HC Deb 01 November 1983 vol 47 cc825-47

10.1 pm

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Education (Fees and Awards) Regulations 1983 (S.I., 1983, No. 973), dated 6th July 1983, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th July, be annulled. I welcome the fact that Labour Members have joined us in supporting the prayer and in bringing the matter before the House. I welcome also the fact that we are debating the matter on the Floor of the House, and for that I thank the Leader of the House, with whom I raised the subject. It is my view that more prayers of this nature should be debated on the Floor of the House and that all of them should be debated at some length.

The reason why I want this issue to be debated on the Floor of the House is that, in my submission, the Government have failed in the regulations against which the prayer is laid to carry out an undertaking which they gave in Committee and repeated on the Floor of the House. They have failed to carry out an undertaking, and that is not in dispute. When I raised the matter with the Leader of the House he replied: You are right in suggesting that these regulations do not carry out a commitment given during the passage of the parent Bill before the dissolution. Even the Government concede that the regulations do not carry out the commitment which they gave.

The instrument which we are debating is the product of the Education (Fees and Awards) Act 1983, a piece of legislation which was designed solely to plug a loophole in overseas student policy which was caused by a Law Lords' judgment on ordinary residence, the details of which will be familiar to those who followed the relevant debates. It was a piece of legislation which was rushed through Parliament because it was generally agreed that we had to do something fairly quickly. The House was on the point of dissolution and the election had been announced when we were considering the details of the Bill in Committee. That concentrated the minds of Ministers wonderfully.

A number of concessions were made by Ministers, who sought to be helpful in responding to the views which were raised both inside and outside the House. I think there was a feeling that they should depart on the election trail in an atmosphere of consensus. We were aided in that respect by the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), the then Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science. Before the hon. Gentleman went to the Government Front Bench he was always regarded as a consensus man. He sought to arrive at a consensus as the Bill passed through the House.

In Committee I sought to introduce certain safeguards, setting out various requirements for any subsequent regulations. One of the safeguards was that persons who take refuge in the United Kingdom in pursuance of a decision by Her Majesty's Government should have home fees status. There is an important difference because of the huge differential established by the Government's full-cost student fees policy. I shall say more about the scale of damage that has been caused by that policy.

Those who take refuge in the United Kingdom in pursuance of a decision by Her Majesty's Government are not in the category of refugees under the United Nations convention, and nor are they in the category of those who are in receipt of asylum. They are not "asylumees", which is a somewhat unfortunate and cumbersome word. They are people who have been granted special leave to remain. The group includes Poles who have fled their country because of the oppression of Solidarity, Iranians who are here because of the appalling repression that is taking place in Iran, some people from El Salvador, some from Uganda and some from the Lebanon.

They are all taking refuge here because they are unable to pursue a normal life or education in their country of origin because of repression. They are here with the full agreement of Her Majesty's Government, who have granted them certain quite extensive rights for a period. About 200 people a year come into that category, of whom between 50 and 100 at any time are interested in receiving higher education. In most respects, for the purposes of employment, the law or supplementary benefit they are treated in the same way as refugees and people given asylum, but they are not being treated in the same way over education fees.

In our Committee debates the then Under-Secretary of State, the Member for Bristol, West who is now with the Department of the Environment and deals with the arts as well, said: I can give the Committee the assurance that we should make provision for home fee status to be extended to persons covered by subparagraph … (c)." — [Official Report, Standing Committee E; 10 May 1983, c. 5.] Subparagraph (c) refers to Persons who are taking refuge in the United Kingdom in pursuance of a decision by Her Majesty's Government. That was one item on a list of categories for which provision would be made. There was a clear assurance that provision would be made for those people. It was on that understanding that I did not press my amendment in Committee and allowed the Government to rush the Bill on to the statute book before the Dissolution. No one on either side of the House who was interested in the Bill was in any doubt that the Government had given a clear and specific assurance to those people, and on looking at schedule 2 to the regulations one would expect to find specific provision for them, but there is no such exemption. All the other expected exemptions —there are several resulting from some of the concessions that were made — are there. On the face of it, clearly the Government have gone back on their word.

Because I wondered whether the Government would do such a thing I tabled a question to check whether it was a slip of the pen, an error or a drafting mistake. The question was answered by the Under-Secretary who is to reply to the debate. His reply comes down to the fact that the omission of words for this group was intended and that the Government would look for some other ways of dealing with the problem. That was a clear going back on an undertaking. That is an almost indefensible thing for a Minister to do. To defend it, the Minister must have the strongest overriding considerations.

We proceed in the House on the basis of understandings given by Ministers. On that basis, hon. Members do not press amendments. Matters then go on to another stage. So much of the business of the House is conducted on that basis that we cannot carry out our business with normal expedition if Ministers are not believed when they make such undertakings. It is of the utmost seriousness, with implications that go beyond these regulations, if such undertakings are allowed to be broken and no adequate reason is given.

In an attempt to suggest by what other means the conditions could be met—the Government said that they would set these out in their regulations—Ministers are suggesting that the institutions to which these students can apply use their discretion to waive charges and treat the students as home rather than overseas students. The position is no different from when the then Under-Secretary made his original concession. This suggestion is riddled with problems. If the Minister relies on that, he is relying on something that is unsatisfactory. It is no way to produce an overall coherent policy. There is no certainty that people in identical situations will not be charged different fees at different institutions. The difference between fees for home and overseas students is massive.

There are financial implications for institutions pursuing a policy in this way. Will the institutions suffer financially if they exercise discretion in favour of a student? The Under-Secretary of State has previously sought to give assurances that they would not, but in the present financial climate the institutions are increasingly dependent on the overseas student level of fees. The block grant is determined on the assumption that the institutions will have a certain proportion of students paying the overseas level of fees. If they contain a significant number of students who fall into that category and grant them home student status, they will be denying themselves income which the UGC, when determining the block grant, has assumed that those universities will have. The institutions will effectively have to find the money from their own pockets. When one talks about the pockets of most universities, one finds that that is a tiny amount or resources which is not produced from public funds. It is a pocket on which there have been many conflicting and mounting demands over recent months.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I am interested in the case that the hon. Gentleman is advancing. Is he saying that none of the students about whom he is anxious is in a position to pay the full economic fee? If he is, clearly there is a great deal of sympathy throughout the House for his point. Is he convinced that none of the students from the countries that he named— Lebanon was one—has resources which would enable him to pay the full fee without undue hardship?

Mr. Beith

There is no way of being certain of that. It is likely that a large number of people in that category are not in a position to pay, by the nature of their refugee status, and because in many cases they have come to this country in circumstances which meant that if they had resources at home they had to leave them behind.

