HC Deb 13 July 1960 vol 626 cc1523-53

10.0 p.m.

Mr. Forbes Hendry (Aberdeenshire, West)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will withhold Her Assent from University Court Ordinance No. 348 (University of Glasgow No. 100) (Regulations for the Degree of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.)), a copy of which was laid before this House on 3rd May. I apologise to the House for having the temerity to raise at this advanced hour of the night what appears to be private business, but it is a matter which requires no apology at all because it is, in fact, Scottish business of very definite public importance. I sincerely hope that Scottish Members present and such English Members as care to wait will consider carefully what I have to say.

It is with very great regret that I raise this matter because, as a graduate of the University of Glasgow, I have very great diffidence in criticising my alma mater, but I am heartened by the knowledge that the kindest of mothers may sometimes be mistaken, with the best of intentions and the best of motives. I suggest to the House that, in this case, the University of Glasgow is mistaken, albeit with the best of intentions.

The procedure which I am adopting tonight is a very unusual one. I believe that it has not happened for many years that a Prayer has been moved in the House against the Ordinance of a university. I believe that the reason for this, to a very large extent, is that it has always been regarded as outwith the province of the Executive to interfere in any way with the internal administration or even the academic standards set by a university. I feel that, in this particular case, the public interest requires that the House should exercise its duty to scrutinise with more than usual care this Ordinance which, by Statute, must lie on the Table of the House for twelve weeks.

This is not an internal administrative matter for the University. It is a matter affecting the public interest in very high degree. It affects one of the great learned professions in Scotland. In my humble submission, the House has an absolute duty to look at the Ordinance and take such steps as it thinks fit.

This learned profession in Scotland, which is quite separate from the profession in England, is split from top to bottom on this issue. There is no unanimity of opinion, and I have reason to believe—I say this with all sincerity—that there is no unanimity on the subject within the University of Glasgow itself. There has been internal dissension about it and there has been a great deal of correspondence in the public Press and elsewhere between one faction in the University and another. The Professor of Law in Glasgow takes one view. The Emeritus Professor of Mercantile Law in Glasgow takes an entirely different view.

Since there is this diversity of opinion not only in the University but in the profession, I respectfully suggest that the House has a duty not only to examine the situation but even to maintain the status quo. I do not wish to be thought in any way to be trying to prevent my University from making reforms which are necessary and due, but I do suggest that in this Ordinance a mistake is being made and there ought to be an independent inquiry before the Ordinance is approved by Her Majesty in Council or before it is rejected out of hand.

I understand that the House itself has no power to appoint such a committee of inquiry, but, if the House does pray against the Ordinance, I understand—perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate will correct me later if I am wrong—that Her Majesty's Privy Council has power to make the necessary inquiries and to advise itself on the matter, taking such steps as appear to Her Majesty in Council to be right and proper. This matter is very serious, and, in my humble submission, the Ordinance as drafted spells the death knell to scholarship in the real sense in the solicitors' branch of the legal profession in Scotland—[Interruption.] I will develop that. The hon. Member is entitled to express his opinion, but I should like him to hear what I have to say first. The position is extremely complicated.

Before I proceed to develop my argument further, I think it right and proper that the House should know the facts of the case. A very fair communication has been sent by the University of Glasgow to all Scottish Members, but, as there are Members other than Scottish Members present, it is right that I should give a brief summary of the present position. Although I say that the communication from the University gives a fair picture of the facts, I do not necessarily agree with the deductions in it. I will summarise it so that hon. Members present may know what are the facts.

There are no fewer than four degrees granted by the University of Glasgow which we must consider in connection with this Prayer. The first is the degree of Master of Arts which in Scotland corresponds with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in England. To all intents and purposes, it is very much the same degree and it takes two forms. The first, the ordinary degree, is a very wide general education covering a large number of subjects and with certain subjects which are sine qua non. It is essential in every ordinary arts degree to study a language other than English. It may be Latin, French or any modern language. In addition, a sine qua non is either mathematics or a science. These are very wide general subjects, and might be called academic subjects, but they have a very great bearing on the general education of the student who studies them.

The third sine qua non in every ordinary degree, as far as I know, is a mental philosophy. In Scottish universities mental philosophies are generally logic, metaphysics and moral philosophy. I will not explain all these subjects, as hon. Members who have been to university know about them already, but they are purely a mental exercise without any practical application. However, they have the faculty of training the mind of the person who studies them. In Scotland it has always been the basis of all learned professions that these subjects should be studied as far as possible before a student goes on to a vocational subject, such as the law, divinity or education, or, in the old days, even medicine. The medical profession, I am sorry to say, does not now insist on it, because it has become so complicated that it takes such a long time for a boy to become a doctor.

These subjects have to some extent disappeared from the general curriculum. I know that a great many people in the medical profession think that that is a pity, and it is still customary for a medical student to combine with his medical degree a degree in science which widens his education in general subjects and enables him better to speak about them and have a wider interest in the affairs of the world in general.

For schoolmasters the Master of Arts degree is still the recognised degree qualifying them for that occupation, but there is a higher degree in education called a Bachelor of Education which presupposes a Master of Arts degree and cannot be taken without that. In divinity there is an agreed—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)

This Ordinance is solely concerned with the law degree.

Mr. Hendry

I was being explanatory, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I shall conclude this part of my discourse, which I think is necessary, because I propose to make certain suggestions about that degree later.

The next degree which I should like to consider is that of LL.B., Bachelor of Laws. This degree has been granted by Glasgow University for just under one hundred years. It is ninety-nine years since it was instituted as a degree granted after examination. Ever since the degree of Bachelor of Laws was granted as a degree following examination, a Master of Arts degree has been an essential prerequisite. In other words, it was impossible to go on and study for the degree of Bachelor of Laws until one had become, in the old days, a Bachelor of Arts and now, in modern circumstances, a Master of Arts. That has gone on for ninety-nine years and has met with a great deal of success. It has produced a great many lawyers who are not only learned in their own profession, but have had a wide general education preceding it. You will now see, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, why I mentioned in some detail the degree of Master of Arts.

