With permission, I shall make a statement about the consequences in Scotland of the decision announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science yesterday on students' awards. As my right hon. Friend said, the minimum grant will be discontinued and the contribution to students' maintenance from better-off parents will be increased in 1985–86. This will not, however, extend to tuition fees, as originally proposed.
The changes now proposed will involve additional expenditure on students' awards in Scotland of about £5 million in 1985–86. Just over £2 million of this additional expenditure will be met by an addition to the Scottish block following from the changes by my right hon. Friend in his Department's budget and the operation of the formula adjustment to the Scottish block. The remainder will be found from within the block.
Once final decisions have been taken, I shall announce the full details of my public expenditure programmes for 1985–86 to the House. I expect to do this in the course of the next week. Subject to further scrutiny of priorities within my overall programme, it still remains my intention that additional resources will be made available to the Scottish central institutions to increase the output of engineering and technology graduates. Meantime, I am not in a position to give firm figures.
As regards the proposed review of the students' awards system, I can assure the House that it will take full account of the Scottish higher education system, and that my Department will be closely involved.
We are pleased that a statement has been made today. The Secretary of State is the Minister responsible for funding student grants in Scotland and it is essential that he is accountable to the House for his decisions. The Secretary of State for Education and Science cannot answer for Scotland, and did not pretend yesterday that he could. This is an unsatisfactory and undignified situation, and it is fortunate that the statement has been made, as it does something to remedy the damage.
On the substance of the matter, what was the Scottish component of the £39 million that was to be clawed off student grants by the original package? Although the retreat sounded yesterday on tuition fees may mean that the Government have to forgo £5 million of the planned cuts, will the right hon. Gentleman accept that the inadequate and mean-minded 3 per cent. uprating, well below the inflation rate, the harsher parental payments demanded and the abolition of the minimum grant leaves the package as a severe blow to Scottish students and their living standards?
We understand that, of the £5 million involved in this messy compromise, almost £3 million will be recouped from the Scottish Office budget, but we also understand that it will not necessarily be from the Scottish Education Department. The Secretary of State for Education and Science is finding £11 million next year, at the expense of the university programme. Some £6 million is to come from the equipment grant in 1985–86. Will the Secretary of State for Scotland give a firm guarantee that none of this will be found at the expense of the Scottish universities, and that the other £5 million of the £11 million total sum that makes up the English package will not come from Scotland either? If it did, there would be a real danger of double jeopardy; the Scots would be paying twice.
We are very worried that Scotland has come badly out of the mathematics of this compromise. England is finding £11 million out of the total of £21 million in cuts, with the Treasury making up the balance. In Scotland, the right hon. Gentleman has to find from his budget almost £3 million out of a total of £5 million. That is a clear and obvious discrepancy, and we should like an explanation of how it has risen and why.
I come now to the decision-making process that lies behind the budget compromise. If the right hon. Gentleman was a party to the original decision on the cuts, and the subsequent disorderly and disorganised retreat, his judgment has been discredited, and he has been humiliated just as certainly as his colleagues south of the border. If he was not a party to the decision, but meekly accepted for Scottish students damaging decisions taken elsewhere, his humiliation is even more complete and contemptible.
It is widely reported that the decision taken yesterday was the result of a meeting between the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The dramatis personae at this panic-stricken gathering included the acting Chief Whip, Viscount Whitelaw and even a junior Minister from the Department of Education and Science. It was the crunch meeting, which decided on the desperate attempt to save face and placate outraged public opinion, and which resulted in yesterday's statement. Can the right hon. Gentleman categorically reassure the House that he was at that meeting? If he was not, who spoke for Scotland?
I am grateful for the initial welcome to the statement. It is always a problem when any decision is taken that affects several parts of the United Kingdom whether, for the convenience of the House, one, two, three or sometimes four statements should be made. I accept that, but I am glad that we have had a statement today. The savings expected from the original package were between £8 million and £9 million in Scotland, and we expect them now to be more like £3 million to £4 million. The university programme will be treated exactly the same north and south of the border and it is my right hon. Friend's decision as to how much he gives to the University Grants Committee to do what it is asked to do. It is for the UGC to decide, as it does with every other part of university expenditure, what is to be the spread between various universities. Until we see what that spread is, we do not know whether there will be more or less in Scotland.
As to the comparisons, they are absolutely on all fours between the two countries, because Scotland is treated under the same formula and gets exactly the same treatment on this part of the programme as it does with any other. There is no difference.
