HL Deb 12 May 1983 vol 442 cc634-46

6.33 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Bill is designed to restore the position of overseas students in two important respects to what it was understood to be before a ruling given in your Lordships' House on 16th December last. There would have been serious consequences for institutions of higher education and for public expenditure, and also much uncertainty for students themselves, if the Government did not seek to have the regulations for which it provides made as early as possible before the next academic year.

It has been the practice under successive Governments for overseas students to be treated differently from home students in three particular ways. First, they have not been entitled to mandatory awards, which are not the concern of this Bill; secondly, they have not been eligible for a variety of other grants—discretionary awards—that may be offered by education authorities, research councils and others; thirdly, they have been charged higher fees than home students. Under the present Government their tuition fees are expected to cover the full cost of their education, but previous Governments, too, have operated a differential fee system. The distinction between home and overseas students for these purposes has been based on the concept of "ordinary residence". Students were categorised as home students if they had been ordinarily resident in this country for a specified period, usually three years. The test of whether or not a student was ordinarily resident here was generally taken to be that of whether or not his real home was here. For example, boys and girls who came here for a few years to go to school were believed not to become ordinarily residents here if their real home remained in another country.

Last year, however, your Lordships ruled that the question to be asked was: has the applicant shown that he has habitually and normally resided in the United Kingdom from choice and for a settled purpose throughout the prescribed period, apart from temporary or occasional absences? This clarification provided certainty in an area which had been increasingly open to doubt. But it meant that a student's ordinary residence alone was no longer a sufficient basis for distinguishing between home and overseas students, mainly because it brought within the category of home students those who come here simply to receive their education by attending an independent school or a college of further education. Under the December ruling, such students can establish ordinary residence here for the required period during their school or college course and hence qualify to receive a grant from their local education authority and to pay the home rate of fee for higher education. This change has considerable public expenditure consequences, and the Government therefore wish to restore the situation broadly to what it was before the 16th December judgment, in particular for this group of students.

It is, however, necessary to ensure that we do so within the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976. This Act, which was enacted under a Labour Administration, recognised that, although people who have demonstrated that they are properly settled here should be treated equally and enjoy equal access to benefits, it is unnecessary to bestow the same benefits on those who come here for a limited and temporary purpose. Section 41 of the Act therefore contains provisions which allow actions that would be discriminatory to be treated as though they were not. It has been used since the Act came into effect to allow higher fees to be charged to overseas students. Under Section 41(1), acts done under statutory authority are not to be regarded as discriminatory. Under Section 41(2), discrimination on the basis of nationality, ordinary residence or period of residence is permitted where such discrimination takes place in pursuance of arrangements made with ministerial approval.

Because the rules of eligibility for mandatory awards are statutory, they are automatically exempted from the provisions of the Act under the provisions of Section 41(1). It was therefore possible for the Government to amend the rules to achieve the desired effect by amending the relevant regulations. Those amendments are contained in the Education (Mandatory Awards) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1983, which were laid before the House on 30th March.

The two other ways in which overseas students have been treated differently have been covered by arrangements for the charging of differential fees and the adoption of particular rules of eligibility for discretionary awards. These arrangements are made under Section 41(2), which allows Ministers to legitimate discrimination related to ordinary residence. Such arrangements can, however, no longer be made to serve this purpose because they depend on the test of ordinary residence. The Government therefore decided to legislate to give statutory authority to the charging of higher fees to overseas students and to the adoption of limited rules of eligibility for discretionary awards.

The Bill creates two new regulation-making powers. We are proceeding in this way primarily because of the need to consult with the local authority associations and with a wide variety of other bodies about the detailed provisions of the regulations. We have specified that the negative resolution procedure should apply to such regulations because in present circumstances it must be possible, if the need arose, for the regulations to be made and to come into operation while Parliament is not sitting. The noble Baroness, Lady David, will, however, know that even in the very short time available before the Dissolution we have done our best to produce a first draft of the regulations to be made under Clause 1 and to give the spokesmen for other parties the fullest possible insight into our thinking on the content of regulations to be made under the Bill.

Clause 1 allows the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring or authorising the charging of higher fees to those who lack the necessary connection with the United Kingdom that will be specified in the regulations. The basic test will continue to be ordinary residence, but exceptions will be specified to allow European Community students to be treated as home students for the purposes of fees, and to exclude from treatment as home students those who have been in Britain only or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education.