Fifty years ago, to meet a definite requirement of the solicitors' profession, three of the four Scottish universities instituted another degree called Bachelor of Law. The degree of Bachelor of Law is relevant to the Ordinance. It was, in its inception—in fact, it still is—a rather simpler degree than that of Bachelor of Laws in that the number of subjects to be studied is rather less. The prerequisite degree of Master of Arts or Bachelor of Arts of another university is not necessary in the case of the degree of Bachelor of Law.

There is a fourth degree, which is not mentioned in the Ordinance and is not mentioned in any of the pieces of paper which have been sent out—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think we need refer to it, then.

Mr. Hendry

It is essential to refer to it, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because it is a degree which is granted within the Faculty of Law.

I refer to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, which is granted within the Faculty of Law and is a higher degree obtained by a student only after additional research and study after taking the ordinary degrees. The Scottish legal tradition has been a broad, general education first and a vocational education afterwards.

I turn from the University itself to the other side of legal education: that is, the practical education of a lawyer. This is of great relevance to the subject. To enable hon. Members to understand what I shall say, I must explain that the law in Scotland is divided, as in England, into two parts. There is a Bar, consisting in Scotland of a Faculty of Advocates, which is divided into two parts—that is, Queen's counsel and ordinary advocates, corresponding to barristers in England—and a solicitors' branch of the profession.

The attitudes of these two branches of the profession to the new Ordinance are completely different, because they have completely different points of view. Both branches of the profession have considered the Ordinance and have given their opinion upon it. The Bar in Scotland has always insisted on a wide general education. Its members have given careful consideration to this new proposal and have decided that, from their point of view, there is something to be said for the new proposal, but they are very sorry that it is not for them. They insist upon the old basis of a wide general education.

I must digress for a moment and explain what is proposed, because it is difficult to understand the matter with out an explanation at this stage. The first proposal in the Ordinance—

Mr. J. A. Stodart (Edinburgh, West)

I was surprised when I understood my hon. Friend to say that the Faculty of Advocates had disapproved of the Ordinance when, in fact, the Faculty's opinion on the subject ends with this extremely downright statement: From the point of view of academic legal education, the proposals are to be welcomed.

Mr. Hendry

I am obliged to my hon. Friend, who picked me up wrongly when I said that the Faculty of Advocates disapproved. I will tell the House later what the Faculty of Advocates said about this. I should like, however, to be allowed at this stage to give my explanation of what is proposed.

The first proposal in the Ordinance is to abolish altogether the degree of Bachelor of Laws, to make it unnecessary to take an arts degree before proceeding to the degree of LL.B. and to grant the degree of LL.B. as a first degree after three years' full-time study at a university. In other words, the effect on a prospective student studying for an LL.B. degree will be to deprive him of the necessity of getting a degree in arts and a wide general education before he goes on.

To be fair, the Ordinance does not say that he must not do it. It still permits him to take an Arts and a law degree, but it is making it extremely difficult for him to do it, because it insists that his study for both these degrees shall be full-time studies. As I shall explain, this is extremely undesirable from the point of view of practical training for the legal profession.

To be fair again to the University, it has tried to import into the new LL.B. degree a certain amount of purely academic matter, but nothing to the same extent as is included at present in its arts degree. It has admittedly endeavoured to get a higher legal content at the expense of the academic content and it will now be possible, if this Ordinance is passed, to get an LL.B. degree without the prerequisite arts degree and that, of course, would give a little higher degree of legal education at the expense of pure education.

That is where I and a great number of other practising lawyers in Scotland are very apprehensive and we feel that this Ordinance is highly undesirable. I said that I would describe the reactions of the various learned legal organisations in Scotland to this matter. The first and leading organisation is the Faculty of Advocates which I have already described. The Faculty of Advocates has given a great deal of thought to this proposal. Its proposals have to be read with great care. It is not quite as simple as my hon. Friend said.

The final conclusion that it came to about it was that For the reasons hereinbefore stated we consider that from the point of view of academic legal education the proposals are to be welcomed; that their practical and vocational effects will require to be watched by the Faculty; and that no alterations should be made to the Faculty's requirements for qualification in General Scholarship. In other words, the Faculty is interested, as it has been for many years, that an entrant to the Bar in Scotland should have an Arts degree before he is called to the Bar and before he qualifies in law.

There are two ways in which he may qualify in law. He may qualify by the Bar examination itself or by exemption from it if he has passed the requisite subjects for his LL.B. degree. I think that it is fair to everyone, including the Faculty of Advocates, the University and the House, that we should look at the report of the Faculty to find out what it says. So far as general scholarship is concerned—that is the crux of my case—the Faculty of Advocates says in its memorandum: So far as wider education is concerned, many students will undoubtedly take the degree without having a prior M.A., and the question arises whether the Faculty should accept the new degree by itself as sufficient qualification both in General Scholarship and in Law. We consider that the fact that the new degree will include at least one 'Arts' subject is not sufficient justification for the Faculty to depart from its present practice of requiring separate qualification in General Scholarship (normally an M.A.), alike in the case of an ordinary and of an Honours LL.B. graduate. The approval, if approval it be, of the Faculty of Advocates is a very qualified one. It approves of the Ordinance in so far as it produces a higher standard of legal content, but it is not prepared to accept that degree by itself as meeting its requirements for general education and for legal education. It goes on at considerable length to discuss the English method whereby a Bachelor of Arts degree in Law at Oxford University is not, it says, a suitable qualification for being called to the Bar in England. The report says: The curriculum for a legal degree at Oxford, which in its general terms is not dissimilar to that proposed by Glasgow, has been subjected to criticism by those responsible for the Bar Examinations at the Inns of Court in London, on the ground that it tends to encourage habits of thought and methods of approach more suited to an academic jurist than to a practising barrister. In the eyes of practical men it is too 'academic' and the possession of an Oxford B.A. in jurisprudence, even with 1st class honours, does not exempt the holder, if he aspires to become a barrister, from taking the Bar Examination except in Roman and Constitutional Law. In other words, the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland seems to require a certain amount of practical vocational training in addition to the academic training, and it is very right and proper that it should do so. It goes on at some length in its report about the necessity for vocational training for an advocate of a kind which cannot be got through a purely legal degree of this sort without practical training in a lawyer's office or elsewhere. No doubt the learned Lord Advocate will have some observations to make on the findings of his own Faculty. I have tried to be as fair and as reasonable about this as I can be.

