HC Deb 01 March 1962 vol 654 cc1650-67
Mr. Hannan

I beg to move, in page 7, line 4, at the end to insert: (2) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to include in the report which he lays before Parliament in accordance with the requirements of section 67 of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1946, a statement showing the number of awards made under the foregoing paragraph and the number of students who discontinued their studies in that year without completing the course in respect of which the award was made. The purpose of this Amendment is to get more information from the Secretary of State so that we can judge the value of these bursaries, and find out what return Parliament, the nation and the taxpayer get for their money. The House will know that from time to time there appear in the Press statements by prominent men in the education world—and the matter has also been raised in the House—about the number of university students who have come down in their first year.

We cannot get this information, although one would expect that we should, from the university sources. They always assert their independence and none of us want to upset that assertion in respect of such things as their curricula. Nevertheless, my hon. Friends believe that there should be a greater amount of public accountability, through Ministers, as to what happens after students are granted awards and bursaries. For instance, what is the rate of wastage and the rate of production? Is it 2½per cent? What are the rules governing this?

Is it true that the wastage rate among first-year students is 15 per cent., 20 per cent., or 25 per cent.? How can we get this information? The Amendment seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State, in the annual report which he is bound to publish under Section 67 of the Act, will include a statement which will help us to better understand this subject. We will be able to know how many entrants have gone in in the current year, the figure for the following year and how many have come down in their first and second years, that is, of the same group going through.

We would, with this information, be able to get an idea of what further steps could be taken to meet the causes of the wastage of what is, after all, very real human material. In that way we could form better policies which would, in turn, ensure a better return for the moneys Parliament makes available.

Mr. Ross

I wish to make one or two comments, but I will gladly sit down if the Under-Secretary will say that he accepts the spirit of the Amendment.

Mr. Brooman-White

I am accepting the spirit, but not the letter, of the Amendment and perhaps the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) will allow me to develop this a little further.

The annual report is published under the 1946 Act and, as is stated in the Amendment, Section 67 of that Act makes it mandatory on the Secretary of State to publish it. The fact that Clause 6 is an amendment to the earlier Act extends that obligation to cover university and further education awards for which the Secretary of State is now taking responsibility. The table at present published goes rather wider than the proposals of the Amendment. We give the number of awards current at any time during the year, the number of awards granted for the first time during the year, the number of awards held the previous year and the number terminated because of unsatisfactory conduct during the year. We also provide the number of awards included under the first heading but terminated during the year because of unsatisfactory progress.

We are prepared to give an undertaking that, in future, the annual reports will continue to give detailed information about that section of the further education award field which is now in the hands of the Secretary of State. I hope that with that assurance hon. Gentlemen opposite will not press their Amendment, which would specify a number of things, but will leave it open so that it may be varied in the light of experience or the views of the House.

Mr. Ross

The hon. Gentleman has given details of what is really the provision of only statistical information. I would have thought that my hon. Friends wanted more than that; that they required an inquiry into the causes of this wastage to see whether something cannot be done about it. We feel that this might affect schools in relation to the proportion of students in university.

It may be, as I suspect, that there is a measure of off-handedness in the treatment of first-year students by universities. We raised this matter with Sir Hector Hetherington when we visited the University of Glasgow, some time ago. The point is that we cannot afford to be indifferent about the number of failures in the first year. Perhaps more attention should be paid in that first year to the supervision of the actual teaching to ensure that students are properly guided along a road which must be new to them; to their lives in university. The first year at university, when students are so much on their own, is a complete break from the last year at school.

9.15 p.m.

That is what prompted our excellent Amendment. I hope that the Secretary of State will appreciate its importance from the point of view of Scotland and the need not to have careers blighted in the first year if anything can be done to prevent it. But we will not do anything to prevent it merely by recording statistics. We need to go further and to find out why the figures are so large and what can be done about them. We should like to be assured that the Scottish Education Department is looking at the matter in that light and will give us a report accordingly.

I remember a valuable paragraph in the report about why young people who had decided to take five-year secondary courses were leaving at the age of 16 and some even sooner. There was a tremendous wastage. We had not only statistics, but a well-considered report, following research and inquiry into the causes. That is the kind of thing we want about the failures in the first year of university life. I hope that the Under-Secretary will go just that little bit further than he has done and meet the point made by my hon. Friend.