It is our firm intention that the regulations should not exclude from home fee status anyone who would have been entitled to it before the December judgment, and in some significant and, I hope, welcome respects we have proposed that the regulations should be more generous in this respect than the situation which obtained previously. These are, first, that we propose to grant home fee status to the children of immigrants accepted for settlement from the moment of their arrival in this country. This will help to ensure that they are able to take full advantage of those parts of our education system which charge fees on the same basis as home students. Secondly, we propose that entitlement to pay the home rate of fee should not be affected if the student has not been ordinarily resident in this country as required only because the student, his spouse or his parent was temporarily employed outside the country. We recognise that temporary employment abroad may, like an elephant, be difficult to define, but we believe that it is nevertheless an animal that you recognise when you see it. We believe that these arrangements will be helpful to many who are working abroad, often in the interests of this country and its trade and industry.

Thirdly, we propose that the regulations should not authorise the continuation of the present practice in some institutions of charging differential fees for board and lodging to overseas students (except in the limited circumstances where some colleges, usually the former teacher training colleges, provide the mandatory award student with free board and lodging in lieu of an element in his grant). The differential charge to overseas students that is involved is much resented and has been very actively campaigned against. The Government understand the reasons why these practices have developed, and, indeed, the voluntary colleges which are Exchequer-financed have kept in step with them. But it is clear that only minimal additional income results from them. The removal of the differential may actually help to achieve the economic use of residential accommodation by encouraging some overseas students to take up residence. Finally, we propose that home fee status should be granted to refugees, asylees, their spouses and children from the moment of their arrival in this country.

Clause 2 similarly allows the Secretary of State to make regulations that will in turn allow various bodies that make discretionary awards to students for education, training or research to adopt rules of eligibility for those awards that confine them to applicants with the specified connection with the United Kingdom. The preparation of these regulations is at a less advanced stage, but it is envisaged that they will allow award-making bodies to make rules similar to those that now apply to mandatory awards, to exclude students who have been in Britain only or mainly for the purposes of full-time education. We shall also continue the present practice of allowing home student status for refugees and asylees, those temporarily employed abroad and the children of European Community migrant workers.

My Lords, I hope I have said enough to satisfy your Lordships that there is an urgent need for this Bill, and that the Government's approach to the regulations to be made under it is fair and not ungenerous. I hope that your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(The Earl of Swinton.)

6.43 p.m.

Baroness David

My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for his full and fast exposition of this Bill—we clearly are in a great hurry today—and, indeed, for his explanation about the draft regulations, too. I should also like to thank him and his officials for having sent me a copy of the draft regulations. We on these Benches will give support to the Bill now that certain assurances have been given, although, as I have warned the noble Earl, I shall have one or two questions to ask.

It would be fair to say, I think, that the need for clarification of the definition of an overseas student and of the phrase "ordinarily resident" has been seen for some time, as witness the court cases which finally led up to the Law Lords' judgment last December. What caused the pressing need for a firm definition was the consternation and difficulty created when the Government announced, in November 1979, that in future overseas students would have to pay full cost fees. Since then the need for awards has grown. There has been much uncertainty in institutions and in local authorities, as well as among students, and indeed considerable hardship for many of the students. The letter bags of MPs have been full of cases their constituents wish taken up. In spite of this, and in spite of the Select Committee for Education and Science warning the Secretary of State that we needed a new definition and that if he waited upon the courts there would be a delay of two to three years, no action was taken. The courts were waited on, and there was a delay, as predicted, of two and a half years.

Then, in December 1982 came the Scarman ruling, which I take it is accepted by all parties. That caused consternation and disarray among Ministers and in the department. But why, my Lords? Why had it not been foreseen as a possibility? Why were they not prepared for it? Were they so confident of their own legal advice? After all, either the old "real home" definition, as under the Karminski ruling, would have been accepted and the lower court's ruling upheld, or it would not and the more commonsense definition, the "natural and ordinary" meaning, accepted. And this is what happened.

