§ 11.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I beg to move,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold her approval from the Statute made by the Senate of the University of London on 21st March, 1951, amending the Statutes of the University, a copy of which Statute was laid before this House on 29th April.I hope to speak quite shortly on this Motion, in view of the lateness of the hour, and I should like to preface what I have to say by apologising to the House for the fact that it comes before the House at so late an hour. Unfortunately, under the University of London Act, when statutes of the University are amended by the Senate, there is only a very limited time for praying against the amendments—not the usual 40 days as in the case of a Statutory Instrument, but four weeks, including week-ends. The Prayer comes on tonight because it was agreed on both side of the House that Government and other business was likely to end earlier tonight than on any other day this week.
The University of London is governed by the University of London Act, 1926, which was enacted following a Report generally 'known as the Hilton Young Re- port, and which set up a constitution for the University which, quite shortly, is as follows. It provides for a Court, which has complete financial control, and for a Senate, which has supreme academic authority. Under the Act as it stands, which follows the proposal of the Report to which I have referred, the Senate is at present constituted as follows. There are four ex-officio members, the Chancellor, the Vice-Chancellor, the Chairman of Convocation and the Principal; 17 Faculty members elected by the teachers; 17 Convocation members elected by the graduates; 13 heads of colleges and schools; and four co-opted members.
200 It will be appreciated that the Commissioners, in framing the constitution of the Senate, tried to ensure a balance between the elected representatives of Convocation, which is a body of some 30,000 graduates, on the one hand, and the heads of colleges and the teachers who, on the other hand, represent the salaried side of the University. The Senate is given power to modify the statutes of the University but the Act provides that no statute shall have operation if within four weeks a Prayer has been passed by either House of Parliament.
I am inviting the House to pray against the proposed new statutes for two reasons. First of all, because there is a very considerable feeling in the University that they are against the public interest, and, secondly, because they shift the balance of representation on the Senate. There was a practically unanimous vote in Convocation against the proposed new statute. The matter has been considered from the legal point of view by a Committee of the Privy Council, which expressed the opinion that, technically, the new statute is not ultra vires.
But there are weighty objections of policy to it. I would remind the House that, when the University of London Bill was considered by the House, in November, 1926, an assurance was given by Lord Eustace Percy, then President of the Board of Education. He said the intention was not to affect or diminish in any way the existing representation of the body of graduates and faculties on the Senate.
The effect of the statute which has recently been passed is to increase by no fewer than five the existing number of heads of colleges and schools who are represented on the Senate, and their total will be increased to 18. The result will be that the graduate representation, which at present is 17 in 55 will be reduced to 17 in 60. It may be said that this change is not significant in itself, but one has to remember that there are many other colleges and schools in the University which are clamouring for representation in the Senate. I think it is reasonable to say that if this change is made without protest, it may be only the forerunner of other changes that will further shift the present balance.
I do not think it will be disputed that the graduates, as represented in Con- 201 vocation, have always played an important and responsible part in the affairs and management of the University. Those who have been nominated for the Senate by Convocation are drawn from public life generally. They included a great many distinguished names. I need only refer to Sir Alexander Fleming and Sir Robert Watson-Watt. In the control and management of the affairs of the University of London, which expends about £6,500,000 yearly, most of which is provided from public funds, it has always been thought desirable that there should be a substantial element which is democratically elected on a representative basis.
In this connection, may I pray in aid a significant passage from the Public Accounts Committee of this House, which only the other day, in reporting on Treasury grants to universities, stated:Your Committee would like to see introduced more effective means of securing adequate Parliamentary control over this large expenditure of public money.One method by which public opinion is represented in the University, side by side with purely academic interests is by these elected representatives of the 30,000 graduates. Therefore, I hope that a democratically elected body like this House will agree that the change proposed in the constitution of the Senate cannot be allowed.
No serious harm will be done if this Prayer is carried. There will still be ample opportunity for the consultation which I think ought to take place between the Senate and Convocation to try to reach agreement or compromise. If there are cogent reasons why the heads of certain colleges should be represented in the Senate it ought not to be difficult to come to some agreement to secure that an adequate balance is still maintained.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
I beg to second the Motion.
I wish to underline what my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher), said at the end of his speech. There is no intention of being obstructive, and if these amendments are not made there is no reason why the Senate should not again consult Convocation and try to get some agreed solution. We feel that this particular change is being rather rail-roaded through when agreement could probably have been 202 obtained. There is no reason why a further scheme of amendment should not be introduced if this one is not allowed.
§ 11.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Linstead (Putney)
There are, I think, several arguments which could be deployed against this Prayer. Without wishing to detain the House for an undue time, I would desire to do that. The proposed amended statutes can be challenged on at least two grounds, namely, that they are ultra vires the power of the University, and on their merits. I was glad to know that the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher), who moved the Prayer, did not contest them on the ground that they were ultra vires, and undoubtedly he did not do that because a committee of the Privy Council which had considered them had come to the conclusion that they were within the powers of the University to make.
