Grants to Universities and Colleges (Estimates Committee's Reports)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th January 1966.

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Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark 12:00 am, 26th January 1966

If the House will allow me, I should like to answer one or two of the points which my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has just put to me on the specific subject of events in the University of Glasgow.

My hon. Friend spoke very strongly. Clearly, he has felt very strongly, and, equally clearly, he has felt it his duty to draw the attention of the House and the public to this matter. I know, and I think that the House will know, that it has not been easy for him to do so because of the great respect and good will he has towards our universities. I wrote to my hon. Friend a few days ago about this matter, but he has raised other points today and I have a little further information. It is right that I should give him what factual answers I have on questions of fact which are properly the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

I received today from the Chief Constable an account of the steps taken by the police in Glasgow. On 22nd February, the secretary of the Students' Representative Council sought the advice of the police on what action he should take about an obscene phone call which had that day been received by the lady who was the secretary of Pearce Lodge. The police called at the S.R.C. headquarters that day at Pearce Lodge, and made certain inquiries on 25th February. The matter was reported by the police and by the secretary of the S.R.C. to the university authorities on 2nd March.

In deference to the wishes of the victim of these obscenities, it was generally agreed that the police should not proceed to an official inquiry forthwith but that a solemn warning should be given to the members of the S.R.C. at their meeting on 4th March that a police and university inquiry would be held if the behaviour which had occasioned the report to the police were to continue.

There were further incidents on 4th and 5th March, and on 8th March the university authorities asked the police to undertake an official inquiry. As a result, the circumstances were reported to the procurator fiscal of the police court, but on 27th April he decided to take no proceedings because of the lack of corroboration. His decision was reported by the police to the university authorities.

My right hon. Friend considers that in this unsavoury affair the police acted perfectly correctly. They carried out the appropriate inquiries when they were asked to do so and they reported the circumstances in full to the appropriate prosecutor.

My hon. Friend spoke of the disturbance in the careers of students who have been subject to disciplinary action by the university. I should point out to him that there is nothing to prevent students who have been suspended for a year from completing their degree courses when they return; nor is there anything to prevent those who are reprimanded on any occasion from completing them.