HL Deb 26 July 1988 vol 500 cc153-67

1 Clause 13, page 10, line 3, at end insert— () If a person is undertaking a course of nursing education on each day of that period, the amount he is liable to pay under this section shall be determined by order, no such amount being less than one-fifth of the amount it would be apart from this section.".

2 The Commons disagreed to this amendment for the following reason:

Because the amendment affects local taxation, and the Commons do not offer any further reason trusting that this reason may he deemed sufficient..

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their amendment numbered 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for their reason numbered 2. With the leave of the House, I should also like to speak to amendments numbered 3, 4 and 4A which all relate to the same subject.

Your Lordships will recall that we had two interesting debates on the subject of student nurses and the community charge. At the end of the second debate on report the Government were defeated on an amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington. That group of amendments was intended to require my right honourable friend to make an order determining the level of community charge to be paid by student nurses. The order could have set a level of payment between 20 per cent. and 100 per cent. The Government accept the spirit behind the amendments agreed in your Lordships' House.

My right honourable friend is content that he would be required to specify in secondary legislation the level of community charges to be paid by student nurses. The original amendments were, however, defective in their drafting in a number of ways. In order to ensure that the powers operated effectively, it was obviously essential to replace the amendments. The Government did that in another place, and the consequence is reason numbered 2 and part of amendment numbered 4 which disagree with your Lordships' amendments numbered 1 and 3. The other part of amendment numbered 4 is the substitute amendment which produces the same effect as those it replaces except in one respect. The amendments moved on Report by the noble Baroness would have allowed the level of payment to be set anywhere between 20 per cent. and 100 per cent. The government amendment allows a choice only between 100 per cent. payment and 20 per cent. The option of interim levels of payment will not he open except of course to the extent that student nurses may be eligible for rebate. That reflects the fact that in practice the Government may choose only 20 per cent. or 100 per cent.; in other words, whether the student nurses should be treated as students in some or all cirumstances.

The noble Baroness has tabled an amendment for further debate today (amendment numbered 4A). Perhaps I may first reassure her that my right honourable friend will, in the regulations he makes under the government amendment, be setting out the level of community charge to be paid by all student nurses. He will be defining those student nurses who will pay only 20 per cent. If there are to be any categories of student nurse which are not to benefit from that relief they will also be shown in the regulations. I know that that has been a matter of some concern, but I hope that my reassurance has helped to clarify the position.

However, amendment numbered 4A can be read another way. The noble Baroness might be attempting to go further and say that certain categories of pre-Project 2000 student nurses should automatically pay less than 100 per cent. If that is so, I do not believe that that is something that was in her original amendment or that I can recommend your Lordships to accept as it would not be in accordance with our usual procedures.

What I can say to the noble Baroness is that when Project 2000 is implemented, the nature of student nurses' training will alter and they will begin to receive bursaries rather than salaries. At that point, student nurses would in any case automatically become students for the purposes of the community charge. That leaves a level of community charge to be paid by student nurses before Project 2000 is implemented. No decision has yet been taken on that matter. We shall be considering the matter carefully in the light of all the issues that arise, including the timetable for implementing Project 2000 and of course the views expressed in your Lordships' House. We shall then announce our decision, probably in the autumn of this year, and lay the regulations that the amendment requires my right honourable friend to make.

I hope that what I have said has been helpful. Let me confirm that the Government accept the spirit of the amendments originally passed in your Lordships' House, and that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will make regulations setting the level of community charge to be paid by student nurses, both those who are on salaries and those post-Project 2000 who receive bursaries. I am afraid that I cannot today say what those regulations will include so far as pre-Project 2000 student nurses are concerned; but the Government will come to a view on this matter in the next few weeks before regulations are laid in the autumn. In doing that we shall of course take account of the views expressed in your Lordships' House.

Moved, That the House do not insist on their amendment numbered 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for the reason numbered 2.—(The Earl of Caithness.)

Baroness Robson of Kiddington

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his statement and for the amendment that he moved which was introduced in another place. I should also like to thank him for the two long letters he wrote to me in which he tried to explain the implications of the Government's amendments. I regret that his second letter arrived while I was abroad. I was unable to communicate with him until 1 p.m. today. I tried to telephone him from about 12 noon onwards when I returned but he is such a busy man that his telephone was engaged all the time.

