HC Deb 02 June 1960 vol 624 cc1606-9
3. Mrs. White

asked the Minister of Education if he will make a statement on the Anderson Report.

6. Mr. Hornby

asked the Minister of Education whether he is yet in a position to announce the date of publication of the Anderson Report.

Sir D. Eccles

The Report of the Committee on Grants to Students, appointed in 1958 by the Secretary of State for Scotland and my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. G. Lloyd), is being published today and copies are available in the Vote Office.

The Report brings out how complicated the subject is and what difficult issues of finance and administration it raises. Of these issues the decision relating to the means test is a matter for the Government. On others we shall need to obtain the views of universities, local authorities and schools and we are arranging to do this immediately, so that the Government's decisions can be announced as soon as possible. I ought to tell the House that the earliest date by which any new arrangements could be introduced is the autumn of 1961.

In the meantime, I am sure that the House would want to join with the Secretary of State and myself in thanking Sir Colin Anderson and his colleagues for the thorough, careful manner in which they have dealt with so many acutely controversial issues.

Mrs. White

We on this side of the House would, of course, wish to associate ourselves with the expression of thanks to Sir Colin Anderson and his colleagues. In the nine minutes since the Report was available my study of it has been cursory.

Is the Minister aware that we on this side of the House attach very considerable importance to any decision made being on a fully national basis so that students will not be deprived in future, as many have been in the past, according to the location in which they happen to live?

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, important as grants to university students may be, we also attach considerable importance to the maintenance of children at school beyond the age of 15, because if they are not enabled to remain at school beyond 15 they will have no chance at all of taking advantage of any decisions made on university grants?

I think it would be advisable if we kept other comments until we have had time to study the Report.

Sir D. Eccles

I sympathise with the hon. Lady, who has done well in nine minutes. We also agree that the question of uniformity as between one student and another in England, Wales and Scotland is a very important matter. Naturally, we feel that grammar school education is the foundation of university students, but it does not come under this Report. We shall consider that separately.

Mr. Hornby

Will my right hon. Friend consider the desirability of having a debate in this House on this subject, as well as discussing the recommendations with local authorities, universities and others? Will he discuss this suggestion with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House?

Sir D. Eccles

Yes, I will talk it over with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Chetwynd

As the decisions to implement this cannot be made until 1961, does that mean that the right hon. Gentleman will not be in a position yet to decide whether the means test should exist or not? Would he consider, in arriving at that decision, whether it could be made retrospective to 1960?

Sir D. Eccles

The hon. Gentleman would perhaps do well to read the Report. He will see that there is a division of opinion about the means test and a very difficult question of administration arises on taking either one decision or the other.

Sir J. Duncan

In considering the Report, will my right hon Friends the Minister of Education and the Secretary of State for Scotland try to arrange things in future so that Scottish students get roughly uniform treatment with English students? There has been a feeling in the past that English students have been doing better than Scottish students in the amount of national help received.

Sir D. Eccles

That is one of the matters that arises in the Report. The Committee is quite firm in its recommendation that the three parts of the United Kingdom should receive the same treatment. I think my hon. Friend can take it that we accept that.

Mrs. White

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that, when he is conducting consultations with various authorities, he will also consult those who are very closely concerned—the National Union of Students?

Sir D. Eccles

I cannot be sure about that. The National Union of Students is always making submissions to me, and I would be very glad to hear what it has to say. We are very pressed for time if we are to legislate early next Session.

4. Mr. Boyden

asked the Minister of Education if he will now award adequate dependant's allowances to all categories of training college students.

Sir D. Eccles

I shall be examining the whole field of grants to students, including dependant's grants, in the light of the report of the Anderson Committee.

Mr. Boyden

Is there any reason why mature students taking three year courses should not have the same treatment as mature students taking two-year courses? Is this not an anomaly which could be removed at the stroke of a pen?

Sir D. Eccles

It may be better to consider the whole range of awards to teacher training colleges.

Mr. Greenwood

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree with the principle that there should be uniformity of treatment between these two classes of people who are in exactly the same financial position? There is a growing sense of injustice on the part of some of these students.

Sir D. Eccles

I will look at this problem urgently.

Forward to