HC Deb 15 May 1984 vol 60 cc135-6
3. Mr. Bruce

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent representations he has had concerning those students whose parents do not pay their full share of the parental contribution.

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

We have had very few representations recently about students who do not receive the full assessed parental contribution towards their award. Evidence from the recent National Union of Students survey of undergraduate income and spending suggests that the problem is significantly less widespread than it was a decade ago.

Mr. Bruce

Will the Minister acknowledge that, with the implementation of a halving in the minimum grant in October, a number of students in this category will be, if not denied further education, put to severe hardship, compounded by the cuts in travel grants, which could be very serious for students travelling long distances to university—for example, from the south of England to a Scottish university—and that these two factors together will be very serious for people in this category? Does he not recognise that the survey indicated that 47 per cent. of parents do not pay the full topping-up contribution?

Mr. Brooke

Yes, I acknowledge that the figure is 47 per cent., but it was 73 per cent. 10 years ago, so this improvement has occurred.

As regards student travel grants, in the process of bringing in the policy we have reviewed the cost of transport—for instance, between the south of England and Scotland.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in respect of the financial arrangements for students, a flat rate scheme for reimbursing travel grants is inequitable? Therefore, should it not be examined critically, with a view to giving a fair deal to students who have long distances to travel?

Mr. Brooke

I do not think that the issue of travel grants arises on this question, but I have never concealed the fact that there is an element of rough justice in the new policy that we have introduced. However, I am confident that it will be possible on a local basis to find enterprising solutions to the problem that my hon. Friend has described.