Orders of the Day — Education (Mandatory Awards)

– in the House of Commons at 10:16 pm on 23rd November 1982.

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Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North 10:16 pm, 23rd November 1982

I beg to move, That the Education (Mandatory Awards) Regulations 1982 (S.I., 1982, No. 954), dated 12th July 1982, a copy of which was laid before this House on 16th July, in the last Session of Paliament, be revoked.

Labour Members have fulfilled their pledge to bring he regulation to the House after the Government's ignominious defeat in Committee. That is the first time the Government have suffered such a defeat on a statutory instrument since 1980.

We meet today in a rather more full concourse than on that occasion. I am glad to see so many right hon. and hon. Members here today, some of whom hold, or have held, high office, rectorial and otherwise, in our universities and colleges. I am also glad to see some of the right hon. and hon. Members who were not present in Committee when the Government were defeated. It may well be that they will be able to tell us tonight something in explanation of their absence on that occasion. We noted the absence of the hon. Members for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack), Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), Saffron Waldron (Mr. Haselhurst), Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) and Wokingham (Sir W. van Straubenzee). Silence is eloquent—

Sir William van Strubenzee:

May we start by getting the terminology right? It was not a Standing Committee but a Statutory Instruments Committee. That is quite different.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

At least I was there. The hon. Gentleman was not.

We are endeavouring to discover why so many Conservative Members chose to be away. In my view, silence is eloquent and absence sometimes makes its presence felt. On that occasion, the Under-Secretary of State was left with his faithful Sancho Panza, the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey), and little other succour.

I am heartened by the turn-out tonight. This is an important matter. Nothing has changed since the debate on 26 October, except for the worse. We are now holding the debate in the context of the announcement made in the Queen's Speech about the education mandatory awards for this year. Therefore, in a sense we are now debating two sets of award, not one, although within the rules of order we are discussing those covered by statutory instrument No. 954.

We must see the debate in the general context of the assault that there has been on higher and further education in Britain under the Government. There are fewer places available. The Association of University Teachers calculates that there are about 20,000 fewer places in the universities over the past three years and the public sector seems braced now for a 14 per cent. fall in numbers on a much shorter time scale. In addition, entry qualifications are rising. Those who share our concern that the marginal student is thus being excluded—the student who has struggled extremely hard to get to university or college—are particularly alarmed.

There are also fewer grants. Local government cuts have left discretionary grants decimated. In some areas—I draw this curious anomaly to the attention of the Under-Secretary of State and, indeed, to that of the Secretary of State, who I see is putting in a stint, if I may call it that, on the Front Bench—students who have been refused a local education authority discretionary grant for a local course go elsewhere, if they have the necessary academic qualifications, for a more expensive mandatory award. That is a greater expense to the community and has happened because of the foolish cutback in local education authority discretionary awards.

The other matter which we are more particularly discussing today is the hardship suffered by students on mandatory grants. They have had an extremely hard time from the Under-Secretary of State. He is known in his Department by the acronym PUSS. In this pantomime, he has been "Puss in Boots", indeed, because he has trodden all over the students. He has a reputation as a nice and humane man and, on the whole, that is deserved, but, in the arguments with the National Union of Students last year and this year, the great difficulty has been to persuade him of the levels of hardship which are being suffered at present.

What is the position at the moment? The real level of the student grant has fallen, is falling and will continue to fall for the next academic year. It now stands at about 90 per cent. of its value when the Government came to office. I have to concede the fact that in other areas where recipients of Government largesse—if I can so miscall it—are involved, there has been an attempt to make up and replace some of the real value that has been lost over the past few years. The students have not had the benefit of that.

Figures have been provided for me by the Library. The figures for 1982–83, expressed at constant 1979 prices, show that there was a real increase in the value of the pension but a real decrease in the value of the student grants of about 2·8 per cent.—2·6 per cent. for those in London. The Government are doing something about that. They are going to claw back a good deal of the substantial gain that the pensioners might have made, but there will be no need to claw back anything from the students because there is nothing there to claw back.

The students have been cheated out of the support that they should have had from the Government, not only this year and last year but they can look ahead and see that it is true for the next academic year and the one after that. The freezing of the minimum level of parental contribution—the threshold—at £6,600 dragged in about another 20,000 paying parents in this academic year. That figure was conceded by the Under-Secretary of State in the debate on the statutory instrument upstairs. The evidence shows that a number of those parents, and many others in the higher categories, do not pay up. Those parents do not provide for their children the amount of money they need to survive at university. The student goes short.

According to the calculations of the National Union of Students—the figures are disputed only in the smallest percentage terms when Government apologists address themselves to the problem—about 70 per cent. of parents pay none or only part of what they should pay to their student offspring. Tonight, I have received details of a student at Westfield college who has had to give up her course because she has received none of her adjudged parental contribution for this academic year. This is particularly hard on those whose relations with their parents for one reason or another—it does not necessarily mean antagonism between parents and offspring—are difficult.

A constituent of mine in Derbyshire has waited for more than a month for the payment of his mandatory grant by the local education authority because of confusion over what his parents should be paying. This is a double bind for the student. He is caught because he is not receiving the contribution from his parents, but, quite often, because there is confusion about what that contribution should be, his local education authority award is being paid late. Pressure has been put on the ability of the LEAs to pay, and all too often they have held back in the payment of mandatory grants. Therefore, there is a double hardship for the students concerned.

Thirdly and finally in this area of hardship, there are fees. The Department of Education and Science set its grant for this academic year at 4 per cent.—well below the retail price index—and ignored the hard evidence that many college fees would be set above the RPI. The figures have not been challenged and they suggest that, apart from the extraordinary and anomalous case of Wolverhampton polytechnic, which has levied an increase of 38 per cent., there have been increases in fees of 35 per cent. at St. Andrew's, 20 per cent. at Leeds, 16 per cent. at the Royal Holloway college, 10 per cent. at Newcastle polytechnic, 10 per cent. at North Staffordshire polytechnic, and as much as 18 per cent. in the public sector at Coventry polytechnic. These are sharp increases.

Account must also be taken of the fact that many students are living in holiday towns and seaside towns, where they enjoy no protection as rent-paying tenants. The rents that they are paying have been increased far beyond the rise in the RPI. Students have suffered real hardship in this respect.

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

Bearing in mind the validity of the catalogue of hardship that the hon. Gentleman is outlining and the fact that we are faced with the necessity to curb the growth of public expenditure, can I rely upon him to support my motion, should it be reached on Friday, that calls for the introduction of student loans?

