HC Deb 26 April 1983 vol 41 cc718-9
8. Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he intends to announce the student grant levels for 1983–84.

Mr. Waldegrave

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on 8 November 1982 that the main rates of grant for mandatory awards in 1983–84 would be increased by 4 per cent. He hopes to issue details of the new rates of grant shortly.

Mr. Alton

Does the Minister accept that the continuing uncertainty is causing great problems to universities and students? Does he further accept that this year there is a need to determine the grant on the basis of a student needs index rather than inflation? Furthermore, does he accept that the inconsistency between one university and another works against some students? Is he aware that at Liverpool university costs in the halls are £100 more than at Hull university?

Mr. Waldegrave

Grants will be increased by an amount that the country can afford. That has always been the position. However, there is an element of uncertainty. My right hon. Friend has gone out of his way in the past two years to announce the basic rate of increase well in advance, thereby diminishing that uncertainty.

Mr. McNally

Will the Minister confirm, when reviewing grants, that the student loan scheme is dead?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman must await further news on that subject.

Sir William van Straubenzee

Can my hon. Friend confirm that the substantially higher increase in the base rate at which parental contributions operate will be implemented in accordance with the welcome announcement?

Mr. Waldegrave

The 8 per cent. uprating of the threshold will be implemented. My hon. Friend is right in saying that this is a useful and important step.

Mr. Spriggs

Does the Minister appreciate that an increase of £5 a week is needed if a full-time university student is properly to maintain himself? When the Minister is examining next year's budget, will he consider that?

Mr. Waldegrave

The Government will examine what the country can afford next year. Britain has more students in higher education than ever before, which shows that the awards are not a disincentive.

Mr. Eggar

Can my hon. Friend confirm that there may be a place for a loan scheme provided that it does not replace the grant scheme and is in addition to it?

Mr. Waldegrave

There are various options that have varying degrees of support.

Mr. Whitehead

As the Department of Education and Science is borrowing a Labour principle, namely that the cost of education should be set against the cost of keeping those students on the dole, will there be a consequent uprating in the level of student grant to alleviate the hardships that students have faced during the past few years?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood a story which itself contains some misunderstanding.