§ '.—(1) A Review Committee on the operation and effect of the workings of the student loan scheme in Scotland shall be established by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
§ (2) The Committee shall be appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland and be composed of not fewer than 15 and not more than 21 members—
- (a) of whom not more than 10 and not fewer than 7 shall be appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland to represent vice-chancellors of Scottish universities, college principals and directors of centrally funded institutions, Scottish local and regional authorities, directors of education in Scotland, Scottish students and employers;
- (b) other persons who shall provide a majority on the Committee of not more than one person.
§ (3) The Secretary of State for Scotland shall make available to the Committee such information as it deems necessary for the discharge of its duties.
§ (4) The Committee shall make annual reports on the progress of the student loans scheme in Scotland, including its effects on four-year undergraduate courses, and may make such other reports as it considers necessary.
§ (5) Any report under section (4) above shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament.'.
Amendment No. 13, in clause 1, page 2, line 18, at end insert:—
'.—( ) Before making regulations under Schedule 2 to this Act shall consult representatives of vice-chancellors, polytechnic directors students, local authority associations, college directors, teaching staff, and any other bodies or individuals he considers relevant.'.
Amendment No. 1, in schedule 2, page 3, line 40, at end insert—
'(2) No regulations shall be made under paragraph (1) above until the Student Loans Advisory Committee has considered a draft of such regulations, and has reported its opinions to the Secretary of State and to Parliament upon the general effect of the regulations, in particular on—
§ Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I refer to "Erskine May", page 458, with regard to the new clauses and amendments that we are about to discuss. I submit that the House may have a unique procedural difficulty. The Report stage of a Bill is conducted on the basis that what is said in Committee remains valid. My point of order concerns the position in which important pledges are given in Committee in perfectly good faith and are subsequently invalidated, but where the selection appears to give no opportunity for hon. Members to remain in order and correct these assurances at Report stage except, I submit, on a point of order.
Although I recognise that the substance is not a matter for you, Mr. Speaker, I refer specifically to the assurances that were given by Opposition Front-Bench Members. To give just one example, the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) said that my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Bruce)——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. What is the point of order for me? I cannot be held responsible for assurances given by Opposition Front-Bench Members. I have been very liberal in my selection of amendments this afternoon.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am not, of course, criticising your selection of amendments, Mr. Speaker. My point is that pledges were honourably given in Committee by Opposition Front-Bench Members and they have subsequently been invalidated. I do not see how those on the Opposition Front Bench can correct the position unless they either——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is a Government Bill and any pledges given by the Opposition are not material. They are a matter for argument in the course of the discussions.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your advice. I feel aggrieved about the publication of a leaflet, and I have raised the matter twice in the Chamber. What would be the proper procedure for me to follow to challenge the details in the leaflet?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman knows that it has never been the practice of the Chair to give tactical procedural advice. I am sure that many of his hon. Friends who are sitting near him can do that far more ably than I could.
§ Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) on placing more weight on Opposition 417 undertakings than on Government undertakings. He is entirely right to do so. New clause 2 would establish a student loans scheme advisory committee to give overall advice on the nature and administration of the student loans scheme. New clause 17 would establish a student loans scheme review committee for Scotland. The other amendments are subsidiary to those main purposes.
The need for continuing advice about the loans scheme to the Secretary of State and for its continual review has never been clearer. The scheme was bad when it left the Floor of the House on 5 December, but after two months in Committee it has emerged much worse. The scheme has far fewer friends even than on 5 December. Since then, the banks have abandoned their involvement—which was central to the scheme's administration—as the now benighted Mr. John Quinton made clear in his note to his colleagues. He circulated it on the day when the Secretary of State told him that the Prime Minister was "fizzing with fury" about the banks' abandonment of the scheme.
The scheme is even more expensive than we expected. The Government have ebbed and flowed in their claims. They have said both that the burden on the taxpayer should be reduced by the introduction of a loan scheme and that they are being exceptionally generous to the students with taxpayers' money. After our interrogation of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson), it emerged that the scheme will waste at least £2 billion between now and 2010. The money will disappear into a vast black hole of administrative expenses, defaults and deferrals. It is money that could and should have been targeted on students who are most in need and on the expansion of higher education.
I learnt today, in a letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, that his estimate of at least £2 billion does not take account of the significant, but as yet unquantifiable, cost of the interest rate subsidy which is also involved in the scheme. I said to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary in Committee that the interest subsidy should be costed and he replied that it would be "hypothetical" to do so. I understand that future predictions are hypotheses, but we need to have written into the arrangements for the scheme accounting conventions that require the cost of the money on which the Student Loans Company will be lending to be brought into the account books of the student loans company. Were it a nationalised industry, that would be the case. A nationalised industry would not borrow money from the Government at nil cost; it would have to pay interest on it, just as British Rail will pay a full rate of interest on the extra £220 million which the Government will generously give it, as the Minister for Public Transport announced last night.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Robert Jackson)
I know that the Opposition's policy is to take away the student loan and not to replace it, thereby reducing the resources available to students. Is the hon. Gentleman compounding that meanness by suggesting that it is too expensive to offer an interest rate subsidy?
§ Mr. Straw
As the Parliamentary Under-Secretary knows well, I suggest that we should follow proper 418 accounting conventions so that we know the full cost of the scheme which, as the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson), supported by many of his hon. Friends, so eloquently declared on 20 October in this House, involves a transfer of resources from students who most need the resources to those who need them least. The Government have a history, as we find from "Social Trends", published this morning, and from other figures which they refuse to publish, of making poor families and people poorer and of transferring money from those groups and from middle-income families to the best-off in our society. There never was £2 billion for the poorest families, but the Government have been able to find £2 billion for the richest families, and for the moneylenders and administrators of the scheme.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I was considering what the Parliamentary Under-Secretary said. We made the point to him many times in Committee that he is giving the impression that the Government are like a charitable institution because they are giving a lot of money to the students. In fact, the Government's aim is to give only half as much to the students ultimately and to leave them in dire debt at the end. That is what the scheme really involves.
§ Mr. Straw
My hon. Friend is right, except that he is being characteristically over-generous to the Government. What is clear from the weasel words of Ministers is that they do not intend to stop at 50–50. They intend—they have never denied this or committed themselves to stop at 50–50—the full replacement of the grant system by loans. Does the Secretary of State want to deny that?
§ Mr. Straw
The hon. Gentleman may feel that he should be promoted, but he is not yet the Secretary of State. If the Secretary of State wants to deny what the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has made clear in Committee, I shall be happy to give way now or at any stage during my speech. Everyone should be clear that the Government's intention is to replace the whole of the student grant system by loans.
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. John MacGregor)
I do not want to intervene too often as I shall have an opportunity to speak later. However, I must nail that comment. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that what he said is not true. We have made it clear on many occasions that the student grant scheme for maintenance support will continue.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. I realise that the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) is still on his preamble, but I am sure that he will now rapidly come to the new clauses and the amendments.
§ Mr. Straw
I am dealing with the central case for the need for advice to be given to the Secretary of State. If, as we suspect—the Secretary of State did not deny it, although he made an intervention just now—the Government's intention is to continue to replace grants by 419 loans until there are no grants and all loans, that should be considered by-[HON. MEMBERS:"No."] The Secretary of State must talk to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. In Committee—we can easily turn up the record—we asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary whether he would commit himself categorically to ensuring that once the 50–50 position was reached, that would be the end and the Government would not thereafter reduce the grant and increase the loan. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary was clear about that and said that he would not give such an undertaking.
The Opposition understand that there is no identity of policy between the Parliamentary Under-Secretary and the Secretary of State. This is not the first time that it has happened. I shall give way to whichever one of them wants to offer me any truth on the matter.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am intervening for the simple reason that the hon. Gentleman keeps getting it wrong. The position is quite clear. We are uprating the grant for next year, as already announced. The grant will then remain frozen and the loan will take over from that part of the grant. There is no intention to remove the grant, and we have made it clear on many occasions that the grant will continue. It is not being abolished and I do not know how many times I have to say that to the hon. Gentleman. He is trying to make a point about the position in the year 2000 and something, when probably neither my hon. Friend nor I will be here. Our position is utterly clear—[Interruption.] I was making a point to demonstrate what a ridiculous charge the hon. Gentleman was making. I will not be here then; it is a long way away. We have made our position absolutely clear: the grant for student support continues. I do not know how many times I have to say it.
§ Mr. Straw
I understand exactly what the Secretary of State is saying. It is an important issue. There will come a point where the cash value of the grant equals the cash value of the loan. Our point to the Under-Secretary of State, which he dodged, is that although that may not happen for a long time, we want to know the Government's intentions. When that point is reached at, say, £2,500, would a Conservative Administration, if still in power, replace the grant by a loan? That was the matter on which the Minister refused to give any undertaking.
The fact that the Secretary of State has admitted that half the real value of the grant will be replaced by a loan illustrates the complete deception of the leaflet to which my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) referred. The leaflet, a piece of Conservative party propaganda paid for by the taxpayer, makes it clear that these are top-up loans, not replacement loans. The Secretary of State is an intelligent man. He must know that that is a piece of deceit because at least half the grant will be replaced by a loan.
I have already said that there are far fewer friends for the scheme now than when we debated it on the Floor of the House on 5 December. The scheme is more expensive. It will penalise significant groups of students, prospective students and graduates. It will penalise those on longer courses, particularly in Scotland. It will penalise medical students and prospective teachers. It will unquestionably harm the access of students or potential students from low-income homes.
§ Mr. John Maples (Lewisham, West)
I understand that a future Labour Government would double the number of 420 students, reduce the parental contribution and restore the grant to its real 1979 level. Can the hon. Gentleman say whether his party is committed to spending the necessary public money to achieve that?
§ Mr. Straw
The hon. Gentleman should do his homework on our policy rather than making it up as he speaks. I will send him the holy text to study, and in it he will find the answer. Because we will not be wasting money on a loans scheme, there will be cash to pay for the expansion that we believe is necessary in higher education. There is not the cash to pay for the Government's proposed expansion. That is why in Committee the Under-Secretary of State abandoned the solemn pledge of the previous Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), to double the proportions over 25 years. That, too, was torn up by the Minister.
Because the loans scheme has been shown to be so deficient, the Government are becoming less and less popular, as they are in respect of their education policies generally. The poll in The Guardian this morning shows that not only is there a good lead for the Labour party overall but there is a magnificent lead for Labour's education policy, and education is becoming more and more a salient issue.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but I must ask the Front Bench speakers to help the Chair to keep the debate on the rails. The hon. Gentleman has had a good run on his preamble. I am sure that he will now direct his remarks to the new clauses and amendments.
§ Mr. Straw
Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was merely going to extend our gratitude to the Under-Secretary of State because every time he opens his mouth he adds another 0.5 per cent. to Labour's lead on education policies.
