HC Deb 19 December 1990 vol 183 cc275-6
4. Mrs. Fyfe

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will bring forward proposals to amend the poll tax legislation so that students will no longer have to pay 20 per cent. regardless of their circumstances.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)

The present arrangements for students will be considered as part of the wider review of the community charge.

Mrs. Fyfe

It falls to me to welcome the Minister on his reappearance at the Dispatch Box.

As the Minister and his colleagues will commit themselves today neither to abolishing the poll tax nor to abolishing the 20 per cent. rule, would he mind telling us exactly what they do propose to abolish?

Mr. Stewart

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her kind remarks. As my right hon. Friend made clear in relation to the review nothing has been ruled in and nothing has been ruled out.

Mr. Worthington

I, too, welcome the hon. Gentleman in his impersonation of Lazarus. The Scottish Office instructs regional councils to pursue debtors diligently, and that includes students. The Scottish Office has said that the tuition and maintenance elements of a student's income cannot be reclaimed, so what part of a student's income can be reclaimed? Is not it about time that the regional councils were stopped from wasting their time pursuing unrecoverable debts from people of modest incomes and we got rid of the 20 per cent. rule?

Mr. Stewart

Students are under the same obligation to pay as anyone else. On the hon. Gentleman's more general point, there are reports in today's press of the strong and well-merited criticisms by the chief auditor for the eastern area of the procedures undertaken by Labour-controlled Central regional council. I hope that the hon. Gentleman who represents the official Opposition will join the chief auditor in condemning the Labour councillors on Central regional council.