I of course accept the implications of a varying rebate if the Government were to use the power contained in my original amendment. I do not argue about that. I welcome the recognition in the Bill of nursing education as part of student education. That was originally missing from the Bill. It now appears in the Bill, and so to that extent I accept the government amendments.

What worries me is that the amendments give the Government power to specify which courses constitute full-time courses of nursing education for the purpose of the 80 per cent. poll tax. The crucial point to me and my fellow Members on these Benches is how the Government mean to use their powers. We are reassured that once Project 2000 is fully introduced and nursing students move from a salary to a bursary they will automatically become students for the purposes of the rebate; so that is not at issue.

However, the Minister will remember that in debating the amendments which I introduced prior to this one there is the problem of what happens before Project 2000 is introduced in full. It will be remembered that this interim period before the introduction of Project 2000 could be very significant. Some student nurses will start their nursing education perhaps only three months before the introduction of Project 2000. We all hope that that will take place in 1990. They will therefore remain under the old system for the whole of the period of their training. It is inconceivable that they should move across to Project 2000 in mid-stream.

We do not know what is going to happen about the introduction of Project 2000. It is also unclear at what rate students will become proper students; in other words, in receipt of bursaries or full bursaries and no salary once the run-in to the introduction of Project 2000 begins. It may take a number of years before the new system is fully introduced. Even if it is fully introduced in 1990 there will still be the anomaly of the students who started their ordinary nursing student training perhaps only three months before Project 2000 was introduced.

I have read Hansard for another place and the Government were questioned on the issue during the debate there on 20th July. The Minister for Local Government said: We have not decided how to exercise the order-making power". —[Official Report. Commons, 20/7/88; col. 1129.] He also said, at col. 1121: That is an issue on which we have yet to take a decision". That is what worries and concerns me. It is the Government's intention which is the crucial issue. We on these Benches have no objection in principle to accepting the Government's new amendment as long as they are prepared now to commit themselves to granting poll tax rebate to student nurses under the conditions which I have mentioned. If this power is not used to any significant extent, there will be tremendous problems in nurse recruitment prior to the introduction of Project 2000. But if the Minister can assure me that the Government intend to treat student nurses as students the moment the poll tax is introduced, great relief will be felt among students all round the country. I sincerely hope that the Minister will be able to give me that assurance.

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, perhaps I may raise a question for genuine information related to the return to us by the Commons of this amendment. We are told that the Commons reject it because the amendment affects local taxation. I am extremely confused as to the criteria on which the Commons turned down our amendment on the ground that it affects local taxation. I should have thought a great many of the matters we have been discussing throughout this long, cold summer have affected local taxation in the field of education and many other fields.

What is the test by which it affects taxation or does not affect taxation? When we decided that we should not charge poll tax to the people in short-stay hostels, that would affect taxation. There must be some rule. I genuinely ask for information because we need to know this. What makes an amendment affect local taxation in one case and not in others? I am mystified.

Lord Trafford

My Lords, I spoke previously in support of the amendment passed in this House benefiting nurses. If I have any comment to make on the amendment now before the House it is that it does not go far enough. I cannot understand why the Government have consistently been a little mean-handed with this branch of a respected profession. I have heard arguments to the contrary, but it seems to me that there is a distinction between the student nurse and the nurse who will move into the situation of full-time education and other trainees, if one wishes to use that word. Perhaps I may point out that the nursing profession itself does not like the use of the term "trainees". Nonetheless, they are in training in one sense or another.

These people do not have the opportunity that so many other students have to earn extra money, to do extra things and to have long vacations in which they can also be economically viable, to put it at its lowest. There are not that many nurses involved. Three times amendments have been put by others to your Lordships' House to suggest that a special privilege or special right should be granted to this group of people. They are not numerous, unfortunately, in terms of student nurses as opposed to other nurses. They are articulate and are championed, I am glad to see, by the noble Baroness; and I congratulate her on it. It seems to me that it would not be difficult for the Government to accept that the Secretary of State would have the powers to make the necessary regulations.

If I remember correctly the last amendment on which this matter was discussed, nobody asked that any money should be expended or that any specific task should he enjoined upon the Government. It was very simply the granting of powers to smooth out the anomaly first of all between Scotland and England relative to the timing of the introduction of the community charges Bill, the Local Government Finance Bill; and, secondly, those nurses who would already be in one form of education and unlikely to switch to another.