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

No. The hon. and learned Gentleman will be disappointed in that as in much else from me. I do not wish to be drawn into discussing student loans because it is an issue which, to some degree, is outside the general tenor of the regulations. However, it is my view that student loans will act as a disincentive to the sort of students whom we wish to encourage into the State system of education. The hon. and learned Gentleman should bear in mind the fact that there has been a long tradition of opposition to the imposition of a student loan scheme on the Conservative Benches. I pay tribute to the hon. Members for Wokingham, for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) and others for taking that stance. Such a scheme would cause hardship for "marginal" students, the ones who are finding it especially hard to get by. That is almost the unanimous view of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and so it should be.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Stockport North

Does my hon. Friend agree that the major problem for students in the past was that they could not manage on their grants and so they had to work during their vacations? They now have even smaller grants and, because of the Government's policy, they have virtually no opportunity to get work to supplement their grants.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I appreciate my hon. Friend's argument. The Secretary of State, who is with us in the flesh, has erred in telling students—it is fine advice from him—that they should find part-time jobs. One of the occupants of the Social Democratic Party's Bench—he is the only SDP member in his place tonight—has said that there are 3·5 million reasons why students cannot get part-time jobs. I refer to the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). That is the answer to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) and I am obliged to him for intervening.

The Government have been warned time after time of the consequences of their actions. During the stewardship of the Secretary of State's predecessor, the right hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), it seemed that the Government had come to grasp the nature of the problem and the need for some concession to be made. The right hon. and learned Gentleman wrote to the then president of the National Union of Students, David Aaronvitch, on 15 June 1981, after a protest had been made by the students, If, as you suggest, these estimates result in an underestimate of the true cost of students because of rises in hall fees and other students' costs then I would hope that we could take this into account when we come, during the course of next year, to assess students' grants for the academic year 1982–83. After that announcement—there were further changes in the Government and a general hardening of attitudes—the awards for 1982–83 were announced. Not only the students, but the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals was so horrified by the evidence of possible hardship, that it wrote to the Secretary of State: We are astonished that the decision regarding the grant for 1982–83 was taken before the results of the Committee's annual survey of board and lodging costs could be made available to the Department and before the customary meeting could be arranged between Ministers and representatives of the committee … On the basis of information provided by universities it is estimated that in the current year the grant is already 18 per cent. below the level which would be needed to enable students to meet the cost of ordinary maintenance including the economic cost of board and lodging. The 4 per cent. increase in grants for 1982–83, which is 6 per cent. below the Government's own estimate of inflation in the coming year is bound to lead to considerable financial hardship for students. What response did that receive? Almost none. What attempt has there been to honour the pledge given by the right hon. and learned Member for Runcorn to the president of the National Union of Students more than one year ago? Absolutely none. What independent assessment has the Department of Education and Science made of student costs, whether the student lives at home or away? The answer appears to be "Very little".

The Under-Secretary of State was unmoved. He told students on 11 August this year that there was no question of an increase in the student award for the academic year 1982–83. He told us in Committee: No one would claim that the student settlement which we were able to make for 1982–83 was generous. It is not generous. The best that he could say was that during the past 10 years the away student award had dropped by 3·7 per cent. outside London, while the home student was better off than the youngster without a job living at home on supplementary benefit."—[Official Report, Fifth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c., 26 October 1982; c. 6–10.] That is great news. The response to it from the student body would be "Thanks, but no thanks". It is not good enough, and it is not good enough for the Under-Secretary of State to repeat such arguments today.

The debate has rolled on. We are not only considering the regulations covered in the instrument for 1982–83 but we are considering them with the benefit of our knowledge of the hardship that will be caused by a grant increase of 4 per cent. for the next academic year after that. That is 4 per cent. for the one-third of students who receive full mandatory grants. Many other students must suffer a net loss. The parental threshold increased by 8 per cent., but that simply freezes the injustice of last year when the threshold was jammed. The number of students' parents who are assessed will stay at about its historical high of 240,000, out of 340,000 students who receive some form of mandatory grant.

I also wish to ask the Under-Secretary of State about the proposed travel allowance, mentioned in the various statements made in the debates on the Loyal Address, as part of the package for students in the coming year. I am profoundly suspicious of calculations for a travel allowance that may penalise students who live away from home but who must travel to their place of study. We know that the Secretary of State is considering—the matter was aired again in circles close to him—a cut in the number of students who are studying away from home. All that I wish to hear from the Minister tonight is that the new travel regulations are not a means of bringing in that proposition by stealth. Many people, especially in the National Union of Students, believe that to be true.

The National Union of Students asked for £5 a week to return to 1980–81 levels in real terms. They are receiving an increase of 24p a day as a result of the regulations to be promulgated following the announcement. It also asked for an increase in the means-tested threshold to £9,000, which would release about 60,000 parents from the need to contribute a proportion of the financial support of their offspring.

There has been no real response to those proposals or to the students' demands, which I personally welcome and endorse, that an allowance of £25 per week should be paid to all students in non-advanced further education. Those students have been most severely hit by the local education authority squeeze on financial support and by the imbalance in favour of degree courses and other advanced further education that has always existed in the system in this country.

The hon. Member for Cambridge is muttering in a confused fashion. Does he wish to intervene? It seems that he does not.

We shall have to judge the Government's performance on what they have already said and what the Minister says today about their approach to student support. In our view, their approach has been consistently mean-spirited throughout the past few years. They have made the gaining of entry into higher and further education harder and they have ensured that more people are squeezed out when they get there. As always, the cost falls on the marginal student who has struggled the hardest to qualify and now has to struggle the hardest to survive.

We shall be voting to revoke the regulations because we recognise them for what they are—one more step on the road to increased elitism in education, where those who already have receive support, those who might have can seek loans, and those who have nothing but aspiration and effort to offer are shown the back of a lengthening queue. In doing so, we shall be voting for wider categories of student support and not only for justice for existing students whose support is inadequate. I hope that hon. Members of all parties will join us in the Lobby.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West 10:36 pm, 23rd November 1982

We seem to have these debates in duplicate. We have a small debate upstairs with the SDP, which seems to understand the procedures of the House and gets to the prayer first. Then we have a later, bigger debate on the Floor of the House for the Labour Party to catch up.

During the moving and jolly speech of the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) was by no means muttering in a confused way. He was muttering in a very exact way that the hon. Gentleman's speech was typical of a former chairman of the Oxford Conservative Association. In a sense, that was perhaps a rather offensive sally from my hon. Friend. However, we hope that some day the hon. Member for Derby, North will return to his former allegiance, although I predict that there will be a passage through a party sitting below the Gangway on the way.

In the casual way that is possible when in Opposition, the hon. Member for Derby, North spent about £700 million in his speech. That is the luxury of Opposition, which we shall do our best to ensure that he enjoys for as long as possible. Nevertheless, we must consider this matter in the general context of the country's economic situtation.

We are primarily concerned today with the education regulations for 1982 and the grant settlement for the academic year 1982–83. Since we discussed the matter last December, when the rates were first announced, the whole context in which we are discussing it has changed dramatically because of the toughness shown by the Government in relation to public expenditure. At that time, we feared—we did not try to hide this—that the real drop in the value of the award in 1982 as compared with 1981 would be about 6 per cent. because the inflation prediction was 10 per cent. Happily, that prediction has proved false and with inflation now around 7 per cent. the real drop in value that we feared will be very much less.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

We have the Government's undertaking to control public expenditure to thank for that change from which students and everyone else have benefited.