The Government did not seek to apply such a test to any of the categories of students for which they made a special exemption under these regulations. The financial test is not applied to refugees as defined under the United Nations convention and those given asylum. It would be inconsistent to apply it to these students.

We are also talking about students who have to sustain themselves during the period at university. The fees are not the only cost that they will be called upon to pay.

The universities and polytechnics will face a financial penalty if they seek to use their discretion in this way. If they sought to use the discretion widely, the Department would start to become worried and would look to other ways of closing what it would then regard as a loophole by which the Government's overseas students policy was not being effectively applied or consistently carried out.

It cannot be satisfactory that this small group should be treated so differently from the others and should rely upon the discretion of institutions which are already in financial difficulty and which will increase their difficulties by exercising that discretion in the students' favour. It was not the Government's intention to do that when they made that concession and gave their undertaking. That is the fundamental point about these regulations to which I wish to draw the attention of the House.

These regulations include the provision that people should not be eligible for home student status if they have been ordinarily resident for three years — under the Scarman interpretation of the phrase—but this residence has been wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education. In principle that is acceptable, and the main purpose of the Act was to insert some such phrase into the regulations so as to return to what we understood to be the position.

The intention is to exclude from qualifying for higher education benefits those who have been in Britain for the preceding three years wholly for the purpose of obtaining education. It was widely accepted that that should not be a basis for qualifying for benefits in higher education.

It appears likely that 20 years of legal wrangling about ordinary residence will be replaced by a further 20 years of legal wrangling about what "wholly or mainly" means in this context. The Department's guidance on this matter runs to only two paragraphs and ends with the magnificent and classic phrase: The main purpose of a student's residence must be determined individually in all cases. Where does that leave us? We are more or less back to where we started, with the possibility of endless litigation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Mr. Johnston) in Committee on the Students' Allowances (Scotland) Amendment Regulations pressed the matter on the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who said: Each case will be considered on its own merits. The general concept is clear."—[Official Report, First Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, etc., 21 July, 1983; c. 10.] The first part of that is unhelpful and the second is not true. It is therefore reasonable that we should ask the Department of Education and Science to provide clearer and more extensive guidance on the meaning of the phrase. Local education authorities and institutions are already worried and complaining about the lack of adequate guidance on these matters.

I shall raise a second and related point. A person who was allowed to settle on the basis of a quota voucher from India four years ago, took his A levels and was then employed for six months. On being made redundant he was advised that a degree would improve his employment prospects. I am not sure that that is as good advice as it used to be. He applied to Brunel university and was told that he was being classed as an overseas student as two of his four years in this country were for the purpose of receiving full-time education. He was admitted to this country on a quota voucher. The Government declared that he was properly settled here. He had come to live here. Merely because, properly and wisely, he spent two out of the four years improving his education, the institution determined that he should be classed as an overseas student and that he had been here "wholly or mainly" to obtain that education. A different burden of proof is being applied to the rules on student fees than had been applied to the already stringent immigration regulations and quota requirements.

This could be a widespread trend. It is assumed that simply because someone is in education here, he is here for education. There is no logical step from the one to the other. That is a crude and unsatisfactory line. Institutions and local authorities must be advised to consider why people are doing what they are doing, rather than what they are doing. It is a reasonable demand that the Department should state that when a student has several reasons for being in the United Kingdom, one of which is education, he should be given the benefit of the doubt. He should be treated as a home student.

There is also a worrying disparity between awards and fees. In schedule 2 of the regulations, refugees, asylumees and the spouses, sons and daughters of refugees are excepted for fee purposes. When it comes to fees they are all right, but when it comes to awards or grants such persons become eligible to apply for discretionary awards subject to paragraph 6 of schedule 3, which states: Such persons … shall only be excepted candidates where the maker of the awards had so determined. The award-making body has the discretion to make refugees and other groups eligible to apply. That provision also applies to the eligibility of persons who have been temporarily employed or who have studied abroad.

Why should there be a disparity between the two aspects of the regulations. Why should it not be made clear that those people will be eligible to apply for discretionary grants? After all, it is not a great deal to give them. They will become eligible to apply for the grant. There is no guarantee or likelihood that they will get a discretionary award. The World University Services knows of no recent case of a refugee who has received, for example, a postgraduate discretionary award. Mere eligibility does not confer financial benefit on students. We would simply give them the basic right to be eligible. The regulations appear to have been drafted with an unnecessary restriction on the eligibility of those people merely to apply for a discretionary award, even when they are within the pale with regard to fees. That is another unnecessary disparity and unfairness.

When we consider the issue, it is worth reminding ourselves how damaging the Government's policies on overseas students fees have been and stating that it is the tip of an unpleasant iceberg. According to the Department's latest statistical digest of figures, in 1982–83 the number of overseas students is estimated to be 9 per cent. down on even the 1981–82 depleted total and more than one third down on 1979–80.

Within those totals students from developing countries have been hit disproportionately hard. For example, between 1980–81 and 1981–82 the number of students from non-Commonwealth developing countries dropped by 21 per cent. Those countries are most in need of the help that our education system can give. That compares with a 6 per cent. increase in enrolment form within the EC, from some of the richest countries in the world. That is a depressing pattern, where we are driving out of our education system some of those who ought to be given most help and who matter most to Britain, as we seek good relations with the Third world in years to come.

I come back to the most fundamental point about the regulations. The Government's immediate predecessor, of the same party and led by the same Prime Minister, gave a clear undertaking—it was obviously intended to be carried out—to a small group of people whose needs could be met without substantial cost to the Government. They then failed to carry out that undertaking, having waited until their Act was on the statute book and the general election was out of the way. That is no way for any Government to behave. It strikes at the very basis upon which ministerial undertakings are given in the House and on which hon. Members of all parties accept such undertakings. Even at this late hour the Minister should recognise that such behaviour is indefensible and withdraw the regulations.

10.20 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Peter Brooke)

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) has reminded the House of the circumstances in which the Education (Fees and Awards) Regulations 1983 were introduced. They were needed for the continuation of long-standing policies for treating overseas students differently from home students. In past years, arrangements to do this depended on whether students were ordinarily resident here. This was always taken to mean that their "real home" was here.

Last December, however, the House of Lords ruled in a test case that ordinary residence went much wider than that. The consequences of that would have been very costly and the Government decided that the taxpayer should not bear the burden of the extra cost involved. They therefore decided to turn the clock back to what everyone had believed the law to be before the House of Lords judgment. For mandatory awards this could be done by amending existing regulations, but for fees and discretionary awards legislation was required—hence the Education (Fees and Awards) Act 1983. Hon. Members may recall that that legislation received the Royal Assent just before the Dissolution in May. I thank hon. Members for the co-operative spirit that they showed in allowing the Bill to be passed at that time because of the urgent need for it, and I appreciate the spirit in which the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed spoke.