I am sorry to disagree with the Minister but I have deep suspicions that this will not be introduced with the same degree of funding as one might hope. Also, it will not be followed (as I personally believe it ought to be) with the support this House would have shown to this relatively small number of people, the student nurses.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, I ventured on an earlier amendment, at an earlier stage of these proceedings, to give a perfectly sincere though not universally accepted view as to the constitution of this country and the relationship between the two Houses. If I may refer to what the noble Baroness mentioned a moment ago, I gave very clear references from two universally accepted textbooks as to the extent to which another place regarded its privileges and had done so for more than 250 years. They included local taxation. They had nothing to do with the terms of the Parliament Act which discusses the meaning of a money Bill.

Perhaps noble Lords will look at Amendment No. 2 on the Marshalled List, to which the noble Baroness has already referred. It says: the Commons do not offer any further reason other than the fact that the amendment affects taxation—— trusting that this reason may be deemed sufficient". I warned the House that that was the line that another place would inevitably take. The Commons gave the following reason for disagreeing with the amendments: Because the amendments involve charges on public funds and affect local taxation, and the Commons do not offer any further reason trusting that this reason may be deemed sufficient". I told the House that that would happen. And it has happened. I beg the noble Baroness who speaks from the Liberal Benches and the noble Lord from the Opposition Front Bench to pay some attention to the previous attitude of their parties as regards the relationship between the two Houses. I know the words "I told you so" are very unpleasant; but I propose to use them now.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I shall he happy to respond to the noble and learned Lord when we come to later amendments where that matter becomes an issue. But the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington, has not raised it in her amendment and I do not believe it is relevant to our discussion on this group of amendments.

What was missing from the Minister's speech was any recognition of the sterling work of the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, and of other noble Lords, including the noble Lord. Lord Trafford, and particularly my noble friend Lord Morton of Shuna, in advancing the Government's thinking on the matter of student nurses and the poll tax. It is an undoubted fact that the Government, under reasoned pressure over weeks and even months, have acceded in large part to arguments which they resisted at the very beginning.

Their opening stand was that nursing education, either now or in the future, should not be treated in the same way as other forms of post-school education. They have now recognised—and we are grateful for it—that when Project 2000 comes in nursing education will be treated in the same way as other forms of post-school education and will, therefore, not be subject to the poll tax. The force behind the amendments put down at all stages by noble Lords from all sides of the House was not only in respect of the long-term but also a recognition of the desperate shortage of nurses in the health service in England, Wales and Scotland.

The failure of the Government, having accepted all the other parts of the argument, is to go the last part of the way and recognise the difficulty there will be in the transitional period. The existing shortage of nurses, the problems about nurses' education and the penury in which nurses in education now exist are not resolved by the Government's amendments. The noble Baroness, Lady Robson, is concerned with the transitional period. Her amendment gives regulation-making power to the Minister. It does not impose anything on the Government which would delay the Bill. The Government could accept the amendment if it were approved by your Lordships now in advance of it being put to a Vote and the Bill would suffer no loss. It could be accepted by the House of Commons in two minutes flat and the Bill could receive Royal Assent by Friday without any difficulty. I suggest to noble Lords that rather than getting sidetracked now on constitutional issues, they should consider the very real merits of the case put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Robson.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I voted for the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, when it was previously before us. I did so in the spirit which I think nearly all of your Lordships on all sides of the House show when they are asking the Commons to think again about a Bill we have received from there.

We carried that amendment; I am glad that we did. In another place Members gave the amendment further thought. The Government, having given it further thought, advised another place accordingly. It is contrary to the spirit of the constitutional relationship between the two Houses that, having given another place the chance of second thoughts, we should go on trading the amendment back to them again.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, made a point which my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone answered. It related to the Commons reason for disagreeing with the amendment; namely, that it affects local taxation. The Commons stated that it trusted that reason was sufficient and that this House would not take the matter any further. It is true, as my noble and learned friend said, that the Parliament Act does not specifically' deal with local taxation and make it impossible for us to deal with it. But page 854 of Erskine May states that it is a matter of privilege. On matters of privilege affecting finance of any kind, the House of Commons has the right to express the hope that it will have the last word. I should have thought that on this occasion it is best that it should have the last word.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, and the noble Lord, Lord Renton, may or may not be correct. I do not wish to enter into that argument. But the amendment standing in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, and my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey is not in contradiction of that assertion. It seeks to add to the Commons amendment. Therefore it does not disagree with the Commons amendment, but adds to it.