In the interests of securing a stable economy for the well-being of all, we saw no reason why students in the 18-plus age group, who are still the best treated of their age group, should be wholly exempted from the pressures on public expenditure that others have had to face.

The full-time student of 18-plus is still by far the best treated of his age group. The hon. Member for Derby, North was kind enough to quote comparisons that I had given before with those people on other forms of Government support. That tells only a small part of the story, because that student at university or polytechnic institute is having large sums from the public purse spent on free tuition. That might cost up to £10,000 a place for a medical student and £4,000 a place for the average student.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman , Huddersfield East

How many aspiring students are there from towns like the hon. Gentleman's and mine who would like to be in the privileged position about which he is boasting compared with three years ago?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

If the hon. Gentleman will restrain his enthusiasm. I shall shortly tell him. The answer may be not quite what he expects.

The decline in the rate of inflation has meant that the award has not fallen by as much as we feared. If one takes the index 10 years ago, from 1972–73, the value of the London award has increased. With the 1972–73 index at 100, the London award is now worth 106 and the present value of the elsewhere award is 96. That has dropped, but the Opposition's catastrophic language does not reflect the reality of the position.

There have been interesting cases before the courts involving European students seeking to come here to gain support from our mandatory award system through one loophole or another. Our student award system is the most generous of any European country.

The hon. Member for Derby, North asked about participation rates. The figures for the academic year 1982–83 will show that there is no evidence that the level of the student award has deterred students from seeking higher education places. The final figure for the participation rate for 1981–82—the figures are just coming out—will show that it is the highest ever, at 13·2 per cent. The figures will, moreover, show that the qualified participation rate is the highest ever at 87·9 per cent. We have done better in finding places for students than the Labour Government did, and that should calm the worries of the hon. Member for Derby, North.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

If the Government are doing so much better, how is it that in answer to me on 8 March this year the hon. Gentleman suggested that the age participation rate would fall to 91·7 per cent. in the academic year after that and 11·2 per cent. for 1984–85. Where is the triumph in that?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

The hon. Gentleman can keep to the out-of-date figures if he likes, but I can improve on best estimates by giving the facts. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will prefer the facts. He will find that the participation rate this year will not have fallen, so he should not worry.

There has been a limitation on university places undertaken by the UGC to preserve the research output of universities. Despite the pressure on the recurrent grants of the local authority institutions, those institutions have managed to take in large numbers of students, which perhaps shows that there must have been some slack in the system before. The Robbins principle has therefore been maintained.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

The Under-Secretary gave evidence to the Select Committee that the age participation rate was declining, according to the figures that my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) has just given. Is he now saying that the age participation rate is declining, and is he using a different formula—the qualifying participation rate—to try to get out of it?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not understand the relationship between the age participation rate and the qualified particiption rate. In those figures we were predicting—under the pressure of the savings that we had to make out of local authority colleges—how we thought they would be able to respond. There was much more room for students in those colleges than we had predicted and they have followed the age profile round. I am therefore able to comfort the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) by saying that the Robbins principle has been maintained—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Reality may not seem possible to Labour Members, but reality sometimes breaks in upon them.

Labour Members may be interested in some of the detailed changes, some of which are important. In addition to the increases in the main rates, we have been able to respond to a number of representations. For example, we responded to the National Bureau for Handicapped Students, and increased the allowance for disabled students in schedule 2, paragraph 15, from £250 to £500.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman , Huddersfield East

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that the Minister wants to get through this embarrassing speech as quickly as possible, but he is rattling through it at such a pace that Back Benchers cannot understand one syllable.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Somerset North

The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a point of order on which I can rule.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

In case I was going too fast for the hon. Member, I shall read that sentence again, but this time more slowly. As a result of representations from the National Bureau for Handicapped Students, the allowance for disabled students was doubled from £250 to £500. Furthermore, the allowance for dependants was substantially increased, not only by the percentage increase in supplementary benefit but by £70 in respect of each dependant child.

As well as an allowance of £140 per child under 11 years of age, there was an allowance in the 1981–82 academic year of £365 per child aged 11 to 16, and £580 for a child aged 17 and over. We have increased those. There have been a number of improvements in other rates of grant. For example, by an amendment to the 1981 regulations, refugees and "asylees" who had interrupted, without completing, their studies abroad during the 12 months immediately preceding their entry to the United Kingdom, were given exemption from the previous study rules. In response to representations from the World University Service and the British Refugee Council, the 1982 regulations increased the 12 month period to four years. That was generally welcomed.

The provisions contained in article 3.2 were amended to provide that a period during which a student—

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman , Huddersfield East

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister is now speaking so slowly that he is trying to squeeze out Back Benchers who wish to participate in the one hour of the debate that remains.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Somerset North

It would be better if we were to allow the Minister to continue. I remind the House that many hon. Members hope to speak and the debate must end at 11.46 pm. I therefore hope that interruptions will be brief.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

It may not appear so to the hon. Gentleman, but matters such as refugee status are of some importance. The improvements that we have been able to make should be of some satisfaction to those concerned with these matters.

There have been a number of other improvements. For example, the provisions of article 3·2(d) of the 1981 regulations allow a period spent by a married student caring for a dependent child to count towards the attainment of independent status. These were extended so that any student who has the care of a dependent under the age of 18 can benefit under the regulations.

There are other improvements, but, lest I should irritate the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East even further, I shall not repeat them. This shows how wrong are the charges that there is an animus against students among Conservatives. We have taken care to respond to a number of specific recommendations and representations—

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

I have been talking about "asylees" and refugees. The hon. Gentleman trivialises an important debate.

Another matter that should be reported to the House derives from the intervention of the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) who, unlike the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman), takes an interest in the regulations. In one important aspect, he has made sure that we have improved them further. I refer to the relief for life assurance. After correspondence with the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, we agreed that it would be sensible to bring the treatment of life assurance premiums into line with revenue calculations of netted income.

We made a change in the regulations from last year. The hon. Gentleman wrote to me first, saying that he thought that we had got it right. It turns out that we have drafted it incorrectly. We shall therefore introduce amending regulations so that local authorities may be clear about the matter. We are informed that they will be able to continue to do what they are now doing. We will then have to consider the matter further for next year and introduce more amendments so that the situation is as both the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury and the Government want it—properly in line with the taxation authorities. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman as he has ensured that we have significantly improved the regulations.

The heat and passion generated in an election year to promise that [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] I must correct myself. The heat and passion generated in what may be an election year by all the Opposition parties to gather in a useful lobby is blatant. I know that £600 million or so, which is the cost of the £25 per person allowance, is just small change compared with the sort of money that the Labour Party is talking about, but we must remember that we are talking about the real world.

We are trying to take the higher education system and an increased number of students through a period of severe world recession. We are proud that we are maintaining a high number of students in the higher education system. We believe that that must demonstrate that the grant is reasonably adequate. Nobody is under any misapprehension but that there are problems for those students who do not receive the parental contribution. I urge parents to make those contributions.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

As the hon. Gentleman suggests that the Opposition want to splash money on people who do not get any grant for non-advanced further education, will he tell the House whether he is satisfied about the lack of support that people in those deserving categories get? I think that he is not.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

If there were £600 million to spend without damaging important priorities elsewhere, this would be one serious candidate. It is the luxury of Oppositions to be able to spend the same money on everything. No doubt it comes from the cancellation of Trident yet again.