The Education (Fees and Awards) Regulations 1983, which the Secretary of State for Education and Science was empowered to make under the Act, are needed to render lawful both higher fees for overseas students and the adoption by award-making bodies of rules of eligibility for awards concentrating them, as intended, on home students. Certain groups of overseas students, however, will benefit under the regulations, in some cases for the first time.

Without these regulations, policies favouring home students would put the institutions and authorities operating them at risk of legal action for discrimination under the Race Relations Act 1976. Those policies in their essentials have been pursued by successive Administrations since 1967. The aim all along has been to conserve public expenditure and to reduce the burden on the British taxpayer.

The regulations were necessary because of the House of Lords judgment. Since the Race Relations Act first came into operation in 1977, successive Secretaries of State have given legal protection to institutions and authorities by approving fees and awards arrangements under section 41(2) of the Act. The House of Lords judgment, however, meant that such approvals were no longer adequate. The effect of the judgment was that students who had come here from abroad in order to study, with no expectation of support from our public funds, would, after three years, have become eligible for home fees and awards.

The House accepted that that would be wrong when it passed the Act, and the regulations made under the Act are intended to ensure that students cannot become eligible for home fee status when they have been here wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education. The regulations also allow award-making bodies to adopt similar rules of eligibility in relation to their awards.

The principal concern of the regulations is with those students who should be eligible for home fees status. Our policy on overseas students is a selective one designed to benefit those most in need of assistance and also to further our own national interests. The policy is one of targeted support — support considered to be justified. The regulations are geared to that policy. They are selective and allow for a number of special cases, with various categories of excepted students. Those are given special and favourable treatment and are not expected to comply with the basic condition of three years ordinary residence before being treated as home students.

The regulations were drafted only after very wide consultations in May and June of this year. We consulted bodies representing local education authorities, universities and other institutions, teachers and students. We also consulted those bodies specially concerned with refugees and with immigrants. Although we could not allow unlimited time for the consultative process, we received much valuable assistance from all the bodies concerned. I emphasise, therefore, that the regulations were not made in some ivory tower in Whitehall. We did go down into the market place to discuss them with all concerned. Inevitably, we could not satisfy everybody when we made the regulations, but the most serious consideration was given to all the points made.

A group of central interest is refugees. I readily admit that when the Bill was debated in Committee an undertaking was given to extend home fees status to persons who are taking refuge in the United Kingdom in pursuance of a decision by Her Majesty's Government." —[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 10 May 1983; c. 3.] The amendment proposing that was tabled on Friday 6 May and taken in Committee on Tuesday 10 May. From the wording of the amendment, it was not understood at the time that the intention was to extend home fees status to all those allowed to remain in Britain outside the provision of the immigration laws. I am advised that the form of words used has no precise meaning in law. It tends to confuse recognised refugee status—for example, as accorded to the Vietnamese — with the category of persons given exceptional leave to remain in the United Kingdom.

Asylum and refugee status cannot be taken in this country — it must be granted. Taking refuge is, therefore, not a meaningful expression under our laws. That was partly the reason why paragraph (c) of the relevant amendment was thought to be a tautologous compendium of what had gone before in paragraphs (a) and (b), and was also thought to embrace recognised refugee status as applying to the Vietnamese.

The reason why it was not taken to apply to those given exceptional leave to remain in the United Kingdom is that that phrase is so clear, so accepted and so familiar. If that category had been intended, any sensible amendment would have specified it. Given the tautologous wording, any interpretation seeking the larger category would have needed to have been much more prescriptive to have been acceptable.

Mr. Beith

If that is the case, why did the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), now the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, say that we should make provision for home fees status to be extended to persons covered by paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (e). without any criticism of the definition of paragraph (c), and without suggesting any modification, any doubt, any reservation or any misgiving about the phrase used in paragraph (c)? Surely the Minister is either saying that the Under-Secretary was wrong to give that undertaking, or that what he is saying tonight is not intelligible.

Mr. Brooke

After the passage of the Act it became clear that those who had prepared the amendment, especially paragraph (c)—which was moved by the hon. Gentleman in Committee—had intended to include the category of those given exceptional leave to remain. I have explained why that was not clearly embraced by the wording used. The Government have since appreciated that including that category is what the amendment sought to achieve, and that is what the Government meant in saying that they had gone back on their commitment to accept paragraph (c).

I appreciate that, in saying that, the Government are accepting some of the responsibility for the misunderstanding, but I cannot accept that the responsibility is wholly theirs.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Can my hon. Friend tell us whether there is a difference between giving somebody an exceptional permission to remain and giving people permanent residence? I am somewhat confused. Although I fully support the arguments advanced by my hon. Friend which are a sensible and rational answer to many points made my the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), could he, for my clarification and for that of others on the Government Benches, explain whether there is a difference between those given exceptional permission to remain here because of problems in their country and those given permanent rights of residence here?

Mr. Brooke

I shall be coming to what is meant by "exceptional leave" and what is included in this category, but my hon. Friend is correct in thinking that there is a distinction between the two categories.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

The Minister is complaining about the wording of the amendment, but the Government accepted the amendment. From the hon. Gentleman's experience as a Whip, does he not know that one of the practices of Government is that they like to change other people's amendments to make sure that they are clear? Does he not therefore accept the meaning that was given to the amendment by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), because the Government accepted it?

Mr. Brooke

I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but, when he refers to my experience, he is referring to normal times. I was involved in legislation in the time up to the 1979 election, and it is clear that in such a curious interim period affairs are conducted in a tremendous rush. I point out to both the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed and to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) that, in moving the amendment, the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed made no mention of "exceptional leave" to remain, nor did the then Member for Derby, North, Mr. Whitehead, who spoke for the official Opposition. In that respect, there were abnormal circumstances, because, as the hon. Member knows, in the normal course of events, anybody moving an amendment does so with great care.

It is not for me to go into the negotiation that took place outside the Committee to allow the passage of the Bill, but the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed will probably acknowledge that, even outside the Committee, he did not introduce the concept of "exceptional leave" to remain in either the wording of the amendment or the discussions.

I address myself now to the category about which my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) asked me. In recent years, I understand that the persons given execeptional leave to remain have been primarily Iranians, Poles or Ugandans but also a variety of other nationalities in much smaller numbers. The circumstances of the individuals concernced are often very different. It was not possible in the time available to have the necessary detailed consultation with the Home Office before the Bill was debated, and that alludes to the circumstances in which the legislation was passed.

