HC Deb 21 March 1968 vol 761 cc568-70
6. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will undertake a special review of student grants within the next 12 months.

25. Captain W. Elliot

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects the Government's period of restraint of students' grants to end.

Mr. Gordon Walker

The timing of the next review of student grants will depend on the economic situation.

Mr. Lane

In view of the responsible attitude of the students' leaders to this issue, will the right hon. Gentleman keep in mind the obvious dangers of a totally negative posture by the Government and the desirability of acting as favourably and sympathetically as possible to the reasonable suggestions made by the students?

Mr. Gordon Walker

I gladly agree that the student leaders of the N.U.S. have been extremely responsible about this. Indeed, I am still seeing them about the matters which they have put to me. As for the suggestions that have been made to me, as long as the ceiling is preserved, I shall consider them very favourably and carefully.

Captain W. Elliot

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that students will not be treated any less favourably than any other section of the community?

Mr. Cordon Walker

indicated assent.

Dr. Ernest A. Davies

Is my right hon. Friend aware that students in, for example, science faculties must study during the holidays on field courses and that this involves them not only in the added expense of hotel bills but prevents them from earning a living? Will he give careful consideration to this group caught between two forces?

Mr. Gordon Walker

Yes, Sir. This is, of course, a matter which we must consider. I am aware of the problem, but I think that it would be better if the House were to await the time when I can announce the full policy—that is, when we publish the revised rates of grant.

Sir E. Boyle

Is not this a reasonable Question, bearing in mind the prospective increases in halls of residence and refectory charges and also the prospective increases in the cost of books? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if he could give a slightly more encouraging answer, it would be of enormous help to the most responsible elements in the student leadership?

Mr. Gordon Walker

I agree that it is a reasonable Question. On the other hand, I must consider the general economic position. It would be irresponsible of me to say at this stage that within 12 months the Government will look again at these grants. This is a serious and reasonable request and I assure the House that I will go as far as I can to meet it; but I must bear in mind the economic situation.

15. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the expected level of student grants for 1968–69; and what percentage increase this represents over similar expenditure in 1963–64.

Mr. Gordon Walker

I expect to announce the rates of grant to take effect next September when the report of the Brown Advisory Panel is published, which I hope will be in May.

Mr. Biffen

In the meantime, is the right hon. Gentleman totally unable to give an idea of the likely percentage increase that will be shown? Will it not, in fact, be a very substantial increase and does not this underline the validity of the argument that at least some of the financing of student grants should be transferred to a system of student loans?

Mr. Gordon Walker

I do not think that that arises on this Question. In any event, it is a much bigger question which needs a great deal of thought. I think that I would be wise to announce my conclusions at the same time that I publish the report of the Brown Panel, which I shall be publishing at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Henig

Would my right hon. Friend agree that as important as the question of the overall level of student grants is the question of ironing out some of the anomalies that exist, in particular, the need for some proposals to ensure that in future parents pay their full share of the amount at which they are assessed by the local education authorities?

Mr. Gordon Walker

I am considering a number of changes and amendments. If I decide to make them I will announce them when I publish the panel's report. The difficulty about trying to compel parents to pay the parental contribution is that one would have to devise sanctions to use if they refused to do so.

Sir G. Nabarro

Send them to the salt mines.

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