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I beg to move,
That this House insists on its amendment in page 14, to leave out lines 31 to 49, to which the Lords have disagreed and disagrees to the amendment proposed by the Lords in lieu of that amendment.
With this, it will be convenient to discuss motion No. 2:-
That this House insists on its amendment in page 22, to leave out lines 31 to 39, to which the Lords have disagreed.
I inform the House that the Lords disagreement to the two Commons amendments and the Lords amendment in lieu involve privilege.
The motions invite the House to insist on two amendments that it made earlier, thereby deleting two amendments carried in another place.
I return to this subject with enthusiasm. I am delighted again to have the opportunity to state the purposes of the funding changes for higher education, which are simply to widen access to it and get more money into it. As I have acknowledged at the Dispatch Box before, the Tories were good at getting the numbers in. No one criticises them for that, although they might be criticised for their motives or the haphazard way it was done. They substantially increased the numbers in higher education, but they did not put the money in to follow the students and thereby maintain the standards of higher education and research on which this country depends for its economic future. That is the inheritance which the Government are addressing. We are determined not to be distracted from it.
We invite the House to reverse the Lords amendments, because we are not going to accept changes to the legislation, under any guise or subterfuge, that will eat away at the considerable sums of money that will be available to higher education as a result of the Bill and the Government's courage in facing up to the funding shortfall in higher education.
Whatever the reservations of principals, or anyone else, on the issues that we are discussing, they, too, recognise the need for the reforms to get additional money into their universities. Faced with the chaos that the Opposition parties seek to visit on the legislation or the certainty of additional funding as a result of the Bill, there is not the slightest doubt that anyone in the academic community would accept that the Bill is good for higher education. Any dilution of the funds available to it as a result of the Lords amendments would be bad news for them, for their institutions and, most important, for the next generation of students in higher education.
On consideration of the amendments, the Lords insisted on their original amendments returning to this House. The proposed alternative to the original amendment No. 64 is in a slightly different form, but that does not make it any more acceptable. I repeat what my hon. Friends and I have said many times before. We oppose such amendments not only because of the financial arguments that I have adduced but because they aim to prevent the Government from making provision for financial assistance with fees that takes into account the indisputable diversity of the education systems in different parts of the United Kingdom.
As an honorary graduate in science of Edinburgh university, my hon. Friend will understand the dangers of the words "absolute" and "certainty". Within those parameters, it is self-evident that we would not have promoted the legislation if the legal advice was not firmly in favour of it in all its aspects.
The central charge of our critics in this matter is that the Bill creates an inequity in the United Kingdom. I want at the outset to say that the precise opposite is the truth. By following to the letter the recommendations of the Dearing and Garrick committees—I remind the Conservatives that they established them—we have created equality of opportunity for every student to study for an honours degree while contributing no more than £3,000 in tuition fees, if they are liable at all for them. That is the equity that Dearing and Garrick asked for and what we have delivered.
Does the Minister accept that the Dearing report said that maintenance grants could stay? If Ministers are to claim the Dearing report in aid why do they not implement it?
If we implemented Dearing, every student would pay £1,000 a year in tuition fees. [Interruption.] Barracking will not win this argument, I assure hon. Members. We accepted the principle, as I believe everyone does, that in order to have a well-funded higher education system, it was necessary that those who benefited from it directly made some contribution to it. We decided that it was right to exempt those from households on below average incomes from tuition fees. We did that to protect those from less well-off backgrounds in accordance with our central aim of widening access to higher education.
As the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) is well aware, this debate is not a reopening of the debate on funding. It is specifically on the Lords amendments. The unpalatable truth which I have offered him is that the Dearing and Garrick committees set up by the previous Administration made a specific recommendation. We looked at the issue of fairness and we have come up with exactly what Dearing and Garrick came up with. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the Division lists from the Lords debate last week, it may interest him to see where the name of Lord Dearing is positioned. Lord Dearing understands the arguments with which we are dealing tonight and is not interested in the political argy-bargy. The specific point about fairness is addressed in the amendments.
In a little while.
The Dearing committee recommended that we address fully what some people rather improbably describe as the Scottish anomaly, but I describe as the distinctive character of the Scottish education system, which we shall defend. It is not, need never be and should never be identical to the English one. It is based on different school qualifications. It is a different higher education system, and that is exactly what we intend to maintain.
The point of fairness with which the House should be concerned tonight is simple. The normal Scottish route to an honours degree at a Scottish university is a four-year course. It is a broadly based higher education system which fits a broadly based school system. The qualifications and the time scale for achieving them flow from the school system. The Dearing-Garrick recommendation has been met in full. Scottish students should not pay more for their normal route to an honours degree than students in other parts of the United Kingdom. That is the central point of fairness, and it has been addressed.
I heard the Minister say that he was following the Dearing report to the letter. Had he done so, he would have maintained student grants. Just in case Hansard magically gets altered, can the Minister explain that? Or is he cherry-picking? He rightly praises the Scottish four-year degree, but in this House he called it a bogus tradition. He seems to be all over the place on this. Why does he not restore fairness by abolishing the anomaly and getting rid of the discretion against English students? If he followed Dearing to the letter, he would not have abolished grants.
The hon. Gentleman should not talk about cherry-picking, unless he is following Dearing to the letter, in which case he will advocate that every student, irrespective of family income, should pay £1,000 a year in tuition fees. If that is the new policy of the Scottish National party, he is welcome to tell us, but if he is not telling us that, why is he talking about cherry-picking? The hon. Gentleman is revisiting the general point.
I have said clearly that we did not accept the idea of £1,000 per student per year, irrespective of income. We think that that would be inequitable. The hon. Gentleman may disagree with us, but we want to widen access and ensure that people from less well-off backgrounds do not pay tuition fees. As I pointed out to the hon. Member for Havant, the specific point is the Lords amendment and the question of fourth-year tuition fees. On that point, we are following Dearing and Garrick to the letter.
I will not give way.
Dearing and Garrick said nothing about the same concession for students from other parts of the United Kingdom who opt for the longer Scottish honours courses, with which their qualifications do not easily interface. Such students have always chosen to accept higher costs by choosing, as is their perfect right, the longer Scottish honours degree courses. They accept the additional maintenance costs that are obviously entailed in a four-year, as opposed to a three-year, course. They also choose to forgo a year of earnings. They are welcome to make that choice. They are an extremely valuable part of the Scottish higher education system, but they make their choice in the full knowledge that they are going into a longer course which entails higher cost.
Does the Minister accept that, over the years, English students in many parts of the country have made a choice to opt for a more expensive form of study by going to London, and that the state has properly recognised the additional cost and helped them to study in London? That is different from the example that he is setting forward, in which the state penalises students who choose a more expensive form of study.
If the hon. Gentleman is referring to maintenance costs for students in London, I think that is an interesting issue, but not the one that we are discussing tonight. [Laughter.] With respect, we are not discussing a principle. We are not having an academic debate. We are discussing specific Lords amendments that deal with the one issue of the four-year degree in Scotland and—I shall come to this in a moment—the rest of the United Kingdom.
I will not give way. Perhaps if things are dull later, we can have some fun, but for the moment I will not give way.
If people went for a four-year honours degree course, they were of course going to be involved in greater costs than if they studied in other parts of the United Kingdom and did a three-year course. It is simply not credible—this is where the dishonesty lies in the argument—that the levying of fourth-year tuition fees on a means-tested basis will be a decisive factor in determining whether students go to a Scottish university.
Do the figures on take-up which we have so far show any evidence that English and Welsh students have been disproportionately put off applying to Scottish universities? What are the proportionate changes for Scottish, England and Welsh student applications and for applications from the European Union?
I can give my hon. Friend all the figures, but she makes the point in her question. There is not a shred of statistical evidence to suggest that the effect that has been predicted or wished for by Opposition Members is happening. To take one statistic, there are 33,000 applications from the rest of the United Kingdom to Scottish universities, compared to 27,000 from within Scotland. There is a proportionate increase in applications to Scottish universities from England and a numerical and proportionate increase in applications from Wales. Where is the evidence in any of that of the effect that hon. Members suggest?
Perhaps I can be of assistance to my hon. Friend by giving him statistics that come straight from the Universities and Colleges Admission Service. Applications to Scottish universities are down 4.5 per cent. from last year. Applications to Scottish universities from England are down 4.1 per cent. and those from Northern Ireland are down 5.5 per cent.
Characteristically, my hon. Friend quotes helpful figures. They show that the very modest increase from England is substantially less than the cross-border flow. We have said that there is a proportionate increase in applications from Scotland of people wishing to go to England, and a numerical increase in applications from Wales. There is a decrease in the number of people going from Scotland to English universities. If the logic of the Opposition's argument has anything to commend it, they will have to explain why there is a decrease, rather greater in numerical terms, in the number going from Scotland to England. People are clearly not deterred by fourth-year tuition fees, and it is nonsense to suggest that they will deter people. All the statistics refute the Opposition's case.
Perhaps I could put a specific case. My dad and my granddad were brewers, and at one time the only United Kingdom university offering a brewing degree was Heriot-Watt. If a specific degree course is available only in a Scottish university, as may happen now or in future, why should an English, Welsh or Northern Irish student who wants to follow a perfectly proper degree course have to pay more than if the same course were on offer in an English, Welsh or Northern Irish university?
It is all part of choice. The hon. Gentleman's grandfather chose to be a brewer. That was commendable, but it was a choice. I do not know the hon. Gentleman's antecedents but, given his mode of transport today, I assume that he has fairly humble origins. Some 40 per cent. of students in Scottish universities, from whichever part of the United Kingdom they come, will pay nothing at all in tuition fees. Perhaps the family brewing empire would have been able to start unhindered under these arrangements.
The Minister opened the debate on a note on which we could all agree when he said that Government policy should always be to get more people into university. The Minister has had a long plane trip from Scotland and I am sure that the House is grateful to him for turning up. Surely he knows that, next year, the number of people who will go to university will be down for the first time. Surely he realises that Government policy is wrong. He should correct it by accepting the Lords amendments.
Rarely has a man waited so long to say so little, and the hon. Gentleman is wrong. We have applications, but we do not have admissions. Scottish universities could be filled several times over with current applicants, and there are more applications from the rest of the United Kingdom than from Scotland. We think that we have the right policy to get more money into higher education, and the next part of our job in overcoming Opposition misinformation is to make sure that potential students have access to accurate information and that applications are turned into admissions. We shall do exactly that.
Let us look at the figures and put the issue in perspective. There are many problems and challenges in education. There is a need to get more money in, to open up opportunities and to ensure that the 11 per cent. of people from lower-income backgrounds in higher education is brought nearer to the 80-plus per cent. of the top two social groups. Those are important issues, and I should have liked to hear the other place discuss them. It did not. It has not sent us a demand for more egalitarianism or more opportunity in education. There is not a word about that. The narrow issue affects a small number of people and has an influential pressure group made up of a small number—I might say a minority—of university principals who have the ear of some people in the House of Lords and in the Opposition. That is why the issue has been elevated to a high point of principle, which it is not.
On the basis of last year's admissions, about 6,000 students will come from the rest of the United Kingdom to Scottish universities. I have no doubt that there were 6,000 last year, and that there will be 6,000 next year when all the got-up excitement will be forgotten. The numbers will not change significantly, and between a third and 40 per cent. of those students will pay nothing in tuition fees and will be completely unaffected by the argument, except in the sense that they might be misled by Opposition Members into believing that they will pay tuition fees.
I am grateful to the Minister for his courtesy.
The Minister says that a small number of people discussed the issue in the other place. Why were there no Scottish Members on the Standing Committee from the Labour party, the Liberal Democrat party or the Scottish National party? I agree that Conservative Members are at a disadvantage. However, it would have been nice if some Scottish Members had debated these issues.
The Committee's make-up is a matter for the Committee of Selection. I have no wish to cast aspersions on the minor parties. They can speak for themselves if they want. Although, in many ways, this issue affects the Department for Education and Employment more than us, whenever it has come here, it has focused on Scotland, so I have taken responsibility for answering at the Dispatch Box on the Floor of the House, and I do not shirk from that.
I want to finish the breakdown.
A third of those students will pay nothing at all over the four years, so there is no impact. Some will pay very small amounts, because it is a means-tested system. Again, I go back to the point that anyone who thinks that that will be the decisive factor in determining whether students go to Edinburgh, St. Andrews or a university in England is not living in the real world. Many students take an honours degree and they are not affected either. There are others who enter in the second year and they are not affected either. When we take all those categories out, at most, we are talking about 1,200 students from England, who will be asked to pay £1,000 extra over the four years.
It is of interest to know where those students come from—what backgrounds they come from and whether this is likely to be a burden on their shoulders, which will be crucial in determining the outcome—so I made some inquiries into the top four schools supplying students to Edinburgh and St. Andrews universities. My hon. Friends should listen to this point, because they will get some idea. They will be listening anxiously for schools in their constituency to find out if it is their constituents who will be affected.
The pecking order of schools supplying students from England to Edinburgh and St. Andrews universities is: No. 1, Eton college; No. 2, Wellington college; No. 3, Charterhouse; and, No. 4, Westminster school. That tells us something about the wonderful, egalitarian education system that we have in Scotland. There is only one school in Scotland that sends more pupils to Edinburgh and St. Andrews universities combined than Eton college: George Watson's college in Edinburgh. If that is an egalitarian system, which we have to defend in the Division Lobby tonight, I want no part of that defence.
Presumably, the Minister would not apply those questions on social class to students from Northern Ireland, who will be discriminated against on his position.
The Minister said earlier that he wanted to defend the four-year degree, except that, at column 794 on 8 June, he described it as a "bogus tradition", so will he tell the House: what is it? Is he intent on defending the four-year honours degree, or does he still regard it as a "bogus tradition", as he did last month?
That is a characteristic sleight of syntax, because I did not describe the four-year degree as bogus. I know exactly what I said because I saw the glow of excitement on the hon. Gentleman's face when I said it. I will recap what I said—it goes back into the general debate, but I am happy to recap.
When I and, I suspect, the hon. Gentleman went to university, a relatively small minority of Scottish school leavers who went to university did honours degrees. If I remember rightly, roughly 30 per cent. did four-year honours degrees and 70 per cent. did ordinary degrees. In the interim, that has turned around, so that 70 per cent. do honours degrees over four years and a small minority do ordinary degrees, which are then, by inference, regarded as inferior to the norm of the four-year honours degree.
What I said and stand by is that something that grows up over that relatively short period is not a tradition. It is bogus to call it a tradition, because a tradition goes back centuries, not 30 years. It is the norm of the four-year honours degree in Scotland that is not a tradition. It has grown up very recently.