From a purely pragmatic point of view, when there is a shortage of 18-year-olds for training as nurses it is essential, for the sake of the people who may become ill during the next 10 years or so, that we do nothing that diminishes the number of nurses in training. We should suggest to another place that it accepts the amendment standing in the name of the noble Baroness and my noble friend which merely gives a power to the Government to make regulations, if they so wish. I should have thought that that was entirely consistent with the constitutional issue.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, I ask the noble Lord to consider once again whether, even though this provision concerns the giving of a power, it does not affect local taxation and does not give power to the Minister to impose it or to make charges on public funds. Obviously, it does. The amendment adds a further insult to our constitution; one should be accepting defeat.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, although the noble and learned Lord makes that point, we have discussed for days at a time on this Bill the question of whether people who have mental deficiencies of various kinds should receive rebates. We have also discussed whether people in various situations—for example, people in care or carers—should receive rebates. Those cases have all been discussed without the noble and learned Lord on any occasion raising the constitutional issue.

If my memory is correct, this matter was raised in an article in The Times written by the noble and learned Lord. It was not raised on Second Reading. Advice we received from those who are empowered to give it was that the practice of another place was not to raise the question of privilege on matters of local taxation.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. I am sure that the last thing that he wishes to do is to mislead the House. I raised this matter in Committee on the very first amendment in this Chamber. I did not reiterate my complaint on every single amendment which followed, but what I said was said in terms which were designed to mean, and were understood to mean, exactly what I have said this afternoon.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble and learned Lord. The matter was not raised on Second Reading. I think that was what I said. It was not raised by the Government and it had not been raised by the Commons at that stage.

Page 850 of Erskine May reads: Amendments infringing privilege with respect to local rates. The Commons now generally waive their claim regarding amendments made to bills that they have sent to the Lords, dealing with municipal, county and local rates and assessments". According to Erskine May, that has been the practice over the years. I should have thought that the discussion concerning the Bill in your Lordships' House showed that that is the general practice. I believe that amendment numbered 4A is perfectly within the spirit of Erskine May.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, the noble Lord has said that the other place has previously not raised the question of local expenditure or taxation. However, it is clear that the claim to privilege is there. Has it occurred to the noble Lord that the reason the other place is raising the matter now is that it feels (perhaps not without justification) that the amendments carried in this House on the Bill have sought to take the power of this House to intervene in matters of local government finance and taxation a good deal further than has been the case for many years? If you press people who possess a power—in this case, the power to claim privilege—you are apt to get precisely the reaction we have had. The other place has said, "Now that you are pushing this as hard as you are, we must rely on our privilege or the whole balance of power between the Houses will be permanently upset".

The noble Lord made the extraordinary observation that my noble and learned friend had not raised the matter on Second Reading. He did not raise it on Second Reading because there were no amendments on Second Reading. It is only when amendments arise which seek to interfere in local government finance that the question arises. My noble and learned friend raised the issue on the very first amendment. I have heard some bad points made in this House; I have not often heard a worse one.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has never heard a worse point. I have certainly made some bad points and I believe I have made many points that were worse than the present one. However, if the question of a Bill being a money Bill or a Bill that raises the question of Commons privilege was to be raised, it would have been raised by the noble and learned Lord not only in an article in The Times before Second Reading but also on Second Reading. Surely he would have suggested to the House that debate should be restricted on the lines of the assertions of another place.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

My Lords, once again, with great hesitation I ask the noble Lord to give way. I did not raise the matter on Second Reading. There has never been a privilege of the other place to refuse to allow this House to discuss even a money Bill on Second Reading. This has nothing whatever to do with a money Bill. That conception was introduced into Parliament in 1911. I was speaking of the immemorial privilege of the other place which was asserted as early as the 17th century. The noble Lord must study the elements of constitutional law.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, I studied the elements of constitutional law a long time ago. I may well have forgotten many of them. In view of the debates which have taken place in another place and in view of the suggestions that were made at Second Reading, I believe that the House would have expected that some of the amendments foreshadowed at Second Reading might be suggested to be out of place by the noble and learned Lord. However, I do not believe that the argument can be continued further. Perhaps I shall be allowed to sit down without being asked to say anything more.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead

My Lords, I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, on only one point. It is quite irrelevant that he did not raise the matter on Second Reading. He raised the broad issue in a letter to The Times, to which the noble Lord, Lord Morton, has referred. However, it is not relevant that he did not raise the issue on Second Reading.