As to the discrepancy between the amounts available to Scotland and the amounts in the United Kingdom, hon. Gentlemen are puzzled when they first see this, because the university system, the number of years of the course and so on are quite different north and south of the border. There is therefore a larger component for Scotland because there are four-year courses instead of three-year courses. That is logical and simple.
I note the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the meeting to which he referred. This was a collective decision, taken in a series of consultations, with which I was fully involved.
I thank my right hon. Friend warmly for his statement. Is he aware that many parents will be grateful for the new decision to which he has come? Will he give the most detailed consideration, particularly in Scotland, to the problems of the four-year course?
Mr. Bruce Milian:
As the £21 million that was originally announced yesterday was specifically stated to be in respect of only England and Wales, why does part of the cost come from the budget of Scottish universities?
The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the figure for England and Wales is applied, as per the formula, to the Scottish block. Therefore, that has the appropriate Scottish effect. As to the general amounts given to the UGC, it is and always has been for it to decide which university it can benefit.
Has my right hon. Friend observed that, although his statement, like that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science yesterday, has been sourly received by Liberal and Labour Members, it has been warmly welcomed by my hon. Friends? Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, even on the original proposals, parents with a residual income of £13,000 will be paying less next year than this year, and that will continue to be so after the statement? Can my right hon. Friend also say what is the level of actual income which gives rise to a residual income of that type?
Finally, will my right hon. Friend make it easier for parents to be aware of the opportunities for reducing the cost of their parental contributions through the use of covenants?
I am grateful for what my hon. Friend said about the announcement yesterday. The effect on any individual parent or student very much depends on income, the number of children in the family, and so on. For most Scottish families with one child living away from home, the largest increase is unlikely to exceed £270.
My hon. Friend asks about contributions and grants generally. I agree with him that the longer Scottish courses are a relevant factor.
As for the level of residual income, broadly speaking students whose parents' residual income is below £13,000 will be either neutrally affected or slightly better off in some cases. Those above that will be worse off. Fewer than half the total number of Scottish students will be affected at all by these changes.
I thank the Secretary of State for belatedly making the statement that in all decency he should have made yesterday. Does he accept that, of the four concessions which the National Union of Students and other students sought, the one that was chosen is more beneficial to the very high income families than to the lower and middle income families, who will be very badly affected? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept, likewise, that Opposition Members are not blinded by his casuistical explanation of why the Scottish universities should be penalised twice over—once by being part of the Department of Education and Science budget and again by the changes that the right hon. Gentleman will be making in the rest of the education system?
Dealing first with the hon. Gentleman's second question, he will appreciate that there are two separate components in this type of expenditure. There is that which is made in the Scottish block and in England and Wales in ordinary English Department of Education and Science programmes. Then there is that which, both north and south of the border, applies to universities. They are separate programmes. The university responsibility is with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, and the money given to the universities is always given to and distributed by the University Grants Committee. Therefore there is complete fairness between England and Scotland both in the way that the non-university programmes are spread according to the formula and in the way that the university programmes are spread in the way that they always are spread.
As for the hon. Gentleman's other question, I was glad to be able to make a statement today, but he will appreciate that it is difficult to have several statements on one subject on the same day.
Will my right hon. Friend take the fullest part in the review announced yesterday by the Secretary of State for Education and Science, and in doing so will my right hon. Friend remind the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that one of the grandest principles of education in Scotland is that those who did not benefit themselves from higher education enable their children to do so? They are not well off, as the Secretary of State for Education and Science describes them. They may be ordinary people, the mother a nurse and the father an electrician. They are making it possible for their children to do what they were unable themselves to do. If funds are to be found, they can be found easily by abolishing the absurdity, with respect to the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), of the huge course for doctors of philosophy, which provides nothing to human education.
I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. I can assure him that I shall be fully involved in the review of the student grants system which is about to take place.
As for the assertion that some of the parents affected are well off, I appreciate my hon. and learned Friend's remark. It is a matter of judgment what is the precise level at which an income becomes that of someone who is well off. However, ny hon. and learned Friend may appreciate that this change takes out the principle, which many people both inside and outside the House found objectionable, of bringing in fees to the parental contribution. That will benefit people whether they are classed as having high incomes or otherwise.
I never expected to be named in these exchanges. I am far too modest to recommend any hon. Member to read my thesis. I think that it is a first-class piece of work, but that is to be expected.