Let us return to the top four schools supplying pupils to the Scottish universities: Eton college, Wellington college, Charterhouse and Westminster school. I say gently to my old and honourable Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) that the amendments that he declared publicly that he will support tonight will help students in Eton but not in Elgin, in Wellington but not in Wallacetown, in Charterhouse but not in Chapelhall, and in Westminster but not in West Lothian. That fact should be borne in mind as the debate proceeds.
Does the Minister accept that the perception—which is held both domestically and internationally—that there is fairness and non-discrimination in the United Kingdom is not bogus? If so, how can the Government justify requiring students from Northern Ireland, England and Wales to pay £1,000 more than students from Europe? How can they justify requiring students from Northern Ireland to expend £1,000 more than students from the Irish Republic? Although I take account of the fact that there is provision for those on the lowest incomes, I am concerned that those who are just outside those bands will be greatly disadvantaged.
In a moment, I shall deal with the European point—which, superficially, seems to be anomalous—and seek to address it.
First, however, I point out to the hon. Member for East Antrim (Mr. Beggs) that it is not only the poorest who will pay no fees. As a rule of thumb, as a norm, fees will not be paid by those with household incomes below £23,000. Moreover, for those who pay, the fees required will not leap suddenly from nothing to £1,000 a year. There will be a graduated scale, and one will have to be fairly far up in the earnings league before having to pay the full £1,000.
I stress again that anyone from Northern Ireland, like those from elsewhere, who has made the choice of doing a Scottish honours degree course—many do, and they are all extremely welcome—will take fees into account as one of a range of factors. I repeat also that people will not automatically be required to pay an additional £1,000 a year; it is a £1,000 maximum over a period of four years.
As I said—I think it was before the hon. Member for East Antrim joined the debate, but I make no point of that—there have always been extra costs. Any student from Northern Ireland who decides to do a four-year honours degree in Scotland instead of a three-year honours degree elsewhere knows that there will be an extra year of maintenance costs and a year of income forgone. He or she will take all those factors into account in making a decision.
I should like to point out one aspect of the Lords amendments that all hon. Members should understand. It is quite true that it would cost £2 million annually to meet the fees of all fourth-year students on Scottish courses from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The sum can be dismissed as a relatively small one—although the principle, rather than the sum, is important. However, I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House understand that the Lords amendments would go much further and make the same provision for all United Kingdom students on four-year degree courses at institutions across the United Kingdom. Such provision would cost more than 10 times as much—about £27 million annually.
We would not have that £27 million available to put into higher education. Any hon. Member planning to vote today for the Lords amendments should do so in the full knowledge that £27 million would be taken from higher education. Where would that money go instead? It would, by definition, go to the best-off people, who would be the only ones who were required to contribute towards their children's tuition fees at the full £1,000 level. That subsidy would mean that, each and every year, there would be £27 million less in public funds for universities and colleges. The cost is significant.
The Minister is dealing with an important issue. He has admitted that the £2 million that it would cost to exempt students attending Scottish universities is a moderate sum. The basis of his argument—which has changed very rapidly, and was made clear last week by the Prime Minister at Prime Minister's questions—is that the sum required to exempt more students from fees for four-year courses would cost the Government £27 million. The analysis that we have had done by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the United Kingdom, which I think the Minister will agree is a reliable body and not one that panders to the Liberal Democrats, is that it would cost around £12 million, and that the Government have not discounted the tuition fees at all but presume that every student will pay £1,000 and the Government will meet that cost. That clearly is not the case, so will the Minister give an analysis of where the £27 million has suddenly come from?
The £27 million comes proportionately from the number of students in England who are doing four-year degree courses. I have tried to break down the number affected in Scotland, and that is what would be covered by roughly £2 million, but incrementally there is a far larger number. As I understand it—this is not within my territory, but it is something that has grown up over the years—there is a much more substantial number of students doing four-year degree courses in England than perhaps had been widely appreciated, and certainly many more than are doing them in Scotland.
I am not quite sure how the hon. Gentleman gets a multiplier that takes him to 250,000. As I said, it is 10 times more in England than in Scotland in terms of cost.
I recognise that it is a serious point, and I shall perhaps answer it when I wind up the debate. I do not dismiss it. I point out in passing that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals was among those who supported the introduction of tuition fees as a necessary method of getting extra money into higher education.
This debate has been largely about Scottish courses. If it were self-contained, it would be an interesting debate, but different from the one that we are having tonight. The secretary of the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals wrote a letter to The Scotsman last week. He was totally dismissive of and not interested in the £27 million argument—that is for someone else to worry about. He wrote:
Why does it requite comment by the English Department for Education and Employment to defend a decision which palpably discriminates against the Scottish way of doing things?
He went on to dismiss with an airy wave of the hand four-year degree courses in England which, he said:
cannot be regarded as authentic higher education at all and certainly not comparable with the first year of Scotland's distinctive four-year degree with honours.
I do not have the luxury of saying that I do not care about these folk in England doing four-year degree courses because the degrees are not worth anything. That is a ridiculous thing to say. The Government are obliged to take account of the fact that there is a UK-wide effect from the cost of this, and that the argument that prevails in Scotland is exactly the one that should prevail in the rest of the United Kingdom. In other words, it is a Unionist argument again, as opposed to a divisive one.
The Minister suggested that, if the issue were the £2 million that it would cost to allow English, Welsh and Northern Ireland students to study a four-year honours course at a Scottish university, therefore providing comparability, that would be a different argument. If the House accepts the Government motion, and the other place were then to vote for an amendment that would restrict it to the change that cost £2 million, what would the Government's attitude be?
I think that I was entitled to draw it to the attention of the House that that is not what the amendment says. Anyone who is going to vote for the amendment had better understand what it says. Hypothesising about what the Lords might do is not particularly productive.
It is important to get this clear on the record: I did not say that it would be a different argument. I said that it would be an interesting debate; but it is not the one that we are having, because we are debating the amendments before us. The case for the Scottish £2 million, if you like, is founded on an educational argument as well as a financial one, which is, quite simply, that there is not a neatly interlocking set of school qualifications from England and the other parts of the United Kingdom which fit into the four-year honours degree system in Scotland. That is an educational argument; it is an argument recognised by Dearing; and it is the argument on which we found our case tonight.
If it were a remedial year, the hon. Gentleman could probably benefit from it. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should be left to his own devices, as I said no such thing. I quoted the secretary of the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals saying that the first year of a course in England could not be regarded as higher education. He was referring to England, not Scotland. I said nothing remotely resembling what the hon. Gentleman has attributed to me. The cost is significant, but the principle is equally important.
I now turn to the European dimension. Given my history on the issue, I found it surprising to have to explain to some unlikely people what devolution and subsidiarity are about and the consequences that flow from having different systems in respect of health, education and so on in different parts of the United Kingdom. Long before political devolution, Scotland has had a distinctive and different education system. In other parts of Europe, there are variations between Lander, regions and provinces, and it is clear that differences can develop within states on the basis of devolved government and administration. The simple principle that, in my view, rightly operates within the European Union is that, if citizens of other EU countries come to a part of a fellow member state—be it a region or a devolved territory—they benefit from whatever system applies within that area. However, for exactly the reasons that I have explained, EU law does not provide that internal concessions must be granted throughout the state.
On the basis of equity, will the Minister advise the House of the position of a German national who has a parental home in or whose normal place of residence is in England in relation to attendance at a Scottish university? Will he be expected to pay the extra year's tuition fees; if so, can the Minister explain to the House whether he should be treated on the same basis as an English student?
We have all had such constituency cases at one time or another. They have to be dealt with according to their individual circumstances. It would depend on how long the individual had been resident in England and a range of other circumstances. I encounter such cases fairly frequently, as I am sure my ministerial colleagues do in England. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to draw a specific case to their attention, I am sure that my ministerial colleagues will be pleased to give him an answer.
Although the European position sounds anomalous, it is not. It applies throughout the European Union. It is the product of a union of states within which there are various forms of government and different legislatures.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way to me again.
The Minister will be aware that, today, the New Northern Ireland Assembly has had its first meeting; arising from it will be cross-border bodies, and much co-operation is expected. Nevertheless, there will be discrimination between students from Northern Ireland and from the Irish Republic should they be studying at Scottish universities. There will also be the council of the isles; should it make a representation to the Minister asking for equity of treatment for students from all regions within the United Kingdom, would he accept and honour such a recommendation?
I shall not prejudge what the council of the isles might discuss. However, before anyone recommends the system in the Republic of Ireland, they should check on the availability of student grants to the great majority of students. They should also check on the availability of student loans, which do not exist at all there. As a result, the majority of students within the Republic of Ireland have access to neither grants nor loans from the state, and that is not a desirable system for Scotland or Northern Ireland to copy.
Will the Minister clarify the means-testing of the fee for students from other parts of the European Union? What mechanisms has he arranged with other member states and what are the administrative costs likely to be?
If I misunderstood the hon. Lady's point, I shall deal with it later.
The spectre of hordes of European Union students coming in while the English are deprived is held up as the great problem. Students from the rest of the European Union will not benefit from the subsidised maintenance loans which will be available to students from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
I shall not give way because I am coming to a conclusion.
The idea that European Union students will flock to Scottish universities in place of UK students is absurd. In 1995–96, there were just 350 other EU students in the fourth year of a Scottish course. This year there has been a 17 per cent. fall on last year's number of EU applicants, which is greater than the percentage fall in the overall number of applicants. The EU treaty requires member states not to discriminate on the ground of nationality against nationals of other member states on matters in the scope of the treaty, but it does not require each member state to treat all its nationals in the same way. That is what devolution and subsidiarity are about. I find it odd that the principles should be attacked by people who otherwise support them.
I do not want to detain the House further. This is an interesting debate, but it is peripheral to the main issues.
There are two motions for debate. The second says:
That this House insists on its amendment in page 22, to leave out lines 31 to 39, to which the Lords have disagreed.
That specifically relates to English, Welsh and Northern Ireland students attending Scottish higher education institutions. The Minister said that that might be a
different debate, but it is relevant to the amendments. What will be the Government's policy if there is a separate vote on that motion?
I may be dreaming, but I think that I answered that question five minutes ago. I said that it was a different debate, but the same principle. We have made it clear from the start that we oppose extending the provision to students from the rest of the United Kingdom, not primarily—or not entirely—on financial grounds. There is an educational argument. We believe that it is not right to extend that benefit to students who have chosen a degree course in Scotland against the many other options open to them. We do not believe that it will have any impact on the number of English students in Scottish universities. I reiterate the point that, if any Scottish university is worried about not having enough students from England, it need only take a few students from less well-off backgrounds. That will keep the numbers and the quality up.
No. I have given way twice to the hon. Gentleman.
We are debating a peripheral aspect of the Bill. The Bill is about getting more money into higher education, putting £140 million extra a year into Scottish higher and further education alone. That is a big aim. The quality of our education system depends on it. If we are frustrated or diverted from our aim, it will not be this House that pays the penalty, but the students of the next generation, the research base of the Scottish universities and, in particular, those universities that depend on the widest possible range of students and the widest range of access to their ranks. For all those reasons, I ask my hon. Friends and Opposition Members who think about the issues to vote to overturn the Lords amendments. As we would expect from the House of Lords, the amendments are in the interests of an elite and do not address the needs of higher education.
The longer the Minister's speech went on, the feebler his arguments became. It was a completely unnecessary speech, on a completely unnecessary measure. The Government have got what they asked for when the Secretary of State for Education and Employment made his statement on higher education almost a year ago. In every essential respect, the Bill before the House delivers what he announced. It is not the purpose of this debate to go into the strong disagreements in Committee—suffice it to say that the Secretary of State has got what he announced last July.
This debate is about something that was not announced in July. To be honest, I do not believe that Ministers ever intended to get themselves into such a position. I do not believe that any of the Ministers sitting on the Front Bench said in a Whitehall ministerial meeting, "I've had a bright idea. Why don't we charge more for students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland if they go to Scotland than we charge those who live in Scotland?" No Minister came up with such an idea. Whatever I may think of the ministerial team, I do not believe that they would be quite that daft.
I do not believe that a second Minister then chipped in, saying: "I've an even better idea. Why don't we exempt students from fourth-year fees if they come from the rest of Europe but not if they come from England, Wales or Northern Ireland?" We are debating not a policy, but an accident as a result of the failure of Ministers in the Scottish Office and the Department for Education and Employment to get their act together as they were developing higher education policy.
Will the hon. Gentleman explain why the policy is an accident, given that the exemption for four-year degree courses was part of the Denning recommendations, and that that noble Lord still supports what he recommended?
That noble Lord is dead. The hon. Gentleman may be referring to Lord Dearing. I am, of course, familiar with the arguments in the Dearing report. Following comments on exemption for tuition fees, the very final sentence of the Dearing report on this subject states:
Beyond that, this would be a matter for consideration by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
That was an open invitation to the Secretary of State for Scotland to consider making arrangements so that we would not get into the anomalous position in which Ministers have landed themselves. I should be interested in whether the Minister wished to deny at the Dispatch Box that, as I believe, Scottish Office Ministers have prepared in their budget a contingency plan for the £2 million that will be necessary to deal with the anomaly. That is what Lord Dearing invited them to do.
Let us consider briefly in turn—I shall certainly not speak for the same length of time as the Minister—some of the unbelievably convoluted and complicated arguments that have been put before the House in this debate, and earlier today, by the Prime Minister in Prime Minister's Question Time. First, let us turn to the figures on university applications.
Last week, the Prime Minister told us in Prime Minister's Question Time:
the number of English students applying to Scottish universities is up, not down. It is actually 33,000."—[Official Report, 24 June 1998; Vol. 314, c. 1047]
Unusually, the Prime Minister apologised in today's Question Time for getting that wrong. It was simply incorrect; the figures clearly show that applications to Scottish universities from English students are down by 4.1 per cent.
Then we heard an even more ingenious argument. We were told that, although applications to Scottish universities from English students have fallen, it does not matter, because overall applications to Scottish universities have fallen by even more. I should not have thought that that is something that anyone would want to celebrate. In racing down to the bottom, which is the best that Ministers can come up with, they tell us that such a fall does not matter, because the overall figure has fallen by 5.4 per cent.
The statement by the Universities and Colleges Admission Service of 12 June gives its figures. They indeed show a fall of 4.1 per cent. in applications to Scottish universities from English students, and an overall fall—in students from Scotland, the rest of the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union—of 4.5 per cent. Why is that? A fall of 30.3 per cent. in applications to Scottish universities from students in Eire has brought down the average.
The Prime Minister said that such wider changes were irrelevant to the policy; they are not. Applications from Eire have fallen by 30 per cent. because it has just got rid of tuition fees, and more students in the Republic of Ireland are staying at Irish universities. To claim that phenomenon as the explanation or defence of what the Government are trying to do is to pile distortion on distortion.