To my mind, the argument put forward by the noble and learned Lord and supported by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is totally different from and contradictory to that raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, who said that it was desirable that your Lordships' House should express an opinion on the matter which should then be considered again by another place and by the Government. He said that if, after consideration, they said, "No", that would be a different matter.

The proposition which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, advanced in his letter and during debate on the first amendment was that the House should not only not have the last word but that it should not have a first word. That is completely different from the proposition put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Renton.

Furthermore, it seems to me that the other place claims privilege when it does not like an amendment carried by this House. However, if it happens to think an amendment carried by this House is agreeable and reasonable, it does not claim privilege. In fact, the privilege is just as strong in either case. I therefore hope that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, will not get into too great a passion on the matter or be too intoxicated by his own omniscience.

Viscount Tonypandy

My Lords, I have listened to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, with great interest. The other place has a right to be jealous of its privileges. They go back a long way. This House has always been jealous of those privileges because real power lies there. We are fortunate on some amendments that the Speaker was prepared to put them to the other place at all. On more than one occasion I exercised that right and said to the other place, "I shall not put the amendment to the House because the other place has exceeded its powers". This House then accepted that ruling. It had no choice.

The other place has power and it is not for us to seek to diminish it. It could not have put the matter in rougher language in rejecting the amendments on the ground that this House has exceeded its power. On this matter, I should have thought that all those who have served in another place would remember that above all we must protect its rights concerning expenditure. The other place fought hard for those rights. There was a civil war over the matter. I should be the last to attempt to encroach when another place has said, "You are going too far".

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in the discussion. However, having been the Leader of your Lordships' House for some four years, I believe that I should contribute briefly. When I was a Member of another place, I was extremely jealous of its privileges. When I came to your Lordships' House and had the great privilege of leading it, I properly became jealous of the privileges of this House. I believe that the privileges can easily be reconciled within our parliamentary system. They can be reconciled by some thought being given by each side to the privileges of the other. Both Houses should act in accordance with that principle.

I think that this House has made very important changes to the Bill. I believe that the Government and the Secretary of State in another place have taken considerable account of what your Lordships have done during the passage of the Bill. That is as it should be. This House has given its advice to another place. In some cases that advice was taken. That is as it should be.

In those cases in which, after consideration, it has not been taken, it seems to me that in your Lordships' House we have done a great deal to improve those Bills—as indeed we did on many other Bills while I was privileged to be Leader. However, there comes a moment when it is right for this House to bow to the position, privileges and views of another place rather than to press its views much further. That is the position which I believe we have reached today so far as concerns these amendments.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, we have now strayed firmly onto the ground which is covered by amendment numbered 11 B. I am one of those who believes that your Lordships' House should be quite firm and quite resolute in asserting the powers that lie in your Lordships' hands when it comes to differences with another place. However, that does not mean that your Lordships should interfere with any matter of supply; in other words, any matter that concerns public expenditure.

The reason for that is twofold. First, as my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham reminded your Lordships, in the 17th century the other place asserted the principle that it alone was concerned with all forms of expenditure. Your Lordships' House acquiesced with that assertion until 1910 –1911. The second reason is that if two Houses are concerned with supply, the Constitution becomes completely snarled up. We saw that happen in Australia where the senate asserted and indeed had the power to interfere with supply, withheld supply and caused a change of government.

I entirely agree with the way in which the case was put by my noble friend Lord Tonypandy. It is essential that, while insisting on our very real powers, your Lordships' House should not attempt to interfere with the other place's superiority and exclusive control over all matters of public expenditure and supply. In fact it is doubly dangerous to do so because the other place has its own rules which limit the discussion of supply, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, with his Treasury experience will bear out.

