HC Deb 15 February 1990 vol 167 cc472-82
Mr. Simon Hughes

I beg to move amendment No. 6. in page 1, line 5, after 'arrangements,' insert 'to take effect from September 1991'. I could summarise the amendment by describing it as a "Let's halt awhile" measure. My intention was to try to check the Government's rapid descent into implementation of what appears to be an unimplementable scheme. I shall not rehearse the arguments about the paucity of information with which we have been supplied, but I shall rehearse—as I consider them overwhelmingly convincing—the arguments for the Government to defer implementing student loans until next year which are supported even by the case that they have made for the scheme.

Opposition Members, along with some Conservatives, have made clear their opposition to the Government's proposals——

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Not many Conservatives.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Lady says, "Not many"——

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Only the pinkoes.

Mr. Hughes

Although uttered from a sedentary position, the hon. Lady's remark must have been audible: she said that those of her Friends who opposed the scheme were "only the pinkoes".

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

I stand by that.

Mr. Hughes

If some of the most eminent members of the Conservative party are now being described as "only the pinkoes", God save us from those in the rest of the country who are bluer than they are.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

May I assume from those remarks that hon. Members representing the north of Ireland could best he described as either "greenoes" or "orangeoes"?

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) has led us into dangerous territory, but it is far more dangerous to Conservative Members than it is to the Opposition. I observed that the previous vote did not show the largest Government majority.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

There were enough to beat the Opposition.

Mr. Hughes

There were enough to beat us, but they constituted only about half the Government's full majority. I do not think that the hon. Lady should be too confident about the survival of the scheme in either House.

Behind closed doors, the Government are trying to produce their scheme in time for the autumn. All who apply for university, polytechnic or college places in December, filling up an UCCA form as they are required to do, will have done so without knowing whether they will receive grants and loans, and without knowing whether the scheme will be run by banks. The forms have gone in and the clearing houses are looking at them, but the applicants still do not know what will happen. In only six and a half months, students will be entering those educational institutions.

Even with the strongest possible Whip in both Houses, the Government are unlikely to get the Bill through much before Easter: they will have only a handful of months in which to implement the scheme. All the advice that has been received makes it clear that they needed to know the details by the beginning of this year, let alone Easter.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I have a feeling that the hon. Gentleman has just destroyed his case. The grants for this autumn have been published and are known. The Government have said that if students want to borrow under the scheme they can, but they do not have to. They know exactly where they are.

Mr. Hughes

In so far as he makes the point, the hon. Gentleman is right: the uprating of grants has been announced. What students do not know is whether after year one they will be in a grant scheme or a grant plus loan scheme. The hon. Gentleman knows as well as anyone, as he represents a university city, that if the scheme were defeated it would be very difficult for the Government to say next year, in the run-up to a general election, that there would be no further increase in grants. Many of his hon. Friends, if not the hon. Gentleman himself, will be pressing the Government to uprate grants next year, as they have this year.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

The hon. Gentleman is right: I represent a university town. Let us assume that most of the students there come from outside Nottingham. They already know that their grant is £2,265, and they will receive it this autumn. I am assuming that they will receive the full grant; I do not wish to get involved in discussing parental contributions. If they wish, they can borrow as well. Whatever happens, they know that for certain, come the autumn of 1991—even if the grant is frozen, as we say it will be—they will still get the other £400, if they wish to borrow it, uprated. The facts are already known and there need not be a delay to 1991.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Gentleman would not find much support among those who plan more than a few months ahead. The Government may run on a timetable of coping with the problems of today, without thinking ahead to the problems of tomorrow, but most people want to know how the regime will affect them not just for next year. If the hon. Gentleman wants support for that view, he need only talk to people who have bought their own houses under the Government's incentive plans and are now wondering why interest rates are so high.

8.30 pm
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

I represent a university city. My university has been inundated with applications. All those applicants know that towards the end of their university careers they will not be on grant because some form of loan scheme will come into practice. They are basing themselves on that, and still the applications are arriving in increasing numbers.

Mr. Hughes

The hon. Lady represents an eminent city and university, but I do not believe that those who have applied this academic year to start university courses next year have done so with the knowledge at the forefront of their minds that the scheme will change from grants to loans.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

The hon. Gentleman underestimates their intelligence.

Mr. Hughes

I do not underestimate their intelligence. There have been increasing numbers of applications, which I welcome. I accept that there are more this year in many places, although not in all; in some of the best there has been a decline in applications because of the shortage of engineering, science and other courses. I expect that next year there will be a considerable dropping off in applications because, if the Bill becomes law, many of the most disadvantaged students will be unable to take the risk of not having the money and of having to borrow it and give it back.