Miss Herbison

I support the Amendment. The Under-Secretary has drawn our attention to the report and the figures which it gives annually. He will be aware how often we have tried to get exact figures of wastage at university, particularly among first-year students. Under the Bill, the Secretary of State will be responsible for every award which is made to university students in Scotland. In other words, he will not have the difficulty of going to local authorities and finding out from them exactly how many grants are made and how many have to be stopped either for misconduct or for other reasons.

The Under-Secretary will be as aware as we are of the great worry that is caused by the number of people who go to universities, who have passed the hurdle of taking sufficient subjects or their higher standard or higher leaving certificate, and who fail so miserably in their first year at university. I realise that the Amendment might be restrictive. We are not asking for all the reasons to be given, but now that the Secretary of State will be getting reports back to the Scottish Department of Education rather than the reports going to every local authority, it would be much easier for him to give us in the yearly report the kind of information that we require. This might provide the answer to what is happening, not only in Scottish universities but in those in England. As a nation, we cannot afford this great wastage.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has said, some of us on this side have discussed the matter with the Principal of Glasgow University and with some of his leading professors. We have our ideas on these matters and so, no doubt, have right hon. and hon. Members opposite. If, however, we can make a joint effort, the Minister giving in the report the kind of information for which we ask and all of us, having got that information, trying to go further in finding out whether we can avoid the great wastage which occurs, this short debate will have served a useful purpose.

Mr. Ede

I want to support the spirit of the Amendment. It is probably needed more in England than it is in Scotland, because in Scotland, at any rate as reported to us mere English, there has been a tradition that every family of decent size expects to have at least one son at the university preparing for one of the learned professions, that is if one includes theology among learning. The new spirit in education in England is now getting into the universities a number of students every year who come from families which have never previously had a member at the university. It has been a matter of great pressure at school, in some cases probably unjustifiable pressure, to get a young person fit to sit the examination, and it is regarded as a great achievement when the examination is passed. It is quite wrong to have university education starting in that spirit.

Entrance to a university is not so much an achievement as an opportunity. The student released from the great pressure in the top forms of a secondary school suddenly finds an atmosphere in which nobody worries about what happens to him. I was talking the other day to a young friend of mine who was going up to Cambridge and I was warning him about this. I knew the college he was going to, the best in Cambridge I said, "You are going to read English literature. The reputation of your college in English literature does not depend on you. John Milton was there 300 years ago and you will be lucky in fifty years' time if somebody, in writing your biography, says, 'He well upheld the high literary reputation of his college.' You think that you will get into the college XI, but do not forget that Gilbert Jessop was in the college XI. If you play in the XI you will be very lucky if any reporter writing about you thinks that you worthily represent that tradition".

This is a strange atmosphere for a youth to enter from a family which has no university tradition. I do not want mere statistics, but we should have some human report on the way in which universities in England and Scotland can get these youths into the university climate in a manner which stimulates them to further endeavour. In the world in which we are now living, to waste this fine potential through the non-human appreciation of youthful difficulties is a serious national loss.

I hope that in both countries we shall be able to obtain some information. If the spirit of the Amendment can be adopted in both countries it will enable us to secure a far higher return at the end of their university careers from the young people who enter upon them with so much hope. I do not want anyone to think that I am decrying universities or anyone else, but these youths occasionally end up as such a bitter disappointment to themselves, their families and the schools from which they came.

Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

I had not intended to join in the debate, but the Amendment is very important.

Mr. Ross

Keep on listening to the Scots. The hon. Gentleman is learning. He learnt last night, too.

Sir D. Glover

I should be out of order if I replied to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and I do not want to get back to the Acts of Parliament Numbering and Citation Bill.

This is a very important matter. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) referred to students going to a college in Cambridge. I do not think that this problem arises as much in Oxford and Cambridge as in the redbrick universities. Even today there is a sufficient stream of life in the older universities to absorb a person more quickly.

Mr. Speaker

Order. These reflections are interesting, but I do not understand how they apply to the Scottish Statute with which this Clause is concerned.

Sir D. Glover

I was referring to what the right hon. Member for South Shields said, Mr. Speaker. There is a great wastage, at a time when we cannot afford it, of people going to university. It is a great problem. Some boys and girls who go to university may have worked very hard, but perhaps their parents are doubtful and do not give the encouragement they should, saying that if they went out to work instead more money would come into the home.

