HL Deb 06 June 1988 vol 497 cc1182-223

House again in Committee.

Clause 9 [Liability to contribute]:

Viscount Brentford had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 68: Page 7, line 24, after ("the") insert ("following").

The noble Viscount said: While reserving my right to return on this point at the next stage, I shall not move this amendment.

[Amendment No. 68 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 69 and 70 not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Contributions: interpretation of formula]:

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 70A: Page 8, line 5, after ("may") insert ("after consultation with the local authority Associations and such other bodies or individuals as appear to him to be concerned").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall also take into consideration Amendments Nos. 70E and 72M. As I think has been stressed on a number of occasions, the Bill contains numerous provisions for the Secretary of State to make regulations. I gather from calculations which have been made that there are no fewer than 58 clauses or schedules under which separate sets of regulations may be made. This gives considerable power to the Secretary of State and it makes it imperative that regulations are given the utmost scrutiny. I gather that the Bill provides 508 separate occasions for decisions of various kinds to be made. One means of achieving this scrutiny is for the Secretary of State to be required to consult local authority representatives and other parties prior to the making of regulations. That would ensure that the input of local government expertise was used and would avoid any administrative failure for which, if it should occur, the local authorities would be held to blame.

I know that the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has said how useful some consultations have been. He recognises the value of consultations with local authority associations. But this group of three amendments will impose a duty upon the Secretary of State to consult the local authority associations and other bodies and individuals concerned before making the regulations, specifically on the drawing up of rules for determining which buildings, premises and property fall within a local authority's area. That is why the three amendments deal with Clauses 10, 12 and 14.

The local authority associations pressed for consultation requirements to be put on the face of the Bill while it was being debated in another place. The Minister's response invariably—unfortunately we have heard it on other Bills in this Chamber—has been that this was absolutely unnecessary as Ministers will consult anyway. In fact, as I have already said, the noble Earl has paid tribute to some of the consultations that have taken place. Nevertheless I must draw noble Lords' attention to Clause 82(5) and to Clause 86(2), where we see rather different wording to that which I propose in the three amendments. We discover that the Secretary of State: shall consult such representatives of local government as appear to him to be appropriate". That is totally different to the wording which I suggest: after consultation with the local authority Associations and such other bodies or individuals as appear to him to be concerned". In other words, we want it clearly laid down in these clauses, which are very important clauses, that the local authority associations will definitely be consulted irrespective of whoever else the Secretary of State may consider in his own view to be concerned.

I hope the Minister will recognise that there is this difference of wording. Perhaps I should also say that, on grants, which are dealt with in Part VI of the Bill, we find that even there there is only a requirement by the Secretary of State to notify representatives of local government of the general nature of the contents of grant distribution reports. Again, there is no necessity to have consultation with local authority associations.

In the light of the praise which the Minister has kindly given to some of his contacts and the consultations that have already taken place on certain aspects of the Bill, I hope that on Clauses 10, 12 and 14 he will accept the three amendments, which contain the same wording in each case. They will enable us to have the position of the local authority associations clearly defined. I beg to move.

The Earl of Caithness

I respond briefly to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. He will know that that is no discourtesy to him, but it seems pointless to keep on talking at length to the Committee when my answer can be brief. These amendments would require statutory consultation with the local authority associations before regulations were made containing rules for deciding the area in which a property falls if it straddles a boundary. As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, when he moved the amendments, I had indeed informed the Committee of the progress that had been made in consultation with local authority associations and others. Indeed, further meetings are to take place. I therefore again repeat to the Committee that the Government will consult the local authority associations fully before making the rules. Not only will they consult on the implementation and practice of the rules, but they will have discussions on the drafting of the regulations. That was the point I made to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, earlier this afternoon. I know that the noble Lord would prefer the wording in the Bill, but at least one can say that I am being totally consistent with what my honourable friend said in another place.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I rise briefly to welcome the Minister's undertaking to consult local authorities before—I hope he means before and not after—the event. I believe that the Minister will recall that a few days before our Recess, when we were discussing the Bill in Committee, not I but another Member stated that unfortunately over the past few years the Government have dealt rather shabbily with local government and its proceedings. In doing so a tremendous amount of historical goodwill towards the Government, whether Conservative or Labour—I am not trying to politicise it—has been dissipated.

Over the years, members of the Minister's own party have in increasing numbers expressed concern that the present Government and their immediate predecessor seemed hell-bent on reducing the role of local government and more or less emasculating it. The Minister may recall that I spoke on that occasion. I made the point to the noble Lord, Lord Rippon, that those who took over after he left the difficult job of Secretary of State for the Environment were people who indulged in this. I hope that in his remarks tonight the Minister is serious when he says that the local authorities and their associations will be consulted in the fullest sense before the decisions are taken. Knowing him, I am sure that he is. I hope it will not be on the basis of what has happened in the past when "consultations" meant being told how the decisions had been arrived at with no time for input or anything else.

I thought that it was necessary to make those remarks because if meaningful discussions take place in advance of decisions I am sure, as a founder member of the AMA and one of the last members of the old AMC, that people in local government will respond. It may well repair some of the bridges and the damage that has been caused over the last few years by the Government riding roughshod over local authorities and deeming "consultation" to mean informing local authorities of what has happened after it has happened.

The Earl of Caithness

Of course I repeat the assurance that local authority associations will be fully consulted. Of course we want good relationships with the local authority associations. The noble Lord has lain the blame fairly and squarely at the door of government. Perhaps there is another argument which might suggest that it is not all one way traffic as regards that matter. We should not carry on with that point; we should look forward to better relationships because that is what we want.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I may have made the point rather badly but I was trying to explain that it was not I who raised the point in previous proceedings in this House. It was raised by a distinguished ex-Secretary of State who is now a Member of your Lordships' House on the Government Benches. I joined in only as a party to what has taken place with local government.

Lord Underhill

I am grateful to the Minister but also disappointed. I am grateful to him because, as one would expect, he has given a definite promise that the representatives of local government will be consulted. I am worried about a couple of references which have been made to the representatives of local government and not to local authority associations and therefore I wish to have this provision written into the Bill.

I have looked quickly at the three clauses to which I referred. They relate to the question of drawing up rules for determining which buildings, premises and property fall within the local authorities' areas. They are important matters and I can see no reference to consultation even with representatives of local government. I have the Minister's firm assurance that even in those three cases there will be consultation. The only problem is that Ministers change and they might even change before the Bill comes back for Third Reading. We hope that that is not so because we all like treating with the Minister but he has a Secretary of State above him.

In the light of the importance of the three clauses to local government, I cannot understand which properties come within their areas for the purpose of the community charge. I cannot understand why the simple words to which I have referred cannot be incorporated in the Bill. We would then have not only the Minister's assurances but simple amendments. There will be many amendments to the Bill, including many in the name of the Minister. Therefore the three simple amendments will not add anything except to confirm that, as well as other individuals and bodies concerned, the local authority associations will be the subject of consultation.

I wish that the Minister would accept the three amendments because they are so simple. However, I gather from his demeanour that he stands by his view and that is an attitude I cannot understand. As regards other Bills I have raised the point that, where it is possible to accept an amendment which loses the Government nothing, a favourable impression will be created for the Government if they accept such an amendment. However, in the light of the Minister's view that he cannot budge, I have no alternative. I readily accept his assurances and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Contributions: further provisions]:

8.15 p.m.

Lord Morton of Shuna moved Amendment No. 70B: Page 8, line 13, leave out ("day") and insert ("night").

The noble Lord said: This simple amendment deletes the word "day" in line 13 and inserts the word "night". Nothing could be more simple but it is a serious amendment. It concerns the operation of the collective charge. It is difficult to understand what is meant by the words: the whole or part of a day if one thinks of the type of place to which the collective charge will apply. A typical example is a Salvation Army hostel, or something of that nature. I believe that the Government intended to mean that people who have a bed for the night or part of the night will have a liability to pay their collective charge, without entering into the question of whether it is practical to collect it from them.

The Minister may appreciate the fact that hostels which provide beds for homeless people sometimes provide other facilities during the day. They sometimes provide meals, a cup of tea, or a seat for a few hours while it is bucketing with rain. Does it mean that for six hours out of the 24 hours a person must pay the collective charge because he is resident for the whole or part of the day? Alternatively, do the Government intend the provision to apply only to those people who are resident for the night? I believe that that is the general intention but it is not clear. It would be clear if the amendment were allowed. Otherwise, is the Salvation Army to say, "One 365th of the collective charge per person is X amount. You are coming in for two hours and you will pay one 12th of that"? It will be an interesting arithmetical exercise if that is really what is meant. However, I assume that the Government mean only those who have a bed for the night and nobody else. On that basis I beg to move the amendment.

The Earl of Caithness

I had not looked at the amendment in quite the way that the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, has described it. Of course the collective charge is being levied in a situation where the property might be used as a main or sole residence. Towards the end of his argument he was coming closer to what I had anticipated he would say in that he asked whether we meant day or night. The answer is that we do not want someone who is facing a collective charge to pay twice. In other words, if a person arrives on Monday evening, stays the night, leaves on Tuesday morning and then goes to another hostel on Tuesday night, he could face a double charge under the wording of the Bill. Of course that is not our intention.

I suggest to the noble Lord that, rather than import into the Bill the idea of "night", which is a new concept and one which I believe to be inappropriate given that the liability for the personal or standard and collective community charge is explicitly built on a day basis—

Lord Morton of Shuna

I am not sure, and I may be wrong, that the noble Earl is aware of what happens in these places. One cannot get in until a certain time at night if one wants to spend the night and one is thrown out at a certain time in the morning. The places are used for a different purpose during the day. It is quite absurd to speak of a person being resident there for "part of the day" if it is really meant that he has a bed for the night. If one means that he has a bed for the night then why not say so? I know that the legal profession is attacked at times for not being clear but, speaking as a member of that profession, I cannot see why it should not be clear and why it should not be said that this collective charge is only to be paid if one has a bed for the night. I am sure that that is the intention.

Lord Meston

In support of the spirit of this amendment, surely the Bill should make it clear, if it is not entirely clear, whether a day means a period of 24 hours or whether it means the hours of daylight.