Mr. Alton

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. He is right that there has not been the consistent pattern that the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) suggests. Although the evidence from her constituency may be good, one could give other examples, such as Imperial college, London, where there has been a 15 per cent. drop in applications for science subjects. Surely that information is as valid to put before the House as that adduced by the hon. Member for Lancaster.

Mr. Hughes

These matters will be proved only when we see the number of applications next year. Of course, people are continuing to apply, but they are doing so under a grant system. We are regularly reminded in the House that we cannot assume the passage of legislation. The Government like to assume that they will get all their legislation, but I warn Conservative Members that some of their hon. Friends in another place will not support the Bill. Indeed, the measure would have benefited from a delay for further consideration, and the same could be said of other Government proposals.

Perhaps the Government should have been wiser and taken, say, a year's delay in implementing the Bills on football ID cards and the poll tax. Had they done that, the standing of the Conservatives in the opinion polls would probably have been much higher than it is now. I counsel Conservative Members seriously to listen to the arguments, which are overwhelming, for deferring the implementation of the Bill until 1991.

We need some facts. Is it not correct that the task of recruiting and retaining the personnel at the Student Loans Company is already way behind target dates? There was a delay at the beginning and the Government have just appointed the directors. It would be interesting to know how many staff have been recruited. Is it not a fact that we have no information about who will chase the defaulters whom we discussed in the previous debate? We do not know who the Student Loans Company will engage to do that job. We do not know whether any payment will be given to the institutions for certificating. They have had to deal for the first time this year with the poll tax, and with registering all their students, and they are not happy about that. They will not be happy about the additional tasks that this measure will impose on them.

Nor do we know anything about the administration of the access funds. It is all very well for the Minister to say that there will be three or four access funds, but the Government have given no commitment on that. It seems that there will need to be at least four access funds because everyone in London will be above-average losers, given the loss of benefit, and will have to apply for access funds. Not only could we do with more than four, but we could do with one for London students alone. If the institutions are to administer the access funds, they will need the personnel and information to do it. No information about that is available.

It is fortuituous that the Department happened to produce the "wonderful form" this week—it would be interesting to know when it was commissioned—but we have not been told when students will be able to apply for their forms, when they should be sent in and, most important, when they will be processed.

Price Waterhouse provided the Government with some interesting figures. Do the Government accept that they may receive applications from 500,000 students, to be processed, on present proposals, by a staff of 130? If so, and if Price Waterhouse is correct that a staff of 250 will process only 3,575 applications a day, it will take a staff of 130 seven and a half months to process the applications.

At the rate we are going, students who apply in the summer will not know until 1991 whether they will receive loans. That is not an acceptable state of affairs—[Interruption.] Occupants of the Labour Front Bench should not regard this as an unimportant issue.

Mr. Paul Boateng (Brent, South)

It is important. We want to vote on it.

Mr. Hughes

I am glad that Labour Members intend to support the amendment, but first we need some answers from the Government. When the Government supply those answers, they will give the lie to the suggestion that they are ready to implement the scheme.

We were told that students would lose all their social security benefits. For that to happen there must be regulations, but so far we have seen no social security regulations or details of any other changes. We have not heard of anything like that being referred to the relevant social security advisory committee, yet there are only a few months to go before this comes into operation. The administration of the scheme was described by the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson), whom the hon. Member for Lancaster would no doubt describe as a pinko——

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Oh yes.

Mr. Hughes

She describes him as a pinko, even though he was an adviser to the former Secretary of State, now Lord Joseph, who by no definition should be described as a pinko. The hon. Member for Leeds, North-West said that it looked as though the scheme would not be off the ground by the autumn.

The scheme is not yet in good shape and few facts about it are known. It does not look as though it will be fully in place by September. The Government have only said that they hope it will be in place by then. The chances of effectively processing the applications are slim, if not non-existent. The access funds and their arrangements are a mystery and the social security arrangements have not even been published, let alone consulted about. The Government are doing to education this year what they have done often in the past. They are rushing through something without any guarantee that the system can deliver.

If the Government listened to teachers, who are trying to implement the national curriculum or prepare children for new exams, they would know how big a price is paid when the Government are determined at all costs to rush for the tape. I hope that wiser counsel will prevail. Sad as it is, if they want to, the Government can still be in power for another year. The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State can still be in their posts. If they take time, the Government may be able to justify their scheme, but if they rush ahead, this may end in tears.

