HC Deb 17 January 1994 vol 235 cc512-3
2. Mr. Jon Owen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has to safeguard Welsh interests on the proposed reform of student unions.

The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Sir Wyn Roberts)

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the interests of students at Welsh institutions will be fully safeguarded.

Mr. Jones

Is the Minister aware that the excellent newspaper Gair Rhydd which, by the way, features the Secretary of State prominently in this week's edition, will be endangered and will probably have to close as a result of the proposals? What proposals does the Minister have to safeguard the important work of Welsh student unions, which translate so much into Welsh so that there can be equality between the two languages in Welsh institutions? How does the Minister propose that that work will be done in future?

Sir Wyn Roberts

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Education Bill does not prevent students or student associations from undertaking any activities, including those that he described. There is no reason why such activities should cease. Students should consider different methods if the Bill prevents them from using such funding. For instance, activities could be funded from personal subscription, fund raising by students or sponsorship from the private funds of universities or colleges, as well as from public funds.

Mr. Murphy

Does the Minister agree that the development of Welsh language courses in colleges in Wales is not a core activity, as defined by the Bill? Does he believe that it will add to the financial burdens of the majority of the 130,000 students in Wales and that the reforms will totally ignore the special characteristics of Welsh further and higher education and will plunge Welsh student unions into administrative chaos?

Sir Wyn Roberts

I do not agree, because our proposals will not reduce the resources provided for universities and colleges, which will continue to decide for themselves the total funding that they make available for their student unions. Clause 22 allows for flexibility in different parts of the United Kingdom. That will permit variations to reflect any differing circumstances, including those in Wales.