When the implications were fully understood, the conclusion reached—and I acknowledge that I had to play a part in reaching that conclusion—was that the issues involved were too complex and varied to be resolved in time for the issue of the regulations. The regulations were urgently needed, for the reasons that I have already given, for the academic year 1983–84.

I do not regard the issue as closed, and I am shortly to meet the British Refugee Council to discuss it. In the meantime, after wide consultation with outside bodies including those representing refugees, the Department on 7 October issued notes of guidance on the regulations which refer to the group concerned. The Secretary of State has asked authorities and institutions to consider the position of the persons involved in the light of their individual needs and circumstances. We are therefore not overlooking the requirements of the group.

In response to the specific question of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, I acknowledge that it is the institutions that would carry the financial cost of a decision in the context of an individual.

The regulations extend home fee status to those who are recognised by the Government as refugees within the meaning of the United Nations convention 1951 and its protocol 1967 or those granted asylum here. Such persons are also eligible for student grants. I consider it right to concentrate our help on these categories as being the ones most in need. They are the people who meet the criteria set out in the 1951 convention, and reflected in the immigration rules. They are the people who are normally granted settlement after four years. We gave that concession in 1980, and we were the first Government ever to do so.

The regulations also give two other concessions for the first time. First, and most important, recently arrived immigrants are now entitled to pay the home rate of fee. To qualify, a student must have no restrictons on his right to remain here. It applies to immigrants when they are first able to live here, and therefore could not have satisfied the normal requirement of three years' ordinary residence. The regulations in this case are more generous than we undertook to be during the debate on the Bill. Then the concession was promised for the children of immigrants only: we have, in fact, extended it to benefit the whole of the immigrant family. Second, the regulations no longer allow the charging of higher board and lodging fees to overseas students at institutions in the public sector. That issue came up in debate.

In addition to dealing with eligibility for home fees status, the regulations authorise the adoption by a range of award-making bodies of rules of eligibility for their awards which specify particular connections with the United Kingdom or particular parts of it. The essential purpose of parts III to V of the regulations is to allow local education authorities and postgraduate award-making bodies to exclude from eligibility for discretionary awards, as they are already excluded for mandatory awards, overseas students who come to this country essentially for educational purposes. That, clearly, gave rise to the Act in the first place. Apart from that, the regulations have been drafted so as to provide cover under the Race Relations Act for the existing policies of award-making bodies, if they wish to continue them, and essentially mirror those applying for mandatory awards.

The House will, I know, recognise the necessity to protect the public purse and to help concentrate resources where the requirements are greatest, which underlies the regulations. I hope that it will also acknowledge that the regulations act for the benefit of certain groups of students —recognised refugees and recent immigrants.

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed asked about the definition of wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education. That is not a subject on which the Department or the Government propose to give institutions and award-making bodies more guidance. It is a matter for individual institutions and award-making bodies to decide whether someone has been here wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education on the facts of each case. Although my officials will be ready to offer advice, the authorities concerned must judge each case on its merits. I doubt whether it will be helpful for the Department to offer further general advice, and any further advice would only be general in its nature.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Does the Minister accept that that leads to impossible situations where enormous ambiguities and anomalies are built into the system? It is possible to have two brothers from one family applying to different institutions and for different decisions to be taken by those two institutions. Surely there should be guidelines from the DES.

Mr. Brooke

I have explained why we do not propose to issue that guidance. Obviously, certain cases have come from hon. Members to me in my ministerial capacity. While I agree that there are sometimes difficulties in the interpretation, I feel that it is better ultimately for the institution itself to make the judgment.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Surely it is important to the individual who comes to this country to know what he has to do to qualify. It is ridiculous for him to apply without knowing what the qualifications are. Surely there should be clear guidance, if not for the institution, at least for the individual. The Minister implies that if someone stays unemployed for the next 12 months the institution will probably put him into this category. The personss should have the information so that he can make the decision and not have to apply and then find that he has in some way failed to meet the criteria.

Mr. Brooke

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but I stick by the answer that I gave earlier. Each individual case is capable of determination by the institutions concerned, and any further guidance that I, the Government or the Department might utter would be of a general nature and would therefore not advance the case.

From the wide consultation process on the regulations, and from comments which have been made, it is clear that, in general, the regulations have been well received. The new concessions have been welcomed, as has the greater clarity which they give to the position of all concerned, as compared with the previous approvals. We shall, of course, keep a close watch on the way in which the regulations work in the coming months so that we can learn from experience how they may be clarified and improved.

Of course the provisions in the regulations will not satisfy everybody. It is clear that they have not satisfied all hon. Members tonight. In some respects I am afraid that I am bound to continue to disappoint those who would wish to see more concessions, but in other instances, and in particular in relation to refugees, I shall be giving very careful further consideration to the points that have already been raised in the debate, and of course consulting my colleagues at the Home Office. I commend the regulations to the House.

10.41 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

The Minister has just made an extraordinary speech. Advertisements for new films used to say: "You've read the book—now see the film." If one went to see the film, one usually found that it was very different from the book. The Minister is saying: "You've read the Act. You've read the discussions about the Bill. Now see the Regulations" — and the Regulations are not what we expected.

Because of abnormal circumstances according to the Minister, it is all right for the Government to go back on a clear undertaking that was given when the Bill was in Committee. There were indeed abnormal circumstances. Purely for party political advantage, the Prime Minister decided to call a general election more than a year before she needed to go to the country. A number of Bills were therefore at risk. The Government's business managers approached the Labour Whips and various Labour spokesmen on the bits of legislation that were going through the House. When approaches were made about the Bill in question, I recall having a somewhat sharp discussion with Phillip Whitehead, who was then my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North and was, lamentably, defeated in the election. I believed that, if the Government wanted the legislation, they should postpone the general election. Perhaps that is why the Daily Telegraph has referred to me as one of those who sit on the "Brutes Bench". I thought then that we should take a brutal attitude towards the Bill, and I think that we should take a brutal attitude now. Undertakings were given by the Minister's predecessor, and the Minister and his civil servants have reneged on those undertakings. The Minister says that it was all terribly hurried. He says that, if only they had understood what the various Members who supported the amendment meant, they would not have given the undertaking. He says that they did not have time to consult the Home Office. That is absolutely pathetic.

Furthermore, one of the propositions before us differs from the draft regulation made available when the Bill was in Committee. Mr. Whitehead had insisted that, before he was prepared to allow the Bill to go through quickly, the draft regulations should be made available to the members of the Committee so that they could judge whether they were satisfactory. That being so, the Minister is bound by a greater obligation than normal to honour the undertakings given by his predecessor.

