HC Deb 14 February 1966 vol 724 cc998-1028
Mr. Speaker

I think it will be for the convenience of the House if, with the next Amendment, No. 4, we take the hon. Member's Amendments, Nos. 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 30.

Mr. Hannan

I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 3, line 18, to leave out "and to".

Rapidly looking over the Amendments you have enumerated, Mr. Speaker, I can agree, I think, that all of the Amendments pertain to the insertion of the words "the Students' Representative Council" at various points in Clause 4 and Clause 6.

Mr. Speaker

That is why I thought it would be convenient to take them all together.

Mr. Hannan

I wanted to get this clear because there is a distinction later on in another Amendment to Clause 6.

However, the purpose of these Amendments is obvious. It follows on what has just been said by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and the Amendment she herself proposed to Clause 1, that the students' representative council should be consulted on charters. What I am asking for is that by Clause 4 the students' representative council should receive a copy of the ordinance, to have the opportunity of considering it and the further opportunity of making amendments to it. I think my hon. Friend said in Committee that one of the reasons for accepting such an Amendment to Clause 1 was to have the representative council placed as a statutory body.

I have re-read the arguments, and I cannot accept her point of view on Clause 4 and Clause 6. I should have thought that the students' representative council now loomed larger than ever, its name and title being used, and that in view of the representations which all of us are receiving now it should have greater consultation and should at the very least have a copy of an ordinance, under Clause 4, or, under Clause 6, a copy of a resolution, if for no other purpose than that of receiving information. Even if it should be argued that an ordinance or a resolution may not particularly concern the students' representative council, at least the council would be informed of it. If it were to concern the council, then the council would thus have the benefit of being able to consider it, if it were to have a copy of the ordinance or resolution, and it ought to be accorded this courtesy.

Moreover, as I have mentioned before, there is the matter of public relations. To that end, it will improve matters if the students' representative council has a greater standing and enhanced reputation amongst the students themselves. I know there are varying opinions as to what a students' representative council is worth among the students themselves. However, I should not have thought that acceptance of this Amendment would create any great difficulty.

I do not propose to labour the point any longer. Hon. Members will, no doubt, have seen the article in the Scotsman of Friday, 28th January, posing the question, "More representation for students?". It then compares what happens in the older universities with what happens in some of the newer ones—Strathclyde, for example; and Dundee, I believe.

The Amendment and the associated ones would do something to restore healthier and better relations with the other university bodies, following the recent incident, as the days and the weeks elapse since it occurred.

Sir M. Galpern

I wonder if I may remind my hon. Friend of the fact that Clause 4 states that notices of the drafting of an ordinance shall be displayed publicly within the university precincts.

Mr. Hannan

That point had not escaped me.

Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

I very warmly support the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) and I hope that the hon. Lady will accept this series of Amendments. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) has just pointed out, there is already in the Bill provision whereby resolutions and ordinances may be posted and drafts can be placed within the university, and since, under the 1889 Act, students' representatives councils already have authority to make representations on matters affecting students' interests, we appear to be in the situation, if we leave the Bill as it is, where a students' representative council, a statutory body representing students, is expected to make representations on the basis only of a draft which it finds stuck in a public place in the university. It would be a useful and satisfactory improvement if they were to receive as of right a copy of any such draft ordinance or resolution.

As I said in Committee, the position of the students' representative council at the older Scottish universities is quite different from that of student bodies and the attitude to students at other universities. Printed on the matriculation card, certainly at Edinburgh University and, it may well be, at the other Scottish universities, are the words "citizen of Edinburgh University". The word used is civis; it is not "pupil", but "citizen". The student at these universities has always been held in quite different regard from a student at Oxford, Cambridge, or any other university.

It is a matter of opinion whether that is good or bad. In Committee, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Clark Hutchison) indicated that he thought it was a bad thing. Nevertheless, I consider that it has been a good Scottish tradition and that it could be usefully upheld by accepting the various Amendments put forward by the hon. Member for Maryhill.

Mr. Buchan

I support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) and the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel). This is an extremely important Amendment. One is loth to refer the discussion continually to the recent incident in Glasgow. But, undoubtedly, the aspect which has emerged and the accusations which were made have been on the basis of irresponsibility at the time of the initial acts. Surely one of the best methods of producing the right kind of responsibility is to make the students feel that they are part of the university body as a whole.

It seems to me to be quite improper merely to post notices in various parts of the quadrangle and to expect students to understand or to feel that they are responsible. The need to have an informed student body lies at the back of this discussion. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will relent somewhat from her attitude in Committee and will show a little of the generosity which she displayed on the previous Amendment and accept this one. It would be for the health of all the Scottish universities.

Mrs. Hart

I hope that in what I say I shall not be thought to be setting up any barriers in our consideration of this matter. We are up against a problem which has arisen more than once in our consideration of the Bill. We all share the same objective. In the debate on the General Teaching Council, which my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) initiated, and on other occasions we have agreed in principle and the question at issue has been a procedural one about what was or was not correct or suitable for insertion at various points in the Bill.

I share the view of hon. Members who have spoken that the students must be regarded as part of the university. There must be a spirit of partnership; they must not be left out of anything in which it is proper and appropriate for them to be concerned. I want, however, to explain to those who have spoken, recognising their concern and sharing it with them, why it would not be appropriate for the Amendments to be accepted. To do this, I must go into a little detail. I ask the House to bear with me.

Let us consider, first, the matters with which students are likely to feel themselves to be concerned. In all the representations that the students' representative councils and the Scottish Union of Students have made to hon. Members, they have made the point that they do not want to be included in everything but that they want to be included on the matters in which they feel that they are rightly concerned. They say that they are happy to be left out of matters in which they are not concerned, relating, for example to university management.

