Student Awards

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th December 1984.

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Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel Leader of the Liberal Party 12:00 am, 5th December 1984

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how much money he expects to save by the cut in the level of student grant; and how many Scottish students will be affected.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will be making a further statement today.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel Leader of the Liberal Party

Does the Secretary of State not recognise that there has been a public outcry about recent announcements because they have come on top of a steady erosion in the value of student grants since the Government took office? Does he appreciate that a 14 per cent. increase will be necessary this year to restore the grant to its level at the time when the right hon. Gentleman took office? If there is further damage to the parental contribution, will that not militate against recruitment in the Scottish universities, because of the four-year honours degree compared with the three-year standard in England?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's latter point. However, as he has noticed, in the past year I have made alterations to the Scottish system of student grants to recognise the fact that the travel pattern of Scottish students is different from that south of the border. That was widely welcomed.

Photo of Mr Gerald Malone Mr Gerald Malone , Aberdeen South

Will my hon. Friend also bear in mind that Scotland is additionally affected because first-year intake is often at the age of 17 and covenanting schemes are not available, thereby putting us in a very different position from our English equivalents?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I appreciate his point, but he will no doubt take that question up with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke , Monklands West

Does the Secretary of State accept that these problems are taken as seriously by Scottish students and their parents as they are by English Conservative Members of Parliament? How does he relate education to industry, and are not Government policies giving students a signal that for most of them jobs will simply not be available?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I do not think that this issue, important though it is, is directly related to industry or to jobs for students. This is a question of how to finance university education. As I have said, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will be making a statement later today.

Photo of Mr Gordon Wilson Mr Gordon Wilson , Dundee East

I look forward to the recantation from the Secretary of State for Education and Science, but will the Secretary of State explain why he made a statement on grant cuts several days after the statement made by his right hon. Friend, and why on major aspects of grants he appears to be a copycat Minister and rarely to give the lead?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

On the contrary, I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman, who is supposed to be a specialist in Scottish affairs, would know that public expenditure calculations for Scotland take place at different times from those for England because we must work in line with the formula on which our block grant is worked out. The system is highly favourable to us, and I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would know about it.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the fact that the majority of Scottish students at universities take a four-year degree course will be fully borne in mind and taken into account?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

Yes, I can confirm that.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Falkirk East

Is it not a spineless approach for the Secretary of State to hide behind the Secretary of State for Education and Science? As the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) said, the Secretary of state issued a statement after he caught the night sleeper north, which meant that he was not subject to questions in the House. Why does he not tell his Scottish colleagues what arrangements he has made, and answer the question of the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel)? What arrangements has the Secretary of State made to tell us what will happen to student grants in Scotland after the Secretary of State for Education and Science has made his statement this afternoon?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

The hon. Gentleman has been reading too many whodunnits. It would generally be for the convenience of the House if one of the Ministers involved made a clear statement about what the position will be. When my right hon. Friend makes his statement, he will make it on behalf of all Education Ministers.