I turn to my own branch of the profession—the solicitors' branch. The governing body of the solicitors' branch of the profession in Scotland is the Law Society. A great deal of confusion seems to have been caused about what the attitude of the Law Society has been about this particular Ordinance. Various documents have been issued by various people suggesting that the Law Society has approved the Ordinance. The fact of the matter is that the Law Society has not at any time expressed any opinion on the Ordinances. It has issued a circular to hon. Members today—it is a rather misleading circular, with all respect to the Law Society—in which it says that as a result of discussions between it and the Scottish universities it has drafted the Admission as Solicitor (Scotland) Regulations, 1960, to fit into the new Ordinances. It does not say that, although it has designed these regulations to fit into the new Ordinance, it necessarily approves of the Ordinance itself.

As a member of the Society, I can say that it has not expressed any opinion on it, and it 'has not done so because it considers that in a matter of this kind the university should be the judge in its own court and should not be interfered with by any outside body, whether it is such a learned body as the Law Society or not.

Be that as it may, the fact of the matter is that the Law Society has not at any time expressed any judgment on this Ordinance. At the annual general meeting of the Law Society held last year there was a considerable discussion on the subject. The discussion ended with no motion being put. The final words of the discussion, from the President of the Society, were: Thank you very much I am sure we are all interested in these observations. So far as I can ascertain, that is the only official pronouncement of the Law Society on the Ordinance. It is not correct to say that the Law Society has approved it. It has neither approved it nor disapproved it. Thus, we have to look elsewhere to find out what the views of the solicitors' branch of the profession are on the subject—

Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)

Will the hon. Gentleman make this quite clear, because it is very important? Hon. Members have had circulated to them a memorandum by Glasgow University in which it is said on the second page that agreement was reached between the University and the Law Society on this point of a new Ordinance and new regulations. Is this so, or is it not so?

Mr. Hendry

I said that I did not altogether approve of the conclusions in the memorandum, and that is one of the things with which I do not agree. There has not been agreement of any sort between the Law Society and the University. About the Ordinance, the furthest that the Law Society has gone is to say that it has taken note of what the University proposes to do and that in drafting its regulations it has taken into account the proposals of the University, but it has expressed no opinion on the propriety or otherwise of the University in doing this.

As I said, we must look elsewhere to find out what the views of the solicitors' branch of the profession in Scotland are. We have, fortunately, two bodies in Scotland which are very much interested in the matter. One is the Scottish Law Agents Society. That is a very ancient society which might be described as the country lawyers' society. It has, I understand, about 2,300 members, of whom I am one, and represents, I understand, some two-thirds of the entire solicitors' branch of the legal profession in Scotland. The Law Agents Society has come to a very definite conclusion on this subject because at its annual general meeting held this year there was a definite resolution on it put before the meeting, and there was an amendment. I have here in my hand a letter which I received today from the Secretary of that Society who tells me that he has been instructed to write to me explaining what occurred at the annual meeting held at Perth on 17th June.

There was a resolution laid before the meeting that this meeting notes with approval the reforms in legal education, which the Law Society of Scotland and the Universities have achieved or are achieving. The letter states: Emeritus Professor Boyd of Glasgow moved an Amendment approving of the reforms of the Law Society but not of the University. The Motion was heavily defeated in favour of Professor Boyd's amendment. There is the Society which, at its annual general meeting, has discussed this subject in very considerable detail, and then made a pronouncement against the proposals of the University from the point of view of the solicitors' branch of the profession.

I should like to turn from Scotland as a whole to a particular part of Scotland, because we are dealing here with the University of Glasgow. In Glasgow, there is an honourable society known as the Royal Faculty of Procurators, which contains among its members the great majority of solicitors practising in Glasgow. The Royal Faculty in Glasgow has very definitely pronounced itself hostile to this new Ordinance in that it is upsetting the perfectly satisfactory arrangements for legal education in Scotland which have been carried on for many years and which have worked satisfactorily from their point of view.

To give some idea of the attitude of the solicitors' branch of the profession to this Ordinance and why they are so hostile to it we must look to the practical training which a solicitor gets. It is customary in Scotland for a solicitor—it is essential for a solicitor—to serve an apprenticeship to a master. There are two ways of doing that. One is to go to the university, take a degree, and serve a three-year apprenticeship. The other is by sitting for the Law Society's examination and serving five years with a master. The first method is, obviously, very popular and is used by 95 per cent. of the entrants into the solicitors' branch of the profession.

The Law Society has hitherto insisted on a three years' apprenticeship along with a B.L. degree. The B.L. degree takes at the moment four years' study, so it was possible for a boy to become a solicitor with a university degree by the end of four years instead of at the end of five years in the case where he had submitted himself to the Law Society examination and served five years' apprenticeship.

The more elaborate method of becoming a solicitor yin Scotland is by taking a double degree, taking first of all the degree of Master of Arts and then taking the degree of LL.B. at the end. That has appealed to a great many boys who are of a scholarly turn of mind. There are a great many boys who, when they leave school, know they want to be lawyers but cannot make up their minds whether they want to go in for the Bar or to be solicitors. So they take the degree of Master of Arts and then go on to the law degree, simultaneously with it, and serve time with a master for a period of three years and in five or six years they qualify as solicitors, having served three years' apprenticeship and having had five or possibly six years' academic study.

