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Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:00 pm on 2nd February 2012.

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Photo of Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market Chair, Audit Committee (Lords), Chair, Economic Affairs Committee 3:00 pm, 2nd February 2012

My Lords, I am delighted to be able to follow the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland. He referred to the eloquence of the other speakers but, if I may say so, he has spoken with great eloquence, great authority and great experience on this subject.

When I woke up this morning, I had not been expecting to take part in this debate but I was working in my office and at other meetings in the House and happened to bump into my noble friend Lord Forsyth over a sandwich. Having realised what the subject is, I am only too delighted to be able to intervene. I hope to speak on the subject briefly because many of the points that I wanted to make have been made already.

I was born and brought up in Scotland and, like my noble friend Lord Forsyth, I went to the University of St Andrews. I listened to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, made about the contribution of English students to the University of Edinburgh. I recall very clearly that one of the great richnesses during my time at St Andrews came from the university having so many students from America and elsewhere but particularly from England. I believe that that had a very beneficial effect in widening my horizons.

Subsequently, of course, I came to England and for many years represented an English constituency, and I shall say something about that in a moment. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, referred to the sensitivity of dealing with the Scottish Parliament on this issue. However, I think that there is no more sensitive an issue than this question of tuition fees for parents who live in England but who, like me, may have been born in Scotland and who hope that their children will go to Scottish universities. From knowledge gained from my friends and particularly from my constituents in Norfolk, I can say that the resentment is very great.

I know how this issue arose originally-the Scottish universities had to accept the ruling that EU students had to be treated the same as those in Scotland but that did not apply in the United Kingdom. That argument is not understood by any parent or potential student who wants to come to Scotland. I hesitate to mention the Barnett formula but the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, has done so already. I was going to look at the Barnett formula in a slightly different context. I have always-since first being in government-been a strong opponent of the Barnett formula, but that is another story. However, there is no question that Scotland benefits greatly from the formula. One way of putting this resentment right would be to meet the fees required from English students coming to Scotland through the extra expenditure that the Scottish Parliament has received from the Barnett formula.

I want to say one other thing on this subject. For many years, I tried to persuade my constituents and many others in Norfolk and elsewhere of the unfairness to those in England-very often receiving grants from local authorities and so on-of the Barnett formula in treating Scotland so much better. I could never persuade my constituents of the importance of this case because it seemed remote from them. However, the one issue that they really understand and which creates resentment is when they want one of their children to go to the Scottish university that they attended but they find that the financial penalties are such that they are not able to do so. That is what comes home to them. I used to get a lot of representations from people in this situation and I could never convince them otherwise; I could only agree with them. That is why I strongly support these two amendments.