A great deal more thought must be given to the problem of wastage, especially that which takes place in the first year at university. Whatever is done, we shall always have far too much wastage, but today the wastage is excessive. By further research and investigation, I am sure that much improvement could be brought about.

Mr. Brooman-White

This Amendment has opened up a very wide-ranging discussion of an extremely serious problem which is giving deep concern to all of us. I know that my right hon. Friend shares this concern, and we are trying to find out as much as we can about the causes of wastage so that we can do what we can to stop it, for we can ill afford it.

The discussion has gone a good deal beyond the immediate terms of the Amendment. All I should say in reply to the general points raised is that university wastage is a matter for consideration by the University Grants Committee, but that the question of higher education in Scotland as a whole comes under the terms of the inquiry being carried out by the Robbins Committee. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and others have referred to the big adjustment which has to be made by school children moving up to university. We have had inquiries and reports, and hope that the practical steps we are taking, such as the introduction of the "A" certificate, will ease the transition and prevent some of these difficulties.

I can assure the House, without committing ourselves to what will be annually published in the report, other than statistics—which might not be a very suitable way of dealing with this matter—that we will continue to pursue every useful form of investigation into ways and means of preventing wastage and of making the best use of the ability of our children as they move up to university. We will continue as we have done hitherto to make reports of these investigations available to the House.

Miss Herbison

The hon. Gentleman said that this wastage at universities was a matter for the University Grants Committee, but surely it is more than that. The Secretary of State is now to be responsible for the individual grants and, therefore, has a chance of finding out about these things. It seems to me that it is now as much the responsibility of the Secretary of State as of the University Grants Committee. I am sure that there is very little between us and I am sure that we shall achieve something.

Mr. Hannan

By leave of the House, I would like to say a word of appreciation for the Under-Secretary's reply, which was hopeful. I am also pleased that the Amendment has stimulated a wider interest in the principle which it raises.

At what point does the student cease to be the responsibility of the Secretary of State and become the responsibility of the university? Is there not an argument that for at least the first year of university studies the Secretary of State should be responsible and should give us some information about wastage? The House recognises that there is a secretiveness and a reluctance to give this vital information.

The Appleton Committee suggested as far back as 1955 that tutorial classes were the way out, on the lines of those at Cambridge and Oxford. But we do not have tutorial classes to help young people who are leaving school to get into the atmosphere of universities. It may come as a shock to some to learn that in Glasgow for some first-year students there are meetings of as many as 250 or 300 students. That is far from being education.

I know that I am in danger of getting out of order, so on the understanding that the Secretary of State will try to furnish as much information as he can, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.33 p.m.

Mr. K. Thompson

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Throughout the proceedings on the Bill hon. Members on both sides of the House have shown themselves concerned that our education system should improve in line with the demands made upon it by the changing times in which we live. My right hon. Friend and I are grateful to hon. Members on both sides of the House for the detailed consideration which they have given to the proposals in the Bill.

When, as I hope, the Bill has completed its passage through Parliament, two significant changes will have been made to affect the lives of pupils and students. The first is that the parents of students qualifying for and obtaining admission to most higher education institutes will find their financial obligations considerably relieved and more precisely defined. The second change made by the Bill is designed to secure that our secondary schools can provide a better organised final year for all those pupils who decide that they are going to leave as soon as they can.

It became very clear during our Committee proceedings that there existed a good deal of opinion that neither of the reforms we proposed went as far as it might. I do not think that my right hon. Friend seriously contests this point of view so far as it is advanced on exclusively educational grounds. However, we have to live in a world Where the reconciliation of different and often competing interests must inevitably condition our policies. In more homely language, we must cut our coat according to the cloth.

The improvements proposed for student grants represent an increased annual cost to central and local funds of about£10 million. The total of these grants in a full year will now amount to£45 million. This figure will grow as the universities grow, and as more students enter the teacher training colleges and colleges of advanced technology. The Government feel that to go further now would place an undue strain on the resources available.

The House cannot be unaware of the significance of this change at so considerable a cost at a time when the level of public expenditure on all services is being subjected to the closest scrutiny. The improvements that we have secured will bring welcome relief to many families, and I believe that they will be widely appreciated. Two out of five students will receive full grants, and their parents will be entirely exempt from contributions. Other parents will pay much less than before. A family with the one child at a university having a scale income of£675 or less will contribute nothing, compared with£31 at the moment. A similar family with a scale income of£1,500 will be£71 a year better off, and so on.

