Section 1 — The graduate endowment

Education (Graduate Endowment and Student Support) (Scotland) (No 2) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:32 am on 29th March 2001.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent 9:32 am, 29th March 2001

I will begin my opening comments by addressing amendments 6 and 7. The purpose of this group of amendments is to ensure that graduates do not have to start paying a graduate endowment until their salaries reach a minimum level of £25,000 per annum. The amendments also seek to ensure that that threshold should be increased annually in line with the increase in either the retail prices index or the average earnings index, whichever is the greater.

I would like to make it clear at the outset that I do not think that a graduate endowment system is the best way to finance higher education. I favour the complete abolition of tuition fees, whether the upfront advance payment or the postgraduate payment. Many students perceive the graduate endowment as a form of postgraduate payment of tuition fees. The Executive failed to introduce immediate legislation to abolish tuition fees completely, despite the fact that the majority of members of the Scottish Parliament were elected on commitments to abolish them.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Does Dennis Canavan recognise that tuition fees are paid in full to the universities by the Executive? Members should use the right terminology; tuition fees are in effect abolished.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

Whether we call them tuition fees or not, the fact of the matter is that, under the bill as it stands, there will be an obligation on students after they graduate to make a payment. Many students perceive that as a payment of tuition fees. Instead of introducing immediate legislation to abolish tuition fees in the first year of the Parliament, the Executive set up an independent inquiry chaired by Andrew Cubie. The Cubie committee put in a great deal of hard work. It took evidence from a wide range of individuals and organisations, including most—if not all—of the political parties that are represented in the Scottish Parliament.

Andrew Cubie's committee of inquiry eventually came out with a report, the recommendations of which were generally well received, yet the Executive is stubbornly refusing to implement them in full. Cubie recommended that graduates should not have to start making graduate endowment payments until they were earning a salary of at least £25,000 a year. As far as I can see, no threshold is mentioned in the bill, but the Executive has indicated that the threshold will be only £10,000. That is only 40 per cent of the threshold that was recommended by the Cubie report and it is only about 56 per cent of the national average wage of £18,000 a year—if we are to believe the figure that was given by the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals in evidence to the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee.

Those who argue that graduates should contribute to the cost of their higher education attempt to justify their argument by saying that people with a university degree have greater earnings potential than people without a university degree. In general, that is true, but surely no one can argue that people who earn £10,000 a year—less than £200 a week—are so well off that they should start contributing to the cost of their higher education.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

Let me quote Dugald Mackie, one of the members of the Cubie committee, who gave evidence to us. When he was asked whether the £10,000 threshold had been raised with the committee—which consulted the length and breadth of Scotland with parents, teachers and university students—he said:

"that issue was not raised with us in the public consultations, particularly with students or their parents ... Although we certainly discussed whether the £10,000 threshold should be raised or stay the same, we decided to leave the issue alone as it had not really been raised with us."—[Official Report, Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee, 14 November 2000; c 1308-09.]

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

Frankly, I am not surprised that the £10,000 threshold was not mentioned by those who gave evidence to the Cubie committee. It is ludicrously low and I would not have thought that any of the bodies that gave evidence to the Cubie committee would have suggested such a pitifully low figure. I understand that all the witnesses who gave evidence to the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee were of the view that the Executive's proposed threshold of £10,000 was too low. The Scottish Trades Union Congress and others indicated that the Executive should accept the Cubie committee recommendation that the threshold should be set at £25,000.

One of the bill's declared objectives is to encourage more people to enter higher education. My fear is that many people—particularly young people from low-income families—will be discouraged from entering higher education when they realise that, after graduating, they could face having to repay a loan of £12,000 or more and having to start paying a graduate endowment even if their salary is as little as £10,000 a year.

Amendments 4, 6 and 7 would help to implement the Cubie recommendations in full. They would also ensure that the threshold of £25,000 a year is uprated annually in line with either inflation or the annual increase in earnings, whichever is the greater. As I said before, that is not my ideal solution, but it would implement the recommendations of the independent committee, which was set up by the Executive, and help to ensure a fairer deal for students and graduates, especially those on low incomes. I ask the Parliament to accept my amendment.

I move amendment 4.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I call Brian Monteith to speak to amendment 5 and the other amendments in the group.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative

I too have lodged an amendment that seeks to change the threshold at which the repayment of this iniquitous tuition tax starts.

Amendment 5 differs slightly from amendment 4 and other amendments introduced by other members at stage 2. The difference may be considered technical. I am seeking to enshrine the idea that the threshold is guided by the national labour force survey. My reason is simple. Cubie proposed a threshold of £25,000. That proposal was based on average earnings across the country, but there are average earning for the whole country and there are average earnings for graduates. The national labour force survey shows graduate average earnings and is therefore more accurate in showing what graduates can expect to earn. It is therefore more accurate at showing the level at which it would be right and proper to set a threshold. That is the technical argument.