Ministers have a very curious and cavalier attitude towards legislation, particularly when it involves setting the law back to what they had thought that it was before the judges decided that it was something else. The most spectacular example of this was the affair of the GLC fares. Everyone thought that what the GLC was doing was perfectly lawful. The Law Lords decided that it was not. The Government threw up their hands in delight. They certainly did not do anything to restore the law to what everyone had thought was the case before the Law Lords decided the other way.

When the present Secretary of State for the Environment was Secretary of State for Social Services., he decided that he should sack the Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark health authority, because it was not doing what he wanted. I almost said the Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark council, but no doubt in the right hon. Gentleman's new role he will want to sack that as well. However, it turned out that the right hon. Gentleman did not have the power to sack the health authority. Consequently, in their usual cavalier way, the Government leapt in and provided him with legislation that legalised his illegal act.

After a long dispute about what was meant by "ordinarily resident", the case of Akbarali and Others v. Brent and Others was decided in the House of Lords just before Christmas 1982. Much to the horror of Ministers, the other place decided that the words "ordinarily resident" meant just that. The effect of that judgment was to entitle many more students, particularly those educated in Britain before going on to higher education here, to home student status, lower fees and, in many cases, grants. That was the generous consequence of that judgment.

The Department of Education and Science responded quickly, due to the Government's general policies on overseas students' fees. Increasing overseas students' fees to their full cost in 1979 meant that substantial sums were involved for some of the institutions and authorities concerned. As I have explained, the Opposition accepted the principle of the Bill before the House. However, the regulations have not done what the Minister said in Committee. Consequently, those who are given exceptional leave to stay do not, as of right, have home student status. They are not refugees or the beneficiaries of asylum; they have a different and difficult status. It is those very people, who have a difficult status, that the regulations will throw on the mercy of the colleges.

The colleges will be permitted to remit fees in whole or in part. That is quite wrong. The colleges are the last bodies to have that discretion. There are many colleges, and so there is bound to be diversity and inconsistency in decision making. In addition, as a result of the Government's policies, the colleges are hard up and are the last bodies that should be able to decide about the eligibility of people who are given exceptional leave to stay and are, therefore, usually in difficult, peculiar cirurmstances, deserving of sympathy. The criterion that will probably be applied by each college will be the effect on its budget. The effect on the budget will be given more consideration than the person who has that rather dubious status.

There are other criticisms of the regulations, some of which have been mentioned by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). The original draft regulations before the Committee provided that students who met unforeseen financial difficulties in mid course should be excepted from having to pay full fees. Those were people who suddenly lost their money because there was a coup in the country from which they had come or a similar catastrophe that damaged them. As far as the Members on the Committee knew, those people were covered by the original draft regulations but they are not covered in the regulations before us tonight.

The Minister has made no case for going back on the undertaking that his hon. Friend gave in Committee, and in those circumstances I do not think that the House should approve the regulations but should vote against them. I held that view before the debate began, but the Minister's explanation of why he has decided to go back on the undertaking has convinced me even more that we should reject them. It appears to me—I am sure that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, who was heavily involved at the time, will agree — that, in all the circumstances, in view of the efforts made by Opposition parties to honour their undertaking to get the legislation through before the general election, any undertaking that was given should be honoured, however difficult that might be for the Government.

To the best of my knowledge, this category is small. I do not know whether the Minister can give the House an estimate of how many people would be affected, but it would be a dramatic burden on the British taxpayer to grant this concession for this group of people who would be in great neeed, deserving of our sympathy and, in a sense, deserving of some funding from the British taxpayer. I hope tht the Minister will reconsider the present position and withdraw the regulations.

10.51 pm
Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South-West)

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) has raised an exceptionally difficult point in relation to refugee status, although his speech was not completely confined to that subject. We are entitled when debating the regulations to say a few words about the background to the passage of the Bill in April this year. When my hon. Friend the then Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science introduced the Bill, he referred to the additional £46 million that the Government had decided to make available to help overseas students. He said: The programme will allow 5,000 extra students to be helped to come here each year."—[Official Report, 27 April 1983; Vol. 41 c. 930]. Despite the difficulty over the specific point of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed we should not forget the fact that the background to the Bill was an increase in spending and an increase in help that the many Conservative Members thoroughly welcomed.

We must recognise the Government's difficulty in the spring of this year following Lord Scarman's judgment in December 1982. With the pressure on local education authority budgets and on local government spending, all hon. Members would recognise that, had Lord Scarman's interpretation of the law not been altered, a tradition of making differential charges for students would have gone by the board and there would have been considerable finacial problems not only for the Government but for local education authorities.

In schedule 2, paragraph 5, of the regulations reference is made to what an excepted student is. After 5(b) it says: only because he, his spouse or his parent was temporarily employed outside the United Kingdom". This deals with those who temporarily might have had to go to work outside this country or the European Community. I assume that this would also apply for the guardian of a child and also for a close relative who for some reason happened to be acting in loco parentis. The regulation is fairly widely defined and fairly exact, but, given that it is our duty in Parliament thoroughly to scrutinise such regulations to the best of our ability, perhaps the word "guardian" should have been included or perhaps it is covered under the regulation.

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed mentioned the refugee position and referred to the question which he asked about the latest situation following the publication of the regulations. I studied the explanatory document which the Government issued in October, on page 3 of which it was stated: Such students"— referring to students not fully defined as refugees but who might be considered to be refugees— will be able to produce a Home Office letter describing their status. In view of some cases that have come to light—and there are probably others — I hope, given the co-operation and consultation between the DES and the Home Office, that those students will quickly receive that letter explaining what their status is. Reading on in the document, to the answer given by the Minister to the question asked by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, it would appear that, if the Home Office letter describes their status in that way, they would be classed as home students.

In Standing Committee, just before the amendments standing in the name of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed were negatived, the Minister said: On Second Reading we promised that we should reconsider the definition of temporariness next year, if we are in Government, to see whether greater clarity can be achieved". —[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 10 May 1983, c. 6.] I take it that "next year" meant the next academic year. That has already started, so one assumes that there will be a further Government statement on what is meant by "temporariness."

The cases that have come to light indicate that some local education authorities are not making discretionary grants because of the new situation that has arisen. They may be looking for savings because they are spending up to budget and are afraid that if they make discretionary awards they will find themselves in the penalty zone, and we know from what the Government have warned that once a local education authority gets into that situation, the holdback is very steep indeed.

The Government could help by saying to LEAs—and there are probably not a great number of students who would come into the category to which the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed referred—"We shall disregard what you give in discretionary grants to these students for the purpose of penalty zone calculations in relation to rate support grant." In other words, the situation would be made clearer if the Government lifted the threat of grant hold-back.