Mr. Andrew Smith

If the Government will not abandon their scheme, clearly they would he wise to defer its introduction as proposed in the amendment. We support the amendment and will do so in the Lobby.

Mr. Jackson

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermonsey (Mr. Hughes) judges the efficiency of government by the standards of the administrative efficiency of the Liberal party. That is why he has such difficulty in understanding how we can press on with the scheme.

I want to reassure the House and all those who may read or follow the proceedings that the scheme will be ready to operate from autumn 1990. The Government do not accept amendment No. 6, which would deny students access to loans in the academic year beginning in September. We see no merit in delaying the scheme in the way proposed.

By autumn 1990, the Education (Student Loans) Bill should have received Royal Assent, after due debate in both Houses, and the necessary secondary regulations required to establish the scheme should have been passed. The Student Loans Company will be fully operational and I can reassure the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey that recruitment is going very well. My Department and the Student Loans Company will have undertaken detailed consultation with the higher education institutions about the role that they will be performing. The funds for the initial loans outlay which are already provided for by the Treasury in the Government's spending plans which were published in the public expenditure White Paper will be available, so we anticipate that there will be no obstacle to the introduction of loans by autumn this year.

One good reason why we should introduce the loans in autumn is were we not to do so we would deny students access to substantially increased resources. The maximum grant plus loan in 1990–91 will represent a 25 per cent. increase on the grant alone in the current year. The loan will provide an extra £420 for students outside London, and £460 a year for students in London.

The amendment would take away that valuable facility from students from autumn this year. I am sure that students would not thank the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey for that service. I invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to reject the amendment.

Mr. Alton

Not least because the House would want the hon. Members for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) and for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) to regain their reputations after the savage attack by the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman), I am sure that the period of reflection provided for in the amendment is urgently needed. I should like to say just a few words before we consider the amendment. [Interruption.] I am glad that those on the Labour Front Bench are looking forward to that possibility with such enthusiasm.

The first reason why I believe the scheme should be deferred is that it runs against the grain of the two major pieces of education legislation enacted in the last century and the present one. They provided the opportunity for many poorer people being able to benefit from higher education. The Education Act 1870 provided for free education and the Education Act 1944, introduced by an enlightened Conservative Government, gave many people from poorer parts of the community their first opportunity to go into higher education. I came from a working class background and was brought up on a council estate and had the chance to go into higher education as a result of the 1944 legislation. It would be a retrograde step if, as the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South suggested earlier today, the Bill were to deter people from under-privileged backgrounds from taking up opportunities in higher education.

A survey conducted at Cambridge university in 1986 suggested that a half-loan, half-grant system would deter some 46 per cent. of women and 37 per cent. of men from entering university; and some 45 per cent. of state school pupils, but only 33 per cent. of public school pupils. So despite the claims made earlier today, it is clear that such a scheme would be a deterrent to people from poorer backgrounds.

Evidence from overseas militates also against introducing a student loans scheme. We should defer the scheme for consideration to decide whether it really is the wisest course of action. The National Union of Students discovered that, in Sweden and Norway, there was a considerable reduction in numbers of students from poorer backgrounds going into higher education as a consequence of their loan schemes.

8.45 pm
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

I do not know what school the hon. Gentleman attended, but I believe, and the hon. Gentleman may well accept, that the biggest deterrent to people from working-class homes going to university was the abolition of the grammar school. I am happy to say that ours was not abolished, but when I was at school people from all walks of Jife could go to the grammar school and go on to university. Now they are debarred from doing that.

Mr. Alton

I wish that the amendment allowed us to debate that in full, but it does not, although I say in passing that I disagree with the hon. Lady.

Secondly, we should defer the scheme for further consideration because many other unforeseen circumstances have come into play. The community charge will clearly have a desperate financial impact on students from poorer backgrounds. It is already having that effect in Scotland. In addition, higher housing costs are having an adverse effect, and many students have lost housing benefit. We also know that there are inevitably educational implications for students facing financial hardship.

A recent survey shows that a growing number of students are taking up part-time employment to subsidise their budgets. That jeopardises their grades. Some students now have to work an average of 10 hours a week. The survey shows that the grades of those students forced to work to raise additional money to finance themselves are suffering. In turn, that leads to graduates not achieving the best possible qualification.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Who did the survey?

Mr. Alton

It was conducted by the Department of Education and Science, so it is not a matter of what I think but it is another perfectly valid reason why the scheme should be deferred.