We hope, through amendment 5, to extend the relief to students from this iniquitous tax. If there is to be a collection from students—we can talk about the principles separately—it is only right and proper that the threshold is set at a level that acknowledges that they have gained some benefit from higher education.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Brian Monteith keeps talking about a tuition tax, and we have heard about tuition fees from Dennis Canavan. I appeal to members to get the terminology right. The powers of this Parliament mean that we are not allowed to levy a tuition tax. If Mr Monteith feels that it is a tuition tax, why does he not challenge it?

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative

The member may be anticipating one of my speeches. He will recall that that issue has already been raised by the leader of our group, David McLetchie. We will no doubt revisit it later today. If the bill does not set a threshold, we are quite within our rights to decide what name we should give it.

The national labour force survey for August 2000 showed that the average graduate of age 23 was earning £15,500, which is well over the £10,000 threshold. Even a graduate who is earning less than the average—say 70 per cent of the average—is earning £10,850, which is still over the £10,000 threshold. That graduate would still be liable to pay the graduate tax. I do not believe—and many people throughout Scotland do not believe—that collecting this tax at such a low threshold is just. That is why we have lodged amendment 5: it specifies the level at which the threshold should be set and bases that on the national labour force survey, because that survey accurately shows graduate earnings. It allows us to see the benefit that graduates have obtained.

Whenever the threshold was discussed during stage 2, the only justification that could be found for it, when reading the Official Report, was that it is simpler to collect, by using the Student Loans Company and the current loans system. I do not feel that it is right and proper that the Executive should introduce legislation purely on the basis of what is simple. Students are looking for justice. There is no social justice in this bill with such a low threshold. That is why we want to extend relief, if possible, by improving the bill with amendment 5. We will also support other amendments lodged by other members to make the bill better. If the bill is not improved, Conservatives will have only one option—to oppose it on principle.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

I agree with much of what Mr Canavan said and with some of what Mr Monteith said. The purpose of amendment 1 is to flesh out a bill that is rather scant and lacking. Everything in it is left to regulations. We have to go back and remember the original purpose of the bill. Let us be clear: the bill came about because of election commitments on tuition fees. That will no doubt be commented on by Mr Monteith, Mr Canavan, me and others.

The First Minister himself instructed Andrew Cubie to carry out an inquiry. To some extent, the Scottish National Party did not agree with that; we just wanted election commitments to be adhered to. However, Andrew Cubie carried out an inquiry and it was made clear that the threshold should be £25,000. When the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee considered the issue, Mr Cubie and others indicated that a threshold of £10,000 was far too low. That is why we want Cubie's recommendations to be implemented, at least in part, by ensuring that no payment will start until earnings of at least £25,000 are reached.

Labour should consider what it is driving towards. Earlier this week, the Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning was quite rightly parading the fact that she is extending a pilot scheme from Ayrshire into Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire and Dundee to fund children to stay on at school. Mr Monteith disagreed with that. I find it rather ironic that he disagreed with that aspect of trying to improve access to education for the disadvantaged but is here today claiming that he is looking after the interests of the disadvantaged.

We could see the logic of the minister's drive to pay youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds to stay on at school. Our objection was that we did not know any of the details of the scheme or how long it would continue. We did not know whether what was happening was simply the extension of a trial. However, we certainly agreed with the principle.

The minister is encouraging youngsters to stay on at school by paying them so that they do not have to go and work in McDonald's or in a shop but can stay at home and study—but there is irony in what she wants to happen when they leave school. In Dundee, West Dunbartonshire and Glasgow, those youngsters will be encouraged to stay on, and be paid to do so, because the intention is to get them into higher education. However, no sooner will they be ready for higher education—if, as Mr Canavan rightly said, they are not put off by the thought of incurring debt—when they will be put off by the fact that, at a very low level of earnings, they will have to start paying back.

Amendment 1 therefore seeks to ensure that the principles of Cubie are adhered to. It also seeks to ensure that the principle that the Conservatives and the Government are trying to promote—of providing access to education to those from disadvantaged areas—is met.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

The threshold is set at such a low level—£10,000—as to put people off. Not only the disadvantaged will be impeded by the bill as it stands. I am sorry to spike Brian Monteith's guns.

We accept the Executive's point that this is not simply a question of a graduate endowment or a tuition fee. Mr Rumbles can talk about the semantics, but the fact is that those who pay it will know what they are paying and they will not be affected by the terminology.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I would like Mr MacAskill to tell the chamber what exactly is the huge sum that someone earning £11,000 will repay each year.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

I am not going to do a quick calculation. Mr Rumbles has to understand two things. First, people are being put off going into higher education because they recognise that there will be debt. That is an impediment.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

People are being put off going into higher education, yet Mr Rumbles goes on about getting 50 per cent of people in Scotland to go into higher education.

Members should consider Finland, where they aspire to having between 60 and 65 per cent of people going into higher education. In Finland, they considered whether there should be tuition fees or a graduate tax and they decided against them because they would discourage people from going into higher education. This Government is being hypocritical. That is why amendment 1 is required.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

I am sorry, but I have to move on.