Let us consider the matters in which it is proper that the students should feel themselves to be concerned. The first of these is the constitution and functions of the Students' Representative Council. We discussed this in Committee. It is clear that the constitution and functions of the Council are totally safeguarded by the Bill.

Paragraph 3 of Part I of Schedule 2 of the Bill insists that the court must proceed by ordinance in these matters. Clause 5 provides that any existing ordinances can be changed only by new ordinances, and we know from Clause 4 that new ordinances must be approved by the Privy Council. We know that the Privy Council is open to receive representations from the students' representative council on matters of this kind which concern it. Thus, there is no question of the students having any anxiety concerning constitution and functions. There is every reason for them to understand clearly that the Bill completely safeguards their rights.

7.45 p.m.

I now come to matters which do not concern the constitution and functions of the students' representative council, but on which, nevertheless, the students might rightly feel that they have an interest and that they are concerned. It is difficult to refer in detail to a point which has not been taken into account by those who have spoken, because a later Amendment is involved, but a later Amendment to Clause 4 refers to other bodies and persons which have an interest and to the need for the court to consider representations from such a body which has an interest in forming any ordinance and before making a decision about a proposed ordinance.

This means that the court would, as a matter of course—this is such an enimently reasonable assumption to make that it would be absurd not to make it—consider representations about proposed ordinances not only from the Senate and General Council, who are specifically written into Clause 4, but from the students' representative council as a body with an interest where the subject is of concern to it.

Here again, as in matters relating to the constitution and functions of the students' representative council, the Council having made representations as a body which feels itself to have an interest, if the court, having heard those representations, does not take full acocunt of them in drafting its ordinances the students' representative council can make representations to the Privy Council and thus safeguard its interests in this way. It has direct access to the Privy Council in considering any ordinance even though it has already made representation to the court.

It is, however, clear, and it is understood by the students themselves, that some ordinances will not concern them. In Part I of Schedule 2 for example, paragraph 4 relates to the manner of election of readers and lecturers to the Senate and their term of office. This is a matter correctly for the staff and for other bodies which will be interested—the university teachers, for example—but not so much for the students.

Mr. David Steel

Would the hon. Lady concede that that is a good example that it is a matter which is not of particular concern to the General Council, yet the General Council is specifically included for consultation?

Mrs. Hart

Yes, but only in the sense that the General Council is consulted in the same way as the Senate. Indeed, it includes people who are graduates of the university, whereas a student is not yet a graduate of the university.

In Part II of Schedule 2, one sees that the powers exercisable by resolution as against ordinance in paragraph 4 include such matters as the abolition or alteration of the title of professorships and readerships. Paragraph 5 includes the power to make regulations for the granting of recognition to the teaching of any college or individual teacher for the purposes of graduation and paragraph 6 contains power to prescribe the limitations in respect of age on the tenure of office of the principal or a professor". The students would, I think, be the first to agree that these are not matters on which they consider that they have anything to contribute. They might feel that they would like to make some comments on the age of a professor, but I do not think they feel that this is appropriately a matter for them constitutionally to be brought into consultation. We are, therefore, up against the difficulty of drafting an Amendment which would bring the Students' Representative Council into formal consultation on matters which concern it, and correctly leaving it out on matters which do not, and where the students recognise that they do not concern them.

On the question of resolutions, if a later Amendment is accepted, Clause 6 will provide for representations to be considered from "any body having an interest" in the resolution. Again, as a result of the efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill in Committee, when a university proceeds to charter we have agreed that under Clause 1 the students' representative council shall be consulted. We are taking students' rights very seriously in the Bill, and we are giving them full recognition. This means that within the Bill there will be the partnership which the students want on all matters in which it is right for them to be interested, and right for their views to be considered, quite apart from, and in addition to, the part which the rector and his assessor play.

To accept the Amendments would be to introduce a requirement or formal consultation with the student body on all matters concerned with purely academic questions, and with aspects of running the university which do not, and here I quote from the Memorandum from the Students' Representatives Council at St Andrew's "affect the student population". I think that we have struck the right balance. I am not criticising the motives which have led my hon. Friends to table these Amendments, but I hope they will see that although I am opposing the Amendments, I share their intentions. I am anxious that we should do what is appropriate and what is good legislation in the Bill, and not seek so to enlarge the matter that we make inappropriate provisions in the Bill.

Mr. David Steel

Before the hon. Lady sits down, may I ask whether she will change her mind about the statement that this would require consultations with the students' representative council? It would do nothing of the sort. It would require the sending of a draft ordinance or resolution to the S.R.C. and would require the court to take into consideration any representations which that body might choose to make if appropriate. I would prefer, as I am sure the hon. Member for Maryhill would, to leave this to the judgment of the S.R.C., and not to the university court.

Mrs. Hart

The point is that representions are considered from the Senate or General Council, and if we accept a later Amendment, from "any body having an interest". The question is whether it is appropriate for the court to consider whether the students are involved and to send them notices of resolutions or draft ordinances on matters which are totally outside their sphere of interest. That is why I say that if it were possible to draft an Amendment which said that the court should send the S.R.C. notice of draft ordinances or resolutions on matters which were of concern to it, but not on matters which were not, that would be fine, but it is not possible to draft that kind of Amendment. The correct procedure is therefore to say that we will bring the students into the picture by saying that they are a body which has an interest in certain matters which the university will wish to do, and to provide, by the use of the words "body having an interest" that they shall have their views considered.

Mr. Buchan

Is not the point here that matters of interest to students may vary from year to year? A particular point which may not appear to affect them in one period may be vitally important in another. This is one of the lessons which we have learned. If Edinburgh had the right to make representations and the right to receive documents, it would use that right in the kind of situation which was relevant to it.