The matter is difficult in this sense: many people regard the Parliament Act as embodying a complete code of law: that there are money Bills which have their own special procedures and there are all the other Bills. There are two things to be said about that. The first is the point that was made by my noble and learned friend that there is nothing to inhibit your Lordships in discussing money Bills, even money Bills strictly defined and properly certified. They can be discussed but they cannot be effectively amended.

The second point is that the Parliament Act itself makes it plain that that is not exhaustive. It says, first, what can be done by your Lordships' House with Bills other than money Bills and then what can be done with money Bills, which is much more restrictive. However, a further clause was added—I think that it is Section 6 of the 1911 Act—which says that nothing in the foregoing (which refers to money Bills) should be taken as in any way derogating from the privileges of the House of Commons as heretofore asserted. That goes back to the resolutions of the 17th century.

Unfortunately two explanations were given of that particular provision. Two Ministers were in charge at that time. The Home Secretary, Mr. Winston Churchill, said that it referred to the privileges of the House of Commons as against the Crown; but the Postmaster-General, Mr. Herbert Samuels, said, no, it referred to the other financial privileges of the House of Commons. I agree with the interpretation which my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham put upon that provision and with what has been said by my noble friend Lord Tonypandy.

I have nothing to say on the matter on which this debate turns. However, since we have touched on the subject of its constitutional basis, it seems to me that this House, while firmly asserting its powers as to matters of which it has undoubted cognisance, should be extremely cautious of—no, should abnegate—any attempt to deal with questions of supply, in other words with questions of public expenditure.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Peston

My Lords, I am under the impression—I hope that it is correct—that we are discussing amendment numbered 4A. Amendment numbered 4A deals with the tax treatment of student nurses. As I understand it, the amendment meets the rules of order of your Lordships' House and it is an amendment of the kind which your Lordships have debated, carried and put to the other place. I find it an extraordinary state of affairs, and I certainly think that those in the nursing profession will find it even more extraordinary that we have had two speeches on the subject of the amendment from the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Trafford.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

And me, my Lords.

Lord Peston

My Lords, and from the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. We have also had a long series of lectures on the British Constitution which, interesting though they are—and I found them immensely interesting, speaking as an academic—seem to me to have no bearing on this matter.

Speaking I hope for others, but certainly for myself, I feel that we are not doing our duty as Members of your Lordships' House in debating the Constitution instead of debating the amendment. It may be a good or a bad amendment, but it is certainly debatable and it is certainly one which I think we owe it to student nurses to debate properly and if necessary take a view on, because it deals with a serious matter. To tell student nurses in due course that the reason nothing was done about this matter was because we preferred to spend half an hour discussing constitutional matters would be a most unsatisfactory state of affairs.

Lord Wolfson

My Lords, as something like 50 per cent. of local authority expenditure is financed by the Exchequer, surely we should recognise the fiscal privileges of the other place.

Lord Diamond

My Lords, I ask for a few more minutes! I think that I must rise to explain why I shall be voting for the Government and recommending my colleagues to do likewise. I completely share the views expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw. I recognise the benefits that he was able to introduce for this House during his period of leadership. I must be a great simpleton, but I find less difficulty in this matter than some of your Lordships. Noble Lords are entitled to discuss broadly what they like and to come to whatever conclusions they like. They are not prevented, and I very much hope that they never will be, from exercising their discretion as to what topics they discuss and what they do not discuss in their own way and by their own general consent.

We are not entitled to require the other place to accept our views. If the other place chooses to say that this is a matter of privilege—and we know that it is a matter of privilege; there is no dispute about that—it is entitled to do so. If, on another occasion, it chooses to say, "Well, we rather like this amendment", in my view the question of privilege does not then arise. With great respect to those who have put a different point of view, it is not my opinion that the other place is then disregarding its privileges. Certainly it is not my view that it is then eroding its own privileges. It is the case that it takes a view on the substance of the matter.

As regards the substance of the matter, I am wholly in favour of the amendment. In the situation in which we find ourselves, having discussed the matter, put it to the other place, received certain knowledge that the other place has given it the further consideration that we are entitled to ask it to give, should this matter be put to a Division (which I very much hope it will not be) I shall advise my colleagues to support the Government.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, clearly the intervention of the noble Baroness Lady Seear, has led to a most interesting debate on the constitution. I think that it would be wrong for me to prolong that debate, but with your Lordships' permission perhaps I may say a few words on the matter. I should like to take noble Lords back to Amendments Nos. 1 and 2, which we are now discussing, as well as to Amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 4A.

