§ MR. LOWE
I wish, Sir, to ask a Question, in explanation of which I may be allowed to make a statement. Early this Session, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel) and myself received an assurance from the Chancellor of the Exchequer which, as we understood it, was, that nothing should be done with regard to the Queen's University in Ireland, without an opportunity being afforded to the House to express its opinion. I beg to ask my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether, notwithstanding that declaration, a Charter has not been prepared, and actually signed by Her Majesty, giving fresh powers in the conferring of degrees to the Senate of the Queen's University in Ireland?
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
Sir, the best answer I can give to the Question of my right hon. Friend is to state simply what has occurred, and what the Government have done in this matter. My right hon. Friend is aware that the Government, in pursuance of a promise 720 made at the beginning of the Session, did state their intentions with respect to the alterations to be made in the Queen's University most fully in the form of a letter addressed by the Home Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. That letter, I believe, was presented to Parliament immediately after the Easter recess. Some weeks subsequently, there was again an opportunity of stating the intentions of the Government, when I introduced the Reform Bill for Ireland. In proposing, as part of that measure, that a Member should be given to the Queen's University in Ireland, I took occasion to state still more distinctly to the House the course the Government meant to take upon that subject. That course, advised by the Law Officers of the Crown, both of England and Ireland, was the passing of a Supplemental Charter to effect whatever could be effected by the power of the Crown, and the preparation of a Bill to supply what would be wanting in the Charter. Those two statements of the intentions of the Government having been unchallenged by this House, and no one having displayed any anxiety to call them in question, the Government proceeded to act upon them by the preparation of a Supplemental Charter and of a Bill. The Charter received the Queen's signature some three weeks ago, and the effect of it is to enable the Senate of the Queen's University in Ireland to confer degrees upon all who pass their examinations without regard to their place of education. That, and that only, is the effect of the Supplemental Charter, that being all which, according to the advice of the Law Officers of the Crown, came within its powers, having regard to the existing Charter of the University. We also had a Bill in preparation, of which I was on the point of giving notice a fortnight ago, when the division took place on the Motion of the hon. Member for Galway (Lord Dunkellin). The effect of that Bill would have been, and I hope it will be, to place the new class of graduates upon an equal footing, as to all rights and privileges as members of convocation and corporate bodies, with existing graduates of the University. The Bill also provided for a certain increase in the number of Senators, and for some other minor objects. That is the course the Government have taken, and it is not open to any such objection as that which my right hon. Friend appeared to imply.