Many things put people off. The second thing Mike Rumbles has to understand concerns repayment. The threshold at which repayment will commence is at a level that means that people on limited incomes in difficult jobs will have to pay. That is unacceptable.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

The whole purpose of the bill is to provide universal education. The real irony in this debate is that we in the SNP have no difficulty supporting Mr Monteith because his position is more radical and more consistent with the principles of Andrew Cubie than what either of the Executive partners in the coalition has proposed. Mr Rumbles may think that, by semantics, he can avoid answering to people at the ballot box, but he cannot—a tuition fee is a tuition fee, whether or not it is called a graduate endowment. That is why we will move amendment 1.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

I will refer to amendment 1, which was lodged by Kenny MacAskill, amendments 4, 6 and 7, which were lodged by Dennis Canavan, and amendment 5, which was lodged by Brian Monteith.

Amendments to change the threshold for the repayment of loans and for liability for the graduate endowment were lodged at stage 2. As Kenny MacAskill and Brian Monteith are well aware, they were defeated both times. However, I welcome the chance to set out the facts surrounding the graduate endowment and the threshold at which loan repayments will be collected, and the reasons why the Executive will not support the amendments. I welcome the chance, not least because of the misinformation that we have had to listen to this morning.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

I am dealing with the amendments.

Kenny MacAskill's amendment 1 suggests that we vary the threshold for repayment through the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. To do that, we would need a completely different repayment system solely for the graduate endowment. The current threshold for the repayment of income-contingent loans is set in the Education (Student Loans) (Repayment) Regulations 2000. The relevant regulation imposes a duty on the Inland Revenue to collect loan repayments when the borrower's income reaches the appropriate level.

Kenny MacAskill is aware, because I told him at stage 2, that the imposition of such duties is a reserved matter. The Scottish Parliament cannot instruct the Inland Revenue to collect the endowment for us under a different threshold from that which is used for living-cost loans. That is what Kenny MacAskill's amendment 1 would require. In order to stay within the competence of the Scottish Parliament and implement amendment 1, we would have to create a whole new system of collection.

Brian Monteith's amendment 5 proposes that we avoid making a person liable for the graduate endowment until they reach an income that is in line with average graduate earnings. For that to work, we would need to create a whole new monitoring system to gauge when graduates hit average earnings. Moreover, graduates would appear to remain liable for repayments whether they continued to earn in excess of the average income threshold or their income fell below it.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

I point out to Brian Monteith that I am dealing with his amendment. The problem that I have outlined is exactly the same as that of Mr Monteith's similar amendment at stage 2. I pointed out the flaw to him then.

In a similar vein, Dennis Canavan's amendments 4 and 7 seek to exempt graduates who earn less than £25,000 from liability. That raises again the problems of a separate scheme, which we rehearsed before. Undoubtedly there would be higher default rates as we tracked graduates, which would be over a period of years for many of them. The potential for slipping through the net would be far higher, adding to the cost of collection. Moreover, on those terms we could wait a long time to see any benefit from the graduate endowment.

Let us be in no doubt that the graduate endowment is being introduced to help fund the future support of low-income students. Section 2 of the bill requires us to devote the endowment income to student support. That is a key part of our package to widen access. Making collection more difficult will reduce the resources that the endowment generates, and will not support a move to widen access.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

A number of members have asked for clarification of why it is so beneficial to draw on the Inland Revenue. The reasons are the same reasons why relying on the Inland Revenue is the best way to collect living-cost loans: it is efficient and simple. Borrowers can be identified by the use of national insurance numbers without the need for a separate tracking system. The long-term default rate is negligible—the current estimate is 0.03 per cent of the total amount borrowed under the scheme. The system is straightforward, easily understood, is already in place, and most repayments are collected.

We have a clear policy of no more debt. That means that, even with a loan from the graduate endowment, the repayment period for any student will never be any longer than under the current system.

It is no coincidence that Kenny MacAskill's amendment 1 proposes £25,000 as the threshold, the same as that suggested by the Cubie committee. We know that Cubie reached that figure by adding the estimated premium that graduates earn and the average Scottish wage.

There is no significant scientific formula at work, and we should beware of adopting that figure without considering alternative thresholds and their benefits.

As I hope I made clear at stage 2, we have listened to the criticisms that have been levelled at the threshold during the progress of the bill. The threshold should be kept under review, and we are doing that in conjunction with our colleagues in the UK Government. I remind members that no one will be making graduate endowment payments for a few years yet. I therefore invite the Parliament to reject the amendment.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

I had no intention of speaking on the amendments until I heard Kenny MacAskill's speech, on which I tried to intervene on a couple of occasions. The simple fact is that he failed to answer the question that Mike Rumbles asked as to how much a graduate who earns £11,000 a year will pay. The total is £90 a year. I want to place that in the Official Report . How much do such students pay under the present student loans scheme—£90 a year. How much will they pay once the graduate endowment comes in—£90 a year.