My hon. Friend says that if she could draft an Amendment which would take in those aspects which were of value, and leave out those which were not, the problem would be solved, but if she accepted our open Amendments the situation would solve itself, because the S.R.C. would raise this point only where it was relevant. I cannot see the danger of accepting these Amendments.

Mrs. Hart

I think that my hon. Friends are asking for something for which the students themselves are not asking. In their Memorandum the students ask to be brought into the picture where they feel it is relevant for them to be brought in, and not to be brought in where it is not. I have made it clear that if a situation arises where they have sent representations on the draft ordinance to the court, and the court proceeds to make its ordinance, or submit it to the Privy Council without fully taking into account the representations of the S.R.C., the S.R.C. has a way open to it to go to the Privy Council, and say, "we sent representations to the court, but the court has taken no notice of them, and it is wrong that our views should not be embodied in the ordinance". Students' interests are, therefore, fully safeguarded.

Under the resolution procedure in Part II of Schedule 2, a considerable proportion of the matters in Part II of Schedule 2 on which the resolution procedure will be adopted are matters in respect of which it is not appropriate for the students to be sent draft resolutions. An example of that is when retirement of a professor is being considered. I do not think that when considering a matter of that kind it is appropriate that the students should be sent a copy of such a draft resolution in advance of the matter being fully considered. What is more, I do not think that the students believe that it is necessary for them to be involved in such a matter.

I think that when students study the Bill in detail, and when they study what I have said on this matter, they will see that we have achieved the right balance. They are in the picture where they want to be, with every right to make representations through to the Privy Council on ordinance matters, and they are not in the picture only on this point, where they would be the first to agree that it is not appropriate they should be.

Mr. Hannam

With the permission of the House, I should like to reply to my hon. Friend. I have listened with greater disappointment than usual to what she said. I am sure that there is some other answer which she may feel she cannot give us, but I must ask the House to consider the terms of the proposed Amendments.

Paragraph (a) says: a draft of the ordinance shall be sent to the Senatus Academicus and to the General Council", and the first Amendment proposes that a draft of that ordinance shall be sent to the students' representative council. There seems to be no harm in that.

The next operation is in paragraph (b), which deals with sending a notice to the Senatus Academicus and to the General Council, and telling them where a draft of it may be inspected. All that we are suggesting is that that information should be sent to the S.R.C. What possible harm can there be in that?

The next operation is in paragraph (c) which says: The University Court shall take into consideration any representations from the Senatus Academicus or the General Council… Why should not the S.R.C. be able to make representations? I ask this bearing in mind the point made earlier in the debate about the difference in status of Scottish students vis-à-vis English students. How can any harm come from accepting this proposal?

I differ from my hon. Friend when she says that students' representatives have made it clear that they are interested only in students' affairs. I wonder whether she has seen a copy of the memorandum which has been sent to me? On the question of prior consultation it calls for the effective representation of student opinion at all levels, and it says: We base all the Amendments that we have made on two main assumptions…We on the Students' Representative Councils of the four ancient Scottish Universities believe we should play a full part in helping to govern our Universities. We reject the view that students are in the main irresponsible; and also the attitude that we are, on the Students' Representative Council, only here to concern outselves with student affairs. I do not know what could be clearer. That is what the students want. I have noted all the other arguments which have been adduced, and I put it to my hon. Friend that even at this late stage we might have a promise from her that she will agree to have one more look at the matter before it goes to another place.

Mr. David Steel

I am sorry to rise again on this matter—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Roderic Bowen)

Order. The hon. Member has already spoken on the Amendment. He is not in order in speaking again.

8.0 p.m.

Mrs. Hart

Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) was replying to the Amendment. I will consider whether it is possible to bring forward an Amendment which will allow things to be sent to the S.R.C. where it seems that it ought to be concerned, while not allowing things to go to it when it is not concerned, but the draftsmen will have to come up with something very clever if such an Amendment is to be found.

Mr. David Steel

Before the hon. Lady sits down: it is quite unsatisfactory to look for any such Amendment. The present Amendment is an eminently reasonable one. It is important that the S.R.C. should decide on what it wishes to make representations, and it ought not to be the university court which decides what is appropriate. That is the difference. I hope that the hon. Lady will not look for a weird Amendment, but will be able to accept this one. She questions the fact that the subject of the age of retirement of a professor is of no concern to the S.R.C.

I remember that in my student days we were very interested in such matters—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is not entitled to make a speech in the guise of an interjection.

Mrs. Hart

We all have strong views, but it does not follow that our views are relevant to the making of decisions. I want to quote from a Press statement from the Scottish Union of Students which says: The Scottish Union of Students Executive Committee supports the Presidents of the S.R.C.s of the older Scottish Universities in their Memorandum on the Universities (Scotland) Bill particularly with respect to the necessity of prior consultation with the S.R.C. by the university authorities on all matters affecting students. It does not say "on all matters".

The second quotation is from the St. Andrews students. Some incorrect assumptions have been made by the S.R.C.s in Scotland as a result of the limited Press reporting of our earlier debates. Hon. Members will remember that when this matter was reported generally in the Scottish Press—and not everybody can have a copy of the relevant OFFICIAL REPORT available—the discussion was concerned with rectorships and the appointment of rectors' assessors and it appeared from the reports that I had put forward the students' rights as being represented entirely through the rector's assessor. Hon. Members will recall that that was only one point that I made. The rest of my argument was concerned with the other points that I have made tonight.

In view of that, the students felt that it was necessary to write again, and they said: We should point out at this point that we well appreciate that by no means all Court business, and not all Senate business, affects our respective student populations. That is quite right. There are matters which affect them and matters which do not.