Baroness Faithfull

Perhaps I may say what a complicated situation this is because day centres, which are supposed to be just for the day, nevertheless in some cases provide beds for some people who cannot go home at night. I suppose that those people are registered at home. Day centres play a dual role of caring during the day and in some instances at night but not always for the same person every night. Therefore, day centres such as those described by the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, present a very complicated problem.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

I should like to support my noble friend. There is a hostel in Birmingham called the Trinity Centre. One part of the centre is used as a place to which police bring drunks whom they have picked up from the road or wherever rather than put them into police cells to be charged the next day in the magistrates' court. It was felt that to do that was a complete waste of time and a waste of public expenditure. This hostel takes in these tramps only during the night, and the police will be bringing them in at various times. However, as my noble friend said, they have to leave the hostel at eight o'clock the next morning. One does not know where they go during the day but, if they are found drunk again on the succeeding night, they will be brought back in. As a result, there are about 50 men who are being brought in from various parts of the city. The idea has been to save public money, because it is very costly to keep these people in the cells below the magistrates' court. They are charged and fined and the fines are never paid, and this is an alternative which receives money from the charity and also from Inner City Partnership.

Lord Dean of Beswick

Before the Minister rises, I suggest that this is an extremely difficult point to cover and on which to try to legislate. For example, as my noble friend said regarding the question of day and night, the people who use the beds are not allowed to stay in the day centres during the day. Are we not reaching a situation, unless the Government look again and reconsider, in which the authority which is trying to do a particular job for people at the bottom end of the social scale may well be charged for doing that particular job when the people whom they are helping have flown?

I remember in my days as a youth in Manchester—and I do not suppose that I am the only Member of the Committee to have done this—delivering newspapers to make a few coppers. Near to where I used to do that there was what was known as a tramp board and a poll tax was levied. That tax was not in the form of money. The tramps received a night's lodgings and breakfast but, in order to qualify for it, they had to stay behind the next day and perform some sort of community work such as chopping wood or stoking the boilers. On a Sunday morning as a youngster I used to see people dropping from a 12, 14 or 16 foot wall to avoid carrying out the commitment. It may sound rather amusing but surely the principle is the same. Are we not reaching a dangerous situation, as I have said? My noble friend Lord Morton mentioned the Salvation Army and there are also Church Army associations and Catholic associations which tend to keep hostels as a last resort for people who, unless they are catered for, will be out on the streets.

London is a high pressure area and in many cases we are talking of young people who board trains or buses or hitch-hike to London from the North or Scotland and other regions in order to try to establish themselves and obtain a job in London. We know that these children—and in the main they are children because they are no more than teenagers—end up outside stations and various parts of London which are not very desirable. Unless the Minister can look at this situation I fear that the very bodies that my colleague mentioned—the Salvation Army, the Church Army and the Catholic hostels which cater for this situation—will be called upon to fund people who have gone and may never return. I believe that this is a very difficult situation and I suggest that the Minister may wish to look again at the provision because I feel sure that as it stands it will catch the wrong people.

The Earl of Caithness

The argument has progressed somewhat since I gave way to the invervention by the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, and perhaps I may pick up where I broke off before I return to the points which were added subsequently. At that moment we were discussing whether "night" was an appropriate word instead of "day". Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, who is a lawyer, that I believe that importing that word into the Bill would give rise to further anomalies if we were to tie liability for collective charge contributions to a test different from that which is used elsewhere in the Bill. An alternative which does not have the unfortunate consequences which his amendment would have is that we should stick to the concept of days but to add to Clause 11 a provision that whereas a person is to be charged for the day on which he becomes a resident of a designated dwelling, he is not to be charged for the day on which he leaves. That means that a person arriving on Monday and leaving on Tuesday, and therefore staying only one night, will pay only one day's worth of contributions. Members of the Committee may notice that that mirrors the provisions in Clause 8(6), which already prevent double charging in respect of the same day for the purposes of the personal community charge.

Our amendment will deal with all the problems which Members of the Committee have raised during the discussion on this amendment without importing the foreign concept of "night". The day a person becomes a resident he will be liable. The day he ceases to be resident he will not be liable. The day that he both becomes and ceases to be resident he will not be liable. Therefore, a person who stays for one night pays one charge. Someone who stays for two hours during the day pays nothing. I believe that that solves the problem raised by the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna. I believe that he has drifted away from sole or main residence being the basis for the collective community charge.

With regard to the noble Lord's proposal to use "night", that would cause problems on its own. For instance, let us suppose that a person stayed in a collective charge establishment overnight and then became subject to the personal community charge the next day. I put it to the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, that that might be a difficult problem to resolve in its own right. The system is built using days. That is right and we believe that it should be adhered to. However, we must ensure that no one pays two days' worth of collective charge for a single night's stay. That is the proposal in my suggested amendment, which I will be happy to bring forward at a later stage.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Morton of Shuna

It will be interesting to see that amendment. If it is put forward I foresee that we shall change the habits of the people who could be described in Scottish terms as "dossers". They will go into hostels at seven or eight o'clock in the evening and will leave 15 minutes before midnight. They will then wander the streets for a few hours and return, on a different day, for another period of a few hours in a bed. They will escape the collective charge.

The police will have desperate problems with people wandering about the streets in the centres of towns between half-past eleven and half-past twelve. That does not appear to have been fully thought out, especially as some of those people occasionally have a certain addiction to alcohol.

The Earl of Caithness

Of course there are problems with people who do something similar at present, but I shall very much bear in mind what the noble Lord said during the consultations we are having following the points that my noble friend Lord Glenarthur and I took away to consider at an earlier stage of our discussions. What the noble Lord omitted to say to the Committee is that we have generous provisions to take into account the incomes of the people to whom he refers.

Lord Morton of Shuna

This is great. Has the noble Earl ever tried to obtain the income of someone who does not give his name, does not give his address and refuses to say how much money he possesses? Such a person might say that he would like 50p for a cup of tea but one suspects it is used to get something stronger.

There is a total unreality about this approach. Basically I should have thought the Government would be well advised to take such people right out of the charge because the concept of making them accountable in any real sense is totally unreal. Making the Salvation Army, the Church Army or similar bodies who run these charities responsible for collecting these peculiar sums is totally unreal. However, at this stage, in the hope that a realistic amendment will be put forward, I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 70C: Page 8, line 30, leave out ("becomes and ceases to be exempt") and insert ("is, ceases to be and again becomes a qualifying individual").

The noble Earl said: In moving this amendment I speak also to Amendment No. 70D. These are minor drafting amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Morton of Shuna

What is the purpose of these drafting amendments? We are again dealing with people who are wandering about. We have someone who becomes and then ceases to be exempt. Then we have someone who is, ceases to be and then again becomes a qualifying individual. What is the purpose of this change? The noble Earl said that this is a drafting amendment but perhaps he can explain why it has to be made.

The Earl of Caithness

I am delighted to assist the noble Lord. As it stands, Clause 11(5) provides that a person resident in a collective charge property shall be liable to make different payments to the landlord of the property in respect of different periods of his residence during which he becomes and ceases to be exempt. In other words, if a person moves into a collective charge property, becomes exempt and then ceases to be exempt, each of the periods concerned has to be treated separately for the purpose of calculating how much he should pay by way of collective charge contributions.

In fact, this provision is defective because it refers to individuals who become, or cease to be, exempt for the purposes of Section 9". Clause 9 does not actually refer to people who are "exempt". It refers to "qualifying individuals"—a qualifying individual being defined in Clause 11(2) as one who is aged 18 or over, not exempt and not a full-time student.

To be technically correct therefore Clause 11(5) should refer not to a person who, becomes and ceases to be exempt", but to one who, is, ceases to be and again becomes a qualifying individual". It should not refer to a person making different payments by virtue of different periods when he is "not exempt" but to the person making different payments by virtue of different periods when he is "a qualifying individual". It is very simple.

Lord Morton of Shuna

If a Salvation Army hostel has someone who starts off by being a tramp, or similar, who becomes for a period a student and then ceases to be a student and returns to being a tramp, is that what the noble Earl envisages?

The Earl of Caithness

The noble Lord is having a great deal of fun, but I can assure him that the amendments make it clear beyond peradventure where it is not clear at present.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Caithness moved Amendment No. 70D: Page 8, line 32, leave out ("not exempt") and insert ("a qualifying individual").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 11, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 12 [Personal community charge]:

[Amendment No. 70E not moved.]

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Relief for students]:

Baroness Robson of Kiddington moved Amendment No. 71: Page 9, line 213, at end insert ("or nursing education").

The noble Baroness said: I rise to move this amendment with perhaps the greatest confidence that I have ever had in moving an amendment to a government Bill. Ministers have argued that student nurses should not be entitled to the 80 per cent. rebate as they are paid much more than students receiving grant. However, since the Bill was published the position has changed somewhat.

On Monday 23rd May, at the Royal College of Nursing conference, the Secretary of State for Social Services announced the Government's response to Project 2000, which is the proposed reform of nursing education. As part of the proposals, nurse education will be closely linked with further and higher education and nurses will have full student status, with non-means-tested bursaries instead of salaries.

When the Secretary of State was questioned by the student nurses about the 80 per cent. poll tax rebate, Mr. Moore said that they would be entitled to the same rights and privileges as all other students. That seems perfectly clear. I know that Project 2000 has not yet been implemented, but I understand that it is hoped full implementation could occur six months after the poll tax is introduced in England; that is, 18 months after it is introduced in Scotland.

Under the circumstances, I should have thought that the Government would be prepared to accept this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Cox

I believe it is absolutely unprecedented for me to share an amendment with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. Perhaps this indicates the widespread nature of the concern about this issue.

In supporting this amendment perhaps I may first express my very warm appreciation that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has, as the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington, said, indicated that when the Project 2000 reforms for nursing education come into effect, student nurses will be entitled to the same rights and privileges as other students. To that extent it would make this amendment seem very much less urgent. This amendment is of very great significance not only because of the six months' time lag—an 18 months' time lag in Scotland to which the noble Baroness referred—but because there is a very important aspect to that delay which I must draw to the attention of the Committee.

It is of the utmost importance that there should be no time whatever during which student nurses have to pay the community charge which would mean probably an intolerable burden for them. For example, in an area such as Tower Hamlets, even after the pay award, when their salaries will be running at something like £87 per week, the community charge may take 12 per cent. of that. A student nurse's lot is not a happy one under the present dispensation. That is reflected in the fact that a third do not complete their education and go on to achieve their qualification. This is partly because the way of life of student nurses is fundamentally different from that of other students.