Deferment of the scheme would also give us a chance to consider the impact of special categories which I do not believe have been given sufficient consideration in Committee or on Report. I should like to give the House just one example. The medical students at Liverpool university undergo long courses and face the huge cost of financing medical courses and clinical equipment. Special provision should he made for such groups. It is not just special pleading; it shows the Government's failure to recognise what will happen to students in those groups.

Deferment of the scheme would enable us to reflect on the impact on applications for higher education. The CBI, to whom the Government should listen, says that demand for graduates will increase by about 4 per cent. a year. Members of the CBI, other organisations, and even the high street banks have expressed reservations about the effect of the scheme on the numbers going into university and colleges. Our ambition should be to double the number of students in higher education by the turn of the century. That should not divide the House; it should unite us. That is why a period of reflection about the best way to finance higher education is needed.

The massive cuts in grant over the past decade has led to hardship. It has been a disincentive. I believe that student loans will be a millstone around the necks of many young people and will be an additional discouragement to those contemplating a course in education.

Yet another reason for deferment of the scheme is the issue of personal debt. In November and in February I put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer questions that will briefly illustrate my point. On 30 November the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, in reply to my question, said that the level of outstanding debt in the country stood currently at £378 billion. On 15 February I asked the Chancellor for the average level of debt per person in the country. The Economic Secretary replied: he average level of personal debt in the United Kingdom is approximately £7,870 per adult. I put it to the House that it cannot be in the best interests of the country to continue to encourage people to go into large-scale personal debt, with all its implications for family life. Such encouragement puts people in hock, constantly in debt, often unable to meet usurious rates of interest, which seem constantly to he hiked up.

Finally, if the House were to defer this scheme we would have a chance to reflect on the widespread concern expressed by academics and students alike. We have heard today about the opposition of vice-chancellors and other academics. I also want to refer to the reaction of students in polytechnics and universities. Just today I received a further stack of representations from students at Liverpool polytechnic. On 8 November 1989, I submitted to this House a petition signed by 1,562 people at Liverpool university. Many other hon. Members, in various parts of the House, have received identical representations. Those representations ought properly to be taken into account, but that has not been done. We should be trying to achieve an education system that will motivate outward-looking young people. Turning our colleges into battlegrounds will not achieve that. We should be turning them into places of learning, centres of excellence.

This amendment is an appeal for wisdom—a commodity which, sadly, is far too often in short supply. I am happy to support my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and commend the amendment to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 177, Noes 220.