There may be borderline questions on which it would be right for the students to be the ones to decide, but there are equally borderline cases where it would be right for the court to decide that a certain matter was not one in respect of which it should put out a broad resolution which would go to all the students on the university. There may be some confidential matters, such as appointments to chairs, in respect of which it would not be appropriate for the students to know anything in advance of the event.

Mr. Neil Carmichael (Glasgow, Woodside)

Surely my hon. Friend agrees that the notice will be displayed. There is no secrecy about it. The students can examine it in the appropriate place. I cannot see why there should be any difficulty about merely making one more copy for the S.R.C.s.

Mrs. Hart

That is one point. The other concerns the Bill itself. Under Clause 4(b) the question of displaying resolutions or ordinances is dealt with, but there is also the question of taking into consideration representations. We have written into the Bill provisions concerning representations from the Senatus Academicus and the General Council and "other bodies having an interest." By this provision we are referring, in the case of students, for instance, to matters which are relevant to them as students. But there would be matters which were relevant to the Association of University Teachers, and other matters which would be relevant to other bodies. The moment we write in the words "Students Representative Council" we must consider how many other bodies which have an interest should be written in. This would be really difficult in terms of drafting.

What I have said to my hon. Friend is that, recognising the point that is being made, very forcibly, by my hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel), I will see whether it is possible to devise anything during the further consideration of the Bill. But I would not like my hon. Friends to believe that I hold out any high hopes of being able to do so.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Throughout these proceedings I have found myself almost completely in agreement with the hon. Lady. I thought that she was very fair and reasonable. But on this Amendment I find it difficult to see how she can justify her objection. The only thing that I can think is that there is some other reason, which has not been mentioned in the House, for the rejection of the Amendment. If this is so, it would help if we had a general indication of the real reason.

The main argument advanced for rejecting the Amendment is that some of these matters are not the proper concern of students. I was not greatly impressed by some of the hon. Lady's examples. She referred to the question of the age of retiral for professors. In my opinion, this matter greatly affects students. If a student is sitting in a class day after day, hearing lectures from an elderly professor, he can form very decided views, and I suggest that no one is more able to offer an authoritative point of view than a student. This is a matter in which students can put forward very relevant points of view, which should be listened to.

The real reason for not accepting the Amendment may be a general fear on the part of universities that once these ordinances are issued to the student body and all and sundry it might cause the students to become obsessed with constitutional matters, and cause them to make representations on some items of administration and constitutional Government which would be of no real assistance because they did not know all the implications involved in any change of the constitution. I suggest that in the kind of case mentioned by the Robbins Committee ordinances brought forward by the Scottish universities concerning changes in curricula or the establishment of new Chairs are matters in which students' views would be be as important as any others.

The other argument put forward is that if we bring in the S.R.C.s we shall find difficulty in not taking into account the points of view of other people who might have a remote interest in the kind of things covered by these ordinances. But surely the people who are directly involved are the students, the General Council and the Senate. I cannot think of any other organisation which would have a direct interest in the matters covered by these ordinances. I feel that the real fear is that the S.R.C.s will take an unfair and unreasonable interest in constitutional matters. This is something which must be discovered on the basis of experience. I should be very worried if, on the one hand, we said that it was right for these ordinances to be displayed publicly for everyone to see if they wanted, and, nevertheless, not to provide for a copy to be sent to the S.R.C.s. Is it reasonable that we should expect people in the S.R.C. to take shorthand notes from a notice board and not to be sent copies in due course?

The result will be that ordinances might be brought in of which the students would not be aware. They might miss one in which they had a vital interest. I have not been impressed by the arguments in this case. I am sorry about this because, in every other case, the Under-Secretary has adopted a very fair and reasonable point of view. I feel strongly about this and I hope that she can accept the Amendment as it is.

I hope, for these reasons, that the hon. Member for Maryhill will not withdraw the Amendment.

Sir M. Galpern

I support my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in her rejection of the Amendment. She has stated the case clearly and, I hope, in a manner acceptable to the student body itself. Throughout this argument, I detected an attempt to create another governing body of the universities. It seems that, in addition to the university court and the senatus, we are now to have the students' representative council also governing the university according to their desires and to their likes and dislikes.

That seems to be the tenor of the argument of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylors)—

Mr. David Steel

Will the hon. Member accept that the difference between what we are proposing and the powers of the other bodies is that the other bodies actually have powers in these matters? The S.R.C.s would be able to make submissions but would have no powers and there would be no question of their becoming a governing body.

Sir M. Galpern

I would not accept that, because the hon. Member for Cathcart has indicated that the students might want to poke their noses into constitutional matters, too. No one will prevent it and no one will say where to draw the line. I know the student body and some of their pranks. If we carried out this exercise, it would create great difficulties for the university authorities. This situation could arise quite easily. The Under-Secretary has used probably a bad example in referring to the retirement of a professor, because there is no statutory retiring age. A man of 85, 95, or 100 might be a far better professor than when he was a younger man because he has had greater experience.

I think that the student body will be quite content with the many assurances which have been given this evening and which were given some time ago, that they will have ample opportunity to make representations in their proper sphere of activity, namely, in matters directly affecting the student body. It would be interesting to see what happened if we elevated the students' representative councils to the position in which some hon. Members would like to see them.

I do not know the exact figures, but it would be interesting to know how many students in each of the universities take part in the election of the members of their students' representative council—

Mr. David Steel

How many citizens of Glasgow take part in the election of the Lord Provost and the other members of the council?

Sir M. Galpern

Not a single member, thank goodness, takes part in the election of the Provost and this is entirely due to the wisdom, understanding, experience and maturity of the elected members of the local council.

