HC Deb 10 February 1931 vol 248 cc363-72

Not amended (in the Standing Committee) considered.


I beg to move, "That the further Consideration of the Bill be now adjourned."

I can assure the Government that this Motion is not due to any hostility to the Bill, but merely in order that an opportunity may be given to those who are interested in it from an educational point of view to propose such Amendments to the Bill as we think may be required. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speak up; we cannot hear you!"] We are very anxious that in the arrangements which are made in the Bill the interests of Chinese culture in the universities should be considered. No provision is made in the Bill for supporting those studies even in the universities which have already devoted some attention to them. There is provision in the Schedule for £200,000 to be given to the universities, and it is to be administered by a committee which is to be a chartered body. The proposed charter has not yet received the Royal approbation and its exact purport is not yet known. But, as far as it is known, it does not appear to make provision for supporting the studies in Chinese language and culture in the universities which have so far been devoting themselves to the subject, and we are anxious to have a full opportunity of thinking the matter over and so being able to formulate whatever Amendment is required to provide that those universities which have already devoted their attention to Chinese culture should receive whatever support can be given to them out of the indemnity. It seems rather strange. though I have no doubt the Government have good reasons for it, to give £200,000 out of the indemnity to a body which has not yet any legal existence. This committee has not yet received the Royal Charter, I understand, and it is odd that the Bill should be carried out of the House of Commons to the other House of Parliament with a provision in it which gives £200,000 to a body which has not yet any legal position.

Therefore, we are anxious for a little time in which to think the thing over, not with the smallest hostility to the Bill or to what the Government design in it, but in order to carry out what, I am sure, they wish as much as we, namely, the cultivation of Chinese studies in London, Oxford and other universities, and the use of the money for the purpose of such studies. For this reason I have been asked to move a short postponement, of some days, perhaps, in order that we may look into the matter and formulate our proposals in a more distinct form. I do not know whether the Government would be prepared to receive a deputation from the universities interested, but I feel sure that, in whatever way it may be brought about, there might be a private interchange of counsel between the Government and the universities interested, with the object of promoting this object which is common to us all. I hope that the Government will be able to assent to this Motion, or, if not, to assure us of their co-operation in the object which we have at heart, which is to use this money to promote a mutual understanding between China and Great Britain by encouraging the study of the Chinese culture and language in the universities of this country.


The Noble Lord has moved this Motion in a speech with a great part of which I am in full sympathy. As he said, the universities have come forward in this matter rather late in the day. The Bill was printed before Christmas; it was read a Second time in this House wall-out a Division; and during the Second Reading Debate the point which the Noble Lord has raised was not made by any of the university representatives in this House. It was then considered by a Standing Committee, and the point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Sir J. Withers); and I then made a statement on behalf of the Government to the effect that we were advised that it would be competent for the Universities China Committee to devote some part of the £200,000 allocated to them in the Bill to increasing the provision for Chinese teaching in the universities.

I had hopes that that satisfied the universities who raised the point. I gather, however, since the Noble Lord has raised the matter again to-night, that they are not completely satisfied, and, in response to the appeal that he made at the end of his speech, I am authorised to say that I myself, or someone else acting on behalf of the Government, will be perfectly ready to meet representatives of the universities and discuss the matter. We have taken the view from the beginning that one of the objects—not the exclusive object, but one of the objects—which should be carried out by the Universities China Committee in allocating this money, was an increased provision for the teaching of Chinese in the universities. If it be the case that this is not sufficiently clearly within their competence, we are quite willing to consider what amendment might be made in the Bill in order to put that point beyond question.

