HL Deb 10 May 1933 vol 87 cc832-49

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I have no proprietary interest in this matter, as I do not mind admitting to your Lordships that I myself never took a degree. I passed all the necessary examinations, but owing to being ordered out to join my regiment in India I failed to keep sufficient residence. I am still on the books of my College as an undergraduate and, not having heard from the authorities at Oxford whether my action is looked upon favourably, I am not sure I shall not incur their wrath for bringing forward this Bill. I understand, however, that the authorities at Oxford referred the subject matter of the Bill to the University Bureau of the British Empire and, having done so, regarded themselves as prevented from taking separate action. The Bureau has been somewhat tardy and, as this is an evil which requires remedying, I have ventured, on behalf of the Association of Scientific Workers, to step into the breach. I am not going to trouble your Lordships at this late hour with the views of other Universities, but on the whole they have replied in favour of action being taken.

In regard to the Association of Scientific Workers, I do not claim to be one of them, nor have I any knowledge of the organisation, but it is an association representing a large body of graduates who feel that this evil bears more heavily on the genuine graduate than on the University authorities, inasmuch as graduates have to market their abilities in competition with the holders of these spurious degrees. To those graduates who have to struggle for a living this is a question of a livelihood, and in regard to the Universities it is a matter of prestige. I should like to mention the names of some of the gentlemen who are connected with this Association. The President is Sir Richard Redmayne, formerly Chief Inspector of Mines at the Home Office. The Vice-Presidents include Sir William Bragg, O.M., Director of the Royal Institution and winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1915, and Sir Charles Sherrington, O.M., Professor of Physiology, Oxford, and winner of the Nobel Prize in 1932. I am not going through all the names, but there are several other very eminent gentlemen among the Vice-Presidents, and among the honorary members are the Right Hon. W. Ormsby-Gore, First Commissioner of Works, Sir Francis Fremantle, M.P., Chairman of the House of Commons Medical Committee, Sir Ernest Graham-Little, M.P. for London University, who holds a prominent position, Sir Michael Sadler, a great educationist, Mr. H. G. Wells, and, last but by no means least, Mr. Herbert Williams, formerly Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. That is the Society of Scientific Workers.

What is the object of the Bill? The Bill seeks to put an end to a state of affairs which is a menace from many angles, and it is a matter of surprise to me, and doubtless to many of your Lordships, that the existing law is powerless to deal with the evil. Briefly, it is proposed that it should be a penal offence for any person to use any letters after his or her name which are used by any University within the United Kingdom—and I might remind your Lordships that under the Statute of Westminster the legal definition of United Kingdom is now Great Britain and Northern Ireland—or His Majesty's Dominions or Colonies, to denote the holding of a degree, unless such person actually holds the degree specified, conferred by a recognised University as defined in. the Bill. Further, the Bill makes it a penal offence for any company, institution, organisation or individual, not being a recognised University within the United Kingdom, to confer degrees purporting to be University degrees for profit or otherwise. If your Lordships will look at Clause 2, that penalises the person, and Clause 3 penalises a company in the United Kingdom, because by the Statute of Westminster that is the only way in which one can penalise a company.

The Bill does not propose in any way to encroach upon any existing rights. For instance, as your Lordships know, there are the Lambeth degrees conferred by the most rev. Primate, whom I am glad to see is present. There is also the conferring of degreeshonoris causaby any recognised University. The main purpose of the Bill is to eliminate the charlatan practitioner who traffics in spurious degrees, and to prevent the purchase of these degrees with a view to victimising the public. I may be asked what is the extent of the evil which it is sought to remedy, and whether it is extensive enough to warrant special legislation. The Association promoting this Bill has collected considerable evidence as to the extent of the practice, but I imagine that at this stage of your Lordships' sitting you would prefer that I should be commendably brief.