Some hon. Members expressed disappointment that the arrangements require a continuation of the parental means test, with its implication of student dependence on family resources. I will not go over again all the arguments for and against these arrangements which have already engaged the attention of the House and the public Press for a long time. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Bill as it now leaves us does not preclude either a further improvement in the grants to be paid, or, if the time should be opportune and the case made out, for the abolition of the parental contribution altogether. I have no doubt that we will always be beset by the need to select priorities for further expenditure on education, and this case must sustain its claim to priority against what I am sure will be the pressing demands of other parts of the service.

The place of the teacher training colleges in the system of higher education is improving all the time. They grow in number and the standards to which they attain are being raised with the lengthening of the course and the provision of better facilities. My right hon. Friend will provide in his Regulations made under the Bill for the same level of awards as for university students. The basis upon which the training is provided and the arrangements for the maintenance of the students differ from the conditions under which university students are provided for, and Clause 2 (3) of the Bill takes account of this difference, but in every important respect the student at a training college ranks equally in esteem with his fellows in the universities.

The Bill establishes a pattern of automatic and uniform awards for students over a large part of the area of higher education. During our Committee discussions two points of difference emerged between hon. Members. It was argued that it was disagreeable to some local authorities that they should have imposed upon them an obligation to pay awards in conditions where they had no discretion and of a level which they could not vary. The House will know that the form the Bill takes is the product of prolonged discussion and negotiations between the authorities and my right hon. Friend.

I will not claim that complete agreement was secured on every point, but such differences as remained at the end of the process are the legitimate residual differences not infrequently thrown up when matters of this kind are discussed. I ask the House to accept the view that the local education authorities have a special interest and concern in the progress and well being of the young people from their areas. This pastoral interest is in no way lessened because it is discharged under an obligation instead of by choice.

I was impressed by the frequency with which tribute was made in Committee to the faithfulness with which local authorities everywhere have carried out these duties in the past. But the House will also cherish the right of a local authority to retain and exercise other discretionary powers. Beyond the precise limit set in Clause 1, local authorities remain very largely masters in their own house, and I think that right. I do not share the view expressed by some hon. Members that these opportunities will be neglected or this discretion exercised perversely to the detriment of young people anxious to make their way in the world.

I was pressed during the Committee stage, and the point has been raised again in our debate this afternoon, to say precisely what powers remain to my right hon. Friend to correct an authority whose actions seem to be less helpful than might be appropriate in some circumstances. The Committee accepted an Amendment to the Bill as presented on Second Reading which makes it clear that the powers afforded to my right hon. Friend by the principal Act are embodied in this Measure. In these circum-stances, a complaint may be made to my right hon. Friend if it is thought that a local education authority has acted, or is proposing to act, unreasonably. We have had a good deal of experience of this process over the years, although the truth is that formal complaints are very few.

My flight hon. Friend's interpretation of this part of the principal Statute is not that his view should always prevail whenever he disagrees with a decision taken by a local authority. That would be a rigid centralised government of a kind that we have successfully avoided in the sphere of education. My right hon. Friend will consider representations made to him, will ascertain the reasons for the action complained of, and will discuss the remedy, if one is needed, with the local authority concerned. As with so many of our institutions and practices, the system has the merit of being effective, and I hope that the House will be persuaded that we have no reason to add yet further powers to those already at my right hon. Friend's disposal.

What I have been saying has been related directly to the Clauses which apply to England and Wales. The Bill also, of course, includes a number of Clauses, which we have now had the opportunity of discussing at greater length, affecting Scotland. Although they differ in form from the English Clauses, their effect is much the same as the provisions for England and Wales. For students taking courses of higher education, the object is to ensure that the level of awards shall be the same throughout Great Britain. This will remove a disadvantage which Scottish students have previously suffered, and gives them the opportunity they have long sought of freely attending the university of their choice.

The second of the main changes proposed in the Bill is in many ways no less important than the changes I have been discussing. Teachers and educational administrators have long regretted the arrangements which have resulted in the fourth year of the secondary schooling very often being spoiled for some children who leave before they have completed the course and disrupted for those who remain because of the frequent changes which these school leavers impose upon the school organisation.