The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State have made some very grand claims for the merits of the loans scheme—the Under-Secretary of State with more conviction than the Secretary of State. I learnt only recently that, on coming into office, the Secretary of State, who is an intelligent man, examined the scheme in great detail and decided that it should not go ahead because it was a bucket of rubbish. He tried to secure the agreement of the Prime Minister to abandoning the scheme but failed. The fact that the Secretary of State has distanced himself from the scheme throughout and refused to take part in the Standing Committee shows the truth of that.
§ Mr. MacGregor
May I tell the hon. Gentleman for the second time that he has got it completely wrong? There is no truth whatever in what he said about my view when I took office. I examined the scheme to make sure that the details were, as I thought, right. I have examined them subsequently to make sure that all the details are right. But I never made any suggestion of the sort that the hon. Gentleman alleged. I hope, therefore, that he will withdraw that remark.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am looking forward fervently to the time when we reach the new clauses.
§ Mr. Straw
Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Who is right will emerge when the Cabinet papers and other documents are published in 30 years' time. I suspect that the Secretary 421 of State's examination of the details of the scheme was more thorough than he suggests. I know that to have been the case.
As to the virtue of the new clause, it is about establishing an advisory committee to advise the Secretary of State on the merits of the scheme. Had the advisory committee been in place when the Secretary of State was examining the details, he would have been left in no doubt that the scheme should be abandoned.
§ Mr. Straw
I will not give way because I want to bring my remarks to a close.
We need a continuing examination of the financial implications of the scheme, of its effects on access and of the effect of the withdrawal of social security, which I understand the Secretary of State for Social Services will announce on Monday—after, rather than before, the Bill has been considered in the House. If that is the case, it is reprehensible of the Secretary of State for Education to be party to a decision which cuts student income immediately, in some cases by £300 or £400. It is also reprehensible that that social security decision should be announced after the House has completed discussion of the Bill.
The entire scheme will be operated by regulation. The Secretary of State sought to make a virtue of that. When other schemes are run principally by regulation, as in social security, an advisory committee is established to advise the Government, because it is rightly thought that proposals of such significance in secondary legislation should be scrutinised by a relatively independent committee. That is the principal purpose of the new clause and the similar new clause in respect of Scotland.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
In all the years that I have known the hon. Gentleman he has never drawn attention to the fact that what is proposed is exactly the way in which student grants were introduced in 1962. He has never beefed about it until now.
§ Mr. Straw
Ah, that point. The hon. Lady is completely wrong. She is trying to say that there is a parallel between 422 this scheme and the Education Act 1962. There is no parallel. I refer the hon. Lady to my speeches on 20 October and 5 December on precisely that point.
For good or ill, social security schemes are also run by regulations. There is an advisory committee to deal with the important regulations put forward. There should be an advisory committee on regulations in respect of the student loans scheme, which is equally important.
§ 5 pm
§ Mr. Allan Stewart
One of the new clauses grouped with new clause 2 refers specifically to Scotland. I note in passing that remarkably few representatives of taxpayers will be members of the review committees proposed by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw).
The House should consider the background to the review committees that would be set up by an incoming Labour Government. The hon. Member for Blackburn did not say much about the merits of the specific committees, but he referred in passing to the essential point about his party's policy on student grants. I refer the House to the pledge given by the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Bruce). The hon. Member for Oxford, East said on 16 January, and it was repeated many other times:The hon. Gentleman is correct in his understanding of our pledge to reinstate grants, to increase them in line with inflation".—(Official Report, Standing Committee B, 16 January 1990; c. 309.]The hon. Gentleman went on to say that grants would be increased over and above inflation, as resources allowed. The key point in that quotation is that that pledge—which has been repeated by the Member for Blackburn—would not necessarily be implemented by an incoming Labour Government. We have that on the record in the House.
The pledges to which the hon. Member for Blackburn referred were unequivocally withdrawn by the hon. Member for Derby. South (Mr. Beckett). In the debate on the public expenditure White Paper earlier this week she told the House:What we are promising is an increase for pensioners and an increase in child benefit. Everything else that is regarded as a desirable aim is also listed, quite clearly and specifically, as something that we hope to do as resources allow."—[Official Report, 13 February 1990; Vol. 167. c. 179.]My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury referred to those remarks later in the debate.
The hon. Member for Oxford. East must either withdraw the specific pledge that he made in Committee—not the pledge about increasing grants, but the pledge to reinstate grants and increase them in line with inflation—or he must repudiate what the hon. Member for Derby, South said. There is no third position that the Opposition can take on what their policy would be if the proposed review committees were set up by an incoming Labour Government.
During this important debate, I hope that the Opposition will tell us whether they withdraw the pledge given in Committee or whether they repudiate what the hon. Member for Derby, South said.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
The hon. Gentleman was a distinguished and helpful Scottish education Minister and is thoughtful on these matters. What does he say to Sir Ken Fraser, the vice-chancellor of the university of Glasgow, who asks what will happen to the Scottish 423 four-year course? As the hon. Gentleman knows so much about this, perhaps he will tell us whether he is happy with the present position.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I allowed the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) an extended preamble to his speech. I am doing the same for the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart). I am sure that in response to that he will address his remarks to the new clauses.
§ Mr. Stewart
I do not want to strain your patience, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I dealt with the points raised by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) in Committee. A later group of amendments refers specifically to Scotland, and I hope to catch your eye during that debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The Opposition have a clear choice. They must either withdraw the pledges made honourably and honestly to the Committee or repudiate what the hon. Member for Derby, South said in the public expenditure debate in the House earlier this week.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
I welcome the opportunity to debate the review provisions of the scheme. Those of us who served on the Committee know that it was an unusual Committee. First, we debated an idea whose time has not yet come. If it has come, the Government have not yet revealed what it is. Secondly, we debated a scheme which changed every time that we thought that we understood how the Government proposed to work it.
When the Committee first sat, we were told that we were about to have a scheme that could be run by the banks. You will remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that in the week before Christmas there was a bit of an explosion and the banks disappeared in a puff of smoke. We began the new year with the fall-back position that the universities would administer the scheme. After much encouragement, the Secretary of State wrote to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals.
An extraordinary dialogue took place between the Department of Education and Science and the CVCP, partly by letter and partly in the press, about what scheme was on the table. The Secretary of State argued against a scheme that involved national insurance contributions. I have seen the correspondence about that. The CVCP explained that it had not sought to persuade the Secretary of State to adopt that scheme in the first place.
The student loans scheme has had a pregnancy almost as long as that of the Labour party's policy on local government finance. The scheme has had a pregnancy of years.
§ Mr. Hughes
As the hon. Lady says, it has been two and a half years. We still have no idea who will implement the scheme. In that sense, it is unique.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for enabling me to make the position clear. I hope that my letter to The Times did so. I had received letters from several vice-chancellors, which said that our scheme should reconsider the repayment of loans through national insurance contributions. One academic has advocated such an arrangement. On one occasion I gave nine good reasons to several vice-chancellors why I thought that such a scheme would not make sense. They suggested that it 424 would be useful if that analysis could be circulated to all vice-chancellors. The hon. Gentleman was good enough to say that he had seen my letter, so he will know that it contains nine good reasons. That was sent out last Friday. If he reads it, he will see from the opening lines that it was on a completely different matter from what the chairman of the CVCP decided to announce last Friday. In a sense, his public announcement—not a letter to me—crossed in the post with my letter to him. It is obvious from the opening paragraph of my letter that it had nothing to do with what he recommended.
§ Mr. Hughes
I entirely accept that. The Secretary of State will know from my comments in Committee that I, too, do not approve of a national insurance scheme. He argued against it on Second Reading, and the argument has been put forward elsewhere.
As we begin the Report stage, the working of the scheme is not clear. The DES and CVCP disagree. The vice-chancellors have replied to the debate that began before the turn of the year. That debate has been tidied up and everyone is agreed that repayments through national insurance are not on the agenda. The vice-chancellors are still not persuaded that the Government's scheme is right. They argue for a scheme which, collectively, they have decided is better.
The first idea of this hardly substantial Bill—a loan scheme—has been rejected by the banks. The second idea—a loans scheme operated by the universities—has not yet been adopted by the universities. The universities and colleges tell the Secretary of State that they have another scheme that they hope to persuade him to accept. It is not altogether surprising that at this stage there should be an attempt to ask for information and for a mechanism for reviewing a scheme that is still a shell and without content because we are taking at least one if not several substantial steps in the dark.
The group of amendments and new clauses contains those tabled by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and his hon. Friends to which he addressed himself, after the preamble. However, I wish specifically to address new clause 14, which has been tabled by my hon. Friends and myself. I understand that the proposals have been grouped together because they all relate to consultation. Consultation is not something that has been carried out rigorously by the Government so far, and even if it has been carried out, the Government have certainly not listened when people with an interest have replied.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that any scheme such as this, which will take many years to come to fruition, needs to be viewed on a long-term basis and in the light of the possibility that in the next decade or so we may have a Labour Government or even a Social and Liberal Democrat Government. Many of the amendments seek to ensure that there is no hardship to students. In the months that we have been in Committee, we have heard that the Labour party is committed to removing the 25 per cent. uplift that the loans give to students. However, we have now discovered that the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) has taken away the pledge to increase the base grants—that is, the amount that is below the 25 per cent.—by the rate of inflation. There is, therefore, no pledge from the Labour party to increase the basic grant in line with inflation, and nor is there a pledge to give back 425 social security benefits. Before the hon. Gentleman comes to new clause 14, will he address himself to the way in which the Social and Liberal Democrats view Labour's reduction in what the Government are proposing as an uplift in student benefits?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will resist the temptation to say things that would be outside the scope of the new clauses and amendments that we are discussing.
§ Mr. Hughes
I thought that you might say that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I shall certainly answer those parts of the hon. Gentleman's question that properly come within the debate. Indeed, he asked some perfectly proper questions and, having served on the Committee, he will remember our debates.
One crucial issue is the cost of the scheme. It is perfectly proper to ask how much public money any Government will put into funding students after 16 or 18. The Government have tried for many years to address that perfectly proper question, which all parties must answer. I am clearly not going to defend the answers given by the Labour party, which by its own admission—the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) has said this regularly—have always been qualified by that famous phrase, "As and when resources allow"——
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Lady says, "Under Labour, they never do", and, indeed, under Labour, they often have not. If income tax is to be kept low, which I understand is a new idea, I am sceptical about whether resources will allow very much very soon.