I will instance one case of what I will call a "one-man university." Its premises are the residence for the time being of its "Chancellor," who is also the "Archbishop" of some fancy American sect. Why an American Archbishop "should live permanently in England I do not know. This gentleman alternates between addresses at Chelsea and Clapham. At neither address is there anything in the shape of teaching staff, laboratories, or the ordinary paraphernalia of a University. It is, in fact, a peripatetic "university." An elaborate prospectus and "calendar" are issued, which on paper look imposing. The hollowness of the "university's" pretensions, however, is demonstrated in the statement that "in certain cases an examination will he dispensed with, and a dissertation accepted." There is a scale of fees. One may "matriculate" for the modest sum of one guinea: to become a Bachelor of any faculty (medicine excepted) costs ten guineas; while for sixteen guineas it is possible to blossom into a Master or a Doctor.

There is also a lucrative side-line in connection with this undertaking—namely, it also trades as a. hood and gown emporium, retailing to its graduates a most tasteful, but expensive, line in academic millinery. Some little time ago this practioner conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, and had the effrontery to add "(Lond.)." In the existing state of the law, or absence of law, London University is powerless to secure any remedy. Both Chelsea and Claphamarein London. Moreover, not so long ago one of these practitioners appeared at Bow Street Police Court charged with this sort of fraud. He was discharged, as it was held that there was no Statute to prevent any one of His Majesty's lieges making a discreet and agreeable selection from the letters of the alphabet to tack on after his name. Of course, if these descriptions are definitely and directly used for the purpose of obtaining money under false pretences, these gentlemen do come within the Common Law. They dare not confer or use medical degrees, or they would come within the provisions of Section 40 of the Medical Act of 1858. If the medical, veterinary, dental, legal and other learned professions are protected against fraud of this description, why should not the genuine holders of University degrees be protected from having to market their abilities in competition with the holders of these spurious degrees?

There is another aspect of the matter. In a fair proportion of the cases of those using such degrees there is no more sinister motive than vanity. On the other hand, there is a subtle use to which these spurious degrees are put which is distinctly fraudulent in effect. Parents of moderate means seeking preparatory schools for their children are apt to be imposed upon by a prospectus detailing the academic distinctions of the staff—distinctions which only too probably have been purchased across the counter like a pound of tea. I am informed That the degrees in greatest demand in this traffic are those of Bachelor of Divinity, Doctor of Divinity, Master of Arts, and Bachelor of Arts. The prevalence of a demand for Divinity degrees is significant.

After all, this traffic is so safe. The occasions on which a man is asked to produce the parchment conferring his degree are rare. Quite a considerable number of the members of your Lordships House, if I mistake not, hold University degrees. I should like to know what proportion of your Lordships have ever been asked to produce any evidence of possession of those degrees? I venture to assert that hardly any have been. That state of affairs provides the opportunity for the traffic. No one likes to ask a man, who professes to hold a degree, to produce his parchment. Moreover, the parchments which could be produced by the holders of these spurious degrees are, I am told, of a much more alluring and imposing appearance than those issued by the legitimate Universities. As a consequence of the existing state of affairs degree-mongers can practice with impunity. At present, if challenged, an "M.A." is at liberty to say: "But I have never represented myself to be a Master of Arts. M.A. means to me Master of Angling, or Master of Agriculture." It may be, therefore, if this Bill becomes law, that people who hanker after academic distinctions which are beyond their attainments will be driven to copy the unsuccessful Babus, who describe themselves as "B.A. failed (Lond.)."

Seriously, by making this a fraud, carrying a heavy penalty, it is hoped that this evil will be stamped out, and that the rightful prestige of University degrees will be preserved. I should like to make one quotation because I think it is very apt. I know it will appeal to the President of the Board of Education because it comes from a part of the country and from a newspaper very dear to his heart, theYorkshirePost. In a leading article it says: Academic distinctions are the intellectual coinage of society, and the man who traffics in them should be as readily open to prosecution as a man who utters sovereigns made of lead. May I finally appeal to the Government in this matter? I know this Bill is by no means perfect. I know it casts a certainonuson the President of the Board of Education. I know it may be said that a society of this kind, or a. private member like myself, ought not to have had the temerity to introduce an important Bill of this kind. I know the Government will not oppose this Bill; but I do ask them, if they do not oppose it, to help to put the Bill into proper shape. I do not want by any means to rush this Bill. If your Lordships are good enough to give it a Second Reading to-day I do not intend to ask you to consider the Committee stage for another three weeks. That will enable the authorities, if they are so disposed, to put down any Amendments in ample time. If your Lordships will give this Bill a. Second Reading to-day I think you will have done a great deal to deal with a long-standing evil with which no genuine attempt has hitherto been made to cope.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(Lord Jessel.)