Moving to more important matters than my thesis or the absurd comment of the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn), may I ask the Secretary of State whether the position of students in Scotland and of the university sector itself would not be strengthened by a Scottish UGC or at the very least a Scottish subcommittee of the UGC?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be great relief among Scottish families that the proposals for the introduction of tuition fees have been withdrawn?
Is not it clear from the way that the proposals of the Secretary of State for Scotland were in every respect—parental contribution, the level of increase in grant, the abolition of the minimum grant and the possibility of fees—a pale carbon copy of the English proposals that the right hon. Gentleman is no longer protecting the special interests of Scotland in respect of student awards? Is it not also clear that, far from moving towards greater devolution under this Government, we are moving towards greater centralisation and copying what happens in England?
Is it not about time that the right hon. Gentleman acted as Secretary of State for Scotland in the way that my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Milian) and my noble Friend Lord Ross of Marnock used to, and protect the interests of Scotland?
The hon. Gentleman alleges that my announcement is a carbon copy of the statement yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. If it is a carbon copy, it is a good, strong one and not a pale one.
As for Scotland's interests, the only inference that I can draw from the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is that he thinks that it would be in the interests of Scottish parents to be paying parental contributions to fees when English parents are not doing so. If that is his position, I disagree totally. I have stood up for Scottish parents' interests in this matter.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, far from being to Scotland's disadvantage, these proposals bestow a special privilege, in that, with four-year courses, the lower contribution from parents and the fact that they do not have to contribute to tuition fees, they are getting more than English parents and English students south of the border in support from the State?
Will my right hon. Friend use the opportunity provided by the review of higher education spending, which is very much welcomed, to argue the case put forward by the principal of Stirling university, that funding of the universities should be based on the number of students that they are able to attract? That would guarantee the success of institutions such as Stirling which are able to attract students.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. To the extent that this is a help to the parents of students at universities, it is 33⅓ per cent. more help for Scottish students doing four-year courses than for English students doing three-year courses.
I take my hon. Friend's second comment. I, too, saw the interesting ideas that the principal of Stirling university expressed, and they will be studied carefully.
What advice would the Secretary of State give to scientists working in Scotland? Would he suggest that they write long and articulate questions requiring answers to Conservative Members? Would that have some effect? Is he aware that the cut is appalling? What is the assessment of the Scottish Office of the number of alpha projects that will now be rejected? Those of us who met the vice-chancellors a fortnight ago were appalled by what Dr. Burnett and his colleagues had to tell us. Sir David Phillips, a serious science administrator, hinted in semi-public that Stirling might be one of the universities that could, in some circumstances, be axed. We do have a denial of this, do we not?
I have certainly heard no suggestion of that which formed the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question. I feel sure that if there had been any such suggestion, we would have heard something about it. I know of the hon. Gentleman's close interest in science. I maintain a close interest as well, along with the principals of the Scottish universities, although technically they are under the Department of Education and Science. I shall be meeting them soon and I shall be discussing these matters with them.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that, far from being a humiliation, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), his statement is another welcome example of his ability to listen to Conservative Back-Bench opinion? His reassertion of the principle that university education will be free to all students and that tuition fees will not be charged is especially welcome. Will he further confirm that that is a principle to which he will give utmost force in the review?
I agree with my hon. Friend that this is very much of advantage to parents in Scotland and is something that they will notice. I paraphrase my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and attribute the language of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) to his natural virility.
First, I welcome the statement on behalf of my colleagues. I remind the Secretary of State that it should have come yesterday. It is being made today only because of protests from the Opposition Benches—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is Steel?"] He is leading my party! It would be more appropriate if the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education and Science were on the Government Front Bench as well. The Secretary of State for Scotland has failed to convince me or my colleagues that he is able to protect Scotland's interests.
The right hon. Gentleman said in his statement—he has repeated the assertion several times since—that he recognises the difference between Scottish four-year courses and English three-year courses. If that is so, why did he accept the ruling of the Secretary of State for Education and Science in the first place? He said in the past that he could make a different arrangement for travel grants for students in Scotland. Does he recognise that he should adopt a completely different system of grants to take account of Scottish circumstances? Will he repudiate any commitment to student loans and maintain the grant system?
We shall all be somewhat interested and relieved to hear that the right hon. Member for Tweedale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) is leading the hon. Gentleman's party. As I have said, the making of statements is very much a matter for the House, in the last resort. The making of several statements on the same day on the one subject has always been a problem. The House will have to decide what attitude it wants to take on that. The original decision was taken by the Government and the change which was announced yesterday was similarly a Government decision in which I was fully involved.