I was hoping that the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) would give me some indication of the percentage who actually take part. My recollection is that out of a student body in Glasgow of about 6,000, no more than 1,000, which would be putting it very high—

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Would the hon. Member agree that, while the figures in Glasgow are very low indeed and very disappointing and, to that extent, the students' representative council is not honestly representative, in other universities in Scotland the situation is very different? In Aberdeen, there is a good union and the students have a very representative council.

8.15 p.m.

Sir M. Galpern

I am glad that the hon. Member has been honest enough to admit that there is some validity in my argument that, at least in Glasgow, the small group which runs the representative council is not representative of the whole student body.

The point is that, if we were to yield to the demands made on this point—I can understand the reasons for them—we should create a very dangerous situation for the universities. As a former member of a university court, I know that there could be many items upon which the student body could easily claim, depending on the composition as determined from year to year, that they have an interest, just for the fun of it, in offering views upon matters which are wholly out-with their concern.

Therefore, with the assurances which have been given and which meet the real desires of the students' representative council, which, after all, should be a very important and responsible body, which should be knowledgeable in the statutory powers which are vested in it and which should know its rights, I think that they should make a study of the rights which are presently open to them. One has been mentioned by the Under-Secretary—that they can go right to the Privy Council to make their ultimate representation against anything which the University Court does. Therefore, I think that the Under-Secretary has done very well in explaining the position and I would appeal to my hon. Friends to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Hannan

I have listened to the arguments and we have had a good debate on this point. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) insisted, as, I think, did my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, that the students are content with the assurances which have been given. I hold in my hand a memorandum from the S.R.C. presidents of the four ancient Scottish universities—not just one, but all four—in which they say: We submit that this Sub-section should be amended to read: 'A draft of the ordinance shall be sent to the Senatus Academicus, and to General Council and to the Students' Representative Council.' The last six words are underlined. This goes right through to Clause 6.

Sir M. Galpern

I am prepared to accept that there is a conflict of opinion about what the students' representative councils, representing the student body, actually desire, but if we are prepared to accept, as I am, what my hon. Friend has just read, surely it shows the irresponsibility of the student body itself in making such wholesale demands.

Mr. Hannan

I take the opposite view. I think that those who do not recognise the facts and come up to date with modern times have to ask themselves whether they are not being a little irresponsible. It seems to be thought that authority is being challenged here and this is resented. Of course, I have maintained for years that there is a resentment against any challenge which is being made. If young people are to act responsibly, they have to be treated responsibly—

Mrs. Hart

I think my hon. Friend knows that he and I share the same point of view on the need for partnership in the universities between the university authorities and the students. Would he not agree that perhaps we in this House are better at drafting legislation that the best S.R.C.?

Mr. Hannan

If that is a reflection on anyone, it is a reflection on me. These Amendments were put down before the Christmas Recess and before the students' representative councils had made any representations at all. If hon. Members care to look at the Order Paper before the Christmas Recess, they will see that the Amendments were there. It is no reflection on the students' representative council. If anyone has to carry the can, I am prepared to carry it.

My hon. Friend said that she will consider whether she can find a place for this proposal in the Bill at a later stage. In view of what she said, knowing her

Division No. 25.] AYES [8.21 p.m.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Harper, Joseph Palmer, Arthur
Armstrong, Ernest Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Parker, John
Atkinson, Norman Hart, Mrs. Judith Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Harvie Anderson, Miss Popplewell, Ernest
Barnett, Joel Hazell, Bert Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Bence, Cyril Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Probert, Arthur
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough) Rankin, John
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Hoy, James Redhead, Edward
Bishop, E. S. Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline) Rees, Merlyn
Blackburn, F. Hunter, A. E. (Feltham) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hutchison, Michael Clark Rose, Paul B.
Boardman, H. Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Sheldon, Robert
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Jackson, Colin Silkin, John (Deptford)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Snow, Julian
Carter-Jones, Lewis Leadbitter, Ted Spriggs, Leslie
Coleman, Donald Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Conlan, Bernard Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Stones, William
Cousins, Rt. Hn. Frank Lipton, Marcus Swingler, Stephen
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lomas, Kenneth Symonds, J. B.
Crawshaw, Richard Loughlin, Charles Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony MacColl, James Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice MacDermot, Niall Thornton, Ernest
Dalyell, Tam McGuire, Michael Urwin, T. W.
Darling, George Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Varley, Eric G.
Doig, Peter McNamara, Kevin Wainwright, Edwin
Duffy, Dr. A. E. P. Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Dunn, James A. Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Wallace, George
Dunnett, Jack Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Watkins, Tudor
Ensor, David Manuel, Archie Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley) Mapp, Charles Whitlock, William
Fernyhough, E. Mason, Roy Wigg, Rt. Hn. George
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Millan, Bruce Wilkins, W. A.
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Milne, Edward (Blyth) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Galpern, Sir Myer Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Garrett, W. E. Morris, Charles (Openshaw) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Ginsburg, David Neal, Harold Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Gourlay, Harry Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Gregory, Arnold Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip(Derby, S.) Woof, Robert
Grey, Charles Norwood, Christopher
Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Oakes, Gordon TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange) Ogden, Eric Mr. George Lawson and
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) O'Malley, Brian Mr. John McCann.
Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.) Oswald, Thomas
Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty) Mr. David Steel and
Mr. Edward M. Taylor.

interest in the subject and believing that, despite the arguments, she will do so I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Is it your pleasure that the Amendment be withdrawn?

Hon. Members


Question put, That "and to" stand part of the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 137, Noes 2.

8.30 p.m.

Mr. Hannan

I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 3, line 19, to leave out "one month" and to insert "two months".

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It will be in order to discuss with this Amendment, Amendments Nos. 7, 18, 20 and 22.