My Lords, I feel bound to say one or two words on this matter, partly because certain degrees conferred by those who hold my office are specially dealt with in a clause of this Bill. First of all as to the other degrees. I am interested to note that "spurious" appears to be correct Parliamentary language for the word usually used, which is "bogus"; but "bogus" really more effectually describes the evil with which this Bill is intended to deal. I have had a. great deal to do with the matter. There is a large class of people, whom I view with great sympathy, who have a strange and pathetic yearning to possess a degree. Some of us who have possessed degrees from Oxford or Cambridge are aware that we obtained them at greater expenditure of time and money than perhaps of study, and we do not very often quote the fact that we possess them. But there are numbers of persons, especially in the world of education and in the profession to which I belong, to whom the possession of a degree is a. matter of most pathetic concern, and it is that class of person that the purveyors of these bogus degrees are able to exploit. And therefore it is not merely the fraudu- lent use of letters which betoken degrees, or fraudulent attempts to sell those degrees, that I hope may be combated, but that these innocent persons may be protected from those who make them their dupes.

The evil is great. I wish I felt that this Bill was the best that could be devised for meeting it. For instance, it cannot deal very effectively with the greatest evil, which is the selling of degrees from alleged American Universities, and I think it would he rather hard to fine those who wear these hoods or possess these degrees. Also it throws an onus on the President of the Board of Education, who, if he is willing to assume it, will excite my very great sympathy, because I have tried continually to find some authority in the United States or in this country to whom it could be referred to decide whether or not any particular alleged degree-giving body was a recognised University. But I am very grateful to the noble Lord for bringing the matter forward, because I think this may pave the way to some better Bill, and may call the attention of the Universities throughout the country to the very great need of protecting all that a degree ought to be in the social and educational life of the country.

Now I ought to say a word about these Lambeth degrees dealt with in Clause 4. I think this is almost the first occasion of which I know on which the existence and character of the degrees has been placed before Parliament, and I am anxious at the beginning of the discussion of this matter to give some information as to their origin and their use. I need hardly say that the right of giving these academic degrees is not one that is assumed. It is true that I am a one-man University in the sense that I do confer these degrees, but I do not do so presumptuously, but by virtue of a very ancient Statute of the Realm. It is a Statute passed in 1534, known as the Peter's Pence Act, which conferred the granting of "all such licences, dispensations, compositions, faculties, etc., as were used to be had at the Court of Rome" to the Archbishop of Canterbury for the time being. It belongs to a large class of licences and dispensations which are continually exercised, for example, especially licences enabling people for good reasons to be married at, other hours and other places than would be legally required, or a dispensation enabling an incumbent to hold two benefices in plurality, or a dispensation enabling an illegitimate person to be ordained and the like; as well as the faculties for conferring certain degrees. All of them have one object—to enable some responsible person, not bound by the strictness of regulation, to get things done which, if they were not done, would involve very real hardships and disabilities.

The privilege has been exercised by my predecessors for about 400 years and is still exercised, and its main objects are these. In the first place, to give recognition and reward to conspicuous contributions to learning, art and science in the cases of persons who have either not been at any University or have been at a University which does not confer degrees in respect of the subjects concerned. A very considerable number of persons have attained considerable eminence, both in art and science and in learning, without possessing that inestimable testimony to profound learning which so many of your Lordships enjoy. I need hardly say that in all these cases there is the strictest possible scrutiny and examination, and a very high standard is required. It would be inconceivable that any person should obtain a degree in Arts or Science or Divinity without the Archbishop having the assistance and advice of the most eminent persons representing these various branches of study.