No doubt the Opposition will shed many crocodile tears tonight. We will hear of students who suffer hardship. There may be a few. There were a few under the regime of the Labour Government. The House can be assured that within the constraints of the resources that are available, a reasonable deal on student awards has been laid before the House. I can ask my hon. Friends and some of those Opposition Members on whom reality may still impinge to vote for the regulations with every confidence.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel Leader of the Liberal Party 10:53 pm, 23rd November 1982

The Under-Secretary of State began his speech with a rather feeble jest at the expense of Opposition parties. Unfortunately, he never seemed to recover his composure.

The speech to which we have listened was a mixture of levity and complacency throughout. It is a great pity that nowhere did there appear a tinge of regret or a note of penitence about the blatant reneging, for example, on the undertaking that was given by the Secretary of State on the level of grants being reviewed if the level of inflation was found to be much higher than the level of grant.

All of that has been abandoned and now, to add insult to injury, before the House has the chance to debate the 1982–83 level of grant, we have a unilateral announcement of the level for 1983–84 without even the normal courteous meeting that has been held by successive Administrations with the National Union of Students.

Like the Under-Secretary of State, I wish to refer to our procedures. Nearly four months have elapsed since my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Liberal and Social Democratic Parties tabled the prayer against the regulations. Yet the regulations are now in force despite the defeat of the Government in the Committee. Hon. Members should take note of this defect in our procedures. If a statutory instrument is defeated in a Committee charged by the House to examine it, there should be an automatic right to a debate on the Floor of the House. There should be no further argument between the parties and the Whips. We should review our procedures.

In my capacity as rector of Edinburgh university, I received a petition on Monday signed by 3,000 students at the university on this issue. My remarks are not based solely on my experience at Edinburgh, which is direct and continuous, but on visits that I have made to six other universities in the last few weeks. I do not know what is the experience of the Under-Secretary or the Secretary of State, but I find a genuine sense of grievance among the student population about the level of grant. It is not, as the Under-Secretary suggests, that the student population believes that it should be exempt, privileged, or above the sacrifices made by the rest of the country.

The undergraduate population, so far as I can make out, is willing to share the sacrifices, but figures debated in Committee, which will no doubt be produced again in this debate, show that students are being asked to accept an excessive reduction in their standard of living compared with some others in our society. There is a parallel with the National Health Service workers. In both cases, groups of people in our society who are less well off than others are being squeezed under the alleged non-incomes policy of the Government.

My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) read out in Committee the letter, to which the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) has referred, from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. The committee comprises people who are reasonably remunerated but who have a feeling for their students. If the Under-Secretary is to dismiss the concern expressed by hon. Members, he cannot surely dismiss concern expressed by the committee about the real reduction in living standards suffered by the student population.

Student grants are now worth in real terms only 81 per cent. of what they were in my own time in 1962. The 1983–84 determination has been made. With inflation coming down—we hope that this continues—the gap between the inflation rate and the grant rate next year will not be so wide. There is, however, no attempt to recompense the student population for the severe fall experienced this time.

The real fall in the cost of living affects issues such as the mortgage rate. Few students benefit from that. The real cost of living index of the student population—books, fees, student lodgings and private lodgings—is much higher than the standard cost of living rate. The University of Edinburgh says that, although it has done its best to keep down the level of hall residence fee, the increase has been 12 per cent. this year. There is a gap between the grant level and what the Government will accept as the real cost of living for students.

There is another big difference between the plight of the student today and that of the student of my time 20 years ago. In my time at Edinburgh university, I did at least five different vacation jobs. Time is too short for me to expand on that statement. There is no prospect today of a student having the opportunity every year, without fail, to get employment. It would be outrageous if they did, because of the state of unemployment. Therefore, the opportunity for today's student to supplement what is a basic subsistence grant with vacation work is severely limited. The Government should take that into account. I remind the Government what they said in their manifesto at the last election: Much of our higher education in Britain has a world-wide reputation for its quality. We shall seek to ensure that this excellence is maintained.

One of the first things that the Government did was to increase the level of overseas student fees so that our world-wide reputation was immediately dented. Now, apart from the cuts in university expenditure, life has been made extremely difficult for the student population.

The Secretary of State's latest suggestion is that students should try to borrow the money. One of the things that slightly worries me about the banking system is that there is a great deal of pressure on new students to join certain banks. All sorts of free offers are made. However, no bank in its senses will consider lending large sums of money to undergraduates when not even graduates are certain of getting jobs so that they can pay back the loans. Therefore, the idea of moving to even an unofficial loan system, let alone the official one on which the Secretary of State is speculating, is not even a starter.

I and my colleagues will firmly oppose any attempt by the Government to move from the traditional grant system to a loan system for the reason not that it would affect about two thirds of the student population, but that it would affect lower income families, who would be terrified of taking on such a loan. As north of the border we have an egalitarian tradition in higher education, we would resent any change to a loan system.

In the meantime, faced with the belated opportunity that the House has to deal with the current level of grant for this academic year, we should join as many hon. Members as we can muster in the Lobby against the regulations.

Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham 11:02 pm, 23rd November 1982

I shall comment on the concluding remarks of the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) in a moment. First, I shall say a word or two about why we are debating this subject at this time. We had better get the record clear. It is important that we should.

We are debating regulations that are already operating. We know perfectly well that if we were to upset them that would cause chaos in education. Normally we would have debated such a matter in the summer. The reason why we did not do so was the sheer concentrated incompetence of the Labour Front Bench. Labour Members are the nicest set of people. They are some of the most delightful Members of the House, but as an Opposition in educational terms—and I have sat in the House for some years—

Sir William van Straubanzee:

We can deal with that matter next time.

I have never experienced an Opposition who have missed so many educational tricks. The truth is that they failed to put down a Prayer at the right time. That is why we are now debating the regulations at the wrong time.

We get a good idea of the Opposition's approach to education when we learn that the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock), having done so well in his election, is to be promoted from education. He is to go up. It is a sad commentary on the subject that that is the approach.

There is no group of people that benefit more from a successful economic policy that controls the increase in the rate of inflation, making it something manageable, than the student population. Students benefit directly from the successes that are so irritating to the Opposition. The House knows my commitment to this subject, but even those who are committed to it cannot seek to exempt the student population from the general effort necessary—some of it painful—to control the increase in inflation. Hon. Members should remember that inflation still exists. Some hon. Members almost suggest that there is no inflation, although it still exists at an infinitely more acceptable rate. That is of great benefit to those such as students who often have to live on very modest incomes.

