Clause 12 - Qualifying complaints

Part of Higher Education Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 12th February 2004.

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Photo of Mr Simon Thomas Mr Simon Thomas Chief Whip, Spokesperson (Agriculture; Culture; Environment; Heritage; International Development; Sustainable Energy; Transport) 10:15 am, 12th February 2004

Two important issues have been raised. I cannot talk about one, because we shall talk about it in a fortnight's time. The second is the fact that my amendment and amendments Nos. 248 and 249, which were tabled by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale, show the emergence of a partial provision for applicants through the visitor system.

We know that the visitor system is rather archaic—some would argue that it is long-winded and not easy to use. We decided to retain it just for the staff, but it will be abolished for the applicants. However, no other system is being put in its place. That is a failure. I hope that the Under-Secretary will at least spend a little time thinking about it. What is currently available for some applications to some institutions—many of them are the older more traditional institutions that have shown the sort of attitude to applicants that we want to do away with in the Bill—is being taken away, yet those

institutions may have an attitude to certain socio-economic backgrounds and so forth. Those applicants will no longer have an avenue for appeal, as nothing else is being put in its place.

I sense that I have been outgunned on the amendment, so it would serve no purpose to divide the Committee. However, I hope that the Under-Secretary will consider the situation. I hope also that other organisations, such as Universities UK and the students unions, will consider what is best for applicants and what system—both in terms of OFFA and the OIA—would best fit in the Bill. As we cannot make much more progress at this stage, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.