I do not know that the use of the privilege has ever been criticised, but I learn that of late there has been considerable criticism about the bestowal of the degree of Doctor of Music. I have been told that it appears to be given to persons because of personal favour or the pressure of their friends, or after long years of useful service as organists in churches and the like. I wish to take this opportunity of saying publicly that these criticisms are entirely devoid of any substance of fact. No one obtains from the Archbishop the degree of Doctor of Music whose claims have not been scrutinised by very eminent musicians who are good enough to assist me with their counsel and advice, and who pay particular regard to the merit of any musical compositions which the applicants can show. I may just add, in a sentence, that in the case of medical degrees it is provided in the Medical Act that even if a person has a medical degree from Lambeth he is not thereby entitled to practise unless his name is on the register of the Medical Council.

In the second place, the privilege is used in order to confer degreesjure dignitatiswhere it seems right and fitting and where other provision has not been made. For example, in the Statutes of many Cathedrals it is required that a Dean should possess a superior degree of learning. The Crown appoints some admirably suitable person, and then it is found that this Statute requires him to possess such a degree. He either has not got it or he cannot obtain it, or, if he did obtain it, it would mean a very inconvenient delay in appointment. The Archbishop steps in with this useful dispensing power and confers the necessary degree, which enables the desire of the Crown to appoint that eminent person to a deanery to take effect. I hope that the revision of the Statutes of the Cathedrals which is now taking place will no longer retain that provision upon Cathedral Statutes.

Then again—this is perhaps the largest case—it seems fitting that, by virtue of very ancient custom, those who attain thestatusof a Bishop should have a suitable degree in Divinity. A doctorate is almost universally recognised as proper. In old days for centuries the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were accustomed to give the dignity of D.D. to any of their graduates who attained episcopal dignity, either by diploma or honoris causa. Recently the Faculties of Theology in those Universities, for reasons which I do not question, have abolished that custom, and now it is necessary for anyone to proceed by ordinary methods to obtain the Divinity degree unless he is a person regarded as of outstanding eminence and honour. On the other hand, there are an increasing number of Bishops who have either not been at a University or who have been at Universities, either in this country or in the Dominions, which have not Faculties of Theology and cannot confer any theological degrees. In that case, again, recourse is had to this dispensing power. It is in accordance with a very old and fitting custom, reasonable in itself, that persons who attain thestatusof Bishop should possess the degree of Doctor in Divinity. It has to be exercised with very great care and circumspection, but the existence of such a power seems to me to be for the general public advantage.

I am sorry at this hour to have troubled your Lordships, but I think some of your Lordships may be almost surprised that such a privilege rests on the office that I hold. It comes to me from another office, once held in the greatest honour and still, I trust, in great respect within this Realm, and it has been always exercised by my predecessors and by myself, and I hope will be by my successors, with the greatest possible care. We regard it as a privilege, which lays upon us, a very special responsibility which we are anxious to fulfil for the public good and in a manner which confers advantage on some deserving person and inflicts injury on none.


My Lords, I have no wish whatever to oppose the Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Jessel, but I think it advisable to suggest that it will need very considerable alteration and. amendment in Committee if great injustice is to be avoided. In the first place, I will venture to direct your Lordships' attention to the wording of Clause 1, paragraph (a). The defining words are: A University situated within the United Kingdom which only grants academic degrees to persons who have undergone a prescribed course of training for at least three years. I venture to submit to your Lordships that these words are meaningless, for I do not know any University, certainly none in the British Isles, to which such conditions apply. All Universities claim and exercise the power to grant degrees honoris causa without any prescribed course of training. Many Universities, notably the University of London, grant doctorates, particularly Doctorates of Letters, without requiring a prescribed course of training, and these are given on submission of a thesis. Then, again, there was a time shortly after the War when Oxford and Cambridge granted B.A. degrees to ex-officers on completion of a special shortened course of only two years; and there are, moreover, to be considered the questions of degrees ad eundemand degrees granted by Trinity College, Dublin, to Cambridge women students. I suggest, therefore, that the words in paragraph (a) will have either to be amended or deleted.