Mr. Hannan

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. These Amendments are proposed in respect of ordinances. We debated the matter in Committee, when it was pointed out that the General Councils of Glasgow University and Edinburgh University—and I understand that the General Council of Aberdeen University has no objection—think that one month for the consideration of an ordinance is insufficient time for it to be properly considered.

The General Councils point out that their members in Glasgow number 23, that it could, and sometimes does, happen that just after having had a meeting they may be presented with an ordinance and that by the time the members meet again a good deal of the allotted time will have elapsed. They therefore strongly feel that the period should be two months.

It is part of the purpose of the Bill to facilitate the universities in the work pertaining to ordinances. At one time—and it is only by this Bill that the procedure is being altered—if a university wanted to promote an ordinance it had to consult the other three universities in Scotland on the subject. Now the universities can proceed separately. At one time it took between six and 12 months to get an ordinance successfully through all its procedures, including the procedures in this House.

In view of the length of time being cut to one month, as proposed in the Bill, it is considered that two months would be a reasonable compromise. While the General Councils do not wish to hinder the universities in their work, it is suggested that at least two months should be allowed for the consideration of an ordinance.

Mr. N. R. Wylie (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

I support the Amendment for the reasons stated by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan). My information is that three out of the four General Councils in Scotland are actively seeking this and that the fourth has no objection to it. To that extent, my information coincides with that of the hon. Member for Maryhill.

These ordinances are important matters, and perhaps I may refer to what the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary of State gave in Committee as reasons for not accepting the Amendment when initially proposed. Her first reason was that …the ordinance procedure covers many important matters on which the university itself, the general council and the constituent bodies of the university have the right to comment and make their views clear. For that very reason, this two-month time factor should be permitted, because these are important matters which the constituent bodies of the university ought to have an opportunity to consider and upon which they should have a proper chance to make representations.

The hon. Lady very fairly considered the matter at some length. I think that she was concerned that by substituting two months for one month the normal process of university administration would be retarded rather than accelerated, which is the purpose of the whole Bill. She said that there was a danger that the maximum period would be regarded as a minimum period and that the work of the university would be unnecessarily held up— …for example, in advertising a new Chair on the death of a professor, and that kind of situation. I appreciate the force of those arguments. I appreciate that there may be some circumstances in which there is an element of urgency.

That, I think, was the real reason for the hon. Lady's rejection of the Amendment in Committee, because she then said: I think that on balance the most important consideration is to make it possible for decisions to be reached on matters of some urgency within a month."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 14th December, 1965; c. 107.] I accept that view, and it is with that consideration in mind that the qualifying provisions in Amendment No. 7 have been inserted.

The period of eight weeks was suggested at the instance of a principal of one of the universities. That is why Amendment No. 7 seeks to insert the words: eight weeks (or such shorter period, being not less than one month, which is deemed appropriate by the University Court on the ground of urgency).". I think that this wording meets the objection made by the hon. Lady in Committee and, in the light of that modification, I know that all hon. Members on this side—and, I think, on the other side—would be glad to learn that she is now willing to accept the Amendment.

Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)

I support the Amendment. We have recently had particularly good evidence in the City of Glasgow of the importance, the balance and the good sense of the general council. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) has just said, the delays which this Bill seeks to reduce were caused by draft ordinances having to be sent round the universities. That necessity having been removed for the future, it seems to me that the procedure will not be unduly impeded if the hon. Lady is able to accept the Amendment.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) referred, perhaps in error, to the 23 members as the 23 members of the General Council. It should be put on record that they are the members of the business committee through which the General Council operates. As I understand it, that committee is itself subdivided into two committees of 11 members each, with a chairman operating between the two.

We should also consider very seriously who these people are, because they are giving their services voluntarily. Each and every one of them is a distinguished member of a profession or business who, of necessity, cannot readily make himself available. I believe that practice has proved that it requires a fortnight effectively to call a meeting of this body which we are now discussing. If that be so, I urge the hon. Lady to consider that if it requires a fortnight to get the people together, and that then consideration has to be given to whatever matter comes before them, two things may still have to happen, both of which are, in my opinion, of the utmost importance. The first is that which has become so evident recently in Glasgow, the formation and dissemination of information and public opinion. This I do not think can be done in what in fact would be a week.

The second is that there can be many circumstances in which the 23 persons most concerned may not collectively or individually have the specialist information which they require. Time should be available to them to seek that information if they so wish. Apart from what the hon. Lady said in Committee about the possibility of delay and the desirability of avoiding delay, I cannot think that there is any serious objection to the period of two months, or eight weeks. I urge the hon. Lady most strenuously, both because representations have been so strong from Glasgow University which has had such recent experience of the importance of this matter and also because it is supported by the other universities, to see her way to accept this Amendment.

Mrs. Hart

One thing should be made quite clear at the outset. There is no suggestion of shortening a period which at the moment is long. Under the 1889 Act the period allowed for draft ordinance and new ordinance procedure is one month. This is also the period allowed for similar consultations in the charters of new universities. We should be quite clear that what we are discussing is not shortening a period but keeping it the same or lengthening it. It is of some relevance to get that into perspective.

Miss Harvie Anderson

I think the hon. Lady will agree that in 1889 the universities were very much smaller. It is not fair to compare the total number of people concerned in 1889 with the vast body of people who are now concerned in a General Council and graduates of today.

Mrs. Hart

I completely accept that, but the charters of the new universities also stipulate one month. I make the point to show that we are not making any devastating suggestion that we should shorten the period, but are keeping it the same or lengthening the period.

I recognise the strength of the argument made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) and of the hon. Lady the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson). There are some difficulties and I must put them clearly before the House. I address my remarks to the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) and say this to my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill. Eight weeks is one week shorter than two months and therefore nearer to my point of view. One difficulty is that it would introduce an element of uncertainty into the relationship between the court on the one hand and the senate and the general council on the other, because the general council and the other bodies would not know in advance whether any particular ordinance was to be regarded as urgent.