The hon. Gentleman neglected to mention the figures for Wales, which show a 4.5 per cent. increase in applications. I invite his comments on the point, which was made by the Minister, that the figures are for applications, which fill places many times over. All we are arguing about is the massive over-subscription for places. Spending more money on those limited places for the few people occupying them, rather than on a larger number of students, will only increase the number of unsuccessful applicants and reduce the number of those who are able to attend universities and complete the degree courses.
That was equal to about three interventions. The figure for Wales, which I have here, of an increase of about 40 in applications, is trivial compared with the problem of a fall in applications from England and, as Northern Ireland Members have mentioned, from Northern Ireland.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the position with applications from Northern Ireland is even more serious, because of the absence of adequate university provision within Northern Ireland? Many of our able youngsters, who could compete favourably with others at Scottish universities, may lose completely.
The hon. Gentleman is correct, and, although the Minister seemed rather uncertain about this idea, he is talking about a well-established tradition, under which many students from Northern Ireland have gone to Scottish universities, partly because of historic links between the two countries. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out—
I want to make more progress. I shall finish this point.
The tradition is attributable also to the absence of sufficient higher education provision in Northern Ireland.
In the text surrounding its figures, UCAS said:
Institutions in Scotland, where honours degrees are traditionally four years long, continue to be affected by the introduction of tuition fees.
That is a perfectly obvious and comprehensible point, and I do not understand the attempts to create ever more confusion about it.
No, I want to move on to a different point. I shall not speak for as long as the Minister did.
The other argument we hear is about the treatment of European students. Whatever ingenious arguments the Minister tries to put before the House tonight, he does not have a reasonable prospect of sustaining this policy through the European courts in the months and years ahead. The idea that the European Court of Justice will not interfere in a manifestly discriminatory policy comes from cloud cuckoo land. He would be much better off finding the £2 million necessary to concede the point now, rather than being hauled through the courts in future.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that remark, which is the next point that I should like briefly to consider. When the Minister has run out of all the ingenious and intricate claims he has made tonight, the one argument that remains is that we are on a slippery slope, that this is the thin end of the wedge—we all know the Whitehall arguments—and that the cost would be not £2 million, but £27 million.
The figures from the House of Commons Library—and, indeed, from Ministers themselves in written answers—are absolutely clear. The cost of exempting students from England from fourth-year tuition fees in Scotland would be £1.5 million; for students from Wales the cost would be £45,000, and for students from Northern Ireland it would be £550,000. That is the cost of dealing with the anomaly that we are debating tonight. The anomaly is one in which two students born in different countries of the United Kingdom, going to the same Scottish university, will face different levels of tuition fees simply because of where they were born. What we are talking about is what goes on within a Scottish university. That is the point at issue tonight.
From what the hon. Gentleman says, am I right to conclude that he would not support the extension of the same concession to four-year degree courses in England; and, if so, will he vote for the Lords amendment, which envisages exactly that happening?
The Lords amendments are permissive—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."]—they put no obligation on Ministers in either the Department for Education and Employment or the Scottish Office to spend £27 million. All they require is that, at any given university, students who come from different parts of the United Kingdom should be treated on the same basis for tuition fees.
I quite accept that at St. Andrews and at Edinburgh university there is an historic different way of delivering higher education from that at English universities. We are not saying that students at English universities should be exempt from fourth-year tuition fees—we accept that, at £27 million, that would be too expensive. All we are asking is that students from different parts of the United Kingdom going to the same university should be treated on the same basis. That is why dealing with the anomaly would cost only £2 million, not £27 million.
There are two amendments for debate tonight, and we would hope to have two separate votes, if that is necessary. The second of the amendments, which refers to page 22, lines 31 to 39, is very specific. It deals specifically with students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland going to Scottish universities. It is bogus of the Minister to claim otherwise. That debate is at the heart of our deliberations this evening.
I had more competition facing me than the hon. Gentleman has. He makes a fundamental point and it seems to me that we could abandon proceedings now. He is simply wrong when he says that the amendments are permissive—they are not. The Lords amendment in lieu of Commons amendment No. 64 states clearly:
Regulations under this section shall ensure that any arrangements for the payment of grant in respect of tuition fees for the fourth or any subsequent year of study at a higher education institution in England or Wales apply equally to a student whose parental home or normal place of residence",
and so on and so forth. It is not permissive. As the hon. Gentleman appears to have renounced the meaning and the spirit of the amendment on which we shall vote later, I wonder what we are debating.
This is very interesting. If the Minister is going to tell the House that he will accept the motion that specifically covers students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland in Scottish universities for a cost of £2 million, the Opposition will happily accept that. That is the anomaly about which my hon. Friends and I are complaining. There is not a complaint in Bristol—
It is the Minister who is moving the motions to tonight. My point is that we are not imagining, claiming or demanding that students in English universities should be exempted from fourth-year tuition fees; we are saying simply that, when students from different parts of the United Kingdom are studying side by side at Scottish universities, they should all be treated on the same basis. That is the point, that is the anomaly and that is what the argument is about. There have not been protests in England about this matter; it concerns the Scottish universities.
No, I must conclude now.
The motion is about establishing that there should be equal treatment of English, Northern Irish and Welsh students at a university in Scotland. If all that the Minister can do is to offer us evermore ingenious and intricate arguments for something that no reasonable man would defend, that is the beginnings of the decay of a Government when Whitehall arguments triumph over practical common sense.
The slip of my tongue was certainly outdone by the slip of the dagger on the Opposition Benches. First, I must briefly remind the House that among Sassenachs, because of Scottish ancestry, I have a warm spot in my heart for a number of Scottish traditions.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise to the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Dr. Turner) for interrupting, but this matter is germane to the whole debate. There is a difference of opinion between the Government and both Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen about interpretation. Can you ask for an official interpretation of the amendment?
When the House last discussed the issue, I at least understood the emotional content of some of the debate. If I did not understand where the arguments appeared to have come from, certainly the politics seemed straightforward. The politics of the Opposition are that they will lay their hands on anything, even if it means abandoning the principles that they have argued elsewhere on the Bill, to find something that can be represented as the Government being unfair.
As the noble Lord Dearing explained last week that equity was the motivation behind his committee proposing the exemption for Scottish students attending Scottish universities, I find it difficult to understand why a party that says that it wants to implement the Dearing proposals will argue against them when it suits their political purposes.
After many years spent as a university teacher and admissions officer, and in being involved with course design work, particularly for courses that allowed students to join in different years and which tried to encourage applications from Europe and further afield, I know that one must face many issues when considering the merits of three and four-year courses.
When I first joined the university system many years ago, the word "elitist" could rightly have been used to describe the attitude of many in higher education who believed that they had some right to a level of funding and support that was but a dream for those in further education, particularly those at our schools. I know from my political experience of the changes that took place in the universities. In the name of efficiency, they were forced to impose unacceptably low unit costs to meet what I believe was the admirable objective of an increase in the numbers of students.
However, as a member of a local education committee, I saw that that had to be balanced against the many funding needs of the local education authority, which were unmet almost every year—in my county of Norfolk, three and four-year-old nursery provision was non-existent, and almost all sixth-form provision received inadequate funding.
Like the hon. Gentleman, I was a member of a local education authority for many years. He seems to be saying that there was an imbalance between the resources for higher education and those for schools and nurseries, so is he arguing that, for 18 years, the previous Government funded universities too generously?
I said that I saw an inequity. There was an elitist attitude in the universities—when I joined the university system, only a tiny minority of people were able to go to universities, which meant that there was less funding to support those who were unable to go to them. The nation faces a challenge in trying to strike the right balance between supporting those who are unable to go to university because they have failed at an earlier stage and the aspirations of those who are already at university.
I spent many years in university circles, and I know that many people in English universities want the four-year course to be the norm. Indeed, it would be good to think that, in the next millennium, the nation could afford a standard honours course that lasted four years, as that would allow for a relaxation in what can be an intense pace of study.
I have to ask myself whether that is the priority that I want to support as a Member of Parliament. I believe that better funding for—not the extension and relaxation of—what we already do should be our highest priority; we cannot afford the luxury of four-year courses as the norm in these isles before we have improved the quality of three-year courses and opened the doors of our universities and further education institutions to larger numbers of pupils. If hon. Members do not recognise that the argument is about priorities, they are missing the point.
My hon. Friend misunderstands me. As I said at the outset, to avoid misunderstanding, I have an automatic, even genetic, sympathy with the Scottish system. However, that system is fundamentally different from the English system. One may regard it as superior or inferior, but the truth is that it is fundamentally different. People can create false anomalies only because we are trying to match the needs of two different systems and of those who want to transfer between them.
I must make some progress, as I know that other hon. Members want to speak.
The fundamental question that Dearing and the Government have had to face is why four-year courses in Scotland are treated differently from the four-year courses that exist in England. If that had been the subject of this debate, I could have understood that those who represent the Scottish interest had an argument. I know enough about Scotland to be aware that significant numbers—it used to be the majority—of pupils move from school to university after one year of post-compulsory school education.
I know that the pattern has shifted and that many now do a further round of highers, but a large number of pupils in Scotland start their four-year degree course after only one year at highers, as opposed to the two years at A-level enjoyed by the vast majority of English pupils as the standard—although by no means the only—route into English universities.
A comparison between the number who flow north of the border and the number who come south shows that the real difficulties arise in transferring into England after one year post-16 in Scotland. Some of the English four-year courses allow that transition, because they are structured for those who want to change subjects.
The Dearing inquiry had to consider whether an exception should be made for Scottish universities' four-year courses because of the significant number of students who would be seen to be treated inequitably if they were required to pay for all four years. Because the inquiry saw that that would be unfair to that majority, or large minority, of students in Scotland, it recommended an exclusion for Scottish students, who would have only the same number of years of post-compulsory schooling as their English counterparts, who had two years at A-level and three for a standard university course.
If what the hon. Gentleman says about the situation in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland is the case, what is the justification for the exemption for Holland, Germany, Italy, Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain and all the other European Union countries? Are they all being exempted for exactly the same reason, or have the Government received rather different advice about their actions in relation to those countries?
I know that the Conservative party is obsessed with all matters European, and I believe that that was an arid debating point, with which the Minister has already dealt completely adequately. The hon. Lady may tempt me to speak for longer than I had intended. That dreadful nationalistic approach, which does not recognise the difference between this country and Europe, has divided her party and done it no good whatever.
It is important to realise—I hope that Scottish Members are listening carefully—that the Government erred on the side of generosity to Scotland. I was tempted to raise this issue when these measures last came to the House, and I will resist no longer. The Government have taken a principled exemption, designed to allow those students in Scotland who had done only one year of post-compulsory education at school to pay for only three years of fees, and extended it to all students in Scotland, so that those students who take two years and do a further round of highers are also exempt.
It is important to realise that it is not only a matter of the number of years at school and university, because often the first year of the subject that you study at university will be crucial to your degree and not relevant to what you studied in your two years in the sixth form. Say you studied law, medicine or—
It would be nice if we could afford to allow everyone to do whatever they wanted and to have unco-ordinated career patterns, switching to any course at any time. Some time in the next millennium, we will no doubt be able to have perpetual students who never make up their mind about what they want to do. My question is whether the Government can afford to give greater priority—
I need to make some progress with my argument. I want to make sure that the House clearly understands that the Government have erred in favour of Scottish students and Scottish universities. Will the Minister explain why the Government have been so generous to Scottish universities?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I know that he was in full flow, but I am trying to help him. He seems to be saying that, because students in Scotland leave school a year earlier than their English counterparts, they deserve an additional year's exemption. Can he tell me why a domiciled Scottish student who wants to study medicine or veterinary science will receive no exemption?
As I said, the trouble with exemptions is that, once those in authority embark on them, they have to justify not going one step further. The Government need to be pinned down on why they have made the exemption at all. That is the real question that needs to be answered, and I hope to hear a clear answer from the Minister.
The Minister has said—I believe that the figures given by his counterpart in the House of Lords bear this out—that the extra cost is about 5 per cent. of the total that might be involved. Supporting a four-year course will involve many costs to the state. As I said at the outset, I believe that, when fundamentally different systems are operating, an element of judgment must feature in the granting of exemptions to take account of those fundamental differences.
I think it reasonable to exempt Scottish students, because of the fundamentally different system under which they are educated in and after school; but I see no reason why someone from northern England, for example, should be able to cross the border to do a four-year course and benefit from an exemption from which he or she could not benefit at the university at which I studied in England. The Opposition want to create an anomaly: they want an English student taking a four-year course in Scotland to be treated differently from an English student taking a four-year course in England. I see no reason for that, and I think that the Government should stick firmly to the opposite principle.
I have read the report of the debate in the other place. The Opposition there seemed not to be learned and erudite, or to know what they were talking about; their views seemed to be based on the same party political principles as the views that we are hearing tonight. I hope that the amendments will be thrown out.
I hope that I will be forgiven if I do not follow the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Dr. Turner) down all the byways of his speech, since I was not entirely sure where he was going.
The Minister's introductory speech astounded me. I had already thought that the Government's arguments were pretty threadbare, but the longer the Minister went on, the more threadbare they became. That has been the character of the Government's position throughout the debate. The hollowness of their arguments has been matched only by their obstinate unwillingness to admit that they are wrong, and that the simplest thing to do would be to accept the Lords amendments, particularly the one dealing specifically with Scottish institutions.
I mentioned the Government's arguments. No great battery of arguments has been fired against us, however; instead, the Government have had to put up successive arguments, because almost every argument that they have made has been shot down. When the policy was first announced, the Minister thought that he could destroy his critics and win the day by sheer bluster. He described his critics as indulging in "hyperbolic nonsense". He criticised those who defended extra fees for defending the "rich English". The Minister likes to pride himself on being the scourge of the Nats, but if that remark had come from the Scottish National party, I can just imagine his outcry against such a nationalistic act. There were further echoes of that statement in the Minister's attempted defence of the Government's position tonight.
Having failed with that argument, the Government attempted to use misleading figures. I would be ruled out of order, and would not argue, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I said that the Minister had used lies or damned lies, but "Erskine May" allows me to say that he used statistics. As the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) has pointed out, it was totally misleading to say that the proportion of students applying to Scottish universities from England was down by less than the total drop in applications. The point being made was about the substantial reduction in student applications from the Republic of Ireland, whose students are not coming to Scotland because Irish tuition fees have been abolished. The Minister also ignored important points about students who come to Scotland from Northern Ireland for long-standing traditional reasons. The number coming from Northern Ireland is down about 5.5 per cent. The overall figure is 4.5 per cent. As the hon. Member for Havant said, the Universities and Colleges Admission Service explained that with reference to the introduction of tuition fees.