For example, under the present dispensation they are primarily employees and they carry grave responsibilities. I have seen an 18 year-old on her first ward put in charge of a coronary care patient who has already arrested four times that morning. That is not the kind of stress to which any young person should be subjected. In addition, student nurses work long and anti-social hours. This often means that they have to forgo many of the more general education activities enjoyed by other students. For example, they cannot continue regular participation in sports or music activities, which is often a very great personal cost for 18 to 21 year-olds.

Most important, as I have already indicated, they suffer very severe stress levels. Research has shown that when they are working with patients in acute pain or who are dying or when working with bereaved relatives, the anxiety and stress levels of student nurses are as high as if they themselves are suffering bereavement. Therefore, it is essential not to exacerbrate anxiety and stress by increasing financial worries. Particularly, it is inappropriate to add to the problems of student nurses at a time when the profession itself and the National Health Service are suffering acute problems of recruitment into nursing.

With the fall in the birth rate, the drop in the number of school-leavers and the drop in the proportion of school-leavers choosing to enter nursing, we are entering a period of acute crisis in the National Health Service. To exacerbate that crisis by this financial problem seems eminently undesirable.

In conclusion, I believe that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has to some extent already made this amendment unnecessary after the introduction of Project 2000. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will accept this amendment to cover that interim period. It would give significant reassurance to students entering a profession which is going to make enormous demands on them anyway and in which they are going to need all the support that it is possible to give them.

Lord Trafford

I shall not detain the Committee for long. I hope very much that my noble friend will look favourably upon this amendment. There are a number of arguments which have already been adduced on both sides of the Committee on this subject; for example, the relevance of the introduction of Project 2000 and the fact that nurses will become students in full-time education in the same sense, or we assume in the same sense. We do not know yet the details of the actual introduction. There is also the fact that this measure will be introduced at approximately the same time as the community charge comes into play. There are some differences relative to Scotland.

Perhaps I may put another point which has not been laid down. I would not make the plea in quite the same terms as my noble friend Lady Cox. Nurses suffer from one difference that she did not emphasise compared with other students. They do not have spare capacity to do an outside job in order to earn money. Many other students have the capacity to do so. Many of them also enjoy longer vacations and so forth in which if they are so suited they can earn a few pounds. However, I feel very strongly that if we are moving—and we are—towards full-time student nurse education in terms of education more than in terms of training—my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has already referred to payment by bursary rather than payment as an employee—that makes all the difference. I very much hope that in some way my noble friend is able to look at this matter sympathetically.

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull

I wish to make three points. First, the latest award to the nurses has lifted their morale. This was one of the most important factors in Project 2000. If the Bill goes through as it stands at the moment their morale is going to decline again. The nurses I have spoken to feel that this Bill is diminishing their profession just at the very moment when we are trying to raise professional standards and morale.

The second point is that a number of courses are in fact degree courses. These courses are at Manchester, Edinburgh, King's College, Leeds and Cardiff and at three polytechnics. I imagine, though I am not of the nursing profession, that this is the direction in which nursing training is going. If nursing students are not to be treated as other students—we are trying to work towards that with university standards for university courses—this Bill will diminish the courses.

Thirdly, perhaps I may ask my noble friend whether in view of what the Secretary of State said at the conference to which the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, referred, the Department of the Environment has been in touch with the Department of Health and Social Security in connection with this matter.

Baroness Elliot of Harwood

Perhaps I may say a few words because, as Members of the Committee know, I spent the past two months in the care of the National Health Service. I thought I would never experience that in the course of my life. I cannot speak too highly of the way in which the National Health Service operates for ordinary people like myself.

I spent a little over two weeks in Law hospital, Carluke, which is an enormous national health hospital. I was there because of an accident, and therefore came absolutely unprepared and unknown to anyone in the middle of the night. The care which I was dealt with was simply marvellous. Added to that, I went to another hospital, the Cottage Hospital in Hawick, which is also a national health hospital. Nothing could have been better and the staff were kindness itself and efficient.

Anything that we can do to support the National Health Service and those who work in it is not only an investment but one which is well earned by everyone. We all ought to be extremely grateful to the service and I am one of the most grateful people. I strongly support this amendment. I hope the Minister will realise what an opportunity this is to do something for the training of nurses, who are vital to the health service.

Lord Morton of Shuna

After all the eloquent speeches it is a little difficult to say anything more. I raised this issue last year as regards the Abolition of Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill. I wish to know what is the attitude of the Government, because they have changed it. Under the Scottish Bill, from April of next year trainee student nurses will have to pay the full community charge. Is that the intention? Is there to be a change? If there is not going to be a change, how is a very large health unit such as Edinburgh training unit or Glasgow going to compete with Newcastle and Carlisle where nurses can be trained without paying the collective charge? It is a serious problem. As the Government are no doubt fully aware, there is a shortage of people who are qualified to be trained as nurses.

There are other people in the health service who receive very low pay. Student dental technicians receive £66 a week. Are they to be regarded as students? Student laboratory scientific officers receive £71 a week. Student medical physics technicians receive £67 a week. Where do they fit in? No doubt trainee physiotherapists come into this as well. What is the Government's attitude to those people? Are they all covered by the Secretary of State's announcement that student nurses should have non-means tested bursaries instead of salaries; and if so, will they be treated as students and pay 20 per cent. of the community charge, or under the Scottish Act, will they all pay 100 per cent.? If they are to pay 100 per cent. in Scotland and 20 per cent. in England there will be a row. I should have thought that even the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson of Bowden, might join in that.

Lord Renton

I would regard this amendment, to which I am not a party, as a probing amendment. It has been brilliantly argued and is very sincere. It is a good probing amendment with the object of getting a firm undertaking from the Government. I have been able to find no definition of education in the Bill but we must all understand that the word "education" in this context means any conventional education, whether academic or vocational. It is important that those who are in full-time nursing should be given the relief for students which Clause 13 applies. However, if we are to mention nursing education specifically, we should be thinking of other kinds of education as well: dare I say it?—legal education, clerical education for the church, the education of chartered accountants, education for farming and for surveyors and so on. All kinds of education should be mentioned if nursing is to be specifically referred to. Having said that, I hope that we shall have a firm undertaking from the Government to the effect that nursing education is indeed already covered by the expression "full-time course of education".

Lord Trafford

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he will consider the point that there is a difference between some of the types of education that he has mentioned and nursing education. The basis of the case that was put forward was that nurses are at the moment paid employees and are also trained, but in future they will be in full-time education. That was the first point put to my noble friend the Minister. That is the difference between some of those to whom my noble friend Lord Renton was referring and nurses as they will be—not as they are now. This is not to be confused with the other point, which is that of low pay, although we should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, for pointing out to us exactly how to solve the nursing problem in England.

Lord Renton

In answer to my noble friend I would say that every kind of vocational education is different from every other kind of vocational education. In some cases there is an element of part-time service, with or without pay, with a professional body. The main point is a simple one and one which can be the subject of a simple undertaking from the Government. Is full-time nursing education included in the expression already in the Bill "a full-time course of education"?

Lord Trafford

I am sorry to rise again to interrupt my noble friend but he has missed my point. For half the time a lawyer is training he is a full-time student. He then does pupilage or works in a solicitor's office and so on. That is different from what a nurse does. At present a nurse never does that. A nurse is a full-time employee who also at times is trained. That will change. It is the basis of the argument that I put forward to my noble friend that on the point of that change we ask my noble friend the Minister for that kind of undertaking. I hope that that clarifies the point.

Lord Renton

I have already said that nursing education and other forms of vocational education are different, and I have nothing to add.

Lord Morton of Shuna

Last year we were told that nursing education was not education in that sense and therefore was outwith the terms of education as defined in the Abolition of Domestic Rates (Scotland) Act. Therefore the statement by the Secretary of State for Social Services is very important indeed. That is the basic change that we are facing and of which we have to take account.

Lord Hesketh

The noble Baronesses, Lady Robson of Kiddington and Lady Cox, seek to extend to the nurses special relief which is given to full-time students in the form of an 80 per cent. discount from the personal community charge. It is entirely understandable that the Committee should wish to ensure that nurses, and student nurses in particular, are fairly treated and that the valuable contribution they make to the community is properly recognised.

Full-time students currently differ from student nurses and from other trainees in two important aspects. First, students in further and higher education are engaged in full-time study for which they receive a grant to cover their basic living expenses. Student nurses and other trainees are different. They are salaried employees who receive training as part of their employment. There is a clear difference therefore in the status of the two groups. Student nurses would not therefore come within the definition of "student" at the moment and the Government do not believe that it would be right to widen that definition so that it covered student nurses or others in a similar position.

I emphasise, however, that student nurses do not at the moment come within the definition of "student" but it is true, as the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington, pointed out to the Committee, that a change is envisaged in the status of student nurses in the not too distant future. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services announced on 23rd May that the Government intend to accept many of the recommendations of Project 2000 including the proposal that student nurses should receive non-taxable bursaries instead of salaries and become synonymous with full-time students when those recommendations are implemented. Then, assuming that the qualifying conditions concerning the supervised study and similar matters are met, student nurses will automatically become students for the purposes of the personal community charge.

Lord Morton of Shuna

Can the noble Lord make clear what will be the position from April in Scotland? If trainee nurses can get jobs in Newcastle, Carlisle, Preston and so on very easily indeed, why should they go to Edinburgh and Glasgow where they will have to pay 100 per cent. of the community charge, which they will not have to pay next April in England? I raised this point last year and received no satisfactory answer. Perhaps this year we may do, and perhaps the noble Lord will be able to give me an answer.

Lord Hesketh

I shall shortly be referring to that subject. However, there is a transitional period which is indicated by the fact that Project 2000 is being adopted. The period will be transitional both in England and in Scotland, but of course there will be anomalies.

Lord Morton of Shuna

I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again but, if the anomaly were to be against England, I should be quite happy; however, it seems to those of us who come from north of the Border that the anomaly is always against Scotland.

9 p.m.

Baroness Blatch

Is it not true that nurses in Newcastle and so on will be paying rates at the time referred to by the noble Lord opposite, when the Scottish people will be paying the community charge?

Lord Morton of Shuna

If the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will tell me what nurse in a nurses' home—student nurses normally reside in a nurses' home—pays rates, she-will enlighten me. As a student nurse in Edinburgh, my daughter-in-law did not pay rates.

