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

I can say that there are no circumstances involved in this matter which would seem to prevent this, but, of course, it would have to be looked at in exactly the same way as we look at any continuance of student grant. I could not give an absolute undertaking, but there would seem to be nothing to which my hon. Friend has referred which would interfere with that.

My hon. Friend asked a specific question about legal aid. In the event of this whole matter being actionable and if, in that case, any person or persons were to decide to bring an action in the Court of Session—I must emphasise that it is for the students themselves and their legal advisers to decide whether they should take any action—they would not be entitled to apply for legal aid in an action for defamation but they would be entitled to apply in an action for declarator or reduction. If the appropriate legal aid committee were satisfied that there was a prima facie case—obviously, I can make no judgment on that—the application would be granted. While there is no maximum figure for legal aid in respect of any court action for which aid is granted, the assistance given depends, as always, on the financial resources of the applicant.

My hon. Friend asked also about correspondence with the Jordanhill College of Education. The president of the S.R.C. completed, but failed, his course of professional training at Jordanhill in June. The only correspondence which the college has received about him from the university was, I understand, a letter formally reporting the disciplinary action which had been taken, and this was received early in July after the student had left Jordanhill. The letter has in no way prejudiced him. Since it came in, he was allowed, in September, to re-sit the subject in which he failed, and, unfortunately, he failed again. He has been encouraged to consult the college authorities about the work he should do to overcome the particular subject difficulty which has so far prevented him from qualifying as a certificated teacher.

My hon. Friend referred to the extent of the Secretary of State's responsibility. In order to clarify this, I must distinguish between several aspects of the affair. First, on matters involving criminal offences and on matters in respect of which investigation of possible criminal offences is carried out, my right hon. Friend is in the habit of answering for the action of the police. I have outlined our findings on this already. Secondly, on matters affecting the Students Representative Council and the conduct of its officers in their capacity as officers, the Secretary of State clearly has no responsibility whatever. How far the university court has responsibility is a question for the university, acting within the context of its constitution, to determine for itself.