§ Mr. Hughes
Perhaps I can deal first with the question asked by the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Bruce) about the cost of the scheme. My hon. Friends and I are committed—I have given the figures elsewhere, but I shall repeat them—to reinstating the benefits that the Government propose to abolish—although they have not yet done so, as the hon. Gentleman knows—and to reinstating grants at the present level. According to our calculations, the increase in taxation that that would cost on the basis of present figures is 1p in the pound for higher rate taxpayers only. I am prepared to live with that. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman or the Labour party would be, although I hope that both would.
§ Mr. Hughes
Yes, I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but please may I finish this point?
One crucial reason for having a body that can advise the Government on the scheme is to ensure that costings can be given regularly, not only to those of us who are spokespeople for education and who are involved in the House, but to the rest of hon. Members. The amount that our education system costs is a matter of public accounts. I give way now to the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart).
§ Mr. Stewart
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I am not criticising what he is saying about his party's position, but he may have misinterpreted what the Opposition said in Committee. Does he agree that in Committee the Labour party's pledge to reinstate grants and to increase them in line with inflation was unqualified? That unqualified pledge must now be withdrawn in the light of what the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) has said.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We must get back to the subject of advisory committees and consultation.
§ Mr. Hughes
The record speaks for itself. The key point is that the Government have made it clear that they are proposing loans instead of increasing grants.
I hope that the debate will not be as partisan as some. The hon. Member for Eastwood was an active member of the Committee and I hope that he and other hon. Members will realise that we are in a somewhat unusual position because a Government who are committed to reducing public expenditure have come to the House with a scheme which will increase public expenditure in the foreseeable future and which only after at least 10 years, and probably after a minimum of 13, but possibly after 20 years or more, will produce a net reduction in public expenditure. I repeat that that has come from a Conservative Government. We must be sceptical of a scheme that comes with such enormous frontloading on the public accounts.
There is a danger in so arranging the financing of higher education that one is doing two things at the same time. First, the Government have produced a scheme that costs the taxpayer more, but simultaneously gives the student less. That is an extraordinary paradox. The student is given less and must make up the rest by loans. That is why we need to be committed to looking at the workings of the scheme from the beginning.
In general, the amendments and new clauses seek to do two things, as you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the House will be well aware. First, they seek specifically to set up an advisory committee that will report regularly on the matters that have been of substantial concern, not just to Opposition politicians, and to students and parents, but to vice-chancellors, principals and people concerned with the academic well-being of our country. The most substantial concern is whether we shall increase or decrease the numbers of people going into higher education. That is an important question because unless we significantly increase those numbers, we as a country will not succeed. That is the crude reality. I accept the difficulty of projecting far ahead, but I know that we need to do everything in our power to increase the numbers entering higher education, and nothing that deters those people should be part of the policy of any Government.
Like other Opposition Members and even some Conservative Members, I feel sincere scepticism about whether replacing a grants scheme with a scheme that will be half-loan and half-grant will do anything other than reduce the prospect of increasing the take-up of higher education, especially among those who do not use it at the moment.
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
Does my hon. Friend agree that two groups will suffer most as a result of the student loans proposals? They include people 427 who come from more deprived backgrounds and who will not wish to have an albatross of debt around their neck, which, in many cases, they will never be able to repay. The advisory committee would also need to consider the position of special groups, such as medical students, who will have incredible debts attached to their courses which, again, they will never be able to repay. Does my hon. Friend agree that that will he a deterrent to people from poorer backgrounds?
§ Mr. Hughes
My hon. Friend has made a general point, with which I agree and should like to support. However, I shall amplify it in this respect. We need to be seriously concerned about three categories of people. The first group is more often found in constituencies such as those that my hon. Friend and I represent. I refer to young people from working-class backgrounds who face enormous peer group pressure at 16, 17 or 18 to take up a job rather than to go on to college. At the moment, they are in our colleges, polytechnics and universities in only small numbers.
There are also two other groups, who are not particularly found in Liverpool, Mossley Hill, or in Southwark and Bermondsey, but who can be found in any constituency. I refer to people with disabilities, for whom education costs considerably more. At the moment, there is an enormous discrepancy between the amount that they receive for their aids and for the additional costs of meeting their needs, and what those needs actually cost. Under the Government's scheme, they will have to finance that difference by loan. I am talking about students who may be blind, deaf or physically handicapped, who are now often deterred by cost and who will be even more deterred.
Thirdly, there are also, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) said, those who decide to do the jobs which, it has been decided, need four, five or six-year courses. That group will include medical students, architects, vets and, most unfortunate of the lot, anyone who happens to be brought up in Scotland and who wants to stay there to go to university, or anybody who, for good reason, decides that the course that he wants to follow is in Scotland. Such students will have to borrow more and repay more. That is why one of the new clauses is related specifically to Scotland and I expect that colleagues from Scotland will speak to it.
I hope that the hon. Member for Eastwood and others will appreciate that there is severe concern that in a country such as Scotland, with only 10 university institutions, it is predicted that one, at least, could be lost because of the transfer of students elsewhere, who currently go to Scottish universities and colleges. I am unwilling to countenance, without a fight, the loss of one of our premier institutions of higher education. Certainly, colleagues from north of the border, of whichever party, should fight hard to retain all the institutions in Scotland, none of which, to my knowledge, has anything but the highest reputation.
There is a clear need for any loans scheme to be monitored. The only way to do so is to have a body of experts who will advise the Secretary of State. If the Under-Secretary of State was right in his predictions in Committee that the scheme will be a great success, he has nothing to fear. Therefore, I hope that he will respond to and welcome the new clause. To his credit, the Under-Secretary made one concession in Committee. The 428 Government have yielded one inch—or perhaps a centimetre. They will have to yield a bit more if the Bill is to get through the other place. They have conceded that there will be an annual report by the Students Loans Company. That is kind and generous.
§ Mr. Straw
The hon. Gentleman is very easily pleased because the Students Loans Company is required to do that anyway under the Companies Act 1985.
§ Mr. Hughes
The Government conceded on their original position. However, the hon. Gentleman is right—at the end of the day the Government would have had to agree to that once they had sorted out the type of company that was to administer the scheme.
I hope that the Secretary of State will concede that we need an annual statement on the performance of the scheme. I hope that he will also accept that the people who should have a chance to look at that are hon. Members and Parliament. The way to do so is for an advisory body to produce regular reports, starting soon.
The Government always argue that we must be efficient, make good use of our economic resources and provide good value for money. If the Government believe in that, as I believe they do, I hope that they will accept that a system must be put in place to ensure that the scheme is run efficiently, provides value for money and uses the resources properly. If the scheme does not work and the disadvantaged are not going on to college, the advisory body should advise the Government to drop it. It is no good having an organisation to advise on the scheme if it is unable to say that it is a bad scheme. The cost of a student loans advisory committee would be minuscule in relation to many of the costs that the Government have already incurred in developing the scheme's variants.
Another important point is that the Government must take consultations seriously. The Secretary of State has been in office for about seven months. He does not yet have a reputation for listening to those with an interest in the subject.
§ Mr. Hughes
No, it is not nonsense. The Secretary of State tried to coerce the hanks. Lloyds originally said no and the others were unhappy. He desperately hoped that they would deliver, but they said no. He is now trying to persuade the vice-chancellors and principals that they are unhappy. They are clearly unhappy—corespondence is evidence of that, whether in The Times or direct mail to Elizabeth house. The students and teachers are unhappy. We must consult to find out what would be acceptable to the academic community.
This is why my hon. Friends and I tabled new clause 14. We believe that there should be consultation about certification. Schedule 2(2) to the Bill provides that the Secretary of State may, by regulations, which we shall no doubt see if the Bill becomes an Act, require governing bodies of institutions relevant to the scheme to issue certificates stating who is and who is not an eligible student. However, the mechanism has not been agreed.
As I understand it, only last week—I shall be grateful for confirmation—a letter was sent to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals inviting narrow discussion on that specific point. It had wanted to discuss it before.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Gentleman says that this is interminable. If the Bill had had some detail in it, we should not have to push for these matters at this stage.
We do not yet know whether agreement has yet been reached over certification. It would be helpful to know whether the universities and polytechnics have agreed to a scheme proposed by the Secretary of State, whether, and how much, they will be paid, and whether they are happy with the way that the Government are proceeding.
The Scottish debate, in substance, will come later. However, I hope that in this debate, given that there is a new clause that relates specifically to Scotland, there will be a sign that the Government intend to look after Scotland's interests by taking proper advice.
None of the new clauses or amendments is wrecking and there is no reason why they should not all be entirely acceptable. I hope that the Government will be less confrontational and more open to reasonable arguments put by the Opposition on behalf of all those who are still grossly unhappy with the scheme.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)
I was disappointed by the speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), because when I saw the new clause on the Notice Paper I thought that I could, in principle, support it. However, the preamble was so long and the amble so short that I was not sure what he was on about. Notwithstanding the inadequate speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn, it seems that the Government would be well advised to look seriously at what I assume is behind this group of amendments.
I was unable to take part in the debate on 5 December, and I did not vote for the Bill. I will not vote for it tonight unless I get some assurance that something will be done along the lines of the new clause. I shall not he so fatuous as to suggest that the new clause in itself is necessarily acceptable. However, I was deeply disturbed when I read that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals had not been consulted in detail. They circulated a paper to hon. Members, dated this week, which says:The CVCP wrote to DES a year ago, offering to discuss alternatives. That offer has not been taken up.Either that is a direct untruth or it is not. If it is true, it is regrettable. When embarking on a change in the structure of student finance, it is important to discuss in detail the mechanism of that new structure with those who will have a key role in its administration.
§ Mr. Cormack
I am glad that my hon. Friend agrees, and I hope that the Secretary of State agrees, too.
I have always had a high regard for the Secretary of State. I thought that he was an extremely distinguished Minister of Agriculture, who had a well deserved reputation as a man who listened, thought deeply and talked with those who would be affected by the policies over which he was presiding. I hope that. at this late stage, we shall have some real discussions about the scheme. After all, one need not have followed the matter in minute detail to realise that there have been a few problems along the way. The fact that the clearing banks decided that they could not go along with the scheme, and that the 430 Government, who have a justifiably splendid reputation for privatisation, are having to set up a nationalised bank to administer it, is slightly bizarre. 5.30 pm
In the principle behind new clause 2—I know that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will readily and immediately call me to order if I stray too far—there is the germ of an idea. There is nothing to be lost by having a consultative body of some sort to help with the administration of the scheme. Indeed, there is everything to be gained from it.
I have never been opposed in principle to a loan ingredient, but there are many obvious disadvantages that have to be dealt with. I am bound to say that, in this short and extremely permissive Bill, I am not sure whether those have been adequately dealt with. I am not opposed in principle to such a scheme now, but I want to feel confident that those who aspire to enter higher education will not be deterred. I want to be confident that those who have enjoyed the fruits of higher education will not be penalised in those crucial years of their lives when they marry and settle down and become formative members of society.