I think he would agree that it is primarily on their merits that he has put them to the House. So far as the merits are concerned, it is important to notice that the modern statutes of the University were based upon recommendations made by what is called the Hilton Young Committee, and it is a fair summary of what that Committee proposed to say that they recommended that there should be equal representation of the Faculties and of the graduates, and generous representation of the teaching schools which make up the University.
That principle advocated by the Hilton Young Committee has so far been maintained by representation on the Senate of 17 from Convocation, that is, broadly, the graduates, and 17 representatives of the Faculties, broadly the teachers. In addition, there has up to now been a representation of 13 from the schools. Therefore, we have the principle of equal representation from teachers and graduates and reasonably generous representation from the schools.
The new proposals would result in Convocation being represented by 17, the Faculties by 17 and the schools by 18. I do not think that anybody familiar with the growth of the University of London in recent years would say that that particular composition, 17, 17 and 18, cuts across the Hilton Young Committee's recommendation of generous representation for the schools. I think that the House ought to be reminded 203 that the change being made was recommended to the University by a Senate Committee some two years ago, and has been very thoroughly thrashed out within the University. As the hon. Member for Islington, East said, it is only Convocation which has opposed the change.
It is interesting that the teachers, the Faculties that is, have raised no objection and that neither have the schools. Convocation, that is the graduates, did object, and they took their objection to the Queen in Council, as they were entitled to do, and by the Queen in Council it was referred to a committee of the Privy Council which after a three-days' hearing, not only of the legal questions involved, but also on merit, decided against Convocation and in favour of the statutes as they were passed by the Senate. I do not think there can be any dispute about that.
§ Mr. Richard Adams (Wandsworth, Central)
Would the hon. Gentleman have expected the two bodies mentioned, namely, the representatives of the schools and the representatives of the Faculties, to object to these proposals, seeing that they stood to gain by them?
§ Mr. Linstead
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, the Faculties are in exactly the same position as Convocation. If there is to be an increase in the representation of the schools then, on a purely numerical basis, the representation of the Faculties, just as that of Convocation, falls, but the Faculties, that is the teachers, have raised no objection to the proposed changes.
As the hon. Member for Islington, East said, Convocation has argued that it is desirable in a body such as the Senate that there should be what Convocation has called "outside informed opinion." Surely the answer to that argument is that outside informed opinion is already on the Senate through the 17 representatives of Convocation and the four co-opted members of the Senate. Unless one regards the Senate as a Parliament, as a place where things are decided by counting heads and not primarily as a body concerned with the government of the University and with the development and progress of education in London and the country, then it would seem that outside informed opinion has as much an opportunity of expressing itself with 17, 204 plus four representatives, as it has with 22 representatives of Convocation plus four ex-officio members.
§ Mr. Linstead
One of the co-opted members is head of the Post-graduate Medical Federation and the other is an ex-Vice Chancellor. But they are, nevertheless, co-opted according to the statutes. It may be that two of them can be regarded as academic people, but the other two members, one of whom is the Dean of St. Paul's, might be reasonably regarded as informed outside opinion. If Convocation has 17 representatives on the Senate, surely Convocation has as much opportunity of making its voice heard, as it would if it had 22 representatives. If it has not a majority on the Senate, and if it is merely to have representatives there, surely 17 representatives are as good as 22. I cannot see any virtue in the additional numbers.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
I see the point the hon. Gentleman is making, but if there is no virtue in adding to the numbers of the Convocation representatives, what virtue is there in adding to the number of professors who sit there?
§ Mr. Linstead
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has not entirely informed himself of the proposals of the new statute, which is not to add more professors because more professors would come on to the Senate through the Faculty representatives who are to stay at 17. The new statute adds four more heads of schools. They are not professorial representatives primarily. They are administrative heads of the constituent colleges of the University.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
Is it not clear that if a move is made to increase the Convocation representatives by five, there will have to be a similar increase by teaching staffs, which will bring in many of the people that my hon. Friends have mentioned?
§ Mr. Linstead
It is significant that the teaching staffs have not asked for any increased representation. They are satisfied with their numbers staying at 17. It may be assumed, as they have said nothing, that they are satisfied that the 205 increase in the number of representatives of the schools to 18 is in accordance with the recommendation of the Hilton Young Report, which required that schools should have generous representation.
The conclusion I would ask the House to draw is that the merits or demerits of this question depend upon whether one sees the Senate of the University as a place where everything is decided by the counting of heads—whether it is to be regarded as a battlefield of contending interests—or whether it is to be a body mainly concerned with the promotion of university education in London and in the country as a whole, in which case argument and persuasion, and not the counting of heads, are the crucial things that matter.
One other consideration to which the House ought to address itself is whether this is one of those sets of circumstances in which it is proper for Parliament to intervene in the affairs of a self-governing institution such as a university. It is perfectly true, of course, that this House has that power. It has it in the case of three or four universities only. It is significant that in the case of a very large number of universities —Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and, generally speaking, the University of Wales, Parliament has no power to interfere with the amendment of their statutes. I think it is only in the case of four universities that the House has the opportunity, which it has tonight, of considering their internal constitution.