Students will not pay one penny more per year when repaying their debt than they do under the present system. That is a fact that the SNP and the Tories wish to ignore. Under the present student loans scheme, students have to repay the loan at a rate of 9 per cent of earnings over £10,000. That will stay the same—they will not pay more. It is about time that the SNP and the Tories put that on record, instead of misleading students and graduates by saying that they will have to pay more as a result of the graduate endowment.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

The minister seemed to make only one concession, namely that the threshold should be kept under review. What does that mean? How often will it be reviewed? How will it be reviewed? Will it be reviewed in line with the retail prices index or the average wages index? The minister did not satisfactorily address my main allegation that the threshold is far too low. His attempt at justification was that it would be simpler to collect graduate endowment payments if the threshold was set at £10,000 because of the student loans system.

I am not much of a supporter of the student loans system, but if the minister is such a great supporter of it, is it beyond his wit to examine it to see how it can be reformed? If the student loan threshold is too low, and it would be better for collection purposes to have equal thresholds, why not level up the threshold, rather than level it down?

The minister also said that similar amendments were lodged at stage 2 and rejected. That may be true, but at the final stage of the bill, the Parliament in plenary session ought to have the opportunity to express a view on the matter. I hope that the Executive will listen to that view.

The Executive's main argument seems to be that graduates tend to earn more, therefore they should contribute to the cost of their higher education. I do not quibble fundamentally with that argument. If it is the case that graduates earn more, of course they ought to contribute more, but the fairest method of contributing more is through a progressive system of income tax, rather than a graduate tax, which the bill will introduce.

I repeat my fear that, as it stands, the bill will act as a disincentive, rather than an incentive, to many young people who wish to go on to higher education. Once they graduate, not only are they entering the world of full-time employment, but many of them will have other obligations, including family obligations, mortgage repayments and so on. At that important stage in their lives, they will have to repay a debt of £12,000—or more in some cases—and they will also have to start paying the graduate endowment, even if their salary is as low as £10,000 per annum.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat

I have a point of clarification for Dennis Canavan. Under the new system, students will pay a graduate endowment of £2,000 plus the student loan repayment.

A table that was supplied to the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee shows that, under the proposed system, students from lower-income backgrounds will be liable for £4,000 less debt than they incur under the present loan system and that 99 per cent of students will leave university with lower debt levels. Even including payment of the endowment contribution plus the loan, students will have less debt when they leave university than they do under the present system. That is an incentive, not a disincentive.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Order. Just a second please, Mr Canavan. I remind members that interventions, by their nature, should be brief.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

What George Lyon says is beside the point. Even I must agree that the bill will introduce a system that is better than the status quo. The student support package that the bill proposes is at least an improvement on the system that the House of Commons introduced following the previous general election. However, it is not good enough to say that just because the proposal will be better than the status quo, we should accept it. My amendment would effect a much-needed improvement.

As I said, if there is an argument—and I think that there is—that people on higher earnings should contribute more to the cost of their education, the fairest way of ensuring that is by adopting a progressive income tax system, rather than placing a financial burden on many students. After those students have graduated, they will find it difficult to keep up the payments, and they may find that a disincentive to enter college or university.

I would never discourage a potential student from going to university, despite the financial difficulties that they would face. Part of the Parliament's job is to try to make it as easy as possible for young people to go on to higher education. Many members received higher education and throughout it received generous grants—many of us did not have to resort to loans or anything like that. It is wrong of us to try to treat the future generation of students less generously than we were treated. Therefore, I ask the Parliament to agree to my amendment.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The question is, that amendment 4 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 1

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Harding, Mr Keith, Harper, Robin, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Mundell, David, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Reid, Mr George, Robison, Shona, Scanlon, Mary, Sheridan, Tommy, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Mr Murray, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Ben, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Thomson, Elaine, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The result of the division is: For 43, Against 61, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 4 disagreed to.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I ask Brian Monteith to move amendment 5, which was debated with amendment 4.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative

I will clear up several points on which I did not intervene. I did not want to disturb the flow of some members' speeches, especially when, in some respects, we agree.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Mr Monteith, I must interrupt you. I have a point of order.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

On a point of order. My understanding is that amendment 5 has been debated and is only to be moved.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Amendment 5 has been debated, but Mr Monteith can make a brief statement, which I hope is what he is doing.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative

Thank you for that clarification to Iain Smith.

I will pick up several points that were made. George Lyon consistently says that the Cubie committee did not consider the loan threshold because no representation was made about it. I have consistently told him that the Conservative party made representations and advocated that the loan threshold should be increased, but the member will not listen.

Iain Smith suggests that students will not pay more than they do now. They will not pay more because the loan entitlement is being reduced. That brings us to the deputy minister's point that students will not have greater debt. Students will not have greater state debt. It is the private debt that students will incur that will provide the disincentive that worries the Government so much that it must give relief to 50 per cent of the students who would otherwise pay the iniquitous tax.