I could be the better assured on those points if we had some such committee, perhaps composed of two or three distinguished vice-chancellors and principals, perhaps two or three representatives of the National Students Union, perhaps even the immediate past president, and people who know about higher education. That would be consistent with the spirit of the new clause. [Interruption.] Will my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) stop getting excited? She is always excited, but this is the day after Valentine's day. There is the germ of a good idea in new clause 2. I am not tying myself to precise details or numbers, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Blackburn is not either.
We could move forward in a sensible way. Many hon. Members are generalists. We do not have time to acquire detailed knowledge. We are sometimes far too arrogant about the way in which legislation that we pass will affect the lives of people with whom it deals. We should recognise that vice-chancellors and principals, and even those who hold high office in student unions, may know a little more about this matter than some of us do.
To have a body on which such people would sit in order to advise would lend credibility to the scheme. It would make it a much fairer scheme and people would have confidence in it. At the end of the day the Government would get their way because there would be a loan ingredient, a restructuring of finance and proper and continuous consultation with, I hope, regular reports, not just on an annual actuarial basis but detailed reports on how the scheme is working.
§ Mr. Steve Norris (Epping Forest)
My hon. Friend makes his point with his customary good humour. He is rightly concerned about any scheme that might deter access to higher education. But if he is, as I am sure he is, prepared to go beyond the rather obvious statement that most of us would prefer to be given something for free rather than lent it—that is so obvious it is not worth debating—is it not interesting to look at all the European countries where loans form a much larger proportion of the financing of education than is proposed in this mild measure but where access rates to higher education are significantly greater? Does my hon. Friend not agree that, 431 if he is seeking, as I am sure we all are, to improve access rates to higher education, the one place that we need not bother to look is at the balance between loans and grants?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am sure that, in responding to that, the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) will speak within the confines of the new clauses and the amendments.
§ Mr. Cormack
I shall seek to do so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I shall respond briefly by reiterating that, in principle. I am not against a loan ingredient. I was a member of the Select Committee on Education and Science between 1979 and 1983 which looked into the financing of higher education. We received evidence from many people, including Maureen Woodall and other experts on loans. We looked at the matter dispassionately and we did not rule out loans.
But it is obvious to many people—I put it carefully—that there is some disquiet about the present proposal. If we are to engender confidence in these proposals and to carry people along with us, which is what I want to do, the establishment of such a body—I say "such a body" because the new clause has not got it absolutely right—would help in that direction.
That is why, relating my remarks specifically to the new clauses and amendments under discussion, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will earn my support in the Lobby tonight by saying that they are prepared to have wide-ranging consultations with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals such as the committee says have not been held to date, and that they would have as the object of those discussions the establishment of a body along the lines described.
§ Mr. Worthington
I support the proposal for a review committee for Scotland. Such a body is necessary because the voice of Scotland was not heard on the student loans scheme. The scheme was devised in London and transported to Scotland. The Minister was then shot as the carrier of the bad news. There was no input from Scotland. Therefore, a review committee is essential so that Scottish opinion can be taken into account in future.
I hope that the review committee's terms of reference will he broadened, beyond the proposal for it to consider the student loans scheme, to include the present state of student finance. The financial situation of students is becoming dramatically worse. In Scotland they are already paying 20 per cent. poll tax, and that will soon apply to the rest of the United Kingdom. That cannot be shrugged off.
Their housing benefit is to be lost. In Scotland, 65 per cent. of students do not live at home. They receive grants for living elsewhere, but where will they be living in the autumn? No one seems to care about that. Statistics from Edinburgh show that the loss of benefit will be £500 on average per year. Where will that come from ? Students will clearly not be able to stay in their present flats because they will not be able to afford them. Will they have to take out another loan? Who will build new accommodation for them?
The Government have made no commitment to updating allowances for mature students. The Government have simply said that they will consider that in the future, if resources allow. Some Conservative 432 Members will recognise that expression. Surely any Government would give such an undertaking to ensure that we have mature students.
§ Mr. Worthington
No, because I have only a short amount of time left, and I am conscious that other right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
It would have been simpler if the hon. Gentleman had done so to begin with, would it not? At present, mature students have no statutory right to loans, but the Bill will give them one.
§ Mr. Worthington
I have just checked with my right hon. and hon. Friends, and none of us understands the hon. Lady's point.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
Then the hon. Gentleman should have studied the subject in more detail.
§ Mr. Worthington
I make the point that one group of students who will suffer particularly badly are those who take the gamble of giving up an existing job to return to study, despite the fact that they have families to support and mortgages to pay, and incur a loan. Incidentally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am told that there is now a time limit on speeches and that I must finish within the next two and half seconds.
The recommendations of the Page report, of which many right hon. and hon. Members may be unaware, are of particular significance. It examined the manpower requirements in veterinary surgery, and, unlike the Riley report, which concluded there was a glut of vets, revealed a shortage and the need for recruitment. Page recommended public funding of 400 vets per year, but emphasised that the number trained should be greater than that and that we should encourage colleges to recruit as many vets as they wanted—but recommended that that innovation should be funded by a general levy on all veterinary students at a college of, it was suggested, £500.
As the Government have accepted that recommendation, they are already dishonouring the pledge that a contribution by students to student finance would be a measure of last resort. If the Government have accepted the principle of a £500 levy on all the veterinary students in any one college, who is to say that that practice will not spread to pharmacy and the other medical professions, to the law, accountancy, and so on? Those high-demand occupations will eventually be barred to people of meagre means and will progressively become the enclaves of those from privileged backgrounds.
If this deplorable legislation is passed, at least a review committee could examine the whole question of, student finance. If we go the way of the Page report, cut oft income. benefit, and introduce student loans, students will suffer not a single loss but multiple loss—and the impact on higher education participation rates will be colossal.
§ Mr. Gordon Oakes (Halton)
If the Secretary of State does not listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) or to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), I hope that he 433 will heed the excellent speech of the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack). I concur with almost everything that he said. The amendments would get the Secretary of State and the Government off the hook on which they impaled themselves just before Christmas, when the banks announced that they would not participate in the loan scheme. That cut away the ground beneath the Government and the scheme.
The proposed advisory committee would at least give the Government the opportunity to get it right with a certain amount of dignity. I make it clear that I do not believe in student loans, and that view is shared by many in this country. The students themselves were the subject of a very silly attack by the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) who, in a point of order, said that 25,000 students demonstrated in London today. Yes, they hate the scheme—but it does the Government no good to create the impression that students are hated. All right hon. and hon. Members are impeded in their efforts to get here to work every week by London Transport, but if we all raised points of order every time that we were delayed on our travels, we would never get any work done.
Educational institutions and teachers themselves are also opposed to the scheme. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals made sensible proposals in a submission sent to all right hon. and hon. Members. Presumably, it would be represented on the proposed committee. The new clause is exceedingly generous to the Government. The Secretary of State would have the power to appoint all of its members, as there would be no mandatory representatives from outside bodies. The Secretary of State for Scotland would make the appointments for the Scottish committee.
New clause 2 states that half the committee shall he composed of interested parties such as vice-chancellors, principals, students and teachers, and that the other half shall comprise any other persons whom the Secretary of State determines. How can the Secretary of State grumble at that? He would presumably include on the committee representatives of the banks, economists, and other educationists. They would he able honestly to advise the Secretary of State if they felt that the scheme was detrimental to the task of attracting into higher education the people who will be so desperately needed in the 1990s and in the next century. The Secretary of State could then amend the scheme accordingly. He has everything to gain and nothing to lose by accepting the new clause.
I do not like amendment No. 13 of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey, because, although the Government may be prepared to enter into consultations, they do not listen. I prefer the new clause of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, because it stipulates the type of committee that is to be established. I am sure that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey also supports that proposal.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
I do support it. But does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, as we have only a shadow Bill with no detail, it would be helpful if we could build in a requirement for consultation with all concerned before the 434 regulations were made? Consultation with universities on the details of the scheme may be all that the Government will accept.
§ Mr. Oakes
The hon. Gentleman accepts my point, and I accept his.
We have not yet heard from the Secretary of State whether or not he accepts the new clause, or accepts the principle and will embody it in the Bill in another place. I am pessimistic, but one never knows. Having once been an Education Minister myself, I would welcome the establishment of such a committee to get me off the hook, and would grab the opportunity with both hands.
§ Mr. Flannery
I suggest one possible reason for the Government's rejection of the amendment. After all, they reject practically everything. The Government have their own Interim Advisory Committee on School Teachers' Pay and Conditions, which has made a number of progressive proposals. The Government are now busy taking not the slightest notice of that committee's recommendations, and fear that another committee might go beyond the remit that they give it.
§ Mr. Oakes
My hon. Friend is right. The Government do not like the truth, in education or in any other sphere. Nor do they like independent advice. Even though the new clause comes from the Opposition, it is not a wrecking amendment but is helpful to the Government, education, and students.
The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has proposed a scheme of graduate tax, but I am not too keen on it. Nevertheless, it would be better than the Government's damn fool scheme. It would be far simpler to administer than the Government's cumbrous scheme. It would be administered by the universities themselves, and it would mean that a certain sum would be paid back in tax, regardless of the course taken.
Several of my hon. Friends with constituencies in Scotland mentioned on Second Reading that Scottish students take four-year bachelor degree courses.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart
The four-year course is not compulsory. Some 23 per cent. of Scottish students do not take a four-year course.
§ Mr. Oakes
If 23 per cent. do not take it, then the majority do.
Apart from benefiting Scottish students, a graduate tax as proposed by vice-chancellors and principals would not penalise medical students, whose courses are extremely expensive. Hospital doctors not only have to work 80 or 90 hours a week after they finish their course but get buttons for doing it. The burden of the scheme falls heavily on them, because their course is that much more expensive.
If the clause were accepted in detail—if not in principle—the ideas of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, which were submitted to the Government more than 12 months ago, could be considered. Vice-chancellors are not opposed to student loans. They are trying to help the Government out, and to administer the scheme properly. Those ideas could be explored in more detail with Ministers, so that education, students and teachers would be better protected from the mish-mash scheme before the House.
Once the banks pulled out—to the astonishment of the Prime Minister and the Government—the White Paper and the Bill as it stood fell. The amendments and new 435 clauses give the Government an opportunity to retrieve the situation, and for that reason I ask the Secretary of State to accept them.
§ Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)
I shall refer in particular to amendment No. 1. I ask the Under-Secretary, who has been dealing with the issue in Committee, whether he has been able to find out exactly how many students will not get an increase in their resources because of the introduction of student loans and the loss of their housing benefit and other social security payments.
