HL Deb 06 March 1882 vol 267 cc167-72

, in whose name the following Notice stood on the Order Paper:— To move that the Statutes laid on the Table of this House by the Oxford and Cambridge University Commissioners during the present Session be printed, said: My Lords, the Motion I have risen to make is that these statutes which have been laid on the Table be forthwith printed. It is provided by Act of Parliament that after they have remained on the Table for 12 weeks they must become law, if no objection is raised to them in either of the Houses of Parliament. These 12 weeks are designed to enable the Legislature to express an opinion upon the subject; but if, instead of being circulated, these statutes are locked up in a drawer, it is obviously difficult for the two Houses to express any views upon them. My object is to try and stimulate the printer into allowing us to have the benefit of these statutes without delay. Noble Lords opposite must not think that I am making any attack upon them. I remember several years ago, when they were last in Office, I used to press for increased activity on the part of the printers, and noble Lords opposite used to protest that they were powerless in the matter. When in Office myself, I also experienced the difficulty of getting Papers printed, and was in my turn pressed to make the printers move fast, and I had to give a similar excuse. On whom rests the responsibility for the printers' delays is one of the mysteries of the British Constitution, and I have brought forward this Motion as an experiment, not knowing whom it will affect. It is possible that if your Lordships express a desire on the subject, the mysterious person, whoever he is, who manages the printing office may be kind enough to take your wishes into account. There is no other point which I wish to raise now, though there are many questions in connection with these statutes which it is desirable that we should discuss. But, of course, there would be considerable difficulty about discussing them before we have seen them. Moved, "That the Statutes laid on the Table of this House by the Oxford and Cambridge University Commissioners during the present Session be forthwith printed."—[The Marquess of Salisbury.)


said, that the circumstances under which these statutes appeared before their Lordships were rather peculiar. The Commission appointed to draw up the statutes and lay them before Parliament had ceased to exist; and though provision was made for the work to go on, notwithstanding the termination of the labours of the Commissioners, some inconvenience had arisen from the fact that the Commission had ended before the completion of the work intrusted to it. If the Privy Council did not agree with the statutes made by the Commissioners, they had power to send them back for alteration so long as the Commission continued in existence; but as things stood now, the Commission having ceased to exist, it was all the more incumbent upon Parliament to examine the statutes, in case it should be found that any of their provisions were not quite in accordance with the principles upon which the Act instituting the Commission was originally based. There were two Acts which affected the questions which he wished their Lordships to consider. They were the University Tests Act and the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge Commission Act. The first of these Acts very carefully provided that instruction should be given in religion to members of the Church of England, according to their own views, and also that the chapel services should be duly maintained as in former times in the various Colleges. A good deal of dissatisfaction had been caused throughout the country by an apprehension that the provisions of this Act had not in all cases been complied with by the Commissioners in drawing up the statutes which were now recommended to their Lordships for acceptance. He had received a Petition very numerously signed by parents and other persons interested in the welfare of the young men who frequented the University of Oxford, pointing out that the provisions of the Tests Act had been practically disregarded. He wished especially to call attention to the statutes of one particular College, in the case of which it could hardly be contended that the directions contained in the Tests Act had been properly complied with. He alluded to Lincoln College. This College had, until a recent period, been a Society, the Fellows of which were all required to take Holy Orders within a certain time after their election. The Tests Act had, of course, altered the character of that College, as it had that of other Colleges; but, at the same time, it had provided that religious instruction should be imparted to members of the Church of England, and that the chapel services should be properly maintained. Now, the arrangements suggested by the new statutes in connection with this College were such that none of its members need be clergymen of the Church of England; and, therefore, if the chapel services were to be maintained, it might soon become necessary that they should be maintained by a person brought in ab extra, who would not be a member of the Governing Body of the College, and who would be in the very subordinate position of a chaplain hired for the purpose of reading the services. The arrangements made in the new statutes for the appointment of such a chaplain seemed to him to be of an extraordinary character. Two persons were to be appointed, in the event of there being no qualified member of the College willing to accept the office; and these two persons were to receive between them the munificent sum of £100, being liable to dismissal from year to year. That could scarcely be called maintaining the chapel services in the manner in which they were maintained before the passing of the Tests Act. Nothing could be more harmful to the young men than their seeing these services neglected by the ruling Bodies of the Colleges, the chaplain receiving as their deputy a salary certainly not equal to that of the College butler. He had an acquaintance with the University extending over 50 years. When he first went there the prevailing opinions were the old-fashioned opinions of the Church of England; but those principles afterwards became less popular than they were in his earlier clays. No doubt, a good deal of improvement had resulted from the subsequent change of opinion, there having in the next generation been a very strong clerical party, differing from that which had preceded it, but full of zeal for religion. But now, whether the fact was due to the perverse-ness of human nature or to some other cause, it was, unfortunately, true that a totally opposite state of things existed in the greater part of the University. Nothing could be more unwise than that the predominant opinions of any one generation on the subject of the instruction of the young men in our great Universities should be stereotyped for ever. If it was true that opinions by no means popular throughout England, though, very popular in the neighbouring country of France, which regarded clericalism as the greatest of all evils, and where clericalism was sometimes confounded with Christianity itself—if it was true that such opinions were at all prevalent in the Universities—nothing could be more unwise than that the Legislature should stereotype for all time a view of education which the nation did not endorse, and which must lead to a separation between the religious sentiments of the country at large and those of the great Universities to which they intrusted their sons. For these reasons he held that the utmost care should be taken in connection with these statutes; and he saw no other mode in which such care could be exercised than by Parliament performing laboriously and honestly the duty of examining these statutes. For the fulfilment of that duty they had only eight weeks left to them. He feared without careful attention infinite mischief might be done—the Universities might cease to occupy the great place they had always held in this country; and, secondly, there would be the injury to the young men themselves, "who would be subjected to unfortunate influences. Besides, there would be this fresh danger, which he considered a very real one—that religious men throughout the country would determine that they would not submit to the present state of things, and that, therefore, they would found smaller societies, and thus a narrow system of teaching would spring up in the place of the wide and wise system which had hitherto existed in the Universities. He therefore hoped that the House would turn its attention to the statutes, and not merely have them placed on the Table as a matter of form.


said, he did not rise to follow the remarks of the most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Canterbury). He joined with him in the view that these statutes were of the greatest importance; but, at the same time, he could have wished that the most rev. Prelate had waited until the statutes were in their Lordships' hands before discussing, and to some extent criticizing them. If the regular discussion, which no doubt would take place, were forestalled, a prejudice might be raised against the statutes before any opportunity was given to the Commissioners, or those who represented them, to state their views. With regard to the printers, he believed what was said by the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) was not quite correct. When Papers were presented by Command they were printed at once; but when to be printed according to statute, it was not done unless some of their Lordships made a Motion to that effect. The initiative did not rest with the Government. A Motion having been made, however, the statutes would be printed forthwith, accordingly, and circulated, if it was the pleasure of the House.


said, the word "forthwith" had been accidentally omitted at the end of his Motion.

Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at five minutes to Six o'clock during pleasure.

House resumed at five minutes past Eight o'clock.

The Lord THURLOW—Chosen Speaker in the absence of the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Commissioner.