I cannot, however, accept the proposal that we should not dispose of the Bill to-night. I would rather suggest that such a consultation should take place, and that in another place an Amendment should be moved on behalf of the Government, consequent upon consultation between representatives of the Government and representatives of the universities. I hope that, that undertaking being given, as I do unequivocally give it, we shall be able to get the final stages of this Bill to-night. There are dependent upon this Bill other matters than increased provision for the teaching of Chinese. There are £3,000,000 worth of orders for British industry, and these we are unwilling to see postponed any longer than is absolutely necessary. There are other provisions also of an educational and industrial character, and the Government attach great importance to getting the Bill forward with the least possible delay. I hope, in view of the statement I have made, the Noble Lord will not press his Motion, but will, with other university representatives, enter into consultation with us for further elucidation of the point whicih still seems to be in doubt.


I have not made up my mind yet whether this is a Money Bill under the Parliament Act. There is some doubt about it, and I should not like to say off-hand that this will be a Money Bill.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. William Graham)

On that point may I submit that the Bill, of course, imposes no charge. It merely introduces certain variations in the use of the fund, and it may be that on that basis you will be prepared to indicate now that there will be less difficulty in dealing with it in another place by way of Amendment, such as my hon. Friend has suggested.


That is hardly the point. The point is that if the Bill is exclusively a Bill dealing with money I have to certify it as a Money Bill under the Parliament Act. It does not follow that it makes a charge at all. If it exclusively deals with money I have to certify that it is a Money Bill.


We who wish to know the exact conditions in which we are acting are all grateful for the warning that you, Sir, have just addressed to the House. The Government will not wish certainly to offer any undertaking which it would be beyond their power to fulfil. That warning does, I think, very materially alter the situation from what it was when the Under-Secretary was speaking, and I would once again press the request made by my noble Friend in no more unfriendly spirit than that with which he himself presented it, for the hon. Gentleman opposite knows I am deeply committed to the general principles and purposes of the Bill, and have its objects quite as much at heart as he has. I would press his request again, so that at least we may be assured that if, as the result of these promises, an Amendment is desirable, we may not have put it beyond our power to make that Amendment, and find that it is not within the power of the other House to make it.

One other point I would ask the hon. Gentleman to consider. I understand from what my Noble Friend said that the China Parliamentary Committee is to be constituted and its functions defined by a Royal Charter. I do not think that Royal Charter has received the Royal approval yet and I presume it cannot have been laid before Parliament. Does he not think it would be fair to allow Parliament to see what is the constitution and what are the powers of the body to which is to be entrusted this sum before we finally decide whether to leave everything to their discretion, or whether it is desirable that the House should formally indicate its own wishes as to the form which the expenditure of part of this money should take. I submit that it really would be improper to part with the Bill without knowing whether the Amendments which the Government are ready to make in another place can be considered by that House; and it is, in addition, highly desirable that we should have a draft of the Charter before us when determining what powers we entrust to the Committee and what limitations we impose upon those powers.


I wish to reinforce the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir Austen Chamberlain). The whole point is a very short one. As far as the Charter which has been indicated to us is concerned it would not enable the committee to make university grants. If that is so, the whole idea of benefiting the university goes by the board. If there is difficulty the Government should appreciate it and enable us to discuss with them the provisions of the Charter, to see whether they have the powers to do what they wish to do. I think there is nothing more to be said on the matter.

Captain BOURNE

I wish to deal for a minute with a point of procedure. In view of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, I will ask the Government to postpone the con- sideration of this Bill for a short time. If, as you have indicated, this may be a Money Bill it is obvious that it cannot be amended without difficulties in another place. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, speaking to-night, has indicated that the Government are willing to consider certain Amendments. I am not in a position to say whether those Amendments are desirable or not, but I urge that the House should have the opportunity of considering them if they cannot be moved in another place. This seems to be a very strong argument for the Government to consent to postpone for a short time the Amendments put on the Paper. I do not believe that this Bill is so urgent that a week's postponement will do any harm, and I feel that it is most desirable that there should be a postponement.


Surely we are going to have an answer from the Government?