I want to ask, first: why were not Ministers prepared for this second possibility? Secondly, since the judgment was last December, why did it take three and a half months before a Statement on mandatory awards was made on 30th March, and four and a half months before this Bill that we are dealing with today was introduced? Was there prolonged discussion and disagreement on the possibility of getting retrospective legislation through Parliament? One can only speculate, and I fear the Minister will not tell us. But there is no doubt that the Government have been guilty of both dilatoriness and incompetence.

Having delayed and having procrastinated, suddenly at the end of April Ministers were in a hurry this Bill was read a first time on 21st April. The usual time gap of a week and two weekends between First and Second Reading was not honoured, and the Second Reading took place on 27th April, with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary introducing the Bill saying: This Bill is an urgent measure"; —and, a little later: I hope the House will recognise the urgency of this legislation", and, urgent action is also necessary". In his speech today the Minister mentioned the need for hurry. I suppose the prospects of a June election made ministerial minds concentrate wonderfully, and the prospect of a 9th June election and Dissolution at the end of this week made them concentrate even more.

This Bill is an enabling Bill. Its two clauses give the Secretary of State powers to make regulations about the charging of higher fees and discretionary awards. Without seeing the regulations one is in the dark about the Government's intentions, as the questions asked by the Opposition parties at Second Reading made quite clear. What the Opposition was able to do, when the date of the election was announced, was to get some concessions out of the Government on the understanding that it would let the Bill be pushed through before the end of this week and receive Royal Assent on Friday. The concessions were that the Government would produce the draft regulations by 10th May, and that there should be exemptions from full-cost fees for certain categories of students. The Minister has explained these categories—refugees and their children, and immigrants from their date of settlement. The position of those working outside the United Kingdom and the EEC is also safeguarded; these people and their children will become excepted students. These categories were all raised at Second Reading by the Opposition. We do not know what the Government would have done without the pressure, but it is certainly good to know that the commitment has been made by the Minister. A great many people will feel much happier as a result and will feel that they have been treated more fairly.

Thinking of the speed with which these regulations were drafted, it is even more incomprehensible that the earlier delays were so protracted. When we get excuses in future discussion on Bills that regulations cannot be prepared in a hurry, we shall have a precedent to bring forward. I have a question or two on the draft regulations. Regulations 8, 9 and 10 deal with charges for board and lodging. I understand there are wide discrepancies between local authorities in the charges they make, but I guess that these regulations will not have any effect on that. It would appear not, but it seems an area that needs looking at, and I hope the Minister might give some attention to this problem. I should like to know specifically why the list of excepted students in Schedule 3, which is attached to Regulation 10, does not include all the categories described in Schedule 2. I hope we can have an explanation of this.

As far as the Bill is concerned, Clause 1(2), which provides that the regulations may provide for exceptions, is there not only to grant such exemptions as I have already described—for example, for refugees—but in case a more generous policy were to be followed in the future and students from Cyprus, for instance, were, like members of the EEC, to be treated as home students. Am I right about that? I regret that under Clause 1(5) the regulations are subject only to the negative procedure, which gives little opportunity to Parliament to discuss or to make changes.

One question on retrospection: I am not clear whether students who started on courses in 1980, 1981 and 1982 and were paying full-cost fees will be entitled to a refund of fees if they qualify under the December ruling, and, if they were eligible, to awards. What of those applications for awards that have been pending on the files of local authorities since the end of last year? If the applications were made while the Scarman ruling was law, before the Bill is passed, what is their position?

I have one further question. If once classified as a home student, will that student remain so for the rest of the course, or could his status be changed? It would be helpful if these matters were cleared up because the situation was not at all clear from the Committee stage or Second Reading in the other place.

I am glad that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary said that there would be full consultation on the draft regulations with the local authority associations, the unions involved and with student and welfare organisations. But I should like to ask the Minister to repeat an assurance that was given by Mr. Waldegrave as, I believe, a part of the package deal for this Bill becoming an Act this week, that if returned the Government would lay the regulations before Parliament during the first week of July.

As I said earlier, we support the Bill with its draft regulations, but I must end by saying that we are not yet satisfied at all about the overseas student policy of the Government. The statement in February went only a very small way towards improving matters. The new money involved was only £25 million over a three-year period. We have had no response as yet to the Overseas Students Trust proposal that institutions should be free to charge marginal cost fees if they so wish—a proposal the Secretary of State said he found attractive.