In this leaflet, which has been so kindly sent to us—"Top Up Loans for Students—the Government's Proposals"—question 5 asks:What will be the total resources available to students?The answer is:All students will be eligible to apply for additional support from the Access Funds".The only way in which a large number of students, particularly those in the London area, will have any hope of extra resources is by going cap in hand to the administrators of the access funds to get the money that they will badly need if the student loans scheme is inflicted on them.
In Committee, the Minister did not deny that some students would be worse off. We should like to know how many thousands will be worse off because of the introduction of the scheme.
While talking about those students who will be worse off, there is some reference to the predicament of disabled students in amendment No. 1. There are other amendments that we will come to later that also deal with this subject. Disabled students have many additional costs, and the current allowance they can receive does not cover them. Some students have extra costs running into thousands of pounds a year, and disabled students will not usually he able to earn the sort of money, unfortunately, that able-bodied students can earn. Very often, they will be on the fringe of the level that triggers repayment of loans.
In Committee, the Minister intimated that this problem would be considered—the additional costs that disabled students incur and their disposable income in relation to the level at which repayment of loans is triggered off. We need a commitment from the Minister. Also in Committee, the Minister said that it was difficult to look at individual cases, that that was not usually done under the social security system. I hope that he will be able to tell us this evening about specific arrangements to take account of disabled students.
I hope that we will get good news tonight on both the issues that I have mentioned—students who lose heavily because of loss of housing benefit; and provisions for disabled students—and I look forward to the Minister's response.
§ Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)
In rising to speak briefly in support of this group of amendments, I am speaking on behalf of my colleagues in Plaid Cymru as well as the Scottish National party. It will come as no surprise to the House that I particularly want to concentrate on new clause 17, because it contains aspects which affect Scotland.
Having listened to the debate, and not having had the privilege of other Members who were members of the Standing Committee, I believe that the strength of the argument that is emerging is for genuine consultation, and 436 a facility to monitor how this dreadful legislation will work, assuming that the House does not have the courage to vote down the Government's proposals.
I think that all Opposition Members and many Conservative Members would prefer this legislation to be dropped altogether. Then we could have a sensible debate about alternative student funding.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
The hon. Lady has observed that, so far, only one Back-Bench Conservative Member has spoken to support the amendment and apparently no Conservative Member wishes to rise to oppose the amendments. Everyone who has spoken, on both sides of the House, appears to support them.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I think there is an element of collective embarrassment among Conservative Members about the proposed legislation and that that is why so few of them are here—although I see that the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) is present. When the first White Paper was debated, no member of the Scottish Conservative party was present.
§ Mr. Jackson
I want to place it on record that my hon. Friends are absent because they are anxious to assist everybody to make progress on this legislation.
§ Mrs. Ewing
That is one interpretation, and the hon. Gentleman has put it forward with great grace.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart
It is true that I was not present at that debate, but I have been a consistent supporter of a grant-loan system for 25 years, and I was a member of the Standing Committee and attended throughout.
§ Mrs. Ewing
I know that the hon. Gentleman is an assiduous attender of any Standing Committee to which he is appointed, since I had the pleasure of serving opposite him on the Committee on the Education Reform Bill in the last Session of Parliament.
I return to the substance of my speech and to new clause 17. I believe that the review committee, as it is described, would provide a real mechanism to consider the issues affecting student support, in areas other than merely the pounds and the pence. We have a responsibility to look at how students are surviving, and we have to look at overall trends in society which affect students. Mention has already been made of the high cost of housing, which affects so many students, for example, in Edinburgh. We have a similar problem in Aberdeen—the oil capital of Europe.
Aberdeen university is used mainly by students from the highlands and islands and Grampian region, who have no alternative but to reside near the university. They cannot lead nine-to-five lives as people can at, for instance, Glasgow university, of which I am a graduate. Housing costs have imposed dreadful pressures on them over the past few years, and they now face the removal of housing benefit. It appears that students will be the only section of society to be denied access to the benefits system. Benefits relating to the short vacations have already been chopped, bit by bit; now other benefits are to be affected as well.
A favourite phrase of the Government during debates on student support is "economic costs". They never look at the other side of the coin. Surely we should ensure that our funding for higher education represents a sound investment for the future. It is not merely an "economic 437 cost"; the benefits of the availability of highly skilled. highly trained and well educated people for the labour market are vital if Scotland—indeed, the United Kingdom as a whole—is to compete in the international community.
As has already been said, 77 per cent. of Scottish students take courses other than the basic three-year master of arts degree course, and many graduates with an ordinary MA return to university to try to achieve honours. In the 1960s and early 1970s, degree improvement courses were made available to many graduates, who could then return to the university of Strathclyde or Glasgow—or some other institution—to take an honours degree course over a two-year period of part-time study, while continuing in employment.
The four-year course is an important aspect of Scottish education. The Scottish Universities Rectors and Presidents Group has written to all Scottish Members, saying:The Government has in particular still not answered the specific problem of Scottish students taking four-year as opposed to three-year courses.The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has said that the Committee stage of the Bill failed to deal with any of its concerns. It is incumbent on the Government to tell us what will happen to students who choose to take a four-year course.
I am fed up with listening to the Secretary of State for Scotland reiterate that "nature, quality and content" are more significant factors in the choice of a course than is its length. The length of a course is an intrinsic consideration. How can the Secretary of State square the circle? The four-year course deserves our continuing support, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Education and Science will give a clear undertaking in this regard.
The demographic trend in Scotland suggests that about 30 per cent. fewer people over 17 are going to apply for higher education. That makes it all the more important for those who do apply to have access to it. My main anxiety has always been that the loans system will reduce access for all kinds of students—mature students, women and ethnic minorities.
The Secretary of State will recall my speaking about my own socio-economic background. My father would not have encouraged me to take on a debt while studying at university: that was part of his philosophy, and it is still part of the philosophy of many other people in the poorer socio-economic sections of society. They will suffer most if the scheme is adopted.
It is clear that all Opposition Members support the new clauses and amendments, and I hope that Conservative Members will join us. The amendments will allow us to review the effect of the proposals annually, and, we hope, to remedy the problems.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
I have always been a strong supporter of the concept of student top-up loans, as I have told the president of the National Union of Students, her predecessor and all my students at successive court meetings in Lancaster, year after year. I said the same at my eve-of-poll meeting in Lancaster university at the time of the last election.
There is, however, a fly in the ointment—only a small fly, but it should be dealt with. The Bill provides for three access funds. I think that a fourth should be established for disabled students. That may prove technically difficult, but, difficult or not, it should be done. Disabled people do not have an easy life.
§ Mrs. Rosie Barnes (Greenwich)
I support the new clauses and amendments that propose the establishment of an advisory committee on student loans which the Secretary of State must consult and to which he must report about the progress of the scheme before and after its implementation.
It is clear—not only from today's debate, but from the debate that has been raging in the press—that the matter has not been finally resolved. Surely it is in everyone's interests to establish a proper vehicle for dignified discussion and the refinement of the scheme to make it work as well as possible. Many of us fear that at present we have the worst of all possible worlds: the proposed system is complicated, messy and obscure, and we believe that it will prove cumbersome, unresponsive and very expensive.
We have been assured repeatedly that our fears are groundless. An advisory committee would be the right mechanism for monitoring developments: it could emerge with factual information, making it clear to Opposition Members—and some Conservatives—either that their fears are indeed groundless, or that severe problems exist.
Many aspects of current student financial provision leave considerable room for improvement, and the Bill does not begin to deal with some of them. The question of parental contribution has long been acknowledged as a source of great aggravation—not least because as many as 40 per cent. of students do not receive the full amount from their parents, but also because students aged 18 and over find themselves in a position of dependency that is not in keeping with their years and with the maturity expected of them. One of our main anxieties is that the scheme will not only fail to attract more students to higher education, but actually deter them. The Secretary of State would have nothing to fear from an advisory committee, which would establish the facts.
§ Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo (Nottingham, South)
Will the hon. Lady make it clear whether her party is in favour of grants irrespective of parental income, or whether her preferred system would still contain an element of parental responsibility based on income?
§ Mrs. Barnes
My party has always been committed to the principle of a graduate tax, and that of a full grant for students with no parental contribution. Students who later, as graduates, earn more than the national average should repay part or all of that grant. I think that that would be a much fairer system.
The narrow catchment area of higher education from various income categories would be a vital issue for the advisory committee, as it concerns not only the young people themselves but the country's economic future. Unless we succeed in raising education standards—keeping on more pupils between the ages of 16 and 19, and encouraging and motivating as many as possible to proceed to higher education—we shall all suffer. That must be the benchmark test for any student finance scheme.
There must be certain benchmarks against which the system can be assessed. We should know, for example, whether it is fair, whether it is simple and straightforward to administer, whether it is affordable, whether it is sustainable, whether it maximises the number of students going into higher education, whether it ensures that there is a good cross-section of students, which is better than 439 now, whether it will attract more students from lower income groups, whether it attracts more women and whether it gives students the necessary independence and security during their study years. Those questions should be put to a body such as an advisory committee.
I regret that the Government have not further considered the option of a graduate tax, which would have many advantages and would remove many difficulties inherent in the proposed scheme. Students would have independence, and it would eliminate the problem of parental contribution. It would also result in a contribution being made back into the nation's education coffers. The SDP's proposal went partly towards a means-tested maintenance grant for 16 to 19-year-olds, to encourage those from low-income families to stay on in the education system and to be eligible for higher education.
As the Government seem committed to persevere with their proposal, in spite of consistent and pressurised hostility from all quarters, an advisory committee would at least be in a position to monitor the current and future situation to see whether promises for and predictions about the scheme have been fulfilled or have become a mockery.
§ Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)
I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute to the debate, not having had the pleasure of serving on the Standing Committee that considered the Bill.
I wish to make it clear at the outset that, in a sense, I support the idea of Opposition Members for an advisory committee, but I fear that I cannot support them, in view of the way in which the body is proposed in the new clause. Even so, the Secretary of State should consider establishing a monitoring system, and I shall explain why.
I shall support the principle of the Bill on Third Reading because, as I have argued on many occasions, the British higher education system cannot expand properly if we continue with a full maintenance grant system. That system has been geared to a narrow part of the population and particular types of courses. We need greater access to funds to assist all types of students on as wide a range of courses as possible, thereby encouraging youngsters to come into higher education.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
The hon. Gentleman expressed reservations in previous debates on the Bill. The House will be surprised to hear that he is likely to vote for the measure on Third Reading because the academics, the opinions of whom he values and whose advice he takes, are still not persuaded of the merits of the scheme. The Government have not made any concessions to the concerns of the academics during the passage of the Bill. How does the hon. Gentleman explain his previous stance and his present declaration that he thinks that the Bill is now sufficiently well drafted for it to have his support? Nothing has changed.