Some students will not even be entitled to a loan. The deputy minister has told us that the Government is listening, yet he has lodged no amendments that show that. The original bill was flawed and was withdrawn by a very late letter before the deputy minister had to appear before the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee for a second time. The performance of the deputy minister and his officials at that point left a great deal to be desired.

The deputy minister will not listen. He took no interventions and simply read a speech. The Government is bullying the bill through Parliament. The deputy minister may wish to bully the First Minister, but we will stand up for students. I call on members to back amendment 5 to ensure greater relief and greater social justice.

I move amendment 5.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The question is, that amendment 5 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 2

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Harding, Mr Keith, Harper, Robin, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Mundell, David, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Reid, Mr George, Robison, Shona, Scanlon, Mary, Sheridan, Tommy, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Mr Murray, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Ben, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Thomson, Elaine, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The result of the division is: For 45, Against 59, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 5 disagreed to.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I ask Dennis Canavan to move amendment 6, which was debated with amendment 4.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

I do not know if it is worth moving amendment 6, because it is consequential on amendment 4. Amendment 4 was not agreed to, so I do not want to press either amendment 6 or amendment 7.

Amendments 6 and 7 not moved.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Amendment 8, in the name of Dennis Canavan, is grouped with amendments 9 and 10. I ask Mr Canavan to move amendment 8 and to speak to the amendments in the group.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

The bill refers to the possibility—or indeed the certainty—that, if it is passed, the Executive will come to Parliament with a statutory instrument that sets out regulations. My experience of secondary legislation at Westminster is that the Government often introduces such legislation by way of a statutory instrument at dead of night. If Parliament has an opportunity to vote on the legislation at all, it is on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. In my experience, there is no opportunity to amend the regulations or the statutory instrument. Therefore, it is not the best example of parliamentary democracy in practice.

With the Scottish Parliament, I thought that we might have more opportunity not just to scrutinise secondary legislation, but to amend it and to tell the Government when it has got things wrong.

We heard the minister refer to a threshold for the repayment of the graduate endowment after graduation, but no threshold is mentioned in the bill. The Executive has indicated that it is in favour of a threshold of £10,000 per annum and has said that that threshold will be subject to review. Presumably, the Executive will come to Parliament with the regulations on the threshold and give details of the obligations on graduates to contribute to the graduate endowment fund.

In a sense, if we pass the bill in its present form, we are being asked to buy a pig in a poke, because the bill has no details about the levels of payment that students will have to make. No mention is made of the threshold. As a result, we are unable to quantify the hardship that students will suffer from the passing of the bill and the regulations or statutory instrument that the minister may lay at a future date.

When the minister comes to Parliament with the regulations in the form of a statutory instrument, Parliament should have the opportunity to consider that instrument in detail—not just to vote yes or no, but to tell the Executive that it has got it wrong. Parliament should be able to suggest to the Executive where it has got things wrong and to instruct the Executive to come back to the Parliament with amended proposals.

For example, if the Executive is intransigent and stands by the income threshold of £10,000 per annum at which a graduate must make a mandatory contribution and, by the time the proposal is laid before Parliament, members—perhaps even a majority of members—consider that that threshold would be too low and that the contributions that individual students would have to make according to their means would be wrong, we should have the opportunity not just to turn down the Executive's proposals, but to tell the Executive what an alternative, fairer proposal would be. As well as ensuring a fairer deal for students, that would enhance the Scottish system of parliamentary democracy by giving the Parliament the power to tell the Executive to think again about detailed regulations.

I move amendment 8.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour 10:15 am, 29th March 2001

Amendments 8, 9 and 10 would introduce big changes to the procedure by which statutory instruments that relate to the bill would be made. Indeed, amendment 8 departs significantly from the existing rules that are normally followed for the making of statutory instruments. I do not believe that such changes are necessary.

The existing procedures by which statutory instruments are made are well known to, and well understood by, members. According to standing orders and the legislation that governs Scottish statutory instruments, the Parliament has a chance to formally accept or reject an instrument made by the Executive. If Parliament rejects such an instrument, the Executive is forced to withdraw it. Quite rightly, that means that ultimate control over statutory instruments rests with the Parliament.

That is not the only way in which concerns about statutory instruments can be raised. Committees scrutinise proposed statutory instruments and provide comments and criticisms on the proposals. If such comments indicate practical difficulties or fundamental defects, we have to consider and introduce an amending instrument as appropriate.

Mr Canavan should be aware that a set of draft regulations relating to the bill has been in the public domain since the bill's introduction last autumn. That practice is, as Mr Canavan knows, almost unheard of in Westminster. We have, since last autumn, consulted widely on those regulations and produced a further draft.

Amendments 8, 9 and 10 could lead to the ridiculous prospect of the Parliament requiring the Executive to introduce amendments to a statutory instrument that the Parliament has no power to make. Frankly, the Parliament would look absurd if we were to open up that possibility.

Mr Canavan is not happy that the responsibility for the making of regulations rests with the Executive and the responsibility for approving them or otherwise rests with the Parliament—he is, of course, entitled to his views on that. Amendment 8 is not specifically about the bill. I submit that it is quite wrong to try to use the bill to create a completely new form of legislation and a completely new form of legislative relationship.

