§ Mr. English
asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about student grants.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
New rates of grant will come into effect next September. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I will announce these early next month, when the report of the Advisory Panel on Student Maintenance Grants will be published.
The Government's decision to halve, in total, the increases recommended by the Advisory Panel must stand. We have, however, been considering, in consultation with the student unions and other interested organisations, what adjustments to the grant arrangements might be made within the financial limitations set. We will give full details of our decisions when announcing the new rates of grant.
Among other changes, we propose to adjust the income scale on which the parental contribution is based. Raising the lower limit of residual income from £700 to £900. will relieve families with small incomes of the need to make any contribution at all; and by other changes parents with residual incomes of not more than £1,100 will pay a little less than now while those above £1,100 will pay a little more. The maximum increase in parental contribution will be £6 a year.
This change would result in a small net saving in public expenditure, and would allow us to pay in full instead of half the increases recommended by the Advisory Panel in the supplementary allowances paid to dependants, mature students, students who are studying abroad or who have to follow additional courses during normal vacation periods, and those who find themselves in conditions of hardship during vacations.
Among the other matters that we are examining are the special problems of widows, divorced and separated wives who have dependants, and the small but important group of students who are undertaking teacher training on a part-time basis. We are considering what can be done, within the overall financial limitations which may involve some compensatory reductions elsewhere, to help these also.