HC Deb 01 February 1967 vol 740 cc519-21

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

3.52 p.m.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I should be grateful if hon. Members would leave the Chamber quietly.

Sir E. Boyle

I wish to raise a point of order on the Bill, of which I gave you notice this morning, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) hoped to raise under Class VII, Vote 5, the issue of the increase of fees charged to overseas students in higher education, which is of considerable interest on both sides of the House.

I respectfully submit that the issue falls within Class VII, Vote 5, which deals with universities and colleges, and in particular within subhead II C at the bottom of page 37 of the Civil Estimates, dealing with universities' and colleges' capital expenditure (grant in aid). I submit that grants and loans for capital expenditure, as we see in Appendix II, include extra money for major capital works, both those in progress on 31st March this year and those to be started after 1st April this year.

It has been common ground in the House ever since the publication of the Robbins Report, whichever party has been in government, that the capital grants for university and higher education expenditure are linked to the numbers of students, as recommended in the Robbins Report. The numbers of students are clearly linked to the conditions of entry for students and the grants made available for them and the fees charged to them. I therefore submit that Appendix II at page 39 of the Civil Estimates dealing with capital grants, the numbers of students entering higher education, and the fees charged to students, are all matters that hang together. Therefore, under Class VII, Vote 5 it should be possible to raise the issue of the fees charged to overseas students in universities and colleges.

In this context, I wish to quote what is said at page 773 of Erskine May: …any questions of administrative policy may be raised which are implied in such grants of supply."— that is, on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I genuinely believe that the subject I have mentioned should be considered to be within the scope of the Consolidated Fund Bill which we are now about to discuss.

I hope that even now, Mr. Speaker, you might find it possible to add that subject to the list of subjects we have today. If so, my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham and I would be in our places for it, even if it were discussed at a late hour.

Mr. Speaker

The reference in Erskine May is to the March and July Consolidated Fund debates, which I carefully explained cover the whole of Government finance, and therefore any matter of policy may be raised on them.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) has most ingeniously raised a point of order, but I must rule his submission quite outwith what we shall be discussing. He asked whether he would be in order in raising the proposals for an increase in fees to be charged for overseas students at universities on the Supplementary Estimates for universities and colleges under Class VII, Vote 5. I am afraid that I can see nothing in that Estimate which would allow that subject to be raised.

It would not, for example, be correct to allow debate on the provision to increase the rates of pay for teaching staff to be broadened to cover the treatment of those whom they teach; nor would it be possible to use expenditure on new buildings as a peg to discuss the problem of fees for undergraduates to be housed in them. Those are separate issues which must await another opportunity.

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for raising the matter so courteously, but I must rule that it does not arise on these Supplementary Estimates. I endeavoured yesterday to give broad guidance to help those whose subjects I had ruled out of order in advance, to prevent their having the pain of preparing their speeches overnight, only to find that I would not allow them to be made today.

Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I thank you for your guidance on the matter. I had hoped to speak on the same subject as the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee). Possibly within the terms of your Ruling, might not the matter be properly raised under Class II, Vote 9 B.20 and B.23, grants in aid to Botswana and Lesotho, or grants in aid of expenses of administration to those two territories, because it is clear that the increase in students' fees will produce a drain on the funds of hose two countries? It will therefore definitely give them less money for their administrative expenses, and thus possibly lead to an increase being required in those grants, which we are supposed to debate this afternoon. Would you consider it appropriate to discuss the effect of the fee increases in discussing the two grants to Botswana and Lesotho?

Mr. Speaker

That discussion could apply in a debate on Botswana only to the affairs of Botswana and to grants-in-aid of Botswana. The hon. Member could not raise the general question of overseas grants to students on the Estimate for Botswana. On his attempt to link the grant-in-aid to Botswana with Botswana students who happen to come here, I must wait to rule after seeing how ingeniously he manages to do it. In the Estimates, "Botswana" means Botswana, not overseas students in general.