Lord Swinfen

Those students from England who are actually in Scotland will start paying the community charge next April, while the family is still paying full rates in England. In my view, that is worse than the situation in Scotland.

Lord Hesketh

The simplest answer would of course be if the whole of Project 2000 were implemented on the same day. However, that will never happen. When the recommendations are implemented, and assuming that the qualifying conditions concerning supervised study and similar matters are met, student nurses will automatically become students for the purposes of the community charge. No amendment to the primary legislation will be needed to achieve that result.

Various Members of the Committee have asked specific questions, and I hope that I shall be able to answer at least some of them. My noble friend Lady Faithfull asked whether the Department of the Environment and the Department of Health and Social Security had been in contact with one another to discuss Project 2000. I am glad to say that I can give her an affirmative answer. I was pleased also, as I am sure were many Members of the Committee, to see the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, present in this Chamber, and to hear her give a warm testimony to the health service in the Borders.

My noble friend Lord Renton inquired as to the definition of "student nurses". That aspect will be covered in Clause 27 and it is extremely likely that they will become recognised as students in the definition clause.

My noble friend Lady Cox raised many points, some of which, it is only fair to say, dealt with the problems of nursing as opposed to the problems of the Bill. I feel that I should remind her that at present there is a substantial difference between student nurses and full-time students. The maximum student grant outside London is just under £2,000; in London it is just over £2,000. Of course, many students do not receive the maximum grant. I ask Members of the Committee to compare those figures with the salaries for student nurses following the recent pay award. The basic pay of a student nurse outside London starts at £4,825 and rises to £5,575; in inner London the equivalent figures are £5,996 rising to £6,783.

Lord Morton of Shuna

Can the noble Lord tell the Committee what is the normal holiday period for a student nurse, and the normal holiday period for a university student? Do they bear any comparison? Further, is it known to the Government that sometimes university students work for money during term-time as well as during the holiday period, and that that opportunity is not available to student nurses?

Lord Hesketh

There are differences in many walks of life. I am not entirely sure whether that issue will take the debate much further this evening.

The noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, brought to our attention earlier that, during the transition to the new system, it is quite possible that some student nurses may be eligible for the student discount and some may not. That is entirely logical since those who do not qualify for student discount will still be in receipt of the full student nurse salary and, as I have explained, it is considerably more than the maximum mandatory student grant. In other words, those who do not receive student discount will have the means to pay the community charge. On the other hand, the student discount reflects the financial situation of full-time students who are dependent upon bursaries rather than a salary. I cannot see that there is any basis for objection to this entirely consistent treatment of two groups of people.

Lord Morton of Shuna

I am sorry to interrupt yet again. Does that mean that a student nurse will receive £2,000 per year instead of £4,500 to £5,000? If so, has that fact been made clear to the Royal College of Nursing, because that is the level of the student grant? If that is what the Government mean, it has not been clear—at least not to me—that they will put the trainee nurse on the same level of pay as the full bursary student.

Lord Hesketh

That is not quite what I said. As the noble Lord is well aware, only a few moments ago I mentioned to my noble friend Lady Faithfull that the Department of Environment and the Department of Health and Social Security were in contact with one another. It would not be fair to expect me to go further than the Secretary of State for Social Services did when he made his announcement. As soon as the Project 2000 proposals are fully implemented and all student nurses are trained and reimbursed on the same basis, they will of course all be treated in the same way in relation to the community charge. I hope therefore that, with that assurance, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Borthwick

I apologise to Members of the Committee if my voice is not too clear. Surely nurses are part of a state service as are those serving in the Army and the Navy. Do members of those forces have to pay for their lodging? If not, then why should nurses? Has anything been done in that connection? What I am trying to say is, members of military institutions pay rates but they will not have to pay the new tax, whereas nurses will. They are all working in state services so why should nurses have to pay?

Lord Hesketh

If I have understood the question aright, if someone in the armed forces is undertaking full-time student training, such as a short service commission officer at university, I suspect that he will probably be eligible for the discount.

Lord Dean of Beswick

The Minister, when justifying the course that the Government are adopting, started to quote figures comparing student nurses with full-time students. I have a list of figures (which I do not intend to read out at this time of night) which shows that the balance in favour—if that is the right term—of student nurses is nothing like as substantial as the Minister said. Full-time students have access to other opportunities which student nurses will not have.

I have listened to the noble Baronesses, Lady Cox and Lady Elliot, and other noble Lords from all parts of the Chamber. Their main worry is not Project 2000 but what will happen in between. We can have elitist consultants in all fields of medical care but we need an adequate number of nurses—nursing has become more specialised as medicine advances and surgery improves with all the new techniques—in a profession which is becoming more specialised and dedicated. Members of the Committee to whom I have referred are frightened at the thought of the incalculable damage that may be done. The nurses rightly cheered what Project 2000 promised them. If the Government get this provision wrong they will quickly learn that most of the benefits that they expect will be—I do not want to use the word attacked—strongly affected by what the Government propose.

My worry is that the seedcorn of the nursing profession will disappear and go elsewhere. The Minister talked as though £5,000 in London was a great deal of money. It is peanuts. He cannot tell me of any girl who can exist independently in London on £5,000 a year. That is nonsense. There is no way that they could exist on that sum.

The Government would be unwise to proceed on the present basis unless the Minister gives some indication to the noble Baroness, Lady Robson, that they will consider this matter seriously. We are talking about the future care of the nation—the health service, although parts of it may be privatised. With this proposal, they are attacking its foundations. Unless young girls are attracted into nursing, we can forget all about medical advances and people such as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, being cared for in an emergency, because people will not be there to do it. The Government would be well advised to take back this amendment and consider it seriously.

Lord Hesketh

To an extent I feel that the concession that the Government have made has been disregarded. It is a substantial concession. It is one that will be of great benefit. It is slightly saddening that when such a concession is made it is passed by as if it did not exist. It is important to understand how far the Government have gone to try to provide an equitable and satisfactory settlement. I hope that the Committee will contemplate what has been done, away from the rhetoric, and realise that the concession is made in good faith and with a good intention.

Baroness Robson of Kiddington

When I moved the amendment, I said that I moved it with great confidence. However, I have never been so disappointed by a reply. I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, is saying when he talks about concessions. If the Secretary of State means what he says and Project 2000 comes to pass, unless we introduce the amendment we shall have the anomaly that has been explained—for 18 months student nurses in Scotland will have a different standard of living from student nurses in England, and in England we may have six months or a year of student nurses not being proper student nurses.

It is ludicrous that the Government cannot make that concession, and I propose to test the feeling of the Committee.

9.13 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 71) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided; Contents, 34; Not-Contents, 57.

Airedale, L. Lawrence, L.
Attlee, E. Longford, E.
Boston of Faversham, L. McNair, L. [Teller.]
Cox, B. [Teller.] Masham of Ilton, B.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Mason of Bamsley, L.
David, B. Meston, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Monson, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Morton of Shuna, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Mountevans, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Nicol, B.
Faithfull, B. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Ritchie of Dundee, L.
Hylton, L. Robson of Kiddington, B.
Jay, L. Stedman, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Tordoff, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Underhill, L.
Arran, E. Carnock, L.
Ashbourne, L. Cathcart, E.
Balfour, E. Craigmyle, L.
Beaverbrook, L. Davidson, V. [Teller.]
Beloff, L. Denham, L. [Teller.]
Belstead, L. Dormer, L.
Blatch, B. Dundee, E.
Borthwick, L. Ferrers, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Fortescue, E.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Gisborough, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Glenarthur, L.
Bruce-Gardyne, L. Henley, L.
Caithness, E. Hesketh, L.
Cameron of Lochbroom, L. Hives, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Hooper, B.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Long, V. Sanderson of Bowden, L.
Lyell, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Southborough, L.
Margadale, L. Swinfen, L.
Monk Bretton, L. Swinton, E.
Montgomery of Alamein, V. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Torphichen, L.
Nelson, E. Trefgarne, L.
Norfolk, D. Trumpington, B.
Pender, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Reay, L. Wynford, L.
Romney, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

9.20 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick moved Amendment No. 72: Page 9, line 23, at end insert ("or is registered as participating in a Manpower Services Commission or similar training or employment scheme as may be approved from time to time by the Secretary of State").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to include people who are participating in MSC schemes within the provisions made for students. This amendment aims to create a fairer situation for all young people. At present only students registered at college and certified by their institutions will pay a reduced poll tax. Young people participating in MSC schemes will receive no relief unless they qualify for a rebate or income support. The Government have always claimed that MSC schemes for young people—for example youth training—are as much about education and training as about work experience. They have pursued this argument particularly vigorously when being accused of using these schemes to remove young people from the unemployment register, thereby massaging the figures.

With the disparities existing in the Bill as drafted it will be predominantly young people from the better-off backgrounds who will pay only 20 per cent., while children from the more deprived backgrounds who fill the vast majority of places on MSC schemes will be expected to pay the full charge or apply for rebates. The rebate scheme that young people on the MSC schemes will have to use to gain any relief from the full charge is biased against young people. This is because the scheme is modelled on the provisions of the Social Security Act 1986.

Following the Secretary of State's announcement of changes to the rebate regime, calculations have shown that a single person aged 25 or over will be facing an average poll tax of £224 and will lose all help from benefits as soon as take-home pay exceeds £50.10p a week. If they are aged between 18 and 24 this cut-off point will be significantly lower at just £50.75p a week. The Government have given differential treatment to young people because they fear the lobby of parents or students. This will mean that young people generally from the poorer backgrounds, certainly with less future earning potential and who will be liable for the full charge, will be discriminated against. For a fairer scheme the Government should standardise the treatment of young people. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

When the Scottish legislation was introduced into Parliament, it was envisaged that students would be liable to pay the full personal community charge like other adults. However, during Parliament's consideration of the legislation, doubts were expressed about this proposal and the Government decided therefore to make students liable to pay only 20 per cent. of the charge. The Government's intention in the long term is that students should cease to be eligible for social security benefits and should return to the position whereby they are supported by the student award system and parental contributions where appropriate. The 20 per cent. level of community charge for the students is therefore intended for those full-time students who will not be eligible for rebates.

Those on Manpower Services Commission courses and other employment training courses are different from students in two respects. First, the Manpower Services schemes are not intended to be full-time courses in education, but rather to encourage employers to take on and train people and to give those people an opportunity to gain work experience combined with training. Moreover, if we accept that one group of trainees should be treated as students, then it would be extremely difficult to justify not extending that special treatment to other trainees, for example, trade apprentices, police cadets, trainee catering staff and even trainee accountants.

