HC Deb 09 December 1965 vol 722 cc586-8
24. Mr. Armstrong

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has had on the subject of grants to students being replaced by loans; and if he will make a statement.

26. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what replies he has received to the circular issued in July on the question of university student loans; and what evidence he has that such loans would be acceptable policy.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. R. E. Prentice)

In an informal letter, this Department has asked a large number of interested organisations for their views on future developments in the field of student support. Student loans were included as one amongst other examples of a relevant topic. Replies to this letter will be studied as they come in; meanwhile my right hon. Friend will keep an open mind on the subject.

Mr. Armstrong

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that almost every Commission that has reported to his Department—and, certainly, we have had more than our share—has indicated a shocking waste of student ability in regard to the products of our schools? One contributory cause has been the financial obstacle, and many of us would regard as very retrograde indeed the substitution of any kind of loan, which would be most likely to deter the very students whom we want to encourage?

Mr. Prentice

I have been made very well aware in recent weeks that a number of people would consider it retrograde. I think that the issue has got rather out of perspective. The letter sent in July asked for views on such questions as student loans, and people did not respond to this or discuss it with the N.U.S., until the matter appeared in the Press sometime later. The issue rather got out of perspective then. We have an open mind on this subject and have made no commitment to any change of policy at present.

Mr. Hamilton

Nevertheless, would my hon. Friend give an assurance that before any Governmental decision is taken, the views of the House will be thoroughly given vent to by debate of a Ministerial statement on the subject before a policy decision is arrived at?

Mr. Prentice

If there were any intention by the Government to change policy, we would naturally first consult all the organisations concerned, and would want to test opinion in every way, including Parliamentary opinion.