My Lords, I have no need to draw noble Lords’ attention to my entry in the register of interests as I was not lucky enough to go to university in 1968. Fortunately, my father managed to get me an apprenticeship and that has served me well over the years. University is sometimes not the automatic answer.
The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, has clearly articulated the problem. He has given the facts and the figures regarding the implementation of these proposed measures. However, I will talk about the fairness of this—the unintended consequences of these measures. Is it fair to give the Government these sweeping powers over the next two or three years? Is it fair to limit student numbers when, as other speakers have said today, the unintended consequence will be that the poorest and the least qualified, with the fewest marks, will have least chance to get on that university ladder to get a better standard of education and improve their life chances.
The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is completely correct: young people need to get the best opportunities. University is not for everybody and sometimes apprenticeships, as I can vouch for, work just as well. But we should not cut off the legs of the poorest and least educated who have the chance to get to university. That is what worries me. The Government are set to reduce many students’ once-in-a-lifetime chance. The Government should look back. As other noble Lords have said, we spend billions of pounds looking after other sectors. Surely the most important sector that we should look after is the education of our children. That is where the money should go, because the children, young people and students of all races and religions are the future of this country.