HC Deb 10 November 1966 vol 735 cc1517-8
15. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proposals he has for replacing the present system of student grants by one of loans.

Mr. Crosland

None, Sir.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that neither now nor in the future will he seek to replace the system of grants by one of loans? Does he appreciate the very real concern in the student world on this matter?

Mr. Crosland

There is a good deal of concern reflecting the point of view expressed by the hon. Gentleman, although, to be fair, one would have to say that there was also a considerable volume of public opinion that some element of loan in the total system would be desirable in view of the growing volume of student support. I can only reiterate what I have said, that I have no present intention of replacing grants by loans. Indeed, if one is talking in terms of "replacing", I cannot imagine that any Government would ever consider replacement, though I think that it is unrealistic to imagine that the question of a loan element can be kept out of at least general public discussion on these matters.

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend agree that the principle of grants to students is now firmly embedded and it has made a massive contribution to education generally in Britain? Will he give an assurance that it will in no way be destroyed, but, on the contrary, he will look at it again to see whether it can be improved?

Mr. Crosland

It is true that the grant system has made a great contribution to the expansion of further education. Nevertheless, we must face the fact that the total volume of grant support is now a very considerable part of the total education budget, and any Government must keep this under review the whole time. But, having said that, I reiterate that I have no present intention of replacing grants by loans.