As my right hon. Friend announced last November, the parental contribution scale will be adjusted upwards by 8 per cent. for 1983–84. Abolition of the parental contribution to the student grant would cost some £180 million. There is no immediate prospect of the necessary resources becoming available.
Is it not beyond time that we replaced this unjust tax on families with a much fairer system of financial support, particularly as under the present system the children of rich and poor parents get full subvention at university, whereas those whose parents come somewhere in between are the poor relations?
I am aware that many people believe it to be illogical and unfair that young people who have reached the age of maturity should continue to be treated as dependent on their parents. However, for many years the basis of the awards system has, generally speaking, been that the cost of a student's higher education should be shared between the grant-aiding body, the student and the student's parents, according to their ability to pay. As I have said, the abolition of the contribution would cost £180 million.
My first advice would be to get in touch with the National Union of Students—[Hon. MEMBERS: "Oh".]—which is carrying out a survey on this very subject. However, as an encouragement to the whole House, I can say that today there are 50,000 more full-time students in higher education than there were in 1979.