I have listened with interest to the point made by both the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) about students from Northern Ireland. Applications to Scottish and other United Kingdom universities from Northern Ireland have gone down. The hon. Gentleman claims that that was caused by tuition fees. If that is so, how can he explain the 15 per cent. reduction in the number of Northern Irish students going to colleges and universities in the Republic of Ireland over a two-year period? His figures do not add up. There has been a drop of 4 to 5 per cent. in applications from Northern Ireland to the UK, but a drop of 15 per cent. of applications from Northern Ireland to the Republic, despite its abolition of fees.
I will not explain why students have not gone to the Republic of Ireland, although they would not get loans if they did so. However, almost 380 fewer students have applied from Northern Ireland to Scottish universities, which is a significant drop over last year's figure. The hon. Gentleman cannot just wish that away by making comparisons with applications to the Republic of Ireland.
I noted that point. The Minister was keen to read out Eton, Wellington and dear knows where else, but he failed significantly to respond to queries on the schools attended by Northern Irish students who went to Scottish universities.
Other arguments have been used. In the other place, Lord Sewel said that the Bill compensated Scottish students who went to university aged 17 after only one year of post-statutory school age education. That is simply factually wrong. It is a long time since I was at school but only two of my fellow pupils left at the end of fifth year. The rest of us went to university at the end of sixth year. When I heard that argument from the Government, I thought that there had been a sea change but in fact only 7.4 per cent. of 17-year-olds in Scotland were in higher education institutions in 1995. The argument does not stack up.
Lord Sewel advanced another argument. He tried to say that the first year at Scottish university was there to make up for the alleged lack of depth achieved with a one-year or two-term higher. Apart from being patronising to the Scottish education system, that ignores the fact that the distinctiveness of the Scottish education system lies in its breadth and quality. That point has been used to justify another weak prop of the Government's argument.
The Government say that students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland can skip the first year of Scottish degree courses and go straight into the second year, thereby avoiding a year's worth of fees. That does not meet the test of critical examination. Less than 12 per cent. of students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland go straight into the second year of courses in Scottish universities. It was previously only 6 per cent. for England and 7 per cent. each for Wales and Northern Ireland. The numbers were decreasing. The Government's argument ignores the fact that many subjects, such as law, engineering and psychology cannot be done at school, so the first year is necessary. That argument does not stack up either. Second-year entrants miss out on the opportunity to study the extra subjects that they could have studied in the first year.
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that applications from England for entry in the second year of Scottish university courses have doubled, which totally destroys his argument?
That makes rather than destroys my argument, because the trend was down. It is under the pressure of the Government's policy that the figure has tumbled. Unfortunately, the hon. Lady cannot see it.
The fear is that linked to these measures is the systematic undermining of the Scottish four-year degree course. The Minister, who is no longer with us, has said that he wants the advanced higher to be on a par with A-levels. In a letter to me this week he said that he looks forward to similar advanced entry for Scottish pupils who had taken the advanced higher. He wrote:
Where institutions make offers of credit or advanced standing for holders of A levels, Advanced Higher students should be given similar recognition.
I want to make progress. There is widespread concern that what underlies the proposal is the systematic undermining of the traditional, broad-based, four-year Scottish honours course.
The Government's most ludicrous argument is that they are acting in this way because it helps to emphasise the distinctiveness of the Scottish education system.
I am amazed at what the hon. and learned Gentleman says. He makes an important point by illustrating what a mess the Government's policy is in. They cannot even implement "higher still", never mind the advanced higher. They have got their education policy, both at schools and universities, into a complete mess.
The hon. Gentleman knows that we agree. "Higher still" implementation has been appalling. When the advanced higher was first mooted, the understanding was that it would proceed on a broad base, but now we are talking of people taking only two or three advanced highers, making the examinations similar to A-levels—just when people in English education have been looking at the breadth of the Scottish education system.
For the Minister to argue that what the Government are doing emphasises the distinctiveness of the Scottish system, and that we will have such so-called anomalies with devolution, misses the point. The distinctiveness will not be based on the system but on domicile, and a limited domicile at that because the arrangements apply only to people living in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. The proposals are nothing to do with the system. The problem is made worse by the fact that students from Umbria are exempted whereas students from Cumbria are not. The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), may groan, but he will have cause to groan even more. [Interruption.]
As my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) said, there could be a legal challenge to the Government. My noble Friend Earl Russell was told in another place that the Government were confident that they were right. This evening, the Minister told us that he had taken legal advice. Of course, we know that the Government take legal advice. The Labour party in Scotland took legal advice when it tried to remove the lord provost of Glasgow, and look what happened then. So we know the quality of advice—
I am not going to take any advice from the hon. Gentleman. It is probably no better than the last lot he gave me and probably no better than the advice that the Government were given on this matter.
Some distinguished professors of educational law have raised a serious point. Under the European convention on human rights, there may well be challenges to the Government's position on this matter.
My final point relates to cost. The point has been made tonight that the amendments would cost some £27 million. The first amendment makes no such commitment. All that it says is that there cannot be discrimination between Scottish and Northern Irish students who attend English and Welsh institutions. The second amendment relates only to making a level playing field for English, Welsh and Northern Irish residents who come to Scottish universities. The Minister has accepted that the cost of that is only £2 million. That is £2 million that will not kick in until 2001—the fourth year of courses starting this year under the present system. I do not believe that the Government could not find £2 million in the next three years.
I did not realise, until the hon. and learned Gentleman said it a few moments ago, that the requirement to find £2 million would not apply until 2001—the fourth year of honours courses starting this year. By that time, there will be a Scottish Parliament, which will be responsible for the funding of higher education. It could be that the Scottish Parliament will overturn the decision of the House tonight when it really matters.
I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. If I have the opportunity to speak, I will give way to him. On the issue of the Scottish Parliament, the hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell), writing in the alumni association magazine of St. Andrews university, said:
There will never be unlimited resources for Higher Education. The Scottish Parliament won't change this. It is also unlikely that the proportion of expenditure on Higher Education within the total education budget will increase.
Those are the words of his hon. and learned Friend, in whose constituency the university is. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman disagree with his hon. and learned Friend on that point?
It is self-evident that the Scottish Parliament will not suddenly be able to make unlimited funds available for higher education. No one has pretended otherwise. However, the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) pointed out that the Scottish Parliament might well be able to find £2 million to ensure that English, Welsh and Northern Irish students can still come to Scottish universities and study on an equal basis for an honours degree. That is something that the hon. Gentleman and his party are not willing to do because they have such a mean-minded attitude. They realised early on that they had it wrong, and they do not have the guts or the courage to admit it. Perhaps in the remaining minutes and hours of this debate, they can see the light. There is joy in heaven over sinners that repent.
I wish to make it clear at the outset that I am against all tuition fees. There was no mention of them in the Labour party manifesto, and during the general election campaign, the Prime Minister specifically said that Labour had no plans to introduce tuition fees. Whatever justification the Government may try to come up with for tuition fees in general, there surely can be no justification for the anomaly whereby one student at a Scottish university has to pay £3,000 in tuition fees, whereas another student in the same class doing the same course at the same university with the same parental financial circumstances has to pay £1,000 more. Ministers try to justify the unjustifiable when they say that there is some justice and equity in that. The net result will be a disincentive for many students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to go to Scottish universities.
When the matter was previously debated, we were repeatedly told that there was no evidence for that. There is evidence—UCAS produced statistics, unfortunately just a few days after the previous debate on the subject. They clearly show that applications to Scottish universities are down by 4.5 per cent., that applications from England to Scottish universities are down by 4.1 per cent. and that those from Northern Ireland are down by 5.5 per cent.
For some universities, the situation is even bleaker. In the past week, my capable researcher telephoned some universities and has produced some interesting statistics. For example, applications to Aberdeen university from England are down by 6 per cent. Applications from England and Wales to Dundee university are down by 13 per cent. and those from Northern Ireland are down by 22 per cent. Applications to Glasgow Caledonian from England are down by 13 per cent. Applications to Robert Gordon university from England are down by 39.4 per cent. Those from Wales are down by 47.6 per cent. and those from Northern Ireland are down by 5.45 per cent. At Strathclyde university, applications from England are down by 14 per cent.
If that trend continues, there is a genuine and justifiable fear for the viability of some of the four-year honours courses and the Scottish tradition of a broad-based education.
Can the hon. Gentleman not see that there is an agenda here? The statement that A-level students and advanced students from England can enter at the second year contains the inevitable implication that the first year is remedial. That is the death knell for the distinctive Scottish four-year degree system.
I would never describe the first year of a four-year honours degree course as remedial, but Scottish universities fear that if the trends in the statistics that I have quoted continue, there could be a long-term threat to the viability of the four-year honours course.
I should like to query two of my hon. Friend's points. I do not in any way wish to cast aspersions on the ability of his researcher. However, the Minister gave figures that are not in dispute when he spoke about a drop of 4 to 5 per cent. in applications from England to Scottish institutions. My hon. Friend has spoken about drops of 12 to 25 per cent. In which institutions have applications gone up, and do my hon. Friend's figures add up? His aggregate seems to be 12 to 25 per cent., but the actual figure is 5 per cent.
My hon. Friend can get his own research team to prepare his speeches. I have quoted the work of my researcher, whom I trust very much.
The fear for the future of the four-year honours course at Scottish universities was exacerbated by the Minister in the previous debate on the issue. He said:
For some people, three-year degrees are right, and they are wasting their time doing six years at school and four years at university. I do not accept the idea that to maintain some bogus tradition, it is inherently better to spend 10 years at that stage of one's life in education than eight or nine years."—[Official Report, 8 June 1998; Vol. 313, c. 794.]
I appreciate that the Minister of State re-explained his remarks tonight, and that may be helpful. However, his use of the phrase "bogus tradition" in the previous debate caused deep offence in many Scottish universities.
I heard Ministers and hon. Members saying that students from England can go straight into the second year. That may be possible in some cases, for some individuals and for some courses, but it is not universally applicable. I have also heard Ministers say that Scots students go to university a year earlier than their English counterparts.
I heard the Prime Minister insinuating that this afternoon. He, of course, has some experience of Scottish education. He was educated at Fettes college, which is not exactly a typical Scottish comprehensive school; it is more like an English public school. He was nevertheless correct to draw a distinction between Scottish highers and English A-levels. Because Scottish pupils normally sit their highers in the fifth year, some have university entrance qualifications after five years' secondary education. Therefore, it is true that many Scottish students have university entrance qualifications at an earlier age than their English counterparts, but that does not necessarily mean that they go to university a year earlier.
I think of my experience, for example, both as a pupil and as a teacher. I left school at the age of 15 with university entrance qualifications. I was not particularly bright; it was just that I was kicked out of primary school a year early because the teachers were probably fed up with me asking too many awkward questions. I left school at 15, but I did not immediately go to university and, in retrospect, I am glad that I did not.
Later, when I was a teacher, many pupils—not just a few—aged 16 and 17 had university entrance qualifications after five years of study at secondary school, but, in general, my advice to them was to stay on at school for a further year and to do the certificate of sixth-year studies before going to university, because that sixth year would give them the chance to mature, to develop a habit of independent study and to do all the other things that help young people to make a success at university and in later life. However, my fear now is that the financial implications of the abolition of maintenance grants and the imposition of tuition fees will mean that some potential students may not go to university at all, and that others may, because of financial circumstances, go too early for their own good.
I come to the cost of the amendment. During the debate in the other place, the Minister seemed to pluck out of thin air this figure of £27 million. I do not think that it was mentioned in this House during the previous debate. Obviously, the civil servants have been working hard to try to justify the Government's stance in the other place, and that figure of £27 million was repeated by the Prime Minister last week—it is the amount required to meet the fees for all United Kingdom students on the fourth year of degree courses, at all universities throughout the UK.
That is not, with respect, comparing like with like. In England, a four-year degree course is exceptional, but in Scotland the four-year honours degree is the norm, rather than the exception. Besides, the Government's proposal will not cause a situation in any college or university in England, Wales or Northern Ireland whereby students from some parts of the UK have to pay more than students from another part, so the Scottish anomaly is unique. I understand that there is some difference of opinion about the technicality of the amendments and so on, but there would be a broad welcome if the Government were to give a signal that they would consider the uniqueness of the Scottish anomaly and think again.
About 3,500 non-Scottish UK students are in the final year of four-year honours courses at Scottish universities. If they were all paying full fees, the cost to the Treasury of getting rid of the anomaly would be £3.5 million. However, if we assume that, as the Government keep telling us, 30 or 40 per cent. of students are exempt from fees, and that another 30 per cent. pay only partial fees, the total cost would be about £2 million—as I said in the previous debate. I am pleased that the Government have since confirmed that figure as a fair estimate.
The cost would of course be split between three Departments—the Department for Education and Employment, the Welsh Office and the Northern Ireland Office. I fail to understand why my hon. Friend the Minister of State has drawn the short straw, by being lumbered with the responsibility of trying to explain the Government's policy. It would have been more appropriate for Ministers from the Department for Education and Employment, the Welsh Office and the Northern Ireland Office to try to justify the policy. My hon. Friend—to give him his due—said fairly early, even before the Bill was published, that he would ensure that the Scottish Office paid the final-year fees for students domiciled in Scotland. I do not know why his counterparts in the other Departments cannot do the same for students from south of the border, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This is a very interesting argument, and I should be interested to hear my hon. Friend's comments on this. If he is arguing that English students should have their fourth year at a Scottish university paid for—I understand that argument very well—what does he say about Scottish students attending English universities? Does he believe that they, too, should have their fourth year paid for—even if they are doing a three-year course? Whichever way one looks at the matter, in either direction, is there not an anomaly?
I thought that I had already dealt with that point. I said that the four-year honours course in Scotland is the norm rather than the exception, whereas four-year honours courses in England are not the norm. A Scottish student who attends university in England—whether it is for four years or whatever—will pay exactly the same fees as his or her counterpart from England, Wales or Northern Ireland, whereas a student from England attending a Scottish university will have to pay more than his or her Scottish counterpart. That inequity creates the—
No. I have dealt with the point twice already, and I shall not go on repeating myself.
The Minister seemed to argue that the main beneficiaries of the Lords amendment will be students from well-off backgrounds. He came out with some alleged facts about students from places such as Eton, Harrow, Winchester and Wellington at Edinburgh university. I wondered about that. I certainly do not recall that, while I was at Edinburgh university in the 1960s, there were huge numbers of public school boys or public school girls in my class. I got the impression that there were more working-class students with wellington boots than upper-class wallies from Wellington school. I should have thought that, in this day and age, Edinburgh university and St. Andrews university would be even more egalitarian.
No, I have already given way to my hon. Friend.
Even if it is true that well-off students will benefit most from a Government concession, that is equally true of the original concession—on students domiciled in Scotland—which was announced so generously by my hon. Friend the Minister.
