Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Letter of 26 March 2009 from Mr Phil Willis MP, Chairman of the Committee, to Professor J S Brooks, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University

  You will be aware that Professor Walter Cairns made a written submission to the Select Committee's inquiry on students and universities and that his submission was accepted as evidence. Professor Cairns has informed the Committee that following publication of his evidence he was expelled from the Academic Board of the University on 18 March 2009.

On the basis of the information supplied by Professor Cairns I have concerns that he may have been punished for sending written evidence to the Committee. The University may not have been aware but molestation of or threats against those who have given evidence before the House of Commons or a committee may be treated by the House as a contempt. The relevant sections of Erskine May are at pages 78, 128 and 150 (Erskine May Parliamentary Practice 23rd Edition).

  I would be grateful if you, in your position as Vice-Chancellor, could supply a note setting out your response to Professor Cairns, in particular explaining the actions taken by the University on 18 March. This should reach the Committee's office by 5pm on Friday, 3 April. The Committee will meet in the week beginning 27 April and I shall put this matter on the agenda for consideration. If the Committee concludes that there is prima facie a case that contempt may have taken place it can decide to make a Special Report to the House recommending that the matter be referred to the Standards and Privileges Committee.

  I should advise you that your note may be published.

March 2009

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