HC Deb 25 June 1974 vol 875 cc1184-6
5. Mr. Terry Walker

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received from mature students since his recent review of student grants about the problems of obtaining discretionary grants.

Mr. Gerry Fowler

Two letters have been received.

Mr. Walker

In the new county of Avon there is serious restriction on discretionary grants which will definitely hurt working-class students who need further education. Many of them missed out on the 11-plus and many left school to go to work without qualifications. Will my hon. Friend look into this to try to get an improvement in the grants position in the new county?

Mr. Fowler

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter. I certainly share his views that local education authorities should look sympathetically upon the needs of mature students when considering grants.

Mr. Fry

The whole question of parental contributions now presents enormous problems to students and their parents, largely because of the activities of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Will the Minister undertake to look into the whole question of parental contributions since we understand that the Labour Party is not in favour of selective benefits?

Mr. Fowler

I do not see how parental contributions arise out of the question of discretion. Nevertheless, in the award announced recently we raised the ceiling of income below which a family suffers no diminution in student grant. We have done much better in this respect than many people expected, and certainly better than the Conservatives did when they were in power.

9. Mr. Robin F. Cook

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will consider reducing the grant payable to a married male student on the basis of contribution from his wife's income.

Mr. Gerry Fowler

As my right hon. Friend said in answer to Questions about student grants on 14th May, a contribution according to income will be required in future from the husband or wife of a married student whose grant is not subject to a parental contribution.

Mr. Cook

Does my hon. Friend accept that to many students this will be an unacceptable proposal? Does he understand that as a result of this means test many married students will return to universities this autumn with a smaller grant than they had the previous year? Does he agree that the cost of removing this anomaly would be small when set against the overall grant? Will he undertake to consider this matter in the annual review of student grants?

Mr. Fowler

The cost of removing this requirement may be small in relation to the grant total, but it is significant. I do not accept that the taxpayer should be required to pay over and above what he would otherwise have to pay merely to support the wife or husband—because it works both ways—of families who are pretty well off. That is the rationale behind this proposal.