The Government have made a slight move forward and the concessions in the draft regulations are further little steps in the right direction, but there is room for further and bigger strides and I hope that after 9th June we shall be in charge and able to take them.

6.53 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, the whole of the reason for this Bill and the fact that it had to be produced at all stems from dilatoriness on the part of the Government and, before that, from a very bad basic policy, as the noble Baroness, Lady David, said. We can be pleased and relieved that it is ending in a helpful way with a Bill produced with the maximum of good grace, as one would expect from Mr. Waldegrave.

The Bill as it stands is acceptable if we leave aside the fact that it is an enabling Bill and that it is dependent for its implementation on regulations which are subject to the negative procedure. I think that is usually a bad thing under most legislation unless the regulations are likely not to be of great importance. In this case, where we have regulations which are always matters of public interest and public debate, it is a great pity that they are subject to the negative procedure. The excuse which the Minister produced this evening, that this was absolutely necessary because of the necessity of passing regulations when the House is not sitting, does not stand up to very much examination.

I do not intend to ask any questions about the draft regulations that have been hurried out, for the simple reason that I have not had time to master them. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady David, for having managed to get that far. I will listen to the explanations given but, although we are aware of the necessity caused by the general election, nevertheless this is not a good way of passing important legislation. The fact that we have not been able to challenge or table amendments to the Bill is something which we on this side of the House very much regret.

One of the outstanding failures of the Government in their policy towards education has been their failure to realise the immense amount of good that can be done by the hospitality that this country has in the past given, and could give in the future, to students from abroad. It does not cost us all that much because, in the main, its costs are merely the marginal costs. The noble Baroness, Lady David, mentioned the proposals put forward that that should be the case and that the Government should be considering it. Certainly they should be considering it as an important matter.

We are a country whose influence and power is declining and no matter what the result of this election, the next election or the election after that, the chances are that it will go on, comparatively, declining in the world. We have certain immense advantages and certain capital which we have built up over a period of time which we can count on and which can breed for us friendship, trade and influence. Included in this capital is our educational system, our language and the fact that as a result of it we are able to be hosts to students from all over the world. They go back to their countries with, we hope, a debt of gratitude and sometimes, more often than not, happy remembrances of what has happened in this country and what they have gained from it.

The Government went out of their way to sabotage the whole of this by their policy in a short-term, mean, pennypinching way. I am delighted that the Government have thought better of some of their approach. I do not think that the Bill by any means goes far enough. I do not think it will undo a great deal of the harm and that it has caused in many parts of the globe, including many parts of the Commonwealth, but I am delighted that the Bill goes some little way towards remedying the harm that has been done.

6.59 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, although I did not put my name down to speak on this Second Reading, having listened to the noble Earl who opened, to my noble friend Lady David and to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, there are just one or two things that I should like to take this opportunity of saying.

During the past three years it has been part of my responsibility to advise students in a Commonwealth country as to where they should pursue their further studies. I fully agree with my noble friend Lady David that the Bill does remove a slight, minuscule, amount of the damage that has been done by the Government's policy towards overseas students. Indeed, that minute amount of progress made in the Bill has largely been made as a result of the bargain struck with the Opposition.

I should like the noble Earl who is presenting this Bill, when replying to the Second Reading debate, to tell us whether this represents any change and any future new intentions on the part of the party which he represents, towards the opportunities that are to be given to overseas students in this country. The reason why I ask this is that I have been in the embarrassing position of wanting to suggest to students, particularly university students and teaching students, that they should obtain their higher training in institutions in this country. I have been unable to do so because the countries involved have simply been unable to afford the fees, in contrast to the fees which are charged elsewhere. For example, just last year I had to agree to a student of mine going to an American university, when I am quite sure that he would have benefited to a much greater degree, and that his country would have benefited to a much greater degree, if he had been able to obtain the fees to attend a university in this country.

I should like to paraphrase to the noble Earl the words of one of his noble friends behind him when speaking on the Brandt Commission debate. The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, then pointed out that one of the policies that this country could follow in order to prevent what we were then debating—namely, the infiltration and the influence of the Soviet Union and the communist bloc—was to encourage students to come to this country. The Government cannot have it both ways. If they want to avoid infiltration of the ideas of the Soviet Union or any of the other communist bloc countries, and if they want to prevent the infiltration of those ideas into Commonwealth countries and third world countries, then they must be prepared to recognise that they must make it possible for those countries to send their students—as they have done traditionally—to this country.