The changes that we are proposing and the further steps advocated by hon. Members in Committee upstairs have been and are being increasingly anticipated by the children in our schools today. In thousands they are staying on beyond the age at which they would be free to leave under the present law, in order to ensure for themselves the best that their schools can offer. I think that this is the most splendid symptom in our school society today. We must encourage and provide for it. That we are doing to the limit of our present resources. The problem posed by the proposal to compel all children to stay to the end of the fourth year is two-fold. My right hon. Friend has been advised by both sides of industry that there will be difficulty in arranging for the placing in suitable employment of all the school leavers at one time in the year, and the children whose experience would be the hardest would in most cases be those least able to bear the rebuffs and disappointments consequent upon having prolonged difficulty in getting a job.

The second aspect of the problem arises from what I said a moment ago. While many children choose to stay on, many still leave at the first opportunity, and some of these are very impatient indeed to be on their way. It is often argued that these are the very children to whom compulsion should be applied. It is also true, however, that these reluctant pupils are the most difficult to provide for. My right hon. Friend has asked me to record his admiration for many teachers in many schools for the careful and painstaking work they are doing with this type of pupil. This change even in its limited form cannot succeed unless we carry with us the support and understanding of the parents. I believe that parents will see this not as a prolonged obligation to leave the child at school but as an extended opportunity for their children to be prepared for the difficulties of working life outside.

Before we part with this Bill, may I end on a personal note? My first acquaintance with the administration of education was a good many years ago as a member of the Liverpool Education Committee. It has been a matter of no small pride to me to have had a part in the shaping of the Bill in its passage through this honourable House. I hope that its later stages will be as significant of the concern and good will which in these days support all education progress as it has been my pleasure to share during the past few months.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I am sure that I speak for all who served on the Committee on the Bill, as well as for those who have watched his performance today, in congratulating the Parliamentary Secretary upon the progress that he has made with the Bill, the courtesy he has shown, and his willingness to listen and then report to his Minister who, somehow or other, has not managed to give us all the concessions that we hoped for.

I also congratulate the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. He sat in the Committee looking very wise and taking as little part as possible in the proceedings. I discovered today why he did so. It was because, in Clause 1, whereas the power of the Minister to make regulations is confined to universities and comparable institutions in the United Kingdom, the Secretary of State can provide for a Scottish child, out of money contributed in part by Englishmen, the opportunity to attend any educational institution in the world.

To that extent, I congratulate the hon. Member on having got the Clause through Committee without anybody having spotted it. It is a tremendous achievement, and I have no doubt that he was tremendously disappointed when, owing to the speech that I made, he had to remove any doubt about the matter this afternoon.

That represents a failure of the main purpose of the Bill, which is to secure equality of opportunity for every British child for whom the two education Departments are responsible. I hope that at an early date the Minister of Education will take steps to ensure that English and Welsh children have the same opportunities as Scottish children.

I welcome what the hon. Member said towards the close of his remarks. We have a great responsibility for providing for the non-academic child, and the longer we make his school life the heavier that responsibility will rest upon us. No person profits from education unless he is interested in the matter provided for him. The hon. Member said that he was drawn into education when he became a member of the Liverpool Education Committee. I found myself in educational administration at the age of 3½, as a pupil, and my sympathies have been with the underdog ever since.

In our schools we have to find the right approach to keep the non-academic child interested in his school and in its curriculum throughout the whole of his time there. This is the work of the professional teacher. It is a difficult task, and few people are equipped by nature to do it. Most of us teachers, if asked why our results for a given year have not quite come up to standard, are apt to say, "Look who had them last year." The teacher's task is to teach, and he cannot teach unless he can interest the child.

One of the great opportunities now open for people as we extend school life is to find new methods of giving a child that sense of individuality for which he craves at school, and some sense of achievement at what he does there. The success of this Measure will depend upon the extent to which the teaching profession is able to give to the non-academic child a place in the school in which he can achieve those two personal wants—to get a sense of individuality, that he counts for something in the school, and a sense of achievement within the curriculum that is prepared for him.