Mr Canavan has not convinced me that there is anything about the statutory instruments that will be made under the bill that requires the ad hoc invention of a completely new form of secondary legislation. I invite Parliament to reject amendments 8, 9 and 10.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

We have heard it all now. In the words of an Executive minister, it is ridiculous to give the Scottish Parliament power over the Executive. I do not see anything ridiculous in that. The Parliament has the power to amend primary legislation. The Executive must accept such amendments if they are the will of the Parliament, even if the legislation has been introduced by the Government. If the Executive is afraid to put into primary legislation the detailed principles by which it will determine the graduate endowment and what will be a fair or unfair deal for students, and if the Executive—by using fear or concealment—expects the Parliament to give it carte blanche to introduce detailed, unamendable regulations later, that is indeed an imperfect system of parliamentary democracy.

Amendments 8, 9 and 10 might set a precedent, in that I cannot think of any previous primary legislation that gives the Parliament the power to amend the associated secondary legislation. However, members should remember that the Parliament is in its infancy. I hope that we are not slavishly following the practices of Westminster. If such a power is a precedent, it is a very good one.

A couple of weeks ago, there was another example of the Executive treating the Parliament with contempt. As a result, more people outside the Parliament realise the distinction between the Executive and the Parliament. Part of the job of the Parliament is to bring the Executive to account, to tell it when it has got something wrong and to tell it to think again. If the Executive is afraid to present us with detailed proposals in the primary legislation, Parliament should be able—to ensure a fairer deal for students—to amend the secondary legislation. If that sets a precedent for future legislation, so be it. It is a very good precedent.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The question is, that amendment 8 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 3

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Harding, Mr Keith, Harper, Robin, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Mundell, David, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Reid, Mr George, Robison, Shona, Scanlon, Mary, Sheridan, Tommy, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Mr Murray, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Ben, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The result of the division is: For 46, Against 60, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 8 disagreed to.

Amendment 9 moved—[Dennis Canavan].

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The question is, that amendment 9 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 4

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Harding, Mr Keith, Harper, Robin, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Mundell, David, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Reid, Mr George, Robison, Shona, Scanlon, Mary, Sheridan, Tommy, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Mr Murray, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Ben, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The result of the division is: For 46, Against 61, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 9 disagreed to.

Amendment 10 not moved.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Amendment 11, in the name of Dennis Canavan, is grouped with amendment 12.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

I think that amendment 12 should find the general acceptance of the Parliament, including members of the Executive, because it merely sets out a principle. Financial implications might follow acceptance of that principle, but I have not spelled out in detail what those implications would be. What I have said is that the Executive—or Scottish ministers—in exercising their powers under the proposed legislation should aim to ensure that students from low-income families are not prevented from pursuing a course of study as a result of that low income. That is an important principle.

I am sure that, in the course of their constituency case work, all members have come across students—fifth-year and sixth-year pupils—who are considering going on to college or university, or their parents who are worried sick about the financial implications, especially if the family is on a low income because of unemployment, sickness or the low pay that is all too prevalent among those who are fortunate enough to have a job. If the statements from the Executive and the Westminster Government on the matter amount to anything more than platitudes, they ought to fit well with the principles that are outlined in amendment 11. If we were to enshrine that principle in statute, Scottish Executive ministers would have a statutory obligation to take into account the possibility that young people might be deterred from going on to higher education by their, or their families', low incomes. That obligation on the part of the Executive would go some way to ensuring more access to college and university for students from low-income groups.

Over the past 20 or 30 years, under Governments of various complexions, there has been an enormous increase in the proportion of students who go on to higher education. When I went into higher education in the 1960s, the figure was about 10 per cent—Mr Morrison says 5 per cent. It might have been a bit higher in Scotland if we take into account both those who went on to colleges of higher education and those who went to universities. The figure is now 50 per cent or thereabouts—an enormous increase. However, there has been a less significant increase in the number of students from low-income groups who enter higher education. The Executive ought to address that problem more seriously. The Executive accepts that there is a problem, but if amendment 11 were passed by the Parliament there would be statutory obligations on the Executive to take the problem into account and to take the necessary steps to remedy it.

Amendment 11 spells out in a bit more detail how the principle that would be established by amendment 12 should be put into effect. If amendment 12 were accepted, the Executive would have to prescribe a level of family income. Ministers would then have to ensure that students from families that had an income below that prescribed level received a grant or some other form of maintenance that was enough to ensure that they were not dependent on loans or parental contributions. That used to be the case many years ago, when the maintenance grant was generous enough to allow students to live off it—even students from low-income families. Then, if students were able to get jobs during the long university holidays in the summer, they could live off their grant and what they managed to earn in the summer. However, that would be very difficult, if not impossible, to do now.

I am not suggesting that the Executive should ensure that all students should have a maximum grant. That would be an ideal solution to work towards, but amendment 12 does not suggest that at this stage. What it suggests is that, for students whose family's income is below a specific threshold, the Executive should try to ensure that there is a grant that is generous enough for them to live off.