Order. The hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Murphy) must be quiet. He does not stand a very good chance of being called to speak in the debate if he continues with sedentary interventions.
It is a nonsense to claim that only rich students, or students from rich families, will be paying fees. Most students will have to pay fees in whole or in part. Anyone with a residual income of £16,000 per annum or more will have to pay some fees—and £16,000 per annum is not exactly filthy rich. I fail to understand the argument that it is only students from rich backgrounds who will benefit from the Lords amendment.
I cannot understand why the Government are behaving in such an intransigent and apparently arrogant way. It is not good enough for Ministers to say that the House of Lords is in favour of the amendment and the Tory party is in favour of the amendment, so we ought to be against it. That is knee-jerk reaction politics at its worst.
Let us look at the merits of the amendment, rather than the source of the amendment. [Interruption.] I am glad that my hon. Friend the Minister agrees with me. I can remember that not all that long ago, my hon. Friend was on the same side as the Tory party and the House of Lords when he helped to destroy the last Labour Government's proposals to set up a Scottish Parliament. Anyway, I do not want to go into that at this time of night—and I want to abolish the House of Lords completely and have no second Chamber at all, whether through heredity or patronage. In fact, I believe that the abuse of patronage might be even worse than heredity, but I do not want to go into that.
In conclusion, it is rather ironic that on this issue even the reactionary House of Lords takes a more enlightened view than the Government. I am sure that if we were given a free vote in this House, this House would be like minded. I therefore appeal to hon. Members to consider the merits of the case.
If the House accepted the Lords amendment, we would be doing the Government a great favour, by saving them from the embarrassment of an almost certain defeat in the European Court of Justice. I have been informed that a Member of the European Parliament has already complained to the European Commission and has demanded that the Commission look into this discriminatory matter of tuition fees to see whether any European directives have been contravened. Even if the existing European directives have not been contravened in the opinion of the Commission, it would of course be open to any individual to take a test case to the European Court of Justice.
I appeal to my hon. Friend the Minister: surely it should not require court action to convince the Government to think again. The previous Government suffered the humiliation of one court defeat after another, and we do not want to have to go through that, either in the courts in this country or in the courts of the European Union.
I am grateful to my hon.—I almost said "my hon. Friend". I mean my former honourable teaching colleague, but she is my honourable friend in the sense of the teaching profession because she and I taught in the same very good school. I am grateful to her for her intervention. The £2 million is surely a very modest sum in the context of total Government expenditure.
If a student from France, Germany or Italy pays the same as a Scottish student because France, Germany and Italy are in the European Union, surely students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland are entitled to the same treatment because they are also in the European Union. It is a simple matter of equity and justice. I urge the Government, even at the 11th hour, to do the honourable thing and ensure a fairer deal for all students who choose to study at Scottish universities.
Perhaps for the first time in my political experience, I very much endorse the remarks of the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan). I speak as a former Minister responsible for higher education, with a residual and somewhat obsolescent knowledge of the regulations. I concentrate on those rather than the wider issues of justice, as I believe that the Government are skating on very thin legal ice. I have no precise legal expertise in these matters, but I am convinced by my experience that they should reconsider their decision.
Like their predecessors since the 1980s, the Government are constrained by the Gravier judgment, which prohibits discrimination against students from the European Union or the European economic area in respect of tuition fees. In other words, if most UK domestic students are currently exempted from tuition fees by mandatory awards, the same facility must be available to European students.
I am interested in the argument that I believe the Government are deploying—that the judgment applies only in a single-market sense, in that it prevents artificial distinctions between citizens of different member states, but is silent on whether a Government may discriminate between citizens of their own state, as is happening tonight.
I am slightly surprised that the Government have not fallen back on the argument that universities are private institutions that are not formally or strictly absolutely obliged to charge fees, although of course the system is set up so that they must do so. Perhaps it is arguable that universities discriminating in their fees policies might themselves risk legal challenge. Beyond that, it is extremely unlikely that any court would not look beneath the surface at the reality behind the legislation. It is legal thin ice indeed.
Even if Gravier applies only at the macro level, between citizens of member states, it is arguable whether the Government can sustain discrimination between citizens of different parts of the United Kingdom. It is one thing to charge fees on the basis of the institution and to require that all those studying there should be subject to the same regime, just as those who live in a particular place are liable to the taxes that apply there. In this case however, the question whether fees are charged will be determined by an entirely contingent factor—where the student happens to live. There is no basis within a single state—the United Kingdom—for discrimination along those lines. I suspect that such discrimination would be under direct attack through the European convention on human rights and probably also through the European Court of Justice, in respect of any British citizen who happened to live south of the border.
The Minister of State conspicuously failed to answer the point that I put to him in an intervention, in respect of the position of a student who is a national of another EU country, but happens to have a parental home or a normal place of residence in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. The Minister said that it was a normal administrative matter and that it would be a matter of determining whether that student would be exempt from Scottish fees or treated as an English student for that purpose. Either way, the Government would be in severe difficulty. If they decided that a German student resident in Carlisle or Bolton should be treated as a Scottish student as he was attending a Scottish university, and exempted him from fourth-year fees, it would then be arguable that an English student attending a Scottish university should also benefit from that decision. If they decided that such a person were an honorary Englishman although he was a German national, how would they reconcile that decision with the Gravier judgment? I do not think that they could do it. They have either to act in a hybrid manner in English law, by treating two residents of England in different ways, or they have to break the principles of the European Union.
I fear that I shall not, as I want to conclude in two minutes' time.
The Minister said that he was relatively unconcerned about this minor matter, which he sought to minimise. I do not believe that he would claim to have come into politics to allow discrimination or unfairness on the grounds that it was peripheral or minor. One case of discrimination or unfairness would be not only a legal affront, but politically unacceptable.
I am also concerned that if the anomaly persists, it will drive a wedge between the English and Scottish university systems, to their mutual detriment. Before that happens, if the Government persist in their petty little proposals and if the House is not prepared to reject them, the Government will go down in the courts and even the petty little saving that they seek will not be available. The whole matter will be swept up in legal fees and recriminations, which they could easily have avoided.
I am pleased to participate in the debate. I believe that I am the most recent scholar of a Scottish university in the House, although I am happy to be corrected if another hon. Member has different information.
I understand that I have only a few moments, but I shall allow the hon. and learned Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) to intervene if he wants, as I said earlier.
Claims have been made by hon. Members on both sides that supporting the Lords amendment would in some way challenge elitism. I do not believe that the votes of hereditary peers in the House of Lords represent a move towards the end of elitism. I fail to understand why such a significant number of hereditary Tory peers got so excited over a small number of students. I guess that if we were dealing with 2,000 or 3,000 students who were not from better-off backgrounds in the greater public schools of England, the hereditary peers in the House of Lords would not be so overly exercised. I am not comfortable with that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) suggested that there was no difference between the social make-up of Scottish students at Scottish universities and those from England. That is not correct. Some 48 per cent. of students from Scotland studying in Scottish universities are from skilled backgrounds, whereas 73 per cent. of English students studying at Scottish universities are. I am not proud of the additional fact that only 1 per cent. of English students studying at Scottish universities come from unskilled working-class backgrounds. I have nothing against that 1 per cent. The figure should be higher, but we need to reform our education system lower down to achieve that. I do not believe that the Government, with their emphasis on providing opportunities for many more people, should provide a subsidy to the 1 per cent. who want to study at Scottish universities.
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but time is not an ally.
There are income thresholds throughout the system. If English students wants to study in a Scottish university, good luck to them. I wish them well. I shared that experience with many colleagues and friends at Strathclyde university. We are saying simply that there should be an income test and an examination of an individual's ability to pay
Between 5,000 and 6,000 English students studied at Scottish universities in 1996. When one discounts the 10 per cent. who will not study an honours degree, the one third who will not have to pay any fees whatever and the many other facts and figures, one is left with about 2,000 students paying £1,000 over four years. That works out to be less than 69p for each day's study at a Scottish university. If the individual comes from a family earning £35,000 a year or more, I think that they can afford the price of a can of Irn Bru and a Daily Record.
I would like the Minister to clarify one or two points. Does he agree that the Lords amendments in no way suggest removing fourth-year fees from all universities in England? If so, his argument about the £28 million is totally irrelevant. Will he clarify whether the Lords amendments propose a level playing field in Scotland, so that the English, Welsh and Irish will not pay more than the Scots, and propose a level playing field in England, so that the Scots will not benefit and will pay fourth-year fees like anyone else?
Will the Minister clarify whether the fees will at all help the universities financially? As I understand it, grants to universities fall commensurately as the fees go up. So, there will be no increase in the universities' revenues, merely assistance to the Treasury. Will the Minister favour us with his knowledge of which Scottish university principals are in favour of the Labour proposal, as he implied? [Interruption.]
Order. I appeal to the House once again to come to order. It is bad manners to conduct private conversations while an hon. Member is addressing the House. The hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) is having a conversation just now. She should not be doing that.
The Minister pleads in support of his argument the whole cause of devolution. Devolution and diversity represent the right and the excellence of different systems in different parts of the United Kingdom; a Scottish course may be different from an English, Welsh or Irish course. The Minister is not proposing such diversity. He is proposing that students from different parts of the United Kingdom, who are in the same lecture hall, taking the same course, be treated differently. That is not diversity; that is gross unfairness.
The Minister tried to defend his line on bogus tradition by the fact that there had been a recent increase in the number of students taking honours as opposed to ordinary degrees. Does he agree that there is a long Scottish tradition—of 250 or 300 years—of a breadth of education which has been developed in different ways in different courses?
The first year of the four-year degree is an absolutely critical part of that strong tradition. People who went straight into the second year would miss that. In addition, most Scottish courses do not allow people to enter in the second year. There is much evidence from universities that students who do so go back to the first year because they cannot make it, or give up altogether. Often, going straight into the second year is not clever.
The Minister delivered his litany about how we would not help students in Elgin or West Lothian if we pursued the amendment—but we would. It is in the interests of students from Elgin, West Lothian and other parts of the Scotland that there are viable first-year courses in Scottish universities. His measures will undermine that. We would be supporting future opportunities in Scottish universities.
The Minister is busy promoting a cause of "higher still", which will mean that more Scottish students stay on to the sixth form. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) made it clear that the argument that all Scots go from the fifth year into university is complete rubbish. The Minister's arguments are totally flawed, and he should give way gracefully.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) on his speech in which we heard the true, honest voice of what used to be the Labour party. He read out the early statistical effects of the policy—a very damning educational ragman's roll—which was created and implemented by the Government and will have cumulative effects on Scottish education.
Tonight the House again has an opportunity to resolve the anomaly whereby Scottish and European Union students at Scottish universities will have their fourth-year tuition fees paid, but non-Scottish resident UK students will not. The Scottish National party has from the start highlighted that flaw, among others, in the Government's higher education policy. After asking a series of parliamentary questions, I secured an Adjournment debate on the subject in January. Since then, hon. Members from all parties and a majority in another place have joined me in my opposition to the Government's policy.
The Government's proposal is nothing short of discrimination against English, Welsh and Northern Irish students for no other reason than nationality. In The Scotsman newspaper today, it was again suggested that this policy contravenes the European convention on human rights and that the Government could be challenged under European law.
In a written answer, the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), said:
The EC Treaty requires Member States not to discriminate on grounds of nationality against nationals of other Member States, on matters within the scope of the Treaty. However, EC law does not intervene in internal matters and requires each Member State to treat all its own nationals in exactly the same way."—[Official Report, 1 December 1997; Vol. 302, c. 10.]
In other words, because European law does not prevent the Government from discriminating against their own citizens on the ground of nationality, the Government can do as they please. Following that logic, the Government could justify apartheid to themselves, if to no one else.
The policy is not only unfair to students from other parts of the United Kingdom; it will have adverse effects on Scottish institutions, Scottish education and the wider Scottish economy. English, Welsh and Northern Irish students will be deterred from coming to Scotland. Already, applications from the rest of the UK are down by 4.5 per cent. Some Scottish universities, such as Dundee and Abertay, have seen a substantial drop in applications, particularly from Northern Ireland. The final result of the Government's policy will not be known until the autumn when the more important admissions figures will be released.
Any drop in numbers of students from other parts of the United Kingdom will force Scottish institutions to downsize their diverse range of courses. There is also the danger that Scottish universities will be forced to consider abandoning the four-year honours degree and replacing it with a three-year course, so as to compete on a level playing field to attract non-Scottish resident UK students. Universities are being forced to redesign courses to suit second-year entrants for financial, not educational or academic, reasons.
The broad-based four-year degree is gaining admiration and popularity in other countries. Yet the Minister for Education and Industry has disgracefully described it as a bogus tradition. University is not and should never be a case of simply rushing people through and giving them a certificate at the end. It is a learning process and should be treated as such.
The policy will have economic repercussions, causing a reduction in the £210 million spent in Scotland each year by students from other parts of the UK.
Through written questions, I have secured pledges from the Scottish Office, the Department for Education and Employment and the Northern Ireland Office that they will monitor the effects of tuition fees and this anomaly on student numbers. I ask the Minister for an assurance that if there is any substantial drop in the number of English, Welsh or Northern Irish entrants to Scottish institutions this autumn, fourth-year fees for such students will be at least immediately reviewed and at best waived. I seek guarantees that the Government will monitor their policy and take action if it proves to be deleterious, as many of us fear it will be.
The Government must listen, not only to the views expressed tonight by hon. Members on both sides, but to the voice of students, lecturers and principals. The Government's policy is opposed by the Association of University Teachers, the National Union of Students, the Scottish Ancients, the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of the Universities of the United Kingdom. The Government are on their own. The new Labour Government think that they know better, but if they are so confident of the wisdom of their policy and the strength of their argument, why will they not trust their own Members of Parliament to support them and allow a free vote tonight? We can be sure that they will not do that.
The Scottish Minister is left without credibility on this issue. He says that he is widening choice, but he is, in fact, restricting student choice. He says that he wants to follow the Dearing report, in his own words, "to the letter", but he is not so doing. Tonight, he praises the four-year honours degree, having previously called it a "bogus tradition". Faced with a 4.5 per cent. drop in non-Scottish UK students, he is reduced to semantics about percentages. All we have heard from the Minister is debating tricks and vitriol, which cannot disguise the weakness of his DFEE colleagues who have let him down in respect of their policy. The tuition fees policy is simply discriminatory. It is unnecessary and it could easily be remedied if there were any willingness in other Government Departments to do something about it.
The Labour Government have got it wrong. For a limited cost, the English, Welsh and Northern Irish education departments could sort out the anomaly, restore fairness and end this blatant discrimination against English, Welsh and Northern Irish students at Scottish universities. The Government should do that and, for their failure to act, they will rightly be judged.