I do not disguise the fact that I was dismayed that we did not make any improvement in the scales of parental contributions in this academic year. Unwittingly, we hit hard at a deserving group of parents. Their efforts to get their sons or daughters into higher or further education are considerable. Therefore, I warmly welcome the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 8 November, implying that that process will be resumed in the forthcoming year. We may argue about percentages. but the percentage is considerable. Therefore, I whole-heartedly welcome that resumption.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman , Huddersfield East

May I bring the hon. Gentleman down to earth and refer him to the ordinary people who send their children to universities and polytechnics? Will he balance a slightly lower rate of inflation against the fact that between June and October students have no chance of earning any money in the economy that the Prime Minister and the Government preside over?

Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham

It is astonishing that an hon. Member—let alone an Opposition Member—could talk about a "slightly lower" rate of inflation. The fall has been dramatic.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman , Huddersfield East

What was the rate of inflation in May 1979?

Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham

I am answering the hon. Gentleman's point. The Government that he supported passed on a rate of inflation—and we all know the delay in such matters—that rose at one point to 20 per cent.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman , Huddersfield East

What about the rate in May 1979?

Photo of Mr William Van Straubenzee Mr William Van Straubenzee , Wokingham

That rate of inflation did much to undermine the problems and difficulties of those on small incomes. It does not lie in the hon. Gentleman's mouth to raise that issue. I hope that he is taking the debate seriously.

I shall try to be brief, because I know that many hon. Members wish to speak. I understand the problem of the parental contribution and of that part of it that may not be met by a parent. In a free society, it is extraordinarily difficult to find a method of enforcing payment other than via the total abolition of any means-tested benefit. I am sorry that we never moved—I suppose that we now never will—to the tax credit system which, we should remember, was vigorously opposed by the Labour Party. Had we done so, we could have incorporated in it a system of student finance which might have been more effective.

Finally, I take up the words of the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles. I am glad—I can claim to speak only for myself, but I suspect that I speak also for others—that there are no proposals in these regulations for providing student support by way of loan, in whole or in part. I shall make two comments in this regard. Those who advocate a system of loan should first identify clearly whether that loan should bear a full commercial rate of interest. If it should bear that full commercial rate of interest at compound rates, with an appropriate period between graduation and repayment, I beg hon. Gentlemen on both sides to calculate the size of the burden which they then impose on the graduate. If they say "No, I do not propose to do that. I propose that it should be a special or an underpinned rate of interest", let them reflect that they are thereby financially assisting the best-off families. In a rich family there will be no other member of that unit who can borrow at specially privileged rates.

Secondly, I would like to know, with much greater clarity than I have heard, the method of recovery. It is sometimes said that one could use the country's banking system. We know—I remember it 10 years ago, and the situation is the same today—that the banking system of this country will not undertake that unless the Treasury underpins the loan. If the loan is underpinned, that is a resource that is committed, and a resource committed is increased expenditure. Thus, those who advocate this system may well find, contrary to what they suppose, that they are committing the Government to increase expenditure.

If it is not to be done through the national banking system, I shudder at the thought of a university loans board, a polytechnic loans board, or a University of Leeds loans board, and the problems of recovery. I ask those who advocate this scheme to think carefully before putting it into a manifesto.

My commitment is this. I believe that one of the remarkable features of student support in this country is that when we expanded it massively in the 1960s-it will always be associated with my noble Friend Viscount Eccles—and provided student support, a far wider social group of student used it and had access to it than would have happened if we had not had such student support. Any hon. Member on these Benches would tamper with it at their peril.

Photo of Hon. Sam Silkin Hon. Sam Silkin , Southwark Dulwich 11:13 pm, 23rd November 1982

I agree with the hon. Member for Wokingham (Sir W. van Straubenzee) on at least one point and that is his criticism of the concept of student loans, which was also voiced by the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), the leader of the Liberal Party. Their fears can probably now be set well at rest in the light of the Prime Minister's panegyric the other day. With families being urged to live within their means, even a radical figure such as the Secretary of State is unlikely to have his way on student loans.

I do not propose to follow the forceful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) on the Government's general parsimony in an area where one would have hoped and expected that of all others investment should be at the highest level and at an increasing level if we are to resume the place in the world which we all wish to enjoy.

I shall deal only with a relatively narrow matter which arises under the regulations where I regret that the Government have palpably failed to put right what seems to me to be a grave defect and one which is likely to create considerable hardship.

The House will know that the basis of the mandatory grant has always been founded upon the concept of ordinary residence, which was satisfactory in the days when ordinary residence was understood to mean ordinary residence. Alas, today, indeed even since a year or so ago, that concept has changed as a result of a Court of Appeal decision, although it is still for the other place to overrule it if they wish to.

I wish to illustrate the hardship that is caused as a result of the change in the way the law is looked upon, subject to the House of Lord's decision, by reference to one case which came to me recently in my constituency.

That is the case of a family—a husband and wife and two grown up daughters—who came to Britain from South Africa—the wife and the daughters many years ago, the husband more recently. They are of Asian extraction and, like many people of that race, they are hard-working and conscientious. The husband did extremely well in South Africa and built up a considerable business.

Unhappily, the South African Government decided that the area where this family's business was situated would become a whites only area. As a result of that, the business, which should have been worth a great deal of money, became virtually worthless.

The parents, whose children were then quite young, decided that they would not allow their children to grow up in such a society and they decided there and then that they would come to Britain. The father started his business up again and before long he had built up sufficient capital to enable his wife and two young daughters to come to Britain. The wife thus had sufficient independent means to be allowed to remain and the children, being the age they were, were allowed to stay on annual visitors' permits.

The father stayed in South Africa and continued to build up his business until he was in a position to sell up and come here himself as a person with sufficient means to enable the whole family to live in Britain. The children did well at school and last year one applied for and obtained a grant to enable her to take a university place. But her younger sister—one year younger—this year, having done exceptionally well at school, applied for a grant to go to a teaching hospital as a medical student. She was informed that, as a result of the recent decision of the courts, she could not be regarded as a person whose ordinary residence was in this country. I can think of nothing more scandalous. Where was her ordinary residence if not in this country? Was it in South Africa, from which her parents and family had departed deliberately because of the circumstances that I have related to the House? If it was not in South Africa, where was it? If it was not in this country where the family had decided to come to live out the rest of their lives, where was it?

When I see the provisions of these regulations which do enable the concept of ordinary residence to be displaced, to be given a different meaning from the one the courts give it, to the benefit of the nationals of members of the European Community and I do not see the case to which I have referred being dealt with with any sympathy, I feel that there has been a grave dereliction of duty on the part of the Government. Before the regulations were promulgated they should have known of the decisions that were being made and the narrow way in which the concept of ordinary residence was being construed, and the effect of that narrow concept upon the rights of people in this country to receive a mandatory grant.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the whole matter stems from the Government's decision under the predecessor of the Secretary of State simply to leave to the courts—what has turned out to be the caprice of the courts over nearly two years—this important decision that should have been settled by proper legislation when the overseas students' fees were first introduced?