§ Dr. Hampson
I am a born optimist who lives in hope. As I wrote in The Daily Telegraph a few days ago, I hope that the Secretary of State will, even at this stage, agree that there is a need, for practical if not for philosophical reasons, to give the matter a major rethink.
§ Dr. Hampson
I have no objection to an enabling Bill saying that British higher education should have some form of loan scheme, because I believe that it should. That 440 is why I am being logical in supporting the Bill, even though I join Opposition Members in the request that they are making.
I received a letter dated Tuesday 13 February from a student officer, saying:As a member of the Labour Party … I thank you for your contribution to the debate, sir"—referring to my article in The Daily Telegraph student supplement—which is much appreciated: hopefully this can be a cross-party issue.I argued in that article that the Labour party has a long history of examining the issue, for understandable and honest reasons. The main one is that there are many low-paid families and pensioners contributing through tax to the increasing benefits of children from already well-off families with considerable incomes, who gain grant aid, and therefore improved life opportunities, whereas many families paying for that through tax do not benefit—arid neither do their children—from higher education.
The Labour party has, reasonably, looked at the issue from that standpoint, and Lord Peston, who speaks for the Labour party in the other place, will no doubt feel obliged to point that out when the Bill is in that House. He is one of the most eloquent spokesmen dealing with that aspect of the argument.
A visible process of monitoring would be an asset to the scheme. After all, Departments can get locked into ideas. I had the privilege of looking at some of the documentation in the Department in 1981–82. It is extraordinary to note the way in which both the argument and proposals today compare with what existed at that time.
Equally, Ministers determine new priorities as they come and go. There is no reason to assume that the imaginative approach needed to maintain a flexible system will be available in the Department. I should rather that it came from outside with outside experts and specialists always looking at the scheme, commissioning research elsewhere and so on, reviewing what is happening in the world and feeding that information into the system for the benefit of Ministers.
I believe that there will come a time when Ministers in the Department of Education and Science will need support as they argue with the Treasury, and it would be useful to have an external, independent body putting publicly the case why certain changes should be made or extra resources provided. That is why the Treasury—and hence the Government—is against any such body, for the nature of such bodies is that they tend always to call for change and increased resources.
Despite all that, I believe that, in the terms of the Bill and the way in which the scheme has been presented, we are seeking a flexible scheme. I give credit to my right hon Friend the Secretary of State and his predecessors for framing a measure that will not lock us into a rigid approach from which it will be hard to move out, to expand and to develop. Even so, it would help to have an instrument to look at certain aspects.
A letter from the National Union of Students says:We are fearful that students may be particularly deterred from attending vocational courses which lead to relatively poorly paid professions.441 That is an important point. It is also a reason why we need a body with the ability to look at what is happening and to find out whether what is required is reflected in the results.
One of the most important routes to vocational qualifications is the part-time route, and many of us have campaigned for years for further incentives in higher education to enable students to go part time. Such people are, as it were, victims of the narrowing discretionary grants scheme, and that is an argument that I have always put against the mandatory grants scheme because the scheme is limited to full-time rather than part-time students.
Schedule 1(4) says that people will be eligible for loans if they are on higher national certificates. In my experience, the definition of the HNC is that it is part time. Are we, in the drafting of that schedule, allowing, and positively putting an incentive on, students taking HNCs because that way they can get a loan for part-time study, and not university part-time courses?
The balance of the grant and the loan needs to be examined by a monitoring body—[Interruption.] I know that certain Opposition Members are anxious to take part in the debate. Because 10 or 12 of them rose to speak when the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mrs. Barnes) sat down, I thought it ridiculous that there should be such an imbalance in the debate, and I rose to speak. Conservative Members have a contribution to make to the debate.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about what the ultimate balance should be between the grant and the loan. In the light of the arguments about disincentives, we need to examine whether there is a disincentive because we are moving from a totally generous system to a less generous system. That is a perfectly valid argument because nowhere in the world has there been a change from a universal grant system to a part-time, half-and-half system. We need to examine that closely because we may then decide to follow the American pattern. I have always advocated a basic higher education opportunity grant so that families with an income of half the national average would be entitled to a 100 per cent. grant. Surely we should encourage more young people from relatively badly off families to enter higher education, although we may have to make commensurate adjustments at the top of the scale. That is a major argument for having an independent monitoring body to consider that.
We may need to have a body to advise the Government that additional loan schemes are necessary and available. We should not be locked into thinking that the half-and-half top-up system is the only type of loan. Alongside that we could run other loan schemes. We could develop the career development loan scheme which is currently operated by the Department of Employment, so that we could tap the banks' money. The Department of Employment runs a scheme in which students can borrow between £300 and £5,000 for a course lasting from a month to a year. That is ideal for mature students and the concept of continuing education. The Department of Education and Science should be part of the process, in which the Government could help by subsidising the interest rate, but the commercial banks would take the decisions, looking at people who were probably already in work and who had great prospects. Barclays bank, Clydesdale bank and the Co-operative bank are already part of the present scheme. They make commercial judgments to take on 442 students. The Government give assistance on interest rates, but the repayment becomes the responsibility of the student when he or she returns to work.
It would be helpful to have a body to advise the Government on suitable alternative schemes. Why must we always assume that wisdom resides only in the hands and minds of officials in Departments of State? That is a particularly valid reason why we should consider that proposal.
Finally, if the scheme is to be publicly acceptable, the repayments must be fair, so the process of deferrals must be as flexible as possible. The ultimate way of achieving the necessary flexibility would be for the Inland Revenue's computer system to code the scheme, so that repayments could genuinely be geared to income and means and circumstances. Failing that, it will be fundamental to ensure that the deferral and repayment scheme is appropriate to the circumstances of the student. That is a conclusive reason why there has to be an independent monitoring body, even if it is not as stipulated in the new clause. I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends seriously to find an alternative that fits the requirements.
§ Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)
I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate because before coming to the House I was a senior lecturer at the Welsh Agricultural college and was in daily contact with students who had many problems and came from many different backgrounds. The amendments seek to highlight the lack of consultation with interested bodies over the introduction of the Bill and to ensure that the scheme is reviewed by review committees in the future. That is a perfectly reasonable objective.
Many institutions of higher education in Wales are particularly concerned that the Government are asking them to administer a scheme with which they do not agree. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has made it clear that it favours an entirely different scheme. I certainly commend the principles of the alternative scheme. It proposes adequate, certain, simple and socially just measures to achieve fairness for students. The alternative scheme would ensure that all eligible students were entitled to an adequately funded maintenance grant, that grants would not be assessed against parental income nor means-tested and that they should take account of regional differences. Those are worthy objectives that the Government should take into account.
The Government should be obliged to enter into joint agreements with institutions over arrangements for administering the scheme. For example, Lord Justice Taylor's recommendations on the football ID card scheme belatedly changed the Government's mind quite radically. If such consultation and investigation went into this Bill, perhaps we would not be discussing such measures this evening.
Many people in Wales doubt whether the loans scheme will increase the number of people attending higher education institutions. It is much more likely to diminish the numbers, so I am surprised that the Minister will not accept the need for annual reports to evaluate the success—or more likely the failure—of the scheme. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that as I did not have the privilege of being a member of the Committee. What is the Minister afraid of?
Access to higher education in Wales will undoubtedly be reduced. People in Wales have the lowest disposable 443 incomes in mainland Britain. The University College of Wales was started with the pennies of people who were not wealthy enough to invest in their education system except on a very wide franchise. We are proud of what has been achieved in Wales which has provided access to higher education to students from very modest backgrounds. In 1979 students from classes 3M, 4 and 5 represented 23 per cent. of students, but by 1988 the figure had dropped to 19.9 per cent. The fear is that that percentage will fall still further on the introduction of a loan scheme.
I am also concerned that before student loans are introduced we should have the opportunity fully to discuss the scheme. The Bill is extremely thin. I expect the regulations eventually to be much thicker. The Government have shied away from fully discussing the details and it would be particularly helpful if an advisory body could consider the regulations before they were brought to the House for approval. That is proposed in the amendments.
The Government take the attitude that they have a monopoly of all wisdom, but that is impossible. Amendment No. 13 provides for consultation before and after the regulations are made. I expect the impact of the loan scheme on Welsh institutions to be significant. This week's publication of the Public Accounts Committee report on financial problems at universities mentions the crisis at Cardiff university—the administrative problems there were frankly unacceptable—but none the less highlights the great pressures on higher education. The introduction of loans lingers like another dark cloud over the future of higher education in Wales. There must be advisory bodies for Wales, Scotland and England.
Welsh people, Welsh institutions and students in Wales will not welcome this Bill. It will not increase the numbers of students entering our institutions. In fact, it will be a deterrent, not an incentive. As I said, I am a former lecturer. I participated in a committee that dealt with hardship cases among students in the college in which I lectured. The hardship occurred because of the present Government's erosion of grants. Some students were in great financial difficulty.
The Government could put matters right by restoring grants to the levels that prevailed before they came into office. They should be prepared to consult people at the coal-face—lecturers and teachers. They are the people who know what is happening. The students themselves—who suffer from week to week, month to month, and year to year—should also be consulted. It ill behoves Ministers, who themselves benefited considerably from grants, to force future students to start their careers in debt as a result of this top-up loans scheme.
§ Mr. MacGregor
The student loans scheme will provide additional resources for students, and good value for money for the taxpayer. Over time, it will reduce the burden, on both taxpayers and parents, of making provision for students' living costs. There will be no burdensome bureaucracy. The Student Loans Company will be firmly cost-effective. The repayment regime will mirror the best commercial practice. Students will benefit; parents will benefit; taxpayers will benefit. Those benefits, if Parliament approves the Bill, will start in the autumn of this year. The new source of funding about which we are talking today will make it possible, in the medium term, to 444 relieve the burden on taxpayers of students' living costs; to reduce the parental contribution, in real terms, in 1991–92; and to provide substantial additional resources to students this autumn. It is as well to remind ourselves that that is what this Bill is about.
The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), in introducing the new clause, produced a series of very thin arguments. It was a retread of tired, worn-out old tubes. That was a feature of debates in Committee too.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Because I have read pretty well every word. I have read nearly all the debates, so I know.
The Opposition have made no impact and have lost the intellectual argument throughout. That is a great credit to my hon. Friends who have spoken in the debate—in particular, to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State who, I thought, came through the debate with intellectual distinction and great good humour.
