HC Deb 28 November 1979 vol 974 cc1286-7
50. Mr. Foulkes

asked the Lord Privy Seal what amount is being provided from the aid programme to the World University Service for scholarships and training for refugees.

Mr. Ridley

Grants to the World University Service (United Kingdom) for the training of refugee students are expected to total £2,965,000 in the current financial year.

Mr. Foulkes

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the reduction in grant to the World University Service, coupled with the proposed increase in fees for overseas students, means that many fewer refugees will be able to be helped in the future? Will the Minister and his Government give special consideration to the case of the refugees who, unlike other overseas students, do not have Governments or families at home who can reasonably be expected to support them? Will the Government allow a reduction in the fees for these refugee students and treat them effectively as home students for the purpose of fees?

Mr. Ridley

The matter of fees is of course one for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The hon. Gentleman may know that the programme is available only to those genuine refugees from countries which are below the income levels which bring them within our aid criteria. As such, the number of them depends much more on circumstances than he perhaps realises.

Mr. Cormack

Does my hon. Friend accept that this country has a long and honourable tradition of helping refugees? Is there not a great deal to be said for what the hon. Gentleman advanced? Will the Minister please not tarnish the reputations of either the Government or the country by too readily giving way?

Mr. Ridley

I would say to my hon. Friend that there is no change in the arrangements for those who are already on courses here. However, the numbers accepted in the future will depend upon the criteria that I have just given to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. McElhone

Despite the Minister's answer, does he not agree that one of the best ways of assisting Third world nations is to help with the education of their students? Therefore, is it not disgraceful that the reorientation unit of the World University Service, which co-ordinates the education of students, especially refugee students, and assists with obtaining jobs for them in the Third world when they have completed their studies, now finds that it has no money for next year? Is not that a totally nonsensical cut in public expenditure? Will the Minister reconsider the position?

Mr. Ridley

As I explained, there has not been a cut of the kind that the hon. Gentleman alleges. The programme for next year has not even been agreed. He must accept that the number depends very much on the numbers who apply.

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