The right hon. Gentleman has agreed that many parents will heave a sigh of relief as a consequence of the statement. However, against their relief must be set the great anxiety among those who are associated with scientific research in Scotland. They are concerned about their future because of funding implications. We already know that neither the Secretary of State for Scotland nor the Secretary of State for Education and Science will resign, but could they not at least have the decency now to apologise to the students who came to Parliament to exercise their democratic rights to try to influence the Government to change their mind?
It is only to be welcomed that students and many others come here to exercise their democratic rights, and long may they continue to do so. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern about research budgets. However, it is too early to have concern. As I have said, I attach high priority to increasing the resources that we put into such research.
Can we have a guarantee from the Secretary of State that the cuts that will be implemented will not again hit housing, social work or any of the other parts of his budget? Secondly, will he prove his independence by giving a guarantee that he will not countenance the introduction of a loans system for students in Scotland? Lastly, is he aware that the Secretary of State for Education and Science said on Tuesday afternoon that he had no intention of changing his mind on student grants and that the right hon. Gentleman has said this afternoon that he was part of a series of consultations? How many meetings took place between half-past three on Tuesday afternoon and half-past three on Wednesday afternoon, how many of those meetings did he or the Minister with responsibilities for education attend, and what part did they play in them?
I do not know about the hon. Gentleman's list of meetings. The important thing is that consultations took place on all these matters throughout the time that decisions were being taken, and all the Departments involved were closely concerned with them. My hon Friends and I are considering from where in the Scottish block we shall find the money to make up for the changes that have been announced. We shall work that out over the block as a whole. As I promised in my statement, I hope that a second statement will be made next week to set out the results of all the discussions. I do not think that it would be right for me at this stage to pre-empt a decision either for or against the loan system. It is right that that issue should be part of the review that will be conducted into the supporting of students.
Is it not the case that the Department of Education and Science for England and Wales has to find only 50 per cent. of the required savings from its budget while the Secretary of State for Scotland will have to find 60 per cent. from his? Will the right hon. Gentleman give a categorical assurance that, while he has greater flexibility within his budget to look for savings, they will not come out of the budgets of social work, housing or health? It would be the grossest of impertinence if he were to make ordinary people, who are suffering because of hard-pressed services, pay for the Government's priority in looking after the richest people who are concerned with these cuts?
The savings will not come out of any of the budgets that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned or any particular budget, because none of the decisions has yet been taken. The savings will come out of the Scottish block as a whole, and I shall decide how that can best be done. Student loans are difficult to compare north and south of the border. That is because the university and education systems generally are wholly different. However, the relationship between the English and Welsh arithmetic and the Scottish arithmetic is straightforwardly governed by the operation of the formula which is used for all these matters without variation. Incidentally, this is a welcome development for anyone running the Scottish block. My predecessors realise that and it will be realised by anyone coming after me.
Why must the Secretary of State always act like a simple stooge of the Secretary of State for Education and Science? First, he copied his right hon. Friend's original statement and now he is virtually copying the silly and amended statement which the right hon. Gentleman made yesterday, which will benefit only a minority of better-off parents. Will he do the decent thing and introduce a students' grant increase of at least 14 per cent. to restore the grant to what it was in 1979 when the Labour Government were in power? In the longer term, will he phase out parental contributions completely so that all students who can benefit from higher education will have the opportunity of doing so?
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think that he might think a little more deeply about the subject. I take his point about the reduction in the real level of grants and I am fully in support of all the decisions that the Government have taken on that. The hon. Gentleman might feel on reflection that he was rather unfair about the Scottish dimension. It is clearly desirable that parents north and south of the border should not be discriminated against, one way or the other. Some uniformity is very much to our advantage as well as to that of those south of the border. When there was a clear difference between students' travel arrangements north and south of the border, I made an entirely different arrangement from that made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, and it was widely welcomed by students in Scotland.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Scottish parents with children at university and others who hope that their children will attend university later understand that nothing in life is free and that education is paid for by the taxpayer when no charge is made upon the parents? They understand that. Therefore, the decision reported today will be appreciated by parents of the kind referred to earlier by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn).
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is right. It is worth reminding ourselves often that nothing is completely free. The system is designed to try to concentrate help on those who need it most. I accept that introducing parental contributions to fees for the first time in recent years was felt by parents to be unfair. That is why the decision was changed.