The second difference is that those on training courses will be eligible for community charge rebates. They will therefore receive help via that route if they are on low incomes. As regards trainees on MSC schemes, the new adult training allowance which is paid to trainees over and above their existing benefit will be completely disregarded for the purposes of calculating their rebate entitlement. Therefore those who were receiving a maximum rebate before they joined an adult training scheme will continue to receive the maximum 80 per cent. rebate during the course. This will put them in exactly the same position financially as full-time students.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

I wish to make a special plea for a special group of students. They are those who are attending the Queen Alexandra College, which is a training college for the blind. It is part of the provision of the Birmingham Royal Institute for the Blind.

There are students at that college who come from all over the country. They follow pre-vocational courses and vocational courses. All the students at the college are registered blind. As regards DHSS payment, they receive the severe disablement allowance, which comes to about £26 a week. They are all maintained by the local authorities who have sent them there.

They are accommodated for the two years in the college in hostel accommodation. As a result of the new courses that are now being laid down through the education legislation, during the final six months of the course they have to leave hostels and live in private lodgings. The idea behind that is that, as they leave the college and hope to take up employment, they will most likely have to leave their own homes and live in lodgings. The idea is that the education continues in the college but that the training that they received in the hostel accommodation gets carried over into the private lodgings.

The concern of the college is whether their students will have to pay the poll tax because they are on local authority grants. But the students themselves of course only receive the severe disablement allowance. If they have to pay only 20 per cent. when they are attending the college and are in hostels, then when they go into private lodgings will they have to pay a higher rate? I know that they are a special group of students but their number fluctuates between 90 and 120 each year.

Lord Dean of Beswick

In his reply the Minister gave some details regarding the various categories of people who would be included under the terms of this amendment. But he did not quote the terms in sums of money, and that is what the people whom this amendment is about are concerned with. They are not concerned with the percentages of relief that they will get. They are concerned with what they will actually have to pay.

In order to reach a more satisfactory conclusion on this particular amendment, may I ask the Minister whether he will indicate in the figures that he has given or the classes of people undergoing various training courses that he has given, what the minimum as paid by one group of individuals will be, and what the maximum will be? The Minister referred to people on adult training schemes. In other words, can he translate what he said in terms of percentages into terms of money? It may help us to understand better what we are talking about: otherwise it is meaningless to the people involved.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

I hope very much that the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, will understand that I do not have the details to hand at the moment. However, I shall check immediately on her specific point and write to her, if I may.

With regard to the examples I mentioned earlier and to which the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, referred, I mentioned them more as a comparison, because of the principle of who is and who is not going to be in receipt of the discount. I was giving the example that one could keep on extending it to a limitless degree. That is why I gave the example—not on the basis of a comparison of earnings: that is not what it is about.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I am rather sorry that the Minister has not been able to give more information in his reply. As I understand it, the amendment is mainly concerned with people on Manpower Services Commission schemes. They are not very well rewarded. There has been a lot of friction even on the MSC itself about this and indeed only recently the trade union representatives were talking about withdrawing because of what is considered to be a poor rate of remuneration for people attending those particular schemes. It seems odd that if people are being encouraged—and quite rightly, because I believe in training schemes as an alternative to unemployment—and are now being given no option because if they want to draw any money at all they have to participate—

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Dean, a question? He started off by talking about the YTS. That has nothing to do with it, because the community charge does not apply until the age of 18 and the YTS ends at 18. The other scheme is the job training scheme and, as I understood it, my noble friend said that the amount a person gets on a job training scheme above benefit level would be disregarded; so I do not really understand what the noble Lord is actually talking about.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I am sorry the noble Baroness has put it in that way, because there are people involved in all these schemes who could be affected in some way by the proposals in the Bill. The point I am making is that where the Government encourage people to participate in these schemes, whatever they may be, to start to load on to that substantial payments of the poll tax or the community charge—whatever it is termed—could well be a disincentive. That is the only point I am making. The present Secretary of State, who is now responsible for industry but who used to be responsible for employment, has made great play of, indeed a career out of, promoting these kinds of schemes on the basis of attracting people to a wide variety of schemes. I am asking the Government to look at this on the basis of where people are in training and where there is no other option. I have to say that if the training schemes were withdrawn in certain areas the unemployment figures would rocket once again because there are no alternative jobs other than the training. That is why I make this serious point. I ask the Minister if the Government would look at the situation, because once again I think we may well be hitting people who ought to be given every assistance to continue with what they have been encouraged to do.

Baroness Blatch

I am sorry to press the same point as my noble friend Lady Carnegy, but it seems to me that a point is being missed here. Already my noble friend the Minister in his reply has said that for the purposes of determining rebate the allocation that will come via the job training scheme will be disregarded. Therefore I cannot imagine a young person who would not fall into the rebating scheme. If a young person—to take the example that was used earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick—is left with £50 per week net after tax, having disregarded the allocation from the scheme, I suggest that, as a person in training, he is rather well paid. The reply given by the Minister leaves me with the impression that a young person who perhaps works as an assistant in a shop and earns very low pay is considerably disadvantaged by comparison with a young person on an MSC scheme who has that allocation disregarded for the purposes of rebate.

I think that the rebate scheme deals adequately with the point raised by the amendment. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed and that the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, will wait to read what the Minister has said in order to understand that such young people are not disadvantaged. By treating them even more generously, the noble Lord would disadvantage many more young people on low pay who are not in training.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I do not totally disagree with what the noble Baroness has said. She doubts the premise on which I had questioned the Minister. I shall certainly look at what he has said and try to translate it into terms of pounds. I do not want to go down that particular road now.

There is a tendency today for young people to opt for independence outside the family. A tremendous number of youngsters these days want to be independent as quickly as they can. I put a point to the noble Baroness, although it is not really germane to the amendment. The noble Baroness thinks that a young girl or young man in London could exist independently on £50 a week, but that is absolute bunk.

I know that because of the disbandment of the wages councils wages at the bottom end of the scale are held down in order to attract people into certain types of job. The point that I am trying to make is that unless we treat that particular aspect carefully we shall hit people who will have very great difficulty in meeting their commitment. I honestly wish—although I do not criticise the Minister for it—that his brief could have translated into financial terms what he has said. Then we should know what he is talking about. I honestly believe and a lot of other people believe that if we do not get this right the very people who have been encouraged by government policy to enter a variety of training schemes or work training schemes—whatever they are called—will be caught up by this provision and very seriously disadvantaged.

On the basis that I know that the Minister will look at what I have said I have no desire to take the matter further and be abrasive about it. I withdraw the amendment on the basis that we may have to come back to the subject. I think that it is a far more serious issue than the Government accept at present. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Dean of Beswick moved Amendment No. 72A: Page 9, line 24, leave out subsection (2).

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this group of amendments is to remove the liability of students to pay one-fifth of the community charge in the area in which they are studying while undertaking their full-time course. The fourth amendment would, as a consequential amendment, remove the power of the Secretary of State to vary that proportion.

The amendments are intended to exempt students from the very considerable burden which is likely to arise as a result of paying a community charge while they are attending a full-time course. The amendments would not exempt students as individuals since they would remain liable during the period when they were not attending their course.

There is, however, very considerable concern that many students will simply be unable to pay the 20 per cent. for which they are to be liable for the duration of a student grant which is already widely considered to be inadequate. The Government have sought to represent the 20 per cent. formula as a concession to students without answering the question of how students are to be expected to pay contributions at all after several years in which the real value of the student grant has been reduced.

In Scotland, where students studying at Scottish universities and colleges will be liable for 20 per cent. of the charge from 1st April 1989, as we know, the Government have decided not to uprate grants to meet the additional burden. Ministers should be pressed in this debate—and this is why I am doing it now—to state whether a similar decision has been taken in respect of England and Wales as is covered by that Bill. The university vice-chancellors asked the Government last month to reconsider their decision in respect of Scottish students. In a letter to Mr. Robert Jackson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Education and Science, the chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, Professor Sir Mark Richmond, stated: In the meantime, however, students studying at Scottish universities from next October will find their resources stretched still further at a time when the level of the student grant is recognised by the Government itself to be inadequate to cover their essential expenditure. In the circumstances I hope that the Minister will feel able to reconsider the question of compensating these students for this additional expense without prejudice to the outcome of the student support review". It would be useful if Ministers could give a response in this debate to the appeal of the CVCP for students to be compensated for the 20 per cent. charge in Scotland. I think that my noble friend, who unfortunately has had to leave the Chamber, made that point quite forcefully earlier in our proceedings this evening.

A similar assurance in respect of students in England and Wales would meet the concern expressed in this amendment. However without such compensation the amendment is necessary to prevent students suffering greater hardship at a time when greater education and training are seen increasingly as a prerequisite of a more efficient economy. It would seem perverse for another area of government policy to have such contradictory consequences on these programmes of the Government.

Once again in this amendment we have had to compare what will happen in Scotland with what will happen in England and Wales. As an afterthought I wonder what would have happened in another place and in your Lordships' House if the proposals for Scotland and the different provisions for England and Wales had been brought forward in one Bill. I suspect that the Bill would have been kicked out under the claim of hybridity. However, because two separate Bills are involved, that argument does not seem to apply. I find it distinctly odd that this Chamber can debate something which will take place in England in terms of something which has already been programmed for Scotland and which, although it is supposed to be identical, in some respects is a quite different animal. However, I put forward the amendments as I have spoken to them and with Amendment No. 72A I have also included Amendments Nos. 72B, 72D and 72H. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

I propose to reply to Amendments Nos. 72A, 72B, 72D, 72E, 72F and 72L. I have listened with care to the arguments employed by the noble Lord in support of these amendments and I did so because I am afraid that their meaning was not altogether obvious from the text on the Marshalled List. In some cases I suspect that the amendments would not achieve their intended purpose.

I have already reminded the Committee, in the context of the previous group of amendments, of the history of the 80 per cent. student relief. That figure was chosen because 20 per cent. would be the minimum payment by those on low incomes receiving maximum rebates. Full-time students will not be eligible for rebates. However, it seemed appropriate that they should pay the same amount.