The House, therefore, ought to consider very carefully what are the circumstances and occasions where it should exercise that power, because we are all jealous of the independence of the universities. The last thing any of us want is to see the universities become involved in politics, certainly party politics. We must remember there is a statutory method of resolving these difficulties, which is to appeal to the Queen in Council. That method is being exercised in this case in favour of the University.
I suggest the only circumstances in which Parliament ought to intervene is if there has been some irregularity in the procedure, or what is proposed to be done is obviously contrary to public policy. I cannot see that a change which is in full accord with the recommendations of the 206 Hilton Young Committee in 1926, which is a purely internal matter for this University, can be regarded as being contrary to public policy.
If, let us say, the University proposed to alter its statutes to exclude women from taking degrees or something of that kind, obviously there would be cause for this House to intervene. But I submit this is a purely domestic matter. It is a matter that should be left to the University, with the right of appeal to the Queen in Council which has already been exercised. I submit it is not consonant with the dignity of Parliament or the University that Parliament should intervene in such a domestic matter. For those reasons I strongly advise the House not to agree to this Prayer, but to allow the statute passed by the University to take effect.
§ 12.4 a.m.
§ Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)
Whatever view we may take of this Prayer I think we all agree about the very great importance of the University of London which, I am told, spends about £6 million a year on teaching, 70 or 80 per cent. of the money being derived from public sources. The academic government of the University rests with the Senate and in the Senate teachers, undergraduates, Convocation members and representatives of the schools of the University are roughly equal in number.
The proposal is to increase the number of these representatives and I submit that to allow two out of three to be teachers or representatives of the school is not to allow sufficient representation of the public. Teachers and the representatives of the school, although important people whose voice must be heard, are very liable to take, if alone, a one-sided view. They may very well look upon the special department for which they are responsible as being all-important, and be unable to take a broad view such as we would like to be taken in view of the importance of the University.
The very last thing I would suggest is that they would use their power on the Senate for their own special purposes, but they may get the needs of the school or the section they represent out of proportion. I belong to the medical profession, and we are very particular when we or our families are ill never to treat ourselves or our families for the very reason 207 that we feel that our views will not be unprejudiced. Therefore, I think the point is that somehow or another the public should be fully represented in even the academic teaching of a body like a university.
The question is how that representation of the public can take place. I think that those who decided on the constitution of this University were wise in making a considerable representation from Convocation, that is, from the graduates of the University. I was for many years a member of Convocation so I know something of what takes place on it. I am sure, and I was at one time not an unsuccessful candidate for the Senate, that the graduates of the University are very jealous of these interests and of the teaching that goes on. To increase the number of representatives of the school and the teachers, and not to increase the representatives of the public through the graduates of the University, will be a very unwise step.
§ 12.8 a.m.
§ Mr. Henry Brooke (Hampstead)
The only reason I venture to take part in this important debate is that I find to my surprise that I am the only member of either of the two governing bodies of the University of London who happens to be at this moment a Member of the House of Commons also. I am not a member of the Senate, and I am not a graduate of the University. In that sense it gives me a special independent position in this matter. I happen to be one of the two representatives appointed under the statutes by the L.C.C. to the financial controlling body of the University, on which what I might call the external public interest is amply represented.
The overwhelming point in this debate, as it seems to me, is that all these matters which we are discussing here have been thrashed out in full before a committee of the Privy Council, consisting of three wholly independent men, two of whom were at one time Members of this House, so that as well as being versed in the law they are particularly qualified to understand the public view on these matters.
With great respect to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) it really cannot be maintained that that committee, as he said, 208 considered all this from a legal point of view only. I have had an opportunity of seeing the case that was put up by both sides—by Convocation and by the University—to the committee of the Privy Council, and Convocation when it was addressing itself to the Privy Council certainly did not take the view, which I think the hon. Gentleman has conveyed this evening, that the Privy Council was only concerned with legal considerations.
The case of Convocation was presented under three headings; first, that the proposed amendment is unconstitutional and ultra vires—that is the legal part—second, that the proposed amendment is unnecessarily prejudicial to the existing statutory rights of Convocation, and, third, that there are not positive reasons sufficient to justify an amendment of the kind now proposed. Of those three, only one is a legal argument, and the committee of the Privy Council gave its opinion in the plainest terms that the amended statute relating to the composition of the Senate should not be disallowed. Very simply, Convocation argued its case under all those three headings, and the Privy Council rejected the case as a whole not simply on legal arguments.
The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) has argued that there will not be sufficient representatives of the public on the governing body of the university if the amended statute goes through. In fact, there is, and will be still, a greater representation of the public in the Senate of this University than exists in any other English university. Certainly in Oxford, which I know better than London, there is no representation of the "old boys," so to speak, in any way comparable to the representation of Convocation in the Senate of the University of London.
Nor do I think it is quite fair of the promoters of this Prayer to argue that this new statute should be disallowed on the ground that other and more fare reaching amendments may come along at a later date, because that is not what the House has before it. If other and more far-reaching amendments in any direction come along, it will be clearly open to objectors to argue their case afresh against those before the Privy Council and this House. Tonight, we must decide on the actual issue and not on some hypothetical issue of the future.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
The hon. Member appears to be repeating an argument which rather shocked me when it was made from the other side of the House. It is that if Parliament is invested with responsibility we should not exercise it because some other body has already come to a decision on the point. That seems to be arguable and I shall be grateful if he will say if notice was taken of the Third Report of the Public Accounts Committee, which said that Parliament had inadequate information as to the way this money was spent.