I was glad to hear the Minister say that the regulations would be kept under constant review and would be altered in the light of experience. I believe that this is the first debate of many in which the House will consider the whole question of student support. As the youth training scheme builds up and gets more into further education, we shall find other categories of people who do not have support for their studies but who should receive such support, given the general help that is made available to other people who are studying in the same institution and are in the same position.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

My hon. Friend referred to local education authorities but did not refer to the valuable comments made by the Minister about the discretion which is available to colleges, universities and other institutes of higher education to help these students if they so wish. I appreciate the point about LEAs and the penalty that they might face, but the imputation of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) was unfair to the humanity and compassion which many institutions of higher education are prepared to show. Would my hon. Friend comment on that?

Mr. Madel

I take my hon. Friend's point. I was referring to a particular part of the answer that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed about what it says in the explanatory document about interfering with the freedom of institutions — which my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has just mentioned—and local education authorities. Coming from a county such as Bedfordshire, which is in a constant state of nightmare about over-spending on education, I felt it appropriate and reasonable to draw attention to that. Many institutions will do their best to exercise freedom and help these students. I am grateful for the fact that my hon. Friend is keeping the regulations under review. A slight accident occurred, but the Government are trying to put it right. I hope that the House will pass the regulations.

11 pm

Mr. Martin J. O'Neill (Clackmannan)

I rise with some trepidation because I realise that there is only a limited Scottish input in this subject. For a Scottish Member to speak on something which is almost exclusively English in content is provoking the wrath which an English Member would incur from my Scottish colleagues if the situation were reversed.

There are eight Scottish universities involved in respect of fees. In regard to the point made by the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South-West (Mr. Madel) about the humanitarian instincts of institutions of higher and further education, many of the good intentions are being strained severely by the absence of resources. Aberdeen university is facing severe financial constraints because of cuts by the University Grants Committee, and at Stirling at one stage there was a threat, happily removed for the moment, to the continuance of the institution. In both institutions, if there are to be cuts, they are most likely to be in the student welfare services which are funded by the university and which tend to be regarded by the administration as one of the lines of first resort when economies have to be made.

In the last academic year two Scottish institutions have been subject to fines by the UGC for taking in too many students. If they are confronted with the prospect of penalties being imposed by the UGC, one way to reduce student numbers would be not to exercise the discretion afforded to them by the regulations.

To take the argument further, universities are relatively well provided for in respect of student welfare services, but when it comes to local authority colleges or even institutions pursuing CNAA courses of a high academic standard, the provision of the necessary facilities for foreign students in respect of welfare—I do not use the word "welfare" in a derogatory sense in respect of those operating it — will be cut severely. The smaller the institution, the fewer endowments it has and the less money it has in that area. So we are talking about the exercise of discretion by institutions in straitened circumstances which may cause difficulty for the people concerned.

It would be dangerous to exaggerate the significance of the numbers, because we know they are not many. One thing which was singularly missing from the Minister's tortuous speech was any reference to the numbers involved, the statistics and the likely impact on the Exchequer. If local authorities are expected to make savings, they will not have money available when the payments have to be made to help the students who find themselves in difficulty through no fault of their own. When it effects an individual institution or an individual student, there will be a crisis for that institution or for that student. The crisis will probably not be responded to adequately by the local authority because of the difficulties that authorities now face. If this happens to one student, it will have happened to one student too many. If it happens to only 200 in the country, it will not make a jot of difference to the economy or to the education budget.

The Minister has said that the Department did not understand what would happen because it was busy at the time. If we tabled amendments to a measure on Friday that was to be debated on Tuesday, civil servants would not be so lacking in engenuity that they could not present an adequate case against them by Tuesday. If that could not be done for the regulations, I question what civil servants are doing over the weekends. Normally the civil servants concerned work sufficiently hard when the requirements of the Standing Committee procedures so demand. In those circumstances, they will do the job and provide the arguments.

The Minister has made a cheap and unfortunate start. I know that he was working in the Patronage Department before becoming a Minister in the Department of Education and Science, but he is dealing now with human rights and the entitlement to something that Britain has acquired a reputation for providing over the years. It is recognised that we have an ability to look after the less fortunate from lands beyond these shores who are in need and who come to Britain in circumstances which no one welcomes.

It is most unfortunate that the Government are reneging on their undertakings. The tortuous logic of the Minister does not impress anyone. I am sure that he has little faith in his brief. I am sure also that the passage of time will show that he has presented an unnecessary case. I welcome his undertaking to keep the matter under constant review. I hope that by next year we shall see a change in the regulations. If discretion is to continue, it should be backed up with adequate financial provision.

I await with interest the publication of the Scottish regulations, for in Scotland the making of student awards is at the discretion of the Secretary of State. Students at institutions north of the border could be placed at an advantage when compared with the position of those who form the majority of those whom we are discussing. They will have the opportunity of appealing to the Secretary of State for Scotland, whereas those in England will have the opportunity to appeal only to the local authority. When the regulations are being introduced at the insistence of the Secretary of State, and when they are to be applied by the local authorities, the authorities will be left with the opprobrium. They will have the unfortunate responsibility of telling people that the necessary money is not available and that they have exercised their discretion accordingly. The Minister will be able to stand back in the manner of Pontius Pilate and say "It is nothing to do with me, for discretion rests with the local authorities."

That was the train of events in so many aspects of local government administration in the previous Parliament so perhaps we should not expect anything better. However, many of us have looked on occasions to the Department of Education and Science for assistance and for a more sensitive appreciation of those whom it is intended to serve, the students and staffs of our education institutions. I feel that we shall be imposing further burdens on the already over-stretched welfare services and the staffs of the colleges. We shall create problems for students whose difficulties in studying are already more than enough and whose ultimate academic achievement is often undermined by the anxieties and uncertainties that regulations of this sort create.

The Minister has made it clear that he is not prepared to withdraw these miserable regulations, but I ask him carefully to examine how they are implemented. If there is one anomaly, it is one too many. If, as we expect, there are about 200, this measure is not worth a candle. It is not worth the Department of Education and Science or the new Minister staining their reputations by ratting on an undertaking given when every attempt was being made to achieve the sort of understanding which, under duress, the House always endeavours to achieve. The House is being insulted by these wretched regulations just as much as the students and the administrators who must implement them.

11.6 pm

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I support my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, because he has advanced a rational case on the problems that arose before the last general election.

Labour Members have levelled every sort of criticism at the Government, the Under-Secretary and his predecessor. They have used phrases such as "insulting the House", "ratting on assurances" and so on. Did the Labour Members who have spoken with such passion listen to the lucid and understanding speech that was made in response to the opening speech by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) on a complicated matter which inevitably evokes sympathy from hon. Members on both sides of the House? My hon. Friend said that this matter would receive further consideration from the Government.