I am still more anxious about the effect of paragraphs (b) and (c), and to explain my anxiety I must ask your Lordships to bear with me while I make a short digression into the realm of history. In the Middle Ages a college normally acquired Universitystatusin virtue of Papal recognition. The secular Governments at that time usually were not much interested in University matters, and in this country we have a good example in Glasgow University, which has recently been celebrating the anniversary of its foundation by Papal Bull. Although this is entirely changed in the United Kingdom, there still exist abroad a considerable number of what may be termed Papal Universities; that is to say, Universities that exist in virtue of Papal charters and not by civil recognition. There are three such Universities in Rome; there is the flourishing and admirable University of Louvain; there is the Institut Catholique in Paris; and similar Universities in nearly every country in the world where there is a considerable Roman Catholic population. All these Universities are, in every sense of the word, perfectly genuine Universities; the degrees which they grant are in no way spurious; they are recognised throughout the Roman Catholic world, and also throughout the whole learned world, and they are only given as a reward for a severe and protracted course of study. I was given one example this morning. For the doctorial degree in theology or in sacred music at least five years study is prescribed, in addition to four years preliminary training in classics and philosophy and a recognised term of secondary education.

I will not delay your Lordships with many details about these Universities, but I would call your attention to the wording of paragraph (c) of Clause 1: A University situated in a foreign country of precisely similarstatusto those mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b) with analogous recognition by the Government of the country in which it is situated, and whose degrees are recognised by the President of the Board of Education as being equivalent to those conferred by recognised Universities within the United Kingdom or His Majesty's Dominions and Colonies. This definition excludes nearly all the Papal Universities and will certainly have to be drastically amended. These Universities do not possess, either because they do not apply for or because they are not granted, recognition by the civil power in the countries in which they are situated. For instance, the ancient University of Louvain does not consider it necessary or proper to seek purely national recognition by the Belgian Government.

Again, there are others that exist in countries in which anti-clericalism is unfortunately rampant. There is a well known University in Paris that cannot obtain recognition from the French Government, because the French Government, being laical, will not recognise it. There are at the moment something like 400 young subjects of His Majesty who are studying for degrees at these Universities, and under this Bill their position will be exceedingly tragic. They will come home, some after nine years of study, with a hard-earned Doctorate of Divinity, and if they use their title in England they will find themselves liable to a fine of not less than £5. I am sure my noble friend does not want to inflict that injustice upon them; but such is the position under the Bill. Moreover, the Act is in a sense retrospective; it affects degrees which have already been obtained. I hardly like to name the eminent Roman Catholic Doctors of Divinity who will find themselves in a Police Court if this Bill is passed in its present form. Of course, I acquit my noble friend of any such intention.

I will only trouble your Lordships with one further point as the hour is very late. Under Clause 4 we most properly recognise the right of the most rev. Primate to grant degrees on his own initiative. No one of course would do anything to prevent this being the case. At the same time, it would be a very greatly appreciated act of courtesy—I say no more—if we recognised in the same manner the right of other ecclesiastics to grant degrees in cases in which that right has been enjoyed over a very long period of years. I am not, of course, referring to ecclesiastics of the type of the American Archbishop to whom my noble friend Lord Jessel referred. I think I have said enough to show that the Bill is at present somewhat unsatisfactory, and that it requires substantial amendment, and I am very grateful for the assurance of my noble friend that the Committee stage will not be proceeded with for three weeks.


My Lords, as I spent some twelve years representing the interests of eight English Universities in another place I acquired during that time the habit of pricking up my ears whenever University affairs were mentioned, and I feel, although I shall keep your Lordships a very few moments, that I must at least say a word or two in this debate. It must have come as a surprise to many of us—at least it did to me—to know that there were people actually in London selling degrees. It seemed to me almost impossible to imagine that that should be done. One has heard, of course, of the agencies of so-called American Universities who sell degrees, but that a bogus one-man University can be found in London to carry on its affairs without incurring penalties is obviously a thing which ought not to be tolerated.