§ Mr. Brooke
All members of the Court, which is the financial body, have received copies of that Report from the Select Committee, and it must be most thoroughly considered by the Court. But I must point out that at the moment we are discussing the composition of the Senate and not of the Court. The Senate is an entirely different body. It is the Court alone which deals with finance, and the Senate which deals with academic matters.
§ Mr. Brooke
The hon. Member is now trying to bring in financial considerations, and I am pointing out that this amending statute has nothing to do with finance. If it had any bearing on finance it would have to come before the Court, and the Court could itself raise objection, if it so wished.
Of course, I grant the hon. Member's first point—that any matter which is within the scope of Parliament can be raised and should be debated here, although it would have been more courteous of the sponsors of this Prayer to inform the University that they were putting it on the Order Paper. The prayer appeared on the Order Paper last Wednesday, and the University authorities received no intimation from them whatever. They heard by a circuitous channel on Thursday evening.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
Surely the hon. Member knows, and the University knows, that for months there has been 210 a most violent opposition in the University to this measure? It has been well known that a circular has been in preparation, signed by no fewer than 14 members of the Senate, canvassing the support of this House against this particular statute.
§ Mr. Brooke
That may well be so. Nevertheless, it would have been an act of courtesy, within the University, for someone who is an ex-member of the Senate and who is concerned in this Prayer, to have informed the University, because the University authorities could hardly be expected to watch the Order Paper daily to see whether the Prayer was coming at short notice. But I do not want to press this. I shall be grateful if the House will allow me to get back to the main argument.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Bing (Hornchurch)
It is a most monstrous charge. It is the duty of the University, with a statute of this nature, to realise that it is subject to Parliamentary control. It is not the duty of Parliament to inform everybody who may be influenced by anything done in the House. The hon. Gentleman knows that with the congestion of Parliamentary business this is the only night the matter could be brought up, and it is the duty of the University to have sufficient interest in their own affairs to watch the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Brooke
Naturally, the promoters of the Prayer were at liberty to put it down whenever they wished, but a university and all members of a university should combine to maintain the highest standards of courtesy in all such matters.
As to the proportions, the one fact which is beyond dispute is that two of the three parts of the Senate should be kept equal: the representatives of Convocation and the teaching element. I take it that the promoters of the Prayer would agree that if they have their way, and if the Convocation element is increased by five, the teaching element should also be increased by five. It is significant that the teaching staff—the Faculty representatives—do not want that increase and I fancy that one of the reasons is that they appreciate that it is important that a body of this kind should not grow over-large. That is one of the strongest arguments against an 211 automatic increase on the one-third principle. At present, the size of the Senate is to be 59 or 60, and if those who speak for Convocation have their way it would be increased by a further 10 members.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
There is no proposal to increase the number of teachers. The test here is between those who are democratically and representatively elected and those who are paid members of the University, whether teachers or heads of schools.
§ Mr. Brooke
It would fly in the face of all principles on which the Senate was originally constituted if the Convocation element was to be increased without at the same time increasing the representatives of the teaching staffs.
§ Mr. Brooke
It is very relevant in the one way I have mentioned.
This matter has been considered at very great length within the University and I do not think it is fair to argue that it has been steam-rollered through the Senate. The chairman of the Statutes Committees was Sir David Hughes-Parry, a person known to probably many Members in the House, who I should have thought was one of the most considerate and painstaking of chairmen. I cannot think of him along with steam-roller methods, and it is a travesty to suggest that this change has been forced, in the manner of an ultimatum, upon Convocation. On the contrary, every effort has been made to try to seek agreement.
I wish to remind the House that all these arguments about finance are irrelevant, because we are not considering the body which controls finance. The finance of the University is entirely within the purview of the Court. The Senate provides not more than half the total membership of the Court. The other part of the Court is composed of representatives appointed by the Crown, by the London County Council, by the councils of the Home Counties, and so forth. That is the way in which public control over these enormous sums of public money is maintained.
212 What I submit is relevant is that the House should be chary, even though it is within its rights, about setting aside in a thin House after midnight and after a short debate, a decision reached after most thorough and searching examination by a committee of the Privy Council, on a matter which reached the committee only after it had been fully debated inside the University.
I trust that this House will ever maintain the principle that the universities should be given the maximum amount of independence. On all these grounds, although I grant that the hon. Member is fully within his rights in raising the matter here, I submit it would be a grave mistake if Parliament were to reverse the decision of the Privy Council.
§ 12.22 a.m.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
I am not a graduate of the London University, although, as a Londoner, I have great pride in the University. I was surprised at the type of argument used by the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead). He talked about counting heads and suggested that merely adding five or more to the Senate would not make any difference. This proposal arose because heads were counted in the Senate. I am informed that there was a majority vote in the Senate for putting through this proposal, which clearly will upset the existing balance of voting power in the Senate if it is carried.