Student poverty, unfortunately, is a reality for many young people today. In fact, the front page of The Herald today refers to recent research that was carried out by the University of Glasgow, which reveals that

"The mental and physical health of students in Scotland is suffering as an increasing number are forced to combine part-time work with full-time study."

As I said, students topping up their grants with part-time earnings or earnings during their holidays is nothing new. However, when students must work many hours, that can interfere with their studies.

The same report in The Herald refers to a young student who has severe financial difficulties; he has difficulties with his studies because his financial problems are so great. The report states:

"He is contracted to work 21 hours, usually over a weekend, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, but last weekend he worked 43."

That is completely unacceptable. How is any young person expected to do well in a full-time course of study when he or she works that number of hours at the weekend? I understand that the Government and the Executive are on record as saying that, if students are going to work, they should not work any more than about 10 hours a week. However, student poverty is such that many students must work long, hard hours at menial tasks. Many are tired out by the time they go to their lectures, so that they not giving of their best.

I hope that the Executive will address student poverty. If ministers accept the principles that are laid out in amendment 12, together with the mechanism that is described in amendment 11, that would help to reduce, if not to eradicate, student poverty and it would allow students—especially those from low-income families—to concentrate on their studies, to do their best at college or university and, therefore, to fulfil themselves, get a better degree and be of greater service to the nation after they graduate. It would be a good investment in our future and their future if the principles that lie behind my amendments were accepted.

I move amendment 11.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour 10:30 am, 29th March 2001

Several members want to speak on this group of amendments. I ask members to restrict their contributions to three minutes so that we can make some progress. I call Brian Monteith.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative

I am happy to keep my speech brief, but I want to place on record my party's views on Dennis Canavan's amendments. On amendment 11, I hope that he will respect the fact that we have a difference of opinion on loans and grants. The Conservatives have a principled position in favour of loans and many other members have a principled position in favour of grants. That is a debate that I am quite happy to enter into in more detail later in the proceedings, but I am unable to support amendment 11.

However, I believe that it is possible for the Conservatives to support amendment 12. The wording of amendment 12 is broad enough to gain the support of all members of the Parliament and I agree with Dennis Canavan that what he proposes should be possible. It should be possible for an amendment such as amendment 12 to be made to the bill, because it aims to ensure that students from families with low incomes are not prevented from pursuing a course of study. Amendment 12 would allow a Scottish Government the opportunity to institute new programmes of bursaries, or to change various charity laws to make it easier for universities to run bursaries and to raise income for that purpose. There are elements of amendment 12 that should allow members of all parties to support it; I offer my support for it.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

It is important for the Parliament to recognise that, some 20 years ago, we were in the midst of one of the world's worst economic recessions. We were two years into the Thatcher Government. We had high interest rates, high unemployment and high inflation. Twenty years later, we are told by all the ministers that we have never been in a healthier economic situation, with low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates and a booming economy. Twenty years ago, under the Thatcher Government, students had full grants and could claim housing benefit and income support. The problem is that, under today's Labour Government, in better economic conditions, they cannot claim housing benefit and there are no maintenance grants.

According to the National Union of Students—and to every other independent study—more and more working-class kids who are trying to enter further and higher education must leave education because they cannot afford to stay in full-time study. The problem with the expansion of student numbers is that the Government's national commitment to the wealth that is devoted to student support has not kept track with the increased number of students. Less of our national wealth is now devoted to student support than was the case 20 years ago. Amendments 11 and 12 seek to put into statute the requirement for the Parliament to support students from low-income families, so that they are not economically barred from access to full-time education.

In 1981, I was able to get on the ladder of opportunity to full-time education because of full-time grants and access to social security payments. Other members are in the same boat because they also got that help. It is not acceptable that we kick away that ladder of opportunity for other working-class kids.

Photo of Dorothy-Grace Elder Dorothy-Grace Elder Independent

I refer to Mr Canavan's remarks about students working in jobs for as much as 40 hours a week. That is absolutely accurate; I have met students who do worse hours than that. Just the other night, I met a young lady who was working at 11 o'clock at night in an Edinburgh hotel. She told me that she was on duty again at 6 o'clock the following morning in another Edinburgh hotel. She does three jobs to keep her going as a student.

In Glasgow, it is common for students to work all day Saturday in, for example, a shop and to start working again on Sunday or Monday in a bar. Student health is back to the state that it was in during the 1920s, when the young and poor coming out of the first world war tried to get themselves an education. Those gaunt figures are with us again; student health is going down all the time and student mental health is causing serious problems. There have been several tragic suicides at Scottish universities.