Division No. 77] [8.52 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Gordon, Mildred
Allen, Graham Graham, Thomas
Alton, David Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Anderson, Donald Grocott, Bruce
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Hardy, Peter
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Haynes, Frank
Ashton, Joe Heffer, Eric S.
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Hinchliffe, David
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Barron, Kevin Home Robertson, John
Battle, John Hood, Jimmy
Beggs, Roy Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Beith, A. J. Howells, Geraint
Bell, Stuart Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Bermingham, Gerald Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Bidwell, Sydney Janner, Greville
Boateng, Paul Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Boyes, Roland Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Bradley, Keith Kennedy, Charles
Bray, Dr Jeremy Kilfedder, James
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Lambie, David
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Lamond, James
Buckley, George J. Leadbitter, Ted
Callaghan, Jim Leighton, Ron
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Lewis, Terry
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Livsey, Richard
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Canavan, Dennis Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) McAllion, John
Clay, Bob McAvoy, Thomas
Clelland, David McCrea, Rev William
Cohen, Harry McGrady, Eddie
Coleman, Donald McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Corbett, Robin McKelvey, William
Cousins, Jim McLeish, Henry
Crowther, Stan Maclennan, Robert
Cryer, Bob McWilliam, John
Cummings, John Madden, Max
Cunliffe, Lawrence Mahon, Mrs Alice
Dalyell, Tarn Mallon, Seamus
Darling, Alistair Marek, Dr John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Martlew, Eric
Dewar, Donald Maxton, John
Dixon, Don Meale, Alan
Dobson, Frank Michael, Alun
Dunnachie, Jimmy Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Eadie, Alexander Moonie, Dr Lewis
Eastham, Ken Morgan, Rhodri
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Morley, Elliot
Fearn, Ronald Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Mullin, Chris
Fisher, Mark Murphy, Paul
Flannery, Martin Nellist, Dave
Flynn, Paul Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Foster, Derek O'Brien, William
Fraser, John Paisley, Rev Ian
Fyfe, Maria Patchett, Terry
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Pendry, Tom
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Pike, Peter L.
Godman, Dr Norman A. Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Golding, Mrs Llin Prescott, John
Primarolo, Dawn Stott, Roger
Quin, Ms Joyce Straw, Jack
Radice, Giles Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Randall, Stuart Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Redmond, Martin Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Turner, Dennis
Richardson, Jo Vaz, Keith
Robinson, Geoffrey Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Wallace, James
Ross, William (Londonderry E) Wareing, Robert N.
Rowlands, Ted Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Ruddock, Joan Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Sedgemore, Brian Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Sheerman, Barry Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Wilson, Brian
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Winnick, David
Short, Clare Wise, Mrs Audrey
Skinner, Dennis Worthington, Tony
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Tellers for the Ayes:
Spearing, Nigel Mr. Archy Kirk wood and Mrs. Ray Michie.
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Steinberg, Gerry
Adley, Robert Currie, Mrs Edwina
Aitken, Jonathan Curry, David
Alexander, Richard Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Davis, David (Boothferry)
Amess, David Day, Stephen
Amos, Alan Devlin, Tim
Arbuthnot, James Dorrell, Stephen
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Durant, Tony
Ashby, David Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Atkinson, David Evennett, David
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Fallon, Michael
Batiste, Spencer Favell, Tony
Bellingham, Henry Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bendall, Vivian Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Bevan, David Gilroy Fishburn, John Dudley
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fookes, Dame Janet
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Forman, Nigel
Body, Sir Richard Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Forth, Eric
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fox, Sir Marcus
Boswell, Tim Freeman, Roger
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia French, Douglas
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Fry, Peter
Bowis, John Gale, Roger
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Gardiner, George
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Garel-Jones, Tristan
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Gill, Christopher
Brazier, Julian Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Bright, Graham Goodlad, Alastair
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Gow, Ian
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Buck, Sir Antony Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Budgen, Nicholas Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Burns, Simon Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Burt, Alistair Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Butcher, John Grist, Ian
Butler, Chris Ground, Patrick
Butterfill, John Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Hague, William
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Carrington, Matthew Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hanley, Jeremy
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hannam, John
Chope, Christopher Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Harris, David
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hawkins, Christopher
Colvin, Michael Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Conway, Derek Hayward, Robert
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Heathcoat-Amory, David
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Cormack, Patrick Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Couchman, James Hill, James
Cran, James Hind, Kenneth
Hordern, Sir Peter Rost, Peter
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Rowe, Andrew
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Ryder, Richard
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Sackville, Hon Tom
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Shaw, David (Dover)
Hunter, Andrew Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Jack, Michael Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Jackson, Robert Shelton, Sir William
Janman, Tim Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Jessel, Toby Shersby, Michael
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Sims, Roger
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Skeet, Sir Trevor
Key, Robert Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Soames, Hon Nicholas
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Kirkhope, Timothy Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Knapman, Roger Stanbrook, Ivor
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Knowles, Michael Stern, Michael
Lawrence, Ivan Stevens, Lewis
Lightbown, David Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Summerson, Hugo
Lord, Michael Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Temple-Morris, Peter
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Thurnham, Peter
Maclean, David Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Tracey, Richard
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Trippier, David
Malins, Humfrey Trotter, Neville
Marland, Paul Twinn, Dr Ian
Marlow, Tony Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Walden, George
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Mellor, David Waller, Gary
Meyer, Sir Anthony Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Warren, Kenneth
Moore, Rt Hon John Watts, John
Morrison, Sir Charles Wells, Bowen
Moss, Malcolm Wheeler, Sir John
Neale, Gerrard Whitney, Ray
Needham, Richard Widdecombe, Ann
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Wilshire, David
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Norris, Steve Winterton, Nicholas
Oppenheim, Phillip Wood, Timothy
Paice, James Yeo, Tim
Patnick, Irvine Young, Sir George (Acton)
Pawsey, James Younger, Rt Hon George
Powell, William (Corby)
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Tellers for the Noes:
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Mr. John M. Taylor and Mr. Sydney Chapman.
Roe, Mrs Marion

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A very serious situation has been brought to my notice. Earlier this afternoon, the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition was due to address a meeting of the National Union of Teachers—some 500 people. I believe that, after a short while, 450 people left to attend an alternative meeting in this House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. What has all this to do with me'?

Mr. King

I should like to explain, if I may, that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) was conducting that meeting in the House, with 450 members of the NUT present, according to the reports that I have in front of me. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to ask the Scrjeant at Arms what room in this building is able to take such a large number of people.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I do not see that press reports are a matter on which I can be expected to be an authority. It was not a point of order.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

This is a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you know, people are not supposed to mislead the House by repeating Press Association reports which are completely and utterly inaccurate. If the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) can find any room in this House, particularly Room 16, that can seat 450 people——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It would be generally wise if hon. Members were to take precautions before quoting anything from newspapers.

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