I saw many of the posters of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) during the general election campaign. He often rants from the Opposition Front Bench. He certainly makes speeches for minority consumption. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, in responding to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, to whom I pay tribute for much of what he said—it is of course right that we should debate this issue tonight—informed the House that the Government were aware of what was said in Committee before the election. The Government have included in these regulations many concessions that were not mentioned in Committee.

There is some confusion about one tiny section of people. The hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) who comes from north of the border said, in similar terms to those used by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, that more than 200 students might be involved. This involves a principle to which the Government must pay attention, and the assurances given by my hon. Friend are admirable in every way. If Labour Members are seeking to achieve an improvement in the facilities and fees available to overseas students, those who fall on hard times and those who need to come here because of problems in their own countries and are classified as refugees, they must consider one matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South-West (Mr. Madel) said that the Government had made available an additional £46 million. That is a commendable sum, bearing in mind the grave problems of public expenditure facing the Government. These problems would have faced Labour Members if they had held office after the last general election on 9 June.

My hon. Friend the Minister has been extremely open and honest with the House and it would be both irresponsible and a waste of time for the Opposition, if they so chose, at the end of the debate, to divide the House, because my hon. Friend has said clearly that this matter will not just be kept under reveiw — a phrase readily used by Government spokesmen in the House. He has gone further and said that this category of persons and this problem will receive further consideration from the Government. That assurance should be acceptable to the Opposition.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras is not prepared to listen to me but would rather chat to his Opposition colleague the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice), whom I congratulate on his appointment to a leading shadow position, but I am sure that Opposition Members will agree that I do not rise readily to support my colleagues at the Dispatch Box. I seek from time to time to bring an objective view to many of our debates. Having listened to the whole debate, I find myself on this occasion 100 per cent. on my hon. Friend's side because I believe that he, unlike some Ministers, has been completely honest and given assurances that should be acceptable to the Opposition.

11.16 pm
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) was making a job application for a ministerial post or filibustering.

The regulations are extremely mean in all senses. They are extremely mean to the House because they fail to carry out an undertaking. It is a fundamental principle that, if the House is to work effectively, when undertakings are given by Ministers they must be honoured. That is essential and is more important than the order.

The Minister gave an undertaking to get a Bill through the House quickly and save a great deal of public money, but he has not fulfilled the promise.

The regulations are mean to the individual because the Government do not set out the details necessary to enable an individual to choose and make applications, knowing with certainty what will happen. They are left with the uncertainty that educational institutions may deal with the matter differently and that after a long time they might be able to pursue the matter through the courts.

The Minister said that he was speaking for the taxpayer and the public purse. The Government's approach to the public purse is wrong because the Minister has been saving only a little money on student fees, but that consistently and persistently loses the Government greater sums of money because if people are not encouraged to train in Britiah they train elsewhere. When they return to their countries they place orders and encourage trade with the countries in which they have trained. The Government's actions lose the country more in trade than they save on overseas students' fees. These regulations characterise the Government's meanness of spirit. I suggest that the Minister should take the regulations away and think again.

11.9 pm

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

This has been a useful debate. I should like to take issue with the Minister. Listening to what he said, anyone would have thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) had never made reference to refugees. However, if one refers to Standing Committee F, which met in May, one sees that my hon. Friend referred to people who are taking refuge in the United Kingdom with the support and understanding of Her Majesty's Government". My hon. Friend referred directly to the issue.

Anyone would believe that the Minister who dealt with the matter in Committee, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), had specifically ignored the detail of the various clauses that were being considered, yet it is clear from the Committee report that the Minister said: We think that it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to define the category referred to in IA (d)."—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 10 May 1983; c. 3, 5.] Much consideration went into the various clauses. Therefore, it is clear that while the Minister decided to ignore the implications of subparagraph (c), he had taken into account subparagraph (d) and other paragraphs. It is almost as if a civil servant was sent away tonight and told to find a nitpicking excuse for not providing the agreement that had been arrived at in Committee.

The Minister of State said that a co-operative spirit had been entered into by my hon. Friend and other Opposition Members in Committee. One can only conclude that perhaps co-operative spirit is not what the Government wanted. The lesson that some hon. Members might learn from that is that they should not be so co-operative in future if their reward is the Government going back on its word. That was a matter of faith. Any Government are only as good as their word. It appears from what the Government have done tonight that promises are cheap.

This problem will create many ambiguities, as I said to the Minister in an intervention, for many of the statutory bodies and institutes that will have to deal with those issues. Some refugees and asylees will be able to claim benefit via the Department of Health and Social Security. If they are ill, they will be able to go to the National Health Service to receive free medical help. They might be able to go to the Department of Employment to get their dole. However, the one thing that they will be excluded from receiving is education. That in itself will create other anomalies.

I should like to bring to the attention of the House the case of Mr. Hamid Hassan Zadeh, a constituent of mine in Liverpool, who is an Iranian. He was a student for one year at Liverpool polytechnic. At the end of that time he found that the fees for the civil engineering course that he was on were so high that he had to pull out of the course. He had married an English girl and could claim unemployment benefit, which he still claims. He applied to Preston polytechnic to carry on his course, but he has been told that he does not qualify to be assisted in the payment of his fees by Government funds. Therefore, we have the anomaly whereby he can remain on the dole, is not allowed to go into higher education, and at the same time is excluded from receiving assistance via the local education authority.

To add to this ludicruous situation, Mr. Hassan Zadeh has a friend who is in the identical position, and applied to an institute in Manchester. He was given the opportunity of being funded through the institute, although he was in the identical position to his friend who had been turned down at Preston. The failure of the Department of Education and Science to give adequate guidelines to local authorities and institutes will lead to more anomalies and ambiguities. The regulations are riddled with them.

I refer to the scale of what is being requested.. The Minister said that he had gone out into the market place and taken into account the views of many of the organisation involved. I spoke to the World University Services today. It told me that at most only 150 to 200 people are likely to be affected this year. Each one is liable to be disqualified if the regulations remain as they are. Edmund Burke used the maxim that he who would do good, must do it in minute particulars.

We are dealing with a good example of a measure which affects a small number of important people who came to this country having found themselves to be displaced citizens by the political regime which might exist in their homelands. Those people are now being denied the opportunity of education.

Britain's record in human rights, in safeguarding civil liberties and in protecting minorities and its claim to be generous has always been judged on its ability to respond to people in such difficult situations. The measures before the House are niggardly, selfish, xenophobic and typical of the small Englander approach to life.

