the method of appointing these Commissioners, this is obviously not the convenient place to discuss that from a broad and fundamental point of view. You have, after all, to trust somebody, and you have to trust those in charge of administering affairs of this kind to do their best and exercise their best judgement, having regard to all the relative considerations. I can assure the House that on these grounds I accepted this name which was before the House in the last Parliament, and I have made the additions I have on the grounds I have already stated.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment proposed: After the word "College" ["Gonville and Caius College"], to insert the words William Spens, C.B.E., Master of Arts, Fellow of Corpus Christi College; Bertha Surtees Phillpotts, O.B.E., Doctor of Letters, Mistress of Girton College."—[Mr. Wood.]


I desire to oppose the insertion of this lady's name as a member of the University of Cambridge Commissioners. I do not think we ought to have an Amendment of this kind, because I understand that Cambridge University does not want a woman Commissioner, and I have not heard any reason whatever given why this name should be included. This is a men's University, and I can see no reason whatever why women should not form a University of their own. There is no question that the sexes do not work well together in the sense of University work. There is the human animal and there is the other animal. Anybody who has bred horses will tell you that it is folly in the extreme to put colts and fillies together, whatever their age, and the same thing would be said by those who breed cattle as to heifers and bullocks or heifers and young bulls. They do not do well together.


Keep it above that level, please.


There are some who think other people are below it. The poultry keeper separates the pullets from the cockerels the moment it is possible to tell the difference between them. It is no use saying that the wisdom of our ancestors decided that men should have men's Universities, and that since then we have decided that women could chip in and go to a man's University. There are many and great obstacles in the way. If once you get a woman in, there is no question that it will not be very long before you get more than one, and I do not think that Cambridge wants them. It would only be a short time before women got the management of affairs. When a boy goes to a University, at the age of 17, or 18 or 19, he feels he has become a man. At Cambridge he is sent into lodgings. At Oxford they look after him better, perhaps, they treat him more as a child, and take him into a college; but if you go to Cambridge at the age of 17 you go into lodgings, and it is only after many years—if you stay there long enough—that you have the privilege—if it be a privilege—of getting into a college. To provide for the youths there are licensed houses. I was in a house with four others at one time.


I do not quite see how this arises on the question of having a woman on this Commission.


The only point is that once a woman gets on the Commission she will duplicate herself, if I may say so, and interfere with matters concerning the University. If that be the only point, and if that be not in order, I will sit down. I want to keep a woman off it if there be a chance of her interfering with the present management and the present arrangement of the University of Cambridge. It has existed for some centuries, given a very good education, and formed the characters of many thousands of good men, and I do not think that will continue if women are once allowed to interfere. I have given reasons why women should not be allowed to intefere.


I think this argument might come better on the next Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: Leave out the words A woman to be appointed by the Board of Education; and one additional man."—[Mr. Wood.]