That is no longer practicable, because under the new regulations for the degree of LL.B. it will be necessary for a student proceeding with the degree of LL.B. to serve full time as a student at the Univercity for his LL.B. degree, and he will require to serve his time with a master after he has acquired the degree and not simultaneously with it. There are various points of view on the amount of time it takes to become a solicitor. I think that it is theoretically possible, under the new regulations, to become a solicitor after five years, with an LL.B. but without a broad educational background.

On the other hand, if he does not want to follow the course of education which has added so much to the lustre of the legal profession in Scotland he must serve over a period of three years as a full-time student at a university before he proceeds to apprenticeship. The Law Society, realising the difficulty of any boy studying nine years to become a solicitor, has modified its requirements for practical instruction to two years. Therefore, it will take eight years to qualify as a solicitor under these regulations with approximately the same qualifications as now, but the boy will have suffered in his vocational training in that apprenticeship will have been reduced from three years to two.

All these things are extremely important to the solicitors' branch of the profession. It is the duty of the House to consider the proposals from the point of view of the legal profession in Scotland as well as from the point of view of the University and achieve some sort of balance between the requirements of vocational training on the one hand and purely academic training on the other.

I mentioned the Law Society's attitude in this case. As I explained, the Society has produced a new set of regulations for the examination of would-be solicitors without a degree at all, and it has altered the regulations for its own examination after the five-year apprenticeship. In this case it seems to me that the Law Society is blowing both hot and cold. It has rather welcomed the fact that the new degree of LL.B. is raising the academic requirement in pure law of a graduate in law, but at the same time it is reducing deliberately the academic requirement of its own examination. Hitherto the Society has always insisted that before a boy submits to examination he should have qualified in Latin. Latin was a prerequisite in legal training, and the Society also insisted upon his learning to the elementary stage the rudiments of constitutional law, civil and Roman law—on which the whole of the law of Scotland is based—and elementary jurisprudence.

These are academic subjects, but the Law Society proposes to abolish their study for its own examination and cut down the examination to purely bread-and-butter subjects like law of Scotland, evidence and procedure, book-keeping and accounting and conveyancing. In other words, it is cutting out essential qualifications in academic subjects, of whatever nature, and it is doing it deliberately because there have been too few entrants into the solicitors' branch in Scotland. It is trying to make it easier to get boys who are less able mentally than those in the past to come into the profession.

I submit with great respect to the Law Society that it is blowing hot and cold on the one hand in insisting upon higher academic qualifications for those who go to university and take a degree and, on the other hand, at the same time deliberately lowering the academic standard for those who go into the profession simply by being articled. The Society proposes to abolish the necessity of a student who submits himself to its own examination having had any university class aft all. After this that requirement is scrapped altogether and it will be open to a boy in his own time—although I do not know how he will do it—to mug up these subjects and sit that examination without ever having taken a university class.

I am sorry to keep the House for so long, but this is an important subject. I think the effect of this will be two-fold. First, there will be a tremendous—and I mean tremendous—diminution in the number of undergraduate students in law for the universities and, for that reason, we must look for a moment at the number of students. Last year at the four Scottish universities there were 96 graduates in law and of these 59 were LL.B. and 37 B.L. That was an abnormally small number for B.L.

Obviously these 37 people are not the most academically minded. They want to become solicitors with as little waste of time as possible. They are prepared to go to a university and accept the education the university has to offer and to avail themselves of the university degree if by so doing they save a year in becoming a solicitor. I suggest that these are not the students who are prepared to submit themselves to the very much higher standards required for the new degree of LL.B. They want to become solicitors quickly and they are not going to spend a longer time in becoming solicitors. These 37 students, who are often more than half the undergraduate students, will cease to be undergraduate students and submit themselves to the Law Society examinations and become solicitors without any degree at all.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

Has the hon. Gentleman any idea about how many of these 37 who take the B.L. degree do so with no intention of becoming solicitors? Does he know, for example, how many teachers take it because they want administrative posts?

Mr. Hendry

I cannot tell the hon. Lady that with any degree of accuracy. My guess, for what it is worth, is that the B.L. degree has been predominantly and paramountly a solicitor's degree. It has only one useful purpose. It has comparatively little educational content. The one purpose of the degree was to qualify reasonably academically as a solicitor and thereby become a solicitor more quickly than otherwise.

I submit that these 37 students who normally represent more than half of the undergraduate students will disappear altogether, and the law faculties, the law schools in the universities, will fall to about half their present size. The 59 students are spread over the four universities and I fear that the Treasury may argue that it is not justified in maintaining four law schools in Scotland for 59 graduates a year; that Scotland may find itself in the unhappy position of having its law schools concentrated in one place, probably in Edinburgh, and that Glasgow, St. Andrews and Aberdeen will be reduced to mere technical colleges with part-time staff teaching students who intend to submit themselves to the Law Society examinations without taking a degree.

I have spoken at some length and for longer than I intended. I should not like the House to think that I am in any way condemning something into which there has gone a great deal of thought. But I suggest that there has not been enough thought. Here there has been a division of opinion, not only in the universities and not only between individual professors. There was wide debate and a great division of opinion within the General Council, and there is a tremendous division of opinion between the universities on the one hand and the learned legal societies on the other.

We must balance the academic ideals of the universities against the practical necessities of the profession, and that is a delicate balance. This House has a definite duty to examine the Ordinance and to make certain that balance is kept with the greatest care. With all due deference and respect, I suggest that the correct course would be to pray that Her Majesty should not approve this Ordinance without further inquiry, and that it should be submitted to some independent inquiry to advise Her Majesty before approval is given.

10.40 p.m.

Sir Myer Galpern (Glasgow, Shettleston)

I have listened with great interest to the somewhat detailed explanation delivered by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry), and I think that hon. Members would agree that his speech, like Gaul, is divisible into three parts. First, it contained a general appraisal of the new situation; secondly, a round condemnation of the proposed change in the Ordinance, and, thirdly, a far better commendation of the need for change than I can ever hope to give at this late hour of the night.