May we hark back to the persistent, pertinent, but unanswered questions put by the hon. Member for East Antrim (Mr. Beggs)? It is part of the business of the House of Commons to think policies through, and I want, first, to ask a direct question of my hon. Friend the Minister. What happens in court when a student from Belfast—they are a litigious lot there—decides to take court action in relation to that student from Dublin who is paying £1,000 less? That is not a possibility whipped out of the air; as certain as certain can be, there will be legal action. When I interrupted his opening speech, my hon. Friend the Minister said, "I would not be at the Dispatch Box unless all those things had been taken care of," but I fear that I have experience of too many Ministers of different parties going to the Dispatch Box and saying, "Yes, we are legally watertight—all is well," and, some time later—usually sooner rather than later—coming back, with the proverbial egg on their face. I repeat the question: what is the legal advice?
The hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell), a former Minister with responsibility for higher education, knows very well that there is massive Government lawyer legal advice available to any Minister. Are we to take it that that advice has not been forthcoming? Either it has not been forthcoming, or the House of Commons deserves to be told tonight what that advice is. Many of us, from different angles, think that we are going to get into great difficulty with the European, and possibly the UK, courts. Will the Minister say something about that?
Secondly, on the question of elitism, 30 per cent. of the students at Heriot-Watt come from England. That is not elitism—it is a very real problem for the Scottish universities. Thirdly, among many letters that I have received is one from a Labour party member in Kirkby Lonsdale, Mrs. Rodd, who says:
What infuriates many people is the obvious injustice of someone from Bordeaux or Brussels paying the Scottish rate, but those from Berwick or beyond to the south on this island, being alienated by this discriminatory fee practice. This is to say nothing of the effect on the universities themselves and the stoking up of the separatist movement that this sort of action is fuelling.
That is the view of a prominent Labour party member from the north of England. How are we supposed to answer that?
The hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Welsh) alluded to a number of organisations, including the Association of University Teachers. The last paragraph of a letter that it sent to all Scottish Members of Parliament states:
Scotland will be the poorer if English, Welsh and Northern Irish students are discouraged from attending our traditionally culturally diverse universities. It cannot be right that a student from Carlisle should be treated significantly worse than a student from Cologne when studying in Scotland and we ask that Scottish MPs reconsider this issue and vote against the Government amendment, which we hope, even at this late stage, may be withdrawn.
That is the considered view of the AUT.
Finally, as I see the Whip looking at his watch, I should like to say that I was taught by the late Aneurin Bevan, as were many of my generation, that one should always take the strongest argument against one. In this case, it is the figure of £27 million. I put that case to Stewart Sutherland, vice-chancellor of the university of Edinburgh, for a considered opinion, which was this:
The main counter-argument to parity of treatment for all UK students studying in Scotland is that the cost would be far greater than the estimated £2 million. It is argued that the thin end of the Scottish wedge would lead to an increase in the number of students on four-year courses in England. This surely is a matter on which the Secretary of State's advice and—
Order. I have told the hon. Gentleman on previous occasions that I do not want him to read letters from outside organisations in full. He knows how to paraphrase a letter better than I do, so I hope that he will not get into the practice of reading them into the record.
I would disagree with you on only one thing, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and that is that I could do that better than you. I am sure that you would do it better.
The gist of the letter is that the vice-chancellor of the university of Edinburgh, who has some say in the matter, is convinced, along with his colleagues—I think that he is speaking for the vice-chancellors—that we should reflect carefully before going ahead.
At the end of this debate, there is only one real question left: what was the exact mixture of incompetence, malice and pig-headedness that put the Government in their current hole? Just look at the coalition that is assembled against them. It is not merely my right hon. and hon. Friends, but the Liberal Democrats, the nationalists, the Cross-Bench peers and men and women of principle on the Labour Benches.
Outside this House, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the Scottish universities and the National Union of Students are all lined up against the Government. Outside the Government ranks, no one thinks that their policy is fair and right.
The reason for such an all-embracing coalition opposing the Government is richly illustrated by the appalling mess that the Prime Minister and other Ministers have got themselves into when trying to argue that the measure is not making Scottish universities less attractive. First, the Minister says that applications are down; secondly, the Prime Minister says that they are up; thirdly, the Prime Minister says that, when he said up, he meant down, but not down as much as other applications. Truly, that is Orwellian; it is "Nineteen Eighty-Four", new Labour newspeak—up means down and black means white.
Behind that—whether one believes what the Minister said last week, what the Prime Minister said last week, or what the Prime Minister said this week—there is even greater confusion. When I asked the Department for Education and Employment for its projected application figures, the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), said that the Department did not publish them. When asked a straight question, the Government answers "Yes," "No," and "We do not know." Any student applying to a Scottish university will have to do better than that.
It is important to nail some myths that the Government have propagated this evening. The first is that their policy is having no effect on applications. The Universities and Colleges Admission Service has said that applications from England to Scottish universities are 4.1 per cent. down on last year. The trend has been steadily rising, but it is now going down because of the Government's policy.
Let me nail another myth—that English students can easily, after A-levels, pick up a Scottish course in the second year. There are various problems with that, not least the fact that they do not and cannot. Last year, 8 per cent. of English students at Scottish universities started their courses in the second year. The Association of University Teachers has said that, even at that manageable level, anecdotal evidence from its members and from students shows that many students find the transition too difficult and either drop down into the first year or have to retake the second year. The idea that English students are sufficiently capable to swan in in the second year without needing the four-year course is completely at variance with the facts.
Even if it were true that English students could easily begin the course in the second year, that assumes that English students will all have done A-levels. From a Government who are supposed to be encouraging vocational qualifications and different types of learning, that assumption is particularly perverse. What about students from other European countries, many of which also have completely different education systems? Why are those students entitled to privileges that students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland do not have?
The Minister was reduced to complete absurdity when he tried to defend the policy on the "World At One". He was asked why a youngster from France would pay £3,000 when a youngster from England would pay £4,000. "Ah," said the Minister, "it's because France is in the European Union"—to which the interviewer responded: "Isn't England?" That sums up the Government's confusion as well as anything.
Among the opposition that is clear, concise and principled is that from the National Union of Students. I pay tribute to the current leadership, because it consists of that increasingly rare breed—independent-minded Labour politicians. I dare say that many of them are ambitious to sit in the House with their Labour colleagues. Indeed, the principled Labour Members who will vote against the Government tonight should include former presidents of the NUS, of whom there are five on the Labour Benches. I ask them which way they will vote. Will the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Murphy), for example, defend the interests of students or the interests of his career?
I contrast how I suspect many of the ex-presidents of the NUS will vote with the principled stance taken by the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan). I do not want to embarrass him by complimenting him too much; I merely observe that, in return for his principles, it has been decided that he is unfit to be a Labour candidate for the Scottish Parliament. The Labour party is right in that—men and women of principle are not what it requires on its benches in the Scottish Parliament.
The Minister said that he is acting on the best legal advice. He should consider the European convention on human rights; the Human Rights Bill has not yet been enacted but, when it is, it will have a serious effect on the Government's policy.
In The Scotsman today, Dr. Dennis Farrington, a law lecturer at Stirling university and the author of "The Law of Higher Education", said that a student would be able to challenge the Government's policy through the British courts. If the lawyers are telling the Minister that everything is okay, my friendly advice to him is to go and find some new lawyers. One can always find lawyers to give a new opinion, and the advice from Government lawyers is probably wrong.
The Minister made palpable his dislike of many of the most distinguished Scottish universities. He had gone to the trouble of researching where the students came from so that he could sneer at them. It is a matter for him whether he dislikes English public schools so much that he wants to denigrate them and the students they send to Scottish universities, but if he sneers at English public schools he may end up sneering at Scottish public schools such as Fettes, which might prove disadvantageous to his career.
It is ill advised to sneer at well-off students from England but to assume that well-off students from all other countries are okay. The Minister had a go at alliteration. Why is his policy okay in Motherwell or Munich, but not in Manchester? The hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Dr. Turner) presented an extraordinary argument on Europe. He was right to say that the Scottish system is fundamentally different. That is why the Government's argument that the change would cost them £27 million, rather than the £2 million for the purely Scottish exemption, is completely spurious. The Government picked that figure of £27 million out of the air and cannot justify it in any way.
The heart of our argument is not statistical: it concerns fairness. Students from North Berwick and from Berwick-upon-Tweed should be treated on the same basis in the same universities, be they in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Both the changes that the Lords want to make would achieve that equality—the first for students at English and Welsh universities and the second for those at Scottish universities—and would not commit the Government to that spurious £27 million.
The Government have made no case at all. Hon. Members can vote against the Government, safe in the knowledge that they are on the side of both justice and rational argument. If they have a spark of decency and a sense of fairness—whether they are old Labour, new Labour, Liberal Democrat, nationalist or Conservative—hon. Members will vote against the Government's mean-spirited little proposals.
The more perceptive among my colleagues may have heard generous tributes paid by Opposition spokesmen to men and women of principle on the Government Benches who will join the great coalition of Tories and nationalists in support of the House of Lords. [Interruption.] A briefing sent out by the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) to Tory Back Benchers says—[Interruption.]
Order. It is not a good thing for the Chair to have to intervene, but hon. Members must be quiet when an hon. Member is addressing the House.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) was held up as a paragon of principle by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green). The Tory briefing says:
Our immediate tactics tonight are to encourage as many Labour MPs as possible to rebel against the Government. This is good politics.
Government Members are talking not about playing political games but about the proper funding of higher education, reversing the damage done by 18 years of Tory rule, and widening access to higher education. We will not be diverted by little ploys by Conservative Members.
My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) asked about the legal advice. I always think that, when people's arguments are in trouble, they send for the lawyers, so let me give the legal advice precisely. It is not contrary to EC law for Scottish legislation to treat students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland differently from Scottish students. That is a purely internal situation concerning United Kingdom nationals, and EC law is not concerned with such matters.
I am defending the distinctiveness of the Scottish education system. I am also defending the principle of subsidiarity.
My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West said that people with a residual income of £16,000 would pay fees, and that that was not filthy rich. I ask my hon. Friend, and other hon. Members who try to give the impression that people who cannot afford to pay fees will be asked to pay them, why they are misleading people. In the case referred to by my hon. Friend, the fees would be £50. Does my hon. Friend, or any other Member, believe that £50 over a period of four years will be the decisive factor for someone who, having taken every other factor into consideration, opts for a four-year degree course in Scotland rather than a three-year degree course elsewhere? I do not think that my hon. Friend was suggesting that, but he should not convey misleading messages about what is proposed. Indeed, no one should do so.
I know many pupils whom my hon. Friend taught. Some of them are my best friends, some went on to be very good footballers, and one is now rector of Edinburgh university. I think that my hon. Friend and I should unite on this point. In his inaugural address, the rector of Edinburgh university—my hon. Friend's former pupil, John Colquhoun—pointed to the school that, although it is within a stone's throw of the university, has never sent a single pupil to the university. Let us redress that inequality, and let us worry about access to universities.
Let me answer directly.
The problem for the Opposition is that every statistic works against them, rather than for them. Since the introduction of student loans as a better way—in the last Government's view—of financing student maintenance, the number of students coming from England to Scotland has not decreased; it has greatly increased.
We must all review our past positions. We must all accept that numbers have risen, and that giving more money to higher education is the way to reverse the damage of 18 Tory years.