If they do not do so, they are actively encouraging those countries to take the cheaper way of sending their students to communist countries, to the United States of America or to other countries where the fees are drastically less. In the general case of the United States, I have found the fees to be just about half what they are in this country. It seems to me that when we are debating a Second Reading of a new education Bill, it is incumbent upon the Government to state where they stand on this issue. Their own supporters have criticised them on this; we have criticised them. They have been criticised in the educational press, in the educational institutions, and by many noble Lords in this House with long experience of academic life.

Therefore, I should like to make a plea to the noble Earl who is to reply to this Second Reading debate to tell us—and to tell us openly and honestly—whether the Conservative Party and the Government which he represents have changed their minds about the importance of making it financially possible for a growing number of overseas students to come to the institutions in this country, or will they continue to charge those increased fees which they have been charging since they were elected as a Government, and thus keep out of the country many of our potential friends of the next generation who could be trained, and who in the past have been trained, in the educational institutions of Britain?

7.5 p.m.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I was talking to a noble Lord. I think the day before yesterday, who told me that the feeling in the House was rather like an end of term, with everybody taking their exams; they feel that they want to go home but they are not allowed to. Today I felt rather as though I had gone in for my report on my Government's record in education in front of the headmistress and one or two of her other staff, and been told, like everyone from school who goes for their report, that I could have done a lot better.

I think that both the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, made much about why the Government and Ministers were not prepared when the decision was taken in your Lordships' House on 16th December last. I can give two reasons for that. One is that the case for ordinary residence has for many years been considered to be the one that could govern the situation; and, secondly, thank goodness! that in this country we have a split between the legislature and the judicature. I think that decisions taken in the courts often surprise people, and it is not a bad thing if sometimes they surprise Ministers and Governments.

The noble Lord and the noble Baroness then went on to say that there was a delay which resulted in all this having to be rushed through at the moment, with all the election fever, and so on, that now exists. I would deny that there has been very much of a delay. After all, the judgment was delivered in your Lordships' House only on 16th December last, and that in itself is something of a date because that was just over a week before Christmas; then we were into the New Year, and even civil servants like a bit of a holiday at that time of year. That probably took us into January.

Naturally, it took some time fully to evaluate these wide-ranging implications. The judgment itself was concerned with mandatory awards, and amending regulations concerning such awards came into effect at the end of March. It took us a little longer to consider the implications in relation to fees and discretionary awards and it is not always easy to find legislative time, either here or in another place. Despite this, a Bill was introduced in another place on 21st April. We should all have liked to be able to move faster but I really do not think that a period of four months for the consideration of such an important matter in any way constitutes an unpardonable delay.

Baroness David

My Lords, if the Minister will allow me, the Government had four and a half months in which to consider it. We are being left with a whole 10 days or so between the First Reading in another place and the Bill being passed here.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, yes, I take the noble Baroness's point, but these are somewhat unusual circumstances. The noble Baroness asked me a number of questions and I shall do my best to answer most, if not all, of them. She asked me what effect draft Regulation 8 would have on the widely varying charges made for residence by local authorities. This regulation does not authorise the continuation of the present practice of higher residence charges to overseas students, except in the very limited case of those colleges which provide the mandatory award student with free board and lodging in lieu of an element in his grant.

This differential arose because local education authorities did not wish to extend to overseas students—and, indeed, to all students from outside England and Wales—the element of subsidy in residence charges to home students, which occurs because those charges are not expected to include various overhead items of "college-borne expenditure", such as external building maintenance or debt charges. It is this element that has led to the wide variations in residence charges to overseas students. The regulations that we propose will not allow the practice to continue. Therefore, I can say that although local authorities will still obviously have various differing charges at establishments of further education, the overseas students will be in the same boat as our own students in regard to the fees they pay.