I want to deal, first, with the aspect of dissension, and I do so by virtue of the fact that I was a member of Glasgow University Court until May of this year and during all the material years throughout which the discussions on this Ordiance took place. I wish to assure hon. Members that the allegations made by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West are wholly unfounded in so far as this Ordinance was passed unanimously by Glasgow University on 25th February this year.

Mr. Hendry

The hon. Gentleman will remember that I did not even suggest that it had not been passed unanimously by the University Court.

Sir M. Galpern

I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that there were dissentients in university circles. Where else could there be dissension?

Dr. Alan Thompson (Dunfermline Burghs)

In the General Council.

Sir M. Galpern

If the hon. Gentleman refers to the General Council, as the hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson) suggests, then I would point out that it has four representatives on the Court and that there was not a single word of objection from that quarter. Apart from that, if the hon. Gentleman wants to consider the question of the General Council, I would again point out that it was given the greatest possible latitude to consider the implications of this Ordinance.

Whereas the University Court itself could within its statutory rights have refused to defer consideration of any representations that might be put forward, it decided on 31st October that, in view of the fact that the General Council had submitted the proposed new Ordinance to various professional bodies, it would give it to the end of the year to submit representations. It then reported to the Court on 23rd April this year: The General Council inform that they have no objection. Surely, when we find that not only Glasgow University decided to abolish the degrees of LL.B. and B.L. but that it is backed up to the hilt by the Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh, which are solidly behind it in the proposals and which will themselves shortly be placing ordinances on similar lines before the House, and that even the University of St. Andrews, while not wholly in agreement with all the steps being taken by Glasgow University and the two sister universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh, is also contemplating a very definite alteration in the degree and also intimated on 22nd April this year that it has no formal objections, that demolishes the hon. Gentleman's case.

So far we have tested one of the main planks of the hon. Gentleman's case, namely, the dissension that he alleges existed. I hope that I have satisfied the hon. Gentleman that it did not exist as far as professorial circles are concerned. Let me consider the hon. Gentleman's next support for dissension, the Law Society of Scotland. The Law Society of Scotland is a body statutorily charged with framing regulations for the admission of candidates to the profession of solicitor. In the latter part of his speech the hon. Gentleman said that the Society was blowing hot and cold. In fairness, I think that I ought to give the reason why it is doing that and is unable to come down on one side or the other with reference to the proposed change. It is simply that the Society is better behaved and knows its place far better than some hon. Members. The Society realises that it has no standing when it comes to the question of passing an opinion on proposed changes in university law degrees, and that its activities are restricted to framing regulations for the purpose of admitting people to the profession of solicitor.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

My hon. Friend made a remark about hon. Members. Surely it is true that this Ordinance lies on the Table of the House, and that the hon. Gentleman, although one may disagree with his views, is entitled to say that this House has a duty to scrutinise the Ordinance, and, if necessary, express a view on it.

Sir M. Galpern

I am sorry that my hon. Friend has interpreted my remarks that way. I was not referring to the action taken by the hon. Gentleman. I was referring to the incident when you, Mr. Speaker, had to intervene to restore order in the House when I was putting a supplementary question to one of the Ministers. You appealed for silence so that hon. Members could hear what was being said. It was to that which I referred. I am not challenging the right of any hon. Member to take the action which the hon. Gentleman has taken.

Let us consider what the Law Society says, because it is the only body which has any standing. It says in its memorandum: The new regulations embody the measure of agreement which has been reached with the Universities and have regard to the material changes which are in contemplation in the law faculties of the Universities. Realising it has no right to voice opinions on the actual content or changes in the degree-awarding powers of the University, it says it accepts the change—it does not say it does not accept—and proceeds to frame its regulations round the new degree of LL.B which the University of Glasgow—to be followed by the Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh—proposes to introduce.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will 'bear this in mind. I believe that I can say with authority that the Law Society of Scotland has given complete approval to the proposed new degree of LL.B. in Glasgow University. I say that having received certain information from a most reliable source, and I say it because the Law Society of Scotland is unable to say it for itself. I know that that is the Society's view, and the Society will be very sorry if, by any mischance, this Ordinance is defeated.

Sir James Duncan (South Angus)

The hon. Gentleman made a statement which, he said, was based on certain information which he has. The rest of us, who are divided in our views, want to know the basis of that information.

Sir M. Galpern

The hon. Gentleman will have to attach whatever value he is prepared to attach to the assurance I give this evening. I do not give it recklessly. I give it after very careful thought and understanding of the whole position. I do not think that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West will dispute what I have just said.

Mr. Hendry

I would point out that I have tried at great length to dispute that very point that the hon. Gentleman is making.

Sir M. Galpern

Well, the hon. Gentleman will have to make his choice.

I repeat that the Law Society has accepted the position and would be sorry if the Ordinance were rejected. What has the Faculty of Advocates said? I should like to read an extract from the Faculty's report. On page 5, the report says: We have considered whether the Faculty should make representations against the draft Ordinance on the ground that it will unduly prolong the course of legal studies, thereby placing an excessive burden on aspiring advocates. We have reached the view that no such representations should be made. It is true, as the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West says, that the Faculty will not be satisfied with the new LL.B. degree for the purpose of admission to the Faculty of Advocates, but that is no alteration of the existing position. The Faculty insists at present that individuals seeking admission must have generally a prior M.A. degree. No one will prevent any candidate from first taking his M.A. degree. The University would welcome the acceptance of that broader education by the general body of students who hope ultimately to practise law, but nothing will prevent a candidate who proposes to take the LL.B. degree from taking the prior M.A. degree. He will not suffer, by virtue of the period of study involved, compared with the present position.

The Faculty of Advocates, in its report on the Ordinance, states that the new proposals for an LL.B. degree make full provision for the Faculty's requirements for qualification in law and that holders of the new degree will be better equipped as regards academic training than those who take a minimum or even a typical degree in law at any of the Scottish universities.

But so far as wider education is concerned, the Faculty will still require evidence of general scholarship, normally an M.A. degree. It should be noted, however, that a candidate for admission to the Faculty of Advocates may still offer proof as to his general education without holding a degree in arts.