The Government have no intention of altering the 20 per cent. upwards or downwards, but for the sake of prudence we felt that it would be sensible to have an order-making power, especially as the 80 per cent. maximum rebate will also appear in secondary legislation under Schedule 13 to this Bill. If that were not the case and a change were made to the maximum rebate level, we should need primary legislation to amend the student discount level. Of course, were the student discount figure ever to be altered for any reason, it would have to follow consultation with interested parties. I hope that this deals satisfactorily with Amendments Nos. 72E and 72F.

Clause 13(8) requires student status to appear on the community charges register. This is entirely logical given that the clause reduces students' liability by 80 per cent. and that the register is there to indicate who should pay community charges. If students were not separately identified, it would not be clear that they were entitled to the discount. There is nothing sinister here; and I must emphasise that students will not be separately identifiable in the published extract from the register, produced under the powers of Schedule 2, paragraph 16. The published extract will contain only a list of addresses and names. I see no reason, therefore, to delete Clause 13(8) as Amendment No. 72L seeks to do.

This leaves Amendments Nos. 72A and 72B. I confess that, even with the best advice available to me, I have found it difficult to make sense of these amendments. Again, it may be that if I explain what Clause 13 will achieve, that will deal with the noble Lord's concerns.

The 80 per cent. student relief applies throughout the period that an individual is a student. Clause 13(2) deals with a case where he is a student for the whole of a financial year, from 1st April to the following 31st March. I must emphasise that such a person will be liable to pay only 20 per cent. during vacations as well as during term time. Amendment No. 72A would delete Clause 13(2). At best that would cause confusion; at worst it would actually deny the 80 per cent. relief to someone who was a student for a full year. That, I am sure, is not something that the Committee would welcome.

Clause 13(3), (4) (5) and (6) then deals with cases where a person is a student for less than a full financial year. That might, for example, be someone in his final year at university, who was a student only from 1st April to the end of June, when his course ended. Such a person would pay 20 per cent. of the community charge during the period he was a student, and 100 per cent. during the period after he ceased to be a student (unless, of course, he became exempt, or was eligible for a rebate). That is what subsections 13(3) to 13(6) achieve. Again, I am not entirely clear why the noble Lord wishes to delete Clause 13(3), especially as his amendments do not tell us what would happen during the period when the individual was not a student. Indeed along with Amendments Nos. 72D and 72E, which are being taken separately, they would delete all reference to what happened when he was a student. In short, they would make Clause 13 unworkable.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

Perhaps I may intervene. The point was well publicised in the press that the higher academics in Scotland have shown deep concern about the way students there are being affected, despite what the Minister has said, and assurances that he has given.

In his reply to these amendments, can the Minister dispel the disquiet in Scotland? As sure as night follows day, if there is disquiet among the higher academics in Scotland at what is happening to the students it will follow here as this Bill catches up with their Act. Can the Minister dwell for a few moments on that aspect? Is there some genuine reason for the disquiet by the university chiefs in Scotland? There must be.

Lord Hesketh

I do not think that I can usefully do more than explain how the Bill will work, as I have just tried to do. I do not believe that there is anything that I can add to that. If there is disquiet, there is disquiet. However, that does not affect the technicalities that I have tried to outline this evening.

Lord Dean of Beswick

The Minister is trying to convey that there is no need for disquiet. I am trying to make the point in the amendments that there is deep concern about how the students will be affected. I quoted the body concerned. The higher academics in Scotland support the students' case that they have been harshly dealt with. If that is not so, I am asking the Minister to prove that that case is wrong. What is happening in Scotland now will occur in England if the Bill is passed as it stands. That is the point I am making.

If the issue is too detailed to be answered now, let us have the answer at another stage of the Bill. But I believe that it requires answering. Although not from my knowledge, as I do not come from Scotland, it is obviously an issue which the university chiefs in Scotland feel is relevant now.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I believe this point is quite important and we have not entirely sorted it out. It seems to me that the change on the Scottish Bill was that the student, instead of being rebated according to income, would pay 20 per cent. What we did not know was whether that would be taken as part of the cost of living in consideration of the sum which the student grant would be in any given year.

What we need to know is how the Government will treat this in fixing the student grant. At present students pay an element of rates through their rent for their lodgings. That will stop, so the rent for the lodgings will drop according to the element that makes up the rates. However, they will have to pay the community charge. The noble Lord, Lord Dean, talked about a possible community charge of £220. If that is so, we divide that by 52, which gives us the weekly amount of £4, and 20 per cent. of that comes to 80p. I believe I am right in saying that the community charge of £220 would result in an 80p charge per week. My question is whether that 80p is more than a student would have paid for the rates element on his rent or rates, if they pay rates because they are in lodgings. That will be either an addition or a reduction in the cost of living for which allowance has to be made in the grant.

I should like to ask my noble friend to find out for the Committee how this matter is being treated—whether it is considered that students will pay less and therefore their grants will not be increased or whether it is considered that students will be paying more and if so whether it will be taken into account in the fixing of a student grant. I asked about this during my Second Reading speech on the Bill. It is an important point for students and not one to be treated lightly.

At the same time I am none too sure that students will be worse off. I have a feeling that the academics in Scotland may be worried about something which is not a problem. If it is possible I should like my noble friend to find out and to let us know before the next stage exactly what is happening.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

If my noble friend is answering that question, perhaps he will also answer something to which he referred that seems a little uncertain, and that is the construction of Clause 13(2): If he is undertaking the course on each day of that period". Does that apply to the vacation? It is well known that although students do a good deal of academic work in the vacation they also treat much of it as holiday. More and more students are now following the American example and working for pay in the vacation. Do the words of subsection (2) cover the vacation or only the term?

Lord Hesketh

I shall first answer my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. A vacation is the same as the term. I cannot say how the student grant will be affected by the 20 per cent. liability because that matter is currently under consideration by the Jackson review. However, my noble friend Lady Carnegy asked what the effect of the change would be on students. The DES has done a survey which shows that on average students currently pay about £70 a year in rates—more than the 20 per cent. community charge liability will be. Thus it seems that they will actually be better off under the community charge.

Lord Tordoff

Arising from the point that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, made, it seems that we need a definition of the phrase "undertaking the course". I am sure that my professor would not have regarded me as undertaking my course at certain times in my academic career. However, I should not want to follow that frivolous point. But the wording seems to me to be slightly sloppy. Does it simply mean from the registration day to the day on which the graduation ceremony takes place? As the noble Lord has suggested, there are periods which might be slightly ill-defined under the wording.

Lord Hesketh

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, there is a power to define what is meant by a "course" in Clause 27.

Lord Tordoff

I understand that, but is there a power to define what is meant by "undertaking a course"?

Lord Hesketh

I am reliably informed that that point will be covered.

Lord Underhill

Grouped with the amendment to which my noble friend Lord Dean spoke is Amendment No. 72L which leaves out subsection (8) of Clause 13. Little has been said about that. Subsection (8) defines "student". The purpose of putting the amendment forward is to clear up doubts which exist about the definition of "student". During the Committee stage in another place on 2nd February the Minister for Local Government, the right honourable Michael Howard, stated at col. 301 that the Government will shortly be producing a definition of "student" which would be the subject of consultation in the context of the Scottish community charge regulations.

The consultation paper has now appeared and a number of the comments which have been made appear to be relevant to the position regarding England and Wales. CoSLA, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, has raised a number of points with the department regarding the definition of "student". I shall not now go into them but numerous points were made. Have they been considered and what attitude was taken in reply to CoSLA?

Lord Hesketh

The Scottish regulations have been laid and debated.

Lord Underhill

That is not what I asked. I said that the local authority association representing all the Scottish authorities—CoSLA—has raised a number of points in respect of the consultation paper. I asked what kind of reply had been given to CoSLA. My information, which is only a few days old, is that CoSLA has submitted various points regarding the consultation paper on the definition of "student". Therefore, if an order has been placed, can the Minister say when it was placed? If it has been placed and my information is wrong I shall apologise.

Lord Hesketh

It is the responsibility of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and they have been debated.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I am sorry but I must return to the Minister. I referred to the fact that the distinguished professor in Scotland indicated support for the students in Scotland. Professor Sir Mark Richmond said: In the meantime, however, students studying at Scottish universities from next October will find their resources stretched still further at a time when the level of the student grant is recognised by the Government itself to be inadequate to cover all their essential expenditure.". There is no dubiety in what Professor Sir Mark Richmond said. Having regard to his position I expect him to understand the extent of what he was saying.

I believe that cuts across what the Government portray to be their general policy of expansion of higher education and it being adequately funded. If one is talking about people who aspire to become our purveyors of excellence in the future, one is talking about the students of today. It would appear, according to this particular distinguished gentleman, if we take what he says about Scotland as being de facto, as night follows day, that the effects will follow in England. Is Sir Mark Richmond right about the effects of what is happening in Scotland? If so, perhaps I may ask the Minister to look at this situation with a view to avoiding it happening in England in this particular Bill before it becomes an Act.

10 p.m.

Lord Hesketh

I can only say that I could never know as much about Scotland as my noble friend Lady Carnegy. I feel that she pointed out the contradiction here as I hope I did in a smaller way when I gave the example of the survey by the Department of Education and Science. That showed that students would be better off under the community charge rather than worse off as they are under the present rates system.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I have to come back reluctantly once again. Who is right? Are the Government misinterpreting the matter? If they are then I do not believe there is anything sinister about that. Governments of all colours have made mistakes before. However, we have a very distinguished educationist in Scotland who I believe would be totally aware of what these measures mean and what is going to happen. What he says is in contradiction with what the Minister says. Are the Government saying that Professor Sir Mark Richmond is wrong in what he said in the statement which I believe was in the press at the weekend? Someone has it wrong. I suggest that we should go away in order to see who does have it wrong because I cannot see a distinguished academic, with all his knowledge of mathematics and so on, being so wrong in this particular situation.

Lord Beloff

For the record, I should point out that although it is true that Sir Mark Richmond held a post in a Scottish university some years ago, he has long left Scotland and is not in a position to speak from first-hand knowledge of a Scottish seat.

Baroness Blatch

Perhaps I may suggest that it is riot a question of having it wrong. The only indeterminate factor is that raised by my noble friend Lady Carnegy; namely, will the Government take into account the 20 per cent. which students will have to pay in allocating grants? Apart from that, it will mean something different for each individual student. It will depend how much they are at present paying in rates and whether or not it exceeds the 20 per cent. The example given by the Minister, based on a survey already carried out, shows that the majority of students will be better off. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, rather than pressing this amendment, will wait to see, as must the rest of us, whether or not the 20 per cent. will be taken into account by the Government in allocating grants and the effect that it will have in Scotland.