I am obliged to agree with a great deal of the criticism of the wording of this Bill. Points of obvious criticism have been raised by my noble friend Lord. Iddesleigh, and I sympathise with all he said about them. In paragraph (a) of Clause 1 I find no definition really of a University. A body appears to be regarded as a University if it is in receipt of a University grant from the Imperial Government—that is to say, the University Grants Commission which distributes the money given by the Government for this purpose. If I am to judge by the words of this clause, such a body would seem to become a University merely through receiving a University grant. The University Colleges which exist in this country have practically all qualified under the terms of this paragraph to be Universities, whereas, as a matter of fact, they are not. Their students have to obtain degrees at London University or elsewhere. They get their training at University Colleges, and they get a degree given to them at some other University on the ground that they have passed through certain examinations and attended certain lectures and made certain studies.

Then the very important paragraph (c) refers to Universities in foreign countries. It appears to me to be absolutely im- possible of administration. How are you to find out what is thestatusof a University in Wisconsin or in Texas? There may be, and there are, Universities of first-rate importance in what are to us relatively remote parts of the United States. This Bill envisages a list of real foreign Universities to be drawn up by the President of the Board of Education, but I think it will be a long time More the President of the Board of Education succeeds in producing a list that will command the general assent of the graduates of Universities in which degrees are given in a manner that would be approved by the rest of the world. Those are small points but not unimportant ones; in fact some of them appear to me to be really fundamental points; and I am sure this Bill will have to be not only amended but actually rewritten before it satisfactorily meets the difficulties which the situation implies. I suggest that a very radical criticism and revision of the Bill is necessary. No doubt it will come before us again, and other points which I might wish to elaborate at the present time but which I will not, having regard to the time, I shall have an opportunity of dealing with on the next stage of the Bill. At present r am merely giving a general idea of my attitude, that while willing to give a Bill of this kind my support I am not by any means willing to accept this draft as one that can in the main be accepted.


My Lords, I have been asked by the University of Birmingham, of which I have the honour to be the Chancellor, to say a word on this matter. It is only in that capacity, hat I venture to intervene in this debate. I should not desire at this moment to elaborate a detailed criticism of the Bill. I agree very fully with what has been said by my noble friend who has just sat down, and also by my noble friend Lord Iddesleigh. The Bill does appear to me, if I may say so with all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, to require complete redrafting from any point of view. I merely give one instance—paragraphs (b) and (c) of Clause 1, which say that the Bill is to apply to foreign Universities "of precisely similar status to those mentioned in paragraph (a)." I do not know how on earth any Court would be able to construe such a phrase as that. It is a terrible meta- physical inquiry as to whether a particular University is of precisely similarstatusto the Universities referred to in paragraph (a). I have no doubt that with a little ingenuity one could put a great number of cases showing the extreme difficulty of applying such tests. I notice also that the penalty clause is of a very strange character, because it does not allow the Court to fix a less penalty than £5 in the case of an individual or a less penalty than £50 in the case of a "university." I will not say that that is unexampled, but it is certainly a very unusual provision in modern penal legislation.

I have been asked to say to your Lordships very respectfully that this matter affects the Universities very closely, and they think that they ought perhaps to have had an opportunity of considering the matter more fully than they have had an opportunity of doing before a Bill of this kind was introduced. They feel that this Bill, if passed in its present form, would be ineffective and possibly pernicious. Therefore, although I do not desire to take up an obstructive attitude, I trust that if the Bill is read a second time it will be on the understanding that for the present it will go no further, and that those bodies which are most closely affected will be consulted and the matter fully investigated before your Lordships pass a Bill which might be of very serious consequence to the Universities.