If we test this support against the dissentions alleged by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West it will be found that there is something radically wrong with the whole position. Here we have two other universities, each one with full knowledge of what is happening in the legal profession in Scotland today, yet they propose to do exactly what Glasgow is doing at present. It never has been the intention that a university degree in law should provide solicitors only. The university realises that a large number of people will share the view that the new LL.B. degree was not intended to enable holders to become practising solicitors or candidates for the Faculty of Advocates. To some extent, the new LL.B. degree will be used for the purposes of commerce, industry, education, and so on. Police superintendents take the present B.L. and there are a hundred and one other purposes to which graduates in law put a university degree.

Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)

My hon. Friend will, I am sure, forgive me, but time is going on and it is quite unlikely that all those of us who want to speak will be called. Will he, therefore, clear up this point for me?

My hon. Friend mentioned that the police officers would, in fact, be able to take the LL.B. This is my fear. Police officers today can take the B.L.—they are encouraged to do so—but it seems to me that the new provisions are such that young police cadets in training, who now can, and do, take advantage of the B.L., will not be able to go forward for the LL.B.

Sir M. Galpern

I can answer that by quoting the general practice followed by all enlightened authorities. They second the individuals who are anxious to improve their general education, whether it be by pursuing the LL.B. degree, or any other degree, or similar courses of study to improve their proficiency in their vocations. They allow the individuals to study full time. The present degree will have the distinct advantage of being a full-time course entitling the individual to the allocation of bursaries and maintenance allowances, for which he can apply to his local authority.

That is a very important point, when we compare the full time course for the LL.B. degree and the part-time study for the B.L. degree. Local authorities have great difficulty in assessing the charge for the individual who is getting some kind of salary in a solicitor's office and taking classes in the morning and evening. From my own experience in Glasgow, I know that that creates a difficult situation, which has always reacted against the individual who needs the money but is affected by the pittance he gets as an apprentice in a solicitor's office.

The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West says that the B.L. is not sufficiently academic, but he also says that people will not take the new degree because it is too academic, yet he is anxious that there should be a real academically-trained legal profession. That is the trouble. On the one hand, the university is being assailed because the proposal is said to be too academic and, on the other, it is being criticised because it is not academic enough.

I know that it is late, but I should like to say that since the war there has been much dissatisfaction in the universities and in the professions with existing provisions, and, in particular, with the practice of law students taking their law degree concurrently with their apprenticeship. It is complained that they have not time for detailed instruction in their profession. It is complained that university education has been old-fashioned, unpractical, and inefficient and that, in any case, it takes up so much time that apprentices do not get the proper practical training in the offices. For that view, hon. Members can refer to the Scottish Law Times of 13th March, 1960.

The discussions between representatives of the law faculties of the four Scottish universities on the one hand and the Law Society on the other have gone on for four or five years. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West has said that Professor Boyd, Emeritus Professor of Mercantile Law has complained, and that he moved a resolution at the Law Agents' Society. I distinguish now between the Law Society of Scotland, a statutory body, and the Law Agents' Society, which is composed largely of solicitors practising in the country.

The hon. Member has told the House that the Law Agents' Society came down heavily against these proposals at its last annual meeting in, I think, June of this year, at Perth. He should, at the same time, have told the House that out of over 2,000 members of that Society, 24 members attended the annual meeting. That was the sum total of the attendance. That was the overwhelming objection to this proposal, led by Professor Boyd—a very nice gentleman, indeed, but, I think, completely misguided in his objections. This has been largely a two-man business—Professor Boyd and another gentleman, a member of the Royal Faculty of Procurators, in Glasgow.

I repeat, 24 agents made this tremendous decision against the considered -opinion of the Glasgow General Council, the Glasgow University Court, and the opinions of the Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh, supported by the University of St. Andrews. I think that Professor Boyd is completely wrong. During the five years of discussion, Professor Boyd was Dean of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow and a member of its Legal Education Committee. In that capacity, he attended mast of the meetings at which these proposals were considered. He has left it until the last few weeks, before the Glasgow Fair holidays, when people do not read their newspapers to any great extent, to come in and strike what he regards as a mortal blow against the Ordinance of the University.

I submit that the proposal of the University of Glasgow should be unanimously approved. I appeal to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West, having ventilated his views and his fears, to withdraw his Motion. My reason for asking him to withdraw it is that the legal profession itself is anxious to have a better-qualified, better-educated profession, which will have a full-time training as against the present part-time training.

It is true that there will now be graduate apprentices who will have to be paid a higher salary than those who come straight to the profession at the age of 17 or 18, but in the opinion of those who have a complete knowledge of these matters that will not lead to any diminution in the number of entrants to the courses being provided at the University for the new LL.B. degree.

In case there should be the odd one who still feels that he is not sufficiently academically inclined, the Law Society, which the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West has called to his support, has seen fit to lower its standards for admission. It is abolishing the requirement of a knowledge of Latin and has removed three other items from the legal curriculum to allow people to qualify as solicitors in Scotland. The door will still be open to anyone who cares to follow a non-academic career. I am glad that the hon. Member considers that people will not follow it, but will rather take the new degree of LL.B., which will give them a standing in the community commensurate with that of any other profession. In the opinion of everyone who has helped to frame the new Ordinance and hopes to see it passed into law, it will give a greater stimulus to recruits to the profession and will not only redound to the benefit of those already in the legal profession, but will greatly enhance the value of an LL.B. degree of Glasgow University.

11.3 p.m.

Mr. J. A. Stodart (Edinburgh, West)

I promise—

Mr. Steele

On a point of order. I am sorry to raise this point of order, Mr. Speaker, but I understand that the debate must close at 11.30. Am I right in that assumption?

Mr. Speaker

Not totally right. If the hon. Member looks at Standing Order 95A, he will see that it is subject to a proviso. I am not saying at the moment what view I shall take of the matter.

Mr. Steele

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Although it is subject to that proviso, however, it is usual, for the convenience of the House and of hon. Members, that it should finish at 11.30, and that has been the usual agreement concerning Motions of this kind.