There is no doubt about there being enormous opposition to it, including that from a number of the existing members of the Senate. It seems to me that the House, in the exercise of its proper powers and functions, must take note of it.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
The hon. Member referred to upsetting the voting power of the Senate. In what way will it upset the voting power?
§ Mr. Gibson
I said that it would upset the balance of voting power. The constitution establishing the Senate laid down a certain number as representing the Convocation and the other groups which make up the Senate. If five more are added, those who represent the Convocation will to that extent be further outvoted if a vote has to be taken, and it is on that point that members of the 213 Convocation have raised this rather fierce statement.
§ Mr. Linstead
The hon. Member has referred to me. May I ask him if he sees the University from now onwards as a tug-of-war or a battle-field, with Convocation on one side and the rest of the University on the other; so that if any more are added to the Senate five votes are automatically put at one end of the tug-of-war?
§ Mr. Gibson
I think it would be lamentable if that happened.
Nevertheless, it is true that when matters are raised in the Senate and there are differences of opinion—as on this very issue—one can only settle it by counting the heads; and to upset the existing balance of the votes seems to me to be asking for difficulty. I have read the arguments in favour of both the change and those opposing it, but I think that one upsets the democratic balance of the Senate if the proposal is adopted.
The Privy Council Committee has cleared up the legal point, and what we have tonight to determine is whether it is good public policy, at least so far as Londoners are concerned, that there should be this change in the composition of the Senate. Having read all the documents that I have had, I think it is bad policy to make a change and I shall support the Prayer; for I want to keep our universities as free as I can. I hope that the House, in view of the arguments put forward, will decide to maintain the existing balance of representation on the Senate, which is already accepted by all sections except one.
§ 12.26 a.m.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
It might be for the convenience of the House if I indicated at this stage what are the views from this bench. I understand that this is the first Prayer of this character that has been tabled for a great many years, if indeed, at all, and it arises from a dispute inside the University of London.
I propose to say nothing at all about the merits of the dispute for it would not be proper that H.M. Government should even appear to interfere in the internal affairs of a university. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) is aware, it is the settled policy 214 of Governments to preserve the autonomy of the universities and we are very anxious not to infringe their independence, whether in matters of academic policy, or in discretion.
My duty tonight, therefore, is merely to try to put before the House something of the background and procedural considerations, but not to influence hon. Members as to the attitude which, ultimately, they will have to adopt if the Motion is put to the vote. Incidentally. one could say in parenthesis that this is peculiarly the sort of issue on which hon. Members representing the universities would be of great value to the House, but they are not with us.
The position has been accurately stated by the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) and it is not necessary for me to repeat it. But one point I think I should make clear is that Convocation consists of the whole body of the registered graduates of the University. One hon. Member seemed to think that it included the undergraduates. The dispute between the two bodies, as is clear, arises from what, in University parlance, is called a statute; not, of course, the statute as known by that word in this House.
The point which has arisen is whether or not the representatives of certain of the institutions, of which, in a sense, the University is a federation, should be increased from 13 to 18 by adding one representative each of the British Post-Graduate Medical Association, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Wye Agricultural College, and by adding two members to the existing two who represent the 13 medical schools in the University.
As I understand it, the argument for the statute is that the work of the Senate requires for its due performance the inclusion of representatives of institutions so far not represented or inadequately represented. On the other hand, the argument for the Convocation is that it reduces their voting strength in the Senate from a proportion of 17 out of 54 to a proportion of 17 out of 59. I think that is the substance of the dispute.
I ought to remind the House—and this is an important point which we should have clear on the procedure of the matter —that, following the procedure which was 215 laid down in the Schedule to the Act of 1926 passed by this House, Convocation presented a Petition to His late Majesty in Council, who, as it happened, was the Visitor to the University, as is Her present Majesty. The matter was then referred for consideration by a committee of the Privy Council, and it is clear that what was referred was not solely the legal issue, but the general issue as well.
That Committee of the Privy Council was composed of the noble Lord, Lord Reid, whom many hon. Members will remember with affection as a Member of this House, Mr. Willink, now Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and also a very distinguished former Member of this House, and Sir John Beaumont, a distinguished judge. There was a hearing which lasted three days, on 7th, 8th and 9th April. It is material for the House to be aware that the University was represented by eminent counsel—Mr. Diplock, Q.C., with the noble Lord, Lord Hailsham as his junior—and, at the expense of the University, Convocation was also represented by eminent counsel—Sir Andrew Clark, Q.C., Mr. Duff Dunbar and others. At the end of the hearing, the Chairman, Lord Reid, announced that the committee had decided to recommend that the Petition of Convocation should be disallowed. Accordingly, copies of the amending statute were tabled in this House, and that brings me to the proceedings tonight.