It is only fair to explain why at the last moment this question should be brought up. I should like to make it clear that it was only last Sunday that the Vice-Chan-cellor of Cambridge University sent for me and showed me a letter and memorandum he had received from the Secretary of the University Bureau of the British Empire. In this memorandum, there is a draft Charter for the Universities China Committee. The purposes which the Universities China Committee are to follow are laid down, and those purposes, I think, I must be allowed to read. The purposes of the Universities China Committee, hereinafter called the governing body, shall be:—

  1. (1) to co-operate with the universities of the United Kingdom through the Universities Bureau in arranging for representative Chinese men and women to visit and lecture in this country, and similarly for British men and women to visit and lecture in China;
  2. (2) to co-operate with other interested bodies in asssisting Chinese students in this country to find hospitality and suitable living accommodation;
  3. (3) in consultation with the Universities Bureau and with university and other authorities concerned with higher education to advise Chinese students as to their course of studies in this country, and as to other matters connected therewith."
This is the important purpose: (4) generally to encourage intellectual co-operation and to promote cultural relations between China and the United Kingdom. The point which universities particularly desire to press is that No. 4 beginning with the word "generally," and following what is mentioned very specificially in 1, 2 and 3, might easily be held to exclude the particular purposes which we have in mind, and to which the Government have also indicated their consent and approval. It is in order to get that point, which only came to our notice a few days ago, made perfectly clear, that it is being raised at this last moment.


I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree to a postponement of the Debate. The point raised by the Noble Lord is important. I am not clear whether or not it is competent for us to discuss the details of the charter in this House. I am not at all sure that it is not a matter of His Majesty's privilege and that the Government cannot give the undertaking which is asked. Therefore, it is important that a postponement should be granted and that consultations should take place, in order that we may be sure of what we are doing with the money and in order that the universities may be so placed that the money will serve the purpose which we mutually desire.


I think the House will agree that the position of the Government is quite clear in this matter, but I shall briefly repeat it, before making a proposal to the House. The Second Reading of the Bill was taken and also the Committee stage upstairs, and there was no suggestion at all of postponing it at either of those stages. Nor had the Government any intimation from the Noble Lord, or any other hon. Member, that a Motion for the postponement of the proceedings on the Bill was intended to-night. I desire to make that perfectly clear. At the same time, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs pointed out that if there was a desire to clear up this matter of the use of the fund, more particularly as related to the Universities China Committee, an opportunity would be afforded for discussion and any Amendment that was agreed upon would be inserted in another place. Since that declaration was made, Mr. Speaker has indicated that it might be ruled that this is a Money Bill. As you have not finally ruled on that matter, Mr. Speaker, I hope I shall not be lacking in respect if I say that I took the view that this was not merely a matter of the allocation of funds, but referred to contracts and other subjects, and did not particularly bear on the question of a charge. I think it cannot be regarded as a Money Bill, but I do not want to argue that now. It may be that that view will prevail. If that view can be regarded as correct, then an amendment can be made in another place, but I must bear in mind, with great respect, Mr. Speaker's view. His view may be taken, that this is a Money Bill, and that therefore any Amendment would be precluded in another place, and it would be inconsistent with my hon. Friend's offer to run the risk of our being prevented from moving an Amendment on that point which may be mutually desired. If the House will accept that explanation, which I think will he accepted, I am quite willing in the circumstances to postpone the further consideration of this Bill for a few days, and to suggest to the House that we might to-morrow—my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and others—consult together in order to clear up the matter, and, if possible, to arrive at an agreement.


I wish to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his suggestion, with which I heartily agree.


Might I suggest that a draft of the Charter should be issued as a White Paper, so that we may know what is really the determining document in this matter?


I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman any reply on that point. I think we had better wait until after we have had a joint meeting tomorrow to ascertain the position with regard to this Charter.

Ordered, "That further Consideration of the Bill, not amended, be now adjourned."

Bill, not amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered, To-morrow.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Twenty-three Minutes before Twelve o'Clock.