I should like to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that, although it is already five minutes past eleven, we have had only two speakers on this Ordinance. It it a subject which we have not had an opportunity of debating in the House and I thank the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) for bringing it forward. We have had two contestants: on the one hand, someone with a particular interest; on the other hand, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern), who is a member of the University Court. Many other hon. Members who would like to have made points on this matter will not have an opportunity of doing so.

Mr. Speaker

I am doing my best. The more we discuss the point of order the less time we shall have—prima facie.

Mr. Stodart

I promise to be extremely brief, Mr. Speaker.

I should like to say, at the outset, that agree at least with one thing that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) said, and that is that the nub of the whole problem appears to me to be in achieving a balance—I think I quote him correctly—between academic and vocational training. I think that the whole problem lies in achieving this fair balance.

It has been said that academic standards will be lowered by the introduction of this Ordinance. My hon. Friend went to the length of saying that if the Ordinance were passed it would be the death of scholarship, and later in his speech he said that fewer potential solicitors will go to the University and that they will instead submit themselves to the examinations of the Law Society.

In that connection, the memorandum from Glasgow University, with which all hon. Members have been supplied, says: The university does not think that any falling off in student numbers will be appreciable. Far from considering that this will be the death of scholarship, the Faculty of Advocates, a body which, I think, nobody would deny is extremely demanding in its standards, has said in the memorandum which is in the possession of hon. Members: In our view intrants who acquire the degree, whether on an ordinary or on an Honours standard, will be better equipped as regards academic training than those who up to now have taken a minimum or even a typical degree in law in any of the Scottish Universities… It later states: From the point of view of academic legal education the proposals are to be welcomed… Against all this possibility of lowering standards—this is where the case for the balance between academic and vocational training comes in—we have the fact that although the University and the Law Society of Scotland do not see eye to eye—let us face it—about every thing, the one thing that they do agree upon is mutual satisfaction about a system in which apprenticeship hitherto has been combined with academic studies. The fundamental issue in this argument is that agreement has been reached between these two bodies that entry to the profession through the universities in future should be patterned by a period of full-time study followed by a period of full-time professional training. I must confess that I believe that that would be a more satisfactory way of qualifying than by trying to attend a solicitor's office in the morning and going up for classes at the university in the afternoon.

When one adds to that fact the knowledge that we all have that the modern solicitor is oppressed with a mass of work, much of which stems from the work that is done in this House, work not only of the traditional materials of solicitors but a mass of stuff on taxation, accountancy, death duties, and so on, without the help of the standby that he used to have—a managing clerk—I think that it is now quite essential that the proposals of the universities and the Law Society to streamline their professional courses should be adopted.

There are in the Scottish universities a magnificent set of men and women who are anxious to teach students in the arts of law. The profession in Scotland considers itself blessed in having these teachers. I believe that it would be a very grievous setback to Scottish legal education in future if this Prayer were granted.

11.10 p.m.

Dr. Alan Thompson (Dunfermline Burghs)

I shall be very brief. I congratulate the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) on his public spirit in raising this Prayer, although I do not intend, for reasons which I shall show, to support him. I congratulate him because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) said—and the University Court of Glasgow is to be congratulated on having such a vigorous spokesman as my hon. Friend—although the universities are concerned, quite rightly, and they only, with academic standards, their actions do have repercussions both on the school system downwards and on professional bodies around them, and must be taken into consideration from the point of view of public policy.

It was possible to take the B.L. degree in four years. Now it will be six years. This may be a good thing, but it adds two years to the training of young people. The old LL.B. degree plus Master of Arts degree took five years; now it will take seven years.

Sir M. Galpern

It is only three years as purely academic study, with three for practical training and apprenticeship.

Dr. Thompson

I accept the point, but it is now the minimum period, this new period in which a person can qualify for both academic plus technical training.

It will affect the police, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr Steele) has rightly pointed out. Obviously, the aspiring and ambitious young policeman could take the B L. in the minimum period of four years' part time. Now it will take six years with three years' full-time study, with three years' part-time apprenticeship, and, therefore, police officers will have three years' full-time study—

Sir M. Galpern

My hon. Friend is misleading the House inadvertently. There is no need for policemen to take three years' practical training, but to take three years for the LL.B. degree and then finish.

Dr. Thompson

There will be three years' full-time study. That is the only point I am making. In this sense it is relevant to talk about the police and how their training may be affected. Have there been consultations about that?

The University Court put out an admirable document and it says it consulted the Law Society, which is a statutory body, but it goes on to say that other bodies, such as the Scottish Law Agents' Society and the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow, which have no statutory powers or responsibilities, must accept the views of the elected Court of the Law Society. This document, in this respect, is less than disingenuous in so far as it did not say, as the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West has told us tonight, that these two bodies opposed their proposals. Unless the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire. West had presented a fuller picture we would have not had the complete information before the House tonight.

I still oppose the hon. Member, and my reason is that the universities are right in that the subject of the law, like many other subjects, has become more technically complicated over the years. New branches of study have come into it. This increasing complexity is not confined to law. Economics, history, geography—I could mention a number of other subjects—have in the last two decades become more complex and there are more specialised sub-divisions brought in, and that, therefore, involves raising academic standards. I think that from this point of view the universities are correct, but it means that there must still be consultations with interested bodies such as solicitors, and it should not necessarily be confined to statutory bodies, although these are the most important. As the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) has said, in matters affecting professional training there is a point of balance to he struck between the academic and the vocational aspects.

As distinct from the universities of England our universities in Scotland have their own Act of Parliament, the Act of 1889, and in Sections 9 and 30 there is provision for the Universities' Committee to consult bodies to ensure agreement on topics such as this. I refer the Lord Advocate to that Act. I think that. in future, it would be better perhaps if there could be discussions with outside, interested bodies before this stage of a Parliamentary Prayer is reached.