Lord Dean of Beswick

We shall obviously have to wait and see. The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, scores a point. I do not know the particular gentleman concerned and possibly the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, does. I understand that although the gentleman may have left Scotland some time ago, he is the chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and that he is at present the vice-chancellor of the Manchester University. I believe that that indicates that he has a strong claim, although perhaps not domiciled in Scotland, to speak from a very powerful position. That reinforces my argument. We are not only talking about Scotsmen North of the Border. We are talking about somebody who is chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and who has a much wider national perception of what is about to take place. I would be prepared to look at what the Minister said and I hope that the Government will look at the matter again and examine what has been said. I am convinced that what some of us have said tonight will be mirrored by people outside. As I have said, there is a difference between what the Government say and what Professor Sir Mark Richmond says.

The position will need to be re-examined because someone is wrong. I do not know who it is, but I suspect it is the Government. I hope it is. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 72B not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 72C: Page 9 line 32, after ("A") insert ("B").

The noble Lord said: I hope that this amendment is not controversial. Clause 14(3) gives a formula for determining the obligation of a student to pay the community charge. Subsections (4) and (6) give to A and C in subsection (3) the meanings given in Clause 12. Although B does not appear in the formula itself, it is implicit in the formula because B is the number of days, under Clause 12, which fall within the financial year in which the student is shown in the register as subject to the charge. Therefore, if the formula is to be complete, it would appear not that the formula itself should be changed but that the definition already given to B in Clause 12 should be extended to Clause 13.

Perhaps we have misinterpreted the drafters' intention, but that appears to be the significance of subsection (4). I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

I was under the impression that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, would be speaking to Amendments Nos. 72G, 72H and 72J at the same time.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Amendment No. 72C stands by itself.

Lord Hesketh

Amendment No. 72C is somewhat mysterious. It provides a definition of B which would be fine except that B does not appear in the equation in Clause 13(3) and is not proposed to be added by any of these amendments. The amendment is perhaps based on a misunderstanding. I can assure the noble Lord that it will add nothing to the student discount provision.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

That is exactly what I said. I said that it did not appear in the formula but that it appears in the sense of referring to each day of the period. If the day of the period is determined by B, as it is in Clause 12(4), the extension of the definition to Clause 13 should apply. However, I leave that thought with the Minister.

Lord Tordoff

I intervene merely to say that B occurs in the clause, standing separately from the clause itself. It is in Clause 13(1)(b). If the Government assume that its meaning is the same as in Clause 12, that is fine; but they should say so.

Lord Hesketh

B is not implicit in Clause 13(3). The number of days in the period is covered by P and Q.

Lord Tordoff

With respect to the noble Lord, it occurs in Clause 13(1)(b): on any day in the period represented by B he is undertaking a full-time course of education. If one is redefining in Clause 13 what A and C mean, then perhaps we should redefine what B means.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I am content to leave the Government to take this matter away and consider the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, and myself. It appears that there is, in algebraic terms, B in Clause 13(1)(b) which is only defined in respect of Clause 12 and not Clause 13.

However, this is becoming an arcane point best left for mature consideration in a quieter, more restrictive place. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 72D not moved.]

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Earl Cathcart)

If Amendment No. 72E is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 72F to 72J inclusive.

[Amendment No. 72E not moved.]

[Amendment No. 72F not moved.]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 72G: Page 9, line 41, after ("such") insert ("lower").

The noble Lord said: In case there is any confusion about the grouping, Amendments Nos. 72G, H, J and K are all taken separately in my list. Amendment No. 72N is taken with Amendment No. 72P.

Amendment No. 72G, which I am now moving, would restrict the power of the Secretary of State so that he could not impose a higher figure than 20 per cent. on the amount which would have to be paid by students. Having listened to earlier debates and to the explanations of the Government of the regime for students, I do not believe in practice that it is the intention of the Government to increase the percentage which may have to be paid by students, but the Bill does not actually say so. I hope that the Government will be able to give an assurance that no higher figure than 20 per cent. will be imposed though a lower figure could be. That would not cause us any difficulty. If the Government can give that assurance we shall withdraw the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

Amendment No. 72G would restrict any change in the amount payable by students to a lower amount, as the noble Lord points out. When we discussed the previous group of amendments, I said that the Government have no plans at present to change the level of discount either up or down. It seems only sensible not to restrict the changes at the outset. The best approach must surely be to take into account the relevant facts if and when a change becomes necessary.

Lord Tordoff

This is an important matter of principle in relation to the Bill. If this Government or any other were to consider increasing the level above that proportion, I believe it would be a serious matter. We are not arguing simply about numbers; we are arguing about a principle. I hope that the Government will reconsider.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I do not believe this is the right way to look at the issue. It seems to me that the critical factor in fixing what a student pays is that which will make the student appreciate whether local government spending increases or decreases; how the value for money relates to that and how it compares with what other students are paying in other local authority areas. The total sum that a student is paying is critical. The proportion depends on the size of the grant. I would only wish to put it up if the proportion he is paying for education becomes less in order to maintain the figure at about the same level. That could happen. Should the proportion that the student pays through the grant go up very much, which could happen, then the proportion could become less, presumably. The critical factor is that we worked out on a £200 community charge that it would be about 80p per week. If that increases or decreases by a few pence that would be noticeable. It would have to do that or the point is missed by the student.

To say that the sum must not go beyond 20 per cent. in order to sound as though we are being good to students is completely unrealistic. It may easily make the community charge mean nothing to a student. I believe that flexibility is important because we do not know the proportion of a student's education which will be paid from the grant.

Lord Hesketh

I am very grateful for the intervention by my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour. I reiterate that the Government have no plans either to increase or decrease the figure. The simple fact of the matter is that for the sake of prudence we felt it would be sensible to have an order-making power especially as the maximum 80 per cent. rebate will also appear in secondary legislation under Schedule 13 to the Bill.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I do not think that the Government fully appreciate the degree of concern which students could well feel that a future less well-intentioned government—I can conceive of such a thing—might be tempted to increase the figure in order to punish students for some imagined misdemeanours. The campaign being carried on by Conservative Back-Benchers in another place against student unions is evidence of the considerable antipathy of many members of the noble Lord's party towards students. I can well imagine that a future Secretary of State might use his power in a quite undesirable way. However, at this time of night I do not think we shall make any significant progress. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 72H and 72J not moved.]

10.15 p.m.

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 72K: Page 9, line 44, at end insert— ("( ) For the purpose of this section, a person undertaking a full-time course of education shall be regarded as being solely or mainly resident in the area of the authority in which he is resident during the term time for the purpose of undertaking the course until he ceases to undertake the course.".

The noble Earl said: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Caithness for writing to me about this amendment; but I should still like to take this opportunity to ask a few questions. The last two lines of my amendment state: the area of the authority in which he is resident during the term time for the purpose of undertaking the course until he ceases to undertake the course". Clause 2(5) refers to a student being, resident in England and Wales". A great many Scots attend English universities; and, equally, a great many English students attend Scottish universities. I wonder whether the words "England and Wales" are desirable. Might they not separate us when in the case of students I think we want to be as closely aligned as possible?

Subsection (5) refers to: residence, on each day of the course, in the place where he is resident for the purpose of undertaking the course". Perhaps I may draw the Committee's attention to the wording of Clause 13(3), which states: If he is not undertaking the course on each day of that period, the amount he is liable to pay under that section shall be determined in accordance with the formula". We then see a rather complicated formula which I shall not attempt to read out. I get the impression from this that a student in England might be subject to paying the full community charge when he is on vacation and only receive the 20 per cent. reduction when he actually attends the university. I rather hope that that is not the case because they are usually desperately working to make enough money to finance themselves through the next two terms.

There is one last point that I should like to make which I think is relatively important. I return to the amendment tabled in my name. I want to make it quite clear that it is the term time with which we are dealing. I ask Members of the Committee to consider the position of someone living in Kent attending, say, Oxford University. Let us assume that he is on a university course for three or four years. Is he definitely registered at Oxford, and not at Kent? I am sorry to ask such awkward questions, but I hope that I make myself clear. I beg to move.

Lord Hesketh

My noble friend Lord Balfour was good enough to write to my noble friend the Minister giving advance warning of the amendment. I hope that he has now received a reply. The important point is that there is nothing between us in principle. As my noble friend pointed out, we need a special residence rule for full-time students which is equivalent to that included in Section 8(4) of the Scottish Act. I think that my noble friend may have failed to take into account the fact that the Bill already contains such a special residence rule in Clause 2(5). It provides that: A person undertaking a full-time course of education … shall be treated as having his sole or main residence … in the place where he is resident for the purpose of undertaking the course". Therefore an Englishman attending St. Andrew's University would be deemed to be resident at that university in Scotland; on the other hand, if a Scotsman was studying at Oxford University, he would be deemed to be resident in the City of Oxford.

I hope that my noble friend will be able to accept that we have adequately reflected the point he seeks to make. Perhaps I should also remind him that early this evening I pointed out that term and vacation are one and the same. There is no liability during vacation. In other words, if you are in full-time education you are in full-time education and therefore in a position to benefit from the 20 per cent. reduction.

In those circumstances, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

The Earl of Balfour

I am most grateful to my noble friend for his reply which has cleared up many doubts. Accordingly, with that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 72L not moved.]

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Standard community charge]:

[Amendment No. 72M not moved.]

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Collective community charge]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 72N: Page 11, line 8, leave out ("5") and insert ("10").

The noble Lord said: While moving Amendment No. 72N, I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 72P. We have now moved on to Clause 15 which is concerned with the collective community charge and its administration. I should like to point out what happens to one type of establishment which is subject to the community charge; namely, the voluntary organisations. I shall say a word or two especially about the Salvation Army. Such organisations are being used in effect as tax collectors. They are being asked to take on the responsibility for the collection of the community charge on behalf of the people living in their homes.

Further—let us be clear about this—they are being paid to do so; in other words, they are being given a discount on the community charge. However, the discount being offered is only five per cent. of the charge. I ask the noble Earl, in all humility, whether the Government fully appreciate the amount of work which will be required of those organisations in calculating the community charge; in determining who is subject at different levels; and, above all, in actually collecting it and making different charges to the many residents in their homes.

