Mr David Blunkett (Secretary of State, Department for Education and Employment; Sheffield, Brightside, Labour)
This may have arisen from a misunderstanding by the shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment. The figures do not involve a doubling. Students in London must already pay back an increased loan. That was part of the previous Government's grant reductions, which is why I find the shadow Secretary of State's eulogy in respect of grants a bit difficult to take. The previous Government eroded grants year after year: 10 per cent. followed by 10 per cent. followed by 10 per cent.—a 40 per cent. real-terms cut in the amount available in grant. It has been instructive this afternoon to see the shadow Secretary of State say that he whole-heartedly agrees with a non-means-tested £1,000 contribution to fees.
I wish to explain clearly what we have done. We have Dearing-plus. We have Dearing plus our manifesto, which spelt out clearly what we would do in terms of income-contingent repayment for maintenance, but we have changed the Dearing recommendation by exempting those who are worse off from having to pay the fee. We have ameliorated the system for those in the middle-income bracket and we are asking the better-off to pay the £1,000, which they will repay over a period, based on their ability to pay.