Photo of Hon. Sam Silkin Hon. Sam Silkin , Southwark Dulwich

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. If the courts are going to make a concept such as that of ordinary residence, which by itself is a perfectly simple expression that any layman could translate in ordinary terms, into a term of art with a narrow meaning, it is time for the Government of the day to stop the inevitable hardship which meant that one daughter was able to obtain a grant to go to university while the other, a year younger, was unable to be trained as a doctor in one of our great medical schools.

I hope that note will be taken of this and that the Government will look seriously into this matter. It needs only minor modification to put that type of hardship right. I very much hope that that modification before long will be made.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North 11:23 pm, 23rd November 1982

I wish to speak briefly on one aspect of the regulations about which I believe there is some common ground. I refer to parental contributions. I say common ground, because even my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will have some sympathy with the points that I am about to make.

The House decided in the past that at the age of 18 people reach adult life. At the age of 18, a person can vote, he can fight for his country and, as we have recently discovered, he can even die for his country. At the age of 18, he can have been married for two years. But if at the age of 18 he decides to go to university, he is suddenly categorised as being dependent on his parents. That is absurd, archaic, unjust and most unfair.

If 10,000, 50,000 or 100,000 people were involved in this anomaly, perhaps we could sustain and put up with it, but the facts are that each year 340,000 students are assessed for parental contribution. On the basis that they have just under two parents each, and including themselves. a million of our citizens are touched by this monstrosity.

I sometimes wonder what Governments think the citizens of this country do with their free time. Not only is one involved each year in filling in tax forms for the Inland Revenue. Not only are many private individuals and small business men involved in filling up VAT returns for the dreaded Customs and Excise, but also many of our people—340,000 groups of parents—are visited each year by the star chamber of the local authority, which again goes through their personal affairs and again asks them to itemise their income, their expenses, their mortgages and every detail of their financial affairs. Not only does it ask them to do that but they have to justify and sustain everything that they have put on that piece of paper. They have to go through their filing systems and find out how their affairs have been conducted in the previous year yet again. That is the administration that we foist upon our people.

But as well as that there is the tax, the cost. We all know that on marginal income we are talking about £1 in £7, but it is not that at all. That is because most people on marginal income have already paid 39 per cent. national insurance and income tax, so it is £1 in every £4 of marginal income that is taken away from people in this parental contribution.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to intervene?

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I will be accurate, actually. I have done a calculation on this. It is £1 in £4·27, so I am slightly wrong, but it is more or less what I said. I am glad that the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) and I are in accord.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

I will not, because so many hon. Members want to speak. I am not giving way. The group of people to whom I refer are in many other respects hit by Government, and this has an effect on families. In some cases, of course, it is the only child who is at university, but many of these families have other children, so on their marginal income they are paying this massive impost when they have families to bring up. In many respects they are the least well off in society.

What is worse than the impost on parents is the effect on students. It divides our student community into two groups—those who receive the full grant, perhaps including the full parental contribution, and those who do not. There are 240,000 students each year who are deemed to be in receipt of parental contribution. The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) has said that perhaps 70 per cent. of those do not receive their parental contribution, or at any rate do not receive it in full. That gives us a figure of 175,000 students. Half the student body in higher education is not in receipt of full parental contribution.

There are those whose parents do not get on with them and who are not going to make up the money. There are those whose parents have commitments to other children, perhaps in private education. There are those who have large families and who cannot make up the money. It is divisive in families and it is divisive in universities. It is unfair and it is something that before very long the Government should do something about.

Suggestions have been put about that there should be a system of student loans. I will not comment on that except to say that if the total amount taken in parental contribution had been spread among the student population in the last year for which figures were available, which was 1980–81, that would amount to a loan being required for each student—that is, being provided for each student—of £285 a year. So the money could be raised in that way instead, and in that way we could get rid of the parental contribution. It is not just. It is unjust. It is past time that something was done about it.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will say that £165 million is involved. That £165 million breaks down at roughly £690 a student. It is called a contribution, but it is not a contribution: it is a tax.

My hon. Friend will probably say that we are talking about money which goes into the education pool and that if the parental contribution were done away with £165 million would have to be taken from education expenditure. If it were a contribution, that might be so, but if it is a tax it is part of the total income that the Chancellor has to raise each year to balance his books.

We read in the press that in the next Budget the Chancellor will be in the happy position of being able, not to give money back, but to allow people to keep more money. That will involve £2,000 million—perhaps £3,000 million. Surely a mere £165 million could be given priority when the Chancellor considers his Budget. I hope that he will consider that carefully.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West 11:30 pm, 23rd November 1982

I intervene briefly to try to put straight a statement made by the Under-Secretary in what he will admit to being not one of his best speeches. He was trying to take credit for there being no fall in the age participation rate, in spite of him telling the Select Committee that it would fall.

The Government's policy is to make it more difficult for young people to go to university, polytechnic or college. Through their bungling incompetence this year they have failed to carry out their policy. Young people's desire to go to college and fill the empty spaces which the Government had not expected to be filled has temporarily and briefly allowed the Under-Secretary to make his statement.

Photo of Mr Chris Price Mr Chris Price , Lewisham West

As my hon. Friend says, the Government are working on that. All the plans for two-year degrees and cutting expenditure on colleges, polytechnics and teacher training show how the Government will view the fightback by students to keep as decent a chance as they always have had to go to university. When the plans are fully in swing once more, the Government will make it more difficult for young people to go to university.

For the Under-Secretary to take credit for the fact that the Government's plans have gone wrong because they have not succeeded in cutting the number of students as much as they wished is an extraordinary example of casuistry. I hope that we shall hear no more of it.

I back what has been said about ordinary residence. One of my constituents has started at a polytechnic. Because the House of Lords has not yet pronounced on the meaning of ordinary residence, my constituent does not yet know whether he will get a grant. He has been in Britain most of his life and he should receive a grant. He does not know whether he will have to pay the whole student fee or the overseas student fee, which is prohibitive and would force him to leave his course in mid-stream.

The Government's irresponsibility in allowing the ordinary residence problem to continue for two years while waiting for the House of Lords to pronounce on this question has meant that thousands of students do not know their status or whether they can afford to stay at university or college. That is scandalous. The word "scandalous" is appropriate. I hope that, as a result of the debate, the Government will think about the matter again and clear it up.

Photo of Mr Michael Shersby Mr Michael Shersby , Hillingdon Uxbridge 11:34 pm, 23rd November 1982

I wish to speak on behalf of the students at Brunel university in my constituency. I listened carefully to the comments of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State about the level of the parental contribution and, while we all understand that students like everyone else, have to make a contribution towards the reduction of public expenditure, I stress that the freeze on the level of the parental contribution has caused hardship, particularly to marginal students.

It is serious that a number of parents cannot or will not make the full parental contribution. That fact is accepted too easily and has not been investigated carefully enough. I should like my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to tell us what investigations the DES has made in recent months into the reasons why so many parents are unwilling or unable to pay the full contribution.