In the last analysis the authority of the universities must be upheld, but in the future I would be glad to see some procedure, possibly under the Act of 1889, where the many Scottish professional bodies involved are consulted. When I first read this document I thought, so vaguely is it worded, in the paragraph which deals with the views of the Royal Faculty of Procurators, and the Scottish Law Agents' Society, that the fact that these bodies opposed the proposals does not emerge. The University has, a little disingenuously, not made this clear. It was only when the hon. Gentleman raised the issue tonight that the matter became clear. When matters of such wide professional interest arise we should have some machinery for knowing well in advance all the pros and cons.

On the issue of the Prayer, however, I have to oppose the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West and uphold the authority and knowledge of the universities in view of the detailed consideration given by them to this matter.

11.16 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)

This is, as hon. Members have indicated, the first Prayer that, so far as can be traced, has been made against a Scottish University Ordinance since the University Courts, in 1900, obtained the power to make ordinances under the Universities (Scotland) Acts of 1858 and 1889. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, West (Mr. Hendry) must certainly be congratulated on the novelty of his action in tabling the Prayer. I note that certain right hon. and hon. Members opposite have quickly followed the precedent that he has thus established.

It may be of assistance to the House if I indicate at this stage what is the Government's attitude to the Motion. I may say at once that, on the merits of the question before the House, it must be one of strict neutrality. It has been the settled policy of successive Governments to preserve the autonomy of the universities and not to infringe on their independence on matters of academic policy. It would be at variance with that policy were I to attempt to influence the House either one way or another on the substance of the matter before them. My duty is merely to remind the House of certain procedural matters relating to the Ordinance.

I should also explain that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, are both members of the Universities Committee of the Privy Council. As I shall explain later, they are called upon as such members to consider and report to the Privy Council on Scottish University Ordinances. In these circumstances, they consider that it would be inappropriate for them to take part in a debate of this sort, or to enter into the merits of this particular Ordinance.

The powers of the University Court of Glasgow University to make ordinances regulating the internal affairs of the University derive from the Universities (Scotland) Act, 1889, to which I have already referred. As is appropriate to a measure of this kind, the Statute lays down a detailed and somewhat elaborate procedure through which the ordinance must go before it becomes effective, intended to ensure that due account is taken of the views of all parties with a legitimate interest. That procedure may be a little difficult to pick out of the Act, since it is written partly in terms of the Universities Commissioners, the statutory body responsible for the carrying out of the changes in the 1889 Act. The Commissioners' powers expired in due course and their ordinance-making powers devolved on the individual university courts in 1900.

Dr. Thompson

It is certainly an involved Act and it is very difficult to locate the channels of responsibility. Is it not a fact that there is still in existence a Scottish Universities Committee, which operates under the procedure laid down by Section 9?

Mr. Macpherson

I am coming to that.

In the first place, any ordinance prepared by the University Court must be submitted by them to the Senatus Academicus—the university organisation directly concerned with teaching—and to the General Council the body representative of all graduate members, and must take into consideration any views these bodies may express.

Sir M. Galpern

Does this apply to English universities? Are they exempt under this procedure?

Mr. Macpherson

Different statutes apply to the English universities.

This procedure has been carried out in respect of this present Ordinance. By its nature, of course, this Ordinance is one with the drafting of which the Senatus was very closely concerned. The General Council offered no objections to the Ordinance and the Council includes all registered graduates of the University and is represented on the Court. After these consultations, the procedure is for the Ordinance to be prepared in form for submission to the Privy Council. But before it is considered by the Privy Council it must be laid before Parliament, and Parliament may present an Address praying Her Majesty the Queen to withhold Her assent from it.

This is the stage which we are now at, and the House is considering whether such an Address should be presented. It is only if no such Address is presented that it is lawful for Her Majesty in Council to approve the Ordinance and thus bring it into effect. If such an Address were presented it would not be open to the Privy Council to have an inquiry, nor would there be any power for my right hon. Friend to appoint one under the Act.

Even that is not the end of the story. All ordinances must be sent by the University Court making them to the University Courts of the three other Scottish universities, and they and any person directly affected by the ordinance may make representations to the Privy Council which will be considered by it or by its Scottish Universities Committee. That Committee is a body set up by the 1889 Act to consider and report on Scottish university ordinances. It includes in its number the Lord President of the Council, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the Lord Justice General, the Lord Justice Clerk, my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, and one member at least of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Mr. Steele

How often does it have to listen to objections?

Mr. Macpherson

There has been a recent example, as the hon. Member will recall, over the entrance procedures to the University.

It is only after considering reports from the Committee that the Privy Council decides whether or not to approve the Ordinance. In this case the time limit for making representations to the Privy Council expired on 8th May, and no representations have been made by any person or body directly affected by the Ordinance.

I would not suggest that if an ordinance is unopposed either the Privy Council or members of the Universities Committee examine its substance line by line. Clearly, it would not be in keeping with university autonomy for them to do so, but I make the point that an ordinance, before it comes into effect, must pass through many check points, of which this Motion for a Prayer is one, to ensure that it has received full consideration from all aspects.

This Ordinance, altering as it does the nature of the law degrees of Glasgow University, is something of a special case, since what the universities do about law degrees must have an effect on the training and qualifications of members of the legal profession. This was recognised by the Scottish universities and they have been in consultation with the profession about their proposals. There have been consultations for four years at least between the universities and the Law Society about the proposed new law degrees. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) said that they had been going on for five years. The Law Society is the body responsible for laying down the training and qualifications for solicitors in Scotland. This Ordinance has also been examined and reported upon by the Faculty of Advocates which exercises the same functions in respect of advocates.

As I have said, it is no duty of mine to influence hon. Members one way or another about the substance of the Motion, but I hope that I may have assisted by describing the ordinance-making procedure and by showing the House that this Ordinance, whether its provisions are advisable or not, has reached the House after very full consultation by the University Court with the interests concerned.

Mr. Hendry

In view of my hon. Friend's full explanation and the fact that if the House accepted the Prayer it would undoubtedly embarrass the University, in that it would block further consideration of the Ordinance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.