HC Deb 20 July 1982 vol 28 cc200-1
10. Mr. Proctor

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he is now in a position to make a statement on his policy towards the introduction of loans for students in further and higher education.

11. Mr. Shersby

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to be in a position to make a statement on the possibility of introducing a student loans scheme.

Mr. Waldegrave

The introduction of student loans raises many complex issues, and my right hon. Friend cannot yet say when he will be in a position to make a statement.

Mr. Proctor

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he tell the House whether he is considering moving from a system of grants to one of loans, or whether he is considering top-up loans?

Mr. Waldegrave

One of the schemes under consideration is a mixture of grants and loans.

Mr. Shersby

Is my hon. Friend aware that of the 67 per cent. of students who rely on a parental contribution, 73 per cent. find that their parents are unable or unwilling to top up their grants? Will he therefore consider introducing a loan scheme which will enable students to bridge the financial gap?

Mr. Waldegrave

One of the advantages of a properly organised and subsidised loan scheme would be to limit students' dependence on ordinary bank overdrafts.

Mr. Ashley

Is the Minister aware that there are far too few working-class students in further and higher education, and that the system of student loans will make for even fewer? Is the Minister sanguine about that, or is he prepared to do something about it?

Mr. Waldegrave

The number of working-class children who are coming forward properly qualified is too few. That is the real problem. There is no evidence that the present system has done much to advance the cause of bringing more working-class students into university education. Any loan scheme would, of course, have to meet the point that the right hon. Gentleman raises.

Sir William van Straubenzee

In putting any scheme before the House, will my hon. Friend be precise about the methods by which the loans would be recovered—by university or college, or nationally? Does he realise that many of us who are his friends are worried that he will erect such a bureaucracy that he will increase public expenditure and thus incur the Prime Minister's wrath?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is right. The problem that he raises is one of the obstacles that a proper loan scheme would have to overcome.

Mr. Whitehead

Further to the Minister's earlier answer, might there not be a case for mandatory support before as well as after the age of 18 in order to increase the number of working-class entrants to universities and polytechnics? Is there any inducement to the working-class student, whose parents might be unemployed at the time of his application, to take up any loan scheme such as is now being proposed?

Mr. Waldegrave

That is a different area of support. The present system has not worked well in bringing forward working-class children in this area.