HL Deb 23 January 1975 vol 356 cc244-8

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Crowther-Hunt.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Earl of LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Awards and grants by local education authorities]:

Lord CROWTHER-HUNT moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 10, at end insert "including, in relation to a person undergoing training as a teacher, any course which he attends as such training and which is for the time being designated under section 4 of the Education Act 1973 (postgraduate courses) ".

The noble Lord said: This is a drafting Amendment. It is designed to make it clear that the power conferred by Clause 1(3) of the Bill on local education authorities to pay grants to students attending teacher training courses extends to certain postgraduate courses. At present, teachers may attend these courses as part of their further training and receive financial support from local education authorities under Section 2(3) of the 1962 Education Act, which is to be repealed by this Bill. The intention is that these payments should still be made by local education authorities in the exercise of their discretionary powers, but under another provision of the 1962 Act, Section 2(1), which is accordingly extended by Clause 1(3) of this Bill. However, Section 4 of the Education Act 1973 debars an authority from making grants under Section 2(1) of the 1962 Act to ordinary students attending these postgraduate courses. So we want to make it clear that this does not prevent local authorities from making grants to a teacher attending a course of this kind as part of his further training. That is the purpose of this Amendment, which I commend to your Lordships. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.30 p.m.

Lord CROWTHER-HUNT moved Amendment No. 2: Page 2, line 14, after (""training"") insert ("and "person undergoing training"").

The noble Lord said: This is a purely formal Amendment consequential on the Amendment to Clause 1(3) to which the Committee have just agreed. Section 4(6) of the 1962 Education Act, which is applied by Clause 1(4) of the Bill now before your Lordships in relation to Clause 1(3), defines the meaning of the expressions "training" and "person undergoing training". In the Bill as originally introduced into your Lordships' House, only the meaning of the expres-cion "training" was relevant. As a result of the Amendment to Clause 1(3) the meaning of "person undergoing training" is also relevant, and the Amendment accordingly inserts a reference to that expression in Clause 1(4). I commend this Amendment and beg to move it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 1, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


May I at this stage remind the noble Lord opposite of his remarks during the Second Reading debate concerning his inclination to take an early opportunity of removing the present system whereby married women students—indeed, all married students according to the noble Lord—are penalised and, in some cases, deterred from embarking upon courses by the spouse's contribution. He said, if I recall correctly, that there being no extra money available, this end must be achieved by reallocation of existing resources, and in this he was following the words of his right honourable friend in another place. On Second Reading in another place his right honourable friend said that the current stringent economic situation presented in the educational world a challenge to, among other people, the Government and the local education authorities to, … find ways of providing a more efficient service and, in some cases to reallocate resources…— [Official Report (Commons) 15/11/74; col. 782.] He further gave us to understand, albeit in guarded terms, that this is an anomaly in an area in which he would wish to make improvements. Your Lordships as a whole will approve of that since it is in accordance with declared aims of all three Parties represented in this House towards the equalisation of the status of women in financial and other terms. I assumed that he would be looking into ways and means of so doing at an early date. Finally, he told us that if such a change was to be brought about, it would be achieved not by legislation but by regulations made under the Act. Would he therefore please tell us what has been the fruit of his inquiry into ways and means, in so far as he has been able to pursue it, and from whence precisely springs his power to make those new regulations which he holds up to our eager gaze?


While the noble Lord, I am sure, appreciates that I would not accept all the implications of his remarks about the contribution of the spouse and the inequalities which he suggests lie therein—and I would not accept those for one moment—I also know the noble Lord appreciates that the question of the regulations affecting the spouse's contribution has nothing at all to do with the Bill now under consideration. The fact of the matter is the regulations which affect the spouse's contributions, and the other student grant regulations, many of which I promised to consider, are being reviewed as a matter of urgency. But, as the noble Lord has pointed out, this has to be done within some existing financial limitations and restrictions. These matters are being urgently reviewed, but they have nothing whatever to do with this Bill. Those regulations depend on the 1962 Act, as amended, and there is nothing to prevent me, except in financial terms, from revising them in the way in which I hope the review may turn out.


May I follow up this point, without being thought out of order, by pointing out to my noble friend the astonishing consequences which have flowed as a result of the way these grants have been administered in the past two or three years. Men on social security are finding that they have to pay income tax and, at the same time, make a contribution towards the upkeep of their children at universities, which is a significant reason for the decline in the undergraduate student body in this country. Secondly, the even more catastrophically small grants available to postgraduate students have had the result that many post-graduate schools have now been taken over almost entirely by foreign students who alone can afford the fees. It is terrifying to discover that some of my own departments which were three-quarters full of Englishmen only three years ago are now three-quarters full of foreigners. English students cannot afford to attend. This is a matter of desperate urgency and, unless something is done about it, all the regulations which my noble friend is discussing, will be totally void for lack of effect since there will be no English students left who will be able to take part in the operation he is describing. I hope that these facts may be borne in mind when my noble friend frames the regulations to which he has referred.


May I pick up the threads from the earlier reply and say that the relevance to this Bill of my remarks rested upon the possible absence of another means in another Act of remedying the situation. The noble Lord referred us to the 1962 Act. He says that he will try to alleviate the situation if he can. We will not go into the question of equity between husband and wife; the points were made on Second Reading. Therefore I merely wish to draw attention to what we regard as a sore point and an inexpensive point. I think the noble Lord will agree the maximum cost of removing altogether the contribution of the spouse will be only £3 million, according to statements in the other place. From my arithmetic, working on those statements, it is more like £3¾ million. In any case, these are relatively small figures which could be found in administrative savings elsewhere.


I am aware of many of the anomalies in the student grant regulations to which my noble friend, Lord Bowden, has drawn attention; I could not be more aware of them in view of the amount of correspondence we receive on these matters within the Department. It is for that reason that I am carrying out a review which I hope will do something to alleviate at least the worst of the anomalies. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that I have these matters in mind, and that I am doing the best I can within the limited resources available. I hope that whatever changes can be made will be made, and will be effective from the beginning of the next academic year.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?


May I refer, in passing, to an exchange that we had on Second Reading on this clause, when the question of the length of long courses was raised. No terminus ad quem was then suggested. I accept the assurances of the noble Lord opposite, privately given, that the question of subsidising a professional student up to middle age does not arise.

Clause 2 [Awards by Secretary of State for students at adult education colleges]:

Clause 2 agreed to.

Remaining clauses and the Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the Amendments.

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