The noble Baroness then asked me why the list of excepted students in Schedule 3, which goes with Regulation 8, was not as all-embracing as in Schedule 2, which goes with Regulation 7. I am most grateful that the noble Baroness and her colleagues have very helpfully agreed to accelerate the passage of the Bill so that it may receive the Royal Assent before Dissolution. The Government are grateful, and many outside this House will also be glad, to have the present state of uncertainty resolved. To facilitate the Opposition's consideration of the Bill in the limited time available, we have produced, considerably faster than they would normally have seen the light of day outside the department, an early draft of part of the regulations to be made under the Bill. Inevitably they have been prepared in some haste, and Schedule 3 is, I am afraid, the result of that. I am happy to assure the noble Baroness that the list of excepted students for Regulation 8 will include the same list of excepted students as for Regulation 7. So that a slight mistake has been made has been due purely to the haste to get out the draft.

The noble Baroness then asked me two questions. She asked whether students who under the Scarman judgment would have been entitled to be looked on as home students and pay home fees in the years 1980, 1981 and 1982 would be able to claim refunds. The Government are taking no action in relation to the current academic year and earlier years, and legal liability in respect of fees must be determined without regard to the Bill. Circumstances will vary widely among students, institutions and authorities. Individual cases will have to be considered on their own facts. It should not be assumed that there is any general principle that imposes an obligation or a liability on authorities or institutions to refund any part of fees previously paid. Even where a student establishes entitlement to a mandatory award for 1982ߝ83, or any earlier year, he does not thereby establish entitlement either to a refund of fees paid for that year in excess of the then current home rate of fee, or to pay the home rate of fee in 1983ߝ84 and subsequent years. Whether the student should be expected to pay overseas fees still outstanding for the current academic year will depend on the circumstances of individual cases.

The noble Baroness asked me, what about students who applied for awards after December 1982? So far as mandatory awards are concerned—and these are not the subject of this Bill—the regulations were amended with effect from 31st March, to minimise the number of students obtaining an uncovenanted and unintended benefit as a result of the December judgment. Students who were refused an award before that date can ask to have that decision reviewed, but overseas students whose applications are decided under the amended regulations will not be eligible for awards. As my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State explained in another place, it would be wrong to let more awards be made than was unavoidable on a basis which was contrary to long-established policy on access to mandatory awards. Those who fail to obtain awards as a result of the amending regulations have not been hard done by. Until the December judgment they had no expectation of obtaining an award. Those who obtained an award as a result of that decision should rather count themselves lucky to have received an unexpected bonus.

So far as discretionary awards are concerned, until regulations under this Bill come into effect, local authorities and other award-making bodies must operate under the law as it stands in relation to any awards which they bestow in that period. They might otherwise render themselves open to accusations of unlawful discrimination under the Race Relations Act 1976 for acting outside the scope of the cover provided by the existing arrangements approved under Section 41(2). It would not perhaps be very surprising if they felt inhibited by this, and they might, for example, feel obliged to delay decisions on awards, which would cause inconvenience to students and others. But this is a matter for them. Once regulations under the Bill come into effect, local authorities will be free to return to their previous practices when deciding to whom they wish to give discretionary awards.

The noble Baroness then asked me about students from Cyprus and whether under the provisions of Clause 1(2) relating to exceptions, they might at some future date he treated as home students like those from the EEC. It would technically be possible for the subsection to be used in this way. But my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, in his Statement in another place on 8th February, made clear that the Government's intent is to aid such students through the aid programme, not by conceding home fee status. The Government's proposals for this were contained in the document entitled, A Policy for Overseas Students, deposited in the Library in February. I should like to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, that the Government want to encourage overseas students to come here, and they want to help them to do so for humanitarian and various other reasons, in both their interests and the interests of this country.

The additional programme of assistance announced by my right honourable friend in February in response to the work of the Overseas Students' Trust, worth up to an extra £20 million in a full year, will help us to develop a carefully targeted programme of assistance, rather than the indiscriminate and uncontrolled subsidy we could no longer afford. I think that I have answered all the questions that have been raised during this Second Reading debate.

Baroness David

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, I should like to mention one assurance which I sought but which he has not given. If the Government are returned, will the new regulations be laid by the first week in July? I understand that an assurance was given in another place.

The Earl of Swinton

Yes, my Lords; I apologise to the noble Baroness. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the Government will be returned, and I shall certainly give an assurance that it is our intention that regulations be made in the first week of July. To that end consultations will continue during the period of the election.

On Question, Bill read a second time.

Then, Standing Order No. 43 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of 10th May):

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords. I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.—(The Earl of Swinton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Bill read a third time, and passed.