I do not view the Bill with as much enthusiasm as I hoped to have done. I hoped we would be able to remove from it what still remains the means test on the parent. Any parent who is willing to keep his child in full-time education beyond the school-leaving age up to 18 and possibly beyond is presenting this country with so valuable an asset that the State ought to be willing to relieve him of the cost of keeping and educating that child. Those of us connected with this phase of the matter know that there are children in families of substantial income who resent having to be still regarded as expensive in spite of the alleviation of Income Tax and the rest and who are very often reluctant to undertake further education for which they are in every way fitted. That is a loss to the nation which we ought not to incur.

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman differs from us on the principle. It was said of a great full-time Permanent Secretary to the Board of Education that he was not unprincipled, but he was unscrupulous. No one can say that the right hon. Gentleman is unprincipled in this matter, because I think that on every one of the topics I have raised at some time or other he has expressed his wholehearted support of the principle, but not today. We are not quite sure when the accepted time will be, but I hope that whenever the opportunity occurs, if it comes during his period of office—and I am not supposed to be wishing him a long life in the office—he will seize the opportunity and enable us to apply the sound democratic principles that I know he holds in regard to education.

The greatest declaration of education policy was made in 1647 by the State of Massachusetts. It raised every one of the issues we have had in this Bill. This is the view that is sincerely held by every hon. Member on this side of the House as capable of immediate application. We could have hoped that the Measure before us would have got us further towards it. The universal education of youth "— declares the declaration of Massachusetts— is essential to the well-being of the State; the obligation to furnish this education rests primarily upon the parent; the State has the right to enforce this obligation; the State may fix a standard which shall determine the kind of education and the minimum amount; a general tax may be levied, although school attendance is not general, to be used in providing such education as the State requires: education higher than the rudiments may be supplied by the State, and opportunity must be provided at public expense for youths who wish to be fitted for the University. That was over 300 years ago. We have slowly moved towards it. Perhaps in the last twenty years we have moved rather faster than ever before. I hope that the acceleration will be continued and that before long there will be a broad highway of education in this country which is open to every child who is born into it.

9.55 p.m.

Mrs. White

I am sure that we are all delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has taken part in the concluding stage of this Bill with a speech of his customary liveliness, wit, erudition and good sense.

When the Minister introduced the Bill on Second Reading, he claimed for it no more than that it provided some modest advances. In its progress through Committee, I am afraid that we have had very little added to those modest advances. According to my calculations, we have had one correction and one concession. There was one correction about Northern Ireland, which has now been added to the scope of the Bill, and that was a matter of an error in drafting, and we have had a very slight concession indeed concerning mature students. Apart from that, the Bill is virtually unamended. This seems to me to be regrettable, because very strong arguments have been put forward during the Committee and Report stages on various matters, several of which the right hon. Gentleman might very well have conceded. However, that has not been done, and, therefore, we have to take the Bill as we now find it.

The Bill makes certain modest advances, and a very important one is that we are now to have automatic awards and uniformity of treatment of university students. Unfortunately, this does not extend to full-time students, as we urged, and we are left, as my right hon. Friend reminded us, with a parental means test. The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out that in future the parents of two out of five students will not suffer, but the other side of the coin is that the other three will. I beg the pardon of the hon. Gentleman if I have misunderstood him.

Mr. K. Thompson

They will pay no contributions. That is not a means test. It is simply to make sure that they qualify.

Mrs. White

They will pay no contributions, but I repeat that the converse is that the other three will. In other words, there will still be 60 per cent. of university students in this country whose parents will be liable, or rather will have the duty, to pay the contribution. Of course, whereas it will be mandatory upon the local authorities to make grants, it will not be mandatory on the parents, and this is one of the very great weaknesses of the Bill. We have always maintained that there is no method provided in the Bill for ensuring that parents meet their obligations.

We have had cases—there was one extreme case mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson) at Question Time today—in which parents were not prepared to meet their obligations to their children, and we are told by the National Union of Students that a number of students did not obtain from their parents the amount of money which the parents, under the means test procedure, should be furnishing to them. Consequently, students get into debt and undertake more work in vacations than they should, from the point of view of their academic studies. I think it is a pity that we have not met this difficulty.

As I understand it, when a local education authority assesses parents, for example, for a boarding school which is at the expense of the authority, it can insist upon the parents paying the contribution which it has assessed. It seems a pity that we have not made certain that if we maintain a means test, as we do in the Bill, the students obtain from their parents what their parents are assessed to pay. We are not entirely happy with the Bill in this very important respect. We appreciate that there are financial circumstances which may have created difficulties but—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.