|Division No. 323]||[11.3 pm|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John (Copeland)|
|Alexander, Douglas||Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)|
|Allen, Graham||Dalyell, Tam|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Darling, Rt Hon Alistair|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Darvill, Keith|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary||Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)|
|Ashton, Joe||Davidson, Ian|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Austin, John||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Banks, Tony||Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Battle, John||Dawson, Hilton|
|Bayley, Hugh||Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Beard, Nigel||Denham, John|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Dewar, Rt Hon Donald|
|Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)||Dismore, Andrew|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Dobbin, Jim|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Berry, Roger||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Betts, Clive||Doran, Frank|
|Blackman, Liz||Drew, David|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Blizzard, Bob||Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)|
|Blunkett, Rt Hon David||Edwards, Huw|
|Boateng, Paul||Efford, Clive|
|Borrow, David||Ellman, Mrs Louise|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Ennis, Jeff|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Etherington, Bill|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Field, Rt Hon Frank|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Fisher, Mark|
|Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E)||Fitzsimons, Lorna|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Flynn, Paul|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Follett, Barbara|
|Browne, Desmond||Foster, Rt Hon Derek|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)|
|Burden, Richard||Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Burgon, Colin||Galbraith, Sam|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Galloway, George|
|Byers, Stephen||Gapes, Mike|
|Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)||Gardiner, Barry|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Cann, Jamie||Gibson, Dr Ian|
|Caplin, Ivor||Gilroy, Mrs Linda|
|Casale, Roger||Godsiff, Roger|
|Cawsey, Ian||Goggins, Paul|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Chaytor, David||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Church, Ms Judith||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Gunnell, John|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Hain, Peter|
|Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Clelland, David||Hall, Patrick (Bedford)|
|Clwyd, Ann||Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)|
|Coaker, Vernon||Hanson, David|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet|
|Cohen, Harry||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Coleman, Iain||Healey, John|
|Colman, Tony||Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)|
|Connarty, Michael||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)||Heppell, John|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Cousins, Jim||Hill, Keith|
|Cranston, Ross||Hinchliffe, David|
|Crausby, David||Hodge, Ms Margaret|
|Cummings, John||Home Robertson, John|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Hope, Phil||Morley, Elliot|
|Howarth, Alan (Newport E)||Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)|
|Howells, Dr Kim||Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie|
|Hoyle, Lindsay||Mudie, George|
|Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)||Mullin, Chris|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)|
|Humble, Mrs Joan||Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)|
|Hurst, Alan||Naysmith, Dr Doug|
|Hutton, John||Norris, Dan|
|Iddon, Dr Brian||O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)|
|Illsley, Eric||O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)|
|Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)||O'Hara, Eddie|
|Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)||Olner, Bill|
|Jamieson, David||O'Neill, Martin|
|Jenkins, Brian||Organ, Mrs Diana|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)||Osborne, Ms Sandra|
|Palmer, Dr Nick|
|Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)||Pearson, Ian|
|Jones, Helen (Warrington N)||Pendry, Tom|
|Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)||Perham, Ms Linda|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)||Pickthall, Colin|
|Jowell, Ms Tessa||Pike, Peter L|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Plaskitt, James|
|Keeble, Ms Sally||Pollard, Kerry|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Pond, Chris|
|Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)||Pope, Greg|
|Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)||Pound, Stephen|
|Khabra, Piara S||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|Kidney, David||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Primarolo, Dawn|
|King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)||Prosser, Gwyn|
|King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)||Purchase, Ken|
|Kumar, Dr Ashok||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Quinn, Lawrie|
|Lawrence, Ms Jackie||Radice, Giles|
|Laxton, Bob||Rammell, Bill|
|Lepper, David||Rapson, Syd|
|Leslie, Christopher||Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)|
|Liddell, Mrs Helen||Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|Lock, David||Rooker, Jeff|
|Love, Andrew||Rooney, Terry|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|McCabe, Steve||Rowlands, Ted|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Roy, Frank|
|McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)||Ruddock, Ms Joan|
|McDonagh, Siobhain||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|Macdonald, Calum||Ryan, Ms Joan|
|McFall, John||Salter, Martin|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Savidge, Malcolm|
|McIsaac, Shona||Sawford, Phil|
|McKenna, Mrs Rosemary||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Shaw, Jonathan|
|McLeish, Henry||Sheerman, Barry|
|McNulty, Tony||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|MacShane, Denis||Short, Rt Hon Clare|
|Mactaggart, Fiona||Singh, Marsha|
|Mallaber, Judy||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Mandelson, Peter||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)|
|Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)||Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Martlew, Eric||Soley, Clive|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Meale, Alan||Spellar, John|
|Merron, Gillian||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Michael, Alun||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Milburn, Alan||Stevenson, George|
|Miller, Andrew||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|Moffatt, Laura||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Stinchcombe, Paul|
|Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)||Stoate, Dr Howard|
|Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)||Stott, Roger|
|Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Straw, Rt Hon Jack||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Stringer, Graham||Watts, David|
|Stuart, Ms Gisela||White, Brian|
|Sutcliffe, Gerry||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)||Wills, Michael|
|Timms, Stephen||Wilson, Brian|
|Tipping, Paddy||Winnick, David|
|Todd, Mark||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Touhig, Don||Wood, Mike|
|Trickett, Jon||Woolas, Phil|
|Truswell, Paul||Worthington, Tony|
|Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)||Wyatt, Derek|
|Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Vaz, Keith||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Vis, Dr Rudi||Mr. Jim Dowd and|
|Mr. Robert Ainsworth.|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Fabricant, Michael|
|Allan, Richard||Fearn, Ronnie|
|Amess, David||Flight, Howard|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Forth, Rt Hon Eric|
|Arbuthnot, James||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Fox, Dr Liam|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Fraser, Christopher|
|Ballard, Jackie||Garnier, Edward|
|Beggs, Roy||George, Andrew (St Ives)|
|Bell, Martin (Tatton)||Gibb, Nick|
|Bercow, John||Gill, Christopher|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Gillen, Mrs Cheryl|
|Body, Sir Richard||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Boswell, Tim||Gorrie, Donald|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Gray, James|
|Brady, Graham||Green, Damian|
|Brake, Tom||Greenway, John|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Grieve, Dominic|
|Brazier, Julian||Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Hammond, Philip|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Hancock, Mike|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Harris, Dr Evan|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Harvey, Nick|
|Burnett, John||Hawkins, Nick|
|Burns, Simon||Hayes, John|
|Burstow, Paul||Heald, Oliver|
|Butterfill, John||Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)|
|Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)||Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Chidgey, David||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Clappison, James||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)||Hunter, Andrew|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Jack, Rt Hon Michael|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Collins, Tim||Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick|
|Cotter, Brian||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Cran, James||Keetch, Paul|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)|
|Davey, Edward (Kingston)||Key, Robert|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||Kirkbride, Miss Julie|
|Donaldson, Jeffrey||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Laing, Mrs Eleanor|
|Duncan, Alan||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Lansley, Andrew|
|Evans, Nigel||Leigh, Edward|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Letwin, Oliver|
|Faber, David||Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Lidington, David||Shepherd, Richard|
|Livsey, Richard||Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)|
|Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)||Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)|
|Loughton, Tim||Soames, Nicholas|
|Luff, Peter||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Spicer, Sir Michael|
|MacKay, Andrew||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Maclean, Rt Hon David||Steen, Anthony|
|Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert||Streeter, Gary|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Stunell, Andrew|
|Madel, Sir David||Swayne, Desmond|
|Malins, Humfrey||Syms, Robert|
|Maples, John||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Maude, Rt Hon Francis||Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|May, Mrs Theresa||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Moore, Michael||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)||Townend, John|
|Moss, Malcolm||Trend, Michael|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Tyler, Paul|
|Norman, Archie||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Oaten, Mark||Wallace, James|
|Öpik, Lembit||Walter, Robert|
|Ottaway, Richard||Wardle, Charles|
|Page, Richard||Webb, Steve|
|Paice, James||Wells, Bowen|
|Paterson, Owen||Welsh, Andrew|
|Pickles, Eric||Whittingdale, John|
|Prior, David||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Randall, John||Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd|
|Redwood, Rt Hon John||Wilkinson, John|
|Rendel, David||Willetts, David|
|Robathan, Andrew||Willis, Phil|
|Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)||Wilshire, David|
|Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Ross, William (E Lond'y)||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)||Woodward, Shaun|
|Ruffley, David||Yeo, Tim|
|Russell, Bob (Colchester)||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|St Aubyn, Nick|
|Salmond, Alex||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Sanders, Adrian||Mr. Stephen Day and|
|Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian||Mr. Nigel Waterson.|
|Division No. 324]||[11.16 pm|
|Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)||Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)|
|Ainger, Nick||Bennett, Andrew F|
|Alexander, Douglas||Bermingham, Gerald|
|Allen, Graham||Berry, Roger|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Betts, Clive|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Blackman, Liz|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary||Blears, Ms Hazel|
|Ashton, Joe||Blizzard, Bob|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Blunkett, Rt Hon David|
|Austin, John||Boateng, Paul|
|Banks, Tony||Borrow, David|
|Battle, John||Bradley, Keith (Withington)|
|Bayley, Hugh||Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)|
|Beard, Nigel||Bradshaw, Ben|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Brinton, Mrs Helen|
|Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E)||Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)|
|Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Galbraith, Sam|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Galloway, George|
|Browne, Desmond||Gapes, Mike|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Gardiner, Barry|
|Burden, Richard||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Burgon, Colin||Gibson, Dr Ian|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Gilroy, Mrs Linda|
|Byers, Stephen||Godsiff, Roger|
|Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)||Goggins, Paul|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Cann, Jamie||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Caplin, Ivor||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Casale, Roger||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Cawsey, Ian||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Chaytor, David||Grogan, John|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Gunnell, John|
|Church, Ms Judith||Hain, Peter|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)||Hall, Patrick (Bedford)|
|Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Hanson, David|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet|
|Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Clelland, David||Healey, John|
|Clwyd, Ann||Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)|
|Coaker, Vernon||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Heppell, John|
|Cohen, Harry||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Coleman, Iain||Hill, Keith|
|Colman, Tony||Hinchliffe, David|
|Connarty, Michael||Hodge, Ms Margaret|
|Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)||Home Robertson, John|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Cousins, Jim||Hope, Phil|
|Cranston, Ross||Howarth, Alan (Newport E)|
|Crausby, David||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cummings, John||Howells, Dr Kim|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Hoyle, Lindsay|
|Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John (Copeland)||Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)||Humble, Mrs Joan|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hurst, Alan|
|Darling, Rt Hon Alistair||Hutton, John|
|Darvill, Keith||Iddon, Dr Brian|
|Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)||Illsley, Eric|
|Davidson, Ian||Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)||Jamieson, David|
|Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)||Jenkins, Brian|
|Dawson, Hilton||Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Denham, John||Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)|
|Dewar, Rt Hon Donald||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Dismore, Andrew||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Dobbin, Jim||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)|
|Dobson, Rt Hon Frank||Jowell, Ms Tessa|
|Donohoe, Brian H||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Doran, Frank||Keeble, Ms Sally|
|Drew, David||Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)|
|Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)||Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)|
|Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)||Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)|
|Edwards, Huw||Khabra, Piara S|
|Efford, Clive||Kidney, David|
|Ellman, Mrs Louise||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Ennis, Jeff||King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)|
|Etherington, Bill||King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)|
|Field, Rt Hon Frank||Kumar, Dr Ashok|
|Fisher, Mark||Ladyman, Dr Stephen|
|Fitzsimons, Lorna||Lawrence, Ms Jackie|
|Flint, Caroline||Laxton, Bob|
|Flynn, Paul||Lepper, David|
|Follett, Barbara||Leslie, Christopher|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)|
|Liddell, Mrs Helen||Radice, Giles|
|Linton, Martin||Rammell, Bill|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Rapson, Syd|
|Lock, David||Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)|
|Love, Andrew||Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)||Rooker, Jeff|
|McDonagh, Siobhain||Rooney, Terry|
|Macdonald, Calum||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|McFall, John||Rowlands, Ted|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Roy, Frank|
|McIsaac, Shona||Ruddock, Ms Joan|
|McKenna, Mrs Rosemary||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Ryan, Ms Joan|
|McLeish, Henry||Savidge, Malcolm|
|McNulty, Tony||Sawford, Phil|
|MacShane, Denis||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Mactaggart, Fiona||Shaw, Jonathan|
|Mallaber, Judy||Sheerman, Barry|
|Mandelson, Peter||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Short, Rt Hon Clare|
|Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)||Singh, Marsha|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Martlew, Eric||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)|
|Meale, Alan||Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)|
|Michael, Alan||Soley, Clive|
|Milburn, Alan||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Miller, Andrew||Spellar, John|
|Moffatt, Laura||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)||Stevenson, George|
|Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|Morley, Elliot||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||Stinchcombe, Paul|
|Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Stoate, Dr Howard|
|Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie||Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin|
|Mudie, George||Straw, Rt Hon Jack|
|Mullin, Chris||Stringer, Graham|
|Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)||Stuart, Ms Gisela|
|Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|Naysmith, Dr Doug||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)||Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|O'Hara, Eddie||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|Olner, Bill||Timms, Stephen|
|O'Neill, Martin||Tipping, Paddy|
|Organ, Mrs Diana||Todd, Mark|
|Osborne, Ms Sandra||Touhig, Don|
|Palmer, Dr Nick||Trickett, Jon|
|Pearson, Ian||Truswell, Paul|
|Pendry, Tom||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Perham, Ms Linda||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Pickthall, Colin||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Pike, Peter L||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Plaskitt, James||Vaz, Keith|
|Pollard, Kerry||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Pond, Chris||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Pope, Greg||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Pound, Stephen||Watts, David|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)||White, Brian|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Prosser, Gwyn||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Quinn, Lawrie||Wills, Michael|
|Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Worthington, Tony||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)||Mr. Robert Ainsworth and|
|Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)||Mr. Jim Dowd.|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Greenway, John|
|Allan, Richard||Grieve, Dominic|
|Amess, David||Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Hammond, Philip|
|Arbuthnot, James||Hancock, Mike|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Harris, Dr Evan|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Harvey, Nick|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Hawkins, Nick|
|Ballard, Jackie||Hayes, John|
|Beggs, Roy||Heald, Oliver|
|Bell, Martin (Tatton)||Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)|
|Bercow, John||Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Body, Sir Richard||Horam, John|
|Boswell, Tim||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Brady, Graham||Hunter, Andrew|
|Brake, Tom||Jack, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Brazier, Julian||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Browning, Mrs Angela|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Keetch, Paul|
|Burnett, John||Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)|
|Burns, Simon||Key, Robert|
|Burstow, Paul||Kirkbride, Miss Julie|
|Butterfill, John||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)||Laing, Mrs Eleanor|
|Canavan, Dennis||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)||Lansley, Andrew|
|Chidgey, David||Letwin, Oliver|
|Clappison, James||Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)||Lidington, David|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Livsey, Richard|
|Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Loughton, Tim|
|Collins, Tim||Luff, Peter|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Cotter, Brian||MacKay, Andrew|
|Cran, James||Maclean, Rt Hon David|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert|
|Davey, Edward (Kingston)||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||Madel, Sir David|
|Donaldson, Jeffrey||Malins, Humfrey|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Maples, John|
|Duncan, Alan||Maude, Rt Hon Francis|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian|
|Evans, Nigel||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)|
|Faber, David||Moore, Michael|
|Fabricant, Michael||Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)|
|Fallon, Michael||Moss, Malcolm|
|Fearn, Ronnie||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Flight, Howard||Norman, Archie|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Oaten, Mark|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Öpik, Lembit|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Ottaway, Richard|
|Fox, Dr Liam||Page, Richard|
|Fraser, Christopher||Paice, James|
|Garnier, Edward||Paterson, Owen|
|George, Andrew (St Ives)||Pickles, Eric|
|Gibb, Nick||Prior, David|
|Gill, Christopher||Randall, John|
|Gillan, Mrs Cheryl||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Rendel, David|
|Gorrie, Donald||Robathan, Andrew|
|Gray, James||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Green, Damian||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Ross, William (E Lond'y)||Townend, John|
|Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)||Trend, Michael|
|Ruffley, David||Tyler, Paul|
|Russell, Bob (Colchester)||Tyrie, Andrew|
|St Aubyn, Nick||Wallace, James|
|Salmond, Alex||Walter, Robert|
|Sanders, Adrian||Wardle, Charles|
|Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian||Webb, Steve|
|Shepherd, Richard||Wells, Bowen|
|Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)||Whittingdale, John|
|Soames, Nicholas||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Spelman, Mrs Caroline||Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd|
|Spicer, Sir Michael||Wilkinson, John|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Willetts, David|
|Steen, Anthony||Willis, Phil|
|Streeter, Gary||Wilshire, David|
|Stunell, Andrew||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Swayne, Desmond||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Syms, Robert||Woodward, Shaun|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Yeo, Tim|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Taylor, Matthew (Truro)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Taylor, Sir Teddy||Mr. Stephen Day and|
|Tonge, Dr Jenny||Mr. Nigel Waterson.|
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Committee be appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to the amendment proposed by the Lords in lieu of the amendment in page 14, to leave out lines 31 to 49, and insisting on the amendments in page 14, to leave out lines 31 to 49, and page 22, to leave out lines 31 to 39.
That Mr. Damian Green, Mr. David Jamieson, Mr. Tony McNulty, Mr. Phil Willis and Mr. Brian Wilson be members of the Committee; that Mr. Brian Wilson be the Chairman of the Committee; that three be the quorum of the Committee; and that the Committee do withdraw immediately.—[Mr. Jamieson.]
Order. Before the right hon. Gentleman speaks, I should say that I shall be very firm in insisting that the rules of debate are observed. He may speak purely to this motion, and to this motion alone. If he deviates from the rules, I shall quickly be on my feet to remind him of them.
I would expect no less, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I assume that you would not always assume that the House would wish to nod through any motion, no matter how routine it may seem. It would therefore be useful to the House if we were to hear just a little bit more from the Government not only about the rationale for establishing the Committee—it is, after all, a debatable motion—but about the qualifications of the Committee membership, and, perhaps more specifically, about why the person suggested in the motion to serve as the Committee Chairman should be considered to be the ideal person to serve in that capacity.