The hon. Member for Blackburn referred to recent developments—developments that have taken place since the Bill was last debated in this Chamber. Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman said, rapid progress is being made on preparatory work for the student loans scheme. Subject to Parliament's approval of the Bill, we are well on course to providing the extra resources for students this autumn. The Student Loans Company, based in Glasgow, is making good preparatory progress. As I made clear to the House just before Christmas the position with the banks was that we were asking them to be our agents for the administration of part of the scheme and, in the course of doing so, to assist by looking after the Student Loans Company. I challenge anyone to say how the Bill has been altered to any substantial degree as a result of its progress through the Committee or because of the change in relation to the banks. The Student Loans Company is proceeding exactly as was originally intended. It is making progress. It is doing so without the banks but by getting banking expertise.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes
Does not the failure to amend the Bill following the change in the nature of the student loans scheme show that there was something fundamentally wrong with it? It was subject to any range of possibilities arising from the introduction of any type of scheme. We do not yet know what type of scheme will be introduced. There should have been no attempt to put an enabling measure on the statute book.
§ Mr. MacGregor
The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that in Committee well over 100 amendments were tabled. It was not really a thin Bill.
§ Mr. MacGregor
What happened in Committee is a common feature of Committee stage debates on other Bills—my hon. Friends won the argument.
The point has been made today—it has been made time and time again—that we should watch how the scheme is progressing and be prepared to make changes if monitoring and review suggest that changes are necessary. The advantage of the way in which we are proceeding is that we can make the changes year by year, as in the case of student grants, without the need to introduce primary legislation. I have not got anywhere nearly into my 445 argument, but I have to say that those who ask for monitoring and review must accept that a Bill of this type is what they desire. The fact that they ask for monitoring suggests that they will want changes in the scheme from time to time. It would be impossible to make changes from time to time if every change had to be the subject of primary legislation.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, because the Bill is so flexible, he would be able to bring in a fourth access fund for disabled students if this could be worked out?
§ Mr. MacGregor
If at some future time something like that were thought desirable, it would be possible.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
The Secretary of State has made the most convincing argument that anybody can yet have heard for acceptance of the amendments. This, he says, is a Bill—so flexible and adaptable—about which he is waiting to receive advice. Presumably, therefore, he could, for the first time, say quickly to the House, "I accept the amendments and will show flexibility." Then we could conclude this debate.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees that I have made a convincing argument for the Bill. I hope that he will accept that that is what I have been saying. I will come in due course to the amendments themselves. I was demonstrating what progress had been made—a matter to which the hon. Gentleman referred. I want to show what good progress we have been making.
The managing director of the Student Loans Company is at his desk. So, too, is the finance and administration director. The loans administration director has been appointed, and further recruitment is going ahead quickly. Premises have been acquired, and fitting-out arrangements are in hand. Work is proceeding smoothly on the complex computer systems required by the company. There have been developments since the Bill was given its Second Reading, and the progress is just as we envisaged.
In terms of monitoring, which has featured a lot in this debate, we shall keep Parliament fully informed of the preparatory work, including revised estimates of administrative costs, as it develops. As we said, current indications confirm that annual running costs will be within the range of £10 million to £20 million, which is far less than some critics have supposed. I will come in a moment to the question of monitoring the future.
This week we published an information leaflet on loans. This is a matter to which the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) referred. Let me explain why we published the leaflet this week. First, the leaflet, in two places, states very clearly:Introduction of the scheme depends on Parliament's approval of the Education and Student Loans Bill … The provisions of the Bill are open to amendment in Parliament.Why did we produce that leaflet? There are two reasons. The first is that in Committee there were many requests for a leaflet. The people who made such requests included Opposition Members. We responded to that request. The second reason is that university students, young people hoping to go to university in the autumn and their careers advisers and teachers have been asking for information about what the scheme will contain if the Bill is approved by Parliament. It must be to the advantage of students and 446 potential students to know what to expect. I make no apology for the leaflet; it is what many people have demanded, and I think that we were right to provide it.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes
If, after the debate, the collective wisdom of Parliament is that these amendments should be passed, what will happen to this leaflet? Will a correction slip have to be inserted?
§ Mr. MacGregor
I repeat that the leaflet, at a very early stage, says that the provisions of the Bill are subject to amendment in Parliament. It goes on:Some features of the scheme described below may consequently change.In that event, we would amend the leaflet. There would be nothing unusual about that.
Costings have been mentioned frequently in the debate. The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) referred to it as the pounds and the pence. There are one or two things that are worth repeating on the whole question of costings. First, we are discussing the introduction of a loan plus grant facility, which next year will be worth 25 per cent. more than the grant this year. That is why I claim that it will benefit students.
In the next academic year, we expect to provide £178 million in loans on top of the updated grant. It will be more if take-up of the loan exceeds 80 per cent., and in addition there is £15 million for access funds. Those are extra resources.
§ Mrs. Margaret Ewing
How much will the Government save by excluding students from access to housing benefit and other benefits?
§ Mr. MacGregor
We estimate that students who qualify for loans would have been able to claim some £68 million in benefit, but £125 million next year is a substantial net increase in public support for the living costs of students.
§ Mr. MacGregor
There is much desire to make progress. Several Conservative Members who wanted to speak in support of the Bill have agreed not to so that we can make progress.
The most vulnerable groups—disabled and single-parent students—will retain benefits and will also have access to loans.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the vast sum being provided by the Government will remove the need for parents to give additional money to students? That is good news for parents.
§ Mr. MacGregor
My hon. Friend is right. Disabled and single-parent students will retain benefits and have access to loans. Many students whose parents have not been fully topping up maintenance grants will gain benefit, and our proposals offer an advantage to students who have taken out commercial loans.
For the 35 per cent. of students who claim no benefits, the loan will be a net increase. On average, it will provide a substantial net increase for those who claim benefit. Those whose benefit losses are greater than the loan facility are strong candidates for further support from their institution's access funds. There will clearly be a positive benefit for students next year.
Providing additional resources through loans will cost more in the immediate future. More resources for students are necessary because we are keen to continue the 447 expansion in the numbers in higher education that has been achieved under this Government. Providing the same addition as grant, rather than grant plus loan—this questions the position of the Opposition or any of our critics—would be more expensive because take-up would be 100 per cent. That would be a dead-weight cost, as it would go not to those wanting to make use of the loan facility but to all. Instead of costing £178 million, if take-up was 80 per cent., in 1990–91 grants would cost £222 million. Grants would clearly be more expensive from the outset. In later years, when the loan scheme will generate savings, that extra cost would continue. An additional amount would be forgone in later years——
§ Mr. MacGregor
I do, and it is impossible for the hon. Gentleman to refute it. It is clear that that would be the case if the resources were provided in grant.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman when I have finished my point.
In later years, the position will be more beneficial to the taxpayer, because the loans will have been repaid. We calculate that if grant were being paid the amount that would be forgone would be almost £100 million in 1994 and well over that figure by 1995. The combination of our proposals rather than a grant scheme——
§ Mr. MacGregor
I will tell the hon. Gentleman "so what." He argued that repayments would not exceed benefit beyond the year 2000, but he was on the wrong point. Throughout the 1990s, our scheme will be more beneficial to the taxpayer than a grant scheme at the levels we are proposing.
§ Mr. Worthington
If my banker lends me £10,000 instead of £5,000, it never occurs to either of us that he is being more generous, but that is the logic of the Secretary of State's argument.
§ Mr. MacGregor
The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong. Opposition Members argue that our scheme will be more expensive to the taxpayer. I hope that tomorrow the hon. Gentleman will read carefully what I said and consider whether I am wrong.
A comparison between a total grant scheme and our grant plus loan scheme clearly shows that our proposals will be less expensive to the taxpayer, and will become increasingly less expensive as loans are repaid.
Earlier, the hon. Member for Blackburn said "so what". Here is the "so what". What is the Labour party's alternative? I understand from his reaction that its alternative is not a grant scheme at the level of resources that we propose for next year. It hopes that the grant element will gradually be increased "as resources allow". That is not a pledge, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) pointed out, the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) said:What we are promising is an increase for pensioners and an increase in child benefit. Everything else that is regarded as a desirable aim is also listed, quite clearly and specifically, as something that we hope to do as resources allow." [Official Report, 13 February 1990; Vol. 167, c. 179.]448 It has become not something "we will do" but something "we hope to do". It is quite clear that Labour's alternative is less beneficial to students and will continue to be so. That is an important element of the debate and shows why the Labour party was so vulnerable in Committee.
§ Mr. Straw
It is clear that the Secretary of State is being indiscriminately profligate with taxpayers' money and doing what the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) explained to him—shifting money from those who need it most to those who need it least. The reason why the loan scheme becomes less popular every time the Secretary of State makes a speech on it is that every student understands the iniquity and unfairness of it. Out policy is to target money where it is most needed. The Secretary of State will confirm that the combination of freezing the real value of grant and abolishing housing benefit and income support takes money immediately from those students most in need.
§ Mr. MacGregor
Next year, the majority of students who have been claiming benefit will be better off under our proposals than under those of the Labour party. The House will note that the hon. Gentleman's remarks confirm that.
New clause 2 and amendment No. 1 propose an advisory committee to oversee the operation of the scheme. That would be an unwieldy bureaucratic structure. The committee would be as big as the Universities Funding Council and the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council, but bigger than the National Curriculum Council. That would be rather large for an advisory committee that has no powers. I note that there is no similar advisory body for student grants.
I do not propose to advise my hon. Friends to accept the amendment because it is unnecessary. The Bill already gives the Secretary of State power to call for reports on the working of the arrangements. We have made it clear in Committee and in a number of ways that we shall be monitoring the scheme. The Select Committee already exists to examine departmental policy and produce reports on it, so there is no need for an advisory body either as a monitoring facility or to ensure that Ministers are accountable to Parliament for the performance of and changes to the scheme.
We expect to make available to Parliament information arising from the Department's monitoring, for example, in future income and expenditure surveys and in other ways. So Parliament will have no lack of information. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) that we shall be monitoring the scheme. When new regulations are presented to Parliament, it will have an opportunity to scrutinise them and to make suggestions for future regulations. And, in the normal course of parliamentary procedure, there will be many other ways in which, with the information provided to it by us, Parliament will be able to probe and monitor the scheme
We have already said in Committee that the Government will make the Student Loans Company's. annual report available to Parliament, and it will be possible to debate that as well as the regulations required to make changes. The annual accounts of the Student Loans Company, as a limited company, will be required to be audited under the provisions of the Companies Acts and a copy lodged with the Registrar of Companies. 449 Above all, the Secretary of State will be accountable to Parliament for expenditure on the loan scheme, as for any other expenditure on education, in all the normal ways.
So—and I say this in particular to my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack)—there will be ample opportunity for consultation and monitoring in a variety of ways. I assure him that I have already had many discussions with a wide range of vice-chancellors about the operation of the scheme and the alternative that they put forward.
The same arguments as I have just advanced apply, of course, to new clause 17, which proposes a parallel advisory committee for Scotland. I do not think that I need to say much more about that.