Under the University of London Act, a Prayer can be moved for the annulment of the statute. It is no part of my duty, and it would be quite wrong for me, to indicate any views on the merits of the matter, but I think I am entitled to make one general comment on procedure. It is the undoubted right of this House, under the procedure of the University of London Act, to recommend the annulment of this statute. It is an express provision wholly within the rights of this House. On the other hand, it is a consideration which might have some weight in the minds of hon. Members that, after a three-day hearing before an eminent judicial body, with both sides represented by counsel, the decision of that body is obviously a material factor which hon. Members will consider and not lightly disregard.
216 No doubt, as the debate continues, the House will have the assistance of hon. Members who express conflicting points of view on the matter, but I think that the facts of the matter, the general framework of the dispute and the point of procedure at which we now find ourselves have been fairly stated, and, no doubt, in due course, after further speeches, hon. Members will have to make up their minds on the merits of the matter on which way this question is to be decided.
§ 12.34 a.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I agree with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that it would be most unfortunate if this matter were regarded as one in which either the Government or the official Opposition took sides and gave advice to Members of the House. Therefore, although I have decided views, I wish it to be understood that they are my personal views, and that they should not influence anyone beyond the weight of the arguments which may be adduced.
I think I am a little freer than the Financial Secretary in being able to express personal views, because it is difficult for a Member of the Government to divest himself, even momentarily, of his responsibility as a Member of the Government. The University of London is, in a way, a production of this House. It was founded as a result of discussions in the House at a time when the two ancient universities were closed to a large number of the inhabitants of the country by the imposition of religious tests.
Those who founded the London University desired that it should occupy a unique position not only among the universities of this country, but of the world. For more than 100 years it has carried out that task with considerable success. It has enabled a large number of people who otherwise would have been unable to do so—sometimes because of their religious views and at other times because of poverty—to enjoy a university education and to become graduates of an established and recognised university of high repute. This has been to their own advantage, and to the advantage of the country in which they lived.
The University of London is an international university whose examinations are held not only in this country, but in a great many English-speaking countries. The roll of its graduates includes people 217 who have never been to this country and are not likely to come, but yet have benefited through their association with the University, and have enriched not only this country, but the world as a result.
It is therefore desirable that the body which represents the graduates of a University founded on these lines, and which has operated on these lines, should not have its weight in the counsels of the University diminished by any act at present. That is why I intend to vote for the Prayer. I think that this particular proposal would diminish the influence of the representatives of the ordinary body of graduates in the counsels of the University. I would not suggest that the constitution of the Senate is incapable of improvement. The Senate of the University is a human institution, and I know of no human institution which is not capable of improvement and which probably does not become worthy of consideration for improvement as the years go by.
I admit that in recent years the establishment of new schools and colleges in connection with this University has given rise to difficulties which will probably have to be met in the future. I would suggest that there might be some arrangement similar to that by which bishops sit in another place. There, three bishops—London, Winchester and Durham—get seats as soon they have been advanced to their distinguished places in affairs ecclesiastical. The rest get a seat in rotation by seniority.
That would be one way. I do not think it is an ideal way. I think there are perhaps some junior bishops who would be rather better than the senior ones sitting in another place, if I may criticise the composition of another place in so small a way as that, although as a Non-Conformist I would be better pleased if there were no bishops there at all.
But the various schools of the University might select from among themselves a number of the heads who should sit and thus not disturb the balance, because I can see that as the schools of this University grow in number—and I am quite certain that they will grow in number within the Home Counties during the next few years —it will obviously be necessary to make an arrangement by which there is some 218 selection from the heads because unless the balance of voting in the Senate is preserved it will become quite unwieldy.
I should have thought it was in the best interests of the University, in view of the controversy which has arisen within it that this statute should not be brought into operation, that this House through its action should secure that further thought be given to this matter, and that, as a result of the persuasion and argument for which the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead) pleaded, there might be evolved some scheme which would give the schools and colleges not now represented some means by which they can secure representation, and, at the same time, the composition of the graduates in Convocation should be preserved.
In view of the history of this University, I hope that will be done. I do not wish to see University of London become a mere copy of either Oxford or Cambridge; I do not want to see its governing body the same as the governing body of either of those universities. It has a unique place in the educational affairs of the world, and that unique place can best be preserved and safeguarded by securing that the body of graduates, including especially external graduates of the University—again a body almost unique in the history of education in the world—shall have a sufficient influence in the current control of the University and in its development.
I am a matriculant of London University. In fact, in my young days one could hardly escape becoming a matriculant of London University. When my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) claimed for undergraduates the right of representation in Convocation, I agreed at one time that it might almost be universal suffrage in a few years' time if that was brought about.
We have had a very good-tempered debate on this matter, and, speaking for myself and not in any way for any party in the House, I suggest that no harm will be done to the University by carrying this Prayer tonight, but that as a result of so doing the beneficent influence of persuasion and argument will enable a scheme to be evolved which without the counting of heads might enable us to feel that it had the support of the great body of graduate opinion in this University.
§ 12.45 a.m.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
I want to do nothing else than to prove physically that this is not a party issue, as it did begin to become because of the deployment of the arguments on both sides of the House. I feel it is a matter of considerable regret that this issue should have had to have come to this House. I feel the argument put forward that we should not intervene was, in fact, the very argument for our intervening, to prevent the tug-of-war, which it would appear has started, from continuing.
