HC Deb 17 February 1966 vol 724 cc1644-7
Mr. Hannan

I beg to move Amendment No. 44, in page 6, line 33 after "before" to insert: the Secretary of State and". This is similar to an Amendment I moved in Committee. Its purpose is that a copy of the financial report which each university must provide for the General Council should also go to the Secretary of State. We are losing the present provision whereby the annual reports went to the Secretary of State, so it is but little to ask that copies of the financial reports should be provided to him.

Mrs. Hart

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) will know by now, following the very full discussion of this subject in Committee—in the first place, nobody knows better than he—that Section 30 of the 1889 Act was never fulfilled. It was on this issue that he almost had the head of the former Secretary of State on a charger. But having drawn our attention to that, I think that he has accepted, as most hon. Members have accepted, that it would be wrong, especially as we are moving forward to a day when all the universities are likely to have charters, to distinguish between the four older universities and the others in Scotland in terms of their relationship with my right hon. Friend.

What is required is that hon. Members should find it a little easier to have the kind of information which many of them wish to have in their consideration of matters of higher education and of universities in general. Most of the hon. Members who were members of the Committee have had a letter—all are supposed to have had it and if I have omitted anybody, I apologise—to explain exactly what we have done about this. We have compiled a very long list of the sources of information which are relevant in this respect and which any hon. Member is free to have from me if he wishes. It amounts to consulting a small number of sources such as the University Central Council on Admissions, the U. G. C. Report and the calendars and reports of the Scottish universities themselves.

My hon. Friend is asking that the four older universities should lay before my right hon. Friend a copy of their reports and accounts. I can tell him that we have done a great deal better than that for him, because, by courtesy of the four older universities and the newer universities, we have arranged that all Scottish Members will receive a copy of the annual reports and financial statements which the older universities are required to circulate to their general councils under Clause 12 and which the newer universities are compelled to circulate to their convocations under the terms of their charters. I trust that, having now been given the kind of information himself which he was asking should be provided to my right hon. Friend, my hon. Friend will rest content on the basis of his great achievement in connection with Section 30.

Mr. MacArthur

The hon. Lady may remember that in Committee we expressed a certain sympathy with the Amendment which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) then moved, for the very good reason that we were anxious that hon. Members should have access to necessary and relevant information about the progress of universities in Scotland.

I am sure that I speak for all those hon. Members who were members of the Scottish Standing Committee on the Bill in thanking the hon. Lady for her courtesy in writing to us as she did and listing the material which she proposes to make available. I am grateful to her, as I am sure all hon. Members are, for proposing to arrange for the reports, which older universities are required to prepare under Clause 12 and which the newer universities are required to circulate under the terms of their charters, to be made available. This will be very welcome and helpful.

It was also good of her to say that she proposed to compile a list of references. I question whether that is strictly necessary. As I said in Committee, by doing a relatively small amount of devilling, hon. Members could dig out this information for themselves. It is surprising how much information there is in the Library if one spends a few minutes looking for it. However, I do not want to be obstructionist and it is very good of the hon. Lady to go to the trouble and I am sure that hon. Members would wish to thank her for her courtesy.

Mr. Hannan

I should like to thank my hon. Friend for the care and attention which she gave to this Amendment upstairs. Her remarks were very helpful and she has rightly said that it will serve a useful purpose to bring all the details of the universities together.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.15 p.m.

Mrs. Hart

I beg to move Amendment No. 45, in page 6, line 38 at the end to insert: (2) No person shall be qualified to be appointed as an auditor under this section unless he is a member of one or more of the following bodies:—

  1. (a) he Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland;
  2. (b) the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales;
  3. (c) the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland;
  4. (d) the Association of Certified and Corporate Accountants;
  5. (e) any other body of accountants established in the United Kingdom and for the time being recognised for the purposes of section 161(1)(a) of the Companies Act 1948 by the Board of Trade;
but a Scottish firm may be so appointed if each of the partners thereof is qualified to be so appointed. (3) No person shall be qualified to be appointed as an auditor under this section who is, or any member of whose firm is, a member of the University Court or of the staff of the University concerned. This is a somewhat technical Amendment about which I can be very brief. Its effect is to prescribe the qualifications of the auditors appointed under subsection (b) of the Clause. It has become the standard practice in recent legislation—for example in the Teaching Council (Scotland) Act, and in the Airports Authority Act, 1965—that when provision is made for the appointment of an auditor, there is also included a provision as to his professional qualification. For example, the charters of Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt contain an equivalent provision.

The wording of the Amendment is in standard form. The same words are contained in the Teaching Council (Scotland) Act. Subsection (3) came from the Heriot-Watt Charter as an addition. It will be for the convenience of the House if I move the Amendment formally since I suppose that it will be generally accepted.

Mr. MacArtbur

I do not want to detain the Committee on this point, but I should like to ask one question. I am sure that the Committee would wish to see this Amendment go through as it meets a real need. But I understand that there is one question of doubt about the order in which the various bodies appear in the Amendment. I have not checked this with the Teaching Council Act to which the hon. Lady referred, but I understand that in other Acts there is often a slight difference in that the Association of Certified and Corporate Accountants appears before the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland. I gather that this may cause offence in that the Association of Certified and Corporate Accountants was recognised in 1933 whereas the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland was not recognised until after the last war. It is a small point but perhaps the hon. Lady will look at it.

Mrs. Hart

Yes, I will. I thought for a moment that the hon. Gentleman was suggesting that the Institute of Accountants of Scotland should not have appeared at the top of the list. The list is as in the Teaching Council (Scotland) Act.

Amendment agreed to.