In speaking to Amendment No. 4A the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington, was concerned that there should be certainty about the new arrangements. Let me state clearly that there will indeed be certainty. This autumn we shall make absolutely clear the level of community charge to be paid by student nurses. I do not think that certainty requires any kind of transitional scheme, as the noble Baroness sought to argue. It merely requires the Secretary of State to spell out which student nurses will pay 20 per cent. and which, if any, will pay 100 per cent.

If the decision is taken that some student nurses should pay the full charge, that will be because pre-Project 2000 student nurses will still be receiving salaries rather than bursaries. if the decision is taken that all student nurses should pay 20 per cent., one of the considerations will indeed be, as the noble Baroness pointed out, that there might be a risk of confusion if some student nurses were paying only 20 per cent. of the community charge while others were paying the full amount. Those arguments are indeed ones that the Government will weigh carefully when reaching a decision.

It is not just that when Project 2000 is fully introduced student nurses in any case will be students for the purposes of the community charge. Let me confirm that any student nurse who is trained under the Project 2000 scheme will pay only 20 per cent. The question is whether student nurses who begin their training before Project 2000 should pay 100 per cent. or 20 per cent. I am afraid that, like my honourable friend in another place, I cannot yet say how much such nurses will pay. That matter is still under active consideration.

I must put to your Lordships that what I surmised when I opened the debate has indeed proved to be correct; namely, that the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, is trying to go further than the amendment that was inserted in the Bill in your Lordships' House. That amendment gave the Secretary of State the right to decide, and in moving her amendment at Report stage the noble Baroness clearly indicated that that was what she wanted. I should like to quote from the debate on 30th June (Official Report, col. 1750) in which the noble Baroness said no more than that, the Secretary of State will hopefully use it to minimise the differential between students and student nurses". Clearly the noble Baroness went considerably further than that this afternoon.

In reply to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, perhaps I may say that it is simply not the case that we have always proposed to deny student nurses the 80 per cent. student discount. Our starting position was that student nurses on salaries should not be treated as students but that Project 2000 student nurses should receive the discount. I should like to refer the noble Lord to something that my noble friend Lord Hesketh said in Committee on 6th June, at col, 1196 of the Official Report.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but I did not say that the Government had always wanted to deny the student nurses the 80 per cent. What I said was that the further concessions which have been made were about the 20 per cent. That is our concern.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I think that I have covered the point that the noble Lord raised. Before I close perhaps I may pick up a point that rather surprised many of your Lordships who are aware of the situation of nurses. It was a point made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, and echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna. I thought that they made some rather extraordinary comments about recruitment and pay for nurses.

Contrary to the assertions of the noble Lords, this Government have an outstanding record for increases in nurses' pay and cutting the burden of income tax that nurses have to bear, thus making the nursing profession a much more attractive proposition for prospective entrants than it was in 1979. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, shakes his head, but he knows that under this Government nurses' pay has increased by over 40 per cent. in real terms since 1979 compared with a fall of over 20 per cent. in real terms under the last Labour Government.

Lord Morton of Shuna

My Lords, perhaps the noble Earl will give way. I do not think I said a word about the levels of pay of nurses. I commented on the lack of 18 year-olds to be trained as nurses, which is a purely demographic issue. I did not say a word about levels of pay; nor did I criticise the Government. If I had thought about it, perhaps I would have criticised the Government, but in fact I did not do so. Therefore, the noble Earl should not put into my mouth words that I never said. I said that there was a shortage of 18 year-olds and perhaps even the Government will accept that.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord said (and I stand to be corrected when I read the Official Report) that he was concerned about recruitment to the nursing profession. He has raised the question of finance before. Moreover, in addition to what we have done as regards nurses' pay, the income tax paid, for example, by a first-year student nurse has fallen in constant prices from £908 in 1979 to £744 last year, which is a drop of 18 per cent. There can be no doubt of the support that this Government give to nurses. However, I have to say to your Lordships that the noble Baroness, in speaking to her Amendment No. 4A, made it absolutely clear that she wanted to go further than the amendment which was accepted at Report stage.

On Question, Motion agreed to.