I remember when Gordon Brown and Robin Cook were at the University of Edinburgh; they were full beneficiaries of what the Wilson Government brought to them. I remember how they got their start in life, so that they could ensure that a different generation of students lived in poverty. I am sorry, fellow parliamentarians, but I could never go along with that. I support fully amendments 11 and 12.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

I am delighted to say that the Executive shares Dennis Canavan's concern about the position of students from low-income families. We agree absolutely that increasing the number of students who benefit from higher education and who are from groups that have traditionally been under-represented, should be our priority. We recognise that targeting support at those students is part of how we will achieve that, but I hope that I can persuade Mr Canavan that amendments 11 and 12 will do little to help those students and that the amendments would be worth far less to them than the commitments that we have already given.

Amendment 11 seeks to ensure that there is a level of family income below which students will receive grants to reduce their loan dependence. We agree absolutely with that principle. It is exactly what we are doing and I am happy to confirm that it is what we will continue to do.

Bursaries—or, if members prefer, grants—will be introduced from this autumn for young students starting in higher education. Dennis Canavan would like to see the principle of targeted support reflected in the bill. We have considered that, but simply do not believe that that is the right way forward.

This year's new grant represents the first year of a long-term commitment to providing support to students from low-income families, which will greatly reduce their reliance on debt while providing more resources for them during their courses.

Amendment 12 seeks to ensure that low income will not prevent students from pursuing a course of study. Again, we agree that family income should not be a barrier to access to higher education and I very much welcome the opportunity that that amendment gives us to repeat that point.

I have mentioned that the changes to student support that we are introducing will target specifically low-income groups. As well as the bursary—or grant—for young students to which I have referred, we are also increasing by £500 the value of the overall package of support that is available for students from households that earn up to £15,000.

I believe firmly that the action that we are taking will, as never before, transform opportunities and unlock the talent of our least well-off young people. The Executive is happy to be judged on its record. I therefore invite the Parliament to reject amendments 11 and 12.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

I am grateful to the minister for saying that he shares my concern and that he agrees with the principle that lies behind amendment 12. I do not see why he does not accept that that principle should be enshrined in statute. It is all very well that the minister has the decency to tell Parliament today that he agrees with the principle that I am pursuing, but that might not be the case with future incumbents of his ministerial position. Here is an opportunity for the Parliament to ensure that the minister and all future ministers have regard to the special needs of students from families with low incomes, and that they ensure that the assistance that is available to them is enough to ensure that they are not prevented from pursuing a course of study as a result of their low family income.

The minister said that the Executive is providing more resources to help students. It might be the case that the Scottish Executive is providing more resources than the Westminster Government provided to Scottish students, but we should not use the Westminster Government as a yardstick. We should consider student poverty as it exists in Scotland today and we should take every available step to eradicate it. Although the Scottish Executive might be doing better than the Westminster Government, students today receive less in grants than students received 30 years ago—or 40 years ago under Harold Wilson's Labour Government. Today's new Labour ministers ought to be ashamed of that.

We all realise that a limited amount of money is available in every budget and that matters must progress more slowly than we would like. However, when over 30 or 40 years there is regression rather than progression, that does not say much for the principles that the minister has enunciated and which would be enshrined in statute if the Parliament agreed to amendment 12.

Amendment 11 would ensure that there was a practical scheme for the implementation of the principle that is laid out in amendment 12.

I repeat that student poverty is a big problem in Scotland today. I referred to the case of the student from the University of Glasgow in my earlier speech. I will quote from him. He says:

"I went from being a full-time to a part-time student because my performance was suffering ... I felt drained during lectures and was not able to take in information. Generally, I was too tired to find the energy to study."

No wonder, when he must work for 43 hours at the weekend. Why does he have to go out and work as much as 43 hours at the weekend? It is, as the article in The Herald states, because he

"currently carries a student loan debt of £5000, has a £750 overdraft, and £500 of credit card debt."

That is one example—of many in Scotland today—of the poverty that is being experienced by the student population. Students are looking to the Parliament to try to eradicate that poverty, so that they are able to study with peace of mind and so that, when they eventually graduate, they will not have a millstone of debt around their necks. They will be able to go out into the world and fulfil themselves.

There is an argument that they must pay, because they will be on higher earnings because they will have had the privilege of a university education. I repeat: the mechanism for making them pay would be a more progressive system of income tax. I hope that the minister will make appropriate representations to his colleague Gordon Brown on those matters. When Gordon was student rector of the University of Edinburgh back in the 1970s, I think that he would have agreed with every word that I have said today.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour 10:45 am, 29th March 2001

The question is, that amendment 11 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 5

For: Adam, Brian, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Reid, Mr George, Robison, Shona, Sheridan, Tommy, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Ullrich, Kay, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Finnie, Ross, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Harding, Mr Keith, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Mundell, David, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scanlon, Mary, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Ben, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The result of the division is: For 31, Against 77, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 11 disagreed to.

Amendment 12 moved—[Dennis Canavan].

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The question is, that amendment 12 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 6

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Grahame, Christine, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Harding, Mr Keith, Harper, Robin, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Mundell, David, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Reid, Mr George, Robison, Shona, Scanlon, Mary, Sheridan, Tommy, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Mr Murray, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Ben, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The result of the division is: For 46, Against 63, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 12 disagreed to.