Can the Secretary of State give some clear indication of the proportion of the adjustment in terms of the University Grants Committee and that part of the budget that comes within his responsibility? Will he take into account the crisis in education in Scotland? Does he agree that, instead of curtailing university and higher education, we should be expanding?
Is it not farcical that people who are graduating today from Scottish universities with first or second-class honours would not now be admitted to university because of Government constraints? Will the Secretary of State totally oppose any loans scheme, which would be anathema to everyone in Scotland?
I take the hon. Gentleman's point about a loans scheme. He will make his views known in the next few months when the system is reviewed. I have explained the proportions between south of the border and north of the border. Universities are and always have been dealt with through the University Grants Committee. That is the way it should be. In Scotland the arrangements are made under the formula.
The hon. Gentleman claims that funds are being reduced. I remind him that we have increased funds, which are much needed, to our central institutions for technical education. I should have thought that he would have welcomed that.
Why is the Secretary of State so blindly following the recommendations of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is responsible for education in England? Last year the Secretary of State for Scotland gained credit among students and hon. Members from both sides of the House when he did not follow the recommendation by the Secretary of State for Education and Science to abolish travelling expenses. He continued to grant travel expenses to students in Scotland.
Why does the right hon. Gentleman not accept today that traditions in Scotland are different? Will he examine again in the promised review the possibility of reducing parental contributions and of maintaining the minimum grant?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said about my decision on students' travel. It was welcomed, and it was my decision. If I had thought on this occasion that it was in the interests of Scottish parents to make them pay a contribution to fees, I should have suggested it. I do not think that that would be in the interests of Scottish parents, so I did not suggest it.
Is the Secretary of State aware that he has given much less information to the House about his Department than his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science gave yesterday? If the money is to come from the general block, exactly where will it come from? Will it come from local government, health or housing expenditure? If the money is so vital—I cannot see that it is—why does not the Secretary of State suggest that it comes from the contingency fund, since the Prime Minister had no difficulty in using that during the mining dispute?
A large part of this money comes by means of the formula from the Treasury. I have discretion—a discretion which my right hon. Friend does not have—to take it out of the share of the general Scottish block grant. As none of the decisions has yet been taken for the spending of individual parts of that block, what we are discussing today can be taken into account before those decisions are made.
The Secretary of State said that, in his review of student spending, account will be taken of the differences in the Scottish education system. Can he guarantee that if at the end of that review it appears that a system suitable for England and Wales is not suitable for Scotland, he will be free to go his own way and to make separate decisions for Scotland? If he wants to take instructions from the English Minister beside him, we shall understand.
That is not how anything works. If it were in the interests of Scottish students and of the Scottish university system for different decisions to be made, of course I would put them forward.
Is the Secretary of State aware that his repeated assertion today that he did not make a statement yesterday because it is difficult to make a number of statements in one day is completely false? Will he confirm that yesterday he made it clear that he had no intention of making any statement on the issue and that the protests registered yesterday by hon. Members on all the Opposition Benches are the reason for today's statement? The Secretary of State was dragged reluctantly to the Dispatch Box.
Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware of the widespread suspicion, shared by some of his hon. Friends, that Scotland is the subject of double jeopardy? When he comes to the House next week with what we hope will be a more definitive statement, will he deal more specifically with the reason why Scotland should pay twice? Is the Secretary of State intending to sit back and allow science and research budgets to be cut in this way?
My right hon. and hon. Friends place on record our utter disgust and lack of confidence because neither the Secretary of State nor the Minister responsible for education in Scotland attended any of the meetings which resulted in these decisions.
The hon. Gentleman knows nothing about it and his last point is rubbish anyway. I am glad to be making a statement today, particularly because I was requested to by the hon. Gentleman and others. I fully understand the position, although I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman does. This is the normal way of doing things. The relationship between financial effects north of the border and south of the border is clear and is operated under the formula. The system has been welcomed by many people for a long time. As for the so-called cut in extra technical education, we are proposing an increase for central institutions for that precise purpose. The hon. Gentleman should welcome that.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for delaying the House again, but in answer to the question by the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), the Secretary of State said that statements in the House were a matter for yourself and the House. [Interruption.] Well, he said that statements were a matter for the House, which makes them therefore a matter for you. He said that he could not make a statement yesterday because that was a matter for the House. Will you clarify the position, Mr. Speaker? The House needs to know whether it is a matter for us, for you or for Ministers to decide.