What is the Department's policy on the uprating of the parental contribution, and does my hon. Friend see any possibility of restoring the position that existed before the freeze last year? It is a serious problem. At the bottom of the income limit a number of students are finding life difficult and some are dropping out of university. The matter concerns many hon. Members on both sides of the House and the Secretary of State and his colleagues should direct their attention to it and endeavour to put it right.

I recognise that the parental contribution limit is to increase for the next financial year. I welcome that, but many fair-minded, reasonable students, who are finding life extremely difficult, believe that the increase will not be sufficient. Of course, many groups say "I am not getting enough. The increase in the Government allowance is not enough. I want more and you can put up taxation". We are all familiar with that cry, but I hope that before my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary dismisses the matter as one of only marginal importance he will be able to tell us that the DES is carrying out investigations to learn why so many parents are unable or unwilling to make the full contribution.

I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would also tell us what steps his Department is taking to make parents more aware of the their obligation to support their student children and to make an investment in the future of our country.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West 11:38 pm, 23rd November 1982

By leave of the House, I shall reply to the debate. I have sympathy for a number of points made by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) mentioned the parental contribution, and my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) urged us to abolish it immediately. To the extent that he was bidding for resources from the Treasury for my Department, I pay tribute to him, but if the Treasury were to release £160 million to the education budget, not all of it could go towards abolishing the parental contribution.

However, we sympathise with parents who are pressed by the thresholds. I pay tribute to the powerful speech made, as usual, my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Sir W. van Straubenzee) on that issue. We have increased the parental contribution threshold quite generously—8 per cent. for the next financial year—and I hope that my hon. Friends the Members for Uxbridge and Northampton, North will recognise that as a useful step.

The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) asked me—I failed to respond in my first speech—about our proposals to change the arrangements for travel costs. Those proposals follow a recent Rayner scrutiny of the administration of student awards, which concluded that the arrangements for travel costs were extremely expensive for local authorities in terms of manpower and that the detailed checking of each claim cannot be properly carried out by local authorities. We are considering the matter. We shall discuss it with the National Union of Students and other interest groups to see whether we can find a method of saving manpower costs. We shall also try to ensure that the reality of what is happening is more closely aligned with what is possible for local authorities. However, I cannot outline any new arrangements now.

The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) said, unfairly, that Conservative Members do not understand the seriousness of the matter. That is not so. We have acknowledged openly—I do so again tonight—that we have asked for a contribution from students that is important to the overall savings on public expenditure and to the maintenance of the institutions available to those students. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) returned to that point. It may gall him to know that the participation rates have been maintained. We did not believe that it would be possible with the funds available and we pay tribute to the local authority colleges that have maintained the age and qualified participation rates so that they follow the bulge in the age profile. All hon. Members will be grateful for that and will wish to welcome it.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

There is no dispute between us on that—

Hon. Members:

"Give way".

Photo of Mr Martin O'Neill Mr Martin O'Neill , Stirlingshire East and Clackmannan

The Minister has not yet taken up the point that was hinted at by the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) that degree courses in Scotland last for four years, so that the financial hardship is prolonged by 25 per cent. What does he propose to do about that?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

The hon. Gentleman recognises that courses are longer in Scotland, with the result that expenditure by the taxpayer is that much greater—£4,000 or £5,000 of the institutional costs per student. The hon. Gentleman must remember the other side of the equation.

I know that we are debating primarily the regulations for 1982–83, but I must respond to my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham, who supported our improvements in next year's awards. His comments and warnings about a loans system carry even more weight and we must listen to them carefully. There are no proposals before the House for a loans system, but I urge the House not to be too parochial. Many countries whose political bias is acceptable to the Opposition parties have sensible loan schemes. The hon. Member for Derby, North took a sensible line on the matter in Committee. He said that it would be foolish to introduce a foolish loans scheme, but that it was possible to design a sensible loans scheme. That moderate position is entirely characteristic of the hon. Gentleman, and it would be the best view for the House to take.

We recognise that, in recent years, there has been a fall in the real value of the student award. That is the contribution that we have had to make, in this part of the budget, to the control of inflation. However, I urge hon. Members to remember that the fall is not as catastrophic as people say. I shall remind the House of the figures once again. There has been an increase in the London award index during the past 10 years from 100 to 106. That is not a catastrophic fall. In terms of the index for the ordinary away student, there has been a fall of 4 per cent. in 10 years. At a time of world recession, that is not a very bad deal for students.

I therefore urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote with the Government and to endorse the deal that we have managed to achieve for students at a time of very great difficulty for the economy in general.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 222, Noes 274.

