§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
wished to ask his noble Friend the President of the Council, Whether any proposals for the alteration of College Statutes without the sanction of the Visitors have been submitted to the Privy Council; and, if so, what course the Council has taken in respect to them? Perhaps the noble Marquess would be able to tell them how many such applications had been made, from what Colleges, and what course it was proposed to take with respect to them?
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
was understood to say, that his noble Friend's Question did not mention dates, but he presumed it referred to applications made recently. The matter stood in this position. In 1871 the question was raised whether alterations in College Statutes could be proposed without the consent of the Visitor. The question was referred to the Committee of Privy Council, where it was argued, and the conclusion come to was that Her Majesty should be advised that the consent of the Visitor was not necessary. The mere fact that the Visitor hail not consented would not of itself be a bar to an ordinance making alterations in the College Statutes. Since then the Commission presided over by the noble Duke (the Duke of Cleveland) had been appointed; and he had received a letter 11 from his noble Friend the noble Marquess, pointing out that, pending the inquiries of the Commission, it would be very desirable that no alterations in Statutes affecting the Fellowships and revenues of any particular College should be made. The Government fully recognized the reasonableness of that view, and it was their intention to act upon it with regard to the Colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, pending the Report of the Commission. He might add, as he did in his written reply to the noble Marquess, that there might be special cases with which the Commission had nothing to do, in Which it might be desirable that changes should be made. He proposed, for the information of the House, to lay the two letters on the Table. That was the exact position of the matter at present. The applications sent in for more than a year were only three—one from Brasenose College, Oxford, where the Visitor, the Bishop of Lincoln, had intimated that he entertained serious objections to the alterations proposed to be made in the Statutes. The other two Colleges were Oriel College, Oxford, and Trinity College, Cambridge.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
said, this was a matter of very great interest in the Universities, and there were two points on which a little further information was most desirable. The first was, whether the noble Marquess's attention had been drawn to the distinction between the original Statutes of Colleges, and the ordinances made of late years under the authority of the Parliamentary Commission. He thought it was contended by his right rev. Brother, the Bishop of Lincoln, to whom allusion had been made by the noble Marquess, that the power to alter the original Statutes stood on different grounds from the power to alter Statutes made of recent years under the authority of the Parliamentary Commission; and it was contended that to alter the former without reference to the Visitor would be going beyond the powers which had been conferred. The other point to which he would call attention was this—it might have been decided, and no doubt after a patient hearing, that the Visitor's consent was not required for an alteration of the Statutes; but what he should like to know was, whether it had been decided that the Visitor should be passed over and altogether ignored? 12 For example, if such a case as this should occur—suppose there had been a division in a College as to some matter in the Statutes, and the Head of the College, being in a minority, applied to the Visitor to direct his attention to the point; the next day, perhaps, the Visitor went to the Privy Council to bring the matter before them—would it be quite in accordance with the rules that he should find the matter had been decided without the slightest communication with him, and that the alterations proposed had been made in the College over which he presided? He hoped he might receive some information on these points from the noble Marquess, or from his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, who, he believed, was cognizant of all that had occurred on this subject.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
said, that with regard to the points mentioned by the most rev. Prelate his impression was that the decision of the Privy Council as to the power of the Crown in Council to give assent to alterations in College Statutes where the majority of the Governing Body of the College were in favour of them had reference only to the alteration of ordinances made by the Commissioners under the particular clause which dealt specially with that case. He did not apprehend that the question as to any alteration of the ancient Statutes had been determined by the Privy Council; and the most rev. Prelate must see that it would not become him to express an opinion now on a matter which he might possibly, at some future time have judicially to consider. With reference to the other point, after what had fallen from the most rev. Prelate, no doubt the Council would take into consideration how far it might be expedient, in cases of this kind that notice should be communicated to the Visitor, so that the Council might have the benefit of any representation, which he might think it his duty to make to them before deciding upon the advice to be offered to Her Majesty.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
said, it certainly was not the practice of the Privy Council to give notice in such cases, but he was quite sure it was far from the intention to ignore the Visitors.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, he was very glad to hear what had fallen from the noble Marquess, but the impression had gone abroad that the Privy 13 Council had come to a decision that as the consent of the Visitors was no longer legally necessary it should therefore be entirely dispensed with. That would clearly be a most improper and unjust decision, because in that case the consent of the Privy Council would be given to the action of a majority of the Fellows without any legal authority on their part to make a change of themselves without the consent of the Visitor. He looked on the office of Visitor as a connecting link between successive generations of Fellows; and though on the one hand it might be improper to allow the opinion of a Visitor to overbear the opinion of the majority of the Fellows, where that opinion might be deliberately formed, on the other hand it would be disregarding the wishes of the Founders and transgressing the ancient constitution of the Colleges to allow the mere passing fancy of a particular majority of the Fellows to over-ride those judgments, which the Visitor, in obedience to his official duty, was compelled to give. He was therefore glad to hear that the opinion of the Visitor should have its full weight.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
apprehended that the duty of the Crown under the Act of Parliament would be to consider every application made to it from the majority of the Fellows on its merits, and it would not be right for the Crown to give the effect of a veto to the Visitor's disapproval. On the other hand it might be very proper that the Visitor should have the power to state the objections which he might entertain. But the Crown could act on the dissent of the visitor only if the reasons for that dissent appeared to the advisers of the Crown to be such as ought to influence its decision.
§ House adjourned at Seven o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.