HC Deb 03 April 1984 vol 57 cc799-800
12. Mr. Radice

asked the Secretary of Slate for Education and Science what representations he has received from college principals on the impact of his proposals to change the arrangements for student travel on students at London colleges.

Mr. Brooke

My right hon. Friend has received two such representations, one from the vice-chancellor of the University of London and one from the provost of University College London.

Mr. Radice

Is the Minister aware that the new proposals on student travel grants will mean hardship for many students in London, Lancaster and elsewhere who have long distances to travel? Will he follow the example of his Scottish colleagues and abandon these proposals?

Mr. Brooke

My right hon. Friend has received representations from areas outside London to the effect that the proposed new arrangements would cause special difficulties. The additional help for London students about which the hon. Gentleman asked could be provided only at the expense of other students, which I do not believe would be justified.

Mr. Spearing

Does the permanent Under-Secretary agree that, in his letter to Mr. Hayden Williams the president of the University of London union, he admitted a degree of rough justice? Does the Minister further agree that the travel needs of Members of Parliament vary as greatly as those of students and that the imposition of the scheme would be not just rough justice, but injustice?

Mr. Brooke

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me that rank. The present system of reimbursing individually travel claims in excess of the £50 element included in the main grant is administratively costly and unsatisfactory, as it involves local education authorities checking and paying numerous individual claims which they are not always well placed to verify. In addition, it represents an uncontrollable and effectively open-ended commitment to public expenditure.

Mr. Favell

Why should there be one rule for Scotland and another for England?

Mr. Brooke

That is a constitutional question to be answered by others than myself.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Does the Minister agree that the difficulties of checking expense claims should not stand in the way of continuing encouragement for students to travel from one part of the country to another? Will the Minister undertake to review the matter and bring it into line?

Mr. Brooke

I take the hon. Gentleman's point, which has been brought up in the consultations that we are undertaking.