I regret very greatly that I should find myself in this debate, divided from my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead), for whose sincerity and knowledge in this matter I have very high regard. I feel that he did not bring out the point, which seems very clear, that we are not considering the numerical issue so much in the matter of the heads of colleges and numbers of the Faculty, as the community of interests which actually bind them together, as opposed to the graduates who come from a different quarter.
I agree that the University of London has to have a character of its own. It is the very balancing of these academic and non-academic interests which will impart to it that character. I think that much of the argument deployed has been of the nature of arguments one would have heard in the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. It is because of that, that I am sceptical whether it does apply to the same degree in this particular case. There is one other aspect of the present proposal. I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke), complained that it was not right to bring in these matters. I would have thought it was very relevant and that if we take this action we are creating a precedent which will subsequently enable the University, without any justification for our intervening, to increase again and again, the numbers of the heads of schools.
I believe that if we study the matter we shall find, apart from those at present listed for inclusion, that there are many others on the waiting list. That will subsequently destroy the whole structure. I cannot agree more that it would be beneath the dignity of this House to inter- 220 vene unnecessarily in what was only a university row. I should like personally to pay tribute to those who enabled the Convocation case to be brought forward as it was. It is clear that this matter has reached an impasse and that if we do proceed in this matter the tug-of-war will develop. I most earnestly hope that we may terminate the proceedings in order that all those concerned may be able to think again.
§ 12.49 a.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Droylsden)
I am sorry that on this occasion that I am not able to agree with my hon. Friends on this side of the House in their plea for this Prayer. They will probably say that if I had had a university education, I would not be quite so foolish. I have taken the trouble to examine, as far as I could, the issues involved. I have read the statement issued by the Vice-Chancellor, on behalf of the University authorities, and I have read, as carefully as I could, the statement issued on behalf of the graduates of the University of London.
I have come to the conclusion that we are in danger of missing the real merit of the amendment to the statute in this quarrel about the ratio of representatives in the Senate. The important aspect of the amendment to the statute is that we are bringing into the counsels of the University at least three institutions that, in my opinion, are worthy of being there. There is no need for me to enlarge upon them. The School of Oriental and African Studies is an important institution, and it will be to the general interest of the University of London if that institution is represented in its Senate.
I understand that Wye College is an important agricultural institution. Having regard to modern requirements in that field I should have thought it would have been in line with the tradition of the University of London, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) paid tribute, that Wye College should also be represented in the Senate.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey
As the hon. Member has mentioned me, I should like to make it clear that there is no censure in this Prayer or suggestion that these institutions are not worthy to be represented. 221 The issue is that if they are, some measure should have been taken to preserve the balance. That is the whole cause of the argument.
§ Mr. Williams
As an old trade union negotiator I never put up my own hurdles. I wait until they appear and then try to find some means of surmounting them. In reply to the hon. Member for Harrow, East, I would say that the proportion or ratio, as set down in 1926, and as varied in this statute, is the criterion in this debate and not the claims on merit of these important institutions to be represented in the Senate. But those merits seem to me to be the important issue.
I know some very hard work has been done on this subject by certain people. I agree with the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) that anybody who says that Dr. Hughes-Parry would use steam-roller tactics is either misleading the House or does not know Dr. Hughes-Parry. He is well known in Wales as the prince of mediators and if there is anybody unlikely to gate-crash or to use the steam-roller it is he. Therefore, if Dr. Hughes-Parry was chairman of the committee concerned I cannot agree with the undergraduates that the steam-roller has been used.
I do not propose to fall into the error, into which one of my hon. Friends has fallen, of regarding the graduates as a democratic body and of talking about a democratic election in connection with 30,000 people out of the whole population of London which benefits from and contributes to the University of London. It is a misuse of the term "democratic election" to employ it in this connection. It is only democratic in so far as it relates to the graduates who are a very small proportion of the whole. My old trade union association again makes me feel I could not accept that basis as a very valid one for a democratic election.
Even granted that that is so I want to ask one or two questions. There are 30,000 people entitled to vote on this 222 issue. How many voted in favour of this Prayer? My information is that the well attended meeting referred to in the statement made on behalf of the graduates was attended by only 300.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
I apologise to my hon. Friend for interrupting, but can he say what proportion of members of his union attend a meeting?
§ Mr. Williams
Unfortunately, not as many as I should like to see so that we could say we have a majority from the democratic and intelligent thinking people, but if it was a matter of great importance there would be a referendum, and if I found that only 300 out of 30,000 replied I would not think it a representative return from the people I represented.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
The hon. Gentleman put a question to me which I would like to answer. I do not know the exact number of graduates who attended the meeting but the significant thing is that the voting was almost unanimous. There were representatives of every faculty and both political parties.
§ Mr. Williams
A meeting can be so easily packed to obtain unanimity. I am thinking of quite a number of public bodies with which I am associated. If a few people feel strongly about a matter and are prepared to go to a meeting it is not difficult to get a particular decision if other people are indifferent.
Another question I should like to put to my hon. Friend is this. Have Convocation signed this appeal? My information is that the chairman of Convocation is not one of the signatories to this appeal. Is there any significance to be attached to that very important omission?