The introduction of full cost fees for overseas students and the continuation of such a policy as appears in the regulations have denied various educational possibilities to many overseas students. A hallmark of the Government's approach has been to reduce aid to those most in need. The Government have introduced full cost fees, abolished the Ministry of Overseas Aid and Development soon after coming to office and threatened the voluntary service overseas. The problems that we face are immense. In 34 countries more than 80 per cent. of the population are illiterate. Many poor people would welcome assistance from this country.

We should be turning Britain into a centre for learning, which could manifest all the hallmarks of a generous and civilised country. We should not adopt the niggardly approach which has been evident in the debate.

For those reasons, my hon. Friends and I will oppose the Government and we hope that hon. Members from all parties will join us in the Division Lobby.

11.25 pm
Mr. Peter Brooke

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall seek to reply briefly to the specific questions asked in the debate.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), speaking from the Labour Front Bench, referred to the circumstances of the final week of the last Parliament as though it were somehow special. I recall from similar events in 1979 that exactly the same procedure occurs whenever one approaches a Dissolution, so there was nothing special about 1983 in that respect.

The number of people in the category of "exceptional leave to remain" is in excess of 2,000, although by definition a significant number of those people will not be students. We are talking about between 800 and 900 Iranians, many of whom may be students, about 800 Poles, about 70 Afghans, between 200 and 300 Ugandans and pockets from other nations. The problem is that two years ago the total was only 500, so the number is increasing and the category is open-ended.

The University Grants Committee student number targets relate to home and European Community students only, so exercising discretion in the case of an overseas student would not count against the target.

The central issue in the debate, in which I welcomed the contributions from all parties, was the premise adopted by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) in opening and by other Opposition Members that the Government had gone back on their word, implying that in so doing we were going back on the words "exceptional leave to remain". Those words, however, did not appear in the amendment and were not used by any Opposition Member during the passage of the legislation. It is, therefore, a rather loose charge. The Opposition defined their ill-defined amendment with the words in question after the event.

I have acknowledged the Government's responsibility for our part of the misunderstanding, but I have not noticed any humility from either of the Opposition parties about their part in putting down amendments and not explaining them. They may argue that the circumstances were exceptional, but that is precisely the Government's argument with regard to our part in the misunderstanding.

Mr. Beith

Why was that point not made at the time by a Minister at the Dispatch Box?

Mr. Brooke

I freely acknowledge that we misunderstood the wording. I entirely take that point and I have acknowledged it from the Dispatch Box. Rude things have been said about me, but I hope that those who read the report of the debate later will note that the Opposition have been less than generous about their own contribution to the misunderstanding that occurred.

In that spirit, I call upon my right hon. and hon. Friends to resist the prayer.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 50, Noes 175.

Division No. 56] [11.30 pm
Ashdown, Paddy Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Loyden, Edward
Bermingham, Gerald McNamara, Kevin
Boyes, Roland McWilliam, John
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Meadowcroft, Michael
Bruce, Malcolm Nellist, David
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) O'Neill, Martin
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Clay, Robert Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.) Parry, Robert
Conlan, Bernard Patchett, Terry
Cowans, Harry Penhaligon, David
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Pike, Peter
Dixon, Donald Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Dobson, Frank Prescott, John
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Radice, Giles
Fisher, Mark Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Freud, Clement Skinner, Dennis
Godman, Dr Norman Steel, Rt Hon David
Haynes, Frank Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Howells, Geraint Wainwright, R.
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Wallace, James
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Johnston, Russell Tellers for the Ayes:
Kennedy, Charles Mr. A. J. Beith and Mr. David Alton.
Leadbitter, Ted
Alexander, Richard Bryan, Sir Paul
Amess, David Buck, Sir Antony
Arnold, Tom Budgen, Nick
Ashby, David Butcher, John
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Butterfill, John
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Carlisle, John (N Luton)
Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley) Carttiss, Michael
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Chalker, Mrs Lynda
Baldry, Anthony Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Chope, Christopher
Bellingham, Henry Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Benyon, William Clarke Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Berry, Sir Anthony Conway, Derek
Bevan, David Gilroy Coombs, Simon
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Cope, John
Boscawen, Hon Robert Couchman, James
Bottomley, Peter Cranborne, Viscount
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Currie, Mrs Edwina
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Dicks, T.
Bright, Graham Dorrell, Stephen
Brinton, Tim Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Brooke, Hon Peter Dover, Denshore
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Dunn, Robert
Bruinvels, Peter Evennett, David
Eyre, Reginald Marlow, Antony
Fallon, Michael Mather, Carol
Favell, Anthony Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Meyer, Sir Anthony
Finsberg, Geoffrey Montgomery, Fergus
Fookes, Miss Janet Needham, Richard
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Neubert, Michael
Forth, Eric Oppenheim, Philip
Fox, Marcus Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Franks, Cecil Powley, John
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Price, Sir David
Freeman, Roger Raffan, Keith
Gale, Roger Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Galley, Roy Roe, Mrs Marion
Goodlad, Alastair Rossi, Sir Hugh
Gow, Ian Rowe, Andrew
Gregory, Conal Ryder, Richard
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Sackville, Hon Thomas
Ground, Patrick Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Sayeed, Jonathan
Hampson, Dr Keith Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Hanley, Jeremy Shelton, William (Streatham)
Hargreaves, Kenneth Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Harris, David Sims, Roger
Harvey, Robert Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hawksley, Warren Soames, Hon Nicholas
Hayes, J. Speed, Keith
Hayward, Robert Spencer, D.
Heathcoat-Amory, David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Heddle, John Stanbrook, Ivor
Henderson, Barry Stern, Michael
Hickmet, Richard Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Hind, Kenneth Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Hirst, Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Stradling Thomas, J.
Holt, Richard Sumberg, David
Hooson, Tom Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Howard, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Terlezki, Stefan
Hunter, Andrew Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Jackson, Robert Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Thornton, Malcolm
Jones, Robert (W Herts) Tracey, Richard
Key, Robert Twinn, Dr Ian
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Knight, Gregory (Derby N) Waddington, David
Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Knowles, Michael Walden, George
Lang, Ian Waller, Gary
Lawler, Geoffrey Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Lee, John (Pendle) Watson, John
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Watts, John
Lester, Jim Wells, John (Maidstone)
Lightbown, David Wheeler, John
Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Lord, Michael Winterton, Nicholas
McCrindle, Robert Wood, Timothy
McCurley, Mrs Anna Yeo, Tim
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Young, Sir George (Acton)
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Maclean, David John. Tellers for the Noes:
Madel, David Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and Mr. David Hunt.
Major, John
Malone, Gerald

Question accordingly negatived.