Qualifying Bodies

Part of Clause 12 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th July 1976.

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Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton 12:00 am, 8th July 1976

I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman meant that. There has never been a hint or suggestion that the governing body of the Bar has ever sought to discriminate against Commonwealth students, if for no other reason than that once they have learnt the British legal system they go back to their own countries to spread it, and that is a source of great pride to us all.

Commonwealth students who thought that they had the answers but failed and failed again used to ask me "Can you do something? Something is going wrong. They are discriminating against me because I am coloured." The answer was almost invariably that the examiner could not understand a word they wrote, either because they could not write legible English or because, if they could, they did not understand it. Nobody had the heart to tell them "Please go away for six months and perfect your English, because you will not pass the examination unless your English is better and you understand the obscure legal phrases which we use".

Under the clause, people may believe that they cannot say "Because you are less able to understand and speak English, you will almost certainly fail your examination", because that would be discrimination. The examination for which I taught at the college of commerce was not specifically needed for the students to qualify as company secretaries or whatever else it was in some other part of the globe. It enabled them on return to their countries to say "I studied this course and took this examination in Britain. This has enabled me to tell you that I have this Qualification and, therefore, I need not take your examination". Therefore, the examination "facilitates".

The clause is bizarre because it does not help those whom the Bill is directed to try to assist. Indeed, it hinders and hurts them. That is because it will stop lecturers saying "You are different from him because you do not understand the English language so well and you may well fail your examination".

11.30 p.m.

Let us remember the years of misery that are undergone by some Commonwealth students. They have to study day in and day out because it is not always so easy for them to study in the English language, which may be a foreign language, as in their native tongue. Let us bear in mind the deprivation of wives and families. Sometimes it is necessary for the wife of a Commonwealth student who is studying in this country to go out to work and not to care for the family in order to maintain the husband as a student. The students have to pay ever-increasing fees.

If it is thought by the Government that that is a desirable end for the clause, I cannot agree. I ask the Government to reconsider the clause and the amendment which was so powerfully presented by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield. There is one word that broadens the scope of the clause far wider than is necessary. If that word—or the whole clause—was deleted. a far greater kindness would be done to Commonwealth students in the situation I have described than is done by practically anything else in the Bill.