It is possible that someone who might be thought to be more neutral should be appointed to serve as Chairman of the Committee, so that it might discharge its very important responsibilities in the most even-handed manner. Some reasoning for the proposed Committee membership and nomination of Chairman would be helpful to the House.
The other matter that would be worth clarifying in establishing the Committee is when the Committee might sit. In the past such Committees may well have sat immediately; I think that that is my recollection of such Committees.
I have a concern about that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have heard quite a lot recently about the need for the House to sit reduced hours. Some anxiety has been expressed—by no less a person than the Leader of the House herself—that late-hours sitting is good neither for the House nor for the quality of our deliberations.
Order. That has absolutely nothing to do with the motion. It is another matter, which has been put before the Leader of the House.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, you have said that the motion says that the Committee should sit immediately. I am querying that—I want to debate it—because the motion is debatable. I am seeking to enter into a debate on the advisability of the Committee meeting at this late hour, as I should be worried about the quality of the Committee's decision making if it meets at this late hour. I am setting that worry in the context of the remarks made recently by the Leader of the House. She has apparently said that she believes that the House should not sit at late hours. I assume that part of her reasoning—although we have not yet heard it in any detail—is that the House's quality of decision making might well be prejudiced if such decisions are made so late and if such Committees meet at such a late hour.
Order. I have already stated that what has gone before has nothing to do with the motion. I will not have a discussion entered into about previous business that has been decided.
Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am looking very much to the future and to the quality of decision making in the future. Looking at the clock, I see that it is a moderately late hour, so the House may wish to consider deferring the decision or deferring the setting up of the Committee until it can deliberate in a more reasoned way at a more respectable hour. These are perfectly rational points. I raise them because, from time to time, we find that apparently innocuous motions are brought before the House—perhaps not always at an hour such as this, but at a more reasonable hour—and there is an expectation that they should simply be nodded through.
Increasingly, I find that the concept of nodding motions through is a denial of the role of the House of Commons. It would be better if we were to hear more of a case put in favour of such motions. The Government Whip told the House what he was proposing in respect of the membership of the Committee, its chairmanship and so on, but we are entitled to a more in-depth explanation.
Is my right hon. Friend worried that if we simply nod through such motions, the credibility of the Committee's decisions will in some way be undermined in another place, and that unless we give due deliberation to the points that he has raised, in another place the Committee's decisions will not have the effect and persuasiveness that this House requires?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making those points. He might wish to elaborate on them if he were to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. He raises those points in the context of our not having had a full explanation of the Committee's role. It would be useful if a member of the Government were to give us more of an explanation of the role envisaged for the Committee, and how it would provide a link between the proceedings of this House and the other place. Surely, that is vital to the proper progress of the business in hand.
The Order Paper refers to
Consideration of a Lords Amendment in lieu of a Commons Amendment and of a Reason for disagreeing to a Commons Amendment.
That does not explain to me the role of the Committee. I should have thought that those words meant that we were considering the words spoken by the Government Whip in explaining the background to the Committee, but he did not elaborate on the nature of the role of the Committee, were it to be set up at this late hour and with the membership and Chairman that he proposed.
On the point about the proposed Chairman of the Committee, given that the Reasons Committee is a Select Committee of the House, does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be more reasonable if the Chairman whom the House is about to appoint had some impartiality on the subject before the Committee? The proposed Chairman—the Minister for Education and Industry, Scottish Office—has shown himself to be anything but impartial.
Again, that is a very important point. It is perhaps not for me to elaborate on it at this stage. I see that my hon. Friends have given much thought to the motion—more perhaps than I have been able to. Perhaps they will want to expand on these points if they catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The House might want to reconsider the chairmanship of the Committee, to which I alluded briefly when I began, for exactly the reason that my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest has given. I am grateful to her for bringing to my attention and to that of the House the fact that the Committee would have the status of a Select Committee. That is an important new fact. Given that a number of Select Committees are chaired by people other than Labour Members or Ministers, there must surely be a strong case—
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not embark on a dissertation on Select Committees. The motion before the House is very specific, and I would be grateful if he would address it.
I am grateful for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but the Whip read out the proposed members of the Committee, including the proposed Chairman—the Minister for Education and Industry, Scottish Office—who took part in the debate and can hardly be described as impartial. It is just possible that, for the sake of giving the fullest credibility to the Committee, which forms a key bridge between the proceedings of the House and those of another place, the House may want to consider a different candidate for its chairmanship.
I might have guessed that the Minister had no previous educational experience, but I am grateful to my hon. Friend for confirming that.
In conclusion, the House must consider the matter seriously. We cannot take such decisions on the nod at this late hour. I am asking the Government for further elaboration—
Indeed. I hope that the House will not accept the arrogance shown by that point, which assumes that a matter which is properly debatable can be swept to one side and taken as read and that we can proceed with business. Surely the point is that the motion is properly debatable in the House. I wish to initiate a short debate on it so that the Government can elaborate on the points that I have sought to raise. I hope that at least I will have succeeded in that.
I wish to elaborate on the point on which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) asked me to comment.
I understand that, as the Bill started in another place, if the amendments that we are asking Members of another place to consider are rejected by them and they are minded to refuse the will of this House, it could fail entirely in the current Session. It is particularly important that the constitution and credibility of the Committee is beyond reproach. If it is not, and if in another place many independent minds address themselves to the points that have been raised, the will of the House, as expressed tonight, will fail. Therefore, the points that my right hon. Friend raised are not delaying tactics; they go to the heart of the matter—whether or not the House is serious about the arguments put forward this evening; whether it is serious about trying to influence another place; and whether it seriously cares whether the Bill, which started in another place, is completed this Session.
You will advise me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I believe that we should consider whether it is material that the Bill should be completed this Session.
The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) asked why the Reasons Committee was being set up. The House has twice voted overwhelmingly to reverse Lords amendments and send business back to the Lords. As he may have gleaned during his years in the House, that is done by referring the issue to the Reasons Committee. It is the norm that the Minister who has spoken in the debate chairs the Committee. The issue is as simple as that. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman suffers from any particular problems of comprehension. His behaviour is entirely up to him, but I suggest that the charade that he has initiated is not in anyone's interests and that we should now get on with the business of the House and appoint the Reasons Committee.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My reading of the Order Paper suggests that the matter can be debated until any hour. Although the Minister has spoken early in the debate, it should be quite proper for other hon. Members to seek to catch your eye. There is no time limit on the debate. The fact that the Minister has spoken surely cannot bring the debate to an end.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am most grateful to you for giving me the opportunity to speak.
Labour Members should not believe that we are not prepared to have a constructive debate on an important matter. We have had a contribution from the Minister, but I was not clear whether he was intervening on my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn) or whether my hon. Friend had finished and the Minister was making his speech. Will the Minister answer the legitimate questions that my right hon. and hon. Friends have asked and the questions that I would like to ask? I shall be happy to give way if someone would like to give me an assurance that we shall hear a constructive contribution from the Government in response to the points that have been made.
The Minister did not tell us why the particular names have been proposed. I understand why my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) is to be on the Committee, if the House approves it, but I do not understand the reasons for the selection of the other names. I should be most grateful if someone could explain why each of those hon. Members has been selected and why they are considered the experts who can draw up a list of reasons on behalf of the whole House that we can send to the other place.
I am also interested to know not only why those hon. Members have been chosen, but why others have been rejected. Many Labour Members have great knowledge of the issues that have been debated. It is important for us to be told whether those who have been chosen represent a balanced ticket.
My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford is absolutely right. It is important that, when justification is given for the names that the Government have put forward, it is explained whether the names constitute a balanced ticket. We have heard members of all parties express substantial reservations about the arguments advanced by the Government Front-Bench team. It is important that somebody like the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) should be on that Committee, because he seems to have a much stronger grasp of the problems than the Minister or, as far as I can see, any of the other Labour Members proposed.
My hon. Friend will be aware that I sat in the Chamber throughout the previous debates, although I did not speak. Does he believe that the hon. Members on the Committee should at the very minimum have heard tonight's debate?
I am sure that my hon. Friend is absolutely right. Perhaps I should add that to the list of questions, so that we may make absolutely certain that everyone who serves on the Committee has sat through the entire debate and knows about all the issues that must be addressed. I should be very grateful for an explanation about the names.
There is one other issue with which we need to deal: the Chairman. It has been asked whether the Minister for Education and Industry is the right person for the job, because he is tired. Is he tired? The poor hon. Gentlemen has been dragged all the way back from Inverness. He was late getting here, he has been under a great deal of stress, and I worry for his health. I worry that he might be clapped out and, therefore, somebody else should be chosen.
Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the procedures that we are adopting are routine for such an issue. The reasons that he is giving for not agreeing with the motion are, as far as I can see, rather thin.
I understand exactly your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Although the matter can very easily be seen as routine, it is far from it when the person proposed to chair the Committee has been dragged back from Inverness. I suspect that this might even be a unique occasion. The matter needs some consideration. I hope that someone on the Government Front Bench will be able to assure us that a Minister who has had a tiring day and has worked hard can, just before midnight, chair a Committee that must do a responsible job. I look forward to the answer to that.
We must also be told what issues the Committee intends to address. All sorts of issues have been raised tonight. We know what the two motions and the decisions were; the Committee has to draw up reasons. We need to be reassured that the Committee members have a grasp of every issue that was raised tonight—
Order. That is not what we are talking about. The hon. Member is straying very wide of the point, and I should be grateful if he returned to the precise motion before the House.
I again understand your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to co-operate not only with you but with the entire House. My hon. Friends have asked a list of questions, to which I have added. I hope that, in the spirit of constructive debate, which we Opposition Members have observed, we shall not witness the Government ignoring the sensible points, rolling out their majority and hoping that the matter will go away. These are serious and important points and legitimate questions that the Government need to answer. I look forward to hearing what they have to say.
|Division No. 325]||[11.54 pm|
|Alexander, Douglas||Chaytor, David|
|Allan, Richard||Chisholm, Malcolm|
|Allen, Graham||Clapham, Michael|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Clark, Paul (Gillingham)|
|Banks, Tony||Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)|
|Battle, John||Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)|
|Bayley, Hugh||Clelland, David|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Coaker, Vernon|
|Betts, Clive||Coffey, Ms Ann|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Coleman, Iain|
|Blizzard, Bob||Colman, Tony|
|Borrow, David||Connarty, Michael|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Corston, Ms Jean|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Cotter, Brian|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Cousins, Jim|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Cranston, Ross|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Crausby, David|
|Browne, Desmond||Cummings, John|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)|
|Burden, Richard||Dalyell, Tam|
|Burgon, Colin||Darvill, Keith|
|Burnett, John||Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Davidson, Ian|
|Byers, Stephen||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Caborn, Richard||Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)||Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Dismore, Andrew|
|Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)||Dobbin, Jim|
|Canavan, Dennis||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Caplin, Ivor||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Casale, Roger||Drew, David|
|Cawsey, Ian||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)|
|Ellman, Mrs Louise||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Ennis, Jeff||Kumar, Dr Ashok|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Ladyman, Dr Stephen|
|Fearn, Ronnie||Lepper, David|
|Fisher, Mark||Leslie, Christopher|
|Fitzsimons, Lorna||Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)|
|Follett, Barbara||Lewis, Terry (Worsley)|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Liddell, Mrs Helen|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)||Linton, Martin|
|Foster, Michael J (Worcester)||Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)|
|Gapes, Mike||Lock, David|
|Gardiner, Barry||Love, Andrew|
|George, Andrew (St Ives)||McAllion, John|
|Gibson, Dr Ian||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Gilroy, Mrs Linda||McCabe, Steve|
|Godman, Dr Norman A||McCafferty, Ms Chris|
|Goggins, Paul||McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||McDonnell, John|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen||McFall, John|
|Gorrie, Donald||McGuire, Mrs Anne|
|Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)||McIsaac, Shona|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||McKenna, Mrs Rosemary|
|Grocott, Bruce||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Grogan, John||McNulty, Tony|
|Gunnell, John||MacShane, Denis|
|Hain, Peter||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)||Mallaber, Judy|
|Hall, Patrick (Bedford)||Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)|
|Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)||Marshall-Andrews, Robert|
|Hanson, David||Meacher, Rt Hon Michael|
|Harris, Dr Evan||Meale, Alan|
|Heal, Mrs Sylvia||Merron, Gillian|
|Healey, John||Michael, Alun|
|Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)||Milburn, Alan|
|Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)||Miller, Andrew|
|Hepburn, Stephen||Moffatt, Laura|
|Heppell, John||Moore, Michael|
|Hill, Keith||Moran, Ms Margaret|
|Hodge, Ms Margaret||Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)|
|Hoon, Geoffrey||Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)|
|Hope, Phil||Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)|
|Howells, Dr Kim||Morley, Elliot|
|Hoyle, Lindsay||Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)||Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)||Norris, Dan|
|Humble, Mrs Joan||O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)|
|Hurst, Alan||O'Hara, Eddie|
|Iddon, Dr Brian||Olner, Bill|
|Illsley, Eric||O'Neill, Martin|
|Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)||Öpik, Lembit|
|Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)||Osborne, Ms Sandra|
|Jamieson, David||Palmer, Dr Nick|
|Jenkins, Brian||Pearson, Ian|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)||Perham, Ms Linda|
|Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)||Pike, Peter L|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)||Plaskitt, James|
|Jowell, Ms Tessa||Pond, Chris|
|Keeble, Ms Sally||Pope, Greg|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Pound, Stephen|
|Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Kidney, David||Prosser, Gwyn|
|King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)||Purchase, Ken|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Rammell, Bill||Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|Rapson, Syd||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)||Timms, Stephen|
|Rendel, David||Tipping, Paddy|
|Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)||Todd, Mark|
|Roche, Mrs Barbara||Truswell, Paul|
|Rooker, Jeff||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Rooney, Terry||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Roy, Frank||Tyler, Paul|
|Russell, Bob (Colchester)||Vaz, Keith|
|Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Ryan, Ms Joan||Wallace, James|
|Salmond, Alex||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Savidge, Malcolm||Wareing, Robert N|
|Sawford, Phil||Watts, David|
|Singh, Marsha||Webb, Steve|
|Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Smith, Angela (Basildon)||White, Brian|
|Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)||Wills, Michael|
|Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)||Wilson, Brian|
|Southworth, Ms Helen||Winnick, David|
|Spellar, John||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Squire, Ms Rachel||Woolas, Phil|
|Stewart, David (Inverness E)||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Stewart, Ian (Eccles)||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Stuart, Ms Gisela||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Stunell, Andrew||Mr. Jim Dowd and|
|Sutcliffe, Gerry||Mr. Robert Ainsworth.|
|Amess, David||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Ross, William (E Lond'y)|
|Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)||St Aubyn, Nick|
|Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Laing, Mrs Eleanor||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)||Mr. Eric Forth and|
|Maclean, Rt Hon David||Mr. David Wilshire.|