HL Deb 01 February 1955 vol 190 cc803-7

2.36 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(The Earl of Drogheda.)


My Lords, I have not trespassed on your Lordships' time for some years, but I should like to say a few words in support of this Bill on Second Reading. If justification be needed, it is that for twenty-three years I was very closely associated with the Hull University College, and I enjoy the same close relationship with the University since it received its Charter last May. I do not suppose that the Bill contains any controversial matter. In the main it seeks to confirm the position of the University as the sole heir to the assets and liabilities (if any) of Hull University College.

May I relate, quite briefly, a little of the history of the College? The idea of making the city of Kingston-upon-Hull a seat of learning originated in the mind of the late Right Honourable T. R. Ferens, who was a leading industrialist and philanthropist of that city. He made an endowment of £250,000, and his example was followed by other prominent businessmen of Hull. The Corporation of Hull were not slow in affording substantial support and made a gift of £150,000. Some opposition was encountered, since the Minister of Education of the day was not in favour of another university institution and would have preferred a technical college. I will leave it to the noble Lord opposite, Lord Calverley, to relate how the objections of the Minister were overcome, since he was arm in arm with the late Mr. Ferens—and, if I may say so, he was the midwife in the birth of the University College of the City of Hull.

During its career the University College rendered splendid service to students from Hull, the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire and, indeed, to many from our Dominions and Colonies. The extra-mural work was also of great value and highly appreciated. I should like to pay tribute to the city of Kingston-upon-Hull and the county councils concerned for their splendid financial support and their personal interest, which was of inestimable value. From its inception, the College came under the wing of London University, which conferred its degrees upon our students. I may say that it is mainly due to the good opinion London University formed of the College that university status was achieved. We are deeply indebted to that University for the help and encouragement given over the years.

When Hull University College was incorporated, Mr. Ferens was asked how long he supposed it would be before the College became a University, and he replied that, if all went well, he hoped it might possibly come in fifty or sixty years. Actually, promotion has come after twenty-seven years, which is probably a record. It has been in great measure due to the fact that the first principal, Dr. Morgan, and his successor, Mr. (shortly to be Dr.) Nicholson, contrived to gather round them a distinguished staff—distinguished not only for their learning, but also for their capacity to teach, which is by no means less important. Their efforts have been reflected in the quality shown by the students in their examinations. I must not take up more of your Lordships' time, and I will conclude by expressing the hope that this Bill may have a smooth passage and that the newest University may have the blessing of Parliament.

2.42 p.m.


My Lords, I count it a great privilege to be able to support my noble friend Lord Middleton. If your Lordships pass this Bill, and it is passed in another place and receives the Royal Assent, it will be only fitting that the First Chancellor of the University should be the Lord Lieutenant of the East Riding, my noble friend Lord Middleton, who combines those offices most graciously and efficiently.

My intervention in this debate is a little romantic, but I am not going to be too romantic in your Lordships' House this afternoon. I have been associated with the city of Hull for well-nigh fifty years, most of the time in an inconspicuous capacity. As a matter of fact, I was in the employment of the real founder of the University, the late Thomas Robinson Ferens, who started as a clerk in the same company in which I was working, and became closely attached to the late Sir James Reckitt. Mr. Ferens imbibed the spirit of public welfare from Sir James and his brother. As I have stated, I was in close touch, in a somewhat subordinate capacity, and I never dreamed that there might come a time when I should be called upon to succeed great men in the representation of Hull and become the Member for East Hull, which constituency Mr. Ferens represented. He, knowing that I was interested in education, talked the matter over with me. I can well remember the day. He told me what he was going to do. He said he had a quarter of a million of money put by for the purpose, and he was good enough to ask for my advice. I said I hoped that he would stick to the idea of having a university college not simply for one particular subject but embracing the humanities and pure science, and create a Chair of Education, which during the years since 1927 has done great work in training teachers in science, the arts and the humanities.

When the war broke out, we had a good principal, who was succeeded by others. I knew them, and I knew some of the staff. Most of the students were called up for the war, and whilst the growth of the University College was cramped, as was the growth of similar institutions in other parts of our country, the College flourished slowly but surely. A friend of the late T. R. Ferens came along and said, "Tom, you have given £250,000. I give £100,000." I wish to emphasise that there has been a loyal staff and a fine body of students starting from 30 at one time until today there are, I think, over 800. Of those students, 80 per cent. are in residence. Only two other universities have reached that ideal, one being Cambridge and the other Oxford. The Hull City Council—and this needs saying—composed of all Parties, came along. They had not a lot of money—in fact, they were going to be much poorer afterwards as a result of the bombing. They pledged, I think it was, £100,000, or £150,000.




I thought it was £150,000, and Mr. Grant gave £100,000. The Council found £3,000 a year from the rates. They brought in the East Riding, of which my friend is the guardian angel—he has called me a midwife, so I am answering back. The North Riding, North Lincolnshire and Grimsby fell into line. In fact, I call it a combined operation. I could tell your Lordships what they have been trying to do since 1927. They were going to tackle, I believe, psychology, but then they decided—and this would please the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, if he were here—to go in for pure philosophy, and so on.

The University College is flourishing, and we have come this afternoon for your Lordships' good will. Those of your Lordships who believe that cronies foregather in the Elysian Fields can imagine that this afternoon Andrew Marvell, who was the Member of Parliament from 1660 until 1680–odd, when he died, has convened a meeting. William Wilberforce may be there. He may have roped in the late Bishop of Winchester, Samuel Wilberforce, and there will be a really jolly meeting to give their blessing to this undertaking. It only remains for me to ask for your blessing. I hope your Lordships will give the Bill your blessing, that it will go to another place, and that yet another university will be created to help in the culture of our great nation. I beg to support the Motion.

2.49 p.m.


My Lords, as one of the small bands of active university teachers who have the privilege to be Members of your Lordships' House, I should like to add my tribute to the tribute which has been paid by the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, to the work done at Hull. I congratulate them on having achieved their Charter as a full university, and wish them Godspeed in their work.

On Question, Bill read 2a.