§ Mr. I. O. Thomas
My hon. Friend is probably answered by the fact that it happens that the chairman of Convocation is one of the four ex-officio members of the Senate, and it would be rather invidious, in his position, for him to take any part in this matter.
§ Mr. Williams
I always thought that even new and inexperienced Members of the House never disclosed in the Chamber what happens in the Dining Room, the Smoke Room or the Tea Room. It might interest my right hon. Friend to know that I know something of the work of Dr. Hughes-Parry, and that I take serious note of what he says. I do not think that my right hon. Friend's remark was one of the best he has made in the course of his time in this House.
I am assuming that if this Motion is carried it will be necessary to go back again on this issue that we should increase the number of representatives of graduates. I am assuming that if that is done to maintain the balance it is not unreasonable to assume that the Faculties of teachers will also want to strike a balance with Convocation. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We have had an expression of opinion that under the amendment of the statute the teachers were not particular, but I suggest that if the position is reversed and we are to add to the number of representatives of graduates that it is not unreasonable to assume that the representatives of the Faculties will want to have the status quo maintained.
If that is so, what advantage is gained from either side? The situation will be identical with what it is now with the only exception that we shall have added to the people who can make a contribution to the general welfare of London University of representatives of three institutions, plus two more from the general medical schools, on the councils of the University. I think that will be to the good and I see no reason why this House should be allowed to make a decision unfavourable to that in their anxiety to deal with what I regard as a side issue and certainly not something that I would call a democratic issue.
§ 1.2 a.m.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
I should like to compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) on the fervour with which he put the case against this Prayer. I part company with him after that. It seemed to me that he put a very good case why we should accept the Prayer so that the whole issue can go back to 224 the Senate and Convocation for further consideration.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury gave a very fair and objective account of the developments which led up to this Prayer being tabled and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) made a very good case why the representation of the schools on the Senate should not be increased to the detriment of the graduate body. Now we have heard from my hon. Friend that he thinks all is not well with Convocation and that they ought to put their house in order also. But if we let this amended statute go through we shall have lost all control over the issue for some time to come.
If we accept the principle behind the amended statute the membership on the Senate of Convocation will remain static, the representation of the teachers will remain static and the representation of the schools will be increased as and when certain schools develop in importance. As it seems that there are a number, four at least, of schools who should get further representation on the Senate, that will upset the balance even more in a very short time.
The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Linstead) spoke of the need to be generous to the schools, but if we increase the representation of the schools from 13 to 18 so that it out-numbers the Convocation representatives and the teachers' representatives that seems to be overgenerous to them, especially when we consider that they may be coming forward for some further increase in the future. If this statute is passed it will upset the balance of representation which is the unique feature of London University.
When the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) was speaking against the Prayer, he seemed to think it was a desirable thing that we should upset that balance to get more in line with the older universities. The great pride of London University is that it is different from the older universities in that it draws its students from a wider field and has a much more democratic outlook in many respects. We should do all in our power to preserve that and not to whittle it away, as would happen if the Prayer was defeated.
§ Mr. Brooke
The hon. Member has misunderstood. I was not making any suggestion that the University of London should be aligned more closely with the older universities, but taking up a point made by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings), when he suggested that under the new plan there would not be sufficient representation of the outside public. I pointed out that the University of London, as I know he agrees, will even so have greater representation of the public outside than any of the other universities.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
I accept that completely.
May I make one important suggestion? It is that the whole question of representation on the Senate must be looked into afresh. To do that with a clear mind and without acting irresponsibly we ought to accept this Prayer and refer the whole question to the Senate, so that, after further thought, they could work out a method of including the schools on some kind of representative basis. It could be a rotating method, or the idea of representation of the bishops in another place
§ That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold her approval from the Statute made by the Senate of the University of London on 21st March, 1951, amending the Statutes of the226
§ that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields did not think much of, or the system adopted by the Security Council of the United Nations, with permanent members representing the more important bodies in the University, plus a number of elective bodies, representing certain clearly defined parts of the University—the medical schools, agricultural departments, language schools, and so on. Of course, there should be no right of veto by the major powers, or it would be wrecked.
§ Tonight's debate proves the value of Parliament in bringing its mind to bear on this topic. If, as a result, we can accept this Prayer and send the matter back to the Senate for further consideration, we shall end up with more agreement than if this new, amended statute goes through, because that would be a source of grievance for a long time to come to a large number of those interested.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 27; Noes, 17.225
|Division No. 139.]||AYES||[1.7 a.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Gibson, C. W.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Adams, Richard||Grimond, J.||Ross, William|
|Bence, C. R.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Royle, C.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hastings, S.||Simmons, C. J (Brierley Hill)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Lewis, Arthur|
|Foot, M. M.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Parker, J.||Mr. Albu and Mr. Ian Harvey.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Nutting, Anthony||Summers, G. S.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Deedes, W. F.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Mr. Linstead and Mr. Henry Brooke.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Studholme, H. G.|
§ the University, a copy of which Statute was laid before this House on 29th April.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.