Division No. 15][11.45 pm
Abse, LeoDewar, Donald
Adams, AllenDixon, Donald
Allaun, FrankDobson, Frank
Alton, DavidDormand, Jack
Anderson, DonaldDubs, Alfred
Archer, Rt Hon PeterDuffy, A. E. P.
Ashley, Rt Hon JackDunnett, Jack
Ashton, JoeEadie, Alex
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)Eastham, Ken
Bagier, Gordon A.T.Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)
Beith, A. J.Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
Benn, Rt Hon TonyEnglish, Michael
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N)Ennals, Rt Hon David
Bidwell, SydneyEvans, Ioan (Aberdare)
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertEvans, John (Newton)
Bradley, TomEwing, Harry
Bray, Dr JeremyFaulds, Andrew
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S)Field, Frank
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Flannery, Martin
Buchan, NormanFord, Ben
Callaghan, Rt Hon J.Foster, Derek
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)Foulkes, George
Campbell, IanFraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Campbell-Savours, DaleFreeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Canavan, DennisFreud, Clement
Cant, R. B.Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Carmichael, NeilGeorge, Bruce
Carter-Jones, LewisGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Cartwright, JohnGolding, John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Graham, Ted
Clarke,Thomas(C'b'dge, A'rie)Grant, George (Morpeth)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)Grant, John (Islington C)
Cohen, StanleyHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Cook, Robin F.Hardy, Peter
Cowans, HarryHarman, Harriet (PecKham)
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Crawshaw, RichardHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Cryer, BobHaynes, Frank
Cunliffe, LawrenceHeffer, Eric S.
Cunningham, G. (Islington S)Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Dalyell, TamHome Robertson, John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)Homewood, William
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)Hooley, Frank
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)Howells, Geraint
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Hoyle, Douglas
Huckfield, LesRees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Richardson, Jo
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Janner, Hon GrevilleRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Jay, Rt Hon DouglasRoberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
John, BrynmorRobertson, George
Johnson, James (Hull West)Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Johnston, Russell (Inverness)Rodgers, Rt Hon William
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)Rooker, J. W.
Jones, Barry (East Flint)Roper, John
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldRoss, Ernest (Dundee West)
Kilroy-Silk, RobertRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Lambie, DavidRowlands, Ted
Lamond, JamesRyman, John
Leadbitter, TedSever, John
Lestor, Miss JoanSheerman, Barry
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Litherland, RobertShore, Rt Hon Peter
Lofthouse, GeoffreyShort, Mrs Renée
Lyon, Alexander (York)Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)Skinner, Dennis
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. DicksonSmith, Cyril (Rochdale)
McCartney, HughSnape, Peter
McDonald, Dr OonaghSoley, Clive
McGuire, Michael (Ince)spearing, Nigel
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Spellar, John Francis (B'ham)
McKelvey, WilliamSpriggs, Leslie
McNamara, KevinSteel, Rt Hon David
McWilliam, JohnStoddart, David
Marks, KennethStott, Roger
Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton)Strang, Gavin
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Straw, Jack
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Martin, M(G'gow S'burn)Thomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)
Mason, Rt Hon RoyThorne, Stan (Preston South)
Maxton, JohnTilley, John
Maynard, Miss JoanTinn, James
Meacher, MichaelTorney, Tom
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Wainwright, E. (Dearne V)
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Wardell, Gareth
Moyle, Rt Hon RolandWatkins, David
Mulley, Rt Hon FrederickWeetch, Ken
Newens, StanleyWellbeloved, James
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonWelsh, Michael
Ogden, EricWhite, Frank R.
O'Neill, MartinWhite, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Owen, Rt Hon Dr DavidWhitehead, Phillip
Palmer, ArthurWigleyt, Dafydd
Park, GeorgeWilley, Rt Hon Frederick
Parker, JohnWilliams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Parry, RobertWilson, Rt Hon Sir H.(H'ton)
Pavitt, LaurieWinnick, David
Pendry, TomWoodall, Alec
Penhaligon, DavidWoolmer, Kenneth
Pitt, William HenryWrigglesworth, Ian
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)Young, David (Bolton E)
Prescott, John
Price, C. (Lewisham W)Tellers for the Ayes:
Race, RegMr. Ron Leighton and
Radice, GilesMr. George Morton.
Adley, RobertBeaumont-Dark, Anthony
Aitken, JonathanBendall, Vivian
Alexander, RichardBerry, Hon Anthony
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBest, Keith
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBevan, David Gilroy
Ancram, MichaelBiffen, Rt Hon John
Arnold, TomBiggs-Davision, Sir John
Aspinwall, JackBlackburn, John
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)Blaker, Peter
Atkins, Robert(Preston N)Body, Richard
Atkinson, David (B'm'th,E)Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone)Boscawen, Hon Robert
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)
Banks, RobertBowden, Andrew
Boyson, Dr RhodesHawkins, Sir Paul
Braine, Sir BernardHawksley, Warren
Bright, GrahamHayhoe, Barney
Brinton, TimHeddle, John
Brittan, Rt. Hon. LeonHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Brooke, Hon PeterHicks, Robert
Brotherton, MichaelHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n)Hogg, Hon Dougls (Gr'th'm)
Browne, John (Winchester)Holland, Philip (Carlton)
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnHooson, Tom
Bryan, Sir PaulHordern, peter
Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)
Buck, AntonyHowell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Budgen, NickHunt, David (Wirral)
Bulmer, EsmondHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Burden, Sir FrederickHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Butler, Hon AdamIrvine, Rt Hon Bryant Godman
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Chalker, Mrs. LyndaJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Chapman, SydneyJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Churchill, W. S.Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)King, Rt Hon Tom
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Kitson, Sir Timothy
Clegg, Sir WalterKnight, Mrs Jill
Colvin, MichaelKnox, David
Cope, JohnLatham, Michael
Corrie, JohnLawrence, Ivan
Costain, Sir AlbertLawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Critchley, JulianLee, John
Crouch, DavidLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Dickens, GeoffreyLester, Jim (Beeston)
Dorrell, StephenLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Dover, DenshoreLloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Loveridge, John
Durant, TonyLuce, Richard
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLyell, Nicholas
Eggar, TimMcCrindle, Robert
Eyre, ReginaldMacfarlane, Neil
Fairbairn, NicholasMacKay, John (Argyll)
Fairgrieve, Sir RussellMacmillan, Rt Hon M.
Faith, Mrs SheilaMcNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Farr, JohnMcNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Fell, Sir AnthonyMcQuarrie, Albert
Fenner, Mrs PeggyMadel, David
Finsberg, GeoffreyMajor, John
Fisher, Sir NigelMarlow, Antony
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir CharlesMarten, Rt Hon Neil
Fookes, Miss JanetMates, Michael
Forman, NigelMather, Carol
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMawby, Ray
Fox, MarcusMawhinney, Dr Brian
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir HughMayhew, Patrick
Fry, PeterMellor, David
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Meyer, Sir Anthony
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Glyn, Dr AlanMills, Iain (Meriden)
Goodhew, Sir VictorMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Goodlad, AlastairMiscampbell, Norman
Gorst, JohnMoate, Roger
Gow, IanMontgomery, Fergus
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)Moore, John
Gray, HamishMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Greenway, HarryMorrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Grieve, PercyMudd, David
Griffiths, E.(B'y St. Edm'ds)Murphy, Christopher
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)Myles, David
Grist, IanNeale, Gerrard
Grylls, MichaelNeedham, Richard
Gummer, John SelwynNelson, Anthony
Hamilton, Hon A.Neubert, Michael
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Newton, Tony
Hampson, Dr KeithNormanton, Tom
Hannam, JohnOnslow, Cranley
Haselhurst, AlanOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Hastings, StephenOsborn, John
Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelPage, Richard (SW Herts)
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Parris, MatthewSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Patten, Christopher (Bath)Sproat, Iain
Patten, John (Oxford)Squire, Robin
Pattie, GeoffreyStainton, Keith
Pawsey, JamesStanbrook, Ivor
Percival, Sir IanStanley, John
Peyton, Rt Hon JohnSteen, Anthony
Pink, R. BonnerStevens, Martin
Porter, BarryStewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Proctor, K. HarveyStradling Thomas, J.
Pym, Rt Hon FrancisTapsell, Peter
Rathbone, TimTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Rees-Davies, W. R.Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Renton, TimTemple-Morris, Peter
Rhodes James, RobertThompson, Donald
Ridley, Hon NicholasThorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Ridsdale, Sir JulianThornton, Malcolm
Rifkind, MalcolmTownend, John (Bridlington)
Rippon, Rt Hon GeoffreyTownsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)Trippier, David
Roberts, Wyn (Conway)van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Rossi, HughVaughan, Dr Gerard
Rost, PeterViggers, Peter
Royle, Sir AnthonyWaddington, David
Rumbold, Mrs A. C. RWaldegrave, Hon William
Sainsbury, Hon TimothyWalker, B. (Perth)
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.Waller, Gary
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)Walters, Dennis
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Ward, John
Shelton, William (Streatham)Watson, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Wells, Bowen
Shepherd, RichardWells, John (Maidstone)
Shersby, MichaelWheeler, John
Silvester, FredWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Sims, RogerWhitney, Raymond
Skeet, T. H. H.Wiggin, Jerry
Smith, DudleyWilkinson, John
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Speller, TonyWinterton, Nicholas
Spence, JohnWolfson, Mark
Young, Sir George (Acton)Tellers for the Noes:
Younger, Rt Hon GeorgeMr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Mr. Ian Lang.

Question accordingly negatived.