I take the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) in the Amendment by which he seeks to cover the kind of case of which I spoke in Committee. If we make a distinction between some matters which can take eight weeks to resolve and some which a university court wants to get through in a hurry—such as the appointment to a new chair which for some reason or another the court wants to do quickly and as a matter of urgency, it can be done in a period of not less than a month—only the court can decide what is urgent.

Whatever becomes the statutory period, if something on these lines is accepted eight weeks would not be the maximum but would be assumed to be the minimum period. If the general council decided to have statutory meetings once in six weeks it could suddenly receive a notice from the court that a particular matter on which a draft ordinance or resolution was coming forward was regarded as a matter of urgency and it would be asked to consider it within a month. There is some difficulty about the uncertainty. The big difficulty in the drafting of the Amendment—I think that this will be accepted by the House—is that, as drafted, it makes no provision for any public announcement of the length of the period within which representations are to be received. This clearly would have to be written in, otherwise there would be a risk that interested bodies would fail to make their views known to the court in time on any ordinance which the court had decided to regard as urgent.

8.45 p.m.

Another difficulty is that no corresponding Amendment has been tabled in regard to the resolution procedure. This Amendment deals with the ordinance procedure. There would need to be a corresponding one on the resolution procedure. Perhaps the hon. and learned Member for Pentlands can explain to me whether the Opposition had in mind that eight weeks (or such shorter period, being not less than one month… would apply only under Clause 4 on the ordinance procedure and would not apply on the resolution procedure.

Mr. Wylie

That certainly was the intention. I make no claim to being a Parliamentary draftsman. I dare say that the drafting could be improved. It was appreciated that under the resolution procedure there was Clause 6(2) to deal with emergencies. It seemed to us that a provision of this nature could deal with the legitimate problem which was raised by the hon. Lady on Clause 4.

Mrs. Hart

This would mean, then, that in relation to the Clause 6 procedure the period that the hon. and learned Gentleman wished to have here would be again the eight weeks? Here there is a further difficulty, because the lengthy discussion we had on the emergency resolution procedure—

Mr. Wylie

It would be one month under Clause 6, but because of the gravity of the subject matter of the ordinance we thought that it should be two months in Clause 4, unless there was some reason, at the discretion of the Court, for reducing it.

Mrs. Hart

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman. This was my original understanding, but I was anxious to establish it quite clearly. I think that there would be much less objection to this, because one is drawing a distinction between the ordinance and the resolution procedure. This means that there are three possible points of view. There is the point of view of my hon. Friend the Member for Maryhill and my other hon. Friends, who would have liked to make the one month apply to the resolution procedure as well.

Mr. Hannan

If it will facilitate matters and allow us to get on more expeditiously, and if you will allow me to make referance to Clause 6, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would be content with what my hon. Friend proposes when we reach Clause 6 and confine myself at this moment to what is suggested in Clause 4.

Mrs. Hart

I am grateful. Hon. Members will appreciate that it is a little difficult when one has three strands of opinion on two separate Clauses in three groups of Amendments. In that case, I think that the hon. and learned Member for Pentlands and my hon. Friend recognise the slight difficulties in the drafting. We still have a little more time in which we can do things to the Bill. I wonder if they would allow me to accept their suggestion in principle and look at it in another place. We will consider what would be the precise form of the Amendment which would be suitable here, taking the point that it would be eight weeks (or such shorter period, being not less than one month… We will look at the detailed drafting. The Bill will come back to the House for further consideration.

Mr. MacArthur

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) and I are most grateful to the hon. Lady for that undertaking. I wonder whether she is thinking in terms of two months or eight weeks, or does she wish to keep an open mind on that question?

Mrs. Hart

I would prefer to think in terms of eight weeks. As the hon. Gentleman knows, my desire is for brevity in these matters, and eight weeks is one week shorter than two months.

Sir M. Galpern

I am somewhat disturbed about the elasticity of the proposal in the Amendment. After all, there could be complaints from the general council that the matter which the university court deemed to be urgent was in fact not urgent. Complaints of this character which one would hope would not arise, could nevertheless still be made against the university court. I suggest that when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is looking at this matter she will bear in mind the advisability of having a fixed period so as to avoid any abuse or doubt as to whether the university court was correct in its view of a particular ordinance.

Mrs. Hart

I said that I wanted to look at the drafting. I particularly want to consider the words: deemed appropriate by the University Court on the ground of urgency". and I also want to consider the question of making a public announcement—whether it will be variable or fixed.

Hon. Members will appreciate that I am accepting the substance of the Amendment and I trust that they will be prepared to give me some flexibility in the wording.

Mr. Hannan

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mrs. Hart

I beg to move Amendment No. 12, in page 3, line 28, to leave out "or".

Amendments in almost exactly the same terms were tabled by hon. Members opposite in Committee and we agreed with the substance of those Amendments. The substance was that all relevant considerations should be brought before the court at an early stage, but we took the view that the reference to "body" was unnecessary on the ground that "person" included "body". The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) rather disputed this. We have now agreed to adopt the formula "body or person" and we have suggested this form of words in the Amendment.

Am I right, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in thinking that we are taking with this Amendment No. 15, in line 29, after "Council", insert or any other body or person having an interest". and Amendment No. 59, in Clause 6, page 4, line 36, after "other", insert "body or"?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

No, Amendment No. 12 is being taken on its own.

Mrs. Hart

For the convenience of the House may we take Amendments Nos. 15 and 59 with Amendment No. 12 which I am moving? This would facilitate the discussion. I can already see that I am out of order if we are only to take Amendment No. 12.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We can take Amendments Nos. 12, 15 and 59 if that meets the convenience of the House. So be it.

