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Tuesday, 14 December 2004. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House of the following Reports:
Report of the General Board, dated 17 November 2004, on the establishment of a Herchel Smith Professorship of Biochemistry (p. 216).
No comments were made on this Report.
Report of the Council, dated 29 November 2004, on the amendments of the Statutes and Ordinances in relation to the Finance Committee, buildings, and certain offices (p. 240).
Professor A. W. F. EDWARDS:
Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, following my retirement from University office I no longer subscribe to the Reporter, but occasionally a matter is drawn to my attention and I then consult the Web version (which, though a useful addition, is no substitute).
Thus I am not familiar with the Reports to which the preamble of the present Report refers, and in any case I would not wish to comment on the policy behind the statutory changes it proposes, about which the less said the better. I do, however, having a lingering interest in the Statutes themselves, and in the case of the Statute for the Board of Scrutiny a paternal one, for it was I who wrote its first draft as a member of the Statutes and Ordinances Revision Syndicate.
To begin at the beginning. I am sorry to see the neologism 'University Council' entering the heading of a Report. I have on an earlier occasion prevented its intrusion into Statutes and Ordinances. To call the Council of the Senate just 'the Council' was always a foolish thing to do. It is hopelessly ambiguous in Cambridge. I tried to persuade the Wass Syndicate to call it 'the Board of Regents', which seems to me to be a fairly accurate description with admirable American antecedents. Of course I failed, presumably because 'Council' suited the policy of dumbing-down the University's constitution so as to make the uninitiated think that the Council was like the Council of a chartered non-collegiate University and thus ought to have an external chairman and so forth.
As to the changes now proposed they are in some cases a return to an earlier form. Thus the 1926 Statutes had the Registrary and the Vice-Chancellor as key-holders of the Common Seal, but since the Old Schools often could not find the Vice-Chancellor he was replaced by the Treasurer. There is, however, a serious question here. The point of having two key-holders, mere ceremony though it may seem, is to double-check that the authority for the use of the Seal has been properly given. My interest in this began when, as a member of the Council of the Senate, I discovered that the Treasurer had acted without the required authority of the Financial Board.
I take it as obvious that an order to apply the Seal cannot be made by a non-statutory body and that a statutory body cannot delegate the power. My question therefore is: As a consequence of the present upheavals, which bodies or persons now possess the necessary authority? Certainly, no one who possesses that authority may be a key-holder.
Moving on to the Board of Scrutiny, I find it unsatisfactory that the references to the Secretary General and the Treasurer are to be removed rather than replaced by references to their replacements. At least the Council should give an undertaking that they are considering the list of Directors and others who should not be eligible for membership of the Board, that they will bring forward proposals as soon as they conveniently can, and that the list will include the Director of Finance and the Academic Secretary. (Are these yet statutory offices?)
Coming now to the demolition of the Secretary General, this is another reversion to 1926, when the office did not yet exist and the Statutes specified that the Registrary or an Assistant Registrary, as the Council determined, was to be Secretary of the General Board.
The office of Treasurer is older, but by now repealing the whole chapter would we not be depriving all the Assistant Treasurers of their statutory University offices? Have they been asked? Do they mind? There is a difference between a statutory University office and one merely created by Ordinance under the provision of Statute D, I, 1(a).
On Elections to Professorships, this is again back to 1926, at which time, and for many years after, Professorships were a Council responsibility. I can't help wishing that the Council would propose rather more changes back to the 1926 Statutes.
Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, I have not studied the proposals for the Ordinances, but a cursory glance at them seems to show that the Treasurer and the Secretary General are to retain their places in the Order of Seniority of Graduates. Perhaps against happier times?
Dr N. J. HOLMES:
Madam deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak this afternoon on behalf of the Board of Scrutiny to express the Board's views on this Report.
We wish to make two points. We believe that the proposals in this Report are flawed. If these proposed amendments are approved, our Statutes and Ordinances will remain empty of any mention of the Planning and Resources Committee. The Board already made clear its view on this important issue at the Discussion of 27 April 2004. The Council promised in its Report of 8 March 2004 that 'the main provision for the Finance Committee should be in the Ordinances, where both it and the Planning and Resources Committee would be referred to'. The Board of Scrutiny has not changed its view that more than a 'reference' is required: the Board considers it necessary that the PRC be established in the Ordinances and that the Ordinance should define both its role and membership. The Council stated in its reply that it disagreed about the desirability of the composition of committees being established by Ordinance. We therefore expected, at the minimum, that the PRC would be established by Ordinance and its role defined therein. We still believe that, like almost all other committees in Ordinances, the composition should also be specified. The only argument against this is that it takes a Grace to change it. However, in order to change the composition of the PRC, Council will still have to consult the General Board and if these things are done properly a paper setting out the reason for the change will have to go to meetings of the General Board and the Council itself. We adhere to the view that sound governance requires that such a paper be published as a Report to the University. The Council made much in its reply of the argument that it had taken a long time to produce its proposals for reform of the higher committee structure because this had enabled them to achieve good proposals which command consensus. Any future reasoned reconfiguration of PRC is unlikely to be of such urgency, or so obvious in nature, that haste is either desirable or necessary.
The Shattock Report (Reporter, 2 November 2001) sought to identify how weaknesses in the governance and management of the University contributed to the CAPSA problems. One of the important weaknesses identified was that it was 'unclear at the senior policy committee level where true responsibility lay' and the Shattock Report details how the lack of a clear definition or understanding of the role of the Planning and Resources Committee contributed to the failure to identify and address the problems before implementation. Improving the clarity of responsibilities so that everyone in the University understands the position requires that these are defined in Ordinances. In summary therefore, the Board considers that the present Report requires amendment to include the definition of the remit of the Planning and Resources Committee and its relationship to other committees. It urges Council to reconsider defining the composition of the PRC also.
Our second point is quite distinct. We are asking the Council to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the present amendment to Statute A VII, 4 to add the Directors and Deputy Directors within the UAS to the categories of persons disbarred from serving on the Board of Scrutiny. While we consider it unlikely that any such persons would ever stand for election, it would clearly be inappropriate for them to be a member of the Board. We believe that, had there been such things as Directors in the UAS at the time the Board was established, Wass would have recommended the restriction we now seek.
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Cambridge University Reporter 12 January 2005
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