An organisation such as the Salvation Army provides about 200,000 free nights' sleep for homeless people every year. No one would suggest that the Salvation Army will collect a share of the collective community charge from its residents. It will come from the money given to support the Salvation Army. The cost of collection, in addition to the cost of the community charge, will be substantial. How will the SalvationArmy keep records on all of its residents—who they are, what their status with reference to the community charge will be, where they have come from, what they have been paying before and what they are likely to pay in the future. The thought appals me, and I know nothing about the administration of such an organisation.

I cannot imagine how it will be possible for an organisation such as the Salvation Army—I have given only one example and there must be many others—even to start to work out the basis upon which it can do so. The administrative and financial burdens upon it are bound to be substantial.

In the amendment we propose an increase in the discount from 5 per cent. to 10 per cent. with the hope that the Government—whether or not they accept the figure of 10 per cent.—will see fit to recognise the problems caused to voluntary organisations. For that reason, we have also tabled Amendment No. 72P, which proposes that the Government should consider the administration of the community charge, after consultation with the local authority Associations and such other bodies or individuals as appear to him to be concerned". It appear to us that it is voluntary organisations such as the Salvation Army that are likely to be concerned. The wording of the amendment is not dissimilar to that which has been discussed previously this evening. The substance of the amendment and the fact that it relates to the community charge makes a difference. We hope that the Government will see their way to lessening the bureaucratic burden which will otherwise fall on voluntary organisations. I beg to move.

Lord Tordoff

Before the Minister replies, could he tell the Committee whether the wording, as it stands, leaves open the possibility of a proportion of less than 5 per cent. being prescribed by the Secretary of State, because it seems to me that that would reinforce the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh?

The Earl of Caithness

I hope that I can deal speedily with Amendment No. 72P, which seeks to require statutory consultation with the local authority associations. We dealt earlier, as the noble Lord will be told by his noble friend Lord Underhill, with three similar amendments—Amendments Nos. 70A, 70E and 70N. The Committee then accepted my assurance that consultation would take place without the need for an express provision to that effect.

I trust that the Committee will accept an identical assurance as regards consultation if any regulation is made under Clause 15.

I turn now to Amendment No. 72N. I was intrigued, because I listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, said. The Committee might find it informative to hear what the Labour Party spokesman said about the 5 per cent. discount in Committee in another place. I quote from the Official Report (col. 681–682) of 11th February: It is astonishing that the Bill provides a 5 per cent. discount for those landlords who collect"—

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I thought that the standing orders of this place provided that it was permissible to quote from Ministers but not other Members of another place. I have no objection to the Minister paraphrasing.

The Earl of Caithness

I accept the noble Lord's correction. Therefore I believe that it would be right to say that the Labour Party spokesman said that he was astonished that the Bill provided for a 5 per cent. discount for those landlords who collect the collective community charge. He went on to argue that: some landlords in the traditional private sector provide accommodation that is covered by the collective community charge. They cannot run fast enough to the bank each week. They make enormous profits. Yet we are expected to legislate to allow such landlords a 5 per cent. discount for collecting taxes.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

The noble Earl will forgive me, but I do not think that he escapes the compass of the Standing Order by failing to give the name of the person he is quoting. He is still quoting from the official record, from somebody who is not a Minister.

10.30 p.m.

The Earl of Caithness

I was paraphrasing the noble Lord's honourable friend. The Opposition spokesman said that he believed that 5 per cent. was far too high. Now we have the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, saying that it is far too low. I wondered whether the noble Lord might have a word with his opposite numbers in another place so that they could sort out their act on this. It is not the first time that the Opposition Front Benches have disagreed totally on many things.

Needless to say, the Government's position is very different in that it is clear and unequivocal. We do not claim that there is anything magical about the figure of 5 per cent. There is no figure which can be proved in advance to be the correct figure. However, we wish to ensure that landlords will not be out of pocket. We believe that 5 per cent. is the correct starting point since it recognises that landlords will have to bear extra costs, while stopping short of a windfall gain. We believe that 2½ per cent., the figure pressed on us by the Labour Party in another place, is too low, and we believe that 10 per cent., the figure favoured by the Labour Party in your Lordships' House, is too high. Our minds are not closed on this matter. We shall monitor the operation of the collective community charge to establish whether 5 per cent. is the right figure. That is why, to answer the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, Clause 15 includes the power of the Secretary of State to increase or reduce the percentage.

In view of the total disarray of the Opposition on this matter, perhaps it is only right that the Government have got it right.

Lord Dean of Beswick

Is the Minister aware that although he is trying to compare members of the Labour Party in your Lordships' House with members of the Labour Party in another place, we are not always in tandem? I think that events on the television last night prove that at this time the brains appear to rest at this end of the Palace of Westminster.

There is nothing new in governments historically having taxes collected completely gratis. There has been a long-standing grumble from people like secretaries of working men's clubs. I am not criticising this particular government because Labour governments have also done it. Those of us who were secretaries of working men's clubs and labour clubs were given the job of tax collectors, completely free of remuneration, and we were held to be legally liable if we did not do it. For 22 years I was secretary of a labour club which was owned by its members. I had the function of collecting pay and other forms of taxes weekly. No particular past government recognised that.

We are suggesting something different here. I suspect that small businesses are affected in the same way. They have to show a return on capital or some form of profit. We are talking in this amendment about people who are not in the business of making a profit. I have no desire to breach the rules of the normal behaviour of your Lordships' Chamber by attempting to quote from another place. I think people of all parties at the other end of the Palace have been known to be wrong on more than one occasion and ever it will be thus. We do not come here on the basis—I certainly do not—that I get my orders from another place and carry them out religiously. That is the name of the game.

I suggest that the role that we like to adopt in this House is to have a greater degree of dependence. I believe that if an attempt were made to say, "What the other place wants is what we will bring forward as amendments", we would have been doomed to failure in the last Session of Parliament when the Government lost about 112 Divisions. It was nothing to do with orders or suggestions from another place because a great many of the amendments were moved without any political motivation or spleen by prominent Back-Benchers of your Lordships' House.

While I can understand the Minister, even at this late hour, wanting to politicise things a little, I think he is coming it a hit strong. Perhaps I might suggest, going back to the amendment on charitable organisations, that 5 per cent. is very low. Anybody who has anything to do with charities knows that even collectors on behalf of charities do not do it for nothing—but they do not get 5 per cent. That is a fact of life which must be recognised. If the Government cannot give an undertaking at least they could say that they will review the situation. For the charitable institutions to be asked to operate on this basis is, in blunt terms, not paying the rate for the job.

Lord Tordoff

I think the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, has a fair point. I do not feel at all constrained by anything that may have been said in another place from Benches other than mine. I do not want to get into the private grief of another party.

However, there is a question I wish to ask on this. The words, as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State by order", rather beg the question as to what rules he will apply for that prescription. Is it on the basis of a fair return for the work that is being done on behalf of the tax man, or are there some other criteria? It seems to me that there is something in the wording of this clause which needs to be better described than it is at the moment. Perhaps the noble Earl can offer some explanation as to what rules the Secretary of State might apply when prescribing these things by order.

The Earl of Caithness

I am grateful for a further opportunity to try to elucidate what I said earlier. The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, said that it did not matter to him that there were differences of opinion between the Front Benches here and in another place. Of course I am sure that he would be the first to appreciate how difficult this makes life for us. We try to be helpful to—

Lord Dean of Beswick

Is the Minister not aware that the objective of the House and the Committee tonight is for the Opposition to try to persuade the Minister to change the mind of his colleague in another place? That is what we are about. It is not about an election and what certain of our colleagues think in another place. The objective of these amendments is to persuade the Minister, sympathetic as he is, to get the Secretary of State in another place to yield a little more in the direction in which we are trying to push him. It has nothing whatever to do with what people in another place think about the issue at all.

The Earl of Caithness

The point that I was making is that, as I hope the noble Lord will be the first to join me in saying, we are very keen to help, understand and improve the Bill. That is why we listen carefully. But to find ourselves being pushed in one direction in the other place and in another direction in this House by the same party is difficult.

I think that I can give some reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, and the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, who is not the only one who cannot understand or follow his party in another place. Seriously, I think they both had a point on charitable institutions. They mentioned the Salvation Army in particular. That is why we have taken powers in Clause 15. The Committee will find those on pages 10 and 11 of the Bill. Clause 15(4) states: the relevant proportion is 5 per cent. or such other proportion as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State by order". It is precisely because my right honourable friend the Secretary of State realises some of the complications that the noble Lords, Lord Dean of Beswick and Lord Tordoff, have drawn to the attention of the Committee tonight that we decided that we should have this power, so the proportion could be varied up or down.

We shall monitor the situation and we shall of course liaise closely not only with the local authorities but also with those people who run collective community charges. This will vary from the charitable institutions such as the Salvation Army to the private landlord. I hope that, with that reassurance, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will be able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

In those past few seconds we have made very considerable progress. I am going to open up a gulf between myself and my noble friend Lord Dean of Beswick. I think that my colleagues in another place were exactly right to attack the greedy private landlords who would make money out of administering the community charge, and I think I was exactly right to point to the difficulties which arise for voluntary organisations.

If we are in any way at fault in drafting amendments which do not adequately distinguish between those two cases, then I accept that we are at fault. But we are nothing like as much at fault as the Government are in providing in subsection (4) for the Secretary of State to prescribe only: such other proportion … by order". It should of course, according to what the Minister has just said, state "proportions". In other words, there should be provision for a differential discount to be given to such voluntary organisations as the Salvation Army who do have extra difficulties in identifying different individuals among their residents who may be subject to different proportions of a collective community charge, as compared with those private landlords who have a very much simpler task and who are, in any case, making substantial amounts of profit out of these people.

So on both occasions we were right. Our drafting, if imperfect, is not as bad as the Government's drafting, but, on the basis that the Minister now recognises that there is a significant difference between the cases of voluntary organisations and the cases of private landlords, I hope he will now feel—I am not necessarily asking him to confirm this or otherwise—that he should go away and pay attention to the different cases which have been raised in this debate. I hope that his almost final words will lead the Government suitably to amend subsection (4) at a later stage in our consideration of this Bill. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 72P not moved.]

Clause 15 agreed to.

Lord Hesketh

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at sixteen minutes before eleven o'clock.