§ Mr. MacGregor
There is only one difference between new clause 2 and new clause 17, which are pretty well the same in most other respects. The one difference is that it is proposed that the Scottish body, for fewer higher education institutions, should have more members. Their purposes are the same, so I think the arguments are the same, and I do not propose to repeat them.
§ Mr. Worthington
There is no Scottish Select Committee for a start, which is a bit of a handicap. The Minister still does not seem to have accepted that there is a separate Scottish education system which is not being defended by the Secretary of State for Scotland and was not taken into account at all in setting up the loan scheme.
§ Mr. MacGregor
All that I am saying is that the arguments against setting up a wider advisory body as proposed in new clause 2 are exactly the same as those against new clause 17.
New clause 14 requires consultation with higher education institutions in their role as certifying their students' eligibility for loans. I believe that this amendment is unnecessary, for the following reasons. First, I am looking forward to the detailed discussions—which the hon. Gentleman mentioned and about which he was right—with the higher education sector about the institutions' role in assessing their students' eligibility for loans. I intend to embark on those discussions very soon.
Secondly, the power to make regulations requiring certification of eligibility is a reserve power. I expect not to need to use it, because I think that institutions will be keen to play their part in ensuring that their students have access to this additional resource. But if it proves necessary to make regulations, I undertake that we shall consult the institutions before doing so.
I believe that new clause 14 is unnecessary, and similar arguments apply to amendment No. 13.
Much has been said in the debate about consultation. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), in particular, referred to this when he was talking about the need for further consultations with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and discussion of its scheme. Incidentally, I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman accepts our position on the national insurance contribution and that he agrees, if not with all the nine good reasons, at least with the conclusion to which they lead me:that that is not a sensible alternative. I am very glad to have his support on that point.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
I agree, I think, with all nine points. Will the Secretary of State look seriously at the alternative proposal put forward by the vice-chancellors and principals? They are almost unanimous in thinking that it is better than the Government's scheme. It would not be too late for the Secretary of State to take their advice, and we would end up with something much more widely acceptable than his present proposals.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I have looked very seriously at that and I think it right to tell the House, because other hon. Members have raised the point, why I do not believe that that scheme is anything like as attractive as ours. It has one benefit. I am glad to have the demonstration from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of its support for our view that, on principle, beneficiaries of higher education should contribute to its cost. It is very important that, in putting forward its alternative, the committee has accepted that principle, which underlies the students loan scheme. The right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) said that he is not in favour of a graduate tax, and the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mrs. Barnes) said that her party is. It is effectively a graduate tax that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has put forward. In fairness to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey, I must put the following points.
The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals said in a statement some time ago that public support for students' living costs must meet four criteria: adequacy, certainty, simplicity and social justice. It is worth comparing briefly how its proposals and the Government's meet those criteria. I hope that, in so doing, I shall show the hon. Gentleman that I have looked very carefully at this and have been discussing it.
On adequacy, the Government propose a grant plus loan next year worth 25 per cent. more than the grant this year. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals does not suggest an amount, but as it would remove the parental contribution, the taxpayer would have to find £390 million extra to replace that before any addition to the value of the grant could be contemplated. The vice-chancellors must realise that the taxpayers' pocket is not bottomless. In terms of adequacy, there is a real problem for them to face.
On certainty, the committee would have the graduates pay an additional tax levy; it does not say at what rate or for what period. Even if those figures were fixed, the levy would depend on how much the graduate earned, but it would not be fixed in advance, so there would be total uncertainty for the graduate embarking on a university career as to what commitment he was taking on, because he would not know what he would have to repay.
As for the loan, the undergraduate has control of what commitment he takes on. With the Government's scheme, the student will know how much he can borrow and that he will have to pay back the same amount, indexed for inflation. Moreover, the levy proposed by the committee is not related to any support received by the student. So someone contemplating higher education would have no idea what commitment he was taking on. This is a crucial point about the graduate tax—the unfairness of asking students to pay a specific and special tax irrespective of whether they receive taxpayer support for their living costs while at university, and ignoring the fact that they may 451 have paid themselves for all their living costs during university. In addition to the uncertainty, there is a fundamental unfairness in the committee's proposal.
On simplicity, I believe that our scheme is simple. From the borrower's point of view, the loan administration would be very simple—like normal commercial credit but with more safeguards.
Finally. on social justice, by removing the parental contribution the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals would require taxpayers, many of them earning less than graduates or their parents, to shoulder the burden in place of students' parents in higher income brackets. Moreover, the levy would be based on income tax, which would be an incentive to emigrate. Clearly, those who emigrated would not have to repay the loan whereas we should seek for loans to be repaid. It would also bite on graduates who obtained their degrees abroad, those who obtained degrees before the start of the scheme or those who received no public support. If it did not do so, it would have to be an extremely complex scheme and thus would lose its simplicity.
On all the tests that the committee put forward, our scheme scores more highly. I hope that I have demonstrated that we have been consulting, examining, considering and reaching conclusions. It is right for the Government to have done so.
It is clear that the Government scheme provides more money for students this autumn, relief for parents in 1991 and a reduced burden on taxpayers in the medium term. As we shall be monitoring and reporting to Parliament. the new clauses and amendments are unnecessary, and I urge the House to reject them.
§ Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 196, Noes 248.454
|Division No. 76]||[7.02 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)|
|Allen, Graham||Clelland, David|
|Alton, David||Cohen, Harry|
|Anderson, Donald||Coleman, Donald|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Cook, Robin (Livingston)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Corbett, Robin|
|Ashton, Joe||Cousins, Jim|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Crowther, Stan|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Cryer, Bob|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Cummings, John|
|Barron, Kevin||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Beggs, Roy||Dalyell, Tam|
|Beith, A. J.||Darling, Alistair|
|Bell, Stuart||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Dewar, Donald|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Dixon, Don|
|Boateng, Paul||Dobson, Frank|
|Boyes, Roland||Dunnachie, Jimmy|
|Bradley, Keith||Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Eadie, Alexander|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Eastham, Ken|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Fatchett, Derek|
|Buckley, George J.||Fearn, Ronald|
|Callaghan, Jim||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Fisher, Mark|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Flannery, Martin|
|Canavan, Dennis||Flynn, Paul|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Foster, Derek||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Fraser, John||Morley, Elliot|
|Fyfe, Maria||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Galloway, George||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Garrett, John (Norwich South)||Mullin, Chris|
|Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)||Murphy, Paul|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Nellist, Dave|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Gordon, Mildred||O'Brien, William|
|Graham, Thomas||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Grocott, Bruce||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Hardy, Peter||Patchett, Terry|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Pendry, Tom|
|Hinchliffe, David||Pike, Peter L.|
|Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Prescott, John|
|Home Robertson, John||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Hood, Jimmy||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Radice, Giles|
|Howells, Geraint||Randall, Stuart|
|Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)||Redmond, Martin|
|Hoyle, Doug||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)||Richardson, Jo|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport E)||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Janner, Greville||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)||Ruddock, Joan|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Salmond, Alex|
|Kennedy, Charles||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Kilfedder, James||Sheerman, Barry|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Lambie, David||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Lamond, James||Short, Clare|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Sillars, Jim|
|Leighton, Ron||Skinner, Dennis|
|Lewis, Terry||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Livsey, Richard||Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Spearing, Nigel|
|Loyden, Eddie||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|McAllion, John||Steinberg, Gerry|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Stott, Roger|
|McCrea, Rev William||Straw, Jack|
|Macdonald, Calum A.||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|McGrady, Eddie||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)||Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis|
|McKelvey, William||Turner, Dennis|
|McLeish, Henry||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Wall, Pat|
|McWilliam, John||Wallace, James|
|Madden, Max||Walley, Joan|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Mallon, Seamus||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|Marek, Dr John||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Martlew, Eric||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Maxton, John||Wilson, Brian|
|Meale, Alan||Winnick, David|
|Michael, Alun||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Worthington, Tony|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)|
|Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Mr. Frank Haynes, and Mr. John Battle.|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Adley, Robert||Aspinwall, Jack|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Atkinson, David|
|Alexander, Richard||Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Batiste, Spencer|
|Amess, David||Bellingham, Henry|
|Amos, Alan||Bendall, Vivian|
|Arbuthnot, James||Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Ashby, David||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')|
|Body, Sir Richard||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Grist, Ian|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Ground, Patrick|
|Boswell, Tim||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Hague, William|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Bowis, John||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Hannam, John|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Brazier, Julian||Harris, David|
|Bright, Graham||Hawkins, Christopher|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Hayward, Robert|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Burns, Simon||Hill, James|
|Burt, Alistair||Hind, Kenneth|
|Butcher, John||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Butler, Chris||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Butterfill, John||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Hunter, Andrew|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Jack, Michael|
|Chapman, Sydney||Jackson, Robert|
|Chope, Christopher||Janman, Tim|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)||Jessel, Toby|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Colvin, Michael||Key, Robert|
|Conway, Derek||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Couchman, James||Knapman, Roger|
|Cran, James||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Knowles, Michael|
|Curry, David||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel|
|Day, Stephen||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Devlin, Tim||Lilley, Peter|
|Dicks, Terry||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Durant, Tony||Lord, Michael|
|Dykes, Hugh||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Macfarlane, Sir Neil|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Evennett, David||Maclean, David|
|Fallon, Michael||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Farr, Sir John||McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael|
|Favell, Tony||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Malins, Humfrey|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Mans, Keith|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Maples, John|
|Fishburn, John Dudley||Marland, Paul|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Marlow, Tony|
|Forman, Nigel||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Forth, Eric||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Freeman, Roger||Mellor, David|
|French, Douglas||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Fry, Peter||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Gale, Roger||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Gardiner, George||Mitchell, Sir David|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Moore, Rt Hon John|
|Gill, Christopher||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||Moss, Malcolm|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Neale, Gerrard|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Needham, Richard|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Gow, Ian||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Norris, Steve|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Gregory, Conal||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Paice, James||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Patnick, Irvine||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Pawsey, James||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Renton, Rt Hon Tim||Tracey, Richard|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Tredinnick, David|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Trippier, David|
|Rost, Peter||Trotter, Neville|
|Rowe, Andrew||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Ryder, Richard||Viggers, Peter|
|Sackville, Hon Tom||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Sainsbury, Hon Tim||Walden, George|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Waller, Gary|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Shelton, Sir William||Warren, Kenneth|
|Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)||Watts, John|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Wells, Bowen|
|Shersby, Michael||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Sims, Roger||Whitney, Ray|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wilkinson, John|
|Squire, Robin||Wilshire, David|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Stern, Michael||Wood, Timothy|
|Stevens, Lewis||Yeo, Tim|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Taylor, John M (Solihull)||Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Stephen Dorrell.|
|Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
§ Question accordingly negatived