My Lords, although the Bill which my noble friend has asked you to read a second time has received some very severe criticism this afternoon, I do not think that there will be any one who will not be grateful to the noble Lord for having initiated so interesting a debate as that to which we have just listened. The debate has ranged over a fairly wide field. The noble Lord who moved the Second Reading led us over some unfamiliar paths and the most rev. Primate gave us an interesting historical disquisition on the origin of the Lambeth degrees which I am sure your Lordships heard with profit. I was interested to note that in his opening speech the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, said that in the academic sphere he still holds undergraduatestatus.I cannot but suppose that when he may decide to endeavour to proceed to graduate status his zeal in the cause of academic degree purity will stand him in good stead—unless, indeed, it is possible for him to pass the close scrutiny that the most rev. Primate said was the preliminary to a Lambeth degree and so attain his end by a shorter cut.

It has been said that the Bill would require considerable redrafting. That certainly would be so if all the suggestions that have been made by those of your Lordships who have taken part in the debate were put into effect in the course of Committee discussions. I have tried to follow them, and I gather that the noble Lord, Lord Conway, would delete most of paragraph (a) of Clause 1 and the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, would delete paragraphs (b) and (c). Most of Clause 1 would go and we should be left with a penal clause for an offence which is somewhat indefinite and a. more severe penalty in Clause 3 for a similarly unascertainable crime. Therefore it is obvious, as my noble friend has no doubt. realised, that he will have to be prepared, if your Lordships give a Second Reading to the Bill, to introduce very substantial modifications in it. I need hardly say that I am not here to state the official view on the merits or demerits of the Bill because I have no information on which to do that. The Board of Education, as your Lordships know, is in no way officially responsible for Universities in this country, and still less am I responsible for the Universities of Scotland and. Northern Ireland, which are also dealt with in the Bill and are related to their own Education Departments.

I am grateful to noble Lords who have expressed sympathy with me in regard to the duties proposed to be put upon me by the Bill. It would be embarrassing to be credited with that degree of official knowledge and discrimination that would be necessary to decide whether the degrees of a University are or are not equivalent to those conferred by recognised Universities here, and I can hardly imagine that any President of the Board of Education would be able easily to discharge that responsibility. As my noble friend the Earl of Iddesleigh pointed out, even before that responsibility came to be discharged the President of the Board of Education would have a still more difficult task to which the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, also alluded—that of deciding whether a University in a foreign country was or was not of precisely similarstatusto those mentioned in the preceding paragraphs.

I suggest that there are two points on which your Lordships would want to be satisfied before this Bill passed into law. The first is that there is clear evidence of a practical and widespread evil in this matter. On that I have no evidence myself, although no doubt your Lordships will be prepared to give great weight to the view of the noble Lord who introduced the Bill. Then there is the question whether or not this is the right kind of Bill to deal with the matter, and I venture to think that the noble Viscount who spoke last made a wise suggestion when he said that the noble Lord who introduced the Bill should take steps to place himself in consultation with those who can speak for the Universities. So far as the Government are concerned we should raise no opposition to your Lord. ships giving a Second Reading to the Bill if you so desire, but we wish to make some reservation as to any further action with regard to the Bill, which would naturally depend on the results of such consultation with the Universities as the noble Lord may find it possible to make.


My Lords, I must say that if there has been a good deal of criticism of the Bill—at which, as I said at the beginning, I am not surprised—I am content with the result of the debate, because I hope it will induce the authorities to come together and help produce a Bill which would be satisfactory to all parties. I hope the President of the Board of Education will not be dismayed at the idea of being included in some way in any future Bill, because it seems to me that the Board of Education should recognise that they have some duties in this matter in regard both to the Universities and the public. As to my noble friend's question about American Universities, it is a curious fact that in connection with this Bill I have received a letter from a lady asking me to find out whether her husband had a real degree from a proper University in America. This is a difficult question, but I propose to write to the American Embassy asking if they know which Universities are proper or spurious Universities. I should have thought, with all due deference to the President of the Board of Education, that a list could be supplied from other countries of Universities which are recognised as equivalent to our Universities, should not have thought it would have been very difficult to think out Amendments to this Bill, as I do not quite take the view that the Bill is incapable of amendment. But I thank the President of the Board of Education for saying that the Government will give their consideration to the, subject at a later stage if the proper authorities agree.


And my noble friend will not put down the measure for Committee without further consultation?


I shall not put it down for some time.

On Question, Bill read 2a,and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.