HL Deb 23 June 1998 vol 591 cc196-7

72 Clause 21, page 15, line 43, leave out ("Further and Higher Education Act 1992 ("the 1992 Act")") and insert ("1992 Act").

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 72. I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 73 to 91, 119 to 122 and 146.

Amendments Nos. 72 to 91 and 146 relate to the English and Welsh provisions and Amendments Nos. 119 to 122 to the Scottish provisions. They clarify how the Secretary of State's reserve power to place conditions on grant in respect of the fees charged by further and higher education institutions would work in practice. They also respond to concerns expressed by Members of your Lordships' House when we considered Clause 21 earlier. But I should make clear from the outset that these amendments do not contain any changes in policy. They are all essentially technical changes aimed at improving the clarity of the provisions.

In our earlier debates, we discussed at length the principles behind Clause 21 and the parallel Scottish provisions in Clause 25. Let me remind the House that Clause 21 gives the Secretary of State power to require, as a condition of giving grant to the Higher Education Funding Councils for England and for Wales, that they should in turn impose a condition on the grant that they give to higher education institutions. A condition on grant given by a Higher Education Funding Council would require an institution to charge certain categories of students on particular courses fees at the level of the maximum grant available to them for the payment of fees. The categories of students are to be prescribed in regulations but must exclude students who are not connected with the UK or the EU or who are on part-time or postgraduate courses other than courses of initial teacher training. In prescribing the courses to which a condition may apply, the Secretary of State may not single out courses of initial teacher training by subject or other courses by area of study or research.

It is clear from this that initial teacher training courses are intended to be covered by the powers this clause gives the Secretary of State. But most of the funding for initial teacher training courses in England is provided by the Teacher Training Agency rather than by the Higher Education Funding Council. So the Secretary of State needs to be able to impose the same conditions upon the TTA as he can upon the higher education funding councils. Amendments Nos. 72, 74–78, 82, 86–88 will give him the necessary powers.

Amendments Nos. 73, 79, 80 and 84 are technical amendments that tie down the period for which a condition imposed on an institution should operate. Amendments Nos. 81 and 120 are also technical amendments which ensure that, like HE institutions, FE institutions may not be subject to conditions of grant which control the level of fees charged to overseas students. Amendments Nos. 91, 119, 121, 122 and 146 are minor technical drafting amendments. They have been made in the interests of clarity and consistency.

Amendment No. 85 does just that. It makes clear that, where one institution—let us call it the parent university—claims funding council grant in respect of certain students, then that institution retains a responsibility for the fees charged to those students by any other institution, such as a college, which partly or wholly provides the course for those students. But, in the event that the parent university claimed no HEFC or TTA funding for those students and the college relied wholly on private finance, then the parent university would have no such responsibility and no sanctions on its grant could apply.

Amendment No. 89 ensures that a publicly-funded institution cannot charge extra fees for awarding or accrediting any qualification to students, nor can an institution which provides some or part of the course. Amendment No. 90 thus ensures that universities and colleges can continue to provide field trips to students in future and can continue their current practice of charging for them.

All these amendments are intended to clarify the extent and exercise of the Secretary of State's power to impose conditions in relation to university and college fees. I commend them to the House.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 72.—(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.