Mrs. Hart

We are dealing with the "body or person" question which gave us cause for thought in Committee. We have agreed that this formula is best. I think that it meets the point of view of the whole of the Committee. The consequential Amendment No. 59 would keep the resolution procedure in this respect in line with the wording of the ordinance procedure.

Mr. Wylie

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for what she has said and for accepting the substance of the Amendment which was tabled in Committee. I do not think it was a case of my disputing what the hon. Lady said, as is contained in the Interpretation Act, 1889. It was really a question whether people went through the whole of their lives with the provisions of the 1889 Act uppermost in their minds. It seemed to me desirable to put a provision of this sort into the Bill although, in view of the provisions of that Act perhaps strictly speaking it was not really necessary.

Mr. MacArthur

I do not want to delay the House at this hour, when we are moving forward with these Amendments in such harmony. I join my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) in thanking the hon. Lady for accepting this Amendment in principle and for bringing it forward again today.

It might be helpful if another word could be said about the effect of this change, the introduction of "body or person" into Clause 4(c). It is particularly appropriate to do that in view of the rather heavy weather that we encountered earlier in the debate.

The effect of the Amendment which we proposed in Committee and which we are now considering again today is that when a draft ordinance is published within one of the old universities, any body or person having an interest concerning the ordinance will be enabled to make representations about that ordinance to the court. It is important to stress this, because earlier the significance of the Amendment was not fully understood outside.

The memorandum from the students, which has been referred to, may well have been written without a full appreciation of what the Amendment sought to do. I understand that the position now is that if the Amendment is passed today a draft ordinance will have to be displayed publicly within the university. Notices will have to be displayed in public places in the university calling attention to the place where the draft ordinance can be seen and inspected. It follows, therefore, that if the draft ordinance concerns the interests of students or non-professorial staff or any other body or person within the university they will have an opportunity to make representations about their concern to the Court.

It seems to me that this meets, if not fully then very nearly fully, the points put forward to many hon. Members by the students. They will now be in a position as well as other bodies and persons to see the ordinances and make their representations about them known to the university court. I hope that this may help to clear the air a little and reassure students and other bodies that as a result of the Amendment their position will be protected and improved. I repeat my thanks to the hon. Lady for moving the Amendment.

Mrs. Hart

In his interpretation of the full significance of the Amendment the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) is quite right. I made my argument on this in relation to a previous Amendment even at the risk of getting slightly out of order in talking about an Amendment which we have not reached. It means that the students' representative council, in my view, is fully brought into the picture at every point that it would feel it appropriate to be brought in. I hope that students will study the full reports of what has been said in the House, rather than just the summaries which they might see here and there. If they do, I hope that they will agree that the Amendment truly safeguards their interests.

Mr. David Steel

I do not for a moment accept what the hon. Lady has just said, though I support the Amendment. It still leaves the question whether the S.R.C. has or has not an interest to the university court, and that is the difference between us.

Amendment agreed to.

9.0 p.m.

Further Amendment made: In page 3, line 29, after "Council", insert: or any other body or person having an interest".—[Mrs. Hart.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The next Amendment to be taken is No. 16, and I suggest that it may be for the convenience of the House to discuss at the same time Amendments Nos. 17, 19 and 21.

Mrs. Hart

Mr. Deputy Speaker, as a point of order, may I suggest that, although, as you suggest, it may well be for the convenience of the House to discuss these Amendments together—I confess that I am not quite sure how to put this—we may be in some difficulty in treating this as a group of Amendments because, although we are concerned with the same words, they cover different points. Amendment No. 17 is specifically on a different matter from one or two of the other Amendments. So long as we are clear that we must be careful in considering all these Amendments and moving some of them formally, all will be well. Perhaps you will agree that attention might be drawn to that point.

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Mrs. Hart

I beg to move Amendment No. 16, in page 3, line 30, to leave out, "said period of one month", and to insert: period mentioned in the last foregoing paragraph". This is a drafting Amendment. We had a good deal of discussion on this point in Committee, when, quite rightly, various hon. Members drew my attention to the fact that the phrasing in the Clause as it stood contained some unnecessary words and was unduly repetitive. I resisted the wording of the Amendments then proposed on the ground that the words as they stood in the Clause made for a certain clarity in the matter, but I undertook, when they were withdrawn, to look at the drafting of the Clause again. This Amendment is the outcome of my further look at the drafting.

The words "said period of one month" are replaced by the new wording proposed in the Amendment, and then at subsequent points in the Bill we take out the words "of one month", and the expression "the said period" remains. This goes most of the way to meet the point made by hon. Members opposite.

The resolution procedure will be kept in step with the ordinance procedure in this respect by Amendments Nos. 32 and 33, in similar terms.

Mr. MacArthur

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for having taken note of the very sensible arguments put from this side in Committee on this relatively small drafting point. As she said, her Amendment No. 16 meets the point which we had in mind at that time.

The hon. Lady was right to call attention to the fact that the intention of Amendment No. 17, in the name of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) and myself is rather different from our original purpose in raising this matter. This is so, of course, because we now have another question to consider. This Amendment relates directly to the earlier Amendment No. 7 which we have discussed under which we proposed to introduce eight weeks instead of one month as the period for consideration under Clause 4. If eight weeks ultimately proves acceptable, the reference to one month would no longer make sense.

However, by one of those happy chances, the hon. Lady, in so kindly meeting the point we raised in Committee, has accidentally met the consequential point which arises from our earlier Amendment today, and I hope that, for the sake of tidiness and contentment all round, this Amendment will be accepted.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 3, line 31, leave out "of one month".

In line 37, leave out "of one month".—[Mrs. Hart.]