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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 Mr Leo Abse Mr Leo Abse , Pontypool 12:00 am, 26th January 1966

It was built by the people, as my right hon. Friend says. We understand that. All this is understood. My right hon. Friend, however, was what was called a friend of the university and he therefore holds a particular view. What surely must be clear from the number of interventions and the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West, and myself and many others feel as we do is that Wales is divided on this issue. That is abundantly clear. That I am involved in, I hope, friendly but certainly pungent controversy with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister, for whom I have a high regard, is indicative of the depth of feeling and the fact that contrary views are held.

That is precisely the situation that Lord Robbins began to sense. Sensing it, he said in his Report, referring among other things to the University of Wales: If, therefore, the universities concerned cannot satisfactorily and speedily resolve their difficulties for themselves we recommend that these should be the subject of an independent inquiry. If my right hon. Friend the Minister is not prepared to make decisions which might be a compromise which could lead to the College of Advanced Technology going with the University College at Cardiff and the Welsh National School of Medicine forming one university, Swansea forming another and Aberystwyth and Bangor forming a third, there must be some form of independent inquiry, because the conflict is too deep.

There are those who believe strongly in the conception that Wales is damaged if it does not have a federal university and those who, like myself and many others, believe that we must have universities of Wales and not museums. We have one national museum of Wales—a very fine one, and we do not need another. What we need are universities that are relevant to the needs of an industrial South Wales and Monmouthshire. We do not want universities that are possessed with a Chauvinism that some of us find repulsive. We do not want a university or universities which are backward looking and excessively nostalgic. We take pride in past traditions, but equally we want in Wales just as in every other part of Britain to march forward equipped technically, a highly cultured people informed by an education permitting us to go forward without fear into the twentieth century.